IFComp 2010: A quiet evening at home

Spoilers follow the break.

OK. I recently mentioned the idea of the “my apartment” game, the typical new-author programming exercise that’s generally not worth releasing to the public. This is that game and nothing but. You get home, you do a few chores, you watch TV or something, and you go to bed, and that’s the entire game. If games are about what you do in them, this game is about the drudgery of mundane existence. One of the most important parts of the craft of IF is deciding when the player has done enough to communicate their intentions, how much detail you force them to go into in their actions. This game makes you specify every step of taking out the garbage: removing the bag from the kitchen bin, going out to the backyard, opening the garbage can, putting the bag into the garbage can, closing the garbage can, picking up the garbage can, going back through the house and out to the curb, putting down the garbage can. That’s how this game plays.

It earns a point or two for selection of descriptive details, highlighting only the elements of each room that have character. But it loses them again for occasional but persistent inattentiveness to syntax and formatting: a space before a sentence-terminating period here, an inappropriately-capitalized object name there. It also loses at least one for making the player’s first challenge an urgent need to go to the bathroom. It turned out to handle this about as tastefully as it is possible for a game to do (something only made possible by the fact that there are no real time limits in this game, just tasks that have to be performed eventually), but when one of the first things I see in a game is “you’ve got an urgent need to use the restroom”, it just reminds me of where other games have taken this theme.

One last thing: This game provides the player access to (a) a microwave oven and (b) a hamster. If there’s one thing we all should have learned from Maniac Mansion, it’s that these two items have a near-irresistible attraction for each other in the hands of a player of an adventure game. For my part, I tried at first to overcome the urge, because it really didn’t seem to be what the author intended. But then, after being reminded repeatedly that I was hungry and needed to prepare some dinner, and then not being able to find anything other than condiments and a bowl in the entire kitchen, I started to wonder if the author wasn’t subtly leading me down that road after all. It turned out that I hadn’t examined a cabinet that I thought I had, and that any attempt to put the hamster in the microwave (either in the bowl or not) just produces the same refusal as you get for any non-food item. So either the author refused to acknowledge this dark impulse, or is unaware of its existence. The former, I can respect. The latter would just show failure to think like a player.

Rating: 2

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