The Sealed Room

I found this to be rather a lightweight little exercise.

Much of the game consisted of conversing with the two NPCs in the room: a unicorn and a dragon. Speaking to one or the other lists every available conversation topic for that particular NPC, with topics that disappear from the list as you ask about them. Topics are rarely added: I seem to recall that happening only once. The problem here is that one is led to simply plow through all the topics with little regard to them or to their effects.

The multitude of conversation topics suggests that they might teach us something about the NPCs. But what we find out only confirms whatever we might have deduced simply from observing the scene. Most of these topics are therefore essentially useless. There is one topic that progresses the story. If there is supposed to be a puzzle in picking it out from the forest of topics, then there should perhaps have been some consequence for choosing wrongly, because, at the moment, the solution is far too easily solved by mere brute force. Alternatively, it might be better to omit the list of topics altogether: "Guess the topic" is a legitimate puzzle, though it should be adequately clued or hinted at, and the topic to be guessed should never come within a hundred feet of obscurity. On the other hand. if there no puzzle intended here, then perhaps the game would be better served by a single "talk to..." command that went straight to the topic in question.

The thing about conversation is this: there is conversation for the sake of obtaining information, and there is conversation for the sake of effecting a change in the NPC's (or, even, the PC's) attitude. It depends on the sort of game one is playing. The model here is clearly the former, but the information is so insignificant that I suspect it is largely an exercise in implementing conversation in ALAN. Certainly something can be done in the future once one has figured out a system, and I hope the author applies whatever he has learnt this time around to more substantial future projects.

One small issue: in the version I played, the contents of the unicorn's pouch are never mentioned as present even after the unicorn tells you about them, and the pouch itself could not be opened or otherwise accessed. I don't know how different ALAN is from Inform, but it seems to me that this should be easily fixed.

A somewhat larger issue: there is barely any story.

Peanut-butter sandwich, cold milk.