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Full version on textadventures.​co.​uk
Source code for Absence of Law
This is the source code for Absence of Law. It is available under the (CC BY 3.​0 US) license. It includes the inform code for room-by-room music, but not the javascript code (which can be found in the IFarchive ifcomp folder).
Plain gblorb (no styling or music)
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.

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Absence of Law

by mathbrush profile

Science Fiction

Web Site

(based on 44 ratings)
4 reviews

About the Story

Excuse me, can you help me? Yes, you, browsing IFDB games! I need your assistance, but I don't have long. There's so much going on: remote surveillance, unauthorized cloning, forgotten languages, robots playing poker. It's time to take control!

Absence of Law is a science fiction comedy from the author of Ether and Color the Truth. This game is designed to be accessible to those who have never played parser games, while keeping a few surprises for parser experts.

The online version of this game uses non-standard colors and fonts, and has a complete musical soundtrack that can be enabled from the first menu. The download zip contains both a full offline web version (index.html) and a gblorb file with no colors or sound.

Game Details


Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best Implementation; Nominee, Best Use of Multimedia - 2017 XYZZY Awards

5th Place - 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2017)


I've released the source code for Absence of Law under the (CC BY 3.0 US) license.

The source code includes the inform code, but not the javascript code, which can be found in the ifarchive for ifcomp.
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Editorial Reviews

Review: Absence of Law
This is an ambitious work: multiple levels of interaction, several shifts in player POV, lots of rooms, NPCs, and puzzles. Despite its size, it has been meticulously proofed and tested...

With everything packed into this game, it is amazing that it played as well as it did, and speaks of time spent on making sure that puzzles were clued and objectives clear, both on the part of the author and play testers. I found a couple puzzles either finicky or laborious, but that could also reflect my own self-inflicted difficulties in how I approached them.

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IFComp 2017 Review: Absence of Law by Mathbrush
Are text adventures getting easier, or am I just getting better at text adventures? In the case of Absence of Law, it appears they are as difficult as they have always been, they have just become an order of magnitude more user-friendly. This is a game that want you to complete it, not fight against you. It respects your time in a way games of the past did not. It has a deep understanding of the works that came before it, extracting the bits that have worked in the past, and discarding the rest. This is made clear in the AMUSING text at the end, which name-checks the influences.
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Good Old Days
This game falls into the by now well established genre of a computer simulation. I.e. the player interacts with the command prompt of a specific machine...It's a pity that my personal appreciation of this genre has somewhat waned over the years. The game is very well implemented and uses its custom command set effectively. Issues are not solved through traditional puzzles (i.e. unusual uses of objects), but rather through tinkering (i.e. examining everything from each side and giving things a good shove by default), which could be seen as a welcome change. Formally, it is a good game, but it didn't click with me thematically.
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Breakfast Reviews
It's really a fascinating setup. The verb list has been almost entirely scrapped in favour of computer commands which we pick up or lose as we go along. The game itself is divided into three main sections, puzzle set-pieces if you will, with a denouement to cap it off. All in all, very well constructed, and very well conceived, with a fine variety of enjoyable puzzles...This is one of the winners, I think. I found pretty much nothing to criticise.
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Doug's World
I enjoyed Rushton's previous competition entries "Color the Truth" and "Ether". I waited until late in the competition to play "Absence" because I suspected it would be a good one and I wanted to end the 2017 season with a good experience. I was not disappointed...I might describe these different play modes as "gamelets", a series of puzzles which are each solidly coded and fun but which could almost stand alone as amusing diversions. By mid-game I was starting to feel like the science fiction elements of the story had been contrived to host this collection of puzzles.
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Fantastische Wissenschaftlichkeit
n Absence of Law empfängt man einen virtuellen Hilferuf vom titelgebenden Dr. Law, einem verstorbenen Wissenschaftler, dessen Bewusstsein gerade noch so auf seinen Computer übertragen werden konnte. Es ist dringend: der Akkustand ist niedrig! Dennoch wird der Spieler – der vom Betriebssystem fälschlicherweise für Dr. Law gehalten wird – zunächst mal dazu aufgefordert, dessen alltäglichen Pflichten nachzukommen...Insgesamt wirken die einzelnen Teile des Spiels etwas willkürlich zusammengewürfelt. Die Implementierung ist aber so gut gelungen, dass man kaum auf Fehler und Widerstände trifft.
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A Colossal Adventure

In the ending acknowledgments, the author mentions that the puzzles are meant to be a sort of greatest hits of their favorite IF puzzles, which is definitely not a bad thing. There’s some well-executed classics here, like assembling parts of a language you don’t quite understand, mixed in with equally pleasing new tricks, like sorting a list of randomly generated objects into categories. Everything in the game is controlled through remote commands and viewed through cameras, which both puts a new spin on things as there’s no traditional inventory management, and eliminates guess-the-verb problems as all of your possible commands are easily listed at any time.

This is not just a puzzle game, though. The story holding it together is fairly slight, but entertaining and well written.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
How to constraint a parser and give 3 games for the price of 1, October 8, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)

Absence of Law (which title needs to be discussed, too), is a technically perfect game, where the player needs to use a custom command line to achieve extreme results. Most of the action is given through a set of three-letters custom-commands and by looking at nested things. The interface (in the online-playable version) is customized too, and offers music as a background, a thing that I've been missing since the days of Castle of Terror (in the Eighties!).

AoL is fun to play, hard and soft here and there, and also very nice to read. It's a story that needs to be told, while keeping all the puzzles that make IF such a fantastic trip, when done properly.

There are a few drawbacks, but those are minor and strictly personal, so they won't remove a single star from the overall rating.

The language puzzle, and partly the cloning puzzle, had me fear I had to drop the game. While the latter is just a matter of trial-and-error, the former proved too hard for me. Probably, the experience was ruined not by the puzzles themselves but by the lack of time for the IFComp scope and by the availability of a walkthrough, which I reverted to too easily.

The music was precious, but sometimes a bit off. I expected it to be ghastly and in Minor, while it too often sounded like merry jingles. This links to another problem (which I admit is only in my mind): much of the content is about dystopian concepts. Although the game is referred to as "comedy", I think the fun fest at the end broke the 4th wall to me. I would have preferred a grimmer closing.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Noob-friendly parser game that hits on science fiction themes of embodiment., April 28, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: Mormon IF

I don't normally play parser-based games, but I wanted to play all the interactive fiction I could find by Mormons. Mathbrush suggested this game as one that he wrote that deals with themes of resurrection, which are related to theological themes. Despite the serious topic, the tone is silly and light-hearted.

Since I'm not familiar with parser-based puzzles, I think I had more difficulty than the average player. I used the hint command a LOT. But I could tell that mathbrush added a lot of flexibility to the parser, which I appreciated. The part where the "answer" to the puzzle is to (Spoiler - click to show)maximize the power wattage to get someone else in the spaceship to turn it off was funny and unexpected.

Most of the puzzles dealt directly with the limitations of not having a body. The POV of being limited to what a computer can "see" from cameras and "do" from speakers and other electronics was an interesting limitation/advantage. The three "ideas" for resurrection were interesting too: (Spoiler - click to show)transferring consciousness, cloning it, or making a younger copy. The ending decision doesn't make that much of a difference to your success.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A great blend of future and past, January 26, 2021
by Luihum (Brazil)

Absence of Law is different from your usual IF. Instead of your character in the story being physically present in the game world, DaedalOS, an AI operating system controlling Stygicorp, the lab where the game takes place, also takes the role of the parser.

Even with AI operating systems and brain backup units, the mostly three-character commands bring a feeling of nostalgia.

The story is divided into three main independent sections. The game doesn't seem to have unwinnable states, and there's plenty of easter eggs. The music is one of my favorite aspects of the game.

It is very immersive; even supposedly out-of-world commands have in-world explanations, and nearly all error messages have been replaced with appropriate messages.

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Absence of Law on IFDB

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The following polls include votes for Absence of Law:

For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Implementation of 2017 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2017 which you think might be worth considering for Best Implementation in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. The category will still be text-entry, and games not mentioned...

Great Openings by Floating Info
What games have your favorite openings? By opening I mean everything before the first room description in a parser game or the first screen of a choice game. It could be a sentence, a few sentences, a paragraph, or more. But I'm looking...

Best parser games since 2017 by Rovarsson
When browsing for good recent games, I'm overwhelmed by the amount of Twine and Choice games. Add to that a great number of games with five stars and only one rating, many of which are also, yes, Twine and Choice games, it gets difficult...

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This is version 22 of this page, edited by MathBrush on 28 August 2023 at 11:07pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page