Monday, March 16, 2015

On FrenchComp, and how I organized things to judge it

I got a lot done this weekend, though maybe not as well as I hoped. While I put off ParserComp, I realized I also managed to put off FrenchComp. This is one thing I was upset about. I meant to look at all four games last year, and I eventually did, but I wasn't able to judge.

This year, I don't think I really did a very good job, but I got through. So I'm happy about that. It's nice to see there are communities beyond that are able to put works out. I know I'm part of a couple private communities, and those have really helped, because I can say some things some places that don't quite feel right other places.

FrenchComp ended a day after ParserComp, leaving my procrastinating self squeezed a bit near the end of the 6-week deadline. Now I may have a bit of a leg up on French, as I took it in high school and got a 4 on the Advanced Placement exam. (I should've gotten a 5, but senior year in high school was a disaster.) I haven't used it a ton, but I used it enough to read a Le Petit Nicolas book (by Rene Goscinny, who also read Asterix) that hadn't been translated into English yet, and then the Histoires Ineditees. By the way, I recommend the English translations, regardless of your age.

But occasionally I still had some frustration with actually looking at a game, due to rust, not understanding context, etc. Of course there is Google Translate to help. I've grown less hesitant to use it when I need it for that spare word, although I am pretty well aware that I may be missing some context. Nevertheless, for the past two years, the writing hasn't tried to be too fancy, so I haven't needed to try anything drastic to figure what's going on.

But fact is, I needed a resource to guide against the mental fatigue that piled up anyway. Saturday night (3/14) with 18 hours til judging, I had a think. Sleeping on it broke it open.

This solution is Windows-specific, and it may work even better if you have two monitors side by side. But the main thing is: you can space things pretty easily. You can use a few keys to scroll around. And when I write this down, nothing feels terribly profound, but then, hopefully that means you can manage to get things going if you're curious. From what I've seen, the French games are not a tortuous length, and it may just be a matter of learning the basic verbs. There's very little guess the verbs.

I had problems remembering to use the infinitives (prendre vs prenez for take) but that is probably how I saw things. I would recommend Eric Forgeot's and Nathanael Marion's extension to help you with the basics. I didn't google, but I probably could.

Still, the question: how to translate the text without a parser? Here are my rules, well, for Windows:

  1.  resize the browser to, say, 1280x200. That will allow you to scroll down so your Google information disappears & you can see just the translation. I think it saves a bit of space, as I prefer scrolling to seeing all of a huge chunk of text (also: don't try to copy/paste too much text for translation at once.)
  2. Glulxe on the right. I really recommend it even for Z5 games because the text file seems to reload with each command, but it doesn't for Frotz.
  3. Notepad++ on the bottom 4/5 of the screen. I recommend it over others, since it can sense when a text file is modified, and I recommend Notepad++ on general principles (tabbed file browsing etc.) Actually, since you won't be using it much, it can take up the space below the browser, with WinGlulxe taking up the right 80%. You only need notepad++ to copy text into the translation box above. You want to TRANSCRIPT right away and then open the file transcripted to. You'll be using a lot of alt-tab between Glulxe, Notepad++ and your browser, too.
 This isn't a magic bullet, but it goes a long way.

If you can remember the basic French errors, that is a big help so you don't have to C&P everything. So it may be worth 15 minutes to try to take stuff that isn't there or try default verbs. Perhaps even have an empty story file combined where you can try the basic verbs and default reactions. I got comfortable pretty quickly & I only wish I'd given myself more time.

But of course I've got plenty of time to prepare for FrenchComp 2016 so I can judge in a more timely fashion. I'd like to try one game a month for 2015. Maybe you can, too.

I'd be interested in reading tweaks to these instructions, because if they get one more person comfortable enough to judge, that's a good thing. I hope this was helpful to anyone on the fence, or anyone worried they don't know enough French. (Google Translate is good, and I didn't have to tweak much. You may need to change J' to Je some places or know basic French abbreviations.)

Screenshot below. Yes, I saved Sourire de Bois's transcript as Envol.txt. But I hope the main point works! Having the Glulxe window largely overlap Notepad++ is ideal. You can use ctrl-shift-arrow to highlight text as needed.


  1. Hi. So are you basically saying that you've found a window layout that helps make the copy-paste-translate process easier? Is that the point you're trying to make? If not, then please clarify!

  2. Yeah. That's basically it. It's nothing earth-shattering, but hopefully it'll prevent others from having to reinvent the wheel. Sorry for any confusion--I should edit that!