01 June 2009

IntroComp: Initial Thoughts

Well, I’ve played through the IntroComp entries (except for my own, on which I will not be voting). I’m delighted to see such a curious spread of games. From detective noir to worlds of magic to time travel… I hope all who entered to finish their story files & encourage them to give us the whole bathtub!


In this post, I intend to discuss how I’m going about thinking of ratings for these games [WARNING: SOME SPOILERS & LENGTH]… but first, allow me a paragraph to rant.


Numerical ratings might be convenient, but they make me cringe. They really do. I have such a hard time assigning a number to the personal works of others, especially when a 10/10 is assumed to mean “perfection.” It’s my own stupid, stingy rule to never vote a game “perfect” (great games have imperfections, say I). A game would have to be nearly life-changing to score a 10. 10s I would only assign retrospectively to great classics. I’m just as unlikely to assign a 9… some might say my scale should be called out of 8, but giving an 8/8 implies a sort of holistic completeness that inexplicably bothers me on some level. At any rate, this is all to say that I prefer qualitative ratings over quantitative... my scores will almost undoubtedly come out low, but that does not necessarily mean that my opinion of a game is low. I encourage people to vote my own games just as low if they see fit to do so. (Why yes, my glass really is eternally five-eighths empty…)


With that out of the way… after playing these games I had to decide how I would weigh such a diverse bunch against each other. Each has individual merits, & level of proofreading, implementation, etc. are all things to consider in these intros, but there’s more to making a good intro than just that. The criteria for the winner is the game of which a player most wants to play more. Therefore I chose to give weight to what I thought was the crux of the competition: the literary hook of a piece.


I’ve cast two votes already, but I don’t feel like I can continue voting quite yet until I’ve discussed the how & why of my votes a little. The votes I’m referring to are for Donuts (8/10) and Apokalupsis (7/10). Each game had strong writing in its own, unique way. They were both quite memorable, I thought, and I wanted to play more of each. But here’s the kicker, and it’s why Donuts got a higher score even though I felt that Apokalupsis is a game with a stronger guarantee I'd enjoy it in full form— again, it’s all about the hook. By the end of Donuts, I wanted to play more. I need to go on, no matter how weird or bad the game might end up. The writing managed to consistently subvert my expectations and keep me off balance, like some weird, raw judo. I'm hooked.


On the other hand, Apokalupsis ends with a lighter hook… you exit the crime scene having gathered some evidence, but nothing definitive. I didn’t get the hint of that horrible archnemesis sort of thing that I wanted, nor did I feel I’d seen the sort of cinematic crime & villain hinted at in the beginning. From the evidence (and by the narrator’s reaction), I appear to have witnessed just a routine crime of passion from an unseasoned criminal. Dangerously unseasoned, maybe, but I don’t feel like the narrator really explored that. So the light hook was little bit of a let-down in an otherwise well-written story.


As for the rest of the entries (again, excluding my own), I thought I’d take a moment to weigh out what I thought the hook in each entry was, just to help clarify my voting process for the benefit of myself & the authors. In no particular order…


***

Through Time: A sympathetic protagonist faces a long-awaited & positive change of fortune.


Dead Race: Zombies, for one, are their own hook. Text messages received make the player look forward to the upcoming rescue missions.


The Magician’s Niece: The unique items & magic system seem to promise some really interesting puzzles.


Existence: Unique protagonist promises unusual gameplay opportunities.


Yon Astounding Castle: Tiberius Thingamus being weird & spoofy.


The Merlin Bird of Prey: The protagonist is an adventure game enthusiast… story aside, this seems to promise some in-jokery & amusing references to other games.

***

Authors of the above, what are your own thoughts on your games or the competition? Am I right about your game’s hook or am I a blathering idiot? If so, please correct me.


As for my own entries, I’m obviously somewhat concerned about the use of music in To End All Wars. I’ve tried my best to court fair use, but I dunno. I haven’t read up on British copyright laws. Should I remove the song? Should I use the whole song? Thoughts, please.

4 comments:

  1. Ugh, I hate numerical scoring for games, too (and agree with rarely giving out the highest score possible... I'd rarely give the lowest score possible either)! It's especially hard if they're all so different. It might work if they're all the same genre and aiming to be the same way, but usually they're not.

    Sometimes I feel like games deserve a higher score because they were good but that a lower-scoring game should win... Yet I can't bring myself to score them very differently. Heh. Even though I know it's supposed to be about what leaves me want to play more, if I use a 1-10 scale, my votes don't end up quite how I want them to be.

    Hey, we should work on a better way to score ADRIFT competition games. Really. That would be awesome. Maybe I'll work on coming up with something. The Odd Comp scoring system seemed slightly better, but not quite right either. Seems like a scoring system would be a good project to undertake...

    -

    Well, you got my game hook right, I think! That's what I was going for. I'm not sure where you got the Through Time hook from... But the rest are about the same ideas I got from the games, too.

    -

    Hmm, I dunno about the song, either. I think as just an intro, what you did was fine, but maybe check out the copyright laws before you release a full version of the game.

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  2. Indeed, numerical ratings can be a bother. Dan Blazquez & I talked about it back in the day, but at this point I don't really expect anything to change.

    I posted some ideas about what could change on informationhabitat a while ago, which you can look at if you're curious:
    http://www.informationhabitat.org/mw/index.php/ADRIFT#Problems

    The thread on the forum must be floating around somewhere, still. "Improving the face of ADRIFT" or some such.

    The "Through Time" hook I got from the intro & the TV part... guy dreams of travelling the galaxy and then a "Roswell" type incident occurs... whether or not you sympathise with the protagonist is up for grabs, I s'pose, but I felt bad for him. We'll see what Finn says.

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  3. I didn't look at the numbers that much, but rather at the text.
    This made it easier for me to evaluate each game.. Was this something I would really be looking forward to, or would be one in a million?
    I regarded the numbers as the line in which the text was written ;-)

    As for Abbi's remark regarding "poor" Joe Gatling ... Well, his background (which I should have mentioned) is that he lives a boring life, with a wife whos favorite pastime is to nag him. He dreams of big deeds, and adventure but watches his life slowly roll past him.
    Remember this is in the 50's the flying saucer era is just beginning and everybody wonders what is out there.
    It wouldn't be fair to reveal more here.. at least not until the judging is over. :-)

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  4. Ah, yes, I guess I never thought to turn the TV on until you (Cowboy) mentioned it in the forum! Heh. I see now. =)

    Duncan, I had a look at the link you posted. Interesting. I actually tried making an Excel doc for scoring... could email it to you if you're interested. It's just a rough idea of scoring, still using numbers, breaking it up differently, with the option of weighing each category as appropriate to the game.

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