10 Second Defence post-mortem. Musings on my first Inform game (continued)
by Christina Nordlander
10 Second Defence can be found here (http://www.ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=o3l8ac72owqdhj66).
5. The Process, Reloaded
(This section contains slight puzzle spoilers.)
LD’s extreme time limit is a cure for perfectionism: whenever you come across a flaw, you can soothe yourself with “well, I only had 48 (or 72) hours”. I hadn’t intended to make a post-compo version, but I got enough positive comments that I felt like I owed it to my players.
Of course, at this point, perfectionism came into full swing. Creating Version 2 took several months. A lot of this time was spent waiting for feedback from my patient beta-testers. It’s at this point I would like to thank them: Adri, Hanon Ondricek, Andrew Schultz, Steven J. Scott, and Streever. Getting the perspective of other people (who lack your own blinkers and foci) is vital, especially given that most of these players had more experience with IF and Inform commands than I did.
Since a principal criticism of the game was that it was too difficult, I went about implementing different solutions to the puzzles, getting a lot closer to the fully interactive, immersive world I wanted when I first made the game. For examples, there are now two different ways to use the capsule with the sleep drug, as opposed to only one possible use in Version 1. On the suggestion of the testers, I also created a GLUE verb, making the use of the glue a lot more intuitive.
6. You Should See the Bits We Had to Take Out
(This section contains major puzzle spoilers.)
Some things I originally planned never ended up in the game, for one reason or other.
If you’ve played it, you’ve probably noticed the biggest one: the PC’s brain implant is a massive red herring. It is the in-story explanation for how the PC can relive the same potentially fatal scenario over and over again: the game is understood to be a simulation created by the implant in order to help the player find the optimal solution to the problem. This is why the death message is “You need to run this again,” not “You have died.”
My original idea was that once the player has reached the successful ending, they would be able to turn off the implant, moving to the “Real Apartment” where they would then replay the scenario for a permanent victory. When I made Version 1, I didn’t have the time or the experience to implement this. During the editing process, I was technically able to implement the idea, but realised that replaying the same scenario twice would be more annoying than enjoyable.
The Real Apartment was supposed to be a messier, more stressful affair without the implant blocking distractions for the PC; full of interfering information. The actual gameplay would probably not be very different, but things that seemed to proceed easily in the simulation might be slower or clumsier.
In the finished product, the implant is pretty much set dressing. Late in the game, I did give it a function as a very primitive hint system: try EXAMINE WEB at various stages of the game, and it will draw your attention to the next area you need to focus on.
More minor puzzles I was thinking of implementing, very early in the creation process, included a risk of slipping on the cleaning fluid when you leave the apartment unless you type JUMP, and a disambiguation between the hallway floor and the living-room floor when you POUR FLUID ON FLOOR. I nixed both of these ideas on the simple principle of not being a dick to the player.
7. Things I Could Have Done Better
(This section contains major puzzle spoilers)
It’s always useful to look back at a work and check what could be done better next time.
Within hindsight, the implant wasn’t necessary: it does explain how the player can carry out the actions within ten seconds, but the only reason I made the time-frame “ten seconds” was to comply with the LD theme. (And I strongly doubt that it is feasible, even with a reaction-enhancing implant.)
I have learnt many simple technical lessons from this work: in the future, I will know how to give objects different states instead of creating separate objects, reducing word count and obviating the need for disambiguation.
Most importantly: I would aim for a less difficult game. I suspect that making overly difficult games is a common temptation for novice game-makers, out of the reasoning that if the player can just breeze through the game, you’ve wasted your time. Of course, there’s also the “reading the author’s mind” problem. I think one of the main mistakes I made was, not to assume that the player would think exactly like me, but that they would think of solutions in the same order. The game would have benefited from some way to narrow the player’s focus.
Another problem with the puzzles is that they involved interacting with certain parts of the scenery (the floor, the walls) that are normally irrelevant to IF games.
I greatly enjoyed making “10 Second Defence,” and I hope that at least some people will enjoy playing it. I will certainly enjoy creating more IF games and improving my Inform skills in the future.