Lucian's take on Aught-Three comp games

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Lucian P. Smith

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Nov 16, 2003, 4:23:05 AM11/16/03
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OK, here are my sometimes brief and sometimes wordy thoughts on the 2003
IF comp games. I actually got to play them all this year! Yay! Of
note to some (probably authors, mostly), I saved all my transcripts of
all the games, and put them up at:

http://bioc.rice.edu/~lpsmith/IF/transcripts/Comp03/

I made some comments in the transcripts that didn't make it to the
write-ups below, most often in []'s.

As an aside, can I request that we move to .log as a standard transcript
three-letter ending? .scr is stolen by Windows for screensavers. Also,
the Windows TADS I used (latest from tads.org) doesn't know to add .log
by default to transcripts, as it would with .sav for saved games. Also,
if you start a transcript, quit the game, then start a new one, this all
goes into the same transcript.

At any rate, here be my thoughts, given and mostly played in the random
order given to me by Comp03.z5. There be spoilers here, just so you
know. In general, there were several games that could have done with
quite a bit more beta-testing, so if you haven't played a game, and find
that it does middling in the overall ratings, I'd wait for a bug-fixed
version before I'd play it.

In general, I was pleased with the crop this year. A good size, and a
decent amount of good stuff in it. My good attitude could have
something to do with the fact that I've finally learned when to quit a
game 5 moves into it if I can tell it's just going to give me grief. I
dunno if anyone's going to give *me* grief about this, but there you go.

And we're off!

----------


5 : The Recruit (recruit.gam)

An odd little game. Solve a few random puzzles, win. Read odd prose.


6 : Sophie's Adventure (sophie.taf)

Can I say that I still don't like Adrift without being accused of being
racist? I still don't like Adrift. That being said, this was a fairly
competent game. It amused me in places and made me think about the puzzles
a little bit in places. The writing was weak but spritely, the setting
was cliche'd but enthusiastic. There were a few annoying bugs, notably
not being able to choose the fighter dwarf guy, and being able to
blithely walk though a huge locked gate.

And the game was waaaaaay too long. I spent 30 minutes wandering around
the house before finally looking at the walkthrough, only to find that
you were supposed to leave the house in the first three moves.
(Speaking of bugs, I'd count not listing your front door as an exit
counts as a pretty big one.) Then I spent another hour noodling around
the next bit, got basically stuck, took a look at the walkthrough,
vaguely followed that for a bit more, and when 2 hours were up, realized
I was maybe 1/5 of the way through the walkthrough. Oy. I am taking
one point away from this game because it was too long. A game of this
length doesn't belong in the Annual Comp. If you must comp it, send it
to Adam for the Spring Thing. There, I've said my bit.


8 : Scavenger (scavenger.gam)

There must be something inherent in abandoned (or semi-abandoned)
research facilities that just lend themselves as IF fodder. This game
makes, what, the 4th? But, you know, I don't really mind. If the notes
are to be believed, this was conceived prior to Babel (but post-
Planetfall) anyway. At any rate, it was a nicely realized world with
some decent puzzles, a bunch of one-note characters that at least
weren't distracting, multiple solutions to puzzles, a few bugs, and some
nice endings. So, kudos.


8 : Cerulean Stowaway (stowaway.gam)

So, at first I thought this was going to be a cliche. Then by the
second paragraph of the introduction, I thought it was going to be goofy
instead. Then it turned out to be both. I liked the goofiness, but the
cliche was... well, cliche. The very end turned into a series of
resource-management puzzles, but it didn't cue me in that it *was* a
series of resource-management puzzles, so I had to go find hints first,
which spoiled my enjoyment of it. I liked the variety of possible
endings, and possible variations on endings. The existence of 'the
warship Ghandi' made me laugh. The environment was somewhat sparsely
implemented, and there were some bugs, but overall, the combination of
the goofiness and the final puzzle set made me like it.


2 : No Room (noroom.z5)

Dude, we already had a one-puzzle game back in, what, '98? It still
doesn't work. Also, there needs to be a hint that the flashlight is
examinable in some way.


7 : Temple of Kaos (templeofkaos.gam)

The problem with requiring random actions is that there are so many.
There are a lot of 'opposite' actions, too. The trick is, like non-
Euclidean geometry, to create an alternate system of logic and adhere to
it religiously. Bad Machine takes this track. Kaos does not, and
suffers.

Nice conceit with the rhyme, though. Sometimes annoying, but on the
whole a win.


NR : little girl in the big world (girlwrld.exe)

Couldn't get 2 moves into the interface. No rating.


2 : Hercules First Labor (herc1.html)

--> open door
It's beyond my power to do that.

It is beyond my power to play this game, too.

OK, I suppose I should say why I'm rating this game low and skipping
'little girl'. This game gave me nothing to work with. Zilch. OK,
it's an homage to Scott Adams. I've never played any Scott Adams.
There was a game a few comps back that was also Adams-esque, but I liked
that one. This, again, gives me nothing to work with except "Hotel
Room: I'm in a hotel room" Oh, joy.


1 : The Fat Lardo And The Rubber Ducky (lardo.z5)

Woo, abuse.


1 : Rape, Pillage, Galore! (pig-rpg.exe)

A small point, weakly stated.

[At this rate, I shall finish rating the games in 2 days.]


2: Adoo's Stinky Story (adoo.z5)

Would it be gauche to use the title of this in the review? Huh? Huh?
Sigh, I guess so. Actually, the problem I had with the game is that it
was too mundane. Too much random junk implemented in the name of
realism. I mean, really--five different chair objects? In two
different rooms? The banality of it all overwhelmed me, and I quit
early. Sorry.


3 : CaffeiNation (caffeination.z5)

I suppose I might possibly come back to this one, but I quit early. And
I'll enumerate the reasons why:

"an odyssey in search of chemical enthusiasm":
First off, it's not capitalized. Secondly, the grammar is wrong--it
should be an odyssey *about* searching for coffee, not the odyssey itself
that's searching for coffee. This tells me that either the author does
not have a good grasp of English grammar, which is a very bad sign in a
text adventure game, or that there were no good beta testers, which is
an even worse sign.

"Release 0"
The author did not pay attention when compiling the final version for
the comp. Can be excusable, but it's another straw for the camel.

"Your "work" was finished more than half and hour ago and all possible personal
stuff has been completed."
[followed by:]
"The screen shows a spreadsheet half-filled"
If I finished everything an hour ago, why is there still a half-filled
spreadsheet on my screen? Another sign that neither the author nor
potential beta testers (and God help us if there were no beta testers)
spent any time thinking about the text as if flowed past the screen.

And along those lines:
"The screen shows a spreadsheet half-filled [...] The computer is
currently switched off."
And now we get to a *glaring* inconsistency in the same paragraph of
text! Oy.

These problems/warning signs, combined with the sheer banality of the
task, made me say, "You know? There are better ways to spend my time.
Like writing up a review of the opening scene so that others don't
repeat these mistakes."


10 : Slouching Towards Bedlam (slouch.z5)

And we have the winner. This is why the comp was invented. Rich
imaginative world; rich story with meaningful choices. No bugs to be
seen, best 'in media res' beginning I've seen in an IF game yet, lots of
fun mechanical bits to fiddle with. Just very well done. Good to have
you back, Dan.


6 : The Adventures of the President of the United States (apus.acd)

Dear Mikko. This zany game was a fun 10 minutes, even though I had to
use the walkthrough. Some day, Mikko will write a game where I actually
don't need help to get through it.


6 : Sardoria (sardoria.acd)

Puzzle, puzzle, puzzle, puzzle, end. Several very much guess-the-verb,
and a few opaque, but a nice walkthrough command to ease the pain.
Competent, but nothing special.


4 : Domicile (domicile.z5)

There were some nice things about this game. A unique magic system, and
a somehow compelling premise, even though it was hackneyed as all get-
out. But there were a variety of bugs (some documented by the 'bugs'
command!), very sparse implementation of objects mentioned in the room
description, and an inventory limit. The last made me quit. I'll play
this when the bugs are fixed, because it looks promising, but it's not
ready for general release as it is. I would beta-test this game if
asked directly, but not when asked as a judge for the comp.

Oh, and what happened to the picture it said to look at? Bad form
again. This game makes me sad, because it could be so much better with
not a lot of work. So quitting early is really the best I can do for
it, before the player-author contract gets burnt in effigy.


3 : Amnesia (amnesia.gam)

Not a good premise, many spelling errors, stream-of-consciousness writing
that only the author can follow.


7 : Shadows On The Mirror (shadows.t3)

This is a fascinating world and vignette, but it's way too short. Way
too short. Or maybe the problem is that too much of the conversation is
hidden? It didn't seem like it, from the 'topics' hints. Still, vast
amounts of imagination, and I must donate sufficient props.


7 : The Atomic Heart (atomicheart.z5)

Not bad! Buggy as heck, but not bad. Once I got into it, I enjoyed
figuring out the puzzles, with the caveat that the interface could have
been *much* smoother, starting with the simple expedient of making
'attach' a synonym for 'connect'. Oy. And making it so that you didn't
have to always connect things in a certain way. I think my transcript
is filled about half-full of failed commands, which is way too many.

Heck, the *walkthrough* is filled with failed commands. This should
have raised red flags in the author's mind.

It says something for the game, though, that I still liked it despite
the painful interface.


8 : Baluthar (baluthar.z5)

There were some oddnesses with this game, but on the whole, it worked.
Oddly creepy, with some very disturbing images, and it was interesting
to play an old, bitter man. The ending was fitting for the setting,
too. The ghoul puzzle was too much for me (I had to get the answer from
the hints), but the other puzzles I either figured out on my own or was
able to get on the right track from early hints. So that was nice.

I'm not exactly sure what it was trying to say, theologically. It seems
clear (to me) that Yachvee is Yahweh (particularly given the opening
quote), and the game seems to be about the fact that a self-constructed
god of Revenge doesn't work. But doesn't work either, or doesn't work
and we should return to Yachvee? We aren't told. Effective at what it
conveys, though.


2 : Bio (bio-v1.gam)

Bugs, nothing implemented that's in the room description, some things
implemented that *aren't* in the room description that are nonetheless
crucial. Like, say, exits. Or calling a dresser a 'dresser' in the
room description, but requiring you to type 'armoire' in the
walkthrough. Constant your/you're mix-ups. Clearly, nobody has beta-
tested this thing.


6 : Internal Documents (internal.z5)

Heh, cute. Some of the puzzles were a bit odd, but on the whole, it
was charming. Actually, some of the puzzles were completely and totally
opaque, but made a certain amount of sense in retrospect. Which is
better than not making any sense whatsoever. The hints were better than
average, which helped, and the game was put together carefully. I
suppose that's the trick that made me like it despite its numerous
obvious 'newbie' mistakes. There were numerous useless locations, but
they all had a nice touch, like the author had thought about them
individually. The puzzles required you to read the author's mind, but
it was an interesting mind to read, once you had the cliff notes.


5 : Delvyn (delvyn.gam)

This had a vaguely amusing premise, and seemed somewhat competent, but
there were a fair number of smallish errors and lots of its/it's
confusion. The tone was odd, but at least consistent. And then I got
stuck trying to get into the pit, and gave up, so there you go.


6 : Sweet Dreams (sweetdreams.exe)

Rule #1 of being an author of IF: Never, never, never write "No
walkthrough is included, since it really shouldn't be necessary."
People will find a way to get stuck. Heck, people got stuck in
Photopia. That being said, I have no earthly idea why Papillon thought
it necessary to include that statement in this game, since the puzzles
are really quite involved. Either he forgot he coded puzzles, or forgot
to install the mind-reading plug-in.

Parts of this game need work besides the hints--the pathfinding
algorithm, for example, needs at least enough work so you don't get
stuck all the time in dead-ends like the end of the hall or behind the
piano. I also managed to find the secret hide-out accidentally by
selecting 'cancel' early on from the menu, and having the game think I
meant 'wake up', which resulted in the rather surreal experience of
waking up into the same universe I had fallen asleep from. Some sort of
scripting function would have been nice, too, but I'm a sucker for
scripts (logs of the dialogue, at least; all messages, at best. This
would have allowed me to note where I 'woke up' erroneously, for
example.)

The premise was as daft as any anime; not that I've seen any anime, but
this seemed par for the course. Still, it embraced it whole-heartedly,
which was nice. If I hadn't gotten stuck by the ogre, I would have
enjoyed finishing this game. As it is, I plan to finish later, but the
score was docked since I couldn't.


9 : Gourmet (gourmet.z5)

OK, despite a few bugs, and despite the fact that the premise
intimidated me, I laughed a lot. It's all the attention to detail that
really made this game, and made it funny.


9 : Risorgimento Represso (risorg.z8)

Yay! A game that gives Bedlam a run for its money. Lots of amusing
things to do and try, many of which solve puzzles along the way. Got
stuck a few times, but the hints were generally good, and the puzzles
fun to solve.

One key to this game was how smoothly it played. Once you had the
general idea of something, the game took over and didn't make you play
out all the fiddly bits. This was most clearly seen in going through
doors (which open and unlock automatically if you're holding the right
key), but the philosophy was seen throughout. There were other bits of
niceness, particularly in item placement. In the opening bit, you could
only find a certain number of items to carry--well under your inventory
limit. To progress to the next stage, you had to find a key, beyond
whose door were a large number of items, which would put you over the
limit. So, with the same action that revealed the key, a satchel was
also found. Nicely done.

I also liked the NPCs. Nintendo was particularly fun, and the others
weren't bad. The default responses made a certain amount of sense, and
a whole bunch of responses were coded in, which was nice. One *very*
nice touch was when Nintendo identified items in your inventory, they
stayed identified in the list.

The author writes that he would like encouragement to write the sequel:
consider yourself encouraged. You have a fine sense of when to help the
player and when to stand back a bit, and your world was well-realized
and interesting to explore.


2 : Curse of Manorland (curse.agx)

So, despite the fairly hackneyed premise, I was willing to give this
game a shot. Then:

> open door
You don't see any door here.

> open window
You can't open the window.

> help
The door is not the only way out - THINK!
[Your score just went down]

> tie sheets to mirror
Don't know how to tie here...

> tie
Don't know how to tie here...

OK, so the game is both idiotic and rude. Not to mention paying little
attention to things like proper capitalization or punctuation. That's
enough for me.


3 : Episode in the Life of an Artist (artist.gam)

If there was something to this game, I missed it. Just someone's boring
life. A few could-be-amusing-if-I-knew-he-was-kidding moments, like the
opening ramble. Seemed competent enough--the boring things were easy to do.


6 : The Erudition Chamber (erudite.gam)

This game had an interesting premise, but at the end, I couldn't shake
the feeling that something was holding it back from being a truly
engaging game.

Perhaps I feel this way because I fundamentally disagree with the
premise, at least when it comes to IF. It's not the approach to finding
a solution that distinguishes people from each other, it's how they
choose among solutions they know will work. When I play IF with
multiple solutions, I often enjoy finding the differences between them,
then making a choice based on a knowledge of the outcome. But finding
one solution and then using it isn't a choice at all, it's what you
stumbled on first. To make this work, you either need to make it
interesting enough to make people want to re-play it, or force people to
re-play it somehow. This didn't grab my attention enough to make me
want to replay.

Here, I'm going to devolve into a discussion on Bedlam. See, in that
game, you figured out what was going on and had to make choices about
what you wanted to happen. There were two phases to the game--
discovery, then decision. First, you discovered what was going on, then
how to do something about it, then you decided between your options.
OK, three phases. I thought at the time the meta-commands-as-real
gimmick was, well, gimmicky, but it lent an air of credence to what 'The
Erudition Chamber' is trying to do here much more ham-fistedly.

Or let's talk about 'Metamorphoses'. That game made the choices you
made matter to *you*, not to the game per se. Or, rather, there were
attempts made to make your choices matter to the game which I felt
failed, and attempts made to make your choices matter to you-the-player
which I felt succeeded admirably (I'm thinking particularly here of
a puzzle where you had to sacrifice a personal item to solve a puzzle).
That game also had multiple endings, but their power came from having
multiple endings to choose between as fitting denouments for the
protagonist.

All this to say that personality analysis is not a simple task, and the
IF shorthand for it (solve puzzle X through method Y or method Z) is not
a very good mechanism for it. Something could be done with it, but as
presented here, it's quite abstract, and not very meaningful.

Not that the game wasn't competent. It's just that for all that it was
about 'fundamental personality', it didn't seem very personable.


6 : A Paper Moon (papermoon.z5)

OK, I admit: I expected better things of this game from the title.
It's a great title, and a mediocre game. A fair number of the puzzles
were unmotivated, though most at least made sense in retrospect. I was
able to get a decent amount forward with the hints, but still needed the
walkthrough to help me finish 'em. The matches seemed oddly uniquely
susceptible to soaking--nothing else in my inventory ever got wet ever,
it seemed. This is a time-consuming thing to code, but if that's the
puzzle you're going for, that's what you need to make it seem real--to
uphold mimesis, as it were.

That's actually probably a key factor in mimesis--being consistent. OK,
it's acceptable that in most IF, wading across a river doesn't get your
posessions wet. But if you code up a puzzle where wading across a river
gets *one* of your posessions wet, suddenly you're created a monster.
The player will try to hide that item in other items, hold it above
their head, put it in their hat, etc., and meanwhile wonder why their
cup of coffee (which you left in the diner in your own playtest) didn't
spill. It's a lot of work, and is why people like Emily Short go to
great lengths to code up entire systems that can handle all objects in
their games according to some underlying principle, since as soon as you
get divisible liquids, people will be dividing and mixing stuff you
never considered.

But, as far as paper moon is concerned: decent game, with a premise I
didn't particularly find myself enamored of, a somewhat consistent (if
hackneyed) world, and a mixed bag of puzzles.

Papillon

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Nov 16, 2003, 4:53:58 AM11/16/03
to
"Lucian P. Smith" <lps...@rice.edu> wrote:

(sweet dreams, non-spoiler)

>Rule #1 of being an author of IF: Never, never, never write "No
>walkthrough is included, since it really shouldn't be necessary."
>People will find a way to get stuck. Heck, people got stuck in
>Photopia. That being said, I have no earthly idea why Papillon thought
>it necessary to include that statement in this game, since the puzzles
>are really quite involved. Either he forgot he coded puzzles, or forgot
>to install the mind-reading plug-in.

(She. It even says so in the readme! :) )

Because all the under-15's outside the IF community that I gave it to to
beta-test finished it with no problems! Which I thought was totally bizarre,
but figured "Well, it must be easy, then", since it's hard to judge the
difficulty of your own work yourself. :) I knew people would still manage to
get caught on things, but I'd rather they asked (and they did)... besides, a
walkthrough is less fun when it's not a pure text game and you can't
actually cut and paste commands out of it.

In retrospect, I *still* wouldn't make a walkthrough, but I would make a
hint file.
---
Hanako Games
http://www.hanakogames.com/

davidw

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Nov 16, 2003, 5:05:55 AM11/16/03
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"Lucian P. Smith" <lps...@rice.edu> wrote in message
news:bp7flp$qk$1...@joe.rice.edu...

> 6 : Sophie's Adventure (sophie.taf)
>
> Can I say that I still don't like Adrift without being accused of being
> racist? I still don't like Adrift. That being said, this was a fairly
> competent game. It amused me in places and made me think about the
puzzles
> a little bit in places. The writing was weak but spritely, the setting
> was cliche'd but enthusiastic. There were a few annoying bugs, notably
> not being able to choose the fighter dwarf guy, and being able to
> blithely walk though a huge locked gate.
>
> And the game was waaaaaay too long. I spent 30 minutes wandering around
> the house before finally looking at the walkthrough, only to find that
> you were supposed to leave the house in the first three moves.
> (Speaking of bugs, I'd count not listing your front door as an exit
> counts as a pretty big one.) Then I spent another hour noodling around
> the next bit, got basically stuck, took a look at the walkthrough,
> vaguely followed that for a bit more, and when 2 hours were up, realized
> I was maybe 1/5 of the way through the walkthrough. Oy. I am taking
> one point away from this game because it was too long. A game of this
> length doesn't belong in the Annual Comp. If you must comp it, send it
> to Adam for the Spring Thing. There, I've said my bit.
>

Thanks for the review! The game *was* too long in hindsight but I really
wanted to enter the comp this year and it was the only game I had ready.
Chalk the bugs down to not having it tested enough beforehand and my
overenthusiasm.


Anthony Fordham

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Nov 16, 2003, 4:11:17 PM11/16/03
to
> 3 : CaffeiNation (caffeination.z5)

> "an odyssey in search of chemical enthusiasm":
> First off, it's not capitalized. Secondly, the grammar is wrong--it
> should be an odyssey *about* searching for coffee, not the odyssey itself
> that's searching for coffee. This tells me that either the author does
> not have a good grasp of English grammar, which is a very bad sign in a
> text adventure game, or that there were no good beta testers, which is
> an even worse sign.

Howdy! Since you were so harsh on a lot of these games, this paragraph stuck
in my craw. You can of course be on an odyssey in search of something - in
fact "an odyssey about the search for chemical enthusiasm" makes less sense,
or certainly is a lot clunkier. The idea here is that the odyssey has grown
from the simple search for coffee - Odysseus went on "an odyssey in search
of home."

And capitalisation? Dude, are you a tool of the fascist running dog formal
grammar police or what? If something's a title you can do what you like with
it, as long as people can still understand it! It's a style thing.

However, I agree with everything else you said about the game :)


Lucian P. Smith

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Nov 16, 2003, 5:51:18 PM11/16/03
to
Anthony Fordham <afm...@webone.com.au> wrote in <3fb7e7ee$0$1722$5a62...@freenews.iinet.net.au>:
:> 3 : CaffeiNation (caffeination.z5)

:> "an odyssey in search of chemical enthusiasm":
:> First off, it's not capitalized. Secondly, the grammar is wrong--it
:> should be an odyssey *about* searching for coffee, not the odyssey itself
:> that's searching for coffee. This tells me that either the author does
:> not have a good grasp of English grammar, which is a very bad sign in a
:> text adventure game, or that there were no good beta testers, which is
:> an even worse sign.

: Howdy! Since you were so harsh on a lot of these games, this paragraph stuck
: in my craw. You can of course be on an odyssey in search of something - in
: fact "an odyssey about the search for chemical enthusiasm" makes less sense,
: or certainly is a lot clunkier.

OK, I'll admit that you can be *on* an odyssey, etc. But that's not the
way you read the title, and particularly not the way you read classic IF
titles of the form 'X: An interactive Y-ing' The colon sets you up for a
definition to come, not, I dunno, a gerund or whatever it would be were it
prefixed with an invisible 'on'. Basically, you should be able to replace
the colon with the word 'is' and be able to read the resulting sentence.
"CaffeiNation is an odyssey in search of chemical enthusiasm" just doesn't
work.

I'll admit this is a niggly detail. All the things I wrote about in this
particular review are niggly details. But that was my honest response to
the game, so that's what I wrote about--there were enough of them that
combined, they made me quit.

: And capitalisation? Dude, are you a tool of the fascist running dog formal
: grammar police or what?

Yes! Well, someone in my brain is, at least. Grammar errors or
inconsistencies stick in my craw and decrease my enjoyment of the game.
This particular capitalisation foible (if you will) did the same thing.
If, as an author, you wish to include people like me in your intended
audience, my reaction to things like this is something you should
consider. If, as a player, you find yourself having similar reactions to
mine, that makes my reviews more helpful. I really have made no attempt
here to be universal in my response; just personal and honest.

: However, I agree with everything else you said about the game :)

Heh. I will say that this is one of the games I would go back to if a
fixed version was released later.

-Lucian

Lucian P. Smith

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Nov 16, 2003, 5:58:38 PM11/16/03
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Papillon <papillo...@bigfoot.com> wrote in <i3iervkdji9m624ds...@4ax.com>:

: "Lucian P. Smith" <lps...@rice.edu> wrote:

: (sweet dreams, non-spoiler)

:>Rule #1 of being an author of IF: Never, never, never write "No
:>walkthrough is included, since it really shouldn't be necessary."
:>People will find a way to get stuck. Heck, people got stuck in
:>Photopia. That being said, I have no earthly idea why Papillon thought
:>it necessary to include that statement in this game, since the puzzles
:>are really quite involved. Either he forgot he coded puzzles, or forgot
:>to install the mind-reading plug-in.

: (She. It even says so in the readme! :) )

Oops! Sorry. The only Papillon I knew was from that French movie, and
was a guy there.

: Because all the under-15's outside the IF community that I gave it to to


: beta-test finished it with no problems! Which I thought was totally bizarre,
: but figured "Well, it must be easy, then", since it's hard to judge the
: difficulty of your own work yourself. :) I knew people would still manage to
: get caught on things, but I'd rather they asked (and they did)... besides, a
: walkthrough is less fun when it's not a pure text game and you can't
: actually cut and paste commands out of it.

: In retrospect, I *still* wouldn't make a walkthrough, but I would make a
: hint file.

Yeah, these are all concrete reasons not to include a walkthrough, but I
would have preferred to have them mentioned instead of saying it's
'because it's easy', which just makes me feel incompetent if I can't
figure it out.

I ended up getting hints from other players, BTW, and finished the game.
The puzzle on which I was stuck (the ogre one) was actually one of my
favorite solutions in the game ;-)

-Lucian

Andrew Krywaniuk

unread,
Nov 16, 2003, 7:39:48 PM11/16/03
to
> Of note to some (probably authors, mostly), I saved all my transcripts of
> all the games, and put them up at:
>
> http://bioc.rice.edu/~lpsmith/IF/transcripts/Comp03/

Yes, very helpful. If I do decide it's worth putting more time into a
post-comp bugfix release (probably if my game scores more than 5), more
transcripts are always better. It's a bit late to tweak the puzzles, but I
could tweak the hints.

> As an aside, can I request that we move to .log as a standard transcript
> three-letter ending? .scr is stolen by Windows for screensavers.

I second that motion. Several major e-mail virus attacks occured during the
beta-testing period such that I had to enable auto-deletion of spam. For all
I know, I could have received a ton of useful suggestions during this period
that were blocked because they contained a .scr attachment.

> 6 : A Paper Moon (papermoon.z5)

[WARNING: some spoilers below]

> The matches seemed oddly uniquely
> susceptible to soaking--nothing else in my inventory ever got wet ever,
> it seemed. This is a time-consuming thing to code, but if that's the
> puzzle you're going for, that's what you need to make it seem real--to
> uphold mimesis, as it were.

My personal belief (and this only applies to puzzle-type games and only
works if you're a puzzle person) is that mimesis is a collaboration between
the author and the player. You have to get the player intrigued enough so
they recognize that an exception exists because it's part of a puzzle and
they accept it because they're already engaged. (and the exception usually
also gives them some parameters for how to solve the puzzle).

Looking at your transcripts, I can see that you got stuck on a rather
inconsequential puzzle early on and you never got into the game after that.
Naturally, this is my fault for not anticipating your difficulty, but
perhaps partly your fault for trying to play a non-linear game in a linear
fashion. I can't say for sure, but I estimate that you spent maybe 20
minutes in the sprinkler room trying to keep matches dry without:

a) fully exploring the map
b) trying to solve the puzzles in a different order
c) checking if you can get replacement matches from the bar (you can)
d) simply leaving the matches outside the room when solving the puzzle

Anyway, I can fully understand how this experience would leave you
frustrated and cause you to then proceed brusquely through the succeeding
rooms with very little attempt to examine, take, hit, etc the scenery (which
is the only way to really absorb the feel of the game).

I observed this same basic phenomenon in beta-testing. A couple of the
testers got really fixated on the Ritalin capsules right off the bat. And
since the Ritalin doesn't come into play until much later in the story (and
in fact causes very terse responses to be printed), these players also
became frustrated and never achieved full immersion in the game. If I've
learned something from this experience, it's that menu-based hints really
are necessary, even if I think they provide too much tempation.

P.S. It's not strictly true that only the matches get wet (try "x me"). And
FWIW, having the matches get wet in the sprinkler room actually *was* an
attempt at consistency rather than an intentional puzzle. Since they get wet
in the sewer, I figured they should also get elsewhere.

Andrew


Lucian P. Smith

unread,
Nov 17, 2003, 3:56:43 AM11/17/03
to
Andrew Krywaniuk <askr...@hotmail.com> wrote in <oNUtb.407608$9l5.273918@pd7tw2no>:
:> Of note to some (probably authors, mostly), I saved all my transcripts of

:> all the games, and put them up at:
:>
:> http://bioc.rice.edu/~lpsmith/IF/transcripts/Comp03/

: Yes, very helpful. If I do decide it's worth putting more time into a
: post-comp bugfix release (probably if my game scores more than 5), more
: transcripts are always better. It's a bit late to tweak the puzzles, but I
: could tweak the hints.

Well hey, glad they came in handy. Even if only for your next game ;-)

:> 6 : A Paper Moon (papermoon.z5)

: [WARNING: some spoilers below]

:> The matches seemed oddly uniquely
:> susceptible to soaking--nothing else in my inventory ever got wet ever,
:> it seemed. This is a time-consuming thing to code, but if that's the
:> puzzle you're going for, that's what you need to make it seem real--to
:> uphold mimesis, as it were.

: My personal belief (and this only applies to puzzle-type games and only
: works if you're a puzzle person) is that mimesis is a collaboration between
: the author and the player. You have to get the player intrigued enough so
: they recognize that an exception exists because it's part of a puzzle and
: they accept it because they're already engaged. (and the exception usually
: also gives them some parameters for how to solve the puzzle).

: Looking at your transcripts, I can see that you got stuck on a rather
: inconsequential puzzle early on and you never got into the game after that.

That's not strictly true--the game had been gradually losing me up to that
point, and there's where I finally fully resorted to the walkthrough. But
yeah.

: Naturally, this is my fault for not anticipating your difficulty, but


: perhaps partly your fault for trying to play a non-linear game in a linear
: fashion. I can't say for sure, but I estimate that you spent maybe 20
: minutes in the sprinkler room trying to keep matches dry without:

: a) fully exploring the map
: b) trying to solve the puzzles in a different order
: c) checking if you can get replacement matches from the bar (you can)
: d) simply leaving the matches outside the room when solving the puzzle

I dunno exactly what made me think this, but something went wonky and I
though there was a timing problem here, that I had to instantly re-light
something when the sprinklers went off. Ah, well.

Actually, you might be surprised to learn that I probably spent only about
5 minutes on that bit, IIRC. I was madly typing stuff, waltzing back and
forth between the two rooms, and skimming the responses to see if they'd
changed. Some day, you'll be able to keep transcripts with time stamps on
'em ;-)

: P.S. It's not strictly true that only the matches get wet (try "x me"). And


: FWIW, having the matches get wet in the sprinkler room actually *was* an
: attempt at consistency rather than an intentional puzzle. Since they get wet
: in the sewer, I figured they should also get elsewhere.

Yeah, and that's good. It's just that they seemed to behave more like
mystical sponges than matches in that if there was water anywhere nearby,
they'd suck it up through the ether ;-)

-Lucian

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 17, 2003, 5:36:56 AM11/17/03
to
"Lucian P. Smith" <lps...@rice.edu> wrote:

> 6 : The Erudition Chamber (erudite.gam)

> Not that the game wasn't competent. It's just that for all that it was


> about 'fundamental personality', it didn't seem very personable.

Oh, I dunno. I wasn't surprised that I instinctively solved the first
puzzle using the Seer solution. I _was_ suprised that the game was
clever enough to get me to solve all puzzles using the Seer solution,
the first time 'round.

Richard

Junio C Hamano

unread,
Nov 20, 2003, 3:00:12 PM11/20/03
to
>>>>> "LPS" == Lucian P Smith <lps...@rice.edu> writes:

LPS> As an aside, can I request that we move to .log as a standard transcript
LPS> three-letter ending? .scr is stolen by Windows for screensavers.

Why not .txt? After all that is what they are.

Chris Molloy Wischer

unread,
Nov 20, 2003, 11:56:51 PM11/20/03
to
Seconded. Then we will never have this problem again.

-Chris.


Junio C Hamano <jun...@cox.net> wrote in message news:<7vllqal...@assigned-by-dhcp.cox.net>...

Jess Knoch

unread,
Nov 21, 2003, 10:01:18 AM11/21/03
to
>>> "LPS" == Lucian P Smith <lps...@rice.edu> writes:
>>
>>> As an aside, can I request that we move to .log as a standard
>>> transcript
>>> three-letter ending? .scr is stolen by Windows for
>>> screensavers.


> Junio C Hamano <jun...@cox.net> wrote...


>>
>> Why not .txt? After all that is what they are.

Chris Molloy Wischer wrote:
> Seconded. Then we will never have this problem again.

And here I was going to vote with Lucian that everyone just use
.log.

--
Jess K.

Let's just plop them in front of the TV. I was raised in front of
the TV and I turned out TV.
--Homer Simpson


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