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[GOTW} Return to Ditch Day

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June 1, 2005 4:02:16 PM

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

Have we lost interest in the GOTW concept already? Discussion on The
Fire Tower was pretty good. All Hope Abandon dwindled a bit, but was
still of some interest. But no comments at all yet on Return to Ditch
Day, by Mike Roberts.

Personally, I thought it was a very solid game and certainly a good
advertisement for TADS 3. But I didn't enjoy the collegiate setting
very much or the by now well-worn story of CalTech atudents and their
ditch day "stacks." (While I like the concept, I first heard about it
back in the late 70s when I was an undergrad at another small SoCal
college.) Since Ditch Day Drifter covered the whole idea pretty
thoroughly, I didn't really enjoy the reprise all that much.

Nevertheless, there are some good puzzles and the game has excellent
hints. It's certainly worth playing if you're thinking about using TAD
3 or if you are into collegiate geekfests. It probably takes 6-8 hours
to complete the game, depending on your skill level and how much you
rely on the hints.

Since I was not a huge fan of the game, I don't feel like nitpicking it
with a full review, but I'll respond to comments or reviews by others,
if posted. I like the GOTW idea -- I hope others out there are still
motivated about it.

PJ

More about : gotw return ditch day

Anonymous
June 1, 2005 5:09:13 PM

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

PJ wrote:
> Have we lost interest in the GOTW concept already? Discussion on The
> Fire Tower was pretty good. All Hope Abandon dwindled a bit, but was
> still of some interest. But no comments at all yet on Return to Ditch
> Day, by Mike Roberts.
>

I think Game of the Week might be a bit much. Game of the Month maybe?
After all, The Fire Tower discussion is still going on which is
probably overshadowing the other games.
June 1, 2005 5:42:38 PM

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

Mike Snyder wrote:
> "PJ" <pete_jasper@hotmail.com> wrote in message
> news:1117651798.669689.274060@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
>
> > Have we lost interest in the GOTW concept already? Discussion on The
> > Fire Tower was pretty good. All Hope Abandon dwindled a bit, but was
> > still of some interest. But no comments at all yet on Return to Ditch
> > Day, by Mike Roberts.
>
> I wrote a review for Greg B's 2004 non-comp review project. I could probably
> post it here, if anybody missed it then.
>
> --- Mike.

I think that would be a good conversation starter. I know Em Short did
one for IF Review as well. Hopefully, people are actually playing the
game and will chime in shortly, but a review is always a good way to
get a thread going, os if Greg won't snarl at you, then I think it
would be appropriate.

PJ
Related resources
June 1, 2005 6:07:16 PM

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

dwhyld@gmail.com wrote:
> PJ wrote:
> > Have we lost interest in the GOTW concept already? Discussion on The
> > Fire Tower was pretty good. All Hope Abandon dwindled a bit, but was
> > still of some interest. But no comments at all yet on Return to Ditch
> > Day, by Mike Roberts.
> >
>
> I think Game of the Week might be a bit much. Game of the Month maybe?
> After all, The Fire Tower discussion is still going on which is
> probably overshadowing the other games.

Possibly. I think Fredrik's concept was based on the idea that there
are *lots* of games out there that don't really get there time in the
sun. And that, maybe, a typical thread lasts about a week and then the
posts dry up. Whatever the real life cycle of the discussion, he's got
it set up as a game of the week, with a lot of vacation time built into
the summer schedule. So if we are following his model, this *is* the
week to discuss RTDD, or at least to start it. I am always willing to
throw in my two cents. I just hope others are as well.

PJ
Anonymous
June 1, 2005 7:02:12 PM

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

"PJ" <pete_jasper@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:1117651798.669689.274060@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

> Have we lost interest in the GOTW concept already? Discussion on The
> Fire Tower was pretty good. All Hope Abandon dwindled a bit, but was
> still of some interest. But no comments at all yet on Return to Ditch
> Day, by Mike Roberts.

I wrote a review for Greg B's 2004 non-comp review project. I could probably
post it here, if anybody missed it then.

--- Mike.
Anonymous
June 2, 2005 2:42:38 AM

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

This was originally posted in the Non-Comp Review Project 2004. I was
sticking to Greg's request of a 750-word limit, so it doesn't ramble as much
as my typical review. :) 

Day 1 -- Introduction -- (played: 1 hour 30 minutes)

In this sequel to "Ditch Day Drifter," about ten years have passed since
Doug Mittling graduated from Caltech University. Now in a middle-management
position for a technology developer, you (as Doug) have tinkered with your
company's new super-computer for six weeks in a generic south-Asian
hell-hole. For the sake of a successful demo, and with a potential sale
riding on it, your immediate goal is to fix the machine.

This leads to a follow-the-leader bit, full of even more detail. A focused
player could heed the prompts and finish the intro without delay. Still, I
wanted to look around, experiment, and see as much of the extra content as
possible. Even a quick trip across an unsafe suspended bridge was full of
optional detail. On a whim, I asked my guide about the bridge, as we went
along. The responses were well-considered and fitting -- but something I
might have missed entirely if I had rushed to the finish.

Even more striking than the detail in the introduction to "Return to Ditch
Day" is the action-oriented nature of the text. After the slow start, the
pace quickens. Although more puzzles are yet to come, the action keeps
moving. It feels like an adventure -- not just a series of text
descriptions -- because the writing succeeds so well. The introduction ends
in an encounter with a representative from a rival company; an encounter
that certainly begs for eventual vindication.

Day 2 -- Exploring Caltech (played: 2 hours)

Flash forward to Doug's next assignment. You arrive at Caltech, your Alma
Mater, to recruit a brilliant engineering student. As it happens, the
appointment is set on the yearly "ditch day" -- a time when many seniors
skip their classes and guard their dorm room doors with creative puzzles
(called "stacks") as a challenge for the underclassmen. To complicate
things, the same egotistical, condescending rep from a rival company arrives
in an attempt to recruit the same senior. Knowing this, the student has left
a note for you both: he will accept a job with either company, based upon
whichever of you can solve his ditch day stack.

For two hours, I did little but explore. An in-game map provides a
location-to-location look-up feature. It continues to prompt toward the
right route along the way. This is slick, but it felt more like a TADS-3
showcase feature than a useful tool. Where it's needed most -- the alleys to
student residences and maybe the underground tunnels -- the map isn't
available.

With a large area to explore -- almost all of it accessible after accepting
the challenge -- the game began to feel overwhelming. Instead of directing
myself to the goal at hand, I roamed the campus aimlessly. After referring
to hints at least twice in the introduction, I was determined to solve the
remainder of the game without them. In two hours, I didn't accomplish much.
I ended the session with a working sketch of the game's map, and a general
idea of the game's complexity.

Day 3 -- Solving the Stack (played: 4 hours 30 minutes)

The game isn't as hard as it seems. I didn't know that until making
extensive use of the hints (yeah, yeah, so much for a no-hints win). Only
Stamer's stack is important. The conspiracy sub-plot is optional (although I
completed some of it -- I ended the game with a score of 125 from a possible
150). Several times, I had to read the scrollback text for information I
missed. With so much detail, it wasn't easy to pick out the important parts.

The detail, though, is where "Return to Ditch Day" succeeds the most.
Rushing through the game would have been a mistake. I found a few small
bugs, but for a game with so much to do and see, the level of polish is
amazing. It's a fun romp with clever puzzles and an entertaining story. The
puzzles support the story, and vice-versa. It all blends together very well.
It was easier to think of this as a full-sized effort than a TADS-3 demo
game.

For the past five years, I took a long break from Interactive Fiction. In
October, I played thirty-seven IF-Comp games, followed by six even shorter
C32-Comp games. This slant towards shorter games could be responsible for
the difficulty I had in solving this one. In the end, I'm glad I played.
It's fun, well-written, and well worth the time.
Anonymous
June 2, 2005 2:49:46 AM

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

PJ wrote:
> Personally, I thought it was a very solid game and certainly a good
> advertisement for TADS 3. But I didn't enjoy the collegiate setting
> very much or the by now well-worn story of CalTech atudents and their
> ditch day "stacks." (While I like the concept, I first heard about it
> back in the late 70s when I was an undergrad at another small SoCal
> college.) Since Ditch Day Drifter covered the whole idea pretty
> thoroughly, I didn't really enjoy the reprise all that much.
>

I can agree with all of that (well, except the part about hearing about
it in the 70s at a SoCal college -- I first encountered a similar
tradition in my north Texas high school), but there is a bit more to
say, I think.

Although RTDD is very much the same basic concept as DDD, the real
difference is in the implementation and design focus. DDD was designed
according to late 80s Infocom-style conventions; it has hunger puzzles,
an irritating robot that follows you around, a wierd underground area
including numerous elements that would be very odd indeed to find on a
real college campus, and no particular identity or motivation for the
protagonist. RTDD is designed according to modern principles; no hunger
puzzles, a decent attempt to replicate reality (albeit a slightly
futuristic one), and a strongly characterized protagonist with a real
motivation for solving the stack. Both games cover mostly the same
geography, but the portrayal in RTDD is much richer and more vivid,
rather than DDD's plethora of blank rooms that seem to have no further
purpose than to supply inventory items. DDD and RTDD are kind of like
Cloak of Darkness, only instead of contrasting devkits they contrast
design paradigms and highlight the differences between modern and
classical IF.

--
Ryukage
Anonymous
June 2, 2005 7:51:26 AM

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

"PJ" <pete_jasper@hotmail.com> wrote in message news:<1117651798.669689.274060@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>...
> Have we lost interest in the GOTW concept already? Discussion on The
> Fire Tower was pretty good. All Hope Abandon dwindled a bit, but was
> still of some interest. But no comments at all yet on Return to Ditch
> Day, by Mike Roberts.
>
> Personally, I thought it was a very solid game and certainly a good
> advertisement for TADS 3. But I didn't enjoy the collegiate setting
> very much or the by now well-worn story of CalTech atudents and their
> ditch day "stacks." (While I like the concept, I first heard about it
> back in the late 70s when I was an undergrad at another small SoCal
> college.) Since Ditch Day Drifter covered the whole idea pretty
> thoroughly, I didn't really enjoy the reprise all that much.
>
> Nevertheless, there are some good puzzles and the game has excellent
> hints. It's certainly worth playing if you're thinking about using TAD
> 3 or if you are into collegiate geekfests. It probably takes 6-8 hours
> to complete the game, depending on your skill level and how much you
> rely on the hints.
>
> Since I was not a huge fan of the game, I don't feel like nitpicking it
> with a full review, but I'll respond to comments or reviews by others,
> if posted. I like the GOTW idea -- I hope others out there are still
> motivated about it.
>
> PJ


Don't be shy, Pee. We all love your reviews. They are funnier than the
Sunday Comics.
Anonymous
June 2, 2005 8:07:32 AM

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

Let's try one game a week for the duration of the current schedule.
After that, we can see how well it's worked and if it's time to switch
to one game every two weeks or something like that. With all the
vacation thrown into the schedule, there's plenty of time to play the
games anyway.

I intended to start the discussion of both AHA and RTDD, but have
become too tangled up in work to accomplish that. I'm glad to see that
the discussion gets going anyway. I hope many people are playing RTDD
this week and that the discussion will be just as lively as for AHA,
even if it started later.

BR,

Fredrik
June 2, 2005 9:47:42 AM

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

Damian Dollahite wrote:

> DDD and RTDD are kind of like
> Cloak of Darkness, only instead of contrasting devkits they contrast
> design paradigms and highlight the differences between modern and
> classical IF.

You said it better than I did. I think the fact that they are
different design concepts also has a lot to do with the evolution from
TADS2 to TADS3. Since one of Mike's aims is for this to be a
demonstration game for TADS3, I'd say he succeeded in showing how TADS3
can be used for making a "modern" IF game.

PJ
June 2, 2005 10:02:34 AM

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

Mike Snyder wrote:

> Even a quick trip across an unsafe suspended bridge was full of
> optional detail.

I did like the level of detail in the game. Very solid on that front.

> Although more puzzles are yet to come, the action keeps
> moving. It feels like an adventure -- not just a series of text
> descriptions -- because the writing succeeds so well...

I guess I would differ with you on this point. The writing was
competent, if you mean that the sentences were constructed properly and
were actually walking you through a story. But for me, the writing
didn't inspire either (a) the humor Mike seemed to be seeking or (b)
the sense of adventure you are describing. Maybe I've been doing with
more real-world variants of this situation for too long, but the quest
to recruit the smug undergrad seemed more like a nightmare than an
adventure.

> For two hours, I did little but explore. An in-game map provides a
> location-to-location look-up feature. It continues to prompt toward the
> right route along the way. This is slick, but it felt more like a TADS-3
> showcase feature than a useful tool. Where it's needed most -- the alleys to
> student residences and maybe the underground tunnels -- the map isn't
> available.

I liked the showcasing of the feature, but in general, tools like this
are a nice to have rather than a need to have. Then when you do need
them, they're not always available.

> The game isn't as hard as it seems. I didn't know that until making
> extensive use of the hints (yeah, yeah, so much for a no-hints win).

I thought the hints were well done.

> The detail, though, is where "Return to Ditch Day" succeeds the most.
> Rushing through the game would have been a mistake. I found a few small
> bugs, but for a game with so much to do and see, the level of polish is
> amazing. It's a fun romp with clever puzzles and an entertaining story. The
> puzzles support the story, and vice-versa. It all blends together very well.
> It was easier to think of this as a full-sized effort than a TADS-3 demo
> game.

Yes. For me, the game wasn't as fun, but that perhaps was more to do
with personal preferences and a somewhat jaded attitude towards
collageiate puzzling than any flaws in the game itself. Overall, the
game is solid, and if it fits your tastes, could be very entertaining.

PJ
Anonymous
June 2, 2005 1:39:08 PM

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

"PJ" <pete_jasper@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:1117717354.034862.50300@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com...

>> Although more puzzles are yet to come, the action keeps
>> moving. It feels like an adventure -- not just a series of text
>> descriptions -- because the writing succeeds so well...

> I guess I would differ with you on this point. The writing was
> competent, if you mean that the sentences were constructed properly and
> were actually walking you through a story. But for me, the writing
> didn't inspire either (a) the humor Mike seemed to be seeking or (b)
> the sense of adventure you are describing. Maybe I've been doing with
> more real-world variants of this situation for too long, but the quest
> to recruit the smug undergrad seemed more like a nightmare than an
> adventure.

I played and wrote the review about six months ago, so I don't remember
specifics. But I do remember getting very involved in the introduction bit.
Once it got moving, it seemed less like reading and more like participating
in the game. I really liked that. I remember the action being quick-paced.
That's the introduction part.

Once it opened up at Caltech, I did get a little lost and confused.
That's why......

>> ......For two hours, I did little but explore. An in-game map provides a
>> location-to-location look-up feature. It continues to prompt toward the

>> The game isn't as hard as it seems. I didn't know that until making
>> extensive use of the hints (yeah, yeah, so much for a no-hints win).
>
> I thought the hints were well done.

Me too. I just have a better sense of accomplishment when I win without the
hints. :)  Once I start looking at the hints, it's hard to resist every time
I'm even a little stuck.

>> It was easier to think of this as a full-sized effort than a TADS-3 demo
>> game.
>
> Yes. For me, the game wasn't as fun, but that perhaps was more to do
> with personal preferences and a somewhat jaded attitude towards
> collageiate puzzling than any flaws in the game itself. Overall, the
> game is solid, and if it fits your tastes, could be very entertaining.

I didn't really compare the setting to any other games. I prefer sci-fi,
personally. The quantum machine may have been a hint at that, but it seemed
more like high-tech gadgetry than science fiction. I wish I had played more
recently. I'd probably have a lot more to add to the discussion!

--- Mike.
Anonymous
June 3, 2005 6:19:40 AM

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

In article <1117710451.929771.83360@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com>,
Fredrik Ramsberg <f.r@mail.com> wrote:
>Let's try one game a week for the duration of the current schedule.
>After that, we can see how well it's worked and if it's time to switch
>to one game every two weeks or something like that.

I meant to play the GOTW last week so I'd be ready for the discussion, but
real life intervened. I was only able to play it today, and only for about an
hour, which just got me through the introduction.

It might help in planning a bit if someone who has already played could lets
us know roughly how long the game takes. Then I'd have known I couldn't
manage it this week. In better weeks it would let people like me plan when to
start playing.
--
"Yo' ideas need to be thinked befo' they are say'd" - Ian Lamb, age 3.5
http://www.cs.queensu.ca/~dalamb/ qucis->cs to reply (it's a long story...)
Anonymous
June 3, 2005 6:26:46 AM

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

In article <lcvne.12753$Ri4.415@okepread07>,
Mike Snyder <wyndo@prowler-pro.com> wrote:
>Day 1 -- Introduction -- (played: 1 hour 30 minutes)
>...
>... A focused
>player could heed the prompts and finish the intro without delay.

I took about an hour, to the start of the on-campus segment, but likely didn't
explore the environment as much as you did. I'll probably play out the rest
over the next week.

For the most part I found the game enjoyable and the writing interesting. My
one trouble in the short bit I managed to finish was the get-off-the-elevator
puzzle. I needed to get to step 7/8 on the hints; I would never in a
gazillion years have guessed the right tool to open the lock, because from the
description it seemed far too big. Of course I'm a newbie, so probably
haven't properly absorbed the "try everything" meme.
--
"Yo' ideas need to be thinked befo' they are say'd" - Ian Lamb, age 3.5
http://www.cs.queensu.ca/~dalamb/ qucis->cs to reply (it's a long story...)
Anonymous
June 3, 2005 3:31:05 PM

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

David Alex Lamb wrote:

> My one trouble in the short bit I managed to finish was the
> get-off-the-elevator puzzle. I needed to get to step 7/8 on the hints;
> I would never in a gazillion years have guessed the right tool to open
> the lock, because from the description it seemed far too big.

s

p

o

i

l

e

r

s

Interestingly enough, "PUT ALL IN SLOT" automatically solves this
puzzle, by trying each of the available objects one by one. I didn't
even know the 'metal plate' was there to being with. Try it :-)
Anonymous
June 4, 2005 4:16:04 AM

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

"Greg Welty" <gwelty@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1117823465.674430.325530@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
> David Alex Lamb wrote:
>
>> My one trouble in the short bit I managed to finish was the
>> get-off-the-elevator puzzle. I needed to get to step 7/8 on the hints;
>> I would never in a gazillion years have guessed the right tool to open
>> the lock, because from the description it seemed far too big.
>
> s
>
> p
>
> o
>
> i
>
> l
>
> e
>
> r
>
> s
>
> Interestingly enough, "PUT ALL IN SLOT" automatically solves this
> puzzle, by trying each of the available objects one by one. I didn't
> even know the 'metal plate' was there to being with. Try it :-)

Interesting solution - that might be a case where it'd be worth disallowing
ALL ("only one thing will fit in the slot at a time," maybe). Out of
curiosity, did you try ALL because you'd run out of other things to try, or
is that just the first thing you thought of?

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com
Anonymous
June 4, 2005 3:05:50 PM

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

"Mike Snyder" <wyndo@prowler-pro.com> wrote in message
news:lcvne.12753$Ri4.415@okepread07...
> This was originally posted in the Non-Comp Review Project 2004. I
> was
> sticking to Greg's request of a 750-word limit, so it doesn't
> ramble as much
> as my typical review. :) 

I was planning to post a few remarks on RTDD but didn't want to
attempt a full review (a) because of time constraints (in particular
I've not had time to play the game recently all the way through),
and (b) because I helped beta-test the game, which would make going
on to review it a bit odd.

In the main I think the review you've posted here gives a pretty
good impression of the game, so I'll just comment on a couple of the
points.


> Day 1 -- Introduction -- (played: 1 hour 30 minutes)
>
> In this sequel to "Ditch Day Drifter," about ten years have passed
> since
> Doug Mittling graduated from Caltech University. Now in a
> middle-management

> For two hours, I did little but explore. An in-game map provides a
> location-to-location look-up feature. It continues to prompt
> toward the
> right route along the way. This is slick, but it felt more like a
> TADS-3
> showcase feature than a useful tool. Where it's needed most -- the
> alleys to
> student residences and maybe the underground tunnels -- the map
> isn't available.

Well, it's quite realistic that it wouldn't be available, though,
isn't it? A campus map would show where buildings were in relation
to one another, but it would hardly map their interiors, let alone
the underground tunnel system, into which visitors would not be
expected to wander, so I think the restrictions on the use of the
map are fair enough. It's also fair enough from a game-play point of
view to give players some areas to explore without the aid of a map.
I found the map was a help in getting round the campus, and I
thought it was nicely implemented.

> The detail, though, is where "Return to Ditch Day" succeeds the
> most.
> Rushing through the game would have been a mistake. I found a few
> small
> bugs, but for a game with so much to do and see, the level of
> polish is
> amazing. It's a fun romp with clever puzzles and an entertaining
> story. The
> puzzles support the story, and vice-versa. It all blends together
> very well.
> It was easier to think of this as a full-sized effort than a
> TADS-3 demo game.

I think Mike Roberts in fact intended it as both; at least if it
started life as a TADS 3 demo game it seems to have grown into
something rather more.

I also agree that the puzzles fit the story well. It occurs to me,
though, that there's an overarching narrative generated by the game
that may or may not be what Mike intended, for it may be an
unintended consequence of his style of humour. To put in
grandiosely, one might almost call this overarching narrative "the
redemption of Doug Mittling"; it's partly implied by the "Return" in
"Return to Ditch Day".

One thing that struck me about the game is that the most pleasant
NPCs in the game were the CalTech students. Although he doesn't
appear as an NPC in the game, the protagonist's boss comes over as a
thoroughly unpleasant example of macho management. Belker, the rival
rep, also comes over as someone we're meant to dislike. There seems
to be little to choose between the two corporations, except that
Belker's is more efficient: both are soulless and dehumanizing
organizations to work for, and it becomes apparent in the
protagonist's lunch-time chat with his new student friends that this
is how he feels about it. Xojo perhaps tries to be helpful, but he's
subservient rather than friendly, and his bumbling attempts to be
helpful don't turn out to be all that helpful; he's more like a
client in search of a patron than a potential friend. Moreover, the
government organization he works for is also portrayed as ruthlessly
hierarchical and unpleasant, and the colonel in charge does the dirt
on the protagonist by signing a contract with his rival just when
the protagonist has just managed to get his company's device to work
after months of effort. The view of large corporations as soulless,
dehumanizing and amoral is further reinforced by the recruitment
leaflets on display in the student careers office.

In contrast, the staff at the protagonist's alma mater, although
very minor NPCs, all tend to treat the protagonist with respect (the
networking contractors being a possible exception, but they can be
seen as representatives of the nastier corporate world). The
students in the main are friendly, courteous, helpful and fun, the
most fully alive characters in the game. It is through some of the
students that he gets to know that the protagonist is finely offered
salvation from his deadly corporate career.

This message is reinforced by the way science and technology are
characterised in the game. The protagonist starts the game by having
to wrestle with shoddy technology supplied by his company, and he's
outmanoeuvred in part by the superior technology supplied by his
rival; in this corporate world technology functions as a kind of
weapon of industrial warfare, a message reinforced by the defence
company's brochure in the student career office - a triumph of
satirical writing, btw, but also a clear statement of the
prostitution of science and technology. Elsewhere on the CalTech
campus, and particularly in relation to the stack the protagonist
has to solve, science and technology become cutting edge and
exciting once more. The device the protagonist uses to hone his
refreshed electronic engineering skills on may be a humble gaming
machine, but at least that's an example of technology used for fun,
rather than technology-as-chore which one senses is how the
protagonist is starting to feel about his job. Furthermore, it's
notable that CalTech is where the protagonist takes the opportunity
to refresh his memory of the kind of science and engineering skills
that presumably caught his imagination as a student.

So Doug Mittling returns to more that Ditch Day; he returns to his
intellectual and imaginative roots, and in so doing is given a
chance to rediscover himself and break out in a new direction,
foregoing corporate security for something riskier and more exciting
that may nevertheless mark a kind of passage from death to life for
him. On that reading, the campus setting is more than a convenient
set of locations for puzzles relating to stacks, it's an essential
part of the plot.

As I said, I may be reading more into the game than Mike intended.
For one thing, reading texts theologically is (part of) what I do
for a living, so I may be too quick to use the language of
redemption here. Secondly, I may be projecting too much of my own
autobiography onto this game (I returned to academia in mid-life
with several of the feelings I'm attributing to the protagonist).
Nevertheless, I thought it was a perspective on the game that might
be worth contributing to the discussion.

-- Eric
Anonymous
June 4, 2005 3:11:06 PM

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

"Mike Roberts" <mjr_@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:8p6oe.1751$IE7.1459@newssvr21.news.prodigy.com...
> "Greg Welty" <gwelty@gmail.com> wrote in message
> news:1117823465.674430.325530@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
>> David Alex Lamb wrote:
>>
>>> My one trouble in the short bit I managed to finish was the
>>> get-off-the-elevator puzzle. I needed to get to step 7/8 on the
>>> hints;
>>> I would never in a gazillion years have guessed the right tool
>>> to open
>>> the lock, because from the description it seemed far too big.
>>
>> s
>>
>> p
>>
>> o
>>
>> i
>>
>> l
>>
>> e
>>
>> r
>>
>> s
>>
>> Interestingly enough, "PUT ALL IN SLOT" automatically solves this
>> puzzle, by trying each of the available objects one by one. I
>> didn't
>> even know the 'metal plate' was there to being with. Try it :-)
>
> Interesting solution - that might be a case where it'd be worth
> disallowing ALL ("only one thing will fit in the slot at a time,"
> maybe).

It strikes me as a good example of why I'm reluctant to allow ALL
only for basic inventory-handling verbs. Of course you may not want
to do that for RTDD, but it would at least then handle ALL more
consistently and also deal with any other examples of this kind
(though I can't think of any at the moment) that might otherwise
slip through the net. Still, I can see that the balance between
player convenience and the desired level of puzzle difficulty may be
a tricky one to strike here, and that tastes may differ where to
strike it.

-- Eric
Anonymous
June 4, 2005 11:52:41 PM

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

"Eric Eve" <eric.eve@NOSPAMhmc.ox.ac.uk> wrote:
> "Mike Snyder" <wyndo@prowler-pro.com> wrote:
>> Where [the campus map is] needed most -- the alleys to
>> student residences and maybe the underground tunnels --
>> the map isn't available.
>
> Well, it's quite realistic that it wouldn't be available, though,
> isn't it? A campus map would show where buildings were in relation to one
> another, but it would hardly map their interiors, let alone the
> underground tunnel system, into which visitors would not be expected to
> wander, so I think the restrictions on the use of the map are fair enough.
> It's also fair enough from a game-play point of view to give players some
> areas to explore without the aid of a map.

That was pretty much my thinking. The PC had been a student there, so he'd
know the basic layout of the campus; I wanted a way to let the player in on
this PC knowledge, but I wanted an in-game way of doing it rather than just
narration ("You recall Bridge as being west, north, west, west, south from
here"). I also considered a GO TO command, but I just don't like those
aesthetically; I don't like the inconsistency they create in the command
granularity. I came up with the map as a physical proxy for the PC
knowledge.

At the same time, I didn't want to eliminate all exploration, since that's
one of the more enjoyable parts of IF for me, so I knew I'd have to leave
*something* off the map. I figured that building interiors would be a good
place to draw the line. That seemed reasonable in terms of PC knowledge -
the PC hadn't been on campus for years, so he probably wouldn't remember
every building's layout, and certainly not every sub-basement and steam
tunnel. And as it turns out, the actual Caltech campus map that they give
to visitors has exactly that level of detail, so it was a natural fit for
the physical prop.

> It occurs to me, though, that there's an overarching narrative generated
> by the game that may or may not be what Mike intended, for it may be an
> unintended consequence of his style of humour. To put in grandiosely, one
> might almost call this overarching narrative "the redemption of Doug
> Mittling"; it's partly implied by the "Return" in "Return to Ditch Day".

At the risk of spoiling the effect by saying so, that was pretty much the
narrative I was aiming for. I'm glad it came through, and even more that it
wasn't so heavy-handed as to remove all doubt :) . I've been interested for
some time in how to do character arcs in IF, and that was really my main
focus with the game. It seems like most character development in
interactive media follows the RPG model - the character develops through
accumulation of external markers, like wealth or weaponry or experience
points, so the arc is basically from less powerful to more powerful in terms
of the game's primary process (usually combat). That's a tried-and-true
model at this point but it seems limiting; I wanted to do something that was
more of an internal change in the character. I tried to use the gradual
progress on the stack to represent the PC's accumulation of skills and
self-confidence, and the setting and events as a contrast to the PC's
ordinary life. I don't know; maybe the stack progress is just a minor twist
on the standard external marker approach.

Your analysis of the game's depiction of the dehumanized high-tech corporate
world is very interesting. I think a lot of this was more subconscious on
my part than intentional, but your analysis seems spot-on. The one thing
I'd add is that, at the time, I didn't think I was trying so much to say
that the high-tech corporate world is so awful, more that the PC was sort of
falsely seeing himself as stuck in this particularly bad part of it. But
now that you point it out, the game isn't entirely charitable to the
industry in general; there isn't a good big company anywhere to be seen.
And I do have a hard time imagining how I could bring myself to add a
brochure to the career center that was all goodness and light.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com
Anonymous
June 5, 2005 6:35:24 AM

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

Mike Roberts wrote:

> At the risk of spoiling the effect by saying so, that was pretty much the
> narrative I was aiming for. I'm glad it came through, and even more that it
> wasn't so heavy-handed as to remove all doubt :) . I've been interested for
> some time in how to do character arcs in IF, and that was really my main
> focus with the game. It seems like most character development in
> interactive media follows the RPG model - the character develops through
> accumulation of external markers, like wealth or weaponry or experience
> points, so the arc is basically from less powerful to more powerful in terms
> of the game's primary process (usually combat). That's a tried-and-true
> model at this point but it seems limiting; I wanted to do something that was
> more of an internal change in the character. I tried to use the gradual
> progress on the stack to represent the PC's accumulation of skills and
> self-confidence, and the setting and events as a contrast to the PC's
> ordinary life. I don't know; maybe the stack progress is just a minor twist
> on the standard external marker approach.
>

Hmm, that's an interesting statement, because as an avid RPG player (the
console variety anyway), accumulation of wealth, weapons, and Exp is not
really what I associate the term "RPG character development" with. Most
of the modern RPGs I play focus on character and story, the accumulation
of powers and weaponry is kind of tacked on just to provide combat
dynamics, and is starting to feel like a throwback legacy feature. In
fact, many RPGs are beginning to phase out leveling entirely in favor of
strategic combat that depends on the player's abilities rather than the
PC's. Xenosaga Episode II is a cutting edge example of this: although
you do accumulate Exp and powers, the key to combat is developing
effective strategies, while game progress and character development
focuses on the characters coming to grips with their complex and often
tragic pasts. Really, the character development you see in IF is pretty
shallow compared to what you get in RPGs nowadays, but I presume that's
mostly because RPGs range from 20-60 hours of play while IF ranges from
1-4 hours.


--
Ryukage
Anonymous
June 6, 2005 8:56:54 AM

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

"Damian Dollahite" <ryukage@aol.com> wrote:
> Most of the modern RPGs I play focus on character and story, the
> accumulation of powers and weaponry is kind of tacked on just to provide
> combat dynamics, and is starting to feel like a throwback legacy feature.
> In fact, many RPGs are beginning to
> phase out leveling entirely in favor of strategic combat that depends on
> the player's abilities rather than the PC's.

That's interesting; I actually haven't played any of the last couple of
generations of RPGs, so maybe they've evolved a bit since I've paid them
much attention. You make it sound like they're taking some points from
RTSs.

> Xenosaga Episode II is a cutting edge example of this: although you do
> accumulate Exp and powers, the key to combat is developing effective
> strategies, while game progress and character development focuses on the
> characters coming to grips with their complex and often tragic pasts.

So is this sort of character development frame-story stuff, or does it feed
into the interactive processes? What I'm getting at is: does the
character's coming to grips with her past have any effect on the character's
behavior in the game? The legacy approach (accumulation of external markers
of some kind) did have the interesting aspect that it fed into the
interactivity in a direct way, even if it was pretty primitive in terms of
story.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com
Anonymous
June 6, 2005 11:09:31 PM

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

I was a beta-tester for Return to Ditch Day, so my experiences are a
little coloured.

One of the first games I played when I had my recent IF revival was Ditch
Day Drifter. I didn't mind it, though it was a little random.
Nevertheless, I'm a TADS 3 acolyte so I wanted to see the new sequel. I
was quite blown away.

The game was an excellent demonstration of TADS 3, but a very good game in
its own right. The technical-sounding but not technically-demanding
puzzles were great. I've got some technical knowledge, so I wasn't scared
away from the puzzles, but I felt that they were (at heart) attackable by
anyone.

I felt it was long enough, but also had the nice additions of extra
puzzles and a hidden extra ending. These things I like very much. The
overall plot arc for the PC was good. The end was nice and redeeming :) 

What did you guys think of the handling of non-English characters (the
umlauts and such)? I hadn't seen any games handle special characters like
that before. Is it old hat, or an overlooked new feature?

Has anyone solved Aaron' and Erin's stack? I tried for a while but got
stumped.

BrettW
Anonymous
June 7, 2005 7:40:54 AM

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

Mike Roberts wrote:
> "Damian Dollahite" <ryukage@aol.com> wrote:
>
>>Most of the modern RPGs I play focus on character and story, the
>>accumulation of powers and weaponry is kind of tacked on just to provide
>>combat dynamics, and is starting to feel like a throwback legacy feature.
>>In fact, many RPGs are beginning to
>>phase out leveling entirely in favor of strategic combat that depends on
>>the player's abilities rather than the PC's.
>
>
> That's interesting; I actually haven't played any of the last couple of
> generations of RPGs, so maybe they've evolved a bit since I've paid them
> much attention. You make it sound like they're taking some points from
> RTSs.
>

RTS and also from street fighting games. A lot of combat systems
nowadays are based on move-cancels and setting up combination sequences.

>>Xenosaga Episode II is a cutting edge example of this: although you do
>>accumulate Exp and powers, the key to combat is developing effective
>>strategies, while game progress and character development focuses on the
>>characters coming to grips with their complex and often tragic pasts.
>
>
> So is this sort of character development frame-story stuff, or does it feed
> into the interactive processes? What I'm getting at is: does the
> character's coming to grips with her past have any effect on the character's
> behavior in the game? The legacy approach (accumulation of external markers
> of some kind) did have the interesting aspect that it fed into the
> interactivity in a direct way, even if it was pretty primitive in terms of
> story.
>

Xenosaga II is only recently released and I haven't gotten very far in
it yet, but based on the two previous installments in the series
(Xenosaga Episode I and Xenogears, which is supposedly Episode V but was
made first), I expect that the characters will also acquire new options
in other areas (the battle system has been totally depersonalized, so I
don't expect much there, but opening up the character's pasts does allow
access to new areas, and possibly has other benefits). For example, in
Xenogears the main character had multiple personalities, one a reluctant
hero and the other a psychotic mass-murderer. When he finally unlocked
his blocked memories of a childhood trauma, the two personalities fused
together and his combat power increased dramatically. Xenosaga I was
very short and served mainly to introduce the characters that are now
being developed in Episode II, but it did hint that several of them had
hidden abilities that they were holding back on because of past events.

--
Ryukage
Anonymous
June 8, 2005 6:13:58 AM

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

BrettW <shorokin@hotmail.com> wrote in news:o p.srxyd5b0y51jdq@ninja:

> I've got some technical knowledge, so I wasn't scared away from the
> puzzles, but I felt that they were (at heart) attackable by anyone.


I agree on this point.


The only thing I did not like was the very beginning. I didn't feel like
there was enough of a preface given to ease one into the story. The
background was handled nicely, but the immediate situation was not
described in enough depth to be useful for the PC's initial delimna. Once
you get over the initial confusion, the story progresses nicely. All in
all, I have enjoyed playing this game. The writing and game play are
both solid. Not once did I feel like I was solving a puzzle for the sake
of the puzzle, nor did I feel like anything was impossible to solve.
(Aaron's and Erin's stack were not attempted by me -- yet)

Greg S
Anonymous
June 8, 2005 1:25:16 PM

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

On Wed, 1 Jun 2005, PJ wrote:

> Have we lost interest in the GOTW concept already? Discussion on The
> Fire Tower was pretty good. All Hope Abandon dwindled a bit, but was
> still of some interest. But no comments at all yet on Return to Ditch
> Day, by Mike Roberts.

I'm in the midst of playing it. Now I seem to have run into what looks
like a bug, and I'm wondering if anyone else has seen this. This is
inside the Sync Lab....


* Spoiler space *
*
*
*
*
*
*

-----
>push button
(the metal button)
You give the button a push, and it clicks noisily. Something overhead
starts clicking metallically. The stairway overhead starts tilting down,
the south end lowering, the span hinged at the end of the walkway. The
end of the stairway quickly reaches the floor and stops with an echoing
clang.

The stairs now block the tunnel to the south.

>l
Tunnel
This is a low, dark tunnel, bounded by a concrete wall on the east side
and stacks of crates along the west side. Overhead, a metal walkway runs
north and south along the wall. The tunnel ends at more boxes to the
north, but an opening through the crates leads west.

On the wall, at waist height, is a big metal button labeled "Stairs."

The tunnel continues to the south. Overhead, the underside of a stairway
is visible, connected at the south end of the walkway. The stairs have
been raised up so that rather than sloping down to the floor, they
continue horizontally from the end of the walkay.
-----

Despite the test I get when I push the button, the only thing that seems
to have happened is that the stairs on the west end of the Open Area are
now also raised! Even though the response says that the south passage is
blocked, the room description says the opposite, and I can still travel
south. Both stairs are raised, so I have no way to access the catwalk
from here anymore. Has anyone else encountered this?

==--- --=--=-- ---==
Quintin Stone "You speak of necessary evil? One of those necessities
stone@rps.net is that if innocents must suffer, the guilty must suffer
www.rps.net more." - Mackenzie Calhoun, "Once Burned" by Peter David
Anonymous
June 8, 2005 2:01:53 PM

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

On Wed, 8 Jun 2005, Michel Nizette wrote:

> Quintin Stone wrote:
>
> > I'm in the midst of playing it. Now I seem to have run into what looks
> > like a bug, and I'm wondering if anyone else has seen this. This is
> > inside the Sync Lab....
> >
> >
> > * Spoiler space *
> > *
> > *
> > *
> > *
> > *
> > *
> >
> > Despite the test I get when I push the button, the only thing that seems
> > to have happened is that the stairs on the west end of the Open Area are
> > now also raised! Even though the response says that the south passage is
> > blocked, the room description says the opposite, and I can still travel
> > south. Both stairs are raised, so I have no way to access the catwalk
> > from here anymore. Has anyone else encountered this?
>
> It's a known bug. See
>
> http://groups.google.be/group/rec.games.int-fiction/mes...
> 8,99d062029502b475,9db11d7fd61be310,2bcb9a0c9efc8cf7
>
> --Michel.

Ah, thanks.

==--- --=--=-- ---==
Quintin Stone "You speak of necessary evil? One of those necessities
stone@rps.net is that if innocents must suffer, the guilty must suffer
www.rps.net more." - Mackenzie Calhoun, "Once Burned" by Peter David
Anonymous
June 8, 2005 7:34:10 PM

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

Quintin Stone wrote:

> I'm in the midst of playing it. Now I seem to have run into what looks
> like a bug, and I'm wondering if anyone else has seen this. This is
> inside the Sync Lab....
>
>
> * Spoiler space *
> *
> *
> *
> *
> *
> *
>
> Despite the test I get when I push the button, the only thing that seems
> to have happened is that the stairs on the west end of the Open Area are
> now also raised! Even though the response says that the south passage is
> blocked, the room description says the opposite, and I can still travel
> south. Both stairs are raised, so I have no way to access the catwalk
> from here anymore. Has anyone else encountered this?

It's a known bug. See

http://groups.google.be/group/rec.games.int-fiction/mes...
8,99d062029502b475,9db11d7fd61be310,2bcb9a0c9efc8cf7

--Michel.
Anonymous
June 9, 2005 4:30:08 PM

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

Quintin Stone <stone@rps.net> writes:

> On Wed, 1 Jun 2005, PJ wrote:
>
> I'm in the midst of playing it. Now I seem to have run into what looks
> like a bug, and I'm wondering if anyone else has seen this. This is
> inside the Sync Lab....

I've also found something - I don't know if this counts as a bug, more
a sort of in game spoiler.

SPOILER
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*

Before reading the note on the video game, which told me to look for
Scott, I was running around asking students 'tell me about
positron'. At one point the game clarified my input as '(Ask student
about Scott)' and the student replied, 'He's doing the chicken
stack'. The routines which work out what you're talking about seem too
clever sometimes, and give away information.

This happened also in the library when I asked the librarian about
'math' and the game said '(Ask librarian about DRD tables)'.

--
Andrew Cowper

Pick a different user name to email me.
Anonymous
June 16, 2005 6:35:35 PM

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

Sorry for the delayed reply. On June 3rd, Mike Roberts wrote:

> Interesting solution - that might be a case where it'd be worth
> disallowing ALL ("only one thing will fit in the slot at a time,"
> maybe). Out of curiosity, did you try ALL because you'd run out
> of other things to try, or is that just the first thing you thought
> of?

IIRC, I tried a couple of things and then tried ALL. I was on a lunch
break, working through the game at breakneck speed, and was looking for
the most efficient route possible.
!