IntroComp 2015

IntroComp is a yearly IF competition which invites participants to send in the first part of a game. Judges vote on how much they would be interested in playing the rest of the submitted game, and authors who finish and release their pieces within a year are eligible for a prize based on where they placed. The games for 2015 are currently available, and judging is open through August 21.

Below, thoughts on the pieces I ranked highest.

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Walker’s Rift, by Hope Chow. (ChoiceScript.) As a researcher in the Walled City, coping with magical monsters, you must investigate what has happened to a series of patients presenting similar physical and psychological symptoms.

The first few pages of this felt a bit disorienting, but it grew on me. In particular, I liked that this is fantasy Singapore, which was a welcome variation on the usual western settings. (This is not quite stated outright, but visible similarities aside, there’s a reference to someone traveling on business to nearby Lamasia, and the city is named Perigosan in-game.) This fact plays out in the descriptions of food and smells, the social structures and character names, and the kinds of buildings you see around you: grand civic structures for public functions, apartment-block flats to live in.

The structure here is a bit more puzzly than you usually find in Choice of Games branded pieces; there’s one way through that involves some successful investigation, another way that dead-ends entirely (though only if you do something that seems obviously foolish), and a third way in which you flounder about looking for evidence and don’t find it and then get an unexplained brain-wave at the end, as though the game is trying to patch up the fact that you the player haven’t done your job right.

So I think this could use some editing, but I am psyched about the setting possibilities.

Beyond Division by Joseph Geipel. (Parser with occasional menu and keyword elements.) A science fiction piece with multiple levels of reality: the game’s intro and footnotes indicate that the entire story is being told to you by a strongly-characterized narrator (possibly an authorial insert?) who made up the tale to amuse themselves during boring high school classes, and that it’s being told to you in order to… teach you Latin vocabulary. This is an odd aim given how little Latin I’ve encountered so far, but okay.

The story concerns a wolf who has gained telepathic powers, and some scientists who are hoping to understand the telepathic powers in order to use them to communicate with sea-dwelling tentacled aliens called The Tide. This touches on a few of the same ideas as Coloratura but takes them in a radically different direction.

Technically there’s a lot going on here: the player gets to play as both the wolf and a scientist at different times, and these characters have (naturally) different verb abilities; there’s a conversation system; there are the footnotes; there’s an enriched status line display with a lot of extra information. It all felt solid and well-tested to me, which is no small achievement and a good sign for the final version of the game.

I don’t quite see the point of the metafictional layer involving the Latin-teaching high school student, which mostly seems to undercut the stakes of the main story, but it is possible that the point of this layer will become clearer in the final version of the game; also, the life details of this student feel more strongly observed than those in the life of the wolf or the scientist, which may reflect the author’s own experiences.

Meld, by David Whyld. (Parser.) The main puzzle concept here is that the player is able to meld two items together to form new ones, or separate melded objects (even if they were previously melded by someone else). Off the bat, then, we’ve got a systematic mechanic, and the first couple of puzzles are about training you to use it. It’s not as discoverable a mechanic as I might like because it’s more or less arbitrary what two objects will meld into: you can’t just look at a couple of items and predict what the meld will be, which means that there’s a lot of trial and error rather than inspired puzzle-solving. But still, it’s a concept I wouldn’t mind seeing more of. Sparkle had rather arbitrary object-generation rules and that managed to be a lot of fun.

There are some drawbacks as well, at least for me: rough edges in the implementation of the conversation, and a setting that felt a little generic.

One thought on “IntroComp 2015”

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