On The Bryant Collection

I learned an important lesson a week or so ago: don’t release games on April Fool’s Day. I thought that April 1st would be a fun day to release The Bryant Collection, with its hard-to-believe premise and odd approach. The result? I think a lot of folks saw the post, said “ha, ha!” and assumed the whole thing was a joke. The biggest reaction I got was a flame from someone who’d evidently had one too many websites change up their CSS stylesheets on him.

It’s a shame, because despite the premise and backstory, The Bryant Collection is a real game, and one that I poured a lot of effort and heart into. But I haven’t gotten a single review, game entry on an IF site, or even a comment from someone who’s played the game. The only e-mail I’ve gotten about it is from my parents.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised. Mixing truth and fiction is risky enough when it’s not on a day dedicated to lies, and the games from the Spring Thing were released at almost the exact same time. The Spring Thing is probably the second or third biggest IF event of the year, so naturally Bryant would be overshadowed by those games, especially if it’s dismissed as a joke.

This post isn’t a cry for attention or anything. I just wanted to share my reactions when a game doesn’t get very well-received, since I always post when a game gets positive reactions.

23 thoughts on “On The Bryant Collection

  1. I might also point out that IF is a different animal from your usual graphical, browser based games. Interactive fiction is typically much more involved than the likes of Exploit and Sugarcore, and that alone will make some people less interested in trying it out. Add to that the extra effort to play the game. Casually clicking on a link to try something out is easy, and once you are already playing, you might as well finish it. Any time you start talking about installing stuff in order to run a game, you are going to lose people.

    1. Definitely. I was never expecting the volume of responses I got from my Flash games. I am surprised not to get much of any response from folks in the IF circles; they’ve already got the interpreter installed, and are comfortable with downloading IF story files. Of course, they’re probably all still playing the Spring Thing games.

      1. I think there are some Java frontends for at least certain IF interpreters; maybe you could see if there’s one for that story?

  2. I am not just a biased parent. I began playing “adventure games” by Scott Adams in the early 1980s on my Atari 800. (We didn’t call it IF back then.) Greg has captured that style extremely well in this work. I don’t think that it is just my urge for nostalgia. Greg invested considerable time in his detailed prose and clever retorts to silly requests.

    To respond to Phillip, the install is surprisingly simple – even a dinosaur like me did it in a very short time.

  3. I actually meant to e-mail about the Bryant Collection, thanking you for saving me from the worst LAN party ever last week. I have to admit that I probably would not have downloaded this title if I hadn’t been faced with an eternity of Starcraft and Counterstrike, but I was extremely happy that I did so.

    The style of the stories was not quite what I was used to, since with the exception of the Tower of Hanoi they’re not exactly puzzles. With the first one I played (The End of the World) I found myself at somewhat of a loss as for what to do as the narrative unfolded, and Undelivered Love Letter was a little frustrating just because I had no idea what to do in the context of the story. I felt like there were more options for topics that I was missing, but I had no idea what they could be.

    I did really enjoy the collection, however, and had fun exploring the different dialogues and descriptions that I could find in the worlds. It reminded me a little bit of Myst with (most of) the puzzles taken out, and a more personal spin put on everything. There wasn’t a lot to do necessarily, but the journey was entertaining. Thanks again for the fun game!

  4. Mesa want play. Mesa no time. Cockpit Competition. Work. Stupid things. Mesa will play on weekend and write. Mesa definitely interested.


    Err… I mean, Jonas.

  5. Are you planning to release/publish/transcribe the original documents too? They’d be interesting from a historical perspective. Not to belittle your reworking, of course – I played “Tower of Hanoi” and enjoyed it, but didn’t have time to play the rest.

  6. Count me among those that didn’t play because they didn’t feel like downloading and installing something. Why has no one made a browser based version of the interpreter?

  7. Man, oh man. It’s already on my “to play” list, but between work and uni I can barely touch any games at all!!

    And regarding installing something… well, I already had downloaded the interpreter, but it’s a file, what? a file 1.2 mb big? I’m sure it’s not a big deal. It could be me though.
    I played Champion of Guitars and Slouching Towards Bedlam in java applets in my browser, so I’m pretty sure there is some interpreter/code around.
    And I’ve seen many IF games compiled with a interpreter. I might add to the file size, but Gun Mute was pretty much download & play. No idea how to do it -a compile option?-, sorry! :)

    Anyway, keep up the good work. Will play and comment as soon as I get that desired spare time!

  8. i appreciated you releasing an actual game on april first, not just posting something that is transparently false like so many people in the games media (not medium) feel obliged to do. i think most people who immerse themselves in the game media have encountered so much of that they couldn’t even conceive of someone doing anything more than that.

  9. A bit of an introduction here: I discovered Bars of black and white a couple of weeks ago and totally fell in love with it, it had all the “common” things that all the “escape the room” had, but the narrative was different and very good, and I loved the ending, it just made so much sense.

    So, I started looking for other games made by you (I played it on Armorgames.com) and finally ended on your blog, in other words, here. So, I played them all and loved them equally, except maybe for Necropolis and Sugarcore, because they didn’t have the same storytelling elements of the other games that I fell in love with.

    So, keep in mind all that to understand my mindset and what I expected when I downloaded the Bryant collection. It was weird, ok, not what I expected, but it started really well (with all the backyard sale bit), so I decided to give it a try, and I found myself at the opposite end from my experience with Necropolis; it was all story and almost no game. For example, in The end of the world, it didn’t matter what I typed, the game always ended and developed the same way. And the first real(ish) game that I found, the tower puzzle, was too convoluted and complex both in narrative and in the puzzle itself, for me to feel I was having fun while solving it, so I just put it away and didn’t pick it up since. Maybe I will in a future, but I doubt it since no matter how much I think and rethink every clue and every posibility, I always ended looking at the explicit FAQ included in the game to find out what I was supposed to do.

    Well, I got a bit carried away, right? Hehehe. Well, I hope this feedback is useful to you, because I feel you’re a real innovator in the flash genre, trying to take the player a bit beyond just playing a game for 5 seconds and making him think and/or feel. Congratulations, and keep up the good work, and sorry for any misunderstanding in what I wrote, I tried my best considering english is not my first language.

    Cheers from Argentina!


  10. First of all, I love stories. I also love the kind of strange and wonderful things that make their way into garage sales. And I love finding hidden bits of ephemeral self-expression. Lastly, I love interactive fiction.

    So I love this collection! How could I not? :)

    It didn’t matter so much to me that most of the games didn’t follow conventional rules of gameplay (which makes sense considering they were not written as games per se.) I realized that they are more about capturing a moment and a feeling. And in this regard I think they work with a high degree of artistry and emotion. I second wanting to see scans of the originals.

    I feel these are similar in some ways to art games like those of Jason Rohrer (Passage): http://hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/jason-rohrer/

    I haven’t taken a serious crack at Tower of Hanoi yet, it’s getting late… this one seems to be an exception to the above.

    Thanks so much for finding these treasures and taking the time and effort to lift them from the page into a virtual interactive world.

  11. I disagree with Zeta above. I just finished the Towers of Hanoi, and I have to say it was well worth my time. The puzzle was fiendishly clever – I loved the mental challenge. I haven’t played through any of the other stories so far, but you’ve certainly got me hooked now!

    Please make more like this!

  12. Well, whatever the reason, I’m certainly glad that you made this post. I am one of the people who saw the April 1st announcement at rec.arts.int-fiction, and I was very interested until I saw the date and some of the replies, at which point I laughed at myself for being had. In fact, even after you received a review on indiegames.com, a lone commenter posted, “Notice the date Gregory posted this…”

    So, as I said, I am glad to have seen this reaffirmation. Now I shall resume being interested!

  13. You know, I’m still trying to find the time to finish this. I’ve had way too much “real work” lately.

  14. This sounds like a really intresting game. I want to play it, but it won’t let me open the download. I am looking forward to the next game you come out with!

  15. I just have to say that I really liked this collection.

    However, it does seem unclear who the original author was. Whoever did it, its masterful. The only flaw I can think of is lack of content. I wish there was more to each story.

  16. Played the game (finally) as part of working on your wiki page. For what it’s worth, the problems with it from my perspective were these – and to be fair, most of these are endemic to the genre and medium, rather than your personal errors.

    (1) Required two downloads (game and interpreter) to play; much higher intial investment than a Flash game.
    (2) No art to promote game. The visuals of your other games are definitely among their strong points; working in IF is essentially tying one hand behind your back.
    (3) No clear goals, no mystery. The game presented no objective to be achieved, or mystery to be solved. It was missing that initial “fall down a flight of stairs” that gets an audience interested in progressing. As merely an experience to be had, there was the temptation to declare it “experienced” long before interacting with all the content.
    (4) Varying game styles. In theory, something for everyone to love, in practice something for everyone to hate. Players who might have enjoyed the character pieces (ie me) could be turned off by the hardcore puzzling, and vice versa. It also makes it hard for the audience to calibrate their expectations, and then for you to subsequently satisfy those expectations.
    (5) No initial promise. This is a bit like “no goal” but different. A game makes a promise – that the game will be over when [all these levels have a star next to them / you defeat the final boss / you find the five magic whatsits], that lets users understand the scope and nature of the experience they’re about to have. They know if it’s a long game, a short game, a hard game, an easy game, a game about achieving 100% or just making it to the end. You can establish that promise with something as simple as the size of a world map relative to the amount explored, or a character at level 1 seeing a monster at level 50. There’s no such promise here – no definition of scope or ambition.
    (6) Horrible interface. This isn’t you, it’s interactive fiction. Even in the most intelligent parsers, there’ll always be elements of “guess the noun” and “guess the verb” and The Bryant Collection is no exception. The interface by definition limits the game to a very small audience of fans who are already dedicated to the medium.

    Anyway, that’s I think why it’s not as beloved as some of your Flash games. Not necessarily a reason to stop doing IF but maybe a reason to understand why it’s not moving units. For what it’s worth, Backup was better, due largely to being more focused, although it also had problems in terms of setting goals and being anchored to the dead weight of its medium.

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