___.               .___                 _             ___.
     /  _|               |   \               / \           / ._|
     \  \                | o_/              |   |          | |_.
     .\  \               | |                | o |          | | |
The  |___/ociety for the |_|reservation of  |_|_|dventure  \___|ames.

                          ISSUE # 7

    Edited by G. Kevin Wilson (whizzard@uclink.berkeley.edu)
      HTML Version Edited by Scott Reilly (wsr@cs.cmu.edu)

                       October 21, 1995

	    < Special 1995 I-F Competition Issue >

Dear Readers, I hope you aren't too upset, but this month's issue doesn't contain your standard SPAG stuff. As the official (no one else wanted the job) organizer of the 1st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition, I'd like to take time out and just showcase the worthy efforts of the people who entered this year. I am doing this because I'm excited about the competition. It has brought I-F authors seemingly out of the woodwork to participate. I am proud to be a part of it.

Now, as to this month's format, things will be recognizable, but different. First, I will announce the winners of the competition, listing the title of their game, the game design system it uses, and what prize they received. The details of the judging, prize distribution, etc. are all in SPAG #6, so I won't repost them here. After the results will be the letters (if any) that I received related to the competition, as well as interviews with the authors of the games. Then, there will be game reviews, but unlike most issues of SPAG, the reviews will be restricted to the competition entries. After this is a section more for game authors than game players. Indeed, those who haven't yet played the contest entries will want to avoid this section, as it includes spoilers from several of the entries. Your humble editor will analyze several of the entries, in depth, and point out just what makes them noteworthy games. Finally, the usual closing comments and such. The Reader Scoreboard, and any other missing sections will reappear next issue. It's been a great competition. Next year promises to be even better. Oh yeah, you might want to be warned about those interviews. Some of them have a few spoilers as well.

				G. Kevin Wilson

"Before we begin, I'll just point out that the prize draft began with the 1st place Inform entry, skipped over to the 1st place TADS entry, went to the 2nd place Inform entry, and so on, and so on. Now, the envelope, please."


1st Place: A Change in the Weather, by Andrew Plotkin.
Andrew chose as his prize: The very first copy of Avalon, autographed and donated by me.

2nd Place: The Mind Electric, by Jason Dyer.
Jason chose as his prize: $50.00 cash, donated by Martin Braun

3rd Place: The Magic Toyshop, by Gareth Rees.
Gareth chose as his prize: One free registration for "The Path to Fortune", donated by Christopher E. Forman.

4th Place: MST3K1: Detective, by Christopher E. Forman "and Matt Barringer,"
Christopher chose as his prize: "Castles and Kingdoms: An electrifying compendium of 15 BASIC adventures you can type into your Commodore 64" by Bob Liddil, donated by Gareth Rees.

5th Place: All Quiet on the Library Front, by Michael S. Phillips.
Michael chose as his prize: An autographed copy of my first novel, if and when it's published--for a winner who feels like taking a big gamble, donated by Jacob Weinstein.

6th Place: Tube Trouble, by Richard Tucker.


1st Place: Uncle Zebulon's Will, by Magnus Olsson.
Magnus chose as his prize: $100.00 cash, donated by Eileen Mullin

2nd Place: Toonesia, by C. J. T. Spaulding aka Jacob Weinstein, the author of Save Princeton.
Jacob chose as his prise: 1 year subscription to the printed version of XYZZYnews, donated by Eileen Mullin

3rd Place: The One That Got Away, by 'The Author' aka Leon Lin
Leon chose as his prize: "Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur" for the Mac, complete with box, etc., donated by Jacob Weinstein.

4th Place: "It appears to be a tie, ladies and gentlemen."
A Night at the Museum Forever, by Chris Angelini.
Chris chose as his prize: One free registration for Save Princeton, donated by Jacob Weinstein.

Undertow, by Stephen Granade.
Stephen chose as his prize: A copy of "Leather Goddesses of Phobos" on 5.25" disk for IBM compatibles, donated by Jon Uhler.

5th Place: Undo, by Null Dogmas aka Neil Demause

Editor's Award

Magnus Olsson, author of Uncle Zebulon's Will, will also receive a complimentary copy of Avalon (upon its completion) both as a sort of thanks for his help with SPAG, and as an editor's choice award. It's not much to show my appreciation with, but thanks, Magnus.

You can reach the authors at the e-mail addresses below if you want to send fan mail, comments, bug reports, or what have you.
Entry		Author			E-mail

Toyshop		Gareth Rees		gdr11@cl.cam.ac.uk
Library		Michael S. Phillips	msphil@aardvark.cc.wm.edu
MST3K1		C E Forman		ceforma@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Tube		Richard Tucker		Richard.Tucker@cl.cam.ac.uk
Weather		Andrew Plotkins		erkyrath+@cmn.edu
Mind Electric	Jason Dyer		jdyer@indirect.com

Museum		Chris Angelini		cangelin@uoguelph.ca
The One...	Leon Lin		leonlin@uclink.berkeley.edu
Undertow	Stephen Granade		sgranade@scratchy.phy.duke.edu
Toonesia	Jacob Weinstein		jweinste@castor.usc.edu
Undo		Neil Demause		neild@echonyc.com
Zebulon		Magnus Olsson		mol@df.lth.se


	"And that, as they say, is that."

From: "Palmer Davis"

This year's inaugural IF competition has come and gone, and with it comes an excellent chance to sound pretentious, "literary", and generally well-informed (no pun intended) about the genre by reviewing everyone's entries. I learned quite a bit from this year's entries, from both strengths and weaknesses, and had hoped to have enough time to expand upon what I've noticed. Sadly, I'm frantically scrambling to finish this up on the eve of the deadline for SPAG #7; I hope to have more time to do so and fill in the reviews that had to be left incomplete in time for SPAG #8.

[Palmer sent me his reviews with this paragraph heading, so I snipped it off and seperated the reviews into the proper places. Hope he doesn't mind, since it looked like he wanted this printed.]

From: "Christopher E. Forman"

Dear Gerry,

Since I know I'm not to late, I wanted to get this out to you as soon as possible.

I have seen this implied by the large number of posts on the I-F newsgroups, but no one has ever really come right out and said it, so allow me to: Thanks for taking the time and energy to do one heckuva job on setting up the I-F competition this year. With everyone wanting to get started, but no one quite sure how to go about it, you seized the reins and formed order where once there was nought but chaos. You got this crazy thing under control before it was too late.

Just thought you deserved a big round of applause from I-Fers everywhere.

Looking forward to next year's competition!

[: "S'allright."]


Inform Authors

A Change in the Weather, by Andrew Plotkins.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I was walking around the grounds of a restored Colonial-era mansion in Fredericksburg. Gardens, trees -- two sundials. Sunny, warm. I thought it would be nice to have a game with that kind of sensory detail. Then I thought it would be nifty if you had more than one perspective on the scenery. A tree is one thing on a sunny afternoon; it's quite another in the middle of a midnight thunderstorm, especially if it's hit by lightning very suddenly.

The sundials didn't make it in, though. Possibly because of the next answer:

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

I have a graphical game (midway between a puzzle-game and IF) which is slowly being worked on. It will be called _Moondials_.

But, I mean, *really* slowly. Other projects keep intervening.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?


>How did you think of the fox? He's so cute.

Ah, I see he fooled you, too. (It, I should say. The gender is deliberately not given.)

I just wanted a foil for your character in the story. The fox's role varied wildly during game-construction. At first I thought you might need to rescue it, or even rescue a nest of cute little fox cubs. Then I decided that was much too cliched. For awhile the fox was supposed to be nesting in the back of the cave -- I guess it still might, but there's no evidence left of it.

Eventually I just got to like the idea of a non-player character who knows more than you do, and never tells, and never stops smiling. The fox's character note is what it thinks of *you*.

The Mind Electric, by Jason Dyer.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

No comment.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

I've working on a long project that I can only describe as psychological horror. It's much different than anything else I have seen in the IF part of the genre.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Possibly, although I'll write something alot more silly if I do.

>Did you have a particular vision of 'cyberspace' in mind when you began "Mind"? How did it evolve as you went along?

For the most part, what you see in "Mind" is what my original vision was. I wasn't really too focused on what the cyberspace element would be like while writing, but rather how it would fit into the plot. For example, I had originally planned to have much more interaction with the outside world; a "camera room" where you could see views of the outside world and cause various things to happen. But in the end I decided to keep everything in virtualspace.

>What are some of the hidden elements of "Mind"?

I doubt most people knew what the cube's calibration message really was, so I'll give the poetry form and translation here. The words are in Latin, from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

   In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas
   corpora; di, coeptis (nam vos mutastis et illas)
   adsirate meis primaque ab origine mundi
   ad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen

   My mind wishes to tell of bodies changed into new forms...
   Gods (for you have made these changes) breathe favor on
   My undertaking and lead my song from the beginning of the earth
   To my own age...
The sounds inside and outside the factory are related; watch the messages carefully.

The cube has several interesting responses to questions: try asking it about Kaden, Souden, itself, and creator. The language that the cube refers to in the first two responses is a form of Japanese.

You can get quotes from trying to TASTE something, or pressing enter without typing anything.

There are a few other interesting things hiding in the game but I'll leave them for others to discover.

The Magic Toyshop, by Gareth Rees.

> What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I can't remember.

> Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Yes. It's secret, though.

> Are you planning to enter again next year?

Maybe. If I have the time.

> Where did you get all those neat puzzles?

Dots & Boxes and Dodgems from "Winning Ways" by Conway, Berlekamp & Guy.

Tic-tac-toe and Towers of Hanoi are so well-known that it seemed a good opportunity to turn the tables a bit.

The robot mouse maze was suggested by the one in "Curses"; the parity puzzle itself is related to the moving rocks puzzle in "Spellbreaker".

The gnomon was suggested by the one in "Trinity".

The egg was suggested by the eggs in the "Unnkulia" series; the mahogany matchstick is the rod of fire from "Curses"

The glueing-the-robot-mouse puzzle seemed a good way to introduce the glue for the Towers of Hanoi without making it obvious what the glue was for.

The lock puzzle is based on the "Monte Carlo Lock Puzzle" in "The Lady or the Tiger?" by Raymond Smullyan.

MST3K1: Detective, by Christopher E. Forman "and Matt Barringer,"

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

It was actually Graeme Cree's review of "Detective" in SPAG 5 that first got me thinking about it, but I didn't begin seriously working on it until about a week before the competition deadline. At that time, there was a delay from my co-author in regards to text for the game the two of us are currently writing, so I had about a week with nothing to do. I used four of those days to put together the MST3K game.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

The completion date for my current project, which my cousin and I are co-authoring, is rapidly approaching. It's a lighthearted fantasy game titled "The Path to Fortune," the first in a planned series known as "The Windhall Chronicles." Currently, I'm wrapping up programming the "fun stuff" for players to try, and then I plan to send it off to playtesters for a couple of weeks before correcting any problems. The release date is set for the end of October (perhaps coinciding with that of Avalon B-). After that, I plan to work on an interactive sci-fi short story, and then another I-F fan and I are teaming up to do "something very, very big." (I'm not saying any more.) The second "Windhall Chronicles" game will be released sometime in 1996.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Oh, definitely, most likely with a more serious entry the next time around. (I've already got a story idea that I've been tossing around.)

>Some have commented that MiSTing a game isn't really writing a game. What
>do you think about the matter? [Obviously your entry created quite a bit of
>controversy. :)]

Well, I suppose it's not truly writing a game in the sense that MiSTing a film isn't the same as making a movie. However, the MST3K crew *is* making a TV show, despite the fact that it's primarily involved with making fun of bad movies. I've essentially done the same with an I-F piece, and although it may not be a true game, it has to be considered *something*. Doesn't writing a game mean that you sit down and type the code? It shouldn't matter one way or another whether the game is a true original or merely an enhanced port with humorously derogatory comments added -- I still had to sit down and code the thing. If my MiSTing doesn't count as a "real game," then neither should any other port from one language to another. (And if it isn't a game, what exactly is it?)

All Quiet on the Library Front, by Michael S. Phillips.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

It was one of those caffeine-induced periods of lucidity, in which suddenly an idea springs forth, fully formed. The fact that it was immediately after 8 straight 10 hour+ days, staring four more in the face before the week-end, probably helped. Oh yeah, I suppose I should mention that I am the 'techie' for the William & Mary Law Library. That had a lot to do with it :-)

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Yes. Two projects are taking my spare time at the moment.

The first is Release 2 of LIBRARY, which will include several enhancements (now that I have a better grip on Inform). The help system will be menued, something I didn't feel I had the time to mess with before, there are two new rooms, and there are a couple of "niceties".

The second is a game tentatively titled "DJINN!", which takes place in an Arabian Nights setting. Pieces are falling into place, but I think I'll borrow a line on when it'll be done: "When it's ready."

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Certainly! This time I have a whole year, and not a month, to come up with something..... :-)

>Tell us more about how you wrote "Library."

Well, at the time the idea struck me, we were beginning a shift from one library system to another (VTLS to SIRSI, for those who care), and there were an awful lot of hours put in upgrading staff and public PC's. I was feeling a little zany, and I had just re-discovered a love of IF (thanks to seeing pinfocom on comp.os.linux.announce, and discovering ZIP and ftp.gmd.de). I had seen that a competition was being held, and the ideas just sort of suddenly gelled. If memory serves, it was the end of a rough day, having just spent the whole week-end working, and I was just staring at the security gates at our entrance.

There was very little time to do much work (I started coding July 31), and there was a lot to learn. It was also slow going, because my primary machine is a 386SX20 with 4Mb of RAM. Fortunately, I'm a Linux user, so I didn't have to get a drink every time I compiled (which, by the end, was taking upwards of 3 minutes each time), and I took advantage of the virtual consoles to have one editing, one compiling, and one playing.

Tube Trouble, by Richard Tucker.

> What first gave you the idea for your entry?

Camden Town tube station, in London. I've often arrived at one platform and ran to another one to change trains, only to find the train I wanted to catch leaving just as I reach it. Also they used to have very old chocolate machines that were usually broken and would swallow your money without giving you anything.

> Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

I'm working on a game that was going to be my competition entry until I realized it would take me much longer than I thought (that's why I turned to converting an earlier game). It's my attempt to get around the classic "guess the verb" problem by substituting a "guess the noun" problem. Perhaps I'll enter it next year.

I'd love to try and write a full-sized game, but the amount of planning involved is so much greater.

> You mentioned that "Tube" was based upon an earlier game. Can you
> elaborate?

I had written a crude adventure system for the BBC micro, a popular machine in the UK and the precursor of the modern-day Archimedes, and wanted to write a small game on it. I coded the annoying station, and then together with a friend the rest of the game. All the puzzles and much of the text were identical in the inform version, but I added considerably to the responses and introduced a horrible bug too. Converting the game was a question of reading the original source, remembering how it worked, and then coding up the puzzles from scratch in inform, which is very quick. Internally the two versions are very different.

Originally we had plans for a game of which Tube was just one part. It's (rather quirky) plot was that you were at a party where your host instructed you to "eat, drink and be merry". When you tried to eat, by picking up a piece of chocolate cake, the room would go all hazy and you'd find yourself in the tube station (for no reason at all). Then if you died or won, you'd return to the party. In the 'be merry' section you had to change your name by deed poll. The idea was to give the player a choice of what order to attempt the puzzles in and to make it clear that they couldn't influence each other, by putting them in different and unrelated scenarios -- this was something I admired in the Hitchhiker game.

Looking back on it, it seems completely incoherent, and I wouldn't want to write it now. Then again, my other plans are incoherent too...

TADS Authors
Uncle Zebulon's Will, by Magnus Olsson.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

A sudden flash of inspiration, I suppose. I was considering possible ideas for short IF, and started thinking about the player exploring a wizard's house.

Now, why would anyone want to do that? Would the wizard still be around? No, that would be too dangerous, and besides the idea of entering a wizard's house to steal his things or to defeat him is pretty hackeneyed by now. Maybe the wizard's dead, and you've come to collect your inheritance? Mmm, sounds good. What do you find in a wizard's home, then? Lots and lots of neat stuff, but preferably not just the usual, tired old paraphernalia like wands and potions and so on. Maybe if there was a [censored to remove the spoiler]?

Great idea, I said to myself. But could it be made into a puzzle? Yes, for example if there was a demon guarding the door, and... One thing led to another, and within about thirty minutes I had the basic idea of the game, and about half of the plot in my head.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Yes. I started working on "Bast", a Gothic story with some twists to it, this winter, but I put it aside this spring due to lack of time, and haven't re-started work on it yet. "Akorny", a more traditional Zork-like game, lies dormant since last summer. Then there are some projects that haven't resulted in any code yet, but which are being processed at very low priority somewhere in the back of my mind.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Yes, if I can find the time to finish a game in time.

>When can we expect the sequel you mentioned at the end of "Zebulon"?

Perhaps I'll enter it in next year's competition, but don't hold your breaths; right now it's even more vapourware than "Avalon" :-).

Toonesia, by C. J. T. Spaulding aka Jacob Weinstein, the author of Save Princeton.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I'm a big fan of animation--I'd rank it as one of America's most significant cultural contributions to the world. I've wanted to do a complete game based on my favorite cartoons for a long time. Originally, I had planned on making it a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" type thing, with references to all of my favorite animated works. But after percolating in the back of my mind for two or three years, the idea didn't develop much beyond the walking-over-the-cliff puzzle, which was the very first one I had come up with. So, when the IF contest came up, I decided to narrow my focus, and make it just a tribute to the Warner Brothers universe. I'd love to write that longer 'toon game, some day, and pay homage to Droopy, Dumbo, and some of the other greats, too.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Well, I'm working on Logomancer, in which you play the Logomancer General of a sleepy magical world. Or, at least, I'm sort of working on it. I've been doing a tiny bit at a time ever since I finished Save Princeton, some three years ago, but haven't really had the time to go at it full force. One problem with delaying so long, by the way, is that other people steal your ideas first. A big plot point of the game is that spells have started working backwards. You can imagine my chagrin when Graham Nelson came up with a similar idea in Balances.

But I digress.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Definitely. It's a great way to motivate myself to produce something. And sprinting is always more fun than long-distance running, for me, at least.

>So, just how many 'rascally' puns are floating around Toonesia, anyway?

That's a tough one. When I moved cross country, I left my old computer behind, and I haven't yet transferred all my files to my new Mac, so I don't have the source code for Toonesia handy. But let's see: there's rascally Cavett, rascally rabbi, rascally Babbit, rascally habit, and rascally Cabbot--that's five. There may be one or two I've forgotten. (And as I type this list, I realize that I didn't think of "rascally ribbit" or "rascally robot." I'll have to work those in to the next version, in addition to fixing bugs. And if you don't mind, I'll use your "rascally abbot" line, too.)

[Later, Jacob sent me...]

I've finally restored all the files from my old computer to my new computer, and I can give you a run-down of all the "rascally rabbit" puns in Toonesia:

1) When you try to blow on something, you get the following message: "You take a deep breath and exhale. If it weren't for that pack-a-day habit you had as a teenager, you might be able to blow with more force. Oooh, that rascally habbit!" (Note the misspelling of "habit". I'll have to fix that.)

2) When you read the rabbit season sign: ""This accursed interference in the rights of honest hunters like yourself is signed 'Bruce Babbit, Secretary of the Interior.' Ooooh, that rascally Babbit!"

3) When you try to climb the cliff: "You don't have the strength to climb the ledge, due in large part to your habit of ordering your servants to exercise for you. Ooooh, that rascally habit!"

4) When you examine the pictures on Buds' wall: "The pictures include a photo of Bud Bunny at a party with Chuck Jones, Fritz Freleng, Tex Avery, and Mel Blanc; a reproduction of the famous painting, "The Assumption of St. Peter Rabbit;" and an autographed photo of Dick Cavett. Seeing the last of these reminds you of the humiliation you suffered as a guest on his show; unbeknownst to you, the talk show host had arranged for your fellow guests to be the president of Handgun Control, Inc, and the vice-chairman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Ooooh, that rascally Cavett!"

5) When you try to pick up a gem in the mine: "As you reach down to pick up a gem off the huge pile, you recall something your accountant said to you yesterday: "Mr. Fuld, right now, you're in the nine-nine-point-nine-percent tax bracket. If your value increases by more than a thousand dollars before the end of the fiscal year, you'll be in the one hundred percent bracket, and you'll have to give everything you own to the government." Since any one gem in this mine would be worth several thousand at least, you realize that your tax bracket prevents you from taking anything out of here (except that obviously worthless old lamp). Oooh, that rascally bracket!"

6) When you smell the cologne: "Smelling it reminds you of the childhood day when little Vincent Cabot, scion of the only family in town wealthier than the Fulds, held you face down in a carrot patch until you begged for mercy, thereby instilling in you a lifelong hatred of the long orange vegetable and all creatures associated therewith. If only he had left you alone, you might have been spared the tremendous frustration that faces you every rabbit season. Oooooh, that rascally Cabot!"

7) When you try to kiss an inanimate object: Just as you are about to kiss you recall that, back when your name was Elmo Fuldstein, your rabbi always warned you against getting into a mixed relationship. And since a relationship with an inanimate object is about as mixed as you can get, you withdraw your lips, overwhelmed with guilt. Oooh, that rascally rabbi!"

So, that's 7 of them. (Six if you don't want to count "habit" a second time.")

The One That Got Away, by "The Author" aka Leon Lin

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I'd love to say that I got the idea for the game while out at some beautiful lake, trolling idly for fish, the sun warming my tired soul and the sweet breezes blowing faintly...but I'm afraid I can't. At the risk of having had the most banal inspiration for an IF game in history, I'd have to say that the trigger that started my game was an episode of "The Simpsons" that I saw one night, about Homer going out fishing and struggling against one of those "mighty fish of the past." That must have made some kind of an impression on me, because, some morning afterwards, I was lying in bed when I thought, you know, no one has ever written an IF game about fishing. Before long, I was up and at my computer. The map quickly coalesced in my mind, and the game more or less wrote itself. (Of course, "The One That Got Away," despite its inspiration, is a wholly original story, with a tip of the hat to some rather tall tales about angling.)

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

At about the same time I was writing "The One," I also started work on a TADS object library to implement role-playing game elements such as NPCs, magical items, weapons, armor, and lighting sources, as well as a demo game to showcase the library. As complex as the library is, I haven't finished it yet, and hopefully I'll be able to get more work done on it despite my schoolwork and other responsibilities.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Sure, why not! In fact, I should start planning my entry now! ^_^

>So, will we really get to go back in 30 years for a sequel?

I have an idea for a plot and title for a sequel, if I ever write one. But any continuation of the story is still quite a ways into the future. Nevertheless, even if I don't write the story, The Old One will still be waiting... ^_^

A Night at the Museum Forever, by Chris Angelini.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I had wanted to do something involving time travel as a puzzle, but needed a setting. I've always been a Larry Niven fan, so I wanted to use a 'long dead race', and the idea for a museum housing artifacts of time was added to bring these all together.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

Yes. At the moment, I'm working on two games, one set in the Superguy world, and another, more serious ;->, game called Wanderer. The latter one is fantasy.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?


>Any particular reason you decided to write about time travel?

I love the genre, and wanted to use it in a game. My original plans were more elaborate, but I ran out of time to implement them, and had to go with a simpler time-based puzzle.

Undertow, by Stephen Granade.

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

Believe it or not, it was the Sting video for "All This Time." I had been mulling over the possibility of writing an entry for the IF competition when I ran across the video on TV. If you haven't seen it, it takes place on a boat which ends up becoming very cramped. I started thinking of the possibilities of a game set on a yacht--a yacht makes for a tiny setting compared to the setting of most other IF games. However, it was just the size for a two-hour game. In addition, I could more easily convey the sense of claustrophobia I wanted for my game.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

The short answer is "sort of." The long answer is: I've just started physics grad school, so my time has become incredibly curtailed. I have been working on a large game called "Losing Your Grip" for about a year and a half, with little progress so far.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

Possibly, depending on whether or not I have the inspiration and the free time.

>Why did you write a mystery game, in particular?

I had the setting for my game before I had a plot. I thought about what kind of game could take place on a yacht, and decided that a mystery would be perfect. I had never written a mystery before, and my earlier IF games have had a remarkable lack of NPCs in them. This was a perfect chance for me to take on the challenge of setting a game in a tiny environment, mastering NPCs, and writing a mystery all at once.

What can I say? I wanted an ambitious project.

Undo, by Null Dogmas aka Neil Demause .

>What first gave you the idea for your entry?

I first wrote an earlier version of Undo for a friend's birthday -- it's based on an inside joke between the two of us.

For the record, the joke goes: "A frog walks up to a hole. 'My, what a big hole,' he says. A small duck walks up to the hole. 'What large hole?' says the duck. 'What small duck?' says the frog."

Not much of a joke, it's true -- more of a joke about jokes, like the Dadaist riddle (one of my favorites): "What's the difference between a duck? One leg is both the same!" Anyway, after discarding a much better idea for the I-F contest as taking way too much time, I thought of a bunch of things I could throw into Undo to turn it, sort of, into a playable game, though there's still only really one puzzle.

The only purpose of Undo, really, aside from being vaguely weird and entertaining, is to challenge some of the I-F conventions -- like having everything be a puzzle (most of the rooms are mere clues at best, and at worst just diversions), having a score (the "score" of 86 you're shooting for is another negation joke -- as in, "eighty-six that"), winning at the end, and so on. It's sort of an "anti-game" in that sense.

>Are you working on any other IF, if so, what?

"Lost New York" is about a month away from beta-testing, three months away from release. It's a medium to long game (a good bit longer and more complex than MacWesleyan) set in historical New York -- if you liked "Time and Again" you should like it.

I also have ideas for three other specific games (including the one I didn't get around to writing for this year's competition) that I'd like to do, but I need to finish Lost NY first before I can start on another one.

>Are you planning to enter again next year?

I'd like to, if the timing's right.

Let's have a big round of applause for all the entrants!

Consider the following review header:
 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: Medium
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 a demo version. The body of the review hasn't changed.

When submitting reviews: 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. Authors may not rate or review their own games.

SPAG accepts reviews of any length, letters to the editor, the occasional interesting article on text adventures (no reprints please), and even just ratings for your favorite game, if you don't have the time to do a full review. Please though, at least send me info for each game you have rated equivalent to the review header for Cutthroats, above. All accepted materials will be headed by the submitter's name and e-mail address, unless you request that they be withheld, or do not supply them, in which case the header will read as "Anonymous."

From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: All Quiet on the Library Front   PARSER: Inform v1502
  AUTHOR: Michael Phillips               SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: ???                             AVAILABILITY: GMD
  ATMOSPHERE: Just a little thin         WRITING: Expository
  CHARACTERS: Cardboard                  PLOT: Linear
  PUZZLES: Quite simple                  DIFFICULTY: Easy
The premise is quite straightforward: you need to borrow a normally unobtainable book from your college library in order to write a research paper. After a bit of wandering around, finding objects lying about, and giving them to the appropriate people, you do.

I must confess that I was somewhat put off by the fact that the game is set on a college campus; the college game is second only to the Colossal Cave-style undirected dungeon crawl/scavenger hunt for being drastically overdone. It worked in _Lurking_Horror_, and it's working now in _Christminster_, whose setting is different enough not to be stale, but every other such game since (not to mention the innumerable campuses that have been set up on MUDs worldwide) has felt like walking into someone else's inside joke. That includes a number of rather popular games that have fallen flat for me, and I'm probably stepping on a number of toes here; I tried not to let my feelings for the genre color my judgement.

This entry doesn't just happen to take place on campus, however; the entire plot is centered around writing a research paper, and therein lies the problem. Most IF transports the player to a fantastic place or situation that's genuinely interesting, sometimes more so than what's going on outside the screen. That's not the case here -- being stuck in the library working on an undergraduate research paper is something that one plays IF to *escape*, not encounter, and the game never really transcends the ultimately pedestrian nature of its central task.

It is possible to create good interactive fiction based entirely on everyday experiences if the writing stands out enough to carry the game on atmosphere (see _A_Change_in_the_Weather_, below). It is also possible to make a good game out of a fundamentally unpleasant situation (_Theatre_, for example, or _Bureaucracy_) if the game provides gripping drama or offers a fresh perspective on the events in question. _Library_ does neither, offering a fairly routine scenario executed in expository but uninspiring prose.

Oddly, the stairwell leading to the upper floor, an area in which none of the plot takes place, is one of the game's bright spots as far as writing goes -- the descriptions there are nearly as long as in busier areas, which gives the author enough space to breathe life into details like the paintings. Had the rest of the map been executed with that much care, the game would have worked much better. It's not necessarily that more words are needed elsewhere (see _Enchanter_, for example), it's that more thought is needed to make the descriptions come to life.

Overall, the game is solidly crafted, but feels like it's just going through the motions. This isn't a *bad* game by any means, but somehow lacks that certain spark that makes well-written IF such a joy. Cleaned up and commented, the source to this would probably make pretty good example code for new authors; it's solidly crafted, including a basic help system that gives a hint for the next puzzle.

(After writing most of this review, I learned that the entry was the author's first attempt at writing IF. It's obvious that the author *has* in fact mastered the motions that need to be gone through to create IF, and is just starting to catch on to a writing style; I look forward to seeing full-length works from him in the future.)

BOTTOM LINE: An accurate simulation of a tedious chore.

From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: A Change in the Weather		  Parser: Inform
  Author: Andrew Plotkin		  Plot: Non-linear
  Email: erkyrath+@cmu.edu		  Atmosphere: Excellent
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Excellent
  Puzzles: Time-critical		  Supports: Infocom ports
  Characters: One, simple but memorable   Difficulty: Above average
During a picnic with your friends, you decide that you'd like some privacy and walk away on your own to explore the nearby hills. Soon, however, the warm, beautiful summer evening turns into the proverbial dark and stormy night (the "change in the weather" of the title), and you find yourself cut off from your friends by a rain-swollen stream that threatens to carry away the only bridge...

Although unpleasant, such a mundane situation may not seem like the stuff from which a tale of wonder and adventure is built. That, however, is just what Andrew Plotkin has succeeded in creating. With very small means he manages to increase tension until your attempts to save the bridge turn into a nightmarish struggle against time. The writing is excellent, as are the atmosphere and the changes in mood. As if to demonstrate further how far you can get with deceptively simple means, the one NPC of this game - an endearing little fox - doesn't do very much, but is nevertheless very effective (of course, animal NPC's are simpler than humans since they don't speak).

Despite its small size, "A Change in the Weather" is not an easy game. The author himself classifies this game as "cruel", and that is no great exaggeration. The puzzles aren't very diffciult in isolation, but they are very time-critical and you have to perform actions in a carefully timed order to win. You should be prepared to save and restore a lot, even to replay from the beginning, since the tiniest mistake will put the game in an unsolvable state.

This kind of game behaviour has been condemned in the debate on rec.arts.int-fiction, the main argument being that all the restoring and replaying ruins the enjoyment of the game and disrupts the story. Also, of course, it lowers realism if, for example, you have to die five times beofre finding the right way to disarm a bomb; in real life you have to get it right the first time.

In this particular case, however, having to save and restore frequently didn't detract anything from my enjoyment of the game; in fact, somehow knowing that the smallest mistake may mean disaster actually enhanced the sense of drama and urgency. It may of course have helped that you can't die in this game (the worst thing that can happen is that you have to wade across the stream to get home). The size of the game certainly played an important part - having to restart from the beginning is less cumbersome in a tiny game like this than in a larger game.

To summarize, this is an excellent little game: well written, with a simple goal that isn't that easy to attain, an interesting sequence of logical puzzles and an excellent atmosphere; all of which makes this perhaps the most memorable of all the competition entries.

From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: A Change in the Weather       PARSER: Inform v1405
  AUTHOR: Andrew Plotkin              SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: erkyrath+@cmu.edu            AVAILABILITY: GMD

  ATMOSPHERE: Outstanding
  WRITING: Generally well written, though eye slides past in spots
  CHARACTERS: Memorable
  PLOT: Mutual exclusion between branches
  PUZZLES: Nicely done, but with dead ends and save/restore puzzles
  DIFFICULTY: Moderately challenging
Now *this* is more like it. The game starts out rather slowly: you wander away from a picnic to go exploring in the park. After a beautifully described sunset (and an encounter with the competition's most memorable NPC), the idyllic day suddenly turns nasty, and you are forced to seek shelter, eventually thrusting you into a dreamlike race against time and vague, sinister evil.

The atmosphere, scenery, and overall sense of immersion in this entry were far and away the best in either division, approaching that of Infocom's better efforts in spots. In one or two spots, the writing is dense enough that the casual reader's eye slides right past (lists of exits, mostly), but otherwise the writing is among the best in this year's field.

If there's a weakness here, it's the rather languid pace that the game gets off to at first. That's an unavoidable consequence of the tranquil, contemplative mood that the author creates in the first section, but it makes it difficult to warm up to the game at first. The plot really needs a kick in the tail that it doesn't get until after nightfall; an opening with enough action to make wandering off alone seem a welcome respite (playing volleyball until you get sick of it, perhaps?) might correct this. (The virtues of establishing emotional context through player interaction rather than imposing it by fiat have been discussed at length elsewhere.) Of course, the game flirts perilously with the two hour limit as it is; leaving out such an opening is understandable given the nature of the competition. Furthermore, the contrast between the slow pace of the first section and the frantic pace of the dream sequence works quite well, and is perhaps the sole example of such a mood shift in the contest.

The save/restore nature of the section after nightfall is also likely to put off many players, as is the game's ability to be closed off after the player attempts actions that are otherwise perfectly reasonable. While any race against time necessarily runs the risk of degenerating into save/restore, a bit more time between the appearance of the light source and the expiration of the player's time might have been nice; as it was, I didn't get past that part before time ran out. Likewise, a second (possibly more difficult) option for getting into the cave after the destruction of the needed object would also have helped. Still, the game was quite satisfying, especially in contrast to the rest of the division.

BOTTOM LINE: Yes. Like that. My choice for the division winner.

From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: Detective - an Interactive MiSTing / MST3K1
  Author: C.E. Forman
  Email: ceforma@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu	  Parser : Hacked Inform
  Plot: See review			  Atmosphere: Demented
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Excellent
  Puzzles: What puzzles?		  Supports: Infocom Ports
  Characters: See review		  Difficulty: Self-solving
This piece of IF is not really a game, but a commentary on a game - or, as the author calls it, an Interactive MiSTing. The strange acronym MST3K1 refers to "Mystery Science Theater 3000", a TV show that hasn't reached the European networks, but this fact shouldn't scare away any non-American readers, since the concept is made sufficiently clear anyway (I had it explained to me by Whizzard after I played the game, but I didn't really miss anything).

Similar to the TV show, this game consists of the characters of "Mystery Science Theater" playing - and commenting on - an existing game: "Detective" by Matt Barringer. "Detective", reviewed in SPAG 4, is an amazingly bad game; basically, Barringer has committed every possible mistake in writing it, even forgetting to put in any puzzles.

The core of "MST3K1" is a faithful re-implementation in Inform of "Detective", complete down to the last bug. As the player walks through the game (and, believe me, walking through "Detective" is all there is to winning it), he or she is treated to the commentary of the MST characters. And this commentary is simply hilarious; together with the unconscious comedy of the original "Detective", the result must be the funniest IF ever written. I'm exaggerating only slightly when writing that "MST3K1" had me rolling on the floor with laughter.

Rating "MST3K1" according to the usual SPAG rules is of course impossible, since the only game aspects are those of "Detective", which is a very very bad game. Suffice it to say that the "MST" part of the writing is excellent, though the satire is perhaps a bit heavy-handed in places - I sincerely hope that Matt Barringer has a sense of humour!

Finally, let me just step onto the soapbox for a minute to express some concern. The immediate reaction to this program on Usenet was something along the lines of "Great idea! There are lots of bad games out there; let's MiST them as well!" I sincerely hope that these people think not only once, but twice and thrice before starting to write their own MiSTings. If nothing else, there's the simple rule of all comedy: a good joke is extremely funny the first time it's told. The second time, it's already old. The third time, it's routine. The tenth time, people hate it. Let's not beat this excellent idea to death by repeating it ad nauseam.

Also, and far more seriously, the line between poking gentle fun at something and cruelly mocking it is a fine one indeed. The present author has managed to stay on the right side, but it takes considerable skill to do so. We've all written things we're less than proud of; even the good Homer nods. Indiscriminate derision of these games - perhaps youthful first tries - could have disastrous consequences for the small, fragile IF community.

Of course, these words of warning should not reflect at all on the present MiSTing; in fact, I think it's brilliant. Let's just not pervert such a good idea.

From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304@compuserve.com>

  NAME:  DETECTIVE:  An Interactive MiSTing
                                         GAMEPLAY:  Inform Parser
  AUTHOR:  C. E. Forman                  PLOT:  Trivial
  EMAIL:  ceforma@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu   ATMOSPHERE:  Demented
  AVAILABILITY:  GMD incoming            WRITING:  Pathetic
  PUZZLES:  None                         SUPPORTS:  All Inform Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Cardboard                 DIFFICULTY:  None at all
Normally, looking at the above category descriptions (such as "Trivial", "Demented", and "Pathetic") one would expect a pretty bad game. Yet, such is not the case here. In the zany world of Mystery Science Theater 3000, (MST3K for short) where schlock is fun, and all involved want "More cheese, please", such descriptions denote an excellent game. Detective, the game least likely to be ported, now exists (with enhancements) for Inform.

A little background is in order to understand this game. SPAG #4 featured a review of an AGT game called Detective, which stated that the author had made every possible mistake, and that the game should be avoided. In SPAG #5 I wrote a second review in which I stated that the game, though awful, was in fact loaded with unintentional laughs and bizarre incongruities that were sure to entertain the player, and that the game would make an excellent episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

For those who don't know, MST3K is a cable television show (soon to be a major motion picture) on Comedy Central, that involves a man shot into space by two mad scientists and forced to watch bad movies so that his reactions can be monitored. Throughout the movie we can see the silhouettes of Mike and his robot companions (whose outer casings are made out of things like a gumball machine, a bowling pin, and a lacrosse helmet) at the lower right-hand corner of the screen, and hear them deliver a barrage of sarcastic remarks, pop-culture references, and suggested dialogue. For example in Godzilla vs. Megalon, a close-up of Godzilla waving his arms and bellowing drew the response "I am Kirok!!", a reference to a classic bit of Shatner overacting in Star Trek's The Paradise Syndrome episode. In Marooned, when three astronauts, stranded in space are arguing over who will leave the ship (there was only enough oxygen to sustain two until the rescue ship arrived) one of the robots observed "they could toss a coin, but it would never come down."

The show is in its 7th season, and each episode is two hours long. Their bread-and-butter is schlocky sci-fi movies, but they have hit almost every genre, including the occasional biker movie. Before and after the show, as well as during intermissions, they do short amusing skits, often based on scenes from the movie.

Chris Forman has taken this format and adapted it into a text game, almost seamlessly. The original Detective game has been transferred verbatim to Inform, even retaining the AGT default responses, and snappy responses from Mike and the robots have been inserted everywhere; into room descriptions, item descriptions, response descriptions, et cetera. Repetition is avoided, enhancing believability. The first time you enter a room you get one set of responses. The second time you will get either a different set, or none at all. The jokes are generally top quality, turning an already (unintentionally) amusing game into a laugh riot. The level of imitation is flawless; if you have seen the show, you can almost hear the dialogue coming out of the actors' mouths.

A typical MST3K episode features a short skit and an invention exchange with the mad scientists before the movie actually begins. Mr. Forman has represented this by including a special introductory text file that highlights the robots attempting to write their own text games, and Dr. Forrester's "fictionary", a device that inputs the vocabulary of a text game directly into the player's mind, with hilarious results.

The only thing that could put anyone off about this game might be found in Stefan Jokisch's original SPAG review: "we should not forget that Matt [the original author of Detective] wrote this game with good intentions and he offered it for free, so who are we to mock at his efforts?" Matt Barringer's game is "mocked" here, but previous MST3K episodes have had movies featuring the likes of Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman, Linda Evans, Peter Graves, James Earl Jones, and Bela Lugosi, putting Mr. Barringer in very august company indeed.

This may not be my all-time favourite text adventure, but it is one of the few that I would recommend to absolutely everyone.

From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: _Detective_ MST3Kization            PARSER: Inform (imitating AGT)
  AUTHOR: C. E. Forman (and Matt Barringer) SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: ceforma@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu       AVAILABILITY: GMD

  ATMOSPHERE: Precisely on target
  CHARACTERS: Non-interactive
  PLOT: Laughable, but that's the point
  PUZZLES: Nonexistent, except for occasional sudden death
  DIFFICULTY: Also nonexistent
Obviously inspired by Graeme Cree's review from SPAG #5, this is a port of Matt Barringer's (infamous) AGT game _Detective_, onto which the cast of _Mystery_Science_Theater_3000_ has been grafted, providing a Greek chorus that pokes hilarious fun at _Detective_'s shortcomings. This was the first game that I returned to finish after my initial ten minute look at each entry, and it succeeds brilliantly at the same sort of appeal as the real MST3K.

Trying to evaluate this entry relative to the others in the division was difficult. However creative the writing may be, the fact remains that this is not an original work of IF, which was the whole point of the contest. On the other hand, this entry also essentially defines an entirely new genre: the interactive work of criticism. Is it a work of IF that happens to be critical or a work of criticism that happens to be interactive? And how much credit is due the author for pioneering something as yet untried, especially given the much lower level of technical difficulty in producing it? In any case, comparing this to the other entries is like comparing apples and oranges.

In the end, I wound up deciding to place this at the enjoyability threshold, and score it behind any more technically difficult works that succeeded at being entertaining, but ahead of any that didn't. Had I been scoring for awards other than first, this would have wound up taking second in its division, and certainly deserves an honorable mention for its writing, but future works of this kind will have to be crafted with great care to avoid becoming stale.

BOTTOM LINE: This is the entry most likely to continue to be downloaded and played after the end of the contest; it's likely to become a (cult) classic simply by being the preferred way to experience the wonderful awfulness of _Detective_. I can't wait to see the crew take on _Space_Aliens_Laughed_at_my_Cardigan_!

From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: The Magic Toyshop                PARSER: Inform v1502
  AUTHOR: Gareth Rees                    SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: gdr11@cl.cam.ac.uk              AVAILABILITY: GMD

  ATMOSPHERE: Nonexistent (be sure to wear a pressure suit!)
  WRITING: Minimalist to the point of information underload
  CHARACTERS: Unresponsive
  PLOT: What plot?  (Sequential pairs of puzzles.)
  PUZZLES: "Guess the verb", "What am I thinking?", and the like
  DIFFICULTY: Frustrating
I really wanted to like this game. I really did. In a competition that intends to reward meaningful brevity, a one room adventure is a really neat idea. And a very spare, minimal writing style can work well if done right, as in _Enchanter_ (and _Christminster_'s opening). Unfortunately, this entry takes both concepts too far.

There is a brief blurb in the teaser about wandering into a Victorian toy shop with a rocking horse in the window, in search of a birthday present for your niece, but rocking horse, window, and the charm of a Victorian toy shop are all entirely absent from the game itself. The player is dumped into an apparently empty room with a chest and a young woman, both of which frustrate most attempts at interaction. This can be unintentionally funny in spots:

Catharine has better things to do.

Catharine opens the chest and roots around inside it. "I wonder if your niece would like something like this?" she says....
[Your score just went up by 1 point.]

In the example above, Catharine *still* would have opened the chest, even had the player said nothing, or waited, or looked around, or done *anything*; all interaction with her (except for her function as a primitive hint system) is initiated by her, and you are awarded points for doing absolutely nothing! In fact, both Catharine and verbs pertaining to her are incompletely implemented:

(to Catharine)

Catharine has better things to do.

Top quality interactive fiction requires both good writing and good programming. _Detective_ MST3K had wonderful writing, but the technical content wasn't there. _Toyshop_ presumably (I ran out of time playing "guess the verb" and therefore didn't encounter most of it) contains some clever programming, but the writing isn't there. Literally. The game's sole location doesn't even have a description, just a rhetorical question asking what might be contained therein. Object descriptions omit useful details like shapes and features, and the parser doesn't know about most of what detail there is.

The limited vocabulary set combined with the sketchy descriptions of what is going on reduce _Toyshop_ to one of the most frustrating games of "guess the verb" that I've had the misfortune to encounter in years. This may sound nitpicky, but is there is an important distinction between

The box is empty already.


You can't see anything inside the box!

The second is a clue that some sense other than vision must be used to determine if there's anything in the box; the first is an unequivocal statement that there isn't anything in there. Since the game uses the first wording rather than the second, I wasted my entire two hour review period searching in vain for an alternative solution to the robot mouse assembly puzzle that wasn't there. (The sole hint that the game provided wasn't any help either, and no walkthrough was included.) I played an endless series of stalemates at tic-tac-toe in the hope that Catharine would give me a tube of glue after losing, I mistook the "carpet" for a glue strip to be peeled off, and I tried to break into the chest or search elsewhere all with no success (there being no elsewhere!). There may also be a cultural issue at work here -- in the United States, tubes of glue are not normally provided inside model kits. Airfix may in fact do this in the UK, but it was only through process of elimination that I finally tried searching, examining, looking into, reaching inside, throwing, dumping, tearing, destroying, opening the other end (to peer through), and jumping up and down on top of the box (all in vain) before finally guessing that "shake" was the magic word. By that time, the review period had expired, so I am basing my review on what I encountered up to that point.

_Toyshop_ gave me of the most unpleasant experiences that I have ever had from a work of IF. You are dumped into a bare room and told to fiddle with a group of vague objects that are handed to you, for no clear reason, and must contend with a rather limited set of ways to manipulate them and eventually guess which of several possible solutions has been implemented. From what I've read on r.g.i-f since completing my evalutation, I'm not alone in getting stuck; this is probably *not* a two hour game. Especially given how nice Gareth's other work has been, _Toyshop_ is a most unpleasant surprise.

BOTTOM LINE: This game is evil, and must be destroyed. Gareth Rees is also evil, but must *not* be destroyed -- at least not until he has a chance to finish the next _Christminster_....

From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: The Mind Electric		  Parser: Inform
  Author: Jason Dyer			  Plot: Linear
  Email: jdyer@indirect.com		  Atmosphere: Quite good
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Quite good
  Puzzles: Logical but difficult	  Supports: Infocom ports
  Characters: Simple                      Difficulty: Quite difficult
This game takes place in cyberspace. Not the cyberspace of "Neuromancer" - the infinite, open matrix where you move at will between network nodes - but rather the opposite: your enemies have captured your consciousness inside a virtual prison of just a few rooms. Not surprisingly, your task is to escape before your virtual body dissolves.

Like dream scenes, a story set in virtual reality demands a lot of the author. Somewhat paradoxically, the very fact that anything is possible in your world makes it very important that you make it believable to the reader. Bearing this in mind, I think that the author has done quite well; he's managed to create a small world with its own laws and a pervasive atmosphere. Where he fails is perhaps in making it quite credible; I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief at some points. This shouldn't be taken as a very serious criticism, though; my doubts never quite broke the spell; true to the game's sub-title "An Interactive Vision", the author does have visions and he does manage to get them through.

The writing is quite good, with one exception: the final denoument just doesn't feel right. I can appreciate the point the author is making, and why he's making it; still, I felt that the last page of text detracts from the quality of the game. Perhaps this is because he, having a lot to explain (including hitherto unprovided background) in just a page of text, falls into the classic trap of letting a character hold a short speech that neatly explains everything; whatever the reasons, the present ending is not very effective and dramatically unsatisfying. Perhaps some of the information the speech provides could be moved back into the story proper; this would also add some foreshadowing of the ending.

What I found disappointing about this game was the puzzles. It's not that they are bad - they certainly aren't, and a few of them are quite clever, but rather that I constantly felt that I had too little information to solve them. The solutions are certainly logical, but there weren't enough clues to find them, and I found the game's world too strange for previous experience to guide me. Fortunately, the game has a comprehensive hint system - a bit too comprehensive, perhaps, since it's not context sensitive and it's easy to read too far - without which I'm afraid I wouldn't have made much progress at all. Of course, what's cryptic to one player may be obvious to another (and I freely admit to not being very good at solving adventure puzzles), but I have the feeling that the author should have provided more clues to allow the player to deduce the internal logic of the puzzles. Alternatively, the puzzles could have been made a bit more intuitive; as it is, the they were simply too difficult for me to enjoy them.

Finally, a very minor thing: the game uses Inform's "box" command to present a number of rather obscure quotes; this is a nice feature of Inform, but a feature that shouldn't be overused. I feel that "The Mind Electric" does overuse it a bit, considering the very small size of the game.

"The Mind Electric" is a very interesting game, and in many ways a very good one. With some rewriting (especially of the ending), and perhaps with more intuitive puzzles, it would be even better; as it is, it is still one of the best games of the competition.

From: "Palmer Davis" 

  NAME: The Mind Electric                PARSER: Inform v1502
  AUTHOR: Jason Dyer                     SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
  EMAIL: ???                             AVAILABILITY: GMD

  ATMOSPHERE: Incomprehensible
  WRITING: Surreal
  PLOT: Linear, branching in two in several spots.
  PUZZLES: Quite a bit of "What am I thinking?"
  DIFFICULTY: Easy enough once you figure out what is going on
This is the only game in the division with a clear plot not firmly tied to the everyday. You are captured by the other side in some sort of virtual reality war, and your "mind essence" is somehow imprisoned (exactly how is never satisfactorily explained); the object of the game is to escape.

The environment is highly stylized and rather surreal, like many cyberpunk depictions of the "Net"/"Matrix"/"Cyberspace"/VR/whatever. Too stylized and surreal, in fact -- the game doesn't always provide enough context to figure out what is going on without resorting to the help system, making much of the game an exercise in trying to guess what the author is thinking. I *still* don't understand why the answer to one puzzle that I stumbled across by brute force worked! You don't even get a large part of the background to the situation until you reach the very end.

The endgame was perhaps this entry's strongest feature; a nice (and finally understandable!) little puzzle led to a denouement with a neat philosophical twist that left a much nicer impression than the previous two hours of head-scratching otherwise would have. Sadly, the issues raised in the teaser and ending have no impact on the rest of the game and aren't otherwise expanded upon.

A nice plus, particularly for a reviewer anxious to explore as widely as possible within the two hour time limit, was the rather extensive help system, like that in _Zork_Zero_. It isn't context-dependent, and the player can completely spoil the game by referring to it, but it's quite complete, and, for that matter, the best in the competition. Unfortunately, it is needed to explain what's going on in places where the game is undecipherable.


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: A Night At The Museum Forever	  Parser: TADS
  Author: Chris Angelini		  Plot: Linear, rather clever
  Email: cangelini@uoguelph.ca		  Atmosphere: Weak
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Adequate
  Puzzles: Simple, not too original	  Supports: TADS ports
  Characters: None			  Difficulty: Quite simple
This game has been endowed with a slightly misleading title: it does take place in a museum, but neither in one night or forever - three thousand years would be more appropriate! The museum is a strange one indeed: a temporal museum, with exhibits collected from both the past and the future. Abandoned for a thousand years, it has been ransacked and all the exhibits stolen. All the exhibits, that is, but one. A priceless diamond ring remains, and it is your mission to retrieve it, a task which is harder than it seems, since the ring's presence involves a temporal paradox. Fortunately, the museum's time machine is still in working order...

Resolving the paradox and retrieveing the ring isn't that difficult; in fact, the game is quite small and easy, just as the competition entries should be. Both in style and execution it's quite similar to an early Infocom game (a treasure hunt through a deserted house containing some interesting gadgets as well as more commonplace objects, all conveniently placed where you can find them). The writing is not quite up to Infocom's standards, but quite adequate; the puzzles may not be very original but are clever and logical; the plot is simple but quite clever and the time travel is handled nicely.

My only big complaint about the game is its almost total lack of atmosphere. After all, you're exploring a mysterious, deserted museum where many explorers/looters before you have vanished in a temporal paradox, you're travelling thousands of years back and forward in time, and yet the author conveys almost no sense of wonder. It's almost as if the hero would say "OK, so I've resolved a temporal paradox and retrieved a priceless ring before lunch today. Maybe I should take the dog for a walk this afternoon?"

In some circumstances, leaving the museum leads to sudden death. This may be motivated by the plot, and anyway you can undo. What's worse, however, is that leaving the museum under certain other circumstances will cause the game to think you want to quit, and you're just taken out of the program without even the chance to undo. This is really a Bad Thing since it's easy to take a wrong turn in the corridors - it happened several times to me.

Despite these complaints, the game is quite clever and enjoyable. It nicely meets the One Rule of the contest: to be solvable in two hours, which is more than one can say for most of the more sophisticated entries.

From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: The One That Got Away		  Parser: TADS
  Author: anonymous			  Plot: Linear, simple
  Email: 				  Atmosphere: Superb
  Availability: F, GMD			  Writing: Outstanding
  Puzzles: Rather simple		  Supports: TADS ports
  Characters: Very good			  Difficulty: Below average
Among the joys of fishing, perhaps the greatest is telling about it afterwards; stories not just about the fish you caught, but above all about the ones that got away. This game is about the grandfather of all the fish that ever got away - the Old One, a fish of mythical proportions, reputed to be centuries old, showing itself only once every thirty years. By some strange chance, one of its appearances happens to coincide with your fishing holiday. Of course you can't resist the challenge of succeeding where everybody else has failed, and bagging the Old One...

This game tells the story of your encounter with the Old One. The emphasis is on the word "tells", since this game is more a piece of interactive literature than a traditional game. There certainly are puzzles, but the important thing is the story, not the puzzle solving.

As a reading experience, "The One That Got Away" is very enjoyable indeed. The writing is perhaps the best I've ever seen in an adventure game; not as poetic or beautiful as in "The Sound Of One Hand Clapping", but perfect for telling this kind of story. There's rather a lot of it, too: the introduction alone takes up more than two screen pages. The author manages to create just the right setting and atmosphere for his (her?) story, and the only real NPC, old Bob in the bait shop, is nicely characterized and has a lot to tell if you ask him.

This emphasis on writing doesn't mean that the gameplay aspects are neglected. On the contrary, the game flows nicely and the author seems to have thought of almost everything, providing appropriate - and often very funny - responses to most of the weird things an adventurer might try doing. The puzzle involving the actual fishing is perhaps a bit awkward, but implementing fishing at the level of detail it's done in this game is not a simple feat. To help you get an idea of what you're supposed to do there's a very humorous and detailed transcript of another fishing adventure available online. If you get totally stuck, the author has included a walkthrough in the distribution - not that it should be needed, since the game is quite simple.

So far for the good sides of this game, and they are good indeed. What's not so good is what happens once you're ready for some action. After the monumental introduction and a lot of build-up during your conversations with Bob and your attempts to get the right bait, you're ready for a monumental struggle, but instead you're presented with quite an anticlimax. After finishing the game, one can't help but to get a feeling of "Was this all?"

Still, despite the anticlimax, its literary quality makes this game a truly memorable one, one worth playing and replaying several times, just as one returns to a favourite novel.

From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: Toonesia			  	Parser: TADS
  Author: C. J. T. Spaulding (pseudonym)  	Plot: Linear
  Email: an355952@anon.penet.fi		  	Atmosphere: Excellent
  Availability: F, GMD			  	Writing: Very Good
  Puzzles: Original and rewarding	  	Supports: TADS ports
  Characters: Good, but a bit non-interactive
  Difficulty: Rather simple
In this delightful little game you assume the persona of Elmo Fuld, millionare and hunter. When the game starts, it seems as if your eternal adversary, Bud Bunny (that rascally rabbit!), holds a distinct advantage: not only has he stolen your gun, but he's imprisoned you in a room without an exit. But don't despair: you're as resourceful as ever, and in this world the laws of nature are quite flexible...

Does this sound familiar? It should, since this game is a loving re-creation of the world of classic cartoons (with the names slightly changed, probably for copyright reasons). During your adventures in Toonesia (don't worry, you do escape your doorless prison) you'll meet not only Bud Bunny but Dizzy Duck and other characters, and you'll end up in a number of typical cartoon situations, hauntingly familiar yet with certain new angles, situations posing problems that can only be solved by thinking in the slightly twisted way of a 'toon.

This game may not be very profound, but it's clearly one of the most entertaining adventure games I've ever played. It's not very large and not very difficult (and comes with extensive online hints if you're stuck), the puzzles are all very much in character and have logical and satisfying solutions (possibly with one exception: the helmet problem seems a bit contrived), the ending is very appropriate, and above all it's funny.

My only complaint is that the game seems to have been rushed out in a hurry (it was even released a week before the competition deadline), giving it a slightly unpolished feeling in places. The NPCs could be a bit more interactive, and there are a few inconsistencies (such as the Tazmanian (sic) Devil escaping through a tunnel that ends inside a locked cage - yet when you follow him, he's gone!). I found one quite serious bug: for some reason, the room description of the mesa reverses east and west, which made me quite frustrated when trying to escape, until I literally stumbled onto the solution by trial-and-error.

These are relatively minor things, however. I hope that the author will step forward after the competition to accept our congratulations; with products of this quality, there's really no reason to be anonymous.

From: "Magnus Olsson" 

  Name: Undo				Parser: TADS (hacked)
  Author: null dogmas			Plot: What plot?
  Email: ???				Atmosphere: Weird
  Availability: F, GMD			Writing: Adequate
  Puzzles: Very strange			Supports: TADS ports
  Characters: Props			Difficulty: Almost unplayable
One pleasant fact about the competition entries is that several of the authors have not just aimed at writing "classic", Infocom-style games, but actually tried to renew the genre; to, despite the small format, produce something new and original.

The author of this game has obviously tried very hard to come up with something original, and he or she has certainly succeeded, in the sense that this game is totally unlike any other piece of IF I've ever seen. In fact, I'm not even sure of what "Undo" really is - a game, an experiment in TADS programming, a parody of IF, a meta-game? Perhaps it's a little of each. Sometimes when playing it, I had the feeling of being the victim of a strange practical joke. In any case, the meta-game aspects are pretty obvious. This is a game about a game that has crashed just when you were about to win; only a few steps to your east, a "You have won" sign beckons enticingly. However, the way is blocked by a large hole that's just appeared in the ground, and as you explore this little world (just five rooms), you'll find that things have suddenly started to behave very strangely indeed.

True to his (or her, but for simplicitly I'll be politically uncorrect and use the masculine pronoun) pseudonym, the author has apparently tried to turn all the conventions of IF upside down. Doing this involves some wordplay, some self reference, and a lot of hacking of the TADS library.

The results are of dubious quality. In turning everything upside down, the author seems to have totally dispensed with internal logic and consistency. The world consists of a number of locations and objects, only very weakly connected and all behaving in very odd ways. There is basically no way of deducing how things will work, which means that the only way of solving the game - at least the only way I found - is pure trial and error. Paradoxically, the fact that there are very few actions to try makes this process of trial and error more, rather than less, frustrating; trying to do a lot of things with no apparent effect and no sensible messages can be very irritating indeed.

I played this game some time and got steadily more and more frustrated, getting nowhere, making some quite surprising discoveries about innoculous-looking objects, all of which turned out to be absolutely useless, and without getting a single point for my troubles. In desperation, I posted a plea for help on Usenet, and was kindly nudged in the correct direction; yet even with that help, some further trial and error was needed before I stumbled on a sequence of actions that actually won the game - but still without giving me any points.

It seems as if there's only one real puzzle in the game. In retrospect, its solution has a certain weird logic to it, but you must probably have as twisted a mind as the author to be able to solve it by reasoning - sheer luck or trial and error seem far more likely methods. The solution only involves one room and two objects; all the rest has apprently been put in either just because they're neat ideas or as red herrings.

The score (or rather, absense of score) seems to be a pure red herring; the game keeps telling you that you have zero points out of 86, but no action (not even winning the game) seems to increase it. All this is further aggravated by the fact that there seem to be a few genuine bugs in the program (for example, try taking the zero while carrying things, then putting it back in the swamp, or referring to it as "0" while carrying it) - but, of course, in this game you can never be sure whether the "bugs" are intentional or not.

The author should certainly be credited for his creativity. Many of the items in the game are very neat ideas, when seen in isolation; perhaps they should be viewed as jokes. The recursive description of the writing in the self-referential room is clearly a logical joke (logic's equivalent of a word game?). There are also some quite conventional (I'm shocked!) verbal jokes: the bogus error messages in the dark room are very funny, while other jokes fall flat on the ground.

However, when all these elements are just thrown together and presented as a game without any further explanation, the result is more frustrating than amusing. If there had been some hidden internal logic to be discovered it would have posed an intellectual challenge; but personally I don't find trying to solve puzzles that aren't there very challenging, especially when the only way forward seems to be trial and error; it just makes me feel like the author is pulling my leg.

Had this been made into a "real" game (where there actually is a point to it all) it could have been a great success. As it is, perhaps the most appropriate characterization would be to call it an anti-game. To the prepared and not-too-weak-of-heart player I suppose it can be quite a kick, but unleashing it on the unsuspecting contest judges without a warning is cruel.

First, I am going to apologize to every author whose game I am taking apart with tweezers below. I'm sure you'll all refuse to speak to me for a month or so after reading my analyses of your games. I promise you this, however. I will endeavor to explain WHY I say the things I say. There will be no 'empty' criticism in these articles if I can help it.

		[This space intentionally left blank.]


Toonesia is not a visionary game. Let me start by saying that. The author has no artistic pretensions coming into this game. Considering the subject matter, that's probably just as well. :)

TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Jacob did a pretty good job with his parser, and the appearance of his game. He's a bit short on synonyms in certain areas, like trying to put on the carrot cologne, but he has some code that holds up well under fire.

PLOT: While not exactly original, Toonesia is a work of inspired borrowing from various cartoons. My problem with the plot is its strict linearity. It borrows from the obstructionist school of game writing. I would suggest to Jacob that he needs to loosen up his plots more, and allow the player more room to breathe. This may not really be a valid complaint, as the competition had tight time constraints, but it is one I will bring up just in general. A good plot tree, to me, looks something like this:

			      / | \
			    2   3   4
			  / | X | X | \
			5   6   7   8   9
			  \ |    \  |   |
			    A       B   C
			    |	      \ |
			  END1	      END2
There are many other significant plot forms, but this is a good, solid one.

ATMOSPHERE: I can't complain too much about this. Jacob did an admirable job portraying the world of cartoons. I even felt like saying, "Shhhh! Be Vewy, Vewy Qwiet." at one point. Concrete suggestions: More mobile NPCs, a few more scenery objects (most of the rooms were too empty.), and a few more hints of the wackiness that makes cartoon so near and dear to so many of us. Essentially a very good job in this area, though.

WRITING: I'd like to point out one room description, and a quick player action.

Inside the Mine

You are inside a vast cave that vanishes into darkess on all sides, except for the entrance to the west. The lush carpet of wealth contained herein is enough to make even you, Elmo Fuld, millionaire, gasp. A narrow beam of sharp desert light flows in from outside and reflects off a ruck of rubies, from where it bounces off into brood of beryl, heads for a heap of heliotrope, crashes into a clot of carnelian, hurries to a hunk of hyacinth, bashes into a battillion of bloodstone, careens into a cohort of carbuncle, makes for a murmuration of moonstone, and, completely zonked, catches some z's in a crowded zareba of cubic zirconium.

>get jewels

As you reach down to pick up a gem off the huge pile, you recall something your accountant said to you yesterday: "Mr. Fuld, right now, you're in the nine-nine-point-nine-percent tax bracket. If your value increases by more than a thousand dollars before the end of the fiscal year, you'll be in the one hundred percent bracket, and you'll have to give everything you own to the government." Since any one gem in this mine would be worth several thousand at least, you realize that your tax bracket prevents you from taking anything out of here (except that [CENSORED by GKW]).

Oooh, that rascally bracket!

Solid, humorous writing. Nothing too pretentious, nothing too terribly obnoxious (although the gem listing comes close), and it's good for a chuckle or two. I like this sort of writing quite well. Not everything has to be deep and meaningful, or as symbolic as The Mind Electric's writing. I'm perfectly okay with this. If I had any suggestions about Jacob's writing, I would just mention that his writing style is particularly suited to brevity and straightforwardness. Again, I *like* that, but I'm not sure if he's completely comfortable with that style. I have a tendency to be long-winded and flowery, so it's a relief for me to see short, concise descriptions.

PUZZLES: Toonesia's puzzles are okay. I was too busy being entertained by the fun writing to worry about them too much. I did need the hints to figure out where the gun was hidden though, more out of impatience than any real difficulty in the game.

CHARACTERS: Somehow, although these characters are described as doing more, they are less interesting than the fox in A Change in the Weather. It's probably that I expect a lot if you let a character talk. Taz was just right, but Bud and Dizzy fell flat-footed. (That's a joke, son.) I wanted to talk to them about what they were doing, about their careers. I wanted to see Dizzy occasionally reenter the mine to grab some more gems (possibly throwing you out if you try to enter with a "Mine mine mine! They're all mine!" Hell, I even wanted to marry the disguised rabbit at the end just to see if I could do it, since it says that you want to in the game. To Jacob, I would suggest expanded topics of conversation for his NPCs in the future, along with a more aggressive, less passive role in the game's action.

Uncle Zebulon's Will

Uncle Zebulon's Will is a complacently tradition, highly effective narrative. It combines the quirky unreality of Trinity with the gizmo-filled atmosphere of Spellbreaker or Starcross. Of course, I don't say this merely to lavish praise upon Magnus, but also to point out certain key elements that make the game _work_. First and foremost is that the game elements are well balanced in comparison to one another. Other entries had excellent stories, a good level of difficulty, interesting puzzles, but none of them combined all these things as well as Zebulon did.

TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Magnus Olsson did an excellent job with his parser. I found a few small problems though. Notably, the lack of the nouns: idol, and fountain in certain spots. There was also difficulty with the wood shavings puzzle that smacked of guess the verb ever so slightly. The final complaint I have has to do with the use of the pronoun 'it'. If you were to type 'search chair', you find a wand, however, immediately typing 'get it' returns "You can't have the armchair." Magnus needed to setit(wand) [For you TADS users out there.] Still, these are very minor complaints, all things considered.

PLOT: Zebulon shines here. You are drawn into the story quickly, with a small opening area, and an NPC early on. The notes and letters from Zeb are excellent expository, brief and to the point, while remaining in character. Uncle Zebulon's personality comes across through these writings, and we get an idea of just why he's our favorite uncle. You come for a small remembrance of your uncle, but leave with a world of adventure ahead of you.

This is an often-used device in fantasy fiction. Beginning with small expectations, you build up the importance of a minor task until it has become a monumental undertaking of heroic proportions. Think of Bilbo Baggins and the riddle match with Gollum. He walks away from it with a handy little invisibility ring, or so we think. Turns out to be much more important than that, and the adventures of his descendants suddenly take on mythic proportions.

This technique is a good one because it doesn't create any overblown expectations in the player. He gets more than he asked for, in fact.

ATMOSPHERE: Just a brief room description:


You're in what uncle Zebulon used to call his study, but which also doubled as his bedroom. You remember this room as being full of books: not only the bookshelves, but the desk was overflowing with books and pieces of paper, and there were always stacks of books on the floor as well.

Now, the bookshelves gape empty; the narrow, rickety bed is gone, as are the soft carpets. Only your uncle's desk remains, along with the smell of old books and stale tobacco smoke. The only door leads north, back into the hall.

On the desk you see a book and a crystal ball.

To me, when I read this, I was outraged, as though my uncle really had died, and my relatives had gone scrounging through his house like a pack of wild vultures. You are given memory ties with your uncle in the first paragraph, and then the current status of the room. This is a common pattern in uncle Zeb's house, and I got angrier and angrier as I went along. I tend to heavily 'get into character' when I'm playing text adventures, and this was no exception. Magnus uses this juxtaposition of past and present to create a feeling of continuity, and make the world more real.

WRITING: The writing, I have little to say about that has not already been said. Magnus claims that the writing is rather plain. Perhaps it is. But consider for a moment how well this works. I find that the writing style, involving ordinary descriptions, run-of-the-mill adjectives and so forth, provides a perfect foil to the fantastic world in which the game is set. In fact, the writing is just down-to-earth enough to keep me believing in the magical world of the irrepressible Zebulon. If I was a visitor to Zeb's world from Earth, surely everything would seem strange and marvellous to me. Adjectives like eldritch and mystical would abound. But the I in the game has lived in this world all my life. Why should things appear unusual to that me until I get to the alternate world? When I get there, the writing compensates and becomes more stylish. I call this not plain writing, but staying in character.

PUZZLES: The puzzles were all logical enough and simple enough that I beat the game without hints, and still had a great time doing it. What greater praise could there be? The crystal ball was a big help on certain puzzles. Without it, I wouldn't have searched the shavings, and probably wouldn't have realized that the tomato was important. With it, these puzzles dropped back to a reasonable level of difficulty.

CHARACTERS: The demon and uncle Zeb were the only two NPCs in the game. The demon was standard, boring, and mostly there as a puzzle. He might have reacted to more things being done to/shown to/asked of him, but that's the biggest criticism Zebulon will get from me.

To offset the rather standard, rather underdeveloped demon, we have uncle Zeb. He appears nowhere in the game, but his presence pervades the entire game. In a zen sort of way, the game and Zeb are one. We are given all sorts of hints and tidbits about him, rather like the journal entries used so cleverly in _Theatre_. In this way, Zeb takes on a life of his own, albeit a fairly eccentric, cynical life. Still, I wouldn't mind having an uncle like him, and again, wishing he were a real relative is high praise indeed.

That concludes my analyses for now. I will continue this practice in future issues of SPAG, unless there is some great demand that I discontinue it.

I just want to say a last thank you to everyone who helped out with the contest, either by voting, donating prizes, entering it, or, to Volker Blasius, maintaining it on ftp.gmd.de. It's been a great first contest, and I hope to see even more entries next year.

1.) Also, I am interested in finding someone to take over the vote counting next year. It's a lot of work, so be prepared to put at least a few hours into it. Email me if interested in either doing it, or automating the process for me.

2.) If you are interested in becoming an official betatester for next year's competition, please email me and let me know. You will not be eligible to vote, but you will get to play the games much earlier than anyone else. Please be sure that you will have some free time in which to do this. It will involve spending several hours on each entry, but you will only be betatesting each game once, as long as I get enough volunteers for this job.

3.) If you have prizes you wish to donate for next year's competition, get in touch with me and let me know.

4.) For those of you interested in entering next year, here are my prelimary first draft rules. Again, short and sweet and to the point, but expanded somewhat to cover some contingencies that occured this year.

The MAIN Rule: The text adventure you enter must be winnable in under two hours. Judges will be asked to rate it after playing for that long.

The MINOR Rules:

A) The text adventure you enter must be completely original, and your own work. You may not re-use an older game you have written by porting it to TADS or Inform. [Basically, this would disallow MiSTings, which are more controversy than they're worth.] All entries will be uploaded to ftp.gmd.de within a 48 hour period. Entries uploaded before or after that will be disqualified. All entries will be anonymous this time, more to follow on this later. Possibly will entail use of the anon service.

B) You must keep the text adventure to yourself until the Upload Window. Do not show it to anyone else who might be voting in the competition until that time. You may opt, however, to have it betatested by the contest's official betatesters, and only them. They will be under strict orders not to spend more than X hours betatesting each game, but there will be 2-4 'drafts', and your game will be tested by different betatesters each draft.

Possible Deadlines:

1st Beta: April X, 96.
2nd Beta: April X, 96.
3rd Beta: May X, 96.
Final Draft: End of May, 96.
Voting: End of Sept, 96.

Alternately, we can have the games due after summer break, etc. Please send me your thoughts on this.

As the great Schnozzola used to say, "Good night, Missus Calabash, wherever you are."
Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!