Ratings and Reviews by autumnc

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Contrition, by A.K. Fedeau
autumnc's Rating:

The Diplomat, by Nakade
autumnc's Rating:

Seedship, by John Ayliff
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The TURING Test, by Justin Fanzo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Philosophical Dilemmas, November 25, 2021
by autumnc
Related reviews: ifcomp 2021

The TURING Test is a game with some interesting ideas, but I thought the implementation left some room for improvement.

The game starts in a very classic sci-fi mode, with direct references to Asimovís Robot series. The first act consists of an ethical questionnaire, asking the player what you feel about various ethical questions relating to robots, the three laws, the meaning of life, etc.

The next act is an exposition about the robot apocalypse that occurs as a result of your answers to the questionnaire. (Spoiler - click to show)Turns out, the AI interpreted your ethics extremely literally in a way that caused it to want to kill all humans. It was interesting to read how exactly the AI would go about its plans. However, I didnít think the robot rebellion story was plausible: (long spoilery section) (Spoiler - click to show)Based on my choices in the beginning, the AIís directive was to preserve all life on earth, but it found that humanity did more harm than good, so it must destroy humanity to stop global warming. But launching every nuclear weapon on earth would cause way more damage to life on earth and its ecosystems than most plausible scenarios of global warming, via the nuclear winter and radiation and so on. I guess since I didnít pick nuclear war as the greatest threat, the AI considered global warming to be a greater threat than nuclear war, but the reason I didnít pick nuclear war as the greatest threat is that the likelihood of global nuclear war is less than the likelihood of catastrophic global warming. Not just the absolute value of harm but the likelihood of harm. So... I don't know. This is kind of pedantic and wouldíve been avoided if the AI were able to kill humans without nukes.

Maybe the AI weighs the well being of cockroaches above every other life form. Which could make sense in certain branches of utilitarianism and could have been interesting to explore. Maybe it valued bacterial life the most because there was so much of it and thus decided to kill humans because they made antibiotics but then decides to avoid killing humans because they provide excellent hosts for bacteria but then decides to kill humans anyway because I donít know.

Then there's a long, essentially linear segment detailing your plan for taking down the AI that you helped create, involving uploading a virus. There are some choices mostly for aesthetic. And then you are sent to the International Space Station, and that was where I encountered my first bug.

The bug: I go to the Kibo lab on the ISS and see ďItís timeĒ, and then the game hangs. It just freezes. I think this was a problem with firefox, because multiple twine/harlowe games with timed text have had this problem. Chromium did not have this issue, I think, although looking at some of the other reviews, it has occurred in Chrome for some people.

Now we get to the actual Turing Test portion, where we have to distinguish between two entities to see which is the real human. You only get to ask each of them three questions, which seems like a remarkably short Turing test. Both the questions and answers feel kind of vague to me. I ended up guessing correctly, but I couldn't say why. (Spoiler - click to show)I think that the AI's answers are supposed to be based on the player's answers to the philosophical survey at the beginning of the game.

I had the same freezing error after the Turing test, when I had to decide which was the human and which was the AI. Picking one of the answers (the correct answer) led to the timed text never showing up. Again, I think this is an issue in the way firefox interacts with harlowe. Interestingly, the bug did not happen when I picked the wrong answer, and I might have actually preferred the "bad" ending.

I played through both endings, and while I thought the concept and writing were good, something about it just didnít click for me. The central plot device didnít really make sense, and the interactivity was less than the premise promised. I guess my feelings were soured by the technical issues I encountered, which weren't really the game's fault. Maybe without the bugs, I would have enjoyed it more.

Vampire: The Masquerade ó Parliament of Knives, by Jeffrey Dean
autumnc's Rating:

The Master of the Land, by Pseudavid
autumnc's Rating:

Excalibur, by J. J. Guest, G. C. Baccaris, and Duncan Bowsman
autumnc's Rating:

You are SpamZapper 3.1, by Leon Arnott

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Life on the internet, November 24, 2021
by autumnc
Related reviews: ifcomp 2021

This game is incredible. It almost invokes the same kind of energy that playing SPY INTRIGUE for the first time did. It doesnít quite reach those heights for me, but itís still an amazing experience. Itís also a more straightforward, less player-hostile experience.

The author is the creator of the Harlowe format for Twine, and this game makes very good use of twine as a medium. It uses various styles and visual effects extensively, and overall the interface looks beautiful. There are lots of click to advance segments, but that was okay; the story was well written and I enjoyed it. I played it on mobile and was engrossed for all two hours of playtime.

The premise is a little reminiscent of (Spoiler - click to show)Starbreakers from this comp which might be a spoiler for both games. The use of philosophy in this game reminded me of Universal Hologram (not necessarily any specific bits of worldbuilding, just the way philosophical concepts are deployed).

The plot and writing are great. I love how the world is gradually built up and characters and concepts are introduced. The emails are excellent as a vehicle for characterization; I just like epistolary stories I guess. The spam emails are funny and better written than they have any right to be, and I like the little details and nods to real internet culture (that REPLY ALL thread. people clicking on links that are obviously viruses. spoofing sender fields in emails). The game mechanic of zap or approve is nice; I like returning to the mundane after the deep philosophical segments about the nature of consciousness.

If I have any complaint, itís that parts of it stretched on for too long. There were just so many words, and the midgame (after Laurieís problem has been revealed) had too much drudgery. I enjoyed discovering new concepts more than I did trying to recall some piece of spam I read an hour ago. After some time, I didnít find the long conversations between the programs very interesting, so I clicked quickly and skimmed through. Some of their quirks started to grate on me after hours of playing.

But Iím just looking for things to criticize at this point. This game is one of my favorites of IFComp 2021.

There are quite a number of games in IFComp 2021 that have stories within stories and broadly deal with online ďfandomĒ topics: SpamZapper, A Paradox Between Worlds (my own game), extraordinary_fandoms.exe, The Dead Account, maybe even And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One. 2021 is truly the year of the Online in IFComp.

Secret Little Haven, by Victoria Dominowski
autumnc's Rating:

Goat Game, by Kathryn Li

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A workplace drama with many endings, November 24, 2021
by autumnc
Related reviews: ifcomp 2021

First of all, I love the art and the animated gifs. This game probably has the best art of all the games I've seen at the comp.

This is a workplace drama about an innovative biotech company with a poor safety record. Spoilers for midgame: (Spoiler - click to show)thereís a deadly explosion at the company due to the safety issues, and you decide how to respond: do you stay at the company or quit? It feels rather topical, and comments on the movement towards unionization in high-tech industries.

Overall itís a pretty low-key game. The stakes are high, as shown in the endings, but high in an ordinary, everyday way. Iíve never personally been in a situation like this, but it seems like a realistic exploration of the various tradeoffs in dealing with a difficult workplace - do you try to organize, quit, or just ignore the bad things?

The game itself is much shorter than the labeled 2 hours, taking only about 15 minutes per playthrough. However, there are 15 endings, which are based on a combination of the final choice (leave or stay), along with the stats of work, social, and opportunity. I got all of them; I got kind of obsessed with finding all the endings, and I figured it out I think. Without looking at the source!

Spoilers for the endings:
(Spoiler - click to show)
There are only three choices that affect the ending: the first one deciding whether you like the work, what to do about the underground secrets, and the answer you give to the interviewer. The stats can be low, med, or high.

First choice:

I like working here: +work (work is med)
I like living here: +social (social is med)
I donít like working here: +opportunity (opportunity is med)

Second choice:

Donít find the secret: +work only if work is low
Sign the petition: +social only if social is low
Donít sign the petition: +opportunity only if opportunity is low

Third choice:

Defend your work: +work if there is only one med or work is low
Criticize your work: +social if there is only one med or social is low
No comment: +opportunity if there is only one med or opportunity is low

So this leaves seven configurations (there are multiple choice combinations for some of these configurations):

++Work (like working here, don't find the secret, defend your work)
++Social (like living here, sign the petition, criticize)
++Opportunity (don't like working here, don't sign the petition, no comment)
+Work, +social (like working here, sign the petition, defend or criticize)
+work, +opportunity (like working here, don't sign the petition, no comment or defend)
+social, +opportunity (like living here, don't sign the petition, no comment or criticize)
+work, +social, +opportunity (like working here, sign the petition, no comment)

For each of these combinations, you can either stay or quit. However, this only gives us 14 endings. The last ending requires having all 14 of the previous endings, and will automatically unlock. ItísÖ kind of supernatural/dream-like? It suggests a way out of this mess, in solidarity, but doesnít make a firm commitment.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed at the final ending; I thought there would be a more definite conclusion that justified the time I invested, but it wasnít really there. It was even more ambiguous than the other endings.

But maybe thatís the point. Maybe the point is, all the effort we put into systems that donít care about us is futile. Maybe I really should be spending time with my friends instead of figuring out how to get the 15th ending in an interactive fiction game about goats.

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