Saturday, October 6, 2018

Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise

"Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation."  is an entry in the 2018 interactive fiction competition, written by Carter Sande, using an unusual gaming platform: Desmos.

The game description presents this as educational software. The title was so campy that I wasn't sure if I was preparing to play an actual educational game, or a parody. Even when I arrived at the title page, telling me to log in with a Desmos student code, I still wasn't sure.

I only became familiar with Desmos recently myself. It is becoming a popular online graphing platform for secondary school students, and also features a number of really well developed interactive activities which can be assigned by teachers. If you are a teacher, I recommend the platform. It will allow you to print out a report of the participation and competency of each student in class after an assigned activity.

Regarding this particular Desmos gamelet, "Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation" this thing is the real deal. You drive across Canada in your giant truck, buying various tradegoods or raw materials, and hoping them to sell them at a profit somewhere further down the road. The scale of this simulation is impressive. You can drive across Canada, visiting literally dozens of cities, learning about the cultural attractions in each place and buying geographically appropriate commodites. I have family in Canada (for real) and have visited almost half the provinces, so this part of the simulation was sort of fun for me.

However, as an educational tool, I'm not sure it will have much potential. I was shocked when the game allowed me to become stranded in Manitoba, my truck and cargo stolen from me in the middle of the night. Does that really happen in Canada? I was even more startled to realize that the game can be ended on the first move, simply by "going home". That will  be a game ender for many players.

The radio button interface in Desmos is a little clunky for this purpose. I doubt it will become the if comp platform of the future. On the other hand, this was the first game of the competition that drew my attention enough to write a review, and I'm glad I tried it.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

not quite long enough for reviews

Following is a partial list of games I opened from the 2017 interactive fiction competition, but did not play long enough to justify a full review.

"a partial list of things for which i am grateful" is a Twine game by Devon Guinn. A sort of interactive art. Player clicks on individual letters in a word to bring up something else (starting with the same letter) for which the author is grateful. Contains hundreds of different words. A pleasant reading, but could only hold my interest for so long. Guinn also wrote "Bookmoss" another competition entry I reviewed earlier.

"The Fifth Sunday" by Tom Broccoli is one of several competition entries submitted by Chinese authors this year. The story (a murder mystery) seems to have some potential. But to advance the story requires multiple successive clicks through short lines of static text. Infuriating. The translation is imperfect, resulting in some curious choices of grammar and vocabulary.

"What Once Was" by Luke Jones is a traditional parser game set on a sprawling but weakly described university campus. Put on your pun-protective eye wear before attempting this. I love a good time-travel yarn (and the puns are amusing) but didn't have the patience for a parser game with such shallow implementation. I might come back to it though.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Absence of Law" (review)

"Absence of Law" is a parser game written by Brian Rushton for the 2017 Interactive Fiction competition. I enjoyed Rushton's previous competition entries "Color the Truth" and "Ether".
I waited until late in the competition to play "Absence" because I suspected it would be a good one and I wanted to end the 2017 season with a good experience. I was not disappointed.

Mild spoilers may follow

Sunday, October 29, 2017

"Wizard Sniffer" (review)

"Wizard Sniffer" is a parser game written in Inform by Buster Hudson for the 2017 Interactive Fiction Competition. This game was not on my initial "must play" list. The cover art and title didn't seem that interesting..another genre fantasy in a field of entries which already seems overfull with castle and cave adventures. But by mid-competion I'd read enough positive buzz about the "Wizard Sniffer" to suppose it was worth my time. And wow, I'm glad I played.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Q in P" (review)

"Queer in Public" is an essay written in Twine by Naomi Norbez for the 2017 interactive fiction competition. I feel kind of bad reviewing an entry where the author's motive is so misaligned with this judge's criteria. The author has submitted a heartfelt but conventionally written essay trying to reconcile the queer experience with the Christian experience. I'm a secular humanist who came here to read interactive fiction. I'll lead with my criticisms and follow with my supportive comments on the author's goals.

Monday, October 23, 2017

"The skinny one" (review)

"The skinny one" is a Twine game written by Annie Zinnen for the 2017 interactive fiction competition. According to the author's notes this game was written for a University funded summer research project. Together with "Bookmoss" that makes at least two competition authors who received university grants to write interactive fiction. Interesting development.

"The skinny one" caught my attention early in the competition. Prior to a mid-life career change I worked in university food service as a management dietitian. I did not provide direct treatment to students with eating disorders but I worked closely with others who did. It can be an emotionally wrenching subject and this was not the first game I wanted to play.

The "about" section describes the author's goals.