[Comp04] Paul's Reviews -- Introduction

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Hi everybody! Wow, the IF comp hits the decade mark, and I appear to
have actually written hundreds of comp game reviews at this point. Holy
cow. So these introductory posts are becoming a bit more rote, but I'd
still like to make a few points about my reviews:

I always intend these as constructive feedback rather than arrogant
sniping. If they should descend from the former into the latter, it's
because of my failings as a writer and critic, for which I apologize. I
never want anything I've written to discourage anyone from writing
again; instead, I hope that if I can point out where things went right
and where they went wrong, I can help contribute to the improvement of
the author's next game.

As I've done since I started writing reviews, I gave rankings to all the
calibrated as to 0.1 point accuracy. Of course, since I was a contestant
this year and thus only submitted Miss Congeniality votes, the point is
rather academic.

Like some IF games, my writing is in VERBOSE mode by default. So the
posts are long -- consider yourself warned! I'm running a little behind
this year, so the reviews are not yet up at my web page, but when
they're ready they'll be at http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian/IF.htm. I'm
posting the reviews in the order I wrote them (which is the order I
played the games), but on the web page they will be indexed

Once again I've held onto all the transcripts from my interactions with
the games. If any author is interested in seeing these, contact me and
I'll mail them to you. Also, be advised that I tend to make notes to
myself while playing, and I do this in a fairly unfiltered way, what
with the screaming obscenities and the fist-shaking and whatnot.

As I mentioned in another post, I plead to those of you who have not
posted reviews (or who haven't reviewed all comp games in their posts
here): write some up and send them to me for the SPAG Competition issue.
The deadline is December 5th -- contact me if you want to contribute but
need more time.

Paul O'Brian obrian@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
Your mission, should you choose to accept it: review an IF competition
game for SPAG 39. Please! Deadline for submissions is December 5th
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  1. Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

    "Paul Allen Panks" <dunric@yahoo.com> wrote in message

    > I must admit I wrote Ninja v1.30 very quickly.

    Hi, Paul,

    It could have been a lot better if you had been able to spend more time at
    it... I'm sure you realize that already. :)

    > I also wrote this Ninja to be as weird and confusing as possible.

    Maybe not the best idea. I didn't think of it as weird and confusing --
    simply frustrating. I haven't read other reviews of your game yet, but I
    suspect the comments will be similar.

    > Why? I wanted the player to
    > explore the game, even if it didn't make sense (or still had some bugs).

    I explored. :)

    >In contrast to 'HLA Adventure' and 'Westfront PC', I spent very
    > little time debugging and coding this game. However, I still wanted it
    > to be unusual enough to spark others' interest in the history of
    > shinto, ninjas and ancient japan.

    I think the point may have been buried under the implementation. In
    contract, Mingsheng had the kind of "push" that made me think more about
    martial arts and its history. In Ninja, the gameplay itself was foremost in
    my mind. I honestly overlooked most of the story, as a result. :(

    > Perhaps, even as bad as this game
    > was/is, other coders will write more ninja-themed games. There can
    > never be enough ninja-themed games, in my opinion.

    You may have a point, there. I recently played Ninja Gaiden (X-Box) and to
    some degree, share the sentiment. :)

    > There are some very unusual things implemented (at least for most of
    > my games). You can chop down a tree to cross the river, enter the
    > shrine and fight ninjas that walk out of the shadows.

    I chopped the tree, but I didn't enter the shrine.

    > The game also
    > requires the player to examine the sky, including the clouds,
    > mountains, etc. The more the player examines, the more points he/she
    > is awarded. The more points they are awarded, the greater the
    > likelihood the player will be rewarded. If the player has enough
    > points added up when the ninja appears, he/she should be able to fight
    > the ninja with a fair chance of winning. Otherwise, the ninja doesn't
    > waste any time and doesn't give the player a chance to defeat him.

    Ah, that makes more sense. I didn't really get a sense of being taken in
    that direction, though. Maybe some in-game clues as to the importance of
    these things?

    > The goal of the game is to retrieve an idol from a rival shrine. I did
    > neglect to include the 'enter' command into the verb list, but
    > fortunately, that was intentional (e.g. I wanted the player to not
    > rely so much on the supplied verb list, but to try a fer verbs until
    > the command worked; in my opinion, some of the magic of an adventure
    > game comes in trying out various verbs and finding the right
    > combination).

    The problem with giving a large verb list, but leaving one out, is that it
    discourages experimentation. Even when I was revising your source code, I
    missed that option. Maybe a shorter list of verbs, ending in "...and others"
    might have worked better.

    > The score is indeed based on examining the world, making certain
    > choices and not making incorrect ones. The ">20" is not debugging
    > code, as was suggested previously, but an indication that the player
    > is 20 (or more) points below the threshold for avoiding the ninja. If
    > the player continues to see the ">20" message, the ninja (should be)
    > more likely to engage the player in combat.

    Ah! This, I also didn't glean from the source code. It seemed to be stray
    code showing up in the game. You kind of have a paradox, though. The player
    is meant to examine the surroundings and become involved in the story, but
    an unclued status hint appears too. It brings focus back to the programming,
    as opposed to the program.

    > This game, written very quickly, does have some glaring bugs. The
    > scoring system is a bit weird: I don't know why it applies a greater
    > score than what is possible at the end (e.g. "101/9" and other
    > variations). Also, for some reason I forgot to reset the HP if the
    > player falls in combat and restarts the game (e.g. -29 HP, to the
    > ninja's 0).

    Ah, that must be what happened to me. I didn't try to figure out your
    scoring. I was simply trying to build verb and noun lists to make it more
    responsive. I came close, but ultimately gave up. :)

    > Nevertheless, I enjoyed writing a game based on a new theme (for me),
    > rather than the overused "Westfront PC" style that I've probably used
    > for 95% of my games since 1993. Color-coded inventory was nice in
    > 1993, but I am now tired of writing games based on that schema. I
    > wanted the storyline to be unique enough, but not rely so much on my
    > past games.

    Enjoying the effort is the main thing! I had a blast with mine, too, and I
    hope to improve with my next game, by avoiding the pitfalls that have
    resulted in the most complaints. I would recommend that if you want to stick
    with QuickBASIC (and I was right there with you for a long time), you
    develop a skeleton or shell that makes it easier on you in the future. You
    might even be able to work up some fancier parsing...

    > I must admit an affinity and love for late-1970's and early-1980's era
    > adventure games. I have coded all of my adventure games to be playable
    > in that vein. Long room descriptions are not usually a part of my
    > adventures (although some of my Commodore 64/128 adventures have much
    > longer descriptions than what I usually implement).

    Another paradox -- your newsgroup posts are long, your room descriptions are
    not. :)

    I liked the early games too, but looking back, I wonder how *any* of them
    were solveable (especially my own). I think we have an opportunity to do
    something more than what might have been seen at the dawn of IF. In fact,
    nostalgia only goes so far. To some extent, I'd rather play a vintage game
    than a modern game that mimics a vintage game. But that's me. :)

    > I have also played MUDs extensively, and add in MUD-like combat as a
    > twist. Most text adventures do not feature MUD-like combat, and that
    > is why I added that in (plus, I always loved playing MUDs and Dungeons
    > & Dragons).

    Me too! That might be why Magocracy had such an appeal to me. I got the feel
    from Ninja as well, but again, it was difficult to stay entertained when the
    implementation was a distraction. I think this is something that sets it
    apart, but it would have packed a bigger punch if the game had been more

    > "Ninja" has some interesting themes, but can no doubt be expanded upon
    > (and heavily improved). The game was written in QuickBASIC, rather
    > than HLA (High Level Assembly) or C. Most of my other games were
    > written in PowerBASIC's Console Compiler for Windows (e.g. "Westfront
    > PC").

    I thought you probably used GW-Basic or something (hence the line numbers).
    I just released the QuickBASIC source code to two of my games, if you're
    interested in looking over what another QB author has done. Neither will
    revolutionize IF, but what I did might interest you in your future projects.

    Breath Pirates -- http://www.sidneymerk.com/breath.shtml
    The Insanity Circle -- http://www.sidneymerk.com/lunatix.shtml

    ---- Mike.
  2. Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

    "Sidney Merk" <sid-ney-merk@hot-mail.com (remove dashes)> wrote in message
    > "Paul Allen Panks" <dunric@yahoo.com> wrote in message
    > news:f26111c2.0411160710.5cd7ef56@posting.google.com...
    > Hi, Paul,

    I can't believe I got the wrong message -- Apologies to all, and thanks to
    Katzy for letting me know.

    ---- Mike.
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