Monday, 21 May 2018

"Kinder Morgan" 8-Bit Text Adventure

I decided to enter the AdventureJam 2018 contest. The challenge was to create an interactive fiction game in just two weeks. Just? I didn't think it would be a problem to come up with an original  two-word parser game in that time.
And I was right. It took me less than a few evenings and a weekend. The toughest part was coming up with a story. I have been very disturbed by the development of pipelines from the Tar Sands to transport bitumen to world markets. For example, I recently wrote a letter to Minster of Finance Bill Morneau against pipeline development.  I'd also read about anti-pipeline protesters who sabotaged pumping stations. These protesters had claimed they had carefully researched how to shut down the pipelines that they tampered with. This struck me as an interesting premise.  How could they be sure that they knew what they were doing?  They would have to have obtained documents to explain how to operate the equipment.  I thought that could serve as a central premise to some adventure.
I was also thinking it would be neat to incorporate an element of decision by the player to contribute to the protests or remain a bystander, since this was what I was doing by simply sitting at home writing letters to government ministers. A response acknowledging receipt of my letter from Minster Morneau arrived on the same day that he went on TV to announce that the Federal government was going to indemnify Kinder Morgan while the challenges to its pipeline were ongoing. It was like he was flipping me the finger personally.

So I created a little fantasy called Kinder Morgan to try to highlight the importance of the issue and the critical moment in history we are living through.  My son Charlie had helped me write and mail the letter to minister Morneau while he was home on Spring Break, so I suppose I was also thinking of the game as kind of a teaching moment for him. I hope he will join the political struggle for the future and move beyond mere clicktivism.  It was truly a child's morning when I walked to the mailbox with him after our protracted political discussion and writing session.

He graciously agreed to to play test the game.  He discovered a bug/quirk. He realized that he could easily use the game save feature to simply restart and try different responses to the final puzzle, until he got the right answer.  So I made the program notice whether you had made multiple failed attempts, or had actually figured out the clues to allow you to choose right on the last puzzle.  It only gives a fully positive win message and musical fanfare if you solve the puzzle on the first try.  My wife also noticed a spelling error on the win screen when reading my sons's text with the image attached showing he'd solved the game.  Thanks to both of them for their contributions.

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