Sophia de Augustine's First SpringThing 2022 Impressions Thread

Technically authors aren’t supposed to post reviews during the festival in the spirit of it all- so I thought I might just post some impressions I was left with while circling through some of the offerings on hand, and perhaps come back to expand on stuff I found really striking after exam season/when the festival has ended. (The timing on that works out pretty handily, actually.)

These will come about in no particular order other than they tickled my fancy while clicking through the listing. They will likely lean shorter, Twine dominant, narrative heavy pieces- that’s just my preference when playing. Probably not a lot of puzzles either.

1. Phenomena, by Dawn Sueoka
2. Crow Quest, by rookerie
3. Computerfriend, by Kit Riemer
4. fix it, by Lily Boughton
5. The Fall of Asemia, by B.J. Best
6. Another Cabin In The Woods, by Quain Holtey
7. Let’s Talk Alex, by Stephanie Smith
8. A Single Ouroboros Scale, by Bez

NOTE: Adding a few lists on here, but no promises about getting around to them! Maybe more in the post-exam period.

Games I’ve played (at least a chunk of) and want to write some first impressions about:

  1. The Hole Man
    Dizzying amount of choice.

Games I want to play, still, but haven’t had the time to check out yet:

  1. The Bones of Rosalinda
    Super cute mouse game?
  2. Orbital Decay
    Yay, science!
  3. The Prairie House
    Oooh, Canadian…
  4. Graveyard Shift at the Riverview Motel
    Spooky motel? You’ve got me.
  5. You, Me and Coffee
    Oh, a Bitsy!! And with cute art from having opened it up briefly.

Games I definitely want to revisit to expand on:

  1. Computerfriend
    Evil little AI robotman, therapize me some more.
  2. Phenomena
    I wanna play around with more poems.
5 Likes

Phenomena, by Dawn Sueoka

I was really quite happy opening this one up, actually- I’m a big fan of poetry. Mary Oliver’s resurgence among literature enthusiasts about my age has been lovely- (there’s something so wonderful about her clean, not quite sparse because of the sheer abundance of what her writing evokes writing: and Wild Geese was one of the first poems in which I ever felt seen.) I was pretty excited to tear into a piece that seemed a sharp deviation from the elaborate twists and turns of formal forms or rambling free verse that’s quite common in the peer workshops I moonlight through these days (guilty as charged, your honour!)

The aesthetic it’s got really works- it’s quite simple, but it does remind me a lot of the sort of flicker-y statick-y Kubrick-esque space-age meets gritty independently made ARGs with too much camera grain for their own good. I half expected neon lime, tyrian purple and cyan because, well, UFOs- but the monochrome aesthetic really matches well with the imagery presented, and helps set my focus on the text itself. One small point I will make here: I had a lot of trouble reading the small text, but that was easily remedied by hitting zoom in my browser.

The concept of this actually reminded me of something I’d made for someone I loved, once- a kinetic build-your-own-poem, a whole collection of phrases you could turn and observe in different lights, slot them together in interesting ways- and feel a part of the creation process. I think it worked quite well here- you’re able to make new combinations that don’t feel either too disjointed, or too railroad-y.

I liked the writing, too. It strikes the balance of giving you just enough to work with, while hinting at a greater scene beyond the borders of the poem. I love poems that feel like half ajar doorways- letting in just a sliver of light from inside. I liked the use of the epigraph here- the sign off was a welcome invitation to sink into the writing and relax: there was no way to lose, as there was no way to win.

Here’s my favourite poem I made with this.

The above is a black and white picture, with a lumpy grey moon-like surface on the bottom. In a black sky, a lone UFO sits in the lower right. The following text is set off to the left side.

“I was praying.
I was alone with my hands in the dirt.
Only the flimsiest stars were visible.
These wide American fields.
The clothes of dead friends.
As if suspended by a string.
I stood in the rain alone.”

If I had to name the poem, I might call it ‘Midnight Visitations.’

EDIT: I wanted to add that I played through this while listening to Grimes’ “REALiTi.” You might find it also fun to have something similarly ‘spacey’ and ‘ethereal’ sounding.

8 Likes

Crow Quest, by rookerie

This is cute. It reminded me a lot of the irreverent humour from Homestuck, and in particular the character named Davesprite Strider- perhaps to no one’s surprise, seeing as he’s a sort of ghostly crow boy. (It’s a long story. The joke is that no one can summarize what the heck is going on in Homestuck accurately.) The little tiny bowler hat is too cute!

I like the illustrations- they feel like they could be some tattered artsy poster or particularly nice bit of graffiti I’d find wandering outside in the downtown core. They sort of remind me of carving up linoleum blocks, which I think contributes to that poster-y printed vibe.

Very small, pretty funny little bitesize game. I got a bad ending on my first go around, but that’s okay- the game is short enough you can readily hop back in without feeling too sore over not being able to reload up from a save. (I trend to be an obsessive good-ending chasing player when I have dabbled in games that you can ‘win’ in that sense, like otomes. If you’ve seen my Twitter, you’ll know I can’t emotionally bring myself to get a bad-ending with Quest from Blooming Panic.)

I would probably suggest this to my friends who also grew up with the sort of casually rude, slightly quirky humour that Homestuck embodied for a lot of us, with a ‘hey lol remember when?’ It feels very nostalgic. I, too, love crows and their other black bird friends- when I was young, a few haunted the skies wherever I moved. One I was friendly with once led me home!

Overall, it’s a nice little homage to the critters, which the author mentioned was their intent. Good stuff. I’d be interested in seeing more from them- this is apparently their first Twine game.

6 Likes

Computerfriend, by Kit Riemer

The very first thing I said (out loud, actually) while playing through this was ‘owugh,’ mostly because the searing background colours at first did not play nicely with my budding migraine from the rainclouds. I was also a little confused on how to progress at first, (I’m still rather clumsy when it comes to playing through games, I’ve only just fumbled a grasp on how to navigate through Bitsy games and clicking on images instead of text was confusing at first) but did eventually get the hang of it.

I will say- the rest of the design is much easier on the eyes. Black and green? So retro, sign me up! I liked the lay out of the desktop, and who isn’t a sucker for quasi-evil AIs? I’ll have to return to this at a later date to really rummage through what it has on offer- but from the brief jaunt I went on, it’s quite fun to play, once you’ve squinted your way through the introductory text’s background.

Godfield is a intriguing setting, and while I did struggle a little with the stylistically disjointed/hurried text, it does add to the overall doom-and-gloom aesthetic. Something is deeply wrong. This little cute computerfriend isn’t as friendly as it seems.

The idea of an AI tailoring itself to you is also deeply, deeply creepy. It kind of reminds me of SAYER, a sci-fi podcast featuring a deep voiced, flat toned, murderous AI who is your on boarding bestie to help you with adjusting to being in like, space. Also he lives in your head. On a chip mushed into your brain. Creepy! It’s attempt at a more playful tone remind me a titch of HERA, from Wolf 359, a space opera podcast where she’s the ship’s AI and snarky little loveable buddy. It’s like if SAYER was trying his damn best to be HERA, and falling short of the mark. I like it!

I also am a little silly, and was all jazzed up to write 50 words of a microfiction, ready to copy paste it from my careful word counted document: only to be dismayed by the fact it actually had already had a pre-set up text you just tapped in, a key at a time. It felt a bit clunky- maybe speeding it up to one key press = one word might have helped? Though the tedious aspect could also complement the fact it’s meant to be homework.

I do like the physical act of typing in our name. It made me incredibly on edge to type in the name of a loved one when prompted. Being able to pick out our hobbies and having the little guy (in my head, computerfriend is a dude, I tend to default to most AIs being men unless otherwise specified) respond in a way that did feel a lot like a slightly more sophisticated chatbot was really charming.

I look forward to playing this through properly after exam season!

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fix it, by Lily Boughton

Oh boy, howdy! A bit of a puzzling start (I’m not used to timed text, despite having played around with the effect myself, much to my chagrin) but relatively straightforward to navigate through afterwards. I do like games that are relatively easy to pick up! The topic matter is definitely something that strikes close to home for me- there’s a reason I chose to include a (optional, since I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, especially not in horror, a genre where you do sort of expect to feel discomfort or terror) content warning page in Sweetpea.

I’d say it’s a pretty accurate, if very universalized experience of what it’s like to navigate through the scenario presented. I did crack a bit of a smile at the use of grounding techniques- they’re often what I come back to, when it comes to dealing with my own troubles. Perhaps that’s another gift of being a writer- having more raw material to mine for writing, and being able to quite particularly pin down the annoying buzzing whine of the overhead fluorescent lighting as being like the year the wasps hummed in the walls of the dank portable classroom, flooding out through the gaps when the door was swung open. All that rotting fruit.

The ending’s little parting note to take care was nice. I think it was especially lovely to temper the edge of the sort of purposefully unpleasant, uncomfortable experience we’d just had.

The desperation in trying to click the right thing to fix- and the sinking realization there probably wasn’t a right way out, you simply had to brute force your way through the unpleasantries to wind up on the other side, winded and out of sorts- very like staring down the barrel of a panic attack, in the brief moment you are cognizant enough to realize what’s grabbed you by the front of your collar, and the screaming terror that throws you sideways into a wall, to later find yourself, dishevelled, hyperventilating, drenched in sweat and smelling faintly of puke. It’s the awfulness of being aware of what’s going to happen next- and being powerless to stop it, until you’ve just ridden out whatever awfulness is up ahead.

Very effective portrayal. One you might want to tread with a mite of caution if you’re sensitive to this sort of thing- though it does end well.

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The Fall of Asemia, by B.J. Best

I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to bite an NPC more.

That out of the way- this is a very puzzling little game. I didn’t really know if what I was doing- clicking through the glyphs, was doing very much of anything. That listless sort of sifting through odds and ends is very familiar- and mirrors what I imagine the poor translator has to do on quite the regular basis. The little asides with a partner(?) help ground the text quite well, as before I ran into those portions, I was just sort of floating along, clicking the pictures so that they looked pretty, in an abstract sort of way. Lots of squiggles and dots. The natural arc and subsequent fall of splatters. It was almost meditative.

I feel for the translator we’re playing, as though. It is quite sad- that all of those people died, and everything that they said has, too. I think I got a ‘good’ ending, in that it was a prayer for remembrance- and won’t they be, on that plane, and for however much time after, that the narrator carries this experience with her? That snappy, short temper and the trying-not-to-fight-but-fighting-anyways rings pretty true to what it’s like to be under stressful circumstances and a timecrunch: bristling, combative even if you don’t mean to be. Bitey.

Do play with the sound! I normally don’t, for games, but it definitely helps set the reflective, puzzled, and tense feeling to the story. Kind of makes me feel itchy, with the voices echoing around in space around your head like that- but if you are being haunted by the dead from times long past… Definitely passes the vibe check.

4 Likes

Another Cabin In The Woods, by Quain Holtey

This scared the absolute crap out of me at first because I didn’t realize there was voiceacting, and in clicking through like a little caffienated bunny hopping about, launched about a bazillion of speaking bits at once. Whoa! (Also, peep the voice on that doctor. So deep… The dad very vaguely reminds me of Quest’s voice, too. In peeking at the cast, they’re the same person- I could sort of tell, but the drastic pitch difference made it easy enough to pretend otherwise.)

Thankfully, this game is really easy for me to read- the text is chunky, boxed in, and has nice contrast with the background. The little bits of atmospheric noise and voiceacting definitely make it stand out- I’m more used to those sort of extras in visual novels, so I didn’t expect them here! What a neat little surprise.

I think I did things a little out of order- though that didn’t break the game, I just realized after you were probably meant to play the pieces as you got them, not clean the entire house in a frenzy and bash away at the keyboard. I did intuitively figure you had to play all of the pieces before you could enter the brother’s room, though, so the game did a good job in setting that up- and that presumably the last bit in his room must’ve been the last sheet to play. It surprised me a little to find out that the dad’s name is Tom- that’s quite similar to a dear friend of mine’s, which is a little jarring, since he isn’t really the type to get into a knockout fight like that.

I’m generally not a big fan of puzzles, but this one wasn’t too difficult- though I did end up writing the combination as I went along so as not to forget the progress I’d made. I’m usually not very good with memory games!

I’m not sure if there’s any other ending- to sell the house, perhaps, but in the end I went with keeping it. It just felt right. That send off with the song in the end over the end card was lovely.

I will say- I understand why there likely wasn’t a content warning here, (as it would have probably spoiled the game’s ending?) but I do wish that there would’ve been one. Child death and car crashes are relatively common triggers, and if I’d been able to brace myself for the experience, it would’ve gone down smoother.

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Thank you so much for playing, and for your thoughtful review (I would love to read your microfiction) :slight_smile:
The intro text is searing, you’re right… I wanted it to be annoying to mimic the rising anxiety of the PC, but I may have gone too far and made it inaccessible to those with less tolerance of extreme contrast.

3 Likes

Let’s Talk Alex, by Stephanie Smith

Oh, gosh. This one also struck a little close to home for me- which I knew going in, and I bring up as testimony to the writing’s ability to resonate with such a tricky topic. I got the good ending- and picking through the choices presented to try to navigate through the conversation was definitely engaging, since I wanted very badly for my character to be able to see through the whole messy snarl and set themselves free.

Small notes: it could sometimes be hard to distinguish between the speakers. The different font / font size was a good touch, but perhaps colour coding the text more contrastingly would make it even clearer- I think Alex’s is slightly yellow tinted, but it’s hard to really distinguish between it and the predominant white text of the narrator. I also would have liked a definite end screen, since I wasn’t sure if I had really reached an ending yet.

I pictured the player character as a woman, since I typically self-insert that way when reading IF, unless it’s explicitly said otherwise- and Alex as a man, (perhaps because of my own experiences) though the text keeps them both fairly gender neutral. That’s a nice touch when trying to universalize a piece like this- to allow players to put themselves into the shoes of the protagonist and their life, grappling with superimposed loved ones and difficult situations as an exercise in empathy. I liked the gradient backgrounds too, especially the shift to a freeing summer sky’s blue at the end.

This is one game I won’t be replaying for the sake of completionism, as I don’t really want to experience the bad ending personally- but it’s a nice little jaunt into someone else’s experiences that more people than you might think have gone, or are going through.

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I thought it might be interesting to pop up a quick post on how I pick through games to play!

How do I pick a game to play?

  1. Can I easily open this game to play it?
  2. Do I know the author, or have I heard of the game before?
  3. Is this game made in a way I’m familiar with?
  4. Is this game in a genre I’m interested in?
  5. Does the game have an eyecatching title?
  6. Is the cover art appealing?

A. If I can’t open a game, I’m definitely not going to play it. When I play interactive fiction, I’ll generally ignore anything I can’t crank open in my web browser- as my laptop doesn’t really have a lot of space left on it to dedicate to a game I’ll play once, and I’m too clumsy with technology to really want to spend the hour or so it’ll take me to learn how to actually open and install something properly if there’s no clear instructions, and even then- I’d only really do it for something I’d been anticipating for awhile, rather than spending that time on something I might not even like all that much. On Itchio, I’ll automatically filter it by web + interactive fiction for my tags of choice.

B. If I’ve heard of the author, in terms of them being a big name luminary in the scene (as in the case of Emily Short’s game about letters and in a historical setting), I’m more likely to play the game. Also, if I’ve had pleasant interactions with the author, I’m definitely going to stick it onto my to-play list, even if it doesn’t wind up being reviewed or written about. If I’ve heard good things about the author generally from previous discussion, I’m also more likely to play the game. I will play games by people I’ve never heard of before, but those take a lower priority.

C. I’ll automatically lean more towards Twine, Bitsy, Ren’py, and RPG maker games, as those are more easily navigable for me due to being more familiar with the conventions- either due to building around with them myself, or having watched Let’s Plays, or reading through their documentation.

D. I like lots of genres when I read, but I especially have a soft spot for the gothic, horror in all its permutations (straddling slasher fests to campy hijinks to psychological terror, and so on), science fiction (especially if it’s hard sci-fi, I really respect people who can pull off grounding a narrative firmly in reality), westerns (I love cowboys!), romance (I have a massive soft spot for dime store romance novels and pulpy tropes) and to a smaller extent, campus novels, urban fantasy, and superhero stuff. I generally do not read High Fantasy, or faithful fairy-tale adaptations, but I may make exceptions if the prose is really excellent or I like the creator.

E. I love titles. I tend to use one or two word titles, or else a small sentence, (examples in my own being: Sweetpea for IF, and for other works- I Have Loved You, In Loving You, Feylines, Lead Us Into The Light, Lost Cabernet, Lonely For You, Dinners Gone South, Goliaths and Endurance and so forth). So either having a really snappy title like ‘Phenomena’ that leads me to wonder what that one word symbolizes, or a long bit like ‘The Bones of Rosalinda’ will get me to take a second look.

I also like calls to the reader (the use of ‘you’ in my own titles, and ‘You, Me and Coffee’’) as well as funky stylization (“fix it”, though these I associate with more feels-y, Twine-y, younger writer who also likes fanfiction and poetry like myself authors, I tend to also assume they are also women just from a first blush) and will often scroll through listings, find the cool names, and then pick through that list further to see what I can play.

F. Pretty art make brain go brrrrrr. I generally fall into two camps here: if it has gorgeous typography, minimalistic visuals otherwise, whether it feels font-y or hand drawn, generally a single word title, and high contrast OR a neon effect, I’ll definitely check it out. On the other hand, if it has a beautifully rendered, painted scene- especially if it’s of a location or a person, I’ll click on it too, but I prefer these covers to be lush with details. Either super tight and clean font work, or really gorgeous and rambling painted covers. I generally will not play games that don’t have some form of cover, but a super snappy bit of writing as a sample may make me check it out.

And then, for me to want to write up a little blurb about it:

  1. Did the game make me feel a particular way?
  2. Does the game have a strong message?
  3. Does the game have characters I really like?
  4. Does the game have anything quirky about its design or layout?
  5. What’s the accessibility of the game like?
  6. Who would I recommend this game to?

A. I especially care about, above all else, if a game made me feel any which way. That can be happy, relieved, scared, angry, or upset- but I want to feel something when I’m done playing, and if I don’t, I generally won’t write something on it. I try not to be mean, when I’m writing my odds and ends- and if I really hate a game, I just won’t mention anything about it. On a scale of like, 1 to 5, if I’d rate a game below 3 stars, I will not write about it- or anything below a 4 on a scale of 10.

B. This can go either which way. I don’t actually mind didactic, or a bit heavy-handed message-y preach-y games, so long as the game itself either strikes a strong emotion alongside it, or it was genuinely fun to play. I can even disagree with the message, and still find artistic merit, even if I might wrinkle my nose or make a bit of a face at how it may have been handled: if there’s a good faith attempt to take a stab at a difficult topic, then I usually won’t mind too much. On the other hand, the cardinal damn sin is being preach-y, and dry. If you’re going to proselytize or hold a lecture at me, then at least let me have fun during it, or be charmingly witty or devastatingly funny.

C. Characters are generally the #1 criteria for me when I am reading fiction, or engaging with any bit of media at all. I don’t mind reading boring rehashed plots or old tropes- but I want to fall in love with your characters, or at least fiercely hate them, or be able to rip them apart at the seams to dissect and poke around in their little brains and backstories, and if you can make me love a character of yours, I will babble about them endlessly, paint them, write fanfiction about them, etc, etc. Strong characters are my ride or die point for novels- if I don’t click with them, I won’t buy it. This is a bit hard with reader self inserts- so I actually tend to focus more on the NPC cast in IF.

And if it is a reader insert- please do specify if you actually intended for him to be read as a male. I played this one game once, where you didn’t learn it was a gay man coming out until the very end, which gave me insane whiplash since I’d been assuming it was a reader insert, and she was a gay woman coming out- which led to me puzzledly backtracking to see if somehow I had missed it: but the author just uh, sort of forgot that women might be part of the audience, I guess, since it was otherwise written as a very empty/bland/universal protagonist.

I actually don’t mind playing through games as men- though I do prefer to play as a woman, generally speaking. I do write a lot of guys in my own work, IF or otherwise- but if I’m meant to be playing as a guy, I want to be able to readjust my framework so I don’t get baffled at the end when he whips it out or whatever. (Generally if I’m playing a self insert game where it’s explicitly a male lead, I’ll simply imagine, and play as if one of my male original characters were the ones piloting the character- so like, a roleplay exercise. Whereas, if she’s a woman, or gender neutral, then I’ll just imagine it as if I were the protagonist directly, and make decisions based on what I personally would do.)

D. Pretty layouts make brain go brrrr. So does anything novel- like an interesting mechanic, or some strange new way of laying out your text, or mashing different buttons to make things happen. I’m not too hard to please here- I was blown out of the water by the click and drag system in 10PM.

E. If I can’t play the game, I’m not going to play the game. If I can play the game while having to adjust it, I’ll grumble, but I’ll still play through it. Here would fall a bunch of things: is the text readable, or is it readable if I zoom in a lot and it doesn’t break everything to hell too badly, can I select the text to copy and paste it elsewhere to enlarge it if I need to, does your colour choice hurt my eyes, do you have an option to adjust/toggle audio or background SFX, do you have an option to adjust/toggle flashing gifs or videos or can I at least brace myself before seeing them, do you have a content warnings page or some sort of tags or disclaimer somewhere so I can make the informed decision on whether or not I want to engage with potentially distressing material (some days are better than others for confronting my PTSD, and simply being able to prepare myself for a trigger can help me avoid a full blown episode), do you (ironic of me, I know) use paragraphing and lots of white space, do you use too many timed or too distracting text effects, do you have a save/reload system, and so on, and so on.

Out of those, what I most look for are: can I read the text with minimal effort/adjusting? Do you have content warnings somewhere? Do you use paragraphs? Do you have timed effects?

F. And who would I suggest it to? Even if the game doesn’t personally vibe with me, if I can see one of my loved ones playing it, or a very particular sort of person, I’ll mention that. I’m not the universal audience for everything- I’m quite picky, actually, but that doesn’t detract from a work’s quality.

7 Likes

A Single Ouroboros Scale, by Bez

I talk a lot about my own bleeding disorder (hemophilia) and its associated injuries below. If you think that might make you uncomfortable, I’d suggest not reading this post. Only text follows, there are no videos/audio/visuals etc.

It’s a tricky thing, speaking about semi-autobiographical works, as I never want to offend or strike a raw nerve unwittingly- especially if it pertains to a topic that I don’t feel as if I can relate to. It’s easier to sit with someone’s grief if you feel like you have a connection, your own source of experiences to fall back on while discussing their creation. It’s part of why I was able to write some thoughts about Let’s Talk Alex, as I have experience with leaving an abusive relationship- and not Sting, as I’m fortunate enough that I’ve never had a brush with death outside of my own near-death experiences.

Still, I figured I’d try. I’m disabled, and have grappled with the feeling of having my illness take away from me relentlessly: not only my general quality of life (it can be excruciating to have joint bleeding: the blood stretches the capsule to its limit, displacing the bones- causing severe, accumulative arthritic damage: as if it weren’t a slap to the face enough to have your joints set ablaze from the heat and tear wrenching pain of the spontaneous bleeding itself) but also my means of creative expression- whether it be from literally losing the ability to hold a pencil and having to slowly relearn how to draw/paint and radically changing my entire process and art style to accommodate, or being in a fog from being in so much pain my brain is mush and writing is out of the question.

It’s hard. It’s devastating. Unless you’ve experienced that loss of not only yourself, but also your means of interacting with the world through self expression- it’s hard, I guess, to explain the terror of losing months at a time to the endless sea of pain. Of not wanting to be defined by only your capacity to endure, but struggling to be a person when you’re barely clawing onto existing. You aren’t as sharp when you’re sobbing and trying to desperately unbend your knees because they’ve locked up into place from internal bleeding. So while I may not be able to relate on the particulars of cognition Bez mentions here- I’ll be approaching this from the perspective of a creative who has had their sense of self and work threatened by major illness.

This game made me sad. That sounds like a rather childish way to express how I felt- but I really struggled to find any dressed up metaphor or simile that rung as true as just… sad. My experiences with my genetic disorder are not ones I’d wish on anyone- and it’s always sad to see when someone else has experienced similar difficulties. The inevitability permeating the piece- the deletion impending no matter how you choose, the lack of real, meaningful change you can make in their fictional community: it reminds me so much of the way walls seem to close in with depression, or long term illness- how no matter what you do, it feels as if it doesn’t matter, because things are awful and out of your control.

I wrote a metastudy paper this semester for one of my courses- on the impact of stress on depression, and while knowing about the typical globalization of negative thought patterns associated with the illness is comforting in an abstract way: knowing the answer behind something doesn’t change the emotional processing part of things, I guess.

I know what it’s like to be so hopelessly down a hole that you can’t see a way out. How the world keeps rushing on without you- the fear and sorrow at being left behind, of being forgotten. That is such a hard thing to handle, let alone with grace. I try to strive for strength and grace in my own troubles, but I fall short of the mark so often- I am so thankful for my loved ones and medical team, and their perpetual patience.

I was a little puzzled by the poems included in the bottom links, but I did listen to one of them, and sat for a little bit to let it sink it. I can see how it ties into the piece- the question of immortality, stars going out, a universe rushing endlessly forwards, but I missed them at first blush since I don’t believe there was any mention to poetry in the actual game. I did bookmark the site though, it’s always nice to find new ways to engage with, and pull others into engaging with, poetry.

This is a complicated little piece- not because of any technowizardry that was impenetrable to me, but because I feel as if I’m at a loss for how to really express how I felt, besides sorrow. I hope too, that one day Bez is able to look back at this game and be able to have a bit of a chuckle at a past self- that the situation won’t be as dire or harrowing in the future. I can’t promise that it will be. I can hope, but I also hope that Bez is able to make it through things OK, no matter how things shake out.

13 Likes

I play tested the game, and the Dickinson poem was quoted somewhere in Algie’s jots in the iteration I read, although briefly so it might be easy to miss. It is a perfect poem for the game… that sense of responsibility to yourself and others to flower.
I also felt terrible sadness over the game. The feeling of personal erasure due to illness, or bigotry, or dismissal, is so palpable and well-described.

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I’ll likely add some proper thoughts at some point, but I thought for now it’d be funny to add my play transcript of Fairest.

Yes please, >Yes I am, >Sophia, >Blow feather, >Pick up feather, >Examine feather, >Look around, >Look at shacks, >Pick up trash, >Look at eyes, >Get off street [Was prompted to get off the streets because of eyes. Took a bit to figure out how to go away/towards the house to the east.], >Go to east shack, >Go east, >Talk to woman, >Take mirror, >Examine woman, >Help, >Examine Sophia, >Touch eyes [The game mentions the one behind your eyes, so I got a little confused.], >Blink, >Go outside, >Look in woman [This took a while to figure out how to use the mirror on the woman.], >Look in woman, mirror, >Look in woman, >Look in mirror, >Query mirror [Prompted by the text that we could], >Go to forest [Mentioned forest], >Go away, >Leave, >Go north [Gotten the hang of the directions thing], >Go northeast, >Go northwest, >Go south, >Go south, >Go east, >Examine shuttle, >Examine loom, >Look at light, >Touch fire, >Touch fire!, >Take stone, >Take loom, >Take shuttle, >Talk to woman, >Query, >Leave, >Go North, >Blow feather, >Go northeast, >Say hi to frog, >Talk to frog, >Take gold, >Run, >Talk to nixie, >Talk to frog, >Go to door, >Enter house, >Go east, >Talk to girl, >Talk to man, >Examine rugs, >Go out, >Go outside, >Go to pond, >Query, >Talk to butler, >Examine girl, >Examine father, >Examine butler, >Help, >Examine mirror, >Talk to girl, >Query, >Go to frog, >Leave, >Go west, >Go north, >Go east, >Pick up feather

This game is really well implemented, even for doing silly things like trying to touch fires and steal household objects of strange women’s houses you just barged into. The hints were very helpful- I had a real WAIT A MOMENT I GOT IT! with the first hint after a bit of muddling around. I think I have the same kleptomaniac streak as I do in RPGs and MMOs in parsers. I think navigating, especially leaving buildings, is probably the hardest part for me, as well as figuring out how to use items. Very friendly introduction to a style of play I don’t have much experience with!

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Yep, this is always the problem for everyone in learning parser-speak. There is a VERBS command that tells you every verb you need to use to win the game, although it understands many more.
Once you get the hang of all the parser shorthand, the games are pleasure to play, but learning them is a beast for a lot of people.
Thanks for playing… I know you’re not fond of fairy tale games!

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Good to know that I’m not the only one who tripped up a little over the learning curve!

I remember reading that the game’s quite long, and I had fun, so I’ll probably return to it when I have time to properly sit down with it over the summer/post finals! There’s always exceptions to the rule! :wink:

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Whenever I get to a particularly exciting stage of a game, like the endgame or entering the solution to a puzzle I think I just cracked, I tend to type long-form commands.
Like so:

GO NORTHEAST, EXAMINE THE GNARLY UNICORN, THROW THE BLUE-STAINED ROSE AT THE GNARLY UNICORN, GO NORTH THEN DANCE ON THE GNARLY UNICORN’S CADAVER, GO UP, LOOK, GO SOUTHEAST, DRINK EARL GREY TEA THEN EAT A BLUEBERRY MUFFIN,…

It’s a way to prolong the tension and the joy of anticipation.

Maybe you want to do this all the time, even with directions. If not, a lot of commands can be abbreviated:
-Directional commands: N, E, S, W; IN, OUT; UP, DOWN
-INVENTORY: I
-EXAMINE: X
-AGAIN (repeat the previous command): G
-WAIT (for something to happen): Z
-EXAMINE: X
These can help to type less and play more, in the same amount of time! The deal of a lifetime! I’ll even throw in a free LOOK abbreviation: L

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To play total know-it-all, UP/DOWN can be shortened to U and D.

I think one thing that people who loved parser games way back when would be surprised to discover is … a simplified parser is a good thing and cuts down the less meaningful possibilities, so players are less likely to quit because 1) they can’t figure an odd verb or 2) they got close, but they didn’t nail things down. I am pretty sure I’ve linked to Barry Schwartz’s TedTalk on the Paradox of Choice elsewhere, but I like how it says, yes, people get overwhelmed by too many choices.

collapsed this so as not to derail the thread

And while fighting the parser was fun back when parser games themselves seemed like a minor miracle, the novelty’s worn off, and we want to use our time better now, because there are so many more works to look at! A more focused parser also cuts down on unfairness or unintentional violations of Graham Nelson’s Player’s Bill of Rights.

VERBS is one of those meta-commands along with ABOUT and CREDITS that seem indispensible to give the player a chance to get going, now we know a bit/a lot more about parsers.

I know the minimum I can do when I write a game in Inform is to point the player to that command 1) after printing the initial room description and 2) when printing a general error, the player can be re-pointed to VERBS as well as what’s most common.

I admit it’s still fun to poke with odd verbs as a player, tester or writer, but in some cases I think we’re better off zapping verbs that aren’t going to be relevant. Sometimes the default responses get confusing or even unintentionally snarky, e.g. “yes” or “no” gives “That was a rhetorical question.”

That said, though, it is really cool to occasionally have to type in something long and have it be a logical, reasonable part of a puzzle. Two games from IFComp 2021 did this well. Aardvark Vs. The Hype noted this in the walkthrough, and Dr. Horror’s House of Terror required something early on.

Cragne Manor and Slouching Towards Bedlam are IIRC two others. They feel like the exception that proves the rule that parsers shouldn’t be sprawling in general. But I think there will always be cool puzzles where the player must figure what a certain command needs to be, and they won’t all be fourth-wall jokes for seasoned parser veterans.

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u r rght

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I figured since this thread is sort of the tiny little corner of the SpringThing going ons I’ve claimed, I could talk a bit about how the whole reviews thing has been during all of this for me.

Long preamble aside (first time writing a self contained interactive fiction piece, first time stumbling across the festival and participating, first time getting reviews from people I didn’t personally know in some capacity like ongoing peer workshops or writing groups, etc)- this festival has been about a lot of firsts for me!

Something I think made this all especially terrifying (and exciting!) was the idea of plonking my work down in front of other people who I didn’t really know. I participated some on the forums leading up to the festival- but I’m far more used to getting reviews from peers I’ve gotten on quite well with through the semester, friends who I cherish and often creatively collaborate with, or from writing groups where we all know each other on a first name basis at the least, where you might chit chat casually about the kids and the weather and oh, did you hear about the city parade- that sort of amiable chitter chatter.

I’ve been a bit spoiled in the sense that I’ve never really been too afraid of sitting my work down onto the big kid’s table- because I felt reassured people would be nice, as we got on well, even if they didn’t really like what I had written (and most of the groups I’m a part of are quite firm on a very gentle, encouraging etiquette- compliment sandwiches and recommendations of craft exercises are very common.) I also generally felt very competent in those groups- as typically, people are around the same skill level in the smaller splinter offs, or else it’s a culture that actively fosters uplifting newcomers and encouraging them to stick to the hobby, because they’re deliberately an inclusive space for people who may not have much experience.

That was all very different for my shy little debut into the IF world- I’m not a programmer, and I’m younger than most of the regular names I’ve seen running about (before diving into the whole complications of my previous poor experiences with being a woman in computer science-y spaces, let alone touching on the issues of disability, ethnicity, and so on.) Things have gotten a lot better as the years progress, but I still remember being one of the final few girls in the CS elective because of how hostile our peers were- (there was a hurled keyboard incident, and quite a lot of awful leering or snarky, sexually charged harassment,) and the teacher tried his clumsy best to be encouraging, but being praised for having a ‘womanly touch with design’ was also sort of disheartening.

So, I honestly felt really intimidated- especially after reading through previous reviews and critiques. These people have got such wonderful taste, such discerning minds, and so much more experience- it was honestly, really scary! I felt like I was going to make a fool out of myself- fall hideously short of some invisible mark and getting super humiliated about having stepped outside of spaces where I was more comfortable and into a sphere I felt like I was ‘intruding into.’ Especially with my choosing to do like, a choice based Twine- I’ve devoured pretty much all of the old reviews on here, and posts back from when the choice/parser divide was still quite agitated- and I felt quite sheepish about skipping up and plunking a silly little Twine in front of people who had been playing parsers long before I was alive.

All that being said, the actual reception has been so great. Its not to say that it’s all sunshine and rainbows, and of course I made my fair share of mistakes when clobbering passages together- (not a surprise, I’ve had the biggest bug pointed out to me that while not gamebreaking, is really annoying to have to retravel through the passages and does look like it’s gamebreaking on first blush- I honestly expected myself to have somehow actually break it to an unplayable state in several places as I had found while testing it after appending the ending hastily!) but… The community has been so kind.

Even my mistakes (which I did find my face flushing in embarrassment over, and had to take some time to collect thoughts on before replying) have been pointed out not in a mean way, like ‘bro this fucking sucks’ but in a ‘hey, this is where you could fix it/something to think on for the future’ way. It’s an honour that anyone shares their thoughts on my work in a review- knowing someone sat down to play and wanted to share their thoughts on my work when there’s so many other options out there to do so on is such a gift, regardless of the bent of the review. To have people mention that they liked the writing, and want to see more- that’s such a thrill. Especially from more prolific reviewers who have certainly seen their fair share of games to inform their tastes!

I’ve tried to respond and engage with people who do share their thoughts- at the very least, saying thank you for having taken the time out of their days to engage with my work. I’ve also been making note of improvements for future work, and am so grateful people would leave feedback when it’s a heck of a lot easier to go ‘man this sucks’ or click X and never play through it to begin with.

TL;DR: Putting your work out there in front of people you hardly know when it’s so different from other creative contexts you’ve been in is like, so scary! But the actual reception and experience has been something I’m very grateful for- and the IF community is very welcoming.

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Oh, ick. You think we’ve come a long way and then this crap. Of course what you want to say back is, “I bet my womanly touch when I kick you in the balls will be awesome!” But you can’t, because that’s your prof. I hope you put that in your student evaluation of him.

And my experience here has been the same way. Honest feedback done directly, but thoughtfully and with the aim of improving my work, not knocking me down. It’s a great thing.

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