Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blue Lacuna Transcripts Analyzed

In 2005, I analyzed the transcripts of players at a public exhibition of my IF Whom the Telling Changed. This analysis helped shape my thoughts on IF interfaces as I was starting work on my next major project, Blue Lacuna, designed to reduce the number of commands rejected by the parser. This fall, Lacuna was exhibited in a similar venue: I decided to record a new set of transcripts and see if I'd managed to improve things.

Takeaways for the impatient: Rejected commands do seem to be a significant factor in a player's decision to stop playing. Lacuna is twice as good at recognizing player commands than Telling. Players spent about 50% longer with Lacuna than with Telling. And the number of total player inputs rejected as typos or for trivial syntax reasons has been greatly reduced, thanks to keywords and extensions.

Find the full report, in all its pie-chart-filled glory, here.

6 comments:

Horace Torys said...

Would a game where "the possibility of errors is eliminated entirely" be something like C.E.J. Pacian's hyperlink-enabled Walker & Silhouette? I would definitely like to see a new game from you that fit that criterion.

Aaron A. Reed said...

Yeah, that's the kind of thing I mean. I'm not sure that the elimination of all possibility of error is the correct end goal, but it would be interesting to study that end of the spectrum, too.

Matthew said...

The goal shouldn't necessarily be "everything is possible" but rather "the player has a good understanding of what is possible".
In other words, the game should supply a basic framework that simultaneously provides the outer limits as well as the freedom to move within those limits.

Personally, I think Blue Lacuna nailed it. The keywords limited game play enough to help avoid frustrating command rejections, but not so much that there weren't still plenty of surprising discoveries to be made. And soon enough, you really get a feel for what is possible and how you can and cannot manipulate the world.

Obviously, improvements can be made, but I think Blue Lacuna is a great model to follow for IF. As a writer and an adventure game fanatic (myst/riven/exile was my childhood) I absolutely loved it, and I continue to push it on my friends.

Now, if only I could either find a partner or commit to learning programming and write one of my own...

Zack Urlocker said...

Aaron,
brilliant article. Thanks for sharing these results. I am using several of your extensions specifically to try to reduce some of these sources of errors for newcomers.

You should publish this article in the upcoming theory of IF book (so the book still has some practical value.)

--Zack
www.z-machine-matter.com

Biep said...

And now for something completely different..

When I try to play Blue Lacuna (Windows Glulxe 0.4.3.133), the emphasised lines are dark blue on black, which I can't read. I cannot change the style either. So there is yet another reason for not continuing playing.. :-(

I'ld really love to try this game, though, but..

Aaron A. Reed said...

Hi Biep--- Windows Glulxe is not a supported interpreter for Blue Lacuna. I would recommend using Git, which you can get from here: http://ifarchive.org/if-archive/programming/glulx/interpreters/git/wingit-128.zip