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T.I.M.E Stories» Forums » Reviews

Subject: To Rerun Or Not To Rerun rss

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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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Time Stories is a pure coop game with a heavy storytelling element. In this review I look at specific challenges of creating a paper adventure game.

Challenge 1, in addition to being a story, it must also be a game

Unlike Pandemic or Space Alert, which uses variable and random setup to present the players with a different puzzle each time, Asylum is scripted: the storyline is fixed and the puzzles are “intelligently designed” with predetermined solutions. In this sense, it’s more a tell-your-own-adventure story than it is a game. However, most tell-your-own-adventure stories are presented more as stories than as games (i.e. missions with win conditions). So here the analogy falls a bit short perception-wise, even if mathematically that is what Time Stories is closest to. In practice, I believe most players expect from Time Stories, whether fairly or not, an experience closer to a computer adventure game (such as Monkey Island and Full Throttle) due to the game’s emphasis on mission solving. To that end, Time Stories must somehow simulate challenges similar to those found in computer adventure games.

Challenge 2, as an adventure game executed on paper instead of a computer, its bookkeeping must be reduced

However, mechanically, a computer system and a “paper system” have very different limitations. The puzzles in Monkey Island generally require the player to apply a certain item in his inventory to a specific object in the environment (e.g. a person, a place, a painting, etc.). At any given part of the game, he may have for example twelve items in his inventory, and thirty objects in the environment to possibly interact with. That is 360 combinations to go through, most of which results in the protagonist Guybrush Threepwood telling you “That wouldn’t work” or “I don’t think he’d like that.” While it’s technically possible to solve Monkey Island by “brute force,” it’s realistically unfeasible. Therefore, if the player is unable to figure out a puzzle in Monkey Island, he is simply “stuck.” In Monkey Island, the player can never do anything “wrong.” There is no action a player can do that will irreversibly leave him in a worse state than before.

However, a paper system simply cannot handle that amount of game space in a practical manner. It would require a 12 (inventory item) by 30 (environment object) table explaining the results of every possible action, and in order to not spoil everything on one page each of the 360 cells would have to indicate the result on another page. For example if the player wants to apply a knife to a cake, he’d look up the table for knife-cake, and read “turn to page 186”, and on page 186 “That wouldn’t work.” Moreover, as certain puzzles are solved and the game state changes, a different table may be necessary.

To keep things manageable, in Time Stories players merely choose which object in the environment to interact with. So the choice becomes simply 1 out of 30 environment objects (i.e. each of the cards in a panorama), instead of 1 out of 360 item-on-environment-object combinations. If an item is needed for a particular environment object, the card will tell you which item is needed, and what the results are if you do. This keeps a paper system from becoming overly burdensome.

Challenge 3, an easily book-kept adventure game is easily solved by trial and error, unless an artificial punishment is introduced

However, at 30 environment objects, it’s relatively easy to “brute force” through them one-by-one and solve the puzzles that way. At that point, it’d feel more like passively walking through a story than actively (and head-crackingly) solving a puzzle. To instill a sense of puzzle-solving challenge, Time Stories implements a time system: a time unit is assigned for each action, so taking a wrong action, or the actions in a wrong order, now has an (irreversible) cost. In my opinion, this method of creating a puzzle is a little forced/artificial, but is essential for adding a sense of mission solving to a paper system without exceeding a manageable scope.

In summary, a paper system must somehow implement punishments for experimenting doing the wrong actions, because the organic way of creating challenge through “stalling” the players would require a bookkeeping nightmare. The applied punishment could be any kind of irreversible effect, and in Time Stories it is the implementation of unrecoverable time units (and to a smaller extent, character hitpoints).

Challenge 4, an artificial punishment is tiresome, regardless of how well it is packaged

For my money, I much prefer Monkey Island’s method of presenting a puzzle (we will let you do and try anything you want without artificially punishing you, but you can’t solve a problem if you can’t solve it) over Time Stories’ method wherein only a couple of trial and errors is needed to figure out what you need to do, but then once you figure it out you’ll find out that you did them in the wrong order and also spent time on some unnecessary ones, so you’ll have to start over.

The deepest and most controversial disappointments over the game seem to revolve around this point. To rerun or not to rerun? For many it’s damned if I do (repeating mechanical tasks), damned if I don’t (not much of a “game” there, just a walk-through), I-give-up-I-will-just-go-play-another-game. And I agree with this sentiment.

Still, in my opinion, Time Stories is a fantastic game, even if it can never be as organic as a computer adventure game. Asylum knows its play with the concept of time and reruns, and goes through great effort to package it thematically. The rulebook goes through great length explaining the concept of time and runs in the context of a temporal agency, and the written story toys with the players’ need to economize time units in “humorous” ways. On this point, I want to emphasize that it is important to respect the “hurt” of time, to not cheat, and to faithfully and stupidly do reruns. Played that way, the story is written to deal awesomely devastating blows, and I highly appreciate that (even if many others understandably don’t).

All in all, I can see both sides of the argument. As a paper adventure game, Time Stories necessarily has its physical limitations and artificial punishment system. However, given the inherent challenges for this type of design, the designers managed and handled it pretty well, delivering as well a solution as can be expected.

Finally, and even people who dislike the game will likely agree, the artwork, text, and overall artistic execution is impeccable.

Yes, Monkey Island will always be superior and more organic; nevertheless I can’t wait to try out the next Time Story.


Disclaimers (with conceptual spoilers)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
There is one Monkey Island-like moment in Asylum, and that is the best part of the story in my opinion.

I have only played Asylum. I’d love to hear analysis on how other episodes (Marcy Case, Prophecy of Dragon, Under the Mask, etc.) work. Are they mostly false leads? or do they have more Monkey Island-like moments? or maybe even some other way of creating challenges?


You can follow me on Twitter @drunkenkoalaBGG
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David B
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Nice review that shows both sides in a well written manner. My very negative view of this game is given some justification.
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Randal Divinski
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pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review that shows both sides in a well written manner. My very negative of this game is given some justification.

What perhaps requires more justification is why you are subscribed to the feed of a game you hate.
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Jack Spirio
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randiv wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review that shows both sides in a well written manner. My very negative of this game is given some justification.

What perhaps requires more justification is why you are subscribed to the feed of a game you hate.


and have the need to point that out in every thread
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Curt Frantz
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randiv wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review that shows both sides in a well written manner. My very negative of this game is given some justification.

What perhaps requires more justification is why you are subscribed to the feed of a game you hate.


Yeah...it's like I have to read the same mini review time and time again (pun intended!)
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David B
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randiv wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review that shows both sides in a well written manner. My very negative of this game is given some justification.

What perhaps requires more justification is why you are subscribed to the feed of a game you hate.


Ummm. No. Not subscribed. It simply shows up on the front page, which is kind of hard to miss. I look to see what games are on the reviews every time I log on as reviews are one of the more interesting things on this site. I am interested in reviews of games I am familiar with whether I like them or not. You see, I find it interesting to read opinions I agree with and opinions I disagree with. You are certainly more than welcome to surround yourself only with like minded opinions. But thank you for your 2 cents worth of psychology. And believe me, it wasn't worth a single cent more.
 
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David B
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Jack Spirio wrote:
randiv wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review that shows both sides in a well written manner. My very negative of this game is given some justification.

What perhaps requires more justification is why you are subscribed to the feed of a game you hate.


and have the need to point that out in every thread


See above.

 
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Jack Spirio
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But you can understand that people get a bit annoyed by reading the same over and over again.
We got it, you don't like the game and that is totally fine and you are allowed to state that. But you do not need to write it under every singe review. I have no problem with people having a different opining then me and I like to discuss that also, and I assume others seem to agree as no one seems to have a problem with op but only with you.
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David B
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Jack Spirio wrote:
But you can understand that people get a bit annoyed by reading the same over and over again.
We got it, you don't like the game and that is totally fine and you are allowed to state that. But you do not need to write it under every singe review. I have no problem with people having a different opining then me and I like to discuss that also, and I assume others seem to agree as no one seems to have a problem with op but only with you.


I don't give a rat's behind who is annoyed and who is not. This is a free and PUBLIC internet forum and I am interested in the discussions here and I will continue to post.

Do you likewise get annoyed when you hear the same positive comments over and over?

Just a hint: if you are that easily annoyed, the internet is a dangerous place. Be careful!
 
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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Any comparison between Asylum and other Time Stories episodes?
 
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Callan Finn
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pfctsqr wrote:
Jack Spirio wrote:
But you can understand that people get a bit annoyed by reading the same over and over again.
We got it, you don't like the game and that is totally fine and you are allowed to state that. But you do not need to write it under every singe review. I have no problem with people having a different opining then me and I like to discuss that also, and I assume others seem to agree as no one seems to have a problem with op but only with you.


I don't give a rat's behind who is annoyed and who is not. This is a free and PUBLIC internet forum and I am interested in the discussions here and I will continue to post.

Do you likewise get annoyed when you hear the same positive comments over and over?


 
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Jared Voshall
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Great review, and definitely does present both sides in a fair and balanced manner. I don't really have anything to say there.

However, since the conversation seems to be going that way, I'll go ahead and chip in with my viewpoint as one of the more vocal anti-TU people. I don't care if you like the system as is, and think it's great. That is your opinion and you're welcome to it.

That said, I will jump in to defend my position when I see others come into a thread about the problems with the TU limit and how to work around them/fix them/etc to say that there is no issue, it's a key part of the game, and if you don't like it you should find another game to play (that last being particularly grating to me). We understand your position and opinion, please respect that we have a different opinion and please stop telling us we're wrong.
 
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David B
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Magius wrote:
Great review, and definitely does present both sides in a fair and balanced manner. I don't really have anything to say there.

However, since the conversation seems to be going that way, I'll go ahead and chip in with my viewpoint as one of the more vocal anti-TU people. I don't care if you like the system as is, and think it's great. That is your opinion and you're welcome to it.

That said, I will jump in to defend my position when I see others come into a thread about the problems with the TU limit and how to work around them/fix them/etc to say that there is no issue, it's a key part of the game, and if you don't like it you should find another game to play (that last being particularly grating to me). We understand your position and opinion, please respect that we have a different opinion and please stop telling us we're wrong.


I've looked back and I cannot find where anyone told you that you were wrong. Could you help me out and point me at where that statement was made?
 
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Jared Voshall
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To clarify my previous post, I did not say that anyone said, "No, you're wrong," in so many words. However, how are we supposed to interpret someone responding to us saying, "Hey, we have an issue with this part of the game, for these reasons, and here are the methods that we've found to make the game more enjoyable," with, "The TU pressure is what makes this a game, and the looping aspect is a core aspect of the gameplay. If you don't like it, you should find another game to play."

That has come across more times than I like to see, and it has come up far too regularly in response to anyone saying, "Hey, I don't like how the game handles the TU aspect."
 
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David B
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Magius wrote:
To clarify my previous post, I did not say that anyone said, "No, you're wrong," in so many words. However, how are we supposed to interpret someone responding to us saying, "Hey, we have an issue with this part of the game, for these reasons, and here are the methods that we've found to make the game more enjoyable," with, "The TU pressure is what makes this a game, and the looping aspect is a core aspect of the gameplay. If you don't like it, you should find another game to play."

That has come across more times than I like to see, and it has come up far too regularly in response to anyone saying, "Hey, I don't like how the game handles the TU aspect."



Well, if they have an issue with that aspect of the game then that is certainly going to decrease their enjoyment of it. And since the game is not really a competitive game (I win you lose), I don't see a problem with a group tinkering with the mechanics a bit if it helps them enjoy the story better. It would be quite a bit different for a group to go off and tinker with the rules of a game like Chess or Puerto Rico, etc. This game is all about the story. Obviously the time element is important to you and adds to your enjoyment of the game. Honestly, I don't see where anybody is right or wrong in this case. TIME Stories is a story; enjoy it the best way you see fit (in my case that would be not actually playing it, obviously).
 
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Peter S.
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drunkenKOALA wrote:

The puzzles in Monkey Island generally require the player to apply a certain item in his inventory to a specific object in the environment (e.g. a person, a place, a painting, etc.). At any given part of the game, he may have for example twelve items in his inventory, and thirty objects in the environment to possibly interact with. That is 360 combinations to go through, most of which results in the protagonist Guybrush Threepwood telling you “That wouldn’t work” or “I don’t think he’d like that.” While it’s technically possible to solve Monkey Island by “brute force,” it’s realistically unfeasible.


Ah yes, the old "rub everything on everything" approach to adventure gaming. Takes me back.
 
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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Magius wrote:
when I see others come into a thread about the problems with the TU limit and how to work around them/fix them/etc to say that there is no issue, it's a key part of the game, and if you don't like it you should find another game to play
Where did that happen in this thread? Anyways, I don't see the issue. You see a problem (TU makes the game forced and repetitive), others don't see a problem with that (actually, they kind of do, but find it "necessary"). Others see a problem (lack of TU takes away the tension and turns the game into a pure walk-through story), you don't see a problem with that (or do you?) How is other people's telling you that TU is not a problem more grating than your telling other people that a walk-through with no repercussions is not a problem?

If you don't like TUs, and had offered other solutions in place of that, then we'd have a discussion.

For example, a tell-your-own-adventure game creates an irreversible punishment by forcibly sending players to "places," and disallowing players from freely moving between pages/places. The trade-off is that players can no longer move freely between places, which they could do in Asylum and Monkey Island. Why is this restriction better or less repetitive than the TU system? (Asylum actually has a little bit of this too, when they leave the Doctor's office.) Another way of creating an irreversible punishment is to punish wrong actions by taking away hitpoints from characters. (Aslyum does have a little bit of this actually.)

Which punishment system do you prefer? Or are you fine with none at all? You take a strong stance but I don't even know what that stance is.
 
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Jeremiah Wood
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Well, the two games are consumed differently as well.

You don't play Monkey Island in a coop environment.
It's a single player endeavour with all of the breadth and depth you'd expect of a product meant to be consumed by an individual.

You do play T.I.M.E Stories with other people.
The consumption is divested into more people, for better or for worse.
I've played it with 2 and 3 players and the experience is better with more people in the loop.
The more players there are, the less any individual consumes the game at the material level unless they invest in moving to see every card (which is a bad idea with the Time Units).
This also leads to the players consuming more player driven content (interpretations of cards).
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Christian Villarreal
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I like to say that Myst has some inspiration on this game and how it works. That being said, point and click adventure games such as Myst, Buried in Time, Sam and Max, King's Quest, Torin's Passage, if you ever played one I have to ask, did you ever play it a second time?

If you did, my next question is why did you?

See I look at Time Stories a little differently, and that look mostly stems from my experiences with these games I listed above. I have played Myst and Buried in Time almost every year of my life they've existed. There is just something about them that continues to draw me back to the game.

I know the puzzles, I can complete the games in 1 sitting, I've heard the story many times.

So really I ask myself why did I play them again and again. And the answer is, the experience of the story. I love hearing the story of Atrus and the worlds he created using books to teach his sons about other worlds. How nefarious they became how it subsequently banished them to their own prisons. Even more interesting is the sequel but that is a whole other experience.

So when I play Time Stories, or more specifically, Asylum, Marcy Case, Prophecy of Dragons, etc, I'm playing them again and again for the experience of the story. I know the story to Asylum, I know the puzzles, but I'm not interested in speed running a game of Asylum. I'm interested in playing through the story again. So I make decisions and encounter specific cards to play out the story of Asylum and enjoy it again and again like a movie.

Granted this is after I've played through it once with my game group. After that, each scenario is a fun solo game re-experiencing the story. I play 3 or 4 characters and just have fun with it. I play with the TU normally because I think the reset adds to the experience of what is going on especially if there is a grander story brewing. It just makes it all the more fun to fail here and there and get back on the horse.

Anyway, to each their own, this game isn't for everyone, but to me Time Stories is a game I will enjoy like Myst and Buried in Time for years to come.
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