Post-comp thoughts about Ninja's Fate

Now that the competition is over, I’ve put up a website for the game which contains some explanations about some of the design decisions - just in case anyone has been wondering what-the-hell-this-guy-was-thinking.

What I can say in addition is that I’m quite satisfied with the way it placed in the competition. My initial call for testers included the magic sentence “It won’t do very well in the competition”. All the games which ended up in front of mine were very respectable entries which I enjoyed personally. So there is no shame in ending up behind them.

Generally, I was also happy with the reviews the game received. You can never please everybody, of course, so the range of ratings went from 10 to 1 - with the reviews citing ratings from 9 to 1. To be honest, I wouldn’t know how to rate it myself. I think there are good reasons for each of these ratings which I can follow.

What I found unfortunate was a few reviews of people who didn’t seem to ‘get it’ at all and then concluded the game was crap because of that. There’s always two sides to a player not comprehending a game. One reviewer even concluded that because the game I entered last year was buggy, this one must be, too. Some reviewers might want to consider the responsibilities they have when they publish some unresearched and unfair bashing of a game (other authors were hit much worse than me this year, of course): Your reviews end up in the permanent record of the game and the author. Thankfully, this was a small minority.

A general remark for reviewers: Almost none of you provides contact information on your websites. Please consider that this might be regarded as quite unfair as you’re not giving the authors a chance to react.

Since one of my beta testers brought up his fear of this game’s ‘bad’ placement reflecting badly on him, let me say that he (and the other testers as well) has been extremely helpful. Not only did the game turn out to be virtually bugless and thoroughly implemented thanks to them (not to mention all the help I received regarding the English language which obviously I’m not native in), but they challenged many of my design decisions as good testers should. This gave me the opportunity to reflect on these decisions, changing some, but retaining most. So these decisions were entirely my own. What’s even better, all my testers also had the great ability to critique a game based on the assumptions of the author. In the second round, that is.

I didn’t give them much information initially (not even the dedication text was in that version, then), just let them have a go. I was glad to see they all understood what I was going for. After their reports started coming in, I started explaining my motives. They all did a great job of helping me realise and implement my own vision of the game - which is what the perfect beta tester should. Thanks again to all of you!

If anyone still has feedback or just a transcript, I’d be glad to hear or see it! Thanks to everyone who played the game! Thanks to the other authors for the interesting discussions on the authors forum. Thanks to Stephen for once again running the comp. And, finally, thanks to Eriorg for his tireless work of linking to all those reviews in the IF Wiki - I think I’m speaking for most authors when I say that this has made the last six weeks a lot more bearable for us :slight_smile:

Thanks for this explanation! I should have figured relevance/wikipedia. I’m very interested in trying to disrespect the bust and so forth. But I have to admit, given the style of IF games I wrote as a kid (I probably made bigger mistakes than Paul but with less ambitious plots) I was able to laugh at my own games, hopefully not snidely, and I may’ve underrated that when giving a rating.

I have to say that since I googled Paul Panks, I was able to figure what was going on. It’s so hard to hit things exactly right with this sort of game, because a straightforwardly good game could be a whitewash and not a tribute.

I would love to see more authors write out a topic like this. With all the reviews floating around and the wiki keeping the review links up to date, it’s been interesting to see what people think about which games, or which sort of games.

You’re welcome! :smiley:

Well, I’m the one who gave you a 10. For the reasons I did so, here’s the rambling.

For the record, your entry was one of those few my thought wagon kept taking me to after reading.

And for another page of the same record, a discussion is going on upstairs, in the “Moral Premise” thread, that, I think, adresses some of the questions Ninja’s Fate puts on the IF world. I tend to take IF more as a literary medium on steroids, and less as a platform for entertaining games. In such way, I value when an author takes chances writing his stories, when (s)he goes for weird interactions or settings or moods, I value creative prose over creative puzzles, a sentence that kicks my guts in over a well written one, I vibrate with unsettling imagery over polished gaming experience; so what recently brought me to IF was the idea of putting it beside Beckett and Kubrick, not beside Blizzard Entertainment. Ninja’s Fate takes chances, it risks alot, it unsettled me many times - like a good work of a creative something should. But because of that it will naturally fail within the ones who take IF more as a gaming platform.

And now I think I’ll have to go and add this up to the review. Darn…

[edited in]Ps.: I’ve been to your website and I must admit my admiration for Ninja’s Fate is still increasing.

Oh, wow, thanks for that! I’m especially happy that someone without any background on Paul and ‘classic IF’ enjoyed the game so much. For the record, I don’t consider myself a good author when it comes to writing style. It is quite ironic that this year, the people who liked my game predominantly came from the ‘literary’ crowd. I consider myself to be part of the ‘gaming’ side of the spectrum. As I said, though, I can perfectly understand the difficulty you expressed with respect to giving the game a rating. I’m sorry for producing a deadlock in your mind :wink:

You bring up some interesting points in your review. Your definition of a tribute, especially, is quite clever. According to that definition, I’d say Call of Cthulu is definitely a tribute movie. Ed Wood isn’t, yes, but it still could have been in spite of being about the real Ed Wood. In my opinion, the two categories aren’t completely distinct. Ed Wood, the movie, could have used stylistic devices found in Ed Wood movies to tell a story about Ed Wood (still following?). This wouldn’t necessarily mean it has to be a ‘bad movie’ - there could be some stylistic allusions without making the whole thing bad. That would still make it a tribute in my book.

Basically, this is what I was going for. Implement the game well (i.e. show basic technical craftsmanship), but use the technical implementation as a basis to show some not-so-great things. Those things toned down to a bearable level, though. So what you can see in Ninja’s Fate is actually still quite far from what Paul usually delivered in his games, many of which were virtually unplayable.

I like the expression

This sums up so many things… :slight_smile:

P.S. What’s with the wandering apostrophe?

Well, I agree. Keep in mind that the presented “tribute definition” was an ad hoc one, created just to get my point across. I also think that what you’ve done with Ninj’as Fate gets out as a crafted work, in which there is no doubt whether the unclimbable climbable tree is a feature or a bug. Those things present themselves solidly as features, so we’re left with the question why - hence, a good thing.

What wandering apostrophe? :wink:

This game certainly created conflicting feelings for me. However, I deeply respect the sentiment. To honor Mr. Panks and his under-appreciated works is noble. I encountered Panks’s games on the IF Comp, and downloaded some of his other games as well. I won at least two of his games, and I’m sure that I enjoyed and appreciated them more than most.

It was good of you to risk your own standing in the IF community to honor one who was such an outsider, Hannes. That Panks was not reconciled to the hostile community before his death is an unfortunate wound that can never heal. Ninja’s Fate can teach us all a lesson on treating one another with human dignity. I also respect the fact that you didn’t glorify Panks or praise his stubbornness. Ninja’s Fate simply presents his work as something special in its own right. I think we have an obligation to treat the sincere effort of every contributor in the IF community as special and honorable, even if we dislike the work itself or disagree with what it stands for.

Well, I don’t believe I had much of a standing to risk :wink:

I don’t understand this. Why would a playtester be risking any standing by playtesting a game by an unpopular author? Not even in high school did I take social flack by helping out the wrong person with a project. Helping people is good. Judging someone just for helping someone you may not care for is kinda… petty and ridiculous? Yes? Or did I just wake up in a mirror universe? 87


Having read through that post, I think the beta-tester in question was trying to work out how good a job of beta-testing and game-design-advising he’d done.

If I’m reading that right, then “the placement of this game reflects on me as a beta-tester” would mean not “the placement of this game makes people in the community think I suck” but “the placement of this game indicates to me that my beta-testing instincts aren’t yet good enough to tell me how a finished game will be popularly received, and/or that there might have been more I could have done to help it succeed.”

I could be wrong, but I think (hope?) that there’s no fear people are judging testers personally on those grounds. There are some people whose beta-testing work I know to be excellent, and I’m always encouraged when I see their names in the credits. But it certainly wouldn’t diminish my opinion of them to see that they’d tested something that didn’t turn out so hot, or wasn’t to my taste. Beta-testing is one of the most important forms of public service one can do for the community, and I appreciate the effort these people put in.