IFComp 2014: Hill 160   1 comment

Two months later, all that was knocked out of you. Blanko. Fatigues. March, march march. Orders. Being bawled out by Sergeant Major Grant. Then at the new year, when you’d marched up and down half of France and having had been there for months on end, and stuck for all those dreadful weeks in First Eypre, or Wipers as you learned to call it, thrust into long and badly constructed trench lines, frozen nearly to death out there, you were ready to call it quits.

Hill 160 by Mike Gerwat is a parser game set in WWI.

This started off very promising; while there were a few textual glitches (missing spaces, weird comma placement, capitalization errors and the like) I generally had no issues with the prose. I led my group through some enemy fire into a trench, settled down to rest, fought off some rats, and then was asked to leave to go get some food. Here’s where the trouble happened:

: get all
There are none at all available!

: out
You’re missing some equipment Matey.

Okay! Maybe I missed something. Replay:

: hit rats with shovel
The rats are still coming at you. You know what to do.

: hit rats with shovel
As you chop with your shovel at the rats, one gets through to you. It sinks its teeth into your throat, these teeth are deadly, you feel your wind pipe crack, and you are unable to breathe. After all you’ve been through, you die killed by a mere rat.

GAME OVER MATEY!

Wait, what? Why did I die to the rats this time but not last time? So I suppose sometimes you do the “right” action but die anyway? Angelsoft flashbacks! It wasn’t a good idea in the 80s either.

Replay again: oh, so you have to be wearing everything. That’s not really “missing equipment”.

This area of the battlefield is now, however, reasonably safe, which is why the supply party is here, safe is a mere term because the Germans regularly target this part of the field, knowing ration parties use this route to reach the front.

The comma placement is starting to get to me. Put a period instead between “is here” and “safe is”.

Shot down again; knowing from experience, I reload and attempt the same steps again and this time get through to the supply party.

: get supplies
The men in the party look at you extremely funny. One bloke asks another: “Why is this bugger just trying to take the supplies?” He pulls out his pistol and places a 45 caliber bullet squarely in your forehead.

I think the game is trying to troll me now.

Still digging the atmosphere, so let’s try this again!

Several men from a supply party are here.

: talk to men
You can’t talk to the supply party.

: ask men about supplies
There is no reply.

: men, give me supplies
(The supply party first taking the bunch of supplies)
The supply party has better things to do.

Oh, you have to “ask men FOR supplies”. Sigh. Get supplies, go south, get blown up. Reload, try again, get blown up again. Repeat yet again, get through.

You are shaking now. it’s the shock. it always affects you that way. you open your pack and take your canteen. You open it and take a long drink from it and then close it. Your water is laced with cheap rum that you bought from one of your mates. You feel better now and the shaking has ended.

Capitalization strikes again! I am fine with the gritty rhythm, but the text still clearly needed an editor.

You neglected to pull down your pants and you soiled them terribly!

GAME OVER MATEY!

I’m tempted just to snark and sign out, but here: there are many IF actions where the player’s input implies multiple things. When typing >OPEN DOOR one usually does not type >HOLD KNOB and then >TURN KNOB and then >PULL KNOB; everything else is implied. When getting supplies, the player who takes >GET SUPPLIES can be assumed to be identifying themselves and their orders. When using the bathroom, it can be implied pants are maneuvered appropriately. Hill 160 is starting to feel like the IF version of QWOP.

Ok, now I am stuck because I cannot put back on my pants. This is probably a first for interactive fiction. Hooray for innovation?

: talk to ott
He says: “Sergeant Grant urgently requests your presence in the dugout.”

Okay, fine. Leave trench, lose because I forgot the supplies. I restored, picked up the supplies, headed to Sergeant Grant:

: talk to grant
Laddy, haven’t you forgotten something? I think you need reminding, guard duty. Let’s see, for the next three nights, perhaps you’ll remember next time, where you are.”

This is starting to remind me of Police Quest. (“Oops, you forgot Miranda Rights, game over!”) I restored, put the supplies on the table, and saluted.

Just as you return from the Communications Trench, there’s a high-pitched whistle. A massive bombardment from the German artillery is unrelenting and you and all your mates are killed!

This is another random event. I suppose this is for atmosphere.

You didn’t clean your rifle!

GAME OVER MATEY!

I suppose this is too.

You are, at the moment behind your own lines. In front of you is a long gap, Should you should you proceed further west, you do so at your own risk.

The farther in, the more text weirdness I’m seeing. The actual word-sequence isn’t terrible, and a few hours with an editor might clear it up.

The random deaths are still happening, though:

: z
Time seems to pass too slowly. You are desperate now, You can’t stand that mask on any more. You seem to see the mist disperse. Perhaps it’s safe to remove the mask now.

You tear off the mask and start to take a deep long breath. You regret it however, because although it seemed the mist had dispersed, it had clung close to the ground, right by you. You choke, splutter, cough, you can’t breathe. You feel a searing pain in your lungs, you feel as if someone had emptied a million soap bubbles inside your lungs. The pain is unbearable. You feel hands dragging you backwards, you are helpless.

The second time through, with nothing changed:

: z
You are desperate now, but you know you must wait. You don’t want to get caught out again and remove your mask too early, you hang on for dear life.

I finally get stalled on this scene:

Suddenly Grant has stopped right in front of you, he’s waved for you all to stop.

“I don’t like this. Something is wrong and I don’t know what, I feel as if we are being observed. Any ideas
Corporal?”

: talk to grant
Ask him about his recon instead.

: ask grant about his recon
There is no reply.

: ask grant about recon
Grant hasn’t gone off on his own recon yet.

At this point I’m past my 2 hours judging time and done with struggling for syntax.

One positive thing I should point out before finishing: I liked the full backpack.

You open your backpack revealing: a blanket, a bayonet, a spare pair of socks, a singlet, a bunch of underwear, a mess kit, a shovel, a canteen, a bunch of sweets, a powder jar, a cigarette tin, a cigarette lighter, a boot laces, a bunch of spare buttons, a spool of thread, a needle, some safepins, a bar of soap, a toothbrush, a pair of wirecutters, a gas mask, twelve grenades, twelve ammo clips and twelve shotshells.

The typical IF game either has a.) sparse inventory or b.) an inventory built up over a long game where the player carries a ridiculously unrealistic amount of items. In this case, the player starts with a complicated inventory but it looks like a realistic and well-researched loadout. (The only other game I can think of with a similar starting inventory off-hand is Spider and Web, but that’s science fiction.)

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Posted October 25, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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One response to “IFComp 2014: Hill 160

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  1. I sincerely recommend Hulk Handsome’s “Don’t Pee Yourself,” which is somewhat a text-only tribute to “Don’t Shit Your Pants.”

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