Reviews From Trotting Krips
Roundtable Discussion #1 -- Hunger
Welcome, adventurer! This is the first of what we hope will be many interactive fiction discussions on the various topics affecting your average IF player every single day. Today's topic is that of the illustrious "hunger code." An added bit of enticing realism, or horrific bit of infuriating programming? I'm Robb Sherwin, and I'll be your host for today's discussion. Why don't the other members of our panel begin by introducing themselves?
I'm Marid Audran. Small-time hustler turned junior crimelord featured in the game The Circuit's Edge. I'm also from the future -- the 23rd Century in the calendar of the infidel.
Iolo. Constant companion of the Avatar in the Ultima series of games.
Forburn the Wily. The greatest Double Fanucci player in the whole of recorded history who was severely underused -- if I may be so bold -- in the Enchanter series of video games from Infocom.
I am Sinistar. I hunger.
Well, yes. You bring up an excellent point, Sinistar. Hunger. I personally am of the belief that seeing your in-game character feel hunger effectively takes away from the game-playing experience. Any initial attempts to "get into character" are marred when the game's parser tells you you're feeling "hunger pangs." In a further attempt to make the game as realistic as possible, the hunger usually kills you after thirty moves. I mean, take Enchanter -- here was a guy that was prepared to take out one of the most evil wizards in the history of computer games, but would die horribly if he went ten minutes without a fruit roll-up.
Allow me to erect a most formidable defense, then. Enchanter is a game about hardship. It's a game that attempted to be an epic quest all in the space of one of your culture's primitive 5.25 inch floppy disks. In order to maximize replayability, certain decisions needed to be made. It's not as if, in 1986, you could sell a product for fifty dollars that was essentially bad puzzleless AIF with a single "guess the verb" scene added halfway through. Ahem.
Was that a shot, motherfucker?
Oh, for the love of.... Ahem. Clees --
Whoa! Whoa there, m'man. No harm no foul. It's all good. I can see that you have an excellent point. Basically, back in the day hunger code was used to prolong the gaming experience for the player. Point taken. Iolo, why don't you tell us how the concept of "hunger" was implemented in Ultima 6?
Well, of course, Robb. In Ultima 6, food was quite plentiful and cheap. It wasn't so much that there was the "bread" object to be found, along with the singular "cheese" object. Food could be purchased by various vendors for the very plentiful gold one picked up by defeating different monsters. In terms of gameplay, the food helped with healing at the end of the night, when the party would camp. If the bunch of us -- Shamino, Dupre, myself, and so forth -- had food in our packs we would eat them. (I would also play a tune while this was going on.) Heh... those were the days. I remember one time when we happened upon the town of Yew. The Avatar was a rather randy chap back in the day and when he found out that there weren't any guards in the town, he --
By the prophet's beard -- give it a rest, grampa.
Well what was it like in your game, Marid?
It simply served as a magical healing potion. Something still in effect today with such top-sellers like Unreal and... uh... Unreal Tournament.
There's no healing fruit in Unreal Tournament, assjack.
Shut up. I have it on good authority that you're about eighteen months from chronic cirrhosis, so if I were in your place I'd start worrying about my own diet, not that of some imaginary computer game or homoerotic space robot.
I am Sinistar.
Well, does anyone think that hunger code adds to the fun of the game? Ultima 7 is probably the worst in that regard -- the player's compatriots become a bunch of whiny bitches when they haven't had their hourly apple. Another example: I had finally got to a good bit in MindImage's Doppleganger when the hunger code presented itself. I was now no longer able to explore the, admittedly, expansive city presented. I had to go find a hamburger or something. And this was on Neptune, natch, so who knows how good a burger is going to be harvested in a methane atmosphere.
It was rather distressing to go through that in Doppleganger, yes. I agree. It was kind of the straw that broke this camel's back, in that regard.
I can see it being effective if used once early on, to give the player a "push" in a particular direction. For instance, let's talk about Zork for a second.
Say there was something you needed in the game's refrigerator. As you enter the house you're suddenly overcome by a weakness and need to eat. You now have motive to open the fridge and find a particular treasure or something. Like the golden pot or whatever. Hey, Forburn -- you dealing?
No, seriously, Audran's got a point. You look like a cross between a 15th century pimp and the Dr. Feelgood near the on-ramp of I-25 at Longmont.
Fifteen paxium would be fine, and help me get through this with my sanity still in check. I wish I had a chip that could block out suckage because it would make the whole of this conversation that much easier to finish.
To sum up, my position is that "eating" in a video game is slightly only less irritating to having to use the bathroom. And I suppose until the video game adaptation of "The Green Mile" comes out, we're not going to see urination-heavy games.
I agree. That flick had too much pissing by about four quarts for my tastes.
And games where eating is tangential to the gameplay -- for instance, in Ultima 6 where you receive a benefit by engaging in it, but no real penalty, or in The Circuit's Edge, where you had a chip to block out hunger and would only heal your character by eating -- well, it heightens the game rather than bring it down to a resource-management level.
I am Sinistar. I hunger. I am Sinistar. I hunger. I am Sinistar. I hunger.
Truly, interactive fiction which attempts to convey a more realistic atmosphere than "KILL TROLL" and "GO NORTH" should be commended, if for nothing else, ambition. The processing power of today's x86 architecture is becoming more advanced with every passing fortnight. The days of primitive, foolish graphics-free adventures are drawing to a close, human! Beware, I live! I hunger!
Sigh. That spell has run shorter and shorter ever since Spellbreaker.
Well. I don't know if anything was really accomplished today, but it looks like I'm out of space. I'd like to thank everyone for coming out today. Any last words?
Ultima 9 was finally patched. You owe it to yourself to check it out.
I'll be seen next in Word of Night by George Alec Effinger.
I've got nothing, Fancy a quick brew, Sherwin?
You betcha. I'm having trouble running a successful gambit after three trebeled fromps. There are tables over at Lucky Joe's.
Run coward, run!