HOW MUCH DETAIL?

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Ashley Price

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Dec 31, 2000, 5:37:57 AM12/31/00
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Hi All

I am writing an adventure and would like to ask all of you for your opinion
on the following:-

Do you prefer all the things in a "room" to have a description or do you not
mind if it comes up with "you don't need to worry about that.".

For instance:-

"You are in a room with a chair and table..."

>X TABLE

[the table and chair have nothing to do with the solving the game or puzzle
so would you prefer:-]

a) "The table is wooden with four legs and stands in the corner of the
room."

[or]

b) "You don't need to refer to that."

Obviously the second is easier because (certainly in HUGO) you can mark
these things as extra_scenery and it will automatically print phrase as in
'b'. But would you prefer it if everything mentioned did have a description?

This, of course, is not the same as the program not knowing the object apart
being mentioned in the room description, as I think there is nothing worse
than:-

"You are in a room with a chair and table..."

>X TABLE

"You don't see anything like that."

When it quite plainly states that you do see a table and chair.

Let me know what you think.

Ashley

Jonathan Blask

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Dec 31, 2000, 6:22:22 AM12/31/00
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On Sun, 31 Dec 2000, Ashley Price wrote:

> Hi All


>
> For instance:-
>
> "You are in a room with a chair and table..."
>
> >X TABLE
>

I think in a case like this, I'd prefer to have a description for
the table, as it's one of the only things in the room. Of course, it'd be
helpful if all other responses to actions involving the table told me that
it wasn't important, but it'd still be good to have a description.
In other cases, where the objects in question are among many, I
should think a 'that object isn't important' is just fine.
-jon
"If I got stranded on a desert island (with electricity)/
And I could bring one record and my hi-fi/
I'd bring that ocean surf cd (Relaxing Sound of Ocean Surf)/
So I could enjoy the irony." - Dylan Hicks

David Thornley

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Dec 31, 2000, 11:12:27 AM12/31/00
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In article <92n2ed$gs1$1...@uranium.btinternet.com>,

Ashley Price <ashle...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>Hi All
>
>I am writing an adventure and would like to ask all of you for your opinion
>on the following:-
>
>Do you prefer all the things in a "room" to have a description or do you not
>mind if it comes up with "you don't need to worry about that.".
>
Generally, I prefer to have things described.

>For instance:-
>
>"You are in a room with a chair and table..."
>

That's a sparse description. For something like that, I'd like a
description to both, and the ability to sit on the chair (which comes
almost free in TADS, and probably other systems).

The "you don't need to worry about that" response is the absolute
minimum I'd want to put up with.

In particular, if I get stuck, and am looking around at everything for
a clue, "you don't need to worry about that" is a slight breaking of
mimesis for me. "You don't see a table here" is more attacking mimesis
with a modern attack plane with laser-guided bombs. It isn't there
any more, and I'm very likely to quit on the spot unless there's a
walkthrough.

Other people may do things differently, of course.


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

Neil Cerutti

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Dec 31, 2000, 11:06:12 AM12/31/00
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On ashle...@btinternet.com posted:

>Do you prefer all the things in a "room" to have a description
>or do you not mind if it comes up with "you don't need to worry
>about that.".

I think it depends on what the style of your game will be. If
your story demands detailed exploration, you need to make that
exploration as interesting as possible. If your story is
fast-paced, you don't need to do as much.

Add as much detail as is proper for your game, plot, and writing
style.

>
>For instance:-
>
>"You are in a room with a chair and table..."
>
>>X TABLE
>
>[the table and chair have nothing to do with the solving the game or puzzle
>so would you prefer:-]
>
>a) "The table is wooden with four legs and stands in the corner of the
>room."

It's okay with a table to simply say what's on it. Unless it's
got a secret gouged into the soft wood underneath...

>[or]
>
>b) "You don't need to refer to that."

Then don't include the table, if you can figure out how to cut
it.

>Obviously the second is easier because (certainly in HUGO) you can mark
>these things as extra_scenery and it will automatically print phrase as in
>'b'. But would you prefer it if everything mentioned did have a description?
>
>This, of course, is not the same as the program not knowing the object apart
>being mentioned in the room description, as I think there is nothing worse
>than:-
>
>"You are in a room with a chair and table..."
>
>>X TABLE
>
>"You don't see anything like that."
>
>When it quite plainly states that you do see a table and chair.
>
>Let me know what you think.

If you include the table and chair, you've gotta code something.
If all you code is: "That's not important," then maybe you didn't
need to have a table and chair in your game at all.

--
Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net>

wo...@one.net

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Dec 31, 2000, 7:28:17 PM12/31/00
to

Hi Ashley,

>Do you prefer all the things in a "room" to have a description or do you not
>mind if it comes up with "you don't need to worry about that.".

This is one of the hardest questions in IF. For verisimilitude you
want obvious things mentioned in the text to give some sort of basic
response.

If you want the text equivalent of Myst, of course, you'll pay careful
attention to the scenery. It all depends on how much work you're
willing to put into the game for that extra "wow, neat!" from players.

It can be a slippery slope, especially if you want a reasonable
response. "You don't have to worry about that" isn't my idea of
reasonable! :)

The only thing you can really do is make sure you use an OOP language
and pay careful attention to your class hierarchy. That should give
you some sort of fighting chance to limit the combinatorial explosion
to some reasonable domain.

And let us know if you stumble across a solution you like. I'm
currently drowning in scenery in TQ!

Respectfully,

Wolf

"The world is my home, it's just that some rooms are draftier than
others". -- Wolf

Vincent Lynch

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Dec 31, 2000, 11:48:18 PM12/31/00
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Jonathan Blask <ell...@zork.plover.net> wrote in message
news:Pine.LNX.4.10.100123...@zork.plover.net...

> On Sun, 31 Dec 2000, Ashley Price wrote:
> > For instance:-
> > "You are in a room with a chair and table..."
> > >X TABLE
> I think in a case like this, I'd prefer to have a description for
> the table, as it's one of the only things in the room. Of course, it'd be
> helpful if all other responses to actions involving the table told me that
> it wasn't important, but it'd still be good to have a description.
> In other cases, where the objects in question are among many, I
> should think a 'that object isn't important' is just fine.

I think it's reasonable to have a description here because a table is such a
mundane object that just giving it a description won't make it seem too
important. But in general, if you're going to have a 'that object isn't
important' response there, I'd prefer to see it as soon as I try to interact
with it.

If there's a useless table there that I can examine, put things on, look
under and look behind, I may be wasting my time, but I'm not likely to waste
much of it. Allowing me to interact with it in a trivial way may even add
to the atmosphere. If I can examine it, look under it and get non-default
responses, but 'put x on table' tells me "That isn't important", not only is
this a break in mimesis, it's effectively telling me that I've just been
wasting my time, and that the game has been aware of this, but not taken any
opportunity to tell me.

-Vincent

Ashley Price

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Jan 1, 2001, 6:46:59 AM1/1/01
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Hi all

Thanks for the replies so far on this.

Here's a bit of a follow up question to it. How many people expect to be
able to examine items not explicitly but implied in the description of a
room or object?

For instance, (to use my original and Ian Finley's example):

"You are in a room, there is a table and chair..."

Would anyone expect to examine not just the wall (implied by being in a
room), but the plaster on the wall seperately (implied by being on the wall,
unless wall description specifically mentions other material for its
construction)?


Rich Pizor

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Jan 1, 2001, 8:36:34 PM1/1/01
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In article <92qlr2$agd$2...@plutonium.btinternet.com>, Ashley Price
<ashle...@btinternet.com> wrote:

> Would anyone expect to examine not just the wall (implied by being in a
> room), but the plaster on the wall seperately (implied by being on the wall,
> unless wall description specifically mentions other material for its
> construction)?

In a fiction writing course I took in college, the first rule of thumb
the professor imparted was simple: if you mention something, it's
relevant to the story. (I don't think Stephen King or Robert Jordon
took this course, but oh well. ;) The idea is to keep extraneous
details to a minimum; if it's important enough to bear mention in the
first place, it's important enough to play into the plot or character
development in some way.

I try to apply a modified version of this rule to IF: if an object
garners explicit mention in the room's description, you'd better have a
description of it. So I wouldn't expect to see a separate description
of every wall in your game world (if for no other reason than that 6
objects (4 walls, a floor and a ceiling) per room, before anything else
gets added, is a royal pain to code) but if the room's description
makes reference to something like an ornate tile pattern or an ancient
tapestry on the wall, I'd expect a description of those.

Rich

Vincent Lynch

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Jan 1, 2001, 5:50:34 PM1/1/01
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Ashley Price <ashle...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
news:92qlr2$agd$2...@plutonium.btinternet.com...

It would never occur to me to examine the plaster without some prompting,
simply because it's not something that's generally implemented (with, I
feel, good reason). If I were to find, by chance, that I could refer to the
plaster, I would expect it to be important - otherwise it's just a
distraction.

The other reason for not implementing everything that the player might
expect to find is that you'll never finish.

-Vincent

Andrew MacKinnon

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Jan 2, 2001, 3:57:27 PM1/2/01
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Vincent Lynch wrote:
>
> Ashley Price <ashle...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
> news:92qlr2$agd$2...@plutonium.btinternet.com...
> > Here's a bit of a follow up question to it. How many people expect to be
> > able to examine items not explicitly but implied in the description of a
> > room or object?
> >
> > For instance, (to use my original and Ian Finley's example):
> >
> > "You are in a room, there is a table and chair..."
> >
> > Would anyone expect to examine not just the wall (implied by being in a
> > room), but the plaster on the wall seperately (implied by being on the
> wall,
> > unless wall description specifically mentions other material for its
> > construction)?
>
> It would never occur to me to examine the plaster without some prompting,
> simply because it's not something that's generally implemented (with, I
> feel, good reason). If I were to find, by chance, that I could refer to the
> plaster, I would expect it to be important - otherwise it's just a
> distraction.

Most people don't examine walls, floor, etc. unless there is something
important. There usually isn't. Surely if people are led to the walls
they should also get the plaster description. How are we to know the
walls are plaster and not drywall?

--
Andrew MacKinnon
andrew_mac...@yahoo.com
http://www.geocities.com/andrew_mackinnon_2000/

Paul E. Bell

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Jan 2, 2001, 6:18:07 PM1/2/01
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cer...@localhost.localdomain (Neil Cerutti) wrote in
<slrn94umq6...@localhost.localdomain>:

That's rediculous. You might as well code the room with no room
description other than "You are in a room."

I would much rather have a dining room with a table and chairs mentioned,
even if they have nothing to do with the story, and cannot be manipulated.

As for what the player should see when he attempts to examine the table and
chairs, or anything else in the room that is scenery, I agree that the type
of game should dictate what the player sees.

I would caution that, if somewhere in the game, there is an otherwise
useless end table, which holds an object or clue that is only visible if
searched or examined, then I would not code all the other end tables in the
game to reply simply that they have no significance, are just scenery, or
do not need to be refered to.

Granted, too much detail can be coded into a game (>look ... painting ...
>examine painting ... standing under a large tree ... >examine tree ...
tree contains a nest ... >examine nest ... [ad infinitum]). Perhaps
something more on the order of "The painting is of your great grandfather
... ", with some mention of it's insignificance to your current situation,
either in the description, or when examined a second time.

I believe that one layer of description for scenery is enough for most
situations, two at most (though I have been working with non-object scenery
in Inform, on a very elaborate desk, with nearly every part having it's own
description, it is mainly an experiment).

All in all, it depends on who is playing the game, and how you code your
room descriptions (that is, if moveable/manipulable room contents are
described as part of the room description, rather than a separate
paragraph, then the player is more likely to examine everything; while some
players just automatically examine every possible noun mentioned in the
text).

Helios
--
Paul E. Bell | Email and AIM: wd0...@millcomm.com | ifMUD: Helios
IRC: PKodon, DrWho4, and Helios | webpage: members.nbci.com/wd0gcp/
Member: W.A.R.N., Skywarn, ARES, Phoenix Developer Consortium, ...
_____ Pen Name/Arts & Crafts signature:
| | _ \ _ _ |/ _ _(
| | (_X (_/`/\ (_) (_` |\(_) (_) (_|_) (/`
)

wo...@one.net

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Jan 2, 2001, 8:27:56 PM1/2/01
to

Hi Ashley,

>Would anyone expect to examine not just the wall (implied by being in a
>room), but the plaster on the wall seperately (implied by being on the wall,
>unless wall description specifically mentions other material for its
>construction)?

Argh, now you're just being silly! :)

Seriously, even in an ultra-detailed game I think it would be safe to
assume few would ever think to ask about plaster. I certainly wouldn't
have.

I suspect if you don't mention it explicitly you're entitled to expect
players not to try and deal with it. For instance, if you talk about a
grassy field, I doubt many players would think to dig for
earthworms...

After all, we *have* to draw the line someplace!

Richard Bos

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Jan 3, 2001, 5:56:48 AM1/3/01
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Andrew MacKinnon <andrew_mac...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Vincent Lynch wrote:
> >
> > It would never occur to me to examine the plaster without some prompting,
> > simply because it's not something that's generally implemented (with, I
> > feel, good reason). If I were to find, by chance, that I could refer to the
> > plaster, I would expect it to be important - otherwise it's just a
> > distraction.
>
> Most people don't examine walls, floor, etc. unless there is something
> important. There usually isn't. Surely if people are led to the walls
> they should also get the plaster description. How are we to know the
> walls are plaster and not drywall?

Of course, all that may happen is this:

# examine wall
This plaster wall has a window looking out on the street. Some bozo
called Kilroy has sprayed graffiti all over it claiming that he was
here.

#examine plaster
This plaster wall has a window looking out on the street. Some bozo
called Kilroy has sprayed graffiti all over it claiming that he was
here.

#examine graffiti
This plaster wall has a window looking out on the street. Some bozo
called Kilroy has sprayed graffiti all over it claiming that he was
here.

If the only import of wall, plaster and graffiti were the window and the
name Kilroy, that would be quite sufficient IMO.

Richard

Neil Cerutti

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Jan 3, 2001, 8:30:54 AM1/3/01
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Paul E. Bell posted:
>Neil Cerutti posted:

>>If you include the table and chair, you've gotta code
>>something. If all you code is: "That's not important," then
>>maybe you didn't need to have a table and chair in your game at
>>all.
>
>That's rediculous. You might as well code the room with no room
>description other than "You are in a room."

I guess I'm being gamist, but I agree with that statement. If
your game includes nothing interesting, I wouldn't object to that
room description. I would object to that room being included in
your game, though.

>I would much rather have a dining room with a table and chairs
>mentioned, even if they have nothing to do with the story, and
>cannot be manipulated.

Why? Including a table and chair to make a dull room seem like a
dining room is a waste of everyones time. Including a scenery
object to make the room description more interesting is another
story. In some cases, the table and chairs simply needs to be
there, and in that case, a perfunctory implementation is all I
would expect.

>I believe that one layer of description for scenery is enough
>for most situations, two at most (though I have been working
>with non-object scenery in Inform, on a very elaborate desk,
>with nearly every part having it's own description, it is mainly
>an experiment).

As you said above, it depends on the style. A game where
everything is described down to three levels could be as
enjoyable as one where only one-level terse descriptions are
supplied.

>All in all, it depends on who is playing the game,

That's kind of a tricky dependency, I think. ;-)

>and how you code your room descriptions (that is, if
>moveable/manipulable room contents are described as part of the
>room description, rather than a separate paragraph, then the
>player is more likely to examine everything; while some players
>just automatically examine every possible noun mentioned in the
>text).

I think players will cope with whatever level of description
you've provided, as long as it's appropriate.

Careful thought about what is mentioned and included in your game
can help speed the gaming process for the author and for the
player. Due to the combinatorial nature of IF, anything you can
cut from your game has the potential to cut the amount of work
needed to implement it properly exponentially.

--
Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net>

Andrew MacKinnon

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Jan 3, 2001, 9:36:37 AM1/3/01
to

You should be able to examine the table and chairs, sit on the chairs,
and put things on the table. Possibly put things under it, if you want
to get complex.

Vincent Lynch

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Jan 2, 2001, 10:47:14 PM1/2/01
to
Andrew MacKinnon <andrew_mac...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:2AC6C815...@yahoo.com...

> Vincent Lynch wrote:
> > Ashley Price <ashle...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
> > news:92qlr2$agd$2...@plutonium.btinternet.com...
> > > Would anyone expect to examine not just the wall (implied by being in
a
> > > room), but the plaster on the wall seperately (implied by being on the
> > > wall, unless wall description specifically mentions other material for
> > > its construction)?
> > It would never occur to me to examine the plaster without some
prompting,
> > simply because it's not something that's generally implemented (with, I
> > feel, good reason). If I were to find, by chance, that I could refer to
the
> > plaster, I would expect it to be important - otherwise it's just a
> > distraction.
> Most people don't examine walls, floor, etc. unless there is something
> important. There usually isn't. Surely if people are led to the walls
> they should also get the plaster description. How are we to know the
> walls are plaster and not drywall?

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Why would you want to know? If my
attention is drawn to the wall by the room description, I'm going to 'x
wall'. I expect the response to tell me whatever's relevant - if it
mentions the plaster, I'll 'x plaster', but otherwise I'm not going to.
Generally I can imagine what a wall looks like without being told exactly
what it's made of.

-Vincent

Vincent Lynch

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Jan 2, 2001, 10:21:28 PM1/2/01
to
Paul E. Bell <wd0...@millcomm.com> wrote in message
news:Xns901DB3792wd...@63.208.208.89...

> I would caution that, if somewhere in the game, there is an otherwise
> useless end table, which holds an object or clue that is only visible if
> searched or examined, then I would not code all the other end tables in
the
> game to reply simply that they have no significance, are just scenery, or
> do not need to be refered to.

If there's one table I have to examine/search, and a dozen others which are
useless, I'd say this was unfair either way. That is, unless it's indicated
that the player should examine all the tables, which would remove the
objection altogether.

-Vincent

Paul E. Bell

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Jan 3, 2001, 3:34:54 PM1/3/01
to
Well, I guess I will reply to this one, and catch both at the same
time...

Andrew MacKinnon wrote:
>
> Neil Cerutti wrote:
> >
> > Paul E. Bell posted:
> > >Neil Cerutti posted:
> > >>If you include the table and chair, you've gotta code
> > >>something. If all you code is: "That's not important," then
> > >>maybe you didn't need to have a table and chair in your game at
> > >>all.
> > >
> > >That's rediculous. You might as well code the room with no room
> > >description other than "You are in a room."
> >
> > I guess I'm being gamist, but I agree with that statement. If
> > your game includes nothing interesting, I wouldn't object to that
> > room description. I would object to that room being included in
> > your game, though.
> >
> > >I would much rather have a dining room with a table and chairs
> > >mentioned, even if they have nothing to do with the story, and
> > >cannot be manipulated.
> >
> > Why? Including a table and chair to make a dull room seem like a
> > dining room is a waste of everyones time. Including a scenery
> > object to make the room description more interesting is another
> > story. In some cases, the table and chairs simply needs to be
> > there, and in that case, a perfunctory implementation is all I
> > would expect.

Considering that, if there were a murder in the upstairs bedroom, and
you are an investigator, and the house where the murder happened has a
living room, dining room, kitchen and bath downstairs, 3 bedrooms, a
hall closet, and a closet in each bedroom upstairs, consider the
following:

The killer entered through the kitchen door, grabbed a knife from the
kitchen knife rack, wandered through the dining room into the living
room, then up the stairs to do the murder, after which he left the way
he came in, washing the knife in the kitchen sink and putting it back in
the rack. The two rooms you are interested in are the kitchen and the
upstairs bedroom, unless he dropped something along his path, however,
to make the story more realistic, you include the other rooms and their
descriptions, if for nothing else than to flesh out the character of the
dead man, or simply to make it seem like a real house.

The dining room table and chairs, the TV and seating in the living room,
and other items, may not have anything to do with the investigation, and
you don't have time to waste sitting in the chairs or putting things on
the table, but they make for a more realistic experience. Now, the
bedside stand is interesting because it has a door on the front, and,
opening the door, there is a safe inside.

I don't know of any game that doesn't have rooms containing things I
cannot manipulate. I'm in a grassy field, or a forest. I cannot
examine the grass or the trees, or, if I can, I get a description, but,
I can't eat the grass, or climb the trees, and, it doesn't break mimisis
for me to be told nicely that I don't have time to stop and play with
the scenery. They just add to the realism.

> > >I believe that one layer of description for scenery is enough
> > >for most situations, two at most (though I have been working
> > >with non-object scenery in Inform, on a very elaborate desk,
> > >with nearly every part having it's own description, it is mainly
> > >an experiment).
> >
> > As you said above, it depends on the style. A game where
> > everything is described down to three levels could be as
> > enjoyable as one where only one-level terse descriptions are
> > supplied.
> >
> > >All in all, it depends on who is playing the game,
> >
> > That's kind of a tricky dependency, I think. ;-)

What I meant is, some players just naturally have to examine
everything. When they are standing in an open field with the sun
shining down on them and lazy clouds floating by, they just naturally
have to examine the field, the grass, the clouds, and the sun. Other
players just continue along and don't examine any of those things unless
they get stuck and think they might have missed something (perhaps the
clouds are actually skywriting, giving you a clue - I'm not saying they
are, but, that could run through the player's mind when he's looking for
anything to tell him how to advance the story).

You can anticipate some of this, to a certain extent, and with Inform,
using the scene.h library to add non-object scenic descriptions to rooms
and objects make them more realistic, without wasting objects just to
have a description.

> > >and how you code your room descriptions (that is, if
> > >moveable/manipulable room contents are described as part of the
> > >room description, rather than a separate paragraph, then the
> > >player is more likely to examine everything; while some players
> > >just automatically examine every possible noun mentioned in the
> > >text).
> >
> > I think players will cope with whatever level of description
> > you've provided, as long as it's appropriate.
> >
> > Careful thought about what is mentioned and included in your game
> > can help speed the gaming process for the author and for the
> > player. Due to the combinatorial nature of IF, anything you can
> > cut from your game has the potential to cut the amount of work
> > needed to implement it properly exponentially.
>
> You should be able to examine the table and chairs, sit on the chairs,
> and put things on the table. Possibly put things under it, if you want
> to get complex.

Perhaps, again, depends on the game, and the author. In the above
murder example, I could write it so that, if the player attempts to go
to the dining room, he is given an en passant description of the dining
room, is told that he finds nothing notable there, and ends up in the
kitchen. This is not the usual way games are written, but, it's a
mechanism that could be used to give a sense of being in a real house,
yet without leading one through a "useless" room.

Now, here's another instance, a western: As you walk down the street,
you kick up dust, you walk past houses and shops, with hitching posts
and water troughs in front of them. You come to the saloon. Since it's
a place that is frequented by a lot of people, you decide to check the
water trough. Sure enough, some drunk dropped a coin in the trough and
forgot about it.

That water trough was worth checking because of it's particular
location, the other water troughs were just scenery. In this case,
perhaps the one water trough was located in all those locations, so they
all looked the same, but, if the PC's location were in front of the
saloon, then you would find the coin.

The only awkward thing would be if the PC decided to put something *in*
one of the other troughs, which could easily be taken care of by giving
the player a reason not to put anything in the water.

In summary, I don't believe that everything in a room description needs
to have further description, or be significant in the game, nor be a
physical, manipulable object; nor do I believe that having extra
descriptions and objects that don't further the game, but are there for
atmosphere, hurt a game; any more than having rooms that you pass
through to get to other rooms, just to give you a sense of going
somewhere, detract from the game.

Of course, if you are like my nephew, who plays a game with a minimalist
attitude of just dealing with what's necessary to get out the door into
the next level (in a platform game) and doesn't care about getting all
the points or killing all the monsters, then, Interactive Fiction is
probably not for you.

So, add whatever level of detail you feel comfortable with, without
overdoing it to the point where you never finish the game, or run out of
resources, etc.

Vincent Lynch

unread,
Jan 3, 2001, 5:30:47 PM1/3/01
to
Paul E. Bell <wd0...@millcomm.com> wrote in message
news:3A538CEE...@millcomm.com...

> Now, here's another instance, a western: As you walk down the street,
> you kick up dust, you walk past houses and shops, with hitching posts
> and water troughs in front of them. You come to the saloon. Since it's
> a place that is frequented by a lot of people, you decide to check the
> water trough. Sure enough, some drunk dropped a coin in the trough and
> forgot about it.
>
> That water trough was worth checking because of it's particular
> location, the other water troughs were just scenery. In this case,
> perhaps the one water trough was located in all those locations, so they
> all looked the same, but, if the PC's location were in front of the
> saloon, then you would find the coin.

I'd consider this reading the author's mind. I don't see why a water trough
outside a saloon should be any more significant than any other water trough.
Even if it is, I don't think it's a very good puzzle; probably not much
satisfaction from solving it, but much annoyance if I have to examine every
trough or just find myself stuck.

> Of course, if you are like my nephew, who plays a game with a minimalist
> attitude of just dealing with what's necessary to get out the door into
> the next level (in a platform game) and doesn't care about getting all
> the points or killing all the monsters, then, Interactive Fiction is
> probably not for you.

I disagree with this. I think there's plenty of room within IF for games
which are just puzzlers, and in which the player can get on with the puzzles
without having to bother with a detailed story or a load of scenery objects.
Most of what I played was like this, in the years before I'd heard of
Infocom. Lots of it was very badly designed and written, but I don't think
there's anything inherently wrong in a minimalistic approach.

-Vincent

Paul E. Bell

unread,
Jan 5, 2001, 3:41:58 AM1/5/01
to
Vincent Lynch wrote:
>
> Paul E. Bell <wd0...@millcomm.com> wrote in message
> news:3A538CEE...@millcomm.com...
> > Now, here's another instance, a western: As you walk down the street,
> > you kick up dust, you walk past houses and shops, with hitching posts
> > and water troughs in front of them. You come to the saloon. Since it's
> > a place that is frequented by a lot of people, you decide to check the
> > water trough. Sure enough, some drunk dropped a coin in the trough and
> > forgot about it.
> >
> > That water trough was worth checking because of it's particular
> > location, the other water troughs were just scenery. In this case,
> > perhaps the one water trough was located in all those locations, so they
> > all looked the same, but, if the PC's location were in front of the
> > saloon, then you would find the coin.
>
> I'd consider this reading the author's mind. I don't see why a water trough
> outside a saloon should be any more significant than any other water trough.
> Even if it is, I don't think it's a very good puzzle; probably not much
> satisfaction from solving it, but much annoyance if I have to examine every
> trough or just find myself stuck.

I don't know, I look for coins on the ground in front of stores where
people are likely to drop change, not in people's private driveways, and
I find enough coins to make it worth my while to look at the ground in
those places. The water trough in such a game is a common enough thing
to have, similar to a parking place in front of my house or business. A
saloon is a place where people deal with money, so, places to look for
money are, in the water trough, on the ground in front of the saloon,
under the walkway in front of the saloon, under the floor boards of the
saloon (the most likely place to find money), and under the bar, if
there's a space money can get under it through.

To some people, these things would be obvious, to others, they would not
be. I won't hold it against anyone if they decide to use the tendancy
of people to drop money when near or in a place of business as part of a
puzzle. For that matter, businesses have a lot of things that homes
also have, but, I wouldn't be looking for the same things to be found
in/on/under/behind them at a business that I would in a house/apartment;
well, not unless I knew the person who lived in the house/apartment had
the habit of taking his work home with him.

> > Of course, if you are like my nephew, who plays a game with a minimalist
> > attitude of just dealing with what's necessary to get out the door into
> > the next level (in a platform game) and doesn't care about getting all
> > the points or killing all the monsters, then, Interactive Fiction is
> > probably not for you.
>
> I disagree with this. I think there's plenty of room within IF for games
> which are just puzzlers, and in which the player can get on with the puzzles
> without having to bother with a detailed story or a load of scenery objects.
> Most of what I played was like this, in the years before I'd heard of
> Infocom. Lots of it was very badly designed and written, but I don't think
> there's anything inherently wrong in a minimalistic approach.

Perhaps I like to get all the points, perhaps I think that's the point
of the games my nephew runs through. Perhaps, in I-F, I like rich
scenery, and find the scenery as much fun as the puzzles. I love
Myst/Riven/Beyond Atlantis/The Crystal Key/the Journeyman Project
series, etc. as much for their rich scenery, as for the puzzles and
stories; the same goes for the text-only I-F that I play.

If it's just puzzles, it would seem to me that it is no longer
interactive *fiction*; while, certainly, interactive *fiction* can be
told without any puzzles (though, I prefer mine to be generously
sprinkled with them). That's not to say that the I-F authoring tools
cannot be used to make games which tell no stories, or even programs
which are not games at all, I just would hesitate to call them
interactive fiction, even if they do need Frotz to run.

Message has been deleted

Paul E. Bell

unread,
Jan 8, 2001, 5:46:54 PM1/8/01
to
Vincent Lynch wrote:

> Paul E. Bell wrote...


>
>> Vincent Lynch wrote:
>>
>>> Paul E. Bell <wd0...@millcomm.com> wrote in message
>>> news:3A538CEE...@millcomm.com...
>>>

>>>> That water trough was worth checking because of it's particular
>>>> location, the other water troughs were just scenery. In this case,
>>>> perhaps the one water trough was located in all those locations, so
>>>> they all looked the same, but, if the PC's location were in front
>>>> of the saloon, then you would find the coin.
>>>
>>> I'd consider this reading the author's mind. I don't see why a water
>>> trough outside a saloon should be any more significant than any other
>>> water trough. Even if it is, I don't think it's a very good puzzle;
>>> probably not much satisfaction from solving it, but much annoyance if
>>> I have to examine every trough or just find myself stuck.
>>
>> I don't know, I look for coins on the ground in front of stores where
>> people are likely to drop change, not in people's private driveways, and
>> I find enough coins to make it worth my while to look at the ground in
>> those places. The water trough in such a game is a common enough thing
>> to have, similar to a parking place in front of my house or business.
>
>

> But IF isn't like real life. In real life, if I need a particular coin,
> I'll generally ask someone to change the money I have, withdrawing some
> first if necessary. In some cases I won't be able to do this, but generally
> I'll be able to get around the problem if it's really important, or I'll
> give up if it's not. In other words, I don't approach problems in IF in the
> same way that I do in real life. In IF, it's not good enough to think of
> any solution that might work in real life - the author has to have thought
> of it too.

Well, I guess you've never seen/read a Western where someone wanders
into town, penniless, looking for something. I gave the example as
something I would naturally do upon coming to a town (in a game).
Perhaps I'm a bit of a Scottish miser, always looking for things people
drop that end up out of sight, out of mind. To me, those would just be
obvious things to do/places to look.

> And anyway, I'm not usually expected to seek out a particular object - more
> likely I'm expected to find it through general exploration or solving
> unrelated puzzles. If I come across a slot machine (not quite in line with
> your example, I know) I'll consider where I might find a coin, but if
> there's no obvious source I'll probably just expect to come across one
> later.


>
>
>> If it's just puzzles, it would seem to me that it is no longer
>> interactive *fiction*; while, certainly, interactive *fiction* can be
>> told without any puzzles (though, I prefer mine to be generously
>> sprinkled with them). That's not to say that the I-F authoring tools
>> cannot be used to make games which tell no stories, or even programs
>> which are not games at all, I just would hesitate to call them
>> interactive fiction, even if they do need Frotz to run.
>
>

> But if that's true, then it just means that interactive fiction isn't
> exactly the right term to encompass everything we talk about here. (I'll
> accept that we seem to be stuck with it.) Games which are essentially just
> puzzle games seem to be on-topic for this newsgroup, and seem to appeal to
> broadly the same audience as story-based games.
>
> -Vincent

It depends somewhat on the puzzles. In graphics-based games, like the
Jewels of the Oracle games, they don't present just a puzzle, they
present the other contents of the rooms, the hallways and doors leading
to the rooms containing the puzzles, etc. They also tell somewhat of a
story, through the puzzles. Something like this can be done with text,
too, using good prose in rich room descriptions. This would be barely
within the scope of I-F, and I believe that this sort of thing is what
is currently being discuss, rather than a bunch of featureless white
rooms (like the Construct in The Matrix) containing nothing but a puzzle.

On the other hand, though a game that consists of just one puzzle, in a
featureless white room, would not be I-F by itself, it still falls
within the genre, in that, it is using an I-F authoring language, and,
it could be incorporated into an I-F game at some future time, perhaps
in a different form. Freefall and DrWho (with the Daleks chasing him
around the screen, not the Dr. Who adventure game) are neither puzzle
games, or interactive-fiction, but fall within scope, because they are
examples of games written with Inform, showing off some of it's
capabilities as a general purpose language.

Now, as the original message that started this thread was about how much
detail should be in a work of interactive-fiction, not a fictionless
puzzle game, I still stand by my comments that, it is up to the author,
in looking at his/her audience, to add whatever level of detail he/she
wishes to give atmosphere to the game (If you walk into that saloon, is
it smoke filled, is someone playing the piano, how noisy is it, is there
a brawl going on, card games, ...; in other words, what would a person
notice upon walking into such a room, and, if it's there to provide
atmosphere, how much detail beyond the original description do you
give?) I gave my answer, as it related to a work of interctive-fiction.

I might also point out that, there have also been discussions recently
about "puzzleless I-F", and whether that fits into the genre.

Tina

unread,
Jan 9, 2001, 12:37:46 PM1/9/01
to
In article <slrn956ant...@fiad06.norwich.edu>,

Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net> wrote:
>Paul E. Bell posted:
>
>>I would much rather have a dining room with a table and chairs
>>mentioned, even if they have nothing to do with the story, and
>>cannot be manipulated.
>
>Why? Including a table and chair to make a dull room seem like a
>dining room is a waste of everyones time. Including a scenery
>object to make the room description more interesting is another
>story. In some cases, the table and chairs simply needs to be
>there, and in that case, a perfunctory implementation is all I
>would expect.

Because "this is a dining room" is a boring description. Mentioning it
has a table and chairs makes it more a dining room. I hesitate to use
the word 'mimesis' in this case[1], but I think it may apply to some
extent: I do not walk around life and say "This is a dining room." I
walk around in life and say "Hmm, table, chairs, hutch with dishes, must
be a dining room." [A]

IF approaches the world bass-ackwards: You get told what room you're in
and then maybe some description supports it. This is as distinctly
opposed to the world, in which you look at what's in a room and deduce
its function.[2]

I understand the problem with red herrings; IF players have long grown
used to the idea that if you can interact with an item, it must be
important. But 'look' is not necessarily 'interact'. You could mention a
table and chairs in your main description, and 'look table' could then
reveal:

"The dining-room set is of highly polished oak. Quite pretty, really."

I don't think anyone is going to think that this is something important
to the game[4], but it's a better choice than "You can't see any table
here." simply because at least the player now knows that looking at
things mentioned in the roomdesc is -fruitful-. This means that you
-can- then put clues on objects that might otherwise be dismissed as
scenery, so if 5 rooms later, there's mention of a nightstand, the
player won't just say "Ho, hum, more stuff I can't look at." and walk
past the openable drawer that contains a diary.

It also personally drives me nuts to be able to look at NOTHING.

-- T

[1] Or, frankly, in any other.

[A] Not literally. I don't usually[B] provide a running commentary as I
examine the world.

[B] Not without an audience, anyhow.

[2] Empty apartments or houses notwithstanding, where the
room name is the purpose of the room and a convenient label, not
necessarily its ultimate function.[3]

[3] My new apartment has a 'dining nook', but it is destined to become
my study instead. If I put it in an IF game, and called it a 'dining
nook', and didn't bother mentioning it contains a desk and shelves, it
would be rather misleading.

[4] Unless you're on a quest for oak furniture in the game.

Neil Cerutti

unread,
Jan 9, 2001, 1:22:08 PM1/9/01
to
Tina posted:

>In article <slrn956ant...@fiad06.norwich.edu>,
>Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net> wrote:
>>Paul E. Bell posted:
>>
>>>I would much rather have a dining room with a table and chairs
>>>mentioned, even if they have nothing to do with the story, and
>>>cannot be manipulated.
>>
>>Why? Including a table and chair to make a dull room seem like a
>>dining room is a waste of everyones time. Including a scenery
>>object to make the room description more interesting is another
>>story. In some cases, the table and chairs simply needs to be
>>there, and in that case, a perfunctory implementation is all I
>>would expect.
>
>Because "this is a dining room" is a boring description.
>Mentioning it has a table and chairs makes it more a dining
>room.

If it's a dining table, sure. But if you include the table and
chair *only* as a substitute for "this is a dining room" I think
you've wasted your and potential player's time. I hope, if you
are including a dining room, you have a better reason for it than
"because it's a house". If you know what the reason for the
dining room is, then the answer to how deeply to implement any
possible table and chairs is easy to find. What's the purpose of
the dining room? If that purpose requires a table and chairs,
then what's the purpose of them? The answers will be different for
every game, I hope.

>IF approaches the world bass-ackwards: You get told what room
>you're in and then maybe some description supports it. This is
>as distinctly opposed to the world, in which you look at what's
>in a room and deduce its function.[2]

I haven't looked at it that way before, and it's interesting. I
always thought of the room names were just convenient
place-holders and short-hand for the longer descriptions. And
don't forget, in the old days it was pretty common to find:

DINING ROOM
You're in a dining room.

>I understand the problem with red herrings; IF players have long
>grown used to the idea that if you can interact with an item, it
>must be important. But 'look' is not necessarily 'interact'. You
>could mention a table and chairs in your main description, and
>'look table' could then reveal:
>
>"The dining-room set is of highly polished oak. Quite pretty,
>really."

That implementation may well be perfectly good enough. But I say,
first decide if you need a table at all, *then*, based on that
answer, implement as much as you need.

>I don't think anyone is going to think that this is something
>important to the game[4], but it's a better choice than "You
>can't see any table here." simply because at least the player
>now knows that looking at things mentioned in the roomdesc is
>-fruitful-. This means that you -can- then put clues on objects
>that might otherwise be dismissed as scenery, so if 5 rooms
>later, there's mention of a nightstand, the player won't just
>say "Ho, hum, more stuff I can't look at." and walk past the
>openable drawer that contains a diary.

Yes, don't mention things and have no implementation, unless it's
fairly obviously effective scenery.

>It also personally drives me nuts to be able to look at NOTHING.

>LOOK AT NOTHING
You can't see anything.

>LOOK AT ANYTHING
You see nothing.

--
Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net>

John Colagioia

unread,
Jan 10, 2001, 10:30:35 AM1/10/01
to
Tina wrote:

> In article <slrn956ant...@fiad06.norwich.edu>,
> Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net> wrote:
> >Paul E. Bell posted:
> >>I would much rather have a dining room with a table and chairs
> >>mentioned, even if they have nothing to do with the story, and
> >>cannot be manipulated.
> >Why? Including a table and chair to make a dull room seem like a
> >dining room is a waste of everyones time. Including a scenery
> >object to make the room description more interesting is another
> >story. In some cases, the table and chairs simply needs to be
> >there, and in that case, a perfunctory implementation is all I
> >would expect.
>
> Because "this is a dining room" is a boring description. Mentioning it
> has a table and chairs makes it more a dining room. I hesitate to use
> the word 'mimesis' in this case[1], but I think it may apply to some
> extent: I do not walk around life and say "This is a dining room." I
> walk around in life and say "Hmm, table, chairs, hutch with dishes, must
> be a dining room." [A]

[...]

Warning: Official "new kid on the block" (no, I'm not a member of a lousy
has-been music group) about to point out either something excessively
obvious or annoyingly contentious. Or neither.

I prefer everything mentioned to have a description (though I can easily
accept not being able to interact with the object, having now looked at
it). The reason? It gives me something to do if/while I'm trying to figure
out what to do next. I have found that--no matter how highly recommended a
game may come--if I can't figure out what my next step should be, and I
don't have a "substitute action" ready for me (i.e., looking at scenery or
wandering the map), then I typically exit the game and move onto something
new.

Plus, descriptions of objects are often a nice place to drop subtle hints
(as mentioned in the thread referring to special "thieving verbs").

Also, like Tina, I'm rather attached to the idea that, for example "houses
have kitchens." It doesn't mean I have to be able to walk around, put
silverware in the blender, and remove the elbow trap from the sink's
plumbing, but I would prefer that the author at least acknowledge the fact
that a kitchen exists--a non-exit that tells me that I have better things to
do is usually sufficient. But, if I'm allowed in, I want to see that stove,
the table, the sink, and so on--again, even if I'm just told to leave it
alone. Call it "mimesis," call it "suspension of disbelief," or whatever.

Exception to the previous paragraph: Bathrooms. As a pretty standard
convention of television, films, and literature, nobody needs to ever see a
bathroom if the author doesn't think it's important.

Of course, mileage may vary some on city streets.


Tina

unread,
Jan 10, 2001, 11:31:50 AM1/10/01
to
In article <slrn95mm2e...@fiad06.norwich.edu>,
Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net> wrote:
>Tina posted:

>>Because "this is a dining room" is a boring description.
>>Mentioning it has a table and chairs makes it more a dining
>>room.
>
>If it's a dining table, sure. But if you include the table and
>chair *only* as a substitute for "this is a dining room" I think
>you've wasted your and potential player's time. I hope, if you
>are including a dining room, you have a better reason for it than
>"because it's a house". If you know what the reason for the
>dining room is, then the answer to how deeply to implement any
>possible table and chairs is easy to find. What's the purpose of
>the dining room? If that purpose requires a table and chairs,
>then what's the purpose of them? The answers will be different for
>every game, I hope.

Hmm, see, I'm not sure I agree with this, assuming I understand it.

What I -think- you're saying here is basically:

1. Don't include rooms that don't have a direct game function.
2. Or don't include detail in rooms that don't have a direct game function
even if that leads to boring rooms.

I actually -sort- of agree with 1; having a room solely to have a room
may not be a good design decision. But on the other hand, it may. There
is more interest to me, personally (and I'm certain I'm not alone in
this, both from reading other people's minds^Wposts and by an adaptation
of Ugol's Law[1]) if I'm wandering through a fleshed-out environment
than a minimalistic one, for one thing, and for another, I feel games
where every room has a puzzle/object and the rooms are built entirely
around that concept are a lot more lead-through-the-nose than I feel is
absolutely necessary (i.e., I prefer a few red herrings and dead ends in
my IF experience).

I would not expect rooms that fell into the 'there, but not directly useful
to the game' to be any -large- ratio of a game; I'd agree if they were,
that would probably be a failing (the 'implement just to implement' part
of your argument, I believe). But I don't see the harm in 'there, but not
directly useful' existing in a small portion of the game; in this case,
the 'purpose' of such a room is color.

Insofar as #2 goes.....

>>IF approaches the world bass-ackwards: You get told what room
>>you're in and then maybe some description supports it. This is
>>as distinctly opposed to the world, in which you look at what's
>>in a room and deduce its function.[2]
>
>I haven't looked at it that way before, and it's interesting. I
>always thought of the room names were just convenient
>place-holders and short-hand for the longer descriptions. And
>don't forget, in the old days it was pretty common to find:
>
>DINING ROOM
>You're in a dining room.

And it drove me nuts. Not in the particular case of a dining room,
necessarily, but because it was often this dichotomy:

DINING ROOM
You're in a dining rom.

HALLWAY
You're in a hallway.

KITCHEN
The kitchen is small and cramped; it only has room for the appliances
and a single set of cabinets.

>open cabinets
Inside one of the cabinets, you find a blorble spell.

>x appliances
Dirty and green. You suspect the refrigerator hasn't been opened in
years.
[2]

>x refrigerator
Dirty, green, and dusty. There is a faded, greasy handprint on it.

>open refrigerator
Inside the refrigerator you find a strange green stone.

....
Which is to say: rooms with minimalistic descriptions are obviously to
be ignored, whereas ones with detail obviously contain stuff necessary
to the game. This doesn't require any thinking on my part, just looking
for anything that has -any- kind of detail to win the game. I prefer a
little more depth than that.

As to the ass-backwards viewpoint, it goes along with this experience. I
sometimes feel that game designers have done this:

"Hmm, I need to give them places to find these three objects and this
particular puzzle. I'll stick them in three rooms, and maybe throw in a
connecting room. Now, let's see, where should they be found? Oh, I know!
In a refrigerator, in a cabinet, under a pillow. So, let's see, build a
kitchen, build a bedroom, and maybe a hall leading to both places and a
another room to one side. But those rooms aren't important, so we'll
just stick in a basic desc and ignore anything else."

Now, despite my feelings about this, I grant there -is- an opposite
problem... because I don't want to spend my entire game wandering
through an average of four-five rooms that are just scenery for every
one that actually contains a clue, either [and I think this may be what
you're trying to avoid by your particular position, Neil C.]. There is
actually such a thing as over-fleshing, just as there is in static
fiction: 10 pages of description followed by two sentences of actual
story is not a good place to be any more than taking a rich world and
story and compressing it down to 10 lines is. But I think there's a
happy medium here, and that's really what I'm advocating.

So, in short (too late[3]), I think that:

1. Rooms with no real function are okay to flesh out areas, with the
understanding that 'flesh out' implies that these are not the average
room.
2. Any room you include should be described.
3. Any description should include at least one layer of scenery
description (e.g., if you mention the table, I want to be able to look at
it; if you mention candles on the table, I don't need to be able to look
at them unless they're important)
4. I would, as implied elsewhere, choose to group similar scenery
objects together (e.g., 'look table', 'look chairs', 'look candles'
and 'look furniture' might all give the same scenery desc) to make sure
it's understood these are just scenery.


-- T

[1] Basically: If you ask 'Am I the only one who...', the answer is
'no'.

[2] What was it with that particularly ugly shade of green common to
appliances in the 70s? I still see it, actually, but it doesn't seem to
be as common as it was then. You know, that sort of half-digested
olive/bile green. As a result of growing up surrounded by that color, I
now have permanently linked in my head that refrigerators are green,
even when evidence to the contrary is found. Green or white. That's it.
Oh, and sunflower yellow.

[3] Why do I -ever- use the phrase 'in short'? I never am. I mean, hell,
I'm 5'8", that's definitely not short for a chyk.

[4] This footnote is not referenced anywhere in this post. I just
included it to note I must be much less funny than I think, since no one
ever comments on the things I like to consider jokes. :)

Kaia Vintr

unread,
Jan 10, 2001, 5:04:24 PM1/10/01
to
Tina wrote in message <93i2pm$a4t$1...@nntp.Stanford.EDU>...
> [snip]

>Now, despite my feelings about this, I grant there -is- an opposite
>problem... because I don't want to spend my entire game wandering
>through an average of four-five rooms that are just scenery for every
>one that actually contains a clue, either [and I think this may be what
>you're trying to avoid by your particular position, Neil C.]. There is
>actually such a thing as over-fleshing, just as there is in static
>fiction: 10 pages of description followed by two sentences of actual
>story is not a good place to be any more than taking a rich world and
>story and compressing it down to 10 lines is. But I think there's a
>happy medium here, and that's really what I'm advocating.
> [snip]

That 4-1 ratio would be rather extreme, yes. But what about providing other
means (plot-based and realism-based) to keep the player on track in the
midst of more fleshed-out detail? E.g. in real life when I misplace the TV
remote I generally don't have to open every drawer and cupboard and look
under every piece of furniture in the entire apartment to find it [*].

In many games the player does have to perform an exhaustive search for clues
and manipulable objects and too much detail will make the task harder.
Those are often the games I get stuck in because I think "why would I
rummage through the trash?". Is that the way IF is supposed to be?


- Kaia

[*] But if I was looking for a blorble spell (in my apartment) I might have
to [**]

[**] Does Tina's footnoting [***] style work with asterisks too? [****]

[***] Or are they actually end notes?

[****] Trying to insert the dagger symbols might be a stretch since they
aren't in the Latin-1 character set.


Paul E. Bell

unread,
Jan 11, 2001, 12:24:19 AM1/11/01
to
ti...@eniac.stanford.edu (Tina) wrote in <93i2pm$a4t$1...@nntp.Stanford.EDU>:

I guess I wonder what kind of story you can tell, if indeed you are
attempting to write Interactive Fiction, without fleshing out the world in
which the story is set? Things like, what kind of food is in the cupboard,
or on the table, how clean are those dishes on the sink, etc., tell
something about the person who lived in the house.

In a murder mystery, you don't just read that someone was murdered, at
least not the ones I read, you read things about their daily life, the kind
of clothes they wore, habits, various other things that flesh out the
character. I realize some people just want to look at a puzzle, figgure it
out, and move on, but, to me, that's not interactive-"fiction". I read a
mixture of Sci-Fi, Murder Mystery, Fantasy, Westerns, and a few Romance
Novels (mostly by Grace Livinston Hill, and her mother and daughter). A
large part of most of the stories have nothing to do with solving the
problem, and have everything to do with fleshing out the characters in the
story. I would say that, in most of those books, there is perhaps 10% or
less of the story that deals directly with the problem(s) at hand.

But then, I guess I am more character/story-oriented than puzzle-oriented
(though I love puzzles, too).

Perhaps what should be said is, there should be Interactive-Fiction games
that are terse, and rich in puzzles, for the sort that like that, and there
should be some very rich ones to satisfy the grand explorers who love to
wander and enjoy the scenery, solving a few puzzles here and there along
the way. I believe there is room for both, and a range in between, just as
there is room for all those novels I read, and ones I don't, too. There is
also room for the occasional "epic" novel/I-F game, as well; where the
journey itself is the point of the story, and the destination is merely the
impetus for taking the journey.

Now, if I go back to the example of the western town, I may mention that
there are houses and other buildings, as well as boardwalks, hitching
posts, and water troughs, but, beyond a response to examine, unless it's
the mayor's house, town hall, sherrif's office/jail, bank, church, saloon,
etc., I won't implement the inside of the building, but I will flesh out a
response to an examine command so that the player isn't presented with "you
can't see that here" or "That's just scenery."

Personally, I hate "That's just scenery," as a response to "examine x", and
"You can't see that here," or "I only understood you so far as wanting to
examine something," in response to "examine y", which was mentioned in the
description of x. If you are going to mention it in a description, allow
it to be examined, if you are going to mention something else in that
description, give some kind of response, even if it's just another repeat
of the examine description for the thing it's supposedly on/in.

I know, all of this entails more coding, and it makes for a longer game,
but, I think we ought to have a few long games with rich stories. Condense
things where it's logical, but, put in detail where people expect detail.
I'm not suggesting that, if you have an electronic chess set sitting on the
coffee table in the living room, you have to implement it down to allowing
the player to move the pieces and play against the computer, just describe
it sufficiently to tell something about the person who played with it.

I agree here, to me, rooms with no description beyond that they are a
bedroom, hallway, bathroom, closet, etc., are rooms that do not need to be
there. However, if fleshed out a bit, they let you know something about
the person who lives here, which is much more interesting.

For one thing, if I have a puzzle, for the sake of having a puzzle, without
some kind of background as to why there even is a puzzle, and who made the
puzzle; I may play with the puzzle, but, it's a lot less fun for me.

>As to the ass-backwards viewpoint, it goes along with this experience. I
>sometimes feel that game designers have done this:
>
>"Hmm, I need to give them places to find these three objects and this
>particular puzzle. I'll stick them in three rooms, and maybe throw in a
>connecting room. Now, let's see, where should they be found? Oh, I know!
>In a refrigerator, in a cabinet, under a pillow. So, let's see, build a
>kitchen, build a bedroom, and maybe a hall leading to both places and a
>another room to one side. But those rooms aren't important, so we'll
>just stick in a basic desc and ignore anything else."

Yeah, why are those things stuck in those places? Who is the idiot who
sticks a glowing green rock in the refrigerator? Is there something else
in the house/building to give me some sense of order here?

>Now, despite my feelings about this, I grant there -is- an opposite
>problem... because I don't want to spend my entire game wandering
>through an average of four-five rooms that are just scenery for every
>one that actually contains a clue, either [and I think this may be what
>you're trying to avoid by your particular position, Neil C.]. There is
>actually such a thing as over-fleshing, just as there is in static
>fiction: 10 pages of description followed by two sentences of actual
>story is not a good place to be any more than taking a rich world and
>story and compressing it down to 10 lines is. But I think there's a
>happy medium here, and that's really what I'm advocating.

Hmm, I refer you to my comments above about telling stories. Granted, in a
book, you would probably state that you went from the upstairs bedroom to
the kitchen downstairs, without stating that you went down the hall, down
the stairs, through the living room, through the dining room, into the
kitchen. On the other hand, you don't generally state in a book that you
went south, down, east, north to get there, either. I don't consider it
very believable to walk in the front door, and find yourself in the
bedroom, walk out of the bedroom and find yourself in the kitchen, walk out
of the kitchen and find yourself outside the front door again.

>So, in short (too late[3]), I think that:
>
>1. Rooms with no real function are okay to flesh out areas, with the
>understanding that 'flesh out' implies that these are not the average
>room.
>2. Any room you include should be described.
>3. Any description should include at least one layer of scenery
>description (e.g., if you mention the table, I want to be able to look
>at it; if you mention candles on the table, I don't need to be able to
>look at them unless they're important)
>4. I would, as implied elsewhere, choose to group similar scenery
>objects together (e.g., 'look table', 'look chairs', 'look candles'
>and 'look furniture' might all give the same scenery desc) to make sure
>it's understood these are just scenery.

I would agree with this, to a certain extent, however, I still think some
things should be fleshed out further. For example, Myst has several rooms
where there are things with drawers in them, all of which can be opened,
several have nothing more than maps or rolls of cloth, a few have some
other things. Most of this stuff has more to do with explaining what the
person is like who lives here, than furthering the story (then again, your
decision as to how far to help this person hinges on how well you know him
from the things you can see in his rooms).

Well, I was going to make further comment, but, I will hold off here.

>-- T
>
>[1] Basically: If you ask 'Am I the only one who...', the answer is
>'no'.
>
>[2] What was it with that particularly ugly shade of green common to
>appliances in the 70s? I still see it, actually, but it doesn't seem to
>be as common as it was then. You know, that sort of half-digested
>olive/bile green. As a result of growing up surrounded by that color, I
>now have permanently linked in my head that refrigerators are green,
>even when evidence to the contrary is found. Green or white. That's it.
>Oh, and sunflower yellow.
>
>[3] Why do I -ever- use the phrase 'in short'? I never am. I mean, hell,
>I'm 5'8", that's definitely not short for a chyk.

Heh, well, we will stand you next to this guy I know, then we'll see if you
think you are short or tall. I sympathise, though, I seem never to be
short in my responses to anything, either.

>[4] This footnote is not referenced anywhere in this post. I just
>included it to note I must be much less funny than I think, since no one
>ever comments on the things I like to consider jokes. :)

I'll let you know if I find one :)

Arcum Dagsson

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Jan 11, 2001, 1:00:23 AM1/11/01
to
In article <I%476.42504$n%.2236238@news20.bellglobal.com>, "Kaia Vintr"
<ka...@xoe.com> wrote:

> E.g. in real life when I misplace the TV
> remote I generally don't have to open every drawer and cupboard and look
> under every piece of furniture in the entire apartment to find it [*].

You don't? I've gone through that before, with the remote and other things, like
keys. This may say something about how messy or small my apartment is, though.
It's about the size of the apartment in Shade, or around there...

--
--Arcum
"He was too eager for my liking. Too clean-cut. Too good to be true."
"He was an angel of the Lord! What'd you expect him to do, deal crack?"

Mel

unread,
Jan 11, 2001, 3:02:50 AM1/11/01
to
wo...@one.net wrote:

> Hi Ashley,

> >Would anyone expect to examine not just the wall (implied by being in a
> >room), but the plaster on the wall seperately (implied by being on the wall,
> >unless wall description specifically mentions other material for its
> >construction)?

> Argh, now you're just being silly! :)

> Seriously, even in an ultra-detailed game I think it would be safe to
> assume few would ever think to ask about plaster. I certainly wouldn't
> have.

Furthermore, I wouldn't expect many to think about it in real life. If
I'm solving a murder mystery (to use an earlier example) I probably
don't care about the look of the wall unless a cursory glance (the kind
that results in a room description :) ) reveals a blood stain or a
bullet hole or something, or if I have particular reason to think a spot
of wall may be important. I probably won't even pay attention to the
details in the wallpaper (though Sherlock Holmes might). What I'm
saying is that only a certain level of interaction really makes sense
for the kind of task the game is simulating (varying with the game and
task, of course) and anything more really isn't nessacery unless
specifically mentioned.

now that I've just rambled on about something not very important...

> After all, we *have* to draw the line someplace!

hear, hear.

Mel

Mel

unread,
Jan 11, 2001, 3:04:57 AM1/11/01
to
wo...@one.net wrote:

> Hi Ashley,

> >Would anyone expect to examine not just the wall (implied by being in a
> >room), but the plaster on the wall seperately (implied by being on the wall,
> >unless wall description specifically mentions other material for its
> >construction)?

> Argh, now you're just being silly! :)

> Seriously, even in an ultra-detailed game I think it would be safe to
> assume few would ever think to ask about plaster. I certainly wouldn't
> have.

Furthermore, I wouldn't expect many to think about it in real life. If


I'm solving a murder mystery (to use an earlier example) I probably
don't care about the look of the wall unless a cursory glance (the kind
that results in a room description :) ) reveals a blood stain or a
bullet hole or something, or if I have particular reason to think a spot
of wall may be important. I probably won't even pay attention to the
details in the wallpaper (though Sherlock Holmes might). What I'm
saying is that only a certain level of interaction really makes sense
for the kind of task the game is simulating (varying with the game and
task, of course) and anything more really isn't nessacery unless
specifically mentioned.

now that I've just rambled on about something not very important...

> After all, we *have* to draw the line someplace!

hear, hear.

Mel

Mel

unread,
Jan 11, 2001, 3:06:14 AM1/11/01
to
I hate it when I send something twice.

Mel

Andrew MacKinnon

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Jan 20, 2001, 12:46:31 PM1/20/01
to

Yes, it really does.

What about other things that tend to not be included in rooms? Two
examples are lamps and windows. Those things tend not to be included,
although windows are probably used more because they can be incorporated
into puzzles.

Philip Goetz

unread,
Jan 22, 2001, 7:36:19 PM1/22/01
to
Tina <ti...@eniac.stanford.edu> wrote in message
news:93fi9a$9gp$1...@nntp.Stanford.EDU...

> In article <slrn956ant...@fiad06.norwich.edu>,
> Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net> wrote:
> >Paul E. Bell posted:
> >
> >>I would much rather have a dining room with a table and chairs
> >>mentioned, even if they have nothing to do with the story, and
> >>cannot be manipulated.
> >
> >Why? Including a table and chair to make a dull room seem like a
> >dining room is a waste of everyones time. Including a scenery
> >object to make the room description more interesting is another
> >story. In some cases, the table and chairs simply needs to be
> >there, and in that case, a perfunctory implementation is all I
> >would expect.
>
> Because "this is a dining room" is a boring description. Mentioning it
> has a table and chairs makes it more a dining room. I hesitate to use
> the word 'mimesis' in this case[1], but I think it may apply to some
> extent: I do not walk around life and say "This is a dining room." I
> walk around in life and say "Hmm, table, chairs, hutch with dishes, must
> be a dining room." [A]
>
> IF approaches the world bass-ackwards: You get told what room you're in
> and then maybe some description supports it. This is as distinctly
> opposed to the world, in which you look at what's in a room and deduce
> its function.[2]

Also, the IF player approaches the IF world ass-backwards:
He looks at the objects at hand and tries to figure out how to
use them to solve his problems, instead of looking at his problems
and asking what objects he could use to solve them.

I hate extra objects in IF which is written so that you have to
bang about objects at random to solve some impossible puzzle
to progress... but then, I don't like that IF much either.

I would rather see IF with such a vast array of objects having
no (known) relevance to the "puzzles" (if there are any)
that the player cannot, and cannot be expected to,
progress by looking at objects and trying to guess how
they're supposed to use them.

- Phil Goetz
phil...@yahoo.com

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