IFComp 2015: 5 Minutes to Burn Something!   6 comments

By Alex Butterfield. Finished, but with extensive use of hints. Played on computer with the Gargoyle interpreter.


The main character, Bernadette, has burnt toast setting off a smoke alarm. She’s now trying to avoid a fine caused from the resultant “nuisance call” to the fire department by setting a real fire.

Ooooo-kay? Roll with it. I’ve seen stranger acts in News of the Weird.

All the action occurs in the five rooms of Bernadette’s apartment as she tries to set some sort of blaze. There’s the usual set of domestic obstacles including an obstinate fan and a stuck washer door.

What elevates this game somewhat above the typical “my lousy apartment” story is the backstory that the main character has just broken up with her boyfriend Ash, and there are telltale signs of story spread out among the items; not artificial things like diary pages, but rather a beard added on a Buddha by Ash or a gas oven that doesn’t work because the PC can’t pay the bills.

Unfortunately, bugs and verb issues are pretty prevalent:

> get pillow
Lifting up the pillow, you reveal an unopened bill. Apparently the tooth fairy wasn’t
fooled.

> get bill
Taken.

> get pillow
Lifting up the pillow, you reveal an unopened bill. Apparently the tooth fairy wasn’t
fooled.

or

> search sink
The square sink is empty.

> x sink
Hey, there’s a butter knife in there! Ash must have missed that one when he took the rest of the cutlery. Probably because he’s never been within three feet of the sink!

It took me five attempts on the cigarette lighter before I came across USE. (Tip: if your object requires USE, it doesn’t have enough verbs coded in.)

The worst offender had to be the branch, which requires a verb use so outrageous I would like to hear if anyone came up with that on its own. (I did use the appropriate item first, but the response was not helpful at all; the proper thing to do would be to _strongly_ hint at the correct phrasing after the failed attempt.)

I ended up losing faith in my ability to anticipate what the parser wanted and starting using hints through the entire rest of the game.

Then the fire started and part two of the game got going, and I hit the biggest “wait, really?” reaction I’ve had in any IF competition, ever. Switching to spoilers…

S
P
O
I
L
E
R
.
.
.
.
S
P
A
C
E
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

…I get that the ex-boyfriend is not very nice, but does anything he do imply he needs to go to prison for attempted murder? Trying to match the parts of a threatening message to frame someone is an interesting puzzle, but the in-world implications! — I’m used to amoral PCs, but this was staggering.

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Posted October 4, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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6 responses to “IFComp 2015: 5 Minutes to Burn Something!

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  1. I would never have guessed that verb, though I’d actually started using hints pretty heavily before then so didn’t spend much time struggling with it. And I agree with you about the ex. It could have been redeemed if the ending had been different, but the protagonist was more than rewarded for her atrocious actions.

  2. I had the same experience regarding the action needed to retrieve the branch. I knew exactly which object to use, but didn’t have any idea how to use it. And I never would have guessed. Up to that point in the game I was thoroughly committed to using no hints. But hints are like potato chips…once you get started, it is hard to stop. I felt like this game was trying to aim for something like what we saw in “Violet” the 2008 winner. “Burn Something” wasn’t terrible, but it doesn’t approach the excellence of “Violet”.

  3. The tree branch section was a bit of a deal breaker. I knew what I needed to do and which items to use but could not for the life of me work out what the correct verb was and was already getting frustrated with trying to find correct commands and gave up there. There was a couple prior to that where it was play hit and miss to find the right verb. It really needed a better glossary included to cut down on the frustration, it wouldn’t have taken away from the game to have a decent instructions list at all.

    • This game is so hit or miss. It’s funny, that particular interaction with the branch wasn’t a problem for me; I got it right away. I certainly didn’t solve the whole game without hints though. Where I struggled the most was with the dryer door. I kept trying to pry it, even after I had the right tool, because opening it hadn’t worked; it just kept trying to “take” the door instead. It took me ages to figure out that I had to open the dryer directly instead of referring to the door. I’m not sure why the door was implemented separately. The hints were insufficient on this puzzle for me.

  4. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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