Crying Uncle

I recently spotted an IF game on the Artsy Games Incubator website called My Uncle George, written by Filipe Salgado (download page here; web version here). It’s a one-room piece written using Inform 7, which casts the player as 17-year-old Matt, trying to kill some time before school, having a “criminally awkward” breakfast chat with his uncle George, a former convict on parole.

The game on Gargoyle

Considering this was the only IF piece among the six games produced in Round 4 of AGI, I thought I’d try this and see.

The game essentially revolves around engaging George in a conversation, using the so-called ASK/TELL method (ASK <NPC> ABOUT <SOMETHING>) commonly found in interactive fiction games. Then before the game ends, George asks you for a big favor.

There are situations where asking someone about different topics works well, and there are some where a more directed approach (e.g., conversation menus, like in Best of Three) is better. Sometimes, a combination is used. Here, the ASK/TELL method appeared to be appropriate for the player’s “bonding” moments with his uncle, but the responses felt a bit too automated, as if George was merely spewing out opinions on various topics rather engaging in a real conversation. In that case, the author might as well have added a TOPICS command to list them down.

What I would have liked to see is the player’s response to George to consistently appear within that conversation. For example (the lines I added are in blue):

>ASK GEORGE ABOUT HOUSE
“What do you think about the house, Uncle George?” you ask.

“Well, Maggie’s done well for herself. It’s a nice place, even if the neighbourhood is a bit bougie.”

>ASK GEORGE ABOUT HOUSE
“‘Bougie?'” you ask. “Why do you think the neighbourhood’s bougie?”

George smiles. “Well, maybe it isn’t that bad. After all, I’ve been away for a few years, and maybe I’m just not used to the changes.”

Or something to that effect. Small things, really, just to make the conversation look more natural.

Then, of course, there are the minor quirks:

>ASK GEORGE ABOUT GUNS
“Don’t got much to say about that.”

and

>WEAR BACKPACK
(first taking the backpack)
I hoist it onto my back.

You can’t wear that!

Despite all these, My Uncle George does have its funny and sad moments every now and then, which helps endear George to the player. Even looking at the different items inside the dining room were a bit amusing. Compared to Bob from She’s Got a Thing for a Spring, though, George probably needs to get out more.

Overall, My Uncle George, at its current state, is something I’d recommend to people looking for a short IF piece to play. With a bit more polish, it could stand out among the one-room-game stories found in the Archive. I certainly hope the author would consider releasing an improved version sometime in the future.

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