Facts of IF: More Puzzle Games – Ascot, Gleaming, and Grand Quest


I’m marking _The Ascot_ down as a puzzle game because, although it had a story, the story was mainly in service to the puzzle, which was of an (unusually clever) get-the-right-ending type.  Its reviews suffered because, people believed, it wasn’t “proper” IF, allowing only “yes” or “no” as commands or “the parser would explode,” ending the game; and presumably its scores suffered too.


Looking at the profile, we see that, although the game had good writing, story, and PC ratings, its immersiveness was rather low:  presumably because of the form.  Its game flow was high, but it seems game flow does not have much influence on the score:


–Now here, we can’t recommend that the author (who is, as I understand, a pen name for Tiberius) could have boosted the game’s immersiveness rating with a story.  The game had a story; but it had low immersiveness anyway, because of the format.

It seems that the only way for Tiberius to have scored better with this game would have been for him to write it in a more normal IF format.  Although he was actually doing something very clever with the format, judges do not respond to meta-cleverness.  It would have scored better if he could have couched his story in a more IF game-normal form — even if that meant compromising the cleverness of his game.

(I like this version better, but here I’m sidelining what I like.)


Again, we see a similarity in profile to _The Ascot’s:_

_Gleaming the Cube_ had high puzzle design scores and high playability ratings, in relation to its final score.  Conversely, it had a much lower immersiveness rating.

Unlike _The Ascot_, this game also had low story and story-related scores.  So probably the author could have boosted the game’s final score with even a simple story, about a PC who’s trying to unlock the troublesome invention of a mad scientist in order to save the Universe and get the girl.

That kind of simple story would probably have boosted the game’s score by anywhere from a point to three:  I’m guessing it would have added more to this game than to a game like _Yon Astounding Castle_ because that one, while it didn’t have much of a story, had a story-like environment, while _Gleaming_ aggressively did not.


And again, we see essentially the same profile:

We have here a relatively high puzzle design rating, a higher playability rating, a low immersiveness rating and low story-related ratings. 

_Grand Quest_ has a minimal story line, and so it has a higher immersiveness rating than _Gleaming_.  But it keeps doling out puzzles, and they seem rather arbitrary, which might be why its puzzle design score is a shade lower than _Gleaming_, which was consistent in puzzle type.

And, some players were dissatisfied with _Grand Quest’s_ implementation.  I had trouble handling the cards (perhaps because of captialization?).  This of course is the price of having greater ambitions in terms of writing something in the IF game-normal form.  But even with those minor troubles, the game rated playability at 5.3.

The playability and puzzle design ratings boosted the low immersiveness score, or the low immersiveness score dragged down the puzzle and playability rating — however you want to look at it.

Ideally, the game’s puzzles should reflect on the narrative, and perhaps vice versa.  But even if they don’t, the player’s need for narrative is constant throughout the game:  feeding it in a lot of little pieces is better than feeding it a lot in the beginning and then leaving it to starve until the end.

So, we can guess this author would have done better if he had contrived somehow to intersperse bits of story development between puzzles.  The game would then have looked more like _Snow Quest_, which balanced and integrated puzzle and narrative nicely.


The picture that emerges from these data indicates that people do not, on average, judge games on their puzzles.  Good puzzle design contributes to people liking games; but the primary driver is the game’s immersiveness.  People play games primarily for the sense of immersion, and games are rated well or poorly primarily on how well they supply that sense.

Immersion is, of course, a cumulative effect of the game doing a lot of things right.  What those things are specifically we can only currently know in outline — future Comps will allow us to pose judges with more nuanced questions that further identify what they are responding to.

I’m going to put off the question of how to create immersion for the time being, so I can further study the data and the games they refer to.  Over the next few posts, I want to talk about what does not seem to matter as much as we thought  it did, and that certain terms do not seem to mean what we thought they meant.

Published in: on November 20, 2009 at 12:03 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I guess I can tell who’s familiar with the movie by who lists the title of the game as “Gleaming the Cube” instead of “Gleaming the Verb.” :-)

  2. usefull statics

  3. Hey, glad you like it.

    I see you’ve got an Arabic name — is there much IF written in Arabic? I’ve been trying to get a sense of how text games do in non-English, and especially non-Western, cultures.

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