IF Comp ’14 – H.J. Hoke’s Arqon: A Criminal’s Journey!

October 5, 2014

And thus my adventure begins.

[spoilers begin here]

Warning: This game is an Interactive fiction RPG (role playing game). If you are not interested in random combat and magic, or any of that kind of thing, please quit immediately (unless you’re judging this game for the Interactive Fiction Competition, in which case I urge you  to continue).
Oh, no, I’m into it, baby, don’t even worry about it.  Random combat and magic are my first, last, and middle names.

Employees of the Bureau of Magical Law Enforcement (you’ve heard people call them “policemen”) were coming towards your little home in the south side of Gilwin, their griffons’ wings flapping in the midmorning breeze.
I might have to keep staring at “you’ve heard people call them ‘policemen'” until I figure out what is so very weird about it, or I may have to stop doing that to protect my own sanity.  You’ve heard people call them “policemen.”  Yes.  Okay.  Moving on.

Since the president moved here 5 moons ago, It’s been more like the first chapter, which was founded in the city of Lemarta 20 years ago.
More like the first chapter how exactly?  To quote John Hodgman, specificity is the soul of narrative!

> x vial
The aqua vial is a 2d4+2 strength potion.
When it comes to being an RPG, this game is 3d6+8 points’ worth of not fucking around.

The owner hums one of his favorite trading and barter songs
I am wondering how I know that it is a trading and barter song just from him humming it, and how I know it’s one of his favorites in any case, but more than that I am dying to hear the lyrics.*

> talk to owner
You say hello to the owner.
 The owner stares at you, as if you were a shapeshifting madman
(You could ask him about the trading post or Barter.)
 > ask owner about trading post
There is no reply.
Man, I don’t want to bust anybody’s chops here, but if you’re going to tell the player they can do a thing, it’s generally a good idea to go ahead and implement that thing.  Oh, wait, my bad, I needed to type “the trading post” instead of just “trading post.”  (This is still sub-desirable.)

You attack the old goblin, swinging the ancient broad sword, making an attack roll (1d20) of 17, +1 for your level – hit (11 to 19), doing 2d4 of damage: 2d4: 1,3=4 points, wounding the old goblin to a strength of 1.
I am not exactly sure how to parse “+1 for your level – hit (11 to 19).”  Is “strength” hit points?  Is it only hit points or is it also being used to calculate attack?  Also I want to point out that I am real good at hitting goblins with swords.  Oh oh wait I think it was +1 for my level, and it hit (as it does on 11 to 19).  I think that is what that meant.  We’re cool, you and me, game.

If I’m going to be spending strength (which seems to be health and mana?) on things, I’d like an easy way to check what my current strength is, or at least be informed that I’ve spent some when I cast a spell.

A moment later,  it silently unlocks itself.
How do I know that has happened?  Is this game written in second person omniscient?

(As of this writing, Inform release 6G60 is not the latest release. Release 6L02, which was recently released, is the latest and… well… No. It’s not the greatest.)
OH SNAP BRING IT!  (I haven’t spent enough time with 6L02 yet to have an opinion, but it seems fine, it didn’t like call me fat or anything.)

This is the magnificent entryway of the Bureau of Magic. Portraits of ancient wizards and former employees adorn the walls.
You know what’s really lacking in this description?  Exits.

Asking the President for a job means you don’t get to talk to him about anything else.  I really hate when conversation trees are surprise-truncated like this.

This is your sleeping chamber, a room about 18 by 12 feet. There is no need for a bed, considering you have a sanctuary.
Right, because we’re in RPG land, where beds only heal you and there’s no such thing as a comfort stat.

a guilt-edged scroll (bearing the exorcise undead spell)
I know those undead needed to be exorcised but I still feel terrible about it ;_;

*** Run-time problem P47 (at paragraph 663 in the source text): Phrase applied to an incompatible kind of value.
But my score went up by five points anyway, so that’s cool.  Idea:  game in which your score goes up any time the program throws an error.  Wait, no, idea rejected for not being any good.  Idea:  game in which your score goes up every time you have a terrible idea.

> x apple
This ripe and juicy apple must have been left by someone (probably someone who plants apple trees).
Why?  Why would you assume that?  It could have been left there by literally anyone with the capacity to carry an apple to a location and then leave it there!  A butcher could have done it!  A dentist could have done it!  A ghost probably could not have done it but a poltergeist probably could!
put the apple on the ground, ma’am
I am just, I’ll calm down in a minute, all I am saying is–
ma’am, we need you to step away from the apple
I just don’t understand why–
this is for your own protection

This dark and shallo pit must have once contained a great number of snakes. They have all gone, because not a single snake remains.
What do you mean, must have contained a great number of snakes?  Are there snake skins all over the floor?  Did they leave a note saying “So long, and thanks for all the mice, fondest regards, a great number of snakes?”

Well, I won.  That, okay, if the Galileo game was a five, then this game is a three, which I guess means I’m judging tighter this year than usual.  Arqon wasn’t necessarily unfun, and its primary combat mechanic seemed to work fine, but it suffered from underimplementation, bugginess, and a fair amount of disrespect for the English language.

And thus my adventure ends.

* There once was a girl with a sweet little goat / She came into my shop and I gave her a groat / Of that girl for months afterward naught did I know / Then I found out she spent it on hookers and blow / Hookers and blow / Hookers and blow / Tra la la, tra la la, hookers and blow**

** I was going to say “yeah, I am terrible at songwriting, this is why I failed my poetry class” but I didn’t, I think actually I got an A.



  1. I also really wanted to find out what the trading song was! I am glad you have an answer.

  2. In the ABOUT section, the author mentions that he has a visual impairment, which makes it hard for him to catch typos/misspellings/small grammar errors. I think he could have found a proofreader online, but probably ran out of time to do so before the comp.

    I also like your trading song!

    • Thanks! I should probably issue a statement somewhere that I am not trying to shame people for typos (it happens), I just really enjoy them sometimes.

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