Comp 98 Reviews

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Dan Shiovitz

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Nov 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/16/98
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I think it's safe to start this off. For those of you who don't
frequent ifMUD, my reviews are up at
http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~dbs/comp98.html
(For those of you who do, they're still up there, but you knew about
it already.)

--
Dan Shiovitz || d...@cs.wisc.edu || http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~dbs
"...Incensed by some crack he had made about modern enlightened
thought, modern enlightened thought being practically a personal buddy
of hers, Florence gave him the swift heave-ho and--much against my
will, but she seemed to wish it--became betrothed to me." - PGW, J.a.t.F.S.

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/16/98
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Dan Shiovitz (d...@cs.wisc.edu) wrote:
> I think it's safe to start this off.

Works for me. Here goes.

-----------

Now hear this:

My scoring system is very simple: I ask myself "How much did I enjoy
playing this game?" There is no question of whether a game deserves to
win, or whether my scoring is biased. If I enjoyed it, points. If I
didn't enjoy it, no points. Any particular aspects of the game (writing,
puzzles, characters, spelling, bugs) are included in the overall score
only -- and exactly -- to the extent that they affected my enjoyment.

Also, I played all the games as they were uploaded at the contest
beginning. I ignored later releases of games *and* walkthroughs and
hints. Sorry; there is a deadline, and meeting it is part of the contest
conditions.

I played every TADS and Inform game. If this seems unfair to Hugo and
Alan, so be it; I play games at home, and at home I have Macs. A
comfortable play environment is part of the game, as it were. (Note that
I make no apology for being unfair to PC executables.)

The scores are normalized, so that I give a 10 to the game I enjoyed the
most and a 1 to the games I enjoyed the least. As in past years, I wound
up grouping them into the good, the bad, and the ugly -- more
specifically, the good (9-8), the pretty good (7-5), the not-so-good
(4-3), and the ugly (2-1). The score of 10 is reserved for my single
favorite.

Here are the scores. I've added "+" for some finer distinctions, and
even finer distinctions can be seen in the exact ordering of
equal-scoring games. Of course, when I mailed in my votes, I dropped the
"+" marks and ordering didn't count. But the distinctions are there.

10: Photopia
9: Little Blue Men
8+: The Plant
8: Enlightenment
7+: Arrival
7: Downtown Tokyo. Present Day.
7: Informatory
6: The Ritual of Purification
5+: Mother Loose
5: Research Dig
5: The City
4+: Trapped in a One-Room Dilly
4+: Where Evil Dwells
4: Four in One
3+: Purple
3+: Lightiania
3: Muse: An Autumn Romance
3: In the Spotlight
3: Cattus Atrox
2+: Acid Whiplash
2: Spacestation
1: Fifteen
1: Human Resources Stories

As you see, the balance worked out well. There were four games that were
clearly in the lead, four that I could shift to the bottom, and the rest
split between "pretty good" and "not that good".

Now, my comments. Hear this also: these are neither reviews nor
explanations of my votes. These are brief comments on what I thought was
good or bad about each game. Sometimes I spend more time on the good;
sometimes on the bad. It's whatever caught my interest. You may consider
me to be speaking to the author -- describing bits which can be
improved, or which made the game for me, or which ruined it. I may
comment on the worst thing about a good game, or the best thing about a
bad game. So don't expect the tenor of my comments to match the score I
give.

It is not my job to be encouraging or polite. If you want to hear
pleasant lies about your game, please read somebody else's post.

The comments are given in the order that I played the games. You may
notice a slight trend; the last few games got pretty low scores, and I
make some comments like "I don't have much patience" and "I'm not in the
mood". Is *that* unfair? It's not entirely clear. I do want to judge
each game on its own merits. And my enthusiasm did decline from its
initial feverish pitch as time went on. And I didn't use Comp98 to
determine my playing order.

On the other hand, I took a one-move peek at every game in advance; and
I tended to play them in the order that they caught my interest. So the
order was, to some extent, based on a snap judgement of the opening
scene, which *is* part of the merit of the game. And there was a lot of
randomness anyway -- it was hardly a deterministic process. So I decided
to let the scores stand. (Besides, the fourth-to-last game I played got
an 8+ score, so I couldn't have been *that* prejudiced.)

------------

Trapped in a One-Room Dilly
by Laura A. Knauth

The premise is, indeed, that you're in a dilly of a one-room puzzle box.
A very puzzle-box like game; you're presented with random objects, with
no particular rhyme or rationale. When you play with them right, you're
presented with more objects.

This was fun for about two-thirds of the game. I even enjoyed the
toggling-lights puzzle -- partially because it was at least a little
variant from the usual, and partially because this was the first game I
played. (If I see another one, there may be trouble.)

But, as you can tell from my faint praise, it got old. Two-thirds
through would have been a good time for some hints early in the game to
come together -- foreshadowing -- or something. Cast things in a new
light. This didn't particularly happen.

I wound up going to the hints for the last several puzzles. Some things
were said only in one place, or not emphasized, and I never followed up
on them. A few actions were rather unobvious as well. I wasn't engaged
enough to examine everything three times looking for inconsistencies.
Sorry. I *did* enjoy the game, honest. But a puzzle box has to be
astonishingly evil and twisted to hold my attention for a full game.

The implementation was somewhat sparse. The kind of thing where when you
type "sit", you sit down for a second and then stand up again -- a
message, rather than full implementation. This is legitimate, of course,
but it's more common in realistic sequences where the game wants to keep
you directed within a large range of real-world actions. I don't think
it fits in with a puzzle-mechanism game, where you want to try to
manipulate everything.

On the other hand, I liked the response to "jump". Heh.

------------

The Ritual of Purification
by Sable

This game goes straight for the surreal side. It's entirely abstract;
the story is dream-quest for purification, and everything that happens
is part of that dream logic. You encounter a sequence of tiny scenes,
each with some allegorical action to perform.

This works quite well, in spite of -- or more likely because of -- its
simplicity. There aren't many things to do (no objects, just a handful
of spells that you come across) so I didn't get stuck trying to find
actions, even when the action was a little obscure. It really is
feasible to try everything, in other words.

The spelling is shaky and the language is rather goofy and overblown. (I
felt like I was reading amateur death metal lyrics. The author quoted
Poe in the section epigrams, and it's so hard to stand next to Poe...)
But the idea got across anyway.

I'm sort of ambivalent about the story... on one hand, I like the idea
of this self-contained vision, with no frame of "the real world". On
another hand, there isn't quite enough forward momentum in the
beginning. The first part of the game is going down a checklist,
effectively. The spells you pick up figure in the second half, which has
a reasonably solid progression.

A few other characters, mostly single-action IF mannequins. There is one
which I enjoyed interacting with, though.

------------

Acid Whiplash (or: Rybread Celsius Can't Find a Dictionary)
by Rybread Celsius and Cody Sandifer

Ok, I'm laughing. I'm laughing hard.

I am truly impressed. I would not have believed that a functional
program could be so completely chaotic. I have no idea how to get
through most of the game; fortunately, this didn't stop me.

Of course you can't *do* anything with it.

------------

Research Dig
by Chris Armitage

There's a pacing problem here. I felt like I was, er, hit over the head
with an ending when I least expected it.

You're sent out with little explanation to find some mysterious artifact
someone dug up. That's it. As you explore, you find a small part of a
strange underground realm... only, as I said, the game ends just when I
thought it was starting to go somewhere.

There's a storyline, but it only shows up in fragments at the beginning
and end. Mind you, this wouldn't be so disappointing if the game
*hadn't* started to go somewhere. It does, really. There's stuff
underground; enough to hint that interesting things are happening. Then
they don't. Oh well.

The implementation is careless (missing rtrue statements, inconsistent
capitalization in room names, object names which include the article --
"a a key"). These are all fixable with a bit more Inform experience.

By the way, one complaint which is not specific to this game: if you're
writing an Inform game, *do not* put linebreaks or extra lines of text
in your "Constant Story" line! That constant should contain only the
name of your game as a string, nothing else. Why? Because the
verbose/brief verbs print the Story constant followed by "...is now in
verbose mode." Or whatever. It looks really silly if there are extra
linebreaks there.

------------

Enlightenment
By Taro Ogawa

Now this is a one-room game. Ok, not a perfect one. But with this much
attention to detail, I'll forgive much.

The gimmick is reminiscent of "Zero Sum Game": you've just finished a
long dungeon crawl. Now there's just one damn troll between you and the
exit.

The pre-history of the game is the funniest part, as it shows up in
various offhand comments... try "places", "objects", or "full score". Or
the false hints. Brilliant. Brilliant, I say.

Anyway, I won't give away the schtick, but you have to get rid of all
your previously-acquired stuff to win. (Very reminiscent of "ZSG", yes,
but it's really an entirely different gag. Don't get all hepped up about
the resemblance.)

Now, as to the game itself, I had a lot of trouble playing it. There are
lots and lots of things to fiddle with, which is good, but I actually
underestimated just how much you can fiddle. I suppose I shouldn't
complain (since I had the opposite problem with "Dilly") but I did have
to hit the hints a lot. But not all the time. Plenty of things I got
myself. Ok.

Anyway, I'll forgive hard puzzles for the cleverness.

One quibble... The line "noli illegitimati carborundum" is "don't let
the bastards *wear* you down." Wear down. Like carborundum sandpaper.
It's not a very good joke, but there it is. Don't screw it up.

Note: opcode errors.

Also, whenever you look or take inventory, the pronouns are all reset.
There's a library option to not do this. It is my tireless mission to
make every single Inform author use it. I'm sure you're already tired of
hearing about it. But it's particularly bad this time, because when you
take inventory, "it" is set to "the breach of copyright" -- damn
confusing.

------------

Spacestation
by David Ledgard

This is a cute idea -- implementing one of Infocom's sample transcripts
as a game. Unfortunately, there's no more to "Spacestation" than that.
The original transcript had no more point to it than a punchline about
sudden death; this game lets you win, but doesn't add a point. Most of
the colorful text is from the transcript.

The author says "I would have liked the game to be a lot more complex
but ran out of time." That about sums it up. This could be really nifty
if the author extends the game with the same charm and style as its
source had.

------------

Human Resources Stories
by Harry M. Hardjono

Type "egg". The author has done an excellent job of summarizing the
game's shortcomings. I have nothing to add.

------------

Informatory
by William J. Shlaer

This is really, really strange. (He said.)

I *think* it's an absurdist look at the world of IF authorship. The
theme is "Learning Inform". As such, it's full of references to Graham
Nelson, earlier Inform games, Infocom, the Inform Designer's Manual, my
"Lists and Lists", and so on. The author does a good job of slipping in
sly digs. Maybe the barbs about Inform design cut a little *too* deep...
well, who am I to say. :)

There isn't really a coherent thread to this game, but this is more than
compensated for by the crazy ideas the author has thrown in. Let me be
clear: the hint system is *the best hint system ever*. My head hasn't
hurt this much since I played the old Apple 2 game "The Prisoner". No,
this isn't as good as that. "The Prisoner" kept the lunacy up much
longer. But this thing rings the bell but good a couple of times. For a
start, it comes close to being the Quine Sentence of Inform. If you
don't know what I mean, just try it.

No story -- sure, it's all scenery and metatextual gags -- but so what?
I liked it.

------------

Little Blue Men
by Michael S. Gentry

I am well pleased. The author apologizes for the "rushed and uneven
mixture of gonzo humor and surreal horror", but I think he's
underselling himself. Such things have always been complementary. (Look
at "The Lurking Horror".)

So, you're in your office, doing your work, and you're trying to stay
cool. If I say another thing about the plot it'll be too much. It goes
on from there, that's all.

Now, the author also comments hopefully about the ending, which some
might see as a bit of a drag. He wants to talk about the motivation of
the protagonist as contrasted with the motivation of the player. I'd say
it's simpler than that; some stories are a downer, that's all. It's a
good ending because it makes you go "Gnaaaaah!" It does that very well.
The only other ending I can think of involves being promoted, if you see
what I mean, and that wouldn't be quite as visceral. So let it stand.

------------

Fifteen
by Ricardo Dague

Er, well. This is about as bare-bones as a game can get. It's supposed
to be modelled after the Scott Adams games, but Adams somehow managed to
cram some juice into his three-word sentence fragments. Here, every room
description is of the form "Exits are south, east and north", and it's
not in aid of any particular gimmick.

There are only three puzzles, of which one is (surprise) the fifteen
puzzle. I'm afraid whatever tolerance I had for Old Standards was
exhausted after the light-toggler in "Dilly"; fortunately, the author
provides a cheat. The second puzzle (a kitten up a tree) is reasonable.
The third is a good puzzle idea, except it's built in a maze. The maze
is exactly as interesting to look at as the rest of the game. It's easy
to map, but come on.

This isn't a disaster. It's about two good ideas from some
not-yet-written game, and they don't stand up on their own. On the other
hand, it didn't get boring either; the extreme brevity slid me through
to the end before I threw it against a wall. That may not sound like
much praise :-) but I mean it: when there are only three bits, and two
of them work ok, that's above average.

But room descriptions are still considered good.

------------

In The Spotlight
by John W. Byrd

This is an unapologetic one-puzzler. Unfortunately, I've seen the puzzle
before. Another Old Classic.

There are a lot of nice touches in the writing; particularly the help
text, and the description of the (very simple) scenery around you. I bet
I can distinguish the ideas the author came up with at age 13 from the
ones he added for this Inform version.

The implementation, even more unfortunately, isn't very good; as I've
said, a puzzle-box game needs rich mechanics. Saying that "push string"
doesn't work unless you're holding it is the sort of non-physical
restriction that can't work in a game like this. And there's no clue in
the initial description that the strings are *hanging from the ceiling*,
even though this is the whole point of the game.

For that matter, the entire physical basis of the game is questionable.
A very long string, dangling from far overhead, doesn't restrict your
movement when you're holding on to it. The angle is too small to pull it
out of reach. The standard description of this problem is two strings
hanging from a *room* ceiling, nearly their own length apart.

Basically, lots of points for the idea, I still like the no-context
presentation, but it's undermined by technicalities.

------------

Lightiania
by Gustav Bodel

This is very short and mostly obscured by the author's difficulty with
English. You find a crashed UFO. You want to get it working. There are
about three stages to this, of which one is obvious and two are
insufficiently clued. The atmosphere doesn't work, because the writing
just isn't up to it. There's some charactarization of the protagonist,
but it's all background.

I try to be encouraging about these things. This isn't mind-numbingly
awful, in the manner of the mind-numbingly awful IF games we all know
and make fun of. It just doesn't do much.

------------

Arrival
by Samantha Clark

Continuing the swarm of flying saucers in this competition -- okay, the
second, but who's counting? --

This one was a joy to read. The four NPCs (two aliens and two parents)
cheerfully play off stereotypes, with enough zing to keep me chuckling
through the storyline. (Help, I'm trapped in a sea of ReviewerLang. Er,
sorry. It was a lot of fun, though.)

The puzzles are satisfactory, although somehow I didn't click with
several of them, so I wound up relying heavily on hints. In particular,
the problem of getting Mom and Dad out of the way seemed totally opaque.
It relies on doing one thing which has no effect for several turns; and
then another which I accidentally did at the very start of the game,
making things unwinnable (with an instant game-over when I entered the
living room, in fact.) I could probably have gotten this with a great
deal of experimentation, but I wasn't inspired to experiment. Similarly,
in another room I missed a hiding place, which left me no obvious way to
proceed. I'm hesitant to say these are the game's fault, but nonetheless
they didn't work out for me.

In spite of this, I solved the last few puzzles myself (the ones I *did*
experiment with) and bought the game to, as they say, a satisfactory
conclusion.

------------

Cattus Atrox
by David A. Cornelson

This is a (non-supernatural) horror storyline. Unfortunately, it's not
very horrific. To explain why, I'm going to go into more detail about
the storyline than most of these reviews, so skip the rest if you
dislike spoilers.

It begins with a station wagon pacing you on a dark, foggy night. This
is a good start, actually; the thing creeps alongside you as you walk
home, betraying no sign of what's inside. It lets you get nearly all the
way, too.

Then it stops, blocking you from your house, and... a man and six lions
get out. This is my first problem; in fact, my first two problems. I
don't think you can *get* six lions in a station wagon without a
blender. Ok, that's a quibble. But the lions just aren't very scary.
Maybe our culture has desensitized us with "noble hunter" images, but
even so, when you look around and the game says "...You also see a lion,
a lioness, and four lion cubs," it's not doing enough to get the mood
across.

So you spend some time running from lions. This picks up the pace again,
as you wander around a claustrophobic maze of streets. (Although there
are some odd hitches -- for example, until you take your first step away
from the car, you can wait as long as you want with no response from the
lions or their owner.)

So you finally get in contact with someone who will help. You go back to
a friend's house... and then the game pretty much ends. The place of
safety turns out to be the lions' den, pardon me for grounding my own
metaphor, and you're drugged. (Without even the grace of typing "drink
liquid" yourself; the game just tells you you've done it.) You can't
move.

So you spend the last twenty moves typing "wait" and watching some
people be gratuitously exhibitionistic and then kill you. I must regard
this as a failure of pacing. There isn't much explanation, either,
except that for a hint that you were... hard to work with at the office?

It's hard to avoid comparing this with the Laurell Hamilton "Anita
Blake" novels, which have included some hellishly charged scenes of sex,
violence, and leopards. (Were-leopards, in fact.) Those worked because
of the prose, the clear evocation of the emotional currents *behind* the
events, and the fact that Anita wasn't a passive victim. (Was, in fact,
active enough to eventually make mincemeat of the were-leopard and
anyone else that annoyed her. I realize that Cattus Atrox was never
intended to have a happy ending. But it should have an *involving*
ending; that's the strength of interactive fiction, we generally agree.)

------------

Where Evil Dwells
By Paul Johnson & Steve Owens

Another horror format, this one classically Lovecraftian. Rather
overbearingly Lovecraftian, really; while I know this was developed
independently from _Anchorhead_, one can't avoid thinking that it's been
done now. There's only so much you can do with hooded cultists. Garlic
sauce, roasted red peppers, it's all the same in the end.

The tone of the game is effective, however, despite its familiarity.
Lights going out, things being snatched behind your back, and tendrils
in the dark.

There's an uncomfortable current of silliness which doesn't really fit
in. Yes, I said gonzo humor and horror go well together, but it's horror
bubbling up under satire that I was thinking above, not Gilligan's
Island jokes in a haunted house. It can probably be made to work, but
it'll take a lot more fine-tuning.

The other problem is the implementation, which is sparse to the point of
being hostile. A lot more of the world should be examinable,
particularly since your character is a private investigator and ought to
be poking into things. Instead, most of the things mentioned in room
descriptions are absent, which gives a certain
airbrushed-against-a-backdrop-darkly feeling to the whole affair. The
puzzle design is rough as well; I used the hints a lot, and then I
bypassed a puzzle near the end without even noticing it was there.

------------

Downtown Tokyo, Present Day
Digby McWiggle

Short and sweet, or possibly one should say "short and silly." You watch
/ direct the hero of a Japanese monster movie, as he gets the monster
and the girl in two brief scenes. Not difficult, but the clever writing
carries the game.

One interesting note is the split-level narrative. You're in a movie
theater, watching the protagonist perform. (And this whole situation is
described by a not-entirely-invisible narrator, who talks, for example,
about "our hero". So we actually have first, second, *and* third-person
narration going on here -- heh.) I like the effect, but it's probably
good that it's such a short game; the gimmick would get old fast.

(And yes, I still feel that it's more distancing than the "standard"
second-person IF narration. Particularly in the first scene, where you
don't have much real control over the hero's actions.)

Plus, it's got illustrations. What more can a gamer need?

------------

Photopia
by Opal O'Donnell

This, I think, will do.

I'm not even sure how to describe it; the story has a whole tangle of
threads, marching backwards to tie into a painfully precise knot at the
beginning. I keep going back to try different things, to see what
*might* connect -- in case it does.

We have -- no, I shouldn't even list the subjects of discourse. Works
better as a surprise. I was pleased that "IF authorship" was in there,
though. :)

(Footnote: dammit, I just realized: the "bug" I thought I found early in
the game is in fact deliberate. The game has now rated a bout of vicious
swearing in addition to the three kow-tows I gave it during play.)

The plot is quite tightly constrained; you can't go far wrong. Choices
tend to be alternate ways of getting to the next scene, rather than
divergences in the plot. Even the puzzles provide solutions for
themselves if you don't look for any. This works just fine, since the
point of the game is the narrative. (I'm a little surprised at how well
the optional-puzzle thing works -- but then this didn't happen to me
much when I was playing. I ran into it when I was going back to try
things.)

The scenes are supposed to be differentiated by color, but I played in
MaxZip (which doesn't support that) and there were display bugs when I
tried it in Zip Infinity. I'm not terribly enthused by the gimmick; yes,
it adds atmosphere, but the color combinations are harder to read than
my preferred text setup. (The purple-on-black combo would drive me nuts
if there was more than a page or two of it.)

Zarf says "three kow-tows and a bout of swearing."

------------

Mother Loose
by Irene Callaci

One guess what the motif is. However, the fairy-tale schtick didn't
satisfy me for some reason. The sequence of in-jokes was funny, but it
wasn't... revelatory. I don't know. The ending schtick didn't satisfy me
either. (I won't spoil it here, but it's not a myth I ever subscribed
to, and it doesn't do much for me.)

I also spent a lot of the game frustrated, because the puzzles are
mostly obscure. This is one of those games where you absolutely have to
examine, look under, and search absolutely everything; and the Unnkulia
flashback is out of sorts with the for-children style. I spent a lot of
time in the hints, discovering the things I should have looked at.

I prefer a game to be more forthcoming about focus -- the art of
directing my attention to where you want it. Hm. I should write an essay
about this.

Also, the puzzle implementation was ragged enough to be annoying. Some
things don't work until the author wants them to work.

On the other hand (so, did I improve this review by saving the good
comments for last?) the writing is rich and well-suited to the mood; the
author has put in plenty of effort to make a responsive environment. Not
just game objects, either. The parser often delegates one of the NPCs in
the vicinity to make comments to you, which I thought was great. And so
on.

------------

The City

Ok, short and surreal. Nice start, but it suffered in comparison to [1]
"Little Blue Men" (same surreal, more intricate wrapping); [2] "Erase,
Rewind, Play" (a story by John M. Ford, not IF, but it kicked my butt
anyway); and [3] my ability to find concealed objects, which seems to be
nil tonight.

Having to use the walkthrough for this game pretty much ruins the point.
Oh well. I wish I could objectively tell you how I would have liked if I
hadn't played LBM first.

------------

The Plant
by Michael J. Roberts

This is a great game in the classic form: exploring, playing with
machines, triumphant ending. It's set present-day, and either
conspiracy-theory SF or mainstream, depending on how seriously you take
that worldview. :) On a stormy night, you and your nerd-ufo-nut-boss
stumble across an industrial plant, whose inhabitants seem to have
stolen a shipment of Mysterious Technology. Your boss insists that you
investigate...

The game is solid in about every respect. The puzzles are interesting,
and reasonably well integrated. Once you grant a plant-ful (plus a
warehouse or two) of wacky machines, the rest is easy; and most of it
involves real-world, intuitively meaningful physics. There was a certain
feeling that the puzzles dominated, in the sense that absolutely
everything in the game was related to one puzzle or another. Not out of
place, although a few things were a bit strained, but you knew you were
going to get back to every object before the end.

I solved everything without checking the walkthrough, although with a
couple of nudges from the boss, the walking hint-nudger. (He gives
suggestions when you seem to be stuck. I'm not sure of the code behind
this, but it seems to work, because I never got a hint when I *wasn't*
stuck.)

The player is skillfully guided through the plot. You witness expository
scenes as you explore, always in the distance (so you can't interfere)
and perfectly believable as things that would be happening around the
plant. (The map and plot are carefully shaped to each other to make this
work. Some puzzles also become solvable only after you've seen certain
scenes, keeping the plot synched up, and this is also well-integrated.)
Complicated puzzle-solutions don't have to be repeated, as there's
usually a way back once you've gotten to an area. In fact, the last time
I saw this kind of broad yet well-guided exploration game, I was
praising _Riven_. Kudos.

(Footnote: In describing "Mother Loose", I used the term "Unnkulian" to
describe a game where you have to look behind, under, and through
everything without motivation or focus. Obviously that *doesn't*
describe this game. Don't mind me, I rarely keep grudges for more than
ten years. :)

The underlying storyline is reasonable; no surprises, but good pacing up
to a climactic scene. Clever foreshadowing (mmm, stormy night.) The
writing is okay, though maybe a bit mechanical also -- the descriptions
were fine, but the hundred-foot-high rooms didn't feel any larger than
the ventilation ducts, if you see what I mean. It wasn't a big problem;
the dark stormy road was vivid enough.

No characters as such. Your boss is essentially static, tagging around
behind you and emitting a small range of meaningless actions, with just
a few flashes of actually being interesting. There's a dog, who's fine
as far as dogs go, which isn't that far. Heh.

------------

Purple
by Stefan Blixt

Maybe I don't have much patience at this late date, but I couldn't get
anywhere on this without working step-by-step from the walkthrough, and
even then I couldn't finish it. Badly bugged, and the puzzles don't make
much sense to me either.

The descriptions are good. I like the sense of an alternate, or future,
history; unknown politics followed by a desolate world full of obscure
(albeit mostly purple) rules. On the other hand, the English isn't very
good, which isn't the author's fault but still interferes.

Weirdly, the NPCs feel pretty good, even through the general weakness of
the programming. They move around and do stuff and react to their
environment.

------------

Four in One
by J. Robinson Wheeler

I give up. This game may be a brilliant evocation of a man being driven
out of his mind with frustration by disgruntled Marx brothers. I'm
unable to appreciate it, because I was driven out of my mind.

Yes, the NPCs are copious and they recite the appropriate in-character
dialogue. Yes, it's frighteningly well-researched. But I couldn't make
anything *happen*. By luck, as far as I could tell, I got one take
started. ("Boom in shot!") Then I spent the rest of the game following
Harpo around.

The problem is, even with all this work, the characters react pretty
mechanically. Chico won't follow you unless the other three are; Groucho
probably won't unless two are; Zeppo usually follows you; and that means
you have to chase Harpo. Which does't work. If there are more subtleties
in the behavior than that, I couldn't predict them enough to exploit
them. So I couldn't win.

------------

Muse
by Christopher Huang

What a pity I'm in no mood to appreciate this. Well, I haven't been
since the interactive fiction competition started up, so that's nothing
new.

I didn't bother finishing this game. I got a bit stuck very early, went
into the hints, and read through them all in lieu of playing. So I know
more or less how it goes, but not how it gets there.

I can, however, comment on technical issues. The prose is excellent, of
course. The choice of first-person, past-tense narrative... I'm glad
someone finally did it, because now I can say that I've tried it and I
don't like the effect. I've always felt it would be distancing, and it
*was* distancing.

This is *not* the problem of being told what I'm feeling; I *like* that
technique when it appears in a standard second-person-present game. It's
purely a syntactic problem. If there was a game switch to flip all the
syntax around, I would have used it, and the problem would have gone
away. Unfortunately, while such syntax-changing is trivial from the
writer's point of view, it's a pain in the butt to actually type in all
the changes. As I'm sure the author knows from having done it once.

The human-interaction problem was reasonably deftly avoided, if I read
the hints aright, but not entirely gone. One puzzle amounted to a
guess-the-verb problem, simply because a perfectly sensible request
didn't fit into the ask-tell-order model of most IF. It's hard to think
of answers when you don't know the range of possible actions. That was
only in one place, however, and the rest looked like it would have been
fairly solvable.

------------

--Z

--

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

David Glasser

unread,
Nov 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/17/98
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:

> Also, whenever you look or take inventory, the pronouns are all reset.
> There's a library option to not do this. It is my tireless mission to
> make every single Inform author use it. I'm sure you're already tired of
> hearing about it. But it's particularly bad this time, because when you
> take inventory, "it" is set to "the breach of copyright" -- damn
> confusing.

Oops.

I suppose I *didn't* upload that plugin to gmd last October.

ManPro.h. In incoming.

--
David Glasser gla...@NOSPAMuscom.com http://onramp.uscom.com/~glasser
DGlasser @ ifMUD : fovea.retina.net 4000 (webpage fovea.retina.net:4001)
Sadie Hawkins, official band of David Glasser: http://sadie.retina.net
"We take our icons very seriously in this class."

Avrom Faderman

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Nov 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/17/98
to
Hi all,

Here's a set of disorganized ramblings about many of the games submitted to
comp 98.

My apologies for not having more consistently detailed things to say...for
some bizzarre reason, I simply forgot my intention of keeping good notes
while I was playing the games.

Also, I'd like to apologize in advance for any offense I may have given,
particularly with my scores. Reading over other people's, I think I may
have been a bit harsh...a "5", for me, was a solidly satisfactory game,
either a very robust one with nothing outstanding or one with flashes of
genius but serious flaws. It's not to be taken as an insult; it's above the
mean score I gave.

I've never yet given a "10", probably because I've always been hesitant to
use up that last little bit of leeway. And I didn't give anything a "1"
this year, because I *have* given it in past years, know what merits a 1,
and nothing this year was anything like that bad (no "House of the Stalker,"
for instance). So the following scores are all between 2 and 9.

I'm going to try to avoid spoilers, but I'm not going to try very hard.
People who haven't played the games, consider yourselves warned...

Acid Whiplash: 5.

I feel a little bad about not giving this a higher rating. After all, a
year ago or so, I said about Rippled Flesh, "1: Although I'm looking
forward to the parodies." And here's a *great* parody of all that is
Rybread: Bits of confusing, misspelled, and inconsistent puzzling,
interspersed with commentary that at least twice made me laugh out loud.

But, well, maybe I should be more careful what I wish for. When all is said
and done, you still have to play a game that could well have been written by
Rybred Celsius. I never got out of the pope's hat until the real
walkthrough was posted on this NG (after the competition ended). And while
the game's response to "Walkthru" was "in character," so to speak, it still
prevented me from seeing two of the cut scenes, which are really the big
payoff in playing; after all, the rest of the game isn't so much a *parody*
of Rybread as an *imitation*.

Well, the one cut scene I did get to, together with the sheer brilliance
with which Cody duplicated Rybread's writing (no mean feat, I think!) was
enough to boost the game up to a 5. Which is saying a lot, really,
particularly given the ratings I gave Punkirita and Rippled Flesh.


Arrival: 5

Well, now I wish I could go back and withdraw my vote. HTML Whoosis? I
just played this game on reg'lar old TADS, not knowing it wasn't intended to
be so played, and the rating above reflects that. Now I think I probably
missed half the fun. Sorry, Stephen. I think I cheated your game out of at
least 2 points or so. But how were we supposed to know, and where do we get
this mysterious "HTML TADS"?

Since I still don't know the answer to that question, this review is the
review of the all-text game as well. The NPCs are cute, and the PC is a
nice touch. I'm not sure what I think of the puzzles...in particular, I'm
*still* not *quite* sure I understand how the ship's fuel tank works--it
seemed inconsistent to me in a couple of ways. And the puzzle with your
parents, I think, even required a bit of prescience, since it depended so
crucially on timing.


Cattus Atrox: 4

I agree with almost all of the criticisms of this game that have been
posted. Lot's of waiting, too little implemented, too little explanation,
last scene more cheesy than scary--I agree. Most of the game was *not*
good. So why did I give it a 4 instead of a 1?

As other people have noted, the first scene stands out from the rest of the
game. For me, it was worth a full 3 points. I have, very simply, never
been scared by a computer game before. Not by Lurking Horror, not by
Theatre, not by any of the supposedly scary games we've had. But the first
scene of C.A. scared the living daylights out of me. That's got to be worth
something. Three points, in this case.

Of course, as soon as you get to the phone, and find out Susan doesn't
accept most reasonable phrasings of most things you might want to say or ask
her about, things go rapidly downhill. And the last scene--yeccch. And not
for the reason for the author intended--not that it was shocking or
horrifying or frightening; it was just so...*tawdry*. Like a bad C-budget
"erotic" horror movie.


The City: 6

This game was short. Very short. But it was well done, even if the opening
device was a little tired by now. Atmospheric, a bit spooky, and that same
tired opening device is *very* well implemented, as is dialogue. The ending
scene was a bit corny, but still, overall, not a half bad little game.

The Commute: 2

What can I say about this game that hasn't been said before? The idea isn't
very original, the story isn't gripping, the few puzzles are unintuitive,
but that isn't the real problem. The real problem is the parser. I know, I
know, writing a parser is hard, and even this one represents a real feat.
But that's not an excuse if there already *are* very good prewritten parsers
freely available. I don't want to use a Word Processor written in
microcode, and I don't want to play a game written in a standard programming
language for the same reason--even if both are amazing feats.

Downtown Tokyo, Present Day: 5

Cute. Not very interactive, alas. Most of it, in fact, not interactive at
all; since your choices tend to be limited to "wait," "x _", and the one
action the story wants you to take. That wouldn't be a problem in a deep,
sprawling story, but something this light-hearted seemed to cry out for ways
to bend it.

And I can't be *blown away* by something, even something this cute, with so
little plot and characterization *and* so few puzzles. A limitation on the
genre for me, probably, since of course the kind of movie the game is
parodying is famously low on plot and characterization, and it's not clear
how to work puzzles into a movie.

Question: I *thought*, in one game, the monster layed an enormous egg. I
had to quit playing at that point, and for some reason didn't bother to
save. I was never able to duplicate this scenario. Is it an easter egg
that I just found by chance, or did I dream it or something?

Enlightenment: 7

Zero-Sum Game meets Zork: A Troll's Eye View. Very nice. Cute, funny,
great attention to detail, original idea, generally well-written puzzles. A
few obscure ones annoyed me (another poster wrote about the trouble they had
with the "gate" being opaque; I had the same problem).
The goodies were a *definite* plus; it was *almost* like opening up a new
infocom package.

WARNING: This was such a pleasant little game, I'm very worried that
someone will try to make a full-length game using effectively the same
concept. Please don't. This idea was cute for *just about* as long as this
game lasted; it would *not* be cute for a 15-hour gameplay game.

Oh, and I don't quite understand--*how* did you get in without "checking the
bridge"?


Fifteen: 2
No plot, almost no descriptions, no NPCs, and the biggest puzzle is a
fifteen puzzle. Didn't we trash Activision for putting one in "Return to
Zork?" Isn't one included with the Mac OS? I'm sorry, this is prehaps an
unfair diatribe, but if I never see another:

fifteen
towers of hanoi
parity
lights-out

puzzle, it will be too soon (this does not include Gareth Rees' original
*takes* on these puzzles in "Magic Toyshop." What I should say is if I
don't see another one of these puzzles all-but-unadorned, it will be too
soon).


Four in One: 5
Chaotic, funny, and (alas) frustrating. The implementations of the Marx
Brothers are great, and for the first 15 minutes or so, it's a lot of fun
trying to get them all into the same room. But there's just too much
*random* going on...I felt like, when I did solve the game, it wasn't so
much that I figured something out as that I got incredibly lucky; perhaps
some evidence for that is that I beat the game once early on, and even
making extensive use of saved games (including one that I made close to the
original solution) I have been unable to beat it since. There's also a
rather serious bug involving the scoring system; it's possible to get well
upwards of a perfect score if you get lucky *enough*.


Human Resource Stories: 4
I found this a kind of cute and very simple CYOA type game. Nothing
special, but nothing offensive either.

Of course, I didn't find any of the easter eggs until they were pointed out
on the newsgroup after the judging, and I (miraculously, I guess) always got
a salary that corresponded pretty well with my grades (A+, A+ A gave me
$85k, B C C gave me $25). The random salary hurts it, and the diatribes
hurt it a *lot*. I don't think I'd be so generous if I were rating it now.


I Didn't Know You Could Yodel: 2
Er...Not a big one for scatological humor, offensive depictions of various
ethnic groups, or long strings of riddles, I'm afraid. Sorry.


In the Spotlight: 4
Well, it seems pretty well implemented, but I don't know what I think of the
puzzle. Not only is it entirely unoriginal, I'm not sure it *works*.
I'm not convinced that the solution could possibly work if the strings are
short enough that you couldn't just *hold* one while you walked over to the
other. I can't say more without a big spoiler though, so maybe I'll leave
this for a separate post.
Anyway, it's one well-coded puzzle.


Informatory: 4
Some people said it didn't work as a game, but was a good tutorial.
I gave Zarf's "Lists and Lists" a 7 when it came out. That wasn't much of a
game, but it was a *great* tutorial. I came away really feeling like I
understood (very basic) LisP.
I'm not sure I think Informatory worked that well even as a tutorial. The
first, "game"-like part, didn't really teach Inform. I solved it, and I
still don't know Inform--I solved it by looking through the code for obvious
keywords and making educated guesses.
And the second part wasn't really a tutorial. It was basically, "Go get the
manual, study it, see if you can answer these multiple choice questions, and
then *exit the game* and write a program with almost no feedback." I've
heard of self-paced courses, but this is a bit much!


Lightiania: 2
Too many "look under things to find things that unlock things" puzzles.
And, although I hate to dock a game for this reason, too obviously lacking
in proofreading by a native speaker of English. Finally, "find a spaceship,
get it working" is a bit overdone.


Little Blue Men: 6
Hmm. Here's an interesting one.
It suffered from poor dialogue, a few missing reponses (the water cooler is
*very* picky about syntax, in particular; many other devices are as well),
and the fact that I could simply *not* sympathize with the main character.
But the irony at the end is fun (except see below), and the points the game
raises about what constitutes an "optimal" ending are interesting ones.
They're *not*, despite what people have said I think, the same points raised
by Infidel or A Change in the Weather, since here, unlike in those two
games, the whole irony is that the ending is fundamentally the same as the
beginning. The character has, although they don't realize it, moved around
in one big circle. And, of course, on some level we don't realize it
either. We've solved puzzles, explored terrain, and ended up in a place
that is *superficially* very different from the one we started at.
An great conversation piece. It will need a bit more editing and writing
before it's a great game

Mother Loose: 7
Positively adorable. Darling descriptions, neat NPCs, and (this is perhaps
its greatest plus) remarkable replayability.
Only two complaints, and they're pretty small:
1) Too many puzzles revolve around just inspecting things really closely
2) The tone is a bit inconsistent. Most of this could be a children's
game, or (since the puzzles are too hard for kids) at least a game for the
child in all of us. But there are these strange little touches of grimness
that hurt that effect--like your mother's near-speculation on what would
have happenned to her in a couple of days. Worth eliminating, I think.

Muse: 8
A poor man's Thomas Mann (why did this remind me more of Mann then Austin?
I don't know...maybe it was just a superficial thematic element, but I don't
think so...temptation, inaccessability, and a nice set worldview upset by
unexpected possibilities are *deep* thematic elements both in this game and
Death in Venice) with a happy ending. It suffers in comparison to the
original, perhaps, but what wouldn't? Overall, nicely done!
My one objection involves one of the puzzles (no, this isn't puzzleless IF,
for all its literariness): There's something very contrived about the
"getting Konstanza to trust you" section. It seems to revolve around
finding a sheer *number* of things to say to her and ask her. It seems odd
that after talking to her for hours about your life and hers, with no
success, a mention of the innkeeper can "put you over the top," so to speak.
I needed a hint to figure out what I was supposed to be doing in this
section, and then I spent a good bit of time just wracking my brain for
various bits of smalltalk to make, especially odd since making *random*
smalltalk (as the game suggests you do when you "talk to Konstanza") seems
to do very little good.
But a very good game. IMO, the second best this year, and it would have
been the best in most other years.

Photopia: 9
...which brings us to the game that unseated Muse.

I hate to keep quoting myself, but I think in the same post where I called
out for a Rybread parody, I said, of "In the End," that it was a
controversial and groundbreaking game definitely worth the download--but
that in five years it would be of merely historical interest, because the
"either the genre [of puzzleless IF] would be fully explored or abandoned as
sterile or we would have moved way beyond this."

Five years has come early, folks. If "In the End" was the "Collossal Cave
Adventure" of puzzleless IF, "Photopia" is its "Planetfall." "In the End"
opened a new vista, but "Photopia" shows us that it's more than a curiosity,
that great things can be done with it, that it's here to stay. WOW.
Plotting, characterization, style...amazing.

So why not the "Trinity" or the "So Far" of puzzleless IF? Well, good as
Photopia is, I think we've still got a ways to go before the genre hits its
*maximum* stride. The one thing Photopia lacks is any kind of real
interactivity.

On the first playthrough, the game is executed so brilliantly that this
isn't even noticable. Someone just said (damn, now I cant find who said
it--sorry) that the game is very "Plastic," and that's in large part what
does it. (If you look carefully, it's not just in the "IF Authorship"
scenes. When you choose to hit the brakes is in fact irrelevant, but the
game makes this flow so smoothly that you don't even notice that the first
time through.)

But play the game over again, and seams begin to show. Not horrible seams,
just mainly that it becomes more *obvious* that more or less nothing you do
can have any substantial impact on the story. And I mean *nothing*, unless
you count the two things you can do (one reported bug, one other that's a
spoiler that I'll just send to Adam Cadre) inside stories that grind the
game to a halt.

(Here's an idea, although it's just an idea, along the lines of "I-O" in
that it lets you subtly change the personality of an important character.
At one point, as Alley's father, you can "Tell Alley about crystal spheres."
I wanted the discussion to go in a *really* different direction after that
point, to abandon science and get into myth, beauty, and fiction. After
all, it's only important to the story that Alley be *smart*...she doesn't
have to be *scientifically* inclined. Why not give the player a chance to
make her an artist or a humanist, if they so desire?)

There's one place where this even leads to a minor story bug--it's possible
to get out of the car in the first scene...but in a later scene, there's a
line of dialogue (referring to "frat boys" in the plural) that seems to have
forgotten you did this.

Sorry, this really isn't meant to be harping on what are really minor
problems with a really good game. It's just that this game is *so close* to
being a perfect "10," just that it could be turned into one by fixing a
couple of bugs and introducing a *little* player control over the story
universe, that I think it's *especially* important for me to mention the few
things I found wrong with it.

(By the way, by "a little control" I mean just that. I don't think it needs
to be possible to avert the story's ending or change any of the major
events; if it were, it would risk destroying the magnificent jigsaw-puzzle
the author has assembled. It should just be possible to have a *little*
effect on some *minor* details, so you don't feel *quite* as much like
you're just reading and not participating.)


The Plant: 7

Now, despite what people have said, I don't think this is much more than a
puzzle game. But it's a *good* puzzle game. The puzzles are clever, the
NPC (there's only one, really) is cute though not very functional, the
scenery is nicely described.

The bar-code puzzle is ingenious, as is *most* of the
getting-into-the-glass-atrium puzzle (except that it was hard to simply
*find* the portal, given that it didn't seem you could get the cage to the
right position and the game was kind of finicky about what syntax would tell
you of the thing's existence).

Generally a pleasant game, well above average.

Purple: 4

A potentially nice game rather marred by annoying features and bugs.

Some of the puzzles seemed a bit illogical, with me not being quite sure how
I solved them even after I did. And Karl got lost in the underground
passages *way* to easily.

And I couldn't finish the game, because while I thought I had everything on
the beach that Karl asked for, after a while he stopped *doing* anything
with them! AARGH!

Needs polishing, but has considerable promise.

Research Dig: 3

Too many keys, too much unbelievable dialogue, too abrupt an ending, too
many mistakes (including the already-mentioned feet-inches confusion), and a
puzzle that even after I had figured out I couldn't solve (the boat
puzzle...a change of room description would have been very nice; I kept
thinking I was supposed to go NW *in the boat*). The ending was the biggest
problem; it seemed like the game was supposed to be much bigger, but that
2/3 of it just got crammed into a "cut scene" at the end. No finding out
who the villain is, no great climactic chase...just find an object, start to
leave, and the game's over...*poof*. If it's polished and expanded, I'd be
interested to see the result.


Ritual of Purification: 6

Yes, this game had some real problems. The prose was occasionally purple,
and the metaphysical themes were murky. But the characters were
entertaining, the descriptions were at *times* (those times when they
weren't overwrought) beautiful, the atmosphere was amazingly consistent, and
the coding (so far as I could tell) was impeccable. Cool down the prose a
bit and the metaphysics a lot, and add some more detailed puzzles, and this
would be one hell of a fantasy game--no pun intended. Harder way to go:
Cool down the prose and metaphysics a bit, be clearer about what you're
trying to get accross, and add a bit of plot, and you could have one hell of
a "literary" game. The first is definitely easier, and it would give you
quite a bit: Rich, painting-like descriptions in fantasy games is an area
that I think is still underexplored.


Spacestation: 4

Hmm. I've since found out that this game was almost entirely lifted from
the Planetfall sample transcript (I didn't recognize it; it's been about 10
years since I opened my "Planetfall" box). I would probably give it a lower
score now that I know that so little is original.

The reason I didn't give it a very high score before is that it's too short.
Little is implemented, there are almost no puzzles, and there's certainly no
story. The Fussbudget was cute, though, which got it the "4", although I
guess those points should really go to Steve Meretzky.

Trapped in a One-Room Dilly: 6

Basically a slightly less clever version of "Enlightenment." Everything I
said about that, minus about half the "cute" and "funny" and 1/3 the
"original idea," but keeping all the "attention to detail", minus the
complements about the "goodies," plus a minor grouse about picky syntax in
the last puzzle, plus another about using a "lights-out" puzzle, but plus
extra kudos because the puzzles formed an even more diverse set. Net loss
of a point.


Where Evil Dwells: 5

Generally a pretty nice game. Well implemented, some cute scenes (I liked
the goblin!), a diverse if sometimes unintuitive bunch of puzzles.

So why only a 5? Well, for one thing, the game was really not at all
original, and for another (as several people have pointed out), the tone was
disturbingly inconsistent. It was *fun*, but by no means *exciting* or
*immersive*. It needed *oomph*.

More consistent tone would go a long way towards this. Write a comedy game,
a black comedy game, or a horror game...not a weird pastiche.


That's it! I'll post spoilery things separately.

Avrom


Rybread Celcius

unread,
Nov 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/17/98
to
>
> Well, the one cut scene I did get to, together with the sheer brilliance
> with which Cody duplicated Rybread's writing (no mean feat, I think!) was
> enough to boost the game up to a 5. Which is saying a lot, really,
> particularly given the ratings I gave Punkirita and Rippled Flesh.

Do I get credit for duplicating myself? I think that's a sin...


Avrom Faderman

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Nov 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/17/98
to

Rybread Celcius wrote in message <36525B4D...@anok4u2.org>...

>>
>> Well, the one cut scene I did get to, together with the sheer brilliance
>> with which Cody duplicated Rybread's writing (no mean feat, I think!) was
>> enough to boost the game up to a 5. Which is saying a lot, really,
>> particularly given the ratings I gave Punkirita and Rippled Flesh.
>
> Do I get credit for duplicating myself? I think that's a sin...


Oh. Sorry--I really didn't understand this about the game. The title
credit makes it look like Cody Sandifer is the sole author, and you're just
a *character*.

And inspiration, of course.

This rather changes my view of the game, though.

Avrom


>

J. Robinson Wheeler

unread,
Nov 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/17/98
to
Avrom Faderman wrote:

> Four in One:

> There's also a rather serious bug involving the scoring system;
> it's possible to get well upwards of a perfect score if you get
> lucky *enough*.

Eh? What? Are you saying you can get above a perfect score, or
nearly a perfect score, or what? And what do you mean by 'lucky
*enough*'?

Email would be fine. In fact, I should have emailed this. Oh
well.


--
J. Robinson Wheeler
whe...@jump.net http://www.jump.net/~wheeler/jrw/home.html

nob...@student.anu.edu.au

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Nov 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/18/98
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Here be Spoilers

In article <ORiwWipE#GA.323@upnetnews03>, "Avrom Faderman"


<Avrom_F...@email.msn.com> wrote:
> Enlightenment: 7
>
> Zero-Sum Game meets Zork: A Troll's Eye View. Very nice. Cute, funny,

A confession: I haven't played ZSG yet, but I plan to, and I played Z:ATEV
in mid-October. The actual idea is a spin-off from something I designed
where I listed a bunch of ways to get past a troll "(this would have been
back in 1995 or 1996) ... In the original, there were a large number of
solutions, including
shutting your lights off, letting the troll get acclimatised to the dark,
and then turning your light back on, blinding it. The Grue^H^H^H*** idea
came in January of this year, and I started coding it to teach myself
Inform in April.

> few obscure ones annoyed me (another poster wrote about the trouble they had
> with the "gate" being opaque; I had the same problem).

Possibly a language issue ... A gate doesn't necessarily have railings or
pickets. At any rate, I'll revise some desc in my next release to
disambiguate this. [It wasn't a problem that any tester had, for some
reason]

> WARNING: This was such a pleasant little game, I'm very worried that
> someone will try to make a full-length game using effectively the same
> concept. Please don't. This idea was cute for *just about* as long as this
> game lasted; it would *not* be cute for a 15-hour gameplay game.

Heh ... sounds like purgatory.

> Oh, and I don't quite understand--*how* did you get in without "checking the
> bridge"?

Adventurer strolls down the tunnel, over the bridge, unlocks the gate.
lifts it open (ala a garage door - It's counterbalanced) and walks
through. Troll thinks "s/he'll be back."

--OH.

nob...@student.anu.edu.au

unread,
Nov 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/19/98
to
Hmm ... can't find a post I meant to respond to .. will do it here.

[Here be dragons, spoilers and other diverse beasts.]

The Grip:
The cross is not the primary solution - it was a secondary solution added
later. The primary solution is to use the shard of glass from the lamp.
(A problem with the adaptive hints is they change according to what you
have access to. If you have access to the shard, the clue will say "CUT
GRIP WITH CROSS or CUT GRIP WITH SHARD", if not, it won't.)
Where's the cross keyed? When you attempt to put it in the tinderbox, it
mentions that the sharp corners would probably damage it (And I forgot to
trap for "rub cross")

A question:
Should I
a) ditch the cross method? (The cross would then just play havoc with
attempts to close the tinderbox on it ...)
b) allow the screwdriver to work as well?
c) trap for rub cross only?
d) trap for rub cross and add something in the main desc?
e) trap for rub cross, and mention that it's a lesser solution in the hints?


Goaltending Troll:
The troll is instinctive, fast, and stupid. It recognises two main things:
threat and food. You're food, and the shard is threat - it won't stop it ...
I should probably have allowed players to throw the sword and watch it
disappear into the chasm too (except when dark, when it would hit the troll
even if you threw it at the eye) - and just let the player know it was a
wrong move. Any thing else is investigated (again and again if necessary)
and then returned in the manner it was received. Think of the troll as a
cross
between a goldfish (memory of 3 seconds) and the T2 robot (It just keeps
coming back...)

(Il)logic:
Some people had logic problems with ?some? ?all? puzzles - I would
appreciate knowing where.

Feedback would be muchly appreciated.

Thanks, --OH.

ne...@norwich.edu

unread,
Nov 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/19/98
to
In article <nobody-1911...@g32mac05.anu.edu.au>,

nob...@student.anu.edu.au wrote:
> Hmm ... can't find a post I meant to respond to .. will do it here.
>
> [Here be dragons, spoilers and other diverse beasts.]
>
> The Grip:
> The cross is not the primary solution - it was a secondary solution added
> later. The primary solution is to use the shard of glass from the lamp.
> (A problem with the adaptive hints is they change according to what you
> have access to. If you have access to the shard, the clue will say "CUT
> GRIP WITH CROSS or CUT GRIP WITH SHARD", if not, it won't.)
> Where's the cross keyed? When you attempt to put it in the tinderbox, it
> mentions that the sharp corners would probably damage it (And I forgot to
> trap for "rub cross")
>
> A question:
> Should I

I can't see any benefit to taking out an optional solution in this game, which
is darn difficult already.

> Goaltending Troll:
> The troll is instinctive, fast, and stupid. It recognises two main things:
> threat and food. You're food, and the shard is threat - it won't stop it ...
> I should probably have allowed players to throw the sword and watch it
> disappear into the chasm too (except when dark, when it would hit the troll
> even if you threw it at the eye) - and just let the player know it was a
> wrong move. Any thing else is investigated (again and again if necessary)
> and then returned in the manner it was received. Think of the troll as a
> cross
> between a goldfish (memory of 3 seconds) and the T2 robot (It just keeps
> coming back...)

It still just feels like fudging when he catches everything you throw at the
chasm. The chasm is big right? Bigger than the troll? The problem I had is
one of the solutions really does require throwing something past the troll,
when it has already been demonstrated that he catches everything, and gives
it right back to you. This is the only puzzle and part of Enlightenment that
I didn't like.

I don't know what's to be done except to replace the chasm with some other
obstacle. There seems to be no reasonable way to prevent the player from
dumping everything into the chasm.

If nothing else, I would like the bouncing ball solution to be changed. It
would be fun if it were possible to get the troll to eat something, like the
original Dungeon troll.

> (Il)logic:
> Some people had logic problems with ?some? ?all? puzzles - I would
> appreciate knowing where.

It isn't clear from the description of the great door that you are describing
stuff which you can't actually see at the time you are looking at it. Even
after I thought I had it pictured in my head, I couldn't figure out why stuff
was falling back out of the crack.

> Feedback would be muchly appreciated.

I love this game. It shines with clever puzzle design. The brightest part was
the first few half-hearted attempts at turning things off, such as the lamp.
The refusals to these actions are brilliant.

I found the introductory HTML pages illuminating.

I can't think of more glowing praise.

--
Neil Cerutti
ne...@norwich.edu

-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own

Paul O'Brian

unread,
Nov 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/19/98
to
On Thu, 19 Nov 1998 nob...@student.anu.edu.au wrote:

> Hmm ... can't find a post I meant to respond to .. will do it here.
>
> [Here be dragons, spoilers and other diverse beasts.]
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
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>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> The Grip:
> The cross is not the primary solution - it was a secondary solution added
> later. The primary solution is to use the shard of glass from the lamp.
> (A problem with the adaptive hints is they change according to what you
> have access to. If you have access to the shard, the clue will say "CUT
> GRIP WITH CROSS or CUT GRIP WITH SHARD", if not, it won't.)

Aha! I get it! The shard is a great solution to the grip problem.

> Where's the cross keyed? When you attempt to put it in the tinderbox, it
> mentions that the sharp corners would probably damage it (And I forgot to
> trap for "rub cross")

Oh, I never thought to do that. But even if I had, I don't think that I
would have made the leap from "this thing's corners are sharp enough to
poke through cardboard" to "this thing's corners are sharp enough to cut
through 1/4 inch of rubber," especially considering the corners of my
screwdriver *aren't* sharp enough. The tinderbox was made of cardboard,
wasn't it? I'm remembering it that way, though now I can't recall what I'm
basing that on.

> A question:
> Should I
> a) ditch the cross method? (The cross would then just play havoc with
> attempts to close the tinderbox on it ...)
> b) allow the screwdriver to work as well?
> c) trap for rub cross only?
> d) trap for rub cross and add something in the main desc?
> e) trap for rub cross, and mention that it's a lesser solution in the hints?

I would say a) or d). If you choose a), the hints for the grip problem
should probably say something like "If you haven't solved the lamp puzzle
yet, don't worry about the grip for now." If you choose d), the cross
could get "An unusual feature of this particular holy cross is that it is
knife-sharp on its bottom edge. For animal sacrifices, no doubt."

Paul O'Brian
obr...@colorado.edu
http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Nov 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/19/98
to
Paul O'Brian (obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU) wrote:
> On Thu, 19 Nov 1998 nob...@student.anu.edu.au wrote:

> > Hmm ... can't find a post I meant to respond to .. will do it here.
> >
> > [Here be dragons, spoilers and other diverse beasts.]
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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> >
> >
> >
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> >
> >
> >
> > The Grip:
> > The cross is not the primary solution - it was a secondary solution added
> > later. The primary solution is to use the shard of glass from the lamp.
> > (A problem with the adaptive hints is they change according to what you
> > have access to. If you have access to the shard, the clue will say "CUT
> > GRIP WITH CROSS or CUT GRIP WITH SHARD", if not, it won't.)
>
> Aha! I get it! The shard is a great solution to the grip problem.
>
> > Where's the cross keyed? When you attempt to put it in the tinderbox, it
> > mentions that the sharp corners would probably damage it (And I forgot to
> > trap for "rub cross")
>
> Oh, I never thought to do that. But even if I had, I don't think that I
> would have made the leap from "this thing's corners are sharp enough to
> poke through cardboard" to "this thing's corners are sharp enough to cut
> through 1/4 inch of rubber," especially considering the corners of my
> screwdriver *aren't* sharp enough.

I'd say allow the screwdriver to work. Allow anything remotely sharp to
work. As long as it doesn't allow the player to bypass some puzzles
entirely, this sort of thing just allows the player to feel clever.

The hints should say that there are several methods, though. That way, if
the player reads the hints and gets an obscure one, he won't think you're
a total bozo. :)

Mary K. Kuhner

unread,
Nov 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/19/98
to
In article <7318pk$9pl$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <ne...@norwich.edu> wrote:

[Troll--no, the other kind]

>It still just feels like fudging when he catches everything you throw at the
>chasm. The chasm is big right? Bigger than the troll? The problem I had is
>one of the solutions really does require throwing something past the troll,
>when it has already been demonstrated that he catches everything, and gives
>it right back to you. This is the only puzzle and part of Enlightenment that
>I didn't like.

I would have been vastly more happy with the goaltending troll if
the room had been described as a corridor dead-ending in a chasm
spanned by a bridge, so the troll only had to block the narrow
corridor end. Instead, the description suggested a ledge along the side
of the chasm, which makes the troll's behavior impossible. Perhaps
a description rewrite would help?

If it's really a ledge, I can't imagine any way the troll could catch
everything without being able to catch you as well. You could walk to
the far end of the ledge and drop the objects straight down.

This was one of two places (the gate was the other) where I found the
descriptions actively hindered me in solving the puzzle.

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

David Glasser

unread,
Nov 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/20/98
to
<nob...@student.anu.edu.au> wrote:

> Hmm ... can't find a post I meant to respond to .. will do it here.
>
> [Here be dragons, spoilers and other diverse beasts.]
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
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The cross puzzle (not the grip one): OK, this is going to sound weird.
I spent a long time convinced that the way to get rid of the cross was
something completely different from the right way. You said that it
glowed from its holiness (or some such), so I figured I had to get
sacriliggy wit' it to make it turn off.

Now, I find the idea of you simply nodding, saying "sure David", and
coding that odd. If you like it, use it. If not, say "what a silly one
that David is, it's my game, not his", and that's fine.

Georgina Okerson

unread,
Nov 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/20/98
to
> > [Here be dragons, spoilers and other diverse beasts.]
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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>
> The cross puzzle (not the grip one): OK, this is going to sound weird.
> I spent a long time convinced that the way to get rid of the cross was
> something completely different from the right way. You said that it
> glowed from its holiness (or some such), so I figured I had to get
> sacriliggy wit' it to make it turn off.

Oh, good, I'm not the only one who was doing that. :)

__________________________________________________________________

Duke University Role-playing And Gaming Organization
http://www.duke.edu/web/DRAGO/drago.html


LucFrench

unread,
Nov 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM11/23/98
to
>I found the introductory HTML pages illuminating.

But not Illuminating, I hope? Otherwise, Malpacolipse the Younger might have
something to say to you...

Thanks
Luc "Bavarian" French

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