On the Cross -- The writing needs work. The dialogue in the opening
text has too few taglines for me to follow it easily; it swaps between
different ways of referring to the same people; and is stubbornly
vague about what is going on. The descriptions use metaphorical
language with abandon, and at its worst the effect is both florid and
confusing. ("Kenneth's lips oscillated" has to be one of the less
felicitous descriptions of facial expression I've read: I'm not sure
what it would look like, but I'm sure that it's hilarious. Which is
not, I think, the effect the author was going for.) Both dialogue and
descriptive prose could be cleaned up, but I think the author might
benefit from working with a book on conventional fiction techniques,
as I sense that there are interesting ideas here which he is not
A few moves in, I did something that seemed perfectly intelligent and
reasonable, and it resulted in my death. I would need a stronger
opening hook to be willing to put up with instant death actions.
(Note: the actual *plot* of the beginning, as far as I understood it,
is fine: being left in the desert to die would be a compelling
motivation to get myself out of there, assuming that I cared about the
character in the first place. Unfortunately, the prologue left me
extremely unclear on who I was, let alone what I was doing there and
why I should feel sympathy for my PC.)
This needs more controlled writing and better design to work for me.
Herbalist/Runes -- Hm. Lots of comma splices. I am not as much of a
punctuation stickler as some, and I believe that there are times when
a comma splice can be justified as a stylistic choice, but here it
mostly comes across as sloppy. And then, whoa, the room descriptions
go away entirely and there's nothing to do but wander an undescribed
map picking up various plants, which seem to have no features aside
from their names.
This is not really an introduction; this is the unfinished
very-beginning of a game. Don't take this too hard, author: your idea
might be just fine. You simply haven't written enough of it yet for
me to tell. 1.
Jabberwocky -- This feels a little like "For a Change", or a more
accessible form of "Gostak", in that you spend a lot of your time
wandering around interacting with objects and creatures that don't
exist in our world. The envisioning is pretty well done, though, with
some neat imagery and a subtle sense of building menace. The
implementation is also pretty sturdy, and there are some nice touches
to let you know when you've made progress. I like using the poem as
both hint source and scoring system. Would I play more? Sure. 8.
Passenger -- Lots of little touches missing here. Line breaks are
erratic. Critical actions are underclued. You can search something
after you've taken it, but if you haven't yet taken it, >SEARCH THING
produces a misleading "Not useful." response. This might be going
somewhere good -- I feel moderately interested in the plot, but I
really don't quite have enough information to be deeply invested
therein. Still, if it does get made into a complete game, that game
will need to be more thoroughly tested than this entry, I think. 5.
A Bet's A Bet -- Pacing seems a little off. I didn't mind replaying
the scenario once or twice, but having to do so over and over in order
to take care of problems I had no way to anticipate... that was a
pain. Nor did I like having to examine the sleigh twice in order to
find out critical information about where the presents were. Spent a
while stuck on that one. And what's up with the trivia questions? I
mean, okay, they're fine, but they do interfere in my sense of
engagement with the game. I should confess, though, that I really
don't like the legend o' Santa very much, and feel something between
exasperation and deep weariness at trailers for kiddie Christmas
movies. This reminded me of that. Not the target audience, sorry. 4.
The Homework of Little Carl Gauss -- At the start I'm a little annoyed
by the aggressive railroading: it's pretty much impossible to do
anything during the first few moves, and any attempts to change that
are met with pretty flimsy excuses, such as "Not yet..." *Why* not
yet? Work with me a little here. And then it's all a virtual
reality, and I've seen that before, and why does our crewmate have to
be named Scotty anyway?
Things open up soon, and none of this is really damning, but I am not
feeling hooked. Sometimes I can't justify as well as I'd like why
something doesn't grab me. But this didn't. 3.
> The Homework of Little Carl Gauss -- At the start I'm a little annoyed
> by the aggressive railroading: it's pretty much impossible to do
> anything during the first few moves, and any attempts to change that
> are met with pretty flimsy excuses, such as "Not yet..." *Why* not
Well, because the portal is still shut. You can touch or push it to find
it out. And when it opens, the game tells you... anyway, the player sure
has little to do, but it's just for the first 5 or 7 moves - after that,
it's all completely open. You are supposed to be mildly scared, that's it.
> Work with me a little here. And then it's all a virtual
> reality, and I've seen that before,
in fact, it's a quote from Bradbury... :)
> and why does our crewmate have to
> be named Scotty anyway?
yep, this was just a placeholder name I was using and didn't have the
time to change - after all I found out about the introcomp a (busy) week
before the deadline and managed to work on the game for a total of one
> Things open up soon, and none of this is really damning, but I am not
> feeling hooked. Sometimes I can't justify as well as I'd like why
> something doesn't grab me.
Oh well, admittedly I was not thinking about writing the next big thing
in IF... the most interesting thing should be finding out the workings
of the strange machine and solving the main puzzle - but I dunno if the
finished game will ever see the light - I'll see if there's enough interest.
By the way, you play on mac, right? Did you hear the sounds? I still
haven't had the time to properly test glulx on different platforms.
> ems...@mindspring.com wrote:
>> The Homework of Little Carl Gauss -- At the start I'm a little annoyed
>> by the aggressive railroading: it's pretty much impossible to do
>> anything during the first few moves, and any attempts to change that
>> are met with pretty flimsy excuses, such as "Not yet..." *Why* not
> Well, because the portal is still shut. You can touch or push it to find
> it out. And when it opens, the game tells you... anyway, the player sure
> has little to do, but it's just for the first 5 or 7 moves - after that,
> it's all completely open. You are supposed to be mildly scared, that's it.
If there's truly not anything to do for the first five or seven moves,
why not have the game start eight moves later?
Ambience. See "Rameses" by Stephen Bond.
Michael Roy wrote:
> If there's truly not anything to do for the first five or seven moves,
> why not have the game start eight moves later?
it's a intro... to the intro. And then of course you can
examine/touch/push the portal, the lions, the meat, try to escape, smell
stuff... and the description changes continuously (with sounds) since
the lions are closing on you... why don't you just download it and give
it a try? :)
Unfortunately I was off doing other things during the voting period and
as far as I can tell, the Intro Comp games are no longer hosted at
www.xyzzynews.com/introcomp/ and not yet archived at
but I'll take a look at it as soon as I can find a copy.
Until then I'll have to be vague in my comments, but from your
description of the above, it sounds as if there is *something* to do,
whether or not it ends up being fruitful in terms of game progress.
However, I feel that the mainstream fiction rule "start with action, not
exposition" applies to IF as well (though possibly not to your game
intro specifically, as I haven't seen it). If Melville had started Moby
Dick with one of the cetology chapters the chances are that I would have
dropped it on page one and by the same token, the chances are that I'd
do the same with a work of IF if my first few commands respond with
messages similar to "You can't do that."
Now, I wouldn't mind an intro-to-the-intro for ambiance if I have
something to be doing in it, but I do mind if I realize on turn two or
three that I might as well just type "z.z.z.z.z." That is, if you're
making me stay somewhere for a while, make sure it's an interesting
place to be. :-)
It's not *just* the fact that you can't get back into the portal
immediately. It's a handful of things, the first and most notable of them
being that you can't go anywhere else. There's a medowlocation and an
out-of-medow location. But the medow is said to "extend in all
directions"--if that is so, then why is my attempt to run in any
direction--say, *away from the lions* when I am told I can't go through the
portal--is "You can't go that way."? I mean, it wouldn't take much to code
in a simple "you stumble through the grass," type of response and then just
move the portal to another location and repeat the same room description. Or
just have two medow rooms, one with a portal and one without. Whatever.
Adding to that, is that first of all it is obvious that it is a simulation
very quickly, so the only thing a player might be afraid of is a malfunction
ala Star Trek: The Next Generation that makes the environment lethal to the
people in it. Not to mention that--I mean, they're freaking lions! If you
don't already see "lions+me=bad" in the first turn then you have no business
playing adventure games. There's no subtle building of unease here,
rather--especialy with the sounds--you are more akin to grabbing the
unpuspecting player by the lepells and screaming "BE AFRAID! BE VERY, EVRY
AFRAID!" into his face while punching him or her repeatedly in the stomach.
And then--oops! Hah hah, there was really nothing to worry about! I'm all
for anticlimaxes, but they have to be *worth* something. Here it's just a
pointless "Haha, fooled you!" moment. And, er, *why* can't you go back
through the portal immediately? You can the rest of the game. And as much as
I'm sure you'd like it to be, "If the player could go back on the first turn
than it would roun that (cough, cough) gripping horror sequence," is not an
appropriate answer from a storyline perspective.
Don't think that I'm saying this game was horrible, though, becasue I'm not,
in fact I quite liked it. But these flaws are still present.
Why settle for the lesser evil? Cthulhu for president!
Much snipped but I have nothing to add, I just like saying: "LIONS!"
ObIF: Cattus Atrox.
My complaint is not so much about being prevented from doing this
right away as it is about not being given better information about why
it doesn't work.
> You can touch or push it to find
> it out.
Hmm, all right. I didn't really have the impression that it was
something I *could* touch or push -- but this is quibbling.
> > Work with me a little here. And then it's all a virtual
> > reality, and I've seen that before,
> in fact, it's a quote from Bradbury... :)
Yes. I'd forgotten some of the details, since I read the story a
number of years ago, but I did think of it.
> > Things open up soon, and none of this is really damning, but I am not
> > feeling hooked. Sometimes I can't justify as well as I'd like why
> > something doesn't grab me.
> Oh well, admittedly I was not thinking about writing the next big thing
> in IF... the most interesting thing should be finding out the workings
> of the strange machine and solving the main puzzle - but I dunno if the
> finished game will ever see the light - I'll see if there's enough interest.
Well, please don't be dissuaded by me. I've seen games I didn't like
that other people loved, and I've also seen games with poorly-designed
introductions that got cleaned up and were much better after more
> By the way, you play on mac, right? Did you hear the sounds? I still
> haven't had the time to properly test glulx on different platforms.
I did not. I also didn't spend a lot of time trying to diagnose the
problem, though, I admit.
James Bond wrote:
> Oh, and just in case anybody is horribly offended by this:
I really don't think so... :)
> immediately. It's a handful of things, the first and most notable of them
> being that you can't go anywhere else.
Actually, it's supposed to be - the "how come I cannot go ANYWHERE?" is
part of the fact you're actually stuck in a single room. Should make
sense at the end, when you find out, although I imagine in IF it's
easier to chalk up a thing like this as poor design/implementation.
Anyway, I understand the first few moves are always important in a game,
but c'mon guys, these are like _6 moves_. Even if you're stuck doing
nothing (which you aren't), even if you don't care about lions
approaching (with growling sounds, if glulx happens to work, which sadly
doesn't seem to do very often), you just have to wait six moves!
In fact, some friends of mine who tried the game understood right away
that it was a simulation (not too hard admittedly) and they took pride
in trying to tickle the lions, sing, do whatever to show the game they
weren't afraid... a perfectly fine solution (although the _character_ of
course does get afraid in the game).
In summary, the first moves are just a way to set the mood. Cheap trick,
not too original, extremely predicatable - you name it, but it's just
> Adding to that, is that first of all it is obvious that it is a simulation
> very quickly, so the only thing a player might be afraid of is a malfunction
> pointless "Haha, fooled you!" moment.
Sure, it wasn't supposed to be a "great moment in IF" - but not
annoying, either. It if is, as it seems apparent from the few comments
I've read so far, something is wrong. Again, it should make a lot more
sense when (SPOILER ALERT!) you get back in the veldt and discover that
you buddy the cook has _really_ been devoured. In this sense, living the
first turns as a cheap trick may even make the "second trip" to the veld
This is, considering you take the time to get back in and explore a
little more... I don't know about you, but some people didn't even find
out it was possible to set the dial and move to 6 possible worlds! :)
> And, er, *why* can't you go back
> through the portal immediately? You can the rest of the game. And as much as
> I'm sure you'd like it to be, "If the player could go back on the first turn
> than it would roun that (cough, cough) gripping horror sequence," is not an
> appropriate answer from a storyline perspective.
In fact I though about it. I had implemented the portal so that you
couldn't use it for a few rounds after crossing it, but it really got
annoying afterwards, so I removed it and left just the initial scene
like that. I repeat, I didn't think players were going to make such a
fuss about it... I should have known better :)
> Don't think that I'm saying this game was horrible, though, becasue I'm not,
> in fact I quite liked it. But these flaws are still present.
Well, thanks. I think a lot of people found the intro quite empty (which
it mostly is, of course!) because they didn't take the time to explore
the _objects_, which are much more fleshed out than the locations. The
prominent example being, of course, the strange (recording) machine...
Mark Jeffrey Tilford
Mark J. Tilford wrote in message ...
See the message of Dan Shiovitz - [Reviews]IntroComp2004, dated 5-8-04.
I saw one URL in that article, and it pointed to a place where his reviews
were stored, not the games.
Sorry 'bout that - a bit of an oversight on my part, and I'm *very* glad
someone pointed it out. I've uploaded IntroComp04.zip to the 'incoming'
folder of the archive just now.
Jacqueline A. Lott
The waters of Usenet were once rich in posters. Then the Usenet
trawlers set their nets and devastated the population, leaving
the ecology in serious imbalance.
NB: Please direct all e-mail to jacq at all things jacq dot com,
as I do not check the e-mail I used to set up my Google account.