MiSTings and More

Coming Home

a do-it-yourself MiSTing
by Louise Hope
with Fred Hope
based on a game and notes by Andrew Katz

original text written 1997 / MiSTed 1998-99

Fade in. Jake, Zainab, Lucy and Fred are peering at the computer screen. Having utterly failed to make any sense of “Coming Home”—a game that made most critics’ Ten Worst of the Century list—they have turned in desperation to the Hints helpfully provided by the author.
Some of the players are real. Some are fictional. But if you don’t already know which is which, then it doesn’t really matter, does it?

A. Hints

What is this game about?
Well it is about coming home to the house you grew up in, many years later.

Jake: Now that I’ve played the game, I have one question: why would you want to?

It is really just a simple puzzle game. You solve puzzles and you explore and collect things. Eventually you find the thing that tells you you have won. In Hints I will outline each puzzle and its solution in the rough order you will be facing them.

1. How to enter the house.

If you have tried to enter the house you have realized it is locked, and you do not have the key.

Common sense: Find the key or find someone to ask for the key.

Zainab: This is clearly a new and unprecedented usage of the term “common sense.”

Lucy: Common sense: knock.

Jake: Common sense: ring the bell.

Fred: Common sense: look for a cat door.

Jake: Common sense: break a window.

Lucy: Common sense: telephone beforehand to find out when they’ll be home.

Zainab: You did telephone. That’s why they locked the doors.

Hint: Did you ask Ken? Did you see Ken?

Lucy: You know what? I didn’t see Ken. He must be standing behind me, and doing a quick sidestep every time I turn around.

Zainab: There he is, in the toolshed!

Jake: What toolshed?

Zainab: The one you find by going northeast, and then north, and then west, and . . .

Lucy: Silly me. I didn’t even try the secondary directions when the four cardinal directions failed.

Zainab: I wouldn’t have thought of it myself if I hadn’t looked at the code.

Others: Cheater!

2. How to pick up Allison at the train station.

Ken has told you that you need to do that. It is the only thing he says at this point in the game so it must be important.

Zainab: In this household, nobody utters a syllable unless it’s to deliver information of vital importance.

Jake: He’s just trying to get rid of you so he can finish pillaging the toolshed.

Maybe Allison has the key to the house?

Lucy: She went off to college, taking the family’s only spare set of keys, which helps explain why Ken is mucking about in the toolshed instead of letting you in himself.

Zainab: The bare fact that she’s your sister and is stuck at the station is obviously not sufficient reason to pick her up.

Fred: It doesn’t say she’s your sister. Maybe she’s Ken’s girlfriend.

Lucy: Silly child. That would be Barbie.

Common sense: Drive a car. Where is a car? In the garage (sometimes).

Zainab: Now, let me get this straight. I don’t have keys to the house, but I do have keys to the car?

Jake: No, you’ll just hotwire it.

Lucy: Burglary is becoming an increasingly specialized trade. I may be able to drive off in someone else’s car, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I have the requisite skills to break into their house.

Fred: Or even your own house.

3. Open the garage door.

Have you tried that and found out it is stuck?

Zainab: So that’s why Ken won’t pick up Allison himself. He’s tired of having to break into the garage every time he needs the car.

Common sense: Find a tool which you can use to open the garage door. Something long and heavy and used to pry open things.

Hint: Did you see the crowbar?

Jake: Oh, a crowbar. I was going crazy trying to open the garage door with a screwdriver.

Lucy: Screwdriver? I thought he was talking about a speculum!

Zainab: Speculum? I thought he was hinting about a large key.

About the crowbar: If Ken is there he will not let you take it. Ken will never let you take anything.

Fred: Except the car, that is.

Jake: He needs the crowbar himself for breaking into the neighbor’s garage. They’ve got a better car.

Zainab: Still, this crowbar approach seems a bit cumbersome if you’ve got an urgent appointment.

You must wait until he leaves. Also, the crowbar can only be carried alone. If you have something you must drop it first. To take something else, you must drop the crowbar. Drop it where you can get to it again.

Jake: Oh, really. I was planning on throwing it over the other neighbor’s back fence as part of an attempt to frame them for auto theft.

4. The house.

Remember to open that door right away. Doors in this home have a way of locking themselves.

Lucy: Curiouser and curiouser. Why would the family want to lock out someone whose only offense is breaking open the garage door to take their car to bring home someone they obviously have no desire to see?

They also close themselves as well. Luckily there are no doors between the 4 main living areas.

Zainab: Of course nobody would expect the author to take the time to learn how to program doors, which his later notes suggest may be the problem.

And, remember to take those house keys or you may get locked outside!

Jake: And, comma, don’t spend too much time outside, or they’ll change the locks and we’ll have to go through this whole rigmarole from the beginning.

5. Eating.

You are probably getting quite hungry by now.

Lucy: In addition, the neighborhood watch has begun to monitor your activities rather closely.

Jake: No, you weren’t paying attention. You’re inside. Allison let you in.

Zainab: You should have eaten something in the station restaurant.

This must be attended to. Where to get food?

Common sense: The kitchen. Where in the kitchen? The refrigerator.

Problem: You cannot open the refrigerator by yourself. Why not? Well this is a game and anyway you have not been home for a while and you feel guilty just taking for yourself like everyone else does around here.

Lucy: On the other hand, you feel not the least twinge of guilt about breaking open the garage door and taking their car without permission.

Common sense: Ask someone. Actually, order someone.

someone, open the frig

Jake: Frig? Haven’t seen that verb in years.

Who? There is one person who spends more time in the kitchen than anyone else. Ofcourse, Mom!

Zainab: Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. You’re reluctant to open the fridge yourself . . . but you’re perfectly willing to order your mother to feed you. Got it.

Hint: Remember to eat some now and take some for later. Food has a way of disappearing in this house.

Jake: Anyone who succeeds in getting in the door can order Mom to feed them, and she has no choice but to obey.

And, do not drink anything.

Zainab: It’s a great place to visit, but you can’t drink the water.

It does not make you any less hungry, but makes you want to pee.

Fred: Food, on the other hand, would only make you want to—

Adults: That will do, Fred.

And, do not get greedy. And, do not hide food someplace and come back for more (the game will not let you).

Other Note: There is a person in this house who may cause you much grief and you may not realize it.

Lucy: Oh, is that what grief feels like? I thought I’d thrown my back out when I forced the garage door open.

Zainab: I experienced considerable pain and suffering, but fortunately I was unaware of it until later.

This person spends time wandering between the play room and the kitchen, taking food, and then going to the bathroom (see below).

Jake: Uh . . . Wander about the house, swipe food, use the bathroom . . . Yup. That’s me.

Do not take the remote control or your supply of food may run out even quicker! (Because this person will get bored quicker without being able to change channels.)

Lucy: In this house, chasing an intruder around is, on the whole, less trouble than walking to the TV and switching channels manually.

6. Going to the bathroom.

Sometime afer eating, you are told you have to go to the bathroom.

Jake: Didn’t he just get through telling us not to drink or you’d have to—

Zainab: Yes, and you didn’t listen, did you?

Fred: But people do have to go to the bathroom. It’s realistic.

Jake: People also have to breathe, but it isn’t ordinarily an issue in games, unless you’re trapped in a sealed room.

Lucy: People sometimes have to scratch themselves, but it isn’t an issue unless your hands are tied behind your back.

Fred: What if you were locked in a closet with no toilet?

Jake: Then this bathroom business would become a matter of concern.

This must be attended to or dire consequences will result. Fortunately, this house has two bathrooms. The problem is, by the time you get there, it is probably too dirty to use.

Zainab: Is “it” now a dual pronoun?

Lucy: I’m desperate to go, and will die of a ruptured bladder if I don’t go . . . but the bathroom is so dirty that I decide I can hold it in a little longer.

Jake: Oh, go ahead. Use the bushes outside. Nobody’s around now that Ken’s gone.

Common sense: Clean the bathroom. But how? There is no way.

Zainab: I believe there are professional cleaning services for problems of that magnitude.

Hint: Ask someone one. Tell someone. No, order someone to. Who? Who do you think cleans this house? It is Mom again.

Lucy: One of these days Mom will respond to your orders by throwing her hardbound copy of Betty Friedan at your head.

Jake: . . . calling to Dad to get the gun because that no-good kid we threw out last year is trying to get in again.

Zainab: . . . saying she can’t now, she’s busy preparing food for your brother, who just got out of San Quentin.

And, remember to make a beeline for the bathroom before it gets dirty again. I think the upstairs bathroom is better (it is further from the play room where a certain person spends alot of waking time).

Note: The characters move around alot in this game. This may seem like random, but it is really pattern movement and a roughly daily cycle of sleep and waking (days pass quick, though).

Jake: For example, in the time it took you to read this sentence, a week and a half have gone by.

And, people only populate a small collection of rooms.

Zainab: Some members of my family are capable of occupying several locations concurrently.

Jake: Is this about your grandmother?

Zainab: My grandmother is capable of occupying all locations concurrently.

Jake: You mean she was there when I—

Zainab: Later.

For example, Mom is only in the kitchen or master bedroom when not cleaning.

Lucy: Mom™ brought to you by the Stepford Corporation.

7. Getting into difficult places.

Have you ever reached Ken’s room and been unable to open his door. So, you knock. And it does no good. Maybe he has his headphones on?

Jake: Maybe your hand is too small to make enough of a sound. That’s the excuse he used when you tried knocking on the front door.

Lucy: Maybe Ken just doesn’t want to talk to you.

Fred: Maybe he climbed out the window while you were nagging at Mom about the bathroom.

Implausability:

Jake: Don’t say anything. Too obvious.

How can Ken stop you from opening his door (inside doors never lock)? And, when Ken leaves, you don’t see him, and he does not see you and closes his door behind him?

Fred: Why can’t Andrew figure out that Ken climbed out the window?

Jake [as Andrew Katz]: Don’t ask me. I just write, design and program ’em.

Well, all I can say is that Ken has his own rules of existance.

Lucy: As, for that matter, do all other members of this household, to say nothing of the house itself. And by the way, where’s Dad while all this is going on?

Have you tried to open the basement door?

Clue: The game tells you what to do. But you do not know who.

Jake: You don’t know who to do?

Common sense: Ask every person you see. One person may be offering help.

Zainab: Let’s see now . . . It can’t be Mom, who’s busy waxing the bathroom floor, and can’t be Dad, who hasn’t been home since 1983, and can’t be Ken, who climbed out his window and hopped a freighter, and can’t be Allison, who took one look at the house and went straight back to college . . .

8. Opening the basement door.

This is deliberately the most difficult puzzle because important things are in the basement. At this point you have ordered Ken to open it since he offered to help,

Jake [as Ken]: Boy, that’s the last time I offer to do you a favor.

and now he needs a present.

Fred [as Ken]: Gimme all your lunch money or I’ll tell Mom you broke the garage door.

Common sense: Give him what you have. Think like Ken. He probably does not think of food as a present (since he can get it himself), and you really need your food.

Puzzle2: So you finally gave him something and he took it, but he is still asking for a present.

Common sense: Give him something else.

Lucy: As a child, Ken spend a great deal of time whining “What did you bring me?” to every family member or neighbor who spent two consecutive nights out of town.

Hint: Fortunately a second thing will do the trick, even though the game probably made you think that the whole idea of giving Ken a present may not work.

Jake: So the remedy is to try the one thing that the entire game has been encouraging you to think won’t work. Got it.

9. Game winning.

It is easy at this point. Remember to unlock, then open, then if you see something . . .

Common sense: Notes are for reading.

P.S. Remember - you will probably die many times in solving this game. The idea is to use what you found out from a life the next time you play.

Fred: Oh, wow, I would never have thought of that. I thought you had to forget everything from earlier games, otherwise it’s just cheating.

For example, you may die because you did not think of eating and taking more food for exploring. And when you got hungry the second time you either did not get back to the kitchen in time, Mom was not there in time,

Zainab: I would rather die than touch the refrigerator myself.

Jake: Well, if it’s anything like the bathrooms, that’s understandable.

or there was no food left.

Lucy: This could actually work to your advantage. If you collapse from hunger on the front doorstep, a neighbor is bound to notice you sooner or later, and the sound of the ambulance sirens will get Mom out of the kitchen.

Zainab: On the other hand, as astute critics have pointed out, falling down dead in front of her has no effect whatsoever.

C. Implementation Notes.

This game was my learning game for both ALAN and Inform. The plot and puzzles were all thought up in an hour.

Zainab: Don’t say it. Too obvious.

Fred: This is boring. Skip to the end.

. . . [snip, snip]
Most people have beta testers to try out commands, but since I have no friends, I am sure I have more of my share of inconsistent or silly responses in this game.

Lucy: Andrew, here’s a hint: think of all the behaviors encouraged in this game . . . and try doing the exact opposite the next time you come in contact with any human being you haven’t already hopelessly antagonized. It’s probably too late for your family, though.

Hopefully, the contest judges will report some problems to me.

Zainab: Don’t set your hopes too high. The judges have a great many entries to get through, and will probably not get past the first one or two scenes.

Maybe once this game is out on the internet I will be contacted by future players.

Jake: I’ve said it before and will say it again [sings]: “I’m always a cockeyed optimist / Immature and incurably green.“

Fred: Maybe he means players from the future, studying this game for hints on how the typical American family functioned in 1997.

A note to Allison - please correct my spelling and email me. Thanks.

Lucy: Didn’t he just say he has no friends?

Zainab: Allison changed her e-mail address to avoid him, so he can’t contact her directly but must put forth a public plea.

Jake: Allison caught the last train out of town.