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DaedHead8 avatar 3:02 PM on 05.02.2009  (server time)
I made a game and need opinions.

Picture by Chris McLennan

I recently created a game for my Interactive Narrative class and I want your opinion on it before I submit it on Monday. The game is called Floyd’s Tomb and it was created using TADS3. Just download the Floyd's Tomb application file here and double click it to play. Play it and let me know in the comments what you think. Negative comments are expected and welcome.

I’m honestly a little hesitant about unleashing this on the dtoid community. With guys like Rev Anthony and Agent MOO around, you’ve all come to expect quality in your community built games. Unfortunately, my game isn’t everything it could be and is still very much a work in progress. Like I said, the game is due this Monday so it won’t be changing much from now until then, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep working on it after this assignment has been turned in and graded.

In Floyd’s Tomb you play as a young caver named Floyd Collins as he explores Big Foot Cave with his friend Ted Benjamin. The game was inspired by Ted’s Caving Page (which is where I got a number of pictures for this blog) and the novel The Descent by Jeff Long. I intend to use this blog as a kind of retrospective on my time creating the game. The first half is spoiler free and I explicitly mark where the spoilers begin, so worry not.

Floyd’s Tomb started its life as your typical Zork-style adventure game. This was while the game was still on paper. Once I started coding, I realized pretty quickly that my initial design would have to change. I’m not a programmer by any stretch of imagination and stupidly, I refused to get a partner who could program. At the time, I had a vision for what the game would look like and I didn’t want to have to change that to fit what someone else wanted. This was easily my biggest mistake during the creation of Floyd’s Tomb. If anything, refusing the help of a real programmer hurt my vision of the game much more than any changes I would have had to make for them. Lesson learned.

So as it is right now, Floyd’s Tomb has more in common with choose-your-own adventure novels than Zork. In the game you will walk through a series of rooms. Some rooms have multiple exits. Depending on the exit you take, you will alter the course of the game. Beyond that, there is regrettably very little interaction. There are multiple paths you can take in the game, and things you can miss if you don’t go down every path but I still feel that I failed in making a true game. However I do feel that I succeeded in making an interactive narrative. Read on to see my thoughts on the game’s story.

From here on out I’ll be talking about the story of Floyd’s Tomb, so if you haven’t played it, be prepared for spoilers.

Ostensibly, Floyd’s Tomb is a story about Floyd Collins and Ted Benjamin, two experienced cavers who are set on exploring a new section of Big Foot Cave. Inside the cave, they uncover a mysterious cave painting and an even more mysterious camp/grave site. Intent on uncovering the mystery of the cave, Ted and Floyd press on and depending on the ending you receive, die in their attempt.

There are seven different endings to Floyd’s Tomb, only one of which could be considered a “good” ending. This is because when the game was still designed to be a typical text adventure, it only had one ending, specifically the one where Floyd and Ted separate and Floyd eventually finds Ted’s corpse shortly before his own demise, and the whole story was supposed to be a metaphor for life and death, with the cave being a symbol for all the unknowns in life. Because my design changed so radically due to my lack of programming skills, I realized I absolutely needed to include multiple story paths or my game would be even less interesting than it already is. With multiple endings came the need to reward the player with at least one good ending. I feel I was successful in this regard, the one good ending is somewhat hard to obtain and the six other endings still satisfy my need to put a deeper meaning into my game.

So overall I do feel that this foray into game design was an unsuccessful one. I learned a whole hell of a lot though. First and foremost I learned that a good programmer is worth their weight in gold and I really wish I had gotten a partner at the beginning of the semester to work on this with. Other than that I learned how scary deadlines really are and the value of a good schedule. I also learned that when your design has exceeded your programmer’s ability, you game can only benefit from a re-design.

As for the future of Floyd’s Tomb, I’d really like to turn it into a first person adventure game at some point. I really feel the story in this game is the strongest point and it deserves a better treatment than what I’ve given it. I’m planning on spending a lot of time this summer messing around with TADS3 and some other languages with the intent on increasing my programming chops.

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