IFComp Reviews: The Immortal and Eduard the Seminarist

I’m just getting back to these IFComp 2007 reviews again. Spoilers past the link.

As you step into your own thought, you feel kind of strange. For a moment you wonder if you are a psychonut? Maybe, you tell yourself.

–The Immortal

The Immortal takes place in a private cosmology of hobgoblins, space stations, and powerful immortals fighting a secret war. With hobgoblins. On space stations. Your character carries a katana around while wearing a space suit. It’s like a bootleg anime version of Sandman produced by a junior high school nerd. Eduard has a historical setting but is almost as obscure. It would have been nice to know this character’s background, and why the guards are so upset to see a seminarist wandering outside at night. Has the city been having problems with unruly priests throwing keggers?

These games are full of bugs. Really, really obvious bugs. In Eduard, try to WEAR THE CLOTHES and you’re told “You can’t wear that!” Take the clothes out of the closet, and you’re told that the closet “contains almost equal quantities of fresh and dirty clothes,” and is at the same time empty. You’ll find the same guard at both ends of the street. Apparently he teleports. Or maybe it’s a different guard who just happens to be reading the same book the first guard confiscated. It’s a bestseller!

Just a couple of examples from The Immortal: You find a bag in a room full of sleeping hobgoblins. You can pick it up and carry it away. If you open it a hobgoblin wakes up and kills you, even if there aren’t any hobgoblins around. Also, this game has a score, and you get points for doing the same thing over and over again. By the end of the game I had twenty points out of eleven. I could have had hundreds more if I were less easily bored.

Neither game can be finished without a walkthrough. The information you need to finish them isn’t there. At one point The Immortal wants you to LISTEN TO VOICES. The game doesn’t mention the word “voices” in any description. An easily missed transition text mentions “words,” but you might be excused for thinking they’re gone by the time you reach the next room. Eduard is worse. You don’t even know what you’re supposed to be doing until you look under the bed. Fortunately I habitually look under beds when playing IF games–why, I don’t know; I guess I just want to see if they’ve implemented dust bunnies. I’ll bet most people don’t. At one point Eduard wants you to tie a rope to your bed and climb out the window. It doesn’t mention there’s another bed in the room further from the window, but there is. If you type TIE ROPE TO BED the game thinks you mean the other bed, and you fall twenty feet from the end of the rope and die. When you UNDO you find that you can’t climb back in the window to try again: the game doesn’t understand what you want to do no matter how you phrase it.

To sum up:

  1. Really obvious bugs.
  2. No way to win without a walkthrough.

What is going on with these games?

Well, as I mentioned when I reviewed Packrat, they can’t have been beta tested adequately. But this looks like a special kind of inadequate beta testing. I have no way of knowing what was in these authors’ minds–which is kind of the point, natch–but it looks like they ran through the walkthrough once, didn’t see anything wrong, and thought their duty was done. It didn’t occur to them that the players might do anything that wasn’t in the walkthrough. It didn’t occur to them that anyone might try wearing some clothes, or taking a bag, or exploring both ends of a street–after all, none of that is in the walkthrough. It didn’t occur to these authors that important information might be missing from the game. Eduard‘s author knew that there were two beds in Eduard’s room. He didn’t notice that the information wasn’t equally available to the player.

A couple of years ago, Dan Shiovitz wrote an essay called “Think Like a Player!” Not only did Eduard the Seminarist and The Immortal‘s authors fail to think like players, I’m not sure they remembered that players are separate human beings who don’t share their own mental states.

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2 thoughts on “IFComp Reviews: The Immortal and Eduard the Seminarist

  1. Actually, going north from the top of the rope will take you back through the window.

    For what it’s worth, I too found the note under the bed without hints. To me, under the bed is just one of those places where you look in IF, like behind paintings and inside desk drawers. It often works when trying to locate small lost objects in real life, too.

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