Character interaction

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Erik Max Francis

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Mar 24, 1993, 1:59:54 PM3/24/93
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> At the top of the screen is a description of the person you are talking
> to, which might change during the conversation . . .

While of course I'm interested in interaction, I don't know if this is
the right way to go about doing it. I'd prefer a method which sticks
to standard IF paradigms -- in other words, you have the person's
reaction described to you through normal text, instead of having a
specific window set aside for it. That seems to ruin the atmosphere
for me; the more you stick to a pure text interface like traditional
IF games were done in, the more it stays consistent and coherent -- at
least in my opinion.

> At the prompt, the player types the number of his choice. If (5) or
> (6) are chosen, then the player must also give a topic or item (this
> can be specified with the number, like "> 5 the murder" or the program
> will prompt for it will a fill-in-the-blank sentence, with the cursor
> in the "blank". Thus you can ask about non-menu topics ("I'm curious
> to know about the murder.") or items ("Let me show you this smoking
> gun.")

This is a meld between the simple finite choice of actions, and hidden
keywords. Personally, if a system is going to be adopted, I prefer it
to be one that is consistent -- and the keyword system seems to me to
be more powerful. Naturally, you can always not give a player an
option with the simple menu until they've accomplished the appropriate
prerequisite task, but in that case it almost seems like you're
leading the conversation.

Basic keywords such as BYE (to say good-bye), HELLO (to formally
greet), NAME (ask the person's name), JOB (ask the person's
occupation), etc., such as were used in Ultima IV, seem appropriate to
me. Note, though, that I don't mean the Ultima VI version, where
players are given a finite menu of keywords, which is actually no
different from having a list of your possible statements.

Something where the interactive fiction aspect is worked in would work
well for me. Such as:

:name

You meet the ogre eye to eye, and shout, "What is your name?" over
the din in the castle.
The ogre looks around, baffled, and says, "Duh?"

:

> In a like fashion, I feel that any noun in the
> description of a room should be able to be examined further. Thus I
> support multiple levels of description both in the "game world" and in
> the "conversational world."

I definitely agree. The object may not play an important part in the
game, but if you mentioned it, the player certainly has the right to
ask for more information and _get_ it.


Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE ...!apple!uuwest!max m...@west.darkside.com __
USMail: 1070 Oakmont Dr. #1 San Jose, CA 95117 ICBM: 37 20 N 121 53 W / \
If you like strategic games of interstellar conquest, ask about UNIVERSE! \__/
-)(- Omnia quia sunt, lumina sunt. All things that are, are lights. -)(-

Lars Joedal

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Mar 26, 1993, 6:37:58 AM3/26/93
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m...@west.darkside.com (Erik Max Francis) writes:

>> At the top of the screen is a description of the person you are talking
>> to, which might change during the conversation . . .

>While of course I'm interested in interaction, I don't know if this is
>the right way to go about doing it. I'd prefer a method which sticks
>to standard IF paradigms -- in other words, you have the person's
>reaction described to you through normal text, instead of having a
>specific window set aside for it.

On the other hand, having a seperate window for conversations give a
more fluent and realistic dialogue. Regardless of the way the conversation
is controlled (keywords or a menu with options) there will be some very
non-conversational commands among the actual talking.
Some examples:

>Talk to teacher
What do you want to say to her?
1. What a nice weather it is today!
2. I want to enroll in your class.
3. Can you tell me anything about the magic wistle?
>3
"What wistle?" she asks innocently.

>ask teacher about the magic wistle
"What wistle?" she asks innocently.

Using a seperate window for conversation instead it could look like:

"Can you tell me anything about the magic wistle?" you ask
the teacher.
"What wistle?" she asks innocently.

Or, if the idea of putting in some more text was implemented:

"Can you tell me anything about the magic wistle?" you ask
the teacher, hoping to take her by surprise.
For a short moment the teacher looks at you strangely, perhaps
wondering how you could know anything about the wistle. Or
perhaps she really has no clue of what you are talking about.
"What wistle?" she asks innocently.

The proposed sceme seemed very promising to me, because it would allow
much more rich conversations than the normal ASK, TELL, SHOW, GIVE.
Personally, I think that if we could find ways to implement "real"
conversations they should not be scattered with simple commands like
these. But that is of course only my oppinion.
Perhaps it could be made both ways. How about allowing the user to
choose NOT to use the "conversation window"? The text should then come
between the commands, as usual (just like it is with normal ask-about
commands). But it should still be possible to have a "conversation window"
if the player wants it.
Does this satisfy everybody? And/or can anybody come up with a better
suggestion?

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| Lars J|dal | Q: What's the difference between a quantum |
| email: joe...@dfi.aau.dk | mechanic and an auto mechanic? |
| Physics student at the | A: A quantum mechanic can get his car into |
| University of Aarhus | the garage without opening the door. |
| Denmark | -- David Kra |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

David Whitten

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Mar 26, 1993, 1:29:02 PM3/26/93
to
I think it is a good idea to have 'two separate windows' since this
action is a move back toward the 'fiction' part of the "Interactive Fiction"
label. Perhaps we can modify the genre slightly by having an new window
designed for telling the story as it unfolds and an interaction window
for control of the puppet, player, whatever e is called.

IE:
/---------------------------------\
| story 'unfolds' and is |
| told in this window |
|---------------------------------|
| interactive user |
| commands typed in here |
\---------------------------------/

The top window could be the 'story' window, and the bottom window
would be the interactin window.

If you are capturing the windows, the top window would be a readable BOOK
of what 'happened in the story', and the bottom window would be a SCRIPT
or TRANSCRIPT of what was done to cause the story to happen.

This brings up the point that some interaction in the interactive window is
really not necessary for the story. Some of it is just to help the player
keep track of what's going on. I see no reason for the story window to contain
lines like:

Jonathan glanced quickly at his watch.

when i typed lines like:

>TIME

Of course if the I-F created lines like:

Jonathan glanced quickly at his watch, making sure he
was on time for his long awaited date with Lisa.

then it actually would help the story, and even give the player a richer
sense of 'participating in a novel'.

But this kind of thing would require more analysis on the part of the
author of the story, and more work in creating the work of fiction.

From a practical point of view, this could be done by allowing an agenda to
be written for the adventure as well as a map.

Since time is inherently dynamic, it seems that you would want to break
up the agenda into two parts: a TIMETABLE which specifies the events that
are going to happen in the story at particular times defined by the author
of the I-F, and a EVENT QUEUE which specifies the events which happen as
the game progresses. Some events may be placed in the EVENT QUEUE under the
control of the player.

Sample: (Romantic Fiction)

TIMETABLE DAY 1 :
/* put important non-player characters in Bob's House before the party */
EVENT AT 7:55 PM PUT SAM IN BOB_HOUSE
EVENT AT 7:55 PM PUT NERD IN BOB_HOUSE

/* put 'atmosphere objects' like food and non-interesting players */
/* in Bob's house. (later time so SAM and NERD can react to the */
/* presence of certain items in room if they are defined to do so) */
EVENT AT 7:58 PM PUT PARTY_1 IN BOB_HOUSE

/* start the actions associated with the party, and any internal */
/* recurrent events, etc. */
EVENT AT 7:59 PM START PARTY_1

/* now unlock the door so the player can actually enter the room */
/* if e wants to. */
EVENT AT 8 PM UNLOCK BOB_HOUSE_DOOR

/* if the player is still at the party at 1 AM, initiate the action */
/* to kick em out - usually a forced action resulting in em outside */
/* this room, but with enough output text to make it 'plausible' */
EVENT AT 11:55 PM END PARTY_1

/* and now remove any signs of the party. */
EVENT AT 12 PM IF SAM IN BOB_HOUSE PUT SAM IN SAM_HOUSE
EVENT AT 12 PM IF NERD IN BOB_HOUSE PUT NERD IN NERD_HOUSE
/* this should pick up all objects that are part of the party, even */
/* those which were only potentially part of it, like plates of food*/
EVENT AT 12 PM PUT PARTY_1 IN LIMBO

END TIMETABLE DAY 1

The important pat of this TIMETABLE is that EVENTS are planned to happen
at a particular time, and that an event consists of some programming level
command. (I don't know TADS or ADVSYS well, so I used pseudo code).

I'm of the opinion that an author of a I-F story should have a way to plan
particular events to occur at particular places, regardless of whether the
player is present to witness the event occurring or not. For efficiency,
I don't think that there should be active code running in all the possible
places, but I do think an author should be able to plan the story as if
it were.

What this means is that the definition of an event should be able to include
a test if the player never shows up, and a result of the event.
This is my example:

TIMETABLE EVENT PARTY_1
ACTIONS
BEGIN: IF VISITED THEN
{
PUT BIRTHDAY_SIGN IN CURRENT.ROOM
PUT PARTY_FAVORS IN CURRENT.ROOM
}
EVENT AT +0 M INITIALIZE WAITER.FOOD
EVENT AT +1 M PUT WAITER IN CURRENT.ROOM
EVENT AT +30 M PUT WAITER IN LIMBO
EVENT AT +45 M PUT GATE_CRASHER IN CURRENT.ROOM
EVENT AT +60 M INITIALIZE WAITER.FOOD
EVENT AT +61 M PUT WAITER IN CURRENT.ROOM
EVENT AT +90 M PUT WAITER IN LIMBO
EVENT AT +120 M INITIALIZE WAITER.FOOD
EVENT AT +121 M {
PUT WAITER IN CURRENT.ROOM
SAY "Last Call for Food, the Caterer's going home"
}
END : IF VISITED THEN
{
PUT BIRTHDAY_SIGN IN LIMBO
PUT WAITER.* IN LIMBO
}
IF NOT VISITED
{
SPEAK TO ANSWERING_MACHINE
SAY "Hey! you missed a great party at "
+ CURRENT.START_TIME
+ " over at "
+ CURRENT.ROOM
}
END TIMETABLE EVENT PARTY_1

It seems to be clean to put an IF VISITED test for the BEGIN and END parts
of a timetable, but it would be awkward to put it for each of the EVENTS
that occur in the timetable. I think this should be handled by the EVENT QUEUE
handler code, since it is easy enough to tag each event that is put in the
event queue with the 'parent' event that put it there. Then it is easy to check
the VISITED flag for the parent event, and not perform the action of the event
unless it was visited.

Finally, an event can be placed in the EVENT QUEUE by some object like the
following code fragment:

/* Player decided to go on date with NERD */
SAY "Great, I'll uh, uh, come by your uh, uh house at 8 pm on Tuesday"
SCHEDULE EVENT AT DAY 5 @ 6:55 PM INITIALIZE NERD.DATE_CLOTHES
SCHEDULE EVENT AT DAY 5 @ 6:58 PM PUT NERD IN FRONT_HALL
SCHEDULE EVENT AT DAY 5 @ 7 PM {
SPEAK TO APARTMENT.*
SAY "You hear your Front DoorBell Ring"
}

I realize I have actually departed from the topic of user interaction
rather substantially, for which I apologize. But I would like some input
on some of these ideas. BTW, is e-mail to me working now? (The sysadmin says
yes, but I haven't seen much in a while...)

Thanks,
Dave (whi...@fwva.saic.com) US:(619)535-7764 [I don't speak as a company rep.]

Erik Max Francis

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Mar 27, 1993, 2:53:09 PM3/27/93
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> The keyword system is certainly a similar solution to the same problem;
> in fact, it's really exactly what text adventures have always used.
> ASK CHARACTER ABOUT OBJECT is really just a keyword talk-mode in disguise.

That's definitely one way of looking at it. In fact, I might prefer
an ASK MARMADUKE ABOUT DROOL interface to a separate interface. After
all, you don't want to make it go against the feel of the rest of the
game too much. When you engage in transaction with another actor,
suddenly you find yourself in a completely different interface.

> The biggest advantage I see of directed dialog is that it removes the
> element of random hunting by laying out your options.

That's very true, but it also unfortunately represents all of your
options at once. There's no ambiguity. After all, in text
adventures, the whole point is that you don't know what verbs are
allowed, don't know what synonyms things are, and you have to _find_
out not only how to solve puzzles, but also how to perform the
solution within the game context.

> Directed dialog allows
> the game to establish the main character's identity independent of the
> player's personality by providing specific options for the kinds of things
> the main character might say.

This is true. You could also include _adverbs_ -- such as ASK DRAGON
ABOUT DRAGON'S EGG OBSEQUIOUSLY.

> The Lucasfilm adventures use this technique
> to great advantage; they're some of the only adventures I've seen where
> the author seemed to have any concept of what the main character was
> supposed to be like.

Star Control II did a fairly good job of this, too, with exactly the
interface that you describe.

> This is possible with the menu system, too -- you can just elide options
> that aren't relevant yet.

Naturally. The problem with that is it's immediately obvious when an
option is now available to you. For instance, let's say that Fred has
the magic rock, which you're interested in. For Fred to give you the
Magic Piece of Lint, you have to be holding the Magic Whistle of the
Wazoos. Let's say you get the Magic Whistle without yet talking to
Fred. When you talk to Fred, you have the Magic Whistle, and he's
willing to give you the Lint for the Whistle. When you come across
Fred, you'll have an option such as

.
.
6. "Want to trade, bub?"

or something equally obvious. Without even talking to Fred and
knowing his motives, you've skipped a puzzle. Kind of defeats the
purpose of IF, doesn't it?

Adam Justin Thornton

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Mar 27, 1993, 8:12:48 PM3/27/93
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An easy way around "6: Want to trade, bub?" is make the interface like Ultima
Underworld II's in that it's possible to barter with almost any non-attacking
actor. Anyone will be willing to cut a deal--most of them will try to rip you
off, and only Fred will trade the magic Nose Goblin of the Ancients for the
BellyButton Lint.

Adam
--
"And in the heartbreak years that lie ahead, |++| ad...@rice.edu |++| Cthulhu
Be true to yourself and the Grateful Dead." --Joan Baez | 64,928 | fthagn!
"Very often, a common stone, thrown away and despised, is worth more than
a cow." -- Paracelsus | If these were Rice's opinions I'd shoot myself.

Mike Roberts

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Mar 28, 1993, 11:59:30 PM3/28/93
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> There's no ambiguity. After all, in text
> adventures, the whole point is that you don't know what verbs are
> allowed, don't know what synonyms things are, and you have to _find_
> out not only how to solve puzzles, but also how to perform the
> solution within the game context.

I'll agree with the second part - a well-designed adventure game puzzle
involves deducing the logic of the game setting. While finding the verb
is indeed part of the puzzle in many games, I don't believe it's ever an
interesting problem. In every game I've written, I've included a
*complete list* of every verb and every phrasing needed to complete the
game with the instructions.


> You could also include _adverbs_ -- such as ASK DRAGON
> ABOUT DRAGON'S EGG OBSEQUIOUSLY.

The problem I've always had with the oft-heard proposal to add adverbs
to adventure game parsers is that it makes for even worse find-the-word
puzzles. I mean, I don't think I could stand to continue a game if I
discovered that the solution to the puzzle of getting past the troll was
to WALK NORTH EXTREMELY QUIETLY ON TIPTOES WHILE HOLDING BREATH BY MYSELF.

I believe that good puzzle design is dependent on *reducing* the number of
atomic operations (i.e., verbs). Adverbs are effectively verb multipliers,
so they achieve just the opposite effect (when you QUIETLY, you are really
just adding the verbs TAKE QUIETLY, GO NORTH QUIETLY, DROP QUIETLY, and so
on).

> let's say that Fred has the magic rock, which you're interested in.
> For Fred to give you the Magic Piece of Lint, you have to be holding
> the Magic Whistle of the Wazoos.

================transcript follows====================
Fred is here.

>talk to fred
1. Nice rock.
2. I want to trade you for the rock.
3. Give me the rock or I'll run you through.
say> 2

"I want to trade you for the rock."
"What will you give me in return?"
1. The nasty knike.
2. The silver spoon.
3. The magic whistle.
4. The cardboard box.
[and so on with everything else in my inventory]

say> 1
"The nasty knife."
He looks at the nasty knife. "I've already got one. It's very nice."
============end transcript==============

So it gives away that trading is an option. You can offer lots of other
options, too; it doesn't have to be obvious that trading is the right one.

> Kind of defeats the purpose of IF, doesn't it?

Depends on what the purpose is. I think it's much more important to
entertain than to stump.

--
Mike Roberts mrob...@hinrg.starconn.com
High Energy Software 415 493 2430 (Voice)
PO Box 50422, Palo Alto, CA 94303 415 493 2420 (BBS)

Paradise is a place exactly like where you are right now, only
much, much better.
--- Laurie Anderson

Molley the Mage

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Mar 28, 1993, 10:55:38 PM3/28/93
to
In article <JyJX1B...@west.darkside.com>, m...@west.darkside.com (Erik Max Francis) writes:
>> At the top of the screen is a description of the person you are talking
>> to, which might change during the conversation . . .
>
> While of course I'm interested in interaction, I don't know if this is
> the right way to go about doing it. I'd prefer a method which sticks
> to standard IF paradigms -- in other words, you have the person's
> reaction described to you through normal text, instead of having a
> specific window set aside for it. That seems to ruin the atmosphere
> for me; the more you stick to a pure text interface like traditional
> IF games were done in, the more it stays consistent and coherent -- at
> least in my opinion.

I agree that a complete screen shift to a fresh new "mode" is a
departure from the realms of traditional IF. However, I'm trying
this new system out because I think that it will have value to the
story being told above and beyond the "old" way of doing things (ASK
FRED ABOUT THE ROCK). In Challenge of the Czar, there are a lot of
characters which you must converse with, and I feel that the "ASK
ABOUT" construct, repeated over and over again takes the "fiction"
part out in a hurry -- especially if you're going down the wrong track
and keep getting the same canned "I don't know anything about that" or
some variation.

As for the window describing the person, I think that it's very
important to continually describe the other person's expressions and
actions. In real human-to-human conversation, we key on a tremendous
number of unconscious "body language" cues which can make a
conversation which verbally sounds like a friendly banter into a
deadly serious exchange -- or vice versa. I think the description
window will fit very well with the menu system I proposed, allowing
you to see the results of your choices -- not only for the option just
chosen, but generally over the course of the entire conversation.

I suppose making a toggle for the feature (as someone else proposed)
is not a bad idea, since I don't want to force an unpopular interface
on the player, but I really think directed dialogue as a part of
"traditional" IF has enough merit to be seriously considered.

I guess when it comes out (which may be a while, sadly) you can play the game
and decide for yourself :-)

>> At the prompt, the player types the number of his choice. If (5) or
>> (6) are chosen, then the player must also give a topic or item (this
>> can be specified with the number, like "> 5 the murder" or the program
>> will prompt for it will a fill-in-the-blank sentence, with the cursor
>> in the "blank". Thus you can ask about non-menu topics ("I'm curious
>> to know about the murder.") or items ("Let me show you this smoking
>> gun.")
>
> This is a meld between the simple finite choice of actions, and hidden
> keywords. Personally, if a system is going to be adopted, I prefer it
> to be one that is consistent -- and the keyword system seems to me to
> be more powerful. Naturally, you can always not give a player an
> option with the simple menu until they've accomplished the appropriate
> prerequisite task, but in that case it almost seems like you're
> leading the conversation.

The keyword system might be more powerful, but it is also more
frustrating IMO. Although there will always be that one situtation
which requires a "magic" word to continue, I think that the richness
of a menu system is better. Perhaps you could append text to keywords
and get a similar effect --

===
> ASK FRED ABOUT THE WHANGDOODLE

Studying Fred closely, you notice that he's carrying a large
whangdoodle. "Tell me about that," you say, motioning toward it.

Fred recognizes your interest, and smiles broadly. "Ah yes -- it's
not every day you meet a man with a whangdoodle like THIS, eh?"
===

However, I still contend that presenting a list of "obvious" topics
fulfils two goals: first, it's less frustrating by giving the player a
series of "ins" which might lead to other topics or clues; and second,
it allows a much greater development of your NPC's by encouraging
longer conversations. It's hard to get much depth into a character
who lives only to hear that one magic word, IMO.

I also think that using a list of conversational "topics" encourages
the writer of the game to give more thought to the development of not
only the NPC's but also to the player character as well -- whatever sort
of conversational options you provide, they should be consistent with
the concept you have of the character.

In the end, I might wind up going back to the more traditional ASK
ABOUT exchange of commands, and if I put out a TADS version of my game
for portability (I probably will), then that's exactly what I'll do,
because it's much much easier. (I'm so lazy). However, for the code
I'm writing from scratch, I'm going to give this new idea a shot and
see what develops.

Of course, it might be interesting to see a conversational system
where the user types in anything he wants and the program scans what
he types for topics it can expound on. You could just give a prompt
and go with it -- for example,

> TALK TO THE WOMAN

The woman stops sobbing long enough to look up at you through
red-rimmed eyes.

: Why are you crying?

[ the program keys on "crying" ]

: Don't jump into that bottomless pit!

: Is there a good tavern around here?

: Do you know anything about the mayor's illicit love affair?

: Have you seen my dog?

: Do you think there's gold in them thar hills?

and so forth -- this is just another way of disguising the keywords,
but it might be fun for the player. I think a system similar to this
has been tried in some of the recent games in the "Wizardry" series of
RPG's.

>Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE ...!apple!uuwest!max m...@west.darkside.com __
> USMail: 1070 Oakmont Dr. #1 San Jose, CA 95117 ICBM: 37 20 N 121 53 W / \
> If you like strategic games of interstellar conquest, ask about UNIVERSE! \__/
> -)(- Omnia quia sunt, lumina sunt. All things that are, are lights. -)(-

--
Sean
--
M. Sean Molley, CS Department, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY
RealSpace : (502) 745-4027 | Bitnet : MOL...@WKUVX1.BITNET | Life : Sucks
"I'm not good in groups. It's hard to work in a group when you're omnipotent."
-- Q, "Deja Q"
"Baldrick, you wouldn't know a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and
danced naked on a harpsichord singing 'Subtle Plans Are Here Again.'"
-- Blackadder

Erik Max Francis

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Mar 29, 1993, 7:25:19 PM3/29/93
to
> I'll agree with the second part - a well-designed adventure game puzzle
> involves deducing the logic of the game setting. While finding the verb
> is indeed part of the puzzle in many games, I don't believe it's ever an
> interesting problem. In every game I've written, I've included a
> *complete list* of every verb and every phrasing needed to complete the
> game with the instructions.

But consider that you have to find the right word to stimulate a
certain character. This is very realistic and there are some
interesting variations on this.

> The problem I've always had with the oft-heard proposal to add adverbs
> to adventure game parsers is that it makes for even worse find-the-word
> puzzles. I mean, I don't think I could stand to continue a game if I
> discovered that the solution to the puzzle of getting past the troll was
> to WALK NORTH EXTREMELY QUIETLY ON TIPTOES WHILE HOLDING BREATH BY MYSELF.

This would be a poor application of adverbs and clauses, naturally.
The idea is that you can get more detail, particularly with character
interaction. (I wasn't thinking of using adverbs in much more than
character interaction.) The adverbs that were allowed would certainly
be generally known the player (just as the prepositions allowed should
be).

> I believe that good puzzle design is dependent on *reducing* the number of
> atomic operations (i.e., verbs). Adverbs are effectively verb multipliers,
> so they achieve just the opposite effect (when you QUIETLY, you are really
> just adding the verbs TAKE QUIETLY, GO NORTH QUIETLY, DROP QUIETLY, and so
> on).

Agreed. Again, I was specifically referring to including adverbs for
character interaction . . . although a good adventure-generating
system should allow you to use them if you really, really wanted to.

> So it gives away that trading is an option. You can offer lots of other
> options, too; it doesn't have to be obvious that trading is the right one.

True. But then you have an extraordinarily long list of possible
options whenever you engage in conversation with an actor. Most of
these would be fairly obvious; threaten, attack, surrender, offer,
give, steal, trade, etc.

> Depends on what the purpose is. I think it's much more important to
> entertain than to stump.

Very true; I agree with you completely. Again, I wasn't referring to
the introduction of adverbs in any other context than in character
interaction.

Erik Max Francis

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Mar 29, 1993, 7:27:05 PM3/29/93
to
> As for the window describing the person, I think that it's very
> important to continually describe the other person's expressions and
> actions. In real human-to-human conversation, we key on a tremendous
> number of unconscious "body language" cues which can make a
> conversation which verbally sounds like a friendly banter into a
> deadly serious exchange -- or vice versa.

I'm not objecting to the idea that it's important to have non-verbal
communication included. I'm objecting to the idea that you have a
separate "window" for this. It's unnecessary, and it's a departure
from IF concepts. If you want to describe what the character is doing
non-verbally, then _describe_ it:

"What are you talking about?" says the criminal, eyes darting
about nervously.

That is, after all, the basic idea behind interactive fiction.
_Fiction._

> The keyword system might be more powerful, but it is also more
> frustrating IMO. Although there will always be that one situtation
> which requires a "magic" word to continue, I think that the richness
> of a menu system is better. Perhaps you could append text to keywords

> and get a similar effect . . .

This is exactly what I was getting at. At first I posited the simple
keyword interface exactly like in, say, Ultima IV, but then when
someone said, "Hey, where's the IF?" I changed my mind.
Unfortunately, I guess I didn't make this immediately apparent. :-)

> However, I still contend that presenting a list of "obvious" topics
> fulfils two goals: first, it's less frustrating by giving the player a
> series of "ins" which might lead to other topics or clues; and second,
> it allows a much greater development of your NPC's by encouraging
> longer conversations. It's hard to get much depth into a character
> who lives only to hear that one magic word, IMO.

You don't have to, though. You can continue on, like in Ultima IV.
One keyword can give way to another keyword, which can give way to
other keywords, etc. If you're interested in making life on the
player easier, you can even note the respective keywords in
conversation with asterisks or some such thing:

> ASK BOB ABOUT DUNGEON

"What do you know about the Dungeon?"

"Ah," Bob begins. "The Dungeon is in a region of the world
inaccessible by land, water, or air. It contains *treasures*
beyond the imagination." Bob has a dreamy look.

> ASK BOB ABOUT TREASURES

"Tell me more about the treasures."

"Well, it is said . . ."

Molley the Mage

unread,
Mar 30, 1993, 2:37:42 PM3/30/93
to

I (Sean Molley) said:
>> As for the window describing the person, I think that it's very
>> important to continually describe the other person's expressions and
>> actions. In real human-to-human conversation, we key on a tremendous
>> number of unconscious "body language" cues which can make a
>> conversation which verbally sounds like a friendly banter into a
>> deadly serious exchange -- or vice versa.

Erik responded:

> I'm not objecting to the idea that it's important to have non-verbal
> communication included. I'm objecting to the idea that you have a
> separate "window" for this. It's unnecessary, and it's a departure
> from IF concepts. If you want to describe what the character is doing
> non-verbally, then _describe_ it:
>
> "What are you talking about?" says the criminal, eyes darting
> about nervously.
>
> That is, after all, the basic idea behind interactive fiction.
> _Fiction._

I agree with you, but what I was really getting at is the fact that
more than a person's responses to particular words or phases, we tend
to take the tone of a conversation from their overall appearance -- in
other words, how their body language shifts over the course of the
entire discussion. This is why two people can have a completely bland
and seemingly irrelevant chat about the weather and both go away
feeling vaguely unsatisfied and frustrated. However, your arguments
are sound. I think that appending certain comments such as "the
criminal appears to be getting more and more nervous" to the NPC
responses is probably an effective way to convey these messages
without resorting to an entire description window.

However, if you're going to go to a menu-based system for conversation
(which I have) then you're going to have windows to begin with --
unless you want all those options scrolling up and down the screen
continuously, having five lines of actual conversation followed by ten
lines of menu options. I find that aesthetically displeasing and also
disruptive to the continuity of the conversation. Keeping the menus
separate from the text of the conversation is IMO vital. And if
you're going to chop the screen into two parts, why not three? ;-)

Certainly I do not want to take the "fiction" out of IF -- the things
I suggest have all been designed to *increase* the characterization
of the NPC's and thereby increase the overall "depth" of the game.

>> [ Later, I discussed the virtues of keywords vs. menu options ]


> You don't have to, though. You can continue on, like in Ultima IV.
> One keyword can give way to another keyword, which can give way to
> other keywords, etc. If you're interested in making life on the
> player easier, you can even note the respective keywords in

> conversation with asterisks or some such thing...

In fact, this feature is a part of my conversational system to begin
with. My original thought (before the menus) was to highlight words
mentioned by NPC's which had "links" to other topics. Going to a menu
system does not change this fact; instead, the author simply skips the
middleman and presents the next set of menu topics to cover the
spectrum of conversational "leads" which were mentioned by the NPC in
his last diatribe. Thus, if you asked Fred about the Dungeons of
Doom, and he mentioned Treasures, Danger, and the Lost Adventurers,
instead of highlighting those options and making the player say ASK
FRED ABOUT THE LOST ADVENTURERS, you instead give over three of your
next menu options to "Did you mention fabulous treasure?", "Is there
really that much danger involved?" and "What about the Lost
Adventurers?" -- if the player wants to take some other tack, he can
still enter a keyword of his own. I have left that as a permanent
option.

I just feel that changing the keywords into menu topics makes life
easier on the player and gives a better text depth to the game. For
those who don't agree, I will include a toggle :-)



> Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE ...!apple!uuwest!max m...@west.darkside.com __
> USMail: 1070 Oakmont Dr. #1 San Jose, CA 95117 ICBM: 37 20 N 121 53 W / \
> If you like strategic games of interstellar conquest, ask about UNIVERSE! \__/
> -)(- Omnia quia sunt, lumina sunt. All things that are, are lights. -)(-

Erik Max Francis

unread,
Apr 1, 1993, 1:52:28 AM4/1/93
to
mol...@wkuvx1.bitnet (Molley the Mage) writes:

> This is why two people can have a completely bland
> and seemingly irrelevant chat about the weather and both go away
> feeling vaguely unsatisfied and frustrated.

Very true; but I think something like this would be rather difficult
to capture in IF. I'm kind of confused about exactly what you mean;
earlier you were talking about the "visual window" being a description
of the actor you're talking to, which _could_ be a picture. It sounds
like what you're talking about would require a picture, otherwise it's
essentially the same as describing it.

In other words, if the words "The mutant seems to developing a nervous
tic" appear in the "visual window" as the words, "'I don't know what
you're talking about, human,'" come up in the interactive window,
that's not much different from having a traditional IF setting where
the following words appear:

"I don't know what you're talking about, human," says the mutant.
Strange; he seems to be developing a nervous tic.

If I've misunderstood your concept, let me know.

> I think that appending certain comments such as "the
> criminal appears to be getting more and more nervous" to the NPC
> responses is probably an effective way to convey these messages
> without resorting to an entire description window.

Were you referring to something with a bunch of slots, such as eyes
(darting back and forth, looking you straight in the eye), nose,
eyebrows, mouth, smell, etc.?

> Thus, if you asked Fred about the Dungeons of
> Doom, and he mentioned Treasures, Danger, and the Lost Adventurers,
> instead of highlighting those options and making the player say ASK
> FRED ABOUT THE LOST ADVENTURERS, you instead give over three of your
> next menu options to "Did you mention fabulous treasure?", "Is there
> really that much danger involved?" and "What about the Lost
> Adventurers?" -- if the player wants to take some other tack, he can
> still enter a keyword of his own. I have left that as a permanent
> option.

Right -- I had assumed that this method of expanding conversations was
obvious from my reference to Ultima IV, in which it happens quite
often. Sorry if I didn't make myself clear.

I guess the main "problem" I'm having is that if you have a menu
system which includes a wildcard where you can insert a keyword, I
don't really see the advantage over using keywords in the first place.
After all, that's what it boils down to -- and the menuing system,
with windows and all, seems a serious departure from the "look-and-
feel" (eek!) of traditional IF games.

. . . And one nice thing about the look-and-feel (i.e., just straight
scrolling text) of traditional IF games is that it's very portable.
About the simplest kind of text I/O you can do.

> I just feel that changing the keywords into menu topics makes life
> easier on the player and gives a better text depth to the game. For
> those who don't agree, I will include a toggle :-)

Ah, that's definitely a nice feature. I'm not attacking you; I guess
this is just one of those cases where we have a difference of opinion
(oh, my. You mean that really happens in real life?).

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