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Showing posts from August, 2014

IntroComp 2014: 'Tales of the Scroll Thief' by Daniel M. Stelzer

Deliberately old school, The Scroll Thief incorporates some of the rarer techniques from the old commercial era of IF. Its in-jokes and meta references provide the same self-parody for the current IF community that the original Zork provided for the hacker culture at MIT. Some of the puzzle concepts are quite interesting and creative, but the spare and buggy implementation prevents the puzzles from being explored thoroughly. The game can be interpreted as Infocom fan fiction, and also as a wry but largely unironic homage to traditional text adventures.

The player character is a student wizard from Infocom's comedic fantasy universe found in the Zork and Enchanter games. Set in an academic library, this premise has several meta connotations. First of all, it evokes the collegiate atmosphere where early text adventures evolved. Not only did the original version of Zork come out of MIT, drawing heavily from that campus's culture and traditions, but college has always been a recur…

IntroComp 2014: 'Bridges and Balloons' by Molly Greene

Perhaps more than in parser-based IF, visual design seems to be significant in choice-based IF stories that run in web browsers. The notable browser games from from IF Comp 2013 -- Moquette, Solarium, their angelic understanding (to name three non-exclusively) -- demonstrated both clean, typography-centric design along with the visual effects native to the HTML format. More than just defining non-standard colors for background and text or adding pictures, Twine and the other browser-based systems have lifted visual design to the level of function, making it an inseparable part of the experience.

One of the more notable features of Bridges and Balloons is its aesthetic. The Twine story is presented using large, highly legible serif type with a small shadow on top of a lighted gradient background. While it might not be my favorite design (although I think it looks attractive enough), it seems objectively effective.
The paragraph flow fits the design. While not feeling terse, the writing…

IntroComp 2014: 'The Terrible Doubt of Appearances' by Buster Hudson

Playful but meaningful, The Terrible Doubt of Appearances by Buster Hudson is a fairy tale, a traditional text adventure, and an organic interactive narrative. It manages to pull off all three of those roles in a very natural, seamless way. The result is very strong, creating a smooth experience that reflects on how stuffy conventions hide the "broken parts" that everyone carries.

The game consciously channels both the Victorian coming-of-age fairy tales and the later anti-Modernist fantasies that drew from them. There is an explicit reference to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, although it's hard to tell whether the reference serves as more than a throw-away easter-egg. The ever-present NPC Athena embodies the Greek mythology that Lewis used heavily in his depiction of Narnia. The darkly whimsical fantasy world and the rabbit-hole-like dream metaphor suggest Wonderland.

The imagery is directly creepy. The horror is more a perverse wrongness than the stark terror c…

IntroComp 2014: '1st and the Last of the Ninja' by nmelssx

The voting deadline for this year's competition for opening scenes of unfinished interactive fiction was extended due to low voter and reviewer participation. Feedback is even more important to IntroComp than to other IF events, and I know what it's like when the Internet feels like an empty abyss. This is the fist of my  belated reviews.

The most remarkable thing about First and the Last of the Ninja is its inventory interface, with pictures representing items and spells. Individual items can be expanded to reveal the actions that can be done with them, while still showing the node text or room description above. I think this has potential. I could see this working in a text-based RPG.

Unfortunately, this interface isn't used very well. The method of "taking" an inventory object from the location isn't quite intuitive to traditional hypertext subgenres, and it's problematic when all the items in a location have to be "taken" in order to make the …