Spring Thing. It would seem that there may be fewer review threads this year, and those have historically driven the bulk of Spring Thing discussion here. There appear to be two sources of Spring Thing posts this year on tumblr, and I may or may not be one of them. I think six people may have posted about it on Mastodon, and I may or may not be responsible for half of all recent posts
The dedicated chat hasn’t seen a lot of action, for whatever reason.
I noticed that last year there was a general, catch-all Spring Thing thread that saw a fair amount of participation. Maybe we’d do well to have one again?
User Testimonials from the Future
“I wanted to say something about a game, but I didn’t want to write a review or reply to someone’s review. This was the perfect thread for that!”
“I was looking for a hint, but didn’t want to take someone’s review thread off-topic. Since the author was a member here, I just @'d him! It was so convenient!”
“I had a [kind-spirited, well-meaning] idea about ribbons!”
“I wondered what game should I play next, so I asked! It was so easy.”
“I had an interesting observation about competitions that I wanted to share, and, minutes later, I was clicking ‘reply!’”
“I wanted to [gently] advocate for playing a game [that I didn’t make, of course].”
“I had a big meta moment, right here on the forum!”
…and many more!
I made a thread (and covered the 'Thing at Gold Machine) last year, but I didn’t feel right doing so this year because of my own participation. Do I miss that? Yes and no. I’m often uncomfortable recommending games (or not recommending them), so writing a review is a mixed bag for me. However, I do miss advocating for games that I love (which is different to me). Last year, I was quite fond of New Year’s Eve, 2019, for instance, and was happy to say so.
I am playing games this year, even if I’m not talking about them–yet!
I’ll point out that it’s much, much easier in a review to focus on things you didn’t like than things you did! In the past I’ve been guilty of this kind of thing, which results in a review that goes “Loved it! Now let me spend ten paragraphs on everything it did wrong.” As such it’s very easy to give people the wrong idea about the quality of a game. Part of this is, imho, some forum specific culture - almost everyone here is an IF author in addition to an IF player, so it’s easy for people to write a review from the perspective of someone who can see all the seams.
I find it helpful to remember that when I’m reading other people’s reviews, and I’m trying to shake the tendency in my own when I write them (which I may or may not do for Spring Thing games once the comp wraps). I’m glad we have a few reviewers who are consistently good at not doing that so we can help push the norm more towards kinder reviews, but in the meantime I hope this perspective helps.
In unrelated news, Repeat the Ending punched me right in the gut (in a good way, I promise!). Definitely going to play it again and try to get more endings, but boy I need a minute. There’s a lot of real, raw emotion in there.
I’ve been really looking forward to seeing folks experience RTE, I have to say – I had a very similar experience when testing it, and for what it’s worth while the endings aren’t radically different, they do ramp up the emotional heft in a way that felt significant to me.
Oh god. I got the ending one step up from the standard/bad ending and it was already a lot. I’ll definitely proceed slowly through the others. It’s hitting close to home in some ways though, so other people might not have quite the same experience!
Swerving on point to the topic of the thread: I played Structural Integrity and was very, very sad. The sadness has kind of lingered, which I think is a strong testimony to the author’s writing. Power imbalance in relationships can be a tricky thing to handle, but I think it was done very well. I wound up walking away with a lot of sympathy for both characters- often a hard sell with this sort of dynamic. While it does invite replay, I think I’ll stick with the ending I got first as my ‘canon’ ending- wish I could have met the kitty on that route!
Also, my friend Jinx was mentioned in the credits, which is pretty cool. While searching it up to play, I also stumbled across a novella that it’s apparently an interactive adaption of(?). (There also appears to be a sequel, by the name of Structural Strain.)
Since @sophia gave me cover from looking like I was brusquely grabbing the mike: I just finished my first draft write up of RTE and yeah holy crap so many thoughts. Can’t wait to share revision maybe 47 with you all.
Could we perhaps start a new thread for the discussion of how and whether grammatical issues should be addressed in reviews? It accounts for the majority of the comments in this thread right now and the fact that it keeps being brought back up makes it hard to use the thread for its intended purpose of discussing Spring Thing games.
[Split ESL Creation/Translation/Review to its own thread]
With several weeks to go, though, things may balance out eventually. I have no idea!
Despite a few reported browser problems, it seems that The Kuolema has been well-received critically. The consensus is that it is compelling and well-written. Tangent: could game development with Google Forms have wheels? Or is this a lighting-in-a-bottle situation?
My hot take is that Kuolema is successful in spite of Google Forms. The superb graphics and steady rise in dramatic stakes should translate to any authoring platform.
That said, the coder side of me kept thinking while I was playing it, “Maybe there’s room for a hybrid choice-based game engine, one that combines menu selections with other user inputs like text entry, multiple-choice fields, and so on.” That, and managing game state in a more natural way, could be a winner.
(But what do I know? I’m not familiar with all the choice-based solutions out there.)
This is clearly an interesting topic for me. I might write a post-mortem at some point and raise this topic as I do feel that Google Forms actually has a lot going for it - especially in terms of ease of use.
I think where The Kuolema potentially succeeds and fails is that I’ve deliberately tried to be over-ambitious and really tried to push what it’s capable of. Google Forms is probably better suited to shorter and slightly more linear stories, and I think there is room for those (especially as a ‘gateway’ tool for people perhaps testing the waters?).
Ultimately though - exactly as Jim says, it’s an interesting tool that’s hamstrung by a few, but very key, missing features. There is definitely space out there for someone to create something new that could offer an easy to use (code-free and more image friendly?) “Google Forms + Twine” like mashup. And this could open the door to more people who might be interested to try their hand at interactive fiction, but who are put off by complicated tools and coding requirements. Maybe one already exists (but I haven’t stumbled across it either)?
Yeah, my overwhelming reaction was “this is worse in every way than if it had been done in Twine or Ink or Inklewriter or whatever.” Honestly I liked it in spite of a bunch of things. I’m not a fan of graphics in IF: one of the cool things to me is that it’s accessible to blind people (often) and I feel like that’s getting worse as of late. So having a game that was completely dependent on images with no alt text bugged me quite a bit. And I’d prefer not to support LLMs in any way, so the computer generated art ditto.
As a programmer and someone who’s followed IF for quite a while (and occasionally followed things like paper gamebooks which have less state-tracking), I wasn’t impressed with it as a technical thing: it was immediately obvious to me both that this was technically possible and that it’s about the limit of what Google Forms is capable of. There’s nothing new here: these are well-explored design challenges.
And it was a little bit “just check off whether you’ve done the thing in this location.” But on the other hand, that’s good: once you figure that out, it’s either clear where you need to go next, or it’s clear that you’ve been lazy about note-taking. And it had, as you say, a nice steady rise in stakes and the writing had some tension without being too over the top and obtrusive.
So yeah. I liked it in spite of Google Forms, because it was well constructed in general.
FWIW there is an alternative text-only version, though it’s only linked halfway through the FAQs & Info page so I guess it can be easy to miss (I think it would have been better to link it in the introduction).
Overall I agree with the others: it’s very well-made, but despite its platform rather than because of it.
You can in fact do all those things in Twine! But if you mean an engine with a development frontend that lets you do those things in a coding-light or no-coding-required way, then yeah, I don’t believe there is anything.
I want this also! I’m currently snooping whether Vorple might be capable of this - and it is, using hyperlinks to trigger text commands. Vorple is quite comprehensive, but it’s a tricky setup, despite being well-documented.