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Xen: The Contest (From the Author)

by Xentor

Posted 16 November 2005 to

First, I want to say that I had a lot of fun writing X:TC, and I really appreciate all of the feedback I've read so far, both positive and negative.

Now, I hate to sound like I'm defending my work, but hey, I have to say something, don't I? Apart from a small toy game I wrote to figure out a few things about TADS, X:TC was my first IF game. In fact, it's the first real game I've ever released to the public, of any form. In hindsight, putting my first public release into an annual competition may not have been the best choice, but IFComp was the motivation I needed to actually finish it, and it gave me some honest feedback that I may not have received otherwise.

I'll be the first to admit (I admitted it to myself even before the competition began) that X:TC has a lot of flaws. The daily routine was never meant to be quite so routine. The puzzles were simplistic, trite, and on some occassions, almost unsolveable. The cutscenes grew far too long as the plot expanded. The little syntax bugs that persisted (I knew there would be a fair amount) to the final release could have been removed with more testing. The game, as a whole, was -far- too long for this competition, since as one reviewer rightly pointed out, you tend to hit the two-hour mark before the plot even gets interesting.

With X:TC, I took a universe that I developed over the past decade or so, through role-playing and my novel-in-progress, and tried to tell a future chapter from the perspective of an outsider. I know most people expect an IF game to be a series of puzzles, but I approached it from the other direction. I had a story to tell, and the puzzles were inserted later in the hopes of satisfying those who would accept nothing else.

I thought I had a good framework in place (It has a bookmarking system that hooks a check on many standard events, particularly room changes, as cues to advance the story), but it had its own share of weaknesses that introduced bugs I never anticipated. Thankfully, my one beta tester managed to find a few of the most serious ones, so the remaining problems were mostly aesthetic in nature.

Anyway, before this post gets any longer than it needs to be (See why the cutscenes are so long?), I'd really like to thank everyone who played the game, voted on it, and reviewed it. I'll be reading every review I find on it, in the hopes that I can learn from the many mistakes I made, and make entirely different ones in the sequel.

Speaking of the sequel, I'm only posting at 2:30am because the metaphorical muse is keeping me awake, and the last key bits of the next chapter are slipping into place in my mind. X:TC was never meant to be an only child, and I expect to begin work on its sibling very soon. Hopefully I'll be able to redeem myself a bit, and put out a quality game.

I never expected to win, or even come close, and I'm honored to even be in the top 50%. Thank you all, and I hope you enjoyed the game. John Richardson, and his friends, will return.

This article copyright © 2005, Xentor

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