The Watchmaker: “Telephone”

Okay, my replay is just about caught up to where I left off. Since I don’t have any new discoveries to discuss, I’d like to address something that imposes itself on my attention in every session: the UI.

In the main game view, you can do the following: Walk around by clicking or pressing the arrow keys (not WASD); switch to first-person view by pressing space; wave the cursor around to find things that pop up a name, indicating that they’re interactable; left-click on those things to examine them; right-click on them to perform another action, which is often just another examine; or press the tab key to bring up the rest of the UI, which mainly consists of a list of inventory items, but also includes a button to summon the other player character to your current location if you can currently do that. Note that summoning the other character doesn’t switch control to them. To do that, you have to use the “Telephone” in your inventory, which is clearly a PDA rather than a telephone. When I summon Darrel, it’s nearly always because I want to do something as Darrel, so it’s something of a UI fail that it doesn’t make that the default.

Note that you cannot play the game entirely from mouse, or entirely from keyboard. Both are necessary, which makes the lack of WASD support irksome, as it means your right hand has to repeatedly switch places.

Partly because I failed to discover first-person view, it took me a long time to get any inventory items beyond the “telephone”, and I thought there might not even be any physical inventory, like in The Blackwell Legacy. This turned out to be false. Inventory shows up in a nice tall list, where you can left-click items to bring up a rotatable 3D image, or right-click to select them for using on environmental objects or other inventory items. All fairly standard, except I think it must have left-click and right-click swapped from what I expect, because I keep doing the wrong one.

The “telephone”, though, is special. When you left-click on its 3D image, you get a close-up of its in-game UI, which consists of two items, displayed as graphical images, with equal prominence: the tone sequencer and the log. The tone sequencer is, as far as I can tell, used in exactly one puzzle, where you have to recover a number from a recording of telephone button presses — and even then, you don’t actually access it through this interface. The log is a lot more useful than that. It’s where the player characters record important information, so it’s a good way to find out what the author considers to be important. I really should consult the log more often, now that I know this. There are hints there that I’ve only noticed after hitting the walkthrough to solve their puzzles.

When you click on an inventory item to view it, the resulting UI also contains the button for switching control between Victoria and Darrel, and, even weirder, all the system-level functionality. This is where the save/load menu lives, and also the settings menu, and the option to quit the game — all the things you’d normally expect to access by pressing the esc key, which, in this game, does nothing. Now, I’ve known other games to mix their system menu and inventory menu together in various ways. But it feels very strange to me to have to make the system menu contingent on the inventory in this exact way. At first, I thought it was a property of the “telephone” item specifically, because that would at least have a connection to the way that some games dress up their system menus as in-game PDAs or HUDs or whatever. That would still be weird, but it would at least be a somewhat familiar weird. It was only after first writing this post that I realized that this was not the case, and I’ve rewritten things somewhat as a result.

1 Comment so far

  1. Ross on 16 Jul 2019

    Note that you cannot play the game entirely from mouse, or entirely from keyboard. Both are necessary, which makes the lack of WASD support irksome, as it means your right hand has to repeatedly switch places.

    This is basically how a lot of games are if you’re left-handed and the developer only supported wasd and not the arrow keys. (I got irked enough to contact a developer, in whom I lost all faith when he told me that it was technologically impossible to support both)

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