Tuesday, October 8, 2013

IFComp 2013 Reviews-- Captain Verdeterre's Plunder

IFComp is an annual competition for short works of interactive fiction.  "Captain Verdeterre's Plunder" is published by Ryan Veeder.

 Every sale begins with a pitch.  The pitch for this game read "You should carry the bag. I'm more of a delegator."  That isn't much to go on, but I like the graphic, and I'm familiar with some of the past works of Ryan Veeder.  He cited one of my games as an inspiration in the credits of "Taco Fiction",  which would have made me proud in any case.  Then "Taco Fiction" went on to win first place.  I'm still smiling over that.

"Captain Verdeterre's Plunder" is a treasure hunt. The player has to race against the clock to remove treasures from a sinking ship, then escape in the lifeboat before the ship goes down. The tag-along NPC is Captain Verdeterre, a rat pirate (literal rat) who comments on your booty as you collect it. (booty meaning treasure, not derriere, which you might have discovered by typing "Enable nautical vocabulary notes" during the game).

The writing is polished.  The dialogue and descriptions are amusing.  There is a powerful sense of urgency communicated every turn with a report of the rising water levels.  But my first play through left me wondering if there was really more to the whole than the parts?  Is there a story?

I ended up replaying this about twelve times, searching for different endings, checking to see what combinations of treasures were possible and to see what end-game descriptions the varied treasures might reveal.  For me, the answer to the question "Is there more to it than just a treasure hunt." would be "Who cares?"  The game is a blast.  Fun to read. Fun to play. Fun to replay. I expect it will finish in the top ten of the competition, maybe even in the top five.

But just for the sake of friendly criticism, I was disappointed that "forward" isn't implemented as a direction, even though it appears that way in the status bar.  And was disappointed that the wine bottle could not be opened or consumed.

Examining each treasure (which players can do freely, without advancing the clock) reveals some back-story. I think it may have been a lost opportunity that the author did not make that back-story even richer and more coherent. Enhancing the back-story by that mechanism might have addressed the criticism "There is no story".  There could have been a story, revealed one item at a time, indicating the history of the crew, how each member died, the protagonist's relationship with the Captain, and some explanation about why the ship is sinking. A back-story of that depth might have positioned this game for first place.  Instead, I suggest, it is just something to play and have fun.

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