ISSUE #48 - May 2, 2007

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

                         ISSUE #48

        Edited by Jimmy Maher (maher SP@G
                       May 2, 2007

           SPAG Website:

SPAG #48 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 History of Russian IF by Sergey Minin

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

Andrey Grankin
Victor Koryanov
Eugene Tugolukov
Evgeny Bychkov
Yuri Pavlenko

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

The Ebb and the Flow of the Tide
The Elysium Enigma
The Traveling Swordsman

The Elysium Enigma


Late last year Scott Rettberg of the Electronic Literature Organization was kind 
enough to send me a CD containing the ELO's Collection #1.  I wanted to make a 
serious effort to explore the CD, but with the Competition then wrapping up 
followed by the holiday season, I didn't get to it until quite recently.  Having 
finally done so, I thought I would pass along a few thoughts here for those 
interested in branching out a bit to explore other forms of computer-based 

IF fans will be happy to hear that our work gets considerable attention in the 
collection, to the tune of five complete games.  Represented are All Roads by 
Jon Ingold; Whom the Telling Changed by Aaron Reed; Savoir Faire and Galatea by 
Emily Short; and Bad Machine by Dan Shiovitz.  It's hard to take exception with 
any of these choices, and this exposure for IF alongside so many works of 
"serious" electronic literature certainly can't be a bad thing. 

But what of the rest of the collection?  Well, it's a bit overwhelming, to start 
with.  No fewer than 55 other works are present here, of widely varying 
approaches, and, perhaps inevitably, I found it a bit of a mixed bag.  Some of 
this displays the postmodern aesthetic in full flower, and that is just not my 

Some of the more painful examples:

Kenneth Goldsmith gives us "an unedited document of every word I spoke during 
the week of April 15-21, 1996," through which I learned that Kenneth drinks a 
lot of coffee and talks a lot in a way that often manages to be vapid and 
pretentious at the same time.  Textual voyeurs may be delighted, I suppose.  I'm 
not sure what the rest of us are supposed to get out of it.

Then we have the inevitable Michael Joyce hypertext fiction.  The selection 
here, Twelve Blue, has come into my life several times in the past.  After 
literally years of study, I still can't figure out just how the interface is 
actually supposed to work.  Perhaps Joyce is the anti-Apple of the computer 
world, or maybe my feverish clicking around the screen in search of something 
that will lead to more lines of overwrought prose is some sort of commentary on 
the state of postmodern life.  Lines like this sound like extracts from one of 
the annual tortured emo-kid Competition entries: "Follow me?  What choice do we 
have but love, what season after?"

There are a lot of even easier targets here, including several examples of texts 
that randomly recombine letters and words into sequences that usually result in 
gibberish but occasionally stumble into a recognizable word or two, thus 
illustrating... something.  The fundamental instability and subjectivity of 
meaning, I suppose, or something similarly high-flown.  It just looks like 
jumbles of random letters to me.

So it's all pretentious claptrap, right?  Well, no, not at all.  As I said, it's 
a mixed bag, and there was much here that I liked quite a lot, stuff that got 
beyond this obsession with surface textuality to actually say something to me.

One of my favorites was a modest little piece called Like Stars in a Clear Night 
Sky by Sharif Ezzat.  It opens with a voice speaking in Arabic -- subtitled in 
English -- introducing me to some of the stories it would like to tell me 
against a panorama of a night sky.  Then I can click on various stars to hear 
associated vignettes written in the style of the Arabian nights.  The stories it 
tells are surprisingly compelling, and the piece moved me for reasons I can't 
quite describe.  It also made me realize again what a lovely language Arabic can 
be to listen to.  The whole can't be reduced to a single descriptive sentence 
describing the author's clever gimmick... and that's the point, really. This one 
has soul.

Another great one is Urbanalities by "babel and escha."  Garish animations fly 
by accompanied by some great tunes, and phrases appear that are (oh no!) 
randomly formed, but with enough reason to make superficial sense.  So you get 
things like, "I think the unemployed hatter, he has weapons of mass 
destruction," which I find unaccountably hilarious.  The whole thing reminded me 
of wandering amidst the bustle of a city, receiving snatches of dialogue out of 
context along with a kaleidoscope of colors, images, music.

In Cruising by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnara a wonderful little poem about 
the time-worn small-town teenage American practice of cruising on a Saturday 
night is spoken aloud, and spoken in character at that, while a jumble of 
evocative images tumbles by.  I just wish there were more of it, as it starts to 
loop all too quickly.

Maybe the funnest piece of the bunch is Nio by Jim Andrews, which lets the 
reader construct little musical pieces of her own by combining sound samples on 
the fly.  The program is clever enough to make it just about impossible to make 
anything that sounds really BAD, although I gave it my best try.  This one will 
put a smile on anyone's face.  Strange that its author elsewhere indulges in the 
dreaded random text combination game.

And so, while much of this collection carries an aesthetic approach and 
worldview that does little for me, about a third of it made me sit up and take 
notice, and at least a few pieces I found delightful, even moving.  The curators 
of the collection said they wanted to capture the full range of electronic 
writing, and I think they have succeeded.  You can check it out for yourself at  Click the About link at the bottom of that 
page for information on requesting a hardcopy of the whole thing on CD-ROM.  I 
will be happy to accept commentaries on the collection as a whole or even 
reviews of individual pieces, if you care to write them and send them to me.

Actually, I would like anything from you, folks.  The bulk of this issue is a 
the second part of an ongoing series about non-English IF.  It consists of a 
number of interviews conducted and translated by Valentine Kopteltsev with 
members of the Russian IF community, and I must say I think it's some very 
fascinating stuff.  Other than that, we've also got a great SPAG Specifics piece 
by Valentine, who has really gone above and beyond this time, and another review 
from the ever-reliable Mike Harris.  I wrote a couple of reviews for games that 
I've replayed recently and thought really deserved coverage, and... that's it.  
I don't want this to permanently become the Jimmy and Valentine show any more 
than you do.  So please, think about helping us out and getting next issue's 
review total back up to where it was for the last few issues before this one.  
SPAG is yours, after all.  I just put it together each month.  I received a lot 
of positive feedback about the larger size of recent issues.  It's up to all of 
you whether that trend continues.

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

The following games received recognition for representing the cream of the IF 
crop of 2006.
Best Game: The Elysium Enigma by Eric Eve
Best Writing: Delightful Wallpaper by Andrew Plotkin
Best Story: The Traveling Swordsman by Mike Snyder
Best Setting: Floatpoint by Emily Short
Best Puzzles: Delightful Wallpaper by Andrew Plotkin
Best NPCs: Floatpoint by Emily Short
Best Individual Puzzle: navigating the mansion in Delightful Wallpaper
Best Individual NPC: Leena in The Elysium Enigma
Best PC: Delightful Wallpaper by Andrew Plotkin
Best Use of Medium: The Baron by Victor Gijsbers
I can't complain about any of these selections.  Congratulations to all the 
authors!.  The following is a link to a transcript of the awards ceremony which 
took place on the IF MUD.

Greg Boettcher's annual contest for longer, hopefully more polished games than 
those usually seen in the fall Comp has come and gone.  There were four entries 
this year, with Fate by Victor Gijsbers winning top honors (and making it two 
Spring Thing wins in a row for Victor).  All of the games were quite well 
received, so see the contest website for the full standings and to download the 

After a three-year hiatus, Marnie Parker will be running another Art Show this 
year.  Deadline for entries is May 18.  See the contest website for more rules 
and information.

Greg Boettcher is running a unique competition for games that are a "remake or 
adaptation" of the old Scott Adams game Ghost Town.  You should get your entries 
to Greg by July 30.

David Fisher is running a competition for transcripts illustrating things we 
can't do in IF today, but would like to be able to do.  Yes, I know, it sounds 
strange, but it's a neat idea actually.  You won't have time to prepare an entry 
if you are reading about it for the first time here, as the deadline is April 
30, but you can read the transcripts and judge.

The MIT Press has recently released the best book on interactive narrative ever 
printed.  Really, seriously, it's that good.  IF gets quite a bit of attention, 
with articles from Steve Meretzky on Planetfall, Emily Short on Savoir Faire, 
and Nick Montfort on understanding the role of the PC in IF.  Also included are 
a nice little article on Andrew Plotkin's Shade and even a non-IF-related 
article from SPAG founder cum boardgame designer Kevin Wilson.  That's all good 
stuff, but I found the wealth of articles on tabletop role-playing, a form I had 
completely lost touch with since my days of playing Dungeons and Dragons in high 
school, even more stimulating.  It caused me to start looking at RPGs again and 
to realize some great work is being done in this area.  I think we could learn a 
lot from them.  And then there's great, extended articles on the inner workings 
of the groundbreaking Facade, and a nice article from Chris Crawford on his 
interactive storytelling system, and...  Just go buy this one, folks.  It may be 
published by MIT Press, but it's not a lifeless academic text at all.  (Trust 
me!  I'm a graduate student, so I know lifeless academic texts when I see them.)

ZOOM 1.1.0
Andrew Hunter has improved his Unix and Mac Z-Code interpreter to make it... 
more than just a Z-Code interpreter.  This version adds support for Glulx, TADS 
2 and 3, and Hugo games.  Wow!

Philip Chimento is working on a version of the shiny Inform 7 IDE for versions 
of Linux with the Gnome libraries installed.  See his development site for the 
latest beta.

Alex Warren has released a major update to his Quest IF authoring software, 
which plays in the "no programming required" arena of ADRIFT.  Also like ADRIFT, 
this is a shareware product.  The full version will set you back $39.95.

Mr. Warren has also launched a website where one can play Quest text adventures 
online for free.

Mike Greger has authored a new Z-Machine interpreter in C# for Windows.  He 
calls it Grue.

Stephen Granade wrote an article for PC Plus recently on getting started with 
Inform 7.  He's now made it available on his Brass Lantern website as well.

IF got some attention on the Gamasutra, a site which normally focuses on 
professional game development, in the form of an interview with Emily Short.  
Savoir Faire gets a lot of attention, as does Inform 7.

Speaking of commercial products, Nintendo has released an "interactive novel" 
for the DS handheld console that looks very interesting.  I don't have a DS to 
play it on, unfortunately, but maybe some of you do.

Mike Rozak has released a beta version of CircumReality, a development kit for 
multiplayer graphical adventures.  Windows only, and it requires quite a 
powerful machine to run, but looks very interesting.

I've already chided you about the lack of reviews I received for this issue.  
There are so many games out there deserving of reviews.  Please, won't you take 
an hour or two of your time to give something back to an author who has tried 
her best to entertain you?

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.  Suprematism
9.  Moments Out of Time Adventure Type
10. Spring Thing 2007 games (any, some, or all)

A HISTORY OF RUSSIAN IF by Sergey Minin -------------------------------------

All Quiet on the Eastern Front?

History of QUESTion

  In general, adventure games are rather popular in Russia. Of course, they have 
incomparably less fans than, say, Half Life or Diablo, but they can't complain 
about lack of attention, either. The genre made a name for itself in the 1990-
ies, when the Quest-series by Sierra gained popularity in the CIS countries. 
Even people barely aware of the genre would know such serials as Quest for 
Glory, King Quest, and Police Quest. The expression "made a name" is to be taken 
literally, because the simply-to-pronounce term quest soon replaced the word 
adventure, which sounded more intricately (at least to a Russian ear), almost 
entirely. As a result, the following terminology has been spontaneously formed: 
a graphic 2D adventure is usually called a quest, a work of interactive fiction 
– a text quest, and only 3D adventures with action elements are adventures as 
such for Russians. Occasionally, strange mutants would show up, defining their 
own genre as "Adventure/Quest", or even "Adventure/Quest/IF"!

However, due to a number of reasons, the predecessor of graphic adventures, 
interactive fiction, isn't too well-known in the fatherland of Pushkin and 
Dostoevski. A few hundreds know the genre exists, several dozens at least 
attempt to play text adventures, and faithful fans can be counted on the 
fingers… of one hand. One of the grounds for such a low popularity of IF in "the 
world's most-reading country" (one of the myths created by propagandus 
sovieticus) was undoubtedly the lack of appropriate material resources at the 
time the genre was on the height of its fame: in 1980-s, the term "personal 
computer" sounded like non-science fiction to USSR citizens. CYOA books, which 
were, in a way, forerunners of IF, also passed our country by somehow. 
Figuratively speaking, we didn't learn Adventure at our mothers' knee, didn't 
play Zork in our childhood, and weren't engaged in discussions about Trinity 
during breaks between the lectures we attended. To most of us, the legendary 
names of Steve Meretzky, Brian Moriarty, and Dave Lebling would convey nothing.

The most real chance of gaining a firm footing in Russia cropped up for IF by 
the end of 1980-s, when the British star called Speccy just started crawling up 
the Soviet sky, and text-only games weren't considered a mossy anachronism yet. 
And while it probably was the most unfavorable period for the residents of the 
former "socialist camps" – inflation, dramatic impoverishment of people, and 
growth of the unemployment rate anything but stimulated the expansion of a 
relatively expensive "toy" en masse – the first Russian "adventurers" showed up 
just then. Sure, they weren't many – the specificity of the genre, as well as 
the need for at least rudimentary knowledge of English had their (negative) 
effect; still, early in the 1990-s, one of the first Russian magazines dedicated 
to computer games for the ZX Spectrum, ZX-Review, entered the scene. A great 
deal of its materials was devoted just to adventures. The editor of the magazine 
and simultaneously one of its authors, Sergey Simonovich, can by right be 
honorably entitled the first PR manager for gaming in Russia, because, thanks to 
his unexampled adventure promotional efforts, the circle of "initiates" of the 
genre became considerably wider, although (sigh) it still remained a club for a 
select company. 

In the 1990-s, the mass computerization of the ex-USSR by IBM PC-compatible 
machines began. By the time a personal computer had become a common thing at a 
Russian's home (middle to late 1990-s), graphic games already dominated our SVGA 
screens, and I'm afraid you couldn't find too many people who, instead of Zork 
Grand Inquisitor, would prefer to play its text-only predecessor. Thus, after a 
short blip of interest for the text genre, silence fell, which was complicated 
by the further graphical evolution of the IBM PC. Our old acquaintance, Mr. 
Simonovich, made an attempt to break this hush by introducing his new project, 
the online magazine PC-Review, now devoted to games for the PC, whose popularity 
soared up like a rocket. 

In 1996, this journal published a translation of the epochal work by Graham 
Nelson, The Craft of Adventure, and enclosed the immortal Curses by the same 
author. Among those who got caught in the meshes at that time was your most 
humble servant, but (I'd like to add gloatingly) he was not the only one. Later 
the magazine and its offline satellites -- PC-Express, PC-Forum, and PC-Help – 
repeatedly addressed interactive fiction: the documentation for the adventure 
games development system OASYS was translated into Russian, an article about the 
legendary Infocom and games produced by this company was brought out, a joint 
brainstorm of Curses was announced, and So Far by Andrew Plotkin received its 
portion of attention, too. Unfortunately, the PC-Review project ceased to exist 
soon after that. After its demise, no other Russian media would launch such 
large-scale operations for promotion of "text quests".


As mentioned earlier, another reason for the lacking popularity of IF in Russia 
was the language barrier. Even if the novice had a "text adventuring" vein in 
her/his character, (s)he'd be confused by the many lines of foreign text, and 
scared away by the necessity of establishing a dialog with the game in a little 
known language. This made the newbie's choice quite obvious – graphic games, 
where the narrative was reduced to a minimum, and most puzzles could be solved 
by uncomplicated manipulations with the mouse. However, attempts of directing 
the genre on Russian rails are known even from the Spectrum epoch. Probably the 
most well-known piece of Russian IF of that period was The Stellar Legacy, a 
game released in 1995 for the Spectrum that was agonizing by then (its graphical 
remake has been released a short time ago by the companies Step Creative Group 
and 1S). The Stellar Legacy represented a graphical game with a textual input of 
suggested sentences by means of a menu system (or, to put it short, a CYOA).

  By 1999 A. D. the world-wide web even reached Russian backwaters. People in 
the provinces stopped making sacrifices to the mighty yet mysterious divinity 
called "Internet", and at last, the word "Dial-up" wasn't used for scaring 
babies in the villages anymore. Russian Internet-communities, forums and other 
forms of virtual gatherings started mushrooming out. The not too numerous IF 
fans didn't stay on the sidelines, either. About this time, several remarkable 
sites dedicated to interactive fiction were founded, and the idea of creating 
"native" Russian text adventures was discussed on the forums actively. IF 
theorists were joined by people who weren't acquainted with the genre before, 
but were attracted by the relative easiness of game creation – it's known that 
coding a video game is a very laborious enterprise, and at the current stage of 
development of the gaming industry, it's practically impossible to complete a 
project of decent quality on one's own. Yet, the experience of the foreign 
colleagues, as well as the success of such systems as Inform, TADS, Hugo, and 
Adrift, showed us -- nothing was impossible in the IF-genre. Still, the whole 
thing rested on that notorious "language barrier". The question was, how to 
overcome it. The solution seemed simple: either develop a parser-based game 
platform similar to the "western" ones that'd support Russian, or confine 
oneself to creation of CYOA-games akin to the aforementioned Stellar Legacy, 
that'd only allow the player to pick options from a menu.

However, things that look easy in theory often conceal pitfalls when it comes to 
putting them into practice. The problem is, the structure of the Russian 
language differs from that of English significantly -- say, you can't get by 
with only one verb form. Add declinable substantives, and changeable endings to 
that. The general difficulty of creating a universal development system from 
scratch isn't to be underestimated, either. To put it short, there were more 
than enough pitfalls for breaking one's legs, so that most of the parser-based 
projects didn't survive till their delivery, many of them never getting any 
further than the pregnancy planning stage. Finally, only menu-based (in other 
words, CYOA) projects stayed alive, the most well-known of which were URQ 
(Universal Ripsoft Quest) – the most popular development system today; and QSP 
(Quest Soft Player). Both platforms still are fit and vigorous, and have been 
updated several times. About the same time, the IF-community split in two 
parties: "the parserers" and "the menuists". Although the parties were supposed 
to be friendly, their relationships varied between cold neutrality and open 

By 2001, after getting tired of the many duplicating posts on different forums, 
the Russian IFers decided to unite on a common place that should become a 
central point for the whole community. After the naming and hosting problems had 
been settled, the web site became such a point. The start was 
very vigorous and energetic, but later on, as it often happens, the site 
activity went downhill little by little. At the same time, an attempt was made 
to link together the two community parts – parser-lovers and menu-devotees – 
under the aegis of this site. This attempt, however, remained unsuccessful: the 
menuists preferred to go their own way, and to create their own, separate 
communities ( and And it must be 
said, they turned out to be much more active than their parser-addicted rivals – 
games were released more often, "internal" competitions for CYOA games were 
carried out, and the community live in general was more intense; the parserers, 
on the other hand, as well as the site itself, remained in a 
coma-like state since the end of 2003. 

The 21st century set in, but the Russian IF-scene still didn't have a really 
working development system for parser-based games. This changed in 2002, as one 
of the enthusiasts of Russian text adventuring, Andrey Grankin aka GrAnd, 
started the venture of translating TADS into Russian, which was successfully 
completed in the same year. As a result of his titanic work, most of the 
"Russian national particularities" could be solved, and the ones that couldn't 
were evaded. The overall happiness was so close, it seemed, and Russian games – 
about to start pouring out like from a cornucopia. However, it didn't happen. A 
few released games, oodles of unfulfilled promises, translation of Ditch Day 
Drifter and Deep Space Drifter – that's pretty much all game authors vouchsafed 
to create using Russian version of TADS called RTADS ( 
between 2002 and 2005. It's difficult to say what the reasons for that were – 
maybe the lost of interest in IF by most community members, maybe the overall 
stupor that befell the community just in this period of time, or maybe the 
relatively steep learning curve TADS is known for.

We are the Champions!

The idea of organizing contests analogical to the "main" IF-Competition was in 
the air probably from the very first post made by The Unknown Player at T?me 
Immemorial, and after the (partial) joining up, the community came to the 
conclusion of the necessity for such a contest. The first Russian Interactive 
Fiction Competion aka RussComp took place early in 2002, and was a brilliant... 
flop, since there was exactly one game participating. In the same year, 
literally a few months later, "attempt number 2" was made, with 5 participating 
games, and a successful completion. In spite of a lot of talking about the 
necessity of maintaining this great tradition, nothing happened until 2006. The 
previous year, the community site experienced a certain revival, and another try 
to organize the contest (this time called KRIL'06) was made. This time, six 
games participated (four parser-based, and two CYOAs), and it must be said that, 
in respect to game quality, this competition surpassed the previous one by far. 
This, of course, inspires certain hopes. As it turned out that, in spite of 
disappearing of the sonic radars' screens, the submarine called "Russian 
Interactive Fiction" didn't sink or go for a burton – it was just exploring the 
seabed for a while. Who knows – maybe it emerges to the surface once more. Not 
to dive back this time.

RUSCOMP 2002 Results:
1. Shadow of the Malice, author: Elf Dillm   (own parser)
2. In the Deepness, author: Vovka Smert' (URQ) 
3. Desperation, author: Igor Savine   (own parser)
4. Zombie IV, author: Eugene Sharov (own parser)
5. Abyss, author:   Eugene Sharov (own parser)

KRIL 2006 Results:
1. Dreamour, author: Andrey "GrAnd" Grankin (RTADS).
Although the game hardly can be considered a completed project – it's rather a 
prequel – its fantasy world full of caves, goblins, and golems was to the liking 
of the vast majority of the judges. 

2. Waiting for the Morning, author: Stas "Unreal" Starkov (RTADS).
A short puzzle-based digression to the roof of a building, where your goal is to 
get down. The most polished game of the contest. 

3. Genie from the Machine, author: Korvin (URQ).
Sci-fi story about an astronaut whose ship had an accident, and his brave 

4. Stone of Shady Sands, author: Ivan "Zevs" Zykov (own menu-based engine).
Multimedia-heavy, post-apocalyptic adventures evoked by the immortal piece by 

5. Klara the Jam-Plunderer, author: Belial (6 days – an original parser-based 
development system).
A charming little story about a naughty sweet tooth.

6. Gad, author: Davarg and Nunhan (RTADS). 
A (rather unsuccessful) attempt to create a bleak medieval world, injecting 
fantasy in the process. 

And a few more links of interest not mentioned in the article (unfortunatel, all 
of them are in Russian): - a site dedicated to making Russian adventures 
with Adrift. - Russian Wikipedia entry on 
interactive fiction. - a Russian IF FAQ; quite useful, although 
it hasn't been updated for a while. - "Non-Russian Interactive Fiction", a site mostly 
dedicated to Russian reviews of English IF-games


Longtime SPAG stalwart Valentine Kopteltsev has done me and you a huge favor 
this issue by translating interviews with several prominent members of the 
Russian IF community.  It's a world brand new to me.  I never even realized 
Russian IF existed until David Kinder sent me a Russian version of Adventure to 
test with my Z-Machine interpreter a couple of years ago.  These interviews 
provide an interesting glimpse into the way IF, computer games, and ergodic 
literature in general are received in a culture that is still just slightly 
remote and exotic to most of us in the West.

I struggled with how to handle the Cyrillic names of people and games, and 
finally reluctantly decided to just publish the English translations.  Using 
Cyrillic would require using Unicode encoding, which would double the size of 
this issue of SPAG.  I was concerned about that, and concerned whether some 
folks' mail software -- or the Majordomo listserv, for that matter -- might 
garble it.  

We'll begin with an interview Valentine conducted with Andrey Grankin, whose 
game Suprematism was recently released in English; then we have an extended 
joint interview conducted by Jenny Waynest and translated by Valentine with six 
prominent members of the menu-based CYOA Russian IF community, which is far 
larger than its parser-based community.  Their games are developed in a system 
known as URQ.  Valentine's comments as translator are enclosed in square 
brackets [].

Huge thank yous go out to Valentine and Jenny for conducting these interviews, 
and to all seven interviewees for participating, even at the expense of time 
spent on World of Warcraft.

 Andrey Grankin

  VK: So, meet Andrey Grankin aka GrAnd, inhabitant of Moscow, an outstanding,
  if not legendary, figure in Russian IF. His most significant project up to 
  this date is the RTADS system, a russified version of TADS 2. At that, the 
  russification doesn't confine itself to the translation of the system 
  libraries and a constant support for users in word and deed, but also includes 
  the development of teaching demo-games for that platform, as well as 
  documentation about creation techniques for Russian games and auxiliary 
  instruments that make the author's life easier. By the end of the last year,   
  Andrey's game, Dreamor, won the Russian IF-Competition KRIL-06. Besides, one 
  can call him a popularizer of the genre in Russia, since he's the author of 
  several analytical articles dedicated to IF.

  Andrey, would you like to add something to this introduction?

AG: In addition, I can say that in real life, I'm 24 years old, have two dusty 
diplomas (in mathematics and economics), and can currently be found in my little 
office at the Third Transport Ring in the city of Beijing [Moscow also has a 3rd 
Transport Ring]. I'm here for more than one and a half years now due to family 

  VK: For understandable reasons, interactive fiction is not the primary
  occupation for any of us as a matter of fact, well, not even the only hobby. 
  Could you tell more about your other areas of interest, and their relations 
  with IF (whether they help, intervene, etc.)?

AG: My interests are manifold, but lie in the erudition widening sphere for the 
most part. Reading books, articles, news, well, whatever from the screen of my 
computer or mobile phone. This predilection took the place of awfully dipsomanic 
computer gaming. I hardly watch any TV, apart from occasional movies. I study 
Chinese: it's both needed for my work, and exciting. I'm not overfond of sports, 
but visit the fitness center regularly, and am pretty good at ice- and 
roller-skating (thus, don't think I'm a complete computer geek :)).
Until recently, I've been keen on programming, but have given it up for quite a 
while, except for building websites with php. Now, if one day I return to this 
activity, then as a director I hope. 

All in all, IF is my only hobby I could more or less fully self-actualize in. 
Mainly thanks to the persistence that overwhelms me in situations when it 
becomes necessary to apply it to more important things. Banach spaces and 
deformation tensors were send to hell when I submerged into the depths of 
creation, and would then torment me in the most cruel way after my awakening by 
the end of the semester. 

  VK: And where there situations when IF helped you in real life? Or, to put it
  another way, have you gained something from your IF studies? 

AG: At the very least, I used the Case Generation Utility for RTADS in my 
graduate work. Well, and all the training makes it easier for me now to write 

  VK: Now, let's come to the point. So, how people become IFers in this country, 
  which isn't very suitable for that particular genre? 

AG: They play text games on ZX Spectrum, then give up them for years to run 
across them again one day and become moved to tears. That's exactly what 
happened to me. I found out about Russian text adventures in 2001. Not satisfied 
by their quality, I went on with my search, and finally discovered the classic 
games in English. And once you played long enough, it's hard not to get a 
burning desire to write something on one's own, especially if one has certain 
skills in this respect. 

  VK: So, what games re-opened the world of IF for you?

AG: Of the Russian ones, it was Zombies 4, and of the ones in English, I can't 
say exactly which was the very first, since I downloaded a collection. The ones 
I tried, completed and was delighted in: The Lurking Horror, and Theatre. I 
liked the Zorks as well, but I didn't get further than about a third-way through 
any of them; the same goes for Curses!, which scared me by its scale. Of more 
recent games, I'd like to mention Photopia. Other games didn't leave such a 
long-lasting impression, although they also were great. But generally, I'm only 
superficially acquainted with the life and works of the English-speaking 
IF-community. Especially the last couple of years, since I stopped following the 
discussions in r.a.i.f, and confined myself to glancing through the SPAG issues. 

By the way, my advice to all those who promote IF-games in non-English-speaking 
countries: don't advertise LARGE works. An enthusiastic mention of daylong 
gameplay is enough to eliminate the slightest wish of trying out the new game. 
English is the world's technical and economical language, but reading fiction is 
very tiresome for many people, even with an electronic dictionary at hand. 
Ideally, I'd like to see a "the best" list of shorter new releases, playing 
which would allow one to feel up to date with the current development and 
general tendencies of the "big" IF-community. 

  VK: A question that is of great interest personally to me: Why TADS? Why not
  Inform or Hugo?

AG: It could be Inform, as well, since it was the first development system I 
stumbled across. However, all translation attempts remained without success, 
since at that time, none of the interpreters supported Cyrillic letters. 
Somewhat later, David Kinder turned to that problem, and at least one 
interpreter (WinFrotz) is now usable by Russian players. Well, and as to Hugo -- 
I didn't get to it, since TADS rewarded me with understanding after five minutes 
of experiments.
  VK: Although the RTADS platform exists for almost five years now, there are
  still not as many games for it as desired. What do you think, what are the 
  reasons for such a situation, and how it could be changed?
AG: I'm also puzzling over it for a long time, but still can just come out with 
my suggestions. 

First of all, too little people know about text adventures. I myself only was 
able to find the Russian IF-community after I understood what's the name of the 
thing I'm looking for. The situation can be changed, but only by united efforts 
-- by spreading games, articles and IF-related links over the Web. The KRIL-06 
Competition gave us a good chance in this respect, which should be used wisely. 

Then, there are the notorious difficulties learning TADS. Well, a lot has been 
done already for newbie support, and a few experienced authors always can help 
them with advices. I think this isn't the most crucial problem, especially 
considering the fact many people are so good programmers they constantly start 
writing their own IF development systems. 

Furthermore, questions of creativeness and problems of self-discipline come to 
mind. Personally for me, this is the most serious difficulty. I have about ten 
unfinished projects, and I shudder to think how many potential authors have also 
dropped their creations barely starting them. Our "menu-oriented" community part 
solves this problem by organizing competitions on regular basis (several times a 
year), which allow everybody to remain in shape and create a healthy creative 
atmosphere. However, parser-based games have a much longer average development 
period and much less authors, so that this experience can't be taken over 
directly. Unless we organize some sort of "warming-ups" -- mini-comps, say, for 
single-puzzle games, or for sketches on a given theme. I think it's time to 
start this tradition. 

  VK: By the way, since you mentioned the "menuists". What do you think, our
  genres ("classic" IF and CYOA) are doomed to be each other's competitors, or 
  there is some common ground allowing them to be mutually useful?

AG: I'd say they supplement each other. CYOA is democratic and easy, classic IF 
is difficult both for the author and the player, but provides more possibilities 
and artistic means. The target audiences are very similar, but in the end, IFers 
are glad about any mentioning of their genre, while CYOA lives in every RPG and 
prospers as anime/manga games. 

Coming back to our situation: a part of the "menuists" would write parser-based 
games if our community life were as lively as theirs. Regular communication with 
the platform developer and other authors via an IRC chat is a very valuable 
possibility. Maybe that's the reason why they don't migrate to a more 
sophisticated CYOA platform, which also is available. Some of them have tried to 
write something in TADS and even succeeded, but finally they returned back to 
menu-driven games. I believe sooner or later they will write parser-based games, 
and be it just a test of skill. 

  VK: Connected with that, a global question (while the answer can be partially
  found in your article, most SPAG readers haven't read it, I'm afraid): what do 
  you think of prospects of IF in general, and of Russian IF, in particular?

AG: I also expressed the main idea on r.a.i.f, but didn't raise any significant 
discussion. My claim has been, interactive fiction will gain mass popularity 
again and become commercially successful only in the form of a verbal dialog 
between the player and the computer. However, now I think that, when voice 
recognition technologies will reach the proper level for it, such an application 
of them will just be lost in the variety of other possibilities. Even now we can 
see new principles of player input and game control appearing, which introduce 
their own (and very effective) means of game immersion. To put it short, the 
gaming industry is on the verge of changes, and the IF community should be open 
towards novelty in order not to miss the opportunity to conceive a new 
interactive genre, since I can't imagine a prosperous future for IF within the 
existing technologies.

As far as Russian IF is concerned, I reckon it will grow due to the increasing 
number of Internet users in Russia, if nothing else. Besides, every new 
high-quality game represents another brick in the fundament of the genre 
popularity, thanks to the wide promotion possibilities.

  VK: You really think that's the path of IF? As I see it, IF would mutate into
  an entirely different genre this way...

AG: Exactly. Classic IF will still be there, but new genres will arise. IF will 
play in them the same part menu-driven CYOA-principles play in modern RPGs. 
Audio-IF is the most obvious trend, which could beget graphic adventures with 
voice input, as well as other genres one could only speculate about. An 
interactive movie, for instance, where the hero acts pretty independently, but 
the spectator influences the plot indirectly by mocking or invigorating the 
hero, "whispering" hints into his ears, or even by arguing with the narrator.

  VK: From the global to the "special cases". Please tell us a little about your
  game Dreamor that won the KRIL-06 competition.

AG: Oh, I can speak about it a *very* long time, since it took me four years to 
write it. Contrary to some conjectures, its creation began not with the lengthy 
and redundant prologue but with the small room the PC wakes up. The only idea I 
had at that time, was "a malicious monster breaks loose and chops everybody down 
to sausages". I think the theme of unmotivated and ultimately gory violence is 
generally very popular among young writers and artists, but that's an entirely 
different story :). 

Thus, after the more or less sophisticated battle system was finished, I started 
filling in the details and the game world. As to be expected, it changed many 
times and often came into contradiction with pieces written previously. The game 
was influenced by every new book delivered, every impressive film watched, every 
new thought or idea that came to my mind. At some moment, I decided the game 
should reflect the idea of ditheism I was interested in at that time: two 
deities, one of them representing the void (space, static matter), and the other 
-- the chaos (changes, entropy; strictly speaking, Dreamor is its name), form a 
world that is very similar to our own one, but the protagonist, who isn't an 
ordinary human, or, rather, no human at all, can see it under an entirely 
different angle. At the end of the day, the goal of the game is to explore this 
world. Unfortunately, the idea turned out to be too wide-scaled, and I'm 
inclined to getting into the tiniest detail and non-linearity. Thus, the game 
name turned out to be prophetical, and the divinity of chaos almost ruined the 
game. To bring some order to the game world, I wrote the not very interactive 
and somewhat autobiographic introduction. Several of the autobiographic aspects 
weren't resolved yet in real life at that time, and because of that, or maybe 
for other reasons, I did very little in terms of game development for more than 
two years. 

The situation was saved by the competition. I hoped sincerely and naively, I'd 
complete the game by the deadline, but in reality, the competition started only 
after I finished the game, because as it turned out I had finally to organize 
it. I had to finish my work at an accelerated tempo within a week. 
Unfortunately, a few nasty bugs turned up afterwards, and the game had been to 
be reduced to the first of two chapters of the first game in the series (which 
represented about one sixth of the initial conception), but I badly needed to 
finally show my "monster" to the audience. And it looks like it impressed them. 

  VK: Did you think about writing a sequel? Also, tell us about your IF-related
  plans in general. 

AG: There are thoughts about a sequel, but no real desire. I hope to become an 
effective businessman, and in this case, there just won't be any time left for 
interactive fiction. If I write something as monumental again, it will mean that 
I either manage to canalize the creative energy needed for that once more, or 
reach such a level of effectiveness that I will have enough time for everything.

All in all, I have an idea I want to implement especially badly. It's more worth 
to me than ten Dreamors. It's a short, but very emotion-loaded game. When this 
idea came to me, I chilled, and my hair bristled. Even a mere retelling of the 
plot makes people gloomy, although they don't know yet how it happened. The most 
dramatic thing is, the story is entirely real, and not even unique. It's the 
recent past of my country, which is so rich in tragic episodes...

  VK: Yeah, you managed to be quite intriguing :). Could you give at least a
  slight hint what the story is about?

AG: Its working name is Mother. And it has nothing to do with the novel by Maxim 
Gorky of the same name. 

  VK: English-speaking players mostly now you as the author of the experimental
  work Suprematism in IF, which has been uploaded to the Archive this February, 
  and caused a rather vivid discussion in the group. Could 
  you say a few words about it please?

AG: Thanks, I think it isn't worth so many words, and I already got more 
feedback than I ever could expect. 

  VK: Well, then, let me wish you to increase your efficiency, and finally
  complete The Game of Your Dream!

AG: Thanks, I'll do my best.

 Victor Koryanov, implementor of the major URQ runner (URQ DOS)
 Akela, implementor of an advanced URQ runner (AkURQ) and several games
 Eugene Tugolukov (nickname Korwin), a prolific author and promotor
 Evgeny Bychkov (brevno), implementor of URQ editor SMSQuest and contest guru
 Yuri Pavlenko (Goraph), prolific author, contest guru, and reviewer
 ZombX, who used to write games but now is just good company!

  Jenny:  My friends, I wonder when and how you found out about IF?
Victor: In my childhood, when I found in a magazine (a paper one) the source 
code for an IF-game about a larceny from a gallery. I think it was the very 
beginning of the 1990-ies. There was no accessible Internet at that time, so it 
was very hard to find any new programs. Then, computer magazines often simply 
published the source code for useful utilities and games, so that a new issue 
often became a great event. There just hasn't been any other way to quickly get 
something new for one's computer.
Goraph: At the age of about 11, I bought a computer gaming journal (I didn't 
have a computer at that time). There were lots of adventure reviews there, and 
at the end of the issue, there was a Russian translation of an adventure 
players' guide. After reading it, I blazed up with the desire to play 
adventures, and managed to make a reality of it with time:).

Korwin: For me, it's a difficult question, which I can't give an unambiguously 
and concrete answer to. The thing is, I had a hobby of inventing fantastic 
stories for my friends at the age of about 9 to 11 years. I'd describe a 
situation (most often loaned from the books I read) to them, and they would tell 
me what they were going to do in the place of the main characters. The plot 
developed independent of the initial conditions. Our games sometimes went on for 
several years -- I remember a session based on The Lord Of The Rings that 
continued from 1981 till 1987! Of course, there were breaks for other games, 
studies, dancing and other private life. As far as "real" computer IF are 
concerned, it was 1995, ZX-Spectrum, a number of adventures (I remember Emerald 
Isle, Red Moon by Level 9, Kayleth by AdventureSoft, which was based on an Isaac 
Asimov's short story). 

brevno: That's an easy question I *can* give an unambiguously and concrete 
answer to. Even in my tender age I became acquainted with the delights of 
interactive fiction -- by means of the story about Ilya Muromets. You know, that 
stone at the crossroads with three paths leading in different directions: if you 
go right you'll lose your horse, left -- you find a wife, and if you go 
straight, you'll ride into the stone. [This is indeed a very common situation in 
Russian fairy tales, but I'm not sure there is a counterpart in English 
literature.  Oh, and you can read about Ilya Muromets in Wikipedia at] Being a true gamer and explorer, 
Ilyusha [that's a diminutive for the name Ilya] checked out all options of this 
famous quest.

Well, and after that, there were the great CYOA-books by Braslavsky: The 
Faithful Rapier Of The King, The Master Of The Endless Desert, where you had to 
browse the pages to find the location with the proper number, and even to roll 
the dice when fighting with brave chevaliers and other gremlins. My next stage 
of evolution was, finally, real computer IF -- menu-based quests for the Space 
Rangers game, which was in development at that time. Then, I got the burning 
longing to create something in that vein, but cooler. As it turned out, I 
couldn't make something cooler myself, but it looks like I was able to help 
others to accomplish that feat. 

ZombX: I found Orczero [that's one of the first Russian text adventures, 
inspired by Zork Zero] in a game collection, that's how everything started...

Akela: ... (plays WoW, and gives no answer therefore.)

  Jenny: What's your first IF-game?
Victor: I typed in the source code of the aforementioned game from the magazine. 
It was seemingly the first program in my life.
Goraph: My first game was written in Basic for the ZX-Spectrum, its name was A 
Wizard Of Archipelago, and it was based on the book by Ursula Le Guin. 

Korwin: You mean the first one that has been completed? Well, that's of course 
Winnie-the-Pooh And Other Animals), developed in urq_dos in 2003-2004. It was 
intended to be a test game -- at that time, I just wished to familiarize myself 
with the features of this engine; besides, I wanted to boast about a bit, and to 
demonstrate my son who's been 7 years old then that his dad is a cool 
programmer, and also can write computer games. With such a motivation, I just 
couldn't fail to complete this not-so-big work. For me, it was a very conceptual 
effort. First of all, because I revised my attitude towards the character I was 
very fond of from little up after reading The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. 
Secondly, because in spite of the rather modest size of the game, I did my best 
to provide all four characters of the story with distinct personalities and 
certain behavior logic, and it looks like I succeeded. Finally, I kept this game 
fair, which is rather untypical for me. You can't lock yourself out of victory 
here; saving and restoring the game are retained only for the players' comfort.

brevno: The acme of my creative work that sullied me with glory forevermore is 
the URQ-game White Bull-Calf. Amazingly, it isn't menu-based but uses keyboard 
input (in fact, this was the goal of its creation -- demonstrating how to handle 
that kind of input in URQ). The game is remarkable not just because of being the 
only annoyance tale in the whole Russian IF, but also because it's the only URQ 
game I know that managed to lock up someone's computer:). Needless to say, I'm 
proud beyond all measure. [The tale of the white bull-calf is a traditional 
Russian annoyance game. It goes like this: you ask the person you want to annoy, 
"Shall I tell you the tale of the white bull-calf?" He answers, "Yes, tell me." 
You say, "Yes, tell me. Shall I tell you the tale of the white bull-calf?" etc., 
etc. The idea is, you repeat the answer, and add the everlasting phrase about 
the white bull-calf again and again. In a figurative sense, Russians say someone 
is telling stories about the white bull-calf if the said person avoids giving 
you a clear answer/decision, repeatedly digging up points that have been 
discussed over and settled a long time ago. It's a bit like the old "Who's on 
First?" comedy routine.] 

But what am I talking about? In fact, I'm only indirectly involved in game 
development. My main merit is, I programmed the sole (at that time, at least) 
specialized editor for writing URQ games. And, which is even more important, I 
played the role of an acres gatherer, which effectively means the centralization 
of URQ-related resources. The web site dedicated to my editor (both of which has 
almost sunk into oblivion since then -- the web site and the editor) contained 
the biggest collection of Russian menu-based URQ-games. It served as a powerful 
incentive for the further progress of that platform, as well as for the creation 
of new games. Previously, these games were scattered about minor web pages, the 
authors' hard disk drives, as well as other wondrous places. In the course of 
time and numerous migrations the site transformed into the main resource of the 
whole URQ-community, and its guest book -- into the forum where most of the 
URQ-related life is humming on. And the game catalog is continuously replenished 
with new works. 

Finally, I can proudly state that I'm one of the organizers and one of the 
stimulus of the Summer Adventure Contest (abbreviated as LOK or LOKa), a 
competition that takes places at our site annually. I call myself a "stimulus", 
because I award every game for participating with an illustration to that game, 
which I draw myself :). And there haven't even been complaints about that so 
far. Oh, and one more thing -- I'm the most popular co-author of URQ-adventures. 
It's rumored there's hardly anyone who screwed up as many mutual projects as I 

Well, considering all the aforesaid, I just have to wonder why they still 
haven't set up a monument, don't bow down, and, above all, haven't started 
sacrificing young virgins to me yet...

ZombX: Oooh... it's been a long time ago... you mean a real GAME, or just 
creative experiments? As a matter of fact, it's been Dmitry Smetanin. But let's 
say Teletubbies, because I can't remember a thing about Dmitry Smetanin anymore. 
[Teletubbies is the brief name of a short but very interesting surrealistic 
adventure, the full name goes as follows: The Comeback Of The Teletubbies, Or 
The Revenge Of Freddy Krueger. One Of The Two. Part One, As Well As Six And 
Eighteen. "About The Harm Of The Drugs". However, even the author himself is too 
lazy to say the complete version.] 

Akela (tears himself away from WoW and remarks briefly): Fortunately for 
everyone, it remained on my HDD forever. 

  Jenny: Evgeny, since you mentioned this subject yourself, could you give as
  some more details about LOKa and ZOKa? 

brevno: Even at the very early stages of organizing the big URQ-site, the 
objective was set to introduce competitive spirit to the game creation process 
in order to influence their quality and quantity positively. Thus, LOKa -- the 
Summer Adventure Contest (Letnyaya Olimpiada Kvestov in Russian) was started -- 
an all-URQian game competition, which goes on over the whole summer. The 
competition is still a bit unripe, and we experiment with its rules and 
conventions all the time. For instance, in one of the first LOK contests the 
game authors had to write games that started with an excerpt chosen by the jury. 
Why, we tried just everything -- limiting the game size, setting a fixed set of 
words and noun phrases to be used in the game... To put it short, we did any 
perverse thing we could think of:). For instance, the last LOKa had a prescribed 
set of themes, ideas, one of which had to be treated by the participating games 
(not necessarily word for word): "mutual effort", "damnation of mastery", 
"fulfilling of a wish", "the necessary question", etc. I think one of the 
authors even tried to treat all themes simultaneously :)

There also is a winter counterpart of LOKa -- ZOKa (Zimnyaya Olimpiada Kvestov 
-- The Winter Adventure Contest). It was established as an alternative contest, 
because during the first LOKa, doubts about the accuracy of the voice counting 
by the jury (by the way, those doubts were completely unfounded). The main 
difference is, ZOKa is organized by one or several enthusiasts who both invent 
the rules and choose the winner by themselves (in LOKa, public voting is used). 
Traditionally, the organizer of ZOKa writes reviews of all participating games, 
founding the ratings he's given them.
  Jenny: Thanks, Evgeny. Now, a question to the developers of URQ: when and how
  did you come to the idea of creating a program for Russian IF-games?
Victor: When I stumbled upon Ripurka [a familiar name for RipURQ -- the ancestor 
of all modern URQ versions] somewhere by the end of 2000. At that time, I had a 
computer almost unsuitable for Windows, among other things, because of an awful 
EGA monitor. I "lived" under monochrome DOS that wouldn't allow to start Ripurka 
in an even remotely decent way, but there already had been an interesting 
adventure for that platform, The Ancient Dagger. The first versions of urq_dos 
aka Dosurka were created literally for playing through that game. 

Akela: ... [apparently, he has a difficult situation in his game, so that he has 
no time for us; that's a pity, since AkURQ is the URQ interpreter with the most 
powerful capabilities for the time being].

  Jenny: Victor, please tell us, what's the difference between URQ and other
  adventure games authoring tools, what stipulated such a wide popularity of it 
  (it's no secret that in Russia, about as many games have been developed for 
  this platform as for all the others taken together)? And how do you decipher 
  this mysterious abbreviation URQ?

Victor: About the popularity: there were several factors. Historically, URQ was 
the first successful text adventure development tool written in Russian 
(projects that had been preceding it, for instance, OrcZero, hadn't found a wide 
distribution). For it, two very important games have been written almost 
immediately -- the very interesting Ancient Dagger (by Kaschey) and the 
"didactic" Pilgrim -- The Case Of The Kidnapped Girlfriend (by Devil). In 
Pilgrim, the author demonstrated how to describe typical gaming situations, so 
that for a certain period of time, this game became a programming language 
manual de facto. An important role also played the gentle learning curve, 
combined with the feature allowing code modification during its execution. The 
main idea, as I saw it at that time, consisted in drawing the source code as 
close to common book-like text as possible. In other words, the author just had 
to insert instructions and branching conditions into his (static) story to make 
an adventure game of it. Although this concept was pretty early diverged from 
towards introducing a gradually increasing number of elements of a general 
programming language, the possibility of writing an adventure as a CYOA book has 
been retained till now. The code modification possibility means that you can 
insert a renewable expression value at any place in the code line, and the final 
execution of this line by the interpreter will only take place after all values 
have been calculated and substituted. The important thing is, the location of 
these renewable expressions isn't restricted by any means, so that this way, 
instructions, variable names and parts of data structures can be generated. Not 
only allows this feature the automatic creation of some standard language 
structures (like arrays), but also provides opportunities the limits of which 
aren't quite clear yet.
As to the name, it's been invented by the initial designer of the language and 
the first interpreter for it, RipOs (Timofey Basanov). URQ means Universal 
Ripsoft Quest, where RipSoft is the designation of the fictional "company" in 
whose name RipOs released his programs. When there was only one interpreter, the 
name URQ was applied both to it and the language. After RipOs withdrew from IF 
and stopped the development of his related project, they began calling the 
language URQL to avoid confusion, and new interpreters by other authors received 
names derivative from URQ with additions of prefixes and suffixes -- just the 
way as is customary in the TeX world. The original interpreter by RipOs is 
sometimes referred to as RipURQ or Ripurka in modern articles, manuals, etc., to 
avoid confusion with the URQL-language.
  Jenny: Why did you choose a menu-based interface for your game?

Victor: Ripurka was menu-based.

Goraph: Since I wasn't very well-acquainted with BASIC at that time, I chose a 
menu interface, because it was easier to implement. Besides, it must be said my 
game was in Russian, which is one of the world's most difficult languages 
(almost like Japanese). To write an adequate parser was far beyond my abilities 
at that time.

Korwin: In most likelihood, it was the fact that I'm rather an author than a 
programmer. The URQL language was exceptionally easy to use, yet provided pretty 
decent possibilities, and I was just delighted by the idea to write a game using 
only the Notepad editor. In other words, the menu interface allowed creating an 
adventure with approximately the same plot, but with significantly less efforts 
on my part. 

ZombX: I hate parsers...

Akela: Just because!

  Jenny: Who helped designing and testing your program? 

Victor: As far as the first versions are concerned -- nobody. [Victor means the 
development of Dosurka.]

Goraph: My friend Alexey helped me testing my game. It must be said he never 
could complete it -- its puzzles probably were too difficult. For instance, you 
had to guess the name of a dragon that was hidden in the lyrics of a song taking 
up two screens of text. He just didn't read it! 

Korwin: In first place, it's been the creator of urq_dos Victor Koryanov, who 
not only gave very clear explanations on using his game engine, but integrated a 
number of useful functions in it at my request, even those used very rarely now 
(at that time, I wanted to write a parser-based game in Dosurka). Secondly, it's 
my best beta-tester Stas Starkov, who found a heap of mistakes -- not just 
programming ones, but also (to my shame) misspellings. Some of them ignited 
heated discussions, during which Internet search, examples from the world's 
literature and consultations with professional teachers of the Russian language 
were called in. Finally, my friends, relatives and Internet acquaintances. 

brevno: If you mean my notorious adventure games editor -- there were huge lots 
of people, mainly our wonderful game authors, who tested on themselves all ruts 
and grooves of this program, which I started writing barely knowing how to 
program, only inspired by the bright idea of URQ-domination on our planet... I'd 
like to thank them all. I'm sincere about it. I've always said the most 
important thing isn't the language, the development platform, the choice between 
a menu- or parser-based interface, but the author of the game, its text, its 
plot. That's the salt of the earth -- the creator. 

ZombX: Well, I did all the writing part myself, and the testing was done by 
those in front of whom I wanted to show off. 

Akela: What's this question about? As far as AkURQ is concerned -- everybody 
helped. However, mostly by criticizing it.
  Jenny: How did you see the prospects of the Russian IF movement at that time
  (when you were first introduced to IF)?
Victor: Then, there wasn't any "movement" I knew of, the first Dosurka versions 
were distributed to as little as four addresses. 

Goraph: At that time, I didn't think of the prospects of the Russian IF movement 
at all, I just did what I liked. The very process of game creation was fun for 
me, I had no concerns about whether someone would actually play it (and if he 
would be able to play it at all); admitted, this influenced the quality of my 
game unfavorably.

Korwin: In 2003, I was very optimistic about it, wrote articles, was working on 
two games simultaneously, tried playing English text adventures again -- it 
seemed to me the only problem of the genre was the lack of publicity, and that 
in our "world's most-reading country" IF was just doomed to be successful. 

What have I not done to shake the Russian interactive fiction out of its 
- wrote help for URQ and QSP -- the two most advanced Russian menu-based 
adventure development platforms; actively communicated in forums and via e-mail 
with every person who, as I thought, could help the genre to expand; among them, 
there were the developers of all Russian adventure authoring tools I knew of 
(including GrAnd -- the author of RTADS; Byte -- the creator of QSP; Victor 
Koryanov and Akela, both present here; Overlord, who tries porting URQ to Java; 
Sonic, who intends to develop the YaRIL/IFML -- Interactive Fiction Markup 
Language) adventure-oriented programming language, which should be completely in 
Russian, including instructions and operators; several other developers);
- entered games in contests organized on the URQ forum (, often 
using different nicknames to give the impression of a more vivid activity, 
winning several competitions (sometimes beating myself).

As I see it, these efforts were fruitful, and I'm proud there is my humble 
contribution to the development of Russian IF. 

brevno: I was at an age when one doesn't care a jot about the future, only 
living by the present day. A new program version every week -- bang. Manually 
rearranging the adventure games catalog growing out of size (the non-kosher PHP 
was out of question) -- no problem! Playing a game or discussing it on the forum 
instead of preparing for an important test -- well, you really didn't need to 

ZombX: Well, I expected the new URQ for Windows by RipOs and the SMSQuest by 
Evgeny to finally be released... 

Akela: I haven't been there.

  Jenny: How do you see it (the future of IF) now?
Victor: First of all, the URQ-community has no official structure. Sure, the 
opinion of the "old-timers" is often weighty when routine problems are 
discussed, well, and people related to the support of the main site and forum 
have some technical privileges. However, all this is rather nominal. It's a very 
common situation that a newcomer showing up with fresh and reasonable ideas, or 
a new author who strikes everybody with a game setting a new quality standard, 
enters the community life as an active full member from the very first days. 
Considering such organization principles, it's not quite right to speak about a 
"movement". The veterans' only organizational initiative are the annually 
contests that pull up the games' overall quality and creativity little by 
little. Under such conditions, it's just not possible to have a clear "vision of 
the future". There is hope that we will put into practice the technical ideas we 
have, which, in its turn, will give the authors and the whole community a new 
motivation, that the oncoming contests will become even more interesting, but 
that kind of predictions don't change with time, I could tell you exactly the 
same things two years ago. 

Goraph: Russian IF-authors are notable (compared to the Western ones) for their 
incredible laziness, and incredible lack of time. Therefore, although there are 
enough adequate authoring tools available, there aren't too many quality and 
finished games. The Russian IF-community will exist for a long time as a 
subculture, but I don't think it will ever result in a large number of 
high-quality games being released. 

Korwin: At present time, there are at least three almost perfect IF-development 
systems for Russian games: the parser-based RTADS, and the menu-based URQ and 
QSP. Besides, there are at least a dozen of other systems, which are also quite 
usable (ADRIFT, RINFORM, TGE, TKR2, GTI, QTech and a few more.) The stumbling 
block isn't the lack of a development platform, but rather the lack of authors. 
Maybe writing adventures for palmtops and mobile phones could spur interactive 
fiction in general -- if there are (paying) players and, consequently, money, 
serious authors probably will get attracted. 

brevno: It's easy to say there's a lull. However, there's always a place for 
dreams and hopes. 

ZombX: To tell you the truth, somewhat puny, the initial enthusiasm faded away. 
Everybody ponders why it peters out little by little, but no one does anything 
in order not to let it kick the bucket.

Akela: To be honest, I don't see it.

  Jenny: What are the main problems of Russian IF as you see them?
Victor: There are still too few really big games. Games with a world one would 
be pleased to dive into, without concerns about hitting the bottom too fast; 
with characters one would remember even half a year later. Such games have 
already started to be released, but not as many as I'd like to see.
Korwin: First of all, it's the absence of massive IF traditions in Russia, 
which, in its turn, has its roots in the fact a computer was a too expensive 
"toy" for most Russians over a long period of time, so that the IF-heyday of the 
1980s passed our country by.

Then, there is the difficulty of the Russian language with its variety of 
wordforms, which represents a serious obstacle for writing a decent parser. This 
problem was solved only by 2002-2003 thanks to the efforts of GrAnd; another way 
for solving it was using of a menu-based interface in such interpreters as URQ, 
QSP, TGE and others.

Thirdly, the best authors usually prefer to write books, since they bring their 
creators more profit than computer games. My opinion is, to create a good text 
adventure, a cooperation between a good programmer and a good author is 
required; at that, none of them needs to have outstanding skills in their 
respective field of activity. The thing is, good programming skills and the 
ability to express one's thoughts coherently and aesthetically are very rarely 
combined in one person -- and that's one of the most serious problems of Russian 
IF. [Not only of the Russian one, it seems ;)].

brevno: Our (URQ) authors are young and rash people for the most part. That's 
great of course. Sometimes, however, they're full of ideas and eagerness, but 
just can't properly express their feelings and concepts. You hardly can expect 
an impeccable plot and language from a jolly teenager. Persistence is also an 
important factor here, since, if you work too long on one thing at that age, 
your interest tends to fade away. Yet, on the other hand, our unfinished, even 
homely gamies occasionally conceal such little gems one doesn't find so easy in 
professional works (and I don't mean just IF).
Sure, there are also mature authors (casts a glance at Korwin) writing solid, 
polished adventures. If only they loaned that little spark from our young 
people... ;)

Finally, there's a lack of motivation. Authors write for self-entertainment for 
the most part, the target audience isn't too big: once you don't find means to 
make yourself glad, you run about as if you've been shi... spit upon. 

Generally, I think URQ is rather a therapeutic product. One has to ponder hard 
to find an easier and better way of self-actualization through a game for a 
beginner. To make a game using a sophisticated, well thought-out programming 
language, especially a parser-based one, one needs to read manuals, studying 
examples, etc. And here -- zap, zap, you smash your thought into the Notepad 
editor, and the game -- albeit small and simple, yet alive -- is ready. And it's 
yours -- your brainchild. You feel happy. The player does, too (well, maybe:) ).

Goraph: Because of the difficulty of the Russian language, it's not easy to 
develop a good parser; however, a passable parser-based authoring tool exists 
already (I mean RTADS). Besides, there are no obstacles for writing high-quality 
menu-based games, as they do it in Japan (they seem to have much more problems 
with parsers than we).
This leaves us but one problem -- the lack of interest and time on the authors' 

Akela: No one writes anything -- that's the problem!

  Jenny: Goraph, what do you think of the "evolution" of IF into hybrid games
  through melting with other genres? Is there any place for menu-based games in 
  your vision of future?

Goraph: It depends on what you mean by evolution into hybrid games. If you 
include illustrations in your work of IF without harming the quality of the 
text, it'll still remain an IF game. However, if the amount of text gradually 
decreases, it finally isn't IF anymore. "The best visualization is your 
imagination" -- that's the criterion I distinguish interactive fiction from any 
other genres by. Menu-driven games have existed and will always exist in future 
for languages where it's difficult to write a good parser.
Besides, such games may have success on devices with limited input capabilities 
(mobile phones, palmtops). On the other hand, they already begin playing DOOM on 
cellular phones. I believe IF games will exist as long as literature will. It's 
possible they become extinct together with literature in the future, to be 
replaced by another sphere of creative work.
  Jenny (now to all): What games did stick to your memory? 

Victor: I've made up such lists -- both brief and more detailed versions -- on 
the forum several times. I think it's not very useful to enumerate them here 
once more, since the names won't mean anything to an uninitiated person; as to 
explaining from scratch why I liked this or that game -- it alone would provide 
material for a large article, or even a series of reviews. 

Goraph: As far as Russian IF is concerned, it's Waiting for the Morning by Stas 
Starkov, 40000 Years B. C. by Vampire, Winnie-the-Pooh And Other Animals by 
Korwin. Of old commercial western text adventures, it's Hunchback by Ocean; 
among the amateur "modern" IF, All Roads by Jon Ingold takes a clear lead 
(actually, it's my favorite adventure altogether).

brevno: I'm a big fan of Goraph (who's going to become the best writer of 
Ukraine one day), especially of his notorious Ottar (How Ottar, Hetchhock And 
Koyot Shook the Tail of Whitesquirrelwolf) -- an absolutely unique game written 
in a language barely corresponding to Russian;). No, it isn't mat, it even isn't 
Albanian. One has to see it. One has to dig it. ["Mat" (pronounced as "mutt") is 
the famous Russian obscenity jargon, which is considered a unique phenomenon of 
linguistics: the thing is, one can express oneself using this jargon only 
without any loss of sense or expressiveness. I don't know whether the term "mat" 
is known in the USA, if not, it can be translated as "obscenities". Albanian 
means the deliberately grammatically distorted language (you know, in which you 
say "kull" instead of "cool") that has become so popular in some Internet forums 
and blogs recently. Again, the only term that seems to be a more or less 
adequate translation is, well, "Akmi-speak"; however, I'm sure there must be a 
word for that phenomenon in English that is known not only to fans of the 
Unnkulian series;).] 

Other games that come to mind immediately: the frolic The Golden Key, Or... How 
It Happened In Reality by Akela; [The Golden Key (the full name is The Golden 
Key, Or The Adventures Of Buratino) is a rather loose Russian adaptation of the 
Pinochhio fairy tale. Until very recently, it was practically the only version 
of the story inhabitants of the former USSR/Russia had access to; it's still 
much more well-known and popular in Russia than the original story by Carlo 
Collodi.] the historical Pyramid by Korwin; the monumental yet incomplete Trion 
by D. Mazayev; games by VovkaSmert' aka Vegeta The Hero, In The Deep, both of 
which are notable for their good writing; fun yet crazy game series by Larry 
Baggins -- I'm tempted to go on enumerating :). I'd rather like to mention a 
couple of mini-games not much talked about or just fallen into oblivion -- 
PARISH 1313 that almost jazzed me out of my mind by the author's logic and 
bizarre plot turns; The Co(s)mic Odyssey, the author of which remained unknown 
due to a tragic mishap. 

Korwin: Among the western adventures Eric the Viking, Zork I, So Far. 

Among the Russian ones:
- Dreamour (GrAnd, RTADS),
- Waiting for the Morning (Stas Starkov, RTADS)
- In The Deep (VovkaSmert' aka Vegeta, URQ),
- Agent-D (Aracon, URQ),
- Hope For Life (Phobos, URQ),
- Door Into The Summer (Demon, URQ),
- Chronicles Of Captain Bloud: The Secret Of The Left Buttock (Goraph, URQ),
- Hill Of The Fairies (Belial, URQ),
- Little Red Riding Hood (Yegorka Bestalanny, URQ),
- Ukouzya (Tanya, QSP),
- Zork Legends: Through the Dragon (Zorn, QSP);
- Klara the Jam-Plunderer (Belial, 6days)

However, I didn't play every game existing, and there're certainly a lot of 
interesting ones beyond this list. I think Russian games currently are 
noticeably inferior to western masterpieces. 

  Jenny: Korwin, you are considered one of the most prolific URQ authors. What
  other games did you write?
Korwin: First of all, I'm not the most prolific author: there also is Larry 
Baggins who seems to have been the creator of even more games. In addition to 
Winnie-the-Pooh, I most actively participated in designing of a number of 
adventures; only in the contests from 2004 to winter of 2007, there were eleven 
games entered I had a hand in (I even can't enumerate them all):
Pyramid (historical adventure about the ancient Egypt);
The Wings (a modern-time story about a young man dating a girl on a rock music 
Rendezvous (a tiny game consisting of two locations, about an encounter of a 
space traveler with an unfriendly spaceship of an alien civilization); 
In Spite Of Winds And Waves (the PC is to be rescued from a yacht going down);
Genie Ex Machine/Genie From The Machine (the heroine rescues her beloved (who's 
an astronaut), confronting state institutions and an AI);
Q-Quest (the adventures of a student in the forest and on a foreign planet)...

Sadly, I have to admit there are very little fully finished games in this list 
-- I feel like getting my hands on it again and give it more polish about 
practically any of them. Rendezvous, for instance, is a wee fragment of a big 
game, the conception of which is haunting me since 1996. However, this haunting 
hasn't been very fruitful till now.
  Jenny: Which of the authoring tools and interpreters for Russian text
  adventures you think is the best one? Why do you think so? 

Victor: As to authoring tools, it's a simple question to answer: for URQ, only 
one specialized editor exists, so that you just have to choose between SMSQuest 
and any common text editor. I prefer the second option, but I'm not indicative 
here, since I've never tried to write a longer adventure. As to the 
interpreters, I barely keep track of other Russian IF systems. I just look at 
them, say, once in a year to see what new features have become available over 
this period. Thus, I can't judge which system is "better", and which is "worse".
Goraph: RTADS by Andrey Grankin. A very good platform for parser-based games in 
Russian. Its disadvantage is the rather steep learning curve, but for me, it 
doesn't represent a problem (I'm working as a programmer for a living). 

Korwin: I won't answer, for one simple reason: I consider all the authors of the 
development systems I've mentioned before to be my friends; to some extent, I 
was involved in the creation process for all of those platforms (to a smaller 
degree in respect of RTADS, to a larger degree regarding URQ). All of them are 
perfectly suitable for writing text adventures; of course, each one has its 
characteristics and advantages, but one can perform great work with any of them. 

brevno: I haven't seen any that'd make me say -- yeah, this one is definitely 
the best! One has to work with the tools available. Go ahead, not a step back!

ZombX: WinURQ v. 1.4, since it's the only platform I can work with.

  Jenny: What programming languages do you prefer to work with? 

Victor: C99 with a few extensions.

Goraph: I'm a web-programmer and only work in PHP and JavaScript. Besides, I 
like Python. As to text adventures, I mostly work in urq_dos, because it's so 
simple to use. It allows me to put aside all the programming aspects and 
concentrate on the plot (this is important to me, since I usually don't make a 
layout of the game on paper). This platform is perfectly suited for developing 
games in English too -- if you're not put off by built-in system messages in 
Russian and the absence of English documentation, that is.

Korwin: Hmmm... Since I program games for the most part, it seems to me this is 
another form of the previous question. However, I'll give you the following 
answer: because of historical reasons, I've written most of my games using URQ, 
but now I intend to make up for this lack of attention to other platforms (QSP, 

brevno: I like PowerBASIC. I also program in C.

ZombX: URQL of course.

Akela: I prefer not to work at all, and play WoW instead.
  Jenny: Your work and your hobby -- are they related to each other in some way?
  [Apparently, there's been a misunderstanding between the interviewer and some 
  of the interviewees: Jenny obviously implied the guys' hobby is interactive 
  fiction, but a number of them told about their other hobbies].

Victor: Very remotely. I'm a scientific associate in a research institute and do 
a lot of programming at work, but the main themes, the development environments, 
etc. are entirely different. 

Goraph: I'm a web-programmer, I like my work, which also represents my hobby at 
the same time. 

Korwin: In no way at all. I'm a business trainer. However, the communication 
with my clients often puts me in situations more challenging than any adventure 
game puzzles. 

brevno: I'm an engineer who programs microcontrollers, and develops/produces 
devices based on them. Many people think I'm making infernal humanlike robots. 
Unfounded speculations! This is what Victor Koryanov does!

ZombX: They're somewhat related, if you mean my study. I like cinematography 
(its technical aspects), and we have a lecture about TV broadcasting. 

Akela: My hobby is computer gaming.
  Jenny: What do you gain from contacts with other members of the Russian IF

Victor: It happened several times already that such contacts directly urged me 
to implementing new features, fixing bugs, thinking over ideas not yet realized. 
That's an especially common thing when an author writes an adventure, the code 
of which could be made a lot more elaborate and compact if this or that feature 
were present. Or, if a reasonable plot idea can't be implemented at all without 
this feature. 

Goraph: Russian IFers are great beta-testers capable of introducing constructive 
critics that makes my games better, and the target audience for these games at 
the same time (unfortunately, at the current stage players and authors are 
practically the same for us).

Korwin: Probably a certain feeling of being free. We're all from childhood by 
origin, and IF allows me to come back there. 

brevno: I met many great guys. 

ZombX: Much fresh and useful information about cinematographic news. 

Akela: Yeah.

  Jenny: How old are you? What's the average age of Russian IFers in general,
  and how many are they? 

Victor: 1979 YOB. No one could tell you the average, but the fact is the age 
spectrum began growing broader recently. As to the number of community members, 
there are over 100 authors registered in the URQ games catalogue, but it must be 
taken into account that a "generation change" goes on steadily. Some authors 
drop out of sight after uploading several games, others come anew, and some 
return after keeping silent for a long time. The approximate number of 
simultaneously active authors is about 10, maybe 20.
Goraph: Personally, I'm 26 years old; I can't tell you anything about the 
average age, and it doesn't make any sense anyway, since some of the community 
members are old enough to be the others' fathers or even grandfathers. I think a 
realistic estimation of the number of members is over fifty, but the absolute 
majority of them are passive; the number of those who are active is slightly 
over ten. 

Korwin: I'm 37 years old now, but that won't last long. It's difficult for me to 
judge about the age of other IF enthusiasts, but my impression is they're 
younger than me. By my estimation, the number of those who write their own games 
is about twenty to thirty... if they don't write (like myself) under several 
nicks, that is. 

brevno: I'm 23, have no pernicious habits (apart from URQ), but a bad character, 
and I'm single. I think 13 to 19 years is the most accurate estimation of the 
average age of community members. Judging by the number of adventures sent in 
and nicknames registered, they are about eighty, regular rotation kept in mind 
of course. But I can't say about other development platforms. 

ZombX: I'm 19. The average age is 17 to 30. Yeah, the interval is like this. 
Other ages are a rarity. 

Akela: I'd be glad to tell about myself as well, but unfortunately I can't 
reveal the coordinates of my home planet...
  Jenny: What would you like to tell the readers about yourself?

Goraph: [In English...] Hello, Dear Readers, my name is Yura, I'm living in 
Chernigov, Ukraine, a small beautiful town 140 km east of Chernobyl. I never pay 
taxes, and love interactive fiction for the most part of my life. :)

Korwin: I have a house, a much-loved wife, a job I like, a son and a daughter. I 
also have a number of minor everyday problems life probably would be impossible 
without, solving of which gives one the feeling of a full-blooded life. And lots 
of problems at work they wouldn't pay me my wage without. 

brevno: My nickname is brevno (translated from Russian as "a log" or "a 
numskull"). Are you sure you want to know anything about someone who has chosen 
such a nick of his own accord, and is using it over several years?:)

ZombX: Well, I was born in a small town of the Nizhni Novgorod Region, I'm 
unmarried, am fond of horror movies; I had a hard childhood, didn't go to school 
until the age of 7, was afraid of anybody. When I was beaten up, I cried. 

Akela: (Inarticulate mumbling.)

  Jenny: Your favorite books? Writers? Films? Song?

Goraph:  Book - The Hobbit by Tolkien (I reread it about fifteen times)
Writer - China Miιville and Neal Stephenson
Films -- all Hong Kong films by John Woo, True Romance by Tarantino, as well as 
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
Song: The Young One by Yefrem Amiramov

Korwin: As far as books are concerned -- it's a difficult question. There are 
too many of them, since reading is my favorite way to spend my spare time. I'll 
list some of the books I've reread several times.
Among foreign authors: Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, Ender's Game by Orson 
Scott Card, Foundation by Isaac Asimov, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, The 
Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Illusions and Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard 
Among Russian authors, I like the books by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Sergey 
Lukianenko, Pavel Shoumil, Lev Vershinin. 

brevno: I like reading SciFi and historical literature. I hope the names won't 
be totally unfamiliar to you... Among ours, the first ones who come to mind are, 
say, Loukin, Belyanin, and Kaganov. Of the foreign ones - Longyear, Adams, 
Harrison, Asprin, well, and Pratchett is going to join this list soon.
Films... Recently, I started watching movies way too much. Therefore, now, I 
don't like cinema at all. Well, the only exception may be good old Russian 
(Soviet) films, like the Midshipmen. [Midshipmen, Go Ahead! is a series of 
semi-historical full-length films made in the late 1980-ies, which is very 
popular in the SU/Russia. The plot is in the vein of Three Musketeers AFAIK].
Songs -- depend on my mood. Generally, I have a weakness for merry Irish music, 
frantic revolutionary and military songs, simple and sunny songs from the Soviet 
time, sometimes bardic song and folk. In a sad mood, I listen to classical music 
or punk rock. 

ZombX: Book: The Autumn Carnival Of Death. Authors: Ron'shin, Kharms. Films -- 
Cigarette Burns by Carpenter, then Man Bites Dog. Song She Loves So Much by 

Akela: Books -- there're lots of. Author - Lukianenko. Films -- are very many 
too, anime for the most part. Songs -- a whole lot too, by The Mill, The Rowan 
Tower, The King And The Fool, etc.  

  Jenny: A forgivable weakness in a person?

Goraph: I have difficulties answering this question, I only can talk about a 
specific person and a specific weakness:).

Korwin: Telling lies -- in order to put oneself in a better light. But not 

brevno: IF.

Akela: A weakness for computer games... that's mine. 

ZombX: Probably smoking. By the way, I'm a non-smoker. 

  Jenny: What do you think, which merit deserves the most respect in a person? 

Goraph: All in all, you shouldn't ask me about that, rather the government and 
the sociologists. But the desire to write interactive fiction is undoubtedly 
worthy of all kinds of respect.
Korwin: Perseverance, diligence. 

brevno: Adequacy, understanding, cordiality, fervor. 

ZombX: Well, the ability to carry an undertaking through.
Akela (reluctantly tearing himself away from the screen): Honesty, decency. 

  Jenny: The worst streak of the Russian mentality. 

Goraph: I don't know any.

Korwin: Unreliability. I'm a historian by education, thus, I understand where it 
comes from, and hope very much modern conditions will form other habits. In me, 

brevno: A generous nature. 

ZombX: The way everything is put off till the last minute. 

Akela: How can you measure all Russians by one yardstick?

  Jenny: The best streak of Russians.

Goraph: The best streak of the Russian mentality is their "unconventional" way 
of thinking (that doesn't resemble either the Western or the Eastern one, and is 
a sort of a mixture between them), which sometimes leads to interesting results. 

Korwin: Optimism.

brevno: A generous nature.

ZombX: A generous nature.

Akela (is immersed in the game again):...

  Jenny: A traditional question: your plans for the future.
Victor: urq_dos is a text-only (command-prompt only) application originally 
developed for DOS16. After the machines that only had "pure" DOS installed 
became completely obsolete, it was ported to DOS32 and WCL (Windows Command 
Line). The last update goes back to 2004, and of course a huge number of new 
ideas and features not yet implemented are pending. This includes a version with 
a suitable graphic interface, porting to new environments and operating systems, 
several new key features of the URQL language suggested by adventure authors, as 
well as a lot of other things I can't remember straight off. In other words, 
there's no lack of new plans and prospects, the question is just, where to find 
spare time, a motivation and opportunities for implementing all this. When I 
started working on Dosurka I was a student, and while there isn't ever enough 
spare time, in that period, I had the wish to just get a look at various aspects 
of programming, to try my strength at solving interesting problems; well, and 
the burden of reality hasn't been as heavy as it is now -- many of the problems 
I've been confronting at that time seem rather trifling to me now. Currently, 
I've already graduated from the university and upheld my thesis, I have an 
intense work full of responsibilities, as well as a number of problems that 
somehow never get fewer. As time goes by, it becomes more and more difficult to 
simply throw everything out of mind and return to one's hobby.
Goraph: Currently, I have no plans related to IF, I'm interested in sim-racing 
now, but sooner or later I'll have the desire to write a text adventure again, 
as it happened many times over the last fifteen years :). 

Korwin: My most intimate dream is to write a masterpiece of a game, a game of 
the same level as the best Western text adventures. There're a lot of plans: to 
write a menu-based game in j2me for a cellular phone, two projects to be 
implemented in RTADS, one -- in QSP, and half a dozen -- in URQ. To be honest, 
I'd prefer if there was only one project -- I'd had better chances to complete 
it this year then. 

brevno: I'd be glad to say that I'm planning to do something really useful: to 
improve my editor, to program a GUI for URQ, or to write a stunning adventure... 
But instead, I'll just say that I'm going to take a firm hold on my line -- 
continue organizing the LOKa contests and second our authors' efforts. Sure 
enough, as much as I can, yeah.

ZombX: I'm planning to shoot my low-budget horror film within the next three 

Akela (tearing himself away from the game one last time): To finally boost 
myself to the 60th level and solve all quests to get t3.

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.

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

From: Mike Harris (harriswillys SP@G

TITLE: The Ebb and the Flow of the Tide
AUTHOR: Peter Nepstad
E-MAIL: petern SP@G
DATE: December 16, 2006
SUPPORTS: TADS-2 Interpreters

The Ebb and Flow of the Tide is the second of Peter Nepstad's IF interpretations 
of Lord Dunsany's short stories, the first being The Journey of the King 
released in November 2006.

"Tide" is certainly the more successful, perhaps because the story itself is 
more readily adapted to IF and also perhaps because the prose of the story is 
less florid and more accessible to the 21st century reader. 

Fans of the usual action-adventure will take some comfort in the fact that the 
PC can not be killed during the course of the game, for the simple and somewhat 
novel reason that the protagonist starts out in this unfortunate state. 

As one can imagine, this somewhat limits the actions available to the PC, but 
the author has done a good job implementing all of the sensory commands - 
listen, feel, smell, taste.  

This should be kept in mind, as arguably the most used command in more 
conventional IF, examine, will not always further the story.  I would not call 
them "guess the verb" problems although they superficially resemble same, merely 
that the author forces the player to take a somewhat less orthodox approach 
given the limitations of the PC.  With this in mind, play should take no more 
than 15 or 20 minutes.   

Beyond this unusual twist, play is bug free and cues are well integrated into 
the responses; for example at one point examining a wall will reveal the 
existence of passages which can then be further investigated with the sensorium 
available to the PC.  At no point is a player left to wonder what to do next 
provided that they've investigated all of the current options at hand. 

The Ebb and Flow of the Tide is a memorable game, not least due to the efforts 
of the game author. The Dunsany tale is a somewhat chilling dream sequence but 
ultimately of little import; Mr. Nepstad's interpretation gave it life and 

Out of 10 I give it a 3 for simplicity and 8 overall. 


From: Jimmy Maher (maher SP@G

TITLE: The Elysium Enigma
AUTHOR: Eric Eve
E-MAIL:  eric.eve SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive

As anyone who read my IF Comp reviews last year will know, The Elysium Enigima 
was my game of the Comp.  I noted at the time that I would like to return to it 
later to try for a full score, something the game encouraged when I completed it 
by helpfully suggesting some things that I left undone and might want to try 
next time.  I had intended to play it again soon after the Comp, but Last Resort 
and the holiday season intervened.  When Elysium won the XYZZY awards this year 
for Best Game and Best NPC, however, I was reminded to return to it, armed with 
my list of additional things to try to accomplish in search of a full score, to 
see if it was really as good as my almost embarrassingly enthusiastic previous 
review would indicate.  And so I downloaded the latest post-Comp release and 
dove in.  I am still very impressed, but also noticed a few things that bothered 
me this time around, as I was able to spend more time with the game and, 
unbothered by the joy of first discovery, view it with a bit more of a critical 

First, though, let me explain the premise and the many positives for anyone 
coming to the game for the first time through this review.  You play the role of 
a rather junior interstellar diplomat sent on a routine mission to the planet of 
Elysium, a backwater colony world populated by ludites who reject all but the 
most basic technology and have a rather ambivalent attitude about being a part 
of the Empire you work for at all.  You are supposed to -- literally -- show the 
imperial flag, meet with a few of the society's elders if they desire it and 
make note of their concerns or complaints, and be on your way. The inevitable 
complications arise in the form of a mysterious and attractive female who 
doesn't seem to belong here.  You must also deal with the suspicious natives, 
and may even be able to learn the reasons for their latent hostility toward the 
Empire.  A lot is going on here, and the story, setting, and implementation are 
as well fleshed-out as you are likely to find in IF.  Like all of Eric Eve's 
TADS 3 work, the whole serves as fine advertisement for the power of TADS 3.

Most of the commentary on the game has focused, rightfully so, on the mysterious 
Leena, one of its three NPCs.  You meet her early in the game, when she 
approaches you in the guise of a dirty and apparently hungry, but nevertheless 
very shapely, outcast.  Much of the game revolves around figuring out just who 
and what she really is.  I am already treading right on the line of spoilerdom 
here, so I will not go into more detail but rather defer to Valentine 
Koptelsev's SPAG Specifics piece, which focuses on Leena's role in the game.  I 
agree with many of Valentine's concerns about Leena's sometimes illogical 
behavior, but also remain very impressed with Mr. Eve's masterful job in 
creating her.  You can converse with Leena in great depth and breadth.  The TADS 
3 conversation system is in full flower.  Talking with Leena doesn't feel like a 
game of "guess the topic," but rather feels at certain stretches like real 
conversation, as the two of you probe and feint, each trying to determine just 
what the other is really about.  It's a fine merging of technical and artistic 
mastery that remains as impressive to me as it did when I first played the game. 
These interactions with Leena and (to a lesser extant) the two other NPCs, 
along with the thoroughly implemented environment, pull the game away from the 
text adventure feel and into something that feels more like a true interactive 

I think this feeling contributes to the disappointment I felt with some of the 
non-character interaction puzzles.  First, though, I should mention that Mr. Eve 
did vastly improve in this post-Comp release the most egregious offender, a 
fiddly puzzle that required a degree of, shall we say, lateral thinking, and was 
borderline unfair.  I complained about it in my previous review, and was 
apparently not alone.  It's nice to see an author listening to his players and 
taking his work seriously enough to revise it and incorporate their input.

Some of the other puzzles still bother me, though, because they destroy the 
sense of reality the game otherwise so masterfully creates.  The worst offender 
comes when you find a housecat lying on top of a chest you would dearly like to 
open.  Removing said cat requires solving a sequence of absurd puzzles that 
might be amusing in a Monkey Island-style comedy adventure but clash horribly 
with the believable tone of this story.  I am an intrepid, healthy young 
adventurer visiting a planet as the representative of a powerful Empire, and I 
am stymied by a housecat?  I love animals as much as the next guy, but... just 
kick the damn cat out of the way, already!  The game doesn't need stuff like 
this to artificially lengthen it.  

I want to see more simulation-oriented puzzle-solving in IF, something at which 
TADS 3 should excel, and less fiddly set-pieces like this.  (I know that places 
me outside the consensus position in the community, but so be it.)  Apparently 
others complained about some of the puzzles as well, as Mr. Eve mentions in his 
notes on this release that taking their suggestions would entail making more 
extensive revisions than he was ready to undertake, in effect making the new 
release into an entirely new game.  Fair enough, I can certainly understand that 
position, but do hope that he will consider our comments when writing his next 
game.  He is so very, very close to achieving the most fluid storytelling we 
have yet seen in IF that it is a shame to see his efforts foiled by 
ill-considered puzzles seemingly inserted out of a sense of obligation.

But let me place my complaints aside to state again that Elysium is a brilliant 
piece of work.  It does not attempt to radically, explicitly innovate for the 
sake of mere cleverness, but rather molds its form to its function of providing 
the player with a fun, immersive interactive story.  Even the writing does not 
call attention to itself, but flows fluidly and cleanly out of the way of the 
story.  The game stands as my personal favorite of a very strong year, and I am 
happy to see the XYZZY voters recognize it.  If you are reading this review to 
find out if you should play it... Yes, you should.


From: Jimmy Maher (maher SP@G

TITLE: Tales of the Traveling Swordsman
AUTHOR: Mike Snyder
E-MAIL:  wyndo SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
SUPPORTS: Hugo interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive

Tales of the Traveling Swordsman is one of several games from the 2006 
Competition that I returned to recently for another look.  I enjoyed my second 
play-through just as much as my first, even though the game is not the sort that 
generally most excites me.  You see, Tales very much wants to tell you a story 
-- one particular story.  It is very linear, and implemented just deeply enough 
to get you through that story.  And it is a fantasy game, not my favorite genre 
of IF or literature.  The fact that someone like me, who is generally interested 
by more simulation-oriented, open-ended IF set anywhere BUT a world of magic and 
fantasy, finds the game so appealing is a testimony I think to just how well it 
operates within its chosen restrictions.

The game casts you as the eponymous swordsman, an adventurer who roams the land 
in search of villains to vanquish and fair maidens to rescue.  It proceeds 
through three linear episodes to a suitably exciting climax; then comes a 
wonderful little denouement that casts everything that happened before in an 
entirely different light and really makes the game for me.  The writing fairly 
charges along with lots of swashbuckling vigor right from the opening lines: 
"Thick blades of grass at hip level part and bend with your long strides. Onward 
you go, one hand on your broadsword's sheath, the other clutching a scrap of 
parchment, and your water flask dangling from the opposite hip. The town of 
Homesdale is now a morning's journey behind you."  Mr. Snyder also takes modest 
advantage of Hugo's multimedia capabilities to display some nicely-done 
scrollwork chapter titles that add to the atmosphere.  I hate to always refer to 
games by name-dropping books and other games, but in this case I can't resist.  
In the book department, this reminds me of a Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser story 
with a rather less roguish protagonist; in the game department, of a less 
aggressively silly Eric the Unready.

It does have plenty of puzzles, but they are quite straightforward and likely to 
stump you just long enough to make them satisfying.  You won't find any 
brain-twisters here to derail the story, and that's a good thing.  In fact, you 
won't find any of the things you might be used to seeing in next-generation 
titles by the likes of Emily Short and Eric Eve, or even the author's own 2005 
Competition entry Distress.

So why do I want to give this one such an excellent review?  In short, because 
the atmosphere is just so darn innocent and fun... and because at the end, when 
you realize what you have really been experiencing, it manages to be both very 
funny (especially the bit about the cat!), and poignant, a reminder -- for me, 
anyway -- of childhood summers that seemed to go on forever.  Without the 
epilogue, it would be a competent but unexceptional little piece of lightweight 
fantasy.  With it, though, it rises to mingle with the cream of the 2006 crop.  
I can't think of a better choice for the 2006 XYZZY award for best story.

I could happily go on for several more paragraphs, but to do that I would have 
to spoil the central surprise about which I've possibly already said too much.  
I have to say, though, that a huge source of confusion for me as I was playing 
the first time, the fact that I couldn't seem to TALK to anyone, gets explained. 
 In fact, I realized on my second play-through that there was no sound at all in 
the story, and, again, when you get to the end yourself you will understand why. 
 I'm not sure if I'm quite happy with the point of view switch that happens 
inside the epilogue, as it felt a bit jarring to suddenly be somebody else after 
going all through the game through behind another set of eyes, but I'm also not 
sure if the real situation could have been communicated quite so economically if 
this hadn't been done.

The overall level of polish is excellent, bugs seem well-nigh nonexistent, and a 
play-through will take no more than a couple of hours at the outside.  So go to 
it, and if you have any heart at all prepare to laugh and even be a little bit 

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

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


The Elysium Enigima




From: Valentine Kopteltsev (uux SP@G

TITLE: The Elysium Enigma
AUTHOR: Eric Eve
E-MAIL:  eric.eve SP@G
DATE: October 1, 2006
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive

Five Things A Spy Should Never Do

Since the publication of my IF-Comp rant in SPAG issue #47, I've been
restless. (And that's not as much an exaggeration as you might have thought).
The reason for that were the rather unkind words I applied to Mr. Eve's work,
Elysium Enigma. To be more precise, it weren't exactly the words
themselves -- rather, the way I left them without any grounding or
explanation. "The behavior principles of the most important NPC are
fundamentally wrong", "I'm confronting dummies" -- those certainly aren't
accusations to be thrown about without rhyme and reason! Yes, the requirement
of not being spoilery can sometimes have strange (and clearly unintended)
effects on a review; in this particular case, for instance, it probably
provided the author of the reviewed work with the unique opportunity to slip
on the shoes of a theatre producer whose play is pelted with rotten tomatoes
by the audience for no apparent reason. Well, at least this non-spoilery
requirement is fair in respect of its effects working bothway: to me, it gave
the genuine feeling of being one of such a tomato-throwing rowdies paid by
the competitors, who play their mean tricks out from the safety of the
spectators' hall. Not a very pleasant sensation, by golly!

That's when one starts to appreciate the SPAG Specifics section. God bless
Paul O'Brian who introduced it! God bless Duncan Stevens, too, who was the
first to write a Specifics review!

What follows is a list of a few key behavior aspects of the most important
NPC in Elysium Enigma, Leela the spy, which I found totally unrealistic,
accompanied by an explanation why exactly they didn't convince me. Please be
aware that my analysis is based not on deep insider knowledge of the spy
trade, but mostly on plain common sense (with only sporadic insertion of
information I gained from the few spy movies/novels I watched/read).

So, the first of the DON'Ts for a spy would be

1. NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS (unless you really have to)

In fact, questions start to crop up immediately after the spectacular
apparition of Leela. So, shortly after you start the game, she comes up to
you, telling her tear-jerking story about being expelled by the other
dwellers, and begging you to find her some food and clothing. Now, keeping in
mind Leela turns up to be an enemy spy by the end of the game, we just can do
nothing but ask: why would she do it? Let's assume she only has professional
interest in our PC, so that several motives quite natural for a "young woman
of about twenty standard Earth years of age", like feeling lonely or the need
for men's attention, can't be applied here.

Well, a spy's main goals usually are sabotage and gaining information. Let's
start with the former.

Damaging the already troubled relations between the Empire and the Elysium
people certainly would be an enticing objective for Leela. Say, something
like obtaining the Empire officer's ID card, then penetrating the Legion
office, decoying one of the local Elders by hoisting up the flag, killing
him, and framing the Empire for the murder. She then could depart, taking the
captured Empire officer with her, or, alternatively, kill him too, leaving
his body somewhere not far away from the landing site of the Empire shuttle.
Granted, the departure part might turn out somewhat problematic, but even if
she failed to split -- the damage to the Empire probably would more than
justify the loss of an agent for the Federation. (I know, it sounds pretty
cynical, but so is the spy trade.)

The problem is, Leela wouldn't have to contact our PC to achieve that. In
fact, she'd just have to wait for him in ambush (which wouldn't represent a
problem, since she clearly knew the path he'd take, as well as the
approximate time of his arrival), then kill or stun him using a long-range
weapon. She then would have at least a couple of hours to arrange everything
the way she wanted... But I'm digressing from the subject. The main point is,
if Leela was planning to inflict damage the way described above, the less the
PC would become aware of her presence, the better it'd be for her.

What other goals could she be after, then? Seduce the PC in order to win him
over? More than doubtful, considering how little time is at her disposal, and
what a low-value target a "hoist-up" officer probably represents. Start small
talk with the PC in the hope to worm a few crucial secrets out of him? The
very idea is ridiculous -- considering, again, the humble time resources she
has, and the way how utterly suspicious any questions about the Empire
(except maybe for the most general ones) would sound in her lips ("They say
this year, the crops are gonna be good... By the way, darlin', what's the
numeric strength of the Empire's most important starship fleets in the Sirius
system?") Maybe just undermine his morale and arouse doubts about the
correctness of the Empire's politics on Elysium by demonstrating how cruel
the people he's going to talk to are? Again -- this means high risks (see
more on that below), unclear (and probably pretty weak) effect to the benefit
of the Federation, and low probability of success.

And now, what are the dangers Leela is taking upon herself by contacting the
PC? Well, a pretty severe risk of exposure -- no more, no less. Elysium
Enigma's optimal path suggests the PC does all the work by himself, but he
really didn't need to. Even if he was a narrow-minded martinet only capable
of directly following the instructions he received, anybody "with a deeper
understanding of the situation" would reveal Leela's legend as a fake one,
and know, on reading the PC's report, something foul is going on there. The
result most likely would be a special de-spying mission to Elysium...

Finally, a passage from a mystery by Agatha Christie comes to my mind (the
highlight is mine, and I'd like to apologize for the quotation being not very
accurate -- I've read the novel several years ago, and not in the original):
"If he stayed quiet, we'd probably let him be, but *the idiot* kept getting
underfoot and putting his nose in our affairs, so that finally, we started
suspecting him."

I think certain similarities between the way the criminal referred to in the
previous section acted, and the behavior of Leela the super-spy haven't
eluded the reader's attention. Also note the characterization the said
criminal received -- no, not from a high-skilled spy-catcher, but from a mere
police detective.


What's the optimal distance between a spy's hideaway, and a representative of
the opposing party, from the spy's point of view? Correct answer: as far as

Leela doesn't just draw the PC to her shelter: after all, that might have
been required for her plan (whatever it was -- see DON'T #1 on that). In
addition, she conveniently drops the key to it in the next vicinity. That's
the acme of negligence for a spy: she could as well just put a WELCOME mat on
the "secret" trapdoor, hiding the key for it underneath!

Well, if I were the spy, I'd probably carry the key somewhere on my body --
say, on my neck, disguised as a locket, or concealed in my hair -- regardless
of whether any enemy officers were around or not, but especially in the
former case. At the very least, I'd hide it somewhere I truly could rely on
nobody being able to find it (like, burying it in the forest, that kind of
thing). Sure, that'd be less handy -- but the elimination of unauthorized
access risks clearly outweighs any inconvenience in this situation.


A short digression: it's amazing in itself both opposing forces, The Empire
and The Federation, use compatible data storage systems. In this regard, I
remember the semi-fable about how the Soviet engineers cloned the IBM PC, yet
the clone turned out to be incompatible with the original device, because all
imperial dimensions were converted to metric ones.

But that's not the subject I initially intended to talk about. I've really
been stunned to find the passwords to the datatabs scattered around here and
there. I'm more than unsure spies are allowed to write down such information
at all! Leela also seems to have even more serious problems with her memory,
since she had to jot the passwords down on like-colored objects to match them
to the proper datatabs...

Well, I probably even could buy this whole business as a relatively minor
plausibility break. The thing that clearly went over the top was, having a
password written down on Leela's shuttle! Were there not a single other,
more suitable black object around? It's practically as if I scribbled the
password to my office computer on the wall in the entrance hall of the house
I'm living in! The Federation really must be suffering from lack of qualified


At a couple of occasions during the game, Leela semi-actively tries to get
into the PC's way -- say, by preventing him from moving the cabinet to reveal
the trapdoor, or not letting him cross the river in her presence. Now, what
would be a suitable tactics to encumber him not just at one occasion, but
permanently? I'd see two ways: a) find a vantage point I could watch the
whole surroundings from, and run to intercept the PC as soon as I see him
make his way to the spot he was trying to do something I didn't let him to,
or b) occupy a key location the PC couldn't pass without meeting me. None of
those plans are ideal, but at least they're consequent.

What does Leela instead? She follows the PC to the edge of the forest and
remains there sheepishly, giving him the opportunity to do what he's
initially intended to unnoticed. Someone could point out to me the courses of
action I suggested above aren't the solution under the given topographic
circumstances. That's a strong argument I fully agree with; but then,
wouldn't it be *much* wiser for Leela to just refrain from those attempts of
hindering the PC, since they were doomed for failure from the very start? I
mean, she had plenty of time to study the area to find out there's no easy
way to intercept someone who's trying to slip by secretly, and any person
with an IQ of at least a three-year-old child would know trying to talk
someone out of doing something with a motivation like "you'd kill yourself"
(while he obviously wouldn't) just couldn't be successful. If anything,
such an attempt would just stir up the curiosity of the person it's directed
against, and make the one trying to get in the way look extremely suspicious.
(By the way, the part about making Leela look suspicious worked perfectly for

5. DON'T TURN AWAY FROM PROBLEMS (because they tend to come back to you)

As the game was going on and I was getting past its puzzles, I tried hard to
provoke a sensible reaction from Leela. I got down into her hideaway,
accompanied by her; I asked her questions that should have make it obvious
for her I discovered the shuttle, the listening device, etc. To put it short,
I did everything to make a person with even a trace of intellect understand
she's in for trouble.

What kind of reaction did I expect? Well, there were three options. Leela
could try to take the PC by surprise and shoot him (oh, and don't tell me a
decent spy wouldn't have a suitable weapon hidden somewhere!); alternatively,
she could return to the role of a degraded, half-nutty girl she was playing
at the very beginning, and flee (for instance, accompanying her retreat with
shouting at the PC, "You're a monster! Don't touch me!") The third option
might have been a combination of the other two (Leela would run away, then
eventually return and try shooting the PC).

What happened in the game instead? Nothing, actually. Leela kept following me
around, playing the innocent, until a point where the situation became
absolutely hopeless for her. We know how to call such a way of action:
ostrich policy, a behavior pattern very typical for a bureaucrat who's pretty
sure it's not him who's going to sort out the consequences of the problems
he's trying to ignore; but certainly not for a spy knowing that her mission,
her career, well, even her freedom and life are at stake.


There are a few other inconsistencies in the game, including a couple of plot
branches dangling in the air (for instance, I don't think we ever get an
explanation how it came to the flag/pillowcase confusion, which, in its turn,
resulted in the listening device being revealed), but they are relatively
minor compared to the ones listed above.

Now, I can't say it often enough: I don't think The Elysium Enigma is a bad
game -- on the contrary, it's great, especially once you stop creating
illusions about it being a spy mystery, and perceive it as a puzzle-fest.

Leela, too, is a nicely done character -- in her own way. I had the
impression Mr. Eve designed a set of reactions that'd be plausible for an
innocent village girl, but for some reason, didn't go a step further and
check whether they'd be logical for a spy *pretending* to be an innocent
village girl. Also, a few inconsistencies in her behavior can be explained by
the game author's desire to keep his puzzles fair. Which, in its turn, quite
unambiguously hints at Leela's primary predestination: she's not here to be
your opponent -- rather, to provide puzzles for you. This is perfectly fine,
but I radically disagree with the opinion EE in general and Leela in
particular represents a breakthrough in character interaction.

Finally, I'd like to remind you that I'm just expressing my personal opinion
here, and that my words aren't intended to be taken as a gospel. I might very
well have overlooked something. Thus, I've always open for a discussion via
e-mail or R*IF in case you find a mistake in my reasoning, or just disagree
with my views.

P.S. My work on this review was in full play when the news came
The Elysium Enigma won the XYZZY Awards for best game, and best individual
NPC. The only thing I can do here is, to congratulate Mr. Eve sincerely with
but one comment: we have a worthy winner here;).

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