IntroComp 2009 reviews

IFComp is still going on, but I've had these IntroComp reviews sitting on my hard disk long enough. So here they are.


Gossip has a really nice setting (playing a "journalist" of a trash magazine) that had me hooked right away. Playing further lead to a small disappointment compared to the expectations, but I would very much like to play either a reworked intro or preferrably a solid full game.

I didn't finish this one. I got as far as a cocktail party with a large amount of guests where I had to gather gossip about them. I didn't count but there were more than ten NPC's present. Talking with the waiter got me some tips on what to talk about with whom, but then that source ran out and it started to look like I would have had to write down the names of everyone and methodically go through everyone asking them about everyone else there. There were just too many of them and not enough personal interest in the characters for this to be anything else than a chore, so I gave up there.

There were some technical problems. I had a camera but i couldn't PHOTOGRAPH or TAKE A PHOTO. Some guesswork finally lead to TAKE PHOTO. Also the game suggested that there would have been a puzzle involved in catching the person I was supposed to photograph, but somehow I skipped that part by just walking into the location of the target.

There's no plotline or conflict or any motivation for the player character other than her profession. The game is not as much a game or a story but a gossip journalism simulation, but to work as such it should have the gameplay and puzzles significantly smoothed out.


Obituary tells the story of a woman who dies. The story doesn't end there; she ends up in some afterworldly place (Hell? The limbo? Back to Earth as a ghost?).

The game advances through cutscenes and the story is clearly the main point. The parser is there just so that the player could give the right command that triggers the next cutscene.

I got stuck once so bad that I had to look at the walkthrough. Turned out that you had to examine a thing twice to notice an important item, but the game never hinted at this and there was no reason or motivation for the player to do it. Contrived puzzles are often the result when the author wants to tell a story but thinks that "IF has to have puzzles". If the game is about the story, don't force puzzles in if they don't come naturally.

The player character has a nice amount of roughness and distinct personality. It's a good start for building the full game, and this is the intro I voted with the highest score.


Selves: Interactive Emo Poetry (ok that's not the real tagline but it should be) is thematically similar to Obituary but has the angst turned up five notches. And yes, you can cut your own wrists.

The unnamed player character seems to have caused a death of this woman whose body is conveniently lying next to a shovel. So far the goal can be easily guessed. Since you can't DIG with the shovel, some verb guessing leads to BURY BODY. Then the player is transported to an empty room (empty... like your soul) where you can CUT YOURSELF, but other than easing your existential pain with cliches I couldn't find anything more to do. Surprisingly CRY or DYE HAIR BLACK didn't work. Too bad this was the only game this year that didn't come with a walkthrough.

For some reason games and other fiction like this often create the mood by being vague throughout and purposefully avoiding giving any useful information to the reader. This is not the only way to create the mood the author is probably after, and Obituary demonstrates this with being much more powerful in building the mood using different techniques. It was bad luck for Selves that it was released together with Obituary. The comparison is inevitable and Obituary is the obvious winner.

2 thoughts on “IntroComp 2009 reviews

  1. Thanks for the kind words! In regards to the object you have to examine twice, my thought was that if you were stuck in an area with only one obvious way out you'd naturally wanna give it more than a single glance, and having the player notice what what was wrong on the first look made it too obvious what needed to be done and thus might result in him leaving without exploring or examining surroundings. I imagined people playing through it like examining once, then trying to go other places, then getting frustrated and taking a second look and *then* noticing what's noticed there... because that's exactly how a real human would act in that situation. So at that point the player is acting like Kristen, rather than playing a game. I really appreciate what you say about my mood-building because getting the player in the right 'mindset' for it is what I spend the most time on; if the player isn't sympathising at all with the PC then it's unlikely that he is going to enjoy the game, and though I make her somewhat unlikeable at first the rest of the game delves into what made her that way. But, if you don't care about her to start out with, then none of that will matter to you and there's really little point in playing beyond that point, I'd say. So I have to walk a line on being emotional but not too so; angry but not whiny, vulnerable but not weepy. This is something I cannot gauge at all on my own, I'm far too close to it, so it's good to know that people are responding well.

  2. I’m not a big fan of requiring frustration to solve puzzles, but examine-twice is ok if you hint the player to repeat the action (”You feel that the gizmo would need a second look” or something more subtle), or if the player has learned earlier that the game requires some things to be examined twice. If you’re concerned about the pacing, maybe you could have the scene advance after a fixed timer.

    I’m looking forward to the full game, good luck with that!

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