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Unfortunate

by Jess Elizabeth Reed profile

2021

(based on 4 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

Just because you aren't the most inherently talented fortune teller doesn't mean that you can't give fate a little push in the right direction.

Cover art by Katherine Uhlenkamp


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2021
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 7
IFID: 943EBD54-BBF3-4457-A31B-66FB83991020.
TUID: rkma6dbp9otwcwj

Awards

61st place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)

Editorial Reviews

Jim Nelson
IFComp 2021: Unfortunate
Unfortunate opens with a straightforward yet unusual premise: You and your frenemy Lux, both amateur fortune tellers, agree to a bet ... I sense the authorís intention was for the various combinations of readings to trigger new situations at the party you had to deal with. But as I couldnít move forward once the readings had been made, my speculations about Unfortunate remain just that.
See the full review

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Number of Reviews: 3
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A complex and vivid parser game with active NPCs but parser hangups, October 6, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a game with solid writing and design but shaky implementation, what one would expect from someone with a good writing background that is just now breaking into Inform 7. On Twitter I see that the author is an MFA student in game design, and the game's ABOUT text says it's a demonstration game, so that would all check out.

You play as a young would-be fortune teller in the house of a professional fortune teller. They dare you to tell the fortune of everyone in the house correctly.

There are 7 people in the house, and you can assign each of them 3 different fortunes.

Once you've done so, after a certain amount of time, they start interacting with each other, and after a certain time limit is reached, the game automatically ends and you are evaluated on how accurate your fortunes are.

Conversation works well in this game. But the complex scene-changing machinery is problematic. At one point I was in the closet and saw dramatic happenings in the room, with somebody storming out. Then I left the closet and the room, and saw the exact same scene, this time from outside the room.

More egregiously, on multiple playthroughs, after the first cutscene, I tried talking to Lux and then became stuck in the kitchen, with no way to leave. Any attempt to exit resulted in no text at all.

I wasn't able to determine if any actions you take besides fortune telling matter. It seems like it might; there are a few random objects scattered about. But with the bugs it's kind of hard to tell.

This game is far better than most projects made for MFA or BA degrees in game design (although there was a really nice Choicescript one recently). No testers are credited, and I think that having several more testers would have really pushed this to 'excellent' territory.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Missed opportunities--in relationships and gameplay, December 1, 2021
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2021

Every year in IFComp there are a couple games with great ambition and obvious promise that have techincal errors, so things never shine through. Unfortunate is such a game this year. Without the bugs, it would be neat and bold, but with them, unfortunately, there's an additional puzzle of working out the right order to do things in so the story isn't dead-ended. With more testing it could've been quite interesting, and I'd have been more eager to try different endings. It's sad the author wasn't able to find testers.

In Unfortunate, you're at a party with 7 other people you give fortunes to. Once you do, things start happening. Someone drops a salsa jar. People make romantic plays for each other. There's almost a breakup. Then things wind down with a short timed puzzle at the end. Sadly, this timed puzzle can be started at the beginning, which hosed the causality for everything else. But as Unfortunate isn't very long, it's not bad to restart and try again and make sure that people don't disappear before they have their resolution. As things turned out, I was exploring and experimenting so much that I forgot to do a few simple nice things for people. The party bombed, and all my predictions (I spammed 1's, which seemed the most dire) came true. I scored 7 of 7 points! So I both totally won and totally didn't. This charmed me. Unforunate had several different ways through, clearly.

I admit, though, I had to decompile the game to see some of the text. As-is, the game offers helpful advice for compass-direction exits but doesn't mention two places where you need to go IN. So this threw me off one trail. Then I found a record in a closet and played it, but it was meant to bring two people back together--two that had disappeared. However, once I knew what scenery was relevant, things made sense. There are a lot of details that are well-observed but may not work well for parser fiction, or they might even be better with twine, e.g. you could highlight important items or closets with a link. Some nooks are important and some, like the shower in the bathroom, aren't. There's a lot of meaningful care given to certain details, which leads me to believe the author didn't know quite what to look for or where to ask for guidance, and they did the best they could, and that's not a backhanded compliment. But it's not enough to make Unfortunate playable without serious aid.

You see, there are games where I shrug and say "oh I guess they wanted to do that, that makes sense" and others where I'm genuinely disappointed for the author they didn't make things smooth enough, yet. And this falls in the second category. I obviously stumbled on an odd way to do things, going out of order because I just poked around to make a map, and I finally got my bearings in the bedroom, which was meant for later in the game. But Murphy's Law is cruel that way.

There's a thread on the intfiction.org forums of what order you need to do stuff in so Unfortunate doesn't go belly-up. It's worthwhile. And most of what you need to do is something that feels natural--but there are so many things, you may wind up forgetting something, leaving you with nothing to do. Unfortunate could use an update then, even post-comp, and I'm sad the author may've looked at the placing and decided this sort of thing wasn't for them. But if you have the patience to tiptoe around a few game-breaking bugs or learn from where others fell, there's a good experience to be had.


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Doubly unfortunate, November 22, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

Ugh, the title here is apt in more ways that one. Itís a clever bit of wordplay for this parser-based fortuneteller-me-do Ė weíre not talking turbans and crystal balls, youíre just looking to show off your palmistry to some friends at a party Ė but it also conveys how frustrating it is that the significant promise here is let down by significant implementation issues. This isnít just a matter of smacking down a few bugs here and there: thereís a need for additional design work, from fleshing out the conversations, deepening the characterization of the party-goers, and providing clearer feedback on how youíre making progress, as well as a good amount of polish. But even the rough version on offer goes a good way towards showing the (I think first-time?) author has some great ideas for how to realize this wonderful premise.

Digging into that setup, which is delightfully more specific than the blurb initially made me think: as mentioned weíre in the real world, not a fantasy one, and the protagonist is a hobbyist, not a carnival charlatan or anything like that (in fact, since you do get vague flashes at least some of the time when you do a reading, you might have some real talent). And the party here is one of those awkward post-college hangouts featuring a mix of old friends, exes, and coworkers, some of whom canít stand each other. Thereís a complex web of actual and potential connections, which creates a lot of potential for how things can shift once you start telling fortunes and intervening.

Thatís the other part of the premise, you see Ė the game proceeds in two phases, with an initial round of conversation and palm-reading giving way to an interactive second phase as the characters start bouncing off of each other and having accidents both happy and not. Success isnít about guessing a correct fortune and then lying back and waiting for fate to catch up to your intuition, though: you do have a choice of three different prognostications to offer to each of the other guests, but except for the first, generally negative, option, they wonít come true if you take a laissez-faire approach: you might have to arrange some mood music, or make sure someone has what they need to ensure a romantic gesture goes off.

These puzzles are pretty tricky, though. For one thing, it seems like thereís tight timing in the section Ė the other characters move around, and while some of the setup can be done ahead of time, there are also some right-place right-time pieces. You also canít work on most of the fortunes on their own Ė the majority of them are about romantic matters, so how the fortune you pick for one character plays out can depend on what you picked for one or more complementary characters. In fact, after an initial, spectacularly unsuccessful playthrough, I realized Unfortunate is meant to be played multiple times as an optimization challenge Ė thereís a clever meta touch here, since the playerís accumulating knowledge over multiple passes stands in for the protagonistís flashes of intuition.

On paper this should appeal to me, since I usually like optimization puzzles and real-world settings. Unfortunately (thereís that word), implementation issues bedeviled my enjoyment, so I didnít get very far. Again, this isnít just implementation in the sense of programming, though thereís some of that Ė X ME has the default description, lots of scenery is unimplemented, rules for picking up objects give responses that only make sense the first time you take something, whether or not a device is technically switched on doesnít make a difference to whether it works or not, there are misdescribed or even missing exit listings, and room descriptions sometimes donít update even after youíve removed objects. And there are lots of typos.

The bigger issue is that there are significant chunks in need of a lot of polish, and sometimes things even feeling unfinished. The characters are probably the major example here. There are seven of them, and their backstories and roles are intriguing enough to set up a bunch of potential business as they bounce off of each other. But theyíre thinly drawn, with physical descriptions focusing on superficial details like clothing. While thereís a multiple-choice conversation system, all the characters have the same three options (one of which initiates fortune-telling), which feels quite artificial. And thereís something odd about the implementation of the second phase, since the different characters donít actually seem to be present and available for interaction, even as event text describes them talking and moving around.

I also wanted there to be better feedback on how I was doing on the puzzles. There are some ideas that seemed obvious but the game wouldnít let me try (Spoiler - click to show)(Moses is allergic to flowers so giving him the bouquet for his big demonstration of affection doesnít work Ė but while the herb bouquet seems a likely substitute, I couldnít get him to accept it) and some of the fortunes are probably a little too vague, since there were a couple of times when I thought Iíd satisfied one only for the post-game scoring to say I hadnít. Combined with the combinatorial explosion of trying different mutually-dependent fortunes and the choreography required in the second act, this lack of clueing makes it feel like making real progress would require a lot of trial and error.

Itís not hard to guess at the source of these rough patches: Unfortunate doesnít list any testers in its credits, and however much playtesting it got wasnít enough. Iím really really hoping for a post-comp release of this that makes upgrades and bug-fixes based on folksí transcripts, since Unfortunate could easily be a five-star game given the quality of whatís already here Ė I havenít mentioned the prose yet but thereís some really good writing too Ė if it had more time in the oven. Hereís hoping it gets it, and that the author keeps writing games but gets more testers next time (Iíll volunteer, just DM me!)

Highlight: Figuring out how to get one of the good fortunes to work felt really rewarding Ė this is a great puzzle-solving framework.

Lowlight: The game lists exits in all-caps, which is a nice convenience Ė except oneís mislabeled (it says itís east but itís actually in) and then thereís one that isnít even mentioned at all (tip: going IN from the kitchen will get you to the laundry room).

How I failed the author: Henry was having a fussier couple of days, so I only put like half an hour into the game before I had to put it aside for a little over a day, and while I intended to play more, the challenging difficulty and thin characters meant I wasnít able to get back into it.





This is version 5 of this page, edited by Jess Elizabeth Reed on 3 February 2022 at 8:12pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item