The Let's Play Archive

The Chzo Mythos

by Quovak

Part 3: Five Days, Part 3: More Text; Surprise!

Five Days, Part 3: More Text; Surprise!

You probably don't notice that the painting in the background has changed. The intention was to show a dark figure in the painting at random when you enter the room, but it doesn't exactly look like anything other than a tear in the canvas.

Speaking of things you probably don't notice in this room, Yahtzee puts a lot of effort into making accurate lighting effects (note the gradient on the floor). In the commentary, he openly admits these don't matter and barely add to the scene, but points them out at every opportunity in the hope that someone will praise him and he can pretend it was worthwhile (I'm projecting). The next room has text:

Today's News: Police are still baffled by the apparent disappearance of television personality Simone Taylor. Ms. Taylor was due to film a documentary on the notorious DeFoe manor, but her camera crew reported that she never arrived. Police have been investigating the building, but so far have found no way to get inside. The DeFoe family solicitor, Michael Cheasham, has the only key to the building and is currently unavailable. Ms. Taylor's disappearance, coinciding with the disappearance of a local youth from a nearby boarding school, simply add to the legend surrounding DeFoe Manor.

Said one policeman, "We were going to try breaking the windows, but I don't know... That glass looks awfully sturdy"

In more important news, we can access more of the house. A whole one room more. You get sick of this manor's decor very quickly.

Most of these dialogue trees have pretty useless and/or bland options. Asking where the others are is just to give you a sense of direction, and information gets repeated a lot. I'm skipping over the boring choices. You're missing nothing.

Sleep well?
To be honest, not really. I had this terrible dream... Someone had killed you and Philip and Jim. I remember a huge guy with a welding mask.
Let me guess, he took off the mask, and he looked exactly like you?
Actually, he looked exactly like YOU. What does it mean?
Frankly, I don't want to know.

Also, most of these things lack a specific explanation. The later games offer something that could be seen as a retconned justification, but for the most part we're just supposed to go with "a ghost did it because it's a ghost".

(Is it a spoiler to say that a horror game about a house that traps people involves supernatural elements? I'm thinking no.)

Did you break the lock on the door?
No, I just came up here and it was like that. I suppose AJ must have done it. He must have been reading from that pile of books. I don't know exactly, I'd have to ask him.
So I take it AJ hasn't turned up yet.
No. Do you think he found a way out?
If he did, he didn't have the decency to tell us.
I wouldn't be surprised. He's kind of jumpy. Maybe he just saw an opportunity and took it.
What do you know about AJ?
Not much. He refused to tell us anything about himself. Where he came from, why he was here... Not even his full name.
Kind of suspicious, isn't it? Do you think he had some kind of agenda?
I really wouldn't know. Of course, you're no-one to judge when it comes to withholding names.

The different colors and sections correspond to different clickable areas, each of which gives some (bland) description of books. Then there are things like these, which are specifically noted as being interesting but which linearity demands we can't read until backtracking needs to happen. Keep padding these games out, Ben.

This one is readable, however, so have some text.


Roderick Defoe, later Sir Roderick Defoe, is probably the most famous of the lineage. Usine a lot of the inheritance he attained when his parents died suddenly, he embarked on a series of adventures throughout the globe, earning quite a reputation as a colonial explorer. He retired from adventuring at the age of 40 when he met his future bride, Belinda Rothman, and fell instantly in love. He built a luxury manor in the English countryside, and the couple moved in as soon as work was complete. By all accounts, the couple was deliriously happy, which is what made Belinda's sudden death while giving birth to their only son, Matthew, all the more tragic. Sir Roderick was in mourning for a long time, leaving the upbringing of Matthew in the hands of numerous nannies and tutors. When he finally did start taking an interest in his son, he was known to be bitterly disappointed as his son rejected the idea of joining the army, preferring to pursue art and literature. As Matthew neared the age of 15, however, he and his father seemed to grow closer. They didn't always see eye to eye, but they seemed to understand each other and offer unconditional love. And then, on Matthew's 15th birthday, he and Roderick disappeared. A servant found bloodstains in one of the rooms, but no bodies were found. The fate of Sir Roderick and his wayward son remains a mystery to this day, the first of many mysterious disappearances connected to the Defoe line and the family house.

As a reminder, I was completely unsuccessful at finding a decent game script or text dump for this game, so almost all of this was rewritten by hand. I'm suffering for this LP. Speaking of, remember that article we got earlier?


Defoe Manor, one of the country's more notorious stately homes, is renowned for being a great source of untold wealth, but what is the curse that surrounds the creaking house? The mansion was built in the early 19th Century by the legendary explorer Roderick DeFoe, in celebration of his retirement and marriage. Sir Roderick disappeared along with his only son on the fifteen year anniversary of his wife's sudden death. After that, the house fell into the possession of a succession of heirs, most of whom died or disappeared in mysterious circumstances. The house was left abandoned after the last heir was thought to have died in 1946, until the recent appearance of Clarence DeFoe, who managed to prove his connection to the lineage and inherit the house.

Oh yeah, and maybe 5% of this actually matters to the plot.

What are you reading there?
Treasure Island. I found it in the living room.
How're you liking it?
Well, it's a bit heavy going. I think I prefer Terry Pratchett.

I'm sure that the two people who have actually read Treasure Island will be searching for parallels between it and this game's plot, assuming that there's some sort of symbolic connection. Then they'll get to the next game's "literary reference" and realize Yahtzee's just choosing names because they sound cool.

Seen AJ anywhere?
Not since yesterday morning. He seemed pretty anxious about something. Just said something about "getting to the bottom of all this", then he left the room and I never saw him again.
How're you feeling?
Okay, I guess. Uh.. but you don't want to hear about it.
You're taking this imprisonment very well, I must say.
Well, it's not that different to boarding school, really. Except there's no-one to hit you on the knuckles when you talk too much at night.

Do you know if AJ's turned up yet?
I don't think we'll ever be seeing him again. He must've been in on it. Maybe he's gone to file reports on how the hidden cameras are working.
I honestly doubt this is the work of the BBC, Philip.
Do you have a better explanation?
Not yet. Can I borrow your metal detector?
What do you want it for?
I'm not sure yet.

I have to say, the little bits of self-awareness are what make these early parts worthwhile, since there isn't really a conflict with any sense of urgency yet.

Finished with the metal detector yet?
No. You can have it when I've found the tomb.
Are you the one who dug up half the lawn?
Yeah. But the ground gets really solid two feet down, and the wall foundations go even further.

Well, so far we've talked about nothing useful today. Maybe we can start to figure out the best way to combine our talents into a viable escape strategy or come up with an efficient way of searching for AJ.

That explains the holes nearest the walls. What about the others?
Alright, I was looking for treasure. Happy now? You want some kind of medal?

Or we can start infighting, I guess. That also works.

Just professional interest, you understand. Any luck?
Nah. Found some kind of pipeline running under the lawn, but not much else.

Part of the problem with this series' hard-on for linearity is that it's not even consistent about it. When your main character has no problem picking up sticks or trying to get a metal detector for its own sake, the roadblocks that do exist just to get activated by completely unrelated event flags become glaring, and it makes first-time aimless wandering seem like Yahtzee is purposefully trying to make these games player-unfriendly. In a classic example, only now can we go all the way back to the library and read books.

Of course, I'll admit that I'm still not taking the most streamlined path here; I could have talked to Phil before ever meeting Simone in the library. Still, there's no reason why I couldn't have grabbed the map earlier. A map of a house you're stuck in is a perfectly reasonable thing to want even if you aren't aware of a puzzle that will happen later.

There's something odd about this map, like there's something missing. No, it's not that... there's something that doesn't belong. Something I don't recall seeing in the house.
The decision to let formal architectural plans be drawn in crayon by 8-year-olds with Parkinson's was an unpopular one, but Little Jimmy had never been happier

Well, I guess that's my escape plan out the window. Thanks a bunch, buddy.
Don't mention it. Can I borrow the metal detector?
Why the hell not? Take away my hopes, might as well take away my only worldly possession, too. Have fun with it.

The linearity can also make puzzles like this fairly difficult to figure out. If I could grab the map at first, I would be able to guess that showing him where the tomb is would be a good substitute for finding the tomb, but since the plans were one of a dozen unreadable books it's easy to conclude that they're merely set-dressing. This leads to running around in circles trying to figure out what would allow you to find a tomb, since the one book of twenty has now faded from memory. I have now written three paragraphs about the linearity, however, so I'll just end by once again reminding you that there is a good reason you're watching someone play a free game instead of downloading it yourself.

Oh yeah, the partial reason I was doing all that was to drain the pool to see a shape, since water is impossible to see through I guess. Even if you actively have that in mind as an objective, it's not as though you'll necessarily realize it's the immediate puzzle you should be working on or that you should go about it by trying to get a metal detector, so it's basically just adventure game exploration strategy however you go about it.

Following the pipe along the walled-in yard that also doesn't exist in the establishing shot, you eventually get here. The game is very unclear at this point and it's very common for people to be stuck due to all the things I've been complaining about.

I'm not sure why the "didn't do anything" line is there, since there's only one way to exit this screen and taking it immediately disproves Trilby's comments. Plus, I'm pretty sure hearing a pool drain twenty feet away would make at least a bit of noise.

While I'm being excessively nitpicky, was that switch just lying in the middle of the grass for years? One can only imagine how many lawnmower blade v. switchbox confrontations went horribly awry.

Looks like someone tied him to an iron hook at the bottom of the pool. But I think he was dead before then. His throat's been split open by some large edged weapon. God, the stench. I've got to find the others.
This scene demonstrates a few things: First of all, this is a series that is marked by somebody dying roughly every twenty minutes. Secondly, Trilby can't see a six-foot-long human body through seven feet of water. Thirdly, a very fun drinking game can be played with this series, involving taking a shot whenever a character yells "Christ", "God", or some variation thereof in all caps, this being the only interjection anyone in the series knows. Fourthly, this game can really catch you off guard when it wants to, and things are going to start getting interesting.

Murdered. He was stabbed to death, then tied to the bottom of the pool.
You know what his means, don't you? We are the only ones in this house. The killer has to be one of us.
Not necessarily. I don't think any of us could engineer-

Throughout the game it's assumed that this would take some feat of superhuman strength, which I don't really see as being true. I suppose that swimming to the bottom of a pool with a hundred pounds on your back would be a challenge, but probably not infeasible.

Shut up! It was you, wasn't it? You killed AJ and now you're covering your tracks!
Philip, you're being absurd. Why would Trilby tell us where the body is if he wanted to hide it?
He's covering his tracks. He was the last to arrive, don't tell me you're not a bit suspicious of him.
Look, what happened to AJ was a terrible thing. But if we let it tear us apart, we could all go the same way.
He's got a point, Philip.
Oh, I see. You're all in on this together. As far as I'm concerned, there's no-one I can trust anymore. From now on, it's every man for themselves.
So, what do you think? About AJ, I mean.
I'm really not sure. I think we're being haunted.
Oh. Well, at least someone's keeping their head.
Look, I'm not exactly in love with as unscientific an idea as a murderous ghost. But nothing other than the supernatural could have engineered this situation, and this house has a bad history - a history I think it's time I started looking into.
Well, you do whatever you want. I'm going to look into AJ's death with a slightly more sensible attitude.
Where's Jim? Someone should tell him about AJ. I'll go look for him.

As always, Yahtzee's foreshadowing is subtle and implicit, never calling too much attention to itself or getting in the way of the game.

Jim? Is that you?

Father, no. No, don't! Father!

Hold on!

(Actually, it's fairly clever foreshadowing for a reason I'll explain much later. While I'm actually offering praise, the subverted jump scare earlier makes this one much more effective than it seems like it should be.)

Fortunately, Trilby seemingly fell asleep while walking upstairs. I must give the man credit for balancing his narcolepsy and "thieving" lifestyle. Alternately, I must give Yahtzee credit for actually streamlining part of his game. Go him.

Next time, the game starts being good (except for the gameplay part)


Archive Notes: At this point, Yahtzee began posting in the thread, introducing himself as follows:

Yahtzee posted:

To be honest, these days I'm rather embarrassed by the Chzo Mythos (and don't even bring up the stuff I made before then). I think Art of Theft is the only one I'd still mostly stand by. Still, their development was a useful learning experience. I wish I had more time and energy to work on personal projects these days, and put more of what I now know into practise. The price of selling out, perhaps.

So anyway: I'm enjoying the thread and the criticisms are all extremely valid. With Quovak's permission I'll answer questions on the games, and maybe fill in some background after each update. I don't want to distract from the LP because it's been very interesting so far, especially for me. As you say, there are a lot of things I can criticise myself on with the benefit of hindsight. Some decent focus testing would have been a good start.

At the end of relevant updates, I'll be posting some of Yahtzee's commentary. Note that this isn't all of it, just what specifically relates to the game. To read more, check out the actual thread on the forums.


Creator Commentary
So. I guess I'll talk a bit about what we've seen so far, and what I'd do differently now. Truth be told, if I were making 5 days today, I probably wouldn't be, if you see what I mean. After 7 days I was already becoming disillusioned with point and click adventure games, which only deepened as I began to enter a game critic's mindset. I realised (and still do) that the best games are ones that marry fun gameplay and good storytelling equally, while adventure games are usually a linear story broken up by rudimentary puzzle solving, often with quite bizarre logic.

That's why Trilby's Notes went for the text parser: to eliminate what I used to call 'keyring syndrome', or systematically using everything on everything to find the right combination with brute force. Making the player type in specific commands meant they'd have to think about their actions more. As for 6 days, well, I didn't put much thought into the gameplay because it was an unabashedly token tying up of the plot. But I took the opportunity to experiment with storytelling, horror, and the art of mind-screw.

Anyway, assuming I can't completely redesign from the ground up, here's what I'd change in 5 days so far: Let you find Jim and Simone in any order, add random scares Trilby's Notes-style to break up the backtracking (not too overt though - in horror, pacing is everything), and spread the exposition a bit more. That living room discussion was a massive info-dump, should probably have concentrated it down to just bringing everyone's personalities across and saved the backstory for optional conversations later. Maybe add alternate mid-to-late-game dialogue depending on how well you get to know everyone. 5 Days A Dating Sim?

Patter Song posted:

I've always been curious what led you to name your protagonist after a hat. (A very nice hat, mind you)

Because I had a trilby hat, and I'd built this adolescent fantasy around it, which I shoehorned into the game.

Trilby in 5 Days is a total Mary Sue. Which should be fairly obvious: he's a world-famous master thief who makes the female reporter moist with excitement at meeting him, he's highly intelligent, well-dressed, polite, highly skilled, a wisecracker, and the only one level-headed enough to sort everything out. At the end of the game  he walks away from the events completely unconcerned and rides off into the sunset. 

By Trilby's Notes I'd matured enough to be as annoyed by Mary Sue-ism as anyone and dropped my instinctual protectiveness of Trilby. It's best for horror protagonists to be vulnerable, so I retconned his bravado as a facade and made him emotionally damaged, haunted by paranoia and regret, jumping at shadows and downing fistfuls of pills to stay sane. In 6 Days I made him a total X-factor. The idea there was to bring in a halfway comforting familiar face and swiftly reveal him to be something the player couldn't rely on at all.

I think the Trilby in Art of Theft is how he should always have been. As reflected by his career choice and dress sense, he's an arrogant misanthropic egotist obsessed with theatrics. By no means a smooth, flawless gentleman thief, but likes to think of himself as one. Robs the rich out of some self-righteous hatred rationalised as an attempt to 'save' them from the corruption of wealth. Highly skilled if only because he's obsessed with self-improvement, and can't cope with the thought of being outdone, or having to rely on other people. If I did do 5 Days again, I'd have him start out like that, before the horrors of the house help him put things in perspective, learn to rely on others, and transition into the haunted Trilby of Notes. Would've made for some lovely parallels with the 'Arrogant Man'.

Black Balloon posted:

As for an actual legitimate question for Yahtzee, I'd like to kick this off with an open-ended one. What was your drive for making this series in the first place, and what, if anything, did you hope to accomplish in it?

As I recall, at first, it was to embrace my limitations. Up to then I'd thought adventure games should be just that - adventures to fantastic new world after fantastic new world, but the limitations of developing alone left a lot of ambition unrealised. Plus the amateur adventure scene was (and probably still is) littered with very ambitious projects that rarely advanced past concept art.

The idea occurred that perhaps I could make a game of quite satisfactory length in a limited group of rooms over a series of days, with the situation changing from day to day. Much less art assets to worry about, and the crutch would be on the writing. So that's what I did. I still think embracing limitations is a good design philosophy. The example I tend to give is Silent Hill - it was the underpowered Playstation processor that led to the game's iconic low-visibility fog, creating the foundation for one of the most atmospheric horror series in gaming.

Bene Elim posted:

If its not too personal a question,how old were you when you made these games? I know a guy who knows a guy who claims to have been at school with you and remembers you making some adventure game or other, so was this it?

This was 2003, so I would have been 20. And remember, I had no higher education or formal training at this point. Can you tell?

Your friend was probably talking about the Arthur Yahtzee games I made in high school, and which I eventually named myself after. The first games I ever put on the internet, they were pretty horrible, stream-of-consciousness things that came from a 16-year-old starting an adventure game out of boredom and not knowing how to stop. You have to remember every part of the rich tapestry of your development, but I definitely wouldn't recommend playing those ones.