IFDB page: Asendent
Final placement: 51st place (of 53) in the 2000 Interactive Fiction Competition
It’s the little things in life that help me keep my sense of irony. Like this: right after I finish a game that pays tribute to Graham Nelson, I get this game, which is apparently a tribute to Rybread Celsius. A tribute to Rybread Celsius. The world never ceases to baffle me. As I’ve written before about Rybread, he seems to have a devoted cult of followers, but I’ll never be one of them. I guess I’m just old fashioned enough to like my games with error-free prose and code, and I also sort of like them to, y’know, make some kind of sense. Asendent is, if anything, actually worse than anything Rybread ever produced. Certainly the spelling is worse, especially compared to the later Rybread (see L.U.D.I.T.E.) The code is also quite horribly buggy, though it thankfully leaves the debug verbs available, so players can be sure they’re not missing anything.
As with Comp00ter Game, Asendent looks like it might have some point to make, but just like Comp00ter Game, that point was lost on me. To me, it just seemed like a really horrible game. What’s the point of producing such a thing, especially on purpose? The intro seems to suggest it’s hallucinatory, and Rybread games certainly are that, though they don’t tend to trumpet the fact themselves. But it’s not the terrible spelling that makes them hallucinatory. It’s the imagery. Asendent can’t compare to a real Rybread game when it comes to startling images, and its imitation seems pale indeed. The purpose of its imitation is a mystery. A tribute to Rybread Celsius. People are so odd.
Asendent took me about 10 minutes, at the end of which I shook my head and got ready for the next entry. Hey, just like a real Rybread game!
IFDB page: Lurk. Unite. Die. Invent. Think. Expire.
Final placement: 35th place (of 37) in the 1999 Interactive Fiction Competition
Nobody has entered the IF competition every year for all five years of its existence. Only one person has entered every year for the last four years. That’s right: Rybread Celsius. When he entered with two games in 1996, he was a mere 15 years old. Now, three years later, you’d expect his work to have grown along with him. In a way, it has. Last year’s Acid Whiplash was much more fun than anything he’d released before, though I suspected at the time that much of the difference was due to the presence of Cody Sandifer as co-author. L.U.D.I.T.E. confirms that suspicion. I don’t mean to suggest that there haven’t been some signs of improvement. This most recent game is free of misspelled words, which is quite a milestone. Actually, I should be more clear: it’s free of words that don’t exist. Rybread still has some trouble with homophones, as in the following sample phrase: “The room’s loan feature is a big door on the eastern wall…” I tried “BORROW DOOR”, but it didn’t work, so I can only assume that the door is really the room’s lone feature. Perhaps I should ascribe this problem to the “Ten Thousand Monkeys on Typewriters” to whom he credits the text, but after playing Pass The Banana I feel like giving the monkeys a rest.
So yeah, things are spelled right. And probably there will be some people who love this game. But me, I just don’t get it. None of it really makes much sense to me, and its hallucinatory qualities only hold my interest for a few minutes. I thought at first I was just stuck on the door puzzle, and I was going to present L.U.D.I.T.E. as Exhibit B for the argument in favor of including walkthroughs or hints with comp games. Then I noticed that Rybread had left the debug feature on, so I just looked at the game’s object tree to see if I was missing anything. Turns out I wasn’t. I tried jumping to a couple of other objects that looked like they might be rooms, but those objects lacked description properties. So what you see is, more or less, what you get. And what you get is not much, and what there is of it is really weird.
So hats off to Rybread for his persistence. I admire that. A game like this probably doesn’t take long to put together, but at least he’s still out there trying, and experience has shown that he does have a fan base. As usual, I’m not part of it. Oh well — there’s always next year.