Monday, November 19, 2012

IfComp 2012 Retrospect

Time flew over the past 30 days or so due to having a new job that actually involves more coding and "IT stuff" in general. I had almost forgotten about the day the results would come in. I think a lot of IF authors who have entered any competition can probably relate to the feeling you get as you go to open the page to view the results; a feeling both of hope and apprehension. Personally, my thoughts right before viewing competition results are revealed to me are closer to "Let's see how bad it is." than "I wonder if I won?". I'm generally not much of an optimist.

Lunar Base 1 was not originally intended to be entered into any comp. It was intended to be short, though more bitter than sweet. After a few testers tried it out and I got more ideas for branching the story out a bit, I decided that it would be worthy of an entry.. though without any idea of how good an entry it would be.

There will be a Lunar Base 1 version 1.1 released to my website in the coming month or two. In this version, I will try to correct all grammar issues brought to my attention, as well as lock the damn "blue dial" and "lock button" down! I can't believe I missed that in my final release. I remember fixing it at one point, and must have got my versions screwed up before submitting. I didn't realize that was still in there until about the 1st of November. I never re-submitted after discovering it though because I figured the bug was a lot more minor than many of the bugs in the first release of Hallow Eve. As far as grammar mistakes, I am really not good at spotting these out as many times as I read my story, so I welcome any comments here or my email relating to to grammar mistakes you found. "Awkward wording" seems to be a style of mine, but outright bad grammar mistakes really bother me and I hope to eliminate them.

I'm overall happy with the results of IfComp this year. I did have a lot of fun coding on the game a bit at a time over the period of almost a year while listening to a lot of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and drinking a  lot of beers. Next up for me will be going back to my Interactive Dreaming experiment, and I've also been jotting ideas down over the past few months for an interactive fiction based in North Korea. The latter will have a graphical scenery window but won't be as graphic-intensive as Interactive Dreaming, but will have a different game and conversational mechanic altogether  I really can't say at this point which one is going to take off faster than the other.

Thanks again to the testers of this game! Having a lot of testers added a ton to my to-do list for newer test builds, which helped move things towards completion. There were a lot of good entries this year. I had a good feeling Marco Innocenti's game would place higher than mine by playing his work. His story was a lot more intricate and complex than Lunar Base 1 set out to be.

I'd like to point out some common complaints with the game and address them. Be warned if you haven't completed the game and do not want the plot spoiled, you probably don't want to see the following.

** Spoilers below!! **

1. Why couldn't the airlock procedure be automated?
This was intended design. I wanted to emphasize on the general deadliness of space, especially outside of low-earth orbit as well as showing how tedious it would be to live in such an environment. Also, the original prototype of this game did play more like a sort of simulation.

2. I found the obelisk and brought it back without doing anything with it on the moon. Nothing extra happened. Why?
Looking back I think that perhaps I should have added a line to an alternate ending that mentions that the obelisk was returned and that it would be studied. Though nothing beyond that. The "scary governmental space agency" in this story acts on a need-to-know basis.

3. Okay, I completed the "best ending". Did you just rip off 2001: A Space Odyssey?
This was definitely not intended. While there may be some similarities  I don't recall 2001 drawing connections with "aliens" to "gods with elongated heads worshiped by ancient religions" and other aspects of this story. I have seen and enjoyed this movie, but it was not really a conscious influence with Lunar Base 1 at all. A lot of the strange aspects of the story were meant to be left to the player's interpretation. Some of it still is. The original plot for the prototype was basically "Two guys go to the moon, things break down, and insanity occurs".  This was actually inspired by a story that a counselor told me at Space Camp as a kid; a completely fictional story about a lunar landing gone wrong and a man being stranded there. The man lost his mind, burned his face trying to repair an oxygen tank, and affixed make-shift blades to a pressurized glove to kill the first person that came to rescue this astronaut Freddy Kruger.

4. It took us this long to go back to the moon? Wait, we've never been before?
Yet another disappointing aspect of the story! But also, intended. I've always been fascinated with many aspects of space and space travel. At one point in my life I was spending too much time looking into my own  suspicions and theories on this topic. I felt that while it could be interesting to imply these sort of things, it would be noneffective and a bit tacky to have too many details written as why they are implied.. especially with a PhD physicist running the competition (heh-heh).