Spring Thing ’12 – Robert DeFord’s The Egg and the Newbie!

April 25, 2012

Y’know, not to give anything away about this game, but my friend Zack had chickens (he still has chicken, singular), and those chickens managed to survive for weeks.  Also, if you’re being charged by an ostrich, you should step to one side, grab it by the neck, and hold its head down until someone comes to rescue you.  (This knowledge courtesy Rachel Bess, who is awesome.)  Apparently an ostrich will just disembowel your shit if you aren’t careful.

So be careful, okay?

[spoilers begin here]

Okay, so there seem to be some alternate history shenanigans going on, but “Newbie” as the name of an entry-level position in 1945 kind of makes my ass twitch.  I mean, it’d make my ass twitch in 2012, but maybe not quite as rhythmically.

Oh, shit, a locked door, and I have a key.  Let’s find out how much I’m going to hate this game.
>unlock door
What do you want to unlock the front door with?
>my rapidly-vanishing goodwill
You can’t see any such thing.
I know!

Holy shit, there is a lot of reading to be had on this pamphlet.  Hmm, we’re living in a Teslatopia.  Which, what, unicorns are real?  If Nikola Tesla founded a corporation that ran everything, unicorns would be real?  And mermaids too?  Because of low population density?  Does that mean there are unicorns running around Montana right now and the one guy who lives there is hiding it from us?

You hear a yipping howl and a frantic squawking from the south. The squawking ends suddenly. It sounded like a chicken was murdered!

You can see a dead arucana chicken here.
>x chicken
You have to catch the chicken first.
As an increasingly lazy and bullshit IF reviewer, I cherish the moments when all I have to do is quote some game text and say “Um.”  You, my dear friend, are looking at one of those moments.

You hear a clucking gasp from one of the chickens you are carrying then silence. After a quick inventory check, you find that a chicken has died due to thirst and/or malnutrition.
Fuck!  Chickens are hard!

>x chicken
It is a dead leghorn chicken. The words “Acme Supply Co.” are tattooed in tiny letters are on its left leg.
At the moment, on a scale of 0 to 100, it’s health is: 0
This dead chicken in my inventory is shockingly unhealthy.  Also, possessive its does not take an apostrophe.  I don’t know who came up with that rule, because it’s clearly very difficult for people to remember and implement.  I screw it up myself from time to time and then I have myself flogged.  By pirates.  It’s quite expensive, a good pirate flogging, but it’s worth every doubloon.  (Yes, of course I’m kidding.*)

You hear a clucking gasp then silence. Oh no, it sounds like somewhere, someplace, a chicken has died due to thirst and/or malnutrition.

An ghostly wolf-like shape comes over the fence and rips a large hole in your gate. It turns to face you and you see that its body is a distorted parody of a human body with a distinctly bestial look. It snarls a warning at you and dissolves into nothingness.
That was strange.  Note correct spelling of possessive its this time, though!  Warms the cockerels of my heart.

I certainly hope that all of the chickens being dead won’t make a difference in regards to my care and feeding of them, because I really think I’m starting to get the hang of it.

That was a bad one Newbie. I won’t lie to you. An unexpected probability shift was moving you between branches. I think that the coyote might be a Tearth agent trying to sabotage this project. You gotta figure out how to work around him.
Jesus fuck, I am bad enough at keeping chickens alive without some asshole shapeshifter ripping holes in my gate.

>repair gate
What do you want to repair the rickety gate with?
A goddamn handful of tapioca pudding, the fuck do you think?  (Yes, I’m cranky!  You’d be cranky too if your chickens kept dying!)

Hmm, can’t find the key to the transceiver room.  No hints.

Dear Nikola Tesla’s grandson:  if you can send me through time or whatever it is that’s going on here, could you maybe have sent me back a tiny bit further to a time when these chickens had more food and water, so they didn’t FUCKING DIE THIRTY SECONDS AFTER I GOT THERE?  Yes, I’m shouting!  This game is frustrating and I have no idea what’s going on!

Kindly note how many times I’ve said “fuck” so far, by the way.  I just wrote an entire game with nothing as strong as a damn in it (I know, I’m surprised too) and this fucking egg game has me dropping f-bombs as though they were turtle shells and I was an anthropomorphic mushroom in a go-kart.  Someone told me that scientists or whoever discovered that swearing actually causes your brain to release dopamine (am I thinking of dopamine?) and cursing your tits off is actually self-medicating behavior.  On that note, fuck shit arse whore twat.

Okay, I feel a little better.  I’m going to restart, head straight for the chicken area, and try to feed these bitches before they die.  Wish me luck.

Well, I have two live chickens.  I might be able to hatch these eggs into more live chickens, but I’m not allowed to pick them up without a basket.  Wait, do I need to pick them up to hatch them?  Would that make any sense?  How do chickens work?  Why didn’t I pay attention in chicken school?

Oh, phew, there’s a walkthrough.  D’oh, that’s where the key was?  I should have noticed that shelf.

Oh!  I can buy chickens?  That actually makes me feel a lot better about life.

Okay, I’m having a lot more fun with this game, now that I’ve accessed the means to buy and sell things.  I’ll have to deal with the asshole shapeshifter somehow, though.  Hmm.

My three chickens laid nineteen eggs in like twenty minutes.  That is nuts.  I thought chickens gave you one egg a day and that was it.  Maybe there’s some Tesla magic happening here.  Aw, fuck, don’t tell me I closed the game window.  I totally closed the game window.  I was sort of enjoying myself, too.  Oh well, I’ll just read the transcript.

…huh.  According to the walkthrough, there’s nothing you can do about the Tearth agent, except prevent him killing a chicken by — and I love this — picking up all of the chickens.  (No matter how many you have, you can just scoop them up and hold them tightly and the coyoteman can’t get them.  I think this is my favorite mental image in the entire comp.  Don’t worry, twenty chickens, I’ll protect you.  With hugs!)  The walkthrough doesn’t mention what’s up with the ornate box, either.  So, unless I’m missing something (which I very well could be), this game is entirely an egg-farming simulator with a very weird backstory that doesn’t actually go anywhere.  There are certainly worse things for a game to be, and I actually had some fun with this one, once I’d gotten into the transmitter room.

That is the main problem I had with The Egg and the Newbie, that getting into a single locked room changed the game into a satisfying egg-farming simulation that I understood, when it had been a frustrating accidental-killing-of-chickens simulation where, what, I don’t, what?  Granted, I should have found the key.  It was right there on a shelf that I ought to have examined.  Still, I wonder whether gating significant chunks of the basic simulation mechanics serves a worthwhile purpose.

Also, if this were my game, I would tweak things so the player had some time to get their bearings before chickens started dying left and right; it’s ever so slightly morale-shattering.  Other than that… I have no idea how I felt about this game.  It was strange, certainly, and it made me very angry initially, but it wasn’t actually malicious.

* I never ever screw up possessive its.  And neither should you.  Pay attention in chicken school!


  1. First, I’m sorry, but I thought that the leg of the chicken belonged to the chicken to which it was attached, so I used the possessive form of its as in “its leg.”

    Second, the rest of your review was very informative. I learned a lot from your comments. Thanks!

    • Oh, I was looking at “it’s health,” which I am assuming was a momentary spaceout since you seem fairly on the ball otherwise. Thank you for calling me informative! I get “devastatingly charming” and “a danger to herself and others” quite often, but rarely am I called informative.

  2. You are most welcome. Though a newbie to IF, I am serious about becoming a good IF author. Consequently, I feel that I must both seek and appreciate critical input if I am to succeed. That’s the whole reason I was brazen enough to submit my beginner-authored game to such a high-level contest.

    Looking back, I think my most devastating error was that none of my reviewers had ever played IF before. That and trying to use a simple-minded simulation to introduce a very advanced Sci Fi concept and setting. All I accomplished was to plague the reader/player with a load of tedious information that appeared to have no bearing on what turned out to be somewhat mediocre game play. After reading four reviews, I can see how foolish and naive I was.

    • That is an awesome attitude and should serve you really well. I found feedback from all IF experience levels to be really helpful — probably what you want is a wide range across all possible vectors — but I have a soft spot for the newbie feedback, like, if I could engage someone who wasn’t already into these games, I was on the right track.

      Also, they never test default responses. They’re pretty much my favorite people.

    • Entering a game in a Comp like SpringThing or IFComp is neither foolish nor naïve. It’s (or its?) an act of heroism. It is the very essence of the Comp. It is incredibly good and satisfactory. Don’t get deluded by our reviews. We are of the kind who can’t do it, so they judge 🙂
      As Jenni said, your’s an awesome attitude. Work hard. Work harder. You will eventually succeed.

      In my eyes, just by entering ST, you succeeded already.

      • Missed an “s” there, but you got the point, I bet.

      • Thanks Marco. I started the game as a project to teach myself Inform 7, and I was very successful in that endeavor. I entered the contest just to see how far I had to go with being an author, and I was successful there as well thanks to the reviews and some email messages from people offering comments and advice. I am going to do a second version of The Egg, a major rewrite in fact. It will take awhile– there is a LOT to do.

  3. Good point. However, all my reviewers have decided that they don’t like IF and won’t read it in the future. Only one is willing to bite the bullet and beta test my next effort, and she is a little iffy on it because of her health.

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