December 2008 Archives

Interactive Fiction-The Hospital Game-2008

For EL405 (New Media Projects), I finally finished my Inform 7 Hospital game after attempting several other programs. These new programs I had been recently introduced to in the past three months lost the race for being chosen Tiffany's Favorite Program for her Final Project. I've had several disagreements and face-to-computer-screen arguments with Blender 3D and Adobe Flash. Although in EL236, freshman year, Inform 7 and I had our differences. I came into EL405 dispising this program, but it really has earned a special place in my heart. We get along now and I know how to correct and comfort Inform 7's spastic-broken clock, error message, outrages. I've realized it takes time to work at a program and learn how it ticks.

The Hospital Game is my very first completed IF game. There is an actual end to the game. You can win when you obtain all objectives and find the secret way out. You cannot win points, but you can definately win some dignity and gratitude that comes with completing something you started.

My very first Interactive Fiction game in November 2006 was similar to the Hospital game in such ways of its ridiculous humor and random characters and actions. In a way, I've used some of the same concepts of my very first interactive fiction game. In case you're interested in progress, here is the coding and ideas I had two years ago.

Another influence for this game was of the amnesia-lost-in-a-hospital genre game also called, The Hospital, by Ian Osbourne. I definately did not copy any of his ideas inside the game. His game is fairly realistic, portraying what actually might happen to you if you are a patient stranded in a hospital with amnesia. I chose to take a different, comical route. I don't like to be serious because I'm not good at it. Inform 7 allows you to be as creative as you want without any restrictions. It's a different version of creative writing without an outline paving your way. It takes a wild imagination to create an entire world and story through writing. Inform 7 is just a different program which has the same use as a pen and piece of paper.

My previous blogs will tell the player alot of the information about my hospital game. tricks, hints and clues are scattered throughout these blogs that players really should not know because it will destroy the secret pieces of the puzzle. I wrote about the secrets because I had problems my alpha testers came across and had to correct them. By publishing the information on my blog, I was given the opportunity to recieve comments by my classmates and others who could leave helpful tips.
Now, there really is not a full thorough synopsis of my game posted.

So here it is:


You are a patient and you wake up in a hospital unaware of your surroundings or situation. Your objective is to get out of the hospital. Right away you will notice all exits are blocked or inaccessible. There is one character you can interact with. So be careful what you ask her, she could have valuable information.

What was I trying to accomplish? Well since day one of Inform 7 this semester, I knew I wanted to focus the most on creating objects that can be interacted with. There were several IF games that I played which placed me in a room with objects I could do nothing with. For example, I was placed in a kitchen. "A small kitchen with flowery yellow walls, an open stove warming the chill from the apple pies cooling on the windowsil. The clothed table had a vase of flowers with springtime freshness." As a player I want to be able to touch or interact with every object that is shown to me. If the apple pies are only part of the setting and the player does not need them, there should be a short description, "The crisp apple pies are intended for the upcoming dinner gathering." That way, when the player tries to eat the pies, they do not have to read the default description, "You can't see any such thing." The player obviously knows the pie is there. It is in the description of the kitchen. If the object is there, I want to examine it.

In my hospital game, I was very articulate when it came to creating objects in each room. Each object either serves a purpose and/or has a clever description stating what it's use is. Although, my objects are limited and the game is fairly short in some people's opinion, there is a beginning, middle, and end with interactive surroundings. To me, that is an extremely important element in interactive fiction and writing in general. You do not want to lose the player/reader, therefore this was my initial goal.
There are a few coding tricks I've utilized while creating my IF game. You can watch it here in my short video.

Alpha Testing II

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To begin Alpha testing II, I had two new testers. Maddie who is familiar with Inform 7 was the first tester. She was very thorough and clear with the correct commands. Everything went smoothly with her testing until she came to the part in Dr. Carter's office with the crazy lady and the knife.
She hadn't examined the knife at first, therefore the next step of the game couldn't continue. I used that command to lead into the next piece of the puzzle because when you see a crazy lady speed into the room on a wheelchair with a knife, my first reaction is to either ask the crazy lady about the knife or examine it. Eventually after running out of options, and with hesitation she examined the knife.
I asked her why she didn't want to do that in the first place. She said the lady seemed like an enemy more than a friend and was afraid of losing the game if she confronted the lady with the knife. It was more out of fear of doing the wrong command. I never really thought of fearing of another character's reaction in interactive fiction. It's hard for me to believe that games like this are violent, but they obviously can be. I just haven't played any. However there was no inuendo of violence earlier in the game, so I'm not exactly sure why a player would be apprehensive about using a certain command or confronting a certain issue.

This also happened with my second test user, Clare. She is not familiar with Inform 7 at all, but after telling her the basics that she should examine objects and use directions of north, south, east, and west, she caught on unbelievably quick. She realized right away that she could take objects and give objects to the crazy lady. The only command I had to help her with was "ask lady about {object}." Other than that, she went through the game smoothly except for the same part as Maddie. The lady that suddenly speeds into the room with a knife scared her. She was nervous about making another move after that. She asked me how you can run away, because she thought the lady would attack her.
Initally, that was kind of my reaction I wanted from my players. I didn't want them to be afraid of continuing. I just wanted the reaction. Then after she realized there was nothing more to do except examine the knife, she sighed as the description read, "A sharp piece of metal with reminants of carrot slices."

So what I am going to try to do to solve this is make the situation less scary.

Since there was confusion with the crazy lady and wanting the pizza, I decided to make it real obvious since it is such an important part of the game.

As for the description for the pizza menu (which was non-existant during Alpha testing I) now says, "Greasy and appetizing pizza pies. Old ladies always crave a slice."

When the player "asks the lady about herself" her response is, "They say I'm too old. Too old to walk, too old too work, even too old to eat pizza. Golly I'd sure love a slice of pizza right now."

Now if the player doesn't get the hint after those clues, I've failed. :)

My game never really followed through after this part of the game. It was definately short and undeveloped, so of course I added more. When the player gives the crazy lady the pizza menu, they recieve a key. The key is the entrance to a certain locked door. Once the player enters that locked door, there are certain objects they are supposed to interact with so they can advance to the next level or recieve the next piece to the puzzle.

This is what I wanted to happen with the game:

*Freely travel to hallway and nurses station
*Blue key to unlock Oak door
*Inside the oak door is to be Dr. Carter's office. Filing cabinets, a desk, a bookshelf, and other interactive objects in the office.
*The filing cabinet will have the first two drawers that are locked
*The cabinet will contain a blue folder and a red folder.

The folders are to contain important information:
Betty Wilson
Age: 86
D.O.B: September 20, 1922
Condition: Altzheimers
Convicted killer

Bill Kretz
Age: 43
D.O.B: May 16, 1965
Condition: Amnesia

Then after examing the folder, I want the lady to speed in on her wheelchair with a knife....she was just cutting carrots of course.

As for Alpha testing II, that's when other changes came in......

Alpha Testing I

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The first person to test my game in class was Daniella. Since she sat across the room, she hardly knew the idea of my game unlike others coughrachelcough.

So the first thing she did was look around my hospital room and examine the picture. I believe she chose this first because it was the most descriptive object and it drew her in. There is a hint about that. I want the player to examine it, but they can't do anything with it......yet. It will be an object that they can clearly remember for future reference. The very first direction she took was east. Correct. Then she went to examine the elevator. There was no entry for that because the game won't let you through it. When the player "examines elevator" The description is "The elevator is shooting off dangerous sparks. You may be electrocuted and your best bet is to stay away."

Then she went north to the nurses station.
Again out of the few objects in the room, "pens, pencils, pizza menu and mug," The mug was the most descriptive, enticing curiousity. She examined the mug which is what I wanted her to do which basically triggers the entrance of the crazy lady.

This is where I needed to make changes. I knew that I wanted the player to give the pizza menu to the crazy lady but I didn't make that clear enough. I didn't make it seem the pizza menu was vital to the game. Since that is the object that triggers the next move, I noticed I needed to clarify and improve that section with the crazy lady.

The next person to test my game was Jeremy. The very first object he tried to examine were the googly eyed slippers. Then to the picture. Again the picture is supposed to be tricky until something later happens. Jeremy immediately went straight to the nurses station where all the action is supposed to happen. He examined the menu and then the mug which brings the crazy lady in the room. He became frustrated with the lady but tried to kiss her. To me, he was struggling. So I knew the problem was giving the lady the pizza menu.

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