[Comp00] Lucian's Dissolutions (1/4)

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Lucian Paul Smith

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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The first 5:

Ad Verbum (9)
Nevermore (9)
Got ID? (5)
Void: Corporation (3)
Comp00ter Game (2)

Spoilers Ahoy!

Ad Verbum (adverbum.z5)
Rating: 9

Well, the first game. Whee! And this was a fun one. The main bit of
the game involves wordplay, of a sort, and lots of it. The game
mentions 'Nord and Bert' and some other game I didn't recognize as
its semantic heritage, but there's another game that actually matched it
more closely: 'Verb!', by Neil DeMause (from the Textfire series). I
will admit to using my thesaurus more than a little whilst playing this
game, but despite the game's claim that that would be 'cheating' it
didn't feel like it.

There was one odd bug (which I'm sure everyone will find, more's the
pity) with gettting (or should I say 'purloining'?) the dust jacket from
the library. My only guess is that the code here couldn't make use of
the 'special room' code used elsewhere, so something didn't work
correctly. Odd thing to go wrong, though, in an otherwise amazingly
coded game.

There were bits that seemed much more like traditional IF trope tacked
on to the game, namely, the bits with the toy robot and the darkness.
Why have them in there? Pacing, I suppose, but it seemed a bit
arbitrary. There were also bits I didn't understand--how was the ABC
book clued, for example? Or, rather, why were the clues inconsistent?
The author and publisher seemed misleading. And I missed getting to
interact with that pallindrome guy. Perhaps he was a puzzle that got
left out in the end.

But none of these were really the meat of the game, which I thoroughly
enjoyed. The puzzles weren't even as much fun as just revelling in
entire room descriptions that began with the same letter. And the same
for responses to commands! All commands! Wheee!

Ahem.

I will close with a speculation. Nick got a hard time from the IF
community for disallowing abbreviations in his earlier work,
"Winchester's Nightmare", particularly for directions. In this game, if
you use abbreviations for directions, the game replaces all instances
of, say, 'south' with just 's'. "Aha!" Nick seems to be saying, "See!
It looks stupid, doesn't it! See why I disallowed it? See? See?" To
which I reply, "Nyaah, nyaah, nyaah, allosaur-head. There are different
issues at work here and you know it."

Maybe he didn't actually mean that. But I just had to get that off my
chest. Thank you.


Nevermore (never.z5)
Rating: 9

A quick digression:

Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven' is a wonderfully evocative mood piece, and
I quite enjoy it. But if you think about it too much, it doesn't make
much sense. First off, there's a talking Raven. But one can accept
that, I suppose. But it can't take too long for the guy to figure out
that 'nevermore' is *all the bird can say*, and yet he asks it all these
questions he purportedly wants to hear 'always' to. Hmm.

At any rate, 'Nevermore' takes 'The Raven' as its setting, invents a
backstory and purpose for it, and hands you the reins. And immediately
you start thinking about it too much. There's just a bit too much
leeway in the range of things you can type to keep up the mood that
well, and the pacing (*so* critical in the poem) is completely dropped.
When the protagonist can type, ">RAVEN, HI" you're just going to lose
something.

So, the game starts off very much like the poem, and then becomes
something different. The transition is a bit disappointing, even if
expected. But what do we have in its place?

First off, you have to take cocaine to keep from throwing yourself off
a cliff. This was rather surreal, and I felt fit the story in a
Poe-esqe (Poesian? Poesitory?) way. Then, we have arcane research and
assembly of a ritual. The research had interesting information to
find, but I feel a serious design flaw in how you get that
information. The hints say, "They're occult works. Occult also means
"not very well organised". Well, fine. But to make me type >READ
INHUMANITIES over and over and over and over and over again hoping
against hope to get a new randomly-discovered piece of text is *quite*
annoying. Maybe it's 'accurate'. But it's sure as heck not dramatic,
and not a good puzzle either. Any number of other methods could have
been used that would have perfectly adequately conveyed the 'not very
well organised' feel to the research without resorting to endless
repetition. The information could have been presented in a 'shuffled'
order. It could have required you to use the >LOOK UP X IN Y syntax.
It could have at *least* allowed the >LOOK UP X IN Y syntax to find
information you had already read once! Maybe an automatic note-taking
system could have been utilized, wherein the protagonist copies down
the relevant information into a notebook. Maybe there could already
*be* a notebook, since many of the passages you find seem to be already
marked up. Have you never heard of bookmarks?

Ahem.

As alluded to, the information was interesting, once it was actually
found. Which brings us to the next bit: Alchemy. I liked the fact
that there was red-herring information. That's to be expected, and
there was, I think, the right amount. Though perhaps there was some
untapped potential in the book selection aspect. The relevant books are
the ones that 'catch your eye'. This is a typical IF solution to a
tricky problem, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Why not, in this
instance, use the backstory? 'On a desk are the books you pulled out
last night before giving up in despair.' Hmm, I'm slipping into
beta-testing mode. Back to the analysis.

Putting the information together was enjoyable. Discovering common
symbolism, piecing together aspects of a ritual--all fun. But the
feedback mechanism for this puzzle was 'cruel', to use a zarf-ism. The
ritual would either work or not work, and you were left with no idea
what small piece of the multi-step process you had done wrong. Again,
perhaps realistic, and perhaps even dramatic once, but not a good
puzzle, and not dramatic the second time. So, I did what any sane
person would do: I tried it once, it failed, and I turned to the hints
and walkthrough. The alchemical texts were sufficiently vague that I
really can't see anyone coming up with the full solution on their own
the first time. And I don't see any way from someone to *get* to the
full solution from a partial solution. You're just randomly fliping
a bank of switches until the light turns on--in the next building.

Feedback, people. Feedback, feedback, feedback.

I found out about the three words from the hints by accident when I was
looking for other information. Usually, this would annoy me, but I
can't imagine coming up with it on my own, so I'm glad I did. Again, no
feedback.

I'm being somewhat harsh here, and it's only because this game had so
much potential. At the beginning, I wanted to be immersed. The game
hooked me, and I was ready to be drawn in. And each time I got
frustrated or had to turn to the hints and walkthrough, I got kicked a
bit further out of the world, until at the end I was *watching* the
story, I wasn't *in* the story.

It was a fun story to watch. But I wanted in.


Got ID? (gotid.z5)
Rating: 5

A pretty simple puzzle-filled silliness, whose raison d'etre is the
humor. And while it's fairly low-brow and scatological, bits still amused
me. I found that I had little to no desire to actually solve the
puzzles, however, so I futzed around a bit, then went to the hints. And
then a couple events that the hints alluded to never happened. So there
I am, stuck. Next! (Oh, I will say I liked the allusion to a band
named, "Vile Zero Errors From Hell.")


VOID: CORPORATION (void.da1)
Rating: 3

Sigh. This was such a silly game. The hazards of writing in AGT, I'd
wager. See, the problem with AGT is not so much the limited world model
it has (which can be gotten around, if you work at it), but the
assumptions it foists on you. Like the whole bad guy/monster motif that
you have to killw with the right weapon. Frankly, it's never made a ton
of sense, and only then in the right context. Add to this some
descriptions that are amusing in the wrong way:

WOW! This is almost as amazing as EH! Fountains, fountains
everywhere... big, small, tall, thin, ground level sheet
fountains, dome fountains, rotating sphere fountains.....The
most amazing bit is, they change colour!

(So, uh, recessed lighting is a big thing in the future?) And some odd
bugs ('shoot man' ends up attacking him with your hands, and 'shoot man
with gun' shoots and kills him, but your gun ends up on the floor.
Killer recoil, I guess.) From the readme, the world is nicely realized
and thought out, but playing it, it just seemed flat. Oh, well.


Comp00ter Game (comp00tr.z5)
Rating: 2

This is some kind of weird joke. But I laughed. Some. It seemed to be
a parody of itself, but it did it too well.

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