IFComp ’09: Interface

Interface by Ben Vegiard is a little rough around the edges but otherwise very fun and I ended up liking it quite a lot.

In his notes Ben Vegiard writes how as a kid playing Infocom games he always wanted to write a text adventure. Interface is the game he always wanted to make. I can get behind that sentiment. It strikes a chord in my heart. Ben also writes that he stumbled upon Inform before learning about the IF community and saw an opportunity to fulfill his life-long dream. So I was expecting a terrible game: a zork-like treasure hunt filled with default responses and buggy and obscure puzzles. What I got instead was a fairly polished game with fantastic protagonist.

You’re the nephew of a famous inventor. Uncle has invited you to try out his new invention. It’s unclear just what this invention is designed to do. Its description hues close to that of the electric chair and it was partly built with the help of Uncle’s creepy employee: Gilby. Is it a surprise that something goes wrong? You end up with your mind trapped in a shabby robot body. Uncle orders Gilby to fix the situation and so Gilby brings you home where he reveals he’s quitting Uncle’s company and that he’ll get around to helping you someday. Maybe. If he feels like it. Basically, Gilby’s a douche, and now you’re trapped in his home and stuck in a flimsy robotic casing.

It’s the dedication to the uniqueness of this body that makes the game. Everything comes back to the fact that you’re an unwieldy robot with four grippers and a single camera eye. You can’t move up or down stairs and a small puddle of water is an impassible obstacle. You can only hold four items at once and can’t smell or taste or talk.

Upon waking in Gilby’s living room my first instinct was to search under his couch (as is always wise to do in IF).

>l under couch
You find that you can’t bend over to take a look

Wasn’t expecting that, though I should have. The same dedication extends to every corner of the game.

>sleep
You don’t seem to be able to relax in the human sense.  Your processors just keep processing against your will.

>jump
You’d probably break a tread if you tried it!

>climb stairs
Your grippers are too weak to hold your weight, and treads make it worse.

>take table
The second-hand nature of the materials used to create your extensions and graspers would never hold up to the weight of kitchen table.

And even if you type nothing:

>
You are a robot of action.  Please input a little more data to go on!

What sold me on the game was the first few turns after waking up as a robot. Before you can move anywhere you have to acclimated with your new body. It’s not as simple as just rolling around. Muscles that used to move your arms and legs don’t translate to anything on the new body. The game makes it clear that this is an alien and scary experience.

>n
You are stunned to find that, even though you are clearly thinking of a movement, your body seems to only jerk and twist in startling ways.  The realization that you are trying to control muscles that simply are not there washes through you with a chill.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of typos that mar the experience. The living room is described as “… plain, ordinary, unamusing, and otherwise your basic boring.” And later your told that “on the bed is a keys.” What’s more, Ben’s writing lacks polish and is often clunky.

Another man, scrawny and wearing an overly thick and unkempt mustache, is already in the room as you arrive.  Your Uncle introduces him as Gilby, the “make it happen” guy of the new device.  When you ask Uncle Floyd what the new device is, he simply answers, “Have a seat and we’ll SHOW you!  You get to be the first, outside of our testers, to try it out!

And

He displays a set of keys to prove his point and then slaps his hand tightly around them in a dramatic gesture to reinforce that he’s in control.

Though I was sincerely touched by a paragraph in the bad ending.

The next days and months are difficult for you.  You attempt a reunion with your parents, but find it hard to connect with them given your new bodies” limitations.  They simply regard you as one of the spoiled neighbor kid’s toys.  Even sophisticated tricks, such as writing messages that recall shared memories, do not force them to believe you are anything other than the result of a cruel joke meant to antagonize them in their time of mourning over their missing son.

Awwww… *sniff*

Interface is a bit too unpolished to really excel in this competition but it has enough charm and good sentiment to rise above the mediocre level of entries. I feel that I’ll be scoring it low in the group of high scoring games. A 7 or an 8. Ben, I had tons of fun with your game and I honestly can’t wait to see what you cook up next.

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2 Comments

Filed under Games

2 responses to “IFComp ’09: Interface

  1. Ben Vegiard

    Hi there… thanks for all the kind words. I’m very happy that the game brought you some enjoyment. I’d like to ask you a question via e-mail. Could you please send me a note to the e-mail address given with this comment? And feel free to suppress this comment from the blog.

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