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Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
All right, you should all be wrapping up your entries for Bucky's contest so let's go ahead and try this. Secret of the Grass Planet Edithe Zilonis Private Game for Natalie When the Music's Over The Chronomantic Adventures of Professor Gower: Office Hours A Pixie Danced Ineptitude 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO Landslide These are all the games submitted for consideration in the ferocious fight to be the champion of 2019. If there were better games, oh well! The authors didn't bother to enter them. The point of this whole thing was to generate discussion of significant games authors wrote on their own, outside of any contests and their implied greed and lust for points, so use this thread to discuss away. You have a full month to do it, so there's plenty of time to read as well. Although with the games having been released throughout the year and the biggest one back in July, hopefully you'll have already read at least a few. You will have until 11:59 PM CST on February 2nd. Votes must be DMed to me here on the site to count. (Votes for Ineptitude will be disregarded as a cricket does not meet the minimum height and weight standards to enter the ring. Sorry. Try drinking more milk.) I'm still on the fence about whether to do this again this year. I mean it's 2020, that seems like such a good sounding year to have a Best Of contest, but a lot is going to depend on how many people bother to participate in the voting for this one. If I do this again, entries may be accepted the full year instead of just until the end of November, but I want to make sure to have the month judging was planned left contest free. Let's wait and see how the discussion on contests for 2020 pans out.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
"Votes for Ineptitude will be disregarded as a cricket does not meet the minimum height and weight standards to enter the ring. Sorry. Try drinking more milk."
:(
Guess I'm upping my intake to a half gallon a day.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
Lol, yeah, I wasn't going to pressure anyone yet with the current contest entries needing attention, but this thread was getting a little lonely....


Everybody's free to like, talk about the games too. Authors included.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
Me too, but I don't have a nice picture to show it.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

I've read a lot of these, but I'll play them again and vote in the next week or two.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
There are two of these I haven't yet read. I suppose I may get to them eventually. Probably later in January. Remind me to vote before the deadline no matter what though if I don't.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

I've only read one of these. I'll try to catch up on them so I can give an informed vote!

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

I plan to vote on this! There are three I need to read first... err... two if Cricket's is disqualified. I will read that one last and get back to you with my votes ASAP.

The three I have yet to read are:

A Pixie Danced

Secret of the Grass Planet

Ineptitude 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO

I will read them in this order as well! These first two have been on my "need to read" list awhile.

"Everybody's free to like, talk about the games too. Authors included." --will do! SPOILERS INCOMING

Edithe Zilonis - Yes the branching was a bit lacking into a linear storyline, but I think I rated this game a seven or so. I happen to be a sucker for a good, well-developed relationship. This game doesn't disappoint. Edithe and the main character's relationship was so well done that I cried when they ended up together (insert something intelligent to drown out the sobs). Anyway, I loved the story! I wish it had more choices, and that the choices mattered, but the one branch that exists is pretty great. I have not read many other "romance" stories on this site, but I would move this from a "puzzle/mystery" to a "romance" and feature it. That is probably just me though. Outside of the cute relationship, the plot was also intriguing and the art was a nice touch. What else do you expect from MHD.

Private Game for Natalie - This game was mind-bending. The mood and tone were so perfect that I almost stopped reading the beginning; I was convinced that it was supposed to be a private thing for Gower and his wife. Feeling embarrassed and rude, I would have closed out, but Gower literally PMed me and asked me to read and rate it. As I went down the path I found some to be sweet, some sad, some funny, and some disturbing. This one game probably shows the most variety of any story. It is like a romance and a horror in one. Also, it was one of the first 4th wall breaking games that have really caught on. The game wasn't a personal favorite of mine (mostly due to not liking the creepier tones and branches), but I was impressed by it.

When the Music's Over - I was excited for this game, having read most of it before it was published, and I think it is a strong contender here. I said something like this in my comment, but this game is magical because of the number of high-quality branches and the unique perspective. Too many tales tell you about the big quest, the heroes, and the evil wizard. This one opens with the main character forgetting the evil wizard's name. Basically, the classic tale is metaphorically dismissed as old news; this is perfect when followed by the new tale of the hero finding a new purpose for his life. No, each branch isn't a 200,000-word epic... but each one is very well-written and unique. There is so much to do here, which is why the prompt attached is so fun. More people need to do that. I wrote a prompt and might go back for another... 

Landslide - This one can be crazy and hard to read, but I have to say it was shocking. It didn't make sense to me that this was a horror game until the reveal, and then it was horrifying. When you discover how you died the whole scene was disturbing, yet funny. This was the goal, of course, so I think it was well done. It was a very strange, creative, and trippy story. Again, this one is not my favorite (again the creepy storylines are not my cup of tea), but it showcased a lot of creativity. The ending is also surprising. It is like the classic "this was a dream" ending but with a twist. The messed up events are a test to see if the main character has the mental fortitude to be an assassin. I am more excited for the sequel than the original. Also, if anyone tries to run a test like this one me, I am killing them. Particularly if they then teach me how to be an assassin. 

The Chronomantic Adventures of Professor Gower: Office Hours - Didn't read this one when I saw it go up on the new story list, but the author seems cool. Kidding, this was just my highest-rated story that wasn't in a contest already. My "day of the dead one" was made for a different contest. I don't expect to receive any votes, but I had fun with it. 

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

This is going to be hard to decide~! I've played/replayed through them all at least once, most more than once, but am still debating between a couple front-runners and need to replay a couple.

I hope to eventually get around to reviews on the ones I haven't yet, but some brief thoughts:

Secrets of the Grass Planet - I thought the beginning was very strong, but didn't *quite* like it as well as Giri Minor once there was planetfall. I think this was because Giri was more man-against-environment, so most of the choices made sense as you learned about the creatures and hazards of the planet. On the Grass Planet, a lot of the choices lead to more random ends, so become cases of 'do I pick the left or right door?' And one end didn't make sense (a random panic attack with what should have been a sensible tactical decision and a chance to show leadership to a member who was bargaining with an order,) and then game over. He didn't even die, nor did the higher ups call him back. He just took a five minute break, game over.
There were also some odd continuity errors aboard the main ship when you could choose to sleep/do briefing/start gym routine. Since each element was pretty clear about where it fell in the actual timeframe, it didn't make sense to be able to click them in any order. I trained in the gym over several days, then went to sleep after a briefing but before training, then finally listened to the briefing that I'd already listened to according to the other paths - it got a bit odd.
But overall, a very solid sci-fi story. I still need to play some more to find the main ending.

- Edith Zelonis  This is such a lovely game. It definitely sets a mood, and the love story is done with a very soft hand which makes it far more believable. I played through it a while back partway, I think it was one I never finished, but I liked it just as much this time around. The pacing was good throughout and there was just enough explanation/lore to ground the world without becoming boring. The subtle humor in dialogue or the Undertaker completely missing her teasing was genuinely funny.
It isn't as varied as some of the other games, but it is incredibly evocative. The art is a lovely touch, as well!
Some specific scenes (notably the late game encounter with the carriage) were a bit hard to understand as far as what exactly was happening. There were some minor grammar errors, but overall it was very well written.
I would agree this should be moved to Love and Dating, though, as there isn't much detective work in it that is directly involved with player choices.

-Private Game for Natalie - I played through a quite a number of times when this was first published, and once again today. It's thoroughly enjoyable and cycles through many moods from disturbing, funny, melancholy, flirty, antagonized, etc. I got a far more hilarious path this time through than past playthroughs (I arm-wrestled Floyd) and was surprised at how light-hearted the end was, since the second time I played through it a while back I ended up in a mental ward.
The set-up of the game is also groundbreaking with the narrator talking to 'Natalie.'
There are ample paths I've found that were less enjoyable than others, or were more annoying than disturbing, but even those were interesting as every path affects emotions, positive or negative. And that's a hard thing to do without becoming overly cheesy or trying to hard and it seeming artificial.

- When the Music is Over
I need to play this a few more times to try and see what other endings and paths I get. I love the core concept, but I had a hard time getting into the character or setting in the path I ended up on (spark a refugee camp rebellion.) The reaction of other characters in just blindly listening to him as he passes through and tells them they should start a rebellion just didn't make sense, and the various branches off that to join and win or move on all just sort of ended weird and depressing right when it seemed like the story should just be getting started. But it looks like there are far more paths to play, so I'm not done with this one yet.

- Chronomantic Adventures
A fun fan-fiction game about Gower. Time-traveling Gower is a great hook, and the game was overall enjoyable. There wasn't really typical branching (it was death/fail or succeed) so it felt a bit constrained, and parts were repetetive, but it's still good fun.

- A Pixie Danced
I left a long review on this one. I think a great deal of time and effort was spent building up a massive set of lore, but in execution it became heavy handed and confusing. As I mentioned in my review, I think restructuring around a single central character like Newgnong, maybe do the classic second person, would really help this become character-centric rather than a lore-centric story. She's in a good position to remenisct about the past or even witness key scenes from the story, and has connections to several main characters. And her story-arc would essentially be a fantastical ugly duckling: from ugly millipede with fat, horrific father to a beautiful warrior seeking aknowledgement from her foster-mother the goddess.
With a good, consistent character to follow through the story it would feel less disjointed, and I would likely care more about the struggles of all these different fantasy creatures. Choices would also feel more consequential.

Ineptitude: This was amusing. Fun concept, and who knows, maybe it will inspire someone to think twice before entering a contest. Probably not. (Most amusing choice of the game for me was when I had to choose between doing two contests at once or drop the second and focus.)

Landslide: The idea behind this is creative, and the basic set up of how you can succeed (essentially pick one path, zen or lust or kindness or murder, and stick to it) is interesting. However, it also made later choices obvious since I knew not to choose against my own path, so I got a pretty decent ending (I think...) on the first playthrough. I'm not sure I would call it personally enjoyable, though, since gross-out horror isn't my genre. I liked Planet Hopper much more than this.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

In regards to some of your comments on "Grass Planet":

On the Grass Planet, a lot of the choices lead to more random ends, so become cases of 'do I pick the left or right door?' And one end didn't make sense (a random panic attack with what should have been a sensible tactical decision and a chance to show leadership to a member who was bargaining with an order,) and then game over. He didn't even die, nor did the higher ups call him back. He just took a five minute break, game over.

The effect I was shooting for with this storygame was "narrative maze," which was the reason why there are so many branches, but only one "winning" ending (and also the reason why I slapped a "mystery" tag on it). But as seemingly random as some of the endings are, many are paid off in the main ending sequence. There is a geography to explore, and interesting things to find: an unusual device hidden on the mountain, the scene of an alien raid (complete with bodies buried in the snow), and something on the lakeshore that clearly doesn't belong in a bronze-age society. All of these play into the main ending sequence.

That infamous "panic attack" ending also plays a role late in the story.... Sometimes it is important to conquer your fears, and sometimes it's best to avoid known sources of anxiety and accept the help that's been offered to you.

Also, that little doohicky that Dansmith uses to trick you into thinking there's a plasma fire on the very first choice gets mentioned again toward the end. Just saying.

The ending where the Folvan magistrates banish you to Emar is a sneak peak at Part III....

Basically, there is an internal logic to the story, meaning that if you can deduce Dr. Munro isn't where she should be, she might be where she's not supposed to be.

There were also some odd continuity errors aboard the main ship when you could choose to sleep/do briefing/start gym routine. Since each element was pretty clear about where it fell in the actual timeframe, it didn't make sense to be able to click them in any order. I trained in the gym over several days, then went to sleep after a briefing but before training, then finally listened to the briefing that I'd already listened to according to the other paths - it got a bit odd.
 

These were included for several reasons.

First, on mizal's advice after I originally published Giri Minor, I decided it's better to break up long strings of "next page" links with options, even if the options don't go anywhere. So if I had put those scenes in order, and made it mandatory that people read them in the logical sequence, people would be complaining about how "linear" that part of the story is.

Second, this is my solution to the "info dump" method of exposition. I'm really not fond at all of info dumps, so I tried to make these more germaine to the story (i.e. a mission briefing where you also meet several key characters for the first time). But at the same time, not everybody wants to read that kind of thing, so I included the option to skip right past all of them and go straight to the mission.

I do agree, though, that those optional scenes are the most satisfying when you click on the links in this order: mission briefing, Gravity Gym, quarters.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

I haven't read this story in particular, but I feel like commenting because I get something similar on Woban island. I also feel that there is a misunderstanding of the actual comment. I don't think Camelon has an issue with a lot of shorter branches, or that they all lead to death. The issue is more with the choices. 

Sometimes the choices don't make the reader feel like they can guide the story. You have all these references and hints, but do you have choices that use the information in a way the reader can use? Once the reader sees the bodies (or finds the device or whatever) does that make the correct path obvious for logical reasons? Or is the only way to find the correct path by process of elimination? If there were UNLIMITED CHOICES could I read three side endings and deduce which choice will lead to the real ending? 
 

I can't speak for this game, or these references, but Woban Island was frustrating because I never could use a specific piece of info to influence choices. The information (being vague to avoid spoilers) explained why something important was moved. The issue is that no choices allowed for me to search in the location the object moved to. I was only able to get there by clicking on every branch and brute forcing my way to a branch where I was running for my life to the wrong sid dog the island. Once there, I still couldn't search. I could run or hide. Running got me killed, so I hid. Then BAM! Exactly what I was looking for was in the hole I hid in. that isn't a puzzle to me. Again, everything in that (and I assume this) game was well-written. There was no bad branch, or bad writing. There was just a lack of logic to some of the choices. 

I think Camelon is saying something similar: "...a lot of the choices lead to more random ends..."

I look forward to reading this one! I also hope this helped clarify where the issue is.

 

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

Yes, that was closer to what I was trying to say. On Giri Minor, once I had a feel for the planet I was able to use information to deduce the most likely path or best decision to make in a scenario.

But on Grass Planet it's a bit more random and relies on luck in some cases (like guessing the direction a stampede will head in,) or what seems to be a viable choice based on information sprinkled in other paths will still abruptly end with the higher ups taking the mission out of my hands, or there will be ones where the main character himself randomly has a breakdown over an issue that isn't established for his character (claustrophobia) that leads to an abrupt end that isn't even death or mission loss. [It also makes no sense since he had no problem crawling around in tight maintenance tubes, and he's already been through one extreme survival experience on Giri Minor. It's also doubtful that the rigorous mission training simulations he does have never introduced him to a dark tunnel.]

This made the game feel less like a puzzle to figure out (which is fun) and more a test of endurance [how many wrong paths am I willing to check off in the quest for the right one.]

Which isn't to say the game is bad or anything - it's still great. But this element where the choices feel like choosing between left/right random doors sometimes (even if you are rewarded with information sometimes) makes it more frustrating than it has to be. So even if it's more expansive than Giri Minor, I enjoyed playing the former more since I felt like consequences made sense and I could 'improve' my choices as I went along vs. just eliminate paths.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

This made the game feel less like a puzzle to figure out (which is fun) and more a test of endurance [how many wrong paths am I willing to check off in the quest for the right one.]

This right here was certainly something I was worried about when I was writing the story — how much branching was too much? Early in the process I did consider having three ways to find Munro, but the idea turned me off because I thought that would be too easy, as in almost no possibility of failure. Real life isn't that easy, so why should a storygame? Also, it would mean Munro would probably have to be in a different location in each branch (lack of internal consistency) and it would make the entire second half of the story (everything after you find Munro) more difficult to execute.

So I took a risk and went for broke on branching. Basically, I was counting on the "OCD'ness" of the typical CYOA reader (myself included) to stick with a good story and see it through. Based on the reviews, that indeed has happened... because all of the people who left comments (except Ninja) made it to the end. And most of that feedback has been positive. However, it's been a smaller group of finishers than I hoped.

As for the claustrophobia thing, once again I beg your patience with that. It plays a prominent role in the second half of the game, and is the set-up for the one and only variable-locked choice in the story.

And I should say, I'm not trying to tell you your opinion is wrong. I was just expecting feedback like this months ago, and have been dragging my heels on a Part III pending the response to Part II. And if it makes anyone feel better, my current story will have no dead ends of any kind

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

The number of branches isn't the problem. I love that there is lots of branching. I have no problem with dead ends or "difficult" games. I have no problem with Munro being in only one location, and needing to deduce that.

Again, the issue (for me, personally, and different people like different things) is that I preferred the 'type' of choices in Giri Minor more, since they were integrated logically with the dangers of the world. Some were more random than others, but most had an underlying sense to them. Whereas in Grass Planet, most of the choices on the planet are primarily luck based, especially after you land. [The ship based first choice is excellent, as it has some real tactical sense behind it.] And some of the game ends, as already mentioned ad-naseum, don't make sense. (Even if a panic attack is necessary for the game, *why* would it lead to game over? At least have the scene conclude with one of the others taking over, or the ship command calling down that time is up, or a blackout. As it is, it's like if a character in a game about exploring a cave said, "hmm, I'm going to take a break from exploring the spooky cave to drink this cup of coffee. Just give me five minutes" followed by GAME OVER.)

There was more deduction and a puzzle like element to Giri Minor. To survive, you had to pay attention and learn about your environment. Plus, there is an element where in Giri Minor where you feel like you've won precisely because you made the wisest decisions - not just because you now know many of the dangers, but because they make sense from a leadership and survival perspective as well. But in Glass Planet, there is less of that and more brute forcing required. There's the feeling that if I eventually beat it, it will be because I learned meta-information from other paths that guided me into making decisions that, in reality, would not be the best tactical decisions. It's still a good game - it just leads to burnout a lot faster, which is why I didn't finish it all in one setting. I wanted to wait until I'd recharged and could enjoy playing it again.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

I feel this way with longer games that make it difficult to find the "winning" branch as well.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

I can't speak for this game, or these references, but Woban Island was frustrating because I never could use a specific piece of info to influence choices. The information (being vague to avoid spoilers) explained why something important was moved. The issue is that no choices allowed for me to search in the location the object moved to.

I hear that, but as I said in my "Merlin" review, I think you and I have differing conceptions of what a branching structure should look like. Your stories have a geometrical quality to them (I'm thinking specifically of "Gower" and "Merlin"), by which I mean choices are presented at almost the exact moment in every branch. They are symmetrical in the sense that every branch is almost equal in length.

That's not meant as a criticism, just an observation that your style is different from mine. I consider my approach to branching as being more organic, meaning I want to mislead the reader down a few rabbit holes*. That's part of the fun of a CYOA, the sense of getting lost and exploring the alternate possibilities. As the writer, my role is to make those rabbit holes as interesting as possible, such as by populating them with interesting characters and whatnot.

I see the choices in these stories as being situational, not random. In real life, we make choices all the time, not all of which end the best. For instance, you're in the mini-mart, and two cash registers are open. Both have one customer ahead of you in line, so which line do you get in? You see one person has a big load of items, the other person just has a six-pack of soda. So based on that observation, you assume the person with the soda will be done faster, so you get in that line.

But! The person with the soda is addicted to the lottery. She has a long list of scratch-off tickets she needs to buy, and she keeps arguing with the clerk until she gets all the right ones. Then she wants to play the Powerball, but she has to stop and remember all the random numbers that "came to her" throughout the day. It's a serious process; don't rush her. Then it comes time to pick the pack of cigarettes she wants.** Meanwhile, the guy with the big load of stuff knew exactly what he wanted, didn't argue with the cashier, and was out the door in a matter of minutes. Turns out that line has been zipping right along.

So: you made a choice based on the available information. But you can't control the choices made by other people, and so unexpected events continue to happen.

 

 

 

*In Grass Planet, "rabbit hole" is meant literally.

**Based on a true story.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

I liked your analogy that my branching is like a snowflake while yours is a tree! I think both methods can produce a good story, if the writing is good. I am, admittedly, still working on that part a bit. 

As for your example, that really helps me understand your choice structure. My one quip would be that if you were to see that woman again, you wouldn't get behind her in line. Unless, of course, if every time you saw her the grocery store only had one line open at the cash register. That would probably frustrate you, make you bitter about the store, and make you debate shopping elsewhere. "Those darned people can't ever have a line that gets me out the door in under a half-hour! I'm going to Walmart!" Not that I ever felt that way about your games, but everyone has things they can work on. 

For the record I rated both Marooned on Giri Minor and Woban Island sevens. I enjoyed all of the death and funny events. I sort of felt like you took my comments about choices as "I didn't like it" which is certainly not the case.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

Again, I don't think the issue is with your style of branching. It's more the lead-up to the choice, sometimes, and the pay-off. E.g. is there some legitimate information to weigh (such as your shopping cart scenario, or the excellent 'where to land' choice) or is it effectively a random guess (A stampede is coming! Where do you hide?) And does the pay-off make sense? Are these consequences reasonably expected? (E.g. walk into a tunnel you have no info on, then yes, being attacked is a reasonable consequence. The player making the tactical choice to head back for lack of time and for security, but the pay-off being a full on character meltdown and the game suddenly ending with no in-game reason to is not.)

There were choices that were great - good info to weigh, and consequences that made sense. There were others that were 'random' feeling. Those are the ones that were weaker for me, and sometimes frustrating, and this game had quite a number.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

These are all fair observations. Thanks.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
Read them all. Or at least one ending of all of them. May check out a few more paths of some. Some good work here. Congrats.

Sorry about your height, Cricket.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
:(

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
Commended by mizal on 1/8/2020 12:10:30 PM

1

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
Your asses do indeed appear to be shaping up that way.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

That pic makes it look like Gower has a nose ring.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
This is canon now

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

It is certainly high-quality enough to sway "swing voters".

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

Haha, fixed it. ;~)

1

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

I'm putting this on my office door with no explanation.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago

It looks like he has no nose and a really small face and mouth. 

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
Can confirm, voted for Gower and threw away the only vote I would have gotten otherwise.

Voting for Best of 2019

7 months ago
Your story was still amusing.