We got in touch with the author and eventually decided to remove the game entries at their request. So, no reviewing of it will be possible on IFDB I’m afraid.
Okay, good to know. I don’t have a strong opinion on the committee’s decision in this particular case, but I do hope it doesn’t automatically extend from these games (which had no reviews and few ratings) to works that have been more publicly visible. For instance, I think it would be simply wrong to allow me to remove all my games from the IFDB; they’ve been in competitions, people have written reviews of them, and so on and so forth.
Anyway, probably not really something to discuss here in this thread, but I wanted to express the concern I felt!
Currently our collective opinion seems to be that the more well-known or interacted with a game is the greater burden of proof there is for the necessity of deleting it. It would probably take an international treaty and/or the acts of several countries’ legislative bodies to delete Zork, for instance (okay, maybe exaggerating a little…)
(if anyone disagrees with this interpretation feel free to chime in)
But but but…
I don’t like the thief.
Finished my second spelunking expedition! I’ll do a write-up later. Really enjoyed the first part of it, and discovered some really nice pieces, but unfortunately the last four games were all awful. Happy to be back in the sunlight.
Report of the second spelunking expedition! (I’ll put links to initial lists & final reports in the opening post. If anyone else uses the topic for their expeditions, I’ll add links to their initial and final posts too.) It was quite a different experience from the first expedition. There were two games I could only play on my phone. There were two games I had already played. There was a game that was no longer available, but I contacted the author and was able to play it anyway. There was a game that the author had tried to hide on the IFDB and which has now been entirely removed (though it’s still in the Archive). There were only three parser games. There was a Spectrum game (which wasn’t good, unlike the previous two Spectrum adventures I played), an MS-DOS game, a BASIC game and an Atari game. And there were THREE terrible instant-death CYOA-style games. Anyway, it was an adventure!
I find it hard to rank these games from worst to best, since many are at more or less the same level, and some are hard to compare to each other. Nevertheless, here’s my attempt.
- Escape from S.S.A.D.B. There’s a lot of competition for the bottom spot of this list, but I’ve chosen this ultra-primitive parser game written in BASIC because it is such a pain to interact with. The parser is terrible, guess-the-verb issues abound, the prose is extremely terse, the puzzles are at the same time clichéd and illogical.
- Assignment 46. Kind of James Bond in space, but playing this Atari game mostly consists of replaying it in order to find out which of the choices do not lead to instant death. Actually, this is also true for the next two games on the list, which are not substantially better or worse.
- Hippy’s Quest. Become a hippie! The choices make slightly more sense than in Assignment 46, but it’s still a terrible instant-death CYOA… and this one has the added insult of shareware protection that you can only circumvent by sending $10 to the author. Not being able to continue felt like a blessing.
- The anonymous game . It’s not actually called that, of course, but I’ll leave its identity a mystery here. I probably wouldn’t have done that if it were any good, but I’m pretty sure nobody will want to check out a timed-text instant-death CYOA where all the choices consist in choosing between several coloured doors. This did have nice writing and graphical effects, though, which puts it ever-so-slightly above the previous two games.
- Shore Leave. A Quill adventure with a lot of parser issues and a heavy reliance on desperate and immature humour. Still, I think some people might enjoy it for the zaniness and the puzzles, so it’s clearly better than the previous four offerings.
- 9/21: My Story. Perhaps not exactly good, but I found it an intense and moving document of a terrible time at middle school. I understand why the author has taken it offline, but I also feel they don’t have to be ashamed of it.
- Choices: And the Sun Went Out. This is a huge commercial choice-based game for mobile platforms that I bought and played sometime last year. I didn’t play all of it, because it never gripped me. The story is a breathless tale of adventure and intrigue, but it never really goes anywhere – it’s breezy pulp without depth or meaning. It’s very competent and rich in content, and some people have enjoyed it greatly.
- Basilica de Sangre. I prefer the emotional intensity of Poppet and the humour and polish of Lovely Assistant: Magical Girl, but Basilica de Sangre is a worthy game in the Bitter Karella oeuvre. Fun puzzle mechanic, but some parser issues. (I had played it in the 2018 competition season.)
- Hyper Rift. A free mobile game available for Android and iOS. It’s a choice-based game with navigation on a graphical map, and it will take you all over a large alien-infested space ship where you have to rescue and lead a ragtag band of survivors, solve some mathematical puzzles, and find your way to the many, many endings. Polished and fun.
- Three Mile. Putting this at the top spot is certainly controversial, and if someone prefers Basilica de Sangre or Hyper Rift or even C:ATSWO to Three Mile, I can’t really argue with them. But I was blown away by this small multi-media horror Twine, which went to places that I certainly didn’t foresee at the beginning, and managed to be both subtle and extreme.
There’s a strong temptation to generate a third list, but I’ve decided to forego that pleasure for now and keep some time and energy for the upcoming Spring Thing festival.
I’m enjoying your reviews on IFDB Victor, but I find it slightly strange to hear you refer to ZX Spectrum games as a “body of work”, and expect them to be of a consistent quality. The Spectrum is just a platform. The games are by different authors and are bound to differ in quality.
Sure! But I got the impression (from some of the discussions here) that the Quill games were written by a tightly knit community of authors most of whom knew each other and played each others’ games. That’s why I opted for that phrase.
The Quill was used to make commercial games in the 1980s. All you needed to be a software publisher back then was a twin cassette deck, access to a photocopier, a pile of jiffy bags and enough capital to take out a quarter-page ad in one of the major home computer magazines. As such, it wasn’t so very different from the hobbyist scene today, except that there was no Internet as such, so the authors certainly wouldn’t have known each other. The community came much later, in the post commercial scene, but even then I doubt it was as tightly knit as the modern scene is.
I would dispute elements of this, having been part of the scene back in the day. There wasn’t an Internet, as such (although that did come along later and we did have “online” services and even online downloads) but the community was formed through the pages of fanzines like Adventure Probe, Red Herring, From Beyond, and Syntax… We also had yearly text adventure conventions, and other regular in-person meet ups, so we did know and meet each other. We would playtest and review each others games and you would often build up strong relationships with your players/customers.
Spain had a similar community of authors, reviewers and players through CAAD magazine.
I would agree, though, that thinking of Quill game as a singular “body of work” isn’t appropriate… especially those early games from the first half of the 1980s. It wasn’t until the number of players shrunk, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that communities, such as the Adventure Probe one, were formed.
I stand corrected.
How did I miss out on all this? Of course, I didn’t have a Spectrum. BBC Micro user here!
Right. Same here!
A number of Quilled games were released for the BBC Micro, but I get the impression that the authors weren’t necessarily part of the amazing community that @8bitAG evokes:
Well, there were plenty of ex-BBC and Electron people in the community… such as Larry Horsfield, Barbara Gibb, and Geoff Lynas,… but the main platforms of choice tended to be the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC; as that’s where most of the players were playing, thanks to years of support by the likes of Zenobi Software, FSF, WoW, Atlas etc. Even when people moved on to 16-bits & PCs, the Spectrum remained a popular platform because it was easily emulated and had great (and familiar) game development tools. There are over 2,300 ZX Spectrum text adventure listed on CASA… over 500 of them were written during the 1990s.
The Internet is great… but we weren’t isolated back then without it. The fanzines were full of letters from the readers (the letters pages of Adventure Probe resembled an active Internet forum… complete with regular controversy!), people offered support on games by post, and there were even kind souls who openly published their telephone numbers so you could get instant help on any of the adventures they’d solved. Adventure Probe must’ve been one of the longest running montly fanzines dedicated to any subject; the related annual convention ran for many years too.
And all this happening in parallel with the Inform / TADS community that was developing at the same time…
I’ve changed the wording of the review.
Some of the community did use TADS, although AGT tended to be more popular for those moving on from the 8-bit tools.
But, yes, it very much seems like it was a parallel community, We were aware of “interactive fiction”… here are some extracts from an article in Adventure Probe from '97 that was looking at the third annual IF competition… You can tell that the author very much regarded “interactive fiction” as something that was becoming quite different to the “text adventures” that would appear in Probe.
But we’re in danger of completely derailing Victor’s excellent thread. I’m just very happy to see people like Victor approaching the old games in such a positive manner.
[Edit: To credit John Ferris as the author of the article the extracts were taken from]
Everybody’s right, and you’re all pretty.
Just like we see a lot of style-chasing in (pick your favorite five years of the past 25 year period), there were obvious commonalities in the segments of the market which were stuck together by some overlap of tools, platform, storage limitations, and audience. Just like we saw in the US where you can definitely see the bits where certain outfits are trying to out-Infocom Infocom (There was a system literally called “Better Than Zork”!) and you can see where Interplay decides to take inspiration from Sierra’s text/graphics style and lack of commitment to narrative cohesion and make games that are slightly better but also recognizably cut from similar cloth, etc.
(Editorially, I’ve spent enough time with “hmm, what’s this random Spectrum-originated single-load adventure?” to say that a good/bad rate of 2:1 is a minor miracle, but that’s a matter of taste!)
Thanks! I’m trying to walk a specific line between seeing games in their historical context and judging them from my current position. On the one hand, I’m not going to blame a ZX Spectrum game for ‘not having a nice serif font’, or ‘not allowing undo’. On the other hand, I am judging the game based on whether it does anything for me now. And some of these games definitely did!
Oh, I definitely agree, having played a large chunk of the Spectrum titles available, that there are more “bad” games than “good” ones. It just makes a pleasant change when someone highlights some of the more interesting or positive aspects of an older game. Too often reviews of old games consist of the same tired old interminable complaints about “hunting the verb”.