Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Interactive Fiction Community - A Literary Dead End

The Interactive Fiction Community has degenerated itself into an incestuous, peer-worshiping, elitist echo chamber. It has crushed any actual "free speech" as it transformed itself into a safe-space for marginalized people that are entitled to release any piece-of-shit work of interactive fiction and the community can only say nice things about them. Any actual critical discussion labels you a hatemonger. (This doesn't count scathing, unfounded reviews as those aren't real reviews as will be discussed in a minute.) Every work you release to this community needs to have trigger labels so that you don't, in any way, put a dent in the uber-PC fantasy world in which these "authors" have immersed themselves. And this doesn't mean just trigger warnings where they might actually, arguably, be warranted such as extreme violence. (I don't believe they should ever be used as adults who read things need to be prepared to read something upsetting.) They want trigger warnings for any and every tiny aspect of life that might trigger some singular asshole. I'm not kidding. There was even discussion about how, if your work includes food (just a passing reference, even) then there needs to be a trigger warning about food in case someone reading it has an eating disorder. I wish I was kidding. I wish I wasn't describing such an asinine community.
Another reason to avoid this literary cul-de-sac is the utterly embarrassing amount of hagiographic peer-worship that goes on. The IF community is not happy having among them visionaries of the craft; people who have done much for the community such as creating software so that people can actually code IF with ease. No, the community decides to worship these people as if they were saints among men. Let's take a look at some examples.
Of course, we need to start with Saint Zarf, that is Andrew Plotkin, who, I will readily admit, truly is a "visionary" with the craft of Interactive Fiction and this is proven by his countless contributions of software, games, and other organizational credits. But you know what? That's really it. I've seen community members embarrass themselves, clamoring over one another, to sycophantically greet and compliment Plotkin as he enters any chat room and they are sure to refer to him only as "Good Sir".
Plotkin's sense of humor is a yawning chasm of nothingness. In fact, I've never met anyone online with such a lack of a sense of humor. I take that back. Most of the other well-known IFers suffer the same, sad humorless disposition. Like Jacq, the annoying busybody who is married to the irrelevant and insufferable critic Sam Ashwell whose reviews have gone downhill in quality faster than a short-run sitcom. These bloviating asshats wouldn't know a good joke if it took a dump in their mouths.
There's Ryan Veeder, IF's Golden Boy who can do no wrong. If there were a full IF convention sometime, I'm positive there would be dozens of IFers lined up to suck his dick. His latest work was about fly fishing. Fly fishing. And the 5-star reviews and ratings couldn't come in fast enough. Fly fishing.
Let's not forget Porpentine. At this point, as far as the IF community is concerned, Porpentine can literally upload a jpg of one of her turds and it would place in the top 10 of any IF competition. Porpentine is actually a terrible, terrible writer. It's not even a matter of style over substance because there is neither. Some of her works are WRITTEN ALL IN CAPS. This is seen as unbelievably artistic of the highest caliber among many in the community. And I'm not attacking her because of her advocation of trans rights. Every human should be an advocate of trans rights. My best friend is trans so don't bother accusing me of being hateful. I'm positive I've done more for trans rights than nine out of ten people reading this. So don't bother going there. I'm speaking about how Porpentine's "stories" are a miasma of asinine cliches. It's like this: I attended art school in Philadelphia. There are two types of art school students: actual budding artists who take their craft seriously, and green-haired, pierced and booted crybabies who say things like "Oh, I'm too weird to go to class today." Yeah, Porpentine is obviously the latter. The community has rallied around her talentless ass, circling their wagons, ready to lash out at any of her critics, branding them as hateful. I've been messaged by jerk-offs trying to admonish me for daring to inquire if Porpentine is actually any good or if people are just parading around her like jackasses.
Another huge problem with this sad excuse of an online community is how, in their zeal to protect everyone's fucking feelings, they allow critics (or any untalented asshole who fancies himself a critic (see Patrick Brian Mooney)) to write scathing reviews chock full of unfounded opinions and, unbelievably to me, totally wrong information. Basically, in short, if I wrote in my game that the cow was brown, a critic will say that I described it as red. This obviously isn't a specific example, it's to say that I've seen these terrible armchair critics write shit about people's games that just weren't true. And the artist can't correct them because that's against the community's asinine competition rules. They coddle jerk-offs that do that while the author and the exposure to the work suffers. It's a case of stifling speech and unpopular opinions.
If you post an unpopular opinion on the forum, expect it to be removed and expect to be suspended. I've had idiot IFers like Jenni Pelodna who attempted to dictate how I should tweet and the language she wanted me to use instead of the uncomfortable thing I said, whatever it was. I had to remind her, like I've reminded Zarf more than once, that if they want to control the conversation, they need to start private forums. Telling someone how to tweet is just ignorant. 
Anytime on the forums anyone mentions anything the least bit political, Zarf exasperatedly chimes in and discourages (or outright forbids) it. I still don't know what he has against any sort of free-form political discussion. Most likely, he feels that only he knows how everything is currently working politically in America and therefor, we shouldn't bring it up on the forums as he just doesn't have the time to lead us idiots through such a treacherous conversation.
These are people who do not understand the concept that, if you don't like the forum thread you're reading, you are free and clear to jettison that thread, and try to find something that isn't uncomfortable for them. No. For them, they need to control what is said and written about interactive fiction (among other topics), and they believe humor, at best, is a polite giggle at a cocktail party, and nothing beyond that. If I was on Reddit and I was reading something I disagreed with by someone I don't like, I either cast my opinion and/or move on. The IF community would move to have that Redditor suspended and their posts removed. 
And the IF community wonders why it's dying. They wonder why they can't attract new members to their dying craft but they coddle and protect critics who write scathing reviews that only discourage authors. They expect a certain language and way of communicating on their forums and twitter threads and discourage anything that doesn't immediately cozy up to their Mount Rushmore of certain IF assholes or any sexual minority. (I'm gay so save me your knee-jerk responses.) Their yearly competition is so out of control, close to a hundred entries litter the playing field and, apparently, an author's behavior outside of the competition's time frame, can still be reprimanded or expelled from the competition. So, if they don't like something you wrote in your blog in January, I hope for your sake it goes unnoticed or else the cunt Jacq Ashole will take you out of the SEPTEMBER competition.
At this point, it's obvious that the IF community should be quite happy our country's Constitution is disintegrating. It's not something they're used to. They don't like the idea of average community members saying things that aren't things that their handful of worshiped idols would say.
I used to love interactive fiction but after eight years, I see the community is still infested with snarky, smarmy, haughty, untalented, unfunny, humorless, thin-skinned, annoying losers that have destroyed its appeal. 
There's tons more but I'm tired of wasting time thinking about them. I might think of more to add later but for now, that's it. I'm done with that ignorant rabble of freaks.
Don't bother commenting. Your comments won't be read or approved.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Patrick Mooney Just Plain Sucks Ass

Here's my letter to conceited assbag, Patrick Mooney, his email is, a lowly teacher's aid / campus lowlife at UC Santa Barbara. He's one of those untolerable blowhards who plasters his "credentials" all over the internet while posting grammar-nazi-manifesto "reviews" for different works. He claims to be a graduate student but I checked the roster of that university's associates and of course he's nowhere to be listed. He's an asshole; you know the type, I'm sure.

"Retard, your review of my game was so unnecessarily scathing, it belied your obvious agenda. You complained about my writing in a review that was as obtuse as it was boring. You complained about such minor things, I’m embarrassed for you to see how you must’ve painstakingly worded your hit piece. Sad. I can’t believe I even found it, buried as it is. Well, you sobbingly stabbed-out at a stranger. Hope you feel better. Btw- I got a cash prize for the game. What did you get for writing your shitty and juvenile review? You have nothing of real substance happening in your life so you’ve filled the internet with a mudslide of ignorant shit. I couldn’t even find a normal email for your stupid ass. Ugh, you’re what sucks about literary communities. Anyway, have fun combing through more talented authors works for tiny grammar mistakes to highlight and complain about. I’m sure you’re not an embarrassment to your friends, family, and coworkers. You’re an asshole but I’m sure you know it."

Then I made memes of his ugly ass. He's the perfect example of how someone who can read and write automatically fancying themselves as a critic. His review was an obvious bullshit hit piece and I already found out he's the one who scored my game a spiteful 1. Such an obvious douche.

Update: He replied trying to sound aloof and smarmy but he only came off looking lazy and sounding stupid. It was actually embarrassing to read.
Better luck next time, Pat.

New update: He just tried to leave a smarmy comment on this blog entry, neglecting to realize that I would just deny it. What a way to waste your precious genius time, Pat.

Even newer update: I told him I put him on my Ignore list on the IF forums and I still get notifications that he's repeatedly attempting to message me. Get over yourself, Patty Cakes. Someone called you out on your shit and you didn't like it. Welcome to the internet, you ignorant shaved ape.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

"Clusterflux" Postmortem (IF Comp 2019 entry)

One thing I've learned about crafting a work of interactive fiction is to "narrow your focus". I've always wanted to write an entire IF city that a player can explore to their heart's desire but the story would be thin compared to the setting and I'm thinking IF players nowadays might be looking to play something more punchy and streamlined; a story in which they can take part and not a gigantic literary world in which to find your own fate. I'm not saying players who like the latter don't exist, and I'm not saying I'm never going to create such an IF world, but for now, and for competitions' sake, I felt I needed to make just one "movie" and not a "cinematic universe". That can always come later.
So, instead of a whole town, I focused on one house. Sure, it's big house, but nothing takes place outside of its yards. It is a boarding house and the player lives in the third floor apex and the adventure is basically the players trekking downwards from attic apartment, to the second floor, and then the ground floor. Before the end, however, the player must also venture into the basement, a place he barely knew existed occupied by a man he didn't know lived there.
The story is, the man in the basement has created a crude but functioning time machine with which he uses to exact brutal revenge on people from his past, especially his childhood. His technological revenge scheme, however, quickly took a toll on reality and it began breaking down the more he used his machinery. Housemates began disappearing and strangers from other places and times started showing up.
Two such individuals are the player's companions throughout the game. A talking mongoose that looks like a cat to everyone else appeared and became the player's pet. And as the story begins, the player meets a young woman who seems to be from someplace and some time other.
To date, no one let me know that they noticed these two characters are based in real life:
Another fun fact: The Wasp Puzzle comes almost verbatim from my real life. I was living in a party house in the 90's with my grunge bandmates and slowly, I started noticing a wasp or two in my room. I would take care of it but then a few days later, even more wasps were hanging around. I had no idea where they were coming from. I was on the second floor so likely, they made a nest somewhere outside a window and they apparently had easy access into my room, and only my room. I was pretty busy back then, both working a lot in a restaurant and playing in my band. I let the problem keep exacerbating itself and, out of laziness and fatigue, I began crashing on the sofa downstairs. Before too long, if you opened the door to my room, you would be greeted with a scene from a 70's horror movie. The windows were crawling with countless wasps. It was truly a nightmare.
So, I had to armor myself up. I put on my hoodie with hood up, jeans, boots, gloves, goggles and a scarf. I charged in with a vacuum cleaner and other implements of insect destruction. The battle commenced.
Finally, it was done and I vacuumed the bodies of dead wasps for the rest of the day. Honestly, I don't remember how I stopped the incursion altogether but the big battle was the tipping point in my favor.
So I decided that would make a good IF puzzle.
Speaking of puzzles, I was happy to read that people were complimentary of my puzzles this game because I've never been great at making puzzles but I really made that one of my focuses this game. That was my main challenge this game; making sure the puzzles were well clued, integrated, and satisfying. I'm not saying everything in there is good, but I'm happy with the positive "buzz" I've read. (Pardon the pun).
My apologies for the kinda-annoying Hoosier cabinet puzzle. If you want to avoid it altogether, the exact solution is in the walklthrough.
As for the antagonist of the work, Blaine Wyatt aka "The Angriest Man In The World", I wanted a villain who's motivation is pure, unadulterated, abject hatred and brutal revenge. I also thought about what the time-travel ramifications would be if a man traveled back to his childhood where, say, some sort of abuse or humiliation happened to him at the hands of some adult; maybe a teacher. As the past event unfolds, the adult version of the child in the event (Blaine Wyatt) shows up to exact immediate revenge on the teacher. What would either the child or the teacher think at that moment? What sort of chaotic nightmare would that be? Sure there's a visceral moment of almost-justified violence, but then how we they be left? What would the child think just happened? Who was this violent savior? Basically, it's a bad idea. And doing these acts of temporal revenge chipped away at his sanity, both past and present while at the same time, his impossible machine in the basement began dismantling the rest of reality around the house, and, soon it will spread to the neighborhood, the town, and beyond.
What would you really do with a time machine? Would you go watch Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address? Or would you go back to finally punch in the mouth that bully of a gym teacher that took things too far when you were a kid? I seriously wonder which I would do.
Finally, I can address something mentioned in a couple of reviews. A complaint was that there were unused rooms and unneeded details. I don't quite get it. Even though I was narrowing my focus on one house, I still wanted to create an immersive environment. Not every room holds a clue. I don't understand the desire to play a game that's totally on the rails, setting up an order of rooms to explore from A to B to Z. I prefer letting the player wander a bit. And in one house, you can't get lost. Also, for time, I had to edit some things out. And one or two rooms DID have a puzzle or situation but they were removed so I could make the deadline.
I want to thank my beta-testers "Radical" Al Golden, Neil Butters, Francesco Tortorici, Joseph Geipel, Geoff Moore, and Syman Weed. And fuck the IF community; nothing but a literary culdesac on the internet.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Fail State - The Aborted Potential of Deep Sky Derelicts

I try out a lot of games from Good Old Games. They sometimes have decent prices on retro games. I don't get anything new from them, really. Well, one game caught my eye; Deep Sky Derelicts. I'm not linking it because it sucks on toast. It's a crappy game from an equally crappy "company" (I use the term loosely). 

The story is ok, I guess. You control a team of space scavengers who make their living spelunking gigantic, ancient spaceships floating in the cosmos. Sounds cute but your team can only have a max of 3 characters and this does feel very constricting when, later in the game, you face large groups of enemies. In general, get used to having your ass handed to you as a hat.
Why are these ships out there? Where is this base you start from where you pick up missions? How do you learn how to upgrade your equipment without randomly mashing icons and buttons until it seems you've made some sort of progress in ensuring your team is using up-to-level equipment?
DSD is one of those games that SHOULD be good. You WANT it to live up to it's, admittedly artistic, graphics. Unfortunately, it fails.
The combat is a card-based mini-game but despite my many upgrades and equipment swapping, I only see the same 5-8 cards. They vary per character depending on class, but it's not an exciting experience. At times, your character's "hand" is 5 Recharge Shield cards and no offensive options. 
Making things worse is the lack of documentation. No one could slap together any sort of manual to answer any of these problems. There IS an in-game glossary but that's it.
They've released some DLC wherein you can now explore a bit of a planet for your missions along with the derelict ships, but, again, no documentation to tell you how it works and what to expect. You buy it, load the game, and see absolutely no indication that additional content has been added.
The cherry on top? I tweeted the "company" to inquire about some of these issues and their "rep" berated me for daring to ask his company about the product they offer. Good stuff. Really good stuff.
Don't waste your time. DSD looks good but there's nothing but confusion and frustration under the hood.
Fuck you, DSD. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

DisapPoint-and-Click - Day of the Tentacle

I played Maniac Mansion when it first came out for my trusty Commodore 64. I, like many others, became enamored by the game with its charming 8-bit graphics, B-movie story line, and truly paranoia-inducing game play. Then, I went to college and, it being the early 90's, I was distanced from computer games for a few years, being busy at a bunch of other things. But I heard of Day of the Tentacle and I heard it was a sequel to MM so I assumed it would be a good game, once I finally got around to playing it.
Well, I finally did almost thirty years later, but hey, better late than never. I always looked forward to sitting around and catching up on all the point-and-click games I've missed and Tentacle was a title near the top of the list. 
I finally got my chance to play through a handful of point-and-clickers (as anyone who dropped by my Twitch site has seen). And one day I played Day of the Tentacle, excited for the wacky adventures I was about to have, but that day, the world went dark. The game was, and still is, the most disappointing game I've ever played. I guess I say that because of how I had in my head that this Tentacle game was a worthy sequel, just waiting for me to finally get to it.
I'll tell you what this game is. It's either an ersatz sequel slapped together carelessly and lazily OR it's a whole separate game that, in order to sell it, jammed Maniac Mansion references into it. For example, why is the Mansion now a motel? Seriously. Early in the game, you visit the mansion from the first game but now it's a hotel complete with lobby and sleeping guests. This occurs without any explanation. They just call it the mansion and you're supposed to just fucking roll with it.
So while moving through this motel, i mean, mansion, you meet characters supposedly from the first game but, of course, they are so altered and weird that they're basically unrecognizable. Tack on a retarded time-travel plot and you've got yourself a shrill game with no likable characters whatsoever.
The art direction is supposed to pay tribute to Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame but he's probably rolling in his grave if these obnoxious scenes are supposed to be a comparison. The voice acting is annoying, as well. The creators seem to think lisping is utterly hysterical as numerous characters have this speech impediment.
I won't be finishing this game and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone above the age of 6. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Text Games That Time Forgot: The Tower of the Elephant

I almost began this post by discussing the complicated career of Robert E. Howard. Being a huge fan, I wanted to mention a few things that most people may not know about the pulp fiction writer. Like how he was a pen-pal of H.P.Lovecraft's. Or how he didn't just churn out sword-and-sorcery tales but also tales of high adventure, historical romance, and countless stories of pirates, boxers, inquisitors and cowboys. He wrote literally hundreds and hundreds of stories and poems. Much more than even a prolific author like Stephen King, who doesn't give Howard a glowing review at all, really. I mean, Howard is only seen as the father of the genre of Pulp Fiction, or at least its visionary. He helped to influence, and was directly influenced by, writers of weird fiction such as Lovecraft. These are genres in which Stephen King writes. I can't name a genre King himself created. He also wrote more stories than King can ever hope to catch up to. And Howard did all this before his suicide AT THIRTY YEARS OLD. But whatever, Steve. 
Anyhoo, according to the Interactive Fiction Database, there is a veritable dearth of Robert E. Howard inspired works. One that stands out for many is Conan Kill Everything (2005) by Ian Habercorn but this is inspired by name-only along with a truckload of a lack-of-understanding the genre, the character, and the original author. Strangely, the work is well-received, having garnered 3/5 stars and a nomination for Best Individual PC in the XYZZY Awards that year. SPAG's William McDuff wrote that "There's not much of a plot or story to speak off, but given the source of the game, expecting one seems silly." Which is one of the most ignorant things I've read. And what I mean is it's genuinely ignorant of Robert E. Howard and the Pulp genre. No plot? Howard wrote compulsively. He had more plot ideas than Tolkien on acid, and in many more genres. You don't sell countless tales to magazines without them having intriguing plots.
(This misrepresentation stems from the smear campaign by a Mr. L. Sprague de Camp who spent decades ripping-off Howard's intellectual property and passing it off as his own. Sadly, also altering the stories so they really were just shit and he spent years writing about how Howard's only contribution was the character Conan and otherwise, he was an imbecile bereft of ideas. It wasn't until the late 70s and early 80s when fans of Howard's actual oeuvre pushed to restore his name and hold over his works.)
What was my point? Oh yeah. Interactive Pulp Fiction or lack thereof. Now we come to The Tower of the Elephant (2006) by Tor Andersson. The game was released during the annual Interactive Fiction Competition and won 15th place, which, out of 43 entries, ain't bad. It holds 3.5/5 rating and the two reviews on IFDB both saying the game is fine but suffers from some underimplementation.  
I completed it a few days ago and I agree that it is a worthy adaptation but could use more implementing in an otherwise immersive work. It does justice to the source material while allowing the player agency to take a different direction than Conan did in the original story. There's a definite feeling of satisfaction when reaching the end, however, in my opinion, there's too much of a reliance on the "wait" command during a couple of scenes.