IFComp 2008: Channel Surfing

Spoilers follow the break.

For the second time in this Comp, I spent 40 minutes stuck in a game’s first room, trying to guess the right command. I was in a grey room dominated by a large television and a chair that I couldn’t sit on. I had a remote control, but how to use it? Examining it gave no clue, which it really should have, if only something as subtle as a casual use of the correct command syntax in a descriptive sentence. The remote had no (implemented) buttons, and neither it nor the TV could be turned or pushed or switched or set or changed. I eventually hit on “type x on remote”. Looking at the hints after the fact, I found that “change channel to x” works, which I could have sworn I had tried. Maybe I had, but had used the wrong channel. If you do that, the game produces no sign that the command would work with a different channel — in fact, it produces no output at all. Certain other verbs do likewise when applied with unanticipated objects — for example, attempting to attack or break things produces no output except in a few special cases.

This game credits four beta testers, and at this point you may be wondering what they were doing. Did they fail to notice these problems? Did they consider them not worth reporting? Or did the beta version have so many bugs that only the most crucial issues could get fixed in time? Having done some beta-testing myself this year, I can report one instance where large portions of my beta report were apparently ignored, but at least the really major game-logic bugs got fixed. Something like that may have happened here.

Changing to the appropriate channel put me into the middle of a game show, where I immediately got stuck again: I was expected to type “talk to host”, but the host was described simply as an “older man”, and the response to “talk to older man”, or even just “talk to man”, made me think that he was an unimplemented scenery object. After that, though, things went pretty smoothly, mainly because most of the rest of the game consisted of conversation menus.

I had high hopes for this game. The initial premise has a lot of promise: changing channels in your personal reality has a virtually unbounded potential for interesting juxtapositions. But the game doesn’t explore the premise much: there are only three channels available, and you have to go through them in linear sequence. It’s less a game than an exercise in particularly unsubtle social satire, turning into a political cartoon in the final segment.

Rating: 3

1 Comment so far

  1. Super Doomed Planet » Blog Archive » IFComp 2008: Channel Surfing on 1 Nov 2008

    […] not figure out how to phrase the command. I had to get the right wording from the walkthrough. I am not the only person who had this problem.Here, then, is another game that was not tested… or so I […]

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