: Autumn's Daughter; The House at the End of Rosewood Street; Vulse
(I'm posting some thoughts on the IFComp games as I play them. This is mostly as an exercise for myself in thinking about what I liked and didn't. I'll spoilers below the break. If you're not already, you should play along and vote for yourself! http://ifcomp.org
# Autumn's Daughter
One of the most obvious advantages of interactive narrative is that the reader must also pretend to be
a character. Many new IF authors seem to think that this means that they can somehow force
empathy. Of course, this is partially true – but usually not the way people think it does! Cadre's Photopia
works so well exactly because the interactivity forces the player to adopt certain kinds of perspectives and emotions... but this is mostly in service of developing the players rapport with a non-player character
! Similar things happen in DeNiro's Deadline Enchanter
. It rarely seems as effective when the target character is the viewpoint one, at least to me – certainly I felt basically no empathy for the VPC of, say, Blue Chairs
Anyway, Autumn's Daughter
is a choice-based game focused on exploring the sorts of decisions young women need to go through in highly patriarchal societies, in this case that of Pakistan. And I think it succeeds reasonably well at that: The prose flows well enough, and if you play through it a few times you fairly quickly get a sense of how circumscribed your options are.
The connection between the choice you make and the eventual outcome is not always clear; the authors seem to think that this amounts to demonstrating how highly-scrutinized the actions of the character are. And I suppose it does – it definitely takes away some of the player's sense of agency. However, I think they undercut this by later offering choices that are
really direct (like, go along with your arranged marriage because you have a plan
, which of course means murdering your husband...).
My largest gripe is that the authors insist on speaking the subtext, basically explaining in the sidebar what the whole game is about. Don't do this, folks. Please. 6/10
, for attempting to say something important and executing it reasonably well. (I'd probably vote higher if it weren't a choice-based game – I don't tend to enjoy them as much as parser-based ones, which I think puts me in the minority these days.)
# The House at the End of Rosewood Street
Huh? My very first action (>X WORK TABLE) apparently wasn't implemented, despite there clearly being a work table in the room. Furthermore, the parser-refusal response was totally nonsensical. ("What would So-and-so think?" Of my looking at my table
? In my own home? Before I even have any idea who so-and-so was?) It got worse from here: >L apparently makes you walk around. For a bit I thought they were trying to do something silly about railroading you, like "oh, the VPC is so routine-bound that he just goes about his business without waiting for you to do anything", but then no, it was just buggy.
This might be a good time to note that, following Emily Short, I'm not playing any games that don't have beta-testers listed. This one does. How they missed these bugs, I don't know.1/10
for being non-functional.
Remember how, above, I said that I tend to dislike choice-based games? Unfortunately, I tend to dislike Twine games even more. I keep trying them, because I want
to like them – I think Twine has done some really important things for inclusivity in the IF community. But I've just never been able to get into them. I think this game really drove home why: Agency. Surely it should be definitional of interactive
fiction that the interactor
should feel like they have agency? Of course, they probably don't have as much as they think they do – authorial intent, and all that – but good IF puts a lot of work into building up an illusion
of agency, a feeling that what you do matters
I don't think I've yet played a Twine game where I consistently felt like my decisions mattered. There's some text, some of it is blue, you click it, and then there's more text. Some games will, in some scenes, make it clear what clicking a link means – "examine this", "say something about this", "go over there" – but much of the time the consequences of a click are just unclear. I'm perfectly happy to accept as "interactive" works like Deadline Enchanter
that are basically railroaded, with no significant choice; but as soon as the consequences of my actions become unclear, the piece starts to feel more and more like a static work, losing all of the benefits of interactivity in favor of a sort of kludgy replacement for a printed page.Vulse
is a serious offender, here. I don't know what it was about – something about loneliness and sense of place and death, maybe? But mostly it was a bunch of text, some of it blue.2/10