SPAG
ISSUE #27 - January 4, 2002

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The  |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of  |_|_|dventure  \___|ames.

                         ISSUE #27

           Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G colorado.edu)
                      January 4, 2002

           SPAG Website: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag

SPAG #27 is copyright (c) 2002 by Paul O'Brian.
Authors of reviews and articles retain the rights to their contributions.

All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine
with the traditional 'at' sign. 

ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------

SPAG interviews the top three Comp authors:
   * Jon Ingold
   * L. Ross Raszewski
   * Sean Barrett

Duncan Stevens looks at Comp01's conversation systems

REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE -----------------------------------------------------

All Roads
The Beetmonger's Journal
Best Of Three
Carma
The Coast House
Earth And Sky
Film At Eleven
The Gostak
Heroes
Moments Out Of Time
No Time To Squeal
Prized Possession
Triune
Vicious Cycles
You Are Here

EDITORIAL------------------------------------------------------------------

I participated in the comp this year. Of course, I participate in the
comp every year -- I play the games, write reviews, buy a t-shirt -- but
this year I was a contestant, for the first time since 1996. It was a
remarkable experience. When I entered the 1996 competition, I was very
green as an author, and still pretty new to the IF community. It was the
comp's second year, and the year where the number of entries really
exploded. The idea that *twenty-six* new IF games could be released at
once, some of them good, was staggering. People were stunned, thrilled.
Andrew Plotkin wrote, "This is the IF movement I've always wanted." It
was exciting to be a part of that momentum, to feel the New Wave in IF
gathering force. I naively thought that my game was so good it would
surely place in the top three, maybe even win, until I started playing
the other entries. This was the year of "Delusions", of "Tapestry", of
"Kissing The Buddha's Feet", and of "The Meteor, The Stone, and A Long
Glass Of Sherbet", not to mention a host of other worthy competitors. In
the end, I was pleased and relieved to land in 8th place. ("In The End"
itself landed in 15th place but inspired years of subsequent
discussion.) 

Now it's five years later, and things have changed a bit. Comp01 saw
exactly twice as many entries as in 1996, with 52 games entered (though
one was later disqualified), and nobody was all that surprised. After
all, that number was actually *down* one from the previous year's comp.
Not only that, instead of excitement and enthusiasm for all the new
games, there was much grousing. People stated publicly that they had
quit judging games in disgust, and a brouhaha erupted on the newsgroups
with several people announcing their opinions that this comp had the
lowest average quality of them all. I don't point this out to lament the
passing of some Bygone Golden Age Of IF Enthusiasm; I thought it was a
weaker comp, too -- it received the lowest average rating I've given
(though only by two tenths of a point), and was the first year I didn't
rate any game a 10. However, a little perspective is in order. First of
all, last year's comp was *amazing*, perhaps due (at least in part) to
the five $200 prizes available in that year's prize pool. It's no
surprise to me that this year's games didn't reach that level. Moreover,
Comp01, while containing some weak entries, also included some really
excellent games, some of which will be quite outstanding once they are
debugged for a post-comp release. In addition, even some of the weaker
games were examples of new authors stretching their wings, veteran
authors experimenting with new forms, and off-the-wall attempts that, if
nothing else, were remarkable for their boldness.

So was it a bad comp? I don't think so, and I'm pretty sure I'm not just
saying that because I hate the idea of the comp with one of my games in
it being called a bad comp. It may not have had the strongest crop of
games, but it evinced many signs of the continued artistic growth in IF.
There's a natural ebb and flow to these sorts of things, I think, and I
suspect we'll look back on some of this year's games as the humble
beginnings of later greatness. 

NEWS ----------------------------------------------------------------------

COMPETITION RESULTS
I've always been of the mind that reviews tell the tale of comp games
far better than results do. Some of the games held as touchstones of
particular IF trends have placed surprisingly low, and some rather
forgettable games have sometimes done quite well. However, the standings
tell their own tale, and this year, it's a strange tale indeed. Thanks
are once again due to Stephen Granade for his stalwart work organizing
the comp, and to Mark Musante, the vote countin' guy. The official
results of Comp01 are as follows: 

1  All Roads, by Jon Ingold
2  Moments Out of Time, by L. Ross Raszewski
3  Heroes, by Sean Barrett
4  No Time To Squeal, by Mike Sousa and Robb Sherwin 
5  The Beetmonger's Journal, by Scott Starkey
6  Vicious Cycles, by Simon Mark
7  Best of Three, by Emily Short
8  Earth And Sky, by Paul O'Brian
9  Triune, by Papillon
10 Film at Eleven, by Bowen Greenwood
11 Prized Possession, by Kathleen M. Fischer
12 Journey from an Islet, by Mario Becroft
13 Grayscale, by Daniel Freas
14 The Chasing, by Anssi Raisanen
15 The Coast House, by Stephen Newton and Dan Newton 
16 A Night Guest, by Valentine Kopteltsev
   Carma, by Marnie Parker
18 Fusillade, by Mike Duncan
   Fine Tuned, by Dennis Jerz
20 The Evil Sorcerer, by Gren Remoz
21 The Gostak, by Carl Muckenhoupt
22 The Isolato Incident, by Alan DeNiro
23 Crusade, by John Gorenfeld
24 2112, by George K. Algire
25 You Are Here, by Roy Fisher
26 Elements, by John Evans
27 The Cruise, by Norman Perlmutter
28 Shattered Memory, by Akbarr [NOTE: This game was later disqualified.]
29 Bane of the Builders, by Bogdan Baliuc
   To Otherwhere and Back, by Gregory Ewing 
31 Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country, by Adam Thornton
32 Kallisti, by James A. Mitchelhill
33 Colours, by J. Robinson Wheeler
   The Cave of Morpheus, by Mark Silcox
   Silicon Castles, by David Given
36 Timeout, by Stephen Hilderbrand
37 Begegnung am Fluss, by Florian Edlbauer
38 an apple from nowhere, by Brendan Barnwell
   Stranded, by Rich Cummings
40 Schroedinger's Cat, by James Willson
41 Stick it to the man, by Brendan Barnwell
42 Jump, by Chris Mudd
43 Volcano Isle, by Paul DeWitt
44 Mystery Manor, by Mystery
45 Invasion of the Angora-fetish Transvestites, by Morten Rasmussen
46 SURREAL, by Matthew Lowe
47 Goofy, by Ricardo Dague
48 The Test, by Matt, Dark Baron
49 Lovesong, by Mihalis "DarkAng3l" Georgostathis
50 The Newcomer, by Jason Love
51 The Last Just Cause, by Jeremy Carey-Dressler
52 You Were Doomed From The Start, by Jeremy Carey-Dressler

NEW RELEASES SHELF
It's typically a pretty dry season for non-comp games, but we saw a few,
including one by Robb Sherwin, a frequent entrant to the IF Comp who
finished 4th this year with a co-authored game. 
   * Fallacy of Dawn by Robb Sherwin
   * Comp01ter Game  SP@G : N0n C0mp0s Ment1s by Austin Thorvald (aka Brendan
     Barnwell)
   * Doomed Xycanthus by Eric Mayer
   * "Little Pictures Everywhere" (an episode in the LadyStar series)
   * Vacation Gone Awry by Johan Berntsson, Staffan Friberg, and Fredrik
     Ramsberg
   * Lock & Key by Adam Cadre

ABOUT FINISHED
One sad day in September, About.com decided that it no longer needed
about 300 of its guide sites, and the interactive fiction site was one
of these. Thus, adventuregames.about.com, once the premier IF web site,
now leads only to a lame-o About.com site map. That's the bad news. The
good news, and it's very good, is that Stephen Granade, former
proprietor of the About site, has set up shop under a new URL,
http://brasslantern.org. Stephen's new site has much of the content of
his old one (with more on the way), and is also entirely free of
clutter, banners, and annoying popup/popunder ads. Yay resurrection!

SURVEY SAYS...
SPAG contributor Stas Starkov wanted a little more information about the
comp this year, so he sent out a survey to the 51 authors who
participated. 29 of them responded, and the results are at
http:/joltcountry.dreamhost.com/trottingkrips/if2k1-survey.html. They're
worth a look, especially the full answers, which often contain more
complex and thoughtful responses than the survey's format wanted to
allow for.

COAX -- NOT JUST A ONE-WORD GEEK TEST
SPAG was recently described as "quite successful, despite whoever's at
the helm constantly having to coax reviews from people." Yep, that's
about the size of it. So here it is again: SPAG's survival is dependent
on your reviews. It's all about you. In case you're looking for an
assignment, consider one of these:

SPAG 10 MOST WANTED LIST
========================
1. Bad Machine
2. Dr. Dumont's Wild P.A.R.T.I.
3. Doomed Xycanthus
4. Fallacy of Dawn
5. First Things First
6. Heroine's Mantle
7. Lock & Key
8. Pytho's Mask
9. Stranded (the one by Jim Bayers, not the recent comp game)
10. Vacation Gone Awry

THE SPAG INTERVIEW---------------------------------------------------------

It's a tradition by now, and even if it wasn't we would have to start
doing it, because it just works out so well. Every year, SPAG interviews
one or more of the authors who placed highly in the competition. This
year, we were privileged to receive the words of the top three authors
in this year's comp: Jon Ingold, L. Ross Raszewski, and Sean Barrett.

  -=-=-=-=-=-=-Jon Ingold, author of "All Roads"-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   SPAG: For starters, could you tell us a little about yourself? Who
   are you, what do you do for a living, and so forth?

JI: I'm a third year undergraduate at Cambridge, reading Mathematics.
Currently I have no job, which is great as it leaves me vast swathes of
free time in which to write. That's what I do, primarily -- I write, all
the time. The desk in my room is littered with drafts of this and that,
usually at least three are floating around at any one time. This term
alone, along with doing enough maths to get by, I've produced four short
stories, a play, and finished the first draft of a novel.

I also play jazz trombone in a university band; we used to be rubbish
but I think we're getting quite good now. And I watch a lot of films --
I think that's tied to my IF interest as well, both mediums are very
concerned with the idea of "location" -- and I review them for the
student newspaper, along with interviewing directors, that sort of
thing.

On quiet evenings I boil up a cup of jasmine tea and relax to some
insanely bouncy-happy music in the breakbeat/DJ genre, partly because it
cheers me up, but partly because it annoys my roommate.

   SPAG: How did you first become introduced to IF?

JI: When I was eight or nine, my family bought a computer. Even then, it
wasn't very good; it was a clunky old Amstrad and it came with GEM Paint
and little else. So we went computer game shopping, which was
disappointing, as we could barely get anything which would run. Until we
stumbled on "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Me and my two elder
brothers were all fans, one way or another, so this was snapped up and
hurried home.

We were lucky enough to get a version with hints, and so completed the
game in about three weeks, and enjoyed it immensely. By that time the
pocket money reserves had built up again, so we went back off to Mighty
Micro to see what else they had, and returned with "Sorceror". We were
less successful this time, and in the end, it sat on a shelf alongside
"Leather Goddesses of Phobos", unfinished and half forgotten.

Then, seven-odd years later, I went into Manchester University where my
father worked one weekend, to have a fiddle around on this "internet"
thing that he'd just discovered he had, and didn't know how to use. It
wasn't very exciting really; there were very few pages around at that
time, comparatively, and I soon ran out of things worth searching for;
and then, for a joke more than anything, I typed "Infocom". To my great
surprise, up came Peter Scheyen's excellent page, containing amongst
other things, those vital hints for Sorceror. Once I got one stumbling
block out of the way (due to appalling game design, incidentally) the
game was quickly finished. And I went back onto the net to see what I
could find.

From the Infocom site I found Curses, from Curses I found [four years of
frustration and] Inform. From the Inform page I learnt the syntax by
reading "Balances" and the Alice tutorial, and wrote "Break-In", a now
largely-forgotten game about chickens (due to Jenny Dunn-Charltons'
flock in the back garden of her house). Once that was out of the way, I
started to consider writing something a little more cohesive; I wanted
something with a tighter design. I wanted to write some irritatingly
hard but worse, irritatingly fair, so that player's couldn't just
dismiss it as "badly designed" and get out of being stuck like that. And
I went on holiday to Canada, to the Toronto Museum of Modern Art, in the
foyer of which hangs (or hung, at any rate) an upside-down Christmas
tree on a mechanical button. The Mulldoon Legacy was born, in three
notebooks and over about a year and a half.

But it was still just a game I wrote because I liked making up puzzles,
and I hoped to irritate my elder brother with it. But when it was done
(and, I should perhaps add sheepishly, totally un-betatested) I
discovered how to upload it to the if-archive, which I did, about two
days before catching the train to university. It was a month before I
worked out how to read the newsgroup from Cambridge; and when I did --
well, it's still one of the most startling moments of my life when I
loaded up rec.games.int-fiction and there were Mulldoon posts
_everywhere_.

And then I realised I wanted to write more IF. And I had some serious
bug-fixing to do, too.

   SPAG: You've displayed an impressive authorial range, from a sheer
   puzzlefest like The Mulldoon Legacy to stylistic experiments like
   FailSafe and My Angel, and finally the sharp plotting of All Roads.
   What has led you to make these choices?

JI: Luck, I suppose. I'm a designer of puzzles at heart; Mulldoon is my
favourite of all my games, the writing process was wonderfully
satisfying, and if I were to write a sequel to anything it would be
"Mulldoon II -- Freeka Monkeys FreakOut!" -- though I wonder if I could
catch the same atmosphere again as that game managed any more, being too
jaded on ultra-responsive parser's and PC/player considerations!

After I finished Mulldoon I began another project, which involved a lot
of character-dialogue stuff. I wrote "FailSafe" when I had just
discovered how it was possible to make a game do that, I then wrote "My
Angel" because I wanted to do something with a character in [I wanted to
write a love story] but could not be bothered to do more ASK/TELL
dialogue. The game was about a quarter done and still called "Mind's
Eye" -- I can't explain how pleased I was when the title "My Angel"
occurred, as it was so perfect.

"All Roads" is in many ways much more like what I write usually though, 
in that everything is relevant. But again, that sort of happened as I 
wrote it, I didn't really get much say in the matter. I rarely do when 
writing; I only get a veto when it comes to redrafting.

Generally though: Kubrick said he wanted to make a definitive film in
every genre, and I think that sounds like a good thing to aspire to. I
may not succeed, but it's worth a try -- and I think Mulldoon was a
pretty good attempt at nailing the "puzzle-game"!

   SPAG: Do you plan to write more IF in the future, and if so, what are
   you willing to divulge about those plans?

JI: Of course I will, I can't help it any more.

I have currently two (well, three) projects underway -- the first is a
murder-mystery game, in the style of "Witness" (my second favourite
Infocom game, after "Zork 3"). I remember that game fondly because I did
actually solve the mystery as I went along, I was really there with the
detective, in a way that just didn't happen with "Deadline". And I
wanted to have a go at doing that myself. The game is very, very nearly
complete; I just need a denouement and a smattering of
bells-and-whistles. But I suspect it still won't be done this time next
year.

My second project is still a lot more of a haze-in-my-head, and it's a
puzzle game; and it's going to have to be Glulx if it ever comes out,
which is bad as I'd have to learn Glulx. Actually, I have a horrible
feeling I'll never finish this one, as time is no longer on my side,
with graduation looming. I'm still hoping that somewhere out there is a
billionaire who wants an in-house text-game writer, so I can do this
sort of stuff and have a job too. If you're reading this Branson, you
know you want to.

Oh, and then there's always Glulx-Mulldoon, still sat on my harddrive at
nearly two-thirds as long again and counting. I hoping to release that
in about twenty years time, maybe.

   SPAG: All Roads is dedicated to Charlotte Holloway. Who is she?

JI: The dedication of "My Angel" reads "To C, C, C and C"; and they're
all Charlotte, but they're all different -- my first year of university
was a bizarre affair measured out by people of that name. (Come June
2000, I had very nearly gone out to get a "Charlotte" tattoo done on my
arm). Charlotte Holloway is one of the four who turned out to be a
little more significant in my life. (Though, perhaps sadly, not any
more; we split up soon after the beginning of the competition: ironic,
as we got together the day that last year's finished).

Still, the dedication stands -- Charlotte was a source of endless
inspiration, and if future text-games don't draw on our holiday this
summer (in which we tried to get to Ithaki by every means possible, and
failed, almost-too-conveniently) I will be most surprised. It should
perhaps be extended: "To Charlotte Holloway, without whom I would never
have spent two nights in the house of a witch who was the friend of the
mother of the friend of a woman who I couldn't keep a straight face with
when she tried to sell us a cruise with some pictures in a family
photo-album".

I will be very excited to see who I dedicate the next one to. ;)

   SPAG: I found All Roads' setting fascinating, and several other
   reviewers did too. Can you talk a bit about what inspired the
   setting, and what sources you drew upon in creating it?

JI: I went to Venice for two and a half days with some friends from
University last year; we found a cheap flight and took it, and had a
great time. It's a beautiful city, and I was pretty taken by the tight
maze of windy streets, and the way they would suddenly bloom into wide
church-plazas with no warning; and I toyed it the idea of a game
involving a Venetian street maze (which I still cannot wholly believe I
left out of "All Roads", given it was there from the inception --
between the Tavern and the Dojo's Palace, if you're wondering). The
other thing that rather took my imagination were the clocks in St.
Mark's square, and in the Palace; they all have 6am at the bottom. Not
unusual you may think, except that the one in the square is 24 hour,
which is strange. I never found out why this is, but I rather fondly
imagined it was the hand pointing downward at the hour of execution.

So as soon as I knew the first scene of All Roads, I instantly knew the
setting. I'd best apologise to anyone who's been there, and doubly to
anyone who's ever lived there for my horrible misrepresentations,
simplifications and fictions. Next time, I promise, I'll go for a month.

As for other sources: about half a year before I'd been thinking about
writing a story involving a character, living in an anti-metric space.
This is a rather dull mathematical idea -- a space in which the line
joining two points is the longest path between them, rather than the
shortest; and if you think about it, the only ones possible are those
with 2 or less points in them -- but made for a rather neat superpower.

Then I was watching a bad TV movie about Pirates in the Caribbean
(modern pirates unfortunately, so no swashbuckling or barrels of rum,
just dodgy accents and sunglasses); trying to think of a plot. Or more
accurately, trying to think of a twist. And I toyed with my idea of
Antimetric Man and thought: What if it turns out that's _not_ quite his
power after all?

Ten minutes later I had a flow diagram for the scenes in the game
sketched on the back of an old bus ticket. The film finished, and I
began coding.

After two days I stood up from my Dad's laptop weak-legged, shaking,
pale. I fell downstairs, collapsed on the kitchen floor and begged my
seven-year-old sister to turn the kettle on for me, and to empty as much
coffee as she could into a mug. A day later -- when I had finally
decided on Francesca's name and could find-and-replace away the "Barbie"
tag she had been arbitrarily assigned -- I discovered that the game is
rather like Memento. That's a great film, and, yeah, I've seen it. So I
guess that was floating around in my head.

Other sources: the Empty Room was inspired by the locked-cell puzzle of
[Jeremiah] Mulldoon. The geography is a simplified section of street
near the Basilica (which is entirely absent in my game). The Resistance
and their shenanigans are straight out of "'Allo 'Allo", a very funny
British sitcom set in WWII France. The name "Sebastian DeLosa" has been
sat on a list of names I've had for a year in the "sounds incredibly
hard" column (right next to "Goliath Robinson").

Finally, the title is due to Luke Abraham, and I liked it the minute he
shouted it to me from one room in an Edinburgh flat to the other at 3am.

(Incidentally, the other thing missing is any canals. There was going to
be an "escape from guards by jumping off a bridge into a gondola" moment
which Luke suggested to me after he'd decided the main character was in
fact James Bond. We compromised, and put in two women instead).

   SPAG: Lots of people have, in the midst of their admiration for the
   game, expressed some confusion about the plot. I won't ask you to
   spell it all out here, since that's too much of a spoiler, and no fun
   besides, but will you offer a few hints to those who find themselves
   still confused, even after they've finished the game?

JI: Heh.

Oh, alright, I'll answer properly.

I write puzzles. When I wrote "All Roads" I knew there were going to
have to be extremely strong limitations on what the player could choose,
and even worse, on what the player could feel like he's chosen. There
was little room for variation, or for work-arounds; in the end I
scrapped the three or four I'd worked out in favour of a more obvious
structure, so as not to give anyone the wrong impression of the game
being adaptable. (Oh, and I scrapped the alternate ending, because I
thought a lot of people would go that way without realising they'd
missing something subtler. But it was a cunning bit of double-narrative
all the same). But anyway, I felt the need to compensate that with
something, and a labyrinthine plot seemed the way to go.

So: clues. Well, everything is relevant. Everything. Play the game
again. Don't play it on a palm-pilot. Draw a diagram, maybe.

   SPAG: On a more general level, what lessons have you learned from
   writing All Roads, and from reading the various responses to it?

JI: First and foremost:- if you're going to set a game in Italy, get
someone Italian to test it for you.

Otherwise -- that all those flaws you know a game has but that you're
hoping other people won't notice, are going to get noticed and it's no
use pretending they're not there. To everyone who complained about lack
of interactivity -- I know, and I should have done something about it.

Other reviewers comments I felt very split about -- I was a little
worried by the number of question marks people placed by the plot; I
became paranoid that I'd left some crucial information out completely
and not noticed, thereby setting a completely unfair puzzle (it has
since been verified this is not the case, thankfully). I was a little
non-plussed by people suggesting that I didn't know how the story fitted
-- I'm totally anal about that sort of thing, things have to mesh or I'm
not happy with them. And when I get fed up with that then John, my
beta-tester and the most pedantic man on the planet, will not let it
rest unless they do.

Experiences from writing: plan things first. Plan things, and then plan
more things around those things. The amount of code I wrote then deleted
in making this game is absurd. The amount I wrote, deleted, and then
wrote again is even worse.

Lessons from the experience of writing: Eat. Eating is really important,
and it's not worth forgoing it just because you want to get something
finished before you go visit a friend. That's just silly. Sleep is not
optional. Computers are not forgiving. It _is_ possible to bruise your
fingertips typing.

   SPAG: What did you think about this year's competition? Any favorite
   games?

JI: I've not played many -- I gave Emily's a whirl, and the technology
is truly awesome. I liked "Earth and Sky", but I couldn't possibly
comment further, being a beta-tester... ;) I will play Sean Barrett's
soon as it looks hugely impressive, and I think I will like it.

   SPAG: Any advice you'd care to offer for prospective competition
   entrants?

JI: Oh. I don't know. I only won by accident. I guess general IF advice
-- try to think as a player and not an author. You have to think as a
player. So; get it tested and get it tested properly. Find someone
incredibly pedantic to play the game and argue every little detail with
you. Play the game through lots and lots of times, and try to play it as
though you can't remember what you've programmed responses for; and if
anything you type isn't covered then go and cover it.

Also -- try to ask yourself when you're working it out: why is a player
going to enjoy this, or find it interesting? If the best answer you find
is "because guessing the right verb to use is fun!" then do something
about it. If the answer is "because the coding is neat", think again.
Little things: my favourite example is doors. If you're writing a
story-game, the code should automatically unlock and open doors you walk
through if you have the key; it's just tedious if it doesn't. But if
you're writing a puzzle game, then the code definitely shouldn't - if a
player has had to work like fury to get that key then let them have the
satisfaction of getting to unlock the damn door with it. Otherwise it
plays like the game is tapping its watch saying "I've grown grey hairs
waiting for you to get on and solve that! Can we hurry up, please?"

Try to think and feel like the player, and write responsively. Certainly
the main flaws in "All Roads" lie here; way too much of it is way too
passive, and I regret that.

Specifically for Comp Games -- test the damn thing. If you haven't got
time, fine, test it anyway and enter it next year. You have no right to
inflict a game that doesn't work on a community big-hearted enough to be
willing to play it. If you've spelt Giuseppe wrong consistently
throughout, find out in advance (*smack*).


  =-=-=-=-L. Ross Raszewski, author of "Moments Out Of Time"-=-=-=-=

   SPAG: For starters, could you tell us a little about yourself? Who
   are you, what do you do for a living, and so forth?

LRR: In a way, IF is a natural interest of mine; I spent most of my
youth jumping back and forth between wanting to be a writer and wanting
to be a scientist. Science finally won out -- I'm a recent graduate of
Loyola College in Maryland with a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science
-- but it was a narrow thing (I couldn't entirely suppress my attraction
toward the humanities; I have a minor in philosophy).

These days, I'm a graduate student -- still in Computer Science -- at
the Johns Hopkins University.

   SPAG: How did you first become introduced to IF?

LRR: The second computer my family bought was a Commodore 64. At some
point, my mom picked up a copy of The Hobbit, and we wasted quite a few
hours trying to make any progress at all. We weren't tremendously good
at it. Some time later, we moved up to the Commodore 128 and my dad got
a copy of Infocom's Sherlock: Riddle of the Crown Jewels. We weren't
very good at that either.

   SPAG: Moments Out Of Time is pretty clearly intended, in part, as a
   prod to get zcode interpreter authors to include z6 and Blorb
   compliance. What is your interest in seeing this occur, as opposed
   to, say, just moving to Glulx or TADS 3?

LRR: It really was a fairly tough decision, actually. At least part of
it has to do with the fact that when I started to build the screen model
for the game, Glulx wasn't really a viable option; V6 already had a very
good screen interface library (V6lib, by Jason C. Penney), while, at
least with regards to the user interface aspects, Glulx was still
limited to "find another game that does something like what and see if
you can adapt the low-level code." At the time, I also had some serious
philosophical complaints about Glulx and Glk, which I've mostly managed
to get over. As for Tads 3, it sounds like a very promising system, but
even if it had been capable of producing a releaseable game in time for
the competition, I really have too much invested in inform to switch
now.

Of course, one of the major reasons that I decided to write a game using
the z6 format is, in a way, because you felt the need to ask the
question. For many years, people have flat out ignored the format, as if
it went without saying that it was useless. Before Glulx, people would
claim that inform was simply not capable of producing games using, for
example, graphics. It seemed to me that there had been a prevailing
opinion that z6 was somehow a degenerate, unwholesome "dead end" in the
evolution of the Z-machine. Of course, if Infocom had held out a few
more years, I imagine that the next versions of the Z-machine would have
been much closer to version 6 than to the our version 8.

   SPAG: You make a particular effort to cite your influences, including
   The Journeyman Project, A Mind Forever Voyaging, and The Usual
   Suspects. With some of these, it's obvious how the influence
   operated, but with others it's quite a bit more obscure -- could you
   provide some detail on just how some of the influences you list
   affected Moments Out Of Time?

LRR: Let's see... Though The Journeyman Project is probably the most
obvious and direct influence, thematically, Moments was inspired an
awful lot by Shivers. See, Shivers is a pretty straightforward puzzle
game, and normally, I'd have dismissed it right off, but for the
setting. The thing that makes Shivers a memorable game isn't the puzzles
or what you do -- it's what you find; you're wandering around a cliche
haunted museum, but you aren't the first person to have been there, and
you keep finding relics left behind by previous visitors -- mostly just
little things, an asthma inhaler, a report card, but they go a long way
to making people who you never meet seem "real" -- a lot more real than
NPCs you actually do meet in many games. That's the main thing I wanted
to create in Moments.

Most of the other references have to do with the idea of piecing
together an idea of "what happened" from limited information; "Cybermen"
is a speculative history of an entire civilization, based on clues in a
few episodes of Doctor Who. The Virgin Suicides has an "outer" story,
which is about a group of boys who become obsessed with learning about
the lives of a family of teenage girls, and they do this by piecing
together facts from the material objects they leave behind.

Now, I've been told a few times that LASH and Trinity also seem to have
influenced the game. Now, I hadn't actually played either of these when
I wrote Moments, but from what I've seen of them now, I wish I had.

   SPAG: I found that Moments was so impressively large in scope that
   two hours seemed altogether insufficient to really appreciate the
   game. Do you plan a post-comp release of the game, and if so, are you
   planning to make any changes beyond routine bugfixes?

LRR: I'm not entirely sure. I certainly would like to release an updated
version, perhaps even an expanded one, but I have always had a lot of
difficulty coming back to a work after I've finished. I've changed a lot
since when I started writing Moments; I graduated from college, moved to
a new house, and, of course, now I have the experience of having written
Moments. I'm not sure how much I can change the game before it starts to
become a totally different work.

   SPAG: What was your basis for the 21st century house we see in
   Moments? Was any of it autobiographical?

LRR: Quite a bit of it, actually, though I'm not sure I can say to what
extent without bringing down the wrath of my friends and family. The
mother is fairly close to my own mother, though my own father is nothing
at all like Mr. Wallace. I suppose Jimmy Wallace is, in many ways, a
caricature of myself, and some of Jimmy's conversations are fairly
close to ones I've had.

   SPAG: Before Moments Out Of Time, you were perhaps best known as a
   prolific contributor of library extensions. Did these extensions grow
   from your prototypical game efforts, or were they created as
   utilities from the beginning?

LRR: There are one or two exceptions, but nearly every library I've
released was written out of a direct need. In fact, I suspect one could
track my progress in various projects by the initial releases of my
libraries.

   SPAG: Do you plan to write more IF in the future, and if so, are you
   willing to divulge anything about those plans?

LRR: I do hope to write more in the future, and I've got a few ideas on
the drawing board. As much as I'd like to talk about them, I find that
discussing my ideas ahead of time tends to take the urgency out of
actually writing them. On the other hand, if what I said above is true,
you can make what you will of GWindows...

   SPAG: What did you think about this year's competition? Any favorite
   games?

LRR: I'm a little ashamed to admit that I didn't have time to play very
many of the games this year. I'm certainly looking forward to sitting
down with "All Roads" when I get the chance, though. Of what I did play,
I thought "Stick it To The Man" was an extremely promising game, and I
was sorely disappointed when I began to run into its fatal bugs.

   SPAG: Any advice you'd care to offer for prospective competition
   entrants?

LRR: You can't have too many beta testers. I actually prefer to start
the game in testing well before it's finished, to "debug" problems in
the design. It's hard to find someone willing to do that, but it can be
extremely rewarding; I'd rather the released version contain a dozen
typographical errors than even one major logical breakdown in the plot.


  =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-Sean Barrett, author of "Heroes"-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

   SPAG: For starters, could you tell us a little about yourself? Who
   are you, what do you do for a living, and so forth?

SB: I'm a 34-year-old computer programmer/musician/writer. Well, those
are my hobbies, anyway, and they seem to be what matter to me most. I
also play computer games and listen to music and even read a little, if
you want the other side of those coins. Where I am changed recently: I
did some initial work on Heroes while living in Boston, Massachusetts,
but I moved to Oakland, California, in September and wrote most of the
game while I was between apartments there.

For a living, I write computer games; currently I'm working as an
independent on a shareware CRPG, doing everything but the artwork all by
myself, just like in the good old days of early computer games.

More information than even the most dedicated stalker could ever want is
available on my website (http://nothings.org). Except for stalkers who
are curious about my CRPG, about which very little is to be found.

   SPAG: How did you first become introduced to IF?

SB: In 1979 I started playing around with computers at school, and we
acquired an Atari 800 at home soon after. Zork was one of the first
games we bought, I think. We may have picked up a Scott Adams adventure
first; I remember playing the one with the chiggers in the swamp. By the
time I was 15 or so I thought IF would be a cool way to make a living,
and I toyed around with a game or two in BASIC -- but eventually games
went unabashedly graphic, Infocom tanked, etc. I hung around the Usenet
interactive fiction newsgroup in the late 80s I think, but it was
basically all talk and no action, so I switched to MUDs and pretty much
abandoned IF.

   SPAG: How did you get back into IF, then?

SB: I guess I checked back into the newsgroups periodically. One of my
coworkers at Looking Glass Studios, Rob "Xemu" Fermier, had registered
TADS -- we had a newsletter with employee reports, and he included a
little interactive report in TADS one month, so I guess that may have
been something that renewed my interest. I started posting some crazy
theory ideas to the newsgroups based on some of my mud experiences and
started writing a game in Inform, but then the crucial moment was when
Dan "dfan" Schmidt asked me to playtest "For a Change" -- after
betatesting, I went ahead and played (and reviewed) all the games from
the comp that year (1999), and became a more serious member of the
community.

   SPAG: You mention working at Looking Glass Studios, creators of
   groundbreaking games like Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief:
   The Dark Project. For all us computer-game fanboys (and girls), can
   you talk about your role at LGS and the experience of working there?

SB: Like many other people, I loved the Ultima Underworlds. They
were/are my favorite games ever. I joined Looking Glass Technologies (as
it was called then) just as they were starting to finish up the first
System Shock. I wrote several minigames for that (Eel Zapper and Wing
0), worked on our real-time squad shooter Terra Nova, and also worked on
Thief.

I got hired on the strength of my technical chops as a programmer,
although I did have some game design experience from my work on MUDs. By
the end, I was known as a sort of technology guru, a person programmers
could go to if they had a hard problem they weren't sure how to solve or
needed somebody to bounce ideas off of. My work itself was primarily
graphics engines and related technology; I didn't really do much game
design -- which was I think was the most important part of Thief.

Looking Glass was a very fun place to work. There were a lot of really
smart people, and people who had been doing game design since, oh, 1990;
as the years progressed we started to actually learn things that worked
and didn't work and began to formulate a vocabulary for how to talk
about these things. (See, for instance,
http://www.gamasutra.com/features/19990716/design_tools_01.htm for an
attempt at sharing some of this vocabulary publically.) When I started
there were perhaps 30 people total, and the programmers were all really
multiclassed programmer/designers. Underworld didn't have any fulltime
designers or level designers, which I think is part of why it was such a
solid game -- if the designer of a particular level wanted some special
bit of code, he could just go code it himself, something we continue to
see in IF. But System Shock had full-time (level) designers; games just
got bigger and bigger and more specialization was necessary. I don't
think any of us programmer/designers ever kept our hands out of the
general design broth, but we didn't build levels. By Thief we had three
different programmers doing work on different aspects of the graphics
engine alone, and the graphics engine was really only a very small part
of the codebase.

It wasn't all fun and games; we were pressured to try to be financially
successful while trying to not deviate from our desire to do intelligent
and novel games. This became really hard as the industry became more
hits-driven, where the things publishers are looking for are an existing
franchise and proven gameplay -- only being interested in a game if it
had a reasonable chance to sell a million copies. In a sense I'm glad
LGS went out of business before it could ruin its name by releasing
games of lower quality. (Whether that would have happened or not is
debatable, mind you.)

I picked the title "Implementor" for my business card. Sadly, I think
only two of my coworkers recognized the meaning.

   SPAG: What do you make of the fact that you, Dan Schmidt, and Carl
   Muckenhoupt seem to be the only commercial game developers writing IF
   on the side, and you were all developers at LGS?

SB: I suppose there are others out there, but they're certainly not as
visible in the community. We all worked on System Shock, but Carl "Baf"
Muckenhoupt left before I arrived, so it's not like we were already our
own little clique. I hadn't even connected Baf with the "Carl
Muckenhoupt" in the System Shock credits until another Looking Glass
alumnus mentioned him to me a couple of months ago.

But as to the LGS connection, Looking Glass was known for creating
"thinking man's" games and for not just doing the obvious game in a
genre. I think this cerebral leaning has a lot in common with both the
IF-then of Infocom's heyday and IF today. Several other comparisons to
Infocom suggest themselves: LGS' final office space at 100 CambridgePark
Drive was in the same office complex in which Infocom had once resided,
and most of the early employees at LGS were M.I.T. alumni, as were
Infocom's. Mike Dornbrook of ZUG/Infocom fame even worked for a short
time at LGS, so I think there may be an extent to which LGS unwittingly
inherited a mantle that Infocom had left behind.

But then again the three of us are very different people. Dan started
developing "For a Change" while working at a company that was doing
music-based entertainment software that wasn't very gamelike; I started
working on IF while still at Looking Glass, perhaps because I had a
game-design itch I wasn't scratching there; and Carl is no longer a
commercial game developer (except for some web games), although he's
been maintaining "Baf's Guide" basically forever.

   SPAG: On a more specific level, how did your work on the Thief games
   influence the thief section of Heroes? How did the challenges of
   creating these two viewpoints differ, and how were they similar?

SB: I originally grabbed 'thief' as a character from D&D -- the same
inspiration we drew on for Thief. As I was casting around looking for
obstacles to put in the game which would play very differently from
different perspectives, I thought of the guards in Thief and realized
how I could make them be orderable by the royal and sources of
information for the adventurer. From that moment on, I used my memory of
Thief when I would visualize my world. I avoided cribbing any specific
details -- "taffer" or the Hammers -- and avoided the steampunk details,
but my sense of how the architecture would look and how shadows would
lie and how the game would play were all driven by Thief. I even
considered including patrolling guards you'd have to avoid, but I didn't
think it would be effective in a turn-based game. I shouldn't overstate
the influence of Thief on the world; I also drew some inspiration from
the universes of Glen Cook and Steven Brust.

The viewpoint question is tricky since due to specialization and my,
erm, unique relationship with Looking Glass during that period, I really
had essentially no involvement with Thief's game design at all. Many
things are responsible for that viewpoint: the story, the cutscenes, the
in-game voiceovers from the character, and what you see in the
first-person-perspective itself -- which is mostly the artwork created
by artists and the levels designed by the designers. The part I worked
on was more like making the movie camera for a movie; it's a crucial
part that you never even know is there.

I think there is an interesting comparison to be drawn between the two,
but I'm not sure I have the experience to do it. In all of my IF works,
the player character has been a very specific person with a background,
emotional biases, and knowledge that leaks out as you play. In Thief and
Terra Nova, you played a very specific character who lived out a very
specific story. But in my favorite first-person games, such as
Underworld and System Shock, you're much more of an everyman; you have
the freedom to play the character in different ways. I think that
relates to the difference between text and graphics; the strength of the
graphical games is in really dropping *you* into the world, not some
fictional character as an intermediary -- whereas the latter works well
with text, which can never be as effective about making it seem to be
you anyway.

But then again it's interesting that *second-person* is really the
closest equivalent in text to first person graphics/sound/etc. When you
play a first-person game, it's *you* seeing these things and hearing
these things. So if I want to give you the same experience through text,
I have to use the word *you*. If I say "I" it's just you looking over my
shoulder while *I* have the experience. So it's sort of like I'm
describing this first-person experience to you from your point of view:
"if you were in this world, you would be standing in a field west of a
white house, and you'd see a mailbox next to you" -- but without the
conditional.

Language sets up this barrier -- it's communication from one party to
another -- so if we want this "first-person" experience, it has to be
told through this communication which encodes that in the second-person.

It's very strange. I'm not sure where I'm going with this.

   SPAG: What was this about your unique relationship with LGS?

SB: I quit LGS for around a year, then went back to work, then quit
again, then went back to work, then it went out of business before I
could quit again.

   SPAG: Uh, why all the back and forth?

SB: Next question?

   SPAG: I thought the multiple-viewpoints trick in Heroes worked
   beautifully, but some reviewers expressed disappointment that it
   existed in such a stock-fantasy setting. Do you agree or disagree
   with this criticism?

SB: I think it's an understandable reaction, but it's also
disappointing. The opening of the game plays into some stock fantasy
_plot_ cliches that the actual game deviates from, and I knew going in
that this was a risk; I just hoped people would see it through a bit
further before writing it off. This might be a matter of trusting the
author; I suspect some people might have given it more of a chance had
it been written by a Plotkin or a Cadre, instead of saying "it's a magic
gem plot, it must be lousy". But perhaps not. No matter what, it's still
not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and I can't really complain,
since I'm totally satisfied with how the game did in the competition.

But as to the setting itself, rather than the plot: the setting was
necessary so that I could do what I wanted to do. Personally, I'm more
interested in Interactivity over Fiction, so in "Heroes" I was trying to
focus more on distinguishing the abilities and the ways in which the
characters interacted with the world. I think one of the neatest things
Infocom did was distinguish their PCs by giving them special
abilities--like spellcasting for "Enchanter" and the analysis abilities
for the detectives. We don't see too much of that in modern IF -- here
and there, like the superhero PC in this year's "Earth & Sky" or the PCs
in last year's "Djinni Chronicles" -- and "Heroes" was designed to let
me explore variations on it in a single game.

And for that, the stock fantasy setting was a great thing. The player
goes in with a set of expectations about the characters and can step
into them straightforwardly; in terms of their abilities, all of the PCs
are written 'with type' -- they can do what you'd expect them to do
(although they're skewed in a more grim direction fictionally). Two of
the characters (ability-wise) are pulled straight from Infocom, and one
is pulled from D&D and/or "Thief: The Dark Project", depending on your
perspective. The fourth was chosen simply because "ordering characters
around" seemed a good fit for the technology. (The fifth was chosen to
annoy Adam Thornton.)

And of course the opening question of the game is intended to evoke all
sorts of classic RPGs and CRPGs, so stock fantasy (though sans elves and
dwarves) was a great fit.

   SPAG: Heroes is labeled "an interactive vice-tainter." Okay, maybe
   I'm dense here, but what does that mean?

SB: Mmm, well. A vice-tainter is a thing that taints vices, so an
interactive vice-tainter is a thing that taints vices interactively, as
well as distimming the doshes.

Seriously, though, I've gotten tired of coming up with those little
labels and I'm leaning towards dispensing with them altogether. I
thought "vice-tainter" was nice for giving you some hint of warning that
the title "Heroes" was ironic, but really it's just a placeholder I
never got around to replacing: an anagram of "interactive". A prominent
part of my earlier game "The Weapon" is also an anagram, but nobody's
figured that one out, either.

   SPAG: Ah, that explains it -- anagrams are not my strong suit.
   Speaking of other games, do you plan to write more IF in the future,
   and if so, what are you willing to divulge about those plans?

SB: Hmm, well, hmm. In the past year I've released two serious games, a
minicomp game, two SpeedIFs, and an Aisle "parody". Also during the past
year, I wasn't gainfully employed. Since now I'm back to work, and that
work is working on games and even getting to do game design on them
"professionally", I'm scaling back on IF somewhat. I'm more likely to
write IF as a testing ground for game design ideas that might apply to
non-IF games than to just try to write a flat-out nice work of IF.

I do have some old WIPs I would like to finish sometime, although
they're a little less compelling now since I stole some of their ideas
for Heroes. One's a game I started for last year's SmoochieComp; another
is a multi-character superhero game; and then there's always "A Storm
Brought About By A Moth's Flapping Wing", which is the first Inform game
I ever started and will probably be the last one I finish, perhaps ten
years from now.

[And of course at some nearer point I hope to release a shareware CRPG
that should appeal to some IF fans as well, but that's more than enough
hype at this point in time.]

   SPAG: What did you think about this year's competition? Any favorite
   games?

SB: My personal favorites were "All Roads" for its twisty story,
"Vicious Cycles" for its very clever game design, and "Best of 3" for
its verisimilitude. All three of them gave me an envious "I wish I
had-thought-of/were-capable-of that!" reaction. "Moments Out of Time"
looks like it's a very solid game quite deserving of its score; I'm just
not personally a fan of that more open-ended exploration a la "AMFV".

In general, the comp was rather disappointing; only two games this year
broke a 7.0 average. Even with lower scores, usually there will be games
that, overall, aren't that great, but still make me sit up and take
notice by doing something right. There were a few this year, like "Fine
Tuned", but not enough. And there are often games that are flawed but do
something I notice as an author--something I'll say that's a great idea"
and I file it away to rip off at some future date, and there didn't seem
much of that this year.

   SPAG: What games did you rip off for Heroes?

SB: Well, just speaking of comp games, the gossip was partly inspired by
the opening sequence from "Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win" by
J.D. Berry. The thief's pocket-system was partly inspired by the little
nooks in "Shade" that you went into and out of automatically. "Being
Andrew Plotkin", of course, for the gimmick of seeing the same room from
multiple POVs. I think the gossipping courtiers were also inspired by
"Four in One", come to think of it.

   SPAG: Any advice you'd care to offer for prospective competition
   entrants? 

SB: Things to do:
1. Work on a game that *you* would want to play
2. Take responsibility for any path a player might take through it
3. Play to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses (or mask them in
   gimmicks)

Things not to do:
1. Do most of your coding in the last week before the comp
2. Do all beta-testing on comp-submission-deadline day
3. Make your backstory excessively obscured in the hopes that people
   will expend extra effort to decipher it

   SPAG: You didn't do any of those last three, did you?

SB: Next question?

   SPAG: You don't mind if I abbreviate your name as "SB" in print, do
   you?

SB: No, that's great. Maybe people will get confused and think
you're interviewing Sam Barlow or Stephen Bond, instead.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Duncan Stevens 

CONVERSATION SYSTEMS IN COMP01: A FEW THOUGHTS

The reviews elsewhere in SPAG will doubtless discuss specific gamesí
approaches to NPC interaction -- indeed, some reviews Iíve written
attempt to do that -- but playing through Comp01 also left me with some
more general impressions about conversation systems. Iíll discuss a few
games specifically, but Iíll heroically endeavor to avoid spoilers.

The inspiration for this essay, I suppose, was the proliferation of TALK
TO (without menus) as a conversation option; I was trying to figure out
whether and in what circumstances this might actually be a good system,
as my initial reaction was more or less that the PC must be really
unimaginative if only one thing can come out of his or her mouth at any
given time. From there it followed, fairly logically, that, hey, a TALK
TO-driven system might be fine if the story youíre trying to tell is so
linear, and the cues are so obvious, that the player is unlikely to long
for more flexibility. Examples from this yearís comp include Fusillade,
very much a train ride with a lot of obvious prompting; there, the
player poking under rocks is unlikely to greatly enhance the story, as
the main incentive in each scene is to see the very basics of whatís
there to see and to move on to the next scene, and so TALK TO works just
fine. Itís also worth noting that in most scenes in Fusillade, your
characterís motivation is reasonably obvious, so ascribing a specific
tone or direction via TALK TO doesnít feel like a great imposition.
Jump, similarly, has a fairly obvious trajectory (now that's an
unfortunate pun) from the start, and while itís not all that satisfying
a trajectory, it does make TALK TO feel less confining (as the player is
aware of the confinement and isnít trying all that hard to escape). This
is less, or only partly, true for No Time to Squeal, which allows for
both TALK TO and ASK/TELL (while noting that the latter is not
necessary), appropriate considering the genre and style shifts within
the game. A game that took this trend one step further was Prized
Possession, whose conversation system was simply TALK, even though there
was often more than one character present. The limitedness of the
conversational options there may have been deliberate, as the PC was a
medieval woman with few freedoms and fewer life options, and arguably
she doesnít have a lot of freedom to start ASK/TELLing everyone in sight
about whatís on her mind -- but the experience, as IF, was a tad
wearing.

Conversely, however, in games that allow for some wandering and seem to
expect progress to come from clue-gathering more than simply picking up
on prompts, something broader -- ASK/TELL, ideally -- is more likely to
work. In Beetmongerís Journal, for instance, being able to ASK various
characters about stuff you come across or hear about helps advance the
game, especially since the game turns on learning about an unfamiliar
setting; simply putting words in the playerís mouth would make the PC
more knowledgeable than the player, or alternatively would require some
very complicated knowledge flagging. Likewise, one of the better aspects
of Coast House was being able to interrogate the sole NPC with ASK
topics that youíd come across in your explorations, and among Triuneís
main strengths is that youíre not pushed down any one path, a feeling
which TALK TO would certainly compromise. ASK/TELL was useful in a
different sense in Crusade, where most of the humor came from Easter
eggs scattered here and there, some of them in conversation; obviously,
itís hard to see how you can put Easter-egg lines in NPCsí mouths
without ASK/TELL. The counterexample (yes, there really is one) is
Kallisti (in which the goal is seduction), where the ASK/TELL process at
the beginning rambles on and on with no direction (as far as I could
tell, infinitely, as I never got past that scene), and with the NPC
apparently acquiescing happily to wildly random non sequiturs. Given
that the, um, drift of the game was obvious from the start, the
obfuscation did not add much to the game; much better to follow a
reasonably defined path than force the player to try to figure out what
the author considers a logical approach to seduction.

Menus appeared occasionally, sometimes to good effect and sometimes not.
In Earth and Sky, the tone of voice in the menu options helped bring out
the PCís personality (and, not insignificantly, the conversation options
were laugh-out-funny, almost never a bad thing) -- and while other
systems can do the same by simply putting actual lines in the PCís
mouth, a menu tends to get to the same end faster (as you learn more
about the PC when you see the array of things that he or she could, or
is willing to, say). Earth and Sky also enabled ASK/TELL and TALK TO, so
that thereís a dizzying array of ways to advance the conversation;
fortunately, the TALK TO conversational direction is pretty logical, and
all of the ASK/TELL topics I could think of were covered. On the other
hand, in Volcano Isle, there was only one conversation moment in the
whole game, and it was singularly odd -- you essentially have to choose
a factual statement about yourself, though it doesnít seem to matter
much which you choose. There are quite a few menus in Stick it to the
Man, few of which produce particularly interesting conversation, but I
suppose interesting is in the eye of the beholder. Menus (triggered by
SPEAK TO) also showed up in Shattered Memory, but didn't enhance the
experience much, partly because they were mixed indiscriminately with
ASK X ABOUT Y, with no obvious clues to which is appropriate at a given
time.

The strange thing about TALK TO is that the better-implemented the game,
the less appropriate TALK TO (as the sole system) often becomes. In All
Roads, the depth of the worldbuilding leads the player to want to
explore the edges of the scenario, learn more by probing for more
information, and TALK TO is essentially a blunt reminder that weíll have
none of that. Conversely, when the implementation was shaky or the
author wasnít confident that the player would be able to follow what was
going on, youíd get NPCs prompting the player to "ask me about" or "tell
me about" something in less than graceful ways (The Cruise is an
example), and there, particularly when the character in question doesnít
have a lot to say anyway, TALK TO might conceivably be appropriate.
(Making the connections sufficiently logical that the game doesnít have
to prompt the player so blatantly would be even better, of course, but
letís not be too picky.) Carma, though well implemented on the whole,
suffers from similar problems, as the author left nothing to chance;
things that the player should ask about are put in boldface. (Itís not
wholly inappropriate, as the gameís idiosyncratic attitude toward
punctuation and general surrealism make for hard wavelengths to get on,
but the cues do feel clumsy.) An odd counterexample is Fine Tuned, which
had all sorts of implementation problems but whose ASK/TELL conversation
system worked pretty well; major topics were available and most of what
the game seemed to expect you to ask about was fairly intuitive.

Finally, a discussion of conversation systems wouldnít be complete
without a word about Best of Three, even though itís not entirely a fair
comparison, as Best of Three consists entirely of conversation (rather
than NPC interactions integrated into a broader storyline). There, the
system was a blend of ASK/TELL and menus, in that you can choose the
general topic and be given some choices within that topic; not every
topic is accounted for, naturally, but most of the logical ones are, and
the result is both the flexibility of ASK/TELL and the natural language
of menus. Is it realistic to expect a conversation system this powerful
to be something other than the point of the game it appears in? Maybe
not, but itís a nice thought.

I should note, by way of closing, that while my initial impression was
that TALK TO and menus were on the rise, the numbers are still stacked
dramatically in favor of ASK/TELL (though I havenít done an exact
count). Iím not too sad about that, surprise surprise, but beyond that
Iím not sure whether it reflects authorsí preferences, authorsí beliefs
that players prefer that system, or something else, or simply a general
feeling that the sort of games that dominate the comp (simple puzzle
games, even after all this time) are best served by that system. As it
happens, I think thatís true, though I donít deny that other systems may
fit other game styles better.

As for the examples of games using multiple systems simultaneously (in
the Earth and Sky sense, not the Best of Three sense), I suppose I
applaud the sentiment and, in Earth and Skyís case, the execution, but
caution that each system needs to be fully adequate to get to the
objective; see Shattered Memory. To the extent that this heralds more
versatile conversation engines, however, Iím all for it. 

KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS--------------------------------------------------

Consider the following review header:

NAME: Cutthroats
AUTHOR: Infocom
EMAIL: ???
DATE: September 1984
PARSER: Infocom Standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters
AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2
URL: Not available.

When submitting reviews:  Try to fill in as much of this info as you can.
If you choose, you may also provide scores for the games you review, as 
explained in the SPAG FAQ. The scores will be used in the ratings 
section.  Authors may not rate or review their own games.

More elaborate descriptions of the rating and scoring systems may be found
in the FAQ and in issue #9 of SPAG, which should be available at:

        ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/magazines/SPAG/
 and at http://www.sparkynet.com/spag


REVIEWS -------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: All Roads
AUTHOR: Jon Ingold
E-MAIL: ji207 SP@G cam.co.uk
DATE: 2001
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD)
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/AllRoads.z5
VERSION: Release 1 (post-comp release -- version apparently not updated)

It's occasionally been said that the diversity of latter-day IF makes it
difficult to compare games -- when puzzles are downplayed and setting,
story, characterization, etc. are stressed, different games often have
very few common measures (other than technical smoothness and writing
skill) by which to rate them. Instead, games are judged more and more by
how well they were trying to do whatever they were trying to do, and as
measuring the success of, say, a horror-oriented game is very different
from measuring the success of a sci-fi game, it becomes harder to say in
a useful way that any given game is better than another. (Was it always
thus? Maybe, but I seem to recall some fairly lively debates, a few
years back in r*if, over which Infocom games were the best and worst --
despite Infocom's attempts to explore a broad range of genres.) I bring
this up not because I have any idea where Jon Ingold's All Roads stands
in the IF pantheon; to the contrary, I have no idea, because while it's
certainly an enjoyable game in many respects, I cannot divine what the
author was setting out to do.

The premise is that -- well, that's the problem. The initial text
suggests that you're lying in your bed, then abruptly you're standing on
a scaffold, about to be hanged, and a few turns later, just as abruptly,
you're tied up in a cellar. From there, things slow down a little, but
the general "huh?" aura persists throughout -- you jump around in time
and space enough that you're unlikely to follow what's going on until
the very end. It doesn't, however, matter much that you don't know
what's going on, as the game shepherds you along quite firmly -- you
can't get very far off the track at any point, nor is there a way, as
far as I can tell, to derail the express by dying or making the game
unwinnable. (Well, okay, there's one puzzle, and it's a fairly subtle
puzzle, sufficiently so that it's not impossible to bog down -- but
other than that things more or less roll along.) The plot itself
involves political machinations in a sort of alternate-universe medieval
Venice, certainly a good setting for not knowing what's going on, and
the game plays that aspect to the hilt -- most of the salient facts,
such as who's on what side, remain mysterious throughout, adding to the
general bewilderment. At a few points, if you don't supply the needed
action, the game gives you progressively less subtle hints, so the
course of the story is unlikely to stop very often. The result, at the
end of the game, is essentially a very odd short story where you supply
much of the protagonist s action but very little of the brainpower.

Give All Roads some credit, though -- the player does *do* almost
everything in the story, as opposed to watching his friend the player
character do things in long chunks of text between prompts (a common
failing in story-oriented games). Some of the actions are attributable
to unsubtle hints, and there's a little bit of unreliable-narrator
trickery, but most of the time the game gets the player sufficiently on
the story's wavelength that outright prodding is unnecessary, which is
nothing to sneeze at. Simple weirdness or absurdity is fairly trodden IF
ground, but this isn't that, exactly -- the point is not, as far as I
can tell, simply to be strange and confusing. The underlying logic of it
all is obscure, but the actions themselves are reasonably apparent.

In a sense, though, that's the problem; there are (at least) two
narratives in All Roads, one the ostensible course through the game and
another the player's progress toward deciphering the game's central
puzzle, namely Why The Whole World's Acting So Weird. The game appears
to have decided quite firmly that you will begin to get hints on the
latter only toward the end of the game; detective work during most of
the story is not only not encouraged, it's pretty much impossible. Some
common commands are disabled or even given misleading responses. Yes,
there are stray clues here and there, but they don't seem to be in
places where the inquiring player would tend to look -- they're more
like Easter eggs. The most blatant aspect of this is the conversation
system, namely TALK TO, which certainly avoids complications but doesn't
leave much freedom. It's not, exactly, that the game will break if your
strange time-space-jumping tendencies are aired, because you do air them
(after a fashion) in your TALK TO conversations, but the game appears to
have made a choice -- rather than letting you, the player, screw things
up and get some *** You have died *** equivalent, the game simply
prevents you from screwing things up.

Does this all matter? Yes and no, in my book. It doesn't make the
underlying puzzle any less interesting -- and it is a good puzzle, well
worth some thought and some poring over the transcript. For my part,
though, the railroaded nature of the game took away some of the
satisfaction of figuring out the puzzle, since there was no possibility
that I'd make a clever guess and be rewarded, and the giveaways at the
end really were outright giveaways. (I might have found the process a
bit more rewarding if the solution lay more in going back through the
game and trying new stuff, thereby to learn more, and less in the
exposition at the end.) Accordingly, it's difficult to judge the game --
as pure story, once understood, it's impressive, and the various pieces
come together well. The meta-puzzle of the story isn't quite as
successful, though, due to the feeling that the player doesn't really
have much of a shot at solving the puzzle, and accordingly the extent to
which the game succeeds depends on one's assumptions about what the game
sets out to do.

Those reservations noted, I should add that I did enjoy All Roads; the
complexity and depth of the story it wove landed it the top spot in the
comp, and deservedly so. For my part, I gave it a 9.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Cameron Wilkin 
[originally posted to Usenet on rec.games.int-fiction]

TITLE: The Beetmonger's Journal
AUTHOR: Scott Starkey
E-MAIL: scotto SP@G yekrats.com
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD)
URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/tads/Beet/Beet.gam
VERSION: Release 1

One nifty aspect of this game is that the player gets to change
perspectives as it progresses. You begin the game as Aubrey Foil, the
companion to the famous architect Monsieur Lapot, who is being followed
by merciless reporters. You stumble into a cave that turns out to be the
tomb of Avielle the great beetmonger. You discover her journal and begin
to translate it, at which point you become Avielle and essentially write
the journal on the fly. As Avielle you attempt to thwart the plans of
Prince Radiant, who is turning the populace against beetmongerism.

There's definitely a lot going for this game. It's well written, and its
dead-serious treatment of a conflict between the general populace and
the secret order of beetmongers made for an amusing atmosphere. The
treatment of perspective in the game is interesting as well. You start
the game as Aubrey, but all your commands influence what Lapot does, and
the game responds with Aubrey's interpretation of what happens.
Avielle's section is in the past tense, so it seems that what you do is
simply what is recorded in the journal Lapot is translating. Those are
very nice touches.

The game does have a branching story line as well. You can attempt to
make a peaceful or a violent solution with the Prince, and that leads to
entirely different sections of the game, with different puzzles. I only
played through the violent section, so I can't comment on the other, but
the fact that the plot branches is a big plus.

There are a few drawbacks as well. The author made some odd design
choices. At the beginning there is an "instant death" room. Although the
game warns you against going there, it just seems unnecessary. It
would've been better if it were just an empty room. Also, the map layout
was confusing. If you go north from the west concourse, you'll reach the
main square. If you go south from the main square, you'll reach the war
memorial. I really hated this part. It seems illogical and made me get
lost quite frequently. I was never able to build a good picture of my
surroundings because of this. There were a couple of bugs too, (you
can't show colleen the flags), and there was a lot of scenery you can't
refer to (such as the war games). None of this is game breaking, but
it's certainly annoying.

Also, a lot of the game failed to instill me with a sense of purpose.
After hearing the prince's speech and talking to colleen, I had no idea
what to do. I had to run to the walkthrough just to find out what the
game wanted me to do.

Despite these flaws, I enjoyed playing through this game. It has a fun
story line. The puzzles (once you figure out what they are) are, for the
most part, rather simplistic, but I like them that way. Nothing
exceptional, but still quite fun.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Best of Three
AUTHOR: Emily Short
E-MAIL: emshort SP@G mindspring.com
DATE: 2001
PARSER: Glulx Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Glulx interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD)
URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/glulx/Bestof3/Bestof3.blb
VERSION: Release 1

I wrote a while back that Emily Short's Galatea had "moved the
goalposts" with respect to conversation in IF, and while I think that
was true -- and that subsequent Emily efforts did the same -- much of
the focus has been on the format: the blending of ASK/TELL with menus
and such. Emily's experiments with format are worth noting, but the
content of the conversations bears notice as well -- the games not only
make it possible to have interesting conversations, they actually have
interesting conversations, and Best of Three, the latest effort, is, in
my view, no exception.

The premise is both simple and too complex to explain concisely: you
encounter an old flame of the unrequited variety, first by chance in the
street and then less by chance in a coffeeshop, and repartee of various
sorts ensues -- you discuss the past and present, literature, music, and
embark on various abstract philosophical digressions as well. The format
is the same blend of ASK/TELL and menus that appeared in Pytho's Mask:
you have a variety of lines to try on any one topic, but you can also
heave a topic entirely and choose to discuss, say, hockey with >TOPIC
HOCKEY or >T HOCKEY, and if you have anything to say about hockey,
you'll have some menu options. There are some recent innovations as well
-- if you've tried some topics that don't turn up anything and you want
to go back to the last menu, UNTOPIC sends you back there, and THINK
ABOUT doesn't produce any spoken output but occasionally yields
something you might want to talk about. The effect, as should be
obvious, is to afford flexibility both macro and micro -- you have the
ability to ditch an apparently unfruitful topic and start a new one, but
also the ability to say a variety of approaches to discussing any one
topic. If there's a drawback, it's that you can get a conversation that
veers wildly from topic to topic with no apparent discomfort from the
NPC, and Best of Three particularly suffers in this regard -- in fact,
the menu options that Best of Three prompts the player with often seem
to represent major non sequiturs. Still, considering the state of NPC
interaction before Emily Short made her contribution, veery
conversations seem a venial sin.

Most of the negative reaction to Best of Three has focused on the main
NPC; people find him an insufferable twit or some variant, or just find
talking with him boring. There, I suppose, the player's MMV, but there
are also moments where the NPC acknowledges the limits and shallowness
of his understanding (particularly with regard to music), which aren't
really consistent with a simple portrayal of a self-centered
know-it-all. Moreover, I feel compelled to point out that there aren't
many NPCs in the annals of IF that were sufficiently developed for the
player to actually dislike. There have been annoying NPCs, to be sure,
but the aversion to this one doesn't characterize him as annoying --
he's pompous, self-centered, supercilious, or other such things, and
creating a character that elicits those reactions is not simple. I'm
reminded of an NPC that got a similar reaction from one reviewer, namely
Bob of Brent van Fossen's She's Got a Thing for a Spring, the
mountain-cabin dweller with responses for anything; Andrew Plotkin noted
that he wanted to throw a brick at Bob's head. As Bob was pretty much
the pre-Short NPC gold standard, it's not a bad precedent. For my part,
I didn't dislike him, exactly -- a few responses struck me as
irritatingly self-justifying, and some of his opinions seemed a little
sweeping, but listening to him wasn't a chore. (This may be because I
went to school with the author and hence know not a few people that
resemble Grant -- and, perhaps inevitably, have had not a few
conversations that resemble this one -- and by personal taste I don't
mind hanging around with someone with too many opinions who's too apt to
drop literary references.) His patter is also leavened by a few measures
of wit -- not one-liners as much as amusing phrasings, comic
exaggerations, and such -- and I suspect I have a hard time really
disliking people I find witty. One example, from the prologue, after the
NPC concludes that the PC has made him lose his pen: "The karmic
repercussions will be severe. Expect to live your next life as a dung
beetle." Afterwards, after the NPC takes the PC's pen and then returns
it: "All week my conscience has been haunted by the vision of you
crouched in a garret writing with a lumpy Bic." I can see why people
might find this pompous, but I took it more as mock-pompous, and I'm
fairly sure it was intended that way. (The wit is not, of course,
limited to the NPC's lines. One of my favorite bits was this: "His whole
body scrunches tighter in on itself, as though he were an anemone and
you a five-year-old with a pointy stick." Not particularly funny without
"pointy," hilarious with it.)

Er, what's that, Paul? Write about the game, not about my personal
tastes? Oh, okay. As Best of Three consists entirely of conversation,
the conversation needs to be compelling for the game to work -- and
while it's difficult to write a conversation that every player would
find compelling, Best of Three gives it a pretty good try. As noted, the
PC and the NPC have a shared past to explore, but they also have
individual (and highly unusual) family lives to explain, and all of the
conversations tie together reasonably well, despite the veering
mentioned earlier. For example: at one point, the NPC mentions his
dislike of Dostoevsky, and when the PC presses him on why, he grumbles
about how "everyone's emotions run over like a vat of boiling borscht
poured into a thimble," both an amusing image and (implicitly) a comment
on an event in the PC's and NPC's past. (There's also a dash of
self-reference a moment later, when the NPC complains about a lack of
"narrative momentum, just people sitting around spewing out ideas,"
which could certainly be said of Best of Three.) At another point, the
NPC remarks of a teacher that made a melodramatic display that "in a
peculiar way you have to admire someone who is willing to risk a little
ridicule," again a veiled reference to past episodes. (In this case, a
negative reference, as the PC doesn't appear to have been willing to
risk such ridicule.) And there's another occasion where the PC refers to
the lack of communication in her family and describes a
dancing-around-the-subject process that mirrors in some respects the
game itself. The conversation is not, in short, aimless, even though it
covers a lot of ground.

It should also be noted that the nature of the conversation is far from
fixed -- the PC can handle the interaction in more than one way -- so if
the player doesn't care for the NPC and isn't interested in playing
along, why, there's no need. True, such an approach doesn't reach what
the game seems to consider an optimal ending, but you can't have
everything. I don't want to exaggerate this feature -- to an extent,
different approaches to the conversation tend to lead to the same
elements in a different order, or most of the same elements with perhaps
a few missing -- but there is the option to take an unsympathetic view
of the whole thing.

As implied in the Dostoevsky comment, however, Best of Three needs more
narrative pace to genuinely work as a game -- it's more a series of
conversational vignettes, some more illuminating than others, that
eventually lead around to where you want to go, and the whole thing ends
pretty abruptly thereafter. The obvious contrast is with Galatea, where
the NPC's psychology, and the difficulty of getting her to open up, gave
the story a trajectory of sorts; here, getting the NPC to open up is,
shall we say, not a problem. The problem that arose in Galatea (from the
author's perspective, anyway) is that seasoned IFers tended to regard
the game as a puzzle -- get the Right Ending and Hear the Roar of the
Crowd -- which, it's safe to say, wasn't quite the idea. Best of Three
certainly avoids that pitfall, but as a consequence it also forfeits
some of the involvement the player had with the story in Galatea. It's
also true, of course, that there were more conversational options in
Galatea, and it was less obvious that you'd run out of things to say on
a given topic, as there was no menu system. The challenge, though, is to
maintain a storyline that goes somewhere -- in Best of Three, the
fluidity with which the subject changes means that there's not much of a
feeling that any given topic is inaccessible at any moment -- while
avoiding the feeling of goal-orientedness that has long reduced NPCs to
locked doors. If Emily isn't there yet, she's a whole lot closer than
anyone else.

For myself, I enjoyed Best of Three, and it's probably not quite fair to
say that its reach exceeds its grasp -- it doesn't purport to be
anything more than a complex, meandering conversation, and on that level
it works fine. It may not be the apotheosis of NPC interaction in IF,
but it's not a bad effort, and it got an 8 from me in this year's
competition.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Suzanne Britton 

TITLE: Carma
AUTHOR: Marnie Parker
E-MAIL: doeadeer3 SP@G aol.com
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Glulx interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/glulx/carma/carma.blb
VERSION: Release 1

Well, that was a rousing adventure.

I refer, of course, to the adventure of getting "Carma" to work on my
Linux system. But an hour, 4 source packages, and 2 patches later, I was
all set for the full multimedia experience. Hooray! Many thanks to
Marnie for giving detailed system-specific advice in terps.txt, so I
didn't have to break down and boot into Windows.

It was well worth the effort: the graphics, sound effects and music in
Carma are absolutely delightful. In particular, the Perry Mason shtick
with the jarring chords had me roaring. And if I could stop my
evaluation at that, I'd give this entry a 10.

Unfortunately, I found little enjoyment in Carma outside of the
whizzbang multimedia, and I guess I'm still old-fashioned enough to feel
that that's missing the point of Interactive Fiction. The biggest
problem was simply the *lack* of interactivity: I felt like I was
spending over half my time in cut scenes (note to authors: please make
cut scenes skippable!), and the interactive parts were not well-fleshed
out. The "strike" scene was particularly tedious--interview X, ask X
about X, ask X about sign, ask X about demands, repeat N times.

By the time I got to the courtroom scene, the whole thing was growing
tiresome, although I perked up a bit at the highly-amusing Perry Mason
spoof. This brings up Carma's other major weakness: punctuation, however
you slice it (splice it?), just isn't exciting enough a subject to carry
one through a mid-sized IF game, not even for other would-be writers. It
would have done better as a shorter piece.

The programming was competent, and if nothing else, this makes for a
great glk/glulx demo. And on a final positive note, I loved the ending.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Emily Short 

TITLE: The Coast House
AUTHOR: Stephen Newton and Dan Newton
E-MAIL: snewton SP@G sj.znet.com and hackmusik SP@G earthlink.net
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/tads/coast/coast.gam
VERSION: 1.0

Almost as bad as no lead-in is too much lead-in. Worse yet is if the
wodges of text come larded with misused words and misplaced apostrophes.
For instance, we learn at the beginning of this game, amid a great deal
of family history and implied mystery, that grandpa felt "little
remorse" at grandma's funeral; but remorse would only be suitable,
really, if he'd offed the old biddy himself (surely not!).

The whole of the game is flawed in similar ways: misused words, abused
apostrophes, simple game-design carelessness. Descriptive sections
include such things as:

   You see the first photograph, the second photograph, the third
   photograph, and the fourth photograph here.

Why not label them as to content, or introduce them more subtly? I think
I detect, in many places in this game, indications that the authors are
relatively new to TADS, and that they are comfortable doing the
straightforward tasks but uncertain about the customizing nuances that
smooth over awkward bits.

The puzzles are also generally not very exciting, and mostly consist of
finding things and applying them, without that much by way of reward
offered for diligence. My strongest puzzle-related memory from this game
is that I drove myself crazy trying to get into a certain section which
was sort of but not entirely off-limits: I could enter it, but a timed
sequence of events would drive me out again. There was, of course, a
solution to this, but I didn't know enough about the game to know for
certain that the solution wasn't to be found *inside* the area that I
kept being forced out of. So I made many frustratingly brief exploratory
missions before I finally gave up, consulted the walkthrough, and
discovered that the correct way of dealing with the problem lay
somewhere else entirely in an area I was not yet aware of. I would
complain even more strenuously if the game design *had* necessitated
repeated trips into the semi-restricted area; as it was, it was just my
own stubbornness and failure to explore another puzzle adequately that
had me rushing back in there over and over. But I still don't
particularly care for this effect, I'm afraid.

Story and atmosphere were likewise mostly unexceptional, with a few
standout bits. Some of the most endearing features were things that I
assume are accurate observations of the real coast house on which this
is modelled. I ordinarily don't care for real-life details when said
real-life details are, e.g., a careful implementation of your television
and VCR: I know how those behave and derive no joy from manipulating
them in virtual form. Perhaps what sets this apart from other
implementations of well-known places is that I have not, in fact, ever
spent that much time at a vacation house like this one, so it struck me
as peculiar and intriguing. I was oddly touched by the Piggly Wiggly
bag.

The backstory itself, as finally revealed, seemed tonally out of place,
or at least to belong to a different mood from the rest of the game.

Summary: An unambitious little game with some nice atmospheric touches,
lacking a lot in surface polish.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Emily Short 

TITLE: Earth And Sky
AUTHOR: Paul O'Brian
E-MAIL: obrian SP@G colorado.edu
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Zcode interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/eas/eas.z5
VERSION: Release 1

This game is too short.

It's billing itself as a prelude to something longer, and that's great,
but I felt as though I had just really gotten revved up when... it
ended.

Which was a pity, because I was enjoying this: it's upbeat and chipper
and fun, a superhero game with a gentle sense of humor and not too much
pressure about Saving the Universe. It gives you cool powers, and it
doesn't take itself too seriously. We've seen superhero IF before, but
frankly, it's so entertaining that we can easily afford to see more.

Earth and Sky begins by establishing backstory about the protagonist and
her brother, in which we find out that their parents are missing;
presumably this provides the plot arc for the series of games of which
this is Game 1. But the game doesn't really dwell particularly on that.
I was struck by the contrast with Heroine's Mantle, another superhero
game whose premise begins with the vanishing of parents and the
introduction of powers: where Heroine was sprawling, dramatic,
emotional, and rough-edged in many aspects of its game play, this was a
meticulously crafted and entirely lighthearted production.

Let me dwell for a moment on that "meticulously crafted" bit. It's
obvious that a great deal of care went into making this game intuitively
interactive. Several conversation systems are provided, so that the
player is free to take whatever approach he likes: this is novel, and
possibly overkill, but it expresses a good faith intention to put the
control fully into the player's hands. More impressively, perhaps, the
game accounts for a wide variety of behavior on the player's part. I
don't wish to spoil the game, and it is so small that any portion of it,
even the very beginning, is perhaps off-limits, so suffice it to say
that there is an opening scene with a number of things to tinker with. A
less ambitious game would take steps to make sure that the player
tinkered with them in the right order; a less well-programmed one would
allow all the variations, but then fail to take them into account in the
subsequent stages of the scenario. As it was, I found no flaws. After I
played the first time, I went back and tried a number of different
configurations of the first scene, and the NPC always reacted
appropriately, no matter what I turned out to have done when he showed
up.

Speaking of the NPC, I'm not sure how I feel about the menus. The game
offers you the opportunity to converse via conversation menus, and these
menus contain numerous quips. This is fine, even commendable, except
that frequently the quips were merely slightly nuanced variations of the
same thing and that the choice of one or another doesn't seem to have
affected the NPC especially strongly. There are also perhaps too many. I
find, in general, that I don't like conversation menus to contain more
entries than I can keep in my head all at once; it is perhaps a
testimony to my pea-sized brain that this number tends to be four or
five at its upper limit (with some variation allowed depending on how
complex and lengthy the remarks are.) This is because, when I am playing
a game with conversation menus, I regard the menu as representing the
contents of the PC's head: as though the author said, Here are the
things that immediately pop to mind in response. In a typical
conversation I may have several things in mind that would be viable to
say; I don't have a dozen at a time.

That's a fairly minor quibble, however, and the fact that I reacted to
it at all says more about my own interests and the things I pay
attention to in a game.

Summary: cool, fun, and promising of more to come. One of my favorites
of the competition.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Stephen Bond 
[originally posted to Usenet on rec.games.int-fiction]

TITLE: Film At Eleven
AUTHOR: Bowen Greenwood
E-MAIL: greenwood SP@G lvcm.com
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD)
URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/eleven/eleven.z5
VERSION: Release 1

This game is apparently inspired by I-0, so the first time I played it I
spent the whole time doing I-0 type things: I stripped off everywhere
and waited to see how people would react. But the reactions were somehow
disappointing, and the descriptions were somehow disappointing, and I
felt a bit let down. I got the same feeling I get when reading Terry
Pratchett -- all very light-hearted, and the author is having a good
time, and the characters are having a good time, and everyone involved
is having a good time, and... I'm not, really.

One difference between this and I-0 is that the latter is much more
richly described and imagined. To take a concrete example, I-0 gives me
a very good picture of what Tracey Valencia's breasts look like. The
description of Betty Byline's boobs, on the other hand, is "You've never
had any complaints about them", which is so vague that she might as well
be wearing five woolen sweaters. Does "You've never had any complaints
about them" conjure up images in anyone's mind? No. And it's not that
I'm only slavering after good descriptions of T&A: a lot of the writing
here is similarly unevocative. I-0 it ain't.

The second time I played, however, I tried to appreciate Film at Eleven
on its own terms, and I found it a lot more likeable. In fact I found
the whole thing rather sweet and endearing. I liked the PC and her
infectious enthusiasm, I liked the quirky small-town inhabitants, and I
liked the friendly, gently chiding voice that was narrating. There's
nothing particularly memorable here, but Eleven makes a pleasant enough
way to pass an hour or two.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: The Gostak
AUTHOR: Carl Muckenhoupt
E-MAIL: carl SP@G wurb.com
DATE: 2001
PARSER: Inform-based, with some rewriting
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD)
URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/gostak/gostak.z5
VERSION: Release 1

Dan Schmidt's For a Change, a 1999 competition entry, had one of IF's
most memorable beginnings: "The sun is gone. It must be brought. You
have a rock." That signaled some linguistic quirkiness, and sure enough,
the ensuing game featured a variety of e.e.cummingsesque innovations,
though it was comprehensible with a bit of effort. Carl Muckenhoupt's
The Gostak goes For a Change one better:

   Finally, here you are. At the delcot of tondam, where doshes deave.
   But the doshery lutt is crenned with glauds.

   Glauds! How rorm it would be to pell back to the bewl and distunk
   them, distunk the whole delcot, let the drokes discren them.

   But you are the gostak. The gostak distims the doshes. And no glaud
   will vorl them from you.

For those who didn't know what was coming from the title itself -- which
refers to an old linguistic in-joke -- this is more than a little
disconcerting, all the more so when familiar commands like LOOK and
INVENTORY elicit "That's not a dape I recognise." (The trick is somewhat
similar to the language puzzle in Lucian Smith's The Edifice, where you
needed to communicate something in an unfamiliar language where even the
pronouns were unknown; here, while the communication problem is much
broader, the syntax and word order are familiar and pronouns,
prepositions (mostly), conjunctions, articles, and such are all
English.) The HELP equivalent (JALLON) gives a list of basic commands,
though they're unlikely to be particularly helpful to the IFer who isn't
familiar with the basic IF help menu -- the only commands that are
familiar are things like QUIT, SAVE, RESTORE, UNDO, and such, and the
unfamiliar commands themselves are explained in the same language. Never
fear, though -- there are Invisiclue-style hints! (Just follow the menu
option for "brolges.") Here's one of the hints on the topic "The
tophthed curple": "If only it wasn't tophthed, you could pell in there
without being glaked. What can you do about the tophthage?"

The net effect is that The Gostak has some pretty severe barriers to
entry, so to speak -- the initial 50-100 moves or so are apt to be a
painful slog while the player attempts to compile a basic glossary,
takes cryptic notes, gets mocked by the parser (>LEIL WARB: "That's
unleilable"), and starts to think that Colossal Cave had the right idea.
It gets less frustrating, but the learning curve doesn't level off much
-- unfamiliar words just keep coming, and there isn't really a point
when you simply know all you need to know. The game ups the ante by
doing its damnedest to keep many of its words from having any English
referent at all (this is the linguistic joke, as detailed at
http://www.kith.org/logos/words/lower2/ggostak.html), and while you can
choose to assign them referents of your own devising, you can't assume
that the game will follow along with the implications. (You might decide
that a particular noun means, say, "water," and later decide that a
certain adjective means "wet," and then belatedly discovered that your
water isn't wet -- because the game doesn't agree that those words have
the relation you've assigned.) Beyond that, the puzzle-solving in the
game often turns into a scavenger hunt -- you're faced with a creature
that has an unfamiliar adjective, say, so you go hunting around
aimlessly for something that has a similar adjective. There's a helpful
character that might explain what the adjective means, to be sure, but
he (it) more often than not explains it using two or three more terms
that you don't understand. The effect is occasionally like a game with a
million locked doors and a million keys in which the puzzle-solving
consists of trying each key in each door; the no-referents trick becomes
more of a curse than a blessing. (The problem is exacerbated by a
certain object that can produce eight more objects, each with a largely
opaque adjective, which heighten the combinatorial problem.)

Is all this a Good Thing? Well, it's a certainly a creative thing, and
it's done intelligently. Not only do most words lack obvious referents,
but familiar words have unfamiliar syntaxes -- or words that you think
you've pigeonholed as just like a certain English word turn out to have
unexpected connotations or uses. In effect, the game's language works
like a real second language, with different assumptions about what
concepts go together or how to visualize a certain action, rather than
simply tracking English. Quite apart from the technical feat of
reworking the Inform parser into an alien tongue, which must have been
wearisome, convincing the game to respond sensibly to every verb in
every context (which, as far as I can tell, it does) is not a trivial
accomplishment.

The problem, though, is that I'm not sure the annual competition was the
forum where The Gostak was most likely to be appreciated, mostly because
of the two-hour rule. Now, it's true that competition judges don't have
to finish a game within the allotted two hours, and it's also true that
many well-regarded competition entries have been on the long side, and
it's also true that you don't need to reach the end of The Gostak to
appreciate it. But the two-hour rule does not breed patience, and The
Gostak is unlikely to be appreciated by an impatient player. When a
judge spends the bulk of the two hours fumbling around and trying to
master basic vocabulary, he or she is unlikely to rate the game highly
except for pure strength of concept. As it happens, that was enough for
me, but not everyone is endlessly fascinated by linguistic wizardry of
this sort. The end result was that the scores for The Gostak were almost
evenly distributed across the scale -- which surprised me a bit, as I
expected a large pileup of scores at the two extremes from some players
who were frustrated by the whole thing and others who like this sort of
thing. I don't know how much the scores mattered to the author -- my
guess is not much -- but even disregarding the scores, I think this sort
of thing is better appreciated without a ticking clock. Part of this is
that comp entries have gotten shorter in recent years -- in the early
days of the comp, it was routine for entries to push the two-hour mark,
but lately it's become uncommon -- and hence attention spans may have
become shorter; it's certainly an adjustment to play through several
games that can be adequately appreciated in under half an hour and then
hit The Gostak.

All that said, there's something entertainingly goofy about the playing
experience that makes up for the frustration. Being told, when you try
something useless, that "that wouldn't do anything heamy," or hearing an
overprotective character cry "My doshes! All my martle doshes!", or
learning that a character who looks you over and is amused "tunks you
and smarches" -- I dunno. Well-chosen words, I guess. But I found the
game a pleasure to read quite apart from the pleasure of deciphering,
and I found I enjoyed the thing most when I assigned a word its rough
contours (establishing that a given noun was alive and ate things, say,
or establishing that a verb was transitive and caused certain nouns to
leave the vicinity) but didn't try to pin it down precisely. Of course,
getting somewhere in the game required a little more than that, and
there's only so much pure exploration to do, but there's still a
whimsical feel to the responses that makes the game more than the sum of
its crytographical parts. It's a tribute to the thoroughness of the
implementation that the world you inhabit begins to take on some
personality; obstacles and helpers don't just serve their functions,
they also have connotations, associations -- this one is faintly
ludicrous, that one is vaguely chummy, another one is not very bright
but trusting -- that suggest that the world-creation effort did not, by
any stretch, stop with the bare minimum.

Reactions to most IF differ widely, and more so with The Gostak than
with most -- but despite the frustration of the puzzle-solving, I was
drawn in by the premise and the thoroughness and complexity of the
language-building, and I gave it a 7 in this year's competition.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Eytan Zweig 

TITLE: Heroes
AUTHOR: Sean Barrett
EMAIL: buzzard SP@G nothings.org
DATE: Oct 1st 2001
PARSER: Inform
SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/heroes/heroes.z5
VERSION: Release 1 

"Heroes" is a game with a gimmick, which is obvious the moment you start
it up -- you have a choice of playing the game as one of five very
different characters. The characters are standard fantasy fare, though
two of them (the dragon and the king) are not often cast as the
protagonist in fantasy games. The setting and goal for each character is
the same -- the stories are mutually incompatible, since everyone is
doing the same thing, though in vastly different ways. And in each of
the stories, you get a small hint of the backstory, which leads you
towards discovering what is really going on. In order to reach the final
scene of the game, you must play through each of the characters.

There is much that is good about "Heroes" -- much that is very good.
Each location has a totally different description for each character,
based on their unique outlook, all well-written. And not only the
scenery but also the game objects are different -- guards that know the
adventurer by name are just a nameless obstacle to everyone else; a
crate that the thief can climb on goes totally unnoticed by the
enchanter. Also, the setting is of a perfect size - a large enough
collection of areas to be interesting and not feel too cramped, small
enough so that no one can get lost. While they are not of uniform
quality (more or this below), the different stories are mostly
interesting -- especially the well-rounded adventurer and the
destructive dragon. And the programming is very good as well -- I didn't
notice a single bug, and a second version is out now to fix those that
were found.

However, despite all that, "Heroes" is far from a perfect game. Some of
the stories aren't as interesting as the others -- the Enchanter is
rather easy, his spells conveniently suited for the task; there was no
place where I really had to think about how to proceed. Of course,
easiness isn't bad, but compared to the other stories, it felt
contrived. The king was confusing, with too many random things happening
at each spot. A worse problem derived from the recycling of locations --
especially the shop, which combined so many functions it seemed totally
contrived. Also, some of the obstacles felt TOO easy -- once you finish
the game you realize that some of these are motivated, but some are not
-- would a magic shop's defenses really be so easy to overcome by a use
of simple spells? Also, several logical solutions to some of the
problems simply weren't implemented, but this was a minor problem, since
once one solution failed it was usually quite clear what would work; no
guess-the-verb puzzles here.

But the main problem of "Heroes" isn't any of these relatively minor
nitpicks -- the main problem, just like the game's main strength, is
derived from the overall structure. With five characters all doing the
same thing in the same locations, the game simply becomes boring after a
while. I found myself resorting to a walkthrough for the last three
characters -- not because I couldn't solve the game myself, but because
I couldn't be bothered. I wanted to see how certain things worked out,
but I had had enough of the setting and the story by that point. Also,
the backstory that is slowly revealed didn't work very well -- a lot of
it is left unsaid, and it is not always clear what is meant by what is
said. This is worst for the dragon, as it is not at all clear how he got
involved in these actions (was he too an adventurer once? If so, how
come he knows so little about humans?). And the finale is very
unsatisfying, partially explaining what's going on, but at the same time
opening many more questions that should be explained. Anyone who goes
through the entire scenario five times deserves more.

But don't let my criticism fool you into thinking it's a bad game. It's
a good game, but one that over-reaches -- if it wouldn't have tried to
make the player go through all five possibilities, but instead just
offered them as alternates, it would have worked much better. And I'd
advise anyone who tries it to take it that way -- play the game in your
one or two favorite flavors, ignoring the rest. That way, you'll be
playing a solid, enjoyable game, that someone worked extra-hard on to
provide additional paths to, but you don't need to work extra hard just
to see them.

I only played this game after the comp was over, but if I had played it
in time, I would have given it an 8.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

From: Duncan Stevens 

Sean Barrett's Heroes is a nicely done implementation of a clever and
long-awaited idea -- multiple PCs within the same game, between which the
player can switch at will. As proof of concept, it works just fine; as a
game, it works slightly less well, as the game makes some unfortunate
choices that obscure its most interesting features.

The game bills itself "a most traditional CRPG experience," ironic on
several levels. For one thing, the game has no RPG features besides the
multiple player roles; itís true that the setting and general plot
appear to be very RPG and stock fantasy -- a dragon's gem, a nasty
warlord-type fellow, a quasi-medieval milieu, large dollops of magic,
and other such familiar elements -- but the multiple-PC angle adds a
good deal. For example, progress for some of the character depends on
knowledge that the other characters have -- sometimes in minor ways, as
in itís hard to know where youíre going when youíre one of the
characters unless you already know the landscape, and sometimes in more
major ways. Some characters have an obvious motivation to go to a
certain place; others have no such motivation, but the playerís
knowledge that useful objects (for that character) are there replaces
that motivation. Thatís interesting in itself, though Iím not sure I
call it a triumph of game design, as the game does tell you (in the
walkthrough) that you can play the parts in any order. (It mentions that
some roles may help you understand the others, yes, but thatís not much
help.) 

The plot involves a certain object that you want to steal, except that
there are no less than five of you -- four of you appear to be erstwhile
members of a band whose exact purpose (besides general heroism) is fuzzy
but which apparently was the bÍte noire of the warlord presently in
power. As such, my first assumption was that the five PCs are working
together, which, it turns out, is not the case -- theyíre all working
toward the same goal, but theyíre not trying to help each other. In
fact, only one of them can be considered to exist, in the gameís
timeline -- itís not as if you can come across an object as character 1,
using your special skills, and surreptitiously pass it to character 2,
who has the power to use it. (If that aspect were realized, it really
would be CRPG-esque, or at least closer.) Perhaps no one expected this
but me, but I spent quite a while wondering when my various compatriots
would show up. At any rate, you see essentially the same scenery five
times, through five different pairs of eyes, each of which sees what
matters most to it and characterizes the setting in ways that might be
expected of that particular character.

The plot sounds, and in many respects is, pure conventional fantasy;
three of the characters are an adventurer, an enchanter, and a thief,
who do pretty much what youíd expect. The only elements saving the main
story from utter conventionality are the "royalty" character, who
accomplishes his or her goal by ordering underlings around, and the
"dragon" character, who achieves the desired result much more directly
than its human counterparts. (Suffice it to say that "smash" and "burn"
are key verbs.) The royal character is followed around by a mob of
hangers-on who produce dialogue like this (apparently created by a
random patter generator akin to that of Jacks Or Better...): "Baronet
Pom says to Knight Thannishessolf, 'Did you hear? Lady Lalla was with
Lady Reloppimmib behind the throne in the palace, and they were having a
disagreement with Baronet Jurzad!'" This sort of thing palls after a
while, but it did keep me amused -- and the notion of accomplishing an
adventurerís objective by stomping around with a huge entourage is
pretty funny in itself. The dragon is even funnier -- it speaks in first
person plural, past tense, which makes it sound oddly grandiloquent, and
whenever a human shows up, you get something like this: "We heard
shrieks from a man-thing, ĎWuthe-elistha-migodisa-drakin.
Dran-dran-dran.í" The dragon has an entertainingly contemptuous view of
human affairs -- it remarks about a garden, for instance, that "we
perceived fresh plants in a location inappropriate to their origins,
with insufficient bare earth." The writing, here and elsewhere, sustains
the game and retains the interest of a player who might not necessarily
care to keep plowing through a stock fantasy game. 

Whatís odd, then, is that Heroes isnít really conventional fantasy at
all -- at least, thereís a twist that pulls it out of the realm of the
archetypal fantasy quest -- and yet the game hides its creativity under
a bushel basket, so to speak. Not only is it not apparent until the end
that something more might be going on, itís far from clear even then;
the clues are so evanescent that the player could easily dismiss them as
just an attempt to be vaguely enigmatic. (For my own part, Iím not sure
I would have been able to put it all together without some helpful ifMUD
input.) This layeredness is not, of course, a bad thing, and it worked
in another Comp01 entry, Jon Ingoldís All Roads -- but there the
meta-puzzle of the game was right on the surface, and the player
couldnít very well ignore if he or she wanted to gain even the most
superficial understanding of the game. Here, superficial understandings
are in ample supply, and the prodding to probe deeper is a touch too
gentle. (If nothing else, however, it became apparent why the
collaboration I was expecting didnít happen, as there are nudges in the
direction of the larger plot at the end of each chapter.) The deeper
problem, obviously, is that apparent stock fantasy is a turnoff for many
players, and even the multiple-PCs hook isnít necessarily enough to
overcome that; if the tugs at your consciousness, so to speak, hinting
that you may be missing something were a little more pronounced, the
fantasy-haters among us might be given pause.

The other problem is that the puzzles themselves, quite apart from the
framing puzzle, are pretty difficult and require some obscure
connections (or connections that are only supplied to the other
characters, multiplying by five the usual poke-around-and-pick-up-clues
problem). Not only is it occasionally not apparent why you want to do
something, itís not apparent how to do it either -- and while puzzles
are usually bearable if you have either the why or the how, having
neither makes things rough. Adding to the difficulty is an ample supply
of red herrings--some are irrelevant to everything, and most simply
arenít relevant to any particular character, but with so many apparently
useful objects to choose from, getting inside the authorís head is often
a challenge.

Technically and artistically, Heroes succeeds admirably; the few bugs in
the competition release appear to have been cleaned up, and the
POV-shift is nicely done. The game does commit some design sins, but I
appreciated the artistry of the multiple perspectives and the layered
plot sufficiently that I gave it an 8 in this yearís competition.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Moments Out of Time
AUTHOR: L. Ross Raszewski
E-MAIL: rraszews SP@G hotmail.com
DATE: 2001
PARSER: Inform standard (with modifications)
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters (some better than others)
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD)
URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/moments/moments.z6
VERSION: Release 1

L. Ross Raszewski's Moments Out of Time works almost despite itself; it
appears to promise one thing and delivers another, does a whole bunch of
things wrong on the game design front, and is almost certain to have an
anticlimactic ending. And yet, for all that, it won my heart with the
depth of its implementation and the imaginativeness of its
worldbuilding, and I simply couldn't bring myself to dislike it.

What's going on? That's a long, complicated question, and primary among
the aforementioned game design sins is that it takes a long time to
figure it out. It turns out that you're a researcher for some sort of
futuristic lab that's developed a time-travel device, and you're going
back into the past to poke around and learn what you can learn. This,
however, is how your mission is described:

   Clearance granted for immediate StreamDive. Target is local grid
   reference 0x1549. Temporal Reference 785278.7 UDC. We will be in
   phase for StreamDive at 865741.3 UDC. Dive duration not to exceed .5
   units UDC (12 hours local time). Stream Capacitance field will be set
   for auto-recall at this time. Research unit indicates high levels of
   stream distortion in this zone, indicating that premature extraction
   may not be possible.

   Mission Summary: The purpose of your StreamDive is historical
   research. We have isolated an evacuated area to minimize potential
   corruption. You are to record all findings, but avoid direct contact
   with any inhabitants. Records from this zone are fragmentary, so any
   documents of historical interest should be added to your DataStore. 

This is called "leaving the player with more questions than answers" --
what's a StreamDive? what's stream distortion? how am I supposed to
record all findings? what's my DataStore? and who am I and what am I
doing and why? -- and while the questions do get answered, the immediate
effect is along the lines of "start taking notes NOW," not the best
hook. The description above certainly gets points for having the feel of
real scientific gobbledygook, but I'd have traded that for a little more
accessibility. Worse, however, is what follows--it seems that in your
delve into the past, you can take only a limited number of tools that
will help you delve into what you find (one tool that scans for
anomalies, another that makes a map, another that allows interfacing
with electronic devices, etc.), and you have to choose which you want to
take based on, er, not much besides your own intuitions. As in, you
don't know much about what's coming, and you don't know how the
interactions work, and you don't even know what the game considers
important (more on this later), and frankly it's a peculiar game design
choice (especially because it's easy to make choices that will severely
limit your interaction potential). It's all the more perplexing because
there's no inherent reason that I can see why the game had to limit your
tool-carrying capacity -- it certainly enhances the replay potential,
since it's impossible (or nearly so) to experience everything in the
game with only one set of tools, but the tradeoff is likely to be
frustration when the player realizes that his options are severely
curtailed at move 300 because of a choice he made on move 5.

Once the exploration starts, more problems arise. One of the game's most
important locations is made inaccessible fairly early on by an
unforeseeable event (one that's so reminiscent of a similar device in
Zork III that I took it as an homage), necessitating that the player
either do what's needed in that area beforehand or prevent the blocking
off by being on the spot at the right time with, suffice it to say, a
rather incongruous action (necessitating a certain tool, of course).
There are umpteen locked doors, each with its own key hidden in a
strange and unexpected place, and while there's a tool that helps get
around that problem, without that tool progress is slowed considerably.
And while you eventually get a feel for the interesting things that are
there to be found, and accordingly figure out which rooms are likely to
hold things of note, those leads are not at all initially apparent,
leading to a lot of frustrating wandering hither and yon poking at
stuff.

The larger problem is that the game isn't entirely honest about what's
going on -- the player is essentially told at the outset that this is an
exploration game, so go poke around and see what turns up, and then gets
sat down at the end for a debriefing that makes it fairly clear that
your character had some goals in mind. (The debriefing is made even
worse by a bug that makes it hard to progress at a key point without
guessing a certain response; if there was a prompt for that response, I
never saw it.) To some extent, the goals dovetail with an ordinary
player's curiosity, but not entirely -- you're asked about details of
the setting you find, even though there's no obvious reason why the
details are important or why you should have noted them. The character
may -- indeed, should -- have known about these goals all along, but he
didn't share that knowledge with the player. The character remarks on
some of the details as significant, to be sure, but not all of them --
and trying to remember small details (or poring over a transcript) so
that you can answer trivial questions makes for a deeply dissatisfying
ending to the game. It's possible that that was deliberate -- the game
may set up a contrast between the wonder of discovery and the tedium and
finickiness of the research apparatus -- but I'm not sure that that was
a point worth making, if so.

Ah, but the wonder of discovery -- for all its failings, the game gets
that part down, and the most gripping points aren't so much Big Secrets
as surprises and turning points in the life of a certain family. True,
the total concentration of drama or intrigue in the stuff you find is a
little high -- not all that much of it is as humdrum as you might expect
-- but I didn't mind that aspect much, if at all, and the time frame (on
the verge of war) tends to bring out drama anyway. What struck me was
that I believed in the characters, even though I didn't like most of
them all that much; two of them in particular both had enough warts and
enough intriguing layers to make me interested in learning more about
them. It's a pity, in a way, that the larger background (that of the
period in general) is largely told to you up front, as the main thing I
enjoyed about digging into the game was piecing together what had
happened to the family, and piecing together what had happened to the
world in general might have been even more fascinating (though, of
course, a lot more work). The writing is good throughout the game, but
the best-written parts are in the first person and take the voices of
the characters; call me easily persuaded, but I was convinced. I found
no false notes in the voices of the characters when they set their own
thoughts down on paper -- some unappealing aspects, maybe, but very much
true to life.

That itís difficult to give a story/exploration-based game any sort of
pace or direction is not news, of course, and I donít blame Moments for
resorting to puzzles to achieve some sort of structure, keep the game
from becoming a big lump of facts. In other words, the game as presently
structured does make it likely (though not necessarily guaranteed) that
the player will encounter general background introductory stuff first
and only later find out the grittier details, and thatís not a bad
thing. At the risk of Monday-morning-quarterbacking, however, Iím not
sure it was necessary to introduce quite so many obstacles -- the
portion of the game that closes off unexpectedly (and hence is unlikely
to be found by the player until he or she knows to look for it at a
certain time) might, in theory, have opened up after a certain time, or
after the player learns certain facts (perhaps with something like "You
take a closer look at the east wall. Sure enough, just as you read in
the diary, thereís a hidden passage"). Likewise, the replay potential
assured by the limited tool capacity might have been achieved by
diverging paths of sorts, where alternative story branches offer
different information, which would be a little less frustrating than
you-see-the-opportunity-for-wondrous-insight-but-damn-you-brought-the-
wrong-tool. The content of Moments is terrific, and it deserves
friendlier game design.

Patience and perseverance reveal Moments to be a worthy game --
well-written and well-imagined -- and itís to the authorís credit, in a
way, that I wished that less patience and perseverance had been
necessary. As it was, I enjoyed it enough to give it an 8.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Stephen Bond 
[originally posted to Usenet on rec.games.int-fiction]

TITLE: No Time To Squeal
AUTHOR: Robb Sherwin and Mike Sousa
E-MAIL: beaver SP@G zombieworld.com, mjs SP@G rss.com
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD)
URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/tads/ntts/ntts.gam
VERSION: Release 1.0

When I play a Robb Sherwin game, I expect to see loads of ass-kicking
dialogue and inspired, crazed imagery. So the opening of this game was
quite a surprise: it all seemed strangely calm and muted, and even
dangerously close to being boring. But not so close that I stopped
playing immediately. As it turned out, the muted style is appropriate
for the fairly sombre events of the first section.

There is a lot of character-establishing text at the start, maybe too
much, but it was effective in drawing me into the role. After a while I
really became the PC. I wanted to make that deal, I was genuinely
shocked at seeing my wife unconscious, I genuinely wanted to save the
baby. That the game was able to make me feel that way shows it was doing
something right.

But then, after the second section, I stopped playing. Why? Maybe it's
something to do with the 'you die, then restart' gimmick. After spending
all that time in one character, suddenly I'm wrenched out and thrust
into a new one, and I have to go through the whole process of getting to
know them again. And that just seems too tiring. On the face of it, the
PC-changing in this game is not too different from the PC-changing in
Photopia: but in Photopia, the breaks between PCs were cleaner and more
fluid than the ones here, and they happened regularly enough that I
didn't feel disoriented every time the character changed.

Skimming through the walkthrough, it looks like there is a lot of stuff
that I missed in this game, though, so maybe I'll come back to it
sometime.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Emily Short 

TITLE: Prized Possession
AUTHOR: Kathleen M. Fischer
E-MAIL: mfischer5 SP@G aol.com
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Zcode interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/possess/Alys.z5
VERSION: Release 1

Given that I've liked Kathleen's other two major releases, I looked
forward to this one with some eagerness, expecting another lighthearted
and proficient period romance.

Well, this could be considered a period romance, set as it is around a
medieval woman faced with danger, death, disinheritance -- and the
possibility of marriage.

Lighthearted -- no. I found it fairly gloomy, actually. Which would not
in itself be enough to doom the game, but it did drain some of the
entertainment value out of the romance, which was rather vaguely
sketched.

Kathleen has since said that she did not intend Prized Possession to be
a romance per se at all; so I am left to wonder why I considered it a
failed one, rather than a successful something-else. Perhaps it's
audience expectation, but I'd like to hope that I'm clever enough not to
have put Kathleen into a specific niche on the basis of two games. I
think the answer is that I found the primary NPC to be one of the
driving influences of the plot; that most of the other characters were
around for so little time that it was difficult to formulate a sense of
my relationship to them. Where I did formulate such a sense, it was a
sense that conformed to the stereotypical characterizations of the
romance genre: there is, for instance, a character who fits the type of
the Sinister and Ill-Meaning Guardian. All the game's clues seemed to
push me towards the conclusion that that's what he was; I simply
accepted that and went on.

The other problem, from my point of view, is that it's possible to die
or get a very unhappy ending in this game, not once, but over and over,
on almost every turn, by picking the wrong one of two apparently
equivalent options or by failing to do something nonobvious in the nick
of time. I made a valiant effort, but went to the walkthrough and stayed
there after the second scene or so. I never did feel as though I had a
clear handle on what was going on, exactly: who everyone was, what they
intended towards me, what I was trying to accomplish, or even exactly
where I was. The height of my confusion came when I read some line about
the curve of the heroine's belly, and presumed, from this clue, that she
was in fact already pregnant, through some mischance, and that this was
the reason for her apparent disgrace and travails on the road. I
eventually decided that I'd misread or misinterpreted that, but it is
evidence, I think, of how little the game gives the player to work with.
The only aspect of the plot that I felt I really understood was the
shadowy, vague beginnings of a romance with the main NPC. Doubtless this
also affected my idea of what sort of game it was.

Leaving aside all of those considerations, I think the game's choppiness
tells against it in another way. I felt that I had no luxury to explore,
to enjoy the things that one enjoys in IF. I agree that it would've been
a dead bore to experience in full however many days we were on the road,
or whatever, but possibly some happier medium could have been found than
the rapid chapter jumps, which in places occur every couple of moves. It
would be wrong to say that this game was not interactive enough:
compared to something like Rameses, it's full of choices. The only
problem is that most of those choices lead to disaster. I felt impelled
to keep going, because I knew that my PC was in dreadful peril; there
was no time to waste, not even on reading the game text more carefully.
And then came panic and then disaster, or at least a long lifetime in
the local nunnery.

Summary: Railroady is not quite the word I want; the experience was more
reminiscent of a rickety rollercoaster that started and slowed again
unpredictably, and sometimes flung me out of the car entirely.
(Litigation ensues.) Nonetheless, it still has the technical cohesion
and decent writing one expects from a proven author, and if I was
disappointed, it was relative to some high expectations.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Triune
AUTHOR: Papillon
E-MAIL: papillon_hentai SP@G bigfoot.com
DATE: 2001
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware
URL: http://www.geocities.com/amethystphoenix/triune.html
VERSION: Release 2

Triune, by Papillon, begins arrestingly:

   This time, something snapped.

   You've seen the danger signs before: the stains on his shirt, the
   slur of his voice, the smell of his breath, the blood on his fists.
   He needs to hit something, hit it again and again until it breaks.
   When he's like this, he destroys the possessions that cost him the
   most to obtain. Whatever's left that still holds value, still holds
   meaning, still holds his place in this world.

   You are almost all he has left.

   You remember fleeing up the stairs, scrambling awkardly on teenage
   hands and knees in your haste, the thin fabric of your skirt not
   enough to shield you from the incipient carpet burns.

   You ran on bare feet down the hall to the bathroom, locking the door
   behind you, trusting in the spirit of propriety to keep your father
   from following you here, your last refuge.

   Because if he finds you, he's going to kill you.

Okay, wow. We have here a hell of a premise -- not a cheery one, no, but
it's pretty damn compelling. Almost instantly, I cared about the
character and about getting her out of this particular tight spot.
Unfortunately, this particular tight spot wasn't really the focus of the
game; the PC promptly jumps into a fantasy world with lots of stock
stuff like unicorns and castles and princes and stuff, which, initially,
I found disappointing -- if I have a real-life conflict, I want to do
something about it, not just think about something else.

To be fair, however, the fantasy world is more interesting than it
initially appears, and it's also related on many levels to the real
world. Specifically, the violence that appeared to be imminent in the
real world is present, in equally disturbing forms, in the fantasy
world, and some of the responses to the violence parallel (in the long
term, anyway) what the character might do back in the real world. It's
also worth noting that some of the responses are more than a little
violent in their own right -- there's a fight-fire-with-fire aspect to
the puzzle-solving. Still, the abrupt transition at the beginning of the
game sacrificed the game's hook, which is a shame because it was a
fairly good hook.

The gameplay isn't as smooth as it might be. The author entered a
CYOA-style game in the 2000 competition, and while Triune has a fully
equipped parser, I was occasionally reminded of the previous game. The
action has a way of happening in big chunks -- you do something that,
sometimes foreseeably and sometimes not, leads to an important scene,
but the scene flows by without any further chance for interaction,
almost as if I'd chosen menu option 1 and now had no further opportunity
to affect the scene. There's something to be said, of course, for not
giving an illusion of interactivity if you're not going to provide any
freedom; if what's going to happen is going to happen, there's a case to
be made for not taunting the player with the mistaken impression that he
or she can do anything about it. But that just raises the question --
why, in those scenes, are those results so inevitable from an early
point? Can't the point of no return be pushed back? There's also the
larger logical difficulty that the suboptimal endings address only the
endpoints in the fantasy world and make no attempt to resolve the more
immediate crisis in the real world. (Arguably, that's why they're
suboptimal, but the suggestions in the ending texts about why those
aren't the best endings don't cite that as a specific problem.)

Beyond that, the game's logic takes some twists and turns -- you're
likely to figure out before long that fantasy logic doesn't really
apply, but it's not exactly clear what logic does apply. This is partly
the product of the genre-jump; the player knows very well what his or
her motivation in the real world is, but has no idea what he or she is
supposed to be doing in this fantasy world, and to the extent that it's
not "do the usual fantasy things," things are a little bewildering. In
fact, this appears to be deliberate -- twice, you get sent on quests by
folks you meet, and each time completing the quest leads to an ending
which the game clearly considers suboptimal; the clues that you should
deviate from the quest in the precise way called for by the game, while
present, are a little subtle. On a third occasion, a character makes you
an offer, but accepting it leads to another suboptimal ending, so you're
supposed to reject it and solve a puzzle that's hinted at in one room
description (but which, natch, you have no independent reason to solve).
The story that ultimately emerges from all this is thoughtful and at
times powerful, but for me, it emerged mostly because the walkthrough
said to do this or that at certain times, not because of my
understanding of where things were supposed to go.

There are some more gameplay problems. At one point, you're imprisoned,
and you effectively get out of your imprisonment before your captors'
eyes without much of a protest. Lots of characters don't know much about
things that they should know about (or, at least, there's no obvious
reason for their ignorance). One puzzle solution doesn't initially work
but does later, and while there's a reason for the change, it's easy to
miss. Perhaps most importantly, it's largely impossible to put the game
in an unwinnable state, except by wasting a certain resource too soon --
and while resource-wasting is something that most IFers know to avoid,
it's not quite as obviously stupid as throwing possessions over a cliff,
and warnings might have been appropriate.

About that story: it's been called feminist-liberationist and such
things, and while that's not entirely inaccurate, I'm not sure it
captures the spirit. One of the suboptimal endings (and arguably another
as well), after all, is pretty close to a feminist utopia, and yet your
character doesn't seem wholly content. The game does label each of the
suboptimal endings with a female role generally seen as limiting by
feminism, but that just made things all the more puzzling for me, as the
labels didn't seem to fit what had actually happened in two of the three
cases. To be precise, the labels described what your character has
become, but not in an all-encompassing way -- your life as described in
the ending text was far from completely subsumed with/described by the
label, so it didn't seem quite fair to give those paths the conventional
feminist spin: "you live that role to the hilt and feel you're missing
something." That the other suboptimal ending is entirely consistent with
that same conventional feminist spin also suggests that the author
didn't set out to comment on feminism either (i.e., the game didn't seem
to be saying that there's more to these roles than canonical feminism
lets on). To add to the confusion, a few important characters who take
steps that track archetypical feminist liberation have thereby caused a
good deal of damage in the game's world -- is that unfortunate but
necessary, or does it mean that pursuing those goals is destructive, or
something in between (e.g., they pursued legitimate goals in foolish and
destructive ways)? Multiple interpretations are possible; my main
impression was that the game needed to get its theoretical house in
order. I should add, however, that a game with lots of ideas but which
doesn't manage to keep all its ideas straight beats a game with no ideas
every time, in my book, and I did enjoy trying to follow the conceptual
bouncing ball (even if I had to do it through the walkthrough a few
times).

The ending in the comp version elicited some protests; there was a
parser trick of sorts which closely resembled a similar trick from the
1996 competition, but which worked much better the first time. (Mostly
because the nature of the 1996 game in question was sort of silly and
gonzo, and the trick in question, I think, lends itself better to such a
game.) At any rate, the post-comp release changes the ending
significantly, but while it's certainly an improvement, I was still
rather unsatisfied -- not only does the new ending strain credulity a
bit (and assume away a lot of things), but it seems unrelated to
everything that's come before (one flaw that the original ending, if
nothing else, managed to avoid). The point is that, despite my initial
reservations, what went on in the fantasy world ended up being
sufficiently interesting that an ending that seemed divorced from the
rest of game felt anticlimactic, tacked on.

Oddly, this is largely a negative review of a game which I mostly
enjoyed -- it's well written, has some vividly rendered scenes, and some
compelling characters. As often happens, however, its strengths lay in
the ideas below the surface and in the questions it posed, and the game
itself (particularly the implementation) didn't quite live up to those
ideas. Triune could have been better than it was; as it stood, I enjoyed
it enough that I gave it a 7.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Suzanne Britton 

TITLE: Vicious Cycles
AUTHOR: Mark Simon
E-MAIL: marksimo SP@G hotmail.com
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/cycles/cycles.z5
VERSION: Release 1

Sweet. A game that Requires Knowledge Of Past Lives, and gets away with
it! The "gimmick" of Vicious Cycles is a real gem, serving as the
fulcrum for the clever, interlocked puzzles that form the meat of the
game, and deftly flouting the Player's Bill of Rights. There were many
pleasant "aha!" moments, and not a single puzzle that felt tacked-on.

With the addition of excellent writing and competent programming, the
game is well worth a top score. I noticed just a handful of minor bugs
(missing synonyms, illogical defaults, etc.) and no spelling or grammar
errors. I was struck by the sharp, effective precision of the author's
storytelling and mood-setting: very Plotkinesque. I remember
particularly the casual mention of "knuckles whiten(ing) around a hand
grip". Though the story is full of opinionated characters, the narrator
is all "show", no "tell": he gives you the cues and lets you read into
them for yourself.

The boy and girl were a nice extra touch. I liked the fact that you
could talk with the boy, and also that the repair man answered to many
more topics than was necessary for puzzle-solving. Mimesis wore thin
almost nowhere. All in all, this is an impressive offering by a
relatively new name on the IF scene.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

From: Adam Myrow 

TITLE: You Are Here
AUTHOR: Roy Fisher
EMAIL: royhome SP@G powersufr.com
DATE: October 2001
PARSER: Inform Standard
SUPPORTS: any Inform interpreter
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/urhere
     (a directory containing a readme and the game itself.)
VERSION: Release 1

My competition rating: 7

This game is very odd in many respects. First, it is supposed to be a
promotion for a play about an online MUD or multi-user dungeon. Second,
it is actually a fairly complete simulation of a MUD, minus, of course,
real people. This makes sense as a MUD is really nothing more than a
souped up version of a text adventure. Most fall more towards the
role-playing and hack'n'slash types of activities than the storytelling
Interactive Fiction that most readers are accustomed to. So, I suspect
that this and the fact that the game tries to promote a play that few
would have gotten the chance to see, turned a lot of people off and
resulted in the relatively low rating. However, the thing that makes me
rate this game so highly is that I see it as a humorous jab at many of
the well-established traditions of IF. For example, the main quest in
the game is described by your companion as a "gather a bunch of
completely unrelated items Fed-X Quest." I suspect that the author had
played games like Arthur, where the plot fell into such a quest.

That isn't the only real bit of humor to be found. Virtually all the MUD
elements are here. There is a combat system similar to that in Beyond
Zork, except that all the monsters disappear in a cloud of black fog.
It's clear that the author put this in on purpose. You can use MUD-like
commands to list players, and the other NPCs sometimes talk out of
character or whisper so you can't hear them. Since the story is that you
are a guest player, you naturally are prevented from exploring at will,
and this device works well to keep the game small.

In this game, you choose your gender near the beginning by deciding
which armor you will wear. Like most of the Infocom games, this makes
little difference to the plot, but I strongly recommend playing as a
female and hanging around the little girl for awhile. There are some
really great little Easter Eggs when the other characters see you with
her. The remarks from Harrold, the companion you have during the
majority of the game, are a real hoot.

Since I've mostly written about the humor of the game, here is an actual
example. Like any town in an RPG type game, this town has a tavern. The
drinks, however, are unusually bad. This little bit of interaction
contains one of my favorite responses in the whole game.

   >ask bartender for mead
   The dwarf reaches behind him and grabs a seemingly indistinguishable
   bottle from the shelf. "A drink for northern ponces with horns," he
   says, pouring a small quantity into a stein and placing it on the
   counter. "I'll just put it on yer tab fer now."

   >drink mead
   It isn't as nice as you expected. It's made with genuine honey--you
   can tell from the floating bumblebee corpse you fished out from
   between your teeth--but it tastes more muddy than meady. You can't
   for the life of you think of why you'd want another. The stein itself
   disappears, part of a kingdom-wide initiative to "keep our enchanted
   forests clean!"

Well, the game isn't perfect, of course. There are several annoying
bugs. The most well-known and most complained about is the Changeling
bug. Basically, don't mess with the Changeling until you have an idea of
what to do with it. If this creature is attacked too early, the game can
be made unwinnable despite the author's claim to the contrary. Yes, this
is most likely a bug as Harrold makes it clear that this is a magical
creature that shouldn't be able to be killed normally. Another bug is
that typing "fill mug" will result in a string of "***programming
error***" messages. The author forgot to turn off debugging and strict
modes, a common mistake every since they are turned on by default. This
makes cheating possible, but I didn't do it.

There is no walkthrough for this game, but hints are available by
praying at the temple. Other than the bugs, it isn't that difficult and
has an ending that fits with the rest of the game quite nicely.

So, I recommend this game to experienced IF players who have played both
the best and worst of IF and like humor in a fairly easy, relaxing game.

READERS' SCOREBOARD -------------------------------------------------------

The Readers' Scoreboard is an ongoing feature of SPAG. It charts the
scores that SPAG readers and reviewers have given to various IF games
since SPAG started up. The codes in the Notes column give information as
to a game's availability and the platforms on which it runs. For a
translation of these codes and for more detailed information on the
scoreboard's format, see the SPAG FAQ. This FAQ is available at the
ftp.ifarchive.org IF-archive or on the SPAG web page at
http://www.sparkynet.com/spag.

Name                    Avg Sc    Chr     Puz # Sc  Issue Notes:
====                    ======    ===     === ====  ===== ======
1-2-3...                  4.1     0.9     0.5    3     23 F_INF_ARC
9:05                      6.6     0.7     0.5   11     20 F_INF_ARC
Aayela                    7.0     1.0     1.3    6     10 F_TAD_ARC
Abbey                     6.8     0.6     1.4    1     24 S10_I_ARC
Above and Beyond          7.3     1.5     1.6    5     24 F_TAD_ARC
Acid Whiplash             5.2     0.7     0.2    5     17 F_INF_ARC
Acorn Court               6.1     0.5     1.5    2     12 F_INF_ARC
Ad Verbum                 7.4     0.9     1.7    3     23 F_INF_ARC
Adv. of Elizabeth Hig     3.1     0.5     0.3    2      5 F_AGT_ARC
Adventure (all varian     6.4     0.6     1.1   15   8,22 F_INF_TAD_ETC_ARC
Adventureland             4.4     0.5     1.1    6        F_INF_ARC
Adventures of Helpful     7.0     1.3     0.9    2        F_TAD_ARC
Aftermath                 4.0     0.7     0.7    1        F_TAD_ARC
Afternoon Visit           4.1     1.0     0.8    1        F_AGT
Aisle                     6.8     1.4     0.3   10     18 F_INF_ARC
Alien Abduction?          7.5     1.3     1.4    5 10, 26 F_TAD_ARC
All Alone                 8.2     1.3     0.7    2     22 F_TAD_ARC
All Quiet...Library       5.0     0.9     0.9    6      7 F_INF_ARC
All Roads                 8.8     1.6     1.7    1        F_INF_ARC
Amnesia                   6.9     1.5     1.3    4      9 C_AP_I_64
Anchorhead                8.7     1.7     1.5   29     18 F_INF_ARC
And The Waves...          7.9     1.5     1.1    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Another...No Beer         2.4     0.2     0.8    2      4 S10_I_ARC
Arrival                   7.9     1.3     1.4    5     17 F_TAD_ARC
Arthur: Excalibur         8.0     1.3     1.6    44,14,22 C_INF
Asendent                  1.7     0.0     0.3    1        F_INF_ARC
At Wit's End              7.1     1.2     1.3    1     23 F_TAD_ARC
Augmented Fourth          7.9     1.2     1.6    7     22 F_INF_ARC
Aunt Nancy's House        1.3     0.1     0.0    2        F_INF_ARC
Awakened                  7.7     1.7     1.6    1
Awakening                 5.6     0.9     1.1    2  15,18 F_INF_ARC
Awe-Chasm                 3.0     0.7     0.7    2      8 S_I_ST_ARC
Babel                     8.4     1.7     1.3   10     13 F_INF_ARC
Balances                  6.6     0.7     1.2    9      6 F_INF_ARC
Ballyhoo                  7.3     1.5     1.5    6      4 C_INF
Bear's Night Out          7.3     1.1     1.3    7     13 F_INF_ARC
Beat The Devil            5.5     1.2     1.1    4     19 F_INF_ARC
Begegnung am Fluss        5.6     0.8     1.4    1        F_I_ARC
Being Andrew Plotkin      7.5     1.5     1.1    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Best Man                  5.2     0.8     1.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Beyond the Tesseract      5.0     0.8     0.9    2      6 F_I_ARC
Beyond Zork               7.7     1.5     1.7   10  5, 14 C_INF
Big Mama                  5.4     1.2     0.6    3     23 F_INF_ARC
BJ Drifter                6.5     1.2     1.2    5     15 F_INF_ARC
Bliss                     6.3     1.1     0.8    4     20 F_TAD_ARC
Bloodline                 7.7     1.4     1.1    2     15 F_INF_ARC
Border Zone               7.2     1.4     1.4    7      4 C_INF
Breakers                  7.5     1.5     1.1    1        C_I_AP_M_64_S
Break-In                  6.1     1.1     1.4    3     21 F_INF_ARC
Breaking The Code         0.4     0.0     0.0    2        F_INF_ARC
Brimstone: The Dream.     6.5     1.4     1.1    1        C_I_AP_M_64_S
Broken String             3.9     0.7     0.4    4        F_TADS_ARC
BSE                       5.7     0.9     1.0    3        F_INF_ARC
Bureaucracy               6.9     1.5     1.4   12      5 C_INF
Busted                    5.1     1.1     0.9    2     25 F_INF_ARC
Calliope                  4.7     0.9     0.8    3        F_INF_ARC
Carma                     8.0     1.9     1.2    1        F_GLU_ARC
Cask                      1.5     0.0     0.5    2        F_INF_ARC
Castaway                  1.1     0.0     0.4    1      5 F_I_ARC
Castle Amnos              4.6     1.0     0.8    2        F_INF_ARC
Castle Elsinore           4.3     0.7     1.0    2        I_ARC
Cattus Atrox              4.9     1.2     0.8    1     17 F_INF_ARC
Cave of Morpheus          5.4     1.3     1.0    1        F_ADR_ARC
CC                        4.2     0.4     1.0    1        F_ALAN_ARC
Change in the Weather     7.5     1.0     1.3   14 7,8,14 F_INF_ARC
Chaos                     5.6     1.3     1.1    2        F_TAD_ARC
Chicken under Window      6.6     0.8     0.3    4        F_INF_ARC
Chicks Dig Jerks          5.2     1.1     0.7    9     19 F_INF_ARC
Chico and I Ran           7.2     1.7     1.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Christminster             8.3     1.6     1.6   21     20 F_INF_ARC
Circus                    3.4     0.5     0.8    1
City                      6.1     0.6     1.3    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Clock                     3.7     0.8     0.6    1        F_TAD_ARC
Coke Is It!               5.6     1.0     0.9    3        F_INF_ARC
Coming Home               0.6     0.1     0.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Common Ground             7.1     1.6     0.3    3     20 F_TAD_ARC
Commute                   1.3     0.2     0.1    1        F_I_ARC
Comp00ter Game            0.9     0.1     0.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Congratulations!          2.6     0.7     0.3    1        F_INF_ARC
Corruption                7.2     1.6     1.0    4 14, 21 C_MAG
Cosmoserve                7.8     1.4     1.4    5      5 F_AGT_ARC
Cove                      6.5     0.8     0.7    4     22 F_INF_ARC
Crimson Spring            6.9     1.5     1.2    1        F_HUG_ARC
Crypt v2.0                5.0     1.0     1.5    1      3 S12_IBM_ARC
Curses                    8.0     1.2     1.7   20  2, 22 F_INF_ARC
Cutthroats                5.7     1.3     1.1    9      1 C_INF
Dampcamp                  5.0     0.8     1.1    3        F_TAD_ARC
Danger! Adventurer...     3.2     0.3     0.7    1        F_INF_ARC
Dangerous Curves          8.6     1.5     1.6    1     24 F_INF_ARC
Day For Soft Food         6.8     1.0     1.3    5     19 F_INF_ARC
Deadline                  6.9     1.3     1.3    9     20 C_INF
Death To My Enemies       4.4     0.9     0.7    4        F_INF_ARC
Deep Space Drifter        5.6     0.4     1.1    3      3 S15_TAD_ARC
Deephome                  4.0     0.5     0.9    2     21 F_INF_ARC
Degeneracy                8.7     1.5     1.3    1     25 F_INF_ARC
Delusions                 7.9     1.5     1.5    5      14F_INF_ARC
Demon's Tomb              7.4     1.2     1.1    2      9 C_I
Desert Heat               6.0     1.3     0.7    1     23 F_TAD_ARC
Detective                 1.0     0.0     0.0    9 4,5,18 F_AGT_INF_ARC
Detective-MST3K           6.0     1.2     0.2   10 7,8,18 F_INF_ARC
Dinner With Andre         7.2     1.6     1.4    1     23 F_INF_ARC
Ditch Day Drifter         6.3     0.9     1.6    5      2 F_TAD_ARC
Djinni Chronicles         7.1     1.1     1.1    3     23 F_INF_ARC
Down                      6.0     1.0     1.2    1     14 F_HUG_ARC
Downtown Tokyo            6.1     0.9     1.0    6     17 F_INF_ARC
Dragon Hunt               5.4     0.5     0.5    1        F_HUG_ARC
Dungeon                   6.2     1.0     1.6    3        F_ARC
Dungeon Adventure         6.8     1.3     1.6    1      4 F_ETC
Dungeon of Dunjin         6.0     0.7     1.5    5  3, 14 S20_IBM_MAC_ARC
Edifice                   8.0     1.4     1.8   10     13 F_INF_ARC
Electrabot                0.7     0.0     0.0    1      5 F_AGT_ARC
E-Mailbox                 3.1     0.1     0.2    2        F_AGT_ARC
Emy Discovers Life        5.0     1.1     0.8    3        F_AGT
Enchanter                 7.3     1.1     1.5   10   2,15 C_INF
End Means Escape          6.1     1.4     1.1    1     23 F_TAD_ARC
Enhanced                  5.0     1.0     1.3    2      2 S10_TAD_ARC
Enlightenment             6.5     1.1     1.5    3     17 F_INF_ARC
Erehwon                   6.2     1.2     1.5    4     19 F_TAD_ARC
Eric the Unready          7.4     1.4     1.4    6        C_I
Essex                     5.7     1.2     0.9    1        C_I_AP_M_64_ST
Everybody Loves a Par     7.0     1.2     1.2    3     12 F_TAD_ARC
Exhibition                6.2     1.4     0.3    6     19 F_TAD_ARC
Fable                     2.0     0.1     0.1    3      6 F_AGT_ARC
Fable-MST3K               4.0     0.5     0.2    4        F_AGT_INF_ARC
FailSafe                  7.5     1.0     1.0    1  24,25 F_INF_ARC
Fear                      6.3     1.2     1.3    3 10, 24 F_INF_ARC
Fifteen                   1.5     0.5     0.4    1     17 F_INF_ARC
Firebird                  7.1     1.5     1.3    4     15 F_TAD_ARC
Fish                      7.5     1.3     1.7    4 12, 14 C_MAG
Foggywood Hijinx          6.2     1.2     1.3    3     21 F_TAD_ARC
Foom                      6.6     1.0     1.0    1        F_TAD_ARC
For A Change              8.0     0.9     1.3    6 19, 22 F_INF_ARC
Forbidden Castle          4.8     0.6     0.5    1        C_AP
Four In One               4.4     1.2     0.5    2        F_TAD_ARC
Four Seconds              6.0     1.2     1.1    2        F_TAD_ARC
Frenetic Five             5.3     1.4     0.5    3     13 F_TAD_ARC
Frenetic Five 2           6.6     1.5     1.0    3 21, 22 F_TAD_ARC
Friday Afternoon          6.3     1.4     1.2    1     13 F_INF_ARC
Frobozz Magic Support     7.2     1.2     1.5    3        F_TAD_ARC
Frozen                    5.5     0.7     1.3    1        F_INF_ARC
Fusillade                 7.1     1.5     0.3    1        F_TAD_ARC
Frustration               5.7     1.1     0.9    1     21 F_TAD_ARC
Futz Mutz                 5.3     1.0     1.1    1        F_TAD_ARC
Galatea                   7.4     1.8     0.9    5     22 F_INF_ARC
Gateway                   8.6     1.4     1.8    7     11 C_I
Gateway 2: Homeworld      9.0     1.7     1.9    6     24 C_I
Gerbil Riot of '67        6.3     0.7     1.1    1        F_TAD_ARC
Glowgrass                 6.9     1.3     1.3    5     13 F_INF_ARC
Gnome Ranger              5.8     1.2     1.6    1        C_I
Golden Fleece             6.0     1.0     1.1    1     21 F_TAD_ARC
Golden Wombat of Dest     6.3     0.7     1.1    1     18 F_I_ARC
Good Breakfast            4.9     0.9     1.2    2     14 F_INF_ARC
Got ID?                   6.2     1.4     1.0    1        F_INF_ARC
Great Archeolog. Race     6.5     1.0     1.5    1      3 S20_TAD_ARC
Guardians of Infinity     8.5             1.3    1      9 C_I
Guess The Verb!           6.5     1.2     1.4    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Guild of Thieves          6.9     1.2     1.5    4     14 C_MAG
Guilty Bastards           6.9     1.4     1.2    5     22 F_HUG_ARC
Guitar...Immortal Bar     3.0     0.0     0.0    1        F_INF_ARC
Gumshoe                   6.2     1.0     1.1    7      9 F_INF_ARC
Halothane                 6.6     1.3     1.2    4     19 F_INF_ARC
Happy Ever After          4.6     0.5     1.2    1        F_INF_ARC
HeBGB Horror              5.7     0.9     1.1    2        F_ALAN_ARC
Heist                     6.7     1.4     1.5    2        F_INF_ARC
Hero, Inc.                6.8     1.0     1.5    2        F_TAD_ARC
Heroes                    7.9     1.8     1.6    1        F_INF_ARC
Hitchhiker's Guide        7.3     1.3     1.5   16      5 C_INF
Hobbit - The True Sto     5.9     1.1     0.8    1     26 S10_I_ARC
Hollywood Hijinx          6.3     0.9     1.5   12        C_INF
Holy Grail                6.2     0.9     1.2    1     21 F_TAD_ARC
Horror of Rylvania        7.2     1.4     1.4    5      1 F_TAD_ARC
Horror30.zip              3.7     0.3     0.7    2      3 S20_I_ARC
Human Resources Stori     0.9     0.0     0.1    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Humbug                    7.4     1.6     1.3    4 11, 24 F_I_ARC
Hunter, In Darkness       7.3     0.9     1.4    7     19 F_INF_ARC
I didn't know...yodel     4.0     0.7     1.0    5     17 F_I_ARC
I-0: Jailbait on Inte     7.7     1.5     1.2   20     20 F_INF_ARC
Ice Princess              7.5     1.4     1.6    2        A_INF_ARC
In The End                4.8     0.6     0.2    3     10 F_INF_ARC
In The Spotlight          3.2     0.2     1.0    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Infidel                   6.9     0.2     1.4   15      1 C_INF
Infil-Traitor             2.9     0.1     0.7    1        F_I_ARC
Informatory               5.5     0.5     1.3    1     17 F_INF_ARC
Ingrid's Back             7.0     1.6     1.6    2        C_I
Inheritance               5.0     0.3     1.0    3     20 F_TAD_ARC
Inhumane                  4.4     0.3     0.9    4  9, 20 F_INF_ARC
Intruder                  6.7     1.3     1.1    4     20 F_INF_ARC
Invasion of... Jupite     1.9     0.3     0.6    1        F_I_ARC
Jacaranda Jim             7.5     1.0     0.9    3     24 F_ARC
Jacks...Aces To Win       7.1     1.3     1.2    3     19 F_INF_ARC
Jarod's Journey           2.5     0.5     0.3    1        F_TAD_ARC
Jewel of Knowledge        6.3     1.2     1.1    3     18 F_INF_ARC
Jeweled Arena             7.0     1.4     1.3    2        AGT_ARC
Jigsaw                    8.2     1.6     1.6   19    8,9 F_INF_ARC
Jinxter                   6.1     0.9     1.3    3        C_MAG
John's Fire Witch         6.5     1.0     1.5    9  4, 12 S6_TADS_ARC
Jouney Into Xanth         5.0     1.3     1.2    1      8 F_AGT_ARC
Journey                   7.2     1.5     1.3    5      5 C_INF
Jump                      3.2     0.5     0.7    1        F_INF_ARC
Kaged                     6.8     1.0     1.0    3 23, 25 F_INF_ARC
King Arthur's Night O     5.9     0.9     1.0    4     19 F_ALAN_ARC
Kissing the Buddha's      7.9     1.8     1.5    6     10 F_TAD_ARC
Klaustrophobia            6.4     1.1     1.3    6      1 S15_AGT_ARC
Knight Orc                7.2     1.4     1.1    2     15 C_I
L.U.D.I.T.E.              2.7     0.2     0.1    4        F_INF_ARC
Lancelot                  6.9     1.4     1.2    1        C_I
Land Beyond Picket Fe     4.8     1.2     1.2    1     10 F_I_ARC
LASH                      7.6     1.3     1.0    5     21 F_INF_ARC
Leather Goddesses         7.2     1.3     1.5   12      4 C_INF
Leaves                    3.4     0.2     0.8    1     14 F_ALAN_ARC
Legend Lives!             8.2     1.2     1.4    4      5 F_TAD_ARC
Lesson of the Tortois     6.9     1.3     1.4    5     14 F_TAD_ARC
Lethe Flow Phoenix        6.9     1.4     1.5    5      9 F_TAD_ARC
Letters From Home         7.0     0.6     1.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Life on Beal Street       5.4     1.3     0.1    3        F_TAD_ARC
Light: Shelby's Adden     7.5     1.5     1.3    6      9 S_TAD_ARC
Lightiania                1.9     0.2     0.4    1        F_INF_ARC
Lists and Lists           6.3     1.3     1.1    3     10 F_INF_ARC
Little Billy              1.1     0.4     0.0    1        F_I_ARC
Little Blue Men           8.2     1.4     1.5   10     17 F_INF_ARC
Lomalow                   4.6     1.0     0.6    3     19 F_INF_ARC
Losing Your Grip          8.5     1.4     1.4    6      14S20_TAD_ARC
Lost New York             7.9     1.4     1.4    4 20, 26 S12_TAD_ARC
Lost Spellmaker           6.3     1.3     1.1    5     13 F_INF_ARC
Lunatix: Insanity Cir     5.6     1.2     1.0    3        F_I_ARC
Lurking Horror            7.2     1.3     1.4   16    1,3 C_INF
MacWesleyan / PC Univ     5.1     0.7     1.2    3        F_TAD_ARC
Madame L'Estrange...      5.1     1.2     0.7    1     13 F_INF_ARC
Magic Toyshop             5.2     1.1     1.1    5      7 F_INF_ARC
Magic.zip                 4.5     0.5     0.5    1      3 S20_IBM_ARC
Maiden of the Moonlig     6.4     1.3     1.5    2     10 F_TAD_ARC
Masque of the Last...     4.7     1.1     0.8    1        F_INF_ARC
Masquerade                7.3     1.6     1.0    1     23 F_INF_ARC
Matter of Time            1.4     0.3     1.4    1      14F_ALAN_ARC
Mercy                     7.3     1.4     1.2    6     12 F_INF_ARC
Metamorphoses             8.7     1.3     1.6    1     23 F_INF_ARC
Meteor...Sherbet          8.0     1.5     1.6    9 10, 12 F_INF_ARC
Mind Electric             5.2     0.6     0.9    4    7,8 F_INF_ARC
Mind Forever Voyaging     8.4     1.4     1.0   14   5,15 C_INF
Mindwheel                 8.5     1.6     1.5    1        C_I
Mission                   6.0     1.2     1.4    1     21 F_TAD_ARC
Moist                     6.4     1.3     1.1    5        F_TAD_ARC
Moment of Hope            5.0     1.3     0.3    3     19 F_TAD_ARC
Moonmist                  6.2     1.3     1.0   16      1 C_INF
Mop & Murder              5.0     0.9     1.0    2      5 F_AGT_ARC
Mother Loose              7.0     1.5     1.3    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Mulldoon Legacy           7.4     1.2     1.8    1     24 F_INF_ARC
Multidimen. Thief         5.6     0.5     1.3    6    2,9 S15_AGT_ARC
Muse                      7.9     1.5     1.2    4     17 F_INF_ARC
Music Education           3.7     1.0     0.7    3        F_INF_ARC
My Angel                  8.2     1.8     1.4    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Myopia                    6.1     1.3     0.6    2        F_AGT_ARC
Mystery House             4.1     0.3     0.7    1        F_AP_ARC
Nevermore                 7.2     1.5     1.4    1     23 F_INF_ARC
New Day                   6.6     1.4     1.1    4     13 F_INF_ARC
Night At Computer Cen     5.2     1.0     1.0    2        F_INF_ARC
Night at Museum Forev     4.2     0.3     1.0    4    7,8 F_TAD_ARC
Night of... Bunnies       6.6     1.0     1.4    1        I_INF_ARC
No Time To Squeal         8.6     1.6     1.5    1        F_TAD_ARC
Nord and Bert             6.1     0.6     1.2    9      4 C_INF
Not Just A Game           6.9     1.0     1.3    1     20 F_INF_ARC
Not Just... Ballerina     5.3     0.8     0.9    3     20 F_INF_ARC
Obscene...Aardvarkbar     3.2     0.6     0.6    1        F_TAD_ARC
Odieus...Flingshot        3.3     0.4     0.7    2      5 F_INF_ARC
Of Forms Unknown          4.5     0.7     0.5    1     10 F_INF_ARC
Offensive Probing         4.2     0.6     0.9    1        F_INF_ARC
On The Farm               6.5     1.6     1.2    2     19 F_TAD_ARC
On The Other Side         2.2     0.0     0.0    1        F_I_ARC
Once and Future           6.9     1.6     1.5    2     16 F_TAD_ARC
One That Got Away         6.4     1.4     1.1    7    7,8 F_TAD_ARC
Only After Dark           4.6     0.8     0.6    4        F_INF_ARC
Oo-Topos                  5.7     0.2     1.0    1      9 C_AP_I_64
Outsided                  2.5     0.7     0.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Pass the Banana           2.9     0.8     0.5    3     19 F_INF_ARC
Path to Fortune           6.6     1.5     0.9    3      9 S_INF_ARC
Pawn                      6.3     1.1     1.3    2     12 C_MAG
Perilous Magic            5.7     1.0     1.2    3     21 F_INF_ARC
Perseus & Andromeda       3.5     0.4     0.9    2        64_INF_ARC
Persistence of Memory     6.2     1.2     1.1    1     17 F_HUG_ARC
Phlegm                    5.2     1.2     1.0    2     10 F_INF_ARC
Photopia                  7.4     1.5     0.6   28     17 F_INF_ARC
Phred Phontious...Piz     5.2     0.9     1.3    2     13 F_INF_ARC
Pickpocket                4.1     0.6     0.8    1        F_INF_ARC
Piece of Mind             6.3     1.3     1.4    1     10 F_INF_ARC
Pintown                   1.3     0.3     0.2    1        F_INF_ARC
Pirate's Cove             4.8     0.6     0.6    1        F_INF_ARC
Planet of Infinite Mi     6.8     1.1     1.3    1     23 F_TAD_ARC
Planetfall                7.4     1.6     1.4   14      4 C_INF
Plant                     7.3     1.2     1.5    4     17 F_TAD_ARC
Plundered Hearts          7.4     1.4     1.3   11      4 C_INF
Poor Zefron's Almanac     5.6     1.0     1.3    3     13 F_TAD_ARC
Portal                    8.0     1.7     0.2    3        C_I_A_AP_64
Prodly The Puffin         5.8     1.3     1.1    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Punk Points               6.4     1.4     1.3    1        F_INF_ARC
Purple                    5.6     0.9     1.0    1     17 F_INF_ARC
Pyramids of Mars          5.8     1.2     1.1    2     24 AGT_ARC
Quarterstaff              6.1     1.3     0.6    1      9 C_M
Ralph                     7.1     1.6     1.2    3 10, 25 F_INF_ARC
Rameses                   8.0     1.6     0.4    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Rematch                   7.9     1.5     1.6    1     22 F_TAD_ARC
Remembrance               2.7     0.8     0.2    3        F_ARC
Reruns                    5.2     1.2     1.2    1        AGT_ARC
Research Dig              4.8     1.1     0.8    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Revenger                  4.2     0.8     0.5    1        F_INF_ARC
Reverberations            5.6     1.3     1.1    1     10 F_INF_ARC
Ritual of Purificatio     7.0     1.6     1.1    4     17 F_ARC
Saied                     4.6     1.0     0.2    1     15 F_INF_ARC
Sanity Claus              7.5     0.3     0.6    2      1 S10_AGT_ARC
Save Princeton            5.6     1.0     1.3    5      8 S10_TAD_ARC
Scapeghost                8.1     1.7     1.5    1      6 C_I
Sea Of Night              5.7     1.3     1.1    2        F_TAD_ARC
Seastalker                5.2     1.1     0.8   11      4 C_INF
Shade                     8.5     0.7     1.0    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Shades of Grey            7.8     1.3     1.3    6   2, 8 F_AGT_ARC
Sherlock                  7.0     1.3     1.4    5      4 C_INF
She's Got a Thing...S     7.0     1.7     1.6    3     13 F_INF_ARC
Shogun                    7.0     1.2     0.6    2      4 C_INF
Shrapnel                  7.5     1.4     0.5    7     20 F_INF_ARC
Simple Theft              5.8     1.3     0.8    1     20 F_TAD_ARC
Sins against Mimesis      5.5     1.0     1.2    3     13 F_INF_ARC
Sir Ramic... Gorilla      6.0     1.2     1.2    2      6 F_AGT_ARC
Six Stories               6.3     1.0     1.2    4     19 F_TAD_ARC
Skyranch                  2.8     0.5     0.7    1     20 F_I_ARC
Small World               6.2     1.3     1.1    3 10, 24 F_TAD_ARC
So Far                    8.0     1.1     1.4   13 12, 25 F_INF_ARC
Sorcerer                  7.2     0.6     1.6    7   2,15 C_INF
Sound of... Clapping      7.1     1.3     1.3    8      5 F_ADVSYS_ARC
South American Trek       0.9     0.2     0.5    1      5 F_IBM_ARC
Space Aliens...Cardig     1.5     0.4     0.3    6   3, 4 S60_AGT_ARC
Space under Window        7.1     0.9     0.4    6     12 F_INF_ARC
Spacestation              5.6     0.7     1.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Spellbreaker              8.5     1.2     1.8    8   2,15 C_INF
Spellcasting 101          7.4     1.1     1.5    4        C_I
Spellcasting 201          7.8     1.6     1.7    2        C_I
Spellcasting 301          6.0     1.2     1.2    2        C_I
Spider and Web            8.6     1.7     1.7   19      14F_INF_ARC
SpiritWrak                6.7     1.2     1.3    6     22 F_INF_ARC
Spodgeville...Wossnam     4.3     0.7     1.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Spur                      7.1     1.3     1.1    2      9 F_HUG_ARC
Spyder and Jeb            6.2     1.1     1.4    1        F_TAD_ARC
Starcross                 6.6     1.0     1.2    7      1 C_INF
Stargazer                 5.4     1.1     1.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Starrider                 7.2     1.2     1.4    1        F_INF_ARC
Stationfall               7.7     1.6     1.5    7      5 C_INF
Statuette                 3.7     0.0     0.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Stick It To The Man       6.2     1.8     1.0    1        F_GLU_ARC
Stiffy                    1.2     0.1     0.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Stiffy - MiSTing          4.1     0.8     0.3    7        F_INF_ARC
Stone Cell                6.0     1.1     1.0    3     19 F_TAD_ARC
Stranded                  6.4     1.4     1.5    1        F_TAD_ARC
Strange Odyssey           4.0     0.0     1.0    1
Strangers In The Nigh     3.2     0.7     0.6    2        F_TAD_ARC
Stupid Kittens            2.9     0.6     0.4    2        F_INF_ARC
Sunset Over Savannah      8.7     1.7     1.4    6     13 F_TAD_ARC
Suspect                   6.2     1.3     1.1    8      4 C_INF
Suspended                 7.7     1.5     1.4    8      8 C_INF
Sylenius Mysterium        4.7     1.2     1.1    1     13 F_INF_ARC
Symetry                   1.1     0.1     0.1    2        F_INF_ARC
Tapestry                  7.1     1.4     0.9    5 10, 14 F_INF_ARC
Tempest                   5.3     1.4     0.6    3     13 F_INF_ARC
Temple of the Orc Mag     4.5     0.1     0.8    2        F_TAD_ARC
Terror of Mecha Godzi     4.6     0.8     0.6    1     26 S10_I_ARC
Test                      1.9     0.1     0.4    1        F_ADR_ARC
Textfire Golf             7.1     1.3     0.4    2     25 F_INF_ARC
Theatre                   7.0     1.1     1.3   13      6 F_INF_ARC
Thorfinn's Realm          3.5     0.5     0.7    2        F_INF_ARC
Threading the Labyrin     1.9     0.0     0.0    1        F_TAD_ARC
Time: All Things...       3.9     1.2     0.9    2 11, 12 F_INF_ARC
TimeQuest                 8.0     1.2     1.6    4        C_I
TimeSquared               4.3     1.1     1.1    1        F_AGT_ARC
Toonesia                  5.8     1.1     1.1    6  7, 21 F_TAD_ARC
Tossed into Space         3.9     0.2     0.6    1      4 F_AGT_ARC
Town Dragon               3.9     0.8     0.3    2 14, 22 F_INF_ARC
Transfer                  7.6     1.0     1.6    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Trapped...Dilly           5.1     0.1     1.1    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Travels in Land of Er     6.1     1.2     1.5    2     14 F_INF_ARC
Trinity                   8.7     1.4     1.7   18    1,2 C_INF
Trip                      5.4     1.2     1.1    2        F_TAD_ARC
Tryst of Fate             7.1     1.4     1.3    1     11 F_INF_ARC
Tube Trouble              4.2     0.8     0.7    2      8 F_INF_ARC
Tyler's Great Cube Ga     5.8     0.0     1.7    1        S_TAD_ARC
Uncle Zebulon's Will      7.3     1.0     1.5   12      8 F_TAD_ARC
Underoos That Ate NY      4.5     0.6     0.9    3        F_TAD_INF_ARC
Undertow                  5.4     1.3     0.9    3      8 F_TAD_ARC
Undo                      2.9     0.5     0.7    4      7 F_TAD_ARC
Unholy Grail              6.0     1.2     1.2    1     13 F_I_ARC
Unnkulian One-Half        6.7     1.2     1.5    9      1 F_TAD_ARC
Unnkulian Unventure 1     6.9     1.2     1.5    8    1,2 F_TAD_ARC
Unnkulian Unventure 2     7.2     1.2     1.5    5      1 F_TAD_ARC
Unnkulian Zero            8.4     0.7     0.8    21,12,14 F_TAD_ARC
Varicella                 8.2     1.6     1.5    9     18 F_INF_ARC
Veritas                   6.6     1.3     1.4    4        S10_TAD_ARC
Vindaloo                  2.9     0.0     0.4    1        F_INF_ARC
VirtuaTech                6.1     0.0     1.2    1        F_TAD_ARC
VOID: Corporation         3.2     0.4     0.8    1        F_AGT_ARC
Water Bird                5.0     1.1     0.8    1        F_TAD_ARC
Waystation                5.5     0.7     1.0    4      9 F_TAD_ARC
Weapon                    6.8     1.1     1.4    1     26 F_INF_ARC
Wearing the Claw          6.5     1.2     1.2    7 10, 18 F_INF_ARC
Wedding                   7.4     1.6     1.3    3     12 F_INF_ARC
What-IF?                  1.6     0.0     0.0    2        F_INF_ARC
Where Evil Dwells         5.1     0.8     1.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Winchester's Nightmar     6.9     1.5     0.5    1     22 F_INF_ARC
Winter Wonderland         7.6     1.3     1.2    7     19 F_INF_ARC
Wishbringer               7.6     1.3     1.3   16    5,6 C_INF
Withdrawal Symptoms       4.4     0.5     0.7    1        F_INF_ARC
Witness                   6.7     1.5     1.2   10  1,3,9 C_INF
Wizard of Akyrz           3.2     0.3     0.8    1
Wonderland                6.4     1.4     1.1    3        C_MAG
World                     6.5     0.6     1.3    2      4 F_I_ETC_ARC
Worlds Apart              7.8     1.7     1.4    9     21 F_TAD_ARC
YAGWAD                    6.7     1.1     1.3    2     23 F_INF_ARC
You Are Here              6.0     1.0     1.3    1        F_INF_ARC
Your Choice               5.5     0.0     1.1    1        F_TAD_ARC
Zanfar                    2.6     0.2     0.4    1      8 F_AGT_ARC
Zero Sum Game             7.2     1.5     1.5    3     13 F_INF_ARC
Zombie!                   5.2     1.2     1.1    2     13 F_TAD_ARC
Zork 0                    6.3     1.0     1.5   10      14C_INF
Zork 1                    6.1     0.8     1.4   24  1, 12 C_INF
Zork 2                    6.4     1.0     1.5   13  1, 12 C_INF
Zork 3                    6.5     0.9     1.4    8  1, 12 C_INF
Zork Undisc. Undergr.     5.9     0.9     1.1    3      14F_INF_ARC
Zork: A Troll's Eye V     4.4     0.6     0.1    3     14 F_INF_ARC
Zuni Doll                 4.0     0.6     0.9    2     14 F_INF_ARC

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The Top Ten:

A game is not eligible for the Top Ten unless it has received at least 
three ratings from different readers. This is to ensure a more 
democratic and accurate depiction of the best games.

Like a dinosaur facing an oncoming Ice Age, the SPAG Scoreboard is
growing slow and torpid. I received 33 votes since the last issue, and
they have been duly included. Movement in the Top Ten is just barely
perceptible, with Anchorhead rising two spots (to regain its spot of two
issues ago) and everything else remaining stable.

1.  Gateway 2: Homeworld  9.0   6 votes
2.  Anchorhead            8.7   29 votes
3.  Sunset over Savannah  8.7   6 votes
4.  Trinity               8.7   18 votes
5.  Spider and Web        8.6   19 votes
6.  Gateway               8.6   7 votes
7.  Losing Your Grip      8.5   6 votes
8.  Spellbreaker          8.5   8 votes
9.  Babel                 8.4   10 votes
10. Mind Forever Voyaging 8.4   14 votes

As always, please remember that the scoreboard is only as good as the
contributions it receives. To make your mark on this vast morass of
statistics, rate some games on our website
(http://www.sparkynet.com/spag). You can also, if you like, send ratings
directly to me at obrian SP@G colorado.edu. Instructions for how the rating
system works are in the SPAG FAQ, available from the IF Archive and from
our website. Please read the FAQ before submitting scores, so that you
understand how the scoring system works. After that, submit away!

SUBMISSION POLICY ---------------------------------------------------------

SPAG is a non-paying fanzine specializing in reviews of text adventure
games, a.k.a. Interactive Fiction. This includes the classic Infocom
games and similar games, but also some graphic adventures where the
primary player-game communication is text based. Any and all text-based
games are eligible for review, though if a game has been reviewed three
times in SPAG, no further reviews of it will be accepted unless they are
extraordinarily original and/or insightful. SPAG reviews should be free
of spoilers.

Authors retain the rights to use their reviews in other contexts. We
accept submissions that have been previously published elsewhere,
although original reviews are preferred.

For a more detailed version of this policy, see the SPAG FAQ at
http://www.sparkynet.com/spag/spag.faq.

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