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Palmer Davis

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Oct 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/6/95
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>What's wrong? I thought everyone was all hot to discuss the competition
>entries, and now the contest is over, and the winners announced, and pfft!

My contribution to the discussion will appear in SPAG #7; until then,
for the benefit of anyone interested, here are thumbnail reviews of
each:


INFORM DIVISION
------ --------

1. _A_Change_in_the_Weather_ (Andrew Plotkin): An outstanding tutorial
in how to establish, control, and change pace and mood. Atmosphere,
writing, characters best in competition. A bit too slow at the beginning,
but that eventually winds up contrasting nicely with the frantic pace
after sundown.

2. _Detective_ a la MST3K (C.E. Forman): Wonderfully funny comedic writing,
but devoid of technical content, and not an original work of IF. An
interesting new idea -- the interactive work of criticism. Scored as
well as it did for that reason, and because the division was fairly weak.

3. _The_Mind_Electric_ (Jason Dyer): Surreal, avant-garde cyberpunk plot
in setting so stylized that it is at times nearly impossible to figure
out what is going on! Fortunately, the game features the competition's
most complete help system to get you through. The ending is satisfying,
with a neat twist, but isn't really reflected in the rest of the game.

4T. _All_Quiet_on_the_Library_Front_ (Michael Phillips): Solidly put
together, but never manages to get past its rather pedestrian premise.
I'm hard pressed to choose between this entry and...

4T. _Tube_Trouble_ (Richard Tucker): Same lack of a compelling hook
as _Library_, but with better writing and a harder puzzle. However,
the rather limited vocabulary and range of action destroys the illusion
of immersion and can bring the game down to a matter of "guess the
verb". Much unexploited potential in the characters, who come across
as rather cardboard. May have been an attempt at a "sudden" concept
a la _The_One_, but just misses the mark. Memo to author: include
a walkthrough with your entry next time if you don't implement a help
system.

6. _The_Magic_Toyshop_ (Gareth Rees): Takes minimalism an order of
magnitude too far. Violates the two hour limit. Can degenerate
into "guess the verb" or "what am I thinking?" Yuck!


TADS DIVISION
---- --------

1. _Uncle_Zebulon's_Will_ (Magnus Olsson): _Curses_ in miniature.
Establishes a sense of wonder lacking in most other entries. Just
play this one; you'll love it.

2. _Toonesia_ (C.J.T. Spaulding): Also a great deal of fun. Very
well thought out puzzles that beautifully capture cartoon logic (even
if a bit simple). The writing could use a bit more polish, but still
manages to capture the spirit of Saturday morning. The NPC's don't,
however -- if you encounter Daffy Duck or the Tasmanian Devil in a
"real" cartoon, he'll be in your face until Porky Pig shows up for the
fadeout, rather than just standing around like they do here.

3. _The_One_That_Got_Away_ (author unknown): It's a shame that the
author didn't have another week or two to spend working on this one;
with just a bit more work, it could easily have passed _Toonesia_.
I'm glad that someone entered with a concept like this one, which
is more like the "sudden" IF concept discussed in one of the SPAG
back issues: quickly set a scene, get one experience (the fishing
scene) just right, then cut to the ending. The extra touches are
also nice, but had the author spent more time on the fishing scene
(not catching the fish absolutely immediately upon using the correct
weight, for example) and on locking down the writing a bit, this
could have been a legitimate contender. As it is, this deserves an
honorable mention for doing more with less; _Weather_ and _Zebulon_
were among the largest entries in their divisions, and I was beginning
to worry that finishing places were going to be a function of file
size. Hopefully, we'll see more entries of this type next year.

4. _A_Night_at_the_Museum_Forever_ (Chris Angelini): Time travel
puzzles are a neat idea, and this one is done up adequately, but the
setting both doesn't make sense as a museum and isn't written strongly
enough to establish a sense of immersion.

5. _Undo_ (author unknown): To be honest, I didn't realize that this
was supposed to be a competition entry, so I deleted it after my initial
look, and never played it! I installed TADS into my contest directory,
which included several pieces of example code along with the runtime,
and thought that _Undo_ was one of these, showing how to implement "undo"
in an otherwise bare environment. Upon further review, I don't see
anything here that would have made me place this in front of the other
four entries in the division anyway.

6. _Undertow_ (author unknown): Disqualified for not entering on time.
(Consider what _The_One_, for example, might have been like had it
been entered a week late like _Undertow_, and it's easy to see that
allowing late entries at all is completely unfair to those authors who
do follow the rules.)


BOTTOM LINE
------ ----

Overall:

1. _Zebulon_
2. _Weather_
3. _Toonesia_
Honorable Mention: _The_One_, _Detective_

-- PTD --
--
---
Palmer T. Davis <pal...@ansoft.com>
Ansoft Corporation, Four Station Square, Suite 660, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
http://www.ansoft.com/palmer/home.html

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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Oct 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM10/6/95
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pal...@ansoft.com (Palmer Davis) writes:

>2. _Toonesia_ (C.J.T. Spaulding): Also a great deal of fun. Very
>well thought out puzzles that beautifully capture cartoon logic (even
>if a bit simple). The writing could use a bit more polish, but still
>manages to capture the spirit of Saturday morning. The NPC's don't,
>however -- if you encounter Daffy Duck or the Tasmanian Devil in a
>"real" cartoon, he'll be in your face until Porky Pig shows up for the
>fadeout, rather than just standing around like they do here.

This is an excellent point. I think it applies more to Dizzy than to Taz
(note that I'm saying Dizzy, and not Daffy), since Taz is, after all, in
acage for much of Toonesia. But there's no excuse for my not making Dizzy
more active; at the very least, he ought to occasionally go into the
mine, or move his wheelbarrow to his stash.

I think that NPCs are my weak point in general. Any suggestions on what
else I could have done to spice them up in this game? One thing that I
learned from Christminster is that NPCs are much more effective when
they can move around and interact with a wide variety of environments. In
a mini-game, it's hard to provide them with many different environments
to intereact with. Any suggestions on getting around this?

-Jacob Weinstein

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