For this weeks round of blogging I chose to look at the IF piece The Djinni Chronicles. This piece was written in Inform 6 and can be played in your browser via parchment. As with my last blog post about a piece of IF, I’m going to attempt to avoid spoilers about the game itself. This is chiefly because solving the puzzle is really the primary vector for experiencing the piece and telling you how to play the game would ruin that experience. At any rate, in The Djinni Chronicles the player plays as a Djinni who’s tasked with the granting of a character who has summoned you, Seegan.
Mechanically speaking what makes this interesting, is the way that the game limits the actions that the player can take in game play. The parser seems to have specialized commands and the player is prohibited from taking many actions that would ordinarily seem intuitive in a piece of IF. To further complicate this each of the games puzzles has a counter of sorts that limits the number of actions the player as djinni can make. The game’s counter tracks a value called “purpose”. If the Djinni’s “purpose” reaches zero they cease to exist and the game ends in failure. In game some actions take more “purpose” then others for example navigating the world takes a small amount of “purpose” but interacting with magical items in the world to facilitate wishes takes significantly more. That’s where the difficulty comes in the “puzzle” comes in figuring out how to navigate to the items needed interact with them and get back to the djinni’s vessel without your “purpose” reaching 0.
This is a pretty straight forward IF in that its got a couple of (fairly) simple puzzles and it wants you to solve them to progress through the game. However, what sets this game apart is how important the diegetic elements of the game are. If a player has an understanding of some of the lore surrounding Djinni then they are better able to intuit the sorts of actions and commands that might work. Further the world in which the narrative takes place is incredibly flavorful. I very much got the sense that the Djinni was a distinct character outside of merely the vessel for the player’s consciousness and often found myself responding to game situations by saying “what would the Djinni do?”. In some IF the objectives trump the story elements of the piece leading to a very sort of procedural experience but in The Djinni Chronicles the two coexist in an interest manner and enrich the over all gameplay experience for a player. I’d like to be able to discuss the various adventure paths in greater detail, so if you get the opportunity check it out and leave a comment.