IFComp 2007: Eduard the Seminarist

Heiko Theißen tests our Z-code interpreters’ support of non-ASCII characters with an anecdote from the life of 19th-century German poet Eduard Mörike. Spoilers follow the break.

When is a door not a door? I’ll come back to this question later.

I had high hopes for this game. History is usually a promising starting point — the more specific and obscure the better. As an English-speaker whose experience with German literature pretty much ended in high school, I basically know nothing about Mörike, but by gum, I’m prepared to learn a thing or two.

So I dig in. Most of the descriptions are minimal, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are some reasonably simple object-manipulation puzzles, a little annoyance with doors (why does Inform 6 ask which door you want to open when only one of the doors is closed?), a casual mention of “the closure by the authorities of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn’s training grounds in 1820” — Cool, background! That’s what I’m talking about! Then I got stuck.

Now, there’s a walkthrough available in the game, but walkthroughs are just about the worst way to get unstuck. A walkthrough spells out the solution explicitly, often without explaining how you could have figured it out, and usually spoils other puzzles along the way. Hints at least have the possibility of guiding the player in the general direction of the solution and letting you still come to the crucial realization mostly on your own. After an hour of play, I managed to get a satisfactory hint from another player, who said he didn’t think anyone would get through that section without help. The trick was to realize that the room described as “dormitory” has a second bed not mentioned in the description — which is reasonable, I suppose, especially after I’d seen (and ignored) “(your bed)” as an automatic disambiguation message in some responses, but sufficiently contrary to text-adventure habit that I suspect my hintor was right about no one getting it. I kind of wonder if the German-language IF community has different customs about this sort of thing.

Past that part, there were some more annoyances with a boat — do I have to spell out every little thing? Can’t the game automatically take care of things like dropping the pole when disembarking? — and then the bugs started to kick in.

To answer the question at the beginning: A door is not a door when it is an Inform 6 object without the “door” property set, but made the destination of a direction anyway. If you do that, anyone who tries to move in that direction is going to wind up inside the door object and unable to leave. Well, not absolutely unable to leave: you can still climb the tree on the riverbank if you thought to pick it up and bring it with you. But you have to be careful to drop it before climbing it or you get a loop in the containment hierarchy and the game freezes up, just like if you pick up the door before entering it.

Testing is important.

Rating: 3

2 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 24 Oct 2007

    Interesting that you can pick up the tree and door, yet you couldn’t take the lamp fixture. I guess that was more obvious and thus caught.

  2. Merk on 24 Oct 2007

    Ah ha! Thus, the reason I *DID* get stuck inside doors is explained. Nice.

    I got stuck inside the river, too.

Leave a reply