Dreams and Tea Leaves (open beta)

My short experimental game, DREAMS AND TEA LEAVES, mixes the art of divination with the science of corporate IT. In this game, you play a young person who’s been given a shot at a job with the hottest new tech company, Ubiquity Incorporated, thanks to a favor from your ex’s current BF (how could that possibly go wrong?). Your challenge is to use your new-found fortune-telling skills, your investigative intuition, and your powers of logical deduction to figure out what’s going wrong with their computer systems and who (if anyone) is responsible.

It’s about 30K words, and is a complete (short) game that I wrote to illustrate some of the woes of corporate cybersecurity (which in the real world works slightly more reliably than reading tea leaves, but not always). Also, there are fewer parentheses in the game than there are here.

To play the demo, go here: https://dashingdon.com/play/nuclearpolymer/dreams-and-tea-leaves/mygame/
For gratuitous silliness, a demo of the Virtual Teacup app from the story is here: https://dashingdon.com/play/nuclearpolymer/virtual-teacup/mygame/

January 7, 2018: Doubled the number of investigative actions allowed on first day. Fixed the easy bugs reported. Added info about the divination app.

Any thoughts or feedback appreciated, especially your feelings about whether the answers to the investigations are too easy or too hard. It’s also helpful to hear about things that were confusing/surprising, and things that seemed different from other games/stories.


I just played through the game and I found it rather confusing. I understand the general idea and it wasn’t too bad though, it was still enjoyable. In my opinion it just could use some work.

The characters, including the MC, felt flat and have no real depth. The conversations with different people felt stiff and unnatural. I would like some different ways to reply to the different NPC’s, for example, if you’re going to present the person you’ve investigated in a professional or perhaps a dismissing way. Those choices could also affect how Margot and Rene (and the other NPC’s) opinions of and act towards the MC.

The text could have a better flow, lesser dots and be more descriptive.
The sections between each “next” button could be longer, just my personal opinion though.

When the MC investigated the people called “A”, “B” and so on, the files reveals which gender the person was and I feel like that shouldn’t be there if the person is to remain anonymous for the moment.

Explain more when the MC uses the Virtual teacup app, how it’s used and what it means.

The end felt very hasty and when the president appeared, it just happened too fast. Also, I don’t believe the president of the company would personally come over there.

I don’t feel like you got enough information about the people the MC’s investigating before you have to make an assumption. So yes, I found it too hard but perhaps I just missed the signs.

To not be totally dissing your hard work, I did enjoy playing through it and you’ve done a good job in creating the game. (:


I like the premise and it’s well written, it was fun to read though. (This is all meant to be constructive crit since I did like it :slight_smile: )

It seems pretty linear (with similar responses to some of the things I checked but I haven’t checked all of it over twice), but with only 30,000 words to work with, that can’t really be helped unless you feel like lengthening it.

Personally I’d adjust the first investigation pace. I know you don’t want to give people enough time to investigate everyone, but you really only have enough time to talk very briefly to 3 people (less if you want to speak to their co-workers or do a divination.) It just seems like an hour to ask a couple of questions seems excessive and I’d like enough time to investigate a bit further.

I’d also like a bit more explanation about the teacup program. Maybe a bit more of a chance to experiment with it about random things or a readme. (Doesn’t have to be much, just a bit more background.)

The reporting may need some *if’s as well. I kept telling my boss about stuff I didn’t know (Like the church group and the stuffed animals even if I just used the divination app to make a call without speaking to anyone). With Van, I said his case needed follow up as something possibly wrong, and it said at the end that I didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. Possible bug?

With the following day, I also feel like I could have used more options. For example Person C has likely had some family troubles. Was it carelessness or by plan they disabled the virus protection? Since I’m only allowed to look at two things it’s hard to know. There’s also no rating on how high a priority they should be, just an investigate or don’t which means that most of them are going to be flagged simply because there isn’t enough info to make a call. You then get to the final page and it asks you for who is most likely a sabatour, and you are told information that you never found out. For example, I didn’t know that person C has a drinking problem. I’m pretty much basing my assessment on what I’m being told on that last screen more than the previous investigation because it is telling me more. It would be nice to be able to have the time to speak to at least some of the people properly, but the questions you ask/how you go about it determines what info you end up with rather than if you pick the right option of investigation which is random since you have very little info to go off when starting the investigation. For example, with the angry guy, if you demanded answers, he might blow up. If you ask people behind his back, they might be too nervous to speak to you being worried he might cause them trouble. If you go in as someone seriously investigating his complaints you might get a ‘sincere’ answer but have to judge whether you think he is telling the truth, delusional or lying based on what is said and the other info you have etc.

I also thought it would be good to have an option whether or not to tell Bobby Jamie is being investigated. I mean I decided I wanted to try and keep the job and distanced myself from his investigation to try and avoid the fall out if it turns out Jamie is doing bad things. I even have a good reason for it since he recruited me, there’s a definite conflict of interest happening. But why would I go straight to Bobbie when I’ve been told the whole thing is top secret and I under no circumstances should I let Jamie know there’s something going on. Bobby would be the last person (apart from Jamie himself) I’d tell. If I’m trying to distance myself so I can’t be blamed if Jamie is fired for doing something really bad, I’ve also just alerted his boyfriend (and my housemate) that I could have helped cover things up and didn’t. If you wanted to force the issue with this story point, it’d probably be better imo to have Bobbie call you saying that Jamie thinks something weird is going on in your department and then you can choose to tell him, or have him find out later and be annoyed with you for lying to him.

I also found the ending a bit confusing. As far as I could tell, I was doing pretty well with the crew and then it just kind of ended with no real explanation why we were all kicked off the project. It kind of felt a bit unsatifying which is a shame since I was really looking forward to some answers. I feel as if this might earn you some negative reviews if you plan to have this put up on hosted games. Would you consider extending the story? I feel it’d be worth your while if you would consider writing an extra chapter where you can get a few more conclusions or even an epilogue of sorts.

Edit: I peeked at the code. I’d really like this to be extended more. I think it could be a really good story, it just seems a bit rushed at the moment. I saw some of the conclusions you can draw include accusing various members of your team of deliberately covering up problems with the program or even deliberate scamming. This seems kind of odd to me since you weren’t investigating them and really know very little about them (only 2-3d on the job). While you might suspect the program is the root cause of some of the computer problems, you really can’t know that for sure and it seems like a serious jump to go from suspecting the program as a possibility and actually naming it and accusing team members of being part of the problem.

There’s been the possibility of deliberate hacks, a rival company trying to steal secrets/poach staff, disatisfied/disruptive staff and just general staff incompetance thrown into the mix as possibilities that you really haven’t had a chance to resolve/investigate properly yet. My personal opinion when playing this was that it was likely that the company itself was the problem. I mean you’re basically thrown into a job with no orientation, no job description and a 30 second conversation about what you’ll be doing and then set tasks you’ve got no chance of completing properly. Worse still they’ve got a complete newbie with no prior experience in this area making judgment calls on long term staff that will not only affect their future but the security and moral of the company. If this was the reception you got at the company, why would it be different for anyone else? Maybe the angry guy really does have a problem with stupid or unrealistic meeting schedules and disruptive calls. Maybe the church group lady doesn’t have the faintest clue she isn’t allowed to access the internet on the company computer for those purposes during her lunch break etc. Anyway, I’d love to see the pace slowed down a bit to allow for a better investigation and let you know your team members better before coming to a final conclusion. If you get the conclusion wrong, it’d be nice to have something extra in there rather than just an ending- you’re fired/transferred just to make it feel more complete.

Good luck with it :slight_smile:


@Jacic Thank you for reading and sharing your really thoughtful suggestions. It was particularly helpful that you mentioned a lot of specific points where you’d have liked different sorts of options, and that you mentioned things that were unexpected or puzzling. I really appreciate you taking the time to play though and write up this discussion. (Also, I love how you looked at the code for more info about what could happen!)

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@greentrx Thank you for checking it out, and sharing your suggestions! It’s very helpful to get feedback from an experienced reader, and I appreciate you taking the time to make notes about these things. Definitely sounds like the virtual teacup app needs more intro, and that the investigations should go longer.

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First of all, I REALLY LOVE the concept of the game and I find it extremely interesting and fun! I also enjoyed the tea leaf predictions it’s adorable :relaxed:

Secondly, a ‘‘notes’’ folder or something would be extremely helpful when collecting information on each investigation. Sometimes I forgot who was who and I messed up. A glossary of the leaves interpretation would be nice too.

Also on the first assignment, I was confused on how much time I had to question everyone and gather information. A Reminder on how much time I have left would be great. I agree with @Jacic In the end I asked each person only one question and based my report on assumptions.

The second assignment was very confusing in general. No matter what you do I don’t think you have much information to come to a conclusion in the end. Also no matter what you do the ending is always the same with no explanation. I never managed to get a good outcome :confused:

I know it is not the main focus on the game but more opportunities to know the other characters better and to build our character would make us more invested to the characters. For example, When given the option to protect Jamie I never choose it because I know nothing about him, except that he dates my ex, and thus I do not really care about what happens to him. I do not know if Rene and Margot are douches so that i don’t feel bad when the president comes and fires (?) Them. Also the dreams about whether or not to accept Rene’s flirting or becomes friends with Margot doesn’t go anywhere, I’m not sure if that’s because this is a beta or it simply stays like that.

some erros/bugs

You cross your fingers and begin your investigations. actions_left +1

When choosing the 3rd time management option

What do I do now? Things are sure going to be awkward with Bobby if she thinks I got his boyfriend investigated for some kind of cyber crime.

Bobby is a guy

Sometimes I choose the same options but the housemate outcome changes each time.

That’s all! Again, I really enjoyed this game but these are some things that bugged me! I wish you the best! :relaxed:


I may be repeating but I find it really hard when you have only one action for each investigation if you want to question everyone. I mean, 1hour just because of an app which just show you an image? I find it shocking. Moreover, as for the conclusion part, I think it confusing because I said “I think her actions are not suspicious” about the LEGO person but the one in charge told me that no, she was not and that is because she is having trouble with fans. But in what is that her fault? Her attitude is normal. She even said that she was a good person. Actually, I think the other conclusion would not be suited either because they say either “she is acting unusual but it is not a problem”, “she is acting strange and need to be investigated but is not doing a problem” or “she is a problem”. But she is not the problem but the fans are. So I would like the choices to be more precise because I am having a hard time to choose. Also for the plush girl, how would have we know that having a side job was forbidden? I am not sure that was mentioned. For the phone problem, it is a system problem, no his fault too. Actually I could have confused his problem with tardiness because that is unusual to be that late.

But I really enjoyed the phone app. Now that I think about it, no many game have a app inside a game. I find the debut good too. I did not get past the conclusion part because I replay every time I am wrong. perfectionist


i like this, but for the second case i feel the investigation is too short so i don’t get the full picture. i was confused as why we don’t get to investigate all suspects, even though i choose to “investigate further” on them all. and after that we have to determine who is guilty even though we just investigate 1 person.
for the first case i liked it but don’t see Van coming :sweat_smile:

@cookiemonsta Thank you for reading and for sharing your reactions. I’m definitely hearing that readers feel like the first day’s investigation of five suspects didn’t have enough time for action, compared to the amount of possible information and things to try. Also, your point and @greentrx, that the characters didn’t have enough there to get the reader motivated to worry about them, is helpful. And thanks for noting the bugs, too. I appreciate you taking the time.


@LikeGames Thank you for reading and offering comments. Even if sometimes people have the same reactions, it’s helpful to hear it from multiple people, because otherwise it can be hard to know if it is a common or uncommon reaction. It’s definitely helpful to hear about the choices that seemed to not fit what readers would want to do, and points of confusion. Thanks!

@blob Thanks for reading, and for your suggestions!


You’re probably wondering what that dream was all about, aren’t you? I know most people your age don’t really believe in woo-woo New Age hocus-pocus occult stuff.

I’m so in love with Mom right now. :joy::joy::joy:


Definitely an interesting start. Wish we could choose names though.

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I like the premise, and it’s funny.


You’re missing a word here.

This line is a little redundant. Maybe reword it a little?
(f.x Looking at the bell, you see words inscribed along the bottom edge: Listen to the…etc.)

@Hannah_Minger - Thank you for reading and sharing your feedback & edits!
@lokidemon007- Thank you for bringing up the idea of choosing names, and I agree it would be a good thing to add.
@TimberWoolf - Thanks for checking it out :slight_smile:

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Finally a game about the complications, and potential subtle biases that can creep into training machine learning algorithms! It’s the sort of concept that I never knew I needed.

That said, I do feel a little unsatisfied with the ending I got, suddenly being fired with no explanation along with everyone else on the project. It seemed like a diabolus ex machina-- the upper management had never been mentioned previously iirc and it comes off as a little strange that a leading executive would be waiting outside a meeting room ready to pounce in and shut down a project the second it gives him an answer he doesn’t like. Admittedly, this could be part of the point, and the new employee being fired is certainly realistic, but was still a little frustrating.

@Gregory_Maus - Thank you for reading, and I appreciate the feedback. I think I need to go in and do a re-balancing pass so that players are not failing skills checks so frequently during the sleuthing, so that they will be able to solve more of the cases, so that more people can reach a happier ending. (Also, expanding the mid-game narrative to avoid the coming out of left field feeling for some of the stuff at the end.) It’s helpful to get reactions from people to hear about what feels confusing or interesting — thanks for taking the time!

Honestly, I wasn’t even aware that there were skill checks, or character stats.

(Also, expanding the mid-game narrative to avoid the coming out of left field feeling for some of the stuff at the end.)

That might be helpful in maintaining a more consistent narrative flow. Honestly, I was personally uninterested in the whole roommate situation (which was a fair bit in the mid-game), being much more focused on the office investigations, so it’s possible that I missed something.

Happy to help! It’s a wonderful concept and with some fine-tuning it could be truly excellent.

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