Review – Run of the place

The blurb didn’t lie — this work is capable of spewing a great many things, some of them potentially offensive. And it will do it for two hours. And it uses an unusual technology to do it.

The game is written as a floo script, i.e., a text file that gets run through a floo interpreter. What’s floo? I don’t know, what’s floo with you? Sorry for the dad joke.

As reliably detailed zarfian documentation attests, floo is a Glk-native scripting language. Glk, in turn, is the secret magical pixie dust that makes many parser-based story interpreters work. In less technical terms, it is an API for applications with text interfaces, and was designed with IF in mind. I’m not making this stuff up: see the spec.

Anyhow, lots of familiar applications are built on top of Glk. For example, a game written on the author’s machine in Inform 7 code gets mangled into Inform 6 code and finally compiled to bytecode for some sort of virtual machine, like Glulx or the Z-machine. When the player fires up their interpreter, its VM chugs along making API calls on Glk, and stuff appears on the screen. If I got any of that wrong, let me know in comments. I’m a doctor, not a computer programmer, dammit.

Floo is much more direct — a text file gets read in by the floo interpreter, which makes the Glk API calls. Where does one get a floo interpreter? The IF Archive hosts a zipped file for 32-bit Windows and a binhex compressed file for Mac (OS 9, I presume?). Source code is also available in a tarball.

I downloaded the Windows version, unpacked it, and ran the executable on a Windows 10 machine — and it worked. I used the dialog box that pops up to select the game script and that was it.

Since most people will probably not run out and download the interpreter, I’ll save you work. Here’s what you’ll see (I know it’s too small to read, click to enlarge):

Screen capture

In the center of the title bar there is a counter, which counts down 120 minutes, precisely the maximum duration of an IFcomp entry.

Below that, on the left, some text resembles a menu with numerical options. I know what FUD is, but what are the others?

Zoomed in on the upper left corner of the window.

I think the menu is for show only. Regardless of what number you type — or really any letter being typed — the display adds another letter to the mass of text further down on the screen.

That text rambles all over the place. If you open the script in a text editor that can handle large files, you can just read it. I have no idea what the text is based on, but it is as coherent as the Principia Discordia, and I think some parts have an American political tinge.  I’d be curious if anyone has any further insight into what this is based on or what it means.


Story: 1. I don’t think there is one.

Voice: 1. Kind of flaky, but truthful in the blurb at least.

Play: 2. I have enjoyed some stories in this year’s comp that consisted mostly of hitting the spacebar. This isn’t one of them.

Polish: 2. The formatting is off on the menu. There are spelling and punctuation issues in the rant text.

Technology: 8. I am tickled that the game uses floo.

JNSQ: 0. True.

Preliminary Score: 2.8



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