30 September 2012
ADRIFT v5 IntroComp Reviews (2012)
It's sad to see that of the six games in this competition, only ONE has a fully proofread introduction sequence. Not a good sign. The only errorless one's three-sentence introduction was basically too short to have had any sort of mistake or typo, but errors did show up later in that game, anyway.
It seems to me like maybe it's time to bring back some of the writing challenges and exercises that used to be on the Forum. Maybe they could help people develop their technique.
At any rate, you didn't come here to hear me complain about spelling and grammar. You want to hear about the games. Specifically, which one did I want to play the most?
For me, answering that came down to a few questions. Did the author give me an intro with a hook that grabbed my interest from the start? Did the author provide me with a compelling narrative, with strongly defined characters and goals? And did the author's design give me evidence that they could effectively accomplish the goals they set forward in the introduction?
I do have some detailed notes from each game I played which I may post at a later time, either at the ADRIFT Forum or directly to their authors, whichever they prefer. For now, I've decided I'm going to borrow a page from Christopher Huang's book and, after discussing each game a bit, identify each game with a meal. In this case, I'm imagining each as an appetizer. No numerical scores here. Without further ado, then, the reviews...
The Axe of Kolt needs to give me something to sink my teeth into. We don't need to see our hero getting to a tavern to volunteer for an adventure, we need to see the adventure. As it stands, there's evidence of worldbuilding, but it's severely railroaded, unexciting, and ends with Guess the Subject trouble or a long wait. I would've liked for the adventure to start in the tavern, preferably to start right about when it ended (which is when we get a peek at the beginning of the game's conflict).
Appetizer: The waiter (in his Ren Faire best) came by with water and kept my glass filled, but then just kept telling me about ye olde menu without ever bringing it.
The Blank Wall jumps tracks without warning. It starts strong, but loses sight of its conflict when the PC and the player are both constantly bewildered by magic they don't understand. Still, I'm intrigued, and there's definite evidence from this intro that the author has the craft to pull this thing off.
Appetizer: I ordered a hard-boiled egg (odd to see on an appetizer menu, but there is was). Some bafflement happened in the kitchen-- or else my order was deliberately switched without warning-- and I received a scrambled egg. Still willing to eat it, but I'm left scratching my head about the whole incident.
Head Case is going to give me a migraine-- and I don't even have migraines. It's a mess. Please understand that I don't intend what I'm about to say in a mean-spirited way, but if the author has re-read his game even once and thinks that it looks fine, he needs to stop writing and start playing games by other authors to see how it's done.
Appetizer: The disorganized state of the restaurant and bad smells coming from the kitchen forced me to reconsider my dining experience for the night.
Organic strands me without a definite control scheme or even a hint system. Its intro starts strong, but the gameworld isn't yet fully realized enough to sustain it.
Appetizer: The spinach dip looked great, but arrived still sealed in a display case. When I wanted to ask how I was supposed to eat it, it turned out the staff had disappeared.
Shattered Memory needs to decide what's the most important element of its story and either go full scene, starting players in at an earlier point of the story where they can interact with their sister while she's still alive (not a spoiler), or it needs to cut the crap and start at around where the intro ends.
Appetizer: The wait staff brought me gin instead of water, but before I could drink, they switched it out with water again. And then gin again. Then water. By the time I got the menu in my hands, the restaurant had closed. Probably worth noting that, though it's drinkable, I'm not particularly a fan of gin.
Trapped needs to actually trap the player by sustaining its conflict. As it is, it's practically over as soon as it starts.
Appetizer: I came for an appetizer and got a spoonful of peas... delightfully absurd, to be sure, but rather disappointing when the bill came and it turned out to be the whole dinner, too.