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IntroComp journal and reviews

by Greg Boettcher

Posted 6 August 2006 to

Since this IntroComp was the place where I released my first (incomplete) game, I was rather excited about it, and I took the trouble of writing down my thoughts. I'm pasting them down below, as well as my reviews of the IntroComp games.



July 16, 2006

I am writing these words on Sunday, July 16, before the release of the IntroComp games. I'll post this after the comp is over, and people can decide if my thoughts today seem pertinent then.

This year's IntroComp is exciting to me for two reasons: (1) I'm entering it, and (2) there are going to be a ton of entrants. Jacqueline Lott sent out an email to all the entrants and told us that there were a record seventeen intents to enter this year. Even if that doesn't mean seventeen games, there'll surely be a lot.

My only guess for why this is true is that a lot of people are learning Inform 7 now. To be honest, I haven't read all the discussions about I7, since I've been busy with my own non-I7 projects. For that matter, I have not yet played any of Graham Nelson's or Emily Short's I7 games, either. But with the IntroComp, we may have an interesting test case. Unless I'm wrong, this will be the first big wave of I7 games by ordinary r.a.i-f people, rather than I7 developers. If the I7 IntroComp games are better than other IntroComp games of years past (not necessarily all that hard, since the quality of IntroComp games has been spotty sometimes), then that will say something good about I7. If not, then I guess it might say something bad.

Either way, the possibility of as many as seventeen games is exciting and makes this year's IntroComp unique. I can't wait to play all the games, and I intend to review each one.


July 19, 2006

Well, I've been disproven. Only three out of seven of the games are I7 games. And only seven games, not seventeen. So it's more of a typical IntroComp after all.

I haven't played too far in most of the games yet, but I'll start writing reviews in the next few days, I hope.


August 6, 2006 (before the ceremony)

Uh... I've really procrastinated a lot before writing any reviews. By this time voting has ended, and several reviews have come out (which is quite heartening for me—thanks, reviewers). But the awards ceremony hasn't happened yet as I write this. Time to capture whatever thoughts I can before then.

Having seen the variety of opinions people had about my game, I no longer think there's much chance I'll take first place, but we'll see. I do hope I score in the top half, at least.

Maybe I'll have time to write a few reviews before the ceremony, or maybe not.


August 6, 2006 (after the ceremony)

I took third place. I'm pleased with the result, considering how many risks I took with my game and how many potentially unpopular things I tried. (Note: I say "potentially unpopular things," but there are no mazes in the intro!)

Thanks to all the people who played the games, especially those who wrote reviews and/or sent me their comments.

And of course, thanks to Jacqueline Lott! I never would have finished the intro part of my game as quickly as I did without the deadline incentive.

Now let me finish up writing reviews. Here goes...



This game's point of view certainly makes it unique.

I feel a little ambivalent about the Valley-speak language used in the game. I found it amusing while I was playing (especially when I found the same voice in the help menus!). But the more I think about it, the less I like the idea of stereotypical teenager speech being used as the narrative voice of a baby. If a baby could talk, its voice would resemble that of a very small child, not a teenager.

I liked the puzzles, especially the final one.

One of the puzzles somewhat irritated me, though, as it seemed to be a deliberate "guess the verb" puzzle, which you can only solve by using the idiom your mom uses. Since this was an idiom I'd never heard before, it didn't immediately occur to me to use it, and I typed a bunch of phrasings that didn't work before I hit upon the right syntax.

Overall, an enjoyable game. I'd probably play the finished version. I have to wonder, though, how much this idea can be further developed. The PC is so limited in what he/she can do that I'm sure it will be hard to find a very wide variety of situations where he/she can interact.



I thought this intro was interesting, but I also thought it had some rough edges.

Some things I didn't like about the game:

Anyway, despite a few rough edges, I found the game interesting enough. I'm not sure why, but I did feel involved with the game, and I'd be willing to play more of it.



Before I even begin to review the game, I have to express my irritation with its opening quote by Chekhov:

"If you show a gun in the first scene, it better go off by the last." —Anton Chekhov.

I have always been annoyed by this quote. I think it would have made more sense coming from some formulaic mystery writer like Agatha Christie rather than a respectable author like Chekhov. Yeah, it's sometimes nice to introduce items for later, but then it's also nice for a fictional world to seem real. I don't think it should be required for people to look at fictional worlds as artificial collections of plot instruments.

This quotation actually figures into the gameplay in Southern Gothic, and I was somewhat annoyed by that at first, but I got over it rather quickly.

The opening scenario is interesting, with its—how to say it without spoilers—with its contrast between the opening room and the rooms that surround it. Call it a gimmick, but it is rather original.

Unfortunately, the game was unevenly programmed. Here are some things that need fixing:

I liked the relationships between the PC and the other characters. I also liked the characterization of the PC. Upon getting bad news, she says, "You shut your eyes, count to five, and release a sigh instead of a curse." That's a good detail.

Overall, it looks like the eventual game will be worth playing, although I hope the author irons out some of these flaws.



I'll start off with what I didn't like about the game:

Putting all that aside, I did like quite a few things about the game. I found the puzzles reasonable; only once did I require hints.

Reading other reviews, it looks like most people weren't that involved with the story. I didn't feel that way, maybe because I like science fiction more than most people. I'd play the finished game, and I got some enjoyment out of the intro. I just wish it were more polished.



I played this game under bad circumstances. I was impatient and in a bad mood, and I was also sitting right next to somebody who had finished the game. Whenever I got stuck, I just asked her for help. As a result, partly due to my own fault, I didn't feel very involved with this game.

Therefore, I'm not sure whether this should be called a review or just a statement of my own individual experience playing the game.

That said, I got stuck more than once—unnecessarily, in my opinion.

First of all, when I type "LOOK AT N", where N is any noun, and it says "You can't see any such thing," I take that to mean (a) the game needs polishing, and (b) I can ignore N, since it's just scenery. Not so in the VR part of this game. That got me stuck, and I was irritated by that.

Second, when an interlocator does not respond to hardly any topics, I don't usually keep on pressing with further topics. In this game there is a case where you have to keep on pressing until you hit the right topic.

In general, the puzzles in this game were not well clued. For instance, there is a case where you must engage in violence in a specific way. If you use the verb "hit," however, the game gives you no clue that you're on the right track. It just gives you a standard default refusal: "Violence isn't the answer to this one." Which is not true.

Sorry to Allan Crain for being so negative. It was partly my own fault, but for whatever it's worth, I didn't enjoy playing this game.



Some miscellaneous thoughts:

This game begins with the sentence: "As we prepare to enter into the realm of dreams we often reflect upon the events of the day we've had." Wow, is that vague and generic. It would have been much better to cut the sentence and just begin with the next one.

When I type "x werewolf," I expect a description more than just, "Yeah, it's real looking alright." Bizarrely, the werewolf is described in more detail if you type "look" than if you type "x werewolf"!

At the end of the game, the author wishes to convey the following information to you: "That feeling in your gut gets worse when you notice what seems to be a body nearby." Unfortunately, this sentence is given without variation whenever you type "look" in the final room. Surely there would have been some other, better way of doing this.

Sorry, but I didn't get involved with this game. I get the impression that the author meant well, and I hope he doesn't get discouraged, but I didn't get much out of this.



I wrote this, so no review here. Thanks to everyone who offered me feedback.


This article copyright © 2006, Greg Boettcher

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