Hello my story...that's all code

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When I was attempting to plan out my own interactive game, I played a few already published games. If you're interested in checking out my responses to a few of these said games, click on over to my blog entry Tap your fingers for a new game. All of the games that I reviewed on this blog were fascinating and are now personal favorites of mine.

As of now, my game's title is "Awakening" and the setting is vague in that I never tell the player what the family's farm title is or what the town's name is. However, I hope to clarify this a bit by giving the player a more detailed description of the clothing in the game. I hope that this in addition to the hints of witch trials will give the player enough clues to envision an environment based in approximately 1600 - 1800. The tone of my game is somewhat subdued and definitely shrouded in mystery. The player has no memory throughout their exploration of their family's farm, although the player does gradually recover significant memories by examining various objects.

I think the idea that influenced me the most when coding my game was the idea of having to explore everything and then closely examine whatever I find. I think this is a common theme in many games, but I feel that it plays an important role in interactive games because players create the game world in their mind. Another idea that influenced me is my interest in historical witch trials and fantasy elements. Get all of these ideas together in my head, add my limited coding skills, and this game is what you get.

Here's a preview that will hopefully either draw you in to play my game or inspire you to some creative end:

"This is a dream that is more than a dream.

It may be a you that is more than the you that you're playing now.

But whatever you do, it's of your own choice and a creation of your own ends."

The three lines above are the opening lines of text that they player will see when he/she begins my game. My goal for these lines are to intrigue the player and to make them question the reality of my game. I don't know that I specifically used any creative factors other than listening to my brain's inner ramblings. And I think the only technical issue that I used was inputing paragraph breaks to make the lines break apart.

Anyway, I've pasted below a portion of my game code that I am particularly proud of. This section displays my first ever attempt at creating a flashback, in addition to awarding a point to the player.

Instead of examining the wooden horse for the first time:
say "It looks like a child's toy. The rough pine edges have been carefully worn down. As if mesmerized, your fingers slowly trace the wooden horse's body...[Paragraph break]";
wait for any key;
say "...You're standing in the stable and small clusters of snowflakes are beginning to drift in through the cracks in the wood behind you. A young boy, no more than five years old is sitting in front of you on the stable's floor, playing with the wooden horse. He has the same dark brown hair as you do and you're sure that if you could see his eyes that they'd be matching twins to your own gray pupils. You hear your mother's laughter ring out behind you and you turn...[Paragraph break]";
wait for any key;
say "A slight shiver runs through your body as you once more feel the summer's heat drifting in at your back.[Paragraph break]";
award 1 point;
say "Startled, you take a step backward. Was that my little brother, Sam?"

It took me a bit of time to figure out how to do this, but it was most assuredly worth it. If you're interested in making a similar portion of code, I recommend looking up section 4.5 "Flashbacks" in Inform's Recipe book.

The main body of my game involves the player exploring the family farm setting and recovering the player-character's memory. I employed two main tactics in my attempt to encourage the player's efforts: descriptions that have semi-obvous hints as to what the player should do next, as well as awarding points for the player's diligence in taking and examining key objects.

I've told you some key components of my game already, but I'm going to give away a bit of my ending as well. There are two endings to my game: a bad end and a wise end. The ending was one of the harder coding areas of my game, but I'm not sorry for taking spending a lot of time on it. Without giving too much away, my endings rely upon the beginning and ending of scenes, and all of them are near the final room of the game.

As far as credits go, I hope that you check out the games that I reviewed in my earlier blog because they each inspired me in some way. I wrote this code all by myself, so I've only myself to blame if players find it boring or whatnot. And if the documentation within the Inform 7 program had a name for itself, I would certainly give a big shout out to it for all of its help.

For the most part, my usability tests gave me good feedback. The key areas that they addressed were having more details in my descriptions or in my "room" descriptions, and having more synonyms when talking to three other characters in the game that I had created myself. There were a few glitches that I had failed to catch before, like when I had forgotten to erase a bit of code that allowed a key in the game to unlock a door that I didn't want the player to be able to open. All in all though, I think that I would love to improve upon this game for my term project.

Care to read and see what my classmates have done with their creativity?

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