IFComp 2011: Ted Paladin And The Case Of The Abandoned House, by Anissi Räisänen

This is the fifth game I am reviewing for the 17th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition; if you’re a judge, don’t read on unless you have already played and reviewed the game yourself.

Blurb: Known for your text adventure skills, you have been called in for help to reveal the secrets of a locked, abandoned house scheduled to be demolished soon. Can you manage the task bestowed upon you?

It seems that whenever there’s a Finnish entrant into the Comp, they’re using Alan as their authoring system. I have no idea why Alan is so attractive to them; yes, it’s Finnish [edit: actually, Swedish, apparently] too, but there are other IF systems which have a larger userbase and seem less clunky. Or maybe it’s just that the only two really active Finnish IF authors [edit: except Juhana Leinonen], Anssi Räisänen and Mikko Vuorinen, are big Alan fans. Either way, on to this game, attempting to forgive as much as possible the ways in which it fails to live up to my Inform/TADS/Hugo-influenced expectations.

I’m a bit unhappy with the reference to my text-adventure skills; I fear this will be a wink-wink nudge-nudge homage to IF cliches. My fears are sort of unfounded; it’s not IF cliches so much as wordplay puzzling, most of which I found kind of unsatisfying: the crossword has definitely won out over the narrative here, and the actual wordplay is kinda not my thing and it honestly kind of slight in the final analysis. Add that to occasionally fighting the Alan parser (does it really not have clarifiable disambiguation? That’s been standard for decades now), and one issue which could only be classed as a bug:

> LEAN FENCE ON HOUSE
I don’t understand.

> LEAN FENCE AGAINST HOUSE
You lift the remnants of the garden fence to an upright position and lean
them on the wall. The ladder you have thus created just about reaches to the
unboarded upstairs window on this side of the house.

This is OK for what it is, but what it is isn’t something I’d particularly call IF-like. Points for trying to put it in an IF frame and for being free of serious errors, but not much beyond that.

Rating: 5

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

3 Responses to IFComp 2011: Ted Paladin And The Case Of The Abandoned House, by Anissi Räisänen

  1. Anssi Räisänen says:

    Hi Jake,

    since I am a Comp author I am not in a position to discuss my game at this time, but I would like a point out a couple of things (and misconceptions) you raised about Alan:

    It’s not a Finnish system in any way, the developers are from Sweden.

    Besides, I wouldn’t call Mikko Vuorinen and myself as the only two active Finnish IF authors; e.g. Juhana Leinonen is very much active with I7.

    Why do I personally use it? It suits most of my needs + I am dedicated in helping develop it for my own part. I do have tried to program with Inform7 and I just don’t happen to like it that much. Tads3 would be more to my liking but the learning curve seems overwhelming.

    Alan not that clunky nowadays; although admittedly more limted in scope, it can anyway handle most of the tasks e.g. Inform or Tads can. Any shotcomings with the parser are more likely to be oversights from the author’s part (or in the standard library) than limitations of the language itself. The new standard library handles some 160+ different verbs and commands, among them many not recognised e.g. by Inform. The disambiguation issue you mentioned is admittedly one that could be addressed in a future version (if you by that mean that you cannot straight type e.g. “white” when the game asks you “Do you mean the white box or the black box?” etc.)

    -Anssi

  2. Jake says:

    Thanks for clearing up my misconceptions; I must admit that my assumption about Alan was based on the fact that the public face of it is so very Finnish (a similar argument, I suppose, would come to the equally erroneous conclusion that Inform 7 is chiefly developed by Americans), and I have no real excuse for forgetting about Johana Leinonen.

    Alan has definitely improved from the early clunky days of when I remember struggling against CC and Leaves, but it’s still just different enough from what I’ve come to expect to give me a little bit of trouble. That may not be fair — after all, we should encourage development and variety — but ultimately it ends up being an unavoidable consequence of having a subjective grading scale.

  3. Anssi Räisänen says:

    Thanks for your reply 🙂 Yes, of course we all have our preferences, and Alan does have its “quirky” sides (in the sense that there are still some features in it that could be updated to work more closely with what people are used to seeing in the other systems). Thanks for your comments, I enjoy reading the reviews!

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