IFcomp 2016: You are standing in a cave…

And now, “You are standing in a cave…”

Now this is old school. Not quite to Scott Adams levels of old school, but, at the very least, back to Zork’s uninhabited worlds, ancient engineering, and object manipulation. There will always be a place for that sort of thing in Interactive Fiction, I believe; and I believe that most of us are here because we enjoy shoving levers around to see what happens.

We’re the classic Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally-Ambiguous Adventure Person. (That is, we’re almost certainly a white American male, probably in his early twenties.) We’re in a cave with no idea how we got there, and we want to get out. And the cave rooms are a fairly fantastic mix of awesome-but-impractical architecture. A bit like Myst, only in text form.

I think there’s some interesting puzzle design here, probably, but the problem is the bugginess. This is, I believe, a First Attempt, and unfortunately I see a barrage of basic errors getting in the way of the experience. Some are basic things that a more experienced IF coder understands right away–though I wonder if omitting the “scenery” tag from various objects was intentional, leading as it does to all the important objects being listed after the room description. One puzzle, I believe, involves the creation of a torch; unfortunately, none of the standard verbs seem to work, though I think I might have all the materials at hand. It’s been known to happen–an author coming up with a trick involving a special verb, and not realising that one or another of the standard verbs should either work just as well, or should fail in a way that hints at the correct solution. But this doesn’t matter, because the room we want to access–theoretically barred by our lack of a torch–is still accessible! Not that it helps all that much … I was still unable to progress in a sensible fashion, and finally had to abandon ship.

This is why we have beta-testers. Always allow plenty of time for beta-testers, and for implementing solutions to their problems.

Past comps have been haunted by First Attempts that amounted to no more than an implementation of the author’s house, often in a state of picturesque (to the author) disarray. It’s good that this author has chosen something a little more interesting, and that she’s built it with puzzles (content!) in mind. And, while the result IS hampered by its implementation, that is the sort of thing that comes with practice. I strongly encourage the author to persevere … and get beta-testers. Beta-testers beta-testers beta-testers.

Breakfast is like soggy, doughy pancakes–a creditable attempt, but sadly undercooked. With practice, I expect the author to be flipping them one-handed and serving them up golden-brown and delicious; for now, though, it’s back to the kitchen with this.

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