Vast


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Rating: 3.3/5 (100 votes)
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Vast

Starchild You know what it's like when you go to a foreign country and you don't speak the language? And then you take hats and keys and scarves from some people and give them to others, and they all jump with excitement? No? Well, maybe that's just me. But if you want to know what it's like, try Vast by Johannes Jensen and Takorii, a strangely alluring experimental minimalist game in which you are the only red thing among lots of black things.

Vast It starts out very simply: hold down the left mouse button to walk and explore your surroundings. When you encounter another person, click on their speech bubble to interact with them. Now, this is where it gets tricky – you see, they all talk in symbols and you've left your English-to-alien dictionary at home. But you can tell from their body language that they aren't happy and, since you're a thoroughly decent chap (not to mention that you have nowhere else to go), you stop and try to help. They respond by either staying glum and uttering a single strange sign, or by giving you an item that starts dragging behind you, which you can then give to someone who needs it. The map in the bottom right corner is your best friend; it's rudimentary and stubbornly erases your footsteps behind you, but it will make your life much easier. On the other hand, if you like a challenge, try playing without looking at it and without swearing at the screen.

Vast is a little game with a big heart. It is stripped down to a bare minimum, and yet it gives you an impression of stumbling upon an entire tiny world. You feel like a stranger, what with your outlandish colour and all the noise you make when you walk. You don't know what the people are saying, but still you do your best to understand them because they seem to need a helping hand, and you feel all warm and fuzzy when you make them happy. For a game made in 72 hours, it sure has a lot to say about being kind to strangers. So next time you're on holiday in France, you might look at a mime and hate them a little less.

Play Vast

Walkthrough Guide


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Vast Glossary of Symbols

  • There are three basic parts of speech in the Vastese language: nouns, verbs, and exclamations. Nouns always appear in circular speech bubbles, verbs in square bubbles, and exclamations in octagonal bubbles.

  • There are fifteen nouns, four verbs, and two exclamations. This is a translated list of the verbs and exclamations; I can't translate the nouns because their meanings are shuffled every game.

  • The "yes" sign is made to imitate a smiling face, whereas the "no" sign represents a scowl.

  • The "take" and "give" signs (-| and |-, respectively) are inverted versions of one another, to indicate their opposing nature, and are made to suggest outstretched hands. The "trade" sign (-||-) is the preceding two signs combined-- literally "give and take".

  • The "pick up" sign (=|) is a doubled version of the "take" sign, meant to indicate a more forceful acquisition of the object. Be careful not to get the two confused; to "=|" something from a person means to steal it!

  • Although it's not given in-game, one can only infer that "|=" would mean to discard an object... or perhaps to force it on someone who doesn't want it, depending on its usage. "=||=", therefore, would mean... actually, I'd probably better stop there.

18 Comments

dsrtrosy Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 9:34 AM

Very cute. The only thing I never quite figured out was whether there was a rhyme or reason to the symbols for the items. I didn't see a relationship, so I just wandered around gathering up goodies and handing them out when someone was willing to take them!

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SonicLover Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 9:42 AM

Vast Glossary of Symbols

  • There are three basic parts of speech in the Vastese language: nouns, verbs, and exclamations. Nouns always appear in circular speech bubbles, verbs in square bubbles, and exclamations in octagonal bubbles.

  • There are fifteen nouns, four verbs, and two exclamations. This is a translated list of the verbs and exclamations; I can't translate the nouns because their meanings are shuffled every game.

  • The "yes" sign is made to imitate a smiling face, whereas the "no" sign represents a scowl.

  • The "take" and "give" signs (-| and |-, respectively) are inverted versions of one another, to indicate their opposing nature, and are made to suggest outstretched hands. The "trade" sign (-||-) is the preceding two signs combined-- literally "give and take".

  • The "pick up" sign (=|) is a doubled version of the "take" sign, meant to indicate a more forceful acquisition of the object. Be careful not to get the two confused; to "=|" something from a person means to steal it!

  • Although it's not given in-game, one can only infer that "|=" would mean to discard an object... or perhaps to force it on someone who doesn't want it, depending on its usage. "=||=", therefore, would mean... actually, I'd probably better stop there.

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Leemondo Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 10:40 AM

That was the most pointless thing I have seen!

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smjjames Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 10:45 AM

This reminds me of another game that you guys reviewed a LONG time ago (deep in the archives, you should put it up after an archive scan through sometime) called Tork which is based on a similar theme of not knowing the native language and trying to figure it out.

When I read the premise about language, I was immediately reminded of Tork.

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smjjames Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 10:52 AM

@Leemondo: I agree that this one wasn't well executed, however, try Tork maybe? Similar thing, just better done.

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Wow... I've never wanted to be so unkind to a game this cute before. Granted it was made in 72 hours but really? Is this even a game? Not so much a waste of time as it was a time thief.

I rarely ever resort to emoticons, however...

o_0

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the Jack Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 12:05 PM

Aren't all games (aside from ones which offer the opportunity to win a tangible material prize) essentially pointless?

Not that that makes them any less fun...

This game had fantastic visual style for a Ludum Dare entry! People, landscape elements and objects were all both easily identified and charmingly whimsical -- achieving both with game graphics takes many designers much longer than 72 hours, even without having to worry about gameplay, code, bugfixes, etc. (And I didn't encounter any bugs, which is also impressive in any Ludum Dare competition entry.) I think the trees were my favorite.

Granted, I'm a sucker for games that have a linguistic hook, like Vast does. I know there are a number of IF (aka text-adventure) games that include puzzles in which one or more characters speak only in a language unknown to the player, or where the game's interface itself presents a language puzzle. In some of the games I'm thinking of, that's represented with symbols, as was done here; other times it's done with alphabetic representations of the sounds of the unknown language.

The names of other games with a language-barrier mechanic (aside from Tork) are escaping me at the moment, though I know I've found at least a couple of them thanks to reviews here. Maybe it's time for a tag specifically for these sorts of games...?

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the Jack Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 12:09 PM

Also, big thanks to SonicLover for the elucidation of how the language works!

The fact that

the nouns' symbols change every game

is frustrating on the one hand, but provides replayability on the other -- something most games with linguistic puzzles lack.

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Ok, it was short enough, but it could've needed indicators on the map where there are people you have met already.
Also, the "frowns" flying away in a random direction upwards was pretty confusing, thought it meant the item of desire was in that direction.

Beside that though, a very atmospheric and amazing game, considering it was for Ludum Dare.

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slacker.hacker Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 1:39 PM

I enjoyed both the visual style and the symbols the authors used. The general atmosphere was nice (can't comment on the sound, though - had to keep the sound off).

However, I think the biggest problem with this game is the fact that you don't have to use the symbols at all. I was able to beat this by methodically going up and down columns on the map, interacting with people when I saw them and making mental notes of where the "unsatisfied" people were.

Nonetheless, this was only created in 72 hours, so I shouldn't complain. I look forward to seeing what they could with more time.

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cute little game. refreshing design. but i cut it short after a while, because:
1) what Nathanyel said about marking met & unsatisfied people on the map.
2) if the idea is basically cool, after a while it gets boring to run around to & fro, there should be another type of interaction than just bringing stuff to people - maybe sounds when touching some landscape elements.. i dunno ~
but a slightly pimped version of that game'd be nice ^^

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Cale Gibbard Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 4:09 PM

If people want a game which imposes a more serious need to understand a constructed language, try The Gostak, by Carl Muckenhoupt (IF archive entry here).

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dsrtrosy Author Profile Page May 1, 2013 7:27 PM

Ah, that was my question--not the conversational icons but the nouns. So, if they change every game, then they are truly unconnected to the items you are receiving/giving. That would be my one critique, then--it would be more of a "game" if you could figure out a pattern that matched the items in some way in order to know if you had something someone might want. For a Ludlum game, however, I really liked it.

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Lovely style, but the problem is that it's just a bunch of arbitrary fetch quests.

It was nice that there was some logic to the symbols but I ignored them completely.

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The game lags to no end, even on low quality (I can play TF2 on max settings). The fetch quests are nonsensical, and the map incomplete.

Attempting a symbolic language is interesting, but as others pointed out, it was better executed before.

I don't know what depressing world these people live on, but the music sounded like one giant funeral procession. Not bad per se, but nonsensical.

Even for a game made in 72 hrs, this is pretty bad. The graphics were kinda cute, I guess.

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I completed it, but had no satisfaction, because I didn't figure out the system, and didn't have to. It was essentially guess-and-check.

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It was cute, but I don't get it. It needed a little bit more direction. Considering it was made in a short time it was not bad. It functioned well which is often more important than knowing what to do in a game, if a game malfunctions making play difficult it makes you not want to play it. This game was playable.

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i would prefer a walkthrough as a map with the items and to who give them to.

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