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Academic Pursuits (As Opposed To Regular Pursuits)

by ruqiyah profile

Moving-in sim

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Number of Reviews: 8
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1-8 of 8

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Carefully-Constructed Vignette, December 6, 2020
by Joey Acrimonious
Related reviews: IFComp 2020
Academic Pursuits (As Opposed to Regular Pursuits) is a very smooth, very well-polished, bite-sized parser game that takes a fairly simple scheme and executes it wonderfully. The task that awaits the player in-game is, more or less, rote. It’s not a puzzle to be figured out, nor is it a series of decisions that have much of an effect on the course of the plot. Instead, it’s a series of opportunities to experience a moment in the life of the protagonist, and gradually piece together a picture of what’s going on (beyond the immediately obvious).

In some key respects, Academic Pursuits has the qualities of a slice-of-life work. You’re playing a moment in time. The focus is on the internal life of the protagonist: what she thinks, feels, and remembers as she goes about the work of arranging her things. But there’s also a bit more to it than that. Within this moment in time, there are enough surprises, enough mysteries, and enough spiciness to keep it quite interesting. Put it all together, and it works beautifully.

Everything in this game is made with care; most everything a player might do is met with interesting and satisfying responses that convey a rich attention to detail.

The only thing I didn’t like about Academic Pursuits is that there isn’t more of it. Take your time, explore all that there is to explore, and you’ll see a fascinating vignette unfold before your eyes.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Lots to unpack, December 5, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020
Oh, I just got (Spoiler - click to show)got why the subtitle’s funny.

Academic Pursuits is a funny, focused game with an assured narrative voice, and while there are no puzzles to speak of, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had fiddling about its one-room setting. The player character has to unpack their boxes after an office move – they’ve just taken a new job at a university – and while the nuts and bolts of the gameplay involves finding small, medium, and large spaces for the small, medium, and large items coming out of the boxes a few at a time, the real engagement comes from peeling back the player character’s backstory and characterization.

This is done in several layers: most prosaically by EXAMINING each item in turn, but there’s also a THINK ABOUT verb implemented which provides some additional context and hints at the player character’s history with the item. You can get further information, and views into the protagonist’s character, depending on where you place the item: you could put the farewell card from your old colleagues in a prominent place on your desk or bookshelf, secreted away in a bottom drawer of your desk, or simply chuck it into the rubbish bin. In each case, you’ll get a response showing you more of the player character’s thought process, and also might make an impact on the mood of your room – there are a few objects that have a rather dour aspect, like a jar of soil where you’re unsuccessfully trying to grow some flowers, and putting too many of them out will lead to your office being described as having a gloomy mood.

There’s a story – or maybe it’s better to say a situation – that emerges from all of this, and it’s fun to piece together this tale of academic rivalry with a twist. It’s fairly simple to get the broad strokes of what’s going on ((Spoiler - click to show)I figured out the protagonist’s deal as soon as I started messing around with the first object, a mug with suspicious dark stains – and yes, the jar of soil isn’t really for flowers), but the relationship between the main character and the Professor has clearly taken some twists and turns that are fun to try to trace through, even if they didn’t all clearly resolve for me. The writing is strong throughout, boasting clean prose with nary a typo to be seen, and a wry, arch tone that’s full of small jokes and double-entendres.

The implementation is similarly solid – though the main action involves juggling multiple items into different containers, with size always being an important factor, objects can be dropped places and swapped fairly easily, with a minimum of parser annoyance. This is important since seeing the end will probably require rejiggering your solution once or twice, as a new object emerging from a late box will often upend your plans. The one niggle I ran into was that uncharacteristically for an Inform game, I couldn’t refer to the “wide shelf” or the “narrow shelf” as simply WIDE or NARROW, which was simple to work around.

My only real disappointment with the game is that I’d hoped for a bit more reactivity from the ending. As far as I can tell, there’s not an optimum solution to the unpacking puzzle that puts every object somewhere, and the tradeoffs you’re forced to make are implied to be reflective of how you’re playing the main character – at least some objects will need to be discarded, and as you put each one in the rubbish bin there’s a small judgment voiced about why the protagonist is doing that and what it says about their character, and the same is true of which objects you choose to display openly and which you hide. Based on that, I’d been expecting that there’d be some summing up of my choices at the end, with a statement about what they all said about my version of the protagonist. But I didn’t notice anything of the sort, just a quick reference to the objects I’d left easily visible that restricted itself to the concrete.

Working out the combinatorial possibilities here I’m sure would be exhausting – my game has a similar, but much simpler, setup in one of its puzzles, and implementing it nearly broke me – though I thought it would have provided a neat bow on the whole experience. But even without that, Academic Pursuits still makes for a lovely game – nothing wrong with focusing on the journey, not the destination, after all.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Office decoration and mild revelations, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, parser-based, Inform
Academic Pursuits (As Opposed To Regular Pursuits) is a parser-based game by Ruqiyah, published in 2020. In it, you’re a newly tenured professor who has arrived in her new office and has to unpack her things. Along the way, (Spoiler - click to show)you discover that you are not what you seem and have a secret agenda.

It’s a one-room game where the gameplay mostly concerns interacting with objects. You open boxes, take out things and then decide where they’ll end up: on the shelf, on the wall, etc. or straight in the garbage bin. It’s like a small sandbox with a few simulationist mechanics too; for instance, the game keeps track of available shelf space, and you can only hang certain type of objects on the wall.

The storytelling is non-linear and subtle. The player isn’t given a very deep motivation at any point - you’re just expected to unpack your things. Examining and interacting with the items you find generates some useful story and flavor text, though, and the game world actually has a lot of detail that rewards the inquisitive player - there is even unique text in response to the multiple different ways you can decorate your office.

This was one of the first games I played during IF Comp 2020, and back then I found that it lacked polish. Dealing with the boxes was a bit awkward, and you could also “take passerby” to pick up what should probably be a scenery object. Since then, however, it seems the author has went and fixed a lot of these bugs, so the game probably works much more smoothly nowadays.

Overall, Academic Pursuits is a bit of a mixed bag. The indirect storytelling is interesting, although I do wish the player was given a bit stronger motivation to start with. The gameplay has some meaningful decision making, but it also contains hassle from dealing with dozens of objects and their containers (especially since the coding has - or had - mild roughness here and there). It’s an original idea, at least, so it could be worth checking out if you have 30 minutes and want to try out something different.
Note: this review is based on older version of the game.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A smart puzzleless parser game, December 1, 2020
by Stian
Related reviews: ifcomp 2020
Puzzleless and for the most part smoothly implemented, Academic Pursuits uses the parser format to tell a story in a clever way. While not essentially humoristic, the gradual discovery of new information – conveyed by the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist in the process of unpacking – has twists and turns that made me smile. It’s all well written and I really appreciated this way of storytelling.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One-room game that works its puzzle(s) into its storytelling, October 20, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour
This is a short, one-room, parser-based game where you play someone moving into an office at a university. The game is basically one complex spatial puzzle where you have to take items out of your moving boxes and put them in various places around your office until they all fit. Well, actually (Spoiler - click to show)they don't all fit, and so a second layer to the puzzle is to figure out which items are important and which items can be thrown away or sent back to storage. Despite the basic nature of the puzzle, the game uses the objects in it and your actions with them to tell your backstory and reveal why you are at the university in the first place. Part of the story, who you are, is pretty obvious from the get-go. The rest becomes clear as you work through all the puzzle pieces. I thought it was a fun and unique way to tell a story.

My biggest complaints would be that the game was heavy-handed in some things, like (Spoiler - click to show)revealing your true nature, and not clear enough in others, like (Spoiler - click to show)how to know when you were done or even if you were headed in the right direction. Still, well worth the time!

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Ostensibly about unpacking, October 18, 2020
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
This game is ostensibly about unpacking and furnishing your new office. It has a simple mechanic, but has enough intriguing details to make it more than an (ahem) academic exercise. To tell more would probably be spoilers…!

If you liked this, Bruno Dias's New Year's game Not All Things Make it Across should scratch the same itch. Unpacking, after all, is a liminal space sort of activity - marking a transition from one location to another, and in this case one stage of life to another.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A game about unpacking your office, with some mysterious secrets, October 17, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour
This game falls in the middle of the comp’s parser games for me. It’s reasonably well-polished, has a nice slow trickle of information, and has a well-defined progression. On the other hand, it’s fairly linear and could use some more emotional impact. So it was better than many other comp games for me, but it could use more to rise to the top.

In this game, you play as an academic moving into an office. You have a bunch of boxes stacked on top of each other. As you open them one at a time, you have to find a place to put everything. But there’s only a finite amount of room in the office, and a lot has to go into the trash and storage.

The idea of taking things out of boxes one by one and thinking about them while you decorate an office isn’t all that bad, but it’s not exactly action-packed (I say this as someone who wrote a game where you put things -into- a box while thinking about them while moving -out- of an office). The best parts are where you slowly learn more about the character’s background. In that sense, it becomes a mystery puzzle, and that’s completely up my alley.

The one thing that I think could be improved with the parser is near the end when you’re trying to wrap up. The game frequently told me I wasn’t done unpacking when I tried to leave, but all the boxes were gone (when I tried to leave the room). LOOKing usually gave me a hint, so I think if I could ask for anything it’s that the message for going WEST would change after the boxes are gone to give you more hints.

I was happy to play this, overall, and the name makes a lot of sense by the end of the game!

+Polish: The game was generally well-polished.
+Descriptiveness: The writing had a distinctive voice.
+Interactivity: I was able to make plans and execute them, which is nice.
-Emotional impact: The game's big moments didn't land for me.
+Would I play again? Yeah, it's pretty fun!

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Unpacking boxes and the story behind, October 7, 2020
by JimB
A nice little one room game where the main activity is to decorate a room. Not the most exciting task on its own, but the background story unfolds slowly through comments of the PC making the basic activity of moving and placing items way more interesting than it would be on its own. Having only one task to do reduces the amount of verbs you need to get through the game: examine, open, take and put in/on are all you need.

A very helpful command in this game is "Look for space", which lists all places where there is still room to place an item or if the spot is full. This made it very easy to get an overview of all the possible spots where sth could be placed.

A short game that just put enough stones in my way, so that I then wanted to move them out of the way and kept me busy while wondering what the background story was.

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