[Technique] Induction .vs. game-within-game..

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Quentin D. Thompson

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Apr 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/9/00
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[WARNING: Though this post is about technique, it contains spoilers of
various shapes and sizes. If you're wary about such things, well.......don't
say I didn't warn you.]

In the beginning - and I'm talking about "Colossal Cave" rather than "Curses"
- adventure games were fairly simple as far as story outline and design went.
No matter whether the setting was a school during detention, a maze of caves,
a surreal "parallel universe" or the inside of one's computer, the story
progressed in a very predictable manner: the player character was thrown in
either at the beginning of a quest, at the deep end, or in a situation which
gradually unfolded as the game went on, and progression was through the
simple expedient of travelling from one room to another; important events
were usually dismissed in a couple of lines ("You fire the catapult at
Goliath and he dies! You can now go north to the crystal caves.."). As games
became more complex, of course, text became less terse even in room-by-room,
as-a-whole games of the kind I described above. But new techniques began to
make their appearance, which though familiar to readers of fiction were
pretty much unknown in IF. Examples of thes are the prologue ("Trinity" and
later "Jigsaw"), dividing a game into chapters (the excellent "Jigsaw"
again), splitting up the game over several terrains without the obtrusive
"chapter" device (in a manner akin to, say, a really good side-scroller) and
including sub-plots and sub-games. Of course, these have become pretty much
accepted form to most of us, with additional changes ("Muse" and
"Anchorhead", for example, use a day-order rather than a chapter-order, and
"4 Seconds" - though buggy - offers an interesting attempt at an _induction_
rather than a prologue.) Another device - one of my favourites - is the
flashback, which was used to brilliant effect in "Babel" and, on occasions
"Worlds Apart". Finally, there are more innovative techniques like
disjointing the time-scale, as in Adam Cadre's landmark Photopia (most Kurt
Vonnegut readers would be familiar with the device, but it works terrifically
in IF) and multiple points of view, as in Stephen Granade's Common Ground.

However, Paul O'Brian's LASH - which I wrote a rather ill-fated review of
recently :) - uses a device that I haven't, in my experience, seen before: a
game within a game. (I'm not talking about a game of Othello or a Fifteen
puzzle built into a game, as in NJAG). The game's mid-section - the episode
in the past, where the PC takes on the role of a black slave girl - can't
really be described, at least by me, in other terms. Strangely, though, when
the device was discussed during the thread that followed the review, at least
one person said that, for him, the "optimal ending" of the game was the
"optimal ending" to the mid-section, and that he found the endgame rather
irrelevant. It took some time for this to sink in, but it was a very astute
comment. Imagine LASH with the last section axed. The introductory piece
would then function as an induction (not a prologue), and the Linda episode
would be the main game. Coming to think of it, this might have worked much
better in my opinion as well, as it not only streamlines the game, but it
eliminates the need for the irksome "harmonica puzzle", and the illogical
ending I complained of in my original review. What could be added could be an
afterword, something in the style of "4 Seconds"' optional EPILOGUE command,
which could allow the player to either end the game "optimally", or see the
effect the episode had had upon his experimental robot. On the other hand,
"game-within-a-game" is an equally intriguing device, and while I felt LASH's
logic (robot=slave=black, human=master=white) skewed its effectiveness in
this particular example, I still think there's a good case for using the
device in a different kind of game. I'll sign off with two questions: do you
feel LASH would have worked better with an induction than as it currently
stands? And can you think of any possible ways in which a game-within-a-game
would be an optimal device?

All opinions welcome.

-- Quentin D. Thompson


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Dan Schmidt

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Apr 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/9/00
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| Imagine LASH with the last section axed. The introductory piece
| would then function as an induction (not a prologue)...
|
| ...do you feel LASH would have worked better with an induction than
| as it currently stands?

I'm not familiar with this use of the word 'induction'. Could you
define what you mean by it more precisely?

--
Dan Schmidt | http://www.dfan.org

Gabe McKean

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Apr 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/9/00
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Dan Schmidt wrote in message ...

I think he means an introduction which is only loosely related to the main
story and which isn't resolved properly. Assuming that's what he means, I
don't think such a technique would ever be effective for me. By definition,
an 'induction' could be taken out of a story without affecting it much,
making it seem rather irrelevant to me, and I think the story would be
better served by paying more attention to the important details than adding
something irrelevant.

If LASH hadn't had the epilogue, it wouldn't have had as much of an effect
on me. I personally found 'optimizing' the epilogue by setting the MULE
free more compelling than optimizing the dream-sequence (though I did
somehow manage to get the girl on the underground railroad on my first
play-through). This was because, in terms of the game-world, the MULE was
real, while the girl was just a construct in a virtual world who would be
'reset' once the dream finished.

If the last part of the game hadn't been included, what would have been the
point of the first part? Why not just drop the entire MULE story and set
the game entirely in the slavery era?

Gabe McKean

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Apr 9, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/9/00
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[snip]
> ...while I felt LASH's

>logic (robot=slave=black, human=master=white) skewed its effectiveness in
>this particular example...


Actually, now that I think of it, there's a fairly strong implication that
the 'master' PC is black. The PC is from 'American Africa,' which was
apparently settled by refugees from the war. It seems unlikely that the
white refugees would have settled in Africa, given the circumstances of the
war. And you can't really say that the MULE was 'black'; it was a robot (a
grey one, no less, which may or may not be symbolic). Sure, it took on some
of the mannerisms of a black slave (singing 'Swing Low...' and so on), but
that's the behavior that was imprinted on it during the dream.

Ross Presser

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Apr 10, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/10/00
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alt.distingui...@my-deja.com (Quentin D.
Thompson).wrote.posted.offered:

>However, Paul O'Brian's LASH - which I wrote a rather ill-fated
>review of recently :) - uses a device that I haven't, in my
>experience, seen before: a game within a game.

What about "Delusions"? I suppose it should be seen as different
because you are the "same" PC throughout, but there are at least three
very distinct roles that the PC plays, and they all "feel" different to
me.


--
Ross Presser * ross_p...@imtek.com
"You can kill more lusers per hour with a dull spoon and a kind
sword, than with just a dull spoon." -- rst...@xs4all.nl (Rik
Steenwinkel)

John W. Kennedy

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Apr 10, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/10/00
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Dan Schmidt wrote:
> I'm not familiar with this use of the word 'induction'. Could you
> define what you mean by it more precisely?

Classic example: "The Taming of the Shrew".

--
-John W. Kennedy
-rri...@ibm.net
Compact is becoming contract
Man only earns and pays. -- Charles Williams

Quentin D. Thompson

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Apr 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/12/00
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In article <38F21311...@bellatlantic.net>,

jwke...@bellatlantic.net wrote:
> Dan Schmidt wrote:
> > I'm not familiar with this use of the word 'induction'. Could you
> > define what you mean by it more precisely?
>
> Classic example: "The Taming of the Shrew".
>

Exactly what I had in mind when I posted, good sir Kennedy. I still think
it'd have worked with LASH, and it'd also work with a few other sorts of
games.

--
Quentin D. Thompson
Thane of Halo
Arms: A red six-pack with two koalas rampant

Philip Goetz

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Apr 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/13/00
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Quentin D. Thompson <stup...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:8d1qb5$bg8$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

> In article <38F21311...@bellatlantic.net>,
> jwke...@bellatlantic.net wrote:
> > Dan Schmidt wrote:
> > > I'm not familiar with this use of the word 'induction'. Could you
> > > define what you mean by it more precisely?
> >
> > Classic example: "The Taming of the Shrew".

> Exactly what I had in mind when I posted, good sir Kennedy. I still think
> it'd have worked with LASH, and it'd also work with a few other sorts of
> games.

Huh?

I have no more idea than before what "induction" is.
Can you be more explicit?

Phil


John W. Kennedy

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Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
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The dictionary definition of the literary sense of "induction" makes it
roughly equivalent to "preface", "foreword", "prelude" etc., but marks
it "archaic". It continues in modern use, however, to signify, as in
"The Taming of the Shrew" or Eddison's "The Worm Ouroboros" an
introductory story (or the first section of an envelope story) of a work
that is, structurally, a story-within-a-story, where the inner story is
the main work.

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