Archive for the ‘shufflecomp’ Tag

More (post competition release, and reflections)   6 comments


First straight to the point: you can download Version 2 of More at this link. Alternatively, you can play through your browser. This will eventually show up at the IFDB page.

I’m still up for a Version 3 if any issues crop up, so if bugs arise you can either email me [jason followed by a dot b dot dyer, at] or just drop a comment on this blog post.

time to… reflect! —

I. All of You Are Awesome

To be frank, I’ve been out of the normal IF community loop of late. I have been posting to my All the Adventures project, but opining about interactive fiction from the 1970s isn’t exactly keeping track with modern trends.

I don’t know if y’all noticed, but holy cow your writing. I’m going to blame it on Twine/Undum/other CYOA forces. The community’s XP level in “Writing Prose” has taken a major upgrade. Even the humblest of works had some smashing sentences tossed in the mix. Possibly this trend has been invisible to the participants, but for someone who has barely touched IFComp since 2007 it was very noticeable.

So, if I drop out of things for another 7 years, when I pop back up there will be AI characters so reactive they will beg you to not end the story because then they will have to go back into the little box, right?


II. On using all 8 songs for More

I started with this song, which I knew had to be my setting

Joey Jones – Grandaddy – Broken Household Appliance National Forest

but it suggested to me no characters or plot, so I kept listening in circles, and realized these three combined together to make an excellent tale:

Emily Short – Stephen Sondheim / Madonna – More
Peter Orme – The Smiths – Girlfriend in a Coma
Miguel G. – Sinead O’Connor & Shane MacGowan – Haunted

At that point I thought I had my song set, but I got severely stuck in designing The Puzzle and so went back to the songs I hadn’t used to see if inspiration struck. Lo, a song I still don’t understand but with groovy lyrics:

Neil – Arcade Fire – No Cars Go

So … there! Great! Done! I sent on the first-draft version, knowing that I was going to add depth to the story before the contest deadline. Enter writer’s block; myself, lurching forlorn over a keyboard with no notion or clue how to fill in the relationship. I had parts, but not an entire story. The remainder of the songs came to the rescue:

Royce Odle – Jethro Tull – The Witch’s Promise
Sam Kabo Ashwell – Patty Griffin – As Cold As It Gets
Ryan Holman – Lorrie Morgan – Five Minutes

This was not done on a dare or personal challenge. It just happened that way. I know some of the song-submitters have undervalued their contribution — don’t. More as it exists would never have happened without the entire list. So, great thanks to everyone.

III. A beta-tester shout-out as well

William Samuels, Jason McIntosh, and Royce Odle came in with quick turnarounds and extremely useful comments. I was worried on the testing-time aspect but this group blazed through in record time. Thanks!

IV. Random theoretical bits

One-puzzle game: I thought of having an adversary for the main character to deal with while they were trying to find the money, but that messed with the meditative quality of the work. So it was nearly always planned to have only one puzzle. This is partly inspired, oddly enough, by a fan mission for Thief 2 called Calendra’s Legacy where the first part involves a mission that can be done in 5 minutes (if you go straight for the goal) or 4 hours (if you explore). Obviously I didn’t ape that structure exactly (it was more like 20 seconds to go straight to the goal versus 10 minutes if you mess around) but the idea of having an ending that is easy to get to but having the story show up in the non-essential bits has always interested me.

I also find it interesting that one-room and one-move interactive fiction games are genres in themselves, but one-puzzle is not considered a Thing.

Stream of consciousness: The last chapter of Joyce’s book Ulysses has prose that reads thus:

married woman or a fast widow or a girl for their different tastes like those houses round behind Irish street no but were to be always chained up theyre not going to be chaining me up no damn fear once I start I tell you for their stupid husbands jealousy why cant we all remain friends over it instead of quarrelling her husband found it out what they did together well naturally and if he did

I did not go all out, but I did include some character-perspective stream of consciousness in the prose. This comes up straightaway, where the PC rambles:

Once you had an argument with Tommy if it was possible for something to be beautiful and ugly at the same time, and he said no, and you said Toaster Hill, and he said ok sure you’re right which is weird because your arguments usually lasted longer than that.

The “you” is there to sustain that this is clearly a “role-playing” perspective; you aren’t meant to control from a distance. The rambling indicates the character has a state of mind that goes on tangents, for obvious and current reasons:

> x me
You’ve got bloodstains all over so you don’t want to look too close.

> x blood
no no no no no no no no

On the conflux with Tea and Toast: The fact this Shufflecomp entry also featured toasters was a complete and random coincidence. The first line of the Grandaddy song mentions a toaster. There was no way out of it!

V. A final request

I did in fact release something else recently:


At last check (and I do have download statistics so I am not exaggerating) it has been downloaded by two people. If you liked More could you give this a try? I promise it won’t take more than five minutes of your time. Download from the IFDB over here. (ADD: If if-archive is being flaky, you can download here.)

Posted June 8, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Shufflecomp reviews (Monkey and Bear, A Summer’s Rose, Invisible Parties, HOLY ROBOT EMPIRE)   1 comment

Monkey and Bear, by the opposite of sublimation

A pale sky drifts above the dusty wheel-ruts. Hour after hour, the road comes from the southwest and goes to the northwest. Hour after hour, you walk past stubbled fields and scraggled forest, turning the road ahead into the road behind.

The monkey is here, your best companion. He watches you hopefully.

You are a bear. You must escape captivity with your best friend, the monkey. There’s a time-loop element similar to Look Around the Corner where the underlying story is better written but more obfuscated.

A Summer’s Rose, by Jed Brockett

“Tamlane,” she told your father, “I should have ripped out your eyes and replaced them with two eyes of wood. I should have ripped out your heart and replaced it with a heart of cold stone. You were mine, and now you have been stolen from me.”

Prose: strong. Interaction: not as much. There were many one-choice clicks and in the few instances there are choices as far as I can tell they do not matter (for example, if you choose “wrong” in the first instance you are immediately chided and put back on the proper story; if you apologize or stand firm when you first meet Tamlane there is only a slight textual variation; if you choose a wrong color of horse you again are immediately transferred to the “correct” choice).

Invisible Parties, by Psychopup

As for your resources… well, physical things don’t always translate reliably world-to-world, and walkers tend to be wary of them. Most learned skills rely too heavily on specific circumstances that rarely obtain in other worlds. The range and life expectancy of a wayfarer are circumscribed by gifts, talents in the bone, uncannily irrespective of culture, climate or metaphysics. Gifts are inborn, or hard-bargained from subdivine powers.

You’re an — alien? god? metaphor? — at a very metaphysical party. There are ‘gifts’ you can use but I did not understand them and just started applying them randomly until something happened. My level of confusion was very high and I suspect the story is resonating at some frequency my brain does not respond to properly (either that, or I was running into bugs).


The eye of Saint 43. It provides light, like a tiny, incorruptible star.

It’s a quest to kiss the ring of the Robopope. This has the most solidity of all the puzzle entries to Shufflecomp, or least the one I felt most comfortable noodling about in as if I was in some forgotten Infocom experimental title.

Posted May 31, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Shufflecomp reviews (Cryptophasia, Flotsam and Driftwood, Look Around the Corner, Bound)   2 comments

Cryptophasia, by L. Starr Voronoi

But still, it is soothing. Like every good Practictioner, she has a calming demeanor, but also a clinical, almost bureaucratic patience in her videos, as if she knows you have all the time in the world. You don’t, but it can feel that way in hyperspace, alone, on a baker-ship.

Your head tingles.

Baked goods, space travel, and ASMR videos. I have no idea why it works, but it does. Unlike Mirrorwife I don’t want to see more of the world (there are horrible, horrible things hinted at) but for a brief time I felt the tangible mystery of another universe.

Flotsam and Driftwood, by Conrad Elton

Another is telling you “That’s not the way, lad. You’re supposed to give up your habits. Even eating. You don’t have to eat, here.”

The puzzles are a bit finicky but solvable. There’s some intriguing aspects to the plot (see quote above) but the writing could use more depth; I needed a better sense of the characters to get invested so the conclusion didn’t have as much payoff as it could have.

Look Around the Corner, by Robert Whitlock

The light is emanating from a giant eye, the eye of Enki, from Ki-En-Gir, the land of the lords of brightness. The eye is a disc of smaller eyes, and each smaller eye is itself a disc of smaller eyes, and so on, until you can make out the smallest quantic layer of eyes. They look back at you, unblinking.

This is a small time-loop story. Remember to pay attention.

Bound, by Starfinger X

At that point you see the ring still on your littlest finger for safekeeping.

Better not forget about this, you think.

You’ve got 160 minutes to get a stuck ring off your finger. This is essentially an optimization puzzle where you have to replay once you find out where the useful objects are located.

There’s a nice map and inventory but I feel this is a case where the hypertext interface is holding things back. I went through a variant of the “lawnmower conversation syndrome” where I clicked through everything just because I could.

Posted May 28, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Shufflecomp reviews (Fallout Shelter [by Gloam], Nova Heart, Little Bird, The darkness of mere being)   3 comments

Fallout Shelter, by Histroy Gloam

You stand at the east side of the unidentified object, bathed in the thing’s jaundiced glow. You see no features on this thing whatsoever, yet it glows with a shifting pattern of psychedelic light.

This is an odd little sci-fi story which seems to have suffered from a lack of beta-testers. I was only able to get 2 out of 3 crystals at the end; did anyone finish this?

Nova Heart: Don’t Be Around While The Earth Dies Screaming, by Zenith J Clangor

The beast gorges on your screaming audience. You have been driven to the edge of your godly skill. You have no choice. You must rock out harder than you have ever rocked out in your immortal life.

Individual sentences ooze cool. I also didn’t mind the bizarre spastic switching between story sequences; it’s as if someone wrote a short-short story collection then tossed it in a blender. Unfortunately, the parser is essentially faked (only reacting on very particular prompted phrases) with the occasional bit of extra action required.

Little Bird, by Dick Dawson

It beats louder, too loud to hear her response. Your eye locks onto the painting above her. It’s a depiction of President Bastard. The panic increases tenfold. what on Earth have you done? You’ll be lucky if all they do is kill you.

There’s a “cussin’ is rad/horrible” toggle option. This has no relevance to the review, just thought I’d point that out.

Nothing makes sense at the start but as you trudge through the options there are glimpses here and there that some kind of sense exists. It’s like a mystery story where your job is reconstruct just what the plot is about, and not to worry too much about the volcano in the White House.

The darkness of mere being, by a lost kitten

Slowly you traverse the rubble, ash billowing up in knee-high clouds. Some of them are made of people.

An alarmingly normal introduction quickly devolves into something apocalyptic. The prose is generally fine, but I felt like the choice points lacked import. (This even includes one which determines if a character lives or dies, because there is little emotional impact either way.) The epilogue is interesting but I’m uncertain how it connects with the story.

Posted May 28, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Shufflecomp reviews (1982, The Legend of Wooley Swamp, Lobster Bucket, White Houses)   Leave a comment

1982, by Iblis Snowsdottir

When the Government first publicly unveiled their secret optical abomination, the Eyes merely patrolled the border of East and West Germany. After it became obvious they were too unwieldy for espionage, the Eyes were brought stateside. Now they stalk the country side, searching, always searching, for those who dare to violate the Motor Laws.

You want to take your uncle’s Barchetta on a Sunday drive. In most world universes this would not be a problem, but in 1982 the Government frowns upon joyrides and Walking Eyes stalk everywhere looking for illegal activity. This makes for an oddly quiet vignette given the setting (one potential bad ending is simply “*** Your car insurance premium has gone up! ***”) and is nicely unique.

The Legend of Wooley Swamp, by Elizabeth Jones

I first heard about the Gator Man from my Grandma’s friend. She was pretty paranoid and not quite right in the head, but she made the best ladyfinger sandwiches, so I visited her house a lot. She said he was the ghost of an old warlock or something, and he got the power to change into a gator and back from a deal with the devil.

This is a mock-web page from the late 90s, sadly lacking in animated GIFs or “Under Construction” signs. There’s not much to it either in the writing or structure and I poked in circles several times assuming I had missed something (I hadn’t).

The theoretical issues are interesting, though: is every web page interactive fiction or nonfiction? Is some manner of intention required? What distinguishes a Twine story with only a “click to advance” mechanic and reading an ebook where you press an arrow to advance a page? Does taking a print article and spreading it over several pages in order to garner ad revenue a form of converting traditional nonfiction to interactive nonfiction?

Lobster Bucket, by Lady Tallhat

You have always had the knack for finding things in dungeons. Maybe that’s why the aquabats have asked you to retrieve their most treasured possession from the Evil Overlord and his mooks. Don’t get caught.

There’s some randomization here so this is sort of like a mini-roguelike. Unfortunately, this leads to some games which I believe might be literally impossible (in one case I was trapped on the east end of a long corridor as my starting room). The implementation is sparse to such an extreme I had trouble finding an excerpt (I settled on using the introduction text). It’s a little bit like Wumpus, really, but once finding the cloak the game is reduced to triviality. This could have possibly worked if strategies were varied and tight; as is the game is pretty much a choice between either a dumb luck loss or a dumb luck win.

White Houses, by Mr. Stamp

Living Room
This is the living room. There is a door to the east leading to the kitchen. To the west, there is a wooden door with odd gothic graffiti.

There are hooks above the glass case attached to the wall.

In the center of the room is a large oriental rug.

You can also see a trophy case (closed and empty) here.

Jenny arrives from the east.

This is a remix of the geography of Zork I where the protagonist and a character named Jenny decide the white house is a “good hideout” (although it is unclear who or what they are hiding from) and start exploring.

The concept of the “level remix” (which has a long tradition going back to at least Doom and probably farther) is a good one, but the implementation here is very shaky and the plot is too incomplete to get much out of it.

Posted May 26, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Shufflecomp reviews (Dead Man’s Party, Eight Miles High, Sequitur, Nothing but Flowers)   Leave a comment

Dead Man’s Party, by Morrissey


Groove Billygoat had puzzles but was so crazygonuts I never felt relaxed. Sparkle, Truth, and Light My Way Home were too abstract for me to catch the puzzly vibe. This is the first entry I’d call “soothing old school”, although the responsiveness is a little sparse so it was hard to get fully immersed (in one case, doing a correct action but having one thing wrong gets a generic response; other experimental commands result in too many default responses).

Eight Miles High, by Lambert Lambert

The letters move around a lot. You can do this, or do that, who knows. Everyone is so faceless, nobody cares.

Here’s an entry I expected to see more of: experiential wandering based on song lyrics. Genuine question: is typing supposed to be disabled? It wasn’t working in my interpreter. I ended up clicking a few links and going in circles. If so I got through all the content in 30 seconds or so.

Sequitur, by Tin Foil Jenny

“Maybe this was a mistake, Salt.” A woman’s voice, the camera operator. “Argo?”

The camera finds Argo pointing his flashlight over boxes in a corner.

The video goes black and when the footage starts again, Argo is starting up some stairs with Salt behind him. A tall figure emerges from behind them. Its eyes are large and bulging. It throws a cloud of glittering powder into their faces. Both men collapse gasping and coughing onto the floor. The camera dips as its operator begins to sway. She hacks and sputters.

I question if a parser is really the best medium here. Your goal is to put a sequence of events in story order, but with a text interface and very long story segments it gets very clunky. Perhaps some sort of interface where you could zoom-in-and-out on descriptive cards and arrange them in order with mouse clicks would be more playable; as is I got too uncomfortable trying to work things out and quit before I finished.

Nothing but Flowers, by Crabby O’Crankypants

And then, normal life begins again. Inexorably. Slowly, in hints and starts. Isn’t that always how it is, the everyday takes over? But, then again, isn’t it always the case too that hints of something wondrous come peeking out again from behind fatigue, boredom, or dulled senses, like an animal peeking out from under the covers?

another existential rambling
like Eight Miles High
no branches, just

one place
where you can
modify some lines

Posted May 23, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Shufflecomp reviews (An Earth Turning Slowly, Light My Way Home, Out the Window, The Peccary Myth)   Leave a comment

An Earth Turning Slowly, by Mæja Stefánsson

She ran through her list of findings. “We’ve never had one quite like her. The diversity of simultaneous wounds, I mean, in a surviving specimen. There’s this long-standing hand-wave in paleopathology: we assume that multi-wound healing in dinosaurs was mediated the same way it is in birds, never mind the millions of years of intervening evolution. Now we can start to fill that gap in.”

This is a short story told in five parts about (essentially) a dinosaur. It uses an innovative system which mashes together parser commands and choice commands, and is (despite the author’s protests of being written in a rush) one of the most polished and professional entries I’ve come across in any competition.

There’s enough material for an essay, really, but I want to stick with one piece — the work gave me a feeling of true interaction with book-style dialogue. What I mean by that is IF dialogue tends to be either short bursts (with a system that amounts to either ASK ABOUT THE SANDWICH or 1: “Do you like your sandwich?” 2: “Would you like fries with that?”), or giant wodges of text (see The Legend Lives! which has multi-page conversations interspersed with the action). I don’t know if it’s the continuous scroll of text or the parser/choice hybrid that did it for me, but with An Earth Turning Slowly I felt like I was participating in a genuine dialogue that resembled a normal book without having control yanked away from me.

Light My Way Home, by Venus Hart

A huddled figure, crouched against the inside wall of the container, looks up with surprise as the shutter opens. The shutter squeals as it retracts fully, a loud buzz coming from the device.

The person unfolds themself from their crouched position and stands slowly. You watch them, entranced. They are the most beautiful person you have ever seen.

This story has a “protaganist as unusual/alien thing” going on with the main character which I’ve liked in other games that never fully clicked with me on this one. I think the implementation might be responsible? The ABOUT text explains the only verbs needed are out of a very limited set, but distance of the interaction combined with the sparseness of the prose left me without much to grip onto.

Out the Window, by Bramble Bobonong

Your bed is lying next to it, and opposite your bed is your desk, ‌which is empty of goods, and thus of meaning‌.

Did you hear that rock stars don’t trash their hotel rooms like they used to anymore? Come relive the 70s and 80s by throwing stuff out the window. It’s funny and short and does what it sets out to do.

The Peccary Myth, by Pergola Cavendish

A whole team of Punksmen are lying asleep, “knocked out,” inside a circle of vans and autos. They have been engaged in ***CENSORED*** and ***CENSORED*** recently. It does not require a detective to tell this lol. A stack of radios play some unnecessary sound nearby.

So in the future (or maybe, like, now) casual games are a form of mind control, so riots and panic occur when a rogue programmer adds a “time spent” feature to their clickfest. (Maybe this is the feature Nguyễn Hà Đông plans to add to Flappy Bird to make it “less addictive”.)

I was enjoying myself the most when I let the hip/surreal prose flow by. If I tried to think to hard about what my interaction meant, I got very confused. Fortunately there’s only one puzzle that requires any close attention (unfortunately I got very stuck and had to use the walkthrough to solve it).

Posted May 22, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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