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 Post subject: Introcomp impressions
PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:14 pm 
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I wanted to share my impressions of some of the Introcomp games. My goal is to get through all of the games! I'm not going to do IFDB reviews because I go back and forth on if they're effective for incomplete games.

An Unexpected Visitor

What a great concept! This cybertext game (isn't that the phrase Joey Jones uses?) uses text from Les Miserables and War of the Worlds. You, Jean Valjean, fight against the alien invaders from Mars!

This is coupled with a stats system and a navigational system, the promise of which is not fully developed. It's impossible at this stage to know if these elements will be effective or not. The additional writing communicating the exits is utilitarian but necessary.

This was a great one to start with. I would like to see this one finished.

Draw Nine

This is a mechanics-driven, slightly randomized Twine game. It reminds me a bit of the 2015 IFComp game The Duel.

The player is given 9 or so cards of 3 types: steed, serpent, and spider, representing service, death, and chaos. Gameplay consists of branching choices (basically left/right choices) and card choices in response to a situation.

This game seems as if it is definitely something that could be completed. My favorite part of this game is the descriptions for the 'spider' or chaos choices--the writing choices are imaginative.

Implements of the Arcane

This parser game looks like it has the potential to be a very rich and complex classic parser game. You have a great variety of ways to cast spells, a map that promises to be sprawling, several NPCs.

It was interesting, but I had trouble knowing if parts were unimplemented or if I just couldn't figure them out (like getting into the ruined keep).

The complex systems are interesting, something I enjoy seeing in a game. However, from personal experience, it seems that it would be difficult to completely write the game as sketched out.

Next

I'll be continuing the games in alphabetical order.

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-My IFDB name is Mathbrush, and I'm @MathBrush on Twitter.

The rough draft of my book on IF history and criticism is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/xd2isl3tk7dxt97/learning-text.pdf?dl=0


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:51 pm 
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Magnitude Operation

This Ink game has an interesting hook, but stops right before the action gets good. It's hard to know exactly what the full game would be like.

You play as what seems to be a ship captain, putting together a scrappy crew of mismatched humans, robots and aliens. Gameplay consists of moral reactions and conversation. Overall, I found the characters the most enjoyable part of the game.

Mothership

This game is packaged as a windows installer file, which, given many IF players' preference for mac/linux and for computer security, means I might be the one of very few people to play this game.

The big emphasis here seems to be on the engine. The writing in the first room is exciting and tight, while the other rooms are just sketched in (including lampshade-hanging apologies for the sketchiness of the game). The system is complex, with clickable tabs for map and images and draggable inventory, all very fancy-seeming. It lacks some of the convenience and speed of web-based engines like Twine and Ink, but gives the game more of a commercial feel.

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-My IFDB name is Mathbrush, and I'm @MathBrush on Twitter.

The rough draft of my book on IF history and criticism is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/xd2isl3tk7dxt97/learning-text.pdf?dl=0


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:58 am 
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Napier's Cache

I beta tested this game. It's a historical fantasy parser game. You, as the assistant to Napier (scientist and wizard) must gather his things for an upcoming trip.

This game doesn't necessarily give a taste of what the main story and gameplay will be like, but it gives a full dose of the historical flavor and feel. As a mathematician, I've heard of Napier before, so it was fun to get a peek into the life of an alternate historical figure.

Retrocession

This is an ambitious and fairly well-fleshed-out application game for windows, mac, and linux.

It has 5 chapters, each about 10 minutes long, each with a splash screen and a quote. The interface includes animated and interactive elements (such as an eye that tracks mouse motion) and works smoothly with few delays. Gameplay consists of clicking between binary choices and looking up things in an encyclopedia.

Engine and presentation-wise, this is the best game I've seen this comp so far and one of the best presentations I've ever seen for an IF game.

However, the gameplay itself could use a little more spice. The setting (waking up from stasis in a colony ship) has been done many, many times before, in other media, in old IFComps (Capsule II and many others) and in this very competition (Mothership).

That in itself isn't so bad; after all, it's an intriguing concept in itself, and the author comes up with some interesting new surprises (like the nature of the 'seeds').

But the choices themselves rely too much on false interactivity, where the subsequent text is the same no matter which choice you pick, and where that is clear to the player. I would enjoy it more if there were clearly some choices where there is some kind of trade-off, where the player risks not learning something because something else is more interesting, or if there were more choices that the game remembered.

I'm only putting this much feedback because the author asked for it in-game, and because this game is so close to being really good that I hope to see the author polish it even further.

_________________
-My IFDB name is Mathbrush, and I'm @MathBrush on Twitter.

The rough draft of my book on IF history and criticism is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/xd2isl3tk7dxt97/learning-text.pdf?dl=0


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:46 pm 
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Space Ferrets

This is a really funny game. You're on a budget space mission as the only human--the rest of the crew have been replaced by ferrets with a 6-word robotic vocabulary.

It's a strongly branching twine game with little polish (presence of typos; no css, images, or colors; etc.). There are several gameover options (which encourage you to go back) but many, many unfinished branches. This type of game is really hard to finish unless you prune off most of the branches. Overall, this game made me laugh more than the rest.

The Missing Ring

This Twine game has slick presentation: different colors for progression and description links, an organized sidebar with an image, styled background and other colors.

This preview is impressive, and could be trimmed down in scope to be a complete game already, or fleshed out into a hefty, full-length Twine game. I skimmed through most of the dialogue to make time for other games, but I'm definitely coming back to this.

The story is basically a love note to classic mystery authors like Doyle and Christie, both of whose works are mentioned. You are at a family gathering when an extremely expensive ring goes missing.

While the game references older authors, the writing and plot remind me more of the newer wave of mystery authors (such as Tim Myers and all his pseudonyms), with lower stakes and an emphasis on family relationships.

The Royal Mystery Shopper

This game has an intriguing premise, which is more or less spooled out in the first scene, which I recommend you try. The preview is two chapters long, with a good hint of what future gameplay is like.

I felt like my choices were very interesting in this piece. It felt like it required actual strategy (remain in the shadows or reveal yourself? etc.). It felt like my choices were tracked, which could be real or an illusion. If it's an illusion, it wouldn't be effective for a full-length game; but if it really is tracking my choices with some kind of variables or stats, this could be really good.

On my monitor, the contrast between white text and light blue background was difficult to read, especially contrasting with the black border. The sentence-by-sentence writing wasn't quite as strong as the structure and plotting, but having it tested by another tester or two or having the author look over it a couple of times could help.

Overall, this is game is among the ones I'd most like to see finished. Choices felt real, and it feels like a real, reasonable game that someone could write and actually finish.

_________________
-My IFDB name is Mathbrush, and I'm @MathBrush on Twitter.

The rough draft of my book on IF history and criticism is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/xd2isl3tk7dxt97/learning-text.pdf?dl=0


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2018 5:46 pm 
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(This post also contains my overall impressions)

The Scholar

This Unity game is harder to evaluate, as the author admittedly rushed through some of the details, and it shows.

The overall idea is that you have amnesia and are stuck in the basement of your grandmother's house. The room is implemented as a series of different sub-rooms such as 'left of ladder' and 'center of room'. Not all areas are accessible from others. To fully search the room, you must return to the center areas and explore other branches.

The game is completely choice-based and had no graphics that I found. It implements a sort of pseudo-parser by having the main links be "search..." or "look..." which link to other context-sensitive options. During flashbacks (the meat of the game), the play consists of conversation and exploration.

I found the links confusing, sometimes repeating the same options twice (like "apologize" being an option after "apologize and set down bun"), and sometimes feeling like a maze (like exiting a conversation).

The writing was presented as centered text, each sentence on a separate line. For long pieces of text, I think gathering into paragraphs might be more effective. There were numerous typos (such as placing quotation punctuation outside the quotations).

I'm not sure why Unity is needed here. The functionality could be done just as well in Twine and Ink, allowing cross-platform play and window resizing. But I could see it being useful if there were more features added.

Overall, I think I'd like to see what the author could do with this given more time to revise and test before making a judgment.

Undone

This is a minimally-styled Twine game with large pages of text, each having just a couple of options at the end. In this way, it reminds me a lot of Tia Orisney's earlier games, which I'm a fan of.

The storyline is sci-fi, with an alien attack happening on your office building. Like The Missing Ring, this is a text-heavy and substantial piece of a game, so I skimmed much of the text to see the structure. The writing seems more free-flowing and easier to read than some of the other entries, making it easier to deal with the big chunks of text. This game is a bit more edgy than the other games, but not extremely so (some profanity, mild sexual references).

The complete game idea seems to involve a time loop, which is interesting, although the literal Deus Ex Machina is a little hard to swallow.

Given the size this already has, I would recommend giving it some kind of chapter-like system to break it up into manageable chunks for the player and to give more security (it's always scary starting a twine game, realizing it's much longer than you expected, and not knowing if it will save if you quit).

Overall

Like other IF competitions, the quality of Introcomp seems to be increasing year by year. Most of the games seem to be fairly hefty, with real thought put into them, some with an extreme amount of quality. The twine games this year especially seem stronger than last year's.

For those wondering what to play, this might help:

Short games (15 minutes or less): Draw Nine, An Unexpected Visitor, Magnitude Operation, Space Ferrets, Mothership,

Medium games (15-30 minutes): Intro to Implements of the Arcane, Napier's Cache (both parser games), The Royal Mystery Shopper, Magnitude Operation,

Long games (30+ minutes): The Scholar, The Missing Ring, Retrocession 1.2

Fantasy/medieval games: Draw Nine, Intro to Implements of the Arcane, Napier's Cache, The Royal Mystery Shopper, The Scholar

Sci-fi: An Unexpected Visitor, Magnitude Operation, Mothership, Retrocession, Space Ferrets, Undone

Application/executable games: Mothership, Retrocession 0.1.2, The Scholar

Twine-style games: An Unexpected Visitor, Draw Nine, Magnitude Operation, Space Ferrets, The Missing Ring, The Royal Mystery Shopper, Undone

Parser games: Intro to Implements of the Arcane, Napier's Cache.

_________________
-My IFDB name is Mathbrush, and I'm @MathBrush on Twitter.

The rough draft of my book on IF history and criticism is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/xd2isl3tk7dxt97/learning-text.pdf?dl=0


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