JDC's 2006 Comp Notes

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JDC

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Nov 16, 2006, 12:11:54 AM11/16/06
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JDC's IFComp 2006 Notes

These are not reviews, merely short notes I made while playing the
games. The notes are in the order I played the games, but first are
very tentative scores and rankings. These should be taken very lightly;
I was not judging so I did not try to come up with any sort of coherent
scoring system. Basically the numbers represent how much I enjoyed the
games, and I tried to spread them out fairly evenly. I probably would
have given different scores in a number of cases if I were actually
judging.

In general I was impressed with this year's entries. My top five ranked
games were all very good and my rankings of them are somewhat
arbitrary; I could see any of them having won. My top twenty or so
ranked games were all definitely worth playing, and even those I have
ranked in the 5-6 range are worth playing (possibly after a bit of
reworking in some cases).

I played all of the entries except for the Windows-only ones (Fetter's
Grim, Green Falls, The Initial State, Simple Adventure, Visocica,
Beam), the two MANALIVE entries (see notes below), and my own entry
(well, I played that one *many* times, but I'm not commenting on it
here...).

SCORES
-------------

Legion: 9.5
The Primrose Path: 9
Floatpoint: 9
The Elysium Enigma: 9
The Traveling Swordsman: 9
Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter: 8
Moon-shaped: 8
The Sisters: 8
Delightful Wallpaper: 8
Another Goddam Escape the Locked Room Game: 7.5
Star City: 7.5
Requiem: 7.5
The Bible Retold: 7
The Tower of the Elephant: 7
Hedge: 7
Strange Geometries: 7
Aunts and Butlers: 7
Madam Spider's Web: 6
Unauthorized Termination: 6
Xen: The Hunt: 6
Game Producer!: 6
Fight or Flight: 6
Polendina: 5
Labyrinth: 5
Pathfinder: 4
A Broken Man: 4
The Apocalypse Clock: 3
Ballymun Adventure: 3
Tentellian Island: 3
Enter the Dark: 3
Sisyphus: 2
Lawn of Love: 2
Wumpus Run: 2
PTGOOD 8*10^23: 1

MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - I: Not finished
MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - II: Not finished

NOTES
------------

1. Tentellian Island
This didn't do a lot for me, but it was mildly interesting. Not
entirely well motivated puzzles. May look at this again to try to save
the fish.

2. Another Goddam Escape the Locked Room Game
Amusing. Most things implemented. Ridiculous puzzles, but that's kind
of the point. A good spoof of the locked room genre. I needed to use
the hints a couple of times.

3. Labyrinth
Unmotivated logic puzzles, unless this is supposed to be what the coma
fantasy of a mathematician is like (and if it is, I really hope I never
find myself comatose). The puzzles worked ok and there were no real
implementation problems, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

4. Enter the Dark
Why am I here? Ok, another amnesia thing. Lots of unexaminable stuff.
Maybe this is a deficiency in my interpreter (Spatterlight), but there
doesn't seem to be any listing of exits. Events hard-coded in room
descriptions. Hit a bug with killing the crow and couldn't get past
(following walkthrough); eventually found the right syntax and followed
walkthrough till I hit another apparent bug and quit, since this wasn't
doing much for me.

5. Sisyphus
I'm pretty sure this is a joke entry, especially since it's a 132K I7
.z8, but I'll at least try all the verbs I can think of. No joy, but
mildly amusing responses. I'll wait for the reviews to see if I missed
something (if so, it definitely needed better hinting). This could have
been a good premise for an actual game (assuming it isn't).

6. The Apocalypse Clock
A bit lightweight. Not the best implementation. Didn't do a lot for me.

7. PTGOOD 8*10^23
I couldn't find a lab se from the stairs (presumably a bug). The
cytometer exploded me. It didn't seem worth the effort to search more.

8. The Primrose Path
I really enjoyed this. It took me a bit over two hours to finish it
(but I'm a slow player). Of course, I'm partial to time paradoxes...
The painting system was quite well done, and the puzzles were very
satisfying. I'm not quite sure who "I" am supposed to be, commanding
Mathilda, i.e. I was a bit confused by the exact nature of the
playergPC distinction here. I didn't really think about the purpose of
the first person narration until the end, so I should replay this and
watch more closely. I found the PC particularly well characterized.

9. Strange Geometries
Several typos. The beginning seemed a bit empty, with a lot of
wandering around, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of the town. I was
amused when I found the twist (and finally understood why I hadn't been
able to look under the desk...). The game picked up pace around the
middle, and the story became interesting. A few things were very
unintuitive with command order.

10. Aunts and Butlers
Definitely oldschool but I found it quite enjoyable. Puzzles not too
hard. Had a bit of a problem with text scrolling down out of the
window. A number of typos involving words running together. Not the
most robust parser, but I didn't encounter any real problems and it
didn't detract from the game. Several parts were quite amusing.

11. Legion
I really liked this one. Trippy, took me a bit to figure out what was
going on at the beginning. No noticeable bugs or typos. I particularly
liked discovering what I was and what everything else was. The
progression of understanding was well done and well-paced, so that
everything made sense by the end. Highly recommended, and definitely
not a typical experience. I ranked this first on my list in part due to
its originality.

12. Game Producer!
Nothing I really didn't like, but it didn't leave a strong impression
on me. Puzzles not too hard; but I didn't feel a real sense of urgency.
Sort of interesting slice-of-life sort of thing. A few linebreak
problems, but no noticeable bugs.

13. Requiem
Interesting story. Sort of CYOA-ish. Missed the "good" ending without
the walkthrough. Had a quibble with the multiple endings not seeming
mutually coherent (and not all agreeing with the flashback beginning).

14. Polendina
The author seems very angry. Very short, sort of disturbing. The end
explains why the narrator seems to be mocking me. Definitely worth
playing despite my scoring (which is due mainly to the shortness and
the puzzles having less than intuitive solutions in a couple of cases).

15. Hedge
This was enjoyable, but I never really figured out what was happening.
Typo at beginning ("once chance to make amends"), ending on stage
messed up with introduction of victims. Only got 45 / 100. Couldn't
figure out pillars, except flowers. Backstory never really made sense
to me, but interesting.

16. A Broken Man
Short. Not too exciting for me. Maybe it would have helped to have seen
the movie Swordfish, which seems to be referenced heavily. A lot of
inconsistencies, e.g.:
> knock on door
You really shouldn't make any noise.

> shout
You scream as loud as you can.


17. Star City
I was really enjoying this until the flying part at the end, which sort
of interrupted the flow when I had to restore about five times, so that
the ending was a bit anticlimactic. But a nice story, generally well
implemented otherwise.

18. Floatpoint
Rich backstory, everything implemented, interesting story and
characters
I don't necessarily always like being able to choose all endings right
at end, without much dependence on the rest of the game. A rich world,
with extensive backstory, fun to explore.

19. Wumpus Run
Not really IF. Not really an exciting game, either. Terse descriptions,
and my first playthrough was unwinnable because the Wumpus was in the
same room as the pit.

20. Madam Spider's Web
Fairly amusing. Another car wreck coma fantasy thing, though. Never
quite figured out the symbolism of the spider, but I am guessing cracks
in the windshield. I think a lot of people will enjoy this; perhaps it
just didn't catch me in the right mood.

21. Fight or Flight
Poor implementation; after going into mess after crash, no mention that
Jason hurt; several dynamic things hard-wired into room descriptions.
Not clear that various people had various skills (i.e. who I should
tell to do what). I liked the idea, though, particularly the
perspective switching B-movie feel. Could be a good game with a bit
better implementation.

22. Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter
Liked the premise a lot. Story a bit short, but interesting. I would
have liked to have to utilize wolf vs. human abilities more. One
confusing point was that I howled at the cave entrance which summoned
the pack, but I hadn't found the injured wolf yet and didn't understand
why the pack didn't show up (presumably they don't start out with the
injured wolf). A good story, and otherwise well implemented.

23. MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - I
I only played a few minutes of this. It seemed to have the problem of
most games based on books, that you pretty much have to follow the book
exactly. You particularly seemed to need to know the story here (which
I didn't) since the PC's motivations are not at all clear. I may come
back to this some day after reading the story (which I would like to
do, having enjoyed other of Chesterton's writing).

24. MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - II
(skipped)

25. Pathfinder
Somewhat interesting premise, but a lot of implementation problems.
Felt rather contrived. Default response to "x me"; "driving off into
that good night"? But wait, the car's still here. "Knock on brown door"
doesn't work, but (checking the walkthrough) "knock brown door" does.
Device disappeared from me in one playthrough (bug). Description of
safe didn't mention a keypad.

26. The Traveling Swordsman
Clean, very nice implementation. Puzzles well hinted. Very enjoyable.
Amusing ending; I like this sort of fantasy explanation better than the
coma fantasy type. The three acts go well together, and the puzzles are
pretty natural.

27. Unauthorized Termination
Fairly interesting story and consistent style, but the names and
teleporting became a bit tedious. The ending seemed a bit sudden. A
couple contrived things. The beginning describing a totalitarian
society didn't really seem to come into play, unless the point was that
I, as a robot, happily followed along with it.

28. Moon-Shaped
Nice story and an amusing twist on the classic stories. A few confusing
points (I never found the history of the stick and didn't realize that
waaving it was helpful; it also wasn't clear to me that there was
anything north of the waterfall, so I needed the walkthrough to find
the graveyard). Otherwise the puzzles worked well and everything was
well implemented.

29. Ballymun Adventure
Maybe interesting for the students of this school, but probably not for
anyone else. Lots of things described. One thing I found annoying:

> put lead in recorder
You need to be more exact e.g. Put the connector into the tape port.

> put the connector into the tape port
I'ts a perfect fit!

30. The Bible Retold
Pretty funny, actually; I was expecting something either preachy or
saccharine, but it was very light-hearted and amusing. This is by no
means simply a Christian teaching tool, although you need to know a bit
about the Bible (or look stuff up, or use the walkthrough). I had some
trouble with Zoom crashing sporadically (this seemed to happen if I
waited too long before entering a command; I think there's some timed
input).

31. The Tower of the Elephant
Fairly short and straightforward. Interesting story (I wasn't familiar
with the original); clean implementation. Quite enjoyable and
well-implemented; I liked the fact that your actions at the beginning
affect your later conversations with the Elephant.

32. Lawn of Love
Poor implementation, very short. The premise might actually have been
interesting if taken seriously.

33. The Sisters
Hmm, lot of car crashes this year. A few minor things: Needed
walkthrough at beginning since "down" didn't work (needed to "follow
footprints") and "put wire in lock" told me the wire was too thick,
until after I'd put the newspaper under the door. A bit cliche at the
beginning, but the story got interesting, and I quite liked it despite
a few implementation issues. Pretty creepy; I pretty much figured it
out before the end. Examining everything got a bit tiresome; some more
puzzles might actually have helped break this up. I encountered one
significant bug: I could get into the cellar before I found the key,
which led to a somewhat confusing (premature) ending. At the end, I
wasn't sure if the initial "fix the wound or die" was out place with
the rest of the story, but it did help to set up the player.

34. The Elysium Enigma
Cool story. Liked the misdirection. Nothing to complain about; a few
places where I wouldn't have figured things out without walkthrough
(moving cabinet, etc.). Very enjoyable.

35. Delightful Wallpaper
If you haven't guessed, the author's name is an anagram for Ogdred
Weary (I really kicked myself for missing this until after I finished).
So, uh.... I basically could manipulate the doors in the first part,
but the second part confused me a bit as I was playing. Well, I could
sort of figure out what to put where, but the underlying motivation
eluded me sometimes. The first part was a bit long ("Why is the house
doing this to me?", I kept thinking, although it did make sense in the
end). The second part was amusing, definitely in the E.G. fashion (Is
this one of his poems? I don't recognize it offhand, and definitely
more credit to this author if it is original). After I finished and
realized what had been going on I was much more impressed; perhaps a
bit more hinting of this during the game would have helped. In
retrospect I would like to have enjoyed this a bit more than I did, but
I'm not entirely sure the gameplay was enjoyable; part of my high
ranking is for the overall scheme. I want to replay this with more
awareness to see if I enjoy it more. I bet the standard deviation is
quite high on this one, and I'm also curious to learn the identity of
the author.

36. Xen: The Hunt
Somewhat interesting story (I haven't played the first part), very much
on rails though. Lot of reading the author's mind to avoid insta-death,
but enjoyable nonetheless.

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 16, 2006, 12:49:59 PM11/16/06
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Here, JDC <jd...@psu.edu> wrote:
>
> 17. Star City

Nice story, but the implementation is a series of hoops without a lot
of consideration about what would make the player jump through them.
Too many new commands, not enough learning curve.

> I was really enjoying this until the flying part at the end, which sort
> of interrupted the flow when I had to restore about five times, so that
> the ending was a bit anticlimactic. But a nice story, generally well
> implemented otherwise.

Yeah. The final puzzle outweighs the rest of the game, which is not
great. Also, that puzzle needs more feedback to be manageable. I wound
up typing "x panel. undo" every few turns, which is a bad symptom.

--Z

--
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
Bush's biggest lie is his claim that it's okay to disagree with him. As soon as
you *actually* disagree with him, he sadly explains that you're undermining
America, that you're giving comfort to the enemy. That you need to be silent.

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