Reviews by John Daily

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1-8 of 8


The Acorn Court, by Todd S. Murchison

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nicely descriptive, but dock a star if parsing errors bother you., September 17, 2013
by John Daily (New York)

The player starts off in the courtyard of a mansion, with no reason given as to why he's there, how he got there, or even what his goal is (it's to leave). There was a bit of work put into some very nicely descriptive passages, but not as much put into the parsing. For example:

>Get crumbling stones
I only understood you as far as wanting to get the small water well.

On top of the west wall [...] is a large squirrels (sic) nest made of sticks, twigs, and leaves. [...] A carpeting of old brown leaves [...] rustle about on the ground...

>x leaves
A typical squirrels (sic) nest...

I hate to knock anything that someone put obvious time and effort into, but this is a one-room IF; surely these things should have been caught and fixed in beta.


Eliza, by Anonymous

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An important work, altered beyond recognition., August 5, 2011
by John Daily (New York)

In his 1976 discussion of the integration of computers and society, Computermacht und Gesellschaft, Joseph Weizenbaum discusses his fascination with communication: not only how words get transmitted, but why. Why do we choose the words we do? How does one's background and world perception help dictate what those words will be? Perhaps most important: why can we not say specifically what we mean?

Weizenbaum, of course, wrote the ELIZA program in the mid-1960s at MIT as an attempt to satirize how "nondirectional psychotherapists" respond to prospective patients during the initial interview. It was designed to respond in specific ways to keywords typed in by the 'interviewee;' anything it didn't quite understand would generate one of several generic responses, such as "why do you say that?"

Written in SLIP (not BASIC, as is commonly thought), ELIZA was intended more as an exercise in analyzing scripts than as a useful psychoanalytical tool (in fact, Weizenbaum deliberately chose therapy as his canvas so that any 'advice' the program dispensed could be dismissed as being completely subjective). Nevertheless, it became something of a phenomenon, especially among those who used it as 'proof' that artificial intelligence was possible (an idea with which he was never completely comfortable). ELIZA has been translated many times into many different languages (during the 1990s I even had a version of it on my BBS), and therein lies the problem.

Like an international film that has been translated for subtitles and, from that, translated again for overdubs, ELIZA has become so altered and diluted that she no longer resembles herself. In fact, this Inform translation seems, to me, to be even less 'intuitive' than the BASIC version I remember seeing back in the early 1980s. Of course, this cannot be seen as the fault of its translators, as it is (at the very least) an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation (which is, in turn, credited to "Anonymous").

Nevertheless, the core idea remains the same, and this is important. At the very least, ELIZA deserves to be remembered and studied, no matter what state she may be in these days.


Shade, by Andrew Plotkin

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
The "Jacob's Ladder" of Interactive Fiction, August 4, 2011
by John Daily (New York)

There is a reason why, eleven years after its release, people are still playing (and discussing) Shade: It's a benchmark game. Beautiful in its elegance and completely immersive, its seemingly simplistic gameplay belies a sophisticated core.

The player begins in his (or her) apartment, several hours before embarking on a Burning Man-styled trip to the desert. The game starts off walking the player through mundane tasks, which serves two purposes: First, it eases the player into the game's vernacular; second, it puts him on comfortable footing, which is an important detail, as it makes the slow descent into its surreal Hell even more stark by contrast.

Designer/Writer Andrew Plotkin ensured that Shade can be enjoyed by players of all levels. A creatively implemented help system, woven into the story, walks the main character through tasks that need completion without being intrusive. For those who don't need such hand-holding, opting out is as simple a matter as not looking. For all its newbie-friendliness however, Shade features writing that works on several levels; statements that might initially elicit a chuckle become downright sinister as the game progresses.

I hesitate to call Shade a game, because the writing and pacing is so dead on (if you'll pardon the expression); although you will be ahead of things during the game's middle section, it's a necessary evil dictated by the plot, and it's safe to say this will not be the case as you progress toward the finale. Be forewarned however: if surrealism and ambiguity aren't your thing, then you may want to bypass this one. Shade is the Jacob's Ladder of the medium: not very scary while you're experiencing it, but it gets under your skin and stays there long after the word "END" appears on-screen.


D-Day, by Yvette Gilmore

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Oh dear; "something has gone wrong," indeed., August 1, 2011
by John Daily (New York)

Writing this review pains me a bit, because it's obvious that this is Ms. Gilmore's first release (I certainly don't want to be the reason anyone gives up working with this amazingly creative medium). It's equally obvious that she's put a fair amount of time into creating her maps and lists of details. In part, though, that's the problem: D'Day is less a game (or IF), and more just the PC running around collecting everything needed for a wedding. As for the plot: well, that's pretty much it.

There are some major parsing issues in this one, and some sloppy code (for example, telling you to do things you've already done, but not updating, so the game keeps commanding you to do it). "Look"ing in a location acts as "look, examine, and get all" at odd times. Also, "look"ing in a room sometimes gets you a "try looking in [X] location" message and nothing else, so finding exits and a room description (there is no "exits" command) means you must scroll up. Some room descriptions don't list all the access points, which makes going back difficult without scrolling up again. Some objects that seem like they should be interactive, aren't (trying to turn on a tv, for example, tells you "that's not something you can switch," while typing "watch tv" gives you a description of the tv and the cabinet it sits in). And so on. Of course, parsing issues are going to creep up in any IF; that's simply the nature of the medium, but there are so many (and that's not even counting the "guess the verb" areas) that it's obvious that the game didn't spend much time being beta-tested before its release.

Look, I feel heartless right now. If Ms. Gilmore is reading this, I hope she realizes that there is a decent game to be had here; she just needs to pay as much attention to the debugging phase of game-building as the actual designing of it. The writing is solid, and the idea of a to-do list isn't necessarily a bad one. As a first effort, it's commendable.

Without more attention from the author, however, D-Day will just remain dull and buggy.


Digging thru Doctrine of the Dead, by Simmon Keith

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Quick, easy, and creative, August 1, 2011
by John Daily (New York)
Related reviews: SpeedIF July 2004, single room

Digging thru Doctrine of the Dead was an entry in the Speed-IF for July 2004, the rules of which read: "In 2 hours or whatever your conscience allows, write a speedIF on the eternal theme of hubris. Points for including a vestigial tail, environmental policy on ferret populations, phlogiston, a pink parasol, sudden undeath, or crappy madlibs. Go!"

Simmon Keith took this task to heart, because he managed to work every one of the seemingly-unrelated suggested criteria into this one-room puzzler. You play a disgraced ferret-person scientist who needs to prove your latest theory to the scientific community. It's brief but creative, and the writing is sufficiently interesting (although it does become a game of guess the verb).

If you're in the mood for something short, simple and slightly off-the-wall, Digging thru the Doctrine of the Dead is worth a look.

(EDIT: I had to deduct a point when I realized (while going through my transcript) that an important object does not appear until after you try to do something without it. For someone who is not familiar with the criteria of the contest, this would bring the game to a stop.)


Somewhen, by Bryce J. Rhaiz

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Barely there., July 31, 2011
by John Daily (New York)

"Make 'em wanna visit! And get some decent soundbites this time!" Mr. Graham, your boss and editor of the Southern Indiana Digital Dirt never had a nuanced eye for the finer points of journalism. "Well? Get Going!" He pushes a digital voice recorder across the desk and rushes you out of his office."

So begins Somewhen. I'm a sucker for any work of writing that starts with a quote: it grabs me right away. Add an interesting premise, a mysterious title, and some good, solid writing, and I'm yours for as long as you want me.

The description of the area outside of the majestic resort from which Mr. Graham ejects the player made me practically drool with anticipation: promises of "tree-lined drives," "magnificent gates," an airport and a golf course? It sounded too good to be true - and it was. Nothing is implemented, and all the player can do is walk a couple of screens around the hotel, staring at the bustle of busy bellboys, valets, limousines and their "rich and well-dressed occupants" and wish there were a way to interact with them.

This one was clearly not finished, and it's a shame, 'cause it was a helluva start.


69,105 Keys, by David Welbourn

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, little diversion!, July 30, 2011
by John Daily (New York)

I have to admit: I'd rather work on a logic problem than just about any other type of puzzle. Because of this, I quite enjoyed 69,105. There's no real plot, no sense of tension, but that's not the point. All there is, is you in a locked room with 69,105 keys, all with seven characteristics. Only one is unique, and you must find it.

What starts off as an exercise in tediousness actually becomes quite fun, due largely in part to the game's quirky sense of humor. Another nice touch is that the unique key is chosen at random upon startup. Unfortunately, once you realize what the secret is to achieving the solution, the replay value pretty much drops to zero.

Nevertheless, 69,105 Keys is an amusing little diversion, just perfect for when you don't have 40-50 hours to spend!


Affrontotron, by Joe Mason

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I know it's supposed to be a joke, but..., July 30, 2011
by John Daily (New York)

From the accompanying README: "You could imagine a game where the winning conclusion is reached by typing GO NORTH 1,000,001 times in a row, and every time but the 1,000,001st, the response to GO NORTH is "You can't go that way." (It wouldn't be a very fun game, but it's still a possible game.) If an automated winnability evaluator were given a limit of a million turns, it would incorrectly call the state unwinnable.
[...] Either I've implemented the game Mike describes above... or I haven't! Is it winable? You decide!"

All I can say is, it's *exactly* as fun to play as it sounds.



1-8 of 8