yet more thoughts on the competition entries (longish)

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richard barnett

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Dec 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/10/96
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well, i hoped to get these out earlier, but work pressures have foiled me; in
some cases others have already said everything i want to say, so i won't
waste my time and yours by revisiting those areas.

-- richard

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scores (- indicates not played):
Beyond the Picket Fence - (no time)
Don't Be Late - (no interpreter)
Eldor - (wouldn't run)
Maiden of the Moonlight - (no time)
Promoted! - (no interpreter)
Punkirita Quest One Liquid 2
House of the Stalker 3
My First Stupid Game 3
Rippled Flesh 3
In the End 4
Of Forms Unknown 4
Ralph 4
Stargazer 4
Kissing the Buddha's Feet 5
Phlegm 5
Reverberations 5
Aayela 6
Piece of Mind 6
Sir Ramic Hobbs and the Oriental Wok 6
Tapestry 6
Wearing the Claw 6
Alien Abduction 7
Fear 7
Lists and Lists 7
Small World 7
Delusions 8
The Meteor, the Stone, and a Long Glass of Sherbet 9

technical:

i was impressed by the hint system used in `sherbet' -- hints only being
available for the areas you'd entered -- and that used in `small world' --
hints being offered on the obstacles you are currently facing. however,
`small world' at times lapsed into `'you just need to wander around to make
progress'' (annoying when i was totally stuck, particularly as there was no
walkthrough) and, like the majority of the other hint systems, they can
both reveal what the obstacles are before you've realised it yourself.

`lists' is a very impressive piece of inform coding, but as i know
lisp/scheme already i didn't play it for too long.

timing:

i found several of the games to be much too short; i know that two hours is
supposed to be the maximum play time, but i expected them to take more than
15 minutes to complete. `of forms unknown', `in the end', `liquid',
`ralph', `stargazer', `my first stupid game' and `aayela' all fell into
this category.

`sherbet' and `delusions' were games i didn't finish in the two hours, but
by then they both had me more or less hooked (i scored these 9 and 8
respectively), and i'll return to these games. (i didn't finish `small
world' or `kissing the buddha's feet' either, but they weren't quite so
enjoyable -- see other comments.)

pedantry:

although probably to be expected, given the time constraints on the authors
and testers, i felt that many of these games contained problems which should
have been fixed during the beta-testing stage. for instance:

* typos and poor grammar

* textual references to objects which have disappeared from the game
persist:
+ the door in the first location of `aayela'

* textual references to things which should be game objects:
+ the car door in `in the end'
+ the goods in the store in `reverberations'
+ one of the ledges in `sherbet'

* no feedback on the results of game actions:
+ cutting the mesh in `piece of mind'
+ turning on the wine cellar light in `wok'
+ walking through cerberus in `wearing the claw'

* idiosyncratic syntax, including that used in walkthroughs, and a lack of
`synonyms' for some actions:
+ 'look for click' but not `listen' in `alien abduction'
+ `hoe garden' but not `dig garden' in `alien abduction'
+ `screw foo to bar' but not `screw foo in bar' in `of forms unknown'
+ `crank volume' in `house of the stalker'
+ `strike' and `hit' aren't synonyms in `fear'

* in `wearing the claw', the player has a left hand but no right hand

* player's head in `alien abduction' doesn't always follow player

* scoring for one task several times:
+ showing pizza box to guard in `reverberations'
+ giving hoe to pop in `alien abduction'

* scoring more than maximum points:
+ 'alien abduction'

specific, short comments:

House of the Stalker
slightly distasteful (perhaps pointing out an inconsistency in my
attitude to game violence: i'm happy to `kill troll', but less happy to
perform the more explicit sequence required here) and illogical (why
can't i run away once the maniac's been discommoded with the drano). i
didn't bother to finish this, even with the hints.

In the End
interaction/exploration of the game's universe proved unsatisfying (for
example, you can apparently drink an arbitrary amount at the bar; you
can't converse with the barman about anything); this isn't realistic
enough to overcome the lack of puzzles.

Of Forms Unknown
imitative of a game which hasn't yet hooked me, with over-simple but not
especially logical puzzles (solved by a process of elimination, since
there were relatively few objects); the writing was pleasant.

Ralph
a nice idea well-implemented, but the puzzles didn't hang together for me
-- there weren't sufficient clues to indicate that you should use one of
the humans to solve the problem for you.

Kissing the Buddha's Feet
one of the games i played last, and so i was suffering from judging
fatigue by this point: because of this, i found the chaotic babble of the
unwanted guests (4-5 lines, each turn, of ``x does blah'') much more
annoying than if i'd played the game outside the competition. (the
babble was probably meant to be like that.) i didn't give this a fair
shot, but it showed promise, so i'll return to it.

Tapestry
again, too much waiting for text to scroll past; good implementation of
actor interactions; i didn't even think about any path other than that
of morningstar's until i completed it; the story felt too much like an
excerpt from one of the quotes' sources

Wearing the Claw
slightly let down by the wait-for-n-turns-while-you're-told-vital-stuff
section in the middle, but otherwise good, with an enjoyable endgame.
the working of the usually-metalevel scoring device into the story was
a good touch.

Small World
the game mechanics (inventory management, using the looking glass) were a
bit clunky, for what seemed like no particularly good reason. puzzles
were hard and slightly arbitrary in parts, and this made its rather
linear style a bit off-putting. a very nice concept, though.

Delusions
detailed and rich up to the 13-point mark, but i sensed a frustrating
midgame about to unfold: getting knocked out too frequently, with many
things `reset'; actions that score me points for no obvious reason (yet).
i think i liked the way the fridge/freezer, described as one object, was
in fact 2, though i swore on realising it (via the hint).

The Meteor, the Stone, and a Long Glass of Sherbet
a wonderful game; it had just enough of the zork style and references to
feel familiar without being (too) derivative. the solutions to some of
the puzzles made me question my visualisation of the situation: in
particular, acquiring the black scroll (i can tie a rope to it, but i
can't actually take it?).

Bob Adams

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Dec 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/11/96
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In article <58kgos$l...@lana.zippo.com>, richard barnett <richardb@msi-
uk.com> writes

>
>scores (- indicates not played):

> Sir Ramic Hobbs and the Oriental Wok 6

Aha, so somebody did actually play this entry, it is the first score
from anybody that I've seen.

But then... no review. Any reason?


--
Bob Adams
http://www.amster.demon.co.uk


Magnus Olsson

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Dec 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/12/96
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In article <b44LvZA4...@amster.demon.co.uk>,

Bob Adams <ams...@amster.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <58kgos$l...@lana.zippo.com>, richard barnett <richardb@msi-
>uk.com> writes
>
>>
>>scores (- indicates not played):
>> Sir Ramic Hobbs and the Oriental Wok 6
>
>Aha, so somebody did actually play this entry, it is the first score
>from anybody that I've seen.
>
>But then... no review. Any reason?

No idea. But I hope to be able to get the time to write one for SPAG #10.

(In short: I quite liked "Wok", and I'm disappointed it didn't get a
better score.)


--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

richard barnett

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Dec 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/12/96
to

In article <b44LvZA4...@amster.demon.co.uk>, Bob says...

>In article <58kgos$l...@lana.zippo.com>, richard barnett <richardb@msi-
>uk.com> writes
>>
>>scores (- indicates not played):
>> Sir Ramic Hobbs and the Oriental Wok 6
>
>Aha, so somebody did actually play this entry, it is the first score
>from anybody that I've seen.
>
>But then... no review. Any reason?

strange: i thought i'd read a few reviews of the game, but of the sets i
bothered to save i can only find a couple of lines from stephen granade.
(some many reviews, such bad short-term memory.)

ok: the use of the narrator was a unique and interesting device. some of
the puzzles were rather tricky, especially using the almanac to find the route
to quince's lair: even with the hints, i only ever managed to get to location
iv, despite staring at the almanac text until my eyes began to water.
(a better explanation of why the text changes as you move around might help.)
some game events weren't reported to the player: the effects of the wine
cellar light switch, for instance; the dove flying away with the key is
easy to miss completely if you don't do things at the right time (i think);
if you visit the wine cellar while it's in semi-darkness, some evidence of a
switched-off light source would help. i liked the unix-commands-as-magic-words.
it's not obvious that you should follow the dog when he isn't moving.

-- richard

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