This post contains reviews for the following games:
ALL THINGS DEVOURS
I MUST PLAY
A LIGHT'S TALE
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SUPER HERO
ALL THINGS DEVOURS by Toby Ord as "half sick of shadows"
I must admit, I got a little nervous when I saw this game's title, which
appears at first blush to be grammatically incorrect. As it turns out,
the title isn't in error -- it's excerpted from one of the riddle-poems
in The Hobbit, the one that begins "This thing all things devours." I
still think that it's a weak title -- the entire line would be much
better -- but I was relieved to know I was in the hands of a competent
writer. In fact, my fears about the entire game were groundless; it's
very good. It has a plot, but by the author's own admission, ATS is much
more game than story, an intricate puzzle-box, with a couple of puzzles
I found very satisfying indeed. The setup is complex, requiring the same
sort of lateral thinking as that featured in Sorcerer's famous
time-travel puzzle. Due to its convoluted nature, the game had to be
quite a chore to implement, and while its coding isn't perfect, I was
impressed with how thoroughly and skillfully it covered a very wide
range of permutations. Moreover, ATD does a wonderful job of automating
mundane actions, the very thing I was moaning about in my review of The
Great Xavio. I can't tell you how pleased I was to see something like
(first opening the door to the Deutsch lab)
(first unlocking the door to the Deutsch lab)
The Deutsch Laboratory
Every first-level object interaction I tried was handled gracefully, and
the automation even did one or two cool tricks to keep track of player
knowledge. Anyway, I'm about to raise a couple of points criticizing
ATD, so I want to make it clear that I really did like the game. I liked
it a lot.
That being said, there are a couple of flaws I'd like to discuss. The
first is that I don't think this game plays fair with the concept of the
accretive PC. If you don't recognize the term, that's because I recently
made it up, while reviewing Adam Cadre's Lock & Key for IF-Review.
(http://www.ministryofpeace.com/if-review/reviews/20030502.html) In that
review, I made the case that games like Lock & Key and Varicella have a
unique sort of PC, one whose knowledge and/or cunning must by acquired
by the player herself in order to successfully complete the game. Primo
Varicella, for instance, has a devious plan to take over the regency. At
the beginning of any session with Varicella, the PC knows what this plan
is, but the player may or may not. It's only through experiencing
multiple iterations of the game, and thereby learning all the things
that Primo already knows, that the player can hope to embody Primo
successfully enough to win the game. I call this sort of PC "accretive"
because the player's accreting knowledge allows the PC to become more
and more himself on each playthrough, and once the player's ingenuity
matches that of the PC, she can successfully complete a game. When that
happens, it's as if the real story is finally revealed, and all those
other failed attempts exist only in shadowy parallel universes. In my
opinion, this sort of game is a brilliant refutation of the idea that IF
games should be winnable without experience of "past lives." After all,
if the PC's knowledge must match the player's at the outset of the game,
the PC must know very little, which is why we see so many amnesiac PCs
in IF. An accretive PC allows the player to catch up with the PC through
the device of past lives, and as long as the PC is established as
already having all the knowledge that the player is able to gain, it all
works swimmingly. At first, ATD appears to be exactly this sort of game.
It certainly requires quite a few iterations to win (or even to
understand, really), and the PC is shown to have much more specific
knowledge of the surrounding area and of her specific task than a player
will on the first time through. However, partway through, something
happens that the game clearly specifies as a surprise to the PC,
something not included in her original plan. Consequently, she has to
think on her feet in order to recover and still succeed at her goal. The
only problem is, she can't reasonably do that without knowledge of past
lives. A successful traversal of ATD requires not only knowledge of the
circumstances and the setting, but advance knowledge of something that
the game itself definitively states that the PC does not know in
advance. Here, I cry foul. I'm not complaining that the game is unfair
-- it does an admirable job of warning players upfront that it's going
to be unfair, and I'm fine with that. However, it's constructed in such
a way that its story cannot make sense. The puzzles still work, but the
unbelievability of the PC's actions causes the story essentially to
There's another problem too, one that causes the logic of the central
puzzle to fall apart. Unfortunately, it's terribly difficult to discuss
without revealing spoilers. About the best I can muster at the moment is
that if I follow the solution as laid out in the walkthrough, it seems
to me that one of the central problems presented by the game remains
unsolved, though the game does not acknowledge that this is the case.
Because I was crafting my puzzle solutions to avoid this unsolved state
(and having a hell of a time solving the puzzle as a result), I was
rather flummoxed when I finally broke down and looked at the
walkthrough. It was unsatisfying to end the game feeling as if it hadn't
played by its own rules. Now, as I said initially, the environment in
this game is really quite complex, and it's possible (likely, even) that
my objections stem from a careless or incomplete understanding of how
the game is actually working. If that's the case, I look forward to
withdrawing my complaints once somebody explains how I'm being dense.
Even if not, the game is eminently worth playing just for its clever
premise and a couple of excellent puzzles. It may play a bit fast and
loose with its concept, and its ending may be a bit anticlimactic, but I
highly recommend it nonetheless.
I MUST PLAY by Geoff Fortytwo
Once upon a time, that time being 1997, C.E. Forman wrote a comp game
called "Sylenius Mysterium." It was set at night, in a near-deserted
mall, with an arcade and a game store. The teenage PC starts out with
$20 in his inventory, and while a storm rages outside, he finds his way
to a particular arcade game. When he plays it, he suddenly finds himself
inside the game! Now, seven years later, we've got I Must Play. This
game is set at night, in a near-deserted arcade. The 8-year-old PC
starts out with $20 in his inventory, and while a storm rages outside,
he finds his way to a room full of arcade games. When he plays them, he
suddenly finds himself inside the games! Happily, the project of I Must
Play is a bit less literal-minded than that of Sylenius Mysterium. While
the latter was built around a real-time prose implementation of a
side-scrolling arcade game, requiring the player to type commands like
JUMP as obstacles approached, IMP instead creates prose versions of
classic arcade games, in a similar manner to some of the games in the IF
Arcade project from 2001. Still, the parallels are startling. Given that
one of the things Forman blew his top about before leaving the IF
community was Babel's alleged resemblance to his own game Delusions, I
can only imagine how he'd have reacted to IMP.
In any case, the prose arcade environments in IMP serve as simple
puzzles, leading to a slightly more complicated endgame, one which is
also an arcade re-creation but which uses a few connected simple puzzles
rather than just one. These are well-done for what they are, and while I
wasn't impressed with the quality of the writing, neither was I annoyed.
I had a fine time with the game until I hit a particular puzzle, one
which placed the PC in a political environment. To avoid the spoiler,
I'll just say that in order to win this puzzle, I had to do something
that is anathema to my beliefs. I did it, but it turned me off
immensely, and I cruised through the rest of the game without
engagement. Yes, I know it's just a game. Yes, I'm aware that it doesn't
take itself too seriously, and may not have been trying to advance a
political agenda. Yes, I'm sure that I'm reacting more strongly than I
would have if my blood pressure hadn't just been raised by the
presidential debates. Still, what's true for me is that I felt herded by
the game into a reprehensible action. This has happened in good IF
before -- a classic example is in "Trinity" -- but in those instances,
the action is meant to be symbolic, to lend power to the themes of the
story. In IMP, the action seems to be more or less an arbitrary
puzzle-piece, serving no thematic or emotional purpose. It felt starkly
out of place in what otherwise seemed to be a fairly lighthearted
endeavor, rather like getting a relaxing massage and then having the
masseuse suddenly wrench your little finger backwards for no apparent
Part of what felt offensive to me about the scene was its terribly
simplistic nature. I don't mind art that takes positions opposite to my
own nearly so much when those positions seem to be thoughtful and
well-argued, or at the very least entertaining and/or funny. What I got
in IMP was a gross oversimplification, a caricature really, of both the
issue in question and of politics in general, one that lacked any
redeeming humor, flair, or cleverness. Now, I will say that I remembered
partway through the puzzle that the game's perspective character is an
8-year-old, and when I kept that in mind, the simplistic presentation
bothered me a whole lot less. However, there are some parts of that
puzzle that feel dumbed-down even for a third-grader, and other parts
that felt too politically opinionated for a child. The whole thing left
a bitter taste in my mouth. In short, the game had me, and then -- via a
short series of aggravating scenes and statements -- it lost me. I'm
sure that won't be true for everybody. People who share the beliefs
portrayed in that scene will have a much easier time navigating it
(though I imagine that even some of them will still be less than pleased
with its primitive formulations), and some people who share my beliefs
will be dispassionate enough about them that the scene won't bother
them. It's not that the game is super-fantastic aside from that, but
until it rubbed me the wrong way, it was a pleasant enough diversion.
For me, though, even though I finished IMP, I didn't end up getting a
lot of pleasure out of it.
KURUSU CITY by Kevin Venzke
When I noticed the Japanese (or at least Japanese-sounding) names in
Kurusu City, I wondered if this was maybe one of those IF games that's
heavily influenced by anime and manga, like The PK Girl from a couple of
years ago. One look at the PC's identification card removed all doubt:
Huge eyes, rather angular features, and messy hair stare at you
blankly from a faded image. Text to the left and below reads:
49 BUECHE APTS
Age: 15 Sex: F Hair: BRN Height: 5'0"
A five-foot-tall, fifteen-year-old girl with huge eyes and angular
features? That's anime, alright. The only piece missing was for her hair
to be purple or blue or some color like that, but a purple-haired
character comes along later to supply that element. Also like The PK
Girl, there's a distinctly odd quality to the PC's point of view, but
where in The PK Girl that element was sexism, here it's just sex.
There's this weird, lascivious edge to much of the text, particularly in
descriptions of the NPCs. Examine an NPC and you're likely to hear that
she (they're pretty much all female) is "curvy" or is "wearing a tight
pair of blue jeans." At one point while interacting with an NPC, the PC
feels "rattled and uncomfortable" due to the NPC's "unbridled
femininity." So the PC is an adolescent and a budding lesbian, who often
thinks of others in terms of their sexuality. Fair enough, but the game
doesn't stop there. At one point, I happened into an instant-death
ending that involved a horrifying and completely unexpected incestuous
rape. The game's ongoing fascination with the PC as a sexual subject (or
object) felt rather distracting, and frequently a little creepy.
The main story winds around the game's setting, a future (or alternate)
world where robots govern humanity. For instance, when the PC decides to
skip school, she finds that robot enforcers have been sent to fetch her
back. Her goal is to take down the robocracy once and for all, and to do
so she must wander around and talk to a lot of sparsely implemented
NPCs. Actually, I have no earthly idea how she's supposed to do it,
because after an hour spent solving a couple of puzzles and restarting a
whole lotta times, I found myself totally stuck. I turned to the hints,
doling them out to myself slowly, but failed to progress further.
Finally, I looked at the entire hints file (it's rot13 encoded), but
still found no joy. The hints seemed to assume that I'd seen things that
either I'd never seen or was too dull-witted to recognize. A scan of the
newsgroups reminded me that this was the game where the author had
released a better set of hints after the September 30th deadline had
passed. Well, I guess I'm a bit of a comp stickler, because I think
that's cheating, or at least finessing the rules. My feeling is that
you're judged on what you submit *as of the comp deadline*. Whatever you
release afterwards, whether it be hints, a patch that fixes a
game-killing bug, or what have you, is not eligible for consideration,
at least not by this judge. So I continued to muddle through, and with
about 20 minutes remaining found something that broke the game wide open
for me. Unfortunately, at that point I only had 20 minutes left, so I
wasn't really able to see a huge amount of new material. My advice to
struggling players is to revisit all locations frequently -- though most
of them remain completely static, at least one can change significantly
during your absence.
Besides helpful hints, a few other things seem missing from the game. At
one point, I examined a game object and was told "(This is the comic
book that was mistakenly included in your game package.)" Actually, I
think what you mean there is "mistakenly *not* included." It may have
been intended as a joke all along, a satire of Infocom's in-game feelie
object messages, but if so, it's too weak to really work. There are a
couple of other elements that might be intentional but come off as bugs.
For instance, at one point I suddenly got a huge boost to my score and
found myself with "a score of 27 points out of a possible 7." The
resultant rank was "Nice Sister", which matched the action that had
given me the huge score boost, but if this is a joke, it's done so
confusingly that not only is it not funny, it actually seems like a
mistake. I seem to have spent most of my review commenting on how
strange and/or incomplete Kurusu City felt to me, so let me finish up by
pointing out some well-done parts. There's a nice feature in the game's
inventory code which prints out the results of an X ME before printing
the inventory on the first time it's used. Subsequently, it just prints
the inventory. I thought this worked so well that I'd like to see it
become an IF standard. Also, there's a game-within-a-game that serves as
an entertaining satire of the medium itself. There's a nice multi-stage
puzzle involving gaining a credential, and I found the story interesting
enough that I felt sorry when time ran out. Mostly, though, my reaction
to Kurusu City was a puzzled shrug.
A LIGHT'S TALE by vbnz
Well. This one has many problems. Many serious problems. Let's start
with the writing. I'm guessing that this game is the work of a
non-native English speaker. Something like "your mind... flys far, far
away" could just be a typo, but when the game describes a dump as "full
of unnumbered amounts of trash," I begin to get the strong feeling that
the translating dictionary has come calling. The prose is just littered
with writing errors, many of which are too simple to be blamed on
translation. For instance, a death message:
The guard calls out: "What are you doing there?" He runs over and
sticks a bullet in your side you die.
*Maybe* the bizarre diction "sticks a bullet in your side" could be
explained by translation, but there's no such excuse for failing to
provide either a conjunction or a full stop before "you die." Also, the
game is just littered with redundancy. Whether it's describing the dump
as "[an] extremely dirty, messed-up dump," or calling the PC "a rather
overweight chubby character" or naming an NPC "the big, large rather
muscular mouse," Light's Tale hates to say once what it could say twice
However, as problematic as the writing is, the coding is worse. Take
that big, large mouse, for instance. He's got one of the most ungainly
short names I've ever seen in an IF object:
>give mirror to george
The big, large rather muscular mouse who looks to be a
pretty good mechanic, for the right price rejects the offer.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure his short name is "the big, large rather muscular
mouse who looks to be a pretty good mechanic, for the right price."
Implementing an object in this way demonstrates a basic lack of
understanding of how an IF engine works. Sometimes there are even full
stops embedded in object names. Here's another problem: the game
completely chokes on any attempt to show anything to anyone. The command
always results in "[TADS-1014: 'abort' statement executed]". Another
pervasive issue is the game's recurring failure to mark dialogue with
quotation marks, resulting in exchanges like this:
>ask bruno about bar
Why would I want to talk to you?
Well, because you're the parser. You've been talking to me the whole
game. Oh, unless that's Bruno talking, in which case there really ought
to be some quotation marks. Sorry, but that's just plain careless. Even
the hints are buggy; they keep referring to somebody named "Robert",
when nobody of that name resides within the game. Thank goodness for the
walkthrough, or I'd have gotten absolutely nowhere with A Light's Tale.
Which, saving the worst for last, brings us to the design. Over and
over, I found myself resorting to the walkthrough, a refugee from the
game's bizarre assumptions. Light's Tale is certainly one of those games
that assumes you're going to traverse it in the same order that the
walkthrough does. Routinely, the game would refer to objects I didn't
have, or kill me immediately after rewarding me for solving a puzzle.
There are far too many "read the author's mind" puzzles, including a
real doozy at the end. The game starts out as science fiction (the intro
mentions a starship, anyway) for no apparent reason -- it would play out
exactly the same way if the setting were an airplane, or a steamship, or
just about anywhere, really. There are talking animals throughout the
game (unless the animal descriptions were meant as metaphor, but I don't
think they were), including in scenes advertised as "the real world at
last." The parser keeps referring to itself as "I" and "me", and then
suddenly becomes a character in the game, personifying itself as some
kind of freaky supervillain. Let me tell you, it's a weird, wild ride.
Some parts approach Rybread-level peculiarity. There were parts that I
enjoyed, and there were many more parts that had me cursing heartily. It
may be worth a trip through with the walkthrough close at hand, but not
if you care about strong writing or strong coding, and even if you
don't, you shouldn't really expect to understand it too well.
NINJA V1.30 by Paul Allen Panks
You know, for all the newsgroup fuss and furor that Paul Allen Panks has
created over the years with his obsessive marketing and subsequent
defenses thereof, I've never actually played one of his games. I've been
wishing for years that somebody would review Westfront PC for SPAG, but
so far, no takers. Of course, what I've gleaned about that game is that
it contains hundreds of fairly samey rooms and a bunch of randomized
combat, so I can't say I'm terribly surprised not to have received a
review. Heck, the SPAG standards say that reviewers must finish a game
before reviewing it, so maybe somebody started in on it the first time I
made the request (in 2000) and still hasn't gotten through it yet.
At any rate, Ninja v1.30 is Panks's first comp game, so I was interested
to see how well he presented himself. The answer: not very well. It's
bad. Really bad. For one thing, it is so primitive as to lack almost any
IF conveniences. There's no "X" command, no "L" command, and no "I"
command. It goes without saying that there's no SCRIPT or UNDO or
anything handy like that. Despite the fact that it contains only four
rooms and one puzzle (which is so heavily clued it can hardly be called
a puzzle at all), to detail all its failings would be a pretty mammoth
undertaking. So let me just pick a few choice ones:
* The sudden-death endings, which frequently hit out of nowhere. Note
that these are particularly annoying in an environment without
* The utterly arbitrary restrictions. For instance, this:
You are within the shinto shrine. The room is lit by only
the light from a nearby window. All else is darkness.
You may 'exit shrine' to the south, or head west
out the window.
Your path is blocked. Try 'exit shrine' instead.
* The maximum score, different every time the game ends. (Well, I
guess the second number in the score might not be the maximum, but
if so it's left completely unexplained.)
* Terrible writing. For a game that probably has less than 300 words,
it's amazingly well-populated with comma splices, redundancy, and
* Bugginess. For instance, at one point the game started printing
">20" after every command, inexplicably.
Okay, enough of that. It's just really not good at all. But there is a
way to enjoy it, at least for me. See, I like to think that there exists
a tiny sliver of possibility that Panks is actually just a satirist with
a very, very, very dry wit. I mean, really -- if IF were a Christopher
Guest movie, Panks would just have to be a character. It's almost as if
he's playing a character all the time in his postings, and this game
works perfectly as reductio ad absurdum interactive fiction. Look at it
as a parody, as perfectly straight-faced and utterly ridiculous all at
once, and it may provide a moment's entertainment. Of course, that
doesn't mean you'd give it a high score in the comp or anything.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SUPER HERO by David Whyld
By now, my affection for superheroes is no secret. I love a good
superhero game, and I love a good superhero parody. A Day In the Life Of
A Super Hero is a good superhero parody, but unfortunately not a very
good superhero game. Its greatest strength by far is its writing --
there were many spots that made me laugh, and many more that made me
smile. Super Hero's satire isn't quite as finely honed as that found in
Neil DeMause's Frenetic Five games, but it's lots of fun nevertheless.
Along with the typical comedy juice available from silly supervillain
names like The Gardener and The Pizza Delivery Kid, Super Hero does a
lovely job at conveying a boundless gee-whiz enthusiasm on the part of
the PC. Near as I can tell, the titular hero actually has no discernible
superpowers, and nor do any of the supervillains -- they just adopt the
exaggerated poses and outlandish names of the genre in the service of
jazzing up their personalities. I also found it amusing that the game
features no less than 28 ways for the hero to meet an unfortunate and
ignominious defeat, and encourages you to collect 'em all, like bad-luck
action figures. Moreover, Super Hero surprised me at times with its
thorough coverage of unlikely verbs, and its witty responses thereto.
For instance, when suspended above a crowd of people:
spit on crowd
That's the sort of thing super villains would do, not super heroes.
Of course, taking a scattershot approach with the jokes as it does,
Super Hero misfires every so often as well. Sometimes it throws out a
joke so old as to have lost all its appeal. Other times, it's guilty of
running a gag into the ground -- one "bad odor" joke might be funny, but
ten of them will not be. Still, judged on its writing alone, Super Hero
is a rollicking good time.
Unhappily, the game's interactivity does not support its prose, and much
of that is the fault of Adrift. The unmodified Adrift parser is already
quite weak, but somehow in this game it seemed even worse than usual.
For starters, Adrift frequently falls victim to its asinine policy of
ignoring input that surrounds a keyword, resulting in gems like parsing
"look behind couch" as the same command as "look at couch." But the
problem seemed to come up way more than normal in this game. For
instance, when the PC tries to address his animal sidekick, Smelly The
ask smelly about soldier
A fusty smell pervades your apartment. It's probably a mixture of you
never getting around to cleaning it and that time the Slug Monster
was here to kill you.
The first time this happened, I went, "Huh?" After several tries, I
finally figured out that the parser must be stupidly pulling "smell" out
of that string and pretending that my command was "smell." At least,
that's my theory for what it was doing, and repetition of the principle
in other instances seems to bear that out. Conversely, the parser can be
weirdly uptight about addressing items with their full name:
You see no such thing.
x city rag
The City Rag is the city's worst paper, one that specialises in
writing slanderous and libellous stories...
You see no such thing.
x mrs muggle
You've seen her sort before: old, grumpy, permanently displeased
about something unspecified...
For a player like me, accustomed to other parsers' much more sensible
approach of treating all pieces of an object's name the same, these
responses are infuriating. Also infuriating is when the parser
stubbornly and willfully misunderstands input:
ask erik about singer
"Sorry, can't talk," says the singer. "Genius at work.
But most infuriating of all is when the parser out-and-out lies, and
lies in such a way as to make winning the game extremely unlikely. For
example, at one point, it told me it didn't know the verb SHOW, when in
fact that verb is crucial to solving one of the game's puzzles. When
there are a number of free IF tools that provide much, much better
parsers, my patience for substandard parsing like this is limited
indeed, and this game would have been so much stronger had it not been
hampered by such silly flaws.
However, sad to say, not all of Super Hero's problems can be ascribed to
Adrift. For one thing, there are all kinds of bizarre typos that I can
only chalk up to carelessness:
"You mean as in give him a damn goof biffing till he clears off and
leaves you be?" says Smelly.
A damn goof biffing? Secondly, like Whyld's Comp03 entry, this game
seems quite a bit too large to complete in 2 hours, which is something I
really dislike in a comp game. Of course, perhaps much of my inability
to complete Super Hero stems from its aggravating tendency toward
read-the-author's-mind puzzles. To blithely spoil one of these, the PC's
apartment has a half-dozen pieces of furniture, and moving *one* of them
reveals a crucial item. Nothing in the room or object description
suggests that moving it or moving anything else will be useful. And so
on. At bottom, Super Hero is entertaining writing trapped in
excruciating code. I fervently hope that other talented IF writers can
avoid this dastardly predicament.
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
Your mission, should you choose to accept it: review an IF competition
game for SPAG 39. Please! Deadline for submissions is December 5th
I've never played Sylenius Mysterium, but I think I will now! No matter
what other people think, I really like the concept of IF Arcade.
> I had a fine time with the game until I hit a particular puzzle, one
> which placed the PC in a political environment.
Wow! You took that way more seriously than I would have thought. Note
that if you had read the opposite speech in the game that it gives a
strong good political speech for that as well. (You just can't win the
game by reading that speech.)
Keep in mind that in Duck Hunt you kill countless ducks. I'm not sure
why reading a speech would upset you while killing countless ducks is no
In any case, I don't even agree with that issue, so I certainly wasn't
trying to advance any political arguments.
In any case, thanks for giving me a 7.3 even though you hated the game!
I theorize that Adrift handles synonyms by performing some global
substitution and THEN scanning for keywords.
Thank you for a good read.
"Paul O'Brian" <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote in message >
> KURUSU CITY by Kevin Venzke
> At one point, I happened into an instant-death
> ending that involved a horrifying and completely unexpected incestuous
Hmm, that's two people who thought it was rape. I guess it's a problem.
> My advice to
> struggling players is to revisit all locations frequently -- though most
> of them remain completely static, at least one can change significantly
> during your absence.
I want to mention that the player receives a notice at some point after
the location has changed. Maybe it is too vague.
Er... actually that was a mistake on my (the programmer's) behalf. I checked
the game through for lots of different things like that, had it beta-tested
and then - like a total idiot - went and changed a few things. And then
submitted it without any further testing. :(
There's a funny smell in the same room as Smelly the parrot which you can
examine (or smell). Unfortunately the command "talk to smelly" was overriden
by the "examine smell" command and so it's impossible to talk to the parrot.
I've read the reviews of my game, though, and I'll be fixing the bugs for a
One of the reasons ADRIFT gets such a bad rap is because stuff like this
(you know, distinguishing verbs from other synonyms of nouns and stuff) is
handled automatically by every other system, and something that's trying to
be sold to novices is going to end up producing a player experience much
like pulling teeth.
For what it's worth, I blamed you for the fact that "read paper" failed
while "read newspaper" was critical, but blamed Campbell Wild for the
parrot/smelly thing. And I only blamed you for the first one because of your
tireless crusading claiming that "sufficiently careful programmers can
still make it work." Applying that to the engine mistaking substrings of
synonyms of nouns for verbs, though, is moving more towards Stockholm
As an ex-ADRIFT user (I've since migrated to Inform) I can say that
this problem can easily be remedied by the author - it's just that
none - D. Whyld included - think to use the 'Alias' option within
ADRIFT's Object Definition tab to include each word related to an
object i.e. City Rag alias 'city' 'rag' 'newspaper' 'tabloid' etc.
> I MUST PLAY by Geoff Fortytwo
> I'll just say that in order to win this puzzle, I had to do something
> that is anathema to my beliefs. I did it, but it turned me off
> immensely, and I cruised through the rest of the game without
> engagement. Yes, I know it's just a game. Yes, I'm aware that it doesn't
No, I don't think you are... For the most part I'm enjoying these reviews
(as opposed to many of the others), but this kind of attitude really annoys
me. That's just such a ridiculous criticism to make. Say it's boring, say
it's illogical. But offensive? It's a friggin game, for pete's sake. Anyway,
apparently the fact that you are not a back-stabbing, shallow socialite
didn't prevent you from enjoying The Sting of the Wasp. (Although at least
one reviewer said it did, which out-and-out offends me.)
I'm all for political IF, but IMO this game is about as unpolitical as
it gets. Of course I wouldn't agree with the speech in question in
real life, but I didn't really mind reading it to advance the plot.
>Keep in mind that in Duck Hunt you kill countless ducks. I'm not sure
>why reading a speech would upset you while killing countless ducks is no
For some strange reason, I didn't mind having the ducks killed, but
I did not at all want to do what I had to do to get past the crocodile
in 'Toader'. (I did it in the end, of course. :)
>In any case, I don't even agree with that issue, so I certainly wasn't
>trying to advance any political arguments.
I never got the impression that you agreed with it. I might have been
offended if you had tried to convince me that promoting guns is a good
"You see, useless things may have no definite positive qualities, but
neither do they do anybody any harm. They may actually do some good by
being a distraction from dreadful things like sitting around getting
bored, striving for wealth, or starting wars."
-- Charlie Dancey, "Zenith and the Art of Pattern Maintenance"
What's wrong with commentary on the implementation?
> But this takes the cake:
> > I MUST PLAY by Geoff Fortytwo
> > I'll just say that in order to win this puzzle, I had to do something
> > that is anathema to my beliefs. I did it, but it turned me off
> > immensely, and I cruised through the rest of the game without
> > engagement. Yes, I know it's just a game. Yes, I'm aware that it doesn't
> No, I don't think you are... For the most part I'm enjoying these reviews
> (as opposed to many of the others), but this kind of attitude really annoys
It's silly to get offended at someone for the sin of getting offended
at something you think is silly.
When you write a game, you have to be prepared for players to not like
it. And you do not get to write down a list of acceptable reasons for
them to dislike it. That's the player's job. :) Your job is smile and
nod and, if necessary, say "I'm sorry it didn't work for you."
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.
> Wow! You took that way more seriously than I would have thought.
Yeah, I know. I think there were a number of factors that influenced me in
that direction, some of which had very little to do with the game. I was
playing the comp games during October and November, which was a time at
which the atmosphere around me was superheated with political issues and
concerns. Consequently, I was a more politicized person during that
period and more sensitive to political issues while playing the games.
That's just how it was for me this year. That period was also a
particularly emotional time in my life, so there were days on which my
reactions were on a bit of a hair trigger. Again, nothing to do with I
Must Play -- that's just where I was, and that colored my IF experiences.
I guess some people would argue that I should try to remove that element
from my reviews, that I should try to be as dispassionate and objective
as possible, but I disagree. Emotional engagement is part of the IF
experience, for good or ill. If a game moves me, I want to report on
that. Similarly if it repels me. I hope it's clear that when I write
reviews, I'm not trying to assume some kind of transcendent, objective
authority. My goal is to report on my experience, and to try to analyze
it in a way that's informative and useful to both players and authors. I
have a fair amount of experience as a writer, player, and critic of IF,
but that doesn't make me the boss of it somehow. My feedback is just about
my own encounter with the game, all my crazy baggage included.
["I Must Play" spoilers to follow]
Now, that being said, I've looked over the transcript and seen that indeed
there were some things in the game that set me up to see the "repeal the
gun control laws" puzzle as simpleminded political posturing.
One of the first things I encountered in the onyx game (which contains the
senate chamber) was this:
He's a stylish devil, but his nose shape implies that he is rather
snobby. He is sitting on the chair.
I read that and thought, "His nose shape implies that he's snobby?
What the hell?" That statement gave me a clue that the PC (and perhaps
the game) is making sloppy, ill-informed judgements, judgements that
don't make a lot of sense. And once again, keeping in mind the atmosphere
in which I was playing the game, the fact that the game describes a
stylish senator who it calls a snob based on his appearance gave me just a
tiny hint that there might be a rather dunderheaded anti-Kerry thing
happening. On the next command, I saw this:
This is a speech on ugliness. Apparently the writer of this speech
really had a thing about ugly people. It goes to great lengths to
discuss how horrible ugliness is and how all ugly people should be
strung up. Hmm. It's possible that this might pass considering that
most politicians need to be reasonably attractive in order to get
elected to high office.
I see these statements and draw two conclusions. One, this game is out to
draw a caricature of the political process that is exaggerated to the
point of being nonsensical -- that much is clear from the existence of a
bill (or proposal of some kind) advocating death to the ugly. Secondly,
either the PC or the game itself (or maybe both) has some very silly
assumptions about politics and politicians -- that much is clear from the
suspicion that such a proposal might pass, alongside the somewhat dubious
proposition that attractiveness is a necessary prerequisite for election
to high office.
Not too much later, there was this:
This is a podium behind which people often speak. Do you feel that
other people have too much money? If so then you are in the right
place! Speak away!
Here, I thought, is more lunkheaded political commentary, this time of the
"gummint wants to take away mah money!" variety. This lent more credence
to the developing theory in my mind that this game was clumsily trying to
put across an anti-government political message. This is also the sort of
message that felt really off coming from a supposed 8-year-old. There is a
whole lot of latitude available for making whacked-out statements when
it's clear that they are the product of a dumb or ignorant PC, but I have
a hard time swallowing the idea that a third-grader is mad about taxes.
Consequently, I was inclined to ascribe the developing message to the game
itself rather than calling it some quirk of the PC.
In a few moves, I began to find pieces of the actual puzzle:
>x thin paper
This is a speech. You can read it if you like. The general gist of
the speech seems to be that the current gun control law must remain
in place in order to to save lives and prevent organizations like
Bob's Deli from taking control.
Here's an object in the game that is clearly ridiculing the progressive
position on a specific issue. Again, the "Bob's Deli" mockery didn't feel
like something an 8-year-old would come up with, and therefore it felt to
me like more evidence that the game itself was trying to marshal a sloppy
neocon position. Having already stepped into the silver game (with the guy
who hates ducks), it was instantly clear to me that what I needed to do in
order to win the game was to repeal gun control laws. It was at this point
that my annoyance began to verge into actual offense.
There were other statements in the game that pushed my buttons, but I hope
that gives a general picture of how my reaction developed. Yes I was
politicized, and yes I was emotional (and I did acknowledge these things
in the review), and along with those things, I was reacting to a series of
silly, somewhat offensive statements. They didn't feel like believable PC
reactions, and I didn't find them particularly funny (so they didn't feel
like satire to me, even if they were intended as such), so I took them as
really lame political messages.
> Note that if you had read the opposite speech in the game that it gives
> a strong good political speech for that as well.
Hm. That wasn't my experience, really. I got this:
You give the speech all you've got, but since guns were already
banned to begin with, your speech doesn't change anything.
I took from this that the game/PC thinks "guns are banned" -- both a far
cry from reality and, to me, more know-nothing posturing.
However, even if it had been some kind of fair (or even equally silly but
from the opposite view) presentation of gun control, there's this:
> (You just can't win the game by reading that speech.)
As I concluded when I found the thin paper, I have to repeal gun control
laws to win the game. As I said in the review, I did it, but it turned me
off immensely. I also felt blindsided by it, given that the rest of the
game is so lighthearted. Oh well. That was just my reaction -- it's
obvious from the replies to my review that it wasn't shared by everybody
(something I understood from the start, and also tried to make clear in
> Keep in mind that in Duck Hunt you kill countless ducks. I'm not sure
> why reading a speech would upset you while killing countless ducks is no
> big deal.
I'm not sure where it is I said that killing countless ducks is no big
I'm really not crazy about killing animals either, but the game didn't
make me do that, so the duck hunting part was slightly more palatable.
> In any case, thanks for giving me a 7.3 even though you hated the game!
Whoa! The 7.3 means I *didn't* hate the game! Far from it -- I had a fine
time playing it (as I said in the review), but had a strong reaction to
(what I took as) the political part. I spent most of the review discussing
that reaction rather than the "fine time", so I can see how it might have
come across that I hated the game -- I apologize for that. I was just
trying to discuss what felt like the most analysis-worthy part of my
experience with IMP. Please know that aside from the gun-control part, I
enjoyed IMP, and would look forward to playing another game written by
On Tue, 16 Nov 2004, Kevin Venzke wrote:
> Hmm, that's two people who thought it was rape. I guess it's a problem.
The text I was reacting to was when she barges in on her dad (who's
sitting in his underwear), and incites his anger:
Your dad is on you like the snapping of a crocodile's jaw, and as
your dizziness fades you realize you're over his lap with your skirt
I guess because of the sexual charge that already seemed present in the
game, the fact that the dad is in his underwear, and the implied
battering and fading of consciousness (which to me suggested anticipation
of heavy-duty trauma) I took this to be a rape. Was it meant as a
spanking? Even that seems a little questionable to me when we're talking
about a 15-year-old girl. Since this is a losing ending anyway, couldn't
the game just end with her being grounded or something? I'm not sure it
needs to be this brutal or shocking.
> I want to mention that the player receives a notice at some point after
> the location has changed. Maybe it is too vague.
Yeah, I figured out after the fact that the "It occurs to you that
Masako's morning lecture is probably over now" meant that the bedroom had
changed. However, when I was getting that message, I was pretty uninformed
about what "Masako's lecture" even was -- for the longest time, I was
under the impression that she was a teacher at my high school who was
*giving* a lecture. I took the message as an indicator that I had missed a
timed event somewhere. I also didn't assume she'd be returning to the
house for any reason. Maybe just a bit more exposition somewhere early,
indicating that Masako is a university student who has a lecture to attend
in the morning and will be returning home afterwards.
> You know, I sat through the review of the "Typo!" with its extended
> commentary on the problems with meddling UIs, and it bugged me.
Really? I took Typo to be, in part, a test-drive of that UI feature, so
that commentary seemed to me to be directly relevant. That's why it
led to a sentence saying "if anybody is thinking of using this system in
> Say it's boring, say it's illogical. But offensive? It's a friggin game,
> for pete's sake.
I will stand by the priniciple that games can be offensive. Especially
games with a lot of story elements. Fill in the sexist/racist/Nazi
hypothetical example here.
I posted a characteristically verbose explication of my specific
response to I Must Play in the "I Must Gunplay" thread.
> Anyway, apparently the fact that you are not a back-stabbing, shallow
> socialite didn't prevent you from enjoying The Sting of the Wasp.
> (Although at least one reviewer said it did, which out-and-out offends
Is this the part where I get to say, "It's a friggin review, for pete's
sake"? Oh, I guess that would be hypocritical. Sure, reviews can be
offensive too -- sorry mine rubbed you the wrong way.
Okay, I'm starting to see the problems. The main one is that "your dad is
on you" is pretty misleading. At least the literal interpretation ends up being
contradicted. Dad's attire unfortunately was a random decision.
In the text quoted I didn't mean to suggest battering or, definitely, fading of
Of course this wasn't intended to be brutal or shocking.
> > I want to mention that the player receives a notice at some point after
> > the location has changed. Maybe it is too vague.
> Maybe just a bit more exposition somewhere early,
> indicating that Masako is a university student who has a lecture to attend
> in the morning and will be returning home afterwards.
Yes, that's a good idea. I may have trimmed too much from the start-up
> "Paul O'Brian" <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote in message
> > [Kurusu City spoilers, I guess]
> > The text I was reacting to was when she barges in on her dad (who's
> > sitting in his underwear), and incites his anger:
> > Your dad is on you like the snapping of a crocodile's jaw, and as
> > your dizziness fades you realize you're over his lap with your skirt
> > hiked.
> > [...]
> In the text quoted I didn't mean to suggest battering or, definitely, fading of
I got battering from the fact that dad is "on" her and then she is so
overtaken by dizziness that she's not aware of what's happening. That's
what I'm calling fading of consciousness, too. I envisioned him standing
up ("like an enraged bull"), smacking her to the floor as she tries to run
away, then picking her up, hiking her skirt, and sitting down with her on
top of him. She is knocked senseless by the blow, and when she comes to
she's half-stripped and on his lap. See why I was shocked? :)
If people refused to do things in IF that they were squeamish about in
real life, then no one would ever have finished SMTUC.
At least, I hope not.
The way I viewed Typo! is that it's like an elaborate bait and switch...
First they tell you the point of the game is A, then you start doing B, and
then when you've just about forgotten about it, they come back with A. Ha!
Only the authors know for sure, but I don't think they viewed this game as a
showcase for the technology (which they didn't write themselves). I assume
they looked at it as a plot point, not a UI feature. And perhaps the game is
meant to comment on this technology in a negative or ambivolent way. (Which
is what I thought your review was about.)
> > Say it's boring, say it's illogical. But offensive? It's a friggin game,
> > for pete's sake.
> I will stand by the priniciple that games can be offensive. Especially
> games with a lot of story elements. Fill in the sexist/racist/Nazi
> hypothetical example here.
I expected people to complain that 01 is offensive. (E.g. for the
presumption that since Terry is gay, he will obviously want to rape you.)
But I never in a million years expected to hear it about "I Must Play".
Anyway, why did that comment particularly bug me? Well, your reviews are
longer than most, so there was more chance that you would say something that
I would want to comment on. And also, your reviews were more positive than
most (which is a good thing), so it seemed out of character to criticize a
game for no good reason.
The general negative tone of many of the reviews also bugs me this year (as
well as every other year). We operate in a small/fragile enough community
that judges ought to at least go into every game hoping to like it. Some of
the reviewers were so curmudgeonly that I wonder why they put themselves
through the torment of playing the games.
> > Anyway, apparently the fact that you are not a back-stabbing, shallow
> > socialite didn't prevent you from enjoying The Sting of the Wasp.
> > (Although at least one reviewer said it did, which out-and-out offends
> > me.)
> Is this the part where I get to say, "It's a friggin review, for pete's
> sake"? Oh, I guess that would be hypocritical. Sure, reviews can be
> offensive too -- sorry mine rubbed you the wrong way.
Well, I said that mostly just to be ironic (which apparently wasn't obvious
to most people). But to that reviewer, I would still say "Open your mind.
Don't automatically reject a game just because the PC doesn't remind you of
"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> wrote in message
Well sure, an author can't really complain that a player didn't like his
game. But not being an author, I guess I have no qualms about taking
reviewers to task about what they thought about other people's games.
From the reviews I read, it seems like a lot of judges gave up on some games
really quickly, or they didn't even make an effort to appreciate what the
author is trying to do. They come in expecting some kind of instant
gratification, which is just not fair in this context. (I'm not implying
that Paul did this.)
I do think there are some unacceptable reasons for not liking a game. As in
the political process, you can gain power by being unreasonable. If you say
"I hate all games that begin in a bedroom" or "I hate all games that insult
the PC" or for that matter "I hate all games that seem to oppose gun
control" then you can influence the general direction of the medium (not a
lot of bedroom games this year), but it's also a fairly shallow criterion
(and a self-fulfilling prophecy).
> > x rag
> > You see no such thing.
> > x city rag
> > The City Rag is the city's worst paper, one that specialises in
> > writing slanderous and libellous stories...
> > For a player like me, accustomed to other parsers' much more sensible
> > approach of treating all pieces of an object's name the same, these
> > responses are infuriating.
> As an ex-ADRIFT user (I've since migrated to Inform) I can say that
> this problem can easily be remedied by the author - it's just that
> none - D. Whyld included - think to use the 'Alias' option within
> ADRIFT's Object Definition tab to include each word related to an
> object i.e. City Rag alias 'city' 'rag' 'newspaper' 'tabloid' etc.
Yehess... until you want _both_ a city rag _and_ a city hall. Or two
newspapers, both also to be referable-to by name.
Object Aliases work like the 'name' property of an Inform object.
It's using the "Synonym" feature which replaces one word with another
throughout the player's input.
Mark Jeffrey Tilford
> Anyway, why did that comment particularly bug me? Well, your reviews are
> longer than most, so there was more chance that you would say something that
> I would want to comment on. And also, your reviews were more positive than
> most (which is a good thing), so it seemed out of character to criticize a
> game for no good reason.
But it wasn't for "no good reason". The author took it upon himself to
lecture the player on politics. That tack didn't work in Who Created
That Monster?, and it doesn't work in I Must Play. Are we just supposed
to ignore what the author writes? If a reviewer is doing their job, no.
If the implementor chooses to discuss politics, they are going to elicit
honest negative reactions. That's not to say that the author shouldn't
include such beliefs, but that doing so will provoke a hostile yet
legitimate reaction in a portion of his audience. It's the price you pay
for speaking your mind. Rock 'n' roll, freedom of speech.
> The general negative tone of many of the reviews also bugs me this year (as
> well as every other year). We operate in a small/fragile enough community
> that judges ought to at least go into every game hoping to like it. Some of
> the reviewers were so curmudgeonly that I wonder why they put themselves
> through the torment of playing the games.
Surely a better question would be to ask the authors of the bad games in
the competition why they would put the players through the torment of
playing their games, no? Or why, if you're concerned about the "fragile"
IF community, you don't hold back the venom in your posts about the
reviewers and players of the games, who are certainly just as integral
to the community as the authors? But, I digress on the second question.
As one of the reviewers who was somewhat negative, I took part in the
judging because I love IF. Simple as that. And I *did* go into every
game hoping to like it. Splashdown was the third game that I played that
started off in a cryogenic slumber. If I was rashly indesposed to
hating each game before I played it, I would have immediately exited
and rated it a one. I was familiar with Jacek Pudlo's history on r*if,
and if I was negatively biased towards the entries, I would have
highlighted all the inconsistencies, ridiculed the juvenalia, and
blithely accused the author of latent anti-semitism. Instead, I ranked
the game third out of the 36 entries.
Although I won't defend my reviews (I'm not happy with the way they
turned out), you bet your bootskins that I'll defend the right to be
negative. How would you have people discuss the clearly awful games that
pop up year after year? If their authors were serious about building up
the community, why would they release such substandard works?
What I noticed was that out of the first 10 review collections I looked at,
maybe 4 of them were overwhelmingly negative. One reviewer in particular
really bugged me by posting a whole host of scathing reviews, several of
which contained factual errors and an extreme lack of insight into the
games. It was immediately obvious to me that he spent more time thinking up
clever ways to insult the games than he ever spent playing them. (On the
other hand, one reviewer was also overwhelmingly positive to a ridiculous
Looking back, I rated 16 games >5 and 15 games <5, whereas you had 11 games
>5 and 19 <5. Your reviews were a tad negative, but not overly so (as you
noted, your mean was 4.61 and median 5). You complained a few times that you
didn't like the genre/tone/writing style, and from what I can tell, you
mostly gave those games a 4. I think that's a bit harsh, but it's not the
same as giving them a 1.
When I said that the community is small/fragile, what I mean is two things.
Firstly, an author has to accept the fact that he may put 100 hours of work
into a game that maybe only 100 people are ever going to play. As one of
those 100 people, the least you can do is to actually give the game a fair
chance. Secondly, there are different notions of what IF should be, and the
community is not big enough to have one comp for people who only like puzzle
games, and a different one for story games, one category for experimental
games, one for inoffensive games, etc.
Actually, I think my ratings were quite fair. I gave high marks to any game
that I felt was competently written, irrespective of genre. One interesting
result is that my list of the top 12 games (the ones that I rated 7+) is the
same as the official top 12 (but in a different order).
*cough* Fanservice *cough*
> From the reviews I read, it seems like a lot of judges gave up on some games
> really quickly, or they didn't even make an effort to appreciate what the
> author is trying to do. They come in expecting some kind of instant
> gratification, which is just not fair in this context.
Why not? If I'm not enjoying a game after the first ten minutes, I
don't see why I should keep slogging through it. I play IF for pleasure,
not out of a sense of community spirit.
> I do think there are some unacceptable reasons for not liking a game. As in
> the political process, you can gain power by being unreasonable. If you say
> "I hate all games that begin in a bedroom" or "I hate all games that insult
> the PC" or for that matter "I hate all games that seem to oppose gun
> control" then you can influence the general direction of the medium (not a
> lot of bedroom games this year), but it's also a fairly shallow criterion
> (and a self-fulfilling prophecy).
What's wrong with wanting to influence the general direction of the
medium? And I don't see what makes any of the judging criteria you've
mentioned above necessarily "shallow" or "unacceptable".
>Andrew Krywaniuk wrote:
>> From the reviews I read, it seems like a lot of judges gave up on some games
>> really quickly, or they didn't even make an effort to appreciate what the
>> author is trying to do. They come in expecting some kind of instant
>> gratification, which is just not fair in this context.
>Why not? If I'm not enjoying a game after the first ten minutes, I
>don't see why I should keep slogging through it. I play IF for pleasure,
>not out of a sense of community spirit.
While I don't think anyone should be obligated to play a game they hate for
two hours (Unless they are being paid for it, of course) it does seem unfair
to me to score something without first having made some attempt to
If a game fails to catch my interest within a few moves, I will head for the
hints/walkthrough to start telling me what to do, so I can see what the
author did want me to see in the game. I'd like to have some concept of what
the point was before I judge the game as a whole.
If the game is still painfully boring even with no effort on my part, then
there's no point in continuing.
The goblin game had no walkthrough, I didn't want to play it through, and it
was clearly above the level where I could comfortably slap a 1 on it without
playing, so I just passed.
>What's wrong with wanting to influence the general direction of the
Well, you could say that automatically voting any non-Tads/Inform game a 1
is influencing the direction of the medium (by encouraging entrants not to
use nonstandard systems) but it's also rather mean-spirited, don't you
But that's why the comp gets people like me who tend to vote high, to
balance out all the snarky bastards who tend to vote low.
.... Now, does the community *really* think that Ninja was less fun to play
than PTBAD, or were more people just willing to give it a 1 without
bothering? They were both bad games, but at least in my opinion Ninja was
clearly more entertaining. :)
Anime Games and Screensavers To Download
>.... Now, does the community *really* think that Ninja was less fun to play
>than PTBAD, or were more people just willing to give it a 1 without
>bothering? They were both bad games, but at least in my opinion Ninja was
>clearly more entertaining. :)
I dunno, whatever I tried to do in Ninja, it kept saying me "You can't
do that." Maybe I'm really dense, but I have no idea how people could
enjoy something like that. And PTBAD was quite funny, IMHO.
|a\o/r|,-------------.,---------- Timofei Shatrov aka Grue ------------.
| m"a ||FC AMKAR PERM|| mail: grue at mail.ru http://grue3.tripod.com |
| k || PWNZ J00 || KoL:Grue3 NationStates:Holypunkeye |
"Papillon" <papillo...@bigfoot.com> wrote in message
> .... Now, does the community *really* think that Ninja was less fun to
> than PTBAD, or were more people just willing to give it a 1 without
> bothering? They were both bad games, but at least in my opinion Ninja was
> clearly more entertaining. :)
I'm with you on this one. The fact that PTBAD did not finish last was one of
the great surprises of the comp for me. At least Ninja was a game, albeit a
bad one. PTBAD had me wanting to change the low end of the scale to a 0, so
I could distinguish it from games I rated at 1.
I'm also with you on this one. I wasn't able to vote in the Comp
proper, but in rating the games for my own private interest (and to
enable my selections for the Miss Congeliality contest), I gave
Ninja a 2 on the grounds that I wanted to reserve 1 for utter
awfulness, and felt that, just as you say, at least Ninja was a game
and the author had gone to some sort of effort to make so. When I
subsequently encountered PTBAD I decided it was just the sort of
thing I'd being reserving 1 for.
> .... Now, does the community *really* think that Ninja was less fun to
> play than PTBAD, or were more people just willing to give it a 1 without
> bothering? They were both bad games, but at least in my opinion Ninja
> was clearly more entertaining. :)
I tried to give Ninja a chance. But I came up against it near the end of
the judging period, when I was low on time, and the game was just so
frustrating. I guess I'm spoiled, since I just can't take parsers that
don't recognize the commands and command abbreviations that I've become
accustomed to. (I still experience some brief frustration everytime I
crank up an old Infocom game and try to 'x' something.) So, yes, I rated
PTBAD3 higher than Ninja v1.30.
|| Quintin Stone O- > "You speak of necessary evil? One ||
|| Code Monkey < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
|| st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
|| http://www.rps.net/QS/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
Do what you want, but it still makes you a poor judge. If you were a
professional movie reviewer, would you think it was appropriate to walk out
of 50% of movies before the first hour? I agree with Papillon. At least make
the effort to try the hints/walkthrough. For all you know, the game may get
> What's wrong with wanting to influence the general direction of the
> medium? And I don't see what makes any of the judging criteria you've
> mentioned above necessarily "shallow" or "unacceptable".
'Making an example out of someone' is a discriminatory practice. It means to
give someone an unusally harsh penalty in order to deter others from doing
the same thing. Whether or not it's effective, it is still discriminatory.
Also, note that votes with high deviance also have more sway than other
votes. "Voting strategically" is an innocuous enough term, but if some
judges started voting by giving one game a 10 and every other game a 1, I
probably wouldn't be the only one to criticize them for it.
Let's say there are two games of approximately equal quality, but I'm not
really that keen on one of them because of the genre (or whatever). I may
give one of them a 7 and the other a 9. Let's say you rate them as a 9 and a
1 (because you automatically give games a 1 if they contain X). So not only
are you voting based on a factor that I consider shallow, but your vote also
has 4 times as much effect because of it.
I think part of the negative reaction here might be a definitional
thing. "Judge" and "voter" are synonymous. "Reviewer" is a subset of
those. Judges aren't really the equivalent of professional movie
reviewers, despite the name: they're the equivalent of the general
I don't think you've got much support on the issue of trying to give
judges more guidelines for scoring games. We've gone through this a
lot and, really, nobody seems to want anything more than "Give the
game a score between 1 and 10, using any guidelines you want." Note
that under this system it is impossible to vote strategically.
On the other hand, reviews are a different story. I agree that when I
see somebody write "Yeah, I played for two minutes and it was lame, so
I gave up" it drops my opinion of the rest of their reviews. It's
probably useful for the author, if the reviewer says why they dropped
it, but I don't know how useful it is for other people unless this
segues into some kind of more general point. There's no voting on
reviews, but you do have some power to affect people's reviewing
style, by replying to the ones you like with positive feedback and
discussion, and criticizing or ignoring the ones you don't like. And,
of course, you don't *have* to read people's reviews. If somebody
writes suck-ass reviews, just skip them next year. Not every movie
reviewer is to my taste either.
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW
But I'm not a professional IF reviewer. I don't get paid to play this
stuff. (And I wouldn't walk in to 50% of movies, let alone out of them.)
> I agree with Papillon. At least make
> the effort to try the hints/walkthrough. For all you know, the game may get
I think the opening of a game is important enough that if it fails
to hold my interest then the game deserves low marks.
>>What's wrong with wanting to influence the general direction of the
>>medium? And I don't see what makes any of the judging criteria you've
>>mentioned above necessarily "shallow" or "unacceptable".
> 'Making an example out of someone' is a discriminatory practice. It means to
> give someone an unusally harsh penalty in order to deter others from doing
> the same thing. Whether or not it's effective, it is still discriminatory.
Yeah, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. For example, I see no problem
with giving all fatally bugged games an automatic 1 to discourage people
from entering fatally bugged games into the comp.
[Irrelevant stuff snipped]
> So not only
> are you voting based on a factor that I consider shallow, but your vote also
> has 4 times as much effect because of it.
But the factors you consider shallow are not necessarily what other
people consider shallow.
> On the other hand, reviews are a different story. I agree that when I
> see somebody write "Yeah, I played for two minutes and it was lame, so
> I gave up" it drops my opinion of the rest of their reviews. It's
> probably useful for the author, if the reviewer says why they dropped
> it, but I don't know how useful it is for other people unless this
> segues into some kind of more general point.
The review might be entertainingly dismissive. This in itself might not
be useful to anyone, but I don't think reviews have to be "useful". IF
criticism is just another kind of artistic self-expression, a parallel
art form to IF. And all art is useless :)
>There's no voting on
Didn't someone do a review-of-comp-reviews post a couple years back? I can't
remember who, though.
That was Mike Sousa in Comp02. Available on the web here:
>Stephen Bond <ste...@NOSPAMkuleuven.ac.be> wrote:
>.... Now, does the community *really* think that Ninja was less fun to play
>than PTBAD, or were more people just willing to give it a 1 without
>bothering? They were both bad games, but at least in my opinion Ninja was
>clearly more entertaining. :)
PTBAD 3 may have been Pretty Bad, but it was better than Ninja.
In Ninja, the weakest link would be the parser. It did not have much
flexibility and was compounded by the fact that there wasn't that much to
do in the game.
PTBAD 3 was intentionally bad - some people liked it because they
recognized it as a satire of bad games, but it still managed to be better
than Ninja even though I didn't recognize the satire. Plus, PTBAD 3 was a
bit easier to navigate.
I have yet to read a single instance in which the reviewer wrote "The prose
in this game is not up to professional standards. In fact, the prose is not
even up to university standards. However, since the author is not a
professional IF writer, I'm not going to penalize him for that." None of us
are getting paid, but the standards are still high. Thus, I find your excuse
Since you have posted a link to Mike Sousa's meta-reviews from comp02, you
may notice that his critique of your reviews is basically the same as mine:
"Comments: Stephen's reviews were, er, hard to review. Of the 24 games,
almost half were dismissed with little to no reason -- usually in a
throwaway sentence, usually two to three games at a time."
> > 'Making an example out of someone' is a discriminatory practice. It
> > give someone an unusally harsh penalty in order to deter others from
> > the same thing. Whether or not it's effective, it is still
> Yeah, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. For example, I see no problem
> with giving all fatally bugged games an automatic 1 to discourage people
> from entering fatally bugged games into the comp.
That's a lot less controversial than say giving all non-TADS/Inform games a
1. If a game is unfinishable due to a fatal bug, then you're hardly going
against the grain by doing so. (On the other hand, if the fatal error only
happens if you enter the data centre while carrying the sword and the pocket
lint, after putting the blue square in the green hole, then I think you are
being excessively harsh. I wonder how much software you have written.
To be honest, the quality of prose in IF games rarely reaches
professional standards, and the quality of IF reviews even less so.
We're all amateurs here; one tends to make allowances. But in any
case, you miss the point. Like I said, I play IF games for pleasure.
If I'm not enjoying a game, I'm not going to play to the end. If I
want to share this experience in a review, I'll do so. And my opinion
will be just as "informed" as anyone else's. Why wouldn't it be?
I read IF reviews for pleasure, too. And I'd rather read an amusing
dismissal from a reviewer I like than ten paragraphs of painstaking
analysis from Mr. Nobody. (And what's more, I'd put greater value
on the former's opinion.)
> Since you have posted a link to Mike Sousa's meta-reviews from comp02, you
> may notice that his critique of your reviews is basically the same as mine:
> "Comments: Stephen's reviews were, er, hard to review. Of the 24 games,
> almost half were dismissed with little to no reason -- usually in a
> throwaway sentence, usually two to three games at a time."
Mike's entitled to his opinion. But I fail to see the relevance to
this discussion, unless you think dragging in a similar opinion somehow
shores up your argument by weight of numbers. Why not stand on your
own two feet?
>>Yeah, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. For example, I see no problem
>>with giving all fatally bugged games an automatic 1 to discourage people
>>from entering fatally bugged games into the comp.
> That's a lot less controversial than say giving all non-TADS/Inform games a
> 1. If a game is unfinishable due to a fatal bug, then you're hardly going
> against the grain
By the way, what's all this concern with "eccentricity" and "going
against the grain"? Ultimately, you seem to want everyone to be using
the same judging standards, which (as has been covered ad nauseam
before) is both impossible and undesirable.
by doing so. (On the other hand, if the fatal error only
> happens if you enter the data centre while carrying the sword and the pocket
> lint, after putting the blue square in the green hole, then I think you are
> being excessively harsh. I wonder how much software you have written.
Spare me the condescension, please. You're well aware of what I meant
by my example -- which was, incidentally, just an example, and not
meant to indicate my own voting practices. Nevertheless, I do think it's
reasonable to discriminate against fatally bugged games. I think it's
less reasonable to discriminate against all non-Inform/TADS games, but
if someone wants to do that, let them. To repeat the point you keep
evading, the judging criteria you consider invalid are not
necessarily what other people consider invalid. And you don't get to
decide what's allowed and what's not.
Well, some of my comments were in the context of judge, and others in the
context of reviewer. When I comment on a reviewer's votes, I am making the
tacit assumption that other judges probably made similar votes, but didn't
> lot and, really, nobody seems to want anything more than "Give the
> game a score between 1 and 10, using any guidelines you want." Note
> that under this system it is impossible to vote strategically.
Not sure what that means...
> reviews, but you do have some power to affect people's reviewing
> style, by replying to the ones you like with positive feedback and
> discussion, and criticizing or ignoring the ones you don't like. And,
Well that's what I'm doing, isn't it?
All I said is that if you don't play to the end, then you are obviously less
informed. I don't see why it's controversial to state that you can become
better informed about a game by playing more of it. There were those who
quit Gamlet after reading the about text, and their opinion was based mainly
on their perception of the author. Then again, some people quit when they
got stuck in the study and they missed out on the fact that the ending
> if someone wants to do that, let them. To repeat the point you keep
> evading, the judging criteria you consider invalid are not
> necessarily what other people consider invalid. And you don't get to
> decide what's allowed and what's not.
I wasn't actually telling people which criteria to use. For example, I don't
put a high priority on spelling/grammar, but have you seen me criticize any
other reviewer for doing so? I merely said that it seemed inappropriate to
put too much emphasis on any one factor.
I don't know which is more irritating: that you repeatedly descend to
personal attacks (and insinuations thereof), or that you consistently
fail to attribute quotes properly in your Usenet posts. The
combination is funny, though, since it leaves you attacking anonymous
I believe I've said everything I have to say about IFComp judging --
twice, probably -- and the rest of the thread is getting repetitive
too. Feel free to Google for how it went in previous years.
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.
Sorry... I'm reading threaded, so I didn't notice that.
The comment above was to Stephen, and not really intended to be a personal
slight. Just his apparent belief that crash bugs are easier to find/prevent
that non-crash bugs suggests to me that he is not a software developer.
...about the ending.
Look, to describe someone as "well-informed" has no objective meaning,
because the value people attach to information is entirely subjective.
A leaked memo from the EU department of agriculture is of no interest
to me, but could be of tremendous interest to those whom it concerns.
Similarly, I might decide that the comments of someone who quit a game
after ten minutes contain a great deal more insight than the
exhaustive review of someone who played all the way to the end. I often
find this to be the case.
> I wasn't actually telling people which criteria to use. For example, I don't
> put a high priority on spelling/grammar, but have you seen me criticize any
> other reviewer for doing so? I merely said that it seemed inappropriate to
> put too much emphasis on any one factor.
I can't find where you said that, but fair enough. You must realise this
is a less sweeping statement than "some people just shouldn't be judges".
There's a number of IF authors IMHO write considerably better prose
than most professional authors - Zarf, Adam Cadre, Emily Short, to
name a few - and a bunch of authors whose prose may not be stellar
but certainly of professionally publishable quality.
And I think the prose in the majority of released games could be
brought up to "professional" standard with a few editing passes.
>and the quality of IF reviews even less so.
Considering what gets published as reviews in many newspapers I'd say
some of the IF reviewers exceed the "professional standards" you're
I agree. But in the dozens of games released every year, such prose
is still a rarity.
> And I think the prose in the majority of released games could be
> brought up to "professional" standard with a few editing passes.
That I'm less sure about. Though admittedly I've never seen the
rough cuts of any published works.
>>and the quality of IF reviews even less so.
> Considering what gets published as reviews in many newspapers I'd say
> some of the IF reviewers exceed the "professional standards" you're
> talking about.
Yes, there are some excellent IF reviewers, and many more non-excellent
ones. I don't consider most journalistic criticism (or indeed, most
journalism) to be of professional quality either, even though it may be
professional in a literal sense.
An IF comp judge is more in the position of an editor reading the slush
pile than a movie reviewer. It's unusual for an editor to even finish
reading the first page of a manuscript out of the slush pile.
I guess my point was that we shouldn't lower our standards because
we're all amateurs, and amateurs can't be expected to perform - on the
contrary, amateurs *can* perform. Of course, that's no reason to be
nasty to the ones who don't live up to "professional" standards.
So let's be nice, but don't let's lower our standards in order to
But the editor (or, rather, her hired slush reader) isn't judgin a
competition and isn't required to be fair; she's just required to
separate the publishable from the unpublishable, not to fairly rate
everything in the slush pile.
Before that, Rybread Celsius did a review of reviews in '00.
Not that anybody necessarily wants to remember that.