IFComp 2015: A Figure Met in a Shaded Wood   5 comments

By Michael Thomét. Played to completion (sort of) with Firefox.


shadedscreen

The interactive nature of games means, on occasion, players can have such wildly different experiences they come across as different games.

With A Figure Met in a Shaded Wood, I am guessing for some the story went like this: a vagabond was walking to a town through a wood, made some minor moral choices on the way, met a stranger who told his fortune via tarot cards and … disappeared. These players felt satisfied with the mini-fable, and moved on to the next competition entry.

I (and likely many others) decided to restart and see if something different would happen. The same choices were presented, but the tarot cards ended up being exactly the same as before, and things got very, very, weird.

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woodrepeat

Yes, it’s breaking the fourth wall here. The figure is talking to you and giving a challenge: can you somehow make choices so the story does not end in oblivion? Suddenly the game is something of a puzzle-on-repeat, like Rematch or this competition’s Duel.

The repeated choices became mechanical and, in a strange way only conveyable by interactive systems, conveyed the meaningless of choice; I started to click rapidly without even looking at what text was presented.

I was starting to think that the entire setup was a bluff, and in fact there is no way to save the vagabond (“Look, this vagabond is gone from this world. They left it before you even came along.”) when certain choices started to be underlined. After many tries of avoiding or intentional using underlined choices I never was able to get any farther. If Shaded Wood is meant to be a puzzle game rather than an ambiguous philosophical statement, it needs more feedback on failed attempts to win.

UPDATE: Finally broke down and checked the source code. There is only the one ending.

Profile of The Emperor card. I never actually saw this one in the game, but I like this one.

Profile of The Emperor card. I never actually saw this one in the game, but I like it most.

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Posted November 6, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “IFComp 2015: A Figure Met in a Shaded Wood

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  1. It’s funny because here’s a game that’s explicitly telling you, “Stop trying! You can’t make a difference!” The author of Duel (I’m pretty sure) mentioned on some review (not yours, I just checked) that if they got the chance to rework their prose, they’d want to convey the detriment of repeated replays, the callousness of using the memory-characters’ experiences as cannon fodder for a game — in other words, you CAN definitely make a difference on replay in Duel, but the story is meant to discourage you from trying again even though the game bit does the opposite. (The impression I get from your review in conjunction with other accounts is that you probably can’t make a difference in Figure despite trying again in defiance of the explicit discouragement.)

  2. It might be trolling. But I gave it a more generous interpretation as a meta-commentary on the agency of the player to ignore an encounter by quitting the game vs the lack of agency of the PC, who is doomed to the encounter as long as the player keeps repeating. But probably I’m overthinking this. It’s probably just trolling.

  3. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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