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IFCOMP 2005 - Gilded: The Lily and the Cage

Game #5: Gilded: The Lily and the Cage, by A Hazard
Played On: 10/09/2005 (10:15 AM to 11:55 AM, 1:15 PM to 2:30 PM, adjusted)
Unofficial Score: 9.0 (9.0 base with no skew)

     To this point, I’ve skipped almost every second game because I beta-tested it, or in this case, I wrote it. Next on my list was Distress, but I’ll save my thoughts on my own entry until the end. Moving on, Gilded: The Lily and the Cage is next. From here on, I should be able to take them all in order. Those were, oddly enough, all sorted toward the top.

     This game is very reminiscent of last year’s Magocracy – my favorite of that competition, unfortunately shunned and low-ranked by the judges in general. To a lesser degree, it reminds me of Order, where creating things with wizardly powers was a key feature. Without the D20 combat of the former and the implementation problems of the latter, Gilded should fare better than either. The setting and the story reminded me a little of The Compleat Traveler in Black by John Brunner – or perhaps something from The Dying Earth by Jack Vance. I don’t think this was intentional, and it’s more a general concept than a definite correlation anyway.

     The text is well-written. So early in my random list, I can’t describe it as the best in the competition, but it hits right with me. If anything yet to come is better, I’m in for a treat. This is one of those short games made long by the beautiful craft and abundant detail put into it. It’s easy to spend two hours just romping through the small world created by the author, where interactivity succeeds so well. I had numerous “wow” moments in the almost three hours that I played. So thorough was the author that it became easy to buy into the “create from thin air” theme. It seemed as if the game was adapting to my whims, rather than (which is, of course, the case) pre-defined with such a set of results.

     The ending I found without hints, though, seemed less satisfying than I expected. I played using the quickest-path walkthrough provided under the About menu afterwards, and it was the same ending. It seems likely – especially in the way it proclaims itself as “an” ending – not “the” ending – that I’ve missed something. I’d like to play through other paths, eventually.

     This is a great example of how a game doesn’t have to be flawless to leave a good impression. Bugs ranged from missing object names (maybe the result of noun-ready items not yet “created” by the game), to minor typos, to minor inconsistencies between the descriptions and the real state of the game world (the broken mirror and the burnt tavern seemed to be the main examples). The author’s “about” text encourages feedback, so I’ve sent my transcript. Since this seems to be a smaller version of a longer game, I think it’s going to be helpful for a post-comp release.

     I hope Gilded does well in the competition, but I suspect it may be a repeat of last year’s Magocracy – a game I really enjoyed, but not a hit with the judges. If so, have the IFComp judges collectively lost their minds? By my scoring, it’s a 9.0 game.

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