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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 4:12 pm
by MrPetrov
TADAH and Such
On this lovely Sunday morning as I settled in to begin coding it struck me that I'd spent a vast amount of time working (diddling about) on my own Works In Progress and almost none playing and enjoying those that had been lovingly made by others. I saved my feeble progress on WIP XIII ("After the War') and clicked over to the main page of the site in the expectation of finding dozens of unreviewed, unplayed, and unspoilt products of true ADRIFT mastery awaiting the tremulous touch of my greasy little fingers.

And what should I find? The most recent game on the list is Brain in Jar's "The Angel, The Devil, and The Human" (hereafter referred to as TADAH because it looks cooler than TATDTH or ADH). This particular game has occupied this position for as long as I can recall. I realize that I have been rather spoiled by my excursions into the depths David Whyld's Shadowvault but I rather expected better from the vibrant… er… well… living community of Drifters.

A few more clicks revealed that there hadn't even been one entry for the summer competition. I was washed into the deep by a tsunami of depression and anger. I wanted to immediately post some sort of barbed invective that would finally stir up the great and silent college of ADRIFT players and creators and drive them ashamed into the light to face up to their own lassitude and indolence. I wanted to cry, "Lotus Eaters! Odysseian Children! Bear fruit, fig tree, or I'll smite thee!"

Right after I finished the safe-cracking puzzle in WIP IIX ("The Canadian Job').

And figured out how to spell Odysseian, because MS Word is flipping useless.

I, of course, didn't post any such thing. Instead I drove down to the Osco to get some sterile Q-tips. You see I have this terrible thing just *stuck* in my eye. It's in there all the time now. My doctor says it's something called a… what is it… (shuffles papers, looking for ten-thousand dollar hospital bill)… oh yes. A beam.

I think that there is some other forum that I'm not yet aware of where all of the intelligent, well-spoken (written), and highly creative people who made all of those early ADRFIT (and Quest etc.) games and turned IF from a hobby done on Tuesday nights in dank basements into a legitimate hobby done on Sunday afternoons in unfurnished spare bedrooms go to discuss and expand upon discussion in a manner worthy of the Royal Society. I'd love to post on this secret ADRIFT forum. I, of course, have nothing to say and less to contribute, but that's neither here nor there. I'd just like to hear what other people have to say. And then deride them as stupid newbies. And use the Zero key instead of an O. Because that's fantastically clever, right?

Don't take my meaning wrong. The ADRIFT forum is alive and kicking and we've done a fine job of keeping the L33t kids out. But you have to admit that it has been, and could be, better.

Action is always better than complaint, or so they tell me. I therefore resolved to put forth my best effort and, with the assistance of Mr. Jar, Mr. Whyld, Nickydude, KFAdrift and all the other good people hanging on by their fingernails, to begin to produce again. Of course there's no way that I'm ever going to finish any of my projects before the return of Ozymandias so that takes the whole making-games-that-are-fun-to-play thing right out of the picture. I mean, for Bog's sake, the only progress I made on my own summer comp piece is a half-assed diagram on post-it note. I think I was going to do something with an island. Either that or a really circuitous subway system. It's hard to say.

That led to the second option. There's nothing like a little peer review to get the old creative juices flowing. A little while back there was a contest on the writing forum where we were asked to review an imaginary game. The Inevitable David Whyld posted the first or second entry of the comp (I forget and the thread has been removed). DW has been reviewing games ever since some adventurous little fish used its soft and weirdly formed flippers to drag itself up onto the muddy banks of the prehistoric ooze-puddle and coded a really awful one-room locked-door puzzle with incomplete descriptions and no win state. After his entry I didn't even bother to post a good job or a wow onto the thread. I just backed away. Like my brother used to say, "You can't compete with the Bomb, baby!" And then he'd usually punch me in the groin. Thanks for the sterility, bro.

David "The Bomb!" Whyld, I will say, is the *reviews guy*. He's responsible for most or all of the reviews that I've bothered to read (sorry, everybody else) as well as his exhaustive work on Shadowvault. DW is a keystone of IF and ADRIFT especially. It's time, though, for some of us regular folks to step up to the plate and give back. Pick a game or, for that matter, a clever entry in one of the writing comps, and tell us how you feel about it. Enter the darn writing comps. Think up your own writing comps. Vote for the writing comps (and for me). And also make games. Really. I mean it. I'll try too.

Don't be afraid if your games suck. Think of how much fun it'll be to make the half dozen most IF-literate people in the western world play guess the verb for four hours just to find out you never finished the damn thing in the first place. Do you like fire, breasts, and explosions? Well, text isn't good for any of these things, for the most part. But see if you can do it anyway. After all, a game which reads like a rejected Miami Vice script and plays like a one-string banjo at the bottom of the pool is till a damn game, in the end.

Please take note that I reserve the right, as should we all, to sarcastically deride all bad games and personally insult their creators. It's more fun that way. If you can't take criticism then you shouldn't write. If you're afraid of criticism then it's time to expose yourself to a whole lot of it. Build up a callus, so to speak.

But I've digressed. This is, after all, a review piece.

Mr. Jar took the time and made the effort to produce a pleasant little game and send it out into the harsh and alkaline plains of the ADRIFT world. I cannot say how many people have downloaded and played it but it worries me that not one of them has taken the time to even say 'Thanks for spending six or eight hours out of your life putting together a creative work that few people understand and even fewer will really appreciate'. This is even more worrying because of the long times between new games (at least on the site) and the dearth of response even to old games. Thus not only did Brain in Jar succeed in making a clever and playable game he also managed to pull it off on a sort of creative cantilever. He deserves our applause.

TADAH is, as BIJ tells us, a rather old riddle wherein various reactive components must be arranged or eliminated. Sort of like a mental version of toothpick solitaire. Now Mr. Petrov (to use the third person) is not an intellectual. Years of hazardous chemicals and stressful situations have caused in him a wide departure from formal logic and his capacity for analysis was left behind a long, long time ago. To Mr. Petrov a riddle is an enigma wrapped in something really damn hard.

And so I (returning to the first person) did what any forthright and honest person would do when faced with something that demands intellectual effort. I Googled the answer. Sure enough, "Fox chicken corn puzzle -porn" (that's a Boolean logic joke) delivered up to me the fact that…

Nope, sorry. You're just going to have to play it. Or at least copy-and-paste into the search bar on your own.

The puzzle, irregardless of the Googling thing, is sufficiently well put together to be engaging. I say sufficiently because it does not contain any of the three elements of American popular writing (terrorists, breasts, explosions) or mainline fantasy writing (elves, giant robots, breasts) and therefore most people under the age of twenty-four will immediately lose interest. That is their loss and our growing challenge.

BIJ wisely uses cut outs to avoid traditional IF commands (look, kill, conquer world) that would spoil the operation of the puzzle. This is to his credit, as my obsession with looking, poking, and/or setting on fire all of the visible elements of any particular location would have delayed me from attempting to solve the issue at hand. It's also the reason I was kicked out of school. All the same I would rather have had some ogle-time with the succubus secretary or maybe drop-kicked and imp or two. And you can only imagine the fun that could have been had in Heaven.

The descriptions in the game are short and not overly complex but contain quite a bit of cleverness and good humor. I was disappointed at some grammatical errors, though, especially in the Heaven location. One solution for this seems to be to write the major elements of a game (room descriptions, introductions, and so forth) in a commercial word processor which will pick up on and underline errors that might otherwise be missed. Once the work has been machine proofread it is fairly easy to copy-and-paste into the very-big-text-box that Campbell has provided for us. Of course, I am no one to complain over grammar. My ongoing (and losing) battle with punctuation and indentation is well recorded in the preceding fifteen hundred words. All the same, text errors throw the player out of the game's milieu (French, meaning, "word made up by Lit professors who can't write worth a damn themselves") and lessens the playability thereof.

Even with the limited amount of text provided there were some very good jokes. BIJ's hell sounds better than his heaven (Sexy succubus secretary, people, how can you lose?) and the end-game trick deserves a cleverness point or two. I also liked the inclusion of a pre-game menu and instructions. TADAH is sufficiently complex in concept that an instructions and an explanation is warranted and BIJ was not found wanting. Tart good humor is good for IF text and really keeps the player involved but only when it is matched by completeness and attention to detail.

There also was, wisely, included a shameless plug for Campbell in the credits section. BIJ clearly worked hard on his game and wanted to let the Big Guy know how much he appreciated the anvil he used for hammering out the iron. If Campbell deigns to descend from his golden throne on Skull Island and read this poor little post I pray that he knows that we are all in debt to his mightiness, majesty, manliness, meatiness, and other adjectives beginning with M. Yea, for the guy, he is cool. Cool is he with his hat and his sunglasses and his good taste in forum design. And there was much rejoicing for a new version was released. Amen.

My only notable complaint about the game is that BIJ doesn't initially include an obvious protocol for movement between the three layers of the Hell, Earth, and Heaven. I suppose it should have been obvious that going up would take me out of Hell and up onto earth but a good way to cover this would have been to include alternate commands like "Go To X" or by including a route up and down in the location description. The game's structure isn't hugely demanding on the intellect of the player (unless you're Mr. Petrov) but these little streamlining details can really make a difference in the long run.

I again applaud Brain in Jar for a good piece of work that is clever and engaging while building upon a traditional logic puzzle which, thankfully, is easily solved with a little search-bar help. I am looking forward to more and longer works by this author and by other newcomers to the community.

Of five 'stars':

Writing: ***
Playability: ***
Cleverness/Originality: ***
Completeness/Error Checking: **
Overall): ***

There, 2150 words of meaningless blather and unending complaint. Good job getting to the end of it. Now get up on the general discussion board and tell me what an idiot and creep I am. Then finish that game that's been on the back-back-back-burner since Christmas.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 4:17 pm
by MrPetrov
An update. The reviews writing challenge was not removed. In fact, it was PINNED. :blush:

Having re-read the entries I commend the posters for their good work and well written entries. Perhaps I should have entered after all. Also, a special pat on the back for DuoDave for suggesting the whole thing in the first place. Bring out another one and I promise I'll put in my two cents on it.

For now I'll just head off to read my new textbook: Foot In Mouth for Dummies :D

PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:19 am
by David Whyld
Thanks for the nice comments. Always appreciated :)

Yes, it would be great if more people wrote reviews but as the failed Reviews Exchange would indicate, and the lack of reviews I received whilst editing the Newsletter, getting them to write reviews is an uphill struggle. There's been a lot of talk in the past about the necessity for reviews, but while most people appreciate them (unless it’s your own game being reviewed and it’s getting a real hammering), few seem willing to actually write them. Part of the reason I began writing reviews myself was in the hope of encouraging other people to do so. Unfortunately, after five years it’s starting to look like I failed miserably. I'm sure my constant nagging (and the occasional death threat or two) has garnered a few extra reviews over the years, but it’s hard to know if the effort has been worth it in the long run.

The ADRIFT community itself is pretty small. It’s always been that way, though it seems more noticeable now due to how quiet the forum has been these last few months, so it’s not like there are huge amounts of people out there who are going to be playing every new game that comes out. Of the ones who do play the game, only a fraction will ever consider writing a review and of them only one or two (if that) will go ahead and actually write that review. I’d love to see that change and for every new game to get a dozen or more reviews (just think how much more incentive people would have to write games then), but it’s never happened before and I don’t see it happening now.

But anyway, I downloaded and played the game. I have to admit I hadn’t realised it was there until I read this review as I only check the main site only very rarely. Maybe future authors should consider announcing their games on the forum?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:20 am
by David Whyld
And without further ado...

Okay, I generally avoid 4 Kb games because a) they're 4 Kb and that’s way too small for a proper game, b) they're 4 Kb and that’s way too small for a proper game. But owing to the death/dearth of new ADRIFT games lately, and the fact that someone writing a game ought to be encouraged, I decided to give it a go.

The game is a take on the fox/chicken/corn puzzle which I'm sure I heard about at school but couldn’t really recall till I read the intro. Here you have to apply the same kind of theory to a devil, an angel and a human: namely, getting them from Hell to Heaven without anything untoward happening to any of them along the way.

The game warns me at the start that if I leave the devil and the human together, the human will sell his soul to the devil. It also advises me that if I leave the devil and the angel together, the angel will smite the devil. I tried both of these things* and nothing bad seemed to happen. The human didn’t sell his soul to the devil (or if he did, he did so very quietly and didn’t let on) and the angel didn’t smite the devil (at least, not that I noticed) and the game progressed merrily on its way and concluded satisfactorily. As it’s a small game, I played it through four times trying different combinations of who to take first and who to leave behind, and the game concluded with the happy ending each time. Is it possible to fail? Even when I was deliberately trying to make it fail, I still succeeded.

* Present me with a big red button and a sign saying “DON’T PUSH THIS BUTTON OR TERRIBLE THINGS WILL BEFALL YOU” and I’ll be tapping on the button before I've even finished reading the sign. I'm like that.

A few technical points: TAKE works but the more common GET doesn’t. I can’t DROP any of the characters once I've TAKEn them, but I can LEAVE them behind. They're also not listed in my inventory despite the fact that I'm effectively carrying them around. The angel, devil and human have each one conversation topic that they repeat endlessly, irrespective of what you actually asked them about. Examine is underused: you can examine the angel, devil and human, but everything else just returns the same default message that there isn't much to look at in this game. Sure, the game is about the puzzle of getting all three characters to Heaven without anything bad happening, but it wouldn’t hurt to include a few descriptions of other things as well.

But I didn’t mind the game overall. It was one of the few (and it really is a few) small games I've played that was actually worth the download and that didn’t get immediately deleted off my hard drive five minutes later with a muttered “next time, write a proper game” comment. I don’t know if it’s possible to lose the game (a bug?) or whether I was just incredibly lucky in always managing to find a winning ending, but a quick glance in the Generator (always nice when people don’t password protect their games) doesn’t immediately show me a losing ending so I’m assuming the bug, if it is a bug and not just the writer going easy on the player, is intentional.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:38 am
by brain in jar
You're not losing?? That's odd. It's been working on my computer since when I finished it. If you don't do it correctly, a "meanwhile..." notice it supposed to append itself to the room description on earth depending on how you lost. I've revised the TAF (and passworded it this time) so I'd like to know if it works for you and not just me.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 3:22 pm
by David Whyld
I ran through the game a couple more times and still got the good ending no matter what I did. The following commands leave the devil and the angel in the same room together:

take human, u, u, leave human, d, d, take devil, u, u, leave devil, d, d, take angel, u, u, leave angel, push button

The ending is then:

> push button
Congratulations! You worked out the puzzle.


Have a peanut.

Whereas this sequence of commands leaves the devil and the human in the same room:

take angel, u, u, leave angel, d, d, take devil, u, u, leave devil, d, d, take human, u, u, leave human, push button

The ending remains as:

> push button
Congratulations! You worked out the puzzle.


Have a peanut.

From what I gather, either of these should result in something bad happening - the angel smiting the devil in the first case, the human selling his soul to the devil in the second - but the ending remains the same each time.

With a better look through the Generator, I can see that the events with the angel smiting the devil and the human selling his soul don't trigger because you haven't specified any rooms for them to trigger in. Events only work in the rooms highlighted below the "only show descriptions if in one of the following rooms" in the events tab. As you haven't highlighted any of the rooms, the events don't trigger at all.

Edited By David Whyld on 1183389828

PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 3:36 pm
by brain in jar
I programmed the losing tasks to take place in the earth room from the start. I can't think what else is wrong. It works no problem on my computer. ???

PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 2:26 pm
by Lumin
MrPetrov, wow, that was inspiring! :bravo: Seriously I think you should take the first have of your post and move it to General where more people will see it and hopefully discuss it - I'd say more here but I don't want to derail a review thread.

Edited By Lumin on 1186237667

PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 3:20 pm
by MrPetrov
Thank you.

It is my policy not to tinker with postings more than a month old. The moderators are free to follow your advice, though.