ParserComp 2021

Discuss text adventures here! The classics like those from Infocom, Magnetic Scrolls, Adventure International and Level 9 and the ones we're making today.

Moderators: Ice Cream Jonsey, AArdvark

User avatar
bryanb
Posts: 617
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:56 pm

ParserComp 2021

Post by bryanb »

Adam Sommerfield has announced that he'll be putting on a new edition of ParserComp this year. This is something that is long overdue in my view and I'm hoping the event will prove to be a big success. The submission window will open in May and voting will start in July so it'll be a rare summer IF competition. While all submissions must have a parser, it's a fairly open competition otherwise: games can have graphics, can be homebrew, can have adult content, and seemingly can be of any length. Adam is a ZIL guy so it will be interesting to see if this ParserComp will be as Glulx-heavy as the last one. Potentially this event could be a lot friendlier to Hugo, Alan, ZIL, and potentially even AGT developers than the big comp has become. Unfortunately Adam has said there won't be any prizes given out this year, but it sounds like that could change next time around if all goes well.

One thing that surprised me is that the whole competition will take place on itch.io. That's where you'll upload, download, and vote on games. I've downloaded and played games on itch.io before but I never needed to create an account there so this'll be a new experience. Evidently it's a popular platform for game jams so hopefully they have a system in place to prevent people from creating multiple accounts and vote spamming.

RFTK will definitely be covering ParserComp 2021!

User avatar
bryanb
Posts: 617
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:56 pm

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by bryanb »

ParserComp 2021 games are out and ready to play! I've been really looking forward to this. It looks like there are 18 entrants this year which isn't bad at all for the first year of a relaunched competition. It seems like there's a good variety of different types of games too. One game, Yesternight, is even written in AdvSys...that's a little unexpected. I remember trying to learn AdvSys many years ago and the manual making my head hurt. Maybe I could handle it better now?

User avatar
Jizaboz
Posts: 3215
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:00 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by Jizaboz »

Wow advsys..

Yeah I should try to check some of this out. I’ve been playing Cutthroats lately as far as IF courtesy of Roody hooking me up with Lost Treasures 2 to go with my LT1.

User avatar
bryanb
Posts: 617
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:56 pm

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by bryanb »

The first ParserComp 2021 game I chose to play is Return to the Stars by Adrian Welcker. I think it's been well established at this point that I tend to gravitate towards the space games even when they're suborbital or suboptimal. RttS felt instantly familiar and comfortable to me. The minute I saw I was locked up in a cell with little other than an air duct for company I felt at home. When it comes to duct games, I don't even ask myself if they're good or bad any more...the only important question is can you go inside the air duct or not? I'm happy to say the answer is YES in this case so it gets an obligatory 10 out of 10 in ductin' points which are the only points that truly matter.

RttS definitely belongs to the category of austere, mostly empty space text adventure games. Despite having played many similar games before, I still found it fun to explore the eerily empty prison, the abandoned barracks, and the foreboding environment of the planet you've been left on. Honestly, I do like the genre even though most austere, rather empty space adventures are annoying in exactly the same way. Sure, everything is underdescribed if described at all and the parser hates the word "over," but it's got atmosphere dammit. You wouldn't experience flashbacks of ALIEN.BAS if the parser actually worked properly all the time, would you? And if you do happen to actually be new to the genre, this isn't a bad place to start. There's quite a bit to do and explore, and it doesn't seem to be buggy. I hesitate to call it "well-implemented" mostly because parts of the game feel artificially hard because the game just doesn't tell you certain things about your surroundings that you should know.

Itch.io Link: Return to the Stars by Adrian Welcker

User avatar
bryanb
Posts: 617
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:56 pm

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by bryanb »

Game: Black Knife Dungeon by Arthur DiBianca (Inform -- Glulx)

Arthur DiBianca is fond of putting out games that initially look like but often don't play very much like text adventures. Every game I've played by him has used a really stripped down parser that only accepts a small number of commands. Black Knife Dungeon is his take on RPGs. You play an adventurer who wants to find the valuable relic hidden somewhere in a nearby dungeon. Maybe it isn't the ORB of ZOT, but it's probably something else just as good. You start out in a town with a tavern and a couple of shops. From there, you can journey to the dungeon. The game works as a series of missions. You go to the dungeon, you fight a bit, you get wounded, and then you return back to town where you can get supplies, information, and instant healing in preparation for your next dungeon trip. You level up not by accumulating experience, but by accomplishing a series of goals such as buying certain items and killing a certain number of monsters on a single dungeon run without returning to town. Leveling up enables you to go on to the next level of the dungeon and explore further.

BKD isn't the most sophisticated RPG you'll find, but it has its charms. Something about repetitive missions that let you horde money appeals to my monkey brain. There is also a certain amount of strategy required to level up because you have to choose which monsters to fight on a given run (some of the same general type are stronger than others, but you can determine their strength by subtle changes in their descriptions) and which to avoid. Also, some monsters are more vulnerable to magical attacks than physical or vice versa. What disappointed me the most is that the game doesn't benefit much at all for being theoretically both an RPG and a text adventure. DiBianca is just too eager to strip out what he thinks are superfluous elements, and it always seem to be the traditional text adventure elements that are first on the chopping block. The parser message given when you try to examine something sounds almost gleeful: "You won't need to EXAMINE things in this game." Well, I happen to want to EXAMINE things in every game, including Civilization and flight sims. Examine is one of the best damn commands ever. Taking away examine makes your game worse, full stop. There is a bestiary in the game that essentially gives you descriptions of the monsters you have encountered...in other words, it gives you the same info you'd get if you could examine the creatures but just in a more inconvenient way.

On the plus side, I am now pretty fired up to play Cyberganked which I'm pretty sure does let you examine stuff. It better!

Itch.io Link: Black Knife Dungeon by Arthur DiBianca

User avatar
Ice Cream Jonsey
Posts: 25272
Joined: Sat Apr 27, 2002 2:44 pm
Location: Colorado
Contact:

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by Ice Cream Jonsey »

Yeah, my goal is to let people examine everything mentioned in the game for Cyberganked - it's been this long in making it, might as well take the time there.

Thanks for putting these together. I have done a bad job giving you feedback about your reviews but I love them a lot, Bryan!
the dark and gritty...Ice Cream Jonsey!

Roody_Yogurt
Posts: 2080
Joined: Mon Apr 29, 2002 6:23 pm
Location: Milwaukee

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by Roody_Yogurt »

Years ago, I started making a Hugo port of ALIEN.BAS, but as you can see, I didn't get far (I see there's a typo in there but I'm too lazy to see if that's my own or if I was trying to be faithful to the source material). I forget why I gave up.

As far as examining things in games go, I admit that it's kind of shocking when games don't allow you to examine much, but some of the Phoenix games (especially the Doom trilogy) won me over. Other than the times the games were intentionally being a dick about what a particular object was (like when it would refer to what you eventually figure out is a wand as a cylinder with a star shape on one end), I didn't think that the lack of >EXAMINE particularly penalized me.

As an author, I find writing a million descriptions of everything to be super annoying, so I've actually considered making one probably-never-to-be-finished games completely >EXAMINE-less. Of course, there end up being some rare times where you actually do have more to say about something, but I hope to get around the issue by doing things like adding an extra bit of text when you first pick something up, verbose inventory listings where relevant information is always included, and as a last resort, adding game footnotes ala "hitchhiker's guide."

I think, as long as there is a certain amount of trust established between the author and the player (where the player doesn't feel like the author is trying to pull one over on them), you can still make players feel "safe" even without object descriptions.

I guess I really should go finish that game and see if I'm right.

User avatar
Ice Cream Jonsey
Posts: 25272
Joined: Sat Apr 27, 2002 2:44 pm
Location: Colorado
Contact:

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by Ice Cream Jonsey »

Roody_Yogurt wrote: Fri Jul 23, 2021 8:38 pm Years ago, I started making a Hugo port of ALIEN.BAS, but as you can see, I didn't get far (I see there's a typo in there but I'm too lazy to see if that's my own or if I was trying to be faithful to the source material). I forget why I gave up.
This is incredible! ALIEN.BAS doesn't work on any BASIC/BASICA runner I can find! You are SAVING HISTORY!
the dark and gritty...Ice Cream Jonsey!

User avatar
bryanb
Posts: 617
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:56 pm

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by bryanb »

Thanks for the kind words, Robb!

It sounds like we've got some really quality backlogged Roody projects to look forward to in the future! We're definitely going to need ALIEN.BAS fully preserved for future generations, and I'll try to play the one without examine with an open mind when it comes out. I would be the first person to say there are no rules in IF or art in general so I wouldn't want to say any command is absolutely vital to have in every single game. Sometimes maybe you really don't need to examine things even if I'll always complain about it. Sometimes you definitely don't need to go north. Sometimes you don't need to pick up things or might only need to pick up one thing at a time like in the beginning of Scapeghost. Nonetheless, I do miss examine when it isn't available, and it serves such a useful function that I think the vast majority of text adventures are better off keeping it. It's a standard for a reason. I totally get that writing a description for everything is a miserable grind, but if you're creating verbose inventory listings or something like the bestiary in Black Knife Dungeon you're kind of still writing descriptions for everything but at the same making things a little awkward and potentially annoying for veteran text adventurers.

Granted, sometimes we veteran text adventurers really do need to have our worlds rocked and our expectations shattered from time to time even if it's a little painful. We need artier IF to show us different ways of doing things and challenge the old models even if the final result ends up something short of world class.

User avatar
bryanb
Posts: 617
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:56 pm

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by bryanb »

The results have been out for a couple of weeks so let's go over the top 5:

1. Grooverland by Mathbrush
2. Gruesome by Robin Johnson
3. Foreign Soil by Olaf Nowacki
4. Black Knife Dungeon by Arthur DiBianca
5. The Faeries of Haelstowne by Christopher Merriner

In my usual inimitable fashion, I managed to avoid playing all the top 3 games and 4 of the top 5. I've got to start playing more games in the competitions, even if just briefly to check them out. When it comes to the games I commented on or reviewed, Waiting for the Day Train finished 10th, Return to the Stars 11th, and BKD fourth as I already mentioned. I'll be playing more ParserComp games in the near future.

User avatar
bryanb
Posts: 617
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:56 pm

Re: ParserComp 2021

Post by bryanb »

I meant to throw in a link to the results page in the last post, but totally forgot. My bad.

I'm curious to learn if ParserComp is going to become an annual thing or not from here on out. I hope it will be because we sorely need it as a community. I know holding it annually was Adam Sommerfield's original plan, but he bowed out as organizer halfway through the competition due to personal issues and fos1 stepped in and ably managed things in Adam's stead.

Post Reply