The SPAG Frequently Asked Questions File (FAQ) v1.3
Maintained by G. Kevin Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What is SPAG?
SPAG is an informative e-mail zine designed primarily to keep the
gaming public aware of text adventures on the market today. Since the
number of such games is small, SPAG will be sent out rather sporadically,
maybe once a month, and even more sporadically during the summer. BTW, SPAG
stands for: the Society for the Preservation of Adventure Games.
The SPAG Constitution:
"The Society for the Preservation of Adventure Games is hereby
formed in order to maintain and encourage the spread of text adventures
to a new generation, and to reintroduce the Infocom fans of the 70s and
80s to this versatile artform. World domination would be nice too, if
there's time for it."
Format of SPAG:
Each month's issue will begin with a brief editorial, and any
letters to the editor. After that, we move on to any reviews that I've
received for that issue, followed by a chart which lists the scores reviewers
have given games since SPAG started up. What I mean by this is, there might
be a line like:
|Name ||Avg Sc ||Chr ||Puz ||# Sc ||Rlvt Ish ||Notes:|
|Trinity || 8.9 ||1.7 ||1.6 || 21 ||1-5, 8, 11 ||C_INF|
As you can see, Trinity has an average score of 8.9 from 21 users. It
also has an average rating of 1.7 for its characters and 1.6 for its puzzles.
It has had reviews or other relevant articles appear in issues 1 through 5, 8
and 11 of SPAG. The notes are explained below.
- A - Runs on Amigas.
- AP - Runs on Apple IIs.
- GS - Runs on Apple IIGS.
- AR - Runs on Archimedes Acorns.
- C - Commercial, no fixed price.
- C30 - Commercial, with a fixed price of $30.
- F - Freeware.
- GMD - Available on ftp.gmd.de
- I - Runs on IBM compatibles.
- M - Runs on Macs.
- S20 - Shareware, registration costs $20.
- 64 - Runs on Commodore 64s.
- ST - Runs on Atari STs.
- TAD - Written with TADS. This means it can run on:
AmigaDOS, NeXT and PC, Atari ST/TT/Falcon, DECstation
(MIPS) Unix Patchlevel 1 and 2, IBM, IBM RT, Linux, Apple
Macintosh, SGI Iris/Indigo running Irix, Sun 4 (Sparc)
running SunOS or Solaris 2, Sun 3, OS/2, and even a 386+
protected mode version.
- AGT - Available for IBM, Mac, Amiga, and Atari ST. This does not
include games made with the Master's edition.
- INF - Infocom or Inform game. These games will run on:
Atari ST, Amiga, Apple Macintosh, IBM, Unix, VMS, Apple II,
and Apple IIGS. I believe that it is also possible to play
these on the C64, TSR-80, Acorn Archimedes, and others, but
I am not positive, as I saw no public domain interpreters for
any systems other than the first group on ftp.gmd.de. I
will update this as people confirm or deny the feasibility
of running these games on these computers.
[Other computers will be added as pointed out to me. This key will
appear in each issue. Readers are asked to let me know if any games are
available on a platform for which I do not have them listed.]
Lastly, at the end of each issue will be unpaid advertisements
from companies or authors who wish to promote their text adventures.
The Ratings Scoring System:
The scale works like this. There are 4 categories for you to look at,
and you may award up to 2 points in each. They are:
- 0 - Little or no attempt at atmosphere.
- .5 - A few nice touches.
- 1 - Good Atmosphere.
- 1.5 - Feels like you're there.
- 2 - Edge of your seat the whole way.
- 0 - Frustrating to play, poor parser, few synonyms.
- .5 - A little better. Still pretty unbearable.
- 1 - Good parser. Not too hard to figure out.
- 1.5 - Good parser. Most 'ease of use' commands implemented.
- 2 - Excellent gameplay. Understands almost everything you try.
- 0 - Poorly written. Lots of spelling errors, sloppily done.
- .5 - Some effort put into the writing. Still terrible.
- 1 - Few or no spelling errors. Stumbles along shakily.
- 1.5 - Good grammar, prose flows well, absorbing writing.
- 2 - Excellent prose and style, on a par with that in _The Witness_.
- 0 - Poorly planned, incoherent plot.
- .5 - Rudimentary plot, adds little to game.
- 1 - Developed, simple plot. Fairly linear.
- 1.5 - Complex plot, well planned and implemented.
- 2 - Excellent plot. Twists and turns, holds you on the edge of
seat. Enough freedom for the player to feel free to try
NOTE: These point values are merely benchmarks. You can award any value
between 0 and 2 so long as you keep it down to one decimal place. This
scoring system is loosely based on the Olympic system.
The other 2 points are at your discretion, and you may award them on the
basis of thoroughness, realism, or anything else you feel is important to a
text adventure. These are wildcard points, meant to encompass all the little
things in a good game. These five categories add up to a maximum of 10
points. This is the total score. Only a spectacular game should ever exceed
9 points. Most shareware games will not exceed 6 points, and most Infocom
games will hover around 7-8. We've had a bit of trouble with score
inflation, so be sure you REALLY mean to give the game that high a score
before you do.
Finally, there are two seperate categories, rated the same as the other
five, that do not count in the total score, and are averaged only with other
votes on the same category. These two are:
- 0 - No NPCs, or cardboard caricatures.
- .5 - Uninteresting NPCs.
- 1 - Stereotypical NPCs, not developed too much.
- 1.5 - Interesting NPCs, some background.
- 2 - Well-developed cast of characters. Realistic.
- 0 - Illogical puzzles. Poorly implemented, or there is not
enough info in the game to solve them.
- .5 - Illogical, requires bizarre actions to solve.
- 1 - Logical, uninteresting and add little to the game.
- 1.5 - Logical, interesting.
- 2 - Logical, fascinating, well implemented. No 'guess the word'
How do I submit reviews?
You mail them to me, email@example.com. Here is a sample review about Cutthroats:
| NAME: Cutthroats ||PARSER: Infocom Standard|
| AUTHOR: Infocom ||PLOT: Two Seperate Paths|
| EMAIL: ??? ||ATMOSPHERE: Well Done |
| AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 ||WRITING: Good |
| PUZZLES: Good ||SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports |
| CHARACTERS: Not Bad ||DIFFICULTY: Medium |
Cutthroats is the tale of a daring treasure seeker that begins on
an island of liars, murderers, and thieves. These are your friends, the
other people aren't so nice. The parser is Infocom's excellent standard
parser, quite sufficient for our needs. Unfortunately, the writing fails
to capture the thrills of scuba diving, treasure hunting, and murder.
The characters more than make up for that, however, and the parrot is
worth a chuckle or two. I awarded my wildcard points on the basis of
setting and non-linearity, since there are two different ships you can
explore, each with its own seperate dangers. Overall, a very good game
that falls short of such masterpieces as Trinity and A Mind Forever Voyaging.
Cutthroats is currently available in Activision's Lost Treasures
of Infocom package, but the new packaging lacks much of the flair of the
original. Cutthroats is a game of moderate difficulty. I got stuck only
Be sure to give a little overview of the game, no spoilers please,
discuss the quality of the writing, plot, descriptions, characters, and the
gameplay. Finally, and most importantly, include where it can currently be
found on the Internet or elsewhere, and the price. For shareware games,
indicate whether your version was registered or not. For those games with
packaging, give your impressions of the packaging.
[Changes to the old system are discussed below.]
First, you'll notice that the score has been removed, and replaced
by one or two word ratings. These are pretty arbitrary, and should allow
more freedom to the reviewers. The EMAIL section is for the e-mail address
of the game author, not the reviewer. AVAILABILITY will usually have either
Commercial ($price), Shareware ($price), or Freeware. If the commercial
price varies in stores, then it will just say Commercial. If it has been
released in the LTOI collection, this line should say so. Lastly, if it is
available on ftp.gmd.de, the line should add GMD. (Demo) if it's only a
demo version. The body of the review hasn't changed.
When submitting a review, try to fill in as much of this info as
you can. Also, scores are still desired along with the reviews, so send
those along. The scores will be used in the ratings section.
Here are my reasons for this change: 1.) No two e-mails agreed on
what to rate, or what was most important. 2.) In the first issue, the scores
were fairly widely askew. 3.) This format is easier to understand.
How do I Put an Advertisement into SPAG?
Send it to me. I'll put it in as long as it's in good taste and
about a text adventure. Graphics and sound are permitted, but there must
be a text parser in the game, and the writing must be more important than
the 'flashy stuff'. Advertisements run for 2 issues before expiring. I
do not print 'new releases' more than a month or so before the release date
of the game.
Why don't you just post SPAG to (some newsgroup)?
1) If I do that, I won't know who's reading SPAG, and can't bug them for reviews and ratings.
2) SPAG is meant to be a close-knit group of readers sharing their opinions with one another. This doesn't work as well on newsgroups.
3) I don't want to. Start your own newsletter if this offends you. If you can't put out the effort to subscribe, then I can't put out the effort to bother with you.
Where can I get back issues of SPAG?
Through anonymous FTP on ftp.gmd.de, in /if-archive/magazines/SPAG/.
Just login as 'ftp' and give your e-mail address as your password. The
archive is kept current now, so don't worry about asking me for the latest
copy when you subscribe (which I still strongly encourage you do.) After
all, I can hardly encourage prospective authors to write in a field of 50
potential customers, can I? But, if I know of 500 potential customers,
things get more interesting.
Subscribing to SPAG
SPAG's subscription process has lately been automated. To subscribe
just send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the line:
subscribe (your e-mail address here)
That's all there is to it, just that.
Other items of interest submitted will be considered. I would
especially like to get stuff on 'Where are they now?', etc. Please do
not submit fiction or non-text adventure-related articles to SPAG.
Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!