Blue Lacuna: Conversation

Chapter 3 of Blue Lacuna ends in a conversation with a castaway named Progue, the game’s other major character. Much of the game is occupied with learning Progue’s backstory, which Progue himself doesn’t know at the beginning. He’s quite mad, you see. He doesn’t even remember his own name for a good long time. But talking with the player apparently acts as a kind of psychotherapy, and by chapter 3’s end he’s recovered his wits enough to talk sensibly about a lot of the things you’ve discovered on the island.

The conversation system is sort of a hybrid of menu-based conversation and Infocom-style ASK/TELL: you’re limited to specifying a keyword to talk about, but the keywords you can use at any given moment are presented in a list at the bottom of the screen. If you don’t like any of the current options, you can type “subject” to bring up a broader list. There’s an occasional problem with interpreting keywords the wrong way, if they’re present as both a conversation option and a thing in the current room, but for the most part conversation is straightforward: at any given moment you’re either answering a question, in which case your choices are constrained to the possible answers, or you’re asking questions yourself, in which case you exhaustively go through your list of options, just like in most other menu-based adventure game dialogue systems.

In the particular conversation just after Progue goes sane, there was a keyword “sketchbook”. I didn’t remember seeing any sketchbook, but I asked him about it anyway. I did remember some sketches in one location, so I figured that maybe they had been in a book and I had just forgotten. It’s easy to forget details in the rush of initial exploration. Well, it turns out that I actually hadn’t found the sketchbook yet. I’ve found it now: it was in a place where I could have easily gotten to it very early on if I hadn’t been so dense. Presumably all of the beta testers found it well before this point, and thus didn’t notice that it could be discussed out-of-order.

I’m not describing this just to complain about the bug. It’s actually pretty impressive how bugless the game had been up to that point, especially with all it does with variable descriptions: all sorts of things change with the time of day, the state of player knowledge, even with the tides, and it all just works flawlessly. Rather, I bring it up because of what it illustrates about the conversation system. The fact that you’re typing in keywords makes it feel a lot like ASK/TELL, but in a traditional ASK/TELL system, this bug would have been invisible to me. The “sketchbook” topic could have been available, but I wouldn’t have known about it.

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