Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Thing 2012 - Review: The Egg and the Newbie by Robert DeFord

I have a novel underway. I had it for quite some time, now. At least four years. After the first three, on May 2011, I thought it was ready for publishing (editors permitting).
About a month ago, I started re-reading the novel. No editor jumped out of my email inbox shouting "my god, the masterpiece" lately, so I thought I might be giving my work another chance. Pen in a hand, prints in the other, a pair of DrDre headphones and a thunderstorm recorded somewhere in the iPod, I started correcting it again.

My sheeshy-gosh.

Every single page has now so many strokes and corrections (some eventually wiping out entire "essential" passages, some devouring scenes like a famished Carcharodon) that the original print is barely visible. That made me think.


I got many "betatesters", for my novel. Mom and sis, father, work colleagues, a handful of old friends. More: a couple of professional journalists.
They all had something in common.
It was the word "my". As in "my mom", "my sister", "my friend"... up to "my friend professional journalist".
One should never let the jury of his work be someone whose name begins with "my".
You know, they are good at it, actually. The ones you chose are bright, clever, intelligent and <put another synonym here>. But they are also all loving. Too much loving, to be good at their task. They find a passage they don't care for? The next will be better. They find a wrong spelling? Well, he will correct.
They find your work absolutely idiotic? They will never, ever tell you. Never. Ever.

So, a suggestion: Don't have your work be proofread or tested by a friend. He/She won't be objective and, in worst case scenarios, will do an awful job, feeling what he/she is doing is a little favor, nothing very important. Nothing your friendship will suffer upon.

The Egg and The Newbie lists a handful of testers.
Too bad, their names, they all start with "my".

The opening text has at least 4 typos. I did not rummage through it to find any: those are just the ones who came out to me. There can be more. Double words, misspellings, exclamation points that close every other sentence (yes: this is a mistake).
My heart sinks having to say something about polish in a freshly released game. I know what it is like to enter a Comp unprepared. Been there, done that.
Fact is SpringThing is not IFComp. This doesn't exactly lift me from my own responsibilities for what I entered in the IFComp, but we are not talking about me here. And we are not talking about IFComp, either. SpringThing was born exactly to avoid that kind of under-the-standard entry. I know that the game will be severely underrated due to this lack of a serious editing and I don't like this at all.


The Egg is a game about eggs.
The PC has been hired by the Tesla Corp., which nowadays produces eggs (and almost every other thing) instead of -- or in addition to -- wi-fi electricity. The grand-grandson of legendary Nikola is CEO and our hero has the beginner level employment: he has to make sure eggs evolve into chickens and chickens survive the puzzles the author filled the game with. A time machine, some smoke and there you are, trying to outlive the first day at work.

The premises are original and fun. Few games mix so many ideas into a single story (time travel, farmville, red herrings). I can't tell for sure if the idea do mix well but, as I said, the premises are good.

The writing is uneven and this, adding to the lack of polish in its delivery, makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes you find yourself in front of huge walls of text (at least non-mandatory, like the description of a pamphlet which could have added to the atmosphere but is not that essential to the story), seriously woven and seriously presented. In other occasions the prose just goes six-years-old. The aforementioned exclamation points and "Oh! Look! The coyote has broken the fence! If you don't repair it, all the chickens will die!" (although I must admit the latter are in quotes, usually).
None of these are particularly wrong (see this game to fully understand the power of a good juvenile prose) but a) they don't mix too well and b) none seem to fit the style of the setting.
Also: there is this unfriendly approach to the PC by the environment which I don't like very much. Just being called Newbie isn't enough: you have to withstand an attitude from the parser or the NPC which is rather annoying.

The setting is very sparse. A kitchen, a bathroom, a backyard. A lot of the scenery has been coded but not described. At the 17th "You can see nothing special about the [noun]" one begins to feel like he's living in alpha-stage. On the contrary, the objects left around (many of which seem to belong to the utterly unuseful category) are really too many and soon you need a notepad to keep track of what you are carring.
That, and a dead chicken which I tried to eat and who unfunnily decided to bite me in revenge.

The puzzles are various but they all seem to belong in the game, and that's nice. They don't seem too hard, although they rely on the "do the obvious and it doesn't work, so do it again with more strength and it is still not enough" which I usually don't like. The story unfolds almost all in the beginning, leaving the sparse detail here and there to be found during play. Too bad the puzzles got me stuck pretty soon and now I have nowhere to go to know where to step next. Fine, in an off-the-comp environment. A lot less fine when you have to vote for a game you can't play to completion.

In conclusion, The Egg is an unfinished game. It would have had many problems in the IFComp, which traditionally accepts every kind of troll-entry, lets imagine how it could fare in SpringThing.

Too bad, 'cause I feel the idea behind the game is cool and many of the puzzles look bright enough to put a challenge and be funny. Much of the wireframe is strong and well coded.

If only it was something more than a wireframe I would have rated this game. But I won't.

Giant Red • Small White • Orange Glowing • Azure • Cyanotic

PS: What about all those Red Herrings? If it was a joke I didn't catch it. Also: next time provide a walkthrough, please. Really.


  1. The missing walkthrough was my mistake, which I belatedly corrected. In this case, ignorance did not lead to bliss.

    The red herrings were meant as a joke-- something normally useable and misleading that was actually quite valuable, a misdirection in its own right that I thought would be amusing when figured out by the reader/player.

    That joke, along with all the other problems the reviews have pointed out, proved to be ill-conceived.

    As I stated elsewhere, your review is a great help to me and I appreciated your insights.

    1. And, as I stated elsewhere, upon understanding the nature of the red herrings I realized it was my fault all the way.

      Not understanding their meaning, I mean...