Writing Games...

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The Alienist

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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Hi all,

just a note to ask a question of those of you who have written/are
writing IF games of your own. My question is, how do you go about
structuring your games? I mean, how do you figure out what puzzles to
put where, where do you start when you build the map for the game? I'm
writing my first IF, and I'm running into this snag. I start designing
the map, but it's tough to design a layout without knowing what puzzles
you're going to have. So I start designing puzzles, without much of a
map to work with. Then I get frustrated, stomp off for awhile, come
back, and start over again... There must be a more efficient way to do
this... isn't there?

The Alienist

Paul O'Brian

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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On Wed, 19 Aug 1998, The Alienist wrote:

> Hi all,
>
> just a note to ask a question of those of you who have written/are
> writing IF games of your own. My question is, how do you go about
> structuring your games? I mean, how do you figure out what puzzles to
> put where, where do you start when you build the map for the game?

I don't like making puzzles, and I don't think I'm very good at it.
Puzzles will probably be the weakest part of any game I ever write.
Consequently, I never think of puzzles first -- instead, I think about the
story, the milieu, and the characters, and I usually find that puzzles
arise semi-naturally from that. I think about it as if I were writing
straight (er, static) fiction. What obstacles would confront the
protagonist, and how could those be overcome? Or, from the other side, how
would the antagonists choose to try and thwart the protagonist?

Of course, sometimes no puzzles whatsoever arise from this method, and for
me, that's OK too. Puzzles are pretty low on my list of what makes a great
IF game, so they're a fairly low priority in design as well. For me, the
main point of them is to provide some pacing for the narrative, but *not*
to stump the player or stop her in her tracks.

However, as in other kinds of writing, each IF author works in an
individual way, and what works for me may not work for you at all. Then
again it may -- no telling til you try.

Paul O'Brian
obr...@colorado.edu
http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian


Irene Callaci

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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From the depths of my experience (I've finished writing
exactly one game and am in the middle of writing another):

My first game was a very...um...iterative (yeah, that's it,
iterative) effort. I started out with a general idea of the
setting and maybe a puzzle or two, but no real idea of story
or plot. This has caused me no end of grief. I had to rewrite
major portions of the game as the story developed, going back
to put things in or take them out as needed. Finding all the
relationships between objects and references to objects is
tedious. On the other hand, at one point, the story itself
just seemed to "take off" and write itself, which might not
have happened if I had been a better planner.

So, of course, when I started my second game, I was determined
to learn from my mistakes with the first. I developed the plot,
drew the map, outlined the characters, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Guess what? The story seems to have a mind of its own, just
like my first attempt. I've had to go back and rewrite major
portions of it, putting things in and taking them out as needed.

So, there you have it. For me, at least, planning seems to have
no real effect on the end result. I either flounder around with
no plan until something clicks, or I spend a lot of time planning,
plotting and mapping, only to have the story head off in another
direction entirely, and I am helpless to prevent it.

Honestly, it is the weirdest sensation to try and follow a
planned story line, only to have the game insist on going its
own way, as if it has a will of its own. Does this happen to
anyone else? I feel a little strange mentioning it. Perhaps I
should "impose my will" on the story and force it to follow my
pre-conceived ideas for it, but when I try that, I lose interest
and become bored. It's as much of an adventure for me to write
one of these things as it is to play one, since I have no idea
how it will turn out, even though I'm the person writing it!

Oh, well. This probably hasn't been very helpful to you, but at
least you know you're not alone. Good luck.

irene

On Wed, 19 Aug 1998 09:11:33 GMT, The Alienist <ddb...@mysurf.com>
wrote:

>Hi all,
>
>just a note to ask a question of those of you who have written/are
>writing IF games of your own. My question is, how do you go about
>structuring your games? I mean, how do you figure out what puzzles to

Suzanne Skinner

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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Irene Callaci <ical...@csupomona.edu> wrote:

> Honestly, it is the weirdest sensation to try and follow a
> planned story line, only to have the game insist on going its
> own way, as if it has a will of its own.

Nothing too terribly strange about it :-) This is the way writing has always
been for me, int-fic and otherwise. Never ignore those bursts of
inspiration. They produce the best work, at least for me.

The game I'm working on has been built up on flash after flash of
inspiration and has diverged wildly from the original plan. Twice now,
just as I thought I had finally patched up the last of the gaping holes,
another whole subplot insisted on being developed. And so the storyfile
bloats and bloats....but I'm much happier with it than I would have
been had I stuck with preconceived ideas.

The neatest part is how all the pieces end up fitting together even though
I didn't consciously plan the connections.

> It's as much of an adventure for me to write
> one of these things as it is to play one, since I have no idea
> how it will turn out, even though I'm the person writing it!

*smile* Yup!

-Suzanne

--
http://dominion.cba.csuohio.edu/~tril/
-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
Version: 3.1
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Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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The Alienist <ddb...@mysurf.com> wrote in article
<35DA7C...@mysurf.com>...

> Hi all,
>
> just a note to ask a question of those of you who have written/are
> writing IF games of your own. My question is, how do you go about
> structuring your games? I mean, how do you figure out what puzzles to
> put where, where do you start when you build the map for the game? I'm
> writing my first IF, and I'm running into this snag. I start designing
> the map, but it's tough to design a layout without knowing what puzzles
> you're going to have. So I start designing puzzles, without much of a
> map to work with. Then I get frustrated, stomp off for awhile, come
> back, and start over again... There must be a more efficient way to do
> this... isn't there?
>
> The Alienist

More options:

You could try writing the plot first, then the characters,
and let the geography and puzzles flow out of the plot.

You could try the "write the transcript first" method.

You could try the Curses method: work on atmosphere foremost,
then add in puzzles and geography and plot and characters
as they relate to the atmosphere. (Is this roughly how you
did it, Graham? Or do I have this all wrong?)

[Wow, I just called Graham Nelson by his *first name*, and
I am pretty sure he is reading the group. What nerves of
steel...]

You could try writing the characters first and letting the
plot flow around them, and the geography and puzzles
about that.

You could try the 3:00 am and Mountain Dew approach --
sometimes a fuzzy brain thinks of things a rational
one does not. Be sure to proofread your work in
the daytime, though ;-)

You could also try the Avalon approach. Just
tell us you are almost done and let us pressure
you into finishing it.

--
At Your Service,
Jonadab the Unsightly One.

remove spaces: j o n a d a b @ b r i g h t . n e t

Michael Gentry

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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The Alienist wrote in message <35DA7C...@mysurf.com>...

>Hi all,
>
>just a note to ask a question of those of you who have written/are
>writing IF games of your own. My question is, how do you go about
>structuring your games? I mean, how do you figure out what puzzles to
>put where, where do you start when you build the map for the game?

In "Anchorhead", I first started out with a general outline of the story. I
also had a couple of lists -- of locations, items, puzzles, characters, etc.
that I would *like* to include, if possible. I kept things pretty loose to
start out with, concretizing ideas as I continued to develop the story. I
tried to find places for everything on my "wish list" -- but ultimately, if
it didn't fit, I threw it out. I threw out what would have been an entire
extra chapter that way.

Next came the map. Setting was very important to me for this game, so I
spent a lot of time there. I had a couple of ideas for map-based puzzles
from the beginning, and I tried to incorporate them when I could, but for
the most part I concentrated on making the geography consistent and
believable, and making every location interesting in its own way -- whether
or not there was a puzzle there.

From that point on, everything got pretty organic. Most of the work involved
developing the story, and I basically followed the plot from start to
finish, adding detail to the locations and implementing puzzles and objects
along the way. I wound up having to do a lot of re-writing, but most of it
involved small amounts of re-writing here and there, rather than huge chunks
of it in any one place. Besides, I don't trust people who say they put every
last detail on paper before writing a single line of code.

Puzzles came to me as I went along. I had a few "gems" that I wanted to
implement simply for their own sake, but for the most part I only used
puzzles to keep the pacing and the challenge level consistent. I would take
a look at the map and think about how the story was progressing, and I would
think, "How can I make this scene a bit harder without detracting from the
flow of the story?"

Everyone works differently, of course. But since you asked, here's Uncle
Mike's Step-by-Step design process:

1) Make lists of things you would *like* to see in the game. Keep in mind
that you'll likely have to discard as many as half of your ideas.
2) Develop a story. That's the most important part. Continue to make it
important throughout the entire process. In the case of a conflict, the
story ALWAYS wins.
3) Draw a map. Your map should reflect the needs of the story, and create a
setting that complements the story. Notice how I keep mentioning the story?
If you already have ideas for map-based puzzles, you can try to work them
in, but otherwise save the puzzles for last.
4) Implement puzzles. Try to design puzzles that make sense within the
context of your story. Think about how they advance the plot by providing
clues and information. Space them out to make the pacing consistent.

By the time you get to the last step, you'll probably find that you're
working on everything all at once: revising the story a bit here, changing
the map a bit there, altering puzzles to make everything fit. This is fine.
This is why you should keep it kind of vague to begin with, and not let
anything harden until you near the end. Flexibility is, in my opinion, more
important than any amount of excruciatingly detailed planning. And remember:
nothing is written in stone. At most, it's very stiff clay.

5) Start making notes for Release #2, because these guys will tear your
first effort to pieces. (All in the name of friendly criticism, of course.)

--M

"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Doeadeer3

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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In article <35dae23f...@news.csupomona.edu>, ical...@csupomona.edu
(Irene Callaci) writes:

>Honestly, it is the weirdest sensation to try and follow a
>planned story line, only to have the game insist on going its

>own way, as if it has a will of its own. Does this happen to
>anyone else? I feel a little strange mentioning it. Perhaps I
>should "impose my will" on the story and force it to follow my
>pre-conceived ideas for it, but when I try that, I lose interest

>and become bored. It's as much of an adventure for me to write


>one of these things as it is to play one, since I have no idea
>how it will turn out, even though I'm the person writing it!

LOL. Yep. It is strange. Happens to me too. It's like the characters take over
and decide what they are going to do, themselves (well, not totally, but I know
what you mean). This to me, though, IS creativity. Being creative in any medium
means the process takes over. The process is the creative act, the end product
is secondary. I have sat down at a canvas with an idea in mind, pre-sketches,
etc. and the painting will still end up different (sometimes quite different)
from the original conception.

So as far as writing games, I think of the basic plot (the protagonist and the
"hook" -- what the goal will be), draw a beginning map (the first few locations
I can envision), usually have a few puzzles in mind (the bare bones, no
details), then I sit down at the keyboard and start -- very, very curious to
see what will come out, where the story will actually go. Because I won't
really know until AFTER it is typed.

Doe :-)


Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
****************************************************************************
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain

David A. Cornelson

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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The Alienist wrote in message <35DA7C...@mysurf.com>...
>Hi all,
>
>just a note to ask a question of those of you who have written/are
>writing IF games of your own. My question is, how do you go about
>structuring your games?

The map and the puzzles in my experience come from a story. You need to
write a bit of your ideas out in a normal story format until you get a
'clearer' picture of 'where' things will be. Once you have a story, with a
plot and characters, then puzzles and more locations will come naturally.

At least in my experience. It's gotta be very hard to develop a game
'around' a puzzle, maybe not so much a map, but the story and characters are
in my opinion the most important part.

Jarb

Jon Petersen

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Aug 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/19/98
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Daniel Phillips wrote:

> organization techniques found in C.E. Graham's excellent XYZZY news
> article

Note that his name was C.E. Forman before he was Absorbed by Mr. Nelson.

The horrible truth behind his disappearance comes out....

Jon Graham

Daniel Phillips

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Aug 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/20/98
to
On Wed, 19 Aug 1998 09:11:33 GMT, The Alienist <ddb...@mysurf.com>
wrote:

>Hi all,


>
>just a note to ask a question of those of you who have written/are
>writing IF games of your own. My question is, how do you go about

>structuring your games? I mean, how do you figure out what puzzles to

>put where, where do you start when you build the map for the game? I'm
>writing my first IF, and I'm running into this snag. I start designing
>the map, but it's tough to design a layout without knowing what puzzles
>you're going to have. So I start designing puzzles, without much of a
>map to work with. Then I get frustrated, stomp off for awhile, come
>back, and start over again... There must be a more efficient way to do
>this... isn't there?
>
>The Alienist

Evening Kriezler,

Well, first off, I'm currently working on my first (acutally, fourth,
but that's only because I start working on one idea, then annoyingly
get bored with it and move on to some other idea) adventure using the


organization techniques found in C.E. Graham's excellent XYZZY news

article "Game Design at the Drawing Board", which can be found at
http://www.users.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzy.4e.html. I hope
to be using many of these techniques in this order: Map, Object and
Item Specifications, and Puzzle Structure Chart. Also, you may want
to go to the web page "Interactive Fiction Design", which can be found
at http://www.duke.edu/~srg3/IFdesign/desrecs.html and has some nice
links to tips on designing interactive fiction.

Hope I've been of some help,
Daniel Phillips
phi...@ix.netcom.com

Daniel Phillips

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Aug 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/20/98
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On Wed, 19 Aug 1998 23:39:11 -0700, Jon Petersen <en...@ucla.edu>
wrote:

>Daniel Phillips wrote:
>
>> organization techniques found in C.E. Graham's excellent XYZZY news
>> article
>

>Note that his name was C.E. Forman before he was Absorbed by Mr. Nelson.
>
>The horrible truth behind his disappearance comes out....
>
> Jon Graham

Whoops. I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Forman and Mr. Nelson. I never was
good with getting names straight. :-(

Daniel Phillips
phi...@ix.netcom.com

Dennis....@delta-air.com

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Aug 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/20/98
to
In article <35DA7C...@mysurf.com>,

The Alienist <ddb...@mysurf.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
>
> just a note to ask a question of those of you who have written/are
> writing IF games of your own. My question is, how do you go about
> structuring your games? I mean, how do you figure out what puzzles to
> put where, where do you start when you build the map for the game? I'm
> writing my first IF, and I'm running into this snag. I start designing
> the map, but it's tough to design a layout without knowing what puzzles
> you're going to have. So I start designing puzzles, without much of a
> map to work with. Then I get frustrated, stomp off for awhile, come
> back, and start over again... There must be a more efficient way to do
> this... isn't there?
>
> The Alienist
>

I start by coming up with the story and background, then I think up the
setting and the NPCs. At this point I usually start coding. I create the
map and get the game to the point where I can "walk around" in it. Next I
put in the NPCs and get them working. I add the puzzles last. This way I
can be sure the puzzles fit in with the setting and story and don't appear
out of place. The story should drive the puzzles, not the other way around.


--
"You must face the knowledge that the truth is not the truth. Obsolete?
Absolutely!" --- Rush

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Julian Fleetwood

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Aug 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/21/98
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Jon Petersen wrote in message <35DBC4...@ucla.edu>...

>Daniel Phillips wrote:
>
>> organization techniques found in C.E. Graham's excellent XYZZY news
>> article
>
>Note that his name was C.E. Forman before he was Absorbed by Mr. Nelson.
>
>The horrible truth behind his disappearance comes out....
>
> Jon Graham

Come to think of it I've always though they were kind of simular...

Now the real question is: Which is Dr J and which is Mr Hyde?

--
Julian Fleetwood (http://surf.to/free4all) | G!>GCS d-- s+:- a16 C+(++) p? L
E-W++ N++
IF: http://www.tip.net.au/~mfleetwo/if/index.htm | o K- w++ O M+ !V PS PE Y+
G e h! PGP-
CBG: http://www.tip.net.au/~mfleetwo/cbg/index.htm | t+ X+++ R(+) tv b+(++)
DI+ D++ r y?

The Alienist

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
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Hi again, all...

Thanks to everyone who posted. It's nice to know that I'm not the only
one who's gone through this. (I figured I wasn't, but you never REALLY
know, do you?) I actually do have a story in mind, but I was nervous
about writing it out just to end up changing it time and again. But, if
that's the way it's done, then so be it... so look out, folks, for the
Adventures of Professor Harvey Wangenstein, Electrodyne Engineer, may
pop up at any time, now...

Thanks again,

The Alienist

Doeadeer3

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
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In article <anson-21089...@linef65.efortress.com>, an...@efortress.com
(Anson Turner) writes:

>You could work on a replacement for the standard libraries, thereby
>putting off writing an actual game for years.
>
>
>
>Anson.

Hmmm. That's a good one. But you know we haven't fully explored the topic, "How
to Procastinate on Writing IF." (Which considering how often we go off topic, I
find surprising, now that I think about it.)

My suggestion -- Keep trying out new programming editors trying to find "just
the right" one. That ought to keep one busy for several months (after all, you
have to test all the features of each one, bracket matching, macros, etc.) And,
think of it, you haven't written or programmed anything, AT ALL, while you
procasinate!

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
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Doeadeer3 <doea...@aol.com> wrote in article
>
> My suggestion -- Keep trying out new programming editors trying to find
"just
> the right" one. That ought to keep one busy for several months (after
all, you
> have to test all the features of each one, bracket matching, macros,
etc.) And,
> think of it, you haven't written or programmed anything, AT ALL, while
you
> procasinate!

Nah, I test out my editors on live data.

Except edlin and debug ;-)


Sam Powell

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
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So I'm not the only one who tried *every* language available, and *every*
text editor, and *every* run-time system , and printed *every* manual for
several months before writing my first line of code in the system....

Few...... (p.s - doeadeer3 - i gotta love your signiture)

--
ICQ: 11475858
Mail: sp...@globalnet.co.uk
Web: http://surf.to/spweb/


Doeadeer3

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
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In article <01bdcdb7$5508ef00$35118fd1@jonadab>, "Jonadab the Unsightly One"
<jon...@zerospam.com> writes:

>Nah, I test out my editors on live data.
>
>Except edlin and debug ;-)
>

Awwwww, you weren't getting into the spirit of the thing. You can always test
your editor on a letter or something.

Doe Sniff, sniff, no one wants to procastinate.

Doeadeer3

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
to
In article <6rn43j$8ci$2...@heliodor.xara.net>, "Sam Powell"
<sp...@globalnet.co.uk> writes:

>So I'm not the only one who tried *every* language available, and *every*
>text editor, and *every* run-time system , and printed *every* manual for
>several months before writing my first line of code in the system....

Wtg. That is MORE like it! That's enough to keep one procastinating for years
(if not forever).

Oh, yeah, another one, spent most of your free time reading and writing posts.

>Few...... (p.s - doeadeer3 - i gotta love your signiture)

Thanks, can't say I don't give fair warning.

Doe :-)

Neil K.

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
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doea...@aol.com (Doeadeer3) wrote:

> Doe Sniff, sniff, no one wants to procastinate.

I'm taking lengthy roadtrips across parts of Canada and the US this
summer in order to take photographs that may be used in my game in
progress. How's that for procrastinating?

- Neil K.

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

Joe Mason

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
to
In article <199808222007...@ladder03.news.aol.com>,
Doeadeer3 <doea...@aol.com> wrote:

>Oh, yeah, another one, spent most of your free time reading and writing posts.

Hang around IF-mud.

Joe

Sam Powell

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Aug 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/23/98
to
And I also spent several months searching the net for *other* stuff- - in
the hope I might find an undescovered language or summit.

Its stange really - cus I always used to love coding applications. (in c or
vb..)

Sam Powell

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Aug 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/23/98
to
And I forgot to add, I think I downloaded *every* issue of SPAG and XYZZY,
and read 'em all.

Ohhh, I love procastination - but at the same time I hate it; hmm......

Doeadeer3

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Aug 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/23/98
to
In article <fake-mail-220...@van-52-0244.direct.ca>,
fake...@anti-spam.address (Neil K.) writes:

> I'm taking lengthy roadtrips across parts of Canada and the US this
>summer in order to take photographs that may be used in my game in
>progress. How's that for procrastinating?
>
> - Neil K.

LOL. Unmatched. Well, so far...

Doeadeer3

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Aug 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/24/98
to
In article <35e0f...@newshost.pcug.org.au>, "Julian Fleetwood"
<mfle...@pcug.org.au> writes:

>>Note that his name was C.E. Forman before he was Absorbed by Mr. Nelson.
>>
>>The horrible truth behind his disappearance comes out....
>>
>> Jon Graham
>
>Come to think of it I've always though they were kind of simular...
>
>Now the real question is: Which is Dr J and which is Mr Hyde?

You are kidding, right?

Doe LOL

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Aug 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/24/98
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Doeadeer3 <doea...@aol.com> wrote in article
<199808221908...@ladder01.news.aol.com>...

> In article <01bdcdb7$5508ef00$35118fd1@jonadab>, "Jonadab the Unsightly
One"
> <jon...@zerospam.com> writes:
>
> >Nah, I test out my editors on live data.
> >
> >Except edlin and debug ;-)

> Awwwww, you weren't getting into the spirit of the thing. You can always
test
> your editor on a letter or something.

Not dangerous enough ;-)

> Doe Sniff, sniff, no one wants to procastinate.

Sure I do. I just do it different.

First of all there is usenet.

Then on top of that I keep adding complicated objects
to put off working on the geography and plot.

--
Dyslexic email address: ten.thgirb@badanoj

Julian Fleetwood

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Aug 25, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/25/98
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Doeadeer3 wrote in message
<199808240627...@ladder03.news.aol.com>...

>In article <35e0f...@newshost.pcug.org.au>, "Julian Fleetwood"
><mfle...@pcug.org.au> writes:
>
>>>Note that his name was C.E. Forman before he was Absorbed by Mr. Nelson.
>>>
>>>The horrible truth behind his disappearance comes out....
>>>
>>> Jon Graham
>>
>>Come to think of it I've always though they were kind of simular...
>>
>>Now the real question is: Which is Dr J and which is Mr Hyde?
>
>You are kidding, right?

Better the devil you know.

:)

(Yeah I'm kidding - why won't anyone let me have fun accusing people ? :)

Andy Scarfe

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Aug 29, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/29/98
to
In article <199808221908...@ladder01.news.aol.com>, Doeadeer3
<doea...@aol.com> writes

>
>Doe Sniff, sniff, no one wants to procastinate.
>
>
>Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)

I'd love to procrastinate but I really don't have the time right now.
Maybe I'll do it tomorrow, or does next week suit you better?

Andy

Andy Scarfe
"It is too late for that. I shall never be better than I am. I shall
sink lower, and be worse." Dickens

Phil Goetz

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Sep 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/1/98
to
In article <199808231828...@ladder01.news.aol.com>,

Doeadeer3 <doea...@aol.com> wrote:
>In article <fake-mail-220...@van-52-0244.direct.ca>,
>fake...@anti-spam.address (Neil K.) writes:
>
>> I'm taking lengthy roadtrips across parts of Canada and the US this
>>summer in order to take photographs that may be used in my game in
>>progress. How's that for procrastinating?
>>
>> - Neil K.
>
>LOL. Unmatched. Well, so far...
>
>Doe :-)

Especially if it's a text game.

Phil

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