Eruption Review

This game sucks.  It’s a sterile, meritless, years-old exercise in game-writing which the author entered because, he says, the quality of IF Comp games has been so bad that he expects even his own half-considered piece of crap might do well.

This game is far worse than _Trap Cave_, which wasn’t even proper IF and which I couldn’t read most of.  _Trap Cave_ had a kind-of-spooky monster.

This game is even worse than this year’s troll entry, _Beta Tester_.  And that’s really remarkable.  The guy who’s trying to write a bad game wrote a better game than this one, which was trying to be good.

By the way, I’ve somewhat meanly spoiled this game for you.  Being cruel to be kind, if you dig.  I’ve meta-spoiled it:  Even though I’ve said nothing about the plot, because there is no plot.  The only point to this game is, the author tells us in the About, that it’s been spellchecked, beta-tested, and it hits all the checklist-points checklist-reviewers have.

This guy, Richard Bos, is a troll’s troll.  Regular IF trolls — like Jacek Pudlo — go after pro-level gamewriters, like most recently Emily Short, apparently in the belief that they’re showing up the rottenness implicit in the IF community.  But Richard Bos goes after weak gamewriters.

Read his Credits:

Ironic thanks goes to all the people who, over the years, have entered games in the IF Comp which were set in their own house, without working hints or walkthroughs, riddled with spelling errors, buggier than a Red Norvo swing number, or simply underimplemented. Thanks to you – you know who you are! – this game was entered in the 2009 IF Competition.

Richard Bos is more a troll than Jacek, and more successfully subversive to the standards of the IF community, because he supports those standards.  He argues for them.  He’s pro- checklist reviewing, and this game is his argument for it.  And because the game is such an utter piece of crap, he has successfully destroyed the validity of any such checklist.

This is not a spoiler:

He writes in the hints:

How do I stop the rats from stealing my meat?

(1/5) Well, you can’t set the cat at them, because the cat has left, too.
 
(2/5) And you can’t lure them away with some bacon, because you have no bacon.
 
(3/5) You can’t play the pied piper, because you don’t have a flute. (And if you had one, you probably wouldn’t be able to hold a tune.)
 
(4/5) Then again, you have no meat, either. Neither are there any rats.
 
(5/5) Except, perhaps, people who ask for hints on problems they aren’t stuck on.

The reason _Eruption_ is an utter piece of crap is that the author himself had no reason for writing it.  He had no artistic motivation; he was not trying to express anything.  He decided that he would try to write a text game, reached deep into the clockworks of his robotic little soul, and started turning the crank.  And he produced a robotic, lifeless, soulless piece of crap IF.

It’s astounding.

He writes:

About the IF Comp version:

As for the reason to enter it into this year’s IF Competition, that’s a matter of yearly increasing astonishment and pique at the quality of at least half the entries in most Comps. I mean, of course, the half that ends up at the bottom. Writing a game that some (or most) players don’t like is one thing, but there is no excuse for the plethora of “attempts” that have clearly never seen a spell checker; whose grammar is broken beyond repair; which have to all appearances not been beta-tested by anyone; which actively try to irritate the player; have show-stopping bugs, are furnished more sparsely than Paris Hilton’s knickers, have hints that don’t work, promise a walkthrough but don’t have one, do I need to go on? I think we all know the kind of time-wasters I mean. It was while judging one of these in last year’s Comp that I thought: “Good grief, even my own exercise game is better written than this!”

Click! Idea. If it’s true that Eruption is better than, oh, about a third of the games in last year’s Competition, in one way or another, why not enter it this year? The way I see it, one of two things can happen, and both are good for me. Either half the games entered are the usual junk, in which case my game, being small but at least well-crafted, will score roughly around the mid-point, which is good for my ego; or it will end up where it belongs, which is firmly near the bottom of the scale, but that is only likely to happen if the Competition has a very good year, without the normal collection of duds. Either way, I’m happy.

So here it is: Eruption. It has been spell-checked, its grammar is probably not immaculate but even so quite good, it’s solvable, it has a hint menu and a walkthrough (and both are correct), there are no serious known bugs in it, it’ll give you something to read for most objects (although not necessarily something helpful), and it has been seen to by two (count’em: two!) whole beta-testers (even if I haven’t been able to bow to quite their every desire). It even has a feelie! Oh, okay, it has a printie, but still, it does have it. Enjoy!

(I am so going to get flak for this rant on the Authors’ Club forums. Well, bring it on.)

This is a profoundly empty work of non-art.  Even _Beta Tester_, the worst Comp game I’ve played to date, tries to express something; in fact, _Beta Tester_ has a kind of simmering rage, a contempt, a hatefulness toward people in general that makes it sort of interesting.

But _Eruption_ is *bleak*.  We see here the self-portrait of a man who wanted to make a work of art, who looked into his soul for something to express, for a story to tell, and saw —

(nothing)

— and, seeing that he carried nothing in his heart to express in a work of IF, seeing that he had no story to tell, he said to himself, “Hey, I bet I could get a 5 rating in this year’s IF Comp!”

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Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 11:55 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] was, incidentally, amused to note that this innocuous game absolutely incensed the author of one of last year’s nonsensical time wast…, who calls Eruption “a profoundly empty work of non-art” and says the author […]

  2. […] the Richard Bos rant – if you don’t know what I’m talking about, the rant is here, in the middle of a different rant, it’s all very meta – is that he’s saying […]

  3. I only kind of skimmed this, because I haven’t played Eruption yet, but I’m curious: why exactly are you calling out that fake rats hint? Having red-herring categories in the hints designed to misdirect people who read the hints before they’ve even tried to solve the puzzles (or at least to make them feel guilty for doing so), is a tradition that goes all the way back to Infocom’s original Invisiclues.

    I mean, I believe you that the game is terrible, but you’ve presented this one example with no explanation, and I don’t really see it as supporting your thesis.


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