Saucers of Mud

October 23, 2009

IFComp: The Duel that Spanned the Ages (Episode 1: The Overcooked Title)

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 9:09 pm
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I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

This is a review of “The Duel That Spanned the Ages,” which can be downloaded here or played online here or here, if you’ve got the right plug-ins. Though you might want to read the first sentence of my review before clicking the first link, plus the Parchment links for the game files have been wonky lately.
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October 22, 2009

IFComp Review: Earl Grey

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 8:11 pm
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I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

This is a review of “Earl Grey,” which can be downloaded here and may be playable online here, though I can’t get that link to play in my browser. If you want to download these games and play them, you’ll need an interpreter. Some things about interpreters can be found here. I use Zoom for the Mac when I’m not playing online.
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October 20, 2009

IFComp Review: Snowquest

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 11:18 pm
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I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

This is a review of “Snowquest,” which can be downloaded here or played online here, if you’ve got the right plug-ins. If you want to download these games and play them, you’ll need an interpreter. Some things about interpreters can be found here. I use Zoom for the Mac when I’m not playing online.
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IFComp: Byzantine Perspective

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 9:32 pm
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I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

This is a review of “Byzantine Perspective,” which can be downloaded here or played online here or here, if you’ve got the right plug-ins.

It comes with a nicely designed map, which you can get here (pdf file). In many games the map is a spoiler, but not in this one — it’s an in-universe object. You’re going to need it to finish the puzzle, unless you are some kind of puzzle god. Did I mention that it’s mildly irksome that the “Play online” page doesn’t tell you which games have extra files? This is one of a couple of ways in which I think the comp isn’t the friendliest for newbie players.

If you want to download these games and play them, you’ll need an interpreter. Some things about interpreters can be found here. I use Zoom for the Mac when I’m not playing online (and at least one of these games needs Zoom).
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October 19, 2009

Some Thoughts about What I Like in Games

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 11:36 pm
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But first, an admission: I’m probably not going to play any more games from the IFComp, even though some of the ones I haven’t played look interesting, and one (Broken Legs) looks like it might be one of the best games of the comp. From the first few turns it has great writing, voice, attitude, and characterization, and one of the best responses to “xyzzy” ever. (Interface’s response is pretty good too.) It also apparently has a puzzle structure kind of like Varicella’s, and I’m too intimidated to even start playing Varicella, because I know I will FAIL. And I suspect it won’t be the good kind of fail, where I get to see a lot of witty failure scenes and learn what I did wrong and improve, but the bad kind of fail, where I get to see the same failure scenes over and over. This is my fault (though it does connect into what I like in games, which I will discuss below).

Anyway, the main reason I won’t play the rest of the games, at least not right now, is that I’ve pretty much used up the amount of time I can spend on IF this month, and I still have to write six (gulp) more reviews. (Also, a couple of the games I have left won’t play online from the play online page — these are the ones that don’t have .zsomething extensions on the Java link. When I click the Java link it asks me to download something. Now I believe that this is because these are larger, non-Z-machine games, and the online interpreters only work on Z-machine games, but I barely understand that sentence. Anyway, I thought I’d mention it. It also may be an issue with my browser setup.)

So I thought I’d say a little about what I seem to like and dislike in games, which may help assuage the feelings of anyone whose game I’ve harshed out on because I couldn’t solve it.

Oh, and this entry contains a lot of links to TVTropes, because I hate your productivity almost as much as mine.
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Where He Makes His Gin Is a Secret Yet

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 9:12 pm
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Emily (very mild spoilers for Byzantine Perspective) pointed out that “fix” in Inform is by default a synonym for attach. That explains what happens when you type “fix booth” into Pick Up the Phone Booth and Aisle.

October 16, 2009

Bechdel-Testing the IFComp

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 10:30 pm
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I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

But this isn’t a review. Here I’m reflecting on the games I’ve played, or started (I haven’t played them all, and I won’t), by a simple measure: The Bechdel Test. The test, found here and discussed here (and other places), goes like this:

Does the work
(1) have two female characters
(2) who talk to each other
(3) about something besides a man?

It’s not always an entirely fair test for IF, for two reasons. One is that any work with a viewpoint character is going to have trouble if that character is male. (Though the character can observe a conversation between two women.) IF almost always has a viewpoint character, the PC, and if the PC is male then the game is usually hosed. Though there still could be conversations in cut scenes, or overheard conversations.

A second issue with the test is that conversations are hard to program, and many games don’t have much in the way of conversation. If the PC is the only character, the game will flunk on step (1).

A third issue is that the PC is often genderless, or whatever the player is. This really gets its own category — games that pass the test if the PC is a woman.

Fair to the medium or not, the disturbing thing about the test is how few works pass it, and by how narrow margins. It’s one thing for an individual work to have no conversations between female characters; it’s another thing when almost nothing does. Read this to see how pernicious that can be in Hollywood. Anyway, it’s interesting to see what passes and what doesn’t. There may be mild spoilers for the IFComp games after the break (there’s also a discussion of some of Emily Short’s games, though I don’t think it’s spoilery).

[UPDATE: Maybe I should say this more clearly: If your game doesn’t pass the test, that’s not a slam on your game. I realize that talk of “passing” and “flunking” makes it sound like flunking is a horrible thing, but lots of individual games have perfectly good reasons for not including conversations between two women. (Things are much different for movies and TV shows, which are third-person and generally have lots more conversations and characters.) I’m using the test to think about how gendered IF is as a whole, and maybe to start a conversation.]

Also, it should really be the Bechdel-Wallace Test, since apparently Alison Bechdel’s friend Liz Wallace came up with it first.
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IFComp Review: Interface

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 9:07 pm
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I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

This is a review of “Interface,” which can be downloaded here or played online here or here, if you’ve got the right plug-ins.

You know, I’ve been neglectful in saying that if you want to download these games and play them, you’ll need an interpreter. Some things about interpreters can be found here. I use Zoom for the Mac when I’m not playing online (and at least one of these games needs Zoom).
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October 15, 2009

IFComp: Lots of Short Reviews

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 2:30 pm
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I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

This entry contains short reviews of a lot of games. That I’m giving them short reviews shouldn’t be taken as a judgment on their quality, and in fact I’m being blatantly unfair to one of them. It’s just that I don’t necessarily have that much to say about them, and one of the other reviewers has probably said most of what I want to. Also that I realized it was silly to write a review that took more time to write than the game took to play and was longer than the game transcript. Though to be fair (to me), the filler text was longer than the transcript and took more time to write than the game took to play.

All these games can be played online. They are Spelunker’s Quest, The Grand Quest, Eruption, Condemned, Beta Tester, and The Believable Adventures of an Invisible Man. There will be some less spoilery comments before a spoiler space, some more spoilery ones after.

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October 14, 2009

IFComp: Gleaming the Verb

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 10:05 pm
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I’ve been playing some of the games from the 2009 IF Comp. These are text-adventure games, arty to various degrees, meant to be be judged in under two hours of play. The games can be found here. My reviews will be categorized under “IFComp.”

This is a review of Gleaming the Verb which can be found here or played online via Parchment or Java.
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