Episode in the Life of an Artist

by Peter Eastman

Zorkian, Humor

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Number of Ratings: 24
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- gattociao, September 12, 2023

- sw3dish, June 26, 2023


After playing the first section, I nearly quit and moved on to the next game on my list, but I was completely hooked by the second. The game's tone is much lighter than many other of the games in the comp, it's playable in 2 hours, and it's fun.
-- Paul E Coad

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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

I still can't decide whether this game is the product of great writing skill paired with novice coding abilities, or whether it's just a not-very-good game that ended up unintentionally profound. If it's the former, Episode would benefit greatly from a once-over by someone like Mike Sousa, who enjoys collaboration and whose TADS skills are impeccable. If it's the latter, well, I guess I'm about to give my highest score ever for a bad comp game.

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- Edo, March 13, 2021

- kierlani, May 12, 2020

- erzulie, October 7, 2019

- Ivanr, April 17, 2018

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
After the first two, I expected the third widget to be green... widget wasn't., November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

This game begins in a bedroom, and has you get up, get dressed, make breakfast... lest there be any doubt, let me emphasise: I do not want to do this in a game.

I find getting up, showered, finding clothes to wear, making breakfast and so on a pain in real life. I do not want to spend the first 20 moves doing all that. Especially when, after struggling with the pain of making the breakfast, the game renders all my struggles pointless by having me grab a heretofore invisible pop-tart and leaping out the door.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this game. The writing was competent, and I didn't spot any errors that I can recall.

The use of first person perspective took some getting used to, especially as, when I died, the game still printed the "You have died..." message.

Overall, the game was enjoyable, with a quirky little story. I thought the end-game portion was a little out of tune with the spirit of the rest of the piece, lending a somewhat incongruous dark tone to what had been very light-hearted until then.

One problem with the game was that, right at the end, after going up the stairs, a paragraph of text was printed, and then cleared off the screen by the start of the letter, not even making it into the scrollback buffer. I had to turn on scripting and then check the text file to see the paragraph in question. This was with HTML TADS version 3.0B on WinXP. I didn't check it on the Linux box or with another interpreter.

One other minor annoyance was the circuit breaker. I grew up with the knowledge that circuit breakers can be open or closed, thus was a little frustrated upon trying to close, open, pull, push and flip the breaker. I soon figured it out, after examining the breaker and finding it was described as "off". I have no objection to this terminology, but it would have been nice if some of the other verbs had worked as well.

The outtakes were a neat idea, but they shared the problem of the final letter, in that they printed agonisingly slowly. I'm a fast reader, and I don't like slow-paced reading where I... feel... I... have... to... actively... wait... for... the... next... word. Oh well. I ended up giving up on the outtakes, due to the printing speed.

All in all though, I think this (along with shadows on the mirror) is the best of what I've seen so far.

Author Encouragement:
I don't think there's really much to say here. It was a well-written little story that I got a kick out of. In some locations, the writing seemed more simply workmanlike, but well, how much can you do with hallways and the like? Still, there's some room for improvement, which isn't always a bad thing.

The biggest suggestion I can make is not to start in the bedroom.

And on that note, on we go to the...

Bedroom Notes:
This game didn't really need to start in a bedroom, did it? Much less one which required me to perform all the associated tasks.

You might be better served by starting the story "in medias res", or in the middle of the action or events.

Would the story suffer at all if it opened on the bus, with the main character excited about being off to another day of work? Okay, you'd miss the little jokes about hygiene and leaving the stove on, but it's a better hook... the player immediately wants to know what this exciting job is, and sticks around to find out. Better than having to slog through showering and getting dressed, something which most of us do every day, some of my relatives excepted

W: 4
The writing is clean and well-presented. No jarring awkwardness to the phrasing or conversation to lift me out of the story.

A: 3
This game appealed to me in a neat little way, but the appeal category suffers from the initial bedroom and kitchen chores.

B: 4
A few missing synonyms and verbs that would have made the whole thing a little more complete, but a commendable coding effort.

E: 3
I had fun with this one, and it would have been a 4 for entertainment value, but for the opening "getting dressed and doing the cooking" scene.

WABE score: 7

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Bad final puzzle, January 31, 2017
by lkdc

This was a somewhat enjoyable short game, but the last puzzle had a serious bug that made me spend a while wandering aimlessly: (Spoiler - click to show)"switch switch" will turn the switch on without triggering the lights. You need the correct phrasing, "turn on switch"

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fascinating look at a day in the life of a simple factory worker, February 4, 2016

In this game, you pay a young worker who has to go through their daily life. You wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, work, and that's more than half the game.

The fun is what happens along the way; your character has a unique perspective on life, interspersing the conversation with famous quotations, generally trying to find consistency in their life.

Overarching the game's sense of routine and mundanity is a more sinister plot. Someone is making large changes in your life and in your routine.

This game won an XYZZY award for best individual PC without being nominated for any other awards, which is rare in the XYZZY's.

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- Thrax, March 12, 2015

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), October 29, 2014

- Sobol (Russia), September 12, 2014

- Molly (USA), September 11, 2014

- Egas, August 7, 2013

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting but flawed (RR #15), November 24, 2012

Episode in the Life of an Artist details the daily routine of the everyman/simpleton protagonist, from getting up and dressing, to preparing breakfast and taking the bus to work.

This game does a good job defining the personality of the protagonist by showing his view of the things he encounters. The mundaneness of his (apparently lonely) working-class existence is juxtaposed with his favourable self-view. The protagonist even considers himself an artist of mechanical genius, when ironically his job is so simple a machine is developed to replace him.

The counterpoint to some very interesting writing is the defectiveness of the programming. While still very playable, there are instances you will curse the author's tendency to require very specific inputs. (The final turn of the game is especially bad with this.) At least one one-time-only event is repeated every time you perform a certain action. The final (of fortunately few) puzzles is pure guesswork. You cannot read the victory message of the game because it is unfortunately automatically skipped. The scoring system was left in the game but is never used.

While, like mentioned above, the writing is interesting and done well, there are some weird instances that jar with the rest of the story. Putting fantasy elements in otherwise realistic settings is something I have a strong dislike of and in this game does not benefit this story in any way. In fact, the author's decision to let this story take place in a Zork-based universe is baffling and serves no obvious purpose.

Episode in the Life of an Artist is an interesting piece of work that is unfortunately hampered by abovementioned flaws but certainly worth being tried out.


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- sunny and mild (South Africa), October 4, 2011

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Interactive Mystery Meat, May 28, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

I've played this game -- or attempted to play it -- twice, and the last time around I was up to 160 turns without a single point. Usually if I reach 100 turns with no points (assuming there are points), that's my signal to quit in frustration. I stuck around for a few more turns to see if I had missed something. Consulting the walkthrough shows that indeed, I had missed something. It turns out that in the fourth scene, everything hinges upon one completely non-obvious command. If you intuit it, then apparently the rest of the game opens up into wherever it goes; if you don't, then you're left to scratch your head.

Now with that out of the way, I think you'll probably be scratching your head the majority of this game. It's not that the character's weird outlook prevents you from discovering things; it's not even that what he experiences makes no sense; it's that the game is not well clued or well paced.

Episode... is split into scenes, which are roughly equivalent to chapters, as this is more of a story than a game. That aside, it seems silly to have a score, but nevertheless, there's a score. You can make it to the fourth scene with zero points by doing what you expect the story wants of you. Shouldn't there have been some points along to way to tell you, "Yes, you're doing things right"? I think only the dedicated or the bored will keep trundling on when there's no rewards in sight, be it score or otherwise. The lack of reward lies in the nature of the game, as well. You can progress from scene to scene without any idea that you've done anything great or ill; so there's this sense of being disconnected from what you're doing. Perhaps that is purposeful, given the character's disconnected outlook from his own life.

Anyhow, I can't say that this game really hit me one way or the other. It seemed to just settle into me with a leaden emptiness, like some generic early grunge song. The main character is a mindless happy sort; the world around him is by turns bizarre and mundane; nothing you do or say seems to matter much. I guess it's not horrible, but mystery meat rarely reaches the heights of culinary praise, and Episode...is probably best described as mystery meat.

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- flamingoboots, May 25, 2011

- Grey (Italy), December 25, 2009

- Nusco (Bologna, Italy), December 5, 2009

- Mark Jones (Los Angeles, California), March 31, 2009

- Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway), January 15, 2009

- thisisboots, May 6, 2008

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