SwashComp 2003

Iain asks, "As in buckle?"
You say, "Precisely."

Being a reviewed anthology of short, light-hearted romantic adventure IF.

The games:

Are available as a zip here. The entries were The Legend of Lady Magaidh, by Daniel Freas, and Sea Captains, by Lyssa Penn.


My Comments

The Legend of Lady Magaidh, by Daniel Freas

I enjoyed this one. It's very short, but it manages in a fairly short space to let you know what the PC's allegiances should be. It doesn't step very far outside the bounds of genre conventions, but I found myself liking the romantic lead NPC. It's so short, and so straightforward, that if you have any fondness for the genre you should give it a try.

Sea Captains, by Lyssa Penn

This is both more ambitious and rockier than the foregoing. There are several PCs, though the transitions from one to the other are not always clear. We get several enjoyable stories of pirates -- female pirates, in particular. As it happens I was already aware of one of the stories involved, but they're good fun. Some of the implementation is a bit sketchy, and could be stronger -- and I'm not quite sure what's up with the >FIGHT command, to be honest. But I did find the playthrough enjoyable.

Zoltan Carnovasch's Reviews

The Legend of Lady Magaidh, by Daniel Freas

At the first glance this seemed to be a nice game alright, I liked the setting and the way it used the features of HTML-TADS. But in my opinion it suffers from lovelessly done room and character descriptions (I never really got into the feeling of being on a pirate's ship) and the emptiness of the game world. I spotted some typos (for example "felow") which strengthened my impression that the game was very quickly done. The plot was thin and the characters rather flat. A more fleshed-out setting (also with more interesting dialogues that tell the player more about the background of the characters) could have helped in my opinion. The author writes that he wrote the game during a break from coding his IFComp03 entry. Sadly, it feels just like that.

Sea Captains, by Lyssa Penn

I liked the main idea of the game which is that one is told some stories and has to play the various main characters of the stories. The problem of the game are imho its numerous bugs. At the beginning of the game the player's character changes after some turns but it this is not made clear and actions like "x me" or "talk to me" sometimes provide erroneous messages at the beginning. In the first story nearly no objects are implemented, a NPC suddenly disappears from the room description and to go on requires to guess a verb because other verbs for the needed action are not implemented. The second story again does some illogical character switching after the introduction (the introduction doesn't make one assume that one is playing Mary now) and is spoiled by some typing mistakes. I think I've read somewhere that those two female pirates were lovers, but I don't know whether that's true or not. I really liked the game, its very well described main characters and the idea of switching the player's character, but the game certainly needs some polishing.

Storme Winfield's Reviews

Arr, Swashcomp. I confess to being somewhat sad that only two games were entered in this competition, since the premise is wonderful. The two games entered are both fairly short, and after a few attempts to write non-spoilery reviews of them I realised this left me without much to say. What follows is as close to the original thoughts I had when playing through the games, though they were in fact written after several playthroughs. Some spoilers, though I've tried to avoid them as much as possible. Thanks to both the authors for their games, and please don't be offended by my complaints.

The Legend of Lady Magaidh, by Daniel Freas

This is promising. Pirates, gold, swordfighting, ale, all mentioned in a neatly evocative introduction. By contrast, the first room is very sparsely described, not mentioning much more than directional information. The PC is on the deck of a ship, and presumably should be somewhat aware of the sights and sounds that surround her. The NPC standing around doesn't seem to be chatty, either, but within a few turns a more verbose NPC arrives and launches into a dialogue. Or rather, a monologue, since the PC will not actually reply to him. In fact, she is thinking about what he will say the next turn, which somewhat spoils the impact of the conversation snippet that follows. Still, this leads to a nice swashbuckly ultimatum, and when the rules of this genre are followed the game map opens up.

A side note: on a ship, even a small one, it would be nice to have the option of using terms like >AFT, especially if those terms are mentioned.

The new room descriptions are almost as minimal as the first, and it doesn't seem to be possible to interact with the ship itself. There turns out to be a small but non-communicative crew on board, but after two small conversations with the verbose NPC from earlier, enough backstory is revealed to give me an idea of my allegiances. It's hard to avoid feeling railroaded at this point, especially when there turns out to suddenly be a object to interact with on deck.

Sure enough, when the object is interacted with, the previously surly crew decide to reveal yet more backstory. A few turns later, the swordfight mentioned in the introduction starts up, but, disappointingly, with the PC as a non-participant. Another object and a little experimenting later, and the game is over, once again in the fine traditions of the genre.

It's fairly easy to identify where the author felt enthused about writing the game, since those parts stand out as being fun to read. The game feels fairly bare-boned - this would have been an occasion where red herrings would have been welcome, just to make the game feel more involving. Deeper implementation in general would have been nice, really - nautical directions, synonyms, descriptions. Also, it would have been nice to have had the dialogues split up more, so that they felt like conversations instead of infodumps.

Still, it's definitely a swashy game, and worth the time it took to play.

Sea Captains, by Lyssa Penn

This looks like a fun introduction, even if it is a dream. Another pirate-themed game, though this time the PC appears to be fairly mundane. Two pop culture references already, both to appropriately swashy sources. The setting is more prosaic (though nicely described), but there does appear to be something swashy nearby. Time to investigate.

Wait, what? When did the PC change? This really ought to be clued when it happens. It transpires that this new PC is prevented from interacting with the most swashy prop, but after a little wandering and exploring, I can settle down to a real conversation with one of the NPCs. It's faintly disconcerting that these supposedly young children are so eloquent and well-informed, but since the topic is something they and their primary caregiver are interested in, it's not inconceivable.

Hmm, a new and mysterious NPC, who wants to tell me a story. Another PC switch, this time clued, and I'm in a sub-story part of the game. This is curiously buggy, though, in contrast to the fairly polished feel that was going on before. >IN tells me there is no way out, >OUT tells me the PC is not in anything, half the objects don't exist as a whole but do in their smaller component pieces. Oops, and the game objects if the appropriate course of action is not followed in the conversation. After some interesting and unexpected responses to my actions (Melee? What melee?) it transpires that the description of one object has changed in a rather important way. Sigh.

After a tedious and lengthy attempt to guess the right verb to continue, the story-within-a-story ends fairly satisfyingly. A few responses seem to be missing from the conversation that ensues, since the conversation menus change but no text appears. Another story-within-a-story starts up.

Again, this seems underimplemented. If an object is referred to prominently in the text, it really would be nice for it to at least have a description. After a brief conversation and a fight I seemed unable to affect, the story ends, but luckily the story-telling NPC happily fills the PC in on the rather gruesome ending that the story had. The game ends abruptly at this point. I can't tell if the game ended so abruptly because I 'lost' the story or not, but on replaying I was still unable to win the battle.

This is both more detailed and longer than the previous game, but still suffers from not having enough depth of implementation, particularly in the sub-stories. The first part was remarkably smooth, aside from the unexpected change of perspective. The conversations, in fact, were fairly decent and involving up until after the first sub-story ended. The story itself was fairly interesting, right up until the point where it suddenly seemed to disintegrate, but as mentioned, that may be due to my incompetence.

Essentially, a good (and interesting) swashy game, but it could be better with a little more bug-fixing.

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Last Update September 21, 2003. All text and images on these pages copyright Emily Short, 2000-2003.