IFDB page: Lovesong
Final placement: 48th place (of 51) in the 2001 Interactive Fiction Competition
This game was my first introduction to the Quest development system, and I wish I could say I was impressed. I mean that. I’m all for people using their skills to create IF stuff that’s new, cool, and functional. What I can’t get very enthusiastic about, though, is people using their skills to create IF stuff that isn’t as good as stuff that already exists. Sure, Quest looks nice and everything. But unless the author of Lovesong broke or disabled something, its parser is less sophisticated than, say, that of the first Monkey Island game. Based on the help text, the parser seems to understand 19 verbs. Counting synonyms. And 9 of those are directional commands. And another one was (I think) added by the game’s author.
Such simplicity allows the game to be almost completely mouse-driven (or it would if the mouse support didn’t break halfway through), but really… what’s the point of that? It’s one thing to present a mouse interface in a graphic adventure, but a text adventure? Why? Legend tried it, but I can’t imagine that many people actually played all (or even most) of any Legend text game using the mouse alone. I guess it cuts down on guess-the-verb, but really, is the gain worth the price?
It seems to me that what Quest allows people to do is to create text games with the interface of a graphical game. To my mind, that’s a pointless endeavor — it deprives text games of one of their major strengths, and adopts a “hands-off-the-keyboard” aesthetic from graphical games that has a stultifying effect on game design. The worst of both worlds. No doubt Quest has some features unused by Lovesong, and those may go some distance toward making it useful. But ultimately, I don’t think that any nifty features are going to make a big difference. You know why? Sure you do: THE PARSER IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE NIFTY FEATURES. Same old song.
Of course, no matter what development system had been used to write this game, Lovesong would still be deeply troubled. The big problem here is English. Apparently, English is not the author’s first language. As the game’s author bio asserts, “Please forgive me, but me English are not fluent enough. I pray that some mistakes won’t ruin your gaming experience.” Well… sorry, but it’s really hard to enjoy a text game written in broken English. (Unless the English is broken on purpose, a la Gostak or For A Change, but that’s a different matter entirely.)
In fact, I have to wonder: if someone isn’t fluent in English, but wants to create a game, should that game really be a text adventure in English? I’ll probably get flamed for that, and really, I don’t mean to be some kind of Guardian of IF Purity, but a text adventure is a piece of prose, just like a novel, short story, or poem. If you’re not fluent in a language, how can you possibly craft a good piece of prose in that language?
Maybe it can be done, but Lovesong isn’t it. Its plot is sorta sweet, but the whole thing is so hampered by the twin burdens of its straitjacketed development system and its badly mangled writing that there’s not much opportunity to enjoy anything else about the game. In addition, it has its own implementation problems, though it’s always hard to tell what’s the game’s fault and what’s the system’s fault. Several times, the game just had no response at all to a command. About halfway through, the mouse buttons stopped working. Towards the end, the “save” command stopped working. Oh well — at least I can now say I’ve tried a Quest game.