IFDB page: CC
Final placement: 18th place (of 27) in the 1998 Interactive Fiction Competition
CC is a dreamlike piece of work that starts out in a void and moves into a desert. Its landscape remains spare, and the meaning is never clarified at any point in the game. Things never make all that much sense, and even after the ending “revelation” I never felt like I had any more understanding of the game than I started out with. The author is aware of this, and says in the text included with the game “You probably won’t understand what the game is about, but that’s all right… I just wanted to write something that doesn’t make much sense.” Mission accomplished. Actually, that probably sounds like I hated the game, which I didn’t at all. CC is rather evocative, and although I couldn’t begin to offer an interpretation of what it means, it wasn’t an unpleasant experience to wander through the game’s strange desert artifacts. It also included an equally mysterious NPC who, when asked about almost anything in the game, would make some vague, mysterious answer along the lines of “You must discover the answer to that mystery on your own.” Not very helpful, but that fits in with the tone of the game.
I wasn’t as wild about the puzzles. The text file and the walkthrough both make the point that the game is so easy nobody should need a hint, but I didn’t find that to be the case. True, in some of the puzzles the most obvious action was the one that was required. However, that wasn’t true every time. There was a real guess-the-verb puzzle towards the middle of the game, where several obvious answers didn’t work, and the correct answer worked in such a way as to make it very unclear why the others didn’t. I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere on this puzzle without the walkthrough. There was another puzzle on which I used the walkthrough, but in retrospect, it’s probably one I could have figured out for myself. Unfortunately, I went to the walkthrough much more quickly than I would have had I not had the earlier guess-the-verb experience. I think there’s a lesson for game designers in this: if some of your puzzles are poor, their effect is not limited to themselves. Instead, they make the player less willing to expend effort to unravel later puzzles, even if those puzzles are good ones. With every poor puzzle, you reduce the player’s faith that later puzzles won’t be equally poor. In a short game, this can mean that even one guess-the-verb puzzle is enough to send players to the walkthrough for the rest of the game, if they even bother to finish it at all.
The prose wasn’t bad, although for me it did have a few moments of dissonance that I chalk up to cultural differences. For example, there are some footprints in the desert, but the game calls them “footsteps.” I’ve always thought of footsteps as something you hear, so even though it wasn’t difficult to figure out from the context what the game meant, it jarred a little. However, I found no outright errors in the writing, and the coding was equally error-free. As in so many of the games in this year’s competition, this game was quite short, so the error-free conditions are only sustained for a very short time, but that’s alright. I’d much rather play an error-free short game than a problem-ridden long one. CC is slight, and rather confusing, but it has its good points too. If these trends continue, Mikko Vuorinen’s next competition game might be one to remember.