His Majesty’s Royal Space Navy Service Handbook

A text adventure of paperwork, office politics, and sci-fi space battles.

It’s Friday night and Sheryl hasn’t yet left the office. That isn’t unusual; she’s a dedicated service member of His Majesty Smurg IV, the Decisive’s Royal Space Navy, and she spends far more time at the office than her tiny apartment. Just as she is packing her bag, however, the phone at her desk rings, she answers, and discovers her boss on the line. He has a special assignment that only Sheryl Swift, Sub-Lieutenant of the Human Resources Command, can accomplish.

Announcing His Majesty’s Royal Space Navy Service Handbook, my new parser text adventure written in Inform 7 and made for the 2023 SeedComp game jam!

You can play online or download the file over on the game’s itch.io page. To play the downloaded file you’ll need an interactive fiction interpreter (I know, interactive fiction is a weird, fussy genre of video games). You can find a list of popular interpreters at https://www.ifwiki.org/Glulx_interpreters (for Windows, I like “Windows Glulx”).

The company I worked for imploded and I needed a fresh, creative outlet to distract me from the emotionally draining process of applying for a new job. I needed something to dream about when I wasn’t putting my heart and soul into cover letters for jobs whose companies can’t be bothered to even send a rejection email. I’m feeling a little disrespected right now, as you might can tell.

I still love my X-Men text adventure, but that project is just so very big, and I needed a project that I could start, finish, and feel good about. I had never participated in a game jam before. (A game jam is when someone poses a prompt and participants have to make games within a very short period of time using that prompt.) My schedule was never free and I never felt strong enough in any one game making-engine to deal with the tight turnaround of a game jam. But, now I’ve got plenty of time! And, I’ve worked in Inform 7 long enough that I could quickly put together a game without thinking twice about the programming!

I stumbled across the announcement of a new game jam called SeedComp. The idea of SeedComp is that it unfolds over two phases. The first phase has participants creating a bunch of prompts (the seeds) which all get thrown into a list. Then, for the second phase, participants pick their favorite seed(s) and make a work of interactive fiction inspired by it.

Perusing the list, I saw a “seed” that was a draft of a fictional employee handbook. It was, for the most part, written in the dry style expected of such a document, but it had a couple absurd lines that immediately captured my imagination. (You can check out a copy of it here.) Looking at other seeds in that list was a forgone conclusion; this one had already began to geminate in my mind.

My plan for His Majesty’s Royal Space Navy Service Handbook (HMRSNSH) came together very quickly and I’m happy with my process. I sat down and actually wrote out on paper the puzzles and plotted the general flow of the game, instead of my usual game-making approach of “building the bridge while I’m crossing it.” (I’m reminded of an old Emily Short blog post where she details different approaches to designing a new game.) A frenzy of writing and programming later, after a crew of wonderful testers took the game through its paces, I had a final version ready to upload.

I hope you’ll at least poke at HMRSNSH for a bit. I’m really proud of this little world I built and the characters I assembled, and I think you’ll like it too.