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Infocom Gone Wild!

Next Steps for The Z-Machine Matter

Considering the various reviews and Introcomp feedback on my game The Z-Machine Matter, there's no doubt a lot of work ahead of me.  I feel like I signed up for a 10k race and somehow ended up in a Marathon.  Maybe an Ultra Marathon.  Here's my own assessment of The Z-Machine Matter in its current state:

  • As a prototype or proof of concept, it's not bad for those who like old-school mysteries
  • The PDF manual, plot and characters pay hommage to classic Infocom mystery games
  • There's a hint of a multi-layered plot around a murder mystery with cold war intrigue
  • There's some decent use of Inform Extensions, built-in hints and standard commands to suggest the game may one day have reasonably good fit & finish 


  • Not everyone is impressed by having an homage to Infocom
  • The game needs to be more engaging  --IF references alone don't make it interesting
  • Where there are IF references they need to be more clever
  • Some of the IF references may be too much of a distraction
  • As a prototype, the code is a bit of a hack -- some things don't work as expected
  • There's a lot of hard-coded logic that need to be made more general
  • There's a combinatorial explosion of objects, some of which serve no purpose yet
  • There's a need to pace how much information, topics, objects are put in front of the player in order to have more controlled pacing and more digestible information
  • The writing, especially room descriptions, needs to better convey an atmosphere of mystery
  • The dialog needs work to be more authentic, less stilted
  • The NPCs need work to be more observant of what's happening around them
  • NPC reactions need to be based on what's been revealed and what's still a secret
  • The NPCs need to help guide the story rather than just respond to questions
  • There's too much stuff lying around in closets and desk drawers 
  • There are pacing issues that need to be adjusted
  • There are still occasional ambiguity problems
  • Commands like ANALYZE, ACCUSE, ARREST still need to be implemented
  • The logic behind motives, alibis and suspects needs to be completed
  • The paceholder end of Act II needs to be more dramatic and robust
  • I need to decide whether additional locations and characters are required or whether I can limit the scope of the story to what's currently in place

The last point is perhaps the most important.  My original story outline includes The Brass Lantern, a roadhouse not far from the Blakely Estate and a barkeep named Nelson Graham. I'm not so concerned with the additional effort of writing that section, but figuring out how to keep the pacing tight could be a challenge.  And in the meantime, I think I need to focus on tightening up Act II before jumping into Act III.

No doubt there's a lot of work ahead.  With a more-than-fulltime job, it's gonna be a challenge.  But if I can break it down into smaller steps, perhaps I can just take it 1 mile at a time.  Meanwhile, feedback, suggestions, input and SCRIPT transcripts are always welcome!  

I used the IntroComp time period as a way to take a break from the source code other than fixing very minor errors, typos, etc. So now I'm ready to dive back in.


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More Z-Machine Matter... you can do it!

good to hear you're back on track!

hey, can u email me please? i wanna bounce some ideas off ya. thanks!

thanks for the encouragement guys. I'm not sure I'm actually back on track just yet, but I will be soon.

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