Gordy's Incomplete IFcomp Journal

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Gordy Wheeler

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Nov 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/17/99
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Sunday, Oct. 3, 3:01 AM

The 99 Comp has arrived. Woo-HOO! Being a young, yet intense fan of text
adventures, I
feel it is my job, nay, my duty to judge and review for this year's comp.
First off, I've gotta say...17 megs for the complete download and over
THIRTY games? We've built up a following, folks. I'm very impressed by this,
and only regret that I couldn't add my own in there. Perhaps next year, when
I've some idea as to how to program.

So, onward. I'll be providing my thoughts and views on the games being
played in this journal.


Monday, Oct. 4, 7:23 PM
-

The first game I played was "Pass The Banana". Set in the Adventurer's
Lounge of IFMUD,
it involves nine bananas, a giant flaming head, a monkey, and Melvin the
Robot. It felt rather
pointless, although I recognized the location as an in-joke and suspected
the rest of the game
was also an in-joke. It didn't work for me, though, as it was just too
senseless
and not particularly funny. (Although the one good joke in the game, the
sequel idea "Hide The Banana", got a firm "no-comment".) I did admire the
inclusion of the giant flaming head, and enjoyed his/her/its juggling of the
bananas, as that's what floating heads SHOULD do in my opinion, but that was
the limit of my enjoyment. This game feels like it's trying to be "Pick Up
The Phone Booth And Die", only with less death and no phone booths. Also,
there's bananas. I dunno, it just didn't work.

-

Second game sampled, and things are looking dim for the IFComp. "The Water
Bird" is a
game set in Native American pre-history, set among the First People, it's
the tale of a brave
young village boy named Wehowhemah (pronounced "Whoamama", I think), out to
stop a giant from popping up his tribe members like a fat dude with a tube
of Pringles. Sadly, this nifty and unique beginning opens up into a game
which is completely unfinished. From character descriptions with author's
comments beside them: ("Like you he's wearing a leather loincloth. Okay, I'm
done with this for now.") ("...being built over a (dimensions) pit"), to
HTML-TADS errors when you try to leave in a direction the author didn't
intend for you to walk, to a game-critical location which once entered, CAN
NOT BE LEFT, this game has more bugs than a Raid commerical. In addition,
while the names may be authentic, they're also hard to type (YOU try typing
Wehowhemah with no typos, and there's a character with a name that I swear
read as "Hiweenie" the first time I saw it) and difficult to say, and
frankly look like they were named via the authentic Indian method of
pounding on the keyboard. Add this to unclear goals in the beginning, (I
resorted to attempting to scream "I NEED STRINGS AND ARROWS!" from the
village center, eventually) and this game ranked very poorly with me. This
isn't bashing, however. The footnotes read very well, and were quite
facinating, and the game, once playable, may very well be a good one. We
just don't know that yet. So, bleah. If there's a re-release of the game,
after the comp, I'll give it a try without hesitation.

-

Eyeing the clock, I tackled the third game of the night, "Erehwon". Upon
seeing the title of the game, I thought it was the nickname of the player
character from "The Water Bird". As it turns out, however, Erehwon is
"Nowhere" spelled backwards (I'm still kicking myself for not noticing this
right away). And it's the first really enjoyable game of the competition so
far, for me, being a surrealistic quest for dice through a number of planets
and universes. There's a strong British feel to this game, from the
collection of English folk songs you find, to the "bloodchuck" named Portnoy
who helps you along and sports a cheerfully silly accent, the entire thing
has the feeling of a bored BBC producer's acid trip. Having a love for
oddness and surrealism, this attracted me a great deal. The bonus is that
this surrealism is explained nicely and makes sense in its own internal
world, which is good. The downside is, again, unclear goals at the
start...heck, unclear goals through several sections of the game itself.
Also, remember to talk to EVERYONE, about EVERYthing possible. This is
critical. Still, I give this game strong points for being the first really
fun game of the competition, and for making me snicker loudly and often. I
did not finish this game without hints, but that's because I was being lazy.
I believe it IS possible, and I would have if I hadn't been close to the two
hour limit. Ah, yes, and Mr. Bird is my favorite NPC of the comp so far.

-

"Spodgeville Murphy and The Jewelled Eye of Wossname" was game number four.
After a very amusing
parody beginning and working out the first part of the game, I hit an
unsolvable puzzle that took up all my remaining hour and a half. I'm very
annoyed about this, because it's probably something simple, but I failed to
complete this game. What I saw of it, however, was quite amusing, if not up
to, say, Terry Prattchet levels of humor. I did locate a bug where one can
shoot the gun with the gun, something impossible by the laws of...whatever
laws govern such things...but I liked what I saw. This'll get a somewhat
okay rating from me, lessened because I didn't finish it, but increased
because of the hilarious introduction and 'score' text, although that idea
was borrowed from the much better game "Enlightened" of last year's Comp. I
did notice more giant flaming head stuff in the score list. Was this the
Offical In-Joke, this Comp?

-

Finally, a game I could beat without hints. Pity it's so uninspired. "Music
Education" is a fairly bland romp through a day in the life of a college
music student. You just want to practice your saxophone, preparing for a
concert which will happen later that night, but everyone you meet seems
unhappy and wants something from you...And THAT'S where the blandness comes
in. The NPCs, fellow students at the college, are unresponsive and sulky,
and in fact seem to be in a daze most of the game. (Although I'll grant most
college students I know ARE sulky and dazed on occasion.)
Check out this dialogue with a brick wall...er...an NPC named Tim, engaged
in repairing a tuba:

>TIM, HELLO
"Huh?"
>ASK TIM ABOUT SCHOOL
Tim frowns and shakes his head.
Tim continues to work on the tuba.
>ASK TIM ABOUT TUBA
Tim frowns and shakes his head.
>ASK TIM ABOUT BAND
Tim frowns and shakes his head.
>ASK TIM ABOUT CONCERT
Tim frowns and shakes his head.
>HIT TIM WITH SAXOPHONE
Killing Tim with the saxophone in Tim Cranshaw's Office is not the answer.
This is interacitve fiction, not a game of "Clue".

...And so on. (Although the last line almost makes the whole thing worth
it.) Tim is one of the many cardboard cut-outs who inhabit this game, making
me want to throttle each and every one of them from their sheer
un-responsiveness. The puzzles consist of collecting items and offering them
to these frowning, head-shaking nonentities who will then react (gasp!) and
give you another item, to solve another puzzle, etc. Add this to two
locations which kill you unless you're carrying the right items, and an
ending which leaves you thinking "What, that's it?" and you have Music
Education, a good-hearted, bug-free, but ultimately unfulfilling game. The
author states that this will likely be his last game, but I do believe with
some work, he could do much better, and I'd like to see him try again.

-

"For A Change" was the next game on the list, and I was hoping it would be a
change for the
better. And it was...it was...i'm at a loss for words. It was brilliant. I
called Erehwon surrealist? For A Change is an incredible work, dreamlike and
enchanting,
and I had to stop myself from replaying it again right away, knowing what I
know
after completeing it. Easily the best game of the competition so far, (big
deal, five games?)
it uses English in a way I've never seen before, lighting the world with
words misused in precisely the right way to make one see things in a new
light, and seeing things in a new light is what the game is all about. (The
opening text: "The sun has gone. It must be brought. You have a rock.") I
was entranced from the beginning, and even not understanding some things,
such
as the purpose of the spinster, I still rank it as the best game yet this
year.
Hearty applause from me.

-

At this point, 6:40 AM, I went to bed. More tomorrow.
At this point, 9:30 AM, I'm making a second try at sleep.

There we go.

-
Monday, Oct 4, 10:26 PM

"King Arthur's Night Out" was the first ALAN game I'd ever played, and it
was a fairly inoffensive beginning. However, the parser did manage to annoy
me greatly...but I'm getting ahead of myself. "Night Out" is a comedy game,
and an effective one in a 1950s way. You play the great King Arthur, son of
Uthur Pendragon, wielder of Excalibur, and all that nifty stuff. You're
eager to go out and schmooze around with Lance and the Knights for a night
of wine, women, and cliches, but the dear wife has exercised her Power of
Marriage (AKA "You're whipped") to ensue that the pair of you have a "quiet
night at home". Your task is to slip your royal behind outta the castle and
head down to the bar for the evening. As I said, this feels more like a 1950
sitcom, and it would have worked fine with Lucy and Ricky instead of Arthur
and Gwennie. This was a short game, easily beatable in under two hours,
which consisted of a handful of easy puzzles. The puzzles would have been a
pushover, in fact, were it not for the ALAN parser, which is pure evil and
has no understanding for the vast majority of typed commands on my end.
This, combined with rather ambiguous descriptions and lots of "You don't
need to talk about that to win the game" text, made me feel as if I could
easily miss something by assuming it was useless, just because I couldn't
interact with it. Luckily, this didn't happen, but it makes me dread playing
the other ALAN game in the comp. I'll give King Arthur's Night Out some
points for being solidly done, bug free, and amusing, but it will get
lowered, just for being written in ALAN. Sorry about that. Oh, another Giant
Flaming Head sighted here.

-

Rememberance is...on one level, it'd be impossible to say what it is without
giving away the whole point. On the other, it's quite easy to say what it
is. It's the first Web-page only game to grace the IF comp, and it's
probably the best that could be done in that limited medium. However, it's
also a prime example of why IF games should not be written in this format.
It is like Photopia, a series of images which snap into a collected whole as
you see them all. It is a retrospective, as the title suggests. It may very
well be based on a true story, I haven't done the research nessicary to
know. Rememberance begins with your character walking, meeting a youth, and
having a rather puzzling conversation with him, which he terminates by
asking if you know how to read. He hands you a letter, and after reading it,
suddenly you're in the Prime Minister's office, listening in on a
conversation about the "good" of war. It's a strong hook, and it's a pity
that the Javascript parser instantly jumps in the way of this compelling
story. It understands one or two things and that's IT, all other attempts at
doing things net you a default reply with an "OK" click-box underneath it. I
felt like saying "No, it's NOT okay, answer my question, damn it!". There's
also a point in the game where you're NOT going to pass without reading the
walkthrough, because the action required isn't hinted at by anything in the
limited 'room description" given on the web page. And this is sad, because I
wanted to like this game. It has a poem I love in it, it has some of the
best descriptive writing I've seen, it's Photopia-esqe (sorry author, you
had to know this was coming) and it moves along at a brisk clip. But parser
issues, again, slap this game down to a lower ranking than I would like to
give it.

-
Moving from a pure HTML game, to an HTML-TADS game, Six Stories opens quite
impressively with a graphics slideshow and spoken text from, I assume, the
author. This audiovisual opener takes the place of the tradional
introductory text over the title, informing you that on a late night drive
home in the snow, your headlight switch snaps off in your hands, leaving you
in darkness as you twirl off into the snowbanks. It's a dramatic and
powerful effect, moreso as it caught me off guard. I've not seen HTML-TADS
used quite this way before. In fact, this game makes the best use of
HTML-TADS I've seen yet, but the plot suffers a LOT. The majority of the
game is spent listening to stories, as the title suggests, and the single
token puzzle is nothing special. (Needle, magnet, -floating object-, water,
container. Gee, what do I do with these? I'd really like anyone considering
using this puzzle to please not use it, it's getting VERY old.) Also,
there's many details which COULD be fleshed out, but haven't been. The
omnious references to a Darkness meant nothing to me, and I wanted to know
how the characters came to be there. You can't grow to care about characters
you know nothing about. The ending also felt like an afterthought, unless
there's going to be a sequel. The voice acting is all excellent, the
pictures are crisp as you might expect in this day and age, but this game
fell short for me. Excellent in technical details, but unfulfilling as a
game.

-
Sunday, Oct 10: I took a break for a bit.


Bliss explores some interesting themes, under the guise of a hack and slash
adventure. It's very hack and slash, in fact, nine of ten puzzles in this
game involve finding the right way to kill someone, or just typing ">kill x
with knife". That's not the point of this game, however, and the point, when
it's finally made clear, is a bit of a shock. The author states that
interactivity isn't really his goal, and that's quite clear, but I feel a
little more could have been done in this respect. All in all, though, Bliss
is short, solid, and is a bit more than what it seems at first. I was
quietly impressed, but on the whole, this'll get a mid-range score.
(Oh...and can I just say this game does a whole lot for the Jack Chick-esqe
anti-D&D folk. Bleah.)


-

Four Seconds is Micheal Crichton meets Resident Evil meets the game "Babel"
from a few years back. Horror, as you might imagine from that summary,
featuring doctors trapped in a research lab where Something Has Gone Wrong,
and the player character is re-living it from the future. It comes off
without being too deriviative, and in fact is actually suspenseful in
places, but there's a few problems. The NPCs, your fellow doctors, are
fairly unresponsive to comments, questions, or the showing of most items.
Lockers, when opened, do not show their contents until you look, where
they're printed in the room description. (Shades of AGT!) You can cheerfully
stroll through closed doors. The ending is slightly confusing, moreso if
certain things are taken into account (Whose Wife IS It, Anyway?) and the
fate of the major monster is never really explained. The writing, however,
is strong and well-done, the NPCs are coded well in actions if not in
responses, and it was generally a satisfying and suspenseful play-through. I
enjoyed it quite a bit.

-
Anyone want to see this finished out?

pristy

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Nov 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/17/99
to
Gordy Wheeler wrote:

> is. It's the first Web-page only game to grace the IF comp, and it's
> probably the best that could be done in that limited medium. However, it's
> also a prime example of why IF games should not be written in this format.

Actually, that's not true. Last year, I came across two javascript IF games at
http://www.aapi.co.uk/~oulik/lsd/home.htm and I thought the programming was
quite good. That was before I'd even heard of IF or played any of the
interpreter-based games.


Marnie Parker

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
to
>Anyone want to see this finished out?

Sure, good thoughts, keep going.

Doe :-)


doea...@aol.com -------------------------------------------------
Kingdom of IF - http://members.aol.com/doepage/intfict.htm
Inform Tips - http://members.aol.com/doepage/infotips.htm
IF Art Gallery - http://members.aol.com/iffyart/gallery.htm


Mike Snyder

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
to
Gordy Wheeler wrote in message ...

>Anyone want to see this finished out?

Yes please.

Mike.

Gordy Wheeler

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
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pristy wrote in message <38337E35...@excite.com>...

>Gordy Wheeler wrote:
>
>> is. It's the first Web-page only game to grace the IF comp, and it's
>> probably the best that could be done in that limited medium. However,
it's
>> also a prime example of why IF games should not be written in this
format.
>
>Actually, that's not true. Last year, I came across two javascript IF games
at
>http://www.aapi.co.uk/~oulik/lsd/home.htm and I thought the programming was
>quite good. That was before I'd even heard of IF or played any of the
>interpreter-based games.
>

Okay, this actually isn't so bad. I'm just looking at it now. Perhaps I'll
review these as well. So far, I'm reminded of Monkey Island crossed with the
Spellcasting -01 series of games. Thank you for pointing at these games.

Oh, and to the folks who suggested I carry on with the reviews...I suspect
that's because I hadn't got to your games yet. But I will be continuing
them. Watch This Space.

Trig

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
to
>You can cheerfully
>stroll through closed doors.

Where the hell is this happening? Three people have mentioned this, and I
cannot figure out where it's occurring. Any info on this would be appreciated.

Trig
--
"This may look like a slab of liver, but really, it's an external brain pack!"

John Walsh

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
to
Without wishing to be irritating, did no other person see the title of this
and hope for something satirical of human existence from a Butlerian point
of view rather than just a world in which one must know a load of tedious
science?

Mind, Chaos amused me and I had no problem with the Splodgenessabounds
game.

Gordy Wheeler <gwhe...@skipjack.bluecrab.org> wrote in article
<s36ggl...@corp.supernews.com>...

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
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Trig <ofd...@aol.compost> wrote:
>>You can cheerfully
>>stroll through closed doors.
>
> Where the hell is this happening? Three people have mentioned this, and I
> cannot figure out where it's occurring. Any info on this would be
> appreciated.

I couldn't reproduce it either. Sorry. When I tried, I got into the
situation where I could *see* though a closed elevator door. (Seeing
events out in the hallways.)

--Z

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

Iain Merrick

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
to
Gordy Wheeler wrote:

> The 99 Comp has arrived. Woo-HOO! Being a young, yet intense fan of text
> adventures, I feel it is my job, nay, my duty to judge and review for this
> year's comp. First off, I've gotta say...17 megs for the complete download
> and over THIRTY games?

17 megs, yes, but with the advent of multimedia extravaganzas it was a
bit asymmetric.

If the comp99 zip file was the solar system, Neil K. Guy would be the
sun and Mike Snyder would be Jupiter. And then maybe Ian Finley would be
Saturn.

I think I might have those last two the wrong way round, but this
metaphor is starting to worry me strangely so I'll say no more.

(PS - FWIW, this is why I split the mac archive into three packages. I
hope that didn't piss anyone off. If anyone actually used the mac
packages at all.)

--
Iain Merrick
i...@cs.york.ac.uk

Stephen Kodat

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Nov 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/18/99
to

John Walsh <wal...@cbs.curtin.edu.au> wrote in message
news:01bf31bb$f33c8ba0$456b0786@walsh_j...

> Without wishing to be irritating, did no other person see the title of
this
> and hope for something satirical of human existence from a Butlerian point
> of view rather than just a world in which one must know a load of tedious
> science?
>
>

I read the book you refer to, and since I got nowhere in that game, forward
or backward, other than to find the one die that is supposed to be the easy
one to miss, I guess I would qualify.

Steve K.

Neil K.

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Nov 22, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/22/99
to
Iain Merrick <i...@cs.york.ac.uk> wrote:

> If the comp99 zip file was the solar system, Neil K. Guy would be the
> sun and Mike Snyder would be Jupiter. And then maybe Ian Finley would be
> Saturn.
>
> I think I might have those last two the wrong way round, but this
> metaphor is starting to worry me strangely so I'll say no more.

Actually, feel free to go right ahead. I'm rather liking this metaphor...

- Neil (I am as the Sun) K.

--
t e l a computer consulting + design * Vancouver, BC, Canada
web: http://www.tela.bc.ca/tela/ * email: tela @ tela.bc.ca

Kathy I. Morgan

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Jan 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/17/00
to
Iain Merrick <i...@cs.york.ac.uk> wrote:

> Gordy Wheeler wrote:
>
> > The 99 Comp has arrived. Woo-HOO! Being a young, yet intense fan of text
> > adventures, I feel it is my job, nay, my duty to judge and review for this
> > year's comp. First off, I've gotta say...17 megs for the complete download
> > and over THIRTY games?
>

> (PS - FWIW, this is why I split the mac archive into three packages. I
> hope that didn't piss anyone off. If anyone actually used the mac
> packages at all.)

Yep, I did. Thank you for doing it. Of course, I'm *way* behind
reading here and playing the games; I've only completed a couple so far.

--
Kathy

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