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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:27 pm 
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We are almost ready!
A winner in a few days, and a second place in the same timeline, for free!

We will be posting our commentaries on this very page (and mirror them in the Andromeda Legacy Blog).

While we wait, now that I've done playing and replaying the games... anyone of the entrants would like me to draw his cover (for free, of course) in the "way of Andromeda"?

Feel free to PM me, comment here or write me.

Have fun, and thanks a lot for the fun you gave me!


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:52 am 
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Hi everybody, and here come the judges. This is Wade Clarke speaking. Of the two games, we shall begin with

Tree & Star by Paul Lee (Hugo)

Tree & Star is set an unspecified depth back in the prehistory of the events depicted in Andromeda Awakening. The player takes on the role of Rood, a Data Tech who has grown up aboard the spaceship Godspeed. The ship has been travelling for generations and the journey has become its own purpose, its original significance and goals forgotten along with the inhabitants' history. After a prologue which is a memory from Rood's childhood, the game opens onto intrigue when Rood stumbles across a potentially mystery-busting data file in the course of his job. Perhaps the wizened storyteller Chronos Han might know what to make of it?

This is an ambitious game in many ways. It has a new mythology (IE in addition to Andromeda Awakening's) featuring complex circumstances which are described in both past and present terms. It also has a good number of characters, lots of dialogue, a vivid starship setting, suspenseful revelations and several hectic action scenes. Unfortunately, it's not built with a solidity to match the volume and variety of its content.

Setting

The Godspeed is all its crew know, and all the player knows, and Paul's evocation of its enclosed spaciousness is excellent. Everything that is implied by the game's mythology is manifest in various details of the ship, from the inspiring-but-fake stars visible out the viewport ('New Heaven') to the casually mentioned stack of Lego-like white cube dwellings in which the crew live, so massive en masse yet so claustrophobic individually, and which are still contained by the ultimate ceiling of the ship's exterior. The game is good at staying true to Rood's everyday perspective on all of this while delivering the kind of sights that can give the player that feeling of sci-fi wonder.

Characters

The cast of Tree & Star are a loquacious bunch. They need to be because there's a lot of mythology that needs sorting out. It is probably our hero, Rood, who fares best in the transparency of his character. As the guy controlling the viewpoint, a lot is evident about him from his casual approach to his existence on the ship. He's someone who clocks in each day, becomes mobilised with a degree of excitement by his code-wrangling activities but is still really just waiting to clock off. His hackery zeal is aroused when he gets his mitts on the weird data file, and then his imaginative side, previously only glimpsed in the game's prologue in which he listened wide-eyed to the old heretic storyteller Chronos Han, resurfaces, and explains the drive behind his later actions.

The trouble I had with Rood's wife, Veritas, basically grows out of my semi-confusion regarding the behaviour of the starship Militia, of which she is a member. Veritas was also a wide-eyed child listening to Chronos in the prologue, so there is the potential sweetness of these two characters, Veritas and Rood, having a shared past and perspective, and growing up to marry each other, and then the drama or sadness of them having to confront each other's differing points of view as adults in light of the game's revelations. That said, she doesn't act like the jack-booted militia baddies who broke up the meeting in the prologue, nor does she express any thoughts on her relationship to her job. All we know is that her militia uniform makes Rood nervous. Perhaps everyone's acceptance of their role is an expression of their naivety, since they have no world beyond the ship, but broadly speaking this was an area of the game I didn't get.

Chronos Han is a vivid old sage type, a waxing space Dumbledore, and has as many tricks up his sleeve to boot, but I found the prose expressing his twinkly-eyed wisdom a bit too typical of this kind of character in fiction. It's hard to be fresh in this area.

Some characters who suffer a lot for technical reasons are the militia members who show up late in the game. They are delineated by appearance, and it's important to know who is who during the shootout scenes and twisty shenanigans which follow, but the game's verbose manner of referring to these guys by their full titles at all times results in a series of gnarled sentences like this one:

The black-haired male Militia Investigator begins to push you along, and the blond-haired female Militia Investigator turns to walk the back corner of the room, away from the door, earning her glances from the black-haired male Militia Investigator and the tatooed female Militia Investigator.

Implementation

This is the game's weak area, which inevitably affects everything. When Tree & Star isn't being linear, it often just covers its bases. Speaking to characters out of turn mostly results in them saying the same things 2+ times in a row. It is decent at cueing technical words which will lead to progression most of the time (EG during a hacking sequence) but failing to implement even a couple of readily apparent terms at such moments led me to significant looping on the spot.

When the game is being linear, there are generally only a finite number of things you can do to make it move forward (talk more, listen, wait, or play with a prop) but sometimes only one of the four is the right one, so you have to keep poking all these commands into the parser in rote fashion. It is not evident, for instance, when to talk and when to listen, or when you need to do something mildly social like sit down or have a drink. This is an area of the game which could be executed much more smoothly, and ultimately, I would like much less of it overall (or at least for there to be much better covering illusions in place) as the game eventually funnels into a one-way trajectory that would almost be better served by a series of 'Press any key to continue' messages.

There are also a lot of typos in general.

Girl Andromeda Power, yeah!

Tree & Star is a pleasing prequel addition to Andromeda Awakening, depicting a new set of circumstances from a different slice of the same universe in an earlier time. The sedition/heretics angle gives its story a religious tone, and its busy feel and functional civilisation give us new things to see; Andromeda Awakening showed one guy in an apocalyptic aftermath.

Marco pointed out to me that the events in this game don't necessarily gel 100% with the history described in Andromeda Awakening, but he also spoke in that game's post-win notes of a possible and relevant shortcoming in the original mythology. My perspective is that any real or imagined discrepancies could easily be solved by interesting means, considering the amazingly twisty possibilities of quantum physics and interstellar travel.

Overall

Tree & Star definitely tells an engaging story, but I don't think the author had time to do justice implementation-wise to everything the game contains. Its main problem is that it becomes increasingly linear and on-rails as it goes on, so that by the time the end is near, the capacity for the player to make choices which feel meaningful/involving has dwindled away almost to nothing; the text must simply be advanced. In light of the number and complexity of moving parts Tree & Star contains, it's obvious how such a linear delivery works to constrain the focus of the action to something readily manageable by the programmer, but the result is not as involving or satisfactory as it could be. In competition terms, Tree & Star is a good game which has overreached with its design.

- Wade


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:01 am 
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TREE AND STAR, by Paul Lee (aka Bainespal)

There is something about Competitions I really can't cope with. The real annoyance of our time, the ultimate depressing machinarium. It is the time limit.
You know, you have to submit games in time and this deadline can spoil good games and ruin a player's experience.

So, you may ask: why start a Comp if that is what you think of it?

The answer lies in the results.

This mini-comp had one main object, when it started blossoming in my mind: having people use part of my setting to create games and to see how those games would be in terms of quality, yes, but most of all in terms of story.
'Cause you know, linear or interactive, puzzleless or puzzlefest, it is all about the Story.

The first game I received was Tree & Star by Paul Lee. Or, as the game banners itself (!), Sea and Star. (The author can decide whenever he wants.)

This is an impressive game, in terms of storytelling. Paul has asked me a lot of questions, during the Comp's time, to check if what he had in mind was right for what I sketched out first. I kept answering that I didn't care, that I didn't need his story to be that much in synch with mine. But that was not entirely true, to be honest. I really wanted my background to grow. I really wanted to see what the Andromeda's Universe is like.

Fortunately enough, Paul took a small, dry seed and turned it into a full blown forest.

Let's see how this forest grew.


The Setting. (With a capital S, due to ego-enlarging purpose).

Tree and Star takes place in a giant ship, somewhere in time. The sky is dark, the Universe is out of sight and there is nothing to do but Duty and Duty is the New Way of the New Heavens.
The sordid truth is that the starship Godspeed, in which the PC has lived all his life, is stranded in space and all its gazillion inhabitants are dumb soldiers and civilians who live a life pointless, no hopes of redemption, nowhere to go. Which is, essentially, a parody of our own time, where people have to write complicated games in complicated environments to find a medium to happiness.

There's this prologue, then the prologue ends and it's a misty years later and Our Hero turns out to be a programmer in a silly cubicle living the silly life of the Duty.

Then, something happens.

Talking about "canonicity", this is nothing short of what Andromeda Awakening was built around: an unforeseen (?) event which starts Spreading The News and which the PC must survive in order to reveal it. The main difference is that, while in AA What Is Going On wasn't (I hope) too much foreseeable, in Tree and Star it is all been said before the game begins and you have to have a lot of nice aces up your sleeves to render it in HD.

Paul rendered it in HD and 3D, in my opinion.

More on the subject: The PC himself is a sort of "scientist" finding a "superior truth" no one is willing to consider. He tries his best to let people know but, eventually, they won't know as <insert drama here> happens. There is a Council, there is the Military. There is a limited environment to explore and a place to run from.
Basically, it is the same plot of the original game with a different story. Like Die Hard 2 was to Die Hard or any other episode of Knight Rider (are you old enough to remember?) or The Hulk.
If this is not "canonical" to a shared world I don't know what is.

Fortunately, being the story "almost all told", Paul did a great job in delivering a fast paced-action thriller as opposed to the slow, painful voyage that Awakening is. What I must pinpoint is the very linear way he decided to use to tell his story, which many won't like very much. It is flattering to understand how much Paul was fascinated by my background: it is obvious that the story itself was the most important thing to him as he decided to level all of the gameplay to honor us with a good screenplay. Also, I understand how the aforementioned time limit was a hindrance to him rather than a push forward.

The overall atmosphere is not much different from the one I experienced in the movie Equilibrium with Christian Bale. Equilibrium's world is one in which emotions are banned and made against the law; the people are forced to use a drug that suppresses them and everybody should "live in peace" due to that trick. The civilians and their everyday duties, the Militia: they all conveyed a sense of oppression quite disturbing.

Part of the setting is, in this very case, the story. I'm not going to spoil the game by exposing it. Let's just say the Myth of the Voyage which surface was barely scratched in Andromeda Awakening is here told, explained and… lived. Although we may know who the travelers are, we don't know what their trip was like until we play this game, and I loved what Paul came up with.


The Characters. (With a capital C, due to the awesomeness of this Legacy. We will discuss this later).

Rood and Veritas are not the only people on board. There is this old man called Chronos Han which is the real storyteller and the One-who-knows-it-all. The kind of character a story like this can't miss and that is central to it. Its delivering is quite awkward, as he is too much a carbon copy of Gandalf and this role is underscored by events and actions one can't quite miss.
Spoiler: show
(during a scene, Chronos-The-Grey stops a fiery Balrog—namely, Militia guards—from reaching the Fellowship. "You. Cannot. Pass!")
That said, he seems to be a member of "the Council" (whatever that means in Andromeda's past) and a riotous one, too. He usually acts as the deus-ex machina but in a way that I seem to like. He appears from nowhere when needed but, instead of making one perceive this as a puerile gimmick, it conveys that sense of action movie that is much welcome.

Talking about the rest of the crew, all of the names are simple awesomeness. Veritas Tora, Chronos Han, Euros Markon, Rinaldi "Rin" Fletcher. Wow. I love them and I love how they mix well with my own (poor) christenings in the original game. I don't know if they sound too much from Star Trek, I'm no expert, but they really got me. This is an impressive trend in this Competition (Joey Jones, in Andromeda Dreaming, did some of the same, also) and I love it.
Rant: show
Wade pointed out to me that the main char's name Rood may be from a real person, Sir Jonathan Blask aka Roody Yogurt, a mate of Paul in the Hugo scene. Not knowing this detail helped me in staying focused during play, I suppose.


One last note about the setting. It is fair to consider this game 99 to 100% faithful to the original timeline I drew back in the last months. Although not many may know about the travels of the
Spoiler: show
humans, there is a piece of paper in the second or third-to-last room of Awakening, hidden among war machinery, that can explain a lot about how Tree and Star mix with it.



The Implementation. (With a capital I because coding is hard and you must not joke about it).

As I said in the forewords, a Competitor worst enemy is the deadline. To people like me it is the only thing that keeps the ball rolling, but to dedicated authors it can be hindering.
I know Paul didn't have time to have his game betatested of proofread. This is no big deal, as he will have time to have the game's small problems corrected (don't know about the large ones, see below) but, although this didn't ruin my experience, one more month (or a couple of) would surely have helped.
I can't feel guilty for it because it's Paul's "fault" to have chosen such a vast game to code, not my order. But, given as the story turned out to be funny and thought-provoking, a bad experience with it would suck. I know that many people disliked my game especially for the bad prose and the bad implementation (in its original form: I'm quite sure it is well playable at the moment), and I know those players will never give me a second chance. The same will apply to Tree and Star and this makes me sad.
Of course, Paul has now a lot of time to rethink some of the mechanics and to smooth the player's experience. If you are of the kind that can't wait for a good story, play it now and be sympathetic. If you can wait, well: wait.

The main problem with Tree and Star is the lack of interactivity. You can actually win the (long) game by TALKING TO anybody and HACKING things. And this is too much like a CYOA with no CYO, if you get what I mean.
It is obvious that the first half of the game was well thought and executed (although not tested), while the second half has been made in a hurry. You can see it in the writing and in how the actions are triggered. Much of the tension between the characters should have been depicted more strongly, while at the present state not much is shown about how they relate to each other.
My best advice to Paul is to take time and 1) correct the misspelling and the small problems and, then, 2) reconsider the game mechanics towards the end. Insert more branchings, more interaction, less streamlined sequences.


Conclusion.

I received this game one minute before the deadline, which was at midnight. I opened the archive and just had a "check on it before going to bed".

Well, I went to bed at 4AM, 'cause the game damn got me. I went to bed and continued it in the morning to see how it ended. I had a lot of fun, it was a real experience and I think Paul did an awesome job in telling an untold tale.

So: bravo, Paul. At the present, this is an Orange Glowing game, but it can reach for Small White in no time with just a little tweaking. Change how the game runs from midgame on and it will surely deserve a Giant Red.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:08 am 
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Andromeda Dreaming by Joey Jones (Inform 7)

Andromeda Dreaming is set immediately prior to the events depicted in Andromeda Awakening, and has a title which is perhaps as perfect for itself as can be, the title of Andromeda Dreaming. This is not only a prequel title which is superbly logical on paper in chronological relation to the title Andromeda Awakening, but one which turns out to be logically superb in execution, given that Andromeda Dreaming is chock full of dreaming. Perhaps the second-best title might have been Andromeda: Breaking Dawn Part I. If nothing else, we could have shifted a freakload of units in the teen girl demographic.

In Andromeda Dreaming the player takes on the role of Aliss, a deliberately non-descript woman who finds herself strapped into a bunk and quarantined in cylindrical space pod 19-Q. Unsure of where you came from or where you're going, you engage the other bunk dwellers in one cryptic-seeming conversation after another, sliding in and out of a sleep in which dreams reveal fragments of memories and unpleasant weirdnesses...

Andromeda Dreaming wowed me. It has a wonderful structure, a nervous-making and palpable trajectory, its own very funny slang language and some additional frisson for people who have played Andromeda Awakening. Its design seems to be a perfect fit for the story it tells, the size of that story and the manner of telling it. In other words, its resources are used optimally. In comp terms, Tree & Star had a relatively massive inventory of characters, props, types of situations etc., more than could be adequately dealt with in the time available to prepare for this competition. Joey's Andromeda Dreaming is a fine adventure by any standards, but it's also a creation whose design conceits appear to have made its goals achievable at a high level of quality in the time frame available.

Setting

The hub of the game is the quarantine pod. Being a quarantine pod, it is sparse and isolated from the external world. Even if there was something in here to fiddle with, you couldn't reach it as you are strapped into your bunk the whole time. In fact, all you can do is talk to the other pod inhabitants or go to sleep. Those are the only actions needed in this location to drive the story forward, as it is your conversations and dreams which fill in the blanks of your predicament. Through just a handful of changeable features in the pod – different bunks being open or closed at different times, different characters being awake or asleep, a TV screen being on or off – Joey is able to convey that groggy sense of time passing in a hermetically sealed space that anyone who has flown will recognise.

The various dream locations demonstrate different levels of vividness, with temporary restrictions on the parser working perfectly to deliver an aesthetic of the intangible or incomplete; dreams with holes in them, or in which forgotten details are replaced by familiar ones. Another good trick on display is the technique of describing specific details before the broader ones, as if the memories are like close-ups that are stuck on certain things. In purely mechanical terms, the dreams are simple and linear, but their effect is entirely involving and compelling.

The transitions from dreams back to the now are also great. Details of the present begin to intrude on the dream world, and then suddenly you're back in the pod. Crucially, the return to consciousness isn't announced. All the game has to do to achieve this is not reprint the room description, resulting in the player inevitably bumping back into reality with a command that doesn't work because the location has changed. It's an incredibly simple but totally effective aesthetic trick achieved with the parser alone.

Characters

The player's character, Aliss, is as uncertain as all amnesiacs, details dropping into place in reverse order. Even then, who knows how much of what has been learned is entirely reliable?

The star is definitely Kadro. He's the first of the other inhabitants you can speak to in the pod, the most talkative one and also the least comprehensible. His Morbozzan slang creates an amusing initial wall between yourself and any solid understanding of your situation, and is highly entertaining in its own right. As soon as he starts to speak, he imparts a distinct flavour to Andromeda Dreaming.

The other most significant character, albeit a considerably less fun one, is Sen.
Spoiler: show
Until the moment she exposits like a Bond villian, she remains elusive. When she is ultimately exposed as someone not as fiendishly clever as she thought she was, it is a moment of great black humour, immediately followed by the likely vaporisation of the entire cast of the game due to her dumb mistake.

I can say that this particular moment was one of my absolute favourites in IF of recent times, but in this game it has to jostle for position with the moment in which I found myself standing over the corpse of Dr Andy Re's, he whose murder dropped a burden on the protagonist of Andromeda Awakening. I was definitely having Manchurian Candidate vibes after my dream of being programmed, but I'm already blurry on whether I deduced I was on a trajectory to be a sleeper assassin of the good doctor. I had a grim feeling of something inevitable approaching, and I loved the strength of that feeling, and often at such times in films or novels I am so interested in that sensation that I start muffling any clear answers that might be threatening to come to me.

When the moment came, I was like: "No! No! No?..Yes! Yes! YES!" – all faux orgasmic, or like Homer Simpson rocking out in his car to Grand Funk Railroad.


Implementation

The efforts of the author mean that the game is largely effortless to move through for the player. The constraints on the various locations – the sealed and spartan pod and the appropriately framed dream areas – preclude most unnecessary actions, or even the thought of them. This in turn precludes the wasting of player time or energy on unimportant features in the game. The prose cues ideas easily, repeatable actions give more than one response when appropriate, and the writing is focused, flowing and proofread.

The conversations are managed by the same quips system Joey has used effectively since his sci-fi adventure Calm. You just pick what you want to say from a numeric menu of choices, wait for a response and then choose again. Aliss mostly has hesitant queries at her disposal, and they're mostly hesitant queries that are similar to each other because they all have the same goal of trying to elicit any and all information from the other party. Thus the interest is carried by the other characters' responses.

If I may speak gauchely for a moment, it is true that the conversations can mostly be lawnmowered. IE that in most cases, you can get to hear everything that the other character might have to say so long as you don't say anything really shut-downy too soon. But it turns out that it doesn't matter in the context of this game. The sense of your involvement in the conversations, that you know so little and want to know so much, and that you might miss something if you turn the conversation the wrong way, is the force that makes the system suitable and involving. An interactive engagement is generated without frustration, and this is not a game of solving mechanical puzzles.

There is one technical weakness, though it is basically one that is Inform's fault: the minor confusion which sets in after an UNDO during a menu conversation. The previous numeric options are available again at such a moment, and while they will still be visible up in your history, they are not displayed anew. Almost every player of this game will UNDO at some point to try other conversation options, and the problem accumulates if you undo more than one turn in a row; you basically have to go counting back through menus in the history. I am aware of some ways to get around this (I used some during the duels in Six) but it remains that Inform could sport more flexible UNDO options and text buffering out-of-the-box.

Girl Andromeda Power, yeah!

It's obviously extremely satisfying the way this game precedes and coexists with the opening disaster scene of Andromeda Awakening. It's also got specific details to make fans happy (the epad, the cyanotic light) and its trajectory towards something bad happening elaborates upon the feeling of doom felt at the start of Andromeda Awakening. The punchline is both humorous and frightening.

Overall

Andromeda Dreaming is the most engaging new IF I've played this year. It makes a virtue of strong linearity by expressing its meaning through its structure. What can you do about various kinds of approaching awfulness (both personal and galactic) when you're stuck in a bunk in a space pod and your only sources of information are a slang-talking dude and involuntary bad dreams? Not much, as it turns out, and the painfulness of this particular "not much" is acutely felt. The game is funny, creepy and very affecting.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:28 am 
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ANDROMEDA DREAMING, by Joey Jones

Let's talk about expectations.

When I started this Comp I had just about one expectation: No one will submit a game. If they do it will be just one game and there will be no Comp 'cause a Comp with just one player is not really a Comp, it's dictatorship.

The Andromeda Legacy got, instead, three intents submitted before the deadline. Just a few hours before the deadline, to make sure my poor heart would crack in the waiting. During the next two months—the time I left for the authors to complete their games—one of the entrants withdrew due to health problems.
"This sucks," I thought. "Not only there's a good person in bad health but, also, I won't have my Comp running."
You may trust me that the latter was not the most important thing, in my important-things list. Still...

Time passed and, to my surprise, both the remaining competitors sent me their game in due time for judgement.

At this point, my expectations were all been blown to the wind. And transformed into something quite indescribable. I passed the first 4 hours inside the month of July playing half of Tree and Star. Then, the next morning, another 2 hours to complete it. Then I started playing Andromeda Dreaming and all of my dreams (pun not intended) came true.
The first game I played was quite good. A mess, in terms of coding, but a really interesting branch out of my sketched timeline. Quite impressive. "This is it," I thought. "This is what I wanted."

The second game just turned me to pieces.


The Setting.

Aliss, a girl strapped in a quarantine pod, is the PC of this story. Yes, it's the kind of story that goes "You are Bruce Banner, tied hands and feet to a chair." In this case, the chair is a small bit more psychedelic, but there you are.
She wakes up and realizes she is being held captive inside a sort of flying something, a zero-gravity vessel of sorts, with the sole company of an old man and two other sleeping people.

The starting sequence of this game is one of the most disorienting I had in my entire IF experience. Try and talk to the man and see what you get. Try and move. Look at yourself. Now what? >BITE LIP? It won't work. And a whole lotta of (addressed) obvious commands brings you nowhere. All of this notwithstanding, I never, for a single moment, felt like I was stuck.
There is that strange command, well hinted by the narrator, that starts all of a voyage (not exactly of the body) and then the ball starts rolling. And it is a pleasure.
Talking about the setting, this game hasn't any. There's just this confinement bay, in which you can neither sit nor stand and the rest is pure nothingness. Almost nondescript places, sequences told by the acting of some other (thin as air) character, and a lot of talking. Hell, you pass all of the game talking.

So: Not much of a setting, right?

Well, wrong.

If you have played Awakening, and have played Dreaming (uh, I thought it was a joke when I first read the title—there's is nothing less of a joke than this one, instead) you can feel it. You can feel how much the setting of this game is so goddamn complete, how it fits.

Let's make some example.
Quote:
> talk to man
You turn to the bearded man and he temporarily turns off his speakers. “So at last, the reg awakes. Stato me amato?”

[1] Uh, sorry?

“By Fat! You sure are grounded,” the man says, shaking his head in mock disbelief.

[1] My name is Aliss?

“Digital! I’m Kadro, but that’s not what I asked you, reg.”


Yes, this is how it starts. There's nothing similar in Awakening, not even the slightest resemblance. Still, there you are.

Check this:
Quote:
“Amato, that’s cold as Korh. I hope the bitsters deflagged it. Wouldn’t want to catch something I couldn’t throw back.”

[2] Why do you speak so strangely?

“Look amato, if you’re gonna get far in Morbozzo you gotta speak the right frequency, you bit?”

He looks at your look of incomprehension, and continues, “You ever even been to a sky city, reg?”

[3] Not quite...
“Monarch true, huh?”

Kadro open (sic) his palms and says, “Well, most places gots their own slang, you bit? Uh, ‘you know’? Well us age-long Morbozzans have our words for things. It’s so regs and prens don’t bit our frequency.”


You see. Although I had it in mind, I don't even know if I wrote something about the differences between who was born in Monarch and who just got there on vacation, but Joey understood that well enough to build his entire game around it.

Is it me? It's my ego that makes all of this so andromedish or can you too feel it too?
I'm not going to waste your experience by exposing more. The rest will be spoiler-tagged. You just have to play it. You have, really. Sometimes ago, when talking about reviews, I said that, sometimes, there's no better way to express one's feeling about a story than "Hell, YEAH!". This is a Hell, YEAH! kind of game.

Let's move on.


The Characters.

Aliss we don't care a lot of. Let's talk about Kadro. Kadro is the old man—the sage of this game: every entrant has one, this year!—which is awake when you start. It is quite obvious, and it will be all the time, that he's the only friend you got. Fact is: he speaks in riddles. His slang is so funny that you grow a headache sooner than Aliss, listening to him. The sole fact that Joey invented an alternate language for a short piece like this would earn him kudos everlasting. "Stato me amato?" Is that italian? It's a sort of a tribute to me? I'm blushing.
"By Fat!" That will be my exclamation from now on. "Cold as Kohr." Impressive.

The other NPCs are all quite thin, instrumental to the playthrough but not someone we want to get too much involved with. A "special" instructor, an invigilator, a… corpse (don't let me go into that!). Just there for the sake of not leaving you alone.

And then there're these other two: Sen Kulpa and… Gettare Rinors.
We will talk about the latter in a minute. About Sen, I may address the fact that her name, just a bit tweaked, is "sin culpa" that in latin I think it means "without blame, guiltless".
Spoiler: show
Which is rather amusing, given her character and the fact she is the mastermind behind every evil.
I didn't find her especially sympathetic, clever or interesting. Just a sub-par
Spoiler: show
villain
that didn't quite fulfill her character. But I want to believe this is another ace up the sleeve of Mr. Jones. (If I sound too orgasmic on this man's work, rest assured Wade is there to counterbalance my lack of wisdom.) I sense something, here, and I sensed it all the way to the ending scene:
Spoiler: show
Mrs. Kulpa is just a woman who thinks she is clever. One of those villains that does all the monologue while the Batman is breaking loose from his bonds and that in the end gets her ass kicked.

The game, ending like it does, gives strength to my belief.


The eye-candy. (I would have called this "the Implementation" but a capital I is not enough, this time).

At the very beginning of the game—but it works at any given time, eventually—try looking at the screen above your confinement pod. There is this show running. An action hero (said Gettare Rinors, a dickhead, and you may forgive the French) is doing stunts in the worse Hollywood tradition to… well, exploit everything that was dogmatic in Awakening. Getting to the Terracentral Fortress, changing the Bonds, smashing the Hyerotropes. One of the taglines of Mr. Gettare is above iconic:
Spoiler: show
Quote:
The woman asks Gettare how he could know such things, and he replies, “That’s because I am a council member!

It’s such a dumb plot twist: everyone knows that the identity of the ruling Council of the Thirteen members is always kept secret.

That would be a random LOL moment, if not for the fact that it is neither random nor LOL.
Infact: one of the main NPCs of the game reveals being a Council member before the end. And it is not an inner joke, 'cause all of the game circles this very point.

Seems like that game is making jokes of itself, right? Impressively self-confident, if you ask me.

Dreaming is short enough (as opposed to Tree and Star) to have let the author delve into the testing a lot. I think Joey is more of a veteran than Paul, but I may be mistaken. What I see is that he put the short time in his hands in quite good use.
There is almost no bug or misspelling in Dreaming and all I came in contact with is very strong and works perfectly. This is what I mean when I said that Paul, maybe, had a fish too big for such a thin net. All in all, I suppose Joey did a better job at evaluating what he was capable of doing in two months. That is nice planning ahead.

Ok, vibertron is spelled "vibertron" and not "vibrotron", like he may think. But this is just being pricky.


Conclusion.

Dreaming is the winning game of this mini-Comp. Unless Wade votes against it (and I bet he won't) we have a number one.
What is especially satisfying is that Andromeda Dreaming is a number one, not just compared to the Legacy, but to a lot—and help me say a lot—of games in the IF scene.

The gameplay is fast, neat, perfect. No bugs, no useless wandering, no bad writing, no bad taste, no purple prose, no idiotic puzzle. Just a story told so well that you forget the paper, the ink, the leather cover, and believe that all of it is true and happening.

The plot is interesting and funny, and has the incredible twist that makes a story above the worthwhile. It may not be a "No, I am you father!" moment (or a "I see dead people" one), but it sure strikes a blow. The only thing I lament (yes, I'm never satisfied) is that such a twist would have needed more acquaintance with the PC and the surroundings to be a watershed moment. A longer story. But certainly one can't say it doesn't work.

The subplots, the small bits, the small lore and all of the environment make of Dreaming a perfect hit, the sorts of which one would achieve with a piece of fiction only at Book 3.

There's a new language to be learned. It made me feel like when I was 13 and was trying to cope with the Lord of the Rings appendix.

There are at least 2 different endings (I'm quite sure, although I can't seem to be able to replicate them) which makes me uncomfortable
Spoiler: show
(do they all die or there is a way of saving them?)


There are at least three important characters added to the Andromeda young mythology. Along with the four brought in by Paul Lee's Tree and Star, we start talking spin-offs, here.

There is this sense of inevitability in the game that much reminds me of the beginning and ending sequences of Awakening (you know, the parts in which you try and save a man trapped in a wreckage and when you try and save a planet…).

There is so much in Dreaming, that I think I am... dreaming. I had my expectations, but this is ridiculous. I think I will start another Comp next year. Who knows? If it works half as good as this one…

So: is this game in the Canon? Yes. Is this game fun? Yes. Is this game well executed? Yes. Is the story compelling? Yes. Is the story awesome? Yes. Did it make me feel awesome? Hell, YEAH!

Go play the damn game. It's Hell, YEAH! worth it.

Giant Red. Or, as Kadro would say: "Cold as Kohr!".


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:33 am 
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Jamespking wrote:
Unless Wade votes against it (and I bet he won't) we have a number one.


And I concur that I have voted for Andromeda Dreaming to win!

- Wade


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:01 am 
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So, especially soon for the Comp's deadline, we are announcing the final score of

The Andromeda Legacy - Competition.

With a brilliant story, told with flavor and... some technical problem, the Second best is:

--- Tree and Star, by Paul Lee
To the author the prize of € 100,00!

And then, with a game which is running for Game of the Year (in my mind, I mean), WINS the Comp:

--- Andromeda Dreaming, by Joey Jones
To the author the prize of € 150,00!



---


Thanks all for playing—and to Wade for the extremely careful and fun judging—, you really made my day.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:39 pm 
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It was a great experience. Thank you, Marco, Wade. I've never had so much feedback on anything I've written before. I owe it to you guys to fix up my game, but it might take a while. I'm really slow.

Jamespking wrote:
There is something about Competitions I really can't cope with. The real annoyance of our time, the ultimate depressing machinarium. It is the time limit.
You know, you have to submit games in time and this deadline can spoil good games and ruin a player's experience.

I needed the deadline, or I would never have finished anything. I suppose if I'm ever going to get a game betatested/proofread before a comp deadline, the requirement will have to be that all entries must be betatested before the deadline or be disqualified. It was really rushed at the end there, but ultimately, I'm as thankful for the deadline as for everything else about the comp.

Jamespking wrote:
There's a new language to be learned. It made me feel like when I was 13 and was trying to cope with the Lord of the Rings appendix.

That's a great observation. I felt much the same when I played Andromeda Dreaming.

Congratulations, Joey!


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:32 pm 
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Congrats to everyone involved with this. Thumbs up to Marco for some serious generosity. I enjoyed both games. It'd be cool to see this sort of event more often. It's too bad about the 3rd person both for gaming reasons and for real-life reasons. Hope they're ok.

I know when I saw the idea for this competition I thought it was interesting but I had no clue what sort of game I'd write. I'm glad the 2 approached things differently and still managed to cohere with Andromeda.

The best moment for me was reading "Cyanotic" in Dreaming. The game had other good points of course but the humor was unexpected and that's how the best of it works.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:19 pm 
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Thanks Andrew. The next time, we want you aboard!

PS: Did I, by any chance, forget about YOUR game-testing? I still have this shared folder in dropbox...
Am I idiotic or what?


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