IFComp 2016: Theater People   Leave a comment

By Michael Kielstra. Played to completion on desktop.


The stage left wing is your home away from home. It’s full of props that will be required onstage if the show ever starts. South is the left stage corridor, and east is that most glamorous of areas, the stage.

Mandy looks you up and down with the gaze she reserves for insignificant insects and junior tech crew members. “The curtain’s not going up. Find out what’s wrong.”

Theater People is a parser adventure game where, as a junior tech crew member, you are trying to help a play start. It’s fairly short; even with solving the optional puzzle I clocked in at somewhere around 20 minutes.

This could have been much nicer — the premise is solid, anyway — but the characters and puzzles were too barren to go anywhere.

Minor spoiler space ahead …

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The puzzles have

a.) A trivial fetch-quest chain.

b.) A bit where you have to SEARCH an item you can pick up, which is quite non-standard.

c.) A part where SEARCH doesn’t work but LOOK UNDER does.

(Could we just call a moratorium on SEARCH and LOOK UNDER and fold everything under EXAMINE? I could swear that was a trend at one point but I guess it went away.)

d.) One legitimately good (although morally questionable) puzzle that is also optional.

In general the puzzle sequence fails the “if we think of the narrative as a compilation of the player’s actions, is it a narrative anyone would want to hear?” test. This could have been amply made up for by livelier characters but they are essentially plastic robots with one or two responses:

> look lola
You have known Lola for a long time. She still won’t let you have a free drink, no matter how much you compliment her long black hair or her brown eyes.

> ask lola about lola
Lola ignores you pointedly.

> ask lola about me
“Why should you ask me about yourself? You tell me all about yourself without me asking.”

> ask lola about drink
“Your sweet talk won’t get you anything round here! No money, no drinkie.”

There was easily room for snappy dialogue, or witty social commentary, or just some old-fashioned feeling of realism; except for some smart aleck attitude in the player character all opportunities were missed.

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Posted October 12, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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