Not-Quite-A-Review: The Baron (2006)

The Baron is the Id, the Castle is the Psychic Apparatus, the Lumberjack is the Superego and the axe is a defense mechanism. This is not a subtle game, nor is this a proper review. That something as crude and stupid as The Baron could win the Spring Thing is a testimony to the crudity and stupidity of the IF crowd. That it was nominated for best writing, I can only hope was some kind of cruel joke at the author’s expense.

Examples of award-winning IF prose:

“When you open your eyes, you see the head of the dragon approaching you, its mouth wide open–once again it breaths its deadly fire at you, and after a short scream you can no longer hear yourself the darkness falls over you like a cool blanket.”

There is one grammatical error, one missing comma and one redundancy in the above sentence. Can you spot them?

“The weak light of the moon, which enters the room through the window, envelops the furniture of the bedroom in a cloak of unworldly beauty.”

Does the “light of the moon” (why not simply “moonlight”?) also put proper postage on the furniture it envelops?

“The landing is enveloped by uneven darkness.”

The author really likes postal metaphors.

“It is half a year later, in the icy months of winter. You have gone sledging with Maartje
over the thick layer of snow that has deposited itself on the village during the past few days.”

Yes, indeed, winter months tend to be icy. The snow depositing itself is the third postal metaphor so far.

“Next to the stairs down stands an elegant cupboard”

Does this parse?

“From his unreachable heights the moon looks reproachfully down on you.”

The game tells me the moon is not important to the story, so I assume this is what they call atmosphere.

“The top of the church tower just peeks above the houses on the other side of the street, like a black finger against the star-filled sky.”

The church is giving God the finger? How… Updikean, I guess.

“In elegant handwriting, a message has been written on the parchment”

Lumberjacks wear jeans and people write letters on parchment. What epoch is this exactly? Oh, right! It’s a Freudian parable, a timeless piece.

“A sheet of paper, crumpled and torn, on which sentences written in black ink–the careful handwriting of a girl–tell their sorrowful story.”

I take it that the sorrowful story of the sentences is their stilted diction.

“There’s nothing sensible to swing here.”

“You can see a dead young wolf and a dead she-wolf here.”

“Like its mother, the young wolf has a dark grey pelt, turned dirty and lustreless through hardships.
He is so lean that you can count all his ribs. If his mother doesn’t find a prey soon, he will not survive the winter.”

Never mind the inconsistency. A far bigger problem for this childish morality tale is the euphemism “find a prey.”
Replace it with “kill a cute little rabbit” and you’ve seen through its silly hypocrisy.

“A wooden torch of about half a meter ends in a lustily burning flame.”

This would have been much funnier in an Adam Thornton game.

“In the bleak light that comes through the trapdoor, you can just see descry that this has been a dungeon.”


Some of the criticism here is fair: whatever greater merit it may have, the actual prose of The Baron could be sharper. I wouldn’t want to sound language-chauvinistic, but it’s possible that when writing in a second language, a writer may be at a disadvantage when it comes to spotting how natural a sentence reads. Having said that, I know of many native English speakers who mangle their sentences (myself at times included) .

I don’t see the problem: I’d always parse “next to the stairs down stands an elegant cupboard” as “next to the stairs (that lead down) stands an elegant cupboard”. The sentence is passive and this might slow down understanding. Basically, here Victor is looking for a short way of mentioning both the exit out of the room and the cupboard in the same sentence, while giving a spatial indication of how the room is laid out. I think it works, and though I didn’t find the meaning unclear “an elegant cupboard stands next to the stairs down” would have been a more direct way of saying exactly the same thing.

I haven’t played the other games in Spring Thing 2006, but I’ll bite. Which would you have picked as the winner?

The mind boggles. Ten years this guy trolled RAIF/RGIF, he’s now shown up to troll the new IF playground and still – still! – people respond to him as if he’s making valid points instead of just throwing mud at whichever target takes his fancy. Why not just add him to your foe list and never have to see his posts again? Or ban him?

I’m curious what you think that might be, the merit part.

Two of the four entries are in Adrift, which leaves Pantomime, a game with all the hallmarks of a Robb Sherwin product: verbose, directionless and unfunny. Mr Sherwin has the unique gift of hurling hundreds of jokes at the player, not one of which is amusing. So yes, I can see how The Baron could have won. Choosing between the Uncomic Comedy and the Turgid Tragedy, the judges chose the game addressing the Big Issue. So what would I have voted for? Nothing. I believe that if you announce a chess tournament and only four people show up, two of which insist on playing checkers and the other two drunk, the honest thing to do is to refund the entry fees and cancel the tournament.

That answers my question, then. As to Peter’s question, I personally don’t see any merit in The Baron. Yes, it does attempt to tackle a Big Issue, namely child molestation, but so ineptly and coarsely, it left me with a bad aftertaste. If you come to interactive fiction from the world of literature – as I do – you’re bound to compare a work of IF with its thematically closest literary counterpart. I believe that had Victor read Lolita, he would not have written such an awful game.

I’m sure yours does, on a regular basis.

Lonc, your self-interview was the single most desperate and unfunny piece of writing ever associated with interactive fiction. Everyone who has read it has said they were actively embarrassed on your behalf. The thing you did with Adam left us all amazed that he was able to carry you throughout your strained and sad attempts at being amusing. It was like watching a shallow backwater creek somehow roll the moon.

We all just assumed that you have come to grips with the fact that you are a tedious bore. It seemed to make you happy. However, your preposterously stupid reply when Emily and zarf schooled you about IF dissertations has made it clear that you really don’t understand English. You aren’t trying to “troll” anyone, you’re just a very stupid person who is unknowingly presenting himself as an uncultured pube across multiple cultures, nations and languages. You’re the Tropic of Capricorn of unfunny. You simply aren’t intelligent enough to read and write in the de facto language of the Internet, and it’s better for your sake that you stop trying.

And look - it’s been ten years. A decade of you so desperately trying to fit in around here. If anything, your reading comprehension has gotten worse! Perhaps it’s time to consider this experiment the failure we’ve all known you to be for a decade now. I mean, go ahead and tell Jeremy Douglass – who has spoken at length about his dissertation being about Interactive Fiction – that his dissertation is not about Interactive Fiction before you hang it up. That might be good for the only laugh you have ever generated. Afterwards, though, it’s really time to work on an exit strategy.

You have fetishized the role of the agent and publisher in the past, and done so in a really creepy way. One of your more moronic suggestions has been that IF is a shitty medium because there isn’t some gateway involved in releasing it, so it must be a failure, like Shakespeare, Linux and sex. (I’m sure you believe I’m getting your inane pish wrong, but believe me, I still said it better than you could.) Consider this post to be someone giving you the feedback that an editor would, then: you are untalented, mindlessly illiterate and unfunny. Stop fucking posting.

Dude. The IF community treats everything like valid criticism.

This made me lol. :smiley:

If you want someone to stop posting, you have to negate their posting by simply ignoring them. Yet, according to your own analyis, you have thrown fuel on the fire. What you’re basically saying is “people should just ignore you” and you make that point while not following your own advice.

Personally, I like Jacek’s gadfly approach to what often seems like a community that it takes itself way too seriously.

Beyond that, while you may not agree with the post regarding details of The Baron, it is a substative post stating an opinion backed up by examples. So perhaps a better way to respond – since you clearly wanted to respond – is to avoid saying someone is “untalented, mindlessly illiterate and unfunny,” – thus apparently reducing yourself to what you perceive as “their level” – and instead respond to the substantive points. Otherwise you might risk looking just as much a “jerk” as the person you are railing against.

Thanks killer, but I know what I’m doing over here.

Here is some THRILLING analysis of Pudlo’s though:

Mmm. I melt due to the brillance of Pudlo pointing this out. It’s almost as if we’re dealing with a guy who actually works in the publishing industry!! Since The Baron is not a game about chopping up all the non-playerplaying characters with an axe, the fact there wasn’t a better reply here absolutely needed to be pointed out a billion years after the game’s release. Thank God we’ve got a smug, self-important, sniveling little weasel of a nobody letting us know that the parser doesn’t do natural language processing. You just know that Pudlo smirked and readjusted his shorts after pointing out this catastrophic failure of text games. Wumpus: HUNTED

It’s terrible analysis from a stupid person. He’s about the last person on earth who should be giving a hard time to people who are writing IF in their second or third language.

While I admire the way this community can start interesting conversations from nonsensical five-word posts (I’ve seen it happen), it does boggle me somewhat that some people are still defending Pudlo. I guess if you haven’t seen anything of his except his forum posts then you might get the impression - just - that he’s got a particular point of view which the community has been shunning for a long time now, making every post of his automatically a target.

Which is all well and good, I guess, if you’re uncapable of picking up on his hostility, and negativity. “Hostility” where he acts as though he’s a genius and is surrounded by retarded people (ocasionally funny, nearly-always infuriating) and “negativity” where you realise that this guy has spent the last 10 years (using Robb’s figure) criticising things (hardly ever in a constructive manner, and often not even in a coherent manner) without bothering to come up with alternatives, or to be constructive about the whole thing.

I guess if you’re new to Pudlo you might think he’s got something to say. And you’re right. He has this to say: “I’m the best fricking person in the whole wide world, and I’m way better than you in every way”.

If you ask me, bukayeva, Robb’s reply was a long time coming.

The PC being a lumberjack, you’d think he’d know how to swing an axe. And yes, the axe is used as a weapon in the game. I think this thread would benefit if the participants had bothered to play the game under discussion.

If it’s any comfort, I don’t think you’re quite as talentless as Victor. You have a gift for the catchy noun phrase. Necrotic Drift is a slick title and Chicks Dig Jerks is probably the funniest game title in existence. Occasionally, you write funny sentences. But when you leave the noun phrase/sentence microcosm and move into the paragraph, something happens to your writing. It becomes flat like a pancake. Those amusing anecdotes that make up 90% of the textual mass of your games are NEVER amusing. Your ice cream truck is stuck in the trailer park of your mind. You need to move out of the trailer park and park your ice cream truck in Pudlostan. That’s right, I’m offering to become your mentor. I need a new sex gimp, and having seen the Get Lamp interview with you, I must say you’re kind of cute, in a pudgy, bleached way. So how about exchanging services? You’ll be my anal cowboy and I’ll teach you how to write, eh?

If any of you have ANY doubts whatsoever concerning my Genius, I invite you to join my Alpha Team and play Limbs of Osiris. Just PM me and you’ll have a first-hand look at the game that will revolutionise IF.

Well done for spotting the typo on my 1am post and then drawing attention to it with the [sic] thing. Indeed, genius does need to constantly point out other people’s shortcomings, however small and insignificant,

Hang on, no, it’s the other way around, isn’t it?

Hey, don’t be so touchy! That was my friendly sic. The angry one looks like this: [SIC!]. Some people argue that the exclamation point is redundant, but they are soulless pedants. When I’m on a spelling rampage, I like my angry sics to have flair.

If you think I’m a moron, there’s a very easy way of verifying that assumption. Just sink your teeth in Limbs of Osiris and you’ll see what I’m made of.

I sometimes wonder just what it takes for someone to get banned from this forum. Don’t we have moderators who are meant to, um, moderate? If trolls like Pudlo can post with impunity, then, well, we might as well all go back to that sad excuse for a newsgroup that was the main home of the IF community for X amount of years.

In a way, it’s even more annoying that nothing is done here. On a newsgroup, there is no moderation so the trolls and spammers can do whatever they like and nothing can be done about it; here, we have moderators who do nothing.

I’ll probably regret this, but what the hell. Where do I sign up?

Spammers get banned. People who post topical reviews of critically-acclaimed IF games do not get banned.

Allow me to disabuse you of the notion that the moderators here do nothing. I spend 10-30 minutes a day cleaning up spam and banning user accounts. Sometimes I catch them before they post anything, which requires checking the new members list periodically. I try to ban IP address blocks where the collateral damage will be minimal, which means checking ARIN / RIPE / APNIC before I pull the trigger.

It’s not a huge amount of time. It’s not a lot of fun, either.

Send me your address via PM and I’ll send you the game.

Hahahahah! What?! And then being trolled AT HOME?! Sounds terrific!