Quarterstaff: Great in Concept, Painful in Execution   Leave a comment

The back of the Infocom box, via an Etsy auction.

It’s been a while! (You might want to reread my first post about Quarterstaff and then come back here. TLDR version: Quarterstaff is a Macintosh-only hybrid text adventure RPG with multiple characters.) While I’ve been busy with other projects, to be fair Quarterstaff itself is trying really hard to be unplayable.

1. The multiple characters sound good in principle but are painful in practice. Members of a group can act separately, so you get a series of prompts like:

L Titus? DRINK POTION
F Bruno? Z
F Eolene? EXAMINE BELT

so while one character is trying to do something finicky like adjust their inventory, you have to control the other characters at the same time. (“L” stands for leader and “F” stands for follower. You can change who is the leader and also separate groups.)

This gets really bad with something like DROP ALL or TAKE ALL because each item is considered a separate action, so if someone is dropping three items, your other party members are prompted multiple times for actions in between each item getting dropped. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds:

Fortunately (although I only found this out about 2 hours in) it’s possible to turn off this feature by deselecting a character name from one of the menus (it just has the “clover” symbol, no name). Multiple character control is still needed for things like combat, though.

2. There are lots of circumstances (at least early on) where a character is too heavily weighted down to enter a particular area. This not only requires the aforementioned inventory shuffle, but if somone who gets stuck is a follower, whoops! — your regular party goes ahead and your follower stays behind in the dark.

3. The interface uses multiple windows for player control and messages, map, and graphics. This doesn’t sound bad at first, but if a character gets separated from their group it pops up a new window, and the graphics are wildly inconsistent in size so that particular window grows or shrinks on every turn.

Note I’ve left the top left free because the picture sometimes takes up the entire area I have allocated. If I accidentally click in that blank space with no picture I get sent to the desktop.

4. The parser is on shaky ground at times.

Once I tried to >OPEN CLOSET and the game just picked it up instead.

5. Party death results in this ignominious screen (and the famous “Macintosh beep”) and then a summary exit to desktop.

6. While this is not the game’s fault, I’ve had my emulator crash on me multiple times. I’m going to switch software and see if that helps. Fingers crossed!

I’ll try to get into combat next time; I haven’t seen enough of it to really write about it properly.

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Posted April 19, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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