verityvirtue's thoughts on ECTOCOMP 2016 games

Once again jumping on the bandwagon to share thoughts on this year’s ECTOCOMP games. These are usually short games, and, as speed IFs, rarely tested, so I will try to root out my prejudices against technical oversights and errors. I realise that controlling pacing in a short work can be very difficult. I aim to make these thoughts constructive and, should the author choose to release a post-comp version, useful.

Disclaimer: I have an entry in Le Grand Guignol.

The Unstoppable Vengeance of Doctor Bonesaw

[spoiler]In what is essentially a one-move game, you play the unfortunately-named Doctor Bonesaw, who has finally uncovered the names and locations of the four people who have ruined his life. Finally, vengeance is his! (or even !!)

The writing leans toward the absurd, but never gets a chance to be over-the-top. In the spirit of The Northnorth Passage, there is really only one thing you can do; the parser’s illusion of choice is just that - an illusion - even the illusion of space is an illusion. It would have been fun if more objects in the starting location were implemented. At the moment, it feels just too short to make the final move, however inevitable, feel satisfying.[/spoiler]

(Note: this throws a “Fatal error: illegal opcode” in the Splatterlight interpreter)

Regarding Doctor Bonesaw

You may want to consider the title… there’s a bit more you can do.

The Curious Incident at Blackrock Township (La Petite Mort(e))

[spoiler]The Curious Incident is a witch-hunting incident narrated entirely through secondhand accounts. One might draw an obvious parallel between this and Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, but where the play puts the reader (or viewer) right in the action of the moment, here we dip in and out, switching between narration and secondhand research. Historical records are interspersed with academic accounts, and branching points are incorporated similar to how The Domovoi did it. This indirect style works well, especially when one of the branches imply that the nature of the main character is ambiguous.

As another reviewer has commented, it is particularly ironic that the reader gets to choose how the story goes. Who’s to say what happened? Who’s to say who was truly to blame? In the end, does that really matter, if the outcome remains unchanged?

One thing I feel would improve this game is pacing. There was scant buildup to the manifestation of the curse itself (not just the context of it) that the ending felt premature; I would have liked more detail on how the curse started manifesting, but this may be at odds at the matter of fact style of the rest of the game.[/spoiler]

@CMG: I still can’t find it…!

Doctor Bonesaw again… just a tad more spoilery this time…

The trick is to see whether you can stop someone who’s unstoppable. Victory for the doctor isn’t necessarily victory for the player.

Happy to report that I am satisfied with the endings I managed to get in Bonesaw…

Light into Darkness (La Petite Morte)

[Depicts murder/violence, gore. Time to completion: 5-10 minutes]

[spoiler]This short parser game does not make for light reading, but it’s so short that to explain more about its premise would spoil it. Suffice to say that the initial setup reminded me of Ecdysis (down to the mental images it conjured) and The Baron.

The PC switches between planes of reality within a few moves, constantly keeping the player off kilter. I found this pacing just right for the size of the game. The writing is tight, too, wasting no time on extraneous details.

The game was built on a small enough scale that I couldn’t get lost, and of note is one scene in which the actions you have to do to move the story on is indirectly shown to the player. For its size, though, it still let the player decide on the ultimate interpretation of the PC’s actions.

Discretion is recommended for player murder and violence.[/spoiler]