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26th Place - 9th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2003)
Yet another game using a non-standard (I prefer to use this term instead of "home-brewed") parser, which, by the way, seems to be up to the task. In many respects (e.g., descriptions, level of detail, puzzles, etc.) HFL resembles old DOS adventures to be found at the Archive in masses. Compared to them, it appears quite solidly done, although it hasn't got much kick; most of the modern players, however, will find it hopelessly outdated.
-- Valentine Kopteltsev
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
HFL avoids the problem [of shortcomings in homebrewed parsers] in a different way, by setting the player's expectations from the very beginning, and enlisting the aid of nostalgia to make its simplistic parser actually seem like a feature rather than a bug. I'll bet that for people with fond memories of playing Scott Adams games, the trick works really well. For me, though, it felt like just another substandard homemade parser, albeit ameliorated a bit by the fact that its simplicity was matched by that of the environment. So, while I acknowledge it as a good try, HFL left me cold.
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In homage to this game's method of displaying what objects are in the room, let me just say that "I can also see: nothing of interest."
An HTML game, that pays homage to Scott Adams adventures. Well, it begins with the same unspecified plot that most SA games did, too, as far as I can remember.
The first thing I notice is the edit box, prepended with "Tell me what to do?", which is posed as a question, when it is really a command. Never mind. I type 'about' for game information, only to discover that hitting in the edit box does not result in the command getting processed, at least not in Mozilla 1.4. So I continually have to hit <TAB> after typing my commands, and then <ENTER>. Annoying.
It's never a good sign when the initial location contains two objects under the "I can also see" line, and when the first is examined, the game responds "What ?!", and when the second is examined, the game responds "I see nothing unusual." The room description itself is likewise sparse, saying only "I'm in a Hotel Room in Bed". Of course, 'examine bed' results in "What ?!".
Eventually, I get up, to find myself "in a Hotel Room by Bed", where I can also see "TV" and "Bed". By the way, have I mentioned that I dislike odd capitalisations of objects in IF? Well, I do.
I 'examine television' only to receive "What ?!", a message I am rapidly tiring of. 'Examine tv' works, but television is an obvious synonym that should have been foreseen... especially as it's the "correct" name for the device.
I explore the hotel room, which seems to be five or six completely unnecessary locations, all of which mention their exits, but make no mention of what is truly in that direction.
I eventually get to Mycenae, and figure out what I'm supposed to do. Many, many pointless locations follow, with absolutely minimalist descriptions, and pointless, confusing puzzles. In the rare places where items or people are described with more than one word, the writing is pretty insipid or downright confusing.
Consider the following response to 'examine molorchus':
Molorchus looks like you'd expect the poor workman he is.
The puzzles, such as they are, do not make a lot of sense to me, even after the fact. I would never have figured out that I have to talk to Molorchus more than once, because the first time I spoke to him, all he said was "Welcome to Cleonae", leading me to believe that was all he was there for. He then sends you to get the bow from his house. Fine, all well and good, and I moved on, little realising that I needed to speak to him again, so that the arrows would then magically appear at his house. How did he do this, when I was just in the house and didn't see them, and I know he hasn't left his post at the gate?
The kicker came near the end when, after wandering aimlessly around the map trying to find the lion, I consulted the walkthrough and found that I had to refer to an item that I hadn't seen through the whole game, and which wasn't mentioned in my inventory, in order to proceed.
A hotel room is pretty close to a bedroom, but not quite, so you earn a thank you for not starting in a bedroom.
I admire the effort that went into creating your own parser in HTML, but I think you might be better off with one of the established ones, if you want your game to have wide audience appeal.
In addition, the homage to Scott Adams is very nice, but I believe we have moved beyond that era. When I want a two-word parser game with minimal descriptions, I dust off some of the old classics. But in a 2003 IFComp, I'm looking for a little more.
I just feel that by doing the homage, you've really limited yourself. The parameters you've chosen for your entry don't really allow you to properly demonstrate the writing skills you may have.
The writing isn't great. Conversations lack any form of quotes, descriptions for rooms are non-existent, and while locations make mention of the available exits, they make no mention of what lies in those directions.
Ultimately, there just isn't enough writing here to make any impression. I will say however, that at least there weren't too many spelling mistakes, compared to some of the other entries in IF Comp 2003. That doesn't make it good writing, but it at least makes it less painful.
It's hard for a game to have much appeal, or immerse you in the story with such short descriptions of everything.
I really lost my enthusiasm for two-word parsers right around the time I first played an Infocom game, in about 1983. I haven't revised my opinion of them in the last thirty years. I don't like them. And having a parser that responds "It's beyond my power to do that." if you attempt to travel the wrong direction from a room is not my idea of fun. At the very least, I want a "You can't go that way" message.
I did not really gain any entertainment value from this game. Don't forget, it's up against games with intriguing storylines, impressive puzzles, engrossing NPCs, and engaging writing.
WABE score: 2.5
The game itself isn't too bad, but it's very spare. The author must have put a lot of work into this gane, but in the end, it seems that the parser needed more work.
This is version 3 of this page, edited by Paul O'Brian on 9 April 2008 at 11:25am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item