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Latest version, at GitHub. Contains .t3 file (for use with interpreter) and map.
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Post-competition release, at the IF Archive. Contains .t3 file and map.
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How Prince Quisborne the Feckless Shook His Title

by John Ziegler profile

Light pseudo-medieval fantasy

(based on 15 ratings)
7 reviews

About the Story

A Fanciful Tale Both Whimsical and Earnest

It was supposed to be really straightforward: take the king's mollycoddled heir under your capable wing, get him away from the castle, and turn him into Noble Ruler material within the space a year or so.

Well, you still have to do that... but thanks to the limerick-loving prince's romantic attachment to a princess with an unwilling father, now it sounds like the agenda includes investigating old legends that speak of a haunted fastness in the North--legends that might lead you all the way to the Overworld.

So much the better! This new twist should provide plenty of challenge and adventure for you to ply the pampered prince with along the way; and fortunately, you have an ample amount of time to accomplish your objectives and try to shape the prince into something more--as he would say--*feckful*...

(Author highly recommends playing with QTads interpreter; otherwise, content/features are missing and formatting may be unsightly.

"Readthrough" mode provided for those shy of parser or puzzly games.)

Game Details


8th Place overall; 2nd Place - tie, Miss Congeniality - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

Winner, Outstanding Fantasy Game of 2023; Winner, Outstanding TADS Game of 2023 - The 2023 IFDB Awards


In versions < 1.3, near the cistern, if player performs a series of actions in a less forthright sequence, an important object will apparently become invisible.
Downloadable game has been fixed: if you are currently playing the game and experience this problem, the object should become visible with the command LOOK IN WATER. If you still seem to have problems, the author should be able to send an in-game code that will correct it. Contact johnnywz00@yahoo.com or PM to johnnywz00 on IntFiction.org.
Apologies, and thanks!
Reported by Johnnywz00 | History | Edit | Delete
In versions < 1.2, there is a puzzle late in the game whose corresponding hint section won't ever activate (there is a walkthrough, but it is more cumbersome to use).
The downloadable game has been fixed, but if you are playing the game with one of the early versions and you need the hints for the lodestone, the author can send you a code to fix it in-game. Let me know at johnnywz00@yahoo.com or johnnywz00 at IntFiction.org if you need help. Apologies, and thanks!
Reported by Johnnywz00 | History | Edit | Delete
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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
How JJMcC Shook his Preconceptions, March 31, 2024
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

If, through some strange quirk of the hyperlink-chain that got you here, my words are the first you are reading about this game know this: Quisborne is a mammoth game. It took me over 37 hours, 2 full weeks, start to finish. I laughingly said at start "This may take me longer than Spiderman 2." It didn't, BUT IT COULDA. With a game of such epic scale, my normal review approaches strain and buckle. Would you want to read a five hour summary? A three hour thematic deconstruction and post-mortem? Heck, a forty-five minute riff on prose style and craftsmanship? Of course you don't. You wanna know if it's worth your time, and since I probably shocked and awed you I'll just flat say: It definitely is.

Charged with mentoring a young, sheltered Prince, the player pursues an epic quest to fulfill the youthful monarch-to-be's dreams of making himself worthy of his legacy and love interest. Yeah, it involves solving puzzles. So many puzzles. If at this point you are starting to think, "Oh ok, I have the measure of this game," I promise you do not. Every image you have in your head of a puzzle-driven IF fantasy quest is technically accurate. It's just laughably inadequate - like a grainy, faded, off-center and out-of-focus Polaroid of the ACTUAL Quisborne.

Actual Quisborne is a wide-screen, technicolor, surround-sound experience of deep world building, epic scale, vivid characters, challenging logistical and mechanical puzzles, and sweet charm. And wordplay. So many jokes, puns and poems. It's like the man said, "If you didn't laugh at that one, don't worry, three hundred more are coming right behind it."

From the jump it pulls you into its thrall with its graphical presentation. (do use QTADS as your interpreter. You only hurt yourself by not) The graphical flourishes and music are evocative, disciplined and delightful, and marry with the PDF map to create the perfect fantasy-road-novel vibe.

Quisborne is also probably the most tightly crafted parser you will ever play, certainly the tightest one I've played. For all its scope and depth, there is exacting precision in its player experience. Great thought has been put into Quality of Play features, designed to reduce or eliminate player frictions. A frankly deranged amount of time has been devoted to incidental dialogue, atmosphere, scenes and vignettes that suggest a wild, vibrant world around you. NPCs have arcs, memories and call backs, situational awareness and so, so many stories. A staggering amount of unique responses to player actions give a near conversational feel that defies IF repetition fatigue better than any game I've seen. So many, that I suspect even the most leisurely playthrough may experience less than 50% of the text in the game. Is it flawless? No. At its size, statistically it CAN'T be. I found a few bugs (since fixed), you probably will too. I can say, as a percentage of its runtime, the bug impact is in insignificant digits.

On the topic of gameplay engineering, its multi-tiered hint system is amazing. From subtle, unsolicited "by the ways" from your companion, to a pre-hint NUDGE command, to task lists, memories and a top-tier progressive HINT function, your vast problem space may feel overwhelming, but the game provides whatever level of lifeline you prefer.

There are accommodations to make with the game for sure, even beyond its raw scale. The first is its prose. Springing from a tradition of tiny, memory constrained machines, classic IF leans to the terse side of description. Bringing that expectation here is a mistake. Quisborne will inundate you with words - I once uncharitably described it as Class IV torrents of words. They're pretty great words, but man are there a lot of them. They very much do the work of establishing the lore and atmosphere of the world but you will need to adjust to their pace.

These words also weave a finely detailed tapestry. At one point, I had cause to compare it Where's Waldo. There are SO many fine details, picking out important ones becomes a puzzle of its own. Quisborne demands and rewards your attention to detail. It is easy to lose sight of that amidst the heroic scope of the thing but DO NOT FORGET. It is a cold, uncaring fantasy world, it is not your friend. WATCH IT CLOSELY.

The next accommodation is its breadth of puzzle play. You are going to be served a delightful buffet of varied puzzles: (modest) mazey mapping, logic posers, hide and seek, crafting, bizarre logic jumps, creative misuse of objects, so many more. Inevitably, some will hit your brain's precise chemical cocktail better than others. While there are masterful setpieces everyone will clap with glee at, likely there will be a few that chafe more than delight. HINT your way past those is my advice. There's 300 great ones right behind it. I mean by the time you get to the Witch's House... ahhh, no. I want to but I can't.

So, I haven't talked much about the story all this is in service of yet. Y'know how some stories are thrill-ride, twist-a-minute shockers that gut punch with surprise after surprise? This is not that. This is a road novel in IF form, building character and story through a series of idiosyncratic vignettes around a tight thematic core. It is slower, sweeter, and richer for it. The ending it builds towards is just about perfect, thick with deeply earned emotion. When finally finishing, you will get the same mix of satisfaction and regret as from a great novel.

It's very funny. It's EPIC. It's challenging. It's a lot. It's expertly crafted. It's DEEP. It's rewarding. 37 hours well spent.

Played: 3/12-26/24
Playtime: 37.25hrs, finished
Artistic/Technical ratings: Engaging in the moment, Transcendent in realized scope, Mostly Seamless

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

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
I am definitely shook, January 4, 2024
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp. I beta tested this game).

I always find it hard to review games Iíve tested, because even when I replay the final, finished version, my first impression is inescapably of a no-longer-extant game still in the process of reaching its ultimate form; I sometimes attempt some mental gymnastics to try to figure out how my sense of a game might differ from that of someone coming to it fresh, but thatís especially challenging here, because Prince Quisborne is a massive game that I havenít had the opportunity to revisit in any depth, and I first started testing it in February. So my memories are more distant than Iíd like, I havenít refreshed them recently, and I suspect the addition of some new features, like the NUDGE command that points you to areas where youíre able to make progress, or the DESTINATIONS-based fast travel system to minimize the challenge of navigating the large, diagonal-direction-happy map, radically smooth out the gameplay. Nevertheless I feel obliged to write something by way of comment on the most Brobdingnagian game of this, or, perhaps, any Comp, but you might want to take it with even more salt than usual.

Right, with that distressingly on-point intro out of the way, letís talk about tarof, which is the Persian practice of hospitality. So far as Iíve experienced it (I have an Iranian-American wife and in-laws), the thing thatís distinctive about tarof is its extravagant generosity. The quintessential example is that youíll be invited over for lunch, and on your way in youíll maybe mutter some compliment about the nice rug they have in their living room, at which point your host will beam at you and say ďoh, itís a terrible old thing, I hate it, but Iím so glad you like it, let me give it to you!Ē At which point you might protest a) you werenít dropping a hint or anything like that; and b) actually youíre no expert on rugs but now that you look at it it sure seems very nice and actually probably quite expensive. But theyíll say itís kind of you but no need to be polite, actually youíd be doing me a favor if you take it. And as you try to think of what to say, your host will gently shove you out of the way, get down on their hands and knees, and start rolling the thing up for you. The thing is, this is obviously incredibly nice. But itís also super overbearing Ė itís too much, and even leaving that aside, how the hell are you supposed to get that giant rug home?

And so we come again to Prince Quisborne, which combines the vast scope of a mainframe game with the intricate depth of implementation of a short one-room one, and presents its epic story in a prose style thatís prolix to a fault. In some ways this is the dream that animated the early amateur IF scene: a whole world rendered in jewel-like detail, where you could equally well traipse from one side of a kingdom to the other, and pause anywhere along the way to take in a pagelong random event tied to your exact progression through the plot, or stop off at a blacksmithís shop to futz around with a fully functional forge, or visit a mini area with fiendishly complex logic and word puzzles that could be a whole game in its own right.

Iím not sure Iíve come across anything else that incarnates this vision nearly as well Ė Cragne Manor is the only plausible contender, and as a game with 84 authors and all the incoherence that implies, itís not really a close comparison Ė and the thing is, having experienced it, itís not obvious that this was such a good idea. Prince Quisborne is a lot; the prologue is manageable, though already shows off the authorís facility with jokey high-fantasy-ish language and love of multiple puzzle solutions, but once past that lagniappe, the full game unfolds and I can only imagine that most players will issue a gulp, much like I did, once they realize exactly what theyíre in for: sure, an incredible voyage of discovery where your eponymous protťgť will learn to be a grown-up under your tutelage as you unlock ancient secrets, but also puzzles that rely on having searched an unobtrusive bit of scenery halfway around the world, or remembering an incidental detail from a lore dump ten hours ago; or finding the thingabob you suddenly realize you need means remembering whether you first saw it in Chelkwibble or Chedderwicket; and when you hit the big plot-progressing cutscenes to hand, I sure hope you have a drink and snack handy.

As with tarof, itís easy to look at all of this and just think ďitís too muchĒ, especially in the press of the Comp. But unlike with tarof, which is embedded in complex systems of power, class, and reciprocity that need to be navigated to maintain politeness, thereís really no downside or ulterior motive here: Prince Quisborne is precisely as generous as it appears to be. If a player tries to rush through it in one go, I suspect theyíll resent it, but if instead itís played over weeks or months, I suspect itíd deservedly be one of the greatest IF experiences youíve ever had. Itís extraordinarily rich, and the more I played it, the more I appreciated touches like Prince Quisborneís facility for having a limerick for every situation, or the way his character subtly changes over the course of the journey as experience leads him from callow youth to surprisingly-touching heroism. In fact, Iím not ashamed to admit that the ending sequence made me tear up Ė while PQ starts out as a comedy character, he achieves real depth by the finish, and the way the game acknowledges his growth is at once a total blindsiding and completely, necessarily obvious. Itís one of the most impressive climaxes to a piece of IF Iíve ever experienced, so if youíre wondering whether pressing through to the end is worth it, I can say that it emphatically is.

PQ also goes out of its way to be friendly to the player, without watering itself down in the slightest: there are all those convenient commands I mentioned at the beginning, as well as an always-on inventory window, exhaustive hints, and a lovely, inviting presentation (for the love of god, play this in QTADS to get the full experience). One doesnít need to meet PQ halfway, only a quarter of the way at most.

This is still a commitment, let me reiterate! Iíd guess this is at least a 20 hour game. But each of those hours will show you something worthwhile, and the accumulation of them accomplishes things very few other games have done. Now that the Comp is over, itís the perfect time to approach PQ as it deserves to be approached: dedicate some time. Let go of the idea that you need to race through it (or that you should have any shame about consulting hints or the walkthrough!) And get ready to experience something extraordinary.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Prince Quisborne really shook the "feckless"!, October 6, 2023
by Max Fog
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

I beta tested this game, but that doesn't change how I feel about this game!

Now, this game is a massive, puzzly exploration through a highly detailed, fun fantasy world. I love this game. The puzzles are neat, the hints work fully, and so on. Plus, the coming-of-age story and the endless description add to a feeling of a world without stop, much like our world - but countless times more beautiful.

Song: There, There (The Boney King of Nowhere).

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How Prince Quisborne the Feckless Shook His Title on IFDB

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The following polls include votes for How Prince Quisborne the Feckless Shook His Title:

Outstanding TADS Game 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 TADS game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible games...

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I'm looking for the game that you played that had the most content (not necessarily being stuck on a puzzle for a long time)

Games where you can dispose of useless items by Andrew Schultz
Mike Spivey's A Beauty Cold and Austere had a gray lady guarding a storage bin, where you could ask her if something had served its purpose. If it did, in the bin it went. If it didn't, you may've gotten a vague hint what to do with it....

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This is version 17 of this page, edited by JTN on 13 January 2024 at 1:00pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page