Tone in IF

11 views
Skip to first unread message

Nospam

unread,
May 14, 2001, 3:28:55 PM5/14/01
to
...Unless we're going to turn this into a thread about "tone in IF." I
wouldn't mind hearing a few views on that particular topic.

Actually I wouldn't mind such a discussion. Following a link on Roger
Firth's Informary I ended up reading the article by Emily Short,
Desiderata for a Physical Simulation Library, and NPC Characterization:
Being a Compendious Guide to the Asstd. Tricks of the Trade, as Far as
the Author has been able to Identify Them or to Devise Them Anew. these
alone cover a variety of issues only some of which I had previously
considered. This got me thinking, always a dangerous pastime in my case.

The use of tone in Adam Cadre's Varicella is touched upon during the
discussion of meta-conversation verbs and Adam's response to an email
indicates "It's only necessary for solving the game a handful of times.
More often, it allows you to pursue drastically different conversational
threads -- flipping through the source here, I see a number of
background bits that are only accessible via an attitude adjustment."

In this context tone provides a non-linear route to a linear ending and
it might be argued is similar to providing more than one solution to an
old fashioned puzzle. I think it does more than this though, it
potentially enriches the game, assuming you discover this alternative.
Here in lies the rub, how does the player know such variations exist and
what clues should the author provide? The use of tone is referred to in
the help guide but how does the author 'direct' the player to
experiment. When I played the game I knew it was necessary to use the
right tone in certain circumstances but I confess I didn't go around
experimenting with it to any great degree. I suspect this was partly
because of the urgency I felt in getting it right to beat the clock, a
frustrating experience if not ultimately rewarding. This may be
different in a non-time constrained game where experimentation doesn't
incur an immediate penalty. Please don't take this as a criticism of
Varicella, probably more my playing style. On this basis I have moved
Varicella from my completed directory back to my games directory so I
can explore these alternatives (sad I know, but I like to get a visual
feel for progress and ease my choice of which game to try next), equally
having finished it I'm not driven to complete it against the clock and
so don't mind exploring these alternatives.

In Galatea, tone itself isn't used to 'direct' the conversation (well it
probably is in the context of flags set responding to the type and/or
way questions are asked). Instead the 'mood' and hence the tone of the
NPC changes to reflect the direction conversations take and the eventual
outcome. I suppose this is the other side of the same coin, tone by the
player, reaction (mood) by the NPC. I don't know what similarity there
is in having to programme to achieve this, lots of flags if the comment
in DM4 on Varicella is anything to go by.

It would also seem possible to alter the game responses based on the
perceived mood of the player (sad, happy, angry, whatever).

I suppose this is just one narrow view on the use of tone in IF. There
will be others in the context of setting the tone or mood of the
story/game through both room and object description and both the default
and game coded responses to actions. Would anyone else care to add to
this list (limited imagination on my part). Can people direct me to
similar works for comparative purposes? Is this what you wanted to
explore John or have I missed the point?

Cheers
Versif

Emily Short

unread,
May 17, 2001, 3:09:42 AM5/17/01
to
In article <gCSkwIA3...@ntlworld1.com>, Nospam

<ver...@remove.ntlworld.com> wrote:

> The use of tone in Adam Cadre's Varicella is touched upon during the
> discussion of meta-conversation verbs and Adam's response to an email
> indicates "It's only necessary for solving the game a handful of times.
> More often, it allows you to pursue drastically different conversational
> threads...

> In this context tone provides a non-linear route to a linear ending and
> it might be argued is similar to providing more than one solution to an
> old fashioned puzzle. I think it does more than this though, it
> potentially enriches the game, assuming you discover this alternative.
> Here in lies the rub, how does the player know such variations exist and
> what clues should the author provide? The use of tone is referred to in
> the help guide but how does the author 'direct' the player to
> experiment. When I played the game I knew it was necessary to use the
> right tone in certain circumstances but I confess I didn't go around
> experimenting with it to any great degree.

I think the problem here is not so much that these are optional
alternatives in an already complex game (since people sometimes will
replay even so, if they think the payoff will be large enough; certainly I
think people replayed I-0 various ways. I know I did.) but rather that
the number of possible behaviors is too large. This is a concept that I
once saw very elegantly described by zarf; unfortunately, I can't recall
the context, so I now can't find it again.

Herewith my own, somewhat lamer, explanation: if the player can ask X
characters about Y things, there is a range of options defined along two
axes, X and Y. This is a basically tractable set of possibilities. If
the player can also ask all those questions in Z ways, the puzzle space
opens out hideously into a third dimension, even if Z is a small number
(like 3). It becomes increasingly difficult to be sure one has covered
all the bases.

> It would also seem possible to alter the game responses based on the
> perceived mood of the player (sad, happy, angry, whatever).

Assuming that you can, in fact, perceive the player's mood. Seems dubious
to me. Not that it would stop me from trying if I could think of a way.

ES

--
Emily Short
http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/index.htm

Sean T Barrett

unread,
May 17, 2001, 4:11:16 AM5/17/01
to
Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>characters about Y things, there is a range of options defined along two
>axes, X and Y. This is a basically tractable set of possibilities. If
>the player can also ask all those questions in Z ways, the puzzle space
>opens out hideously into a third dimension, even if Z is a small number
>(like 3). It becomes increasingly difficult to be sure one has covered
>all the bases.

I think there is more to it than combinatorial explosion. I believe
Zarf has mentioned this in the context of adverbs (a third axis)
and in the case of 'use object x on object y' instead of
'verb x object y' in graphical adventures.

The reality is that in adventure games we *do* use some
3-dimensional things (there are a number of verbs that
take two objects). So I think the total number of combinations
*does* matter; the 3-dimensional space with four choices
on each axis may well be as tractable as the 2-dimensional
space with eight on each.

Also, I think this matters less when the task is clued
(you're not randomly searching the space in the first place)
or when the behaviors are simulated (put X in Y, or the
many dimensions of change created by Metamorphoses' toys,
for which one could imagine a single machine with a single
longer command producing the same effect); in the former
case because, of course, you're told how to navigate the
space, and in the latter case because it's predictable--you
know how the third dimension affects the outcome.

So I think the biggest issue is when you're given a random
space to explore, e.g. in many conversations. As a rule,
as a designer, if you make something seem to be unimportant,
people will think it unimportant; so if you make *certain*
conversations depend on what mood you're in, but the vast
majority don't, you've just made things really hard by
introducing a 3rd dimension that people won't explore for
long.

And that is I think exactly the problem with adverbs as
well--that they don't *usually* matter. The introduction
of an extra axis (whether second or third or fourth) which
is "stylistic" without really creating a new action means
it's (a) unlikely to have an effect most of the time and
(b) people aren't going to want to try multiple variations
of the same command with different styles, since the "same"
thing will keep happening over and over.

SeanB
[While I seem here to be critical of the 2-axis theory, I
think it's a perfectly reasonable design rule-of-thumb;
one axis will almost always be too few to be interesting
(though the authors of the LOTECH comp entries would be
quite right to disagree) and there are clearly diminishing
returns on 3+.]

Nospam

unread,
May 17, 2001, 3:15:10 PM5/17/01
to
In article <emshort-1705...@user-2inik11.dialup.mindspring.com>
, Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> writes

>
>I think the problem here is not so much that these are optional
>alternatives in an already complex game (since people sometimes will
>replay even so, if they think the payoff will be large enough; certainly I
>think people replayed I-0 various ways. I know I did.) but rather that
>the number of possible behaviors is too large. This is a concept that I
>once saw very elegantly described by zarf; unfortunately, I can't recall
>the context, so I now can't find it again.

>
>Herewith my own, somewhat lamer, explanation: if the player can ask X
>characters about Y things, there is a range of options defined along two
>axes, X and Y. This is a basically tractable set of possibilities. If
>the player can also ask all those questions in Z ways, the puzzle space
>opens out hideously into a third dimension, even if Z is a small number
>(like 3). It becomes increasingly difficult to be sure one has covered
>all the bases.

I had not envisaged all of the possible outcomes being accounted for. I
was thinking more of critical points within a game being influenced by
tone (or whatever). The outcome may not be a different ending or
solution to the puzzle, simply a different way of getting there. You can
solve a locked door puzzle say by opening with a key or breaking the
door down or climbing through a window, end result is access beyond the
door. Tone could be used in a similar way to obtain access to another
part of the game, the route taken being different but the end result the
same. This was what I meant by enriching the game. The alternative could
also be an early dead end within the game such that the player realises
that an alternative is required but said dead end still potentially
enriches the game.

Certainly if tone were used to lead to different endings mapping such
endings could become overwhelming, but applied to key points within the
game this need not be so. This begs the question what is a key point
within a game and I suspect that is an author decision (easy cop out).
If I recall Varicella provided such dead ends by means of talking rudely
to guards and getting killed! Equally Miss Sierra was not best pleased
when I spoke to her in a hostile manner by accident :)

The issue here is how to alert the player to the possible alternatives
so that they are discovered and all that coding doesn't go to waste :)
Death and other dead ends are one way but clues prior to the event
rather than as a consequence of the event probably require more
subtlety.

>
>> It would also seem possible to alter the game responses based on the
>> perceived mood of the player (sad, happy, angry, whatever).
>
>Assuming that you can, in fact, perceive the player's mood. Seems dubious
>to me. Not that it would stop me from trying if I could think of a way.

Sorry, failure to make clear what I meant. In a menu driven conversation
say, the questions/answers selected by the player could be used as an
indicator of mood. From the blindingly obvious statement of said mood to
the authors assessment of what the questions/answers may indicate in
term of the player character's mood.

Poor example but,

You stare at the corpse, vaguely interested as to it might have been and
calmly ask Paul who indeed the poor unfortunate was.

You stare at the corpse, your eyes casting nervously around at the
slightest sound, where is the killer? Almost choking on the words, your
fear causing you to stutter, you ask Paul, "Wh- who was he?"

The difficulty is in creating the atmosphere that causes the PC to feel
fear or any other emotion, this may be affected by previous scenes and
conversations. Well beyond my capabilities but not impossible, games
have impacted on my emotions, Hunter certainly made an impact. From
other threads, Alley's death in Photopia also impacted on people
emotionally. Neither of these games, as far as I'm aware, used this
emotional impact to influence the game (famous last words) but
potentially it was possible due to the way the two authors enveloped
players within the game. In the silly example above Paul's responses may
vary dependent upon the perceived mood, even his reactions to you could
vary, from playing on your perceived fear, to rationally discussing the
situation.

This would be much more difficult in a normal conversation with an NPC
and frankly I can't think of a way of doing it, which doesn't mean to
say it can't be done. Looking at how you tackled Galatea would this be
a possibility? As I recall you recast the player's question so as to
provide hints to the player about possible lines of questioning. Perhaps
the recasting of the questions could have indicated possible emotions
which could have allowed the NPC to ask emotion/mood related questions,
Aren't you afraid? asks Paul etc. (as subtle as a brick I know), your
answer then varying Paul's behaviour. More imaginative writers will
achieve this more effectively and without hitting the player over the
head with said brick :)

Imagine entering a room and finding a dying NPC, the NPC's responses
could be used to influence your mood, angry at the waste of a life,
vengeful (a friend/loved one), remorseful (your early actions) or
fearful (where is the assailant?). Again much easier in a menu driven
scenario and difficult to pull off successfully either way.

Thanks for the response.

Cheers
Versif

Nospam

unread,
May 17, 2001, 3:30:59 PM5/17/01
to
In article <GDH02...@world.std.com>, Sean T Barrett
<buz...@world.std.com> writes

>
>So I think the biggest issue is when you're given a random
>space to explore, e.g. in many conversations. As a rule,
>as a designer, if you make something seem to be unimportant,
>people will think it unimportant; so if you make *certain*
>conversations depend on what mood you're in, but the vast
>majority don't, you've just made things really hard by
>introducing a 3rd dimension that people won't explore for
>long.
>
>And that is I think exactly the problem with adverbs as
>well--that they don't *usually* matter. The introduction
>of an extra axis (whether second or third or fourth) which
>is "stylistic" without really creating a new action means
>it's (a) unlikely to have an effect most of the time and
>(b) people aren't going to want to try multiple variations
>of the same command with different styles, since the "same"
>thing will keep happening over and over.
>

This in part was the question I was considering, how do you signify to
the player the importance of this 3rd axis so that they know to use it
and, as importantly, when to use it. Adam Cadre clearly gave
instructions on the use of tone within the game and retrospectively it
was usually easy to tell when you were using the wrong one, being dead
as a certain finality to it :) Some clues could be used proactively to
influence tone, in that early on you would learn not to be obsequious
with servants etc. Given Varicella's complexity this was probably
sufficient and coupled with playing against a time constraint hindsight
is not a problem. In another game though the author may wish to at least
subtly alert the player to the possibility (apologies if this occurred
in Varicella, I obviously missed it).

As to why people would use it, more difficult. People will repeatedly
play a game to find different endings, Galatea for example. I kept
replaying The Cove to try to obtain the full score and replayed
Visualising a number of times to try to achieve different things whereas
The visitor was less successful in drawing me back into the game. I
think the 3rd axis has to enrich the game if it is to be used and
possibly players need signposts along the way to help them find their
way to these alternatives.

Cheers
Versif

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
May 17, 2001, 3:55:44 PM5/17/01
to
Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote:
> Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>>characters about Y things, there is a range of options defined along two
>>axes, X and Y. This is a basically tractable set of possibilities. If
>>the player can also ask all those questions in Z ways, the puzzle space
>>opens out hideously into a third dimension, even if Z is a small number
>>(like 3). It becomes increasingly difficult to be sure one has covered
>>all the bases.

> I think there is more to it than combinatorial explosion. I believe
> Zarf has mentioned this in the context of adverbs (a third axis)
> and in the case of 'use object x on object y' instead of
> 'verb x object y' in graphical adventures.

> The reality is that in adventure games we *do* use some
> 3-dimensional things (there are a number of verbs that
> take two objects).

But you almost never are left wondering "what verb should I use, with
what direct object, and what indirect object?" Not all three at once,
I mean. Two usually clump together.

(In the mental search-space (as it were), "put X in mysterious
machine" is one "verb", as is "wave wand at X". You don't consider
"wave machine at X" or "put Y in wand".)

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* George W. Bush was elected with just five votes.

OKB -- not okblacke

unread,
May 17, 2001, 4:50:18 PM5/17/01
to
buz...@world.std.com (Sean T Barrett) wrote:
>Also, I think this matters less when the task is clued
>(you're not randomly searching the space in the first place)
>or when the behaviors are simulated (put X in Y, or the
>many dimensions of change created by Metamorphoses' toys,
>for which one could imagine a single machine with a single
>longer command producing the same effect); in the former
>case because, of course, you're told how to navigate the
>space, and in the latter case because it's predictable--you
>know how the third dimension affects the outcome.

Let's give the player two axes, X and Y, and then give him the
three-dimensional graph of a function z=f(x,y). So all he has to do is choose
his x and y and he can tell just by looking at the graph what effect this will
have on his two other choices.

>EVALUATE f(orc,sword)
f(orc,sword)=SLAY

>EXECUTE f(orc, sword)
Quickly calculating the three-dimensional coordinates of your desired action,
you brutally slay (z) the orc (x) with a quick thrust of your sword (y).

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

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

Matteo De Luigi

unread,
May 17, 2001, 5:02:03 PM5/17/01
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> (In the mental search-space (as it were), "put X in mysterious
> machine" is one "verb", as is "wave wand at X". You don't consider
> "wave machine at X" or "put Y in wand".)

Unless you are a beta tester.

--
Matteo De Luigi

Nospam

unread,
May 17, 2001, 5:44:41 PM5/17/01
to
In article <20010517165018...@ng-cu1.aol.com>, OKB -- not
okblacke <bren...@aol.comRemove> writes

> Let's give the player two axes, X and Y, and then give him the
>three-dimensional graph of a function z=f(x,y). So all he has to do is choose
>his x and y and he can tell just by looking at the graph what effect this will
>have on his two other choices.
>
>>EVALUATE f(orc,sword)
>f(orc,sword)=SLAY
>
>>EXECUTE f(orc, sword)
>Quickly calculating the three-dimensional coordinates of your desired action,
>you brutally slay (z) the orc (x) with a quick thrust of your sword (y).

Suppose the X and Y were man and lion respectively.

Evaluate f(man, lion)
f(man,lion)=feed

Execute f(man, lion)
Quickly calculating the three-dimensional co-ordinates of your desired
action, you brutally feed (z) the man (x) to the lion (y). (As near as I
could get it)

But suppose the man is a lion tamer?
Evaluate f(man, lion)
f(man, lion) = tame or feed, depending on how good a lion tamer he
really his :)

Easily dismissed of course by pointing out I've effectively altered the
x axis, but I may not know this as the player at this stage, unlike the
author. Hence the ambiguity in determining the probable outcome of an
action.

Cheers

Versif

John Colagioia

unread,
May 18, 2001, 9:00:45 AM5/18/01
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> (In the mental search-space (as it were), "put X in mysterious
> machine" is one "verb", as is "wave wand at X". You don't consider
> "wave machine at X" or "put Y in wand".)

Now, now. That all depends on how stuck and/or bored one has become...


John Colagioia

unread,
May 18, 2001, 9:52:28 AM5/18/01
to
Emily Short wrote:
[...]

> Herewith my own, somewhat lamer, explanation: if the player can ask X
> characters about Y things, there is a range of options defined along two
> axes, X and Y. This is a basically tractable set of possibilities. If
> the player can also ask all those questions in Z ways, the puzzle space
> opens out hideously into a third dimension, even if Z is a small number
> (like 3). It becomes increasingly difficult to be sure one has covered
> all the bases.

I wonder if there isn't a way around this with supplementary verbs, rather
than adverbs. For example, "laugh," "giggle," "clap," "smirk," "grunt,"
"snarl," and quite a few other verbs could be used by the player to indicate a
mood, rather than outright stating it.

The good news is that it's probably easier for the player to understand, both
in terms of usage and in terms of when to use them (after the verbs are
revealed, anyway). That is, a player who sees that the verb "smile" is
available will do so when he wants to express his character's happiness.

The downside, unfortunately, is that there's too much room for refinement
(that is, it hard to know the difference between "laugh," "giggle," "titter,"
and "guffaw"--or "smile" and "smirk," for that matter), "handing off" the
verbs to the player is a royal pain in the neck, and it has the serious
potential to break the "rhythm" of a conversation (when the player types, "ask
jim about bob. smile. smile. snarl. laugh. scream. smirk. giggle. ask bob
about jim," what is that supposed to mean?).


> > It would also seem possible to alter the game responses based on the
> > perceived mood of the player (sad, happy, angry, whatever).
> Assuming that you can, in fact, perceive the player's mood. Seems dubious
> to me. Not that it would stop me from trying if I could think of a way.

Well, chances are that whatever "player tone system" is in place (contrast
with the author's tone--also a potentially interesting topic), it should be
pretty easy to figure out what the player is intending for his tone to be.


Iain Merrick

unread,
May 19, 2001, 3:01:18 PM5/19/01
to
bren...@aol.comRemove (OKB -- not okblacke) wrote:

> Let's give the player two axes, X and Y, and then give him the
> three-dimensional graph of a function z=f(x,y).

[...]


> >EXECUTE f(orc, sword)
> Quickly calculating the three-dimensional coordinates of your desired action,
> you brutally slay (z) the orc (x) with a quick thrust of your sword (y).

Sword?

What happened to the axes?

--
Iain Merrick
i...@spod-central.org

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages