Text Adventures DEAD?!?

56 views
Skip to first unread message

DAVID JINKS

unread,
Jun 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/14/96
to

Hi,

Here's something I stumbled across while wandering the net and
thought you might find somewhat amusing.

Dave

---
Activision Revisits Infocom's Glory Days

Title: The Sci-Fi Collection
Reviewer: Bill Kunkel
Publisher: Activision
Producer: Various
Type: PC-CD with Windows and Macintosh CD
Requires: PC-CD requires 2 MB of hard drive space; Mac CD requires
System 6.0.7 to 7.5 and 2 MB hard drive space

For gamers weaned on Origin's sexy sf combat sims; cyberpunk/Blade Runner
adventures, or even Sierra's Space Quest series, the omnibus Sci-Fi
Collection, is a case of terminal techno-shock waiting to happen.

Activision (which made the ill-advised decision to purchase Infocom mere
months before the collective gaming community decided it never again wanted
to play another text adventure) recently made a successful foray into
computer CD shovelware last with its Atari 2600 collection. This obviously
inspired them to drag these fossils out of the crypt, dust them off, and
see how they play.

The answer, unfortunately, is "not well". Infocom text adventures had a
cult following in the early 80s, and were briefly among the most successful
entertainment software publishers. The games certainly had their virtues,
and the writer/designers, including Dave Lebling, Steve Meretzky, Brian
Moriarty, and Mike Berlyn, who later created Bubsy Bobcat, were among the
most promising talents in the field. But Infocom's stubborn refusal to
introduce even static illustrations to its text-only games doomed it to
play the role of radio drama in the first flush of television mania.

The Sci-Fi Collection includes: A Mind Forever Voyaging, The Hitchhiker's
Guide to the Galaxy, Starcross, Stationfall, Suspended, Planetfall, and
Beyond Zork.

AMFV was among the most ambitious of the Infocom projects, casting the
gamer as PRISM, the first sentient machine. The game, by its nature, has a
somewhat disembodied quality, but the plot is strong; the world is on the
brink of war and it's up to you, as PRISM, to pull the planet's fat out of
the fire.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was actually co-written by
Douglas Adams (author of the radio play, novel, and the British miniseries)
remains the best-remembered of the Infocom line by most players, mostly
because of the powerful source material. On the downside, the plot is so
linear, and follows the book so slavishly that anyone familiar with the
novel will be able to virtually cha-cha through this whacked-out text
adventure offering the most eccentric presentation of alien life this side
of Dr. Who.

Starcross is a sprawling Dave Lebling entry in which the gamer plays a
space miner ensconsed in a totally loaded spacecraft subbed the Starcross.
Inside the Starcross, you can access a library of human history (the game
is set in 2186), experience a dream sequence, and have a meeting with a
massive alien spaceship. As with most of these games, the concept, no
matter how promising, is invariably undercut by the interface. To do
anything in an Infocom text adventure, players must enter commands in a
strict verb-noun format (Go Door, Open Closet, Take Gun, etc.). The
problem: the programs possess an extremely limited vocabulary, and far too
much time is spent guessing which word the author wants you to enter.

Steve Meretzky's Stationfall, and the sequel, Planetfall, are remembered
mostly for the presence of the cutesy robotic sidekick, Floyd, while
Berlyn's Suspended stars a paralyzed player-character able to affect events
with the help of six robots. Finally, Brian Moriarty, who later made his
bones with Loom, gives us Beyond Zork, which isn't even science fiction,
but straight-out fantasy!

Fortunately, we were spared Infocom's last gasp attempt to remain in
business: Infocomics, a line of dreadful electronic comic books with a
twist-a-plot interface and deadly linear plotlines.

As a final indignity, Infocom fans will be disappointed to learn that this
package contains none of the wonderful geegaws that the original games
delighted us with. Instead of the classic "Don't Panic" button which came
packed with Hitchhiker's Guide (along with an empty, sealed bag containing
the Vargon Fleet; Loose Fluff; and cardboard glasses with no eyeholes), the
documentation contains a ragged, black & white reproduction of the pin. In
fact, Activision might've done a lot better had it simply collected all
those cool throw-ins and offered them in a single package.

Nobody has wanted to play a text adventure in a decade, and it seems
unlikely that this product will revive interest.

On Target:
A chance to see some legendary designers' early work
An opportunity to see what gaming was like in the stone age

Missed the mark:
These games should have been upgraded, with artwork and menus of available
commands, etc.
---

Matthew T. Russotto

unread,
Jun 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/14/96
to

In article <1996Jun1...@alumni.laurentian.ca>,

DAVID JINKS <a00...@alumni.laurentian.ca> wrote:
}Hi,
}
} Here's something I stumbled across while wandering the net and
}thought you might find somewhat amusing.
}
}Dave
}
}---
} Activision Revisits Infocom's Glory Days
}
}Title: The Sci-Fi Collection
}Reviewer: Bill Kunkel
}Publisher: Activision
}Producer: Various
}Type: PC-CD with Windows and Macintosh CD
}Requires: PC-CD requires 2 MB of hard drive space; Mac CD requires
} System 6.0.7 to 7.5 and 2 MB hard drive space

}gamer as PRISM, the first sentient machine. The game, by its nature, has a

}somewhat disembodied quality, but the plot is strong; the world is on the
}brink of war and it's up to you, as PRISM, to pull the planet's fat out of
}the fire.

War? What war? Did I miss that?

}because of the powerful source material. On the downside, the plot is so
}linear, and follows the book so slavishly that anyone familiar with the
}novel will be able to virtually cha-cha through this whacked-out text
}adventure offering the most eccentric presentation of alien life this side
}of Dr. Who.

That easy? Well, maybe this guy's really good at it.

}matter how promising, is invariably undercut by the interface. To do
}anything in an Infocom text adventure, players must enter commands in a
}strict verb-noun format (Go Door, Open Closet, Take Gun, etc.).

OOPS. No, he's not good at it. He just didn't bother to play the
games.

}Nobody has wanted to play a text adventure in a decade, and it seems
}unlikely that this product will revive interest.

I just disappeared in a puff of illogic. So did this newsgroup

--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com russ...@his.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Matthew Daly

unread,
Jun 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/14/96
to

You know, I wish that Bill would loosen up a little and let us
know what he thought about the collection.... <g>

a00...@alumni.laurentian.ca (DAVID JINKS) writes:
>---
> Activision Revisits Infocom's Glory Days
>
>Title: The Sci-Fi Collection
>Reviewer: Bill Kunkel

[liberal snips from someone who gives little evidence that he got
more than 2% through any of these games]

>Infocom's stubborn refusal to
>introduce even static illustrations to its text-only games doomed it to
>play the role of radio drama in the first flush of television mania.

<giggle> I wonder if Bill reads books without pictures.

>AMFV was among the most ambitious of the Infocom projects, casting the
>gamer as PRISM, the first sentient machine. The game, by its nature, has a
>somewhat disembodied quality, but the plot is strong; the world is on the
>brink of war and it's up to you, as PRISM, to pull the planet's fat out of
>the fire.

Hmmmm ... I guess Bill didn't play this one at all! Did he even read
all of the documentation? The plot was about preventing the overall
destruction of the fabric of society to read the manual, but one of
the delights of the game was that it was so understated in its
execution ... you're saving the world by wandering around taking
home movies!

>The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was actually co-written by
>Douglas Adams (author of the radio play, novel, and the British miniseries)
>remains the best-remembered of the Infocom line by most players, mostly
>because of the powerful source material. On the downside, the plot is so
>linear, and follows the book so slavishly that anyone familiar with the
>novel will be able to virtually cha-cha through this whacked-out text
>adventure offering the most eccentric presentation of alien life this side
>of Dr. Who.

Ah yes, slavishly following the book. Translation: I couldn't get the
Babel Fish so everything that I saw was ripped out of the book. On this
one, Bill didn't even read the warning in the manual saying that you'd
quickly be lost if you spent too much time looking to the book for
solutions to the puzzles.

>Starcross is a sprawling Dave Lebling entry in which the gamer plays a
>space miner ensconsed in a totally loaded spacecraft subbed the Starcross.
>Inside the Starcross, you can access a library of human history (the game
>is set in 2186), experience a dream sequence, and have a meeting with a
>massive alien spaceship. As with most of these games, the concept, no
>matter how promising, is invariably undercut by the interface.

Translation: I couldn't figure out the puzzle with the door with
the ten bumps, so I guessed that the library and the dream was what
the game was about.

>To do
>anything in an Infocom text adventure, players must enter commands in a
>strict verb-noun format (Go Door, Open Closet, Take Gun, etc.). The
>problem: the programs possess an extremely limited vocabulary, and far too
>much time is spent guessing which word the author wants you to enter.

This is at it's worst in Infocom's titles "Adventureland" and "Savage
Island I and II." <wince> I understand that you can't play all of
six games before you write your review, but maybe they could have
chosen a reviewer with even the most rudimentary knowledge of the
subject matter?

>Steve Meretzky's Stationfall, and the sequel, Planetfall, are remembered
>mostly for the presence of the cutesy robotic sidekick, Floyd, while
>Berlyn's Suspended stars a paralyzed player-character able to affect events
>with the help of six robots.

So this adds up to, what ... maybe twenty minutes playing "Starcross"
and an hour on HGTTG?

>Finally, Brian Moriarty, who later made his
>bones with Loom, gives us Beyond Zork, which isn't even science fiction,
>but straight-out fantasy!

This was interesting only because Planetfall and BZ weren't included on
the packaging, but included as "bonus games". I thought that it was
an odd choice that PFall wasn't considered an anchor of the collection,
but there you go. BZ would have made a little more sense if another
non-fantasy game had been included: my vote would have been Suspect.

>As a final indignity, Infocom fans will be disappointed to learn that this
>package contains none of the wonderful geegaws that the original games

>delighted us with. [stuff snipped for the sake of brevity] In


>fact, Activision might've done a lot better had it simply collected all
>those cool throw-ins and offered them in a single package.

We all like the throw-ins, but I don't see a large market for people
who want an Infotater but don't want to play Sorcerer. And, from
someone who thinks that Infocom has a two-word command structure,
the word "us" in the first sentence rings perilously false.

>Nobody has wanted to play a text adventure in a decade, and it seems
>unlikely that this product will revive interest.

Ouch. In our next issue, Bill will review La Boheme, and tell us why
no one enjoys opera.

Perhaps next time Activision wants some yahoos to review their
collections, they should send walkthroughs along so that they can
at least figure out what the game is about?

----------------------

Thanks, David, that was a hoot.

I'll tell you the one thing that I've really liked about these games:
they work on my Pentium! If you think that goes without saying, try
spending $40 on Origin's collection of Ultima 1-6. Four of them
won't work.

I also appreciate that our anti-Activision vitriol hasn't frightened
Laird off. I think he's honest in his intentions to put out quality
interactive fiction, be it text or GUI-based. Activision is going to
be putting out more Zork titles whether we like it or not, so we
might as well do what we can to make them enjoyable, even if they
can't bring us back to where we were (since, of course, they can't).

-Matthew
--
Matthew Daly I don't buy everything I read ... I haven't
da...@ppd.kodak.com even read everything I've bought.

My opinions are not necessarily those of my employer, of course.

Nulldogma

unread,
Jun 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/14/96
to

>Steve Meretzky's Stationfall, and the sequel, Planetfall

Steve Meretzky, of course, having mastered the art of time-travel, had no
difficulty in writing the sequel first and the original several years
later.

Urgh. So is there an e-mail address for Bill Kunkel (the name of a
deceased baseball umpire, incidentally; I'm assuming this guy isn't the
same one, though he certainly writes as if he's been dead for several
years) or the place where this review appeared, so we can all point out
the error of their ways?

Neil

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Jun 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/15/96
to

This is more mistakes about the history of Infocom than I have ever
seen collected in one place at one time.

I'll spare you the detailed recitation of errors if you spare me the
same. Ok?

If we ever find a way to contact this guy, please trash his on his
factual mistakes rather than his opinions of IF. It's much more
satisfying.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

Gerry Kevin Wilson

unread,
Jun 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/15/96
to

In article <4lkZasK00...@andrew.cmu.edu>,
Andrew C. Plotkin <erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:

[snip]

>If we ever find a way to contact this guy, please trash his on his
>factual mistakes rather than his opinions of IF. It's much more
>satisfying.

Does that guy who wrote that thing work at a magazine or something? If he
does, I'm sure as hell not sending Avalon there to be reviewed. I don't
feel like getting thrashed for imaginary flaws, or being rated off my
'back-of-the-box blurb' either.

If he does work at a magazine, that's pretty sad, as anyone who's reviewed
for SPAG could do a better job, even if they were reviewing something
weird and esoteric, like DOOM.

Ah, a war in AMFV. Funny how you overlook little things like that. Must
be because I've only played it through 3 or 4 times.

<Removing hat in respect for us, the long-dead text adventure audience.>

Sorry, couldn't resist the cracks. It's just too darn easy.
--
"This chamber is gaudily decorated and painful to the eye.
Bright reds and greens clash with blues and yellows in an idiot's
conception of splendor."
-An excerpt from "Avalon", a game under construction.

DAVID JINKS

unread,
Jun 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/16/96
to

In article <4pssv1$n...@newsbf02.news.aol.com>, null...@aol.com (Nulldogma) writes:
> Urgh. So is there an e-mail address for Bill Kunkel (the name of a
> deceased baseball umpire, incidentally; I'm assuming this guy isn't the
> same one, though he certainly writes as if he's been dead for several
> years) or the place where this review appeared, so we can all point out
> the error of their ways?

The review can be found on the Happy Puppy game page. I think it's
address is http://www.happypup.com but I'm not entirely sure. I actually
stumbled onto that review as I was trying the new HotBot search engine.

Dave

Christopher E. Forman

unread,
Jun 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/17/96
to

Nulldogma <null...@aol.com> wrote:
: Urgh. So is there an e-mail address for Bill Kunkel (the name of a
: deceased baseball umpire, incidentally; I'm assuming this guy isn't the
: same one, though he certainly writes as if he's been dead for several
: years) or the place where this review appeared, so we can all point out
: the error of their ways?

Kunkel got his start doing video-game reviews in the early 80's. He also
scribed the column "The Game Doctor."

My advice to Bill is to go back to reviewing cartridge games.

Or perhaps Activision is hiring. His limited knowledge of Infocom would
make him an excellent candidate.

--
C.E. Forman cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Read the I-F e-zine XYZZYnews, at ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/magazines/xyzzynews,
or on the Web at http://www.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzynews.html
Vote I-F in 1996! Visit http://www.xs4all.nl/~jojo/pcgames.html for info!

Mark J Musante

unread,
Jun 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/17/96
to

> The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was actually co-written by
> Douglas Adams (author of the radio play, novel, and the British miniseries)
> remains the best-remembered of the Infocom line by most players, mostly
> because of the powerful source material. On the downside, the plot is so
> linear, and follows the book so slavishly that anyone familiar with the
> novel will be able to virtually cha-cha through this whacked-out text
> adventure offering the most eccentric presentation of alien life this side
> of Dr. Who.

This is so far beyond the concept of "wrong" that there isn't a word to
describe it.

"Utter trash" comes close, however.

- Mark

Kathleen Fischer

unread,
Jun 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/17/96
to

>If we ever find a way to contact this guy, please trash his on his
>factual mistakes rather than his opinions of IF. It's much more
>satisfying.

FYI:

I did a search with AltaVista and located the article. It's at:

http://happypuppy.com/pulse/reviews/crosplat/sci-fi.html

At the bottom there is a link for giving comments. The address that comes
up is:

pupp...@aol.com

Kathleen

--
// Kathleen Fischer
// kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov
// *** "Don't stop to stomp ants while the elephants are stampeding" ***


Jeffrey F. Miller

unread,
Jun 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/18/96
to

I thought you all might be interested in this. I sent a reply of Kunkel's
review to pupp...@aol.com. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of what I sent,
but the gist of it was to correct the many, many errors in his review (most of
which have been noted here) and question whether he had actually played the
games he'd reviewed. I recieved the following reply:

begin quote
----------------------

pupFrom: PupP...@aol.com
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 16:18:06 -0400
To: jeff...@ix.netcom.com
Subject: Re: Bob Kunkel's review of Activision's Sci-Fi collection

Dear Mr. Miller,
I have forwarded your comments to Bill Kunkel.

As a note, though, I would like to observe that he has been writing about
interactive entertainment since 1978 and played the games in their original
incarnations. He also plays each game he reviews for 6-8 hours before writing
up a review.

Best,
Laurie Yates
Director of News Services

-------------------
end of quote

So this excuses all the heinous factual errors in his review. So he didn't
notice that Infocom games used a parser more advanced than Scott Adams -- heck,
he only played the games for 6 - 8 hours!


Jeff Miller
jeff...@ix.netcom.com


Industrial Strength

unread,
Jun 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/18/96
to

[This is more of a games than arts issue, so I've xposted it to games and
redirected followups]

Kathleen Fischer (kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov) enlightened us with:

> I did a search with AltaVista and located the article. It's at:

> http://happypuppy.com/pulse/reviews/crosplat/sci-fi.html

> At the bottom there is a link for giving comments. The address that comes
> up is:

> pupp...@aol.com

If you're interested, here's my response:

To: pupp...@aol.com
Subject: Review of Activision's "Infocom sci-fi pack"

Boy, I'll bet you wish every publisher's edition of a classic novel
would be "upgraded with artwork", since in these days of 15 megabyte
shoot-em-up CD-ROM monstrocities, no one is interested in reading plain
old text. You're entitled to your opinion about what
constitutes intelligent entertainment. However, you're not entitled to
write an article that is rife with inaccuracies as this review:

Activision (which made the ill-advised
decision to purchase Infocom mere months before
the collective gaming community decided it never
again wanted to play another text adventure)

Infocom didn't go out of business exclusively because of poor sales
(although the software industry as a whole was in a slump during the
late 80's) -- they invested a large portion of their development time
into a database system that was unsuccessful.

[about Hitchhiker's] On the


downside, the plot is so linear, and follows the
book so slavishly that anyone familiar with the
novel will be able to virtually cha-cha through
this whacked-out text adventure offering the
most eccentric presentation of alien life this
side of Dr. Who.

"Linear"? Hardly -- the game has half a dozen plotlines running
simultaneously that can be played in any order. Did you play more than
five minutes of the game? Only the introductory section bears any
resemblancce to the book at all.

To do anything in an Infocom text
adventure, players must enter commands in a
strict verb-noun format (Go Door, Open Closet,
Take Gun, etc.).

Perhaps, if you only enter two words. Infocom parsers accept full
sentences with clauses, prepositions, adjectives and compound
connectors. More than can be said for most graphically-oriented
adventures today.

Nobody has wanted to play a text
adventure in a decade, and it seems unlikely
that this product will revive interest.

Untrue. Perhaps you might fire up the crippled AOL newsreader and look
at the traffic on rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction. No
one needs Activision to revive interest that is already strong in a
small international community.

I hope your publication chooses more informed reviewers in the future.

:Liza Daly

--
ge...@echonyc.com http://fovea.retina.net/~gecko/
"Where are the nude shots???" - web comment

Stephane Racle

unread,
Jun 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/18/96
to

Jeffrey F. Miller (jeff...@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
: games he'd reviewed. I recieved the following reply:

[snip]

: I have forwarded your comments to Bill Kunkel.

: As a note, though, I would like to observe that he has been writing about
: interactive entertainment since 1978 and played the games in their original
: incarnations. He also plays each game he reviews for 6-8 hours before writing
: up a review.

[snip]

Let us know of any further details!

Stephane

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Stephane Racle st...@engsoc.carleton.ca
Aerospace Engineering http://www.engsoc.carleton.ca/~steph
Carleton University

John Francis

unread,
Jun 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/18/96
to

Kathleen Fischer wrote:
>
> >If we ever find a way to contact this guy, please trash his on his
> >factual mistakes rather than his opinions of IF. It's much more
> >satisfying.
>
> FYI:
>
> I did a search with AltaVista and located the article. It's at:
>
> http://happypuppy.com/pulse/reviews/crosplat/sci-fi.html
>
> At the bottom there is a link for giving comments. The address that comes
> up is:
>
> pupp...@aol.com

Thanks, Kathleen.

I wandered over and read the article in question. From the rantings in this
group I was expecting a very different article from the one I found. While
there are some disturbing inaccuracies I found them to be no worse than
most articles in the popular press (which is what happypuppy is).
You and I know the difference between a two-word parser and the infocom
parser, but to most of the target audience the difference is irrelevant.
And anyway, in most cases, you don't need to type more than two words:
the game will supply the appropriate indirect object automatically, or
prompt you to supply it. Sure looks like a two-word interface to me.
So why else doesn't the reviewer like the infocom games? Let's look:

o "Infocom's stubborn refusal to introduce even static illustrations"
His chronology is a little inaccurate (most of the the infocom games
predate even static images), but the point being made is that the
reviewer prefers games with illustrations. So, probably, do most
of his audience. Fair criticism.

o HHGttG is too linear, and depends too much on knowing the original.
While I would disagree with the claim that the game is trivial (I
still wish I'd bought an "I got the babel fish" T-shirt), the claim
is not without substance. Most of the initial sequence *is* obscure
unless you know the background.

So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
You know what? He's probably right!

Andrew V Boyd

unread,
Jun 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/19/96
to

Kathleen Fischer <kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> writes:

>>If we ever find a way to contact this guy, please trash his on his
>>factual mistakes rather than his opinions of IF. It's much more
>>satisfying.

I admit, I cracked. I found the address yesterday, and started off,
with a clear, rational letter in response to his article, but by the
end, I was just ranting. But it was funny.

Kunkel? Hanging's too good for 'im!

Burning's too good for 'im!

Kunkel? He should be chopped up into itty-bitty pieces and then
buried alive!!!

-a. boyd
ab...@saturn.vcu.edu
RiotNrrrd

"Let's boot up and riot."


Kathleen Fischer

unread,
Jun 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/19/96
to

bout...@razor.wcc.govt.nz wrote:
>BTW somebody previously pointed out that his review was so far beyond wrong
>that no word existed to describe it. IMO completely and utterly kunkel sums it
>up quite nastily, er, nicely ;)

kunkel (n.)
A person who has no idea what I-F is all about and no desire to find out.

useage: That kunkel actually wanted me replace typed in commands with icons!

Kathleen (who knows better than to be nasty like this but who is having a bad
day and needs to take it out on someone)

bout...@razor.wcc.govt.nz

unread,
Jun 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/19/96
to

In article <4q58um$f...@dfw-ixnews10.ix.netcom.com>, jeff...@ix.netcom.com (Jeffrey F. Miller) writes:

>So this excuses all the heinous factual errors in his review. So he didn't
>notice that Infocom games used a parser more advanced than Scott Adams -- heck,
>he only played the games for 6 - 8 hours!
>
> Jeff Miller

So that's a full working week, more or less, that he spent playing the
collection. As my old metaphysics tutor used to say - I think not.

BTW somebody previously pointed out that his review was so far beyond wrong
that no word existed to describe it. IMO completely and utterly kunkel sums it
up quite nastily, er, nicely ;)

-Tangle

Cthulhu

unread,
Jun 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/19/96
to

In article <31C711...@thuridion.com>, John Francis <jo...@thuridion.com> wrote:

>And anyway, in most cases, you don't need to type more than two words:
>the game will supply the appropriate indirect object automatically, or
>prompt you to supply it. Sure looks like a two-word interface to me.

And how do the games respond when you type LOOK ROCK?

Sure DOESN'T look like a two-word interface to me.

Cthulhu

unread,
Jun 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/19/96
to

In article <4qbhmf$e...@kodak.rdcs.Kodak.COM>, da...@PPD.Kodak.COM (Matthew Daly) wrote:

>As I recall, the bulk of Infocom's work came out in the same timeframe
>as Kings Quest 2-3, Police Quest 1-2, and other assorted Sierra graphic
>games. At the time, I recall preferring the text over 4 and 16-color
>polygonal-based bitmaps, but I think people really did start turning
>away from text when KQ4-5 came out, because those started to get
>pretty sharp.

Hey, I prefer the Infocom games to the early Sierra games too. The early
Sierra games SUCK in terms of graphics, and their parsers sucked worse. The
Infocom games, on the other hand, had unbeatable graphics (to an extent, this
is still true. You know what I mean) and parsers that are unmatched until very
recently.

The newer sierra games are more comparable. Finally.

Matthew Daly

unread,
Jun 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/20/96
to

John Francis <jo...@thuridion.com> writes:

>I wandered over and read the article in question. From the rantings in this
>group I was expecting a very different article from the one I found. While
>there are some disturbing inaccuracies I found them to be no worse than
>most articles in the popular press (which is what happypuppy is).
>You and I know the difference between a two-word parser and the infocom
>parser, but to most of the target audience the difference is irrelevant.

>And anyway, in most cases, you don't need to type more than two words:
>the game will supply the appropriate indirect object automatically, or
>prompt you to supply it. Sure looks like a two-word interface to me.

>So why else doesn't the reviewer like the infocom games? Let's look:

The reason that I objected to the review is that I think that there
is a magic to text games that draws you in. I just replayed AMFV this
past weekend, and it seems more gripping and relevant than ever before.
(Is it my advanced age, or a Republican Congress that makes that so...
<g>)

Obviously, I would want a large audience to feel that same magic, and
to know that you don't need a Hollywood cast or a MIDI-soundtrack to
elicit the same highs and lows. A reviewer should tell me things that
I can't see from reading the back of the box. For instance, in movie
reviews, I don't need Gene Shalit saying "Waterworld cost $200 million".
I need him to say "I enjoyed this movie less than I thought I would,
and these are some of the things that disappointed me...."

And this guy didn't. I mean, I don't even know that he installed AMFV
in order to review it! He would have had to read the documentation in
order to enter Simulation mode, and he couldn't have learned how to do
that without noticing that the parser is far more advanced than he gave
it credit for.

So, he reviews a game based on the informaiton on the back of the box,
but writes with an authority that says "I did play the game, and this
is what I noticed." If he had downloaded a walkthrough so he could
see the entire game and said "The game is about political intrigue and
the moral decay in our society ... but I didn't like it because it
didn't have any pictures" then I would be sorry but satisfied.

Okay, now back to you, John...

> o "Infocom's stubborn refusal to introduce even static illustrations"
> His chronology is a little inaccurate (most of the the infocom games
> predate even static images), but the point being made is that the
> reviewer prefers games with illustrations. So, probably, do most
> of his audience. Fair criticism.

As I recall, the bulk of Infocom's work came out in the same timeframe


as Kings Quest 2-3, Police Quest 1-2, and other assorted Sierra graphic
games. At the time, I recall preferring the text over 4 and 16-color
polygonal-based bitmaps, but I think people really did start turning
away from text when KQ4-5 came out, because those started to get
pretty sharp.

> o HHGttG is too linear, and depends too much on knowing the original.


> While I would disagree with the claim that the game is trivial (I
> still wish I'd bought an "I got the babel fish" T-shirt), the claim
> is not without substance. Most of the initial sequence *is* obscure
> unless you know the background.

Yeah, I thought that the best throw-in for that game would have been
a copy of the book! :-) It would have made it a little easier to
navigate the first "scene" (until you get onto the Vogon ship). But
once you get on the ship, the game is relatively non-linear (you can
"explore your senses" in virtually any order you like) compared with
lots of other adventure games, and very non-linear compared with
current market successes like "7th Guest" and "Cyberia", and not
based on the book any more than a couple of familiar characters and
scenes.

>So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
>with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
>You know what? He's probably right!

About the second part, there is little doubt (especially with a lot
of reviewers running around telling people that this is boring stuff).
But I disagree that all-text games are a dead-end, just as much as
I would disagree that books without pictures have no future.

Andrew V Boyd

unread,
Jun 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/20/96
to

>: I have forwarded your comments to Bill Kunkel.

>: As a note, though, I would like to observe that he has been writing about
>: interactive entertainment since 1978 and played the games in their original
>: incarnations. He also plays each game he reviews for 6-8 hours before writing
>: up a review.

>[snip]

>Let us know of any further details!

Fortunately, I do have a transcrip of what I wrote, but Kunkel, scurvy
sea dog that he is, has not acknowledged it. Of course, I started out
rationally, but by the end, I've just gone off into my own anti-kunkel
universe.

Allow me to present ME vs. KUNKEL, Round ONE!


----
Did Kunkel ever play these games? He strikes me as being an
ill-informed egomaniac.

I'm going to go through this article and point out the places where
Kunkel is simply wrong.


For gamers weaned on Origin's sexy sf combat
sims; cyberpunk/Blade Runner adventures, or even
Sierra's Space Quest series, the omnibus Sci-Fi
Collection, is a case of terminal techno-shock waiting
to happen.
Activision (which made the ill-advised decision to
purchase Infocom mere months before the collective
gaming community decided it never again wanted to
play another text adventure) recently made a
successful foray into computer CD shovelware last with
its Atari 2600 collection. This obviously inspired
them to drag these fossils out of the crypt, dust them
off, and see how they play.

Infocom: Brilliant designers, bad businessmen. Infocom started going
under when they _stopped_ making text games.

The answer, unfortunately, is "not well". Infocom
text adventures had a cult following in the early 80s,
and were briefly among the most successful
entertainment software publishers. The games
certainly had their virtues, and the writer/designers,

includi ng Dave Lebling, Steve Meretzky, Brian


Moriarty, and Mike Berlyn, who later created Bubsy
Bobcat, were among the most promising talents in the
field. But Infocom's stubborn refusal to introduce
even static illustrations to its text-only games doomed
it to play the role of radio drama in the first flush
of

television mania. Two points here:
1. BattleTech, Journey, Curcuit's Edge, and Quarterstaff all
had various graphic interfaces.
2. Yeah, radio drama just sucks, doesn't it? Man, I hate the
Shadow, and War of the Worlds just bit. Orson Welles was overrated.
Plays? Fuck that! If it's not modern and sporty, it must be bad.

The Sci-Fi Collection includes: A Mind Forever
Voyaging, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,
Starcross, Stationfall, Suspended, Planetfall, and
Beyond Zork.
AMFV was among the most ambitious of the
Infocom projects, casting the gamer as PRISM, the
first sentient machine. The game, by its nature, has a
somewhat disembodied quality, but the plot is strong;
the world is on the brink of war and it's up to you, as
PRISM, to pull the planet's fat out of the fire.

Wrong. That's just not true.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was
actually co-written by Douglas Adams (author of the
radio play, novel, and the British miniseries) remains
the best-remembered of the Infocom line by most
players, mostly because of the powerful source mater
ial. On the downside, the plot is so linear, and
follows
the book so slavishly that anyone familiar with the
novel will be able to virtually cha-cha through this
whacked-out text adventure offering the most
eccentric presentation of alien life this side o f Dr.
Who.

Wrong again. Ever get the Babel fish, chump?

Starcross is a sprawling Dave Lebling entry in
which the gamer plays a space miner ensconsed in a
totally loaded spacecraft subbed the Starcross. Inside
the Starcross, you can access a library of human
history (the game is set in 2186), experience a dream
sequence, and have a meeting with a massive alien
spaceship.

The whole game is about THE SHIP AND YOU CAN'T REALLY DO ANYTHING
WITH THE LIBRARY EXCEPT GIVE IT TO THE BIG SPIDER ALIEN.

As with most of these games, the concept,
no matter how promising, is invariably undercut by
the interface. To do anything in an Infocom text
adventure, players must enter commands in a strict
verb-noun format (Go Door, Open Closet, Take Gun,
etc.). The problem: the programs possess an
extremely limited vocabulary, and far too much time
is spent guessing which word the author wants you to
enter.

Such broken English, like: GO SOUTHWEST AND THEN GO NORTHEAST. PICK UP
THE RAYGUN. GO INTO THE HOUSE. SHOOT KUNKEL WITH THE RAYGUN.

Steve Meretzky's Stationfall, and the sequel,
Planetfall,

Stationfall's the sequel to Planetfall. Idiot.

are remembered mostly for the presence of
the cutesy robotic sidekick, Floyd, while Berlyn's
Suspended stars a paralyzed player-character able to
affect events with the help of six robots. Finally,
Brian Moriarty, who later made his bones with Loom,
gives us Beyond Zork, which isn't even science
fiction, but straight-out fantasy!

Drat. Woe is me. Forced to play Beyond Zork. Whatever shall I do.

Fortunately, we were spared Infocom's last gasp
attempt to remain in business: Infocomics, a line of
dreadful electronic comic books with a twist-a-plot
interface and deadly linear plotlines.

Riddle me this, Kunkel, WHY IS THIS RELEVANT? Aren't you supposed to
be reviewing a product?

As a final indignity, Infocom fans will be
disappointed to learn that this package contains none
of the wonderful geegaws that the original games
delighted us with.

Us? Doesn't seem like you played them in the first place.

Instead of the classic "Don't Panic"
button which came packed with Hitchhiker's Guide

(alo ng with an empty, sealed bag containing the


Vargon Fleet; Loose Fluff; and cardboard glasses with
no eyeholes), the documentation contains a ragged,
black & white reproduction of the pin. In fact,
Activision might've done a lot better had it simply

collec ted all those cool throw-ins and offered them in
a single package.

That's just what I need to spruce up my apartment! The Trinity map and
the AMFV Code wheel! Oh, Boy!

Nobody has wanted to play a text adventure in a
decade, and it seems unlikely that this product will
revive interest.

Except for those pesky rec.arts.interactive-fiction and
rec.games.interactive-fiction kids. We're an optical illusion.

On Target:

A chance to see some legendary designers' early
work
An opportunity to see what gaming was like in
the stone age

Missed the mark:

These games should have been upgraded, with
artwork and menus of available commands, etc.

Don't even talk to me about parser and interface. Infocom games had an
extremely sophisticated language that has been unmatched since. The
fact is, in today's huge multimedia bonanza games, you have little or
no control over your environment. They're also ridiculously easy.

So, Kunkel, you hereby have my kind permission to bite me then crawl
under a rock and die. Or be chained TO THE WALL OF A WAL*MART LAVATORY
WHERE STRANGE MEN IN TIGHT PLAID SLACKS WILL ALTERNATIVELY WANTONLY
CARESS YOU OR FLOG YOU WITH A RUBBER HOSE WHILE YOUR FORCED TO PLAY
BAD DOOM CLONES WITH USELESS .WAD FILES UNTIL YOUR EYES BLEED. "Oh,
GOD NO, NOT THE CHARLIE BROWN .WAD AGAIN! CYBERDEMON LUCY IS GOING TO
SMACK THE PUS OUTTA ME! ARRRGGGHHH!" ALL AS AN ACT OF RETRIBUTION FOR
YOUR DAYS AS A HIGH SCHOOL REVOLUTIONARY! FOR, YES, YES, THEY ARE IN
FACT SECRET AGENTS OF THE CIA COME TO ALLEVE YOU OF YOUR BURDEN OF THE
FLESH.

then they bring the ferrets. oh no.


Step to me if you dare, Kunkel.

_______________________
| a. boyd |
| ab...@saturn.vcu.edu |
-----------------------

---

Jonathan Badger

unread,
Jun 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/21/96
to

John Francis <jo...@thuridion.com> writes:

>So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
>with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
>You know what? He's probably right!

Well, I disagree. This is the same argument that people like Ted
Turner use to justify colorizing classic black and white movies like
"The Maltese Falcon". The basic assumption is that just because one
technology came before another, updating older works with the newer
technology will make them better, "because after all, if their
creators had the newer technology available they would have used it to
improve their work". What this argument fails to realize is that the
older technology can have features that are missing in the newer
technology. For example, black and white film can do really wonderful
stuff with light and shadow that color film just can't do. When a
black and white film is colorized, this is lost. This is one of the
reasons why colorizing movies is bad. What you end up with is not a
color movie with the good featres of the original intact, but
something far less. Someone seeing the "Maltese Falcon" for the first
time may not be impressed if they see a colorized version because much
of the artistic photography is lost. I suspect "GUI-Zork" would be
much the same, as neither the advanced parser nor the detailed text would
survive the transition.

And to carry on the film argument further, why do you think Woody Allen's
"Manhattan" is shot in black and white? It wasn't that he didn't have
color film available...

Russell L. Bryan

unread,
Jun 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/21/96
to

John Francis wrote:

> So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
> with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
> You know what? He's probably right!

I defy you to create the Tea/No Tea puzzle from HHGTTG with a current interface.
Show me how the "former self" puzzle from Sorceror could ever work graphically.
How about ANY of the Infocom mysteries? I am astonished that anyone can enjoy
graphic mysteries, where you are given a list of questions to ask each suspect,
and your job is just to click the mouse until your choices are exhausted. Can
that be considered fun? Infocom mysteries forced the player to get in the
suspect's faces, ask them the right questions WITHOUT cue cards, collect evidence
WITHOUT a glowing red cursor saying "There's something over here boss" whenever
you hit a hot spot, and make the arrest.

Actually, that's all I need. Tell me how an effective mystery -- an entire genre
of fiction -- can be created with a modern interface, complete with suspect
interviews, without resorting to "choose which question to ask now." That's your
challenge. Then tell me why they haven't done it yet.

Infocom's games won awards for their complex plots and puzzles. If you can not
recreate these games, in their entirety, with a modern interface, then the modern
interface is flawed and limiting. Modern games, while they have entertainment
value, are choose-your-own-adventure style silent movies -- silent because the
player can't say a word. All the player can do is find the hot spots, click on
them, and watch as the cutscenes tell the story.

-- Russ

Allison Weaver

unread,
Jun 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/21/96
to

On 19 Jun 1996, Andrew V Boyd wrote:

> Kunkel? Hanging's too good for 'im!
>
> Burning's too good for 'im!
>
> Kunkel? He should be chopped up into itty-bitty pieces and then
> buried alive!!!

No, no, no. Let's sentence him to a lifetime of only getting to play Doom
-- nothing else -- ever.

Allison


Allison Weaver

unread,
Jun 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/21/96
to

On 19 Jun 1996, Kathleen Fischer wrote:

> kunkel (n.)
> A person who has no idea what I-F is all about and no desire to find out.
>
> useage: That kunkel actually wanted me replace typed in commands with icons!
>
> Kathleen (who knows better than to be nasty like this but who is having a bad
> day and needs to take it out on someone)

And who deserves it more than a kunkel? Do we all understand the
definition of this noun? It's bound to show up in perfect context REAL
SOON NOW.

Hey Cardinal! You need a kunkel in that poor game of yours? There he is
-- already defined and self described.

Allison


mathew

unread,
Jun 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/23/96
to

In article <badger.8...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu>,

Jonathan Badger <bad...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu> wrote:
>Well, I disagree. This is the same argument that people like Ted
>Turner use to justify colorizing classic black and white movies like
>"The Maltese Falcon".

Damn right. I'm waiting for the colourized version of "The Wizard of
Oz".


mathew
--
me...@pobox.com http://www.pobox.com/~meta/
Wanted: Digital CD copy of "Plunderphonics" CD
think globally - declare locally

Carl Muckenhoupt

unread,
Jun 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/24/96
to

"Russell L. Bryan" <russ...@earthlink.net> writes:

>I defy you to create the Tea/No Tea puzzle from HHGTTG with a current interface.
>Show me how the "former self" puzzle from Sorceror could ever work graphically.

You know, I have this theory that, when graphic adventures were really
beginning to come to the fore (ie, post-King's Quest), the Implementors
began to deliberately include graphics-proof scenes in their games. My
favorite example is the grue cave in Spellbreaker, where your light
dribbles out weakly and puddles on the floor...

Trickery, say I. Certainly, you can come up with things that can't be
done graphically, if you deliberately set out to do so, just as you can
come up with images that lose all their impact if described rather than
seen. Graphics are different from text, certainly, but can you really
claim that pictures are inferior to words? They affect the mind in such
different ways, it's pointless to draw such a comparison.

The big difference between text and graphic games, IMHO, is not what can
be done, but how much can be done. There is a great deal more overhead
in producing an animated sequence illustrating an action than in writing
text to describe it. Furthermore, it's a lot easier to generate text on
the fly by swapping in nouns than it is to generate animation on the fly by
swapping in images (especially if it's a static background image).
Consequently, text adventures tend to be more completely interactive than
graphic adventures, regardless of how many people are working on the
project or for how long.

--
Carl Muckenhoupt | Text Adventures are not dead!
b...@tiac.net | Read rec.[arts|games].int-fiction to see
http://www.tiac.net/users/baf | what you're missing!

Carl Muckenhoupt

unread,
Jun 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/24/96
to

bad...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu (Jonathan Badger) writes:

>John Francis <jo...@thuridion.com> writes:

>>So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
>>with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
>>You know what? He's probably right!

>Well, I disagree. This is the same argument that people like Ted


>Turner use to justify colorizing classic black and white movies like

>"The Maltese Falcon". The basic assumption is that just because one

Er... I think you're misinterpreting this. I agree with John. A
"colorized" Zork *would* attract a larger audience. This does not
justify it. It would not improve it. But it would sell better.

And no, sales are not an indication of quality. They are an indication
of perceived quality before purchasing.

John Francis

unread,
Jun 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/24/96
to

Jonathan Badger wrote:
>
> John Francis <jo...@thuridion.com> writes:
>
> >So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
> >with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
> >You know what? He's probably right!
>
> Well, I disagree. This is the same argument that people like Ted
> Turner use to justify colorizing classic black and white movies like
> "The Maltese Falcon". . .(snip) . . . I suspect "GUI-Zork" would be

> much the same, as neither the advanced parser nor the detailed text would
> survive the transition.

But ... I didn't suggest that a point-and-click Zork would be "better"
than the original, only that it would appeal to a wider audience.

Actually I think the colorizing analogy is a very good one. The existence
of a colorized version does not eliminate the existence of the original
version. As long as I can still get the B+W version of "Citizen Kane"
I don't really care whether a colorized version exists. Don't forget
that the "wider audience" will be watching at home on their regular colour
Television sets, so the extra light range of B+W film is irrelevant.
(analogy: for "Colour TV" read "Sega Genesis/Nintendo/Sony PlayStation").

Mind you, if this were really like colorization all the reviewers would
be clamouring for more of the old-style games. On 40-column screens.
(It's in B+W? Underexposed? Grainy? With subtitles? Two thumbs up!)

> And to carry on the film argument further, why do you think Woody Allen's
> "Manhattan" is shot in black and white? It wasn't that he didn't have
> color film available...

Because Woody Allen is a pretentious little git? :-)
(He doesn't give a rats about appealing to a wider audience, anyway).

Now if you'd asked why "Young Frankenstein" was shot in B+W ...

Greg Ewing

unread,
Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

John Francis wrote:
>
> but the point being made is that the
> reviewer prefers games with illustrations. So, probably, do most
> of his audience. Fair criticism.

The phrase "stubborn refusal" suggests that the reviewer
looks down upon any game which does not have illustrations,
not merely as different but as inferior. If he had said
"it will not appeal to those who like graphics in their
games", *that* would have been fair criticism. As it is,
it comes across as bigotry.

Greg

Admiral Jota

unread,
Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

b...@max.tiac.net (Carl Muckenhoupt) writes:

>"Russell L. Bryan" <russ...@earthlink.net> writes:

>>I defy you to create the Tea/No Tea puzzle from HHGTTG with a current interface.
>>Show me how the "former self" puzzle from Sorceror could ever work graphically.

[snip]

> Certainly, you can come up with things that can't be
>done graphically, if you deliberately set out to do so, just as you can
>come up with images that lose all their impact if described rather than
>seen. Graphics are different from text, certainly, but can you really
>claim that pictures are inferior to words? They affect the mind in such
>different ways, it's pointless to draw such a comparison.

[snip]

I could be wrong, but I don't think most people have any problem against
the *games* being graphical, but simply against the *interface*. It's
fine for the story to show you what's happening with beautifully drawn
graphics, instead of telling you with words. It's entirely different to
have to show the game what you want to do by using clunky icons, rather
than being able to simply tell it, in words.

--
/<-= -=-=- -= Admiral Jota =- -=-=- =->\
__/><-=- http://www.tiac.net/users/jota/ =-><\__
\><-= jo...@mv.mv.com -- Finger for PGP =-></
\<-=- -= -=- -= -==- =- -=- =- -=->/

Jonathan Badger

unread,
Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

b...@max.tiac.net (Carl Muckenhoupt) writes:

>bad...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu (Jonathan Badger) writes:

>>John Francis <jo...@thuridion.com> writes:

>>>So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
>>>with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
>>>You know what? He's probably right!

>>Well, I disagree. This is the same argument that people like Ted
>>Turner use to justify colorizing classic black and white movies like

>>"The Maltese Falcon". The basic assumption is that just because one

>Er... I think you're misinterpreting this. I agree with John. A
>"colorized" Zork *would* attract a larger audience. This does not
>justify it. It would not improve it. But it would sell better.

No, I think you are misinterpreting what I am saying. The colorized
"Maltese Falcon" *might* attract more viewers, but loses much of
its character so that the viewer would be unlikely to want to watch
other Bogart films, colorized or not. A GUI Zork would be the much the
same and while it might sell some initial copies, it would not likely
increase future Zork sales, either text or GUI. So even from the base
economic perspective (as opposed to the artistic one) colorization and
"GUIization" is probably a failure.

I also question whether or not it is true that modern games don't want
to play text adventures. How will they know if they never get a chance
to try?


Russell L. Bryan

unread,
Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

Carl Muckenhoupt wrote:

> You know, I have this theory that, when graphic adventures were really
> beginning to come to the fore (ie, post-King's Quest), the Implementors
> began to deliberately include graphics-proof scenes in their games. My
> favorite example is the grue cave in Spellbreaker, where your light
> dribbles out weakly and puddles on the floor...

I had forgotten that one -- once I got my hands on the snavig spell I was
ACHING to find a grue somewhere, and Infocom, as usual, did not disappoint.

> Trickery, say I. Certainly, you can come up with things that can't be


> done graphically, if you deliberately set out to do so, just as you can
> come up with images that lose all their impact if described rather than
> seen. Graphics are different from text, certainly, but can you really
> claim that pictures are inferior to words? They affect the mind in such
> different ways, it's pointless to draw such a comparison.

It is in no way my intention to knock graphic games on the basis of the
puzzles I presented, nor to say that the problem is one of "the art is
inferior to the text." What is lost in graphic games is the ability to use
three of your senses -- touch, taste, and smell -- and to create clues and
puzzles which challenge these senses. Graphics limit the form by reducing
your world to sight and sound, and there is just SO much more to the world
than that. At least, with text, I could describe it to you. I could tell
you that you catch a whiff of coal gas, or that the water tastes a bit
rancid, or that you feel a crack where a secret door might be.

I am starting to become unhappy with people who quote the first sentence of
my articles and use it as the basis for a reply. Therefore, I'll sum up the
ignored 95% of my message and present, in three points, the present failures
of graphic adventures:

1) Only two senses -- sight and sound -- are represented in ANY form, whereas
text can at LEAST describe what each sense is registering.
2) No direct interaction with other characters beyond static a,b,c dialogue
choices, whereas text generally allows the player to ask what he wants,
when he wants, to whomever he wants.
3) Point-and-click object manipulation. "I don't know what this is going to
do, but my cursor lights up when I drag the pointer over it, so it's got
to do something." We left this behind when "use lever" stopped meaning
"push, pull, turn, screw, kill, kiss, or eat lever."



> The big difference between text and graphic games, IMHO, is not what can
> be done, but how much can be done. There is a great deal more overhead
> in producing an animated sequence illustrating an action than in writing
> text to describe it. Furthermore, it's a lot easier to generate text on
> the fly by swapping in nouns than it is to generate animation on the fly by
> swapping in images (especially if it's a static background image).
> Consequently, text adventures tend to be more completely interactive than
> graphic adventures, regardless of how many people are working on the
> project or for how long.

I agree with every point you make here. It seems to reinforce my points on
the limitations of graphic adventures. However, why should I care about
their overhead? Why should I care about complex programming problems (and
let's face it, a lot of today's graphic adventures are just elaborate
Macromind Director presentations -- the text adventures we write require more
programming ability than a lot of the graphic adventures I've seen)? The
present state of the art has become a series of object manipulation puzzles
between flashy graphic sequences, and have become so simplified that I finish
most in two afternoons.

I am not saying that graphic adventures won't reach the point of
interactivity and complexity that satisfies me. Voice recognition will take
huge steps in expanding the possibilities of graphic adventures, and within a
year the technology should be advanced and inexpensive enough to make this a
possibility. In fact, I think the most satisfying interactive experience I
will find will provide a fully-rendered world, first-person perspective, full
motion in 360 degrees (Doom with superb graphics and a neck so I can look up
and down -- I understand that Quake is almost there) with flawless voice
recognition. Stick a Cybermaxx on your head and that is as close to a
holodeck as you're going to get in your lifetime. That's the kind of
interactivity I'm looking for, and I'm willing to bet we'll have it within
the millenium.

As for the three missing senses, I think we'll have to wait until the next
millenium. Until then, we'll have to settle for:

"What's that smell? Poison gas!"
"I can feel a breeze."
"This lollipop tastes good. Mmmmm."

Anyone who has experienced the canned monologue of Interplay's Frankenstein
should appreciate how corny that sounds coming from your machine.

-- Russ

Nulldogma

unread,
Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

> I could be wrong, but I don't think most people have any problem against

> the *games* being graphical, but simply against the *interface*. It's
> fine for the story to show you what's happening with beautifully drawn
> graphics, instead of telling you with words. It's entirely different to
> have to show the game what you want to do by using clunky icons, rather
> than being able to simply tell it, in words.

Except for the point, made by several people now, that no one will ever
bother to produce beautifully drawn graphics for as many possible actions
as they will cleverly written text passages.

Though now that I'm playing Loom, I have to say that for a graphic game
with no text input, the range of allowed actions is not bad at all. A lot
of the *responses*, though, are text, which helps.

Neil

---------------------------------------------------------
Neil deMause ne...@echonyc.com
http://www.echonyc.com/~wham/neild.html
---------------------------------------------------------

Richard G Clegg

unread,
Jun 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/26/96
to

Russell L. Bryan (russ...@earthlink.net) wrote:
: John Francis wrote:

: > So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite


: > with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
: > You know what? He's probably right!

: I defy you to create the Tea/No Tea puzzle from HHGTTG with a

: current interface.
: Show me how the "former self" puzzle from Sorceror could ever
: work graphically.

As the Goon Show put it "Stand on my shoulders and then hoist me up.
Now let's see them do this on TV."

(Of course it didn't do anything for the fact that TV will always attract
a wider audience than radio - and sadly I think the same can be said of
graphics vs text gaming).

--
Richard G. Clegg There ain't no getting round getting round
Dept. of Mathematics (Network Control group) Uni. of York.
email: ric...@manor.york.ac.uk Eschew Obfustication
www: http://manor.york.ac.uk/top.html


Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Jun 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/26/96
to
In article <31D04B...@earthlink.net>,

Russell L. Bryan <russ...@earthlink.net> wrote:

> We left this behind when "use lever" stopped meaning
> "push, pull, turn, screw, kill, kiss, or eat lever."

That sounds like the U.S. Marine Corps Interface, there.

Adam
--
ad...@phoenix.princeton.edu | Viva HEGGA! | Save the choad! | 64,928 | Fnord
"Double integral is also the shape of lovers curled asleep":Pynchon | Linux
Thanks for letting me rearrange the chemicals in your head. | Team OS/2
You can have my PGP passphrase when you pry it from my cold, dead brain.

Andrew V Boyd

unread,
Jun 27, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/27/96
to
null...@aol.com (Nulldogma) writes:

>> I could be wrong, but I don't think most people have any problem against

>> the *games* being graphical, but simply against the *interface*. It's
>> fine for the story to show you what's happening with beautifully drawn
>> graphics, instead of telling you with words. It's entirely different to
>> have to show the game what you want to do by using clunky icons, rather
>> than being able to simply tell it, in words.

>Except for the point, made by several people now, that no one will ever
>bother to produce beautifully drawn graphics for as many possible actions
>as they will cleverly written text passages.

I disagree. An attitude like that is simply an indication that you
don't believe that the technology will evolve.

Remember, there was still a lot that you couldn't do with Infocom
games. I think a lot of our, the interactive fiction community's, ease
of use with text games stems from the fact that we just learned to
speak the dialect better.

Games liek Virtuality, which first premiered on the arcade scene
some five years are the first step in what gaming will eventually
be.The trick is to try to develop games that not only challednge our
mids, but immerse our senses.

I will tell you one thing, I never felt vertigo while playing Zork. I
never got startled out of my chair.

-a. b o y d

Chris Nebel

unread,
Jun 27, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/27/96
to
All right, I've just got to jump in on this one. There's been a lot of
debate back and forth on the virtues of text vs. graphics, point-and-click
vs typing, and so on. I, too, would like to see text adventures that
appeal to a broader audience, and for them to move out of their currently
extremely narrow niche. (Yes, I know we're all very passionate about i-f,
but let's face facts, there aren't that many of us.) I think the format
of i-f needs updating, but in a direction somewhat different than most
folk have talked about, and certainly different from what Messr. Kunkel
<cough, gag> seems to think.

The way I see it, there are two main problems with i-f games these days:

PROBLEM #1: Plain text is behind the technological curve. There's a
pervasive trend at least in the computer business, and to some extent
everywhere, that if a product doesn't use the latest and greatest stuff,
it just sucks.

This is particularly noticeable in hardware, where part of the marketing
is almost always convincing you that the new thing is far superior to what
you have now. Consider sound cards: First it was "Buy a sound card -- it
sounds way better than that crappy PC speaker!" Then you had "Buy a
16-bit sound card -- it sounds way better than that crappy 8-bit card
you've got now!" Then it's "Buy a wave-table card -- it sounds way better
than that crappy 16-bit card!"

You can also see this in the move towards flashier graphics and <ahem>
multimedia; similarly in the console game world, where now games have to
be 3D (or at least look 3D) in order to be considered even slightly
worthwhile.

SOLUTION #1: There's a limited amount you can do with this, because we'd
still like to have a TEXT game when we're through. It helps to remember
that print media have not died in the presence of television and movies --
people do still read books; I feel that similar folk would enjoy playing
i-f games if they could cope with them -- see #2.

I think we could do a lot to dress up the presentation of i-f games
without adding graphics to the game itself -- better typography, better
interface (#2 again). If you look at an i-f game these days, it's rather
obvious that it's a 20-year-old interface grafted onto a modern computer.


PROBLEM #2: Text adventures are difficult to interact with by today's
standards. It's difficult for most of us to notice this because we're
used to it, but you need a lot of specialized knowledge in order to play
one of these things! The trend towards see-and-point graphical interfaces
vs. remember-and-type text means that people have gotten used to not
having to type to give commands, and many computer users these days have
NEVER used a remember-and-type interface!

S&P is much easier than R&T mainly because it greatly restricts the number
of things you can do. There are only so many things on the screen to
point to, but there is a nearly infinite number of things you can type. I
remember my girlfriend trying to show someone the adventure she was
working on -- this guy had never seen one before. He was completely
baffled by the prompt and had no idea what to do. We give him the
standard line: "type what you want to do." This was no help whatsoever --
he knew enough about computers to suspect that he couldn't type just any
old thing, thought about it for a while, tried it anyway, and sure enough
the game didn't understand him. At this point he threw up his hands, and
I drove with him providing directions. I think a lot of people get turned
off to i-f because of similar experiences.

This whole problem is/was compounded by weak parsers and chintzy word
lists, which lead to playing "What's My Vocabulary?" with the game. My
boss once asserted that he didn't like text adventures because they all
came down to that eventually. We like to think that the parsers are
great, but they're really very restrictive -- we've just learned how to
deal with them.

(I suspect that there's yet another aspect, namely that most people
dislike typing!)

SOLUTION #2: Usually people suggest better parsers that understand more of
English, or perhaps better documentation in the games. I believe that a
much better solution (and one that isn't an open research problem!) is to
apply a see-and-point interface, so your options are more apparent, and so
you don't have to <shudder> type.

I've always envisioned a scheme where commands occupy a set of tiles
(almost like tools in a modern drawing program) -- click on a word in the
text, and the "current" command is applied to that word. This strikes me
as a good compromise between enabling a more S&P approach and preserving
the "freedom of movement" in an i-f game -- you're not reduced to choosing
from a list of possible macro-actions.

You still have the problem of tiny vocabularies, but you can alleviate
that by providing some sort of feedback that a word is a vocabulary word
-- perhaps drawing it in a different color or style, or highlighting the
word when the mouse passes over it.

Wow, this has gone on for quite a ways. I'm going to stop now. Comments?

Chris Nebel "There's a shoe in your glove compartment."
ch...@graphsoft.com "Yes, I know."
"WHY is there a shoe in your glove compartment?"
"So that when people look in my glove compartment,
they will see the shoe and wonder why it is there."

Jonathan Badger

unread,
Jun 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/28/96
to
ch...@graphsoft.com (Chris Nebel) writes:

>SOLUTION #2: Usually people suggest better parsers that understand more of
>English, or perhaps better documentation in the games. I believe that a
>much better solution (and one that isn't an open research problem!) is to
>apply a see-and-point interface, so your options are more apparent, and so
>you don't have to <shudder> type.

>I've always envisioned a scheme where commands occupy a set of tiles
>(almost like tools in a modern drawing program) -- click on a word in the
>text, and the "current" command is applied to that word. This strikes me
>as a good compromise between enabling a more S&P approach and preserving
>the "freedom of movement" in an i-f game -- you're not reduced to choosing
>from a list of possible macro-actions.

>You still have the problem of tiny vocabularies, but you can alleviate
>that by providing some sort of feedback that a word is a vocabulary word
>-- perhaps drawing it in a different color or style, or highlighting the
>word when the mouse passes over it.

>Wow, this has gone on for quite a ways. I'm going to stop now. Comments?

What you have described is basically the LucasArts SCUMM interface as
seen in Monkey Island and so forth. While I fully agree that it is
superior to the Sierra interface, it still falls far short of the
Infocom parser in terms of interactivity. Personally I defy anyone to
come up with a legitimate case of an Infocom parser failing to
understand what the user wants when the user has the right idea. What
normally happens is the user is just plain wrong about the solution to
the puzzle and blames the parser rather than himself or herself for
the failure to come up with the right solution. If an Infocom game
doesn't understand you, you are simply on the wrong track. The same
can't be said for more primitive parsers such as Scott Adams' where
vocabulary recognition *is* a major issue.

As for your and an earlier posters' view that stated that "text
adventures are simply begind the technological curve", may I remind
you that the book is for all practical purposes unchanged since
Gutenberg and yet novels are a legitimate form of entertainment
despite 100 years of motion pictures and 50 years of television?

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Jun 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/28/96
to
ab...@saturn.vcu.edu (Andrew V Boyd) writes:
> >Except for the point, made by several people now, that no one will ever
> >bother to produce beautifully drawn graphics for as many possible actions
> >as they will cleverly written text passages.
>
> I disagree. An attitude like that is simply an indication that you
> don't believe that the technology will evolve.

It's not a matter of technology. It's a matter of the author's effort.
A text passage describing an event takes a minute or so to create; an
image of the same event could take hours; an animation hours or days.
This means that if you compare a text game and a graphical game of the
same complexity, the graphical game will be *hundreds* of times more
expensive. Really.

This is not a theoretical handicap in the quality of graphical games,
but it sure as hell is a practical one.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

Xiphias Gladius

unread,
Jun 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/29/96
to
bad...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu (Jonathan Badger) writes:

>John Francis <jo...@thuridion.com> writes:

>> So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
>> with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
>> You know what? He's probably right!

> Well, I disagree. This is the same argument that people like Ted


> Turner use to justify colorizing classic black and white movies like
> "The Maltese Falcon". The basic assumption is that just because one

> technology came before another, updating older works with the newer
> technology will make them better, "because after all, if their
> creators had the newer technology available they would have used it
> to improve their work". What this argument fails to realize is that
> the older technology can have features that are missing in the newer
> technology.

Allow me to expand on that, if I may. . .

I can think of several recent text adventures that wouldn't have
worked as well in a graphical environment. "A Change In The Weather,"
for instance, would have been dismal as a graphics game, but was
lyrical as a text game.

Many times, an artist will choose a medium that may not be cutting
edge. You mentioned "The Maltese Falcon"; allow me to add
"Casablanca".

Both of those movies were filmed *after* the introduction of
Technocolor, and *decades* after tinting. The decision to film in
black and white was partially cost-based, and partially artistic.
However, be assured that if Jack Warner had thought that the movies
would sell better in Technocolor, they would have been filmed so.

_Myst_ could not have been a text game; nor could _Dark Seed_. Nor
could Erol Flynn's _Robin Hood_ been black and white.

It's important to use the right tools for the message, and those tools
change depending on what the message is.

- Ian

John Wood

unread,
Jun 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/29/96
to
1CF3E7...@thuridion.com> <badger.8...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu> <chris-27069...@news.softaid.net> <badger.8...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu>
Message-ID: <391013...@elvw.demon.co.uk>
Date: Saturday, Jun 29, 1996 09.53.55
Organization: None
Reply-To: jo...@elvw.demon.co.uk
X-Newsreader: Newswin Alpha 0.7
Lines: 53

bad...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu (Jonathan Badger) writes
(in response to ch...@graphsoft.com (Chris Nebel)'s post about problems
and solutions for bringing IF to the masses):


>
> Personally I defy anyone to
> come up with a legitimate case of an Infocom parser failing to
> understand what the user wants when the user has the right idea. What
> normally happens is the user is just plain wrong about the solution to
> the puzzle and blames the parser rather than himself or herself for
> the failure to come up with the right solution. If an Infocom game
> doesn't understand you, you are simply on the wrong track.

This may be true as far as vocabulary is concerned, but not for command
*structure*. I agree with Chris that the prompt can be very
intimidating, and first-time users are unlikely to know what to type.
With commercial games there are instructions in the manual (in the case
of Infocom, *halfway through* the manual), but you've got to

(a) Read the manual, and
(b) Remember what it said, or keep referring to the examples.

It's a steep learning curve.

An extreme example: one of our graphic artists was a fine artist who had
never used a computer. We sat her in front of DPaint, spent ten minutes
explaining the basics, and left her to try it out. Within half an hour
she was producing good material. Some days later I was explaining how
to do something involving typing commands: "First you type `this', then
you type `that'". She got into a hopeless muddle because I'd forgotten
to tell her to hit the return key between each command - and when I
realised this and explained, she still needed help because she couldn't
find the return key (it only had an arrow on it, not the word "return").

Our artist wasn't stupid, and neither are the new players - but they can
still get into trouble because of not knowing the conventions.

> As for your and an earlier posters' view that stated that "text
> adventures are simply begind the technological curve", may I remind
> you that the book is for all practical purposes unchanged since
> Gutenberg and yet novels are a legitimate form of entertainment
> despite 100 years of motion pictures and 50 years of television?

Um, Chris himself pointed out the survival of the novel as an argument
for IF having the potential to appeal to a larger audience - the book-
readers out there. I believe he was simply saying that the lack of
"tech glitz" was a reason why people don't give IF a chance in the first
place. If you've got a limited budget, have never played a text
adventure before, and have ten minutes in the shop to play with Ultima
Underworld and Spellbreaker before buying one, which would you go for?

John


Jon Ivars

unread,
Jun 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/29/96
to

"Russell L. Bryan" <russ...@earthlink.net> wrote:

>John Francis wrote:

>> So the reviewer feels that all-text games are a dead end, and a rewrite
>> with a more current interface would possibly attract a wider audience.
>> You know what? He's probably right!

>I defy you to create the Tea/No Tea puzzle from HHGTTG with a current interface.

>Show me how the "former self" puzzle from Sorceror could ever work graphically.

>How about ANY of the Infocom mysteries? I am astonished that anyone can enjoy
>graphic mysteries, where you are given a list of questions to ask each suspect,
>and your job is just to click the mouse until your choices are exhausted. Can
>that be considered fun? Infocom mysteries forced the player to get in the
>suspect's faces, ask them the right questions WITHOUT cue cards, collect evidence
>WITHOUT a glowing red cursor saying "There's something over here boss" whenever
>you hit a hot spot, and make the arrest.

>Actually, that's all I need. Tell me how an effective mystery -- an entire genre
>of fiction -- can be created with a modern interface, complete with suspect
>interviews, without resorting to "choose which question to ask now." That's your
>challenge. Then tell me why they haven't done it yet.

>Infocom's games won awards for their complex plots and puzzles. If you can not
>recreate these games, in their entirety, with a modern interface, then the modern
>interface is flawed and limiting. Modern games, while they have entertainment
>value, are choose-your-own-adventure style silent movies -- silent because the
>player can't say a word. All the player can do is find the hot spots, click on
>them, and watch as the cutscenes tell the story.

>-- Russ

Bravo! The reason I stopped playing Sierra was because they moved away
from text interface. I can't stand any of their current adventure
games. I bet there is a niche for text based adventures, I would be
very willing to buy one (So long as it comes on diskette, not CD) .
All that is needed is a team of programmers with a great idea and
finally someone to market the final product.

Man, I'm still playing those text adventures regularly, even the early
ones with crappy graphics.

Jon Ivars jiv...@abo.fi


Jonathan Badger

unread,
Jun 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/30/96
to
John Wood <jo...@elvw.demon.co.uk> writes (somehow this got off into a
discussion of the merits of GUIs in general):

>An extreme example: one of our graphic artists was a fine artist who had
>never used a computer. We sat her in front of DPaint, spent ten minutes
>explaining the basics, and left her to try it out. Within half an hour
>she was producing good material. Some days later I was explaining how
>to do something involving typing commands: "First you type `this', then
>you type `that'". She got into a hopeless muddle because I'd forgotten
>to tell her to hit the return key between each command - and when I
>realised this and explained, she still needed help because she couldn't
>find the return key (it only had an arrow on it, not the word "return").
>Our artist wasn't stupid, and neither are the new players - but they can
>still get into trouble because of not knowing the conventions.

Well, "GUI" interfaces are equally convention filled. What does it
mean to "click on" or "drag" something? Somebody had to explain that
to you just like someone had to explain what the return key was. It's
just that people have been bombarded by the media with messages saying
"GUIs are easy and CLIs are hard", so many people just assume you have
to be a nerd to use a CLI, so they don't even try. This is particularly
true in my experiences with "artsy" types.

>Um, Chris himself pointed out the survival of the novel as an argument
>for IF having the potential to appeal to a larger audience - the book-
>readers out there. I believe he was simply saying that the lack of
>"tech glitz" was a reason why people don't give IF a chance in the first
>place. If you've got a limited budget, have never played a text
>adventure before, and have ten minutes in the shop to play with Ultima
>Underworld and Spellbreaker before buying one, which would you go for?

Well, I think we need to write more reviews and talk to the general
public about why IF is a legitimate form of gaming today. Someone in
this thread mentioned jazz, which is a good metaphor. IF will probably
never be as widely popular again as it was in the 1980's, just as the
heyday of jazz was the 1930's. But just as reviews of jazz recordings
bring new fans into the fold, reviews of IF can ensure IF will endure
too. The catch is we have to have informed reviewers, for example
ourselves. Kunkel was about as suited for reviewing IF as a Metallica
fan would be for reviewing Count Basie.

A suggestion: why don't we submit reviews of IF to the places such as
the "Games Domain" where many gamers would see it? I mean all this
internal reviewing is nice, but we are just preaching to the
converted, so to speak.

John Wood

unread,
Jun 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/30/96
to

<83606217...@elvw.demon.co.uk> <badger.8...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu>
Message-ID: <394405...@elvw.demon.co.uk>
Date: Sunday, Jun 30, 1996 13.02.02

Organization: None
Reply-To: jo...@elvw.demon.co.uk
X-Newsreader: Newswin Alpha 0.7
Lines: 62

bad...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu (Jonathan Badger) writes (concerning my
example of a graphic artist having trouble typing commands)


>
> Well, "GUI" interfaces are equally convention filled. What does it
> mean to "click on" or "drag" something? Somebody had to explain that
> to you just like someone had to explain what the return key was. It's
> just that people have been bombarded by the media with messages saying
> "GUIs are easy and CLIs are hard", so many people just assume you have
> to be a nerd to use a CLI, so they don't even try. This is particularly
> true in my experiences with "artsy" types.

I agree that the gap is not as great as is sometimes claimed, but in my
experience it does exist. Part of the problem is that there are more
options available when typing (which is a CLI's strength too, of
course), so there are more conventions to learn before you can get
anywhere. It seemed obvious that we had to explain about moving the
mouse and clicking, so we did that at the start. Once we'd also pointed
out how to change colours by clicking on the palette bar, she was up and
running.

It's horses for courses, though. I can't imagine a usable, entirely
keyboard-driven graphics package, but when introducing a computer to a
senior citizens group the mouse was a non-starter. Many of them had
arthritis in their hands and couldn't hold it properly, but they could
type without much difficulty. As for me, I still have trouble with fine
control of the mouse - I use the keyboard whenever possible.

[This discussion came about because you said,

> Personally I defy anyone to
> come up with a legitimate case of an Infocom parser failing to
> understand what the user wants when the user has the right idea.

I was defending the idea that most gameplayers could pick up and play a
GUI-based game more easily than a CLI-based one. Hmm, certain Infocom
games could be described as GUE-based... 8-)]

> Well, I think we need to write more reviews and talk to the general
> public about why IF is a legitimate form of gaming today. Someone in
> this thread mentioned jazz, which is a good metaphor. IF will probably
> never be as widely popular again as it was in the 1980's, just as the
> heyday of jazz was the 1930's. But just as reviews of jazz recordings
> bring new fans into the fold, reviews of IF can ensure IF will endure
> too. The catch is we have to have informed reviewers, for example
> ourselves. Kunkel was about as suited for reviewing IF as a Metallica
> fan would be for reviewing Count Basie.

True. 8-(

> A suggestion: why don't we submit reviews of IF to the places such as
> the "Games Domain" where many gamers would see it? I mean all this
> internal reviewing is nice, but we are just preaching to the
> converted, so to speak.

Perhaps the internal reviews could be regarded as a "practice range" for
potential reviewers. Has anyone tried submitting an IF review to a
major games magazine? (And I'm sorry, but I don't think "Acorn User"
counts.)

John


JefJames

unread,
Jul 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/1/96
to

This is in response to the whole black&white vs. colorization, text vs.
graphics analogy thing. (It's gotten too big to just keep pasting on so
look back if you don't know what I'm talking about.) It seems to me that
the point is getting a little lost. I don't think the issue is whether
the original Zork could be made into a graphic version, or even whether
graphics games are more or less artistic or valid than text games. To me,
the point of the message way back when that started this whole debate is
that a graphic interface (like, for example, the one in RTZ) doesn't allow
for *puzzles* that are as complex, as compelling, or that require/allow as
much thought/ingenuity/varied attempts at solutions. Point and click is
inherently limiting; you can't try anything you want, you can only try the
actions available to you (RTZ is particularly bad in this sense because
the list of possible actions changes with location, eg, setting something
on fire is only an option in the controls when there is something
flammable nearby. So if you see that action as an option, well, duh, you
might want to try setting something on fire. Boy, that took a lot of
cleverness). So basically, I think its the complexity of the puzzles and
the variety of possible attempts at solving that's missing from the
graphic games I've played, and that's what I liked about text adventures
in the first place.

Allison Weaver

unread,
Jul 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/1/96
to

On Sat, 29 Jun 1996, Jon Ivars wrote:

> Bravo! The reason I stopped playing Sierra was because they moved away
> from text interface. I can't stand any of their current adventure
> games. I bet there is a niche for text based adventures, I would be
> very willing to buy one (So long as it comes on diskette, not CD) .
> All that is needed is a team of programmers with a great idea and
> finally someone to market the final product.

Sorry, I didn't keep an address on file. Most software I get now comes on
1.4M 3.5 disks, but the packing always offers to make 5.25 or 720K 3.5
available for those who need them. Will you all consider this for our
friends who don't have CDs?

Allison


Helen

unread,
Jul 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/2/96
to

In article <badger.8...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu> bad...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu (Jonathan Badger) writes:

> From: bad...@phylo.life.uiuc.edu (Jonathan Badger)
> Newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction
> Date: 30 Jun 96 02:55:20 GMT
> Organization: University of Illinois at Urbana
>
> John Wood <jo...@elvw.demon.co.uk> writes (somehow this got off into a
> discussion of the merits of GUIs in general):
>
> >An extreme example: one of our graphic artists was a fine artist who had
> >never used a computer. We sat her in front of DPaint, spent ten minutes
> >explaining the basics, and left her to try it out. Within half an hour
> >she was producing good material. Some days later I was explaining how
> >to do something involving typing commands: "First you type `this', then
> >you type `that'". She got into a hopeless muddle because I'd forgotten
> >to tell her to hit the return key between each command - and when I
> >realised this and explained, she still needed help because she couldn't
> >find the return key (it only had an arrow on it, not the word "return").
> >Our artist wasn't stupid, and neither are the new players - but they can
> >still get into trouble because of not knowing the conventions.
>

> Well, "GUI" interfaces are equally convention filled. What does it
> mean to "click on" or "drag" something? Somebody had to explain that
> to you just like someone had to explain what the return key was. It's
> just that people have been bombarded by the media with messages saying
> "GUIs are easy and CLIs are hard", so many people just assume you have
> to be a nerd to use a CLI, so they don't even try. This is particularly
> true in my experiences with "artsy" types.
>

I always thought that icon-based interface is actually less intuitive than
the text-based because: 1)it is difficult to understand the meaning of the icons
except maybe a few more obvious - in games - like "eye"-"look", "hand"-"pick"
2)the words do not change - the icons are different in every application,
so you have to get used to the different look of the icon and it will always take
more time to identify the icon than the word. 3)often the icons are poorly drawn
so even if it is known that "diskette" means "save" it is difficult to recognize the
picture of diskette. 4)the meaning of the icons can be different and even opposite
in different applications - for example I always interpret the X (cross) mark
as "ok" (to mark something "on") so I usually get confused with the applications
where the X is "cancel" and the checkmark is "ok".

I also have poor mouse skills so I often click on the wrong icon which can
potentially produce disastrous results; but it is my personal problem...
should be playing more arcade games.

Helen

Nathan J. Williams

unread,
Jul 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/2/96
to

In article <baf.83...@max.tiac.net> b...@max.tiac.net (Carl Muckenhoupt) writes:

You know, I have this theory that, when graphic adventures were really
beginning to come to the fore (ie, post-King's Quest), the Implementors
began to deliberately include graphics-proof scenes in their games. My
favorite example is the grue cave in Spellbreaker, where your light
dribbles out weakly and puddles on the floor...

Somewhere in one of my more ancient home-computer magazines is a
full-page ad for Infocom games, with the headline "Releases the
world's most powerful graphics technology", and a drawing of a
brain. It's one of the best ads I've ever seen.

Virtual reality and rendering be damned. Inside your head is
where the action is.

- Nathan


Mark Butler

unread,
Jul 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/3/96
to

> On Sat, 29 Jun 1996, Jon Ivars wrote:
>
> > Bravo! The reason I stopped playing Sierra was because they moved away
> > from text interface. I can't stand any of their current adventure
> > games. I bet there is a niche for text based adventures, I would be

I understand that the next Leisure Suit Larry (7 I think) from Sierra will go back to a text based interface,
the one screen shot I saw showed a menu tree (use -> foam-filled sex-toy -> with -> xxx) and a type in
area...they are making a big spash about it.

Mark

William R Sherman

unread,
Jul 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/4/96
to Nathan J. Williams, wshe...@ncsa.uiuc.edu

In article <...>, nat...@ludicrous-speed.ai.mit.edu (Nathan J. Williams) writes:

> Somewhere in one of my more ancient home-computer magazines is a
> full-page ad for Infocom games, with the headline "Releases the
> world's most powerful graphics technology", and a drawing of a
> brain. It's one of the best ads I've ever seen.

Can you be more specific? I recently went searching for that add
in some of my old Bytes, but I didn't find it. Of course, I couldn't
find my really old Bytes (the one's from the 70's).


>
> Virtual reality and rendering be damned. Inside your head is
> where the action is.

I would like to use that add for a book I'm writing ... on Virtual
Reality.

> - Nathan


Bill

/************************************************************************/
/* Bill Sherman (wshe...@ncsa.uiuc.edu) */
/* National Center for Supercomputing Applications */
/* University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign */
/* */
/* "You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes." */
/* Og */
/************************************************************************/


Michael C. Martin

unread,
Jul 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/9/96
to

Roger Carbol wrote:
>
> In a previous article, russ...@earthlink.net ("Russell L. Bryan") says:
>
> Any interface is limiting, which is neither
> a good thing nor a bad thing and certainly not a "flawed" thing.
>
> Sure, there are Infocom games that could not be translated directly
> into a graphical interface. Undoubtably there are graphical games
> (something as simple as a crossword puzzle) which would be
> extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to do within a
> text-based interface. And there are some games, such as Tag,
> which are not really well-suited for either interface.
>
> If there is to be any sort of bottom line with respect to
> the usefulness of any given interface in this context, it has
> to be the enjoyment of the user. And I think it's evident
> that there are a considerable number of users who enjoy
> each and both types of interfaces.
>
> Or so say I.


All very well said, and excellent points!! I agree wholeheartedly!

Mike

Mark Clements

unread,
Jul 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/21/96
to

In article <chris-27069...@news.softaid.net>
ch...@graphsoft.com "Chris Nebel" writes:

> I've always envisioned a scheme where commands occupy a set of tiles
> (almost like tools in a modern drawing program) -- click on a word in the
> text, and the "current" command is applied to that word. This strikes me
> as a good compromise between enabling a more S&P approach and preserving
> the "freedom of movement" in an i-f game -- you're not reduced to choosing
> from a list of possible macro-actions.
>
> You still have the problem of tiny vocabularies, but you can alleviate
> that by providing some sort of feedback that a word is a vocabulary word
> -- perhaps drawing it in a different color or style, or highlighting the
> word when the mouse passes over it.

This sounds very like the interface used in an old game I played on
the spectrum, called Kobyashi Naru (or something similar). It had a picture
of the current area in the middle of the screen, which was static, and
non-interactive, around which a load of icons were placed, such as those for
movement, examining objects, climbing, swimming, eating etc.

There was a text line where commands were built up from selecting the icons
and so on. So far this sounds quite Lucasarts, but the bottom third of
the screen contained the text description of the area, or the response to
a command. If you wanted to examine your location, you would select the
'examine' icon, and then move around the text at the bottom of the screen,
and select a word that you wanted to examine.

The interface was very clunky and horrible, but I always thought it would
be great if a mouse was used, instead of keys. It may also be improved
by only letting nouns be selected from the text, but that is a moot point.

You could design IF using a system based on this, that could appeal to a
wider audience, without losing the flexibility of typing, simply by having
a nested set of commands, with common ones on screen, and rarer ones more
hidden, either by menus or pop-up lists or whatever. It could also allow
the user to type the commands in themself to make it easy for us texties
to use.

Is this the kind of thing you meant? Or am I grasping at the incorrect
pole of the er... pole? (Even so, it's a plausible idea).

--
Mark Clements is a smelly poo. ___ ,';_,-,__
/~_ ,',' |O|,:,\,
Oh - wait a minute! That's me! / /,',' /--|_|-;:;|
( )',_) ) ):;)
Mark Clements is a fragrant poo. >\,(__ / /:;;|
.......................................Mark...//~ /:;:;:\

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages