Ugly Oafs postmortem

I hope this postmortem is clearer, more fun and less frustrating than the game itself. I hope it will help illuminate specific things about Ugly Oafs and my thoughts in general, and I hope it helps you deal with your creative frustrations, or even your frustrations with Oafs. I can’t blame you. I appreciate the lack of full-nuclear in the reviews I read. Every review I read pushed me a bit to do and organize better.

First, I think this is it for now for abstract wordplay games. I feel happy to have scraped through with a top-half finish, with my testers’ help. I enjoyed being in the author subforum. I appreciate the encouragement and advice from some direct competitors. It made up for not writing the game I really wanted to, which is about logic, in its own way. Next year, maybe. I’ll make sure to avoid this year’s time-wasting.

If you didn’t like Ugly Oafs, I still hope the general principles and issues I dealt with make sense and help you with anything you may be writing. There’s some irony, here, too: with the abstract gameplay involved, I hoped to avoid emotion and struggles in general. I failed, because it’s pretty clear players were frustrated, and also, I was frustrated I didn’t give them more chances.

Warning: LOTS of writing below. TL/DR (about 20k of writing) : I’m glad I took the risk. I’m just sad I didn’t take it on more aggressively. At least I can change that with a post-comp release which will include some changes I despaired of making. They’re nowhere near as hard as I feared. That’s good, for my game, but it makes me feel a bit lazy for not doing so in the first place. Also, I should’ve included in-game hint items earlier. I worried I might make it too easy if you had a total decoder, but truth is–I’m not forcing the player to use anything, and even my current uber-hint device would only maybe spoil one puzzle at a time, one letter at a time. So maybe you can still figure the word with the letters partially aligned, which can’t feel too bad.

Part 1: getting to writing the game

[spoiler]A lot of the internal struggles were down to “Is this too weird? Oh, okay, I found how to do something. Is this still too weird?” This wasted a lot of time. The right way to go about things is to say, well, what would I do to make the people who might like this game like it more? Or not say “I’d have liked it, but…?” I spent a lot of time woolgathering and telling myself the mechanic wasn’t as obvious as Shuffling Around or Threediopolis, but I never took action on that. I hope this isn’t woolgathering or humblebragging–but anyone out there worried your story isn’t as good as the last one? Don’t be. I’ll present a parallel to Ray Bradbury. Farewell Summer is not Dandelion Wine. But I still like it a lot. And I’m glad Bradbury didn’t waste too much time saying “Gosh, should I even bother?” There’re some really fun bits in there, and I don’t care about the faults. Maybe you have a favorite author who did something similar, and you’re glad they did it. So–that’s my general advice.

I suppose I don’t have a why for Ugly Oafs other than that it was there & it never quite escaped from my mind. And with any odd idea like this, there may be there’s a reason nobody’s ever tried it before. But I like going down those blind alleys, and I hope that even if someone didn’t like my game, it would encourage them to say, “Well, I can go down my OWN blind alley, and maybe it won’t be so blind.”

Now I recognize that my preferred blind alleys to wander down are different from others. I like brain teasers, but I’ve seen all the big ones. And I generally like logic-y problems, as sitting down to solve one helps stabilize me to tackle more subjective things. That probably doesn’t hold for most people, but hopefully it explains why I think this would be a game. And why I’d always said I’d sort of like to make my own. I remember, as a kid, reading puzzle books with even a bit of a story and saying, I want to do that. In this way, making a game like this–or sharing that this sort of puzzle makes me happy, though it frustrates other people–is intensely personal for me, even if the puzzles are abstract. Of course, I read regular books, too, but the thing is: sometimes I don’t want to think about stories! The family trees and alliances in Game of Thrones make me sob and say why bother as much as a complex math problem probably makes many of you want to throw stuff. But for me, a puzzle is time away, so when I come back, reading is fresher. Chess grandmaster Mark Taimanov put it best: when I’m playing concert piano, it’s a break from chess. And vice versa. Replace piano/chess with puzzles/reading for me.

But those are personal hang-ups. For the game itself, I see a story I could have established, and that can be added. And my quest for uniqueness and odd logic doesn’t excuse any outright bugs and oversights and hints I could and should have thrown in, but all the same, I’m pleased I went through with it. I hope anyone who wants to write a(nother) game can get to experience this too, regardless of how popular it turns out.

Not that popularity, or trying for it, is inherently good or bad. Certainly people on both ends of the spectrum of “I need people to love me” vs “I don’t care about anyone” are annoying. For writing anything creative, it’s most important to strike a balance between Not Worrying What People Think and making sure your work finds the fewest ways to annoy people. In my case, Ugly Oafs is a wordplay game in a medium where people prefer storytelling. But I do like building a story from weird stuff, if I can, and I’d rather fail at that than write something straightforward that leaves nothing lasting. I’m kind of hypocritical this way–I’ll often put a work that doesn’t bug me over a more ambitious work I may not have time for, but then, I will always try for the second, in my own way.

I have nothing constructive to say about this, other than that I am not the only one, and about all an author can do in this case is to have testers tell them what is absolutely awful and must be changed. Getting rid of these big potholes is a huge help. It changes critics’ views from “nice idea, but…” to “good job,” or from “What’s this mess?” to “Okay, this is clear, but it’s not my thing.” This makes your ambition less of a gamble and more of a reality–if you want to do something tough, you should put in the time, and I didn’t.

I know with works that strive to be different, there’s the temptation to say “Oh, it’s different and people won’t understand, tough for those who don’t” vs “It’s just too different, why bother.” But this is a false dichotomy, and the third way through is pretty simple.

I certainly wasted a lot of time wondering “will it be any good” when the real question is to ask “what can I do to make this as good as possible.” I’d thought up several concerns about the game, but failing to write them down somewhere important and useful cost me. I did a lot better with Threediopolis, e.g. realizing your nameless benefactor from the first draft needed a name, then having Ed Dunn pop up right after reading an article on someone named Dunn. For a while, I said “I can’t do anything with the name Ed!” Then, a-ha. The light went on.

And because this year I didn’t really follow my previous process of writing down places that stuck me, or things I wanted to change, or trying to organize what could be changed to what, I wound up being swamped at the last minute. Which is ironic, given a text file I had on my computer dated 5/2012. UO came about as a thought experiment after I had my other wordplay game ideas. After IFComp 2011, I said I wanted to make a wordplay game, and I had a spell back around April 2012 where I just tried stuff with words. The Anagram Server caught my eye, and I wondered how to find a huge list of them. I found a text file with a lot of English words, and from there, I dumped out a list. Then Threediopolis came about, and I wrote a PERL program to figure out all the locations of your friends. I was able to develop proofs-of-concept for these games. But I was hoping there was one more.[/spoiler]

Part 2: the writing

[spoiler]Seeing ROT13’d spoilers tripped things off for me–with my text file of English words, how many were there that could be ROT13’d? That wouldn’t be enough for a game, of course, but I was curious. What about other cycles? This wasn’t hard to write a perl program for, either. If you don’t know PERL, maybe this is the sort of thing that can help you can understand it.

for (1…13)
@b = split(//, $a); for $l (@b) { $l2 = ord($l) + $; if $l2 > ord(“z”) { $l2 -= 26; $this .= chr($l2); } }
if ($word{$this}) { print "$a <-> $this, shift = $
\n"; }

But I didn’t see anything. I put the file and game aside, and I forgot it was there. I didn’t remember it until June of this year, until I found a file dated 5/18/2012, and I’d already started planning Ugly Oafs.

I can only assume I saw the mechanic back in 2012, decided it wasn’t enough for a game, and forgot about it. Then I tried the same experiment later, without remembering. The date on my ugly oafs.inform file folder shows July 10, 2013. So that’s when I started in earnest. I didn’t even have the hashing in place–e.g. if you need to type ACE and type BDF instead, the game tries to be helpful. The prospect was intimidating–this is different from my anagram games, because order is important, and the hash values rely on the first character. In retrospect, I should have done the hash-checking much earlier, even if I didn’t know what the game was ABOUT. It cost me a lot of time early September, and I always sort of feared having to program it, and the inevitable bugs. I was sort of stuck between finding interesting flips, fingind ways to help the player, and doing other dirty work.

However, just seeing “UGLY <=> OAFS 6” in my big text file, I laughed. I didn’t know what the Oafs would look like, or even if they were friends or enemies, but I’d decide that later. I needed a bit more to make it a GAME. But a pseudonym turned up by accident from ROT13’age–Perry Creel (my list of words didn’t explicitly use proper names, but both those words have alternate definitions)–and that was where the game approached critical mass. I also found the onyx made you balk, just because–and I figured, why? It’s protecting something. What? An underworld. What’s the underworld? Sort of the opposite of above-ground. Maybe a mirror image.

A-ha…the opposite of adding is subtraction. I had my second thing-to-try. The underworld wound up having a lot more in it, especially in the 10-room, where the A-I, U-O and E-E pairs worked together something crazy. I didn’t see how I could avoid a crowd there, but I could start figuring what to put in the game. I’d never really had a mirror world on a game I wrote before, and in this case, I sort of wanted to have one. Bingo! I had no clue what would happen below-ground, but I had a–sort of–world. You wouldn’t just do stuff and leave. You could have one mechanic you discovered, then another. Perhaps figuring below ground would be easier than above, but I think it’s a good change, and plus, a reverse cipher is less common than a rotating cipher. So I had a game, in concept.

for (1…26)
@b = split(//, $a); for $l (@b) { $l2 = 2 * ord(‘z’) - ord($l); if ($l2 > $ord(‘z’)) { $l2 -= 26; $this .= chr($l2); } }
if ($word{$this}) { print “$a <-> $this, shift = $_\n”; }

This technical side was good. It gave me a lot of data. But I never really aggressively cut that data down. I had it organized by # of letters and alphabetically for a long time, when I should have organized it by shift #. Maybe there were 10000 matches. But 100 a day, from when I started, would’ve gotten things done before 2014.

This was a huge planning failure, as once I organized word pairs by shift #, things fell into place. I know a lot of times I say “If I were organized, it’d be a bit easier,” then I said “Well, I’m not really an organized person, or I haven’t been in the past, and I don’t deserve it.” Or, “Really? I want to have THIS organized when there are more important things than a silly wordplay game?” That’s sort of true, and if anyone else gets caught in these SNAFUs, I urge them to think like so–learning how to organize is creative. It saves time for not only game writing but the straw-man More Important Things. It feels good to step back, see a better way to do things, and go ahead. It also leaves you open to ways to do that for the player. So if anyone looks at it as “I better get organized,” maybe it’s better to say “Here’s how things can work smoother for me or for the player.” I also have a trick I use where I say “If I were organized, what would I do next?”

Plus, I had Threediopolis to work on, and there was IntroComp and so forth, and I enjoy testing other IFComp games. ShuffleComp testing was well worth it. So I put the game aside for rather a long while. I kept finding ways to tweak Threediopolis and my Stale Tales Slate games. As for Ugly Oafs, I had that couple of text files, but I never bothered to print them out or go ahead with them. I told myself I’d get done with the Oafs by the end of 2013. It couldn’t be that hard, right? There were only so many flip possibilities?

Well, like with Threediopolis (I thought I could get through it during the 2012 IFComp season,) it took way longer than I thought. Part of that was due to spiffing up my previous three games. But I really did have a lot of trepidation–this game could be outright frustrating, and I didn’t see any reason to make it easy, and the solving didn’t feel as fun and natural as Threediopolis.

Nevertheless, I wanted to be a part of IFComp…and some frantic September programming got the shell down. I left a lot out I didn’t mean to–why you can’t change things back, and so forth. Oh, and CREDITS/ABOUT, which provided some critical information. Some testers helped at the last minute, and given their efforts, I wish I had one more week! My gut reaction was, they just might push this game in the top half–and they did that and then some! Their ideas and questions will help with the post-comp release.

I threw in a lot of weekendy changes. I realized a lot of their very good suggestions weren’t feasible. Most fixes were straightforward, but you know how it is? Changes that should 95% work. But if you make twenty of them, and forget to log them, guess what? One won’t. This is what happened with my hint system. A misplaced tab nearly destroyed it. Fortunately, a tester caught it on the final day. They know who they are, and I thank them for it!

But it was the small things that piled up, stuff I could’ve done instead of wasting my time on stuff that quite bluntly wasn’t even as fun as programming. Stuff far less esoteric than the game mechanics. Like:

  • Stuff I should’ve taken care of well before release:
    ** I did not to a release-blorb walkthrough of my own. This meant several commands weren’t in the release version.
    ** I also didn’t double-check the game’s cover image. I had the BMP saved on my computer, but I didn’t convert it to the PNG inform needs!
    ** my batch file for going to an Inform source directory command pointed to, in succession, my Comp12, Spring Thing 13 (the default,) and Comp13 entries. But it never pointed to Oafs until late. This was a 5 minute fix. Basically I could type NI 12, NI 13, or NI 13S. But I never added NI 14. It’s a small thing–but I like being able to edit an Inform source file outside the IDE. I use 6g, which doesn’t have regular expressions/searching. So Notepad++ is great.
    ** I took forever to establish a utility to print out the possible shifts for any one word. Seems simple, right? A time saver? But I wrote the big app to find all word shifts, without making something that could pick off individual words. This revealed to me that lye could be two different things.
    ** You really do have to fight through the temptation to say “that’s too small.” I mean, if you have something bigger to do, great. But if you wind up goofing off anyway, well, do the small stuff instead. Unless you really need a break. Often it’s just good to have one less thing to worry about, but having a utility to make things easier. It adds up, technically or to save you time.
  • I also faked myself out with “that’s too big to tackle right now” and “that’s too small to tackle right now” when I thought of something to do. Well, until there was too much to tackle right now.
  • I continually misplaced my maps with notes of what went where. This is my own messiness.

I’m also very grateful for the in-comp updates. Being able to do stuff like add to the markers was fun–they were all populated by the end of comp–and I’m left thinking I could/should have done so sooner. I hope I didn’t abuse the privilege. But it occurs to me: making the markers was fun for me, and it helped the players. Win-win. Why didn’t I do it sooner? One thing I should know from writing four games like this is, it’s fun to write hint code that makes it easier. It can bring out a story, or a semblance of one, and it can help check bugs in the code. And it lowers the player’s blood pressure, too.

Of course, this applies to non-puzzlers. Writing hint code/walkthroughs and checking them seems pedantic, but it clears up a lot in whatever weird world you may make for yourself and share with others and even gives ideas how to fix your current puzzles or make others. Your game may have faults another way, but with a solid, well-explained walkthrough checked against the actual game, players will forgive you. And you deserve it, whether your story is slice of life or high fantasy or puzzly. I didn’t do enough of that, and that’s the main thing I regret.

I can only conclude that, even if you junk hinting/helping code, it will help you explore areas you wouldn’t have tried just by staring at the screen and hoping you’ll be creative. It’s the best way to be your own editor–though eventually you need good testers for that.[/spoiler]

So how do you get the good ending?

Nobody found it, it seems, due to the hints being too opaque and the game being too exhausting.

I won’t tell the safe combination, at least not until release 2 is figured. But…

[spoiler]* you need to get the oaf diver to go into the rift/ford and the river. TALK to him so he follows. He will dive. The second time, he finds statues.

  • once you’ve got rid of the bee, you may remember the boxy hulk shouting “MINE.” That’s not an adjective, that’s a noun. The way to reveal the mine is with WAVE. (Too silly? I don’t think the initial release clued it well enough.)
  • The three cool guys have names. Knowing their names helps you open the safe in the mine behind where the bane hive was. I won’t tell you their names, but the game should. Their names are in the source, but you can also find them playing the final version of the game blorb.[/spoiler]

Part 3: So what’s next for Oafs?

  • FEEL lets you determine if you’re close to where you can flip an item, or far away.
  • a decent ending will clue better endings.
  • you will get progressive help if you rescue a couple animals, including a general decoder once you get 4. It will be like what people requested, or how Chris Huang mentioned he solved puzzles on IFMud. HE took 5 strips of paper and moved them up and down. An in-game item will allow you to twiddle things. The name is, I hope, the right kind of silly and goofy.
  • I think the goal belowground is clued better now. I need to let the player know it’s a good place to focus. The marker, in conjunction with the goal, should let you know how to make the goal fuller. The goal should invoke the whole mechanic. I have a few other ways to clue belowground.
  • more extra silly points, including one for winning without the uber-hint device.
  • the meta-puzzle I had hoped was there will now be implemented. It may be nastier than the other puzzle. There will be a few ways to solve it.

For the record: I (or rather, my cyborg-enhanced self) learned all the things in this list within the two hours except for the second one, where I made no connection to those things.

I did manage to both summon and get rid of the bee though.

(I don’t have the mental energy to digest the entire postmortem yet [emote]:)[/emote])

Yes, the (guy you rescue from the snare) diver needed/needs to be clued much better. This will be in the post-release, in several forms. I also want to clue the standard verbs beyond just if you type in something wrong.

I did manage to both summon and get rid of the bee though.

Yay! I was pleased to offer a few solutions to that. I still think I’m missing a killer clue for the bottom area mechanics, even if in-comp updates tuned things up a bit.

Don’t blame you! That’s why I broke this writing up, and it’s STILL too long. I appreciate the notification so far. And, yes, your LEXICAL CYBORG comment made me laugh.

The problem was, for such a simple game, I wound up having more to say than I thought I would, and I figured some people would be interested in the mechanics, others in–well, what was I thinking even trying something this odd?

I really want to encourage people to experiment, and more importantly, to take steps to make sure their experiment works.

I really liked reading this; I’m fascinated by your process. I didn’t realise that you used scripts in part to generate your puzzles.

Do you know about the Oulipo at all? They’re a workshop of writers who write based on generative constraints, resulting in things like Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual which generated its plot through a series of fiendish knights tour puzzles, and Christian Bok’s Eunoia, a series of prose-poems which use every single English word that only has one vowel. (Inspired, I once rewrote Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn using no vowels but O.) “Mathematical poetry” gets very close to a way they describe themselves.

One of the most interesting things about the Oulipo to me was their insistence on exhaustion: whenever they came up with a generative constraint, they tried to exhaust that form, to write absolutely everything that could ever be written with it. They weren’t particularly interested in whether each individual writing was interesting in itself, but the interestingness of exhausting the project as a whole. Similarly, a radical Oulipo position is that the creative work isn’t writing the stories or poems but writing the constraints. In this, the baton has passed now to people who write artistic Twitter bots, I think.

Anyway, if you didn’t know about them, I think you might be interested, and if you did know about them I hope you’ll take it as a compliment that it sounds to me like you’re trying to do something similar with games: to author a generative puzzle system, and then exhaust everything that can be done in that system. It’s pretty cool.

I have definitely also heard of OuJeuPo as a term for applying this kind of thing to games, though most of what I’ve seen is in French, as might be expected!

I think I would have been much happier if there was some in game device that generated rotations.

It felt like you HAD to use or write a program to solve this. There were way too many possibilities to run through. Anagrams are much more feasible to do in one’s head and it is clearer that using a program to help is cheating.

I did not understand, even after grokking the wordplay theme, how to use it. I hadn’t tried your other work so it didn’t occur to me to just type what the modified word was BUT while in the right location. I associate just typing the right word with an abstract sort of solve like Nord and Bert, and I associate being in the right location with using some sort of sci-fi device – so I kept looking for a sci-fi device (so I could ACTIVATE ROTATIONATOR and CONVERT PERRY TO CREEL or whatever) but failing.

Oh dear. This post is TLDR2: electric boogaloo. It’s for post-comp stuff I only partially considered. I hope everyone can bear with me. I’m asking a lot of questions for my own good, and I can’t possibly expect any answers, though if someone says “why didn’t you try this” I’d be hecka grateful. In any case, pre-emptive thanks for listening and for giving me stuff to not just think about but to plan and act on. I’m still disappointed a game with less chaos took me longer to get in working order than my Stale Tales Slate. My continued work on STS may have something to do with this.

The thing is, I thought I had decent clues, but it also feels like some of the clues I had in my other games–they were good placeholders, and I was rationalizing to convince myself they were good clues.

But I think I eventually found something better in STS and 3dopolis. I hope I can do the same here. There’re a lot of possibilities.

This was definitely something I missed, though it’s eminently programmable, and in fact my local copy has the device 95% working. I assumed people would try the easy way out, just typing one word–this parser-error-message patch, I slipped into a comp update.

I also assumed that people would -not- want to go through all 26 possibilities, and thus, they might cheat up by trying the first letter as a vowel, then the second. But frustration kicked in–as it did for me figuring out puzzles!

Focusing on vowels-only cuts things from 26 to 10, and what’s more, flipping between vowels is not quite so bad. I think?

A-u=6 (Y-u=4, A-y=2)

(Note: Y is of course feasible as a vowel…and two things change to a word with Y. One’s noncritical, and the other has an alternate solution. I’ll see what I can do there.)

I sense there’s a way to hint this in the flow of the game, but I’m not sure how. Again, the crood sheet I whipped up in the in-comp updates does something, but not enough.

I don’t have a good solution so people don’t feel they have to try every possibility or writing a program…however, I think it’s reasonable to find ways to hint that better, or to encourage people not to go to it. I thought of adding something that lets you flip everything, but a voice in my head said DONT PATRONIZE THE PLAYER IT’LL MAKE THEM FEEL DUMB. Unfortunately, the game made many smart people, like yourself, feel dumb in an entirely different way, and that was unfair.

My objective, post-comp, will make it super-clear that the cot can and should become an oaf. Then the lye (hidden in the comp version, because stupid bugs from procrastinating) can become two things. Then your help in the zoo opens another help-item up.

I also want to make it clearer the tiger isn’t necessarily evil, and it can go to the zoo, too, and reversing it would be mean, to take away its consciousness, so maybe you can help it find a home.

Below ground, I’m not 100% sure how to make it clear that the Boxy Hulk room is a serious hub, and that (below mechanics spoilers)

[spoiler]I+A=E+E=U+O, thus, you match a lot of words with vowels. If you are able to maybe see all the letter pairs in the Prune Trove room, that could maybe unlock things.

A mid-comp update mentioned the wind went from swirling clockwise to counterclockwise once you went down the hole. I like that, but it’s not enough.

Also, Bob and Anna are also more visible underground, and the game nudges you as to why they don’t say more than “Bob” or “Anna.” But I’m stuck. The markers just don’t do enough, either. I want there to be several legitimate ways for the player to figure things out.[/spoiler]

A vowel-i-fier would be handy, where it can check a thing changed to other vowels, only I don’t have a good name for it.

With my Stale Tales Slate games, I was able to find two different hint devices I really liked–the gadget and settler both help in their own ways, and I think the Settler is appropriate for a long game like A Roiling Original (which has other faults. I’m still cleaning up a few puzzles so they’re sensible.) Plus they used colors!

But I think a big problem was that I looked for hint devices in Oafs and really found nothing I was happy with, and this was at the exclusion of writing content or adding things to change. If I’d just added stuff, I probably would’ve sat down and seen what a good hint device could do.

Oh. One other thing–I’ve found that printing out a page a day of possibilities and looking through them was a big help. It wasn’t til I accidentally printed 10 pages of a list of possible matches that I really started making notes. I think it’s generally a good process to have something written to look at and deal with, but not to make it too much.

Now to Harry’s post. I’m not satisfied with my response, and it’s probably too long & feels like a partial explanation, or doesn’t address the real questions. The idea of Oulipo (I think I first read the term in Joey Jones’s profile) was something I forgot, and I just thought of it as grinding every possible odd joke or puzzle out of a fixed and, presumably finite, group of Things. I think Oafs restricted this while also forcing me to hack through a lot of false leads. So my other 3 wordplay games, I’m confident I exhausted the major mechanics, though I smile when I see a word that’ll make a good anagram to fall into the random list. With Oafs, I repeatedly exhausted myself before I exhaust the mechanics. I had more confidence I’d find a cool anagram that’d work as a puzzle.

Also, Threediopolis’s mechanic gave 200 words, of which 35 seemed immediately excellent and cluable. So I had a chunk of a game ASAP & even was able to reread the file to add silly hints and jokes. This list could easily be re-read to see if I wanted to add something (for instance when I added scenery mode,) and it was not hard to parse a name file. The grep command to detect or funnel misspellings wasn’t hard, either. And it was amusing to see what turned up! Oafs had this, but not as much, and nothing intuitive.

I had an anagram file I detailed for the Stale Tales Slate, too. It was big enough that, if I needed to chuck a puzzle, or even concentrate on certain word groups, I could find something better. I’d also starred anagrams I really liked but couldn’t use, and this paid off later. For instance, I saw phat and path were anagrams, but I was too thick to see Phat Path would be a good, simple location until release 2 when I ripped up one area’s location names completely. Unfortunately, I couldn’t or didn’t organize Oafs that way.

For instance, Store U’s word group was
[rant]prepositions, which there were about 90 of, so the puzzles fell out.[/rant]

The thing is, speculating for new Stale Tales Slate stuff has been more -fun- for me than Oafs. Not that it isn’t gratifying when I see a way to simplify Oafs. It’s just–the Slate, I can figure stuff on the bus and throw it in to Oafs, I have to fight for every puzzle. This effect is magnified for the player.

[spoiler]I programmed a really good generator and checker for anagrams, and I was able to add them to the random text e.g. for Rev. Ali’s ramblings, I picked off sinful words, so stuff like BAWDINESS -> IS BAD NEWS comes organically, or I managed to convert a word into an anagram of proper names, which the wonderful doesn’t do.

The sheer volume of anagrams also helped; in the Store W area, I wanted something of 6 letters to replace a speculative puzzle. I figured one would have to work–and guess what? I discovered that you could do something with some snider diners, which made for a more fun, fairer puzzle in what is the most treacherous area.

However, there’re fewer viable alternatives for Oafs, if a puzzle is wobbly. So I feel a bit of scarcity, and I sort of act from a position of fear when it comes to changing or modifying a puzzle. That’s my problem, but it’s something to get over.[/spoiler]

So lots of times I’d sit down, try to work on Oafs, say “Oh! I bet I can anagram that word!” and bam! I would up testing the Tales Slate instead. I just have so much more confidence I’ll find something new there, so it’s a path of least resistance. With Oafs, I had to sweat what I had, or discover something tricky like the crood sheet, which I only found by accident once I wrote a silly generator program.

One other thing, too–I didn’t catch on the animals themes for Oafs for a while. I said “but I already did that!” Yes, sort of. But with entirely different animals. So I boxed myself in a bit by saying, gosh, I’d like to, but I can’t try something fun or cute again. Now I think the rescuing animals theme will work. They are, after all, completely different animals from Roiling Original.

So, yeah, after the comp experience I have a raft of improvements. I’ll need to re-read my master list a couple times. There’ll probably be more I can do. Still, I have confidence they’ll be significant.