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soggy97.zip *
Includes UHS hints plus, for some reason, LGOP hints
This game requires an interpreter program - refer to the game's documentation for details.
soggy.zip *
Original release
This game requires an interpreter program - refer to the game's documentation for details.
sogpop.zip *
pop-up hints only. MS-DOS only.
Walkthroughs and maps
by David Welbourn
* Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.

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Shades of Gray

by Mark Baker, Steve Bauman, Belisana, Mike Laskey, Judith Pintar, Cindy Yans, and Hercules

Surreal, Historical

(based on 7 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

You wake painfully, from a fitful sleep, to find yourself surrounded by three shadowy figures… After a horrible dizzying moment, the shapes come into focus — vampires, they are vampires, and they are nonchalantly discussing your fate… The swarthy one wants to kill you out of hand. The second argues against. ‘He has tasted blood. He’s one of us now….’

The original Shades of Gray: An Adventure in Black and White, written in AGT was released in 1992, and updated in 1997.

Game Details

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

WARNING: High Tarot content.

An imaginative psychodrama of self-confrontation and moral dilemma, by way of Haiti, Sherwood Forest, and an American Civil War battlefield. One of the most intriguing storylines I've seen in any game. You wander the city streets, or possibly the castle grounds, with a sense of temporal dislocation and confused memories of vampires, until a friendly fortune-teller helps you put your head back together through a series of visions about your past and what it means to you. Written by seven strangers, the game is divided into self-contained segments of highly variable style, subject matter, and quality. This is at once the game's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Just about everything you hate in games can be found here - mazes, time limits, obscure "guess-the-word" puzzles - but the flawed parts fit into the frame-tale so well, the effect is dazzling. Given a better parser and the removal of some of the more annoying puzzles, this one would easily rate five stars.

-- Carl Muckenhoupt

[...] a somewhat political, occasionally difficult, *extremely* well-written game which deals with the past, present, and future of Haiti. Beyond that I can say no more without spoiling the excellent plot, but take my word for it -- Shades of Grey is a game not to be missed. (Molley the Mage)

The use of seven authors leads to a rather segmented design, but linearity serves the story well. The individual episodes vary in style and quality (both in the writing and the overall design), yet somehow this creates the effect of many pieces coming together. And the whole of "Shades of Grey" is far, far more than the sum of the parts. (Christopher E. Forman)
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There is a lot of hokum about you needing to rediscover your memory of things past, but I didn't feel it was worth the effort of trying to follow this plot. The American fascination with the Robin Hood legend rears its head once (or twice) again, and I sometimes wish that they would pick on another character or era from English History.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A large and powerful game in an old, rusty parser system, June 5, 2017

This game is famous as a cooperation between 7 authors at a time when e-mail was new and difficult to use.

The real story of the game isn't even actually apparent until almost the end. The middle parts have quite a variety, from Robin Hood to an urban setting to McCarthyism to vampires.

The game took me over 1200 moves to finish. There are 1001 points you can obtain.

The AGT parser is old and bad. I'd rather even have a Scott Adams parser, because those games have a true simplicity; but in this game KNOCK DOOR and KNOCK ON DOOR give different responses, with only one working; TIE ROPE and TIE ROPE TO TREE give different responses, one working and one giving you a generic message. And so on... I only discovered later that you can type LIST EXITS, which would have been very useful.

The ending has a moral choice that many have described as seeming ambiguous, but with only one leading to a successful ending.

One of the best games available pre-Curses!

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An historically significant work, the crown jewel of AGT, but..., April 27, 2024

Anyone interested in the history of interactive fiction will sooner or later come across references to this relatively famous piece from the "dark ages" of the genre, i.e. the period after the collapse of the commercial market and before the "renaissance" triggered by Graham Nelson's release of Inform 6 and the publication of the Inform Designer's Manual, 4th edition. In this period, the most prominent tools available to would-be authors were TADS 2, a C-like language of considerable power, and AGT, a less flexible and capable system designed to be easier to use for non-programmers.

Critically, the author of AGT sponsored contests (with at least the first prize paying money) for the best game written in the system, which surely served to spur the completion of many works and began the tradition later continued by the annual IFComp. Shades of Gray is among the works submitted to these AGT contests, and it won in the year that it was submitted. It was constructed by a group of seven disparate authors, one of whom was Judith Pintar, author of the well-regarded CosmoServe. Notably, the seven contributors cooperated exclusively through contact via the CompuServe platform, to which they all subscribed.

Based on the final result, it's not clear that there was much in the way of overarching design concept. As others have noted, the game's separately-developed segments vary in quality, but overall they are well-implemented by the standards of the time, and I must say that this was the highest level of command parsing quality that I have ever encountered in an AGT game. (AGT parsing is quite limited compared to TADS or Inform, based on word-for-word pattern matching instead of attempts to identify parts of speech. This creates a much higher burden on the author to ensure smooth interaction, and it also reduces the transferability of learning about what counts as proper interaction. For example, when trying to use a shovel -- of which there are a surprising number in this game -- the player will find that the correct syntax changes across different segments, reflecting each contributing author's own preferences.) In general, the quality of the interaction seems to go up as one progresses through the game, with its disjointed (and somewhat irritating) opening giving way to large portions of relatively smooth sailing.

What the work lacks is any sense of true coherence. While individual aspects can be picked out as high points for quality of implementation (e.g. the (Spoiler - click to show)tarot reading scene that is the structural backbone of the first half of the middle game) or writing (e.g. the various interactions with (Spoiler - click to show)spirits from voodoo mythology that are the backbone of the second half), the narrative is something of a mess -- layers of unmotivated and unedifying twists abruptly transform the story from gothic horror to lazy psychological drama to magical realism to Civil War survival story to medieval adventure tale to cheap political thriller. It's a ride that keeps the player guessing, which keeps up interest, but looking back from the end of it the question becomes: Why?

The title suggests that the theme is intended to be the difficulty of achieving strong moral clarity in the messy real world, but the gameplay does little to support this. The most direct treatment is in the climax scene, in which the protagonist must choose between (Spoiler - click to show)delivering some incriminating documents to either those incriminated by them and (Spoiler - click to show) delivering those documents to members of a law enforcement agency. This is... insufficient. As a clever person to whom I described the plot quipped: "Nothing says 'shades of gray' like a binary choice!" To the extent that this choice presents any kind of quandary to the player requiring thoughtful reflection, the game subsequently undermines itself by assigning one more point to (Spoiler - click to show)turning the evidence over to the CIA assassins threatened by it than (Spoiler - click to show)handing it over to the FBI, whose interest in it may be more about inter-bureaucratic infighting than bringing the conspirators to justice, which implicitly makes the former the "right" choice after all. (To be fair, the denouement section that describes the long-term effects of various events does not seem to put its thumb on the scales this way, and the various interludes of history supernaturally revealed to the protagonist present multiple perspectives... but in the long run that just makes the score's coded commentary less excusable.)

Other aspects of the game relate only weakly to the supposed theme. Robin Hood is a good guy fighting against abuse of power! No wait, he's a forest-dwelling thief and thug who must be punished for breaking the law! (I didn't bother to use spoiler tags for those because the two segments involved seem ultimately irrelevant to the main plot.) The protagonist shouldn't feel bad about (Spoiler - click to show)his father's death; he was just a kid, and it was an accident! (That's ultimately irrelevant, too.) It's probably OK that the protagonist (Spoiler - click to show)has a dalliance with a voodoo love goddess; it was a rare honor, and she'll (Spoiler - click to show)grant protection to him and his (alleged) true love forever after. I get the distinct impression that there were some last-minute adjustments made after the title was selected, in an attempt to better justify it.

Although there are frequent guess-the-verb and guess-the-syntax issues (as is typical for the era and the development system), these are offset by the very good integrated hint system, to which I found myself resorting frequently when my patience wore thin. Hints are graduated, so it's not necessary to completely spoil the puzzles in order to get help, but I recommend that the modern player make liberal use of them -- for the most part, the obstacles that I used them to bypass were not the type likely to be considered as rewarding to overcome unaided. I also strongly recommend that any player reaching the voodoo-themed jungle section reach for David Welbourn's excellent map of the area (available in the download links) -- this whole zone is a nasty and pointless old-school maze, and the game doesn't even have the good graces to provide sufficient objects to use as markers. On top of that, two rooms that are different enough from the others to not seem to need markers both have identical descriptions but are, in fact, different -- a design choice that comes across as pure spite. The hour that I spent trying to navigate the maze "properly" was completely wasted time. (The author of this section most definitely anticipated the difficulty being created; there are three tone-breaking "comic" cameos of other people wandering through that zone that are encountered if one spends enough time there.)

On the whole, I didn't find much to recommend about this piece. It does remain historically significant, and it clearly stands out from the pack when gauged against its contemporaries, but these qualities do more to justify its place as an exhibit in the museum of the history of interactive fiction than they do to earn it a place in the library of classic works worth playing today. One can point to it as an early example of collaboration-at-scale such as would later produce Cragne Manor or note surprising similarities between one of its segments and Adam Cadre's Shrapnel, but if one is not interested in deliberately evaluating it within its historical context, there is little reason to spend the time playing it.

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Eclectic, February 2, 2011

Much better than would be expected, considering that this game was designed by committee. On the one hand, it contains a few genuinely creepy moments, some clever puzzles and bits of evocative writing. On the other hand, it contains way too many disparate settings and the quality of the design, writing and implementation varies widely between the different story segments.

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Shades of Gray on IFDB

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My new walkthroughs for January 2021 by David Welbourn
On Friday January 29, 2021, I published new walkthroughs for the games and stories listed below! Some of these were paid for by my wonderful patrons at Patreon. Please consider supporting me to make even more new walkthroughs for works...

Noteworthy Games Which Aren't Z-Code or TADS Bytecode by Walter Sandsquish
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AGT must plays? by Rovarsson
I've recently started playing Cliff Diver 1 and I quit because I got impossibly stuck. I don't want to give u^p on a potential treasure trove though. Recommendations for AGT games?

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