Pogoman Go!

coverIt’s been a few years since Ben Collins-Sussman and I put out a text adventure game, but we were inspired this summer by the painful rollout of Pokémon Go! to write a new one for entry in this year’s Interactive Fiction Competition (ifcomp.org). This year’s competition brought in 57 works of interactive fiction, all of which can be played for free online (or downloaded). I’d encourage folks to try a few of the games including Pogoman GO! If you are willing to rate at least five of them, you can participate in online voting, which is open through mid-November.

We hadn’t originally meant to target the competition, but timing more or less worked out that way, and it seemed like a good way to get lots of eyes on the game, while it was still relevant. The game is in a part a parody of the mobile game, but a good portion of it goes in a different, and it has been said, more surreal, direction.  More about the game over on its own website.


Concours IF 2015: Sourire

15391458183_f602481b75_o“Sourire” s’agit d’une courte histoire racontée du point de vue d’une marionnette. Vingt-quatre commandes — 19 de spécifique et 5 juste pour passer le temps — suffissent pour atteindre la solution. Néanmoins, j’ai bloqué quelques fois et de temps en temps j’ai eu besoin de jeter un coup d’oeil au walkthrough.

C’est un imposant défi d’écrire une IF dans laquelle le jouer est littéralement pendu des fils et presque immobilisé. Le joueur apprend immédiatement que ce n’est pas possible de se déplacer dans les directions cardinaux. D’ailleurs, il n’y a beaucoup de voir est les objets vus sont hors de portés du joueur. Qu’est-ce qu’on doit faire? C’est un bon commencement, pourvu que le joueur ne devient pas frustré après quelques tentatives de faire avancer la scène.

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Concours IF 2015: Comédie

730px-New_Theatre_-_stage_-_The_Architect_1909Voici ma première critique d’une IF française en français (ou, j’espère en une langue qui se ressemble un peu au français)…

Comédie par “Edgar Havre” est composée des scènes liées par les courtes conversations. Grace au module “Simple Chat” par Mark Tilford, les conversations se déroule comme une série de choix. Pour commencer une conversation il faut “parler à qqn”. Les conversations se modifie un peu en fonction des événements observés. En cette manière, les conversations sont limitées, mais elles servent pour introduire les puzzles.

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French IF Competition: 2012-2013

ifcomp2013_logoFirst, some general comments. Since the French mini-comp was not held last year, the four games submitted represent two years of production, 2012-2013.  Although my French is not as good as it might be having lived a couple years in the francophone part of Belgium, I enjoyed playing through the games. The limited domain for word choice and grammatical constraints of the parser worked to my advantage.

There were two themes for this mini-comp, Africa and Female Protagonists. Authors could implement either one in whatever way they thought fit. Three went for Female Protagonist, and one for both themes (well, a female Zebra counts, right?).

Also, somehow, in downloading the games for the competition, I also grabbed “Ma princesse adorée”, by Hugo “Mule Hollandaise” Labrande, which doesn’t fit either of these categories. I think it might have been incorrectly linked to an article that pointed to the contest, or perhaps I just clicked on the wrong spot; in any event, I enjoyed playing it as well, and include a review at the end of this entry.

I will make a few general and non-spoilery observations about these works. First, it is notable that two of the games did not adopt the standard person and tense: Trac is set in the present tense, but third person. In playing that game, I noted that there was still a me/you axis between the parser (“I’m not familiar with that verb”) and the player (“Do you want to play again?”). Noir d’encre employs first person and past tense, which must have involved some significant effort in modifying the parser responses. The only quibble I have with that arrangement is that –and I don’t think it’s a spoiler for this horror genre story– some of the outcomes involve the presumed death of the main character. Who, then, is recounting the story?

Second, all of these games seem to be serious works in the sense that they were not just dashed off and sent into the competition. All of them seem to have been thoroughly proofed (although there could, I suppose, be huge errors in the French, to which I might be oblivious) and beta-tested for playability.

Third, aside from Source de Zig, which is a lighter work, I am struck by the amount of text in these text adventures. In Life on Mars, a lot of writing went into creating the emails that provide a solid backstory. In the other works, it seems to me that the amount of detail in descriptions and in responses to player actions is more complete than the more telegraphic style found in many English language works.

Finally, if I’m reading the headers correctly, Life on Mars and La Source de Zig are written in I6, which may be a reflection of the suitability of I7 for developing code in languages other than English.

From here out, there be spoilers…

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IF Comp 2013

My reviews are a little delayed this year (thanks, government shutdown for turning October and November into scheduling train wrecks) and I didn’t get to take every submission on a test drive, but the silver lining is that I can just fire off my comments without worrying about influencing anyone else’s reviews. My comments will be short, as I just jotted a few notes about each work, and now a few weeks after playing them, I tend to only remember the points that really struck me. I didn’t use my scoring rubric from previous years, but I had the same criteria in mind. I would usually rate games according to five categories on a first pass and then adjust the scores before voting based on gestalt after playing all of them. This year, I went with my initial gut rating and used the overall history of IF Comp as a baseline.

These reviews are in the random order of play, up to the point that I hit the November 15th voting deadline. Here’s the pseudo-obligatory line break for propriety and etiquette:

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IF Comp 2012 – Kicker

The kind of kicker with which I am more familiar: from the board game Cosmic EncounterI don’t think that it’s a spoiler to reveal that this is a simulation game, not only of American football, but of what it is like to play the kicker position.

I am bringing a lot of emotional baggage to this review, so in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I lived in Buffalo, New York from 1988 to 1997. You can’t live in Buffalo without being a fan of the Buffalo Bills, and you can’t be a fan of the Buffalo Bills without suffering.  In particular, during the period that I was there, the Bills went to the Superbowl four times in a row. And lost four times in a row.

Despite sitting through too many games to count, consuming the yearly output of the sun in suicidally hot Duff’s Wings, nearly freezing to the aluminium benches in Rich Stadium in -40 degree weather, and knowing all the stats on every player during that period, I don’t know the first thing about football… except that Scott Norwood missed the final kick in Superbowl XXV, and to this day, if there is just one thing that I and everyone else who still lives in Buffalo can remember about football, it is that one 47-yard field goal that went sailing to the side of the uprights and cost Buffalo their one true chance at victory.

So, when this story relates that kickers are held in low esteem by their teammates and everyone else in society, I can believe it.

Enough about me… onto the game itself.

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IF Comp 2012 – Sunday Afternoon

Solar flare photographed by sky lab; public domainUnfortunately, I played J’Dal and Sunday Afternoon about a week ago and didn’t write about them immediately, so details probably haven’t stuck with me, but I did make some notes as I went along.

Sunday Afternoon is well written and executed and has a familiar feel to it, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the mystery writer is someone whose previous works I have enjoyed. Or, I might be totally wrong in my guess, so I’ll hold back on publicly guessing the author’s identity.

I put a spoiler break here.

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IF Comp 2012 – Sealed Room

It took some experimentation for me to get this ALAN game to run on my Mac running OS X Mountain Lion. Spatterlight 0.5 exited with an error code. I was also not successful using an older version of Gargoyle under Parallels/Windows XP. The game did work just fine, however, when I downloaded the most recent version of Gargoyle for Mac (http://code.google.com/p/garglk/downloads/list).

If you are expecting an escape-the-room game, this isn’t one in the traditional sense. There is a single room, and there is a way out, but the bulk of this game involves conversation. Unfortunately, the conversation system is limited and the game play is very linear.

More after the cut

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