The model of time travel is indeed in the flavour of real quantum mechanics,
but the details are of course fictitious. I really did want a consistent
model of time travel that worked as interactive fiction. In particular,
it wouldn't do to be able to influence your past self as it would be hard
to get a response in line with what you (the player) would have done.
This is much more of a problem for interactive fiction than linear fiction.
My model does preserve consistency of experience (which is good!) but
doesn't prevent all paradoxes (which is bad). In particular, inanimate
objects could cause paradoxes without causing inconsistent experiences.
It is not trivial to find examples, but a timed explosive device sent
back in time (without any person going with it) is a good starting place.
A full response to time-travel would have to deal with such cases, but
they cannot be set up within All Things Devours. Perhaps a future
game might address this. I don't think it is too hard to deal with elegantly.
Oh, and matter can indeed be transformed into energy (photons). This is
(roughly) what gives atomic bombs their power, however no protons or neutrons
are being destroyed in that case -- it is just the binding energy being
released. The pure transformation of mass to energy is only known to occur
in matter anti-matter reactions. It is 100% efficient and that is much
more efficient than nuclear fusion or fission. Indeed, a back of the envelope
calculation tells me that it releases about fifteen times as much energy
as a Hydrogen bomb of the same mass. One person's worth would indeed level
much of Boston.
Speaking of Boston, I had originally set the game in Oxford (where I study)
but it just seemed a bit unreal (as things do over here). I decided to
set the lab in MIT and Boston, as it seemed a realistic location for this
kind of lab as well as being more familiar and natural to most people.
A consequence of this is that I had to shift the spelling and idioms over
to US English: see the 'flashlight' and 'first floor' for examples. Hopefully
there aren't too many mistakes, although I am sure a 'colour' slipped
in somewhere. Of course I allow synonyms in the Queen's english. Only
this and the lab names still reflect the Oxford heritage.
One of the joys of time travel is making copies of things. Obviously the
copies of yourself are the major feature of All Things Devours.
The battery puzzle is also prominent, and was a joy to think up. Hopefully
it wasn't too easy to solve. I had originally planned to put the battery
in the first floor equipment room which would have made the solution harder
to spot, but this made things too time consuming for the player and I
realised they probably couldn't solve it in the competition's two hour
limit. Guess where it is going to be found in the new version...
See how many copies of an item you can make. In theory it is exponential
in the number of times you use the prototype. However, it will be less
for some items in practice during the game as there are many other constraints
on your time. See if you can get four flashlights at one time and still
fix things up in order to win. Unfortunately, since I have to keep track
of all of the locations of the different objects (according to all past
selves) I don't have enough memory to allow too many uses of the prototype.
The maximum number is two, but this limit is not usually a problem during
normal play. If there is sufficient demand, I may increase it for the
There are many ways to cause an inconsistency and I spent far too long
coding them all. Please indulge me and try to find a few of the more obscure
ones. In particular, there are even a few sarcastic messages for the more
silly ones. If you can find an inconsistency I haven't handled then please
let me know.
Originally things were arranged slightly differently in the complex and
the solution was tighter. I like the additional flexibility in having
a bit more time, as it allows more different solutions. It also means
that one might actually be able to solve it within the two hour competition
limit. However, I will re-release a version after the competition with
two modes, a flexible mode like the current one and a more difficult mode.
The difficult mode will have only a few changes, but will require a more
The title poem is by J.R.R. Tolkien and is a riddle found in The Hobbit.
The answer, of course, is time. I thought it set a nice tone
for the piece. Originally I had set up the ending to interleave the poem
and text in a way that is perhaps reminiscent of the Simon and Garfunkel
song 7 O'Clock News / Silent Night or Tim Buckley's song Goodbye
and Hello. I thought it would be very interesting to try this technique
in text. Unfortunately it turned out that this had been done in a rather
famous piece of interactive fiction, Slouching Towards Bedlam.
I therefore changed it at the last minute to avoid looking too much like
a pale imitation of this excellent work (despite the fact that I was not
acquainted with Slouching when I wrote Devours). If
you want to see the original style ending, type 'interleaving on' during
After the competition and the release of the updated version, I will release
all the source code for those who are interested in it. I am by no means
the neatest coder, but it should be decipherable. The source is in the
Inform programming language, which is one of the more common