Monday, February 16, 2015

ParserComp 2014 - A Long Drink by Owen Parks

A Long Drink, by Owen Parks aspires to be a noir-y hardboiled-ey mystery story.  I'm a detective investigator who has just quit his job.  I'm driving on a snowy road, avoiding the cell phone in my inventory.  Then comes a hairpin turn, a crash.  I kick out the windshield and climb back up the road to meet a dame named Val.   Up to now everything's been quite good.

At this point, the trouble starts, and unfortunately it's technical, not plot.  This game appears to use Threaded Conversation, which in my own use I've found difficult and fussy.  Val stands there and I'm to follow her.  She's agitated.  What's going on?  

When an NPC asks me to follow them, I'd like to follow them, but I'm supposed to lead her.  We walk to a house which I cannot enter...oh.  The entrance is east.  From here on out, there are no exit descriptions anywhere, which is a huge problem in a game, especially when NPCs ask me to follow and then want me to lead.  

Ominous broken wine glass and red stain on the sofa.  Seems like I should be able to at least SMELL STAIN to determine if it's wine or blood.  We go upstairs.  Professor stabbed in the neck.  We encounter three other people who are simply described as "Tom, Dick, and Harry are here".  No descriptions, no conversation. Their names weren't Tom, Dick, or Harry, but I don't even remember their names. Nothing happens. Also I'm getting a lot of prompts for "Press Any Key" that leave me at a bare command prompt.  Usually a prompt like that signals a scene change or a cliffhanger like a fade out in a movie.  Here they are arbitrary and unnecessary.

So I examine each newcomer in turn and head back to the great room.  Now they activate and the plot continues.  Someone's a Murderer!  Then the house clamps closed with security shutters and I'm to solve the mystery.  However, first, I'm getting a repeated prompt that I'm tired and should find a bedroom to sleep.  Yeah, that sounds like a good idea with a killer on the loose.  

I discover that there is more to this house.  There aren't any exits described, so I find a hallway, and an office with a computer.  This drops me into a menu (extension) environment and I can look at all the previous received and sent emails.  Except the most important looking one, which refuses to open no matter what I do without explanation.  I can pull up the search history, but instead of just showing a recent search, I'm supposed to search for what  want to find.  Not the way search history works.  
Since I can't find a bedroom, and I keep getting this nag, I quit.  

This started promisingly enough, but between important looking descriptions with unimplemented details, broken conversation, unmotivated NPCs and no possible way to navigate or know where I'm going without brute-force trying every map direction in every location to see if it leads somewhere, I'm not interested in working to play this to completion.  

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My Interactive Fiction is described at http://hanonondricek.wix.com/pyramidif and on IFDB.

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