Electron Dance
1Nov/209

Discussion: The Assembled World

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Videogame developers design their worlds with purpose and often sprinkle it with procedurally-generated sugar. That pizza box is placed to tell you someone ate here and didn’t tidy up, or left in a hurry. The child’s playroom is full of handcrafted toys because they were loved and maybe one parent was a woodwork enthusiast.

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  1. I feel like the amazing thing about the main game of Monster’s Expedition, and some of the bonuses, is the gentle thrill of exploration–you just potter around and new things fall into place for you. Where pottering around can mean some very difficult problem-solving, but doesn’t require you to think three islands ahead for the most part. If you see that you can do something, you do it, and it gives you a nice reward even if it’s not what you’re expecting. And if you got to where you couldn’t see what to do, there where those footprints to nudge you on.

    And some of the bonus challenges are like that too! Ooh wait here’s a place I can roll a log from one island to another, changing the puzzle on the first island; ooh there’s a [blank] there maybe I can [blank]; ooh I’ve just solved these islands in a circle what if I do it the other way? But as I grind away to the point where I’ve spent as much time post-completion as pre-completion, I sometimes wonder if not enough of the challenges are like that. I’m often looking at a fog bank and wandering around for maybe literal hours trying to find something near it that can be done differently. But maybe it’s just that I already plucked all the low-hanging fruit.

    Anyway I just did a secret challenge that made me really satisfied, where I figured out how to roll a log to another island in order to [blank] by finding a very tricky way to recircle the islands the other way. And then got stuck for a while trying on the last bit even though it was mostly a matter of basic monsterexpeditioning and also almost exactly the same as the normal solution for that island. But there was another hidden challenge where I did some amazingly clever stuff and fell victim to an edge case about island resets and long rafts. Still don’t know if I was within a mile of the solution to that one.

    I would not advise 100%ing this game before writing about it. I don’t think you’re supposed to 100% it over a period of less than five years.

  2. Matt, the truth is although I love A Monster’s Expedition, my time with it was troubled. I’m going to get into that in more detail when I write it up (this is a definite thing and it won’t be a short Puzzleworks overview). I like solving the odd bonus challenge, but it’s getting rarer and rarer with 20+ islands left yet to reach. I’m also thinking I can no longer wait for 100%! The one inconsistency with the game, which I can live with, is that resetting certain islands will only reset you to one specific location – trying to approach from a different direction will move you back to the “one true entrance”.

    If you want to know where I am in terms of game stats – obscuring because these are potentially spoilers (I didn’t want to know when I was playing): sevraqf=guveglgjb, rkuvovgf=baruhaqerqnaqsbeglgjb, vfynaqf=sviruhaqerqnaqfriraglfrira

  3. I’m at sevraqf=guveglgjb, rkuvovgf=baruhaqerqnaqsbeglbar, vfynaqf=sviruhaqerqnaqguveglsvir. Yer tweets sort of inspired me to try again because they pointed out one place where there had to be A Thing To Do, and if I know there’s A Thing To Do somewhere I can happily work away until I figure it out. (I also had the experience of “Wait that trick isn’t so hard, why did it take me so long to work it out?”) Then I was messing around on the hardest resulting island and I accomplished the weird configuration you found, but it wasn’t till I went back and looked at your thread again that I realized that that is the solution.

    There are some other weird edge cases like that and including some of the resetting mechanics and it’s good that they’re kept to bonus challenges. I’m just going to talk a bit more about the part I was complaining about (lengthy and obscure rot13 coming):

    Abegu bs gur sylvat fnhpre naq jrfg bs gur mbrgebcr gurer’f na vfynaq gung lbh pna sbez n fznyy ensg ba, juvpu lbh fnvy abegu gb qvfpbire n pyhfgre bs gjb vfynaqf, naq lbh pna sbez n ybat ensg ba gur abegureazbfg bs gubfr gb fnvy rnfg gb gur vfynaq jvgu gur fgvatvat arggyrf. Gur arggyr vfynaq vf nyfb ernpunoyr sebz bgure vfynaqf va vgf pyhfgre, naq vs lbh pna trg gurer jvgubhg gur ensg orvat cerfrag lbh pna xabpx fbzrguvat vagb gur jngre naq fgbc gur ybat ensg arkg gb n obhyqre juvpu fubhyq yrg lbh tb fbhgu gb n uvqqra cynpr. Ohg jura V tb gb gur ybat ensg vfynaq naq erfrg vg, V unira’g sbhaq n jnl gb trg bss jvgubhg fnvyvat gur ensg rnfg gb gur arggyr vfynaq, zrffvat hc zl frghc.

    Fb vg frrzf yvxr cneg bs gur punyyratr vf svaqvat n jnl gb erfrg guvf bar vfynaq naq trg onpx gb gur bgure jvgubhg gur ensg cerfrag (jurer n ybg bs bgure chmmyrf qrcraq ba lbhe orvat noyr gb erfrg na vfynaq naq fgvyy trg gb gur cynpr gung gung vfynaq yrg lbh trg gb, ol cbfgobk be ol pvepyvat nebhaq nabgure jnl). Naq ba gur fbhgureazbfg bs gur gjb-vfynaq pyhfgre V sbhaq gung vs lbh xabpx n gnyy gerr bagb na bofgehpgvba va gur frpbaq fdhner, vg’yy ebyy onpx naq ynaq ba gur fghzc–gung’f rqtr pnfr bar. Gura V qvq fbzrguvat jurer V ebyyrq n ybat gerr sebz gur abegu vfynaq vagb gur jngre orgjrra gurz, erfrg gur fbhgu vfynaq, bireynccrq n ybat gerr jvgu gur bgure bar fb gurer’f n zvav-ensg va gur zvqqyr, hfrq gung gb pebff gb gur abegu vfynaq naq erfrg vg, naq ebyyrq gur ybat gerr sebz gur abegu bar fdhner bire fb vg’f va gur fnzr cynpr nf gur bar sebz gur fbhgu.

    Ohg–rqtr pnfr gjb!–jura unys bs n ybat gerr vf ghearq vagb n ensg, naq lbh erfrg gur cvrpr gung gheaf vg vagb n ensg, vg orpbzrf gjb fubeg ybtf engure guna bar ybat bar. Naq jura lbh sbez n ensg jvgu n ybat gerr naq gur gjb fubeg ybtf, vg orpbzrf gjb fubeg ensgf vafgrnq bs gjb ybat barf. Fb V’ir chg vg va n fvghngvba jurer V pna fgnaq ba gur rnfg ensg naq chfu bss na bofgnpyr gb gur rnfg, naq vs vg jrer bar ybat ensg gung jbhyq trg zr njnl, ohg fvapr vg’f gjb fubeg ensgf fbzrubj znqr sebz ybat gerrf vg qbrfa’g.

    Anyway so that’s where I pulled off a lot of tricky stuff and it crumbled in my hands like fairy gold. And in some ways figuring out how to pull off the tricky stuff should be its own reward but it’s hard, you know? Also any time I want to try something new in a different part of the sequence it takes a bastard long time to set things up again.

    Anyway Alan said that the game was supposed to have something for everyone in all puzzle difficulties so I assume that that means some of the bonus puzzles are supposed to be nigh-impossible.

  4. Thanks a lot for linking to Brendan’s essay, it was a great read!

  5. Matt

    I don’t even know how we’re just at the same level of friends, one exhibit apart yet thirty islands apart?!?

    The type of claustrophobic mental loop you describe to me in the ROT13’d comments happens repeatedly during these post-ending challenges. I’d start doing ridiclously overwrought multi-island solution attempts, thinking “this must be one of those crazy ones” only to discover I’d missed something mundane. In particular, this and this. I’m also worried about the island hovering above the cat jetpack. It’s not clear what I should be aiming for there at all.

    I’ve reached that island you’re talking about. But I remember PRECISELY that vexation over “if I could just nudge that raft over, I could travel south!” But I’ll say no more for danger of spilling details.

    The only stuff I’ve learnt from these extra challenges is how to fix up multi-island solutions. I’m not sure I’ve learnt much beyond that. No new “crazy log shit”.

    Fede

    Thanks, you’re welcome!

  6. Oh ha ha, I screwed up my copypaste, my first number should’ve been friragrra. Sorry!

    Anyway this is what I’m talking about. (Just mentally hum one of my usual songs as you play that.) What I gather from your comments is that I am completely barking up the wrong tree, as one might say! Arrgh. This reminds me of the level of Baba Is You I was complaining about, where I had an elaborate solution that failed because it took something like thirty-five turns to execute and needed to happen in thirty-four.

    Ordinarily I figure (and want) that if some sort of significant changes are happening, and a secret mechanic is being discovered, then I must be on my way to something, but it’s surely impossible for the Monster team to ensure that is always the case. Like, in the first thing I described, I did all the hard parts and then almost gave up before the easiest part because I was afraid I had trapped myself in a similar way to what that video shows!

    One of the things you just linked was the challenge that you directly inspired me to solve, and the other… was one that I think I had solved in the ordinary course of the game. There’s only one or two islands, maybe, where I’ve got there and I don’t see how to do anything with them. (Not counting one island I unlocked which simply doesn’t have anything on it.) But I guess I need to look for more mundane solutions. It’s hard to know where to start!

  7. OK I found the correct tree to bark up and reached the island I was trying to reach!

  8. My fave use of Blue Lick Road was that I put it in front of game dev students, without explanation and watched them figure it out together, and brainstorm game ideas out of it.

  9. re: Your Tweet

    Raphael Warnock is ominously silent on the question of whether he does eat pizza with a fork.

    My stress levels were already through the roof for reasons unrelated to the election THANKS AMERICA


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