Fine Tuned [Spoiler Review]

“Discussions of IF design often touch on intentionality — teaching the player how to interact with the game world so that he can solve puzzles and push the plot forward while maintaining a sense that he’s an active agent in the game. What Jerz fosters here is more or less the opposite — inadvertency, perhaps? — which I might define as a tendency for the player’s actions to have unintended consequences that nonetheless advance the plot, characterization, and humor of the game. This kind of treatment wouldn’t (I think) stand entirely on its own — giving a player an environment in which to bumble around, with no idea of his goals or the means by which he might achieve them, is a recipe for disengagement and disaster. But Jerz does give the player goals and well-defined puzzles; he just makes the route to solution as entertaining as the outcome.” Emily Short reviews my interactive fiction work, Fine-Tuned. —Fine Tuned [Spoiler Review] (SPAG)

I had noticed Emily had posted a brief review of Fine Tuned on Baf’s Guide, and reading it had already made me shift finishing Fine-Tuned a little higher on my stack of Things To Do.

I think Emily is right on target in her critique. She notes the tension between the attempt at an immersive period environment on the one hand and the self-aware in jokes on the other; the two approaches work against each other, and the result is that neither succeeds.

Emily also notes that the game uses points to constrain Troy Sterling’s actions, while it enforces a standard of ladylike behavior to constrain Melody’s actions (and yes, “Christminster” was a big influence on me).

I don’t know if anybody noticed, but Troy Sterling doesn’t talk. The standard IF interface does permit him to “ask al about car” and so forth, but his dialogue is never printed out (except when he says “Huzzah!”). My intention was to emphasize Troy’s nature as a man of action.

After Melody gets all the exposition from the long-winded professor (my students all probably know the source for that particular NPC), she loses control of her voice, which forces her to become a woman of action. I did have an early sequence drafted where Emily [oops Melody — Freudian slip] takes control of the Pratt Dynamo, but since the only real driving takes place in chapter 1, and we don’t get to play Melody as the PC until chapter 2, the scene just didn’t work.

I have about half of the dialogue written out for chapter 5, and then I plan an action sequence (which will probably expand to be a full chapter) and a final bit of character interaction.

I should note that “Fine-Tuned” actually owes its existence to Emily.

I had already created the characters for a globe-trotting kind of road trip game, in which you would play the eight-year-old kid who always seems to stow away or otherwise get caught up in the action in the old adventure movies. When Emily announced SmoochieComp, I sketched out a romance (Melody was invented at this time), and started programming. By the time the SmoochieDeadline approached, I had nothing resembling a romance, though I had most of the first chapter coded.