Talk Sweetly To Printer

Cascade Quest was shown to the public for the second time at Seattle Indies Expo (a PAX West side convention) on September 3rd.


The booth

Lots of space at SIX this year – they moved it to a new venue, closer to PAX and with air conditioning. Since I haven’t yet commissioned a proper poster for Cascade Quest, I decided to spruce up the booth with green stuff (since the start of the game takes place in a forest): green tablecloth, fake plants, green LED lights. And I purchased a couple of plushies based on characters in the game.

I also had buttons to hand out to folks who played the game or signed up to the email list.


Cascade Quest booth, with marmot, raven, ferns, and hand sanitizer.


Changes from last demo

I’m still just demoing the first act of the game (and I doubt I’ll change that before release). I had reworked the text input system quite a bit since I last demoed it, and I thought it worked much better. I also changed a few puzzles, redid a few screens and added a couple more.

I also expanded the analytics I recorded slightly – it’s no longer just the text input, but also autosaves (upon entering each screen), screenshots, and the player’s position on screen for each piece of text input. This was in the hopes of being able to diagnose difficult-to-reproduce bugs (every bug I found was easy to reproduce though).

I also added a third demo machine since I had space on two sides of my table and I knew there were going to be more people at Seattle Indies Expo than at the retro game expo back in June. This was a good idea, since all three machines were occupied most of the time.

The stats

  • Players entered 2395 rooms throughout the day
  • Players typed 7067 phrases in to the game
  • 5 players made it all the way to the end of the demo
  • About 70 people sat down and tried the game
  • About 60 players made it out of the ranger station (where the first puzzle is)

That was a lot of data to process, and I ended up spending about a week afterwards making changes to the game to address issues or frustration that players encountered.


Stations full


Some of the things people typed:

  • Talk sweetly to printer (this was due to a bug in the way I handled putting paper into the photocopier in the first room – this frustrated a ton of people)
  • Love the printer (related to above)
  • Smash desk
  • Flip desk (someone’s getting mad – perhaps related to above)
  • Get some jordans so you can get hops
  • git gud

I added a bunch of in-game hints to explain how the typing system worked, and that alleviated much of the frustration that new-to-text-parser adventure gamers had.

I’ve also added auto-correct, so this eliminated a bunch of frustration people had with typos.

One of the significant changes was to make your text input more context sensitive – it will infer what you’re talking about depending on what you’re near. So ‘get‘ will get the object in front of you. ‘give mushroom‘ will give your mushroom to the person in front of you.  It worked a bit like this previously, but I expanded the scope significantly since the last demo.

In the original Sierra adventures, ‘look’ gave a general description of the room. With the contextual stuff, this now describes the object in front of you (or the room, if none). This seems like it was a lot more natural for people. I used my typing hint system to train people to type ‘look around’ to get a description of the room. Seemed to work well, so I think I’ll keep it.

I also added an in-game hint system, but very few people found it.


Making a hotfix earlier in the day, due to a game-breaking bug.


Some new changes

This time, there are a lot fewer big changes I needed to make in response to feedback. So that’s good.

I’m trying to formalize the conversation system a bit more, to make it seem like the characters are a little more alive. You’ll be able to ask them about topics and such (e.g. ‘ask about paper’) – this already worked in a limited fashion, but I’m making a bit more data-driven so it’s easy to add different responses to queries on various topics.

I may also add a way to identify the objects in front of you, or show hotspots. This might be part of some “casual mode” for more beginner players.

I need to make changes to the in-game hint system I implemented, because very few people found it. However, I felt it was maybe even a bit unnecessary, since I added a lot of signposting for the puzzle solutions (making the game a little less difficult).

Other notes

I added a secret death scene that I think only one person found. It made me very happy when they did, though.

I talked to lots of people who were excited about adventure games!

5 Comments on “Talk Sweetly To Printer

  1. Wow! I really like what you’re doing with the text parser in particular! I’ve actually thought about doing something similar with suggested commands except that it would behave like the auto-suggestions for Google’s search bar. Maybe you could also display the syntaxes the game accepts (“verb”, “verb direct-object”, “verb direct-object preposition indirect-object”) so that people won’t type in commands like “Tell my boss that I can’t find where the paper is”.

    • I feel like most people don’t understand grammar that deeply though. I’d rather give examples of sentences you can type as you progress through the first bit of the game, then those hints gradually fade away.

      • Oh, I like that! Maybe you could even try getting some inspiration from how games from completely different genres like Super Mario Bros. Maybe you could have the player issue commands to a robot that gradually learns how to process commands or have the player be a magic user who says magical incantations (that are the in-game commands) to cast spells (the effects of the commands).

        • I’m sorry, I’m confused … I’m not sure what that would that accomplish? (Also, I have no robots or magic in any of my games 😉 )

          • Well, maybe you could have the player start with two word commands (such as “get book”) and then gradually allow for more complexity (such as “get brown book” and then “put brown book on wooden table”)>

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