This year, I learned a few things about implementing text games in languages other than English, or more specifically, in porting a single game across three languages. My IF Comp game, “En Garde” was originally written in French for the 2018 Francophone IF Competition. Subsequently, I translated it to English for IFComp and the game is now part of the 2018 Russian KRIL Competition thanks to translation by Valentin Kopeltsev. I would like to share some practical experience regarding this effort and some of the solutions that I found along the way.
The Russian counterpart of IFcomp, KRIL, went online yesterday with 25 original games, two translated games (one of them mine), and two exhibition games that will not be included in voting. KRIL has been an annual event since 2006, but since I was not involved in previous years, this is my first look at it. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast a bit with IFcomp. I should add the disclaimer that my Russian is pretty rusty and that all the heavy lifting on my entry was done by Valentin Kopeltsev, so if I get any of the details below wrong, just leave a comment.
First, I’d like to thank those who ran the competition for staging such a quality event: gathering funding and prizes, maintaining the web site, getting the word out, and supporting authors all the way along. Similarly, a huge thanks to my proofreaders and beta-testers, who probably logged as many hours playing and commenting as I did developing the games.
A quick post about IFcomp 2018, which launches today. Last year, I reviewed all the submissions on this blog, but will not be doing so this year as I have two games in the comp. It’s been a few years since the rules change that removed the gag on authors, but I’m still not comfortable commenting in public on other games, when I’m a participant.
I’ll certainly play through as many of the other games as I can and will be posting some comments privately on the closed forum for authors.
I’m looking forward to reading reviews of all the games in the comp — I’m sure all the authors are in the same boat, sitting on the edge of their seats this morning waiting for the first feedback to drift in.
I’ll add more comments as time permits [these were written in August 2018, about four months before the game came out — but I didn’t know that at the time], and Ben will probably do the same on his blog at some point. Whatever other comments we add on about our work on the Cragne Manor project, I’ll link it back to this page.
We wrote up a design document to serve as a reference in writing the characters and their situation. It was particularly helpful in putting together a consistent time line. Initially we stuck closely to the design document, but as writing progressed, the story and characters took their own directions, and we ditched some of the design elements — there is no iron golem, for example in the final story. In some instances, we redacted portions that would either not have worked as IF or that were unnecessarily cumbersome in terms of mechanics relative to their narrative contribution.
While Ben started thinking about coding and integrating standard parts of the Cragne Manor project, I began writing the transcript. Perhaps not the best way to approach a project based on dialogues because it tends towards the linear, but given the time constraint versus volume of text needed to tell the story, we though it would be efficient because Ben could review and implement behind me as I wrote. That mostly worked for this project, particular because we kept the dialogue and NPCs relatively simple — not much in terms of forking dialogue or variability based on earlier knowledge, emotional state, etc. I worked within GoogleDocs and for the sake of loading quickly split the model transcript into part 1 and part 2. The final game resembled these transcripts pretty closely.
As usual, we wrote the code collaboratively, using version control to fold our efforts together, in this case the whole project lives on github.
This year, I experienced the French IF comp not as a reviewer, but as an entrant. I’m ecstatic to report that not only did I survive the comp, but I came in second in a field of five thanks to a lot of help from proofreaders, editors, and bêta-testeurs/bêta-testeuses that helped me polish my not-so-fluent writing into something presentable. I’d like to share some thoughts about the comp, the community around it, my motivation for entering, some design decisions, and how it all worked out.
I played through all of the entries in this year’s IFcomp during the first month, so it’s been at least a couple weeks since the last game. I’d like to share a few thoughts about some of the entries now that the dust has settled and I can look back on them as a whole.
In general, I am happy to stick with my initial ratings, even for those games that I played early in the competition, as my scale is based on several years of IFcomp. I do think that my scale will need some weighting next year to put the average game closer to midscale, though.
This year’s crop of games is large enough to be divided up into any number of categories by subject, e.g., RPGs, sci-fi, murder mysteries, or structurally, e.g., parser-based, limited-parser, hypertext, CYOA, etc. I’d like to propose a number of new and entirely arbitrary categories based on this year’s submissions. Please let me know in comments if I’ve gotten any of these wrong or missed some.
…mentioning cheese in some capacity (including in the context of Macaroni and Cheese): Eat Me, What Once Was, Absence of Law, Run Of The Place, Nightbound, A Castle of Thread, The Skinny One, The Castle of Vourtram.
….involving conversation with birds: 10 pm, Harbinger, Eat Me, Alice Aforethought, The Dragon Will Tell Your Future Now, Goodbye Cruel Squirrel, The Adventure of Esleralda and Ruby on the Magical Island, The Wand, What Once Was, A Castle of Thread, and kind of, The Owl Consults.
I just posted my 79th review for this IFcomp, which means that I’ve now commented on every entry. I tried to get through them quickly to provide feedback early enough in the competition to be useful to both authors and players.
I’ve sorted every game according to my scoring rubric, which may or may not reflect how other people feel about these games. But first, I wanted to flag the about 15% of games that I awarded a “Je ne sais quoi” point. Probably the best way to define that undefinable point is to say that there is something in these works that I wish I could capture when I’m writing IF:
|* Absence of Law|
|* Eat Me|
|* Sea Monkey|
|* The Owl Consults|
|* Unit 322|
|* The Very Old Witch|
|* Charlie The Robot|
|* One Way Out|
|* VR Gambler|
I tend to score these games highly, but other games with good writing and high production quality have scored higher than some of these, even without the JNSQ tacked on to their score.
This Quest game is spread out in four dimensions. It is set on a university campus, and the protagonist is an OWUPSOABD (over worked, underpaid, stressed-out graduate student), who discovers that his mentor is missing and suspects that it has something to do with their experimental time travel project.
For those that haven’t played, I have some advice to offer: first, check out the help command. The response is short, but note that this game includes the verb “use”. Most of the time, the game is looking for a more specific verb and when a non-standard verb is required, it is usually clear from context or suggested in the wording of a prompt, but if nothing else seems to work, the game might be looking for “use”.
I was stuck for quite a while at one point because I forgot about “use” — the walkthrough is more conceptual than procedural, so it doesn’t help with specific phrasing. I only managed to keep going by watching Lynnea play through that part of the game on her twitch stream.
The other piece of advice: wear physical protection from the puns in this game. I prefer sharp wit, but puns are almost by definition bludgeoning.
There are a lot of puzzles in this game and many are people-centric, i.e., they revolve around finding the right person to help with a specific item and then figuring out what motivates that person or what you need to give that person to get the job done.
If I recall correctly every NPC encountered has some relevance to the game, so it behooves players to examine everyone they come across and to take in their surroundings. Talking to NPCs is also helpful in some situations, but only if you nail the topic exactly. Otherwise, responses will be unhelpfully generic or you will just be ignored.
[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]