And unique they are. FunhouseRL starts from the premise that you’re trapped in an evil mirror funhouse, where you have to deal with confusing reflections on top of enemies — only one kind, because it’s a 7-Day roguelike. (Also, if the Imagination attribute is used for anything, I couldn’t figure it out.)
I missed the golden age of RPGs such as Eye of the Beholder or Zelda, and only played a couple of the newer classics, none of them to completion. To be honest, I didn’t go out of my way for them, either. It’s just not my kind of game. Curiosity is still a factor, though, and some recent titles just happen to be accessible enough for a casual player such as myself, both because of the platform they run on and the considerably simplified interface.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted; I’ve literally had no time to play as it turns out! But as things have settled down, I’ve had a little more time. Mostly occupied with my web comic (warning: blatant plug).
Anyway! I had a lot of fun with a game last night, and I wanted to share it.
Created in 1985 (according to IFWiki), Alan may well be the oldest interactive fiction authoring system still in active development. Despite that, it never achieved much popularity. IFDB lists 46 Alan games; Baf’s Guide, only 42 of them. To put things in perspective, that’s the number of IFComp entries on a good year. That’s too bad, because the system has unique qualities.
I downloaded the binary archive of Alan 3 beta 2 for Linux, the latest stable version as of this writing. The system falls under the open source Artistic License; beware that both the website and readme files may still refer to the old “register-ware” terms in places.
How different can you make a roguelike and still keep it recognizable as such? The turn-based nature of the game was once deemed essential, but then Diablo happened and nowadays, realtime roguelikes are reasonably common. Permadeath is considered just as important, yet the first roguelike I played extensively didn’t feature it. Graphics, once considered un-rogue-like, are increasingly common for the genre. But otherwise most such games are much like each other… right?
Three very unusual titles have been brought to my attention recently, two by a friend (thanks, Jason!) and the other by IndieGames.com.
Good Old Games (GOG.com) has released the first and second trilogies of the Ultima series. This is significant because for many people, Ultima was their first delve into computer RPG’s. Not only that, but the Ultimas for better or worse have shaped all the RPGs that have followed it.
Some things that are staples today in what is considered an “expansive world” (like the ability to cook, or NPC schedules) started or at least became popular in the Ultima games. And Richard “Lord British” Garriott, creator of Ultima, is a model for many developers who would like to strike it big in the world of game development starting from nothing but lines of code and a PC.
So, whatever your opinion of Ultima, it has a lot of historical significance. And so I bought the two trilogies on GOG.com and started playing through them. This article is going through the ones I have played, comparing my recollections of the games with my actual playthroughs and noting things that are interesting in each title.
So I’ve been playing Bastion lately (By Super Giant Games and available on Steam), and this is interesting for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that it’s an “Action RPG” and that’s a genre I don’t play anymore, and yet I’m playing this game.
What’s so bad about Action RPGs? Well, I find its kind of a tired genre. I’m talking about games like Diablo or Torchlight; real time games where your primary action is clicking at hoards of monsters. This is distinct from Roguelikes which, generally speaking, are turn based and more “tactical” in a lot of ways. Action RPGs are sort of repetitive stress disorder games, where you pick the best weapon or spell and “spam” it until everything is dead. (continue reading…)
After taking Inform 7 out for a spin, it was time to look into its primary competitor, TADS 3. The procedure was the same: take the toy, retro-style text adventure I wrote last year and see what it takes to port it, more or less intact, to one of the big authoring systems. As with I7, I installed the official development environment. The difference is that the TADS 3 Workbench doesn’t have a Linux port. But the Windows version runs just fine under Wine (with exceptions — don’t try accessing the manuals from the Help menu), so it was just as easy: download -> install -> go. Which, by the way, is why I didn’t insist on that part last time: there’s nothing to say about it.
I mention interactive fiction quite often in my articles, but the truth is, I am no longer familiar with the state of the art. Back when I was still serious about writing text adventures, Inform 7 was in alpha and TADS 3 was in beta. Nowadays the two have effectively replaced older systems, and being familiar with them can be useful even if you don’t care about IF as an art form:
- Interactive fiction has multiple applications in academia, from educational games to teaching people how to program computers in a less intimidating way.
- Interactive fiction is an excellent prototyping tool for more technologically sophisticated game genres such as computer RPGs.
Now, I am superficially familiar with the syntax of both, from Cloak of Darkness, as well as from skimming the official manuals. But I wanted a closer look and, as it happens, I have just the thing.