Comp2003 notes

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Tony Baechler

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Nov 20, 2003, 8:37:59 AM11/20/03
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The following notes are in the public domain. Use, copy or repost as you
wish. These should be considered mini-reviews at best. Mostly they are
random thoughts I had while playing the games. I have made no attempt to
correct spelling. I did not mean to pick on anyone, even though some of
the notes seem more negative than I intended. Please use the email
address at the bottom if you want to contact me.

Hello all. I am not writing full-length reviews this year, but here
are brief comments and notes for the games I played. My scoring
system is very simple this year. All games start at 10 and lose
points for things which annoy me. Such include unhelpful or no hints,
spelling and grammar errors, dependence on multimedia to convey
important game-related information, games which are way too long for
the competition, etc. To locate the notes about your game, look for
the filename. The number next to the name is the score I gave. So,
if your game is called "example.z5," you might see something like:

Name: sample.z5 (5)

This means that the game filename is example.z5 and I gave it a score
of 5 out of 10.

Name: risorg.z8 (7)

This is a good game, but way too long. I was nowhere close to
finishing it within two hours, so it lost a point for that. There
were some small spelling errors, but they were near the endgame so I
didn't see them until after the judging period was over. I would like
to see the second part, but I am not sure what else could be done with
the story. The author didn't promise a sequel, fortunately, but there
are hints indicating that one might be planned. I really hope that he
does not release the sequel during next year's competition because
this type of game should not be rushed through in two hours.

The built-in hint system was mostly good, but I did have to consult
the walkthrough a couple of times. It would have been nice if the
hints would have indicated that not all solutions give the same
score. There is one puzzle in particular which I solved, but I only
got two out of four points for it because the hints indicated that the
"correct" solution would be too dangerous. I am refering to the means
of leaving the tower. The hints were good enough though that I didn't
take off a point for that, however I only realized the problem after I
finished the game without a full score.

There was a small bug which caused me to consult the walkthrough. I
don't think the author would consider this a bug, but when you have
only two hours to finish a huge game like this, small things count.
The problem was that I couldn't open a locked door. The game tells me
that all I need to do is get the key and go in the direction of the
door. If I have the right key, it opens it for me. That is very,
very good and I really grew to appreciate that. Obviously a lot of
attention to detail went into little things like this. Old habbits
die hard, though, so I spent a few frustrating minutes with the hints
and in general exploration because my attempt to "unlock door" didn't
work. I am not remembering the exact error, but it was unhelpful.
When I saw just the direction command in the walkthrough, I tried it
and it worked as it was supposed to. I am refering to the laboratory.

Finally, two other things which would have lost points but were long
after the two hours were up, so I didn't count them. One is an
obvious spelling error, the other is a real bug. I read the
background, so I expected odd spellings. I think "dumb water" is an
error though. It is "dumb waiter" in the initial descriptions, but
somehow it dropped a letter. There was a small bug with putting
things on the tray before putting the tray into the dumb waiter.
Apparently the tray can only contain things when it is in the dumb
waiter, not while carrying it.

The other bug was in the endgame. If you find a NPC and wait with him
in the cell, eventually you are told to run, but if you keep waiting
you can still win. I don't think I did anything unusual, I just
wanted to restore and see what happened if I didn't perform the final
action. Over all, I found it to be an outstanding game and definitely
want to see more from the author.


Name: erudite.gam (6)

This is actually the first game I played in the comp. It lost points
for not being adaptive enough, many small grammar errors such as "you" instead
of "your," for example. I like the concept, but it needed more
thought. At the time I played, something else annoyed me which I
couldn't put my finger on, but I think I figured out what it was and
will mention it below. There may be spoilers but I will try to
minimize them.

Before I continue, I want to say that I liked the game. I really
liked the general idea, just not how it was implemented. I do not
want to be hard on the author, but he was begging for criticism, so
here it is. I think his might be one of his first games, so I am
willing to let some things go, but there are still some annoyances
which should have been thought through. With this type of game,
details are important since the idea is that it is supposed to adapt
to your situation. The author, then, needs to be aware of your
situation at all times. The skeleton of this is there. It seemed to me that some solutions didn't
quite fit. That must have been a very powerful lamp, for example. I
thought that numbers weren't necessarily important to artisans.


Name: recruit.gam (6)

This game is slightly above average (average being 5 points) because
of the good writing and excellent hint system, but other than that it
doesn't really stand out. Maybe there was too much collaboration
here, I'm not sure. I finished with a "huh?" feeling. I read the
notes so I think I see what was supposed to happen, but it just didn't
do much for me. I am sure that much of this is my own bias and others
will appreciate it more than I did.

I did not dislike the game, it was just very average to me. It didn't
do anything really unusual. It wasn't terribly original. It did two
things very well though. One was that it was just the right length,
although a little bit longer wouldn't have hurt. The other is the
excellent "review" command and outstanding hint system. This is one
of the best I have seen in TADS, and I wish more authors would
implement a review feature. I have a question though. What is "auto
restore?" I think that would restore the game if you die, but the
player doesn't really need it so maybe I am missing something.


Name: noroom.z5 (4)

Hmm. Short. Somewhat pointless. Good for a couple of minutes
though. The writing is fine except that there isn't much. The help
and walkthrough are complete. No major bugs. No rooms, plot, NPCs,
or much else, either. This is a single puzzle which should be solved
easily enough. Here is a hint. Try other senses.


Name: amnesia.gam (2)

This should have got a 1, but I gave a bonus point for a new author.
If I remember correctly, the purpose of the competition is to get new
authors writing IF and make more source code available. It certainly
got a first-time author writing IF. The writing, though, is bad. I
mean really, really bad. (Austin, are you out there?) Also, the
walkthrough doesn't work correctly. There is no hint system. Don't
type "about" to learn about the game. I have to give it a point for
being amusing in an odd way. I think the following is my favorite
line in the game.

Your spirit guide fakes throwing up.

Yeah, I felt like that too. I have some suggestions. First, don't
enter your first piece of IF. Second, plan out more of a plot.
Please don't apologize at the beginning for no plot. This is a good
first coding exercise. Third, get beta testers. The beta site is
there for a reason. Finally, please either study grammar and spelling
or find someone else to do the writing. If you are going to do the
writing and programming, please find someone to proofread. Thank
you. Sorry for ranting, since I know this is a first attempt.


Name: gourmet.z5 (5)

Many annoyances here, but some novelties as well. I like the original
idea. While food games are not new in IF, this type of game hasn't
really been done before. Also, I can tell that some attention went
into detail. The library messages have been changed, sometimes with
funny results. That can get a little annoying after awhile though.
As far as being a comedy, it is a mixed bag. It certainly has some
comedic elements, but I didn't find it really funny. Many things are
too unrealistic to be funny, such as being able to carry your broken
finger tip around but not being able to run through the seating area
while bleeding. That particular puzzle could have been an opportunity
for a funny response, as well as many similar things. Another example
is that you can make phone calls while talking to people at the tables
but they don't react at all.

I didn't take points off for the writing, although I found a spelling
error. The writing was mostly good. I like the "exits" command,
especially since sometimes the exits are lost in the descriptions.
However, there were two major things and a few minor things which
annoyed me and caused it to lose points. The first major thing was
the hints. I am not an Inform programmer, but I have seen many hint
menus floating around. A built-in hint system in itself is nice, but
not a big deal. The problem is when there are no hints at all and I
am told that I have to go to an author's site to get them. Please
either include in the game or not at all. I am not interested in
inflating your tracking stats by trying to find your hint file. I
thought that it would be simple enough, I just used wget to follow the
link given in the "about" text. Nope, that didn't work. That gave me
an 85 byte file telling me that the hints moved to another page. OK,
now I got mad. I have to use my browser to go to the site, save the
hints to a file, exit, and go back to the game. I debated on using
the included walkthrough instead. Why include a walkthrough but no
hints? Why not at least include a hints text file?

The other major problem was a stack overflow bug. Don't try putting
the chair on the table. Considering the puzzle, this was a totally
reasonable action to take. I got a couple of screens of a "you can't"
message before the game crashed. Fortunately I had recently saved and
that was the improper solution anyway, but I wonder if there are other
bugs of this type which I haven't encountered yet. I did not finish
the game within two hours, but I think I did find a similar bug. At
least the text doesn't seem to match the hints. The bug itself only
bothered me slightly, but the principle of not bothering to get it
thoroughly beta tested bothers me. I didn't see beta testing credits,
but I did not look very hard. If it would have been a really strange
thing, I would understand, but it was a reasonable action.


Name: adoo.z5 (5)

No major annoyances here, but nothing jumps out at me either. This is
a very average game, but doesn't take itself too seriously. I found
no major bugs or grammar and spelling errors. The ending was a little
anticlimactic though. The hints consist of gentle nudges but assume
knowledge which the player might not have. I think that the author
might be in high school, not college. First, why would a college
studnet resort to such measures as your goal? Second, why the
carefree attitude about the homework and such?

There were two small annoyances. One is that no credit was given for
any beta testing but I saw the game on the beta testing site. I did
not download it so I wasn't a tester, but I read about it. Second,
please, no more house games! I don't want to wonder around your
house. This is a good first-time game, and the author has potential,
but the plot needs to be thought out more next time.


Name: domicile.z5 (6)

I liked it, but I couldn't finish. The hints are incomplete. I think
there might be bugs making the game unwinnable. I need a
walkthrough. I would like to go back and play this after the bugs are
fixed. Please don't release untested, incomplete games. The idea has
some originality though, but I just wasn't advancing.


Name: slouch.z5 (8)

Excellent writing, but I didn't get it. Even after reading all the
hints, I didn't get it really. I only saw two endings. Hopefully
this game will be more explained some day. I predict this as the
winner. I liked the modifications to the parser. I didn't find any
bugs. Mostly, the hints were excellent. This is definitely not a
game to rush through. It almost would have been better to release it
outside of the competition, since one can easily spend more than two
hours on trying to figure it out and find all the endings.


Name: artist.gam (5)

The game is fine, but no new ground is broken. The opening reminds me
too much of exploring the author's house. The writing is OK but not
excellent. I thought the ending was a little anticlimactic. That is
two games I have encountered with boring endings, so I hope that isn't
the trend this year.

I had a problem with the clothes at the beginning. "x clothes" and
"search clothes" didn't tell me what was there. I had to "get
clothes" instead. Here is a little tip. After getting the clothes,
"wear all" saves some typing. Also, I was a little annoyed that I
couldn't leave unless I ate, but I ran out of time so I couldn't eat.
I think there might have been a starvation puzzle, though, because I
had to eat on the bus. I hope this is not default behavior for TADS 3.


Name: Temple of Cows (6)

I fear the trend this year is games with odd or confusing endings. In
this case, most of the game was unclear. I tried figuring it out,
then resorted to the hints. When the hints didn't help, I gave up and
used the walkthrough exclusively. I finished with 10 points. Cows
were never mentioned at all. Obviously a lot of work went into the
writing, and I got to where I didn't mind the rhymes too much.

The author tried to break the normal conventions of IF. Yes, he
succeeded, but I am not sure this is good. The nice thing about
having a form of logic and order is that you can reasonably expect
certain actions to work. Even with the hints and walkthrough, I never
saw how the game fit together. Maybe there is a different logic here,
but I never understood it. More explanation is a definite must.


Name: bio-v1.gam (3)

Many grammar errors. Needs a lot more proofreading. Looks like it
wasn't beta tested. The walkthrough doesn't work correctly. It
doesn't know words mentioned in the walkthrough. Some descriptions
are missing or minimal. Treats the player like they should already
know what they are doing but doesn't give them many clues. Appears to
be an unoriginal plot. Please don't enter coding exercises! The
author doesn't say whether this is a coding eercise but it appears so.


Name: apus.acd (5)

Short and sweet. I liked it. Nice trick to jump between countries.
I still have many frustrations with alan, such as no undo. The
writing was average, not bad but not exceptional. Good job.


Name: girlwrld (4)

Here is this year's attempt to build a new IF system. The parser
needs a lot of work. "i" and "inventory" don't exist. The error
messages are unhelpful. "That doesn't work" could mean anything. I
have to manually look in every room. There seems no way to prevent
the parser from switching back to me after every move.

There was no walkthrough, so I saw very little of the game. I tried
the hints, but very shortly they couldn't adapt to my situation, even
though I was still in the starting room. Apparently, as soon as I had
Alice do something, I confused the hint system. I had to guess who I
was supposed to be. That might have been in the "about" text, but "x
me" didn't help and it should have. Actually, I should have been told
at the beginning of the game. Finally, I am somewhat curious what the
point of another virtual machine is. The author says that it uses
less CPU power but more memory than the Z-Machine. For small devices,
memory is critical. Even in compiled form, his engine has to run a
perl-based interpreter on top, whereas Inform games are loaded into
the interpreter. While his vm is interesting, it reminds me of a very
old BASIC compilation system from the early 1980's.

The game is not all bad, though. Firstly, it says something when an
author writes his own system. What, I don't know, but it shows
interest anyway. Second, the author is not a native speaker but he
seems to have a good knowledge of English. There were some errors (of
course should be two words) but mostly the writing was OK. I liked
the idea of two main characters, but the implementation needs work. I
should have been able to type "alice" and have the parser stay in the
Alice character until I type "me" or something similar. I am sure
that the idea of duel characters has been done in IF, but I have not
seen it before except in muds or RPGs. After the parser goes through
a beta cycle and gets the bugs worked out, he might have something new
for the IF community, but not yet, unfortunately.


Name: sardoria (4)

Most of the problems I had with this game were with the authoring
system, not the game itself. My main complaint with the actual game
is a lack of story. This game is a series of puzzles with no
motivation for completing them. I am guessing that this is a sequel
to last year's entry by the author, but this is never explained. I
was not able to complete last year's entry, so possibly there was more
explanation which I missed, but I doubt it. Most of the puzzles were
not hard, but I resorted to the walkthrough because the hints were
very vague and I had constant guess the verb problems.

Alan has no undo. Saving the game counts as a move. Both of these
caused me problems, especially the later. I missed part of the
solution to a puzzle because I was trying to save the game. As I
mentioned, another serious problem was guessing the verb. Many
standard verbs were missing. No adjectives were supported, so on a
rare occasion I had to guess the noun, or refer to objects by verb,
adjective, noun instead of the more conventional shorter forms. This
is better than some games I have played and having a standard library
helps, but it still leaves much to be desired.

It had two very nice features though. One was that it only provided a
walkthrough for the section of the game I was in so I did not have to
scroll through or try to save it to a file. Another was the
auto-ressurect feature. It came in handy a few times, especially for
one very tightly timed puzzle towards the end.


Name: scavenger.gam
I did not get to this or any further games this year. Based on the
score, I should have tried playing it. Sorry.


Afterthoughts

I noticed a wider spread in scoring this year. Usually I give out
more average scores, two or three 1's, one 9, a couple of 8's, etc.
This year, nothing got higher than an 8, but I had many which were
less than 5. I consider a 5 to be average because it is in the
middle. I should add that I skipped some games because I knew they
would not interest me. I would have given the AGT game a low score
because the instructions were too long and the writing was not very
good. Based on the other reviews I have read, it looks like I didn't
miss much by not playing the rest of the games.

One final note. I do not keep transcripts, but I do have my saved
games. I save games according to the score. If you want my saved
games, feel free to write. To contact me about anything in my notes
which is unclear, feel free to write. My address, unfortunately,
redirects to a hold mailbox because the spam is out of control, so
make your subject very clear. If you don't use a real name and your
subject is not obvious, I will probably not read your message. Please
write to "if at baechler dot net." Sorry for the inconvenience.
Also, I almost never read the newsgroups so if you post there, chances
are that I will not see it. Email is the best way to contact me.

Michael Coyne

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Nov 20, 2003, 3:42:25 PM11/20/03
to
Tony Baechler wrote:
>
> Name: risorg.z8 (7)
>
> ... I spent a few frustrating minutes with the hints

> and in general exploration because my attempt to "unlock door" didn't
> work. I am not remembering the exact error, but it was unhelpful.
> When I saw just the direction command in the walkthrough, I tried it
> and it worked as it was supposed to. I am refering to the laboratory.

Hmm, well, by the time you get the laboratory, you always have the lab key.

Here's what happens for me while holding the key:
>unlock steel door
You unlock the polished steel door with the small steel key.

[or]
>unlock door
Which do you mean, the polished steel door or the rusty metal door?

>steel
You unlock the polished steel door with the small steel key.


[or, while the key is NOT in scope, i.e. dropped in another location]
>unlock lab door
You don't have a key that fits the lock of the polished steel door.


I'd be interested in knowing exactly what you typed and what the
response was.

> Apparently the tray can only contain things when it is in the dumb
> waiter, not while carrying it.

This is an Inform peculiarity. You cannot put things on a supporter
while you're holding said supporter. This results in the message "You
lack the dexterity."

> The other bug was in the endgame. If you find a NPC and wait with him
> in the cell, eventually you are told to run, but if you keep waiting
> you can still win. I don't think I did anything unusual, I just
> wanted to restore and see what happened if I didn't perform the final
> action. Over all, I found it to be an outstanding game and definitely
> want to see more from the author.

You're absolutely right. I had tested what happened with one of the
other items given to the guard, but hadn't fully tested this case. An
implicit return print statement instead of just a print. Thanks for
finding that one.

It's embarrassing the amount of testing you can go through and still not
find things like that.

Oh well, on to release 3, I suppose.


Michael

Norman Perlmutter

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Nov 20, 2003, 5:21:11 PM11/20/03
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On Thu, 20 Nov 2003 13:37:59 GMT, Tony Baechler
<To...@tony.elcjn1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
>Name: Temple of Cows (6)
>
>I fear the trend this year is games with odd or confusing endings. In
>this case, most of the game was unclear. I tried figuring it out,
>then resorted to the hints. When the hints didn't help, I gave up and
>used the walkthrough exclusively. I finished with 10 points. Cows
>were never mentioned at all. Obviously a lot of work went into the
>writing, and I got to where I didn't mind the rhymes too much.
>
Actually, it's called Temple of Kaos, not Temple of Cows ;-)

Norman

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 20, 2003, 6:46:18 PM11/20/03
to

If you're using a screen reader, as some IF fans do, be aware that
that's "Temple of K A O S". Like "chaos" spelled wrong.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

ka...@henchmonkey.org

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Nov 20, 2003, 1:54:47 PM11/20/03
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> Like "chaos" spelled wrong.

Well, like "chaos" spelled greek, to be fair.

katre

Mike Sousa

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Nov 20, 2003, 7:04:09 PM11/20/03
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Tony Baechler wrote:
> The following notes are in the public domain. Use, copy or repost as
[snip]
> Name: recruit.gam (6)
[snip]

> I have a question though. What is "auto
> restore?" I think that would restore the game if you die, but the
> player doesn't really need it so maybe I am missing something.

"Auto Restore" is not an in-game feature. The game remembers your last
saved file and if you fire up the game again (say, a few days later), it
will automatically restore that saved game.

I've received relatively little feedback on that -- presumably because
very few people restarted the game -- but most of it has been positive.
(sorry, Richard!)

If anybody else came across it and has an opinion, I would like to hear
it. I haven't ported that code over to T3 for my WIP and don't know if
it's worth the trouble.

-- Mike

(reply CC'd to Tony as he mentions that he doesn't read the NG often)

Andrew Krywaniuk

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Nov 21, 2003, 1:23:54 AM11/21/03
to
> > Apparently the tray can only contain things when it is in the dumb
> > waiter, not while carrying it.
>
> This is an Inform peculiarity. You cannot put things on a supporter
> while you're holding said supporter. This results in the message "You
> lack the dexterity."

Incidentally, is there any particular reason for this? What side effects
would removing this restriction cause? (I thought there was no reason why
you should have to be holding an object in order to throw it, but intrepid
game players proved me wrong.)

Andrew


Richard Bos

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Nov 21, 2003, 4:34:52 AM11/21/03
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ka...@henchmonkey.org wrote:

Erm, no. That would be (ch)aos, or khaos, or, if you want to do
semi-greek spelling, xaos. It's spelled with a khi, not with a kappa.

Richard

Michael Coyne

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Nov 21, 2003, 9:21:51 AM11/21/03
to
Andrew Krywaniuk wrote:

> Incidentally, is there any particular reason for this? What side effects
> would removing this restriction cause? (I thought there was no reason why
> you should have to be holding an object in order to throw it, but intrepid
> game players proved me wrong.)

Shrug.

Well, for the incident in question, it makes some sense mentally that
you can't hold a tray with just one hand, and put something on it with
another. The tray is likely to tip and things likely to spill off.

Unless of course this is Gourmet, where your tray handling skills have
been honed by years of restaurant work.


Michael

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 21, 2003, 11:30:23 AM11/21/03
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Here, Andrew Krywaniuk <askr...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> > > Apparently the tray can only contain things when it is in the dumb
> > > waiter, not while carrying it.
> >
> > This is an Inform peculiarity. You cannot put things on a supporter
> > while you're holding said supporter. This results in the message "You
> > lack the dexterity."
>
> Incidentally, is there any particular reason for this? What side effects
> would removing this restriction cause?

I don't believe there would be any side effects. The library can
already handle putting things into a container while you're holding
it.

Daphne Brinkerhoff

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Nov 21, 2003, 1:39:06 PM11/21/03
to
r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl (Richard Bos) wrote in message news:<3fbddbfd....@news.nl.net>...

According to this site:

<http://foto.hut.fi/~arzu/GreekTurkish.html>

it's the Turkish spelling.

But hey, this author is the same guy who misspelled "shifgrethor", so
I assume he didn't research "kaos" either.

--
Daphne

David Thornley

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Nov 21, 2003, 2:37:56 PM11/21/03
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In article <xapvb.15916$MW5....@news1.mts.net>,

Michael Coyne <co...@ATmts.DOTnet> wrote:
>
>Well, for the incident in question, it makes some sense mentally that
>you can't hold a tray with just one hand, and put something on it with
>another. The tray is likely to tip and things likely to spill off.
>
>Unless of course this is Gourmet, where your tray handling skills have
>been honed by years of restaurant work.
>
I've never worked in a restaurant, and have no problems with putting
things on a tray I'm holding. I do have to be a little careful about
weight and placement and that sort of thing, but if it wasn't
something people did in real life I don't think anybody would
complain about it.

--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Peter Gambles

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Nov 27, 2003, 11:44:00 AM11/27/03
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In article <1a80bb93.03112...@posting.google.com>, cen...@hotmail.com (Daphne Brinkerhoff) wrote:
>r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl (Richard Bos) wrote in message
> news:<3fbddbfd....@news.nl.net>...
>> ka...@henchmonkey.org wrote:
>>
>> > Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>> > > Like "chaos" spelled wrong.

>


>But hey, this author is the same guy who misspelled "shifgrethor", so
>I assume he didn't research "kaos" either.
>

1. Shiftgrethor or shifgrethor

Actually, I did research this. The first occurrence (p.17 of my copy of the
Left Hand of Darkness), where the definition is given, spells it shiftgrethor.
The next occurrence spells it shifgrethor. Both forms then occur throughout
the text, though the t-less form seems more common. I chose to go with the
first occurrence spelling.

2. Kaos.

I didn't actually know what the Ancient Greek spelling was (far less the
Turkish), but then Temple isn't specifically set in Ancient Greece: it was
however intented to convey a feeling of that time and part of the world: in
this it seems to have succeeded.


PeterG
(author of Temple of Kaos)

aka Peter Gambles
Oxford
UK

e-mail peter....@admin.ox.ac.uk

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