I was a playtester on a couple of games so couldn't rate them (Cattus
Atrox, Spacestation Transcript) and wasn't able to play the two DOS-
only games. I don't have access to HTML from home, so I missed all
the HTML-TADS finery, and played Photopia in B&W.
My raw ratings went from 2 to 8, a change from last year's 1 to 9. I
rescaled them a bit for voting, but in general that range reflects how
I felt about this year's competition. Not nearly as many really
bad games: not as many that really grabbed me either.
These reviews were written before I read anyone else's. Looking
back over them there are things I might change, but I won't.
I played the B&W version due to limitations of available
interpreters, so no comments on the colors.
As a story Photopia is beautifully constructed: the non-linear
storytelling works, both the literal and the symbolic segments
carry their weight, and the writing is moving. I found myself
wondering if it had to be so sad, but that's true to its material.
(An aside to the author--is this based on a true story?)
It took me quite a while to realize that this tremendously non-
linear story is a tremendously linear game. While the player's
actions do have some effect (I went back and tried to pull
Alley out of the pool the instant I heard the splash, because I
felt guilty about it, and the game does accomodate that choice)
the effects appears to be very limited indeed--for long periods
the player is not doing anything that hitting WAIT wouldn't
accomplish, or else is being strongly cued as to what to do.
I'm not saying this is a bad thing. While there is little
interactivity, there is plenty of complicity, as my guilt over
Alley in the pool demonstrates: so the story would not have
worked as well in a non-interactive medium. (I also feel bad
about the first and last scenes, but here the interactivity
appears to be a complete illusion: at least, if there was
anything I could do I never discovered it.) For long stretches
the game's unusual structure worked for me. Only at a couple
of points, most notably Alley's dream about the sea queen, did
the lack of interaction translate to lack of engagement.
I needed hints twice during the story-telling scenes: both times
I typed HELP and a hint was provided smoothly without any
interruption of the narrative. This was very well handled.
The biggest problem I had with the game was in my initial reaction
to the storytelling scenes. Dropped without explanation into
the tale of Wendy-the-astronaut, I didn't guess that she was a
child: instead, I was constructing a rather ugly scenario in which
she was a token woman, chosen for looks rather than brains,
completing a meaningless mission purely for the publicity
value. This left a bad flavor in my mouth for some time even
after I realized what was going on. I'm not sure how to fix this
problem, if indeed it was a problem for anyone else.
I don't think the format would support much replaying. I'm curious
as to how bushy the decision tree actually is--are there whole
scenes I missed? Heaven help me, is it possible to get to a
different ending?--but not curious enough to sit through the
static parts of the game repeatedly. I think they would rapidly
lose their effectiveness.
The technical aspects of the game were fine. The conversation menus
were faintly offputting in appearance, but that may just be that
I'm not used to seeing them in IF; in any case, this really is a
game for which standard IF conversation would probably not have
worked at all. I would have liked "examine me" to give a little
more detail when I was Wendy, but that's minor.
Trapped in a One-Room Dilly
One room games really had a bloom this competition. I ended up
playing "Enlightenment" and "Dilly" back to back, which makes it
difficult not to compare them. "Dilly" is a little more
plainly written, with puzzles closer to common sense (though
also closer, at times, to random searching). The prose is not
as stylish, but it's also free from "Enlightenment"'s sometimes
I had fun playing the game. With many of the puzzle-fests I
got frustrated quickly and resorted to hints: here I made
progress fast enough, and enjoyed the process enough, to stick
with it. I believe I was helped by the necessity to search for
objects: in "Enlightenment" I had everything at the beginning,
or nearly so, and there were so many objects and possible
interactions that it was daunting.
Only two puzzles (out of quite a few) struck me as
problematic. I could see the solution to the overall numbers
puzzle, but I couldn't figure out how to say it; and the very
last puzzle relies on manipulating an object in a way not
usually allowed in text adventures, with no cuing (i.e.
near misses didn't get encouraging responses.)
The tone of the game is quirky and hard to describe, but it's
consistent and engaging. I particularly liked the clock painting,
the doll (even though the single bit of "assigning reactions to
the character" felt odd in a game that otherwise doesn't do that),
and the handling of the ending.
The hints were very well done, though previously viewed hints
should (if possible) all unfold at once, not have to be paged
The game particularly shines in describing complex widgets
reasonably clearly--I could almost always figure out what I
was supposed to be seeing. A few more synonyms in spots
would help, but on the other hand I was pleasantly suprised that
a game with this many panels and coins had so few disambiguation
problems. My only other criticism of the coding is that a few
objects are "fake" (especially the bookshelves and notched
panel)--they have one use and don't exist for other purposes.
This would be okay in a more expansive game but is annoying
in a one-roomer.
This is an odd game, uneven, sometimes funny, sometimes chokingly
thick with in-jokes and references. As a tutorial it's not particularly
helpful, except for the look at coded objects (most not very complex,
but still interesting). As a pastiche it has good and bad spots--I
liked the guard, the spell turning into an insect, and the thief. The
coding has some flaws--Toad is so lightly implemented that he's painful,
the crowbar sometimes glows even when you don't have it, and so forth.
I want a Codex Helmet to take home with me! It's a truly nifty
toy. I would have liked to see more along these lines: the idea of
Inform as a magic language seems as though it could be a lot of
fun (though doubtless a bear to code). Perhaps there's a whole game
in that idea by itself. As it is, I think my excitement over this
idea carried the game for me. Though the tone is different, this game
reminded me in significant ways of "A New Day" from Comp97: both
succeeded for me on ideas even when the executation wasn't quite spot-
The "final exam" was a little silly. Being able to type in an example
without syntax errors is a pretty shallow exercise. Better would be
a more detailed form of the quizzes, with perhaps a sample object to
act as a subject for the questions. In general, though, the game's
uncertainty as to whether it was entertainment or education showed
up most strongly at the end, to the mild detriment of playability.
Maybe "A New Day" could give some hints as to how to make the
code-examination more exciting or creepy.
I got through with no hints, which was somewhat gratifying, though
I used the helmet constantly so I'm not sure that's really "no
This is a complex nest of linked object puzzles, set against a Zork
pastiche background. The writing tone is flippant, but appropriately
so, and also manages to be scary once or twice (particularly near
The puzzles were clever and intricate: however, I got frustrated
quickly and resorted to hints. On consideration, I think
there were two problems holding me back from engaging with the puzzles.
One was a lack of clarity in descriptions: the gate was especially
problematic (I visualized a portcullis for a long time, but that will
never allow for the actual solutions). Also, the troll's ability to
throw things back would make much more sense if the PC were in a
corridor ending in the chasm, not a ledge along the side of the chasm
as the description implied.
The other difficulty I had with the puzzles was that wrong actions
didn't always get helpful or encouraging responses, so I ruled out
several solutions on the grounds of "clearly the game isn't richly
implemented enough to allow that". For example, at one point object
A must be attached to object B, but trying the equally reasonable
"attach B to A" gets a stock "you can't do that" error. Sometimes
this sort of cuing *was* present, and was greatly appreciated, but
too often it was not.
It may be that presenting all the objects at once overloaded my brain:
I'm not a very good puzzle solver. I noticed that "Dilly", which
presents the puzzles more slowly, was much easier for me to solve.
The hint system seemed a little buggy, but the hints themselves were
good: I would never have persevered without them. The snarky tone
in the hints seemed in the spirit of the game.
If someone was waxing nostalgic about the fun they had playing _Zork
II_ as a kid, this would *absolutely* be the game to give them. I've
seen a lot of pastiches, but this one really captures the spirit of
game-play as well as setting.
This game is set in a realistically-described nursery-rhyme land,
and requires the player to unravel several nursery rhymes. (I
wonder if players not from the US/England had any luck with it?)
It's well written and well coded, without jarring flaws in either.
I played the game through twice, with markedly different reactions.
The first time I was thinking "Only one solution per puzzle--seems
rather limited." I was also thinking "I don't like being chided for
things I mostly couldn't avoid doing if I wanted to progress."
The text in AMUSING makes it clear that both of these were
misconceptions. I went back, looking for alternative solutions,
and found a lot more game than I'd realized. I didn't
re-solve the game before my two hours ran out, but I got far
enough to confirm that, yes, there were alternative solutions, and
at least one didn't require reading the designer's mind, just thinking
about the puzzles in a different order. I liked the game *much*
better after I learned this. I don't know if this just indicates a
flaw in my approach as a player, or if there's something the game
could do to cue this earlier.
The writing tone was a bit jarring. I think the seam between nursery-
rhyme logic and physics logic bothered me--when the game says
"wolf" should I envision a timber wolf or Wile E. Coyote? Should
I be looking for magic solutions or physics ones? This made the
puzzles a lot harder, especially the first time through, and also
muddied my esthetic response to the game.
Some of the puzzles might profit from a bit more cueing in the
objects' responses to wrong solutions. Nothing you do with the
wool, except the right thing, is encouraging.
The NPCs were quite lively: I was particularly impressed that
Mary knew almost all of my stock (admittedly small) of knock-knock
jokes, and at least one more besides. The wolf stayed on the right
side of the "amusing/annoying" line.
The clues worked for me, though previously seen clues should
appear all at once, not have to be paged through. I also
found the closing off of the clues after the puzzle was solved
mildly annoying--if I am asking for a clue to a solved puzzle,
I must want it for some reason (in this case, to see if it
was a good one).
An exercise in surrealism.
This small game has an intriguing situation and some nice, albeit
spare, use of language. The coding is a bit flawed, however, which
hampered me in solving the puzzles--I kept dismissing the solutions
because I "knew" the game wasn't richly enough coded to have that
verb. I hit one awful disambiguation problem (involving the cable)
and several missing commands or awkward phrasings.
I wanted the tape to do more than it did--give a hint in some way,
maybe. I was fascinated by the idea of a game in which the player
had to follow a set of instructions and then pick the right spot
to diverge--rather like "Spider and Web", on consideration, and
this game reminded me of "Spider" quite a bit, but it didn't do as
much with the idea.
This could be quite a nice short piece with a little more work
on nouns and verbs. A few messages also seemed misleading, such
as the refusal of "up" even though there did turn out to be a
way to do it (and yet "up" works later in a rather less likely
situation). While I would normally be against the disabling of
standard features, it was less annoying here because the game was
so short (though still not necessary, in my opinion).
The Ritual of Purification
I am fond of the concept (an occult ritual of self-transformation)
and in spots the game backs it up with effective, if purple,
prose. But if a game is going to be intense in the way this one
tries to be, it doesn't get much slack for implementation. Breaking
mimesis is relatively more troublesome here than in a puzzle game,
and "Ritual" is pretty buggy. If you get the actions relevant to
the angel out of order they produce only blank lines. NPCs are
ignorant of essential topics. In general, you can't solve a puzzle
until you receive the clue, which breaks the mood if the player
happens to have the insight by herself.
Occultly speaking, it strikes me as a flaw that two of the solutions
to the quarter-puzzles are so similar, and that the daemon and hell
hound practically tell you exactly what to do. There is also less
interactivity than there could be, with a couple of long set-pieces
in which the ability to do anything is purely illusory.
With more polish I think I could like this one quite a lot. As it
stands, I was willing to play through twice and try a lot of the
AMUSING options. It's a nice length.
The ending was definitely the best part: I had a nice roll of doing
things as I thought of them and getting good responses, which I
really enjoy in a game (and which earlier parts of the game didn't
The final combat worked much better for me when I was female than
when I was male, which may be a psychological quirk of my own.
There is, however, an annoying bug in that the wraith's gender
is not set properly when the player is female, so the wraith
can't be referred to as "her".
I can't comment on the use of HTML-TADS here, only on text.
This game is well coded and cleanly written, with prose ranging from
workmanlike to very effective. However, a couple of design decisions
didn't work for me at all, which detracted greatly from the effect.
The protagonist is very Everyman, a corporate employee on his way
to a meeting with his boss. This doesn't give him adequate motivation
for much of what he has to do, especially the life-threatening parts,
but also some of the magpie-like object acquisition. I had the strong
feeling at many points that I was going forward with the adventure
only because the game required it in order to progress.
A large number of the puzzles hinge on "search everything", and again
this is unmotivated. This was particularly frustrating in the rebate
warehouse. Messages discouraged me from searching the desks and
piles of paper, so it didn't occur to me to search some other,
nominally ordinary, features of the room. (Also, "you wouldn't want
to steal someone else's mail" doesn't wash when you've already
stolen their cards, their dog, and their dog harness....) I found
the solution only by the accident of a disambiguation question.
This is standard text-adventure stuff, but I wasn't expecting it
and it did bother me.
The author deliberately made it impossible to die, but in a couple
of scenes this strains plausibility badly: the guards, in particular,
are absurdly ineffectual, and I don't see why the Plant operatives
let the characters go so easily at the end. They were just willing to
shoot down a large group of people--why not shoot the main characters?
Some of the scenes were really vivid--I liked the Moose Dog, the
fight outside the gates, the lightning striking the towers.
I enjoyed the slow buildup of suspicion about a major
NPC. The rebate warehouse was also a very well-realized location.
(The old schoolhouse was cardboard by contrast.) Creeping through
the plant was tense, and the descriptions generally allowed me to
visualize the action clearly. The puzzles, once I found all their
parts, were well done.
Little Blue Men
I have really mixed feelings about this game. It got my attention--
parts of it are tense, disturbing, they evoke fairly strong reactions.
One of the reactions, however, was "yick, do I have to play this?"
The relentless barrage of "the PC is a nasty person", so that there
was little chance I'd identify with him or care what happened to
him, got seriously annoying quite early on.
I almost missed that there's a whole game here by finding the
early-win branch early on (this competition has so many very short
games, I just thought it was another one).
There are some minor annoyances involving disambiguation: when
faced with a gray button and a bottle of gray pills, it's not very
logical that "push gray" gets an error about pills. There's a much
more serious set of bugs involving daemons. Daemons meant to
prevent you from doing something involve a certain character's
intervention, but they continue after he's dead. And it's
possible to get into a secret area and then be whisked mysteriously
out by a daemon continuing to run after it should have been
cancelled. (I don't think it's actually supposed to be possible
to get into the secret area before you shut that daemon off, but
it *is* possible, and the results are totally illogical.)
One necessary object is so inapparent that even after I read the
hint and knew where it was and what it was, I never managed to
see it in any description: I just had to pretend I knew it was
there. In general, I had to use the hints constantly; though
part of that was impatience, some of the puzzles were obscure.
Some bits are missing from the office: surely Furman had a chair?
One might expect Biedermeyer did too? Since many of the puzzles
seem best approached by "search everything, try everything, take
everything" it's noticable when something is missing.
On the other hand, some of the puzzles are quite nice: I like the
way the getting-rid-of-Benson puzzle involves so many steps, yet
is reasonably intuitive (I did several of the steps just on
spec, before I figured out the goal, and only needed hints
once). The writing tone is unpleasant, but it's consistent and
effective: two of the NPCs are quite clearly drawn. (The revelations
about Furman bugged me, but they bugged me in just the right
UNDO is your friend, and frequent SAVES are in order too.
I don't know what to say about the ending. It left a bitter taste
in my mouth, but it's consistent with the rest of the game. I think,
however, I might have been happier with the ambiguous ending from
"Dilly". (It's odd how closely related the endings of "The City",
"Dilly", and "Little Blue Men" are.)
Muse: An Autumm Romance
A period piece: past tense, historical setting, carefully described
protagonist who won't talk to people he's not been introduced to.
I'm reminded of Christminster quite a lot. The time system is
also Christminster's: time advances only to suit the plot.
It's prettily written and mostly well coded, though like most
games it's been beta-tested more near the beginning than near
the end. (Many locations are coded for day and make no sense at
night.) The NPCs work well when you are on the plot track, not
so well if you digress. Some of the NPC interaction commands were
problematic: specifically "ask x for y" often got nonsense results,
insisting that x was not in scope even when he plainly was.
The use of past tense and first person rather than second didn't
strike me as making much difference, except that the occasional
Dawson-speaking-to-me bits ("Do you want me to do that?") were
exceedingly jarring. "I didn't know that verb" was also bad. I'd
recommend an anonymous computer error message instead: "[unknown
verb]". For a while I had the impression that Dawson was telling
me this as a story, and I was a rather gauche child suggesting
things for him to do (and being refused). But this didn't feel
carried through consistently.
The hints are adequate but rather catty (I'm not a fan of fake
hints) and do not help if you diverge from the main path--
there are apparently other endings, but you're on your own to
find any of them. The Christminster-style timing is a problem
here: nothing advances if you dither, except during one
sharply timed sequence.
I found it cold, though. I didn't feel the protagonist's affection
for Konstanza; and the way he had to blunder around to work
through the plot further alienated me. Several of the "puzzles"
seemed very arbitrary, especially coaxing Konstanza to talk
and changing rooms (I actually thought of that, but abandoned
the idea after some discouraging error messages). I also didn't
like the way that the game seemed to close off without notice,
for example if Viktor was allowed to die. I want the game to
end, not just become stagnant, but I could find no way to proceed
to any ending after Viktor's death.
And somehow it just didn't look or feel or sound (whatever, I'm not
sure) like autumn.
The red-herring hints included a ghost and a fight scene. Call me
a philistine (I suspect the author would) but I missed them. I
don't necessarily dislike romances, but this one didn't work for
me as such.
I believe that the main problem was Konstanza, who is a bit too much
of an archetype to really resonate for me as a love interest. She
doesn't seem to have any interests or life outside of her family
history and her current situation. (This is exacerbated by the
abstracting away of small talk between her and the protagonist.)
I don't know if this is a male/female thing, but I just couldn't
feel the situation as at all romantic without having more sense of
a real, quirky, flesh-and-blood woman there. I know that would
be terribly hard to code, but there's no way around it if the romance
is to work for me. (I have only had IF romance work for me once,
in _Jigsaw_, but that at least proves it's possible.)
It's interesting that Konstanza has plenty of history, which is supposed
to flesh a character out, but that wasn't enough. I wanted to hear
her reacting to her environment more: noticing things, talking to
people. Instead she stands and stares a lot, or has conversations which
are abstracted away.
I will end by saying that it's a credit to the author that I can
criticize an NPC on such subtle grounds: he set himself a very hard
problem, and while he wasn't entirely successful, he got surprisingly
far with it.
Downtown Tokyo. Present Day.
A monster movie, from the dual point of view of hero and viewer.
Well, it's cute, original, and fairly well programmed, though I
think the text could give more help in figuring out what to do.
On the other hand, there's really very little to it. A few minutes'
diversion, that's all. The dual-viewpoint trick isn't used for
much of anything other than a couple of throwaway jokes.
The interactivity comes close to being an illusion in many spots--
there is nothing you can do, or only one thing. But this is
tolerable in such a short, simple game. The "graphics" are cute,
the reactions of people in the background shots are cute; I'm not
sure why the game as a whole didn't grab me more than it did. Maybe
I have a distaste for the player-as-movie-audience concept after
some bad experiences with it in roleplaying games. Maybe I'm just
really tired of giant monsters.
There's some really nice worldbuilding here, from the attractive
slight alienness of the initial scenes (they remind me of "Spider and
Web", and not in a bad way) to the blatant alienness of the later
ones. Good glimpses of character (I particularly like the squirrel),
But. It's really abominably coded. I was supposed to close the
bomb shelter door, but couldn't manage to refer to it successfully
(trapped in a disambiguation question with no way out). The couch
in the first room is covered with stuff, but empty when examined
or searched, and the stuff doesn't exist. Large numbers of
reasonable commands just don't work. The cord becomes invisible
halfway through its use in a puzzle--you're carrying it, but it's
neither in inventory nor in room descriptions. The walkthrough
refers to things like night coming, but night never comes.
Karl obnoxiously asks for things you've already given him (perhaps
they were given out of order?) and sometimes seems to say things
even when not present.
"Purple" was fun to read. It was not fun to play, though: too
much wrestling with the parser. And the final extended puzzle
didn't work even as fiction--I wasn't able to suspend disbelief
for this exercise of mad science. Something a little more
mundane would be better.
This can't have been betatested much at all. Pity, too: it has
a lot of potential. I hope the author will do another round of
beta and re-release it. There's a jewel in here somewhere, but
it's really rough right now.
The Persistance of Memory
The situation is arresting, and the prose is good, though it could
be a little wordier--what kind of houses? What color is the mud?
Unfortunately, if you are going to pin the player in one spot,
you really have to allow for the broadest possible range of actions
from that spot that you can. Otherwise it quickly becomes
frustrating and alienating. This is where "Persistance of Memory"
fell down: there were just too many unrecognized commands,
giving me the feeling of being trapped by the parser rather than the
I feel that more effort should have been made to avoid the learn-
by-dying syndrome, since it greatly diluted the emotional impact.
For example, the game could have said "Your training made it
graphically clear what will happen if you step off an armed mine"
rather than blowing the PC up. The game would be most emotionally
effective if played through in one pass (rather like "Photopia")
but it is so lethal, as it stands, that this is practically
There were also places where alternative solutions would be very
good. What happens if the PC throws his gun down and shows open
hands, for example? (The game simply doesn't allow this.)
There is some attempt to hint at actions within the text, but these
hints are sometimes too blatant. The regular hints frustrated me
quite a lot at first: I was looking for "how do I get off the land
mine" and presumed when I didn't find it that I was just being
stupid (stuck on the very first puzzle!). This should probably
be listed, if only with a nudge that you can't do it.
With more attention to details of coding, "Persistance of Memory"
could be quite effective: the central image will certainly stay
Where Evil Dwells
A house exploration game: this gives it a hurdle to overcome, since
house exploration has been really common in the competition.
"Evil"'s first problem is that it's not sure what tone it's
aming for: purple-prose Lovecraft, wise-aleck humor, hard-boiled
detective. The combination didn't work for me: the purple
prose was kind of fun, but it was undercut by silliness like
the imp. If I tried to respond to the game as humor, the purple
prose was just tedious, not funny. The imp wasn't funny anyway.
Its second problem is that the plot and setting are very well-
worn indeed, and it doesn't show much flair in using them.
Evil painting; secret laboratory; kitchen with disgusting
things in it; ordinary bathroom; diaries revealing the plotline....
In a couple of places the writing sparkles, but not enough to
overcome the routine storyline.
Its third problem is that the puzzles are either boring (look
somewhere to find a key, look around to find a matching lock) or
unmotivated (give the monster something that needs opening--
why would I expect to get it back?)
And the final one is that the coding, though not as bad as in "Purple",
is fairly prefunctory. The room connections in the attic are
messed up. Actions that should only happen once can be repeated
with odd results (i.e. blowing up the stones). Scenery objects
are missing: for example, the prominant table, chairs and chandelier
in the dining room are all "You can't see any such thing." The
choice of locations to code is also questionable: areas like
"northwest end of lawn" don't add to anything but tedium.
The sparkly bits did sparkle, though. Dying in the woods was well
done, though it doesn't make sense in the plotline--apparently the
cultists have already summoned something Big, so why is stopping
their summoning adequate? The little girl's diary catches the right
note. Death in the well is also good. The author shows some
promise at faux Lovecraft, if he can carry it through more
consistently. (Why are deaths often the best part? This was also
true of last year's "Symetry".)
A rather short game--in fact, it looks as though the coder had a lot
of ideas to go further, but ran out of time. There are unopened
doors and undeveloped ideas left over at the end. I like the basic
premise, and the underground complex is quite pretty and intruiging,
but there's no development.
The game's main technical flaw is prefunctory coding. Most of the
needed scenery is not defined, including things like "The predominant
feature of the room is X" followed distressingly by "You can't
see any X here" when it's examined. There are so few objects that
it's a good guess each one found is essential: conversely, I
never found a single topic I could look up in the "referance"
Like "Where Evil Dwells" the game also defines more locations
than it needs: tighter coding of a smaller area would be an
The manuvers used to keep the player from doing unwanted things are
contrived--I can't get over a child gate? The book-protecting panels
"aren't something you can open"?
The plot could use rethinking in certain aspects. The PC is asked
to behave like a "characterless magpie" at one moment and respect
property rights at the next. I am willing to accept that a good
archeologist doesn't break things in peoples' houses. I suspect
she doesn't really desecrate graves for no reason either!
I also wonder why the wee folk let her do what she did; they
certainly didn't cotton to the other character doing so.
With considerably more polishing this game could sparkle: I would
love to explore the underground complex in a leisurely, detailed,
First off, ALAN seems to work okay, though I don't care for its
style of error messages--they seem a bit snarky. UNDO would be
nice, and G for "again", but they're not essential.
The game is short, terse, and (as its author says) rather meaningless.
Very few words are recognized, so you can accomplish most of what
you need to just by noting what words you *can* use. There is
one actual puzzle, kind of a neat one though it has nothing to do
with anything else in the game. (One of the best moments in the
game involved CC free-associating off the nonsense words produced
by the puzzle. It got a definite chuckle from me.)
Surrealism is in, but I would find it more effective here with
more lavish descriptions and more conversation with CC. Who is
not a bad NPC, far from it--he responded to more things than I
expected--but with such a bare stage, he needs to be really
I don't quite know why I liked this game better than some which were
more lavishly coded and made more sense. Something about tone, I
guess. I'd like to see the author do a richer work in the same
This was painful in many of the same ways as "Symetry" and
didn't pay off as well. (I confess, I got a kick out of "Symetry.")
It's better coded, but there are only a few points where the
writing is purple enough for me (mainly the barrel scene). I'm
afraid I was very bored by the interview. I don't like interviews
in static media, and hitting <return> doesn't make them any
I would not have finished the game, except I happened to see a
hint on the newgroup--I would have given up at the hat. The
author(s) didn't even manage the bare task of convincing me
there'd be a solution, much less motivating me to keep looking.
I think being weird just for effect is less effective, at least for
me, that being weird in the pursuit of something else.
In the Spotlight
We seem to be seeing some kind of reaction against the rather
long games of COMP96 and COMP97....
This is one room, one puzzle, a handful of objects. The puzzle
was spoilt for me by being a familiar one (it's in Martin Gardner's
collection _Aha! Insight_ among other places). I think if I hadn't
known it, I would have found it quite difficult but not terribly
fun--it's a lateral-thinking puzzle, so there's no progress to be
made by playing with the available objects. You get it or you
As a piece of code it's pretty well done, though with a few flaws.
Why does a game with only a handful of objects bother to implement
a carrying capacity limit less than that? The annoyance value
of "You're carrying too many things already" is not balanced by
any kind of payoff, since the game does not try for realism and
inventory management is not an issue. Also, scissors are plural
and should respond to "them" rather than "it". Alternative
wrong solutions to the central puzzle are ruled out by fiat
(you can't cut that, you can't burn that, etc.) rather than by
the physics of the situation (in real life you *could* cut that,
but it wouldn't help).
For the first several turns I was quite excited by this game,
because I was expecting something creepy and self-referential
along the lines of last year's "A New Day", or funny and
self-referential a la "Sins Against Mimesis". But no, it really
is just a dead-simple treasure hunt. The descriptions
are spare to the point of nonexistance ("you see nothing special
about the RUBY"), the puzzles are routine. Luckily it's very
The coding is clean, except for a lack of synonyms for nouns and
verbs: this is Inform straight out of the box. One of the
puzzles, while tedious, is cleverly implemented so that you can
string commands together, reducing the tedium significantly.
The writing is mainly prefunctory, though the kitten shows some
This game makes me realize that one of my criteria for a good puzzle
is that once I grasp the principle, I should be able to solve it
promptly. The "site" puzzle violates this criterion: I realized
very early what the underlying principle was, but still had to
fuss with the thing for quite a while. On the other hand, a
true puzzle afficionado will appreciate that the site puzzle
is a kind of comment on the title puzzle.
Four in One
The premise is kind of cute--try to get all four Marx Brothers on
the set at once so that you can shoot a scene. But...the game
feels like being in an overcrowded MUD. Lots of faceless people
rushing about everywhere:
Chico is here.
A costumed extra is here.
Martha is here.
on and on for half a screen. I suspect I was supposed to figure
out who they all were and use them to accomplish my goals, but I
simply couldn't bring myself to care. I wasn't able to spot any
puzzles in twenty minutes of play, and the idea of questioning
all those people, losing on time, starting over and trying to
make some sense of the information overload just didn't appeal to
me. It's particularly unfortunate that the single time limit
almost guarantees that you'll have to start over, and over, and
over--save games are unlikely to be helpful, since until you figure
out the time-saving sequence you can't make a correct save game.
I'm not sure I judged this fairly, except that one of a game's tasks
is to draw the player in and make her want to play more, and
FOURIN1 failed at this for me. I'm probably the wrong audience for
it anyway: old movies don't have a lot of magic for me, and
I don't recognize any of these people exept the Marx Brothers
Okay, English is not the author's first language, and this wasn't
spell-checked or beta-tested. I could work around that. But it's
not finished either, as the author himself says. It's really a
stub of a game--lots of locations, but almost no action.
I'm really tired of having to search every noun in sight to find
The situation doesn't make much sense. How did the card get
outside the ship? Where did the aliens go? For that matter,
where are controls for flying the ship or retracting its
bridge? And, goodness knows, why am I willing to fly off and
die in an alien spacecraft held together by chewing gum?
I think there was going to be an interesting game here, one with some
payoff for the rather good setup of the protagonist: but the game got
submitted to the competition way too early. I hope the author will
give it another try.
Human Resources Stories
This would have made an...interesting lead-in for a game. Preferably
one that did something clever with the player's answers. As it is...
it's a quiz, neatly enough implemented in Inform, but of quite limited
entertainment value. Maybe a little zing due to complicity--when I
figured out some of the answers it wanted, I felt squeamish about
giving them. Still, pretty thin stuff. It contains some internal
criticisms (it calls itself boring, ungamelike and unfair) which are
unfortunately pretty accurate.
Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu
"Complicity" is the IF concept I want to discuss this year.
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
Don't these reviews belong in rgif?
>The biggest problem I had with the game was in my initial reaction
>to the storytelling scenes. Dropped without explanation into
>the tale of Wendy-the-astronaut, I didn't guess that she was a
>child: instead, I was constructing a rather ugly scenario in which
>she was a token woman, chosen for looks rather than brains,
>completing a meaningless mission purely for the publicity
>value. This left a bad flavor in my mouth for some time even
>after I realized what was going on. I'm not sure how to fix this
>problem, if indeed it was a problem for anyone else.
Okay, that was my biggest problem too, except the reverse of you. I also didn't
realize she was a child and later I was very disappointed to find out she was
NOT an astronaut. It would have been a nice feminist touch (or strong female or
The story telling scenes didn't work for me exactly because I didn't know they
were story telling themes. I didn't like the confusion between the two girls
(which I suspect was deliberate to keep the player guessing).
I have thought about it since, I would have prefered to KNOW I was partaking in
a bedtime story and I don't think Photopia would have lost a thing by it. In
other words, two voices visible in the scenes:
Wendy got down from the ship...
Then what did I do?
I think that would have been much more effective. And I wouldn't have had
Mimesis broken when the Science-Fiction abruptly turned into Fantasy.
Doe :-) So, Mary, you were not the only one to notice that.
Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain
I didn't play Photopia until after reading some other spoilers, so I DID know
they were storytelling scenes. And they worked perfectly, because I hadn't
read enough to know who was telling the story to who, and that meant there was
still lots to figure out as the story went on.
>Wendy got down from the ship...
>Then what did I do?
Sorry, I hate this idea. I thought the voice worked perfectly the way it was.
All that's needed is to *know* that this is a story being told before going in.
To do that, I'd just move the epigraph. Begin with the "Speeding Down
Montgomery Boulevard" scene, then pop up the "RED" box, then the "Will you
read me a story?" box, then start the scene.
That'll give more of a clue. I think it definitely works better knowing those
scenes are a story being told going in then it would if you didn't know what
was going on.
I think OO is great... It's no coincidence that "woohoo" contains "oo" twice.
>That'll give more of a clue. I think it definitely works better knowing
>scenes are a story being told going in then it would if you didn't know what
>was going on.
Well, it totally broke Mimesis for me and I resented being manipulated as well.
So it's a personal thing then.
>To do that, I'd just move the epigraph. Begin with the "Speeding Down
>Montgomery Boulevard" scene, then pop up the "RED" box, then the "Will you
>read me a story?" box, then start the scene.
Oh, misread you before, agree.
It does work better knowing it is a story.
I didn't and the abrupt change from sci-fi to fantasy totally confused me.
Especially since I started it thinking it was *real-life*, because the previous
scene was real-life.
I seem to be the only one really bothered by the abrupt switch in genre --
either I was one of the few that didn't know what it was about before I played
it (I just knew a lot of people liked it) or because I am a big sci-fi fan, but
not a big fantasy fan, I noticed the switch a lot more.
Or others tumbled to it being a story.
Or maybe because I am a feminist -- I was really "getting into" Wendy being an
astronaut, even though the science was suspect (but I have read a lot of sci-fi
were the science is highly suspect so I was willing to suspend disbelief) so
when I found out later it was only a story (when it switched genre) I resented
it, I felt it had been a deliberate "hook" to get me into the plot. (Well, that
is the way it felt.)
So it broke mimesis and it never recovered from that break.
Doe :-) Sorry I misread you.
Well the switch to fantasy really occured only with the weather salesman.
After two moves you knew it was a story for certain, so for me the confusion
went on for two or three moves.
>I seem to be the only one really bothered by the abrupt switch in genre --
>either I was one of the few that didn't know what it was about before I
>it (I just knew a lot of people liked it) or because I am a big sci-fi fan,
>not a big fantasy fan, I noticed the switch a lot more.
>Or others tumbled to it being a story.
Photopia for me was more than just a tragedy. It was a commentary on IF
itself. The story within the story had all the conventions of traditional IF
(compass directions, hints "Violence never solved anything, kiddo", etc),
and such genre-switching is more common in IF than I would like. So it fit.
Moreover (but I am not certain if Adam really intended this) looking back at
it I take the genre-switching as an indication that Alley was getting sleepy
(and thus somewhat more careless and/or hasty) herself. At that point she
also unintentionally inserted the Queen in her story, while the rich details
of the early parts of the story became fewer it as she seemed to get more
tired. In the accident scene in the car, it *was* told that she was sleepy.
The above paragraph is idle speculation ofcourse. I'll have to replay
Photopia once again, before I can be certain of this.
>Or maybe because I am a feminist -- I was really "getting into" Wendy being
>astronaut, even though the science was suspect (but I have read a lot of
>were the science is highly suspect so I was willing to suspend disbelief)
>when I found out later it was only a story (when it switched genre) I
>it, I felt it had been a deliberate "hook" to get me into the plot. (Well,
>is the way it felt.)
Well, it was only a story but as we saw in other scenes it contained a lot
of of Alley's true ambitions to go to the stars, explore, etc... Why did you
consider the genre switching there important enough to be annoying, but the
role of Wendy unimportant since 'it was only a story'? It seems somewhat of
a contradiction on your part.
Where I am concerned, the genre-switching didn't bother me because it was
'just a story'. However the Wendy-as-astronaut contained Alley's true
aspirations, so it still mattered.
I am more bothered with the first two scenes, (Mars and Underwater). The
beach scene was Alley teaching Wendy that dirt can be more valuable than
gold. The maze was teaching her to think in three dimensions. The forest
scene was teaching her kindness to animals. However I didn't feel that the
two first scenes really had any true significance.
>Well, it was only a story but as we saw in other scenes it contained a lot
>of of Alley's true ambitions to go to the stars, explore, etc... Why did you
>consider the genre switching there important enough to be annoying, but the
>role of Wendy unimportant since 'it was only a story'? It seems somewhat of
>a contradiction on your part.
Never got "into" the rest of the game, genre switching from sci-fi to fantasy
(undersea castle, gold beach, wings) bumped me right "out" it.
Rest was anticlimatic, because I had been confused at the beginning (maybe
deliberately by the author). To me, this was a serious flaw.
In fact, the rest made very little impression. The impetus was lost.
Photopia spoilers follow.
Marnie Parker wrote:
> The story telling scenes didn't work for me exactly because I didn't
> know they were story telling scenes. I didn't like the confusion
> between the two girls (which I suspect was deliberate to keep the
> player guessing).
Yes, it's deliberate. (As a friend of ours is wont to say.)
> I have thought about it since, I would have prefered to KNOW I was
> partaking in a bedtime story and I don't think Photopia would have lost
> a thing by it.
I strongly disagree. But let me put more pots on the table before saying
> >Wendy got down from the ship...
> >Then what did I do?
> >Then Wendy...
Joe Mason replied:
> Sorry, I hate this idea. I thought the voice worked perfectly the way
> it was. All that's needed is to *know* that this is a story being told
> before going in.
> To do that, I'd just move the epigraph. Begin with the "Speeding Down
> Montgomery Boulevard" scene, then pop up the "RED" box, then the "Will you
> read me a story?" box, then start the scene.
> That'll give more of a clue. I think it definitely works better knowing those
> scenes are a story being told going in then it would if you didn't know what
> was going on.
I disagree with this too.
For me, one of the greatest pleasures of narrative is the sense of things
clicking -- for a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't really understand to
suddenly make sense. For that to happen, though, the author has hand me
a bunch of things that I'm not supposed to have any kind of clue about
yet. And as long as I know that it's deliberate, I *love* that. I stash
the bits I don't get into my mental trophy case, knowing that they're
going to turn into treasure once the key to piecing it all together is
When the RED title appears on screen and suddenly you're told that you're
the first girl on the red planet, you're not supposed to have any idea
what just happened. I don't want the player to know that who's telling
the story to whom, or even that it's a story at all. The response I want
you as a first-time player to have is "What the hell is this?" I want
you to be a little bewildered and nervous about the transition. I also
want you to trust that I know what I'm doing.
A related pleasure of narrative that I greatly enjoy is that of *thinking*
that I know the significance of something, and then discovering that it
had an extra dimension of which I'd been unaware. Watching young Charles
Foster Kane playing with his sled has a whole new kick to it the second
time you see the movie, for instance. The examples are countless, but
here's one that just popped into my head: Fantastic Four #352. Most
mainstream comics have covers that depict a representative scene from the
story, and this seemed to be the case with FF #352: Reed Richards
emerging from the aftermath of an explosion... with a little clock in the
corner, but whatever. So I start the story. Fairly standard superhero
fare, but then midway through the story, the pages are split vertically
between a color portion and a black-and-white portion. (Hmm.
Unconscious parallel #1.) In the black-and-white portion, Reed Richards
(who has somehow escaped from a deathtrap, though we're not told how)
and Dr. Doom are blipping around the timestream: to follow their battle,
you have to follow the clocks that appear when they blip out. If it says
"1:08" in the little blip-out symbol, you turn to the page that takes
place at 1:08 -- where everyone else in the story other than those two is
experiencing things in linear time. At one point, Doom tries to zap
Reed, and Reed shunts the blast off to 12:33, while staying put himself.
12:33, is, of course, what the clock on the cover read. The cover, it
turned out, was a panel of the story, which occurred at the beginning of
the linear chronology of that story, but toward the end of the string of
events of which the story was comprised. The cover, it turned out, was
simultaneously the beginning of the story (revealing how Reed escaped
from the deathtrap to begin with -- he blew it up with a blast from the
future! Time loop!) and the climax of it... and at the time I was looking
at the cover, I HAD NO IDEA. I'd thought it was just a cover:
nondiegetic, no more part of the story than a book jacket is part of a
novel. It blew my mind.
To have discovered that my previous understanding was wrong, that the
authors had deliberately steered me into a misconception about the
significance of the cover, was WONDERFUL. The idea of feeling "cheated"
or "misled" by something like this could not possibly be more alien to
me. And so here's unconscious parallel #2: the "epigraph" of Photopia is
meant to have the same kind of effect on the player. You *think* you
know what epigraphs are: just little quotes to set a mood, but lying
outside the story. Only at the end of Photopia are you supposed to
realize, wait, that box was *part* of the story -- it fits in right
before the red planet part! *Placing* it before the red planet part
would destroy that moment of realization, and thus be a major mistake.
Adam Cadre, Anaheim, CA
I fail to see why fantasy and science fiction are mutually exclusive genres
within the same story. Many excellent authors (Harlan Ellison, Ursula K.
LeGuin, Mervyn Peake, Orson Scott Card, Michael Moorcock, Russel Hoban, to
name a few) have blended elements of the two to great effect.
For that matter, numerous crappy authors (Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony
spring to mind) do it as well; not as well as those mentioned above (nor
even as well as Photopia) -- but that doesn't stop them from being quite
"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"
Marnie Parker wrote:
> Okay, one last time and that is it.
> I shouldn't have used the word science-fiction. That was unclear. I
> should have said *real-life* or reality.
> (BTW - to me they are quite different genres. One can mix them, but I don't
> expect to see magic in a science-ficiton book. I also don't expect to see
> golden rings on golden beaches either. If I do, I probably won't read it
> because to me it isn't good..)
> Scene 1 real-life street & frat boys
> Scene 2 apparently real life Wendy on Mars
> Scene 3 real-life Mom saves Ally from pool
> Scene 4 Wendy goes to undersea castle then golden beach and has wings
> Huh? What? Did I miss something? Real-life to fantasy?
I took a class on fantasy literature when I was at Berkeley. Pretty much
every book on the reading list was just like this: combining gritty
realism with fantasy, and throwing into question the boundaries between
the two. That's what makes it interesting. That's what makes it
literature and not genre hackwork.
For what it's worth, here are some of the books I'm talking about:
Crowley, LITTLE, BIG
Dick, THE DIVINE INVASION
Lindsay, A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS
Murakami, HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD
There are more, but anyway, look at any of these books -- especially the
last three, which I really enjoyed (and most especially WAS.) They're
all, in my opinion, far superior to the conventional fantasy which I was
to a certain extent reacting against in writing Photopia. The whole idea
of genres gives me the creeps. If one of your criticisms of Photopia is
that it shatters these artificial boundaries you've constructed for
yourself, here's my answer: thanks. That's one of the kindest
compliments I could possibly receive.
If you haven't already, I would highly recommend THE CHESS GARDEN by Brooks
Hansen. Like your game, it is written in a non(chronologically)linear
fashion, and like your game, it blends fantasy and realism in a very
It reminds me of your game in some other specific ways, but to say more
would spoil it.
Yeechang Lee wrote:
> TenthStone <mcc...@erols.com> wrote:
> > The second is that when I first began reading the story, what the
> > game appeared to be was a random set of scenes with annoying little
> > comments inserted here and there. I'm not sure there's a thing you
> > could do to assuage this situation, but many people seemed to be put
> > off by this start. It didn't come across as a quality work of
> > fiction, and whether it later became one is immaterial to those who
> > didn't bother to finish.
> I thought Photopia was a good piece of work (if not a masterpiece),
> but I'm puzzled by the above remark. Has TenthStone never read a book
> that used non-linear narrative techniques?
I for one was put off by the start. I've never had a book do something
so extreme to me as to drop me (first-person) into a MADD advert, sling me
at Mars, stick me into a "Drama in Real Life" and then plunk me into a
fantastic underwater castle with no apparent thread. And that was about
when I lost patience.
To put it another way, the author didn't establish any trust -- I had
no sense of everything leading somewhere.
This is making me think about how tightly "linear" IF is compared to
books and movies. For obvious reasons, you can't drop in on the bad guys'
hideout and reveal the plan like you can in a movie -- it would screw up
the player's ability to role-play the PC. Even with IF's potential for
bushy plots, things tend to progress in a straight line and in one
The first is that my memory is too relative to spontaneously recall
message boxes from the beginning of the plot.
The second is that when I first began reading the story, what the game
appeared to be was a random set of scenes with annoying little comments
inserted here and there. I'm not sure there's a thing you could do to
assuage this situation, but many people seemed to be put off by this
start. It didn't come across as a quality work of fiction, and whether
it later became one is immaterial to those who didn't bother to finish.
>I fail to see why fantasy and science fiction are mutually exclusive genres
>within the same story. Many excellent authors (Harlan Ellison, Ursula K.
>LeGuin, Mervyn Peake, Orson Scott Card, Michael Moorcock, Russel Hoban, to
>name a few) have blended elements of the two to great effect.
>For that matter, numerous crappy authors (Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony
>spring to mind) do it as well; not as well as those mentioned above (nor
>even as well as Photopia) -- but that doesn't stop them from being quite
Okay, one last time and that is it.
I shouldn't have used the word science-fiction. That was unclear. I should have
said *real-life* or reality.
(BTW - to me they are quite different genres. One can mix them, but I don't
expect to see magic in a science-ficiton book. I also don't expect to see
golden rings on golden beaches either. If I do, I probably won't read it
because to me it isn't good..)
Scene 1 real-life street & frat boys
Scene 2 apparently real life Wendy on Mars
Scene 3 real-life Mom saves Ally from pool
Scene 4 Wendy goes to undersea castle then golden beach and has wings
Huh? What? Did I miss something? Real-life to fantasy?
I didn't know when I was Wendy that I was in a bedtime story, I was playing it
as if it were real-life. Sudden appearance of fantasy threw me out of game. (A
woman COULD be an astronaut on Mars, unlikely because it was Mars, but could
If author wanted me to "buy" into his tear-jerker, author had to "sell" me on
the characters and plot, make me care about them, "sell" me on the concept.
Sudden appearance of fantasy where I was least expecting it, threw me. I
stopped "buying" into it. Because I did not know it was a bedtime story.
Doesn't matter WHAT happened later, how I am supposed to put that into context
later... how in retrospect that was supposed to make sense. I had already
stopped buying it.
I was jarred and the author lost me. I also felt I had been manipulated
(thinking Wendy was real when she was not, investing myself into her character)
and/or deliberately mislead and I don't like that. I am a "hard sell".
So later I didn't care very much when Ally died.
I do believe that is called breaking Mimesis among other things.
I will not explain again, I feel I have Adam Cadre given more than adequate
feedback on his game, I feel that unfortunately most of my feedback has also
been negative and I don't need to go into overkill on criticism.
(But I did need to figure out for myself why I wasn't as thrilled as the
I thought Photopia was a good piece of work (if not a masterpiece),
They still do.
> For me, one of the greatest pleasures of narrative is the sense of things
> clicking -- for a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't really understand to
> suddenly make sense. For that to happen, though, the author has hand me
> a bunch of things that I'm not supposed to have any kind of clue about
> yet. And as long as I know that it's deliberate, I *love* that. I stash
> the bits I don't get into my mental trophy case, knowing that they're
> going to turn into treasure once the key to piecing it all together is
[ ... ]
> And so here's unconscious parallel #2: the "epigraph" of Photopia is
> meant to have the same kind of effect on the player. You *think* you
> know what epigraphs are: just little quotes to set a mood, but lying
> outside the story. Only at the end of Photopia are you supposed to
> realize, wait, that box was *part* of the story -- it fits in right
> before the red planet part! *Placing* it before the red planet part
> would destroy that moment of realization, and thus be a major mistake.
I think this is the single thing that made Photopia so great (for me) -
that moment when everything clicked and I understood what was going on.
Up until that point I was quite confused and had all sorts of possible
explanations playing through my head. (Most of which, not surprisingly,
centred around Wendy instead of Alley.)
[ Actually, I first tried it with a non-colour supporting interpreter, and
was extremely bewildered by all the chopping and changing. I decided to
pay attention to the advice to use a colour interpreter and I'm glad I
did - it provided a degree of context (for want of a better word) and so
I was a little less lost in all the scene switching than I would have
been otherwise. I think it is important to provide some sort of context
like this (and the vital 'who am i' command that I used almost every time)
so that the reader is not left floundering in confusion. ]
I finally worked out what was going on in either the scene before Green
or after it (when the conclusion is pretty much inescapable), and it was
tremendously satisfying. I played it again almost immediately with this
understanding and all sorts of things which I'd forgotten fitted neatly
* The opening quote box, which I'd read and almost immediately forgotten
the first time round. I glanced at it and suddenly realised that yes,
it was part of the story after all.
* The explanatory notes, which I'd found cute at first and then annoying
as they kept coming. I was wondering why the author had such a low
opinion of my vocabulary (or perhaps if their vocabulary was so small).
But this time round I understood why they had to be there and I was
glad they were.
* The apparently changing landscape of the Red Planet, which I didn't
notice before but did the second time around. I was momentarily taken
aback and then I realised why this, too, had to be this way.
Plus others I've probably forgotten now. The point is I had this wonderful
moment of revelation when I could see the unifying concept, and then the
pleasure of seeing how the bits all fitted together after that. The way
it all tied up neatly together was beautiful.
Geoff Bailey (Fred the Wonder Worm) | Programmer by trade --
ft...@cs.usyd.edu.au | Gameplayer by vocation.
>all, in my opinion, far superior to the conventional fantasy which I was
>to a certain extent reacting against in writing Photopia. The whole idea
>of genres gives me the creeps. If one of your criticisms of Photopia is
>that it shatters these artificial boundaries you've constructed for
>yourself, here's my answer: thanks.
Well, I LIKE genre fiction (mysteries, historical fiction, some
science fiction, swashbucklers) So do millions of other people. (We
common folk ain't all bad.) In my adult reading class in library
school (aimed at librarians heading for work in public libraries) we
had to read something from all the genres: loveys, westerns, occult,
historical fiction, scifi, comedy, etc. It was a blast of a class and
a real eye-opener.
That doesn't mean I don't like stories like Photopia, which
relect upon real life analogically through fantasy. The problem that
I have is that a lot of modern fiction is just way too far out and
speculative for my taste. The surreal/unreal just goes way off the
deep end, at least for me. Yours hit a nice balance.
>For me, one of the greatest pleasures of narrative is the sense of things
>clicking -- for a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't really understand to
>suddenly make sense. For that to happen, though, the author has hand me
>a bunch of things that I'm not supposed to have any kind of clue about
>yet. And as long as I know that it's deliberate, I *love* that. I stash
>the bits I don't get into my mental trophy case, knowing that they're
>going to turn into treasure once the key to piecing it all together is
I agree completely, hence my love of *genre* mysteries. You've just
given a perfect description of them. :)
(Been forgetting about these, haven't we?)
Doeadeer3 <doea...@aol.com> wrote (not insribed, ok? wrote):
>Scene 1 real-life street & frat boys
>Scene 2 apparently real life Wendy on Mars
>Scene 3 real-life Mom saves Ally from pool
>Scene 4 Wendy goes to undersea castle then golden beach and has wings
>Huh? What? Did I miss something? Real-life to fantasy?
I really can't fathom how you could percieve Scene 2 to be even mildly
real-life. I did go in to it knowing it was a story, but the quality of it
still seemed very different from the non-coloured scenes. I think if I'd
gone in NOT knowing it was a story, I'd still have had no problem separating
the two types of scene.
It seemed pretty obvious right from the beginning - the black-and-white scenes
were reality, interspersed with the coloured scenes which were fantasy.
Really, your mind must work in an astonishingly different way from mine.
After reading your response, I've changed my mind. I think the whole time I
played it, I had the attitude that I was consciously trying to forget the
spoilers I'd read, so I kind of faked that thrill of discovery for myself.
Which is why, perversely, I thought for a while that I'd gotten the thrill
without the revelations.
>It seemed pretty obvious right from the beginning - the black-and-white
>were reality, interspersed with the coloured scenes which were fantasy.
>Really, your mind must work in an astonishingly different way from mine.
I clearly stated in my reviews I played all games in black and white.
Doe :-) (Maybe it doesn't work that differently after all... hehehe.)
I didn't mean "coloured scenes" literally. I meant "the ones starting with
the name of a colour". It should still be easy to tell the two types of
TenthStone (mcc...@erols.com) wrote:
: The second is that when I first began reading the story, what the game
: appeared to be was a random set of scenes with annoying little comments
: inserted here and there. I'm not sure there's a thing you could do to
: assuage this situation, but many people seemed to be put off by this
: start. It didn't come across as a quality work of fiction, and whether
: it later became one is immaterial to those who didn't bother to finish.
I'm with Adam on this one--I love it when a book/game pulls this
trick. In Photopia, there were several "clicks" for me--one of my
favorites, the point when I started to really become conscious of the
two levels of the story and how they relate, was when Alley's father
was telling her how gold was formed.
From the moment I started on the red planet, I knew this game was
either going to make no sense at all, or it was going to be something
special. If the author managed to pull together two so completely
disparate scenes, it was going to be a really neat experience. As it
happened, he did. When I hear about people throwing this game aside
before they get a chance to see things come together, I find it
odd. Weren't you, at the least, curious?
And yes, I did realize the significance of the opening quote box when
I reached the end, and I loved having been snookered into thinking
that it was outside of the story.
I wouldn't want him to redo a single aspect of the game.
-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
GCS d- s-: a-- C++$ ULHOIS+++$>++++ P+++ L++ E+ W+++(--)$ N++(+) !o K++ w---()
!O M-- V-- PS+@ PE@ Y+() PGP- t+ 5+ X+ R !tv b++@ DI++ D--- G++ e++* h---
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Heh? Because it was not ordinary you lost patience? I would have lost
patience had it been completely ordinary. I was hooked *because* of this
atypical method, and I wasn't disappointed by the end.
> The response I want
> you as a first-time player to have is "What the hell is this?" I want
> you to be a little bewildered and nervous about the transition. I also
> want you to trust that I know what I'm doing.
I restarted Photopia three or four times because of that - I was so convinced I had done
something wrong. A very nice trick.
I still don't think the swearing in the first scene was artistically necessary though. It made
me wonder if I really wanted to play the game (although, curiously like /Muse/ the use of
such language made it clear that this wasn't a children's game.)
Apotheosis can be somewhat unnerving.
-- Expecting Someone Taller, Tom Holt
Yes, but then you lose the joyous moment of figuring out what the W. Mackaye
section was all about. It pleasantly obscures who the main character is.
On the other hand, I, like some others, found it difficult to get into the
story at first because of the longish and dull red-planet sequence, which
doesn't seem significant the first time you experience it.
-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own
>For me, one of the greatest pleasures of narrative is the sense of things
>clicking -- for a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't really understand to
>suddenly make sense. For that to happen, though, the author has hand me
>a bunch of things that I'm not supposed to have any kind of clue about
>yet. And as long as I know that it's deliberate, I *love* that. I stash
>the bits I don't get into my mental trophy case, knowing that they're
>going to turn into treasure once the key to piecing it all together is
The trouble (for me personally, and no one else as far as I can tell)
is that by the time you gave me some information about what you were
up to, I'd already gone too far in constructing a solution of my own.
It happened to be a jarring and ugly one, and I would have been in a
better frame of mind for the rest of the game if I'd been nudged away
from it earlier.
I was thinking, "Who is this Wendy and why is she constantly getting
these patronizing little explanations? Also, why has she been sent on
such a pointless, contrived mission?" I did "examine me" and got a
description that tied in with my worst fears at this point. She's a
bimbo, chosen for looks rather than brains, going through the motions
so she can appear on TV and in movies. The mission is meaningless.
This neatly explains why it doesn't matter which way she goes: the
narrative voice (a media figure, obviously) doesn't actually need
anything retrieved, it just needs a good show.
I felt angry and sick about this explanation, and it was hard to shake
off that reaction even when I found it was incorrect. You almost lost
me as a player, because I found inhabiting Wendy-the-bimbo so
So, for me personally, I think you could have put your cards on the
table a little earlier. I don't mind being left in confusion, but I'd
gone on past confusion into false expectations.
Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu
>So, for me personally, I think you could have put your cards on the
>table a little earlier. I don't mind being left in confusion, but I'd
>gone on past confusion into false expectations.
Ditto. Just different ones.
I had seen this technique before, in two novels by SF-author John Brunner
(not quite the same technique, but similar), one called 'Everyone on
and the other 'Doomworld' (or something: I read the Dutch translation).
He actually put in a foreword that he had copied the idea for this technique
from somebody else. Both novels were 500 pages plus and consisted of very
brief (1 to 100 lines), initially unconnected, narrative.
I think what allowed me to get through the beginning of both novels was
actually the foreword in which the author basically said:
'Hey, trust me, I know what I am doing'. I remember that I was quite
enthusiastic about both novels afterwards.
I wonder, perhaps you would have trusted the author more if you knew it
was Adam Cadre?
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat
(remove nospam to email me)
Rene van 't Veen - r.n_o_s_p_...@wxs.nospam.nl
> I had seen this technique before, in two novels by SF-author John Brunner
> (not quite the same technique, but similar), one called 'Everyone on
> and the other 'Doomworld' (or something: I read the Dutch translation).
> He actually put in a foreword that he had copied the idea for this technique
> from somebody else. Both novels were 500 pages plus and consisted of very
> brief (1 to 100 lines), initially unconnected, narrative.
It's Stand on Zanzibar in English. It's a damn fine book. He also uses
the technique in The Sheep Look Up, which may or may not be your other
title, and is almost as good. The style is apparently copied from
John Dos Passos.
Yep, that rings a bell.
> I for one was put off by the start. I've never had a book do something
> so extreme to me as to drop me (first-person) into a MADD advert, sling me
> at Mars, stick me into a "Drama in Real Life" and then plunk me into a
> fantastic underwater castle with no apparent thread. And that was about
> when I lost patience.
That's probably the thing. You can get away with it for a while,
but it has to resolve eventually. I've read novels that start out
that way, but after the first chapter they start to make sense.
I don't read halfway through the novel before it makes sense; if
it goes anywhere near that far without connecting I give up
on it, figuring the author needs to learn to communicate. I
haven't played any of the competition games yet, so I can't
comment on Photopia in particular, but it seems that figuring
out what was going on took long enough that it was too much
for some people, but not for others. So maybe it's riding some
kind of border line there.
I think it all depends on how interesting and well-written the seperate
elements are. If it's done well, then the longer the author spins it out
before letting it all fall into place, the more fun the "click" will be.
The trick is keeping the reader entertained enough that she's willing to
keep setting aside the desire to know "how does this all fit together?"
I agree. I have only just started and have been "flipped" a few
times, but I think the writing is very good and what keeps me
interested is that I had a couple of times an "uh!" feeling like
you get when you enjoy something and are "tickled" by it.
I'm not sure if I will be surprised in the end as I am being
reminded of one of my favorite short stories by Conrad Aiken. I
do replay some games though and enjoy them even when I know
the ending. Matter of fact that is pretty much how I decide if a
game is really good.
> I wonder, perhaps you would have trusted the author more if you knew it
> was Adam Cadre?
Embarrassingly enough, yes.
If I knew it was Adam, I would have thought "yay, adam game. must be
Whereas, with Opal, I thought "newcomer's game. what's all this
patronizing stuff? and cursing? huh? she must suck".
David Glasser gla...@NOSPAMuscom.com http://onramp.uscom.com/~glasser
DGlasser @ ifMUD : fovea.retina.net 4000 (webpage fovea.retina.net:4001)
Sadie Hawkins, official band of David Glasser: http://sadie.retina.net
"We take our icons very seriously in this class."
This is also a valid point. Even if the novel *never* resolved (say,
the author wrote two fifteen chapter novels and combined them
every-other-chapter to make one thirty chapter novel) I would
still read all the way through *IF* the two (or N) individual parts
were sufficiently interesting and well done. Or, for an even more
extreme case, if an author never wrote a whole novel but wrote
a single chapter for each, then published them all at the end of
his life as a series of chapters put together under one cover,
that would be an even more extrme case. But I'd still read them
all *IF* each chapter were written well enough on an individual
basis that I could get past the discontinuity. But in an extreme
case like that they'd have to be really good, or after about
a third of the book (maybe less) I'd get tired of it. The writing
of each individual part would need to be a lot better than the
writing of each individual part of a book with more continuity.
>Or, for an even more
>extreme case, if an author never wrote a whole novel but wrote
>a single chapter for each, then published them all at the end of
>his life as a series of chapters put together under one cover,
>that would be an even more extrme case. But I'd still read them
>all *IF* each chapter were written well enough on an individual
>basis that I could get past the discontinuity. But in an extreme
>case like that they'd have to be really good, or after about
>a third of the book (maybe less) I'd get tired of it. The writing
>of each individual part would need to be a lot better than the
>writing of each individual part of a book with more continuity.
"If on a Winter's Night a Traveller" - Italo Calvino.
(And you thought you were hypothecating?)
>I wouldn't want him to redo a single aspect of the game.
Neither would I; I believe I mentioned that I have no longing for Adam to
satisfy every taste at once. He certainly can't help my memory --
although using a quote box does tend to set the "interesting but not
>From the moment I started on the red planet, I knew this game was
>either going to make no sense at all, or it was going to be something
>special. If the author managed to pull together two so completely
>disparate scenes, it was going to be a really neat experience. As it
>happened, he did. When I hear about people throwing this game aside
>before they get a chance to see things come together, I find it
>odd. Weren't you, at the least, curious?
Curiousity, my dear Suzanne, is constant enough.
>TenthStone (mcc...@erols.com) wrote:
>: The second is that when I first began reading the story, what the game
>: appeared to be was a random set of scenes with annoying little comments
>: inserted here and there. I'm not sure there's a thing you could do to
>: assuage this situation, but many people seemed to be put off by this
>: start. It didn't come across as a quality work of fiction, and whether
>: it later became one is immaterial to those who didn't bother to finish.
>I'm with Adam on this one--I love it when a book/game pulls this
>trick. In Photopia, there were several "clicks" for me--one of my
>favorites, the point when I started to really become conscious of the
>two levels of the story and how they relate, was when Alley's father
>was telling her how gold was formed.
I didn't mind so horribly, and later I truly enjoyed the story -- but when
I began, there was no clue that there was any sort of connecting logic to
it at all. In fact, I saw nothing to indicate that the scenes were
related until I reached the babysitting segments. At that point, it all
grew together and become the lovely little story it is.
>And yes, I did realize the significance of the opening quote box when
>I reached the end, and I loved having been snookered into thinking
>that it was outside of the story.
As I said, I did not recall said quote box until it was mentioned on this
newsgroup, thereby negating any effect it might have.
> (And you thought you were hypothecating?)
I agree that that /type/ of literature is interesting.
But I have to jerk my knee in response to Adam's claim that "that's what
makes it literature and not genre hackwork." Lord of the Rings is not
"hackwork." Juvenile, maybe, but not hackwork.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, maybe because of World War I,
maybe because of relativity, maybe because of evolutionary theory and
atheism, people began to doubt everything. It became fashionable
to say that there was no such thing as truth (the claim of TS Eliot's
dissertation, in fact).
Since there was no truth, there was no point in trying to portray
truth in fiction. Realist fiction and painting fell out of style.
Art turned inward: the only thing to talk about was yourself talking
about yourself. This gave us modernist and post-modernist meta-fiction.
Sarte, Beckett, Joyce, etc.
Postmodernism is fun for a few years, but the joke gets old.
I believe in story. You don't have to write a subtext about writing
in order to write literature.
It happens that a lot, maybe most, of old great literature involves fantasy
elements (The Iliad, Odyssey, Beowulf, Paradise Lost, Faery Queen,
the Bible, Hamlet, MacBeth). You could give these things a post-modern
reading. But I don't think these works are great because they
throw into question the boundaries. The mixture of realism and fantasy
did not challenge the audiences of any of those works.
Hamlet is not fundamentally different from King Lear because it
contains a ghost.
You can take the opposite approach, like Joyce did in _Ulysses_:
Start out with semi-traditional narrative, then march further and further
I personally didn't like this in _Ulysses_, but a lot of people did.