authorship as IF: is it interesting?

31 views
Skip to first unread message

Craig Latta

unread,
Feb 27, 2004, 6:17:02 PM2/27/04
to

Hi--

I'm Craig... here's my IF life story in a paragraph, then an idea. :)
In 1980, when I was ten, someone plunked me down in front of the the
console of a PDP-10 they happened to have lying around (I remember the
show "Fridays" playing the background). Something about caves ensued. In
1984, I got to play Hitchhiker's on a friend's massive 64K IBM PC.
Shortly afterward I wrote a world based on the Village in "The
Prisoner", and later a left-associative parser based on work by Hausser.
I was in college when the LambdaMOO craze hit, but didn't get much into
programming it. I've been writing Smalltalk for the last 12 years (most
recently a system with a virtual machine and object memory that fit in
256K, with one-click web installtion). Last week I chanced upon Nick
Montford's "Twisty Little Passages" amongst all the "for Dummies" books.
After immediately inhaling it, an idea came to me.

Has anyone done an authorship system in which the interaction is more
in the style of a traditional IF work? If so, was it horrid? :)

A session might begin thusly:

***

> look

There is nothing here.

> create a room

Poof! There is a room here.

> enter the room

nondescript room

You are in a room which has absolutely no distinguishing
features. You could be outside, underwater, or even sitting in front
of a computer.

> describe the room

What is the title of the room?

> outside a small brick building

Okay, the room is called "outside a small brick
building". Would you like to describe the room in detail now?

> no, I'd like to retitle the room

Okay, what is the new title of the room?

> the front gate at Burning Man

Okay, the room is called "the front gate at Burning
Man". Would you like to describe the room in detail now?

> yes

Okay, describe "the front gate at Burning Man" in detail. Let
me know you're done by pressing the Enter key three times. (You can
use Emacs bindings to reposition yourself in your text. Don't worry
about formatting paragraphs; I'll clean that up for you.)

> You've made it! After a grueling twelve-hour drive, with cola and
red licorice coursing through your veins, the front gate of Black Rock
City welcomes you. Driving slowly so as not to kick up dust, you
follow a line of cars to Greeters.


Okay, "the front gate at Burning Man" is described.

> look

the front gate at Burning Man

You've made it! After a grueling twelve-hour drive, with cola
and red licorice coursing through your veins, the front gate of Black
Rock City welcomes you. Driving slowly so as not to kick up dust, you
follow a line of cars to Greeters.

>

***

Would something like this represent anything new or interesting, given
LambdaMOO? As I say, I never got much into programming it, but from what
I remember, programming it felt much different than traversing it (the
traditional code-in-files thing, as opposed to something more
conversational).

I have a bunch more ideas about this (how to make objects, give
behavior to things, make lots of rooms at once, connect rooms, etc.),
but I'm curious as to what others think of the basic concept.


thanks!

-C

--
Craig Latta
improvisational musical informaticist
cr...@netjam.org
www.netjam.org
[|] Proceed for Truth!

Adam Thornton

unread,
Feb 27, 2004, 5:58:49 PM2/27/04
to
In article <403FCFEE...@netjam.org>,

Craig Latta <cr...@netjam.org> wrote:
> I have a bunch more ideas about this (how to make objects, give
>behavior to things, make lots of rooms at once, connect rooms, etc.),
>but I'm curious as to what others think of the basic concept.

I'm pretty sure I've seen a similar idea before. IIRC the problem was
the same as it was for any of the IDEs: this might be a good way to lay
down a map and basic room and object descriptions, but adding
interesting non-default behaviors is still going to take editing the
source the old-fashioned way.

Adam

OnyxRing com@nospam.com Jim Fisher

unread,
Feb 27, 2004, 6:56:03 PM2/27/04
to
"Craig Latta" <cr...@netjam.org> wrote in message
news:403FCFEE...@netjam.org...

> Has anyone done an authorship system in which the interaction is more
> in the style of a traditional IF work? If so, was it horrid? :)

[snip]


> I have a bunch more ideas about this (how to make objects, give
> behavior to things, make lots of rooms at once, connect rooms, etc.),
> but I'm curious as to what others think of the basic concept.

Creating rooms and objects in IF-Mud is similar to this. It's not exactly
the same as you describe, but its not exactly different either, I think.


--
--
Jim (AT) OnyxRing (DOT) com
Visit "An Inform Developer's Guide" or browse the
"ORLibrary" extensions to the standard library at
www.OnyxRing.com
----------------------
Some days you eat the code; some days the code eats you.


Jayson Smith

unread,
Feb 27, 2004, 9:02:21 PM2/27/04
to
I think this idea is actually very cool. Sort of like programming a mud.
Create the IF from inside the IF.

I think the idea would be cool, to start out a new game with absolutely
nothing except the player/author character. In such a game, you are the
whole universe. You are the center and every possible edge of the universe
around you, except there is no 'around you'. Thus, I propose the following:

*** YOU EXIST ***

> look
You aren't anywhere, and for a very good reason. You see, there isn't
anywhere for you to be.

> go north
There's nowhere you can go. There's nowhere, in fact, for you to be.

> x me
You are totally and completely nondescript. But you do at least exist,
which is more than you can say for the environment around you, which
doesn't.

> new room
Poof! A new room is created, and you are dumped into it!

New room
This is a totally nondescript room, with absolutely no features.

> name room "Jaybird's Room"
Ok, the room has been named. It shall be called "Jaybird's Room" from now
on.

> destroy this room
BOOM! The room is destroyed! Now there's nowhere for you to be.

> quit
You leave. Of course, since there's nowhere for you to leave, nobody
notices except for possibly you, and that's questionable.

You have made nothing of this universe which is worthy of safekeeping --
your existance is therefore terminated, effective immediately.
*** YOU DON'T EXIST ***

Hope I got that formatting at least close to right!
Hehe. Just weird stuff. But I think it'd be nifty.
I also must agree that non-default stuff would probably have to be coded the
hard way, unless like a mud, a programming language within the system could
be used to make nifty things happen.

"Craig Latta" <cr...@netjam.org> wrote in message
news:403FCFEE...@netjam.org...
>

Uli Kusterer

unread,
Feb 28, 2004, 2:52:26 AM2/28/04
to
In article <403FCFEE...@netjam.org>,
Craig Latta <cr...@netjam.org> wrote:

> Has anyone done an authorship system in which the interaction is more
> in the style of a traditional IF work? If so, was it horrid? :)

> > look
> There is nothing here.
>
> > create a room
> Poof! There is a room here.

Craig,

Sam Denton has mentioned on a few occasions that he is working on a
"log2inf" Perl script that takes a game transcript and generates a
partial game from that. From a posting he made today I guess he's now
testing it with other games. IMHO that is as close to practical
applicability as you will get for such an approach (which is not to say
log2inf was impractical -- in fact I think it's an ingenious idea and I
can't wait to play with it).

Your suggestion would probably be an innovative idea for a game to
allow the player to create things inside a game.

However, as an IDE, I think it wouldn't be too useful, because it's
verbose. Verbosity isn't bad in a game, because there it helps with
immersion, but there's a reason adventures allow for "x" and "i" instead
of "examine" and "inventory"...

If you made it non-verbose, you'd have a fancy command-line, kind of a
command-line version of Plugh, but the modal nature of a command line
would probably make it much more awkward to use.

And as far as you've described it so far, one would basically use it to
lay out a map. The fact that many people draw a visual map on a piece of
paper while playing a game to avoid getting lost, seems to me to be a
string hint that an IF-game-approach isn't really a more convenient
representation than actual source code.

Effectively, you'd be typing more and getting less functionality, and
less clarity because the command-line instructions happen in a
question-and-answer fashion, thus forcing their order on you while
choosing essentially the same less-than-optimal way of displaying the
information.

Definitely some novelty value here for a game, but as an actual IDE, I
don't think there's much of a point in it.

Just my 0.02c,
-- Uli
http://www.zathras.de

Cedric Knight

unread,
Feb 28, 2004, 4:16:13 PM2/28/04
to
Craig Latta wrote:
> Last
> week I chanced upon Nick Montford's "Twisty Little Passages" amongst
> all the "for Dummies" books. After immediately inhaling it, an idea
> came to me.

Is inhaling a book cheaper than reading it, or just faster? Don't the
alarms still go off when you try to leave the bookshop?

>
> Has anyone done an authorship system in which the interaction is more
> in the style of a traditional IF work? If so, was it horrid? :)

Papillon wrote something called 'Dungeon Master' in TADS, where you
create a basic cave-crawl from within the parser with commands like
'newroom' and 'monster'. But it doesn't look like it's available from
the web any more.

CK


Steve Breslin

unread,
Feb 28, 2004, 4:32:48 PM2/28/04
to
Hi Craig,

I wrote something of this sort for Tads-2. It's called Tads-2 Dungeon
Digger, available from the ifarchive. It's called t2dd.t:

http://mirror.ifarchive.org/if-archive/programming/tads2/examples/t2dd.t

There's a cooler one for Tads-3, but it's not finished yet, so it's
not on the archive. I'll send you a link to the code if you're
interested in reading the code.

Steve Breslin

unread,
Feb 28, 2004, 4:39:28 PM2/28/04
to
Adam Thornton writes:

> [T]his might be a good way to lay


> down a map and basic room and object descriptions, but adding
> interesting non-default behaviors is still going to take editing the
> source the old-fashioned way.

Precisely. Some might find t2dd a good "prototyper" for what that's
worth. t3dd will be a maximum-super prototyper, but still it can be no
more than that.

Steve Breslin

unread,
Feb 28, 2004, 4:51:21 PM2/28/04
to
Uli Kusterer wrote:

> Your suggestion would probably be an innovative idea for a game to
> allow the player to create things inside a game.

Like a "Blake and White" style game? You're god, go make stuff for
your minions?

> However, as an IDE, I think it wouldn't be too useful, because it's
> verbose. Verbosity isn't bad in a game, because there it helps with

> immersion. [But it's a pain if you're trying to design a game.]

Well considered "meta" commands can handle this for the most part.
Still, you're probably right.

> If you made it non-verbose, you'd have a fancy command-line, kind of a
> command-line version of Plugh, but the modal nature of a command line
> would probably make it much more awkward to use.

That's just one of a couple or more strategies. But they're all
awkward.

> And as far as you've described it so far, one would basically use it to
> lay out a map. The fact that many people draw a visual map on a piece of
> paper while playing a game to avoid getting lost, seems to me to be a

> strong hint that an IF-game-approach isn't really a more convenient

> representation than actual source code.

That's a pretty weak analogy/correlation. I imagine my prototypers to
be useful if you, the game designer, already know the map you want to
write, perhaps because you have it on paper.

> Effectively, you'd be typing more and getting less functionality, and
> less clarity because the command-line instructions happen in a
> question-and-answer fashion, thus forcing their order on you while
> choosing essentially the same less-than-optimal way of displaying the
> information.

I agree with you that Craig's proposed interface is probably too
verbose.

Uli Kusterer

unread,
Feb 29, 2004, 11:58:51 AM2/29/04
to
In article <f407dc2b.04022...@posting.google.com>,
ver...@hotmail.com (Steve Breslin) wrote:

> > Your suggestion would probably be an innovative idea for a game to
> > allow the player to create things inside a game.
>
> Like a "Blake and White" style game? You're god, go make stuff for
> your minions?

Yes, "Black and White" was one of the games that came to mind.

> > And as far as you've described it so far, one would basically use it to
> > lay out a map. The fact that many people draw a visual map on a piece of
> > paper while playing a game to avoid getting lost, seems to me to be a
> > strong hint that an IF-game-approach isn't really a more convenient
> > representation than actual source code.
>
> That's a pretty weak analogy/correlation. I imagine my prototypers to
> be useful if you, the game designer, already know the map you want to
> write, perhaps because you have it on paper.

I just don't see the advantage of writing "add room to north" at a game
prompt over just writing it in a source code file. Both times it is
text, and in source code you have the entire room description in front
of you, which makes it much easier to take in the entire room at a
glance.

I can see where a GUI tool of this sort would be useful, because you
wouldn't have to memorize what the cardinal directions would be called
and what the language's syntax is. But in a command-line tool, you'd
have to do that nonetheless (or look it up each time with a "help"
command), so I don't really see the advantage there.

In MUDs the advantage is clear: Since the entire game is stored on a
central server and accessed via the Internet, it is much less
maintenance effort to use the same interface for both playing and adding
content to the game. It also allows the world builders to quickly test
the game in real-life conditions, or apply quick fixes when they
ancounter a bug.

IF games are usually kept locally, so the first argument really doesn't
apply. If you're aiming for the second part, then it wouldn't help to
make it just look like a game. Rather, you'd want to build it into the
interpreter. That way, the author can, during play-testing, quickly fix
bugs. In that case, "undo" would come in handy. You'd try something, get
an unexpected result and just undo, fix the appropriate code and
continue playing.

Kind of like the "Fix and Continue" feature some debuggers tout these
days.

Cheers,
-- Uli
http://www.zathras.de

Rexx Magnus

unread,
Feb 29, 2004, 3:32:32 PM2/29/04
to
On Sun, 29 Feb 2004 16:58:51 GMT, Uli Kusterer scrawled:

> I just don't see the advantage of writing "add room to north" at a game
> prompt over just writing it in a source code file. Both times it is
> text, and in source code you have the entire room description in front
> of you, which makes it much easier to take in the entire room at a
> glance.

It's better for being able to get a feel for the structure or the way in
which the game will flow if you can make it from the inside though. That was
one of the main things about writing IF that struck me as difficult,
especially without a lot of forward planning.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages