IFComp 2015: Koustrea’s Contentment   1 comment

By Jeremy Pflasterer. Not finished.


I know what is wrong. (At last.) Three seasons of planning has made me all twisted up. It’s not me, it never was. I can’t worry about the pashvod, or the shadows, or the crannies or shapes of the rock. Or the direction, or the destination. There is no rhyme or reason to the direction; if there were, it wouldn’t be my direction. There is no particular destination; if there were, it wouldn’t be my destination. So the plans must go. That is the only way I’ll ever go. Therefore: farewell, journal, at least for now. And Koustrea, whoever you are, if you are still reading this, I’m sorry I couldn’t wait for you. But we will meet yet if everyone is right and the world is as small as they think. I assume we won’t.

I’m not exactly sure what’s happening in Koustrea’s Contentment. Here’s my best go: the main character, Koustrea, has arrived in a strange building with geography that mimics a real house. There’s a series of people that may or may not represent things from Koustrea’s life. The primary feature is a golden door. One of the characters (Draydee) sits on a bench merely waiting for it to open.

I assume the final goal is to open the golden door. It has a series of panels which can be depressed like a code, so I’m guessing (like Myst) once knowing the secret it should be possible to win straight from the opening.

Other than the door and a kitchen one character is blocking (for reasons not disclosed) Koustrea’s Contentment doesn’t seem to have any visible puzzles whatsoever. Back in 2007 I termed the style hidden puzzles. In a traditional large IF game you might come across items that can’t be reached, or clear obstacles, but other than the aforementioned kitchen there seems to be no direction for the player at all.

I spent a lot of time talking with the characters, of which I found five. They are somewhat cardboard. Here’s the liveliest one, Zeolt:

>ask zeolt about jukebox
“How about this jukebox, eh?” you say to Zeolt.
“There’s nothing I enjoy more! And so easy to use,” says Zeolt.

>ask zeolt about zeolt
“How are you?” you ask Zeolt.
“Very well, thank you,” says Zeolt.

>ask zeolt about door
“What are your thoughts on this Golden Door?” you ask.
“My thoughts? Let me try to find them….” says Zeolt. “Well, maybe it opens, maybe not, but in the meantime, it sure does give Draydee something to do, doesn’t it?”

While I did play the entirety of the two hours, my gameplay mainly consisted of asking characters about everything I could think of and getting noncommittal answers.

Spoilers upcoming.

A partial map.

A partial map.

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S
P
O
I
L
E
R
S

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There’s one character (Quaichloy) who makes sports references that can be looked up. Those entries mention numbers, and those numbers can be then looked up in a series of journals (the top excerpt is one example). However, the journals are equally cryptic, and the whole process felt like running in circles.

I did, finally, manage to get to a basement by moving an object. There was no particular reason for me to move the object other than it could be moved. Hence I missed the usual tingle that accompanies a puzzle solve, because I was only aware a puzzle was there after I solved it. It’s possible to have pleasing secret puzzles. I remember a well-done secret door in Theatre (from 1995) but the game was careful about setting the expectation that systematically checking things for secret door catches was a useful thing.

I could see a good IF game coming from primarily secret puzzles, but there needs to be an extra motivation to play. Perhaps high writing quality might do the trick, or absorbing layers of philosophical depth, or just having characters that are actually fun to hang around. In the time I spent with Koustrea’s Contentment I could find none of those.

Oddly enough, I do want to try to play more after the competition. There’s certainly some craft here, and it feels like somewhere past the 2 hour mark things might come together.

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Posted November 7, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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One response to “IFComp 2015: Koustrea’s Contentment

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  1. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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