IntroComp 2016

IntroComp is a long-running IF tradition in which authors contribute just the openings of games. Judges then vote based purely on whether they would like to play the complete version of the game. Voting is currently in progress, and doesn’t close until September 10, so if you’d like to play some IF and give feedback to prospective authors, this is a good time to do it.

A few thoughts on some of the specific games follow the jump. (I have not been able to play all of them yet, and in a few cases I did not have a great deal of use to say, so this is not a full roster of the competition contents. But You Too can play and judge!)

Spellbound, Adam Perry, parser. This is a straight-up wordplay game, in which you can arrange and rearrange your inventory of letters in order to produce new objects that may be of use in your current situation. I’m both keen on and picky about wordplay genre games: I like them to have clearly established, robust mechanics, and also ideally not to be too incomprehensibly surreal.

Spellbound does a pretty good job on both fronts. The spelling task has clearly communicated rules: at least originally, the player can’t form any words of more than three letters, which constrains your possible creation palette enough that the author has been able to do a pretty thorough implementation job for all the words that are possible. And while the resulting story is pretty narratively lightweight, it doesn’t require the reader to imagine wildly incomprehensible objects or situations, nor does it go as purely abstract as Andrew Schultz’s Threediopolis.

I did giggle a little at

As you descend the gigantic staircase, your jaw drops. And it keeps dropping.

but I feel the author intended that.

Overall, I find this very promising: the author has done enough to show he’s up for implementing his mechanic, but I feel like there are lots more possible puzzle variations he could do, so the intro has by no means exhausted the game’s total possibilities. This promises to be a story-light but robust and enjoyable entry in the wordplay puzzle genre.

Grubbyville, Andrew Schultz, parser. The idea here is that you’re competing for valedictorian, and you need to wander around your high school and interact with the other students in some way that will set you up for victory. It’s definitely on the puzzly rather than the naturalistic end of the spectrum, and I got stuck before the end of the intro because I couldn’t find the birthday gift I was supposed to present to one character. The SCORE command reveals that the game is tracking how often you’ve treated other characters various ways — have you been sly? nice? nasty?

I like the idea of where such a mechanic might go, but within the scope of the intro we don’t actually see very much of that concept at work.

Deviled Kegs, Mo, Twine. The premise: you are investigating a murder that takes place on a space station during an interplanetary brewing competition.

The game is dressed up with background images for each page of interactive text. In a few cases I found this challenging to read because of the lack of contrast between the writing and the underlying image.

The story is also quite short in its current form. It sets up a couple of potentially interesting problems for your investigation: some of the aliens on the space station are empaths and will pick up on emotional distress if you are feeling any while interviewing them. But the game ends with an additional cliffhanger complication before we get to see what that is likely to mean for gameplay.

What is here appears fairly linear, but perhaps the story will branch out more later. Or maybe it won’t! It’s really hard to tell where this is going, either as a story or as a game, because all the mechanical development has yet to come, and it feels like some of the stakes are also still to be revealed.

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