Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Baker of Shireton (review)

"The Baker of Shireton" is a parser type game in glulx, written by Hannon Ondricek for the 2015 annual interactive fiction competition.  I chose to play this one next for two reasons:

1)  Hanon Ondricek wrote "Final Girl", which I loved, and judged to be the best non-parser game I've seen in the last several years of this competition (which is all the time that non-parser games have held a place of importance in this competition).  Final Girl also won "The Golden Banana if Discord" in 2013, which means that about half the judges that year agree with me, and half thought exactly the opposite.  I want to see what Hanon can do with a parser system.
2) Jenni Polodna is blogging about this Game.  Jenni is the funniest writer in the IF blogosphere.  Her writing is laced with profanity, but ultimately good-spirited and kind to the authors.   But I can't let myself read what she's written until I've played for myself.

My review follows the break

I was underwhelmed by this piece, which is a variation on a joke I've seen before in Zork: A Troll's Eye View (Dylan O'Donnell, 1998).  The PC is an NPC in a fake old-fashioned BBS adventure game.  Of course I didn't realize that right away, which I suppose makes this a better implemented joke than the Troll's Eye View game.  But still, once you figure that out, there isn't much left to the game.

You play a baker.  There is a scoring system.  The player earns coins each time he bakes a loaf of bread and sells it to someone.  He can earn points for depositing those coins in a strongbox. The PC can earn points faster by sending other characters out on quests, but sending opportunities are rare.  The player himself is not able to leave the bakery, and the players choice of actions are intentionally constrained.  There are issues with disambiguation as well.  Which loaf of bread do you wish to sell?  Which citizen do you wish to sell it to?  Sometimes the citizens have already left the bakery before the player has finally clarified their intention.  All of which results in a very slow, very tedious slog toward a goal score of just under a million points--a number so ridiculously inflated that no human player could ever reasonably expect to reach it.

There are some other interesting features along the way, enough to make me wonder if I wasn't missing some bigger meta-puzzle.  I burned my bakery to the ground in one game, a mistake which the game seemed to remember even after I started again from a cold reboot.  That's a neat programming trick.  I was killed by raiders in another iteration.  The game featured a variety of Easter Eggs for experienced gamers, names of past authors including "Porpenteen"(a misspelling of a two time winner of the Golden Banana of Discord) and "Doug2008" which I thought could be me (I published two well reviewed games in 2008).  But maybe I need to keep in mind the words of Carly Simon on that one "You're so vain...I bet you think this song is about you."

Eventually I had accumulated a score of over 100 points (out of a million) before in-advertantly shutting down the game.  I was disappointed that I hadn't saved my progress, but not motivated to try again.

1 comment:

  1. Doug - I recommend perusing the walk-through; like you I found myself wondering if I was missing something, and there was indeed. The amount of things I had missed both raised my esteem of the game's ambitions and lowered it because of how obscured the long-term goals were and the means of achieving them.