Archive for November 2015

Sub Rosa: Finishing   5 comments

By Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy. Now finished, using several hints.


(Continued from previous post)

From where I left off I had some pure puzzle solving to do. I had a pretty strong determination to avoid hints but after 7 hours (including an hour and a half of pure flailing) I broke down and checked, and unfortunately the very first thing I caught a hint on was intensely frustrating.

(spoilers)

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

The rug I mentioned in my previous post does hide a secret, but the message received from HANG is a pure red herring. Rather the correct thing to do is “look under rug”, which leads to a “magic hole” situation where you can go underground. I’m afraid it led to me nearly quitting entirely in frustration — I had spent an hour with the rug with no effect.

Here is the crux: the motion of peeling the rug up to look underneath is to my visualization exactly the same as the start of picking it up. The only difference is at the end the rug gets lifted off the floor. There is no reason there shouldn’t have been some kind of feedback going on.

I also had bad times with the “syllable puzzle” (lots of details here) where I got hung up because the game reported a song with a different syllable stressed each line but inexplicably did not report where those stresses where. I am still puzzled at this; while there are the parts of the game where the character has information the player does not, this was not an occasion where it made sense for this to happen.

I finally had probably unique problems with the water closet, which I imagined (and the dictionary defined for me) as a flush toilet. However, it is using the alternate definition (I found out after checking the walkthrough) of “a room with a toilet”, and that crucial distinction made me miss an item. It did not help no verb except the correct one gave any information.

However, having invested enough hours playing, I wanted to persist to the end. There certainly are clever parts later. What I liked most of all was the endgame: after you have found all 7 secrets, you have to clean up all the mess you’ve made so the Confessor isn’t aware you’ve been there. It was a brief, almost open world sort of experience, where I went down a checklist only to realize at the end some small thing I forgot (oh!) but the game is good enough to tell you the parts you missed so you can go back again. Some of these parts are as simple as closing doors, but others require more puzzle solving: for instance, during the secret-finding portion of the game you have to de-age a skull to see what it started as, but to cover your tracks you have to re-age it again.

The overall effect was of complete tension and verisimilitude. This made the final ending quite satisfying.

Advertisements

Posted November 23, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

imaginary games from imaginary universes   12 comments

jam

Phase 1: Write a set of reviews for five games that do not (and possibly, cannot) exist in our universe. Send the list to my email (here) by December 13th, midnight EST. (To be clear, this means the midnight at the end of December 13th, not the beginning.)

Phase 2: You will receive a randomized list of five imaginary games created by other participants in the jam. You are to pick one (or more) and make

a sequel
a prequel
a fan fiction
a critical response game
a sidequel
a remake
a demake
a parody
an artifact of some genre category never before seen by humans
or if you are feeling bold and it is even practical, duplicate the game as described.

Send a link to your creation to my email (again, here) by February 7th, midnight EST.

Phase 3: Games / works / strange shining artifacts will be shared to the authors (not yet to the public) at which point the next phase will begin. In lieu of scores and ranking, you will be given a list of 3 other works to either review or make some other sort of response to. This response can be textual, audiovisual, a card game which reveals your criticisms through play, directions for interpretive dance, whatever you like. You are welcome to respond to more than 3.

On February 24th, all works will be uploaded to if-archive for public enjoyment.

Phase 4: All responses (to the largest extent possible), along with excerpts from the original works chosen by the authors, will be compiled in a physical book. (To be published off Lulu.com, unless there is some better choice decided before then.)

FURTHER DETAILS

The main inspiration for this jam comes from the Tlön posts of Sam Kabo Ashwell. Those posts are good to read for inspiration (you can also read my own set), but do not assume you need to make your imaginings in the same universe. You are encouraged to create your own spaces.

Strong honorable mention goes to that one time immediately after the 1998 IFComp when Dave Coleman-Reese reviewed the 1999 IFComp entries.

You are welcome to think *way* outside the box. This is not a typical interactive fiction competition. Do you want to give directions for a multiplayer game only playable in person? A set of physical items printed via 3D printer which lead to an alternate reality game? A game where words on papers are taped to rocks and arranged carefully? Knock yourself out.

Of course, traditional parser or choice works are also welcome, but be sure to think about how things could be different if we removed all preconceptions from our universe and came from another.

QUESTIONS

Q: How long should the reviews of imaginary games be?

A: I was intending for them to be fairly short — 1 or 2 paragraphs long — but there’s no specific requirement. Given how the reviews are going to be used, leaving some details to the imagination will be helpful.

Q: Can I send game ideas for phase 1 that aren’t interactive fiction?

A: Yes, since the participants aren’t expected to duplicate them, although you should lean in the direction of interactive fiction.

Q: I missed the deadline for phase 1! Can I still enter?

A: Yes. You will still be able to get a list of imaginary games.

Q: Can I send more than 5 imaginary reviews?

A: Yes. I will choose 5 at random to send with the first batch, and any extras will be sent to latecomers (see answer above).

Q: In Phase 3 I received a game to respond to I wasn’t able to play!

A: Ask and I will send a different one.

Q: Can I be in the book from Phase 4 if I didn’t participate otherwise?

A: Maybe? I will let the participants vote on this later.

Q: I have a question you didn’t answer!

A: Ask it in the comments below, or email me if you like.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks to Doug Orleans for error-checking the draft version of these rules.

Posted November 21, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

IFComp 2015: Sub Rosa: 5 out of 7 points   7 comments

By Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy. Not yet finished. No hints/walkthrough used.


 

So while Sub Rosa was entered in a competition where playtime is intended to be 2 hours or less, I could tell I was going to exceed that and I decided it was worth it to treat the game as a whole rather than stop in the middle or rush through a walkthrough.

If I’m finding the puzzles solid enough that I don’t want to ruin them, and that’s a good sign. However, now that I’ve passed the 4 hour mark I figured it was worth checking in. This is therefore only a semi-review and I’m going to do some experiential blogging about my play experience rather than just evaluation.

At last you tip-toe into echo-prone confines of the Destine Mansion, each room carved out of what was once a small mountain. You sacrificed three toes to learn how many secrets would bring the Confessor down. Seven. There are seven deceits you know can be found in these halls and you won’t leave until you know them.

Sub Rosa is set in a completely original world in the “Age of Lead”. After a long, long preparation, you infiltrate the residence of Confessor Destine to steal his secrets.

I’m quite serious about “completely original” — I can’t think of anything to compare it to, even by combining together multiple authors. A lot of the appeal and difficulty is getting a grip on the setting.

The prose manages the delicate trick of conveying an epic and alienlike world without being overbearing.

Every secret heard is an awakening to a fresh world both more explicable and more unpleasant than the one you woke to before. The more the secrets allow you to understand, the worse you feel about the world. Each secret is a dose of pleasure and pain in equal proportions. As your mastery grows so does your despondency. The more you learn the more you realise there is so much that you do not yet know that you do not know. The desire for new secrets grows with each awakening. Eventually you awake to a world where your experience is so far removed from that of others that it is like they are sleepwalking. Where others shuffle, you could stride were the weight upon you not so vast. Knowledge without end. This is the Confessor’s Burden.

The position of the Confessor strikes me a little like the philosopher-king of Plato, but instead of stepping out of the world of form and seeing truth, the Confessor takes truth in the form of secrets from others and attains power by doing so.

The overall strangeness unfortunately does mute the impact of some of the puzzle solves. At one point I got an animal to give me a secret, which I *think* is a creature that can repeat past conversations somehow? — and while I found the actual puzzle solving logically cued and satisfying, I had to scratch my chin a few minutes before I had a grip on what happened. This reduced the satisfying impact somewhat.

Another instance of one of the secrets involves a forbidden food item. However, I was not aware the food was forbidden until after the puzzle was solved and the game told me I had found a dire secret. With no idea of the rules or laws or strictures of the universe I just had to nod my head and move on.

Still, I find the immersiveness satisfying, and it is for this reason I am still plodding with no intent yet of checking the walkthrough.

The remainder of this post I’m going to discuss what I’m stuck on, so there will be even more spoilers than usual.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

I’m unfortunately at the scenario I’ve before seen in my All the Adventures jaunt where I need to solve a puzzle but I don’t know where the puzzle is. There are two more secrets of the Confessor I have yet to find. Here are the things I have yet to use:

a rug
a water closet
some beetles in a jar (although I’ve used the jar itself, so the beetles might be nothing)
some books

This isn’t a lot to work with. The rug seems to have the verb ‘ENTER’ attached as well as ‘HANG’ but I have tried to hang the rug on literally every noun I could find in the house with no luck. I was wondering if the rug had some magical property that let me enter a secret.

The water closet is totally unresponsive. I would assume it is just scenery except for the amount of flailing around I’ve done I don’t want to assume anything.

The beetles are so unresponsive (the game seems to keep wanting me to refer to the jar itself) I’d say it’s a bug, but it also means they seem unlikely to be involved in any more secrets.

The game impressively implements a library with 101 books. I’ve already found 2 related secrets, but I haven’t plowed through every book and I return to check a couple every time I feel lost as to what to try next.

I do please ask nobody posts hints in the comments; I’ll ask if I need some but I’m fine for now.

(Part 2 is here)

Posted November 19, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

IFComp 2015 Summary   Leave a comment

I am not 100% done with reviews, but Sub Rosa and The Problems Compound need a lot of time to play and I’m going to give them the full rather than the restricted-to-2-hours treatment. Watch for them later this week.

Here’s the rest, though, with links to all my reviews. A star (*) indicates a placement is personal/subjective.

Highly Recommended

Birdland by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! by Steph Cherrywell
Duel by piato
Final Exam by Jack Whitham
Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory by Katherine Morayati
Map by Ade
Midnight. Swordfight. by Chandler Groover
Nowhere Near Single by kaleidofish
Scarlet Sails by Felicity Banks
SPY INTRIGUE by furkle*
Summit by Phantom Williams
TOMBs of Reschette by Richard Goodness

Recommended

Arcane Intern (Unpaid) by Astrid Dalmady
The Baker of Shireton by Hanon Ondricek
Cape by Bruno Dias
Crossroads by Cat Manning
Darkiss – Chapter 1: the Awakening by Marco Vallarino
Ether by Mathbrush
Forever Meow by Moe Zilla
Grandma Bethlinda’s Variety Box by Arthur DiBianca
I Think The Waves Are Watching Me by Bob McCabe
Kane County by Michael Sterling, Tia Orisney
Onaar by Robert DeFord
Pit of the Condemned by Matthew Holland*
Seeking Ataraxia by Glass Rat Media
The Sueño by Marshal Tenner Winter
Switcheroo by The Marino Family
The King and the Crown by Wes Lesley*
Unbeknown by A. DeNiro
Untold Riches by Jason Ermer

Not Recommended

5 Minutes to Burn Something! by Alex Butterfield
A Figure Met in a Shaded Wood by Michael Thomet
Capsule II – The 11th Sandman by PaperBlurt
Cat Scratch by Allyn (Yilling) Chen, Hannah Turner, Laura Weber, Shirley Park
GROWBOTICS by Cha Holland
In The Friend Zone by Brendan Vance
The Insect Massacre by Tom Delanoy
Gotomomi by Arno von Borries
Grimm’s Godfather by Gabby Wu
Koustrea’s Contentment by Jeremy Pflasterer
The Man Who Killed Time by Claudia Doppioslash
Life On Mars? by Hugo Labrande
Much Love, BJP by Megan Stevens
Pilgrimage by Vi­ctor Ojuel
Recorded by Nick Junius
Second Story by Fred Snyder
The Speaker by Norbez
Taghairm by Chandler Groover
To Burn in Memory by Orihaus
Questor’s Quest by Mark Stahl
The War of the Willows by Adam Bredenberg

I will wait on analysis. The whole competition process has been exhausting.

I shall say, however, to any author down in Not Recommended: please do not be discouraged. In some cases, they were games I found admirable that failed in a way that made it hard for me to recommend; in others while there were lots of problems there were also lots of good concepts and writing going on. This really was an IFComp to be proud of.

If there was any trend at all, it was one towards longer games. I think it’s natural for people to want to tell narratives that need more time, and I think it is a weakness of the IF community to have so much focused on the 2-hours-or-less format. If you entered into this comp, or ever plan to write for a future comp, an IF work that takes longer than 2 hours to play: what do you personally require that would make you satisfied releasing your game outside of IFComp? I feel like certain works on the list above never got played the way they were supposed to be.

Posted November 15, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

IFComp 2015: Midnight. Swordfight.   1 comment

By Chandler Groover. Played to completion.


I can’t really put it more succinctly than the blurb:

A fool receives a challenge from a countess.

More specifically, you start at a scene at midnight where you are about to enter a rapier fight.

How did you ever get into this predicament? A rumor, a glove thrown down onto a dance floor? Now you’re standing in the moonlight and your knees are knocking together, although you hope that no one notices. You’re still dressed for a masquerade and nothing feels quite real. Perhaps it isn’t real.

You have a restricted verb set that you can- read off a “playscript”; this verb set can change as the game goes on. To start, you use inventory, attack, kiss, and examine.

The countess kills you, but the game loops back to the previous move so you can try again. And again. And again, and again, and again, and then a new verb is unlocked (“wake up”) and that’s when things get really interesting.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
S
P
O
I
L
E
R
S
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

“Wake up” seems to take you back about 15 minutes in past, to a ballroom in the frozen moment when the countess first challenges you. At this point (during the frozen moment) you can make your way about the ballroom (either physically or temporally), trying to work out what’s going on and manipulate the past to change your fate in the future.

The writing is really solid and clever and I especially liked the sequence that leads to getting a vorpal blade.

If there’s some sort of Theme or Message or even Anti-Theme, I am not 100% sure what it is. There’s one character (Dmitri) who you can talk to in the Aftermath, and maybe it all has to do with this line:

The problem is I don’t wake up. I go to sleep, and then I go to sleep, and then I go to sleep. Perhaps I’m going in a circle, returning to the same moment over and over. But life seems to flow onward just as usual. I say hello to people on the street, meet them for dinner, come to parties like this one. The years roll on. But then I go to sleep and don’t wake up.

Or maybe not. Midnight. Swordfight. keeps up a wry face.

ADDENDUM: What’s most interesting about this structurally is that while the surface is a one-move find-the-endings game like Aisle, the verb list is heavily restricted and the player is allowed to go behind the scenes and tweak the setting. It’s nearly in the direction of player authorship, letting them change the story to their liking.

Posted November 15, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

IFComp 2015: Onaar   3 comments

By Robert DeFord. Not finished.


Onaar is a fantasy parser adventure. You leave an orphanage to go on a ship, which wrecks on the shore after being attacked.

The prose and plot are bog-standard, but what makes it fascinating is that it tilts heavy on the simulation end of the scale, far heavier than a typical IF game.

onainvent

I’d almost say this plays more like a single-player MUD; there’s a large map with lots of consumable items (unfortunately, yes, hunger is persistent) and after taken an item can reappear later. There’s a “malady” system that different items can cure. There are stats like “Health” and “Mana.” There’s skills like “Speech” and “Thievery”. There’s an alchemy system with 18 different possible ingredients.

Roze Thorn: Wicked-looking thorns that are about two inches long, and needle-sharp.

Tanzy Pod: Small, red pods about the size of your little finger.

Tung Seed: Flat, oval, brown seeds that are about an inch in diameter. They have a shiny, hard outer shell.

It is very large. I was still trying to understand all the game’s systems when my 2 hours of judging time were up.

There are lots of characters to converse with, although they tend to be information dispensers more than nuanced portraits.

– (Available topics) –

APP (apprenticeship)
MAR (marauders)
SAR (Saarina)

> t mar
“After what I saw in the square when I arrived, I am a little worried about the marauders that they say are causing trouble here.”

“I am deeply concerned; I don’t mind telling you. Kasmarii, the founder of Soquim, is the greatest Alchemist that the world has ever seen. He retired shortly after I set up shop, but he still lives in town. After the first attack, he told me that he’d heard of this band of marauders in his travels, and that there is a rogue wizard who is their leader. He then told me that he knows a way to eliminate the rogue wizard. After that, he left to gather the rare ingredients that he said he needed, but that was days ago, and he has not returned. No other Alchemist, myself included, knows what to do in his absence, so it’s up to the Municipal Guard to keep us safe.”
New topic: RAR (rare ingredients)

A lot of my time playing was just trying to stop to gather all the information from the world setting hose.

This is probably most comparable to Gotomomi, but I found it more enjoyable. I think because a.) the game is extrodinarily clear about what objects you can take and which directions you can go, b.) there seems to be a lot of flexibility straight off the bat to accomplish your goals; for instance you need some money to buy an alchemical robe, and I had to pause to think if I wanted to just sell the clothes I had or gather resources outdoors to sell. Gotomomi had similar options but they felt harder to get to.

Posted November 15, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

IFComp 2015: Map   1 comment

By Ade McT. Completed twice using Gargoyle.


Derek calls this your “little patch of wilderness”. That’s his half-joke that isn’t a joke at all, but instead, really it’s a cutting indictment wrapped up in humour – contempt masked with levity.

“You can’t even look after the bloody garden,” Derek snapped at you once, after an argument about something you can’t even remember. “It’s what you wanted. It’s why we moved here for goodness sake.”

When you were first married, gardening had been your passion. You inherited it from your mother, you suppose, whose own garden was, each year, a wondrous mass of colour and life.

Elaine’s children, Brady and Samantha, have left the house. Elaine and Derek are moving. Map is set in the week before they leave, in their large empty house.

Yet, day by day, the house gets larger. Strange new doors appear. A plant starts to grow and fill a room, and more.

There is a creative magic to Map that I hate to ruin with details, and I might suggest simply going and playing it. But if you’d like more (or have played already), keep reading past the map.

map1

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Each day that passes, when the house grows, a door opens which represents possibility — a past event in Elaine’s life. After the scene plays out, Elaine gets to choose; either how she originally chose, or how she wants to change it. The scenes are intense in a way that defy simple analysis, but I can say the echoes of reality were palpable.

“So, Mrs. Paterson, what do you think?” asks Mr. James. “Can Brady keep on playing hockey? I’m sure I can keep him out of any serious harm’s way.”

Do you tell Mr. James “yes” or “no”?
yes

The relief in both Mr. James and Brady is palpable. Before, when you had said no, it was like the life had drained out of Brady. He still attended school, and he was still a good kid, but it seemed as though he didn’t really enjoy anything anymore. You could see it in him, and although it made you question your decision every day, and it broke your heart to see the change in him, you always justified it to yourself, knowing that at least he was safe – he wouldn’t get hurt anymore.

This is, in a way, time travel. Elaine’s choices can literally change reality.

If Map was a simple lesson in changing wrong choices, it would not be unique. However, the choices are not simple “right” or “wrong”. There is no judgement, only results. After the choice is made and a day passes, the house reflects the result. Characters who were previously gone might start to wander the house.

It’s possible to change reality drastically enough to change the original family configuration (Brady, Samantha, Derek, Elaine). Is it moral to make a choice “better” when it causes others to literally not be born?

I will say Map has some technical issues — it almost appears the author did not care how many lines displayed after a particular paragraph because there was 1 or 2 or 3 more or less at random. Some of the characters could use more conversation choices — while the scenes make them vivid, there is an opportunity to ask specific things, but only a small subset of topics get acknowledged.

Even given that, Map accomplished something novel, perhaps unique to me because of the resonant events, but still — the first ending I reached made me cry.

I have heard people denigrate and even mock extreme emotional experience as a criterion for art. Maybe that’s true; maybe it’s not related to art. But I cannot deny something significant happened.

The street is too open. There are too many eyes – all those blank windows reflecting and multiplying the world. Even thinking about passing the end of the driveway makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s as if, unbounded by anything solid, all that space is too big to endure. It might dissipate you entirely.

Posted November 14, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with