Jason's IFComp Discussions

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Jason

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Nov 16, 2006, 12:49:52 AM11/16/06
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SPOILER WARNING

While this isn't going to be exceptionally spoilery, be warned that there
may be a few scattered about.

***

Hey, everyone. Hope you had as good a time with this year's comp as I did.
It
was definitely the best I've seen, and I think all the top 10 games will be
pretty good ones. They'd probably be top 5 in any other year.

Anyway, I only wrote three (semi)formal reviews, but I did talk quite
extensively with Mike Snyder about our various opinions on the
games. So rather than let all this game discussion end up in our recycle
bins, I thought I'd compile it here. It's pretty rough, but hopefully you
should be able to follow it. Except for the first 3 reviews, all the stuff
with the ">" in front of it is mine, all the rest is Mike's.

I think next year I'll do these email discussion-type reviews entirely, but
with a lot more attention to having a readable compilation at the end.


THE THREE REVIEWS I WROTE BEFORE I PETERED OUT

Madam Spider's Web

Overall, I liked it quite a bit. It was incredibly smoothly implemented: I
don't think I tried a single action that wasn't implemented. The writing was
great, and the implementation was deep. I liked the many third-level nouns
in descriptions.

Unfortunately, it was really short. I was just starting to get in to it
when it ended. And the ending was good and appropriately cued, but I'm
getting a little tired of that particular twist :)

Anyway, overall it was great. I was quite excited when I saw you had
submitted a game: I just wish it had been longer :)

Moon-Shaped

Overall it was a lot of fun. The writing was really good: descriptive but
totally readable. I never felt like glossing over it (which tend to happen
to me a couple hours in). Implementation was strong; I didn't encounter any
bugs or typos. Puzzles were great (although the firefly one was a little
too strongly clued for how common it is). I hardly had to check the hints at
all, and when I did I never felt like the solutions were unreasonable. I
think I uncovered a bug at some point, but I'm not entirely sure. I'd check
the behaviour with the walking stick. It implied in the hints that there
was a flashback involved with it (I don't entirely remember), but I didn't
receive one. I might be totally off base and just skipped ahead when I got
stuck.

Now for the ending. I totally loved it. I'm getting a little tired of
dramatic twists in IF these days, but yours was excellent and well-executed.
I liked the multitude of endings, but I kind of wish they branched a little
earlier. Also, I think it'd be stronger if you didn't mention which
specific ending you reached (You saved your grandmother but your father
died). I think if people get a worse ending, they'll be motivated enough to
try for the good one without the explicit hint that there are other ones.

Polendina

Watch out for this one. I feel kind of slighted after playing it. I felt
like I, and it, deserved more. Overall, the story is quite good: not
incredibly original, the twist has been done before. And the ending actually
hit me pretty hard. It was really quite well done. But the game really
didn't live up to it. It was buggy, poorly implemented, and poorly clued.
Some of the puzzles were pretty good, but I didn't respect the game enough
to try to find the logical (and quite clever) solutions. And as far as
respect goes, the game plays with it in a strange way. Until the very end,
it feels like a crappy author being verbally abusive to the player, which
really turns me off. But at the end, it all makes sense. Of course, by then,
you're so bristled from the abuse that it's a little ineffective.

OVERALL RATINGS

My Favourites:

Delightful Wallpaper, Floatpoint, Tales of the Travelling Swordsman

Other Great Games:

Madam Spider's Web, Moon-Shaped, The Primrose Path, Mobius, The Elysium
Enigma

Shows Some Promise:

Polendina

Not My Thing:

Sisyphus, Simple Adventure, Green Falls, Fetter's Grim

Ones I Didn't Play:

The rest

EMAIL DISCUSSIONS

DISCUSSING PANKS

>Cool, I still haven't gotten a chance to really check them out yet (except
>Paul Allen Panks games :)).

I thought about playing Panks' games first, and maybe the "PTGOOD" game.
Just kind of get them all out of the way. I haven't playing *any* of them
yet.
I wanted to finish my walkthrough first. I'll need to average a game a day,
if
I intend to get through them all.

I don't know what it means, but "Fetter's Grim" *is* an interesting game
title. I had moderate fun with one of his two games last year, so I'm
hopeful
that he's done something a little cool with one of these three.

You think anybody else entered with a pseudonym this year? Like maybe Andrew
Plotkin or somebody? It would be interesting to find out.

DISCUSSING FETTER'S GRIM

>Haha, that's the weirdest one of them all. Excuse the spoilers, but at one
>point he writes something along lines of "(Wheeee. I'm so drunk. Whoops.
>Better get back to writing the game.)"

Really? Wow. He's really something else. But yeah, you know what you're
getting into. It wouldn't be an IFComp without Paul Panks, Santoonie Corp,
and Slan Xorax (PTBAD).

DISCUSSING MOON-SHAPED

I started playing (finally) the first game on my random list -- Moon-Shaped.
It's not bad. It's a retelling of a famous children's story, though. Maybe
it's not under copyright (I think it's Bros. Grim, or maybe H. A. Anderson
or
something -- I forget). I played about 1:10 last night, then got really
tired. So far, it's pretty interesting.

But, I'm finding it really difficult this year to play just for *fun*. I'm
not exactly playing like a judge would, either. It's more like I'm playing
as a
beta-tester, as if it's my game and I'm weeding out the bugs. I did serveral
things early on just trying to break it (which I did -- you can put it into
an unwinnable state from almost the beginning).

DISCUSSING INITIAL STATE'S BLURB (didn't actually play it)

>The Initial State has the worst one :(
>"Initial State is a deeply psychological text adventure set in deep space.
>You play as an amnesiac who finds himself stranded aboard an immense ship
>drifting through space. The game is also a literary exercise in the
>"unreliable narrator" tradition."

Heh -- only that it sounds like two or three games that crop up in *every*
competition.

It's a Windows .EXE, if I recall correctly. The community has very little
patience for home-brewed games (assuming it is). :-/

Still, I try to start out in every one assuming it's a masterpiece.

>Unless it's really awesome, it's gonna get torn to shreds from this. And I
>may be old fashioned, but doesn't saying upfront that a game has an
>"unreliable narrator" kind of defeat the purpose?

Yeah, and it seems like there may have been another game or two where the
blurb gives too much away.

DISCUSSING RECOMMENDATION'S BETWEEN REVIEWERS

>If you need some IFComp recommendations, I've played 3 games so far (+3
>panks games) that I think are worth checking out.

I'll probably compare notes later. Where possible, I prefer to know
*nothing* about the game, except what the author has already supplied
-- not even that somebody recommends it. To me, that's the fun of the
competition. :) Depending on how slowly I get through them, I might
change my mind.

MOON-SHAPED AGAIN

> >So far, it's pretty interesting.
>
>That's the first game I played. I liked it a lot. Well done for a first
>effort.

I liked it so far. I played over an hour, but I don't think I made it far. I
mapped out the area around the grandmother's house, emptied the honey pot,
got fireflies and went down to the well. I found the moon-shaped locket, the
hatchet -- can't figure out the boat yet, but I found the monocle. I haven't
looked at hints. I like solving on my own. If I stay stuck much longer, I'll
resort to the walkthrough. I was *really* tired when I was playing, though.
Maybe when I play later tonight or tomorrow, the answers will just come to
me.

When I was coming home from work today, I was mulling it over. Something
kind of clicked, like... it's a darker telling of Little Red Riding Hood,
and it's not quite the same as the children's story. I think what he's doing
is using a known story that people won't expect a twist, and then throw in a
twist. What occured to me is the moon theme.... a full moon in the sky
(if I recall correctly), the moon-shaped watch... and talking wolves.
Werewolves. But I guess I'll find out once I get a little farther in. It
would explain why grandma's window was broken outward, and why the men in
the family (fathers/brothers) are gone or killed.

If so, it would have been nice if I could have played it all in one sitting.
It didn't occur to me last night, and now I'll kind of be looking for things
that prove I'm right. :)

AND AGAIN (MOON-SHAPED)

I finished Moon-Shaped and got all 8 endings, although I started looking at
the walkthrough more and more. Some things I overlooked in the glimpses with
the locket (like waving the staff), and it never occurred to me to "search"
the
woodpile (I tried to "dig" in it, like the text suggested somebody had
done).

All in all, a pretty good game, and interesting mix of stories. Definitely
Brothers Grimm.

THE WHOLE COMP ISSUE

>And you're right. It feels a little lame to have IFComp as your only
>motivation. It's the same for me. I just couldn't stand the lack of
>feedback with the rest though.

If 14 total voters for Spring Thing 2006 doesn't speak volumes, nothing
does. This is supposed to be a competition for medium to long-sized games,
yet
there were four entries (the longest of which was a decent 8 hours), and
virtually
no interest by the community at large. I do other programming --
browser-based
games, VB and C#, etc. Having *that* much work played by only 14 people (and
however few have picked up the games since then) would be a dismal failure.
I'd rather write something graphical, like that guy is doing with Vespers.
It
would give me an excuse to learn TrueVision 3D or maybe jump right in with
DirectX
or something.

MOON-SHAPED

>I didn't use the randomizer, I just thought it was a cool name.

Yeah, it is a cool name, and the name is probably what finally got me
thinking about the connection to talking wolves. The moon... the full
moon... a
wolf... a werewolf. It's a shame I didn't play in one sitting. I don't think
it would
have been more surprising then.

>And I told him I really didn't like the whole "You have found on of 8
>endings" thing, and I think I made a mistake having it in legion. I think
>it
>bothered me more though that it had that and the "You save ____, but failed
>to save ______" which makes it pretty clear that there are alternatives,
>making the other unnecessary.

I don't quite know what I'm going to say about that in the review. In
Legion, the endings are separated by a few more actions (if I remember
right).
In Moon-Shaped, the branching happens so close to the end that you can pick
up
all eight with only two or three turns played differently.

>Haha, yeah. I liked it a fair bit. It couldve been smoother, but I look
>forward to seeing his future stuff.

Me too. My chief complaints are the obscure puzzles. He did a good job with
the cage and the candies (no walkthrough there, and even with clear
prompting,
it felt like an achievement), but (a) I tried to "turn hands to 2:45 AM" on
the
clock (and other variations) which *should* have worked. I even tried doing
"set hands" (which works, as it turns out, if phrased just right), and gave
up
thinking I was on the wrong path. And then the shaking of the walking
stick... it's probably mentioned in the cutscene, but you can't re-view it
(to my knowledge), and probably need more prompting.

FLOATPOINT

>Yeah. I really liked the depth of the world. It felt almost Le Guinian to
>me, and it also kind of reminded me of Portal (by Rob Swigart). And it was
>definitely a different kind of game. I don't think I've played anything
>quite like it. It was all set up for the final decision, with the rest just
>leading to which decision you want to make. It was really neat to play a
>single-goal directed game with no minor goals along the way. Sure, there
>were things to do that needed doing, but they never felt like goals in
>themselves. It's a neat way to structure the game. I really liked the
>writing, and the backstory of the world was great.

THAT STAGGERED REVIEW RELEASE DISCUSSION

>What do you think about that "More thoughts on comp reviews"? I'm kind of
>mixed. More discussion would be great, but I don't really see it happening.
>Plus the extra wait would be excrutiating.

It'd be fine if you were in an early group, but I don't think it's
practical.
If I really like the game that places 11th, I'm going to want to post my
review
and talk about it right away. I don't think I'd be able to follow whatever
guidelines they set up.

I'm also against the idea of discussing games *during* the competition. Even
though I want to see reviews of my own game, and any others I've already
played, it's way too easy to influence me. And I think it's easy to
influence
other people, too. I mean, I was already expecting bad things from Labyrinth
just
because of the bug that makes it only work in one interpreter. I've even
seen complaints in other forums, where people say they would rather make a
more
"informed" vote, by reading everything others have to say about the games
first.

I just don't like it. Standard deviations will shrink, and it would become a
matter of the group forming an opinion. I like it when people rank games way
off from the final results. I think they want to avoid the embarrasment that
comes from critcizing a game everybody else liked, and vice-versa.

>Yeah. I don't know of any way that would work. I think random would be
>best,
>but some of the staggered one's seem ok. Even with some organization
>though, I can imagine the discussion being pretty thin on most games.

I think it should just go naturally. As they say, you can't herd cats.

>I don't like it either. I like the off-the-cuff reviews you get with the
>regular way of no discussion. Some of the most satisfying comments are the
>one's that are uninformed. I loved last year, in Maga's reviews, where he
>said about Chancellor like "I have a sinking suspiscion that this is the
>comp game that I'm truly wrong about this year." Not to mention spoiler
>factors.


MADAM SPIDER'S WEB

I played Madam Spider's Web last night, for about 50 minutes. I saved when
it reached a new section, thinking I would resume today. When I did, I found
out that I was almost at the end already. Another 10 minutes, and the game
was done. It seems really short, even by IFcomp standards.

It's well-written, though. While playing, I kept thinking "this is really
good" -- I liked the puzzles, etc. I think its brevity may hurt it some. The
idea in the game works well enough, and it's pretty clever, it just doesn't
seem like it was taken far enough.

>I thought the first part of the game was wonderful. It was a very neat
>little world Sarah constructed, but I felt slighted when it ended in (what
>I thought was) a cliche. I just would have loved to have stayed in the
>house
>for another couple of days and find out more of its and Madam Spider's
>secrets.

The only problem I can see with stretching out the first part too much would
be that it would be hard to spot the things from the real world that match
up
to what's in the dream. The first part is streamlined enough that it leads
up
to the piano puzzle. You get the sound of honking, the sound of tires, and
the
sound of a siren, just like what turns out to be the accident. This is "B"
"E" "D" on the piano, which is ultimately where those sounds put her. It's
pretty clever, and I can see not wanting to bury that with too *much* in the
spider's house.

What would have been interesting is to go forward to the accident, and then
*back* to the dream -- maybe. The player would probably be aware of what's
happening, but then the whole thing could be treated as the dream it is. It
might have been interesting.

DELIGHTFUL WALLPAPER

I.... don't exactly know what to say. I'm sitting down at a blank review,
trying to figure out just *what* I want to say about it. It's unlike any
other
work of IF I've played. The first part is *very* hard. I solved quite a bit
of
it on my own, but ultimately started over and did the walkthrough. It's
built in
two sections, so just as the walkthrough predicted, I was able to pick up at
the
second part and finish completely unassisted. The second part is hard too,
but
stands up to some experimentation. I'm kind of impressed that I didn't need
the walkthrough at that point.

The first part really grabbed my attention, but when I realized just how
complicated it was (the house, at least in the first part, is a big puzzle
box where walking through doorways will open or close other doorways, so you
have to figure out exactly how to move around and reach areas that were
previously
inacessible). It's an interesting concept. Then the second part... it's an
idea unlike anything I've ever seen.

The thing is, Plotkin (assuming it's his game, and I have no reason now to
doubt it) saved a lot of hastle by the very construction of the game. It's
almost
flawlessly implemented because you can't *do* anything. I mean, you do stuff
(moving around, and eventually manipulating these... "concepts" so to
speak),
but at no time can the PC directly interact with the world. In other words,
no getting physical objects, no moving things, no talking to people. In a
way,
that probably made it *easier* to implement.

But I don't know. I'm tempted to say "10" because it's a game that really
sent me for a loop -- one I think I won't forget. But I'm tempted to say
it's
a lot lower, because the first part was so convoluted and difficult. I don't
know.
I'm still trying to sort it all out.

The bad thing about *not* trying to solve the first part on your own is then
you miss the layout of the house, you miss story bits, etc. Luckily I had
seen
most of it on my own, before I started over with the walkthrough. It's a
plain
walkthrough (commands only), which makes it kinda hard to follow. I actually
had to try it 3 or 4 times because I kept messing up (especially when I got
to
new rooms, read the descriptions, and then lost my place in the
walkthrough).
But... I don't know, even *that* part seems pretty brilliant, even if it was
way
over my head.

I think it's going to place low in the competition (maybe not even the top
10) because it seems pretty frustrating -- well, unless word spreads about
who
(probably) wrote it, and it plays a part. Honestly, I think it played a part
for me. If I had assumed a newbie wrote it, I don't know how favorably I
would
have viewed it either. I think it's going to get a lot of post-competition
chatter. Legion will too, but the workings of this game (in particular, the
second section) are just drastically different from anything I've ever seen.
It
takes a while to figure out what the heck is going on, but man.... hmmm...
yeah,
be prepared for some frustration, but stick it out.

>Wow. Just wow. I really don't know what to say. Except that you were
>totally
>right in that this is unlike anything else I've ever played. It makes every
>other game I've played within the last few years feel... just bland, I
>suppose.
>
>That's not to say that this is the best game I've played: even in this
>year's comp. It's just so different. And the way it was done is definitely
>amazing. I could envision a game telling the same story, but without this
>particular device and be completely wrong. Not unenjoyable (perhaps more
>enjoyable), or worse, but it just wouldn't be right. This game just felt
>right.
>
>That said, I actually really liked the first part. I didn't find it too
>hard, but I did make extensive use of the notepad. I ended up getting right
>to the end, but then the panelled door wasn't open, so I just reloaded with
>the walkthru. The first part felt right for the game.
>
>The second part I had trouble with. I knew in general what I was supposed
>to
>do, but I couldn't really find much reason to make the choices I made. Some
>were clear (the bell, the champagne), but when I had a choice who to kill
>whom I didn't really feel confident with my choices. This got me stuck, I
>guess I didnt get the right people to kill the right people. My choices
>made
>sense to me, but only because I kind of constructed my own little idea of
>how I wanted the story to go (it also said something that made it sound
>like the possibilities were mine (as the player) to pick from).
>
>As for it's reception, I think you're right. Neither Jota or Dan seemed to
>think that highly of it. And I definitely feel influenced by the opinions
>that I have heard though and the fact that it's Plotkin's (I am almost
>positive now). But if I hadnt known these things, I don't think I would
>have
>been that patient. Or, for that matter, look for the metaphor that's there.
>
>And you're definitely right about the fact that this will be THE talked
>about game of the comp (after the comp). In light of Delightful Wallpaper,
>everything will seem pretty bland. Floatpoint (and probably the Eric's
>game) is probably a better game, but it felt entirely too transparent. I
>guess the key to ensuring a lot of post-comp chatter is not to reveal
>anything too strongly :).

I finished my review around midnight my time (want to see?). I did end up
giving it a 10. I'm still second-guessing myself as to whether or not it was
deserved. I think it's because the game didn't have to do *as much* as other
games. He limited what the player can do, so even though it was probably
difficult to think up and design the two sides to the game, it was probably
easier to *implement* those two sides. But... it's a game that just sticks
in my mind as... I don't know. Something different. Something amazing.

>Yeah, I definitely would like to see your review. I know you like to give
>some marks for effort/work, and I think Delightful Wallpaper should get
>these, even if the implementation might have been easy to do. But I'm not
>so sure it was easy to do, especially for the first part. It might have
>been easy code >wise (give leaf_door open, etc.), but he had a lot to keep
>track of to make it all fit. I think that's >more work than most games that
>use standard object manipulation.

>I still don't know where it will place. It's getting my #1 for Miss
>Congeniality, but I think it might >go the way of Shade: unappreciated
>until AFTER the comp. Both Jota and Dan have been around a long time, and
>neither of them appreciated it. I don't think it will rocket to the top of
>IFComp scoring. But come Xyzzy time, watch out!

DISCUSSING THE (LIKELY) BOTTOM FIVE

Heh -- they're all very different.

Panks is trying to write *good* games (the kind he himself enjoyes, and
assumes others should as well).

Xorax (PTGOOD, etc) is trying to write *bad* games, but not in a malicious
way. He just thinks it's funny, but probably isn't trying to tick players
off. I think he just likes the silly, irate reviews.

Sisyphus... I don't know. It's probably *meant* to make the player mad. I
couldn't find a solution, and the responses I did get don't lead me to any
alternatives. If it was meant to be a game with a hard beginning puzzle, I'd
expect to at least find some kind of clue. As it is, all you can do is push
the boulder. The way to escape the punishment (which the intro alludes to
being the goal) is to opt out and >QUIT.

DISCUSSING WHO WROTE DELIGHTFUL WALLPAPER

>Ah ok. It's always weird to have people around on IFmud that don't seem to
>be active in the community in any other way. I think there's a fair number
>like that. Adam Cadre still goes on there a lot, even Kevin Wilson.
>Actually, there's a thought. We all kind of jumped at the thought that
>Delightful Wallpaper was Plotkin, when it might very well be Graham or
>Adam. Frankly, I still think it's Plotkin, it feels more his style, but now
>I'm not 100%.

I thought about it maybe being Adam Cadre, and I've seen him on IFMud
recently. But I haven't had the impression that he's writing IF. I've only
played *part* of Hunter, In Darkness (no other Zarf game), and that was
years ago, so I'd be unable to recognize his style. Bond is positive,
though,
and I think that's a good indication.

The only ways to know for sure that it's *not* Plotkin, before the voting
ends, is either if the real author steps up, or if he posts reviews to the
spoiler room (which he did in 2004 but not 2005). If he doesn't, I guess it
doesn't mean anything one way or the other.

>Ah, that's a way. Of course, he could just try to throw us off the trail :)

Not if he's the author. It's against the rules for him to post his reviews.
I checked with Stephen Granade about that before. :)

>Ah, good point :)
>
>I really wish I had been around for the TextFire hoax. I like these IF
>community mysteries :)

THE PRIMROSE PATH

The Primrose Path is really good too. It lacks some polish here and there,
and toward the end it gets kind of difficult to know what's going on, but it
has multiple endings that *seem* meaningful, and a really interesting story
going on.

What a great year. So many good games in the IFComp.

MOBIUS

>It was a good game, but it didn't do much for me. I don't think I'm a
>one-puzzle kind of guy. I figured out the "rules" to puzzle fairly early
>on, but I had a lot of trouble working out the right way to solve it. But
>it was definitely pretty good: just too much for me. I think this game
>would
>really benefit from a hints menu in addition to a walkthrough. I dont feel
>as
>guilty about cheating when its hints instead of a walkthrough.
>
>The writing was good: I didn't see any errors of any kind and I got a good
>image of the lab. I think I would've liked a little more of a colorful
>backstory/universe. It was pretty much the undefined future in an undefined
>lab. I think just a few more hints about the larger world would have really
>spiced it up. I know it's relatively inconsequential in a one-puzzle game,
>but I think I might have enjoyed it a little more with that.

I just finished playing it.

Did you get the "At least you achieved some closure" ending? When I see a
phrase like that, it makes me think there must be a better ending.

I had figured it all out too, but I just couldn't figure out how to make it
all work. I guess it require 3 or 4 loops so that you can "pass through"
things
on one, and then benefit from what your former self did by being able to
interact again with stuff that *allowed* your former self to pass through.
It's
interesting, but I just couldn't get it right.

There were some bugs toward the end, including one that makes the game
unwinnable. I used the walkthrough to get the reactor stablized, but then I
went on my own. I put the damper on the panel and used it, but this burnt it
out.
And my team never reappeared, so I had no idea something else was supposed
to
happen. I couldn't use the damper on the machine itself, and that must be
the trigger for them to appear. I could also touch the reactor hot and "go
unconscious" yet I could could keep on playing during the ending bit. I
think it kind of started to fall apart a little.

So I don't know. It's interesting, but not one of my favorites. That ending
seemed like a little bit of a let-down too.

THE PRIMROSE PATH

Man... I'm not clear on it myself. Three objects can be used to stop time, I
think -- the bracelet, the stopwatch, and the ring. When time is stopped,
everything is stonelike (plus, you can enter paintings). The paintings take
you to the point in time they represent (rather, the point in time when they
were *created*). But, you don't actually come out of the painting itself --
you
just appear in the scene that's depicted.

The first painting is of some point in the past that looks like an abstract
(the light shining on the sea). I think this is where Leo's studio is (the
shed).
I'm not sure where the gallery is, or why it requires a glass key. Then
there is
a painting of a few months earlier, at the Garden place. This is where he
drops the stone key (thinking it's the cops, when really it's Matilda).
Uhm...
there is a painting from the back of the apartments, but I can't remember
how far
back it goes (maybe just that morning). It all makes sense pretty much until
the
gun is revealed, and then I wasn't sure why Leo was all withdrawn in one
scene
but then presumably the same Leo rushes in to ask her if she's found the
key. I
don't know. I'd probably need to read over my transcripts again.

DISCUSSING THAT LOTS OF THE REALLY GOOD GAMES DONT HAVE TRADITIONAL NPCS
THIS YEAR

>Cool. That's the next game on my list. The nice thing about all the games
>in which you cant talk to NPCs is that it doesn't feel forced. It all makes
>perfect sense within the context of the game (Floatpoint actually felt a
>little different in this respect. It made perfect sense why you couldnt
>talk to the NPCs, but it really felt like you should be able to in a game
>like
>that).

The one NPC in Floatpoint -- the assistant, whoever he was -- seemed odd. He
*could* speak English, so why wouldn't the game let you talk to him? It kept
saying he wouldn't be able to understand. That bit I never figured out.

>I think I remember something about that at the beginning. It said that Liam
>just memorized the introductory phrases and that he actually had no
>unstanding of English. This made sense for the first part, but I'm not sure
>if he spoke later in the game, or just communicated in other ways?

I don't know. I think he was actually saying full phrases at the end, just
before going to the meeting. He had some comments on the suit (I think), and
asked if she was ready for the meeting (I think). It *really* seemed like he
was making sense, not just reciting things. But yeah, early on, it did seem
to
say he only memorized a few things.

THE PRIMROSE PATH

>Ok, yeah. Haha, I'm already confused again. Some of this might also be my
>memory. Even though I just played it last night, already it's starting to
>blend together (and with the bugs, I can't entirely be sure).

It's been a few nights ago for me, so I'm even worse.

>1) I kind of thought the gallery might be a little pocket dimension. I
>thought that by painting from imagination, they could create a little space
>of their own. I assumed the gallery was one of these, as well as the
>waterfall painting in Matilda's living room. I think this is supported by
>the ending where you shoot Irene, but I'm not too sure.

I thought there was one point where it said the only painting that *wasn't*
painted from real life was the cliff and the waterfall. I could be wrong. I
guess I did kind of assume the gallery was in one of those places, but I
kind of thought it was a point in the past. But that doesn't make sense,
because
then Leo would be going there repeatedly. But if it's a physical place, then
it
seems like you'd be able to get in *without* a glass key, by brute force...
so I
don't know. Maybe the author doesn't even know.

>2) The whole duplicates issue. They kind of acted like duplicates were rare
>(making them was against Irene's father's "one rule"), but I don't see how
>anyone could enter any painting without making a duplicate. Also, going
>back to the fact that the paintings take you to the point of time they were
>painted, wouldn't the painter always meet a duplicate if they entered one
>of their own paintings? Did they just kill these duplicates constantly?

Did you find his journal in the studio? If I recall, one of the entries (you
have to read it by month) says that he purposely never used any of his
paintings, for fear that he'd meet himself and something would happen. At
least, I *think* this was said in one of the journal entries.

>3) Why did Irene kill that Leo at the very beginning? Actually, no, not why
>did Irene kill that Leo, why did that Leo come to Matilda? They always kill
>the oldest duplicate, right? And it seems like they're ok with that. So why
>did he try to fight the process.

Hmm, I didn't get that out of the story at all. Sounds kind of like The
Prestige (out now in theaters -- if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend
it).

I may have to look over my transcript again. I never saw a motive at all.

>For that matter, if they can manipulate time and space why do they start
>living with Matilda in the first place? They didnt know her at the
>beginning, and they seem pretty secretive, so why jeopardize that.

I think there are plot holes. It may have been Bond's review that points out
how weird it is that the cyclic ending (watching Leo leap from the cliff) is
her
dream. How'd it become her dream? And if it wasn't *really* a dream, then
how did she end up back in her own bed to wake up afterwards?

>4) Ack, and the time-stop devices disappear when you travel.

Yeah. At the time, it seemed like the reason made sense. I don't remember
now, though.

>5) And, if you got transported to the time when the painting was painted,
>wouldnt you always meet the painter?

I think that was the point in his journal, which is why he never wanted to
take the risk. I *think* what he'd do is paint it, sign it, and then
immediately
turn away and high-tail it out of there just so that if he ever did come
through
later, he wouldn't be around. Then, in a little while, he'd come back and
collect the painting. I think. But you don't come out of the painting
itself. You appear in the scene, so if you were painting a beach and a dock,
you'd
appear on the dock (not where the painting is actually sitting).

>Ugh, haha. I think this game is better appreciated without this kind of
>examination. I think I'll just admit that it was good, and that I liked it,
>and I'll leave it at that :) I'd still like to hear more of your thoughts
>though.

I think it probably makes sense to the author. I think another play-through
(or maybe a revisit of the transcripts I made) would shed some light on it.
What sucks about the Comp is I finish and move on, and then never really
come
back later.

THE ELYSIUM ENIGMA

>I got through the Elysium Enigma a couple of days ago. It was really good
>and really well-made, but I think it was my least favorite of the top-tier
>comp games. The writing and implementation was excellent, but the whole
>thing felt entirely too gamey for me. A lot of the puzzles really annoyed
>me, and I agree with most of the other reviewers that this would have been
>much better as a fairly puzzleless game. The one that bothered me the most,
>and it wasn't even really a puzzle, was entering the authorization code for
>my own datatab. The player/PC divide really wasn't appropriate here. Unless
>there's a story-related reason for not having it, doing things that should
>be easy for the PC should be easy for the player. Clearly the PC knows
>where his authorization code is, so the player shouldn't have to dig to
>find it. It wasn't much of a problem, I just checked my ID, and when it
>wasn't there, I checked my orders, and there it was. The game had a number
>of things like this. The inventory bothered me too. I had SO many things,
>which caused disambiguation problems and shuffling my inventory.
>
>I don't think I would've had much of an issue with this stuff if I had
>liked the story more, but it really didn't do much for me. The empire the
>PC belonged too sounded like it could have been really colorful and unique,
>but in practice it felt like your standard space empire that is fairly
>benevolent but makes some mistakes now and then. I thought that with all
>the Roman stuff it'd feel a little different, but it didn't.
>
>And I know you liked the NPCs in this, but I liked the one's in the
>Primrose Path a lot more. In fact, I almost *hated* the NPCs in this. Leela
>annoyed the crap out of me. I know she was partially supposed to be like
>that, in kind of a puzzly way (ugh, like when she'd sit on that damn crate,
>and I couldn't get her to move. I guess looking back now, she was trying to
>conceal the hidden cellar, but at the time she just seemed like a dumbass).
>But she was way too perky and flirty for a starving outcast (/spy). The
>elder similarly annoyed me. I think part of this was my fault for leaving
>the topics on; I did end up mining the conversations which always makes
>NPCs feel a little less real.
>
>And I disagree with Stephen about Leela being more likeable than Leo (even
>besides from the 1st/2nd person point that he makes, which is still a very
>good point). Artistic weirdo that lives with his mother or not, Leo had a
>certain charm about him (and him dying in my arms always forces you to like
>someone just a little bit more). Leela was just a bossy, flirty, naked
>chick. This all makes a little more sense in light of her being a spy, but
>she's all too stereotypical for my tastes. And she talks way too
>expositorily (?). That's the nature of game NPCs, but she does it in a
>really annoying way.
>
>Anyway, enough of the negative. This was a good game, and I think it will
>do well. And although I didn't particularly like it, it makes me definitely
>want to check out Eric's other games.
>
>I know it's very different from TTS, but I think they're in the same class
>of games. Traditional, fairly light-hearted, and well-crafted, but I like
>TTS WAY better, and I think (hope) others will as well.
>
>Oh, did you already send me your EE review? If not, could I see it. I'd
>like to hear what you think.

TALES OF THE TRAVELLING SWORDSMAN

> Adorable.
>
> You'll see from my comments that I thought this would be great as a kids
> game, and now I'm sure. After the comp, you should get in contact with
> Brendan Desilet's (I think), and have his students play it. The puzzles
> are
> at a perfect level: I managed to get through except for that very last
> part
> and I'm pretty bad at them usually.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Nov 16, 2006, 12:55:25 PM11/16/06
to
Here, Jason <a...@123.com> wrote:
>
> Madam Spider's Web
>
> Overall, I liked it quite a bit. It was incredibly smoothly implemented: I
> don't think I tried a single action that wasn't implemented. The writing was
> great, and the implementation was deep. I liked the many third-level nouns
> in descriptions.
>
> Unfortunately, it was really short. I was just starting to get in to it
> when it ended. And the ending was good and appropriately cued, but I'm
> getting a little tired of that particular twist :)

This is an old-fashioned surreal mini-drama... by "old-fashioned" I
mean "influenced by Adam Cadre and (ahem) me." Don't take that as a
knock, please. It is excellently atmospheric -- lots of little
emotionally-resonant elements. Very cleanly implemented, too. Not
large, but there's just enough stuff to convey what it wants to convey
and get out.

If I have a specific complaint, it's that the real-world layer is an
IF trope that has been done way, way too many times. I picked up on it
early, and groaned. But it turned out that this game does that trope
well.

--Z

--
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
Bush's biggest lie is his claim that it's okay to disagree with him. As soon as
you *actually* disagree with him, he sadly explains that you're undermining
America, that you're giving comfort to the enemy. That you need to be silent.

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