IFcomp 2016: Inside the Facility

“Inside the Facility” is next: an exploration game with a heavily pared-down parser.

“Inside the Facility” is very much a game rather than a story, a puzzle to be figured out. And it’s been pared way down so that the only commands you really need are the four cardinal directions and the ability to wait a turn. On the one hand, this severely limits your ability to interact with the world; on the other hand, this is a game and those are the rules, and it’s really more a case of redefining the way the game is played. Not “less”, just “different”. I imagine it’s much the same idea behind Sierra’s decision to go from the expanded command interface of “Gabriel Knight 1” to the single-click interface of all their later games: the idea that if there is only one thing to do in any one place, why make the player guess at what that one thing is?

The premise here is that we’ve made a bet with a friend that we can explore the eponymous Facility, and that’s what the game is: exploration. But of course it’s not so simple, what with the different levels of security clearances and all. There are quite a few puzzles set in the way of our exploration, and the solution is often to simply go to the right place to automatically pick up the right item, and then to take that item to another place. This sounds very simple, but it does get more complex and difficult as we progress. It’s useful, too, to remember that we also have the “wait” command, and quite often it turns out that a puzzle hinges on timing things right.

There’s actually some very clever design work behind this, I think. As spread-out and chaotic as the map might be, I still found that the gatekeeping worked worked very well.

The game comes with a PDF template of squares to draw your map on, by the way. The opening room is clearly marked, and this supplied template helps a lot by ensuring that you don’t run out of room on one side of the sheet or something like that. It also clearly defines what there is to be discovered or what still needs to be found. One of the location-finding puzzles depends on this, and there’s a darkness puzzle that is easier to visualise thanks to the map template.

You’ve earned a winning ending after exploring about half the map, at which point you can leave and claim your winnings from your friend. But finishing the map and finding the mysterious Director is, of course, what you as a compulsively completist player want to do. There’s a bit of humour to that ending, and it answers a few questions as to what the Facility is all about too; I found it quite satisfying.

Breakfast … the map thing reminds me of waffles, with the way you have to fill in each individual recess, but I don’t think that really captures the game. It’s more like a stripped down, simple recipe that you can do just about anything with. Muffins. They all have roughly the same shape, but there could be just about anything you like in them, from chocolate chips to cranberries. Fresh-made, still warm from the oven, with Orange Pekoe tea. A simple solution, but highly effective.

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