Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Plug 1 of 2 - Captain Piedaterre's Blunders

As I mobilise myself to the idea of self-promotion for itch.io's annual summer sale (first traditional mental hurdle – it's not summer where I live, it's winter) I'm casting my eyes back over the last few IF things I've made. My assessment is that two of them have been under-patronised.

1. Captain Piedaterre's Blunders

This comic game is a CYOA spin-off I made from a popular game (Captain Verdaterre's Plunder by Ryan Veeder) by a popular author (... Ryan Veeder) that's been pronounced to be canonical by that author. Plus I drew the cover art on paper with my hands, and I'm pretty chuffed with that cover art. Alright, I coloured the art in the computer after scanning the paper, but I drew the black and white lines using my hands.



Piedaterre's is also a CYOA made with Inform, not most people's first engine of fancy when they think CYOA, and under the hood it's running an unnecessarily powerful (for this game) WIP extension of mine that lets you to play it by clicking links, or by pressing keys, or by using one method or the other method or a mixture of both methods. It's mixing the world model and choices, a la Andrew Plotkin's Unified Glulx Input. It was originally a demo module for my extension.

In spite of all this exciting provenance, the game's been rated three times on IFDB in total and reviewed zero times. The most recent rating was 1 out of 5.

I reckon this game's a good, if un-major, entertainment for folks who've played Plunder, therefore I encourage you to try it, especially if you've played Plunder.

* Here's the online playable version of Captain Piedaterre's Blunders
* Here's its IFDB page

I'll talk about the next thing of mine you've probably under-patronised in the next post.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Eamon keeps on chugging in Eamon Remastered

Keith Dechant recently released Eamon Remastered:

"Eamon is a classic interactive fiction game with RPG elements, written for the Apple 2 in 1980. Eamon Remastered is a remake of the classic game for the modern web. Play Eamon adventures in your browser without needing an emulator."

The Lair of the Minotaur in Eamon Remastered

I’ve tried Eamon Remastered, and it’s very good, graceful work, though still with a few light bugs and features to come that are being tweaked out. Eamon Remastered provides a mechanically faithful port of Eamon’s Main Hall, the place where you make your characters, plus a collection of classic Eamon adventures you can try in any order you choose. Characters are stored locally on your computer, so all you need to play is a web browser. There are twenty adventures on the site so far. The starting selection appears to be a curated one, a mix of the historically famous (in Eamon circles), the good, and the reasonable/sensible. I mean reasonable in the sense that the player won’t be killed in such adventures, instantly and repeatedly, by deathtraps and supermonsters. The 250+ adventures made for Eamon during its heyday vary massively in their difficulty level, quality and setting because they were all written by different people, and weren’t subject to any oversight or master plan. Keith’s choice of adventures to port to Eamon Remastered so far looks to spare random visitors from the threat of wack difficulty, and also from the conundrum of having too many adventures to choose from.

(If you’d like to read more about the harsh nature of the challenge presented by some old school Eamons, see my reviews of The Tomb of Y’Golonac and The Pyramind of Anharos on IFDB.)

Keith’s work builds on an MS-DOS port of Eamon called Eamon Deluxe, by Frank Black, a previous (and indefinitely ongoing? Or is it now definitely not-going?) project that had one of the same aims as Eamon Remastered: to make Eamon more easily playable by more people. Eamon Deluxe sought to achieve this via the ubiquity of the DosBOX emulator and by enhancing screen reader compatibility, but when I recently retried Eamon Deluxe on a High Sierra Mac, it was a bit tetchy.

Eamon’s history has enough spread and divergence that it’s as fascinating a one to wander as that of its more cerebral antecedent, Crowther and Woods’s Adventure. You can follow Jason Dyer’s exhaustive attempts to catalogue differences across early versions of Adventure over in his Renga in Blue blog. Eamon was born in a similarly accessible/hackable programming environment, and so from it grew a tree of numerous cousins, offshoots and ports, some with minor tweaks, some with major. Some of them were to other systems and some to languages other than English. Just over the past few years, more thought-to-be-lost adventures on old floppies have turned up and been added to the general library, or to the PC Eamon Museum.

Matt Clark’s intermittently updated blog The Eamon Adventurers Guild tracks all of these finds and updates. It's a good read if you want to see what Eamon stuff has been going on between 2004 and the present. A couple of my favourite posts include the tour of the historical promo disk for an envisioned (read: now vaporware) Apple IIGS-specific version of Eamon and the review of a sneaky commercial version of Eamon called Load’N’Go Beginners Cave.

A ton of heavy Eamon lifting was done post-heyday by Frank Black with Eamon Deluxe. As I understand it, another of its goals was an exhaustive one: to eventually port every Eamon adventure to Eamon Deluxe. It seems unlikely that will ever happen, but Eamon Deluxe already sports a solid catalogue of adventures, including some original ones for the system. It also contains a reorganised Eamon adventure tree with vacant branches in it ready to receive the yet-to-be-ported games. I was chuffed to see there’s even a slot in there for my game Leadlight.

Another neat feature of Eamon Deluxe is that it holds reviews for many of the adventures in the app itself. That’s to say that you can read them from the same interface in which you browse the adventures. This approach gives Eamon Deluxe the potential to be the Ultimate All-In-One Eamon Box, though I think it will remain a potential.

To read more about the earliest days of Eamon (from a recent perspective) you can also check out Jimmy Maher’s posts about it in The Digital Antiquarian.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Captain Piedaterre's Blunders

I have released a short CYOA game called Captain Piedaterre's Blunders. It's a spin-off from Ryan Veeder's IFComp 2013 game Captain Verdeterre's Plunder.


Blunders was attached to a longer term project of mine that I don't know will ever get done. So, because lots of time was passing, I decided to snap it off and release it rather than leave it in the cupboard of uncertainty. This way we can all enjoy it.

The game has a quicksave slot (that is barely required!) I only mention this because the quickload works sub-optimally if you play online. When you reload your game online, the current node's choices don't reappear. You can give the machine a kick by entering and leaving the menu on the spot; this brings them back. It's some quirk of Quixe and this tech.

(You know you're back in your IF blog when you find yourself writing a paragraph about some technology that's not working across the board, and you then feel compelled to describe in detail how a player can deal with the non-working case in a fairly irrelevant context – in this case, how to deal with saved games in a game that's so short you don't need to use saved games.)

Link 1: Captain Piedaterre's Blunders play/download page

Link 2: Captain Piedaterre's Blunders IFDB page

PS - Obviously my IFComp playing/reviewing went nowhere this year. Next year I won't write a prelude blog entry; I'll save that for a situation where I know I'm not going to disgrace myself!.. should one ever arise again, and I'm able to tell it's arising. There are many overlapping circles of time and interest that all people deal with, so I don't think mine are worth elaborating on specifically. But where I'm at, the number of entries to IFComp is getting too big now for how I like to try to handle the comp.

Monday, 2 October 2017

IFComp 2017 review: The Living Puppet by Xiao Lin (web browser)


The Living Puppet is a creepy and classically styled horror IF about a pupeteer’s mysterious relationship with the doll that is the sole source of income for he and his wife Li Shaoxian. It’s delivered in a web browser as long passages of click-scrolling text broken up by several major decision branches that the player can choose for Shaoxian. I downloaded it to play it because the ‘Play Online’ button wasn’t working at the time and I’ve written the IFComp organiser about this issue. I played Puppet several times to different outcomes in 40 minutes. I enjoyed the game and recommend it generally, and to horror folks specifically, accepting that a couple of its presentation choices may be too irritating for some players. The game sports horror themes and one explicitly violent scene.

IFComp 2017 review prelude (Wade's)

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” said William Wordsworth in some context, at some point in time. These words from Wordsworth comprised my writing software’s randomly chosen quote for today. If it had to be Wordsworth, I’d rather it had been, “But she is in her grave, and, oh, The difference to me!” but that’s the point of randomness, to force people away from their stupid preferences.

Last year I reviewed few IFComp games because I chose to proceed in a random order, though I had little time. I don’t have any more time this year so I won’t proceed in a random order. I will pick something I want to play, and play it, and then seek to review it. I like outright horror best of all in subject matter, and there doesn’t seem to be much of that in this year’s comp. I have no disclaimers this year because I think this is the first year in my IFComp experience in which I haven't tested, supplied art or music for or otherwise helped make any of the entries.


The first IFComp 2017 entry I will play/review will be The Living Puppet because it has the cover art that most stirred my horror waters. It doesn’t have a blurb, but it does have a good title. Note that I’m not judging a book by its cover, just choosing one to read ahead of the other seventy-something.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Leadlight Gamma now working on Sierra (macOS 10.12)

In February 2017 I reported that my horror IF Leadlight Gamma wasn't working in Sierra.

Just this week I caught up with one of Andrew Plotkin's updated builds of Gargoyle which has eliminated that problem.

So now Leadlight Gamma is playable pretty much across the board again, including in Sierra, and I've also done a general refresh of all the links, Read Me's and downloads.

Leadlight Gamma :

Leadlight Gamma Desktop screenshot


Sunday, 23 July 2017

Six goes to release 5

I've just done a bit of maintenance on my 2011 Interactive Fiction Competition parser game Six, resulting in version five.


Did you know that Six, a game suitable for all ages about children playing hide and seek at a birthday party, came second in its year and won the Best Implementation award at the 2011 XYZZYs? It behooves me to remind you of these things. You can visit the slightly refurbished Six website and/or the game's IFDB page for info, propaganda and downloads.

Now I'll tell you what's changed in version five of Six. Summarily, the game content itself hasn't changed, so if that's all you care about, you can stop reading.

THE CONFIGURATION STAGE

I made version five primarily so that I could remove any 2011-centric tech talk from the game's configuration stage. It's now got a more general outlook that means it can sail gracefully into the future, no longer telling people to do or not do things that may only have been correct in 2011. (Those things were important at the time. I was trying to get people to play the game in a fashion ideal to me during the Interactive Fiction Competition.)

If you ever pine to be pushed around like it's 2011, don't worry, the IF Archive will always carry the original version of the game. Better yet, now that the archive can store multiple past versions of games, you could just retreat slightly to version four, thereby benefiting from all the bugfixes and improvements that had occurred since version one while still experiencing the 'classic' configuration stage of 2011!

THE GAME MANUAL

To accompany the config stage changes, I've tweaked pages four and five of the PDF game manual to match. Page four of the manual now has a hyperlink to the Six website – a site I will try to never, ever move – where I can maintain a simple-as-I-can-make-it interpreter download grid. It's a kind of triage: Just read through the three options until you find one that matches your OS and feature concerns. This aspect of playing parser games has not gotten any easier. This is why such a page is helpful.

THE VOLUME LEVELS!

The default volume setting in Six is now 3 out of 5 (for both music and FX) instead of 5 out of 5.

Summarising why I made this change from under my music producer's hat: Some players have reported that they experienced the soundtrack as being louder than they expected it to be. Such a judgement only exists in relation to how loud they perceive other sounds they're familiar with to be at the same volume dial position.

Part of Six's loudness is down to the soundtrack having few elements in it. As an example: In the world of recording, a single violin playing can easily be perceived as louder than the whole of Metallica playing, at one volume dial position, if the violin and Metallica were both recorded to peak at digital zero (beyond which only distortion is recorded) and delivered that way to listeners. Six peaks at digital zero, and though it wasn't made with an explicit goal of loudness, its few synths are filling the same volume bandwidth as, say, a pop or rock artist's whole band.

The second issue is that, given the nature of the game and the cute-leaning music, people just expect this kind of music to not emerge too loudly. We don't blast children with loud music (do we?!).

So I'm using Inform's volume amplification stage to moderate the default volume of Six to a lower level. You can still turn it up and down inside of your IF interpreter within the same range as before. The upshot is that for someone playing for the first time, the music won't debut as loudly as it used to.