Saucers of Mud

October 14, 2009

IFComp: Gator-ON, Friend to Wetlands!

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 9:43 pm

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 Gator-ON, Friend to Wetlands! which can be found here or played online (via Java).


The IF Comp!

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 9:08 pm

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.”

A general statement: I’m not trying to judge the competition comprehensively, though I may wind up doing so. Mostly I’m looking for a game to be diverting. In fact, I’m not paying attention to the two-hour limit, because any game that gets me to play it for two hours is going to be full of win. I stopped playing some of these games in the middle, well before the two-hour mark. Part of that is my short attention span; so be it. I’m going to be talking mostly about the experience I had, which is in large part going to depend on whether the game did something to frustrate me, which means that a relatively well-crafted game can get docked for the one uncrafty thing that I wind up banging my head against.

I’m also not great at puzzles. I like it when I can figure them out, though. If I can’t figure them out, I like it when, after I peek at the solution (or hints), I think “Oh! I should’ve thought of that.”

To avoid spoiling games for anyone who happens by, all my reviews will be after the jump, and the really spoily parts will be after a spoiler space. They’ll also start with some filler text, probably the first couple of paragraphs above (which will get repetitive; sorry).

A couple of general notes (non-spoily, but under the fold anyway):

Ladies and Gentlemen, the GOP

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 7:29 pm

Four GOP Representatives charged that Muslim spies are infiltrating Congress as interns, brandishing a book co-written by Dave Gaubatz (and based in part on documents stolen from the Council on American Islamic Relations by his son, who infiltrated CAIR as an intern, but never mind that). Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) wrote the foreword to Gaubatz’s book.

Dave Gaubatz is a nut. A real nut. He thought he found Saddam’s WMD, but I don’t suppose that’d be enough to discredit him among rank-and-file GOPers.

He also writes:

White Christians were at the founding of this nation a distinct people and privileged as such. Men of means among this people were given the opportunity for representative government. This is, for those of you flinching, not a thesis or”viewpoint”; this is historical fact.

and in case you’re wondering what moral he draws from that “fact,” he doesn’t much like Jews, black people, Jews, black people, Jews, black people, black people, black people, women, or black people.

I’d hope Myrick and her friends would be somewhat ashamed of that last batch of quotes. Perhaps someone should ask her about it.

[BTW, the site is now for members only and has been blocked from the Internet Archive, so I can’t directly verify those quotes. But Jim Henley is a straight shooter, and Gaubatz himself showed up in comments without protesting them, so I’m guessing they’re legit.]

October 12, 2009

Larry Summers’s Discipline

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 2:22 pm

While commenting on the Nobel Prize in Economics,* Ezra Klein writes:

As for the recipients, the exciting news is that Ostrom won, making her the first woman to ever receive the award. Ostrom also happens to be a political scientist, which seems like a useful admission that economics has spread far beyond its original boundaries, and is increasingly intertwined with political science, psychology, sociology and many other disciplines.

Isn’t the big news that the economists still haven’t found a woman in an economics department to give their Nobel Prize to? And I thought my field had it bad.

(Note: Economics’s crappy gender record is not actually an excuse for philosophy’s crappy gender bias.)

*To his main point, I think the first commenter has it right: As Daniel Davies says, “blah blah blah Sveriges Riksbank. Nobody cares, you know.”

October 11, 2009

Emotions in Emergent Storytelling: An Example (or, Virtual Kitties)

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 9:50 pm

Emily Short has a column up about Fable 2 and its attempt to allow interactive character development in a computer role-playing game with a linear part, emerging out of the choices you make when you play the game. The “emerging” part is important because of the ongoing debate in game design about how a game can move you through its play rather than its narrative. It’s uncontroversial that games can tell stories that move the player, but that storytelling usually takes place in non-interactive cutscenes, coming in between the gameplay parts of the game. (Not to say that the gameplay parts aren’t essential to the emotional impact, or to disparage this style of storytelling.) The question is whether a game can develop character and move you through what happens while you’re playing. This is difficult, in part because it’s hard to develop a way for a moving narrative to develop procedurally in response to whatever the player does.

Fable 2 tries to do this, in part through keeping track of the relationships it thinks you’ve formed and the moral choices it thinks you’ve made. Short doesn’t think it succeeded entirely, partly because it didn’t really recognize what she’d done. For instance, she accidentally charmed a besotted man into following her around, whereupon he may have been killed by bandits when she didn’t take care of him during a battle. But the game didn’t realize that she’d done something wrong, or that this was why she wasn’t going to let anyone else fall in love with her again.

Anyway, this reminded me of one of the most complex emotions I’ve experienced coming from emergent play, and why I don’t think it shows any artfulness on the game designer. Nerdy story below the fold. [Note to mom: Yes, I should be working on my tenure file.]

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