IFComp 2015: I Think the Waves Are Watching Me   6 comments

By Bob McCabe. Played to completion.


‘Now is the time of the cleansing. This place is to be forgotten.’

The words lodge in your head, but it takes time to understand — as if it’s a foreign language you barely remember. The words are spoken by many voices, competing and complementary at the same time. They warble and blend as you recover from the message’s, and messenger’s, arrival.

You are on an island fated to be destroyed, and you have just over two hours to explore it.

waves

Everything plays out like a board game of sorts, with a set of 25 locations to travel through and characters with random traits and random items and strange “MacGuffins” about the island that might as well be cardboard disks that get shelved next to the dice.

waves2

Exploring an area leads to a longer description and the occasional chance to do more (attempt and try to figure out the code to a safe, say) but in general the atmosphere maintains a sort of solo-strategy-game feel where you are dealing with locations number 1 to 25, not real places.

Eventually murders start occuring, signaled by lightning in the distance. Bodies begin appearing.

As gameplay continues you automatically update a “notebook” with observations.

Eva is slender.
Heather is stylishly dressed, and is passive and meek, avoiding any conflict.
Jacob is tall.
James has large, round eyes.
Jessica is wearing a long jacket.

One of the “special encounters” lets you ask for more detail about a particular person.

Jessica is wearing a long jacket, has freckles,
and smiles frequently for no apparent reason.

Now, at this point (presuming you haven’t played the game any) you might be confused why these facts are useful, but this game is set up like Clue where from specific events you can suss out small details of the killer.

You float through the darkness, adrift at sea, black velvet smothering the heavens, nothing but the sounds of water lapping at your sides. Then you see something. You look closely. You see a shadowy figure who is tall.

Near the end of the game, waves start to destroy various locations in the island before eventually everything is gone.

Some issues I had:

1.) While the notebook is useful, I found it frustrating during special encounters. For example, in the part I mentioned earlier when you are allowed to get detail about a character, you can’t go to your notebook to doublecheck who is still a viable suspect; in fact you can’t go back to check what a viable name to type might even be.

2.) Even with all the information the notebook holds, the thing I really want (have I visited a location before?) is lacking. It tried to just go in sequence but occasionally events happen which confused that.

3.) There’s weird, arbitrary restrictions on what constitutes a “turn” and requires time to pass. For example, you can give MacGuffins to a person to improve their mood towards you and make it possible to ask questions about others (say, if you’re searching for tall people who may be the killer). You aren’t allowed to do both on the same turn, but you are allowed to chat to assess their own disposition in the same turn. Why? I feel like there’s a complex manual of rules that comes in the packaging but got thrown out. It was fun to learn about mysteries like “what does the bunny do” without any prior knowledge, but the basic conditions of interaction need to not be mysterious.

I overall found the experience intriguing and unique but I think before I make another attempt I need some sort of strategy guide. I have no idea if there’s a systematic way to find the killer; I found the system of character interaction hard to deal with and never got any useful information out of it.

I did appreciate at the end there is a “high score” to give this true board game status. An excerpt:

Your Score:

+50 points for meeting the killer and getting to the final turns.
+10 points/Survivor: You earned 100 points since 10 people survived.

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Posted November 7, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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6 responses to “IFComp 2015: I Think the Waves Are Watching Me

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  1. You’re right, it’s a lot like a board game. I found that I had to keep my own notes in order to make progress (which locations have I visited/searched, etc). One thing to keep in mind is that murders will never happen when you’re in the room with the killer, so any time you see the lightning in the distance, whoever’s in the room with you at that point can’t be the killer. Also, when the first murder happens, the killer has to be one of the people that was in the lighthouse when you show up. So one strategy is to write down who all those people are and watch them to start eliminating them as suspects and find out who’s never around when murders happen. I played through the game three times so far. On the third time, when I tracked down the right person, the lightning stopped for several turns in a row while I watched and followed him (whereas it’ll usually happen every few turns and sometimes multiple turns in a row). Without narrowing down your options like this, the physical characteristics are of very limited use because you won’t necessarily even identify that the right person has that characteristic. You might well know that the killer is tall and has large, round eyes, but if you haven’t even noted any characteristics of the killer yet, and you have five other people in your notebook that are tall but that’s all you know about them, then you really don’t know anything useful. Plus it takes a turn to look at the notebook, so mostly I just didn’t.

    At the same time, this game is kind of sandboxy, in that there are multiple paths to winning. You can hunt down the killer, but you don’t have to; you can just escape at the end. You can focus on gathering MacGuffins, or making people like you, or uncovering secrets. I only wish the game were presented in a better interface; the raw Windows command line interface is very awkward.

    • I would totally be supportive of a Deluxe version with pointing and clicking. With Steam Achievements it would be a definite buy.

      I do think the attributes need rebalancing based on your comment. There’s too much machinery devoted to them for uselessness to be ok.

      • Ooh, Steam achievements. Hehe. Actually, I wondered if it could be done in Twine. I put that as a suggestion along with my email in the feedback form linked from the game’s ending. Maybe after the comp is over the author will consider a remake.

    • Hi. Thank you so much for writing up such a nice review, and I especially love the first comment for all of its useful and helpful advice on how to play. I think the suggestions here (and those left in the game’s feedback” are very useful. I don’t have much skill with the technical side of things, and I’m sorry it’s as rough as it is. Maybe one day I’ll hire someone to help me get it on to Steam, haha. :) Thanks again

  2. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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