Trouble in Sector 471 - notes from the author-bot

Thanks to all who played, reviewed, and commented.

This game could probably be described as a spiritual successor to Inside the Facility, which also had a noun-free command interface. I wanted to give players a few more commands and see what kind of puzzles that led to.

The setting or concept is just my vague idea of a bunch of little robots who live inside your computer and make it go. I doubt many players interpreted it that way (some thought it was set on a space station), but I don’t think it matters.

MAP

One thing that’s been a persistent head-scratcher for me writing these games is how to deal with mapping. I hate trying to draw a map when I play a game. I have no idea where the boundaries are, so I’m always going off the edge of the page, and I have to make weird loops and it’s just a mess. And I also don’t want to use online tools. It’s just too much trouble.

Inside the Facility had one approach, which was to provide a printable template. I wanted to try an in-game map this time. As far as I can tell, no other text adventures have a map like this. (Large-scale, always present, and shows your current position. If others exist, please let me know about them.) Hopefully the map improves the experience.

The completed map is intended to look something like a CPU chip.

INTERFACE

The interface is pretty simple and noun-free. As always, that constrains the puzzle design.

Figuring out which commands to include took some time early on. The biggest question was whether to have a USE command to use your currently-held item. I decided against it. I like how HUP ended up providing a pretty wide variety of uses.

One thing that occurs to me is that, because of the command limitations, you could play a game like this with a controller. (D-pad for movement, face buttons for ROX, COM, etc.) In theory, anyway – I don’t know if it’s possible to get a controller to communicate with Inform and maybe it wouldn’t be worth the trouble. It might be a neat novelty.

PUZZLES

Most of the required puzzles are pretty reasonable, except maybe the Sculpture Gallery. I decided to leave in one hard one, since a few of my testers solved it. I think it’s “figure-outable”, but it might not fit well with the overall difficulty level.

Regarding the cracked crystal: This puzzle started out even harder. The cracked crystal would keep affecting the synchronization, and you’d have to build that into your calculations. I had the idea that whatever damaged that room also damaged the crystal, and I thought a damaged crystal should behave strangely in some way. But in the final version, it only sparks once, which syncs up the system and makes it solvable.

As always, if you have any questions, please send me a PM or email.

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Two that immediately come to mind are Counterfeit Monkey, and Escape from Hell from the latest ECTOCOMP.

Definitely possible, with the right interpreter! But it would require interpreter modification rather than just game code.

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