IFRO

Great persecutors are recruited among martyrs whose heads haven't been cut off.
E. M. Cioran


Login | Register


Username:
Password:

Who is Online

We have 676 registered Members.

There are no Members online.

There are 20 Guests online.

6 Stars IFReview Rating Spacestation

IFReviewed by Paul OBrian on 2006-07-19 06:28 

Game Profile

Author
David Ledgard

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Inform6

Release Year
1998

IFR Overall Rating
4 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
Several years ago, Graham Nelson released a piece of work he modestly referred to as a "parsing exercise." This exercise really was a short game, a competition-sized game before there was a competition. It included the spell system from Enchanter, and several good puzzles. In fact, it was very loosely based on the sample transcript included in Infocom's original distribution of Enchanter. This game was called Balances, and it was a big hit with the IF community. It's probably the most-played "exercise" in the IF Archive. It also spurred a discussion, which reoccurs from time to time, about what fun it would be to create games based on the sample transcripts from various Infocom games. Now, David Ledgard has been the first person to turn that notion into a reality. He took the sample transcript from Planetfall and (apparently with the permission of Activision) implemented it in Inform, also extending it a bit so that it would comprise a full, winnable game (the transcript ends with the player's death.) Where Balances only took a couple of ideas from the Enchanter transcript, Space Station lifts the Planetfall transcript almost verbatim. Unfortunately, the results are a little mixed.

The transcript itself is great reading. It's funny, interesting, and well-written. Consequently, the pieces of Space Station that are copied straight from the transcript are also funny, interesting, and well-written. This is not something for which the author can really take credit, though I'm certain it was a fair amount of work to do all the transcribing and implementing. Ultimately this section of the game occupies a rather shadowy realm of authorship, its text written by an Infocommie (one presumes Steve Meretzky), and its code implied by the written text, but the final code of Space Station was written by someone else, and while he certainly implemented it in the spirit of the transcript he also (of necessity, or from an enterprising spirit) added quite a bit of his own. The seams between the two parts of the game are sometimes all too visible. For example, a scene outside the space station's window is described (in part) thus: "Through the large observation window, you see the milky way. Where the stars are scattered thinly, and the cold of space seeps in." When I read that, I thought "Surely Meretzky didn't write that sentence fragment!" I was right -- he didn't. It was a part of the game's "extensions", and the grammatical error grated quite harshly against the polished, accomplished prose in other parts of the game. Sometimes the problem was just as bad when the game didn't extend itself -- it was quite jarring to try a legitimate (included in the room description) direction and run into the terse reply "Unimplemented!" On the other hand, there were some very funny moments in Space Station, moments that I was sure were a part of the transcript but in fact were part of the extensions as well. It was an extra treat to find out that those parts weren't authored by Infocom. The problem is that once any seams at all showed, the split between the transcript and the rest of the game was constantly on my mind, and grammar and spelling errors (of which the game has a few) felt all the more glaring because of it.

This is a cautionary tale for anyone who decides to implement one of the Infocom transcripts. The transcripts themselves are generally excellent, as they should be from a professional company which had the important task of explaining interactive fiction to a novice public. They are well-written and entertaining, with good settings and clever puzzles. To implement one of these transcripts so that it becomes a good game in its own right, you need a few things. You need to be able to write so well that nobody will be able to tell where the transcript prose stops and yours starts. You need to be able to make your sections of the game as entertaining as the transcript section. You need to be able to extend the setting of the transcript rationally, without introducing a foreign tone or feel. You need to be able to come up with puzzles that are consistent with those in the transcript, and are done as logically as the pre-written ones. If you can do all that, then absolutely write a transcript-based game (assuming you can secure Activision's permission, of course). Then again, if you can do all that, why waste your talent on adapting transcripts?

Paul OBrian Profile

Name Paul OBrian
Gender Male

Also IFReviewed by

Andrew Plotkin

This IFReviewer IFReviews

- 1-2-3...
- 2112
- A Bear
- A Crimson Spring
- A Day for Soft Food
- A Day In The Life Of A Superhero
- A Good Breakfast
- A Light's Tale
- A Moment of Hope
- A New Day
- A Night Guest
- A Paper Moon
- A Party to Murder
- Aayela
- Acid Whiplash
- Ad Verbum
- Adoo's Stinky Story
- Aftermath
- Al Otro Lado
- Alien Abduction?
- All Things Devours
- Amnesia
- an apple from nowhere
- And the Waves Choke the Wind
- Arrival, or Attack of the B-Movie Cliches
- Asendent
- At Wit's End
- Augustine
- Aunt Nancy's House
- Babel
- Baluthar
- Bane of the Builders
- Beat the Devil
- Begegnung am Fluss
- Being Andrew Plotkin
- Bellclap
- Best of Three
- Bio
- Blade Sentinel
- Blink
- Bliss
- Blue Chairs
- Blue Sky
- BOFH
- Breaking the Code
- CaffeiNation
- Calliope
- Carma
- CASK
- Castle Amnos
- Cattus Atrox
- CC
- Cerulean Stowaway
- Chaos
- Chicks Dig Jerks
- Chronicle Play Torn
- coffee quest II
- Color and Number
- Colours
- Coming Home
- Comp00ter Game
- Concrete Paradise
- Congratulations!
- Constraints
- Crusade
- Curse of Eldor
- Curse of Manorland
- Death to my Enemies
- Delusions
- Desert Heat: A Romance Of Sorts
- Dinner with Andre
- Domicile
- Don't Be Late
- Down
- Downtown Tokyo, Present Day
- E-Mailbox
- Elements
- Enlightenment
- Enlisted
- Episode In The Life Of An Artist
- Erehwon
- Eric's Gift
- Escape from Crulistan
- Evacuate
- Exhibition
- Fear
- Fifteen
- Film at Eleven
- Fine Tuned
- For a Change
- Fort Aegea
- Four in One
- Four Mile Island
- Four Seconds
- Friday Afternoon
- Fusillade
- Futz Mutz
- Getting Back To Sleep
- Glowgrass
- Goofy
- Goose, Egg, Badger
- Got ID?
- Gourmet
- Grayscale
- Guard Duty
- Guess the Verb!
- Halothane
- Hell: A Comedy of Errors
- Hercules First Labor
- Heroes
- House of the Stalker
- Human Resources Stories
- Hunter, in Darkness
- I Didn't Know You Could Yodel
- I Must Play
- Identity
- Identity Thief
- In the End
- In the Spotlight
- Informatory
- Internal Documents
- Invasion of the Angora-fetish Transvestites from the Graveyards of Jupiter
- Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win
- Jane
- Janitor
- Jarod's Journey
- Journey from an Islet
- Jump
- Kaged
- Kallisti
- King Arthur's Night Out
- Kissing the Buddha's Feet
- Koan
- Kurusu City
- Leaves
- Letters from Home
- Life on Beal Street
- Lightiania
- Lists and Lists
- Little Billy
- Little Blue Men
- little girl in the big world
- Lomalow
- Lovesong
- Lunatix
- Lurk. Unite. Die. Invent. Think. Expire.
- Madame L'Estrange and the Troubled Spirit
- Magocracy
- Maiden of the Moonlight
- Marooned
- Masquerade
- Metamorphoses
- Mingsheng
- Moments Out of Time: Explorer Type
- Moonbase
- Murder At The Aero Club
- Muse: An Autumn Romance
- Music Education
- My Angel
- My First Stupid Game
- Mystery Manor
- MythTale
- Nevermore
- Ninja V1.30
- No Room
- No Time to Squeal
- Not Much Time
- Of Forms Unknown
- On the Farm
- Only After Dark
- Order
- Out of the Study
- Outsided
- Pass the Banana
- Persistence of Memory
- Phlegm
- Photograph: A Portrait of Reflection
- Photopia
- Phred Phontious and the Quest for Pizza
- Piece of Mind
- Pintown
- Planet of the Infinite Minds
- Poor Zefron's Almanac
- Prized Possession
- Prodly the Puffin
- PTBAD 3
- Punk Points
- Punkirita Quest 1: Liquid
- Purple
- Ralph
- Rameses
- Ramon and Jonathan
- Rape, Pillage, Galore!
- Redeye
- Remembrance
- Rent-A-Spy
- Research Dig
- Return to Zork: Another Story
- Reverberations
- Rippled Flesh
- Risorgimento Represso
- Ritual of Purification
- Ruined Robots
- Sardoria
- Scary House Amulet!
- Scavenger
- Schroedinger's Cat
- Screen
- Shade
- Shadows on the Mirror
- She's Got a Thing for a Spring
- Silicon Castles
- Sins Against Mimesis
- Six Stories
- Skyranch
- Slouching Towards Bedlam
- Small World
- SNOSAE
- Sophie's Adventure
- Splashdown
- Spodgeville Murphy and the Jewelled Eye of Wossname
- Square Circle
- Stack Overflow
- Stargazer: An Adventure In Outfitting
- Stick It to the Man
- Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country
- Sting Of The Wasp
- Stone Cell
- Stranded
- Strangers in the Night
- Stupid Kittens
- Sun and Moon
- Sunset Over Savannah
- SURREAL
- Sweet Dreams
- Sylenius Mysterium
- Symetry
- Tapestry
- Temple of Kaos
- Temple of the Orc Mage
- Terrible Lizards
- The Adventures of the President Of The United States
- The Atomic Heart
- The Beetmonger's Journal
- The Best Man
- The Big Mama
- The Big Scoop
- The Case of Samuel Gregor
- The Cave of Morpheus
- The Chasing
- The City
- The Clock
- The Coast House
- The Commute
- The Cruise
- The Djinni Chronicles
- The Edifice
- The End Means Escape
- The Erudition Chamber
- The Evil Sorcerer
- The Fat Lardo and the Rubber Ducky
- The Frenetic Five vs. Sturm und Drang
- The Gostak
- The Granite Book
- The Great Xavio
- The HeBGB Horror!
- The Isolato Incident
- The Land Beyond the Picket Fence
- The Last Just Cause
- The Lost Spellmaker
- The Masque of the Last Faeries
- The Meteor, The Stone And A Long Glass Of Sherbet
- The Moonlit Tower
- The Newcomer
- The Obscene Quest of Dr. Aardvarkbarf
- The Orion Agenda
- The Pickpocket
- The PK Girl
- The Plant
- The Realm
- The Recruit
- The Tempest
- The Temple
- The Test
- The Town Dragon
- The Trip
- The Water Bird
- Thorfinn's Realm
- Threading the Labyrinth
- Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!
- Timeout
- To Otherwhere and Back
- Tookie's Song
- Trading Punches
- Transfer
- Trapped in a One-Room Dilly
- Travels in the Land of Erden
- Triune
- Typo
- Unholy Grail
- Unnkulia X: Escape of the Sacrificed
- Unraveling God
- Vicious Cycles
- VirtuaTech
- VOID: CORPORATION
- Volcano Isle
- What-IF?
- When Help Collides
- Where Evil Dwells
- Who Created That Monster?
- Winter Wonderland
- Withdrawal Symptoms
- Wrecked
- Yes, Another Game With A Dragon!
- You Are Here
- You Were Doomed From the Start
- Zero One
- Zero Sum Game
- Zombie!