[IFLibComp] [SPOILERS] My Reviews of the IFLibComp Games

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David Welbourn

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Mar 24, 2002, 8:12:00 PM3/24/02
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My review of the IFLibComp games.
{WARNING: This review contains HUGE SPOILERS.)

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DWENODON was the first game of the three that I played, and my favourite,
though I think Passing Familiarity may give it some serious competition.
Not that it is perfect by any means: a confusing room layout, thinly
implemented NPCs, and a very annoying hunger daemon. I would recommend to
the author to include a pre-made map of the town's streets and buildings as
a free "feelie" with the game. The PC is in his home town, he isn't
suffering from amnesia, time is of the essence, and he's directed both to
the temple and his home soon after play begins. I had to play the game
several times just to map the town before I could relax and enjoy the game
properly.

And there is a good game here to be enjoyed. You play a young boy named
after me, David -- well, okay, I guess it was only coincidence that the PC
and I have the same name -- who is destined to become a great wizard and
save the world. Go me! Oh, wait. I haven't actually saved the world yet...

So anyway, the game begins with a scavenger hunt as the young boy thief
steals everything that isn't nailed down in the entire town. (But it's all
in the service of the king and goodness, so it's not like we're not being
*bad* here.) And the priest disses us when we try to give him a cursed
coin, but honestly, it's his fault. I tried to give him the emerald studded
gold ring first, but he said it "isn't a suitable offering". (Never you
mind where I got the ring from.) And later on, I overheard him talking to
the bad wizard who wants to buy me (for nefarious unknown purposes, I'm
sure), so the priest must be a *bad* priest.

It's a little strange how the passing townsfolk are more talkative and
useful than the townsfolk who stay in one place -- man, those passing
townsfolk know *everything* -- but I guess with magic, anything can happen.
For example, the whole magical issue at hand is about how all the magic in
the world was split into two books, one containing all the good magic that
can never be misused, and the other containing all the bad magic that can be
misused. I rightly predicted that the good magic book was *very* thin
indeed. In fact, I'm surprised that it isn't an empty volume. But anyway,
the bad magic book was so thick, it was split into seven parts and separated
and locked up, etc. Because bad magic is *bad*. And I suppose the bad
wizards want to rejoin those books. Probably the good wizards do, too. For
good reasons, I'm sure. Because they're *good*.

But really. It's a great game. I collected all this gold stuff, which is
like, totally gold and stuff, and I get to do some fun magic, and I escaped
from the bad guys. Yahoo! So what if the town's only coin collector is
totally disinterested in my big shiny heavy gold coin of maximum buying
value? It's not his story, it's mine! I'm going to save the world! (I
admit, I don't know what I'm saving it from yet, but I'm sure that'll be
revealed in one of the sequels....)

--- +++ ---

PASSING FAMILIARITY is a game that is charming, but oddly artificial. The
game begins with an amnesiac PC, holding an empty bottle of Lethe potion,
and standing in front of a broken mirror. So, like Babel, this game
involves a quest for identity. And the game ends with the PC brewing
alchemical ingredients together in a cauldron. Which reminds me of
Nevermore. And yet, the game doesn't really feel like either.

For one thing, there's no sense of urgency. Apart from the broken mirror,
there's a tea stain on your dress, and some scraps of paper lying around,
and a broken teapot in the kitchen, but those are the only hints of violence
or distress. And there's no one else about. You wander through the rooms
of the house, looking at all the magical and non-magical knickknacks, but
you have no idea if they're your knickknacks or someone else's. Most of it
you can't do anything with to advance the story, but for a wizard's home it
seems rather conventional and, well, middle class. Like visiting your aunt,
except she doesn't have an indoor toilet.

So anyway, you explore a bit and pick up scraps of paper and read them to
get a little history. But this paper trail is so oddly placed than it feels
artificial. Clearly, the scraps have been placed not where they would
normally fall, but in a way for an adventurer from Zork to find. Also, the
house is locked and fenced in in such a way that you can't leave. Not
because it makes sense for the homeowners to lock themselves in, but to keep
the PC in the game scenario. Unfortunately, escaping the home was made a
secondary goal in the game, quite apart from the more interesting goal of
self-discovery.

There are other oddities in the game, like having the garden do double duty
as a graveyard, something I doubt that many people would really do. A bag
of coins, unused elsewhere in the game, is represented by 13 different game
objects instead of just one game object. (And yet, there's only one instance
of each potion ingredient.) Worse, looking behind the picture in the
upstairs hallway is a joke that seriously breaks mimesis. Little quibbles,
but do they add up. (Is there anything to eat here except "yummy"
radishes?)

Still, there is an interesting story and atmosphere here, and you figure out
how to get your memory back, except, and this is rather clever, you get to
choose *which* memories to get back, and thus you are able to end the game
in several different ways. The alchemy is much easier here than in
Nevermore; the game helpfully tells you when you've made a mistake. It's an
interesting and troubling conclusion to realize that identity and selfhood
can be that fluid. After all, if you write different words in a blank book,
you get a different book, don't you? Nor is it at all obvious which is the
best ending, which is itself a good ending. I look forward to seeing more
from Papillon.

--- +++ ---

LAZY GODS is the weakest game of the three, partly due to lack of sufficient
beta-testing, but mostly due to lack of actual substance. The game mechanics
are mostly okay, and the story has a proper beginning, middle, and end - but
unhappily, the story and descriptions are somewhat lacking in detail. This
leaves the game with a skeletal, or undercooked feel to it. It really needs
another month or so of development. Add some meat to it.

First, the issue of beta-testing: please get some. Fix spelling errors
like "killed by a wild board". Fix ambiguity errors like "which sand do you
mean, the sand or the sand castle". Add synonyms. Make sure all locations
that have obvious directions to travel in actually mention those directions
in the location's description. Please don't refer to the PC's friend James
as "the man", eg: "The man isn't interested." Call him by name. And, when
testing, try a few unusual actions like "fill book with water" at the pool
to expose poor default responses that need to be fixed.

Second, the issue of game mechanics. I'm willing to forgive both the thirst
puzzle and the underwater timing puzzle, since both were easily solved and
thus not too annoying. The cloud message is iffy: I liked it because it
made me think fondly of Enchanter, but I'm not sure it really belongs here.
The help system is nice; context help by location is good. The flowers were
easy to mistake as background scenery; something should change to make them
more obviously relevant. I mistakenly thought that getting past the thorns
was more important than the flowers. Not sure why I couldn't unlock the
castle gate from the inside. Using the magazine quiz to change the rest of
the game is a good idea, it does add replay value, but right now it has only
a minimal effect. Yay, I can wash the blood off the rod. Boo, I can't toss
it back into the ocean. The crystal ball is easily my favourite item in the
game - because it has detail.

Third, the issue of embellishment. There are six NPCs in the game, and four
of them are gods. Yet none of them have much personality or depth. Your
friends, at least, are building a sand castle and reading a magazine. But
the gods don't even do that much; they just stand and watch you. The gods
are not just lazy, but totally indifferent.

The gods don't have a backstory, either. This is most obvious when talking
to Hul, a god who was imprisoned long ago. Why was he imprisoned? Is it
okay to free him? Does he even care about his imprisonment? You don't
know, and neither does Hul, nor the author, apparently. Hul's not eager to
be released. He's not remorseful about whatever misdeed he did. He's not
angry about being imprisoned, nor vengeful against his fellow gods. No, he
had a disagreement way back when, but he and everyone else has forgotten all
about it, so it probably doesn't matter now. Nuh-uh. It should matter.

I'd also like more topics in the conversations. For example, you can only
ask James about the sand castle and the rod. That's really not enough.
Even though he's only a minor character in the game, I should also be able
to ask him about Karen, myself, the beach, the house, the book, and possibly
even about the neighbours and lunch. The same goes with the rest of the
NPCs.

Still, even though there was little meat on this game's bones, I did enjoy
playing this game. (Hey, I just saved the entire world! Go me! That's
gotta count for something.)

-- David Welbourn

Papillon

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Mar 24, 2002, 8:40:12 PM3/24/02
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"David Welbourn" <dsw...@look.ca> wrote:

>My review of the IFLibComp games.
>{WARNING: This review contains HUGE SPOILERS.)
>
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First off, thanks for the review! (I've been forgetting to say that before.
:) )

>So anyway, you explore a bit and pick up scraps of paper and read them to
>get a little history. But this paper trail is so oddly placed than it feels
>artificial. Clearly, the scraps have been placed not where they would
>normally fall, but in a way for an adventurer from Zork to find. Also, the

I thought a player might have been a bit annoyed had they found a pile of
the scraps right together on the floor and had to read them all at once
rather than having them turn up one by one. Had the PC run through more
rooms while she was tearing and throwing the pages, it would have been
easier to space them out. As it was, I was running out of places to stick
them, and didn't add one final page because I couldn't think of where it
would go.

>of each potion ingredient.) Worse, looking behind the picture in the
>upstairs hallway is a joke that seriously breaks mimesis. Little quibbles,

It wasn't intended as a fourth-wall breakage - it is supposed to be 'Anahid'
who wrote that there. Being the person that she was, setting up her "dream
home" in her new "fairy-tale world", she would think of fantasy cliches like
safes behind paintings. The PC's response of "Someone thought it was funny"
isn't supposed to imply "The author threw this in as an easter-egg" but
rather "Eek, did *I* write that?"

>but do they add up. (Is there anything to eat here except "yummy"
>radishes?)

... there would be, in the fridge, which conveniently doesn't open. The
radishes weren't originally edible, because *I* don't eat them and had no
idea people ate them raw... but a beta-tester did. :)

Gary Shannon

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Mar 25, 2002, 2:10:31 AM3/25/02
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"David Welbourn" <dsw...@look.ca> wrote in message
news:u9suf6a...@corp.supernews.com...

Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to comment on it.

> Not that it is perfect by any means: a confusing room layout, thinly
> implemented NPCs, and a very annoying hunger daemon. I would recommend to
> the author to include a pre-made map of the town's streets and buildings
as
> a free "feelie" with the game.

How about a "map" command that summons a gif image of the map? I agree that
since the town is the PC's home town you should start the game knowing your
way around. A map that can be displayed on demand would be a good way to
solve that problem.

>The PC is in his home town, he isn't
> suffering from amnesia, time is of the essence, and he's directed both to
> the temple and his home soon after play begins. I had to play the game
> several times just to map the town before I could relax and enjoy the game
> properly.
>
> And there is a good game here to be enjoyed. You play a young boy named
> after me, David -- well, okay, I guess it was only coincidence that the PC
> and I have the same name -- who is destined to become a great wizard and
> save the world. Go me! Oh, wait. I haven't actually saved the world yet...
>

<snip>


>
> It's a little strange how the passing townsfolk are more talkative and
> useful than the townsfolk who stay in one place -- man, those passing
> townsfolk know *everything* -- but I guess with magic, anything can
happen.

I obviously need to spend some more time developing the NPCs. This has been
a common observation.

> For example, the whole magical issue at hand is about how all the magic in
> the world was split into two books, one containing all the good magic that
> can never be misused, and the other containing all the bad magic that can
be
> misused. I rightly predicted that the good magic book was *very* thin
> indeed. In fact, I'm surprised that it isn't an empty volume. But
anyway,
> the bad magic book was so thick, it was split into seven parts and
separated
> and locked up, etc. Because bad magic is *bad*. And I suppose the bad
> wizards want to rejoin those books. Probably the good wizards do, too.
For
> good reasons, I'm sure. Because they're *good*.

Finding the seven books (did you find the first one yet?) should keep you
busy for quite a few sequels.
The story of the game is based on chapter one of a three-part novel I wrote
some years ago, but never published.

>
> But really. It's a great game. I collected all this gold stuff, which is
> like, totally gold and stuff, and I get to do some fun magic, and I
escaped
> from the bad guys. Yahoo! So what if the town's only coin collector is
> totally disinterested in my big shiny heavy gold coin of maximum buying
> value?

Oops! My bad! For the next release I've convinced the old man to take an
interest in your gold coin.

>It's not his story, it's mine! I'm going to save the world! (I
> admit, I don't know what I'm saving it from yet, but I'm sure that'll be
> revealed in one of the sequels....)

If I can manage to turn each suceeding chapter of the original novel into
another game there should be a total of 44 sequels before you actually get
to save the world! ;-)
The first three sequels are briefly described on my web page
http://www.geocities.com/fiziwig/ along with a teaser for the first sequel.

Thanks again for the comments and observations.

<snip>

--gary


Joachim Froholt

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Mar 25, 2002, 3:16:44 AM3/25/02
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Papillon wrote:

> >but do they add up. (Is there anything to eat here except "yummy"
> >radishes?)
>
> ... there would be, in the fridge, which conveniently doesn't open. The
> radishes weren't originally edible, because *I* don't eat them and had no
> idea people ate them raw... but a beta-tester did. :)

We're talking about the red, round variety of radishes here? I had no idea
people normally don't eat them raw.. They are fantastic to just eat right out of
the ground, and they fit very well in salads and on sandwiches.. :-)

Joachim

atholbrose

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Mar 25, 2002, 5:15:17 AM3/25/02
to
Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net> wrote in
news:3C9EDCEB...@c2i.net:

> We're talking about the red, round variety of radishes here? I had no
> idea people normally don't eat them raw.. They are fantastic to just
> eat right out of the ground, and they fit very well in salads and on
> sandwiches.. :-)

In fact, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the idea of *cooking*
radishes...

Papillon

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Mar 25, 2002, 7:28:28 PM3/25/02
to

>> We're talking about the red, round variety of radishes here? I had no
>> idea people normally don't eat them raw.. They are fantastic to just
>> eat right out of the ground, and they fit very well in salads and on
>> sandwiches.. :-)
>
>In fact, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the idea of *cooking*
>radishes...

Didn't say I ate them cooked - I've never eaten a radish. I'm not even sure
I've ever *seen* a radish. :)

Eytan Zweig

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Mar 25, 2002, 8:23:35 PM3/25/02
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"Papillon" <papillo...@bigfoot.com> wrote in message
news:pgqv9ugb8i8ha1m7a...@4ax.com...

Well, if you want to know what a radish looks like (and are of legal age to
see a radish in whatever country you live in), you can try the following
link:

http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/veggies/images/radish.jpg

Eytan


Joachim Froholt

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Mar 26, 2002, 5:17:18 AM3/26/02
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Papillon wrote:

> >> We're talking about the red, round variety of radishes here? I had no
> >> idea people normally don't eat them raw.. They are fantastic to just
> >> eat right out of the ground, and they fit very well in salads and on
> >> sandwiches.. :-)
> >
> >In fact, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the idea of *cooking*
> >radishes...

Yeah, me too. Actually, they're not too bad if you slice them and fry them, but
they're best raw.

> Didn't say I ate them cooked - I've never eaten a radish. I'm not even sure
> I've ever *seen* a radish. :)

You should try some.. they're delicious :-)
Radishes are very common over here, and easy to find in stores. But ofcourse,
the best ones are the ones you grow yourself (and they're very easy to grow -
If I can do it, anyone can... :-)

Joachim


David Keller

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Mar 28, 2002, 2:29:40 AM3/28/02
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"Eytan Zweig" <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:a7oiim$m9i68$1...@ID-101183.news.dfncis.de...
Assuming Papillon is not pulling our legs, the fact Papillon has never seen
a radish makes me curious about what country/community Papillon does live in
and more generally how where IF authors live and within what communities
they live affects their writing of games that have a global audience. With
companion curiosity about how the nations, communities, cultures and such
which individual gamers are from affects their gameplay and understanding of
matters which authors may assume the player will know.

On The Subject Of Cooking Radishes.

I know the long white ones are eaten boiled by some people. There may be a
Swedish or Swedish-American connection to this. Or Polish. My personal
knowledge comes from an area of Michigan that used to be over 90% Swedish
and Polish immigrants. *I* would not describe this as yummy.

I don't ever truly cook the red ones but do add them to some soups and stir
fries. Also, I seem to remember them as ingredients in some soups and other
dishes I've eaten at Vietnamese and maybe, Thai, Cambodian or Filipino
restaurants. However, I basically think of them as something to be eaten
raw.

David K


Papillon

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Mar 28, 2002, 8:53:09 AM3/28/02
to

>Assuming Papillon is not pulling our legs, the fact Papillon has never seen
>a radish makes me curious about what country/community Papillon does live in

*flustered look* Well, I've seen them in the grocery store, I'm sure, but
I've never given one my close, personal attention. I'm not a salad person...
'radish' always sounded like a 'salad' thing to me. I hate salad. The only
vegetable I enjoy raw is a carrot.

As for where I come from, I'm a first-generation Southerner (parents were
Northern, but *I* eat grits - um, if anyone doesn't know what I mean,
Southeastern US.) married to a Brit (from near Brighton if it matters).
Urban Southern, not rural, and not coming from a long line of suthiners
spares me from such disgusting traditions as souse. I flinch when I have to
go by the pig's ears and pig's feet in the grocery store. Ew! Grits are
okay, though. Not all that thrilling but I have no problem including them in
my breakfast.

>and more generally how where IF authors live and within what communities
>they live affects their writing of games that have a global audience. With
>companion curiosity about how the nations, communities, cultures and such
>which individual gamers are from affects their gameplay and understanding of
>matters which authors may assume the player will know.

I had a terrible time trying to explain to a writing teacher (from Maine, I
think) what I was talking about when I mentioned "eating honeysuckle". He
refused to believe that anyone but me had ever done this.

I also seem to remember someone's (don't recall who) comments on One Week
about how being male he was taken completely by surprise at the idea that a
prom dress cost more than $20. Snicker.

>On The Subject Of Cooking Radishes.
>
>I know the long white ones are eaten boiled by some people. There may be a

There are long white radishes? :)

Hey, getting married meant I didn't have to cook for myself anymore, I don't
have to know what vegetables look like! :)


David Keller

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Apr 6, 2002, 5:37:37 PM4/6/02
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"Papillon" <papillo...@bigfoot.com> wrote in message
news:beh6au4icr30qpj7p...@4ax.com...

>
> >Assuming Papillon is not pulling our legs, the fact Papillon has never
seen
> >a radish makes me curious about what country/community Papillon does live
in
>
> *flustered look* Well, I've seen them in the grocery store, I'm sure, but
> I've never given one my close, personal attention. I'm not a salad
person...
> 'radish' always sounded like a 'salad' thing to me. I hate salad. The only
> vegetable I enjoy raw is a carrot.
>
> As for where I come from, I'm a first-generation Southerner (parents were
> Northern, but *I* eat grits - um, if anyone doesn't know what I mean,
> Southeastern US.) married to a Brit (from near Brighton if it matters).
> Urban Southern, not rural, and not coming from a long line of suthiners
> spares me from such disgusting traditions as souse. I flinch when I have
to
> go by the pig's ears and pig's feet in the grocery store. Ew! Grits are
> okay, though. Not all that thrilling but I have no problem including them
in
> my breakfast.
> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
souse?

If pig's ears and feet in the grocery stores bother you, you'd positively
gringe while in the grocery stores of my area that are fairly "non-ethnic"
and the one's that are outright Mexican or Vietnamese and such would give
you the willies for longer than it takes to drive out of the parking lots.
<g>

BTW, I recognize this is a response to something I posted although I can't
seem to find my own post. Another mystery. Hope it does get some more
responses though. The social-cultural context of IF is a topic of interest
to me.

David K --------------


> >and more generally how where IF authors live and within what communities
> >they live affects their writing of games that have a global audience.
With
> >companion curiosity about how the nations, communities, cultures and such
> >which individual gamers are from affects their gameplay and understanding
of
> >matters which authors may assume the player will know.
>
> I had a terrible time trying to explain to a writing teacher (from Maine,
I
> think) what I was talking about when I mentioned "eating honeysuckle". He
> refused to believe that anyone but me had ever done this.
> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

It does have a butterflyish sound to it. :-)

You do mean eating the flowers of the honeysuckle tree, right?

DAvid K ---------

> I also seem to remember someone's (don't recall who) comments on One Week
> about how being male he was taken completely by surprise at the idea that
a
> prom dress cost more than $20. Snicker.
>
> >On The Subject Of Cooking Radishes.
> >
> >I know the long white ones are eaten boiled by some people. There may be
a
>
> There are long white radishes? :)
> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Probably more than one variety of long white radishes now that I think of
it. The ones I had in mind were not the Southeast Asian ones (I think those
are radishes anyway) but some that I believe grew in Michigan and other such
areas. Kind of bland and I didn't care for them so I don't remember them
well.

David K -------

> Hey, getting married meant I didn't have to cook for myself anymore, I
don't
> have to know what vegetables look like! :)
>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Of course you don't. But aren't you _curiooous_?


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