My 2 cents on the TADS entries

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Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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Oct 11, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/11/95
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I've finally had a chance to play through all of the TADS entries, and I
wanted to chip in my two cents on them. Some of my comments will be
brief, because I don't want to repeat comments that other people have
made.

I'm going to list the games in the order in which I'd rank them. I'm
leaving out Toonesia, because I can't be too objective about my own game.
(Besides, I think that other posters have done a pretty thorough job of
pointing out its virtues and vices.)

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: An absolutely wonderful game. I suspect that the
people who didn't like it may not have approached it in quite the right
way. The One, I would say, is the IF equivalent of a toy, not a game.
Like, say, SimCity, the point isn't so much to win as to have fun playing
around in the world you're provided with. (In fact, you can easily
achieve 20 points out of 20 without seeing the Big One, let alone finding
out why it matters.) And what a delightful world it is! I find fishing
deadly dull in real life, but the author's love for the topic made it a
great deal of fun in the game.

The One That Got Away, I think, is an excellent use of the mini-game
genre. A lot of mini-games (mine include) feel like smaller versions of
full-size games. The One, as somebody else pointed out, is the IF
equivalent of a short-short story.

If you didn't enjoy the game, go back to it again and make sure you ask
Bob about EVERYTHING you can see. His answers are what make the game, in
large part.

ZEBULON: A solid, well-written, and reasonably clever game. It's
particularly impressive for making Uncle Zebulon such a likeable
character without actually making him present. And I'd certainly like to
see more of the world in which it takes place. (I'm a sucker for stories
that treat fantasy topics with the sort of rigor you usually see in
science fiction. I love Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away stories. And
the large-scale game I'm slowly working on now--scheduled for completion
sometime in the next 10 years--tries to approach fantasy with an SF
attitude. But I digress.)

My only complaint is one that's been brought up before:
the game isn't strikingly original. But there's absolutely nothing wrong
with doing something traditional in a very good way.

UNDERTOW: Undertow is the only game I haven't been able to finish--but
then, I never was very good at mysteries. I think it's an admirable
attempt, but it's frustrating; it feels as though it's three-quarters of
the way finished. I agree with Stephen that one can only make NPCs so
complicated in a short programming time, but, having played the game, I
have to agree that he could have done just a little more. Some of it is a
programming question. Why can't I talk to somebody when they're in the
same room as me, but sitting down? Why can't I ask people about Carl when
he isn't in the room? At one point, a character changes clothing--a very
suspicious action. But I can't seem to ask him about the clothes he was
wearing before he changed--only afterwards.

Even with my complaints, though, I think that the prose is well-written,
and the setting is intriguing. More than my complaints about the NPCs,
it's my frustration with IF mystery games that prevent me from ranking it
higher. I also think that a mystery is a VERY difficult thing to do well
in a mini-game. In a larger game, there are more things going on and more
places to visit, and I'm thereofre my likely to have things to do while
I'm trying to figure out the damned mystery. In a smaller game, it's
easier for me to get bored when I can't figure out what to do next.

UNDO: If The One is an IF short-short story, Undo is a limerick. It's
extremely clever and witty, but it's over much too soon. Or maybe
it's a haiku. Or is it z koan? Whatever the case, I
enjoyed it while it lasted, but there just wasn't enough.

To make it more satisfying, Neil could have given us more glimpses of the
game that crashed on the player. He could,.for example,
allow the player to undo past move 0, and have at least a
slight glimpse of the game that existed before it crashed. (I tried this,
and was very disappointed when it didn't work.) He could also have provided
more than three words when the player wins--perhaps letting us see an
elaborate closing message from the crashed game.

MUSEUM: I don't have much to add to what's already been said about
Museum, except that I think the author shows a tremendous amount of
promise. I hope that the criticism he's gotten will inspire him to try
again, rather than discourage him from it.

Thanks, by the way, to everybody who has commented on Toonesia. I've
gotten a lot of constructive criticism, and I've learned a lot from it.

-Jacob

Magnus Olsson

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Oct 12, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/12/95
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In article <45hg59$o...@castor.usc.edu>,

Jacob Solomon Weinstein <jwei...@castor.usc.edu> wrote:
>THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: An absolutely wonderful game.

Agreed. I'm surprised it didn't win the TADS section.

>I suspect that the
>people who didn't like it may not have approached it in quite the right
>way.

Of course, there's no "right way", but I, too, have a feeling that a lot of
"The One's" detractors haven't really given the game a chance.

>I'm a sucker for stories
>that treat fantasy topics with the sort of rigor you usually see in
>science fiction.

In case you haven't read them yet, let me recommend Roger Zelazny's
_Amber_ books; they're flawed in many ways, and he's written books
that are far better as literature, but the way he treats magic is
delightful. And, of course, many of Jack Vance's books also have this
attitude to magic.


>UNDO: If The One is an IF short-short story, Undo is a limerick. It's
>extremely clever and witty, but it's over much too soon. Or maybe
>it's a haiku. Or is it z koan? Whatever the case, I
>enjoyed it while it lasted, but there just wasn't enough.

I'm beginning to regret that I wasn't able to enjoy that game very
much; I can understand why you people liked it, but it was far too
frustrating for me really to enjoy it. But that's perhaps more my
fault than Neil's.


Magnus

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