[CONTEST] *SPOILERS* Forms.Z5

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chris markwyn

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Oct 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/23/96
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[Again, spoilers for OF FORMS UNKNOWN:]

All right, here's the deal with my game, OF FORMS UNKNOWN, which has aroused a
slight bit of controversy (at least 3 or 4 posts.) I finished the game on 14
October, sent it to Whizzard, thinking I had tested it sufficiently. Then,
after the entries were uploaded, I get several reports that my game is actually
unwinnable. These all deal with one of the final puzzles in the game, where
the player must assemble three objects (a rod, a wheel, and an odd device) into
a final device which will allow him/her to escape, etc, etc. Apparently, the
game won't accept any inputs like "screw rod into wheel" or such because of
nasty noun disambiguation errors.

So I went back and looked at my copy of forms.z5, and lo and behold, it
wouldn't accept those inputs either! This confused me, since I thought I had
checked that the game was in fact winnable. But the whole thing was rather
finished in a rush, and the end game section was added nearly at the last
minute, so I just assumed I had been a moron.

I e-mailed Whizzard and asked if it was okay that, since my game had a big ol'
bug, if I fixed it and uploaded a new version. He said that since it pretty
much killed the game, it would be all right. As far as I knew, there were no
established regulations on bugfix releases. I thought that last year people
had often fixed games in the middle of the competition, but maybe I'm not
remembering correctly.

I uploaded Release 2 of FORMS.Z5 to gmd.de, and Volker posted a note on
r.a.i-f. Then someone, I can't remember who (sorry), objected to letting
authors fix bugs in the middle of the competition.

However, I then went back today to my original copy of FORMS just to make sure
that it was unwinnable. So I tested every possible combination of object and
verb and such with the three devices, and found the following combination:

>screw odd device to rod
You screw one end of the rod into the circle. They fit together seamlessly.

>i
You are carrying:
an odd device and rod
a burning torch (providing light)
a thin metal wheel
a warm jacket (with nothing in the pockets)

>screw wheel to odd device
You screw the other end of the rod into the wheel's hub. They fit together
seamlessly.

>i
You are carrying:
an assembled device
a burning torch (providing light)
a warm jacket (with nothing in the pockets)

This works. (I found some other nasty bugs, too, that let you have not only
the separate wheel and rod, but the assembled one at the same time, too, but
that's another story.) So therefore the game is not unwinnable, it just has a
stupid guess-the-verb-and-noun-form problem at the end game.

So this puts me in a bit of a difficult position. Most likely, some people out
there have played Release 1 of FORMS, didn't find the right syntax, threw it
down in disgust, and gave me a low score. Others may have only played Release
2, solved it now that the bug has been fixed, and are dazzled with my
brilliance and elegance of design. :) Still others may have played both
versions and give me a score somewhere in the middle.

More to the point, however, I have a moral dilemma. I fixed the bugs and
uploaded a new version believing that my game was fatally flawed and
unwinnable. This is the _only_ reason I did so. If the bug had merely been
annoying but not insurmountable, I would have gritted my teeth and lived with
it. I also believe that the reason Whizzard let me submit a new version is
because the first seemed to be unwinnable.

But since the bug is in fact just a highly annoying one, I feel as if I should
stick with Release 1, the first buggy version. However, I don't really have a
problem with bug fixes, as long as they are major and not just "Well, people
didn't like this puzzle, so I'll take it out." If other authors find bugs and
want to release new versions, I, as an author, don't really have a problem with
that. But if other authors _do_ have a problem with that, I think that I
should probably withdraw the second version.

I don't know. I can't really be objective about my own situation. How do
other people (authors, judges, Whizzard) feel? Would you prefer I withdrew the
second version, or not? What kind of policy should be established on bugfixes?

Chris Markwyn | Text adventures: ftp.gmd.de
mark...@carleton.edu | Read rec.[arts|games].int-fiction
Carleton College, Northfield MN |

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Oct 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/23/96
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My opinion has already been posted: that the contest deadline
is the contest deadline, and that a game-killing bug is not
qualitatively different from a minor bug or an awkwardly-written
paragraph. I know my views seem extreme, but I feel that if we
are to set rules, we ought to abide by them.

However, I have already cast my vote, and cast it in accordance
with my views. Let others cast their votes in accordance with
theirs.


--
Carl Muckenhoupt | Text Adventures are not dead!
b...@tiac.net | Read rec.[arts|games].int-fiction to see
http://www.tiac.net/users/baf | what you're missing!

Nulldogma

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Oct 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/23/96
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> I don't know. I can't really be objective about my own
> situation. How do
> other people (authors, judges, Whizzard) feel? Would you > prefer I
withdrew the
> second version, or not? What kind of policy should be
> established on bugfixes?

I say leave it, since it's a done deal. However, I think it would behoove
Whizzard to make a solid rule about bug fixes from now on -- I'd recommend
"Once the deadline is past, you're stuck with what you uploaded, fatal
bugs or no." (Until after the competition's over, of course, when you
should fix everything.)

Anyway, bugs (most of which seem to be manifesting themselves as
guess-the-verb) are only causing me to downgrade games by a point or two
at most, whereas poor writing and design will plummet a game all the way
the the nether regions of the scale. I much prefer guess-the-verb
(especially when there are hints) to
guess-what-on-earth-the-author-could-possibly-have-been-thinking...

Neil
---------------------------------------------------------
Neil deMause ne...@echonyc.com
http://www.echonyc.com/~wham/neild.html
---------------------------------------------------------

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Oct 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/23/96
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Mind you, winnability isn't the be-all and end-all of games anyway.
Look at The Canterbury tales. It's unfinished. We never get to
find out who wins the wager. And yet it's ranked among the classics
of English literature.

Forms had several other bugs, which I have notified the author about,
but it didn't fall apart until the very end - which is the best place
to fall apart, really. Thus, I rate it much higher than that JACL
game, whose bugs kept me from seeing very much of the game at all.

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