The Let's Play Archive

Hadean Lands

by ManxomeBromide

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Original Thread: Let's >RECITE THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE and Play Hadean Lands



Are we really going to do the Q&A style introduction right off the bat?

We sure are! This is a parser-based interactive fiction game, it'll get us into the habit of call-and-response.

Fine, fine. What is Hadean Lands?

It's interactive fiction by Andrew Plotkin, like it says. We're a journeyman alchemist aboard His Majesty's Marcher The Unanswerable Retort and something very bad has just happened. Our task is first to survive and then to sort out what to do about it.

What is a "marcher"?

Apparently it's some kind of alchemical starship, according to the marketing materials. That's kind of a lies-to-children answer, though. We'll be seeing much more of the marcher in-game.

OK, anyone reading this probably already knows the answer to these questions, but just in case: what is "interactive fiction", who is "Andrew Plotkin", and what did you mean by "parser-based"?

These days, interactive fiction (IF for short) encompasses a huge swathe of disparate stuff these days, but it generally means a mostly-text-based or text-focused game that the user interacts with by textual or text-like means. "Parser-based" IF generally descends in some way from Colossal Cave and Zork, and those by way of the old SHRDLU Blocks World system; a world of >GET LAMP and >KILL TROLL WITH SWORD and >ASK GUARD ABOUT SCHEDULE and >INTONE THE LESSER PHLOGISTICAL SATURATION. They are what your average goon would think of as "text adventures", even when they aren't necessarily adventures, or entirely text. (The comparison is generally to "choice-based" IF, which invokes the old Choose Your Own Adventure books or the modern Choice of Games line.)

In recent years, "interactive fiction" has grown diverse enough and incorporates enough independent traditions that we can include things like visual novels within it without having to hedge about how it's an independent tradition tha thappens to look a whole lot like choice-based IF.

Andrew "Zarf" Plotkin has been a major figure in what I'll call the Zork tradition from the mid-1990s through the present day, both as an author (So Far, Spider & Web, The Dreamhold) and as a technologist.

What makes Hadean Lands interesting, then?

Its history is kind of interesting. It started out as a Kickstarter—the first IF-related kickstarter I'm aware of—hit its fundraising goal on the first day, ended up raising many times its initial goal, then dragged on interminably with a trickle of secondary releases before finally coming out full-formed in 2014. It started life as an iOS game, despite being based on old PC technologies; those were refined over the next few years and it ended up on Steam in 2016.

So, basically Broken Age, then?

It's different from Broken Age in that (1) the amounts of money were much smaller; (2) the secondary releases were four completely different games, all for iOS (the Kickstarter itself was "Interactive Fiction for the iPhone"); and (3) this kickstarter happened over a year before Broken Age made Kickstarting video games an omnipresent cultural force.

What makes Hadean Lands interesting as a game as opposed to as a forerunner of Internet drama?

It's a very large game, with a big map, a complicated alchemical ritual system, and a ton of independent and sometimes mutually contradictory goals. Many complicated, multi-stage actions will need to be executed dozens of times. The neat part—especially if you've spent a lot of time playing text games—is that the command parser has an insanely sophisticated goal-seeking AI built into it. If it knows that you've already proven how to do something, you can do it with a single command. I once had a > GO WEST command translate into dozens of subgoals and probably thousands of commands.

Reviews of the game at the time tended to talk about how the other major figures in parser IF were very impressed by this system and swore to never attempt anything like it themselves before fleeing in terror. This means that Hadean Lands is likely to continue to hold its throne as the most sophisticated Zork-like game that has ever or will ever be made.

Oh, that reminds me. This is a Manxome Bromide LP. Are there going to be tech posts?

Not really. Once things get off the ground I'll dedicate a brief post to the technologies involved in making the game run on the devices it runs on, but the mechanics of how the game works will be revealed through play. Watching a sophisticated system work out its implications is a large part of the joy of Plotkin's IF generally, and Hadean Lands is no exception.

Will there be audience participation? What's the update schedule going to look like?

I'm aiming for at least weekly, but it will get much faster when there's a lot of text and very little strategic decision-making. There is a lot of text in the game, and as the game proceeds the focus will shift from immediate problem solving to more long-term planning. I'll be running faster through the earliest parts, where the mechanics are introduced, and then slow down once our options expand. Any important votes will be held open for at least three days.

I'll also be drawing attention to particular aspects of the writing we've seen either as discussion topics, invitations to rampant speculation, or just to make sure that certain details don't get lost in the flood.

Let's begin!

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