Violet

Sorry if the picture ruins the image of a sassy, loving Aussie woman you'd imagined.

As if I really needed to play a game about struggling to write while trying to write today's Fringe Busters. I'd already played it back when it won the 2008 Interactive Fiction Competition at the beginning of the year, but convinced myself that I needed a refresher. As if I needed to relive my school days of mastering the fine arts of procrastination and self-distraction. As if I needed to feel trapped in a room with a catty ex chatting loudly outside the door. As if I needed a new, fictional person scolding me for not getting my work done -- you know, for my free time away from home, family and work. Yet somehow Violet remains a thoroughly enjoyable, and perhaps even vaguely inspirational, experience.

Let's be up front about this: Violet is interactive fiction. There are no pictures, and there's a certain amount of guessing what words fit into the command that will solve each problem. I hear some folks around these parts don't take too kindly to interactive fiction, and would rather spend part of RabbitCon pretending that inFamous is materially different than half a dozen other games in the used bin at my local GameStop.

OK, so maybe I lean a little bit more towards IGF than E3.

Why You Should Check This Out: Violet can be every bit as frustrating as writer's block, but the fact that this is a game (with ample hints and no small amount of humor) takes the fear of looming deadlines and makes it feel somewhat safe. And the narrator. The titular Violet, your girlfriend, provides the wonderful voice of the narrator -- the nagging, pleading, pet-name calling and threatening Australian voice in your head. It's this game's wonderful sense of character that sets the game apart.

Good, I can feel some of your horizons broadening already.

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Comments

wordsmythe wrote:
I hear some folks around these parts don't take too kindly to interactive fiction, and would rather spend part of RabbitCon pretending that inFamous is materially different than half a dozen other games in the used bin at my local GameStop.

Oh Snap!

I think that burn alone makes me want to play this game.

Was never a huge fan of interactive fiction - the one I really enjoyed was the one where you were in a supermarket and could only do one thing before the game ended, but had hundreds of different endings?

Anyways, we'll see if this one tickles my fancy this weekend.

This was a super awesome hour, and a case where the medium perfectly fit. For non-devotees, don't be afraid to use "Hint" if you get stuck, but I found all but one of the solutions in here to be pretty obvious. Clever though, and all in all very well written, funny, and all-too relevant for me.

This is one of the few IF games I've played lately and it's very accessible. So don't worry if you're not used to IF. It's also a great game.

This is brilliant. Glad to see the genre isn't dead yet. Many laugh-out-loud moments in an otherwise wistfully poignant narrative.

spoilers wrote:
[color=white]For instance, if you get pissed at the narrator and type "screw you", the response is, "not until you write your thousand words." Listing any easter eggs or amusing anecdotes you missed at the end was a nice touch, too; does anyone know if those are listed elsewhere? I'd like to try them all, but my memory isn't good enough to remember such a wall of text :(.

I though we had an unreliable narrator through most of the story, but I was kind of surprised to discover the truth. The story was well-done enough that I was pretty crushed when my character drove home to find the note, only to have that completely turned around ten seconds later. I'm really happy to see games like this and Today I Die with really positive narratives. I think too often practitioners of "indie art", for lack of a better term, think they have to be morose or shocking in order to either receive attention or get their point across. Good job FringeBusters gang in finding games that show that isn't true.[/color]

EDIT: so apparently smilies don't get the white-out treatment. I would take it out of my post, but it's just too darn funny. Aw, who's a little lonely smiley...

Minarchist wrote:
Good job FringeBusters gang in finding games that show that isn't true.

This was an easy one to find if you follow off-beat games. Winning the IFC is no small feat.

So will we see Blueberry Garden in this space next week? It gets unlocked on Steam in three days.

Minarchist wrote:
So will we see Blueberry Garden in this space next week? It gets unlocked on Steam in three days.
It's certainly on my radar, with all the indie hype it's gotten this year.

curse you. I'm currently stuck wondering how to get rid of the internet cable...

SommerMatt wrote:
curse you. I'm currently stuck wondering how to get rid of the internet cable...

I think we've all been there. Make sure your computer doesn't have a wireless card as well.

Wait, are you talking about the game?

SommerMatt wrote:
curse you. I'm currently stuck wondering how to get rid of the internet cable...

I think I had to actually look up a hint for that as well. I am pretty impatient when it comes to IF and adventure games though

Every few years, I decide that I want to be in love with crossword puzzles. I go out, I buy a few books of crosswords, and I really try to get in to them. Inevitably, I find myself struggling to solve a handful of clues or puzzling over a solution and a clue that seem entirely unrelated. I asked a crossword fiend about these once, and he said, "They're just crossword things."

I was frustrated by Violet, but I wonder how many of my complaints could be explained by saying, "they're just interactive fiction things." This isn't an IF story for people who are new to the genre. It's steeped in the genre and that genre's traditions and is dependent on a base of prior player experience. This is fine, but it can make for an unpleasant and tedious experience for players who aren't familiar with IF or who have forgotten the genre's conventions.

The game's first major puzzle illustrates this well enough. Violet begins by telling you that you're in your office, that you've let down your adorable girlfriend—the eponymous Violet—and by imploring you to write. Naturally, given a text prompt and having been told to write, your first command might be "write." You'll be told that you can't write while standing, but the natural response ("sit down") takes care of that one. Likewise, when you're told to open your word processor, you can manage that one just fine on your own. Then you run into the first kink: you're told that you're too tired.

At this point, I'm sure that an IF veteran would know what to do. Not being one of those myself, I started trying to do all the things I do to wake myself up: "get coffee," "do jumping jacks," "walk around," etc. I got some interesting responses, but nothing was doing the trick, so I finally gave in and waded into the "hint" command. This is what I got: "Have you looked in the cabinet? (The key is in the drawer.)"

Wait, there's a cabinet? And a drawer?

The introductory text doesn't describe anything in the office, but someone familiar with the genre would know to go looking for it. Before you do anything in a game like this, you look around. And once you've looked around, you go back through each item mentioned and examine it. Everything is important, or will be at some point, but in some cases you might not even know that something exists until you've looked and examined and moved and shuffled every bit of the scene. Because of this, the game's puzzles can border on the obtuse. They're hardly the sort of babelfish puzzles that plagued adventure games in the past, but they're not too far removed in some cases. I don't know why I should think to begin my quest for a pen by examining a potted cactus, but that might be a clear and logical thought to some.

The hint system, unfortunately, doesn't think to mention to you how you might go about finding, say, the picture frame or the globe; instead it tells you that you need to plug your nose or shoot the pipe before it finally coughs up bizarre commands using objects you didn't even know existed.

And yet, the narrator is charming, and the dialogue well-written. The events transpiring in the park outside the office are particularly amusing. I can appreciate what the game would have to offer to genre fans, and I can understand how it would win such a prestigious award, but there are too many of "interactive fiction things" in this title for me to enjoy it myself.

I've also never managed to fall in love with crosswords, but I'm willing to try again.

adam.greenbrier wrote:
Wait, there's a cabinet? And a drawer?

The introductory text doesn't describe anything in the office, but someone familiar with the genre would know to go looking for it. Before you do anything in a game like this, you look around.


It's very unusual for a modern IF game to begin without describing the room just before the prompt (basically, an automatic 'look' issued right off the bat). My guess is that it was done for artistic reasons, to the slight detriment of beginners.

Ok, beat the game.

Had to use HINT between 6-10 times, I think, but overall I did pretty well. I spent most of my teen years playing INFOCOM games, so I suppose typing "look" or "inventory" are second nature to me in games like this.

Ending spoilers:

Spoilers wrote:
[color=white] I actually thought the ending would get a bit more metaphysical there, with some sort of "you destroyed all of your treasured memories, yet what have you accomplished?" sort of thing. And I'm sorry-- threatening to leave your SO as a "birthday surprise" is about the worst thing I've ever heard of! :)[/color]

All in all, a fun time-waster.

Oddly enough, the game locked-up whenever I typed "inventory." That didn't help my impression of it.

adam.greenbrier wrote:
Oddly enough, the game locked-up whenever I typed "inventory." That didn't help my impression of it.

The online version does seem to be hanging a bit today. Not sure what's causing that.

SommerMatt wrote:
Spoilers wrote:
[color=white]And I'm sorry-- threatening to leave your SO as a "birthday surprise" is about the worst thing I've ever heard of! :)[/color]

Yeah, not sure how well we'd get along in real life, but then I also know that oftentimes I need obscene amounts of pressure before I so much as "SIT DOWN," let alone "OPEN WORD PROCESSOR."

Quintin_Stone wrote:
adam.greenbrier wrote:
Wait, there's a cabinet? And a drawer?

The introductory text doesn't describe anything in the office, but someone familiar with the genre would know to go looking for it. Before you do anything in a game like this, you look around.


It's very unusual for a modern IF game to begin without describing the room just before the prompt (basically, an automatic 'look' issued right off the bat). My guess is that it was done for artistic reasons, to the slight detriment of beginners.

I think this is a valid concern (and makes me realize how unfair it is to expect a complete newbie to understand WASD, let alone R and E). In the future, I'll try and make sure to cover the format basics like L, X and I (look at/around, examine and check inventory).

VDOWhoNeedsDD wrote:
WHY can't i break the stool?

What kind of response are you getting when you try? Once I had a (perhaps "the appropriate") reason to break the stool, I had no problem.

WHY can't i break the stool?
EDIT: GAH! Never mind. How pernickity of the command system...

adam.greenbrier wrote:
Every few years, I decide that I want to be in love with crossword puzzles. I go out, I buy a few books of crosswords, and I really try to get in to them. Inevitably, I find myself struggling to solve a handful of clues or puzzling over a solution and a clue that seem entirely unrelated. I asked a crossword fiend about these once, and he said, "They're just crossword things."

I was frustrated by Violet, but I wonder how many of my complaints could be explained by saying, "they're just interactive fiction things." This isn't an IF story for people who are new to the genre. It's steeped in the genre and that genre's traditions and is dependent on a base of prior player experience. This is fine, but it can make for an unpleasant and tedious experience for players who aren't familiar with IF or who have forgotten the genre's conventions.

It's not perfect (it doesn't tell you to always default to "look"), but here's a beginner's guide to interactive fiction.

Overall, this is a delightful little gem, just lovely in writing and execution. It may replace my former favorite, Christminster.

On the stool:

Major Spoilers wrote:
[color=white]The choice of error messages in the stool-breaking code is bad. The first one just says you shouldn't break it, without saying why, if you've left anything on the bookshelf. This made me give up on the idea of breaking it.

Once you've pulled everything off the shelf, if you try to break it without the key up there, you get a different message... and if you try to break it with anything locked in the cabinet except one particular thing, you'll get a different message again. These messages are much more meaningful. The first one is misleading.[/color]

I'm grateful I didn't pick Everybody Dies for an IF title. It's a great game, but even less helpful with error messages (and I got hung due to a weak parser issue at the last puzzle). Dodged a bullet there.

I played up to a point using the web browser version, and then I decided to switch to the downloadable version.

I have a few complaints about the web browser version:

1) When I use the command "inventory", it hangs for a minute or so.
2) You can accidentally go back in your browser by hitting the backspace key, erasing all your progress.
3) When you hit the up arrow to repeat your last command, by default it puts the cursor at the beginning of the line as opposed to at the end, which is the convention that I am used to.
4) There was at least one scene where the text scrolling by took up more than a page, and I can't figure out how to scrollback.

After that I decided to download the game. The steps to getting it up and running in Windows is about as painless as it can be. I highly recommend going this route. Plus, you can change the font. Just, please don't change it to Comic Sans.

That was awesome. =) I am glad you shared this with us, Wordsmythe. It felt like Violet was with me the whole time. At first I couldn't imagine how one could write in an accent but the Aussie-flavored petnames really did it for me.

I think the game has gotten me into IF. Now I want a sequel!

I think it's fair to say (and also understandable) that the dedicated and awesome IF community is writing for a known install base. While it's great when a game gets exposure outside IF fans, there is a certain amount of assumed knowledge. THis happens all the time in niche genres, and indeed, happens in many hardcore games that just assume you've played, for instance, Halo, or any other FPS on a console.

All that said, I think every IF game would do well to put in the first line of their game "If you haven't experienced interactive fiction in a while, just type HELP for some basic ideas." and then put 3 paragraphs outlining the basic conventions. SOME IF titles do this. Most do not.

rabbit wrote:
I think it's fair to say (and also understandable) that the dedicated and awesome IF community is writing for a known install base. While it's great when a game gets exposure outside IF fans, there is a certain amount of assumed knowledge. THis happens all the time in niche genres, and indeed, happens in many hardcore games that just assume you've played, for instance, Halo, or any other FPS on a console.

All that said, I think every IF game would do well to put in the first line of their game "If you haven't experienced interactive fiction in a while, just type HELP for some basic ideas." and then put 3 paragraphs outlining the basic conventions. SOME IF titles do this. Most do not.

I'm not an IF fan by any stretch of the imagination, I could certainly count the number of times I've played something like this on one hand, and I've probably never completed any at all. However I found the game mostly quite intuitive, the opening spiel did contain a few handy commands, and it seems reasonable that LOOK would be a good beginning point to any endeavour, and once you have that down pat everything else is gravy. I didn't like that it wouldn't accept PLACE instead of PUT though, I did that a handful of times, heh!

I loved it anyway, and I can see me looking into the IF genre a little more in future.