Is This Thing Still Up?!?

Last December I didn’t pay my hosting site, for various reasons. So when I went back in May to revive it I discovered my domain names had been taken over. I revived my sites by changing the .coms to .orgs and vice-a-versa.

Recently I checked the IFWiki to see if David Welborn had updated my links and discovered that he had archived my site. Not necessarily a smart thing to do because I MAY add things to it. But, what the hey.

So I clicked other things on my IF Wiki page (Marnie Parker) and came up with this blog site. Honestly, I figured Word Press would have taken it down by now since I hadn’t updated it since 2007.

So maybe I will update this thing and keep it going. Or not.

I’ve deleted past non Iffy posts to keep it just Iffy (for now). So maybe I won’t update this page since IF has moved far beyond me with lots of younger and even younger people involved.

We shall see.

Checking In

I haven’t used word press for a long time. Yes, I am still around.

IF Comp 2007 – Lost Pig, Across the Stars


I said I had two more games I wanted to play. Well, it was Across and one another. But I finished the other one so quickly I decided to play a few more. I have played a few more, but I am only going to review/critique/comment on two more.

Also, as we near the end, I tend to adjust my votes. Which is why my numerical votes are not published here. Before when I did comp reviews, the last seemingly six years ago, I wrote them all up with numerical scores and only published them in rgif once the deadline was over. I used a four point judging system, the four P’s:  plot, prose, programming, and puzzles. I would award 1-10 points for each. Add the total and divide by four to arrive at a 1-10 overall score.

This year, because I started writing as I played and voted (because of the change in the comp web page), I knew I would change some of my numerical votes up or down later. So there was no point in publishing them, because they would have changed.

I adjust my scores to help ensure the one I wanted to come in at the top comes in at the top, and to help ensure the one I wanted to come in at the bottom comes in at the bottom. Not that one vote can affect the outcome, but I try. 😉 I also adjust to spread out my own votes — I tend to bell curve, with maybe one ten and one one and the majority hovering around above and below five — what I consider average. Though I don’t usually have that many fives, because not that many games are really average.

This year I found myself adjusting Pack Rat much further up than its programming really warranted, simply because I enjoyed it more than most. I also adjusted I am Jack Mills up further than I felt its shallowness warranted, because I also enjoyed it more than many others. I also adjusted some others down and up, but those two benefited the most from my final adjustment.

In the end, there were really only a handful of comps games I enjoyed. Sure some were okay, and some were not too bad, but in the end, I look for enjoyment above all else.  (And when I used the four P method, I’d find myself adjusting for enjoyment as well, which made the four P method  questionable, since I’d have to adjust one or two of the four P’s up or down to compensate.)

So I enjoyed…

Lost Pig

It wasn’t very long before I was into this game that I knew an experienced Iffer had written it. It had a “zarfian” quality, in other words, it had a response to everything I tried. And not just “that doesn’t accomplish anything” type of response (although I ran into one or two), more along the lines of “you try that and blah, blah.” Those paying attention to Live Journal will know who the author is, I don’t, so I didn’t.. at first. It’s not zarf, but it is someone who has been around the Iffy block.

You are Grunk, an orc, big, green, and stupid, and you’ve lost a pig. And not your pig, so you have to get it back. At first the dumbed down dialect annoyed me, but the more I played (and ALL the responses had Grunk-speech, not default library messages) the more I liked it. Especially when chasing the pig around, which I suspected might be a bit smarter than Grunk. Grunk also ends up being rather endearingly child-like, curious and good-natured. After all, its not his fault that he’s big, green, and stupid — it just comes with the territory.

I found the other NPC in the game not nearly as well-drawn, although he is mainly a talking head, sitting in one place to answer Grunk’s questions. But I felt he could have been made to have a tad more character as well. Grunk really overshadows him.

Because this game has a response to just about everything (I would say everything, but I didn’t try everything), it is a good game. The sort of game one can trust. This is what Infocom games had going for them that modern IF often lacks, trust. Trust that the game isn’t buggy, trust that you can work at the puzzles, trust that you can solve them by trying different things and finding out what will work from what doesn’t work, and trust that the puzzles will be well-clued and not some obscure idea in the author’s head. So I leaned back, relaxed, worked at the puzzles, and enjoyed the game.

However, I still got stumped about 3-4 times. But I suspect if I didn’t feel in a rush to finish games and had more time to work at it, I would have solved most of them on my own because all the hints are there. Although sometimes the depth of response ended up being very misleading, creating red herrings. SPOILER ON. I put the green pole in the statue’s upraised hand. And because I could, for a long time I thought that was the proper solution. Yes, there was a hint elsewhere that that was not it, but I could do it! I am not sure if this level of response shouldn’t be fine tuned to allow only one proper solution, or if the author wanted to mislead. And I am unsure if I would recommend changing that or not. Because in real life more than one solution will often work. I remain undecided about it — but it was often misleading. SPOILER OFF.

It is nice to see such a very well-crafted game in the comp. Overall I enjoyed it and seriously wished there was more. This could easily have been double the size, triple the size — the larger the better — I would have enjoyed it more with more. But a nice feature of Lost Pig is that one can win without getting all the points. I won with 6 out of 7. I am unsure what point I missed, but suspect where it was because there was a clue I never used.

I will give this high marks, but not top marks, because once I hit the main playing area, I felt it was a tad too short. Not quite complex enough. That seems a funny reason not to give it top marks, but the level of complexity in the game, the responses for everything, led me to expect more. That is one downside of excellent crafting. 😉

Across the Stars

This isn’t really a two-hour game, at least, not for me. I have not finished it yet, but I have to move on and finish up my reviews and voting.

I started this game, failed at the first puzzle, and then put the game aside to play last. Because the first puzzle showed me that the puzzles were going to be difficult, but with decent cluing, and I really like spaceship scifi. However, I ended up enjoying it less than I had anticipated, mainly because it goes from science-fiction to a more obcure sort of fantasy. In fact, this game seemed unable to decide what it wanted to be — Star Trek, Indiana Jones, or The Illearth War. This overlapping of genres makes the puzzles much harder to solve than the authors probably thought they were, because there are clues in the prose. Only one is often unsure how to use them — go for a straight scientific approach?, go for a fantasy approach?, or go for a daredevil approach? It turned the fantasy approach would not work, but there is nothing really in the game, at least for quite a while, to say if it it will or will not.

There is a very good hint system, emphasis on hint (although solutions are offered too), and by use of it I was able to progress as far as I have to date. Sometimes all I need is a hint and that is why I hate having to resort to walkthrus. But I don’t like having to resort to hints either, and not so often.

I didn’t find any bugs, although I found some areas that could be improved, so it’s a pretty decent game overall. However, a great many of the puzzles are too difficult without either a lot more game play and/or a lot more cluing in the text. Several times I would go to hints and it would appear the authors felt I had been clued in the text, but I had missed it. It wasn’t obvious to me. SPOILER ON. Box – I had to ask someone how to get in the secret compartment to not be caught, even with hints and a walkthru. Why? Because once I took the card out of the slot, the box was rewebbed anyway. And if I unwebbed the box and moved it, I could not move it back. So there didn’t seem any point in going to such effort to reweb it and I did it the easy way. Something was wrong there, either I should have been able to move the box back, or the rewebbing sequence should have mentioned it also moved the box. Rune – The rune in the secret alcove wasn’t even mentioned in the room description. It was also not mentioned in the worm description, so I didn’t know there was a rune there to scan. I kept scanning the one outside the alcove. APU – when I went into the cargo hold, and asked Adar about the APU, she said it was aft, except I couldn’t go aft then. That response was appropriate for when I was in the cockpit, but not the cargo hold. There were quite a few things like that that could be caught with more betatesting and more work, more writing — those were just the only ones I wrote down. SPOILER OFF.

The game borders on the trite, I suppose, but not enough to worry me. I will give it decent marks for being a decent game, but I feel it could use more work. Not in the programming area, not even in the puzzle area, but in the prose area — to make the world encountered more believable and to add clues to the puzzles into the PROSE rather than into the HINT SYSTEM. A good hint system is simply great, but it is not really a substitute for good game writing and with Across I feel the authors ended up relying on it too heavily.

IF Comp 2007 – More Brief Mentions (Jack Mills, JDX, Mishmash)

Some of these mentions will be very brief. If you start from the beginning of my reviews, you can probably tell that I am running out of steam on analyzing games.

 The first I am voting for.

I am Jack Mills

I don’t have much pithy to say about this. I rather liked it, as I am fond of mysteries. I also rather liked encountering a “film noir” type of detective in the comp, but in the end I felt this game fell short of its promise. It is short and sort of shallow (not thin, but bordering on it), and a bit obscure. Overall, there is nothing seriously wrong with it, but it does need tightening up. That would raise it higher, closer to the “good” game bar.

You are a P.I. looking for a valuable, stolen Roman coin. The time period is not explicitly stated, but it could easily be the 1940’s/1950’s. However, as the player trying to find the coin, you may have to resort to walkthru more than you would like.

I liked how driving the car worked (the PC has to know of/about some location before he can drive there), I liked Jack Mill’s voice overs (not too intrusive, appropriate to the plot development, the player learns more because of them, and they are in italics to distinguish them), but I still found the puzzles too hard. Some of this was due to guess the verb, some was due to actions that seemed illogical, and some was due to the fact that there wasn’t really quite enough to do. So I feel this would be hard to win without the walkthru, although the walkthru isn’t required for every action/puzzle. However, I think this could be fixed. I would also suggest a little more “attitude” for the PC, so we get a better feeling of him as a character. And maybe more for the NPCs as well. More writing would add more meat to the story and improve it.

SPOILER ON. Guess the verb – When I encountered the container and the fire escape, I though, aha, supposed to get on container and climb ladder. Why not just call it a garbage can, by the way? Plastic containers were not prevalent in earlier time periods. But get on container would not work, etc., etc., so I had to look at the walkthru. I did see later that the in-game help commands mentioned climb, but a synonym of get on would be better. Opening the window with the knife – I tried opening the window and breaking the window with the knife. Some hint there would help because that is almost a guess the verb problem. Maybe a voice over from Jack after the player tries it two times, “The latch looks worn and old, probably the knife could pry it open.” Illogical — It seemed counter-intuitive for me to go and confront Geigner at the night club. I already knew he was a thief and a hood, what would confronting him with those facts get for me except broken knee caps? Somehow the idea of masquerading as someone else needs more lead in. I had to look at the walkthru there too because I am not fond of getting beat up, in games or elsewhere, so I tend to avoid it. 🙂 And actually, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to photograph someone through a window where they would spot me. Branches – I am not sure either that the plot branching works all that well in this game. I only played one, Violet’s offer, but it seemed to make the whole game way too short. SPOILER OFF.

This isn’t a “bad” game, but it also isn’t quite a “good” game, either. However, if the author will take more time to expand it a little more — more writing and attitude and tighten up the puzzles and plot inconsistencies, then I feel it just might fall into the latter category.

Jealousy Duel X

Nice graphics, some cute ideas, looks like it was a lot of work to make/write it, and not-my-cup-of-tea, again. In fact, many IF players will probably not like the CYOA/graphic approach. I also didn’t like the attitude toward women that seemed to be expressed in this game. Sorry, I didn’t. I know the PC is supposed to be bitter, but the girls at the bar were bad reflections also.

I only played long enough to cover the initial game map and to figure out that I probably could win it if I kept playing (although it seemed difficult). The goal was sort of stated, but it still wasn’t clear to me at first. However, I wasn’t really enjoying the laborious puzzle solving (being restricted to such simple choices makes it harder) and had no desire to keep working at it, er…, playing it.


And, boy, is it! This game irked me, though I didn’t take a strong dislike to it like I did to one other. I was more disappointed than disgusted.

The writing wasn’t bad, the plot seemed promising with intriguing ideas, I like science-fiction, I can even stand all the reruns of “Starship Troopers” on TBS, and I like virtual reality science-fiction. But, uh, after more than a couple of turns I wasn’t sure what this was. Or wasn’t. I suspect thought went into this, but be warned, when it comes to science-fiction, vagueness is no substitute for clear, good writing.

What is a cold suit? What is a node? Was I trooping? Was I virtual realitying? Was I the ghost in the machine? A computer bug?I don’t know. I had to use the walkthru for everything and after about 15-20 turns I gave up. I like to play, not watch (having to use a walkthru is watching). Also, not only was the surrounding reality, or lack of it, unclear, so was the goal. How the author expected me to deduce what to do is beyond me. SPOILER ON. How was I supposed to know getting into the crate was a good idea? Because how did I know that penetrating the factory further was what I wanted? SPOILER OFF.

In sci-fi one does not have to explain HOW some technology (unfamiliar to the reader/player) works, but, at the least, they do have to explain what it IS. There may be a good game here somewhere, but I didn’t find it.

P.S. Note that this is another game where more beta testing would have helped the author clarify the plot — another game that would have been greatly improved by it. See Ferrous Ring review.

IF Authors get a big break in the comp, because many judges are committed to finishing games regardless. Or finishing the games they started. Or finishing some games. But when a game is released outside the comp there is another standard, a more “real life” standard. When player confusion outweighs player motivation and/or enjoyment — the player simply stops playing.

IF Comp 2007 – Two Brief Mentions (Gathered, Press Escape)

I still have two games I want to finish playing, but I thought I would briefly mention two others.

Gathered in Darkness

This is a Quest game. I am not sure I have ever played a Quest game before. The interface is different (than I7 or TADS), but not bad. Actually, I was surprised to not dislike the interface.

However, I did really dislike the tiny red text on the black background (bad choice). Fortunately, through options that is changeable.

The writing seemed fine, the programming adequate, it didn’t feel buggy, but I soon stopped playing. Basically the story is not-my-cup-of-tea. Well, to be truthful I had inkling what kind of story it was going to be, so I took a quick look at some reviews and, yup, not for me.

Since I don’t like marking a game down based just on its content alone, and I didn’t really play this long enough to explore its writing and programming competence further, I will not vote on this.

Press Escape to Save

This game is seriously flawed, and yet it has some interesting/off beat ideas, and it seems good natured.  However, I couldn’t play far without resorting to the walkthru, and when it got even more complicated the walkthru essentially became required, not optional.

This game needed a lot more beta-testing to catch guess the verb problems, crashing problems, and obscure puzzle problems. Play testers can tell one when one’s puzzle ideas are not clear, and they need to be CLEAR, even if hard. Mushy puzzles are too hard for the player to get — if they are mushy in your own mind they will be mushy in others’. SPOILER ON. Guess the verb — Grab hand worked while take hand and hold hand did not. So I had to look at the walkthru to even get that verb right. Crashing — The game crashed on me when I went to sleep, woke up, and found the person touching my shoulder. I tried talking to him and it tried to go back to an earlier conversation (some flag set wrong), and produced endless screens of errors (array). That’s crashing, because I couldn’t undo it. Puzzles — The infinite corridor puzzle is non-intuitive, since touch wall is something most will not normally do and since so many other objects in the game yielded nothing unusual to the touch or could not even be examined. Therefore, that’s quite a leap. Also getting away from Jimmy, going backward, seemed counter-productive and I also had a lot of difficulty staying ahead of him, even with the walkthru. SPOILER OFF.

I liked the weird and inventive concepts in this game, but it needs LOTS more work before it will be a really playable game. However, since I stuck with it long enough and far enough, I will vote on it.

IF Comp 2007 – Orevore Courier

I have started a few more games I haven’t mentioned here, and voted on a few more games than I have mentioned here, but I am getting a bit tired of writing reviews. So it goes. Also I guess my reviews are really more critiques, intended for the authors, rather than reviews intended for players. Or an odd and uneasy mix of both.

There are two other two games as well that I have started and want to finish. Since the contest end is drawing nearer and I have other things to do, I suspect I will just play those two and let the rest go. But we shall see.

Orevore Courier

I didn’t make any notes while playing this so I could easily be off on something.

I enjoyed this and found it funny. Not wildly funny, but funny enough to have gotten a laugh or two out of me.

You are on a spaceship in the security control room with a console and buttons. This is actually a one-room game, but because other things happen in the rest of the ship, because there are NPCs, and because you can affect some of what happens on the rest of the ship, you really may not notice it at all. Anyway, this is one one-room game where I didn’t mind the one-roominess.

Game play is fast and the game is short. It also seriously violates an old axiom, expressed in Graham Nelson’s “A Game Player’s Bill of Rights” (but an axiom that he didn’t originate and one has been agreed to by many), that a player shouldn’t be able to learn some things only by dying first (i.e. not winning). Pshaw. This game almost makes that old axiom look silly. However, if the game was any longer then it could be very annoying. So the author cleverly keeps it just short enough that dying over and over (or not winning over and over) to gain new information seems okay, or at least not too irritating. So this is an unforgivable game the player can easily get it into an unwinnable state, things must be done in the correct order, miss one and you’re dead or fail.

If you play this over and over you probably can win, as you find out more with each failure. I enourage you to play it over and over. What you do with the console board is crucial. Also I found most of the dying (or not winning) amusing and it seems to differ based on what you do. I always like games where the dying is creative and amusing. Since it’s only a game, why not?

Basically, within this small story and short game there are several branches. I only made it through to three failures before I decided to go to walkthru. My time is limited, but I sort of wish I hadn’t done that, because when I did do the walkthru I had several Ahas! In my opinion, good puzzles have Ahas! (I don’t think all puzzles can have Ahas!, but it nice when a preponderance do.)

One thing I thought should have been better explained, SPOILER ON was the copy and xmit buttons. I thought they were sending it outside the ship to home base or something. I really, really missed that. Maybe it said something somewhere — probably if I examined the buttons. However, because the bad stuff starts happening quickly, I never really had time to X all the buttons. I think that might be improved a tad. Yet, on the other hand, the game does have to be kept short. Maybe just another turn or two allowed for examining at the beginning. SPOILER OFF.

I found no bugs, everything seemed to work well, it has slightly off the wall sense of humor, good and pretty good puzzles, and several branches. Although the writing is sparse, I felt thought had gone into it.

Worth playing and I am giving it fairly high marks, but not top marks because it IS short and… unfair. 😉

IF Comp 2007 – Another I Started (Deadline Enchanter)

…And Have Absolutely NO Desire to Finish.

Deadline Enchanter

I took an extreme dislike to this game. At first I though, great, another Infocom-type game. But the title appears to be arbitrary.

How to describe this? Well, first there are two voices. The normal PC voice, you do such and such and the room is such and such. AND the author’s voice, which is doing sort of interruptions or voice overs. That is very confusing to begin with, keeping track of two voices, but on top of that the author’s voice is sort of sneering and condescending. “I didn’t implement this, but I did implement that, don’t you feel flattered that I did?” Yeah, sure. BIG of you.

Luckily there is a book at the beginning that tells you about the first eight moves. Because there is no obvious goal at all, and the room descriptions are often obscure. And when I encounter a beast, the game says I can do these actions concerning it, yet the game recognizes none of the verbs.

There is a hint of a possible interesting fantasy world, Mundanes and Faux, but how can one even see that world past the author’s very intruding presence? His/her voice, in addition to being condescending, is seemingly cracking in jokes in jokes — in jokes so far in they are only funny in his/her own head. So the writing ends up almost incomprehensible, as if it was written while the author was stoned. And that is being charitable. Or maybe it’s just drivel — an attempt at post modern fantasy with pretentions of intellectualism, Iffy intellectualism.

There also is not much to do. So this is not a game, I don’t know what it is but it’s not a game.

With this piece, the author makes it very clear his/her ego is much more important than my playing experience. Ergo, this may be one game that I didn’t play much of that I will vote for.

Now isn’t that BIG of me?