Patrick's 2023 Reviews

Thanks! You probably realize this already, but just for the sake of being perfectly clear to anyone else reading: the winnability calculation is being performed by The Witch itself, not by my code, which is just trusting and repeating the game’s own reporting on the subject. The really interesting question for me is the bit I originally wrote the frotz Python harness for, which was my desire to try to brute-force All Things Devours by exploring every possible sequence of events to see how big the possibility space is. Thirty-two and a half months of processor time in, having made almost a quarter of a billion moves, it still hasn’t managed to repair the prototype.

Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the code! It’s been fun to have a little repo where I dump small, semi-related projects over the last few years.


Eighth review: Honk!: A Fair Game.

Being predictable, I drew a map:


Thanks very much for this review, Patrick! I was very pleased with your Vampire Ltd review back in the day, and I’m very pleased with this one. Noted your comments for post-comp tweaks and maybe a post-mortem (not getting into specifics right now until the comp’s over, but one or two things you mentioned were on my mind while I was writing the game).


You’re most welcome! And I forgot to mention – and I think I’ll go back and edit the review to say – that the updog joke was very funny.

Thanks for a fun game!


Ninth review: Hawkstone (which I was not able to finish).

I drew a partial map of the sections of the game I was able to see:


Tenth review: Last Vestiges.

Quixotically, or perhaps stubbornly, I drew a map:


Whoops! Meant to say earlier: No path in Rope of Chalk from the given starting point satisfies the criteria and ends on an edge, though even the heavily optimized version of the Cython script took nearly two days to try all 4.181 billion or so possible paths.

Thanks for the review! Will work on the points raised.

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I hope it was helpful! It was a fun play experience.

Yes it is! Glad you enjoyed it.

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Hi Patrick. Thank you for playing my game.

I understand a lot of the reviewers frustrations and do feel shame for pushing it through without having everything completed the way I intended the finished the game to be. The last week before submission, I was hammering away at it for 16 hours every day.

From the end result, I wonder if everyone thinks it’s because I wasn’t smart enough to make it right, or if they see the potential from what was completed and understand I would have made it a lot better if I had more time.

Coming from old school text adventures where no information was given about the objective, or what commands to use on objects and places; and everything was a blank slate for the player to discover, I figured I’d just leave it all unexplained and let the player solve everything. The object was to recreate the experience I had with the original games in the 80s. The long nights I’d spend alone trying to figure out what were useful items and what command would combine them to act together. The magic feeling of opening up new areas that were locked before. New text on the screen after seeing everything so many times, you knew it by heart.

The thing about gaming back in the day was that it was likely the only game you had. There weren’t a million other games readily available if you got frustrated. So even when you put the game down, it would still be playing in your head.

I’ve since tried to rekindle the nostalgia, playing on emulators, but the old games are now tainted with limitations that didn’t exist before newer games changed everyone’s expectations. I added a bunch of secrets to mine that I intended to bring the genre into the modern day, but it made the game a little too big to complete in time and some things ended up half assed.

A lot of other secrets were perhaps undiscovered because what was there might have given the impression that my priorities should have been utilized elsewhere and if little things weren’t done properly, other bigger things probably wouldn’t have even been implemented. There was just no accounting for what things broke when other things were fixed and the end feature result was random.

There is actually a way to load and save games. The command for it was LOADGAME / SAVEGAME GAMENAME. RESTARTGAME restarts it and EXITGAME to quit.

There is also an in game fog of war map that no one seemed to discover. type MAP

There was an alchemy section to the game where the user can craft items with elements transmuted from fallen enemies, which did work technically, though the use of the crafted items wasn’t implemented because of time limitations.

There were some clues written on objects, but the main character is sight impaired and cannot read small writing unless he equips something to aid him.

There are shops where you can buy and sell items and if you buy a shovel, you can dig every location to get a random treasure.

There are a few puzzles that rely on you knowing the time to within 30 minutes. There is a real time world clock that ticks every turn. You can estimated the time from the location description, but if you find the ghost watch, you will no longer have to guess.

A lot the procedural text was actually just debugging text that I had planned to replace with more relevant messages… Again, time.

I genuinely feel bad for your frustrating experience. I worked solo on the entire project from scratch and only started three months before the deadline. It would have been nice if the game had a better reception, but truthfully, I really just hoped someone would like it well enough to work with me on the next one I made. And pushing it out in its current state was a gamble that didn’t pay off.

I still plan to work on it more, as time allows, and hopefully it’ll yet be something that is fun and worthy of praise.

Thank you for your fair review of what was presented.

Responding to Handsome

These things! I began writing my Prince Quisborne game before joining this forum and discovering that people these days were eating “IF snacks”… basically it was like a disappointing revelation to me that so many smallish games were being churned out that the interest in large games to savor (like the ones you’re remembering) was all but gone.
So I feel your feelings there, and here I am somewhat awkwardly presenting one of the longest IF games ever made to an audience that is mainly just looking for a quick bite before moving on to the next one.
Sorry I couldn’t get your game loaded on my Mac!


Eleventh Review: The Little Match Girl 4

I drew a map:


Hello, McStranger!

I do remember the setup for those 80s games (and, coincidentally, was just writing about that on the forum last week). I also have a lot of nostalgia for them and think that trying to re-evoke that in a contemporary setting is a really tricky needle to thread. For what it’s worth, I meant what I said in the review:I think there’s the beginnings of a good game there, and I think that building and polishing it will be a worthwhile task. I hope I get to play a polished and completed version some day.

I hope you don’t mind if I respond to some of the specific things you say here.

Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but my own experience was very much that part of my frustration was seeing the potential and banging my head against the wall of not being able to figure out how to accomplish a task, or realizing it hadn’t yet been implemented. I suspect other people saw the game mostly as an early draft, rather than the production of someone who is incompetent or foolish. I think that the game you’ve sketched out is pretty ambitious and will take a lot of work to complete and polish, but I suspect that the end product will be worthwhile.

For me personally, a lot of my frustration with the game would likely have been ameliorated by a README or other basic-overview kind of document — even a page or two laying out some of this information and other information about basic game mechanics would have helped. No, not everyone will notice it’s there and read it … but some will. I would have: I went through the folder opening everything that looked like a text file long enough to see if it were a manual. (On a related note, I would have liked to see the distribution folder organized in such a way as to hide the game-implementation files from the user by putting them into a subfolder, and maybe having the manual-type document(s) put into a Documentation or docs/ folder.) And if you’re trying to evoke the nostalgic forms of early IF, documentation is one nice supporting feature that helps to polish that particular illusion.

For LOADGAME, SAVEGAME, RESTARTGAME, and EXITGAME, I hope you don’t mind if I suggest adopting the now-standard commands SAVE, RESTORE, RESTART, and QUIT, either as the primary commands or as synonyms for your longer forms.

Anyway: I mean it when I say I hope there’s a finished version, because the first public draft sure is promising. PM me when you release it, please?


Twelfth review: Beat Witch

There is a map:


Patrick, thank you for your thoughtful review and the map! (I wasn’t sure if Beat Witch could be fully mapped, as Polly is disoriented sometimes, but you proved me wrong.)

I’m happy the game at least partly worked for you, and that you enjoyed the writing, music, and premise.

A few people have asked why I bothered to make this a parser game instead of just writing it in Twine, and why it’s so much on the rails. I’ll attempt to answer in the post-mortem.

For now, thanks again for playing, reviewing, and mapping Beat Witch. It means a lot to me when people spend time and effort on something I’ve made, even if they don’t fully connect with it.


I’m glad you found the review helpful! And, like I said, I think there’s a lot to like about it.

Of course, as you say, sometimes Polly is disoriented, so it’s sometimes necessary to just pick an arbitrary direction to lay out one box next to another. It’s a similar problem as trying to map three directions plus IN/OUT onto a two-dimensional grid with more traditional parser IF.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the postmortem! Thanks for putting a really engaging piece of writing with a clean, effective soundtrack out into the world.


Thirteenth review: Have Orb, Will Travel.

I also produced a (not-quite-complete, as it omits the non-solution part of a maze) map:


Fourteenth review: One King to Loot Them All.

A map:


Hi Patrick,

Thank you very much for playing my game, the nice review and the map!

Some small things missing from the map (I don’t know if it is easy to update it):

dining room
    bottle of wine
throne room
  axe (fix typo)
hall of justice
    vial of holy water

As for alternate vocabulary, I am planning a post comp release which includes a list of these, because although implemented, they are not all mentioned in the online help or player primer. I allow for alts like look / inv / examine / get / take / search / show / give / talk to / attack / go and others.

Good point on mentioning the actual commands when doing the story mode. I preferred not explicitly showing them, but on hindsight it is better to include them, if only to satisfy player curiosity on what was the command they missed. I will add it into my post comp / post mortem release.