Spell Shop

One day, after having been fired for the umpteenth time, you decide to start your own business casting magic spells on demand. The only problem is, you never really learned how to do magic. Can you figure it out on the job? Will you manage to turn a profit?

Not quite interactive fiction, not quite a business simulation, not quite a puzzle game, but it has elements of all three.

Voting results

Overall
17th
5.929
Gameplay
19th
5.500
Originality
6th
7.357
Theme
7th
7.643

This game entered in the Solo competition (37 entries).

Info

Cast spells, help people, earn a living!

Links

Web

Author

thomastc

High scores Submit score

# User Score
@Thrainsa 370
View all 1 scores

Comments (13)

smbe19
6 months ago

Very interesting idea, but way too hard. I have no way to predict what items will result in what spell, and combined with the new items from the shop there are way too many combinations to try before I run out of money.

thomastc
6 months ago

@smbe19 There is an underlying structure to it, so you definitely don't need to try all the combinations. Figuring out that structure is essential, but you need to be methodical to find it. It might help to start simple, and to take notes.

In a next version (which probably won't happen) I could add some hints to that effect, which kick in when the player is floundering.

maartene
6 months ago

I like the idea, but the randomization of ingredients, words and spells, although making it very roguelike and more realistic (you simply don't know anything), it makes the game very hard.

My advice would be to make a post-jam version that doesn't randomize the ingredients and spells. That probably wouldn't take you very long, but would allow us to see more of the game and maybe win it. :)

Later on, you could offer the option of a "hardcore" mode that does have all the randomization.

BTW: what did you use to make this game? is it your own engine/implementation?

thomastc
6 months ago

@maartene Just TypeScript with jQuery basically.

Did you take notes and/or scroll up a lot?

the1257thornothing
6 months ago

I understand the process of learning through experiments, but I just didn't like having no clues at start.

You nevertheless deserve max marks in originality and theme :)

HuvaaKoodia
6 months ago

You've successfully cast a weak crush spell!

The customer feels a bit flat.
"That hurt, you know!"

I like the idea of using text as an output method in interactive media, but so far I've yet to see a great example of it (or managed to use it well myself!) Text is a malleable format and cost effective to produce, but when repeated multiple times it becomes tiresome, unnessary noise.

All I care about here, after reading through the descriptions once, is to know which spell the customer wants and which ingredients I have left. Graphically these elements would be laid out in a 2D space and be very intuitive to use as the human brain picks up on visual features lighting fast; text is the opposite. The tools for highlighting information are few and further underline the problem of all the other text becoming noisy filler.

As a sidenote, a visual cookspellbook would also be much faster to use than Ctrl+F combined the whole text log.

On my first go essential oil was too essential! It was always the second ingredient for powerfull spells. Next time that roles was filled by candles. I would have liked to see each powerful spell take a different second ingredient, not the same every time! Garlic and sage leaves were rarely used the first time around too, so forcing the randomizer to spread the ingredients out more would do wonders.

There is something else I always bring up in regards to text based interfaces: refering to the reader/player as "you". Imagine a novel were the reader is directly implicated in the story, for instance: "You listen to the conversation for a while and then move in introducing yourself as TK". It would be mighty strange and has only been tried with less than stellar results, as far as I know.

In an interactive story this strangeness persists as sometimes I'm allowed to choose what to do and then other times the story takes over and does things for me. It is like a cutscene in a first person challenge where the character is shown in third person and does all sorts of cool things, which are not possible to pull off when in control of the character, i.e. very annoying! At least in 3D this switch in modes is usually communicated well by changing the perspective, adding in letterboxing, and only doing it in the beginning or the end of a level.

The customer names are neat, but some of them seem to be missing.

Alan's phone rings. “It's SO_Alan! … Hi honey, what's up? … Yes, of course I'll marry you!”

How romantic!

If you do continue exploring text as on output method then try to keep the amount of text in repeated sections to a minimum and look into generating prose by stitching together short text segments based on requirements (the current state of the world) or some other techniques (not just filling in single variables such as names).

Other than the prior ramble, I don't mind it and had an ok time making enough money in a week. If only life was this easy!

Overall: Above Average (6.0)
Graphics: N/A
Audio: N/A
Gameplay: Average (5.0)
Originality: Above Average (6.0)
Theme: Good (7.0)

thomastc
6 months ago

@HuvaaKoodia Great feedback, thanks!

This game was a bit more "experimental" than usual for me, having never done a text-based game before. I wanted to do something different than the obvious "you're a wizard, aim fireballs at enemies". Yet I didn't want the narrow (near) linearity of typical Twine games, which are more like "choose your own adventure, as long as it's one of the three that the author has written". Those are not necessarily bad per se, it's just that I wanted to develop some actual game mechanics. I fully agree that text is probably not the best medium to present the mechanics I ended up with.

On my first go essential oil was too essential! It was always the second ingredient for powerfull spells. Next time that roles was filled by candles. I would have liked to see each powerful spell take a different second ingredient, not the same every time!

Totally agreed. With a fresh mind, I think the following would be better.

--- BEGIN SPOILERS ---
Say that ingredients ABC select spell category, and DEF select strength. Then AD would give a strong A spell, whereas AE and AF give you regular strength, and just A gives you a weak spell. But to make B strong, you'd need E, and to make C strong you'd need F. This makes regular-strength spells twice as easy to discover, and also gives a purpose to the now-useless "weak strength" modifier ingredient.
--- END SPOILERS ---

refering to the reader/player as "you".

Not so much to the reader/player, but more referring to the character they control. This is very customary in IF, as far as I know. How else would you do it? Third person would feel like you're commanding someone else, rather than inhabiting this character. First person would be weird and awkward in a different way.

sometimes I'm allowed to choose what to do and then other times the story takes over and does things for me. […] At least in 3D this switch in modes is usually communicated well

I generally agree wit this, but I'm not sure how this pertains to my game. Were there places where you got frustrated because the main character did something automatically that you didn't want them to do? Or was it sometimes unclear when you were and weren't in control?

The customer names are neat, but some of them seem to be missing.

Eh, whoops! I did fix that bug, but perhaps I forgot to re-upload it. Courtesy of my hacky template system using String.replace, which replaced NAME by the customer's name before replacing SO_NAME by the name of their significant other. You can see how that went wrong.

HuvaaKoodia
6 months ago

a bit more "experimental" than usual for me

I'm glad you took a chance. It is the jamming spirit.

I think the following would be better.

Sounds good!

Not so much to the reader/player, but more referring to the character they control.

Refering to the character they control, sometimes. This is where the disconnect comes from. Am I supposed to be this character, or merely follow this character and sometimes get to control them? It's like living with a personality disorder (I would imagine).

Third person would feel like you're commanding someone else, rather than inhabiting this character.

Commanding someone else in a fictional world I have no part in makes a lot of sense. Just like following characters in a movie or a novel, they are in the fictional world while I'm in the real world. I immerse myself in the fictional world by following what happens there, forgetting the real world if no distractions come up. Trying to be in total control of a character without being given total control of a character is a distraction (to me, at least)

The only interactive story I've developed to completion (mostly) is in fact my first Alakajam title, Alchemy And Appraisal

Third person works there just fine, as the reader is not supposed to be part of this world at all, not even by inhabiting the main character. This way the main character can have their own thoughts and feelings actually affect their choices and do things without explicit choices from the reader with no disconnect possible.

(It seems you did play it back in the day, without any issues with the third person structure. My thoughts on specific interactive mediums hasn't changed much either, btw. Still useful.)

First person would be weird and awkward in a different way.

Agreed, mostly. First person works in non-interactive prose when used by a narrator directly, of if someone is telling a story within the story. A similar framing device would work in interactive fiction too, which even includes the second person pronoun, for example:

"Grampa tell us a story!"

  • "Sure"
  • "Nah" -> quick ending or fake choice

"Fun, your stories are great!"

  • "I'll tell you about the time when…" -> Story 1
  • "If I remember correctly, 10 years ago…" -> Story 2

Story 1:
I was working for a bank when a band of robbers stormed in guns blazing.
Instinctually taking cover behind the counter, I though about the security training and decided to…

  • Surrender and play for time -> S1 Branch 1
  • Crawl to the back room -> S2 Branch 2

…etc.

Something like that. Feels right, as it has been done in prose for hundreds of years.

Were there places where you got frustrated because the main character did something automatically.

All the time. Examples:

You have barely opened the doors before some people wander in.

I opened no doors, but the unnamed character I'm supposed to inhabit and be one with, did.

The excitement fades somewhat as you realise that you haven't really thought this part through.

My excitement has not faded, but sure haven't thought about magic in my life.

Oh well, you'll just have to learn as you go along.

So, ah. Who is talking to whom here? Is there an external narrator who is talking to me specifically, or is it the unnamed main character talking to themself, or is the character talking to me via themself?

“I'll do my best,” you reply, hoping your lack of confidence is not too obvious. You write >“Cala Vaughn” on a piece of paper and place it in the middle of the table.

I'm not lacking confidence, and sure enough I was made to place a piece of paper on the table very confidently. Except it was the unnamed main character again, who I'm supposed to share a head with.

I'll demonstrate the issue of player/character disconnect further with first person competitions, which I used to play a lot.

In Deus Ex 1, the player controls JC Denton. He is voiced, has his own laconic personality and often says things of his own accord in the third person cutscenes (but doesn't do anything drastic). Yet in first person the player is always in control and in most cases gets to choose the dialog too when starting a discussion with someone.

Does this work? Yes, by not trying to merge the personalities of the character and the player at all, or refering to them in the same way (everyone keeps refering to JC as JC, usually in cutscenes).

In Half Life (and the sequel) the player controls Gordon Freeman. He is not voiced and has no personality. In the first one this works ok as the other characters rarely if ever demand anything from Gordon and there are no other choices either.

In the sequel things break down as everyone is constantly talking to Gordon and telling him what to do. Gordon stays completely mute, never questioning anything, just going with the flow. How could a person like this be a world famous physicist and a hero? Pushed around by everyone to do just about anything does not fit the character.

They tried to cast the character as an extension of the player by making Gordon mute, but ended up creating dissonance instead as he sure should not be this spineless!

That was slightly off topic… It is tricky, a balance needs to be struck between player agency and who the characters are supposed to be in relation to the player and the fictional world.

thomastc
6 months ago

@HuvaaKoodia "Ludonarrative dissonance" I believe it's called.

I hadn't considered that any of the prose might be frustrating, perhaps because it doesn't really have much of an effect on the gameplay. It just characterizes the main character, who (indeed) is a different personality from the player themselves, not an entirely blank canvas. But I don't see this necessarily as a problem, because role playing can be part of the fun.

But it's a very interesting discussion, and I will for sure keep it in mind if I try IF (or something similar) again!

devharts
6 months ago

Neat idea, and interesting choice of tool / engine -- the use of plain text with javascript made it easy to play on my phone, which was really nice. I thought the text was well-written and entertaining, though I struggled with the actual gameplay, and couldn't seem to figure out the right recipes for the spells the customers actually wanted before running out of money. Not sure if I may have missed some hints or anything, but if not, one potential improvement might be to have somewhere in the game where you can look to see more info on the different ingredients -- not even the full recipes per se, just clues about what "properties" or whatever each one may have so as to be able to make better guesses about how to do each spell.

Overall though, this seems like a well polished entry and a really good scope / scale for a weekend game jam. Nicely done!

killerrabbitt
6 months ago

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would :D I do have a soft spot for text based games, though…
I right away started to take notes, and I think that allowed me to get right more spells at the beginnig so I could buy more ingredients and experiment more. I did find out quite late that it's possible to use two ingredients at once, but still managed to finish the 7 days with 200+ money!

Quite impressed on the random text generation, even if at some point I was just reading diagonally, it was really good. Great job!

Thrainsa
6 months ago

On the first try I really tought everything was random so I didn't see the underlying structure. I just use the Ctrl+F when I didn't remember the spell (so very often ^^).
After I read the first comments I took notes and yes it was very easier then and I read more precisly what was written when no spell was cast ;)

I thing the idea is nice but I really feel like it could be better if you give the player the capacity to take notes directly on the game (don't know how so it's not too easy to find the link though).

Overall nice text-based game ;)

LaudemPax
6 months ago

I absolutely love the concept. I feel like its agreat idea and fits really well as a jam. Was fun figuring out the combinations and it made sense from the story how I don't know anything at the start but I do agree that maybe there should be a way for the player to keep track of combinations in game. Still, this was very endearing.

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