[comp03] A first attempt at comp reviews.....

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Kristen Sorensen

Nov 16, 2003, 9:47:22 PM11/16/03
Well, this year I got up the nerve to post some of my notes on the
competition games. The way I see it is, if I took the time to write them
down I ought to do something with them. They are copied directly from the
text file without review, so I apologize in advance for any typographical

WARNING: Any part of these notes may be spoilery. Read at your own risk.

My general method is to play the first few minutes of the game with quite a
bit of note-taking and commentary, and then set the notes aside and do some
straight playing. After that, I come back, make some final observations, and
give the game a final score. For this reason, many of the comments I make
detail the first few minutes of gameplay, with only passing reference to the
deeper portions of the game. One exception to this: if the game is
exceedingly annoying in the first five minutes, I don't continue to play.
Perhaps that's not entirely fair of me, but so be it. If you want your game
judged on an entire two hours of gameplay, then you have to give me two
hours of playable game that doesn't put me in a foul mood. I won't have have
my reality negatively altered by your fantasy.

I think I was a little bit harder on the games this year. I can't know this
for certain, because I haven't kept me previous years' scores. I did notice,
however, that there is a much greater spread in the scores I've handed out.

General Notes:

1) I noticed a general lack of directional descriptions in this year's
games. Had I been mapping from the outset,
this would not have been a problem. However, I do not map until I run
into something that requires mapping, so
I often resorted to guessing-the-direction.
2) I quickly tired of examining described objects, only to be told that I
can't see any such thing. If it's in the
description, PLEASE implement it.
3) If you're in a bed, "up" or "out" should put you out of it. "Get up",
while generally implemented, isn't my
natural response, due to the overlap with the "get" command.
4) People need to stop using the comp to beta-test their games.

5 : Baluthar (baluthar.z5)
-writing seems clean, if slightly simplistic. No
glaring typos. ("Owch" in help menu)
-"take all" command list everything. I don't
like that all available objects (even
unexamined ones) are described. Very spoilery.
-"Up" doesn't work from bed.
-I like the second-chance hint system warning,
and the spoiler space in hint list
-after freeing Rykhard, the description of the
dungeon room did not give any exits,
forcing me to guess-the-direction.
-ending was a bit anti-climatic. "Huh?"
-excellent story concept, but needs to be
fleshed out.....alot. The story would work
really well as a larger game, and I strongly
encourage the author to expand on it. As
a comp game, however, it is too abbreviated and
shallow, with not enough history to
support the underlying complexity of the
storyline. A single example would be the book,
which increases your knowledge without actually
telling you anything.

3 : The Fat Lardo And The Rubber Ducky (lardo.z5)
-I believe it should be "farting WITH joy" or
"FART of joy". Of course, what *I* believe
here doesn't really matter much, does it?
-This game is an excellent example of one that I
am going to rate higher than I should,
due to clean writing and (momentary) appeal,
even through the stupidity and pointlessness.
-After a few really good laughs, this game
became just another piece of virtual bubblewrap.....
It was worth playing for those few good laughs,

6 : Cerulean Stowaway (stowaway.gam)
-excellent writing, lots of nice little
surprises (bread in the stall? Pogo stick? Wal-Mart? LOL)
-lack of implementation of described items.
Sinks in bathrooms, holes in alien bathroom
-Another guess-the-direction game. Standing in
the Welcome Center lobby, there is no direction
outside. This would be OK if "out" was
implemented, but it's not.
-"out" is also not implemented in the elevator,
or in the obsevation room (to get onto the
scaffold). Again, this wouldn't bother me if
the direction was identified. Either/or.
-I liked the style of the in-game hint system,
but a walkthrough or external hints would have
been welcome for the competition. "Try
exploring a little" gets a bit tiring after awhile,
and limits the amount of the game that can be
judged in the two-hour limit.
-This was annoying:
Across a small gap to the east is the open
hatchway of the Cerulean ship. Falling into the
gap would most likely be fatal, but you're
certain that you can jump into the spaceship
with little difficulty.
You jump up and down. It's like being on a
pogo stick, except without the pogo stick.
>jump to ship
I don't know the word "ship".
>jump into spaceship
I don't recognize that sentence.
>jump e
I don't understand that sentence.
>jump east
I don't understand that sentence.
Cerulean Landing Vehicle
-This was found while I was trying to hide on
the spaceship. I was using bad syntax, granted,
but I don't believe that error messages are
supposed to be displayed in-game. Or perhaps
I'm wrong.
>in box
[TADS-1026: wrong number of arguments to
user function ""]
The same message was displayed when I tried
"enter box"
9 : Risorgimento Represso (risorg.z8)
-Holy smokes. I am at the halfway point in
judging the games, and I have finally found
something worth the effort. I started this
game, got as far as the study, and shut it down
again. Dug out my Palm (I had put it away four
months ago because I barely use it), reinstalled
the Palm software on my computer, downloaded
PalmFrotz, converted the gamefile, hotsynced, and
arrived at work 10 minutes late as a result. It
was worth it. This is definately one for the

7 : Domicile (domicile.z5)
-I almost quit this game after the opening
scene. Open fields, boarded up houses and mailboxes
have been done to death. Let them die, already.
-I have a keyring, inside which is a house key
and a letter. A letter inside a keyring?
-I'm cued to look at the accompanying image file
for a picture of the symbols, only there is no
accompanying image file.
-While technically correct, some other sort of
reply would be appropriate here:
>open w door
It seems to be locked.
>unlock w door with key
That doesn't seem to be something you can
>open n door
It seems to be locked.
>unlock n door with key
That doesn't seem to be something you can
-From the circle in the Not-So-Grassy field,
trying to enter the house
>x door
A sturdy wooden door, decorated with a bit of
understated carving
>x carving
You can't see any such thing.
-Generally, I thought this was a good game. I
love the premise... the conceit of having the
playable area expand in response to magical
keys. There were enough annoying responses
(first and foremost that opening scene.....ugh)
that it dropped a few.

1 : Amnesia (amnesia.gam)
-"I started wanting to make a game again and i
tried some other game writing tools but I still
couldn't draw." Before you learn to draw, you
might want to learn to write. Being "in high
school" is no excuse. My 9-year-old knows when
to capitalize and the difference between
-I despise being talked to from within the game.
-I also despise being followed around by
annoying randomly-generated actions.
-This game went beyond being pointless and
unfunny (see notes for "No Room", below). It was too
annoying to finish, so it didn't get the one
point for playability.

8 : A Paper Moon (papermoon.z5)
-Excellent implementation. Everything in the
bedroom responds. Very refreshing.
-Fun. So fun, in fact, that I didn't stop to
make any more comments ;-)
-A bit awkward prose and a few awkward parser
responses. One example:
(the unlimited supply of paper into that)

1 : Sweet Dreams (sweetdreams.exe)
-Spent five minutes trying to get out of the
room after talking to Juliet. Quit.

4 : Episode in the Life of an Artist (artist.gam)
-This was a tough game to judge. The majority of
the things that bother me in games were not
present here, yet it still wasn't quite fun.
The writing was clean, and most everything was
implemented, but....
I wish I could know what it was that the author
had in mind as the game was being written. If
it was intended to be some sort of tutorial, a
sort of introduction to playing IF, I might
have given it a higher rating. As it was,
though, the writing was not quite engaging, the game
just a little too simplistic.
-This is not a big gripe, but it would be nice
if I could get "up" or "out" of the bed.
-I'm also not quite happy about the dressing
puzzle. I should be able to get dressed without
having to type out "take" and "wear" for each
item, in order. Just let me get dressed, already.
-Guess-the-verb. Apparently this is going to be
a problem throughout the game.

3 : little girl in the big world (girlwrld.exe)
-No opening description
-I'm all for trying new methods of playing IF,
but this particular one sucked for me. My
keyboard gets all glitchy in dos.
-I like the premise of telling Alice what to do,
a sort-of second person gameplay.
-I'm not really crazy about the parser
-"Earnt" is annoying.
-The walkthrough has you doing nonsensical and
unnecessary things like telling Alice to open
the hatch.

3 : Rape, Pillage, Galore! (pig-rpg.exe)
-I like it. I don't know why, but I like it. The
prose is wonderful, and full of little
quirks of the English language. Found a few
typos, but basically clean.
-On the flip side, it is annoyingly simple and
-A great read, but not a great play.

1 : Bio (bio-v1/bio-v1.gam)
-Opening scene. Despite having the dresser
described, I get the message "I don't know the word
'dresser'". Consulted the walkthrough and found
that I was supposed to examine an armoire.
"Armoire"? Where the hell was that described?
Replayed the opening scene......nowhere. I don't
have time for this crap.

4 : Hercules First Labor (herc1.html)
-Not too fond of this system, language is
awkward and too abbreviated.
-Don't like that you can't look back to see
information on previous moves. With inform, Tads,
etc. this info shows right on page, or I can
use scrollback.
-One more system complaint. This game
(storyline) seems like it would work quite nicely in a
different system. I liked the story, quite a
bit. It has a heap of potential, but it is
severely constrained by the system the author
chose. The HTML is rough, unwieldy and coarse.
-Additionally, the story seems like it needs
alot more fleshing out. As an example, the contents
of the scroll, nonexistant in this game, could
be used for a smoother transition into the next
-"i" is not capitalized in sink description.
-Lots of unimplemented items laying around. I
hate looking at things just to be told "You see
nothing of interest."

2 : No Room (noroom.z5)
-A pointless and totally un-funny waste of
-Playable, so it gets a point.

Kristen Sorensen

Nov 16, 2003, 10:30:00 PM11/16/03
Gack. I didn't think about reformatting the text. I apologize for the
illegibility. My bad.


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