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October 6, 2008

IFComp: Capture Quest

After a brief intro yesterday, my filtering of this year's IFComp entries shifts into gear as I continue to walk down my randomly generated list of games. No spoilers here, just some initial impressions of each game's opening, which includes any introduction, "About" screens, and the first location, summarized by the Capture Score. The range is from 1 (intriguing; a definite play) to 4 (dreadful and forgettable).

Bear in mind that my intention is not to judge the the complete piece, only to report my first impressions of the entries to see which ones engage me enough to pull me in for more. I'll play the ones that do to see if the experience matches the anticipation, and afterward if any games that I pass on place high in the competition, I'll go back and see what it was that I missed.

"NerdQuest", by RagtimeNerd

So my random game list generator came up with this one first, and then I find out it's written in MechaniQue, with which I am completely unfamiliar. I have to slip into the Mac Terminal app, navigate to the directory, and run a Java interpreter from the command line. Already I know why it's called NerdQuest.

The title does not inspire me, and the opening appears to be an exercise in brevity. I'm locked in a server room being forced by my manager to fix a hacked system while potentially missing a date with my new girlfriend. The setup is simplistic and uninviting. Still, I'm slightly intrigued by the programming language and how this game might differ from the more traditional IF systems. But only slightly.

This summarizes my brief experience with the opening:


Server room, second floor.
Here is an old disused desk with a terminal on it.
To the north is the storage room. To the south is the
exit door.
==WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?==
>about
Not possible.
Server room, second floor.
==WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?==
>search desk
Not possible.
Server room, second floor.
==WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?==
>examine terminal
Not possible.
Server room, second floor.
==WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?==
>hint
Not possible.
Server room, second floor.
==WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?==
>quit
Not possible.


Capture Score: 3. "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?" the game asks. The answer: play something else. I know that's possible.



"Recess At Last", by Gerald Aungst

"The daily school routine of going out to recess, transformed into an epic quest." I get to play a fourth grader, itching for recess outside during one of the only sunny winter days in as long as I can remember. But it turns out I can't join the others until I finish my missing assignment, and I'm stuck at my desk. There is an origami fortune teller here -- I haven't thought about those things in decades. There's also a closet, but for what purpose I'm unsure. Interesting, I'm intrigued. I have to figure out what this assignment is. Did I already complete it? Did I leave it at home?

The writing is pleasant and appropriate, and the setup is well done. "Almost in unison, twenty-four fourth graders sighed in relief, twenty-four fourth graders put away their math books, and twenty-four fourth graders began to line up." It comes across as light and fun. For some reason, I think of Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. This is a good thing.

Capture Score: 1. This one deserves some attention.



"Channel Surfing", by Mike Vollmer

This one starts out with some kind of cross between amnesia and jail cell tropes. You start out in a room called "Box" with featureless blank walls and only a chair, a table, and a huge, flat TV displaying plain white light. I don't know where I am or how I got there, or what it is I'm supposed to be doing.

There are, however, some other devices: a remote, a letter, and a post-it note, enough to engage my curiosity for at least a little bit.

The "About" screen provides a little more information, and the letter confirms it; I'm a test subject for an experimental new television, which sounds somewhat intriguing except for the part where it goes on to confirm the amnesia thing. It's just tough to get very excited about the amnesia trope these days. I'm also made aware of multiple-choice dialog sequences to come. Not my favorite, but it's dealer's choice.

Still, aside from a minor typo, the writing appears to be a strong point. So while the setup is hardly inspiring, I'll probably give this one a few minutes and turns to declare itself.

Capture Score: 2. Worth at least a few more turns.


More to come...

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