Is the market for pure IF really gone?

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David Sewell

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Dec 22, 1991, 10:15:37 AM12/22/91
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In <1991Dec19.2...@exu.ericsson.se> exu...@exu.ericsson.se (James Hague) writes:

>These days, flash sells. Period. Lookit all the money Sierra is pulling
>in with garbage like Space Quest XVII and Leisure Suit Larry. Your
>product is pretty much doomed if it doesn't have the latest in computer
>graphics.

The depressing thing is that even Sierra's "quality" games don't honor
the word enough. I like Roberta Williams--she's earnest, dedicated,
imaginative. But I just wish the descriptions and dialogue in the
King's Quest series could rise beyond the level of prose in the Hardy
Boys books. In a little pamphlet on style in fantasy fiction Ursula Le
Guin said it best, and what she said applies to IF as well: "Nobody who
says, 'I told you so,' has ever been, or will ever be, a hero." (In
"From Elfland to Poughkeepsie", which is reprinted in one of her collections
of essays.) In KQ5 King Graham is sure painted pretty, but as a speaker
he's no Aragorn; his lineage is more the Saturday morning cartoon.
--
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| David Sewell, English Dep't, Univ. of Rochester, New York 14627 USA |
| ds...@cc.rochester.edu * ds...@uordbv.BITNET * Tel 1-716-275-4092 |
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David M. Baggett

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Dec 19, 1991, 6:54:11 PM12/19/91
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In article <1991Dec19.1951...@netcom.COM> pro...@netcom.COM (Tom Czarnik) writes:
>Lost Treasures is not new, simply a collection.

Well yeah, that's true. I just meant that before "Lost Treasures" there
was absolutely no way to buy *any* Infocom games (except used ones),
created in recent history or not.

>IF does not mean 'just text'.

Well yeah, that's why I said "pure IF," by which I meant "just text."
Perhaps that's not a correct use of terms.

>People do like to see and hear things in a world; it would be foolish
>not to provide them.

But you can do a far better job portraying the world if you do it
without 320x200x256 VGA pictures and tiny speaker blips. The advantage
of pure prose is that there are of course no limits to the resolution
of pictures in the reader's mind.

Your line of reasoning would suggest that book publishers are being
foolish because their products are all text -- instead they should be
making only movies, I guess.

>One reason people
>prorgammed in assembly, instead of C, was the lack of sufficent memory
>and OS environment. The same holds true for text based entertainment.
>We should now incorporate IF, musical motifs, etc... - into products,
>instead of trying to produce products that have are primitive in design.

Again, do you consider books "primitive in design" because they don't
have animated pictures and sound tracks to go along with them?

>: Has anyone really tried to release pure IF commercially since Infocom's
>: demise? If so, who?
>
>Meaning what? Infocom is not gone.

They are essentially gone since they are no longer producing any new games.

Dave Baggett
d...@wam.umd.edu

Gregor Schmid

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Dec 20, 1991, 5:25:40 AM12/20/91
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I'd like to add my 2ct worth to the discussion about _pure_ IF and those
hypergraphic monsters.

It is a sad fact, that games like _Larry_ or _Space Quest_ sell a hundred
times better than any Infocom ever did, even though with each followup the
only thing improved is graphic. I admit that I _do_ like graphics but what
good are they if all you get is an _oh my, what a nice movie_ game that you
watch for 2 or 3 hours and then dump it in the bin. You don't have to think
anymore, you can get by with trial and error.

But what, on the other hand, should prevent a really decent IF game with
a hell of a parser and loads of good ideas and stories from featuring
graphics and a user friendly interface. What good is any game that gets
played by a few freaks only. I am sure there must be some way to get the
best out of both worlds, and not just by drawing one picture for every
location in the game like _Magnetic Scrolls_ used to do or by offering
a list of words to click on with the mouse to save typing time.

I'd like to hear from you, how you think graphics and text can be combined
to create a new area of IF. Unfortunately I haven't played Meretzky's
_Sorcerors get all the girls_ yet, maybe he's on the right way. _Wizardry 6_
was a move in the right direction, since a lot of text was included, to
add some spice to an otherwise purely graphics oriented game.

I'd really like to hear from you,

Greg

P.S.: When I talk of graphics I don't necessarily mean extra high resolution
multi colour animation. _Nethack_ uses character graphics only and is
probably the game I have spent (and will spend) the most time with.

Tom Czarnik

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Dec 22, 1991, 4:43:53 PM12/22/91
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exu...@exu.ericsson.se (James Hague) writes:
: Tom Czarnik writes:
: >
: >: Look at the description for the volcano in the Collossal Caves
: >: adventure game. Do you truly believe that this can be drawn with
: >: the same feeling?
: >
: >Yes!
:
: My gut reaction was "NO!" but I suppose you probably could with a
: photorealistic image being panned from some very cinematic camera
: angles.

I wasn't thinking of photorealistic images. The key word is 'feeling'.
The project I'm working on right now is developing cross-platform
media systems that can be plugged into IF. We are not doing scanned or
traditional graphics. All images are mapped objects, which means they
can be scaled and viewed in a 2d or 3d world.

The trouble with games like Sierra', is the inability to completely
move in world. I can't walk around around a tree and see it from all
sides. And the characters that inhabit them have language that is so
bland.

: When you introduce such images, the medim becomes less interactive.
: More of a movie which you simply go through. Think of it this way:
: pure IF basically gives generic descriptions of events, people, etc.
: No matter how detailed the text, it is still only a skeleton--when
: process the descriptions in your mind you instantiate it to a
: particular scene. The resultant scene is different for each reader.
: In order to have true interactive fiction, I think you need this
: element. Simple drawings would work much better in this regard than
: the latest in computer graphics.

I understand what your saying. But as I have said thousands of times
before, graphic games are based on somebody's vision. It doesn't make
it any less IF if it has graphics and sound. Stop using the word 'pure'
and 'true' with IF. IF is IF, whether with or without graphics/sound!

And you can't do decent text-based IF without a natural language parser,
which doesn't exist.


Tom
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Tom Czarnik

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Dec 22, 1991, 10:46:09 AM12/22/91
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[ Author's note: The following is quite long ]

From: m...@netcom.COM (Morgan Schweers)
:
: Some time ago d...@wam.umd.edu (David M. Baggett) happily mumbled:
: >In article <1991Dec19.1951...@netcom.COM>
: > pro...@netcom.COM (Tom Czarnik) writes:
: >
: >> People do like to see and hear things in a world; it would be foolish
: >> not to provide them.
: >
: > But you can do a far better job portraying the world if you do it
: > without 320x200x256 VGA pictures and tiny speaker blips. The advantage
: > of pure prose is that there are of course no limits to the resolution
: > of pictures in the reader's mind.
: >
: > Your line of reasoning would suggest that book publishers are being
: > foolish because their products are all text -- instead they should be
: > making only movies, I guess.

:
: Or, more specifically, TV shows. The reason that many people here
: (and on some of the other game-oriented groups here) highly favor
: 'graphics' games, is that they have been fed TV all their lives.
: I am one of those almost-religious supporters of text-based adventure
: games. I will go out and try to find 'Lost treasures' and buy maybe
: four or five of them, as presents.

As I have said before, text-based games cannot offer a paser that can
understand true conversation. If that can be provided, I'm game!

: I believed in, and still believe in, Infocom's old slogan: 'We stick
: our graphics where the sun doesn't shine.' With a great image of a
: brain on the page. This is possibly because I am an avid reader,
: and my imagination can conjure up far more beautiful images, sounds,
: and actions than I think any artist in the world can put down into an
: adventure game.

Another reason, Infocom could not create their worlds in graphics to
match the richness the text offered. This was mainly due to the standards
at the time.

An artist uses their imagination too, or don't you believe that? True,
you are forced to view their vision of the world, but this is why people
see movies. I like to see other peoples creations.

: Look at the description for the volcano in the Collossal Caves
: adventure game. Do you truly believe that this can be drawn with
: the same feeling?

Yes!

: One of the problems I always had with people converting books to
: movies is that the images THEY put into the movie didn't jibe with
: the glorious images *I* put into the book. This same feeling comes
: across with adventure games. I love books, and (to be completely honest)
: despise television. Television offers a quick fix, and destroys the
: imagination that comes with PICTURING a scene, as opposed to VIEWING a
: scene.

And sometimes, it's the reversed.

Why do you hate television. It's a medium like music, film strips, etc...
Don't blame TV for all the bad things. A lot of TV offers a quick fix, and
that is its form as a medium. There are many hours of TV that don't offer
the 'quick fix' also.

Plays, film, even illustrated books come with a pictured scene. Do you
hate them? Some mediums are left open for the audience and others intend
them to see what the author envisioned.

: > Again, do you consider books "primitive in design" because they don't


: > have animated pictures and sound tracks to go along with them?
:

: Yeah, he probably does. If it's a book, he'll probably wait for
: the movie, or the TV special. People are video-oriented these days.
: I'm not saying that one can make money producing text-based adventure
: games. Quite the opposite. I'm mainly bitching about the fact that
: people don't USE THEIR IMAGINATION to conjure up images of faraway
: lands, and exciting situations. They prefer to shut their brains off,
: and let others place the images in their heads. People don't want to
: think. This means that people who cater to this desire will make more
: money than people who like to make people think.

Morgan, don't assume what I like!? I do read, and quite a lot. No, I'd
rather read the book, before the movie. Yes, I'm visual oriented and
was trained in cinema. I'm also a short story writer, essayist, etc...
Critical thinking and viewing another's vision are two different things.

Morgan Schweers

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Dec 22, 1991, 7:10:34 AM12/22/91
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Some time ago d...@wam.umd.edu (David M. Baggett) happily mumbled:
>In article <1991Dec19.1951...@netcom.COM> pro...@netcom.COM (Tom Czarnik) writes:
>
>>People do like to see and hear things in a world; it would be foolish
>>not to provide them.
>
>But you can do a far better job portraying the world if you do it
>without 320x200x256 VGA pictures and tiny speaker blips. The advantage
>of pure prose is that there are of course no limits to the resolution
>of pictures in the reader's mind.
>
>Your line of reasoning would suggest that book publishers are being
>foolish because their products are all text -- instead they should be
>making only movies, I guess.
>

Or, more specifically, TV shows. The reason that many people here


(and on some of the other game-oriented groups here) highly favor
'graphics' games, is that they have been fed TV all their lives.
I am one of those almost-religious supporters of text-based adventure
games. I will go out and try to find 'Lost treasures' and buy maybe
four or five of them, as presents.

I believed in, and still believe in, Infocom's old slogan.


"We stick our graphics where the sun doesn't shine." With a great
image of a brain on the page. This is possibly because I am an
avid reader, and my imagination can conjure up far more beautiful
images, sounds, and actions than I think any artist in the world
can put down into an adventure game.

Look at the description for the volcano in the Collossal Caves


adventure game. Do you truly believe that this can be drawn with
the same feeling?

One of the problems I always had with people converting books to


movies is that the images THEY put into the movie didn't jibe with the
glorious images *I* put into the book. This same feeling comes across
with adventure games. I love books, and (to be completely honest)
despise television. Television offers a quick fix, and destroys the
imagination that comes with PICTURING a scene, as opposed to VIEWING a
scene.

>>One reason people


>>prorgammed in assembly, instead of C, was the lack of sufficent memory
>>and OS environment. The same holds true for text based entertainment.
>>We should now incorporate IF, musical motifs, etc... - into products,
>>instead of trying to produce products that have are primitive in design.
>
>Again, do you consider books "primitive in design" because they don't
>have animated pictures and sound tracks to go along with them?
>

Yeah, he probably does. If it's a book, he'll probably wait for


the movie, or the TV special. People are video-oriented these days.
I'm not saying that one can make money producing text-based adventure
games. Quite the opposite. I'm mainly bitching about the fact that
people don't USE THEIR IMAGINATION to conjure up images of faraway
lands, and exciting situations. They prefer to shut their brains off,
and let others place the images in their heads. People don't want to
think. This means that people who cater to this desire will make more
money than people who like to make people think.

>>: Has anyone really tried to release pure IF commercially since Infocom's


>>: demise? If so, who?
>>
>>Meaning what? Infocom is not gone.
>
>They are essentially gone since they are no longer producing any new games.

Infocom is dead. Long live the memory of Infocom. They altered
the face of the game world, and proved (for a short period of time)
that you could have brilliant programming and wonderful writing at the
same time. Yes, I canonize Infocom. Infocom, as we knew it is dead.

>Dave Baggett
>d...@wam.umd.edu

As a side comment, I tend to consider interactive fiction to be
any form of media that allows the user to choose the outcome of a
plotline. This means that to an EXTREMELY limited degree, the TV
shows which offer a '900 line' to choose the ending of the show are a
form of interactive fiction.

Obviously, I suggest that IF is not limited to computers.
Chose-an-ending books are IF (and sometimes even fun!), as well as the
least advanced adventure games to the most advanced adventure games.
Video games and shoot-em-ups are not, in general, since there is no
plotline, just a 'goal'.

I tend to talk a *LOT* about IF, since it affected my life a
*GREAT* deal. I apologize if much of it seems like religious babble
to those TV-watchers, or anti-book folks out there. I admit to
dreading the day that the Internet goes graphical, like Prodigy.

I like to think that there will always be people who prefer to
read, than to have their minds filled with someone else's visions.

-- Morgan Schweers
Connissuer of IF's
across the virtual
universe.
--
m...@netcom.com | Morgan Schweers | Happiness is the planet Earth in your
m...@gnu.ai.mit.edu| I hate disclaimers| rear view mirror. -- Jeff Glass
Freela @ Furry | but I often say +--------------------------------------
K_Balore @ Furry | things that others| I'm a practicing furry! Some day
-----------------+ don't like, so... | I hope all this practice will pay off
IT'S NOT COMPANY OPINION. So there. | and I'll grow fur! -- me

Jon W{tte

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Dec 22, 1991, 3:21:07 PM12/22/91
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> pro...@netcom.COM (Tom Czarnik) writes:

Critical thinking and viewing another's vision are two different things.

Yes.

Do you honestly believe the average person knows this, or even cares ?
Hell, I know people who got through college without knowing the
difference. It hurts me, because I want people to be aware, to THINK,
to use their imagination, but since most people tend to want to take
the easy way out and leav comfortable lives without too much effort
or strangeness, I guess it's me who's not "normal".

On the other hand, why should I care ? I get an enormous edge over
everyday people :-)

--
h...@nada.kth.se , Jon W{tte , Yes, that's a brace !
- Was it worth it ?

Ken Hill

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Dec 22, 1991, 5:50:58 PM12/22/91
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In article <SCHMID.91D...@fb3-s6.fb3-s7.math.tu-berlin.de>, sch...@fb3-s7.math.tu-berlin.de (Gregor Schmid) writes:
> I'd like to add my 2ct worth to the discussion about _pure_ IF and those
> hypergraphic monsters.
>
> It is a sad fact, that games like _Larry_ or _Space Quest_ sell a hundred
> times better than any Infocom ever did, even though with each followup the
> only thing improved is graphic. I admit that I _do_ like graphics but what
> good are they if all you get is an _oh my, what a nice movie_ game that you
> watch for 2 or 3 hours and then dump it in the bin. You don't have to think
> anymore, you can get by with trial and error.
>
> But what, on the other hand, should prevent a really decent IF game with
> a hell of a parser and loads of good ideas and stories from featuring
> graphics and a user friendly interface.

Well, here is my 2ct worth also. I have to agree whole-heartedly!
I remember playing ZORK I,II, & III. Those games took my weeks to complete
(DEF. week - 5-10hrs/day for 7 days!) The parsers on those things were
incredible! Not to mention they did not take up a lot of disk space.
Now we move into the more advanced future (cough, cough)! _Larry_ and
_Space Quest_ and all to other graphics adventure games only take a couple of
days to complete! Yet, games like these can take up several MEG of HD space!
Unfortunately, I still have just a 40Meg drive, and to tell you what, I can
not justify dedicating 10% of that space to a game that takes me only days
to complete. What I think would be GREAT would be a game like ZORK (text only)
that took up 4-6MEG! GAWD that would take months to solve, and perhaps it
could be written so there were multiple solutions!!!
However, like the next guy I love graphics. But, let's not sacrifice
game play for visual masturbation! I want a game that is going to challenge my
mind and imagination, not my VGA card!
Oh, BTW, check out the new Graphic Adventure Games and you will see
even more data being dedicated to non-play stuff. The big thing now is
AdLib and SoundBlaster data files. _Martian_ even brags about a couple of meg
of digitized speech! Gawd, I can read -- just print it!

--
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KH...@VAX1.UMKC.EDU | | X + Y != Z | () ... Ha, Ha, Ha |
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Colin Adams

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Dec 19, 1991, 9:15:11 PM12/19/91
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In article <1991Dec19....@wam.umd.edu> d...@wam.umd.edu (David M. Baggett) writes:
>But you can do a far better job portraying the world if you do it
>without 320x200x256 VGA pictures and tiny speaker blips. The advantage
>of pure prose is that there are of course no limits to the resolution
>of pictures in the reader's mind.

I agree, but try telling that to game publishers/distributors. Nice
pictures sell. Generally distributors won't look too much at a game,
but if it doesn't have a nice intro and some pretty graphics, they
probably won't stock it.

>Dave Baggett
>d...@wam.umd.edu


--
Colin Adams James Cook University of North Queensland
Internet cp...@marlin.jcu.edu.au
"It's so easy to laugh. It's so easy to hate. It takes strength to
be gentle and kind." - The Smiths

James Hague

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Dec 22, 1991, 3:35:45 PM12/22/91
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Tom Czarnik writes:
>
>: Look at the description for the volcano in the Collossal Caves
>: adventure game. Do you truly believe that this can be drawn with
>: the same feeling?
>
>Yes!

My gut reaction was "NO!" but I suppose you probably could with a


photorealistic image being panned from some very cinematic camera
angles.

When you introduce such images, the medim becomes less interactive.


More of a movie which you simply go through. Think of it this way:
pure IF basically gives generic descriptions of events, people, etc.
No matter how detailed the text, it is still only a skeleton--when
process the descriptions in your mind you instantiate it to a
particular scene. The resultant scene is different for each reader.
In order to have true interactive fiction, I think you need this
element. Simple drawings would work much better in this regard than
the latest in computer graphics.

A few years ago a heard a popular band complaining about music videos
because they force the viewer to associate a particular set of images
with a song, whereas if you just hear the music you have to come up
with your own interpretation.

Just some thoughts.
--
James Hague
exu...@exu.ericsson.se

Steve Dakin

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Dec 20, 1991, 1:42:49 PM12/20/91
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In article <SCHMID.91D...@fb3-s6.fb3-s7.math.tu-berlin.de>
sch...@fb3-s7.math.tu-berlin.de (Gregor Schmid) writes:

> I'd like to hear from you, how you think graphics and text
> can be combined to create a new area of IF.

For me graphics is a necessary element, but I agree with Gregor Schmid that a
picture-storybook is not the best approach. I think the key is to identify

what both text and graphics do best. Dave Bagget says:

> But you can do a far better job portraying the world if you
> do it without 320x200x256 VGA pictures and tiny speaker
> blips. The advantage of pure prose is that there are of
> course no limits to the resolution of pictures in the
> reader's mind.

OK, so text may be better at describing what one's setting is. I tend to agree
with this one, although sights and sounds can still be used effectively to add
to the environment. However, typing: "go north <cr>, g e<cr>, etc." is not my
favorite way of getting around. I would much rather move the mouse to a
location on a map, click the button, and watch my little dude head that way.
Likewise, when I am fighting battles (if they are a part of the game), I prefer
to position myself (and fellow members, if any) to exploit my strengths and my
opponent's weaknesses. So, for moving around and combat, graphics might be a
better approach. Icons are another way where a simple graphic can portray a
wealth of information. I would feel more involved in a game where I grabbed an
item and dragged (dropped) it into my backpack or other carrying device instead
of typing: "take item<cr>, put item in pack<cr>" However, when I come across
another character in the game, I would rather converse with him/her through a
parser and the keyboard, then trying to point and click (something about that
doesn't relate well to the real world... :). These are just a few areas I can
think of off the top of my head. Anybody else have more ideas?

What I propose, then, is to identify where text is most appropriate, and where
graphics are most appropriate and utilize the strengths of each to come up with
a game that is better than one that relies too heavily upon either element.

Steve
--
+------------------------------------------------------------------+
Steve Dakin | "Which way to WraithWorld?"
s...@oceania.com | "This way kid, and keep dreaming."
(NeXT mail) | - Jester, the King Wraith

Raoul Said

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Dec 22, 1991, 7:31:33 PM12/22/91
to

>the word enough. I like Roberta Williams--she's earnest, dedicated,
>imaginative. But I just wish the descriptions and dialogue in the
>King's Quest series could rise beyond the level of prose in the Hardy

I have to agree. I programmed on KQ5 and SQ4 while interning at
Sierra and had strong opinons about going parserless. In fact, most of the
programmers involved felt that going parserless was a bad move because it
took so much from a game. In my opinion none of the parserless games are
as good as the ones with parsers (as far as Sierra games go). I also feel
that sticking words in the mouth of the player takes all the fun out of
a game(KQ5,SQ4).
Some might find it interesting that the change to parserless came
from top management and *not* the designers. The suits were more interested
in a possible port to Nintendo/Sega than quality player interaction I guess.
As far as mass sales are concerned, Sierra will continue to be
successful. You take staggering VGA pictures, throw in a plot, play great
music and make the game easy to complete for the average Joe and you have
a winner. Unfortunately for the gamer at heart, there is not much of a
challenge.

Jorn Barger

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Dec 21, 1991, 12:51:21 PM12/21/91
to
Good thread, yay!

I like to tell people I want to write a sequel to PacMan where PacMan
can fall in love. I try to design for minimalist graphics, becaus
the graphics aren't the hard part. If you can represent people's emotional
states in the code, then making some little icon-code that shows that
emotion on the screen is comparatively trivial.

I see Trust and Betrayal/ Siboot as facing this challenge best-yet,
but Crawford acknowledges that it was no fun to play. The dream-
contest seems like a bit of a kludge, but I haven't really ever
played far enough to get a feel for it.

What's great though is that each character has a set of variables that
interconnect in a neat rich way. (I'm about to pop for the sourcecode
package he's now offering for $150.)


One scruple that keeps me from talking totally freely on this group is
that I fear I'll give my best ideas to my competition before I write
anything myself. Perhaps I can talk myself out of that. I've worked
out the basic layer of a new way to handle semantic nets, that's much
more elegant for handling stories than anything anyone here has been
able to counter-offer.

Are many of you following Roger Schank's explorations into *stories* as
the central problem of AI? He's director of ILS, and I'm happy to
share what I've learned working here, which I think is very relevant.

Morgan Schweers

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Dec 26, 1991, 6:34:53 AM12/26/91
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[Different Authors Note: This really does get long... *grin* Like 277 lines]
[Further Authors Note: If you're going to respond, I think a lot of stuff
can be deleted. I tend to talk too much, and summarizing instead of
quoting would probably work wonders...]

Some time ago pro...@netcom.COM (Tom Czarnik) happily mumbled:

>[ Author's note: The following is quite long ]
>
>From: m...@netcom.COM (Morgan Schweers)
>:
>: Some time ago d...@wam.umd.edu (David M. Baggett) happily mumbled:
>: >In article <1991Dec19.1951...@netcom.COM>
>: > pro...@netcom.COM (Tom Czarnik) writes:
>: >
>: >> People do like to see and hear things in a world; it would be foolish
>: >> not to provide them.
[text deleted]
>: > Your line of reasoning would suggest that book publishers are being
>: > foolish because their products are all text -- instead they should be
>: > making only movies, I guess.
>:
>: Or, more specifically, TV shows. The reason that many people here
>: (and on some of the other game-oriented groups here) highly favor
>: 'graphics' games, is that they have been fed TV all their lives.
>

>As I have said before, text-based games cannot offer a parser that can


>understand true conversation. If that can be provided, I'm game!
>

*sigh* I play for enjoyment, and for the mental challenge. Also
for the feel of an interactive book. I don't play for perfectionism.
If I were to take your argument, I could say equally that no graphical
adventure game allows full 360degree vision, and full voice
interaction with the players (not to mention full personality modules
for each character in the game), so I don't consider them worth my
while.

Seriously, I don't understand how someone can call down the devils of
incompleteness on the part of the Infocom parser, then proclaim graphical
video games, er, sorry, adventures to be superior. Graphical games are
*WORSE* in their interaction. The *ONLY REASON* that people like them
better is that they can *SEE* things, and don't have to *READ*. Yes,
that's right. The majority of people who use computers (as Windows and
the Mac interface have quite well proven) would prefer to read as little
text as is possible. Perhaps profile reads often (most likely, considering
that I think me and he have collided in a few groups in the past) but the
average American *DOESN'T* read, and would prefer not to. It is this
which gets me angry. It's the refusal to become interested in any medium
which doesn't offer the immediate gratification of pretty pictures which
really presses my ANGER! button.

When graphical Adventure games reach the level of Virtual Reality,
with all the incredible numbers of variables that that implies, then
perhaps I will become interested in them. Why? Because then the mental
challenge will PERHAPS have returned. It won't be a constant point&click
mentality anymore, it will be the reaching out and grasping of obects, and
the complete manipulation of the adventure's universe. Even I can't
ignore the challenge in that... (Then there's my predeliction for Muds, which
have even more limited parsers, no graphical capabilities *AT ALL*, but
have *FAR* more of the Virtual Reality nature to them, and are (IMHO) *FAR*
more addictive than any other game I've ever played, with the possible
exception of Real Life. *grin*)

>: I believed in, and still believe in, Infocom's old slogan: 'We stick
>: our graphics where the sun doesn't shine.' With a great image of a
>: brain on the page. This is possibly because I am an avid reader,
>: and my imagination can conjure up far more beautiful images, sounds,
>: and actions than I think any artist in the world can put down into an
>: adventure game.
>
>Another reason, Infocom could not create their worlds in graphics to
>match the richness the text offered. This was mainly due to the standards
>at the time.

It's still true with the standards at this time, and will be true with
the standards for the forseeable future. (At least until machines can
imprint a 'concept' directly onto the brain, and the brain interprets it
into whatever images it wishes.) More on this in the Collossal Caves
response to profile's response.

>An artist uses their imagination too, or don't you believe that? True,
>you are forced to view their vision of the world, but this is why people
>see movies. I like to see other peoples creations.

*sigh* Of course they do. I know some wonderful artists, even
some who have done computer game artwork. I'm not talking about the
imagination of the person CREATING the image (be it text or graphics).
The point is that the PLAYER's imagination is the one which can create
FAR more beautiful imagery in seconds than any artist could do in YEARS.

>: Look at the description for the volcano in the Collossal Caves
>: adventure game. Do you truly believe that this can be drawn with
>: the same feeling?
>
>Yes!

Ummm... Have you played it? It really is a high point of the game.
My answer is no, and thats knowing some *DAMN* good artists, too. Perhaps
you know artists who are better than the ones I know, but here's my line of
reasoning... A textual description creates a mental image based not on
a single set of rules, but rather based on my entire mental state at the
time I read the description. It will alter to fit my mental mood each time
I view it. It form-fits itself to my own personal existance. A graphical
display, however, is a view which has nothing to do with me. It may be
pretty, but all it has to offer is there in the original image. It will
never mold itself into my thoughts, or change as I change. It may be
pretty, but it has no *DEPTH*. With this in mind, I disagree with your
assertion that the image can be drawn with the same feeling. Perhaps our
terms are confused, and you are suggesting that it can simply be *DRAWN*.
Of that I have no doubt. But can it evoke the same effect, the same timeless
imaginative flights of fancy that a exquisite text passage can? I say no.

>: One of the problems I always had with people converting books to
>: movies is that the images THEY put into the movie didn't jibe with
>: the glorious images *I* put into the book. This same feeling comes
>: across with adventure games. I love books, and (to be completely honest)
>: despise television. Television offers a quick fix, and destroys the
>: imagination that comes with PICTURING a scene, as opposed to VIEWING a
>: scene.
>
>And sometimes, it's the reversed.

Eh? Explain...

>Why do you hate television. It's a medium like music, film strips, etc...
>Don't blame TV for all the bad things. A lot of TV offers a quick fix, and
>that is its form as a medium. There are many hours of TV that don't offer
>the 'quick fix' also.

*sigh* True, there are parts of TV (most notably, non-fiction TV)
which have as their primary goal the passing of information. As such, I
can't really disagree with Television as a concept. I can, however, violently
disagree with the *USES* of television. At present, TV is more watched then
books. Why? Because of the reasons I've outlined above (or is it below?),
namely that people want to use their imagination as little as possible.
They want to be entertained, to have images placed before them. They don't
want to be forced to picture in their heads a storyline, they would
prefer to have it presented to them on a silver platter. This isn't *ALWAYS*
a bad thing. Certainly in terms of news and such, it's sometimes a good thing.
(I'll get into when it's a *BAD* thing in a few moments.)

The current problem is that too many people (kids specifically) get
introduced to TELEVISION before they get introduced to books. This is a
*BAD* thing, because they start off with the quick-fix TV shows, and (after
a long enough period of time, not very long I think) their attention span and
imagination is sapped to the point where they CAN'T read for a long period
of time, and DON'T WANT to imagine things.

I suppose (to alter myself again, a perogative I feel I have) I'm really
bitching about the way people get caught in the 'quick fix' loop. It doesn't
really matter that some TV is good, what matters is that the largest
portion of TV (by far) is dedicated to hooking people on television.

I'm no fool, at least when it comes to certain fields. I know
that people will always prefer to do what's easiest for themselves. I
also know that I'm beating my head against a brick wall when I talk
about these things. Infocom is dead, and will remain so. Graphics
will rule the adventure games from now on, because thats where the
sales are. Eventually most games will go parserless, because people dislike
taking their hands off the mouse to use the keyboard. Then, someone will
come out with a minimal speech recognition package and incorporate it into
a large group of computers. Finally someone will design a game for the
speech recognition box which allows a minimal parsing of command verbs
and nouns. (Probably two-word-based.) Speech recognition will slowly
improve, and the parser will slowly improve as well, reinventing the parser
system from scratch, perhaps with the capability for emphasis added in.
Finally, someday, people will look back on the pathetic 'superVGA' games of
the past and shake their head, calling it all an incredibly limited
interaction with the game, and denouncing it as primitive in design...

*grin*

>Plays, film, even illustrated books come with a pictured scene. Do you
>hate them? Some mediums are left open for the audience and others intend
>them to see what the author envisioned.

*shrug* I tend to ignore pictures in books, since they don't make
any sense to me anyway. They're not connected to the images I've
already created. If it's entirely picture-based, I tend to give them
away, or throw them away. I don't hate movies because they aren't
*COMMON* enough to cause a problem. Same thing with plays. Ask just
about anyone who watches TV and also goes to the movies, or to plays,
and find out which they do more often. Find out hours used on each
activity and compare them... Movies and plays (and even illustrated
books) don't cause the kind of harm that TV does. I don't go to see
movies that have been made out of books that I've read, either. (As
someone else mentioned, Dune is a rather horrid example of what can
happen. (If it weren't for some other wonderful work, the directors
Artistic License should be revoked! ;-)

Offhand, you may ask, why are graphical adventure games a problem
then? Because there is no longer an alternative. If I could *NOT* read
a book, because they were all on video and no longer available in the
printed word, you would hear all hell breaking loose. It's not *LIKELY*
(or even possible, I think) for this to happen, but it should explain why
I get so upset at the likes of Sierra. (OBTW, Leisure Suit Larry was
originally Softporn. One of the examples of a 'book' (text-based adventure)
being turned into a 'movie' (a graphical adventure game). They didn't
improve it, or change it at all. They just slowed it down (you had to walk
all the way across the screen to get to another area), and put their own
interpretation on things. This means that you could no longer imagine
yourself in the adventure game, you had to imagine this leisure suited
idiot in it... What, I might ask, was the point? The answer would come
back, however, with a booming echo... "M O N E Y ! ! !" Not the enjoyment
of the game, but the addictive nature of a tantalizingly almost-interactive
slightly(?) sexual game that one could safely disassociate oneself from.
I.E. computerized television.)

>: > Again, do you consider books "primitive in design" because they don't
>: > have animated pictures and sound tracks to go along with them?
>:
>: Yeah, he probably does. If it's a book, he'll probably wait for
>: the movie, or the TV special. People are video-oriented these days.

>Morgan, don't assume what I like!? I do read, and quite a lot. No, I'd


>rather read the book, before the movie. Yes, I'm visual oriented and
>was trained in cinema. I'm also a short story writer, essayist, etc...
>Critical thinking and viewing another's vision are two different things.

True, true... I believe that the problem occurs when people spend
more time viewing others imagery than they spend imagining their own.
You, as you have mentioned, read, write, etc. You probably don't
spend 20+ hours a week watching television, or if you do, you probably
spend more time than that writing, and/or reading. This is, I
believe, an appropriate way to build critical thinking. The time you
spend reading and writing is time spent *USING* your brain. The time
spent watching TV, movies, and graphical adventure games (as well as
video games) is time spent AMUSING your brain.

It's my opinion (and I want to make it clear that it *IS* my opinion)
that the first is *FAR* more important than the second. In particular,
when you imagine a scene from a novel, while you ARE amusing your brain,
you are (far more importantly) excercising your imagination.

I do apologize, however, for the 'ad hominem' (correct?) attacks on
profile, however. I believe I had dealt with *FAR* too many people of the
type that I described on that day. Terrible thing, attacking someone on the
network because of anger generated by entirely different individuals in the
real world.

I also agree that calling text-based IF 'pure' is not right. There is
no 'pure' IF, except perhaps a complete virtual reality. Thus, I'd say,
that IF has not reached a 'pure' state yet.

My message has a few levels. On one level, I'm attacking
graphical adventure games as a poorer technology than text adventure
games, since the interface is incredibly more limited than even most
*BAD* parsers. On another, I'm attacking graphical adventure games
for their promotion of a single view of a situation, over the dynamic
imagery of text. On other levels, I'm not even dealing with text vs.
graphic adventure games, but rather books vs. television. On a further
level, I'm just speaking to clear my own mind, since most readers 1) probably
won't have gotten this far, and 2) probably don't really care about the issue.

All these levels (with the possible exception of the last) are
interwoven, in my mind. I like to think that a solution is needed, but
in my more depressed moments I'm pretty damn sure that nothing is going
to change. (I get more realistic when I get depressed. *grin*)

>Tom
>--

-- Morgan Schweers

P.S. Speaking of qualifications, I was trained in video. I've worked
around TV studios for a substantial portion of my life. I read
*LOTS*, and write occasionally. (Nothing of consequence, perhaps, and
mostly on Usenet, but occasionally I'll write a silly little piece of
fiction to excersice that muscle above my neck.) I also write text
adventure games occasionally for my own playing around with. Keeps my
hand in writing IF, I guess. I don't own a television, and don't use
a GUI. *grin*

James Hague

unread,
Dec 27, 1991, 12:10:23 PM12/27/91
to
Morgan Schweers writes:
>
>(OBTW, Leisure Suit Larry was
>originally Softporn. One of the examples of a 'book' (text-based adventure)
>being turned into a 'movie' (a graphical adventure game). They didn't
>improve it, or change it at all. They just slowed it down (you had to walk
>all the way across the screen to get to another area), and put their own
>interpretation on things. This means that you could no longer imagine
>yourself in the adventure game, you had to imagine this leisure suited
>idiot in it... What, I might ask, was the point? The answer would come
>back, however, with a booming echo... "M O N E Y ! ! !"

Man, that hit it right on the head. Now on to my own rambles...

It seems that these days advancements in game design are equated with
advancements in graphics and computer technology in general. If you'll
peruse rec.games.video for a moment, you'll find a bunch of misguided
dolts arguing the superiority of video game system "A" because it has
hardware sprite rotation abilities, and other such trivialities.
Everything is graphics, sound, and speed--the games no longer matter.

Just about any computer or video game magazine sums up the "quality" of
a game using maybe three to five categories. One of these is always
"sound," another "graphics." And these ratings seem to be on an
absolute scale, without regard to the game they are a part of. The
whole concept is just way off base.

Flash is pretty much a marketing ploy. Yes, digitized pictures (as in
Police Quest) blow the player away--exactly *once*, from then on they're
old hat. The same goes for extravagant music; no matter how well-done,
eventually you're going to just turn it off (or wish that you could).
IMO this sort of thing is geared toward sucking in reviewers, and in
general getting word of a game to spread ("Wow Frank, have you seen the
graphics in game X?").

The interesting thing is that the public has fallen for it. They now
expect games to be fairly disposable, not providing more than a few
days entertainment. Remember when the verb "solve" was only used in
reference to interactive fiction? Now it is applied to all games. And
with most games it is much more accurate to say you "plowed through"
them, rather than "solved." The emphasis is on finishing a game, not on
the play.

Remember, this is all just my opinion. Comments, criticisms, and
other opinions are welcomed.
--
James Hague
exu...@exu.ericsson.se

David Sewell

unread,
Dec 30, 1991, 5:38:35 PM12/30/91
to
In <1991Dec26.11...@netcom.COM> m...@netcom.COM (Morgan Schweers) writes:
>>: Look at the description for the volcano in the Collossal Caves
>>: adventure game. Do you truly believe that this can be drawn with
>>: the same feeling?
>>
>>Yes!

> Ummm... Have you played it? It really is a high point of the game.

I agree with Morgan, though for slightly different reasons. Actually
I'm sure a first-rate artist could paint a "standalone" image of the CC
volcano that would be stupefyingly magnificent. Visual art outshines
the word at times--the description of the Tower of Babel in the Bible
never did much for me, but Breughel's painted interpretation affects me
powerfully because it conveys unearthly scale so well.

But the power of the volcano in Adventure didn't come just from a
mastery of words that provoked an imaginative response. It was also an
incredibly clever manipulation of text adventure conventions--the very
conventions that Adventure created single-handed. Remember that most
descriptions in original Adventure were short, because people played it
using slow output devices. So the volcano room grabs attention partly
because it violates the convention of brevity. "Wow!" you think, "this
must be the most significant place I've come to yet!" But of course it
turns out to be TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to the game itself, and once we
realize this we realize also we've just seen the invention of a new form
of irony.

Now there's no reason in principle why graphic adventure shouldn't be
able to invent a significant aesthetic for itself the way film has. But
for some reason most graphic adventure games are to Adventure as
Saturday morning cartoons are to Homer. There are challenges--not
visual, but artistic ones--they just haven't taken up yet.

Now if Breughel and Hieronymus Bosch were employed by Sierra...

Secret Mud

unread,
Dec 31, 1991, 10:23:22 AM12/31/91
to
From: j...@netcom.COM (John Switzer)
>In article <6939717...@zooid.guild.org> r...@zooid.guild.org (Secret Mud)
writes:
>>From: m...@netcom.COM (Morgan Schweers)
>>
>>Frequently, when playing Infocom games, I got the impression that my
>>adversary wasn't any evil wizard or nasty villan--it was the damned
>>parser!! (Especially during HHGTTG.) No real effort to defeat the
>>bad guys, just a major campaign to figure out exactly what word the
>>idiotic parser wanted before you could button your fly, and save the
>>galaxy...
>
>Still bitter about the babel fish, are you? :-)
>--

The Babel fish was just a silly logic problem, which suffered from
limitations of the game universe. (There was only one solution to
the problem, the one the designed wanted.)

How about in Planetfall, when you have to fish something out of a
crack? I had the tool, but phrasing the command with just the right
syntax and words was painfull. Why? Because the game designer set
up overcoming the parser as a challenge in the game.

I'd say that single-path solutions, and setting up the parsers as a
villan, are two deadly sins of adventure writing.

Brendon Wyber, C.S.C.

unread,
Jan 1, 1992, 6:41:59 PM1/1/92
to
In article <6941930...@zooid.guild.org>, r...@zooid.guild.org (Secret Mud)
writes:
> From: j...@netcom.COM (John Switzer)
>>In article <6939717...@zooid.guild.org> r...@zooid.guild.org (Secret Mud)
> writes:
>>>From: m...@netcom.COM (Morgan Schweers)
>>>
>>> [ Stuff on how the Parser was the villian (esp. in Hitchhikers) deleted]

>>
>>Still bitter about the babel fish, are you? :-)
>>--
>
> The Babel fish was just a silly logic problem, which suffered from
> limitations of the game universe. (There was only one solution to
> the problem, the one the designed wanted.)

Actually I never found the babel fish much I of a problem (but I happened
to be carrying the junk mail with me).

I found "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" a poor adventure game to play.
Although I agree the humour was entertaining sometimes the parser on it
sucked and the puzzles quite linear.

> How about in Planetfall, when you have to fish something out of a
> crack? I had the tool, but phrasing the command with just the right
> syntax and words was painfull. Why? Because the game designer set
> up overcoming the parser as a challenge in the game.

I disagree that the author (Steve Metza-sumtheng-or-uther) tried to make
that difficult, you must have been unlucky that day.

> I'd say that single-path solutions, and setting up the parsers as a
> villan, are two deadly sins of adventure writing.

I have to agreee with your there.

Be seeing you,

Brendon Wyber Computer Services Centre,
b.w...@csc.canterbury.ac.nz University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

"Ph-nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

Philip LAFORNARA

unread,
Jan 1, 1992, 6:48:15 PM1/1/92
to
In article <6941930...@zooid.guild.org> r...@zooid.guild.org (Secret Mud) writes:
Possible Planetfall spoiler:


>
>How about in Planetfall, when you have to fish something out of a
>crack? I had the tool, but phrasing the command with just the right
>syntax and words was painfull. Why? Because the game designer set
>up overcoming the parser as a challenge in the game.
>

Umm... GET KEY WITH MAGNET is a challenge? I didn't even have to
think twice about that one. Yes, some of the earlier Infocom games
do have trouble with the parser, but I don't think that Planetfall is
one of them.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Phil Lafornara 1 Microsoft Way
phil...@microsoft.com Redmond, WA 98052-6399
Note: Microsoft doesn't even _know_ that these are my opinions. So there.

Today's Wisdom:
He who would walk the road of Wisdom must first
follow the path of the cabbage.

John Switzer

unread,
Jan 2, 1992, 11:11:00 AM1/2/92
to
In article <1992Jan01.2...@microsoft.com> phil...@microsoft.com (Philip LAFORNARA) writes:
>In article <6941930...@zooid.guild.org> r...@zooid.guild.org (Secret Mud) writes:
>Possible Planetfall spoiler:
>
>>
>>How about in Planetfall, when you have to fish something out of a
>>crack? I had the tool, but phrasing the command with just the right
>>syntax and words was painfull. Why? Because the game designer set
>>up overcoming the parser as a challenge in the game.
>>
>
> Umm... GET KEY WITH MAGNET is a challenge? I didn't even have to
>think twice about that one. Yes, some of the earlier Infocom games
>do have trouble with the parser, but I don't think that Planetfall is
>one of them.

My only complaint with Planetfall is that I STILL HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO
USE THE DAMN HELICOPTER. And Meretsky didn't keep his promise to let
me use it in Stationfall. Sigh . . .
--
John Switzer | "Handsome dudes, ain't all they're said to be,
| I don't want to wake up next to someone
74076...@Compuserve.com | prettier than me" - Thelma Houston
j...@netcom.com |

D John McKenna

unread,
Jan 3, 1992, 2:19:10 AM1/3/92
to
r...@zooid.guild.org (Secret Mud) writes:

>How about in Planetfall, when you have to fish something out of a
>crack? I had the tool, but phrasing the command with just the right
>syntax and words was painfull. Why? Because the game designer set
>up overcoming the parser as a challenge in the game.

>I'd say that single-path solutions, and setting up the parsers as a
>villan, are two deadly sins of adventure writing.

Planetfall won in one respect - it had the most amazing red herring - it
had been a long time since I played it, but I think it was something
like this.
This was an elevator leading down to the nuclear reactor. To use it you
need the right card, which was in a room full of beasties. If you got
that card, you couldn't get something else youe need - unless you had
something else, that you could not get. It went something like that,
anyway.

I remember being only a few points away from completing the game, and
all those puzzles relating to the nuclear reactor were unsolved, and I
was completely mystified at this.

However if it was an alternative path to completion, that would be very
impressive indeed. I agree with you comment very much that single-path
solutions are a deadly sin of adventure writing.

Steven McLeod (posing as John McKenna)- the signatureless Infocom freak


Mike Threepoint

unread,
Jan 5, 1992, 6:25:17 PM1/5/92
to
I smell a spoiler!


r...@zooid.guild.org (Secret Mud) writes:
>How about in Planetfall, when you have to fish something out of a
>crack? I had the tool, but phrasing the command with just the right
>syntax and words was painfull. Why? Because the game designer set
>up overcoming the parser as a challenge in the game.

Steve Meretzky isn't that evil. Dave Lebling's games have that problem,
though. Twice I had trouble because his game wanted you to use the verb
LOWER and wouldn't take other sensible phrasings.

I had no problem with the parser in the key in the crack puzzle.
All of these work:

GET KEY WITH MAGNET
ATTRACT KEY WITH MAGNET
PULL KEY WITH MAGNET
PUT MAGNET ON CRACK
PUT MAGNET ON KEY

However, AIM MAGNET AT KEY doesn't.

gu...@uniwa.uwa.oz.au (D John McKenna) writes:
> Planetfall won in one respect - it had the most amazing red herring - it
> had been a long time since I played it, but I think it was something
> like this.

[confused description deleted]

No, no.

In the Radiation Lab, which is leaking radioactive waste, is a
portable lamp and a spool with instructions for repairing repair
robots. (And coincidentally, there's Achilles, the dead repair robot,
who might be able to fix a number of broken things.) But if you enter
the Radiation Lab with no radiation suit, you get radiation sickness
and die within 4 moves. The radiation suit should be in the reactor
area. Since the reactor elevator requires an access card that doesn't
exist, you must go down a long, dark stairway, where lurking grues
will eat you if you don't have a lamp. But to get the lamp you need
the radiation suit... Catch-22.

A spool tells you the helicopter access card and the key, you need to
use the helicopter are in Transportation Supply, another unlit room.
Trying to open the locked control panel in the helicopter sgets the
subversive error message "But you don't have the orange key!" So you
need the lamp, but for that you need the radiation suit...

Steve Meretzky may not be so evil as to make a find-the-right-verb
puzzle, but he sure can make an elaborate red herring. I think
Planetfall is one of the most well-crafted of Infocom's adventure
games, a personal favorite after A Mind Forever Voyaging and Trinity.
Stationfall was a let-down that didn't live up to it, IM(NS)HO.

> I remember being only a few points away from completing the game, and
> all those puzzles relating to the nuclear reactor were unsolved, and I
> was completely mystified at this.

Naturally, you thought "Every object in the game must be there for a
purpose."

(Warning: not really a Trinity spoiler)
In Trinity, you start off the game with a credit card and a 50p coin
in your pocket. You may carry that card through the entire game, but
you'll never use it. It's not really a useless object, however, it's
a remnant of a removed puzzle.

In the version of the game I beta-tested, you used that card to jimmy
open a locked gate in the Kensington Gardens leading to the wabe. It
embarrasses me to admit it, but I went through a good deal of the game
without having entered the wabe, because I didn't realize I could unlock
that gate (I thought it was just one of the park's artificial boundaries).
I managed to solve a good deal of the puzzles by just waiting around a
long time. Inevitably, though, I became stuck, and reported that I was
against a wall. A number of questions later, it was discovered I hadn't
been in the wabe behind the gate I'd since forgotten. That gate is not
in the final version of the game.

You also get a 20p coin as change from the bird woman for buying
crumbs to feed the birds. There was no use for it, until the final
scenario. The only screwdriver is a Phillips, but there were some
flathead screws holding fast a lever you had to pull. You used the
coin you've been toting since the very beginning of the game to
unscrew them. I particularly liked that subpuzzle. That too wasn't
in the final game. (Not my fault!)

Later, a friend of mine who played the published Trinity said one of
the things he liked about it were that the useless peripheral objects,
like the credit card you started the game with. I told him about the
puzzles they were remnants of, and we speculated about other traces of
ex-puzzles in other games.

On a more positive note, thanks to one of my suggestions, Trinity's
the only Infocom game with coins you can flip. :-)

> However if it was an alternative path to completion, that would be very
> impressive indeed. I agree with you comment very much that single-path
> solutions are a deadly sin of adventure writing.

An all-too-common one. Brian Moriarty's games (Wishbringer, Beyond
Zork, and to a lesser extent Trinity) are the most flexible of
Infocom's games (excluding the mysteries) in terms of nonlinear plot
and alternate solutions.

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