Text Adventure Untexted (But with text)

By Kieron Gillen on October 18th, 2007 at 12:10 am.

Ironically over-convoluted headline out of the way, this follows neatly on from the Text In Games feature. Especially because Mike Rubins dropped me a line about Vespers 3D because of it. It even ties into my note in the comments thread that it’d be interested if more developers looked for Interactive Fiction for more inspiration of story and structure. Because that’s exactly what Vespers 3D is.

I'm sorry, I do not understand the phrase 'Have sex with monk'.

IF aficionado will recall Vespers as winner of the 2005 IFComp as well as receiving multiple awards at the XYZZY ceremonies. What Mike and his team is doing is adapting the game for the most serious attempt at a text-adventure/First-person shooter hybrid since the immortal Typing Of The Dead.

Okay, Facade was probably closer to what we’re talking about but this really appears to be considerably separated from that. Basically, takes the games setting – a monastry mystery ala Cadfael with extra EEEVVVILLL – and presents it in a first-person/text adventure hybrid. So you move around as you would in any other game, but you interact with the world and its characters via a text interface. Here’s a little footage from the website, demonstrating talking with a lovely man doing something or another with a chicken. And chicken based-interaction is a sure way to garner RPS’ favour.

Lots more footage on its website. It’s worth noting that marrying a more graphical world and a text interface isn’t exactly new. The original Sierra graphic adventures – Leisure Suit Larry et al – featured a graphical world you navigated (and so immersed yourself in) and a text interface for playing around with stuff. That you may think that died out doesn’t necessarily make Vespers 3D misguided. Text interfaces disappeared before games could render true immersive 3D worlds, and there’s a sense of environment that viewpoint gives which simply isn’t there in a side-viewed screen based game. Marry that with the playful, boundless form of interaction that a text adventure allows, and you could have something.

Is it a good idea? Can this sort of free movement and text-based interaction actually work? God Knows. As Mike says in an interview he did last year “I’m still not sure if it’s a good match, to be honest; that’s what we’re looking to find out with this experiment”. Point being, it’s an experimental game. If you know if it’s going to work before you do it, by definition, it’s not experimental.

Their next waypoint is a demo, containing the first 20% of the game. Mike’s hoping to get it done in a few months time, but even now – from our position as the audience, as a purely conceptual thing – it’s worth thinking point.

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7 Comments »

  1. malkav11 says:

    The impression I get from the above screenshot and video is that they’re giving you essentially the original text adventure with 3D visuals bolted on. That is, all the original description text and so forth. And in that context…sure, why not? It’s a lot more work than just a text adventure, but it might well have some advantages.

    I don’t much care for graphical games where only your direct interaction with the game is textual, though, (like Trilby’s Notes, the third of Yahtzee’s horror adventure games) because you don’t have the textual cues to inform you what things are called and how to interact with them. It’s essentially the worst of both worlds.

  2. Alistair says:

    I always liked the idea of context sensitive right-click menus in graphical games. Easy way to give the player more options than shoot/use.

  3. Sub-kamikaze says:

    Does anyone remember Douglas Adams’s “Starship Titanic”. It was a flawed, but comic romp through a dilapidated spaceship. It was similar to this in that it had a first person perspective, but it wasn’t freeform (so you moved the mouse cursor to the corner of the screen to move to a different room, or to pick up items etc), but the way you interacted with the various characters was entirely text-based. You could have (sort of) lengthy conversations with them since there were thousands of lines of dialogue recorded for each. I think swearing at the parrot was my favourite…

    Well, I liked it…

  4. Crispy says:

    I have to say I’ve found first-person 3D adventure games much more satisfying than 2D. I’m playing through Broken Sword at the moment and it just cannot compare with Gremlin’s Realms of the Haunting.

    In both you play as the main character and see yourself from the third person (in RoH this only happens in cutscenes), but embodying the first-person for most of the game in RoH gives you much more pseudo-freedom than I have in Broken Sword. Essentially they’re similar in that they’re point and click adventures, but the fixed perspective in BS and the player-controlled perspective in RoH gives you enough interactivity to make the game more immersive without stepping too hard on the narrative (interactivity and narration being pretty much diametrically opposed in my opinion).

    As far as the textual interface, I’m not so hot on the input side of it. Output is fine, but having to stop to type (fixing the perspective and halting movement as you do so) just doesn’t have the same sense of freedom as a mouseclick.

  5. Mo says:

    I’m not so sure this is a great idea. I mean, I don’t see the harm in it, but I don’t see a benefit either.

    I think that the best part of text adventures is that, like a book, it leaves a good deal of atmosphere-building to the imagination of the player/reader. Having the game in text and graphics seems pointless to me. Worse still, having watched the video, I’m convinced that scene would have been more emotionally powerful in its original textual form. I’ve never played the game, but that’s my hunch.

    And adding to what Alistair said above, I think a point-and-click text adventure would be great. That is, have the game entirely textual, with “lit up”/coloured words which you can interact with via mouse-driven contextual menus. This gives you the best of both worlds … the rich atmosphere/immersion of a text adventure coupled with the simple-to-play nature of point-and-clicks … there’s nothing more annoying than getting “I don’t understand X” feedback from the text parser.

  6. Crispy says:

    I see your point, Mo, but it really depends on what you want from an adventure game. Aside from the interactivity, I’d prefer much more to read lots of text in print than on screen. Then when I look at the added interactivity of the text adventure, having been born maybe a few years too late to ever really get into them, I’m privee to the interactive superiority of being able to control 3 axis of movement, to time my actions and cut them short as I see fit, to walk away from boring conversation or ‘fluffy’ exposition that I know is simply there to eat up time and make the game longer without tying in with the plot.

    That’s why I prefer the qualities the third dimension in the adventure genre can offer in terms of immersion. Even if a game hasn’t the resources to record hours of in-game dialogue, a simple trick like making the text fade away form the screen as I distance myself from the speaker does add a bit more choice and consequence to the experience. It helps situate me in all three dimensions in a much more realistic way.

    Now all of this I can do with my imagination by reading a book, but that’s prescriptive, and I must render myself up to the author’s storytelling (which, if it’s a good book, I accept wholeheartedly). But I don’t think that text-based adventures provide a happy medium between narrative and interactivity. Because I’m on a PC I’m constantly aware of how the game could play out with that 3rd dimension, and how much more thankful my eyes would be reading from non-flickering paper format and the comfort of an armchair.

  7. Fenchurch says:

    @Crispy

    You have renewed my desire to go play Realms of the Haunting somehow!

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