IF Comp ’09 – Duncan Bowsman’s The Ascot!October 6, 2009
Is he the bowman? Does he got a bow? No, you sad bastard, he is the bowsman, and he gots all the bows.
The Ascot is billed as a yes/no choose-your-own-adventure. It’s interesting to think about where the boundaries of interactive fiction hypothetically lie (especially since what constitutes IF in its purest form is a matter for debate), and whether or not you consider CYOAs to be IF, it’s easy to think of them as inferior. The PC’s free will is severely restricted. They contain no puzzles, no need for experimentation, no opportunities for the player to experience a blinding flash of insight. Some might include “examine important thing” in their menus, but even then, there is no sense of being free to explore a new world.
In exchange for this depth, detail, and moment-to-moment sense of freedom, though, CYOAs gain freedom of story, the ability for the plot to go anywhere and do anything at a moment’s notice. Multiple endings in IF are a bonus, but in CYOAs, they’re standard, along with multiple middles, later-middles, and right-after-the-beginnings. All the time that would be spent writing descriptions of chairs and making refrigerators openable is instead spent coming up with different things that could happen, and since “making something happen” in CYOA terms goes no deeper than writing that something happened, they could be absolutely anything, which is sort of awesome in its own way.
You guys don’t want to hear me defend choose-your-own-adventure games, though. I have been reading my analytics. You guys want me to say “tits” a lot and be funny and at least one of you wants me to fellate a live lobster, which I’ve already said isn’t happening because the rubber bands might come off and those things are pinchy.
Tits. Let’s play a game.
Mostly Spoiler-Free Upshot: Well, you can pretty much ignore all that stuff I just said, because this game is pretty much on rails. That being said, it shows every sign of being a first game by someone who could, in the future, make better ones, and what there was of it was, at least, not broken, so I kind of hate to shove its head in a locker and take its pants. Also, the CYOA format, while not utilized to anywhere near its full potential, at least meant that I wasn’t banging my head against “I have no idea what that word means” and “This chair has no description” and “I could have implemented that but I didn’t.” So, y’know, there’s that.
[spoilers begin here]
Oh, man, that green-on-black seems to be standard in the ADRIFT runner. Lemme see if I can change that quick.
Shit. Apparently not.
You decide to go walking to the convenience store one day when all of a sudden a man approaches you! You think he looks rather goofy-looking in a sombrero and lederhosen.
I thought we’d talked about this.
Oh no! The ascot is cursed!
“Good lad! Now, then, if you want the family fortune you must meet with Hilda in White Park–”
“The park around the corner?” you ask.
“Yes,” says weirdly rich guy. “And you must rendezvous with her at thirty minutes past twelve–”
“In five minutes?” You’re good at this.
“You’re good at this” as a non sequitur is really pretty funny. (Also, if anyone asks you if you’ve been to the doctor, the correct response is “Yeah, I’ve been to the doctor. Doctor Hotdog.” I learned that from Roy and his whiteboard.)
So far it seems as though these questions have obvious correct answers. Do I want this free thing? Fuck yeah. Do I want lots of money? Fuck yeah. Should I go get it? What the fuck do you think?
Looks emptier than your Geocities guestbook.
…how long ago was this written?
“Hey, you found this key with all lettering on it, wanna try reading it?” the game asks me. I have no idea why this game was done CYOA-style and not as traditional IF, unless the author just didn’t feel like implementing all those boring rooms and objects. It kind of feels like playing something with an integrated walkthrough.
I mean, the sight of it is like nine nightmares wrapped in accidental electrocution… I mean, really shocking.
This analogy is like Michael Showalter trying to do a parody of Eugene Mirman’s Secret Agent video, but getting confused about what a parody is, and just doing the video again only not at all funny. And that analogy was like creamed corn. I can’t really say anything about other people’s analogies.
Hey, genius. Looks like it’s time to stick that key in the door, know what I mean?
You went through all that trouble to get the key, the goal is in sight, and you’re stalling now? Something wrong with you or something?
Nah, I just thought “stick that key in the door” was a euphemism for some weird sex thing I’d never heard of, and wanted you to go into detail. I collect weird sex things.
“That ascot!” booms the Eagle Beast. “Who have touched it must die!”
I’m pretty sure you can’t use “who” as the subject of a sentence if it’s part of a – what are those phrases called, that act as adjectives? “Those who have touched it must die” would work, though. I mean, you can say “This is Bob, who is interested in learning more about erectile dysfunction,” but you can’t say “Who is interested in learning more about erectile dysfunction is coming for dinner tonight, so cook more ham than you normally would.”
Hmmm, apparently I missed something, because not giving the beast the ascot resulted in the game asking me again whether I was going to give the beast the ascot, and doing so gave me a “Sayonara, then, quitter!” and ended the game. Let’s try this again.
Saying “no” to the free ascot in the beginning ends the game too. Remember all that shit I was going on about in the RSS buffer about how doing a CYOA frees you up to write many different branches of a story? If you don’t actually do that, you’re basically saying you’re too lazy to write your game as traditional IF, but not lazy enough to not write it at all, which, frankly, I find confusing.
I have my friend Gertie with me this time. Maybe she’ll know what to do with the Beast Eagle. Also, it’s weird that the strange rich dude knows only to burst into the shop when I’ve told Doug the clerk we’re related.
Gertie is being very helpful. Last time, I had to wait until the game told me I’d noticed something, but this time the game tells me when she’s noticed the same thing and is telling me about it! This is much more convenient!
Gertie eggs you on. “Head towards the light…” She says that all the time, though.
There is potentially a lot of funny in this Bowsman character. I hope he’s, like, seventeen. I belonged to the Zany Random Lederhosen school of comedy when I was seventeen; it’s just something you have to go through and be done with… well, actually, the fact that I’m wondering which variation on the theme of “like getting peed on by R. Kelly” to end this sentence with would indicate that it never quite goes away.
Hey, why couldn’t I give my stuff from the convenience store to the Eagle Beast when I was alone? Did I somehow not get it? Oh, man, and she stole my fortune. What a bitch. And if I don’t bring her, I get et. I wonder if there’s a better ending?
Oh, of course, I give it my Slushie! And it gets brainfreeze! I like the bit about using part of the fortune to buy me a better interpreter, one that understands “maybe.”