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Have Orb Will Travel.zip
Contains Have Orb Will Travel/Have Orb, Will Travel.exe
Contains Windows executable, supporting files, and walkthrough.
Windows Application (Windows XP and later) (Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.)

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Have Orb, Will Travel

by Jim MacBrayne (as Older Timer)

Fantasy Adventure

(based on 6 ratings)
4 reviews

About the Story

You've spent a lifetime travelling and solving problems for others, but on this occasion have you bitten off a little bit more than you can chew? Where will you find that elusive orb, or has The Council's faith in you been misplaced?

'Have Orb, Will Travel' is a text-only interactive fiction fantasy game, very much in the 'old-school' style. It was written from the ground up for the PC using qBasic64, and has a comprehensive and powerful parser. Included in the game are detailed HELP instructions, and it also has comprehensive hints, both implicit and explicit, which can be accessed using the command HINT.

It is written for Windows on the PC, but can also be run on MacOS using Cross Over or on Linux using WINE.

Game Details


57th Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)


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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Long old-school game with hard maze and complex puzzles, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This is I think the 5th Jim MacBrayne game I’ve played, and I think it’s definitely the most fair and well scoped of them that I’ve played; either that or I’m simply getting used to their internal logic.

These games are all written in a custom engine that is remarkably smooth, as least here. For those new to Jim MacBrayne games, the most unusual feature is that if an object is in a container or on a supporter, you can’t take it; trying to will say ‘You don’t see any…’. I believe this is due to the fact that tracing through the contents of all the supporters and containers is too hard for the engine to handle. Instead, you have to say TAKE ALL FROM ____. There is a shortcut specifically for that (F1).

Anyway, the main idea of the game is that you are hunting through a cottage and adjoining area for a mysterious orb, with clues left behind by a circle of elders.

Most of the puzzles revolve around enigmatic devices that you have to figure out, interspersed with riddles and codes that explain how to use them.

I was able to get pretty far on my own; although I only got 70 points by the two hour mark, when I checked the walkthrough I was about 40% through the game. The puzzles are tough but fair; the place where I got stuck was due to not remember a clue from earlier.

The setting is very abstract, and much like Zork in its mix of fantasy and modern aesthetics.

I was glad to play this game, and hope Jim MacBrayne is able to enjoy coding up games for a while to come.

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Calorie Conscious Questing, January 6, 2024
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review

During IFCOMP22, this author’s work snuck up on me. Last year, I was treated to a homebrew parser implementation that wowed me. It’s the backbone for this game too! No more element of surprise, I’m on to you this year, game!

I wish I could say that history repeated itself, but that was not to be my experience. My issues come down to two: Interaction and Fiction. Ok, that was inexcusably glib, I’ll explain. It seems inevitable that at some point I’ll end up comparing this to last year’s too, but I’ll hold off as long as I can.

On the Fiction side, the premise is tissue thin - retrieve a fantasy orb from a cottage and its surroundings. There is really nothing to latch on to here, no interesting world building, environment engineering or character work. No motivating impulse. Understood game, it’s a puzzle-fest, nothing wrong with that. Don’t sugar coat it for me. Nevermind that SUGAR IS DELICIOUS, I’ll just go straight to the medicine. Here’s the thing though. A fictional setting and framework, particularly fantastical ones, can be more than just sugar. They economically let you define ‘rules of the world’ that can inform a player’s actions and crucially give you chrome to mask the barriers. Without leveraging that, you are reduced to “You just don’t feel it is the right time…” “There is a barrier to progress, maybe you need to do something unrelated?..” “Something (the author) is telling you no…” It lays bare what we all know to be true - that IF puzzle solving is guessing the author’s intent. I know to be true that my parents are fully anatomically correct homo sapiens. Let me infer it, please dear GOD don’t make me SEE IT.

On the Interactive side, the puzzle design is rife with remote-effect knobs and switches with so much virtual real estate between them deduction is nearly impossible. You may pull a lever and ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD something interesting happens? Is this Butterfly Effect, the game? Even some clues are fixed remote from the puzzles they are cluing. There are red herring objects that look and feel like puzzles, but since they’re not they become huge wastes of time that you’re never quite sure WON’T be needed for some remote effect. Some game objects spawn new objects in old areas without hint, meaning if you don’t RE-examine old things you’ll never see them. And if you do, you will have no idea what it was you did that made it show up. Arbitrary barriers vanish when you get the right object, without clue that they’ve done so or why. All this makes for an opaque world with unpredictable behaviors and attendant lack of perceived player agency.

Perhaps most egregiously, the puzzle design was often actively at war with its interface, which was its biggest strength. This homebrew parser implementation POPS ya’ll. It is speedy and tight, and very capable. Why then are puzzles not leveraging this super impressive strength? Instead, they seem to steer directly into the cracks. Using spells requires a laborious spellbook paging exercise to relearn EVERY TIME. (The fact that spells are so infrequently useful actually makes that WORSE.) There is a maze that while clued, requires two commands for every step, and it’s not short. And you may need to navigate it several times. Another maze you don’t even get to interact with. Instead you are led through in a chafingly pointless and extended timed text sequence. Other puzzles require pressing buttons to set a code one increment at a time instead of dialing it in directly. Between the obscure design of the puzzles, and the punishing interaction needed to experiment with them, it feels like no thought was given to how it would PLAY only how to connect the desired clockwork of successful moves. I don’t believe it was engineered to maximize player frustration, but I see where that conclusion could be reached.

Ultimately, I consulted HINTS often here, somewhat sheepishly given its Spartan layout. I was almost always rewarded with ‘ok, but how was I supposed to know to do that?’ The answer is an implied ‘explore and experiment,’ which ok I guess? Then why make experimenting so painfully frictiony?

At this point I can no longer resist invoking last year’s game as contrast. It was almost a mirror image. It had a light Fictional setting that did SO much lifting in justifying the puzzles and cluing the cause-effect of the place. And was fun in its own right! The puzzle design leveraged its poppy engine for really engaging gameplay and satisfying puzzles. More of that please, author! This was a Mechanical exercise for me, puzzle design Intrusively anti-gameplay.

Credit where due though, there was one (Spoiler - click to show)spelling puzzle that I found to be a really clever and fun tweak of form. There is cool stuff in there!

Played: 11/7/23
Playtime: 2hr 160/350, not finished
Artistic/Technical ratings: Mechanical, Intrusive remote and slow puzzle design
Would Play After Comp?: No, not my puzzle style

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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And Travel you will... A LOT, December 15, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

Have Orb, Will Travel is an old-school style parser, where you play a wizard tasked to find an elusive orb somewhere inside a quaint cottage, to gain back the Council’s trust. With its custom system and Interface reminiscing of old Minitel pages, the game is a puzzle fest. Though you will not really reach a failed state, the puzzles are fairly difficult. The game includes hints and a walkthrough, both of which I used extensively.

Old-school style parsers intrigue me, in their implementation (often confusing for new parser players), their sometimes convoluted puzzles, and the sheer amount of work needed in the back-end to make things work. They require a lot of attention, out-of-the-box thinking to solve puzzles, and knowledge of the codes in interacting with elements. Reaching the end feels like an achievement.

But I struggled with it so much. I didn’t even exited the first room before I ended up opening the hint sections… which weren’t actually helpful in my case. Turns out, keys are not the only way to open a door. Who knew? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Still, I persevered, because I am not a quitter, and ran around the cottage, trying to interact with anything in my path. Sometimes it worked well, and I could unlock things just fine (and feel so darn smart about it), sometimes… it was a frustrating disaster (;-; mazes yall… that one broke me.).

For how interesting and new some puzzles felt (actually, the maze, as strange as it was) or how reined-in the clues were (not always helpful, but fun anyway!), there were quite a lot of friction when it came down to playing it. For examples: you’d need to type a very specific command to get things, not just take item; even if a thing is mentioned in a description (especially an item), the program might not let you examine it unless it is in your inventory, pretending even it does not exist; one of the first items available to you is a book, but you can’t read it completely unless you turn each of its pages… All of these little frictions do end up adding up, making the game maybe a bit more frustrating than it could be.

Most of the latter part of the game (which I reached only because of the walkthrough), revolves around manipulating different machineries that affects other bits of the map. So you end up going to some part of the map, interact with one thing, walk around the map to see if it affected it correctly, walk back to the machine (which is sometimes going the long way round because of one-way passageways), pressing some more buttons and doing it again… Damned if you enter the wrong combination, because the game has many rooms.

While you are supposedly a wizard, and can learn 3 spells in-game, you surprisingly use very little magic to solve puzzles - the spells being used at most 3 times in total. You spend more time walking around the cottage or manipulating buttons, dials, and handles. You do end up getting a wand at some point though…

For all the text the game has, it answers surprising little in why you need to find the orb, how it got there, what it does, or how important it is to the Council. The game is so focused on the puzzle, you mainly learn about the setting or context of the story at the start, with the quest of finding the orb handed to you. Just a little bit of nudging and framing would have helped.

I still found the game fascinating - even if it may have broken my spirit a little bit, resulting in finishing the game with the walkthrough opened next to the game instead of solving it all by myself. The interface is very playful and colourful (though the timed text gets annoying by the second use of the ring), and the use of background noise gave the game a lot of charm. The ding notification when solving something and gaining points was so darn rewarding!

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Have Orb, Will Travel on IFDB


The following polls include votes for Have Orb, Will Travel:

Outstanding Game in a Custom System of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game in a custom system of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

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