Friday, 22 April 2016

Dumb stories from the past episode 387: Failing to review Gotomomi

Gotomomi by Arno von Borries was the first game I tried during IFComp 2015 and the first I didn't write about because, due to the silly capriciousness of life, my post would have been more than 50% stupid stuff not to do with the game itself. It wouldn't have been a review of quality, only a bedraggling post by someone who gave up on the game anyway once they did get it going.

It's not that you can't give up on a game and say why, but when you factor in the extra-game elements in this case, plus that it was to have been my first review of the comp, I felt it was just going to be an unwarranted disservice or aggravation to the game's author and a crummy start for me. Because of time pressure during IFComp – too many games, barely enough time to write about them in detail unless the planets align during a particular year – I know that I'd always rather just move on to the next game if something weird happens. On the plus side, all entrants are equally subject to this kind of prejudice of haste amongst judges, reviewers, players.

It now occurs to me that I probably shouldn't have talked up this anecdote. Anyway, I'd just had a birthday and been given a major gift: an iPad Mini 3. My mum and dad gave me that, and my sister gave me a physical keyboard to go with it. I thought something like, 'Wow, watch me play IF out in the world using these bad boys!' and promptly took them to the local shopping centre. This place is a hub for some quite hoity-toity fashion shopping in Sydney, so you shouldn't in any way underestimate the glamourousness of the people who swan about in it, or of its architecture, while you're in the process of imagining what it might be like. I wasn't there due to my glamour, though. I was there because it's local to me and an attractive and airy place, and because I sometimes have a coffee there.

So I sat down at a table with a coffee amidst all the glass and marble and light and broke out the iPad Mini 3 avec keyboard. I forget exactly why I picked Gotomomi to kick proceedings off, but I do broadly remember that I picked it believing it would suit my circumstances. After I started the game using IFComp's online player, I was horrified to discover that the player didn't play nice with my physical keyboard. The iPad kept toggling the virtual keyboard and 'continue' prompts. In other words, after typing a command on the real keys, I always had to tap a particular small spot on the screen to prep the iPad to return focus to the physical keyboard. I persevered with this scheme for a little while because this was pretty much the iPad's maiden voyage, and I was deliberately trying to have A Nice Time. But I was being dumb – you can't play a game this way. So, having mucked about, rather in vain, with the open-ended game that is Gotomomi, and having tried not to associate it with my being stymied right on commencement of IFComp, I finished my coffee and went home with a small thundercloud over my head.

Some games later I revisited Gotomomi on my desktop computer. I wasn't enjoying its vague open-ness, though I thought I was onto something when I got involved in a task as specific as gutting fish. This fish-gutting scene in Gotomomi is the Tetris of fish-gutting scenes. I know that Tetris has already been implemented in the parser at some point by one or more smartarses, but having played Dead Man's Hill, I can say in retrospect that I found the mountain of tiny granules of typed actions required to progress through Gotomomi's fish-gutting scene – under time pressure – to be agonising and infuriating, rather than a witful simulation of weapon-handling, which it was never meant to be. And I wasn't even sure whether I was progressing or not. Alarm bells were ringing on my sanity, plus I probably did remember my sour afternoon at the shopping centre after all. So I just downed tools and said, 'That'll do, Gotomomi. That'll do.'

And that's my dumb story from a year ago.

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