I had thought about buying a couple of his games, just so I could post reviews. But man, this guy is arrogant. I found myself unable to resist posting feedback of my own, in the comments section. I probably should have left well enough alone.
It doesn’t bother me that he sells his games. It doesn’t even matter to me if they’re bad (never played, so I can’t say). But what bugs the hell out of me is that he pretends to be the only one still writing IF, and when called out on it, he pretends to be the only one still writing IF that matters. That really irks me. He justifies calling himself the “last implementor of Interactive Fiction” by likening it to the commercial days of Infocom. In other words, he is the only one writing and selling new IF (others may have done so, but aren’t currently working on anything new, so says Howard). This is purposely misleading. Howards narrow interpretation isn’t what comes to mind. People will believe he’s the only person writing IF. And he likes it that way.
No, I don’t believe he has sold 150,000 copies of his games. I did pretty well with my BBS games, a decade ago, and only sold maybe 1,000 copies (less of the Worldgroup version, but it was a lot more expensive). Even with exposure in numerous spots for my online games, subscriptions for eight years wouldn’t equal 150,000 full-priced Malinche games. So no, I don’t buy it. I think it’s more wordplay. He has “moved” that many copies. I.e., he’s including demo download statistics (or something) in those totals. Who knows? I just wish he’d be more honest about what he’s doing.
I once had an e-mail off him after I posted a review of “Future Boy!” on RGIF. He suggested I check out some of his games for “examples of truly great commercial games”. I pointed out to him that someone had sent me their copy a while back and he practically hit the roof. First of all, he insisted on me telling him the name of the person who had sent me their game “without Malinche’s express permission” (I think he was going to take them to court or something), then he threatened legal action against me for receiving goods I hadn’t purchased. His e-mails ran for pages and pages. My own response to him was a little shorter. Two words. The second being “off”.
I think he has serious control issues. Most of the time he acts like a little kid and throws tantrums when he doesn’t feel he’s getting his own way, and the rest of the time he’s just an obnoxious piece of work.
I hate to think of the damage he causes to the IF community on the whole. One of the few times IF gets a mention in the wider world and this is what people see. Hardly going to encourage them to check out anyone else’s game, is it?
Sherman is not lazy, and he is, to a point, helping to promote IF to the world. The problem is he’s trying to narrow down the field to his particular company only. His article at the adventure gaming site comes off more as a publicity stunt for Malinche Entertainment than an article about playing and writing IF. Never mind if he doesn’t give credit where it’s due - that’s been his prerogative ever since he sold those games, though it doesn’t reflect well on his personality.
If he had, as other journalists, written more about IF in general (putting into light all the current efforts towards IF whether commercial or not, whether “amateur” or not), then he might not get the same violent reactions as he is getting now.
There’s nothing wrong about self-promotion. Peter Nepstad wrote about his experiences before with selling his game in RAIF; if I’m not mistaken, Aaron Reed also did a lot of promotion during the Slamdance competition. Sherman’s brand of self-promotion goes beyond what’s necessary for Malinche Entertainment to flourish.
It’s best to keep everything civil. Ignore him. Or better yet, study and learn from what he does well (for commercial IF) and leave out the bad. We’ve probably all had enough bad news for the day, don’t you think? 8)
I don’t doubt his dedication or relentlessness, but I’ve come to see that there is a reason Tessman and Nepstad are favored by the community, while Sherman is not. I don’t think it’s strictly the quality of their respective games. Howard Sherman is telling people that he’s the only one writing Interactive Fiction. If he mentions the wider community, it’s to say that we are inconsequential wannabes.
There is nothing wrong with self-promotion, no. This particular article, though, is too narcissistic to be taken seriously. It also seems more appropriate as an advertisement – not as an adventure gaming site’s feature article. Even if his intent was strictly to describe his experiences writing and selling interactive fiction (which seems to be the case), he does it in a really sleazy way. He focuses on how great he believes himself to be, instead of focusing on his achievements and letting the world decide whether or not he’s great.
At least in that interview he doesn’t come across as so egotistical. The interview is actually pretty good, at least, it’s what I’d expect to read from any publication doing an interview of a game designer.
Just went to the Malinche website. Just reading the screenshots from his games gives a good indication of their quality. Some tidbits:
We’re near Iran and my XO is looking at a map of North Korea?
Great proofreading, that.
There are others but it’s just too much to type. Although, some of his games have attractive boxes with feelies, which could be cool.
If I have spare cash I might buy one of his games and do a write-up for SPAG.
I thought the same – maybe buying a couple of his games, and sending reviews to SPAG. What would be even cooler would be to buy the commercial version of Future Boy, buy the World’s Fair Mystery, and one of the Malinche games, and write a review package for SPAG.
I’d also love to partner up with some other IF authors, and try to come up with some really good commercial IF. I’d say, sell it at the token price of $5 per game. Perhaps get four authors to write a game each, spend $1 on the shipping/media, and split the other $4 per game sold. Something like that. Then, call ourselves “Implementors” and see how Malinche responds. Edit: Or even better, maybe sell 5 games in a $10 bundle. If they were really good, original games, maybe even part of a set or series or sharing a theme, I think that would attract people.
But, that’s a whole different discussion, and I’m knee-deep in too much stuff at the moment anyway. Maybe in 2007.
I have all three. “Future Boy!” I reviewed a while back and I’m playing “1893: A World’s Fair Mystery” now. One of these days I’ll get around to writing a review of it. “Pentari First Light”, one of the Malinche ‘classics’ I’ve had for a while since some kind chap sent me his copy but I gave up with it after a while because, well, it’s just not very good. I thank my lucky stars I didn’t buy it because it would have been a serious waste of money.
Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever seen a decent review of a Malinche game? Anyone that isn’t Howard Sherman in disguise, that is?
I’d love that kind of thing. Even if it didn’t generate much in the way of cash, it’d be nice to do something commercial just for the sheer heck of it. And who knows? We might even sell 150,000 copies.
EDIT: of course, bit above when I said ‘has anyone “wrote” a decent review’ should have actually been ‘has anyone “seen” a decent review’.
My guess is that he designs tall, instead of wide. What I mean by that is, you implement just what’s necessary to support the puzzles, and you make the puzzles such that the player’s time is spent trying to figure out what to do next. It’s a far harder thing to design wide. This means deeper implementation, multiple options and paths, unnecessary but rewarding verbs/actions, and a more thought-provoking story. A wide game is long not by overly difficult puzzles, but by more content.
I’m at a point in my life now where even excellent sales (I’m thinking a couple thousand copies over two or three years) of a $5 game wouldn’t make a huge difference to me. It’s “for the heck of it” that I’m most interested in. If I’m going to write something to sell, I’ll necessarily put more time into it, make sure it’s more polished, and take the entire effort more seriously. Even at $5, I would be responsible for the quality of the game. Just like the IFComp in years past, it’s the kind of motivation I need to actually produce something instead of just dreaming up interesting concepts.
I just hope the IF community would realize that this wasn’t some silly (and naive) get-rich-quick scheme. I wouldn’t expect to sell a hundred copies, let alone two thousand. But, it might be fun. If the games were good – and I mean really good – we might cut in on some of the exposure that Sherman seems to garner. I could even see doing downloadable demos, but putting boxed feelies and stuff in with the full version. I think it would be fun. I used to do this kind of thing in high school with some friends, and it was always a blast.
I actually have the feeling that the only person who rates Howard’s games highly is Howard himself.
PC Zone (or maybe PC Format) magazine reviewed one of his games last year and basically slated it. I wonder how many threatening e-mails they got off him as a result?
The threatening to sue SPAG thing is pretty hilarious, though. It really says something about your belief in your own work when you’re threatening to sue someone for publishing a review of your game before you even know what the review is like.
I don’t really have anything to add to the Malinche issue (uncontrollable laughter doesn’t translate very well into text…) but since the issue of selling games has come up I thought I’d link to a fairly recent thread on the Adrift forum about the same thing. adrift.org.uk/cgi/iB/ikonboa … f=1;t=5356
I’m guessing SPAG’s policy of completing games before reviewing them still holds true? If so, I doubt I’ll ever be sending a review of “Pentari: First Light”. I’m not sure I could bear to play it again, let alone struggle through it right to the end.