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Notes on IF Competition 2007 games

My notes on some of the IF Comp 07 games, as previously posted to rec.games.int-fiction. I didn't play all of them.

These notes are mostly grumbles about bugs and spelling mistakes, with some bits of commentary mixed in.

I have transcripts for most of the games that I rated. Not annotated or anything, just raw. If any author wants my transcript from their game, to chase a bug or just as data on how someone played it, they can mail me.

Serious spoilers are done like this: it was all a dream.

(That should look like a black box and the text should appear when you hover your mouse over it. If it doesn't, it means my stylesheet doesn't work on your browser, or you're using your own stylesheet on purpose.)

Contents


General notes

Just some general system things:

"put foo in bar" should automatically take foo.

Menus (I mean of the help menu type, not conversation menus) shouldn't be drawn in the main window, because it messes up transcripts.

On the "useless disambiguation" problem, i.e.

  Which do you mean, the foo or the foo bar?
  > foo

  Which do you mean, the foo or the foo bar?

I suppose it's generally authors who are to blame for this. However, systems could detect the same disambiguation question being asked twice in a row, and number them the second time:

  Which do you mean, the foo or the foo bar?
  > foo

  Which do you mean, (1) the foo or (2) the foo bar?
  > 1

Now the games.


Jealousy Duel X - Alex Camelio

Does the title imply that I've missed playing Jealousy Duels I to IX?

If the first screen says "AlexPowered.com presents" the next bit of text I see should be the title. Or "a game by...", or something that at least continues the sentence.

The white-on-black text doesn't look very good on my machine. Also I have to turn my monitor's brightness up to full before I can see the pictures properly.

Why is the green "next" arrow so blocky? I thought Flash did vectors and anti-aliasing and stuff. And some of the writing is pixelated too. Oh I see, it's deliberately retro. Maybe. Bits of the art are pixelly and bits of it aren't. The writing is either white or green (as in #00ff00). Anyway it's pretty ugly.

The pictures are small, cartoon style and mostly drawn with flat colour. They look like they are 256-colour but they might not be. I suppose within those restrictions they are competent. But uninteresting.

Buttons that don't do anything still (a) exist (b) light up on mouse-over and (c) change the mouse pointer.

"depricating"

I think I've probably made the game unwinnable and I can't see any way to restart. Also I can die, but I can't see any way to save or undo.

Didn't there used to be a rule that you had to have a walkthrough? Maybe it was just a guideline, I can't remember.

People in this game don't seem to have names: they are called e.g. "Ex", "Friend A", "Friend B", and "Friend C". I suppose this is deliberate. Odd though.

Well, I think I've about had enough of this. I haven't really got very far with the puzzles, but I think I've seen most of the scenery. It seems like to get any further would require exhaustive menu tree searching, and I'm bored already.

Two points for being a proper game, plus one for only having one spelling mistake, minus one for apparently not having save or restart or undo.

Eduard the Seminarist - Heiko Theißen

Nice title.

Starts badly. Three sentences separated by line breaks but not blank lines, then one which does comes after a blank line. Could be deliberate, but looks messy to me.

When the room is called "Dormitory (on your bed)" it seems excessive to call the only exit "the dormitory door" and to say "You are sitting on your bed". This would be a lot more forgivable if it wasn't the first room description. The first text in fact, because there's no other introduction.

I see nothing special about the second thing I try examining. Not a good sign. In general there are lots of things "you see nothing special about", even takeable things.

No response to "x me".

Never in any circumstances should anything be found under a bed.

Instant death from "go through window" even though there wasn't anything to tell me it was high up. And in fact the room seems to be on the same level as the street. Must be built on a hill.

"Your fellow seminarists X and Y"

You wouldn't really have a "shed" indoors.

I don't understand why a guard is carrying around a 20 year old newspaper. Is he supposed to be using the picture to identify Holderlin? (Did they have pictures in newspapers in 1805?)

When I go into a dark room I can't go back out the way I came in. I think it just makes me stuck there. Anyway, light source puzzles: sigh.

Stuck now. No help or hints. I assume what I'm trying to do is get to Pressel's gazebo, but I don't know where that is. I suppose in the garden.

  >throw club at guard
  The guard is in no mood for conversation.

In the rope puzzle I don't think it was fair not to have the bar described, since it's important to the puzzle solution. If you try to examine it, you get "You see nothing special about the ceiling".

I should be able to climb back in the window after realising that the rope is too short.

I should be able to try the windows in the gym but they aren't implemented.

How was I supposed to know there was a "Wilhelm's bed" here? That's completely unfair.

"The island's shore is too step"

Gave up and ran through with the walkthrough.

Quite sparsely implemented, puzzles not very good, seemed easy to make unwinnable. Only one typo noticed, writing otherwise dull. 3 points.

Press [Escape] to Save - Mark Jones

"Note: This is my first IF game. It's sort of like an experiment. I'm just trying to get a feel for game creating. You'll probably see better games in the future..."

Authors apologising for their games is always annoying.

"You switch the light bulb on" is an odd way to put it.

Bad comma usage.

"There is a door behind you (which is locked to the north)" - but not locked to the south? What?

"Uncosciousness" (in a room name)

"You're prayers"

There are supposed to be doors north and south but if I try to go south I just get a blank line.

Then somewhere else:

  >s
  You can't, since the northern door is in the way.

"You here Jimmy close a door"

I sent the game into an infinite loop of "programming error" messages by trying to talk to someone at one point.

Well, I gave up on this pretty quickly and went through the walkthrough. Didn't spot anything that would have made it worth playing properly. 2 points for being a game.

Fox, Fowl and Feed - Chris Conroy

Why can't I put things in the van? I mean obviously it would make the game too easy, but it needs a better response than "that can't contain things".

Giving the duck to the fox should have a better response.

Putting things in the river just says "that can't contain things" as well.

You can't "tie X to Y", you have to "tie rope to X" and "tie rope to Y".

Not bad. Writing is fine, some bits are amusing. The puzzles are just about ok but I solved them more by trying everything on everything than by thinking. It's a bit dubious that you can segregate the duck and the grain just by having the grain in the boat and the duck outside it.

Gets credit for subverting an existing puzzle though, that's cool.

5 points.

Packrat - Bill Powell

"You can see an oversized teak chest and a Castle Guard here."

To introduce a person with just "You can see X here" seems a bit minimalist. Even if he is asleep and takes no part in the game.

  >open west door
  I only understood you as far as wanting to open the west.

You have to say "western door".

Surely there should be a description of the monarchs.

Should be able to refer to a staircase as "stairs".

Should be able to try and get into a laundry chute.

"look in chest" claims it's empty, but "x chest" claims it's overflowing with stuff. Bad bad bad.

  >look through eastern window
  You find nothing of interest.

Also:

  >tie rope to me

  [** Programming error: tried to "move" yourself to yourself, which would make a loop:
  yourself in yourself **]
  Why would you want to tie your rope to yourself?

First major puzzle was too hard for me. I needed to get upstairs - how could I have guessed that sailing round the moat was something I should be trying to do?

I think I've broken something by getting out of the chest while in the moat. Don't think the code expected that. Restore.

The chest is still being described in its original location, after I've moved it.

Broken exit, east from the middle dungeon hallway.

I'm told I shouldn't "touch" the wheel after I've already been allowed to "turn" it.

Well, quite a few bugs there, and I don't think much of the puzzles. Writing is OK, only saw one typo. Lack of implementation of some things is balanced by good responses to others.

When I saw the word "adventurer" in the title, I said to myself I bet there's a dragon in this game. When I started playing I thought maybe I had been wrong. No, I was right. At least the protagonist is non-generic.

Five points.

Deadline Enchanter - Anonymous

Should be able to call the drawing "ornithopter".

Blank response to trying to "read" something that isn't the book.

Uncapitalised sentence, unless it was deliberate: "...saying something. anachrite clamps..."

Should be able to "give" sanka as well as "feed" it.

But the implementation stuff like this doesn't make an awful lot of difference in this game.

This game is good but I don't really understand why. If I described it you'd say it was going to be awful. Maybe I'm not cut out for reviewing.

It's funny as well, sometimes with outright jokes but sometimes it's just funny for some other reason that I can't explain.

It wouldn't work if you hadn't played IF before.

Took less than an hour to play. Don't let the title put you off.

So. I enjoyed it, but on the other hand, This Sort Of Thing Should Not Be Encouraged. Seven points.

The Immortal - Just Rob

The intro (what's the name for the bit before the first room?) is too long.

Amnesia, sigh.

"You can't seem see very much" in the first room description.

Double blank line, also in the first room description.

Double space in "one of them collides"

"She says a few words to you, with you cannot make out now"

"and a you're pelted with a cloud of sand"

All this before I've typed three commands. This badly needs proofreading.

The radio keeps playing the same thing. Looks like it's just part of the room description.

Lots of big textdumps.

Another double space between words.

"instense", "A stone dias", "a sandals".

Comma abuse.

Default response to "x me".

OK, so I have a sword and a hobgoblin has just stolen my watch. I shall retaliate:

  >kill hobgoblin
  Violence isn't the answer to this one.

  >hit hobgoblin with sword
  I only understood you as far as wanting to hit the wounded hobgoblin.

Pathetic.

Instadeath because I tried to push a machine that's blocking an exit.

There's a movement command missing from the walkthrough.

After the first couple of rooms I just used the walkthrough. The writing continues to be full of mistakes. Didn't see anything to make this game worth bothering with. Two points.

Across The Stars - Dark Star and Peter Mattsson

First let's review the title. Can someone really be said to go "across" the stars? Surely one would be going across space, or between the stars. One could of course go across some particular group or region of stars, as in "across the Orion arm". But I suppose it could be from the point of view of an observer, as in "Saturn moves slowly across the stars". OK, maybe I'll allow it.

Now let's review the authors' names, "Dark Star and Peter Mattsson". The pairing of a handle with a real name reminds me of Superman and Lois Lane. Can the Mystery Super Implementor known only as "Dark Star" collaborate on IF with regular guy Pete Mattsson? Or is such a work doomed to failure? Let's find out!

Feelies, fair enough. But fuck, do you really think I'll like your game so much that I'll want desktop wallpaper?

Inventory limit.

Crate thing is annoying.

"complement"

What happened to everyone?

"and Ralwill be back any minute"

In a room with a very obvious throne:

  >sit
  There's nothing for you to sit down on.

"Watchout, this trance can become very surreal"

  >give coffee to ralckor
  You can only do that to something animate.

I got bored when there were suddenly reams of diary entries and things to read through.

Dull, dull, dull. Generic sci-fi, Large Monsters That Somehow Get Enough To Eat Even In The Middle Of A Desert, etc.

Too long.

I never understood what was supposed to have happened to the rest of the crew. I probably missed something somewhere. Did the pirates capture them all without leaving a single corpse lying about? Did they all escape somehow?

Still. Proper game, mostly well implemented, 6 points.

An Act of Murder - Hugh Dunnett

  >read notebook
  Flipping through your admittedly untidy shorthand, you pick up the following points:
    yourself

Can't find out what the telephone number on the paper is.

  >x fireplace
  Which do you mean, the corner fireplace or the antique fireplace poker?

"magogany"

Missing full stop.

  >read about window in book
  Which do you mean, the broken window or the distant house?

  >broken window
  Which do you mean, the broken window or the distant house?

Didn't even know there was a distant house.

Not fair not to recognise the "knob" and "handle" of the stick, given that these words are used in the description and the handle unscrews (if you "unscrew stick").

Setting nitpickery: it's in Britain, at least judging by the cars and a few other things. So I don't think anyone should say "for the longest time" and I'm not sure about "antique store". And I think it would be a county police force rather than "Dundreary City Police".

And what decade are we in? It has the feel of a golden age whodunnit, and the cars are old, but people are playing pool in the billiard room, and there are no servants. And they finished dinner by 6:45, which seems too early for people who have a drawing room and a billiard room. And I'm not entirely sure that they should be saying "yeah" either, but maybe that's older than I think.

Want to be able to ask people why they were on the beach.

Should be able to look at the time on all the clocks to check they are consistent.

After two hours, haven't solved it. It's good so far, especially talking to the NPCs about stuff. Eight points.

"populer"

I hadn't understood that telling things to Duffy had an effect. It needs to be made clearer that you have to tell Duffy enough evidence to convict someone. It works well as a device once you understand it.

The tide puzzle is far-fetched. However calm the sea is, I don't believe you can distinguish between how wet a body gets from falling off a cliff into 6 inches of water versus 12 inches. At least not well enough to convince a jury. And you're supposed to assume tides are linear, which they aren't.

I didn't try playing it more than once so I don't know how much changes on replays.

Slap that Fish - Peter Nepstad

In a game like this there needs to be a funny response from pretty nearly everything. But here most things just have default responses.

Things like "duck", "dodge", "jump over fish" should be implemented.

"kiss fish" gives an internal error.

  >stab fish
  That's the general idea. But how? Punch? Kick? [...]

Even though I've read the walkthrough, I can't work out how to get past the swordfish. Trying to do what it says doesn't seem to work. Giving up.

It's been boring up to now anyway. 2 points.

A Matter of Importance - Nestor I. McNaugh

The blurb confused me for a while: "All significant modern capitals have been made the most dishonourable way." It means "sums of capital" not "capital cities".

Read this sentence and see how many times you have to pause for breath:

"You've had quite a few occasions to admire its interior, but it still impresses you - a purple wallpaper with several water-colours and prints studded over it; high, arched windows draped with heavy brocade curtains; gorgeous stucco mouldings on the ceiling; and a magnificent Persian rug on the floor, traversed by a scarlet runner, which starts at the entrance - an old-fashioned revolving door - and goes across the lobby and up the stairs leading to the suites to the south."

Every second sentence seems to have something in brackets. Also there are footnotes which in most cases should either be part of the main text or shouldn't be there at all.

This seems to be set in the modern day, except there is a Thieves' Guild. Odd.

The first puzzle is a stupid guess-the-verb, even though the verb is hinted at.

Object appears in my inventory without me being properly informed.

I don't like having a random "don't understand" response:

  >asdf
  The word "asdf" is absolutely insignificant.

  >asdf
  Little can be gained from using words as irrelevant as "asdf".

  >asdf
  The word "asdf" is of a too minor relevance to be used.

Three points.

The Lost Dimension - C. Yong

I click a button on the opening screen that says "Change to best view". It changes my Windows screen resolution. It doesn't change it back when I exit. One point.

In the rest of the two minutes I spent with this game, I saw enough of the GUI to tell you that it's ugly.

Ferrous Ring - Carma Ferris

"I only just mange to..."

"the hedge I came from is to the nothing and the way to Kalimer's place is southeast"

Seemed to be railroaded most of the time.

I never really got what was going on. People are going into underground shelters, and civilisation is breaking down. I get a weird message, follow it up and do stuff, and apparently it turns out to be a good thing to be doing, but I don't know what I'm doing or why, really.

The scenery seems fairly completely implemented.

Technically, the only obvious problem was the "nothing" bug above. There are a lot of Glk warnings being produced on the console but they don't seem to matter.

Not sure I like the way the parser pretends to understand typos:

  >x asdf
  An idea flashes through my head, then passes.

I mean, you realise quite quickly that this is the "don't understand" response, but I think I'd still rather it would just say "don't understand".

I didn't really use the thing where you can just type the names of things and get a default action done. Well, I tried it when I was stuck, and usually it just examined things.

Later: I gave this seven points apparently, so I must have quite liked it, but I can't remember much about it now. Hasn't stuck in the mind at all. Maybe I was too tired when I played it or something.

Lost Pig - Grunk

Should be able to "draw" a curtain.

That's the only complaint I bothered to note down, because the game was very thoroughly implemented and I was enjoying it.

Surely this year's favourite for the Best NPCs XYZZY.

The way it gives you conversation options is useful, and I might not have realised such a wide range of topics were available without it. But I thought having them after every response was a bit distracting. Having them in capital letters doesn't help.

Maybe it should only list options if you ask about something that doesn't have a response, and also if you just do a generic "talk to X". I think that would probably be enough.

IF theorists: does this game count as being in the third person?

I needed the hints for the puzzle about changing the colour of the pole, and for getting the coin back. Might have got the first by myself eventually, but the second is a bit tricky. Maybe it was hinted at somewhere and I missed it.

Funny, good writing and coding, length is just right. 9 points.

Lord Bellwater's Secret - Sam Gordon

Missing capital letter at start of sentence "the strange thing was".

"loooks"

It's a one-room game. Puzzles are mostly just examining everything and doing what you're told, and the story gradually gets revealed as you do so.

The main part of the game seemed implemented well, but when I got to the endgame it suddenly seemed like nothing I tried had responses.

Should be able to "hide under desk" or at least get some response to "hide", "climb chimney", "go through window", "shout".

"put cord through window" doesn't work.

"climb cord" and "climb down cord" don't work.

OK, to go through the window I can't "go through window", I have to go east. And I'm only told indirectly that the window is east.

Why can't I talk to Dewhurst through the door, if I can hear him talking? I can't even refer to him.

Not sure the Times would call me "Bert Smith" - if they were going to publish my first name at all, wouldn't it be in full as "Albert", or "Herbert" or "AEthelbert" or whatever I am?

Writing is OK, the intro and first few moves involved a lot of text which could maybe have been spread out a bit more.

Later: I gave this six points, which seems a bit ungenerous in hindsight. But the implementation of the final puzzle really let it down. And it hasn't been spellchecked. There aren't many typos but that still counts against it.

My Name is Jack Mills - Juhana Leinonen

"stand on container" works but "get on container" doesn't.

Some oddities in the language, e.g. "The dance floor is on the center of the nightclub".

  Behind the desk sits a large-built man.

  A mysterious woman in red sits on a chair next to a large-built man.

(That's the first time you enter the room, so it should have been better.)

Well, not bad, but a bit uninspiring. Mostly do-what-you're-told. Six points.

Reconciling Mother - Plone Glenn

Reconciling her with what? Can you just reconcile something by itself?

You should see my accountant reconcile, he is one shit hot reconciling mother.

Blurb: "Have you ever been in a conversation with people that you just met or barely knew and what seemed like an innocent exchange at the time became threatening on reflection?"

My response to blurb: no.

Played for two minutes, not rated.

Beneath: a Transformation - Graham Lowther

Start of first sentence: "You were there for hours, pouring over massive volumes...". OK, let's not bother with this one.

The Chinese Room - Joey Jones and Harry Giles

Only played as far as reading the first menu, which basically says that you aren't going to finish the game in two hours. I know the rules don't exactly say that longer games are disallowed, but personally I'd rather people didn't enter them. But I appreciate the warning being there, thanks for that.

Orevore Courier - Brian Rapp

Title has the problem that I don't know how to pronounce "orevore". Orrev-urree? Or-vor? Does it mean a thing that eats ore?

Second game this year with space pirates. Last year was all about space diplomats, this year is space pirates. Next year, space greengrocers.

This seems to be a learn-by-dying game. It doesn't look too bad but I wasn't really in the mood for it. Only played for 20 minutes and didn't rate.

Wish - Edward Floren

Don't like the initial description.

Could do with a comma in "This would be her canvas for the day she thought."

You have to "show hat to man", but the response to "give hat to man" implies that you're doing the wrong thing.

Can't guess the syntax to do what I obviously need to do with the fabric.

What I've seen is too sparsely implemented.

Played 15 mins, didn't rate.


That's it, didn't play any of the rest. Congratulations and thanks to authors and organisers.