Monthly Archives: October 2010

[IFComp2010] Seven Games Reviewed

I played some more IFComp games. Behind the jump you’ll find mini-reviews of seven games. There will be some amount of spoilerage after the jump, so be warned. If you would just like to know whether I think these games are worth your time, here are the non-spoilery micro-reviews:

  • Rogue of the Multiverse: Highly Recommended
  • The Sons of the Cherry: Not Recommended
  • A Quiet Evening at Home: Not Recommended
  • Gris et Jaune: Recommended
  • The Chronicler: Not Recommended
  • Death Off the Cuff: Highly Recommended
  • East Grove Hills: Highly Recommended
Continue reading [IFComp2010] Seven Games Reviewed.
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Voting Mechanism

Here’s a different take on “weighted voting,” from a CNN article about the French Senate passing the pension bill:

As is the custom in the Senate, senators voted Friday by placing plastic credit-card sized tokens into one of three different urns indicating a vote for, against or in abstention. The cards were then poured out into a scale and the vote was calculated by the total weight of tokens in each urn.
Just knowing that something like this exists makes me happy. I wonder if there are other funky voting things out there. I’m trying to think about how something like this might be used as a mechanic for a board game. You could have a plastic tub with several divisions. Each turn, players would put marbles or something into the different tubs based on something in the game. The tub would have a removable bottom, and at some point during the game the bottom would be removed, letting the marbles fall onto some sort of balance scale device, and you would see the result by which way the balance tipped, or maybe there’s some more complex mechanism, something Rube Goldberg-esque, that is affected by the weights of the various divisions.

Or I suppose you could have marbles that weigh different amounts but that are the same size and are painted the same color. So you would have them made of different materials (different metals or metal alloys? different woods?), and their weights would be such that a computer inside a scale could determine how many of each are in the container by weight. However, no one would know what anyone else was contributing to the tub (you would know either by the weight difference, or perhaps there could be different textures put on them so that you could tell the difference by feel). OK, maybe that doesn’t work out mathematically, at least not for large numbers of marbles, but maybe there could be something for smaller numbers of marbles. Or maybe the tub could have a mechanism inside it for sorting the marbles by weight, something that is invisible to the players.

Anyway, just some random thoughts about using weight as a voting mechanic. Anyone else have ideas? Anyone know of an existing board game that uses some kind of weight mechanic?

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How the Text Rewrote Me

You may have noticed that I haven’t added any entries to the Jmac on Games category since late August. It turns out that I have entered a period of intense obsession with interactive fiction, so deep and wholly involving that, for the time being, I have lacked the will to play any other sorts of games, much less write about them.

A snapshot of my world: I have neither powered on my Xbox nor launched Steam in weeks. Tim Schaefer is one of my favorite creative forces in videogames, but as I type this I have no clear idea what Costume Quest is or what platforms it runs on. I know neither the color nor shape of the box that Dominion: Prosperity uses. A new issue of Foggy Brume’s always-ingenious Puzzles & Answers is out, but I have no desire to fill in wordplay grids.

As a credit to its astoundingly sudden ubiquity, Minecraft has broken through, but only as a brief over-the-shoulder tour of a friend’s stone-and-glass fortress I enjoyed while visiting his real-life home. I felt duly impressed, but before long wanted to get back home to my own computer.

On that computer, I have Suspended (Michael Berlyn, 1983) open in one window, and I ponder recreating the board-game play aid that shipped with the game’s physical box. I have the experimental collaborative piece Alabaster (Emily Short et al, 2009) open in another, as well as a shifting sample of this year’s entries to the Interactive Fiction competition — which, alas, I cannot vote in, since I myself entered a work. Buried beneath these game windows are works in progress in both Inform and Final Cut, and these in turn point to both a cloud of Wikipedia browser tabs and a short stack of increasingly dogeared books on my desk. And behind all this, so many blogs and Twitter search-streams and MUD windows as I steep myself in what everyone else is saying about — and creating within — this medium, at once invisibly obscure and sparklingly vibrant.

Earlier this year, I squeezed into the amazingly crowded IF events at the first PAX East, assembled a video about modern IF, and wrote about the energizing developments in the medium since PAX. But the event that transformed me from evangelistic observer to suddenly ravenous platform-student was my crafting a work for the 2010 comp, and the subsequent feedback I began to receive. As a professional software developer, I found no surprise that finishing it in time for the October deadline soaked up my September in intense work, both on my own and alongside my beloved betatesters. But I did not expect to emerge from the experience significantly changed in my relationship to IF. Which is to say: hungry.

A true post-mortem about my experience will have to wait until next month, since the competition rules preclude me from writing in a public forum about any single entrant, mine or other, until the judging period is over. But I can attempt to entertain you with a brief catalog of how I’ve been feeding myself:

Continue reading How the Text Rewrote Me.
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The People's Republic of Interactive Fiction presents a Special Halloween Event: The Lurking Horror

Get ready for Halloween and come to play The Lurking Horror, an interactive fiction piece that brings Lovecraftian horrors to G.U.E. Tech, a fictional version of MIT. Dave Lebling, author of The Lurking Horror and Zork, also an MIT alumn, will join us as we fight the creatures of the Unspeakable. After playing, we will offer a campus tour of the different locations that are (approximately) in the game.

If you have not played interactive fiction (a.k.a. text adventures) before, this is your chance to learn the basics. If you already know how to play, come and experience how fun it is to play interactive fiction with a room full of people. If you've heard the call of Cthulhu, this is the place to be.

The event will also be broadcast online via ustream.

We've got four other IF events coming in the next two weeks. We announced these earlier, but now the times and locations are set:

Collaborative IF Playing Event

  • Thursday, October 21st, 7:30 pm until everyone's done having fun
  • Tufts, Center for Scientific Visualization, Anderson Hall -- the Viswall
  • Flourish Klink and the PR-IF crew will present several IF games to play in groups. The game is up on a projector screen; somebody reads, somebody types, and everybody can shout out suggestions. We've done this a couple of times at MIT, and it's a lot of fun. (List of games to be announced.)

PR-IF Meetup

  • Monday, October 25th, 6:30 until we're hungry
  • MIT 14N-233
  • Our regular monthly meetup. We will look at this year's IFComp entries, watch a surprise video, and discuss whatever else is up in the IF world.

IF Writer's Workshop

  • Wednesday, October 27th, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
  • Tufts Mayer Campus Center -- the large conference room
  • I (Andrew Plotkin) and the PR-IF crew will host an IF writer's workshop. Please bring a work in progress! (Any amount of progress, even just an opening room. Any IF platform.) We will try out each work for a few minutes, and then discuss how it plays.

Clara Fernández-Vara on Storytelling in Games

  • Thursday, October 28st, 6:00 - 7:15 pm
  • Tufts Halligan 111A
  • Clara Fern├índez-Vara (GAMBIT Lab, MIT) gives a guest lecture for Ming Chow's Game Development class. It is open to the public. This is not specifically about IF, but about narrative in game design in general.
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Project HL teaser 5

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[IFComp2010] Reviews of R and Leadlight

It’s time for the annual Interactive Fiction Competition. Since I’m not participating as an author this year, I’m going to be participating as a judge. I might not end up reviewing all of the games, but I wanted to start off by looking at the two games that are not in one of the standard formats (Z-code, Glulx, or TADS), since they will likely be getting somewhat less attention because of that. They are R by therealeasterbunny and Leadlight by Wade Clarke.

After the cut, there will be some spoilers (although not major ones). Don’t read further if you haven’t played the games yet and don’t want the experience spoiled. I will briefly say that R is maybe not worth it unless you are into pirates or you are nostalgic for Scott Adams games and that Leadlight is definitely worth playing despite its unusual platform.

Continue reading [IFComp2010] Reviews of R and Leadlight.
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