Dorian Passer's ParserComp 2022 Reviews (DONE)

Whew :relieved: Thanks for letting me know this a common thing.

And awesome work on writing an interpreter! That is so cool!

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I forgot to mention this earlier, but I love these graphs that you’re making! Thank you!


I see what you were trying to do with this version, but I think it misses some insights that I discovered from this model. Let me provide a bit more context to help ourselves here.


When I used to visualize a range of fun, “not fun” was at one end of the range, and “fun” was at the other. For me, fun and not fun were self-apparent; in other words, it wasn’t very hard for me to make a black-and-white determination between fun and not fun. That dark chasm between fun and not fun was what left me scratching my head in confusion.

The chasm between fun and not fun was a big problem to me. So I applied a classic problem solving technique — break up something big into a bunch of smaller pieces. Using Barrett’s concepts, I enumerated all the states between {sensory input, prediction} and {too little, just right, too much} and then placed them along a line. This is when I discovered two types of “not fun” and two ranges between “fun” and “not fun”. So exciting!

With the mountain of fun, I found a reasonable explanation for the transition between fun and not fun. I call this transition the “slope of the mountain”. The slope is still a bit mysterious to me. For instance, Area 2 is (reasonably) the bottom of a slope. But Area 3 is (simply) the opposite of Area 4; are these two opposite areas equal to one another, or is one better than the other? [Note: I now label these two areas as the mesa.] I have this same concern with both slopes; are these two slopes equal to each other, or is one slope “less fun”?


I hope now you see why I’m bad at making a graph of the mountain of fun. However, it’s a fun exercise, so here’s a (notional) graph that envisions a “mesa” surrounding the peak, where the mesa reflects an assumed equality between Area 3 and 4 and Area 6 and 7.

(I re-implemented your graph in Google Slides :partying_face: )

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The Muse

By Xavier Carrascosa

Summary

I couldn’t take any more. Would my pleas be heard to awaken from this nightmare?

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN slope
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM slope
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM slope
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN slope
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

The art and prose work together to suspend my disbelief, though I feel like the art is doing more of the work here.


I like how the instructions are brief and easy to remember. Get stuck? Type Help. Which I do and I’m so glad I did. The help section is very well put together, covering topics up from the macro level down to the micro level. This really helps me to compartmentalize information.

Since the help section is so, well, helpful, I read it all. I’m learning here, and to me, this is fun! Thanks for making sure I understand the conventions of the genre.


I’m taking a tangent here, but I’d like to comment on some passages from the help section.

Make sure you’ve exhausted all the options in your environment […] Reread. Look back at things you’ve already looked at. Sometimes this will trigger an idea you hadn’t thought of.

This reminds me of a pixel hunt. For me, this causes me to make many predictions, which feels overwhelming, yet at the same time, this process provides dwindling sensory input, which feels underwhelming. This flow usually puts me at the bottom of the northern slope around Area 2 of the mountain.

Anyways, I’ll get back to the review now.


I pick up the quill and write in the book. Then an exhaustive (and exhausting) examination of the room leads me to examine muse. Progress continues as I look forward to venturing away from Area 2.


Now I reach a delay while I search a sentence to find the next verb to use. In a way, this feels like clicking a hyperlink — a hidden hyperlink. For me, this “hidden” mechanism of parser-based works — with “hidden choice lists” and “hidden hyperlinks” — makes for a frustrating climb up the northern slope of the mountain.

But so far in this work, the “hidden hyperlinks” seem to be singular and apparent, which makes them feel just right.


Soon, I complete the first act. And without looking at the hint system too much or doing too many rote environmental manipulations. I’m excited to keep this momentum going until the final act.

For the most part, my delays seem to be happening at a good pace. With terse prose and evocative illustrations, my sensory input feels on the cusp of just right; telegraphed prose and an apparent interaction pattern helps to scope down my prediction space, making this feel just right, too. Here I’m mostly around the upper mesa of the mountain, with moments of summiting. I’m liking where I’m at!


But soon, I’m back to exhausting many verb-noun pairs on the environment. My delay builds up and my suspension of disbelief goes down. I’m moving towards the bottom of the northern slope near the foot of the mountain.

I don’t know what else to do, so I consult the hints. After I decipher the not-so-subtle hint, I’m disappointed. I feel like this act on lust would benefit from a different topic, like a cheating spouse.

Thankfully, I remember that I’m a prisoner, so I try to beg the muse to stop. It works and I find myself at an end.

Conclusion

This is only my biased opinion, but since this work deemphasizes geographical exploration, I would have been fine if the prose was more “literary” and less “utilitary”.

Overall (and besides having an obvious lapse in taste), The Muse is an effective work in terms of momentum and suspension of disbelief.


Many thanks to Xavier Carrascosa for making The Muse and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

You Won’t Get Her Back

By Andrew Schultz

Summary

I could not get her back, even with the sheer force of my brute strength.

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN slope
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM slope
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM slope
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN slope
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

I’d like to start by thanking the author for including a note about accessibility concerns. I think this is a great idea, and you’ve inspired me to start doing this, too. Is there not a standard accessibility statement somewhere? Something like the minimum technical requirements for running software?

Okay, so with this said, I’ll start my discussion.


From the opening, I’m really into this story’s chess setting and I find myself suspending disbelief.

So this is cool — now I’m going to be playing chess. I haven’t done this in so long. Since I know the basic rules, and I toggled MOVES ON to speed up my orientation with the ASCII chess board, I feel like my prediction space feels just right. I’m moving fast to the mesa of Area 3, with expectations to keep up this pace to the summit of Area 5.


The game provides a narration for the first move that I make. I’m liking this! Now, I might be biased for saying this, but for me, this narration fast-tracked me to the peak of Area 5.

My terrible chess performance leads to the board being reset more times than I hoped. Even so, the narration of my attempts was fun to read, so I keep trying again. I was sad to see that sometimes a narration was a spartan extra-diegetic description instead of that lively diegetic prose from the introduction.


Eventually, I recourse to a brute-force search to find a winning move set. This tactic shifts my context from reading to problem solving, and now I’m barely holding onto a suspension of disbelief. My predictions are barely happening and my sensory input is low. I’m on the edge of the north mesa, and looking down I see the foot of the mountain. But this is nobody’s fault except my own, and strictly due to my inexperience with endgames.

My brute-force search has some success, and I finally obtain the STALEMATE, MATE achievement. But at this point, my problem-solving mode has replaced my literary suspension of disbelief, so I decide to move on.

Conclusion

The path to the peak of this mountain of fun is direct and fast! And even though the path down proved just as expedient, I still loved my view from atop the summit around Area 5.

I think a serious chess player would definitely have fun playing this narration of this endgame!


Many thanks to Andrew Schultz for making You Won’t Get Her Back and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

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Thanks for this review! Your mentioning brute force brings up one thing I want to discuss in a postmortem. I think it’s valuable to have puzzles that seem like you can brute-force everything, but there’s one more thing to notice. The question is how to make it fair and not too obscure!

In this case, I there was some synchronicity, as I’d just gone through my daily free “survival rush” puzzle gauntlet at chess.com (where you keep doing harder puzzles until you get 3 wrong) and for a few, I was lucky enough to have a new idea once I ran out of brute-forcing.

And it’s interesting to see how my brute-forcing has evolved over time, for chess or parser game puzzles, along with my intuition for when my brute forcing doesn’t work. But it’s outside the scope of this thread!

I’ve mentioned in other reviews that I’m not sure if the twist is fully fair, but it’s interesting to see the balance of “I got it” and “I didn’t” with a relative lack of vitriol in either case. And I wanted the early failures to at least be fun! I have a few ideas for cluing later, which may even slowly hint at the right solution, but I don’t want to make it too obvious too soon.

And thanks for this review thread–selfish “yay I got one more review to help with a quick post-comp release” aside, I think we all can flag a bit in the late middle of the competition, and anything that helps us procrastinate less before the final stretch is good motivation indeed. There are always vote-dumps, but I know I’m that much more uneasy about entries I judge late as often I may not have seen everything I wanted to or should have.

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I love chatting with designers about their process, so thank you for this reply!


I totally agree! I love this design approach and I’ve tried it several times. But for me, each time took so much effort to get right. I think you did a good job here and I had fun playing your game. :slight_smile:

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Things That Happened In Houghtonbridge

By Dee Cooke

Summary

I’ve accidentally broken into a house and now I can’t find my way out!

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN slope
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM slope
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM slope
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN slope
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

The initial paragraphs are descriptive and utilitarian, but soon I catch on that all the best prose is in object descriptions, and I suspend my disbelief.

My initial impression of the help section is great. Concise and chunked and helpful!

Visualizing my movement in terms of compass points is frustrating because I never feel that I have enough sensory input to make my predictions feel comfortable.


I love all the great narration that comes with examining the environment! I think I remember this being environmental storytelling, right? Almost all of my predictions are rewarded with new sensory input, which is really fun. Up to now, everything feels just right. It’s a great view from Area 5 at the peak of the mountain.


I’m happy to see that a conversation that I have is implemented with a choice list that isn’t cognitively dissonant.


Soon, I settle into a nice rhythm of looking, predicting, and doing. This creates a pleasing forward momentum through the story. So far, I’m loving this environmental storytelling approach. More often than not, my intuition for a prediction ends up being right, and I think this is due to the great sensory input and narration in the environment.


Eventually, I’m roaming around the inside a house while trying to find a way out. I eventually exhaust all of my predictions to find a way out. I find myself moving down through the mesa of the mountain past Area 4.

The hint that I ask for doesn’t put me back on track. I examined the attic trapdoor already, and I couldn’t find anything else there besides a scribbling. My inexperience with the genre conventions finds me out of sensory input and predictions. Through nobody’s fault but my own, I descend down to the foot of the mountain.

As a last ditch effort to start another accent, I peek at the full verb list. It is cool to see so many verbs! But ultimately, this doesn’t stop my delay.

Conclusion

I got stuck in Beverley’s house after rifling through her desk while looking for a pipe wrench and caring around a phone, brass key, diary, incense packet, and vase.


This approach is really fun! When things are moving forward, I can’t ask for anything more — I get a total suspension of disbelief, I think the sensory input is great, and all of my predictions feel earned and just right.


Many thanks to Dee Cooke for making Things That Happened In Houghtonbridge and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

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Thanks for your review!

For where you got stuck: try taking a closer look at the incense packet.

There’s also a walkthrough to download from the Itch page if needed :slightly_smiling_face:

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Midnight at Al’s Self Storage, Truck Rentals, and Discount Psychic Readings

By Thomas Insel

Summary

Despite cramped hallways and finicky equipment, I finish all of my work in time to watch the sun rise. Is it too late — or too early — for that nap I was looking forward to taking in the break room?

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN mesa
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM mesa
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM mesa
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN mesa
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

I think the introduction (especially the opening sentence) is very effective at setting a scene. By the time I can start interacting, I have a suspension of disbelief and I’m ready to start my evening shift.

I find that there’s not much sensory input happening from the environment, but my prediction space is low because I have a clear understanding of my next steps. I’m already on the mesa of Area 3.

I love my forward momentum. I’m comfortably on the mesa after I finish my first task. For few moments, some nice environmental storytelling places me around the peak at Area 5. I’m looking forward to more environmental storytelling to keep me here at the peak.

Eventually, some environment and inventory fiddling slows my momentum down a bit. I get stuck in the elevator, which this feels like a bug, not a feature. And while UNDO does rescue me, I find myself at the foot of the mountain, eager to start my ascent back to the mesa and regain a suspension of disbelief. My remaining interactions with the elevator puts me in problem solving mode, where I find myself on the north slope of Area 2.

My forward momentum picks back up, and before I know it, I’m at the end! I never get back a suspension of disbelief, but I do end on the mesa at Area 3. I love that I finished this work, even with my limited knowledge of genre conventions and without reaching for walk-through.

Conclusion

This work did a great job getting me to and keeping me at the mesa at Area 3, with occasional highs and lows around the peak and the foot of the mountain. I am definitely looking forward to more midnight traipsing at Al’s!


Many thanks to Thomas Insel for making Midnight at Al’s Self Storage, Truck Rentals, and Discount Psychic Readings and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

Desrosier’s Discovery

By Ben Ehrlich and Isabel Stewart

Summary

Not wanting to go to my grave with any regret, I accept an invitation to meet an old friend at a remote island. I never make it back, which is, well — it’s rather regrettable.

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN slope
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM slope
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM slope
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN slope
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

The opening choice gives me cognitive dissonance because the introduction doesn’t have enough sensory input to scope down my predictions to a disconfirming answer. I hope this isn’t a precedent for this work’s choice mechanics. But for now, I’m on the north slope on Area 2 and without further delay I move forward.


I can’t seem to find a help section and HELP isn’t working. I’m a bit worried now, because I need all the help I can get.


Thankfully, the prose includes enough sensory input to reliably induce a valid prediction from me. For me, this is excellent design, which now puts me on the north mesa around Area 3. I love this and I’m looking forward being on the summit of the mountain of fun.

But some of the prose is starting to read like an inventory list, which starts to make me wander around the north slope.


Sooner than I’d hoped, there is another choice with insufficient sensory input to make a prediction. And then another choice with insufficient sensory input leads me to reach both my final decision and my arrival at the foot of the mountain.

Conclusion

I stopped after receiving a “game over” when I employed “Chekhov’s gun” (i.e., I find a gun and then I find a monster, which is enough sensory input to induce a prediction to “shoot monster with gun”).


The parser made me feel like all of my predictions were valid, which gave me great forward moment and also helped to suspend some disbelief. If continue-or-restart choices were preceded with more effective sensory input to induce a comfortable prediction, I could easily see myself on the peak of the mountain of fun.


Many thanks to Ben Ehrlich and Isabel Stewart for making Desrosier’s Discovery and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

Improv: Origins

By Neil deMause

Summary

I was ensured that my Ingenuity degree would thoroughly prepare me for my first superhero gig. Yeah, right — as if! Well, except for the rubber bands. I didn’t believe it at the time, but they were right about the rubber bands. So many rubber bands…

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN mesa
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM mesa
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM mesa
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN mesa
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

The introduction starts me off with a suspension of disbelief, and now I’m eager to a make a great first impression at my first superhero gig.


From the start, there is enough sensory input in the environment to induce some comfortable predictions. I enjoy a nice pace forward to the mesa at Area 3.

Sometimes, the prose reads more like an inventory list, which for me, rattles my literary suspension of disbelief. However, I’m still having fun on the north mesa.


When the jokes land, everything is really fun. For me, the environmental silliness — as opposed to environmental storytelling — puts me in Area 5 at the peak.


Eventually, the prose’s sensory input starts to run low, then my predictions run low. This slows both my momentum and the flow of comedy. A delay starts to build up, but before I reach my limit, I get a sudden burst of progress. My excite fades when I realize my forward momentum has arrived at a decision to restart everything from the beginning.

Conclusion

I got turned into a toad, but before that happened, I found a holographic phone and rummaged through a chest where there was more rubber bands. I don’t think I even got close to opening up that safe.


I was definitely having a lot of fun when the forward momentum was bringing out the best of the environmental silliness.


Many thanks to Neil deMause for making Improv: Origins and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

Radio Tower

By Brojman

Summary

Deciding to sleep through a rain storm was not in my best interest. I never wake up again.

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN mesa
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM mesa
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM mesa
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN mesa
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

There is a lot going as soon as I turn this game on, which starts me on the south foot of the mountain. I soon realize the quad-screen user interface, color-coded words, and instruction dump is here to help me. Perhaps a layered reveal would help acclimate a new player? Having said all that, I definitely see all this being helpful to keep sensory input and predictions on track! After dedicating myself to read through everything, I’m on the north slope in Area 2.


Once I’m past the instructions, the beginning prose draws me into a suspension of disbelief! I move to the north mesa in Area 4, ready to check up on my friend during a bad storm. But as soon as the action starts, the prose reads like an insurance appraisal. (Does the player character have aspirations to be an insurance claim adjuster? Is that the real horror here?!)


After getting used to the quad-screen user interface, I notice, in addition to the awesome map, a list of available actions for the current room. I can see myself — having run low on sensory input and predictions — trying to brute force through this list and these color-coded words. But since I’m still learning the genre’s conventions, I’m glad for the help.


(I’d like to digress for a moment about choice lists. I think I understand why this genre advises against the idea of revealing a choice list. A hidden choice list intends to create the illusion of breadth and depth; there is a common convention that this illusion causes an audience’s prediction to be more satisfying. In a way, I suppose that revealing — instead of hiding — a choice list is functionally equivalent to breaking an audience’s suspension of disbelief.)


When I inspect a room’s feature, the appraisal-like sensory input clashes against my suspension of disbelief for the setting. This doesn’t move me off the north mesa, but I do shift over to Area 3. For me, combining environmental storytelling with a comfortable pace forward usually takes me to Area 5.


The parser’s requirement for exactly-typed commands is chipping away at my suspension of disbelief.


I soon settle into a flow of matching items from one choice list to another. Now, this creates some amazing forward momentum! I know exactly what I should be doing next, and I’m usually working on a next step without much delay. But the prose has low sensory input, causing me to have fewer stateless predictions. This puts me in a superposition between Area 1 and Area 3.


Before I can start another ascent back to the mesa, I receive some sensory input for a reasonable prediction, but that prediction leads me to a decision to restart from the beginning. I’ve discussed this design approach in a previous review, but I’ll go over this again here. For me, this happened because I employed “Chekhov’s gun” (i.e., I find a bed and then I see a flashing button labeled sleep, which is enough sensory input to induce a prediction to “sleep”).

Restarting from the beginning will leave me at Area 1 until I reach this juncture again, so I decide to move on.

Conclusion

I got a strong hint to sleep in a bed, where I was promptly stabbed to death.


For me, with a bit more sensory input (perhaps through environmental storytelling), I can see this approach being very fun.


Many thanks to Brojman for making Radio Tower and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

Alchemist’s Gold

By Garry Francis

Summary

Over the river and through the woods to burglarize a cabin I go.

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN mesa
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM mesa
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM mesa
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN mesa
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

The big wall of instructions before I even start the game places me on the south foot of the mountain. Feeling overwhelmed is my typical reaction to lengthy instructions. But I know that after I read through them that I’ll start off on the north slope of the mountain, which makes me feel better.

The instructions cover detailed grammatical parts-of-speech and syntactic rules for commands, which might be too much information here. But I still very much appreciate all the information I can get. After dedicating myself to reading the instructions, I’m ready for my ascent from the northern slope.


The opening paragraph does a fine job of setting the context, but its short on literary sensory input, so I don’t achieve a suspension of disbelief. Despite this, my prediction space is tightly scoped, so sooner rather than later, I expect to reach the north mesa at Area 3.


The sustained forward momentum does an excellent job of opening a path to the north mesa! However, the prose continues to have low sensory input; a bit more environmental storytelling would bring me up to the peak of the mountain of fun. Either way, I’m happy on the north mesa and I’m looking forward to maintaining this momentum to carry me through to the end.


Using the ASCII map is a lot of fun!


I’m starting to see that most “escape room”-style IF tends to prefer prose that reads like an itemized appraisal. Again, this doesn’t drive me from the north mesa, but I’m sure I’d be at the peak if there was more environmental storytelling.


Eventually, my inexperience with the genre grows a long delay, and with my sensory input and predictions dwindling, I find myself at the north foot of the mountain. I’m looking for a way back up, so I ask for a hint, which is, “What’s that bump under the rug?”. This stops my delay, but not without me scratching my head while wondering how I missed that? Or was there missing sensory input?


My steady momentum leads me to the end. After entering a few UNDO commands, I do find away to make off with the alchemist’s gold. Yay!

Conclusion

I reach the end and “scored 100 out of a possible 100, in 560 turns”.


The prose’s minimal sensory input was not enough for me to reach a literary suspension of disbelief, so for most of my experience I was on the north mesa at Area 3, which was still satisfying. And, as I’ve said in another review, I’m very happy with such an outcome. I always feel good when someone can design around my limited understanding of this genre and to steadily lead me to the end. I would definitely play something else like this again.


Many thanks to Garry Francis for making Alchemist’s Gold and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

1 Like

The Impossible Stairs

By Brian Rushton

Summary

It takes time, but I eventually help to set up the house for a wonderful dinner party with the family.

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN mesa
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM mesa
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM mesa
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN mesa
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

The open prose is sparse, so I don’t immediately achieve a literary suspension of disbelief. But I can tell that the clickable links — which are great for a beginner like me — will give me enough momentum that I’ll soon be on the north mesa at Area 3.


The HELP command brings up a sensible help section that I find useful. Thank you!


The opening starts me off with a list of chores, which scopes down my prediction space and helps me with my next steps.


Some of the prose is reminiscent of reading an appraisal list, but most sections are not. Either way, I like the forward momentum I’m gaining, which fast tracks me to the north mesa at Area 3.


The environmental storytelling really picks up, and combined with a strong pace forward, brings me to the peak at Area 5. I’m having fun wandering around and experiencing the story, all while still knowing what I’m supposed to achieve for my next step.


I find that clicking on hyperlinks does take some of the magic away. I worry about slipping down beyond the mesa, but for now, everything is still moving along and making me happy.


The character conversations are just a standard pick list, which has me rotely running down through a list of options. The prose is good enough, but with my prediction space at nil, I shift to the north mesa to Area 4 during these conversations.


The shifting times throughout the house have me feeling a bit melancholy, to be honest. The sensory input from the environmental storytelling is working great with my predictions while I continue to make progress. I’m back at the peak of the mountain at Area 5.


But as I read on, I’m mostly around the mesa between Area 3 and Area 4, with moments of being around Area 5. All things considered, this is a really fun experience for me!


Eventually, I run out of predictions and sensory input. I ask for a hint to help me start back up from the north foot of the mountain. It works, and I’m back on track to the north mesa. My progress with Ada becomes tedious as my predictions scope down to a laser-tight focus.


I start to see that my momentum is bringing me a close. When I do finally reach the end, the sensory input throughout remains high and I find myself finishing on the mesa at Area 4.

Conclusion

This was a great read, where I found myself steadily occupying the north mesa, with occasional dips and summits that kept my reading experience lively.


Many thanks to Brian Rushton for making The Impossible Stairs and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

3 Likes

Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand

By AZ

Summary

Don’t forget to wash your hands on the way out!

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN mesa
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM mesa
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM mesa
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN mesa
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

This game has an intro song, with a melody that let’s me hear the adventure ahead. I’m called forward — to the stalls!


Sights and sounds, and a silly setting. From the start, the sensory input helps me to suspend my disbelief. I’m starting off on the north mesa in Area 4.


Because I’m still learning this genre’s conventions, my first step is to look for a help section. Typing HELP brings up a hint, which renders in the same style as the game. That’s a nice touch. (My second step is to disable logging. Sorry, I’m a shy player. :wink: :grin:)


The stall doodles provide enough sensory input to make my predictions seem natural. My forward momentum fast tracks me to the summit at Area 5. This is a lot of fun!


When I reach a spike pit, trying to look down makes my character jump into the spikes; I feel like this is an unintended response. My cost to re-reach this juncture is extremely low (literally one command), so I try again. I find myself restarting at the north mesa in Area 4.


My forward momentum stalls after I receive sensory input that gives me a reasonable prediction, but the game responds with a decision for me to restart from the beginning. I don’t mind in this case, because I’m only one command away re-reaching this juncture. But this restart does break my suspension of disbelief due to a violation of “Chekhov’s gun” (i.e., I find a spike pit and then I find my jump command, which is enough sensory input to induce a prediction to “jump over spikes”). I restart on the northern slope, where I expect an easy hike back to the mesa.


The next doodle brings me back to the north mesa, even if my suspension of disbelief is struggling to catch up. By now I see that this game relies on frequent restarts. In the beginning, the cost to restart is often a command or two, so for now, I stick around and restart. But each restart brings less sensory input and scopes down my prediction space.


And now I notice some clever design. The doodle from my unsuccessful jump over the spike pit also works to provide me with sensory input that helps me make a valid prediction for how to solve the spike pit. This toys with “Chekhov’s gun” in an interesting way. I move up to the north mesa at Area 3.


But after running low on sensory input and predictions — and finding myself at the foot of the mountain — I ask for help. Each room has its own help section, which is a nice touch. The help section gives me plenty of forward momentum on my way back up the mountain. Since the help is a doodle, it provides a hint while still leaving the responsibility to predict (i.e., type) a valid command. This is another a nice touch.


From the tree, I jump to the castle. For a brief moment, I was really fooled! Now I’m back at the peak in Area 5.

Eventually, I move back down to the north mesa as I ask for another hint. But again, with the implementation of the help section, this doesn’t take away too much magic from the “hidden” nature of the parser.


In the final scene, I fast run out of sensory input and predictions. I ask for all the help I can get, but I’m still stuck. Now I’m at the northern slope since I know what to do but not how to do it. After I thrash the command prompt for a while, I find the right command, which whisks me to the closing credits.

Conclusion

The ending is a very funny doodle animation. It’s a nice send off that leaves me at the north mesa at Area 4.


The north mesa is where I found myself for most of this experience. My time at the summit (or the north foot or slope) was brief, but it was enough to make everything feel dynamic and fun. I very much enjoyed myself and I’m looking forward to another adventure in this style!


Many thanks to AZ for making Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

2 Likes

Of Their Shadows Deep

By Amanda Walker

Summary

I try to build some warmth to stay the gathering cold.

Mountain of Fun

What is a Mountain of Fun?

I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded

blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, offline UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELM-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN mesa
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM mesa
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 just right too much focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM mesa
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN mesa
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot

Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion

From the title page is everything that I will come to know after reading. I can feel that this will be an affecting work ahead.

For me, the opening is both disconsolate and beautiful. If I scope my “mountain” model to stateless media, I can easily use Area 5 to describe this work’s opening prose.


(And, of course, I love the <pre>-style text art, i.e., “concrete poetry”.)


The transition to parser-centric prose is almost jarring in contrast to the stunning opening prose, even though I know this work will take full advantage of environmental storytelling (or something similar). Regardless, the room descriptions are still great, and they offer plenty of sensory input to induce a reasonable prediction.


I’ve never been good at solving riddles, so usually for me their experience puts me in Area 2. But soon I see that’s not the case with this work; I have adequate sensory input to reliably make a correct prediction when I need to. In fact, their total experience is Area 5 for me.


I see the Ravine as a metaphor for this author’s experience. In truth, I have this same metaphorical interpretation for almost all this work’s descriptive prose. This is an laudable repurposing of the typical appraisal-style prose.


The randomized ambient activity as I move about makes the scenery feel alive. This is a great touch here!


My momentum throughout is never delayed for long, and combined with having a full suspension of disbelief, Area 5 describes most of my experience until I reach the final moments, which I eventually do.

Conclusion

The stateless elements are excellent. The stateful elements are excellent. Overall, this is an exemplary work! I easily feel that Area 5 is an accurate impression of my experience.


For a full disclosure, the catalyst to write all of these reviews comes from Amanda’s plea that contemporary parser-based authors do strive to create a more careful and considerate audience experience. I am immensely grateful for the intervention here.


Thank you so much, Amanda, for letting us all share in this experience with you. I will never forget this.


Many thanks to Amanda Walker for making Of Their Shadows Deep and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!

3 Likes

Thanks, Dorian! I have to admit I was a little worried that in reviewing OTSD you’d have to change your “mountain of fun” to “mountain of glum” or something like that, since I don’t think anyone could reasonably describe my game as “fun.” But it seems it was still a good tool for rating the game!

I really appreciate your time and effort in playing and writing about my game.

5 Likes

Thanks for the reply, Amanda. I think your work is a great piece of literature!


No need for a change, and I definitely had fun with your work. That’s because with this “mountain” model, “fun” is merely a label for a specific area of the model. Another label for Area 5 is “learning”, which also describes my experience with your work. And I hope you don’t take offense to that! I probably sound corny saying this, but there’s no difference between having fun and learning — or at least, I can’t see a difference.

1 Like

Not even a little. I’m very grateful for your commentary and your kind words.

I wish my calculus teachers had known this.

1 Like

Thank you to all the participants (and beta testers) of ParserComp 2022 for all these wonderful works that I had the privilege of playing this summer!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!


Thanks for the tip, @dee_cooke! I looked through the hints after writing my review, which definitely gave me a Doh! moment (pro tip: look at your items after you take them). When I get a chance, I definitely want to pick up where I left off with your game. And thanks so much for your excellent postmortem!


Whew! I’m glad you understand, @AmandaB . And thank you, again! I don’t think I can properly express just how deep of an impression Of Their Shadows Deep has had on me.

I found another conceptualization for Area 5Csíkszentmihályi’s Flow State. I can definitely say I was in a flow state while reading OTSD! So much so that my experience is still vivid days later.


For people that haven’t had a chance to read OTSD, please set yourself a reminder to read it. Amanda’s OTSD is easily one of the top interactive experiences I’ve ever had!

Other reviews have mentioned this already, but Amanda has seemlessly bonded together both the stateless and the stateful frame of her work. Please check it out! Each “riddle” is actually a dual-coded memory device that a person with Aphasia would use. Without exception, this is immersive perfection.


Finally, I want to apologize to the participants whose works I did not read because the works were not available online. Eventually, I want to setup a VM so I can securely install and play them (and leave a review here, too).

4 Likes