Murder at Colfax Manor

I found this gamebook because not only is it one of the few modern-day gamebooks that has its own page on TVTropes, but said page is linked directly from the TVTropes page on the entire genre. Clearly someone’s a fan.

You can download this as a PDF for free, but I shelled out the $4 for a paper copy because the angel on one shoulder whispered: support the author and the genre and the devil on the other whispered: it’s really annoying to flip through the pages in a software reader. It’s one of those gamebooks, like the Fighting Fantasy or the Lone Wolf series, where each passage is only about a paragraph long, so you’re constantly changing pages. Even reading on an iPad, where you can flip through pages rapidly, felt awkward.

S. C. Cunningham, the author of Colefax Manor, does something a little bit odd with their book. Perhaps 80% of it, where you-the-protagonist explores a manor in the English countryside in the wake of a murder, is nearly static. There are characters — suspects, I suppose — who can be questioned but never move from their initial location or take any meaningful action at all. The butler is always polishing a bust in the library; the maid is always seated on a bed in the service hall; the gamekeeper is always napping in the stables. There are boxes you tick in your detective’s notebook that keep track of various clues you’ve found, similar to the approach the Sherlock Holmes gamebooks take, but they serve almost exclusively to unlock dialogue.

It’s impossible, so far as I know, to make anyone confess. Instead, like the Sherlock Holmes board game, I think you’re meant to put together the means/motive/opportunity in your mind and then call back to headquarters with your solution, and you find out whether your case is strongly-supported.

It feels a little like a thinly-implemented parser game, which in my opinion plays against the strengths of the gamebook genre. A gamebook will never be able to match the simulation possible in a parser game, so why not lean hard into plot and character?

There is also a finale — perhaps one could regard it as the Best Ending — where you can take a more active role in resolving the murder mystery. It drops the investigative mood for more of a straight adventure feel, but it still feels parserlike — the main decisions to make are avoiding instant-kill situations (which are adequately clued) and how long of a fuse to use on a bomb (the answer to which you can guess right now).

Despite the shortcomings I found in it, I would recommend Colefax Manor to someone designing choice-based interactive fiction, particularly if they’re working in the gamebook genre. To me, it represents a particular school of thought of design; one I don’t agree with, but one that helped bring my own beliefs into sharper relief.

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After the election, I began taking a break from Twitter on my personal account.It was just — a bit much, is the simplest way to put it. I still read and post on @twinethreads because apart from poor souls trying to get tech support in 140 characters and a few random ranters, it’s been a nice experience. Seeing photos like this makes my heart grow two sizes.

In the meantime, I’m trying to blog more. Blogs still make sense to me too. Obviously, this site has not exactly turned into a wellspring of posts, but I’m going to keep trying.

I initially left comments off when I started this blog because, as everyone knows, comments are evil. But since I have cut out the possibility of a social media conversation for now, I’m going to try them out.

Twine 2.1.0 beta 4

This was originally posted to my Patreon.

Well, I tempted fate by thinking that we were close to a relase. Beta 3 had a nasty bug that invisibly ate up hard drive space on the story list. If you used beta 3, follow these directions  to clean up the mess.

This fixes a few other bugs that were identified in beta 3, too.

You can get it from Bitbucket, and I’ve created a new forum thread  for discussion.

PS. This release is gratis — my policy is to only charge patrons once a month at most.

Twine 2.1.0 beta 3

This was originally posted to my Patreon.

Not quite there yet, but pretty close to a release. You can download it from the usual place.

The major update on this beta is that we’ve added multiple versions of Harlowe and SugarCube, two popular story formats — the things that run a published story in a browser.

In particular, Twine 2 has lagged pretty hard behind SugarCube releases, so this beta adds the ability for you to pick which version of SugarCube, 2.11.0 or 1.0.35, you’d like to use. Before, you had to install SugarCube 2 by hand, which was a bit of a hassle. Similarly, this lets you start using the Harlowe 2.0 release series (which I think is still in the finishing-touches phase), which brings many improvements over 1.0.

(The dialogs related to story formats have been overhauled, too, to make them a bit simpler to digest.)

If you have a free moment and the inclination to test this beta out, it would be especially helpful. The reason why is that this version tries its best to gracefully transition you to an appropriate story format version, even if you had previously installed SugarCube 2 by hand before. And I want to get that as tested as possible, since if it goes wrong it could mess up people’s workflows significantly.

Thoughts? I’ve posted a topic to the forum.

There ought to be a word for…

  • Thinking you are ahead of the popularity curve on a song, but subsequently hearing it played at a Chipotle
  • Pressing on a display in the belief that it’s a touchscreen, but it isn’t
  • The drop in room temperature that occurs when a public speaker says something uncomfortable but undisputably true

A Mind Forever Voyaging cover

Today, my mind turned to this game. I never understood its political background until I read Jimmy Maher’s coverage of it (here, here, and here). I was too young to witness Reagan’s rise; the first election I can remember is George H. W. Bush winning 1988. So the fear of what Reagan might be capable of was alien to me.

I’d like to think that the past can help us understand the present, but I am filled with uncertainty, every path my mind takes.