Archive for January 2019

Goblins: Deduction vs. Abduction   4 comments

Alas, I have not quite finished yet. Perhaps this post will give a hint as to why. But first, a brief detour into Sherlock Holmes.

From the start of The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle:

When I glance over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes cases between the years ’82 and ’90, I am faced by so many which present strange and interesting features that it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which to leave. Some, however, have already gained publicity through the papers, and others have not offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend possessed in so high a degree, and which it is the object of these papers to illustrate. Some, too, have baffled his analytical skill, and would be, as narratives, beginnings without an ending, while others have been but partially cleared up, and have their explanations founded rather upon conjecture and surmise than on that absolute logical proof which was so dear to him.

Sherlock Holmes is oft-stated to always conclude things based on airtight deduction, having a set of facts whereupon to build a case where there can be no other conclusion. However, quite often the character relies on abduction, which instead a probability-based guess based on circumstances. Later, in the same story, a young man arrives:

“Give me your coat and umbrella,” said Holmes. “They may rest here on the hook and will be dry presently. You have come up from the south-west, I see.”

“Yes, from Horsham.”

“That clay and chalk mixture which I see upon your toe caps is quite distinctive.”

The supposition made here is most likely correct, but hardly the only possible one; perhaps the man stole the shoes from someone else who resided in the area. Still, Sherlock Holmes’s inference is the best explanation, likely enough that the reader doesn’t notice it’s not an “absolute logical proof” in the same manner as mathematically proving that 1 + 1 = 2.

To summarize: with deduction, we have fully known rules and circumstances that when together force some kind of conclusion. With abduction, we have circumstances where we have to infer the chain of events, but it’s a probabilistic guess.

By the treehouse where all the treasures are stored in Goblins there is an “old boot”. There is no more detail other than that.

After long frustration I ended up checking a “hint sheet” that was given with the game, and found this:

Submarine. The sub may be surfaced by waving the boot (which was originally fished from the sea) at the beach where the fish is carrying the welcome sign. Be sure to bring the compass when using the sub or all is lost!

I went to the place with the welcome sign …

… and found WAVE BOOT had no effect, nor did any other attempt at using a magical item. No, it turns out you have to be in the bay just north of this part of the beach, and then the action works.

This happens to be an unusually prominent spot for me to highlight an issue with adventure games. I feel like a lot of adventure game writers think they are writing puzzles which will be solved via the process of deduction, but the player needs to use abduction instead.

The author knew the boot was fished from the sea, but somehow failed to convey this fact. The author knew the nature of the boot’s magic. The author knew the boot’s magic could be activated via waving. The author knew the “royal entrance” was next to the sign, but not right at it. If given all those facts, it’s possible to logically conclude both that WAVE BOOT is the right action and where it should be done; without these facts, the player is instead using abduction. They can see the crime scene after the fact and can only make their best guess about what to do.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; a confirmed conclusion from abduction can be highly satisfying. However, it needs to be a most likely conclusion, not one plausible theory out of ten. Many authors are tentative about giving “excess hints” to a puzzle in a game, but they have to keep in mind the player is always working via abduction, and making a puzzle solution 10% more likely to be correct isn’t the same as “giving a puzzle away”.


Posted January 11, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Text Games to Watch for in 2019   1 comment

I’ve probably left a few games out; I’ll leave this open for edits if anyone wants to chime in with candidates.

Choice of Games projects these releases for 2019:

Chronicon Apocalyptica: Copyedit. Releasing Jan 10? A 10th Century adventure; The X-Files meets The Name of the Rose, as you travel through England solving the mysteries of an ancient tome, and investigating myths while staving off conflict with Vikings. A sophomore outing from @r_davis, author of Broadway: 1849.
Untitled Superlatives Sequel: Beta. Picking up after the conclusion of The Superlatives: Aetherfall , you work for the Conclave, an interplanetary diplomatic force as you hunt down the mysterious assassin who killed your predecessor. By Alice Ripley.
Platinum Package: Draft revision. In the elite world of high net-worth individuals, someone has to make the impossible happen. By Emily Short.
Exile of the Gods: Draft review. A sequel to Champion of the Gods.
Drag Star: Draft revision. Make your costume, make your face, throw your shade…all to discover, who is the most fabulous drag star of them all?
Fool!: Draft revision. As a jester, you must make your way from the local fair to the court of the king. Put on your motley, tune your lute, and sharpen your wit: to be remembered as the greatest fool, you must put your competition to shame.
Astral Troopers: Draft revision. As a newly appointed sublieutenant of the Astral Corps, you must work to put down a rebellion on the remote planet of Cerberus.
Untitled Grand Academy for Future Villains Sequel: In progress. Picking up after the school-rending conclusion of Grand Academy, face a new school year, new enemies, of course your mom , and perhaps acquire a true villainous destiny.
The Darkling Watchers: In progress. The US Government employs the spirits of the dead as spies? Another mindbending outing by Paul Gresty, author of The ORPHEUS Ruse and MetaHuman, inc.
Pon Pará and the Great Southern Labyrinth: In progress. The first in a new trilogy by Kyle Marquis, author of Empyrean, Silverworld, and Tower Behind the Moon.
Social Services of the Damned: In progress. In a city overrun with trolls, demons, witches, vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings, someone has to handle the paperwork! You’re a social worker whose job is to mediate disputes and lay the occasional smack-down on uppity entities when they break the rules or endanger the human populace.
Six Months to Vesta Station: In progress. You’re the captain of a long-haul spaceship in the 24th century, and a wealthy man has paid triple your usual fee to carry him and his mysterious cargo with no questions asked. On the long voyage, navigate your crew’s personalities, interplanetary politics, the asteroid belt, and your ship’s resources as you uncover secrets and conspiracies.
The Esper Smugglers: In progress. As the captain of an airship, you must negotiate with and resist pirates and corporate forces seeking to exterminate the Esper race.
180 Files: The Aegis Project: Draft revision. Winner of the ChoiceScript Competition. As a spy, you must uncover a nefarious plot to destroy the world!
A Tale of Two Cranes: Draft revision. An epic saga of Three Kingdoms-era China. Second place winner of the ChoiceScript Competition.
Heroes of Myth: It’s easy being the most famous and powerful heroes in the world when evil has been vanquished and your cups are constantly full with other peoples’ wine. But when evil raises its ugly head once again, you’re forced to confront the fact that you’re a fraud that’s been grifting the realm for years. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll rise to the occasion.
Psy High: High Summer: A sequel to Psy High by @ladybird. How will use your powers of clairvoyance to make the best summer ever for the kids at a summer camp?

Solace State will likely be released in 2019.

… a 3D visual novel about a young hacker, Chloe, who comes to her political awakening as she seeks out her friends in a sci-fi surveillance society.

Sunless Skies from Failbetter Games comes out on January 31st.

Sunless Skies is a gothic horror roleplay game with a focus on exploration and exquisite storytelling.

The only thing between you and the waste-winds, storms and cosmic lightning is your engine. Tend and upgrade it, buy weaponry and exotic equipment, and keep her hull in good shape to hold the hostile Heavens at bay.

Blackout: The Darkest Night from MiniChimera is coming “early 2019”.

A Choose Your Own Adventure inspired by White Wolf’s World of Darkness, Twin Peaks and H.P. Lovecraft.

The legendary STEINS;GATE visual novel series returns on February 19th with STEINS;GATE ELITE.

STEINS;GATE ELITE follows a rag-tag band of tech-savvy young students who discover the means of changing the past via e-mail using a modified microwave. Their experiments in pushing the boundaries of time begin to spiral out of control as they become entangled in a conspiracy surrounding SERN, the organization behind the Large Hadron Collider, and John Titor, who claims to be from a dystopian future.

Cubus Games is planning on the 3rd game in their Heavy Metal Thunder series called Slaughter at Masada.

Slaughter at Masada takes place on Mars, a brutal warzone where three sides are vying for dominance. Masada has been under siege for three years, and to overcome despair the people trapped in Mount Olympus have embraced a deadly philosophy of WAR FOR THE SAKE OF WAR. They are surrounded by Invader berserkers – criminal psychopaths too dangerous to be trusted inside spaceships. And now the Black Lance Legion has arrived to break the siege and recruit the fighters of Masada – even against their will, if necessary.

Necrobarista is coming early 2019.

In a magical Melbourne cafe, the dead return for one last night and one last cup of coffee.

Pseudavid, who previously got 6th place in IFComp 2018 for The Master of the Land is working on The Good People:

A horror drama about climate, drowned villages and rural legends.

The developer thev1nce previously worked on a mobile game entitled Somewhere: the Vault Papers (trailer above) is working on a new project called Cloak and Data that “will deal with espionage and IT security.”

David Cornelson (previously of Textfyre, cover art from their release Shadow of the Cathedral above) is working on a new parser game called Zombie Salsa.

… a traditional parser-based puzzle fest with a side of horror and humor.

Posted January 9, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction