Competition Thoughts

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Second April

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Jan 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/7/98
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I'm sending reviews to SPAG, so I won't post any here, but some quick
thoughts...

When I decided to judge competition entries--which I hadn't done before
this year--it was with full knowledge that several of the entries wouldn't
be very good. Yes, of course I wish the authors had beta-tested their
games--either better or at all--but the nature of the competition is such
that I don't seriously expect every entry to be outstanding. As it
happens, there were often things to enjoy even in less-than-stellar
entries--and, truth to tell, I had as much fun laughing _at_ a few of them
as I had playing some of the better ones. As the authors didn't hear me
laughing, and as my reviews--assuming the ones for the bottom few ever get
written--won't simply sneer, I don't think there's any harm done.

In a sense, you could see the competition as a great opportunity for new
authors--they get a HUGE beta-testing pool and all sorts of comments and
feedback. All they need is a fairly thick skin. Admittedly, maybe most
judges don't see their role in that light, but for myself, I'll play some
Coming Homes and Pintowns if there's a good chance of finding some Sunset
Over Savannahs and Babels in the mix. (And then, of course, there's
Rybread Celsius, but at least the name is a warning in those cases.)

Some specific comments: I agree that the slaughtering-innocents element in
Zero Sum Game is perhaps a bit too lighthearted, but bear in mind that the
point isn't simply that people dying is funny; it's that you're carrying
out your mother's instructions to make everything right. I'm not sure it's
safe to say there's a larger point to it, but I'm pretty sure the author
doesn't simply delight in cruelty. For my own part, while I don't
particularly care for violence in other media, notably film, I found Zero
Sum Game consistently funny.

Sins Against Mimesis...well, I dunno. I'm afraid I haven't played several
of the games that were the basis of the jokes, though I've certainly read
about many of them. I recognized that many of the situations were
in-jokes, and I figured that they were probably funny ones, but I felt
silly giving points for wit for in-jokes I didn't get. So I gave it a 6;
I'm assuming the author is aware of the peril of constructing a game
entirely out of IF reference. (As in, the appeal will be lost on many.)

Madame L'Estrange...I'm glad I wasn't the only one who didn't know what do
do with this one. I _did_ finish it--and, for a change, the old WZip
interpreter seems to have been more up to the job than newer runtimes,
because I never had a single crash. And I enjoyed the story quite a lot,
as it happened. I gave it a 6, but it was, how shall I say, a strong 6; if
the implementation had been a bit better, it might've had an 8.

A New Day...well, hmmm, perhaps the appeal of this was lost on me, as I'm
still a beginning programmer, but I just didn't care for it. The
software-crash section just annoyed me, and many of the puzzles were a
little absurd. A lot absurd, even. Trial-and-error to find the
rackafrackin' exits to a room is not my idea of fun.

Poor Zefron's Almanac...again, maybe I should read more science fiction,
but it just didn't work for me. The inventory limit was absurdly
small--unless I missed something, you had to put things in your hat at a
bottleneck point so that you could carry all the things you need--you
could make the game unwinnable easily. I enjoyed the cluple spell, but I
couldn't get too excited over something stolen directly from Infocom. And
several puzzles were so illogical that I practically discounted their
solutions--notably the one in the king's bedroom and the problem with the
grapes. I do give it points for the "cross-genre" feel, but I can't say I
really enjoyed it.

Leaves...I didn't mind it too much until the very end. A more blatant case
of assume-the-player-is-a-straight-male I've never seen in IF, and even
though I am one, I was thoroughly nonplussed. There might be a place for
sexuality in IF--apart from Leather Goddesses, which can't really be
duplicated--and I thought She's Got a Thing...was tasteful enough. But
this, um, no. I had this as a 4 or a 5 until the end, but I knocked it
down to 3.

Tempest...I was torn. I wanted to rate it high because I enjoyed it so
much, and if there'd been a walkthrough or any other help--the play itself
didn't even do much--I probably would have given it an 8 or a 9. As it
was, I gave it a 7, and I recognize that that might have been too high. I
loved the idea, and I was _very_ impressed by the thoroughness of the
Inform hacking (and the Elizabethan responses cracked me up). That the
puzzles are minimal shouldn't itself be an indictment; Madame L'Estrange
and Babel didn't feature much in the way of puzzles either.

A general note: Inform seems to have won a lot of adherents, in that a
preponderance of the new authors were writing in Inform. That meant,
unfortunately, that several of the shakier entries were in Inform.
Anyone's guess on why new authors are choosing Inform these days?

My ratings:

10: Sunset Over Savannah
9: Babel, Zero Sum Game, Bear's Night Out
8: She's Got a Thing, Friday Afternoon, Edifice
7: Glowgrass, Tempest, Lost Spellmaker
6: Madame L'Estrange, Sins Against Mimesis, A New Day, Zombie!, Frenetic
Five, Phred Phontious
5: Poor Zefron's Almanac, Obscene Quest, Travels in the Land of Erden,
VirtuaTech
4: Sylenius Mysterium, Down, A Good Breakfast, Temple of the Orc Mage
3: Leaves, E-Mailbox
2: Town Dragon, Congratulations!, Pintown, Cask, Aunt Nancy's House
1: Symetry, Coming Home

Duncan Stevens
d-st...@nwu.edu
312-654-0280

The room is as you left it; your last touch--
A thoughtless pressure, knowing not itself
As saintly--hallows now each simple thing,
Hallows and glorifies, and glows between
The dust's gray fingers, like a shielded light.

--from "Interim," by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Roger Burton West

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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In article <Pine.HPP.3.93.97121...@merle.acns.nwu.edu>
dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu "Second April" wrote:

>A general note: Inform seems to have won a lot of adherents, in that a
>preponderance of the new authors were writing in Inform. That meant,
>unfortunately, that several of the shakier entries were in Inform.
>Anyone's guess on why new authors are choosing Inform these days?

Well, speaking as a proto-new-author:

(1) I got into all this through Infocom. When I found ftp.gmd.de, I
looked in "infocom"... then I saw "compilers". No other authoring system
has this advantage. I'd downloaded Inform before I'd even _heard_ of the
others.

(2) It comes with full source code.

(3) It's entirely free; all the documentation and support that exists
can be obtained by download.

(4) Even if it hadn't been, the author is British; my fellow countrymen
will doubtless be familiar with the problems of sending money
overseas... hmm, that might make a game in itself... nah...

Cheers,

Roger

--
/~~\_/~\ BEWARE ,,, |~) _ _ _ _ |~) __|_ _ _ \ / _ __|_
| #=#======of==# | |~\(_)(_|(/_| |_)|_|| | (_)| | \/\/ (/__\ |
\__/~\_/ FILKER ``` _| ro...@firedrake.demon.co.uk
Vote Chris Bell for TAFF in 1998 http://www.firedrake.demon.co.uk/


J. Kerr

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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Second April <dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:


>A general note: Inform seems to have won a lot of adherents, in that a
>preponderance of the new authors were writing in Inform. That meant,
>unfortunately, that several of the shakier entries were in Inform.
>Anyone's guess on why new authors are choosing Inform these days?

Speaking for myself, after lurking here and in r.a.i.f for a while and
exploring the resources on the web, I chose Inform because it seemed
to me that more help is available for it than for any of the other
languages. There are certainly more Inform than TADS posts on r.a.i.f.
The presence of large numbers of helpful people is, I suspect, a huge
factor for people like me, who are not only new to writing IF but also
new to programming in general.


Graham Nelson

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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In article <Pine.HPP.3.93.97121...@merle.acns.nwu.edu>,

Second April <URL:mailto:dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:

> Anyone's guess on why new authors are choosing Inform these days?

Its ineffable brilliance?

--
Graham Nelson | gra...@gnelson.demon.co.uk | Oxford, United Kingdom


ct

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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In article <ant081345b49M+4%@gnelson.demon.co.uk>, Graham Nelson

<gra...@gnelson.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> In article <Pine.HPP.3.93.97121...@merle.acns.nwu.edu>,
> Second April <URL:mailto:dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:
>
> > Anyone's guess on why new authors are choosing Inform these days?
>
> Its ineffable brilliance?

Now Graham[1], you've been warned about playing with those frotz spells in
the past! Only one person, and stand well back once its been cast.

regards, ct

[1] I was about to say Billy-Graham, but you've not been _quite_ that
effective at spreading the word...[2]

[2] I dunno wherefor this sudden rush of footnotes recently; I'll have to
kick 'em before they irritates me any more.

Jonathan Fry

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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Second April (dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu) wrote:
: A New Day...well, hmmm, perhaps the appeal of this was lost on me, as I'm

: still a beginning programmer, but I just didn't care for it. The
: software-crash section just annoyed me, and many of the puzzles were a
: little absurd. A lot absurd, even. Trial-and-error to find the
: rackafrackin' exits to a room is not my idea of fun.

Uhh, you do realize the exits were listed in the status bar?

--Jon

+-------------------------------------------------+
| Historian, Theologian, Fool - jf...@skidmore.edu |
|-------------------------------------------------|
| Interactive Fiction * rec.music.christian * Van |
| Halen * Byzantium * Ken Tamplin * In Your Face! |
+-------------------------------------------------+

Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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Jonathan Fry (jf...@saims.skidmore.edu) wrote:
> Second April (dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu) wrote:
> : A New Day...well, hmmm, perhaps the appeal of this was lost on me, as I'm

> : still a beginning programmer, but I just didn't care for it. The
> : software-crash section just annoyed me, and many of the puzzles were a
> : little absurd. A lot absurd, even. Trial-and-error to find the
> : rackafrackin' exits to a room is not my idea of fun.

> Uhh, you do realize the exits were listed in the status bar?

I didn't, not until I'd played a lot of the game. I just don't look up at
the status line very often. I'm used to information appearing in the game
text.

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Brock Kevin Nambo

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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Graham Nelson wrote in message ...

>In article <Pine.HPP.3.93.97121...@merle.acns.nwu.edu>,
>Second April <URL:mailto:dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:
>> Anyone's guess on why new authors are choosing Inform these days?
>Its ineffable brilliance?


Maybe that's it! Naaah...

--
http://come.to/brocks.place | World Domination Through Trivia!
oah123 (in chatquiz, 12/27/97): "did you guys know during the SPIN cycle the
clothes are like being spun really fast? LOL i just found that out!"

Second April

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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> : A New Day...well, hmmm, perhaps the appeal of this was lost on me, as

> I'm : still a beginning programmer, but I just didn't care for it. The :
> software-crash section just annoyed me, and many of the puzzles were a :
> little absurd. A lot absurd, even. Trial-and-error to find the :
> rackafrackin' exits to a room is not my idea of fun.
>
> Uhh, you do realize the exits were listed in the status bar?

I ran it on Wzip; ain't no such thing there, man. (Nor on DOS Frotz, which
is my other choice.)

Second April

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Jan 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/8/98
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> > Uhh, you do realize the exits were listed in the status bar?
>
> I ran it on Wzip; ain't no such thing there, man. (Nor on DOS Frotz, which
> is my other choice.)

Whoops--my mistake; they are there, but it seems I was just too unused to
the concept to look. Okay, you're right on that one, and I shouldn't have
impugned Mr. Fry's abilities by making his game more of a pain than it
was. Even if I had been more alert, though, I think I still would have
found that particular section annoying--perhaps it was meant to be, I
spent too long there to be amused by the concept.

Francis Irving

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Jan 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/9/98
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On 8 Jan 1998 22:39:08 GMT, jf...@saims.skidmore.edu (Jonathan Fry)
wrote:

>Second April (dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu) wrote:
>: A New Day...well, hmmm, perhaps the appeal of this was lost on me, as I'm


>: still a beginning programmer, but I just didn't care for it. The
>: software-crash section just annoyed me, and many of the puzzles were a
>: little absurd. A lot absurd, even. Trial-and-error to find the
>: rackafrackin' exits to a room is not my idea of fun.
>

>Uhh, you do realize the exits were listed in the status bar?
>

> --Jon

I didn't notice this till right at the end of the game. On the other
hand, I like having an explicit listing of exists. I think you should
do this but with three

1. Mention in the game Help that the exits are printed in the status
bar.

2. Add the command "Exits" which prints the exits (for Magnetic
Scrolls / Level 9 (?) old-timers like me).

3. Include enough information to be able to work the exits out from
the text. This is possibly optional, if 1 is forceful enough.

Francis.

Work: fra...@ncgraphics.co.uk Home: fra...@pobox.co.uk

Joe Mason

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Jan 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/9/98
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In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>
>I didn't, not until I'd played a lot of the game. I just don't look up at
>the status line very often. I'm used to information appearing in the game
>text.

I'm reminded of the review of "In The End" that mentioned "real life having
a score and a move count". I was surprised, because I'd disabled the score.
Then I realized the reviewer was talking about the status line.

Moral: even if you don't look at the status line very often, make sure you do
it in your own games!

Joe

Jonathan Fry

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Jan 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/9/98
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Second April (dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu) wrote:
: > Uhh, you do realize the exits were listed in the status bar?

: I ran it on Wzip; ain't no such thing there, man. (Nor on DOS Frotz, which
: is my other choice.)

Ack! You're the first person to mention this; hopefully it did not
happen on too many interpreters. Can I ask, does it print anything at
all in the status bar? The room name, for example? Also, can I ask
if anyone else had this happen on their interpreters?

My thought for including exits in the status bar was taken from
"Beyond Zork". I hate descriptions that read "You are in a field. A
mountain lies to the northwest, a river to the west and an airfield to
the south. Far off to the north a strange figure dances wildly." I
was thinking that if I could eliminate listing of exits from the room
descriptions I would be forced to have brief, interesting room
descriptions. It would be most unfortunate if some players did not
have a listing of the exits. I apologize to those that suffered this
problem.

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