ISSUE #47 - January 16, 2007

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

                         ISSUE #47

        Edited by Jimmy Maher (maher SP@G
                       January 16, 2007

           SPAG Website:

SPAG #47 is copyright (c) 2007 by Jimmy Maher.
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 ----------------------------------------------------

IF News
A Eulogy for Star Foster by Daniel Ravipinto
A Timeline of the French IF Community by Eriorg
An IF Competition 2006 Rant / Review Package by Valentine Kopteltsev

INTERVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE --------------------------------------------------

Adrien Saurat
Eric Eve
Nolan Bonvouloir
Emily Short

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

The Apocalypse Clock
Aunts and Butlers
Delightful Wallpaper
An Escape to Remember
Game Producer!
Green Falls
The Journey of the King
Last Resort
Pirate Adventure
The Reliques of Tolti-Aph
The Tower of the Elephant

Damnatio Memoriae


I was contacted a few months ago by "A Ninny," editor of the Adult IF 
community's equivalent to SPAG, with a request for an interview.  It turned out 
to be quite a positive experience for me, allowing me to clarify my own thoughts 
on certain aspects of IF, largely in the problematic area of NPC interaction.  
Whether it is of use to anyone else is of course an open question.  Anyone 
interested in the result can find it here:

My purpose here today is not self-promotion, however, but to fulfill a bargain I 
made with Mr. Ninny.  In my recent history of IF, I gave the AIF community very 
short shrift.  One might even call my approach dismissive.  Mr. Ninny and his 
friends in that community took a certain (luckily good-natured and gracious, at 
least on Mr. Ninny's part) exception to my portrayal of their work, and 
challenged me to play three recently written AIF games suggested by them as 
representing some of the best of their community's work.  I was a bit reluctant, 
as pornography of any stripe is not my bag at all, but agreed to have a look in 
the interest of fairness.

The three games I played were Tomorrow Never Comes by A. Bomire, a secret agent 
caper set in the universe of James Bond; Ideal Pacific Coast University by 
NewKid, another addition to the venerable genre of collegiate IF; and Peril in 
the Skies by Adam Hendine, an adventure tale set in the 1930s involving a 
protagonist with more than a passing resemblance to Indiana Jones.  All three 
games were written in TADS, thus proving one of the assertions of my history -- 
that the AIF community was still writing largely in AGT -- wrong right off the 
bat.  Obviously, I have some revising to do there.

The quality of the games was... surprisingly high in some ways.  All three 
reasonably well-written and felt quite robust.  While none do anything 
groundbreaking, I think each would be reasonably well-received by the mainstream 
community if the sexual bits were removed.  None are of XYZZY-winning quality, 
but all would be quite capable of finishing in the upper half of the Competition 
if entered (and if, again, the sex was not present.)

Actually, the sex is the strangest thing about these games, in that none of them 
are, ostensibly at least, really ABOUT seduction.  Each has a more typical 
adventure game plot, onto which the sex is grafted, sometimes downright 
awkwardly.  In Bomire's game, the sex is actually completely optional.  In the 
others, the sex is necessary to complete the overarching goals, and "scoring" 
generally involves solving some fairly typical puzzles to get one's target 
interested.  I probably don't need to mention that one plays as a male in all of 
these games.

The NPC interaction is, as expected, rather painful.  Much more time seems to 
have been spent on each woman's bit and pieces than on giving her a real 
personality.  They are like textual blow-up dolls rather than NPCs, and what 
personality they have is generally mired in the worst sort of cliche.  These 
women think and act like men (or boys) who have had little contact with women 
think women think and act.  Even though these games were blessedly free of 
sexual violence, there is still a whiff of misogyny that was not to my liking.  
The worst offender here was NewKid's effort, which at one point has the player 
seducing the leader of the campus' feminist organization in a power fantasy that 
I would rather have not experienced.

I won't launch into more detailed reviews here, but will conclude by saying that 
the modern AIF community's work is better than I had thought in many ways, but 
exactly what I expected in others.  I have no particular desire to play more 
games of this stripe, but reasonably enjoyed at least two of these when the 
explicit sexual material was not present.  That material I just found tedious.  
Call me a prude if you like, but I think sex is something best enjoyed between 
two people who care for one another and are both, well, real.  As for fiction, 
it is more interesting to me when it focuses on the psychology of sex rather 
than the mechanics.  If only psychology were one of IF's strengths...

But in the mainstream IF community, the news is very positive.  We had what in 
my opinion might just have been the strongest field of Competition entrants ever 
last fall, and closed out the year with several more very interesting releases.  
This is the largest issue of SPAG I have published as editor.  In addition to 
the expected Competition coverage, there are plenty of non-Competition reviews.  
Also included is an introduction to the French IF community, hopefully first of 
an ongoing series of articles about the other IF communities.  And then there is 
the article I feel best of all about publishing, even as I wish I didn't have 
to: Daniel Ravipinto's eulogy for Star Foster, co-author of 2003's Competition 
winner Slouching Towards Bedlam who recently passed away far too young.

IF NEWS -------------------------------------------------------------------

The 12th Annual IF Competition is complete, and has produced a wonderful field 
of games, many worth playing for years to come.  Everything about this year's 
event was positive to my mind.  There were lots of efforts written in next-
generation IF development systems Inform 7 and TADS 3, including all three of 
the top finishers; the overall field increased to 43 entrants; and the 
percentage of unplayable dross decreased again, continuing the trend of the last 
several years.  Even many of the failures this year were honest failures, 
victims of overambition rather than laziness.  Congratulations and thanks go out 
not just to the top finishers and organizer Stephan Granade, but to everyone who 
entered a game, wrote reviews, or merely voted.

1 Floatpoint, by Emily Short
2 The Primrose Path, by Nolan Bonvouloir
3 The Elysium Enigma, by Eric Eve
4 The Traveling Swordsman, by Mike Snyder (writing as Anonymous)
5 Moon-Shaped, by Jason Ermer
6 Delightful Wallpaper, by Andrew Plotkin (writing as Edgar O. Weyrd)
7 Legion, by Jason Devlin (writing as Ian Anderson)
8 Madam Spider's Web, by Sara Dee
9 Mobius, by John Clemens (writing as J.D. Clemens)
10 Unauthorized Termination, by Richard Otter
11 Game Producer!, by jason bergman
12 The Sisters, by revgiblet
13 Star City, by Mark Sachs
14 Strange Geometries, by Phillip Chambers
15 The Tower of the Elephant, by Tor Andersson
16 Aunts and Butlers, by Robin Johnson
17 Xen: The Hunt, by Ian Shlasko
18 Labyrinth, by Samantha Casanova Preuninger
19 Requiem, by david whyld
20 Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter, by Rob Myall
21 The Bible Retold, by Justin Morgan and "Celestianpower"
22 Another Goddamn Escape the Locked Room Game, by Riff Conner
23 Fight or Flight, by Sean Krauss (writing as geelpete)
24 MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - I, by Bill Powell
25 Hedge, by Steven Richards
26 A Broken Man, by Geoff Fortytwo
27 Polendina, by Christopher Lewis
28 The Initial State, by Matt Barton
29 MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - II, by Bill Powell
30 Pathfinder, by Tony Woods
31 The Apolcalypse Clock, by GlorbWare
32 Wumpus Run, by Elfindor
33 Ballymun Adventure, by Brendan Cribbin
34 Tentellian Island, by Zack Wood (writing as Waru)
35 Lawn of Love, by Santoonie Corporation
36 Beam, by Madrone Eddy
37 Enter the Dark, by Peter R. Shushmaruk
38 Green Falls, by Paul Panks (writing as Dunric)
39 Sisyphus, by Theo Koutz
40 Visocica, by Thorben Burgel
41 Simple Adventure, by Paul Panks (writing as dunric)
42 Fetter's Grim, by Paul Panks (writing as Dunric)
43 PTGOOD 8*10^23, by Sartre Malvolio 

Scott Rettberg of the Electronic Literature Organization was recently kind 
enough to send me a CD of the ELO's first Collection, containing 60 examples of 
many different types of electronic writing.  Most familiar to SPAG readers will 
be the five works of IF included: All Roads by Jon Ingold; Whom the Telling 
Changed by Aaron Reed; Bad Machine by Dan Shiovitz; and Galatea and Savoir Faire 
by Emily Short.  With a hectic holiday season finally behind me, I have just 
begun to delve into the rest of the Collection, and hope to offer more thoughts 
in SPAG's next issue.  For now, though, you can see for yourself at the URL 

Ken Franklin has created a customized search engine that pulls from a variety of 
community websites.  Try it out, and be sure to email Ken your suggestions for 
additional sites to be included in the searches.

Longtime community contributor David Cornelson has decided to make a go at 
producing commercial IF.  His plans have already generated much discussion and 
perhaps even some excitement.  Here's wishing him the best of luck in his 
venture, and commending him for actually doing what so many -- myself included, 
of course -- have merely talked about.  More news about David's new company will 
appear here as it arrives.

The Russian IF Community's annual Competition, featuring six entrants, has 
recently wrapped up.  Those with Russian can find the games here:

Brandon Felger has started putting together a new manual to help ease newbies 
into Inform 7 development.  It is available for anyone to add to and improve on 

Artist Tim Simmons is offering to create IF cover art for anyone's game, for 
free (subject to certain reasonable restrictions, of course).  Visit his website 
to see his work, and to email him about adding that last missing touch to your 

We cover a lot of ground in this issue, but there are always more, more, more 
games being released that deserve reviews.  Please think about helping out.  The 
following games I am looking for especially, but reviews of virtually any IF, 
old or new, will be gratefully accepted.

1.  Remaining IF Comp 2006 Games (any or some)
2.  Getfeldt's Treasure
3.  1893: A World's Fair Mystery
4.  Final Selection
5.  The Retreat
6.  When in Rome, parts 1 and/or 2
7.  Bronze
8.  IntroComp 2006 Games (any, some, or all)
9.  Moments Out of Time Adventure Type
10. The Ebb and Flow of the Tide

A EULOGY FOR STAR FOSTER by Daniel Ravipinto-------------------------------

[Most of us in the IF community know Star Foster as the co-author with Daniel 
Ravipinto of 2003's Competition winner Slouching Towards Bedlam, one of the most 
played and discussed IF works of the last five years.  It is too easy to forget, 
though, that there is much more to the people behind IF than the games they 
create, that IF is just an enjoyable hobby and distraction from real life for 
most of us.  Here then is Dan's tribute to Star Foster the human being, who 
passed away on December 10, 2006. --JM]

There are no words to sum up the life of Star Foster, but words are all I have. 
Words, and stories, and anecdotes and small slices of fact assembled into some 
whole that will, of course, come far from encompassing who she really was, and 
how much her passing will leave us without.

But words are a start.

So much of Star's life was a love affair with the written word.  Both words in 
the abstract, their meanings, ideas, etymology, and words as physical, living 
things.  She loved the sound, shape and tone of a turn of phrase, the feel and 
smell of books.  She loved words as vibrant, living things existing at the 
intersection of mind and body, the cognitive and the emotional.

She read voraciously and never alone.  She was a member of a monthly book club 
and was always lending and borrowing books with her friends, always ready to 
share another new favorite.

Writing (though not the writing process) was her passion, but she never thought 
she wrote enough and she never thought of herself as a 'real' writer.  She was 
wrong about that, as she was wrong about few things.

It's not surprising that she was endlessly delighted at the success of Slouching 
Towards Bedlam, her first foray into interactive-fiction, for it meant she could 
truthfully call herself an award-winning writer.

Slouching was in many ways an intersection of many of Star's passions: Victorian 
language and society, weird and interesting technology, language and meaning, 
and most importantly, a solid story. Star had always been fascinated with games, 
especially those that told tales.  As a child, when she couldn't find anyone to 
join her in playing Dark Tower (one of the first electronic board games ever 
made), she sat alone in her room for hours, imagining adventures between the 
canned noises and the blinks of LEDs.

Of interactive-fiction, she once wrote, "It's a phenomenal art form, full of 
creative possibilities, that allows a truly intimate exchange between the writer 
and the player. Too often these games are shadowed by their graphic-rich 
cousins, many of which can't be bothered with intricate details like plot, 
pacing, and story. Interactive fiction is more than just another kind of game; 
it's another kind of literature."

Literature was one of the lenses through which Star viewed the world.

Another was the lens of her camera.

She loved Philadelphia, her life-long home, as I have seen few places loved. She 
knew the city inside and out, and yet was always discovering new secrets, new 
surprises which she shared at every opportunity.

During her many winsome wanderings around the city she would take photos of 
whatever caught her eye: doorways, statues, gravestones, historical sites, and 
even hastily taped-up flyers admonishing the viewer to vote for John Kerry.

She'd post them on her blog (, and to a long-time city 
dweller these places were usually familiar, yet through her lens they seemed 
somehow new.

Again, Star never did anything in a vacuum.  The most important part of her 
journey was the sharing: the stories and anecdotes told afterwards.  Her stories 
were always a part of her community, told to her family and friends as she 
encouraged them to share their own.

Star found adventure everywhere.

She once wrote a children's novel for National Novel Writing Month about a boy 
who steps through a small door in his school and finds adventures on the other 
side.  Star was fascinated with doors, always curious about where they led, 
about what was on the other side.

I've since come to learn that these doors, constructed to provide access to 
ductwork and plumbing, are called "trouble doors", and they were a perfect 
fascination and metaphor for a woman for whom safe was never quite good enough.

Star had more stories and more adventures than anyone I've ever known.  She'd 
been a pirate and scream queen.  She'd joined a secret society just to find out 
what they did.  She'd been to Japan.  She'd gone swimming with sharks.  She'd 
sung in a piano bar in a boa.

Star knew where all the trouble doors in life were, and although she sometimes 
doubted, worried, and was scared, none of that stopped her from venturing 
through them.

And I was sometimes lucky enough to go along with her.

On December 10, 2006, Star Foster stepped through another door, and this time I 
can't follow. I hope that someday, when my adventures are over, I'll meet her on 
the other side and find her, waiting and impatient, with more stories, more 

More words.

A TIMELINE OF THE FRENCH IF COMMUNITY by Eriorg----------------------------

[French IF received a big boost in profile with the recent release of Ekphrasis, 
an ambitious and lengthy multimedia adventure.  (See Felix Plesoianu's review in 
this issue.)  The French community is young and still quite small, but has grown 
steadily in recent years.  As the first of what I hope will turn into a regular 
series of features on the "other" IF communities, French community member Eriorg 
here provides a timeline of modern French IF history. --JM]

1980s and very early 1990s: Many IF games in French, both commercial and 
freeware, were released, although most of them had graphics but rather primitive 
parsers. (Note that the modern French IF community has little or nothing to do 
with the French IF of the commercial era: present French-speaking IF authors are 
influenced by modern English IF games.)

Late 1991 (probably): The last commercial French (parser-based) IF game.

c. 1993: The last freeware French IF game of that era.

c. 1994 -- 1999: As far as I know, there was absolutely no French IF activity at 
all during all those years.

2000 (at the latest): A mailing list about Inform in French was created.

January 2001: JL Pontico released the French translation of Inform, and also 
"Aventure", a translation of "Adventure".

2002: Eric Forgeot began his first game, "Le pouvoir délaissé : The coming race 
II", written with Glulx Inform. (Unfortunately, it's still an incomplete demo 
version. Apparently, he now hopes to release it in 2007.)

2002: Sabine, whose website ( is about games in French 
which are accessible for visually impaired people (not only IF), released her 
first French translations of short Inform English IF games.

February 2003: A very important date, because of the release of "Filaments" (by 
JB), the first original (i.e. not a translation) and finished game of the modern 
French IF community. It was a long story, full of adventure and humor, taking 
place in Paris and in a variety of surreal places. The same year, an Italian 
translation (by Marco Totolo) of this game was very well received and even won 
the Best Italian IF game of the year 2003 award!

July 2004: Release of "La Mort Pour Seul Destin", again by JB. It was a non-
linear fantasy IF game with RPG elements, and also a homage to adventure 
gamebooks, especially Steve Jackson's "Sorcery!" series.

August 2004: The mailing list was replaced by a web forum 

April 7, 2005: Stab, a computer artist (who is also the author of the French 
Comp 2005 and 2006 logos and of the look of the French IF forum) suggested the 
idea of a French IF short games competition.

April 16, 2005: Eric Forgeot announced the competition and its rules. He was the 
organizer of the comp.

- Any programming language may be used.
- The theme is: a main puzzle which, when it'll be solved, will end or nearly 
end the story. This puzzle might be about mechanisms or gearings, for instance.
- The deadline is June 21st. (It was later postponed until September 30th.)
- Three ratings, each one from 1 to 10. The three criteria are: "enjoyment", 
"originality and atmosphere" and "technical quality". The general average will 
determine the winner. There will also be a winner in each category.
- Authors may judge the games -- except their own games, of course! (We're just 
not numerous enough to refuse votes. In the French Comp, Eric Forgeot even is 
simultaneously the organizer, an author and a judge!)
- Authors must be anonymous.
- Authors may submit several games if they want.

Note that the French Comp rules were always very flexible: we're quite glad if 
you submit games, we can't be too fussy if you don't quite respect some rules.
For instance, the theme of the comp is optional: it's supposed to help you to 
find ideas, not to be a constraint.
Similarly, games whose authors were not anonymous were accepted. Anyway, the 
rule about anonymity doesn't really work in practice: with so few authors, it's 
not that hard to guess who's who!
No rule forbids to submit already released games.
Finally, both the submitting and the voting deadline were often postponed in 
order to allow latecomers to enter.

Late September and early October 2005: the competition games were released. 
There were five games, by five different authors. Two of them were the first 
French games written with ADRIFT, which Sabine had recently translated into 

October 26, 2005: French Comp 2005 results:
1. "Le Cercle des Gros Geeks disparus" by Adrien Saurat (a humorous one-room 
   (Also winner of Best enjoyment and Best technical quality.)

2. "Echappée Belle Dans les Contrées du Rêve" by JB (a Lovecraftian story)
   (Winner of Best originality and atmosphere.)

3. "Le Temple de Feu" by Eric Forgeot (a puzzle-filled game)
4. "Les Feux de l'enfer" by Sabine (a fantasy story)
5. "Qui a tué Dana ?" by Vegeta (a mystery story with a touch of science 

To sum up, with the French Comp, the principle of competitions for short IF 
games proved once again, ten years after the creation of the IF Comp in the 
English community, its remarkable effectiveness to motivate authors to write 
games and ABOVE ALL to finish them -- rather than procrastinate or start big 
projects which never get finished...

April and May 2006: Benjamin Roux released two homebrewed MS-DOS games on the IF 
Archive, "Interra, L'autre monde" and "Jour pluvieux".

2006: Loïc released two games, which he submitted to the French Comp a bit 

Late October 2006: the French Comp 2006 games (four games by three authors) were 

Same rules as French Comp 2005, except:
- The suggested theme was science fiction.
- Ratings: the three criteria were slightly different from the previous comp: 
"enjoyment", "writing" and "programming". The "enjoyment" criterion had a double 
weight for the calculation of the average.
- There were a few prizes, donated by JB. (There was no prize in the previous 
French Comp.)

November 3, 2006: JB released "Ekphrasis", a very ambitious game with many 
graphics, sounds and music. It's an adventure story about forgers and 
Renaissance art. Although it's in French, it already received a few very 
favorable reactions on the RGIF newsgroup.

December 29, 2006: French Comp 2006 results:

"La Cité des Eaux" by Adrien Saurat: 1st place.
(Also winner of Best writing, Best programming and Best enjoyment.)
A post-apocalyptic science fiction game. After a journey through various 
devastated places, you might reach "la Cité des Eaux" (the City of Waters). On 
the way, you, as a player, will progressively discover the not so pleasant 
nature of the player character's personality and mission...

"Sarvegne" by Eric Forgeot: 2nd place.
A science fiction game. You're about to enter the futuristic city of Sarvegne, 
where you want to meet a pen-friend who asked you to come there...

"Largo Winch" by Loïc: 3rd place.
An adventure story inspired by the successful comic books series of the same 
name. (According to a page ( from 
the official Largo Winch website, they apparently rather encourage fanfiction.)
You're Largo Winch, the director of the "Group W" and one of the richest men in 
the world, but also a man of action. There have been two murders in one of your 
Mexican research laboratories, the W Food Research laboratory. You go there to 
investigate personally...

"Enquête à hauts risques" by Loïc: 4th place.
A thriller taking place in Paris nowadays. You're a policeman called Lucas 
Label, and today might be the day you'll send at last to jail Roberto Amato, one 
of the most dangerous men of the Italian Mafia. But things might also go 
terribly wrong!

All the same, the French-speaking IF community is still very small, with hardly 
more than a dozen permanent members. This causes many problems: few games, few 
players (which perhaps makes it harder to find the motivation to write games, 
and probably also makes games less technically solid than they could be, because 
of the lack of beta-testers), and so on.

We'd give new members a very warm reception!


Eriorg was kind enough to conduct and translate interviews for SPAG with two of 
the French community's most prominent members: Adrien Saurat, winner of the 
recent French IF Competition; and JB, author of the recently released multimedia 
epic Ekphrasis that has gotten considerable attention even in the English IF 

 Adrien Saurat, author of "La Cité des Eaux"

  E: Let's begin with the usual SPAG interview introductory question: 
  could you tell us a little about yourself? Who are you, what do you do 
  for a living, and so on?

AS: I'm Adrien Saurat, 28 years old French semi-geek. I work as an engineer in a 
big Information Technology service firm, working mostly with ASP and PHP 
languages. Aside from that, I enjoy playing comedy theatre in general and 
improvisational theatre in particular.

  E: How did you know about IF in general, and French IF in particular?

AS: My very first contact with IF was with a game I don't really remember... I 
was very young and it was in English, I didn't understand everything. I only 
remember that it was somehow related to Alice in Wonderland. I had a good time 
on this but soon got back to Nebulus, Bubble Bobble and such! Later, I 
discovered the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy and Planetfall. I got really 
into Planetfall, and this little robot is still in my mind after all these 
years. But again, after trying this game I got back to more action-oriented 

A few years ago, after reading the Douglas Adams books, I played the H2G2 game 
again and tried to find French Interactive Fictions of the same kind. I soon 
discovered the mailing-list dedicated to French IF creation, downloaded the 
Inform translation by Jean-Luc Pontico and created a portal to host the 
community, which is now mostly administrated and updated by Eric Forgeot. In 
2005, Stab (our graphic artist) and Eric initiated the French Comp, and we since 
enjoy to make it live in spite of the tiny number of authors we have!

  E: I see that, besides interactive fiction, you're also interested by e-mail 
  role-playing games: what are they, exactly? Did you create some yourself? And 
  do you think there are things in common between IF games and e-mail RPGs?

AS: I got into this after two years of online RPG gaming on Ultima Online and 
The 4th Coming. At first lurking on an English "Red Dwarf" based e-mail rpg, I 
soon tried one of them in French. This game quickly vanished, so I started my 
own, a sci-fi humorous game in which I did put the character of my first 
player in a spaceship, brush in hands :)

To me, pbem games (play by e-mail) represent the best form of online gaming if 
you enjoy freedom of action. It combines the possibilities of a good old live 
role-playing game with the advantages of playing when you have the time to do so 
(my good old Warhammer Saturday afternoons with my friends definitely belong to 
the past). Then, when you want to create games for a greater audience, the 
closest choice is the Interactive Fiction! You can still develop a rich story 
and give the player a rather good feeling of freedom (at least better than in 
point-and-click games), with this "anyone can do it" feeling (I just can't make 
a Monkey Island for now).

  E: How did you have the idea of "La Cité des Eaux"? And did the suggested 
  themes for the French Comp (in 2006, it was science fiction) help you to find 
  ideas or were they, on the contrary, constraints?

AS: The science fiction theme has always been one of my favorite, so in no way 
could it be a constraint. I just had to choose among all my influences in this 
domain... Asimov? Lucas? Orwell? Adams? Barjavel?
"La Cité des Eaux" (post-apocalyptic) was in fact my third idea for the comp. My 
two first projects would fit in the "Space Opera" genre. One of them is still a 
work in progress, but it was too big to be finished on time. It will be largely 
inspired by space trading games like Elite or Nomad, but I really can't say when 
it will be finished... I'm used to small games and they already consume a lot of 
my time ;)

Too late for that, I had to find another idea. I'm fond of post-apocalyptic 
settings, and one of my favorite authors of the 19th century wrote a sort-of 
prophetical text which really shines by its cold and cruel modernity. I soon got 
excited about using this long quote in a game, and started a story which takes 
place in a ravaged world, slowly curing from its wounds.

  E: A major theme of "La Cité des Eaux" is the opposition between nature and 
  man, between ecology and technology. What's your opinion about that subject? 
  Do you entirely disapprove of the attitude of the main character of the game, 
  or do you nevertheless agree a little with him, somehow?

AS: Ahem... I spent a lot of time during the last years to re-think my vision of 
Life, the Universe and Everything. I ended up being a deterministic, somewhat 
nihilistic (I don't kill people), atheist. Still, I can't decide between "Let's 
save our Earth, for our children's sake!" and "In the end, everything will 
disappear anyway, life is absurd, so who cares?"

The game tries to give an intermediate solution!

I can't say I agree with the main character, but the goal of the game is clearly 
to help him achieve his mission. The happy end was only added to enhance 
replayability and to reassure people about my sanity ;-) but the story is 
designed in such a way that most players will first finish it with the initial 
goal (except maybe for experienced players who can't stop snuffing everywhere).

  E: In "La Cité des Eaux", there are many quotations from a famous French 
  writer (we won't reveal his name here to avoid spoilers). What gave you this 
  idea? Is he one of your favorite authors? Or perhaps did you choose him just 
  because his texts are in the public domain?

AS: Yes, he shares the top of my favorite authors with Albert Camus, Jerome K 
Jerome and Douglas Adams!
The quotes used in the game come from a short, simple and underrated book of 
this author. I read it regularly when I feel my muse gets lazy! 
Thinking of the precedent question, I can add that the 19th century quotation is 
only closed when you attain the regular ending. It just wouldn't fit with the 
happy one. 

  E: Before "La Cité des Eaux", you published the game "Le Cercle des Gros Geeks 
  disparus", the French Comp 2005 winner. Could you present it shortly? And 
  which one of your two games do you personally prefer? 

AS: The title refers to "Le cercle des poètes disparus", aka "Dead poets 
society" in English. Thinking about it, "Dead geeks society" would make it very 
well for a translation of the game ;-) In this fiction, you play the role of a 
nerd waking up after a whole night of drinking lemonade-based cocktails and 
crafting a mysterious cube. Your goal is to finish this WIP machine with the 
items you'll find in the bedroom. Depending on which objects you'll plug on the 
cube, it will have a totally different usage and that will generate specific 
endings, only one of them being totally satisfying.

"Le Cercle" is a very short and, I hope, fun game. I took the time to implement 
nearly everything I wanted. I still have a version in progress to correct the 
last bugs, and of course it's far from perfect and I could enhance it, but 
otherwise I consider the game finished.
On the other hand, "La Cité des Eaux" was really completed in a hurry and some 
rooms are very very empty. That makes me mad and if you, reader, wants to try 
the game, please wait for the Release 4, coming soon in French, or the Release 
5, which should be an English version.

I prefer "La Cité des Eaux" for two reasons. First, the theme seems more 
interesting to me. Second, I like the fact that the player can drive the 
character in some places just to change his vision of the world, thus modifying 
the ending.

  E: Although the atmosphere of your two games is totally different, they do 
  have at least one notable thing in common: the presence of multiple endings, 
  only one of them optimal, which enhances replayability. Do you particularly 
  like that way of doing things, rather than, for instance, longer but more 
  linear games with only one winning ending? 

AS: When I was a child, playing 8 bits games for hours and hours, I had a 
sadistic patience and could play on a single, complex and undocumented game for 
days (we all did, didn't we?). That's over! I don't play often now, and I prefer 
short and easy games, simply to spend a good time in a virtual world. I create 
the games I'd like to play. The multiple endings in "Le Cercle des Geeks" are 
simple to find. They may be fun but do not add a lot to the meaning of the story 
(talk about meaning with geeks involved...). In "La Cité des Eaux", the end 
depends on the morale and philanthropy of the main character, which changes 
during the game depending on the actions asked by the player. In the Release 2, 
sent for the comp, the tuning is far from perfect, but later versions will add 
more endings and make them more tied to the state of the character.
Well, yes, I like this kind of play! I was largely influenced by games like 
Aisle, Pick up the phone booth and die, Galatea... but wanted to push the 
experience in a longer story. My future games will still probably offer multiple 
endings, maybe even branching stories.

  E: What are your favorite IF games?

AS: Amongst the classics, Planetfall for ever!

Speaking about the modern creations, I must admit that I didn't play a lot of 
games but I can mention I-0, Being Andrew Plotkin and All Roads which really 
pleased me, each one in its special style (I-0 rules!).

My favorite French game is Filaments, written by JB Ferrant, a beautiful story 
about a young Parisian girl called Margot and his dorky friend Jonas.

  E: How do you see the future of French IF?

AS: Our community gets slowly bigger and bigger. Some of us make a lot of 
efforts to enhance the visibility of our community and it should pay soon. We 
are happy to approach the English community now, but our biggest priority is 
still to gain more writers and players in French speaking countries. A very long 
task which should be made easier by crafting a few newbie friendly games. Maybe 
Ekphrasis could fill this empty spot with its multimedia content? Future will 

  E: What are your projects (especially related to IF!), now?

AS: I'm working on a seafaring game which should be bigger than La Cité des 
Eaux, but still largely influenced by the choices of the player (way more, in 
fact). It will be more action oriented, and should be an intermediate step 
before the Elite-like game I spoke about earlier.

 JB, author of "Ekphrasis"

  E: The usual SPAG interview introductory question: could you tell us a little 
  about yourself? Who are you, what do you do for a living, and so on?

JB: I'm JB, with a very full life, and lots of stories to relate.

  E: How did you know about IF in general, and French IF in particular?

JB: I came upon "Aisle" by chance in 2002 and I was charmed by that surprising 
game. I then discovered the INFORM language, and its French version, but there 
was no original game in French at the time. I found it interesting to embark on 
this adventure, and a few months later, Filaments was written.

  E: I see that you're also a writer and that you've published a novel, 
  "Perfect!" ( Could you tell us 
  more about it? And does your writing experience help you for your IF games, 
  and vice versa?

JB: The creation of Perfect was a publishing rather than a writing project: it 
was a novella about video games published on a website which had been very 
successful; we created a label (Ginko), requested an ISBN, did the legal deposit 
at the Ministry of the Interior and at the National Library of France, worked 
out the bar code representing the ISBN, made a normalized cover, and so on...

It's difficult to launch into an IF without taking pleasure in writing, but an 
accomplished writer, while he'll know how to delight us with a spirited 
scenario, solid characters and tangible descriptions, won't guarantee an 
interactive game giving the intellectual pleasure of a true video game; a double 
culture, about both adventure games and literature, is a prerequisite for that 

  E: About your new game "Ekphrasis": what gave you the idea of writing a story 
  about Renaissance art? Do you have a passion for this subject?

JB: I wanted to write a story dealing with experts in a particular subject, a 
priori austere and rigorous as art history and mathematics are for the novices, 
and make characters with strong personalities contrast with these austere 
subjects. The rest was only documentation, the Renaissance era being so rich 
that everything can be a pretext to fascinating stories.

  E: "Ekphrasis" is your first game with graphics, sounds and music. In your 
  opinion, what can these multimedia elements add to IF games? Should they be 
  above all illustrations, beautiful but optional, or do you prefer, like 
  sometimes in "Ekphrasis", that they're really essential for the game, for 
  instance to solve some puzzles?

JB: By their dryness, IF games play with the obscure part of imagination and the 
addition of multimedia elements may be a neither necessary nor desirable 

The illustrations aren't optional: Ekphrasis is written in the first person, and 
what Gilbert Fontenelle the art history professor sees isn't what the player 
must see in order to progress; more precisely, what Gilbert sees is expressed by 
the text, whereas the picture gives a more objective vision. For instance, in 
the first room, the description mentions Bramante and the "formidable presence" 
of the Renaissance masters, but the picture explains more clearly where the 
player is.

Similarly, when you observe some objects, for instance the fax you receive at 
the beginning of the game, the information appears in the graphic window, and 
there's an ironic comment from Gilbert in the text part, which provides a 
particularly pleasant to handle writing liberty.

By extension, the sounds are there to underline an atmosphere, and the (brief) 
music, to sanction a chapter and to set a tone.

As for the possibility of exploiting pictures or sounds to devise new puzzles, 
why not, but the quality of puzzles, the clarity of their formulation and the 
cleverness of their solution and the resulting game enjoyment are only a problem 
of design, not of implementation.

  E: Could you tell us (no need to go into all the details!) which illustrations 
  and sounds of "Ekphrasis" did you do yourself and which ones were you able to 
  take elsewhere, for example on websites with royalty-free pictures and sounds?

JB: I dug into my archives and family archives, as well as in a bought image 
bank CD. On that subject, you'll find again some characters from Ekphrasis in 
various advertisements of bad quality...

  E: Did the programming of the game with Glulx happen without too many 

JB: Problems which now seem minor to me: obsolete compiler, the save function, 
and also the "Demander" ("Ask") verb didn't work in the French libraries until a 
recent correction was implemented.

Finally, until the OGG was implemented in Glulx, Ekphrasis very nearly was a 
silent game...

  E: You're already the author of 4 IF games in French : "Filaments", "La Mort 
  Pour Seul Destin", "Échappée Belle dans les Contrées du Rêve" and of course 
  "Ekphrasis". Which one do you personally prefer? Which one was best received 
  by the players? Do you have an estimate of the number of people who played at 
  least one of your games, as far as you know?

JB: My favorite is the one I'm going to write soon ;-) Although I received 
laudatory e-mails concerning Ekphrasis, Filaments received an extremely warm 
welcome at the time and I still regularly receive e-mails (from an exclusively 
feminine audience, by the way) on that subject even 4 years later.

For your information, on January 6, 2007 and since it was put online on November 
3, 2006, Ekphrasis was downloaded 3037 times as its Windows stand-alone 
executable version and 1696 times as its .blb version for other operating 
systems from my website.

Now, I don't know how many people played it. Note that these numbers are below 
the downloads of "La Mort Pour Seul Destin", which goes to show that, when 
you've got a good title...

  E: You've already made, and finished!, 4 games (3 of them quite long), which 
  is unusual for French IF! What's your "secret"?

JB: I'm haunted by stories which only want to express themselves.

  E: "Filaments" was translated into Italian and, by the way, won the Best 
  Italian game of the year 2003 award. In what circumstances did it happen? Do 
  you think that there'll be other translations of your games, for instance an 
  English translation of "Ekphrasis"?

JB: Shortly after the release of Filaments, an enthusiastic bilingual player 
intended to make a translation of it. Given that he was also a good programmer, 
it's not impossible that the Italian version is more pleasant to play, too...

Of course, it would always be a pleasure for me that Ekphrasis or another one 
would be translated into English so that these characters are known by a larger 
audience, but I wouldn't be personally proactive on those projects, translation 
being a project requiring a rigor, a competence and a passion I don't think I 

  E: What are your favorite IF games?

JB: Aisle, Shrapnel, All Roads.

  E: How do you see the future of French IF?

JB: Our community is enriched with about one permanent member every year, 
therefore rather well ;-)

  E: What are your projects (especially related to IF!), now?

JB: I'm presently working on a new project, which has even more pictures, with a 
bigger graphic window, and more sounds.


Per long tradition, presented here are interviews with the top three finishers 
from the 12th Annual IF Competition: third place finisher Eric Eve; second place 
finisher Nolan Bonvouloir; and the 2006 Competition winner, Emily Short.

 Eric Eve, author of "The Elysium Enigma"

  SPAG: You have been a prominent member of the community for a couple of years 
  now, but this marks your first interview for SPAG.  I understand you are a New 
  Testament scholar when not authoring IF.  Care to share with us a bit about 
  your personal and professional life outside IF?

EE: As you say, I'm a New Testament scholar; I work at Harris Manchester 
College, which is one of the colleges of Oxford University. But Harris 
Manchester is an unusual Oxford college in that we take only mature students, 
i.e. students who are 21 or over at the start of their course, so I get to teach 
people from a wide variety of backgrounds. I've also spent four Januaries 
teaching Winter Term courses at Middlebury College in Vermont.

I wasn't always an NT scholar, though. My first degree was in Engineering, and I 
worked for EMI Electronics for 15 months before being lured into the family 
business where I stayed for 15 years. Early in the nineties a series of 
takeovers persuaded me that it was time for me and a business career to part 
company, so I returned to Oxford to retrain as an academic.

  SPAG: The thing that always strikes me first about your games is your mastery 
  of NPC interaction.  Conversations in your games feel more real than those in 
  just about any other IF.  How do you get this effect?  Any secrets you can 
  share, other than just patience and an intimate knowledge of TADS 3?

EE: Thank you for your kind remarks! If the conversations in my games do work
well, it's probably due to a number of factors. First, I've had some practice at 
writing dialogue in my drafts of (unpublished) static fiction.  Second, I've 
generally tried to follow the advice Mike Roberts's article on creating dynamic 
characters, for example in giving both sides to the conversation and in varying 
default responses. Third, I do try to take full advantage of the tools TADS 3 
provides for programming conversations and other aspects of NPC implementation. 
But fourth, as you suggest, it does take a great deal of patience, in providing 
a reasonably wide range of responses, in trying to ensure that the responses 
vary appropriately according to circumstance, and in polishing the dialogue in 
the light of how it appears on the screen in the course of play-testing (both my 
own and my beta-testers'). There's no magic secret to it, but I think it does 
help to think in terms of writing dialogue and not just responses to 
conversational commands; in particular when I'm writing a series of responses to 
the same command I'm usually trying to imagine how a conversation on the topic 
might progress, while trying to allow for the fact that the player might enter
other commands in between any of the conversational exchanges.

  EE: You constructed your game in such a way that it is possible to reach the 
  ending with as few as 12 of its 30 points.  The game thus fits within the 
  Competition time limit, yet offers much more for those interested in 
  exploring.  It even concludes with customized hints on things one might want 
  to try next time through.  How did you come up with this approach?

EE: To be honest, I was a bit worried whether it would fit within the time 
limit. I suppose it was partly this worry that led to the approach you mention; 
I wanted to make it reasonably possible for most players to find an ending 
within two hours, while giving scope to the other ideas I'd thought up. I also 
wanted to provide more puzzle-oriented players with more things to do without 
this obligatory for all. So far as the customized hints at the end are 
concerned, this simply struck me as a neat idea to implement when I was 
considering what to put in an AMUSING option. Of course I also hoped it might 
encourage some players to play the game again outside the Comp to find some of 
the things they missed first time round.

  SPAG: From the department of strange coincidences: Two of top three finishers 
  this year had amazingly similar themes, although their individual feels are 
  quite different.  Were you surprised when you realized that Floatpoint also 
  involved a diplomat visiting a backwater colony inhabited by strange and 
  possibly dangerous natives?

EE: Yes, I was indeed, and remarked on it shortly after playing Floatpoint in an
email exchange with Emily Short. As you say, the two games have a very different 
feel, but another coincidental similarity is that in both games the PC's first 
explicit task is to meet a particular official. Moreover, in both games the 
native society is facing extinction, though for very different reasons, and in 
both games the PC in a sense has to deal with threats to the native society, 
though in very different ways. Some of these similarities may be rather too 
general to be significant, but none of them is due to Emily and I exchanging 
ideas before the Comp.

  SPAG: You mention in Elysium Enigma that it is just one fairly small episode 
  in a science fiction universe you have been building for three decades (!).  I 
  am reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien, filling his office with maps, legends, and even 
  languages of a world no one else knew existed. Will we be seeing more of this 
  universe, in either IF or static fiction?

EE: I have no concrete plans right now for another IF game set in this universe,
but it's quite possible I'll return to it in some future game. I doubt the 
static fiction set in this universe will appear in print any time in the 
foreseeable future. Every now and again I come back to it and have another go at 
polishing it, but it's nowhere near anything that would be publishable. There 
are currently six or seven novels in the series, in various states of disarray, 
and every time I polish one up it changes my ideas about what should be in the 
others; and none of them has reached a quality I'd feel happy to have my name 
attached to in print.

  SPAG: In addition to your game authorship, you have also been deeply involved 
  in the development of TADS 3, even authoring a couple of manuals for the 
  system.  How did this come about, and has it been a satisfying experience?

EE: I'm not sure I was exactly "deeply involved in the development of TADS 3";
in common with many other member of the TADS 3 list I've bombarded Mike Roberts 
with bug reports and feature requests, and there's a couple of small bits of the 
library that are based on things I sent Mike, but the real development effort is 
down to him. But it is true that I have contributed some documentation. This 
originally came about through my own efforts to learn the system with little 
more than the system documentation and the comments in the library code to guide 
me. Once I'd more or less begun to understand the basics I thought it would be 
helpful to write the sort of guide I would have found useful as a complete 
beginner coming from another system (I originally learned Inform 6), and so I 
drafted the original "Getting Started in TADS 3" as one fairly recent beginner 
trying to help totally new beginners. Mike gave me a lot of useful feedback on 
the first draft, which prevented it passing on too many near-beginner mistakes. 
But there was a great deal the Getting Started Guide didn't cover, so after
spending more time working in TADS 3 I conceived the idea of writing a Tour 
Guide that would take the reader through most of the more commonly-used library 
classes in a reasonably systematic manner. Mike subsequently asked me whether he 
could distribute the Getting Started Guide and the Tour Guide as part of the 
documentation for the official release of TADS 3 and I was very happy for him to 
do so; quite apart from anything else it meant that all the work I'd put into 
writing them would be put to good use!

In the main I'd say it was a satisfying experience. I've certainly enjoyed
participating in the TADS 3 list and knocking around ideas for new features 
during the development process. I'm not satisfied that the Getting Started Guide 
and Tour Guide are as good as they could be, but then I probably wouldn't be 
satisfied with them whatever I'd written, and I'm pleased that people generally 
seem to find them useful. I was also pleased that the incorporation of the 
Getting Started Guide into the official TADS 3 documentation set gave me the 
opportunity to make some fairly major changes to it along lines I'd long been 
contemplating. On the other hand I keep kicking myself when daft errors come to 
light as a result of my not having carried through all the changes consistently.

  SPAG: You are also one of the few, possibly the only, IF author to have 
  authored games in both TADS 3 and Inform 7.  I surmise based on my limited 
  experience that Inform 7 is easier to pick up, particularly for non-
  programmers, and pitched as a more explicitly literary system; while TADS 3 is 
  more technically daunting but has a world model of a complexity never seen 
  before in IF, thus making it a better choice for more simulation-oriented 
  works.  Would you say this is an accurate assessment?  Can you tell us a bit 
  about your experiences with the two systems?  Will you continue to split your 
  development time between the two?

EE: Your characterization of the differences between TADS 3 and Inform 7 may 
need a few qualifications. Inform 7 certainly seems to be attracting a number of 
potential authors who would be daunted by a more conventional programming 
language. Whether that means it's objectively easier to master than TADS 3 I'm 
not so sure. In some ways the TADS 3 language is actually simpler than Inform 7 
(in the sense of involving fewer fundamental concepts); the greater complexity 
of TADS 3 lies in its library. Which of the two systems is easier to pick up 
depends on the inclinations, tastes and previous experience of whoever's trying 
to learn them. To write a very basic game with a few rooms and a couple of 
portable objects is trivially easy in either system; to attain mastery in either 
system is decidedly non-trivial.

Your contrast between "explicitly literary" and having a complex world model
suitable for "more simulation-oriented works" may also need qualifying.
"Explicitly literary" is a fair designation of Inform 7 if and only if it refers 
to the coding style or is taken as indicating one kind of author Inform 7 might 
particularly attract (those significantly more comfortable with crafting prose 
than with coding). This is very different from saying that games written in 
Inform 7 are automatically likely to be more literary than those written in TADS 
3 (which I suspect isn't what you meant); that's down to the literary skills of 
the authors, not the nature of the authoring systems they use.

Which system is better for simulation-oriented works depends on what it is you 
want to simulate. It's true that TADS 3 comes with a richer world model in its 
standard library, but the world model features TADS 3 adds over and above the 
leaner world model of Inform 7 may or may not be relevant to a particular game. 
The interesting simulations in a work of IF often arise from the author's 
customization of the default library behavior, and both systems allow that. 
When I wrote an Inform 7 demo version of the opening of my TADS 3 game "All Hope 
Abandon" I found that constructing the physical environment and customizing it 
for puzzles was generally no harder in Inform 7 than it had been in TADS 3. This 
may be because I'd already done the hard work in TADS 3, and then simply had to 
translate the same logic into Inform 7 rather than devise it from scratch, but 
whatever the reason most of the physical-world simulation aspects of the opening 
of AHA proved no more difficult to implement in Inform 7 than in TADS 3, and 
certain features of Inform 7, such as its scenes mechanism, made certain tasks 

That's far from being the whole story. There are a number of features, such as 
actor postures, multiple lighting levels, sense passing, the ability to locate 
objects behind or under other objects, and the provision of default room parts 
for indoor and outdoor rooms that are standard in the TADS 3 world model but not 
in Inform 7. All these can help lend simulation depth when used well, but I 
think the most significant differences between the systems lies elsewhere.

By far the most important of these is the marvelous set of tools TADS 3 provides 
for implementing NPCs (including, but not restricted to, the conversation 
interface). Of course one can produce similar effects in other systems; for 
example I wrote a conversation extension for Inform 7 to simulate the TADS 3 
conversation system used in the opening of AHA, and it works well enough for the 
purpose. But my Inform 7 extension lacks a great deal of the functionality of 
the TADS 3 original, and is a lot klunkier to use. At least for me, TADS 3's NPC 
toolset puts it way ahead of the competition for implementing  NPCs of the kind 
I tried to put in Square Circle, All Hope Abandon, and the Elysium Enigma; on 
the other hand my Inform 7 game Dreadwine had much simpler NPCs that were no 
problem to program in Inform 7. Again, I suspect Inform 7 could encourage 
experimenting with NPC sophistication taken in directions different from the 
TADS 3 model, as several of Emily Short's I7 examples illustrate.

There are also a number of subtler differences between Inform 7 and TADS 3.  For 
example TADS 3 has a rather more sophisticated parser that makes it much easier 
for a game author to fine-tune disambiguation and the like; it also has a rather 
neater way of handling and reporting implicit actions. Again, TADS 3 makes it 
rather easier than Inform 7 to split your game code over a large number of 
source files, which I find extremely useful for large projects. Conversely, 
Inform 7 has a number of neat features like path-finding and units built in.

So, overall, yes, I'm rather more comfortable doing sophisticated and complex 
things in TADS 3 than in Inform 7, but that's partly because I've have a good 
deal more experience with TADS 3, and may also partly have to do with the way my 
brain happens to work. I also find a lot to like about Inform 7, and would like 
to do more with it in the future. So, to respond to the final part of your 
question, yes, I'd like to continue to use both systems, but I'll probably be 
spending more time with TADS 3, not least because it's my system of choice for 
more substantial projects. Inform 7 felt ideal for a short game like Dreadwine, 
and I'd probably use it again for a project on that sort of scale (or indeed for 
another game like Swineback Ridge, which I wrote in Inform 6, but subsequently 
translated into I7 as a learning exercise).

  SPAG: Did you get a chance to play the other entries in the Competition?  Any 
  impressions to offer?  Favorites?

EE: I played nearly all the comp games, apart from those that I couldn't get to
run or that weren't in English; that's not to say that I allowed the games I 
really didn't like to detain me long. The three games I voted for in the Miss 
Congeniality were Madam Spider's Web, Floatpoint, and Tales of the Travelling 
Swordsman, though looking back at my notes I see that Legion and Primrose Path 
weren't far behind in my ratings (the points I gave to these five games range 
between 8.5 and 9, so I obviously thought they were all pretty close). There 
were several others I quite enjoyed even though I didn't score them so highly.

Of those five, Madam Spider's Web would seem to be the most eccentric choice in 
relation to the overall scoring in the comp; it seems to have suffered in some 
quarters from being too short. To me that wasn't a big issue; indeed with so 
many games to play it was rather nice to find one that didn't take the full two 
hours, and had I wanted to play longer I could always have gone back to try to 
find some of the other endings. There were several things I particular liked 
about it: the setting was well done, the puzzles were just the right level for 
me (I especially enjoyed the piano puzzle), and the author had obviously taken a 
great deal of care in implementing scenery objects and intelligent responses to 
player commands (for example, by sensibly filling in intermediate steps).

  SPAG: Any new projects in the works?

EE: I'm about a month or two into a new TADS 3 game; it's a fairly substantial
project, so it'll probably be quite a while before it seems the light of day. I 
have some fairly ambitious ideas on the role of the NPCs and the possibilities 
for plot-branching in this work, so the whole thing could come horribly unstuck! 
When it's done I hope it will appeal to people who liked Elysium Enigma, 
although it'll be a larger game than EE, and I've tried to take on board the 
criticism of some of EE's puzzles.

  SPAG: Thanks so much for agreeing to do this!

EE: My pleasure!

 Nolan Bonvouloir, author of "The Primrose Path"

  SPAG: You are a new face in the IF authorship community, always a nice thing 
  to see.  Perhaps you can introduce yourself to SPAG's readers by
  telling us a little bit about your life and activities outside of IF.

NB: I'm a college student going for a performance degree in music - I'm a 
pianist - with a large assortment of minors of similar practical value.  So far 
it hasn't caught up with me, though; this coming spring I'll be in Europe for 
the semester studying at a conservatory there. Lately I've been dedicating more 
time than I'd like to admit to composing, reading, and doodling on myself with 
felt-tip pens, and have occasionally been known to invent fattening desserts.

I also have a closet obsession with metered poetry.  But don't tell any of my 
English professors.

  SPAG: You stated within Primrose Path that you are a complete non-programmer, 
  and would never have been able to create it without Inform 7.  I suspect this 
  sort of thing is music to Graham and Emily's ears, as perhaps their biggest 
  goal in creating Inform 7 was to make IF authorship accessible to writers who 
  are not coders.  Can you tell us a bit about your experience with Inform 7?  
  How long did it take you to get up to speed with the system?

NB: The opening of Primrose was kicking around in my head for quite a while; I 
started out trying to program it in Inform 6 about a year ago, but computers 
have never exactly bent to my will - at the time I'd never achieved anything 
more exotic than italics in HTML - and it was pretty much a lost cause from the 
start.  So I gave it up for a few months.  But when I visited the inform- site last May in preparation for a second go at it, lo and behold, 
there was a shiny new site and a new version of Inform.  I downloaded I7, and by 
that night I'd reimplemented what had taken me three weeks to grind out in I6. 

I wouldn't say I really knew what I was doing until about a month or two after 
that, but once I got the hang of the language the speed of the process kind of 
took me by surprise.  I'm a horribly undisciplined writer, but somewhere along 
the line the game unlocked reserves of productivity I hadn't known I had; it's 
turned out to be far and away the longest thing I've ever written.

  SPAG: The aging spinster who is the protagonist of your game is about as far 
  away from the typical IF hero as one can get.  Although there are of course 
  magical elements, the whole feels more like a literary short story than genre 
  fiction.  What led you to create such vivid and unusual characters and 

NB: Well, thanks!  One of the things I love about IF is that players can choose 
the way they experience it-you can simply do the task you're set to do and get 
on with the game, or you can examine everything, exhaust all the conversational 
possibilities, follow up every red herring. . . . I wanted to at least try to 
reward both, so there ended up being rather a lot of easter eggy-type material 
in there.

Much of the work I did in a binder that ended up being something like 200 pages 
long-starting with maps and flowcharts (when I was trying to keep track of all 
the ending combinations), and ending during beta-testing with lists of hundreds 
of crossed-out bugs.  But a big chunk of it is just playing around with the 
characters-for Leo and Irene I ended up spending a lot of time just making sure 
their histories were consistent-listing their background information, working 
out the plot, writing sample conversations.  It ended up being an awful lot of 
extra material, but in the end I think the game was better for it, especially 
since much of it wound up tucked away into some of the more obscure dialogues 
and cutscenes-it was all enormously fun to fit together.

  SPAG: Your game is told entirely in first person.  What was the logic behind 
  this decision, and how difficult was it to make this conversion in Inform 7 
  for you, a self-confessed novice to IF authorship?

NB: I think the first transcript I ever wrote ended up being the first draft of 
the final confrontation between Irene and Matilda, so I guess there wasn't ever 
a conscious choice to use first person over second; it's been that way from the 
start.  And since the game was always headed toward the row between the player 
character and the player, I suppose I was trying throughout to keep them 
completely separate, and in that way first person definitely turned out to be 
less restrictive; I'm not sure I would have felt comfortable attributing strong 
emotions to a second-person PC, lest I invite the player to disagree.

That said, it did take me quite a while to make the switch, though once I 
figured out which of the library files I wanted it wasn't too difficult to weed 
out all the yous.

  SPAG: There is a rather odd split between the player of your game and Matilda, 
  the protagonist.  Matilda will, for instance, simply refuse to perform certain 
  orders.  What was the philosophy behind this design?

NB: When I started writing, I'd played very little IF beyond the old Infocom 
games, in which the protagonist is almost invariably a sort of bland, 
nondescript extension of the player.  I guess in a way I was trying to prove to 
myself that this didn't have to be the case.  So Matilda will take initiative if 
you don't give her a command, provide her own opinions, and if necessary defy 
the player outright-I was trying for a slightly unstable character consenting to 
be ordered around only because her goals happened to align with the player's.

As an experiment in this, I'm not sure Primrose Path was especially successful, 
but I still find the idea interesting; the ability to make a split like this 
adds a dimension that as far as I know is totally unique to the IF medium. Even 
though it's been explored more thoroughly then I realized at the start of the 
writing process, I think there remains a lot that could be done with it.

  SPAG: What was the significance of the scene inside the painting in Irene's
  room?  It seemed to be a dead-end, and one I couldn't make head or tail out 

NB: And you're not the only one; I wince thinking about it.  It came about when 
it came time to explain where Leo's ankh-shaped key had come from, and I thought 
it might be interesting to hint, just as an aside, that there was a time loop 
thing going on and that Matilda herself had given it to Leo's grandfather.  But 
then I thought I'd be clever and hint that Matilda might, in fact, be Irene's 
mother-but yes, it was a dead end.

  SPAG: People have been asking, so I will too... Do all of those keys actually 
  have a purpose?

NB: Yes, indeed; they unlock the various doors in Leo's apartment.  If you go to 
the all-white room you can use them as a shortcut to get to any of the rooms in 
his house-that's how Leo would have used them, at any rate.

  SPAG: The best moment in your game for me was the raindrop puzzle.  I found
  it to be a moment of magic.  How did that come to you?

NB: I knew there was going to be a time-stop puzzle at the climactic moment, and 
the rain was left over from a weather system I was trying to do that proved too 
complicated to implement.  That they happened to come together is sheer luck.

Now that I think about it, there was one especially rainy weekend during the 
summer while my family was visiting some relatives on a lake, and while I did 
spend quite a bit of time writing outside then, I know that wasn't when I came 
up with it-I was too preoccupied by how existentially romantic it was to be 
writing in the rain.

  SPAG: Did you get a chance to play the other games from the Competition? If 
  so, any thoughts or opinions?

I did indeed.  Aunts and Butlers, Floatpoint, and Legion were all high points of 
the comp for me, but my favorite was probably Delightful Wallpaper, which I 
think had a really clever way of gradually revealing its premise.  There was a 
really great moment right after I'd begun the second half when I realized what 
the X ME description was hinting at - I immediately pictured the Gashlycrumb 
Tinies, and then I suddenly understood what "Edgar O. Weyrd" stood for.  I was 
slightly bedazzled by the time I finished.

  SPAG: It must be quite gratifying as a new author to finish second in the
  Competition your first time up. Were you surprised at your placing?

NB: It was completely unexpected.  When I'd finished playing all the comp games 
I made a mental list of all the games I'd liked better than mine, and concluded 
that I would place seventh.  It was a little startling to find myself listed 
ahead of so many excellent entries, but more than that it's been all the 
feedback from the community that's been extraordinarily rewarding.

  SPAG: Will we get more IF from you?  Any projects in the works?

NB:I hope so, and I do have a few different ideas I'm toying with, although 
working on new projects makes me feel a bit guilty at this point-I've still got 
several dozen things I get to fix for the next release of this one. (:

 Emily Short, author of "Floatpoint" 

  SPAG: At least at one point in the past I believe you were a graduate student 
  studying classical culture.  Is this still the case today, or have you moved 
  on to other things in your life outside IF?

EM: I finished my PhD, but I haven't left classics.

  SPAG: Floatpoint struck me as a somewhat different direction for you.  I don't 
  recall playing anything from you that was so unabashedly science fictional, 
  without the fantasy elements that usually exist in your work.  Can you share 
  with us a bit about the game's  inspiration?

EM: Floatpoint started as a short scenario I wrote to test Inform 7 in the 
summer of 2004: the solarium area and the crowd behavior was written as a test 
of action groupings. So I had this idea of a society with extremely fussy 
etiquette, but I didn't want to write about a high fantasy court -- I felt I'd 
done enough of that kind of thing -- so I thought perhaps this might be a 
science fiction  society, instead.

Most of the remaining details I didn't make up until I had decided on the 
central moral problem, when I decided to finish the game. I wanted to show a 
society that would be both appealing and upsetting to the player, and I wanted 
to give them important differences in the way they look at human life, personal 
rights, cultural continuity, and so on. It's easy to tolerate people who have 
odd customary quirks; it's much harder to tolerate groups that are (in your own  
ethical view) committing horrible crimes. So much of the history and  
development of the colony was determined by those constraints.

I also wanted the planet itself to be a beautiful place. In a sense, this is 
irrelevant to the moral dilemma because there's nothing the player character can 
do that will keep it habitable in the long run; but I see it as one of the 
unavoidable tragedies of the scenario that the colonists are going to lose this 
place they love, and which the player character also finds very appealing. I 
thought that in a quiet way this shared sense of loss might make the colonists 
more sympathetic.

  SPAG: You mentioned within the game's credits that you actually  visited 
  Hubbard Glacier in Alaska.  If only we were making big money on IF and could 
  fund such research trips out of our venture capital!  But seriously, perhaps 
  you can tell us a bit about that  experience, and how it informed your 
  depiction of the glacier that  is encroaching on Aleheart in your game.

EM: I hadn't started Floatpoint when I visited. I was staying with friends (both 
working for the park service at the time) who suggested going to see the 
glacier, and they told me a lot about it -- this is one of the few glaciers in 
the world that is growing rather than shrinking, and its movements have 
endangered towns and infrastructure. I found that idea fairly powerful and it 
later affected my ideas about what was happening to the colony. It also  
provided material for most of the outdoor scenery.

  SPAG: Floatpoint offers a wonderful sense of agency to the player.  It is a 
  truly interactive fiction, as any reasonable decision the player makes about 
  how to deal with the people of Aleheart is provided for.  In this sense 
  Floatpoint reminded me of Slouching Towards Bedlam, a game I recall you having 
  high praise for.  Has Slouching influenced your work since its appearance a 
  few years ago?

EM: Yes, I deliberately structured Floatpoint after Slouching Towards Bedlam: I 
wanted to present a moral decision at the end of the game, and have everything 
else lead up to that point, with replays giving the player new ideas about how 
to solve the main problem.

At the same time, some of the decisions are reactions against Slouching. I 
wanted to make the moral choice more realistic and also more complex: with 
Slouching I felt it was pretty clear what the ideal outcome was, whereas I 
didn't want it to be so obvious with Floatpoint. I wanted the backstory to 
present itself more naturally and with fewer expository dumps. I didn't want 
there to be any very fiddly puzzles preventing the player from engaging with the 

When I describe the process this way it sounds dry and calculated, and it 
wasn't, really. I struggled with the game, and changed my mind about the central 
choice several times. At one point it was possible to get some cheerier (but, I 
now think, unrealistic and over-romanticized) results out of it. The player 
could fix things up to get Valenti and Aylene together, for one thing, and the 
"let's all live together happily" endings were more positive. The current  
endings are among the last things written: I had the game mostly done at the 
beginning of September, minus some testing and structural edits, but I didn't 
like the endings I'd written and I hadn't even made drafts of all of them. I was 
convinced that, for the structure of the game to succeed, each ending had to 
feel like a complete and solid conclusion to the story; I spent a couple of 
development days wrestling them out.

I'm not sure it worked as I hoped. Slouching managed to get the player to think 
through the problem and figure out strategies, and it doesn't present a 
trivially-structured endgame choice. Floatpoint is too easily played as a piece 
of machinery, a mechanism to spit out conclusions in which the player has no 
investment, and that is exactly the opposite of what I wanted (though a 
perfectly logical result of the design). But I was constantly trying to make 
sure that the game played fast enough and the player never got really stuck;  
that may have caused me to oversimplify the structure. Or possibly it just 
needed to be a much larger game than a comp entry, or...

Well, anyway. Things to bear in mind for next time.

  SPAG: Offering multiple endings that go beyond a simple plot branch in a 
  game's climax has to increase the development complexity of a project 
  immensely.  On top of that, Floatpoint is quite non-linear.  Have you 
  developed any special techniques to keep it all straight?

EM: Actually, I'd say the structure of Floatpoint is relatively simple: there's 
some freedom to explore, but there isn't a huge amount the player can do that 
will branch the plot in any important way, and the endgame is quite 
straightforward. I did use Inform 7's scene  mechanisms to track the plot events 
that can only happen once -- encounters with specific NPCs, mostly -- and that 
worked pretty well.  But this is not one of those games I needed a big plot 
chart to write.

  SPAG: How did you come to work with Echo Chernik, creator of  Floatpoint's 
  cover art?

EM: I had envisioned the colony as having a kind of art nouveau style of  
architecture, with strong botanical influences. So I did some web- searching for 
someone doing that style of work, and found Ms. Chernik. I really liked her 
portfolio, especially Drowned (, because it was 
beautiful but also a bit frightening and off-putting.  What was more, she had a 
model that I thought would be perfect for Aylene. So I decided to see whether  
she'd be interested in doing the project for a price I could remotely afford, 
and it turned out that she was. In my (admittedly limited) experience of 
professional illustrators, it's possible to negotiate about the price if you are 
flexible about the timeframe of the project and the rights, and that turned out 
to be the case here.

  SPAG: Most of your recent works have featured a novice mode intended  to help 
  ease the new player into IF.  What kind of feedback have you gotten on this?  
  Do you feel it is helping to attract new players?

EM: I've had a few established IF players tell me they thought it was a neat 
idea to have this kind of mechanism built in, but I don't tend to hear from 
newbies. I also suspect that novice-friendly features in games are not going to 
attract new players unless I also make an effort to attract outside attention to 
these works. So far I haven't done much of that.

So why bother with it at all? Mostly because it's easier to build these features 
in at the outset than it is to retrofit them later; if it's even remotely 
possible I'll eventually want to enter a piece of IF into an independent games 
contest or something like that, it seems like a good idea writing it with a 
novice audience partly in mind.

  SPAG: Your work, perhaps more than that of any other author, has  received 
  exposure outside our little community.  Galatea, for instance, has become 
  something of a staple in books on new media theory and practice.  Most 
  recently, you had two of your works -- Galatea and Savoir Faire -- chosen for 
  inclusion in the Electronic Literature Association's Collection Volume 1.  You 
  also seem to be making an explicit effort to reach a wider audience through 
  efforts like the just-mentioned novice mode.  Do you receive regular 
  correspondence from those who aren't everyday IFers?

EM: More like very occasional correspondence, I'd say.

  SPAG: Do you feel we can do more to attract them, and, if so, what?

EM: Sure. It's partly a matter of making IF more accessible (interpreters  
easier to use, games easier to find in the archive, more attractive packaging, 
better built-in help and parsing) and partly a matter of actively drawing 
attention to it (entering it in competitions with a wider audience, finding 
other ways to market it).

I think we are making progress on the accessibility front. I'm excited by the 
Treaty of Babel improvements, and the interpreters like Zoom and Spatterlight 
that will play many formats of games and keep track of a game library. It's 
easier than it used to be for authors in several systems to add typo-correction 
and help to their games, which may address some newbie frustrations. Incremental 
progress, but it adds up.

It's a little less obvious where and how to promote IF. My impression is that 
the most successful approach is for people to introduce IF to groups they're 
already in touch with: Nick Montfort has done a lot to promote it in new media 
circles, several teachers have introduced it in their classrooms, Peter Nepstad 
has promoted his work to a specific niche of history buffs. There are also a few 
places where it's possible to submit IF and have it seen by a wider audience --  
notably, the Slamdance Guerilla Game-maker Competition (with "Whom  the Telling 
Changed" this year and "Book and Volume" for 2007). None of these are going to 
make IF hugely popular overnight, but they do get new people interested in the 

I also see the use of cover art as part of this; a minor part, maybe, but my 
impression is that people who write blog entries or articles about IF like to 
have *something* they can use as a graphic. It's not as though IF tends to 
produce distinctive screenshots.

  SPAG: SPAG's readers all likely know that you have been working closely with 
  Graham Nelson on Inform 7 since well before the public beta.  What would you 
  say the current state of Inform 7 is?  Is it basically feature-complete at 
  this point, and if so any idea when we might expect it to officially exit from 
  beta status?

EM: It's not feature-complete, no. There are several obvious things it still 
needs -- sound support for Glulx, better control over certain aspects of 
parsing, and so on -- and other things may or may not join that list. And then 
there are also simply a lot of bugs to be fixed.  I wouldn't want to guess at an 
official exit date.

  SPAG: Any thoughts you would like to share on the rest of the field from this 
  year's Competition?  Particular favorites?  Interesting trends?

EM: My favorite was "Elysium Enigma", for the deft way it handles the main non-
player character. And I thought it was a pretty good set overall -- not too many 
entries that were a total waste of time, and a number of solid, enjoyable 
pieces. I'm not sure general competence is the kind of trend you can spend a lot 
of time analyzing, but it's a positive one all the same.

But then, I think it's been a good year for IF in general: I've been impressed 
by the number of games (some quite ambitious) released after the competition 
ended. That's sometimes a bit of a dead period, so it's a good sign for the 
community that there's a significant amount of activity still going on.

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
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.

INJUSTICE!: AN IF COMP 2006 REVIEW PACKAGE / RANT by Valentine Kopteltsev--

[One of the truisms of each Competition is that no one ever ends up completely 
satisfied.  Everyone always has at least one pet game that they feel deserved to 
fare better than it did, and at least one more they feel was totally undeserving 
of its placing.  Indeed, my final ranking this year was quite different from the 
official scorecard.  Valentine below expresses some of the frustration we all 
feel each year after reading the results.  I hope authors and players will take 
it in the spirit it is intended -- i.e., I've been there! -- rather than as a 
slight on the perfectly worthy games that DID win. Continue reading this issue 
for a counterpoint review of Floatpoint by DJ Hastings, and if you disagree with 
Valentine's assessments of The Elysium Enigma and Tales of the Traveling 
Swordsman, well, why not submit a review of your own for next issue? --JM].

From: Valentine Kopteltsev (uux SP@G

NAME: The Elysium Enigma
AUTHOR: Eric Eve
EMAIL: eric.eve SP@G
DATE: 2006

NAME: Floatpoint
AUTHOR: Emily Short
EMAIL: emshort SP@G
DATE: 2006
PARSER: Inform 7/Glulx

NAME: Tales of the the Traveling Swordsman
AUTHOR: Mike Snyder
EMAIL: tales_ts SP@G
DATE: 2006

Since my first participation in IF-Comp 2000, I don't think I've ever been as 
disappointed by the competition outcome as this year. It wasn't just the fact 
that my favourite game, The Traveling Swordsman, didn't reach the podium; I can 
understand why The Primrose Path ended up higher than it, although this one 
definitely wasn't my bottle of vodka, and I'd be perfectly content if it were, 
say, Delightful Wallpaper, Legion, or Mobius that had beaten TTS. But the way it 
turned out it just doesn't seem right to me. I really don't get it. (No, that 
doesn't express my frustration adequately). HECK, PEOPLE, I REALLY DON'T GET 

(Calm down, Valentine, calm down...)

To make my point clear, I'll try to compare the individual aspects of three 
games -- Floatpoint, The Elysium Enigma and, well, The Traveling Swordsman. Such 
an approach suggests itself especially in this case, because, with all their 
superficial diversity, all these works are based on essentially the same basic 
principles (in particular, they're all plot-oriented IF), and thus can be 
evaluated by similar canons. I'll try to be as objective as possible, although 
I'm aware it'd be a hard job to master, considering how biased I am.

Since, as I said, all three works are plot-oriented IF, let's discuss the 
stories underlying them first.

The Elysium Enigma features a spy mystery of sorts. Over the years, I've drawn 
up my own rule of thumb for checking whether a text adventure succeeds as a 
mystery: namely, trying to figure out whether its story would have worked as 
static fiction. Bad news for Elysium: it wouldn't. My main complaint is, I'm 
confronting dummies here. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say -- any spy with a 
hint of professional flair and/or experience would know it's time to split 
before I got halfway through the game.

The partial redemption could be a better development of a collateral plot branch 
-- namely, finding out why the Elysium people are so wary towards civilization 
in general, and the Empire the PC represents in particular. Unfortunately, it 
doesn't get much support from the direction of the game author, remaining little 
more than a dialog option in a conversation with a NPC.

Floatpoint offers a multiple choices kind of story. You are a newly assigned 
Earth ambassador on a distant colony. The so-called Gift Day, a central event of 
the colonists' culture, lies close ahead, and you have to represent the 
metropolis worthily. The main things that matter are, what you wear on this 
occasion, and what you give as a present to the colony's envoy. 

The idea clearly has potential, and might have worked just great -- if it wasn't 
for the way the whole thing is arranged. 

Currently, it looks like this: somewhere in the middle of the game, the player 
stumbles upon an info dump telling her/him something like, "if you wear this and 
that, and offer that and this as a present, it'll please the colonists beyond 
all measure, but also will ruin your career" (well, it's probably not as blatant 
as that, but still pretty obvious for anyone who can put one and one together.) 
After you find appropriate clothing and a gift to achieve the effect you want, 
you're asked again, "Are you sure you want to do that? Your choice would most 
certainly result in your career being ruined, although the colonists would be 
pleased beyond all measure." After your confirmation, the game ends very soon 
with the message, "Wow, your choice impressed the colonists beyond all measure! 
Sadly, your career is ruined now." (Again, I'm exaggerating a bit, but the basic 
idea is reproduced pretty authentically.)

Another thing about this choices business that made me distrustful: I'm told 
what a sophisticated symbolism is associated with the Gift Day, how meaningful 
the tiniest detail might be; for that, the range of clothing/gift combinations 
meaningful to the colonists is ridiculously limited. One could point out 
implementing all possible combinations would be a pain; I'd reply, that's a 
problem of the game author, not me. Yet, I admit -- I'm probably getting unfair 
here, and my aforementioned bias starts to show through.

After all the plot-related contrivances of the previous two works, the story of 
The Traveling Swordsman may appear a pretty straightforward, predictable and 
even somewhat mundane fantasy stuff. It goes on this way until the final 
episode, which -- no, it doesn't turn everything upside down; rather, it shifts 
the emphases somewhat, changing the story's perspective, and allowing TTS to win 
the PLOT nomination cleanly.

(A short diversion is needed here: it's true that the past IF-Comp will go down 
in history, among other things, as a competition of plot twists of varying 
quality. However, this fact doesn't mean that plot twists are a bad thing in 
themselves. In particular, the one of TTS is just great, because it's (a) fresh 
(original, non-overused -- pick the term that suits you best), and (b) 
sufficiently linked to the main action to avoid the feeling it's been forced 
onto the story whether it belongs there or not.)

ATMOSPHERE and WRITING are categories all three games succeed very well in. It's 
hard to give preference to any of the works; maybe Floatpoint has a slight 
advantage here -- thanks to its writing's more obvious brilliance.

GAMEPLAY is another aspect where each of the works reviewed goes its own way. In 
Elysium Enigma, for instance, you have to "run after the puzzles", because 
exploring on your own risk is the premise of the story. There's nothing wrong 
with this, and the fact the game fails as a mystery doesn't automatically mean 
it fails as a text adventure. One observation, though: I don't think it's 
possible to reach the most optimal ending within the two hours limit, except by 
playing directly from the hints/walkthrough.

In Floatpoint, you aren't left without guidance, at least at the early stages. 
You even have a reminder function that tells you about the tasks pending. 
However, after the basic goal (preparing for Gift Day) becomes clear, you are 
more or less on your own. The problem is, the whole thing also gets somewhat out 
of balance at that point -- the paths for different clothing/gift combinations 
are of VERY varying difficulty; one is almost trivial, while the other requires 
considerable mental efforts on the player's part. And (you could have guessed it 
already), to check out all the major endings within the two hours limit, you'd 
have to play from the walkthrough.

The Traveling Swordsman offers the most linear playing process of all. At every 
stage of the game, the player has a clear "tactical subgoal" to work on. What 
amazed me was the almost perfect timing: it seems the author has undertaken a 
thorough time-study to make sure his game was winnable within exactly two hours 
-- no more, no less. While I'm not inclined to penalize games for being too 
large for the IF-Comp, I couldn't leave such a careful pre-planning without 
countenance either... which automatically means winning another nomination for 

The CHARACTERS. Again, it's hard to decide about the winner here. Floatpoint and 
Traveling Swordsman employ the same approach that makes the authors' work 
easier: both games just restrict communication with NPCs, using more or less 
plausible excuses. 

Compared to this, Elysium seems to be the most "upright" game in this respect -- 
all its characters are animated richly, with a wide range of responses. However, 
what all this sophistication is good for if the behavior principles of the most 
important NPC are fundamentally wrong, based not on common sense and reality 
("try to reach my goals yet slip away as soon as my opponent has enough reasons 
for suspecting me"), but on adventure game logic ("let him win -- at any 
price")! Again, it may be pointed out to me more realistic behavior patterns 
would be a pain to implement; and once more, I'd reply -- that's a problem of 
the game author, not me. Only this time, I wouldn't have the feeling of being 

PUZZLES clearly weren't the main priority for any of the games reviewed. Please 
don't misunderstand me -- all three offer enough entertainment on this point, 
featuring a variety of solid and fun to solve puzzles; yet, none of them can be 
even remotely compared to, say, Delightful Wallpaper, or Moebius. Well, plot-
oriented IF is plot-oriented IF; there must be a reason for it being called this 

MISCELLANEOUS. All three works equally prepossess the player by impeccably 
thorough implementation -- any player input that seems even remotely reasonable 
in a given situation produces an appropriate response. 

This also is the only category Elysium Enigma and Floatpoint offer something TTS 
doesn't: namely, gadgets fun to fiddle with.

However, Floatpoint receives a portion of frowns here, as well -- for a couple 
of bugs, one having to do with the scene change machinery getting stuck, and one 
with an NPC cut-scene breaking out like a bolt from the blue in a situation it 
clearly hasn't been intended to.

The conclusions. The only point Elysium Enigma and Floatpoint have an 
unquestionable advantage over their less successful competitor is the one 
considering gadgets fun to play, which seems a bit meager.

Well, again, please don't get me wrong: I'm not saying EE or FP are bad -- on 
the contrary, they're both excellent games. Neither do I contend TTS is the best 
IF-work ever written -- in fact, in some respects it is inferior, say, to 
Distress, Mike Snyder's entry in the previous year's Comp. However, of the three 
games, The Traveling Swordsman does the best job in mastering the most crucial 
aspects of the IF trade (and demonstrating a good school) than the others. Sure, 
the drik in Elysium Enigma and the communication terminal in Floatpoint were 
great toys, but the idea of them being primary factors for game ranking, 
outweighing even things like a more convincing plot, and a better balanced 
gameplay, just doesn't seem right to me.

And one final gripe: in many fields of industry, we currently have a situation 
where secondary "whistles and bells", as well as good promotion are more 
important for the market success of a product than the quality of the functions 
this product originally has been designed for. I honestly hope IF won't follow 
this trend. 

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

From: David Jones (drj SP@G

TITLE: The Apocalypse Clock
AUTHOR: GlorbWare
E-MAIL: Jfs928 SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
PARSER: Inform 6 standard
AVAILABLITY: freeware; IF-Archive
VERSION: Release 1 / Serial number 060801 / Inform v6.31 Library 6/11 S

The blurb that came with the competition release of this game goes "You must 
stop the end of the world. Your tools in this task: A crayon and a cat."  You 
can tell that we're not dealing with a serious work.  It starts with 3 boxed 
quotes.  A little over the top, but given the humor in the rest of the game, 
it's probably intentional.

The PC is a lazy wastrel, labeled by others as being paranoid for building an 
Apocalypse Clock.  One day the clock goes off, indicating impending apocalypse 
and thus the adventure begins.  As the narrator puts it: "It looks like you'll 
have to pull a Duke Nukem and stop the end of the world."

"Your Bedroom".  I rarely find this a good location from which to start a text 
adventure.  There are spelling mistakes in the opening text which are probably 
not deliberate.  There are a few more punctuation mistakes, includes the classic 
its/it's confusion, but I found it easy to avert my gaze around them.  For some 
reason the entire game is in a fixed pitch font.  I had to read other people's 
reviews to spot this; it looks just fine in my Spatterlight set up (Monaco 11) 
and I'm used to staring at fixed pitch fonts all day.

Once the surface issues had worn off I found the writing funny, self-
referential,  and irreverent.  X ME gives the knowing response: 'You're just 
your normal self, "as good-looking as ever", as they say.'  Its sarcasm could 
perhaps put a lot of people off, but I found it genuinely amusing.  It's pretty 
much the only reason I'm reviewing the game.  Without its witty writing we would 
have nothing but a carcass of game, for the mechanics of the game are very poor. 
 Only the very bare minimum of objects are implemented: scenery implied or 
mentioned in room descriptions will rarely be present.

A typical example (from the opening):

Your Bedroom (on your bed)
You survey your small bedroom. To be frank, it's messy. Your clothes hang in 
strange places. The carpet is stained with unidentifiable substances. The 
wallpaper is faded and tacky, the bed is falling apart, and the drywall is 
crumbly and, inexplicably, rusty, but it's home.

>> x bed

You look at your awful bed. It's falling apart and kinda smelly, and seems to be 
upholstered with a towel.

The Apocalypse Clock reads 00:00:00:59.

>> smell bed

You smell nothing unexpected.

The Apocalypse Clock reads 00:00:00:58.

>> x drywall

You can't see any such thing.

As well as the bed's smell and the drywall not being implemented, you can see 
from that transcript that the Apocalypse Clock counts down.  Yes, a timed 
puzzle; you have about 60 turns to play the entire game.  That immediately tells 
you that The Apocalypse Clock is not a long game, and it isn't.  It's also quite 
a big hint that you'd better not hang around doing things like scraping the 
inexplicable rust off the non-existent drywall just in case you need a source of 
iron oxide later.  You don't.  Timed puzzles aren't popular, but in this case it 
seems pretty fair.  It's the game's key device to add tension, you know about it 
right from the beginning, and it's an overarching time constraint, not one that 
is used to make a particularly annoying timed puzzle.

Note that this is not a one-room game; this might not be obvious from the 
description of the first room.  The exit out of Your Bedroom isn't described; 
that's a bug, and is frankly typical of the attention paid to describing and 
implementing the geography.  You simply have to use trial and error to guess 
your way out of the first location.   You probably ought to look around for some 
completely unclued and crucial objects as well, because you won't be able to 
return to get them due to what is probably an accidental one-way link between 
the living room and a secret location that you discover.   Later on you'll 
probably discover that the front door is mentioned but doesn't exist; ENTER 
PICTURE inexplicably garners the response "You bump into your front door."  
Personally, I didn't find any of these defects a real problem in my playthrough 
for the competition though I can see that it would cause others to more or less 
immediately throw the game in the bin.  Persevere and you'll discover how to use 
an aging computer to activate a door that is simply totally undescribed, no 
description of the door appears whatsoever.

The game hasn't been beta-tested and it shows.  Deviate from the author's 
clearly intended (narrow) path and you'll discover bugs, unimplemented things, 
and more bugs.  Almost any puzzle in the game can be solved "in the wrong 
order", usually with disastrous results.  A typical example involves Sara (your 
cat, more on her later) who starts the game in your inventory.  Now, you're 
clearly not supposed to be able to relinquish Sara, but you can, and if you do, 
then she still speaks to you later on.

Sara is the game's principal NPC.  She's your cat; you're compelled to carry her 
round to save her from the apocalypse.  She talks, with a very bad cockney 
accent.  She's the highlight of the show.  The opposition between the player and 
Sara provides much of the humor.  Much of the time Sara, like most cats, is 
content to sleep, but she'll occasionally inject some sarcasm such as "Oh, I see 
you've discovered the secre' tunnel I built some years ago."  It's a bit of a 
toss up to decide whether Sara or the narrator is the most sarcastic.  The rest 
of the humor is a mixture of the slightly surreal (the "inexplicably rusty 
drywall"; later in a different location: "its walls gleam with some sort of 
creepy moisture, with frayed wiring hanging from the ceiling like spooky, nasty- 
smelling vines."), fourth wall breakers (examples of which would probably 
spoil), and what I suppose a literary critic would call the narrator's interior 
monologue (just after a PC is becomes inoperable: "Goodbye, noble computer. Your 
memory will keep going, and going, and going.").

I feel that if you can somehow see past the unpolished writing, the under-
implemented features, the badly implemented features, the almost tediously 
simple and cliched puzzles - if you can somehow see past all that then there's 
the kernel of amusing, witty, creative, small, game here.  Humor is always 
tricky, but I find the author's style pretty funny.  The writing is raw, and it 
could definitely do with a steadying influence from time to time.  Beta-testing, 
really any sort of testing, would definitely be an improvement.  Almost anywhere 
that code comes into play (puzzles; rules for not being to drop Sara; doors with 
special opening requirements) the player can poke around and cause things to 
fall over.  You'll probably do it accidentally.  It doesn't indicate lack of 
testing so much as a complete inability to imagine that player might do anything 
other than type in the walkthrough.  The crayon mentioned in the blurb never 
appears; a pencil is used instead.

It placed 31st (out of 43).  I scored it 7.

I would be very intrigued to see the author produce a work with more craft 
applied to it, I feel there's a raw wit and imagination that could be 
successfully harnessed.  Please let's have Sara the cat in the next game too.


From: Valentine Kopteltsev (uux SP@G

TITLE: Aunts and Butlers
AUTHOR: Robin Johnson
DATE: October 1, 2006
PARSER: Non-standard
SUPPORTS: Web-Browsers

(The reader should be informed beforehand that all my oh-so-clever insinuations 
following came to me as an afterthought. While actually playing A&B, I was just 
enjoying the ride for the most part, never being distracted by secondary 

The game has (and the author's blurb for it seems to endorse it) an unmistakable 
P. G. Woodhouse-feel (reminding of the Jeeves and Wooster series in particular), 
but as I thought about it more closely, I realized it wasn't *that* Woodhouse-
like at all.

Why do I think so? Well, remember the original novels: Wooster appears before us 
not just as a mere blunderer (although this part of his nature usually plays a 
major role in the story) but also as the nobility in the flesh, a person who 
very rarely, if at all, pursues one's own ends, and who's ready to risk his own 
reputation to help out his friend (well, actually, the choice is made for him in 
most cases, but that's another thing).

In Aunts and Butlers, however, we find an entirely different kind of person as a 
protagonist: a very purposeful man who not only knows what he wants, but is also 
capable of acting pretty mean at times to reach his goals. If anything, A&B 
represents a post-Woodhouse setting, where most of Wooster's fortune has 
trickled away through his fingers (which seems pretty realistic, since he's 
never been a man too concerned about his revenues, to put it mildly), carrying 
away most of his aristocratic scruples and complications, and replacing them 
with healthy cynicism in the process. This personality change did him good in 
the long run -- by the end of the story, our hero not only gains his wealth 
back, but also acquires something the original Wooster never could even dream 
of; I mean the esteem of his valet, who stops treating his master as a mix of a 
child to be nursed and a marionette to be manipulated, and begins to see him as 
an equal partner (granted, the last one is my assumption, but it's more or less 
implied by the game).

If I were the game author, I'd provide A&B with the subtitle "Revenge of Bertie 
Wooster", because the protagonist really pays back the people who's been 
torturing him in the original Woodhouse novels. The only thing I missed in this 
respect in the game was a nasty prank on Bingo Little (you know, something like 
sending him down a smelly trash chute to the feet of his oblivious wife and 

If you aren't as much a fan of P. G. Woodhouse as I am, you'll probably see 
Aunts and Butlers just as a light-hearted, not too deep work with an 
unproblematic gameplay, good enough to while away an hour or so. It has a slight 
general adventuring  frosting, which isn't necessarily needed and could be 
removed without anybody missing it, yet, on the other hand, it doesn't hamper 
the game, either. Isn't this worth a rating of at least 6 points? Sure it is.

There's one more thing, though: A&B hasn't been created with one of the major 
IF-development systems -- instead, the author employed JavaScript. In itself, 
this isn't such a rare thing; it's the surprisingly good parser that makes it 
practically unique. You couldn't find any complaints about it in my review,
could you? That's because it's really on a par with the needs and expectations 
of the modern text adventurer, or at least very close to that. I imagine what an 
awfully huge lot of work it must have taken to bring it to that quality level 
from scratch! Well, doesn't this extra amount of work deserve an increase of the 
game rating by at least one point? Sure it does -- at least as far as I'm 

Competition score: 7


From: DJ Hastings (dj.hastings SP@G

AUTHOR: Madrone Eddy
EMAIL: pe8283 SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
PARSER: Quest Standard
SUPPORTS: Quest interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF Archive

Beam is the first game I've played using the Quest interpreter. Quest's 
interface is similar to the Adrift Runner, with the addition of a panel on the 
side of the screen. The panel contains lists of objects in the room and in 
inventory, with buttons for some common actions like "get" and "examine". 
There's also a panel of buttons corresponding to the standard directions.

I don't know whether it's the fault of the author or the interpreter, but Beam 
doesn't seem to be integrated very well with this side panel. For example, some 
objects are mentioned in the room description but not in the object list. But 
you can't just ignore the list, because there are other objects that appear in 
the list and not in the room description. And a few objects show up both places! 
As a player I'd probably never use the button interface, but having a list of 
objects that I can interact with could be handy- if I could trust it. But I 
can't, and so I have to examine everything in the room description *and* keep an 
eye on the object list. Instead of saving me time, the object list is wasting 
more of it.

Another Quest feature used by Beam is the ability to have some things occur in 
real time. Beam includes separate hunger, thirst, and oxygen timers, all of 
which count down in real time, as well as a couple of doors that close 
automatically a few seconds after you've opened them. These doors were an 
irritation more than anything. Several times when I was going slowly I'd open a 
door only to have it close again before I had gone through it. At other times, I 
had to wait for a door to close after I'd gone through because I could find no 
way to close the door on my own. (The doors were part of an airlock, and I 
couldn't open both at once.) This would have worked much better for me if the 
doors had closed automatically when I went through, or something like that, 
instead of operating on timers.

Beam contains a lot of empty space. In fact, there are three or four empty rooms 
for each interesting one! These are mostly hallways- catwalks, actually- 
connecting the other rooms. Now, I don't mind walking through a hallway on the 
way from one interesting room to another- but seven of them? That's overdoing it 
a bit.

And even most of the interesting rooms (and by "interesting" I mean "contains 
something") are unnecessary to the game. In fact, beating the game only required 
me to enter three such rooms, along with twelve catwalks. The other rooms 
contain puzzles that can help satisfy the hunger and thirst timers. But since 
these timers are in real time, you can easily finish the game well before you 
starve. Since I was using the walkthrough for most of the game, I had no 
motivation to go solve the other puzzles.

Why was I using the walkthrough? Well, I started the game by a tree, and 
thoroughly explored it. I could climb the tree (to several different levels) and 
do several things, but I couldn't figure out where to go from there. I couldn't 
go anywhere from the ground but up the tree, and I couldn't go anywhere from the 
top of the tree but back down. So eventually, I checked the walkthrough. It 
turned out that I needed to climb the tree and then go in. Not into a hole in 
the tree or something like that, but into the tree's top branches! This is not 
at all an intuitive thing to try, particularly since there's nothing in the text 
even hinting at the proper action, but that's not the worst of it. Remember the 
button panel with the various directions? Well, a button is only enabled if you 
can go in that direction, so the panel acts as a quick exits list. But from the 
top of the tree, the "in" button is *disabled*. In other words, the game 
interface told me that I couldn't go in when I really could! This destroyed my 
faith that the game was going to play fair with me, so I used the walkthrough 
heavily from that point on.

Those were the worst problems that I ran into, but there were also some bugs, a 
bunch of unimplemented stuff, and some disambiguation problems. (At one point I 
typed "pull lever", and the game responded "You don't see a doorknob.")

As far as I remember, the writing was free of errors. (I couldn't save a 
transcript in Quest, so I can't be sure that there weren't *any* mistakes, but 
I'd remember it if there were many.) And most of the game was clear about where 
I could go and what I could interact with. I did have one problem with the room 
descriptions, though: I was never told where my current location was in the "big 
picture." For example, most of the game takes place on a network of catwalks. 
But I didn't know whether these were suspended in midair in a big warehouse, 
running through narrow underground tunnels, or balanced on a table in a giant's 
laboratory. (This last one was my original guess, but eventually I found out 
that I was wrong.) The lack of context made the game feel extremely artificial 
and... well, bland.

And that's a pity, because the setting could have been made very interesting. In 
fact, I personally thought that the game's setup was its strongest point. It's 
an interesting idea that I liked, and could have made for a good game. 
Unfortunately, the author didn't go anywhere with it, and I didn't even get to 
find out about it until the game was over.

I also liked some of the other ideas in the game, particularly the initial 
puzzle of figuring out where you are. I had problems with it (like the tree 
mentioned above), so it didn't actually work for me, but I still think the idea 
is a good one.

Unfortunately, the game's good ideas were overwhelmed by its poor 
implementation, and I have to advise skipping it.


From: DJ Hastings (dj.hastings SP@G

TITLE: Delightful Wallpaper
AUTHOR: Andrew Plotkin
EMAIL: erkyrath SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
PARSER: Inform 7
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters with blorb support
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF Archive
VERSION: Release 4

Delightful Wallpaper divides neatly into two main puzzles. Since these are very 
different from each other and almost unrelated, I'm going to discuss them 


The first puzzle is a kind of maze, although more like Robert Abbott's "logic 
mazes" than the twisty little variety that everyone seems to hate. You start 
exploring a small mansion, but you lack the ability to do anything but walk 
around. As you move around, though, the mansion reacts in predictable ways. For 
example, walking through one doorway may open a door elsewhere, entering a room 
might change the direction of a one way door- that sort of thing.

To put it briefly, I loved this puzzle. The mansion opens up a little bit at a 
time as you play. Manipulating the mansion properly will allow you to reach a 
new area, which you can use to manipulate another bit of the mansion, which will 
allow you to reach another new area... and it keeps going on like that until 
you've explored the entire place. You always have either a new room to visit or 
a new thing to play with. This pacing kept me interested and engaged through the 
entire puzzle.

There are a few places where I might have become bored trying to figure out 
exactly what had happened after I'd triggered some change in the mansion. But 
this problem was avoided by my notebook, where "I" kept notes of all the things 
that affected the mansion and, once I happened upon them, what the effects were. 
And even if *I* didn't notice a change, the *PC* would notice and jot it down, 
so when I checked the notebook I'd see what was going on. This kept me from ever 
getting stuck for long, and so I never did get bored or frustrated with the game 
during this puzzle.

In case I haven't made myself clear: this was my favorite puzzle of the entire 


Partway through the maze part of the game, I made the note: "If this keeps up, 
I'll love the game."

Sadly, "this" didn't keep up.

The second puzzle is a good idea, but it just didn't work like the first one 
did. For this part of the game, the mansion has been populated with characters 
for a murder mystery. As you move about, you see notes like "Mr. P__ will pass 
through the room, carrying a tray of drinks." You will also collect "intentions" 
and use them in various places, modifying what the characters will do. The idea 
is that adding intentions in various ways will change the things that will go on 
in the other rooms, allowing you to further manipulate the characters.

I like the idea. It could be really interesting trying to arrange intentions in 
the proper order to make things come out "right," like the puzzle in "Lock and 
Key". There are two problems, though. First, there is a single right use for 
each intent, and you can tell from your notes whether you've got it right or 
not. Thus, there's no need to think carefully about how the intents will affect 
each other, because you can deal with them one at a time.

The second problem is that it's not at all clear how exactly the intents will 
work until you get it right. So my procedure for solving the puzzle was to find 
an intent, make a guess as to where it might be used, go there and try using it 
randomly until something fit, and repeat. This did not make for a satisfying 

[EDIT: It turns out that I was mistaken about there being a single right use for 
each intent. The author informs me that there are multiple uses for many of the 
intents that can lead to a winning solution. I just didn't run into them, or 
else didn't realize that they weren't dead ends. So if you take the time to 
experiment instead of playing from the notes, this is probably a much more 
interesting puzzle. -DJ]


A few other miscellaneous things: There are quite a few unimplemented things 
that should be, such as the walls. Given the game's title, I really should be 
able to look at them. The setup and story never really get explained; I still 
don't know what's going on. And the second part of the game contained some 
innuendo, which detracted from the game for me and could have been done without, 
and a lot of murders, which I didn't mind but you may want to be aware of, 
particularly if kids might be playing the game. (I treated the innuendo like I 
do bad language, and docked a point from my comp rating for the game.) Finally, 
it would have made things easier for me if I could have just typed "notes" to 
look at my notepad.

My recommendation: Get this game, and just play the first half. (That's until 
you use the first intention.) That half of the game is well designed and well 
worth your time.


From: Felix Plesoianu (felixp7 SP@G

TITLE: Ekphrasis
AUTHOR: JB Ferrant
EMAIL: lejibe SP@G
DATE: November 27, 2006
PARSER: Inform 6 French edition
SUPPORTS: Glulx interpreters
AVAILABILITY: freeware; author's website
VERSION: First release

Once in a while I get my hands on a game that is unusual in so many ways I don't 
even know where to start. You know, the kind that doesn't seem to hold much 
promise at first, but then you notice this nice feature, and that one, and you 
want to play just a little further before going to bed... you're charmed.

To get one thing out of the way, Ekphrasis is written in French. If you speak 
the language but haven't played a French text adventure before, don't worry. 
Most commands are what you'd expect, shortcuts included (such as 'x' for 
'examiner'). You can even go west by typing 'w', something I did without even 
thinking about it. Be sure to type 'aide' at the beginning; it  will point out a 
less obvious command that happens to be used a lot during the game.

The story is reminiscent of an old stylish detective movie. A particular
Renaissance painting appears to have been stolen and replaced with a copy. 
You've been called to evaluate it, but things are a lot more complicated than 
they first seem. Being a cranky old professor with a distaste for modern 
technology doesn't help either. If you're expecting humor, you won't be 
disappointed. I haven't had such a laugh since Dutch Dapper IV.

The gameplay is neatly divided between interactive scenes and "talk to"-
triggered dialogues. The former are short and focused, usually one or two 
locations with a handful of items and NPCs and a clear goal; the latter are 
long-ish but charming, and do a great job of portraying the characters. 
Otherwise there isn't much in the way of literary style. Ekphrasis relies on 
pictures - otherwise beautiful - to describe the locations. Too bad it also 
relies on pictures for essential information such as phone numbers, which really 
should stay in the text. Be sure to keep the walkthrough at hand.

One thing the game is particularly good at is feeling natural. Most locations 
are famous spots in Europe; the NPCs and situations are what you'd expect to 
find there. Even the maze towards the end (yes, there's a maze!) is perfectly 
justified, and not all that complicated. The NPCs, though unhelpful, are at 
least pro-active, often starting conversations on their own. Puzzles are 
generally logical, but they sometimes require perfect timing and/or performing a 
precise sequence of steps which may not be so obvious. Add to that my abysmal 
puzzle-solving skills and the sheer length of the game and you'll see why I 
ended up following the walkthrough a lot. Except, of course, when following it a 
la lettre led to an untimely death. Oh well, it's a big game. Things can easily 
go out of sync.

Speaking of size, Ekphrasis is too large for its own good. I spent more than ten 
hours on the game, or so I think, because I lost count with all the loading and 
saving. Apparently, so did the author. Most of the scenery is not implemented, 
not even as a "you don't need that" message. A lot of synonyms are missing in 
action as well, which can become quite a problem when the game fails to 
recognize a noun from its own room descriptions. There's also a good deal of 
"read the author's mind" towards the end. I suppose it's difficult to explain 
everything when you write such a big game all by yourself. And despite the 
author's assurances that specialist knowledge is not required to win, there were
a couple of spots when even Wikipedia couldn't help me.

All in all, the game kept me interested to the end despite all the annoyances. 
Fun, education, suspense and even romance - Ekphrasis has them all, so allow me 
to conclude as a Frenchman would: chapeau!

P.S. I was unable to hear the sound for technical reasons, so I can't make any 
comments about it; my apologies to everyone interested.


From: Mike Harris (M.Harris SP@G

TITLE:  An Escape to Remember
AUTHOR: The 2nd IF Whispers Team
DATE: July, 2006
PARSER: Inform 7
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive

An Escape to Remember is a "Chinese Whispers / Telephone" style interactive 
piece, written by 14 different authors each of whom only saw the preceding 
section of the game.  Needless to say, this makes for a very schizophrenic story 
line.  That said, and perhaps in spite of itself, it's quite fun to play. 

The story starts out with a timed puzzle with a sort of secret agent / escape 
from a locked room premise and ultimately morphs into a surreal, almost Roger 
Zelazny finish.  In turns it's easy, difficult, serious, silly, well written, 
juvenile, buggy and error free.

Unless I'm mistaken at least some of the authors fudged the premise.  There's a 
segment about mid-game that incorporates a return to a much earlier module, many 
sections are seamless enough that the transitions between what in retrospect are 
probably multiple authors is not obvious, and some puzzles incorporated a 
similar style of solution that charitably might be dismissed as inherent to the 
insular nature of IF but which in reality likely came from some "against the 
rules" cribbing.  To be fair, I suppose that this could also be attributed to 
some clean-up after the fact to improve playability.

I did run into some trouble in the earliest part of the game, before I 
understood that objects collected in a previous module could be employed in the 
subsequent one.  Of course, I then had the PC toting a huge number of red 
herrings from module to module, not wanting to drop the ones I (correctly) 
suspected as useless out of apprehension that I would not be able to backtrack 
and collect them had they been needed.

The best puzzles required some thought, several objects and multiple steps taken 
in the correct order to solve.  Others were almost irritatingly easy, leaving 
only the most obvious course of action as a solution.  The modules involving 
them might have been more compelling and memorable had a little bit more 
"challenge" been built in. 

Players should be aware that there is one particular puzzle in about the first 
third of the game that, as far as I could tell, can only be solved by trial and 
error, with the results of an unsuccessful trial putting the game in an 
unwinnable state.  To my way of thinking, the "Undo" or "Restore" commands have 
no place in the routine solving of an IF puzzle and I was more than a little bit 
disappointed in the author of this section for forcing this.

There are some bugs.  Some modules have minor, annoying but ultimately 
irrelevant syntax bugs.  For example, the PC might run across a "Mauve Paisley 

> Open Mauve

You can't see any such thing.

> Open Paisley

You can't see any such thing.

> Open Grip

You can't see any such thing.

> Open Mauve Paisley Grip



>Read paper

Nothing is written on the paper.

>X paper

Written on the paper is the Gettysburg Address.

The buggiest are two modules involving a subterranean railroad - I found it 
possible to pick up a location as though it were an object, large objects that 
require the PC to drop everything else in inventory can be placed inside 
containers and lifted without such restriction, and I was able to search the 
contents of a container held by an NPC before obtaining possession of the 
container itself.  None of these bugs made the game unplayable but they're the 
sort of thing that should have been caught and fixed before release.  I might 
also add that the buggy sections were redeemed at least in part by some of the 
best, most entertaining and richest writing of the game.

Despite the inherent continuity problems in such a format I enjoyed playing An 
Escape to Remember.  Although there were flaws there were also some good puzzles 
and entertaining mini-plots which definitely made play worthwhile in spite of 
the more uneven bits.  On a scale of 1 to 10 I give it a 5.5 to 6 for difficulty 
and a 6.5 to 7 overall.


From: DJ Hastings (dj.hastings SP@G

TITLE: Floatpoint
AUTHOR: Emily Short
EMAIL: emshort SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
PARSER: Inform 7
SUPPORTS: Glulx interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF Archive
VERSION: Release 1

Floatpoint is about a planet populated by genetically-engineered humans who want 
to come back to earth, or something like that. I don't remember exactly because, 
frankly, I didn't care. The author never made me feel like the things I was 
doing or the situation itself really mattered. This seems strange, because the 
whole point of the game is to figure out what's going on and decide what to do 
about it. But while I was certainly interested in the game as a puzzle, I ended 
up not caring about it as a story.

The writing is good, although some of the descriptions were a bit long-winded 
for my tastes. I was probably playing just before bed, though, so that might 
have made me less patient with the descriptions than I otherwise would have 
been. The game could also have used a little more technical work. I ran into a 
few bugs and unimplemented things, and the whole game ran really slowly, with 
long pauses after each command. None of these things were a big deal- I even got 
used to the pauses after a while- but they made the game feel unpolished.

Although I didn't like the game all that much, there was one aspect I really did 
like. Floatpoint used two devices to help communicate the story, and both of 
them worked well for me. They were a message system used to communicate with 
some distant NPCs, and a computer database containing information from your 

The message system involves a console in the "communications room" and a beeper 
that you carry around with you. When someone sends you a message, your beeper 
alerts you to the fact. You can then go to the communications room and use the 
console to read and reply to any messages that you've received. The replies are 
written automatically; you only choose whether or not to send them. Often, you 
will get a response to your reply a while after you send it, so you end up 
engaging in some good sized conversations this way.

These messages arrive every so often through most of the game, and that's what I 
really liked about the system. For one thing, the "message waiting" beeper 
pleasantly interrupted my other exploration, breaking up what might have become 
monotonous otherwise. And I found that I anticipated the answers to my messages 
in the same way that I anticipate an email from someone, which added to the fun 
of reading them when they finally arrived. The message system did a good job of 
keeping me engaged with the game.

The other device that I enjoyed playing with was a computer database in which I 
could look up journal entries from one of the NPCs and information about the 
game's background. This is surprising, because normally I *hate* consultable 
objects in adventure games. It feels like I'm playing guess-the-noun, and I'm 
always afraid that I've missed a noun that was important. (And often I'm right.)

But the database in Floatpoint avoids this problem in two related ways: most 
keywords will bring up multiple articles, and most articles have multiple 
keywords attached to them. The first is nice because you can look up a person's 
name (for example) and see everything in the database related to them. Then, if 
one of the articles that comes up mentions something else interesting that's 
related to the character, you can look that up and see what the database has to 
say about it. I had a lot of fun searching through the database this way. And I 
wasn't nearly as worried as I usually am about missing something, because with 
multiple keywords for each article, I figured I was pretty sure to run into any 
important ones eventually. (And in fact I did.) To me, playing with the database 
was the best part of the whole game.

Even though I didn't care for the story, Floatpoint was worthwhile just to play 
with these toys. And hey, you might like the story better than I did. So if you 
have any taste for story-driven IF, I'd certainly recommend taking a look at 
this game.


From: Kent Corall (silver_raditz SP@G

TITLE: Game Producer!
AUTHOR: Jason Bergman
E-MAIL: loonyjason SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
PARSER: Inform 6
SUPPORTS: Z-Code interpreters
Availability: freeware; IF-Archive
Version: 1

As the Interactive Fiction community continues to grow, we head further away 
from the puzzle-driven dungeon crawls and more into genre-scattered stories, the 
occasional pioneering gem will surface for all to enjoy.

The much underrated Game Producer! shouldn't be judged on it's highly exictable 
and hobby categorized name, but rather the high quality of the game.

One of the most notable features of GP! is it's time feature, which is integral 
to the story. Depending on whether you choose an easy, medium, or hard mode 
(which is geniously integrated into the story via dream sequence), you wake up 
at a certain time. Then, as you reach your company, you can use three different 
energy sources to keep you awake. Using Orange Juice requires the most frequent 
refills to keep you running, but time goes by slower. The energy drink is the 
exact opposite, with very little need to refill but makes time go by at an 
alarming pace. Coffee is a nice mediator between these two extremes, and is 
easily the most recommendable.

When you first reach your store, you have a meeting with the "Big Man", or the 
boss of your game company. Here, you learn that you have one of three video 
games (It's randomly generated, but the game remains the same. Just name 
changes.) to complete and ship before midnight. With that, you leave his office 
and take the game head-on.

GP! has certain goals that you need to meet, but does not dictate in which order 
you do them, although there are a few time-specific events (such as the video 
game journalist arriving at 4:00 PM). The two puzzles in the game are small and 
easily solvable, yet are still pleasant to play. Basically, you play as Mr. Fix
-It who needs to solve everyone's problems so they can do their jobs, such as 
helping the Steve from the QA Pit fix the overheated server.

Although the game is timed, Easy Mode allows for a very leisurely pace (which, 
for thrill-seekers, can turn into Hell if you play Hard first time around). The 
world is small but nicely detailed, with a few little jokes hidden within (such 
as a calculator that has 1337 on it), but mostly straight-forward. A nice 
addition is the video game journalist's notepad that can be read, which involves 
a couple video game jokes. Or you can be more productive and test your game for 
bugs (in which there are quite a few), but this adds up to quite a bit of time.

GP! also has a dynamic ending. Even if you finished the game with shining stars 
with every thing maxed out, your game can still flop. Bergman claims this is a 
rare ending, but I got it on my first try. Fortunately, you can just undo that 
until you get a satisfactory ending. Similarly, if you create a monstrosity of a 
video game, the sales will reflect and so will the Boss's reaction. The only 
complaint about the ending is that the action you have to commit to end the game 
isn't very obvious, so I had to consult the walkthrough on that one.

Yet GP! is not perfect, mainly because of its boring NPCs. The video game 
journalist is a one-dimensional jerk, whereas Steve doesn't even have a 
personality. The characters serve mostly as tools to further his purposes, so 
you don't really walk away attached to any character, even the PC.

Although a couple quirks exist such as small gender-specific events (there are 
only two minor instances, though, and these have the same affect as the other 
gender's event) exist, the game is fairly linear, and once the game has been 
satisfactorily beaten, the game brings little replay value. Yet while you do 
play it, it'll be an extremely fun endeavor. It's a shame this thing only 
reached number twelve in the IF Comp. The author shows much promise, so I'll 
look forward to any future works.


From: Paul Lee (bainespal SP@G

TITLE: Green Falls
AUTHOR: Paul Panks (writing as Dunric)
E-MAIL: dunric SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
PARSER: Custom
Supports: DOS/Windows
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF Archive
Version: 1

Despite being simple in every respect of the word, I rather enjoyed this small 
adventure and role-playing game.  Although "Green Falls" features a bare, 
cliched plotline, the hack-and-slash combat and simple adventure-quest feel work 
in this game better than in most like it, due in part to many of the room 
descriptions which say a lot in few words and paint a vivid picture.  
Additionally, the map is well laid out, and the geography gives the impression 
of a vast area without many locations.

Having said this, the game has a number of problems that cause frustration and 
make it more difficult to appreciate.  First off, the parser is weak; "take" 
cannot even be used as a synonym for "get."  Not only is the concept of the game 
simple, but its mechanics are often obtrusively undeveloped and under-prepared. 
Cases in point: at one occasion the game told me that I could see "a(n) 
gauntlets," and armor can be covering more than one hundred percent of your 
body. As mentioned above, the room descriptions are typically good, but 
sometimes they are illogical, such as one description which mentions "useful 
items" that are unimplemented or another that has dialogue in the description.  
In fact, no objects not listed after the room description are implemented at 
all, I believe, though that one case was directly misleading.  Also, at times 
the text breaks at the end of a line in mid-word, which is jarring regardless of 
the fact that usually there are nice margins.

The main point of the game (outside of the objective of the player given in the 
shallow back story) is to kill monsters and find better armor and weapons, 
something that probably turns many people off immediately.  However, the 
monsters and the pieces of armor are distributed well, so that you will probably 
become just strong enough to slay the last big bad beastie by the time you reach 
the concluding part of the game.  There are no major puzzles outside of monster 
bashing, but exploring different regions after you've increased your might is a 
kind of puzzle itself, and if you are not careful in your approach, you will 
find yourself getting killed more often then not to great frustration, as I did 
the first time I played.  If you cannot reconcile yourself to the kind of game 
that "Green Falls" is, you will almost certainly find it not worth your time.  
If on the other hand you can, I would say that the good layout of content and 
vivid room descriptions make it good enough to give a try despite its problems.


From: Mike Harris (M.Harris SP@G

TITLE:  The Journey of the King
AUTHOR: Peter Nepstad
EMAIL: petern SP@G
DATE: November 26, 2006

Peter Nepstad has based The Journey of the King on the Lord Dunsany story of the 
same name, originally published in 1906.  In the "About" file included with the 
zipped download he notes that the story is now in the public domain in the 
United States and helpfully includes a link to the story in the Project 
Gutenberg archives,

One does not need to be familiar with the story to successfully play the game.  
In fact, the author's primary purpose would seem to be to familiarize those who 
might not know the tale nor Lord Dunsany's work in general.  The titular PC 
talks to the NPCs in a menu-driven format, gradually and interactively telling 
the tale.

One chooses to hear prophesies of various sages within the kingdom and finally 
choose among them.  During the course of this one encounters some puzzles, none 
too difficult.  It's possible to put the game in an unwinnable state by hearing 
the prophecies in incorrect order - or perhaps more accurately, I managed to get 
myself impossibly stuck a couple of times.  In any case, it's not much of a 
hardship to restart the game and replay should this happen, if one doesn't mind 
verbosity.  The story in this case served me well as a semi-walkthrough and 
hints file.

The play itself is bug free, with no guess the verb problems.  Indeed, beyond 
"TALK TO" and "EXAMINE" there's very little else to do, with only a scant 
handful of objects available for manipulation.

If you happen to be open to appreciating Lord Dunsany's very florid 19th Century 
writing style you'll find the game very enjoyable and actually a rather clever 
way of getting painlessly through some fairly dense prose.  The mood is well set 
and conversational menu commands, such as that to your faithful Cupbearer, e.g. 
"I would drink the wine of my Ancestors, so that I may feel more at ease" suit 
the tone of the tale.  If on the other hand you prefer your PCs to be less 
compelled by a narrative, or prefer crisper, more modern prose you'll likely not 
find the game to your taste.

Out of 10 I give the game a 3 for simplicity and a 6 overall.


From: DJ Hastings (dj.hastings SP@G

TITLE: Labyrinth
AUTHOR: Sami Preuninger
EMAIL: samantha_casanova SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
PARSER: Inform 6
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF Archive
VERSION: Release 1

Labyrinth consists of a series of puzzles set in a maze of sorts. Not a "twisty 
little passages" maze where the directions are non-reversible and the rooms are 
indistinguishable. No, this maze is logical enough; the main difficulty is 
figuring out how to get from room to room, and I think I would really have 
enjoyed it if it hadn't been for a small problem.

That problem was the room descriptions: they completely confused me! Each wall 
in a room is of a different colour, as well as the floor and ceiling, and there 
are several doorways from each room, usually in strange positions like upside 
down against the ceiling. These doorways were my main problem; they are 
described as "archways," and when I first read about "an archway halfway up the 
south wall, extending from its western edge toward the middle of the wall," I 
imagined a stone arch sticking out into the room. The archway is really a 
doorway through the wall, with its base against the west wall instead of against 
the floor, but I didn't figure this out until I was quite a ways through the 
game using the walkthrough, and by that point I had already spoiled the rest of 
the puzzle.

The other puzzles were mostly things like Nim or a cipher that would work just 
as well on paper. I didn't like the inclusion of the cipher. Ciphers essentially 
say to me, "pause the game while you go figure out this puzzle, and come back 
here when you're finished." And it was a keyword cipher, which I have no idea 
how to solve, so I never would have made it past this puzzle on my own. On the 
other hand, I did enjoy the "magic number" puzzle. It's another "go solve this 
and come back" puzzle, but the difference is that I enjoyed going and solving 
it. I probably wouldn't include it in an adventure game, because someone who 
didn't like that sort of thing would be just as irritated by it as I was by the 
cipher, but I still had fun with it.

In the end, a game like Labyrinth stands or falls on its puzzles. Labyrinth's 
"maze" is creative and with a bit more clarity would make an excellent setting 
for a collection of unique and interesting puzzles. Unfortunately, most of 
Labyrinth's puzzles don't fit that description. There are a couple of 
exceptions, but they aren't enough to make the game worthwhile.

From: David Jones (drj SP@G

A word of warning.  This game has a problem when played with the Zoom based 
interpreters (including Gargoyle and Spatterlight).  Play with Frotz.  As far as 
I know, Preuninger is working on a new version that presumably won't have these 

Another word of warning: this game is almost pure puzzle.  Right from the very 
first description: "A Sweet-Smelling Room: The room is a perfect cube, about 30 
feet on a side.  The ceiling is yellow and the floor is purple.  The north wall 
is blue, and the eastern wall is green.  To the south, the wall is orange, and 
the western wall is red.  The walls are bare of ornament, and no furniture 
occupies the room." we can tell that we are entering into a world where certain 
things, like the colour of the walls, are going to important.  The fact that the 
floor and ceiling are described probably hints at the importance of the third 
dimension.  Our suspicions are immediately reinforced by the following 
paragraphs that describe in meticulous detail the doors in the room.  Most of 
which are not in their usual orientations and are situated in inaccessible 
portions of the walls and ceiling.  It all adds up to a strong reference to 
Escher and The Cube (the entertainingly low-budget movie).

The game consists of a sequence of puzzles embedded into the framework of a text 
adventure.  Some would say that many of the puzzles would do better without the 
wrapper.  I'm not sure, I think what wrapper there is adds character to the 
game.  You're not merely pulling levers and pressing buttons in some abstract 
puzzle, you play the part of a trying-to-be-cool maths professor (we can tell 
because X ME reveals that the PC is into rock climbing and air guitar).  Each 
room has a distinctive smell, this is very handy for orienting yourself, but 
these are not mere scent markers on your map, they too add character: "The room 
smells rather strongly of wet dog.  You reaffirm your decision never to acquire 
a pet.".

The help text says "I'll just say that drawing a map would be helpful".  Well, 
that _is_ true, and you definitely should draw a map.  I drew three.  It's one 
of those games where you realise, perhaps with horror, perhaps with glee, that 
your map drawing efforts are documenting completely the wrong thing and you'd be 
better of starting over with a different sort of map.  In actual fact the game 
isn't all that big, and the map isn't that complex, but much of game, the 
central puzzle as it were, is figuring out exactly what is going on.  This 
puzzle involves transforming the geography in quite a cool way (let's just say 
that NORTH doesn't always mean the same thing), and you'll probably have needed 
to paid attention in your algebra class to fully understand it.

The puzzles are hard; as well as the main geometry puzzle there are the usual 
object composition puzzles and riddles, and the rather less traditional, at 
least in text adventures, game of nim and a cipher (actually I wouldn't be 
surprised if nim and ciphers cropped up in some very old school games, but 
they're not common now).  There's even an last lousy point puzzle (which I 
haven't got). Preuninger includes hints and a walkthrough (as separate HTML 
files); you may be able to finish using them, but they won't necessarily 
enlighten you.

There are those who would say that the game is too puzzle-heavy, it lacks 
story (it doesn't actually, but the story _is_ more of a cliched veneer than 
anything else), the descriptions are too mechanical.  They miss the point.  
Labyrinth stands out like a lightning-rod for gaming, it deliberately and 
directly opposes the modern style of story led interactive fiction.  What it 
lacks in quality and finesse it more than makes up for in reviving freshness.  
In addition I suspect that the game has a little bit more heart in it than most 
of its detractors realise.  In how many games can you voluntarily FART ?  No, I 
don't really want an answer to that question.

With my tongue in my cheek I would say that I found this game a refreshing 
change from all the diplomat-on-an-alien-planet and mutant-spider games in this 
year's comp.


From: Jimmy Maher (maher SP@G

TITLE: Last Resort
AUTHOR: Jim Aikin
EMAIL: editor SP@G
DATE: December 2, 2006
PARSER: Inform 6
SUPPORTS: Glulx interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF Archive
VERSION: Release 1

In his newsgroup discussions of his new game and on his webpage devoted to it, 
Mr. Aikin set it up as something bold and fairly experimental.  "Last Resort," 
he tells us, "is an attempt to use the medium of interactive fiction for a 
serious story with an actual plot."  I thus downloaded the game expecting to 
find something that, successful or not, would at least push the envelope of the 
possible.  I was surprised to find instead a well put-together, well-tested, and 
well-written work of IF... but one that does little or nothing really new with 
the form.  It's not that Mr. Aikin was being dishonest.  Last Resort IS a 
serious story with an actual plot.  It's just that there have been plenty of 
serious stories with actual plots before in IF, and Mr. Aikin's tone had somehow 
made me feel that he meant something new in using those words.  

Be that as it may, there is nothing here that advances the form in any new 
directions.  Luckily, though, there is a lot to like about this one.  In this 
age of bite-sized IF, a big, solidly designed effort like this is worthy of 
celebration on its own merits.

The plot casts the player as a fourteen year old girl from New York who has been 
dragged off to the tumbledown resort camp of Eternal Springs in Mississippi by 
her spinster aunt.  Once there, she quickly begin to realize that things are not 
right.  Evil is afoot!  The resort is actually a front for a demon-worshipping 
cult, and in some four hours of game time she will be sacrificed... unless she 
can thwart the plans of the cult.

Like much -- arguably too much -- IF before it, Last Resort settles itself 
firmly into the genre of Lovecraftian horror.  I find it surprising that so many 
IF authors continue to go down this road, as Anchorhead nailed the genre so well 
that it seems to me that virtually anything else -- including (retroactively) 
even Infocom's The Lurking Horror -- is likely to come up short in comparison.  
Anyway, I tend to find a more understated, psychological approach to horror 
infinitely more chilling than Lovecraft's wild ravings about unnamable horrors 
from other dimensions gibbering EVILY.  Even a bit of good old Satan worshipping 
would have gone down pretty well, and this was in fact the direction I initially 
thought the game was going in when I found, first, a Bible with particularly 
violent and disturbing passages marked, and then a rather creepy, thoroughly 
unholy priest.  I had decidedly mixed feelings when I realized what direction it 
was actually going in.  

And so, perhaps inevitably and certainly not unexpectedly, the plot of Last 
Resort suffers in comparison with Anchorhead.  I think that much of the problem 
is down to a failure to maintain dramatic tension.  The game is indeed, as 
advertised by Aikin, non-linear, but I'm not sure that its story is the better 
for it.  Basically, the player can wander freely over its fairly extensive 
terrain -- for which Mr. Aikin has helpfully provided a PDF map -- right from 
the beginning, attempting to solve the variety of puzzles that block her from 
thwarting the cult's plans and effecting her escape from the resort.  There are 
a few timed and triggered events, but not enough to make the game feel like a 
satisfying story rather than just a collection of static obstacles to conquer.  
The plot has no real climax as all.  If she solves all of the puzzles in time, 
she leaves the island on which the resort is situated and it's game over, 
accompanied by a massive case of anti-climax.  If not, she is sacrificed and 
that's that.  Something more is definitely needed here.

But if the plot is a bit thin, there is much else to appreciate.  The puzzles 
are sometimes difficult, but generally satisfying.  The writing is detailed and 
evocative, and the scenery is well-implemented throughout.  Eternal Springs in 
all its overheated, dilapidated splendor feels like a real place.

Two things really set Last Resort off from games like it from five or ten years 
ago.  One is the aforementioned level of scenery implementation.  The other is 
the NPCs.  There are quite a few of them here, all vividly described and 
memorable, if sometimes a bit cliched.  They aren't terribly active -- most stay 
in the same place pretty much throughout the game -- but they have a surprising 
amount to say.  Almost any reasonable query that these people SHOULD know 
something about they DO.  Inform unfortunately does not (yet) have anything of 
quite the sophistication of the TADS 3 conversation model, but Mr. Aikin has 
made good use of the tools he does have.  This contributed greatly to my 
enjoyment of the game, and is I suspect the main reason that the it ballooned to 
a size too big for the Z-Machine to contain.  I hate to think of the amount of 
work that must have gone into Mr. Aikin's characters.

Last Resort is not a terribly easy game.  As mentioned previously, there is a 
time limit, which is something I generally have mixed feelings about.  The game 
is quite generous as such things go, though, allowing plenty of time for 
exploration.  I actually never ran out of clock in my time with the game, 
although I was always aware of the time limit and thus occasionally restored to 
an earlier point after spending too much time going down some fruitless path or 

It is also quite possible to make the game unwinnable.  The game will not warn 
its player in any obvious way when this happens, but just continue merrily 
onward.  I think that the reasonably careful player will, however, generally be 
able to recognize these situations.  The key here is to approach Last Resort as 
a text adventure, not a piece of interactive literature, contrary as this may be 
to the expectations created by Mr. Aikin's own comments on his game.  Hint: If 
you find yourself asking why no one comments on the fact that you are carrying 
around several dozen bizarre, non-related items in a huge sack like a fourteen 
year old Santa Claus, or how this young girl is able to lift this much assorted 
junk in the first place, you are officially in the wrong frame of mind.  

Luckily, I like text adventures a lot, and this is, all things considered, a 
pretty darn good one.  Together with my girlfriend I was able to solve all but 
two of its puzzles.  At least one of those two -- the final step in clearing the 
dog away from the shed door -- I thought was a bit dodgy, but then every game 
seems to have at least one.  Overall, Last Resort is a fine piece of work that 
will likely consume several evenings of happy adventuring.  All but the most 
puzzle-adverse should definitely give it a go.


From: David Jones (drj SP@G

TITLE: Pirate Adventure
AUTHOR: Alexis Adams and Scott Adams
E-mail: msadams SP@G
DATE: 1978
Parser: Scott Adams (2 word)
Supports: Originally custom format, since reverse engineered and translated to 
Z-code and others
Availability: IF-archive

I'm playing using the zcode translations of the games found in scott-
adams/games/zcode/ in the IF Archive.

Pirate Adventure uses a split-screen style where the top portion of the screen 
is permanently given over to displaying the location description ("I'm in a Flat 
in london" [sic]), the available exits, and the visible items.  I remember, from 
way back when, that when I was playing this game on a VIC-20 the split-screen 
effect was quite convenient; the VIC-20 had a text display of 22x23, and games 
rarely implemented scrollback (since memory used for scrollback would eat into 
the memory used to hold the game description, all of which had to be kept in 
RAM).  So it was actually quite nice to have the equivalent of LOOK permanently 
displayed.  These days the split-screen effect is more disturbing; I often use 
long windows so my focus keeps having to shift from where I'm typing (at the 
bottom) to the room description (at the top).  Many commands (eg GET SNEAKERS) 
have no response, they simply update the room description. This change is 
sometimes easy to miss, especially if it happens in one's peripheral vision or 
during a saccade.

Needless to say the writing is extremely economical, but that doesn't really 
excuse the mistakes that are all too common: its/it's confusion, missing 
punctuation, and misplaced capital letters.

Parsing is two word.  LOOK IN SACK and PUT THE TORCH OUT are way too complex.  
Forget the luxury of having synonyms or helpful hints from the parser.  A 
typical example that crops up early in the game is that there are stairs in the 
initial location, but neither UP nor DOWN works, GO STAIRS being the required 
invocation.  In the location at the other end of the stairs, DOWN works to 
return to the first location.  Is Adams just being stubborn here?  Or is he 
introducing the player to the required mechanics to solve later parts of the 
game?  I think I'd rather give Adams the benefit of the doubt here and say that 
requiring players to use GO STAIRS instead of UP is getting them to practice a 
puzzle in simple and obvious form so that later on less obvious uses for GO X 
can be introduced without the player thinking it harsh or unfair.

The parser abbreviates all words to 3 letters and this somewhat makes up for the 
lack of now traditional abbreviations such as X (EXA) and I (INV).  Despite the 
parser's simplicity it does implement automatic disambiguation for some objects. 
CRA is recognised as "Sack of crackers" or "narrow crack" as appropriate, 
similarly with WIN.

When we review an old game like this we are confronted with questions of 
purpose.  Why are we playing an old game?  We can play to gain some insight into 
the history, to see what it was like to play games of that era (although the 
experience will of course fall short because of the lack of context, just as 
attempts at, say, medieval cooking do.  That doesn't mean such attempts 
shouldn't be made of course); we can play to see what value such games hold now, 
as objects of entertainment; finally, we can play to see what value such games 
hold for the creators of modern works.  What lessons can we learn from this 

As a form of entertainment there is really very little to keep the modern player 
at the keyboard: no lavish descriptions; a fair number spelling mistakes and 
similar signs of inadequate proofreading; no cunning plots; the puzzles aren't 
particularly deep.

It's worthwhile to compare the implementation of a bag in Pirate Adventure with 
how it would likely be implemented today.  Today it would be implemented as a 
container.  The player would be able to open it, close, take things out, put 
things in.  Adams avoids the complexities inherent in container objects 
(capacity, inclusion in self, description of contents, reaching beyond when the 
PC is inside, etc) by simply having OPEN BAG create a new object in the location 
with the response "Something falls out".  Adams has been spared the expense of 
implementing containers, and the player has been spared the pointless 
exploration of a containment simulation.  In the modern approach, implementing 
the BAG as a container, OPEN BAG would yield the response "Revealing an X" or 
similar, and GET X would get the object in question.  Adams solution has all the 
elegance of the modern implementation, but at a fraction of the cost (in terms 
of programming and debugging).  In either case the player types exactly the same 
sequence of commands, OPEN BAG. GET X.  What the player has lost is the ability 
to PUT X IN BAG (that would require a preposition in the parser), but that 
doesn't seem like a huge loss given that containers in adventure games are often 
used to merely delay the player in finding some object (that is, they are a 
barrier to getting some object from the container rather than something into 
which the player might usefully stow an object).  The lesson here is that 
simulation for simulation's sake is pointless.  If you implement a complex 
object then its complexity should be motivation by having an interesting purpose 
in the game.  One recent example which fails this test is the implementation of 
pockets in Eric Eve's competition release of The Elysium Enigma.  The effect of 
the pockets was to hide from the player objects carried by the PC (a false, and 
I suspect largely unintentional) widening on the player / PC gap).  I'm happy to 
say that Eric Eve has  made a new release which fixes this and brings this 
aspect up to the high quality of the rest of The Elysium Enigma.

Structurally the game follows the classic trinity of beginning, middle, and end. 
 The beginning consists of 5 locations in the London flat and lasts until the 
player discovers how to get to the islands.  The middle bit provides most of the 
game and takes places on an island with rather more than 5 locations (though you 
will also be revisiting the flat).  A final section (on another island) is 
reached after the solution to a key puzzle on the first island.  The 
anticipation of solving that key puzzle is quite good and solving it yields a 
genuine sense of achievement which is sadly deflated by the game's very 
lackluster response: "CONGRATULATIONS !!! But your Adventure is not over yet... 
" (that's Pirate Adventure being prolix).  When Pirate Adventure was first 
published the three-part structure had yet to become time honoured; Adams did 
well to note that the theatrical device could be employed here.  Sadly the final 
part of the game is a bit of a let-down.  Like many games (modern and old) it 
feels like the author ran out of time, steam, or implementation space, 
consequently the final part feels under-implemented, disappointing, and buggy 
(the one bug I found concerns an object found in the final section).

Although old Pirate Adventure avoids a lot of puzzle cliches.  Several objects 
in the game have multiple uses; some change state and are used in different 
states. One of the NPCs both provides clues and is used directly to solve a 
later puzzle.  One NPC is an obstacle early on in the game, but needs to be 
exploited to overcome a puzzle later in the game.  Although some cliches are 
avoided lots are included: instant death; no UNDO; some puzzles require, for no 
obvious reason, repeating certain actions.  Some of puzzles seem pretty 
reasonable, others seem a bit arbitrary and you can easily unwittingly enter 
unwinnable states.  Fortunately the game isn't very large so restarting isn't 
very unpleasant and often leads to discovering something new.  There is an 
inventory limit (it never forms the crux of a puzzle, it just means more toing 
and froing) and a torch that can be exhausted.

Pirate Adventure packs quite a lot of puzzles into its small space; the sketch 
of the puzzle-dependency diagram (DM4's "lattice diagram") that I started making 
reveals a surprisingly complex and interesting structure.  The effect is one 
that I find all too rare in lots of games: there are always several avenues to 
explore, always a few objects whose purpose you haven't fathomed, and a few 
strategies that remain to be tried.  There are quite a few pleasing moment when 
you realise that certain objects have multiple uses.  On the other hand I know 
of no puzzle in Pirate Adventure that has an alternate solution (apart from a 
trivial rephrasing); it's a notable lack in Pirate Adventure.

The setting of the game, a tropical island (well, the game doesn't say it's 
tropical but let's assume it is), is both a strength and a weakness.  The text 
in the game is extremely minimal, yet the setting manages to be quite vivid.  
Adams achieves this primarily by placing the game in a setting that is familiar 
to most players: the classic desert island of adventure stories like Treasure 
Island and Robinson Crusoe.  Such stories were probably read by (or read to) the 
player as a child; the island takes on nostalgic and perhaps slightly magical 
qualities in the player's mind as a result.  It takes very few words for the 
player to be transported to a fantasy island with golden beaches, inviting 
lagoons, huts made from palm leaves, and a cave system in cliffs of soft rock.  
Those parts of the game are fine.  It's the additions that break the spell.  The 
cave system has a toolshed inside it apparently equipped with about half the 
necessary materials to build a boat, but the only access to the shed is either 
via a small crack or past a crocodile infested pit.  How did the equipment get 
in the shed?  How does the crocodiles' pit fill with water?  Why are the keys to 
a pirate's chest in [LOCATION WITHHELD]?  Historically this was totally 
acceptable, expected even, but these days many players would find it 

Designers would do well to briefly dip into Pirate Adventure to observe how it 
manages to create a solid and evocative setting with so few words, and how the 
puzzles and objects are interlinked with such economy.  But that is all.  Pirate 
Adventure has little to commend itself to the modern player, though it was great 
in its day.


From: Dark Star (darkstar SP@G

Title:  The Reliques of Tolti-Aph
Author:  Graham Nelson
Date:  March 2, 2006
Parser:  Inform 7
Supports:  Z-code interpreters
Availability: Freeware; Author's Website
Version:  1

The Reliques of Tolti-Aph is the latest game by Graham Nelson, written to 
showcase some of the new features of Inform 7.  It is not traditional IF, rather 
an RPG with IF elements.  It implements a modified D&D engine referred to as 
Woodpulp & Wyverns (W&W).  The implementation of the engine is impressive, but 
the gameplay itself falls a little short: it fails to adhere to its own 
conventions and several of the puzzles have unconventional solutions.  (Thank 
goodness for David Welbourn's walkthrough!)  It's not balanced, it's not fair, 
and it can be very frustrating for the player.  Play at your own risk!

The first thing that the game needs is a manual, and ideally a tutorial as well, 
covering concepts such as scroll creation, spells and how to create a sanctuary 
where you can go to retreat and rest.  Understanding the game is more than 
learning about combat, and I suspect many players will end up resorting to the 
walkthrough in order to get the hang of it.  

One good feature is the ability to retreat (i.e. run away) during a fight. If 
you get away, you can go back to your sanctuary, meditate (heal), and save.  
This is just as well, as meditating and saving can only be done in a sanctuary, 
and UNDO has been completely disabled.  While not allowing UNDO makes sense, I 
do not think it's a good idea to disable save, except perhaps during combat.  
Some other RPGs do this, but it usually doesn't work, and I've seen it corrected 
later by a patch.

My biggest complaint is that your strength does not increase as your level 
increases.  This goes against one of the most basic rules of the RPG, and makes 
some of the creatures almost impossible to kill.  The wyvern, for example, can 
kill you in one shot, no matter what level you are on.  There is a spell to get 
past it, but this is a RPG and you earn experience by killing creatures and 
casting spells.  In a hard boss fight like this, you should earn more experience 
from killing the beast than casting a simple spell.  Overall, the game feels 
unbalanced: you face sudden death far too often.  Either the monsters need less 
bite or the player's defensive bonus needs to be brought up, or both. In a good 
RPG, you win most fights and only have to work harder on a small number of boss 

Then there's the random maze.  That's bad enough, but the strength problem makes 
every fight feel like a boss fight.  Also, with spells needing components to be 
able to cast them, it becomes impossible to fight the monsters using your 
spells.  If you try, you face a real inventory management problem as you're 
always running around looking for scraps of metal so you can fire off your magic 
missiles.  This is a bit much, and I had to give up at this point.  I think it 
would be better to remove the component feature from the engine altogether; the 
mana cost is enough of a penalty.

Another problem with the game is that many of the puzzles are under-clued, and 
don't follow any sort of pattern. For example, early on I had to write on a 
blank parchment with a metal feather to create a scroll.  "Ah," I thought, "this 
is how you make a scroll."  I never did it again.  Later on, I had to look up a 
saying in the diary and write it on a pyramid.  Why couldn't a monster have been 
protecting a blank parchment?  Then it would have been obvious that I should 
write on the parchment to create the scroll I needed.  Having established a 
convention, the game should carry it through.  In addition, when you learn a new 
spell this way, the game doesn't even tell you that you've learned it:  you have 
to look it up in your spell book.  The player should know when they've done 
something right.

The game has an awkward dual personality, trying to combine conventional IF 
puzzles with the RPG elements, and doesn't quite pull it off.  There are some 
great puzzles here, but some of them are so hard that they disrupt the flow.  As 
an RPG, I feel it should have been more action-oriented, with IF puzzles that 
don't act as roadblocks.

A pet peeve of mine is that the game is not always clear about which exits are 
available.  This was particularly noticeable in the maze, where there are no 
room descriptions for the tunnels, and some of the room names (e.g. NORTH-EAST 
BEND) are misleading.  More than once I had to resort to trying random 

Technically, the game is very polished, and the only bug I found happened upon 
death when trying to cast a spell.  Once, when I tried to make a sanctuary the 
sand coming out of the door killed me, and the game responded with:

Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game or QUIT?


That enchantment cannot be cast at anything.

The game would not let me restore, and I had to restart before I could restore 
my saved game.

Overall, I think the idea of an IF RPG offers some great possibilities.  Some 
things need to be changed within the engine, and a few things need to be worked 
out within the game itself, but this could definitely become a solid game engine 
for others to build on.


From: David Jones (drj SP@G

TITLE: The Tower of the Elephant
AUTHOR: Tor Andersson
E-MAIL: tor.andersson SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
Parser: Inform 7
Supports: Z-code
Availability: IF-archive
Version: Release 1 / Serial number 060922 / Inform 7 build 3Z95 (I6/v6.31 lib 

"I have seen no guards. The walls would be easy to climb. Why has not somebody 
stolen this secret gem?" the game begins (well almost).  Indeed, why not?  It's 
the perfect excuse to begin an adventure game.

The game, it turns out, is based on the Conan story by Robert E. Howard.  You 
get to play the part of Conan the Barbarian as he goes to the Elephant Tower of 
Yara the priest to steal the source of his magic, the Elephant's Heart jewel.  
I've never read any of the Conan stories, though I am vaguely familiar with 

The writing is a real treat, vivid and undemanding.  Like pulp fiction should 
be.  Most of the writing is Howard's, though Andersson has done a very competent 
job of taking the words from their original linear format and embedding them 
into a text adventure.

The Tower of the Elephant is well implemented, with close to no outright bugs, 
and is generally polished.  I think the game could definitely benefit from 
implementing a few more scenery nouns.  In a literary adaptation this is, of 
course, a tricky business; how far should Andersson go in adding new 
descriptions?  Well, at least as far as the coping, the sward, the shrubbery 
(these examples from the first few locations).  In the Infocom era, this would 
have gone without a mention, but these days I think people expect a bit more.  
In a way though, I find it quite refreshing; it focuses the mind on the 
essentials.  The same complaint exists in the domain of verbs. Obvious 
manipulations of implemented objects are not always implemented.  You have a 
sword but you cannot draw nor wield it.  The following extract concerning a 
jewel is typical (There are lots of jewels in this game.  Some of them you can 
take, some of them you cannot):

>> x stone

A great round jewel, clear as crimson crystal.

>> look through stone

You find nothing of interest.

As someone who was not familiar with the story I would say that the game 
sometimes fails to mark "the way forward" with sufficient clues.  This is mostly 
only a problem early on when room descriptions fail to describe available exits. 
Really, I quibble because a player isn't likely to forget which way the tower is 
(unless they are deliberately wasting time trying lots of different things out 
like I was), and it's a sufficiently small game that it's never a huge problem 
anyway.  Also, the EXITS command is implemented.

Epistemic object naming comes into play.  An NPC thief is referred to as thief 
until you learn his name (optional), thence he is referred to using his name.  
Managing the player's knowledge is always a bit tricky, and later on the game 
falters when you meet Yag-kosha.  Yag-kosha never directly introduces himself 
directly, indeed at one point he addresses Yag-kosha as if talking to someone 
else, but the game immediately refers to Yag-kosha and apparently assumes you 
know the referent.  I did briefly wonder whether in Yag-kosha's language "Yag-
kosha" was a pronoun that could be used to refer to self and others equally 
(like some uses of "we" in English).

One of the puzzles, the spider combat, I found annoying.  Of the many things 
that a player could try only a few are implemented.  Not implementing DODGE and 
PARRY seems reasonable enough, at least the game is clear on that matter, but 
there are some actions that the game describes, but which cannot be executed 
voluntarily.  For example at one point the game says (in response to my not 
doing anything positive in attacking the spider) "You leap high, and the spider 
passes beneath you, wheels and charges back", but I cannot JUMP OVER SPIDER; I 
can JUMP, but I get the library response.  The required actions are not 
particular hard to guess, but they're not particularly well clued either.  The 
combat scene is on a timer (eventually the spider _will_ kill you), so I suspect 
most players will be restoring many times before they defeat the spider.  
Contrast this with the spider combat in Tales of the Traveling Swordsman where 
the actions are better clued (in fact, the clueing is progressive), and the game 
isn't quite so cruel at killing the player off.  It turns out there are 
solutions to the game that avoid the entire spider combat, so maybe it doesn't 
matter if I found it hard?  Well, that would be a more reasonable defense if it 
was possible to escape from the spider.  It's not as far as I can tell, and I 
can't really see why.

The game exhibits other branches as well (aside from the optional spider), in 
fact the more I play the game the more options and variation I find.  Somehow 
though this variation is presented poorly.  It's almost as if the game is trying 
to hide the fact that multiple solutions whilst letting players discover a 
solution that's natural to them.  It's hard to say what's going on without 
getting spoilery, but consider the spider combat.  Because of the way its 
arranged it's entirely likely that players that discover the spider combat will 
not discover the alternate path, and won't even be aware that there is one.  
Similarly, players that discover the alternate path will probably not discover 
the spider combat.  A similar situation exists with the thief.  It's cool that 
the game admits multiple solutions so some players will naturally discover one 
way and some players will naturally discover another, but I think most players 
will not realise that they have the option.  Tower of the Elephant is quite a 
short game, but exploring the alternate solutions provides a fair amount of 
replay value; and I encourage all players to do that so that Andersson's coding 
isn't wasted on you.

The game has a cruel moment (possibly more than one).  If you penetrate the 
secrets of the tower sufficiently but then leave before settling some business 
then you can wind up in an unwinnable state, confronting an all too mighty Yara, 
without it being clear and beyond the reach of undo.  This is probably a bug 
more than intentional.  Because of a slight clumsiness in the conversation it's 
perhaps a little bit easy to stumble into accidentally.

Overall I find the game engaging.  Conan, the PC, is a man of action and the 
writing encourages you to take action; it's compelling.  The situations are 
vivid and unusual.  When I wasn't frustrated by the puzzles I enjoyed them.  
NPCs are well characterized and sometimes surprising.  Conversation (relying 
heavily on Eric Eve's extensions I suspect) mostly works well with an ASK / TELL 
interface with explicitly listed topics.  There are perhaps a few too many 
precious materials around --- once Conan gets to the tower everything is made of 
ivory, topaz, gold, sapphire --- but I guess that's just the in style when 
you're an all powerful priest.  I feel that a small amount of repair work on 
this game --- clueing one or puzzles a bit more, not trapping Conan in the room 
with the spider, a few bug fixes --- would remove the flaws and allow what I 
think is quite a good game to shine through.

 ___. .___    _    ___.     ___. 
/  _| |   \  / \  / ._|    /  _| 
\  \  | o_/ |   | | |_.    \  \  
.\  \ | |   | o | | | |    .\  \ 
|___/ |_|   |_|_| \___|    |___/ PECIFICS

SPAG Specifics is a small section of SPAG dedicated to providing in-
depth critical analysis of IF games, spoilers most emphatically


Damnatio Memoriae




From: Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G

TITLE: Damnatio Memoriae
AUTHOR: Emily Short
E-MAIL: emshort SP@G
DATE: 2006
PARSER: Inform 7
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
VERSION: Release 5

Damnatio Memoriae is a tiny game, but it's got plenty of quality. There are a 
few multiple-solution puzzles and the skeleton of a story built around an 
"accretive PC" model, where a winning playthrough only comes from the lessons 
taught by a few losing iterations. The writing is reasonably good, as one might 
expect from Emily Short, and the setting puts her considerable knowledge of 
ancient Rome to use. It takes hardly any time to play, and repays exploration 
with a surprising depth of implementation. 

All that said, I think I made two mistakes in approaching DM. One was assuming 
that because it shares a universe with Savoir-Faire, the details of its magic 
system would be identical to that game. The other mistake was forgetting that 
this game's raison d'etre is to be example code for Inform 7, not necessarily to 
be a complete and satisfying game in itself. Consequently, I found myself 
feeling disappointed by finding only anticlimactic, abrupt endings, and so 
turned to the walkthrough after winning but still feeling unsatisfied. From 
there, I became confused and frustrated by the way this game's magic differed 
from that of S-F. These factors combined to make my playing experience less than 

It didn't help that the first winning ending I reached was, I think, buggily 
incomplete. There was a "time's up" message and a "You have won" message, but no 
connective material between them, which of course felt bare and anticlimactic. 
I'm assuming this was a bug, but there were a number of places in the game where 
logical connections felt missing. For instance, in a branch where I had killed 
Clemens, left him in the study, and ducked outside, I thought I'd hide under a 
pile of hay. Here's what happened:

    What do you want to hide under?
    Without some decoy, they'll certainly look hard enough to find you.

What, the corpse of my doppelganger up in the study isn't enough of a decoy? 

I chalk these lacunae up to the fact that the point here is not to create a 
perfect, polished game but rather to demonstrate Inform 7 rules within the 
context of a nominally game-like structure. Also, despite the fact that this 
game is tiny, the number of possible interactions between objects makes for a 
plethora of implementation details, so it's natural that without extensive beta
-testing (as a full-fledged game would have received), some would be missed. As 
I said, I mistakenly entered the game with the wrong expectation about that, and 
in any case, I feel like I'm beginning to cross over into the uncouth practice 
of airing bugs in a review rather than privately to the author, so let me move 
on to a different topic: the functional differences between this game's magic 
system and that of Savoir-Faire. 

I had never played S-F to completion, so I prefaced my approach to this game by 
playing through its larger cousin. Savoir-Faire is a marvelous game, with an 
internally consistent magic system of linking and reverse linking that enables 
both its puzzles and its story. However, the logic of linking in Damnatio 
Memoriae parts ways with S-F in several areas, so I found it a disadvantage to 
have S-F so fresh in my memory as I played DM. For one thing, Savoir-Faire 
disallows linking anything to the PC, saying, "Linking yourself is generally 
considered a very bad idea." In DM, however, linking the PC is an important 
tool. This hurdle is easily cleared, but it leaves the player to figure out how 
linkages between people operate, and their operations are in fact rather 
counterintuitive. On top of this, DM also adds a new kind of linkage: slave 
linkage. The differences between the three types of links can be subtle indeed. 
Consider these three messages: 

    >link clemens to me
    (first unlinking Clemens)
    You build a mutually-effective link between Clemens and yourself.
    >reverse link clemens to me
    You reverse link Clemens to yourself (son of Julia and Agrippa, who died 
before you were born). While one of you lives, so does the other.
    >slave link clemens to me
    You build the link, enslaving Clemens to yourself. It is an expedient 
Augustus has been using for years: now any attempt upon your life will instead 
kill your slave.

On the face of it, these messages would seem to indicate that the regular link 
allows you to control Clemens, the reverse link causes harm to both when 
anything is inflicted on either, while the slave link transfers that harm from 
you to Clemens. However, a simple link doesn't allow you to control Clemens. 
Instead, a regular link behaves in the way I expected a reverse link to act, and 
vice versa. 

The other significant difference between S-F's linking and that in DM is that DM 
is much less consistent about disallowing linkages. In Savoir-Faire, you could 
depend on the fact that unless two objects had some sort of common quality, they 
could not be linked. Damnatio Memoriae is a little more capricious: 

    >link window to pitcher
    The window is insufficiently similar to the painted glass pitcher of water 
for the two to be linked.
    >link letter to pitcher
    You build a mutually-effective link between the old letter and the painted 
glass pitcher of water.

I was able to understand the first result a bit more when I realized belatedly 
that there's probably no glass in the window, but that still doesn't explain how 
I can link the pitcher to a letter. Similarly:

    >link pitcher to clemens
    This would work better if the painted glass pitcher of water were a person.
    >link vase to clemens
    You build a mutually-effective link between the vase and Clemens.
I'm not sure how much these inconsistencies would have bothered me if I hadn't 
just played Savoir-Faire, but that game sets a standard that Damnatio Memoriae 
fails to meet. Consequently, I felt a lot of annoyance at seeing solutions in 
the walkthrough that never would have occurred to me, since I was expecting DM's 
magic system to be more like that of S-F. 

This is a whole lot of kvetching over a sample game, and in a way, it's a nice 
problem to have: Emily's work, even other samples like Bronze, is of such 
impeccable quality that I've begun to hold even her slightest output to what may 
be a ridiculously high standard. When a game like Damnatio Memoriae fails to 
meet that standard, I'm more disappointed than I would be in another author's 
work, and linking (sorry) this game to one of her real masterpieces only 
aggravated the problem. I guess all this is to say that I'd love to see other 
games set in the various historical periods of the Lavori d'Aracne universe, but 
I hope they're created as games rather than as samples. That way, the focus can 
be on story and craft, rather than on teaching the features of a system. That's 
my selfish desire as a player, mind you -- no doubt when I'm working on learning 
Inform 7 I'll wish just the opposite. 

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.


           Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!

Click here for a printable, plain text version of this issue.