IFComp 2010: The Bible Retold: The Lost Sheep

And now, the second “Bible Retold” title this year. It seems that the original “Bible Retold” from 2006 was a collaboration between the two authors who submitted their retellings independently this year. It’s all too easy to imagine some kind of bet between them. At any rate, this one is pretty different from the other. Spoilers follow the break.

Not much to this one. I finished it in less than half an hour, and that included getting stuck for a while. The whole thing is a loose adaptation of the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Mark 15:3-7), but without the original’s context or message. It’s just you, a shepherd, pursuing a poor little lamb that has gone astray through a linear series of natural obstacles. Some of the commands necessary to do this seem pretty unlikely to me. I did manage to win without consulting the hints, so it’s not too bad, but on the other hand, without help, I found some of the stuff in the “amusing things to do” list first, and got sidetracked by the resulting non-solutions.

Despite having the word “Bible” in its title, this isn’t a particularly religious game. You could pretty much swap the setting with any other time and place where sheep have been herded. The game does support a “pray” command, which even takes an object (“pray for [something]”). This seemed like a promising avenue for experiment at first, but it always seems to give the same response, just like the “pray” command in Zork. Also, on a couple of occasions, I heard laughter from above, which could be interpreted as God making fun of you, so there’s an opportunity to be offended if you’re so inclined. It could just as easily be aliens, though. There’s a crop circle in one room.

The one thing I really found interesting was the WALKTHROUGH command. It’s adaptive! We’ve had adaptive hints — hint systems that only give you hints relevant to your current situation in the game — for a long time, and in fact this game has hints of that sort as well, but the walkthrough here is something else: it tells you exactly what sequence of commands you need to enter to win the game from your current state. For example, if you dropped an item that you’ll need later someplace, the walkthrough will contain the exact commands necessary to go back to the location where you dropped it and pick it up. That’s nice, and a nontrivial feat of programming. Just for that, I’m bumping my score up a point.

Rating: 5

[Update 31 October 2010: I’ve learned that the walkthrough command is somewhat flawed: it can direct you to perform one action before it’s possible, and if executed at certain key moments, can skip necessary actions. Still, kudos for even a flawed implementation of something no one else even thought of attempting.]

3 Comments so far

  1. Emily Short on 28 Oct 2010

    “The one thing I really found interesting was the WALKTHROUGH command. It’s adaptive!”

    Wow. Okay, I didn’t notice that, but it’s awesome. More games should have that. My WIP should have that. Curses: now I have to figure out how.

  2. Ben Pennington on 16 Nov 2010

    Thanks for playing the game! I’m glad you noticed the adaptive walkthrough. One lost variable caused it to crash and burn. Very irritating.

    Note to self: Never make any changes, however trivial they seem, without then being willing to test every detail of the game again.

  3. Ben Pennington on 16 Nov 2010

    Emily, I did it very inelegantly, and it would be truly hellish for a larger, more complicated game, but I can send you the source code if you’re interested.

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