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25th Place - 9th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2003)
-- Emily Short
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
Bio is nothing like a good game, but it feels well-intentioned to me, more or less. I think it's possible that some future work from this author may end up being pretty good. That'll go some ways towards living down the hilarious MSTing of this game that simply must happen.
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BIO: struggling to rise from its own mediocrity, November 7, 2017
Oh no! Gas is seeping in under the door. It can't be examined, or otherwise interacted with, but this sure sounds bad! What else can I examine in here in my effort to get out? There's a nightstand, which apparently matches the (non-existent) dresser, and a bandage. Apart from that... ah, a television. Hmmm. Well, the room is starting to fill up with gas, but when I examine the television, I watch for a few minutes. I suppose, if I'm that blasť about the gas entering the room, that it must be a regular occurrence around here.
Hmmm... dead. I restart and try a few more things, including holding the bandage over my mouth, but nothing works. In the end, I resort to the walkthrough, only to discover that there is an invisible armoire in the room, presumably a synonym change or confusion with the dresser. Easy mistake to make, changing the name in one place but not the other, but fatal. A quick run through the walkthrough before submission wouldn't have found it either, as the walkthrough is correct. I can sympathise, but ouch.
The next location is "an ordinary hallway with toupe walls and red carpet." Toupe? Is that like a hairy brownish-grey? Though I guess that would be 'taupee' or 'toupee'. This second location mentions your own room back to the south, and a different room to the north. That's all. North is closed off, as it's someone else's bedroom, but the location gives no indication that the hallway also continues to the east.
In the next hallway location, trying to go south results in "Your to tired to break in to this guy's room right now." This immediately struck me as another typical amateur-IF nonsense reason for disallowing actions. I've seen this "You're too tired ..." silliness in other games. Radical Al's Kingdom of Amphibia does the same thing to prevent you removing your backpack, and that isn't really the sort of association you want to call up in a reviewer's mind.
Eventually, I arrive "to the men's bathroom" [sic], where someone has "wrote" [sic] some graffiti on the wall. It also, ominously, contains the body of Carl, a security guard and my buddy. Even more ominously, you cannot 'x carl', which just seems like synonym laziness to me.
And if I'm the janitor, wouldn't I need to be able to go into the women's washroom, regardless of the contents of my pants? Apparently not. I wonder who cleans it?
In another hallway, this time outside the main office, I try to go east into the office, but "run into the door." So naturally, I try 'open door', only to be told "I don't see any door here." Hmmm.
I then try the supplies cupboard, stocked with shelves and supplies, but neither of them can be examined. Is the point of this room solely to cut yourself coming in?
Then, outside the security office, I see "a screws". Upon examining them, I am told they are "Four phillips head screws", no period or other information. I naturally assumed they were lying on the floor of the hallway. It was upon trying to take them that I discovered they were in fact attached to the wall.
I eventually get through the door and talk to Steve, a security guard. Bear in mind, at this point in the game, I have learned nothing about what is going on, other than that there is an atmospheric lockdown, a murder has been committed with an AK-47, and all the scientists are gone. So I ask Steve about the lockdown, but he knows nothing about it. I try asking him about a few more things, but he is oddly reticent. I finally consult the walkthrough to see what the heck I'm supposed to do with Steve, and find that I should ask him about 'terrorists'. What terrorists? I had no idea terrorists were involved until now, except possibly at a meta/player level, certainly not as my janitor persona.
Do security guards really say things like: "those bullies..." when talking about terrorists? It seems doubtful.
And why can't I ask or tell Steve about Carl? I wanted to ask about Carl to find out when Steve last saw him alive... and I wanted to tell Steve about the murder. Presumably, as fellow security guards, they'd know each other.
On a whim, I march back to the bathroom with Steve and run into Dave Lebling's infamous play-testing bug from Suspect when I 'show body to steve' and find that "Steve isn't impressed." Steve is made of sterner stuff than I would have suspected from his earlier comment about "those bullies". On an aside, why doesn't he respond to "Steven"? Is it like me and my refusal to respond to "Mike"?
In the hallway outside of the control room (elegantly described as looking "like an ordinary Hallway outside of control room to me"), there's no mention of which way the control room lies, but when I do eventually stumble in, I run into the "its/it's" problem. I was wondering when it would show up, and I think this is the first occurrence in this piece. It feels like an old friend.
I was stuck once again for a while, until I discovered that, while reading the lockpicking book only produces the same text as examine, trying to take it causes a lockpick to fall out of it. Why doesn't reading it make this happen? Also, I should be able to open the book and find the lockpick, but the game responds with "I don't know how to open the lockpicking book." Hmm, perhaps with a lockpick then?
I wouldn't quibble about the reading thing so much except that reading the chemicals book does actually read it, not just examine it. The lockpicking book should work the same way. Note: this is why classes can be useful.
There is one interesting thing here, which is the pouring of acid on a lock, which was also found in my very own Risorgimento Represso. It's even the same type of acid, though RR refers to it by its older name of "muriatic acid". Still, funny coincidence.
So I get into the main office and, upon looking under the desk, find "a combination", which upon examination is "a piece of paper with a combonation written on it." A combo-nation? Right, like Trinidad and Tobago, I guess. Of course, 'read combonation', as per the walkthrough, doesn't work, but 'read combination' does. This is entirely in keeping with the obvious fact that the author doesn't know how to spell this word. But if you don't know how to spell it, how can you get it right in some places and wrong in others?
Anyway, I've talked far too long about this game in general, so I shall now proceed with the encouragements.
I can't tell whether this game had any beta-testing, as 'help', 'about', 'credits' and so on don't work, and there is no readme file. I suspect that it did not, given the number of gameplay problems.
This game would benefit greatly from a little bit of work by a competent tester.
The writing and spelling could also use some serious work, and the story needs more of a hook to it, or more of an element of uncovering details about the attack as you go, at least to interest me, anyway.
The NPCs need some work as well, to make Steve more than a two-dimensional cut-out figure, whose only real purpose, as far as I can remember, was to open a door or two.
Also, try to anticipate reasonable actions with the objects you put into your game. If you're going to tell people that they've run into a door, they're likely to try to open it. Don't just put in support for the steps in the walkthrough, or the things you want people to do. IF players like fiddling around with the scenery, trying to open, break, kiss, touch and otherwise interfere with your carefully constructed backdrop. It's part of the fun.
In any case, in short, it's bad, but not unredeemable. It's better than some of the other entries. Good luck on your next effort.
Why does this have to start in a bedroom? Why do there have to be all these doorways to other bedrooms we can't enter? Why not have started in the janitor's room, amidst brooms, buckets and so on? Or anywhere else, really? Why couldn't one of the useless empty rooms that abound in the game be instead, say, the infirmary, a reasonable location to find the bandage? Well, never mind
This had ubiquitous spelling and grammar mistakes, coupled with a rather weak and simplistic story, of the 'take x to location y' type.
Not terribly appealing at all. No clear identification of PC or goals of the game, no clear statement of what was going on. 'x me' produces the zero-information content reply of "You look about the same as always."
There were other unanswered questions such as what is this complex where I work? Why is it under attack by terrorists? What do they want?
Walkthrough as written does not get you through the game. Admittedly, the puzzle is fairly easy to solve in any case, but by the point you've gotten tired and turned to the walkthrough, you just want to finish, not figure out in which way the walkthrough is broken. Missing synonyms abound, unimplemented objects are rampant, including the armoire, required to solve the game and completely unmentioned in the opening
I had little fun with this one either, due mainly to the writing, spelling and implementation problems.
WABE score: 3
Play as a lone janitor in a science facility, August 1, 2017
The setting is pretty bland for a lab, and the room descriptions are minimal, but I didn't find any bugs.
There is an independent NPC and an animal that are fairly fun.
This is version 4 of this page, edited by Paul O'Brian on 8 April 2008 at 6:04pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item