Monday, May 23, 2011

Hallow Eve - Spring Thing 2011 Retrospect

Spring Thing 2011 came and went. My game, Hallow Eve, placed 6th out of 6. I am not deeply disappointed, nor am I happy about this. Some voices from the community I have heard suggest that I should not have even submitted Hallow Eve to the contest, but I am certainly glad that I did. It has been both an enjoyable experience and a learning experience. I must say that the organizer, Greg did a great job with the competition proceedings.. he even worked with me on my lack of a Paypal account.

Criticisms along the lines of "This feels like a bad simulation of a bad b-rated horror film" would be pretty scathing if I didn't agree with it. The low-brow crudeness of many aspects of the game was completely intentional and that seems to click with the people that actually enjoy the game. I can't say the same for a game like Bonehead. In contrast to me saying "Oh, you like horror? Check out my game, please pardon my oldschool mess.", Bonehead is geared towards those who are interested in baseball and is extremely well-presented with fancy glulx effects.

Some advice I received from the reviews was great. Emily Short and some others emphasized on the pacing of the story being off. Why was the pacing off? The plan. My 16 year old plan was all over the place with tons of things I wanted to bring into the game, some of which I made huge stretches to make even slightly logical. I was confident the game didn't have any game-halting bugs in it, but some important ones were brought to my attention such as a timing issue with one event and random "understanding" issues with the parser. When I launched the game after release, I noticed an end quote that was spaced way down from where it should have been.. must have been an accidental keystroke in the wee hours of the morning before Spring Thing 2011 submission time. That alone told me I was probably in for it.

A major criticism of the game I didn't agree with was that the game seemed to have no conversation system to speak of. I spent many hours creating "topics" to ask or tell just about all of the NPCs, but there was zero hinting to the player that these topics even existed. I had actually thought of bolding topics that you could ask or tell a person within narrative and description texts (A system similar to Ultima V), but part of me thought perhaps that could spoil things for some players. I regret not adding bolded text now.

There should be one more release of Hallow Eve, complete with a website and source code sometime between now and Halloween of this year. In that release I will revisit the game to address complaints with the system itself and add other small improvements. I welcome anyone who enjoyed the game to leave suggestions about story elements you would like elaborated on or perhaps even added.


  1. Don't feel too bad, you're part of a proud tradition. Blue Lacuna got last place in the 2008 Spring Thing...

    (I haven't played any of this year's Spring Thing games yet-- thesis due very very soon-- but am very much looking forward to trying them all in a few weeks!)

  2. Conversation is hard. Without a mechanism to somehow prompt the user, you risk having a lot of work on topics get overflown by players that aren't on the same mental wavelength. Bolded text is good -- I'd also recommend using an actual conversation engine like Eric Eve's Conversation Package. It can really help keeping players on track and making sure that they efficiently see the work you've put into topics!

    Like Aaron, I didn't get a chance to play this year's Spring Thing games yet, but I hope too soon. Good luck with your future works!