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
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:
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.
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.