Monday, February 6, 2023

A treasury of Zork maps

Yesterday a Reddit link started going around the IF circles:
"Wait," I thought, "haven't I seen that map before?" No, I had not. But I sort of had? Then I looked through my collection of Zork maps. Then I realized, oh no, I have a collection of Zork maps, and it's incomplete.
Project time! Let's start at the very beginning.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

2023 IGF nominees: mind dot dot dot blown

Finally, my IGF top favorites. At this point I have entirely departed the realm of objective, considered judgement. These are the games which made me cackle with glee -- in my head at least.
  • Immortality
  • NORCO
  • Tunic
(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury and had access to free review copies of these games. But in fact I bought them all before IGF judging started.)

Monday, January 30, 2023

2023 IGF nominees: wildly miscellaneous

And now my "I couldn't think of a category" category.
  • Case of the Golden Idol
  • The Forest Quartet
  • Gnosia
  • Queer Man Peering Into A Rock Pool.jpg
(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury and had access to free review copies of these games.)

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Colossal Cave (2023)

A year ago, Ken and Roberta Williams boothed at GDC with a demo of their coming-out-of-retirement project: Colossal Cave in 3d. I wrote some thoughts at the time:
In a graphical environment, how do we render the confusing exits of Witt's End? How do we show that your inventory matters in the Tight Squeeze? Can you really not move around in the dark?
These are interesting questions! You can have fun thinking about them. I hope Roberta and Ken have had fun thinking about them. But I'd say that the best answers are going to point to a free adaptation of the game.
Now it's out, and I can say: this is a tight, nay, a pedantic adaptation of the original game.
(Warning: I assume you've long since played or at least read about the original game. So SPOILERS top to bottom, here on out.)
(By the way, when I say "the original" I mean the 350-point Fortran Adventure by Crowther and Woods. That's the ancestor of nearly every other version. If you're curious about the earliest history of Adventure / Colossal Cave, Dennis Jerz's 2007 article is definitive. And if you want to play the original -- not exactly the Fortran version, but close -- click here.)

Saturday, January 28, 2023

2023 IGF nominees: the personal

A game can be one person talking about a thing, in their own voice, framed by a bit of game stuff. This is a well-understood category, although it doesn't have a name that I know of. "Topical" misses the author's voice. "Confessional" makes it prurient. I could suggest "listening simulator" if that didn't come off as snark, which is not how I intend it.
It's hard to say much about games like this. The game mechanics aren't the point. If you explain the point, you're pushing the author offstage. So these comments will be brief; the games can speak for themselves.
  • Of Moons and Mania
  • He Fucked the Girl Out of Me
  • Atuel
(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury. The games in this post are free or name-your-price.)

Friday, January 27, 2023

2023 IGF nominees: good old adventures

You may recall that I wrote a blog post on recent old-school narrative games just a few months ago. Unsurprisingly, a bunch turned up as IGF entries. So I've written half this post already!
  • Return to Monkey Island
  • The Excavation of Hob's Barrow
  • The Past Within
  • Beacon Pines
  • Backfirewall_
  • Ib
(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury and had access to free review copies of these games. Of course, I'd played some already, but I played Ib, Beacon Pines, and Backfirewall for free.)

Thursday, January 26, 2023

2023 IGF nominees: visual novels

I don't really follow visual novels. But there are a lot of them, and some turn up in IGF every year, and I play the ones that are getting the most attention. That doesn't mean the best visual novels of the year! Just a couple that happen to come my way.
  • Butterfly Soup 2
  • The Wreck
  • Eternal Threads
(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury and played free review copies of these games.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

2023 IGF nominees: the RPG bonanza

Now, my usual habit is to lay down a stream of posts reviewing all my favorite nominees. And honorable mentions. And other IGF entries which I feel like reviewing.
However, this year will have to go a little bit differently, because I've already posted about a lot of the entries! So these posts will have a lot of "see previous review". Sorry about that.
Anyhow. You may recall that last year I had mixed reactions about the slate of entries. Lots of games doing great things, but few overall favories.
This year? Too many overall favorites. Seriously. I could name a dozen games that made my "game of the year" list. And I will! But let's take them one group at a time.

The first standout group of games: awesome narrative RPGs.
Of course I'm using "role-playing" in the sense derived from tabletop RPGs. You have stats, you have ways to improve your stats, you're dropped into a world full of stat-based challenges. You may also have to scrounge money (or whatever) to buy food (or whatever). Stuff like that.
Games like this stand or fall on their game mechanics. Sure, we've all played D&D, roll 16 on a d20 to hit armor class 4... But that's just the start of the road. How does the gameplay suit this particular story? Are you rolling for results or for options? Is the game about luck, planning, or negotiation?
  • Citizen Sleeper
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist
  • Roadwarden
  • Betrayal at Club Low
  • The Pale Beyond
(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury and had access to free review copies of these games. I played a review copy of Roadwarden. The Pale Beyond is not yet releaseed; I played the public demo. The other games, I had already purchased by the time IGF judging began.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

And the misty brakefern way

You know the song, "The Witch of the Westmorland"? I got into a discussion about it a couple of days ago.
The song is by Archie Fisher, but it's more commonly associated with Stan Rogers. Stan sang it on his live album Between the Breaks. That album has launched a thousand pub sings -- it's got "Mary Ellen Carter" and "Rolling Down to Old Maui" and "Barrett's Privateers", for heavens' sake -- but let's stick to the one song.
I knew a couple of things about the Witch, and then there's a bunch of things I didn't know. There's a rabbit warren down there.