The Second Quadrennial Ryan Veeder Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction

Aw, :frowning:
Normals was planning on skipping event two to focus all their attention on their entry for event three which still needs a ton of work. But this prompt is way too cool to ignore…
Should have started event 3 entry earlier, done in again by the perils of procrastination.

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Apologies to IN — there’s no apparent reason why Quixe in Borogove would collapse whitespace, but it does. I’ll investigate.

I like the idea but alas, for practical reasons whitespace must and will be preserved.

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>x magnificent phalanx of pterodactyls

You can see no such thing.

Hanon goes north, cursing into a walkie-talkie.

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Lord Dimwit Flathead disagrees.

           --------------------------
          /       Gold Zorkmid        \
         /  T e n   T h o u s a n d    \
        /        Z o r k m i d s        \
       /                                 \
      /        ||||||||||||||||||         \
     /        !||||          ||||!         \
    |          |||   ^^  ^^   |||           |
    |          |||   OO  OO   |||           |
    | In Frobs  |||    <<    |||  We Trust  |
    |            || (______) ||             |
    |             |          |              |
    |             |__________|              |
     \                                     /
      \     -- Lord Dimwit Flathead --    /
       \     -- Beloved of Zorkers --    /
        \                               /
         \       * 722 G.U.E. *        /
          \                           /
           \                         /
             -----------------------

(From the original Zork.)

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To be fair, Ryan also said:

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I am pleased to announce the halftime show of the Second Quadrennial Ryan Veeder Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction. Because it is a whole thing on its own I have done the announcing in a different thread over here.

I am very pleased to announce that I have processed and uploaded all the Entries in Event Two so that they are now available for online play. Please look at them.

I very much hope that Entrants and non-Entrants will feel completely free to discuss the Entries, and that through such discussion we will all definitely enhance our appreciation of these very, very impressive games. However, as I have stated before, it is paramount that the Judge’s opinion is not affected in the slightest by any outside stimulus whatsoever. Any opinion, however innocuous, stated by any Entrant or non-Entrant, however nobly-intentioned, has the insidious potential to interfere with my highly extremely sensitive judging processes.

Therefore, I vociferously entreat all Entrants and non-Entrants to use spoiler tags liberally to obscure their opinions of these lovely Entries (and any spoilers for the lovely Entries) until the scores have been announced.

Thank you very, very much for your interest.

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The link for the cover art for “Old King Nebb” isn’t working.

I have corrected this. Thank you for your interest.

I am pleased to present my judgment of the Entries in Event Two of my Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction.

Judgment of Event Two

Opening Remarks

I am very pleased with the Entries in Event Two. The Entrants have done a wonderful job of entertaining me and satisfying my particular desires for entertainment. They have also demonstrated that the ending-less exploration-game-experience style of interactive fiction, popularized and arguably invented by myself, has tremendous untapped potential. In the same way that Event One of my Exposition will undoubtedly inspire thousands of beautiful Inform 7 code-artworks, I believe that Event Two is the beginning of a new wave of textual places.

I have given high scores to all of the Entries in this Event because I like them a lot.

“Chimeric Park” by Inverted Normals

This game is an extended homage to my own “The Island of Doctor Wooby.” Again, it is wise of Inverted Normals to pay tribute to my own work. But is it wise to submit an Entry that invites such direct comparison to my own work???

For example: In my game, you can pick up the dinosaurs. In “Chimeric Park,” you cannot pick up the chimeras. What gives?

Another example: I have here a mauve dinirrorn named Roman that is always asleep. But I also have a yellow queeear named Molly who is very active and frequently is reported as playing together with Roman or racing Roman from one tree to another. Did the dinosaur behavior generation routine in “Doctor Wooby” allow similar inconsistencies? Maybe. We’d better not check. But you can see why it would perturb me to be reminded of “Doctor Wooby” by so many of this game’s features and mechanics—Too many to analyze in detail here.

The autosaving mechanic is very nice. When Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing auto-restores your progress, you nonetheless start out in your cabin; in “Chimeric Park,” you appear right where you were when you left, and that contributes a lot to the Sense of Place in IF that I am forever seeking to perfect.

There aren’t many rooms, and there aren’t many things in those rooms, and you can’t do a whole lot of things with those things. But there are some secrets! And the secrets are very well hidden. One way of looking at it would be to say that the puzzles are poorly clued. But the effect is that you never quite know whether you’ve seen everything, and I like that a lot.

Then there was one puzzle that really nagged at me, so I opened up the source code to try and hack the answer out. I strongly maintain that source diving in this way is a violation of the author’s right to keep a game’s secrets secret. I find this behavior odious. When people decompile games I get so, so ticked off. I would feel deeply ashamed of my actions in any other context, but as the Judge of this Exposition I am the sole arbiter in this context of what is right and what is wrong, and so I will let myself get away with it this time.

The author of this game, understandably unaware of the profound disgust I feel toward the practice of source diving, had taken steps to obfuscate the solution to this puzzle in a very clever way. As I untangled the Gordian JavaScript that Inverted Normals had woven, I realized: These Inverted Normals are playing the metagame of the Exposition to perfection. They are appealing not only to my narcissism, but to my paranoia and my obsessive need for control.

Therefore I award “Chimeric Park” 16.6 points out of 20.

“Indistinguishable” by Prismatik

I admire the deceptively small scale of this Entry, an instantiation of the “tiny, hyperelegant zoo” I posited in my original challenge. The parser is limited to great effect. The pacing is great. The extent of the work, so to speak, is really impressive.

The basic mechanic of this game may seem better suited to some kind of hypertext presentation, in which the few actions available could be static buttons next to a text box with the current turn’s description. But in hypertext IF, the subtly changing text that “Indistinguishable” relies upon is de rigueur. You expect it and recognize it immediately.

In parser IF, a room description tends to be utilitarian and stable. You read it once, and then you pay it minimal attention until you’re actively looking for clues. “Hiding” the content of this game in room descriptions and seemingly innocuous cycling text allows it to sneak up on you in a way that would be much more obvious and less fun in hypertext.

But the fact that there is so little for the player to do means that this ending-less zoo can’t really be said to act as a “place” in the way other Entries in this Event do. This makes “Indistinguishable” a valuable point of reference in considering what contributes to the Sense of Place in IF that I am forever seeking to perfect. But it also makes it a less appealing game to my personal tastes. Therefore I award “Indistinguishable” 17 points out of 20.

“Old King Nebb” by Abandoned Pools

For Abandoned Pools to refer to the setting of their previous Entry and establish some casual continuity/worldbuilding is the type of shameless nerd-baiting that I tend to fall for more often than not, and here I have fallen for it hard. My eyes sparkle dreamily as I wonder whether Absalome Pilcrow is the same traveller from “Antique Panzitoum,” or else where on the Panzitoum Timeline the two stories fall. (The repeated use of the same initials is another type of shameless nerd-baiting that I tend to fall for more often than not.)

Even considered on its own, “Old King Nebb” refers to multiple layers of history, which contributes greatly to the Sense of Place in IF that I am forever seeking to perfect. The world is convincingly dusty and drowsy, but it remembers when the castle was much more active, and it remembers further back, before the castle was built. The map itself is arranged with organic disorder and a cozy attention to scale. In one room, you get a glimpse of the aquarium through a window; if you navigate the map correctly, you get to see the aquarium up close. When I put it that way, it sounds tautological, but the textual environment is powerfully enriched by the decision to include details that in visual experience we take for granted.

The continuity and the coziness are assisted in large part by text describing the player character’s movement from room to room. Really, the coziness is off the charts here.

And I am reassured that by focusing on this coziness, the Abandoned Pools have eschewed the distasteful elements of “Antique Panzitoum,” so that we are not forced to contemplate gruesome orgies or lurid murders or anything along those lines. Abandoned Pools and King Nebb have suppressed their visceralities, and instead focused their energies on crafting a pleasant place in which I may feel the warm sun on my skin and play with a cat. Therefore I award “Old King Nebb” 18.4 points out of 20.

“Gaia, Živa, Jarilo” by Formless

This is the most completely realized zoo among the Entries in Event Two. Play this game, admire its detail and polish, and then consider that it was written in about two weeks.

The map is dense and diverse. There are places that are quiet; there are places that are loud; there are places that are too loud. One side of the zoo is well-monitored and structured; moving toward the other end of the map, things get wilder and scarier. There is no shortage of things to do, but there is nothing to accomplish, but there is no feeling that nothing is being accomplished. The constraint of the game having no ending more or less disappears, so effectively does this game create the Sense of Place in IF that I am forever seeking to perfect.

Formless has done an excellent job of pandering to me. The game perfectly executes the double-layered thing I love about “museum games” (like Robin & Orchid), providing an enthralling sensory experience as well as an optional interpretive experience. It has dinosaurs. (It has a terrestrial ammonite that I can pet, which is pandering on top of pandering.) It has a Borgesian title. It has so much worldbuilding. The level of worldbuilding approaches unseemliness. It is well that Formless is anonymous, because polite society does not look kindly on this kind of smart, careful, self-indulgent, Ryan Veeder-indulgent worldbuilding.

But dinosaurs and Borges and worldbuilding are superficial pandering vectors. Formless has gone further, and taken pains to pander to the feelings of alienation, disillusionment, and anxiety roiling at the core of the Veedrian aesthetic. The visitor to the Menke Zoological Park and Research Center is perversely fascinated by gigantic, terrifying fossils. He hates noise and crowds. He sneaks into planetariums. He cannot relate to people—but I can relate to him, because he is me. Therefore I am forced to award “Gaia, Živa, Jarilo” 20 points out of 20.


Some more felt dolls have been added to the prize pool. I am shamed by my tardiness in producing these dolls. I still need to make at least two more before prizes are awarded! But I do like the ones I’ve made so far.


You may be interested in seeing the current standings of the Exposition. For raw total score, the top Entrants are

1st place: Abandoned Pools (26.7)
2nd place: Prismatik (25)
3rd place: Inverted Normals (23.27)

Since Event Three will be scored out of 30 points, it is possible for the standings to change wildly before the end of the Exposition! Of course, an Entrant who enters all three Events will be at a significant advantage. But it appears that the Entrants who have decided to enter only Events One and Two will be in direct contention with the Entrants who will be entering only Event Three…

I started typing out a list of who is guaranteed which spot in the plush doll prize choice chain, but I managed to confuse myself. Too much depends upon the placing of Entries in Event Three! But you may analyze the standings yourself if you wish:

Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 11.23.56 AM

Thank you for your interest.

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Normals wasn’t able to reproduce that bug. A chimera shouldn’t be able to interact with a sleeping one. Did you perhaps just catch them during the short overlap when they were both awake (between 9 and 9:30 pm or between 5:30 and 6am)?

On another note, when exactly is the deadline for event 3? Do we still have all day tomorrow or do we have to turn the entries in tonight?

I got it to happen at 12:02 PM:

Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 12.05.01 PM

Both Molly and Len are wearing cute little hats; maybe that’s got something to do with it.

By precedent of the previous two Events, the deadline for Event Three is tomorrow morning, nominally at 9:00 AM Central. I may be prepared to forgive Entrants who submit their Entries a little later in the day, or I may not. It depends in large part on how well I sleep tonight.

Thanks for the report :+1:, I figured it out. The bug can happen when there are more than two chimeras in a room due to faulty assumptions and poor testing.

I am pleased to announce that the Entries in Event Three have been uploaded so that everybody can play them. Please look at them.

There were only three Entries in Event Three! At first this might seem like a good thing, because it means less judging work for me, and (because the number of unique Entrants is still eight) I only need to make one more prize doll instead of two.

But in fact I am a little bit sad that there are not more Entries, because I know that there were several other people who signed up for the Exposition who never got around to submitting anything. When I pause to consider what circumstances could have prevented these individuals from completing and submitting their Entries, my mind’s eye seems plunged into a maelstrom of dreadful imaginings, and I fervently hope that everybody involved is safe.

You should not worry yourselves with the contents of my visions. In fact, the paucity of Entries is, indirectly, a boon to the general public. It is likely that I will complete my judging duties well before the already very flexible deadline of March 14th, and when I announce my judgments, the Entrants will be given license to reveal their true identities and everybody will be permitted to discuss the Entries that much sooner.

Thank you for your interest.

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I am pleased to announce that I have completed my deliberations and judged the Entries in Event Three of my Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction.

However, I still have only made seven dolls.

Therefore, I will postpone my announcements of the scores in Event Three, the final scores, and the order of doll prize choices until I have constructed enough dolls for each of the Entrants to pick one. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for your interest.

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I am pleased to announce that I have made the eighth and final doll prize for my Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction.

Now I can announce the scores for Event Three.


Here are my judgments of entries in Event Three of my Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction.

Judgment of Event Three

Opening Remarks

I am pleased with the Entries in Event Three. But there is a problem.

The three Entries in Event Three are very similar. They have basically the same scope, roughly the same level of polish, and essentially the same structure: They are all very linear parser games in sort of a Peter Pan’s Flight mode where you go through each scene in order and then you’re done. Each game builds on this basic structure in a unique way, prioritizing a particular element that the other games basically ignore. Comparing the games against each other is like ranking Rock, Paper, and Scissors.

The rules of my Exposition forbid a three-way tie, and so I am forced to compare these games to games that are not Entries in Event Three. If my judgments seem harsh, the reader will understand that I am motivated by a sense of aesthetic justice. The reader will also understand that the Judge is his own governing body and is not obliged to explain himself to anyone.

Ryan Veeder’s Judgment of “Upon the Spooky House” by Ben Poisonor

Ben Poisoner (sic) originally submitted “Upon the Spooky House” to Event One of the Exposition, evidently having written it over the course of the single weekend allotted to Event One. Guessing that Ben had misunderstood the rules, I offered him the chance to submit a revised edition of “Upon the Spooky House” to Event Three of the Exposition, which I promised to judge “just like any other Entry in that Event.”

This does mean that I must judge “Upon the Spooky House” as if Ben had been given three months to prepare the game, even though he wrote it in one weekend and then had three weeks to revise it.

The game is written with enthusiasm, which I appreciate very much. The subject matter is right up my alley. It’s my kind of game. I like the pacing quite a bit, and the transition into the final scene is crafted well. The ending works, which is what you normally expect from an Exposition Entry, as long as the Entry is supposed to have an ending.

The game consists of only five rooms, and there are very few things in those rooms, and most of those things you can’t do anything with beyond applying your sensory organs to them. The game is thin on content.

But here’s the thing: The source code text really enhances my appreciation of the game. The comments are great! It’s like I’m watching Ben Poisonor write! And so what we have here is a sort of dual artwork, where playing the game is one experience, and reading the code is a complementary, maybe the word is “interpretive,” experience. If the game itself were a little more expansive, the value of that interpretation would increase geometrically.

But what we have here is quite pleasant. Therefore I award “Upon the Spooky House” 19.7 points out of 30.

Ryan Veeder’s Judgment of “85 Verbs” by Prismatik

The cute concept of this game goes a long way with me. I often amuse myself by trying to design games where I use only Inform 7’s default actions; using all of them, apparently each one only one time, is extremely adorable.

Prismatik admits that the game is undertested, and it is pretty rough around the edges; on the other hand, the game frequently tells you exactly what to do next, so I didn’t get stuck very much; on the third hand, that’s also because there isn’t much to do other than what you’re supposed to do next.

The urgency of the story is well-conveyed through the mannerisms of a crowd of PCs and the Virgil figure of Skrit, neither of which are actually implemented in the world model as far as I can tell. This sounds like an obvious flaw, but I find it weirdly impressive. And I really felt invested in the story, so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to ignore the throng’s shouted instructions lest I put them in danger.

A lot of the characters in the crowd of PCs are references to other games. Some of them seem to be figments dreamt up by Prismatik, but maybe I’m just not recognizing them. I have judging work to do, so I can’t make it my business to try and identify them all, so I lay this task upon you, the reader.

Anyway, this is a nice game, and therefore I award “85 Verbs” 19.8 points out of 30.

Ryan Veeder’s Judgment of “Mr Cuddle Cuddle Bop Bop,” by Inverted Normals

This game apparently shares some level of continuity with “Chimeric Island!” How delightful! And it is in fact revealed that, besides reusing the dedicated parser, Inverted Normals utilized some random doll generation material written for “Mr Cuddle Cuddle Bop Bop” in “Chimeric Island,” or the other way around! This is clever, but it also seems like an exploit. I don’t know how to feel about this.

I noticed the detail of powder bringing dolls to life in “Chimeric Island” without really processing it. When I noticed the rats in this game, something clicked, and I realized that Inverted Normals has been referring more to the world of “Foo Foo,” in which dolls are animated by magic fairy dust, than to “The Island of Doctor Wooby,” where there is no dust or powder, and the rules are much more poorly defined. Once more, in an attempt to play to my ego, these Inverted Normals have invited a comparison that may not play out to their advantage, for “Mr Cuddle Cuddle Bop Bop” is no “Foo Foo,” although it succeeds in recreating the previous Exposition winner’s delightful tone to some extent.

The structure and pacing invite additional comparison to “85 Verbs” by Prismatik. Both games want to guide me from scene to scene, sometimes with a great deal of urgency. “85 Verbs” is much more successful in this regard. It might be in the finer points of the writing, or it might just be that “85 Verbs” is passionately opposed to the player getting stuck, but the action in “Mr Cuddle Cuddle Bop Bop” sometimes seems not so cinematic and more like a storyboard.

But, speaking of cinematicness, I really liked the switching between perspectives in the introductory sequences. I really liked the casino puzzle. I really liked the presentation of the input-thieving scene, although I have to say that is not a fun puzzle to undo/retry over and over again.

Therefore I award “Mr Cuddle Bop Bop” 19.9 points out of 30.


The final scores in my Second Quadrennial Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction are thus:

8th place: Depetrification. 5.98 points out of 60.
7th place: Capricorn van Knapp. 7.3 points out of 60.
6th place: Mala Costraca. 9.5 points out of 60.
5th place: Formless. 20 points out of 60.
4th place: Ben Poisonor. 25.4 points out of 60.

3rd place: Abandoned Pools. 26.7 points out of 60.

2nd place: Inverted Normals. 43.17 points out of 60.

1st place: Prismatik. 44.8 points out of 60.

I invite the top three points-getters to check their Exposition-specific email addresses so that they can go about receiving their prizes.


Final placements by event are thus:

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 11.23.35 PM

Therefore, if my calculations are correct, the awarding of doll prize choices will proceed as follows:

1st choice: Inverted Normals
2nd choice: Formless
3rd choice: Mala Costraca
4th choice: Prismatik
5th choice: Abandoned Pools
6th choice: Ben Poisonor
7th choice: Capricorn van Knapp
8th choice: Depetrification

I invite any observers to check my work according to the rules outlined in the Prize Rules. However, it is quite clear that Inverted Normals gets first choice, so I invite Inverted Normals to begin doll choice deliberations immediately.


Closing Remarks

On Anonymity

The judging period is over, and Entrants can reveal their true identities without fear of repercussions.

Well, that’s not necessarily true. If by revealing their true identities, any Entrants reveal that they have broken the rules of the Exposition, then there will be dire repercussions indeed.

But assuming everyone has followed the rules, everyone should feel free to doff their Alter Egos and take personal credit for their Entries.

However, everyone should also feel free to maintain their Alter Egos and never reveal their true identities if they wish. If this means that you have to take extra steps to receive your prizes, like setting up a dummy PayPal account or having your doll delivered to an abandoned factory in another state so that you can pick it up under cover of darkness, that is totally fine. I am in no rush.

Closing Closing Remarks

My Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction has served its purpose admirably. I have spent the past several weeks playing and enjoying works of interactive fiction designed specifically to appeal to my own tastes. I have laid out challenges according to my whims, and talented authors have busied themselves with delighful obeisance, giving up their precious free time and applying their considerable talents to please me, and me alone. Perhaps no other person, in the field of interactive fiction or in any other artistic field, has enjoyed such a privilege. I am very lucky to have thought of it before anyone else.

Only one thought perturbs me, and it is a thought entirely tangential to the charter of the Exposition. It is this: I have seen very little reaction from persons other than myself to the Entries in the Exposition. This is to be expected, for I have frequently forbidden everyone other than myself from expressing any opinion regarding these Entries except under very specific circumstances.

But now it is safe. You cannot influence my rulings; my judgments have been rendered, and my judgments are final. You may express any opinion you like—but in order to express an opinion, you must first play some of these games.

These Entrants have done excellent work, and they deserve audiences larger than myself. So please play their games.

Thank you for your interest.

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I am pleasantly surprised to have won something, even if only because there were not many entrants. Now that anonymity is no longer a concern I can say that my code did not compile because I had a speech due the same day and misremembered the rule about the game not having to be a game, necessarily as meaning that it could be a little broken. Accelerated winter classes are nice for getting credits done, but not for doing literally anything else while they are going on.

But the capacity of Inform 7 code to be poetic has always fascinated me so as soon as I saw the event description I knew I had to do something.

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I wanted to reveal myself as Prismatik, author of Scarlet Portrait Parlor, Indistinguishable (which was based on the Arthur Clarke’s statement that advanced tech and magic are indistinguishable) and 85 Verbs, which I intend on submitting in the non-judged Back Garden of Spring Thing. It was fun playing along and seeing everyone’s games and disguises!

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Hi everyone, it’s been neat to see your entries. I am Abandoned Pools, author of Antique Panzitoum and Old King Nebb.

The idea for Antique Panzitoum came to me directly from the constraints of Event 1, where I thought it would be interesting to have a world you couldn’t actually get to but just had to read about in the code.

I came up with the character of Old King Nebb several years ago but never wrote his game beyond a rough map, and then I lost the map. When I realized his palace could be turned into a zoo by combining it with another game I planned but never wrote called “Mandeville”, I saw potential for Event 2.

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Hi, I’m Inverted Normals. Or maybe Inverted Normals is me.
Congratulations to Brian and to all the entrants for their cool games. And thank you to Ryan for running a really fun exposition.

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