I’ve just gotten around to playing “Fine-Tuned,” a 2001 work of interactive fiction by Dennis Jerz. It’s a fun piece about a 1920s dandy with an automobile and an opera singer given a strange job. I’m about halfway through, and the game reportedly ends in a cliffhanger (which is disappointing), but so far I’m impressed at how excellently the game puts me into the heads of its characters.
I’ve had a shift in my gaming tastes over the years. There was a time when I most wanted story from my games; that is to say, a narrative, an interesting series of events that needed not be too interactive. These days, however, I’m most interested in character and setting; I want to be an interesting person and/or explore an interesting world. Oh, I still want a good story, but it’s now third on my list of priorities instead of first.
“Fine-Tuned” does an amazing job of letting you roleplay its characters. Miss Melody Sweet, the opera singer, is proper and polite yet independent and practical, and playing her is a pleasant joy. However, it’s Troy Sterling, a daredevil-for-hire(-in-training) and all-around likeable guy, who steals the show. There’s an early sequence where Sterling, controlled by the player, drives to town, pausing only to clean up litter, rescue a baby bird, and wave to a passerby. It’s a joy playing the cheery and friendly Sterling. Read along in this edited transcript: