Adam Parrish interview at Game Design Advance

Podcast interview with Adam Parrish, author of Earl Grey, on games, interactive fiction, and a brilliant bit on text and conversation in games, at Another Castle.

It comes up a couple of times that Earl Grey was criticized in IFComp reviews for not conforming to the IF community’s expectations — that it had ‘too much interactivity’ (not a quote of Parrish, but the interviewer) — but from what I remember of the reviews this wasn’t the main criticism at all, rather reviewers wanted more interactivity. They felt that the Earl Grey puzzles were unfairly arbitrary and obtuse, and didn’t explore the mechanics nearly enough. I’ll quote Victor Gijsbers at length (to make sure I include the good things he says, because I should add I did like Earl Grey a lot too):

This is a delightful idea, but its execution leaves a lot to be desired. There are simply too many words in the game that ought to be knockable, but aren’t, or that ought to be castable, but aren’t.


I can see how this would have been a pain to implement, but really, this game needs to be more open. We have in this magic system the perfect opportunity to reward player creativity and have multiple solutions to all puzzles, but instead, the authors have chosen to make the game very linear indeed. Only the things you must knock or cast or steep can be knocked, casted or steeped. Nothing else works.


The game, then, is not open enough, and is too difficult. Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself hugely, more so than with any other game in this competition so far. (Okay, I loved solving the card puzzle in The Grand Quest, but that was less because it was a brilliant puzzle than because my linear algebra skills were itching.) The writing was mostly very good. The scenes were evocative, if perhaps a tad too surreal. The implementation was very good as well. The side comments of the main character were a brilliant idea–the piece was much funnier for them, and also made more sense. In fact, most of the jokes actually worked.

But, most importantly, as far as the puzzles were solvable, they were great fun. This is interactive fiction doing one of the things that interactive fiction does best: using language in interesting new ways, doing things with it that could not be done in any other medium.

Of the eight competition games I have played so far, this is the first that might make it onto my list of “must play” games published in 2009. Not because it is perfect; it is not. But because it explores a very interesting puzzle concept in a highly competent and often enjoyable way.

Oh, and Rob and Adam? If you make a post-competition release which responds to more input and allows more solutions of the puzzles, this game might actually rise to the level of “great puzzle game”.

[IF Competition] Earl Grey

In any case, I definitely recommend it. A lot of other good interviews at Another Castle too.


1 comment so far

  1. Charles on

    Thanks for linking to the podcast! I’m so glad that you like it!

    I think you’re right that I was perhaps speaking out of turn. What I meant by my comment was that Earl Grey was experimenting with the fundamental mechanical tropes of interactive fiction. I should have been more careful with my words.

    Thanks again!

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