Judges' 2001 Reviews



Note:  Judges reviews were optional. (Some may contain "spoilers.")

Also, Dan D. Lyons was allowed to debug "English Suburban Garden" before putting it on exhibit at the IF Art Gallery. These reviews are based on the original version entered in the IF Art Show.



Contents:

Kathleen M. Fischer's Reviews
Stephen Granade's Reviews
Jon Ingold's Reviews
Mike Roberts' Reviews

About the Judges



Kathleen M. Fischer's Reviews

English Suburban Garden
La Lagune De Montaigne
Memories
Ribbons



English Suburban Garden
Author: Dan D. Lyons (aka Cedric Knight)
System: Inform
Category: Landscape

Just days before the Art Show entries were released, I was chatting with a friend about the possibilities of the passage of time with respect to an art show entry. Imagine my surprise when I started up this game and discovered and attempt to explore just that. Starting in January, you watch your garden progress through the seasons on a month by month basis, with a variety of simple gardening tasks available to keep the armchair gardener occupied. In some cases, tasks performed (or not performed) in early months will even effect what you see in later months - a nice touch. And with the coming of the various seasons, you experience weather, growth, opulence, and the inevitable decline.

On a much more subtle level, you discover your garden isn't the only thing that is declining. It's an interesting comparison the author draws, though rather too subtly (and too incompletely) to be convincing. I would like to have seen some snappy replies as I tried to plant shrubs or mow the lawn in December! As to the garden itself: birds, bees, butterflies and a contented feline add life to the piece, and objects appearing and disappearing as you move from one month to the next give a nice feeling of continuity. Things have been happening in your absence, either for better or worse.

I am sorry to say, however, that all is not well in this garden. In his About, the author draws parallels between gardening and programming, debugging and weeding, declaring "This particular garden still needs much weeding."  He ain't kidding. That he was capable of such a wide variety of programming bugs, and in such quantity, in a mini-comp sized game is really quite astounding. If bugs are your trigger point, then this is definitely not the game for you. That said, I must admit this was my favorite landscape. I suppose it goes back to my elementary school days where I was told that anybody could spell with a dictionary, but not everybody can write. The authors heart is in the right place, the ideas are all there, and that's enough for me.

Bottom line? A weed patch of a game, but one that could easily blossom given a good dose of round-up and some miracle-gro.



La Lagune De Montaigne
Author: Caleb Wilson
System: Inform
Category: Landscape

Here is a more "traditional" landscape, nicely implemented, with a twist or two thrown in to hold your interest. You begin the game all decked out in your diving suit, ready to take the plunge into a lagoon. Rich blue water, a forest of kelp, fish, and other sea life are all there for your examination, including a nicely implemented cave that I would love to visit in person. At some point, a rather interesting change takes place, but while I was completely surprised by it, and found it implemented quite well (and in several, subtly different flavors), I felt somewhat let down that I wasn't able to make more of it after it occurred.

In fact, my inability to make more of most things was the only thing that kept me from selecting this Best of Landscape. A sleeping fish, a tantalizing variety of shells, schools of critters, all seemed there for my exploration, and yet my every attempt at interaction was met with denial. I kept getting this feeling that I was somehow missing the point, that if I tried yet one more thing, the game would open up and divulge something wondrous to me. As the author claims the game is essentially puzzleless, and I was able to find the twist - and its logical ending, my guess is that the wondrous doesn't exist. Pity, as it seems author has gone to some effort to set the whole thing up.

I'll mention the twist again, without actually describing it, as I felt it was the highlight of the piece. While I'm usually opposed to programming trickery, in this case the "text games" he pulled worked for me completely. I was also quite impressed with how the author instilled a sense of urgency at the crucial moment. My fingers were typing fast and furious to try to get out of my predicament!

Bottom line? A nicely implemented landscape with some memorable moments, that seems to be heading somewhere, but never quite gets there.



Memories
Author: Guilherme Holt De Sousa
System: TADS
Category: Landscape (*)

(*) Doe's email "releasing" these games said this was a Portrait, so as a Portrait is how I judged it. When the results were announced, I discovered this was actually a Landscape (a much better category for it.) Since I had yet to write the review, I'm going to forget the whole Portrait thing and we'll just continue on in Landscape mode.

Memories remind me somewhat of my own Art Show entry, as it uses the vehicle of exploring your location (in this case, your recently deceased ex-wife's apartment) to gain knowledge about another person, and in the process reveals quite a bit about the player character as well.

Though the thought of playing Yet Another Apartment game is enough to make me cringe, I'm a hopeless sucker for the sad and sappy and this game promised to be both. So with some trepidation, I headed up the stairs, and walked inside...

What I found were well written passages constructing the past of someone whom I had left behind some years ago. Bits of pieces of this woman's life lay scattered about, some triggering shared memories, others being odd and foreign, things from after the two of you parted ways. I really liked this. So often in IF, we find everything so carefully posed and positioned for maximum effect, while real life is much more... random. This game includes such random things - things which you, as the player, have little knowledge of and can only guess as to their meaning and importance.

On the down side, most of the apartment is full of things that can be found in any apartment. Kitchen tables, cupboards, computers... this could be Second Honeymoon from SmoochieComp or the beginning of Shade from Comp2000. There is nothing intrinsically interesting about the apartment, nor its contents. And while the text is well written, it was also oddly distancing. I wanted to cry, or sigh or show some kind of emotion over what I was seeing, but there was none displayed. That, in the end, was the fatal flaw for me.

As a side note, this game has a wonderful variation of "score" which I might suggest to future Art Show entrants. With it, you are able to see not only what you've done, but also see - in a non-spoiler fashion - how many things are left to be done and where to do them. While many people look down on "score" as a throwback to treasure hunting days, my experience judging these games has left me a firm believer in it, especially for the Art Show where the overriding point is exploration.

Bottom line?  Here is a game that I should have liked more than I did, as the authors strangely distancing prose, though well written, left me feeling empty and wanting.



Ribbons
Author: J.D. Berry
System: Inform
Category: Still Life

(Note: Up until now, I've used "author" to denote the creator of the piece of IF being reviewed. As this piece has both authors (of the reviews) and artists (of the pieces), I will switch to the rather more formal "Mr. Berry" to keep things from becoming hopelessly muddled.)

As Doe originally described an IF Still Life, visions of objects danced through my head. Singular objects. They could be simple or complex, but there was always just one of them. Then along comes Ribbons and shows what a Still Life could be. Like the bowl of fruit or vase of flowers we all had to draw in art class, Ribbons is a collection of objects that are related, and it is their relationship that provides the interest to the piece. It is still not a game, in the traditional sense. There is no goal, there are no puzzles, there is only a presentation of objects, their interpretation left up to the player. Had this been just a bowl of fruit of a bunch of flowers, this review would have been much shorter - but the author has created a much more complicated scene than that.

We are presented with a physical scene very much like the IF Art Show itself. Four entries into an art show, displayed for your examination. The show has already been judged, the resulting ribbons by each piece showing the results. While the pieces are worthy of examination in their own right, the real interest (for me) were the reviews that were written for each piece, one by each judge (for a total of three) plus one more from the artist of the piece itself.

Mr. Berry, the author of at least four previous games, three of them appearing in judged competitions, has created very distinct voices for his judges. Now while I can't say that they were pulled from his personal experience, they certainly could be - or if not from his then from my own. In an odd sort of way, I suppose that makes this an "in joke" game, enjoyable on it's own, but even more so if you've ever lived through the experience of reading others interpretation of your creation.

On a different level are the pieces themselves and Mr. Berry's descriptions of them. When I played the game, after examining the first piece, I was immediately drawn into the reviews, and read them in rapid succession with only a cursory examination of the piece being reviewed. In retrospect, this was probably unwise, as when I finally did view the pieces, I found my interpretation skewed by what I had read. Art imitating life? It certainly drove home the importance of the "No Discussion" rule of yearly competition.

Each piece in the show is unique, yet all share some common traits. To discover them was part of the fun for me, and so I won't go into detail here other than to note that I found their similarities as intriguing as their differences, and that these discoveries were as enjoyable as any puzzle or conversation in a more conventional game.

Bottom line? A biting, complex, imaginative piece that should leave you more than a few things to think about. A definite "Must Play".



Stephen Granade's Reviews

Memories
English Suburban Garden
La Lagune de Montaigne
Ribbons



Memories
Death is one of the big themes in literature, barely edged out of the top spot by love in all of its guises. Memories combines both love and death into a thin paste, then spreads it over an apartment. The result is oddly detached and, for me at least, unaffecting.

The plot is sketched in quick, broad strokes: a woman you loved is dead, and you are left to go through the detritus of her life strewn about her apartment. As you interact with the items in the apartment you recall various moments in your shared life with this woman, and in doing so mourn for her.

This is a situation potentially rife with maudlin expressions of love and grief. Memories avoids the trap of pathos-bordering-on-bathos, handling everything with restraint and tact. In fact, Memories goes so far as to have the narrator speak directly to you, separating you from the protagonist.

All this tact and distance is well and good, but it contributed to my overwhelming ennui regarding the game. I felt as if the game were taking the raw emotions of grief and loss, pressing them flat until the juice ran out, and then only letting me see them through a cheesecloth veil.

The effect was exacerbated by hitches in implementation. Any time I began to get involved in the game, I ran into a reminder that it was just a game:

>X WINDOW

This large round window provides a surprisingly good view of activity in the city below. The glass faces of the office blocks reflect the setting sun like mirrors, bathing the city in a rich orange light . Moments later the sun passes and I`m left with a view of rubbish strewn alleys and the persistent sound of car horns from the thick traffic clogging the streets.

>L THROUGH WINDOW

I can't see anything through the window.
After this happened to me enough times, I shrugged my shoulders and plodded through the rest of the apartment, dutifully examining things and letting the memories run through my hands like dust.



English Suburban Garden

Oh, my. This is a simulation on steroids, a garden filled with plants and rakes and lawnmowers and more things to play with than there are days in a month. I was overwhelmed.

Part of the problem is how faithfully ESG created a garden. The closest I've ever come to gardening is the summer my dad had me pull weeds in our front yard. (This was a particularly apt job for me given the youthful delight I took in blowing dandelion seeds into our yard so there would be more for me to play with the next year.) Two days of carefully extracting weed roots from the soil was enough to convince me that I had no interest in gardening. Thus I found myself at a loss as to what to do in ESG.

To be fair, the game did give me some direction, and like a man drowning in a sea of possibilities I grabbed at the suggestions and refused to let go. The first time through I didn't spend much time exploring the garden, and the next times through the game had lost some of its impact.

The game takes place through a year, one month at a time. You get to see how the garden changes from wintery January through the hot summer of June and then back into winter. The changes in the garden are handled well, and I did enjoy watching plants I planted in the early months of the game flower later on.

There's a thread of metaphor which runs through the game, existing in uneasy balance with the physical garden. The war between crossword and narrative has spilled over into three-way conflict involving clockwork simulation.

Detracting from the overall effect are some strange bugs in implementation and the occasional topological twist. For some reason I had to enter the garden's shed by moving west, but then left it by travelling north. I suspect the abundance of room descriptions contributed to my overall disorientation.

Oh, and do not forget that this is an *English* suburban garden. You'll spend quite a bit of time picking up crisp packages and transferring them to the rubbish bin.

I'm very impressed with the loving detail apparent in the garden; were I more interested in gardening, I suspect I would have had a better time with the game.



La Lagune de Montaigne

Never have I had so much fun drowning.

Really, that's what sold me on this entry. You dive in an old-fashioned diving suit, hose connecting your helmet to life-giving air above. Fish swim past you; giant crabs menace you. Then, unavoidably, you reach a point when you begin to drown. Leaks open throughout your suit, air becomes scarce, and then --

Oh, but I must stop here. No fair giving it all away. Suffice it to say that I entirely bought into what was going on. The closer I came to drowning the faster I typed, frantically trying to find a way out of my situation. No time to think, no time to pause: I MUST REACH THE SURFACE.

When I was young, my brother and I were wrestling in the back seat of the family car. He managed to smush my head into one of the floor mats, at which point I found I couldn't breathe. There's nothing quite as alarming as desperately needing oxygen and knowing that, unless your situation changes, you can't get any. La Lagune de Montaigne does a good job of recapturing the panic I felt, and does so without telling me over and over how frantic I was becoming. It presented the situation in a straightforward manner and left me to react as was appropriate.

This is one of the shortest entries in the show. It has no great philosophical point to make. Interaction is limited. Pah to all of this, I say. La Lagune is going on my list of games that did something right.



Ribbons

I find myself in an interesting position when it comes to reviewing Ribbons. The game explores how critiques of an artistic work can change your perceptions of that work; now here I am critiquing the game and, by extension, those critiques. It's all very meta.

Before I go spiraling off in random flights of fancy, let me give you some details about Ribbons. In J.D. Berry's game, you wander around an exhibition hall viewing various pieces of art: a quilt, a piece of abstract art, a train set, a portrait. Ribbons hang next to each work, indicating what place they took in some unspecified competition. Along with the ribbon are several critiques of each piece, ranging in tone from adulation to excoriation. You can examine each work of art in minute detail, exploring it to whatever level of depth you wish. After reading one of the judges' reports, details change according to what was in that report.

(I lie, but more by omission than comission. There's more -- and less -- to the changes in description than I have talked about. Hang on a bit and I'll explain.)

These changes set up some interesting resonances. Here we have an entry in the IF Art Show talking about art and how we respond to it. The game does so not by having you interact directly with the art -- though there are some things you can touch and move and fiddle with. It does so by giving you plenty to examine. Each work of art has levels upon levels of detail, and as in a good museum, Ribbons invites you to look closely. Take your time; the game isn't going anywhere.

There are even bits of story scattered through the judges' adjudications. After you've read several of them you begin to get a feel for the judges' personalities. In several cases one of the judges is also the creator of a given work, so you get to read the artist's view on his or her creation.

It's all engrossing and fun to play with. I'm a sucker for museums, and here was a museum which not only invited me to peer at the art but also directly encouraged me to contemplate the nature of how I perceive art.

The only real complaint I have is in how Berry presented the changes in the art's description. The meat of each description doesn't change. Instead, your reaction to the description, influenced by whichever judge's report you read last, is appended to that description. F'r instance:

>X VINE

Embroidery, stitching, needlework? You may not know the precise word, but you know precise work when you see it. The inside vines are each only one particular color: white, red, yellow, or blue. The outside, "border" vine contains each color for 1/4 of a square side, keeping to the pattern: white, red, yellow, blue. Leaves stick out in wild ways, but each of those ways is consistent from square to square. The jutting center vine ends with a curl pointing to the top. *That embroidery really does seem to be masterfully done.
I'd have preferred that my reaction to each judge's report be incorporated into the description rather than hanging off the end like a limpet. Perception and description are bound up together; separating them makes the whole thing feel rather artificial.

That's a small complaint, though, more a quibble than anything else. Ribbons has something to say and says it with grace and style. Best of all, it plays to the strength of interactive fiction, making you a partner in its statement. If you only play one game from this year's Art Show, play this one.



Jon Ingold's Reviews

How I placed awarded the games:

Ribbons : Best Still Life, Best of Show
Memories : Best Portrait * (See Kathleen Fischer's reviews for an explanation.)
La Lagune De Montaigne : Honourable Mention for Best Landscape
English Suburban Garden



La Lagune De Montaigne

Pretty, nice, generally good and I like it. However, not very deep - there's only a few responses for the creatures you can talk to, and there aren't many manipulations implemented ie. little interactivity. I like images portrayed though, and I like the "plot". I wish there was more to it. Judging this one was very difficult indeed, because what it does it does really very well, but in the end I think I can't give it Best Landscape because there's so much more it doesn't do. It just didn't feel like a complete piece.

My favourite thing has to be in the help, where the author cheerfully admits to having made up names of fish. This I heartily approve of.



Ribbons

Absolutely, utterly superb. I'm not sure what it was about; except I think it was taking the mickey - but it kept me playing because I wanted to understand the joke. And yes, I'm falling into its own trap to say this, but I found myself being drawn into interacting with the pieces precisely because I wanted be sure if it was laughing at me for playing with the pieces. Somehow, its own self-dismissive attitude made me involved; and here I am discussing it in terms which the damn thing has already pre-empted again. It's by turns funny, disarmingly so, and I'm not sure whether any of it had a message or not. But it kept me looking, and playing around, and trying things. And it's interesting, though like I say, I don't know what it means. But the IF Art Show is about interactivity, and this has that in swathes.

And then, as I wrote this, I realised something I hadn't realised before, and I went back and gave it another look, and realised - well, again, realised that it's full of connections and relations but I still don't know what they mean, or even that they mean anything, and the author's not just messing with my head. (Hmm. Now, looking at the clock in the corner of WinFrotz, I've been playing with this for over an hour. I've not done anything new, just the same things over and over again. There's something oddly unsatisfying about this.) In the end, if the author's trying to insult art, he's damn well done it badly because this is, I think, art. I don't even like art. I don't know why I like this. It's brilliant. Damn you, and have first place.

That isn't a review. Let me try again. The piece on consists of four models, of great depth and detail, which the player can examine and look at. However, they are quite complex, which is where the game elevates itself from the somewhat standard "sit back and read the text" approach of most Art Show games. This means, that as you read the details you lose sight of the grander picture, and when you finally pause from reading new bits of text (and there are lot, and it takes a while) the images and parts of each piece assemble together, *in your head*. Which is where the impact comes from; rather than "interactions" within the game world - which never really *mean* anything, because they're all still within the framework of the game - the "interactions" and "connections" occur within my head. So it's interactive, but from *my* side of the screen. And that's an impressive thing to experience.

I probably spent too long on this game, as I was convinced there was a puzzle to solve, that there was a box to unlock through all the connections between the pieces. This is my fault for being too much game designer and too little art critic. But even if there isn't - and I'm not sure, as I've rebuked the temptation to just text-dump the thing - this is still a fine bit of mind-mangling. As said above: damn you, and have first place, Best of Show, et al.



Memories

Simple, yet curious. The game is a model of an apartment, imbued with things and moreover with the memories of the character associated with them. At first I was quite daunted by a large intro paragraph and a similar description, and put off by the writing, which was somehow stilited. However, the whole thing is very honest that it drew me in, so that I was interacting and examining everything I could, and finding some things quite affecting. The writing is edgy but consistently so, and very quickly settles as the narrators voice rather than anything else - in fact, impact would have been lost without the occasional repeated phrase and the like, as it kept the thing feeling to some extent real. So: simple. And curious; because it began to highlight a very odd sensation - after a while, I didn't want to read any more, and I didn't want the narrator to tell me another memory of the dead woman, because it began to feel intrusive. I started asking myself "Why is he telling me this?" This might be the first person voice; but I think it was more that it sounded _personal_.

Perhaps it needed more interaction, rather than just solicting memories from smells and sights, But then - no, perhaps not. It certainly was both moving and engrossing, (which on reflection surprises me, as I think this sort of thing is easily "trite"). Finally, I'm curious as to whether this is classed as "Still Life", "Portrait" or "Landscape", as it could easily be all three.



English Suburban Garden

Let's see - a very, very ambitious project. This game attempts to simulate a garden throughout a year, in some depth; with plants you can grow, tend and trim. Ambitious for two reasons:- firstly the programming needed to make the thing flow neatly, and allow for some scope to make the game worthwhile, and secondly because any simulationist program has an intrinsic gameplay problem; that of tedium. If it simulates three types of action, then all the player is left doing is typing one of three commands; none of which are allowed to produce unexpected results by the rules of the simulation. For such a game to succeed, and be interesting, it has to do something very special along the way.

These two things give the game a high bar to leap. And, unfortunately, it doesn't succeed on either count.

Firstly, the programming is very, very buggy. From new lines gone astray and numbers appearing in the names of objects, to the utterly confusing system of "places" within the garden (similar to that used in "Shade", and if anything, it highlights just how much work Zarf must have put in to make no-one notice what he'd built). I spent most of my time fighting with the game, trying to get to where I wanted to be, with the object I wanted to hold. (And being told I should put crisp packets into a composter, which I don't think is true).

However, much more seriously, the gameplay is very repetitive indeed. The garden is presented in each month of the year (12. That's twelve months); and to explore it there are three or four places to check, whose descriptions, though they do change, change subtly. So for the most part, you're reading and rereading the same bit of text over and over again. There's no pay-off for the player here. The game sets you some tasks in most months - clear up the litter, rake the lawn, water the tomatoes. But none of these, when done, produce any result, they just allow you to consider to the next month. Maybe there would have been interesting results if I'd experimented more, but come "April" I was just doing a minimum because I'd already read most of the text available and didn't want to read it again. Also; the first few months are more interesting for the player - we have snow, or rain to experiment with, but you are rushed through these (and yes, the reason for that is valid, but it's still irritating). The final couple of months are also interesting, as the narrational character begins to change noticeably. But the intervening time is... flat.

I don't want to be too harsh on this game (as I feel maybe I have been) because the idea is good, and the _underlying_ idea (if again, ambitious) is neat too. The writing is good throughout. The changes in the personality of the player character are satisfying to read, and interesting. Overall, I think this could have been a fascinating piece, both fun and deep; but only given a lot, lot more time.



Mike Roberts' Reviews

Memories, by Guilherme Holt De Sousa
La Lagune de Montaigne, by Caleb Wilson
Ribbons, by J.D. Berry
"English Suburban Garden" (2001), by "Dan D. Lyons" (C.V.F. Knight)




Memories , by Guilherme Holt De Sousa

This piece is slightly reminiscent of Ian Finley's Exhibition : it is a portrait of a character who never appears but is revealed to us instead through the eyes of another character. In this case, we learn about the subject of the portrait, a woman named Helen, through the memories of the player character; the player character is also well developed, but it is Helen and her relationship with the player character that are the main focus. The narrative is written in the first person, with the player character telling us his thoughts and recollections associated with Helen's possessions while visiting her apartment. This approach works well; everything we look at has some significance in the characters' past and tells us something about the characters.

The writing has just the right tone of melancholy. Although the text has a number of minor technical errors, the first-person voice has the interesting effect of making the reader attribute misspellings and the like to the main character, rather than to the author, as though that's just part of the character; this effect was probably unintentional, but it somehow makes the typos less jarring anyway. In any case, the writing is effective at establishing the mood and conveying the narrator's feelings in an understated way.

This work doesn't break any new ground, but it's a solid example of indirect characterization.



La Lagune de Montaigne , by Caleb Wilson

Lagune is an exploration of a fanciful undersea setting. The work's style brings to mind some early text adventures, in that we find ourselves (as the player character) in a cartoonish world with only tenuous connections to reality and a logic of its own.

The best part of the game is one of the non-player characters, who converses with us in a pictorial language. The conversation doesn't really tell us a lot, but it's fun to figure out what the pictures (which are described verbally, not actually shown to us visually, of course) mean. There's a hint in the conversation of a rivalry with another of the characters we encounter, but sadly this isn't expanded upon, as the other character involved knows nothing of it.



Ribbons , by J.D. Berry

Writing a review of J.D. Berry's Ribbons is a strange exercise, because it almost seems like writing the review is part of the interactive experience of playing the game.

Ribbons is superfically a "still life" depicting a set of entries at an art show, but it is not the art that is on display so much as the nature of art appreciation and criticism. Each piece of art is accompanied by a set of reviews and ratings, and each is presented with its place in the final ranking. A central theme that emerges is the way one's perception of a work is affected by the beholder's preconceptions and point of view, and the way it's affected by one's awareness of other people's opinions. Berry deftly uses the non-linear nature of the IF medium to invite the player to muse about these ideas.

This work has simple and largely conventional mechanics, but it defies every other expectation. It delights in wordplay and non sequiturs, and it's full of self-reference and odd patterns that may or may not have some significance.

One small feature that's a little out of place is the occasional insertion of what seems to be an authorial comment, in the form of a single-sentence paragraph marked with an asterisk. These comments coincide with particular player actions, and seem to shout at you to notice things, as though you're watching a movie with someone who keeps saying "get it?" every time there's a gag. Perhaps they were intended to better define the player character by noting the PC's own thoughts from time to time, but if so, there are so few they seem like an afterthought. For me, the game would have been stronger without the comments, since they only emphasize what is said anyway, and better, through the work's other, more subtle techniques. But I've belabored this far too much: it's a tiny criticism of a hugely engaging work.



"English Suburban Garden" (2001) , by "Dan D. Lyons" (C.V.F. Knight)

This piece was unfortunately too buggy in its current version to properly appreciate. The author includes a note at the end explaining the themes of the work, but sadly this explanation didn't much match the actual experience I had going through the game; my experience was so bogged down in the game mechanics that I largely missed any deeper shades of meaning.

What the game tries to do, according to the author's note, is to show the passage of time and its effects on the people and places in the story. We see the setting in little episodes spread out over time, and in each episode there is evidence of the years going by: the seasons change, the plants in the garden grow.

With a bit of bug fixing, the game would be much improved. In addition, there are a few elements of the game's mechanics that the author might wish to reconsider. The author was probably guided on a number of design decisions by a desire for more "realism," but in several cases the result is only excessive mechanics. For example, in several cases where one or two objects of a given type would have served, the game provides us with five or ten, forcing us to answer disambiguation questions ("which rubbish do you mean") too often and to repeat some command sequences until they become tedious. Another example is the automatic movement system, which probably was conceived as a work-saver, but turns out more often than not to create confusion. In these and other areas, the game would benefit from simpler mechanisms and more transparent gameplay.



About the Judges

Kathleen Fischer - Is one of the few currently writing "period", and for that matter, romantic IF. "The Cove" won Best of Landscape in the 2000 IF Art Show, and "Masquerade" placed eighth in the 2000 Annual IF Competition. But she is probably most famous (read as infamous) for having penned "The Ballad of the Cereal Pissing Bandit." (Also somewhat of a period piece, and even a bit romantic -- see dejanews, rec-arts-int-fiction.)

Stephen Granade - Has so many IF credits to his name it's hard to know where to begin. First he is a respected IF author with works like "Losing Your Grip" and "Arrival". Next, 2001 will be the third year he has coordinated the Annual IF Competition. He is also one of the coordinators of the Interactive Fiction Review Conspiracy (not that there actually is a conspiracy) . Last, but not least, his interactive fiction page at about.com (now Brass Lantern), the "one-stop place" for information about interactive fiction, is entering its fifth year. But Stephen's bound to slow down one of these days.

Jon Ingold - Has explored both sides of interactivity -- from puzzles in his fiendishly clever puzzlefest "Mulldoon's Legacy", to story in his poignant science-fiction love story "My Angel", which placed sixth in the 2000 Annual IF Competition.

Mike Roberts - Created TADS (Text Adventure Development System), an IF programming language and compiler. He is currently taking it through several exciting additions: HtMLTads and TADS Workbench, an integrated graphical system. We can thank, first AGT, next TADS, and later, Inform, for keeping IF alive and kicking today. Mike also wrote the games: "Ditch Day Drifter", "Perdition's Flames", and "The Plant", which placed third in the 1998 Annual IF Competition.



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