[IF Comp 2000] Matthew Murray's Reviews - Part One

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wester...@my-deja.com

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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These are roughly in alphabetical order, but not all the games I
played are here. The rest will be following later.

Ad Verbum
~~~~~~~~~
At first, I wasn't sure I would like this game because of the
uncanny similarities to Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head Or Tail Of
It. Though I have often felt I was in the minority, I actually kind of
liked that game--it wasn't the standard adventure game Infocom was
famous for, but tried for (and often succeeded) at doing things
differently. (Whether it was entirely successful I'll leave for
discussion elsewhere.)
As soon as I realized that Ad Verbum wasn't Nord and Bert, and
wasn't trying to be, I found myself enjoying it more. It's clear that
the author put a lot of time into the game, and wanted to get it
right. I appreciate that, but for all the work that obviously went
into this game, there were a few glaring errors that ended up making
the game a frustrating experience. For example, one of the answers
specified in the hints flat-out doesn't work, which I consider a
significant problem. It was explained to me later that this game was
coded to the hilt, and I can believe it--I can't comprehend how
difficult it must have been to code the rooms that only respond to
commands that begin with a certain letter--but I think it's more
important to get certain things right than it is to have that level of
detail. If it would have fixed the problem I mentioned above, I gladly
would have given up one of the other "letter" rooms.
A number of other people mentioned bugs with the game--I didn't
encounter any. The game worked fine for me, and I mostly enjoyed it
throughout. Under normal circumstances, this game would have received
a higher score, but because of the programming problems, the way the
game kind of petered out toward the end (I could have lived quite well
without the pig), and because other games in the Comp were, in my
opinion, better, I have to rate this game the way I did. Nonetheless,
it was a startling effort, and I hope to see more from Nick Montfort in
the future.

Score: 6

--------------------

And the Waves Choke the Wind
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Whoa.
First of all, I realize that some people are probably going to
have problems with And the Waves Choke the Wind. After all, it's just
the first part of what will be a much larger game, so how can it
actually be judged highly in its own right?
I don't care. I loved it!
I was enthralled almost from the time the game started. Though
there was only really one puzzle, it didn't seem to stand out at all.
In fact, it made the world that more real--I wouldn't have wanted to
see the same sense of "passive" interactivity apply there. However, it
worked everywhere else. I was drawn into this game in a big way--its
cinematic design and beautifully WRITTEN pose (something that is so
easy to overlook) worked very hard to tell a story, and I thought the
story was incredibly interesting. I was more than a little
disappointed when I reached the "end," only to discover it wasn't the
end. But this brief "preview" left me wanting more--a lot more, and I
hope we see it soon.
I think And the Waves Choke the Wind is an excellent example of
how to blend "active" and "passive" interactive fiction, and should be
required playing/reading for anyone who wants to attempt something
similar. Gunther Schmidl has written something very special here, and
has remembered that the greatest games are ALWAYS written, not just
coded. I could go on, but there's no need. This was, far and away,
the most detailed and enjoyable entry of this year's game I played, so
I have scored it accordingly, pending the completion of the rest of the
game, of course. ;)

Score: 10

--------------------

Asendent
~~~~~~~~
I have nothing against in-joke games. Honestly. In fact, I
played Pass the Banana before I ever stepped foot on ifMUD, and had fun
with it. After all, sometimes, in-joke games can be entertaining, even
if you're on the outside.
Well, I "got" the joke in Asendent--I just didn't care. There
has to be more to a game (especially one that purports to be a game)
than the kind of joke on display here. For a game of this type to
work, I think, it needs to be implemented either absolutely solidly,
with no seams whatsoever, or it needs to practically parody itself (see
my review of Comp00ter Game later on). Asendent doesn't fall into
either camp so, as a result, a good rating doesn't fall to it.

Score: 3

--------------------

Breaking the Code
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I know what you're thinking--how could he possibly give a
rating like THAT to Breaking the Code?!?
When I first started "playing" it, I didn't get it. I kept
thinking to myself, "There HAS to be more." When I discovered there
wasn't more, I was perplexed, was prepared to give the "game" a 1, and
get on with life.
Then, I discovered what Breaking the Code was truly about.
I started thinking about the risk someone was taking to do
this. I started thinking about the reason Breaking the Code existed in
the first place. I thought about my complicity by looking at the
game. I had to consider my responsibility to society as a whole, as
well as look at my own morals and concepts of right or wrong.
This game--in which there is practically no interactivity
whatever, got me actively involved in its main message. Its message
was impossible to ignore, to not think about.
No other game in the Comp this year challenged me in quite the
same way that Breaking the Code did, and so I felt compelled to reward
its anonymous author with a high rating for the game. It made me THINK-
-it made me look at myself, society, and the MPAA a little differently,
and it forced me to learn more about the entire situation before I
could really come to any of these conclusions. In short, I was more
actively involved in Breaking the Code than with a number of other
entries in the Comp. I had to reward Breaking the Code for that--to do
anything less would have been a slap in the face to the author who
risked Lord-knows-what to make it public.
And, lest anyone ask, NO, I'm not kidding.

Score: 7

--------------------

Shade
~~~~~
I started off not enjoying Shade very much--I recognized that
the author had put a significant amount of time and energy into it, but
thought he had failed on a few fundamental levels.
Most significantly, not long after the game starts, it's easy
to just get "stuck," with no real direction or sense of how to
proceed. Since what had come before in the game (and, in actuality,
what is to come after) had been built around a certain idea or object,
when that fails you, where do you go next? Unfortunately, Shade never
makes that clear.
It's a shame that Shade has that flaw for, truth to tell, it's
pretty much the only one. It's also a shame it's so big, otherwise
this game would have scored a lot higher from me. Shade is very well
written and, with that exception, very well implemented. What's going
on is always clear, always interesting, and the story moves along at a
decent pace, making it impossible to not be involved in what's going on.
I might have liked Shade to go on for a little longer, to
perhaps take just a bit longer to make its intentions clear to me, so I
would more easily understand the endgame sequence, and so I wouldn't
have to leave the game's highly intoxicating world quite so soon. But
that, and the previously mentioned flaw (which, while it hits the
brakes, never completely stops the game) aside, this is a great game to
experience at least twice--once while you're learning what's going on,
and once after you already know, so you can figure out what the game is
really doing.

Score: 7

--------------------

Stupid Kittens
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
At least we don't have to worry about the Comp games this year
not being creative... Thankfully they are! I just wish all the
creativity was better placed.
Stupid Kittens is fun for a few minutes. But when the novelty
(or the joke?) wears thin, so does the game. Could Polyanna Huffington
think of nothing better to say about cats? Could she have found no
better way to say it? Would it have been possible for her to code an
endgame that wouldn't end in a library error? (Maybe other people
didn't have this problem, but I never got any other kind of ending to
the game, and I played it three times.)
Ms. Huffington obviously has a creative spirit, and has some
good ideas, but I hope she is better able to express them in the
future. Stupid Kittens, while not stupid, remains pretty pointless,
and not very entertaining.

Score: 3

--------------------

What-IF?
~~~~~~~~
Did anyone bother to tell David Ledgard that this was the
>Interactive< Fiction competition?
What precisely is interactive about What-If? I'm not sure--I
am still trying to figure it out, actually. Oh sure, you type the
numbers 0-6 (interesting scheme) to choose the historical lesson you
wish to view, but that's the extent of it. I needed more--if the
history lessons hadn't been just huge blocks of text, that would have
helped break up the monotony a little bit. But, as it was, What-If
just seemed a pretty pointless endeavor all the way around.
I have to give the author credit, though--he knows his stuff,
and he implemented it about as well as he could under the
circumstances. It's just a shame he didn't use that historical
knowledge to actually make a game or a story... If he had, I have a
feeling my ratings would have been quite a bit different this year?
What if David Ledgard had done that? What if...?

Score: 2

--------------------

1-2-3...
~~~~~~~~
This was one of the first games I played in the Comp this year,
and I'm very glad that, because of it, I didn't stop playing the rest
of the entries altogether, because this game made me want to. Very
much.
This is, quite frankly, one of the most offensive pieces of
software to which I've ever been exposed, and I've played the entire
Sierra adventure catalog. The use of violence in the game was horribly
gratutitous and pointless, yes, but what was worse was its repetetive
nature, the way it presented essentially the same disgusting
descriptions time and time again without any sort of dramatic payoff to
reward me for sitting through this "game." Violence of this sort can
occasionally work if the author is using it for a real purpose, and not
just because he can. But because his story was so paper thin, the game
as a whole was boring, and completely empty dramatically. It was easy
to see where the story, such as it was, was going a mile away, but you
had to look through the blood, gore, and senseless machinations of the
author just to get there.
I could go on and on about why this game made me hate myself
and hate humanity, or the demerits of the laughably bad "conversation"
system that rendered the game practically unplayable, but I'll refrain--
I wish to no longer hold any association with this game. So, let me
conclude by saying, "Don't you want to ask me about her breasts?"

Score: 1 (because they don't allow zeros)

--------------------

--Matthew Murray
mmu...@ebrick.com


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Kaia Vintr

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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wester...@my-deja.com wrote in message <8v15g9$l9u$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>...

> I started thinking about the risk someone was taking to do
>this. I started thinking about the reason Breaking the Code existed in
>the first place.
> ...

>I had to reward Breaking the Code for that--to do
>anything less would have been a slap in the face to the author who
>risked Lord-knows-what to make it public.
>And, lest anyone ask, NO, I'm not kidding.

I believe the only *risk* was to Steven Granade and the comp. The
(anonymous) author was downright cowardly, if you ask me.

- Kaia


Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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Kaia Vintr <ka...@xoe.com> wrote:
> wester...@my-deja.com wrote in message <8v15g9$l9u$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>...
>> I started thinking about the risk someone was taking to do
>>this. I started thinking about the reason Breaking the Code existed in
>>the first place.
>> ...

>>I had to reward Breaking the Code for that--to do
>>anything less would have been a slap in the face to the author who
>>risked Lord-knows-what to make it public.
>>And, lest anyone ask, NO, I'm not kidding.

> I believe the only *risk* was to Steven Granade and the comp.

And to ftp.gmd.de. I don't know how international law would hold up,
but of course it could also affect the mirrors, include ifarchive.org.

> The (anonymous) author was downright cowardly, if you ask me.

I worried about it a bit (for those that don't know, I'm a maintainer
of the ifarchive.org mirror). But I figured the worst that could
happen is that we'd have to remove it.

As a political action it was neither very daring nor very risky. There
are thousands of copies of DeCSS around the Net. The idea of stashing
a few more this way is clever, but not Earth-shattering.

I said "Yay!", gave it a 1, and went on to the next game.

--Z

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

Kaia Vintr

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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>of the ifarchive.org mirror). But I figured the worst that could
>happen is that we'd have to remove it.
>

That's what I assumed too, after some thought. They usually
ask you nicely first.

>As a political action it was neither very daring nor very risky. There
>are thousands of copies of DeCSS around the Net. The idea of stashing
>a few more this way is clever, but not Earth-shattering.
>

My real complaint was that s/he didn't bother to turn it into a real game.
Even a tiny one...

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

"For the white to worry your wagging dead seated on the gravely..."

- Kaia

Matthew T. Russotto

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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In article <97440199...@rexx.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
}
}I worried about it a bit (for those that don't know, I'm a maintainer
}of the ifarchive.org mirror). But I figured the worst that could
}happen is that we'd have to remove it.

Hey, look on the bright side -- anyone selling a IF-archive CD in
the US is now looking at spending 5-10 years getting raped in a Federal
prison.

No joke -- see 17 USC 1210 and 17 USC 1204 (a).
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Robb Sherwin

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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In article <NMXQ5.1213$Ur5.1...@monger.newsread.com>,

russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com (Matthew T. Russotto) wrote:
> Hey, look on the bright side -- anyone selling a IF-archive CD in
> the US is now looking at spending 5-10 years getting raped in a
>Federal prison.
> No joke -- see 17 USC 1210 and 17 USC 1204 (a).

Ah. Right. I hadn't played that game yet; I had no idea that's what it
was about.


Stephen, I've got dibs on the top bunk.

Robb

--
Robb Sherwin, Fort Collins CO
Reviews From Trotting Krips: http://ifiction.tsx.org
Knight Orc Home Page: www.geocities.com/~knightorc

Stephen Granade

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
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russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com (Matthew T. Russotto) writes:

> In article <97440199...@rexx.com>,
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> }
> }I worried about it a bit (for those that don't know, I'm a maintainer
> }of the ifarchive.org mirror). But I figured the worst that could
> }happen is that we'd have to remove it.
>

> Hey, look on the bright side -- anyone selling a IF-archive CD in
> the US is now looking at spending 5-10 years getting raped in a Federal
> prison.
>
> No joke -- see 17 USC 1210 and 17 USC 1204 (a).

Thank goodness it's not the actual code, then. Who knew typos would
save the day?

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | Interested in adventure games?
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | Visit About Interactive Fiction
Duke University, Physics Dept | http://interactfiction.about.com

Richard Bos

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Nov 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/17/00
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Stephen Granade <sgra...@phy.duke.edu> wrote:

> russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com (Matthew T. Russotto) writes:
>
> > Hey, look on the bright side -- anyone selling a IF-archive CD in
> > the US is now looking at spending 5-10 years getting raped in a Federal
> > prison.
> >
> > No joke -- see 17 USC 1210 and 17 USC 1204 (a).
>
> Thank goodness it's not the actual code, then. Who knew typos would
> save the day?

Are you sure they will? _Can_ you be sure? That's the biggest problem
with this entry, IMO: none of us asked for it, none of us knew about it
before we started it up, and none of us can completely predict the
consequences it would have if someone did decide to follow up on it.

Richard

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