Blue Lacuna: Variables

When people hear the term “interactive fiction”, often the first thing they imagine is branching plots. And that’s seldom the case. Even when a work of IF provides multiple endings, it’s usually a matter of only one split made at the very end. This is because branching structures yield exponential complexity, and it’s largely work wasted: a player is probably going to see only one story out of the many available, and may not even be aware that the alternatives exist, if the differences are governed by hidden variables.

Blue Lacuna is at least partly governed by semi-hidden variables. By “semi-hidden”, I mean that when I type “score”, part of the output is like:

You’ve met Progue, who likes you (+6), feels dominant towards you (-1), and feels paternal towards you (+3).

.. but the “score” command is completely undocumented, even in the verbs list in the help menu. The only reason I tried it is that it’s one of those standard IF verbs handed down to us from the golden age. I’ve said before that this game is clearly built with newcomers in mind, but this extra information is effectively available only to experienced IF players. And it does affect how I play. At one point, after conversing with Progue, I discovered that I had inadvertently increased his romantic interest variable (which isn’t in the above listing — it seems to have dropped out of the list of relevant stats completely at some point). This was an unwelcome development, not only because my character (this time around) is male and heterosexual, but because it seemed like it could only cause problems later if he saw himself as a rival to Rume. So I immediately restored to my last save. Without such a concrete sign, I would have kept playing.

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