Bloodless on the Orient Express

Entry to the Ectocomp 2011 (1st place out of 10 games), English language, Z-Code.


Release 1
Release 2 (bugfix release))


Bloodless on the Orient Express has had a troubled past before it became the game it is now. It all started as an idea I wanted to implement in German language, for the revived Grand Prix. Since the original idea couldn't sustain a moderately sized game, it went back to the drawer. It finally got implemented for the Ectocomp 2011.

The special condition of this competition is to write a game within three hours (implementation time, not conceptual work). The games have to be somehow related to the horror genre. So my older idea fit. The problem of being forced to stretch it out wouldn't turn up if I only had three hours anyway. I changed a lot of things, amongst them the setting (both time and place) and the identity of the protagonist. What remains of the original concept is the first scene: the protagonist waking up hungry and lying in a coffin.

Professor Saxton and Dr. Wells appear as an homage to the excellent movie Horror Express. There, they are travelling the Transiberian Express, but for a lightweight plot such as this one, this difference is of no consequence.


Three hours is a little less than half a workday. This is actually not that little if you're only coding against a well-defined specification. The main walkthrough had to be simple and lean enough to be codable in approximately half the allotted time, to leave sufficient safety margin. I started with this skeletal implementation of the route to the main ending, making sure I got this working. It took about two hours.

After that, I included optional things and small side-quests of the paper-based concept (clearly marked, of course, so that I wouldn't start implementing any of that stuff in the first phase). It was important to have enough material so that I would definitely not run out of it. In the one hour I had, I managed a little less than 50% of what I had written down before. That's quite good.

The finished game

I hope it is entertaining. Take it for what it is – a small game implemented in three hours. Obviously, it will not do well in comparison with games made without a time limit. Much of it is simply the defaults of the Inform language. Much more of it than I'd usually prefer myself. There is not a lot going on on this train. You cannot do much more than required to solve it. Judge it by these standards and you'll see that I already managed to push the boundaries of such a tight deadline quite a bit.


If you find any bugs or have comments (transcripts are especially welcome), don't hesitate to contact me!

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