How can I avoid looking like a chump?

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Sabrejack

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Jan 30, 2002, 3:59:27 PM1/30/02
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I've been reading the group, naturally, and it occurs to me to ask one
very important question before I even dream of releasing my IF title.

What are the #1 tell-tale signs of an amateur author?

I'm sure that spelling and grammar count heavily, but I recall someone
mentioning that if "x me" returns the library default, that it's an
almost sure sign of a poor game.

Are there any other pet peeves IF players have?

Magnus Olsson

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Jan 30, 2002, 4:21:22 PM1/30/02
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In article <17f6c0a1.02013...@posting.google.com>,

Sabrejack <pho...@urisp.com> wrote:
>I've been reading the group, naturally, and it occurs to me to ask one
>very important question before I even dream of releasing my IF title.
>
>What are the #1 tell-tale signs of an amateur author?
>
>I'm sure that spelling and grammar count heavily,

They do. And punctuation, too. Some people are more sensitive than
others to this - I was very distracted by the comma splices (commas
instead of periods between independent sentences) in _Time: All
Things..._ while others berly noticed it, but I think most people
think it looks amateurish.

If you don't trust your own proofreading skills, have somebody else
you trust check the language.

Even more important is play-testing the games. Obvious bugs look very
bad, and can completely ruin the game (especially if they make the
game unwinnable).

Apart from that - well, it's hard to list specific things.

>but I recall someone
>mentioning that if "x me" returns the library default, that it's an
>almost sure sign of a poor game.

That's an exaggeration. A big one. I recall seeing something like
that in a review, but I don't think the person meant that he/she
automatically thought such a game was poor, just that it needed some
more detail.

But don't worry too muh about this. Write the game *you* want to
write; take cares to make it as good as you can; check spelling and
grammar and, above all, have other people playtest the game. You
can recruit experienced play testers via the net. They will probably
tell you if they think the game looks amateurish, and why. Until they
do, it's no use trying to second-guess you audience. Write the game
*you* want to write, not the one you think the audience would like.


--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, m...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~mol ------

Matthew F Funke

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Jan 30, 2002, 4:55:13 PM1/30/02
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Playing "Guess What The Author Was Thinking".
Playing "Guess The Verb".
Finding that the main elements in a given room description can't even
be examined (much less interacted with).
Running into what is clearly an in-joke for a group I could never
hope to meet or interact with.
Junior-high level "creative writing" endings: for example, you come
to an inescapable juncture, flail around for a few turns, then wake up to
find out it was all a dream; or, the problem is ended with a deus ex
machina resolution.
The player is supposed to wait for a few turns, but there's nothing
to do in the meantime and no hint that waiting is what's necessary.
Finding that things won't interact in logical ways (e.g., the game
won't allow the rope to be tied to the chair leg, because the author had a
problem in mind where it was *supposed* to be tied to the bureau leg).
Sudden death without warning (or even a hint).
Stark, obvious linearity. The player is led by the nose to all
events in the game.
Alternately, puzzles of all (or mostly all) one type, especially if
they're get-X-to-give-to-Y or get-X-to-unlock-Y.
NPCs who sit like lumps, and don't react to *anything* except
precisely the right circumstances.
That's all I can think of at the moment; I could probably come up
with more, given additional time and effort.
Just out of curiosity, when can we expect your game? What is it
called? Are you willing to whet out appetites just a little?
Good luck with your creative efforts!
--
-- With Best Regards,
Matthew Funke (m...@hopper.unh.edu)

Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.

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Jan 30, 2002, 5:26:03 PM1/30/02
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Sabrejack wrote:

> I've been reading the group, naturally, and it occurs to me to ask one
> very important question before I even dream of releasing my IF title.
>
> What are the #1 tell-tale signs of an amateur author?

Often a very original, enjoyable game. ^^

>
> I'm sure that spelling and grammar count heavily, but I recall someone
> mentioning that if "x me" returns the library default, that it's an
> almost sure sign of a poor game.
>
> Are there any other pet peeves IF players have?

Not sure it's a pet peeve, just a suggestion from another game developer:

It won't be perfect on the first try. Better to release and improve than
to not release and allow it to stagnate (speaking from experience here).

There will be bugs, but it doesn't have to be TeX. There has to be a
certain latitude for games, because they are, after all, entertainment, and
they are usually quite a bit more original than a scripting language or
word processor.

Playtest as much as possible, and remember one of the rules of 'C'
programming (especially applicable to IF, and paraphrased): test all
inputs, (and be creative), for where thou typest "foo" a user will surely
typest "antidisestablishmentarianism"

^^

HTH Looking forward to the game!


--
Would the last real software engineer to leave the corporate
IT job market please power down the server?

Scott
Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.
http://www.heavycat.com - Only the Gameplay Matters
http://www.ladystar.net - Your Magical and Mysterious Adventure Awaits

Aris Katsaris

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Jan 30, 2002, 6:34:06 PM1/30/02
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"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:a39o4i$3h6$2...@news.lth.se...

> In article <17f6c0a1.02013...@posting.google.com>,
> Sabrejack <pho...@urisp.com> wrote:
>
> >but I recall someone
> >mentioning that if "x me" returns the library default, that it's an
> >almost sure sign of a poor game.
>
> That's an exaggeration. A big one. I recall seeing something like
> that in a review, but I don't think the person meant that he/she
> automatically thought such a game was poor, just that it needed some
> more detail.

That was me who said it, I believe, but it wasn't in a review, it was
a general comment.

I stand by it. The library default as an answer to "x me" shows
two things nowadays:
a) That the PC is not a developed one
b) That even for a completely blank-identity PC adventurer of
old times, the game author didn't bother changing the customary
library default messages.

It's no *proof* of course, but I'd say it is indeed a sign for a game
which is either unoriginal or lazily implemented or both. Unless
there's a trick or something which is why I had excluded Adam
Cadre and Andrew Plotkin from this generalisation... :-)

Have there been good (as generally considered) games recently
that have had the library default as a response to 'x me'?

Aris Katsaris


Jim Aikin

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Jan 31, 2002, 12:35:19 AM1/31/02
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> What are the #1 tell-tale signs of an amateur author?


The other posts have listed a number of useful checklist items. Perhaps
I can turn the question on its head:

"Amateur" means *lover*. If you pour your love of the genre, and your
love of your game scenario, into your work, your readers/players will be
far more forgiving of occasional lapses.

We're all amateur authors here (except Mike Berlyn, I suppose). We're
all doing it because we love it.

As a writer of conventional fiction, I'm an absolute Nazi when it comes
to plausibility. I insist that my characters behave in ways that people
actually behave, that my planets orbit as planets actually orbit, and so
on. IF gives the author a lot more latitude in this area: Nobody
demanded of the Zork games that the events be plausible. But Zork was a
long time ago, and what worked then may not work so well now. Cutting
yourself too much slack when it comes to developing a plausible game
scenario is probably not a formula for raging success.

My pet peeve is games written by 20-year-olds that are set in a messy
dorm room or messy apartment inhabited by a 20-year-old. Achieving a
sense of wonder, when beginning with such unpromising materials, is not
something I would be eager to try.

--Jim Aikin

************************

"Those instances of it
which lack the quality
referred to as 'swing'
are meaningless." --Duke Ellington


Ben Haines

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Jan 31, 2002, 1:44:19 AM1/31/02
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On Thu, 31 Jan 2002 05:35:19 GMT, Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> scribbled:

>
> My pet peeve is games written by 20-year-olds that are set in a messy
> dorm room or messy apartment inhabited by a 20-year-old. Achieving a
> sense of wonder, when beginning with such unpromising materials, is not
> something I would be eager to try.

Uncompromising materials? The first (and so far only) game I've
actually finished was set in my college cafeteria. Messy, and
inhabited by *lots* of 20-year-olds. <g>

Everyone's gotta start somewhere, I suppose.

But the one I'm working on now is great, I swear. And it'll be
finished real soon now. No, really. I promise. Um...

-b.h.

Magnus Olsson

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Jan 31, 2002, 4:08:05 AM1/31/02
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In article <a39vuk$97p$1...@usenet.otenet.gr>,

Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>
>"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote in message
>news:a39o4i$3h6$2...@news.lth.se...
>> In article <17f6c0a1.02013...@posting.google.com>,
>> Sabrejack <pho...@urisp.com> wrote:
>>
>> >but I recall someone
>> >mentioning that if "x me" returns the library default, that it's an
>> >almost sure sign of a poor game.
>>
>> That's an exaggeration. A big one. I recall seeing something like
>> that in a review, but I don't think the person meant that he/she
>> automatically thought such a game was poor, just that it needed some
>> more detail.
>
>That was me who said it, I believe, but it wasn't in a review, it was
>a general comment.
>
>I stand by it. The library default as an answer to "x me" shows
>two things nowadays:
>a) That the PC is not a developed one
>b) That even for a completely blank-identity PC adventurer of
>old times, the game author didn't bother changing the customary
>library default messages.

I'm with you so far, but...

>It's no *proof* of course, but I'd say it is indeed a sign for a game
>which is either unoriginal or lazily implemented or both.

I think this is a bit harsh. Lazily implemented, perhaps, but
not necessarily unoriginal.

Anyway, let's not scare the newbies too much, shall we?

Magnus Olsson

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Jan 31, 2002, 4:14:34 AM1/31/02
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In article <a39o4i$3h6$2...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>In article <17f6c0a1.02013...@posting.google.com>,
>Sabrejack <pho...@urisp.com> wrote:
>>I've been reading the group, naturally, and it occurs to me to ask one
>>very important question before I even dream of releasing my IF title.
>>
>>What are the #1 tell-tale signs of an amateur author?
(...)

>Apart from that - well, it's hard to list specific things.

Actually, there are som things that I forgot:

* A setting, or elements of a setting, taken directly from, say, an
RPG or a book or a TV show. This is a bit tricky: some things are
merely a bit clichéd, e.g. elves with pointy ears in fantasy or ray
guns in SF. But, say, phasers exactly like those from Star Trek or
a generic adventurer group exploring a generic cave populated by
monsters all taken direcly from D&D, tend to signal "amateur".

Unless you're writing fanfic, of course. An adventure which is actually
set aboard the _Enterprise_ with you playing Captain Kirk will perhaps
turn some people away (see the thread about fanfic in rec.games.int-fiction)
but a game where everything is just _borrowed_ from Star Trek seems
rather unimaginative.

* A game set in your own house is usually a sign of a newbie - for some
reason, lots of beginners start by implementing their own home. Of
course, you can still do something original with it...

Sean T Barrett

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Jan 31, 2002, 5:47:01 AM1/31/02
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Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>I stand by it. The library default as an answer to "x me" shows
>two things nowadays:
>a) That the PC is not a developed one
>b) That even for a completely blank-identity PC adventurer of
>old times, the game author didn't bother changing the customary
>library default messages.
>
>It's no *proof* of course, but I'd say it is indeed a sign for a game
>which is either unoriginal or lazily implemented or both.

Indeed, and the one that gets my goat is when
a game hasn't implemented a new response to "JUMP".
Oh yeah, and to "TAKE ME". Oh yeah, and to "LOOK
UNDER ME". Oh yeah, and to "NORTH" in a room with
no north exits. Oh yeah, and to "XYZZY".

Oh, and Joe Half-Dozen over there has HIS list of
default messages which prove to him that a game
must suck.

Improving "X ME" may be important to a certain
subcommunity, but I don't think it's what people
absolutely should be spending their time on when
there are so many other things they could be
improving in their game. PC characterization isn't
the be-all-end-all of IF, and when it's important
IMO PCs are better characterized by action than
by self-description.

Or for another way it could happen, there are lots of
little things like "X ME" that it is easy to forget to
go tweak. Forgetting to go tweak one isn't necessarily
a sign of a lazy implementation, just an oversight.

SeanB

JJKC

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Jan 31, 2002, 6:51:07 AM1/31/02
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A lot of new authors seem to bite off more than they can chew, and end
up releasing a game that seems thin. A game with a few locations and
puzzles, well fleshed out with non-default answers and clues, is vastly
preferable to one with those puzzles and answers spread out over dozens
of one dimensional locations.

FWIW,
-Jim

Gary Shannon

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Jan 31, 2002, 11:48:36 AM1/31/02
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"JJKC" <jj...@warwick.net> wrote in message
news:3C592FAB...@warwick.net...

The approach I'm trying on my very first attempt at authoring is to first
build a place for the story to happen. I've almost completed a small,
pre-industrial village with about 35 or 40 locations. No puzzles, no NPC's,
just atmosphere. Once it is detailed enough to feel real, and rich enough
to be interesting to explore in its own right then I'll have a stage setting
upon which the drama can unfold.

As for the drama itself, all I know is that the player is a 12-year old boy
being followed by a mysterious stranger. What happens next will depend on
the personalities of his relatives, friends and foes, along with other
incidental NPC's. So the next logical step would seem to be to build a cast
of supporting actors and flesh out their personalities. When the player can
interact with them in varied and interesting ways, then they can be giving
additional scripting for whatever part they will play in the puzzles to
come.

The ideal I'm shooting for is to have a geographic setting that would be
interesting to wander around in even if it where empty. Then to have a cast
of characters which, when placed into that setting, create a world that is
interesting even without puzzles, problems and plots.

After that, the story should tell itself. (Well, almost.)

--gary

A.P. Hill

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Jan 31, 2002, 12:37:38 PM1/31/02
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Who gives a fuck that it's an amatuer writer. What the fuck, do you
expect all IF writers to be the select few of vets out there that keep
writing poor games? What happens when they finally ()die.,

You should just write dude. Write, don't think man. And don't worry
about what others think. Basically you are asking for clues on how you
can write your game, and not appear to be an amatuer. I mean, are you
an amateur or not?

Be a proud amatuer writer like me, stand up and say, "I am a new IF
writer and I don't give a fuck, and here is my story about A man and
his dog, and thank you for stopping by, and have a good life. "

A.P. Hill, Amateur IF Writer

Sabrejack

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Jan 31, 2002, 2:30:02 PM1/31/02
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m...@hypatia.unh.edu (Matthew F Funke) wrote:
> Just out of curiosity, when can we expect your game? What is it
> called? Are you willing to whet out appetites just a little?

I expect the game to take at least a few months to "complete",
and then at least another month to work out all the bugs. And
possibly one more month to work out all the OTHER bugs. I'm already
encountering things that I'm neglecting simply out of being a newbie
-- I had a creature and you could Take it, since I didn't give it
"animate". Let's just say I expect this to be a labour of love.
Heheh.

It doesn't have a name yet, in fact, it's still test.inf/ulx and
Constant Story "Testing"; I suspect a name will come to me as I flesh
out the plot.

I suppose I'd be happy to whet any appetities in need.. The game
will be played in acts. The introduction takes place aboard the
starship USS New Texas, where you play an unnamed soldier. The first
act will be done entirely by remote control from the salvage ship
Cromley III, and you'll be playing the communications officer. The
second act, not even started yet, will put you in in charge of a small
boarding team as they try to rescue the crew of the USS New Texas.

I hope to reveal the plot in bits and pieces. I don't plan on
making any particular act too long or too short -- and I hope to do my
best to accomodate multiple solutions.

Thanks for the interest, it inspires me to put a little more time
into the game -- although I'm sure you're all aware that when the
words just won't flow, there's no forcing them, lol.

Kathleen

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Jan 31, 2002, 2:39:20 PM1/31/02
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Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in message news:<3C58D79D.8060106@kill_spammers.org>...

<hmm... I know Jim didn't write this, but the citation seems to have
been lost>


> > What are the #1 tell-tale signs of an amateur author?

<Jim did write this>


> My pet peeve is games written by 20-year-olds that are set in a messy
> dorm room or messy apartment inhabited by a 20-year-old. Achieving a
> sense of wonder, when beginning with such unpromising materials, is not
> something I would be eager to try.

As opposed to such games written by 30-somethings (thinking fondly of
_Shade_).

Seriously, any game that screams obscenities at me in the first
screenful and is set in dorm room sends up a red flag for me. As do
games that have:

----
>X ME
As handsome as ever.
----
>SHOOT GUN AT BAD GUY ABOUT TO KILL ME
Violence isn't the answer to this one.
----
>L
You see a glittering castle, towering a hundred feet above you.

>GET CASTLE
Taken.
---
>L
You see a glittering castle ahead, with streets paved in gold.
<followed by 2 more paragraphs of description>

>X CASTLE
You don't see that here.
>X STREETS
You don't see that here.
...
---
>L
The tiger bares its teeth and growls. Saliva drips from its fangs as
it circles around, preparing to have you for dinner.

>PET TIGER
You pet the tiger.

Moments later, the tiger jumps, ripping you to shreds.
---
>PURLOIN TIGER
Purloined.
---

... unless there are a very compelling reasons for such replies.

Kathleen (hi Jim!)
-- Prized Possession
-- http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2001/inform/possess
-- Masquerade - http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/inform/Mask.z5
-- The Cove - http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/inform/Cove.z5
-- Excuse me while I dance a little jig of despair

Adam Thornton

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Jan 31, 2002, 2:46:15 PM1/31/02
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> I expect the game to take at least a few months to "complete",
>and then at least another month to work out all the bugs. And
>possibly one more month to work out all the OTHER bugs.

"And _Avalon_ will be ready in January of 1996! Honest!"

Adam

Aris Katsaris

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Jan 31, 2002, 3:38:20 PM1/31/02
to

"Sean T Barrett" <buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote in message
news:Gqsty...@world.std.com...

> Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
> >I stand by it. The library default as an answer to "x me" shows
> >two things nowadays:
> >a) That the PC is not a developed one
> >b) That even for a completely blank-identity PC adventurer of
> >old times, the game author didn't bother changing the customary
> >library default messages.
> >
> >It's no *proof* of course, but I'd say it is indeed a sign for a game
> >which is either unoriginal or lazily implemented or both.
>
> Indeed, and the one that gets my goat is when
> a game hasn't implemented a new response to "JUMP".
> Oh yeah, and to "TAKE ME". Oh yeah, and to "LOOK
> UNDER ME". Oh yeah, and to "NORTH" in a room with
> no north exits. Oh yeah, and to "XYZZY".

<shrug> Most of these are just weird and would offer no real
information. "x me" both serves a purpose (if one can't describe
the PC, will one care to describe other objects?) and seems to
be the second most popular command to type early in the game
after "i".

> Oh, and Joe Half-Dozen over there has HIS list of
> default messages which prove to him that a game
> must suck.

Joe Half-Dozen over there may be an idiot. My being
wrong or right in this matter has nothing to do with him.

> PC characterization isn't
> the be-all-end-all of IF, and when it's important
> IMO PCs are better characterized by action than
> by self-description.

A character who thinks that he's as good looking as ever, will
probably not think or act anything non-default ever, I'm
betting. No proof of that, of course, but why do you object
so much to my calling it an indication of lazy implementation
and/or unoriginality?

> Or for another way it could happen, there are lots of
> little things like "X ME" that it is easy to forget to
> go tweak. Forgetting to go tweak one isn't necessarily
> a sign of a lazy implementation, just an oversight.

"X ME" is the most important one IMAO. Because, duh,
it's the one usually typed? And the one that shows
something about the character?

Aris Katsaris


Aris Katsaris

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Jan 31, 2002, 3:41:07 PM1/31/02
to

"Gary Shannon" <fiz...@starband.net> wrote in message
news:_ze68.3632$rn7.151...@twister1.starband.net...

>
> The approach I'm trying on my very first attempt at authoring is to first
> build a place for the story to happen. I've almost completed a small,
> pre-industrial village with about 35 or 40 locations. No puzzles, no NPC's,
> just atmosphere. Once it is detailed enough to feel real, and rich enough
> to be interesting to explore in its own right then I'll have a stage setting
> upon which the drama can unfold.
>
> As for the drama itself, all I know is that the player is a 12-year old boy
> being followed by a mysterious stranger. What happens next will depend on
> the personalities of his relatives, friends and foes, along with other
> incidental NPC's. So the next logical step would seem to be to build a cast
> of supporting actors and flesh out their personalities. When the player can
> interact with them in varied and interesting ways, then they can be giving
> additional scripting for whatever part they will play in the puzzles to
> come.
>
> The ideal I'm shooting for is to have a geographic setting that would be
> interesting to wander around in even if it where empty. Then to have a cast
> of characters which, when placed into that setting, create a world that is
> interesting even without puzzles, problems and plots.
>
> After that, the story should tell itself. (Well, almost.)


Ouch. That's ambitious for a first try. You seem to be attempting an
approach that I didn't so much enjoy in 'Dangerous Curves', but I wish
you luck. If successful it could be very, *very* good.

Aris Katsaris


Sam Dennis

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Jan 31, 2002, 4:18:50 PM1/31/02
to
Kathleen wrote:
> Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in message news:<3C58D79D.8060106@kill_spammers.org>...
>
> Seriously, any game that screams obscenities at me in the first
> screenful and is set in dorm room sends up a red flag for me. As do
> games that have:

You mean like... Rameses?

>>X ME
> As handsome as ever.

If they went to the effort of replacing the default response and this was all
they could come up with, I'd be worried, too. OTOH, if you meant good-looking
then it could simply be an oversight because they were too busy with the great
plot.

>>SHOOT GUN AT BAD GUY ABOUT TO KILL ME
> Violence isn't the answer to this one.

Ah, one of my pet peeves. IMNSHO, you should be allowed to employ violence if
you want to - it doesn't matter what the implemented consequences _are_, you
should still be able to try - unless it's either vastly out of character or
suicidal (which is vastly out of character for most PCs.) This, however, is
an even worse failure: the refusal to resort to violence even when it quite
plainly _is_ the (or at least `a') answer.

>>L
> The tiger bares its teeth and growls. Saliva drips from its fangs as
> it circles around, preparing to have you for dinner.
>
>>PET TIGER
> You pet the tiger.
>
> Moments later, the tiger jumps, ripping you to shreds.

Of all the reasons given, this alone I do not understand the reasoning behind.
What, precisely, is wrong with a game producing something similar to the above
in a transcript? (Especially as it lets you pet the animals.)

Sam Dennis

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Jan 31, 2002, 4:34:04 PM1/31/02
to
Aris Katsaris wrote:
> "Sean T Barrett" <buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote in message
> news:Gqsty...@world.std.com...
>> Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>>
>> Indeed, and the one that gets my goat is when
>> a game hasn't implemented a new response to "JUMP".
>> Oh yeah, and to "TAKE ME". Oh yeah, and to "LOOK
>> UNDER ME". Oh yeah, and to "NORTH" in a room with
>> no north exits. Oh yeah, and to "XYZZY".
>
><shrug> Most of these are just weird and would offer no real
> information. "x me" both serves a purpose (if one can't describe
> the PC, will one care to describe other objects?) and seems to
> be the second most popular command to type early in the game
> after "i".
<snip>

> A character who thinks that he's as good looking as ever, will
> probably not think or act anything non-default ever, I'm
> betting. No proof of that, of course, but why do you object
> so much to my calling it an indication of lazy implementation
> and/or unoriginality?
>
>> Or for another way it could happen, there are lots of
>> little things like "X ME" that it is easy to forget to
>> go tweak. Forgetting to go tweak one isn't necessarily
>> a sign of a lazy implementation, just an oversight.
>
> "X ME" is the most important one IMAO. Because, duh,
> it's the one usually typed? And the one that shows
> something about the character?

Ack, there's going to be too much quoting for too little reply text here...
no, I can't think of anything more to say. Nobody reads 300 line articles
anyway.

I, personally, almost never type `X ME' or any equivilant command when playing
IF unless I have a specific reason to do so, so I could quite easily omit such
a thing from my own game and never find it out while testing it myself. The
things that a game responds to tend to correspond very closely to the sort of
thing the author would want to type when playing the game herself.

L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Jan 31, 2002, 4:39:16 PM1/31/02
to
On 31 Jan 2002 09:08:05 GMT, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>>That was me who said it, I believe, but it wasn't in a review, it was
>>a general comment.
>>
>>I stand by it. The library default as an answer to "x me" shows
>>two things nowadays:
>>a) That the PC is not a developed one
>>b) That even for a completely blank-identity PC adventurer of
>>old times, the game author didn't bother changing the customary
>>library default messages.
>
>I'm with you so far, but...
>
>>It's no *proof* of course, but I'd say it is indeed a sign for a game
>>which is either unoriginal or lazily implemented or both.
>
>I think this is a bit harsh. Lazily implemented, perhaps, but
>not necessarily unoriginal.
>
>Anyway, let's not scare the newbies too much, shall we?
>

I'm not completely sure I agree even with this much. I mean, it's the
library default for a reason; it's a good response if a better one
isn't apropriate to the game. There used to be a lot of people who
viewed any sort of characterization of the PC as anathema, and that
being the case, writing another nondescript-pc message would really be
a waste of effort.

Even with that not being the case, I don't really see how it's that
big a deal. Just one more default library message. A lot of custom
"That's not relevant to the game" messages can add flavor if the game
calls for it, but if it doesn't, it's just expending effort that could
be better used elsewhere.

David Thornley

unread,
Jan 31, 2002, 6:16:11 PM1/31/02
to
In article <a3b1tq$deg$2...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>
>* A setting, or elements of a setting, taken directly from, say, an
>RPG or a book or a TV show. This is a bit tricky: some things are
>merely a bit clichéd, e.g. elves with pointy ears in fantasy or ray
>guns in SF. But, say, phasers exactly like those from Star Trek or
>a generic adventurer group exploring a generic cave populated by
>monsters all taken direcly from D&D, tend to signal "amateur".
>
The real giveaway here is changing a few things but not following
through with the changes. One example in a comp entry was a gun that
fired plasma - with a stun setting. Obviously modelled on a phaser
with the description changed in a way that didn't fit.

>Unless you're writing fanfic, of course. An adventure which is actually
>set aboard the _Enterprise_ with you playing Captain Kirk will perhaps
>turn some people away (see the thread about fanfic in rec.games.int-fiction)
>but a game where everything is just _borrowed_ from Star Trek seems
>rather unimaginative.
>

One thing to note is what the author does with the setting, and this
applies to both fanfic and copied settings. If the first description
is something like

You are on the bridge of the Enterprise.
Captain Kirk is here.
Mr. Spock is here.
Lieutenant Uhura is here.
Mr. Sulu is here.

I would assume that I'm in for a bad time, since the author seems
to think that mentioning Star Trek descriptions and people is
sufficient description. If "x kirk" provides no hint of originality,
I'll probably stop playing and delete the game file.

If it's more like

You are on the bridge of the Enterprise. It is dominated by the
captain's chair in the middle and the large viewscreen in front.
Various complicated panels line the walls. There is a door to
the captain's office and the transporter.
Captain Kirk is sitting in the captain's chair, examining a report.
Mr. Spock is looking into a viewer, as anxious as you've ever seen a
Vulcan.
Lieutenant Uhura is sitting and looking tired.
Mr. Sulu is making some settings on his panel near the viewscreen.

and the response to "x kirk" is

Captain Kirk is unshaven and wearing a dirty uniform. He is
obviously unable to concentrate on the reports he is holding.

that's got promise. It raises questions: why is Kirk looking
scuffy, and what's on his mind? What is Mr. Spock examining?

>* A game set in your own house is usually a sign of a newbie - for some
>reason, lots of beginners start by implementing their own home. Of
>course, you can still do something original with it...
>

Right. If the idea is to wander around the house, doing nothing
in particular, it's a bad and amateurish game. If there's something
interesting that happens, that's good. Houses can be used to
be mundane and not very interesting, setting the stage for something
else.

One thing I've found annoying is trying to do things in a house that
would make sense. Houses and their contents are far more stuff,
with far more things to do, than you'll want to code.


--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Adam Thornton

unread,
Jan 31, 2002, 9:29:57 PM1/31/02
to
In article <%ek68.12535$Wf1.4...@ruti.visi.com>,

David Thornley <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
>You are on the bridge of the Enterprise.
>Captain Kirk is here.
>Mr. Spock is here.
>Lieutenant Uhura is here.
>Mr. Sulu is here.

You forgot:

"Troi is here. She is NAKED!!1!!1!"

HTH, HAND,
Adam

Jacqueline A. Lott

unread,
Jan 31, 2002, 10:29:22 PM1/31/02
to
> Be a proud amatuer writer like me, stand up and say, "I am a new IF
> writer and I don't give a f***, and here is my story about A man and

> his dog, and thank you for stopping by, and have a good life. "
>
> A.P. Hill, Amateur IF Writer

No offence (oops, look who I'm talking too, how could I possibly offend?),
but if that's how you represent yourself, I don't want to be anything like
you. Didn't you already make one public apology on this list? Or was that
just for show?

What about that? A newbie trolled for another newbie and caught one. Who
knew?


Nils Barth

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 1:46:58 AM2/1/02
to
Thus wrote Adam Thornton <ad...@fsf.net>:

and what are we to think of an author who implements
`x troi'
`fuck troi'
etc.?

Richard Bos

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 4:29:01 AM2/1/02
to
g...@goo.invalid (Nils Barth) wrote:

> Thus wrote Adam Thornton <ad...@fsf.net>:

> >You forgot:
> >
> >"Troi is here. She is NAKED!!1!!1!"
>
> and what are we to think of an author who implements
> `x troi'
> `fuck troi'
> etc.?

That he[1]'d be right at home in the Stiffy Makane universe?

Richard

[1] Obviously...

John W. Kennedy

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 8:18:04 AM2/1/02
to
Jim Aikin wrote:
> My pet peeve is games written by 20-year-olds that are set in a messy
> dorm room or messy apartment inhabited by a 20-year-old. Achieving a
> sense of wonder, when beginning with such unpromising materials, is not
> something I would be eager to try.

Oh dear, no, that's quite wrong. See C. S. Lewis's preface to "That
Hideous Strength".

--
John W. Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play!
http://pws.prserv.net/jwkennedy/Double%20Falshood.txt

Julian Fondren

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 8:23:29 AM2/1/02
to
m...@df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote in message news:<a3b1tq$deg$2...@news.lth.se>...

> merely a bit clichéd, e.g. elves with pointy ears in fantasy or ray
> guns in SF. But, say, phasers exactly like those from Star Trek or

Hmm? I read quite a lot of SF, and the only thing remotely resembling
a 'ray gun' I've seen in two or more years now was Nikolai Tesla's
Death Ray in "Callahan's Key". Maybe you mean TV Sci-Fi?

John W. Kennedy

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 8:17:59 AM2/1/02
to
"L. Ross Raszewski" wrote:
> I'm not completely sure I agree even with this much. I mean, it's the
> library default for a reason; it's a good response if a better one
> isn't apropriate to the game. There used to be a lot of people who
> viewed any sort of characterization of the PC as anathema, and that
> being the case, writing another nondescript-pc message would really be
> a waste of effort.

And, while I don't object to characterizing the PC (I played all the
Infocom games as they came out, and was not troubled at all by
"Infidel"), it's often not profitable to do so. I suspect that the
mainstream long game will continue to feature the traditional explorer /
castaway / tourist / detective / amnesiac / abductee hero, simply
because the best way to avoid cognitive dissonance is to make the PC and
the player begin the game equally ignorant. And in that case, why
particularize what need not be particularized?

Stephen Granade

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 8:57:04 AM2/1/02
to
"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> writes:

> "Sean T Barrett" <buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote in message
> news:Gqsty...@world.std.com...
> > Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
> > >I stand by it. The library default as an answer to "x me" shows
> > >two things nowadays:
> > >a) That the PC is not a developed one
> > >b) That even for a completely blank-identity PC adventurer of
> > >old times, the game author didn't bother changing the customary
> > >library default messages.
> > >
> > >It's no *proof* of course, but I'd say it is indeed a sign for a game
> > >which is either unoriginal or lazily implemented or both.
> >
> > Indeed, and the one that gets my goat is when
> > a game hasn't implemented a new response to "JUMP".
> > Oh yeah, and to "TAKE ME". Oh yeah, and to "LOOK
> > UNDER ME". Oh yeah, and to "NORTH" in a room with
> > no north exits. Oh yeah, and to "XYZZY".
>
> <shrug> Most of these are just weird and would offer no real
> information. "x me" both serves a purpose (if one can't describe
> the PC, will one care to describe other objects?) and seems to
> be the second most popular command to type early in the game
> after "i".

Is that true? I've heard reports of people who always type >X ME; at
the same time, I've heard reports of people who don't. Personally, the
only game in which I've typed >X ME was Hitchhiker's Guide to the
Galaxy. I'd be interested in knowing how common >X ME really is.

At any rate, I disagree with your fundamental assertion that if the PC
isn't described beyond the library default then the author quite
likely won't be describing other objects. Not every game gives you a
well-defined player character, and even in the ones which do, the
player character's description may not be important.

In fact, the current setup of libraries in Inform and TADS* make it
easy for an author to use the library default.

> > Oh, and Joe Half-Dozen over there has HIS list of
> > default messages which prove to him that a game
> > must suck.
>
> Joe Half-Dozen over there may be an idiot. My being
> wrong or right in this matter has nothing to do with him.

No, but given the wide range of players and their opinions, I don't
think any one measurement like how >X ME is implemented will give a
decent amount of information.

> > PC characterization isn't
> > the be-all-end-all of IF, and when it's important
> > IMO PCs are better characterized by action than
> > by self-description.
>
> A character who thinks that he's as good looking as ever, will
> probably not think or act anything non-default ever, I'm
> betting. No proof of that, of course, but why do you object
> so much to my calling it an indication of lazy implementation
> and/or unoriginality?

I object because you are putting undue weight on this one
command. From my perspective it makes as much sense to decide how lazy
or unoriginal an author is by how they handle >XYZZY as how they
handle >X ME.

> > Or for another way it could happen, there are lots of
> > little things like "X ME" that it is easy to forget to
> > go tweak. Forgetting to go tweak one isn't necessarily
> > a sign of a lazy implementation, just an oversight.
>
> "X ME" is the most important one IMAO. Because, duh,
> it's the one usually typed? And the one that shows
> something about the character?

Again, I'm not sure it *is* the one usually typed, nor do I think
"showing something about the character" is important in every
game. Given your predilection for story-based games I can understand
why you hold these opinions, but such games are only a subset of
interactive fiction as a whole.

Stephen

* It may be the same in other languages; Inform and TADS are the only
ones I've used to any great extent.

--
Stephen Granade
sgra...@phy.duke.edu
Duke University, Physics Dept

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 9:03:52 AM2/1/02
to
In article <76ea4fd3.02020...@posting.google.com>,

It's funny: every time somebody points out clichés in genre literature,
saying "This is overdone", it turns out nobody has read anything like
it for years :-).

I think this is because the clichés used to be common, but just
because they're overdone people have stopped using them - except,
perhaps, for those authors whose works never make it past the slush
pile (perhaps because they're using too many clichés).

It's like "The butler did it" in mystery fiction - when people became
aware that it was overdone, sometime in the 1920's or so, they stopped
publishing stories where the butler did it.

Or maybe the clichéd stuff really *is* being published, it's just
that people around here are so discerning that they never even
pick it up. (Is there still a market for cheap, pulp SF, or has that
niche been entirely taken over by TV tie-ins?)

Jon Thompson

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 9:17:43 AM2/1/02
to
<mode=delurk>

I'm a reductionist, so it strikes me that this is like trying to
define "good" music. Surely it's as individual as a fingerprint; Some
people like some IF genres and styles and others don't. Or is that too
simplistic?

Oh, well. Back to trying to give TADS NPCs AI enough to interact
properly.

<mode=lurk>

--

We'll start over again. Grow ourselves a new skin.
Get a house in Devon. Drink cider from a lemon.

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 9:35:32 AM2/1/02
to
In article <tk8l5ucib1q7l2s5s...@4ax.com>,

Jon Thompson <amu...@127.0.0.1> wrote:
>I'm a reductionist, so it strikes me that this is like trying to
>define "good" music. Surely it's as individual as a fingerprint; Some
>people like some IF genres and styles and others don't. Or is that too
>simplistic?

Well, I took the original poster's question not as "What is bad IF?"
but rather "What are the typical beginner's mistakes and how can I
avoid them?"

And that latter question is easier to answer.

Stephen Bond

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 9:48:40 AM2/1/02
to
Stephen Granade wrote:

>
> "Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> writes:
> >
> > A character who thinks that he's as good looking as ever, will
> > probably not think or act anything non-default ever, I'm
> > betting. No proof of that, of course, but why do you object
> > so much to my calling it an indication of lazy implementation
> > and/or unoriginality?
>
> I object because you are putting undue weight on this one
> command. From my perspective it makes as much sense to decide how lazy
> or unoriginal an author is by how they handle >XYZZY as how they
> handle >X ME.

Really? I certainly wouldn't look at it that way. On the one hand,
you've got the response to an easter egg in-joke command that rarely
has anything to do with the actual game, and on the other hand
you've got the description of one of the game's main characters
(assuming the PC is characterized at all, of course). Not really
comparable in my view.

Stephen.
www.maths.tcd.ie/~bonds/

Sean T Barrett

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 11:02:00 AM2/1/02
to
Stephen Bond <ste...@sonycom.com> wrote:

>Stephen Granade wrote:
>> I object because you are putting undue weight on this one
>> command. From my perspective it makes as much sense to decide how lazy
>> or unoriginal an author is by how they handle >XYZZY as how they
>> handle >X ME.
>
>Really? I certainly wouldn't look at it that way. On the one hand,
>you've got the response to an easter egg in-joke command that rarely
>has anything to do with the actual game, and on the other hand
>you've got the description of one of the game's main characters
>(assuming the PC is characterized at all, of course). Not really
>comparable in my view.

The description of one of the game's main characters as
perceived by that self-same character.

One of the most unnatural of acts the player character
can do is, having gotten herself in the unfortunate
situation prompted by the prologue, is to, given the
first oppotunity to do something, react by EXAMING
HERSELF as if she knew nothing about herself. (Consider
Prized Possession for example.)

It's effectively a vote of unconfidence in the author
to adequately dole out the PC characterization over the
course of the story; it's as if on starting a book and
seeing all these strange names I immediately flip to
the glossary at the end to see who each of the characters
is.

Now, yes, there might well be SOME player characters
and some stories for which 'X ME' is a plausible opening
move, and there are indeed stories in which 'X ME' is
an appropriate move later in the game; but we are talking
about players who always 'X ME' on the first two or three
moves (along with 'I'), and we are talking about *all*
stories.

My opinion leans in the direction that at some past point,
authors experimented with providing information in 'X ME'
and 'I' that wasn't otherwise available in the game. In
a treasure-hunt puzzle-game specifically I can imagine the
necessity of 'I'. But I don't see why, just because these
certain players have been trained to the necessity of 'X ME
by badly-written games, we should be obliged to make these
commands particularly more interesting or descriptive.

(The above paragraph is striking a hyperbolic pose; reread
the phrase "leans in the direction" which tries to make that
explicit.)

SeanB
[you have a rock]

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 12:00:52 PM2/1/02
to
Aris says...

>"X ME" is the most important one IMAO. Because, duh,
>it's the one usually typed? And the one that shows
>something about the character?

That's funny. I've never tried "x me" in a game. It
doesn't sound in character (unless I'm checking for
lice, or something).

--
Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 12:30:30 PM2/1/02
to
m...@df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) says...

>
>In article <76ea4fd3.02020...@posting.google.com>,
>Julian Fondren <clever...@hotmail.com> wrote:

>>Hmm? I read quite a lot of SF, and the only thing remotely resembling
>>a 'ray gun' I've seen in two or more years now was Nikolai Tesla's
>>Death Ray in "Callahan's Key". Maybe you mean TV Sci-Fi?
>
>It's funny: every time somebody points out clichés in genre literature,
>saying "This is overdone", it turns out nobody has read anything like
>it for years :-).
>
>I think this is because the clichés used to be common, but just
>because they're overdone people have stopped using them - except,
>perhaps, for those authors whose works never make it past the slush
>pile (perhaps because they're using too many clichés).
>
>It's like "The butler did it" in mystery fiction - when people became
>aware that it was overdone, sometime in the 1920's or so, they stopped
>publishing stories where the butler did it.

My pet peeve is that whenever people give examples of cliches,
they always use such *cliche* examples of cliches: "The butler
did it.", "It was a dark and stormy night.", "He pulled out his
raygun and blasted the bug-eyed alien".

Why aren't there any fresh, original examples of cliches?
(that is, a cliche which hasn't made it into the official cliche
library yet).

Adam Thornton

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Feb 1, 2002, 12:52:30 PM2/1/02
to
In article <a3ehk...@drn.newsguy.com>,

Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> wrote:
>Aris says...
>>"X ME" is the most important one IMAO. Because, duh,
>>it's the one usually typed? And the one that shows
>>something about the character?
>That's funny. I've never tried "x me" in a game. It
>doesn't sound in character (unless I'm checking for
>lice, or something).

I was going to make "X ME" in SMTUC return the default response, plus
the picture of Ron Jeremy, but I decided to make it a custom response,
largely so those people playing with glkterm or cheapglk wouldn't feel I
hadn't done my homework.

Adam

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 12:36:07 PM2/1/02
to
In article <tk8l5ucib1q7l2s5s...@4ax.com>, Jon says...

>I'm a reductionist, so it strikes me that this is like trying to
>define "good" music. Surely it's as individual as a fingerprint; Some
>people like some IF genres and styles and others don't. Or is that too
>simplistic?

I think that the idea behind the title "How can I avoid looking like a chump?"
is not to get a set of rules for producing *good* IF, but a set of rules to
produce IF that isn't obviously bad. Or isn't bad in any obvious, easily
corrected way.

On the other hand, I don't think you really need rules for such things.
You just need brutally honest beta testers.

David Thornley

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 2:26:51 PM2/1/02
to
In article <slrna5kef...@nbarth.net>, Nils Barth <g...@goo.invalid> wrote:
>Thus wrote Adam Thornton <ad...@fsf.net>:
>>In article <%ek68.12535$Wf1.4...@ruti.visi.com>,
>>David Thornley <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
>>>You are on the bridge of the Enterprise.
>>>Captain Kirk is here.
>>>Mr. Spock is here.
>>>Lieutenant Uhura is here.
>>>Mr. Sulu is here.
>>
>>You forgot:
>>
>>"Troi is here. She is NAKED!!1!!1!"
>
No, I didn't forget it; I deliberately didn't use it.

>and what are we to think of an author who implements
>`x troi'
>`fuck troi'
>etc.?
>

Well, the second command does put it into a certain genre,
as well as Adam's suggested addition to the room description.
(Nor does Troi fit in well with the other characters; try
Yeoman Rand or Nurse Chapel or add the description to my
mention of Uhura.)

As far as whether this is amateurish or more professional-looking
IF of that genre, the 'x troi' in the first would return pretty
much nothing more, whereas the more professional (which profession?)
thing to do would be to describe her in loving detail.

David Thornley

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 2:29:27 PM2/1/02
to
In article <a3ejm...@drn.newsguy.com>,

Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> wrote:
>In article <tk8l5ucib1q7l2s5s...@4ax.com>, Jon says...
>
>I think that the idea behind the title "How can I avoid looking like a chump?"
>is not to get a set of rules for producing *good* IF, but a set of rules to
>produce IF that isn't obviously bad. Or isn't bad in any obvious, easily
>corrected way.
>
Or to look like you're trying, or something like that.

>On the other hand, I don't think you really need rules for such things.
>You just need brutally honest beta testers.
>

On the other hand, it's nice to have some idea of what you're doing
before the game goes to the playtesters, and if the playtesters have
to tell you to implement "X ME" better, or flesh out that description
of Deanna Troi naked, they have less time to catch other potential
problems.

Matthew F Funke

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 2:53:08 PM2/1/02
to
Sabrejack <pho...@urisp.com> wrote:
>m...@hypatia.unh.edu (Matthew F Funke) wrote:
>> Just out of curiosity, when can we expect your game? What is it
>> called? Are you willing to whet out appetites just a little?
>
> I expect the game to take at least a few months to "complete",
>and then at least another month to work out all the bugs. And
>possibly one more month to work out all the OTHER bugs.

Well, I wish you luck in meeting this deadline. None of the things
I've tried to do in TADS have been finished on schedule. (That's hardly a
shortcoming of TADS, by the way -- just this programmer.)

>I'm already
>encountering things that I'm neglecting simply out of being a newbie
>-- I had a creature and you could Take it, since I didn't give it
>"animate". Let's just say I expect this to be a labour of love.
>Heheh.

There are *always* new things that I'm discovering. I've found that
I've had to use "modify" more often than I ever thought I would. :)
Just develop a tough exterior while you're doing this, if at all
possible. Some people will pick on what you've done, no matter how
polished and wonderful it seems to others. And when you've spent as long
as it takes to make a piece of IF workable, it's hard not to get
emotionally involved with it.
And best of luck to you... it's not an easy task, even though TADS
makes it decidedly easier.

> It doesn't have a name yet, in fact, it's still test.inf/ulx and
>Constant Story "Testing"; I suspect a name will come to me as I flesh
>out the plot.

I'll do my best to be patient, then. :)

> I suppose I'd be happy to whet any appetities in need.. The game
>will be played in acts. The introduction takes place aboard the
>starship USS New Texas, where you play an unnamed soldier. The first
>act will be done entirely by remote control from the salvage ship
>Cromley III, and you'll be playing the communications officer. The
>second act, not even started yet, will put you in in charge of a small
>boarding team as they try to rescue the crew of the USS New Texas.

I like the idea of playing different characters in the same plotline.
I've wanted to try something like that myself, but haven't yet been able
to come up with adequate justification for it.

> I hope to reveal the plot in bits and pieces. I don't plan on
>making any particular act too long or too short -- and I hope to do my
>best to accomodate multiple solutions.

That's a tall order. How different do you want the endings to be?
Or should I wait for the game so that I can see the endings myself?

> Thanks for the interest, it inspires me to put a little more time
>into the game -- although I'm sure you're all aware that when the
>words just won't flow, there's no forcing them, lol.

Right. Just be careful that you're not leaving all the words until
the end (after you've finished the coding); trying to write that much text
can be painful, and I've found that switching between writing and coding
allows me to stay fresh longer because neither gets old very quickly. :)
--
-- With Best Regards,
Matthew Funke (m...@hopper.unh.edu)

John W. Kennedy

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Feb 1, 2002, 4:43:56 PM2/1/02
to
Daryl McCullough wrote:
> Why aren't there any fresh, original examples of cliches?
> (that is, a cliche which hasn't made it into the official cliche
> library yet).

Don't be silly. Every new episode of "Star Trek" is a veritable
cornucopia!

--
John W. Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play, now annotated!
http://pws.prserv.net/jwkennedy/Double%20Falshood.html

Aris Katsaris

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 6:38:31 PM2/1/02
to

"Sean T Barrett" <buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote in message
news:Gqv37...@world.std.com...

> Stephen Bond <ste...@sonycom.com> wrote:
> >
> >Really? I certainly wouldn't look at it that way. On the one hand,
> >you've got the response to an easter egg in-joke command that rarely
> >has anything to do with the actual game, and on the other hand
> >you've got the description of one of the game's main characters
> >(assuming the PC is characterized at all, of course). Not really
> >comparable in my view.
>
> The description of one of the game's main characters as
> perceived by that self-same character.

In many games it's the only perception we have available.

> One of the most unnatural of acts the player character
> can do is, having gotten herself in the unfortunate
> situation prompted by the prologue, is to, given the
> first oppotunity to do something, react by EXAMING
> HERSELF as if she knew nothing about herself.

If you feel it's an unnatural deed to do then disable it
entirely. Nonetheless it's an action that many people
do type. Having this unnatural deed give you the default
answer written by Graham Nelson and/or Infocom is
no superior at all to having it give you even a short
description.

Even if you don't want to place a description in there,
is it so difficult to change it to "Same as always." or
"No better or worse than yesterday." "A good-looking
chap, that's how you look like." ? At least it'll be *your*
words in there, fitting in style to the rest of your game,
not just a thing that the *system* throws at you. Like
a bug.

It's *lazy* not to change it.

> It's effectively a vote of unconfidence in the author
> to adequately dole out the PC characterization over the
> course of the story;

<raises eyebrow> It's not just characterisation, it's also
appearance. Is the command "i" also a vote of unconfidence
in the author adequately describing your possesions over
the course of the story?

> Now, yes, there might well be SOME player characters
> and some stories for which 'X ME' is a plausible opening
> move, and there are indeed stories in which 'X ME' is
> an appropriate move later in the game; but we are talking
> about players who always 'X ME' on the first two or three
> moves (along with 'I'), and we are talking about *all*
> stories.

A significant amount of players do it, and anyone's
self-perception is an important enough thing to that character
that it makes sense for the author to write something, *anything*
rather than leave the default.

> But I don't see why, just because these
> certain players have been trained to the necessity of 'X ME
> by badly-written games, we should be obliged to make these
> commands particularly more interesting or descriptive.

Not necessarily *any* more interesting or descriptive. Just not
the default.

Aris Katsaris


Sabrejack

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 7:20:27 PM2/1/02
to
> >"Troi is here. She is NAKED!!1!!1!"
>
> and what are we to think of an author who implements
> `x troi'
> `fuck troi'
> etc.?

That's already been done and posted to xtrek. I say it takes all kinds.

Sabrejack

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 7:38:49 PM2/1/02
to
s...@malfunction.screaming.net (Sam Dennis) wrote:
> Ah, one of my pet peeves. IMNSHO, you should be allowed to employ violence if

I plan to allow violence if possible -- however, I feel the PC should
not be allowed to shoot most inanimate objects considering that you're
in a tight-ammo situation and you're military-trained. I think I
specifically will not create any puzzles that are solvable by shooting
something inanimate -- that just wouldn't be fair to play "guess which
object i have to shoot".

On the other hand, the weapons keep track of their ammo -- perhaps I
should leave it up to the player to figure out how not to waste their
bullets? I just might be cruel enough to do that. ... only problem
is all the additional code I have to handle making everything
attackable. bleh.

I have security probes, which are just cameras on tank treads, and
their orders routine only allows about a dozen things they CAN do and
-everything- else is denied, including any form of violence (they
don't have hands, they can't even take/drop).. not to mention trying
to do "x me" when all a probe can see of itself are the front tips of
its treads.

Anyhow, in short, I agree that violence should be an answer.

Sabrejack

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 7:43:13 PM2/1/02
to
> Be a proud amatuer writer like me, stand up and say, "I am a new IF
> writer and I don't give a fuck, and here is my story about A man and

> his dog, and thank you for stopping by, and have a good life. "


Allow me a moment to don my asbestos longjohns before I reply to this.

I appreciate your viewpoint and I understand the concept of simply
writing without apology. In fact, I do a lot of things in life
without consideration or apology, heh. But in IF, I do actually care
quite a bit what other people think, if their opinion is educated and
well-founded. I aim to contribute constructively to IF, and I want to
be popular and well-loved. I want people to say, "Sabrejack is making
another game! I can't wait!" .. heheh. Hence this thread.

Make no mistake though. I'm doing this for my own personal
gratification as well.

Gary Shannon

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 8:23:05 PM2/1/02
to

"Sean T Barrett" <buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote in message
news:Gqv37...@world.std.com...

<snip>

>how they
> >> handle >X ME.
> >

<snip>

>
> One of the most unnatural of acts the player character
> can do is, having gotten herself in the unfortunate
> situation prompted by the prologue, is to, given the
> first oppotunity to do something, react by EXAMING
> HERSELF as if she knew nothing about herself. (Consider
> Prized Possession for example.)
>
> It's effectively a vote of unconfidence in the author
> to adequately dole out the PC characterization over the
> course of the story; it's as if on starting a book and
> seeing all these strange names I immediately flip to
> the glossary at the end to see who each of the characters
> is.

Odd, it has never occured to me to type "x me". But now that I think about
it it seems like a logical and valid alternative way to check for wounds,
bruises, leeches (upon climbing out of the Amazon river), recent alien
implants, etc.

--gary


Billy Harris

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 9:01:01 PM2/1/02
to
In article <jdn0ytn...@login2.phy.duke.edu>, Stephen Granade
<sgra...@phy.duke.edu> wrote:

> Is that true? I've heard reports of people who always type >X ME; at
> the same time, I've heard reports of people who don't. Personally, the
> only game in which I've typed >X ME was Hitchhiker's Guide to the
> Galaxy. I'd be interested in knowing how common >X ME really is.

Short of an official survey, you will be limited to a bunch of "Me,
too" posts.

In my case, I use "x me" to ease into the game and try to "get into
character." Often, especially during contests which are about 60% of my
playing time, I'm not sure when I begin what type of game it is. So, my
initial actions are invariably:

-- Read the intial text
-- x me
-- i
-- x each inventory item

Now, if the game opens with me falling off a roof, or being chased by a
salivating tiger, I still follow the same routine and in addition to
getting into the PC's head, I can also learn whether it is possible to
die or [if more than one move is needed to escape] get into an
unwinnable situation.

Having said all that, having a default reply to "x me" does not create
a bad impression for me.

Billy Harris

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 9:28:11 PM2/1/02
to
In article <Gqv37...@world.std.com>, Sean T Barrett
<buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote:

> One of the most unnatural of acts the player character
> can do is, having gotten herself in the unfortunate
> situation prompted by the prologue, is to, given the
> first oppotunity to do something, react by EXAMING
> HERSELF as if she knew nothing about herself. (Consider
> Prized Possession for example.)

Well, I just said I do this even if I'm falling off a building. I think
of it as an initial getting into character thing before "really"
playing. As a half-analogy, do you ever evaluate a possible book
purchase by flipping to the middle and reading some random dialoge?

Also, a book will typically spend a paragraph or two describing the
major characters as they enter a room. How many pieces of IF describe
the PC this way? And if they do have an elaborate description, does it
become less important or more important to have a nondefault "x me"?

In static fiction, the author has a great deal of control over exactly
how the protagonist's character is revealed. In interactive fiction,
much of the revelation comes through optional commands, such as
examining the pictures on the wall or noticing which items the PC
happens to carry around and such. Also, you can tell a great deal about
the character by how the protagonist solves problems. However, in IF,
it is frustrating to be repeatedly told "that action would be out of
character" if the game does not first define what the character is
supposed to be.

Actually, one of my complaints about Prized Possession was that it took
longer than I liked for me to determine whether the PC was a peasant,
an illegitamate child of nobility, or a noblewoman who had fallen into
bad times.

Stephen Granade

unread,
Feb 1, 2002, 10:10:06 PM2/1/02
to
"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> writes:

> "Sean T Barrett" <buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote in message
> news:Gqv37...@world.std.com...
>

> > One of the most unnatural of acts the player character
> > can do is, having gotten herself in the unfortunate
> > situation prompted by the prologue, is to, given the
> > first oppotunity to do something, react by EXAMING
> > HERSELF as if she knew nothing about herself.
>
> If you feel it's an unnatural deed to do then disable it
> entirely. Nonetheless it's an action that many people
> do type.

I'm still not convinced that this is true, but even so:

> Having this unnatural deed give you the default
> answer written by Graham Nelson and/or Infocom is
> no superior at all to having it give you even a short
> description.
>
> Even if you don't want to place a description in there,
> is it so difficult to change it to "Same as always." or
> "No better or worse than yesterday." "A good-looking
> chap, that's how you look like." ? At least it'll be *your*
> words in there, fitting in style to the rest of your game,
> not just a thing that the *system* throws at you. Like
> a bug.
>
> It's *lazy* not to change it.

Or, as Sean pointed out much earlier in the thread, it's
*forgetfulness*, or *never even realizing that an author should do
so*. You seem extremely willing to attribute to deliberate choice what
I suspect is authorial oversight.

The bit about it being your words rather than "a thing that the
*system* throws at you" applies to every single library default
message. I am willing to grant that the PC's description is slightly
more important than "You can't take that," but not nearly as important
as you think it is, especially since I do not expect the author to
rewrite the entire library.

> > It's effectively a vote of unconfidence in the author
> > to adequately dole out the PC characterization over the
> > course of the story;
>
> <raises eyebrow> It's not just characterisation, it's also
> appearance. Is the command "i" also a vote of unconfidence
> in the author adequately describing your possesions over
> the course of the story?

The two cases are very different. >I has a purpose defined over years
of games: list what I am carrying, since I am unlikely to want to keep
an accurate list myself. >X ME is sometimes useful in certain games,
but only insofar as helping with characterization. >I is utilitarian;
>X ME is descriptive.

> > Now, yes, there might well be SOME player characters
> > and some stories for which 'X ME' is a plausible opening
> > move, and there are indeed stories in which 'X ME' is
> > an appropriate move later in the game; but we are talking
> > about players who always 'X ME' on the first two or three
> > moves (along with 'I'), and we are talking about *all*
> > stories.
>
> A significant amount of players do it, and anyone's
> self-perception is an important enough thing to that character
> that it makes sense for the author to write something, *anything*
> rather than leave the default.

Some players do it, though we have no idea how many.

> > But I don't see why, just because these
> > certain players have been trained to the necessity of 'X ME
> > by badly-written games, we should be obliged to make these
> > commands particularly more interesting or descriptive.
>
> Not necessarily *any* more interesting or descriptive. Just not
> the default.

If authors are going to spend any time on the description, I want it
to have more purpose than the default. Otherwise, I'd prefer the
author spend that time on something more relevant to the actual game.

Stephen

Adam Thornton

unread,
Feb 2, 2002, 12:24:24 AM2/2/02
to
In article <jcH68.3859$ze4.169...@twister1.starband.net>,

Gary Shannon <fiz...@starband.net> wrote:
>Odd, it has never occured to me to type "x me". But now that I think about
>it it seems like a logical and valid alternative way to check for wounds,
>bruises, leeches (upon climbing out of the Amazon river), recent alien
>implants, etc.

Nah, that's DIAGNOSE.

Adam

L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Feb 2, 2002, 3:24:50 AM2/2/02
to

(Warning. I'm going to stumble away from the specific point of this
post after a few words, and dive into the main thrust of this branch
of the thread)

The (assuming the PC is characterized at all) is the tricky bit. The
supposition here is that you can determine the quality of the work to
some degree by typing X ME, with a less powerful implication that you
could do this *on the first turn* to decide whether or not to keep
playing (on the basis of writing quality; I could imagine that some
players would type X ME, be told that the PC is of the opposite gender
to themself, and decide that the game will cause too much cognative
dissonance for them. Seems a little weird, but probably not
signifigantly different from choosing not to play a game after
discerning its genre fromthe opening text). This is only true if you
claim that a non-characterized PC is an automatic sign of a poor
author.

Now, it's reasonable to type X ME at some point in the game when it's
become clear to what extent the PC is characterized, and if, for
instance, the PC is well-characterized, but X ME provides the default
response, this could be taken as a sign of lazy implementation.
*however*, at the point that this determination could be made, one
must *in order to determine the propriety of the description* have
seen enough of the game to already know if the implementation is
lazy. I mean, consider the reasonability of this sentence:

"I played the game for a while. The player character's surroundings,
reactions to objects, and spoken dialogue were all well
fleshed-out. Then I typed >X ME. I got the library default. Clearly,
this is a sign that the game is lazily written."

Well, yes; the default message is a sign of lazy
implementation. However, the basis on which one can judge it to be
inappropriate to the game invalidates it; If the player character
seems deserving of a customized description, he can only seem so *by
virtue of the implementation not being lazy* in describing the
character in other ways.


L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Feb 2, 2002, 3:33:58 AM2/2/02
to

This applies equally to *all* library-generated text. It is not *lazy*
to leave the default messages -- they exist for a *reason*. It is
*pointless* to change a message without changing its content, and the
set of messages inform provides, it provides because they are *good
expressions of the basic states*.

If this was really "laziness" in any detrimental sense, it would be
better that inform omitted english.h, so that each author had to start
anew, creating all the text output by the game.

You might as well say that if you *ever* get *any* default messages,
it shows laziness.


>
>A significant amount of players do it, and anyone's
>self-perception is an important enough thing to that character
>that it makes sense for the author to write something, *anything*
>rather than leave the default.
>

No. It's pointless to change the message purely for the sake of not
having the default. If you're going to change the message, change the
*content* of the message. And if the content of the standard library
message is the content called for by the game, don't change it.

(Trivia note: Moments out of Time changes a few default library
messages. One, probably the one you'll see most often, was inspired by
threads on this newsgroup, and I think the emphasis shift it makes is
kind of neat. Anyone notice it?)

Gary Shannon

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Feb 2, 2002, 4:50:09 AM2/2/02
to

"L. Ross Raszewski" <lrasz...@loyola.edu> wrote in message
news:a3g89m$blr$5...@foobar.cs.jhu.edu...

> On Sat, 2 Feb 2002 01:38:31 +0200, Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr>
wrote:

<snip>

> This applies equally to *all* library-generated text. It is not *lazy*
> to leave the default messages -- they exist for a *reason*. It is
> *pointless* to change a message without changing its content, and the
> set of messages inform provides, it provides because they are *good
> expressions of the basic states*.

I'm currently writing my very first IF piece and I came to a room which is a
narrow riverbank that passes under a bridge. The stone of the bridge is
right there to the north of you. I tried to think of something better to
say than "You can't go that way.", but in the final analysis, that very
sentence says what I wanted to say, and anything more elaborate in that
context would seem like artificially inflated verbage meant only to prove
that I wasn't lazy about replacing the defaults. There is a stone wall.
Right there. Damn it, you CAN'T go that way!

"Cute" answers ("You smacked your face into the stones and fell backwards
into the river.") just would not be appropriate to the tone of the piece.
Yet, following this thread, I feel compelled to do something to the
defaults, if only to prove that I did give them some thought. Perhaps if I
printed the defaults in blue just to prove that I had touched them...

--gary

Aris Katsaris

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Feb 2, 2002, 9:13:07 AM2/2/02
to

"L. Ross Raszewski" <lrasz...@loyola.edu> wrote in message
news:a3g89m$blr$5...@foobar.cs.jhu.edu...
> On Sat, 2 Feb 2002 01:38:31 +0200, Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
> >
> >It's *lazy* not to change it.
>
> This applies equally to *all* library-generated text. It is not *lazy*
> to leave the default messages -- they exist for a *reason*. It is
> *pointless* to change a message without changing its content, and the
> set of messages inform provides, it provides because they are *good
> expressions of the basic states*.

Remember that most default messages exist to indicate that you you
*can't* do something, or that said something is irrelevant. You can't
take something, or you can't go a certain way, or you can't use violence
on something, etc...

It feels different to me when an examine command supposedly works
but gives you a default description. It feels like a bug.

Aris Katsaris


Rikard Peterson

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Feb 2, 2002, 10:18:20 AM2/2/02
to
"Gary Shannon" <fiz...@starband.net> skrev i meddelandet
news:HDO68.3888$nN.142...@twister2.starband.net...

>
> I'm currently writing my very first IF piece and I came to a room
> which is a narrow riverbank that passes under a bridge. The stone
> of the bridge is right there to the north of you. I tried to
> think of something better to say than "You can't go that way.",
> but in the final analysis, that very sentence says what I wanted
> to say, and anything more elaborate in that context would seem
> like artificially inflated verbage meant only to prove that I
> wasn't lazy about replacing the defaults. There is a stone wall.
> Right there. Damn it, you CAN'T go that way!

I like it when the "You can't go that way." message is changed to tell
me where I can go.


Rikard Peterson

unread,
Feb 2, 2002, 10:31:11 AM2/2/02
to
"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> skrev i meddelandet
news:a3gsio$gt1$1...@usenet.otenet.gr...

>
> Remember that most default messages exist to indicate that you
> *can't* do something, or that said something is irrelevant. You
> can't take something, or you can't go a certain way, or you can't
> use violence on something, etc...
>
> It feels different to me when an examine command supposedly works
> but gives you a default description. It feels like a bug.

Does that include "You smell nothing unexpected." or do you only feel
this way about X ME?


Aris Katsaris

unread,
Feb 2, 2002, 11:01:28 AM2/2/02
to

"Rikard Peterson" <trumg...@bigfoot.com> wrote in message
news:a3h0o0$181udr$1...@ID-26593.news.dfncis.de...

> "Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> skrev i meddelandet
> news:a3gsio$gt1$1...@usenet.otenet.gr...
> >
> > It feels different to me when an examine command supposedly works
> > but gives you a default description. It feels like a bug.
>
> Does that include "You smell nothing unexpected." or do you only feel
> this way about X ME?

Do I need to repeat *all* my reasons in every single post? 'X ME' is a more
usual command for players to type than 'SMELL'. It supposedly gives
info about an important object (be he developed or undeveloped the PC
object *is* important).

No, I don't feel this about "You smell nothing unexpected.", or I don't
feel it nearly as strongly. It's also a bit more generic than "As good-looking
as ever." which indicates certain character traits about the PC which may
not even apply.

Aris Katsaris


Adam Thornton

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Feb 2, 2002, 11:23:40 AM2/2/02
to
In article <a3gsio$gt1$1...@usenet.otenet.gr>,

Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>Remember that most default messages exist to indicate that you you
>*can't* do something, or that said something is irrelevant. You can't
>take something, or you can't go a certain way, or you can't use violence
>on something, etc...

And therefore a default message *limits* your rights, as opposed to a
license, which *grants* you rights.

Adam

Rikard Peterson

unread,
Feb 2, 2002, 12:20:50 PM2/2/02
to
"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> skrev i meddelandet
news:a3h2tt$kd8$1...@usenet.otenet.gr...

> "Rikard Peterson" <trumg...@bigfoot.com> wrote in message
> news:a3h0o0$181udr$1...@ID-26593.news.dfncis.de...
> > "Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> skrev i meddelandet
> > news:a3gsio$gt1$1...@usenet.otenet.gr...
> > >
> > > It feels different to me when an examine command supposedly
> > > works but gives you a default description. It feels like a
> > > bug.
> >
> > Does that include "You smell nothing unexpected." or do you
> > only feel this way about X ME?
>
> Do I need to repeat *all* my reasons in every single post? 'X ME'
> is a more usual command for players to type than 'SMELL'. It
> supposedly gives info about an important object (be he developed
> or undeveloped the PC object *is* important).

I just wondered if that was the case. Only a question, nothing else. I
see your point and agree to some extent.

As a side note, has there been a game where sight is not as important?
Playing as a dog, werewolf or a blind person?

Rikard


OKB -- not okblacke

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Feb 2, 2002, 12:52:52 PM2/2/02
to
lrasz...@loyola.edu (L. Ross Raszewski) wrote:
>It is
>*pointless* to change a message without changing its content, and the
>set of messages inform provides, it provides because they are *good
>expressions of the basic states*.

I disagree with this. Many's the time when I've wanted to say exactly the
same thing in a different way. To use a very simple example, in an apple from
nowhere I changed the default library message "You can't see any such thing."
to "i can see no such thing." Content-wise, this conveys the exact same
information to the player. But I had to change the form of it, to use first
person and put it into lowercase, because this is how the rest of the game was.
It is highly likely that an author will have a desire to change certain
messages for tone and form rather than content.

More generally, my feeling on this matter is that, although it may not be
necessary to change all the library messages, it is ALWAYS a good idea to
consider it. In fact, there are very few instances where I would not want to
go through every library message and ask myself "is this what I want?" Maybe
it is, and in that case it can be left unchanged; but if it isn't, there's no
reason not to change it.

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Jacqueline A. Lott

unread,
Feb 2, 2002, 1:34:15 PM2/2/02
to
> >Are there any other pet peeves IF players have?

Matthew Funke (m...@hopper.unh.edu) wrote:
>Playing "Guess The Verb".

How about "guess the noun?"

Here's something that happened to me when I was
playing a game just last night:

>fire laser
I only understood you as far as wanting to fire.

>fire
Firing laser.

Another of Matthew's pet peeves:
>Stark, obvious linearity. The player is led by the nose to all
>events in the game.

Gosh, that happened to me last night, too! I was playing _1981_,
a creepy little game about the John W. Hinkley-Jodie Foster
thing. I kept trying to break away from history, and it just won't
let you. I tried not to shoot Reagan. Really tried. It wouldn't
let me. The game had a great premise, and despite the annoying
moments of "you can't leave now, you have to harrass Jodie
some more," it had some moments of excellent writing. It
would have been better, though, if you could have changed history
and entered into some "what if" scenarios that would have required
a bit more creativity.

But what do I know? I'm a newbie working on my first game.


Gary Shannon

unread,
Feb 2, 2002, 6:07:41 PM2/2/02