in Comp03

Curse of Manorland by James King [Comp03]

IFDB page: Curse of Manorland
Final placement: 28th place (of 30) in the 2003 Interactive Fiction Competition

So here we are in 2003 and people are still writing games in AGT. Even more disheartening, they’re still writing terrible games in AGT. Most bad comp games at least have the virtue of being short, but not this one — it’s huge, and unrelentingly bad all the way through. Now look, I want to offer constructive criticism, although with a game like this it’s hard to imagine that any suggestions will be implemented, since quality doesn’t exactly seem to be valued. Nevertheless, in lieu of a detailed review, here are ten ways to improve Curse Of Manorland:

10) Don’t use AGT. There are better tools out there now.

9) Settle on a point of view. In the beginning section, I had this exchange:

Chrissy's room
Your room is covered in rock posters but has Rupert the bear bed
sheets there is a full length closet mirror on the east wall. On the
south is a window. The carpet is bright pink

> x sheets
I loved Rupert - it was my favourite show when I was little - I want
to get Buffy now - she's such a strong character.

Thus, in just a few lines, I got third person (“Chrissy’s room”), second person (“Your room”), and first person (“I loved Rupert”). Pick one.

8) Puzzles need to make sense. I can’t imagine anyone (except maybe the author) ever getting through this game without the walkthrough. Actually, I didn’t even get through it with the walkthrough, since the walkthrough failed to specify the exact moves for the nonsensical maze, and the game itself was (unsurprisingly) no help. I was using that walkthrough from the very first puzzle, a puzzle whose solution makes absolutely no sense at all.

7) Sentences get to have both a subject and a verb. If one of those is missing, then what you have is a sentence fragment. These are fine, in certain circumstances, but avoid them until you’ve mastered writing regular sentences.

6) While we’re at it, both fragments and real sentences end in periods, not commas, and certainly not just nothing. This is unacceptable:

> x window
A white painted window,

It’s especially unacceptable when we need to know that this window is the size of a mattress. Actually, that comma is sort of an exception — the vast majority of stand-alone sentences in the game have no terminal punctuation whatsoever.

5) If the player is supposed to interact with some object, the game should maybe mention that object. It’s pretty hard to come up with “TIE ROPE TO TREE” when there’s nothing about any tree in the room description.

4) Error messages must not lie. If you’re looking for “CHOP TREE WITH AXE” and I type “CHOP TREE”, do not reply “Don’t know how to chop here…” That doesn’t tell me to try another syntax. Instead, it tells me to forget the chopping idea altogether. The game lied to me like that over and over again.

3) For heaven’s sake, do not put random messages in the game that prevent commands from being carried out without saying so. And certainly do not litter the game with them for hundreds of moves before a solution is available.

2) Please, forget the inventory limit. And please please please, if you’re going to make me drop stuff, let that stuff not disappear.

1) Spell-check. Beta-test. Have your prose proofread by someone fluent in English. Don’t enter long and/or terrible games in the IF competition. Give us a break, huh?

Rating: 2.0

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