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[Comp04] Paul's reviews -- Part 4 of 6 (LONG!)

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Anonymous
November 16, 2004 11:25:07 AM

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

In the next week or two, these reviews will be posted on my IF page at
http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian/IF.htm

This post contains reviews for the following games:

THE BIG SCOOP
BLINK
MAGOCRACY
THE ORION AGENDA
MINGSHENG

=======================================================================
THE BIG SCOOP by Johan Berntsson

And so the Great Conversation System Experiments continue. The Big Scoop
has found a way to combine the open-ended ASK X ABOUT Y system with the
focus of Emily Short's topic-based systems -- the game still uses the
ASK ABOUT command diction, but there's also a TOPICS verb available,
which tells you most of the topics you can plug into the formula. As a
bonus, it also tells you what you can plug into TELL ABOUT. This system
intrigued me, but I ended up feeling a little disappointed with it. At
first, I was excited by the prospect of not having to play
hunt-the-noun, but my reaction upon seeing a list of nouns to try was
that I needed to try them all. Immersion drained quickly as an exchange
between two characters turned into an administrative task, and not a
very rewarding one at that, since the NPC generally only had a line or
two at most about any given topic. Moreover, Scoop was implemented
deeply enough that the list included most of the verbs I would have
thought of, but I never needed to try to think of them, which lessened
my engagement with the game. In a way, Scoop's system is the worst of
both worlds. It retains the cumbersome ASK ABOUT form but removes all of
the feeling of mystery and possibility that comes along with thinking of
new things to ask about; it provides Short's unwieldy TOPICS list, but
loses all her handy abbreviations and her menu options for
conversational gambits. In addition, the list sometimes shows topics
that the PC has no way of knowing about yet, which effectively
constitute plot spoilers. So in the end, I found Scoop's conversation
system to be a failed experiment, albeit a noble one.

Happily, there's better news about the rest of the game. The Big Scoop
has an engaging story that starts off with a dramatic situation that
could have come right from a Hollywood thriller. The PC awakens,
disheveled and disoriented, in a friend's apartment. Stumbling into the
kitchen, she finds her friend's dead body, and a voice on her cellphone
says that the police are on their way; she's about to be framed for
murder. It's not easy to escape from this grim situation, but when she
does, the perspective shifts: now the PC is a reporter investigating the
murder, and it becomes clear that the first scene was simply a swollen
prologue. This structure worked well for me -- the urgency of the
initial scene carried over nicely into the rest of the game, and having
played the victim of the framing, I never had any doubts that she was
innocent, which helped me buy into the reporter's quest to clear the
victim's name. In addition to a good story and an inventive structure,
Scoop also sports some wonderfully deep implementation. It provides
descriptions for most all first-level objects, and it frequently
surprised me with what verbs those objects could handle. For instance,
when the PC awakens in room with a red stain on the carpet, I tried
something a little unusual:

>smell stain
The sweet smell makes you feel sick.

The game was completely prepared for that command, and used the results
to further the prologue's ominous mood. Bravo. Finally, Scoop does some
nice work with NPC interaction. This is perhaps no surprise from the
author of The Temple, a Comp02 game whose best feature was its main NPC,
who behaved like an actual person and worked as a team with the PC. The
NPC in this game fills a similar role, and the added bonus is that since
she serves as the PC in the prologue, her character comes that much more
alive.

Sadly, there are a few things that mar the experience, the first of
which is Scoop's sometimes wobbly English. This game was apparently
simultaneously developed in Swedish, and there are some rough patches in
the translation:

>ask cop about blood
"He bleed over the whole place," the policeman says grumpily.

Like most of the English errors in Scoop, this one could be down to a
simple typo, which makes it much stronger than The Temple was, not to
mention far better than some of the translated games I've already played
in this comp. However, the accumulation of these blunders, along with
telltale missteps like calling an office break room a "breakout area,"
make the writing feel just a bit off-kilter. Similarly, though the game
has clearly been extensively tested, I still found a few bugs and
missing verbs. The worst one, unsurprisingly, involves an object that
functions as a rope -- the game has difficulty keeping track of just
where this object resides once it's been tied to one thing. Finally,
Scoop suffers from an occasional lack of clarity. The most glaring
example is in the game's climactic scene, in which something critical
happens that is never actually described, and must instead be inferred
from subsequent events. It seems clear that this lacuna isn't part of
some artistic effect, but is rather just an oversight, and quite a
severe one at that. Still, the good far outweighs the bad in this game
-- it tried something new in its conversation system, and it kept me
interested with a compelling story and canny puzzles. I enjoyed my time
with it.

Rating: 8.7


BLINK by Ian Waddell

Blink claims to have multiple paths. According to its ABOUT text, there
are "several instances throughout the game where you can quickly switch
to a different path by saying something different or doing something
else." This is simply not true, at least not as I understand and define
the idea of multiple paths. Yes, there are a couple of conversations
whose outcomes can be altered by various menu choices. However, none of
these alterations have any impact whatsoever on the story, which is
quite linear. There aren't even any points where the game offers more
than one goal at a time -- everything is very much on rails, and any
deviations from the path result in either gentle rebukes from the parser
or a little bit of scenery description. I know this, because after one
trip through the game, I went through it five more times looking for the
alleged paths, only to find myself always in the same sequence of
scenes, each of which has only one exit. Finally I ran it through TXD
and looked at all the game text, and sure enough, I'd pretty much seen
the whole thing. The experience led me to think about what we mean by
"multiple paths." In a sense, there are multiple paths through even the
tiniest IF game. Even in an Inform shell game, you can, say, SING and
then PRAY, or PRAY and then SING. Strictly speaking, these are two
different paths. However, since both of them simply result in default
parser responses, neither of which affect the game world or the PC, they
are functionally equivalent. That's the way Blink is -- sure, there are
different ways to go through it, but none of those differences are
significant. The game's story, and its ending, are identical no matter
what you do, and thus I would contend that it only has one meaningful
path.

Even that path is a short one -- Blink is a small game, and that's
another one of its problems. Not that smallness is a problem in IF per
se, of course, but Blink's main project seems to be to provoke an
emotional response in the player, and it's just too bare to provide the
necessary connection. The specifics are too spoilery, but at its base,
the game presents a PC who is confronted with the specter of loss, and
thus must reevaluate some of his past decisions. However, when we barely
know any of these characters, all they can be is unadorned archetypes,
and those aren't enough to create character identification. Plenty of
affecting stories boil down to something like "boy meets girl, boy loses
girl", but if the *actual* story is just those six words, then it's not
going to affect anyone. Of course, Blink isn't this extreme, but it's
still insufficient in the end, and consequently its methods feel
hamfisted and overbearing. Additionally, there are a few places in the
game that are hampered by awkward diction or bad coding, and in a game
this size, those problems loom large. For instance, there's a
conversation that starts with a question, and then when you try to TALK
TO the character, the parser tells you that you have nothing to say,
even as the conversation continues. An example of the diction problems
is the creek described as the "epicentre of the entire forest." Aside
from the peculiarly British spelling from what is clearly an American
PC, "epicenter" is a terminology that refers specifically to the center
of an earthquake's shock waves -- it's not just a synonym for "center."

Still, there are things to like about Blink. The implementation is
thorough, with all first-level verbs implemented carefully. The plot's
rails are constructed well -- that is, whenever the game prevents the PC
from taking a divergent path, it generally provides a pretty good
reason. The story coheres well enough, and I liked the fact that the PC
begins geriatric, and then progresses backwards through his life via
flashback. In fact, there are the seeds of an excellent game in Blink.
If it really had offered multiple paths, it could have been a compelling
presentation of difficult choices, a la Tapestry. Even if it had
remained on rails but its story and characters had been better fleshed
out, it might have made a pretty moving character study. In its current
state, though it's nicely implemented and it hangs together okay, it
feels falsely advertised, and there's just not enough meat on its bones.

Rating: 5.5


MAGOCRACY by A. Joseph Rheaume

I don't struggle with drugs, alcohol, overeating, gambling, or any of
the other myriad addictions that flesh is heir to, except one: computer
games. Specifically, computerized role-playing games, or CRPGs. Other
kinds of games, IF included, don't have this effect on me, but when it
comes to CRPGs, something in my brain just craves more, more, more. I
have to keep it in check, and when I notice myself playing to the
exclusion of anything productive, I have to stop for a while. Even two
years after buying the superhero CRPG Freedom Force, the desire to play
it still gnaws at me all the time, though of course I'm now playing a
heavily modded version, so it hasn't been the exact same thing over and
over again. In recognition of this addiction, I've steered well clear of
massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPGs. In fact,
I'm aware of the existence of an excellent superhero MMORPG (City of
Heroes) in the same way that an alcoholic is aware of an open bottle of
gin across the room. I'm not alone in my predicament -- there's a good
reason why EverQuest was quickly nicknamed EverCrack. But what is that
reason? Why do CRPGs have such a potent effect on me when things like
IF, Minesweeper, and arcade games don't? For me, I think the answer
boils down to infinite variety, gradual advancement, and creative
outlet. When an IF game is over, it's over -- some games have limited
replayability value, but for the most part, the story is the story.
CRPGs, on the other hand, introduce a sufficient number of random and
strategic elements that even within the broad outlines of a plot, I can
have a very different experience each time through the game. That
variety encourages repetition, because I never get to feel "finished."
Secondly, CRPGs allow the PC to grow in power and prestige, with more
and more options available as the game goes on, and I think this feature
taps into something deep in the wiring of my brain. Maybe it's just the
human drive to accumulate power, or maybe it's the little charge of
victory, similar to what a gambling addict feels after a win. There's
something overwhelmingly seductive about the feeling of progress,
especially when that progress is clearly marked with symbols like
"level." The feeling of "leveling up" feeds an ancient part of my
nature, which is no doubt why levels are designed into many arcade
games. Finally, unlike many other kinds of games, CRPGs offer a great
deal of creative outlet, from the makeup of your character to the way
you handle the game world's obstacles. In a CRPG with a sufficient
degree of simulationism, there can be dozens or even hundreds of ways to
address any given threat or roadblock, and it's hard (for me) to be
satisfied with trying just one, even after I'm successful. With these
three features, CRPGs have sunk their hooks into me quite deeply.

Which brings me, finally, to Magocracy. The readme for this game states
upfront that it "is not like most Interactive Fiction games," and that's
true -- it's really more CRPG than IF, and it deploys some of the
aspects of the CRPG pretty effectively. It provides quite a bit of
variety, though it's not quite infinite, and some of the typical CRPG
elements are missing. There are no randomly generated monsters, for
instance -- just predetermined monsters and adversaries who wander
randomly around the map and engage the PC in combat. However, even this
amount of randomness is sufficient to vary the experience of Magocracy
significantly from one session to the next, and the variety works in its
favor. Secondly, though the game doesn't use traditional levels, it
definitely provides powerful markers of advancement. Upon conquering an
enemy, the PC usually stands to gain better protection, increased
abilities, new attacks, and sometimes even a superpower or two. Every
time I upgraded my weapon or learned a new spell, the addict part of my
brain was panting, "yeah, yeah." As for creative outlet, that's probably
where Magocracy is weakest. Many aspects of the experience are
predetermined, including the PC's character and initial abilities, and
consequently, the game won't stand up to all that many replays. However,
there is some room for cleverness when it comes to the fighting,
particularly once the PC has gained some power.

Perhaps luckily for me, Magocracy also contains some flaws. The worst of
these is a design that sometimes drains all the fun out of the game.
There are a number of situations that put the PC into an inescapable
bind, and most of these aren't immediately obvious as dead ends.
Consequently, I was several times forced to restore back to an earlier
point, even after having achieved some key victories. The frustration of
these setbacks well outweighs the buzz of gradual advancement, and in
fact makes me want to quit playing rather than try to get all my
victories back. I would have greatly appreciated a more IF-like way to
get out of the traps through nothing but my own cleverness. Instead, I
finally had to break out the hints, only to learn that the game had
screwed me and I needed to restore. There's at least one sudden-death
ending, too, though this isn't nearly as bad since I could just UNDO. In
fact, the turn-based nature of IF and the availability of UNDO made
combat cheats too easy, though after a number of random deaths I felt a
lot more justified. There are also a number of minor bugs and mechanical
errors in the game -- nothing show-stopping, but always distracting.
Along the same lines, Magocracy sometimes fails to properly account for
some of the secondary properties of its various items and spells. For
instance, at one point I was protected with a shield of light, but when
I found myself in a dark place, I still couldn't see. Last of all, the
game doesn't seem to have a proper ending. After I gained all the
points, it printed out some denouement text and THE END, after which it
displayed "[TADS-1003: numeric value required]" and went back to the
prompt, leaving me to wander around the castle as if I'd just finished
Myst. Overall, Magocracy is a pretty fair text CRPG, and I had a good
time with it, but I don't see myself becoming addicted to it anytime
soon. Which reminds me, I was going to customize a Freedom Force mission
to pit the X-Men against the Brood...

Rating: 8.3


THE ORION AGENDA by Ryan Weisenberger

I'm greatly heartened to see how many games in this comp have done a
thorough job of implementing all first-level nouns (that is, all the
nouns found in object and room descriptions.) This sort of thing was
pretty much absent in the Infocom era, and now it's practically de
rigueur, which I think is definitely a change for the better. It's much
easier to get immersed in a world where the objects are solid and
observable rather than just a two-dimensional mirage. By that measure,
The Orion Agenda is implemented quite well. All nouns are well-covered,
sometimes to a surprising degree. For instance, the intro uses a
typically offhand-sounding SF metaphor when it says, "the fog comes
rolling over my memory like a morning on Tantus 7." Later on in the
game, you find a reference source in which you can look up further
information on Tantus 7 and its famous fogs, even though the planet
plays no other role in the game beyond that initial metaphor. I love
this kind of thing. A virtual world just feels so much more real when
such care has been put into connecting its people, places, and things,
and I'm thrilled to see that comprehensive coverage of the nouns is
turning into an IF standard. Now, it's time to move on to the next
level: verbs. Here, I'm sorry to say, TOA fares less well. Several times
throughout the game, I was stymied by actions whose concepts had only
been implemented in one way, even though there were other equally
reasonable ways to express them. For example:

>thank rebecca
[That's not a verb I recognise.]

>rebecca, thanks
"You're welcome!" she says.

This is shallow implementation. Too shallow. Even more vexing, these
problems were generally connected to puzzles, which made for problems
that were maybe not quite guess-the-verb, but at least guess-the-syntax.
The particular danger about this kind of shallowness is that when the
first construction I use gets rejected, I tend to decide that the
concept isn't useful within the game (since it apparently hasn't been
implemented, see), and my chances of solving the puzzle on my own drop
precipitously. The worst instance of this in TOA was in the climactic
scene, which calls for a particular command construction that, for
whatever reason, is counter to the standard established by Infocom.
Because I was using that old syntax, and because the game failed to
recognize that the problem was with syntax rather than with content, I
was actually typing the correct solution and was told that it was wrong.
I hate that.

These kinds of verb and syntax problems are easily remedied with a round
or two of testing and careful attention to the various ways people try
to express what they want to do, and I'm hopeful that TOA undergoes this
treatment, because the game is well worth experiencing. It's got a fun
potboiler story, though its plot twist is heavily clued and rather
predictable to begin with, so I was a little chagrined when the game
pretended that I hadn't put the pieces together until the climactic
scene. The writing is mostly strong, transparent prose, with only the
occasional gaffe drawing attention. Probably the main quibble I have
with it is that it chooses to call natives of Orion "Orionions", which
to my ear is an *exceedingly* awkward construction. "Orionese",
"Orionites", or even "Orioners" would have been much better. I also
enjoyed the flashback structure of the narrative -- it did an excellent
job of bringing a lot of emphasis and drama to the endgame. However, one
way that the structure worked at cross purposes to the game is that
there's a set of optional... not puzzles, exactly, but story enhancement
challenges. Basically, if you're particularly nice to a certain NPC, you
might get a slightly better winning ending. However, the initial scene
gave me reason to distrust that NPC, and consequently I was only as
friendly to her as seemed appropriate for the PC's professional
demeanor. When the game later upbraided me for not being nice enough, I
felt a little jerked around.

Shoot. This is turning out to be one of those reviews where I genuinely
enjoy the game, but I can't stop pointing out things that bugged me. So
let me list a couple more and then I'm done, I promise. First, I'm not
sure that it served any useful purpose to tell the story in a
first-person voice. It seems to me that there are plenty of good reasons
to break from the traditional IF convention of second-person voice, but
this game didn't have any of them. The PC was pretty conventional, with
nothing unusual about his point of view, and the game itself didn't use
the distancing effect of first-person to any interesting purpose, so in
the end it was just jarring. Secondly, some parts of the milieu seemed a
bit derivative or lazily imagined to me. For instance, the game
describes the PC's employer thus:

SciCorps: The galaxy-spanning mega-corporation that is in charge of
secretly monitoring promising new alien species that dot our corner
of the universe, all in the hopes of one day inviting them to join
the League of Sentient Systems.

So wait, I'm confused. SciCorps is a "mega-corporation," yet its
interest in alien species is not as markets, product producers, or
servicers, but rather to act on behalf of some governmental-sounding
body? So is it a corporation or an extension of some kind of galaxy
government? If it isn't seeking profit, what does the word "corporation"
even mean in this context? Maybe they're fulfilling a government
contract or something, but that's far from clear, especially when this
"first contact" stuff sounds like their main function. Another example
is the translator earpiece that somehow also translates the things you
speak as well. Even the main philosophy of SciCorps seems like a
warmed-over version of Star Trek's Prime Directive. Okay, I promised I'd
stop and now I'm stopping. Despite my litany of complaints, I had a good
time playing The Orion Agenda. Many of its problems are easily fixable,
and I really hope that the game sees a post-competition edition. I
recommend the game, but I'd recommend waiting a while for that post-comp
release first.

Rating: 8.4


MINGSHENG by Deane Saunders

Less than plot or character, Mingsheng is about a place and a mood. The
mood-setting begins before the game even starts, with the inclusion of a
nicely-formatted PDF feelie, replete with Chinese characters and martial
arts diagrams. This document explains that the game is based on a myth
about the origins of Taiji, or as I've always known it, T'ai Chi -- thus
all the Chinese martial arts stuff. I appreciated the care that was put
into this accessory, and I also liked the fact that the same information
was available in a PDF, as a text file, and within the game. It made me
grin when I realized that somebody had trumped me in the "ABOUT text in
multiple spots" department. The Chinese feel continues in the formatting
of the game, which includes the option of Unicode Chinese characters as
"flavor text". These characters appear mostly in room titles, and
apparently just repeat the room name in Chinese, so if you miss them,
all you're missing is a mood enhancer. And a lucky thing, too, because
they require a font that supports Chinese characters. The author
suggests a font called Simsun, which I don't have installed on my PC. I
would have appreciated a pointer to where I could download a compatible
font; instead, I floundered for a while, combing the unhelpful results
of googling on "simsun font" and finally giving up. The game gives the
option of transliterating the Chinese characters (complete with
numerical tone markers), but it's really not the same. Past the
meta-game stuff, the game sets a lovely tone with its room and object
descriptions. Mingsheng calls on some lovely imagery -- the tableau of
perfectly still lake and crane, the worn-down pagoda, the
six-thousand-step staircase carved into mountain rock. A particular
favorite of mine is the path flanked by animal statues, statues that are
implemented several levels deep. The game did an excellent job of making
me feel like I was wandering through an Asian painting, enmeshed within
a mythical realm.

As I said, tone is the game's emphasis, and there's not much of a story
to go along with it. A plot summary would be something like "guy solves
a bunch of puzzles and along the way attains enlightenment." Many of
those puzzles are pretty straightforward. That's not a criticism -- I'm
a fan of straightforward puzzles. Struggling too long at any particular
obstacle would likely break the mood that Mingsheng works so hard to
set. There was one puzzle, though, that annoyed me in a way I don't
remember having seen before in IF. Actually, it wasn't so much the
puzzle that bothered me as the implementation of the solution. The
conceit is that the PC must learn something by observation before being
allowed to pass a particular barrier. Several puzzles must be solved in
order to set up the situation where the PC is able to observe and learn.
However, once I'd accomplished this, I figured I'd learned what I needed
to know, and headed straight to the barrier, which was only two moves
away. However, when I tried to pass it, I couldn't. I was flummoxed,
feeling sure that I'd seen what I needed to see. However, as I wandered
around trying to figure out what I'd missed, the game kept popping up
messages every turn or two along the lines of "Now that you think of it,
you realize X." After no less than four of these messages, they finally
stopped, and when I went back to the barrier, I was able to cross it. I
found this technique irritating. Not only would an "all-at-once"
realization be a bit more dramatic, it would also be a major improvement
from a gameplay standpoint. I don't want to have to wait for the PC to
catch up with me when I figure something out, and wandering around or
typing "Z.Z.Z.Z." while I'm waiting is mighty dull. Another puzzle
quibble: there's an object that requires "a great deal of force" to be
applied to it. The solution to this puzzle is cool, and I liked it very
much. However, there's an alternate solution which the game actually
implements, but doesn't seem to want to count as enough force, when it
should be easily the match of the working solution. This alternate path
should either be included fully or not at all.

Small criticisms aside, I thought Mingsheng was well worth my time,
especially for what time it took -- the game is pretty short, and when I
finished, I felt like I hadn't actually done that much. Alongside the
brevity, though, there's something else that made it feel not quite
complete. Actually, though I rarely say this, I think this is a game
that could be greatly improved with the inclusion of some quality
graphics. Certainly some visual depictions of key locations, a la
Trading Punches, could have helped deepen the mood and setting even
further. However, the place they'd really be useful is when the game
gets to describing actual martial arts poses. For instance, after a
certain point in the game the PC gains the ability to practice stances
(which are named after elements) by typing the name of the stance, like
so:

>earth
You are not in combat at the moment, but you rehearse the stance
anyway.

You quickly get into the earth stance:

You balance your weight evenly upon both legs, both slightly bent to
keep your stance grounded. Your right hand is held out in front of
you, fingers open, palm facing directly forward. Your left hand is
also held palm open, but at your side - facing forwards at a slight
downward angle.

Now, I can carefully read through this description, act it out a little
bit, and get a pretty clear mental picture, but I have to really stop
and work at it. However, if a diagram of the stance had been included,
I'd understand it much more quickly, and the flow of the game would
continue far more smoothly. This isn't a complaint, but rather a hopeful
suggestion. Even without graphics, Mingsheng draws some lovely pictures.

Rating: 8.3


--
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
Anonymous
November 16, 2004 7:00:17 PM

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

On Tue, 16 Nov 2004 15:25:07 GMT, Paul O'Brian scrawled:

> These characters appear mostly in room titles, and
> apparently just repeat the room name in Chinese, so if you miss them,
> all you're missing is a mood enhancer. And a lucky thing, too, because
> they require a font that supports Chinese characters. The author
> suggests a font called Simsun, which I don't have installed on my PC. I
> would have appreciated a pointer to where I could download a compatible
> font; instead, I floundered for a while, combing the unhelpful results
> of googling on "simsun font" and finally giving up.

I made the (incorrect) assumption that it was one of the fonts installed
by internet explorer on windows platforms by default. Alas, that was not
to be - so I've uploaded a copy of the font to some webspace for the time
being.
Almost any chinese font should work, but the latin alphabet doesn't always
appear very readable. It's approximately 5.5mb, so it's really only worth
downloading if you're absolutely desperate to see the characters (they're
also in relevant places on the map as well).

www.btinternet.com/~myrex/simsun.zip

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.
Anonymous
November 20, 2004 8:02:41 AM

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

Rexx Magnus <trashcan@uk2.net> wrote in message news:<Xns95A3A2D48C80Erexxdeansaund@130.133.1.4>...
[simsun Chinese font]
> I made the (incorrect) assumption that it was one of the fonts installed
> by internet explorer on windows platforms by default. Alas, that was not

In general, I would recommend not relying on default Windows or IE installs
to provide much in the way of fonts. Not even all of the fonts from the
Microsoft Core Fonts for the Web initiative are consistently included (in
particular, Andale Mono is often missed out, and has to be hunted down by
the user if wanted, and I have seen Windows XP systems with IE6 that do not
have Verdana or Georgia either).

If you turned on language support for Chinese when you installed Windows,
you might have gotten fonts that aren't otherwise included, but most people
(err, most people who aren't Chinese) don't do that.

FWIW, it did not bother me that I was unable to view the Chinese characters,
since I wouldn't have been able to read them anyway, which is probably quite
typical. I can read (err, pronounce) four writing systems, but they're all
phonetic (either alphabetic or abjadic/syllabic). Transliterating into
Latin characters would have worked better for me, since then I would have
been able to pronounce the words. (At first I thought that's what the
Pinyin thing was, but then I discovered that it had numbers in it, so
apparently it was just some kind of linguist's code or whatnot for the
characters, not a phonetic rendering. This disappointed me, since I would
have liked to be able to pronounce the words. I'm an auditory thinker.
Yeah, I know not all Chinese dialects pronounce them the same way, but
picking one that's common in the area in question would be a good compromise
for that. As for ideographs, they do not convey any meaning for me -- or
for most of the English-speaking world, really.)

I did enjoy Mingsheng, though, and the story was not actively hindered by
my inability to read the placenames in Chinese, since English translations
were helpfully provided -- which was actually the more important thing.
Related resources
Anonymous
November 20, 2004 10:41:25 PM

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

> similarly based on wuxia films (those often tacky kung-fu films with
people
> flying around. Ok, Crouching Tiger and Hero aren't tacky, but they're the
> same genre.

I have been told by many Chinese people that they can't figure out why we
westerners somehow consider Crouching Tiger to be any different from other
films of that genre.

Andrew
Anonymous
November 20, 2004 11:59:04 PM

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

Here, Andrew Krywaniuk <askrywan@hotmail.com> wrote:

> Rexx Magnus wrote:
>
> > Due to some of the feedback that I had on the combat sequence
> > during beta though, it gave me an idea of a more RPG type game
> > that I am contemplating, similarly based on wuxia films (those
> > often tacky kung-fu films with people flying around. Ok, Crouching
> > Tiger and Hero aren't tacky, but they're the same genre.

Heh! I've been thinking about exactly the same thing. Not because of
Mingsheng, Ninja, or any other IFComp game -- the idea was set off by
a ratty (and probably pirated) VHS copy of an old Michelle Yeoh movie
that I got for one dollar at a book sale.

No idea if I'll actually get around to implementing it. I'm imagining
a pretty unorthodox angle to the thing; it probably doesn't even
resemble whatever you're thinking of.

> I have been told by many Chinese people that they can't figure out
> why we westerners somehow consider Crouching Tiger to be any
> different from other films of that genre.

Oh, believe me, the one I saw was tacky. Um, _Butterfly and Sword_,
1993.

The production values were laughable. Some of the extras were fighting
with what were visibly wooden rods wrapped in tin foil. Most of the
acting was amateurish, and the script seemed to veer into side
tangents of farce and back without any premeditation. The big bad guy
at the end came back as often as a schlock horror-movie alien.

(I didn't understand most of the story, but that's because the video
transfer was bad enough to fuzz out many of the subtitles.)

I'll grant that the wuxia stunts were not, of themselves, tackier than
what I saw in CTHD and Hero. Obviously lower-budget, but of the same
tradition. However, CTHD and Hero set much better *movies* in that
tradition.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.
Anonymous
November 21, 2004 3:31:28 AM

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

On Sat, 20 Nov 2004 20:59:04 GMT, Andrew Plotkin scrawled:


>
> I'll grant that the wuxia stunts were not, of themselves, tackier than
> what I saw in CTHD and Hero. Obviously lower-budget, but of the same
> tradition. However, CTHD and Hero set much better *movies* in that
> tradition.
>

Most of the translations I think, are inadvertantly funny - and the 'bad
guys' tend to have horribly camp voices. I think most chinese people
watching them aren't going to be watching them with dubbed tracks, or
reading the english subtitles, so they won't get the warping and
accidental humour.

I often think of CTHD's dubbed english version as being a masterful
example of how good dubbing can be.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.
Anonymous
November 21, 2004 7:41:42 AM

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

Rexx Magnus <trashcan@uk2.net> wrote in message news:<Xns95A78EF4C62AErexxdeansaund@130.133.1.4>...
> On Sat, 20 Nov 2004 13:02:41 GMT, Nathan Eady scrawled:
>
> The numbers are basically tonal variations.

Okay, I feel dumb now. I know perfectly well that Chinese is tonal,
but it didn't occur to me that that could explain the numbers.
So basically, if I (not having an ear for tone) ignore the numbers
from the Pinyin and use the rest of it, I'll get something vaguely
approximating the pronunciation? Cool. That makes sense now.

What I probably should have done is googled "pinyin", but I didn't want
to blow a lot of time on it, since I only had two hours to finish...

> Most languages simply convert a statement into a question by raising the
> tone at the end of the sentence, thus pronouncing the "?". Mandarin
> actually has a question particle, as different tonal variations in
> syllables give different meanings.

Hebrew has an interrogative particle also, but it is not tonal. I knew
Chinese was tonal though; I just didn't put two and two together.

But as I said, I enjoyed the game anyway.
Anonymous
November 22, 2004 11:49:30 AM

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

Nathan Eady <jonadab@bright.net> wrote:
> Okay, I feel dumb now. I know perfectly well that Chinese is tonal,
> but it didn't occur to me that that could explain the numbers.
> So basically, if I (not having an ear for tone) ignore the numbers
> from the Pinyin and use the rest of it, I'll get something vaguely
> approximating the pronunciation? Cool. That makes sense now.

Actually, entering the command >PINYIN will even give some approximation
of how the tones work, though not well enough to keep native speakers
from laughing hysterically at you.

Then again, even a couple hours in a language lab weren't enough for
that for me. So it goes.

--Michael
Anonymous
November 22, 2004 6:33:23 PM

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

Michael Chapman Martin <mcmartin@Stanford.EDU> wrote in message news:<cns96p$j2h$1@news.Stanford.EDU>...
> Actually, entering the command >PINYIN will even give some approximation
> of how the tones work, though not well enough to keep native speakers
> from laughing hysterically at you.

I'm afraid in my case that won't help; I can't hear the difference between
a rising tone and a falling tone (unless it rises or falls a *lot* -- like,
more than an octave). Okay, that's not strictly true: I can hear the
difference, in the sense that I can tell they're different; I just can't
tell which is which. (This usually comes up in the context of reading music,
as opposed to language... I can look at sheet music and tell you this is
an A and that's a C and so forth, but I can't hum the resulting tune, unless
someone else hums it first so I can hear and duplicate it.)

> Then again, even a couple hours in a language lab weren't enough for
> that for me. So it goes.

A couple of hours, in the context of learning a foreign language, is nothing.
Anonymous
November 23, 2004 12:24:59 PM

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

On Mon, 22 Nov 2004 23:33:23 GMT, Nathan Eady scrawled:

> I'm afraid in my case that won't help; I can't hear the difference
> between a rising tone and a falling tone (unless it rises or falls a
> *lot* -- like, more than an octave). Okay, that's not strictly true: I
> can hear the difference, in the sense that I can tell they're different;
> I just can't tell which is which.

Native speakers often slur their tones, or do not make them very distinct.
Just think how we often babble on in english and mash lots of words
together.

Cantonese tones are worse than mandarin though, as there are between 6 and
9 tones, half of them being level, but at different pitches - whereas the
mandarin tones have relatively distinctive differences.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.
Anonymous
November 23, 2004 8:11:38 PM

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

In article <Xns95A78EF4C62AErexxdeansaund@130.133.1.4>,
Rexx Magnus <trashcan@uk2.net> wrote:
>One excellent example of that is asking for boiled dumplings (shui3 jiao3)
>which means that your voice falls and rises back up as you pronounce each
>word. If you say shui4 jiao4 - your voice falling as you say each one, it
>means to lie down next to someone. This makes the difference between
>asking a waitress for something appropriate, and something not so! :) 

I see a great need for an adventure starring Sti Fi Me Kang. Oh, for
world enough and time.

Adam
Anonymous
November 24, 2004 12:32:21 AM

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

On Tue, 23 Nov 2004 17:11:38 GMT, Adam Thornton scrawled:

> I see a great need for an adventure starring Sti Fi Me Kang. Oh, for
> world enough and time.
>
> Adam
>

LOL

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.
Anonymous
November 28, 2004 1:05:55 PM

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

Rexx Magnus <trashcan@uk2.net> wrote:

>On Mon, 22 Nov 2004 23:33:23 GMT, Nathan Eady scrawled:
>
>> I'm afraid in my case that won't help; I can't hear the difference
>> between a rising tone and a falling tone (unless it rises or falls a
>> *lot* -- like, more than an octave). Okay, that's not strictly true: I
>> can hear the difference, in the sense that I can tell they're different;
>> I just can't tell which is which.

I have the same problem. You need to practice and practice and
practice.

>Native speakers often slur their tones, or do not make them very distinct.

There are dialectal differences. There are also cases where the
tones in words change. There are rules for this.

>Just think how we often babble on in english and mash lots of words
>together.
>
>Cantonese tones are worse than mandarin though, as there are between 6 and
>9 tones, half of them being level, but at different pitches - whereas the
>mandarin tones have relatively distinctive differences.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko

Computerese Irregular Verb Conjugation:
I have preferences.
You have biases.
He/She has prejudices.
Anonymous
November 28, 2004 1:05:57 PM

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

adam@fsf.net (Adam Thornton) wrote:

>In article <Xns95A78EF4C62AErexxdeansaund@130.133.1.4>,
>Rexx Magnus <trashcan@uk2.net> wrote:
>>One excellent example of that is asking for boiled dumplings (shui3 jiao3)
>>which means that your voice falls and rises back up as you pronounce each
>>word. If you say shui4 jiao4 - your voice falling as you say each one, it
>>means to lie down next to someone. This makes the difference between
>>asking a waitress for something appropriate, and something not so! :) 
>
>I see a great need for an adventure starring Sti Fi Me Kang. Oh, for

The first two are not valid Pinyin syllables. The fourth is
pronounced about like the "kong" in King Kong. The best I can come up
with is
si1 ti4 fei me1 kei2 ne
This is obviously too long of a name for a Chinese name. You do not
want a length problem, do you?

You would be better off selecting a name by meaning.

>world enough and time.

It would do wonders for The Undiscovered Country.

Sincerely / Zai4 jian4 (Goodbye),

Gene Wirchenko / Chen2 Jin1 Bai2

Computerese Irregular Verb Conjugation:
I have preferences.
You have biases.
He/She has prejudices.
!