A glass of water

It’s friday night.

I’m over and done with another stressful week at work. My son just fell off the bed and now he’s crying and cursing the gods for having a nice, new red stripe across his face: the bunk of the bed momentarily scarred his cheek. The TV is off. The Walking Dead is due on monday and there’s nothing much there apart from the news, so it’s better this way. The news are that more students took a walk today to protest against Austerity in school. Some got beaten. Some got beaten from behind. A couple of tear-gas bombs have been threw from the windows of the Ministry of Defense, in Rome. Same old world as always. Take a glass, get a sup. Same old water taste.

Today, though, there is something new.

It was 7AM when my cellphone blinked with new emails. Several new email. WTF, I thought, who’s awake and starts being an annoyance at 7AM? Nice friday it will be.

I never got the chance to sleep back, so I woke up. Went to the bathroom, got a seat (you know where, I suppose), checked the phone. Mails from fellows IF authors. A mail from Wade Clarke, saying “Hey, mate, congratulations!” What for? I asked myself, then I remembered it was November, 16th. Something changed that very moment. I was full of… what would you call it? Fear? Yes, I was full of fear. Goddamn squeezing terror from every pore. My dump got a new, cold, acid fragrance. I wasn’t able to go and check the only obvious place: the IFComp site. It took me another half an hour, but eventually I won it over. Checked the charts and on the topmost row I saw the name of my game.

It took me about another four hours to get accustomed to the idea I actually won the IFComp. Then another four to regain consciousness. I didn’t faint, no. I was in confusion, though. Deep confusion. I’m not really sure I’m out of that confusion NOW, to be honest.

What to do? Words don’t come easy, someone once said. They sure don’t. Sometimes, it’s like trying to drop a H-Bomb from your asshole, if you ask me. Little Boy and Fat Man in a single dump. You know you should say something, be responsive to all those people congratulating–or even push it in the throat of who tried to make you stop, once–but words don’t come easy, so you shut up. And listen. The funny thing is, once you really bathe in silence to hear what others have to say, it comes the time you finally hear yourself. You hear yourself thinking.

Andromeda Apocalypse won the Comp. That was what I’ve been thinking all day, and I suppose the fact is all in those few words. Andromeda Apocalypse won the Comp.

Yes, it did. It won the Comp. Thank you for your cheers, people, but it is not me who ended up first in the charts. It was Andromeda Apocalypse. Check: it’s all there, black on light grey, with some tiny green lines on the right. My name is not even displayed, Andromeda Apocalypse is. Take another sup from the glass and you can feel a distinct new taste. It’s water, yes, but it’s getting sweeter and sweeter.

I don’t have to play Obama. Or, dunno, Robert DeNiro. I didn’t win the Oscar. I’m not the President. Ok, it FEELS like I’m the President, but that’s another pair of socks entirely. I can simply go on and cheer with you all because Andromeda Apocalypse won the Comp and I’m still the one I was yesterday. All my fellow authors cheer, some sound more happy than me, even. We are where we were yesterday, same time, same place, same shit. Students still get their teeth bashed and sometimes bashed from behind and the recession is not over and someone will win the Champions League this year too, and it won’t be my team. It wasn’t me, it was the game, and I know why, finally and it all feels so good now that I can breathe it outta my lungs.

I don’t think I should spoil a secret like this, but I’m frankly quite sure about “How to win the IFComp”, now that my game won it.

Before I salute you, I believe there is some thanking to be done.

There is no ranking here. Just random order. Don’t be offended if I say thanks to someone before you.

First, I would like to thank Samo Kabo Ashwell for turning my inglisc into something more similar to an understandable language. What he was most effective with was translating my idiocies while trying and keep the formal flow of my prose. Not easy. By doing this, of course, he had to leave something as it was, and this means: maybe wrong. Fact he, you must understand, didn’t–like–read a book and put it straight. He read all of the goddamn code of the game (it is fairly long, believe me) and worked with it. I think he made an awesome job, given the premises. I actually think he did an awesome job in absolute. So, thank you Sam. One day I will have to offer you that beer, being it in Seattle, Oxford or Florence. You were awesome in ways one can’t easily describe. I would have a hard time doing it in my own language, too, so that you know [emote];)[/emote]

Then a big hug to the people behind Inform 7: without you and the perfect piece of software you made I would have never been able to write a game. A special mention to Emily Short for being so Emily Short. I must admit, one year ago, the not-knowing-myself thought, at least once, you were a dick. After one year reading your reviews and seeing how well-manneredly, non-selfishly you dedicate yourself to the IF cause and–this is incredible–how much insight you can put into each one of your comments, how much TRUTH for god’s sake, I can easily say you became an icon in my eyes. The review you made for Awakening did, yes, indicate the road to many other reviewers, but it also did it to me. Now I see clearer and much of the merit is yours. Don’t leave us writers alone: we need you in ways we don’t even imagine until it’s far too late.

Another bunch of peeps that I want to thank is made from all of my testers. Neil Butters, Francesco Cordella, D. J. Hastings, Kevin Jackson-Mead, Andy Joel, and Andrew Schultz. The latter, specifically, was so much verbal–it suits the character: he just can’t stop babbling, you should check the authors forums!–and in sync with what I wanted and needed for my game that I suppose half of the credit for the win are to him. You really need testers like these if you want to make anything out of your life as a programmer in videogames. They can nitpick at every other infinitesimal bit and, if you give them enough time (lesson learned, thank you!), they can find things in your mind you didn’t even know you had.

A nice guy I want to thank is Paul Lee for boosting my ego so much during last year. I still have to replay his game Tree and Star (promise: that’s first of the que into the next week!), and this makes me feel guilty. He said so many nice things about the world of Andromeda that I was compelled to have a Comp on the setting and to write a second game in the series after the first one proved to be so wacky. Without your praises, pal, Apocalypse would never have been a game. And not even Tree and Star and Andromeda Dreaming, and that would have been a pity.

Speaking of Andromeda Dreaming, another guy to which my kudos go is marvelous Joey Jones. He invented a slang for my setting and i can’t think of anything more AWESOME than seeing someone loving your setting so much to go to such lengths. I used (with permission) both the character of Gettare Rinors and the slang, and I guess they pumped my game so much that now even MYSELF believes it is some serious matter. The word “reg”, for all you non-believers out there, is not some cyanotic misspelling. It means “man from Monarch”, or “born in Monarch”, and it is by Joey Jones. Great, dude: I’m so happy to have been in this trip with you. Keep up the incredible work! (As a side note: I think that Escape from Summerland is one of the most inventive games of all time. Just give the update a chance and you will see how much you will enjoy it, people.)

Last, but not least, there goes betatester, musician and ego-booster Wade Clarke. I guess you know him: it’s that guy who calls himself “severedhand” and who writes games about girls playing hide and seek (or whatever is it called in Australia, I don’t remember). He made music for my game, but that’s just a small percentage in what he made me achieve that talking about it is like discussing the first 3 months of life of Jesus Christ.
I’ve told him something, I don’t think this should go public. But, so that you know: he reviewed my game good first and gave my “final Cut” a chance where nobody gave a fuck. Well, almost nobody. That pushed me towards making a sequel. He was judge for the Legacy Comp. Then he betatested my game and gave so many PERFECT advices that… well, you can see it in the charts. Andromeda Apocalypse won the comp.
Words don’t come easy, Wade, so it’s better if I shut up. I’d like to kiss you in the forehead, hug you, have a drink with you. Until you will stubbornly force yourself to be australian, I guess all I can do is pretend I’ve found a new friend. Don’t let me down.

Of course, big hugs to this year’s authors. You rocked our time and we all have to thank you. Special thankyous to Capmikee, Truthcraze and Miseri for sharing this venture in the forums. Don’t surrender: you never know what Santa is bringing to you. Trust me, I know.

Before leaving, I have a couple of sorry, also.
Sorry to Robert De Ford for letting him down in the alpha testing of his new game. I promise I will be more a man in the next few months. Promise.
Sorry goes for Justing Morgan for about the same reason. I tested Spiral fully, but I guess I should have done more–instead of nothing–for the second round. You made a really nice (sometimes creepy) game. Keep on rockin’.
Sorry goes to wife and kid, who I put aside for months to achieve something that–as valuable it is–is not even comparable to the GIFT of having you by my side. I know you understand (well, wife at least: kid is 3 and a half). I’m not to be forgiven anyway.

And now, an afterword.

Francesco Cordella has told me something, today, that I didn’t notice until it was far too late. In his opinion, what I did today (what Apocalypse did, actually) stands as a milestone. Never before, in fact, an Italian has won the IFComp.

I just said thank you, Francesco, but I believe this deserves a better answer.

You know: I don’t think I will be entering any more games to the IFComp. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be able to write another decent game ever. Once I thought that this place, the international IF community, is somewhere I couldn’t belong to. In some way, I still believe it, I guess. I don’t know if I have more to express in the community. Like Jose Mourinho says, it’s better to leave while you are a winner. Of course, as I stated, I’m not a winner, Apocalypse is, and this is a truth, so I guess what I am about to say is wrong in its premises.

I had a feeling, these last 12 months. The feeling was that people overlooked my work because I was a “foreigner”. I mean it in the broader sense one can imagine. I had this glass of water and I wanted to pretend there was milk in the glass. But it was only water and i could have been watching, staring at it how much I could, the water remained water. Writing a piece of fiction in ANOTHER LANGUAGE?! Who do you think you are? Writing a GAME?! Aren’t you a graphic designer? What have you got to do with games? Turn on that PS3, load CoD:MW2 and frag some Iraqi. Stop dreaming.

Stop dreaming.

What I was dreaming, though, was something players, reviewers and friends didn’t fully understand. I was not after making a game. I was not trying to prove myself against Adam Cadre or Zarf or Mike Gentry. All I was trying to do, again, was… telling a story. This was my dream. This IS my dream and always will be. Since the day I lifted IT by Stephen King and begun wandering in the Barrens, all I wanted to do was to tell a STORY.

A good story doesn’t need a language. It doesn’t need good puzzles, or interactive dialogue. It doesn’t need a Xyzzy-winning NPC.

They thought I could never achieve something because no one did it before. No one from Italy–the most astray place in the world from the world, actually–could ever achieve something in here. You have your glass, boy, and it’s a glass of water. You can shake it forever and it will always be WATER. We encourage fantasy but, really: it is just water.

Stop dreaming.

Fact is, you know, telling stories is dreaming. Asking me to stop dreaming is like asking a fish to stop drinking.

That’s how you win a Comp, then. Make a game, put in some trivial puzzle. Fill it with non-interactive scenes and write it in the language you want. Then, put a story in it. People, you see, they will forget about the flaws. About the purple prose, about the shortcoming. They will fall in love with the story and if the story is good enough you will be able to chose a prize and chose it first.

They will tell you you can’t do it. It’s not envy, angst or anything: it’s just how things go. Whatever you try to accomplish, there will be people who–even without saying a word–will make you believe you have to stop. Because you can’t do it. Because no one ever did it before. Because, because, because.

You know what? I made this game and many had fun with it, it seems. I made it for free and i made it for myself. But you got your chance at 2 or 3 hours of fun nonetheless, so I guess it’s my turn to ask something from you. Do me a favor, would you? It’s as simple as it goes.

One day, they will tell you you can’t do it, 'cause no one has ever did it before. It will happen, eventually. So–do itfor me, please–take the glass you have in your hands, that glass of water which won’t turn to milk, and empty it in the sand of this magnificent beach.

Get near the shore.

Fill it with water from the ocean.

Look inside the glass.

There are no fish in there, right? No. They told you there are no fish. No one has ever seen fish in that glass.

Turn to them. Watch them in the eyes and say:

“You see? There is no fish.”

They will nod.

“So, what do you think,” ask, then. “Would you dare say there is no fish in the ocean?”


Marco, your whole style is so expressive and inventive, I’m really pleased you won the comp (and whatever anyone says, I love the adjective ‘cyanotic’). It’s a difficult thing to follow and typically we see comp winners don’t tend to re-enter. But if you get that hankering to tell another story in this great interactive medium then you should, whether in a comp or out, whether Andromeda or something else entirely.

That’s a really good piece of prose there. That’s why you won.

Looks like you spoke too soon again!

Not really. I still believe this is all a joke by Sargent. He will post the REAL score one of these days, I guess. [emote];)[/emote]

I can’t really speak after this, but I’ll try my hand at a faltering reply.

Hmm… I think I understand what you are saying. A story is more than its author, greater than its author. All the great stories that inspire me to keep on living my disappointing life were written by normal people with disappointing lives like mine. And the fact that great stories are greater than their authors only makes the authors themselves greater, too. Great stories give both ways; they make their authors greater for having seen and expressed the vision, and then they make the audience greater for having received and loved the author’s vision. For me Andromeda Awakening will always be one of those great stories. Clearly, Andromeda Apocalypse is also an excellent game, but for me, personally, the truly inspired vision is Andromeda Awakening.

I am also glad to see someone win who is neither American nor British. Meaning no disrespect to my own country or to Britain, it is sad and unfair that fate has made things a lot easier for native English-speaking artists on the international scene. Every culture needs poets, and since the IF community is an international culture, there is no such thing as a “foreigner.”

Thanks for that reminder, Marco. [emote]:)[/emote]

But some fish don’t drink water, they just absorb it!

You’ll have to accept it someday, after all 2 negatives make a positive!

No, but Beyond, an IF Comp 2005 game by three Italians, was at second place.

I will never knowingly turn down a free beer. Well, a free good beer. Standards, you know.

I really, really encourage imperfectly-fluent second-language authors to seek out native-speaker editor / proofreaders. It’s freakin’ hard work, but this is a community that’s founded on helping one another out, and it makes a big difference to everyone. (I counted one reviewer who thought that the corrections made Marco’s style too bland, and one who thought they didn’t go far enough, so that’s probably pretty close to the sweet spot.)

(Also when the next version of I7 drops, it will become mightily tempting to perpetrate a game in French, and oh boy is that likely to be a limping monstrosity. Pray it never happens, France; and if prayer doesn’t avail, volunteer.)

First non-native speaker, I think. And I think that Jon Ingold and Graham Nelson are the only other non-Americans to win the comp. (Quite possible I’ve missed or misidentified someone, though.) I’m certain, however, that Marco broke the record for acceptance speeches.

In other news, ClubFloyd will be playing through the winning games on ifMUD, starting with Andromeda Apocalypse tomorrow at 5.30 PM GMT / 9.30 AM Pacific / 12.30 PM Eastern. Authors are very welcome to attend.

Wow! Nice. Be prepared to waste some time. The average turn count is near 1.000. Some played it for 1,700 moves. Impressive.

What is an acceptance speech?

It is the speech one makes after accepting an award [emote]:)[/emote]

I’d like to join the Clubfloyd session, but I don’t think I will ever be able to attend a Clubfloyd session. They start between 2:30 and 4:30 am monday morning my time, depending on the time of the year.

  • Wade

It looks like Magnus Olsson won the TADS division back in the first comp, when there was a TADS division.

NightFloyd might be slightly less impossible – it generally runs at around 10 PM EST on Wednesdays. Which would be the middle of the workday for Aussies, but at least you’ll be awake.

(NightFloyd also tends to play longer, more involved games than ClubFloyd, with a single game usually spanning several sessions.)

Ah, thanks for the Nightfloyd info. Yes, me being conscious at the time of play is definitely a step in the right direction.

  • Wade