SPAG is an informative e-mail zine designed primarily to keep the gaming public aware of text adventures on the market today. Since the number of such games is small, SPAG will be sent out rather sporadically, once a month, and even more sporadically during the summer. If there is no news fit to print, the month's issue may consist simply of "October and all's well." or some such nonsense. BTW, SPAG stands for the Society for the Preservation of Adventure Games.
"The Society for the Preservation of Adventure Games is hereby formed in order to maintain and encourage the spread of text adventures to a new generation, and to reintroduce the Infocom fans of the 70s and 80s to this versatile artform. World domination would be nice too, if there's time for it."
Each month's issue will begin with a brief editorial, and any letters about SPAG itself, rather than text adventures. Next, the new releases will appear, with reviews of each game accompanying its announcement if such are available. After that, we move on to any reviews of older games that I've received that month, followed by a chart which lists the scores reviewers have given games since SPAG started up. What I mean by this is, there might be a line like:
Name Avg Sc Chr Puz # Sc Rlvt Ish Notes: Trinity 8.9 1.7 1.6 21 1-5, 8, 11 C_INFAs you can see, Trinity has an average score of 8.9 from 21 users. It also has an average rating of 1.7 for its characters and 1.6 for its puzzles. It has had reviews or other relevant articles appear in issues 1 through 5, 8 and 11 of SPAG. The notes are explained below.
Notes: A - Runs on Amigas. AP - Runs on Apple IIs. GS - Runs on Apple IIGS. AR - Runs on Archimedes Acorns. C - Commercial, no fixed price. C30 - Commercial, with a fixed price of $30. F - Freeware. GMD - Available on ftp.gmd.de I - Runs on IBM compatibles. M - Runs on Macs. S20 - Shareware, registration costs $20. 64 - Runs on Commodore 64s. TAD - Written with TADS. This means it can run on: AmigaDOS, NeXT and PC, Atari ST/TT/Falcon, DECstation (MIPS) Unix Patchlevel 1 and 2, IBM, IBM RT, Linux, Apple Macintosh, SGI Iris/Indigo running Irix, Sun 4 (Sparc) running SunOS or Solaris 2, Sun 3, OS/2, and even a 386+ protected mode version. AGT - Available for IBM, Mac, Amiga, and Atari ST. This does not include games made with the Master's edition. INF - Infocom or Inform game. These games will run on: Atari ST, Amiga, Apple Macintosh, IBM, Unix, VMS, Apple II, and Apple IIGS. I believe that it is also possible to play these on the C64, TSR-80, Acorn Archimedes, and others, but I am not positive, as I saw no public domain interpreters for any systems other than the first group on ftp.gmd.de. I will update this as people confirm or deny the feasibility of running these games on these computers.[Other computers will be added as pointed out to me. This key will appear in each issue. Readers are asked to let me know if any games are available on a platform for which I do not have them listed.]
Lastly, at the end of each issue will be unpaid advertisements from companies who wish to promote their text adventures.
The scale works like this. There are 4 categories for you to look at, and you may award up to 2 points in each. They are:
Atmosphere 0 - Little or no attempt at atmosphere. .5 - A few nice touches. 1 - Good Atmosphere. 1.5 - Feels like you're there. 2 - Edge of your seat the whole way. Gameplay 0 - Frustrating to play, poor parser, few synonyms. .5 - A little better. Still pretty unbearable. 1 - Good parser. Not too hard to figure out. 1.5 - Good parser. Most 'ease of use' commands implemented. 2 - Excellent gameplay. Understands almost everything you try. Writing 0 - Poorly written. Lots of spelling errors, sloppily done. .5 - Some effort put into the writing. Still terrible. 1 - Few or no spelling errors. Stumbles along shakily. 1.5 - Good grammar, prose flows well, absorbing writing. 2 - Excellent prose and style, on a par with that in _The Witness_. Plot 0 - Poorly planned, incoherent plot. .5 - Rudimentary plot, adds little to game. 1 - Developed, simple plot. Fairly linear. 1.5 - Complex plot, well planned and implemented. 2 - Excellent plot. Twists and turns, holds you on the edge of seat. Enough freedom for the player to feel free to try things easily.NOTE: These point values are merely benchmarks. You can award any value between 0 and 2 so long as you keep it down to one decimal place. This scoring system is loosely based on the Olympic system.
The other 2 points are at your discretion, and you may award them on the basis of thoroughness, realism, or anything else you feel is important to a text adventure. These are wildcard points, meant to encompass all the little things in a good game. These five categories add up to a maximum of 10 points. This is the total score. Only a spectacular game should ever exceed 9 points. Most shareware games will not exceed 6 points, and most Infocom games will hover around 7-8. We've had a bit of trouble with score inflation, so be sure you REALLY mean to give the game that high a score before you do.
Finally, there are two seperate categories, rated the same as the other five, that do not count in the total score, and are averaged only with other votes on the same category. These two are:
Characters 0 - No NPCs, or cardboard caricatures. .5 - Uninteresting NPCs. 1 - Stereotypical NPCs, not developed too much. 1.5 - Interesting NPCs, some background. 2 - Well-developed cast of characters. Realistic. Puzzles 0 - Illogical puzzles. Poorly implemented, or there is not enough info in the game to solve them. .5 - Illogical, requires bizarre actions to solve. 1 - Logical, uninteresting and add little to the game. 1.5 - Logical, interesting. 2 - Logical, fascinating, well implemented. No 'guess the word' puzzles.
You mail them to me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is a sample review about Cutthroats:
NAME: Cutthroats PARSER: Infocom Standard AUTHOR: Infocom PLOT: Two Seperate Paths EMAIL: ??? ATMOSPHERE: Well Done AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 WRITING: Good PUZZLES: Good SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Not Bad DIFFICULTY: MediumCutthroats is the tale of a daring treasure seeker that begins on an island of liars, murderers, and thieves. These are your friends, the other people aren't so nice. The parser is Infocom's excellent standard parser, quite sufficient for our needs. Unfortunately, the writing fails to capture the thrills of scuba diving, treasure hunting, and murder. The characters more than make up for that, however, and the parrot is worth a chuckle or two. I awarded my wildcard points on the basis of setting and non-linearity, since there are two different ships you can explore, each with its own seperate dangers. Overall, a very good game that falls short of such masterpieces as Trinity and A Mind Forever Voyaging.
Be sure to give a little overview of the game, no spoilers please, discuss the quality of the writing, plot, descriptions, characters, and the gameplay. Finally, and most importantly, include where it can currently be found on the Internet or elsewhere, and the price. For shareware games, indicate whether your version was registered or not. For those games with packaging, give your impressions of the packaging.
[Changes to the old system are discussed below.]
First, you'll notice that the score has been removed, and replaced by one or two word ratings. These are pretty arbitrary, and should allow more freedom to the reviewers. The EMAIL section is for the e-mail address of the game author, not the reviewer. AVAILABILITY will usually have either Commercial ($price), Shareware ($price), or Freeware. If the commercial price varies in stores, then it will just say Commercial. If it has been released in the LTOI collection, this line should say so. Lastly, if it is available on ftp.gmd.de, the line should add GMD. (Demo) if it's only a demo version. The body of the review hasn't changed.
When submitting a review, try to fill in as much of this info as you can. Also, scores are still desired along with the reviews, so send those along. The scores will be used in the ratings section.
Here are my reasons for this change: 1.) No two e-mails agreed on what to rate, or what was most important. 2.) Last issue, the scores were fairly widely askew. 3.) This format is easier to understand.
Send it to me. I'll put it in as long as it's in good taste and about a text adventure. Graphics and sound are permitted, but there must be a text parser in the game, and the writing must be more important than the 'flashy stuff'. Advertisements run for 2 issues before expiring.
1) If I do that, I won't know who's reading SPAG, and can't bug them for reviews and ratings.
2) SPAG is meant to be a close-knit group of readers sharing their opinions with one another. This doesn't work as well on newsgroups.
3) I don't want to. Start your own newsletter if this offends you. If you can't put out the effort to subscribe, then I can't put out the effort to bother with you.
Through anonymous FTP on ftp.gmd.de, in /if-archive/SPAG/. Just login as 'ftp' and give your e-mail address as your password. The archive stays one issue behind the current one. Thus, #3 will not be put up until issue #4 is released to subscribers. This keeps some advantage to being subscribed.
Other items of interest submitted will be considered. I would especially like to get stuff on 'Where are they now?', etc. Please do not submit fiction or non-text adventure-related articles to SPAG.
If you wish to sign up to receive SPAG, let me know. In addition, if you wish to stop receiving SPAG, let me know. More info and refinements to SPAG as they become neccessary and available.