Comp97: Incoherent Blather (2/5)

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C.E. Forman

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Jan 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/10/98
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[Arr! I spy Spoilers off the starboard bow!]












"The Frenetic Five vs. Sturm und Drang"
---------------------------------------
-1 "Guess the word."
Guess the syntax, technically, but same difference. I can't "ask
pastiche for token," I have to say "pastiche, give me the token."
And on and on. For an NPC-oriented game, this is inexcusable.

-1 Reasonable solutions/actions not implemented.
Communication with the rest of my team was frustrating. Resorts to
default responses much too frequently. At the very least, I should
be able to ask them about themselves and the other characters, and
they should provide ideas for overcoming problems. Just because I'm
the leader, do I have to come up with *everything?* If we have
super powers, why are they only useful when the author thought to
code them for a particular situation? Lots of blank responses,
indicating unsatisfactory testing.

-1 Lacking "something really cool."
Good ideas, but only fair implementation. Characters could be
fleshed out a bit more (especially the villains, who felt generic).

-1 Miscellaneous stuff that pissed me off.
Puzzles were a bit obtuse. Most of the time I stumbled on them by
accident or lucky guessing. (In particular, paying bus fare and
crossing the tracks.)

My score for "The Frenetic Five vs. Sturm und Drang": 6 out of 10.

Did I finish it?: No.

Notes to the author:
--------------------
The humor and characters reflected the style of a Leon Lin game (as
well as Steve Meretzky's "Superhero League of Hoboken" and cartoon
superhero parodies such as "Freakazoid," "Earthworm Jim" and "The
Tick"), but this one doesn't quite attain Lin's previous standards.
(I'm not convinced he's the author, but it sure seemed like it at the
beginning.)

"Frenetic Five" (love the title, BTW) started out very ambitiously,
with lots of things going on at once, funny responses from funny
characters, but seems to have run out of steam after the opening. I'm
guessing this game was rushed to make the competition deadline. (And I
can sympathize with that.) If you'll polish it up a bit, give the NPCs
more responses and resort to the defaults less, I'd gladly play again.

======================================================================

"Babel"
-------
-1 Reasonable solutions/actions not implemented.
Why can't I throw acid at other metal barriers (doors, bulkheads,
the cover of the radiation chamber) to get through them? (Why, for
that matter, must I use it not on the lock, but on the hinges, which
aren't even mentioned when I examine the cabinet? You came soooooo
close to losing a "guess-the-word" point for that.) Further, your
refusal to allow the strength injection to break the locks and the
other doors is a real cop-out. It seems you'd coded some puzzles
with conflicting solutions, i.e. one's solution is feasible for, and
easier than, the solution for another puzzle, and rather than
implement both or redesign the puzzles, you opted for a quickie
no-can-do. It's just like the old one-weapon-against-one-monster
puzzles so characteristic of GAGS. Which solution works for which
puzzle?

-1 Bugs/crashes.
'Bout two-thirds of the way into the game, the "save" command
started taking anywhere from 10-30 seconds per save or restore.
Slooooooowwww... Zzzzzzz... time passes... zzzzzzz.... (drool on
keyboard)...

-1 Poor design/construction.
Too many locked doors (though at least you had a master key, that's
something). Gratuitous safe puzzle (though at least you limited it
to a one-number combination, that's something). Too much traipsing
back and forth in the complex. Why create the impression of a time
limit if you're only bluffing? When I got the "very low power"
messages, I saved the game and waited repeatedly to see if/when the
timer would expire. When I saw that it wouldn't, I happily resumed
playing, all the tension gone. Why does attempting to move into a
dark room reprint the room description? Shades of AGT games, and
you *know* how I feel about this particular "feature" of AGT...

-1 Cliched story/setting.
In addition to all of the obvious "Delusions" rip-offs (trapped in a
laboratory complex run by a nameless "Agency," victim of an
experiment, discovering your identity, no way to see your reflection
at first, liberal use of hypodermic needles) the "limits of science"
conflict is, IMO, extremely tired. "We should never test on
humans... unsafe, inhuman, playing God"/"Science can't be stopped
blah blah blah betterment of mankind." It's all been said before.
(For you MST3K fans: "He tampered in God's domain!")

-1 Lacking "something really cool."
Correction. Lacking "something really cool that wasn't already done
in 'Delusions.'"

-1 Miscellaneous stuff that pissed me off.
Big-ass plot holes in the story. Why did I let the Jabberwocky
(never explained) out? I assume that was its blood on the cracked
mirrors, when it attacked them? If not, whose was it? Couldn't
have been Jonas or Alexis; I killed them outside the Complex. And
why wasn't my mirror broken? And why did I bother to re-lock the
doors to my room and Jonas's room? ("Heh, this'll make a great
puzzle for me to solve later, after my memory fades and I forget
what's in these rooms!") Aside from the calendar-tracked events
(nice job there, BTW), none of it made any sense. Besides, it was
predictable. Right from the start, I guessed I was the victim of
some experiment and figured that, by playing through the game, I'd
find out what it was. Once I knew the names of the four scientists,
I was able to guess I was one of them. And shortly thereafter, I
was convinced I was David. Yep. The new guy. Oh so eager to
contribute to science. Didn't grasp the implications until it was
too late. All of this before I'd unlocked a single door in the
game. Also, why do I have to specifically *mix* the antitoxin base
and the Telerus toxin? I can pour both liquids into the same
container and then take one right back out and leave the other in!
Yep, that's real science, awright.

My score for "Babel": 4 points out of 10.

Did I finish it?: Yes, barely.

Notes to the author:
--------------------
This is not, overall, a bad game. It's just an extremely derivative
game that particularly irritated me by being extremely derivative of my
own game. You should have expected this reaction, just as Chris
Markwyn should have foreseen criticism of his "Of Forms Unknown" last
year. Don't get me wrong, there were things I liked: The calendar was
neat. Writing was pretty decent, although I think it lost something
from being draped across the hackneyed "pros and cons of science"
argument. And it does overuse the words "cold" and "dark." And there
are quite a few run-on sentences. And the dialogue is a bit stiff in
some places.

Neat map design in the residential areas, with the swastika pattern
created by the scientists' quarters and bathrooms. Was this intended to
make a clever allusion, a statement about irresponsible scientists who
abuse technology in their own selfish interests? Or was it just an
inside joke about the "Nazi" flame I buried in the text of "Delusions"?
Again, I honestly couldn't tell, since everything *else* in the game
seems to be pointing directly at my own work.

On top of this, "Babel" flubbed all the techniques I crafted into my
entry last year. The timeline of events you've built through the
calendar holds together, but details in the game, as I've already
outlined above, make no sense. In "Delusions," *everything* is
accounted for. The "achieving self-awareness" bit isn't consistent.
Why can I recall memories from some objects but not others? Every
object, every room, should have stories to tell. For that matter, why,
if my Teleran abilities are so "advanced," as Jonas calls them, do I
have to look in the mirror before I can recall the most significant
details of my past? How could my memory fade if I supposedly have
this ability to see, over and over, what happened in the past?
Wouldn't repeated viewing of events reinforce, rather than submerge,
memories?

The characters have no personality, no depth at all. They're cardboard
cutouts painted with singular motives. Jonas: The man willing to
pursue science at any cost. Brett: The Bible-thumping "don't play God"
preacher. Alexis: She likes you, that's about it. Even David, with
his eager golly-gosh enthusiasm to advance technology, never mind what
happens to him, felt flimsy. I couldn't identify with the character.

"Babel" doesn't have any neat stuff hidden in the game (that I could
find, anyway). Once you've finished, that's it. No motivation to go
back and try things differently. "Babel" doesn't make you *think*
about things. There's no need to ponder what anything represents,
since it's all spelled out for you in the detailed flashbacks.
Everyone's motivation is cut-and-dried, no hidden agendas. By the end,
it's crystal-clear precisely what happened, and the story doesn't add a
thing to the "science bad/science good" debate that I haven't already
read over and over again in the newspaper. It's "Delusions," watered
down. "Delusions for Dummies."

Some people may prefer the way "Babel" handled its content over
"Delusions." Some people may like not having to think to figure out
what everything represents. Some people may enjoy solving puzzles
instead of solving story-related problems. Well that's fine by me.
Go ahead and slap a big ol' 10 on this one. Use your vote to cancel
mine out. Oh wait, I'm an author, so my vote doesn't count diddly-
squat anyway. Goddammit.

Perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps Ian Finley really hasn't ever played my
game, and to him "Babel" is original, full of groundbreaking ideas.
Unfortunately, just because you yourself haven't seen something done in
I-F before does not mean that people aren't sick to death of it. (An
earlier game of mine proved this beyond a doubt.) Next time, take a
look at past competition entries, at the very least the higher-ranking
ones. See what's out there. See what's already been done. I learned
this the hard way. Seems you need to as well.

[POST-REVIEW NOTE: After I sent a copy of this review to Ian Finley, he
explained to me that the ideas in "Babel" were thought up before he had
played "Delusions," and that, once he did, he almost decided not to
enter "Babel" at all. I really wish he would have let me know, as I
might have taken "Babel" apart a bit more gently. Maybe. I'm honestly
not sure. Other authors: how would you react if someone released a
game similar to, but not inspired by, your own, without telling you,
even though s/he was aware of the similarities? Would you write it off
as great minds thinking alike, or would you feel the new author was
saying "Hey, great ideas, but look! I thought of them too"? This is a
touchy subject, and I'd like to know how other authors feel about it.
But. Please *don't* mail me to tell me how much you enjoyed "Babel."
Mail Ian and tell him. If you enjoyed "Delusions," mail me. BTW, it
amazes me how *few* people seem to have noticed the similarities. Is
it that easy to forget all about a game you played last year, even
though you liked it enough at the time to vote it into 3rd place? Or
are you all just ignoring me again like you did with "PtF"? Cuz I'm
not goin' away. I'll just keep bitchin' louder and louder 'til
someone SAYS something just to shut me the hell up.]

'Kay, end of C.E. Forman bitch-fest. On to the next game.

======================================================================

"Travels in the Land of Erden"
------------------------------
-1 Poor writing.
Well, okay, not downright poor. But long-winded and seldom
particularly interesting (not unlike these reviews of mine). It's
better than "Path to Fortune" by a long shot, though. Run-on
sentences, comma faults, improper splitting of words ("in to"
instead of "into," "thorough fare" instead of thoroughfare.
Somebody who knows big words, mail me and tell me what the correct
term for this type of error is.) Plus the occasional NPC event
embedded in a room's description, particularly with the footman in
the castle. Lots of little things that add up.

-1 Poor construction.
*Lots* of useless rooms filled to overflowing with *lots* of useless
scenery. Far, FAR too vast for a two-hour game. Ordinarily I
overlook this, but a 300K version 8 game?!? The author just
deliberately ignored the two-hour rule, not even attempting to show
restraint. Bigger is not better, in this competition. (Thanks for
the compass, though. Without it, this would have been intolerable.)

-1 Cliched story/setting.
Fantasy world. 'Nuff said.

-1 Lack of "something really cool".
At least, I didn't get to anything before my time ran out. Maybe
the cool part is in the late middle-game.

-1 Miscellaneous stuff that pissed me off.
Why is the solution file in a format that not everyone can read?
Make it ASCII next time. Why didn't you release this *before* the
contest, when we were all starved for a nice, long game?

My score for "Travels in the Land of Erden": 5 points out of 10.

Did I finish it?: MWAH HA HA HA HA HA, oh man THAT'S a good one!

Notes to the author:
--------------------
"Erden" brought back plenty o' bad memories of doing rooms and scenery
on "Path to Fortune." I'm giving you feedback here so you don't have
to wait an entire year to learn the hard way like I did. I'm gonna be
blunt, so brace yourself, okay? Ready? Big-budget fantasy quests like
this one are not popular. Do not be surprised if you don't get much
feedback. Do not be surprised if hardly anyone plays through to the
end. Do not be surprised if the only mail you ever get is about how
much someone hates fantasy games and how tired the setting is.

And don't get discouraged. You show a lot of promise as an I-F author.
(And a female I-F author! Didn't know they still made those. ...If
you *are* female, that is. Last year's competition left me with a deep
cynical suspicion of so-called "female" authors that I'll carry the
rest of my life. I'm joking, I'm joking...) Anyway, you've obviously
got a good grasp of Inform, and a lot of willpower to finish something
this large. I hope your next game will take I-F in a new direction,
and I'm looking forward to it. (God, is *that* a cliched sentence.)

And don't put yourself down because of this. It's unlikely you could
have foreseen the reaction I anticipate for "Erden." "PtF" isn't a
very well-known game, because its cliche factor stunted any interest in
it and forced it into obscurity. You must not have been around to see
the brief appearance of "PtF," so you had no way of knowing "Erden"
would get the same reaction. And once "Erden" fades into obscurity,
the next big-budget fantasy author will follow the same path. It's a
vicious cycle. Had I myself known that "PtF" would get the silent
treatment, I never would have done it. It saddens me to see someone
else setting herself up for the exact same disappointment.

God. Seems I've done nothing but bitch in these last two reviews.
Maybe the next one will give me something more positive to say.

======================================================================

"E-Mailbox"
-----------
Hooboy. AGT game. Maybe not.

-1 Making me think when trying to run it.
Had to download AGiliTy especially for this one game.

-1 Poor writing.
Not awful, but minimalist. I'm impatient with minimalist I-F
writing. (Does *that* make sense?)

-1 Poor design/construction.
Again, very little here to do. And what there was didn't excite me
or really make much sense.

-1 Lacking "something really cool."
Too minimalist to have cool stuff.

-1 Miscellaneous stuff that pissed me off.
I downloaded a 370K runtime package for THIS?! Bizarre depiction of
an e-mail program crossed with an inside Zork joke and a few teeny
puzzles. Mail the letter, have your system blow up, mail it again,
open the mail you get back, that's it, all done. Obvious quickie
event text ("You call tech support. They fix the problem...etc.")
could easily have been made into a good puzzle, but it's left non-
interactive. Shades of "Detective." ("You threaten the guys. They
tell you the killer is on the 15th floor. You show the desk clerk
your badge. She gives you the master ring.") There's barely enough
here to call a game. Or is this all just a big gag? Is the author
lampooning himself through the newbie protagonist? "Hey, look, I've
got e-mail!" "Hey, look, I wrote a text adventure!" On top of
that, did you have to add insult to injury with the most hideous
color scheme I've seen in a long time?

My score for "E-Mailbox": 5 points out of 10.

Did I finish it?: Finished it 93 times. (Or would have, if I'd gone
back and played it 92 more times after winning.)

Notes to the author:
--------------------
Well, there isn't much else to say. I hope, Jay, that you're not
taking this personally. (Feel free to dump Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe in
retaliation if I come across as a real jerk.) Just have more of a game
next time.

Oh yeah, and lose the AGT. That goes for everyone.

Sighhhh... And I *swore* I wouldn't bash it this year. Now look what
you've gone and made me do.

======================================================================

"Unholy Grail"
--------------
-1 Making me think when trying to run it.
Wouldn't it be simpler for the JACL engine to choose the *current*
directory as the default instead of some long path that obviously
corresponds to Stuart Allen's personal structure?

-1 "Guess the word."
You lost a point here for the lack of synonyms for "inject" with the
microscope puzzle (good puzzle, though) and for a couple of
occurrences of "how-the-heck-would-I-think-of-that": "tip crate"
(move, push, etc. should work), "ask concierge to page gullit," etc.
Admittedly, I was impatient at the time. But *still*.

-1 Poor design/construction.
I'm knocking off this point for the puzzle involving reading the
afterglow on Lisa's screen. If Lisa is so paranoid about me reading
her screen, why does she stand idly by as I close the blinds, turn
off the light and peek at the afterimages? Everything else was
pretty solid, but this one part just made me cringe and groan, big-
time.

-1 Miscellaneous stuff that pissed me off.
The diving puzzle was a good idea, but wandering around looking for
the right latitude and longitude was a real pain, especially since I
had to wander so far out. (Plus it's been done in "Infidel.") The
title doesn't seem to fit in with the game at all. Did I miss
something?

My score for "Unholy Grail": 6 points out of 10.

Did I finish it?: No, but I'm into the endgame.

Notes to the author:
--------------------
Neat scientific thriller/military conspiracy story. I like. Good use
of an androgynous player (though I always pictured Alex as female,
myself). Loved the X-Files text (some of the laboratory talk was
decidedly Scully-esque), situations and dialogue references ("The truth
needs you, Mulder." I mean, Alex.) Um... that was what you intended,
wasn't it? Good, realistic diving and laboratory puzzles. Just enough
cool stuff to salvage my "something cool" point, though there wasn't
any one thing in particular that did it.

I didn't take a point off for this, but... Howzcome *every* text
adventure scientific breakthrough has a traitor on the project team?
It's a wonder we *ever* get any research done, with everyone stabbing
everyone else in the back. Note to authors: I'm gonna start taking off
for this in the future. (Not this year, though.)

Your JACL engine is far, far better this year. Still a mite slow, but
I like being able to save and restore. Verbose, undo, etc. all work
great. "Restore" from the after-death prompt needs to be added, as
does ambiguity resolution, but this is about on par with Hugo, if not
bare-bones TADS and Inform.

All in all, nice effort.

======================================================================

--
C.E. Forman cefo...@worldnet.att.net
Author of "Delusions", the 3rd place winner in the 1996 I-F Competition!!
Release 4 is now at: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/infocom/Delusns.z5
Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe http://netnow.micron.net/~jgoemmer/infoshop.html

Francis Irving

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Jan 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/12/98
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On 10 Jan 1998 17:01:28 GMT, "C.E. Forman"
<cefo...@postoffice.worldnet.att.net> wrote:

> "Babel"

> BTW, it
> amazes me how *few* people seem to have noticed the similarities. Is
> it that easy to forget all about a game you played last year, even
> though you liked it enough at the time to vote it into 3rd place? Or
> are you all just ignoring me again like you did with "PtF"? Cuz I'm
> not goin' away. I'll just keep bitchin' louder and louder 'til
> someone SAYS something just to shut me the hell up.]

I played all the way through Babel, and didn't notice the
similarities. This is _not_ because I had forgotten Delusions. Babel
just didn't remind me of the parts of Delusions that I saw. "A New
Day" reminded me far more of Delusions, because they both have
multiple layerings of reality.

Remember, the competition version of Delusions was very bugged, and I
found it impossible to get to the end. Perhaps this explains why
people haven't noticed the similarities with Babel - they just haven't
seen all the way through Delusions to its artistic whole.

Delusions had an excellent concept, was well written, and I loved.
But it was bugged, and I found the puzzles sometimes clunky, so I
never saw the end. Babel was fun, also well-written, and much less
buggy (it was fatal-bug free). It was a bit too long, I found the
puzzles awkward, and the story wasn't inspiringly original.

So, I gave both games a similar score - just below the top of the pack
in their respective competitions. One being similar to the other
never came into it.

Francis.

Work: fra...@ncgraphics.co.uk Home: fra...@pobox.co.uk

Suzanne Skinner

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Jan 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/12/98
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In rec.games.int-fiction C.E. Forman wrote: [a scathing review of Babel]

Okay....I don't often post here, and I'm usually careful not to post
anything inflammatory. But though I'm sure Ian is capable of defending
his own game, I can't let this pass without comment.

> Why can't I throw acid at other metal barriers (doors, bulkheads,
> the cover of the radiation chamber) to get through them? (Why, for
> that matter, must I use it not on the lock, but on the hinges, which
> aren't even mentioned when I examine the cabinet?

Those are related questions: the acid isn't strong enough to burn through a
thick sheet of metal or a strong lock (the failure messages in the game made
this clear enough to me), whereas the hinges are described as thin and
flimsy. The fact that they weren't mentioned in the safe's description (they
ARE in the description of the safe door, btw) is a bug that I presume will
be fixed in the next release. I haven't yet played a single competition game
that didn't have its share.

> 'Bout two-thirds of the way into the game, the "save" command
> started taking anywhere from 10-30 seconds per save or restore.

Sounds to me like you're blaming the game for a problem with your
interpreter/system. I had no such problem in either Dos or Unix
(mind you, I was probably guilty of the same with ZSG, and I
wouldn't carp on this if it were your only complaint...)

> something). Gratuitous safe puzzle (though at least you limited it
> to a one-number combination, that's something). Too much traipsing

How exactly was the safe puzzle "gratuitous" when it tied in with the plot
(did you touch the shelf in the safe?) ? Or is gratuitous just a word for
"a type of puzzle I don't like"?

Look...if you don't like a game, for whatever reason, you have the right
to give it a low rating. Just don't try to give contrived reasons for doing
so. Other games that you rated highly had just as many or more bugs and
peculiarities, and few of them were as ambitious as Babel. It appears
to me the real reason you gave it a "4" is the one you rant about for most
of the rest of this review.

> In addition to all of the obvious "Delusions" rip-offs (trapped in a

Did you even think about going back and changing this after
learning that the author thought up the basic ideas BEFORE Delusions?
You are calling someone else's hard work a "rip-off" in front of the
entire newsgroup. It would be rude and mean-spirited even if you were
right about him taking his inspiration from you.

> Big-ass plot holes in the story. Why did I let the Jabberwocky
> (never explained) out? I assume that was its blood on the cracked
> mirrors, when it attacked them? If not, whose was it?

Hello? Did we play the same game? The Jabberwocky is a toxin, not an
animal. You know, that broken vial lying on the floor of the toxin gallery
which is mentioned prominently when you walk into the room? As for why you
broke the vial, that was explained well enough by the flashbacks.

> Also, why do I have to specifically *mix* the antitoxin base
> and the Telerus toxin? I can pour both liquids into the same
> container and then take one right back out and leave the other in!

I quote, from the notes in the cabinet:

"The gist of it seems to be that the Telerus toxin and the anti-toxin
base will stay separate like oil and vinegar until thoroughly
mixed."

I'm increasingly getting the impression that you didn't give much
attention to this game, beyond what it took to fume about its
"rip-offs" from Delusions.

> Some people may prefer the way "Babel" handled its content over
> "Delusions." Some people may like not having to think to figure out
> what everything represents. Some people may enjoy solving puzzles
> instead of solving story-related problems.

How exactly were Babel's puzzles *not* "story-related problems"? In
my experience, that was precisely what most of them were, and this
was part of the reason I enjoyed the game.

> Well that's fine by me.
> Go ahead and slap a big ol' 10 on this one. Use your vote to cancel
> mine out. Oh wait, I'm an author, so my vote doesn't count diddly-
> squat anyway. Goddammit.

As a matter of fact, I did. I also gave Delusions a 10, FWIW. Cosmetic
errors in the first release aside, it's one of the best pieces of IF I've
ever played, and likewise Babel. Why can't you enjoy your own accomplishment
without slamming someone else's?

> Unfortunately, just because you yourself haven't seen something done in
> I-F before does not mean that people aren't sick to death of it.

Few people get "sick to death" of a genre after only a handful of
games written for it. Infact, you're the only one I've heard
claiming that Babel's design is derivative (though some find
the writing cliched, a reasonable enough objection).

I'll get to the point, and then disappear. I think you've gone to
a whole lot of trouble to find things wrong with a good game, turning
your "objective rating system" into an excuse to take off points
for peccadillos. And I think you've done so for one reason only:
you THOUGHT it was an imitation of yours. It may be a moot point,
since you weren't able to vote, but it still bothers me.

-Suzanne

--
http://dominion.cba.csuohio.edu/~tril/
-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
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GCS d- s--:- a-- C++$ ULHOIS+++$>++++ P+++ L>++ E W+++$ N++(+) !o K++ w---()
!O M-- V-- PS+@ PE@ Y+() PGP- t+ 5+ X+ R !tv(+) b++@ DI++ D--- G++ e++* h->---
r++>+++ x*?
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Brock Kevin Nambo

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Jan 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/12/98
to

>On 10 Jan 1998 17:01:28 GMT, "C.E. Forman"
><cefo...@postoffice.worldnet.att.net> wrote:
>
>> "Babel"
>
>> BTW, it
>> amazes me how *few* people seem to have noticed the similarities. Is
>> it that easy to forget all about a game you played last year, even
>> though you liked it enough at the time to vote it into 3rd place? Or
>> are you all just ignoring me again like you did with "PtF"? Cuz I'm
>> not goin' away. I'll just keep bitchin' louder and louder 'til
>> someone SAYS something just to shut me the hell up.]


I've played a recent version of Delusions, and I have three things to say
that may or may not help you:

1. I liked Delusions.
2. I didn't like Babel.
3. I saw nothing in either to remind me of the other.

K? :)

>>BKNambo
--
http://come.to/brocks.place | World Domination Through Trivia!
oah123 (in chatquiz, 12/27/97): "did you guys know during the SPIN cycle the
clothes are like being spun really fast? LOL i just found that out!"

Second April

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Jan 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/12/98
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I think Suzanne was right on, but I wanted to add something...

> > Some people may prefer the way "Babel" handled its content over
> > "Delusions." Some people may like not having to think to figure out
> > what everything represents. Some people may enjoy solving puzzles
> > instead of solving story-related problems.

Juvenile sneers do not become you. There was plenty of plot in Babel; I
went back to glowing patches several times to replay scenes as the plot
developed. There was plenty of thought involved, and arguably just as much
character development as in Delusions. For my part, I enjoyed discovering
new parts of the game, like the animals in the gallery and the mice in the
cages. And, I'm sorry to say, while Babel was perhaps a bit more than a
two-hour game, Delusions was WAY WAY WAY too long for the format; Babel
had about the amount of story that I would consider appropriate, maybe a
little more, but I have much trouble believing that _anyone_ could get
through Delusions in two hours without relying _very_ heavily on hints.
You can insult Babel for having a simpler plot if you life, but Ian was a
whole lot closer to following the competition guidelines than you were.

> > Well that's fine by me.
> > Go ahead and slap a big ol' 10 on this one. Use your vote to cancel
> > mine out. Oh wait, I'm an author, so my vote doesn't count diddly-
> > squat anyway. Goddammit.

I gave Babel a 9; I didn't judge the 1996 competition, but I suspect I
would have given Delusions an 8 or a 9. I found it interesting but
frustrating--the middlegame just made me want to walk away. Why do you
seem to view people rating Babel highly as a personal attack on you?

> > Unfortunately, just because you yourself haven't seen something done in
> > I-F before does not mean that people aren't sick to death of it.

You act like Ian has tried to defend himself by saying that people have no
right to be "sick to death" of the genre, which he hasn't. There has not
exactly been a widespread sentiment to this effect--"stop the
abandoned-scientist-in-a-lab-with-an-experiment-gone-wrong games"--quite
rightly, because it _hasn't_ been done much and _does_ still offer
opportunity for creative adaptation. Which Babel was. Perhaps you should
have simply said "I didn't enjoy this one because I wrote Delusions and
couldn't really get into a game that trod on similar around", and,
ideally, not rated the game.

Duncan Stevens
d-st...@nwu.edu
312-654-0280

The room is as you left it; your last touch--
A thoughtless pressure, knowing not itself
As saintly--hallows now each simple thing,
Hallows and glorifies, and glows between
The dust's gray fingers, like a shielded light.

--from "Interim," by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Second April

unread,
Jan 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/12/98
to

> close to losing a "guess-the-word" point for that.) Further, your
> refusal to allow the strength injection to break the locks and the
> other doors is a real cop-out. It seems you'd coded some puzzles
> with conflicting solutions, i.e. one's solution is feasible for, and
> easier than, the solution for another puzzle, and rather than
> implement both or redesign the puzzles, you opted for a quickie
> no-can-do. It's just like the old one-weapon-against-one-monster
> puzzles so characteristic of GAGS. Which solution works for which
> puzzle?

Oh, c'mon. I agree that there's no good reason for not allowing the door
to be broken by strength, and Ian knows it as well. But saying that the
game is like a GAGS game because of one illogicality is just dumb. There
are _no_ other instances like this in the game.

> to a one-number combination, that's something). Too much traipsing
> back and forth in the complex. Why create the impression of a time
> limit if you're only bluffing? When I got the "very low power"
> messages, I saved the game and waited repeatedly to see if/when the
> timer would expire.

When you go to those lengths to look for a plot hole, I don't think you
can really blame the author. I didn't save the game and wait 700 turns to
see if the lights would really go out; if I had, I certainly wouldn't have
blamed the author if I got bored in the process. You _certainly_ can't
complain that you "barely" finished the game.

> In addition to all of the obvious "Delusions" rip-offs (trapped in a
> laboratory complex run by a nameless "Agency," victim of an
> experiment, discovering your identity, no way to see your reflection
> at first, liberal use of hypodermic needles) the "limits of science"
> conflict is, IMO, extremely tired. "We should never test on
> humans... unsafe, inhuman, playing God"/"Science can't be stopped
> blah blah blah betterment of mankind." It's all been said before.
> (For you MST3K fans: "He tampered in God's domain!")

When you come down to it, there are darn few things that have _never_ been
said. But this one has not been said, to my knowledge, in any half-decent
work of IF, and a story as basic as this one--I mean, it's in the news;
read a newspaper story about cloning or multiple births, and that's what
it's really about--should by no means be outlawed.

> Correction. Lacking "something really cool that wasn't already done
> in 'Delusions.'"

I echo Suzanne. How hard would it have been to edit this out once you knew
that he didn't actually steal your idea?

> Big-ass plot holes in the story. Why did I let the Jabberwocky
> (never explained) out? I assume that was its blood on the cracked
> mirrors, when it attacked them? If not, whose was it? Couldn't
> have been Jonas or Alexis; I killed them outside the Complex. And

It was yours. When you punch a mirror, see, there's this possibility that
you might cut your hand. Really.

> why wasn't my mirror broken?

Someone in a psychotic rage wasn't entirely consistent? What a crummy
author Ian must be. Knock him down a point.

And why did I bother to re-lock the
> doors to my room and Jonas's room? ("Heh, this'll make a great
> puzzle for me to solve later, after my memory fades and I forget
> what's in these rooms!")

You didn't. Jonas or Alexis did--or they happened to leave the other two
doors unlocked, depending on how you look at it. People fleeing a lab
weren't entirely consistent either! Knock it down another point.

> On top of this, "Babel" flubbed all the techniques I crafted into my
> entry last year. The timeline of events you've built through the
> calendar holds together, but details in the game, as I've already
> outlined above, make no sense. In "Delusions," *everything* is
> accounted for.

Hardly. You don't notice your own stupid hands until you've seen
everything else? You don't notice the feel of your own skin? There are
absolutely no even vaguely reflective surfaces, not even the screen? Plus,
this is quite an argument here, since the premises behind the discovery of
your own identity in the two games are different--you're criticizing Babel
for its similarities to Delusions, and then criticizing Babel's plot for
not being similar to that of Delusions.



The "achieving self-awareness" bit isn't consistent.
> Why can I recall memories from some objects but not others?

A very emotionally charged moment leaves a stronger tellurgic association
with the object, maybe?

> object, every room, should have stories to tell. For that matter, why,
> if my Teleran abilities are so "advanced," as Jonas calls them, do I
> have to look in the mirror before I can recall the most significant
> details of my past? How could my memory fade if I supposedly have
> this ability to see, over and over, what happened in the past?
> Wouldn't repeated viewing of events reinforce, rather than submerge,
> memories?

Give the guy _some_ leeway. This is an EXPERIMENT, as I recall. Is it so
improbable that a toxin with profound effects on someone's mental state
could produce loss of memory? And that seeing a reflection could bring
that memory back?

> The characters have no personality, no depth at all. They're cardboard
> cutouts painted with singular motives. Jonas: The man willing to
> pursue science at any cost. Brett: The Bible-thumping "don't play God"
> preacher. Alexis: She likes you, that's about it. Even David, with
> his eager golly-gosh enthusiasm to advance technology, never mind what
> happens to him, felt flimsy. I couldn't identify with the character.

Well, lessee now. In Delusions, we have the power-hungry woman who tries
to get rid of everyone, and two other characters with pretty much nothing
to them at all. The virus is pretty much a standard "you are in my power
mua ha ha ha" convention. Maybe, just maybe, real character development in
IF, particularly competition-length IF, isn't a realistic goal, in that it
could take up the bulk of the game. (See Bob in "Spring." A very
well-realized character, but getting to know him is, let's face it, a bit
tedious.) No, I don't know anyone like Jonas--though I do know people like
Brett--but considering you never actually encounter any of the characters,
I'd say they're pretty well done.

> "Babel" doesn't have any neat stuff hidden in the game (that I could
> find, anyway). Once you've finished, that's it. No motivation to go
> back and try things differently. "Babel" doesn't make you *think*
> about things. There's no need to ponder what anything represents,
> since it's all spelled out for you in the detailed flashbacks.

Is the mark of a good story really that you have to puzzle things out
after it's over? By the time I was done with Delusions, I was tired of
figuring out what was VR and what was real, and I just quit and did
something else. Me, I think a good story can turn on emotional impact just
as much, and, sorry, Babel had the emotional impact that Delusions lacked.
No, it didn't have "fun stuff," but if that's a reason for rating a game
down, your priorities are weird. And insisting on symbolism is just
pretentious.

> Everyone's motivation is cut-and-dried, no hidden agendas. By the end,
> it's crystal-clear precisely what happened, and the story doesn't add a
> thing to the "science bad/science good" debate that I haven't already
> read over and over again in the newspaper. It's "Delusions," watered
> down. "Delusions for Dummies."

No, it's an entirely different game. It's a game where figuring out what
happened is the point, as seems logical if the premise is that you wake up
alone with no memory in a lab. I can't really say what the point of
Delusions was, so I won't try to guess, but I'd say it was very different,
not a richer or better-done version of Babel. It was a different story
that used some of the same plot techniques. As for "adding anything" to
the limits of science question, it's the very rare piece of IF--I haven't
seen any, but then again I haven't played So Far--that actually added
anything to any debate or idea. Many, however, tell very good stories that
illustrate certain ideas or conflicts, and that's what Babel does.

> Perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps Ian Finley really hasn't ever played my
> game, and to him "Babel" is original, full of groundbreaking ideas.
> Unfortunately, just because you yourself haven't seen something done in
> I-F before does not mean that people aren't sick to death of it. (An
> earlier game of mine proved this beyond a doubt.) Next time, take a
> look at past competition entries, at the very least the higher-ranking
> ones. See what's out there. See what's already been done. I learned
> this the hard way. Seems you need to as well.

Terribly sorry if you're bitter that people didn't like Path to Fortune,
but that's not an excuse for criticizing Ian so harshly--and, this just
in, Andromeda Strain-style games are not _nearly_ as overdone as
Tolkienesque fantasy.

Damien Neil

unread,
Jan 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/13/98
to

On 10 Jan 1998 17:01:28 GMT, C.E. Forman <cefo...@postoffice.worldnet.att.net>
wrote:
> "Travels in the Land of Erden"
> ------------------------------
...

> Do not be surprised if you don't get much
> feedback. Do not be surprised if hardly anyone plays through to the
> end. Do not be surprised if the only mail you ever get is about how
> much someone hates fantasy games and how tired the setting is.

OK, here's some feedback. :>

"Erden" suffered from exactly the same problem as "The Path to Fortune".
This problem is not the setting (although generic fantasy is...generic).
The problem is the complete lack of direction.

A cardinal rule of IF is to always give the player something to do. It
doesn't need to be large, it doesn't need to be possible, but it does
need to be interesting.

The game which managed to do the best job of this is, in my opinion,
"Wishbringer". The game begins, and you are handed a nice, clear task
to occupy yourself with -- deliver this letter to that house. In the
process, you will get a first look at the geography of the world, meet
a few of the characters, and eventually find out the main goal of the
game. Wonderful.

My attempts at playing "The Path to Fortune" went something like this:
Wander around town. Talk to people. Go off, find elf's house, and have
a chat. (Nice first goal there.) Wander around the world. Stumble into
a fatal situation which I don't have the resources to survive yet. Find a
puzzle which I don't have the resources to solve yet. Become frustrated.
Quit.

I did much the same thing with "Erden", except I didn't get around to
finding any puzzles.

(I also played "The Pawn" for the first time recently -- exact same
problem.)

I've been told that "Fortune" has some really nice bits in it. I'll never
find out, unless I just play the thing straight through with a walkthrough.
For all I know, "Erden" may have wonderful elements...but I don't intend
to spend a couple boring hours looking for them. This is a pity.

If the author of "Erden" is reading this, and wants to continue working
on it, my advice is to add moderately explicit advice to the player on
where to go. You don't need to solve any puzzles -- just tell me where
they are!

- Damien

Den of Iniquity

unread,
Jan 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/14/98
to

On 12 Jan 1998, Suzanne Skinner wrote:

>In rec.games.int-fiction C.E. Forman wrote:
>> Why can't I throw acid at other metal barriers (doors, bulkheads,
>> the cover of the radiation chamber) to get through them? (Why, for
>> that matter, must I use it not on the lock, but on the hinges, which
>> aren't even mentioned when I examine the cabinet?
>
>Those are related questions: the acid isn't strong enough to burn through a
>thick sheet of metal or a strong lock (the failure messages in the game made
>this clear enough to me), whereas the hinges are described as thin and
>flimsy.

This is a pet peeve of mine, so excuse me if I rant a little. Also, note
that I haven't played Babel so I'm not accusing it in particular - I'm not
aware of the exact details. [Attacking the hinges is a plausible
solution.]

As a token research chemist in the group (and certainly not the only one)
can I ask that people try to avoid the exciting-sounding use of acids in
games as a means to open doors, destroy locks and handcuffs, etc, unless
they really know what they're talking about. I've seen several
ill-educated uses of acid in such settings (not so much in text games,
don't worry) and it's a good way to kill my 'suspension of disbelief' -
it's like someone repeatedly hitting me with a hammer on whatever part of
the skull phrenologists have labelled 'gullibility'.

FYI, I have (as has pretty much anyone who has done the first year of
undergraduate chemistry in York) had the occasion to attempt to dissolve
steel in concentrated acid. It was one gramme of steel, completely
submersed in boiling sulphuric acid (oh, about 4-5 M which isn't
_extremely_ concentrated but _boiling_ is definitely not something you'd
want any organic matter to come into contact with). And it took getting on
for an hour (with periodic injections of conc nitric acid) to get that
little bit to 'dissolve'. Throwing virtually any acid in an open
environment (as opposed to strongly heated, pressurised environments) at a
steel door (or even thick wood) will do little more than etch it. In a
lock, you'll most likely just 'weld' the components together and make it
even harder to open. And most of them won't produce any noxious smoke in
the process either. (Conc nitric acid will, HBr might in the right
conditions...)

Ho hum. Rant over. There's quite a fair knowledge base sitting around
contributing to this newsgroup so if you do have an idea for something but
don't know if it would work in the real world, I'd invite you to just ask
here, and as long as it's not about liquid glass at room temperature (I
can offer some info about liquid glass at high T... :) I'm sure you'll
find someone happy to help.

To be honest, the more realistic uses of acids in puzzles would be far
more boring - assisting the titration (analysis) of a solution, for
example, neutralising an alkali, engraving a name on a trophy, making
someone's wine taste bad - that sort of thing.

--
Den


Matthew T. Russotto

unread,
Jan 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/14/98
to

In article <Pine.SGI.3.95L.98011...@ebor.york.ac.uk>,

Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> wrote:

}FYI, I have (as has pretty much anyone who has done the first year of
}undergraduate chemistry in York) had the occasion to attempt to dissolve
}steel in concentrated acid. It was one gramme of steel, completely
}submersed in boiling sulphuric acid (oh, about 4-5 M which isn't
}_extremely_ concentrated but _boiling_ is definitely not something you'd
}want any organic matter to come into contact with).

I was under the impression that the plumbing used in making sulfuric
acid was actually (non-stainless) steel, because sulfuric acid does
not attack it.

}steel door (or even thick wood) will do little more than etch it. In a
}lock, you'll most likely just 'weld' the components together and make it
}even harder to open. And most of them won't produce any noxious smoke in
}the process either. (Conc nitric acid will, HBr might in the right
}conditions...)

The hinges were made of flimsy aluminum, IIRC
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Jesse Smith

unread,
Jan 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/14/98
to

russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com (Matthew T. Russotto) writes:

> In article <Pine.SGI.3.95L.98011...@ebor.york.ac.uk>,
> Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> }steel door (or even thick wood) will do little more than etch it. In a
> }lock, you'll most likely just 'weld' the components together and make it
> }even harder to open. And most of them won't produce any noxious smoke in
> }the process either. (Conc nitric acid will, HBr might in the right
> }conditions...)
>
> The hinges were made of flimsy aluminum, IIRC

Then forget acid, and just kick the door down, or be prepared to have
a really, really good excuse for why the player can't do it the easy
way.

--
Jesse Smith
jds...@wco.com
http://www.wco.com/~jdsmith/
"God's in His Heaven; all's right with the world." - Robert Browning

Julian Arnold

unread,
Jan 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/14/98
to

In article <slrn6bno2...@zorg.hitchhiker.org>, Damien Neil

<URL:mailto:ne...@zorg.hitchhiker.org> wrote:
> "Erden" suffered from exactly the same problem as "The Path to Fortune".
> This problem is not the setting (although generic fantasy is...generic).
> The problem is the complete lack of direction.

Yes, I agree. Unfortunately the assumption (my assumption anyway) is
that generic fantasy games are going to be directionless, because they
so often are. Perhaps this is because authors of "fantasy" games think
they need to model an entire world, whereas authors of "real-world"
games are able to concentrate more on the story at hand? OTOH, one might
then expect SF to suffer from this as much as "fantasy," except that SF
games are usually extremely geographically limited (ie, to the interior
of a space station, complex of buildings, or space ship).

Anyway, this assumption is obviously unfair to those fantasy games which
are not directionless. Maybe when we complain about "generic fantasy"
games we are in fact complaining about sprawling, directionless games?

Jools
--
"For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand
ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from
ever completing anything." -- Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"


Aquarius

unread,
Jan 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/14/98
to

Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> wrote:

> As a token research chemist in the group (and certainly not the only one)
> can I ask that people try to avoid the exciting-sounding use of acids in
> games as a means to open doors, destroy locks and handcuffs, etc, unless
> they really know what they're talking about.

You could potentially have an 'eat through glass' puzzle involving HF,
though, I think.

> To be honest, the more realistic uses of acids in puzzles would be far
> more boring - assisting the titration (analysis) of a solution, for
> example, neutralising an alkali, engraving a name on a trophy, making
> someone's wine taste bad - that sort of thing.

Blimey. I've often thought that watching for the endpoint of a titration
and saving the world from a crazed megalomaniac have much the same
emotional import and sense of urgency about them.

I have occasionally speculated about some form of hyper-acid, whose
chemical makeup is known only to film producers. :)

Seriously, though, some things in most games could no doubt be
questioned if one had particular knowledge of the area concerned. How
likely is it that you could throw a prised-up cobble at a [first?] floor
window behind some gates and break it on your first shot? I'm prepared
to bet I'd miss on the first go.

The point about the popular perception of 'acid' is well taken, I admit,
but I think this kind of suspension of disbelief is the only way to make
good puzzles. Sadly, no-one is knowledgeable on every subject, and so
most of most people's knowledge will be based around popular
[mis]conceptions of the truth. Playing to these misconceptions is
perhaps the only way to create games that can be played by everybody.

I can just imagine the complaints when someone enters a competition game
in which some kind of accurate knowledge of depolymerisation (or motor
mechanics, or fishing, or any other area of human endeavour) was
required....blah blah blah "How was I supposed to know what methyl
orange was when I found the bottle of it?"

Now I shall go away and write 'Strong alkali against weakly dissociated
acid: An Interactive Titration'. :)

Aquarius was a sort of chemist once, a long long time ago.

--
o |~> --------------------------------------------------------------
| (\._[~] aqua...@cryogen.com | AFE is not a word, it's a sentence
|~|) |~~| If cryptography is outlawed, only bfghyh sdr1ws dfr jksfib nu
------------------------------------------------------------------------

rich

unread,
Jan 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/14/98
to

This is obviously something fairly close to your heart as a game subject :-). I
admit it did sound fairly implausible to me, even bereft as I am of any good
chemistry knowledge.

Having had my days of mad scientist experimentation in school however, I recall
that most acid had a damned difficult time dissolving anything serious that was
metallic, and of course you needed a lot of it, since the very fact it is
reacting with the object reduces its effectiveness steadily. Ah, the memories
(like the one fool who would always pop the top off a container of 12M
hydrochloric acid and recoil in terror as it began to react with the water in
the air).

But anyway, it's difficult to find circumstances where the chemical energy
expressed by the acid is going to exceed your ability to deliver substantially
more kinetic energy in the form of swift kicks. You have to make allowances
through, it's much more original than having to find the "blue key".

-Rich

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

In article <ant14174...@arnod.demon.co.uk>,

Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <slrn6bno2...@zorg.hitchhiker.org>, Damien Neil
><URL:mailto:ne...@zorg.hitchhiker.org> wrote:
>> "Erden" suffered from exactly the same problem as "The Path to Fortune".
>> This problem is not the setting (although generic fantasy is...generic).
>> The problem is the complete lack of direction.
>
>Yes, I agree. Unfortunately the assumption (my assumption anyway) is
>that generic fantasy games are going to be directionless, because they
>so often are. Perhaps this is because authors of "fantasy" games think
>they need to model an entire world, whereas authors of "real-world"
>games are able to concentrate more on the story at hand? OTOH, one might
>then expect SF to suffer from this as much as "fantasy," except that SF
>games are usually extremely geographically limited (ie, to the interior
>of a space station, complex of buildings, or space ship).

I think it's just a coincidence that tere are relatively few SF games
of that type (huge, open-ended world where you can go exploring for
days, without getting any clear idea of what's expected of you).

I suppose the SF and fantasy genres invite this kind of game - you get
to invent a whole world from scratch, with its own laws of nature and
so on.

On the other hand, writing a "realistic" game of this kind would me
much more difficult, since there would be so much to model, and you'd
have to model things in a realistic way. Or perhaps the people who
write realistic games aren't so likely to go off on an orgy of
world-building?

>Anyway, this assumption is obviously unfair to those fantasy games which
>are not directionless.

Obviously. ANd most generic fantasy games I've played takeplace in
fairly limited worlds anyway, such as dungeons.

> Maybe when we complain about "generic fantasy"
>games we are in fact complaining about sprawling, directionless games?

What I think is that when people play unsatisfying games that are
set in a generic fantasy world, they tend to summarize all the
problems they have with the game: lack of goal, lackluster writing,
cliched plot, no cool things to do, as "generic fantasy" and blame the
balndness of the game on the setting.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------
Not officially connected to LU or LTH.

Den of Iniquity

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Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

From: "Matthew T. Russotto" <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com>

> I was under the impression that the plumbing used in making sulfuric
> acid was actually (non-stainless) steel, because sulfuric acid does
> not attack it.

It doesn't _not_ attack it, it just takes its time about it, so the
plumbing needs replacing less often than most other choices. Glass would
be better for chemical reasons but from a mechanical point of view is less
than a wise idea - you really don't want _that_ plumbing to break. Glass-
lined metal is always a possibility but it's expensive and may suffer
badly when there are significant temperature changes (they expand/contract
at different rates).

Certainly sulphuric acid would eat through other metals faster, but then
those metals don't get used so much in constructing stuff, because people
don't want their garage doors to fizz when it rains.

> The hinges were made of flimsy aluminum, IIRC

Aluminium is a tricky chap - it's actually really quite reactive (you
can 'burn' aluminium foil rather easily - try that with a thin sheet of
steel, copper, whatever...) - but its oxide, which very rapidly coats the
surface if oxygen's in its atmosphere, is a real beggar to get to react
with anything. So aluminium gives the impression of being totally
unreactive. How it would react to an acid is really up to the acid. I
suspect most acids would have nearly as hard a time as with steel.


From: Aquarius <A...@btinternet.com>

- You could potentially have an 'eat through glass' puzzle involving HF,
- though, I think.

But one would have to ask why you can't break the glass - perhaps it has
to be done quietly? But then you might want to scratch the glass first -
allowing you to pop out a big section without shattering anything. Really
thick glass maybe.

- Blimey. I've often thought that watching for the endpoint of a titration
- and saving the world from a crazed megalomaniac have much the same
- emotional import and sense of urgency about them.

Ah, the trick is to somehow tie these two - find out the iodine content of
a solution _in_order_to_ save the world from a crazed megalomaniac.

- I have occasionally speculated about some form of hyper-acid, whose
- chemical makeup is known only to film producers. :)

Well, there is an acid called 'magic acid', which is sulphuric acid,
hydrofluoric acid and antimony pentafluoride, I think, and then there's
just a mixture of sulphuric and hydrofluoric acids - affectionately termed
'piranha solution'. Don't try these at home, kids. You have to handle the
latter in special teflon containers (no, not your frying pan {well, maybe
it would work}) and I'm not sure how you handle the former (apart from
'with the greatest of care').

The problem with Hollywood-style cartoon acids is that a small quantity is
capable of destroying large quantities of metal (or whatever). The really
very strong acids just do the job faster - they can't do _more_ of it.
It's an easy mistake to make. When I was younger I feared a really strong
acid would ultimately burrow through to the Earth's mantle and start a
volcanic eruption in the process. ;)

- The point about the popular perception of 'acid' is well taken, I admit,
- but I think this kind of suspension of disbelief is the only way to make
- good puzzles.

Oh I sincerely hope not! Surely one doesn't have to stretch the laws of
physics to provide real, believable, good puzzles. There are scores, maybe
hundreds of examples in the i-f archive.

There are some possibilities for acids - if you had to get rid of a metal
floor-plate (presumably over a hole), for example (so that gravity doesn't
just make the acid run off as in most other cases), and had enough acid to
cover it a couple of times over and enough time to go off and do something
else for a while, and didn't mind having to kick through the structurally
weakened (but not, please, not completely vanished) plate. And then
there's organic matter, which isn't quite so hardy, though you could be
getting into the realms of the gruesome [if only because you're unblocking
a particularly repugnant drain]. A highly volatile or gaseous
[water-soluble] acid, sprayed liberally around a room could prevent anyone
from entering without self-contained breathing apparatus gear (see 12M
HCl below).

- I can just imagine the complaints when someone enters a competition game
- in which some kind of accurate knowledge of depolymerisation

depolymerisation?

- (or motor mechanics, or fishing, or any other area of human endeavour)
- was required....blah blah blah "How was I supposed to know what methyl
- orange was when I found the bottle of it?"

Definitely something to avoid. It's the whole demi-john thing all over
again (well, I knew what one of them was, but I wouldn't know my
[insert some other word that I don't know here] from my elbow). Speaking
of methyl orange, acidity indicators play their own fun roles. Get some
phenolphthalein, for example. For puzzle value, you might need to know
that it's a powerful diuretic. Pop it in people's drinks and they'll
vacate the area. Don't try this at home or you'll just piss everyone off.
Or something along those lines. ;]


From: rich <ri...@cstone.net>

} Having had my days of mad scientist experimentation in school however, I
} recall that most acid had a damned difficult time dissolving anything
} serious that was metallic, and of course you needed a lot of it, since

} the very fact it is reacting with the object reduces its effectiveness
} steadily.

Exactly.

} Ah, the memories (like the one fool who would always pop the top off a
} container of 12M hydrochloric acid and recoil in terror as it began to
} react with the water in the air).

React with water in the air? React with the sensitive mucus membranes in
your nostrils more like!

I should add that although the cliched uses of cartoonesque acid are
gross, unbearable exaggerations of the real thing, cliched mad professors
really can be found in most scientific establishments. Yes, there really
are people with hair like that, yes, they have strange names, and yes,
some of them speak with strange German accents (usually the German ones,
mind). It's just the great convoluted tubes of glassware that are nearly
impossible to find, and when you do find them (like the ones in my lab)
they're never filled with brightly coloured, bubbling liquids (unless
something has gone horribly, horribly wrong).

--
Den


Chris Marriott

unread,
Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

In article <Pine.SGI.3.95L.98011...@ebor.york.ac.uk>,
Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> writes

>It doesn't _not_ attack it, it just takes its time about it, so the
>plumbing needs replacing less often than most other choices. Glass would
>be better for chemical reasons but from a mechanical point of view is less
>than a wise idea - you really don't want _that_ plumbing to break. Glass-
>lined metal is always a possibility but it's expensive and may suffer
>badly when there are significant temperature changes (they expand/contract
>at different rates).

Sulphuric acid? Bah - child's play!

I worked for many years for the UK Atomic Energy Authority, and did some
work on the prototype "fast breeder reactor" at Dounreay in northern
Scotland. That's cooled by liquid sodium; if you want a REAL challenge,
then work on liquid sodium "plumbing"!

Chris

----------------------------------------------------------------
Chris Marriott, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer.
SkyMap Software, U.K. e-mail: ch...@skymap.com
Visit our web site at http://www.skymap.com

Andy Wright

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Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

Den of Iniquity wrote:
> > The hinges were made of flimsy aluminum, IIRC
>
> Aluminium is a tricky chap - it's actually really quite reactive (you
> can 'burn' aluminium foil rather easily - try that with a thin sheet of
> steel, copper, whatever...) - but its oxide, which very rapidly coats the
> surface if oxygen's in its atmosphere, is a real beggar to get to react
> with anything. So aluminium gives the impression of being totally
> unreactive. How it would react to an acid is really up to the acid. I
> suspect most acids would have nearly as hard a time as with steel.

Well, you could give it a good going over with emery paper first...
Then again, why not find a welding torch? You can have much more fun with
extreme heat than with acids.

> - You could potentially have an 'eat through glass' puzzle involving HF,
> - though, I think.
> But one would have to ask why you can't break the glass - perhaps it has
> to be done quietly? But then you might want to scratch the glass first -
> allowing you to pop out a big section without shattering anything. Really
> thick glass maybe.

In any case, would you really want to let a player run around sloshing HF about?
Imagine the worst undergraduates you've ever known, armed with HF. You could make
most of the objects in the game resistant, but I fear for the safety of the NPCs.

> It's just the great convoluted tubes of glassware that are nearly
> impossible to find, and when you do find them (like the ones in my lab)
> they're never filled with brightly coloured, bubbling liquids (unless
> something has gone horribly, horribly wrong).
>
> --
> Den

They're more usually filled with dark brown sludge, at least they were the last
time I tried my hand at organic chemistry. You never see that in films - for some
reason few people are impressed by a cupful of tar.

Andy

Matthew T. Russotto

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Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

In article <s5m3eiq...@shell.wco.com>,

Jesse Smith <jds...@shell.wco.com> wrote:
}russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com (Matthew T. Russotto) writes:
}
}> In article <Pine.SGI.3.95L.98011...@ebor.york.ac.uk>,

}> Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> wrote:
}>
}> }steel door (or even thick wood) will do little more than etch it. In a
}> }lock, you'll most likely just 'weld' the components together and make it
}> }even harder to open. And most of them won't produce any noxious smoke in
}> }the process either. (Conc nitric acid will, HBr might in the right
}> }conditions...)
}>
}> The hinges were made of flimsy aluminum, IIRC
}
}Then forget acid, and just kick the door down, or be prepared to have
}a really, really good excuse for why the player can't do it the easy
}way.

Due to the construction, you couldn't kick such a door in if the
hinges were the only weak spot. Hammer and chisel would do the job
easy enough, but there were none available. Pulling on the handle
doesn't really strain the hinges (wrong side).

Den of Iniquity

unread,
Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

On Thu, 15 Jan 1998, Chris Marriott wrote:
>Sulphuric acid? Bah - child's play!

Aagh! I see a Monty Python cascade coming! Run for cover!


Matthew T. Russotto

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Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

In article <1d2vao5.1pp...@host5-99-58-28.btinternet.com>,
Aquarius <A...@btinternet.com> wrote:

}Seriously, though, some things in most games could no doubt be
}questioned if one had particular knowledge of the area concerned. How
}likely is it that you could throw a prised-up cobble at a [first?] floor
}window behind some gates and break it on your first shot? I'm prepared
}to bet I'd miss on the first go.

I couldn't, but fortunately Christabel has a great arm :-)

Den of Iniquity

unread,
Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

On Thu, 15 Jan 1998, Andy Wright wrote:

>Den of Iniquity wrote:
>> > The hinges were made of flimsy aluminum, IIRC
>>

>> Aluminium is a tricky chap - but its oxide, which very rapidly coats the


>> surface if oxygen's in its atmosphere, is a real beggar to get to react

>Well, you could give it a good going over with emery paper first...

Whoo, you underestimate how fast it oxidises. If it wasn't so fast, giving
it a rub with emery paper would set fire to it. :)

>Then again, why not find a welding torch? You can have much more fun with
>extreme heat than with acids.

Have you ever tried to handle such a powerful tool in an adventure?
Players would either quickly become frustrated that they can't use it on
_everything_ or you'd have a hell of a lot of programming on your hands.

>In any case, would you really want to let a player run around sloshing HF
>about? Imagine the worst undergraduates you've ever known, armed with
>HF. You could make most of the objects in the game resistant, but I fear
>for the safety of the NPCs.

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Oh dear oh... [etc]

[Mind you, it's a little known fact that HF is really quite a weak acid.
(Well, substantially weaker than HCl, anyway.) It's that little problem
about it being absorbed through the skin that really causes trouble.)

>> It's just the great convoluted tubes of glassware that are nearly
>> impossible to find, and when you do find them (like the ones in my lab)
>> they're never filled with brightly coloured, bubbling liquids (unless
>> something has gone horribly, horribly wrong).

>They're more usually filled with dark brown sludge, at least they were


>the last time I tried my hand at organic chemistry. You never see that in
>films - for some reason few people are impressed by a cupful of tar.

I bet your tubes aren't as convoluted as mine. :)
The only time I ever had any liquid at all in my equipment was the time*
vacuum-pump oil got sucked back into it. Which was a real pain to clean
out.**

[I do calculations on gases. (Which sounds a lot like 'writing on the
wind' and that's the way my research seems to be going...)]

--
Den

* Oh yeah, and there was the _other_ time that happened. You'd think I'd
learn.

** But I got to wear a groovy gas mask (in order to prevent loss of
conciousness - I had to clean the equipment with ether).


Julian Arnold

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Jan 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/15/98
to

In article <69ki6s$m4h$1...@bartlet.df.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson

<URL:mailto:m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote:
> I think it's just a coincidence that tere are relatively few SF games
> of that type (huge, open-ended world where you can go exploring for
> days, without getting any clear idea of what's expected of you).

Hm, _World_ was one (at least to start with, I never got very far).

Then there's Art LaFrana's _Abbey_ game (not SF) which I really liked
but have no idea why. That's almost entirely wandering around.

> Obviously. ANd most generic fantasy games I've played takeplace in
> fairly limited worlds anyway, such as dungeons.

Hm, yes, but I think dungeon games are by now enough their own sub-genre
to generally not be labelled "fantasy." Which is a bit odd.

> What I think is that when people play unsatisfying games that are
> set in a generic fantasy world, they tend to summarize all the
> problems they have with the game: lack of goal, lackluster writing,
> cliched plot, no cool things to do, as "generic fantasy" and blame the
> balndness of the game on the setting.

Yes.

Andy Wright

unread,
Jan 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/16/98
to

Den of Iniquity wrote:
> >> Aluminium is a tricky chap - but its oxide, which very rapidly coats the

> >> surface if oxygen's in its atmosphere, is a real beggar to get to react
>
> >Well, you could give it a good going over with emery paper first...
>
> Whoo, you underestimate how fast it oxidises. If it wasn't so fast, giving
> it a rub with emery paper would set fire to it. :)

Well, it's not instantaneous. You can expose fresh aluminium for a (very) short
time, allowing you to slap some acid on. I remember doing something along those
lines at school, but we removed the oxide layer chemically (I can't remember what
the agent was, but it was far worse than the acids!).

>
> >Then again, why not find a welding torch? You can have much more fun with
> >extreme heat than with acids.
>
> Have you ever tried to handle such a powerful tool in an adventure?
> Players would either quickly become frustrated that they can't use it on
> _everything_ or you'd have a hell of a lot of programming on your hands.

Preventing them from moving the attached gas cylinders would help. Actually,
I'm sure I remember a game which DID have something of that sort. Any ideas?
(Careful, this is getting dangerously relevant to rgif.)

> [Mind you, it's a little known fact that HF is really quite a weak acid.
> (Well, substantially weaker than HCl, anyway.) It's that little problem
> about it being absorbed through the skin that really causes trouble.)

Yep. Obtaining an armful of HF is not a wise career move. Using the antidote
isn't much better, IIRC. I prefer so stick to slightly safer solutions, usually
with about 5% ethanol in them. :)

> >> It's just the great convoluted tubes of glassware that are nearly
> >> impossible to find, and when you do find them (like the ones in my lab)
> >> they're never filled with brightly coloured, bubbling liquids (unless
> >> something has gone horribly, horribly wrong).
>

> >They're more usually filled with dark brown sludge, at least they were
> >the last time I tried my hand at organic chemistry. You never see that in
> >films - for some reason few people are impressed by a cupful of tar.
>
> I bet your tubes aren't as convoluted as mine. :)
> The only time I ever had any liquid at all in my equipment was the time*
> vacuum-pump oil got sucked back into it. Which was a real pain to clean
> out.**

I don't use many tubes now - mostly large aluminium chambers with a whole
bunch of dodgy pumps attached. If you think pump oil in glassware is bad,
try cleaning cooked oil from an overheated pump. My supervisor likes to get
new postgrads to do that, as a sort of initiation rite. He seems to think
it's a character building exercise.



> [I do calculations on gases. (Which sounds a lot like 'writing on the
> wind' and that's the way my research seems to be going...)]

I do spectroscopy of low-concentration gases, which tends more towards the
"fart in a hurricane" end of the spectrum. Still, I got enough out of it in
the end (about three months AFTER I was due to finish). You will too, honest!

> --
> Den
>
> * Oh yeah, and there was the _other_ time that happened. You'd think I'd
> learn.

You did - you learned how to clean mucky oil out of your apparatus. Think of
how much richer your life has become as a result! ;)



> ** But I got to wear a groovy gas mask (in order to prevent loss of
> conciousness - I had to clean the equipment with ether).

Nice!

Andy

Aquarius

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Jan 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/18/98
to

Matthew T. Russotto <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com> wrote:

> In article <1d2vao5.1pp...@host5-99-58-28.btinternet.com>,
> Aquarius <A...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>
> }Seriously, though, some things in most games could no doubt be
> }questioned if one had particular knowledge of the area concerned. How
> }likely is it that you could throw a prised-up cobble at a [first?] floor
> }window behind some gates and break it on your first shot? I'm prepared
> }to bet I'd miss on the first go.
>
> I couldn't, but fortunately Christabel has a great arm :-)

If there's ever a r?if Olympics she's my candidate for shot-putt, I tell
you. I tried it for a laugh and it worked; I was really quite amazed. :)

Aq.

FemaleDeer

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Jan 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/19/98
to

>> Den
>>
>> * Oh yeah, and there was the _other_ time that happened. You'd think I'd
>> learn.
>
>You did - you learned how to clean mucky oil out of your apparatus. Think of
>how much richer your life has become as a result! ;)
>
>> ** But I got to wear a groovy gas mask (in order to prevent loss of
>> conciousness - I had to clean the equipment with ether).
>
>Nice!
>
>Andy
>
>

Anyone ever tell you, you guys are wierd?

FD :-)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Femal...@aol.com "Good breeding consists in
concealing how much we think of ourselves and how
little we think of the other person." Mark Twain

Den of Iniquity

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Jan 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/19/98
to

On 19 Jan 1998, FemaleDeer wrote:

>Anyone ever tell you, you guys are wierd?

I can't speak for Andy, but since you ask, yes. Several people. On several
occasions.

(I consistently deny that I'm weird, BTW.)

--
Den


Andy Wright

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Jan 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/19/98
to

FemaleDeer wrote:

> >> Denand
> >Andywrote some silly stuff.



> Anyone ever tell you, you guys are wierd?
>

> FD :-)
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No, but I've been called weird once or twice. And pedantic. :)
This is fairly normal for chemists, anyway. (Yes, both terms...)
Not that I'm admitting that it's true, mind.

Andy

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