Silent Conversation


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Rating: 4.1/5 (270 votes)
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SilentConversation

PsychotronicIn a platform game, you mostly look at the ground. You had better — it holds you up. In its absence, you tend to fall. Even so, many games are shy about the tiles and slopes that hold back the siege of gravity, leaving them plain and putting all the graphical holler and pep into the enemy characters. Bad guys have the advantage of movement and life, after all. One expects them to sparkle.

But the ground is the real star, and Silent Conversation, the new game from The Majesty of Colors creator Gregory Weir, acknowledges that fact in an unconventional way. The platforms are literally literature, made of words taken from poems and stories in the public domain. One of the first levels, for instance, has you actually walking across the descriptions of sandstorms and ancient tombs in H. P. Lovecraft's The Nameless City, with the phrase "sands of uncounted ages" filling in the body of the dunes underfoot.

Silent ConversationYour goal, as a solipsistic walking letter "I", is to touch as many words in the text as you can, highlighting them one at a time. Press the [left] key and [right] key to walk, and any other key to jump. [Esc] gets you back to the main menu.

You earn a grade for each level, with an A+ only awarded for 100% completion. Some words are colored red, meaning they are "powerful" and have the ability to fire fading ghosts of letters at you. If you fail to dodge them, you'll lose some of your recent progress and possibly a grade ranking. The same penalty applies to falling off the bottom of the screen.

Some levels, like the haiku by Matsuo Bashou, are extremely short, while others (The Nameless City appears unabridged but split into three sections) can take over ten minutes of running and jumping. Once you complete a story or poem with an A+, you unlock a speed challenge for that level.

Analysis: The title comes from "What is reading, but silent conversation?", a quotation from Walter Savage Landor which neatly sums up the idea that writing is not just performance, but two-way contact. In this case, the author provides the words as your footing, and you respond by touching each of them. Silent Conversation invites you to read attentively, savoring every word.

If the game were just about walking around on text, it would be nothing but an interesting experiment. The real treat is in all the embellishments. A dozen copies of the phrase "a storm of sand" fly by on the wind. A description of a glass table appears in actual table-shape. A difficult gap is in exactly the spot where the words would naturally pause for breath. It's more like an interpretive reading than a game, a reminder that words are meant to be voiced. Weir just speaks in the language of game design.

Silent ConversationAs a platform game, Silent Conversation is basic to a fault. Your lonely "I" walks and jumps with barely any debt to physics or interactions of any kind. It even does that weird thing where you can curve around the lip of a ceiling because hitting it on the way up didn't stop your momentum. Simplifying the gameplay mechanics this much may keep focus on the strength of the writing, but since walking and jumping is all you do, it could have had more depth to it.

The penalty for getting hit or falling seems misplaced here, a regular at the hardcore platforming mosh scene that doesn't know why it's been invited to a wine-tasting. The period of flashing invulnerability, the tedious backtracking to re-highlight the penalty words — it's all awkward.

In fact, I don't see the need to have threats in a game like this. It's fascinating just sliding along, lighting up words, watching the ground, reading with significance, anticipating the next visual flourish. Which words does Weir consider "powerful"? When will the prose take representational form, like the table, and when will it follow the pure abstract rhythm of the sentences? What happens next? Even if you've already read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to death, you've never read it like this.

There could have been even more visual interpretation of the texts. This is just a taste of the possibilities, executed nice and subtle and fairly safe. Once you've seen all the surprises, it's a bit of a chore to replay levels, especially if you can read faster than you can walk across the words. But Silent Conversation still feels new and exciting, and it did something to me no other game ever has. It inspired me to put the computer to sleep and pick up a book, comfortably, as though games and literature were part of the same world.

Play Silent Conversation

79 Comments

Wow.

What an incredible game.

I really enjoyed it and found it really relaxing.

I liked the simple accompanient.

I am a fast reader, but the pace wasn't bad I found.

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A beautiful game both visually and audibly, but I must admit it frustrated me somewhat when (on the Lovecraft level) I was surrounded by "powerful words" and was unable to tag them all before one of them pegged me again. Perhaps I'll again venture within when I have more time on my hands.

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I want to like this game a lot. The short levels are really cute.

The long levels are REALLY ridiculously long.

I think I had only two more levels to go, but at only halfway through Lovecraft Part 2, I was frustrated to continually be unable to hit "descent". If you've played it, you know what I mean.

Great idea. Great potential. Even great to play. But no, I couldn't keep going, it just... missed the bar. :(

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SpazKitty Author Profile Page August 12, 2009 2:33 PM

Just as they would be in real life, I found Silent Conversations to be dull. I love literature, but I have to agree with Jacob -- the short levels are really short, and the long levels are really long. I couldn't even get through the first Lovecraft part because it was too long and boring. Perhaps if a happier medium was found between super-short and super-long levels, I'd have stuck around longer. But scrolling and jumping for ten minutes isn't my idea of entertainment.

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This is a great format for storytelling. I'd call it 'interactive fiction' at least in a stripped-down form.

But I have to say I disagree with the criticism of the 'powerful' words. It's a great way to demonstrate the nature of prose metaphorically. Words, phrases, or stories have some power, in some ways locked up and you have to find a way to approach it and tame it. And what better way to signify the feeling of 'cliff' than to put the word on a precarious ledge where falling invokes a real penalty?

However, it is a simple game. I wouldn't take the approach of trying to beat the game as the goal, but as a series of stories one can read through at leisure. I know a reviewer may not have that luxury (so perhaps the tedium of hitting those frustrating words wears if you run through it all at once).

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Anonymous August 12, 2009 2:57 PM

What a beautiful and entertaining way to present literature. If your finding yourself becoming frustrated, consider what that is saying about you. The game even tells you not to be concerned about getting all the words at first. Enjoy it for what it is, very creative and simple.

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RedRevolver August 12, 2009 3:36 PM

I wanted to like this. I really wanted to like this. And, whilst it may have done it's job I guess - I'm supposing the creator is trying to push people to read more, and I have decided that whatever happens, I'm finishing Crime and Punishment TONIGHT.

But, it's just too long. If there were bookworms you had to zap because they were eating your words, if there was a death count - if it were just selected poems, like Tennyson's Lady of Shalot, that were long and challenging but at the same time not dull. If you had to type the words to move along the platform.

Like what has been said before - great potential. But doesn't really deliver.

I hope he makes Silent Conversations 2, and improves the gameplay like how it has been suggested. I'd be interested in another game, with different gameplay. But not this one.

Unfortunately.

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"The problem may be that the penalty isn't the right one." Maybe the powerful letters should just knock you back? That retains the challenge of carefully approaching the powerful words, while removing the inconvenient penalty.

On the second Lovecraft level, somehow I fell past whatever the kill line is and couldn't get back up, so I had to restart it.

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This is fantastic, but...

I have a huge problem with a game that is about reading using very poor design in terms of color blindness. The powerful words can barely be seen, and there's not much difference in tone between them and the regular words.

If there's at least a high-contrast setting, that might help out a little.

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I admit I did do my share of reading this game without, for once, finding myself falling asleep. However, once I realized how long some of these levels were, (The Nameless City (Part 1) ) I felt as if I was being forced to sit through a very epic tale in a linear "Reading Is Fun!" oriented game.

It became hard for me to like once I found myself not even caring if if I got all the text, rather, rushing to finish so I didn't that get nagging feeling of clicking the red X button at the top.

I was kind of hoping it'd have this kind of vague, conversation-worthy message that Weir's games tend to leave me with.

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zbeeblebrox Author Profile Page August 12, 2009 5:22 PM

Man, I remember doing this exact thing in school with textbooks! I'd imagine a little dude climbing around on all the different paragraphs, trying to reach the peak of Thomas Jefferson's abridged biography. So I totally approve of this game mechanic.

And actually, I'd like to see MORE of a challenge, rather than less. It's true the whole jumping puzzle aspect is frustrating and I agree that that should be toned waay down, but as far as the power words, that sort of thing should be really explored more deeply. Perhaps some puzzles more in keeping with the context of the story, similar to how the background elements change over time.

Over all, I see this more of a very pretty poof-of-concept, and I hope it leads to a more vibrant and complex Textploration game in the future

...Textploration (c) zbeeblbrox 2009. :p

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Now this is VERY interesting.
I found it to work specially well with stories such as The Nameless City, where the game reflects what's going on on the story. Kind reminded me of IF games... with a new twist :)

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Shudog: I'm embarrassed that I didn't think of colorblindness. The next update will include an option to underline powerful words; it isn't a perfect solution, but it's the one most feasible to implement without doing more extensive modifications to the game. I'm sorry for excluding you.

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ThemePark Author Profile Page August 12, 2009 6:00 PM

@Psychotronic:
You might want to fix the first link to the game as it reads NUMBER instead of the actual ID number of the game.

[Edit: Thanks, Fixed. :) -Jay]

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SonicLover Author Profile Page August 12, 2009 6:14 PM

Wait. There are only ten levels?

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I love this! I wish there was just an explore mode - it's a fun new way to read! Especially the Elliot poem; I felt myself keeping pace with the rhythm.

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An interesting experiment and very well made but i agree that a medium needs to be found on the lengths of the levels. No matter how many clever ways it can be shown what is happening in the story, it gets old after 10-15 minutes.

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I love reading, and I love the game concept.
The additional visual information is not only pretty, but actually supports the reading process sometimes. I especially liked the different backgrounds and their transitions - they provided a steady context for the story-"line".
Gameplay may not be perfect, but hey: for a concept, it's a wonderful little piece of work.

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Before anybody gets any ideas, please note the following: this comment has no relation to the game at hand. This game is brilliant. It's beautiful, innovative, fun, and worth every second of time you give it. Therefore, it should come as no surprise I'm seriously bummed that I can't get through the third level.

Why, you ask? Because flash sucks. I am getting really, really !@#%%ing tired of it. It's been a problem forever, but with the games coming out these days that I can't play I'm losing patience. Flash sucks. Every computer I've ever used has run flash in exactly the same manner: 10 frames per second, and stuttery at that. That's windows boxes stretching back to Windows ME and forward to 7, Linux boxes of dozens of distros, and even a few BSD and Mac boxes. Flash fails on all of them, no matter how good, bad, or sideways the system.

So, developers, if I could ask you to read just this paragraph, I have a request. Please, spend two weeks longer on each game so that you can use a real programming language. I would rather have five playable games that run well than ten games that barely run at all.

By the way, if anybody made it this far, thanks for listening.

[Edit: Flash isn't going away any time soon. Instead, have you tried having only a single browser tab open at a time (the one with the game you're playing in it) and closing all other windows on your computer? There are ways to ensure that your CPU isn't struggling to update other less important tasks. Of course, it could also mean that your computer just can't keep up anymore (if you've had it for several years). For what it's worth, the only time Flash gives me unacceptable performance it is due to something else running in the background fighting Flash for CPU time. -Jay]

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Is there a setting where I can just read the works? All the jumping around, avoiding powerful words, and trying to highlight each and every word was very distracting. In the end, I couldn't focus on the meaning of the sentences. That defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it?

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What a wonderful game! I greatly enjoyed the effects in the background as I read. The powerful words got a bit frustrating, but not unreasonably so. I really enjoyed the choice of stories/poems/etc that were put in since I hadn't read most of them and it was neat to read them for the first time in such an interactive way.

The only thing that gave me trouble was that I read fast enough to (in the flat areas) just hold the right key down and zip along. Reading that fast with stationary text doesn't give me a problem, but after a few minutes of reading it while it was moving I felt like I was getting carsick! I don't know if that's a problem with how fast my computer is or if that was an issue for everyone, though.

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Personally I think this game misses the mark by just a hair... I really like the idea of combining reading and gameplay in a more integrated fashion than, say, Braid, but as Steve mentioned being forced to look at just a tiny part of the work at once takes away from the presentation of the text. I'm a secondary school teacher who has learned just a very little bit about literacy and it turns out that the way text is presented, whether it's the small difference between a printed page or a web page, or the large difference between presentation as a page and presentation line by line, does have a profound impact on the way that text is processed. As a first time reader of most of these particular texts, I found it hard to absorb the reading and successfully platform at the same time.

However, the Lovecraft level in particular I thought did a pretty good job in a lot of places at heightening the tension in the narrative and even managed to get across a sense of reluctance to continue into the temple in the face of all those powerful words in an enclosed area... so that's why I felt Weir is definitely on to something here, even if for me it did fall a bit short this time.

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Wow, that was an incredible game. It wasn't

I

really a platformer though, more interactive art.

I liked it.

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The selections are great (I especially love the first T.S. Eliot selection), and I appreciate the status bar telling you how far along the level you are progressing.
However, I agree that the powerful words aren't implemented very well. The technique I found myself on was having to jump over the 'letters' they send at you, deactivate them, and wait several seconds for the 'letters' to disappear. However, this completely disrupts the flow of the game. Maybe a solution would be to have the corrupted letters disappear as you deactivate the word they come from.

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Silent Conversation is like the prog rock of flash games. It's tedious and lame. Give me an old-school punk version of this game, with a stick figure zapping an alien spaceship that spawned from the word xenophobic, then jumping on a horse from the word gallop and jousting a knight at the other end of the sentence... Basically, a game that did much more with much less could be delightful.

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CatalystParadox Author Profile Page August 13, 2009 12:03 AM

God I love Gregory Weir and everything he does.

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Anonymous August 13, 2009 12:14 AM

This looks interesting; haven't really had a chance to get into it though. Why? Because it uses white text on a black background, which is quite hard on my eyes after just a couple minutes. I don't think I'm the only one who reacts this way either. I don't know why this color zscheme is used so often.

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This is a wonderful game, one of the best I have ever played!

And I think that the "powerful" words, however annoying they may be, are an exciting twist to the game, while being creative and flowing at the same time.

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brokenrecord Author Profile Page August 13, 2009 1:56 AM

It's so much fun to see this designers progression, first with words complementing the game (The Majesty of Colors), then with words as part of the game (Today I Die), now with words being the game. I really enjoyed playing this one. So much creativity (I especially liked the Alice in Wonderland one with the White Rabbit and falling down the hole). Personally, I found the long ones exciting enough to keep going with (I wanted to know what happened next!) and played all of them to the end. I'm so glad I read this site because this is one of the best games I've been referred to here.

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I did like the game and the idea is brilliant, however I do have some small criticism.

As other people have said, the short levels were really short but well done, but the long levels were just too long. I clicked on the Alfred J Prufrock level, thinking it couldn't be the whole poem. I'd hate to see the Wasteland done as a level!

My other minor complaint is the colour scheme. I've got no problem with white on black, actually that made it easier for me. But the powerful words are dark red and dark red doesn't show up well on black. Half the time they hit me full in the face, deleting what I had done, before I'd even seen them drifting towards me.

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This is one of the most intriguing games I have played in a long, long time. I am both an avid reader (of classics, not so much anything written in the past 40 years) and an avid gamer, and I think I have decided that this "game" is closer to a good book than anything else.

I don't think the people who had major criticisms about this game get the point. (you want a stick figure zapping an alien spaceship that spawned from the word xenophobic? What the heck?) Not having read The Nameless City before, I had the same breathless anticipation as I was going through the tunnel into the temple as I did when I read about Dr.Jekyll's inner torments or Sherlock on one of his darker cases, only I felt like it was me in the story.

The only tweak that might be nice is the option to turn the "powerful" words off, or at least make them just knock you back and lose points rather than clear the screen. Every time I had to retrace my steps (I am an OCD completionist) I was knocked out of the world of the story and realized that I was merely playing a platform game for a moment.

All in all, however, a most delightful experience. Thank you, Gregory Weir, for creating this gem, and thank you, Psychotronic & JIG, for bringing my attention to it.

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I enjoyed the concept, but I found that the level design of the longer works rather seemed to defeat the purpose: after what seemed like miles of "The Nameless City", my eyes ceased to register the text as text and reduced it to platform shapes. I was by then simply leaning on the right arrow key and waiting. And waiting. And oh, look, jumping. And leaning on the right arrow key... Which suits the flat desert very well, I must admit, but also causes an already lengthy level to drag on endlessly. I didn't finish it. Going by the status bar, I wasn't even close to finishing it when I realized I hadn't read anything for about two minutes and quit the level.

Areas of complex jumping were occassionally frustrating when it seemed like I should be able to find an edge of the word to stand on, but couldn't actually land there, but even with that difficulty I found them far more interesting than the endless scrolling text. The arrangement of the text to create platforms to jump around on was a great deal of the art, to my mind; linear text is nothing new.

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@Jay:

It's ok, I know the tricks, and I keep my gaming computer as up-to-date as I can. So I'm not going to try to argue with you.

However, I do want to draw your attention to something. Specifically, a simple 2d flash app runs the average computer harder than the vast majority of "actual" video games. That includes things like Crysis and RTS Spring (where an average game will have nearly 3000 units on the field, all of them 3d physics objects with slightly independent AIs).

Now, think about that. Doesn't that strike you as odd? Why does flash, a fifteen-year-old vector graphics standard, require so much processing power that you have to devote your entire computer to it? I can easily run outlook, pidgin, and a firefox or two out of sight behind Crysis, but getting reasonable performance out of flash is beyond any computer I own, even the compute and render server machines. As you say yourself, your computer has trouble with flash unless flash is literally the only thing your computer is doing. Why? We know that more efficient browser interaction is possible (look at Unity, or anything written in Java), so why are we still stuck with Flash?

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That's not what I said, Vebyast, and this is not the place for that discussion. Go take it up with Adobe.

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The reactions have been interesting. My own were pretty close to some of the comments above: I also felt that the Powerful words were implemented in a way that detracted from, rather than adding to, the experience of reading the text. And I felt like the Lovecraft was really, really long, and even more I was disappointed to see that I couldn't see the last three texts without going through at least one of the Nameless City levels. Which is a shame, because I really liked Prufrock, for instance; but to tell the truth, horror isn't really my taste, so feeling like I have to read it is like...well, at that point, I feel like you could have put in some Dickens, and it would have been high school all over again.

Great concept, and pretty good execution; just in need of a little tweaking.

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...actually, forgive the rapid second post, but it does strike me that there are a few more things to say, mostly about the powerful words.

For one thing, it's very easy to have the moving letters sneak up on you. More than once I've walked over to a power word and then, just as I touch it, nothing happens; and I realize I must have gotten hit by the letters just as they emerged. Which is a little annoying.

And for another: the "letter grade" in the upper right is really handy for tracking progress and making sure you didn't miss any words...until you get hit. Because the moment you get hit, your A+ turns into an A, and then it takes a lot more than a single missed word to get it to change. For us completists, it would be nice to have some better kind of progress tracking (perhaps numbers? "120/160 words touched; 2 skipped"). And the odd thing about "completist" is that I feel like a completist about the game--must score every point!--but also, as a reader, seeing that I didn't touch a word makes me think, "Did I read every word? Did I start to skim; did I miss something I shouldn't have?" And that's a neat thing to think when you're reading, so it's a shame to have the indicator taken away.

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Anonymous August 13, 2009 4:16 AM

It's ridiculous that RedRevolver and lyuelye's criticisms amount to "well just give me something to shoot and kill, this is so BORING." Uhhh, different genres exist for a reason. If you're looking for a platform/shooter, search through the tags. I don't go to resource management games complaining that they aren't puzzles. This is more of an interactive concrete poetry experience.

@steve: Google hopefully should bring up the works, I think they're all popular enough be up somewhere.

@Vebyast: The problem is probably with you, and the developers shouldn't have to cater to that. Especially with that condescending attitude, lol.

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I think Jonny_s said pretty much what I feel about this game -- it's lovely, I enjoyed it very much indeed. I didn't have a problem with the length of the longer texts, and as a Lovecraft fan I loved reading The Nameless City in this way. All works of fiction wouldn't be suitable for this game; texts by word artists like Lovecraft or T S Eliot who really used language to the best purpose should be read and savoured slowly, and this game was an excellent way of doing that.

Unfortunately, the game froze on me a couple of times, which was annoying, but my computer is getting on in years so I suppose that is my own fault.

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You always hear quite a bit of discussion on how reading and video/computer games are diametrically opposed forces, yin and yang, residing on two different continents separated by jagged spires of black stone.

I learned more SAT words from the Legacy of Kain series than I did from my reading list, and I may very well have never become the raving fantasy nerd I am now without my Aidyn Chronicles and Quest 64. It's not always about how many of Shakespeare's plays you read or how many Dostoevsky quotes you know; sometimes it's about finding what nourishes your imagination and gorging yourself until you can't squeeze in anymore. Which, hopefully, is never.

I wonder on occasion, how much success there would be in cultivating games as a gateway drug to literacy. And with rising budgets in games for writing, I hope that's a not too distant future.

Thank you, Gregory, for getting the two mediums to hold hands again. They really do make a beautiful couple.

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That was a fun and immersive game/reading experience... for the most part. Same complaint as most: the "powerful" words. Getting hit once keeps you from getting that A+ you're aiming for, and sometimes you'll get hit even after you think you've touched the word. Having to hop around continuously to get every single word (I'm talking specifically about the "rabbit hole" here) was kind of annoying at times. In any case, now I want to read The Nameless City - very well-written. Oh, and I also agree that the "short" pieces need to be slightly longer ones (I didn't mind the long pieces as much, though they dragged at times - perhaps an option to pause (or suspend)/resume the current piece?).

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I found it kind of boring. The stories were very long and didn't entertain me at all. Just a bunch of repetitive jumping and moving.

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I have a slightly different complaint about the powerful words: I felt they were often the wrong word. Now, this is inevitably going to be a point of contention, and I don't have a ton of examples, but here are a few:

(1) "shun it without knowing why" treats "shun" as the word of power. Anyone who knows Lovecraft knows that *why* is the word of power. Alternatively, "it" should be the word of power, so that the player is literally "shunning 'it'"

(2) "shivers so horribly when the night wind rattles the windows" has "horribly" and "rattles" but I would think that the "wind" should be the power word there

(3) "ghastly stillness" emphasizes "ghastly" not "stillness" -- These choices are clever as a way of drawing attention to Lovecraft's over-reliance on adjectives and adverbs, but if anything you're hurting, not helping, Lovecraft's prose.

(4) "blazing edge of the sun" treats "blazing" as a word of power, which I guess is not crazy except that, again, in the Lovecraft mode, the sun is a blessing, not a curse, and shouldn't inspire fear in the reader

(5) "in my fevered state I fancied that from some remote depth there came a crash" emphasizes "fevered," but, again, for Lovecraft it would be "depth" and for the reader, it should probably be "crash." I'd also like to have seen that part of the level laid out to have "crash" at the bottom of a canyon.

Setting aside this point, which is subject to debate but probably not to resolution, I think the power words should operate in a slightly more complicated fashion -- I'd like to see them function on a more literal level. I'd toy with at least these six types:

(1) Screen clearing words, like what's currently there.

(2) Words that flip your controls.

(3) Words that freeze you in place.

(4) Words that knock you backwards.

(5) Words that blind you.

(6) Words that kill you (like falling does).

Next, I would implement a "bookmark" system where you have checkpoints every 500 or 1000 words. When you leave a level you haven't finished, you can restart from the last bookmark. If you fall or hit a death word, you go back to the last bookmark, with all the subsequent words uncleared.

So using the earlier examples I cited, I would have "why" in the first one and "wind" in the second knock you back; I would have "stillness" freeze you in place; and I would have "crash" flip your controls. Does that make any sense?

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At first I didn't think much of the game, but the first part of Nameless City was quite good (albeit, really fracking long).

I love the way how the words make up the background, with "The Moon" in bright yellow and scrolling parallax. The cave where the words closed in, and the sandstorm words flying overhead. These were great.

I felt like the scoring mechanic was off, though. I don't see myself ever going back to get a perfect score on any of the long levels.

I'd love to see this fleshed out to form a platformer where you wander along corridors that spell out what you're seeing and feeling, with wordy clouds and water above and below, and include more typical platform elements, like finding keys, unlocking doors, or defeating monsters. You could create a game that has all the benefits of depth and story, without annoying distractions like cutscenes. Ditch the scoring mechanic for touching all the words: it distracts from the text by making you hop around to touch all those "I"s.

-SirNiko

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The concept here is incredibly awesome, and really does well for the pieces... but I definitely agree about the illogical punishments from "powerful" words and falling off. I think it would've worked out a lot better if there had been no obstacles or you could fall off but didn't lose any word progress. After a while of getting hit by "powerful" words in places where it is nigh-impossible to dodge them (the little tunnels in the Lovecraft work, for example) it gets rather tedious and would, I'm sure, make plenty of people just give up and not want to bother anymore.

Still, it's a great idea and I'd love to see it harnessed in a better manner to make the game less frustrating.

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Anonymous August 13, 2009 5:12 PM

Cool concept, but I also had real trouble seeing the powerful words float towards me, even on the brightest setting on my monitor. I would get knocked back without ever seeing the word.

And the grading system seemed somewhat random to me, which I get isn't the real point, but still, you might as well not have it.

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zbeeblebrox Author Profile Page August 13, 2009 5:21 PM

Having completed all three parts of the Lovecraft tale (by far my favorite levels), I'm gonna have to chime in with others about the power words definitely needing to be worked on in some way. As it stands, I found myself following the story, completely immersed in it thanks to the level style and the prose itself, my momentum partially defined by the meter, partly defined by the and then SMACK I touch a power word and I'm completely thrown out of it. Suddenly I'm thinking about my score instead of the story, whether it's worth it to restart just to get an A+, and 90% of the time it isn't because I don't want to start the story over when I know that'll make it lose its power. It just wouldn't be the same.

In the (very few) segments of the game where you had to actively work to "survive", only some of the jumping puzzles really connected with the verse. A more contextual framework to the game's obstacles would really help elevate this idea, design-wise.

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flowerdoggie Author Profile Page August 13, 2009 7:48 PM

I don't have the paitence to sit still to read the words and reading the movingwords gives me a headache. otherwise it would have been a good game.

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I'm a serious bibliophile. To me the scoring and "power words" get in the way of the narratives. The concept is lovely, would be better without competitive aspect.

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Rex Hondo Author Profile Page August 13, 2009 11:41 PM

Count me as one more who just got too frustrated after getting nailed by multiple barely visible power words spawned from off-screen.

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Loved it. On the Lovecraft levels I totally forgot I was playing a game and just barreled through it, gotta go back and read me some Lovecraft again I think.

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I like it, even if the long levels are REEEEALLY LOOOOOOOOOOOONG, and the short levels are incredibly short. Also, a bonus for introducing me to a very good writer of whom I had never heard before, H.P. Lovecraft (he seems to be pretty famous though).

My only quibble, other than the unbalanced size of the levels, was the penalty caused by the "powerful" words. See, the stories pull you into a whole new world, linking you to it with a fragile connection, which is interrupted every time a "powerful" word pops in. It's hard to estabilish a rhythm there if you have to keep dodging those stealthy fiends hidden among the words. If Gregory ever makes a sequel, he should either remove the "powerful" words and make it an interactive piece of art, or make something a bit more like Zamboni's idea.

On an unrelated note, Zaphod Beeblebrox is here! How improbable is that?

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HopefulNebula Author Profile Page August 14, 2009 12:51 AM

There is no such thing as reading Prufrock to death.

Really, there isn't.

I just now read this review and started playing this game, and OMG LOVE.

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I like Zamboni's ideas, and agree with Donut. This really should be "an interactive piece of art" rather than a competitive game. That's one of the things I liked about The Nameless City (especially Part 1)... For the most part, there weren't as many powerful words, and I was immersed in the story.

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Hey, JIGuest, I think you got entirely the wrong idea from my comment. I don't just "want something to shoot and kill because reading is boring". I'll sit with a book for hours (preferably away from the computer). Give me a platform game and I'd prefer to just explore and not have to kill things.

Unfortunately, the marriage of reading and platformer didn't grab me as something bigger than the sum of its parts. To me, Silent Conversation doesn't work well as an interesting way to read, or a fun platform game.

It's not conducive to good reading technique. Your eyes are supposed to stop and recognize a string of words peripherally, then jump to a spot further on... not slowly drift along looking at every word. I read faster and differently than the game allowed me. I was eager to get into the story but found myself inhibited by the "gameplay".

Speaking of which, as it expects you to be involved in the reading material, the gameplay IS boring. I would much rather read a book normally or play something that did more with the story than just light it up.

That said, I can appreciate the experimental nature of Silent Conversation, and I think the experiment was a success. I'm excited to see what the developer does next!

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domthepeng Author Profile Page August 14, 2009 6:06 PM

Personally, I found this game to be quite good. In the Lovecraft levels, especially, I found that I was more drawn into the story this way, as compared with conventional methods. My only quibbles echo those of above: the powerful words and length of the levels. Often, I would be engaged with the story, and suddenly hit a powerful word that would make me lose my concentration. Perhaps there could be an option to turn them off, with a score penalty, say. And, like others before me, I felt that the short levels were TOO short, and the long levels were TOO long. A middle ground would have been preferred. All-in-all, however, I thought it was an excellent game. Gregory Weir, keep up the good work!

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@GregoryWeir When you adjust for color vision issues, keep in mind that it's not only the powerful works on the platform that need high visibility, it's also the floating powerful words. I can sort-of make out the difference between the regular words and the power words, but there's no way I can make out the floating words - they're too dark and just blend into the background. This makes the game unplayable for me. There's no way I can realistically avoid them. I only know I've run into them when the screen loses its highlighting.

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Carny Asada Author Profile Page August 15, 2009 12:46 PM

I loved this game big time and did not find the mechanics distracting or confusing. However -- I read very quickly and am already quite familiar with all the works used. If you were bored, consider: This might not be the best way to read Lovecraft for the first time.

Speaking of Lovecraft, I enjoyed zamboni's critique of the choice of power words in "Nameless City," but disagree. I think the power words are what a voice coach would call "operatives" -- words that add new information and that you would usually stress when reading aloud.

For example, in "shun it without knowing why," "it" would not be an operative because you've already learned what it refers to. "Why" doesn't add new information and wouldn't be heavily stressed in reading aloud. Try reading "shun IT without knowing WHY" and see how odd that sounds.

I was initially surprised that the levels aren't organized in order of difficulty, but came to like the rhythm. The short poems refreshed me between long passages.

I do wish that the floating letters were in a little stronger contrast. I often got smacked down by a word I couldn't see. On the other hand, I wasn't obsessed with getting the highest possible score, so I just kept moving.

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Anonymous August 15, 2009 2:27 PM

@lyuelye: I never accused you of thinking/saying that reading is boring. However, you did say:

"Give me an old-school punk version of this game, with a stick figure zapping an alien spaceship that spawned from the word xenophobic ... Basically, a game that did much more with much less could be delightful."

You're stating that an entirely different type of game with a similar theme would be more fun for you than this one, which seems pointless. This game isn't about shooting or action, so it's of no use to base it's quality on not having those elements. As another example, it'd be like leaving a comment in the guestbook of an art museum saying, "give me a roller coaster ride that gives you a virtual helmet displaying classical art while you flip around." I would be asking for a different experience, not a better one.

The review you just gave is much more relevant, since you pointed out what elements within the game didn't achieve their desired effect with you.

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Cyberjar88 Author Profile Page August 15, 2009 6:19 PM

The first thing that was made obvious to me while playing this game is that Mr. Weir has WAY TOO MUCH time on his hands. The second is that this would have made an excellent project for an English Lit. class. The third is that there is no way to complete this all in one go. It just ain't possible!!

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Funny how things go around.

After finishing (and loving) the game, I turned off the computer and turned to my bookshelves. I rediscovered some William Carlos Williams, tucked Lovecraft away for later bedtime reading, and leafed through some Percy Bysshe Shelley. There, I came across "Ozymandias". I realized I had read that somewhere relatively recently...and remembered it was part of a game JIG had reviewed some time ago.

Which brought me back over to play Tower of Babblers (Ozymandias is one of the finishing quotes). I had forgotten what a nice little game that was.

So thank you, Mr. Wier, for several things: for a game that took some old favourites and immersed me in the stories more deeply than I had ever dreamed I could go; for reminding me of the treasures in my (NON-VIRTUAL!) library; and for a link to an old, sweet time-passer that I thought I had forgotten.

Namaste

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This was an interesting idea that also managed not to seem to pretentious, nor condescending - fab!

While I did get bored (and a bit irritated) with trying to complete each level having touched all the words, I was particularly impressed with the way the text was used to shape the images described. For example - the Cavern effect was brilliant, as were the Cliff arrangements. I don't know if this was explored enough to be honest, though I reckon that would also get pretty irritating if used in abundance!

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silverfoot August 17, 2009 8:28 PM

How on earth do you get that word "descent" in the second part of the Lovecraft part?

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silverfoot August 17, 2009 8:33 PM

I think the game is very lovely but how on earth do you get that word "descent" in the second part of the Lovecraft work?

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Loved this game, especially the Lovecraft levels!
It really makes reading so much fun, especially when most of the games nowadays are the usual beat-the-bad-guy.

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I fell in love with this game entirely, for a number of reasons.

1) The dark backgrounds are typically easier on my eyes. With a mostly black background, I also get a sense of minimalism (which I love), but also a sense of mystery, even a sense of comfort.

2) You're got your little "I" and all of two pitfalls, those being places where there's nothing to stand on, and the powerful words. These two pitfalls and the grading system add something for the competitive player who prefers finishing a game with MAXIMAAM POWAH or whatever nonsense, so that part of me was satiated.

3) Because there are so few things to actually worry about (grades, holes, powerful words), I found that more of my attention could be devoted to hitting the words, and more so to reading them.

4) The artistic value in this would put a high class museum to shame. Using phrases from the stories to create backgrounds and background elements (like sandstorms and such)? Stroke of genius, my friend.

5) I love the music and I want it.

6) I see a lot of people complaining about one thing or another when my only complaint is that I can't get at "descent" in Part 2 of The Nameless City.

Complaints about the powerful words are only justified in a few areas (those with visual issues, for instance), but the concept is quite good in my opinion.

Then there are those who say that there's not enough to the game. Well, what do you want, a feather that gives you a cape? A raygun? Some snarling beast made of numbers?

I like that this game is so minimalistic. It allows the player to see the point of the game: A new way to read and see it as a work of art rather than just a story. Unfortunately, it seems too many of you missed that. I'm not saying that you missed the point of the game being a piece of artwork. I'm saying that you missed the fact that it accomplished this by not cramming so many other things into it. The point isn't to fight monsters and save the princess. The point is to read paintings.

And this is how I want to read things from now on.

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What truly makes Gregory Weir so amazing isn't just now prolific he is, it's how versatile. I literally cannot believe that Silent Conversation and The Majesty of Colors were made by the same person as Exploit and Sugarcore, they are all awesome and they are all different in nearly every conceivable way. How does he do it?

As for this game: I adore it. Yeah, the powerful words kinda knock you out of it a bit (and the letters they shoot at you are a bit too dark to read against the dark background), but the level design is excellent in other respects, the graphics are fitting and the music is ESPECIALLY fitting (for some reason I just find myself gushing over how well the music works), and the choice of texts is very interesting.

Oh, and incidentally, Gregory, I don't know if you're still reading this, but if you are, I have two words to say to you:

LEVEL

EDITOR

Just think about it. :-)

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I don't understand the low ratings this game is getting. I have to search the site pretty thoroughly to find any game that gets lower than 4.3 (and has enough votes for the average rating to show), and yet this excellent game is getting a 4.0. Granted, that's still 80%, but it's an abysmal score on this site.

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If you think the levels are too long, then think about this:
Would you stop reading a book if it was more than nine pages? That's what I estimate the long levels are.
And it even gives you some interactivity to make it even MORE fun.

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Jonny_s Author Profile Page April 2, 2010 4:01 AM

Know what would make me really really happy? If Gregory Weir would update this game. Add some more "levels", give us the option of turning the "powerful" words off, and I will be a happy JIGer. This is seriously one of my favourite games you have ever reviewed on this site, if only Gregory would get around to doing some tweaking on it...

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I loved it, especially how the words make a backround in some of the longer ones. I agree with Donut in the fact that this game needs a couple levels that aren't super long or short. Also, I don't know if it's just me getting freaked out easily, but I ended up stopping partway through the last lovecraft level the first time I played it and never playing it again because it scared me way too much.

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TheMusicGirl Author Profile Page July 11, 2010 12:04 PM

Honestly, I agree with much of what has been said before against the powerful words, but I really don't think I would have played as long without them. Think about it, just long strings of text with nothing to dodge, nothing to avoid, no point but to touch them all and get to the end? The powerful words added something, even though it was way to much sometimes, and I don't think it added the RIGHT thing. I gave up after a while, nonetheless.

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Hello. It's me. :P July 20, 2010 3:09 PM

ZAMBONI YOU ARE A GENIUS!!!!!! :D I agree with everything in Zamboni's comment. By the way, JIG staff, you guys should try a 'thumbs-up' & 'thumbs-down' method, similar to what YouTube, Newgrounds, etc. have. It would be a Captcha deal, unless you were signed in. That would make the comments less crowded by people like me who just want to weigh in on other comments. That way, the same thing won't be said over & over & over. OK, so yea. Think on what I said. Peace ☺

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@Sylocat: Ohh yes, I agree. Because nothing would make me happier at this moment then to read The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy in this way. Or, for that matter, a play or TV screenplay. I can just imagine, stepping on dialogue:
"All right, I have questions. But #1 is: What in the name of sanity have you got on your head?" Heh heh heh. And then we could share our creations with the public...oh, that would be brilliant.

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I would love an option for the powerful words to just knock you back without clearing the screen, and I'd be quite happy to do away with falling death entirely. I don't feel like those elements really belong here. It seemed like every time I was really getting engrossed in Nameless City, along came another freaking power word that forced me to leave the flow of the narrative to neutralize it before I could get on with reading. It's a shame, because that was a really fun way to read, and the first time I've been able to read Lovecraft without my eyes glazing over from the sheer density of prose.

I'd like something like a "reading mode", perhaps, with no hazards - just you, the level, and all those lovely words stretching out before you.

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I appreciate the exposure to poetic literature this game presents. I also find it uncomfortably Pavlovian (or Watsonian) in that it feeds obsessive aspects of personality that can cause negative associations with the works. Its like reading a good book while someone is screaming in your face to "Watch out!" and "Hurry up!". Reading that book will never be the same again.

Silent Conversation was too much like an anti-literature experience to me. I suppose I will have to learn to live in a world where many potential amusements are perverted in order to feed sadomasochistic desires (or needs?), but it is not easy to understand why so many people seem to want to spend what little ‘free' time they have been allotted, in a hostile world full of suffering and pain, with distractions that serve contrived stress as if it were an educated pleasure.

No offense intended to those so inflicted. To you the human world must be quite bearable. Enjoy.

Cheers and Godspeed.

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I would like to say that I loved the concept of the game. The only thing that I think would make it any better is the option of the player's text input to read/play whatsoever he or she desires, a sort of "level editor"; nonetheless, it is brilliant and a job well done.

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randompersyn Author Profile Page May 5, 2014 9:34 PM

To start with; I love 'The Nameless City'. I also didn't realize it was horror.

Secondly, the powerful words are cool, the jumping is too tetchy, and I think you should be able to switch the 'I' for a motor-powered psychedelic pink leopard.

And I think you should include more stories. Actual proper stories, even if they are poems.

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