Other forms of interactive fiction

5 views
Skip to first unread message

Curt Siffert

unread,
Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about interactive fiction
lately, on my own and with my creative writing group. I just recently
came across this group and was intrigued.

However, most of the discussion seem to be in only one area of
interactive fiction, the infocommish sort. Not to knock it, I loved
those games, and even feel a bit of goofy pride that I was able to
solve "Sorcerer" without a hint book. But with the web and the
possibilities of networking and community, I'm wondering what other
kinds of interactive fiction people are working to develop.

Some questions, then, for discussion:

1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want
to play them as opposed to playing a mud? The followup questions
would be, what elements of interactive fiction should be concentrated
on to make it distinctive from a mud? (aside from the single-player
nature) Or, how could multiple players be introduced to
interactive fiction without it turning into a mud?

2) Have there been many experiments with using first or third
person as opposed to the traditional second person approach?
(YOU see a leaflet in the mailbox.)

3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides
either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
new ideas.

4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
while, Detective Bob is still on the case.

5) Cyoa's usually involve choices which create divergent plotlines -
choose one path, and the result of the path you *didn't* choose
never happens. That's like saying that a tree falling in a forest
with no one around doesn't make a sound. I guess it's a question
of philosophy, but has anyone experimented in the matter of
outside events happening without being a function of the
character's interaction? Result of path B *still* happens,
you just weren't there to see it. I guess this does happen
sometimes, but it still seems to be the exception rather than
the rule.

There's a specific kind of interactive fiction I am interested
in that addresses these particular issues. I'm hoping to launch it
off my web page in the next few months. I'm still trying to spec it
out, because right now it's still kind of gnarled in my mind, but it's
gradually becoming more cohesive. I thought that getting your thoughts
on the above matters might help my thought process.

Thanks much,
Curt

Stephen Granade

unread,
Feb 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/14/97
to

On 14 Feb 1997, Curt Siffert wrote:
> Some questions, then, for discussion:
>
> 1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
> different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
> alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want
> to play them as opposed to playing a mud? The followup questions
> would be, what elements of interactive fiction should be concentrated
> on to make it distinctive from a mud? (aside from the single-player
> nature) Or, how could multiple players be introduced to
> interactive fiction without it turning into a mud?

Most MUDs (in my albeit limited experience) focus first on killing
monsters, then on interaction with other players, and finally on puzzle
solving (the traditional focus of text adventure games [1]). Also, puzzle
design becomes quite different in MUDs, as one player may come along and
scarf up one of the items needed to solve the puzzle while someone else
has a different necessary item. Also, the multiplayer nature of MUDs
allow for puzzles which are solvable only by teams of players.

For me, I find MUDs &c. to have a completely different purpose than text
adventures. MUDs lean heavily on interaction with other people. Often
text adventures are presenting a story, something MUDs are (traditionally)
not very good at.

> 2) Have there been many experiments with using first or third
> person as opposed to the traditional second person approach?
> (YOU see a leaflet in the mailbox.)

Some. See "Past Tense," available from the GMD archives:

ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/pastense.zip

You'll need a TADS interpreter to play the game, also available from GMD:

ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/tads/executables/*

> 3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides
> either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
> of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
> description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
> new ideas.

Others are no doubt possible, but you run the risk of leaving the player
in the dirt. If the game continues while the player is not playing (as
it does to a limited extent in Infocom's "Border Zone"), at some point it
becomes more of a simulation than a text adventure game.

> 4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> while, Detective Bob is still on the case.

I'm not aware of a game which does as you describe. However, in
Infocom's "Suspended" you control five robots, each of which senses the
world in different ways.

> 5) Cyoa's usually involve choices which create divergent plotlines -
> choose one path, and the result of the path you *didn't* choose
> never happens. That's like saying that a tree falling in a forest
> with no one around doesn't make a sound. I guess it's a question
> of philosophy, but has anyone experimented in the matter of
> outside events happening without being a function of the
> character's interaction? Result of path B *still* happens,
> you just weren't there to see it. I guess this does happen
> sometimes, but it still seems to be the exception rather than
> the rule.

I don't know of one. Most text adventure games have one plotline, so
there are no roads not taken. The CYOA books I've read have had plot
lines which most of the time had no relation to one another. Pick plot
A, and whoosh you're capturing an international jewel thief. Pick plot
B, and whoosh you're captured by aliens in an intergalactic conspiracy.

> There's a specific kind of interactive fiction I am interested
> in that addresses these particular issues. I'm hoping to launch it
> off my web page in the next few months. I'm still trying to spec it
> out, because right now it's still kind of gnarled in my mind, but it's
> gradually becoming more cohesive. I thought that getting your thoughts
> on the above matters might help my thought process.

Hope this helps.

Stephen

[1] I used the term "text adventure" instead of "interactive fiction"
since we're discussing more types of IF than text adventures.

--
Stephen Granade | "It takes character to withstand the
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | rigors of indolence."
Duke University, Physics Dept | -- from _The Madness of King George_


Mary K. Kuhner

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article <5e2hve$4...@news.wco.com> sif...@shell.wco.com (Curt Siffert) writes:

>1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
> different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
> alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want
> to play them as opposed to playing a mud?

All of the muds which I've experienced have had relatively static,
shallow backdrops; the focus is on PC/PC interaction. The problem
is that you are then at the mercy of the other players' writing skill,
knowledge, sense of commitment to the background, and so forth.
It only takes one poor player to ruin any illusion of immersion in
an alternate world; it takes a whole cast of good players to support an
actual storyline or narrative.

Also--something I've encountered doing play-by-email and play-by-IRC
roleplaying--it is hard to write good prose in realtime, so the
dialog and improvised descriptions in a mud tend to suffer with
comparison to other, more deliberate media.

IF shines in being able to do detailed interactions with game
states, polished description, and complex storyline. Muds shine,
when you're lucky with your fellow-players, in character interaction.

>4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> while, Detective Bob is still on the case.

Infocom's _Suspended_ does this at great length. There's a graphic
adventure _Psychic Detective_ currently on the market which does
some interesting stuff with it (much of the game consists merely
of looking through other peoples' eyes).

I would guess it's not done more often for the same reason that
rapid point-of-view switching is tricky in film or books; you may
lose the player's engagement if you don't let her settle on one
character to identify with. But it's certainly possible.

>5) Cyoa's usually involve choices which create divergent plotlines -
> choose one path, and the result of the path you *didn't* choose
> never happens. That's like saying that a tree falling in a forest
> with no one around doesn't make a sound. I guess it's a question
> of philosophy, but has anyone experimented in the matter of
> outside events happening without being a function of the
> character's interaction? Result of path B *still* happens,
> you just weren't there to see it. I guess this does happen
> sometimes, but it still seems to be the exception rather than
> the rule.

The trick is implementing this without making the player feel
unnecessary (everything would have happened without me) and/or
overwhelmed (stuff is happening everywhere behind my back! How
can I keep up?)

Not impossible, certainly, but not easy. (You also have to lick
some technical troubles involving pacing, I suspect.)

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

Curt Siffert (sif...@shell.wco.com) wrote:

> I've been spending a lot of time thinking about interactive fiction
> lately, on my own and with my creative writing group. I just recently
> came across this group and was intrigued.

> However, most of the discussion seem to be in only one area of
> interactive fiction, the infocommish sort.

Yup. I hear the newsgroup didn't start out this way, but that was before
my time.

> Some questions, then, for discussion:

> 1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games


> different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
> alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want

> to play them as opposed to playing a mud? The followup questions
> would be, what elements of interactive fiction should be concentrated
> on to make it distinctive from a mud? (aside from the single-player
> nature) Or, how could multiple players be introduced to
> interactive fiction without it turning into a mud?

This is not an uninteresting question. :) My experience with MUDs is
limited (despite the award ceremony last week). This is precisely
because the Great MUD Explosion of 1989 (TinyMUD and its descendants)
was a set of social environments -- as opposed to both puzzles and works
of fiction. I played around with simple puzzle-story scenarios in
TinyMUD and Islandia, but I was in a small minority. Most people wanted
to hang out with each other, not explore.

Do I have a point here? I guess the distinctive characteristic of a MUD
is a lot of people in an unstructured setting -- they log in when they
have time, but not in any coordinated way. Whereas IF of the Infocom
variety demands very structured attention. If you have a multi-character
story going on, and you want each character played by a different person,
they must all join in at the same time, with the intent of doing nothing
else for the entire session. And if they don't finish in one session
(remember that two hours play-time is a *short* IF work) they have to
all be present the next day, to restore their saved game. That's not
impossible, but it sure wasn't the TinyMUD crowd.

People do manage to have paper-and-pencil RPG campaigns that go on for
years at weekly meetings. It's not impossible, like I said. But we
haven't started doing it yet.

> 2) Have there been many experiments with using first or third
> person as opposed to the traditional second person approach?
> (YOU see a leaflet in the mailbox.)

A few. "Piece of Mind" from this year's competition plays around with
first person; the "I" in "I get out of bed" is actually a separate
character, one who talks to you as well as obeys your commands.

I don't recall seeing any third-person experiments. ("Fred gets out of
bed.") I don't see any particularly nifty prospects in that area; it
seems like it would just distance the player from the action, and I've
always liked the closeness of second person. But I'm sure it'll be tried
eventually. Or more likely it has and I'm forgetting something obvious.

> 3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides
> either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
> of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
> description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
> new ideas.

Well, we don't have the technology to understand anything *but* limited
input. That kind of forces the issue.

> 4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> while, Detective Bob is still on the case.

There have been multi-character games, most obviously _Suspended_. I can
think of more graphical ones than text ones, actually -- _Bad Day on the
Midway_ and _The Dark Eye_ are recent graphical adventures that allowed
character jumping. The techniques were perfectly applicable to text IF.

> 5) Cyoa's usually involve choices which create divergent plotlines -
> choose one path, and the result of the path you *didn't* choose
> never happens. That's like saying that a tree falling in a forest
> with no one around doesn't make a sound. I guess it's a question
> of philosophy, but has anyone experimented in the matter of
> outside events happening without being a function of the
> character's interaction? Result of path B *still* happens,
> you just weren't there to see it. I guess this does happen
> sometimes, but it still seems to be the exception rather than
> the rule.

Well, in a sense this is very common -- most games have some kind of
"daemon" or "timer" system. If you stay in the room with the time-bomb,
it goes off and you die; if you run away, there's a distant boom behind
you as you look around the next scene. _Deadline_ was an early Infocom
game that had very detailed timed actions going on, involving multiple
characters, over an entire day.

I think this is less common these days because it can easily lead to a lot
of *boring stories*. The player can easily be in the wrong place at the
right time, and vice versa, and wind up spending hours of playing time
without seeing anything happen. We want to make the main character the
focus of the story -- which is an assumption of static fiction which is so
obvious that it's invisible -- so we rig up events that are triggered when
the player walks in, or force the player to the right place at the right
time. Or else (this is one easy way out) have static situations that can
plausibly just sit there waiting for the player to show up, and then let
the *player* kick things off.

> There's a specific kind of interactive fiction I am interested
> in that addresses these particular issues.

By all means spill it. :-)

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
[..]

>is a lot of people in an unstructured setting -- they log in when they
>have time, but not in any coordinated way. Whereas IF of the Infocom
>variety demands very structured attention. If you have a multi-character
>story going on, and you want each character played by a different person,
>they must all join in at the same time, with the intent of doing nothing
>else for the entire session. And if they don't finish in one session
>(remember that two hours play-time is a *short* IF work) they have to
>all be present the next day, to restore their saved game. That's not
>impossible, but it sure wasn't the TinyMUD crowd.

This URL suggests a way to handle the focus problem that looks *very*
interesting, although I can't see how to implement it right now:
http://rhodes.www.media.mit.edu/people/rhodes/Papers/aaai95.html

>--Z
--
dan shiovitz scy...@u.washington.edu sh...@cs.washington.edu
slightly lost author/programmer in a world of more creative or more
sensible people ... remember to speak up for freedom because no one else
will do it for you: use it or lose it ... carpe diem -- be proactive.
my web site: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~scythe/home.html some ok stuff.

Curt Siffert

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) sayeth:

>Curt Siffert (sif...@shell.wco.com) wrote:
>
>> Some questions, then, for discussion:
>
>> 1) [Muds vs. Int Fiction]
>
> [unstructured vs. structured]

(excuse me for over-simplifying; I'm going to try to focus this
toward my idea.)

Yes, that does seem to be the dilemma - if the goal is to bring
in multiple users without sacrificing the integrity of the
structured environment, one must find a way to keep the game
going without any user missing out too much if they don't play
for a while. A part of the solution, I think, is not to
specifically assign any one game character to any one game
player.

>> 2) [1st, 3rd person vs. default 2nd person]


>
>A few. "Piece of Mind" from this year's competition plays around with
>first person; the "I" in "I get out of bed" is actually a separate
>character, one who talks to you as well as obeys your commands.

That one sounds interesting. I'll have to play with it.

>I don't recall seeing any third-person experiments. ("Fred gets out of
>bed.") I don't see any particularly nifty prospects in that area; it
>seems like it would just distance the player from the action, and I've
>always liked the closeness of second person. But I'm sure it'll be tried
>eventually. Or more likely it has and I'm forgetting something obvious.

Yeah, third person is dangerous. One the one hand, I believe
third person can bring a reader closer to a character in terms
of identifying with a *separate character*, but obviously, if
the character is understood to be the reader/player, then it
creates distance from an interactive sort.

The idea I've been struggling with involves the player not
controlling a particular player, but actually controlling the
plot itself. Third person might not be so bad in this case.
I suppose that this sounds an awful lot like regular prose
writing, but I'm also trying to keep the elements of multiple
users and interactivity, while maintaining a cohesive universe.

>> 3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides
>> either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
>> of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
>> description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
>> new ideas.
>
>Well, we don't have the technology to understand anything *but* limited
>input. That kind of forces the issue.

We don't have the technology if we are focusing on the paradigm of
human interacting with machine, yes, that's true. (Again, I'm
focusing on multiple users, I guess - that's one way to solve that
issue). But even with single users, another way to interact would
be to find a particular point in the story and branch off,
inventing a new plotline of your own. This could get disorganized
very quickly and could go against the idea of a "cohesive playing
universe", but I think controls could be put in place.

>> 4) [Switching viewpoints with other characters]
>
> [Examples]

I think just the idea of this is a lot of fun. =)

>> 5) [Divergent plotlines versus alternate perspectives]


>
>Well, in a sense this is very common -- most games have some kind of
>"daemon" or "timer" system. If you stay in the room with the time-bomb,
>it goes off and you die; if you run away, there's a distant boom behind
>you as you look around the next scene. _Deadline_ was an early Infocom
>game that had very detailed timed actions going on, involving multiple
>characters, over an entire day.

You're right, I guess both are common to a degree. And I agree
that it could also be boring - if less happens as a result of the
character being the nexus, the player could feel like he or she
isn't exerting very much control over the game. But perhaps this
wouldn't be as much of a problem in a multi-user game where the
point is seeing how outside variables (other players) affect the
game, and how they are affected by your input. Maybe that wouldn't
be boring.

I think the greatest danger to a group-generated story is the
divergent plotlines. A control would need to be implemented
that would keep everyone on the same general saga without
contradicting each other. The challenge is for everything in
the story to happen - when you go back to explore alternate
pathways, you don't have to be thinking "if I hadn't have
chosen what I did, then this would have happened", it could
be "oh wow, this also happened and I wasn't there!"

>> There's a specific kind of interactive fiction I am interested
>> in that addresses these particular issues.
>
>By all means spill it. :-)

It's based off of a couple of things that are popping up all over
the web, and for all I know it's been done. I'm afraid I'm still
in the early stages of idea generation, so this may be raw and in
need of brainstorming, but okay.

The main distinctive trait of this game is that the "players" would
either be readers or writers. Someone could either check back in to
see how their favorite plotline is going, or they could participate
in writing to a thread. This rules out the more interactive 'tweeners
that most of us are when we play an infocom game, at least until I
figure out a way to let a "reader" participate more without writing
significant material.

Yes, that sounds like your basic add-to story. But the twist is
that the plotlines wouldn't be divergent. There would be a master
timeline that is created as the stories are written, that everyone
adheres to. That is what makes it interactive of a sort - every
plot writer can affect the overall makeup of the game by writing
about something that the other plots may have to react to.

I run a creative writing mailing list that enjoys creating group
novels. One person submits one chapter. It's fun and all, but can
die easily, and it's very prone to plot contradictions. I think that
it can be successful on a larger scale with more moderating control
and modularity.

Here's how it could work:

A plot is started by a group of people, for instance my mailing list.
Six or eight episodes are written, characters are introduced into
the narrative. There are various points that would be eligible for
spinning off into another plot that happens concurrently. There
would be readers that (I assume, I hope) would be interested in
joining in and submitting writing for another thread. For every
thread, there would need to be one group of writers and one moderator.
The moderator would have to agree to make sure the thread they are
maintaining stays within the scope of the game.

Here's the trick - every episode has a length of game time associated
with it, so the entire game would be synchronized to a master
calendar. The moderator of each thread would submit "major events"
that may have happened in that episode. These events could be
reported to the other threads and incorporated into the plots.
This would hopefully ensure that plot contradictions between
threads would be kept to a minimum. If Sally dies in thread four,
Rob wouldn't be calling her on the telephone three days later in
thread seven.

The master calendar, the macroplot, whatever, *does not exist*
before the game starts - it is created on the fly by all the
writers.

Every group of writers may find their threads branching out a
bit here and there - they could leave the opportunity for other
groups to take over diverging threads. If too much game time
elapses, the opportunities would expire. (If the game is at
March 1st and there was an opportunity left open on game time
Jan 15th, it wouldn't do to make a volcano explode on an island
on 1/21 when another thread had already written about a luau
on 1/22.) Conversely, if any one thread gets too far ahead,
perhaps it could be frozen until the others catch up in game
time (although this doesn't address the possibility of one
group of writers losing interest and abandoing their thread).

Readers would be entertained by watching the plot grow, or by
attempting their hands at writing, or perhaps even some sort of
plot suggestion voting system could be rigged up at some point.

Anyway, those are along the lines I'm thinking. It wouldn't really
even take a lot of programming; it's more of a plot management
system. It *could* be more automated, like a database program
could demand the elapsed time of each episode, the major events,
and distribute them all automatically. Or it could be done by a
master moderator that doesn't actually read all the threads, but
just goes by the events and synopses.

The cool thing about it is that each story potentially ends up as
a grand sweeping saga - the readers don't necessarily have to read
all the threads if they don't want to, since the larger events
would be referred to in the threads they do read (and linked back
and forth by hypertext). Finally, this is pretty much all in
the magazine submission paradigm - any chapter of writing is
copyrighted and owned by the author, while the collection is
copyrighted by the hosts of the game. This opens up the possibility
of culling for some manner of publication later, with authorship
credits retained and exposure being given all around.

That's what I've got for now. I'd love comments on what you think
might work, as well as pitfalls to look out for or suggestions for
improvement.

Thanks!

Curt Siffert


Florian Beck

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) writes:

> Curt Siffert (sif...@shell.wco.com) wrote:
> > Some questions, then, for discussion:
>
> > 1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
> > different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
> > alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want
> > to play them as opposed to playing a mud? The followup questions
> > would be, what elements of interactive fiction should be concentrated
> > on to make it distinctive from a mud? (aside from the single-player
> > nature) Or, how could multiple players be introduced to
> > interactive fiction without it turning into a mud?

I've never played one (any starters?) so I can't say anything about
MUDs. But I would say that single vs multi-player is not a minor issue
in IF. If the players have control over your world I'm sure the story
will loose some depth: In a good story every single sentence and every
single object has it's purpose; which might not be revealed at first
sight. How do you do this, when the story is created by several
persons?

On the other hand you might gain something. Perhaps spontaneity,
perhaps new ideas, perhaps creativity. Surely worth experimenting
with. But plot would have a completely different standing in
"infocommish" and multi-player IF. "Infocommish" IF has it's own
difficulties concerning plot.

[...]

> > 2) Have there been many experiments with using first or third
> > person as opposed to the traditional second person approach?

[...]

> A few. "Piece of Mind" from this year's competition plays around with
> first person; the "I" in "I get out of bed" is actually a separate
> character, one who talks to you as well as obeys your commands.
>
> I don't recall seeing any third-person experiments.

First and third person might help adopting traditional fiction;
writing more traditionally. Though this might not be desirable.

On the other hand, a growing distance between player and character
may be a good idea (e.g. addressing moral issues, switching characters,
very detailed character personality).

[...]


> > 3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides
> > either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
> > of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
> > description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
> > new ideas.
>
> Well, we don't have the technology to understand anything *but* limited
> input. That kind of forces the issue.

How about this: The player gets a (finished) story to read. Then he
can change the initial conditions: What he takes with him in the
morning, what bus to take, how much money, whom to visit, etc;
perhaps even more general conditions like weather, season, time of day
or meta conditions like where the character lives, what job he has,
and so on.

But I can think of only one way of implementing this: writing a
separate story for *each* combination (which is - even if possible -
quite beside the point). You could make a simulation, sure, but where
to put the plot?

> > 4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> > been experimented with?

[...]
Switching viewpoints is just a special case. You can also switch time
and place (real switch not just walking from one room to
another). Those switches (cf dramatic unities) are to be handled
carefully as they are quite "hard" in IF (unlike in novels but
similar to theatre).

I have been planning a game where you would direct all the
characters. There would be *no* Player. You would type:

>Tim, pick up basket
Tim stoops and picks up the yellow basket.
>Tom, hit Tim
Tom walks over to Tim and smacks him hard. Tim topples over, dropping
the basket and the newspaper he is carrying.

One idea was to avoid 'You can't do that' answers. The orders really
would only be suggestions:

>Tim, hit Tom
Tim struggles to his feet. He clenches his fists and looks at Tom
furiously. Tom apologises but Tim needs several minutes to calm down.

Or even:

>Tim, jump through window
Tim walks over to the window and opens it. Ah, a fresh evening
breeze. He takes a look over the garden. Justine and Mary are sitting
near the fountain and wave to Tim. He studies the walkway some dozen
feet below, then returns from the window.

Of course, this would get out of hand pretty soon, even for small sets
of characters. Not to speak of other problems.

>
> > 5) Cyoa's usually involve choices which create divergent plotlines -
> > choose one path, and the result of the path you *didn't* choose
> > never happens. That's like saying that a tree falling in a forest
> > with no one around doesn't make a sound. I guess it's a question
> > of philosophy, but has anyone experimented in the matter of
> > outside events happening without being a function of the
> > character's interaction? Result of path B *still* happens,
> > you just weren't there to see it. I guess this does happen
> > sometimes, but it still seems to be the exception rather than
> > the rule.
>
> Well, in a sense this is very common -- most games have some kind of
> "daemon" or "timer" system. If you stay in the room with the time-bomb,
> it goes off and you die; if you run away, there's a distant boom behind
> you as you look around the next scene. _Deadline_ was an early Infocom
> game that had very detailed timed actions going on, involving multiple
> characters, over an entire day.
>
> I think this is less common these days because it can easily lead to a lot
> of *boring stories*.

Or to no stories at all. Think of it. Take a novel, a short story, a
play. What could have been done different? Well, almost anything. But
then there would have been no story at all (like Macbeth hadn't killed
Duncan, Bilbo hadn't picked up the ring or Bloom had decided to stay
at home). The author might have made a *different* story out of it,
sure. But ceteris paribus, omitting a critical act will destroy the
story.

--
Flo

FReDRiK RaMSBeRG (WILdcARD)

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

sif...@shell.wco.com (Curt Siffert) writes:


>Some questions, then, for discussion:

(I'll simply answer the questions that no one else has answered the way
I would...)

>1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
> different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
> alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want
> to play them as opposed to playing a mud? The followup questions
> would be, what elements of interactive fiction should be concentrated
> on to make it distinctive from a mud? (aside from the single-player
> nature) Or, how could multiple players be introduced to
> interactive fiction without it turning into a mud?

MUD = killing and chatting, text adventures = story, prose and problemsolving

I think some genres of text adventures could be suitable for
_cooperative_ multi-player games. I think it's more fun to play text
adventures with friends than all alone, and perhaps you could get
a part of that interaction by logging into the same game. Each player
would have to have a distinct role though, carefully built into the
plot, with the story adapting to the number of players. Therefore I don't
think more than 3-4 players is realistic.

Games that would be fun in multiplayer-versions: Hollywood Hijinx, Deadline,
Suspended, Lord Of The Rings.

>4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this

> been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> while, Detective Bob is still on the case.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Border Zone as an example of this.
First you play a western spy, then a KGB agent and at last a double agent,
if I remember correctly. All are part of the same story, and it does
indeed add a nice twist to the story.

>5) Cyoa's usually involve choices which create divergent plotlines -
> choose one path, and the result of the path you *didn't* choose
> never happens. That's like saying that a tree falling in a forest
> with no one around doesn't make a sound. I guess it's a question
> of philosophy, but has anyone experimented in the matter of
> outside events happening without being a function of the
> character's interaction? Result of path B *still* happens,
> you just weren't there to see it. I guess this does happen
> sometimes, but it still seems to be the exception rather than
> the rule.

A fictive story is an illusion. If the illusion, from the players
viewpoint, is complete, it doesn't matter what happens outside his
view. Flaws that aren't discovered by anyone simply aren't flaws.

Some games have NPC:s walking around and minding their own business
whether or not you are looking. If you discover that this seems to be
the case, I think it adds a lot of credibility to the actors and the game.

Also, if you cut a twig of a tree in a great forrest, I find it strange and
annoying if a forest ranger both notices and appears immediately. However,
this is the way it works in most games today.

/Fredrik
--
Fredrik Ramsberg, d91f...@und.ida.liu.se, http://www-und.ida.liu.se/~d91frera
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I want to make it perfectly clear that I can't say I don't think people who
aren't avoiding using too many negations aren't putting things clearly enough.

Mary K. Kuhner

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

You might consider looking at what's been done in PBeM roleplaying
and roleplay-style newsgroups such as alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo. It
seems to me that what you're doing is closer to PBeM than it is to
traditional text adventures. Ordering and organizing what the players
do will be much more important than the static design elements will.

In general, places like .chatsubo have a horrendous problem with
one player undercutting or spoiling characters or background
elements created by another; similar problems are seen in shared-world
writing, and in conventional RPGs run "troupe" style, without a
single gamemaster.

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Julian Arnold

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>, Andrew Plotkin
<URL:mailto:erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>
> This is not an uninteresting question. :) My experience with MUDs is
> limited (despite the award ceremony last week). This is precisely
> because the Great MUD Explosion of 1989 (TinyMUD and its descendants)
> was a set of social environments -- as opposed to both puzzles and works
> of fiction. I played around with simple puzzle-story scenarios in
> TinyMUD and Islandia, but I was in a small minority. Most people wanted
> to hang out with each other, not explore.

Hang on, Andrew. This is the second time this week you've closely
associated your name with this TinyMUD (which I had never heard of
before). You seem to be implying:
a) You (co-)wrote TinyMUD, and
b) TinyMUD spawned all the others.

And thus:
c) You are responsible for MUDs.

Is this what you're saying, or am I mad?

Jools
--
"For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand
ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me
from ever completing anything." -- Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"


Julian Arnold

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article <5e2hve$4...@news.wco.com>, Curt Siffert

<URL:mailto:sif...@shell.wco.com> wrote:
>
>
> I've been spending a lot of time thinking about interactive fiction
> lately, on my own and with my creative writing group. I just recently
> came across this group and was intrigued.
>
> However, most of the discussion seem to be in only one area of
> interactive fiction, the infocommish sort. Not to knock it, I loved
> those games, and even feel a bit of goofy pride that I was able to
> solve "Sorcerer" without a hint book. But with the web and the
> possibilities of networking and community, I'm wondering what other
> kinds of interactive fiction people are working to develop.
>
> Some questions, then, for discussion:
>
> 1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
> different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
> alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want
> to play them as opposed to playing a mud? The followup questions
> would be, what elements of interactive fiction should be concentrated
> on to make it distinctive from a mud? (aside from the single-player
> nature) Or, how could multiple players be introduced to
> interactive fiction without it turning into a mud?

I know almost nothing about MUDs. I guess one reason people write
(single-player) IF rather than (multi-player) MUDs is that as soon as
you allow multiple human players into your game you're relinquishing a
huge chunk of authorial control. Each player has conflicting intent,
wants to do their thing at the same time as everyone else, etc. This
problem is discussed, somewhat superficially, in "The Stage as a
Character: Automatic Creation of Acts of God for Dramatic Effect"
(http://rhodes.www.media.mit.edu/people/rhodes/Papers/aaai95.html). One
reason to play IF and not MUDs is that IF is cheaper (it can be played
off-line). :)

> 2) Have there been many experiments with using first or third
> person as opposed to the traditional second person approach?

> (YOU see a leaflet in the mailbox.)

A few. But I can't think of any just now. I'm sure someone else will
post some examples. Different tense (past, not present) is interesting
too. No-one ever tries future tense... :)

> 3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides
> either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
> of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
> description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
> new ideas.

Of course, the main problem here is coming up with the new ideas. A
second problem is that to implement a substantially different paradigm
one would probably need to develop a new authoring system, and not
everyone can do this (I can't). A third "problem" is that many people
(authors and players alike) are happy with the current format-- IMO
Infocommish IF has not yet been exhausted, not nearly. This is of
course no reason not to experiment.

> 4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> while, Detective Bob is still on the case.

I've experimented with this a bit (unreleased), and I think it is an
extremely useful, powerful, and novel approach. Infocom's "Suspended"
and "HHGTTG" did this a bit.

> 5) Cyoa's usually involve choices which create divergent plotlines -
> choose one path, and the result of the path you *didn't* choose
> never happens. That's like saying that a tree falling in a forest
> with no one around doesn't make a sound. I guess it's a question
> of philosophy, but has anyone experimented in the matter of
> outside events happening without being a function of the
> character's interaction? Result of path B *still* happens,
> you just weren't there to see it. I guess this does happen
> sometimes, but it still seems to be the exception rather than
> the rule.

This is rare, I think (again, examples elude me). The role of the PC as
centre-of-the-universe is a very well-ingrained tradition in IF. A
couple of recent attempts at multiple, mutually exclusive plotlines are
"Tapestry" and "I-0" (both Inform).

> There's a specific kind of interactive fiction I am interested

> in that addresses these particular issues. I'm hoping to launch it
> off my web page in the next few months. I'm still trying to spec it
> out, because right now it's still kind of gnarled in my mind, but it's
> gradually becoming more cohesive. I thought that getting your thoughts
> on the above matters might help my thought process.

Hope so.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

Julian Arnold (jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk) wrote:
> In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>, Andrew Plotkin
> <URL:mailto:erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
> >
> > This is not an uninteresting question. :) My experience with MUDs is
> > limited (despite the award ceremony last week). This is precisely
> > because the Great MUD Explosion of 1989 (TinyMUD and its descendants)
> > was a set of social environments -- as opposed to both puzzles and works
> > of fiction. I played around with simple puzzle-story scenarios in
> > TinyMUD and Islandia, but I was in a small minority. Most people wanted
> > to hang out with each other, not explore.

> Hang on, Andrew. This is the second time this week you've closely


> associated your name with this TinyMUD (which I had never heard of
> before). You seem to be implying:
> a) You (co-)wrote TinyMUD, and
> b) TinyMUD spawned all the others.

> And thus:
> c) You are responsible for MUDs.

> Is this what you're saying, or am I mad?

You're mad. :)

I had nothing to do with TinyMUD, but it happened at my school. I got
back from summer vacation, starting my second year, and found that
everyone was hypnotized by this *thing* running on Jim Aspnes's
workstation, down in the bowels of Wean Hall. (Aspnes was a grad student
at CMU; I think he's now at Yale.)

So I was "just there from the beginning." Give or take several months. I
think I was slightly notable as a builder, mostly because I was
interested in building and everyone else was interested in talking, so I
did more than a lot of other people.

As for (b), TinyMUD was not the first MUD; there was LPMUD earlier, and
possibly others. But I believe TinyMUD was the first entirely
Internet-based MUD (telnet as opposed to dial-up.) And all the evolution
of MUCK, MUSH, and MOO either started with TinyMUD source code or were
directly inspired by it.

Anyone with a better sense of history is welcome to correct me.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

Florian Beck (f...@ue801di.lrz-muenchen.de) wrote:
> I've never played one (any starters?) so I can't say anything about
> MUDs. But I would say that single vs multi-player is not a minor issue
> in IF. If the players have control over your world I'm sure the story
> will loose some depth: In a good story every single sentence and every
> single object has it's purpose; which might not be revealed at first
> sight. How do you do this, when the story is created by several
> persons?

> On the other hand you might gain something. Perhaps spontaneity,
> perhaps new ideas, perhaps creativity. Surely worth experimenting
> with. But plot would have a completely different standing in
> "infocommish" and multi-player IF. "Infocommish" IF has it's own
> difficulties concerning plot.

I'd say that this jump, to multi-player shared-authorship stories, is so
large that it's really a switch to an entirely new art form -- one
closely related to improv theater and RPG campaigns. It's a much larger
difference than the difference between a written novel and an
Infocom-style game. There can be many people creating a story, or there
can be one person creating a story and many people reading it.

If I proposed "interactive theater" (IT) as a term to be contrasted with
IF, would you all throw tomatoes?

(I'm not at all saying that it doesn't belong on "rec.arts.int-fiction",
of course. If rec.arts.sf.* can accomodate fantasy, r.a.if can accomodate
IT. :-)

Julian Arnold

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

In article <5e50gc$t...@curofix.ida.liu.se>, FReDRiK RaMSBeRG
<URL:mailto:d91f...@ida.liu.se> wrote:

>
> sif...@shell.wco.com (Curt Siffert) writes:
>
> >4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> > been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> > a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> > you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> > nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> > while, Detective Bob is still on the case.
>
> I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Border Zone as an example of this.
> First you play a western spy, then a KGB agent and at last a double agent,
> if I remember correctly. All are part of the same story, and it does
> indeed add a nice twist to the story.

Although, while all three PC's have different backgrounds, motivations,
and goals (limited as they are), there is no chance of interaction
between any of the three. Nothing the player does as one PC has any
bearing on the following section(s) of the story, or the new PC(s).

Bill Hoggett

unread,
Feb 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/15/97
to

On 15-Feb-97 Stephen Granade wrote:

>On 14 Feb 1997, Curt Siffert wrote:

>> Some questions, then, for discussion:

>> 2) Have there been many experiments with using first or third


>> person as opposed to the traditional second person approach?
>> (YOU see a leaflet in the mailbox.)

>Some. See "Past Tense," available from the GMD archives:

>ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/pastense.zip

>You'll need a TADS interpreter to play the game, also available from GMD:

>ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/tads/executables/*

Going back even further, Scott Adams' games used first person perspective
when describing locations and events (except for death which was always
second person somehow) and many other IF authors of that time copied his
style. Level 9 used third person perspective for Erik The Viking and later
Scapeghost.


>> 4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
>> been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
>> a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
>> you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
>> nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
>> while, Detective Bob is still on the case.

>I'm not aware of a game which does as you describe. However, in


>Infocom's "Suspended" you control five robots, each of which senses the
>world in different ways.

Melbourne House's "Lord of the Rings" allowed you to switch between the
four main characters viewpoints or control them by issuing commands (i.e.
"Frodo, kiss Black Rider"). As the characters not under your direct control
had a tentency to do their own thing sometimes, it made for a very fiddly
control method. The sequel, "Shadows of Mordor" allowed you to play the
game as Sam or Frodo but did not allow you to switch viewpoints IIRC.

It's worth mentioning that most of the issues raised in Curt's original
post have been covered at some time or another - the games I mentioned
all originate in the early and mid-eighties - but were found not
to work too well at the time. With the superior tools available now,
perhaps some of these techniques will be tried again. Certainly in the
case of first and third person perspective games, there's no reason why
these shouldn't be a success.


---
Bill Hoggett (aka BeeJay) <mas.su...@easynet.co.uk>

IF GOD IS LIFE'S SERVICE PROVIDER WHY HAVEN'T I GOT HIS I.P. NUMBER ?


Drone

unread,
Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

Curt Siffert wrote:
>
> 1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
> different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or

Infocom-style IF currently suffers from "story shortage", which is probably
due to the constraints of the medium putting a lot of burden on author to
manipulate story without seeming to be a puppeteer. However, compared to
even the best MUD I've seen (and my experience is not that extensive), even
something like "Planetfall" suddenly looks like a full-length novel.
Considering your post, which focuses on story, I would think the current MUD
setup would be a step in the wrong direction. But I read Andrew's post and
he's right: maybe nobody has really used MUDs to their potential.

> 2) Have there been many experiments with using first or third
> person as opposed to the traditional second person approach?
> (YOU see a leaflet in the mailbox.)

Not many, and none very successfully. But then, I haven't seen an example
that takes advantage of the full range of characterisation that this would
allow. My current project is third person IF. A debate crops up here
occasionally which boils down to: less emotional distance (2nd person) vs.
better characterisation (1st/3rd person). Some argue that second person
provides an essential feeling of immersion. I don't really think of it as a
trade-off. I would argue that being able to witness and identify with the
main character's emotional states provides a different, perhaps more
effective level of immersion. I think the desire for emotional
identification is out there, but it's usually displaced into debates about
the quality of supporting characters, i.e. sidekicks.

>
> 3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides
> either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
> of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
> description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
> new ideas.
>

Here is where you and I would part ways. I *do* think that the short
action-reaction exchange is a mainstay of a highly interactive work.
Learning to tell a story in rearrangeable little blocks is just part of the
craft. Also, there is currently no method of input less limited than the
Infocom-style parser, including web-style hypertext links. The reason the
parser has fallen out of general favour has nothing to do with its limits
and everything to do with the demands it makes on the user.

> 4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> while, Detective Bob is still on the case.
>

I believe that this goes hand-in-hand with the third-person style: combined,
these two features should go a long way toward pinpointing IF's strengths
when compared to an all-graphic game. A "third person" video would have to
show the main character as part of the action. That entails different video
for each character. It's useful to think of the amount of work required
(both from the author and the CPU) roughly as the NUMBER OF LOCATIONS times
the NUMBER OF PLOT BRANCHES times the NUMBER OF CHARACTERS times the SIZE OF
THE DATA. Then you can see how much bigger an impact plot complexity and
multiple perspectives would have in, say, a completely full-motion video
environment. On the other hand, a hybrid environment could give you the best
of both worlds. I realise you didn't really mention graphics: I'm just
wandering in an aimless and long-winded manner.

Drone.
--
"Esse est percipi."
foxg...@globalserve.net

Drone

unread,
Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

Florian Beck wrote:
>
> I have been planning a game where you would direct all the
> characters. There would be *no* Player. You would type:
>
> >Tim, pick up basket
> Tim stoops and picks up the yellow basket.
> >Tom, hit Tim
> Tom walks over to Tim and smacks him hard. Tim topples over, dropping
> the basket and the newspaper he is carrying.
>
> One idea was to avoid 'You can't do that' answers. The orders really
> would only be suggestions:
>
> >Tim, hit Tom
> Tim struggles to his feet. He clenches his fists and looks at Tom
> furiously. Tom apologises but Tim needs several minutes to calm down.
>
> Or even:
>
> >Tim, jump through window
> Tim walks over to the window and opens it. Ah, a fresh evening
> breeze. He takes a look over the garden. Justine and Mary are sitting
> near the fountain and wave to Tim. He studies the walkway some dozen
> feet below, then returns from the window.
>

This is exactly the way I'm writing my current project. Two suggestions though.
If no specific character is addressed, default to the last one used. Nobody wants
to be typing "Tim, nw" six times in a row. And the second suggestion is to list
the current "default" character in the status line, as in "Tom: Round Room".
Then, you only have to type names when you switch perspective. Also make sure you
can set one character to "permanently" follow another so that you can travel as a
"party", if that is allowed.

The disadvantage I have encountered myself is that it becomes impossible to
implement the standard accepted way of having one character order another. What
was once "Floyd, go north" must now become "Tom, tell floyd to go north", or in
the best case scenario (if Tom is already your default), "Floyd, n" becomes "Tell
Floyd n". The only way around this is to make *every* character directly
controllable by the player. Not a pretty prospect. Furthermore "ask about" and
"tell about" become the only ways to converse.

Nevertheless, I think that on balance it will be a very intriguing style of play.

Gerry Kevin Wilson

unread,
Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

Well, I haven't tooted my own horn for a few days, what the hell. Avalon,
while written in second person (when I started writing it I was too
inexperienced to really do it any other way,) is not about the ubiquitous
YOU, it's about Frank Leandro. It asks you to step into his shoes for
awhile, and pretend you're him. It's not seamless, and not entirely
perfect mimesis-wise, but it's there.

Frank has a past, which is established throughout the story, as necessary
either to the game, or the atmosphere. He has a personality, which is
established in the way he reacts to your commands and the dialogues
between him and the NPCs.

To me, it simply seems odd to have to write a story in which I can reveal
absolutely nothing about the main character's feelings, thoughts, etc. I
mean, a good story has the characters grow and change over time, but how
can I do that unless I establish some starting point for change to occur
from.

Simply, whether or not it is well received, it is more satisfying for me
to write if I have an interesting main character to play with. Just look
at Gabriel Knight. Despite its many, many flaws, it was one of the most
popular graphic adventures around. It couldn't have been because of the
wretched, often unfair puzzles. The story was decent, if slow to start,
but the characters, especially Gabriel himself, are fascinating.

All imho, of course.
--
"Ha. Made ya look!"

Julian Arnold

unread,
Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>, Andrew Plotkin
<URL:mailto:erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>
> Julian Arnold (jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk) wrote:
> > Hang on, Andrew. This is the second time this week you've closely
> > associated your name with this TinyMUD (which I had never heard of
> > before). You seem to be implying:
> > a) You (co-)wrote TinyMUD, and
> > b) TinyMUD spawned all the others.
> > And thus:
> > c) You are responsible for MUDs.
> > Is this what you're saying, or am I mad?
>
> You're mad. :)

I knew all that beef I used to eat would get me one day.

> [...history snipped...]


> Anyone with a better sense of history is welcome to correct me.

Jools

Drone

unread,
Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

Julian Arnold wrote:
>
> Hang on, Andrew. This is the second time this week you've closely
> associated your name with this TinyMUD (which I had never heard of
> before). You seem to be implying:
> a) You (co-)wrote TinyMUD, and
> b) TinyMUD spawned all the others.
>
> And thus:
> c) You are responsible for MUDs.
>
> Is this what you're saying, or am I mad?
>

TinyMUD is partly an authoring tool. Saying as Andrew did that "I played around
with puzzle-story scenarios in TinyMUD" is no more claiming authorship for TinyMUD
than saying "I played around with puzzle-story scenarios in Inform" is claiming
authorship for Inform. And if you're not even more confused after that sentence,
you *must* be mad.

> Jools
> --
> "For small erections

Drone.

P.S. Sorry. Couldn't resist making mischief with your sig.

Florian Beck

unread,
Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) writes:
> I'd say that this jump, to multi-player shared-authorship stories, is so
> large that it's really a switch to an entirely new art form -- one
> closely related to improv theater and RPG campaigns. It's a much larger
> difference than the difference between a written novel and an
> Infocom-style game. There can be many people creating a story, or there
> can be one person creating a story and many people reading it.
>
> If I proposed "interactive theater" (IT) as a term to be contrasted with
> IF, would you all throw tomatoes?

Only, I wouldn't call it "interactive theatre" but "improvised
interactive fiction". IF is much more like a theatre play than like a
novel.

--
Flo

Kenneth Albanowski

unread,
Feb 16, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/16/97
to

In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>There have been multi-character games, most obviously _Suspended_. I can
>think of more graphical ones than text ones, actually -- _Bad Day on the
>Midway_ and _The Dark Eye_ are recent graphical adventures that allowed
>character jumping. The techniques were perfectly applicable to text IF.

Don't forget the classics from LucasArts, _Manic Mansion_, _Zak McCracken_,
and more recently _Day of the Tentacle_. All of these allowed you to change
characters. None of these played around as far with the idea as _Suspended_,
but each did an excellent job of using the technique.

--
Kenneth Albanowski (kja...@kjahds.com)


Edan Harel

unread,
Feb 17, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/17/97
to

sif...@shell.wco.com (Curt Siffert) writes:

[snip]

>Some questions, then, for discussion:

>1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games


> different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or

Well, MUDs tend to really on interaction between people, and nothing
else (except countless kill, get XP, etc). Personally, I perfer
a less ostentatious and more direct form of communication. Wheras
IF tends to be more a work of fiction, concentrating on plots, characters,
puzzles, etc. MUDs never (in my limited experience) have the detail
or pregamablle power that most (good) IF games exhibit. Now, personally,
I would love 2 or more player if (ie, each person playing one turn,
back and forth)d forthats hard to do and still maintain the plot, etc.

Still, it would be great to do. (then you'd get two viewppoints of
the same story, and be able tyo introduce a whole new group of puzzles).

>2) Have there been many experiments with using first or third
> person as opposed to the traditional second person approach?
> (YOU see a leaflet in the mailbox.)

Yes, I've seen various of both types. first person IF tends to be
the same, bar the change from 'you' to 'I'. Occasionally it also
supplies the mian characters thoughts and such, but this tends to
be annoying. Let the story create those emotions, not tell them.

Third person is somewhat more interesting. While it gives less of
a connection between the player and the protagonist, it makes the story
feel somewhat more real, since that character isn't the "player" but
rather a member of the stories setting.

>3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides
> either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
> of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
> description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
> new ideas.

Umm, I'm nbot sure what you mean but...

There are a variety of games (for eg, Border Zone) which has timed
movement. As do some other games. And some games seperate the
description from the interaction.

>4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> while, Detective Bob is still on the case.

Well, that would be a programmers nightmare, but loads of fun.
unfortunatly, it wouldn't reproduce even faintly human-like npcs. By
leaving NPCs as they are, you have a relativly small actions to cope
with. A few scenes and diologue help flesh out the character.

However, every time you allow the main character the freedom of being
another character, you have to practically write annother game.
For example:

>Who am I?
You are detective Bob

>look at body
The congressman's dead. very dead. Shot in the back with a 22 caliber.
Blood's spilling accross the congressman's jacket. Aparently, the
congressman obtained a few enemies in the course of his life time.

>switch to Hooker Helen
alright, hon. But remember, this isn't an X-rated game.

>examine body
Ewwww. Your last clients bit the big one. the blood sends a shiver down
the back of your spine. You could be next!

You basically have to change descriptions for everything, and change
interactions between all the different characters. Also, you would
be able to solve puzzles much more easily. Need to get the money? become
the congessman and give the detective all of yours. etc.

Several games, such as various lucasarts, beaurau 13, etc, are graphical
games which feature this. IMHO, at least from what I've seen, it's
a lot easier to make a graphical game which changes people, as
you don't have to change the viewpoint (since it's a "real" picture of
the scene, as apposed to a somewhat more biased written description.
Theres only one real text adventure (or any) that allows you to become
virtually anyone. Demoniak allows you to change into any of approx 50 characters (even
bad guys) but the characters behave stupidly and boringly when you're
not in control (and sometimes when you change into someone else, the
character does things of its own as well as whatr you say, which isannoying when you want to go west and the character is programmed to go
east. :)

>5) Cyoa's usually involve choices which create divergent plotlines -
> choose one path, and the result of the path you *didn't* choose
> never happens. That's like saying that a tree falling in a forest
> with no one around doesn't make a sound. I guess it's a question
> of philosophy, but has anyone experimented in the matter of
> outside events happening without being a function of the
> character's interaction? Result of path B *still* happens,
> you just weren't there to see it. I guess this does happen
> sometimes, but it still seems to be the exception rather than
> the rule.

Well, most choose your own adventure books tend to split off into
a huge array of different stories, most of the time staying inconsistent.
most IF, however, tends to stay consistent to the story. and even
a couple of CYOA kept a consistent storyline.

--
*********Edan Harel******edh...@remus.rutgers.edu*****AKA Bozzie************
Math & CS Major * http://remus.rutgers.edu/~edharel * Computer Consultant
"Structure is the essence of matter, and the essence of structure
is mathematics." - The Monitor [_Doctor Who: Logopolis_]

Drone

unread,
Feb 17, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/17/97
to

Gerry Kevin Wilson wrote:
>
> Well, I haven't tooted my own horn for a few days, what the hell. Avalon,

Ahem. <Cough>mutter&cry-episode-one-coming-soon<Hack!> You were saying?

> while written in second person (when I started writing it I was too
> inexperienced to really do it any other way,) is not about the ubiquitous
> YOU, it's about Frank Leandro. It asks you to step into his shoes for
> awhile, and pretend you're him. It's not seamless, and not entirely
> perfect mimesis-wise, but it's there.
>
> Frank has a past, which is established throughout the story, as necessary
> either to the game, or the atmosphere. He has a personality, which is
> established in the way he reacts to your commands and the dialogues
> between him and the NPCs.
>

Wonderful! Looking forward to it. Is it already on ftp.gmd.de? I haven't seen
many IF games that make use the protagonist's personal history anywhere but in
the "start screen" -- unless you count their history as played in prior games
in a "series".

> --
> "Ha. Made ya look!"

I didn't look.

Drone.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 17, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/17/97
to

Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
> Gerry Kevin Wilson wrote:
> >
> > Well, I haven't tooted my own horn for a few days, what the hell. Avalon,

> Ahem. <Cough>mutter&cry-episode-one-coming-soon<Hack!> You were saying?
>

> > Frank has a past, which is established throughout the story, as necessary
> > either to the game, or the atmosphere. He has a personality, which is
> > established in the way he reacts to your commands and the dialogues
> > between him and the NPCs.

> Wonderful! Looking forward to it. Is it already on ftp.gmd.de?

Oh, oh, watch it, Drone. _Avalon_ has been "coming soon" since about 1993,
I believe. You don't want to press Whizzard on the subject, or he'll turn
green and come stomping across the mountains and eat your head.

--Z

PS: Hi, Whizzard!

Cliff Hall

unread,
Feb 17, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/17/97
to syn...@tricon.net

Edan Harel wrote:
> >4) What of switching viewpoints with another character? Has this
> > been experimented with? You are Detective Bob trying to solve
> > a crime, and you run into Hooker Harriet. You then switch -
> > you are Hooker Harriet living the seedy night life for a few
> > nights. (And then you could switch to a congressman!) All the
> > while, Detective Bob is still on the case.
>
> Well, that would be a programmers nightmare, but loads of fun.
> unfortunatly, it wouldn't reproduce even faintly human-like npcs. By
> leaving NPCs as they are, you have a relativly small actions to cope
> with. A few scenes and diologue help flesh out the character.
>...
> However, every time you allow the main character the freedom of being
> another character, you have to practically write annother game.
>...

> You basically have to change descriptions for everything, and change
> interactions between all the different characters. Also, you would
> be able to solve puzzles much more easily. Need to get the money? become
> the congessman and give the detective all of yours. etc.

Many games have a lush, complex beleivable world, and characters that
are
as believable as a cardboard cutout. What if it were the other way
around?
A game where the scenery really didn't matter so much, since the
'landscape'
of the game was really in the insides of the characters' heads? Their
thoughts,
their feelings, etc. I know that walking around inside my own head (as I
do
fairly often), my conciousness is usually full of thoughts and ideas,
all
trying to be worked out, and the world around me is just kinda there. I
move
around in it, sure, but the real action is all the noise inside my head.
(The little voices, they won't leave me alone... they keep saying 'why
do they
come to me to die? why?)

How serendipity-do-dah that suggestion was, though. I've been tossing
around
an idea that I know would be pretty complex, but it's so like this I
just
gotta tell... ;)

The idea is, you're this mad scientist, and you've cooked up a little
machine that lets you do conciousness transferral into the minds of
others.

You go down to the mall to give this thingy a spin by hopping into the
heads of passers-by. Sort've out joy-riding so to speak. So you pick up
a paper and a cup of coffee and slink of into a particularly secluded
part
of the food court so as not to be noticed. Once you're into somebody's
head, your conciousness moves around with them, while your body stays
behind.
(Of course there might be range limitations, though. )

The twist is, the first person you hop into is on his way to murder
somebody.
You don't know who, or why, but you can *feel* it. It begins to make
itself
known in his random thoughts and feelings.

While you're in the mind of the host character, room descriptions are
sparse
(to avoid the problem discussed above that your descriptions need to be
totally different based on the character you're looking out of. The
primary
thing that goes on, is that you get a view of the person's thoughts and
feelings.
You would have commands like 'feel anger' or 'feel love' that would stir
basic
emotions in the host character, and thus trigger new lines of thought in
the
character. When something the character thinks looks like it might be a
clue,
a 'remember <subject>' command could trigger and associative train of
thought
in the character that divulges more info.

Thus your interaction with the host characters would not be total
control, but
only suggestive. The goal of the game would be to find out who is about
to be
murdered, why, and stop it from happening. If the killer is going to
kill the security
guard at the mall for whatever reason, and he's in a fit of anger and
bound and
determined to do it, if you stay in his head you'll only see yourself do
the
dirty deed, and loose, you cant disuade him. But you might be able to
make him
'feel thirsty', just in time to divert him over to the Orange Julias
stand. And if
you hop into the head of the party girl who works at the OJ stand, she
might be
easily nudged in the direction of flirting with him, which might keep
him
distracted long enough for you to hop into the head of the passing
kleptomaniac,
who might be nudged toward impulsively ripping off a pair of sunglasses
somewhere,
thus causing the security guard to have to take the klepto down to the
police
station, and safely away from the killer for the time being....

This line of thought is intriguing, because the game play would be less
about
'moving around and picking up things' and more about 'figuring out what
makes
the characters tick' and trying to get them to help you out. Like the
old
saw about subliminal suggestion or hypnosis, 'you can't get people to do
things
they wouldn't already do'. You just have to figure out how they can be
persuaded
to help you out based upon their own natural inclinations. Any good
manipulator
of people would have a ball at this game... ;)

Of course the coding would be a brain-dissolving nightmare, but if
anyone would
like to help out, I'd really like to do this one...

> Theres only one real text adventure (or any) that allows you to become
> virtually anyone. Demoniak

Well, I dunno, Suspended was pretty cool. There weren't 50 characters
you
could control, but the ones you could (eight or so robots with different
personalities)
were *very* well fleshed out, and all gave really interesting spins on
their
view of the world.

-Cliff
--
----------------------------------------------------------------
Cliff Hall, <cl...@tricon.net>
Deliriously Serious Softworks, Inc. http://clha.tricon.net/

Cliff Hall

unread,
Feb 17, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/17/97
to

Kenneth Albanowski wrote:
> Don't forget the classics from LucasArts, _Manic Mansion_, _Zak McCracken_,
> and more recently _Day of the Tentacle_. All of these allowed you to change
> characters. None of these played around as far with the idea as _Suspended_,
> but each did an excellent job of using the technique.

Day of the Tentacle is a particularly good one. It has the feel of
a text adventure even though it's graphical. The cheesy style of
graphics
is perfect. The multi-person viewpoint and the means of transporting
objects between them is really smooth. Highly recommended. I'll take 5.

-Cliff

--
----------------------------------------------------------------
Cliff Hall, <cl...@tricon.net>

Editor & Publisher -=[Synapse]=- http://synapse.tricon.net

Admiral Jota

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

Drone <foxg...@globalserve.net> writes:

>Gerry Kevin Wilson wrote:
[Something about Avalon]

>Wonderful! Looking forward to it. Is it already on ftp.gmd.de?

Heh. Aren't you in for a surprise, Drone. I wonder if this would be a good
time to repost some stuff I recently dug up in DejaNews...

This first little gem is a .sig that Whizzard was using a while back. It
was taken from a post he made on March 29, 1995:

--
<~~~~~~~S~W~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~AVALON~~~~~~~~~~DUE~EARLY~1995~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< ERT O A In the midst of the Vietnam War, one man dies, and is | ~~\ >
< V IGO F R charged with a quest from King Arthur. Live the quest! | /~\ | >
<_______T_E_____________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Note the top line of this .sig. "AVALON DUE EARLY 1995".

I'll post a bit more of this next one. It's from August 8 of 1995, in a
discussion about Easter eggs in Andrew Plotkin's Freefall:

Subject: Re: FreeFall easter egg!
From: whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson)
Date: 1995/08/08
[snip]

In article <4080ht$c...@newsbf02.news.aol.com>,
BCSD4805 <bcsd...@aol.com> wrote:
>i was phooling aroudn with all the magic words and typed "zork" it said
>"try again" so after a while I type "avalon" it said "Where the heck is
>it!" i then looked at the code and typed "wheres avalon?" and it
>responded "In Text Adventure Limbo!"
>strange

Oh, har de har har. Told you. End of September. Tops. Really. No
wait, put down the knife...<THUD>
--
<~~~~~~~S~W~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~AVALON~~~~~~~DUE~IN~THE~SUMMER~OF~1995~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< ERT O A In the midst of the Vietnam War, one man dies, and is | ~~\ >
< V IGO F R charged with a quest from King Arthur. Live the quest! | /~\ | >
<_______T_E_____________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>


End of September. Tops. The question is: which September?

It seems though that Whizzard changed his mind with the coming of the new
year. On January 26, 1996, this .sig appeared from him:

<~V~E~SOF~~~~~~~~~~~AVALON~~~~~~~~DUE~DURING~THE~20TH~CENTURY~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< RTI T Into the afterlife, with dogtag and helmet. Frank | ~~\ >
< G O WAR E Leandro is lost in a world of magic, love, and adventure.| /~\ | >
<_______________________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>


Can we really believe this one?

--
/<-= Admiral Jota =->\
-< <-= jo...@tiac.net =-> >-
\<-=- -= -=- -= -=->/

Drone

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>
> Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
>
> > Wonderful! Looking forward to it. Is it already on ftp.gmd.de?
>
> Oh, oh, watch it, Drone. _Avalon_ has been "coming soon" since about 1993,
> I believe. You don't want to press Whizzard on the subject, or he'll turn
> green and come stomping across the mountains and eat your head.
>
> --Z
>

Oh, it's *that* Avalon. I remember now reading about it in SPAG, I think. Well,
maybe it will be ready soon. I hope so. Although I'm not playing anybody else's
stuff (save as a playtester) until "Command Line Interface" is off the rack.
<g-r-r-r-ind> Debug! Debug! FLAXO! FLAXO!

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

Admiral Jota (jo...@laraby.tiac.net) wrote:
> Drone <foxg...@globalserve.net> writes:

> >Gerry Kevin Wilson wrote:
> [Something about Avalon]

> >Wonderful! Looking forward to it. Is it already on ftp.gmd.de?

> Heh. Aren't you in for a surprise, Drone. I wonder if this would be a good


> time to repost some stuff I recently dug up in DejaNews...

> This first little gem is a .sig that Whizzard was using a while back. It
> was taken from a post he made on March 29, 1995:

> <~~~~~~~S~W~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~AVALON~~~~~~~~~~DUE~EARLY~1995~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>

Oh, don't be silly. Try this, from two posts made October 19, 1993:

> Hello all. I'm writing a game called Avalon 2: The Return of a British
> Monarch. (Well, at least until I come up with a better title. :) )

> If I manage (with your help) to do everything I'd like to do in my game, I
> think you can all count on a truly unique IF experience within a few
> months. (I could do it faster, but I like quality)

That's 1993 with a three, children. A couple of days later, he estimates
"one or two months."

http://www.truespectra.com/~svanegmo/raif/20/msg00063.html
and environs for details.

--Z

(Just to put that, and me, in perspective, that's six months after the
last time I had a date.)

Jason B Dyer

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
: > Frank has a past, which is established throughout the story, as necessary

: > either to the game, or the atmosphere. He has a personality, which is
: > established in the way he reacts to your commands and the dialogues
: > between him and the NPCs.
: Wonderful! Looking forward to it. Is it already on ftp.gmd.de? I haven't seen
: many IF games that make use the protagonist's personal history anywhere but in
: the "start screen" -- unless you count their history as played in prior games
: in a "series".

One technique I came up with but haven't had time to use for a
"protagonist history" is to allow the player to ask questions. For
example, say you meet a man who introduces himself as Robin Fagels. The
player can type

>WHO IS ROBIN FAGELS?

and get what the protagonist is supposed to know about this man.
Something like "talking to yourself."

Feel free to use this, but if you do a vague passing reference to me in
the credits would be appreciated.

Jason dyer
jd...@u.arizona.edu

Liza Daly

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

Andrew Plotkin (erky...@netcom.com) wrote:
: Curt Siffert (sif...@shell.wco.com) wrote:

: > 1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games


: > different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect?

: This is not an uninteresting question. :) My experience with MUDs is

: limited (despite the award ceremony last week). This is precisely
: because the Great MUD Explosion of 1989 (TinyMUD and its descendants)
: was a set of social environments -- as opposed to both puzzles and works
: of fiction.

There have been some other attempts. The only MUD I've ever played
at length was Infinity (I don't have a current address -- it's always
moving.) It's a traditional sword-and-sorcery MUD (rather than
a more social MUSH/MOO environment), in which your goal is to advance
your character in strength, experience, etc. However, to advance
each "level" you're required to solve mini-quests, which resemble
very short I-F games.

Most people on the MUD spent time chatting or fighting (another way
to gain experience) - I was most interested in the quests. I eventually
got too frustrated to continue - each quest was by a different author,
the parser was limited relative to TADS or Inform (and extremely variable
depending on the experience of the author), and too many relied on
burying important objects in layers of room description.

The multi-user aspect made it somewhat interesting - there was no
technical reason why users couldn't solve the puzzles simultaneously,
but there was a strict ethical code about "quest cheating." Sometimes
finding a quest half-completed was helpful, but more often it would
be annoying to find important objects missing. In that case, you'd
have to wait (in real-time, of course) for the quest to "reset", which
would happen periodically during the day.

Unfortunately, the quest-cheating rule eliminated the possibility of
exploring the relationship between the quests and the multi-user
aspect of the MUD. Traditional I-F is, by nature, artificial - we
generally _don't_ go through life solving complex problems on our
own in a perfectly linear fashion.

I'd be very interested in developing a multi-user I-F system that requires
the users to think in an additional dimension (time), but I
doubt based on my experience so far that any existing MUD language
would be advanced enough to suit our discriminating tastes. :)

--Liza

--
http://fovea.retina.net/~gecko/

Curt Siffert

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

Just wanted to thank you all for a fascinating thread.

So, what of the idea of allowing more than one player in these games?
Does this appeal to anyone? I guess I don't mean like a mud, although
I do have to say that there are (were) SOME muds that had very well
thought-out puzzles.

I've played with the expect program "kibitz" a couple of times.
I would absolutely love to get one of my friends to log on to the
same machine with me and start a kibitz session with me. It
basically means you are both attached to the same terminal session
from different remote locations. Like, while I am typing this article,
he could backspace and mess up my text. Start up a unix frotz session
in that and it would be an absolute gas - two people watching each
other's attempts to play the game and solve problems.

Other questions:

1) Have there been many experiments with the "unreliable narrator"?
The only example I can think of offhand is in Hitchhiker's, where
the narrator repeatedly tries to convince you that you don't want
to go into a certain room. Giving the parser an actual personality
that the player has to contend with could be quite entertaining.

2) What about generating the output of an actual narrative based off
of the character's actions? For instance, there would first be
a description of the room, perhaps in third person (Even though
it is clear that it is referring to "you") In the interactive
portions, it would be second person, but whenever something
significant is accomplished, actual third-person narrative
prose is generated to add a bit more of a dramatic flair - perhaps
it is a review of what your character has just accomplished,
perhaps it even gives separate clues. And it could even be output
into a short story of sorts at the end - probably not very high
quality, but a fun souvenir, more readable than a straight
transcript.

3) What of the possibility of making an IF game a Java application;
a Marimba channel, so multiple players could attach at once, but
unlike a mud, would not be visible to each other - the game would
keep its integrity, but it would open up new entertaining
possibilities, such as races, or perhaps events one player would
trigger that would be reported to others, etc...

Forgive me if I'm annoying any purists here, I just happen to love
brainstorming. =) I'm sure many of my thoughts are simplistic and
have been thought of before, but if they trigger something more
inspired, then.... yippee!

Curt


Matthew Amster-Burton

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) wrote:

>(Just to put that, and me, in perspective, that's six months after the
>last time I had a date.)

Say, aren't you the same Andrew Plotkin who offered dinner at a fine
DC restaurant as a contest prize?

The world suddenly seems like a more orderly and predictable place.

Matthew

(Hey, man, no flame--I've been there, OK? Not DC, I mean dateless.
Well, I've been to DC, too. Someday I'm going to post something
substantive to this ng, I swear.)

Branko Collin

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

Florian Beck (f...@ue801di.lrz-muenchen.de) wrote:
a: > Curt Siffert (sif...@shell.wco.com) wrote:
b: >
c: > > 1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
d: > > different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
e: > > alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want
f: > > to play them as opposed to playing a mud? The followup questions
g: > > would be, what elements of interactive fiction should be
h: > > concentrated on to make it distinctive from a mud? (aside from
i: > > the single-player nature) Or, how could multiple players be
j: > > introduced to interactive fiction without it turning into a mud?

a: I've never played one (any starters?) so I can't say anything about
b: MUDs. But I would say that single vs multi-player is not a minor issue
c: in IF. If the players have control over your world I'm sure the story
d: will loose some depth: In a good story every single sentence and every
e: single object has it's purpose; which might not be revealed at first
f: sight. How do you do this, when the story is created by several
g: persons?

h: On the other hand you might gain something. Perhaps spontaneity,
i: perhaps new ideas, perhaps creativity. Surely worth experimenting
j: with. But plot would have a completely different standing in
k: "infocommish" and multi-player IF. "Infocommish" IF has it's own
l: difficulties concerning plot.

You could have a format where several people can play, but only one at
the time. The players actions (moreover, him/her solving puzzles)
cause new puzzles to come into existence, so that you get a never
ending story.

(Ah great, I hear you say, interactive soap!)

: > > 3) Do you see any alternatives in the interactive stage besides


: > > either the choice-making of a cyoa or the brief action-reaction
: > > of a text game? There is this paradigm of "1. print out the
: > > description, 2. wait for limited input" that is begging for
: > > new ideas.

: >
: > Well, we don't have the technology to understand anything *but* limited
: > input. That kind of forces the issue.

: How about this: The player gets a (finished) story to read. Then he
: can change the initial conditions: What he takes with him in the
: morning, what bus to take, how much money, whom to visit, etc;
: perhaps even more general conditions like weather, season, time of day
: or meta conditions like where the character lives, what job he has,
: and so on.

: But I can think of only one way of implementing this: writing a
: separate story for *each* combination (which is - even if possible -
: quite beside the point). You could make a simulation, sure, but where
: to put the plot?

Wasn't this what the author of Tapestry tried to achieve, more or less?

-----
Branko Collin http://www.xs4all.nl/~collin
col...@xs4all.nl http://www.kun.nl/undans/members/branko.htm
"Erm... Erm... should I say something interesting now?"
- Branko Collin -

Neil K.

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

In article <jota.85...@laraby.tiac.net>, jo...@laraby.tiac.net (Admiral
Jota) wrote:

> This first little gem is a .sig that Whizzard was using a while back. It
> was taken from a post he made on March 29, 1995:

That, dear Admiral, is cruel and unusual punishment!

(of course I'm just saying that since I thought my game in progress would
be done last year. But I suppose at least I didn't put that into my .sig ;)

- Neil K.

--
t e l a computer consulting + design * Vancouver, BC, Canada
web: http://www.tela.bc.ca/tela/ * email: tela @ tela.bc.ca

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

Curt Siffert (sif...@shell.wco.com) wrote:
> Just wanted to thank you all for a fascinating thread.

> So, what of the idea of allowing more than one player in these games?
> Does this appeal to anyone?

Playing with someone hanging over your shoulder is always fun. (Not that
I've done it recently.) Sure, it should be possibly electronically,
kibitzer-style. Anyone feel like writing it? Sigh.

> 1) Have there been many experiments with the "unreliable narrator"?
> The only example I can think of offhand is in Hitchhiker's, where
> the narrator repeatedly tries to convince you that you don't want
> to go into a certain room. Giving the parser an actual personality
> that the player has to contend with could be quite entertaining.

Again, _Piece of Mind_.

I've done some subtle stuff with an unreliable narrator -- trying to
simulate the main character's subconscious and automatic assumptions,
rather than a separate personality.

(Now, a character with actual Multiple Personality Disorder would present
some interesting possibilities. Heh.)

> 2) What about generating the output of an actual narrative based off
> of the character's actions?

Go ahread and write it. :-)

> 3) What of the possibility of making an IF game a Java application;
> a Marimba channel, so multiple players could attach at once, but
> unlike a mud, would not be visible to each other - the game would
> keep its integrity, but it would open up new entertaining
> possibilities, such as races, or perhaps events one player would
> trigger that would be reported to others, etc...

Wait, can they see each other's effect on the game-state, or not? If they
can, it's silly to make them invisible to each other.

--Z

Joe Mason

unread,
Feb 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/18/97
to

"Other forms of interactiv", declared Curt Siffert from the Vogon ship:

CS>1) How are most of these already existing interactive fiction games
CS> different from muds, aside from the multi-user aspect? Or
CS> alternatively, what is it about these games that makes you want
CS> to play them as opposed to playing a mud? The followup questions
CS> would be, what elements of interactive fiction should be
CS> concentrated on to make it distinctive from a mud? (aside from
CS> the single-player nature) Or, how could multiple players be
CS> introduced to interactive fiction without it turning into a mud?

A local BBS used to have an interesting program called (if I recall
correctly) Argoth. It was kind of like a MUD, but with more of a
Zorkish tone. It would begin with being in town, where you could post
messages on the board, generate a character, buy equipment, etc. through
menus. (Asking the barkeep for rumours was very well-done, some were
hints to solvng quests, others just gave you a feeling for the history.)

Then you would get one of the quests. As you solved one quest, others
would open up. It really gave you the feeling of being involved in a
story. The quests were more puzzle-oriented then my impression of MUDs
(of course, I'm only familiar with MOO's and MUSH's, which are mostly
social).

Since it was on a BBS with only four phone-lines, you could only have a
couple of people on at a time - and if you went into a quest while
someone else was in it, you could work together. The quests were small,
but many of them linked together for the full story. Every time you
left the dungeon and came back, everything would be the way you left it,
unless you completed it, in which case you couldn't come back to it but
could go on to the next. The result was that it could accomodate
players at many different points in the story without them getting in
each others way. You'd have to finish a complete quest in a single
session, but they weren't too big so that wasn't much of a problem.

You could do the quests on your own, of course, but a single person
would probably find some of the combat kind of tough. The puzzles only
seemed to need one person, though.

Joe

ţ CMPQwk 1.42 9550 ţTwo most common elements: Hydrogen & Stupidity

Gerry Kevin Wilson

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

Hmm, just for that, I'm going to post something I've been saving for
awhile:

The Author's Bill of Rights

1. The author has a right to be wrong. (c.f. ridiculous deadlines.)

2. The author has a right to be late. (c.f. ridiculous deadlines.)

3. The author has a right not to be held accountable for posts over one
year old (c.f. Admiral Jota.)

4. The author has a right to try and make money, even if evryone DOES
laugh at him. (c.f. Can IF make money?)

5. The author has a right to be wrong about being wrong about being
right. (c.f. How to keep a disgruntled audience busy.)

6. The author has a right have his/her game betatested before releasing
it. (c.f. possible delays in release.)

7. The author has a right to not join in the laughter when it's his/her
game you're ridiculing. (c.f. What a sorehead.)

8. The author has a right to ignore non-constructive criticism and not
feel guilty. (c.f. Wow, that game truly sucked.)

9. The author has a right to get indignant over a mean review (c.f. In
conclusion, the world would be a better place without this game.)

10. The author has a right to be wrong. (c.f. Things that bear
repeating.)


Smilies all around. New authors should be warned that, much like
the US's Bill of Rights, most of these go ignored. And of course, Jota
should watch out for Men in Black knocking on his door...

Anyways, :) for now. Later.

Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

In article <5edivi$o...@agate.berkeley.edu>,

Gerry Kevin Wilson <whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu> wrote:
>6. The author has a right have his/her game betatested before releasing
>it. (c.f. possible delays in release.)

Oh no.

I knew it.

It's *ALL MY FAULT* that Avalon hasn't been released yet.

Adam
--
"I'd buy me a used car lot, and | ad...@princeton.edu | As B/4 | Save the choad!
I'd never sell any of 'em, just | "Skippy, you little fool, you are off on an-
drive me a different car every day | other of your senseless and retrograde
depending on how I feel.":Tom Waits| little journeys.": Thomas Pynchon | 64,928

John Francis

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

Gerry Kevin Wilson <whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu> wrote:
>
>Hmm, just for that, I'm going to post something I've been saving for
>awhile:
<snip>

You got my hopes up for a moment there :-)
--
John Francis jfra...@engr.sgi.com Silicon Graphics, Inc.
(415)933-8295 2011 N. Shoreline Blvd. MS 02U-923
(415)933-4692 (Fax) Mountain View, CA 94043-1389

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

Matthew Amster-Burton (mam...@u.washington.edu) wrote:
> erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) wrote:

> >(Just to put that, and me, in perspective, that's six months after the
> >last time I had a date.)

> Say, aren't you the same Andrew Plotkin who offered dinner at a fine
> DC restaurant as a contest prize?

> The world suddenly seems like a more orderly and predictable place.

Thbpbbpbpt. I could explain in detail the difference between "a date" and
me being in a restaurant with somebody, which latter I've done lots of
-- but I *hope* none of you care.

> (Hey, man, no flame--I've been there, OK? Not DC, I mean dateless.
> Well, I've been to DC, too. Someday I'm going to post something
> substantive to this ng, I swear.)

I've given up substantiality for Lent. Came in this morning, sat down,
fell right through my chair.

--Z

(Although I'll admit that I wouldn't have *minded* if that prize had been
taken by a young, attractive, single female IF author. Not like any such
actually entered the competition. C'mon, I'm holding up *my* end, here...)

(Before anyone makes any smart remarks: I happen to know that Bonni is
married.)

(If this were any other topic, I'd now ask for a quick poll of
availability among female IF authors on this newsgroup. Er, on second
thought, that sentence makes no sense at all. And I think I've probed, or
more accurately *sounded*, the limits of good taste quite enough for one
post. So forget it. *Please.*)

Admiral Jota

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) writes:

>(Although I'll admit that I wouldn't have *minded* if that prize had been
>taken by a young, attractive, single female IF author. Not like any such
>actually entered the competition. C'mon, I'm holding up *my* end, here...)

Y'know, I hear that Angela is free next weekend. Of course, *you'll* have
to go see her, since there's no airport on the Isle.

they got purple; purple's a fruit

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

And behold, Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> did spake, speaking:
>
> As for (b), TinyMUD was not the first MUD; there was LPMUD earlier, and
> possibly others. But I believe TinyMUD was the first entirely
> Internet-based MUD (telnet as opposed to dial-up.) And all the evolution
> of MUCK, MUSH, and MOO either started with TinyMUD source code or were
> directly inspired by it.

Heck, MUCK and MUSH (as well as MUSE, now that I think about it) used to
refer to themselves prefixed with Tiny-. Some still do. Anybody cutting
their Internet teeth on those forms of MU* "back in the good old days" won't
refer to 'cybersex' (gah, what a perfectly horrid word) as 'cybersex', but
'tinysex'.

> Anyone with a better sense of history is welcome to correct me.

Was Larry Foard from CMU as well? Everything's getting blurry.

- spatch, rip pegasus and quartz -

--
spa...@error.net, chief engineer (toot toot!) Spatula Labs, error.net/~spatula

"Pez is cheap; smiles are priceless." - C. L. McCoy
mstie#43790


Drone

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

Cliff Hall wrote:
>
> > However, every time you allow the main character the freedom of being
> > another character, you have to practically write annother game.

Not true. Just more descriptions. The impact on coding is less than you'd think.
I'm discovering that now.

> >...
> > You basically have to change descriptions for everything, and change
> > interactions between all the different characters. Also, you would
> > be able to solve puzzles much more easily. Need to get the money? become
> > the congessman and give the detective all of yours. etc.

Well, nothing's to say the game *must* allow you access to *every* character,
just like it won't allow you access to every object or location.

>
> Many games have a lush, complex beleivable world, and characters that
> are
> as believable as a cardboard cutout. What if it were the other way
> around?
> A game where the scenery really didn't matter so much, since the
> 'landscape'
> of the game was really in the insides of the characters' heads? Their
> thoughts,

It's absolutely fascinating how close to identical are what you propose here and
what I am currently coding: a serial called "Mutter & Cry".

> The idea is, you're this mad scientist, and you've cooked up a little
> machine that lets you do conciousness transferral into the minds of
> others.
>

Well, this part is totally different, but the end effect on the game is the same
in my version.

> of the food court so as not to be noticed. Once you're into somebody's
> head, your conciousness moves around with them, while your body stays
> behind.

Yep. Except you have no body in "Mutter & Cry", and you're not sure if you ever
did.

> The twist is, the first person you hop into is on his way to murder
> somebody.
> You don't know who, or why, but you can *feel* it. It begins to make
> itself
> known in his random thoughts and feelings.
>

There is nothing like this in "Mutter & Cry" -- but it's an excellent
storytelling idea!

> character. When something the character thinks looks like it might be a
> clue,
> a 'remember <subject>' command could trigger and associative train of
> thought
> in the character that divulges more info.
>

That command is already in "Mutter & Cry", but for a somewhat different purpose.
It has something to do with the method of moving from head to head, which is as
central a puzzle-solving motif as casting spells are be in "Enchanter".

> Thus your interaction with the host characters would not be total
> control, but
> only suggestive.

Yeah, my characters like to do their own thing sometimes. I know it's not what
people are used to. I hope it doesn't put too many off.

> Of course the coding would be a brain-dissolving nightmare, but if
> anyone would
> like to help out, I'd really like to do this one...
>

I don't know, last time I checked my brain was still firm as a plum. <g> No.
Really. Take Inform for example. If you have the forethought to modify the
libraries in certain ways to begin with (i.e. redesign for multiple self-objects
and multiple libraryMessages), you can give it a multiple-character feel without
doing much actual analytic coding -- just spend some time writing alternates for
a bunch of the library messages and a fair number of the room descriptions. I
mean, it's just a "switch" statement, right?

If you want, I can clean up my Inform library hacks that do this and make them
available, but after I release the game. As a programmer, I have learned never
to make available the key to my labours without also showing the fruits of them.

But remember: you don't have to allow every character to go everywhere and see
everything. Overlapping of multiple perspectives is very nice, but then, so is
the idea that some locations can only be accessed in certain guises. You can
design your three-level-landscape (setting by plot by character) so that you're
doing the extra work when there's a story payoff reason for it, and not
otherwise. For example, only once am I allowing the player to explore a huge set
of locations freely from more than one perspective (of course I had to do it
once, people will be looking for it) -- but it's during a story development in
which intense cooperation is required throughout the area. Otherwise I have more
localised overlaps that are interesting because of the situation.

It was quite freeing when I realised, Hey! I don't *have* to code three versions
of every room description just so that the player can wander about three
different times and have his or her choice of puzzle-solvers. You only have to
do this if you want to make who you can BE irrelevant to what you can DO. And
personally, I find it more interesting if they are highly relevant to each
other. And somewhat less work, of course.

Blade Runner Moment:
--------------------
The multiple characters do not *explore* the landscape. They are the landscape.

Drone.

P.S. I'm not trying to discourage you from anything because "it's mine" or
anything like that. I'm really excited that somebody else is thinking so closely
to along the same lines as I am. And besides, although we are using similar
paradigms, your "science-experiment-leading-to-murder-intrigue" plot is I think
excellent for IF and almost 180 degrees different from mine, which I don't
reveal out of writers' superstition, more than anything else. (My muse doesn't
repeat herself.)

Michael Straight

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to


On 18 Feb 1997, Curt Siffert wrote:

> 2) What about generating the output of an actual narrative based off

> of the character's actions? For instance, there would first be
> a description of the room, perhaps in third person (Even though
> it is clear that it is referring to "you") In the interactive
> portions, it would be second person, but whenever something
> significant is accomplished, actual third-person narrative
> prose is generated to add a bit more of a dramatic flair - perhaps
> it is a review of what your character has just accomplished,
> perhaps it even gives separate clues. And it could even be output
> into a short story of sorts at the end - probably not very high
> quality, but a fun souvenir, more readable than a straight
> transcript.

Infocom's Journey did something like this. A transcript of a session with
the commands deleted read just like an excerpt from a book. Even things
you did that were stupid were incorporated into the story. For instance,
if you told Bergon to jump off a cliff the story would say something
like...

At that point, Bergon had the wild idea of jumping into the gorge, but
he came to his senses when we pointed out the folly of this action.

Michael Straight would like to see more games like Journey.
FLEOEVDETYHOEUPROEONREWMEILECSOFMOERSGTIRVAENRGEEARDSTVHIESBIITBTLHEEPSRIACYK
Ethical Mirth Gas/"I'm chaste alright."/Magic Hitler Hats/"Hath grace limits?"
"Irate Clam Thighs!"/Chili Hamster Tag/The Gilt Charisma/"I gather this calm."

Ralph

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

On Sat, 15 Feb 1997 04:59:13 GMT, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin)
wrote:

Andrew,

I've played MUDs off and on for sometime and enjoy them for what they
are. I guess to raise the MUD to it's full potential one would need
extensive programming knowledge, IMHO.

I've been searching for a MUD server that runs on a PC to research and
try my hand at MUD programmin/modification. Do you know of such a
beast? One that will run in a DOS/Win95 environment?

Ralph


-------------------------------------------------------
Home Page
http://www.inconnect.com/~rhilton
Opportunity
http://www.rewards.net/mega/Hilton6641.html
http://freedomstarr.slctnet.com/?HI2639013
-------------------------------------------------------

Unsolicited EMail:
"By US Code Title 47, Sec.227(a)(2)(B), a computer/modem/printer meets
the definition of a telephone fax machine. By Sec.227(b)(1)(C), it is
unlawful to send any unsolicited advertisement to such equipment. By
Sec.227(b)(3)(C), a violation of the aforementioned Section is
punishable by action to recover actual monetary loss, or $500, whichever
is greater, for each violation."

Matthew Amster-Burton

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson) wrote:

>8. The author has a right to ignore non-constructive criticism and not
>feel guilty. (c.f. Wow, that game truly sucked.)

If you can ignore that, I salute you. Although I guess if I can take
bad reviews of my music, I could stand rude comments about my game.
Not that I have a game.

Matthew

Nulldogma

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

Drone wrote:
> Gerry Kevin Wilson wrote:
> >
> > Well, I haven't tooted my own horn for a few days, what the hell.
Avalon,
>
> Ahem. <Cough>mutter&cry-episode-one-coming-soon<Hack!> You were saying?

You know, I'm getting really sick of all the self-promotion that goes on
in this newsgroup. Can't people just quietly discuss the merits and
techniques of writing I-F without continually hyping their own games?

Neil

---------------LOST NEW YORK, by Neil deMause---------------
"*****" --Baf's Guide to Interactive Fiction
"Ambitious and richly detailed." --Roger Giner-Sorolla
"One of the best games I've played in recent years, period."
--Dave Seybert
"A highly detailed little gem of a game." --Colm McCarthy
------Six Xyzzy Award nominations, including Best Game------
---------------------------------------------------------
Neil deMause ne...@echonyc.com
http://www.echonyc.com/~wham/neild.html
---------------------------------------------------------

Nulldogma

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

Bill Hoggett

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

On 19-Feb-97 Drone wrote:

[..snip..]

>It's absolutely fascinating how close to identical are what you propose here
>and what I am currently coding: a serial called "Mutter & Cry".

[..snip..]

>Yep. Except you have no body in "Mutter & Cry", and you're not sure if you
>ever did.

[..snip..]

>There is nothing like this in "Mutter & Cry" -- but it's an excellent
>storytelling idea!

[..snip..]

>That command is already in "Mutter & Cry", but for a somewhat different
>purpose. It has something to do with the method of moving from head to head,
>which is as central a puzzle-solving motif as casting spells are be in
>"Enchanter".

[..snip..]

Impressive! Four mentions for a game that, at this stage, rates as
Avalon-ware, all in one posting.


:-)))))


---
Bill Hoggett (aka BeeJay) <mas.su...@easynet.co.uk>

I guess that's what you call "FLAMEBAIT"!!


Jason Compton

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

Jason B Dyer (jd...@kitts.u.arizona.edu) wrote:
: One technique I came up with but haven't had time to use for a

: "protagonist history" is to allow the player to ask questions. For
: example, say you meet a man who introduces himself as Robin Fagels. The
: player can type
:
: >WHO IS ROBIN FAGELS?
:
: and get what the protagonist is supposed to know about this man.
: Something like "talking to yourself."

This is a good idea. Somehow I feel like I've seen this implemented
somewhere before (and "Who am I?" was definitely useful in Hitchhiker's
Guide). The #1 difference, in my opinion, between the current Inform
offerings and the Infocom games of old is background information. Infocom
games loaded you up with background. Some authors do this still, in
"about" or the like, but quite often we're given an introductory page of
text and set on our way.

--
Jason Compton jcom...@xnet.com
Editor-in-Chief, Amiga Report Magazine (847) 741-0689 FAX
AR on Aminet - docs/mags/ar???.lha WWW - http://www.cucug.org/ar/
The path is clear... ...though no eyes can see.
There is always a choice. Alternative Computing Now!

Drone

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97
to

Jason B Dyer wrote:
>
> Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
> : > Frank has a past, which is established throughout the story, as necessary
> : > either to the game, or the atmosphere. He has a personality, which is
> : > established in the way he reacts to your commands and the dialogues
> : > between him and the NPCs.
> : Wonderful! Looking forward to it. Is it already on ftp.gmd.de? I haven't seen
> : many IF games that make use the protagonist's personal history anywhere but in
> : the "start screen" -- unless you count their history as played in prior games
> : in a "series".
>
> One technique I came up with but haven't had time to use for a
> "protagonist history" is to allow the player to ask questions. For
> example, say you meet a man who introduces himself as Robin Fagels. The
> player can type
>
> >WHO IS ROBIN FAGELS?
>
> and get what the protagonist is supposed to know about this man.
> Something like "talking to yourself."
>
> Feel free to use this, but if you do a vague passing reference to me in
> the credits would be appreciated.
>

Well, it was actually pretty hard to code what I'm working on *without* introducing
something like what you describe, but since you asked, what the hell. You are now
in the credits for MUTTER & CRY: "Command Line Interface".

Drone.

Drone

unread,
Feb 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/19/97