IF Criticism (or, Review of Review: The Light...)

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Stephen Granade

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Mar 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/30/96
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A few comments on recent postings:

I believe that, in our race to make interactive fiction a "serious" art
form, we have begun to lose sight of the gaming aspect of IF. IF can
function as a game, as a story, or as both. Granted, succeeding as
fiction and as game is preferred, but the lack of one does not of
necessity cripple the other.

"A Change in the Weather" was one of the best-written pieces of IF I have
ever played. However, it utterly failed as a game for me: I did not enjoy
its puzzle(s), and in fact could not complete it until after the
competition, and then only with the aid of a walkthrough. "The Light:
Shelby's Addendum" is fulfilling an opposite role for me; I am enjoying it
as a game, but do not feel that it is greatly written fiction.

It's good that we as a community are focusing on the literary aspects of
IF, trying to broaden it in that direction. The recent thread on
puzzleless IF is a wonderful step in that direction. The pendulum may
have swung too far, though. We may be in danger of discounting new IF
unless it aims to be more than entertainment.

There is amazing pressure on authors now. Unless games break new ground
technically and are artistically wonderful, we seem to look down on them.
"Oh," we say, "another pointless puzzle-driven game. Too bad they didn't
focus on writing and plot construction to the exclusion of all else."

Gareth, to me your review of "Shelby" typifies this view. I didn't
recognize the game you reviewed as the one I'm playing. You make many
valid points, but in the end try to force it to fit your conception of how
IF should be. Why is it that "Shelby" is poor because "it would not have
been out of place had it appeared as a mid-period Infocom game"? Are such
mid-period Infocom games such as "Hitchhiker's Guide" and "Infidel" now
poor examples of IF, not worth producing today? And I felt that your
remark "I wouldn't actually advise against playing [it]..." was needlessly
snide and condescending.

You can enjoy the works of Arthur Miller and Sam Shepard and still
appreciate the entertainment of a play by Christopher Durang. There is
nothing wrong with IF as entertainment, and entertaining IF in no way
prevents us from writing more literary IF. As in everything, balance is
needed. A steady diet of either style would quickly grow bland.

IF is not a single road down which we must march lock-step, trampling
underfoot any work which does not "advance the genre." Rather, it is a
branching path with many directions we may travel. IF is big enough to
encompass works from "Jigsaw" and "The Legend Lives!" to "John's Fire
Witch" and "Shelby's Addendum."

--
Stephen Granade | "You fools! Money doesn't put fish
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | on the table! FISH puts fish on
Duke University, Physics Dept | the table!"
| -- Mr. Smartypants, from The Tick

TEAddition

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Mar 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/30/96
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Stepehn Ganade wrote:

> There is amazing pressure on authors now. Unless games break new ground

> technically and are artistically wonderful, we seem to look down on
them.
> "Oh," we say, "another pointless puzzle-driven game. Too bad they
didn't
> focus on writing and plot construction to the exclusion of all else."

I did want to briefly contribute that I am growing a little concerned with
the new trend of reviewing interactive fiction. I've seen many times
where in other genres -- novels, movies, and the like -- critics have
imposed their own views upon the art form and thus slammed a movie that
might be very good for other reasons. Text-based interactive fiction is a
labor of love, often performed with very little hope of compensation.

Reviews are fine, but I hope they avoid the criticism we might find on
Siskel and Ebert. If you write a review, try to keep it as objective as
possible, and most importantly, don't be cruel or snide about it. Don't
write in such a way as to discourage the author from trying again. If you
have suggestions, E-mail the author and provide some constructive
criticism. I haven't read Gareth's review, and honestly I'm surprised
that he would write something which could be seen as snide or derisive,
but if that was the case, it was a mistake to do so.

Maybe it's naive, but I've always considered this newsgroup to be more of
a writing seminar, where our concern is to encourage authors and improve
on the genre. Positive buzz is the best thing for the genre. Negative
buzz is best handled by providing no buzz at all.

-TEA-

Douglas McNeil

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Mar 31, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/31/96
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Stephen Granade (sgra...@itchy.phy.duke.edu) wrote:

: I believe that, in our race to make interactive fiction a "serious" art

: form, we have begun to lose sight of the gaming aspect of IF.

: [excellent commentary removed]
: There is amazing pressure on authors now. Unless games break new ground

: technically and are artistically wonderful, we seem to look down on them.

This has been troubling me as well, and it's mildly reassuring to know
that I'm not the only IF fan who has recently been wondering if his taste
for Zork makes him base and uncultured. Work on my entry for the 1996 IF
Competition started some months ago, and I've seriously considered
abandoning the effort as it may be too much the "text adventure" and not
enough the masterpiece of literary interaction for the modern
discriminating player; at least, if the reviews I've read are
representative.

Take Gareth's review of JIGSAW, for example. I have no doubt that he
considers it a stunning accomplishment, and an engrossing game, but
reading his criticism I realise that our standards must be worlds apart:

"Still, Jigsaw is extremely good by the standards of existing text
adventure games, and certainly good enough to be worth paying the
compliment of taking it seriously. Although it adopts a traditional
puzzle苑ased style of game計lay, and doesn't make any technical advances
beyond the state of the art, it does wonders with the limited techniques
at its disposal."

Although everything written above is *technically* complimentary, it
leaves me with an uncomfortable feeling, as if something excellent is
being denied its due. I know that there is no such intent, and I suspect
that the above might be considered high praise by some for an art and
science still in its infancy, but something grates against my heart.

Someone sees the sun falling through rose clouds in early autumn, and
gives a review. "Very good; certainly worth taking seriously. While this
sunset makes no technical advances beyone the standard (perhaps the
creator should consider new research into rule-based simulation theory; an
interactive flock of geese would have improved it), it is nevertheless
worth watching. Any fan of nature should see it, and I look forward to
future works of God's."

I admit that many of those whose works I consider both artistically
excellent and great fun to play have been among those strongly requesting
the further development of IF criticism; and who am I, author of painfully
little, to object to the masters when *they* request analysis and
commentary? No one, I suppose, and yet I hesitate to criticise their
works for one of the very reasons I find them enjoyable - their nature as
adventures. It is because I enjoy them, among hundreds of other reasons,
*as* puzzle-based that I complain (in Christminster) that the phone puzzle
is unfair.

Perhaps I've insufficiently attended to separating my two streams of
thought, the first concerned with the increasing divide - at least in the
fashionable IF theories - between those of us who like Zork and those of
us who like AMFV - and the second concerned with the new (proposed) wave
of reviewing. My defence is that they seem to be converging at present,
and I don't know what I think about it.

I'm off to play some more Spritwrak.


Out of his league, as always,

Doug

bonni mierzejewska

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Mar 31, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/31/96
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On Sun, 31 Mar 1996 05:01:19 GMT, mlk...@students.wisc.edu (C.A.
McCarthy) wrote:

>>"A Change in the Weather" was one of the best-written pieces of IF I have
>>ever played. However, it utterly failed as a game for me: I did not enjoy
>>its puzzle(s), and in fact could not complete it until after the
>>competition, and then only with the aid of a walkthrough. "The Light:
>>Shelby's Addendum" is fulfilling an opposite role for me; I am enjoying it
>>as a game, but do not feel that it is greatly written fiction.
>

>Thank you Stephen. "Shelby" was written as a "game" which I hoped
>would be found to be entertaining. I had no aspirations of creating
>"art" (I'll leave that to Graham Nelson, who's doing a damn fine job)
>or anything of literary merit.

I happen to agree with Mr. Granade. I *enjoyed* Shelby; I didn't play it
to read great literature. Which reminds me, I gotta write that check...

>I did rather overreact to Gareth's review, but I find these "rules"
>to which IF is supposed to adhere (as laid down by whom?) rather
>detrimental to the genre. The two line description Scott Adams games
>have every bit as much merit as the screenfuls of scrolling text of
>"The Legend Lives!"....

I find these "rules" rather intimidating. As a new author, actually, I've
become *afraid*, in the last month or so, of how my competition entry will
be received, and Gareth Rees' reviews have been contributing to that fear.
If what's wanted in new IF is so artistically wonderful or imaginatively
new, then I'm afraid there's no place for folks like me who are just
getting started. I can't produce something like Jigsaw or Legend yet; I
haven't the coding expertise. With some study and practice, I can
probably get there (I'm a pretty good C/C++ programmer), but I'm not there
yet. So should I refrain from releasing any games until I can compete
with Graham Nelson, Gareth Rees and Dave Baggett? A strong reaction, I
admit, but you guys are scaring me.

>The genre is wide open to many different styles of IF. Let's not hold
>everything up for scrutiny against these blasted Infocom (a company
>that had its fair share of dross) games.

Hear hear. I agree whole-heartedly. And let's cut new authors some
slack, too.

bonni
coming soon - 1996 IF Competition entry
__ __
IC | XC | bonni mierzejewska "The Lone Quilter"
---+--- | u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu
NI | KA | Kelly's Creek Homestead, Maidsville, WV

Jacob Solomon We

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Mar 31, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/31/96
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sgra...@itchy.phy.duke.edu (Stephen Granade) writes:

>There is amazing pressure on authors now. Unless games break new ground
>technically and are artistically wonderful, we seem to look down on them.

>"Oh," we say, "another pointless puzzle-driven game. Too bad they didn't
>focus on writing and plot construction to the exclusion of all else."

I'm not sure I agree with this. Where does this amazing pressure come
from? It's true, if you write a game, you risk getting criticism of it on
rec.arts.int-fiction. But I think that's a very good thing.

Let me explain why with an example from my personal experience: when I
released Save Princeton a few years ago, there
was almost no discussion of it, and no feedback. I got a few notes from
poeple who liked it, and heard one or two complaints about some of the
puzzles, but there was no thoughtful, in-depth criticism of it.

Eventually, complaints started filtering in: the starvation puzzle is a
pain. The NPCs are too flat. The in-jokes are a bit much. From this
criticism, I learned how to be a better IF writer.

The fact that I welcome criticism probably has a lot to do with my
background: I've been taking creative writing workshops for years. The
way these work is that you write a story, and a bunch of people sit
around and tell you what they liked and didn't like about it. Listening
to their discussion not only helps you accept criticism, it helps you
reject it; you develop a sense of what criticism comes from an informed
understanding of your work, and what comes from Just Not Getting It.

Again, to speak from personal experience: my senior year of college, I
put together a collection of short stories as a senior thesis. I put a
tremendous amount of time and effort into it. It ended up going to Joyce
Carol Oates--one of the biggest and most respescted names in American
literatue--for grading, and she hated. Absolutely LOATHED it. But because
I've had so many years of sitting in on workshops hearing people argue
about the merits and faults of my work, I had the self-confidence to
listen to her opinions and reject most of them.
If I hadn't had the
chance to be criticized in a supportive environment, her opinion might
have seemed like the be-all and end-all to me.

Unfortunately, there aren't many workshops for IF authors. The best we
have is rec.arts.int-fiction. For an IF author, reading the posts here is
as close as we can get to listening in to a bunch of players discussing
our work.

One thing that makes creative writing workshops work is the diversity of
opinion. I can guarantee you that, for any criticism somebody raises,
somebody else will disagree. That's where the writer's built-in Criticism
Filter has to kick in. If you listen to every suggestion, you will stop
being who you are. But if you ignore every criticism, you will miss out on
the chance to be even better than you are.

If rec.arts.int-fiction is going to be a good workshop, people are going
to have to argue about criticisms. That's one reason why I don't think
e-mailing criticism is a great idea. If Gareth had just e-mailed his
comments, nobody could step forward and say, "Sorry, Gareth, I disagree."
And the writer of the game would be poorer for it.

One other virtue of public debate is that it gives one a sense of whose
tastes they share. Stephen, you (and, I gather, a number of other people)
now know that you have different priorities than Gareth does when it
comes to interactive fiction. When you read any comments he may have on
your work, you'll know to evaluate them from that perspective.

For all these reasons, I think it's vital that people post comments
exactly like the ones that Gareth posted--critical, thoughtful, and,
yes, subjective. I also think it's vital that people follow them up with
equally critical, thoughtful, and subjective posts that contradict them
entirely. And I think it's equally vital that IF authors read the
criticism, consider it thoughtfully, and then feel free to accept or
reject it.

-Jacob

Gareth Rees

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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TEAddition <teadd...@aol.com> wrote:
> I've seen many times where critics have imposed their own views upon

> the art form and thus slammed a movie that might be very good for
> other reasons.

There are two fallacies in the above. First, in a democratic society,
critics cannot "impose" their own views on an art form. Film-makers,
artists and writers have always produced works in defiance of the
critical consensus. Often this kind of work breaks exciting new ground,
and the critics eventually realise how silly they were (e.g., the
Impressionist movement). Critics have very little power in this respect
(who in Hollywood goes out of their way to produce movies acceptable to
the critics?).

Second, what do you mean by "very good for other reasons"? If the
critics slammed a movie, it's because they *didn't like it*, not because
of some obscure literary-theoretical objection to an otherwise good
film. They slammed it because they had to sit through it for two hours
of yawning and watching the clock.

> Text-based interactive fiction is a labor of love, often performed
> with very little hope of compensation.

Should rec.arts.int-fiction be like a kindergarten, then, where everyone
gets marks for effort? It seems to me that it's a compliment to someone
to treat their work seriously.

We could have a division of effort on this one. You can do the warm
fuzzies and cheerleading ("Rec! Arts! Int! Fic! Ra! Ra! Ra!") and I'll
do the criticising.

--
Gareth Rees

Nulldogma

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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Nothing's wrong with criticism, but I think if we *were* in a writing
workshop, as Jacob compares this to, the person running it would feel
compelled to step forward and say, "Hey, Gareth, chill out. You're
*scaring* people."

Now I personally have read enough of Gareth's reviews by now that I get
what he's doing -- he has incredibly high standards (even for himself --
remember his review of "Christminster"?), and any praise at all from him
is a great accomplishment. But I think if you haven't been following this
newsgroup closely for several months, it's likely to be more discouraging
than anything else.

Neil

TEAddition

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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Nulldogma:

ND> Nothing's wrong with criticism, but I think if we *were* in a writing
ND> workshop, as Jacob compares this to, the person running it would feel
ND> compelled to step forward and say, "Hey, Gareth, chill out. You're
ND> *scaring* people."

For example, Gareth Rees:

GR> Should rec.arts.int-fiction be like a kindergarten, then, where
everyone
GR> gets marks for effort?

All-or-nothing, again. Kindergarten or literary surgery, nothing
in-between.

The point is well-made, though. We're all big children and can take care
of ourselves. We all have the right to consider as much or as little of
what our peers say as we wish. And no matter what it might do to our
pride, criticism is the only way we can improve our work.

But Gareth, look at your "kindergarten" statement above. That's not
constructive. That's "shut up and listen to me." Nothing could have made
that statement more inflamatory or snide. I have no problem with
criticism, but I have a lot of problems with pomposity.

-TEA-

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu (bonni mierzejewska) writes:
> I find these "rules" rather intimidating. As a new author, actually, I've
> become *afraid*, in the last month or so, of how my competition entry will
> be received, and Gareth Rees' reviews have been contributing to that fear.
> If what's wanted in new IF

Bzzt! Syntax error. Passive voice has led you astray. "What's wanted
in new IF" by who?

People want all sorts of things. Your audience will find you. (Unless
you refuse to upload your game.) Someone who hates your game will also
find you. This happens to everybody.

> So should I refrain from releasing any games until I can compete
> with Graham Nelson, Gareth Rees and Dave Baggett?

Yes -- in fact, you should crawl into a cave and eat nothing but moss
until you attain enlightenment and solve the world's problems. Come
on, what do you think I'm going to say?

You were talking about coding expertise, but I tend to think that's
less important to the success of a game than design and writing
ability. (The coding in Spiritwrak is, well, pretty bad -- but people
are having fun with it.) Writing ability is a matter of practice and
feedback. And stealing from the best, of course. :)

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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jwei...@phakt.usc.edu (Jacob Solomon We) writes:
> I'm not sure I agree with this. Where does this amazing pressure come
> from? It's true, if you write a game, you risk getting criticism of it on
> rec.arts.int-fiction. But I think that's a very good thing.

[rest clipped -- go back and read it]

Yay! Good post!

Christopher E. Forman

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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Jacob Solomon We (jwei...@phakt.usc.edu) wrote:
: I'm not sure I agree with this. Where does this amazing pressure come

: from? It's true, if you write a game, you risk getting criticism of it on
: rec.arts.int-fiction. But I think that's a very good thing.
[A lot of excellent observation cut to save bandwidth]

Excellent, EXCELLENT points, Jacob.

It's nice to know that I'm not the only person who's had trouble getting
feedback. (Haven't played SP yet, or you'd hear from me.) Perhaps you
didn't get much about SP because, back when it was released, the infamous
I-F shortage was still rampant, and no one wanted to risk even constructive
criticism out of fear of scaring off potential authors.

But we're getting away from that now, so criticism is expected. (By who?
asks Andrew Plotkin. By me. And I have a feeling I'm not the only author
who wants feedback.) Despite Gareth's criticisms - and you're right, Neil,
he does set very high standards for others and himself - I find his input
one of the strongest forces driving us toward this criticism. Admittedly,
bits of the "Shelby" review were a bit harsh (I can't comment fully as I
haven't played the game much yet), but a simple reminder to keep comments
constructive, to HELP authors make their I-F better without degrading it,
is necessary.

I encourage more posting of reviews in public forums like raif. I plan to
do one or two of my own once I get my submissions to the zines finished.
Public discussion is far more effective than e-mail, as participants have
a chance to clarify points to the whole readership, not just a single
user. This is not to say, however, that I haven't received any good
e-mail on PTF. I have, in fact, read some very intelligent comments, many
of which have already impacted the design of "Circle." (Still not as many
as I'd like to see, though.) But like Jacob says, you can't please
everyone no matter how hard you may try, so please yourself first.

--
C.E. Forman cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Read the I-F e-zine XYZZYnews, at ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/magazines/xyzzynews,
or on the Web at http://www.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzynews.html

Jacob Solomon We

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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null...@aol.com (Nulldogma) writes:

>Nothing's wrong with criticism, but I think if we *were* in a writing

>workshop, as Jacob compares this to, the person running it would feel

>compelled to step forward and say, "Hey, Gareth, chill out. You're

>*scaring* people."

Really? Hmm... In my experience, Gareth's comments would have elicited
no such rebuke. What would have happened is this: while he was talking,
half the class would be nodding their heads, while the other half would
grow progressively more and more outraged. When he finished, the outraged
half would step forward and explain why they felt he was wrong. Much
argument about his individual points would then ensue, and, by the end of
it, the author would have a good sample of reaction to his work.

What happened here was more or less the same, although thanks to the
delay of the 'net, the disagreement took a while to filter back.

Since we've been discussing what sort of criticism of IF is appropriate,
let me offer my own rules, which I've drawn from my experience in
workshops.

Jacob's Guide To Giving Constructive Feedback on IF

1) Discuss the game, not the author.
Wrong: The latest game from Jane Doe proves, once again, that she needs
to pay more attention to grammar.
Right: In "Mr. Bily's Real Good Game," the numerous spelling and
grammatical errors give an unprofessional appearance.

2) Be specific.
Wrong: I didn't like the plot of this game.
Right: I thought that the idea of giant ants terrorizing the populace was
kind of silly, and I found it unbelievable that the President would ask a
kindergartner to help solve the problem.

3) Offer suggestions on how to fix things.
Wrong: Captain Ahab wasn't a very interesting character.
Right: Captain Ahab wasn't a very interesting character. I would have liked
him to react to being shown or given more objects. He certainly should react
when you show him the sword you stole from his cabin.

4) Phrase your criticisms politely.
Wrong: The prose sucks.
Right: The prose needs a great deal of polishing.

5) Don't be afraid of criticising.
Wrong: (said to oneself) "Well, gee, I really didn't like this game, but I
don't want to hurt the author's feelings, so I'll just say how much I liked
the title and leave it at that."
Right: (said to oneself) "Well, gee, I really didn't like this game, but if
the author doesn't get feedback from players, he'll never be able to
improve, so I'll post some polite and constructive criticism. And I'll be
sure to include some mention of what worked in the game, so he'll know
what he's doing right."

6) Don't be afraid of praising.
Wrong: (said to oneself) "Well, gee, I thought this was the greatest game
since Zork I, but it's a traditional puzzle-oriented game, and I'm afraid
that if I say how much I like it, people will make fun of me, and,
besides, just telling the author how great the game is won't help him
improve."
Right: (said to oneself) "Well, gee, I thought this was the greatest game
sinze Zork I, and so I'm going to post specific and detailed comments
about what I liked. This will let the author know what his strengths are
as a writer. And if those avant-garde anti-puzzle types don't agree, they
can post responses, thereby provoking an interesting and useful discussion."

7) If you disagree with another poster, let the world know.
Wrong: (said to oneself) "Oooh, that Jacob Weinstein makes me mad. I'm going
to sit at the keyboard and fume silently."
Right: (said to oneself) "Ooh, that Jacob Weinstein makes me mad. I'm
going to swallow my anger and post a polite and thoughtful response
disagreeing with him."

8) Admit to your biases.
Wrong: I thought the section in the labyrinth of Crete was the best part
of the game.
Right: I'm a sucker for clever variations on the old maze puzzle, so I
though the section in the labyrinth of Crete was the best part of the game.


-Jacob

Stephen Granade

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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In article <4jnbue$3...@phakt.usc.edu> jwei...@phakt.usc.edu (Jacob
Solomon We) writes:
> I'm not sure I agree with this. Where does this amazing pressure come
> from? It's true, if you write a game, you risk getting criticism of it
> on rec.arts.int-fiction. But I think that's a very good thing.

I'll take these two points in reverse order:

I don't think we're arguing at cross-purposes here. I'm all for
criticism; like you, I released a game which got very little feedback.
What I am worried about is the state of our criticism: we tend to have an
all-or-nothing approach here. We must either be completely supportive or
completely critical, with no balance in between. My post was, above all,
a plea for balance.

The pressure comes from people on this group. The message we're sending
out is not "release a game and you may get some criticism on it." Rather,
I feel that it is "release a game and most will ignore it except for hint
requests; the ones who don't ignore it will rip it to shreds."

[...munch...]


> Unfortunately, there aren't many workshops for IF authors. The best we
> have is rec.arts.int-fiction. For an IF author, reading the posts here
> is as close as we can get to listening in to a bunch of players
> discussing our work.
>
> One thing that makes creative writing workshops work is the diversity of
> opinion. I can guarantee you that, for any criticism somebody raises,
> somebody else will disagree. That's where the writer's built-in
> Criticism Filter has to kick in. If you listen to every suggestion, you
> will stop being who you are. But if you ignore every criticism, you will
> miss out on the chance to be even better than you are.

I agree with your point. However, the current situation is far from this
ideal. Gareth is our most literate and out-spoken critic of IF. After
him, though, we have no-one who is making as concerted an effort to
critique IF *specifically*. Lots of general "puzzle/no puzzle" types of
threads, but no critiques.

Yes, critiques should be discussed here. But if we're going to treat this
as a workshop-type forum, we must have more discussion, and we need more
balance in critiques. Our group here is a fairly close, personal one;
criticism of work can easily be construed as a personal attack.

I sincerely hope my post was not taken as a call to ban critiques. It was
not meant as such. Rather, it was meant to point out where I disagree
with what I have been reading in this group.

Magnus Olsson

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Apr 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/1/96
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In article <Dp5As...@wave.scar.utoronto.ca>,

Douglas McNeil <94mc...@wave.scar.utoronto.ca> wrote:
>Stephen Granade (sgra...@itchy.phy.duke.edu) wrote:
>
>: I believe that, in our race to make interactive fiction a "serious" art
>: form, we have begun to lose sight of the gaming aspect of IF.
>: [excellent commentary removed]
>: There is amazing pressure on authors now. Unless games break new ground
>: technically and are artistically wonderful, we seem to look down on them.
>
>This has been troubling me as well, and it's mildly reassuring to know
>that I'm not the only IF fan who has recently been wondering if his taste
>for Zork makes him base and uncultured. Work on my entry for the 1996 IF
>Competition started some months ago, and I've seriously considered
>abandoning the effort as it may be too much the "text adventure" and not
>enough the masterpiece of literary interaction for the modern
>discriminating player; at least, if the reviews I've read are
>representative.

By all means, do *NOT* take the current debate as a reason to withdraw.

The reviews you're referring to, as well as the current discussion on
this newsgroup, are most emphatically *not* representative.

My interpretation of things is that there are a lot of people
(including me) who still like the traditional kind of IF a lot, but
who wouldn't mind seeing new developments in the field. There are a
few people who aren't really satisfied with the current state of the
art and are pushing rather hard to change it. There are also a few
"conservatives" who long for the days of Scott Adams and find today's
games over-sophisticated and obsessed with parsers, long room
descriptions and other silliness :-).

It is also my distinct impression that the majority of the audience
are looking for entertaining games, not for art. This doesn't mean
that they would shun a new piece of IF if it diffes from the supposed
norms, just that they presumably prefer a traditional game that's
playable to a new, inventive, "arty" work with low playability.


If you look at the reviews in SPAG, for example, you'll find that
almsot all reviews stress issues like playability, quality of puzzles,
and so on, rather than the artistic merits of the games.


Finally, if I might get a bit personal, I think people are attributing all
kinds of things to Gareth Rees that I don't think he really stands for.
Gareth clearly has very high standards and doesn't hesitate to point out
what he doesn't like. But that is both a privilege and a responsibility
of a critic. On the other hand, I don't think I've ever seen Gareth blast
a piece of IF because it's not "arty" enough or because it's "too much of
a game". We should keep in mind that his own game "Christminster" is
quite puzzle-intensive.

As for my own reviews, I try to adapt to the ambitions of the author.
If the author has obviously tried to create a great work of art, and
failed, I will not hesitate to point it out. However, if the author
was merely trying to entertain, I see no point in criticizing him or
her for not have written a literary masterpiece. Not that "just merely
trying to entertain" excuses _everything_ - bad writing is bad writing
- but it isn't meaningful to criticize the authors of "Zork" for not
providing sufficient depth in their portrayal of that great tragic
character, the troll. :-)

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

C.A. McCarthy

unread,
Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
to
m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

a whole bunch of stuff...

Great posting, Magnus.

C.A. McCarthy

unread,
Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
to
u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu (bonni mierzejewska) wrote:

>As a new author, actually, I've become *afraid*, in the last month or so, of how my competition entry will
>be received, and Gareth Rees' reviews have been contributing to that fear.

>If what's wanted in new IF is so artistically wonderful or imaginatively
>new, then I'm afraid there's no place for folks like me who are just
>getting started. I can't produce something like Jigsaw or Legend yet; I
>haven't the coding expertise. With some study and practice, I can
>probably get there (I'm a pretty good C/C++ programmer), but I'm not there
>yet. So should I refrain from releasing any games until I can compete
>with Graham Nelson, Gareth Rees and Dave Baggett? A strong reaction, I
>admit, but you guys are scaring me.

Actually, I quite like Gareth's reviews (most of them anyway <G>) so
don't be so harsh on him.

And why must you feel the need to produce another "Jigsaw" or
"Legend"? I have no aspirations of doing so, and there are many
games being produced that bear little or no resemblance to the type of
IF which those two games represent.

Get your game out, girl, and everyone else be damned.

Here's me bus! Cheers.

Colm


Magnus Olsson

unread,
Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
to
In article <4jpda7$j...@news.duke.edu>,

Stephen Granade <sgra...@quirky.phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>I agree with your point. However, the current situation is far from this
>ideal. Gareth is our most literate and out-spoken critic of IF. After
>him, though, we have no-one who is making as concerted an effort to
>critique IF *specifically*. Lots of general "puzzle/no puzzle" types of
>threads, but no critiques.

But please note that people *are* writing IF critique, it's just that
they don't post it here. Any new readers who haven't heard about SPAG
yet should check it out <ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/magazines/SPAG>.

Why aren't more reviews posted here on r.a.if-? Well, to start with,
there's no tradition of doing so; we've only just begun. Secondly, and
more important, I (and perhaps many with me) feel that a Usenet
discussion group is not the right medium for this kind of reviews.
Critical discussion, yes. Reviews seem less appropriate; judging by
the reaction on the few reviews posted here so far, I'm afraid I'm
right. I shall return to this in a later post.

>
>Yes, critiques should be discussed here. But if we're going to treat this
>as a workshop-type forum, we must have more discussion, and we need more
>balance in critiques. Our group here is a fairly close, personal one;
>criticism of work can easily be construed as a personal attack.

Indeed. There's a huge difference between reading a negative review in
a journal (or in SPAG) and reading it here - the latter case is more
like someone at a meeting taking up a manuscript and reading off a
well formulated, witty and devastating criticism of your work.

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

Dave Seybert

unread,
Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
to
In article <4jqm0r$6...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

> Why aren't more reviews posted here on r.a.if-? Well, to start with,
> there's no tradition of doing so; we've only just begun. Secondly, and
> more important, I (and perhaps many with me) feel that a Usenet
> discussion group is not the right medium for this kind of reviews.
> Critical discussion, yes. Reviews seem less appropriate; judging by
> the reaction on the few reviews posted here so far, I'm afraid I'm
> right. I shall return to this in a later post.

Reading this after just posting a review on Lost New York on R.G.I.F. made
for a reassuring note. Actually, I think posting reviews in the
newsgroups is a pretty good idea for a number of reasons:

1) They're immediate. We can wait until the next issue of SPAG or XZZY
comes out (possibly months) or we can read about new games right away.
Since a lot of time and effort goes into playing a game, it's nice to get
an informed opinion about the game beforehand. For example, I was all
poised to play Deep Space Drifter until I read that it has plenty of evil
mazes. It saved me a lot of time.

2) It's good advertising. A good review from Siskel and Ebert can send an
undecided view directly to the theatre. Likewise a good review of an I-F
game (like Lost New York) can send people directly to ftp.gmd.de to
download it.

3) It sets up a forum for the writer to get immediate constructive
critisism. It can also provoke some lively discussion. Certainly the
review of Shelby did that, although all the discussion seems to be on the
review and not the game.

4) I like writing them.

By the way, I've noticed a running undercurrent of people tiring of
current IF offerings being compared to the old Infocom games. I couldn't
agree more. They were good games, still are good games, but they're over,
done, finis. A game should be reviewed on its own merits/weaknesses, not
how it compares to other efforts. When I finally get my game done, I'll
want as much constructive critisism as I can take, I'll want it as fast as
possible and I'll if anyone compares it to "A Mind Forever Voyaging" or
"Zork", I'll be very unhappy.

Be good to each other.


Dave Seybert

Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
to
In article <315ee42a...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu>, bonni mierzejewska
<mailto:u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu> wrote:
>
> I find these "rules" rather intimidating. As a new author, actually, I've

> become *afraid*, in the last month or so, of how my competition entry will
> be received, and Gareth Rees' reviews have been contributing to that fear.
> If what's wanted in new IF is so artistically wonderful or imaginatively
> new, then I'm afraid there's no place for folks like me who are just
> getting started. I can't produce something like Jigsaw or Legend yet; I
> haven't the coding expertise. With some study and practice, I can
> probably get there (I'm a pretty good C/C++ programmer), but I'm not there
> yet. So should I refrain from releasing any games until I can compete
> with Graham Nelson, Gareth Rees and Dave Baggett? A strong reaction, I
> admit, but you guys are scaring me.

What I find worrying about this current criticism is people's reactions to
it. Now look, AFAIK the "wave" consists of a few reviews by Gareth Rees.
That's all. Sure, Gareth has personal likes and dislikes, and maybe these
colour his reviews a little bit more than they ought to, but _no_ reviewer
can completely divorce himself from his own opinions, nor should he be
expected to. Equally, and perhaps for this reason, _no_ review is going to
be universally liked or accepted. If you disagree with a review what do you
do? Quiver with fear? No. You counter it with your own review.

Bonni has mentioned Graham, Gareth, and Dave as authors she doesn't feel able
to compete with. No disrespect to anyone, these three have all released some
fine (and very different) games, but come on, they aren't _that_ good.
Jigsaw is not the be all and end all of IF; Legend was in some ways
innovative, but was also flawed; Christminster had some of the most
convincing characters in IF, but they could still be improved.

I fully expect a lot of people here to dislike my own game, The Golem (should
I ever finish it), but so what? Maybe a few people will like it, or at least
aspects of it, too. I certainly think it's worth writing. If I wanted to be
provocative I might say it'll be better than Jigsaw, Legend, and
Christminster, purely because I have seen these games, seen their mistakes,
and can use that knowledge to avoid the same mistakes (although I'm sure I'll
make plenty of my own). I have also seen their triumphs, and can steal them.
:) Anyway, I don't want to be provocative, so I won't say that.

The moral? Write your game, maybe it'll get a poor review. If so, look at
this review as objectively as you can, and learn from it. If you, the
author, disagree with the review then take issue with it and rationally
justify your criticism of the criticism. If you, the player, disagree then
write your own review, and give us the benefit of your point of view.
Remember, for every Gareth there is an anti-Gareth. :) I don't think Gareth
Rees or anyone else really intends to impose "rules" on us through their
reviews. The only way these comments become rules is if people
(mis)interpret them that way.

I hope we aren't going to become so paranoid and cloistered that we can't
accept that other people have views and opinions and standards that differ
from our own.

Jools


Christopher E. Forman

unread,
Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
to
Dave Seybert (dsey...@telerama.lm.com) wrote:
: Reading this after just posting a review on Lost New York on R.G.I.F. made

: for a reassuring note. Actually, I think posting reviews in the
: newsgroups is a pretty good idea for a number of reasons:

This raises an issue that I attempted to hit in my recent beta-testing
article in XYZZYnews.

Dave, I know you were a beta-tester for LNY, and, although your review was
very good, I have to question the wisdom of a tester writing a review of a
game s/he's tested. (Bear with me, this is NOT a personal attack.)

A tester can (notice I said CAN, not WILL) have an enormous amount of
influence on the final outcome of a game. Look at Graham Nelson's testers,
who convinced him to eliminate entire regions of "Curses" and "Jigsaw."
If a tester exerts this kind of influence, it places him/her in the same
category as the author, namely, that the tester may have been too close to
the project to write an effective, unbiased review.

Take myself for instance. I also beta-tested Neil's LNY, and I felt that
I had a profound effect on a number of implementations and features which
may not have even been programmed otherwise. I grew to love the game of
LNY with the same creative love I have for my own work. Because of that,
I don't think I could write a review of LNY. I'd downplay flaws and
glorify my own contributions, as would an actual author.

It's because of this, whether intentional or not, that zines such as
SPAG and XYZZYnews don't allow authors to review their own games. The
question I'm putting forward is, should TESTERS review games they've
tested, when they've had enough impact on the game to feel a part of it,
as the author does?

I suspect that the answer to this will vary depending on the individual
tester's own feelings of involvement. Not everyone will feel as strongly
as I do about my experience with LNY (and I still cringe everytime a
person posts a bug about it, just as I would if it were my own game).

For instance, in Gareth Rees' recent review of "Jigsaw," perhaps he didn't
feel he had the influence he expected. And I'd be hard-pressed to
question any of my "Path to Fortune" testers' decision to post a review
of PTF, since I admittedly yanked the game from them far prematurely, in
a desperate rush to get it out the door (that's another thread, though).

In either of these cases, I would have no personal complaints about the
posting of a review by a tester. But I (and I'm sure Neil as well) would
never want myself to post a review of LNY, for reasons already stated.

The floor's open. Any other comments on this?

bonni mierzejewska

unread,
Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
to
On Mon, 1 Apr 1996 12:36:32 -0500, "Andrew C. Plotkin"
<erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:

>Bzzt! Syntax error. Passive voice has led you astray. "What's wanted
>in new IF" by who?

Actually, I have no idea. I *love* pointless, puzzle-driven games myself.

>> So should I refrain from releasing any games until I can compete
>> with Graham Nelson, Gareth Rees and Dave Baggett?
>

>Yes -- in fact, you should crawl into a cave and eat nothing but moss
>until you attain enlightenment and solve the world's problems.

ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
<gag cough bits of moss go flying>
ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm

:;->

Dave Seybert

unread,
Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
to
In article <4jrspe$e...@thor.cmp.ilstu.edu>, cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
(Christopher E. Forman) wrote:

> It's because of this, whether intentional or not, that zines such as
> SPAG and XYZZYnews don't allow authors to review their own games. The
> question I'm putting forward is, should TESTERS review games they've
> tested, when they've had enough impact on the game to feel a part of it,
> as the author does?
>
> I suspect that the answer to this will vary depending on the individual
> tester's own feelings of involvement. Not everyone will feel as strongly
> as I do about my experience with LNY (and I still cringe everytime a
> person posts a bug about it, just as I would if it were my own game).
>

As always, I enjoyed your well thought out comments. As a beta tester for
Lost New York, I have to admit, that aside from finding a few bugs, my
involvement and enthusiasm for the game came from the game itself,
particularly its subject matter and its puzzles. In this regard, I
thought of myself as nothing more than a critic who gets a chance to sneak
preview a film before its general release.

I agree that most testers will be partial to a game they've actively
contributed on and, probably would make biased reviewers. I know I
certainly wouldn't want to review my own game when it's finished, but I
hope others will, even some of the testers (athough, to be fair, I'd hope
to have had a lengthy dialogue with them already. It's great advertising
and a great forum for feedback.

What do the rest of you think?

Dave

Gareth Rees

unread,
Apr 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/3/96
to
Douglas McNeil <94mc...@wave.scar.utoronto.ca> wrote:
> I've seriously considered abandoning the effort as it may be too much
> the "text adventure" and not enough the masterpiece of literary
> interaction for the modern discriminating player; at least, if the
> reviews I've read are representative.

The reviews you read here are most certainly *not* representative since
reviewers are a self-selecting bunch; there are a lot of people out
there who enjoy traditional adventures. You certainly shouldn't be put
off by anything I write: I'm just one person and my tastes are probably
quite unusual. And in any case I will certainly play your game if you
enter the competition, so what's there to fear?

Please, treat what I write as what it is: just one person's opinion. If
you have a different opinion about a game, voice it.

> [from Gareth's review of Jigsaw] "Still, "Jigsaw" is extremely good by


> the standards of existing text adventure games, and certainly good
> enough to be worth paying the compliment of taking it seriously.

> Although it adopts a traditional puzzle­based style of game­play, and


> doesn't make any technical advances beyond the state of the art, it
> does wonders with the limited techniques at its disposal."

> Although everything written above is *technically* complimentary, it
> leaves me with an uncomfortable feeling, as if something excellent is

> being denied its due ... something grates against my heart.

It does read a bit like damnation with faint praise, doesn't it? I will
try to explain.

I can choose to consider "Jigsaw" only as a game, or I can choose to
review it as a work of fiction that happens to be written as a text
adventure. If the former, then I think of "Jigsaw" in comparison to
"Trinity", "Zork", "TimeQuest", and sure, it's better than these. (If
you want to read a review of "Jigsaw" in this manner, see Adam
Thornton's piece in SPAG 8, which considers "Trinity" to be the exemplar
after which all text adventures will be judged.)

But if the latter, then I think of "Jigsaw" in comparison with "War and
Peace" or "Catch 22" or "A History of the World in 10½ Chapters", and
now, something would grate against *my* heart if I were to praise
"Jigsaw" unstintingly.

It seems to me that there's a danger in a small genre of considering
work only in relation to the rest of the genre, and not to the wider
cultural world from which that genre is insulated. In science fiction
circles, there's been for a long time a tendancy for critics to only
read science fiction, and compare only with science fiction. This leads
to over-praise of work that isn't really very good (currently Steve
Baxter and Greg Egan are beneficiaries of this tendancy), a failure to
recognise the worth of new work (one thinks of early reviews of Brian
Aldiss' "Report on Probability A"), and a general stagnation of the
field. I would like to do what little I can to try to stop this
happening to IF.

And on a purely personal level, since *I* like playing some adventure
games more than others, why shouldn't I encourage authors to produce
games more to my taste? (Though of course it would be massively
overestimating my influence if I thought that anyone would change the
way they wrote a game on account of some rubbish I posted to Usenet.)

--
Gareth Rees

Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/3/96
to
In article <4jrspe$e...@thor.cmp.ilstu.edu>, Christopher E. Forman
<mailto:cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:
>
[valid comments about playtesters not reviewing the games they've tested]

>
> The floor's open. Any other comments on this?

Hmm, I think Chris raises important points. OTOH though, who has a better,
deeper, and more complete knowledge of the game than a playtester, someone
who's been in close contact with it for a number of months, and has seen it
grow and develop? Well, the author of course, but then the author is
obviously too close to his own game to review it properly (although his bias
needn't be towards self-glorification, he could just as easily swing the
other way and belittle his achievements-- in any case the author is too close
to his game to review it, although I don't object to authors writing
review-like articles of their games).

Anyway, where was I? The playtester probably is in a better position even
than the average player to review a game, in some respects at least. I do
think, however, that the reviewer should make clear his link to the game
under review.

Jools


Branko Collin

unread,
Apr 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/4/96
to
In article <4jp2fh$m...@newsbf02.news.aol.com>
If a newspaper prints a harsh review you don't agree with, there is
little you can do about it. But Usenet is review heaven! If you do
not agree with a review then write your own instead of reviewing the
review.

It would seem that people in this thread would rather silence the
one person that is making a constructive effort than that they would
roll up their sleeves themselves.

Newsgroups are there for discussion. You cannot discuss if you all
(must) agree. Disagreement is a good thing. It fertilizes discussion,
it tickles creativity, it makes you learn.

Discuss! ;-)

.......................................................................
. Branko Collin . Watch this space for the next .
. . episode of: .
. // u24...@vm.uci.kun.nl . .
. \X/ . Controversial Signatures .
.......................................................................

Virtuadept

unread,
Apr 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/6/96
to
TEAddition wrote:

> The point is well-made, though. We're all big children and can take care
> of ourselves. We all have the right to consider as much or as little of
> what our peers say as we wish. And no matter what it might do to our
> pride, criticism is the only way we can improve our work.

Right.

> But Gareth, look at your "kindergarten" statement above. That's not
> constructive. That's "shut up and listen to me." Nothing could have made
> that statement more inflamatory or snide. I have no problem with
> criticism, but I have a lot of problems with pomposity.

Look, we need people who make sarcastic comments like Gareth because he makes
the nice people look that much better. :)

--

-=* V i r t u A d e p t *=-
virtu...@earthlink.net

Simon Hedge

unread,
Apr 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/6/96
to
Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>I fully expect a lot of people here to dislike my own game, The Golem (should
>I ever finish it), but so what? Maybe a few people will like it, or at least
>aspects of it, too. I certainly think it's worth writing. If I wanted to be
>provocative I might say it'll be better than Jigsaw, Legend, and
>Christminster, purely because I have seen these games, seen their mistakes,
>and can use that knowledge to avoid the same mistakes (although I'm sure I'll
>make plenty of my own). I have also seen their triumphs, and can steal them.
>:) Anyway, I don't want to be provocative, so I won't say that.

>I hope we aren't going to become so paranoid and cloistered that we can't
>accept that other people have views and opinions and standards that differ
>from our own.

Jools makes emminent sense here. We none of us are trying to feed the
wife and kids with our IF. We can afford to do things Infocom would
never have dared to do.
Just write the game YOU want to play. If no one else likes it, so
what? Just shrug your shoulders and go back and write a sequel just to
spite them all. Should I ever master Inform this is certainly the
approach I hope to take.

Bfn

Si

--
Simon Hedge

"You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike."


Joe Mason

unread,
Apr 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/6/96
to
"Re: IF Criticism (or, Rev", declared Julian Arnold from the Vogon ship:

[quoting Bonni, I believe]

JA>> are just getting started. I can't produce something like Jigsaw or
JA>> Legend yet; I haven't the coding expertise. With some study and
JA>> practice, I can probably get there (I'm a pretty good C/C++ programmer),
JA>> but I'm not there yet. So should I refrain from releasing any games
JA>> until I can compete with Graham Nelson, Gareth Rees and Dave Baggett? A
JA>> strong reaction, I admit, but you guys are scaring me.

JA>Bonni has mentioned Graham, Gareth, and Dave as authors she doesn't feel
JA>able to compete with. No disrespect to anyone, these three have all
JA>released some fine (and very different) games, but come on, they aren't
JA>_that_ good. Jigsaw is not the be all and end all of IF; Legend was in
JA>some ways innovative, but was also flawed; Christminster had some of the
JA>most convincing characters in IF, but they could still be improved.

Just for the record, I haven't liked anything by Gareth that I've ever played.
No offense meant, of course - its just that I found Christminster boring,
after the first scene which was excellent, and the Magic Toyshop far too
artificial. But I still respect him as one of the premiere authors in the
field, simply because he's actually finished a game, and a major game at that,
which I have certainly yet to do. If you get one finished, I'll certainly
respect yours too - again, it'll be more then a lot of people out there have
written!

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şTherapy helps, but screaming obscenities is cheaper.

Joe Mason

unread,
Apr 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/6/96
to
"Re: IF Criticism (or, Rev", declared Douglas McNeil from the Vogon ship:

DM>This has been troubling me as well, and it's mildly reassuring to know
DM>that I'm not the only IF fan who has recently been wondering if his taste
DM>for Zork makes him base and uncultured. Work on my entry for the 1996 IF
DM>Competition started some months ago, and I've seriously considered
DM>abandoning the effort as it may be too much the "text adventure" and not
DM>enough the masterpiece of literary interaction for the modern
DM>discriminating player; at least, if the reviews I've read are
DM>representative.

:-) No, don't abandon it! If you do, the people who still like text
adventures over "artistic" work will have nothing to vote for!

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şSoftware Independent: Won't work w/ any software

Joe Mason

unread,
Apr 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/6/96
to
"Re: IF Criticism (or, Rev", declared Jacob Solomon from the Vogon ship:

JS>7) If you disagree with another poster, let the world know.
JS>Wrong: (said to oneself) "Oooh, that Jacob Weinstein makes me mad. I'm
JS>going to sit at the keyboard and fume silently."
JS>Right: (said to oneself) "Ooh, that Jacob Weinstein makes me mad. I'm
JS>going to swallow my anger and post a polite and thoughtful response
JS>disagreeing with him."

Ooh, dat wascally Weinstein!

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --

þ CMPQwk 1.42 9550 þBarfign gen: Car Sickness in a Volkswagen.

Joe Mason

unread,
Apr 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/6/96
to
"Re: IF Criticism (or, Rev", declared u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu from the Vogon
ship:

u>>Yes -- in fact, you should crawl into a cave and eat nothing but moss
u>>until you attain enlightenment and solve the world's problems.

u>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
u>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
u><gag cough bits of moss go flying>
u>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm

Just make sure you squeeze the moss before you eat it. :-)

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --

þ CMPQwk 1.42 9550 þVultures only fly with carrion luggage.

Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 7, 1996, 4:00:00 AM4/7/96
to
In article <4jrspe$e...@thor.cmp.ilstu.edu>, cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
(Christopher E. Forman) wrote:
>
> It's because of this, whether intentional or not, that zines such as
> SPAG and XYZZYnews don't allow authors to review their own games. The
> question I'm putting forward is, should TESTERS review games they've
> tested, when they've had enough impact on the game to feel a part of it,
> as the author does?

As a practical answer-of-sorts to this question I have written a review of
"Gumshoe", which I helped playtest. I considered the game as objectively as
I could, and based my review on the release version, not the betas. Reading
my review now, I feel I have reviewed my own playtesting as much as I have
Mike's game. I have, I feel, not held back in my criticism of aspects of the
game, nor in my praise for other aspects. My greatest thought now is _why
the hell didn't I make the points during playtesting that I've made in the
review?_ For this reason, perhaps playtesters will not want to review the
games they have tested? I hope Mike doesn't take offence at my review, that
is not it's purpose.

I'm finding the reviewing process to be very useful to me, both from the
point of view of an aspiring author, and from that of a perspiring
playtester.

Anyway, the review itself is in another post. Read it and post your
comments.

Jools


Laurel Halbany

unread,
Apr 7, 1996, 4:00:00 AM4/7/96
to
U24...@vm.uci.kun.nl (Branko Collin) wrote:

>It would seem that people in this thread would rather silence the
>one person that is making a constructive effort than that they would
>roll up their sleeves themselves.
>
>Newsgroups are there for discussion. You cannot discuss if you all
>(must) agree. Disagreement is a good thing. It fertilizes discussion,
>it tickles creativity, it makes you learn.

Yes...so why do you get into a tizzy about the idea of discussing
Gareth's post? Are we all allowed to say one thing, but not to refer
to each other? Is a review off-limits for discussion?

Susan

unread,
Apr 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/8/96
to
>>> So should I refrain from releasing any games until I can compete

>>> with Graham Nelson, Gareth Rees and Dave Baggett?

>>Yes -- in fact, you should crawl into a cave and eat nothing but moss


>>until you attain enlightenment and solve the world's problems.

>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm


><gag cough bits of moss go flying>

>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm

You can't win (today or tomorrow) if you don't play! I would
write to these guys that intimidate you (me) and learn their secrets.

Actually, they don't bother me. I am not writing an IF game yet
and I haven't played one since Spellcasting 301 (I played this in full
text mode without any graphics, music, or sound affects). :) But I
dream about doing both and I keep lurking around here and there.

* Susan * <Sus...@ix.netcom.com>

Gareth Rees

unread,
Apr 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/9/96
to
Joe Mason <joe....@tabb.com> wrote:
> I still respect him as one of the premiere authors in the field,
> simply because he's actually finished a game

You're very silly, that's all I can say.

--
Gareth Rees

bonni mierzejewska

unread,
Apr 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/9/96
to
On Sat, 06 Apr 1996 11:54:00 -0500, joe....@tabb.com (Joe Mason) wrote:

>u>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
>u>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
>u><gag cough bits of moss go flying>
>u>ahhhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
>
>Just make sure you squeeze the moss before you eat it. :-)

Oh! That's what I did wrong!

ahhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
<squeezes moss>
ahhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm
<swallows moss>
ahhh-ooooohhh-mmmmmm

Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Apr 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/9/96
to
In article <yxsratx...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,
No, he's just got low standards. (Well, ok, so if he considers the
author of "Space Aliens Ate My Cardigan" to also be one of the premiere
authors in the field because that guy's finished a game*, then he's
very silly).

*if you can call it finished.

>Gareth Rees
--
dan shiovitz scy...@u.washington.edu sh...@cs.washington.edu
slightly lost author/programmer in a world of more creative or more sensible
people ... remember to speak up for freedom because no one else will do it
for you: use it or lose it ... carpe diem -- be proactive.
my web site: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~scythe/home.html some ok stuff.


Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Apr 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/9/96
to
In article <4kegen$3...@nntp4.u.washington.edu>,

Dan Shiovitz <scy...@u.washington.edu> wrote:
>No, he's just got low standards. (Well, ok, so if he considers the
>author of "Space Aliens Ate My Cardigan" to also be one of the premiere
^^^ YM "Laughed At." HTH!

>authors in the field because that guy's finished a game*, then he's
^^^^^**

>very silly).
>*if you can call it finished.

**if you can call it a game.

Adam
--
ad...@phoenix.princeton.edu | Viva HEGGA! | Save the choad! | 64,928 | Fnord
"Double integral is also the shape of lovers curled asleep":Pynchon | Linux
Thanks for letting me rearrange the chemicals in your head. | Team OS/2
You can have my PGP passphrase when you pry it from my cold, dead brain.

Gareth Rees

unread,
Apr 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/12/96
to
Christopher E. Forman <cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:
> The tester may have been too close to the project to write an
> effective, unbiased review.

There's no such thing as an unbiased review.

In real life, newspapers and journals often go out of their way to get
biased reviewers, because a good opinionated spat is more exciting than
a dull, supposedly `objective' discussion. If A was nasty in print
about B's last book, guess who the newspapers try to persuade to review
A's new book?

--
Gareth Rees

Dan D.S. Yu

unread,
Apr 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/13/96
to
Gareth Rees (gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk) wrote:
: There's no such thing as an unbiased review.

Agreed.

: In real life, newspapers and journals often go out of their way to get


: biased reviewers, because a good opinionated spat is more exciting than
: a dull, supposedly `objective' discussion. If A was nasty in print
: about B's last book, guess who the newspapers try to persuade to review
: A's new book?

But a 'good opinionated spat', while entertaining at times, may
not necessarily be a 'good review'. The "Siskel & Ebert" movie
review show was initially popular because of the synergy between
the two said reviewers. So, a whole slew of similar movie
review shows appeared -- one in particular I recall based two
reviewers who blatently agreed on nothing. The continual
arguing was at times entertaining, but really tended to
detract on the actual review of the movie.

No, I'm not sure why I'm talking about television shows.

--

==========
Daniel Yu
[ds...@holonet.net]

"Sometimes it's damned hard to tell the dancer from the dance."
-Roger Zelazny
==========

Christopher E. Forman

unread,
Apr 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/13/96
to
Gareth Rees (gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk) wrote:

: Christopher E. Forman <cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:
: > The tester may have been too close to the project to write an
: > effective, unbiased review.
:
: There's no such thing as an unbiased review.

Very poor choice of wording on my part, I admit. I should have clarified
that the "bias" I was talking about was that which stems from having taken
a direct role in influencing the final outcome of the game. I was
concerned that testers might have become so close to the game that they
would have the same "this-game-is-great-because-I-worked-on-it" thoughts
that all authors have to a certain extent (c'mon, admit it B-). This was
the way I felt about "Lost New York," and was merely expressing concern
that other testers may not have considered it.

This is the reason SPAG doesn't allow authors to rate their own games,
and if the game's testers have those same feelings (and notice I said "if"),
they should probably restrain themselves as well. I'm sure many already
do. For instance, has anyone ever seen a review by Michael Kinyon?

Joe Mason

unread,
Apr 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/13/96
to
"Re: IF Criticism (or, Rev", declared Dan Shiovitz from the Vogon ship:

DS>In article <yxsratx...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,
DS>Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
DS>>Joe Mason <joe....@tabb.com> wrote:
DS>>> I still respect him as one of the premiere authors in the field,
DS>>> simply because he's actually finished a game
DS>>
DS>>You're very silly, that's all I can say.
DS>No, he's just got low standards. (Well, ok, so if he considers the
DS>author of "Space Aliens Ate My Cardigan" to also be one of the premiere
DS>authors in the field because that guy's finished a game*, then he's
DS>very silly).

We seem to have gotten some wires crossed here. :-) I never mentioned "Space
Aliens Laughed at My Cardigan", it was Gareth I was talking about. My problem
is that my standards are too *high*, not the other way around.

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şDevoted to the study of cat bathing as a martial art.

Michael Kinyon

unread,
Apr 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/15/96
to
In article <4koo9e$e...@thor.cmp.ilstu.edu>,

Christopher E. Forman <cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:
>This is the reason SPAG doesn't allow authors to rate their own games,
>and if the game's testers have those same feelings (and notice I said "if"),
>they should probably restrain themselves as well. I'm sure many already
>do. For instance, has anyone ever seen a review by Michael Kinyon?

An excellent example, I must say. If anyone responds affirmatively,
I will be greatly surprised. (I will undercut this remark shortly.)

As someone who decided long ago not to write games, but to channel his
dedication to interactive fiction solely through playtesting, I have been
following the present discussion with some interest. Modulo diction, I have
found myself in agreement with the point of view expressed by CE. Yes,
I do restrain myself from writing reviews for precisely the reasons stated.

A personal example here will serve to illustrate: a couple of years ago,
I composed a review of one of the older releases of _Curses_. I had
completed what I would consider to be the (final - 1)st draft, when
various work duties caused me to put it aside for a while. Upon returning
to it, I read through it once again with a beginner's mind. I realized
that the praise I was heaping upon the game was directly tied to the amount
of effort I had put into testing it. There was no way I was going to be
able to distance myself from the game adequately to satisfy my own standards
of objectivity. Thus that review has never seen the light of day (or more
accurately, the light of the Internet).

At that point I made a conscious decision not to review games that I test.
Since I test so many games and rarely play anything else for lack of time,
this obviously restricts my choice of topics. Among better known games
released within the past few months, I could in good conscience write a
review of _Shelby's Addendum_ (I choose not to, because I have nothing to
add to what Gareth said) and _Spiritwrak_ (everyone who plays it is a
tester, and thus I would have no qualms about reviewing it).

I can also think of a couple of games where I do not think I did a very good
job of playtesting. If I were to review those games, I suspect I would
sing the author's praises as atonement for my sins. That would hardly
be called quality reviewing.

Having tried my best to sound very high and mighty, I will mention that
there was one occasion when I "blurb-reviewed" some games that I had tested.
This was after last year's competition. As most of last year's competitors
know, I playtested over half of the entries, and as a result, I did not
vote. Shortly after the results were announced, Andrew Plotkin posted
his famous "whoo-hoo" message (so-called because his only reference to
his own game was "whoo-hoo"). I was surprised that our private rankings
of the games were so close, and I posted a follow-up with my own comments.
In retrospect, I regret having done that. Most authors (with some
exceptions to whom I privately apologized) indicated that they did not mind,
but it is not something I shall do again.

None of these remarks should be interpreted as condemnation of other testers
who have reviewed games they have tested. I certainly do not believe I am
using a universal standard to which you should all submit; I have chosen a
course of (in)action with which I am comfortable.

--
Michael Kinyon | email: mki...@peabody.iusb.edu
Dept of Mathematics & Comp. Sci.| http://sun1.iusb.edu/faculty/mkinyon/
Indiana University South Bend | phone: (219)-237-4240
South Bend, IN 46634 USA | fax: (219)-237-4538

Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/15/96
to
In article <Dpwts...@sun2.iusb.indiana.edu>, Michael Kinyon
<mailto:mki...@peabody.iusb.indiana.edu> wrote:
>
[...interesting article deleted...]

A while ago I posted a review of the game "Gumshoe", which I also helped
playtest. That review (and another for "Waystation") sunk without trace. I
find this a little odd, considering all the recent talk of how good it would
be if people posted reviews.

So, I'm wondering, were my reviews either (a) so god-awful that people do not
wish to mention them for fear of embarrassing me/bursting out laughing, or
(b) so dull that there's nothing to say about them (or (c) so far ahead of
their time that no-one knows _what_ to say about them :).

So anyway, would anybody like to make a few comments (either by email or
post, up to you, don't worry about embarrassing me)? Just so I know whether
to bother writing any more reviews.

Jools


Magnus Olsson

unread,
Apr 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/16/96
to
In article <ant15190...@arnod.demon.co.uk>,

Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <Dpwts...@sun2.iusb.indiana.edu>, Michael Kinyon
>A while ago I posted a review of the game "Gumshoe", which I also helped
>playtest. That review (and another for "Waystation") sunk without trace. I
>find this a little odd, considering all the recent talk of how good it would
>be if people posted reviews.
>
>So, I'm wondering, were my reviews either (a) so god-awful that people do not
>wish to mention them for fear of embarrassing me/bursting out laughing, or
>(b) so dull that there's nothing to say about them (or (c) so far ahead of
>their time that no-one knows _what_ to say about them :).

I read those reviews, and I can assure you that none of your alternatives
above applied to them :-). The "Gumshoe" review actually made me download
and play the game.

Game authors have beeen complaining that they don't get any feedback to
their games. It's even worse for us reviewers, since while games do
get reviews, nobody ever reviews the reviews :-). Perhaps this is a good
thing...

About the only feedback a reviewer ever gets is when another reviewer
refers to the first review, or perhaps if an enraged author flames the
reviewer for getting it all wrong. That's the way it is.

Hmmm. Perhaps reviews of reviews would be a good idea? What do all you
people think of the reviews posted here? Of the ones in SPAG? Are they
too brief, too long, too superficial, too nitpicking?


While I'm at it, I'd like to state my view on playtesters writing
reviews: I think it must be decided from case to case whether it's a
good idea or not. If I've been so involved in the testing of a game
that I start to feel like a co-author, I shouldprobably desist from
reviewing it. If I'm enraged because the author has been ignoring all
my clever suggestions, I probably shouldn't review it either. But I
can see no reason not to review a game just because I've given it a
few test runs and mailed off a bug report to the author. Indeed, being
a playtester may put you in a _better_ position to review the game,
since you've really dissected it and perhaps discussed with the author
the reasons why the game came out as it did.

To summarize: I don't think we can - or should - make any rules about
testers writing reviews, just advise testers to consider the propriety
of reviewing the test-object.

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

Dave Seybert

unread,
Apr 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/16/96
to
In article <ant15190...@arnod.demon.co.uk>, Julian Arnold
<jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> be if people posted reviews.
>
> So, I'm wondering, were my reviews either (a) so god-awful that people do not
> wish to mention them for fear of embarrassing me/bursting out laughing, or
> (b) so dull that there's nothing to say about them (or (c) so far ahead of
> their time that no-one knows _what_ to say about them :).
>

> So anyway, would anybody like to make a few comments (either by email or
> post, up to you, don't worry about embarrassing me)? Just so I know whether
> to bother writing any more reviews.

I enjoyed your review thoroughly, so much so that I downloaded the game
and have been playing it for the last couple of weeks. For the most part
I agreed with your comments and where I haven't I've put my own thoughts
down and will post a review shortly.

I suspect you've gotten little feedback on your review because reviews
tend to be used as tools by others as to whether the game is worth their
time. People rarely respond to them unless they (a) happen to violently
disagree with you, (b) Completely agree with you, or (c) you raise some
point that they want to discuss further.

By all means, keep writing them and call it as you see it. What you have
to say will be of more than passing interest to us all.

Regards,

Dave Seybert

John Wood

unread,
Apr 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/16/96
to
In article: <ant15190...@arnod.demon.co.uk>
Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> writes:
> A while ago I posted a review of the game "Gumshoe", which I also helped
> playtest. That review (and another for "Waystation") sunk without trace. I
> find this a little odd, considering all the recent talk of how good it would
> be if people posted reviews.
>
> So, I'm wondering, were my reviews either (a) so god-awful that people do not
> wish to mention them for fear of embarrassing me/bursting out laughing, or
> (b) so dull that there's nothing to say about them (or (c) so far ahead of
> their time that no-one knows _what_ to say about them :).
>
> So anyway, would anybody like to make a few comments (either by email or
> post, up to you, don't worry about embarrassing me)? Just so I know whether
> to bother writing any more reviews.

OK, you asked for it 8-).

1. I not only read both reviews, I saved them for later reference.
Don't feel *too* privileged - I saved Gareth's as well (and Jacob's
"non-review" of Christminster).

2. As a description of the genre/style/content of the games, I found
them useful in my role as "adventure player with too little time to play
all I want" - it was enough information/opinion for me to decide that
I'd like to try Gumshoe, but Waystation would go a long way down my
list. FTP problems have prevented me successfully downloading it to
date 8-(

3. Your comments on Gumshoe were, I think, specific enough to be useful
to the author in deciding what he needs to do to improve his next game
(assuming you represent his target audience, of course). Your comments
on Waystation were possibly too general to fulfil this role.

4. It was a nice touch to mention that you were a playtester of Gumshoe.

5. You fall into one of the traps I frequently stumble over (if you'll
excuse my mixing metaphors 8-) - you understate/overly qualify your
opinions too often. Phrases like "quite good", "a little
unfortunately", "rather sensitive" are overused. They produce a
diffident tone. [Incidentally, I automatically typed that as "somewhat
diffident" before editing.]

6. Should "film noirs" be "films noir"?

7. If you feel my comments are too general to help you improve your
reviewing style, let me know and I'll try to practice what I preach by
picking out specific examples.


Well, if you've read this far you'll have seen why I didn't respond
before - coherence was never one of my virtues...

John


Kenneth Fair

unread,
Apr 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/17/96
to


>6. Should "film noirs" be "films noir"?

"Les films noirs", actually.

--
KEN FAIR - U. Chicago Law | Power Mac! | Net since '90 | Net.cop
kjf...@midway.uchicago.edu | CABAL(tm) Member | I'm w/in McQ - R U?
"Next to being witty yourself, the best thing is to quote
another's wit" - C.N.Bovee

Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/18/96
to
In article <617483...@elvw.demon.co.uk>, John Wood

<mailto:jo...@elvw.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>
> 1. I not only read both reviews, I saved them for later reference.
> Don't feel *too* privileged - I saved Gareth's as well (and Jacob's
> "non-review" of Christminster).

Great. But don't just file them away. Make that later reference, and post
it here.

> 2. As a description of the genre/style/content of the games, I found
> them useful in my role as "adventure player with too little time to play
> all I want" - it was enough information/opinion for me to decide that
> I'd like to try Gumshoe, but Waystation would go a long way down my
> list. FTP problems have prevented me successfully downloading it to
> date 8-(

IMO "Waystation", although not as good a game as "Gumshoe" from a _player's_
point of view, is just as important to this group. As I said at the end of
my review (and incidentally, as Stephen Granade said at the end of his
article in XYZZYnews 8) this game has as much to say about how not to write
IF as it does about how to write IF. Therefore, to future author's
"Waystation" is probably as worthy of a look as the next game. We should be
aware of Bad Things(tm) in IF so we can avoid them in our own games.

> 3. Your comments on Gumshoe were, I think, specific enough to be useful
> to the author in deciding what he needs to do to improve his next game
> (assuming you represent his target audience, of course). Your comments
> on Waystation were possibly too general to fulfil this role.

OK. Could you be more specific?

> 4. It was a nice touch to mention that you were a playtester of Gumshoe.

Well, that was the point of the review. I do think that reviewers who have
some connection to the game in question should mention this in the review
though.

> 5. You fall into one of the traps I frequently stumble over (if you'll
> excuse my mixing metaphors 8-) - you understate/overly qualify your
> opinions too often. Phrases like "quite good", "a little
> unfortunately", "rather sensitive" are overused. They produce a
> diffident tone. [Incidentally, I automatically typed that as "somewhat
> diffident" before editing.]

Yup. Good point (well, quite good anyway).

> 6. Should "film noirs" be "films noir"?

Possibly.

> 7. If you feel my comments are too general to help you improve your
> reviewing style, let me know and I'll try to practice what I preach by
> picking out specific examples.

Go ahead, it would be useful. As I've said before though, if you're going to
make particular comments on my reviews only then email them. If you think
they would be of general interest then post them. Or if you feel like it,
post them anyway.

Jools


Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/18/96
to
In article <4kvit9$s...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson

<mailto:m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:
>
> I read those reviews, and I can assure you that none of your alternatives
> above applied to them :-). The "Gumshoe" review actually made me download
> and play the game.

Thanks to you and other people who have said this. I didn't make my post as
a way of fishing for praise for my reviews, but it's nice to hear people
found them useful anyway. :)

> Game authors have beeen complaining that they don't get any feedback to
> their games. It's even worse for us reviewers, since while games do
> get reviews, nobody ever reviews the reviews :-). Perhaps this is a good
> thing...

I've argued before that if someone disagrees with a review they've read or
has something to add to it they should write and post their own review of the
game, rather than actually reviewing the review. This is what happened to
Gareth's review of "Shelby". People reviewed Gareth's reviewing style, and
said little about the actual game. In the end this was actually useful, as
it got people to talk about this "feeling of intimidation" (don't be
intimidated or I'll send the boys round), but I think we can do without a
repeat. Many of the comments made about Gareth's review would have been
better suited to private email. OTOH general comments on reviewing styles,
content, and so on would be perfectly acceptable posts to rai-f.

> About the only feedback a reviewer ever gets is when another reviewer
> refers to the first review, or perhaps if an enraged author flames the
> reviewer for getting it all wrong. That's the way it is.

Yes, that is the way it is, but perhaps it could change (yeah right!) IMO
what's needed is for people to read a review posted here, and to pick up on
points raised within the review and expand on them through follow-up posts.
In this way we can really discuss a game. We can dissect it and see what
make it tick (or not). Maybe we need analysis rather than reviews, although
a review at least provides a starting point. Jacob Weinstein's recent
article on "Christminster" is the sort of analysis we need I think (although
I've lost this-- could someone email it to me please?)

> Hmmm. Perhaps reviews of reviews would be a good idea? What do all you
> people think of the reviews posted here? Of the ones in SPAG? Are they
> too brief, too long, too superficial, too nitpicking?

I would like to hear general answers to these sorts of question too.

Jools


Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/18/96
to
In article <dseybert-160...@dseybert.slip.lm.com>, Dave Seybert

<mailto:dsey...@telerama.lm.com> wrote:
>
> I enjoyed your review thoroughly, so much so that I downloaded the game
> and have been playing it for the last couple of weeks. For the most part
> I agreed with your comments and where I haven't I've put my own thoughts
> down and will post a review shortly.

Excellent plan. Remember Dave, one or two sessions, that's all. ;)

> By all means, keep writing them and call it as you see it. What you have
> to say will be of more than passing interest to us all.

Oh, don't worry I will. IMO the whole point of posting reviews to Usenet (as
opposed to sending them to 'zines such as SPAG or XYZZYnews) is that it
enables other people to post follow-ups. We aren't limited to hearing just
the reviewer's opinions. Anyone else can chip in their two cents, and we can
properly discuss existing games. So let's do it.

Jools


Christopher E. Forman

unread,
Apr 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/18/96
to
Julian Arnold (jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk) wrote:
: Oh, don't worry I will. IMO the whole point of posting reviews to Usenet (as

: opposed to sending them to 'zines such as SPAG or XYZZYnews) is that it
: enables other people to post follow-ups. We aren't limited to hearing just
: the reviewer's opinions. Anyone else can chip in their two cents, and we can
: properly discuss existing games. So let's do it.

Remember, though, that XYZZYnews reaches quite a number of I-Fers who don't
have net access. I like to give them a feel for the types of subjects that
are typically discussed on r.*.i-f, which is why I submit articles. (That
and the fact that it helps Eileen pad out the zine a bit.) It shouldn't
make any difference whether something is posted in a zine or on Usenet.
We can still comment on it and offer feedback either way.

I'm disappointed that hardly anyone seems to comment on XYZZYnews. I've
gotten some nice personal feedback, particularly regarding the Infocom Bugs
List, but I'd like to see more discussions of what's printed. That's
another reason I write such things. And, aside from some postings on the
subject of puzzle-structure diagrams and Gareth Rees' follow-up to that
article with another one, I don't believe I've seen anything to acknowledge
the fact that XYZZYnews exists. For instance, Doug Atkinson's "Character
Gender in I-F" was a great article that merited further discussion, but
no one has ever posted any.

Okay, so I'll start. With a little controversy: The enchanter in the
Enchanter Trilogy is most certainly male. Anyone know why?

ct

unread,
Apr 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/18/96
to
In article <dseybert-160...@dseybert.slip.lm.com>,

Dave Seybert <dsey...@telerama.lm.com> wrote:
>In article <ant15190...@arnod.demon.co.uk>, Julian Arnold
><jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>
>> So anyway, would anybody like to make a few comments (either by email or
>> post, up to you, don't worry about embarrassing me)? Just so I know whether
>> to bother writing any more reviews.
>
>I enjoyed your review thoroughly, [...]
>I agreed with your comments [...]

Whilst I generally agree with Dave's comments, it seems to me we're
becoming overly concerned with criticism, only now with the lack of it!
I mean really, worrying because your _reviews_ haven't been reviewed?? If
you'd launched a major (Nelson sized :-) game and everybody had ignored
it, perhaps you should be worried. But not for a short game review.

I've noticed this in other threads recently; have we really become so
insecure we _need_ other people's comments? Don't we have enough self-
confidence to just let out works go, once published, to stand up for
themselves?

To be honest, I really don't think so, and this is just another raif
faze (Coming soon: The RAI-F flamewar "Don't diss me, man!"). Oh well.

regards, ct
ps beautiful song playing, "gueca solo"


Michael Kinyon

unread,
Apr 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/18/96
to
In article <4l66j7$1i...@thor.cmp.ilstu.edu>,

Christopher E. Forman <cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:

>It shouldn't
>make any difference whether something is posted in a zine or on Usenet.
>We can still comment on it and offer feedback either way.

This is an interesting comment. I have been wanting to say something about
a couple of articles that appeared in XYZZYnews on playtesting (a topic near
and dear to my heart), but (1) I don't want to write an article for the 'zine,
I just want to comment on what was said in the other articles, and (2) I have
not, until this moment, felt comfortable discussing items in the 'zine
here.

As I sit here and try to psychoanalyze myself, I find that I have no idea
why I should feel uncomfortable about it. Maybe it is because....
>...hardly anyone seems to comment on XYZZYnews.
[snip]
>...I don't believe I've seen anything to acknowledge the fact that
>XYZZYnews exists.

Which suggests one of two things:
(1) other people shared my (admittedly rather silly) discomfort about
discussing the 'zine in the newsgroup, or
(2) the intersection of 'zine readers and regular posters to the newsgroup
is very small.

I hope the answer is (1) and that we will now have some discussion of what
has appeared in XYZZYnews. (Now that CE's comments have cured my neurosis,
I will certainly post my thoughts on the playtesting articles in a week or so.)
My fear is that the answer is (2), but I would love to be wrong about this.

So how much do I owe you for this session, Dr. Forman?

Stephen Granade

unread,
Apr 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/19/96
to
In article <4l6i7j$b...@news.ox.ac.uk> c...@ecs.ox.ac.uk (ct) writes:
> I've noticed this in other threads recently; have we really become so
> insecure we _need_ other people's comments? Don't we have enough self-
> confidence to just let out works go, once published, to stand up for
> themselves?

I can't speak for everyone, but in my case it is not a lack of
self-confidence which drives me to seek others' comments on my work.
Rather, it is a mix of several things.

Most people can't perform for long without receiving some recognition for
what they're doing. I suppose it's wonderful to be able to do so, but
it's by no means a common trait. In addition, if nothing is said about
our work, then it's very hard to do better next time. It's easy to make
the same mistakes over and over if no one points them out to you. If I
never hear any comments about, say, a previous game I wrote, I'll never
discover how much people hated the toilet puzzle, or why. ;)

This isn't a call for collective navel-gazing. It is, however, a call for
feedback. Like many others here, I can remember when this newsgroup
fairly echoed with emptiness. It's now reaching the point where a lot of
people are commenting on what they do and don't like; I only hope this
continues.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | "You fools! Money doesn't put fish
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | on the table! FISH puts fish on
Duke University, Physics Dept | the table!"
| -- Mr. Smartypants, from The Tick

Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/19/96
to
In article <4l6i7j$b...@news.ox.ac.uk>, ct <mailto:c...@ecs.ox.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> Whilst I generally agree with Dave's comments, it seems to me we're
> becoming overly concerned with criticism, only now with the lack of it!
> I mean really, worrying because your _reviews_ haven't been reviewed?? If
> you'd launched a major (Nelson sized :-) game and everybody had ignored
> it, perhaps you should be worried. But not for a short game review.
>
> I've noticed this in other threads recently; have we really become so
> insecure we _need_ other people's comments? Don't we have enough self-
> confidence to just let out works go, once published, to stand up for
> themselves?
>
> To be honest, I really don't think so, and this is just another raif
> faze (Coming soon: The RAI-F flamewar "Don't diss me, man!"). Oh well.

<Remember: must be nice to lovely Acorn Hugo porter>

Crossed wires here I think. As I think I've said a few times in recent
posts, I am not seeking praise or even commentary on my reviews (although I
obviously don't mind receiving it). I post a review as a way of
acknowledging a game. I then expect people to follow-up this review with
further posts about the _game_. I raise points in my review about certain
aspects of the game that stand out (because either they're good or bad). I
expect people to then discuss these points (or others) in some detail. In
this way we can, I feel, achieve a greater understanding of the techniques
and "features" of good IF.

So it's not a matter of self-confidence or anything like that. If it was I
wouldn't be writing and posting reviews anyway, and I certainly wouldn't be
posting all these follow-ups. Equally, I don't mind if no-one mentions my
reviews. Just so long as the group discusses the issues, as they relate to
particular games and to IF In general, I raise therein.

BTW, size isn't important-- Nelson-sized does not necessarily mean major, and
vice versa.

Jools


Laurel Halbany

unread,
Apr 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/20/96
to
c...@ecs.ox.ac.uk (ct) wrote:

>Whilst I generally agree with Dave's comments, it seems to me we're
>becoming overly concerned with criticism, only now with the lack of it!
>I mean really, worrying because your _reviews_ haven't been reviewed?? If
>you'd launched a major (Nelson sized :-) game and everybody had ignored
>it, perhaps you should be worried. But not for a short game review.

Well, it's good to hope that people who have an opinion on your review
*will* tell you about it (politely). I haven't heard anything back on
my review of _Jigsaw_, but I wasn't exactly expecting anything,
either. If I had *written* Jigsaw that would be another matter. :*


Laurel Halbany

unread,
Apr 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/20/96
to
cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu (Christopher E. Forman) wrote:

>For instance, Doug Atkinson's "Character
>Gender in I-F" was a great article that merited further discussion, but
>no one has ever posted any.

I don't suppose anybody saved the discussion about Black's gender?
I've been meaning to write something about gender and "I" in I-F (I
have a toddler, okay? I'm busy), and this would be a great help.

Part of the reason I generally don't write stuff or comment in
XYZZYnews is intimidation. I mean, the issue in which my middling
review of _Jigsaw_ was chock-full of good stuff. It felt sort of like
being a weed in a bouquet of roses. :*


ct

unread,
Apr 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/20/96