Yet More Comp Reviews

5 views
Skip to first unread message

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 11:31:09 AM11/18/02
to
Like all the other two-bit judges with chips on their shoulders, I think my
opinion is worthwhile enough to be posted to Usenet, so here they are. Two
things might be worth keeping in mind. First, yes, I'm quite scathing here and
there. That seems to be the mode I'm in when I'm judging. Please don't take
such remarks personally; they aren't meant that way. Second, I judge purely on
how much I enjoyed a game. Other considerations, such as technical quality and
good writing, are important only in as far as they contribute to and detract
from that enjoyment. This may explain any seeming discrepancies between a
review and the mark that goes with it.

Some or all of these may contain spoilers. Be warned.

So, in the order in which I played them (and I started out playing only the
ZCode games, and three oddities which I could play natively here), here we go:


The Temple: 8
You're in luck: I'm rather partial to Lovecraft, so I enjoy such games a lot,
and rate them well. This game is not very large even for the comp (ca. 35
minutes, including retraces and replays), but well executed; the text is good
and fits the Lovecraftian atmosphere well.
On the down side there are a couple of guess-the-verb puzzles (e.g., having to
use "paint" rather than "write" to write a symbol on your chest strikes me as
counter-intuitive), but they don't destroy my overall enjoyment. At first I
thought I'd found a slight bug (the object on top of the door being referred to
before I'd discovered it), but on replaying I found I'd just read carelessly
the first time around :-).
Not a spectacular game; not innovative; not large or impressive; but well
written, and very enjoyable.

Hell: A Comedy of Errors: 6
The idea behind this game is not bad (and no, I wasn't offended; and yes, I am
Christian). The execution, too, is good as far as it goes, but it leaves me
dissatisfied. The impression I get is that I _could_ have a lot of fun with
this game, but for some reason after a certain point this fun is denied me.
The main reason might be that there are not enough hints as to what _exactly_
to do; in particular, I can't find a clue about which torture would work for
which soul, and there are too many combinations to make trial-and-error usable.
As a result, the game ended in a no-progress situation, with no more souls
arriving and no space left, no matter what I did.
Possibly a bit more feedback would've helped the game along a lot. As it is,
it's a definite case of a good try cut short by frustration.

Photograph: 5
In this game, I felt definitely railroaded; it wasn't letting me play a piece
of IF, it was telling me story. This isn't necessarily bad, but it must be done
very well if it is to work. In this case, it wasn't, always; though there were
good sections, in many cases some logical options were railroaded shut. (There
was also one bug: at one point, I had one photograph on the mantel and a frame
in my hand; next morning, there were two photos on the mantel!)
Making matters worse, the story didn't make it easy for me to sympathise with
the main character. On the upside, the prose was generally well-written, though
(perhaps of necessity) trite here and there; but there's more to IF than just
story. All in all, it just didn't fascinate me.

Jane: 4
For this one, the same thing goes as for Photograph. The story is, this time
overtly, completely railroaded. Moreover, I feel unable to sympathise with
either of the PCs.
In the woman's case this probably is because her experience is too far from my
own life; while I can, I think, empathise with a real woman (though I have,
knock wood, not known many abused women in my life), I find it very hard to
care for a set of letters on the screen, especially if I'm expected to play her
life and then forced to take decisions that go counter to my own character.
As for the one I _should_ be able to sympathise with, the guy, he's just a
characterless twit. I can work around unpleasant PCs, up to a point, but I have
no patience for the spineless kind who sucks up and kicks down. And I strongly
dislike being expected to play that role myself.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think the issue this piece of IF brings up is
unimportant, or should be trivialised. However, I do think it is not a subject
I personally enjoy in IF, especially not the way it is treated here.

Four Mile Island: 2
Didn't we do this already? Yes, we did, two years ago. This game is brother-
of-Infiltrator. Unfortunately, Four Mile Island is even worse; and while
Infiltrator could lay claim to a bit of Old Times' Sake, this one is nothing
but Old Hat. Infiltrator got a 5; Four Mile Island doesn't.

TOOKiE'S SONG: 7
The name "TOOKiE's SONG" looked like a bad omen, what with the almost-all-caps;
fortunately, the game managed to belie this initial appearance and turned out
to be quite nice. It's a puzzlefest, of course, but one which doesn't strike me
as jaded.
There's a nice collection of some out-of-the-way puzzles; it was particularly
pleasant that several could be solved two ways, something which one doesn't
often find in games of this size. The only real irritant was that Ernie doesn't
accept 10 instead of ten; if _he_ can use digits, so should I. In toto, though,
a pleasant little game which didn't strongly impress, but did amuse me.

MythTale: 5
I'm afraid the idea behind this game, although not bad at first impression,
doesn't really work for me. The basic theme of mingling Greek mythology with
the present-day life of an archaeologist is, in itself, a good one; however,
the end result is fractured and somewhat incoherent. The main reason, AFAICT,
is that the Greece scenes run next to the main home scene, but there is no real
interaction between the two. I never had the impression that the two were
intermixed for a reason; in a way, the home scene was a neutral, unimportant
framework that might as well not have been there, and yet this is where the
majority of the puzzles were.

BOFH: 2
Hmmm... not a bad idea. Unfortunately,
- a true BOFH does not forget a fire alarm the moment it is activated;
- a true BOFH does not need a Majestic Hammer or a Holy Grail of Contracts.
A normal hammer suffices him - or even a piece of two-by-four;
- a true BOFH's boss knows better than to ignore him when the BOFH tells him
another tech has had an accident in the server room;
- a true BOFH does not attempt to go on a trip before having received his
flight ticket - and certainly does not pass airport security without it;
- a true BOFH realises that "solar-flares" is not a verb, but "say" is;
- a true BOFH understands that a female hotel representative is referred to as
"her", not as "him".
In short, you have messed with the Bastard, and simply did not make the grade.
Not a good thing. Had this been a game about just any old office worker, you
could have been forgiven, but in this case that will simply not do. I ought to
LART you for all you're worth, and give you a 1. However, there may yet be a
passable PFY in you in a couple of years, so I'll be lenient and give you an
extra point, pour encourager les autres (et toi-meme).

The Case of Samuel Gregor: 5
Another good idea with a disappointing execution. In fact, quite a lot could be
made of several aspects of this work; the psychological aspect, if carefully
handled, could be an interesting theme, and this game, while it does not pursue
it much, does hint at what could be done. The Austrian-Hungarian atmosphere,
too, holds promise, and in this work provides a suitable mood.
Unfortunately, this is immediately let down by a lack of thorough execution.
The carrying limit is very irritating, especially since one does have to
collect a lot of objects at one point. The vocabulary ought to be larger; "hail
taxi" should not be the one and only command to get a cab, for example. In
general, the whole game feels as if it could do with a bit more thorough
play-testing.

Koan: 2
Apparently, the ideas of koan and IF don't mix very well. It took me about five
minutes to solve this one, but I can't help feeling that that simply is not the
point of a koan - the spiritual aspect of any religious exercise is in general
more important than the mere solving of the riddle. Probably, this aspect can't
be satisfactorily captured in something as text-dedicated as IF. In any case,
this attempt failed to satisfy me, both as spiritual exercise and as IF.

Rent-A-Spy: 7
This is a nice, well-rounded little spy game. Although both the theme and the
way this theme is worked out are hardly original, indeed somewhat jaded, this
game proves that this doesn't need to be a great disadvantage, as long as the
end result is good enough - and it is. For example, the way in which you're
expected not to leave traces of yourself behind is nice, in particular the way
in which failure to do so influences the ending message.
Here and there Rent-A-Spy is a little rough around the edges (why, for example,
the missing full stops after some stock replies?), but never irritatingly so;
the overall impression is quite nice.

Janitor: 7
Such a pity... I really rather liked this game, except for one thing: it takes
too long! All previous games I had no problem solving within the two hours
allotted, but in this case I was still looking for the last points when the
clock struck.
That said, the parts I got to see were well written, generally solid, with a
nice twist on the standard treasure hunt theme which worked well; in fact, it
begged for the pay-off which was obvously going to come, but which I missed.
Had I been able to finish this game, and see the ending, I'd have given it an
8, maybe even a 9; unfortunately, its premature ending costs it.
[ Newsflash: after continuing play past the two hours' limit, I think I
discovered why I couldn't get the last points. There seems to be a bug in
the balloon code: when you break it up, the basket gets dropped; but if you
do this where you're supposed to drop the basket, you only get four points,
not eight. This, I presume, meant that I was looking for points I should
already have had... I've now solved it, but, alas, not within Comp time.
Had I been able to, Janitor would definitely have rated a 9.]

Identity Thief: 6
Identity Thief started out well, with a strong atmosphere which immediately
felt convincing. Technically things seemed to be well worked out, as well.
All in all the first phase was maybe a bit too easy, but that was the point,
perhaps; after all, "This is _too_ easy" is a stock-in-trade of cyberpunk,
especially if things go haywire afterwards.
After that first phase, though, it unfortunately turned into a guess-the-noun
game. This started with having to "drive to" somewhere that wasn't clearly
indicated in the text, and then to "ask doctor" about various things she
doesn't necessarily need to know about unless you (for no particular reason)
managed to fetch her some body parts from the first scene. This was rather a
let-down after quite a strong start, and put a damper on my enthusiasm. Even
so, the text itself and the technical execution remained good.

Scary House Amulet!: 3
Yah. Right. Is the intent perhaps to dazzle the player with hysteria? Sorry, it
fails; I, for one, am not impressed by a screaming teenager style. Add to this
a lack of any coherent plot, a complete absence of even half-decent NPCs, the
uninspired descriptions of rooms and objects, and even the lack of a single
interesting puzzle, and one can see why I'm less than captivated. Worst of all,
all this hyperactivity was probably intentional.
The only good point I could find is that at least it's solidly written. If you
ask me, this programming skill would be better directed in a direction less
reminiscent of a thirteen-year-old's sense of humour.

Sun and Moon: 6
Hmmm... an interesting use of the medium, and one which makes good use of its
particular properties. I'm still not sure if it really qualifies as IF within
the meaning of the act, but at least it was enjoyable. Unfortunately was too
short, partly because several of the puzzles are too easily randomly guessable;
and I suspect this is, in a way, inherent in the open nature of the web.
Technically... well, there isn't much "technically" about HTML. The one
instance where there _was_ a technical side, however, (i.e., the password
applet), didn't work at all on my (admittedly precambrian) Netscape, and
sometimes hung Opera...
All in all, Sun and Moon promises much, perhaps, though of course it remains to
be seen how much of this promise will be fulfilled by its successors. As with
all such early attempts, it doesn't live up to this promise itself, but at
least it managed to make me curious about what can be done.

Ramon and Jonathan: 3
Ramon and Jonathan is altogether too short, and the ending is much too abrupt
and deus-ex-machina. In fact, the plot is unbelievable from the start;
especially the characters are unrealistic. Fancy going into a courtroom with a
known revolutionary, knowing about the plot, but not about what she's carrying;
and then, to add insult to injury, being expected to continue the attack
yourself only to become a turncoat at the end!
As for gameplay, Ramon relies entirely too much on player knowing what to ask
for before he does so; the timing is too short to find out inside the game.
The vocab could've been more extensive, as well.

Screen: 5
Screen starts out well; the text is well-written, and I had an immediate sense
of immersion. The outside, including the cut-scenes in the tree, promise a good
tale-telling work of IF. Unfortunately, once one gets inside the house this
stops. The puzzle with screen is unclear, and seems gratuitious.
As for the episodes inside (inside the screen? Inside the house? Inside your
mind? We never get a hint): the first fits the atmosphere of the "outer"
game, and isn't all that bad - short, but neat. The second episode, however,
breaks immersion completely. It's bad from a technical PoV because the solution
is horribly unguessable and it's too tightly timed for experimentation; worse,
though, it breaks the atmosphere built up so far completely.
Finally, the abrupt ending after the second episode was completely unexpected;
there is no resolution whatsoever of the tension in the opening scenes, just
a simple hand-wave. A pity, really, because it is solidly written and the
first part proves that the author _can_ write good, atmospheric text.

The Moonlit Tower: 8
Ok, now this is a game that's great on atmosphere. It may be because I, as a
European, do not know much about Eastern culture and am, therefore, easily
fascinated and convinced by it, but it worked. The game-world was well worked
out, too; many details well described, and each helped to deepen immersion.
Technically I could find only a few minor hitches (an aliasing problem with the
strands springs to mind), but for a first-time author, The Moonlit Tower is
impressive; it would've been good even for a more experienced writer.
Yes, definitely a captivating work of IF. Next time, though, I want to be able
to fold a crane!

Fort Aegea: 4
Fort Aegea is entirely too dependent on split-second timing. There are too many
moves which are unguessable at the first attempt, and if you get one wrong,
poof, you're a dragon snack. Different conversation systems are used next to
each other, and there is no guessing which is necessary in which situation; but
get it wrong, and poof, there's the dragon again.
The text is reasonable, albeit extremely yet-another-fantasy-clone style; in
particular the "ecological" angle reads rather forced. Even so, with a bit of
tightening, it would be worth reading. The coding, where it doesn't involve
giving you a second of moving space, is solid. This could be a much better
game; however, after being killed for the umptieth time merely because you got
a "you can't do that" message (all of which take up a turn!), frustration
becomes the predominant feeling.

Constraints: 2
Oh boy, oh boy. Not one game, but (count'em!) four! One in which you can do
nothing whatsoever. One in which you can _try_ to do something, but not
actually do so. One in which you can pretend to do something, but not, in fact,
do anything (No, wait. You can solve a fifteen puzzle. Again.). And one which
the author claims is his tribute to NetHack and cousins, but which plays like a
crippled version of Pacman. Wowie! Do please excuse me while I wax lyrically
sarcastic.
Add to all this non-interaction (and yes, I know about puzzleless IF. Puzzle is
not the same as interaction. Neither is constraint the same thing as denial) the
irritating colour schemes (which, despite the author's assertions, did not
become more legible over time), and the painfully inadequate attempts at
something resembling philosophy, artistic discussion, and social criticism, all
at the same time considerably overdone and considerably over-simplified, and the
conclusion must be that Constraints did not do much to endear me to it.

When Help Collides: 3
I didn't get this. I just didn't get it. After spending a long time (too long;
this really should've been hinted at) trying vainly to get my rating up, I
decided to use the walkthrough, only to enter another rather vague, undirected
exercise in pressing keys. The only result is a "password" with which I can
enter a sub-game from the main menu (so why not make these available without
such repetitiveness?)
Neither are these sub-games much better. The "Role-Playing" (really just an
excuse for a Default Random Adventure with irritating descriptions thrown in)
and Western bits are at least playable in their own right, but hardly manage to
inspire; their own half-heartedness and the only partly succeeded attempts at
tying them together in a main theme make them rather undirected. I didn't even
attempt the Geisha part when I saw the one-key menus made their comeback.


This is the end of the ZCode games, plus a few that are either native DOS or
otherwise playable without another 'terp, which is as far as I'd planned to go.
I went through the games quicker than I'd anticipated, though, and had a few
days left. So I did something I'd never done before: download another time-
waster so I could play and judge TADS games for the first time. The sacrifices
we make to rate more games... A good thing there's a comp to persuade us ;-)
The following are the reviews of as far as I got with the TADS games.


Terrible Lizards: 3
Although the setting is rather hackneyed, the premise of Terrible Lizards is
not a necessarily a bad idea. However, the game is much too patchily worked out
to be really playable. It seems that it has been finished in a hurry, and not
been properly debugged.
There are areas where the game is patently unfinished - the volcanic island is
the most obvious example, but also, for example, "walkthrough" doesn't. There
is at least one area (the plateau and lake) I could get into, but not back out
of; this isn't helped by some errors in the exit descriptions. Partly because
of this, I couldn't find a way to get all points, and I still don't know
whether it is possible to get more than one sample. Definitely a game that
could have rated better with a bit (or rather, a lot) more debugging.

Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!: 3
Not, in itself, a bad game, although the wrecked laboratory is hardly original.
The "light" treatment did seem somewhat forced, though. It never did reach the
level of actual humour, yet interfered with the tense feeling one would expect
in the given situation. In toto, though, the text was good, the banter was not
my favourite but not _too_ irritating, and the puzzles were well worked-out. It
wasn't the design that let TDMAMFOOM down.
No, what made it unplayable to me was the technical side. From the beginning,
play was excruciatingly slow. There was a one-second wait between every two
commands, two-second or longer if it involved anything more complicated than
"You see nothing special". And then, after about an hour, it crashed on me. "No
more memory," it said. Well, damn you, couldn't you have made a better guess
at the start? At least I wouldn't have lost an hour. It was well and truly
hung, too - not even "quit" worked.
Now, to be fair, these problems may be the result of my decripit computer. Or
maybe not. On the one hand, I'm playing something written for HTML TADS on an
MS-DOS interpreter. On the other hand, it _did_ start playing on that 'terp,
and the other TADS games had no such problems at all. Bottom line is, it
prevented me from enjoying the game, and enjoyment is what I judge on.

Concrete Paradise: 5
Concrete Paradise is a reasonable escape-type game, neither original nor so
much cliche'd that it hurts; in itself, quite average. However, it is marred
rather by a very restrictive vocabulary. Giving just one example, in the
opening scene, "get book" did not work, and neither did "examine book"; I had
to "read book" to solve the obvious puzzle. However, I never thought of that,
simply because "get book" had just told me that the books were unimportant!
And this is not the only case; there are several other points where a more
liberal vocabulary would have definitely improved the game.
On the plus side, there is at least one puzzle that can be solved in more ways
than one, and both are logical. Moreover, I used the one that wasn't in the
walkthrough, and got completely stuck at a later scene. Irritating... until I
remembered what I had done earlier on, and that it was quite logical that I
would be stuck now. Restore, apply new solution not _quite_ so drastically as
the first time, and presto, it worked. All in all, a decent, if unimposing,
game, that does rather suffer from its guess-the-verb problem.


Ok, that's all. All in all not a bad year, perhaps; but I'm ambivalent. There
weren't any _real_ doofuses - at least every author had made some effort, even
if I didn't always agree with the result. There were no Comp00ter Games or Last
Just Causes. On the other hand, there wasn't one entry that struck me as a work
of genius. Some very pleasant games, yes, but nothing that I'll remember fondly
in a year or two. Hm. I dunno.
I do wish people would not try to split an already short two-hour game into
several sub-games, though. IMO the result usually shows that the limits are too
tight for that kind of ambition. And I wish people who railroad their players
were more subtle about it. But above all, I hope the Comp won't stop for a long
time - all in all, I do enjoy it, my grumbling notwithstanding.

Richard

David Thornley

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 12:02:49 PM11/18/02
to
In article <3dd91420....@news.nl.net>,

Richard Bos <r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
>
> Sun and Moon: 6
>Hmmm... an interesting use of the medium, and one which makes good use of its
>particular properties.

I'm going to disagree here.

One of the characteristics of the web is that it is, well, a web.
If I want to know about something, I'm likely to have dozens of
different ways to explore it.

However, even a well-done setup like this can't match reality.
The wossname was supposed to have atmospheric effects. If I suspect
such, I can look at weather in all sorts of different ways. There
were scientists involved in the hypothetical company. I can look
at a lot of what any scientist has done from here in my chair.
I can often find some biographical information about people. I
didn't have any of these resources in the game.

Heck, if I find something potentially dangerous (as the wossname
presumably was; I didn't get far enough to find out), I'm not
going to try to hack into the bad guy's system and stop it, I'm
going to notify somebody in authority and convince him or her
to do something.

So, while it had some interesting features, I don't see that making
it a web game had advantages to the player. What it meant is that
it couldn't be satisfactorily played on certain browsers, or
any browser with some security precautions enforced. It was
dependent on web servers and the net. It really didn't do anything
that couldn't have been done in a more conventional form, although
it may well have been easier for the author to do this way.

It's partly a matter of the usual restrictions on IF. There are
always many things a player could do that the game simply can't
handle, and the trick is to write the game so that the player
really doesn't notice.

Obviously, different people will be bothered by different things.
I found the limited research I could do in "Sun and Moon" glaring.
I also found the completely unequipped PC in "Rent-A-Spy" completely
implausible, which bothered some other people and didn't bother others.
I wanted to reach for my flashlight and lockpicks, and it seemed
very odd that I had to scrounge for them. Apparently the equipment
budget for this op was less than a dollar.


--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Peter Seebach

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 2:15:03 PM11/18/02
to
In article <3dd91420....@news.nl.net>,
Richard Bos <r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
> Janitor: 7
>Such a pity... I really rather liked this game, except for one thing: it takes
>too long! All previous games I had no problem solving within the two hours
>allotted, but in this case I was still looking for the last points when the
>clock struck.

No problem - the game was not intended to be won by a normal person within
two hours.

>Had I been able to finish this game, and see the ending, I'd have given it an
>8, maybe even a 9; unfortunately, its premature ending costs it.
>[ Newsflash: after continuing play past the two hours' limit, I think I
> discovered why I couldn't get the last points. There seems to be a bug in
> the balloon code: when you break it up, the basket gets dropped; but if you
> do this where you're supposed to drop the basket, you only get four points,
> not eight. This, I presume, meant that I was looking for points I should
> already have had... I've now solved it, but, alas, not within Comp time.
> Had I been able to, Janitor would definitely have rated a 9.]

OOPS!

Thanks.

-s
--
Copyright 2002, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
$ chmod a+x /bin/laden Please do not feed or harbor the terrorists.
C/Unix wizard, Pro-commerce radical, Spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

Steve Evans

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 4:11:52 PM11/18/02
to
On Mon, 18 Nov 2002 16:31:09 GMT, r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl (Richard
Bos) wrote:

[snipped]

>
> Photograph: 5
>In this game, I felt definitely railroaded; it wasn't letting me play a piece
>of IF, it was telling me story. This isn't necessarily bad, but it must be done
>very well if it is to work. In this case, it wasn't, always; though there were
>good sections, in many cases some logical options were railroaded shut. (There
>was also one bug: at one point, I had one photograph on the mantel and a frame
>in my hand; next morning, there were two photos on the mantel!)

Eek! That's one to put on my fix list for the post-comp release.

Incidentally, I'll have release 2 out in a week or so. Among other
things I'll be making it easier and hopefully more intuitive for the
player to exit the first scene.

Cheers,

Steve

Mike Sousa

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 7:35:00 PM11/18/02
to
Richard Bos wrote:
> Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!: 3
> No, what made it unplayable to me was the technical side. From the beginning,
> play was excruciatingly slow. There was a one-second wait between every two
> commands, two-second or longer if it involved anything more complicated than
> "You see nothing special". And then, after about an hour, it crashed on me. "No
> more memory," it said. Well, damn you, couldn't you have made a better guess
> at the start? At least I wouldn't have lost an hour. It was well and truly
> hung, too - not even "quit" worked.

I think you're definitely in the minority in terms of performance
problems. If I may ask, what OS is your PC running and what 'terp did
you use (including version)?

And you stuck with the game for an hour even though it paused for one to
two seconds between prompts? Yikes. I would have quit 3 minutes into
the game!

Also, just because the game is HTML TADS doesn't mean you have to run it
in the HTML 'terp. You could run the game using the text-only 'terp and
not miss anything, well, except maybe for that squid pic. Obviously
this doesn't help you now, but I figured I would let you know.

-- Mike

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 8:21:45 PM11/18/02
to
Here, Mike Sousa <mjsousa_R_...@attbi.com> wrote:

> Also, just because the game is HTML TADS doesn't mean you have to run it
> in the HTML 'terp. You could run the game using the text-only 'terp and
> not miss anything, well, except maybe for that squid pic.

That's what I did. (There was a squid pic?) No hanging problem detected.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Mike Sousa

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 8:39:13 PM11/18/02
to
>>Also, just because the game is HTML TADS doesn't mean you have to run it
>>in the HTML 'terp. You could run the game using the text-only 'terp and
>>not miss anything, well, except maybe for that squid pic.
>
>
> That's what I did. (There was a squid pic?) No hanging problem detected.
>
> --Z
>

I ran through the game several times using several different 'terps
before submitting it, that's why I was surprised Richard had such severe
problems.

And yeah, it was just for show, it's included in the 'about' response.

-- Mike

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 19, 2002, 7:33:23 AM11/19/02
to
thor...@visi.com (David Thornley) wrote:

> In article <3dd91420....@news.nl.net>,
> Richard Bos <r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
> >
> > Sun and Moon: 6
> >Hmmm... an interesting use of the medium, and one which makes good use of its
> >particular properties.
>
> I'm going to disagree here.

Feel free; that's what newsgroups are for.

> One of the characteristics of the web is that it is, well, a web.
> If I want to know about something, I'm likely to have dozens of
> different ways to explore it.

True, and the lack of this is one of the reasons I see Sun and Moon as only
seminal, not as a fully-fledged representative of its style. It would be hard to
create a whole world of information for a two-hour game, though; I don't expect
it from a normal work of IF, so I don't expect it here.

> were scientists involved in the hypothetical company. I can look
> at a lot of what any scientist has done from here in my chair.
> I can often find some biographical information about people. I
> didn't have any of these resources in the game.

No; but then again, the company was supposed to be on the cutting edge, and not
closely linked to conventional academe. You wouldn't expect many papers
published about their research.

> Heck, if I find something potentially dangerous (as the wossname
> presumably was; I didn't get far enough to find out), I'm not
> going to try to hack into the bad guy's system and stop it, I'm
> going to notify somebody in authority and convince him or her
> to do something.

And when I can't find a map of Paris, I buy a new one. Curses, foiled! Some
suspension of disbelief is always necessary.

> So, while it had some interesting features, I don't see that making
> it a web game had advantages to the player.

Not necessarily any advantages, but it's a different style. It may have
advantages to the programmer.

> What it meant is that
> it couldn't be satisfactorily played on certain browsers, or
> any browser with some security precautions enforced.

Yes, and this is the main gripe I have with it. The Java applet should've been
better, or perhaps even unnecessary.

> It was
> dependent on web servers and the net. It really didn't do anything
> that couldn't have been done in a more conventional form, although
> it may well have been easier for the author to do this way.

It presented itself differently. Looks _do_ count for something.

> Obviously, different people will be bothered by different things.
> I found the limited research I could do in "Sun and Moon" glaring.

It was, but I interpreted this as a result of its experimentality rather than as
a fundamental flaw.

Richard

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 19, 2002, 7:45:11 AM11/19/02
to
Mike Sousa <mjsousa_R_...@attbi.com> wrote:

> Richard Bos wrote:
> > Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!: 3
> > No, what made it unplayable to me was the technical side. From the beginning,
> > play was excruciatingly slow. There was a one-second wait between every two
> > commands, two-second or longer if it involved anything more complicated than
> > "You see nothing special". And then, after about an hour, it crashed on me. "No
> > more memory," it said. Well, damn you, couldn't you have made a better guess
> > at the start? At least I wouldn't have lost an hour. It was well and truly
> > hung, too - not even "quit" worked.
>
> I think you're definitely in the minority in terms of performance
> problems. If I may ask, what OS is your PC running and what 'terp did
> you use (including version)?

MS-DOS, and tr version 2.5.7, (c) 2000 Michael Roberts. True, this is an odd OS
to still be using, but it works well for IF, the other TADS games included.

> And you stuck with the game for an hour even though it paused for one to
> two seconds between prompts? Yikes. I would have quit 3 minutes into
> the game!

Oh, it's still just about playable - it's now <type> <blink> <blink> <blink>
<read new text> rather than <type> <blink> <read new text>. Irritating, yes, but
when you've played BASIC adventures on the ZX Spectrum you've seen a lot worse
<g>.
Besides, it was co-authored by Jon Ingold, whose games I have rated highly in
the past. I was trying to see if the end result would be worth the effort - it
might well have been, had it not crashed me before I could finish it.

> Also, just because the game is HTML TADS doesn't mean you have to run it
> in the HTML 'terp. You could run the game using the text-only 'terp

Which is exactly what I did - I'm not aware of any MS-DOS HTML 'terp existing.
Actually, I assumed it was the effect of a text 'terp trying to interpret an
HTML game that caused the problems.

Richard

Mike Roberts

unread,
Nov 19, 2002, 2:00:39 PM11/19/02
to
"Richard Bos" <r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
> Actually, I assumed it was the effect of a text 'terp trying to interpret
> an HTML game that caused the problems [playing TDMAMfOOM].

I can say with some confidence that html had nothing to do with it. The
text-only interpreters largely ignore any html markups, save a few simple
ones that can be handled in text mode, and the process of ignoring them is
computationally very cheap.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 5:31:09 AM11/18/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl (Richard Bos)

Photograph: 5


In this game, I felt definitely railroaded; it wasn't letting me play a piece
of IF, it was telling me story. This isn't necessarily bad, but it must be done
very well if it is to work. In this case, it wasn't, always; though there were
good sections, in many cases some logical options were railroaded shut. (There
was also one bug: at one point, I had one photograph on the mantel and a frame
in my hand; next morning, there were two photos on the mantel!)

Janitor: 7


Such a pity... I really rather liked this game, except for one thing: it takes
too long! All previous games I had no problem solving within the two hours
allotted, but in this case I was still looking for the last points when the
clock struck.

That said, the parts I got to see were well written, generally solid, with a
nice twist on the standard treasure hunt theme which worked well; in fact, it
begged for the pay-off which was obvously going to come, but which I missed.

Had I been able to finish this game, and see the ending, I'd have given it an
8, maybe even a 9; unfortunately, its premature ending costs it.
[ Newsflash: after continuing play past the two hours' limit, I think I
discovered why I couldn't get the last points. There seems to be a bug in
the balloon code: when you break it up, the basket gets dropped; but if you
do this where you're supposed to drop the basket, you only get four points,
not eight. This, I presume, meant that I was looking for points I should
already have had... I've now solved it, but, alas, not within Comp time.
Had I been able to, Janitor would definitely have rated a 9.]

Identity Thief: 6


Identity Thief started out well, with a strong atmosphere which immediately
felt convincing. Technically things seemed to be well worked out, as well.
All in all the first phase was maybe a bit too easy, but that was the point,
perhaps; after all, "This is _too_ easy" is a stock-in-trade of cyberpunk,
especially if things go haywire afterwards.
After that first phase, though, it unfortunately turned into a guess-the-noun
game. This started with having to "drive to" somewhere that wasn't clearly
indicated in the text, and then to "ask doctor" about various things she
doesn't necessarily need to know about unless you (for no particular reason)
managed to fetch her some body parts from the first scene. This was rather a
let-down after quite a strong start, and put a damper on my enthusiasm. Even
so, the text itself and the technical execution remained good.

Scary House Amulet!: 3
Yah. Right. Is the intent perhaps to dazzle the player with hysteria? Sorry, it
fails; I, for one, am not impressed by a screaming teenager style. Add to this
a lack of any coherent plot, a complete absence of even half-decent NPCs, the
uninspired descriptions of rooms and objects, and even the lack of a single
interesting puzzle, and one can see why I'm less than captivated. Worst of all,
all this hyperactivity was probably intentional.
The only good point I could find is that at least it's solidly written. If you
ask me, this programming skill would be better directed in a direction less
reminiscent of a thirteen-year-old's sense of humour.

Sun and Moon: 6


Hmmm... an interesting use of the medium, and one which makes good use of its

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+ The FidoNet News Gate (New Orleans LA USA) +
+ The views of this user are strictly his or her own. +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

David Thornley

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 6:02:49 AM11/18/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: thor...@visi.com (David Thornley)

In article <3dd91420....@news.nl.net>,
Richard Bos <r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
>

> Sun and Moon: 6
>Hmmm... an interesting use of the medium, and one which makes good use of its
>particular properties.

I'm going to disagree here.

One of the characteristics of the web is that it is, well, a web.
If I want to know about something, I'm likely to have dozens of
different ways to explore it.

However, even a well-done setup like this can't match reality.


The wossname was supposed to have atmospheric effects. If I suspect
such, I can look at weather in all sorts of different ways. There

were scientists involved in the hypothetical company. I can look
at a lot of what any scientist has done from here in my chair.
I can often find some biographical information about people. I
didn't have any of these resources in the game.

Heck, if I find something potentially dangerous (as the wossname


presumably was; I didn't get far enough to find out), I'm not
going to try to hack into the bad guy's system and stop it, I'm
going to notify somebody in authority and convince him or her
to do something.

So, while it had some interesting features, I don't see that making
it a web game had advantages to the player. What it meant is that


it couldn't be satisfactorily played on certain browsers, or

any browser with some security precautions enforced. It was


dependent on web servers and the net. It really didn't do anything
that couldn't have been done in a more conventional form, although
it may well have been easier for the author to do this way.

It's partly a matter of the usual restrictions on IF. There are


always many things a player could do that the game simply can't
handle, and the trick is to write the game so that the player
really doesn't notice.

Obviously, different people will be bothered by different things.


I found the limited research I could do in "Sun and Moon" glaring.

I also found the completely unequipped PC in "Rent-A-Spy" completely
implausible, which bothered some other people and didn't bother others.
I wanted to reach for my flashlight and lockpicks, and it seemed
very odd that I had to scrounge for them. Apparently the equipment
budget for this op was less than a dollar.


--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 5:31:09 AM11/18/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl (Richard Bos)

Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!: 3


Not, in itself, a bad game, although the wrecked laboratory is hardly original.
The "light" treatment did seem somewhat forced, though. It never did reach the
level of actual humour, yet interfered with the tense feeling one would expect
in the given situation. In toto, though, the text was good, the banter was not
my favourite but not _too_ irritating, and the puzzles were well worked-out. It
wasn't the design that let TDMAMFOOM down.

No, what made it unplayable to me was the technical side. From the beginning,
play was excruciatingly slow. There was a one-second wait between every two
commands, two-second or longer if it involved anything more complicated than
"You see nothing special". And then, after about an hour, it crashed on me. "No
more memory," it said. Well, damn you, couldn't you have made a better guess
at the start? At least I wouldn't have lost an hour. It was well and truly
hung, too - not even "quit" worked.

Richard

Peter Seebach

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 8:15:03 AM11/18/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: se...@plethora.net (Peter Seebach)

In article <3dd91420....@news.nl.net>,
Richard Bos <r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:

> Janitor: 7
>Such a pity... I really rather liked this game, except for one thing: it takes
>too long! All previous games I had no problem solving within the two hours
>allotted, but in this case I was still looking for the last points when the
>clock struck.

No problem - the game was not intended to be won by a normal person within
two hours.

>Had I been able to finish this game, and see the ending, I'd have given it an


>8, maybe even a 9; unfortunately, its premature ending costs it.
>[ Newsflash: after continuing play past the two hours' limit, I think I
> discovered why I couldn't get the last points. There seems to be a bug in
> the balloon code: when you break it up, the basket gets dropped; but if you
> do this where you're supposed to drop the basket, you only get four points,
> not eight. This, I presume, meant that I was looking for points I should
> already have had... I've now solved it, but, alas, not within Comp time.
> Had I been able to, Janitor would definitely have rated a 9.]

OOPS!

Thanks.

-s
--
Copyright 2002, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
$ chmod a+x /bin/laden Please do not feed or harbor the terrorists.
C/Unix wizard, Pro-commerce radical, Spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

Richard Bos

unread,
Nov 19, 2002, 1:33:23 AM11/19/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl (Richard Bos)

thor...@visi.com (David Thornley) wrote:

> In article <3dd91420....@news.nl.net>,
> Richard Bos <r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
> >

> > Sun and Moon: 6
> >Hmmm... an interesting use of the medium, and one which makes good use of
its
> >particular properties.
>
> I'm going to disagree here.

Feel free; that's what newsgroups are for.

> One of the characteristics of the web is that it is, well, a web.


> If I want to know about something, I'm likely to have dozens of
> different ways to explore it.

True, and the lack of this is one of the reasons I see Sun and Moon as only


seminal, not as a fully-fledged representative of its style. It would be hard
to
create a whole world of information for a two-hour game, though; I don't expect
it from a normal work of IF, so I don't expect it here.

> were scientists involved in the hypothetical company. I can look


> at a lot of what any scientist has done from here in my chair.
> I can often find some biographical information about people. I
> didn't have any of these resources in the game.

No; but then again, the company was supposed to be on the cutting edge, and not


closely linked to conventional academe. You wouldn't expect many papers
published about their research.

> Heck, if I find something potentially dangerous (as the wossname


> presumably was; I didn't get far enough to find out), I'm not
> going to try to hack into the bad guy's system and stop it, I'm
> going to notify somebody in authority and convince him or her
> to do something.

And when I can't find a map of Paris, I buy a new one. Curses, foiled! Some


suspension of disbelief is always necessary.

> So, while it had some interesting features, I don't see that making


> it a web game had advantages to the player.

Not necessarily any advantages, but it's a different style. It may have
advantages to the programmer.

> What it meant is that


> it couldn't be satisfactorily played on certain browsers, or
> any browser with some security precautions enforced.

Yes, and this is the main gripe I have with it. The Java applet should've been


better, or perhaps even unnecessary.

> It was


> dependent on web servers and the net. It really didn't do anything
> that couldn't have been done in a more conventional form, although
> it may well have been easier for the author to do this way.

It presented itself differently. Looks _do_ count for something.

> Obviously, different people will be bothered by different things.


> I found the limited research I could do in "Sun and Moon" glaring.

It was, but I interpreted this as a result of its experimentality rather than
as
a fundamental flaw.

Richard

Steve Evans

unread,
Nov 19, 2002, 8:11:52 AM11/19/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: Steve Evans <tr...@netspace.net.au>

On Mon, 18 Nov 2002 16:31:09 GMT, r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl (Richard
Bos) wrote:

[snipped]

>


> Photograph: 5
>In this game, I felt definitely railroaded; it wasn't letting me play a piece
>of IF, it was telling me story. This isn't necessarily bad, but it must be
done
>very well if it is to work. In this case, it wasn't, always; though there were
>good sections, in many cases some logical options were railroaded shut. (There
>was also one bug: at one point, I had one photograph on the mantel and a frame
>in my hand; next morning, there were two photos on the mantel!)

Eek! That's one to put on my fix list for the post-comp release.

Incidentally, I'll have release 2 out in a week or so. Among other
things I'll be making it easier and hopefully more intuitive for the
player to exit the first scene.

Cheers,

Steve


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 2:21:45 PM11/18/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com>

Here, Mike Sousa <mjsousa_R_...@attbi.com> wrote:

> Also, just because the game is HTML TADS doesn't mean you have to run it

> in the HTML 'terp. You could run the game using the text-only 'terp and
> not miss anything, well, except maybe for that squid pic.

That's what I did. (There was a squid pic?) No hanging problem detected.

--Z

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


*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Mike Sousa

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 1:35:00 PM11/18/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: Mike Sousa <mjsousa_R_...@attbi.com>

Richard Bos wrote:
> Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!: 3

> No, what made it unplayable to me was the technical side. From the beginning,
> play was excruciatingly slow. There was a one-second wait between every two
> commands, two-second or longer if it involved anything more complicated than
> "You see nothing special". And then, after about an hour, it crashed on me.
"No
> more memory," it said. Well, damn you, couldn't you have made a better guess
> at the start? At least I wouldn't have lost an hour. It was well and truly
> hung, too - not even "quit" worked.

I think you're definitely in the minority in terms of performance

problems. If I may ask, what OS is your PC running and what 'terp did
you use (including version)?

And you stuck with the game for an hour even though it paused for one to

two seconds between prompts? Yikes. I would have quit 3 minutes into
the game!

Also, just because the game is HTML TADS doesn't mean you have to run it

in the HTML 'terp. You could run the game using the text-only 'terp and

not miss anything, well, except maybe for that squid pic. Obviously
this doesn't help you now, but I figured I would let you know.

-- Mike

Mike Sousa

unread,
Nov 18, 2002, 2:39:13 PM11/18/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: Mike Sousa <mjsousa_R_...@attbi.com>

>>Also, just because the game is HTML TADS doesn't mean you have to run it

>>in the HTML 'terp. You could run the game using the text-only 'terp and
>>not miss anything, well, except maybe for that squid pic.
>
>

> That's what I did. (There was a squid pic?) No hanging problem detected.
>
> --Z
>

I ran through the game several times using several different 'terps

before submitting it, that's why I was surprised Richard had such severe
problems.

And yeah, it was just for show, it's included in the 'about' response.

-- Mike

J. Robinson Wheeler

unread,
Nov 26, 2002, 10:24:04 AM11/26/02
to
Mike Sousa wrote:
>Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>>Mike Sousa wrote:
>>> You could run the game using the text-only 'terp and
>>> not miss anything, well, except maybe for that squid pic.
>>
>> (There was a squid pic?)
>
> And yeah, it was just for show, it's included in the 'about'
> response.

Well shoot, if I'd known the game came witha squid pic I
would have drawn something else.

--
J. Robinson Wheeler Games - http://raddial.com/if/
whe...@jump.net Movie - http://thekroneexperiment.com


Mike Sousa

unread,
Nov 26, 2002, 7:17:23 PM11/26/02
to
J. Robinson Wheeler wrote:
>>>>You could run the game using the text-only 'terp and
>>>>not miss anything, well, except maybe for that squid pic.
>>>
>>>(There was a squid pic?)
>>
>>And yeah, it was just for show, it's included in the 'about'
>>response.
>
>
> Well shoot, if I'd known the game came with a squid pic I

> would have drawn something else.
>

Heh. But your illustration captures the moment far better than the pic
I included...

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages