Wednesday, September 16, 2009

[IntroComp 2009] Comments

The IntroComp is one of the very few competitions that still have a rule of silence for judges during the competition period. Here's one vote to abolish it, Jacqueline! Anyway, the voting deadline is past, so I assume I can now post my comments.

Gossip

The protagonist is a journalist for a gossip magazine, albeit a "quality" gossip magazine. This is a good premise, and I'm sure a fine game can be created around it--especially if the paradoxes of fame and stardom are explored! The game is also apparently going to feature a clothing system: you can buy different kinds of clothing, and people will react to you based on what you decide to wear. Could be interesting, but I would make it even more central: let me wear different combinations of clothing, shoes, make-up, a hat... and make sure the impact on the people around me is clear. Most useful if the game itself is going to delve into the "fashion" part of the celebrity world, of course. (If the question is just whether you can choose the right dress for the right occassion, I'm afraid it will be a shallow puzzle system. Let us play around with the clothing, and have fun with it, if it's important! Perhaps there can be a party where we might either want to impress or to shock.)

The puzzles need work. The first puzzle was photographing someone in a park. The park was too big and featureless, the person I was seeking too hard to find (and even when I saw her, and she ran off, the game didn't tell me in which direction she ran!), and when I finally managed to take a shot of her I didn't know what I had done right! Fewer locations, more structure.

The party is a little bit better, but doesn't flow very well either. I had to use hints to get through it, and even then, the game wouldn't let me leave the party even after it said that I had enough information? Strange.

So: could be good, but needs more work.

Oh, and I would not put a sentence like this in my game: "She isn’t very interested in parties, because she also has kids." So has Britney Spears.


Obituary

This game was the best of the three. Good writing, though the authors ought to be very careful, because there is a constant temptation (to which they have perhaps already succumbed a few times) to take the style too far. Interesting story, that I would like to see more of. I wonder if it is necessary to start so magically, though? Did the sudden mist and the empty town serve any purpose? Surely, the protagonist can be shot by rednecks even where nothing supernatural is involved. Then again, these things may make more sense once one goes farther into the story.

Because the story is so unclear at this point of the game, it is very hard to say anything more constructive. The dissociated scenes might turn out to be thematically brilliant, or they might not--there is no way for me to say at this point.

But I'll be looking forward to this one.


Selves

You can pick up the shard of glass and cut yourself with it, causing you to bleed copiously and continuously. On the first turn of the game. This is good.

I didn't seem to get noticably weaker as I watched more and more blood drain from my body. This is not so good.

Also, after I cut myself and buried a body, I was transported back to the initial room and couldn't find anything else to do. There were no hints and no walkthrough available. So... was this all there was to do? Was there more? Either way, I can hardly give a good score to a game that I got stuck in after a couple of moves, nor can I say anything particularly enlightening about it.

6 comments:

  1. I thought IFComp was the only comp that has removed the silence-during-voting rule. Of course there have been comps that have a panel of judges but discussing about the games of those comps has always been allowed.

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  2. The Spring Thing has removed the silence-during-voting rule as well. Given that those are the two major competitions, I think my statement is well-justified. :)

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  3. I hope it's OK to post my reactions to the entries.

    I ended up giving "Gossip" the highest rating of the three. My basic reason was that, of the three, it was the one I'd most likely want to continue playing. "Gossip" appears to be trying something new, although how far that will go is an open question you (Mr. Gijsbers) address in your review. This isn't much of a spoiler, but one additional problem I had while playing the game was trying to show the pictures to Sammy. I'm sorry, but editors simply do not evaluate photos for publication via a camera's LCD screen. I know how big the LCD screens are on the pro DSLR cameras, but they're still too small compared with even, say, a laptop's screen. Aside from the issue of detail, there's the issue of color calibration, and possibly other issues. This is a business detail I happen to know, and it did compromise the realism of the game for me. And now I think of it, I never got out of the party either.

    But even with these problems, I still liked it more than "Obituary". There's no question in my mind that "Obituary" was a more polished game, but parts of it completely irritated me. "Infodump" came to mind frequently. I got the feeling quickly that the authors didn't really believe in their story, so they reach for as many established horror tropes as possible to fill-in-the-dots automatically. (More spoilerish below.) It was a pleasant surprise to come across the first NPC in the cemetery: he struck me as well characterized. But when I got into the church, the cliches just exploded: the evil father who feeds the PC psychiatric drugs? Please. First, psychiatric drugs aren't the "perfect happy pills" that the advertising likes to say. The issues involved are much more subtle and complex, and implicitly agreeing with the marketing materials doesn't begin to do the subject justice. The whole mention of these drugs was totally out of nowhere. But putting that aside, why is the villain here the PC's father? If he's just an evil character to be avoided or crushed, why not just make him a dragon instead? If the villain is her father because the authors want to deal with issues of abuse, they had better ground this dramatization in concrete particulars, not a bunch of tired cliches from other fiction because they're Instantly Dramatic.

    In short, as it stands "Obituary" feels to me like a dungeon crawl meets "Losing Your Grip". I've played these games before, and I might be willing to even play them again if authors would engage the material. Here during infodumps I often don't feel as if the authors are engaged with what they're saying. "Gossip" appears to be working with what is a good premise, although I completely agree that there's work to be done.

    And honestly, Mr. Gijbers, I'm impressed with how much more progress you made than I did with "Selves". :) I managed to pick up the body and shovel, stared in disbelief that "dig" wasn't implemented as a verb, and just gave up.

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  4. Hi Bruce--it's certainly OK to post your reactions here.

    I can see what you're saying about "Obituary". How favourable one regards it will depend heavily on how confident one is that all the apparently disconnected and even unmotivated plot points will come together and make thematic sense. I have given the piece the advantage of doubt. (Is this an English expression? If not, it's a Dutchicism. ;) ) But I understand where your more negative outlook comes from.

    Oh, and please, on this blog, I'm Victor, not Mr. Gijsbers. :)

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  5. So this comment thread has been dormant for a couple years, and I just stumbled onto it looking for IntroComp reviews, but I thought you should know, Mr. Gjisbers, that there is an English version of that expression. It's "the benefit of the doubt."

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