___. .___ _ ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. .\ \ | | | o | | | | The |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of |_|_|dventure \___|ames. ISSUE #49 Edited by Jimmy Maher (maher SP@G grandecom.net) August 18, 2007 SPAG Website: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag SPAG #49 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 ---------------------------------------------------- Editorial IF News A History of Spanish IF INTERVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE -------------------------------------------------- Sebastian ArgaŮaraz ("Sarganar") Juan SebastiŠn Armas ("Incanus") Javier Carrascosa ("Grendel Khan") Javier San Josť ("JSJ") "Lenko" Andrťs Viedma PelŠez ("Akbarr") Luis David Arranz Pťrez ("Jarel") Kent Tessman REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------- Amnesia La Cara Oculta de la Luna Fate Final Selection Getfeldt's Treasure Goteras It's Easter, Peeps Suprematism When in Rome 1: Accounting for Taste When in Rome 2: Far from Home SPECIFICS ========= Floatpoint EDITORIAL------------------------------------------------------------------ As I too often do, I have to begin this issue with an apology for its tardiness. Lots of people have contributed lots of great content this time around, and I have sat on it far too long. I could give a rundown of the personal circumstances that led to that, but I will spare you the excuses and just offer my apologies. I do think this is a pretty good issue, one that is hopefully worth the wait. As most SPAG readers are probably aware, longtime community stalwart David Cornelson recently launched a new company called Textfyre with the intention of publishing commercial IF titles. Commercial IF has not been a completely dead idea during the 2000s, of course, as both Peter Nepstad and Kent Tessman have had at least modest successful in selling their respective games 1893 and Future Boy! (In fact, see this this very issue for a thoughtful interview with Mr. Tessman which was conducted on behalf of SPAG by Greg Boettcher.) Mr. Cornelson, though, proposes to take things to an entirely different level in publishing a steady stream of new IF titles produced by creative teams that do not necessarily include Mr. Cornelson himself. He certainly appears, at least from this uninformed observer's standpoint, to be doing everything right, and while I'm not sure I would invest my last dollar in Textfyre at this point, I would give him the best odds for success of any commercial IF venture since, oh, the founding of Legend Entertainment. It's worth asking, though, what a fullblown revival of commercial IF via Textfyre would really mean to those of us who have stuck with the form through all these years. The first instinct for me, and perhaps most of you, is to envision a return to glory and get stars in the eyes. Who among those of us who remember doesn't pine for the days when one could walk into one's local bookstore or game store and see IF from Infocom and others on the shelf? For many of us the glory days of commercial IF carry a huge dollop of nostalgia, of lost childhood and the magic of discovery and all the rest. (The Golden Age of IF is twelve?) That at least is the way that I suspect most of the 30-somethings among us feel. I don't have a clue about the rest of you lot, except to believe that we all also feel that IF IS a valid, exciting, even important form of expression that we have hardly begun to explore, and that it deserves the critical standing that, for better or for worse, is generally reserved in our culture for things that are packaged and sold. And yes, we'd really just like to hold shiny boxes with Mike Gentry or Jon Ingold's name on them in our hands too. And yet many of us believe that the end of the commercial era was not entirely a negative for the long-term artistic development of the form. The fact that our games are free has allowed us to innovate and to take risks that the companies of the 1980s would never have dared. We don't have to suffer through reams of bad puzzles thrown in just so their host games could be padded out enough to seem to justify their $30 price tags anymore, and I'm certainly thankful for it. And honestly, would anyone, even those of us inside the community, pay money for some of the admittedly fascinating experiments with the form of the last ten years? Understandably then, Mr. Cornelson seems to plan to stick to fairly traditional text adventure tropes, at least initially. I'm thankful, though, to see that he is not explictedly targeting the nostalgia market. Anyone who has watched VH-1 in the last ten years knows, of course, that nostalgia is a powerful commercial force, but using it to sell IF only reinforces a lot of painful stereotypes about the form that I think most of us would really like to get away from. Textfyre will try to sell IF to a new generation of younger readers, the burgeoning Young Adult bookseller market at which Harry Potter was targeted. While one might wish to see Textfyre release more adult-oriented games at some point in its hopefully long existence, it isn't hard to get excited by the idea of a whole new generation of wide-eyed youngsters discovering the magic of IF. The upshot of all this, though, is that a venture such as Textfyre -- and, if it is successful, the others that will inevitably follow -- NEEDS this community to experiment and probe the margins. Mr. Cornelson obviously understands this, and intends to create a symbiotic relationship between this community and his company. And commercial IF written under Cornelson's model will be produced by teams, which opens up the possibility for more IF novels to complement the short stories this community generally produces. Textfyre is exciting stuff, my friends, as exciting in its way as were TADS 3 and Inform 7 last year. IF is in a great position right now, with next generation development platforms that make the previously difficult or impossible almost trivial; a surprising number of new faces to complement the old guard; a steady stream of new games; and now the possibility for a commercial face for the form to augment our community's free efforts. It's quite a change from the somewhat moribund community that existed when I took the reins of SPAG a couple of years ago. (Don't worry, I claim no causal connection whatsoever here.) It's all going to be great fun to cover. I hope to explore the potentials and pitfalls of commercial IF in more depth in the next issue to complement this editorial and the Kent Tessman interview you'll find below. You'll also find in this issue the next installment of our ongoing series on the non-English IF communities, this time covering Spanish IF in considerable depth; a lot of thoughful reviews from regulars and newcomers, including a couple addressing prominent Spanish games of the last few years as a complement to the feature article and interviews; and a great SPAG Specifics piece from Jim Aikin on Floatpoint. And one more commercial IF factoid before I leave you: 1893 is currently sitting at number 5 on the independent game portal Manifesto Games (http://www.manifestogames.com) list of top sellers. Wow! IF NEWS ------------------------------------------------------------------- IF ART SHOW 2007 After a hiatus of several years, Marnie Parker ran the IF Art Show -- a gallery of experimental, puzzleless works of IF which has in the past produced such significant works as Galatea -- again this year. There were three entrants. To wit: Symbolic Engine by Evan Schull Varronis Museum by David Garcia Rendition by nespresso http://members.aol.com/iffyart IntroComp 2007 Jacqueline Lott is running the IntroComp again this year, a competition for introductions to proposed longer games. The voting deadline is August 24, so you still have time to play the intros and vote on which ones you would most like to see fleshed out into full-fledged games. There are just 7 entrants, and they are all presumably fairly short, so go for it! http://www.xyzzynews.com/introcomp One Room Game Competition 2007 Francisco Cordella is running a competition for games that, you guessed it, take place entirely in one room. Games must be submitted by November 18. http://www.avventuretestuali.com/orgc/orgc-2007-eng The Lovecraft Commonplace Book Project Peter Nepstad recently hosted a gallery of both textual IF and graphical adventure games based upon story ideas collected by H.P. Lovecraft in his Commonplace Book. Seven games were included, written in three different (human) languages. Jon Ingold's Inform 7 entry Dead Cities was selected as Best of Show. Peter now hopes to turn the project into a physical exhibition playable at several galleries around the world. http://www.illuminatedlantern.com/if/games/lovecraft Digital Archaeology on the Original Adventure IF scholar Dennis C. Jerz has just published a major paper on the original work of IF, Crowther and Woods' Adventure. He has located from a backup of Don Woods' student account at Stanford University Will Crowther's original Fortran source code for the game from before Woods began to modify it. This version was previously believed lost, and this can only be described as a major historical find. Jerz also traveled to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky to explore the scenery that formed the basis for Adventure. Graham Nelson has already described this as the most important single paper ever published on the history of IF, and I am not inclined to argue. http://brain.lis.uiuc.edu:2323/opencms/export/sites/default/dhq/vol/001/2/000009 .html Filfre 0.97 I've released a new version of my Windows Z-Machine interpreter. The big news for this release is that it now supports Glulx -- including full multimedia support -- and is thus no longer just a Z-Machine interpreter. Hey, surely your editor is entitled to the occasional bit of self-promotion! Right? Right? I didn't even mention my IntroComp entry! Isn't that worth a little slack? http://home.grandecom.net/~maher/filfre Flashonate Peter Rogers has created a Z-Code interpreter that runs in... Flash! It's a bit slow at the moment, but consider it a proof of concept. http://home.cogeco.ca/~peter_rogers Gamasutra on Zork The well-known professional game development website Gamesutra recently published a nice, if hardly groundbreaking, article on the history of Zork, including new interviews with some figures we all know pretty well. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1499/the_history_of_zork.php?print=1 SPAG NEEDS YOU! The good news: I received a lot more reviews from you folks for this issue, and the review count is reasonable again. The also good news that could be construed as bad by the sick and twisted: A LOT of games have appeared in the last few months, and that means the Most Wanted list continues to be packed full to bursting. SPAG 10 MOST WANTED LIST ======================== 1. IF Art Show 2007 games (any, some, or all) 2. Adventurer's Consumer Guide 3. 1893: A World's Fair Mystery 4. IntroComp 2007 games (any, some, or all) 5. Lovecraft Commonplace Book Project games (any, some, or all) 6. Blighted Isle 7. Ghost Town: The Lost Treasure 8. Lydia's Heart 9. Crystal and Stone and Beetle and Bone 10. Remaining Spring Thing 2007 games (any, some, or all) A HISTORY OF SPANISH IF ----------------------------------------------------- The following article was written by Pablo Martinez Merino "(Depresiv"), originally published in Spanish on the Spanish Wikipedia, and then translated into English for the IF Wiki. I have cleaned up the translation a bit and am republishing it here to provide some context for the interviews and reviews of Spanish IF that appear later in this issue. Background (1984-1988) While in England and the United States interactive fiction started to appear in the late 1970s, in Spain we had to wait until 1984 to see the first text adventures. Dinamic, a software publisher that was destined to become one of the most important in Spain, premiered at that time with two programs: Artist, a drawing application; and Yenght, the first Spanish IF work, written in compiled BASIC and assembler for the Spectrum 48K. It featured very brief descriptions along with several major bugs and sudden, unfair deaths, but nevertheless managed to amuse quite a few players. Some opine, however, that the most important influence on early Spanish IF was Melbourne House's hugely successful adaptation of The Hobbit. Certainly many Spanish IF writers make special mention of this title. Perhaps Yenght was no more than another obstacle in the development of Spanish IF, for it was not until 1986 that another stand-alone commercial text adventure appeared. (A game called Alicia en el PaŪs de las Maravillas was distributed by the magazine Microhobby in 1985). We have now mentioned two of the greatest supports to the genre in its beginnings: the software publisher Dinamic and the magazine publisher Hobby Press with its magazines MicroHobby and MicroMania. Dinamic founded a specific label (the AD label, "Adventures Dinamic") for publishing interactive fiction, releasing games created by small homegrown companies as well as those created by Adventures AD, a company from Valencia that soon would stand out over the rest. The games published at that time had a wide variety of genres and styles. There were adaptations of classic literature like Don Quijote de la Mancha; contemporary literary adaptations like Los pŠjaros de Bangkok ("The Birds from Bangkok"), featuring Manuel Vazquez Montalban's popular detective Pepe Carvolho; comedies such as the Star Wars parody La guerra de las vajillas ("The Crockery Wars"); and science fiction games like Megacorp. Interestingly, the other big Spanish game publisher of this era, Topo Soft, never published a single text adventure in its whole existence. Adventures AD and the First Golden Age (1988-1992) Things really took off in 1988 with the publication of La Aventura Original ("The Original Adventure"), the first release from a new company called Adventures AD. As its name suggests, La Adventura Original was a loose adaptation of Crowther and Woods' game. It was a sales success, and its massive distribution led to a much higher profile for IF in Spain. Another important development at this time was the release of the IF-authoring tool PAWS (Professional Adventure Writing System). Quill, PAWS' direct ancestor, was never translated from English, but Adventures AD partnered with PAWS authors Tim Gilberts and Graeme Yeandle to make the successor system available to would-be authors of Spanish IF. IF in Spain reached it commercial peak during 1988 and 1989. The most popular Spectrum magazine in Spain, MicroHobby, conducted a national text adventure writing contest at this time, and included two permanent sections in every issue dedicated to text adventures and written by Andrťs Samudio, the founder of Adventures AD. Adventures AD might be seen, at least in some some ways, as the Spanish Infocom. Between 1988 and 1992, Adventures AD sold six different titles, each one of them a sale success, until the decline of the 8 bit market and the rising populatiry of graphic adventures brought with them harder times for textual IF. These works were as follows: La Aventura Original ("The Original Adventure," 1988). An adaptation of Adventure by Crowther and Woods. It showed pictures in almost every location, and was also unlike the original in that it started outside the cave and forced the player to find a way to open a grate to gain access to the underground areas. These were contained on the B side of the tape on which the game was distributed. Instead of starting with everyday elements and introducing the supernatural little by little, this version had an elf and a dwarf in the first section of the game. Jabato (1989). Based upon a character from a comic book, this game was set during the heyday of the Roman Empire. Its main novelty was that it allowed the player to simutaneously guide several travelers through Europe and Africa. Cozumel (1990). The first title of the Ci-u-Than trilogy, which is set in the Caribbean during the first half of the 20th century, and Adventures AD's best game in the opinion of many. The explorer Doc Monro gets marooned on the coast of Cozumel, where he experiences great adventures. La Aventura Espacial ("Space Adventure," 1990). Written during a hiatus in the production of the Ci-u-Than trilogy. Features a science fiction setting and some experimental touches. It also allows its player to control more than one character. Los Templos Sagrados ("The Sacred Temples," 1991). The second part of the Ci-u-Than trilogy is a puzzlefest also set in the Caribbean rainforest. Chichťn ItzŠ (1992). The third part of the Ci-u-Than trilogy is Adventures AD's most ambitious game, featuring lots of NPC and settings. All Adventures AD games had very similar attributes. They were written as two separate parts. At the beginning of the second part it was necessary to enter a password obtained upon finishing the first part. Pictures were present in almost every location. Adventures AD's equivalent to the the Z-Machine was called DAAD. It allowed the company to makes its games available on virtually all viable 8 and 16 bit platforms of the era. The 16 bit versions were usually longer and had some additional or more complex puzzles. For some time it was said that Adventures AD would move to writing graphic adventures, but it never happened. The company faded away quietly, and Spanish IF activity from then on would be centered around amateurs. However, all games published by Adventures AD contained an advertisement promoting an amateur club, which which was a great help in launching the scene. The two most important of these clubs were CAAD, founded in Valencia in 1988, and Year Zero Club, founded in Vigo in 1991. These clubs each had almost one thousand members, and published lots of interesting articles in their fanzines. As many as 300 amateur and professional works of Spanish IF may have been released between 1986 and 1992. After 1992, however, hobbyist activity slowed dramatically, and soon the paper fanzines also faded away. The Internet and the Second Golden Age (1997-) Some years later, the arrival of Internet gave birth to a second golden age. IF aficionados could now discuss their interest through mailing lists, reference web pages such as CAAD, and an IRC channel. The CAAD web page was born in 1997, its initial purpose being the collection and archiving of both the old paper IF fanzines and the text adventures they discussed. A Usenet newsgroup was created, but it was soon invaded by spam and questions about graphic adventures. A Yahoo! Groups list was eventually settled on in its stead. In 1997, the two existing clubs organized a text adventure competition, in which less than a dozen adventures were entered. In this first competition a severe limit of just one location and three objects was enforced. In 1998, CAAD repeated the competition with less severe restrictions on game size. Just nine authors participated. Spanish IF was obviously still in crisis. The winner of the 1998 competition was not even selected until three years later. At the end of 1999 the second golden age began in earnest with the first competition for fully fleshedout, albeit brief, IF works. This was very successful, and in May of 2000 the event was conducted again. The organisation of several other competitions like these helped to reignite the interest of old aficionados. The IRC channel and the mailing list were also of course a great help here. Modern Spanish IF competitions have just as many permutations and themese as do those for Enligh IF. There have been comps for comedy games, experimental games (called "nanos"), Tolkien-themed games, etc. Since 2001 there has also been a major annual competition like that of the English IF community, known as the Premios Hispanos ("Hispanic Prizes"). Authoring Systems In addition to writing new IF games, the Spanish community has also built some authoring systems just for IF in Spanish. Halfway through 1992, the first Spanish IF development system for PC-compatibles was published. SINTAC was based upon PAWS, and written by Javier San Josť ("JSJ"). Initially distributed with a shareware license, and becoming freeware some time later, it had quite a large user base for a time, but was abandoned in 2000. During the next few years, many other authoring systems, more or less related to PAWS, appeared for PC or for some of the other common computers of that time. NMP, another "PAWS-like", was also very well known. At the end of 1992 the first completely native Spanish authoring system for the PC, CAECHO?, was released by Juan Antonio Paz Salgado ("Mel Hython") and some other contributors. CAECHO? marked a major advance over PAWS and its derivatives, being a complete structured programming language rather than being built around the "condition lists" of PAWS. In October of 1998 Josť Luis DŪaz ("Zak McKraken") released InformATE ("Inform Ahora Totalmente en EspaŮol" - "Inform Now Completely in Spanish"), a Spanish library for Inform based upon the English Inform 6.30. InformATE has seen huge acceptance in the Spanish community, generating a healthy amount of documentation, utilities, and of course games. Some months later, in June of 1999, the author of SINTAC released the first version of a new system called Visual SINTAC. While only available for Windows machines, it was the first Spanish parser to provide a complete GUI as a help to the programmer. However, the project is abandoned today. In January of 2005, Uto, Yokiyoki and Baltasar released the first usable version of Superglus, a system based upon NMP which generates games for the Glulx VM. It has already seen wide acceptance in the community. Present Time: CAAD, SPAC Fanzine, and Forums In June of 2000 the people in charge of CAAD decide to resume publication of the fanzine, this time in PDF format for web distribution. Just seven monthly issues in total were publushed, but in October of the same year another ezine called SPAC appeared, inspired by SPAG. It continues to be published monthly today and is in very good health, thanks to a more and more active community. In 2004, forums were created as part of a remodelling of the CAAD webpage. They have allowed for better classification of IF-related discussions and have made the community much more accessible. The older mailing lists still exist, but are no longer as active as they once were. WikiCAAD, the Spanish IF wiki, was rolled out just this year and is quickly becoming a major documentation source on current events, history, works, and resources. Another interesting initiative of recent years is a classic text adventures retrieval project called Proyecto Base which has managed to obtain more than a hundred classic ZX Spectrum Spanish adventures in very little time. Also, Almacťn de la Aventura ("The Adventure Warehouse") has an increasing collection of newer interactive fiction -- from the year 2000 on -- each archived with an individual Windows installer for maximum ease of use. At this moment, more and more Spanish-speaking people all over the world -- in Chile, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, and other places -- are becoming interested in the form. Some Outstanding Works of Modern Spanish IF La Sombra de la Luna Negra ("The Black Moon's Shadow") by Depresiv. http://www.caad.es/brevecomp2/aventuras/luna.zip Misterio en el ŕltimo Hogar ("The Last Home's Mystery") by Kano&Kambre. http://www.aliensuavito.com/detalles/elultimohogar.php Resaca ("Hangover") by Voet Cranf. http://www.caad.es/modulos.php?modulo=descarga&id=1287 Ocaso mortal ("Deadly Sunset") by Dhan. http://www.geocities.com/lashojascaidas/juegos/ocaso.htm Olvido Mortal ("Dead Reckoning") by Andrťs Viedma (Akbarr). http://www.terra.es/personal/a_viedma/olvido.htm English Translation by Nick Montfort: http://www.ifwiki.org/index.php/Dead_Reckoning El ExtraŮo Caso de Randolph Dwight ("The Strange Case of Randolph Dwight") by Urbatain. http://www.caad.es/php/detalle_fichero.php?descarga_id=1058 El Archipiťlago ("The Archipelago") by Depresiv. http://www.caad.es/modulos.php?modulo=descarga&id=1177 El libro que se aburrŪa ("The Book that Became Bored") by Jenesis. http://if.jenesis.presi.org La Sentencia ("The Sentence") by Josť Luis DŪaz (Zak). http://www.caad.es/modulos.php?modulo=descarga&id=642 Spanish IF Links Wikipedia - Spanish IF Community history and works. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aventura_conversacional CAAD - Club de Aventuras AD: spanish IF Community webpage. http://www.caad.es SPAC - Sociedad para la Preservaciůn de las Aventuras Conversacionales. SPAC is similar to and inspired by SPAG. http://usuarios.lycos.es/SPAC InformATE - InformATE is a spanish Inform Library, to create and code Inform games in spanish. http://www.caad.es/informate WikiCAAD - The Spanish IFWiki. http://www.wikicaad.net THE SPAG INTERVIEW (DEPARTMENT OF SPANISH STUDIES)------------------------- The following interviews were conducted and translated by the prominent Spanish IF author Pablo Martinez Merino, AKA Depresiv. I can't thank him enough for the huge amount of time and work that must have gone into preparing all this for us. If you appreciate his efforts, feel free to drop him a line at pablote2es SP@G yahoo.es and tell him so. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Javier Carrascosa ("Grendel Khan") Javier San Josť ("JSJ") "Lenko" Andrťs Viedma PelŠez ("Akbarr") Luis David Arranz Pťrez ("Jarel") -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= (Translator Note: This is the result of an interview that took place in the Spanish IF IRC channel, with some well-known members of the Spanish community. I've tried to preserve the general "mood" of the interview, so all of the important things that were said in that moment --and many of the unimportant things also-- are here.) <Depresiv> Someone has to record this thing, I donít know how to do it... <jarel_^> So, who were supposed to come here today? (recording) <Depresiv> JSJ, Dhan, Uto, Mel, Lenko, Baltasar, Grendel, Al-Khwa, Jarel, Mapache, Akbarr. <Akbarr> Lenky, Jary and... <Depresiv> Et moi. <Akbarr> Depresy?... Depresivy... <Depresiv> Depry. <Akbarr> Oh, thatís true. Depry. <Lenko> I said to my wife I was going to the computer for an interview, and she asked me: "So whoís going to make this interview?" "Depresiv" <Depresiv> Come on, lie to her, man, lie to her... <Lenko> "That sounds awful", she said... and that was all about it. <Akbarr> This thing about the names is so good. Every time I go to a meeting and then tell my girlfriend about it, she splits her sides laughing. I always tell her a quick list of the names and she always ends up saying "How freaky you are!" <Depresiv> Do you remember, Jarel, when I introduced you guys to a female friend of mine? "This is JSJ, this is Dhan, this is Yokiyoki, this is Jarel..." <Akbarr> Haha. <jarel_^> Hmmm, the day of the vegetarian restaurant? <Depresiv> That one, that one. <Akbarr> I remember the times when a girl came to the meetings. Yokiís girlfriend, Kracís one, Dhanís one... The most amazing girl was Urbatainís wife. She knows more of interactive fiction than us. LOL <Lenko> In another forum I use to write, they organize meetings from time to time, and more than once they met in a square and they were all looking at each other not daring to ask: Are you "octopus"? <jarel_^> Looking at each other? hahahaha <Akbarr> "Octopus"? Whatís the forum about? Seafood? Or flirting? LOL <jarel_^> It was just like the first time I met Akbarr. The guy was standing in front of a corner... and although he suspected I could be... <Akbarr> How long ago was that... Snifff... * Depresiv looks at his watch <Depresiv> Man... These people take their time. :) <Akbarr> I will have to leave at 11. So the interview is going to be very quick, it seems... <jarel_^> Come on, start the interview with Akbarr. <Depresiv> Ok, letís go then. <Akbarr> Thatís true, letís start with those who are already here. ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> Iíll divide the interview in two parts. Iíll dedicate the first part to introduce ourselves a bit. I will name each one of you, and youíll tell me all the things youíve done and are currently doing related to Interactive Fiction. AND PLEASE DONíT BE HUMBLE, Iíll just say when I notice something missing. :P Ready? <Lenko> Ok. <Akbarr> Go. <Depresiv> In alphabetical order, itís your turn, Akbarr. :) <Akbarr> Ok, my nameís Akbarr (in Alcoholics Anonymousí meetings we always begin this way!), my first contact with adventures was, just like many people around here, with the ZX Spectrum, with Don Quijote, and later I played every Spanish text adventure released (and fled from the English ones, just because I was lazy). Later, when PAWS was released, I bought it and wrote an adventure with my name in it, this is, "Akbarr" (in fact it was the opposite way, but thatís not the point). Then I was disconnected with the community for some years and, during the "second golden age", I took up again the hobby. So I wrote a remake of Akbarr for the PC along with my brother, who made the graphics, which are by the way the most remarkable thing in the game (modesty aside I think this is the most "good-looking" adventure Iíve ever seen). I also wrote another one with Inform, Olvido Mortal, which was translated twice into English. The first translation, Shattered Memory, was written by me and some other Spanish people, and the second one, Dead Reckoning, by Nick Montfort. I also have another project in mind called Akbarr 2, which is in eternal vaporware state. (T.N. PAWS stands for "Professional Adventure Writing System", an authoring system for the ZX Spectrum. It was quite popular in Spain in the 80s-90s) <Depresiv> Listen, Iíve always been curious about this. :) How did Nick contact you? <Akbarr> Who? <Depresiv> Nick Monfort. <Akbarr> I entered with Shattered Memory in the IFComp. It was disqualified, something I didnít really care about, but the reviews also werenít very good. The reviewers gave me the impression that most of the time that they didnít go straight to the "real problem". I mean, they didnít like it, but they didnít really know why. (At least that was my impression.) For example, itís just like placing a bad actor in a movie. Suddenly everythingís not working, the script is not being convincing and itís hard to realize that the problemís just the appearance of that actor. So I registered my game in an English webpage for people looking for translators. I mean, translators in one side and adventures wanting to be translated in the other side. Nick though the adventure was interesting and so he contacted me (or maybe it was the reverse, I donít remember it very well). I think I was right thinking the way I did, because the only review of the second translation Iíve seen, written by Emily Short, pointed much better at the real faults of the adventure. <jarel_^> Is Nick Monfort bilingual? <Akbarr> I wouldnít say as much as bilingual. But he deals really really well with Spanish. And exceptionally well with English. (Better than the average, I mean) <Depresiv> He seems quite a nice guy. Well, at least the last time I wrote him <Akbarr> Yes, heís a really nice guy. He spent almost a year without starting the translation, and later he sent me an apology. (And I said nothing about that) <Depresiv> Yes, well, he answered me "no" from the beginning. But he did it in a very polite way. :D <Lenko> I once read an article he wrote about how he did that translation, and I really liked it, but I canít find it anymore. ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> Grendel, introduce yourself. The things youíve done for the community. The things youíve done and are still doing around Interactive Fiction. <grendelkhan> Well, I am Grendel Khan and I have been active in CAAD since 2003, although I was a regular reader of the CAAD mail list before that. Previously I started playing adventures with the ZX Spectrum, but I never was a good player. I discovered text adventures quite late, and couldnít enjoy them completely until I discovered CAAD in 1997, through a PCManŪa magazine. It had a CD with several parsers (T.N.: IF authoring systems), one of them was NMP by Carlos SŠnchez. I wrote an adventure with it that went almost completely unnoticed, called Orfeo en los Infiernos ("Orpheus in Hell"), which entered in the Concurso Nacional de Aventuras ("National Adventures Competition"). After this, in 2003, I re-entered the community, and wrote some other adventures with very different themes. (Must I mention them?) (T.N.: CAAD was one of the most popular paper fanzines in the 80s-90s about text adventures. Later, when Internet was popular, the CAAD webpage became the central hub of the Spanish IF community. Thatís why many people refer to the Spanish IF Community simply as CAAD.) <Depresiv> Well, at least mention the ones you want to emphasize. :) <grendelkhan> Ok. When I decided to participate actively in CAAD, I realized the best way to introduce myself was to write a new adventure. I re-appeared in CAAD with La casa del Olvido ("The House of Forgiveness"), which included graphics as the main novelty. Some time later I wrote La aventura rural ("The Rural Adventure") which earned the best NPCs prize in the Premios Hispanos 2004. From my IF production, I would emphasize La Musa ("The Muse") and Wiz Lair as my most accomplished projects, although the late one didnít have a tremendous popularity. ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> Jarel, your turn. <jarel_^> I started getting in touch with text adventures in the early 90s, when I had an Amstrad CPC. I played AD adventures and some (one) English, but they were just some games between other games. In 1997 I made contact with the community through the advertisement in the magazine PcManŪa about the adventures competition in CAAD, and I realized with this advertisement that there was a webpage and some new adventures to download. Also in the CD from the PCmanŪa I found several parsers, one of them was SINTAC. But I found it too complicated for me, so I decided to write my own parser from scratch (and also to have fun writing it). CŠrdenas was the first person I contacted, and he persuaded me to go to a meeting where I didnít know anyone nor did anyone know me. Once I went through that, when I already had an Internet connection at home, I became part of the community through the mail list and IRC, and I realized how many messages appeared in the mail list, and how much involvement in the many competitions there was. (I mean, considering the amount of active people.) I wrote several adventures with my own parser (DISAC) with whom I was able to program really fast, since the commands were only one character long. And finally I started programming in Inform. And... well, I think these are all the historical facts. (T.N.: Aventuras AD was the most popular Spanish IF company in the commercial era.) <Depresiv> You still have to mention that you wrote 19 adventures with DISAC. :P Which is not a mere trifle. <Akbarr> You have skipped that small detail, yeah. <jarel_^> Iím going to count them while you ask the next question LOL <Akbarr> If the title of each adventure is also one character long, you can enumerate them. ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> Lenko. There you go! :D <Lenko> hahaha. <Lenko> Well, when I was a kid I purchased a ZX Spectrum +3, and I was completely hooked with the Microhobby magazine and the Viejo Archivero. By chance, one of the very few programs I had on disk (it loaded 100.000 times quicker than the ones on tape) was Don Quijote, a text adventure that was completely embittering to me, but it also hardened me, so to say. So when Aventuras AD released the PAWS I bought it immediately and then programmed a lot with it. The problem was that I was quite young at that time, and although Microhobby mentioned the CAAD fanzine, I never dared to enter. (T.N.: Microhobby was the most popular ZX Spectrum magazine in Spain in the 80s-90s. El Viejo Archivero ("The Old Archivist") was an IF-related section in that magazine. It was written by Andres Samudio, the owner of Aventuras AD.) <Lenko> So finally my adventures were lost amongst old tapes. Some years ago I was looking for information about MUDs, because I wanted to write a new one, although not the typical "kill everything that moves" one. And I ended up discovering CAADs webpage (the old one). I started to read the FAQs and I realized what I had been missing all of these years. I played Cacahuetes, Sal y Aceite online ("Peanuts, Salt and Oil") and I ended up being convinced that that was "my thing." Programming and writing, my two greatest passions, together. Genius. <Depresiv> :) <Lenko> Then I joined the mail list, then the forum, and then I decided to write my only adventure so far (Una pequeŮa historia de Navidad, "A Small Christmas Story"), with which I was quite happy with the reception. Some time later I was completely amazed when I discovered the IfWiki. I thought that we needed something like that, but more oriented towards the promotion of adventures. I installed everything in my local computer and started making the basic work, but everything was stopped because of some personal problems, until a few months ago, when I mustered up, not wanting the idea to stay forever as vaporware. And thatís more or less all. ---------------------------------------------------- * JSJ has entered #interviewcaad <Depresiv> And now, skipping the alphabetical order, the turn is for JSJ. :P <jarel_^> The turn for the "J" has finished, this thing goes in alphabetical order. <JSJ> Whatís my turn for?... Ah! Right! I Call!! <Depresiv> JSJ, you have to tell us a brief introduction of who you are, what things have you done around Interactive Fiction, from your beginnings until now. <JSJ> Letís see... Who am I... Well. Iím this guy who joined this thing as a matter of pure coincidence, when another guy gave him a tape with something called The Hobbit recorded on the B side. And soon after getting tired of killing those aliens from the A side, decided to give an opportunity to the B side. <Akbarr> Hey, guys, this is not to interrupt JSJ (well, maybe a bit also because of that), but I must go. <Depresiv> Ummmm, Akbarr, Iíll finish your interview later in Madrid. Ok? <Akbarr> I wonít be able to meet you on Saturday night, sorry. :/ I have to go to the theatre. <Depresiv> Sigh. By mail then. <Akbarr> By mail. Ok. I promise to answer fast. <jarel_^> Bye, Akbarr. <Akbarr> Ok, enjoy yourselves. And donít believe a word from JSJ. Bye! <Depresiv> See you. <JSJ> Now that heís leaving, I can say bad things about him. * Akbarr has left. <Depresiv> You were talking about the B side. :) <JSJ> Iíll continue then. ;) After spending some time with the B side, I started enjoying those strange games where you had to type a lot. Anyway, most of them were in English at that time. So I think I had that metacarpian syndrome before it was even known, as I had to play with one hand on the keyboard and the other one... <JSJ> ... (donít be sick minded) ... <JSJ> ...and the other one occupied consulting a Spanish-English dictionary. :D And, man, did it weigh. Some time after that the Microhobby competition started... I already had the English version of PAWS. (The eMule of those years... I had some contacts that sent me some tapes full of strange things.) I decided to participate, and you already know the story: We were seven finalists and the prize was just a copy of the DAAD for each of us. (T.N.: The first IF competition in Spain was organized by Aventuras AD and the magazine Microhobby. When the time came for them to choose a winner, Aventuras AD was having such great financial problems, that they couldnít afford paying the promised prize. So they choose seven winners instead of one, and gave them a copy of DAAD, the in-house version of PAWS for Aventuras AD. It turned to be quite a disappointing prize, as it was more or less PAWS with a few add-ons) <Depresiv> Wow, learning PAWS without instructions... <JSJ> Yeah, well... at that time I used to make freaky things like hand-made disassembling of games and so on... so learning PAWS was a childís play for me. If only I had half of the freakism of those times... oh well... In any case I also started being an active member of the CAAD fanzine. Active means that I wrote articles regularly: PAWS programming articles, some gamebook or other (by the way... I want to find a copy of that gamebook, even a scanned one, to keep it in my memory chest) :D <Depresiv> I have it all at my parentís house. <grendelkhan> (Gamebook? Where, where?) <JSJ> I wrote one. Nothing too unusual. By chapters, in the CAAD fanzines. I donít remember the number of the issues. I still keep a lot of gamebooks from my period of fondness, though. <grendelkhan> Upload it to CAAD. <Lenko> And to WikiCAAD. (T.N. Spanish version of IfWiki) <Depresiv> Címon, let JSJ talk :) <JSJ> The thing is I decided to write a parser... I woke up one day and said: Iím going to write SINTAC! (Well, it was not exactly like that, but the mental process could be summed up to that.) <jarel_^> Itís obvious heís a momio, since the roll of the speech goes down to the floor. (T.N.: "Momio" is untranslatable slang. Itís used to refer to really old members of the community. It could be translated as something like "male mummy.") <JSJ> Basically SINTAC was born from my disenchantment with DAAD. (My "prize" as a finalist in Microhobbyís competition). It was one of those things you see and say: I can do that myself. No sooner said than done. My big surprise was after writing to JAPS (That was Melís old name :)) to tell him that I already had the first version of a parser called SINTAC T1 (the T meant that it only supported text, and not graphics). In any case, JAPSí answer surprised me: I am also working in a new parser! And I said: YOU DID WHAT? (N.T.: Untranslatable pun. Mel Hython -- previously known as JAPS -- was the author of CAECHO?, a procedural IF authoring system in the early 90s. CAECHO QUE?Ē, JSJís exclamation, could also be translated as "YOU DID WHAT?") <jarel_^> How did you meet Mel? <JSJ> How did I meet him? The reality is... I donít remember. Whatís the use of lying. :D (Or else later Akbarr will throw it in my face.) Most probably we started mailing each other when we were two of the seven finalists. I donít have the feeling that we knew each other before that, but I do have it after that. Maybe heís not as affected by Alzheimer as me and can answer this question much better. LOL <Depresiv> Ok, we were in YOU DID WHAT? <JSJ> Well yes... There we go. That was, for me, the "Golden Age". Parsers were written, people used them. Lots of homegrown adventures were released. People even played them! And paid for them! Anyway... I kept collaborating with CAAD, updating SINTAC (and selling it) some more time, until my disconnection. I left the community coinciding with the disappearance of Microhobby and the decline of CAAD, this is, when issues started spacing out 3 or 4 months. It was at that time when Juanjo MuŮoz (T.N.: the first editor of the CAAD fanzine) was a little bit burnt-out. (Digression: with Internet, people are getting used to have everything free and in tons.) <Depresiv> (Digression: I remember how scared I was during the times JSJ has told about. "This is the End!") <JSJ> I just disappeared "... I was absent 2 or 3 years. That was the "Dark Age". :D Then I started getting involved in a different kind of games: role playing games. I remember I played every RPG released at that time. <jarel_^> What years were they? 199... <JSJ> 1997-1999 or something like that. <jarel_^> Hmmm... No, you came to the meeting in 1999. <JSJ> Youíre right... <Depresiv> Just a second, Iíll take a look in Wikipedia, and we will finish sooner. <jarel_^> And then the mail list began... <Depresiv> 1992 <JSJ> In 1998 I started to write Visual SINTAC, so my absence could have been somewhere in between 1995 and 1998 or so. That was the next milestone I wanted to talk about. I donít know why, between 1997 and 1998 I decided to write another parser. At that time I had a permanent Internet connection at home, so I contacted Juanjo again, and he directed me towards the #caad IRC channel and the mail list. I didnít show up in the chat at the beginning as I thought at that time that the chat was something for kids. I just thought that chat channels where places where teens spent their time doing teeny things. But I did enroll to the mail list. The fact is that I enrolled just to announce I was developing Visual SINTAC! * jarel_^ looks at his watch. * Depresiv puts aside the watch. <Depresiv> Hang on, this is getting interesting. :P <JSJ> In 14/10/1998 it was my first presentation message in CAADís mail list. The following day I announced I had half-developed Visual SINTAC. I just asked, basically, for help, and then published the source code, as it was one of those projects I had started but had no intention of finishing. In any case, since no one decided to help, I resumed the project. In 12/06/1999 the first alpha of VS was out, and the first beta soon after that. And a bit later a final version. <grendelkhan> (In 30/02/2046 Visual Sintac reached consciousness and dominated CAAD) <JSJ> Hehe. <JSJ> The reception was quite different. Some people liked it, some people didnít. It happened that Zak had already released InformATE, and many people were concentrating on it. That doesnít mean that some users didnít find something in VS and even wrote some things with it. Anyway, I was completely disappointed on one side, and unable to compete with Inform on the other, so I decided to cancel the project. I thought there was no use in keeping up with it when there was another system which was destined to be the standard. So I have done very little (or nothing) in this community since then. <jarel_^> That sounds awful. Inform finished you!!!! <Depresiv> In my opinion, the only thing that VS lacks is a multiplatform interpreter. <jarel_^> Most probably. <Depresiv> On the other hand I donít think itís true that everything ended after that. :) Youíve done many things for the community since then. E.g. CAADís webpage, the Premios Hispanos webpage... <JSJ> My next contributions to the community were more on the organizational side, yes. <Lenko> The webpage has been essential. <JSJ> The webpage, the Hispanos, going to meetings... :D ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> Now the second part of the interview. Iím going to ask some questions, though they will necessarily be very few and a bit generic, so youíll have to add some debate. :) It would be great to see all your different points of view. I think this will allow seeing the different trends in the community. Are you in? <JSJ> ok :D <Lenko> ok <Depresiv> First of all... What kind of things you look after in adventures? What makes them different from conventional literature? What do you think is there still to be told and experimented as a medium? <JSJ> Buf... Thatís a trick question. Iíve never seen this medium as something comparable with conventional literature. They have always been games for me. <jarel_^> From my point of view, literature is one thing and adventure is another, and I donít like adventures mimetizing with literature. <Lenko> Adventure doesnít have much to do with traditional literature, but maybe things like hypertext have more to do with it. <grendelkhan> I see two trends here: the literary one and the recreational one. <jarel_^> There, we both agree with that. <JSJ> But yeah, recently (recently for me means the last 5 or 6 years) the literary trend has appeared, just like Grendel says, though I still prefer adventures as games, instead of adventures as literature. <Lenko> The fact is that adventures improve a lot with an attractive literature. Though with the basis of a game, different types of structures must be developed, to retain the interest not only because of the story, but also because of the game, since literature is based on the fact that the story always continues; while in an adventure we spend most of the time blocked. <grendelkhan> I think that the medium has the potential to produce good interactive literary works, but the potential readers still cling to the traditional retro-gaming principles. <jarel_^> I think that the paragraph that could look interesting in a book, can be counter-productive in an adventure, since you have to read several times the same texts. Because of that, I think that a more agile kind of narration would be much better, similar to tales but different from the one in novels. <grendelkhan> Well, I think nowadays texts are much more well-cared for than in the old days, where hardware limitations imposed an austere style. <Depresiv> Would you say that the type and form of the adventureís pause is different from the one in literature just because of that, Lenko? <Lenko> Thatís right, here you have to dedicate most of your effort looking after those pauses, more than just with the continuity of the story. There are adventures with enormous texts when you succeed and tiny messages when you fail. <jarel_^> The continuity is determined more through interaction than with texts, I think. <JSJ> See? Thatís exactly what I donít like in adventures nowadays. People care much more about the literary side than the recreational side, and you never obtain a thing or the other. <Depresiv> In what sense, JSJ? <JSJ> In the sense that itís neither a decent literary work (and I donít want to generalize) nor a fun game. <Lenko> On the other hand I like variety and I enjoyed Photopia a lot, along with some of the works entered in the XComp. (T.N.: XComp is a Spanish competition for experimental and/or "weird" works.) <jarel_^> Photopia would be the exception to the rule. <JSJ> I would like to feel again the things I felt back when I played the old text adventures, but I donít think thatís something that will ever happen for me again, for two main reasons: <jarel_^> Maybe you would feel the same things playing any recent adventure back then. I mean itís not just the adventures the ones who have changed -- itís us. And our patience above all. <Depresiv> Two main reasons, JSJ <JSJ> They have already been said. :D <JSJ> - I donít like the same things I did before... <JSJ> - And people doesnít make the same things than before. <Lenko> Yes, patience is a factor that has changed greatly. Back then, when we had to wait 5 minutes to load a program, we could also dedicate hours to solve an enigma. <jarel_^> Last day, rescuing an old arcade game... I realized how much it pissed me off to restart every time from the beginning... Just like the 8 bit games did. We are all used now to recording positions or obtaining passwords for levels. <Lenko> Letís admit that we were a bit masochist. <JSJ> Well, yes. <jarel_^> Yes. <Depresiv> :D Yes. Letís go to the next question? (Akbarr later added some comments by e-mail -- Taking advantage of the open nature of this question, I will make a quick change of subject: I believe that one of the most important things in adventures is how easy it is to write them. You can more or less program an adventure with no serious knowledge of programming or without wonderful graphics, or even without being a good writer! You can make a somewhat good game just with some imagination, some knowledge of the medium and some dedication to test the adventure correctly. However, thereís another thing that hurts adventure a lot these days. I think games have divided recently in two trends: the living-room games, those who are thought to spend lots of hours in them, and the bus games, those thought to be played in spare moments. Adventures arenít able to compete with the living-room games at this moment, as adventures are written by people with very little spare time, while the others are developed by companies who spend millions of dollars or yens to make them really spectacular, and to give them a studied playability in order to avoid blockages. They could maybe compete with the bus games, since they donít need as much dedication, and a small blockage is not very important in them. But if I call them this way itís because they are games who can be played very well with portable consoles, PDAs or mobile phones and the truth is that playing adventures with these machines is, at least for me, a pain in the neck. Itís complicated for me to think about playing comfortably an adventure with a classical interface but without a good keyboard. Anyway, I also get the impression that books already have found a good space for people in subways, on the beach or in a bed right before going to sleep, just to give some examples where playing adventures could also fit very well. As a resume, from my very personal point of view, these things make it really difficult to find a suitable place to play adventures, and thatís what makes the people play adventures less and less these days.) ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> One question specifically written for the momios around here :) What changes have you noticed in the community in these times and in yourselves? What meant the text adventures for you from the times of the cheese sandwiches and the Microhobby, passing through the paper fanzines, to the current Hispanic World nowadays? <Depresiv> Ummm... <Depresiv> I think this one is more or less answered. <Depresiv> We skip this one, right? <JSJ> I think so. <jarel_^> It can be inferred from the other questions. ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> This oneís for everyone: Iím going to ask for a little effort of imagination. :) Do you believe thereís a Hispanic feel that distinguishes adventures made in Spain and South America from the ones produced in English-spoken countries? If thatís so... Why? <JSJ> Of course! Here we are more imaginative, more creative and warmer, less tidy, less methodical... * jarel_^ agrees with JSJ although he has no objective details to corroborate him. <JSJ> It has to do with the weather, Jarel... It has been studied. :D But... since they are more methodical, they tend also to be more innovative. Someone said this some time ago: we are somewhat trailed behind by them. <jarel_^> Trailed behind??? Explain yourself. <JSJ> They were the first ones to give the literary approach to common text adventures. In fact, they have a whole trend around that, and even changed the terminology, from "text adventure" to "interactive-fiction". <Lenko> Yeah, but the approach is not needed if itís not made right. El Archipielago ("The Archipelago") is a good example of mixing both aspects. <jarel_^> So, do you think the future goes in that direction? To end up writing "interactive novels"? <JSJ> Nooooooooo. Thatís exactly the way I donít like it to be (personal and minority opinion, as Grendel would have said ;)) <grendelkhan> I like both trends, the classical one and the literary one. <jarel_^> But then... When you say we are trailed behind by them... Does it mean that the Hispanic scene will end up following the foreigner scene? <JSJ> When I say we are trailed behind by them I mean, exactly, that we are going towards them. Bear in mind that, nevertheless, I donít follow the current production closely... Iím talking out of "impressions" when I read the forums and the things you guys mention about them. :D <Lenko> I think we donít have too much influence from them, as most of us arenít regulars of RAIF nor play their adventures. <jarel_^>I donít see it that way. (AkbarróI think this is just a matter of numbers, there are more people writing adventures in the English-spoken community than in the Hispanic one, and that makes it much more easier for innovative or revolutionary works to appear there, those who make the medium evolve. What makes me sad is that those influences arrive late here, because most of us donít play English adventures. But they do arrive after all! The thing is that Photopia has already quite a lot of years! I also believe that here, in general, we donít mind the adventure going "straight to the point", and giving less importance to descriptions and details, just to be centered on "the game". I donít think that adventures like Van Halen would have had much success there... and those are the kind of games that JSJ likes. ;-) Yet they do have their advantages anyway, as they are written in much less time and still offer a lot of fun.) (T.N.: Dr. Van Halen is the main character of a series of 5 quite popular recent Spanish IF works, written for the ZX Spectrum between 2004 and 2006: Los Extraordinarios Casos del Doctor Van Halen, "The Extraordinary Cases of Doctor Van Halen") ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> How do you think is the current situation of adventure in Spain? What things would you improve? <Lenko> Iím not as pessimistic as the recent forum messages seem to show. I think we are a bit manic-depressive. For example, the problem of SPAC going wrong may be true, but previously the magazine has had some wonderful issues. <JSJ> Iím only saying this: if Mel has returned with that energy we can have adventure scene for another 20 years! :D <grendelkhan> I think the scene barely stays and consolidates, and people take their turns. <Lenko> But at the same time we should see that new parsers for HTML (new technologies) are being produced, blogs are being written, there is WikiCAAD... And I donít think that all the adventures are being kept back for the FICOMP this year. (T.N.: FICOMP is an IF competition around science fiction that takes place this year in the Spanish community.) <grendelkhan> Yes, but we do those things for ourselves. What we do doesnít tempt new people. <jarel_^> I donít know what to say. :P Maybe thereís nothing more to talk about. There has been so much theorizing, that thereís very little to add. <Lenko> We should be able to sell ourselves much better, thatís obvious. <JSJ> I think the community is really really really active these days, and that makes me feel happy, because it means that the "new generation" is taking over. <Lenko> I think we should look together for new distribution channels. Just an example: to make contact as the CAAD community with Sotonic to present there any new adventure released. To create something like a press agency. <jarel_^> Hahaha. Thatís what I was going to say. But we donít need to be that official. We only have to make the most of the downloading portals to place there the adventures. <JSJ> There we go with the "I think we should" syndrome... The thing to say is "tomorrow the latest I will..." :P (Akbarr-- There, there) <grendelkhan> Softonic didnít accept the last adventures I tried to slip. Only ABCDatos. <jarel_^> No??? What excuse did they give to you? <grendelkhan> None. (Akbarr -- I think JSJ has got a point there (involuntarily, Iím sure. :D). We wonít grow as a community with theory, but with practice. I miss new things to appear, something that really revolutionizes text adventures, because I think thereís still a lot to do. The problem is that writing something that really "breaks the mold" takes time and talent, and thatís really complicated to find when we are so little people in this community. But Mel is one of those who really have the ability to make this thing grow, so I am really happy too to see him eager to do things.) ---------------------------------------------------- <Depresiv> What do you think could be the future of adventure in Spain? <jarel_^> The desirable or the undesirable? <Depresiv> Ummm... does "think" gives you any clue? :P (Akbarr -- No idea, I left my crystal ball in the repair shop LOL) <grendelkhan> Iíd love a future in which adventures were played and downloaded in mobile phones and PDAs, with SMS, being played by lots of people. <grendelkhan> But, as far as the things go, I think weíll stay another 20 years this way. <jarel_^> Just because Iím pessimistic... I guess weíll end up imitating English IF. Reeeealy easy games, full of hints, and with a walkthrough enclosed in them. And with lots of novel-like text. <JSJ> As for me, according to the evolution of things and what itís currently happening nowadays, I believe weíll have another productive crisis and, after some years, weíll have some new authors, or even reenlisted authors wanting to make new productions. Oh! And weíll continue making annual meetings! The only thing that has stayed unchanged for the last 8 years! :D (Akbarr -- Yes, I guess itís normal to have all these ups and downs in interest, as the great JSJ said. If Adventure finds its place between game players (Iíll point to my previous sermon), and Iím optimistic about that, I donít see any reason why would it disappear in middle term) <Lenko> I think the future is in those digital readers where adventures can be really substantial. <jarel_^> Authors will force the people to read their novel above all, and so theyíll serve them on a silver platter. And Urbatain will be one of the architects and forerunners of the "silver platter" effect. (Akbarr -- And Jarel, just to piss everyone off, will write more of those impossible-to-finish games. ^_^) <Lenko> I think the greatest danger was the apparition of graphic adventures, which seemed to leave text adventures obsolete. <grendelkhan> Are you sure??? LOL <Lenko> Now that this sensation has no longer the need to exist, we only have the same dangers than any other writersí community. Which is, people not reading. <JSJ> What I see is that the medium, which was previously used by game designers to write games, is currently used by men of letters to write literature. And game designers have followed the evolution that the market has followed... In the end, programming a game is a different thing than writing a novel. <jarel_^> What I do think is, if people prefer interactive fiction, let them make it, but it would be a pity for them to make it just because itís the cool thing to do. <Lenko> Iím going to tell you an idea Iíve been thinking about lately. I would like to give a conference on interactive literature for kids 14-15 years old. The name of interactive literature is just because it needs to be sold. :-) I would start with Hypertext, in HTML, and then I would continue with one of our IF authoring languages and teach them how to program their own games. That would definitely be a great reserve. <Depresiv> Sounds great. :) (Akbarr -- If you do that, I bet thereíll be more people in those conferences than in the rest of the community. LOL) <jarel_^> Lenko, and what language are you thinking of? <Lenko> InformATE <Depresiv> Buff... Tricky business. But if you manage to do it, then come back and tell us the secret. :) <Lenko> It could be sold by saying that the kids would be able to make small webpages and a bit of basic programming while they have fun at the same time. Iím sure they would do that (learn and have fun). <grendelkhan> Sell it as a cross between programming, literature and games. <Lenko> Thatís right. Well, itís a "super-vaporware" Iíve been thinking about for some time. <Depresiv> Do it, man. ;) I really like the idea. <Depresiv> Guys, Iíd rather finish the interview here. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Sebastian ArgaŮaraz ("Sarganar") -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= (Sarganar is from Cordoba, Argentina. Interactive Fiction is one of his many hobbies -- he also writes tales and poetry, among other things -- but nonetheless he has managed something thought to be impossible: He has managed to develop interactive fiction in spanish with Inform 7, labeled at first as "untranslatable" by its authors.) D: How did you get to know interactive fiction, and what attracted your attention on it? How did you find CAAD? S: Hello! Thanks to the university's Internet service I was in contact with an article about interactive fiction in spanish. I'm talking about year 1998 more or less. I remember I said to myself (while I was reading it): "This is amazing! And this medium exists!" Before that, I never had a computer, no 8 bits, no 16 bits, no nothing, although I went from my house to a cousin's house to receive some classes of Basic, and also I used to meet some friends to play some graphic adventures with them. With my first job, I bought a computer and started to play, not with games, but with some programming languages. I also got to know CAAD while in the library of the university, and started to download and play some adventures. Not having Internet at home (or having limited access after that, with the phone connection) didn't make me a very constant person in the CAAD forum. Only these two last years I've managed to be more active. D: How did you decide to start a translation of something like Inform 7? What difficulties did you find in the way? S: Let's see, it was because of a sum of several factors. I was collaborating in another really interesting project: Rebot (a bot created by Presi, which allowed to play adventures through IRC), a project that gave me some useful tools in the generation process of INFSP. Since Rebot was written in Perl, I learnt some useful things about text processing. I think it's necessary to clarify that INFSP is the result of the work of several people, mainly Urbatain. Inform7 had already been announced, and the Rakontointeraktiva group had opened a debate around the possibility of using I7 in other languages. The spanish problem was the absence of updated base libraries to use with I7. At that time, an article written by Urbatain appears in SPAC about Inform7, plus some impressions of Urbatain about what he thought a great advance in IF authoring. Then I said "Ok! Let's make Inform7 talk spanish. We'll use some important things of InformATE (the most popular spanish Inform translation) and try to produce first an updated version of Inform6 that speaks spanish and then go one step further an reach I7." I spoke with Urbatain about this and he liked the project. First I processed the whole InformATE! library with a 'translator' to Inform written in Perl, then I analized the parser, isolated the modifications and sent them to a different file, away from the "hackings". While Urbatain tested the behavior of this version of I6 in Spanish, I concentrated on programming an extension for I7 that accommodated the hispanic grammar and other necessary details. We also got several very useful ideas for hacking from the rakontointeraktiva newsgroup. Our workload was lighter because of the fact of having solved from the beginning the treatment of game entries in spanish, since we were using what had already been used for InformATE!. We had to cope a bit with some I7 issues, just like the way to include the spanish language archives, but those are details that we think will son be 'officially' solved when I7 is completely mature. There are also some other characteristics of this new way of programming wich are developed for the english language and still don't have their spanish equivalence. Urbatain's error reports did the rest. Then many other people from the community started to get interested in the project (like Mel Hython or yourself). Today we have good perspectives for the production of spanish adventures in I7. D: What kind of things do you think could be "missing" from Interactive fiction in Spanish? On the other hand, what specific components do you find more interesting in it? S: Well, I think this question is "too big" for me. I like very much the community existing behind interactive fiction in spanish, I mean, all the things brought together around the material of 'interactive fiction' (and around the caad.es forum), and the people from different regions you can find there. It comes to my mind that not everyone of us approach this community for the same reason or the same necessity (neither with the same definition of 'interactive fiction' under our arms). But here you can find almost anything for every taste. And that's very good. Something missing? To increase the amount of people approaching the community (this is only a wish). About the tone of the works being produced, they gather together the sensitivity of their authors. If the game doesn't fill me, that's why I'm not the public it was aimed at. D: How is it that you've started precisely in CAAD with the "hard" side of programming, instead of just writing stories? :) S: I think that's because of my character. Look, before having access to computers, I had fun designing card games for my sisters to play. And since I had a computer, it always happen the same with every game I install: I go straight to the editor of missions, characters or maps, or to the mod programming. I have more fun doing those things than playing the game. It's weird, isn't it? D: Do you use to read Interactive Fiction? If so, what works did you find remarkable? S: I use to 'start' reading interactive fiction, heh! Then I give up and try other things. In that sense I'm a bit absent-minded. I found interesting Romanfredo, by Aryekaix, La Musa ("The Muse"), by Grendel and your El Archipielago ("The Archipelago"). (By the way, how many endings does it have?) I also liked "PAEE" (by Presi). D: Finally... What could be the way to follow for interactive fiction in the future? S: I see a struggle nowadays between different spheres: the adventure players, the authors and the theoreticians. It would be good for the amount of players to be comparatively infinite, compared with the other two. I think that a movement from within the community would be necessary in orther to archieve this (what I'm saying is not new, and it's also generally true for any other community) and I believe there are already some people currently working on it. But also from outside, from people in general, with their life routines, their cultural interests... =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Juan SebastiŠn Armas ("Incanus") -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= (I'm here now with Incanus, probably the most meridional-westener member of the interactive fiction Spanish community. Incanus was born and lives in Chile and is currently one of his community's most relevant members. Aside from authoring three interactive fiction works, he currently coordinates and maintains InformATE! home page and is among the most active contributors of WikiCAAD, the Spanish interactive fiction wiki.) D: Incanus, could you give us some additional information about yourself? I: I'm a 37 years old male, I'm roughly 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall and my weight... well, that's none of your business :P. I work as a Project Manager on the Systems' Architecture area of a well known Chilean bank. I'm married (10 years and still going) and I have two very lovely kids, aged 3 and 1. Oh, incidentally, I dabble on interactive fiction in Spanish. D: How did you get acquainted with interactive fiction, and how it came to be one of your main hobbies? I: It all began, back to the very beginning, on an old school's friends project; it was conceived among friends, never really developed, then abandoned for university pursuits, and finally brought back on my own first professional years (computing and such, not quite original, I know). And so it was that, still way back (July 1998), I coded my first adventure game. Well... such as it was. I didn't had many resources, back then: no Internet access, hardly a PC to work on... so (knowing zilch about parser languages) I dusted off an old 80's game programming theory book (..!..) and made up a little program on QBasic 1.1 (God, was it all precarious) with the bones of an interactive fiction: parser, places, objects, vocabulary and a few NPCs (actually, objects + vocabulary). The resulting mongrel of a game was played and criticized by a few close friends and relations... but I never pursued it any further. Now, 6 years later, on or around 2004, my interest on IF was revived, I met the CAAD... and, as they say, the rest is history. D: Comment on your (many and varied) contributions to CAAD, and do please confess how do you manage to do all that and keep up with your family man role... :P I: Well, regarding CAAD, the thing is: I like to write a lot, and people in CAAD still don't get tired of reading my stuff... Seriously, I'm more proficient in authoring interactive fiction, especially on InformATE!, so most of my contributions tend to fall on these categories (not so much on authoring systems and related technologies: I'm just a user, on that account). Being rather bent on badgering, sorry, contributing wherever and whenever I possibly can, I tend to keep a high level of participation in CAAD forums, InformATE! home page (that job was a very welcomed appointment) and WikiCAAD (that job was personally assumed and healthily on discussion now, thank God). Regarding my family: it's no secret at all. Since I have absolutely no free time whatsoever at home, what with house-keeping, child raising, wife loving, eating, sleeping -you know, being around and trying to be of use- almost all of my interactive fiction work is done on the only available time I have remaining: at work :P. That is: instead of coffee breaks, lunch or co-worker gossip (I'm sure am I being labeled as an obscure cubicle recluse by now..). D: Tell us a little about your community experiences. What makes you feel a part of it? What would you improve? I: My experiences by an large have been only good and rewarding. Iím a very opinionated person (bordering on dogmatic, Iím unhappy to report) but I do tend to respect other peopleís opinion and I have been treated thusly. I do have a strong feeling of belonging, mostly due to the continued input of the rest of the community on my own participation (yup, thereís more than just echo :P). On improvement, Iíd only like to have more diffusion among Spanish speaking people (no offense, dear English reader). I do believe our Spanish community is rather lacking on the evangelization side. D:Give us a brief comment on the adventures you have played. Do you usually play Spanish adventures? I: Iíll shamefully admit that, with time constraints already noted, I play very little adventures at all; I do favor Spanish adventures, English ones I almost never play, so Iím not much of a connoisseur to single out specific games (I do play them, though). In lieu of apology, Iím afraid this is not entirely uncommon among Spanish authors (itís no excuse). D: And now, most important of all. Your adventures :D Tell us a little bit about them. What they have meant to you and their reception. Meeting expectations or sorely disappointed? I: All in all, I'd say meeting expectations and very little disappointment. Chronologically: (late) 2004: La Mansiůn (The Manor). It was my first interactive fiction work on InformATE!, being a remake of a MS/DOS QBasic 1.1 work I did back in 90's before I heard a word of any interactive fiction community whatsoever. "La Mansiůn" was a learning tour-de-force on the many aspects on interactive fiction authoring, not the least among them using InformATE! For an opera prima it was reasonably well received as an amusing game (your classic "mad scientist mystery house") without further pretensions. No disappointments there. (mid) 2005:"El Protector (The Guardian) . My second interactive fiction work was more fiction than interactive oriented (it had many puzzles, mind you) and as such it had a very good reception: it's literature and short story were highly praised, though it lacked on the interactive side, specially because of exact wording issues that are now solved (mea maxima culpa, despite heavy betatesting). It's (from an author perspective) my favorite interactive fiction work so far, for creative and, well, personal reasons; mostly, its inspiration (play the game and you'll know... it's in Spanish, "ya lo sť", but, c'mon, it even has all the hints needed short of a walkthrough, "un montůn de pistas", for God's sakes :P). My only real disappointment came from the fact that, even though it was profusely nominated for the Premios Hispanos that year, it didn't win any medals. This was one of those "Salieri Situations", though: the competition that year was very good, so, what can you do? (mid) 2006: Goteras (Leaking). My third and so far most successful interactive fiction work, readers/players wise. It's theme (not so the story itself) was inspired on a hard sci-fi novel: Allen M. Steele's Orbital Decay; space blue-collar workers and all that non-romantic view on life in industrialized space (big corporations, hard labor, appalling work conditions). It had lots of humor; some said (well, _someone_ said :P) it had too much or too bad humor, but then again, what can you do? :P It was praised by the whole community at large as my best interactive fiction work to date, it got many nominations at the Premios Hispanos and did won on three categories very dear to me: story ("argumento"), literature ("calidad literaria") and best puzzle ("mejor puzzle"). It was a very short story (everyone wanted more: that's a good sign, no?) and with little but very amusing puzzles (everyone wanted more puzzles: a good sign, also). No disappointments whatsoever, not from the readers, and certainly not from me ;-) D: Any future projects? Teasers? I: Right now (late June, 2007) I am currently betatesting mi fourth interactive fiction work, a much longer sequel to "Goteras". It will deal with events that take place after the events on "Goteras" (itís a sequel... doh! :P), on an asteroid mining base, and... well, you'll see (if you can play the game in Spanish, et caetera.) I sincerely hope it'll please those who wanted "more!", because there certainly is more of everything in this my fourth adventure: longer story, lots of puzzles, many NPCs, and huge amounts of (be warned) my brand of hard sci-fi humor. Incidentally, it'll be my first adventure with NPCs; how I've managed so far to be recognized as a proper interactive fiction author, with works with no NPCs on them, it's a mystery and a wonder (and not only to me, I'm sure :P). Some would argue that "La Mansiůn" does have NPCs but they were more like talking furniture, really: I'm not proud of that ;-). I also have a (mostly sleeping) project for an (also long) interactive fiction work based on a Chilean historical colonial character: La Quintrala. The argument is defined (a string of La Quintrala's troubled life episodes), I've done my research (a mandatory item: I'd like to be accurate, even though it's fiction), but, besides the available time issues, I still donít feel up to the task, specially so on the proper use of language: believe it or not, my XVII century colonial Spanish is rather lacking :P. Thing is, I'm not planning to use colonial Spanish verbs or commands (I mean, c'mon) but I'd want to get the literature and NPC's right, hence my hesitation ("when in doubt, hesitate") and, let's face it, fear induced procrastination. D: Incanus, I'm going to put your imagination to the task here. Can we talk about an "Spanish" soul or flavor to the Spanish interactive fiction works, compared and setting them apart from the rest of the interactive fiction communities? Answering that, to cope, more imagination; can we speak of a Latin-American soul or flavor? I: We certainly can talk of a soul or flavor on the Spanish interactive fiction works and it would be, with no stretch of imagination, on the narrative elements. Every successful interactive fiction work in Spanish has interesting puzzles, nice interaction... but a good narrative is always a high impact factor. And I do mean critical. Take one of the most lauded (if not the best) works of our late interactive fiction production, "Archipiťlago" (no title translation needed). Game wise, it's fantastic, but the story and the literature are simply superb. As I far as I can tell, almost every game that scored high or won the majority of the categories in the Premios Hispanos has also won either or both story (argumento) and literature (calidad literaria) categories (this is not a Business Intelligence analysis, but, what can you do? :P). Let me put this way: we do like and award good games (strong on puzzle or interaction works) but we also place no small importance on the story side (strong on fiction works), so yes, I'd say that's an important difference in the Spanish community. We don't like just to play interactive fiction, we like to also read interactive fiction. I'm not sure that's always the case elsewhere. And for the Latin-American soul or flavor... I couldn't tell you. My own works were written with a "castizo" (ISO Spaniard) public audience in mind. I've never to date read or wrote a "Latino" interactive fiction work. Beats me: "no tengo la mŠs p*** idea", I've not the slightest inkling (I'm not translating properly, or am I? "olť" :P) about something like a Latin-American interactive fiction "thing"; never seen it to date. D: To wrap it up, is there anything you feel that was unsaid or left out here? Speak, man, here's your chance :) I: I'd like to comment on the sorry state of Santiago ill fated public transit system, Transantiago: it's the current governmentís shame and a mass humiliation for everybodyís who's forced to use it. Hell hath known no punishment as this and... Oh! You meant about interactive fiction, right? :P I'd like to, heck, I will take this opportunity to give my regards, gratitude and fond appreciation to the Spanish interactive fiction community, that so friendly received and endured (they say "mostly enjoyed", but I know better) my participation this past three years. Interactive fiction is now a very enjoyable part of my life and is all because of you: "chicos, sois lo mejor", guys, you are the best and thanks for all the fish (I just couldn't help it :P). I'll try to keep up the work. Iíll stay around for keeps. You won't get rid of me that easily! ;-) D: Thanks for answering these questions, Incanus, my best wishes of success in any and all your future projects. THE SPAG INTERVIEW (DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH STUDIES)------------------------- Greg Boettcher conducted the following interview with Kent Tessman, creator of the Hugo IF programming language and the 2004 commercial IF game Future Boy!, along with several earlier freeware games. Greg and Kent discuss Future Boy!'s development and marketing in considerable depth. Stay tuned to SPAG for future articles and interviews on this once and future idea of actually, gasp, SELLING text adventures. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Kent Tessman -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Back in 2004, Kent Tessman completed his ambitious superhero IF game, Future Boy. The game distinguished itself with its humorous story, its artwork, its music, and its inclusion of possibly more animation than any other IF game. When awards time came, Future Boy was nominated for as many as nine XYZZY Awards. But more than anything else, Future Boy distinguished itself as a successful commercial IF release. It garnered lots of press attention, including several rave reviews. Kent Tessman has shown that, if an author is resourceful and hard-working, his IF game can get significant attention outside the IF community, and, yes, can even sell. In rec.arts.int-fiction over the past several years, there has been a lot of discussion about the commercial potential of IF. Considering this, I thought it would be worthwhile to interview Kent Tessman, who is now something of an authority on the subject. And, of course, I also thought this interview would be a great chance to hear about Kent Tessman's game development experiences, his film projects, and other things of interest. GB: You originally wrote Future Boy as a screenplay. Please tell us about your original ideas, the writing process, or whatever else might be interesting about Future Boy as a film concept. KT: The original idea for the screenplay was to do a superhero story not starring a superhero. It was a comedy about a regular someone whose not-so-great roommate just happened to be a superhero. I think the script was pretty good -- funny, at least -- but in retrospect not perfect. At the time my agent sent it out, there were a number of other offbeat superhero comedies, which often happens when a lot of writers swim in the same pop-culture ocean. GB: What made you decide to develop Future Boy as an IF game, rather than a film? KT: Mainly the fact that it wasn't going to get made into a film, but I thought it was still a pretty good and funny idea, and one well-suited to IF. By having an ordinary hero in extraordinary, superhero-ish circumstances, the premise lends itself well to the puzzle-solving nature of IF. GB: How long did it take you to write the game Future Boy? KT: 3 years, start to finish. GB: What was the hardest part about working on Future Boy? KT: Really just the enormity of the work. The source code is just under 1.5 megabytes, so that's just a lot of typing right there. The dialogue script ended up being greatly expanded from the original screenplay, naturally, because of the different courses of action the player can take and the great number of things that the player can talk to the other characters about. And just in terms of the normal metrics used to measure game size, it's simply a big one. I would say the game was probably done (in that it was playable) for about a year as it was being tested and all the multimedia and finishing touches were being done. In programming terms there was a lot of development of the in-game subsystems for handling dialogue, animation, music -- even weather. At the same time there was some back-and-forth development with Hugo itself, since the game tested the limits of anything I'd ever planned for before. It was also important to me that it ran as flawlessly as possible on every platform, from Palm and Pocket PC to Linux, Mac, and Windows (and a couple others), regardless of input, display, or multimedia capabilities. So that meant a lot of development and testing. GB: I know you did a huge amount of work on Future Boy, but many other people contributed too. Derek Lo did excellent artwork, a whole bunch of actors did great voice work, and so on. Did you enjoy the process of working with others? How did the experience compare with film direction? KT: Working with others is an interesting and usually very rewarding change from the writing stage of a project, which is almost always spent toiling alone. With Derek we went back and forth from screenplay to discussion to concept sketches to final revised artwork. Some examples of this are in the Art of Future Boy! PDF book that comes with the game on CD-ROM. Directing voice work is a lot more relaxed than film directing on-set -- there's not nearly so much of a sense of a large train about to barrel through the wall of the set if you don't get things done faster. I was really happy with the ability of the actors to capture the essence of the characters. I think it adds a lot to the playing experience to have them come alive and speak their lines. GB: To judge from your web site, it would appear that you were quite successful at getting press attention for Future Boy. For the benefit of any IF authors who'd like to follow your example, could you give us a broad outline of how to successfully publicize an IF game? KT: It's not that different from publicizing any other creative work: any success will depend on having good materials to present, knowing who to best spend your time and efforts approaching, and just putting in the work (because it's far from being the fun part of the whole enterprise). [To see the Future Boy press release, plus a sampling of media contacts who responded favorably to it, visit http://www.generalcoffee.com/futureboy/press.html -- GB] GB: Aside from publicity, what other factors do you think contributed to your sales, and what advice about them would you give to any prospective commercial IF authors? KT: Personally, I think an inherent unwillingness to ever say something is "good enough" certainly helps. People paying good money for a computer game these days expect a high degree of polish, and it can only help to really put in the time and work to get everything as polished as possible. A lot of thought went into everything from the CD-ROM organization, to the various installers for multiple platforms, to the documentation. People want to put the game in and start playing; to pull that off is a little harder than you might think. If someone really, really wants to sell an IF game, they should be realistic and do their homework. And they should make a really good game. People doing something for the first time often make the mistake that just by their doing it, other people will be interested in it. That isn't the case, and that probably goes ten or a hundred times for text-based adventure games. If you end up saying something is good enough too often and too early, you're probably wrong. GB: If it's not too bold a question, how many copies of Future Boy have you sold? (Feel free to be vague, if you like.) KT: I'll be vague, but I will say this: I haven't retired yet to an estate in the south of France (really, who has time to pack?), but Future Boy! has been very popular -- both with what seems to be the regular "adventure game" market as well as a surprising (to me) number of handheld players. GB: What's new with Hugo? KT: A really impressive to-do list. There are some things I would like to look at, fix up, enhance and improve, etc. It's just a matter of finding the time right now. GB: Have you been working on any new games since Future Boy? KT: There are a couple of ideas that I've been kicking at and talking to other people about. I'll have to see time- and resource-wise what I'm able to do in the relatively near future. GB: I understand you're working on a film, entitled Bull. Feel free to tell us about this project, or about any other film and television work you're doing. A: Bull is the feature film that I've been working on for just over two years now. It's very close to being done. It's a darkly comic murder-mystery about a hapless stockbroker who gets caught up in a twisty web where no one -- no one at all -- is telling the truth. It's your basic story about money, murder, intrigue, deception, and very tall buildings. It has some really talented people involved with it. We were very fortunate that such impressive actors were interested in the project and willing to be involved, and members of the crew have worked on everything from 300 to Superman Returns to the latest Harry Potter. Check out more at http://www.bullthemovie.com! KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS-------------------------------------------------- Consider the following review header: TITLE: Cutthroats AUTHOR: Infocom EMAIL: ??? DATE: September 1984 PARSER: Infocom Standard SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 URL: Not available. VERSION: Release 23 When submitting reviews: Try to fill in as much of this info as you can. Authors may not review their own games. REVIEWS ------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Jessica Gorzo (galaxycoff SP@G yahoo.com) TITLE: Amnesia AUTHOR: Toby White EMAIL: T.Q.A.White SP@G ncl.ac.uk DATE: 1995 PARSER: Custom SUPPORTS: Windows AVAILABILITY: was shareware, now presumably abandoned URL: http://mirror.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/pc/amnesia.zip This is a classic surreal text adventure, though it never achieved great fame. Even after its release, it continued to be overshadowed by the text adventure of 1986 with the same name. The mysterious settings could intrigue even the most experienced IF fan as the gamer wonders what on earth is going on in the place this character woke up in. The character himself can't help you; he wakes up from an odd outer space dream into an unfamiliar house with no recollection as to how he got there. He can't remember anything about what one can only presume is his house, which has many oddities of its own. Custard in the tub, a crash helmet on the kitchen stove, and rather odd voices on the other end of the telephone would confuse even those who could remember something about their past! The dazed character tries desperately to make sense of everything he encounters, and slowly but surely a few clues unfold. However, on the end of every clue hangs another mystery. Every new site yields another piece of the puzzle, and has intriguing characters to interact with along the way. The rich imagery allows for clear and captivating mental pictures. You can truly immerse yourself in the beautiful-yet-strange world of the character. This game truly keeps you intrigued the whole way through! As for the commands, the author is not rich on synonyms, though the help file claims otherwise. The most frustrating aspect is trying to figure out the exact word the author was thinking of. Expected phrase structure is also inflexible. When it comes to user interaction, the author is clearly concerned with the "action" instead of the examination. Sometimes the responses don't match up with the known, game-described scenery. Perhaps he thinks this is just steering the user in the right direction, but his vehement "I don't know when you're talking about!" response when you know full well what you typed made perfect sense can be discouraging. This game could use a better range of user response. Be sure to be very specific in command wording when playing. Overall, though, this game is worth playing because of its intriguing plot. Sci-fiction meets mystery with a hint of comedy makes it more than worthwhile. Though the interaction can be a bit frustrating, its all the more rewarding when you finally get the problem right. This game is worth your while! =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Javier Carrascosa ("Grendel Khan"), translated from the Spanish SPAC review by Pablo Martinez Merino "(Depresiv") and DJ Hastings TITLE: La Cara Oculta de la Luna ("The Hidden Side of the Moon") AUTHOR: Aventurero KRAC DATE: 2004 PARSER: InformATE SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters AVAILABILITY: freeware URL: http://www.geocities.com/aventurero_krac/av_juegos_luna.htm April 14th, 1935, in any city in Spain. There is great political upheaval and social instability. The Spanish people don't know it, but there's only one year left before war will ravage their country. And you have your own problems: you're a university student who, with your ever declining income, can hardly finish your studies. The factory where you were recently working has just closed down, so you have lost your job. Eating a late breakfast for the first time in many years, you have a look at a magazine. Almost by accident, your eyes notice a small advertisement: "Prestigious psychologist professor of the University of Salamanca needs subject to study. Experiment consists of a series of questions. Every participant will be paid a thousand pesetas. Details: The Hidden Side of the Moon, Old Way, Km.6." A thousand pesetas! That's a lot of money! You don't think twice before going to the address mentioned in the advertisement. It's an old mansion built many years ago by some rich guy, and thought to be abandoned by everyone around. It now belongs to the psychologist, apparently, and you don't care too much where he does his experiments as long as he pays afterward... (...) Thus begins one of the most difficult adventures of the last few years in the Spanish community. In "La Cara Oculta de la Luna" we play the part of a poor Spanish guy who, spurred by his debts, decides to become the guinea pig of a psychologist. But what we imagined to be a boring session of questions and answers turns suddenly into a hard trial to the death. The protagonist is locked in an old mansion with only a madman for company. A madman who has promised to hunt him down and kill him in a few minutes- unless he finds a way to escape. There are "feelies" included with the game: some annotated images of paintings by "El Greco," and an article on the film "Leave Her to Heaven" by John M. Stahl. This information seems to have nothing to do with the game, because as soon as we play a little we find out that the most important goal is to discover an exit from the house. So the "El Greco" paintings will soon be forgotten... until we find them in the game. And that's when we also find one of the best puzzles I've solved since I started playing adventures, in the painting "El Caballero de la Mano en el Pecho" ("The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest"). The old mansion is a trap for us. We are unable to escape through any window, as all of them are barred. We can try to exit through the chimney, but with no success, and trying to exit through the attic results in death. Exploring the house can be easier with the help of a map. My advice is to draw one with a pencil and paper and take down all the rooms and their connections. Although the hunter will kill us even before we've managed to get to the second floor, there's a little trick to avoid that: don't follow the hunter in the first scene and take your time investigating the house before talking to him. The game would make no sense without the figure of the hunter, one of the best characters I have ever seen in an adventure. He possesses all the qualities of the classical psychopath: a well-mannered and educated gentleman who hides a relentless serial killer inside. All kinds of theories can be outlined about the hunter... Who is he? Why is he motivated to act this way? The fact is that he will inevitably manage to kill us when we are first starting to play. Getting rid of him is a very complicated task, although there are five different ways to do it. This gives us the opportunity of replaying the game to find all the possible methods of defeating the hunter. The difficulty of the adventure is high, although not as high as some other Spanish adventures like "La Torre" ("The Tower") or "La Isla de Tokland" ("The Island of Tokland"). But solving some of the puzzles will amply reward the time you spent on them. Take some time to examine the objects and to find the exits through the floors and ceilings of the mansion. Look for all the "El Greco" paintings. There's a lot to discover. Also, there's a prize: if you manage to finish the adventure, you can access a secret file the author has hidden on his website. That file has the name of a certain object you can see at the end of the adventure. Hurry up before he loses his hosting! Conclusion: La Cara Oculta de la Luna is an excellent adventure that grips you from the beginning with its well cared for setting and superb programming. The hunter is a believable character with whom we can always interact, something to be grateful for in Spanish adventures. The game can be discouraging at the beginning, but as soon as we start moving and uncovering the many details this adventure holds, we find that we can't stop playing. It is inexplicable that this adventure is one of the most forgotten in the Spanish community. My theory on the hunter (Warning: don't read this if you haven't finished the game): The aristocratic figure of the hunter makes me guess that, although the mansion is not his home, it could have been the house of a relative or friend who he had to kill once his secret was discovered. The hunter must have hunted elephants and lions in Africa, and in that continent he must have known other cultures. His passion for hunting probably increased while assimilating the beliefs of some savage African tribe which worshipped a bloodthirsty god to whom they offered their sacrifices. Our man adopted those beliefs and traveled back to Spain to hunt a different kind of animal in its habitat: humans! It wasn't hard for him to find his prey. Famine and misery battered most of Spain and he only needed the lure of an economic profit to attract his victims. The habitat where they would move would be the mansion, appropriately prepared by the hunter: bars on the windows, locked wardrobes, beds without mattresses, tables without drawers... the prey would have no other option but hiding. No other option? No, the hunter always gives a means of escape, and that's where another of his passions comes into play: painting. Our man is a painter; maybe not a very critically acclaimed one, but a good imitator, and an admirer of the work of "El Greco." His house contains many different copies of "El Greco's" paintings, made by himself. His prey need only find one of his most renowned works: "El Caballero de la Mano en el Pecho" ("The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest"). If they are curious, they will be able to discover the key that will lead them to freedom. The hunter is a follower of the Fascist movement, judging by the books in his library, and an initiate in the Dark Arts, judging by the other book we can take from it. That's where my theory comes from that he makes sacrifices of his victims in the same way as the tribes he found in Africa. Even so, the hunter made some mistakes: he didn't consider the possibility of his prey killing him in his own field, did he? The fact is, if we climb to the second floor and look at the lounge from above, we can see whenever he's coming after us. If at that point we are armed with a small table or a stool, we can throw it at his head and get rid of him. We can also finish the game without killing him, though, which is a very advisable option to avoid the remorse of becoming killers ourselves. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Justin Pot (justinpot SP@G gmail.com) TITLE: Fate AUTHOR: Victor Gijsber E-MAIL: victor SP@G lilith.gotdns.org DATE: April 2, 2007 PARSER: Inform 7 SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive URL: http://mirror.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/springthing/2007/Fate.z8 VERSION: Release 1 To some, changing fate is a contradiction in terms. Victor Gijsber's Spring Thing winner Fate disagrees, as can be surmised before the player so much as presses a key: "Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings." -- Cassius to Brutus in 'Julius Caesar', Act I, Scene 2 Fate is about one woman trying to change an unhappy future. The protagonist and player-character, Catherine, is a young queen hours away from giving birth. Oh, and she also has a crystal ball that's fortelling her son's untimely demise. The objective here is to prevent said demise -- and Catherine has an arsenal of spells to do so. Spells are cast by the gathering of components as directed by the grimoire (spell book) found early in the game. It is by using these spells in creative ways that Catherine is able to alter fate, and it is the gathering and using of components that makes up the bulk of the game's puzzles. These puzzles are very fair while remaining fun; for those who do get stuck, however, A well implemented context-sensitive hint system is in place. Despite the lack of a set time limit, a sense of urgency is created by the impending birth of Catherine's son. The player is periodically reminded that Catherine is very pregnant, often by painful descriptions. This sense of urgency blurs some of the moral and personal decisions Catherine must make in order to change her sons fate. Not wanting to spoil anything, I'll just say that some of these moral dilemmas are quite effective at disturbing a player who feels complicit to the wrongdoing. There are several possible endings to this game, each depending on how far Catherine is willing to go for her unborn son. When the player is satisfied with the fate the crystal ball presents she can wait in her den and birth the child. The game refrains from explicitly pointing out whether an ending is winning or losing, leaving that to the player to decide and discover which is best. The result makes for a solid game with a number of endings to discover. For all the game's strengths this piece has, one weakness that stands out is the use of a menu-driven conversation system for NPCs. While there are certainly examples of this system being used successfully (Adam Cadre's Photopia being the most obvious) such games are typically not puzzle driven. Because certain puzzles in Fate require eliciting a given response from a character, Fate occasionally becomes a guess-and-test game of "navigate the conversation menus," detracting from any realism the conversations may have had. This aside, the game is easy to love. The judges of Spring Thing 2007 apparently agree, and gave it First Place amongst the four entrants. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Valentine Kopteltsev (uux SP@G mail.ru) TITLE: Final Selection AUTHOR: Sam Gordon E-MAIL: sam_r_gordon SP@G hotmail.com DATE: May 14, 2006 PARSER: Inform 6 SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive URL: http://mirror.ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archive/games/zcode/selection.z5 VERSION: Release 3 Sure enough, there are a lot of ways to classify text adventures in general, and the puzzle-oriented of them, in particular. One of them is, to subdivide puzzlefests into games where the puzzles more or less naturally spring from the setting (one good example is Heist by Andy Phillips), and those where the puzzles are just forcibly thrown together, without anything in particular holding them in place (The Magic Toyshop from the first If-Comp, and Labyrinth from the last one). Somehow, I tend to like the games of the first sub-category a little bit more. However, Final Selection represents a lucky exception of this rule: while its meta-puzzle certainly is constructed artificially (you play here a candidate for the position of the Director of the Museum and Institute for Puzzles and Problem Solving, who is only going to get the job if he passes the test his predecessor has prepared for him), its structure is thought-out so carefully, and the overall implementation level is so deep that immersion (or, more precise, the lack of immersion) never was an issue for me during playing. To complete the game, one has to hunt for words. I always feel a little suspicious about that kind of puzzles, because the authors pretty often make them overcomplicated -- say, by inventing obscure cyphers, and the like. Final Selection, however, managed to dispel my apprehensions in this respect, as well. While its puzzles are challenging enough, barely any of them require tedious trial and error treatment, special knowledge, or confusing deductions. On the other hand, there are enough red herrings to make the player occasionally think that's exactly what the game expects of him;). Thus, Final Selection fooled me into outsmarting myself, so that I tried to interpret the hints I got in most perverse ways, and even solved one of the puzzles in a tedious semi-brute force manner. To tell you the truth, I think this was partly caused by my solving the puzzles "in a wrong order"; it happened that I found the solution to one of the key problems that gave away what exactly I had to do only towards the very end of the game; like, I had all the jigsaw pieces yet had no clue where to put them to form a picture. As I mentioned before, the depth of implementation in Final Selection is amazing. The author had to stuff a lot of objects into the only room of the game (it was entered in the One Room Comp, after all!), and it must be said he found a very elegant way to do this without overwhelming the player by overlong "You see here" messages. He expanded the concept of the room somewhat, dividing it in several areas. It doesn't break the competition rules, because the room description doesn't change when you move from one area to the other, and *all* objects in the room are reachable from any part of it. Still, it makes the object managing task much more convenient for the player. Another enhancement that makes the player's life easier is a notepad of sorts, where any information you gain while playing that could potentially be useful is jotted down automatically for later reference. The only (and pretty small) issue I encountered were some disambiguation problems. This is a result of having so many objects in one room; some of them inevitably have pretty similar names. For example, there was a box with several buttons labeled from 1 to 15 in the game, and a scale with several weights, their face values indicated. Somehow, any time I tried to "push 3", the game would make me push the "weight 3", and "getting 3" resulted in the attempt of taking the "button 3". Always typing in the whole object descriptions was a little bit tedious, although I just might have been unlucky. Anyway, I think this is more a problem on the part of the interpreter than of the game itself. But enough nitpicking -- this certainly isn't a game that makes one feel like looking for faults. It even nourished my self-confidence by being both pretty challenging and quite completable without hints. To put it short -- a must-play for any puzzle-lover. SNATS (Score Not Affecting The Scoreboard): PLOT: Not what this game was written for (1.0) ATMOSPHERE: Victorian study (1.4) WRITING: Solid as a piece of Victorian furniture (1.4) GAMEPLAY: Exciting word-hunting (1.6) BONUSES: Deep implementation level, the quality of the puzzles, the approach to object management (1.6) TOTAL: 7.0 CHARACTERS: There are some, but they don't deserve to be rated (-) PUZZLES: Well though-out and balanced (1.6) DIFFICULTY: Challenging, but passable (7 out of 10) =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Mike Harris (harriswillys SP@G grandecom.net) TITLE: Getfeldt's Treasure AUTHOR: Mike Salisbury E-MAIL: rationalratio SP@G yahoo.com DATE: December 17, 2006 PARSER: Custom SUPPORTS: MS-DOS AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive URL: http://mirror.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/pc/gfeldt.zip Under ordinary circumstances I would not write a review of a game that I had not completed. In the case of Getfeldt's Treasure I'll make an exception for reasons which will become clear. In a text file included with the download, Salisbury writes "Getfeldt's Treasure has been brought back to life from an adventure I wrote for the Tandy Color Computer." While a Quick Basic IF adventure of this complexity may have been hot, cutting edge stuff two decades ago, I sure wish that the author had tried to port it to a more modern and common IF platform. For one thing, he's restricted his audience to those using PCs with Microsoft operating systems. Mac and Linux users may ultimately consider themselves lucky. For those accustomed to standard IF commands, many won't work. Fortunately there is a complete list available by typing "help" at the command prompt, otherwise I would not have been able to progress beyond the first two "rooms." Furthermore, the parser understands only simple two-word phrases. "Give (object) to (NPC)" or "open (object) with (object)" simply aren't understood. At one point the PC needs to give an object to a NPC within three turns, else the game is put in an unwinnable state; the NPC leaves, never to return It's easy to waste those three turns with "guess the syntax" attempts, with no clear indication subsequently that you can not proceed further. It's anyone's guess how many other flaws of this sort I ran into, leaving the PC no other option but to wander aimlessly until I got tired and gave up. There is no "save" feature, so if one does happen to miss one of these opportunities, there's nothing for it but to restart the game and replay from the beginning. Few of the objects referenced are actually implemented; the rest seem to be simply "window dressing." Early on, a room full of interesting and potentially useful articles was described; only one of these could actually be taken into the PCs inventory. I might add that the object continued to be listed in the room's description even after taking it. Trying to interact with a half dozen objects in each room hoping to find one that isn't just for "atmosphere" gets tiresome and annoying, when the parser responds with a default "I don't see that here" immediately after listing the object in the room's description. The story itself is cliched and less than compelling, with several logical flaws. One must break and enter to obtain access to a house - couldn't the author have simply hidden a key somewhere? The vicious guard dog within becomes a loyal companion - sorry, dogs simply don't act in that manner. There were minor spelling, grammar and punctuation errors which normally is something of a peeve of mine, but in this case these small flaws were eclipsed by the larger ones. I did try - honestly - to finish this. But after about three hours, numerous restarts and a tremendous amount of wandering on the part of the PC character; I'd had enough. I felt that I'd given the game more than a fair chance but the story was not interesting enough for me to tolerate any more of the kludgy homegrown platform nor to avoid any more of the authors' hidden traps. Out of 10 I give it a 10 for difficulty and a 3 overall. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Baltasar el Arquero, translated from the Spanish SPAC review by Pablo Martinez Merino "(Depresiv") and DJ Hastings TITLE: Goteras AUTHOR: Juan SebastiŠn Armas ("Incanus") DATE: 2006 PARSER: InformATE SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: http://www.caad.es/incanus/goteras.html Synopsis: Now it's your turn to go to the damn "rock," as it's called in your profession. You left Deimos a couple of days ago in your ship (your OTV wagon, actually- inertial flight), and woke up from a pleasant cryogenical dream (virtual reality included) to find that the ship alarms have been triggered. According to the message panel, the integrity of the hull of the ITV-44 has been compromised. In other words, there's a hole somewhere. Since you have been awakened from the cryogenical dream early, which means they will have to pay you overtime, you can't expect it to be for something good. It's an emergency, which implies extra-vehicular activity. These things are never simple. The life of a space worker is one of the worst there is. (Well, there are the underwater workers- but they never reach retirement.) While slowly waking up, you contemplate how life in space in the twenty-first century is similar to life on earth in the nineteenth century, including the industrialization. Everything is full of filth in an environment (space) previously completely clean. That's what we, "the men and women of the outer frontier" as the company likes to call us, do: dirty up everything. Well, ok, we extract minerals too. But we dirty up a lot. Now it's time to wear that suit and fill those holes with a bit of glue. Comments: This time, Incanus has made a tale based upon the book "Orbital Decay," according to the introduction of the game. It's all about a special kind of science fiction, where life is much more like real life (with its ups and downs and its shades of grey) than it is like life in the films. It's an unusual work, in that it breaks the mold of what could be called "the common current" in a couple of ways. First, it's one of the very few sci-fi tales that have appeared recently in the Spanish community. Second, it's a much more realistic kind of tale than the average: the main character (the player) has quite a dirty mouth, and while we may not feel completely identified with someone living in space, taking care of a space ship that's traveling towards a mining planet, we can identify with his complaints against the company, and his miserable daily life contrasted with the wealth that surrounds him. This is the kind of science fiction that Incanus identifies as "hard." This perception will be reinforced as we advance through the adventure: although we may be dealing with hatches, screens and other technologically advanced tools, we will soon find out that we need to apply very "mundane" solutions to solve the problems (though with a quite sarcastic style). The adventure has been well cared for; we can find a lot of detail not only in the game, but in the webpage that comes with it, along with an introduction "novella." The feeling of immersion is great, and the setting is quite well achieved. The biggest fault could be the game's brevity. That is, the story is less deep than it could have been because of the brief moment of the character's story which is depicted. In the end, it only comprises a time of crisis in a journey. The only weaknesses to complain of are that the included webpage is a bit confusing (emphasizing too much for inexperienced users, and being a bit too complex to find the Z5 of the adventure), and without doubt the brevity of the tale, which leaves us wanting more (getting deeper in the story, getting more involved, and knowing more, as I said before). Conclusions: The work is enjoyable, entertaining, and the rhythm of the narrative is agile and dynamic. At least from my personal point of view, it's Incanus' best work, although he only has three interactive tales. (Which is not so bad, now that I think about it, given that the average is one work per writer.) Incanus unveils as a mature IF writer, who only has to take the leap of making a long IF work. Goteras is definitely a good adventure. It may not revolutionize the world of IF as such, but it doesn't need to. It will offer us a pleasant and enjoyable piece of fiction, which is what it's all about. So why are you waiting to play it? =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Valentine Kopteltsev (uux SP@G mail.ru) TITLE: It's Easter, Peeps AUTHOR: Sara Brookside E-MAIL: jsh11a SP@G aol.com DATE: May 14, 2006 PARSER: ADRIFT / Inform 6 (Inform port by David Welbourn) SUPPORTS: ADRIFT / Z-Machine interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive URL: http://www.avventuretestuali.com/download/easter.zip (I played the Inform version of Easter, since starting Adrift games on my computer requires some shamanic activities). This review is going to be about as short as the game it is about -- you can easily beat Easter in no longer than fifteen minutes. As expected, this work features one room. It also features a bunch of puzzles, most of which are trivial. To solve the only one that I found *not* trivial, you need to contact the only NPC in the game, who then gives away the pretty obscure move that leads to success. The enclosed feelies were nice, though. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Mike Harris (harriswillys SP@G grandecom.net) TITLE: Suprematism AUTHOR: Andrey Grankin DATE: February 3, 2007 PARSER: TADS 2 SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive URL: http://mirror.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/tads/suprematism.zip In the non-IF world, Suprematism is a Russian art movement originated in 1915 by Kasimir Malevich during a very turbulent time in Russia's history. It consists of bold geometric shapes such as squares, circles, rectangles and the like. Malevich's original Suprematist works were Black Square and Black Circle (1915), both featuring the eponymous shape on a stark white background; the viewer being meant to appreciate the strong contrast - a bold yet simple black vs white being allegorical for despair vs hope, confinement vs freedom, structure vs openness and so forth. Grankin has brought this artistic concept to IF. The zip file contains two "games," black.gam and white.gam, the player being meant to contrast the two. As far as play goes - well, nothing really happens, as of course they aren't really intended to be games. By intent, they don't respond to the usual typed control commands (e.g. quit) and must be closed through the interpreter. One can get a feel for each module with just a few minutes of entering commands. It can't be easy to translate visual art to IF, but Grankin has done a creditable job. That said, if one does not "get" Suprematism as an artistic style or has little appreciation for its cousins in the modern art world, one is unlikely to appreciate Grankin's IF creation. Out of 10 I give it a 1 for simplicity and 6 overall. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Paul Lee (bainespal SP@G yahoo.com) TITLE: When in Rome 1: Accounting for Taste AUTHOR: Emily Short E-MAIL: emshort SP@G mindspring.com DATE: April 30, 2006 PARSER: Inform 7 SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: http://inform-fiction.org/I7Downloads/Examples/wir1 VERSION: Release 2 The first episode in a stated five, this little game was designed to be playable in approximately fifteen minutes. Although it isn't the only very short example of interactive fiction out there, it has a more complete feel and takes itself more seriously than the few others of a comparable length that I have played in my very limited experience. The plot is amazingly detailed for such a short game, moving the player through the scenes rapidly. The game throws the player into the first of two puzzles as soon as play begins; following are two brief scenes where the player can pass the time in conversation before the end-game puzzle (and then a brief intro to the next episode). This makes the beginning and ending feel somewhat like bookends even though the plot is left dangling for part two to pick up. The puzzles are basically well-implemented; they give the player pause but have fairly obvious solutions and are satisfying to solve. Few, if any, objects are implemented that aren't either NPCs or used in a puzzle, and this is a good thing in the regard that this points the player's attention to the problem at hand, but not in the regard that it doesn't allow for multiple solutions. This is partially made up for by the fact that both puzzles differ from play to play according to randomized elements, and one of them requires different objects depending on those elements, adding perhaps some replayability. There are no serious or obvious bugs, but I did run into a few responses that were not implemented correctly (exceptions to rules and the like). Perhaps surprisingly, both puzzles can end lethally. The writing is clever but very condensed. Not many scenery objects can be examined, but the terse room descriptions don't even mention many. The prose reveals the setting more than the descriptions alone. Although the plot is serious in nature, the tone is light and humorous. The writing is probably the aspect of the game that more than anything else makes it seem so full and satisfying with so little, though the game would be empty without the puzzles. On the whole, I found the gameplay experience to be slightly similar to the experience of reading a prose comedy short story written expertly but whimsically; both are sparing on their writing, getting to the point quickly and concluding abruptly (I'm thinking specifically of "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain). All this goes to show that works of humorous interactive fiction can still score on the literature scale, even ones that are very short in length and have puzzles. From: Molly G. (rosygirl5657 SP@G yahoo.com) The When in Rome series, by Emily Short, was written, mostly, to show off the new programming language Inform 7. If this game (and the other games written to show off Inform 7, available on the Inform website) is any indication, then Inform 7 should go far. Writing/Technical A The game begins, innocently enough, in Central Park, and only gets better from there. The writing in the game is truly superb, with crisp dialogue and funny situations. The NPCs are also superb, with a lot of nuances to make them seem truly real. My only problem with the technical side as such is that I felt there were places where it seemed sloppilly coded(example from beginning: saying GIRL, SEARCH [SPOILER] worked, but not ASK GIRL TO SEARCH [SPOILER]), but these examples are few and don't detract from the game. Puzzles B+ The puzzles in this game can be quite a brain teaser, with a tricky puzzle at the end that is a kissing cousin to those "logic grid" puzzles you sometimes see in magazines. Unfortunately, due to the length of the game (but more on that later), there can be said to be only two (maybe three) puzzles in the entire game. That said, this is a case of quality over quantity, as the game still packs a mean punch of puzzly goodness. Storyline B Although writing and story may sound the same, there are cases when good writing gets attached to a simply gad-awful story, and vice versa (I feel The Apocalypse Clock, from the 2006 IF Comp, proves the former point quite nicely). This is not the case with this game. I won't spoil the plot for you, but let's just say if you like detective fiction, or science fiction, you definitely don't want to miss this game. Doubly so if you like both. Unfortunately, this brings up a problem I mentioned briefly above, namely: it's short. The author advertises as a lunchtime game, and boy does she mean it. Fortunately the sequel to this game has already been released, and hopefully the author will write more. Still, the "To Be Continued" at the end can be a downer for those who were just getting into the odd events depicted. Overall A- The game, if I may mix my scoring metaphors, loses some points for shortness, but makes up for it in sheer quality. The game can be completed in about 15 minutes and is worth every nanosecond of your time. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Paul Lee (bainespal SP@G yahoo.com) TITLE: When in Rome 2: Far from Home AUTHOR: Emily Short E-MAIL: emshort SP@G mindspring.com DATE: April 30, 2006 PARSER: Inform 7 SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: http://inform-fiction.org/I7Downloads/Examples/wir2 VERSION: Release 1 The second "When in Rome" episode, "Far from Home," differs from the previous installment in that it is basically one puzzle. There is no advancement of the story line to speak of, and there are few implemented details not pertaining to the puzzle in the interest of brevity. A brief prologue and a short epilogue are included before and after this puzzle, but the prologue is little more than a formality (though it does seem to have an Easter-egg off sorts). The epilogue sets the stage for the next game and hints at plot development. This one puzzle, then, is what the game should primarily be judged on. It occurs all in one room, which makes this episode significantly less terse and more condensed than the previous game. The puzzle is mostly an analysis sort, where you must decide which of several possibilities is correct based on observations of certain characteristics. Those characteristics and the correct outcome are randomized for each play, making the game playable several times through before it exhausts itself, if one feels inclined to do so. There are several layers of complexity one must work through, including all the steps required to observe, some basic gadget manipulating, and humorous (or annoying) obstacles thrown in. I found the puzzle to be rather difficult. Although I usually enjoy a good puzzle, the categorizing and logical elimination required to solve this one didn't really suite me. The first time I played through the entire puzzle, I lost at the end, getting the unsatisfactory outcome. The same thing happened the second time I tried, and in the end, the only way I was able to finish was by resorting to UNDO every time I got the bad ending and guessing again. This caused even more frustration because I thought that I had reduced the possibilities down to two that might have been right; but it turned out neither were, and the correct solution didn't make sense to me. Complaints and frustration aside, the short game was enjoyable even to me. The kind of player best suited for this work would be the serious puzzler who isn't afraid to write things down on paper to help crack the puzzle if necessary. Still, even people preferring plot development to puzzles won't have to rough it out too long; there are hints, and it doesn't take long to get to the final bad outcome. And if you get there you can always cheat like I did and guess until you get it right. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ___. .___ _ ___. ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| / _| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. \ \ .\ \ | | | o | | | | .\ \ |___/ |_| |_|_| \___| |___/ PECIFICS SPAG Specifics is a small section of SPAG dedicated to providing in- depth critical analysis of IF games, spoilers most emphatically included. WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW FOR THE FOLLOWING GAME: Floatpoint PROCEED NO FURTHER UNLESS YOU HAVE PLAYED THIS GAME! THIS IS NOT A TEST! GENUINE SPOILERS TO FOLLOW! LAST CHANCE TO AVOID SPOILAGE! From: Jim Aikin (midiguru23 SP@G sbcglobal.net) TITLE: Floatpoint AUTHOR: Emily Short E-MAIL: emshort SP@G mindspring.com DATE: October 1, 2006 PARSER: Inform 7 SUPPORTS: Glulx interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive URL: http://emshort.wordpress.com/my-work/ VERSION: Release 1 Floatpoint wasn't one of the games I played while judging the '06 Comp. Some months later, curious because Floatpoint had bested my favorites, I finally got around to downloading and playing it. It's a short, easy game with some bits of nice scenery and a couple of cute pieces of future technology. It's completely story-driven: the puzzles are so simple as hardly to deserve the term. I played it from end to end in about three hours without touching the walkthrough, and I *always* need to consult a walkthrough. What's not quite so easy -- and I'm sure this is by design -- is to figure out exactly what's going on. The back-story is parcelled out to the player in bits and pieces, most of them rather cryptic. In the intro, for instance, we learn that something happened 20 years ago, but we're not told what. Later we hear of a vote without learning who was voting, or what was being voted on. A vaccine is mentioned in passing -- what's up with that? So the player's main task is to gather up information from various sources, not all of them reliable. And it's possible to miss some of the information entirely (as I did on my first run-through) without knowing it, thus closing off some of the multiple endings. The most interesting source of information is a device that can replay short videos of events that happened before you arrived on the planet where the story takes place. The raw video footage has evidently been interpreted by an AI and then resynthesized in the form of a singing comic book that's projected in the air as a hologram. In one of the video scenes, a character you've met kills himself -- yet he's still alive after you view the video, so clearly the AI has granted itself enormous artistic license. That seems to be the essence of the literary design of Floatpoint -- that we have to construct a coherent view of past events using sources that are fragmentary, self-serving, or simply erroneous. This is hardly an original concept in literature, but it's both profound and interesting to explore, and the medium of interactive fiction is ideally suited to it. Having gathered the information, the player has to make a choice. The choice leads to one of half a dozen endings, each of which has its own winners and losers, its own mix of joy and pain. Short's generosity in offering the player so many significant choices is one of Floatpoint's biggest strengths. That's the good news. Before we get to the bad news, we need to digress briefly to ask a thorny question: To what extent should works of interactive fiction be held to the same standard as other works of fiction? To put it another way, how much slack are we cutting ourselves here? Given that writing IF places somewhat different demands and constraints on the author than conventional fiction, and given also that the IF community is tiny and not well supplied with Stephen Kings or Arthur C. Clarkes, is it reasonable to expect that an IF author will meet readers' expectations in the realm of conventional story values, or would that be asking too much? There are no black-or-white answers; each of us gets to answer this question for ourselves. And the answer may change from game to game. If you're enjoying a game for whatever reason, you may be more inclined to forgive the author for a few lapses. The answer may also vary depending on the genre of the game. In whimsical fantasy, pretty much anything goes. If a unicorn is introduced, no well-mannered person would insist on knowing what its dietary or breeding habits are, or whether its pure white coat provides effective camouflage against hungry predators. In contrast, science fiction is a genre in which plausibility makes a difference. Science fiction purports to describe a world that could actually exist, so readers are generally less willing to engage in a broadband suspension of disbelief. The genre allows the use of a few "magical" conventions such as time machines and faster-than-light travel, but discerning SF readers generally demand that even these magical technologies operate in ways that are internally consistent. Floatpoint is science fiction. Even within that genre, if it were a story whose main point was well-rounded characters, or fabulous settings, or fiendish puzzles, then lapses from technical plausibility would arguably be forgivable, or at least less burdensome. But the point of Floatpoint, as already noted, seems to be for the player to develop an understanding of what's going on. In that situation, my brain kicks into gear. Considered as "hard" SF, which is the genre to which it belongs, Floatpoint makes no sense whatever. It's a bewildering mishmash of science fiction ideas with not a speck of logical girderwork to tie them together. A caveat, before we proceed: Those who have participated with me in face-to-face SF writers' workshops will tell you I'm a fiend for plausibility. I probably care too much about it. And it's not only workshopped stories by hobbyists that suffer from glaring plausibility problems. Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky" was a train wreck in the plausibility department, and it won a Hugo. That said, in hard SF, the hard questions have to be asked. If the writer doesn't ask them of herself, somebody like me is bound to come along afterward and raise merry hell. Floatpoint rolls up half a dozen stock SF ideas in a big ball. We've got faster-than-light interstellar travel and communication, the colonization and terraforming of an alien world, advanced bioscience that produces new types of humans, infanticide of babies who are perceived as defective, a plague that has wiped out much of the infrastructure back on Earth, an impending ice age which threatens the colony world where the story takes place, plus personal anti-gravity and probably one or two details I've forgotten. You play the part of a diplomat from Earth. You've been dispatched to the planet of Aleheart, which was evidently settled by human colonists at some point in the past. You have a mission. The mission is ... well, that's going to take some explaining. Twenty years or so prior to the events of the game, a terrible plague swept the Earth. We're told it caused "[b]illions of deaths...; revolutions and crumbling infrastructure; the regress of technology." How technology can regress is rather a mystery, if you think about it. Presumably technological knowledge would still exist. The thing that could plausibly regress would be the resources needed to put the knowledge to effective use. And the extent of Earth's resources is very much an issue, as we'll see. In any event, Earth's technology didn't regress so far that interstellar travel became impractical. And the Earthians were soon able to produce a vaccine that stopped the plague. In the same paragraph, we're told this: "The vaccine exists, of course, and is produced in great quantity still, though it is very expensive to make." We also learn that some survivors of the plague need to take regular injections. Possibly they need a second medication that is never mentioned elsewhere in the game, or possibly "vaccine" is just a poor choice of terminology. Meanwhile, on Aleheart, there's an impending ice age due to loss of climate control. (Climate control ... let's see: giant orbiting mirrors might work. But how would giant orbiting mirrors get out of whack, and if you had built them in the first place, why wouldn't you be able to repair them? Dunno. Short doesn't get into how the climate control might have worked.) We see only one small town in the far north, whose buildings are being gradually crushed by a marauding glacier. Why the folks there don't just relocate to the tropics is not explained -- and if the ice age is so far advanced as to threaten the tropics, wouldn't the town in the north long since have become uninhabitable? One would think so. But that's the setup for the story. So the idea is, the diplomat (i.e., you) is supposed to work out a deal with the Aleheartians in which they will evacuate their freezing planet and relocate to Africa, which has been conveniently denuded of its population by the plague. On arrival in Africa, in exchange for having been rescued, they will use their advanced bio-engineering skills to produce mass quantities of cheap vaccine, thereby safeguarding Earth against a recurrence of the plague. Never mind that the plague is not rampaging at the moment, which robs the plot of any urgency. I'm more concerned about how the Earthians are planning to evacuate two hundred thirty-seven MILLION Aleheartians across interstellar space, build new settlements for them in Africa, and feed them during the months after the emigration, until their first crops are ready to harvest. I didn't pull that number out of a hat. The census count is given by Short herself, in the intro to the game. But now I'm going to pull a number out of a hat. Let's assume that interstellar passenger liners exist, and that the cost of an interstellar ticket is a mere $50,000 per passenger in today's dollars. That's probably low, but let's assume it's a little high. We'll balance the books by allocating no money at all for building new settlements in Africa, feeding the refugees, or any of that. So the total cost of the relocation of the Aleheartians will be on the order of ten trillion dollars, if not more. The first question that needs to be asked is, how could it possibly be so expensive to produce the vaccine in the conventional way (whatever that is) that it would be cheaper to spend ten trillion dollars bringing 237,000,000 Aleheartians to Earth instead? The second question is, why is the Aleheartians' bio-engineering skill not exportable? Wouldn't it be cheaper for the Earthians to hire away a couple of hundred Aleheartian scientists and set them up in a state-of-the-art facility in Schenectady? Sure it would. On my first run-through, having missed some essential information entirely, my third question was this: What sort of galactic civilization would have ready access to the number of interstellar liners required to do the evacuation? How many liners would that be? Maybe an interstellar liner can hold 5,000 passengers in cramped quarters for however long the voyage takes. (Short gives us only two bits of information on the interstellar transport system. First, the ships have engine rooms in which crew are on duty. Second, a one-way trip to Earth from Aleheart takes 26 days.) So we're going to need about 47,000 round trips in all by these giant spaceships. How big is the fleet? We don't know. Perhaps it's 1,000 ships. So each ship will need to make between 45 and 50 round trips. That's a lot of round trips per ship, but maybe their advanced engineering means less maintenance is required. Let's not worry about that. But we do need to ask, what sort of galactic civilization would have ready access to 1,000 passenger liners, each capable of holding 5,000 passengers, or be able to buil! d them on short notice? And why would a civilization with that level of economic resources bother to resort to such a gargantuan resettlement project when they could simply build a few vaccine factories? When I used the walk-through, I learned that Earth doesn't currently have a fleet of ships in which the Aleheartians can be evacuated, but is planning to build them once the ambassador concludes his negotiations. This bumps up the price tag for the evacuation rather substantially. In today's dollars, building a ship that could hold 5,000 passengers during a 26-day interstellar trip would cost, oh, maybe a hundred billion dollars per ship, give or take. So now we need not ten trillion dollars to bring the Aleheartians home, but a hundred trillion. Or we could build only a hundred ships, which would bring the price tag back down to ten trillion dollars, but now the time required for the evacuation bumps up from 7 years to 70 years, and the Aleheartians pretty clearly don't have that long. But wait -- there's more. In order to resolve the shortage-of-vaccine crisis, the High Command on Earth has sent exactly ONE diplomat. (That would be you.) The diplomat does not speak the local language. He has no entourage. He has no local staff other than a single uncooperative flunky. He lands not in the largest city on Aleheart, which is described as being as bright from space as New York -- no, he lands in a small, isolated town on the northern frontier. He does this for sentimental reasons (it's the original landing site of the colony, and he has acquired a poster of it somewhere), but strangely enough, the Aleheartian dignitary with whom he is to conclude negotiations is right there in town. This is the "one-horse planet" fallacy. The SF literature is full of planets that have only one city, simply because the author is waving the word "planet" around without giving a moment's thought to just how complicated a place, geographically and politically, an inhabited planet truly is. But back to Floatpoint. Why was this particular ambassador chosen for the mission? In a flashback scene, his supervisor says, "We don't send people off-planet if they have living family." Ooh, that sounds ominous. Evidently there's some pressing danger in being sent off-planet (a danger that Short never shows us). Assuming there *is* some danger, the supervisor's speech can only be decoded as follows: "This vaccine shortage is so lacking in urgency that I'd rather send an unmarried orphan and have him screw up the assignment than take a chance on having to apologize personally to a better man's wife and kids for getting him killed." This is not the way governments work at any time, and especially not in the midst of a crisis. In a crisis, the government sends you in with no flak jacket, and your wife will get a telegram and a bunch of lilies, if she's lucky. In sum, the story presents us with a crisis that isn't a crisis, which the player is to resolve in an impossible manner. At the end, the lead character has to make a choice as to how to handle the crisis. Depending on what you choose, millions of innocent people may suffer. In particular, some of the human descendants on Aleheart have been adapted to the impending cold climate by growing body fur. In one of the optional endings, Short gives us to understand that these folks obviously won't fare well in Africa, so they won't be evacuated. They seem to be depressed about this fact. How about shaving off their body hair? How about depilatories? Or -- hey, here's a thought -- how about using some of that advanced bio-science to get rid of the body hair? This is not an off-the-wall idea, because the hair is clearly artificial. It isn't the result of evolutionary adaptation, because the impending ice age is a recent development. It can't even be the result of genetic manipulation of eggs and sperm in order to give the next generation of human colonists an edge against the cold weather, because the intro of the story strongly hints that the impending ice age became a problem less than 20 years ago: "It would have been more convenient if they had had this crisis twenty years ago, but Earth can still use it." So the body hair had to have been grown on today's adult Aleheartians after they were born. What was done using bio-technology could be undone the same way. Plus, now that this subset of the Aleheartian population is well adapted to the cold, why is it a tragedy that they'll have to stay behind? If they're going to go hungry because of crop failures due to the cold weather, why not genetically alter some crops so that they'll grow in a frigid climate? We're left to ponder these questions for ourselves; Short provides no guidance. Another thing: body hair? Does anybody remember how our own ancestors adapted to life in cold climates? Right the first time -- they invented clothing. Why should the Aleheartians need body hair when they could manufacture parkas? Human body hair has complex social and sexual meanings; it's not the sort of thing an entire population adopts casually or on short notice. The game's other faults are minor when set beside these. The NPCs are monochromatic ciphers, and most of the room descriptions are so sparse that they read more like sketches than like finished work. When you arrive in your new office at the embassy, for instance, you're in a room that has neither a desk nor a chair. It does have two paintings, which are described in fairly odd terms, but those are just scenery. Here's what you find when you enter the town square: "At the center of the open space here is a monument shaped like a tusk or tooth." If you examine this tusk, you learn, "It has [the] look of force-grown bone, monolithic and taller than a man." Do you know what force-grown bone looks like? I don't. But that's the whole description -- no texture or color, no indication of the curvature or diameter of the tusk, no long sharp shadow, no grass growing around the base. One of the rooms is called a "museum," whose exhibit presents the culture (that's right -- culture, singular) of Earth. In the center of the museum -- a one-room museum -- is a display case. In spite of its eminent place in a nearly empty room, it has been given as little physical description as the tusk. The case contains only one object: a pink card. Here is the description of the card: "The pink card appears to say 'cure/serum fatal-sickness primitive borrowed -- research center room 58 -- card-that-grants-access.'" This is odd in several ways. First, what is something as humdrum as an access card to a local research center doing in a museum devoted to Earth culture? Second, the instructions the diplomat has received from the High Command (which is to say, the instructions the player has received from the author) include the following: "acquire vaccine from the Museum." How the High Command, which is back on Earth, knew the card would be in the museum is never explained -- but yet, the HC got it wrong, because the vaccine isn't in the museum. What's in the museum is only the access card that lets you into the research center (where you will have no trouble at all procuring a vial of vaccine). Maybe the folks in the research center have removed the vial of vaccine from the exhibit for some unknown reason ... but why would they leave an access card in its place, other than to help the bumbling IF player along? There's more to the story than this -- linguistic difficulties that force you to converse with the locals using symbolic social gestures, a departing Earth ambassador who has had some kind of spat with the local authorities, a meeting with a local dignitary at which an important symbolic gift is to be presented, messages from your boss and girlfriend back on Earth that arrive from time to time in the communications room, a handheld computer and local technologies that fill in the background information, and so on. The extent of the lead character's linguistic difficulties is rather difficult to pin down. Initially you can't converse with the locals. Your native flunky, Liam, seems to be mouthing memorized phrases at the beginning of the game, and if you try to ask him anything at all, here's the software's response: "Anything you might say in English -- or any other language you know, for that matter -- would be pretty much incomprehensible here. Unless you found a scholar of ancient languages, but as far as you can tell, they don't go in for that." The implication is clear: Liam doesn't speak English. Yet later the same afternoon, he suddenly starts replying to you with complex sentences (presumably in English, as you haven't had time to learn the local language) that are clearly not rote productions. You can meet the local dignitary at the end of the game without changing out of your bunny slippers, which are all that remains of the personal possessions you packed in your suitcase before you left Earth. How the suitcase teleported itself from the shuttle landing site to your bedroom at the embassy -- let's not ask. The bunny slippers are significant, by the way, but not if you're wearing them. I very much like seeing a game in which you can make morally significant choices (with or without bunny slippers) and then learn how your choices affect other people. We could use more games like that. I also like the postmodern idea that you have to assemble a coherent back-story for yourself piecemeal by finding recordings, memos, and whatnot. But this design works best if there *is* a coherent back-story that can be assembled. The author needs to play fair with the reader. Or at least with those 237,000,000 refugees. SUBMISSION POLICY --------------------------------------------------------- SPAG is a non-paying fanzine specializing in reviews of text adventure games, a.k.a. Interactive Fiction. This includes the classic Infocom games and similar games, but also some graphic adventures where the primary player-game communication is text based. Any and all text-based games are eligible for review, though if a game has been reviewed three times in SPAG, no further reviews of it will be accepted unless they are extraordinarily original and/or insightful. 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