ISSUE #49 - August 18, 2007

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

                         ISSUE #49

        Edited by Jimmy Maher (maher SP@G
                       August 18, 2007

           SPAG Website:

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 ----------------------------------------------------

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")
Andrťs Viedma PelŠez ("Akbarr")
Luis David Arranz Pťrez ("Jarel")
Kent Tessman

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

La Cara Oculta de la Luna
Final Selection
Getfeldt's Treasure
It's Easter, Peeps
When in Rome 1: Accounting for Taste
When in Rome 2: Far from Home



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 

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 

And one more commercial IF factoid before I leave you: 1893 is currently sitting 
at number 5 on the independent game portal Manifesto Games 
( list of top sellers.  Wow!

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

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 
Symbolic Engine by Evan Schull 
Varronis Museum by David Garcia 
Rendition by nespresso

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!

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 

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 

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 

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.
Misterio en el ŕltimo Hogar ("The Last Home's Mystery") by Kano&Kambre.
Resaca ("Hangover") by Voet Cranf.

Ocaso mortal ("Deadly Sunset") by Dhan.

Olvido Mortal ("Dead Reckoning") by Andrťs Viedma (Akbarr).
English Translation by Nick Montfort:
El ExtraŮo Caso de Randolph Dwight ("The Strange Case of Randolph Dwight") by 

El Archipiťlago ("The Archipelago") by Depresiv.

El libro que se aburrŪa ("The Book that Became Bored") by Jenesis.
La Sentencia ("The Sentence") by Josť Luis DŪaz (Zak). 

Spanish IF Links

Wikipedia - Spanish IF Community history and works.

CAAD - Club de Aventuras AD: spanish IF Community webpage.

SPAC - Sociedad para la Preservaciůn de las Aventuras Conversacionales. SPAC is 
similar to and inspired by SPAG.

InformATE - InformATE is a spanish Inform Library, to create and code Inform 
games in spanish.

WikiCAAD - The Spanish IFWiki.


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 and tell him so.

Javier Carrascosa ("Grendel Khan")
Javier San Josť ("JSJ")
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 

(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 

<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 

<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 


<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 

<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. 

<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. 

<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 

<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 

<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 

<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 

<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 

<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 

<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 

<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 

<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 
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 

<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 

<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 

<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 

<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 

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 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

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 

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 

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.


(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 

Oh! You meant about interactive fiction, right?


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. 


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 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 

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 

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 -- 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!

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

Consider the following review header:

TITLE: Cutthroats
AUTHOR: Infocom
EMAIL: ???
DATE: September 1984
PARSER: Infocom Standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters
URL: Not available.
VERSION: Release 23

When submitting reviews:  Try to fill in as much of this info as you can.
Authors may not review their own games.

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

From: Jessica Gorzo (galaxycoff SP@G

TITLE: Amnesia
AUTHOR: Toby White
DATE: 1995
PARSER: Custom
AVAILABILITY: was shareware, now presumably abandoned

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
SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters

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, 

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 

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

AUTHOR: Victor Gijsber
E-MAIL:  victor SP@G
DATE: April 2, 2007
PARSER: Inform 7
SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive
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

TITLE: Final Selection
AUTHOR: Sam Gordon
E-MAIL:  sam_r_gordon SP@G
DATE: May 14, 2006
PARSER: Inform 6
SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive
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

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

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

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

TITLE: Getfeldt's Treasure
AUTHOR: Mike Salisbury
E-MAIL:  rationalratio SP@G
DATE: December 17, 2006
PARSER: Custom
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive

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
SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters


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.


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 

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).


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

TITLE: It's Easter, Peeps
AUTHOR: Sara Brookside
E-MAIL:  jsh11a SP@G
DATE: May 14, 2006
PARSER: ADRIFT / Inform 6 (Inform port by David Welbourn)
SUPPORTS: ADRIFT / Z-Machine interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive

(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

TITLE: Suprematism
AUTHOR: Andrey Grankin
DATE: February 3, 2007
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware; IF-Archive

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

TITLE: When in Rome 1: Accounting for Taste
AUTHOR: Emily Short
E-MAIL: emshort SP@G
DATE: April 30, 2006
PARSER: Inform 7
SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters
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

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

TITLE: When in Rome 2: Far from Home
AUTHOR: Emily Short
E-MAIL: emshort SP@G
DATE: April 30, 2006
PARSER: Inform 7
SUPPORTS: Z-Machine interpreters
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






From: Jim Aikin (midiguru23 SP@G

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

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 

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 

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 

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 

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.

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