Chat with me about my game Magic. The deadline has passed, so now we authors can talk now.

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HappyEngineer

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Nov 16, 2008, 5:09:33 AM11/16/08
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I put a lot of time into Magic, my game for this year's ifcomp. Sadly
I clearly made some mistakes in how I did things. Here is what I have
learned from the reviews of Magic which I have read:

- The title is boring. It doesn't evoke interest at all. I had no idea
how much everyone hates even thinking of Enchanter-like games. My game
isn't Enchanter-like, but many people apparently got an initial bad
impression from the title.

- Most reviewers mentioned that they loved the initial introduction of
the game and the way in which Rupert was introduced. That matches my
experience with my beta testers. Everyone laughs when Rupert shows up.

- Most reviewers think that I have a surreal mind that no one
understands. (Seeing so many people say things like that really made
me laugh.)

- I once again made a game that was considered technically sound. At
least I can feel proud of that. Reviewers have said that about all 3
of my games. But, since I'm a professional programmer I should
probably be ashamed if that was not the case.

- The game's main hook (the meta spell) was not implemented for enough
things. I only implemented uses for it for plot important things. Lots
of reviewers were confused because they couldn't find anything at all
to compare. This was probably the biggest problem with the game.

- The game is too hard. I knew it was hard, but I was mislead when one
of my beta testers finished the entire game without any hints while
the rest needed varying levels of hints. I thought that people would
just fall all over the spectrum. But, reviewers came down pretty
solidly on the IT'S TOO HARD side of things.

- Some people hate puns.

- Many reviewers seemed to like the environment of the game, but most
thought that there was not enough direction in the game. I expected
people to just play around and then find themselves in the middle of
the story as the end of the game approached. The mystery was part of
the fun. But apparently my feeling on that was not widely shared. I
still like the way I did it, but in the future I will not do it that
way because it's apparently not popular.

- Comparing Paris Hilton to trash is apparently too easy a joke for it
to be funny.

- Some people are tired of Monty Python? (This one surprised me. I
didn't think that was even possible. You either like Python or you
don't. You aren't supposed to ever get tired of them.)


I was surprised that none of the reviewers mentioned my plug for the
Get Lamp documentary in my game. It wasn't a big thing, but I thought
it was kind of funny when I put it in.

The first couple of reviews I read made me think that I could make a
few modifications to the game post-comp to fix some of the complaints
about the game. I am no longer sure that's possible. I'm not sure how
much would need to be changed to make people happy about the game.

Have I pretty much covered it?

At this time I plan on releasing the source code, but I don't think
I'll spend time improving the game unless people can convince me that
I could fix the game without spending another month working on it.

Don't be afraid to suggest ways to improve things though. At worst
it'll help me to better understand how I can do well when I implement
game #4 for next year's comp.

Jim Aikin

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Nov 16, 2008, 11:41:06 AM11/16/08
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I haven't played "Magic" yet, but I can offer a couple of general comments.

HappyEngineer wrote:

> - Many reviewers seemed to like the environment of the game, but most
> thought that there was not enough direction in the game.

One of the things I try to apply to IF from my experience writing static
plotted fiction is that the main character should always have a clear,
compelling motivation and goal, which should be made clear early in the
game.

> - Some people are tired of Monty Python?


They're not dead, they're resting.

> The first couple of reviews I read made me think that I could make a
> few modifications to the game post-comp to fix some of the complaints
> about the game. I am no longer sure that's possible. I'm not sure how
> much would need to be changed to make people happy about the game.

You're never going to make everyone happy. That's sort of not the point.
By making changes, you can make yourself happier, make some players
happier, and learn some stuff that can be applied later on to other games.

> At this time I plan on releasing the source code, but I don't think
> I'll spend time improving the game unless people can convince me that
> I could fix the game without spending another month working on it.

Time is precious and fleeting, to be sure. If it ain't fun, don't fix
it. On the other hand, a feeling of accomplishment and pride in
workmanship can be as much fun as a day at the beach (if not more)!

--Jim Aikin

Emily Short

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Nov 16, 2008, 1:53:18 PM11/16/08
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On Nov 16, 4:09 am, HappyEngineer <google.c...@g42.org> wrote:
> The first couple of reviews I read made me think that I could make a
> few modifications to the game post-comp to fix some of the complaints
> about the game. I am no longer sure that's possible. I'm not sure how
> much would need to be changed to make people happy about the game.

I think if you focused on improving the meta puzzles -- more feedback
for things that don't work, better cluing, more funny responses when
the player tries it on random things -- you would address most of
these problems at once. The game would get easier because the player
would be able to learn through exploration how the puzzle worked; it
might also feel better directed (though you might also want to add a
little more guidance about the player's overall goals). Personally I
thought it was a fun idea for a puzzle that was let down by not being
implemented rigorously enough.

But as to the other things you mention (like the nature of the humor
and the surrealism) -- don't change those! Some people will like them;
some people won't. But they're essential to the game and it wouldn't
be the same game if you changed them.

I suspect it would still be a lot of work to do the overhaul I've just
described. But clearly you already put a lot of effort into this, and
I think it could wind up as something substantially better.

Reiko

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Nov 16, 2008, 3:58:33 PM11/16/08
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> - The title is boring. It doesn't evoke interest at all. I had no idea
> how much everyone hates even thinking of Enchanter-like games. My game
> isn't Enchanter-like, but many people apparently got an initial bad
> impression from the title.

I didn't get a bad impression - I don't mind Enchanter-like games
necessarily. But "Magic" as a title says nothing at all, as you said.
Completely generic. The title's the first thing people see, so it
needs to capture the essence of the work somehow.

> - Most reviewers mentioned that they loved the initial introduction of
> the game and the way in which Rupert was introduced. That matches my
> experience with my beta testers. Everyone laughs when Rupert shows up.

Or grimaces. I'm just not the bloodthirsty type I guess. It was
actually pretty freaky, and even more so when he appears *again*. But
it's only an instantaneous attack and then he's gone, so by the next
turn, I was just rolling my eyes and thinking about how I have to go
get healed again.

> - Most reviewers think that I have a surreal mind that no one
> understands. (Seeing so many people say things like that really made
> me laugh.)

I must agree. The surreality of it isn't a problem, particularly since
you're building up to a well-known cultural reference. It all fits in
the end. The problem is getting to the end.

> - I once again made a game that was considered technically sound. At
> least I can feel proud of that. Reviewers have said that about all 3
> of my games. But, since I'm a professional programmer I should
> probably be ashamed if that was not the case.

I don't think I found any actual bugs, no, but a game submitted to the
competition automatically gets a demerit if it has bugs. As in, it's
not really good enough just to have the technical side of things down.

> - The game's main hook (the meta spell) was not implemented for enough
> things. I only implemented uses for it for plot important things. Lots
> of reviewers were confused because they couldn't find anything at all
> to compare. This was probably the biggest problem with the game.

Yes. I couldn't find *anything* to compare that wasn't absolutely
required, so I couldn't figure out how to get it to work.

> - The game is too hard. I knew it was hard, but I was mislead when one
> of my beta testers finished the entire game without any hints while
> the rest needed varying levels of hints. I thought that people would
> just fall all over the spectrum. But, reviewers came down pretty
> solidly on the IT'S TOO HARD side of things.

I don't do well with puzzles just in general, so I'll add my vote for
too hard. To expound on the meta problem again, particularly with
regards to puns, it wasn' t obvious (because there was no
experimentation possible, really) that the comparison would result in
a punny shift, not just a literal shift. More responses to failed
comparisons would be good, even if no actual shifts are added.

<snip>

> - Some people are tired of Monty Python? (This one surprised me. I
> didn't think that was even possible. You either like Python or you
> don't. You aren't supposed to ever get tired of them.)

I know it was supposed to be totally obvious and all, but I was
actually amused by the ending, because I didn't quite see it coming.
At the same time, I'm on the side of not liking Monty Python all that
much, so again, it was kind of an eye-rolling moment.

> I was surprised that none of the reviewers mentioned my plug for the
> Get Lamp documentary in my game. It wasn't a big thing, but I thought
> it was kind of funny when I put it in.

I was amused, but it seemed a little out of place, actually. Too
realistic for a surreal game, if that makes any sense?

It's your choice whether to work on the game more. Personally, I
wouldn't play it a second time, mostly because I've already seen the
ending, and it just wouldn't have the same impact the second time
around. But a post-comp release is almost always a good idea, to add
polish in response to the reactions of the judges.

~Reiko

HappyEngineer

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Nov 16, 2008, 6:34:20 PM11/16/08
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On Nov 16, 10:53 am, Emily Short <emsh...@mindspring.com> wrote:
> I think if you focused on improving the meta puzzles -- more feedback
> for things that don't work, better cluing, more funny responses when
> the player tries it on random things -- you would address most of
> these problems at once.

Can anyone give me some examples of funny responses? I don't think I
could just implement a bunch of other useless comparisons. If I did
that, the player would probably be annoyed at the explosion of
extraneous objects in the game. The game would be 90% red herrings.

I can see giving some sort of response about how something wants to
become something else, but it just can't make the conversion like
these (please excuse them if they aren't all gems. I usually go over
and over my wording in my game, but I'm just throwing these out now as
examples.):

: compare me to ace of spades
"You shimmer for a moment, but it appears that your jokes just
aren't funny enough for you to be considered a card."

: compare beans to cards
"The beans shimmer for a moment, but despite your revulsion for
disgusting vegetables, they do not taste bland enough to be considered
cardboard."

: compare dead body to mothballs
"The body shimmers for a moment, but the person appears to be too
young to be compared to anything you would find in an old musty
closet."

: compare rabbits to screwdriver
"The rabbits shimmer for a moment, but the screwdriver is not nearly
a deadly enough weapon to be a fair comparison for such bloodthirsty
animals."

Actually, if I were to add a few hundred of those to the game then I
can see people having fun just walking around comparing things.
(Assuming I could think of enough humorous comparisons.)

They also give a feel for the trick. Note how the first example shows
how the comparison can be a pun while the others show it can be a
comparison of traits.

The problem is, I don't see how that would make the game any easier.
It might give the player a feel for the trick and it would probably
make people feel better about using it. But the actual puzzles in the
game would probably still be just as difficult to figure out.

Emily Short

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Nov 16, 2008, 6:48:43 PM11/16/08
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On Nov 16, 5:34 pm, HappyEngineer <google.c...@g42.org> wrote:
> Actually, if I were to add a few hundred of those to the game then I
> can see people having fun just walking around comparing things.
> (Assuming I could think of enough humorous comparisons.)
>
> They also give a feel for the trick. Note how the first example shows
> how the comparison can be a pun while the others show it can be a
> comparison of traits.

That is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about, yeah.

> The problem is, I don't see how that would make the game any easier.
> It might give the player a feel for the trick and it would probably
> make people feel better about using it. But the actual puzzles in the
> game would probably still be just as difficult to figure out.

The challenge is, I think, to teach people how to think about the
puzzles in the way you want them to. Once they get into the right
mindset, the specific solutions become easier.

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Conrad

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Nov 17, 2008, 9:53:36 AM11/17/08
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On Nov 16, 6:34 pm, HappyEngineer <google.c...@g42.org> wrote:

> Can anyone give me some examples of funny responses? I don't think I
> could just implement a bunch of other useless comparisons. If I did
> that, the player would probably be annoyed at the explosion of
> extraneous objects in the game. The game would be 90% red herrings.

As one of your late-stage Beta testers, I think I might be biased in
favor of the game: but it seems to me that this is a problem inherent
to the game set-up. It's a *very* ambitious set-up: but the problem
is that one thing being "like" another is so subjective and broad.
I'm reading 1001 Nights lately, and at this point Shaharazad would
add: Whereof it is said:

You teeth are like stars -- they come out at night.

I think you could afford a few useless but entertaining
shapeshiftings, especially earlier in the game.

To handle comparison attempts that *don't* go anywhere...

You know, it's tough: because you want it to be open, and you want
the player to think laterally... but you want them to think laterally
in the 'correct' way, which is a contradiction.

I wonder if you might give the Meta Trick a mind of its own? Then,
for one thing, you could have errors like: "The Meta Trick doesn't
seem to see the similarity between the hamster and the rabbits."
Also, it could be used to clue the player, by vibrating or glowing, or
seeming different on inspection, when a comparison is possible.

A fun premise; a really ambitious game.


Conrad.

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