Some 2006 Reviews, short-ish from notes, spoiler-full.

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crow...@gmail.com

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Nov 16, 2006, 3:54:41 PM11/16/06
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In random order, according to how I played them..I'll be posting a
couple of times to get it all in one thread.

Aunts and Butlers: I really preferred, infinitely preferred, the first
part of the game. I found the puzzle of how to open the locked chest
amusing, also the concept of how your prime antagonist dies. However,
the 'collect the items' bit really frustrated me, as did the lack of
full descriptions and implementation of various things I wanted to try.
Points for humor, but the lack of coherency of a plot did trouble me a
bit. I ended up giving this one a 5.

"The Sisters" ended up getting a fairly low score from me, a 4. The
overall concept was interesting, but I found the game both intensely
frustrating in the small details, and the fact that I was essentially
railroaded into doing precisely what they wanted of me, to get to the
ending that was desired. As far as I am aware, there really is no
alternate ending, no way one can possibly alter the outcome. No matter
what you do, whether you explore everything or ignore it all and jump
to the end quickly, you will achieve the same tragedy. This was
intensely frustrating, as about halfway through the game, I wanted a
radically different outcome. I wanted the protagonist to join with the
girls in somehow cleansing the house. I wanted this desperately. Yet in
the end, I was forced to the same disappointing ending. Low points also
for things like killing someone for running with an unclosed knife, the
inability to try to really escape, etc. I recall several attempts to
smash the vase/urn, but it would only work from a particular location
using particular 'guess the verb'...another break in the gameplay is
that if you go down to the basement, find the body, but do not examine
it in all particulars, the game will not continue, and you can
cheerfully rampage about. But when you take the closer look, that's
when everything explodes. I also really didn't like the problem of 'The
character knows things that you, the player, do not'. To me, that
taints everything. It means that you're deliberately handicapped just
for the sake of a surprising story ending. Not cool.

Wumpusrun got a 1. I do not give points simply because the game runs,
and I found it honestly obnoxious. To me, that wasn't the point of
IFComp, and it doesn't seem like IF at all. I could not give it the
full two hours, because I wanted to scoop my brains out of my skull so
that they would no longer be tortured by the game.

Unauthorized also came accompanied with a low score of 5. In
retrospect, I think that game suffered a bit from being one of the
first I played, as with the number of entries I simply did not have the
time to play over each game once I'd played everything, to compare. I
have somewhat high standards for interactive fiction. I liked the
concept a lot, but it failed to provide for a lot of things I wanted to
do. For example, you could reach the sexbots from one of the homes. I
wanted to investigate that area, but it was clearly not designed for
anything other than perhaps an amusing gag. Also, the lone robot that
comes and tells you a little more of what is going on...you notice it
from the start when you walk into the room, but attempts to examine,
talk to, interact in any fashion whatsoever with the rogue all meet
with failure. It is only when going through again that they will seek
you out-which personally, I feel is not intuitive, that you will have
to revisit a place which does not seem as though it is likely to have a
changing description. I loved the history and backstory, as well as the
ability to look up various things within the game, but frustrations
over, for example, how to get the trade started made this game much
less enjoyable than it could have been. I detest 'guess the syntax',
and this game's scoring suffered due to that. I encourage this author,
whoever they are, to continue, and perhaps switch to something which
works better for that type of game.

Requiem received a 3. At this point, I'm sure many are giving glares at
their computer screens and muttering about my rankings, but I found
this another game frustrating simply because the paths chosen were very
forced. Perhaps that's a function of the type of game that was trying
to be written, but it didn't work very well for me. I didn't enjoy
playing through it, and didn't replay it, grateful that I had gotten to
the end and would not have to look through again. I would have
preferred more chances to do things on my own-for example, investigate
the two through other than conversations that proved ultimately
unhelpful, thus providing more of a chance to see the conversations in
context. However, the seed was interesting, and I would certainly play
a game again from this author.

Enter the Dark got a 2. I didn't enjoy it, and it seemed intensely
buggy. Perhaps I simply was not playing it well enough, but I found
myself unable to attack the crow/raven with items that certainly seemed
like they should be able to attack. Maybe it would be a losing move in
some fashion, but give me the chance! Also, at some point it turned
into a game of 'trap the NPC', which didn't work very well for me. The
walkthrough was sparse, and hints given would not actually work.

Floatpoint got a 10, and was indeed my favorite game of the comp. "The
honorable and well groomed Valenti of superior genetic inheritance!"
sent me into hysterical fits of laughter. However, I do agree with some
of the others that there were some flaws: the way it's possible to end
the game very early can be a turnoff. For me, it didn't turn out to be
so, because I was enjoying the beauty of the whole game, and so put the
bunny slippers in the box initially just to see what would happen.
Pleased that it allowed me so many, many options, I then set about
exploring /everything/. And of course, fell in love with how you could
change the genres of the recordings. I'm sure there was more I might
have been missing, though-I'm not sure if there was ever a chance to
find the original genre-turned recording referenced, or what the deep
dark secrets were. It seemed like more could have been done with the
scientist, but because things were buggy, I was unable to. I was also
unable to access the knife. I really did enjoy the ability to reply to
the letters, but disliked the way your reply was so thoroughly
scripted. What would have been truly fantastic is if the ability to
reply could have been mixed with a mood identifier-reply angrily, reply
professionally, reply coldly, reply lovingly...probably way too much
work, I'm sure, but would have avoided the trouble where one might not
have wanted to reply, because the replies turned out getting away from
your control. Or a situation where, say, you don't realize you left the
red sweater behind unless you reply to something you're not sure
actually needs a reply at all. I really want to play this game
post-comp, and see what fixes come in. I also really want to play the
game again and figure out just how much that little meter measuring the
people's response to you can affect the game, if at all. Do you get
different responses if various factors are different, or is it just a
nifty and handy tool?

Tales of a Swordsman also received a 5. It had a lot of potential, but
there was much that went unexplained until the end, when it is
discovered that you are, indeed, a child, thus why there is no
particular coherent plot. To me, that was a bit of a copout. I know
that many other people felt differently, but I really enjoy a detailed
story, or at least the ability to discover one. Also, the complete
lack of conversation ability, even with characters you should have been
able to converse with (like the girl, for example) did not sit well.
Nor did the initial 'chase the girl around' sequence. To me, it seems
like you should have been able to easily block various exits, such as
the gate, by sitting on it, holding it, etc. Then some sort of message
perhaps saying that the girl refuses to move while you are on it, or
that you can't do anything else while that is going on. It also was yet
another railroad plot, which by that point, was starting to grate on my
nerves.

Lawn of Love got a 2. Fine idea, sure, but honestly, I've seen hardcore
AIF that had far stronger plots. The 'Oh, a dress, she must be naked
somewhere! How titillating!' really didn't do it for me, and adding to
that, the difficulty with various people and things disappearing, such
as NPCs, made it all the more upsetting. You could talk to NPCs that
had completely disappeared from the room description, and could not
deal with them in a realistic fashion, or ask about anything that you
felt was relevant. It's always a problem with NPCs, how far to
implement them. I'd rather see no NPCs at all than NPCs like that.

School-2. Again, nice idea, written out in a lot of detail, but this is
something I'm sure only the students of the actual school could
actually enjoy. Also, the map was entirely broken. I did wind up
finding it, only to find that it did not work at all, and using the
syntax specified met with no results. This was frustrating, to say the
least. Also, I would suggest some sort of score that is added to when
you find the various 'extras'. The 'plug lead/connect lead/plug in
lead' bit also drove me a little bit batty. It is far, far easier to
put in things that make common sense, that most people will try, and
will make people far more okay with things, than have them guess the
correct sentence you want them to use for the sake of realism.

A Broken Man-1. I hated this game, absolutely hated it. It seems as
though it was written by a prepubescent, whether it was or no, with
such puzzles as the 'Excalibur' one being, again, extremely juvenile
and like really, really bad AIF. Oooh, a hot maid! With a whip! That
you must wear leather to get to! How....not exciting. Also, it suffered
from the railroading to an extreme degree. What would have brought this
game up in my estimation is if you had at any point had the opportunity
to /not/ kill the man. To leave without doing it. I tried initially, I
tried when I saw his daughter sleeping innocently, I tried many, many
times. If there's a way that I don't know about, please tell me, but I
hate being forced into doing something stupid that I don't want to do,
simply to get through the game. There was also a really obnoxious
point, when in the baby's room, when you have the ability to get the
mother to run away and take the baby with her, locking the door.
Attempts to unlock the door get a 'Which door do you mean' type
response, and you are never able to try that key to unlock and talk to
the mother

Elysian Enigma got a 6. Some things were a little frustrating-I feel
that you should know the purpose of your drik, and not have to figure
it out the way the player does. Also, while you the player eventually
learn the reason that Leela won't move from that box, I think it
frustrating that the game will not implement a way of you doing it by
force (say, if you've already fed and clothed her). For those who
played this, is there any way of making a sandwich with the food items?
I saw bread, tomato, ham, cheese, etc, and was hunting for a knife for
quite some time so I could make her an actual sandwich rather than just
tossing random food pieces at her. My drik wasn't sharp enough, etc.

Beam also had a great concept, which could have been absolutely
fantastic, if, say...it was more fleshed out. The worlds underneath the
tubes could have been more full, with more to be done there, and it
should have been absolutely necessary to go there for things. The whole
thing was just very boring, and it shouldn't have been.

Xen: the hunt received a 4. Nice idea, but I really don't like
continuations that leave me a little confused if I a) haven't played
the first one, or b) simply don't remember the first one. Thus, I
didn't have a lot of choices I felt like I should have, such as the
ability to choose my own allies, or the ability to trust various people
actually meaning something. For example, I really wanted to ditch my
'girlfriend', but was not given that opportunity. Also, unless I was
willing to let the other guy go down in my place, I couldn't continue
on the train. When I had his ID and went to other cars, it would say
that I had no ID, or told them that I had no ID, instead of simply
showing mine and having them realize it was faked, or something like
that.

Fetter's Grim:1. It might have had other stuff than what I saw that
made it worthwhile, but on screen two, when I saw 'Hey, I'm drunk,
wheeee, now back to the game', I decided to stop wasting my rating
time. The author of this game should go out, buy a sledgehammer, and
then beat his computer to death with it.

Green Falls:1. 1 game at a time, pls k thanks. This game made me wish
that there was a '0' or negative point score allowed. My initial notes
read 'Maybe if you spent more time on one game, both of your games
wouldn't suck so much'. I don't mean to be that harsh, but really. The
voting process is long enough without people submitting multiple
obnoxious games that drain reviewer's and voter's souls.

Moon-Shaped got a 6, and I think it was due solely to the fact that I
played it so early-on consideration, it might have deserved a bump.
Some things other reviewers mentioned, I did find-for example, the path
to all the flashbacks is to examine the things that respond to the
magic of the locket, while you're wearing the monocle. It may not be
instant-intuitive, but if you take the time to explore the game rather
than just trying to win, it's something that becomes clear. Such as the
fireflies, for example, being described by way of memory, talking about
catching them with your grandmother. However, one thing that I could
not figure out without resorting to the walkthrough is how to get to
the final section of the game. If anyone understood how to make it to
the last room intuitively, please tell me.

Initial State: 3. Could have maybe made it up to four, but didn't end
up doing so. I really liked the concept , which is why it was such a
shame I had to rate it so low for poor implementation. There seemed at
one point to be an Odyssey comparison about to bloom, but it never
quite did. So much left undone and unsaid and confusing-for example, at
one point it says that the protagonist only dragged the bodies out once
they were dead, yet at another point it seems to suggest otherwise,
that many died from the exposure to vaccuum. Also, the tweezer/access
card was not a pleasing thing, nor was the elevator/lift where I could
not seem to go up for quite some time due to not figuring out the right
way to phrase it. I should never have to concentrate that hard for
riding an elevator. Also, any game where I am forced to fight to
suicide loses a little of my attention. I could have suicided far
easier by simply staying in my room and starving to death.

Mike Snyder

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Nov 16, 2006, 4:20:47 PM11/16/06
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<crow...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1163710481....@e3g2000cwe.googlegroups.com...

> Tales of a Swordsman also received a 5. It had a lot of potential, but
> there was much that went unexplained until the end, when it is
> discovered that you are, indeed, a child, thus why there is no
> particular coherent plot. To me, that was a bit of a copout. I know
> that many other people felt differently, but I really enjoy a detailed
> story, or at least the ability to discover one. Also, the complete
> lack of conversation ability, even with characters you should have been
> able to converse with (like the girl, for example) did not sit well.
> Nor did the initial 'chase the girl around' sequence. To me, it seems
> like you should have been able to easily block various exits, such as
> the gate, by sitting on it, holding it, etc. Then some sort of message
> perhaps saying that the girl refuses to move while you are on it, or
> that you can't do anything else while that is going on. It also was yet
> another railroad plot, which by that point, was starting to grate on my
> nerves.

I've already commented in other posts, and I'll probably post a more
detailed explanation stand-alone later, but just a couple comments.

The story was no cop-out. All that's happening was thought out and planned.
It had to be thought out on *two* levels, actually -- as Dale, and as the
Swordsman. It'd probably be a good idea for me to go into detail on both. I
understand that it didn't work for some people, but terms like "cop-out" and
"lazy" (used elsewhere) aren't hitting the mark.

In a nutshell, the tyrant has been making pacts with people -- the widow,
with a promise that her cider would be world-famous (it'll actually enchant
people), the captain with the promise of a flying barge (which he's stuck
with, even in the afterlife), and the village (to deliver enchanted cider to
the world). It's all very connected, but I didn't want it to *seem*
connected. It's inspired a little by the Cugel novels (Jack Vance) and a
little more by The Compleat Traveler in Black (John Brunner). Each chapter
is meant to *feel* self-contained.

I did consider putting *more* of the story and backstory into the game, but
it's meant to be an adventure -- a journey -- not held down by the how's and
why's. I don't mind going into detail on that (and I will -- if only to
avoid being accused of laziness), but it's primarily so that the story
stayed consistent during the design.

I'm surprised at how many people are missing the second of the two twists,
from the epilogue. Nobody missed it in beta. Most of the reviewers picked up
on it. I hate to think it was *too* subtle, but the PC is deaf. His
adventure is shaded by real life (much of this probably becomes clear in the
epilogue), including the fact that most people can only communicate with him
(not knowing sign language) with gestures. This was a conscious decision,
not an afterthought or a tack-on. I actually had to re-write text where I
got carried away with descriptions that *implied* sounds.

Anyway, like I said in another post, TTS turned out exactly like I wanted it
to -- the odd quirk and lack of extra polish not withstanding.

Thanks for the review!

---- Mike.


James Mitchelhill

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Nov 16, 2006, 4:44:17 PM11/16/06
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On Thu, 16 Nov 2006 15:20:47 -0600, Mike Snyder wrote:

<snip>


> I've already commented in other posts, and I'll probably post a more
> detailed explanation stand-alone later, but just a couple comments.
>
> The story was no cop-out. All that's happening was thought out and planned.
> It had to be thought out on *two* levels, actually -- as Dale, and as the
> Swordsman. It'd probably be a good idea for me to go into detail on both. I
> understand that it didn't work for some people, but terms like "cop-out" and
> "lazy" (used elsewhere) aren't hitting the mark.

I think "lazy" was me - "lazy cliché" at least. It's not an accusation of
laziness of design. Indeed TTS seemed nicely polished and well implemented.
It was obvious that plenty of work went into it.

My problem with it was that I was invested in the nice, internally
consistent world that you'd created. To go from the pleasant, adventure
oriented fantasy tropes to a well-worn cliché was annoying. I'd have been
happier if it had been a framing device rather than the shock-reveal it
seemed to be.

<snip>

> I did consider putting *more* of the story and backstory into the game, but
> it's meant to be an adventure -- a journey -- not held down by the how's and
> why's. I don't mind going into detail on that (and I will -- if only to
> avoid being accused of laziness), but it's primarily so that the story
> stayed consistent during the design.
>
> I'm surprised at how many people are missing the second of the two twists,
> from the epilogue. Nobody missed it in beta. Most of the reviewers picked up
> on it. I hate to think it was *too* subtle, but the PC is deaf.

I missed this, but I wasn't paying too much attention to the ending. Mainly
because I didn't care about it.

> His
> adventure is shaded by real life (much of this probably becomes clear in the
> epilogue), including the fact that most people can only communicate with him
> (not knowing sign language) with gestures. This was a conscious decision,
> not an afterthought or a tack-on. I actually had to re-write text where I
> got carried away with descriptions that *implied* sounds.
>
> Anyway, like I said in another post, TTS turned out exactly like I wanted it
> to -- the odd quirk and lack of extra polish not withstanding.

And congratulations. Despite my dislike of the epilogue, TTS was my fourth
favourite game in the comp.

--
James Mitchelhill
ja...@disorderfeed.net
http://disorderfeed.net

Mike Snyder

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Nov 16, 2006, 5:21:38 PM11/16/06
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"James Mitchelhill" <ja...@disorderfeed.net> wrote in message
news:1ha0jnj4x03b1.torrnuxtvk86$.dlg@40tude.net...

>> The story was no cop-out. All that's happening was thought out and
>> planned.
>> It had to be thought out on *two* levels, actually -- as Dale, and as the
>> Swordsman. It'd probably be a good idea for me to go into detail on both.
>> I
>> understand that it didn't work for some people, but terms like "cop-out"
>> and
>> "lazy" (used elsewhere) aren't hitting the mark.
>
> I think "lazy" was me - "lazy cliché" at least. It's not an accusation of
> laziness of design. Indeed TTS seemed nicely polished and well
> implemented.
> It was obvious that plenty of work went into it.

Yeah, that rings a bell. Sorry if I took it out of context.

I spent hours worrying about whether people would consider the ending a
cliche (so, despite my disappointment that some do, it *is* something I
considered). But I couldn't think of any other work of text-based IF that
ends the same way (apparently there is one -- I saw mention of it in another
review -- Niz's, maybe). I didn't even know Monkey Island 2 has that sort of
ending -- or St. Elsewhere -- or whatever. It seemed to me a different kind
of thing than "it was just a dream", because the TTS PC is *actively*
imagining things, taking what's around and building an adventure from it. I
was happy to see one reviewer comment on exactly this. But most are lumping
it together with "it wasn't real" in general -- allowing for no distinction
between imagination and dream.

I'll just have to accept it and move on, I suppose. :)

> My problem with it was that I was invested in the nice, internally
> consistent world that you'd created. To go from the pleasant, adventure
> oriented fantasy tropes to a well-worn cliché was annoying. I'd have been
> happier if it had been a framing device rather than the shock-reveal it
> seemed to be.

I've had feedback from some judges telling me that the ending totally made
the game for them. So I guess it goes both ways. Cliche or not, I guess the
clincher is whether or not it *feels* like a cliche. I'm just happy that it
didn't for everyone.

> I missed this, but I wasn't paying too much attention to the ending.
> Mainly
> because I didn't care about it.

I guess different judges are looking for different things. TTS was just
supposed to be a fun romp -- an adventure. The kind of game I could let my
daughter play -- without embarassment -- when she's old enough to do so. Any
IFComp author would prefer to see nothing but glowing reviews of course, but
criticism of TTS is far softer than some games receive. I can't complain. :)

> And congratulations. Despite my dislike of the epilogue, TTS was my fourth
> favourite game in the comp.

Thanks!

I'll try to do better next year. :)

--- Mike.


crow...@gmail.com

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Nov 17, 2006, 1:43:16 AM11/17/06
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Simple Adventure: 1. My initial notes read 'Give up and die already.' I
judge this to say that I was by then growing tired with frustrating
games that were not getting any better, and instead, seemed to be
getting worse. I firmly, firmly, firmly, support the one game per
person rule for next comp. Please. For the rater's sanity. I ended this
game after perhaps twenty moves, to protect my brain.

Apocalypse also got a one. The initial concept was not a bad one-you
are the only person watching for the apocalypse, and the only one who
can prevent it. Fantastic! However, the thing was so poorly written
that I simply could not enjoy it, and also took itself a little too
seriously. This would have been interesting, done further fleshed out,
as a dream sequence. As it turned out, I regretted deeply the twenty
minutes spent playing to the end.

Bible Retold-2 This game received lower points simply for requiring a
bible to solve various puzzles. It could have easily been done without
that, simply with more explanation in an about, or a little writeup in
a walkthrough/hint file, or what have you. Personally, I found the
'Yes, go get a Bible! It's okay if you're not Christian!' to be
something that killed my mood for the rest of it. This is another game
that could have been interesting, but wasn't, due to the fact that I
had to look up things that I didn't want to. I also disliked having to
wait while nothing was happening for multiple turns, and the number
puzzle about galloping through the streets was awful to me, and made no
sense whatsoever. Why would these horses do this? Why couldn't I just
take the trunk with me? Ah, wild and wacky IF, how you punish me.

Escape from the locked room-2. Unlike many reviewers, I have actually
played the flash games-at some point, they were going all around the
internet. While I didn't enjoy them very much, they did have one thing
that made them barely playable-they were /beautiful/. Even though you
were not always progressing very far, if at all, and you didn't really
accomplish much, you enjoyed going through them, finding pictures,
finding letters, emotional relationships that will never fully be
explained. All of that is visual. This does not adapt to a text-based
medium well. I appreciate the skewering, and think they certainly
deserved it, being annoying games in and of themselves, but the
challenge is to have a game showing how annoying other games are still
be entertaining, and I don't think this was met at all. Not to mention,
why in the world would you think that you need to chop off your own
hand? I played smart originally, and thus didn't get this without
consulting the hints. I still think it's offensive-and if you're about
to go confront zombies, why would you want to handicap yourself? The
bird bit was, however, a bit cute.

FightorFlight-2. Personally, I felt the puzzles were annoying, and not
intuitive. I also started out by being extremely frustrated that I
couldn't seem to get anyone to follow me, and that I had to go out and
grab something for anyone to actually listen to me. I probably spent
the majority of my time trying to figure out why everything was not
working the way they should have. The NPCs were certainly interesting,
and had their own motivations, but I could neve interact with them
about their talk and try to act on it, making it ultimately
frustrating. I realize my ratings were ridiculously low, but playing
this made me want to cry, simply for that first bit. I had to resort to
the walkthrough to figure out how it wound up, probably because I got
so frustrated with the initial sequence. Also, having the kids all wind
up living out their lives in captivity, not so hot, as a previous
reviewer mentioned.

Geometries-4. Interesting concept, certainly, particularly when I
realized that they were operating in a two-dimensional world with
protrusions of a third, rather than a third with protrusions of a
fourth. I did not enjoy the puzzles, both because of the inability to
interact with things I really wanted, and the way that important things
were not described, or that things could be taken only once you
realized it was important to do so.

Hedge-2 I was perhaps not smart enough to go to the walkthrough, so I
tried actually solving the fairly easy puzzle at the beginning, and
then wondering which of the words related to getting in. The fact that
all of that was completely useless irritated me. A lot of things were
also not implemented. Why can't you steal a uniform from the bodies?
Why can't you act like one of the things on the list? Why is the 'once
a member, always a member' thing not explained further?

Labrinth-1. I did not enjoy that game, primarily because it seemed like
a simple place for the author to show off his ability to create spatial
puzzles. The cryptography puzzle, however, is what drove me to give the
author a very bad score. It was far, far beyond what should be expected
in a game like that-and the ending a slap in the face. So much time was
spent in crafting Puzzles of Doom, yet none spent on crafting a plot of
doom to go along with it.

Legion was a game that I could really, really have enjoyed, but that
grew slow towards the end of the game. I think there were a lot of
things I would have liked to have melded with, but was unallowed for
what seemed spurious reasons. Also, I really wasn't enthused about the
last four choices for expression. Fantastic, fantastic concept, but I
would have liked more possibilities-and also more ways of getting them
to listen than simply focusing the laser. It ended up with a 6, losing
some points towards the end for the endings alone. Again, if you're
going to include multiple endings, it helps for replayability if they
can be chosen /on the way/, rather than in the last two moves.

Spider-5. I loved the concept, though like many, thought it would have
been more interesting with a dual flash-start out at Madam Spider's
home, then flash to the hospital bed, in the position your choices have
brought you, then flash back to the Spider's house now that you know
choices you make can affect your outer world. As it was, it just felt
like a gimmick, and so the points I might have given this got lowered.
Having a twist to end with just for the sake of a twist to end does not
automatically good art make. However, again, this was still enjoyable,
and I look forward to seeing more from the author. This is one of the
ones I thought was not long enough.

crow...@gmail.com

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Nov 17, 2006, 1:53:22 AM11/17/06
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Mike Snyder wrote:

> The story was no cop-out. All that's happening was thought out and planned.
> It had to be thought out on *two* levels, actually -- as Dale, and as the
> Swordsman. It'd probably be a good idea for me to go into detail on both. I
> understand that it didn't work for some people, but terms like "cop-out" and
> "lazy" (used elsewhere) aren't hitting the mark.

I'd like to apologize for the term-I'm a bit acid in reviews, and
unfortunately this comp in particular, I got rather time cramped on.
This is my own personal fault, and no one else's, but it meant I was
reviewing up to four games a day, and so mainly the things I remembered
enough or was frustrated enough to note were negative. I wouldn't
categorize the game as 'lazy', however, as there was certainly a fair
amount of detail.

> In a nutshell, the tyrant has been making pacts with people -- the widow,
> with a promise that her cider would be world-famous (it'll actually enchant
> people), the captain with the promise of a flying barge (which he's stuck
> with, even in the afterlife), and the village (to deliver enchanted cider to
> the world). It's all very connected, but I didn't want it to *seem*
> connected. It's inspired a little by the Cugel novels (Jack Vance) and a
> little more by The Compleat Traveler in Black (John Brunner). Each chapter
> is meant to *feel* self-contained.

Interesting, yes, but I think too much of it was hinted at far too
subtly. I'm sure it all came together in your mind, but I just couldn't
really see it in the story. Self-contained is good, but too much of
each chapter became a 'solve the puzzle quickly' chapter. I think this
game would have worked a little better with more potential for
exploration and background. More of the story could have been worked
into everywhere. This is, of course, maybe my opinion.


> I'm surprised at how many people are missing the second of the two twists,
> from the epilogue. Nobody missed it in beta. Most of the reviewers picked up
> on it. I hate to think it was *too* subtle, but the PC is deaf. His
> adventure is shaded by real life (much of this probably becomes clear in the
> epilogue), including the fact that most people can only communicate with him
> (not knowing sign language) with gestures. This was a conscious decision,
> not an afterthought or a tack-on. I actually had to re-write text where I
> got carried away with descriptions that *implied* sounds.

I think the problem there is simply that you wanted it to be a twist.
Remember, most of the writing is written during gameplay, and if a game
doesn't feel replayable on its own merits of enjoyment, not too many
people are going to want to replay the game all over again, with little
variation, just to find out what was implied. From memory, I recall
that the NPCs all left fairly quickly, or were simply not around. This
is good, in that it helps to put off the eventual twist, but it means
that the whole thing feels unrealistic. Also, if Dale and the Swordsman
are mirroring, why would the woman go inside the house and not answer a
small boy's knocking? She is certainly not deaf. At the time, it felt
like a device simply to get the woman away as she was no longer really
useful, but now it feels a little as though you weren't quite sure how
to handle the deafness with NPCs without making it obvious. Again, just
perceptions here.

Mike Snyder

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Nov 17, 2006, 9:00:04 AM11/17/06
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<crow...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1163746401....@h48g2000cwc.googlegroups.com...

(snip)

> variation, just to find out what was implied. From memory, I recall
> that the NPCs all left fairly quickly, or were simply not around. This
> is good, in that it helps to put off the eventual twist, but it means
> that the whole thing feels unrealistic. Also, if Dale and the Swordsman
> are mirroring, why would the woman go inside the house and not answer a
> small boy's knocking? She is certainly not deaf. At the time, it felt
> like a device simply to get the woman away as she was no longer really
> useful, but now it feels a little as though you weren't quite sure how
> to handle the deafness with NPCs without making it obvious. Again, just
> perceptions here.

You're right -- that *was* one of the problems I had. I didn't want it to be
obvious. Another approach I could have taken would be to make it clear from
the start, and then play up the deafness throughout the story (perhaps
working it into puzzles, etc). That *might* have been more interesting, but
I went the other way.

The widow (aka grandmother) going back inside the house wasn't to get her
out of the way because she's no longer needed. It was to provide a more
realistic response to her seeing her "daughter" swarming with bees (and with
her already being aware of the curse). It's probably not obvious on a single
play-through but (a) she doesn't go back inside until the girl and bees
unite, and (b) this doesn't happen until the girl and the player are both in
her presence.

In reality (and for what it's worth), Dale finds the pendant, shows grandma,
she motions him to give it to her granddaughter (which is the real flaw
here -- she'd probably have just accepted it from him), and later goes
inside when she sees them playing (probably to call Dale's mom). Dale never
knocks on her door, even if the player tries.

It's a whole lot of story that's not in the game, I know. Some of it's not
even as detailed as this -- for instance, the cellar contraption is probably
just a couple boxes, hoses, and chicken wire in a pile in the unfinished
shed -- but I did try to sort it all out at the same time I worked it in for
the Swordsman.

I think I felt comfortable leaving most of it unexplained (especially the
details of Dale's adventure *as* the Swordsman -- the Tyrant's plan, the
meaning of the tapestries, etc) because I wanted the story to feel like a
journey. I also hoped that the ending would let people re-imagine the
earlier parts, looking for the other half of the mirrored reality you
mention (and I know some did -- so I don't think it failed across the
board).

I had thought about writing up the Tyrant's story as a creative writing
assignment that Dale had done for school -- and then putting it on the
kitchen table or magnetted to the refrigerator at the end. I didn't, for a
couple reasons. The main one is that too much of the story relies on
circumstance and chance. Dale couldn't really be playing out a story he'd
already written. This would benefit the reader in making the connections
between chapters and understanding his fantasy, but it would (I think) have
been counter-productive to making the story believable. I could have had him
write the story *afterwards*, but since I imagined this taking place over
the summer (hence the granddaughter visiting grandmother), it would have
needed to be a story he'd written earlier.

I might write the Tyrant's story anyway, just for completeness, and put it
up on my website. It'd be short and plain, though. :)

--- Mike.


crow...@gmail.com

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Nov 17, 2006, 4:01:54 PM11/17/06
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Mike Snyder wrote:
> I had thought about writing up the Tyrant's story as a creative writing
> assignment that Dale had done for school -- and then putting it on the
> kitchen table or magnetted to the refrigerator at the end. I didn't, for a
> couple reasons. The main one is that too much of the story relies on
> circumstance and chance. Dale couldn't really be playing out a story he'd
> already written. This would benefit the reader in making the connections
> between chapters and understanding his fantasy, but it would (I think) have
> been counter-productive to making the story believable. I could have had him
> write the story *afterwards*, but since I imagined this taking place over
> the summer (hence the granddaughter visiting grandmother), it would have
> needed to be a story he'd written earlier.

I'm not sure whether this is necessary/would help, but if you were
going to do that, I would have that the creative writing
assignment/story just explained backstory, not any of the incidents.
Set the framework of the world, or established the world he was already
used to imagining and playing in.

Mike Snyder

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Nov 17, 2006, 4:46:02 PM11/17/06
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<crow...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1163797314.1...@f16g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...

>
> Mike Snyder wrote:
>> I had thought about writing up the Tyrant's story as a creative writing
>> assignment that Dale had done for school -- and then putting it on the
(snip)

> I'm not sure whether this is necessary/would help, but if you were
> going to do that, I would have that the creative writing
> assignment/story just explained backstory, not any of the incidents.
> Set the framework of the world, or established the world he was already
> used to imagining and playing in.

Yeah, that's probably how it would have to work. I think this approach was
even suggested to me by one or more beta-testers (I want to say Dan, but I
could be mistaken).

--- Mike.


crow...@gmail.com

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Nov 21, 2006, 11:36:38 AM11/21/06
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Because I realized I never finished putting my review/notes
up...(spoilers contained)

Initial State: This is something that could have been very, very well
done. The initial premise was somewhat clever: it takes the amnesia
that is seen too often, and makes it a deliberate attempt of the
character himself to hide his past from himself. This skips the need
for 'Character knows more than player' because they quite simply don't.
I also enjoyed the notes getting angrier and angrier as the person
progresses further, and the little details-such as the fact that your
mother's voice has been played 9,999 times. But with all of that
enjoyment of the concept, I felt the thing was simply not done
properly. I'm not sure if not enough time was spent on it, or if it was
a new author, but it simply wasn't done enough. The puzzles made little
sense and in some cases weren't necessary, and at points the plot
contradicts itself. (For example, the appearance of the bodies suggests
that most of them were alive, but the account of the boy tells that he
waited until they were all dead) There were a lot of cases where
specific words only were required-I wish I had transcripted, but I
remember one case where you simply could not travel up the lift until
you typed a specific one that was not the obvious. The description was
poor, compared to what I would have liked to have seen for a thing like
this, and many times the way you would need to get out was not actually
an exit (I think one hatch you couldn't get out of simply by going
through the hatch, or what have you, it became an east/west/north/south
thing that was not explained in the room description). Altogether, the
execution made it unenjoyable, destroying the idea with the actual
play. Thus, I rated it only a 3.

MANALIVE, and its successor, MANALIVE2, put me in an interesting place.
I enjoyed the zany atmosphere, and because I have read G.K. Chesterton
before, I could easily see how the IF game mimicked his writing style.
However, as I have said to many others, I don't like games where you
have to read a book before understanding how to play it, or why things
are important, or why losing your hat should lead to doom. Something
with the same sort of protagonist, but a different story, would have
worked far better, and thus both games received a 4. I also really
dislike continuation games, and think had the two been combined into
one, they might have gotten a better score. One game per author,
please-at least for this reviewer.

Pathfinder was a game I just really could not get into. Like other
reviewers, I don't think that killing someone because they tried to get
rid of you is a reasonable answer. Unlike other reviewers, I must not
have read some crucial piece of text, or the feelie, because I had the
wacky idea that this was all a /nice/ game. That the little device was
going to make you happy by leading you to romance and a beautiful life.
You haven't gotten close to Steve before, but now that he sees you want
to spend time with him, at his apartment, things will be good once
more! The device has led you to bliss! Thus, the subsequent Blackberry
message and brutal murder were, shall we say, quite a surprise. This
was also a fairly buggy game, too-the device disappears with no good
reason to do so, and then cannot be referenced, even though others make
reference to it. If you leave the compound without getting everything,
you cannot go back, no matter what. Also, trying to set the garbage can
on fire is entirely unintuitive. I can't break the bottle, I can't put
the gas in, I have to actually pour it in using a specific combination
of words. I can't even try to make a mini molotov with the bottle,
which I think really ought to be allowed. Just..unsatisfying, and the
end was even less so. I rated this at a 2. Please, can we see less
games around 'You're a MURDERER! Oh, the ANGST!'?

Polendina. Ahhh, Polendina. I gave up on this game after a point, and
rated it a 1. From reading subsequent reviews, I see that there was a
lot that I didn't access, but the fact that I was having such a hard
time and that you could make the game unwinnable by stupid things
really irked me. First of all, I see no reason whatsoever that you
should initially flush your father's ID down the toilet. It just
doesn't make sense to do so. It only makes sense if you somehow get a
reason to believe that everything flushed down comes to a point in the
sewers which you can access and can easily find. That, I just dont'
get, and I don't see how anyone could have come to that conclusion
intuitively, except perhaps by deciding that no author would implement
such large sewers if they didn't mean to use them. It doesn't make
/sense/. Then, too, the cellphone. I wandered about, trying to use the
cellphone at various points, because it doesn't say the thing is
broken, it just says that you can't get signal at various points. Thus,
after I had traveled about with it aboveground, when I went
belowground, the cellphone went out, and I was essentially trapped. I
couldn't feel around in the dark for anything, and I couldn't progress.
I wasn't happy with that, nor was I happy with the writing previously.
The game got a 1. Conceivably, it could have moved up to a 2, but it
didn't get there.

crow...@gmail.com

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Nov 21, 2006, 12:13:13 PM11/21/06
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Reviews slightly spoilerific, but at least I'm moving on to some of the
more enjoyable games.

Primrose! Primrose, Primrose, Primrose. Oh, how I enjoyed Primrose. I
gave it an 8, because from start to finish, the entire thing was
delightful. I particularly enjoyed the concept, and the fact that these
characters are /characters/, with a lot more going on than met the
surface. The puzzle with the rain was a joy, and I particularly loved
how the objects allowed different things to happen. There were,
however, a few things that bothered me/confused me:
1. What was going on in the mother's painting? Is there
anything that can be done there, or is it just there for people to
wander into and die in? Why can absolutely nothing be done, and why do
you feel frozen there? Why can't you at least run, or something? It
makes no sense that simply entering the painting should make you feel
helpless.
2. Who are 'you', the player in this whole mess? The
character talks to you, Leo's mother seems to be aware of you. What is
that? It frustrated me several times-I don't understand why I'm
unwilling to look into the drawer. What is so scary about the gun? And
such things like not describing the shelf because the character doesn't
want to look at it, or the ring, don't seem to make sense within the
context of the story, unless there's more that we are simply not aware
of.
3. Next time, implement for desperation. I particularly got
frustrated at the 'slider' bit. Look, if my friend/lover/almost husband
is about to get shot and die unless I can do something about it, if I
want to get in through my sliding door, I will /break/ the thing. I
will pick up a rock, smash out the window, and hit it with a chair to
get it open. Property damage is not a consideration when someone is
bleeding on the floor. If it were a slower thing, with no such
compelling reason to destroy, I would understand it. But when someone's
life is at stake, certain things fall by the wayside.
4. It would have been nice to actually see the gallery,
though I suppose that would have included more headache for the author,
as he would have had to create all those worlds and ways of getting
back.


Game Producer! While I enjoyed a lot of aspects of this, others simply
left me cold. The server puzzle, for example: didn't really work for
me, because it's not something that you would think of doing around
delicate electronics. I did enjoy the caffeine issue, where you get to
balance your need for productivity versus other factors-I know it's
contrary to other's review of that feature, but having lived on
caffeine for work before, I thought it a very amusing touch, though I
think the author should have left the possibility for heart attack in.
Perhaps nonfatal, but you lose a few hours as you go to the hospital? I
also didn't really think the way of getting the people paid was
fantastic-if I were capable of doing that guy's job with his software,
I would /have/ his job. I would have preferred something where I could
convince him instead. Also, with the game reviewer..I'm not sure if
it's a bug or not, but once you enter that room, you cannot leave it
until he has left. So if you go in there without the item you need, you
simply need to undo, restore, or restart. Not very much fun, and I
would think you would want to leave to try to find something. In
addition, there may be a bug in using your multitool to open the box.
Descriptions don't change the way they should, and using the same
implement with different words gets different results-one way, your
tool breaks, the other way, it doesn't. Yet it's the same tool! At any
rate, for its dance between clever and frustrating, I rated it a 5.

Sisyphus. You know, this entry really makes me feel almost cheated. I
could see a lot of ways that a Sisyphus game could be incredibly cool.
You find a way to get out of your labor-you leave it behind and try to
make a break for it, perhaps. You manage to sucker someone else into
doing it, you create a pulley. Lots and lots of things. Instead, the
author, who clearly has writing talent, chose to waste it by making a
one-joke game. Two thumbs down, sir, and your game received a 1 because
of it.

Starcity: This game is another with great potential. I love the idea,
but I really feel that listening is not intuitive given the lack of
strong description in the rest of the game. This is a personal
preference, but I really think that if you want people to use the
sense-verbs, (touch, taste, smell, listen), you need to include them in
your descriptions, faint smells, things looking as though they might
feel a particular way. Don't only bring them in when you want them to
be useful to solve a puzzle, or people won't get it. Personally, while
I agree that having a lot of buildings all alike, with apartments all
alike, really highlights the ways of Soviet Russia, I also think that
it's a lot of things for people to check on, if they don't get the idea
to listen and are trying to find that original point of light. I gave
it a 4, and urge the author to consider those factors next time and
keep writing.

quic...@quickfur.ath.cx

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Nov 21, 2006, 1:42:33 PM11/21/06
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On Tue, Nov 21, 2006 at 08:36:38AM -0800, crow...@gmail.com wrote:
> Because I realized I never finished putting my review/notes
> up...(spoilers contained)
[...]

> Pathfinder was a game I just really could not get into. Like other
> reviewers, I don't think that killing someone because they tried to
> get rid of you is a reasonable answer. Unlike other reviewers, I must
> not have read some crucial piece of text, or the feelie, because I had
> the wacky idea that this was all a /nice/ game. That the little device
> was going to make you happy by leading you to romance and a beautiful
> life. You haven't gotten close to Steve before, but now that he sees
> you want to spend time with him, at his apartment, things will be good
> once more! The device has led you to bliss!

Hmm. Maybe *I* was the one who missed some crucial piece of text, then,
'cos when I got into Steve's apartment, I kinda felt compelled, and
quite mystified by why this pathfinder device wants me to be there. It
just seemed so strange to show up at somebody's door uninvited just
because some unfamiliar device sent by some entity of questionable
repute told you to do so.


> Thus, the subsequent Blackberry message and brutal murder were, shall
> we say, quite a surprise.

I found the whole affair very incongruous. First you receive a strange
device in the mail from a sender that you've no way of knowing the
trustworthiness of, and then you get into a sedan of some stranger
you've never met before just because this device tells you so, and then
you show up uninvited at somebody's door and puts him in the awkward
position of being a host, and THEN, based on just some random text
message, you decide to MURDER him. Huh???


> This was also a fairly buggy game, too-the device disappears with no
> good reason to do so, and then cannot be referenced, even though
> others make reference to it.

You must have neglected to take the device out of the packaging, and the
author has helpfully uncluttered your inventory by removing the
packaging (including the device) after you escape from the murder scene.
Very thoughtful, but unfortunately fatally buggy. (The intention was
that you retain the device but discard the packaging.)


> If you leave the compound without getting everything, you cannot go
> back, no matter what. Also, trying to set the garbage can on fire is
> entirely unintuitive. I can't break the bottle, I can't put the gas
> in, I have to actually pour it in using a specific combination of
> words. I can't even try to make a mini molotov with the bottle, which
> I think really ought to be allowed. Just..unsatisfying, and the end
> was even less so. I rated this at a 2.

Yeah, if the start of the game was unlikely, the twist at the end was
even more unreal, and the conclusion extremely disappointing.


> Please, can we see less games around 'You're a MURDERER! Oh, the
> ANGST!'?

Agreed!

And while we're at it, can we please have less games around the "ha ha!
It was only a dream/coma/delusion!" ending twist? OR the amnesia
opening? I mean, amnesia is a nice device to close the player/PC divide
and everything, but when everybody and his neighbour's dog starts
getting amnesia, it just gets really, really annoying, y'know?


> Polendina. [...]


> Then, too, the cellphone. I wandered about, trying to use the
> cellphone at various points, because it doesn't say the thing is
> broken, it just says that you can't get signal at various points.
> Thus, after I had traveled about with it aboveground, when I went
> belowground, the cellphone went out, and I was essentially trapped. I
> couldn't feel around in the dark for anything, and I couldn't
> progress.

[...]

Yeah, the cellphone bit was annoying. It only lasts for a fixed number
of turns, and if you don't know exactly what you need to do, you can
easily get stuck in an unwinnable state. I think this is due to author
inexperience... I hope the author will be more generous in this respect
in the future... at the very least, give adequate warning (long
beforehand) that you need to conserve battery power, and preferably also
give plenty of room for the player to wander about trying to figure
things out before cutting off the power. Or, ideally, don't make the
battery run out at all, since it doesn't really add anything to the
game.


QF

--
Who told you to swim in Crocodile Lake without life insurance??

L. Ross Raszewski

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Nov 21, 2006, 2:53:54 PM11/21/06
to

Perhaps the text message was "Hail to thee, thane of Glamis; Hail to
thee thane of Cawdor; Hail to thee who shall be king hereafter." it's
worked before.

crow...@gmail.com

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Nov 21, 2006, 8:51:59 PM11/21/06
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quic...@quickfur.ath.cx wrote:

> Hmm. Maybe *I* was the one who missed some crucial piece of text, then,
> 'cos when I got into Steve's apartment, I kinda felt compelled, and
> quite mystified by why this pathfinder device wants me to be there. It
> just seemed so strange to show up at somebody's door uninvited just
> because some unfamiliar device sent by some entity of questionable
> repute told you to do so.

I think it's a testimony about how terrible that game is that I refuse
to take it out again just to check what gave me that impression. It was
some flavor text, though, I think, about how I don't see Steve much at
work, just see him laughing with his buddies and I always wanted to be
more to him than just that. Thus, the way built for a normal person to
think a great friendship is about to begin, and for me to read way more
into it than likely intended.

-S

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