___. .___ _ ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. .\ \ | | | o | | | | The |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of |_|_|dventure \___|ames. ISSUE #40 Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G colorado.edu) April 12, 2005 SPAG Website: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag SPAG #40 is copyright (c) 2005 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 ---------------------------------------------------- The SPAG Interview: International IF Special * Roberto Grassi of the Italian IF community * Ruben "Urbatain" Nieto of the Spanish IF community REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------- The Golden French Fry Isle Of The Cult Paint!!! Reefer Island EDITORIAL------------------------------------------------------------------ Usually, when it comes time to write this editorial, I look around at what's happening in the world of IF, and try to come up a coherent thought or two about some aspect of it. This time, I'm really not too sure what's happening in IF, because my real life has simply swept me away. Not only has it been extremely busy time at my job, but my wife is seven months pregnant with our first child, and my home life seems to have turned into one long string of baby prep. Consequently, I lift my head and suddenly it's not even March anymore, making me almost a full month late on when I'd planned to have this issue hit the digital streets. What's worse, it's an issue with some really cool stuff in it, including interviews with members of the Spanish and Italian IF communities, and here I am just sitting on it. Sorry about that, folks. Coherent thought doesn't really seem to be an option for me this time around, so let me just get this issue out the door before another month escapes my grasp. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR------------------------------------------------------ From: Iwan Roberts
I’m part of the Gumshoe Online development team and I’d like to tell your readers about the title. Gumshoe Online is a private detective game set in the crime ridden streets of 1930’s America. The player must use all their powers of deduction to crack the case and prove they are the greatest online detective. I should start by saying that Gumshoe Online is a graphical point and click adventure, and I know that SPAG is primarily an interactive fiction/text adventure zine, but in many respects Gumshoe Online is closer to the text adventure genre than many of the PC or console titles that are now considered to be adventure games. Gumshoe Online’s gameplay is the classic adventure game mix of exploration, puzzle solving and conversations. The game can be found at http://www.gumshoe-online.com. [Thanks, Iwan. I've checked out the site, and it looks pretty interesting. Good luck with the game! --Paul] NEWS ---------------------------------------------------------------------- AND THE XYZZY GOES TO... Another year of XYZZY Awards has come and gone, and another batch of awards has been delivered to a host of deserving authors. The ceremony was perhaps a touch more subdued, but still full of the typical brilliant madness. The games glittered, the wit sparkled, and so on. Here are the official winners of the 2004 XYZZY Awards: * Best Use of Medium: The Dreamhold, by Andrew Plotkin * Best Individual PC: Julia, from Sting of the Wasp, by Jason Devlin * Best Individual NPC: Audrey, from Necrotic Drift, by Robb Sherwin * Best Individual Puzzle: The time puzzle, from All Things Devours, by half sick of shadows * Best NPCs: Sting of the Wasp, by Jason Devlin * Best Puzzles: The Dreamhold, by Andrew Plotkin * Best Setting: The Fire Tower, by Jacqueline A. Lott * Best Story: Blue Chairs, by Chris Klimas * Best Writing: Blue Chairs, by Chris Klimas * Best Game: Blue Chairs, by Chris Klimas NEW GAMES The games that have been released this spring are a surprising and varied bouquet. They range from a mad interactive play written in 24 hours (kind of a slightly less speedy SpeedIF) to an enhanced version of "Hunt The Wumpus" to a tiny little 2K science fiction adventure to a dark, literary CYOA story. Not only that, six new games were just released under the auspices of the Spring Thing, being held this year by Greg Boettcher, who has taken up the mantle from Adam Cadre. So get out there and start playing some games! (Then send me reviews of them!) * Within A Wreath of Dewdrops by Alphonse de L'Entaille * Wumpus 2000 by Muffy St. Bernard * Lost Kingdom by Jon Ripley * The Great Machine: A Fragment by Jonas Kyratzes * Spring Thing games by various authors I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY IF has been getting some very nice press lately. It started with a column in the New York Times business section about Peter Nepstad's epic game 1893: A World's Fair Mystery. (Which, by the way, has still not been reviewed in SPAG. C'mon, somebody help me keep up with the Gray Lady!) Not too long afterwards, The National Post (which is apparently Canada's answer to USA Today) featured a nifty little article about the IF community, including sound bites from Scott Adams, Stephen Granade, and yours truly. The Times piece is only available via purchase now, and because of the delays in getting this issue out, the Post piece is no longer online either. However, there is a copy of it archived on Google Groups at: http://groups-beta.google.com/group/rec.games.int-fiction/msg/7892daf66fb15fc1 EVERYBODY'S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT FOR ME AND MY WIKI David Cornelson and David Welbourn's latest contribution to the IF community is the wonderful IF Wiki at http://www.ifwiki.org. This site contains loads of useful information about the people, events, and creations of the IF community, and because it's a Wiki, you can make your own contribution to it. For a brand new site, it's got a terrific wealth of information -- I highly recommend the current events page. ROLL UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY HOUSE In 1980 Ken and Roberta Williams (through their company, On-Line Systems, soon to become Sierra On-Line) released Mystery House, the first text-and-graphics interactive fiction game. In 1987, Sierra released Mystery House into the public domain. Now, a cadre (sorry) of authors has moved into the Mystery House and taken it over, each refashioning the game to a new purpose. They call themselves the Mystery House Taken Over Occupation Force, and they make their headquarters at http://turbulence.org/Works/mystery/. The Force includes such IF notables as Adam Cadre, Nick Montfort, Yoon Ha Lee, Michael Gentry, Dan Shiovitz, and Emily Short. They've even created an occupation kit so that you can join the Force too! Check it out! HELP! Look at the top of this issue. See there, right under where it says "reviews in this issue"? See how there are only four games reviewed there? (Okay, one was reviewed twice, but still...) That's a pretty meager showing. SPAG continues to rely on your contributions to remain alive, so review some games for me, people! I feel like a bit of a hypocrite complaining about this when I can't even manage to get the issue out on time, but without contributions, there's no SPAG at all, even a late one. If you're looking for inspiration on what to review, try one of these: SPAG 10 MOST WANTED LIST ======================== 1. Dead Reckoning (Nick Montfort's translation of Olvido Mortal) 2. The Dreamhold 3. The Fire Tower 4. Future Boy! 5. The Great Machine: A Fragment 6. Guild Of Thieves 7. Lost Kingdom 8. Mystery House Taken Over games (any, some, or all!) 9. Spring Thing games (any, some, or all!) 10. Wumpus 2000 THE SPAG INTERVIEW--------------------------------------------------------- For quite a while now, I've been interested in doing SPAG interviews with members of IF communities whose primary language isn't English. Aside from the usual time and priority constraints, the main obstacle to this goal has always been the language barrier. English is the only language in which I am fluent, and while some of my potential interview subjects have a pretty good grasp on English, I still felt that an all-English interview would lack some of the depth that I try for in this feature. It was ifMUD that came to my rescue. Within that friendly community, I found some multilingual people who offered their services in translating my questions and the respondents' answers. So, with a thousand thanks to Vika Zafrin (Italian translator) and H. Helfgott (Spanish translator), I'm proud to present the following interviews with Roberto Grassi of the Italian IF community and Ruben "Urbatain" Nieto of the Spanish IF community. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Roberto Grassi, translated by Vika Zafrin -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= SPAG: Hey, Roberto. RG: Hi Paul. Before responding to your questions I'd like to thank you for giving me the opportunity of being interviewed in the name of the Italian community. It's a big honor for me. SPAG: It's my pleasure. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Before we get into the Italian IF community at large, could you tell us a little about yourself? Who are you, what do you do for a living, and so forth? RG: My name is Roberto Grassi, I work as a Project Manager for an Internet service provider. In March I will turn 35 years old. I have been happily married for almost four years now to Paola (who is adorable, and allows me to dedicate myself to IF when I can). We have a son named Cesare, who turned one in January (he, unlike Paola, does not allow me to dedicate myself to IF when I can... :D). On to the Italian IF community. It's rather small. There are about ten active authors, and every year an average of about 6-7 games are written. There is a Usenet newsgroup (news://it.comp.giochi.avventure.testuali) and every year there are two competitions. One is for IF situated in only one location (One Room Game Comp - http://www.avventuretestuali.com/orgc/orgc2005_eng.html) and another one for the best game of the year. There's a directory of all the Italian games (http://www.ifitalia.info), and we publish a fanzine on interactive fiction called Terra d'IF (IF World, http://www.robertograssi.net/at/terradif.asp, but soon it will move to its own site, http://www.terradif.net). Just a few days ago was born the first Italian software firm specializing in writing IF games. It's called Mondi Confinanti (Bordering Worlds, http://www.terradif.net/mondiconfinanti). We hope to do something good enough to be appreciated by foreign players as well. SPAG: What is your role in that community? RG: I'll start by saying that you can find all the things I talk about on my IF site (http://www.robertograssi.net/at). My "main" role is that of editor-in-chief of the Terra d'IF fanzine. It is published four times a year and keeps me quite busy, but I have the support of a great editing team. As for writing games, I wrote one in 2003 and have finished two more games in 2004, one of which, "The Last Hour," is in English. (http://www.robertograssi.net/at/mieat.asp) In 2005, I've decided to get serious about things. For this reason I've sought collaborators, and we've founded "Mondi Confinanti," upon which I rest big hopes. I contribute as the writer of stories, of dialogue and of music. The first game we will release in English is Beyond; we're working hard on it these days. From this year on I've decided to take on organizing the LoTech Comp, which was held in 2001 by Mark Silcox, but then abandoned. Since I've always loved the CYOA genre, I thought that it would be a shame to let this game genre fall into oblivion. (http://www.robertograssi.net/at/lotech) Finally, I'm the promoter of the "From Hell" project, whose aim is to find the old 80s adventures in English and translate them into Italian using the new authoring programs (http://www.robertograssi.net/at/fromhell.asp). This would accomplish two goals at once. Those who write will learn to use the applications and don't have to worry about the story. Those who play will have the opportunity to play games from the past that perhaps merit attention. SPAG: Can you give us a little history of IF in Italian? What were its beginnings, and what have been some important milestones in its development? RG: Italian IF has a definite starting point. It was in 1982, when Enrico Colombini published "Avventura nel castello" (Castle Adventure), rightly considered a classic of its genre, very very playable. Later Colombini wrote, in collaboration with his wife Chiara Tovena, four more text adventures that are still played now. (Colombini's site is at http://www.erix.it.) The adventures quickly became a commercial and critical sensation. At this point it is necessary to mention Bonaventura di Bello, who wrote adventures for the magazines published back then for the Spectrum and for Commodore 64. In any case, we have a dedicated site run by Giovanni Riccardi, that tries to gather and make available the games and the magazines in PDF. (http://www.progettolazzaro.org) Through the 90s, like in the rest of the world, interest in text adventures began to diminish here, in part because of their poor salability; the Italian scene became mostly "silent." But IF lovers have stayed in contact anyway and, thanks to the Internet and to newsgroups, the scene never totally died. The release of Inform and its Italian libraries has reinvigorated the genre, and now there are a few passionate souls who are starting to write games again. SPAG: What tools do authors use to create IF in Italian? I know there's a Italian Inform library -- what other resources are out there for Italian-speaking IF authors? RG: Inform is the reference platform [the one used most commonly]. The Italian libraries have been written and are being maintained by Giovanni Riccardi (http://www.inform-italia.org). Besides Inform there are two applications written by two Italian authors: M.A.C. by Paolo Lucchesi and Modulo Base by Enrico Colombine. The use of these tools, however, has been diminishing in favor of Inform. Recently I released ITDrift, which allows people to write games in Italian using Adrift, although they have not yet been used. I'll probably do it myself, when I have time. In addition, Alan and Hugo will also get Italian libraries written for them as soon as possible. There's also another application called IDRA, also written by Enrico Colombine, which allows one to write CYOAs playable on the web, but as far as I know it isn't being used. Besides the applications, we are proud to say that a product written by an Italian has received great reviews in the IF world. I'm talking about JIF (http://slade.altervista.org/jif), written by Alessandro Schillaci. It's a great Inform editor written in Java and is, most probably, the best 'dedicated' Inform editor you can find right now. In addition, it is continually being updated and supported. It's received very positive feedback, especially from the Spanish community; and this of course cannot help making us happy. Nevertheless, I'd say that IF's main problem in Italy is the scarcity both of authors and of players. This brings with it a series of interrelated problems that threaten to discourage the people who are interested in this genre. SPAG: What games would you recommend for someone fluent in Italian? What about someone who had less experience with the language but wanted to use IF as a learning or practice tool? RG: In regards to your first question, I'd definitely suggest what I believe are the two best Italian IF games written to date: "La Pietra della Luna" (The Moon Rock) by Paolo Lucchesi and "Kazan" by Francesco Cordella. As for the second question, I'd say that any game would do. In any case, if someone wants to play Italian games, they can certainly post to our newsgroup or contact me directly. We'd be happy to give the best advice we can. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Ruben Nieto, aka "Urbatain", translated by H. Helfgott -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= SPAG: Before we speak of the Spanish interactive-fiction community in general, could you tell us something about yourself? Who are you, how do you earn a living, etc.? U: Why, my full name is Ruben Alberto Aguilera Nieto, I am a Spaniard from Andalusia, and, as Emily Short well put it, I am the kind of person who lets himself be carried away by his hobbies to such an extent as to leave behind real life (or such parts of real life as are supposed to be truly important), with the difference that I am not able to put in the titanic effort necessary to nevertheless fulfill my obligations in real life. So, well... I am a failed computer-science student who formed a family and can barely subsist from one job to another, all involving hard physical labour. Currently, I clean anything whatsoever for a general cleaning agency: windows, floors, office buildings, hotels... The only good thing about such jobs is that they leave you almost the entire afternoon free for programming, reading and playing adventures or commercial games, and thus I am able to maintain on a par my cultural level with my physical brutalization. Otherwise -- I am still trying to continue my studies of computer science by means of the UNED (the national Spanish distance-learning university). I do have the feeling, fortunately, that I've succeeded: ever since I was small, I have always wanted to program computer games, and that is what I do programming adventures, no? SPAG: What is your role in the Spanish interactive-fiction community? U: One might say I am a rather irritating guru to whom nobody listens, for he speaks so loudly as to be nearly unbearable. My problem is that design is my thing. I relish philosophizing on games, and also beta-testing, and solving programmers' design problems; since, as I said, it is difficult to curb my enthusiasms, I can almost become more involved in other people's projects than they themselves. There is evidently a problem in the difference in motivation between others and myself; conflicts arise. Thus I have acquired the name of guru or luminary: critical, egocentric, monopolizing, and a bit of a bastard. It's been four or five years since I came into the Spanish adventure community. Since then, I have written a few experimental adventures, of which only one could be considered a short story in the interactive-fiction genre. I edited the fanzine SPAC for about a year. SPAC was initially an unauthorized translation of SPAG, and then went on to consist largely of original Spanish texts, with a few authorized translations appearing from time to time. After a while, I got married, and had the good sense to pass my post onto Dhan, who has taken the fanzine to its apogee, at least in terms of quality. My contributions to SPAC are now in the order of commentaries on games, technical or theoretical articles, interviews, and the occasional translation. I also organize, and have long organized, competitions and prizes for adventure writers. This I do by means of yearly threats: "Either one of you will take care of the competition, or I will do so myself (with all that that implies)!". One could also say that I am a guru of informATE! (the Spanish version of Inform) and, even more so, of Glulx, quite simply because it always complicated my life, or my adventure-writing, rather; I always try to push adventure technology a little further. So far, in Glulx, I have programmed frames, sound, graphics, mouse events... Perhaps all of this seems rather elementary to you, but in my community such things are not yet considered to be quite trivia. It is always hard to be the first in anything, and to have nobody of the same language with whom one can consult. In such a situation, I always resort to RAIF or to Adam Cadre, but not always with much success, as I do not know English well enough to make myself sufficiently understood. I always keep an eye on your community, and play the top-ranked games from the IFComp and the XYZZY awards every year; then, of course, I write reviews of them for SPAC. I will now give you a brief run of my works, in part because you are not asking, and in part because I have some interest in possible bilingual collaborations. My adventures are: "Astral": My first official release, written in Visual Sintac. VS is an adventure development system which, being based on Visual Basic, has a structured language and a fantastic IDE; unfortunately it cannot compete with Inform & company. "Astral" is, well, about zombies... it is a kind of dream-like kill-the-zombies-with-an-iron-bar arcade game endowed with impact localization. I suppose you could call its fighting system simulationist, since the damage given depends on the size, weight and bluntness of the objects used; thus, one can fight using a chair or a sword, or one's bare hands, for that matter -- no special object class called "weapon" is defined. Towards the end, "Astral" offers something other than killing and gore; it has the doubtful privilege of having what must be the longest literary ending -- where by "literary" I mean "devoid of interactivity" -- in the history of adventures. So, "this is longer than the end of Astral" has become a common-place. This has taught me not to go to too great a length when writing an ending. "Aventurero en el Sega Park": This is a joke based on a script that won what might be called, well, a script contest, I suppose. It is about an adventurer that arrives at an amusement arcade full of children playing at the machines. The objective is to make amends for the failure of commercial adventures... "Por la Necedad Humana" ("Because of Human Folly"): This is a vanguardist experiment involving sounds that can propagate across rooms (MelHython's sound library). It is based on a story by a colleague of mine who goes by the name "Undeath". It may be the first fully non-interactive adventure... sigh. Well -- the main character is an alien entity invited to witness the last moments in the life of a family in Hiroshima a few minutes before the fall of the nuclear bomb. The point of the matter is to look at the scene from various standpoints and see how the NPCs interact. After a while, I realized that the interesting thing would have been to let the player enter the role of a member of the family. It doesn't matter -- I won a contest with this experiment. "La Jugueteria de Mago Zacarias" ("The Toyshop of Zachary the Wizard"): This is a remake of Graham Nelson's "Toyshop". It was an experiment in developing a hint system that would teach a complete newcomer how to play -- a system with graphics, sound effects, music... a great deal like what Zarf has done, but rather simpler, and oriented towards children, evidently. "El Extraño Caso de Randolph Dwight" ("The Curious Incident of Randolph Dwight"): This is the one that has had the most success -- and the one that might be considered a serious interactive fiction story. It is based on another mystery tale by the colleague I mentioned. In this case I try out a new movement system that eliminates the cardinal points and allows the player to approach specific objects, obtaining descriptions whose detail depends on his position. Darkness is implemented in a way appropriate to the plot. The player character moves from room to room by means of what I call "stage-doors": the player must use terms such as "go through the corridor door", "go outside", "enter the hall" -- no north, west, east or south. I, for one, recommend this game. Finally, "Dracula, la Primera Noche" ("Dracula, the First Night"): A remake of Rod Pike's excellent game from the 80's. It is bilingual, but I have not yet released the English version. In this, I feel I may have failed a beta tester who helped me greatly -- Yagram Borum; what happens is that I have not yet remade the final screen, and I would not want to release the game in the IF archive without it. All of this can be found on my web-page: http://usuarios.lycos.es/Urbatain/ As you can see, only the first adventure is completely mine -- everything else is either an adaptation or a remake of some sort... I am a Stanley Kubrick of adventure... fortunately, I do have things of my own to tell -- it is just that the time has not yet come, and now I am involved in the second part of Dracula... well... I am already somewhat tired of implementing others' ideas... Moreover, I always try to carry out experiments or innovate in one way or the other... what I truly seek is the use of complex world models derived from simulationism, which... in my view, gives an enriched fictional experience. Why, it seems I have ended up on the same wavelength as Emily. As I said, I always have an eye set on the world IF community, but the level of my English keeps me from being able to participate as I would like to -- let alone write an adventure in English without firm support from over there. Something similar happened to Andrés Viedma, who wrote Shattered Memory, later rewritten as Dead Reckoning by Nick Monfort. Incidentally, Nick, I think it would be a good idea to revive the IF translation web-page by means of an online forum or mailing list where we would be able to help each other directly without assuming the responsibility of translating a complete adventure. Returning to my set eye -- I am planning an adaptation Genesis's conceptual disc "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", and I would like to make it bilingual, just like Dracula -- first, I will wait to obtain permission from Genesis, though. Also -- I am translating the IF Theory Book, little by little and with some help. For now, Crimenes Contra Mimesis is ready, and, if the author grants permission, it will be published in SPAC. I am finishing a translation of the Designer's Manual -- our InformATE! guru, Zak, is presently absorbed by reality, and the rest of us must complete his work, little by little. SPAG: Can you give us a little history of IF in Spanish? What were its beginnings, and what have been some important milestones in its development? U: The first Spanish adventure was Yength, released by Dinamic in 1984. It had graphics, a ridiculous parser, and a non-existent plot and script. Little fandom could come from there, but Spectrum magazines and their ilk talked about a certain Hobbit, and, after a while, some folks got some not very legal copies of that game. Now, that did dazzle the multitudes. Also, at that time, some theoretical-practical-didactic manuals were very popular -- I am thinking of "Spectrum Adventures", by Tony Bridge and Roy Carnell. Reading that book on adventures, I discovered I loved them -- it spoke of Adventure, Dungeon Adventure, The Hobbit, Wumpus, Transylvanian Tower, Velnor's Lair -- unfortunately I could never play them... until time passed, I got pirated copies of some, and, later, in the 90's, I came across the Internet and finally got all the games that I had long yearned for. There were many cases like my own -- cases of distant admiration, for there was nothing to play. Oh -- Dinamic changed name to "Aventuras Dinamic" and developed new adventures -- among them El Quijote [Quixote] and Los Pajaros de Bangkok [The Birds of Bangkok]. These adventures generally had great success, and, thanks to the sections dedicated to the genre by Microhobby and other computer game magazines, adventures acquired a respectably-sized public. In 1988, Dinamic decided to separate Aventuras Dinamic from its main line, but went on producing and distributing the adventures of the new company -- "Aventuras AD", where AD stands for "Aventuras Dinamic". Aventuras AD released the most important commercial adventures in Spanish: La Aventura Original (a version of Adventure) and Cozumel. This, together with the commercialization of Tim Gilbert's PAW and the creation of two mail fanzines, spurred a great growth in fandom and the writing of hundreds of amateur adventures, which have kept Spanish adventure alive to our days. I do not know whether it was an idea of Dinamic's or of "Aventuras AD"'s, but a new commercial name was introduced to "reinvent the genre"; much like Infocom used "Interactive Fiction", AD sold its games under the name "Aventuras Conversacionales" - the player enters a conversation with the computer. Thus, the Spanish adventure community speaks of "Aventuras Conversacionales" or AC. As of late, given the evident influence of the IF community on some of our members and the popularity of new tendencies for adventures and games that go beyond puzzles -- games that are more literary and less game-like than before -- tendencies that have been led, in Spanish, by Photopia, thanks to Zak's translation, some diverge on the matter of the name of the genre, and follow the American habit of distinguishing between text games and interactive fiction. Still, the weight of history -- the weight that is, in your case, Infocom -- will always tell us that what we deal with are Aventuras Conversacionales. Returning to a previous paragraph -- the era of fanzines was very important; it was the germ of what we are now on the Internet. The eldest adventurers, or "mummies", as we call each other with some endearment, know one another from the times when we read what we wrote in the old paper fanzines. There were problems - the AC community was divided into two mutually exclusive groups associated to the two main fanzines (CAAD and ZFZ), thanks to a stupid, absurd and egocentric dispute between the "leaders" of the two. Things got to a point where the two groups almost censored each other: if a game was published under the aegis of one of them, the subscribers to the other one didn't even catch the smell of it. Oh well... those were sad times, which we nonetheless call the golden age of Spanish adventure. Then came the waning of 8-bittery, and all went to the dustbin -- Spectrum games, adventures, magazines, fanzines, all of it. Thank God, then came the Internet, which united us more than ever and revitalized the genre. The most important Spanish-adventure website (CAAD: http://caad.mine.hu/) was founded in 1997. Returning to an even more previous paragraph -- on magazines, on Microhobby, which had a section dedicated to adventures (again, AC, here in the land of the bulls). The main influence on us, and our sole information source, came from that magazine, meaning, of course, the author of those articles: Andrés R. Samudio. In turn, he, who for us was a guru of adventures, was influenced by English adventure, by which I mean adventures from England. Level 9 adventures were the best in the history of ACs, in our view; of Infocom we heard only sporadically and on the side, and it is only through your IF community that we have learnt about their vital importance. I would like to emphasize this: the main influence on world adventure, as reflected in the IF community, is American, while, historically, the main influence on the Spanish community has been British. Evidently, the main current influence on the AC community is yours, the IF community's, and so we drink from your well -- from the short adventure competitions, from the experimental competitions -- from the new tendencies towards IF with fewer puzzles and more story, from the formalization of the genre -- we have also started out on our own path towards the academic world, as Nick Montfort has done. One could say we are almost at the same stage as you are, or perhaps a few steps before, saving the enormous differences. It is absurd to compare... last year, our community wrote 16 games -- how many did you write last year? In the IF Comp alone there were thirty-six. On one side, we have the efforts of only one country, aided by three or four South American friends; on the other side -- the rest of the world. SPAG: What tools do authors use to create IF in Spanish? I know there's a Spanish Inform library -- what other resources are out there for Spanish-speaking IF authors? U: InformATE! is an odd translation of Inform, in so far as the grammar, actions and library identifiers are all translated; it is the adventure system used by the majority. Besides, there are Visual Sintac, which has a visual IDE and where programming goes much as in Visual Basic, and Superglus, a PAW-like that compiles to Glulx, and is winning followers at a speedy rate -- it must be the second most popular system; other than that, there is nothing much worth mentioning -- as I do not think obsolete ancient systems would be worth mentioning here. As far as support materials are concerned, there is JIF in Spanish (thank you, Alessandro!) and additional libraries, documentation, tutorials, etc. A paradox arises from InformATE!, in that, since it is a translation of the entire Inform library, it is automatically incompatible with the Inform library and its expansion libraries. So, whenever a new version of Inform is released, we do not know whether to rejoice or get depressed. What is certain is that we have taken our own path and now can only work towards the stability of what we do have. I was forgetting AGE, an system for the creation of adventures and MUDs in JAVA -- it is still in the alpha stage. As far as the future is concerned, I can glimpse translations of TADS 3 and Hugo... but it is certain that a few years will pass before we obtain anything stable along these lines. SPAG: What games would you recommend for someone fluent in Spanish? What about someone who had less experience with the language but wanted to use IF as a learning or practice tool? U: I do not believe there is any Spanish game oriented towards teaching the Spanish language to a foreigner. I can only recommend what to me are the best games -- games that anyone with a mind sufficiently open to wish to expand his interactive experience to other countries and cultures should try. Take my case -- almost all the English I know is due to adventures from England. Somebody who knows some Spanish and wants to learn more ought to try to see whether a game's vocabulary fits well his or her knowledge. I do something similar myself -- some of your adventures are textually too dense for somebody who is not a native speaker. The adventures that, in my opinion, are indispensable for understanding the history and evolution of the AC community are the following: * Cozumel, which belongs to the series of Ci-Hu-Tan, Cozumel, Templos Sagrados [Sacred Temples] and Chichen Itza. * The Ring, where the main character is a dragon transmogrified into a ring. * Eudoxio, a classic adventure with swords and magic. * El Libro que se Aburria [The Book that was Bored], a tale that teaches the user how to play adventures (thanks perhaps in part to its easy vocabulary). * Del Otro Lado [From the Other Side], a brief adventure with a transition between two main characters, much like Earth and Sky 3, with the difference that it takes place in a medieval and oriental world. * Casi Muerto [Almost Dead], in one room, with an alien language to be understood. * La Sentencia, which is The Pit and the Pendulum, by Edgar Allan Poe. * Olvido Mortal [Fatal Forgetfulness], which you know as Dead Reckoning. * El Extraño caso de Randolph Dwight, this one by me, a mystery a la Poe. * El Archipielago, a clear example of the introduction of literary stories perfectly integrated into a classic adventure game. And, of course, you can always try out and compare the translations with the originals: Fotopia with Photopia, El Despertar with The Awakening, I-0 with I-0, Aventura Original with Adventure, and La Intrepida Noche del Osito with A Bear's Night Out. KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS-------------------------------------------------- Consider the following review header: TITLE: Cutthroats AUTHOR: Infocom EMAIL: ??? DATE: September 1984 PARSER: Infocom Standard SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 URL: Not available. VERSION: Release 23 When submitting reviews: Try to fill in as much of this info as you can. Authors may not review their own games. REVIEWS ------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Mike Snyder TITLE: The Golden French Fry AUTHOR: Paul Panks EMAIL: dunric SP@G yahoo.com DATE: November 2004 PARSER: Custom (simple) SUPPORTS: MSDOS AVAILABILITY: Freeware -- IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/pc/frefry.zip VERSION: 1.26 In "The Golden French Fry" (an MSDOS-based BASIC game including source code with the executable) you are a slacker, a stoner, a lazy moocher left home alone while your parents are gone for the weekend. The PC's personality is described well enough in the introduction: "You're a drop out junkie, and it's gonna stay that way, yo!" To make things more interesting, your mother mentioned that a dragon lurks in the basement. Fortunately, the single re-spawning french fry is your ticket to this strange new world (which is somehow the basement). I was a beta tester for earlier versions of this game. It has improved in this revision, and the original was already more playable than Paul's recent Comp 04 entry (Ninja v1.30). I have written additional bug-notes to send to Paul, but I'll skip most of that for the purposes of this review. In short, version 1.26 is still buggy. Some of it is just the inevitable result of building a quickly-made parser from scratch. Attempting to climb anything, whether it exists or not, will result in a message saying that it wouldn't be safe. Birds chirp in several areas -- it would be nice if "listen to birds" would work, but at a minimum, "listen" would be a good verb to understand in general. I still noticed a few typos, but nothing to detract too much from the game. An update will probably address these and several other things I found while playing this version. The larger problem is that the game is just too rigid with what it can understand. The verb "use" is implemented, but it's not always logical. An alternate solution to the endgame battle requires you to "use" a certain object. However, using it will actually "throw" it, even though "throw" doesn't work as an alternative. In another example, you can't "give" the troll what he wants -- you simply attempt to go south with the item in your inventory, and the action takes care of itself. While that's a nice shortcut, it's also not an intuitive one. If a troll asks for something, I haven't previously been able to pass him, and now I have what he wants, my first instinct will be to "give" this thing to him. I tried a few variations before I found that walking "south" was the solution. Paul has implemented a few shortcuts, though. The "x" verb works for "examine." The "l" verb works for "look" (although "l object" does not). Version 1.26 introduces a "save" feature, for which I was very thankful. The "undo" command isn't supported, except in one spot (and then, it's automatic as a friendly means of avoiding death). I don't mind RPG elements in a game, but the battles generally take just a couple of hits to finish (and when longer, it's not really clear what's going on -- you can massacre a creature shortly before it massacres you). The extra hit points and "wimpy" mode (run when HP gets low) makes it more playable for those with a dislike for RPG-style fighting. Usage of colored text in Interactive Fiction may annoy some, but I found it useful and appropriate. All bugs and parsing restrictions aside (the game is playable -- just not as easily as typical "standard" works), I'm disappointed in the story and the consistency. Paul did add more to the intro, referencing the PC's state of inebriation as a clue to why nothing really seems to make sense. Still, it just isn't enough. If I'm going to see dragons and trolls and werewolves, a nice twist would have been to reveal what these things really are at some point, a la Don Quixote -- not just what the PC believes them to be. As it is, I can't tell if much thought went into the story. It seems that Paul decided to make a short puzzle game with various random elements, connected only by the fact that they seem to reside in the same pseudo-fantasy world. With more thought given to the story, it might have worked. Instead, "The Golden French Fry" offers very little to make it memorable, or to separate it from other similar games. I mentioned consistency as well. From the beginning, I'm an unmotivated slacker -- yet I proceed on a quest that involves much walking, climbing, fighting, and personal peril. I'm able to kill an owl protecting her egg (in order to take the egg), and the PC offers no remorse. However, slaying the dragon leads to some brief but personal soul-searching. A map of the area (not a bad idea) is shown on the wall of a shed -- but it's written from the author's point of view (with rooms named and numbered). Shouldn't it appear as if drawn by an in-game map-maker? Paul Panks might just be the Ed Wood of Interactive Fiction. He's motivated and relentless in his efforts, and his enthusiasm is never deterred by criticism. But, like the director of such duds as "Bride of the Monster" and the unforgivable "Plan 9 From Outer Space", Paul seems unable or unwilling to consider compromising his design decisions -- even though doing so might improve his work and help him grow as an IF author. "The Golden French Fry" is by no means unplayable, nor is it "bad" in a memorable way. As of version 1.26, it's still rough -- but it's getting better. Paul has been very willing to act upon the suggestions sent after each of my play-throughs. It could be a much better game if given a more meaningful, cohesive storyline -- and if the parser had not been tacked together from scratch. What's most interesting (and disappointing) is that Paul Panks isn't new to Interactive Fiction. He's no beginner, yet the game kind of feels like someone's first effort. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Eric Woods TITLE: Isle of the Cult AUTHOR: Rune Berg EMAIL: runeberg SP@G online.no DATE: Dec. 23, 2004 PARSER: TADS SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/tads/islecult.gam VERSION: 1 Isle of the Cult is the first work from Rune Berg, and I didn't discover this until after I had completed the game. I went looking for other games and was disappointed to find that there were none. We don't usually find such good games as an initial attempt by authors. I am very hopeful that he will give us another game in the near future. You play a thief who gets boated to an island that doesn't seem to have been inhabited for some time. You have been sent by the Guild, though thanks to seawater smudging your letter, you don't really have much idea of what you are supposed to do. What's more, you forget all your supplies in the boat that departs as the game starts. Let's go exploring. The setting is very good in this game, allowing for some oddities of a ramshackle, fantasy, super-natural, genre game. The sense of desolation and ruin is done well in the village, and the jungle and beach settings are adequate if somewhat sparse and terse. Overall, I found the island and its structures and locations to be very believable. One thing I did notice, however, is that, even though the overbearing sense is that this place has been run from long ago, there is still the smell of baking bread in the bakery. Odd, but we allow some discrepancies for the sake of puzzles. And there are puzzles aplenty. This game is a puzzlefest from the good old fashioned days of IF. It is impossible to go through two locations without encountering a problem to overcome. Personally, I love puzzles in my IF games and the ones you'll encounter on the Isle are well done, sometimes clever, most always logically based, and satisfying when you complete them. I only found one that didn't seem very logical but this can be explained by the supernatural aspects of the game. With minimal trial and error, manipulation of the items in your inventory, and a little thought, an experienced gamer should get through everything. Though ultimately the game offers only one outcome, many puzzles can be tackled in various orders without affecting the ending. Your goal becomes apparent through basic exploration and puzzle solving. You'll know what to do even if you're not sure why you're doing it at the time. I also liked the fact that Berg puts in red herrings throughout the game that seem to be objects or locations that one would expect to find on the Isle. I think it detracts from a game when you know you'll have to do something with everything you find or get through every locked door you encounter. Somehow it makes a game more believable for me if some unimportant stuff is just lying around. Technically the game is extremely sound. I noticed two minor bugs but neither was critical to completing the game or even inconvenient for that matter. It should be noted that Berg doesn't allow for "brief" mode in this game which I would have preferred since I became quite familiar with the lay-out of the setting with the running around and returning to locations that the puzzles sometimes demanded. There is one point in the game, however, where the PC has to return to a distant spot on the island and Berg did a good job of realizing this and incorporating it into the text so that the player is automatically transported there and back without the trouble of typing commands. He also doesn't choose to use the search, look behind, under, etc. functions but lets you know this the first time you try it by telling you examine will work well enough. Things like that made the game play easy and smooth. The story itself is a bit vague. Honestly, I had to play through twice and do some thinking before I came up with the ultimate reason why I'm doing what I'm doing on the Isle, and it's still only a theory, based on some hints in the game. The beginning and ending text is fairly brief, so drawing concrete conclusions is difficult. Regardless, I found this game to be very enjoyable in the old school style of IF which I grew up playing and loving. Those who like and admire good puzzles will feel the same, I'm sure. Those who like more interaction with NPCs will be disappointed. There are no other people on the Isle, and once the boatman leaves you all you can interact with is a monkey and an animated creature. But for those of us who like to go on an adventure alone, I strongly recommend you take an afternoon or two and get to the Isle of the Cult. Hopefully Rune Berg will find another place to cart us off to in the future. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Jimmy Maher You are a new member of the local guild of thieves. To give you a chance to prove your worth, your guildmaster has loaded you into a boat and deposited you on a remote island as this game begins. Your assignment: to plunder everything you can get your hands on, then return to the jetty to meet the boat again and make your escape. IF old-timers will recognize this setup right away, for it comes from one of the beloved classics of the commercial era, Magnetic Scrolls' Guild of Thieves. Oddly enough, however, Rune Berg's new release Isle of the Cult has the exact same beginning, and is even structured in much the same way. Like Guild of Thieves, Isle of the Cult never pretends to be anything more or less than an unabashed puzzle-fest, with just enough of a stub of a plot to give the player a reason to solve its puzzles. I do not know if this is coincidence or deliberate homage. If homage it is, it is odd that no mention of its esteemed ancestor is made anywhere in the new game's text. Does Isle of the Cult measure up to its predecessor? The short answer is no, but the question is perhaps unfair. Taken on its own merits, Isle of the Cult is a solid and fairly satisfying piece of work, and a welcome debut effort from an obviously talented designer. A puzzle game like this must of course rise or fall on the basis of those puzzles, for there is very little else here. Luckily, this game largely succeeds. The puzzles are not particularly complex, difficult, or even imaginative, but they are mostly reasonable. The game is very solvable as long as the player reads carefully, examines everything, and uses the objects he finds in fairly common sense ways. Virtually everything revolves around the straightforward application of items from the gameworld. There are no elaborate logical setpieces, multi-stage puzzles, or research puzzles. In short, if this were a graphic adventure it would be Monkey Island (and not just for the similar subject matter) rather than Myst. That is not to say that Isle of the Cult is a trivially easy game. It started out that way for me, and I acquired the first 20 or so of 100 points with little thought or effort. However, there is quite a large area to explore by modern standards, and a fair number of objects to juggle. By the middle of the game, I found myself wandering over a large map liberally sprinkled with inaccessible areas and unsolved puzzles. The game is fairly linear in that there are generally only a few puzzles that can be solved at any one time, and the combinatorial explosion factor is significant. And a few puzzles do require some lateral thinking. The fact that the rest of the game is so straightforward actually makes these puzzles more difficult, because the player will likely not be expecting such an obscure solution. Still, I eventually solved the entire game on my own with no recourse to hints. While I am an experienced IF player, I am not always the best puzzle solver. On the old Infocom scale, I would grade this as a Standard level game. The TADS2 development system is designed by default to create traditional text adventures of this kind. Perhaps for this reason, Mr. Berg appears to have made few or no alterations to the parser and standard library. Playing this game confirms my perhaps controversial opinion that the standard TADS2 parser is not quite as robust and capable as the Inform parser. A fair number of common Inform verbs are unimplemented here, and it quickly becomes obvious that complex concepts are simply not possible to communicate to the game. That is not to say, however, that the parser ever presents a real problem. I quickly adapted to using only very simplistic commands, and the author never left me guessing for verbs or phrasing. On a few occasions, I was actually surprised when my commands led to the game doing something far beyond what I had intended. I solved one or two puzzles literally accidentally due to this. Still, I would prefer this situation to the alternative of struggling to get my point across. This philosophy of ease-of-use extends to all other areas of the game. While the game is old-school in form, all of the annoying aspects of that form have been removed. There are no mazes, time limits, inventory limits, hunger daemons, or sudden deaths to be found here. At one point, there is a fairly complex puzzle that the player will likely have to "solve" multiple times. After the player goes through the motions once and receives his score reward, the game automatically repeats the sequence for the player each time it is necessary, thus minimizing tedium. Such small kindnesses are commendable. The game's prose is serviceable, if (like everything else) subordinate to the puzzles. There are rarely more than a few sentences of description for any given location. Even the About text is unusually terse. Still, the prose is grammatically correct and clear, and makes up for in lucidity what it lacks in personality. This is one of the most well-tested games I have played in years. I found not a single bug, typo, or inappropriate response in a fair few hours of gameplay. Isle of the Cult, in spite of its considerable size, is not an ambitious game. It sticks to the tried and true, and there is nothing here that an experienced IF player won't have seen many times before. Yet the whole is executed with a care and polish that eludes many more daring efforts. If you are in the mood for a reasonably sizable old-school puzzlefest, this would make an excellent choice. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Laurence Moore TITLE: Paint!!! AUTHOR: David Whyld EMAIL: me SP@G dwhyld.plus.com DATE: 2004 PARSER: Standard SUPPORTS: Adrift AVAILABILITY: Free URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/adrift/Paint.taf VERSION: Release 1 Paint was originally intended for a one-room competition but that was aborted due to a lack of entries. In fact, only two games emerged: The Last Hour and Paint. You certainly couldn't find a bigger gap between the two. Initially, I thought that the one room concept would be impossible to work with (as a writer) and surely dull to play (as a player). Where is the fun in only describing events, characters and items in one room? Where is the fun in not being immersed in hundreds of locations? Well, To Hell In A Hamper, another one-room Adrift game, certainly showed the quality that can be produced in a one room adventure. With Paint, I feel there is a healthy second to such a benchmark classic. The premise of the story is typical of David Whyld material. If you're unfamiliar with his prolific work (and by prolific, I really do mean prolific, with 30 titles penned using Adrift) then you'll find the vein of comedy and silliness at its core. Personally, I don't really get comedy in IF. It takes quite a lot to raise a smile or even draw forward a laugh. So, for this game to have the money shot, it's definitely quite special. You are in charge of a crew of dozy painters who have to paint an office. Yep, that's it. Sounds simple, right? Of course not -- this is IF. As with other Whyld outings, we have an array of traditional text adventure puzzles from the sublime to the downright silly. This is tongue-in-cheek stuff and, unlike in some games, it really works here. I think that is because the initial scenario is plausible, credible and easy to imagine. It's madcap nonsense and all the better for it. From the start, and don't even try to pronounce your client's surname, I enjoyed having a nosy around the office, looking out the window and then telling my crew to snap to it with the work. All seemed sane until a meteor crashed through the roof...oh, yes, it's that kind of game. Interacting with your crew is vital in solving this game. They hold items you require and answers that you need. Other characters also pop in, including your client and a rather interesting female secretary. I won't give too much away but you'll encounter the meteor very quickly. From that point on it's one loony encounter after the other. I enjoyed the game. The witch doctor was my favourite encounter en route to completion. This is a tough game, but enjoyable, with enough clues -- some subtle, some less. I came across no bugs or parse errors. A fun outing! 8/10 Recommended. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- [NOTE: This review contains a spoiler, but what it spoils is an action that makes the game unwinnable without warning. I've left it in, but if you're strictly anti-spoiler, you should probably skip the second paragraph. --Paul] From: Eric Woods TITLE: Reefer Island AUTHOR: Steve Barrera EMAIL: stevebarrera SP@G capband.net DATE: April 21, 2004 PARSER: TADS 2 SUPPORTS: TADS Interpreters AVAILABILITY: IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/tads/ReeferIsland.gam VERSION: 1 I downloaded Reefer Island on a whim. I prefer to play TADS games, and by the title I thought this one might be a short, pleasant and maybe funny, diversion for a little while. I was initially surprised to find out how involved and elaborate a game it turned out to be. Honestly, from the title I hadn't expected much. This game would have been a very good and fun game (probably a *** from Baf's rating), but it only turned out to be an exercise in frustration, wondering what to do next and finally quitting with a sense of time being wasted. After a short while I could only progress via email assistance from the author. He tells me he is planning to rework the game and design it so as to be more friendly to the player. I hope he does this because this effort is not without its merits. Reefer Island is a large, sprawling island that you'll have to traverse numerous times in order to complete the goal. The goal is, of course, to find pot, a lighter, and something to smoke it with. This is made clear to you at the beginning of the adventure, when the ship that you and your comrades are on is shipwrecked and you get separated from everyone in a small lifeboat. You find yourself washing up on shore with nothing but a watch (which occasionally tells you how many hours it's been since your last bong hit) and an empty bag of Cheetos. Fair enough. The island is a very colorful place with a few characters with which to interact and numerous locations through the town, jungle, and dunes to explore. Unfortunately, it is quite simple to put the game in an unwinnable state very early without realizing it. I hope this next statement won't be considered too much of a spoiler, but when you get pot from a native, which is what I logically assumed I was supposed to do, you put the game in an incompletable state without knowing that you've done so. But don't worry about that. To initially interact with this guy you need to give him a lighter which you can find easily enough with some exploring. Give it to him and you put the game out of reach even before you ruin it by buying pot from him. He gives you the lighter back, will sell you a bag of dope for two shells (their currency) which you can find just lying around on the beach, and everything seems great, huh? But you can't give him the lighter since once he uses it there isn't enough fluid in it any longer to complete a task for which you'll need it later in the game. I had dope, and a lighter and thought I was well on my way to winning a fairly easy game. How was I to know? Other than the above-listed problems I found the puzzles to range from the easy and logical to the strange and unintuitive, especially the ones concerning a dais and a camera at the Mayor's house. Too much mind reading for me with these. I consider myself a pretty good puzzle solver but I wouldn't have come across the solutions to those in a hundred years. There is some good humor in this game and technically it is fairly sound. I did run across a bug that seemed to make the game unwinnable but I couldn't duplicate it afterwards, and the author tells me that it shouldn't have happened, so take that for what you will. The descriptions are good, colorful, and thorough, but I felt the fantasy and supernatural aspects of the game seemed a little forced and awkward. All the items were implemented well, though there was one location where I couldn't stand on something even though I needed to get on it. It seemed that the game would play very smoothly if only whoever was playing it could read the author's mind at several points through the journey. I haven't noticed a walkthrough for this game yet but, if you can find one, it's worth a play. If the frustrations could be removed it would be very enjoyable for those of us that like some puzzles in our games. I hope the author will consider making it more intuitive and follow a more logical progression of events in a revision. 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, with the exception of reviews submitted to SPAG Specifics, where spoilers are allowed in the service of in-depth discussion. In addition, reviewers should play a game to completion before submitting a review. There are some exceptions to this clause -- competition games reviewed after 2 hours, unfinishable games, games with hundreds of endings, etc. -- if in doubt, ask me first. 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. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!
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