[IFComp 2012] Changes

You wake and see blood.

There’s blood everywhere. So much blood, that at first you don’t realise there’s a figure behind the blood. It’s alive, just; there’s a face, twisted with pain, and more blood that bubbles from its mouth as it breathes, and a hand that spasms as it tries to paw at the thing projecting from where a chest should be. The eyes gaze into yours. There is still life and desperation there, but it it knows that it is quickly running out.

You want to help. You reach out — and that is when you realise that you are looking into the inside of the reflective cockpit canopy, and that the face you can see is yours.

Awesome start to Changes by David Given (who submitted Silicon Castles to the 2007 IFComp). I had chills.

Almost immediately I find out I’m some sort of rabbit.

Rather than the face you were expecting — a battered one, but human — you instead see a furry snout with bulbous eyes on each side and a wide mouth.

You recognise it from the survey report: the temporary name tagged on the creature is rabbit, for fairly obvious reasons.

Turn and face the strange ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! (It’s stuck in my head, I’m sorry.)

I’ve been playing for a little while now, and David Bowie is still stuck in my head. For the longest time, I was just circling the map over and over again, trying to figure out a way to get to the glint of metal in the canyon, running from the fox. I had to use the walkthrough to spark the next step, and it ended up being as simple as “dig”.

The bank doesn’t look very stable and is full of partially collapsed burrows.


You go to work with your front paws and quickly clear the loose sand out of the burrow. It’s surprising satisfying work.

I guess I should have gotten that one, but the next step was just as unclear to me. I had to go get a fish, drop it in the burrow I just dug up, go see the otter, drop another fish in front of the otter, so he’d follow me back to the burrow. THEN, I had to collapse the burrow on top of the otter, effectively killing the poor bastard.

Run otter, run from the evil rabbit!

It seems this year’s IFComp theme is animal violence. First, that poor blind bear that I had to throw rocks at in J’Dal and now I’m killing sweet little otters? Wtf, people.

It turns out I’ve landed on a planet of Donnie Darko bunnies and I’m now one of them. Evil things.

I kept having to restart the game due to some problems on my end, and I guess because I had to play the get-the-fish-find-the-otter game eight million times, I really got tired of it. It’s a hard puzzle to balance. I’m trying to get the fish to the otter, and then get the otter to follow me, without ever running into the fox, and doing it fast enough that the otter won’t lose hope that I’ll give him the second fish. I also have to be careful not to lead the otter to the beavers, or he’ll stay there, and I have to remember, if I climb the boulder, I automatically drop the fish (even though I don’t drop the fish if I dig the burrow). Gah. I attempt to get the otter back to my place for a little killing about eight more times and think about giving up. I’m not all about sweet otter killin’ anyways. I gave it one more try (completely restarted) and had no problems this time avoiding the fox. I must have gotten stuck in a loop with the fox last time.  Just wait till it’s time to kill YOU, fox. You better not sense my vengeance from the sandy burrow.

After I bring the otter with me to the cocoon, I have a flashback with the ship, Concerto, which gives me a little more information, but still leaves me largely confused.

And now I’m the was-dead-now-alive-otter. So does that mean I killed a rabbit as a human? Do I have to kill another human to become human again? All I know is that otters can swim, which is good – I think I can get to the shuttle now.

This was a nice line about the shuttle:

It looks completely dead. You hope the Semiquaver’s simple mind survived. You want to buy it a drink and tell it what a good job it did.

There, there shuttle. Take a shot and tell me all about it.

My major issue with this game was that it was hard to know exactly where to start. The shuttle seemed to be the obvious start as the game prompts you that a few times that a shuttle must be around here somewhere, and then that glint of metal in the canyon. I think if the author had prompted better with what I will call the creature’s thoughts that would have been easier. For instance, the otter does not have a creature thought until I bring him a fish. Only then does he think about how amazing fish are, and how I might have more. If this prompt had happened the first time I looked at the fish, I might have gotten started on that process tree a little faster. Maybe. Also, the entire cocoon piece went right over my head in the beginning. I missed somehow the cue of the two rabbits being a prompt to bring other dead things there.

As I continued to play this game, all the way to the end, I found that most of the steps were rather ambiguous and I had to rely on the walkthrough to get me through nearly all of them.

The best part of the game is definitely the dear ship Concerto:

There’s a pause. “Humans are so complicated,” says the Concerto, now sounding calmer. “I so much prefer doing surveys.”

But unfortunately, he’s not around much in the story.

I don’t know. For me, this is just not a favorite. I think it’s well-written and is an interesting concept. You can tell Given put a lot of though into it – there’s a whole back story that is in his mind, but I kept thinking that not enough of the details were given (or perhaps not obvious enough) to the player. I think this would fare better as a longer, more in-depth game (with better prompts – please and thank you).



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