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[Comments] (6) The Trouble With Scribbles: On Monday, Adam Parrish came over and we recorded a conversation about Scribblenauts, the video game that's sweeping the nation with a large cartoon broom. (For the uninitiated, this Penny Arcade should do the trick.) We focused on 1) topics in game design, 2) silliness. I cut the long, long conversation down to 45 minutes and the result is "The Trouble With Scribbles", the latest in the irregular series of crummy.com non-podcasts. Thrill! As we:

Plus: complaining, and pterodactyls with ropes attached to them. Includes spoilers for Scribblenauts and Nethack.

We also talked a little about Adam's entry in the IF competition, but I cut it out because competitors are still embargoed from talking about their games. I'll post it separately later.

Errata: 1. In vanilla Nethack you can't sharpen a weapon on a flint stone. There are also no creatures who can eat rock, so the code I mentioned never gets executed. 2. In Scribblenauts, you can get a generic fish-as-food by typing "fish"--but no human will eat it. 3. "Machinima" is pronounced with a soft "ch" and a long "e". 4. Nobelium's half-life depends on the isotope, but they're all pretty short. 5. There's a Scribblenauts level where the Penny Arcade trick is a winning strategy.

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Posted by Ben Heaton at Fri Oct 16 2009 16:09

You should make this podcast available through iTunes, so I'll be alerted to new installments more quickly.

Also, there should be more installments, so that the thing requested above would be somewhat useful.

Posted by Evan at Sat Oct 17 2009 19:24

I'm putting in a request for a/v podcast next time around: screenshots of the things talked about and such ...

Posted by Leonard at Sat Oct 17 2009 20:16

Man, the audio file was hard enough to edit on its own.

Posted by Caleb Wilson at Wed Oct 21 2009 17:23

Hi Leonard, Hi Adam, I liked your talk. Though I have never played the game in question, and so my thoughts are pretty much discountable--would a possible fix to disallow "kayak"ing every obstacle be to allow a single summoning of any particular word? So you could kayak one monster and canoe another, but that's all? Also, speaking of cartoon logic, it is standard in cartoons for a object's functional or operational purpose to be ignored--a safe isn't for keeping valuables, a piano isn't for playing music, they're both for dropping on someone's head. A certain kind of humor results, of course, good or bad depending on your point of view. So I wonder what sorts of humor you'd have if Scribblenauts were more about shapes and physical properties of things--needing something narrow to fit a gap and summoning a *vegan*, for example, strikes me as funny. But again I haven't seen the game. Reminds me of the hypothetical discussions I used to have about Super Mario Brothers without ever having playing it.

Posted by Leonard at Thu Oct 22 2009 08:56

The problem with disallowing multiple kayaks is that there are 20 different words for "small boat". You just need a thesaurus. And the kayak is just one example of a general problem where NPCs can't get out of or (usually) operate vehicles. So any small vehicle will incapacitate a NPC.

There is a mode where you have to beat the same Scribblenauts level 3 times without repeating any words, which will either make you be more creative or make you come up with more synonyms for "rope".

Posted by Zack at Fri Oct 30 2009 17:33

I finally got around to listening to this. I have a very hard time listening to audio, because audio alone just doesn't hold my attention, and I can't listen and read simultaneously. But I discovered that if I play a completely nonverbal, visual, non-timed game at the same time (e.g. one of the many online implementations of picross) I could attend to your words. And lo, they were funny.

Andrew Plotkin has an interesting set of slides musing on rule-based programming for IF: I thought of it because of his observation, on slide 25, that IF programming is all about exceptional cases; it seems to me that this is another symptom of the fallacy of logical positivism, where you can't make the world fit into a neat set of categories.

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