Riff's notes on the Comp

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Rifflesby

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Nov 16, 2006, 9:50:22 AM11/16/06
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I played the Comp games with a text-editor open, and made notes as I
was playing -- just whatever happened to come to mind. What follows are
those notes. Some of them get a bit snarky, even mean in places (some
of the games made me a little angry, or at least heavily exasperated),
but I hope the authors won't take it personally. Just because you wrote
a bad game, it doesn't mean you're a bad person. ;)

First, a list of the scores I would have given, had I been eligible to
vote (fractions would round up):
10 - Delightful Wallpaper
10 - Floatpoint
9.5 - The Traveling Swordsman
9 - The Elysium Enigma
8.5 - Madam Spider's Web
8 - Moon-Shaped
8 - Requiem
7.5 - The Tower of the Elephant
7.5 - Legion
6 - Ballymun Adventure
6 - Strange Geometries
6 - Sisyphus
5 - Star City
5 - The Sisters
5 - Hedge
5 - Polendina
4 - MANALIVE - I
4 - The Apocalypse Clock
3 - Labyrinth
3 - Lawn of Love
2 - Enter the Dark
1 - PTGOOD 8*10^23


__: PTGOOD 8*10^23 (adrift/ptgood/PTGOOD.taf)

Implementation is very scanty -- many things not referrable to.

Some small grammatical errors ("A goggles"?) but nothing offensive.

Southeast is a laboratory -- why can't I go southeast (at present)?

Found an exit not referred to in room description (thank goodness for
"You can't go in that direction, but you can go east, west and
down.")

No, I do not know what a flow cytometer looks like. :)

'Natty' is an odd word, because it means the opposite of what it sounds
to me like it ought to mean.

Found the goggles and the labcoat, but I'm stuck. No hints or walkthru
available. I'm bored.

Generally I get the sense of not being in on the in-joke.

Rating: 2. might've been higher if I could finish it, or if I was
familiar with whatever's being made fun of.

Later, a second look: It occurs to me that this game and mine
apparently have something in common: we're both satirizing bad games
(in my case, the Flash 'Escape the Room' genre, and in his case a
series of IF games by a particular author). Is a game that's bad on
purpose better than the same game would be if it was accidentally bad?
Well, this depends on (a) whether or not the audience gets the joke. My
game has an advantage in this regard, as it's a popular genre of web
game, and even if a player isn't familiar with them, I at least
explained in the ABOUT text what I was doing and why. No such help in
PTGOOD -- if you hadn't played the other games, as I hadn't, you're
just SOL. Still, in an attempt to factor in the author's intentions,
I'm going to go play the PTBAD game from last year's comp.

Huh. Well, that was... something. Tell you what, just for grins, I'll
play the previous one too. (by which I mean the previous Comp one,
PTBAD3.)

Okay. It looks to me like "Xorax" attempted to make a surrealistic
game, and unintentionally made a very bad game, and then followed it up
with a /deliberately/ very bad game, perhaps self-mockingly. (Perhaps
not.)

So: (b) is it an accurate satirization? Well, not really. I would
expect a PTBAD parody to be heavily surreal, as the source material is,
but PTGOOD isn't particularly surreal at all. Unless all the surreal
bits are in the later part of the game, which, without a walkthru, I
couldn't get to... really, the lack of a walkthru and poor
implementation were the only similarities I noticed. Is the only satire
the fact that you can (apparently) kill Xorax at the end? That's not
much.

Finally, (c): if something is bad on purpose, it should be /amusingly/
bad. Take for example the movie "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera", which
takes the terrible dialogue of old SF B-movies and increases the
ridiculousness by an order of magnitude, resulting in dialogue that's
god-awful, but hilariously so. It's a bad movie that's fun to watch. Is
this a bad game that's fun to play?

No.

Score remains a 2.

p.s. You know what? I just went and played PTBAD 5. The writing in it
is pretty funny -- I laughed several times. PTGOOD didn't make me
laugh. That means that PTGOOD is actually /worse/ than one of the games
it's making fun of. I'm deducting a point for that.

Revised score: 1. Abject failure.

__: The Traveling Swordsman (hugo/tales_ts/tales_ts.hex)

Ooh, nice graphical title banner. Nice, comprehensive readme. I have a
good feeling about this.

The advertised status line progress and turn count reading doesn't
work. (Using Spatterlight 0.4.8b on Mac OS 10.3.9)

Wish I could get a closer description of the "tyrant's red mark".

Appear to have broken the contraption. I hope I haven't made the game
unwinnable, I hate when that happens. Oh well, soldiering on... Oh
good, apparently I was supposed to do that. :)

I enjoyed the puzzle with the bee-girl. Easy, but satisfying. Also
fighting the spiders.

Why can't anyone talk? Eerie.

Typo: "The rust lock is now open." (on 'x lock')

Ah! Figured out how to communicate with the captain, and he gave me the
hint I needed. *Very* nice. :D

Isn't 'motherly maiden' a contradiction in terms?

"get on plate" isn't recognized. Nor is 'water' as a synonym for the
desert pool. 'get all' fails to recognize that things are on the plate,
even 'get all from plate' ("Nothing to get.")

If I hadn't picked up the rusty lock, would I simply be screwed? Or
earlier, if I hadn't found the fish bones? I'm kind of biased against
games that you can get stuck in that way. Fortunately, it didn't happen
to me.

Catching enough spray from the Tyrant's attack to nearly refill the
flask seems... improbable. I'm being nitpicky.

Finished in almost exactly two hours, with enough time left to go back
to an earlier save and see what would have happened if I hadn't had the
net in place. Considering the quality, I wish it were longer, but then
it would've been loo long for the comp.

I'm a bit 'meh' about the epilogue. Cute, but I dunno. Maybe too cute.
Twee. Cliched, kinda. I'd've been perfectly happy without the
explanation, but then I like a bit of mysteriousness. "It was all a
dream" and related concepts always leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall: very well-written -- descriptive, evocative. Solved it without
looking at the walkthru, which almost never happens as I'm not very
patient when it comes to solving puzzles. This means the puzzles could
probably stand to be a little more difficult, but I'm not complaining.
Implementation was very complete, every noun described, nearly every
action I tried gave a response (even some I didn't expect to).

Score: 9.5 (Because of the epilogue. If I'd been judging, I probably
would have rounded up to 10 for the comp score.)

If it is in fact possible to make the game unwinnable by leaving
certain objects behind, I would deduct at least a point for that, but I
don't feel like going back to test it.

__: The Sisters (adrift/thesisters/TheSisters.taf)

> take off seatbelt
You are not wearing the seatbelt! (Yes, I am.)

Cars should have trunks, even if there's nothing useful in them.

That's a very convienient first-aid kit, sitting on the ground in the
middle of a spooky forest.

It's 'drawer', not 'draw'. Is that a regional thing? I've seen it
before, and I hate it. It's not listed as a variant on dictionary.com
either, so I feel justified in hating it. The desk, I subsequently
discover, has drawers.

I also found it odd that just looking at the bedside table gave me
points, rather than getting the book or whatever.

Is the fact that the wardrobe is locked really surprising enough to
merit an exclamation point? Maybe I'm getting a little too snarky here.

The sturdy chair is not something I can sit on.

The newspaper says the missing girl is 27, but descriptions in the game
make her sound more like 10 or 12. I'll assume that's a plot point till
further notice. (It seems to have been, yeah.)

The "newspaper under the locked door / poke the key out / pull the
paper back to get the key" puzzle is very, *very* old.

The breaking of the bookshelf was unexpected and amusing.

An attic on the second floor? Okay, my grandmother has a second-floor
attic, but it takes up the entire second floor. And she doesn't live in
a Victorian mansion. ...Ah, I forgot -- this is in England, so it's
really what I would call the third floor. Okay, that's reasonable.

"In the centre of the room is a tall pedestal, on which sits an
elaborate, beautiful urn.
The exit is to the east.
Also here is a beautiful urn." Which, btw, I can't look in or open even
though I can hear something rattling inside it. Trying to smash it
indicates a puzzle. That doesn't make much sense. If the lid is glued
shut or something, it should probably say so.

"You open the bedside drawer." "Who keeps a tin of herrings in their
bedside draw?" Please pick one. (If you pick 'draw', you're wrong.)

"You can't put anything on the pedestal!"

Oh... maybe the car doesn't have a trunk because it's got a boot. I'll
go back and check... nope.

Got to the end. Looked at the walkthru because I felt I was missing
something. I was -- I didn't get the music box or the stuff in the
mousehole, or smash the urn (I had tried to do it the way the walkthru
said, but didn't guess the right phrasing.). Is the ending different if
you do those things? Didn't feel like playing again to find out.

Ending sequence was pretty decent. Melodramatic, but then it's that
sort of game. Was somewhat surprised by the plot twist at the very end.


Summary: Implementation is pretty lacking. Writing is serviceable, but
didn't wow me or anything. Wasn't much in the way of puzzles, though it
appears to be because I got the ending early and missed them -- I was
still exploring when the game suddenly and unexpectedly ended, and I
hadn't got around to thinking about solving puzzles yet. Some things,
like the urn and the first-aid kit, just didn't make sense.

In a word, 'meh'. Rating: 5

__: The Apolcalypse Clock (zcode/apocalypse/apocalypse.z5)

Title misspelled in the game listing. Not a good omen. Neither is
'comuppens'. (It's 'comeuppance'.) Heh, I like the inexplicably rusty
drywall, though. (I'm fond of the word 'inexplicably'.)

Oh man, this game is timed, isn't it? Oh well.

I've found a tunnel in my living room, but can't enter it or otherwise
interact with it. ...oh, except by going east. Maybe I've been spoiled
by the first few games, which were Hugo and Adrift, but I really like
their 'exits' command. In a timed game like this, it would have been
particularly nice.

Hooray, I successfully reticulated some splines! That right there is
worth a point. :D Good ol' spline reticulation.

...And now I can't get out of the tunnel. I can see my living room to
the west, but 'w' just takes me back to the same place (and wastes my
precious turns). get out, exit, leave tunnel, enter living room...
nada.

Oh, there's a door in the cave, which isn't in the room description. I
assumed it was my front door that the PC unlocked. ...which since this
door is still locked, might be correct?

This game is pretty broken. Restart and give it another try.

> w
You bump into your front door.
The Apocalypse Clock reads 00:00:00:51.
> open door
You can't see any such thing.
> open front door
You can't see any such thing.

Okay, the door in the cave must have relocked when I left before. This
time, I got in. Moving on...

Killed by gas. I'd try again, but... no.

Summary: This game is broke. The funny, for the most part, falls flat.
I don't like timed games. Score: 3 + 1 (splines) = 4.

__: Delightful Wallpaper (zcode/wallpaper/Wallpaper.zlb)

The first thing I notice about this game is that "Edgar O. Weyrd" is an
anagram of Edward Gorey. I'm excited.

No florid description of the taxidermic nightmares? Awww.

The description of the Turkish carpet made me laugh.

"Manipulation of gross material substance is not your forte." *blink* I
can't open doors? Or pick up items? Interesting...

I've just noticed '11 notes unread' in the status bar. Some of things
listed, I hadn't figured out yet. Whether that's good or bad depends on
your point of view, I guess. It's certainly very helpful to have all
those triggers listed for me.

'play piano' should say something, even if it's just "Gross
manipulation..." again.

Man. I don't have the patience right now to work this puzzle out
properly. I'm ashamed to use the walkthru, though, because it's a
*good* puzzle, and I bet I could solve it if I was in the mood to map
it out and hammer on it, but... I'm not. And I don't want to stop here,
and just rate it on the little bit I've seen...

You know what? Heck with it, I'm stopping, and I'll solve it myself,
properly, later. After all, I'm not eligible to vote, so these ratings
are unofficial anyway.

Summary: Fantastic writing -- perfect tone, and /funny/. Really nifty
puzzle. Great concept. Assuming it's all as good as what I've seen so
far: 10.


__: Moon-Shaped (zcode/moon-shaped/Moon-Shaped.z8)

Initially, I was a bit 'ehhh' about yet another retelling of Little Red
Riding Hood, but the way the other fairy-tale was slowly mixed in made
up for it. Nice pacing.

Had to look at the walkthru to find the graveyard, as there wasn't a
hint for it, and my previous attempt to go north from that location had
failed. If there was an indication that it was now possible to go that
way from that location, I missed it.

Eight endings?! Damn, Gina.

Summary: well-written and fully implemented. Most of the puzzles were
good, a couple could use a little more cluing (I wouldn't have worked
out how to get into the well, for instance, especially given the
reaction when I tried to climb down the rope). Fairy-tales don't wow
me. It's got a good beat, but I can't dance to it -- I give it an 8.


__: Enter the Dark (alan/enterthedark/EnterTheDark.a3c)

'innocents' in the opening quotation should probably be 'innocence'.

Game doesn't know 'x' for 'examine'. Is that an ALAN thing? 'look
(noun)' doesn't work either. Having to type out 'examine' every time is
going to suck.

Gah, it doesn't know 'verbose' either.

Missing apostrophe in 'can't', trying to go south from Cemetery South.

There is an odd crow over-looking you.
> examine crow
You can't do that.

Suggest 'niches' instead of 'cubbies' in the Coffin Room.

In the center of the room is a huge stone coffin.
> examine coffin
You can't do that.

I have arrows, I have a crossbow. How do I load it?

> shoot ghost
You need to specify what you want to shoot the ghost with.
> shoot ghost with crossbow
>

It's spelled 'impossible' (Crypt west wing)

> examine door
In the center of the door is a neatly carved circle that has been
painted yellow. The handle is carved into the stone door. Below the
handle is a hand pointing to the yellow circle.
> shoot circle with crossbow
I don't know the word 'circle'.
> shoot door with crossbow
> examine yellow circle
I don't know the word 'yellow'.
> examine handle
I don't know the word 'handle'.

Enough.

Summary: Almost completely unimplemented. Bugs, spelling and grammar
errors. Pretty much unplayable. Room descriptions are a little spooky,
so I'll give it a 2 instead of a 1.

__: The Tower of the Elephant (zcode/tower/The Tower of the
Elephant.zblorb)

I hope it's a many-fauceted scarlet emerald. :)

Oh, good. I was afraid I was gonna have to share the jewel with that
guy. :)

Implementation is pretty light... more scenery descriptions, please.
The prose is great, and I want more of it.

I took the rope with me, and now I can't figure out how to put it back
to climb down. :( (ah, there we go, it was 'throw hook'.)

Well, that was neat. Good prose, a good conversation with the elephant
guy. I wanted to converse with the thief more, but he wouldn't stand
still. Really only one puzzle, the spider, but it was a decent one.
Could stand to be developed more -- more scenery, and a general
enbiggening. Caught the Conan tone and voice very well, and I'd like to
play a full-length version. I give it a 7. Call it 7.5, rounded to 8 if
I was judging.


__: Hedge (zcode/hedge/Hedge.z5)

Woah... a crossword puzzle? Unexpected! Oh, uh... but I didn't actually
need to solve it, because the answer was the title of the puzzle. Even
if it hadn't been, the number of letters already filled in made it
pretty obvious.

Occasional line-spacing issues. (I had trouble with that too; I7 is a
pain in that regard.)

I laughed at dad's opinion of margarine.

The gazebo isn't visible inside the gazebo. Dealing with the cone is a
bit guess-the-verb-y, particularly with the crack not being
refer-to-able.

Being able to pick up the skeleton was a little surprising. We'll see
if it comes in handy... (it didn't)

'defenders" camp', an I7 anomaly. I believe there's a way to correct
that, but off the top of my head, I can't remember it.

I feel like I ought to be able to get a uniform from the bodies,
especially since the survivor commented on my lack of one. It doesn't
give a good reason why I can't.

Huh. So the survivor, and his grenade, aren't important? I wouldn't
have gotten that without the walkthru. I mean, I might eventually have
thought to wait for a car to come along, but if it doesn't show up when
you're on the road, I wouldn't expect it to show up when I'm not on the
road either... Looking at the bottom of the walkthru, it suggests that
there are other ways to solve things. So I restore and try again...

> punch survivor
(the lone survivor)
> punch survivor in the face
(the lone survivor in the face)
>

Come on, if the ABOUT suggests that course of action, it really should
not be bugged.

Can't find an alternate solution to the tollbooth. Moving on...

I laughed at the moustache.

Can't refer to the statues as 'statues'. Can't refer to the mirrors in
the bathroom. No, wait, I can, but only in the plural.

'sit in chair' doesn't give a response, though apparently I did sit.
Likewise 'get up'.

Red Nine's bull appeared a second time, when Blue 22's gladiator did.
So, I watched 9's drama a second time, concurrently with 22's.

Had to flail a bit to get to the stage, as it wasn't obvious how to get
there from where I was.

Maybe it's just me, but in my mind, a game going for the 'surreal'
genre should be one in which you need to work out what new rules the
world follows and work within them ("For a Change"), or else where
objects and events are symbolic and meaningful to the overall plot
("Losing Your Grip") -- not one in which odd things just happen
randomly for no good reason. At the very least, they should be strange
like a Dali painting, working together to create a specific mood or
tone, rather than being just a bunch of non-sequiturs thrown together.
If there was symbolic significance to the four pillars, the war zone,
etc., I didn't see it. I only got 35 points out of 100, so maybe I just
missed the good bits? I can't judge the game based on stuff I can't
see, though -- if I missed the good stuff, it should've been in the
walkthru.

Summary: Needs some more implementation. For what appears to be a
puzzle-fest, had barely any puzzles to speak of. Plot, such as there
was, was incomprehensible. On the other hand, the prose was good and
often quite witty. I give it a 5. Would've been a 6, but too many bugs.

__: MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - I (zcode/manalive1/manalive1.z5)

Isn't it kind of cheating to break up a long game into two parts and
submit them both, in order to get around the 2-hour limit? If I were
actually judging, I would deliberately play part 2 first, just to be
contrary. Since I'm not, I'll go ahead and play it as the author
presumably means it to be played.

'Based on the book by G. K. Chesterton'? Hope you don't expect me to
have read it... Oh, it's been included as a text file! That's good (if
it's in the public domain, that is). Still not going to read it,
though. That right there would be considerably more than two hours.

My hat! :(

Okay, um, I can't climb or walk through the wall, and can't go anywhere
else. No doors. This is not a good start. ...Ah, I get it. Still,
though, presumably there was a gate somewhere I could've gone through?
(Yeah, yeah, it's what he does in the book...)

This is an odd game.

The writing is good, but how much of it is the author's, and how much
is Chesterton's?

typo: "the does indeed contain ginger." (missing 'jar'.)

The ingame hints are incomplete -- I've photographed Moon and Hunt, but
can't talk to Inglewood any more at the moment, and therefore Gray
won't appear. Moving to the walkthru.

> x diana
Diana lays mulch on a bare bit of garden near the daisies and the
French windows.
(Wait, what? She's in the kitchen!)

How the heck was I supposed to find that mandolin without the walkthru?
Plus, even the walkthru is inaccurate, as the landlady isn't in the
parlor after I've talked to Gould. I sense that this game only works if
you do things in a specific prescribed order. Oh, no, there she is,
sleeping on the couch, undescribed in either the room description or
the *couch* description. I'm beginning to get frustrated with this
game.

Rosamund has her mandolin back. Still can't talk to Arthur.

Bah. Enough.

Summary: An interesting experiment, but not one I enjoyed. Maybe I'd
like it more if I was a fan of the book, or was even able to complete
the game. Score: 4.

__: Requiem (adrift/requiem/requiem.taf)

Ooh, supernatural noir. Here's a genre I can sink my teeth into.

Nitpick: 'washing machine', to me, means clothes. In a kitchen I'd
expect to find a 'dishwasher'.

"The usual folk who tend to hang around bars in the middle of the day.
I should ignore them." Oh, go on, that strikes me as needlessly
railroady. Let me talk to them, even if they don't say anything useful.

On day 4 (I think it was day 4... after talking to the cop in the
hospital) I got a little 'cls1' message before the description of my
office. Also, the room description says "Sophia Montague stands by the
door.", but she arrives with Ben in the following paragraph.

"I am carrying nothing." Previously though, I was wearing my clothes!
I'm naked in a bar!

"I can't kill myself. Only Martin can." She pulls the sleeve back
down. "And is doing." (Awkward phrasing.)

Got an ending I can't really UNDO from (captured by Martin in the motel
manager's office). Checked walkthru to see if there's a significantly
different path I could have taken. There is, so I restart.

"Eventually I got away from me. I don't know how many times it took
- five, six, a dozen." Should be "got away from him".

Continuity error: After searching the streets for Martin and Sophia: "I
have a fraction of a second to wonder how he got inside and then locked
the door behind him when I have the only key" The lock on the apartment
door is broken, I only closed it as I was leaving.

"He looks back to me. "It's all over for, Chris. You were led to
this." Awkward. Suggest either "It's all over for you, Chris." or "It's
all over, Chris."

Martin in the bank: "A life given willingly to someone else can live."
Should be "so someone else can live", I assume.

The good ending is inexplicable, but weirdly cool. On purpose, I
expect? :)

Summary: Well-written. Caught the tone and mood well. Good pacing.
Interesting plot. With few exceptions, though, I didn't do much other
than walk around and talk to people, and I prefer something with more
interaction to a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. It was a good CYOA, though.
Rating: 8


__: Floatpoint (glulx/floatpoint/Floatpoint.zblorb)

That's a lovely title screen.

Political intrigue! Conflicting instructions from people I may not be
able to trust! Love it :)

Oh those bastard dockworkers.

When I'm on the float unit, things I drop end up on the unit instead of
the floor, which doesn't seem optimal.

There is a closed lid giving access to the things that have fallen down
the chute.
> open lid
That's already open.

Recording fruit. How beautifully weird.

Upon entering room 58:
She greets you with a stream of words you don't understand, and bows
deep. (six times)
>-> The scene change machinery is stuck.
She greets you with a stream of words you don't understand, and bows
deep. (six more times)
>-> The scene change machinery is stuck.

I hope people aren't still saying 'asshat' that far in the future.

If I can wedge a pair of bunny slippers in the box, things like the
data disk and pamphlet would fit too. Obviously, they don't make sense
as gifts, but they could be rejected with a message to that effect,
instead of the 'does not fit' error. Or maybe Liam could question my
sanity. :)

Summary: fantastic writing, setting, and concept. Would love to see a
full-size version. 10.

__: Legion (zcode/legion/legion.z5)

Very unusual. I'm intrigued.

I kiss his forehead and return him to Karen." (unexpected quote
marks)

Very interesting. Did most of it with the walkthru, I don't think
I'd've gotten most of the puzzles otherwise. For example, I assumed the
dark paths in the wiring were directions I couldn't go, and wandered
around the lit wiring instead. Fortunately, I looked at the walkthru
before deciding it was a maze and trying to map it... Still, I love the
concept. Let's call it a 7.5, rounded to 8.

__: Star City (zcode/starcity/starcity.z8)

> enter airlock
Which do you mean, the inner airlock door or the airlock?
> airlock
Which do you mean, the inner airlock door or the airlock?

So, let's see... 12,480 possible numbered rooms? I hope I find an
address or something...

Have methodically walked to every location in the grid, twice, and
haven't heard the voice the walkthru refers to.

Three times, this time walking along the boulevards.

Walked around in random directions for a while. Still nothing. I guess
I'm done.

Summary: Looks like it could have been interesting, if I'd been able to
get anywhere. 5.

__: Strange Geometries (zcode/geometries/geometries.z8)

Mmmm, Lovecraftery.

"not a holding tank to study lunatic like some asylums in the large
cities." missing S in lunatics.

"This isn't just the absence of light, it's as those the point
was..." s/those/though

> touch circle
discovered
>
(huh?)

"That's incredible," you say. "And there are things that move
in this... third dimension instead of the normal two?"
"Not only are some of these three dimensional objects moving, there
appears to be intelligence behind it. There are living three
dimensional creatures!"
Wait... huh? *We're* three-dimensional creatures. Did you maybe mean
*fourth* dimensional?

"The simplest way to understand it," he continued, "is to think
of a line. A line is defined by two points. If you add a third point
outside the line then you have a plane. And if you have a fourth point
outside of that plane you have the structure of something I call
'three-plane'."
Uh, by 'three-plane', do you mean 'space' or 'volume'? WTF? Is this
some kind of surprise twist, that the characters in the story are
Flatlanders? If so, some kind of indication that they live in a lesser
geometry than we do is necessary, because when I play a game with a
first-person perspective, I tend to assume that the main character is
three-dimensional like I am. Considering that the characters can do
things like pile newspapers in stacks or put books on bookshelves, they
do in fact appear to be three-dimensional beings. However, the
alternative notion -- that the author actually thinks we're living in a
two-dimensional universe -- completely boggles my mind.

The back wall of the library borders one edge and a passage to the
southeast leads back inside it.
> se
You can't go that way.

Line-spacing errors. (Again, since line-spacing can be a hassle in I7,
it doesn't negatively affect my scoring. Still, though, it's worth
putting in the effort to fix them.)

"In that game you scored 0 out of a possible 0" Might as well just turn
the scoring off altogether, eh?

Summary: Frequent grammatical and spelling errors, of the sort left
behind when you run a spell-checker but don't do any other
proofreading. Other than that, writing was fair, though it wasn't scary
or even creepy, as a Lovecraft-style story ought to be. Author's
apparent confusion about geometry was very discombobualating. 6.

__: Sisyphus (zcode/sisyphus/sisyphus.z8)

Couldn't figure out the answer. Probably it'll turn out to have been
something obvious and I'll be annoyed with myself. That's what usually
happens. No solution given, so if there's anything past that first
puzzle, I didn't get to see it. That makes it kind of hard to judge.
The idea was interesting, the writing was reasonable and I didn't
notice any errors. I guess I'll give it a 6.

__: Lawn of Love (tads2/lawn/Lawn of Love.gam)

A preface, a prologue, *and* an introduction? My cup runneth over.

Re the response given when trying to leave my bedroom without pants:
What the hell?

If the jeans are on the desk, then the description of the room (or at
the very least the description of the desk) should say so. Yeah, they
were mentioned in the opening paragraph, but if I miss it or forget
(which I did), it shouldn't be necessary to scroll back. If they're
*there*, I should be able to *see* them.

> w
> s
> n
> e
Top of Stairs
(If I can't go in a certain direction, how about an error of some kind?
Or indeed anything at all?)

Grandma doesn't show up in the description of the kitchen.

A black scarecrow hangs from it's perch in the middle of the garden.
> x scarecrow
I don't see any scarecrow here.

> x spear
>

> throw apple at button
I throw the spear and it hits the button perfectly. The spear falls to
the ground as a sharp noise opens the gate.

It's apparently impossible to get back to the forest from the spa.

Oh, it's over? All right then.

Summary: Poorly-implemented. Lots of spelling, grammar, and punctuation
errors. Poorly-written in general. Plot, such as it is, is unteresting.
3.

__: Labyrinth (zcode/labyrinth/labyrinth.z8)

(Type "take <n>" to indicate how many counters you'd like to
take):
>> take 3
You must specify how many counters to take.
>> take 3 counters
You must specify how many counters to take.
>> take three
You must specify how many counters to take.
>> take <3>
You must specify how many counters to take.

...and so on. Nothing I tried worked, and the walkthru indicates that I
have to win at Nim to get an item necessary to win the game. So much
for that.

Summary: Looks interesting, but it's broken. 3.

__: Ballymun Adventure (tads2/school/School.gam)

> i
You have a cheese snacks, a Comp OK magazine, an apple, an orange, a
large key, a packet of sweets, and a bottle of coke.
> x key
I don't see any key here.
> x large key
I don't see any large key here.

> unlock strong
Riff, there is absolutely no way that you will be able to open this
door! Mr Byrne is very careful to make sure that the keys(two are
needed)are not available to anyone but himself! I suggest you forget
about even trying to open it and carry on with your search!
(Wow, jeez! Okay, I'm sorry!)

Anyway, I've gotten bored. Not that it's a bad game, I just didn't find
it very interesting. It seems like it would be reasonably effective for
its stated purpose (introducing students to IF), though. However, it
probably won't hold their interest for very long; I'd suggest moving
them to something with a more exciting plotline as soon as they've
grasped the basics.

Writing was fine, though there are some small punctuation issues here
and there.

Score: 6

__: Yasmina's Quest (web/yasmina/index.php)

Withdrawn from the comp.

__: MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - II (zcode/manalive2/manalive2.z5)

No thanks.

__: Polendina (zcode/polendina/polendina.z5)

Needs either one less or one more period at the end of the opening
quote.

Attempting to open the nightstand should be understood as opening the
drawer.

Is the white door only there for the purpose of berating me when I try
to open it?

Missing apostrophe in 'night's' in the description of the rib bone.

> x dad's id
An ID card with your dad's picture on one side. The words "U.S.
Robotics" appear in bold type above his name below. A black strip
runs across the back.
> get strip
[** Programming error: tried to test "has" or "hasnt" of
nothing **]
[** Programming error: tried to test "has" or "hasnt" of
nothing **]
That's hardly portable.

the kite and leash have periods after them in the inventory listing.

> tie key to kite
[** Programming error: key (object number 78) has no property
tied_to_kite to read **]
You're not Benjamin Franklin.

The narrator is a bit rude sometimes. (Even discounting the white
door.) Check that -- the narrator is a real dick sometimes. Maybe
that's a plot point or something, but if it is, it's not a very fun
one.

"You can see a kite with a long bit of thin rope tied to it. here."

Beep boop. No ending, I assume, as per the note? Can't find one,
anyway.

Summary: Implementation was pretty decent, apart from some punctuation
errors and the bugs I've noted. Wasn't very interesting, though, and a
narrator that's rude to me for plot reasons is still rude, and still
causes me to enjoy the game less. 5.

__: The Elysium Enigma (tads3/elysium/Elysium.t3)

Quite good. Well written and fully implemented. Puzzles could maybe
stand a little more cluing -- I probably wouldn't have thought to try
moving the crate, for instance, as there wasn't any indication that it
might be useful to do so. Similarly, the paddle. I guess one could
argue that that's my failure as a player, not trying everything with
everything, but... anyway.

I'll give it a 9 -- it was very good, but it didn't make me go 'wow!'

__: Madam Spider's Web (zcode/madamspider/MadamSpider.z5)

Ah, amnesia. Well, I guess I can't complain -- my game features an
amnesiac too. :)

The fly is eew.

"The pig's convertible atop a short, square pedestal." Missing a
word, 'is', or 'rests', or 'is parked', or something.

"That's a very special little timepiece. I would hold onto it.
(missing end quotes)

A nice little game. Well written and implemented. I'll call it an 8.5.

dgen...@hotmail.com

unread,
Nov 16, 2006, 10:17:30 AM11/16/06
to

Rifflesby wrote:

snip


> __: The Sisters (adrift/thesisters/TheSisters.taf)
>
> > take off seatbelt
> You are not wearing the seatbelt! (Yes, I am.)
>
> Cars should have trunks, even if there's nothing useful in them.
>
>

snip

Spoilers for both "Sister's" and Adam Cadre's "9:05" below

S


P


O


I

L

E


R

When judging "Sister's", I deducted at least four points from the final
score, for that one omission from the world model. It wouldn't really
matter, except that the ending of the story says that it does matter
what's in the trunk. (and for the sake of our British friends, I tried
"open boot" also. That doesn't work either).

Another solution the author could have employed for preventing the
player from opening the trunk too early in the game would be something
like this:
>open trunk
The car is upside down, and the trunk is smashed shut. There is
no way you're getting that open without a wrecking ball and a team of
mechanics."

Compare this game with "9:05" by Adam Cadre, a much shorter game with
essentially the same gimmick. What made Cadre's game so awsome (and
this one a disappointment) was that you COULD open the trunk in Cadre's
game.

Dave

Rifflesby

unread,
Nov 16, 2006, 11:14:18 AM11/16/06
to

Rifflesby wrote:
> __: Sisyphus (zcode/sisyphus/sisyphus.z8)
>
> Couldn't figure out the answer. Probably it'll turn out to have been
> something obvious and I'll be annoyed with myself. That's what usually
> happens. No solution given, so if there's anything past that first
> puzzle, I didn't get to see it. That makes it kind of hard to judge.
> The idea was interesting, the writing was reasonable and I didn't
> notice any errors. I guess I'll give it a 6.

p.s. Having now read other reviews of this game, I'd just like to say
in my defense that I've become accustomed to not having the patience
and/or ability to solve puzzles, and therefore, when confronted with a
puzzle I couldn't solve, I assumed that there was more game there and I
just couldn't get to it. The idea that the puzzle might actually be
unsolvable and this was all there was, totally didn't occur to me.
Next year, I'll know better. :)

Yuki

unread,
Nov 16, 2006, 11:59:24 AM11/16/06
to
Rifflesby wrote:
> This is an odd game.
>
> The writing is good, but how much of it is the author's, and how much
> is Chesterton's?

That's an interesting point. Isn't copying text out of a book that
someone else has written (even an out of copyright book), cheating,
seeing as it isn't the author's own work?

A point worth mentioning to Stephen Granade, perhaps?

> Nitpick: 'washing machine', to me, means clothes. In a kitchen I'd
> expect to find a 'dishwasher'.

Maybe the PC is the dishwasher.

Robin Johnson

unread,
Nov 16, 2006, 12:04:42 PM11/16/06
to
Yuki wrote:
[Manalive]

> That's an interesting point. Isn't copying text out of a book that
> someone else has written (even an out of copyright book), cheating,
> seeing as it isn't the author's own work?

This occurred to me as well, especially since I thought "Hey, this
fellow can *write*" before I realised it was an adaptation. But the
answer to the question is no.

> > Nitpick: 'washing machine', to me, means clothes. In a kitchen I'd
> > expect to find a 'dishwasher'.
>
> Maybe the PC is the dishwasher.

Every house I've ever lived in has had a washing machine (for clothes)
in the kitchen.

Robin Johnson

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Nov 16, 2006, 12:07:01 PM11/16/06
to
Here, Robin Johnson <r...@robinjohnson.f9.co.uk> wrote:
> Yuki wrote:
> [Manalive]
> > That's an interesting point. Isn't copying text out of a book that
> > someone else has written (even an out of copyright book), cheating,
> > seeing as it isn't the author's own work?
>
> This occurred to me as well, especially since I thought "Hey, this
> fellow can *write*" before I realised it was an adaptation. But the
> answer to the question is no.

Agreed. It needs to be openly credited, of course. Both the Conan and
Chesterton entries this year were fine.

--Z

--
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
If the Bush administration hasn't thrown you in military prison
without trial, it's for one reason: they don't feel like it. Not
because of the Fifth Amendment.

James Mitchelhill

unread,
Nov 16, 2006, 1:08:40 PM11/16/06
to
On Thu, 16 Nov 2006 17:07:01 +0000 (UTC), Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> Here, Robin Johnson <r...@robinjohnson.f9.co.uk> wrote:
>> Yuki wrote:
>> [Manalive]
>>> That's an interesting point. Isn't copying text out of a book that
>>> someone else has written (even an out of copyright book), cheating,
>>> seeing as it isn't the author's own work?
>>
>> This occurred to me as well, especially since I thought "Hey, this
>> fellow can *write*" before I realised it was an adaptation. But the
>> answer to the question is no.
>
> Agreed. It needs to be openly credited, of course. Both the Conan and
> Chesterton entries this year were fine.

A note: While Manalive is permissible under the competition rules and in
the USA, all his works are still under copyright in the EU (actually they
were out of copyright for a while in some states, but the duration of
copyright got extended).

Since the zip files of both MANALIVE games include a full copy of the
novel, all the EU mirrors of the IF archive are distributing a work that's
protected by copyright, as well as hosting an infringing derivative work.

I doubt that anyone cares though.

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

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 16, 2006, 1:25:59 PM11/16/06
to
Here, Rifflesby <riff....@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> __: Strange Geometries (zcode/geometries/geometries.z8)

>
> "That's incredible," you say. "And there are things that move
> in this... third dimension instead of the normal two?"
> "Not only are some of these three dimensional objects moving, there
> appears to be intelligence behind it. There are living three
> dimensional creatures!"
> Wait... huh? *We're* three-dimensional creatures. Did you maybe mean
> *fourth* dimensional?

No, he meant three-dimensional, and all of the text supports that.
It's very subtle but I didn't catch any mistakes. Look at the
descriptions of the plant life, or the printing press and stove in the
starting location. They are too carefully described to be unimportant
(which is a nice touch in itself) and the details are just slightly
peculiar, until you realize how two-dimensional biology and
engineering has to work. (A field which owes most of its ideas to A.
K. Dewdney -- read _The Planiverse_. This game does not follow that
book's physics exactly, but it's clearly taken it into consideration.)

The gimmick is cute. I was skeptical at first -- it seemed like, well,
just a gimmick -- but it's maintained consistently throughout the
game. On the other hand, I'm not sure what it contributes. The story
would be identical without it, and the touch of alienness doesn't
contribute to horror the way it would to SF. And while the idea does
impact gameplay at one point, I don't feel that's enough to justify
its presence.

> Summary: Frequent grammatical and spelling errors, of the sort left
> behind when you run a spell-checker but don't do any other
> proofreading. Other than that, writing was fair, though it wasn't scary
> or even creepy, as a Lovecraft-style story ought to be. Author's
> apparent confusion about geometry was very discombobualating. 6.

I liked the story a lot. The big flaw here is the writing, which is
generally awkward. Good imagery, but the style isn't strong enough to
hold it up -- it doesn't have impact where the plot needs it. Also,
the game needs a good going-over for grammar, apostrophes, and
spelling.

Also, it needs more work on reasonable synonyms. "Give X to Y" and
probably "put X on Y" should work for "show X to Y". Filling the ring
was also unnecessarily guess-the-verb-y.

--Z

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

Bush's biggest lie is his claim that it's okay to disagree with him. As soon as
you *actually* disagree with him, he sadly explains that you're undermining
America, that you're giving comfort to the enemy. That you need to be silent.

Rifflesby

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Nov 16, 2006, 8:56:28 PM11/16/06
to

Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> Here, Rifflesby <riff....@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Wait... huh? *We're* three-dimensional creatures. Did you maybe mean
> > *fourth* dimensional?
>
> No, he meant three-dimensional, and all of the text supports that.
> It's very subtle but I didn't catch any mistakes. Look at the
> descriptions of the plant life, or the printing press and stove in the
> starting location. They are too carefully described to be unimportant
> (which is a nice touch in itself) and the details are just slightly
> peculiar, until you realize how two-dimensional biology and
> engineering has to work. (A field which owes most of its ideas to A.
> K. Dewdney -- read _The Planiverse_. This game does not follow that
> book's physics exactly, but it's clearly taken it into consideration.)

How can a newspaper drying rack possibly work in two dimensions?

> The gimmick is cute. I was skeptical at first -- it seemed like, well,
> just a gimmick -- but it's maintained consistently throughout the
> game. On the other hand, I'm not sure what it contributes. The story
> would be identical without it, and the touch of alienness doesn't
> contribute to horror the way it would to SF. And while the idea does
> impact gameplay at one point, I don't feel that's enough to justify
> its presence.

Indeed. All it did was confuse the hell out of me, which pretty much
destroyed any sort of mood that might otherwise have been set.

--Riff

JDC

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Nov 16, 2006, 9:22:26 PM11/16/06
to

Rifflesby wrote:

> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> > The gimmick is cute. I was skeptical at first -- it seemed like, well,
> > just a gimmick -- but it's maintained consistently throughout the
> > game. On the other hand, I'm not sure what it contributes. The story
> > would be identical without it, and the touch of alienness doesn't
> > contribute to horror the way it would to SF. And while the idea does
> > impact gameplay at one point, I don't feel that's enough to justify
> > its presence.
>
> Indeed. All it did was confuse the hell out of me, which pretty much
> destroyed any sort of mood that might otherwise have been set.

I thought it was done rather well. I was perhaps less impressed than
others might have been, having received at least two or three copies of
_Flatland_ in high school. At the very beginning I was confused at the
beginning that "look under desk" didn't work, giving the response: I
don't understand the word "under" (which struck me as odd because
Inform 7 does understand that...). I was then satisfied to find that
there was a good explanation for this.

-JDC

Stephen Granade

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Nov 16, 2006, 11:19:03 PM11/16/06
to
"Yuki" <nonoddies_...@yahoo.co.uk> writes:

> Rifflesby wrote:
> > This is an odd game.
> >
> > The writing is good, but how much of it is the author's, and how much
> > is Chesterton's?
>
> That's an interesting point. Isn't copying text out of a book that
> someone else has written (even an out of copyright book), cheating,
> seeing as it isn't the author's own work?

As long as it's not a work currently under copyright and the author
credits the text to the original work, I'm fine with it being in the
competition. Individual judges are then welcome to score it based on
how they feel about such an approach.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade
stephen...@granades.com

James Mitchelhill

unread,
Nov 17, 2006, 1:50:14 AM11/17/06
to

It's under copyright in the UK and the rest of Europe.

d...@pobox.com

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Nov 17, 2006, 9:17:09 AM11/17/06
to

On Nov 16, 2:50 pm, "Rifflesby" <riff.con...@gmail.com> wrote:
> __: Sisyphus (zcode/sisyphus/sisyphus.z8)
>
> Couldn't figure out the answer. Probably it'll turn out to have been
> something obvious and I'll be annoyed with myself. That's what usually
> happens. No solution given, so if there's anything past that first
> puzzle, I didn't get to see it. That makes it kind of hard to judge.
> The idea was interesting, the writing was reasonable and I didn't
> notice any errors. I guess I'll give it a 6.

I suspect that one of the "jokes" behind Sisyphus was to see how highly
people would score it merely on the basis on what they saw (an
impossible "puzzle") and what they assumed (a possible puzzle at the
beginning of a larger work implemented to the same standard). That
people think it reasonable to score it 6 is some sort of comment on the
communities attitude towards IF I am sure.

drj

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