Friday, August 21, 2015

Beyond Division, by Joseph Geipel

This is a short effort investigating telepathic powers, and not just of people, but of wolves. I like the use of footnotes to convey what the author is trying to do, and I think maybe future IntroComp editions should flesh out what exactly we can or should do. How much is too much? How can we make sure we are not push-polling the reader? Whatever the answers, this game certainly does not push any trollish boundaries that way. So I think more games, completed or not, should try this. Because I think it helps the author, too, answer tough questions in a public forum, and it's something to poke at when the creativity dries up.

This was the first of the IntroComp games, and I enjoyed replaying to refresh my memory about what was going on, here. It seems like it has a solid foundation, and the writer should be able to push his vision through. While it may seem like faint praise to say a first-time writer didn't try to do too much, that's what happened here. The game moves quickly to a focal point that opens up several possibilities. So while with Meld I wondered how this mess got bundled up (which is fun to figure in its own way--the intellectual poking is my sort of thing,) I saw--and was open to--more possibilities here. And I suspect this will appeal to a wider audience.

The switch in view between the wolf and person was quite good, and I was caught up enough not to notice I was being funneled to the next bit. The wolves and people obviously had some enemy's enemy and how much to hate the bad guy issues to work out, and if it wasn't super intense, it opened up the way for a big story without choking me off. The author had a clear idea of what to do and never needed to resort to silly tricks to do it.

I also enjoyed having the conversational topics at the bottom. This relieved the standard headaches of a parser game simply and effectively.

So I think this was the best title of IntroComp and the best work, too. It's not just one I hope gets done, but I can really see it getting done, and just because the author seems to have a pretty good vision of where to go doesn't mean they don't deserve the reward.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Deprivation, by Michael Coorlim

Seeing the size of the TADS file and executable, I thought I was in for a biggie. But not so. There are only three rooms. You've had a bad weekend, the details of which are vague. You also have insomnia.

If this seems like a This Lousy Apartment game, that sort of is and isn't true. It looks like a first effort, and the author seems to have hit at the least inspiring of conventions about this sort of thing, which is a shame, because it just implicitly feels like they know what they're doing when putting actual words together.

I think this could've afforded to be a bit longer than just the one non-puzzle that gets you to the end. So I think the scope was off, and the author could and should have concentrated on, maybe, another night (do you go to work after sleeping? What are the consequences? How messed up is your sleep schedule?) than the more trivial things one finds in a text adventure My Apartment game that are no fun to implement or, for that matter, comb through and realize they don't offer much.

I'm letting this effort skate based on the "ABOUT" section and how it was planned. I like the concept, and too much of the writing on examining etc. was good for this to be an accident. So I have more to say than "pfft, another apartment game." My guess is that the author settled for such a game and probably wished there was a way to do a bit better but didn't find any. Because what's implemented feels good and smooth, but the effort seems to have been focused in the wrong places.

I also might be letting this skate because it's in TADS which always seems to produce a unique flavor of adventures, and I do like the default links you can click on. For instance I very much enjoyed testing Royce Odle's Dead Man's Party and the odd things it does, and I always meant to look at more TADS games. But I never do.

Meld, by David Whyld

I always seem to take more energy on a David Whyld game than others. Even the mistakes he makes are fundamentally interesting. He'll overuse a joke I've heard before, but then he'll do a joke I thought I heard before just right. He'll provide a mechanic that's not fully fleshed out, but there'll be a couple spectacular examples how each works.

Meld certainly caught more of my time than any of the other IntroComp games, for better or worse. And I think he's found some pretty good territory to farm: big ideas people have put aside that are maybe a bit unpopular or not scholarly enough, but they can be, in Un-'Merican English, ripping good yarns.

IntroComp reviews, part 1: Lair of the Gorgolath, Voltage Cafe, Walker's Rift

I should've gotten through IntroComp earlier, but at least I got around to it, eh? We'll start with these three, and I'll post the other tomorrow.

Hopefully my reviews will have something new to say or, if they don't, help act as a deciding vote/deciding motivation for an author to say "I need to do this, or that."

I've avoided other reviews, so there may be repetition, but I think I'll be less biased that way. In the past, I sometimes poked at reviews to see how long/short a game is, to organize my own time, but that spoiled a lot more. (Note to IFDB admins or anyone: I think this would be a good feature to put in for a game. Have people vote on how long a game seems to take. I know lots of times I'd like to sit down with a game but I have no clue how long it is.)

If you haven't gotten through IntroComp, you have one more day. No game is terribly long, except for one that has a walkthrough anyway. (Note: walkthroughs are a good thing, in-game or not. Authors, even if you want people to see the bad ending or not be spoon-fed, maybe put the "right" path at the end? Or say so to start?)

I hope it's not rough to say these missed the cut for my top 3, but they had enough that it's worth saying a bit. I'd have said a bit more if I'd have started earlier.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How gender inclusion helped me proofread an abstract wordplay game

So when I decided to allow female characters for A Roiling Original, it was intended to be trivial, just as an exercise, so that I can finally say I didn't have all-male games. Even if the choice didn't affect gameplay.

But writing perl scripts to look through the random text (check for duplicates etc.) turned up some odd stuff. I had a lot of ways to check for anagrams, but one thing I hadn't done was to look at something like this.

"Lead Yon: No Delay[r], by [if player is male]Dean Loy & Leo Nady[else]Ola Endy[end if]"

Now, it's a decent exercise to have a flag in my checker-program to spear both the male and female options. But here's where something weird turned up.

When running -female, I still got a few flags than in "male" mode and couldn't explain why. The entries anagrammed themselves, but one was reported as a duplicate and the other wasn't.

The answer was that I was using a classifying-string to look at duplicates, but above I would have

Male: a4d4e4l4n4o4y4
Female: a3d3e3l3n3o3y3

And of course I was taking the GCD so the 4's and 3's became 1, wasn't I?

Oh no I wasn't.

It turns out I never suspected this might be a problem.  So, having cleared 1000+ anagrams as not heinously duplicating each other, I thought I'd get one final check--and it opened new problems. Well, I wanted to make sure of things.

But I didn't see it until, just to check everything, I wanted to make sure there were no bad female anagrams (e.g. if Ola Endy had been Lea Endy.) That's how bugs work--it stinks when a whole new area opens up, but it's worth it to know I saw something odd, found what was really wrong, and fixed it.

The work hasn't been too bad. It's more interesting than a boring mindless click and point game, and I'm turning up ideas and seeing what works and what is repetitive. And it was something I'd always wanted to do, to give the extra polish, but I put it off.

Flagging duplicates seems like chewing on grist, and it sort of is, but on the other hand, it's another way to get an idea to pop up when I don't expect it. You put in the work, something like this eventually comes to the surface. I just was a bit shocked to see so MUCH to re-re-check.

So gender inclusion was a good step for me, and if it isn't profound, it added complexity on my end. (I also am changing some NPC's gender for version 4. Again, I used automated means to see all the possible places that, say, the Smart Kid was. Then I grepped for "he|him|his" ... so I think I'm okay. But there may be a surprise there. I'll obviously need to run it by a tester.)

Now, I can't force gender inclusion for my IFComp game. The protagonist's name must be what it is, and so must a whole raft of NPCs'. But I have a few things I think will be amusing, that provide gender twists without getting into sexuality. I won't be able to find enough, but I think it'll be harmless laughs. And my hope is one player will say "YOU FORGOT (THIS POSSIBILITY)!