Concours 2009



2009 Competition: grades and reviews

Translated by Felix Pleşoianu

1st judge

Syrion

Catapole

2nd judge

OK, no notes, no transcripts, no reviews (not yet, anyway...) but my votes are as follows:

La chambre de Syrion

Catapole

Les méchants meurent toujours deux fois

3rd judge

Catapole

La chambre de Syrion

Les méchants meurent au moins deux fois

4th judge

Hello!

I needed some time to write my reviews, as I'm during midterm exams, but here they are. I'm attaching my transcripts.

La Chambre de Syrion

1) Experience: at first sight, it's not a very original scenario: the player is locked in a room and must escape. But the introduction presents it in a manner that is a little less classical, and rather amusing: an initiation ritual in a magical school. This scenario is well-exploited, with a lot of humor. I, for one, laughed a lot while playing this game. As for the difficulty, it's true that the solutions to puzzles are reasonably easy to find, but it's a pleasure to find them, as the attention to detail is very present (thank you Stormi?) The atmosphere is pleasant and you can have a lot of fun testing the many available spells. Regretably, there is no index to the spellbook, and it's not possible to consult the book on a specific spell (which has influenced my grade in the third category), which implies that unless the player makes personal notes he will have to read all the book again, at random, to find a spell for which he forgot the spelling. The progressive hint system is well-written and clear, but unfortunately you can't stop at a particular point. If you ask for help with a particular puzzle, you're given the solution for the whole game. It's not difficult to close your eyes and typing ten commands so as to avoid seeing the rest, but it's too bad. Grade in this category: 8,5/10 (17 points).

2) Writing: I didn't notice any misspelling, or bad phrasing. As for the style, it's pleasant and light; there isn't much in the way of literary prowess or metaphors, but the writing is scrupulously correct and serves the topic very well. Grade is this category: 9/10 (9 points).

3) Programming: I didn't encounter many bugs. Only one true bug in fact: when I tried to yell in the fountain the game thought I wanted to talk to the Venus painting. It also doesn't handle two or three obvious actions (jumping off the window, drinking water from the fountain or swimming in the fountain) but overall the game is well-made. As for technical accomplishments, I don't think I noticed any unusual mechanism, but what is used is well used, and the author seems to have mastered Inform 6. Grade in this category: 8/10 (for 8 points).

Total : 34 points, or 8.5/10.

Catapole

1) Experience: The premise and the general atmosphere totally drew me in. One is completely immersed in this character rendered in and original and profoundly coherent system. The plot is pretty sordid, but everything else is treated with plenty of humor, at least if the player is curious to investigate. There are a few missing elements that bothered me, as well as a few instances of incoherency, but these are matters of polish. For that, I recommend combing through the transcripts, if the author wants. There should be two descriptions for the rooms: one shorter, and one longer for the first time. Also, maybe the solutions to the puzzles should not be too obscure; I had a lot of trouble finishing the game. But that's not necessarily bad, it forces the player to think hard. I have some suggestions, but I don't want to give spoilers, or make this review too long. Grade in this category: 9/10 (for 18 points).

2) Writing: The premise brings to mind Émile Zola's realism, with a beautiful (well documented?) description of a working class environment; it's not quite up there as literature, but the style is elegant and polished. The turns of phrase are carefully written, and the vocabulary is on the rich side. I did find the odd misspelling, but nothing that would warrant penalising. I felt a difference in the care shown to the writing towards the end, surely due to a lack of time -- but maybe it's just an impression. Grade in this category: 9/10 (for 9 points).

3) Programming: I didn't encounter any real bug, but I found a few instances of incoherency in the scenery, and a few small programming problems (see the transcripts). Still, the game comes through as being coded with a good mastery of the programming language: the elevators give the sensation of moving physically; you can stop them, go up, go down again, etc. Overall, the space is well-managed in the vertical dimension, which is rare in interactive fiction. Grade in this category: 9/10 (for 9 points).

Total : 36 points, for a grade of 9/10.

Les méchants meurent deux fois

1) Experience: The premise is amusing, and very reminiscent of "Les espions ne meurent jamais", by Hugo Labrande, and the humor one might expect is all there. This is in fact a very pleasant game to play... if you don't mind the details too much. The missing direction indications, which has no place in this kind of game, is troubling enough; moreover, many objects play a part in the solving of puzzles, which is a good thing, but nothing in their descriptions and the way they are introduced truly suggests that. The libraries used seem to be quite old, which is bothersome for a seasoned player: many of the commands used have a delayed or buggy behavior (see >x cartes). Many scenery items are also missing, and the solutions to puzzles are sometimes forced. Last, the second part of the game (from the prison on) is very buggy. I managed to leave Maurice McVile standing in the middle of a hallway while he was trying to kill me, and he didn't react anymore. As a player it's impossible to tell how this happens, and everything happens too fast; you find a bag full of stuff you don't even have time to examine before Maurice catches up with you, and so on. I found this part of the game very hazardous, which was a disappointment, as I liked the game despite all this, which pertains to polish. I have no doubt that once these issues are fixed, it will be a very good game. Still, I will add that the contextual hint system is very well done, and so is the intro, very amusing. Note in this category: 5.5/10 (for 11 points).

2) Writing: The style is correct, but some turns of phrase are clumsy, even wrong. Overall, that doesn't penalise the game so much, but neither is it a strong point. With a few exceptions, it remains a nice reading. Grade in this category: 6/10 (for 6 points).

3) Programming: I gave a slightly higher grade than I would have in the first category, because a big factor in ruining the pleasure to play is insufficiently polished coding. Using old libraries is a part of it, but not the whole thing. Some actions that are essential to finishing the game can only be formulated one way, and ambiguous commands are rejected or even give misleading responses. For example, I had to look at the walkthrough just to open the trapdoor, because the obvious "ouvrir trappe avec carte" doesn't work, which made me think this obvious solution was wrong. The walkthrough promtps you to "mettre la carte dans la trappe" (which is even less explicit anyway). There are two or three little bugs after that, but it's the second part that crawls with bugs and inconsistencies, as detailed above. Grade in this category: 3/10 (for 3 points).

Total : 20 points, or 5/10.

5th judge

La chambre de Syrion

Catapole

Les méchants meurent toujours deux fois

6th judge

Hello everyone,

Here are my grades for the Interactive Fiction Competition, edtition (more or less) 2009.

Your friend,

Hello,

Despite my limited comprehension of French, I played your game, and with the help menus I won in the end. I found it to be a very funny and well-made game.

At first I didn't know how to express verbs in a French text adventure. I noticed that the game generally accepts verbs in the imperative form, (as mentioned in the help) but infinitives work just as well.

As usual, I recorded a transcript, generated by Zoom v1.1.4. Unfortunately, the accents didn't survive this process.

In the version history, the current one is called "final"... but if there was just one more version I'd recommend changing just one thing: the help system. The text is well-written, but you can't avoid seeing all the solutions while searching for the next one. It would be preferable to have an ability to quit the menu without seeing everything (even by tapping "q", I was forced to display all the list).

I had to start the game twice in order to finish it. The first time, I saved the game without a problem, but after restoring the letters had turned into graphical symbols. See the attached PNG file.

Thank you!

7th judge

Hello!

At last, here are my votes for the 2009 competition.

La Chambre de Syrion

Catapole

Les méchants meurent toujours deux fois