Dorian Passer's ParserComp 2022 Reviews (DONE)

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