Harvey Wordsmith: The Argument

By Kieron Gillen on September 9th, 2010 at 10:23 am.

After the big immersive sim interview we did, Ex-Deus-Ex-er Harvey Smith’s latest game is somewhat smaller than we were perhaps expecting. As small part of his MFA homework, he’s just wrote a short Interactive Fiction and lobbed it online. Really slight but emotionally true, I link mainly because much like Rod Humble’s art-projects, it’s interesting to see what mainstream devs do in their downtime. Play here.

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29 Comments »

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  1. Xik says:


    >take towel
    You decide to leave it on the towel rack to dry.

    I’m not leaving without it………….

    Silly game.

  2. Rob Hale says:

    Called the ending by the second room. Was upset on restarting that I couldn’t sit on the couch. Apparently that is not something you can sit on. Also Watch TV is the same as look at TV and apparently the TV doesn’t show anything after I turned it on.

    Not alot of replayability or room for player expression. You can’t be an asshole as it seems to get stuck waiting for you to return to the critical path and complete the story. The only way to not reconcile is to not play.

    You can’t even kill yourself in grief.

    • Xercies says:

      Not all IFs can be The Hobbit

    • Rob Hale says:

      The lack of ability to sit on the couch (an object specifically called out in the rooms description) was just the bit that annoyed me more than anything else.

      Also why is my mobile phone in the paint supplies? That didn’t make any sense to me I actually ignored the paint supplies while looking for my phone at first assumign it to be in a place that is logical for a mobile phone such as on charge in the hallway or bedroom or in my pocket. These are places I expect to find a mobile phone.

    • Rob Hale says:

      Actually I found that this did fall into a few of the traps that were outlined in this article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6100/a_journey_across_the_main_stream_.php

      Specifically in my search for a mobile phone I didn’t try looking in places where I have never encountered a mobile phone before.

      I would also expect that as it is my phone and presumably I put it there at some point for whatever reason I would be capable of remembering this information.

      It may also say something about me that when presented with a situation in which my wife has stormed out after an argument that I immediately wanted to find my phone so I could call and reconcile without first having found a reason to do so.

      After all you shouldn’t need a good reason to reconcile after an argument like that other than the fact that you love your wife. Maybe I’m just old fashioned and kids these days only stay together for the sake of the children.

    • Ian says:

      @ Rob: “I would also expect that as it is my phone and presumably I put it there at some point for whatever reason I would be capable of remembering this information.”

      Doesn’t it say your wife had your phone?

    • Rob Hale says:

      I think it did but I assumed at the time that meant she had taken it with her when she left and when I saw that I stopped searching for my phone and started looking for a car to try and follow her. Must be a sign of the times that there isn’t a landline phone in the house.

      By the time I accidentally found the phone in the paint supplies I had completely forgotten that line about her having my phone and had also forgotten that I had assumed she had it. I was no longer looking for a phone but just aimlessly exploring – I had almost completely given up on finding anyway to contact her and was prepared for a twist that I couldn’t reconcile and that Harvey was secretly French since they seem to love having tragic endings to things.

    • Xercies says:

      Looking at that article makes me realise why i usually hate IF games, the erbs are sometimes not what you normally would say so theres a barrier that frustrates. This is the first IF i guess that i have actually nto minded that, since its in a very relatable setting and it usually works.

      But having said that Look instead of look at is wrong, your brai nautomatically goes for look at but it doesn’t work so you have to do the leap of Look. its not much of a leap but its still assuming the player is going to do something which looks gramatically incorrect.

  3. BooleanBob says:

    Well, it’s coherent. That’s more can be said for many efforts with inform (including 100% of my own). And although, as Rob says, it’s predictable, it’s also hits, as Kieron points out, the right emotional notes. Is wisteria understood to be some kind of gender-neutral baby colour then?

    Anyway, I quite liked it. Finally played Photopia yesterday, and was completely blown away by it. Both thanks to this site!

  4. RiptoR says:

    After playing a bit and bumping into one limitation after the other…

    >f*** this
    I only understood you as far as wanting to f***.

  5. Luphisto says:

    A man who knows where his towel is.

  6. Stu says:

    IF that doesn’t recognise “xyzzy” as a valid input? That would never have happened in my day…

  7. Cynic says:

    Inform7 comes with it’s own fantastic tutorial and learning system and more than enough documentation to make any game you want to. Just download it for your platform and have a blast :)

  8. Cynic says:

    >take towel
    You decide to leave it on the towel rack to dry.

    >take photo
    Quixe run: TypeError: $(a).nextSiblings is not a function $(a).nextSiblings is not a function http://www.witchboy.net/theargument/Release/interpreter/glkote.min.js line:1 TypeError

    That’ll teach you to use fancy-pants interpreters while the default one’s still in the room.

    • Cynic says:

      Assumed it was just a fluke when I couldn’t reproduce it, but that same error’s happened three times at seemingly unrelated intervals now, preventing me from finishing each time.
      I’ll DL the story and play it later.

  9. Spacewalk says:

    IF you say so.

  10. Josh says:

    “change channel to 1″ through 8, and the TV will show a series of comically topical shows.

  11. Bhazor says:

    Harvey Smith? From that picture I’d say he’s more Robert Smith.

  12. Zyrxil says:

    S, S, S, S, open box, get phone. Not the most compelling IF I’ve played. Your actions mean nothing and the ‘emotional’ description are high on cheese, low on impact.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    Yeah it’s fairly simple and very linear. In fact it’s so linear, that it might as well have been a short story. Except I think despite it’s linearity it works better as a game than it would have worked as a short story. Somehow it is more affecting when you discover these things yourself.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Yes – the point of the short story is the wandering eye, looking at things and being incapable of not to think of who they’re connected to. As in, her. What’d be oppressive in trad prose is naturalistic in IF.

      KG

  14. The Walker says:

    Am I the only one who saw the name, thought of Neruopath, and got a little creeped out?

  15. bhlaab says:

    Coming from Harvey Smith I expected something with much greater reactivity.

    • bhlaab says:

      Just tried running straight to the end. Character reaces the realization despite the player giving him no evidence for it.

      The game fails in a way because the circumstances of an argument are so open ended that giving it an extreme linearity as well as no initial objective (the game never tells me that reconciliation is the goal, it simply assumes as much) feels limiting.

      Passage, a game literally about walking from left to right, is more open ended than this.

  16. scharmers says:

    Yeah, this ain’t no “Anchorhead” or “Galatea”.

  17. Uhm says:

    Inform 7 is worth a look for anybody even remotely interested in such things. It’s approach to programming is to [attempt to] use natural language. So your code is made up of statements like:

    The Cave is a room.
    Torch is a thing.
    John is a person in The Cave. He is holding the torch.

    And that’s what compiles into the game. A somewhat fitting approach to IF authoring.

  18. MountainShouter says:

    I sort of liked it (since it was my first time playing a game like that).

    Any recommendations for someone who wants to get into these sorts of games?

  19. other josh says:

    huh, I was able to start the game go south until I reached the living room and open the painting supplies and call my wife to apologize….with out having the receipt.

    “I had no idea,” you say.

    Apparently that rings VERY true.