IFComp 2015: Pilgrimage   2 comments

By Víctor Ojuel. Finished with heavy use of the walkthrough.


Sometime about halfway through the competition I loaded up each of the games for about 5 minutes to see what I was getting into and if I needed anything special (make sure game X I do when I have a lot of time, make sure I have paper for game Y).

At this time, the first part of Pilgrimage held pretty well. You play a woman travelling across Medieval Europe in search of a manuscript, and there’s a set piece with a plague doctor and promising writing.

The Eternal City
You wake up on the third night, on the dawn of departure. The children have been put to sleep, the tears to dry. The parting-moon is risen. The wandering days are come. The road awaits, feet-hungry. One restless night you leave behind the glimmering domes of Rome and their stupid majesty, and head north, never looking back.

A plague doctor drives slowly ahead, his black carriage brimful with a macabre harvest.

On the old Roman road towards the west, you come across a small group of pilgrims, wearing wide hats decorated with scallop shells.

“Stupid majesty” seems an odd choice of phrasing, but I can work with it, especially given a followup of “carriage brimful with a macabre harvest”.

At the time I looked around at the environment and myself, solved the first puzzle (getting by the doctor) and shut my program down, content it would be smooth sailing when I came back to play Pilgrimage for real.

After returning a week later, I came across the second room, which included knights fighting:

The silence of the wild lands is broken by the smashing of steel agains steel. Dead ahead, blocking the path to the north, two gallant knights hold a ferocious duel. One’s coat of arms boasts black stars on a red field, the other’s has a field of gules with sable stars. They seem able to fight it out forever.

You can see a gallant knight here.

They blocked my way, and I could speak neither of their languages, so I fruitlessly ran through all the verbs I could think of, until I tried:

> kiss knight
It’s not hard work seducing the gallant knight, and his lips are nice enough. Getting rid of the armour (for greater comfort) is another, trickier business. It also takes him a long time to re-arm. But worth it. Oh yes.

…what?

(Going to be free with early game spoilers from here out.)

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At this point I realized two things:

1.) This game was going to be highly glitchy. The knights go back to fighting after the … scene … above like nothing ever happened.

2.) The NPCs were going to be more like automatons than characters. In this case of the puzzle above, it turns out you just need to give over your glove and the knight will loyally follow you around, like you are the pied piper of men.

Both of these attributes appear in the next scene as well:

From the distance, you can see a small craft appear over the grey, merciless waters. It is a small sailing boat, plying its trade in the fjords.

> x boat
A small sailing boat, manned by a lonely sailor.

In boat is sailor.

The text seems to imply nothing other than the boat is far out in the water, which implied to me you needed to signal and wait for him to come over:

> wave to sailor
You can’t see any such thing.

Hm. Perhaps….

> talk to sailor
Chances are this person does not speak your native Tuscan (or Latin, Greek or Chaldean, in which you are quite fluent). Should you want to try anyway, ASK sailor ABOUT something or TELL sailor ABOUT something.

> ask sailor about boat
He doesn’t speak your language.

Not helpful!

Checking the walkthrough…

> kiss sailor
Much to the scandal of the gallant knight, you consent to the lustful wishes of the sailor. Once satisfied, the seaman motions you onboard. “Come, come, faif lafdy, off to Engflan we muft!”, and his dry cackle resonates in the lonely fjord like the call of a diseased seagull. The ship is ready to depart, due south-west.

How did the boat teleport near us? How did we know the intents of the sailor? Why did we give in to the intents of the sailor? If we don’t speak his language, how did any of this happen? If we don’t speak his language, how did we understand “off to Engflan we muft!”

I played for a little longer, but after I was supposed to order the knight to attack a dragon (even though we don’t speak his language, I guess it was expressive gesture?) I rammed my way to the end solely with a walkthrough. There are nice set pieces here and there…

Was he perhaps a pilgrim once, like you were? Was it hunger, plague or torture at the hands of strangers that twisted his mind? Or perhaps just the solitude and the terrible truth that comes with pilgrimage?

“Ultreia! Et suseia!” he cries over and over, with the anguished tone of someone with a crucial message to deliver. Perhaps you can give him something to refresh his memory.

He is most in need of the blessings of Babylon.

…but I found the implementation too shaky to stray far outside the walkthrough path.

To end on a positive note with a feature I liked: often moving in a direction means travelling for months. So GO EAST attains a much different feel than traditional IF. This gives an epic sense to Pilgrimage’s geography.

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Posted November 11, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “IFComp 2015: Pilgrimage

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  1. You’re not the only one who stuck closely to the walkthrough to finish (or to make much progress, really). I did like the epic feel of the movement and the evocative prose, but I wanted to like the end result more than I did end up liking it.

  2. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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