Some Introcomp 2020 Reviews

CINDE-12
by Kenny Alami and Arthur Protasio

This is a short Twine game with wacky humor (as one of the ending says, “This is only one of many wacky endings. Find the others!”. As an Intro, its already a big chunk of game, and has at least 2 endings I found out of the planned 11.

It’s a branching narrative, kind of a mix between Gauntlet and Time Cave in layout. A virus named CINDE-12 is causing a pandemic, and if you yawn one too many times you go into a coma and die.

I think this one has a good chance of getting finished, as the main layout is already there. It’s amusing, as is its goal, but its not very ambitious overall. And that’s okay; not every game has to be Moby Dick-sized.

Deborah Miller, Vampire Slayer
by M. Nite Chamberlain

This one’s just the very beginning of a Twine story. I got through a few pages before reaching the end. It’s a shame; I found it really funny and interesting. I noticed a lot of people are using Sugarcube; if you’re just starting Twine, Chapbook is much cooler-looking right now and a good start.

There was one odd part about whether someone was too pale to be in the south. I couldn’t tell if it was about being tan in the sun (which makes sense) or a comment about a person’s ethnic background (which would come off as weird). Otherwise, I think the writing is tight in this and would like to see more.

Oh, I forgot to say, this is a short story about intense competition in a bake-off.

Foreign Soil
by Olaf Nowacki

This parser game has a really interesting opening, one of the better ones I’ve seen. You are in a long-distance space travel sarcophagus, and have to get out and look around. It then stops after pulling a lever to release a robot, which isn’t, I believe, implemented.

The intro is great. Making a bigger game could be a bit harder. Even in this small segment, it still needs more synonyms (like ‘southern door’ for the outer door in the airlock) and custom responses (like the one for ‘x me’). The geography outside is confusing; a map feelie of the crater could help.

The bigger problem is that none of the intro indicates what the main gameplay would be like. This is something Sam Kabo Ashwell has talked about before. The hardest part of the game is deciding on what the main activity will be. Is it setting up a base? That might require some tricky code. Exploration? That requires describing the alien environment. A mystery? That requires a whole story to write. So it may be hard to finish developing this one.

Guilt Free
by square_crow

This is a unity-game that’s somewhere between a point-and-click adventure and a visual novel (I’m sure there’s a term for that somewhere). The art is fabulous kind of hand-drawn sepia.

The file name for the game is ‘Bulimia Game’ and that’s what it is. In this game, you, a male programmer, discover hints that not all is well about your wife. You investigate her and search stuff online to see how to help her right.

The MC seems to be coming from a place of genuine empathy and concern. I wondered how healthy his reactions were (there are options you have, but some are scripted in), so I consulted this website: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/helping-someone-with-an-eating-disorder.htm

Overall, this is a pretty big chunk of a game. As there’s not much branching, and the main gameplay is already in place, I imagine this has a good chance of being finished and being a complete game.

Intro to A Fool’s Rescue
by Ralfe Rich

So this is an interesting game. It’s a parser game that uses Hybrid Choices by Aw Freyr (the same extension used in Steph Cherrywell’s award winning games) for conversation.

It’s pretty big already, with three major setpieces. Its genre would be ‘zany’, I guess, with no supernatural events taking place but a lot of fourth-wall breaking, a change in perspective, and overall lots of quips and clever phrases. The tone reminds of somewhere between Ferris Bueller and Bill Lindsay’s Bullhockey games. Ralfe Rich was one of the two entrants in the Emily Short Anniversary Contest, and his game there had similar humor.

If finished, this would be impressively large. A few things were a bit spotty for me. There are several typos in the game, which Inform’s built-in spell check could find (CTRL+G) or pasting a transcript into a word processor or grammarly. The map was confusing at times; providing a pdf map might help.

The game’s ‘Press Enter’ thing at the beginning seemed like a way to try to emulate the ‘pause the story’ feature in Glulx Text Effects, so it might be worth looking into that.

Juror Number 12
by Andrew McKissock

This is a fairlly long Twine game, and it cuts off about where I expect the halfway point would be. It definitely seems capable of being finished.

You play as a juror in a fictional country where a famous politician is on trial for corruption. The main gameplay is focused on being presented with evidence, discussing it with other jurors, getting to know them, and deciding on how you feel about the case.

I had some trouble getting into this game at the beginning. It might be the font; I have an average-sized laptop and the thin font was a bit hard to read at times. Also, the opening story is different than the rest of the game, involving you making your way through the protesters to get inside.

Choice you made were often brought up later, making it feel you like you actually had agency. The more I played, the more I liked it, and I would like to see the end.

Kink Queens of Venus
by Christopher Brent

This game is hosted online and features a different kind of interface than I’ve usually seen. You type and it auto-suggests future text. I couldn’t get anything sensible out of it, though. I thought it might be like AI Dungeon, so I tried just letting it autocomplete forever, but it gets stuck on saying ‘his his his’. I tried typing actions I wanted to do, but it didn’t give any additional input. If anyone else figures out how to interact with that, I’d love to get some tips.

Navigatio
by P. James Garrett

This parser game brought to mind Vespers and, later, Napier’s Cache,

As in Vespers, the player wanders through a monastery where people are unsettled and there are worries of madness. Like Napier’s Cache, the room descriptions are full of detail, while each room has on average one task or object to complete.

It’s hard to know what happens next, so whether this is finishable or not depends on if the author has a clear idea on how to proceed.

Implementation was generally good, although there were several quality of life improvements that could be made. Trying to douse the candle, I tried DOUSE, EXTINGUISH, UNLIGHT, and TURN OFF; it turns out that only BLOW OUT CANDLE works. Also, the main quest is around fetching a certain object, but the questgiver won’t accept it unless you discover and accept a second quest, even though you have what he asked for. So it could use a little polishing. Otherwise, interesting setting and worth seeing more of.

Out of Phase Synchronicity
by Pedro Giglio

This one had a premise that drew me in, although the interaction was almost exclusively linear.

Reminding me of The Black Tapes Podcast’s ‘Unsound’, it revolves around a band and certain song with dangerous overtones.

The writing flowed well and the storyline makes me want to play more. I wish there were a few more choices though, even ones that didn’t really matter.

The presentation was a bit odd, too. At the top of each screen is a phrase that is emphasized in three different ways: bolded, large font, and appears before the rest of the text (which is on a slight delay). I wonder if its a little too much, and if one or more of the elements could be done away with (like the delay). But this is just personal taste, and it didn’t strongly detract from the story for me.

Pre-Marie
by Dee Cooke

This is the first Adventuron game I’ve seen, so I guess I’m judging the whole system. Overall, the 8-bit graphics and bloopy noises reminded me of my childhood and playing Sierra games.

Storywise, its hard to know what’s going on, but the writing flows well and matches up with the graphics ins a pleasing way. I guess its too hard to know yet what the rest of the game will be like. I don’t even know what I discovered in this small game. I met a suspicious neighbor, talked to an archivist, and looked at a newspaper, but that was about it. Adventuron looks good overall.

Scoop
by Thomas Martin

I’m a sucker for a mystery, so this one drew me in. It’s written in Ink, and looks good. Like many of these entries, I was a bit hesitant with the very opening but really enjoyed the main swing of things. In this case, you’re a reporter for La Tribuna in Nueva York. The main gameplay revolves around obtaining ideas and phone numbers and calling around.

It offers an interesting insight into a different world, a casual newsroom filled with longing for sandwiches, casual profanity and a variety of useful tools. It’s also set in 1984, so there are things like tape recorders and phone books. Definitely want to see this finished.

A Tango Story
by Dexter Lohnes

This is a fairly short Twine game with sound, focusing on a very confident man who is just beginning Tango lessons. It has some music attached to at least one portion of the game.

The writing is very descriptive, and the added music helped with the scenario. The background information about the traditions of tango dancing were interesting. I’m not really sure where it can go from here; it felt essentially like a complete game already.

I should emphasize that this is technically quite impressive, I just didn’t interact with it as a ‘game’; this may be what the author intended.

The Ten Million Invocations of Esnesnon
by Damon L. Wakes

Hmmm, not really feeling this one. Slow text and timed events are both pet peeves of mine, and this game has them in spades. I went right away to the source code to see what was going on. It was illuminating, and seems like a technical marvel which I didn’t completely grasp, but convinced me that it might not be worth my time to wait longer (the main gameplay seems to be waiting for screens to change).

Damon has made several great games before, and I think this is an interesting procgen experiment, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea specifically. Also, it seems to be completely finished.

Tonciven
by Peter M.J. Gross and Donald Conrad

This was fun. It’s a TTRPG-style dungeon crawl below a tavern, with 4 rooms currently implemented.

The beginning does something interesting where you have a series of events from two perspectives but you can only do one perspective at a time.

The main attraction is a map that you slowly click through, which leads to your four adventures (a mage-looking lady and several animal-people) coming up with their individual plans, which you select from. The wrong choices lead to that character being incapacitated.

There’s art, as well, that fits with the style. It’d fun to see this finished and released in, say, Spring Thing.

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I was able to make it through KQV – the first turn stymied for a bit but if you AGREE with Maddy’s statement, the story continues and starts prompting you more specifically for what kinds of input will work. I couldn’t work out a way to examine or look at any surrounding objects, though, and it seemed like only one or at most two actions were valid at most points, so while I could see the autocompleting parser being a neat feature in practice it didn’t seem to do very much besides save a little bit of typing. The different vignettes were generally fun, though there was one weird moment that describes the body of a child in a way that felt uncomfortable given the exploitation-movie title – hopefully that gets changed if the piece is finished!

I was less positive on Foreign Soil – I agree that the opening sequence gave a neat perspective on a situation that’s pretty common in IF, but the implementation felt thin throughout, and the writing could have used an editing pass (there are too many adjectives, and most of them are fairly colorless). The full game could definitely be strong, but there’s a ways to go yet I think.

Agreed with your take 100% on Guilt Free, though – the art is great, the writing is pretty good, and the hybrid interface was clever and broke up the often-boring standard visual novel approach, where you’re just clicking through line after line of dialogue. I’ve had folks close to me with eating disorders and the take seemed pretty solid and respectful; there were one or two places that could potentially be read to imply that if the PC says or does the right thing, they can help fix Alice, but I suspect that’s part of a fuller narrative arc. Would definitely be interested in playing the rest of this one!

I beta tested A Fool’s Rescue so will hold off on comments on that one, and still working my way through the rest!

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Re: KQV, actually, I think the system is fighting the playing of the game. As you say, there are only a few actions the game wants, but the autocomplete is revealing and producing sentences that, relative to the game content and what the game actually wants you to type, are preposterous. They also tap mechanics the game isn’t using, so they point the player the wrong way. A typical example; after these two lines –

“I’m so drunk that I don’t know what I’m doing,” you agree.

You share a glance, terrifyingly sober. You look away.

I typed L (the beginning of LOOK in my mind) and what was suggested was:

You Lock neon light shining through the windows with neon light shining through the windows

So my feedback on this one will be: I strongly urge overhauling this system or changing systems.

-Wade

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Re: A Tango Story

I also thought it felt like a complete game, and I don’t know if there’s much interactivity (I’m not sure if switching the text in cycling links changes anything later - didn’t seem like it). But I found it interesting and an enjoyable read, even though the subject matter wouldn’t normally interest me.

Re: The Ten Million Invocations of Esnesnon

I only got to Invocation 20 before checking the source code. The number of text bits used is relatively small, so this quickly got repetitive. But the complete invocations were interestingly weird, I just think it would be better if I could click to generate a new one instead of waiting for the timer.

Re: Deborah Miller

Given the title of the story, I’m pretty sure the pale lady is a vampire. Also, I wonder if the food colouring she uses really is beet juice.

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I’ve reviewed Navigatio on my blog at this link.

Hehe… I forgot to try BLOW OUT CANDLE, but I found that the random wind that blows around the tower base also does the trick. So I thought that was pretty cool, even if I was going to suggest to add an easier way to blow it out.

-Wade

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I’ve reviewed Pre-Marie on my blog at this link.

-Wade

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I’ve reviewed Foreign Soil on my blog at this link.

-Wade

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Y’all seem to have somehow gotten way way further in Navigatio than I have. I can’t solve any puzzle here at all. What am I supposed to do?

Brother Tuan says to talk to Brother Diarmat. So I go TALK TO DIARMAT. He says he needs blood. OK. Repeated attempts to talk to Diarmat fail. When I return to Tuan and TALK TO TUAN or TELL TUAN ABOUT DIARMAT he says nothing. So, uh, there’s nothing else to do. The game is over, and I’m stuck.

I mean, OK, there’s a dark room, and I can take the lit candle up there to get to the third floor. And there’s even a cool bottle of ink there that looks like blood! That looks like something Diarmat would want. But I can’t GIVE INK TO DIARMAT or SHOW INK TO DIARMAT (or to Tuan, for that matter), so indeed, the game truly ends here, with only one trivial darkness puzzle, and nothing else to do or see, right?

At this point, I’d assume that the game has no solvable puzzles, but @severedhand talks about solving puzzles, plural, and says that the puzzles are “simple and well-cued” (hah!), that there’s a “transition to chapter two” that I’m nowhere near to seeing. WTF?

You’ve got the right idea but there’s a step you need to take before the thing you’re trying will work:

Try to learn a little more about what Diarmat is working on.

If that’s not enough to get you unstuck:

Look at his work more closely.

And the solution:

X VELLUM. TALK TO DIARMAT.

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I had to decompile the file to figure out what to do (I use http://toastball.net/glulx-strings/)

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Possibility 1: In the words of Wile E Coyote, ‘I’m a genius.’

Possibility 2: Sounds like there might have been some part that came naturally to me and flowed invisibly, but bottlenecked Brian and Dan? I don’t have time to review/share my transcripts right now but I’ll have a go once the comp results are out.

-Wade

Ironically, I think the reason I was able to figure it out was that I didn’t realize TALK TO was the verb for interacting with characters - so I was just wandering around obsessively looking at everything without any idea of what I was meant to be doing. With more direction, I probably would have wound up in much the same situation as Dan!

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“Learning Tango? Won’t take milonga than any other dance.”
:)

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I’m cross-linking this topic to another where the new gent said he got futzed because a game he tried did not understand TALK TO. The TALK TO / (other communication) binary seems to be at least partially responsible for this split on getting through Navigatio.

I know his game was from the 80s, but I think the upshot is - players are best off knowing of both. But ever more bester ofer is games indicating which they want.

-Wade

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In my case, I definitely did figure out TALK TO in Navigatio.

I think I didn’t think to examine the vellum because it didn’t appear on the desk when I X DESK. Also, when I X DIARMAT, the vellum is mentioned, but so is the quill, which is unimplemented.

I got unlucky and tried X QUILL before X VELLUM; when the game said “You can’t see any such thing” to X QUILL, I didn’t even think to try X VELLUM.

In hindsight, the vellum is explicitly mentioned when you TALK TO DIARMAT for the first time, but if you talk to him for a second time:

Before you have a chance to utter a word, he waves you away, saying: “Please. No.”

If any of these bugs had been different, I’m sure I would have breezed through the puzzle:

  • If the quill had been implemented
  • If the vellum had been mentioned on the desk
  • If talking to Diarmat the second time had mentioned the vellum
  • If Diarmat had been willing to accept the ink when I showed it to him before examining the vellum.
2 Likes