IFComp 2007: Join the OO Judges Council!

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Hipolito
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IFComp 2007: Join the OO Judges Council!

Post by Hipolito » Mon Sep 24, 2007 1:20 pm

It's that time of year again. Judging for the 13th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition starts one week from today. I have given up hope of ever submitting an entry to this contest, so I will judge as I did in 2005and 2006.

Last year's competition had 43 entries, and I assume that this year will have at least as many. With each game taking up to 2 hours to complete, judging them all in 6 weeks is too much to ask of anyone with a full-time job or drug addiction.

That's why I ask you, whether you're a Zork master or are interested in trying something new, for help. I would like to form an Octopusian Overlordian Grand Chamber of IFComp Judges. I will assign each member of this august body an equal number of games to judge, as well as a powdered wig. During the six-week juding period, you will play as many of your assigned games as you can, though nothing stops you from playing games that you weren't assigned. On November 15, the final night of judging, we'll enter our ratings at the IFComp site (which I can do on your behalf if you don't wish to create an account there, or you can e-mail your votes as described here) and post our opinions of the games in this thread.

It'll be fun to play the entries, discover the gems, share our opinions, vote as a group, and observe the results. The more judges we have, the fewer games on each judge's docket. So what do you say? Join the Octopusian Grand Judge Whatever Thing! Your powdered wig is waiting!
Gracias por estar aquí.
Avatar is from: Persona 5 (edited a little)

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Post by raydude » Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:21 am

Sure, I'll volunteer to judge IF games.

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Post by Fitzy » Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:32 am

I could handle one game a week, this sounds like a good idea.

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Post by Hipolito » Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:14 pm

We have a triumvirate.

Fitzy's post gives me an idea: instead of divvying up all the games at the beginning, I'll assign each judge just six games (that's one a week). That'll give each of us an easily attainable goal. When you're done with your first 6, you can post here and claim an additional 6.

Who else will join the triumvirate?

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Post by Hipolito » Sun Sep 30, 2007 11:13 pm

The games are now available! There are only 26 of them (excluding the ones that I know are sham entries). Go here to download the games and interpreters needed to run them. It's fastest to download all the games and interpreters via the torrent links, even if you won't be using them all. This list of games shows which game goes with which interpreter. The contest rules are here.

And now, fellow Judges of the Grand Chamber of IF Judgment, your wigs and randomly selected games:

Judge raydude, you will be wearing the Colonial while playing your games. Distinct yet debonair, this top treatment exudes the gravitas you need to establish your authority as a judge.

Image

Your six games are:
  • An Act of Murder
  • Beneath: a Transformation
  • Orevore Courier
  • My Mind's Mishmash
  • Gathered In Darkness
  • Jealousy Duel X

Judge Fitzy, you will be wearing the White Wizard. Specially tailored for the contemplative type, this dignified head dress says, "We ponder beyond the box."

Image

Your six games are:
  • A Matter of Importance
  • Deadline Enchanter
  • Packrat
  • The Chinese Room
  • A Fine Day for Reaping
  • In The Mind Of The Master

As Chief Judge, I, Judge Hipolito, bear the gravest responsibility, and therefore must don something that expresses the severity of my burden. I shall wear the Krupp Bagger 288 Bucket-Wheel Excavator.

Image

My six games are:
  • Slap that Fish
  • Eduard the Seminarist
  • The Immortal
  • Lord Bellwater's Secret
  • My Name is Jack Mills
  • Ferrous Ring


Have fun, and watch out for those grues! Remember that your rating of a game can be based only on your first two hours (at most) playing it. Let me know if you need any help or want other games to judge.

There is room in the triumvirate for a fourth judge in case anyone's interested. We only have ladies' punk rock wigs left, though.

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Post by Fitzy » Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:40 pm

Woohoo wizard!

Do you know if the torrents are working? I've just been getting a timeout error, but I haven't been trying very long yet.

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Post by Hipolito » Mon Oct 01, 2007 11:31 pm

I just tried seeding the torrents and am getting that timeout error. The mirror links seem to be working, though (and seem faster than the torrents were).

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Post by Fitzy » Tue Oct 02, 2007 8:30 am

It looks like it's working this morning, a bit slowly, but working.

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Post by raydude » Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:23 am

I just clicked on mirror 1 to download the .exe for the games and the interpreters and the download finished in about 5 minutes for both. Anyway, perusing through the history of the IF competition it seems that the ranking is on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best all time IF game you've played)? Is this right?

Also when we submit our rankings, do we need to add a few sentences as to why that ranking was given? Or write it as a review?

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Post by Hipolito » Tue Oct 02, 2007 1:19 pm

raydude wrote:I just clicked on mirror 1 to download the .exe for the games and the interpreters and the download finished in about 5 minutes for both. Anyway, perusing through the history of the IF competition it seems that the ranking is on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best all time IF game you've played)? Is this right?


Yes. I've yet to give a score higher than 8, but I'm probably harsh.

raydude wrote:Also when we submit our rankings, do we need to add a few sentences as to why that ranking was given? Or write it as a review?


When you submit your rankings at IFComp.org, you're only submitting the numerical scores. But please also share your opinions about each game in this thread so we all know what they were like for you. You'll notice from the previous IFComp threads I linked to in the opening post that I write a sentence or two for each game.

Note that if you submit your rankings directly to IFComp.org, you have to rate at least five games for your rankings to count at all. If you can't play that many, or if you just don't want to submit your rankings directly, I can submit your rankings along with my own rankings through my existing IFComp.org account. Come November 15, let me know which option you choose.

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Post by raydude » Tue Oct 02, 2007 5:24 pm

Hipolito wrote:
raydude wrote:I just clicked on mirror 1 to download the .exe for the games and the interpreters and the download finished in about 5 minutes for both. Anyway, perusing through the history of the IF competition it seems that the ranking is on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best all time IF game you've played)? Is this right?


Yes. I've yet to give a score higher than 8, but I'm probably harsh.


Same here. Although I'm treating 5 as average, so it has to be at least better than average to get a 6, better than that for 7 and so on. Plus, I'm using benchmarks like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and A Mind Forever Voyaging as my 10s.

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Post by Hipolito » Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:29 am

We're about halfway through the judging period. How're we doing on our games? I've completed 4 of mine.

I took a detour to play the winner of last year's competition, Floatpoint, which I didn't play at the time of judging. If I did, I probably wouldn't have rated it highly because, at the two-hour mark, I was still bothered by the alienness and obfuscation (you're not even allowed to directly communicate with most characters). But I ended up staying up well past midnight to experience all eight different endings of the complex story.

The game casts you as a diplomat brokering a critical agreement between two very different societies. The game does such a good job making you feel like a stranger in a strange place that it's hard to get into. Fortunately, you're given helpful tools so that you're only confused by the environment rather than by the gameplay, such as a to-do list, automatic navigation (instead of typing in compass directions, you can type in the place you want to go and you'll get there), and a searchable database.

As a diplomat, you'll have to sort through history, social customs, and personal agendas as you wonder how to bring together people who need each other but cannot coexist. The endings are interesting observations on people's tendency to justify past events, telling themselves that it was all for the best.

I don't know whether Floatpoint's pedestal should be as high as those for Photopia and Slouching Towards Bedlam, two prior competition winners that made their impact while being shorter and simpler games. But I think that every IF fan should play it. Download it, get the Glulx interpreter and go.

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Post by raydude » Mon Oct 22, 2007 9:01 am

I've gone through 3. Although, I've really only completed 1, and for the other 2 I can't bring myself to play through to conclusion. Its just as well, since the rules state that I have to form my impressions after 1 hour of play.

Since there was no walkthru for the 2 games I didn't finish I just had to submit my judgement based on the quality of the prose, fun factor, story, etc. It didn't help that for one: Beneath: a Transformation, the prose wasn't so great. It was a little worse than average IMHO.

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Post by Hipolito » Mon Oct 22, 2007 9:32 pm

You actually have 2 hours to form your impressions. I hope the rest of your games are better. Of the ones I played, I can recommend one (Slap That Fish).

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Post by Fitzy » Thu Oct 25, 2007 2:34 pm

I've finished two and started two others.

I really enjoyed A Fine day for Reaping, there were multiple ways to finish each task and I didn't get stuck very much on trying to figure out what to type.

I also got as far as I could in In the Mind of the Master. It was ok up to that point, but I am apparently an idiot, because even with the hints I hit a point I just can not get past. Depending on time I may try again, it's pretty short, but my tolerance for frustration is low these days.

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Post by Hipolito » Thu Oct 25, 2007 11:05 pm

Glad you found a gem, Fitzy.

I'm curious about Deadline Enchanter. Having played both Deadline and Enchanter by Infocom, I wonder whether this game mixes sleuthing with spellcasting.

I'm disappointed that we didn't get a third game in the Xen series (think Harry Potter as if written by L. Ron Hubbard).

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Post by Malificent » Fri Oct 26, 2007 4:16 pm

Photopia would be my choice for a 10 on the scale. I still think about that game every so often, which considering my small brain capacity, says something about how much the game rocks.

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Post by Hipolito » Sun Nov 11, 2007 12:50 pm

This is the last week of judging, and I've finished my 6 games. I'm going to enter my scores at IFComp.org and post my ratings here, and invite my fellow judges to do the same. If you'd like me to enter your scores at IFComp.org, let me know.


Slap That Fish: Bizarre RPG in which you engage in fistfights with fish. It doesn't even take place underwater. Seems utterly stupid at first, but it gets puzzley later on and is well-written. OOers might appreciate the ending. Rating: 7

Eduard the Seminarist: Based on actual real-life historical figures, but the unclear puzzles and sparse writing hold back the mystique. Rating: 4

The Immortal: Just when you're about to quit from the misspellings, bugs, and incoherent writing, the game kills you out of the blue. Rating: 1

Lord Bellwater's Secret: Well-written whodunit requiring some detective work in a single room, but I got a bit annoyed with some inconsistencies and having to disambiguate all those papers. Rating: 6

My Name is Jack Mills: Another detective story, this one in the world of stolen artifacts. Well-written settings, fairly easy, multiple endings, but ends too quickly. Rating: 6

Ferrous Ring: Find out what your mission is in a world approaching apocalypse (I think). The title is a bit of a pun on the character's name, kind of like "Ferrous Bueller." Well-written, reminded me of Fahrenheit 451, but I didn't really get it. Has a cool walkthrough mode: instead of reading a walkthrough, you just type in "walkthrough" and the game fills in your next action at the command prompt. Rating: 6


No clear winners in my batch of games. I'll rate some of the unassigned games if I get around to playing them.

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Post by raydude » Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:47 pm

Here's my rankings:

An Act of Murder - 8
-starts out well. really makes me feel like I'm part of a murder investigation. The prose is also pretty good, both in the descriptions and the dialogue. The atmosphere is apparent throughout, both in the dialogue and the descriptions of the characters.

As an added bonus: according to the game's general hint the solution is randomized each time you start a new game. I also like the way the author structured the hints in terms of questions the player might have. The player would then be able to get generalized hints and have the freedom to keep asking for more specific hints if he wanted. I know this is a lot more work in terms of programming than just spitting out a simple list of commands for a walkthrough.

However, this is probably also a necessity given the randomized solution.

Beneath: a Transformation - 5
-ehhh. The beginning seems too freeform and does not give me enough sense of purpose. The descriptions seem contradictory.

As an example, when I read that something is a fat boxy mansion I imagine something totally different than when something is a boxy institutional cube. I'm all for using different descriptors but they should all form the same kind of image in my mind.

The puzzles themselves seem very bizarre and illogical. For example, in one case I get thrown into a cell with a weird statue. The statue can kill me if I look at it, but if I read my book first I am able to survive looking at it?! It definitely feels as if the player has to have more than passing knowledge of the stories by Robert E. Howard, on which the game is inspired. Which leave me, as one who has no knowledge of the stories at all, more than a little bewildered.

Orevore Courier - 9
Science Fiction story. Interesting setup. Kind of reminds me of Infocom's "Suspended" in that I am unable to directly manipulate my environment or walk around in it. I'm a security officer on a space cargo ship but I'm locked inside my security room (on purpose) and am limited to viewing the different rooms via cameras, recording the action and playing it back, and locking or opening doors. Still, the game manages to make some entertaining puzzles even with such limited actions.

However, by the author's own admission it is a "cruel" game in that the sequence of actions one must perform are very tight. I get the feeling that I have to perform the actions in almost exact order, with almost no chance to try an alternate tack unless I restore to a previous point. Still, it manages to entertain and tell a decent story within a very very short time frame. The author does also insert a bit of humor into the story via the responses to some standard IF actions. The author also points out some humourous commands to try out in his walkthrough.

My personal pick for the best of the bunch. And its got zombies and space pirates. What more can you ask for?

My Mind's Mishmash - 7
I like this premise. You start out in the midst of a sci-fi battle, only to find that its near the end of a virtual reality videogame. Then you find yourself locked inside the game while the software is shutting down with your nemesis in pursuit. During the course of your escape you explore the different time periods within the game simulation. The game universe is portrayed well, and the prose is quite good.

Gathered In Darkness - 7
-nice intro to the story. Gets me in the mood to play more. I like the Quest engine interface. It shows the possible directions available at the time, along with any objects that are able to be manipulated or examined. Yet it still allows for hidden objects or directions to become "found" and updates the GUI when the player does find a hidden object or path. The prose is also good. The sentences aren't jarring, and the prologue serves as a nice hook before the main game commences.

However, one difference between this IF engine and others is that it doesn't describe in full detail the objects in a room except for the very first time one enters. For example, the first time I enter the "Upper Office" the game describes the room as having a mahogany desk with a computer on it, and a picture on the wall near a filing cabinet.

Yet, every single time afterwards, whenever I type "look" the game neglects to mention the furniture and only talks about how "the computer and files remain undisturbed since your last visit". Instead, the game requires one to type "look at room" in order to retrieve the full description and thereby reacquaint himself with all the furniture and items in the room. Perhaps a minor point, but it is worth pointing attention to this syntax, given that the "look" command seems to be a universal shortcut in most IF games.

A minor nit about the interface - it doesn't seem to display the right amount of text properly if the window is sized to smaller than full-screen view. By that I mean that occasionally you will get a large pouring of text and will find yourself having to scroll back because some of the first few lines have already gone past the window.

Jealousy Duel X - 6
-a flash-based gui-driven graphical adventure game about trying to get more date phone numbers than your ex-girlfriend. funny, kinda gimmicky. At first it left me feeling like I'm blindly clicking around, but then a few puzzles clicked.
Still, I had no clue at times which of the conversational responses would work. It would have been nice to be able to save the game at different points so I could quickly go back and re-do some of the actions.

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Post by Fitzy » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:04 pm

Oops, I forgot to post scores. Overall I thought my bunch was alright. The writing in all of them was good, and only a couple really frustrated me, which I hate in IF. Maybe I just get frustrated to easily.

A Matter of Importance - 5 I enjoyed the writing on this one, but some of the puzzles made absolutely no sense. I did think the story was interesting.

Deadline Enchanter - 6 I really liked the writing and the puzzles were easy, almost too easy. The story didn't make a whole lot of sense, in fact I think I was missing something, maybe it was related to a past game that I don't recall playing, or inside information was needed to really understand. Either way I still enjoyed playing the game.

Packrat - 4 This game seriously frustrated me, I consulted the walk through more on this game then possibly any other game. Maybe I just suck. Anyway the only thing that saved this game from being a complete wash for me was the humor.

The Chinese Room - 6 Good writing, not too difficult in the puzzle department and the puzzles made sense. Strange story though I thought.

A Day for Reaping - 8 By far my favorite game. The story was interesting and unique, I think, you play the Grim Reaper and have to collect a few stuck souls who don't want to move on. There was a lot of humor. What really made this game great though was that there were multiple paths through, and getting stuck didn't result in frustration because you could just move on and come back later with a different solution.

In the Mind of the Master - 4 The most frustrating game I played. I get stuck no matter which of the supposed paths I took. All paths seemed to lead to the same place. The writing was alright though and the storyline interesting.

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Post by Hipolito » Thu Nov 15, 2007 11:27 am

Great job, raydude and Fitzy! I'm going to have to try some of the games you rated highly.

I got a couple more ratings in:

Fox, Fowl and Feed: Starts out seeming to be a cute and funny logic puzzle (you have to get a fox, a duck, and a sack of feed from one point to another, carrying only one at a time), but the solution is just a little too nonsensical for me. Rating: 5

Lost Pig: An orc's hunt for a runaway pig takes him to "place under ground." Hilariously written, it's like playing Zork with a low IQ! Rating: 8

I think a winner will be announced tomorrow.

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Post by Hipolito » Fri Nov 16, 2007 3:55 pm

We have winners!

1st: Lost Pig
2nd: An Act of Murder
3rd: Lord Bellwater's Secret

Complete results are here. There's usually a Miss Congeniality award, too, but I don't see one listed.

We liked Lost Pig and An Act of Murder, so it's good to see them win. I'm surprised to see Lord Bellwater's Secret get third; the game is impressive, but even if you didn't have the problems I had with it, I don't know if you'd call it thaaAAAaaaAAAAat good.

Other games we rated 7 or higher:

7th: A Fine Day for Reaping
8th: Orevore Courier
13th: My Mind's Mishmash
15th: Gathered in Darkness
19th: Slap That Fish

All in all, we saw a good number of well-made games with clever concepts. I'd like to thank my brother judges for participating with me on this, and hope they found the experience worthwhile.

Now is the time when I announce my intent to compete in next year's competition. I mean it this time. My game will be a sci-fi story inspired by triggercut's Race into Space AAR and by something else entirely. I only came up with this idea a few days ago, but am very excited about it. I'll even tell you the title: LAUNCH TEAM BRAVO! That's right, it has a kitschy and stupid name that you can hold over my head. "So, Hipolito, how's LAUNCH TEAM BRAVO coming along (smirk)?" We'll see who's laughing when my game wins, you jerk!

Watch the PC Games forum in 2008 for further announcements of LAUNCH TEAM BRAVO! In the meantime, I'll be trying to learn the weird and wonderful Inform 7 natural language.

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Post by raydude » Fri Nov 16, 2007 6:32 pm

Hipolito wrote:We have winners!

1st: Lost Pig
2nd: An Act of Murder
3rd: Lord Bellwater's Secret

Other games we rated 7 or higher:

7th: A Fine Day for Reaping
8th: Orevore Courier
13th: My Mind's Mishmash
15th: Gathered in Darkness
19th: Slap That Fish

All in all, we saw a good number of well-made games with clever concepts. I'd like to thank my brother judges for participating with me on this, and hope they found the experience worthwhile.



Yayyyy! I'm going to try playing through Lost pig and a Fine Day for Reaping - they sound pretty funny. Its good to see Orevore Courier up there too.

Now is the time when I announce my intent to compete in next year's competition. I mean it this time. My game will be a sci-fi story inspired by triggercut's Race into Space AAR and by something else entirely. I only came up with this idea a few days ago, but am very excited about it. I'll even tell you the title: LAUNCH TEAM BRAVO! That's right, it has a kitschy and stupid name that you can hold over my head. "So, Hipolito, how's LAUNCH TEAM BRAVO coming along (smirk)?" We'll see who's laughing when my game wins, you jerk!

Watch the PC Games forum in 2008 for further announcements of LAUNCH TEAM BRAVO! In the meantime, I'll be trying to learn the weird and wonderful Inform 7 natural language.


Neat! I actually recently tried out Inform a few months ago. I was going to try programming a game on my wife's Macbook. I didn't like it as much as TADS though. Although TADS was my first IF language, so I could be biased. This was 6 years ago, and I had my entire work place mapped out with several co-workers parked in a few rooms and then 1 or 2 wandering co-workers.

Good luck on your game!

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Post by Hipolito » Sat Nov 17, 2007 2:19 pm

raydude wrote:
Yayyyy! I'm going to try playing through Lost pig and a Fine Day for Reaping - they sound pretty funny. Its good to see Orevore Courier up there too.


Grunk playing Orevore Courier now. Game make Grunk wish he more smart.


raydude wrote:
Neat! I actually recently tried out Inform a few months ago. I was going to try programming a game on my wife's Macbook. I didn't like it as much as TADS though. Although TADS was my first IF language, so I could be biased. This was 6 years ago, and I had my entire work place mapped out with several co-workers parked in a few rooms and then 1 or 2 wandering co-workers.

Good luck on your game!


Thanks! I may go with TADS if I can't get a handle on Inform 7. Even though it's a natural language, it may take me longer to learn than a normal programming language would. I've read half the manual and am still pretty lost.

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