[comp] my 2 cents worth

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David Samuel Myers

Nov 17, 2000, 1:05:25 AM11/17/00
David Myers - Comp00 comments

The following is arranged in order of how I would've ranked the games if
I'd been forced to break ties in the usual scoring system. I've removed
the actual scores. Warning, there are some SPOILERS below, but not many.

#53 - BAP) I was deeply saddened when I confirmed what the plot was.

Only note: I encountered the following after exiting one of the
conversations. It didn't seem to affect play after that:

Valerie says, "It's against my better judgment, but all right."

Little do they suspect that Melvin, nearby, is spying on them and making
plans of his own. Even littler do they suspect that Melvin is not what
he seems...

[Hit any key.]

Around the Corner (as "Melvin")
SCANNING cubicle_space(3,1,15):

RECOGNIZE: ID(696095)["Peter Danielson Feeney"]
dETAIL_LIST New unit underling
Problem report: DANGEROUS (watchflag)
Problem report: ATTITUDE
Resistant to authority. CONVERSE_MODE(shy,servile);

RECOGNIZE: ID(344904)["Valerie Ann Michelle Conrad"]
dETAIL_LIST Established unit (no connection)
Problem report: ATTITUDE
Responds to authority.

SOUNDSCAN targets(344904,696095): Process... Process...
696095: << Go FileRoom >> << Show 344904 OBJ_ID(0001001)[##Portal]
344904: << accept order Go >>

#ifSucc << EXECUTE ORDER_ID(904)[##CoverUp] >>
#else << TERMINATE ID(696095) >>

[2] WAIT
[3] KILL

>> save
>> 3
<< EXECUTE ORDER_ID(904)[##CoverUp] >> (inconclusive)

[2] WAIT

>> 1

Later that evening...

[Hit any key.]

#52 - Code) I don't appreciate entries like this.

#51 - OTOS) I have no idea what to make of it. I have some vague idea
something interesting is going on, but I worked with this for 30 minutes
and still didn't completely "get it", even with the info in readme.txt
and ia.txt. In any case it felt like work, so I didn't have much fun.

#50 - Little Billy) I assume this was a proof of concept. I like the
engine it was built on, mostly for the cool buttons. But the game was all
narrative, with no I in the F.

#49 - WhatIF) From the ABOUT text:

As so many IF games seem to follow the same format I thought a
different angle would be a good idea.

It could've been interesting to examine implications of individual
historical moments from the vantage of different nations. But all I see
is narrative. If I could type something like "set German" and then
review the history and see it differently, play around with it, etc. -
that would be something. As is, it doesn't feel interactive.

Also from the ABOUT text:

With computers able to do so many other things players now
spend far less time playing individual games so you've got to
keep your game simple or people just don't finish it.

I agree, but I didn't feel rewarded for reading those big hunks of text
and absorbing them. Yeah, I might know a couple things I didn't before,
but I didn't get much "fun" out of it. I thought "Did I miss something?"

#48 - Asendant) Uh, yeah. I LaFf at yeR pUny gamE.

#47 - Comp00tr) The joke gets old fast. Some credit is due for making
the implementation _itself_ feel so stupid in the various ways it does.

#46 - YAGWAD) I couldn't put up with the spelling of those words after a
while. It didn't feel very innovative either, but I should mention that
this was the 52nd game I played in the comp. I'm genuinely sorry that I
didn't give it a longer chance (partly given that it ranked 9th in the
voting) and I feel obligated to go back later and play it more closely.

#45 - Marooned) I got tired of the low level of writing and lack of
attention to detail. Things that could've made it more playable:

* The location descriptions left a bit to be desired.
* After I've visited locations, the game won't tell me that an item I
left in a certain spot is there. (E.g., You see an axe)
* There are grammatical errors such as "here is a couple of tires".
* What's with not having the right *equipment* to peel a banana? I
played twice and one time I could peel the banana, and one time I
couldn't. I seemed to have the same inventory.
* Stock phrases about hunger level or nighttime conditions got old fast.
* I had to use the walkthru on the boat because I couldn't guess that I
needed to "DIVE" in the lower compartment to get the other gas can

#44 - RTZ...) I've never been one for games of the sort where you need
to casts spells. The design felt clunky, and there were newline issues
with item descriptions, which drove me crazy. It was also too long.

#43 - Masque of...) I just couldn't read the author's mind. There were
many NPCs from the get-go, and it would've have been better if they'd been
added into the party bit by bit. The riddles were cryptic, and if I'd felt
more at ease with the mood, I might've done better with the puzzles.

#42 - Amnos) While I appreciated the atmosphere, and I was able to explore
a lot, there was no feedback that I'd done much right or wrong. When I
accessed new areas or solved what amounted to a mini-mystery, there was
nothing to let me know I was on the right track. Not that the author
should've implemented a score (he clearly didn't want to-- that's fine).
But I couldn't figure out the goals, even after two hours. While there is
nothing extraordinary about that, I felt the author owed me better in-game
explanation for why things were the way they were.

#41 - TTL) A missed chance for further exploration. You type the whole
sentence over, and each word is explicated, but words from subsequent
explications are not explorable. It's "one only layer deep." With multiple
levels of keywords, it'd have been a back-and-forth excavation process, a
conversation with the author. Deconstruction of keyword responses. Maybe.

#40 - Enlist) Trek-ish stuff. The crucial puzzles required too much mess.
Nothing in particular was horrible, but altogether, the experience felt
like an exercise. The plot was formulaic, and had poor pace. There were
newline problems in descriptions and capitalization issues, too.

#39 - UUX) I've not been previously acquainted with the U-universe. This
game was quirky in plot, with plenty of things to explore that didn't get
me stuck early on. But an hour into it, I began to find it unlikely that
the objectives would become clear. I peeked at the walkthru and discovered
how far from the end I was. I don't see how the author imagined that most
players would figure out so much, so I humbly submit that I am Pretty
Girlish as an adventurer. I didn't get many jokes. It just seemed like it
could have been "tighter" for the comp.

#38 - Infinite Mind) This one took me too long, and I got stuck. There
were many non-intuitive actions that I found only upon consultation the
hints. While there are interesting concepts in the game, there weren't
enough in-game clues, and especially not enough background to help me
understand the metaphysical "contraptions" the PC has to deal with.

#37 - Happy) I give the plot a little credit for being unusual, but the
execution of the puzzles feels a lot like so many other games that I was
not very excited. And try as I might, I could not figure out how to
recompile the source properly under an INF 6.21/3.54 compiler, so the very
end of the story was out of reach.

#36 - Prodly) Another game where the author admits that many aspects are
highly non-intuitive, but feels obligated to make me play along. I'm not
saying there aren't neat aspects here and there, but give me a chance to
make sense of it, please. How should I know I need to induce vomiting?

#35 - Dinner) A finicky set of puzzles. The timing mess with the
waiterbots was rough. I was motivated to get through it, but I didn't
feel rewarded. Sure, I got to see what was going on, but it was hokey.

#34 - Djinni) A nice idea, but I didn't get much out of the vignettes
the author chose. I wasn't driven by the characters I was supposed to
help. They seemed one-dimensional. Original, but not inspired.

#33 - Ad Verbum) Fun in a crossword puzzle way for a while, but it got to
a point where I realized I was trapped in a word puzzle and I didn't care
anymore. I did manage to garner 27 points before wimping out after an
hour, mind you, but I was less impressed with the cleverness than the
jokes, which were pretty good.

#32 - Aftermath) Though original, the tip-offs were way too subtle,
needing much study and verb guessing.

#31 - Withdraw) Somewhat fun, with some highly annoying spots. The colored
buttons puzzle was really dorky.

#30 - Jarod) This had an odd "what would Jesus do" twinge to it. I was
impressed with how well planned the game was, and by the way the author
subverted the goal-orientedness of medium. As for the concept of having
the PC leave each city and being asked what lesson was drawn from the
experience -- well, I understand the attempt, but it sure felt hokey.
Graphics didn't add much to this one.

#29 - VOID) This shot at virtual reality seems amateurish, but it could be
worse. Indicative of the issue, there is this passage:

The way out is by pressing the blue button hanging in virtual space.

> push blue button

You can't push the software.

> push virtual blue button

Extra input found: "button..."

> push virtual blue

You push the little blue virtual button. It vaporises beneath your thumb
as EH space drifts away. You emerge into realspace again.

Ack! I also dislike how if I die or check score, it says that I've seen
xx number of locations out of xxxx. Now I know how big the map is. Arg.

#28 - Pickpocket) Not bad, though a little uninspired. It holds together,
but somehow doesn't excite me with the extent of the plot.

#27 - Crulist) The interface is barely passable, but the game is halfway
entertaining. Some of the stock responses do get very old very fast.

#26 - My Angel) Such a rich plot, artistic, and lush in words. But it
had an awkward non-intuitiveness that made it hard to get along with. I
liked the flashbacks, and the depth of character in Angela and the PC.
The format -- with no traditional looking interactively returned dialog
-- didn't click with me. This one was almost too ambitious, I think.

#25 - Rameses) I like the plot, but it felt like something was missing.
Clearly, much effort went into the jokes and pacing, and the NPCs _make_
the game. But it didn't seem like the best plot that could've been
generated to make good use of the author's talents. From the posts here,
it seems many disagree. It's worth noting this was the 53rd game I played.

#24 - INFIL) Sure, the parser is weak, and the plot is fairly tame, but
as a game it isn't terrible. But gawd, the room descriptions were poor.
I took this as a parody (after looking at the source I couldn't buy this
as a 1982 game). As a riff on the "save the world" genre, I was willing
to put it in the same class (roughly) as Downtown Tokyo, Present Day.

#23 - Scourge) Menu conversations should not be abused when situations
don't call for it. Especially with only one choice on the menu! But it's
not crucial amid South Park-style writing. (I love the 75 dollar bill.)
I was surprised, but there was a semblance of a plot, too.

#22 - End Means) The opening sequence with the objects in the room was
cool, but each subsequent puzzle seemed to be entirely disconnected from
the previous one. With a 272K file, I felt I missed a bunch, despite the
fact that I seem to have beaten the last puzzle. It was quaint, but I'm
disappointed about the lack of anything tying the puzzles together.

#21 - Guess the Verb) A cute way to pack a bunch of unrelated vignettes
into one comp game without it being silly. I liked a couple of scenarios
quite a bit, but interacting with Lalrry was awkward. I would have kept
the carnival part straightforward and left the "odd stuff" to the
inside-scenario sequences. But it was better than its name suggested.

#20 - Transfer) Not very tightly written. High marks for ambition and
plot, but I didn't feel good about the follow-thru at the time, because it
seemed like just another mad scientist game. Mind you, I didn't play
nearly to the end, and that might well have been a mistake, given how well
ranked this game turned out in the voting. Yet another case of fatigue on
my part: this was the 51st game I played.

#19 - 1-2-3) A character-driven piece that wasn't too well executed. The
NPC conversations were not at the level they could've been. It was too
sensitive in what words it would and wouldn't take. The character hopping
was nice (if cliche), but it flipped back and forth too quickly for my
taste. I'd have had more that the player needed to do or find out between
each flip. It needed more debugging. A good stab (Ow!).

#18 - Desert Heat) An adult-themed choose your own adventure. Odd, but
well written. I give it credit for replayability and multiple avenues.
Still, it didn't surprise me much.

#17 - Metamorp) From the beginning, it is clear this is a bit of a surreal
game. Mostly, it's handled in ways that are relatively clever. There are
a few tiny quibbles I had with lack of implementation where certain inputs
seemed like they should work (e.g., "blow through tube"). Even more plot
(or background at least) might have made me feel better at ease,
especially near the start. The solutions to some puzzles were more obscure
than they needed to be, but it was still very playable. For some reason,
the concept didn't grab me and hold me so well, though.

#16 - Clock) Original, with a few nice elements. Alas, too long and too
non-intuitive. Some notes:

* Breaking the coffee pot is pretty non-intuitive (But I always have a
problem break things in games. Burning things is another story.)
* Using a password in a forest is just odd.
* After I have the computer disk, if I "x top" of the umbrella, I still
see something stuck there.
* "Ask pompus about man/frog" is really non-intuitive.
* "Make call" is strange. I wanted to "use phone"
* I can't "open matches", I have to "open box"

#15 - Trip) The writing in the pre-peyote part was particularly good.
The plot twist of having to give up the vices of life in order to find
enlightenment was odd, but ok. Alternate puzzles were good. There were a
couple misspellings, which was too bad. As far as whether drugs can expand
consciousness or not... it only glancingly attempted to have the player
explore the issue. It might have been possible to go further with that if
the author had wanted. Other notes:

* "make bed" works. Nice touch
* "take shower" doesn't work (and the typical funny error message)
* "x journa" works in place of "x journal". Am I silly, or is this non-
standard. That wasn't automatically generated was it? If so, I
feel dumb for never noticing.
* "ask gary about girl" fails (need to "ask gary about girlfriend")
* "read green" refers to the weed, not the green journal
* "move mat" doesn't work, I have to "look under mat"

#14 - Wrecked) A victim of its own ambitiousness, this one was too long.
Without the walkthru I wouldn't have seen much. I got up to where I needed
to ride the train without a ticket. You have to hide in the john to ride
free, and I didn't figure it out. Not a bad puzzle game, though the NPCs
were puzzlebot-ish in many cases. There was some off-the-wall stuff that
made me laugh. But my specific quibbles were many:

* In the bar, late in the game I needed to buy a second glass of
beer. I couldn't "buy drink" but had to "buy another drink"
* There is a hidden pork chop in the game, and for no apparent
reason I had to push a plaque (admittedly under a statue of a pig)
to get it! I don't normally go pushing plaques.
* I needed to rent a hotel room. I was forced to type "buy room". That
was awkward. But nothing else seemed to work. "Show card to xxx"
should've been good enough to buy items at the hotel, the scuba
gear shop, the bar... but that didn't work.
* There is a character Mr. Tumnus. I tried to "x tumnus" but there was
no synonym like that and I had to "x mr tumnus". And "wear scuba
outfit" or "wear outfit" works but "wear scuba" doesn't? "Stand on
porkie" is no good, but "stand on statue" is ok? I got frustrated.
* There is no "z" for "wait" in ADRIFT. No "g" for "again". No undo.
(But the response to "ls" is funny).
* Oh how I hate that keyword completion. It gives away which items are
scenery and which are active! I turned it off after a while.
* Even with the walkthru (and I did not follow it verbatim) the boat
anchor is still a mystery to me. I got out to sea and I tied off
the anchor and threw it overboard. I dove in and went down. I came
back up (even right away) and the boat was *gone* as if I didn't
anchor properly. Huh? I try it 3 times being real careful, doing
things differently each time. Nope. FINALLY, one time it seems to
work. I don't know for *sure* but the only thing that *seemed*
different was that it was raining. That _CAN'T_ be it, can it?
* There's an annoying misspelling (ouside for outside) late in the game.

#13 - Letters) A pretty reasonable wordplay game with nice touches. The
map is not overwhelming once you figure out what is going on, and even if
you get stuck, you can still fun in the game the way it has been set up.
Unfortunately, due to the plot, there are too many puzzles for the time
allotted, predicated by the nature of the English alphabet.

#12 - FutzMutz) Things generally behaving as you'd expect for a game with
the PC as a dog. Not greatly original, but didn't suck.

#11 - Stupid Kittens) Very funny, but uneven. Still, I like the amount of
effort that went into optional areas. The twilight zone at the end seems
to be a rip of that Civil War game from earlier this year, but that's ok.
The author partly avoids guess-the-verb/read-my-mind, but not entirely.
Why no in-game hints for stuff like "pee" ("take soul" and "wash soul"
were a tad better, but c'mon)?

#10 - At Wit's End) This looked like it might be neat, but the actions
needed to keep it flowing weren't intuitive. The plot was cool at first,
but slipped into "empty house full of junk with odd (but original)
puzzles" mode. It turned out longer and more idio-syncratic than it first
appeared. The writer says in his "about" text:

I quickly decided that a game about baseball would turn off a
majority of IF players, and since there are so few of them in
this world - comparatively speaking, I knew I had to bring the
story to a more conventional plot.

Too bad he's right. If only there had been more baseball...

#9 - Shade) A neat little "one-roomer". A surprising amount of work went
into good implementation for just about everything. The final solution
eluded me even though I think I got through most of it. Too bad.

#8 - Never) The Raven is a great poem, so I was a little apprehensive that
this would be stereotypical IF horror, failing to do justice to Poe. I'm
happy to say it was better than that. The true sense of a nutcase running
around his house stoned, frightened, and longing for his true love was
conveyed well. Many people have talked about what it would mean to do
interactive poetry, but there are few examples you can point to that make
any sense. Plus, this is a true "game" in the sense that its main focus is
not (just) delivery of poetics. Of course, Poe left a lot to work with, so
the choice was a fertile one.

#7 - ATWCTW) What is it with shipwrecks this year? After playing to a
score of 5, I really thought this was going to be a *long* game. I'm glad
my sanity was still at 100%, because I thought I would seriously need it.
As it turns out, this game is only a prologue to a bigger game. The
conversation near the end was quite good. Even without a more proper
ending, the preview has plot, characters, and some hints of puzzles. I
could've done with more problem solving, but this was a strong entry.

#6 - Best Man) A competently programmed game. The puzzles were often
fairly picky, and forced a lot of restarts, which was a pain. Still I
mostly liked it. One other note: after unhooking a certain car (that I
shouldn't have) the game bombed thusly:


On top of car 5

With a groan that shudders through the entire train, the cars separate.

One of the cars behind you explodes!

Unfortunately, the hostage passengers were in that car.

[** Programming error: nothing (object number 0) has no property car to
read **]

Going in that direction makes no sense, since that car is no longer

[** Programming error: nothing (object number 0) has no property car to
read **]

You can't hold onto all the things you are carrying and move around the
top of the train.

[** Programming error: nothing (object number 0) has no property car to
read **]

I was stuck, even though it seemed like there was a reasonable way out
of that programming trap.

#5 - Got ID) Credit the author with being funny and creative, though
plenty of puzzles were "standard fare" and quickly disconnected from the
overall plot. I much prefer the puzzles not be completely arbitrary
excuses to do strange things with odd objects that happen to be lying
around in the caverns beneath a Kwik-E-Mart. Still, there was some very
neat stuff. Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.

#4 - Punk Points) A great game with some cool elements in it, and good
plot. Nice attitude all around, and rewarding. It was buggier than it
should've been. In a few places I was able to take whole containers that
should have been fixed (the locker, the right hand science lab
compartment) and there were other quirks that were too noticeable. But I
was impressed with the depth of the atmosphere. On another note, you
should all go read this author's static fiction work, which is available
at www.nomediakings.com. He turns out to have written a very nice science
fiction novel, which is even available in Palm Pilot format.

#3 - Big Mama) I liked the concept immensely, and I saw it as a sort of
Aisle++. If I may suggest anything, it might be that the PC be able to
extricate himself from conversations once they've started. I felt this way
because in MaxZip the "undo" feature crashed the program often as it
checked the color state. I was unable to restore games at all because of
the same kind of error. I also found one conversation menu item with:

4: "<illegal object number 357>"

It didn't crash, but the item text was either eaten or never supplied.

#2 - Masquerade) An NPC game with excellent plot. It flowed well, and
though the NPC implementation is fairly simplified, it did not detract
from the playability or the sense that you were involved in a semi-
controlled, unfolding melodrama. It's a real trick to correctly pace what
would otherwise seem like a contrived set of NPCs coming at you one after
another, waiting for your line in the play. Fortunately, the author has
left each scene with enough options to keep you thinking, and few enough
options to keep it from getting out of hand. Little details (you can stop
to smell the flowers, etc.) were also appreciated.

#1 - Kaged) Impressive, with a great plot. The puzzles were tricky, but
mostly fair. I had to *work* to find gripes:

* Can't "talk to her", have to "talk to woman" or "talk to nina"
* The "boy in tow" was odd. There wasn't enough explanation of why he's
just "there" when I get outside for me to buy it completely
* Comment on the music: Nice. Some of the pieces add a lot.
* Comment on the pictures: Nice, but did the files have to be so big?

Peter Ciccolo

Nov 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/17/00

David Samuel Myers wrote:

> David Myers - Comp00 comments
> The following is arranged in order of how I would've ranked the games if
> I'd been forced to break ties in the usual scoring system. I've removed
> the actual scores. Warning, there are some SPOILERS below, but not many.
> #53 - BAP) I was deeply saddened when I confirmed what the plot was.

Why? Unless I grossly misunderstand (someone please correct me if I do),
BAP was sanctioned by Zarf. If you're saddened because it's a ripoff of
Being John Malkovich, fair enough.

This isn't a bug or an error. It's a section of Melvin's "code"
(simulated, of course), cueing you in to his true nature.

Peter Ciccolo

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