___.               .___                 _             ___.
       /  _|               |   \               / \           / ._|
       \  \                | o_/              |   |          | |_.
       .\  \               | |                | o |          | | |
  The  |___/ociety for the |_|reservation of  |_|_|dventure  \___|ames.
				ISSUE # 7
        Edited by G. Kevin Wilson (whizzard SP@G

		    < Special 1995 I-F Competition Issue >

All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine
with the traditional 'at' sign. 


Dear Readers,

	I hope you aren't too upset, but this month's issue doesn't contain
your standard SPAG stuff.  As the official (no one else wanted the job)
organizer of the 1st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition, I'd like to
take time out and just showcase the worthy efforts of the people who entered
this year.  I am doing this because I'm excited about the competition.  It
has brought I-F authors seemingly out of the woodwork to participate.  I am
proud to be a part of it.
	Now, as to this month's format, things will be recognizable, but
different.  First, I will announce the winners of the competition, listing
the title of their game, the game design system it uses, and what prize they
received.  The details of the judging, prize distribution, etc. are all in
SPAG #6, so I won't repost them here.  After the results will be the letters
(if any) that I received related to the competition, as well as interviews
with the authors of the games.  Then, there will be game reviews, but unlike
most issues of SPAG, the reviews will be restricted to the competition
entries.  After this is a section more for game authors than game players.
Indeed, those who haven't yet played the contest entries will want to avoid
this section, as it includes spoilers from several of the entries.  Your
humble editor will analyze several of the entries, in depth, and point out
just what makes them noteworthy games.  Finally, the usual closing comments
and such.  The Reader Scoreboard, and any other missing sections will
reappear next issue.  It's been a great competition.  Next year promises to
be even better.  Oh yeah, you might want to be warned about those interviews.
Some of them have a few spoilers as well.

				G. Kevin Wilson

CONTEST RESULTS--------------------------------------------------------------

"Before we begin, I'll just point out that the prize draft began with the
1st place Inform entry, skipped over to the 1st place TADS entry, went to the
2nd place Inform entry, and so on, and so on.  Now, the envelope, please."


1st Place: A Change in the Weather, by Andrew Plotkin.
	Andrew chose as his prize: The very first copy of Avalon,
	  autographed and donated by me.

2nd Place: The Mind Electric, by Jason Dyer.
	Jason chose as his prize: $50.00 cash, donated by Martin Braun

3rd Place: The Magic Toyshop, by Gareth Rees.
	Gareth chose as his prize: One free registration for "The Path to
          Fortune", donated by Christopher E. Forman.

4th Place: MST3K1: Detective, by Christopher E. Forman "and Matt Barringer,"
	Christopher chose as his prize: "Castles and Kingdoms: An
          electrifying compendium of 15 BASIC adventures you can type into
          your Commodore 64" by Bob Liddil, donated by Gareth Rees.

5th Place: All Quiet on the Library Front, by Michael S. Phillips.
	Michael chose as his prize: An autographed copy of my first novel, if
          and when it's published--for a winner who feels like taking a big
          gamble, donated by Jacob Weinstein.

6th Place: Tube Trouble, by Richard Tucker.


1st Place: Uncle Zebulon's Will, by Magnus Olsson.
	Magnus chose as his prize: $100.00 cash, donated by Eileen Mullin

2nd Place: Toonesia, by C. J. T. Spaulding aka Jacob Weinstein, the author
  of Save Princeton.
	Jacob chose as his prise: 1 year subscription to the printed version
          of XYZZYnews, donated by Eileen Mullin

3rd Place: The One That Got Away, by 'The Author' aka Leon Lin
	Leon chose as his prize: "Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur" for the
          Mac, complete with box, etc., donated by Jacob Weinstein.

4th Place: "It appears to be a tie, ladies and gentlemen."
      A Night at the Museum Forever, by Chris Angelini.
	Chris chose as his prize: One free registration for Save Princeton,
          donated by Jacob Weinstein.

      Undertow, by Stephen Granade.
	Stephen chose as his prize: A copy of "Leather Goddesses of Phobos"
          on 5.25" disk for IBM compatibles, donated by Jon Uhler.

5th Place: Undo, by Null Dogmas aka Neil Demause

-=Editor's Award=-

	Magnus Olsson, author of Uncle Zebulon's Will, will also receive a
complimentary copy of Avalon (upon its completion) both as a sort of thanks
for his help with SPAG, and as an editor's choice award.  It's not much to
show my appreciation with, but thanks, Magnus.

	You can reach the authors at the e-mail addresses below if you want
to send fan mail, comments, bug reports, or what have you.

Entry		Author			E-mail

Toyshop		Gareth Rees		gdr11 SP@G
Library		Michael S. Phillips	msphil SP@G
MST3K1		C E Forman		ceforma SP@G
Tube		Richard Tucker		Richard.Tucker SP@G
Weather		Andrew Plotkins		erkyrath+ SP@G
Mind Electric	Jason Dyer		jdyer SP@G

Museum		Chris Angelini		cangelin SP@G
The One...	Leon Lin		leonlin SP@G
Undertow	Stephen Granade		sgranade SP@G
Toonesia	Jacob Weinstein		jweinste SP@G
Undo		Neil Demause		neild SP@G
Zebulon		Magnus Olsson		mol SP@G


	"And that, as they say, is that."

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR--------------------------------------------------------

From: "Palmer Davis" 

This year's inaugural IF competition has come and gone, and with
it comes an excellent chance to sound pretentious, "literary", and
generally well-informed (no pun intended) about the genre by
reviewing everyone's entries.  I learned quite a bit from this
year's entries, from both strengths and weaknesses, and had hoped
to have enough time to expand upon what I've noticed.  Sadly,
I'm frantically scrambling to finish this up on the eve of the
deadline for SPAG #7; I hope to have more time to do so and fill
in the reviews that had to be left incomplete in time for SPAG #8.

	[Palmer sent me his reviews with this paragraph heading, so I snipped
it off and seperated the reviews into the proper places.  Hope he
doesn't mind, since it looked like he wanted this printed.]


From: "Christopher E. Forman" 

Dear Gerry,

    Since I know I'm not to late, I wanted to get this out to you as soon
as possible.
    I have seen this implied by the large number of posts on the I-F
newsgroups, but no one has ever really come right out and said it, so allow
me to:  Thanks for taking the time and energy to do one heckuva job on
setting up the I-F competition this year.  With everyone wanting to get
started, but no one quite sure how to go about it, you seized the reins
and formed order where once there was nought but chaos.  You got this
crazy thing under control before it was too late.
    Just thought you deserved a big round of applause from I-Fers
    Looking forward to next year's competition!

	[: "S'allright."]

INTERVIEWS WITH THE AUTHORS--------------------------------------------------

-=-Inform Authors-=-

A Change in the Weather, by Andrew Plotkins.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I was walking around the grounds of a restored Colonial-era mansion in
Fredericksburg. Gardens, trees -- two sundials. Sunny, warm. I thought
it would be nice to have a game with that kind of sensory detail. Then
I thought it would be nifty if you had more than one perspective on
the scenery. A tree is one thing on a sunny afternoon; it's quite
another in the middle of a midnight thunderstorm, especially if it's
hit by lightning very suddenly.

The sundials didn't make it in, though. Possibly because of the next

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

I have a graphical game (midway between a puzzle-game and IF) which is
slowly being worked on. It will be called _Moondials_. 

But, I mean, *really* slowly. Other projects keep intervening.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?


>How did you think of the fox?  He's so cute.

Ah, I see he fooled you, too. (It, I should say. The gender is
deliberately not given.)

I just wanted a foil for your character in the story. The fox's role
varied wildly during game-construction. At first I thought you might
need to rescue it, or even rescue a nest of cute little fox cubs. Then
I decided that was much too cliched. For awhile the fox was supposed
to be nesting in the back of the cave -- I guess it still might, but
there's no evidence left of it. 

Eventually I just got to like the idea of a non-player character who
knows more than you do, and never tells, and never stops smiling. The
fox's character note is what it thinks of *you*.

The Mind Electric, by Jason Dyer.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

No comment.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

I've working on a long project that I can only describe as psychological
horror.  It's much different than anything else I have seen in the IF
part of the genre.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Possibly, although I'll write something alot more silly if I do.

>Did you have a particular vision of 'cyberspace' in mind when you began
 "Mind"?  How did it evolve as you went along?

For the most part, what you see in "Mind" is what my original vision
was.  I wasn't really too focused on what the cyberspace element would
be like while writing, but rather how it would fit into the plot.  For
example, I had originally planned to have much more interaction with the
outside world; a "camera room" where you could see views of the outside
world and cause various things to happen.  But in the end I decided to
keep everything in virtualspace.

>What are some of the hidden elements of "Mind"?

I doubt most people knew what the cube's calibration message really was,
so I'll give the poetry form and translation here.  The words are in Latin,
from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

   In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas
   corpora; di, coeptis (nam vos mutastis et illas)
   adsirate meis primaque ab origine mundi
   ad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen

   My mind wishes to tell of bodies changed into new forms...
   Gods (for you have made these changes) breathe favor on
   My undertaking and lead my song from the beginning of the earth
   To my own age...

The sounds inside and outside the factory are related; watch the messages

The cube has several interesting responses to questions: try asking
it about Kaden, Souden, itself, and creator.  The language that the
cube refers to in the first two responses is a form of Japanese.

You can get quotes from trying to TASTE something, or pressing enter
without typing anything.

There are a few other interesting things hiding in the game but I'll leave
them for others to discover.

The Magic Toyshop, by Gareth Rees.

> What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I can't remember.

> Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Yes.  It's secret, though.

> Are you planning to enter again next year?

Maybe.  If I have the time.

> Where did you get all those neat puzzles?

Dots & Boxes and Dodgems from "Winning Ways" by Conway, Berlekamp & Guy.

Tic-tac-toe and Towers of Hanoi are so well-known that it seemed a good
opportunity to turn the tables a bit.

The robot mouse maze was suggested by the one in "Curses"; the parity
puzzle itself is related to the moving rocks puzzle in "Spellbreaker".

The gnomon was suggested by the one in "Trinity".

The egg was suggested by the eggs in the "Unnkulia" series; the mahogany
matchstick is the rod of fire from "Curses"

The glueing-the-robot-mouse puzzle seemed a good way to introduce the
glue for the Towers of Hanoi without making it obvious what the glue was

The lock puzzle is based on the "Monte Carlo Lock Puzzle" in "The Lady
or the Tiger?" by Raymond Smullyan.

MST3K1: Detective, by Christopher E. Forman "and Matt Barringer,"

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

It was actually Graeme Cree's review of "Detective" in SPAG 5 that first got
me thinking about it, but I didn't begin seriously working on it until about
a week before the competition deadline.  At that time, there was a delay
from my co-author in regards to text for the game the two of us are
currently writing, so I had about a week with nothing to do.  I used four
of those days to put together the MST3K game.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

The completion date for my current project, which my cousin and I are
co-authoring, is rapidly approaching.  It's a lighthearted fantasy game
titled "The Path to Fortune," the first in a planned series known as "The
Windhall Chronicles."  Currently, I'm wrapping up programming the "fun
stuff" for players to try, and then I plan to send it off to playtesters for
a couple of weeks before correcting any problems.  The release date is set
for the end of October (perhaps coinciding with that of Avalon B-).  After
that, I plan to work on an interactive sci-fi short story, and then another
I-F fan and I are teaming up to do "something very, very big."  (I'm not
saying any more.)  The second "Windhall Chronicles" game will be released
sometime in 1996.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Oh, definitely, most likely with a more serious entry the next time around.
(I've already got a story idea that I've been tossing around.)

>Some have commented that MiSTing a game isn't really writing a game.  What
>do you think about the matter? [Obviously your entry created quite a bit of
>controversy. :)]

Well, I suppose it's not truly writing a game in the sense that MiSTing a
film isn't the same as making a movie.  However, the MST3K crew *is* making
a TV show, despite the fact that it's primarily involved with making fun of
bad movies.  I've essentially done the same with an I-F piece, and although
it may not be a true game, it has to be considered *something*.  Doesn't
writing a game mean that you sit down and type the code?  It shouldn't matter
one way or another whether the game is a true original or merely an enhanced
port with humorously derogatory comments added -- I still had to sit down and
code the thing.  If my MiSTing doesn't count as a "real game," then neither
should any other port from one language to another.  (And if it isn't a game,
what exactly is it?)

All Quiet on the Library Front, by Michael S. Phillips.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

It was one of those caffeine-induced periods of lucidity, in which 
suddenly an idea springs forth, fully formed.  The fact that it was 
immediately after 8 straight 10 hour+ days, staring four more in the face 
before the week-end, probably helped.  Oh yeah, I suppose I should 
mention that I am the 'techie' for the William & Mary Law Library.  That 
had a lot to do with it :-)

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Yes.  Two projects are taking my spare time at the moment.

The first is Release 2 of LIBRARY, which will include several enhancements
(now that I have a better grip on Inform).  The help system will be
menued, something I didn't feel I had the time to mess with before, there
are two new rooms, and there are a couple of "niceties".

The second is a game tentatively titled "DJINN!", which takes place in an 
Arabian Nights setting.  Pieces are falling into place, but I think I'll 
borrow a line on when it'll be done: "When it's ready."

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Certainly!  This time I have a whole year, and not a month, to come up 
with something..... :-)

>Tell us more about how you wrote "Library."

Well, at the time the idea struck me, we were beginning a shift from one 
library system to another (VTLS to SIRSI, for those who care), and there 
were an awful lot of hours put in upgrading staff and public PC's.  I was 
feeling a little zany, and I had just re-discovered a love of IF (thanks 
to seeing pinfocom on comp.os.linux.announce, and discovering ZIP and  I had seen that a competition was being held, and the ideas 
just sort of suddenly gelled.  If memory serves, it was the end of a 
rough day, having just spent the whole week-end working, and I was just 
staring at the security gates at our entrance.

There was very little time to do much work (I started coding July 31), and
there was a lot to learn.  It was also slow going, because my primary
machine is a 386SX20 with 4Mb of RAM.  Fortunately, I'm a Linux user, so I
didn't have to get a drink every time I compiled (which, by the end, was
taking upwards of 3 minutes each time), and I took advantage of the
virtual consoles to have one editing, one compiling, and one playing.

Tube Trouble, by Richard Tucker.

> What first gave you the idea for your entry?

Camden Town tube station, in London. I've often arrived at one
platform and ran to another one to change trains, only to find
the train I wanted to catch leaving just as I reach it. Also
they used to have very old chocolate machines that were usually
broken and would swallow your money without giving you anything.

> Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

I'm working on a game that was going to be my competition entry until
I realized it would take me much longer than I thought (that's why
I turned to converting an earlier game). It's my attempt to get around
the classic "guess the verb" problem by substituting a "guess the noun"
problem. Perhaps I'll enter it next year.

I'd love to try and write a full-sized game, but the amount of planning
involved is so much greater.

> You mentioned that "Tube" was based upon an earlier game.  Can you
> elaborate?

I had written a crude adventure system for the BBC micro, a popular
machine in the UK and the precursor of the modern-day Archimedes, and wanted
to write a small game on it. I coded the annoying station, and then together
with a friend the rest of the game. All the puzzles and much of the text
were identical in the inform version, but I added considerably to the
responses and introduced a horrible bug too. Converting the game was
a question of reading the original source, remembering how it worked, and
then coding up the puzzles from scratch in inform, which is very quick.
Internally the two versions are very different.

Originally we had plans for a game of which Tube was just one part. It's
(rather quirky) plot was that you were at a party where your host instructed
you to "eat, drink and be merry". When you tried to eat, by picking up a
piece of chocolate cake, the room would go all hazy and you'd find yourself
in the tube station (for no reason at all). Then if you died or won, you'd
return to the party. In the 'be merry' section you had to change your name
by deed poll. The idea was to give the player a choice of what order
to attempt the puzzles in and to make it clear that they couldn't influence
each other, by putting them in different and unrelated scenarios -- this
was something I admired in the Hitchhiker game.

Looking back on it, it seems completely incoherent, and I wouldn't want
to write it now. Then again, my other plans are incoherent too...



Uncle Zebulon's Will, by Magnus Olsson.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

A sudden flash of inspiration, I suppose. I was considering possible ideas
for short IF, and started thinking about the player exploring a wizard's

Now, why would anyone want to do that? Would the wizard still be around? 
No, that would be too dangerous, and besides the idea of entering a wizard's
house to steal his things or to defeat him is pretty hackeneyed by now. Maybe
the wizard's dead, and you've come to collect your inheritance? Mmm, sounds
good.  What do you find in a wizard's home, then? Lots and lots of neat
stuff, but preferably not just the usual, tired old paraphernalia like
wands and potions and so on. Maybe if there was a [censored to remove the

Great idea, I said to myself. But could it be made into a puzzle? Yes, for
example if there was a demon guarding the door, and... One thing led to 
another, and within about thirty minutes I had the basic idea of the game, 
and about half of the plot in my head. 

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Yes. I started working on "Bast", a Gothic story with some twists to it, 
this winter, but I put it aside this spring due to lack of time, and 
haven't re-started work on it yet.  "Akorny", a more traditional Zork-like
game, lies dormant since last summer.  Then there are some projects that
haven't resulted in any code yet, but which are being processed at very low
priority somewhere in the back of my mind.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Yes, if I can find the time to finish a game in time.

>When can we expect the sequel you mentioned at the end of "Zebulon"?

Perhaps I'll enter it in next year's competition, but don't hold your 
breaths; right now it's even more vapourware than "Avalon" :-).

Toonesia, by C. J. T. Spaulding aka Jacob Weinstein, the author of Save

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I'm a big fan of animation--I'd rank it as one of America's most
significant cultural contributions to the world. I've wanted to do a
complete game based on my favorite cartoons for a long time. Originally, I
had planned on making it a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" type thing, with
references to all of my favorite animated works. But after percolating in
the back of my mind for two or three years, the idea didn't develop much
beyond the walking-over-the-cliff puzzle, which was the very first one I
had come up with. So, when the IF contest came up, I decided to narrow my
focus, and make it just a tribute to the Warner Brothers universe. I'd love
to write that longer 'toon game, some day, and pay homage to Droopy, Dumbo,
and some of the other greats, too.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Well, I'm working on Logomancer, in which you play the Logomancer General
of a sleepy magical world. Or, at least, I'm sort of working on it. I've
been doing a tiny bit at a time ever since I finished Save Princeton, some
three years ago, but haven't really had the time to go at it full force.
One problem with delaying so long, by the way, is that other people steal
your ideas first. A big plot point of the game is that spells have started
working backwards. You can imagine my chagrin when Graham Nelson came up
with a similar idea in Balances.

But I digress.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Definitely. It's a great way to motivate myself to produce something. And
sprinting is always more fun than long-distance running, for me, at least.

>So, just how many 'rascally' puns are floating around Toonesia, anyway?

That's a tough one. When I moved cross country, I left my old computer
behind, and I haven't yet transferred all my files to my new Mac, so I
don't have the source code for Toonesia handy. But let's see: there's
rascally Cavett, rascally rabbi, rascally Babbit, rascally habit, and
rascally Cabbot--that's five. There may be one or two I've forgotten. (And
as I type this list, I realize that I didn't think of "rascally ribbit" or
"rascally robot." I'll have to work those in to the next version, in
addition to fixing bugs. And if you don't mind, I'll use your "rascally
abbot" line, too.)

	[Later, Jacob sent me...]

I've finally restored all the files from my old computer to my new
computer, and I can give you a run-down of all the "rascally rabbit" puns
in Toonesia:

1) When you try to blow on something, you get the following message:
"You take a deep breath and exhale. If it weren't for that pack-a-day habit
you had as a teenager, you might be able to blow with more force. Oooh,
that rascally habbit!" (Note the misspelling of "habit". I'll have to fix

2) When you read the rabbit season sign: ""This accursed interference in
the rights of honest hunters like yourself is signed 'Bruce Babbit,
Secretary of the Interior.' Ooooh, that rascally Babbit!"

3) When you try to climb the cliff: "You don't have the strength to climb
the ledge, due in large part to your habit of ordering your servants to
exercise for you. Ooooh, that rascally habit!"

4) When you examine the pictures on Buds' wall:
"The pictures include a photo of Bud Bunny at a party with Chuck Jones,
Fritz Freleng, Tex Avery, and Mel Blanc; a reproduction of the famous
painting, "The Assumption of St. Peter Rabbit;" and an autographed photo of
Dick Cavett. Seeing the last of these reminds you of the humiliation you
suffered as  a guest on his show; unbeknownst to you, the talk show host
had arranged for your fellow guests to be the president of Handgun Control,
Inc, and the vice-chairman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Ooooh, that rascally Cavett!"

5) When you try to pick up a gem in the mine:
"As you reach down to pick up a gem off the huge pile, you recall something
your accountant said to you yesterday: "Mr. Fuld, right now, you're in the
nine-nine-point-nine-percent tax bracket. If your value increases by more
than a thousand dollars before the end of the fiscal year, you'll be in the
one hundred percent bracket, and you'll have to give everything you own to
the government." Since any one gem in this mine would be worth several
thousand at least, you realize that your tax bracket prevents you from taking
anything out of here (except that obviously worthless old lamp). Oooh, that
rascally bracket!"

6) When you smell the cologne:
"Smelling it reminds you of the childhood day when little Vincent Cabot,
scion of the only family in town wealthier than the Fulds, held you face down
in a carrot patch until you begged for mercy, thereby instilling in you a
lifelong hatred of the long orange vegetable and all creatures associated
therewith. If only he had left you alone, you might have been spared the
tremendous frustration that faces you every rabbit season. Oooooh, that
rascally Cabot!"

7) When you try to kiss an inanimate object:
Just as you are about to kiss  you recall that, back when
your name was Elmo Fuldstein, your rabbi always warned you against getting
into a mixed relationship. And since a relationship with an inanimate
object is about as mixed as you can get, you withdraw your lips,
overwhelmed with guilt. Oooh, that rascally rabbi!"

So, that's 7 of them. (Six if you don't want to count "habit" a second time.")

The One That Got Away, by "The Author" aka Leon Lin

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I'd love to say that I got the idea for the game while out at some
beautiful lake, trolling idly for fish, the sun warming my tired soul and
the sweet breezes blowing faintly...but I'm afraid I can't. At the risk of
having had the most banal inspiration for an IF game in history, I'd have
to say that the trigger that started my game was an episode of "The
Simpsons" that I saw one night, about Homer going out fishing and
struggling against one of those "mighty fish of the past." That must have
made some kind of an impression on me, because, some morning afterwards, I
was lying in bed when I thought, you know, no one has ever written an IF
game about fishing. Before long, I was up and at my computer. The map
quickly coalesced in my mind, and the game more or less wrote itself. (Of
course, "The One That Got Away," despite its inspiration, is a wholly
original story, with a tip of the hat to some rather tall tales about

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

At about the same time I was writing "The One," I also started work on a
TADS object library to implement role-playing game elements such as NPCs,
magical items, weapons, armor, and lighting sources, as well as a demo game
to showcase the library. As complex as the library is, I haven't finished
it yet, and hopefully I'll be able to get more work done on it despite my
schoolwork and other responsibilities.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Sure, why not! In fact, I should start planning my entry now! ^_^

>So, will we really get to go back in 30 years for a sequel?

I have an idea for a plot and title for a sequel, if I ever write one. But
any continuation of the story is still quite a ways into the future.
Nevertheless, even if I don't write the story, The Old One will still be
waiting... ^_^

A Night at the Museum Forever, by Chris Angelini.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

  I had wanted to do something involving time travel as a puzzle, but 
needed a setting. I've always been a Larry Niven fan, so I wanted to use 
a 'long dead race', and the idea for a museum housing artifacts of time 
was added to bring these all together.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

  Yes. At the moment, I'm working on two games, one set in the Superguy 
world, and another, more serious ;->, game called Wanderer. The latter 
one is fantasy.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?


>Any particular reason you decided to write about time travel?

  I love the genre, and wanted to use it in a game. My original plans 
were more elaborate, but I ran out of time to implement them, and had to 
go with a simpler time-based puzzle.

Undertow, by Stephen Granade.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

Believe it or not, it was the Sting video for "All This Time."  I had been  
mulling over the possibility of writing an entry for the IF competition  
when I ran across the video on TV.  If you haven't seen it, it takes place  
on a boat which ends up becoming very cramped.  I started thinking of the  
possibilities of a game set on a yacht--a yacht makes for a tiny setting  
compared to the setting of most other IF games.  However, it was just the  
size for a two-hour game.  In addition, I could more easily convey the  
sense of claustrophobia I wanted for my game.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

The short answer is "sort of."  The long answer is: I've just started  
physics grad school, so my time has become incredibly curtailed.  I have  
been working on a large game called "Losing Your Grip" for about a year  
and a half, with little progress so far.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Possibly, depending on whether or not I have the inspiration and the free  

>Why did you write a mystery game, in particular?

I had the setting for my game before I had a plot.  I thought about what  
kind of game could take place on a yacht, and decided that a mystery would  
be perfect.  I had never written a mystery before, and my earlier IF games  
have had a remarkable lack of NPCs in them.  This was a perfect chance for  
me to take on the challenge of setting a game in a tiny environment,  
mastering NPCs, and writing a mystery all at once.

What can I say?  I wanted an ambitious project.

Undo, by Null Dogmas aka Neil Demause .

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I first wrote an earlier version of Undo for a friend's birthday -- it's 
based on an inside joke between the two of us. 

For the record, the joke goes: "A frog walks up to a hole. 'My, what a 
big hole,' he says. A small duck walks up to the hole. 'What large hole?' 
says the duck. 'What small duck?' says the frog."

Not much of a joke, it's true -- more of a joke about jokes, like the 
Dadaist riddle (one of my favorites): "What's the difference between a 
duck? One leg is both the same!" Anyway, after discarding a much better 
idea for the I-F contest as taking way too much time, I thought of a 
bunch of things I could throw into Undo to turn it, sort of, into a 
playable game, though there's still only really one puzzle.

The only purpose of Undo, really, aside from being vaguely weird and 
entertaining, is to challenge some of the I-F conventions -- like having 
everything be a puzzle (most of the rooms are mere clues at best, and at 
worst just diversions), having a score (the "score" of 86 you're shooting 
for is another negation joke -- as in, "eighty-six that"), winning at the 
end, and so on. It's sort of an "anti-game" in that sense.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

"Lost New York" is about a month away from beta-testing, three months 
away from release. It's a medium to long game (a good bit longer and more 
complex than MacWesleyan) set in historical New York -- if you liked 
"Time and Again" you should like it. 

I also have ideas for three other specific games (including the one I 
didn't get around to writing for this year's competition) that I'd like 
to do, but I need to finish Lost NY first before I can start on another one.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

I'd like to, if the timing's right.


	Let's have a big round of applause for all the entrants!

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

Consider the following review header:

 NAME: Cutthroats                                PARSER: Infocom Standard
 AUTHOR: Infocom                                 PLOT: Two Seperate Paths
 EMAIL: ???                                      ATMOSPHERE: Well Done
 AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2                            WRITING: Good
 PUZZLES: Good                                   SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
 CHARACTERS: Not Bad                             DIFFICULTY: Medium

	First, you'll notice that the score has been removed, and replaced
by one or two word ratings.  These are pretty arbitrary, and should allow
more freedom to the reviewers.  The EMAIL section is for the e-mail address
of the game author, not the reviewer.  AVAILABILITY will usually have either
Commercial ($price), Shareware ($price), or Freeware.  If the commercial
price varies in stores, then it will just say Commercial.  If it has been
released in the LTOI collection, this line should say so.  Lastly, if it is
available on, the line should add GMD.  (Demo) if it's a demo
version.  The body of the review hasn't changed.

When submitting reviews:  Try to fill in as much of this info as you can.
Also, scores are still desired along with the reviews, so send those along.
The scores will be used in the ratings section.  Authors may not rate or
review their own games.

SPAG accepts reviews of any length, letters to the editor, the occasional
interesting article on text adventures (no reprints please), and even just
ratings for your favorite game, if you don't have the time to do a full
review.  Please though, at least send me info for each game you have rated
equivalent to the review header for Cutthroats, above.  All accepted
materials will be headed by the submitter's name and e-mail address, unless
you request that they be withheld, or do not supply them, in which case the
header will read as "Anonymous."

CONTEST REVIEWS--------------------------------------------------------------

From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: All Quiet on the Library Front   PARSER: Inform v1502
  AUTHOR: Michael Phillips               SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: ???                             AVAILABILITY: GMD
  ATMOSPHERE: Just a little thin         WRITING: Expository
  CHARACTERS: Cardboard                  PLOT: Linear
  PUZZLES: Quite simple                  DIFFICULTY: Easy

The premise is quite straightforward: you need to borrow a normally
unobtainable book from your college library in order to write a
research paper.  After a bit of wandering around, finding objects
lying about, and giving them to the appropriate people, you do.

I must confess that I was somewhat put off by the fact that the
game is set on a college campus; the college game is second only
to the Colossal Cave-style undirected dungeon crawl/scavenger hunt
for being drastically overdone.  It worked in _Lurking_Horror_,
and it's working now in _Christminster_, whose setting is different
enough not to be stale, but every other such game since (not to
mention the innumerable campuses that have been set up on MUDs
worldwide) has felt like walking into someone else's inside joke.
That includes a number of rather popular games that have fallen
flat for me, and I'm probably stepping on a number of toes here;
I tried not to let my feelings for the genre color my judgement.

This entry doesn't just happen to take place on campus, however;
the entire plot is centered around writing a research paper, and
therein lies the problem.  Most IF transports the player to a
fantastic place or situation that's genuinely interesting, sometimes
more so than what's going on outside the screen.  That's not the
case here -- being stuck in the library working on an undergraduate
research paper is something that one plays IF to *escape*, not
encounter, and the game never really transcends the ultimately
pedestrian nature of its central task.

It is possible to create good interactive fiction based entirely
on everyday experiences if the writing stands out enough to carry
the game on atmosphere (see _A_Change_in_the_Weather_, below).
It is also possible to make a good game out of a fundamentally
unpleasant situation (_Theatre_, for example, or _Bureaucracy_)
if the game provides gripping drama or offers a fresh perspective
on the events in question.  _Library_ does neither, offering a
fairly routine scenario executed in expository but uninspiring

Oddly, the stairwell leading to the upper floor, an area in which
none of the plot takes place, is one of the game's bright spots as
far as writing goes -- the descriptions there are nearly as long
as in busier areas, which gives the author enough space to breathe
life into details like the paintings.  Had the rest of the map been
executed with that much care, the game would have worked much better.
It's not necessarily that more words are needed elsewhere (see
_Enchanter_, for example), it's that more thought is needed to make
the descriptions come to life.

Overall, the game is solidly crafted, but feels like it's just
going through the motions.  This isn't a *bad* game by any means,
but somehow lacks that certain spark that makes well-written IF
such a joy.  Cleaned up and commented, the source to this would
probably make pretty good example code for new authors; it's solidly
crafted, including a basic help system that gives a hint for the next

(After writing most of this review, I learned that the entry was the
author's first attempt at writing IF.  It's obvious that the author
*has* in fact mastered the motions that need to be gone through to
create IF, and is just starting to catch on to a writing style; I
look forward to seeing full-length works from him in the future.)

BOTTOM LINE: An accurate simulation of a tedious chore.


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: A Change in the Weather		  Parser: Inform
  Author: Andrew Plotkin		  Plot: Non-linear
  Email: erkyrath+ SP@G		  Atmosphere: Excellent
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Excellent
  Puzzles: Time-critical		  Supports: Infocom ports
  Characters: One, simple but memorable   Difficulty: Above average

During a picnic with your friends, you decide that you'd like some
privacy and walk away on your own to explore the nearby hills. Soon,
however, the warm, beautiful summer evening turns into the proverbial
dark and stormy night (the "change in the weather" of the title), and
you find yourself cut off from your friends by a rain-swollen stream
that threatens to carry away the only bridge...

Although unpleasant, such a mundane situation may not seem like the
stuff from which a tale of wonder and adventure is built. That,
however, is just what Andrew Plotkin has succeeded in creating. With
very small means he manages to increase tension until your attempts to
save the bridge turn into a nightmarish struggle against time. The
writing is excellent, as are the atmosphere and the changes in mood.
As if to demonstrate further how far you can get with deceptively
simple means, the one NPC of this game - an endearing little fox -
doesn't do very much, but is nevertheless very effective (of course,
animal NPC's are simpler than humans since they don't speak). 

Despite its small size, "A Change in the Weather" is not an easy game.
The author himself classifies this game as "cruel", and that is no
great exaggeration.  The puzzles aren't very diffciult in isolation,
but they are very time-critical and you have to perform actions in a
carefully timed order to win. You should be prepared to save and
restore a lot, even to replay from the beginning, since the tiniest
mistake will put the game in an unsolvable state. 

This kind of game behaviour has been condemned in the debate on, the main argument being that all the restoring
and replaying ruins the enjoyment of the game and disrupts the
story. Also, of course, it lowers realism if, for example, you have to
die five times beofre finding the right way to disarm a bomb; in real
life you have to get it right the first time.

In this particular case, however, having to save and restore
frequently didn't detract anything from my enjoyment of the game;
in fact, somehow knowing that the smallest mistake may mean disaster
actually enhanced the sense of drama and urgency. It may of course
have helped that you can't die in this game (the worst thing that can
happen is that you have to wade across the stream to get home). The
size of the game certainly played an important part - having to
restart from the beginning is less cumbersome in a tiny game like this
than in a larger game.

To summarize, this is an excellent little game: well written, with a
simple goal that isn't that easy to attain, an interesting sequence of
logical puzzles and an excellent atmosphere; all of which makes this
perhaps the most memorable of all the competition entries. 

From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: A Change in the Weather       PARSER: Inform v1405
  AUTHOR: Andrew Plotkin              SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: erkyrath+ SP@G            AVAILABILITY: GMD

  ATMOSPHERE: Outstanding
  WRITING: Generally well written, though eye slides past in spots
  CHARACTERS: Memorable
  PLOT: Mutual exclusion between branches
  PUZZLES: Nicely done, but with dead ends and save/restore puzzles
  DIFFICULTY: Moderately challenging

Now *this* is more like it.  The game starts out rather slowly:
you wander away from a picnic to go exploring in the park.  After
a beautifully described sunset (and an encounter with the
competition's most memorable NPC), the idyllic day suddenly turns
nasty, and you are forced to seek shelter, eventually thrusting
you into a dreamlike race against time and vague, sinister evil.

The atmosphere, scenery, and overall sense of immersion in this
entry were far and away the best in either division, approaching
that of Infocom's better efforts in spots.  In one or two spots,
the writing is dense enough that the casual reader's eye slides
right past (lists of exits, mostly), but otherwise the writing
is among the best in this year's field.

If there's a weakness here, it's the rather languid pace that the
game gets off to at first.  That's an unavoidable consequence of
the tranquil, contemplative mood that the author creates in the
first section, but it makes it difficult to warm up to the game
at first.  The plot really needs a kick in the tail that it doesn't
get until after nightfall; an opening with enough action to make
wandering off alone seem a welcome respite (playing volleyball until
you get sick of it, perhaps?) might correct this.  (The virtues of
establishing emotional context through player interaction rather
than imposing it by fiat have been discussed at length elsewhere.)
Of course, the game flirts perilously with the two hour limit as
it is; leaving out such an opening is understandable given the
nature of the competition.  Furthermore, the contrast between the
slow pace of the first section and the frantic pace of the dream
sequence works quite well, and is perhaps the sole example of
such a mood shift in the contest.

The save/restore nature of the section after nightfall is also
likely to put off many players, as is the game's ability to be
closed off after the player attempts actions that are otherwise
perfectly reasonable.  While any race against time necessarily
runs the risk of degenerating into save/restore, a bit more time
between the appearance of the light source and the expiration of
the player's time might have been nice; as it was, I didn't get
past that part before time ran out.  Likewise, a second (possibly
more difficult) option for getting into the cave after the
destruction of the needed object would also have helped.  Still,
the game was quite satisfying, especially in contrast to the
rest of the division.

BOTTOM LINE: Yes.  Like that.  My choice for the division winner.


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: Detective - an Interactive MiSTing / MST3K1
  Author: C.E. Forman
  Email: ceforma SP@G	  Parser : Hacked Inform
  Plot: See review			  Atmosphere: Demented
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Excellent
  Puzzles: What puzzles?		  Supports: Infocom Ports
  Characters: See review		  Difficulty: Self-solving

This piece of IF is not really a game, but a commentary on a game -
or, as the author calls it, an Interactive MiSTing. The strange acronym
MST3K1 refers to "Mystery Science Theater 3000", a TV show that hasn't
reached the European networks, but this fact shouldn't scare away any
non-American readers, since the concept is made sufficiently clear
anyway (I had it explained to me by Whizzard after I played the game,
but I didn't really miss anything). 

Similar to the TV show, this game consists of the characters of
"Mystery Science Theater" playing - and commenting on - an existing
game: "Detective" by Matt Barringer. "Detective", reviewed in SPAG 4,
is an amazingly bad game; basically, Barringer has committed every
possible mistake in writing it, even forgetting to put in any puzzles.

The core of "MST3K1" is a faithful re-implementation in Inform of
"Detective", complete down to the last bug. As the player walks
through the game (and, believe me, walking through "Detective" is all
there is to winning it), he or she is treated to the commentary of the
MST characters. And this commentary is simply hilarious; together with
the unconscious comedy of the original "Detective", the result must be
the funniest IF ever written. I'm exaggerating only slightly when
writing that "MST3K1" had me rolling on the floor with laughter.

Rating "MST3K1" according to the usual SPAG rules is of course
impossible, since the only game aspects are those of "Detective", which
is a very very bad game. Suffice it to say that the "MST" part of the
writing is excellent, though the satire is perhaps a bit heavy-handed
in places - I sincerely hope that Matt Barringer has a sense of humour!

Finally, let me just step onto the soapbox for a minute to express
some concern. The immediate reaction to this program on Usenet was
something along the lines of "Great idea! There are lots of bad games
out there; let's MiST them as well!" I sincerely hope that these
people think not only once, but twice and thrice before starting to
write their own MiSTings. If nothing else, there's the simple rule of
all comedy: a good joke is extremely funny the first time it's told.
The second time, it's already old. The third time, it's routine. The
tenth time, people hate it. Let's not beat this excellent idea to
death by repeating it ad nauseam. 

Also, and far more seriously, the line between poking gentle fun at
something and cruelly mocking it is a fine one indeed. The present
author has managed to stay on the right side, but it takes
considerable skill to do so. We've all written things we're less than
proud of; even the good Homer nods. Indiscriminate derision of these
games - perhaps youthful first tries - could have disastrous
consequences for the small, fragile IF community. 

Of course, these words of warning should not reflect at all on the
present MiSTing; in fact, I think it's brilliant. Let's just not
pervert such a good idea.

From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  DETECTIVE:  An Interactive MiSTing
                                         GAMEPLAY:  Inform Parser
  AUTHOR:  C. E. Forman                  PLOT:  Trivial
  EMAIL:  ceforma SP@G   ATMOSPHERE:  Demented
  AVAILABILITY:  GMD incoming            WRITING:  Pathetic
  PUZZLES:  None                         SUPPORTS:  All Inform Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Cardboard                 DIFFICULTY:  None at all

     Normally, looking at the above category descriptions (such as
"Trivial", "Demented", and "Pathetic") one would expect a pretty bad
game.  Yet, such is not the case here.  In the zany world of Mystery
Science Theater 3000, (MST3K for short) where schlock is fun, and all
involved want "More cheese, please", such descriptions denote an
excellent game.  Detective, the game least likely to be ported, now
exists (with enhancements) for Inform.
     A little background is in order to understand this game.  SPAG #4 
featured a review of an AGT game called Detective, which stated that
the author had made every possible mistake, and that the game should be
avoided.  In SPAG #5 I wrote a second review in which I stated that the
game, though awful, was in fact loaded with unintentional laughs and
bizarre incongruities that were sure to entertain the player, and that
the game would make an excellent episode of Mystery Science Theater
     For those who don't know, MST3K is a cable television show (soon to
be a major motion picture) on Comedy Central, that involves a man shot
into space by two mad scientists and forced to watch bad movies so that
his reactions can be monitored.  Throughout the movie we can see the
silhouettes of Mike and his robot companions (whose outer casings are
made out of things like a gumball machine, a bowling pin, and a
lacrosse helmet) at the lower right-hand corner of the screen, and hear
them deliver a barrage of sarcastic remarks, pop-culture references,
and suggested dialogue.  For example in Godzilla vs. Megalon, a
close-up of Godzilla waving his arms and bellowing drew the response "I
am Kirok!!", a reference to a classic bit of Shatner overacting in Star
Trek's The Paradise Syndrome episode.  In Marooned, when three
astronauts, stranded in space are arguing over who will leave the ship
(there was only enough oxygen to sustain two until the rescue ship
arrived) one of the robots observed "they could toss a coin, but it 
would never come down."
     The show is in its 7th season, and each episode is two hours long.
 Their bread-and-butter is schlocky sci-fi movies, but they have hit
almost every genre, including the occasional biker movie.  Before and
after the show, as well as during intermissions, they do short amusing
skits, often based on scenes from the movie.
     Chris Forman has taken this format and adapted it into a text
game, almost seamlessly.  The original Detective game has been
transferred verbatim to Inform, even retaining the AGT default
responses, and snappy responses from Mike and the robots have been
inserted everywhere; into room descriptions, item descriptions,
response descriptions, et cetera.  Repetition is avoided, enhancing
believability.  The first time you enter a room you get one set of
responses.  The second time you will get either a different set, or
none at all.  The jokes are generally top quality, turning an already
(unintentionally) amusing game into a laugh riot.  The level of
imitation is flawless; if you have seen the show, you can almost hear
the dialogue coming out of the actors' mouths.
    A typical MST3K episode features a short skit and an invention
exchange with the mad scientists before the movie actually begins.  Mr.
Forman has represented this by including a special introductory text
file that highlights the robots attempting to write their own text
games, and Dr. Forrester's "fictionary", a device that inputs the
vocabulary of a text game directly into the player's mind, with
hilarious results.
     The only thing that could put anyone off about this game might be 
found in Stefan Jokisch's original SPAG review:  "we should not forget that
Matt [the original author of Detective] wrote this game with good intentions
and he offered it for free, so who are we to mock at his efforts?"
Matt Barringer's game is "mocked" here, but previous MST3K episodes have
had movies featuring the likes of Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman, Linda Evans,
Peter Graves, James Earl Jones, and Bela Lugosi, putting Mr. Barringer
in very august company indeed.
     This may not be my all-time favourite text adventure, but it is
one of the few that I would recommend to absolutely everyone.

From: "Palmer Davis" 

NAME: _Detective_ MST3Kization            PARSER: Inform (imitating AGT)
AUTHOR: C. E. Forman (and Matt Barringer) SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports

ATMOSPHERE: Precisely on target
CHARACTERS: Non-interactive
PLOT: Laughable, but that's the point
PUZZLES: Nonexistent, except for occasional sudden death
DIFFICULTY: Also nonexistent

Obviously inspired by Graeme Cree's review from SPAG #5, this is a
port of Matt Barringer's (infamous) AGT game _Detective_, onto which
the cast of _Mystery_Science_Theater_3000_ has been grafted, providing
a Greek chorus that pokes hilarious fun at _Detective_'s shortcomings.
This was the first game that I returned to finish after my initial
ten minute look at each entry, and it succeeds brilliantly at the same
sort of appeal as the real MST3K.

Trying to evaluate this entry relative to the others in the division
was difficult.  However creative the writing may be, the fact remains
that this is not an original work of IF, which was the whole point of
the contest.  On the other hand, this entry also essentially defines
an entirely new genre: the interactive work of criticism.  Is it a
work of IF that happens to be critical or a work of criticism that
happens to be interactive?  And how much credit is due the author for
pioneering something as yet untried, especially given the much lower
level of technical difficulty in producing it?  In any case, comparing
this to the other entries is like comparing apples and oranges.

In the end, I wound up deciding to place this at the enjoyability
threshold, and score it behind any more technically difficult works
that succeeded at being entertaining, but ahead of any that didn't.
Had I been scoring for awards other than first, this would have
wound up taking second in its division, and certainly deserves an
honorable mention for its writing, but future works of this kind
will have to be crafted with great care to avoid becoming stale.

BOTTOM LINE: This is the entry most likely to continue to be
downloaded and played after the end of the contest; it's likely to
become a (cult) classic simply by being the preferred way to
experience the wonderful awfulness of _Detective_.  I can't wait to
see the crew take on _Space_Aliens_Laughed_at_my_Cardigan_!


From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: The Magic Toyshop                PARSER: Inform v1502
  AUTHOR: Gareth Rees                    SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: gdr11 SP@G              AVAILABILITY: GMD

  ATMOSPHERE: Nonexistent (be sure to wear a pressure suit!)
  WRITING: Minimalist to the point of information underload
  CHARACTERS: Unresponsive
  PLOT: What plot?  (Sequential pairs of puzzles.)
  PUZZLES: "Guess the verb", "What am I thinking?", and the like
  DIFFICULTY: Frustrating

I really wanted to like this game.  I really did.  In a competition
that intends to reward meaningful brevity, a one room adventure is
a really neat idea.  And a very spare, minimal writing style can work
well if done right, as in _Enchanter_ (and _Christminster_'s opening).
Unfortunately, this entry takes both concepts too far.

There is a brief blurb in the teaser about wandering into a Victorian
toy shop with a rocking horse in the window, in search of a birthday
present for your niece, but rocking horse, window, and the charm of
a Victorian toy shop are all entirely absent from the game itself.
The player is dumped into an apparently empty room with a chest and
a young woman, both of which frustrate most attempts at interaction.
This can be unintentionally funny in spots:

  Catharine has better things to do.

  Catharine opens the chest and roots around inside it.  "I wonder
  if your niece would like something like this?" she says....
  [Your score just went up by 1 point.]

In the example above, Catharine *still* would have opened the chest,
even had the player said nothing, or waited, or looked around, or
done *anything*; all interaction with her (except for her function
as a primitive hint system) is initiated by her, and you are awarded
points for doing absolutely nothing!  In fact, both Catharine and
verbs pertaining to her are incompletely implemented:

  (to Catharine)

  Catharine has better things to do.

Top quality interactive fiction requires both good writing and good
programming.  _Detective_ MST3K had wonderful writing, but the
technical content wasn't there.  _Toyshop_ presumably (I ran out of
time playing "guess the verb" and therefore didn't encounter most of
it) contains some clever programming, but the writing isn't there.
Literally.  The game's sole location doesn't even have a description,
just a rhetorical question asking what might be contained therein.
Object descriptions omit useful details like shapes and features,
and the parser doesn't know about most of what detail there is.

The limited vocabulary set combined with the sketchy descriptions
of what is going on reduce _Toyshop_ to one of the most frustrating
games of "guess the verb" that I've had the misfortune to encounter
in years.  This may sound nitpicky, but is there is an important
distinction between

  The box is empty already.


  You can't see anything inside the box!

The second is a clue that some sense other than vision must be
used to determine if there's anything in the box; the first is
an unequivocal statement that there isn't anything in there.
Since the game uses the first wording rather than the second,
I wasted my entire two hour review period searching in vain for
an alternative solution to the robot mouse assembly puzzle that
wasn't there.  (The sole hint that the game provided wasn't any
help either, and no walkthrough was included.)  I played an endless
series of stalemates at tic-tac-toe in the hope that Catharine
would give me a tube of glue after losing, I mistook the "carpet"
for a glue strip to be peeled off, and I tried to break into
the chest or search elsewhere all with no success (there being
no elsewhere!).  There may also be a cultural issue at work
here -- in the United States, tubes of glue are not normally
provided inside model kits.  Airfix may in fact do this in the
UK, but it was only through process of elimination that I finally
tried searching, examining, looking into, reaching inside, throwing,
dumping, tearing, destroying, opening the other end (to peer through),
and jumping up and down on top of the box (all in vain) before
finally guessing that "shake" was the magic word.  By that time,
the review period had expired, so I am basing my review on what I
encountered up to that point.

_Toyshop_ gave me of the most unpleasant experiences that I have
ever had from a work of IF.  You are dumped into a bare room and
told to fiddle with a group of vague objects that are handed to
you, for no clear reason, and must contend with a rather limited
set of ways to manipulate them and eventually guess which of
several possible solutions has been implemented.  From what I've
read on r.g.i-f since completing my evalutation, I'm not alone
in getting stuck; this is probably *not* a two hour game.  Especially
given how nice Gareth's other work has been, _Toyshop_ is a most
unpleasant surprise.

BOTTOM LINE: This game is evil, and must be destroyed.  Gareth Rees
is also evil, but must *not* be destroyed -- at least not until he
has a chance to finish the next _Christminster_....


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: The Mind Electric		  Parser: Inform
  Author: Jason Dyer			  Plot: Linear
  Email: jdyer SP@G		  Atmosphere: Quite good
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Quite good
  Puzzles: Logical but difficult	  Supports: Infocom ports
  Characters: Simple                      Difficulty: Quite difficult

This game takes place in cyberspace. Not the cyberspace of
"Neuromancer" - the infinite, open matrix where you move at will
between network nodes - but rather the opposite: your enemies have
captured your consciousness inside a virtual prison of just a few
rooms. Not surprisingly, your task is to escape before your virtual
body dissolves. 

Like dream scenes, a story set in virtual reality demands a lot of the
author. Somewhat paradoxically, the very fact that anything is
possible in your world makes it very important that you make it believable
to the reader. Bearing this in mind, I think that the author has done
quite well; he's managed to create a small world with its own laws and
a pervasive atmosphere. Where he fails is perhaps in making it quite
credible; I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief at some points. This
shouldn't be taken as a very serious criticism, though; my doubts never
quite broke the spell; true to the game's sub-title "An Interactive Vision",
the author does have visions and he does manage to get them through. 

The writing is quite good, with one exception: the final denoument
just doesn't feel right. I can appreciate the point the author is
making, and why he's making it; still, I felt that the last page of
text detracts from the quality of the game. Perhaps this is because
he, having a lot to explain (including hitherto unprovided background)
in just a page of text, falls into the classic trap of letting a
character hold a short speech that neatly explains everything;
whatever the reasons, the present ending is not very effective and
dramatically unsatisfying. Perhaps some of the information the speech
provides could be moved back into the story proper; this would also
add some foreshadowing of the ending.

What I found disappointing about this game was the puzzles. It's not
that they are bad - they certainly aren't, and a few of them are quite
clever, but rather that I constantly felt that I had too little
information to solve them. The solutions are certainly logical, but
there weren't enough clues to find them, and I found the game's world too
strange for previous experience to guide me. Fortunately, the game has
a comprehensive hint system - a bit too comprehensive, perhaps, since
it's not context sensitive and it's easy to read too far - without
which I'm afraid I wouldn't have made much progress at all. Of course,
what's cryptic to one player may be obvious to another (and I freely
admit to not being very good at solving adventure puzzles), but I have
the feeling that the author should have provided more clues to allow
the player to deduce the internal logic of the puzzles. Alternatively,
the puzzles could have been made a bit more intuitive; as it is, the
they were simply too difficult for me to enjoy them. 
Finally, a very minor thing: the game uses Inform's "box" command to
present a number of rather obscure quotes; this is a nice feature of
Inform, but a feature that shouldn't be overused. I feel that "The
Mind Electric" does overuse it a bit, considering the very small size
of the game.

"The Mind Electric" is a very interesting game, and in many ways a
very good one. With some rewriting (especially of the ending), and
perhaps with more intuitive puzzles, it would be even better; as it
is, it is still one of the best games of the competition. 

From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: The Mind Electric                PARSER: Inform v1502
  AUTHOR: Jason Dyer                     SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: ???                             AVAILABILITY: GMD

  ATMOSPHERE: Incomprehensible
  WRITING: Surreal
  PLOT: Linear, branching in two in several spots.
  PUZZLES: Quite a bit of "What am I thinking?"
  DIFFICULTY: Easy enough once you figure out what is going on

This is the only game in the division with a clear plot not firmly
tied to the everyday.  You are captured by the other side in some
sort of virtual reality war, and your "mind essence" is somehow
imprisoned (exactly how is never satisfactorily explained); the
object of the game is to escape.

The environment is highly stylized and rather surreal, like many
cyberpunk depictions of the "Net"/"Matrix"/"Cyberspace"/VR/whatever.
Too stylized and surreal, in fact -- the game doesn't always provide
enough context to figure out what is going on without resorting to
the help system, making much of the game an exercise in trying to
guess what the author is thinking.  I *still* don't understand why
the answer to one puzzle that I stumbled across by brute force
worked!  You don't even get a large part of the background to the
situation until you reach the very end.

The endgame was perhaps this entry's strongest feature; a nice (and
finally understandable!) little puzzle led to a denouement with a
neat philosophical twist that left a much nicer impression than the
previous two hours of head-scratching otherwise would have.  Sadly,
the issues raised in the teaser and ending have no impact on the
rest of the game and aren't otherwise expanded upon.

A nice plus, particularly for a reviewer anxious to explore as widely
as possible within the two hour time limit, was the rather extensive
help system, like that in _Zork_Zero_.  It isn't context-dependent,
and the player can completely spoil the game by referring to it, but
it's quite complete, and, for that matter, the best in the competition.
Unfortunately, it is needed to explain what's going on in places where
the game is undecipherable.



From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: A Night At The Museum Forever	  Parser: TADS
  Author: Chris Angelini		  Plot: Linear, rather clever
  Email: cangelini SP@G		  Atmosphere: Weak
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Adequate
  Puzzles: Simple, not too original	  Supports: TADS ports
  Characters: None			  Difficulty: Quite simple

This game has been endowed with a slightly misleading title: it does
take place in a museum, but neither in one night or forever - three
thousand years would be more appropriate! The museum is a strange one
indeed: a temporal museum, with exhibits collected from both the past
and the future. Abandoned for a thousand years, it has been ransacked and
all the exhibits stolen.  All the exhibits, that is, but one. A priceless
diamond ring remains, and it is your mission to retrieve it, a task which
is harder than it seems, since the ring's presence involves a temporal
paradox.  Fortunately, the museum's time machine is still in working

Resolving the paradox and retrieveing the ring isn't that difficult;
in fact, the game is quite small and easy, just as the competition
entries should be. Both in style and execution it's quite similar to
an early Infocom game (a treasure hunt through a deserted house
containing some interesting gadgets as well as more commonplace
objects, all conveniently placed where you can find them). The writing
is not quite up to Infocom's standards, but quite adequate; the
puzzles may not be very original but are clever and logical; the plot
is simple but quite clever and the time travel is handled nicely.

My only big complaint about the game is its almost total lack of
atmosphere. After all, you're exploring a mysterious, deserted museum
where many explorers/looters before you have vanished in a temporal
paradox, you're travelling thousands of years back and forward in
time, and yet the author conveys almost no sense of wonder. It's almost
as if the hero would say "OK, so I've resolved a temporal paradox
and retrieved a priceless ring before lunch today. Maybe I should take
the dog for a walk this afternoon?"

In some circumstances, leaving the museum leads to sudden death. This
may be motivated by the plot, and anyway you can undo. What's worse,
however, is that leaving the museum under certain other circumstances
will cause the game to think you want to quit, and you're just taken
out of the program without even the chance to undo.  This is really a
Bad Thing since it's easy to take a wrong turn in the corridors - it
happened several times to me.

Despite these complaints, the game is quite clever and enjoyable. It
nicely meets the One Rule of the contest: to be solvable in two hours,
which is more than one can say for most of the more sophisticated


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: The One That Got Away		  Parser: TADS
  Author: anonymous			  Plot: Linear, simple
  Email: 				  Atmosphere: Superb
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Outstanding
  Puzzles: Rather simple		  Supports: TADS ports
  Characters: Very good			  Difficulty: Below average

Among the joys of fishing, perhaps the greatest is telling about it
afterwards; stories not just about the fish you caught, but above all
about the ones that got away. This game is about the grandfather of
all the fish that ever got away - the Old One, a fish of mythical
proportions, reputed to be centuries old, showing itself only once
every thirty years. By some strange chance, one of its appearances
happens to coincide with your fishing holiday. Of course you can't
resist the challenge of succeeding where everybody else has failed,
and bagging the Old One...

This game tells the story of your encounter with the Old One. The
emphasis is on the word "tells", since this game is more a piece of
interactive literature than a traditional game. There certainly are
puzzles, but the important thing is the story, not the puzzle solving.

As a reading experience, "The One That Got Away" is very enjoyable
indeed. The writing is perhaps the best I've ever seen in an adventure
game; not as poetic or beautiful as in "The Sound Of One Hand
Clapping", but perfect for telling this kind of story. There's rather
a lot of it, too: the introduction alone takes up more than two screen
pages. The author manages to create just the right setting and
atmosphere for his (her?) story, and the only real NPC, old Bob in the
bait shop, is nicely characterized and has a lot to tell if you ask

This emphasis on writing doesn't mean that the gameplay aspects are
neglected. On the contrary, the game flows nicely and the author seems
to have thought of almost everything, providing appropriate - and
often very funny - responses to most of the weird things an adventurer
might try doing. The puzzle involving the actual fishing is perhaps a
bit awkward, but implementing fishing at the level of detail it's done
in this game is not a simple feat. To help you get an idea of what
you're supposed to do there's a very humorous and detailed transcript
of another fishing adventure available online. If you get totally
stuck, the author has included a walkthrough in the distribution - not
that it should be needed, since the game is quite simple. 

So far for the good sides of this game, and they are good indeed.
What's not so good is what happens once you're ready for some action.
After the monumental introduction and a lot of build-up during your
conversations with Bob and your attempts to get the right bait, you're
ready for a monumental struggle, but instead you're presented with quite
an anticlimax. After finishing the game, one can't help but to get a
feeling of "Was this all?"

Still, despite the anticlimax, its literary quality makes this game
a truly memorable one, one worth playing and replaying several times,
just as one returns to a favourite novel.


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: Toonesia			  	Parser: TADS
  Author: C. J. T. Spaulding (pseudonym)  	Plot: Linear
  Email: an355952 SP@G		  	Atmosphere: Excellent
  Availability: F, GMD			  	Writing: Very Good
  Puzzles: Original and rewarding	  	Supports: TADS ports
  Characters: Good, but a bit non-interactive
  Difficulty: Rather simple

In this delightful little game you assume the persona of Elmo Fuld,
millionare and hunter. When the game starts, it seems as if your
eternal adversary, Bud Bunny (that rascally rabbit!), holds a distinct
advantage: not only has he stolen your gun, but he's imprisoned you in
a room without an exit. But don't despair: you're as resourceful as
ever, and in this world the laws of nature are quite flexible... 

Does this sound familiar? It should, since this game is a loving
re-creation of the world of classic cartoons (with the names slightly
changed, probably for copyright reasons). During your adventures in
Toonesia (don't worry, you do escape your doorless prison) you'll meet
not only Bud Bunny but Dizzy Duck and other characters, and you'll end
up in a number of typical cartoon situations, hauntingly familiar yet
with certain new angles, situations posing problems that can only be
solved by thinking in the slightly twisted way of a 'toon. 

This game may not be very profound, but it's clearly one of the most
entertaining adventure games I've ever played. It's not very large and
not very difficult (and comes with extensive online hints if you're
stuck), the puzzles are all very much in character and have logical
and satisfying solutions (possibly with one exception: the helmet
problem seems a bit contrived), the ending is very appropriate, and
above all it's funny. 

My only complaint is that the game seems to have been rushed out in a
hurry (it was even released a week before the competition deadline),
giving it a slightly unpolished feeling in places. The NPCs could be a
bit more interactive, and there are a few inconsistencies (such as the
Tazmanian (sic) Devil escaping through a tunnel that ends inside a
locked cage - yet when you follow him, he's gone!). I found one quite
serious bug: for some reason, the room description of the mesa
reverses east and west, which made me quite frustrated when trying to
escape, until I literally stumbled onto the solution by

These are relatively minor things, however. I hope that the author
will step forward after the competition to accept our congratulations;
with products of this quality, there's really no reason to be


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: Undo				Parser: TADS (hacked)
  Author: null dogmas			Plot: What plot?
  Email: ???				Atmosphere: Weird
  Availability: F, GMD			Writing: Adequate
  Puzzles: Very strange			Supports: TADS ports
  Characters: Props			Difficulty: Almost unplayable

One pleasant fact about the competition entries is that several of the
authors have not just aimed at writing "classic", Infocom-style games,
but actually tried to renew the genre; to, despite the small format,
produce something new and original. 

The author of this game has obviously tried very hard to come up with
something original, and he or she has certainly succeeded, in the sense
that this game is totally unlike any other piece of IF I've ever seen.
In fact, I'm not even sure of what "Undo" really is - a game, an
experiment in TADS programming, a parody of IF, a meta-game? Perhaps
it's a little of each. Sometimes when playing it, I had the feeling
of being the victim of a strange practical joke. 

In any case, the meta-game aspects are pretty obvious. This is a game
about a game that has crashed just when you were about to win; only a
few steps to your east, a "You have won" sign beckons enticingly.
However, the way is blocked by a large hole that's just appeared in
the ground, and as you explore this little world (just five rooms),
you'll find that things have suddenly started to behave very strangely

True to his (or her, but for simplicitly I'll be politically uncorrect
and use the masculine pronoun) pseudonym, the author has apparently
tried to turn all the conventions of IF upside down. Doing this
involves some wordplay, some self reference, and a lot of hacking of
the TADS library.

The results are of dubious quality. In turning everything upside down,
the author seems to have totally dispensed with internal logic and
consistency. The world consists of a number of locations and objects,
only very weakly connected and all behaving in very odd ways. There is
basically no way of deducing how things will work, which means that
the only way of solving the game - at least the only way I found - is
pure trial and error. Paradoxically, the fact that there are very few
actions to try makes this process of trial and error more, rather than
less, frustrating; trying to do a lot of things with no apparent
effect and no sensible messages can be very irritating indeed. 

I played this game some time and got steadily more and more
frustrated, getting nowhere, making some quite surprising discoveries
about innoculous-looking objects, all of which turned out to be
absolutely useless, and without getting a single point for my
troubles. In desperation, I posted a plea for help on Usenet, and was
kindly nudged in the correct direction; yet even with that help, some
further trial and error was needed before I stumbled on a sequence of
actions that actually won the game - but still without giving me any

It seems as if there's only one real puzzle in the game. In retrospect,
its solution has a certain weird logic to it, but you must probably
have as twisted a mind as the author to be able to solve it by
reasoning - sheer luck or trial and error seem far more likely
methods. The solution only involves one room and two objects; all the
rest has apprently been put in either just because they're neat ideas
or as red herrings. 
The score (or rather, absense of score) seems to be a pure red herring;
the game keeps telling you that you have zero points out of 86, but no
action (not even winning the game) seems to increase it. All this is
further aggravated by the fact that there seem to be a few genuine bugs
in the program (for example, try taking the zero while carrying things,
then putting it back in the swamp, or referring to it as "0" while
carrying it) - but, of course, in this game you can never be sure whether
the "bugs" are intentional or not. 

The author should certainly be credited for his creativity. Many of
the items in the game are very neat ideas, when seen in isolation;
perhaps they should be viewed as jokes. The recursive description of
the writing in the self-referential room is clearly a logical joke
(logic's equivalent of a word game?). There are also some quite
conventional (I'm shocked!) verbal jokes: the bogus error messages in
the dark room are very funny, while other jokes fall flat on the

However, when all these elements are just thrown together and
presented as a game without any further explanation, the result is
more frustrating than amusing. If there had been some hidden internal
logic to be discovered it would have posed an intellectual challenge;
but personally I don't find trying to solve puzzles that aren't there
very challenging, especially when the only way forward seems to be
trial and error; it just makes me feel like the author is pulling my

Had this been made into a "real" game (where there actually is a point
to it all) it could have been a great success.  As it is, perhaps the
most appropriate characterization would be to call it an anti-game. To
the prepared and not-too-weak-of-heart player I suppose it can be
quite a kick, but unleashing it on the unsuspecting contest judges without
a warning is cruel.

IN DEPTH ANALYSES---------------SPOILER WARNING! BEWARE!---------------------

	First, I am going to apologize to every author whose game I am taking
apart with tweezers below.  I'm sure you'll all refuse to speak to me for a
month or so after reading my analyses of your games.  I promise you this,
however.  I will endeavor to explain WHY I say the things I say.  There will
be no 'empty' criticism in these articles if I can help it.

		[This space intentionally left blank.]



	Toonesia is not a visionary game.  Let me start by saying that.  The
author has no artistic pretensions coming into this game.  Considering the
subject matter, that's probably just as well. :)

  TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Jacob did a pretty good job with his parser, and the
appearance of his game.  He's a bit short on synonyms in certain areas,
like trying to put on the carrot cologne, but he has some code that holds up
well under fire.

  PLOT: While not exactly original, Toonesia is a work of inspired borrowing
from various cartoons.  My problem with the plot is its strict linearity.  It
borrows from the obstructionist school of game writing.  I would suggest to
Jacob that he needs to loosen up his plots more, and allow the player more
room to breathe.  This may not really be a valid complaint, as the
competition had tight time constraints, but it is one I will bring up just in
general.  A good plot tree, to me, looks something like this:

			      / | \
			    2   3   4
			  / | X | X | \
			5   6   7   8   9
			  \ |    \  |   |
			    A       B   C
			    |	      \ |
			  END1	      END2

There are many other significant plot forms, but this is a good, solid one.

  ATMOSPHERE: I can't complain too much about this.  Jacob did an admirable
job portraying the world of cartoons.  I even felt like saying, "Shhhh!  Be
Vewy, Vewy Qwiet." at one point.  Concrete suggestions: More mobile NPCs,
a few more scenery objects (most of the rooms were too empty.), and a few
more hints of the wackiness that makes cartoon so near and dear to so many of
us.  Essentially a very good job in this area, though.

  WRITING: I'd like to point out one room description, and a quick player


Inside the Mine
   You are inside a vast cave that vanishes into darkess on all sides, except
for the entrance to the west.  The lush carpet of wealth contained herein is
enough to make even you, Elmo Fuld, millionaire, gasp.  A narrow beam of
sharp desert light flows in from outside and reflects off a ruck of rubies,
from where it bounces off into brood of beryl, heads for a heap of
heliotrope, crashes into a clot of carnelian, hurries to a hunk of hyacinth,
bashes into a battillion of bloodstone, careens into a cohort of carbuncle,
makes for a murmuration of moonstone, and, completely zonked, catches some
z's in a crowded zareba of cubic zirconium.

>get jewels
As you reach down to pick up a gem off the huge pile, you recall something
your accountant said to you yesterday:  "Mr.  Fuld, right now, you're in the
nine-nine-point-nine-percent tax bracket.  If your value increases by more
than a thousand dollars before the end of the fiscal year, you'll be in the
one hundred percent bracket, and you'll have to give everything you own to
the government."  Since any one gem in this mine would be worth several
thousand at least, you realize that your tax bracket prevents you from taking
anything out of here (except that [CENSORED by GKW]).

Oooh, that rascally bracket!


Solid, humorous writing.  Nothing too pretentious, nothing too terribly
obnoxious (although the gem listing comes close), and it's good for a
chuckle or two.  I like this sort of writing quite well.  Not everything has
to be deep and meaningful, or as symbolic as The Mind Electric's writing.
I'm perfectly okay with this.  If I had any suggestions about Jacob's
writing, I would just mention that his writing style is particularly suited
to brevity and straightforwardness.  Again, I *like* that, but I'm not sure
if he's completely comfortable with that style.  I have a tendency to be
long-winded and flowery, so it's a relief for me to see short, concise

  PUZZLES: Toonesia's puzzles are okay.  I was too busy being entertained by
the fun writing to worry about them too much.  I did need the hints to
figure out where the gun was hidden though, more out of impatience than any
real difficulty in the game.

  CHARACTERS: Somehow, although these characters are described as doing more,
they are less interesting than the fox in A Change in the Weather.  It's
probably that I expect a lot if you let a character talk.  Taz was just
right, but Bud and Dizzy fell flat-footed. (That's a joke, son.)  I wanted to
talk to them about what they were doing, about their careers.  I wanted to
see Dizzy occasionally reenter the mine to grab some more gems (possibly
throwing you out if you try to enter with a "Mine mine mine!  They're all
mine!"  Hell, I even wanted to marry the disguised rabbit at the end just to
see if I could do it, since it says that you want to in the game.  To Jacob,
I would suggest expanded topics of conversation for his NPCs in the future,
along with a more aggressive, less passive role in the game's action.


			Uncle Zebulon's Will

	Uncle Zebulon's Will is a complacently tradition, highly effective
narrative.  It combines the quirky unreality of Trinity with the gizmo-filled
atmosphere of Spellbreaker or Starcross.  Of course, I don't say this merely
to lavish praise upon Magnus, but also to point out certain key elements that
make the game _work_.  First and foremost is that the game elements are well
balanced in comparison to one another.  Other entries had excellent stories,
a good level of difficulty, interesting puzzles, but none of them combined
all these things as well as Zebulon did.

TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Magnus Olsson did an excellent job with his parser.  I
found a few small problems though.  Notably, the lack of the nouns: idol,
and fountain in certain spots.  There was also difficulty with the wood
shavings puzzle that smacked of guess the verb ever so slightly.  The final
complaint I have has to do with the use of the pronoun 'it'.  If you were to
type 'search chair', you find a wand, however, immediately typing 'get it'
returns "You can't have the armchair."  Magnus needed to setit(wand) [For you
TADS users out there.] Still, these are very minor complaints, all things

PLOT: Zebulon shines here.  You are drawn into the story quickly, with a
small opening area, and an NPC early on.  The notes and letters from Zeb are
excellent expository, brief and to the point, while remaining in character.
Uncle Zebulon's personality comes across through these writings, and we get
an idea of just why he's our favorite uncle.  You come for a small
remembrance of your uncle, but leave with a world of adventure ahead of you.
	This is an often-used device in fantasy fiction.  Beginning with
small expectations, you build up the importance of a minor task until it
has become a monumental undertaking of heroic proportions.  Think of Bilbo
Baggins and the riddle match with Gollum.  He walks away from it with a
handy little invisibility ring, or so we think.  Turns out to be much more
important than that, and the adventures of his descendants suddenly take on
mythic proportions.
	This technique is a good one because it doesn't create any overblown
expectations in the player.  He gets more than he asked for, in fact.

ATMOSPHERE: Just a brief room description:

   You're in what uncle Zebulon used to call his study, but which also
doubled as his bedroom.  You remember this room as being full of books:
not only the bookshelves, but the desk was overflowing with books and
pieces of paper, and there were always stacks of books on the floor as well.
   Now, the bookshelves gape empty; the narrow, rickety bed is gone, as are
the soft carpets.  Only your uncle's desk remains, along with the smell of
old books and stale tobacco smoke.  The only door leads north, back into the
   On the desk you see a book and a crystal ball.

	To me, when I read this, I was outraged, as though my uncle really
had died, and my relatives had gone scrounging through his house like a pack
of wild vultures.  You are given memory ties with your uncle in the first
paragraph, and then the current status of the room.  This is a common pattern
in uncle Zeb's house, and I got angrier and angrier as I went along.  I tend
to heavily 'get into character' when I'm playing text adventures, and this
was no exception.  Magnus uses this juxtaposition of past and present to
create a feeling of continuity, and make the world more real.

WRITING: The writing, I have little to say about that has not already been
said.  Magnus claims that the writing is rather plain.  Perhaps it is.  But
consider for a moment how well this works.  I find that the writing style,
involving ordinary descriptions, run-of-the-mill adjectives and so forth,
provides a perfect foil to the fantastic world in which the game is set.  In
fact, the writing is just down-to-earth enough to keep me believing in the
magical world of the irrepressible Zebulon.  If I was a visitor to Zeb's
world from Earth, surely everything would seem strange and marvellous to me.
Adjectives like eldritch and mystical would abound.  But the I in the game
has lived in this world all my life.  Why should things appear unusual to
that me until I get to the alternate world?  When I get there, the writing
compensates and becomes more stylish.  I call this not plain writing, but
staying in character.

PUZZLES: The puzzles were all logical enough and simple enough that I beat
the game without hints, and still had a great time doing it.  What greater
praise could there be?  The crystal ball was a big help on certain puzzles.
Without it, I wouldn't have searched the shavings, and probably wouldn't have
realized that the tomato was important.  With it, these puzzles dropped back
to a reasonable level of difficulty.

CHARACTERS: The demon and uncle Zeb were the only two NPCs in the game.  The
demon was standard, boring, and mostly there as a puzzle.  He might have
reacted to more things being done to/shown to/asked of him, but that's the
biggest criticism Zebulon will get from me.
	To offset the rather standard, rather underdeveloped demon, we have
uncle Zeb.  He appears nowhere in the game, but his presence pervades the
entire game.  In a zen sort of way, the game and Zeb are one.  We are given
all sorts of hints and tidbits about him, rather like the journal entries
used so cleverly in _Theatre_.  In this way, Zeb takes on a life of his own,
albeit a fairly eccentric, cynical life.  Still, I wouldn't mind having an
uncle like him, and again, wishing he were a real relative is high praise


	That concludes my analyses for now.  I will continue this practice
in future issues of SPAG, unless there is some great demand that I
discontinue it.

CLOSING COMMENTS-------------------------------------------------------------

	I just want to say a last thank you to everyone who helped out with
the contest, either by voting, donating prizes, entering it, or, to Volker
Blasius, maintaining it on  It's been a great first contest, and
I hope to see even more entries next year.

	1.) Also, I am interested in finding someone to take over the vote
counting next year.  It's a lot of work, so be prepared to put at least a few
hours into it.  Email me if interested in either doing it, or automating the
process for me.

	2.) If you are interested in becoming an official betatester for next
year's competition, please email me and let me know.  You will not be
eligible to vote, but you will get to play the games much earlier than anyone
else.  Please be sure that you will have some free time in which to do this.
It will involve spending several hours on each entry, but you will only be
betatesting each game once, as long as I get enough volunteers for this job.

	3.) If you have prizes you wish to donate for next year's
competition, get in touch with me and let me know.

	4.) For those of you interested in entering next year, here are my
prelimary first draft rules.  Again, short and sweet and to the point, but
expanded somewhat to cover some contingencies that occured this year.


	The MAIN Rule:  The text adventure you enter must be winnable in
under two hours.  Judges will be asked to rate it after playing for that

	The MINOR Rules:

	A)  The text adventure you enter must be completely original, and
your own work.  You may not re-use an older game you have written by porting
it to TADS or Inform.  [Basically, this would disallow MiSTings, which are
more controversy than they're worth.]  All entries will be uploaded to within a 48 hour period.  Entries uploaded before or after that
will be disqualified.  All entries will be anonymous this time, more to
follow on this later.  Possibly will entail use of the anon service.

	B)  You must keep the text adventure to yourself until the Upload
Window.  Do not show it to anyone else who might be voting in the competition
until that time.  You may opt, however, to have it betatested by the
contest's official betatesters, and only them.  They will be under strict
orders not to spend more than X hours betatesting each game, but there will
be 2-4 'drafts', and your game will be tested by different betatesters each

Possible Deadlines:

	1st Beta: April X, 96.
	2nd Beta: April X, 96.
	3rd Beta: May X, 96.
	Final Draft: End of May, 96.
	Voting: End of Sept, 96.

	Alternately, we can have the games due after summer break, etc.
Please send me your thoughts on this.


	As the great Schnozzola used to say, "Good night, Missus Calabash,
wherever you are."


	   Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!

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