IF Comp ’10 – Justin Morgan’s The Bible Retold: Following A Star!

October 27, 2010

Chessmen cookies!  I forgot I bought these!  Oh my God chessmen cookies!  Erin the person who I don’t know what her job title is said her brother once got his hand caught in the machine that seals those Pepperidge Farm bags to the point of inopenability and he had foil stuck to his bones. I asked her if they pulled too hard trying to get it off and all his organs sprayed across the room, but she said no.  Oh man chessmen cookies.  This is exciting.

What?  These cookies do not feature chessmen!  These cookies are all covered in mistletoe and wreaths and shit!  It is not Christmas!  I am not ready for it to be Christmas!  That settles it.  I’ll have to eat them all.

Also, I think that means God wants us to play a Bible game.  You know.  The one about Christmas.

[spoilers begin here]

You look at the note that a servant has just handed to you. It’s from Melchior. “My latest calculations suggest that we should not delay any further. We must begin our journey tonight. Summon Gaspar immediately and meet me on the terrace.”
Wait, what calculations?  Is Melchior running computer simulations of the virgin birth?  Please tell me there’s a giant LCD display with blinking radar dots.  Oh, man, and a guy running through a hallway with one of those super long computer printouts.  “Melchior!  Put down the patchouli!  We’ve made a terrible mistake!”

Still, though, points for urgency, eh wot?

I like the little details about Babylon, especially after two apartment games in a row.  I bet people in Babylon have more than condiments in their fridge and clean their damn toilet every once in a while.

Gaspar puts a hand on your shoulder. “Chill out Balthasar. It’s only a pile of clothes.”
Anachronism, eh?  I see how it is.

>search clothes
(the pile of clothes)
The pile of clothes appears to contain only pile of clothes.
Tautology, eh?  I see how it is.

>x desk
“Why are you looking at my desk?” says Gaspar. “A bit nosy, don’t you think?”
Dude, Gaspar, it’s an IF game.  Chillax, homebrew.

“Yes, yes,” says Melchior sagely, nodding his head and keeping his eyes quite transfixed upon the bright object. “I am convinced of the meaning behind this star.”
>ask melchior about star
You are about to ask, when Gaspar beats you to it.
“And what, pray tell, is the meaning behind this star?” says Gaspar, with visible exasperation.
“It means,” says Melchior, “that it is night.”
That Melchior’s a funny guy, all right.

So far, every command I have attempted has worked, which is a thing I appreciate.  I even got a receptive grunt from my camel when I mounted it, which frankly I was not expecting from a Bible game.  My goodness.

“We’ll follow your lead from now on,” says Gaspar. “You go, and we’ll follow.”
“But only if you go the right way,” Melchior adds.
Dude, guys, pressure!  I snap under pressure, just like a lovable gay sidekick on a network show about kids in a jazz band, although moderately less sassily.

Hmm, a travel store?  Instant Oregon Trail flashback.  Please, please, please let this be the bringin’-frankincense-to-Jesus version of Oregon Trail.  That could not possibly fail to be the best game ever.
>  gaspar, shoot buffalo

You can also see a paper hosepipe here.
>x hosepipe
It seems it has since been buried in an avalanche of other junk.
>take hosepipe
You remember seeing that somewhere in the shop, but for the life of you you can’t remember where.
Man, I don’t even know what a paper hosepipe is, but the game is being so coy about it that I must now possess it.
>ask storeholder about hosepipe
“That’s new stock.”
Thank you, storeholder.  You are helping.  Do you immediately bury all your new stock in an avalanche of other junk?  Do you then find that, against all odds, it fails to sell?
>buy hosepipe
That was definitely around here somewhere, but there’s so much stuff here it’s difficult to locate.
>search junk
You search the whole shop, finding, most notably, an oil lamp, a flask of milk, a big abacus, a glass box of wooden compasses, an astrolabe, a large purple blanket, a painting of an inside-out globe, a blue towel, a white sheet, a straw weather vane, a loaf of bread, a copper mug, a copper cup, an engraving of a rare pair of scissors, a ceramic bowl, a fig basket, a clay tablet, a stylus, an unusually large marble sheep ornament, some bottled water and a small legless table.
An engraving of a rare pair of scissors?  I might like this game, if it would sell me a hosepipe.
You can also see a suspicious-looking child’s sleigh here.
What the– the “you can also see” object is random?  Does this shop serve any purpose, then?  Oh, yes, harboring a dude who is going to try to kill us or something.  Thanks, shop!

“Do take all of the containers,” says Melchior, “that are hanging from our camels. You should store the supplies in them.”
The supplies?  Do you mean like A PAPER HOSEPIPE?

“Get on your camel, Balthasar!” calls Gaspar helpfully.
>mount camel
You can’t see any such thing.
Is this… did I really just put the game in an unwinnable state by going east without my camel?  Is that really a thing that can happen?  Okay, fine, I’ll restart, but I want you to know my heart is not in it.

You are about to ride off, but you notice that Melchior is staring intently at the star.
“It’s Regulus,” he says. “It has a declination of 20 degrees and 12 minutes. Do not forget that figure! We’ll need it to help us navigate.”
Really for reals do not forget that figure?  Okay, buddy, but you might want to start carrying a notebook, because you, not me, are the scientist here.  I am the… actually I have no idea what I am, except for everyone’s bitch.

Oh boy, one of those travel sequences with the map and the little dotted line!  Not only do I enjoy those on their own merits, they definitely beat typing >W a whole bunch of times.

It is a new day in Roman-occupied Iudaea…
Wasn’t this spelled Judaea earlier in the game?  I guess when you’re in Roman-occupied Iudaea, you do as the… yeah.

I didn’t do anything in town before heading out this time.  My first playthrough, I was all excited about the beginning traveler’s shop, because hey, we’re beginning travelers, and I bet we could use some supplies!  Then everything in the shop turned out to be useless flavor, as far as I could tell, and I went “okay screw this entire town then.”  I have no idea if this is going to bite us in the ass later, but I do know that if it does, Melchior and Gaspar are going to blame me.  Melchior’s gonna be all “I told you to take all the containers, dude.”  Everything is always freaking Balthasar’s fault.

Here is the thing:  when a player starts your game, they have no idea how it’s structured, what its scope is, what sorts of puzzles they’re going to be dealing with, etc., so any signals you can send them regarding what is and isn’t important, and what they’re supposed to be doing, are welcome.  In a case like this, when you’ve got a world you’ve put some cool flavor stuff into, why not gate it off some with little quests, make the player see some of it?  It would be perfectly reasonable for Melchior to say “hey, before we go, we need to get a bucket of olives for the camels or whatever,” have paper hosepipe guy sell some olives, you buy them, Melchior says “cool, we’re good to split town,” and bam, the player has some direction and the paper hosepipe shop has a reason for existing.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to have a lot of cool flavor stuff in your game, but the player should have some indication of whether or not they need to mess with it or not.  Also, a room without a purpose is weird, and you should give it a purpose, any purpose, or get rid of it.  Worst-case scenario, it’s a cool flavor room the player has to walk through in order to get somewhere important.

Okay, there we go, getting some direction in Iudaea.  Have to change some currency and purchase a suitable gift.  Also I am supposed to remember that the shekel is worth more than their denarius, although I’m not sure if that’s important or just Gaspar blowing patriotic noise out of his facebag.

No way, Latin noun declension?  I hope I can find Latin grammar cue cards 2-6!

Huh, found some myrrh.  Wonder if I can steal it from right out in front of this church service.  That’s probably not the correct instinct for a Magi, but interrupting the service to ask if I can purchase it seems rude.

There is rather a lot going on with this game.  I might wind up enjoying it.  Will keep you posted.  Oh, cool, cue card #2.

For many actions, there is a person performing the action and an object on which they are performing it. In Latin, the object of the action (the ‘accused’) must be in a form called the accusative case. If you are in a hurry, you should make this form by adding ‘um’ to a noun if it is singular, or ‘os’ if it is plural. For example, “The Romans built the templeum.”
This game is a bit silly, isn’t it.

I wonder what Melchior and Gaspar would say if I bought the Christ child a zither?  It’s sort of like a banjo.  Or maybe he’d like a hammer?  Babies like hammers.

So, for the record, even Magi take everything that’s not nailed the hell down.  Wanna see my new myrrh vessel?  I knew you would.

Also, it is either perfectly morally okay to disguise oneself as the Kohen Gadol for purposes of theft, or Magi are not particularly moral dudes.  I am absolutely fine with this, but, y’know, just sayin’.

Man, Latin grammar is intense.  Am I really going to need the ablative case in this game?  When?

>remove vestments
As you bring the vestments over your head, the turban flies off.
Nice detail!

Wait up a sec– the way to get a fair exchange rate for your money is to include five stolen Jewish shekels with your Babylonian ones?  There is some logic happening here that I don’t understand.

The dappled shade provided by a large tree would make this area pleasant for lunches on a Sunday afternoon.
Nitpick:  this sentence might or might not indicate the actual presence of a large tree.  Also, I have been making light to moderate use of the hint system, which is pretty good, except that it requires you to be in the same room as an object you’re curious about.  And, y’know, who has the energy for that.

I wonder how this game would play without prior knowledge that it was gold, frankincense, and myrrh you were looking for?  I mean, even I knew that, so it must be a pretty hot item of gossip, but still.

Wait a damn minute, where did my frankincense go?

A hyperactive child runs past you and disappears into the throng of the multitude.
> cut child with bla–
Holy crap, kid, don’t run in front of me while I’m trying to cut a tree!  It’s really distracting!

“Oh, by the way,” Gaspar says. “I don’t suppose you’d get me something to eat would you? And Melchior could probably do with something too. If you can manage it, I’ll just have a sandwich – with pomegranate jam of course. And Melchior will have a honey sandwich. Thanks, but don’t go to any trouble.”
I hate Gaspar so much.
You crash into the wall and hurt your nose.
“Right,” says Gaspar, and goes back into his room.
So much.

“I presume you brought an astrolabe?” You shake your head guiltily. “Shameful, Balthasar! Call yourself an astronomer? You’ll have to borrow this one.” He hands you an astrolabe.
Oh, am I an astronomer?  Guess I better go do some astronomy, huh.  Also?  If we get attacked and I am the one who has to take care of it while Gaspar sits on his big giant sword and watches me, I am filing such a complaint.

>measure star with astrolabe
Using the astrolabe you determine the altitude of the star at the moment to be about 80 degrees and 35 minutes.
So far, so good.  What verb do I want now?  TRIANGULATE OWN POSITION ON PLANET? 

You can do calculations with degrees and minutes too by using the following notation:
DO 32:48 PLUS 11:25
The answer to that is 44:13, i.e. 44 degrees and 13 minutes. You must always use the colon even if the minutes are 0. You can also use the symbols +, -, * and / instead of the words, but you still need the spaces.

That is great?  But what is the formula?  Do I actually?  Have to do math?

Oh, of course, I just had to RUB ASTROLABE to reveal the formula.  It’s so embarrassing when a standard troubleshooting procedure like that one fixes your problem.

“Well done Balthasar!” calls Melchior. “I knew you could work it out. This is the way we need to go.”
Wait, was this a test?  I thought I was performing a necessary astronomer function!  I am such everyone’s bitch.

>search bush
As you approach the bush, hands ready to grasp it, it scuttles away towards the gate!
I bet it’s really dude’s lost sheep.  Maybe I should catch it for him and then I won’t actually have to play that game.  (Just kidding, lost sheep game guy!  I play every game.  Because I am everyone’s bitch.)

>talk to guards
You should specify one guard or the other.
Why, does one of them tell the truth and the other one always lies?

Your possessions have all been taken and left in some store room, though you do still have those Latin grammar primers that you found.
How incredibly useful!  I hope it doesn’t matter that I never found number six.  Eh, who am I kidding.  Ready your  hint fingers, cadets!

“You do the talking, Balthasar.”
Of course I’m expected to do the talking, because the talking is a subset of “every friggin’ thing.”  This road trip sucks.

Oh, good, Melchior found the sixth cue card.  Gaspar, you should be more like Melchior.  Well, maybe not a lot like Melchior.

>caeciliusa, get jewelsos from biga baga
I have never felt so racist against ancient Romans, I’ll say that much.  Biga baga veryfast chopchop!

The throne room is both extravagant and sparse: extragavant, because it’s so enormous; but sparse, because it’s so empty.
Sounds like some comp games I’ve played.

“Pardon me, your Highness,” says Melchior, “but our intentions are far from hostile. You are not the one we seek. It is the future King of the Jews that we would like to see – and he is currently a baby boy.”
Gaspar?  Be less like Melchior.

Chase scene time!
You run through the kitchen, and cannot avoid knocking over a servant boy and sending a tray of soup bowls flying back. Shouts and cries pummel you from all sides, but you brazenly ignore them and push through. A cook is inadvertently shoved face first onto a counter of cakes and pastries, and somehow a whole rack of cutlery falls down, scattering utensils across the floor. Gaspar emerges with a cheese grater on each hand, and you see that your robe is now stained with all sorts of colours.
Yup, this game’s kinda silly in places.  Where is the fruit cart and the two dudes moving the plate-glass window?

“Right,” says Melchior, quickly solving an astrological puzzle that opens a secret passage to the south. “This way.”
Gaspar?  More like Melchior.

“Follow the star!” calls Melchior, pointing at it. It is due south.
You can’t go that way.
Less like Melchior.  Should I start picking petals off a daisy?

“Let me help!” says the angel. She takes something from her waist and speaks into it. “Calling heavenly host. I need backup.”
Very silly game.  Also, I think this is a sign that I am terrible at chase scene.

Man, that was a lot of going south, and occasionally southwest and southeast.  Also I’m not sure I would have worked that out without the hints.

Gaspar puts his hand on your shoulder. “Balthasar, choose a present to give to the boy.” He hands you a bag containing the gifts. “Melchior said you should have first choice, after all the work you put into getting them.”
It is about time I get some respect around here!  We’ll go with the myrrh, because I like saying myrrh.

“Indeed,” says Melchior, “I was in a temple back in Parthia when the angel appeared to me, but I feel sure it was the same angel – with the same message.”
“Saying that we should not go back to Herod, and that we should return to our home land by a different route?” says Gaspar.
You guys needed divine intervention to tell you that, after Herod totally just tried to have us killed?

Well, that was kind of fun.  Could have used some tightening up, particularly in the Babylon section — I think I was supposed to get my own astrolabe and abacus, for which I would have gotten points, but when the first thing my attention was drawn to (“You can also see a blank here” on its own line is super powerful) turned out to be ungettable, pointless, and random, and then when I got stuck trying to walk around town without my camel, it made me not want to hang around Babylon.  Plus I feel like some things could have been better hinted, although that might just be me.

I did enjoy the idea of the Marx Brothers-style chase scene across the desert, though.  Eight for ambition.

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