IF Comp 2009 – The Hangover

In order to prevent spoilers from showing up in the RSS feeds (in the unlikely event that this new blog is actually syndicated where someone might read it), I’ll write a bit of text on an unrelated topic – a movie recommendation.  Yilmaz Arslan’s “Brudermord/Fratricide” is a gripping movie that did not get the recognition it deserves, despite winning a prize at the Locarno film festival in 2005.

The Kurdish teenager Azad (Erdal Celik) migrates to Germany, where his older brother Semo already makes a decent living, or so he thinks. Semo (Nurretin Celik) actually is a small-time pimp. Since Azad doesn’t want to get involved in this, he works as a barber in the restrooms of cafés run by immigrants. He befriends the younger boy Ibo (Xevat Gectan), whose parents were killed by the Turkish military.
When Azad and Ibo run into trouble with two Turkish-German men, whose aggressive pit bull terrier frightens Ibo, and Semo later takes action on behalf of his brother, all of them are drawn into a fateful spiral of violence and revenge.

The dialogue in Kurdish, Turkish and German gives the film an authenticity which is enhanced by the gritty cinematography.

“Fratricide” is a powerful, brutal tragedy about man’s inhumanity to fellow man, about ethnic ties and divisions, about the struggle to preserve one’s dignity, the demands of loyalty, and the disastrous consequences of the adherence to archaic codes of honour.

See additional opinions at salon.comfilm-forward.com and metacritic.com.

Now for the IF Comp game. The spoiler-free summary is: It’s a severely under-implemented game with lots of spelling errors.

(WARNING! Spoilers follow!)

The Hangover

by Red conine
System: Adrift
Blurb:

The Hangover is the story of you. You awake in your apartment with an unknown women and your bank informing you that you changed your name last night. The goal? Get the approval form in triplicate to get the name on your debit card changed!

If you think that the mistake in the blurb does not bode well for the rest of the game… you’re right. There are so many spelling and grammar mistakes that it’s obvious that nobody beta-tested this. Here’s a sample:

Pharmacy
The bright white room acts like the sun and amplifies your headache. There is a clerk named Steve and random shoppers. You are to make it to the counter but any further into the store would be too much for you’re hangover. There seems to be an asortment of cigerettes behind the counter and some asprin and… bird seeds? Thats odd. The only wat out is north back to Tennant Street.

The problems run deeper, though (and I don’t mean the plausibility of a pharmacy offering “cigerettes”). The implementation can only be called shoddy:

  • In several places, the game gives wrong exit descriptions. Also, the bedroom is both east and west from the living room.
  • Almost none of the items mentioned in room descriptions can be examined.
  • The few things that can be interacted with are painted-on props which stay in the room descriptions even after you’ve taken them:

>x closet
This closet is so stuffed that if a single thing was taken out, it could very well all fallout and risk your very own death. The only thing that seems to be removable is a two dollar bill.  Your closet is open.  Inside your closet is a two dollar bill.

>take bill
Take what?

>take dollar
Take what?

>take dollars
Take what?

>take two
Take what?

>take two dollar bill
You take the two dollar bill from your closet.

>x closet
This closet is so stuffed that if a single thing was taken out, it could very well all fallout and risk your very own death. The only thing that seems to be removable is a two dollar bill.  Your closet is open.

  • Even in the sole instance where the room description actually changes, it’s exactly wrong again:

Approval Form Office
This “office” is really just a large cellar with some cubicles which have metal doors… very odd. The platypus is no where to be seen.

Platypus is here.

  • The snippet with the dollar bill above also illustrates that sensible synonyms are missing.
  • The following excerpt is telling, too:

Secretary is here.

>ask secretary about debit card
Okay, If you want the “Card Name Replacemnt Form” I’ll need your mail from us. Give me your mail.

>give mail to her
Secretary doesn’t seem interested in your mail.

>give secretary the mail
Give what?

>tell secretary about mail
I don’t understand what you want me to do with your mail.

>i
You are wearing your bathrobe, and you are carrying your toothbrush, your mail and some french fries.

>x mail
There seems to be a single letter. The letter seems very urgent. You should read your mail and take it with you.

>give secretary the letter
Give what?

>ask secretary about letter
You recieved a letter about your card in your mail. If you didn’t bring your mail, I can’t give you the form.

>give secretary your mail
(Your score has increased by 1)
You have given the secretary your letter. She gives a form and tells you to procede to the Form Process Office. Her finger points to the east.

I grant that I could have thought earlier of the right wording, given that the inventory lists “your mail”. But this behaviour is still inacceptable.

I gave up when the following disambiguation dilemma occurred:

>give approval form to platypus
Please be more clear, what do you want to give?  Card name replacement approval form or card name replacement approval form?

>give approval forms to platypus
Give what?

>give card name replacement approval form to platypus
Please be more clear, what do you want to give?  Card name replacement approval form or card name replacement approval form?

>card name replacement approval form
What you typed doesn’t work.

The guide to the game does not provide an explicit command-by-command walkthrough, so I was stuck here, but it seems that this is right before the very end, so I didn’t miss much.

What I liked:

  • The story had the potential to be a zany romp through the farcical world of large corporations, and it could have been hilarious to investigate what happened the night before.
  • There were some endearingly bizarre situations, e. g.:

>give fries to dog
(Your score has decreased by 1)
The dog is amazed at the tasty greasy fries. He chews and eats them as they are the highest respected french fries in the land. He is far to engrossed in his feast as the grease sinks into the dog’s system. At the peak of the dog’s happiness, the grease causes a doggy heart attack. The dog falls over and dies. You killed a dog! You and your retched clothing.

  • My favourite line (I’m not being sarcastic, I really liked it):

Even a bench to sit down and relax is here. Even someone like you in terrible clothing could relax.

I don’t want to sound condescending, since I haven’t yet finished writing an IF game of my own, but the author really has to try harder. An advice: when you think the game is complete, wait for a day or two, then take a fresh look at it and play-test it from the beginning to the end. After that, ask for beta testers on the rec.arts.int-fiction/rec.games.int-fiction newsgroups, on the Adrift forum, and on http://if.game-testing.org. Even the most casual testing would have revealed the problems I wrote about.

A transcript of my playing session is available upon request, just drop me an e-mail at michaelNOSPAMnealNOSPAMtenuisATgmail.com. (Replace the NOSPAM with “.” and, obviously, the AT with the @ sign).

— Michael

P. S.:

Bus Stop
This is the bus stop. This is the real slum. There are more posters all over the bench, the sidewalk is wet and slimey, and there seems to be a bench. The sun continues to make your headache worse. To the east is Fredrick Avenue. To the west is Tennant Street.  There is a bum on the bench. You should really get him off the bench.

The bum is here.

>x bum
The bum is wearing an asortment of jackets and very dirty jeans. He seems to have his hat over his eyes and is sleeping. He also smells horrid.

After trying to wake him, to talk to him et cetera, I guessed that the author intended violence to be the answer to this one:

>push bum
You push, but nothing happens.

>pull bum
You pull, but nothing happens.

>hit bum
Bum avoids your feeble attempts.

In his sleep — amazing! I think it’s Adrift’s default response. Now I looked at the walkthrough for the correct solution:

>kick bum
(Your score has increased by 1)
You have the kicked the bum right off the bench! He is in a terrible mood but simply walks over to Fredrick Avenue. The bus has arrived! You should get on the bus. Go north to get on the bus.

Why can’t I just wake the bum? Why do I have to kick him? Is this something that the player shall deem acceptable, or is it an artistic device meant to illustrate that the story’s protagonist is a violent brute? Also, what is the causal connection between getting the bum off the bench and the arrival of the bus?

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