IF Comp 2012 – Body Bargain

One of the strengths of IF is that the player can make choices that would be normally be shocking or unthinkable, confront the consequences of those actions, and ponder the outcome. Sure, you could say the same thing about a video game – laying waste to a town or two with rocket propelled grenades is all in a day’s work for some shooters, but the decisions are not as real or as personal as when you literally spell them out in textual IF.

I can’t go much further without spoilerage about this work and “Test is Now Ready”, so more after the cut…

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IF Comp 2012 – In A Manor Of Speaking

Manor is a Glulx game, and the start is promising enough: it looks edited and has a good list of beta testers. After playing for fifteen minutes, though, I have to wonder if the testers were too focused on form rather than content and play.

The game is a series of disjoint locations and events. Unlike Howling Dogs, where this is a strength and contributes to a surreal feel, the lack of connection between scenes gives the player nothing to stitch this game together, aside from the puns, most of which are revealed only upon death. I shouldn’t say that the locations and props are entirely unrelated, as there are several instances of acquiring a key item in one area for use in another, but these connections are very strained.

The puns are the wincing kind, rather than the clever and wincing kind. The cheeky parser voice is instantly annoying – the poke in the ribs when turning around and walking into a wall is just annoying. Getting the parser voice right is a tricky subject, and one that has been done so often that it’s a liability when the game doesn’t manage to do it deftly. The default neutral library responses have been replaced with generally more annoying version. Points, I suppose, for customizing the messages, but the replacement doesn’t make the game expereince better.

There are a lot of ways to die in this game, most ways are not sensical or forewarned, and each rewarded with a pun. I guess that is the point of this game. At least it is easy to undo from this state.

Some spoilers after this point

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IF Comp 2012 – Last Minute

Here’s a piece that intentionally downplays the work that must have gone into it. This is also a Twee/Twiddly game, and maybe I’m getting to the point that I can stop mentioning that. This platform works so nicely that I stop noticing the mechanics of the browser and can focus on the game.

Spoiler warning

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IF Comp 2012 – Transit

Transit is another story written on the Twee/TwiddlyWiki platform. Again, the layout is very pleasing, and now that I’ve experienced a few of these, I am warming to this authoring system. In this instance, I see a few options at the bottom of the screen that functionally serve my need to have an about / help / hints / options menu of some sort.

Spoilers follow

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IF Comp 2012 – Howling Dogs

Continuing with the web-based stories, I tried Howling Dogs, which is written with Twine/TiddlyWiki. I can comment on the medium before the spoiler cut, and leave story-specific details to the side for a moment.

The presentation feels very natural. The typography is modern and clear, and links are obvious. Navigation works just like you’d expect, including the browser back button. I was surprised how well the story conveyed a sense of different rooms and of objects in the current location. The story makes good use of several locations that become familiar, which is a welcome anchor when the story otherwise rockets off into surreal spaces. The author has put to good use the ability of this system to remember prior player actions and to alter text in successive accesses. Because of this, the story does not come across as a flat hypertext document, but a narrative that progresses in time.

Havoc! Now for some spoilers.

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IF Comp 2012 – Living Will

Now to try my hand at a web-based game. I suppose that almost all the games are now web-based in the sense that some excellent online interpreters are now available.

The first one I tried was Living Will, and reading the fine print at the bottom of the browser window, I see that it is written in Undum, a client-side (i.e., in the browser) engine for presenting linked text, keeping track of state, etc. I’ve played a bit with Inkle, and it sounds like it has some features in common.

My first impression of this work is that the graphics are top notch: a textured leather background with a gradient runs down the page in the background, while text is presented in several boxes with lighter backgrounds with classy typography.

And now for some spoilers beyond this point…

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IF Comp 2012 – A Killer Headache

Well, the first line certainly draws the player in, “Ever since you died, the migraines have been getting worse.” Sounds like my kind of game.

I always record a transcript as I play through games, both for my own record and because I am a dyed-in-the-wool betatester and can’t play a game without part of my brain (brainns!!!!) thinking about the medium itself. I usually try to send these transcripts on to the authors even if there are no problems because I’ve always appreciated receiving transcripts. As an author, receiving a transcript lets you know firstly that someone cares and is playing the game, but also gives some insight into how others apprach the game. After writing a game, an author is so close to the game that an external perspective often turns up surprising twists.

Anyhow, when transcript recording starts, the version information scrolls by, and I was stunned to see the number of extensions that this game uses. It’s nice to see that this author has built upon work by others and furthermore that he’s managed to get all the extensions to play nice with each other, which I know can be a challenge.

Okay…from here out, spoilers…

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IF Comp 2012 – The Island

Ricardo_Montalban_Herve_Villechaize_Fantasy_Island_1977IFcomp 2012 is suddenly upon us. Last year, I played a bunch of games, assembled comments and never put them on the blog. This year, I’ll try blogging each game as I play it. I may not get through them all, but at least there will be some record of my impressions of the games.

I downloaded the zip file of games and did a quick overview. Looks like some are meant to be played on the web, so I’ll play those later. Some seem to work best under windows, so likewise, I’ll put that off for now. I see only one game, The Island, written with TADS, so I’ll somewhat randomly start there. No maps, feelies, or READMEs in that games directory, so I can hop right into the game, which suits me fine. From here out, expect spoilers.

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Sky House: Arrival

view south towards the Pacific oceanThe Nerkspedition to Sky House is underway. We arrived in LA a couple days ago and drove up the 101 to around San Luis Obispo yesterday. The final road to Sky House is a long, winding dirt road that hairpins its way up a mountain to a fabulous house that overlooks neighboring mountains, Morro Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. Most of the first day was spent getting everyone unpacked and settled.

Earlier today, I set up the FT817 for local repeaters in San Luis Obispo and Los Osos. No problem hitting them with full quieting from the top of the mountain, but not a lot of activity on them.

Even though this is the IARU World Championship weekend, I didn’t bother setting up for HF today given the solar activity: strong wake from a CME and an intensely south vectoring magnetic field. By report, the bands were pretty dead earlier except for sporadic E on 6m later in the day.

I’m hoping tomorrow will be better, so I tossed the 40m half wave dipole antenna into the trees at the top of the mountain. The wire comes down near a comfy chair next to the pool, and if conditions are better on Monday or Tuesday, I’ll give HF a try.

slt plus board with a missing L1 toroidImmediately before leaving for California, I noticed that both my winkeyer and SLT+ antenna tuner had developed rattles. I have to assume that this happened during my last flight back, which had involved a bumpy segment on a regional jet from Reno to LAX. Either that, or the TSA got more curious than usual and looked inside them. The winkeyer was missing a screw and the rest of the screws were loose, but there was no internal damage. For the SLT+, however, L1 had fallen off the pc board. I rewound the toroid and soldered it in while I was packing my bags for this trip and as an extra measure tacked all the coils down with hot glue.