Alchemy And Appraisal

¡Warning!
AAA is an interactive short story, not a game or a puzzle. There is no winning, losing or problem solving, just a non-linear story. Also, it is all text!

Controls

  • Mouse click for everything
  • Space is a hotkey for continue

Developer's comments

The first interactive story I've managed to finish. Still, it is not complete yet, had to cut many little details and even a few story lines. Will keep developing it further.

Font: Dumbledor

A quick and dirty Android version is now available on Itch.io. It has a nicer portrait layout with bigger text.

Comments (31)

Zeriver
a month ago

Well written story and there a are a lot of 'dialogue' options. Shame there are no graphics or audio but choice of font was pretty decent.

fullmontis
a month ago

I really love the amount of research that went into this story. I felt it really added to the realism aspect and I really enjoyed

About the presentation, I think that having bigger text and shorter lines would make reading a little easier, especially because it seems that the text never fills up more than a small portion at the top.

I wasn't able to obtain the philospher's stone, unfortunately.

HuvaaKoodia
a month ago

@Zeriver
Thanks. Audio was on my todo list, but utterly ran out of time. Fun fact: drew the menu image in the very last hour. Added the font to the description; forgot to do it yesterday.

@fullmontis
I'm glad you liked it. First time researching a topic for a jam, never had a reason to do so before!

Good suggestions on the layout. Didn't have any time for polish, but the post jam version is already in the works. Will improve it there.

Spoiler You can't obtain it.

Haoron
a month ago

no a fan of text adventures

smbe19
a month ago

It was very well written. But it was a bit annoying to have to read so much. And because a playthrough takes quite some time I couldn't really try out many different paths.

The story is quite interesting and it's nice to be able to choose so much.

KorbohneD
a month ago

Oh fuckin yes. I just spend the whole time relaxing at the pond and in the garden.
Best Game 10/10.

But seriously, I enjoyed it, even though I probably did not see much of the game itself.
One advise, I would change the colour to something with more contrast to the background. It gets kind of hard too look at it for longer.

HuvaaKoodia
a month ago

@Haoron
You can't say you weren't ¡warned!

@smbe19
Thanks! No need to read a non-linear story multiple times to get something out of it. The first (and potentially only) playthough is your story, so to say.

There isn't a whole lot of variation at the moment anyways, so...

@KorbohneD
Ha! Glad someone went that far!

Will work on UI polish for the Post-Jam version. Might put in a textured background of some sort to fix the issue, now that I think about it.

PS. It ain't a game, but I'don't fault you. I fault the system.

chaos
a month ago

when i first saw a pic of the game, i thought that it will be some kind of mixing game, then when i opened it and found that it just a basic text game, i was dissapointed, but after a few minutes of playing i found that this game is amazing. I don't actually like text based games, but story is really good. so 10 Tristan's discoveries/0

Walnoot
a month ago

I like it, you have a nice style of writing. I chose to just do my work and not fuck around with the alchemy, which meant that the story I chose wasn't really interesting. Having many choices is a good thing of course, but you should make sure that every path you choose has an interesting story arc. Still, kudos for doing something completely different from most jam games!

HuvaaKoodia
a month ago

@chaos
It's very nice that your expectation transformed through dissappointment into amazement, eventhough it is not a game at all, merely an interactive short story.

@Walnoot
In my opinion not every story arc needs to be that interesting. There are plenty of mundane things in life and an interactive novelist has much more leverage to include such unexciting things as they can be optional.

Maybe a reader doesn't dare to choose out of the ordinary options and as such ends up with a boring storyline. Maybe they play again and try something else or don't bother? What does that say about them?

Thanks for playing/reading!

Somnium
a month ago

Dividing the story into segments, using a days work as a divider, worked really well for your story. It provided a frame of reference for how long the player had to do the assessment and experiments. This is something that can often be a problem in interactive feeling, because without it, the "scale" of the decisions can otherwise vary a lot between different the choices. I.e. one choice might take a moment of "world time", while another might take "too" long in comparison. Your segmentation solved this potential issue in an elegant way.

Under this structure, it therefore became possible for the player to allocate his time on the given "distractions"/alternate paths as well, while still keeping a sense of control. I.e. "Even if I participate in the party, I will still have time for the assessment, since the party will at most last for the rest of the day." I might have to steal this structuring concept for my own interactive fiction :-)

Choices and options during the game felt well structured. At any given moment, as a player you almost always had different paths to take. You leveraged the few characters and "daily rituals" to good storytelling effect. As you mentioned, a few branches suffered from the time limitation, and were therefore cut short or repeated (or maybe Simon is just really focused on his work, and genuinely believes that casual small talk is utterly devoid of meaning, no matter the person.)

Knowledge-seeking blended with duty (the assessment) also provided clear but still conflicting "goals" for the player to work towards. This gave the story both momentum as well as sense of having to divide the available time between Simon's conflicting motivations. I think that added some effective nuance to the choices, compared to if the player only had binary "duty or relaxation" choices.

Your references to historical alchemical processes, writings and substances was a nice touch, that further enhanced the mood and verisimilitude of the story.

Larger margins might make the text easier to read, and make better use of the empty space (as has been mentioned in other comments).

Individually, even though the different side-characters were not fleshed out in detail, you still provided enough information for them to feel "alive" like people with motivation, rather than merely plot elements. For instance, Brother Merek was both very enthusiastic about the opportunity, while also being a friendly guide during the visit, with an appropriate concern as the deadline approached (since his relation with the Abbot was at stake, depending on the outcome).

Vinegar was referenced as a special material, but the player is never allowed to use it in the experiments. The obvious conclusion from this must of course be, that this must be the missing link for creating the Philosopher's Stone, and that you are hiding this secret from us, in order to keep all the gold for yourself ;-)

Enjoyable game to play (or story to influence and experience, depending on one's personal definitions). In any case, it was a nice and interesting journey through a few days of a busy appraiser's life!

Small typo in the headline, I think: You spelled "¡Recommendation!" wrong.

Appraise Equipment,
and dabble in Alchemy.
What a vacation!

HuvaaKoodia
a month ago

@Somnium
Thanks for the words, I do like those.

Heck, small talk is devoid of meaning, yet in this case those arcs were, indeed, cut.

And I keep telling you, the stone does not exist! Why don't you people believe me!

Now, now, personal and useful definitions. I don't want to lead people astray with vague words they have their own deeply rooted ideas about when more specific alternatives exist.

Karma is a blessing.
You write many words,
you get more words
and ruin the traditional structure of haiku.

Sir, you better sit down, Ducky did not make it... I'll resurrect him for the post-jam version.

bradur
25 days ago

It was very interesting. Like others have said before: as it is a text-only entry you should focus on the text layout more. The font size could have been bigger and because the text box is so wide it is hard to read.

Also, Unity has rich text option so you can add bold, italic and text color to spice up your text.

Nevertheless, your use of the English language is very good and I thought the story was very nicely told.

HuvaaKoodia
24 days ago

@bradur
Yeah, polish would have been great. I hadn't thought about bold, italics or color though, so that is certainly something to consider for the post-jam update.

Thanks for the compliments and reading, of course!

DancingClownGames
24 days ago

Hey HuvaaKoodia! Thanks for the feedback for our game! We will be reviewing your game/story soon.

But could you edit that one line of your comment, we would prefer that players found secrets by themselves. You have no obligation to do that, but we would appreciate it.

Thanks.

Filo
23 days ago

I am not a fan of text based games, but I can tell the writting is good and at the end I got invested in the story. I have to confess that I played it twice trying to create the philosopher's stone, but I got to nothing. I can feel there is a way to do it but my investment is probably not enough.

I would work more on the presentation of the game itself, some background, UI or even sounds would really take advantage of the medium as a videogame over an old school choose your own adventure book.

HuvaaKoodia
23 days ago

@Filo
take advantage of the medium as a videogame. This is why I had the ¡Warning! in the description.

I agree that the UI needs a few tweaks, but I have to stress this:
Don't think of AAA as a digital game, think of it as an interactive short story. Basically I could port AAA to an E-book reader and it would still work. Not every interactive medium needs to utilize all the possibilities of the vast digital landscape. Mediums thrive when they are specific and unique.

I made a quick Android version with tweaked layout and font size. Added it to Itch.io for those who want to give AAA a read in a more suitable environment.

Filo
23 days ago

Fair enough, but still I think graphical and layout improvements would help readability and usability in the same way a book would still be a book independently of the font size and the type of cover. To each its own though, I'm not one to hinder artisitic freedom.

thomastc
23 days ago

Interesting story, decent writing. Lots of content for such a short time span! I didn't manage to cook up the Stone, but I have to stop trying now and make some dinner :)

Technical musing: why Unity? Twine would be perfect for this, a much less bulky download, and you'd get better font rendering too.

Edit: I don't get all the commenters who are saying that Interactive Fiction is "not a game". A game, at its core, is a series of interesting choices. So this totally qualifies.

HuvaaKoodia
23 days ago

@thomastc
Thanks! There really is no way to make the stone. Sorry about that.

I use Unity because I know how to use it and I don't just make text based interactive media so it is nice to work with versatile tool. I also have this data driven system for text based projects in C# and I like developing it further whenever I can.

The font rendering in WebGL is weird. It is mushy in Firefox, but pristine in Opera. Very annoying and hopefully they improve that in the future.

Words, man! Words are useful if they are specific, much less useful if they are generic. The word game has become to mean interactive thing, playable thing, series of interesting choices (which I haven't even heard before) or something general like that. Those are not a useful definitions as they include way too many different types of media.

Imagine if the definition for movie was series of interesting situations with fictional characters. Every novel would now be a movie too! How annoying would that be?

There is a reason why different mediums have specific definitions. Developers have an easier time designing media they have words to talk about; consumers have an easier time finding, enjoying and talking about media they like; and money people have an easier time financing projects they deem worthy.

Another thing is expectations. If I say the word game, what do I know about the expectations of my audience? They want something interactive, potentially interesting. A very nebulous starting point! Will they like a text based political simulation about the turmoils of a banana republic? No idea, probably not as most games aren't text based to begin with.

How about the word novel? My audience wants 200-400 pages worth of words about fictional people doing things in a fictional world with some sort of a problem or drama in there to keep things potentially interesting. A much nicer starting point in my opinion, easier to think about and develop for. Is there an audience for a political story about the turmoils of a banana republic? Probably, as long as the writing is good enough.

The last point is selling the finished project. How does an unusual text based interactive title fare in a sea full of games. It will drown. How would it fare at a marketplace more specifically tailored for media like it (for instance, interactive novels). Probably better.

That's the short (har, har) version on why I, as a developer, prefer to separate wildly different interactive mediums from each other.

jlowry
23 days ago

This was fun to play through. I couldn't remember the formula during my first play through and had to make notes. Thank you for making this.

thomastc
22 days ago

@HuvaaKoodia The definition of "a series of interesting choices" is from Raph Koster's excellent book A Theory of Fun for Game Design. It's a good read.

I wrote a lot more here, but in the end, it is what it is, so let's not argue semantics ;)

HuvaaKoodia
22 days ago

@thomastc
My point being it is not just semantics, but sure I won't bother you any longer with it.

DancingClownGames
22 days ago

I liked this one, well written!

ps.About the blue door.

Tegu
20 days ago

This was an interesting read. I haven't "played" an interactive story in a while. I actually had to occasionally check some words on dictionary to understand the story better. I guess I've mostly used more technical vocabulary.

The story slowly started getting me in its grip. (ROT13 to avoid possible spoilers) V qrpvqrq gb gnxr n fynpxre ebyr naq gel gb nafjre nppbeqvat gb vg. Vg jnf shaal gung V jnf cerggl zhpu noyr gb xrrc gung ebyr hagvy gur raq. Ng fbzr cbvag V jnf sbeprq gb pyrna naq fghql n ovg, gubhtu. Ohg znqr fher V fynpxrq rira zber nsgre gung! Gur tneqra naq gur cbaq orpbzr snzvyvne gb zr. Gung fubjrq fbzr vagrerfgvat cnegf bs gur npghny nypurzl fghss, ohg V xrcg gur ebyr sbe abj.

I grabbed the APK now and I will try other story paths later. Thanks for the story!

HuvaaKoodia
20 days ago

@Tegu
Thanks! Glad you liked it and potentially learned a few words too.

ROT13, now that is something I had to look up. Yeah, I guess if you didn't go to the festival you had to cleanup instead. I'd call that a bug worth fixing!

Thanks again!

mampee
19 days ago

This was one of the most engaging games I have played in the jam so far.
You have put up a serious effort into this gameplay and the dialogue system, really loved it. Hope you had put it up for the competition!! Haha...

The only thing that I would mention about improvising is, Color Scheme and Fontds.

The current scheme is nice but you know, there is this one thing which says, improvise me, I got room for it!!

And besides the games, I really appreciate the way you review and feedback other games. That style of mentioning the scores gives you a clear picture about the areas of improvement!! keep it up...

dollarone
19 days ago

I like the writing, which is the most important bit in an interactive story. I feel like the story archs aren't that...interesting? having played and re-tried different options. Maybe that's what you were going for? I felt I was onto something at some stage but got nowhere close to actual alchemic observations nor finding out more about Tristan.

Enjoyed it regardless. Would read another story of yours!

HuvaaKoodia
19 days ago

@mampee
Thanks! Taken that there is nothing but a dialogue system some serious effort was certainly needed. Took three days so there goes that competition deadline. I didn't want ratings anyways, for other reasons...

I appreciate the appreciation. Playing and reviewing is something I enjoy a lot, so I ain't stopping!

@dollarone
I was indeed going for low-key pseudo-realism, thus no weirdness or occult shenanigans here. Does translate to very mundane storylines though, but I do have a few additional ideas for the post-jam version which I'm still slowly putting together.

Thanks fo reading. There will be more in the future, no doubt.

HonestDan
17 days ago

As much as you gave a disclaimer, I find it odd to enter a game into a game jam and say "this is not a game".

I did complete the story but found it quite laborious to do so. Considering games have the luxury of using visual and audio, you made no effort to engage the audience in any way other than in your writing.

When writing was your only tool, it was a shame you did not make an effort to present the writing in a clear and engaging format for the player (reader?). The layout and sizing were pretty primative, it felt a bit like a 90's HTML webpage.

The decision making process in the game was what made this somewhat different than a book. However, if I was to compare this to a real intereactive story (such as the app "Around the World in 80 Days"), I'd say I felt my decision had less of an impact on the overall story. My decisions felt like mild tangeants, rather than pivotal decisions.

On the positive side, your writing was detailed and free of errors.

If I was to rank, I'd give:
O 2, G N/A, A N/A, G 1, O 1, T10

HuvaaKoodia
17 days ago

@HonestDan
Thanks for the honesty, Dan.

The disclaimer is there specifically for cases like this. Non-interactive short stories in book form are text based, so why would an interactive short story be something else all of a sudden?

A medium is essentially a unique collection of tools, techniques and materials, in other words possibilities. If you start adding more and more things to that collect the medium changes or altogether loses its meaning. For me, game as many people choose to use that term has lost all meaning as a medium, it is just a filler term people use synonymously for interactive media. There are dozens of non-interactive mediums, why would there only be one interactive medium?

I haven't played Around the World in 80 Days, but I did play 80 Days, which is a competent interactive story too. Yet due to its mostly visual nature the structure of it is very easy to see and get bored of (happened to me at least). I like to leave things to the readers imagination. Whether or not I succeeded here is another question.

Also there is no reason that an interactive story absolutely needs to include clear pivotal decisions. Often times, in real life, it is multiple small choices incrementally changing what you are and what is going to happen to you. As such small choices can be interesting too, if a good fit for the story at hand.

I do agree with the layouting issues. I utterly ran out of time for any polish at all.

Gamejam is an unfortunate term for a developer like me. If I even host one it will be called an Interactive Media Jam (IMJAM!)

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