Five Scarabs

by Agnieszka Trzaska profile


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Good interface proof-of-concept, September 25, 2023
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Agnieszka Trzaska is well-known, perhaps even famous, for using choice-based text interfaces to recreate styles of gaming that are more familiar from either parser text games or visual games. Five Scarabs is no exception, and in fact it is meant as a proof-of-concept for a particular interface, one that mimics a certain style of adventure games. At the bottom we have links that correspond to verbs. Once we select a verb, nouns in the room's description become clickable. So we select "Look At", then "golden mask", and we are rewarded with a description of the golden mask. This is clear and intuitive, though the handling of two-noun actions could be explain a little bit better.

The problem with this style of interface is the classic possibility of lawnmowering. You just try every verb with every object, until something happens. The fact that the verb remains selected, which is arguably an essential quality-of-life feature, combined with the ultra fast response time of text interfaces, makes this even more tempting. It takes only a minute to try to open, then close, then talk to, everything in the room! This ensures we can't really get stuck, but also removes a certain need for thinking. I'm not sure what the solution to that is. (Yes, bigger games generate combinatorial explosion, making lawnmowering more tedious... but it's not ideal to make a strategy less palatable merely by making it more tedious! Gamers tend to accept the tedium.)

The story here is slight but perfectly suitable for a quick puzzle game.

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