IF Comp 2011: The Myothian Falcon

The Myothian Falcon is a neo-noir detective story set in “New Chicago” on a distant planet some centuries in the future. It is long — I didn’t complete it in two hours, or even really come close, judging from how much further the walkthrough went.

The Myothian Falcon is a very story-focused game. There’s a long, complicated noir-styled plot about a murder, a framing, implied false identities, etc., but it’s not too difficult to make progress through, because the implementation is on the spare side and the puzzles are very simple. The protagonist frequently refuses to bother investigating locations or people he doesn’t currently consider interesting, which also keeps the player on the rails.

So mostly it’s “go to point A, notice clue B/receive clue B via questioning, receive a note in your notebook that now you need to follow up by going to C.” In the time I played, I met probably a dozen NPCs and traversed several substantial regions of the game world, but accumulated an inventory of just a handful of items and usually spent no more than a few turns in each location.

All this takes place against a background in which aliens take the role that might once have been played by minority ethnicities and mystic cultists. There are some neat world-building moments that establish facts about alien races or the imagined history of the planet, but the specifics always feel like they’ve been chosen in order to serve the narrative demands of genre noir. And that SF world-building is still paper-thin, as when we’re asked to believe (e.g.) that computer data encryption hasn’t changed much in ten centuries, or that a society with transporter technology would use it essentially the same way we use the subway.

The strict plot focus also means that the author didn’t always think about or account for reasonable alternative attempts particularly during conversation. Questioning NPCs tends to be a frustrating process, as it’s impossible to move forward without asking them about the right thing, but there are many reasonable close attempts about which they have nothing to say. And they fairly consistently foil attempts to believe in them qua characters, as they’ll repeat themselves verbatim at implausible times, or fail to react to obviously important interactions. (A couple of examples follow the spoiler space.) There are also a number of typos — not enough to make the game unreadable, but enough to be striking and to suggest that the text was composed at speed and without extensive checking.

In any case, there’s enough interest in the mystery that I would have kept playing if I hadn’t run out of time; the implementation wasn’t prohibitively bad. It just could have been better, either by including more flavor text or by offering the player a TOPICs list to direct conversation towards fruitful lines of inquiry. And there were a number of touches that I did like, such as the hints of a developed architectural history on this planet, or the way Vic is surprised to learn what a university is really like. (I got the sneaking suspicion from this passage that the game’s author knows more about universities than about being a private dick.)

I played The Myothian Falcon on the Quest webplayer. That’s a pretty decent experience: the player is fast and efficient, and it has a number of built-in features by default, including a highlighted clickable compass rose and an always-present inventory listing. The aesthetic of the player, on the other hand, is on the barebones side, and for sheer elegance of appearance doesn’t really hold up against a couple of the other web-playable games in this competition. Also, I don’t think The Myothian Falcon was really optimized for the web experience, because most manipulable objects in the environment didn’t appear in the “places and objects” window, and there weren’t any of the hyperlink pop-up windows that I’ve seen demonstrated with the Quest web-player.

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Particular issues with the NPCs, as far as I encountered them:

— I could only report the murder of Lancing to my ex-partner Munroe. Attempting to report it at the police station (rather than to an off-duty officer in a bar!) resulted in total stone-walling from Williams.

— I ran all around town offering the bouquet of flowers to everyone I met. No one wanted it or reacted to the offer, except eventually Linda… except that when I tried to give it to her, it didn’t leave my inventory. Weird.

— When I went to tell Ursula that Lancing had died, the conversation looked actively broken: I posed a question to her as though I was asking about him for the first time, but her reaction was a new one reflecting that she now knew he was dead. But how did she know? I’d come straight from telling Munroe about it. This just felt odd.

— I got some hints that Maisy might really be an alien, between the rumors going around about her and her collection of wigs back home. But attempts to question her about this didn’t go anywhere, which seemed a missed opportunity. Maybe I just hadn’t hit the right triggers to open up a conversation topic there; I don’t know.

— Asking people about “DeValle” often didn’t work even though they did know about “Maisy” or “Lawrence”, and this mislead me a little about who knew what.

One thought on “IF Comp 2011: The Myothian Falcon

  1. Pingback: IF Comp 2011: Overview | Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling

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