Monday, 30 September 2013

Dream Pieces by Iam Curio

Playing Dream Pieces: One way is to download a 10mb zip of all the game files. In the Quest folder you'll find 'Dream Pieces.quest'. Or just download Dream Pieces.quest from the IF archive. Run this game file offline using the Quest interpreter.

or you can play Dream Pieces online

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Dream Pieces is a friendly-feeling bedroom adventure of word puzzling delivered via the Quest platform. It has semi-rhyming (and semi-straining) prose and some nods towards helpful production values. For instance you can choose whether the presentation is delivered to suit a desktop computer, a tablet or a mobile phone. Then again, there are nods toward less helpful production values, too. When the game asks for your date of birth as part of its birthday schtick, it claims not to have understood what you just typed, even though it later turns out that it did.

I had to break off my game of Dream Pieces early due to a moment of inflexibility which I mistook for a bug. At first I thought this might be one of those Quest games which doesn't work properly online. I've played a good number of Quest games over time and I feel that about 1 in 3 throw up problems in the online player. Of those, 1 in 2 will be rendered unwinnable by the problem. As offline play of Dreams is only available for PCs and not Macs, I wasn't able to check my theory in this case. The game looks like it's worth a shot for any fans of non-difficult word games.

In Dream Pieces  you have to manipulate domestic objects in your bedroom to create tools and methods to further manipulate domestic objects in your bedroom, but it's considerably more fun that I just made it sound. Tools can split the names of objects into constituent letters which can then be rearranged to create new props. As soon as I apprehended this mechanic I felt my interest prickling, and since the game gives the impression of being easy enough for a child to complete, what with its child-like font and enthusiastic outlook, I figured I was about to power through the whole thing for some simple satisfaction. The game also offered me a hint apropos of nothing when it first noticed me floundering a little. But then I got bug-stuck. (Spoiler follows.)

100,000 years by Pierre Chavalier

Play 100,000 years online here

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(Version reviewed: Original)

100,000 years is a sci-fi Twine/Twee piece about galactic-sized spans of time. It is easily worth anyone's time to try as it is very short. (I almost said "ironically very short," but that would have been silly as the smallness/largeness thing is obviously a neat feature.) More details and some spoilers below.

Ongoing Glossary

CYOA: An abbreviation for 'Choose Your Own Adventure'. As per the famous books with that branding, when I say CYOA in these reviews, I mean that the game mechanism involves reading some prose, then choosing one option from a menu of discrete choices about how the story should proceed.

IF: It stands for 'Interactive Fiction'. Text games, text adventures, parser-driven games, interactive stories, graphic adventures, choose your own adventures on computers... these are the things which come under the Interactive Fiction umbrella. Delivery of a game partially or fully by text prose and the use of some kind of text-based interaction are probably the classic hallmarks of IF, along with an explicit lack of real-time action content.

Glulx: (Before you read this, perhaps scroll down and read about Z-Code, the precursor to Glulx.) A Glulx game is most often driven by a parser. I.E. You type in English commands to control your character, commands like 'embrace Edward Cullen' or 'put the blue keycard in the blue slot'. Glulx games are created with Inform, a long serving and popular IF programming language. Glulx is the most modern format for Inform games, so it supports games of infinite size, the inclusion of multimedia and other technically helpful features. Perhaps confusingly, a Glulx game isn't necessarily going to be longer than a Z-Code one – it may just be using the format to benefit from one of Glulx's features. Some of these features aren't yet supported by online interpreters, so you need to play some Glulx games offline to get the full experience.

Glulx game files have the suffix .gblorb

Glulx games run in a virtual machine which in turn runs on pretty much any modern computer. So to play one of these games, you just need to download a Glulx-capable IF interpreter which will run on your computer of choice, plus the game file. Open the game file in the interpreter and you're off. Hang on to the interpreter to run any other Glulx game in the future.

The relatively tedious part is picking your interpreter in the beginning. They all have cute names and do things slightly differently, but all you'll care about at first is whether the one you pick will run the game. Here are some good interpreters for Glulx games:

Gargoyle, for Mac OS X, Windows, Unix/Linux (Pros: Also runs Z-Code games and other formats, visually attractive. Con: Can be annoying to change preferences.)
Filfre, for Windows (Pros: Anecdotally rated best for visually impaired users. Also runs Z-Code games.)
Windows Glulxe or Wingit, for PC
Zoom, for Mac OS X (Pro: Also runs Z-Code games. Con: Can't do sound.)
Zoom, for Unix/Linux (Pro: Also runs Z-Code games. Con: Can't do sound.)

Quest: A newish (only relatively speaking!) system for playing and creating adventures. Quest games can utilise any mix of text input, hyperlinks, graphics and sounds their authors want.

Quest games can be played online in a web browser or offline in a Windows-only interpreter program, so Mac users must play Quest games online. One problem though: I've observed that not all Quest games run without bugs in their online incarnations, though I expect one day they will. So for now I advise Windows users to play Quest games offline.

To play a Quest game online, you just go to its website.

To play a Quest game offline, you need to download the Quest interpreter (from here) and install it. Then download the game file and open it up from within the interpreter, or just drag and drop the game file on the interpreter icon.

StoryNexus: An online delivery and creation system for all kinds of browser based games. Text, graphics, audio, virtual cards, RPG - you can do all kinds of stuff. To play, you just visit a particular StoryNexus game's site and log in with one of your Facebook, Twitter or a StoryNexus account: http://storynexus.com/s

Twine/Twee: A programming system for creating hyperlink-based games which run in web browsers. To play these games you generally just visit the game's site then read words and click words.

Twee/Twine: See 'Twine/Twee'. I believe that the distinction between Twee and Twine is more relevant for game-makers than players.

Undum: Undum is a system which delivers CYOA (Choose Your Own Adventure) type games which run in web browsers. In an Undum game, the text of each choice you make typically (and prettily) slides into place as part of an ongoing narrative in the window, while unchosen choices disappear. To play an Undum game you just go to its website, read words and click words.

Z-Code: A Z-Code game is most often driven by a parser. I.E. You type in English commands to control your character, commands like 'stab Edward Cullen' or 'put the red keycard in the red slot'. Z-Code games are created with Inform, a long serving and popular IF programming language descended from the Infocom code which ran games like Zork. Z-Code games are typically of small to medium size, but can go longer. Bigger Inform-made games (or ones with multimedia content) are delivered in a format called Glulx (see earlier on this page).

Z-Code game files have suffixes like .z5 or .z8 or z(some other number) or .zblorb

Z-Code games run in a virtual machine which in turn runs on pretty much any modern computer. So to play one of these games, you just need to download a Z-Code-capable IF interpreter which will run on your computer of choice, plus the game file. Open the game file in the interpreter and you're off. Hang on to the interpreter to run any other Z-Code game in the future.

The relatively tedious part is picking your interpreter in the beginning. They all have cute names and do things slightly differently, but all you'll care about at first is whether the one you pick will run the game. Here are some good interpreters for Z-Code games:

Gargoyle, for Mac OS X, Windows, Unix/Linux (Pros: Also runs Glulx games and other formats, visually attractive. Con: Can be annoying to change preferences.)
Filfre, for Windows (Pros: Anecdotally rated best for visually impaired users. Also runs Glulx games.)
Zoom, for Mac OS X (Pro: Also runs Glulx games. Con: Can't do sound.)
Zoom, for Unix/Linux (Pro: Also runs Glulx games. Con: Can't do sound.)
Frotz, for Windows
Frotz, for iOS (Just search 'frotz' in the app store)
JFrotz, for Android phones

Introduction


Hello. This is Wade Clarke saying these things to you. Welcome to my blog in which I will be writing about some – or all, I hope – of the works entered into the 2013 Interactive Fiction Competition. If you don't know me from Shinola, I've written some of these games over the past few years and reviewed a lot of them.

During last year's IFComp I had time to write fully about every game. This year I might not achieve the same feat and I will be doing a few things differently in any case, but if I'm lucky, the things I do differently may give me the time to achieve the feat.

  • The first of these things is to try to make this blog more helpful for people who might never have had anything to do with Interactive Fiction or text adventure games or this competition before. So I will be linking directly to the online version of each game, and in the case of offline games which require interpreters, I will offer a direction or two on how to launch them.
  • My 2nd post will be an ongoing glossary of some terms I'll be throwing about over the course of the blog, and each game system listed in there will come with how-to-play-this-kind-of-game instructions. If you see an italicised phrase anywhere in this blog, clicking it will go to the glossary page where it'll be explained.
  • I mention at the head of each review which version of the game I played. Some games will be updated during the comp, so sometimes issues that reviewers point out with an earlier version of a game might disappear or be improved (or in rare cases, worsened) in later versions.

The other things I'll be doing differently this year will only be of interest to people who read my blog last year, or who are regular IFfers or comp followers or folks who know me, so they're tucked inside THIS aside: