Competition thoughts

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Suzanne Skinner

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Dec 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/3/96
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Greets, all...

Since numerous people are posting their opinions on the competition
entries, I thought I'd pop briefly out of the shadows to give my
own. I've only given detailed descriptions of my favorites; I don't
really have the time or motivation to further analyze the rest.
Since this has actually been taken from my web pages, it is targeted
towards those who may or may not have played the games yet themselves,
so the flavor is a little different from other such reviews posted here.

I've been posting some peoples' comments off my IF pages, edited slightly
for spelling and such; if this bothers anyone just let me know and
I'll take yours down.

The competition this year exceeded my wildest expectations, and proved
that this medium isn't quite as dead as multimedia junkies would have
us believe. Heck, it's *obviously* something I'm feeling enthused
about--this is the first time I've posted anything substantial to
Usenet in, oh...quite a while now.

Susan, ducking back into comfortable anonymity

******

[*] Delusions, by (?)
(note: this was listed in the results posting as being authored by
C.E. Forman, who commented on the game himself. Is this a mistake?)

This is a game about cyberspace on the surface, about illusion and
self-discovery on a deeper level. Despite the bugginess of the
competition release, I ended up giving this entry the highest possible
rating, as its depth, atmosphere, and originality were enough to
overwhelm my normal pickiness about cosmetic details. There are also a
few wonderfully done puzzles, but it was the story itself that absorbed
me the most. The self discovery theme actually inspired a few ideas for
the IF game(s) I might write one day, when I have more time on my
hands.

[*] Tapestry, by Dan Ravipinto
This one is another instance in which theme and depth were more
important to the rating than puzzle cleverness....infact, the few
actually puzzles in this game were easy ones (though well-implemented).
My tastes and focus have changed greatly since my earlier days of text
adventuring (for instance, since the time during which I played
Unnkulian 1&2, which would probably not make it to my favorites list if
I played them now for the first time), so that where I once was fully
impressed by clever obstacles and disappointed when none appeared, I
now place first priority on how much lasting significance a game has
for me--how much it makes me THINK, in a way deeper than trying to
figure out how to get past the troll at the bridge. Close second
priorities go to things like atmosphere, theme, writing quality, and
characterization, with the problem solving aspects of the gaming coming
somewhere after all that. In short, I find myself judging IF more and
more similarly to how I would judge a traditional novel.

By these standards, Tapestry shone...of all the games in the
competition, I got probably the most thought out of this one, and it
also had some of the most evocative writing. The game takes place after
your death, as you are given the option of going back and changing some
of the decisions that may have hurt others and resulted in your own
unhappiness. There are three mutually exclusive paths through the game,
depending on choices made early on....not just alternative puzzle
solutions, but actual plot branches, which are rather rare in IF. The
only reason I didn't rate this game right next to Delusions is that I
feel it fails in some ways to be truly interactive, or as interactive
as it might have been, at least. Once the player has made the initial
decision that branches the plot, there is a feeling of being led by the
hand towards the endgame, with little opportunity to resist the flow of
events. Arguably, this goes along with the game's ultimate message, but
at times I would have preferred that the game world be less of a moving
tapestry and more of a reality.

[*] Fear, by Chuan-Tze Teo
Each game on this list had one area in which it shone the most....for
this one, it was atmosphere. It lived up to its name. It's not often a
game, especially a pure-text one, actually manages to quicken my pulse
and panic me a bit, but towards the end, this one *did*. As the game
begins, you have amnesia, combined with a nasty set of phobias, and
must overcome some of the latter before you can recover your memory.
All fine and good......until your time starts running out. As in
Delusions, there were a few really neat puzzles in here too, though two
of them, I think, bordered on overly difficult and could have been
clued a little better.

[*] The Meteor, the Stone, and a Long Glass of Sherbet, by Angela M. Horns
Of all my favorites of the competition, this is the only one that
approaches the "traditional" text adventure--it was, infact, in some
aspects enough of a take-off on the old Infocom spellcasting/Zork games
that I had to consider whether I should give it as high a rating as my
first impulse told me to. I ended up rating it right next to Tapestry
and Fear, for even though there was nothing in here that particularly
inspired or moved me, the game world was one of the most detailed,
thought out, and seamless I encountered, there were alot of twists on
the old GUE (Great Underground Empire) theme, the plot flow was
perfectly executed, the puzzles gave my brain a workout, and well.....
I just had rather alot of fun playing it.

Now that the results of the competition have come out, I've learned
that the "Angela M. Horns" who wrote this game is, infact, Graham
Nelson (the old anagram trick). Figures!

[*] Small World, by Andrew D. Pontious
I have a big fuzzy soft spot in my heart for whimsy, which helps
account for this game's presence in the list. It's the most fun I've
had with IF for a LONG time (which, considering I normally have lots of
fun with it, says alot). As you travel across a miniature world trying
to return its spin, you'll come up against miniature nuclear missiles
(they feel like tiny pinpricks hitting your ankles), miniature green
men reminiscent of Lilliputians, a miniature Adam and Eve, a miniature
heaven with teensy little pearly gates, and even a miniature Devil, who
trails along behind you making comments and making a general nuisance
of himself (and who is a close second to the Zork Zero Jester as my
all-time favorite NPC). The author packed huge amounts of detail into
this little world.

[*] Aayela, by Magnus Olsson
This game was on the short and sweet side, and received high marks
mainly for its innovation (almost all of if takes place in complete
darkness), its writing quality (downright poetic), and for the
emotional reactions it managed to elicit from me in several places. It
starts, like Wearing the Claw, on a traditional-bordering-on-hackneyed
quest premise, but don't be fooled--like Wearing the Claw, it diverges
from the stereotype.

Honorable Mentions go to Wearing the Claw (containing the best-executed plot
twist I've seen in a while, and some good writing towards the latter half),
Kissing the Buddha's Feet (a college-life-based adventure in which the
protagonist reminds me embarrassingly of myself!) and The Maiden of the
Moonlight (kind of hackneyed, but very well done for its genre).

Oh....one more really deserves mention from a die-hard hacker like me, even
though I didn't rate it up in the 7-10 range with those above (I may well
have done so if the author had gone just a little further to liven it up and
provide comic relief). "Lists and Lists" by Andrew Plotkin is an interactive
tutorial for the Scheme language (a cleaned-up version of Lisp, or "Lotsa
Stupid Parentheses", as it has been known by some...), written in Inform. I
enjoyed it considerably, as it refreshed my memory on alot of the details of
Lisp that I only half-learned the first time around in my AI course, and
Lisp is, all things considered, a rather neat language.

My Score List...

Rating Title
------ ---------
10 Delusions
9 Tapestry
9 The Meteor, The Stone, and a Long Glass of Sherbet
9 Fear
8 Aayela
8 Small World
7 Kissing the Buddha's Feet
7 Wearing the Claw
7 Maiden of the Moonlight
6 Lists and Lists
6 Alien Abduction?
6 Reverberations
5 Ralph
5 Piece of Mind
5 Beyond the Picket Fence
5 The Curse of Eldor
4 In The End
4 Phlegm
4 Of Forms Unknown
4 Stargazer
3 Don't Be Late
3 Sir Ramic Hobbs and the Oriental Wok
3 Rippled Flesh
3 Punkirita Quest One: Liquid
2 The House of the Stalker
1 My First Stupid Game

--
susk...@grail.csuohio.edu Homepage: http://grail.csuohio.edu/~suskinne/
-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
C:\> del *.*
I can't let you do that, Dave.
C:\>
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Francis Irving

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Dec 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/9/96
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On 3 Dec 1996 14:26:12 -0500, ski...@news.ohioonline.net (Suzanne
Skinner) wrote:

> 4 Phlegm

Am I the only person who thought that Phlegm was excellent? Along
with Small World, it was the best game in the competition.

The setting had a beautiful pastel cartoony feel, the puzzles were
just unusual enough, and yet still of the right difficulty. It was
good fun, amusingly written, and well tuned and tested.

Does anyone agree with me?

Francis.

Stephen Granade

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Dec 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/9/96
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On Mon, 9 Dec 1996, Francis Irving wrote:
> On 3 Dec 1996 14:26:12 -0500, ski...@news.ohioonline.net (Suzanne
> Skinner) wrote:
> Am I the only person who thought that Phlegm was excellent? Along
> with Small World, it was the best game in the competition.

I wouldn't go that far, but I thoroughly enjoyed Phlegm.

> The setting had a beautiful pastel cartoony feel, the puzzles were
> just unusual enough, and yet still of the right difficulty. It was
> good fun, amusingly written, and well tuned and tested.

I'll agree with all but your assessment of the puzzles. I had real trouble
solving any of them (except the flamethrower puzzle) w/o the use of hints.

Despite this, though, the game clicked for me. I found the whole game to
be amazingly enjoyable. The point where Leo whispered "Rosebud" is one
of the few points I've ever laughed out loud at a piece of IF.

> Does anyone agree with me?

Sort of. :)

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | "It takes character to withstand the
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | rigors of indolence."
Duke University, Physics Dept | -- from _The Madness of King George_


Dave Gatewood

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Dec 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/9/96
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In article <32ac258b...@news.demon.co.uk> francis...@vegauk.co.uk (Francis Irving) writes:
>On 3 Dec 1996 14:26:12 -0500, ski...@news.ohioonline.net (Suzanne
>Skinner) wrote:
>
>> 4 Phlegm

>
>Am I the only person who thought that Phlegm was excellent? Along
>with Small World, it was the best game in the competition.
>
>The setting had a beautiful pastel cartoony feel, the puzzles were
>just unusual enough, and yet still of the right difficulty. It was
>good fun, amusingly written, and well tuned and tested.
>
>Does anyone agree with me?
>
>Francis.

I too thought Phlegm was one of the more amusing games - it had a
great character in Leo the Lemming, one of the contest's best puzzles
in the moose head, and a fun "anything goes" atmosphere. It's also
the only game in the contest that recognizes the syntax
"gaze longingly at [object]", which is great attention to detail. (On
the other hand, it did have at least one pretty bad bug that allowed
you to get the grail with only one crayon.)

Then again, I also thought that "Ralph" and "In The End" were among
the better games, while I wasn't attracted to "Small World" at all (I
found it to be tedious, and the puzzles non-intuitive. What's more,
I banished the devil almost immediately, and from what I've read, I
apparently missed out on a great NPC by doing so.)

So no one entirely agrees with me either - which is of course to be
expected. Yet on the whole, I was pleased that the contest results
generally did agree with my votes - very few games were far from
where I had ranked them. This "big ol' average" system seemed to
work quite well.

Dave


Suzanne Skinner

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Dec 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/9/96
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Stephen Granade (sgra...@phy.duke.edu) wrote:
: On Mon, 9 Dec 1996, Francis Irving wrote:
: > On 3 Dec 1996 14:26:12 -0500, ski...@news.ohioonline.net (Suzanne
: > Skinner) wrote:
: > Am I the only person who thought that Phlegm was excellent? Along

: > with Small World, it was the best game in the competition.

*blink* I did? :) Err...not to nitpick, but be sure to get those
attributions right. Someone else wrote this in response to me. Phlegm
did have a sort of lunatic appeal about it in places, but it
certainly didn't impress me as being one of the best.

Susan


George Caswell

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Dec 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/9/96
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On 9 Dec 1996, Dave Gatewood wrote:

> In article <32ac258b...@news.demon.co.uk> francis...@vegauk.co.uk (Francis Irving) writes:

> >On 3 Dec 1996 14:26:12 -0500, ski...@news.ohioonline.net (Suzanne
> >Skinner) wrote:
> >

> >> 4 Phlegm


> >
> >Am I the only person who thought that Phlegm was excellent? Along
> >with Small World, it was the best game in the competition.
> >

I couldn't win Phlegm, but I loved it. I didn't get to all the games in
the competition, though, so I didn't vote.

> I too thought Phlegm was one of the more amusing games - it had a
> great character in Leo the Lemming, one of the contest's best puzzles

Leo kicks ass.

> in the moose head, and a fun "anything goes" atmosphere. It's also
> the only game in the contest that recognizes the syntax
> "gaze longingly at [object]", which is great attention to detail. (On
> the other hand, it did have at least one pretty bad bug that allowed
> you to get the grail with only one crayon.)
>

It also tended to do absolutely nothing any time you fired the flamethrower
at something other than that which it was intended for...
________________________________________________
______________ _/> ____ | George Caswell, WPI CS 1999. Member L+L and |
<___ _________// _/<_ / | SOMA. Sometimes artist, writer, builder. Admin |
// <> ___ < > / _/ | of ADAMANT, a Linux box for the creative and |
// /> / / _/ / / <____ | productive members of the computer world. For |
// </ <<</ < _/ <______/ |_more info see http://www.wpi.edu/~timbuktu.____|
</ </


BPD

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Dec 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/10/96
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Stephen Granade <sgra...@phy.duke.edu> wrote:

>On Mon, 9 Dec 1996, Francis Irving wrote:

>> On 3 Dec 1996 14:26:12 -0500, ski...@news.ohioonline.net (Suzanne
>> Skinner) wrote:
>> Am I the only person who thought that Phlegm was excellent? Along
>> with Small World, it was the best game in the competition.

>Despite this, though, the game clicked for me. I found the whole game to

>be amazingly enjoyable. The point where Leo whispered "Rosebud" is one
>of the few points I've ever laughed out loud at a piece of IF.

The rest of the game I could take or leave, but Leo really broke me
up! A most agreeable sort of lemming. <g>

BPD


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