IFComp 2012: Signos

Signos is the sole entry this year written in Quest. I had trouble getting this to run on my machine, even with a fresh install of what I believed to be the latest Quest interpreter. I probably still had the wrong version for this game somehow, but I gave up trying, because there was a simpler option: play it online. That’s actually been an option for most of the games this year: the ability to play games through a web browser instead of downloading an interpreter seems to be simply part of what an IF system has to do now.

Spoilers follow the break.

This is a game that’s completely up-front about the fact that it’s taking place entirely inside the player character’s head. It’s about the quest for enlightenment from the perspective of someone who’s almost there already and just needs a nudge or two from various internal gurus. So, even though your interaction with this game is mainly through physical manipulations of (things represented by) physical objects, it’s all rather abstract. If an object isn’t symbolic, it isn’t implemented. (Well, the implementation is kind of scanty to begin with — I had guess-the-syntax problems in more than one place.) But more than that, it feels kind of abstract even taking it as symbolic. I mean, we’re trying to advance the personal development of a traitless protagonist, without history or personality — to be charitable, his story is universal, or he’s made so much progress in becoming one with the universe that he doesn’t have much of an identity left.

In fact, just about the only way you can display personality in this game is by making mistakes. And that’s the most interesting thing about the work. Lapsing into worldly indulgences, such as falling asleep or eating food, drains some “essence” from a bottle you’re carrying around and appends a page to a book detailing the infraction. In the end, you have to burn all the pages you’ve accumulated to restore your essence and complete the game. The thing is, you can skip all that. If you never get any pages, you can just proceed to victory without figuring out how to start a fire, which is like half the game’s puzzle content. But if you do so, you’ll have a score of 0 at the end (out of a maximum of 108). Falling into error and recovering from it is the only source of points in the game: each page gives you nine points when you get it, and another nine when you get rid of it. For all that this game is themed around Eastern religions, this detail recalls the Catholic doctrine of the Fortunate Fall, the idea that we’re better off for having fallen into sin and then being redeemed. I haven’t found all six ways to err here, so I don’t know if there’s anything different about finishing with a complete score other than the satisfaction of completeness. But I find it interesting that such a simple nudge has me actively looking for ways to retard my spiritual progress. I guess excessive concern with points is a klesha too.

No Comments

Leave a reply