Obduction Seduction

Obduction is a relatively recent graphical adventure game by the creators of Myst. I played it recently and have some thoughts.

Hey, have you heard of Obduction? A graphical adventure game by the guys who made Myst, but released within the last decade?

In most ways, it really is just another Myst, though the story and setting are unrelated. Did you love Myst? Then you’ll love Obduction.

Never played Myst? How do lush graphics, fantastical world building, and atmospheric music sound to you?

“Adventure games” are also known as “interactive fiction”, because there’s a story behind all the locked doors, all the unexplained mysteries, all the obstacles you have to overcome.

The best IF shines where the time it takes you to solve the puzzles adds to the suspense of the narrative.

If that’s true, then boy did my experience have a lot of suspense.

There were two points where I got really stuck. Just couldn’t think of how to move forward. Got more and more frustrated.

In the past, I’ve often given in and looked at hints or walkthroughs. The trouble with that, for me at least, is that once I’ve looked at one hint, it’s almost impossible not to look at the next, and the next. The game becomes a plodding exercise in following instructions, and I almost always give up.

With Obduction, given that, nowadays, I personally have many hours inside with few distractions, I decided to tough it out. And indeed, even if it took days and days, after looking around over and over, I would eventually have a stray thought come in to my head, a new thing to try. The puzzle never turned out to be particularly fiendish or unexpected, it was always something simple I missed.

The game works fine on modern hardware, with one exception: the documents (and there are many) are blurred and almost unreadable on Retina displays. The only way I was able to read them was to connect my laptop up to an older, non-Retina display, and switch the game to full-screen mode.

I suspect that the graphical optimizations from as little as 7 years ago don’t play well with Retina.

I took copious notes and, based on my experiences and the under-annotated drawings provided in the game itself, constructed detailed maps. I suppose in the end that’s why I’m writing this post: to show off my maps. While everything else in this post is light on spoilers, the maps have a lot of spoilers in them, so only look if you don’t plan on playing the game.

Enjoy!

Seeing It All in Roll20

I’ve been playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons lately. You might have suspected if you saw my current Twitter account icon.

Since the Pandemic started, my campaigns have all taken place over the Internet. The way most people play D&D over the Internet is through a site called Roll20, which gives you easy access to your character information, maps, and a bunch of other things.

Roll20 is a very powerful website, free to use, and…a little fiddly. If you’re a GM (Game Master) for a game on Roll20, and you’ve already gone through the in-editor tutorials and tried things out for yourself, there’s a couple of steps I’ve found that you can follow to make the experience better for your players.

1. Visible Character Sheets
I’ve found it helpful for each player to be able to see, not just their own character sheet, but the character sheets of all the other players in the game.

When, as a GM, you first create a character sheet for a player, you need to set both who can see that sheet, and who that sheet is controlled and editable by.

These are modified by clicking the character name to open the sheet, then clicking the edit Edit button, and finally going to the In Player’s Journals and Can Be Edited & Controlled By sections, respectively.

Most GMs start out by setting both fields only to the individual player who owns the character.

But if, instead, you set In Player’s Journals to the special All Players option, that character will be visible to all existing players, including the controlling player, and any new players you add, without any further work from you. That’s what I would recommend.

Screenshot of the edit view for a character sheet. The "In Player's Journals" section has been set to a single token called "All Players", and the "Can Be Edited & Controlled By" section below it has been set to a single token called "Player 1".

2. Visible Token Labels
Now that you’ve made the character sheets, you or the controlling player can drag those character tokens on to the current map page. (Be sure to start the drag in the character’s name, not the icon.)

By default, this doesn’t show the name of the character, either to you or to the players.

You can change this, first, by clicking the token on the map to select it, then clicking the gear icon.

Under the Basic tab, in the Name section, there is a checkbox labeled Show nameplate? If you check that, the character’s name will be visible to both you and the controlling player.

Screenshot of the edit view for a map token, with the "Basic" tab selected. The "Name" section has a checkbox called "Show nameplate?" that has been checked.

If you want the label to be visible to everyone, which I would recommend, go to the Advanced tab and, in the Name section, check the See checkbox.

Screenshot of the edit view for a map token, with the "Advanced" tab selected. The "Name" section has a checkbox called "See" that has been checked.

Note the players can’t set these values for themselves. You need to do it as the GM, for every dragged-out token, individually.

Unfortunately, these changes aren’t “sticky”. If someone drags out a second token for a character, say, on a new map page, these changes have to be made all over again. That’s annoying!

Instead, select the tokens that you’ve already edited and that you want to appear on another page, and copy them. Go to the second page, and then paste the tokens there. This way, you’ll have the tokens available on the second page, with all your changes.

I hope this is helpful!

Not That Kind of Troll

Looks like my first Entertainment post will be a review of a kids’ show.

Not just any kids’ show, however: as far as I know, it’s Guillermo del Toro’s only TV show, and it’s on Netflix: Trollhunters.

The good:

  • Amazing, movie-quality animation. It has a gorgeous, colorful 3D look, used to good effect on the non-human characters.
  • A fantasy world that seemed like a nice blend of del Toro’s usual penchant for the grotesque and the safer world of children’s cartoons.
  • Great comic timing. Lots of throwaway pratfalls and one-liners that made me think of Pratchett (high praise from me).
  • Some really fun writing and voice acting. Kelsey Grammer stole every scene he was in (and he was in a lot), as did Jimmie Wood as “Not-Enrique”.
  • Some nice character growth and a few notable turns. Not Shakespeare, but fun to watch.

The bad:

  • I disliked that “the girl” was just “the girl,” i.e. the romantic target of “the boy,” for maybe half or two-third of the episodes. We didn’t see much of anything from her side for far too long — though to their credit they eventually changed that.
  • One very very bad episode that was trying to skewer tropes about the tropical island Natives but really just ended up repeating them. Ugh.
  • Some sexist jokes involving a Barbie doll. Also ugh.

So yeah, there was some racism and sexism. I can understand if that’s a deal-breaker. I would hope they do better next season, if there is a next season.

They want to (the last episode ends on a cliffhanger), but here’s possibly the most interesting thing about the show: its lead voice actor was Anton Yelchin, who died in an accident in June of 2016. del Toro chose specifically to keep him in the show because he fulfilled his vision of the part so well.

But now they’ll need someone new.