Physical traversal of landscape

18 views
Skip to first unread message

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 6, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/6/97
to

I've been reading some of the DejaNews back posts about linearity vs.
interactivity. Often the "interactivity" or "perceived freedom" of an IF
is the ability to wander around on a map, bringing oneself to new locations
so as to stumble upon new things, or cause new things to happen.
Personally I often find such "walks of the landscape" to be linear at a
strategic level, because there are only so many rooms to walk into, and the
plotline typically structures the landscape as far as what rooms you can
enter at any one time.

Why are we always expressing our traversal of the landscape in terms of N,
S, E, W? These kinds of walks get boring, as we usually discover our
boundaries fairly readily. Why not move by expressing one's intents about
what one feels like doing next, at a much higher level of abstraction?
Then let the game itself bring you to a new location. It can summarize
some scenic highlights along the way, like "you go over a river and through
the woods to Grandma's house, and now...." You could look at this device
as an "express lane" purely for motion, but I'm thinking of it more as an
"express lane" to get to some interesting state of the game. Let's say
we're experiencing the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The game's
reaction to a statement like "I'M HUNGRY" might bring you to Grandma's
house. The game's reaction to "PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH" might be to bring
you to a place where the Wolf is likely to be (based on your character's
current knowledge) and then wait around for awhile. Then when it's time
for the rising action of pulling out the wolf's choppers, we go back into a
finer-grained, manual mode of interaction.

This creates a game that is about guessing the logic and intentionality of
the author. Admittedly, that's hard for the author to communicate and hard
for the player to successfully guess. I think we traditionally use N, S,
E, W because it tacitly defines how the game universe works. It's a common
convention, it is readily communicated. But structurally, it also results
in some boring and predictable plot developments. You simply have to keep
iterating over all of those rooms in order to cause the game to advance.
Why bother with that? Why not just tell the computer what you want, and
then have the computer (approximately) give it to you? Or give you a
mediation between what you want, and what is appropriate for the game's
plotline? "KILL WOLF IMMEDIATELY" might be what you want to do, but it's
appropriate for the game to say "Not so fast. But while chopping wood all
day you have come upon a lovely axe, sharp and precise...."


Cheers,
--
Brandon J. Van Every <vane...@blarg.net> DEC Commodity Graphics
http://www.blarg.net/~vanevery Windows NT Alpha OpenGL
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The anvil upon which you hammer another's words is as hard or as soft
as you care to make it. Wherein lies insight?

Adam Cadre

unread,
Sep 6, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/6/97
to

Brandon Van Every wrote:
> Why are we always expressing our traversal of the landscape in terms
> of N, S, E, W?

Because when we expressed it in terms of Q, X, Z, and 5, people got
confused.

-----
Adam Cadre, Durham, NC
http://www.duke.edu/~adamc

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu> wrote in article
<3411DE...@acpub.duke.edu>...

>
> Brandon Van Every wrote:
> > Why are we always expressing our traversal of the landscape in terms
> > of N, S, E, W?
>
> Because when we expressed it in terms of Q, X, Z, and 5, people got
> confused.

Adam, what is it with you and this stock phrase? Every time you use it,
I'm convinced you're saying absolutely nothing and dodging the point. I
suppose I've only heard you use it twice, but both times it left the same
impression. How abot expressing *yourself* more clearly, so as to prevent
confusion?

If I take your statement above at face value, I believe you're saying that
"we should always move about in a game from room to room, with N S E W as
the means of navigation. Cartesian space is the only method of
interactivity that the user can hope to understand."

Why not develop a game where we traverse according to the player's
psychology and mood, not the lay of the land? Sure, it has different
authorial problems and consequences. But deal with those consequences, or
else don't deal with them, if that's your mood. Maybe you have something
to offer to this discussion, but you're being rather cryptic, and I don't
see your one-liner as imparting any value or insight into the problem.
It's tantamount to saying "well I like paintings of ducks, barns, and
sunsets, because I know what I'm looking at. Why paint anything else?"

Toine de Greef

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

Brandon Van Every (vane...@blarg.net) wrote:
> Why not develop a game where we traverse according to the player's
> psychology and mood, not the lay of the land? Sure, it has different
> authorial problems and consequences. But deal with those consequences, or
> else don't deal with them, if that's your mood. Maybe you have something
> to offer to this discussion, but you're being rather cryptic, and I don't
> see your one-liner as imparting any value or insight into the problem.
> It's tantamount to saying "well I like paintings of ducks, barns, and
> sunsets, because I know what I'm looking at. Why paint anything else?"

Why not add time as a fourth dimension, and mix up the directions ? That is:
it may well be that time is traversed on the E-W axis, N-S travels time,
U-D travels N-S and the time-axis is used for U-D. This might create nice
effects in combined directions, but also strangely affects commands like
'wait' and meta-commands like 'score' and 'undo'.

Just a thought ...

Toine.
--
You must remember this / A kiss is still a kiss
A .sig is just a .sig / The fundamental things apply
As time goes by -- 'As time goes by' from Casablanca

Francis Irving

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

On Sat, 06 Sep 1997 18:52:17 -0400, Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu>
wrote:

>
>Brandon Van Every wrote:
>> Why are we always expressing our traversal of the landscape in terms
>> of N, S, E, W?
>
>Because when we expressed it in terms of Q, X, Z, and 5, people got
>confused.

Adam's response is particularly ironic, as one of the things that I liked
about I-0 is that it had quite a lot of navigation that _wasn't_ expressed
using N, S, E and W.

Minor I-0 spoilers...


Examples quickly taken from near the start:
CROSS ROAD, HITCHHIKE, KISS JACK

Francis.

Home: fra...@pobox.co.uk Work: fra...@ncgraphics.co.uk

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

Toine de Greef <to...@stack.nl> wrote in article
<5uu9ju$b...@toad.stack.nl>...


>
> Why not add time as a fourth dimension, and mix up the directions ? That
is:
> it may well be that time is traversed on the E-W axis, N-S travels time,
> U-D travels N-S and the time-axis is used for U-D. This might create nice
> effects in combined directions, but also strangely affects commands like
> 'wait' and meta-commands like 'score' and 'undo'.

Ok, adding Past (P) Future (F) is easy as far as syntax is concerned. Then
it becomes like yet another direction in a room, namely, can you go that
way? People would often expect something "significant" to change about a
room, or about the global state of the game, if they went to the past or
future. Although it would depend on the time travelled... a few hours
might not affect the room's contents, and thus the (P F) exits become "mere
exits" like all the other (N S E W) exits.

As far as the program's implementation is concerned, travelling a long
distance through time is probably equivalent to travelling a long distance
through space. Usually the distance along a passageway is "short," and
that's how we relate neighboring rooms to each other. But when the
distance is "long," the effect is of a teleporter to a completely separate
area. So too with time?

The length of travel in (P F) would vary from room to room. Much as the (N
S E W) spatial relations of the game define a landscape, the (P F)
relations would define a timescape. The timescape would be the mechanism
by which temporal ambiguities are resolved. If there's only a finite
number of time rooms and directions of travel, you can't find yourself in
"ambiguous time" i.e. a timespace that the author didn't anticipate.
Similarly, (N S E W) resolves ambiguities of space, i.e. an exit from a
room that the author didn't anticipate.

If we usually expect major events to happen as we travel in (P F), then why
couldn't we simply expect comparable events to happen as we travel in (N S
E W) ? There could simply be a "special passageway" out of a room that
significantly changes the global state of the game. These special
passageways are usually implemented as obstructing puzzles, but we could
certainly make them unobstructed and easy to traverse. At first glance it
might not seem as metaphorically satisfying for spatial movement to have as
profound an effect as temporal movement, as we're very used to moving in
space and not really capable of moving so easily through time. But the
implementation of both would be the same, in game terms.

Ok, now that I've developed the idea of passages going (P F) being pretty
much equivalent to passages going (N S E W), I'll ask a question about your
original point. Why scramble up the axes? What value do we get out of the
notation N-S, E-W, U-D, why not just (P F) ? Are you trying to implement a
maze? Or are you trying to overcome some limitation of existing IF
systems, i.e. are they hardwired to do (N S E W) and you're looking for a
workaround?

Gord Jeoffroy

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

On 6 Sep 1997 20:45:55 GMT, "Brandon Van Every" <vane...@blarg.net>
wrote:

>Why are we always expressing our traversal of the landscape in terms of N,
>S, E, W?

I'll hazard a guess: because graph paper is designed that way. We draw
our maps, literally or imaginatively, on paper with ninety-degree
angles, and the NSEW directions just happen to conform with that.

Inventive writers will use non-cardinal directions, or teleportation,
or knowledgeable NPC cab drivers to work around this.

> Why not move by expressing one's intents about
>what one feels like doing next, at a much higher level of abstraction?

A great place to live, but who'd want to program it?

>Then let the game itself bring you to a new location. It can summarize
>some scenic highlights along the way, like "you go over a river and through
>the woods to Grandma's house, and now...."

Trouble is, you're denying the meticulous players the opportunity to
explore those woods. You've gone from one extreme to the other.

>The game's
>reaction to a statement like "I'M HUNGRY" might bring you to Grandma's
>house.

Which is unlike reality. If I say "I'm hungry," very little happens --
at best I'll have someone tell me to shut up and go eat. I then have
to "traverse the landscape" to a McDimwit's.

A solution, which was a thread some months ago, is to program the game
so that it'll react intelligently to commands like "GO TO McDIMWIT'S."
If you (the character) know where that is, the game figures out the
best route and takes you there. Otherwise, you've got to go exploring
on your own, with NSEW.

> The game's reaction to "PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH" might be to bring
>you to a place where the Wolf is likely to be (based on your character's
>current knowledge) and then wait around for awhile.

I'd strongly protest a construct like this. "PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH" is
a command that ought to happen immediately and in the current
location. On the other hand, I'd be happy with something like "GO TO
WHERE I CAN PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH." I can see why that would bring me
"to a place where the Wolf is likely to be."

>This creates a game that is about guessing the logic and intentionality of
>the author.

In my opinion, a bad idea that is a whole other thread altogether. I
didn't buy Starcross because I wanted to guess the authors' logic and
intentionality -- I bought it because I wanted to fool around on a
spaceship.

>You simply have to keep
>iterating over all of those rooms in order to cause the game to advance.
>Why bother with that?

Because that's part of what IF is: the exploration of many places.
It's not boring if the author's done a good job.

--Gord

Adam Cadre

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

Brandon Van Every wrote:
> Adam, what is it with you and this stock phrase? Every time you use
> it, I'm convinced you're saying absolutely nothing and dodging the
> point. I suppose I've only heard you use it twice, but both times
> it left the same impression.

That's funny -- I could've sworn I've only used it once, namely, when
I came up with it yesterday evening.

> If I take your statement above at face value, I believe you're saying
> that "we should always move about in a game from room to room, with N
> S E W as the means of navigation. Cartesian space is the only method
> of interactivity that the user can hope to understand."

'Twas a joke, son, nothing more than a joke. The message you were
meant to come away with was, "Why, Q, X and Z don't correspond to any
directions at all! And 5, a number -- how delightfully incongruous!
I'm so amused by the comic shenanigans of that lovable scamp that
I feel compelled to send him several thousand dollars."

> Why not develop a game where we traverse according to the player's
> psychology and mood, not the lay of the land?

Why not? Go right ahead.

> I don't see your one-liner as imparting any value or insight into the
> problem.

Insight? Hell no. Value? Well, I dunno 'bout you, but where I come
from, about 3% of the point of human conversation is to exchange useful
information and the other 97% is to make each other laugh.

Neil K.

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

In article <01bcbb05$2b27f200$9e9f...@hammurabi.blarg.net>, "Brandon Van
Every" <vane...@blarg.net> wrote:

> Why are we always expressing our traversal of the landscape in terms of N,

> S, E, W? These kinds of walks get boring, as we usually discover our

> boundaries fairly readily. Why not move by expressing one's intents about


> what one feels like doing next, at a much higher level of abstraction?

Well this post isn't going to answer your specific question, really.
Rather I'd like to make an observation about your question in general.

I'd like to preface my comment by saying that I don't claim or even think
to speak for most of the regulars on this group. However, I have hung
around here for rather a long time and so have a bit of a sense of where
discussions have gone and tend to go. And one generalization I think I'm
fairly comfortable here with is that most of us are of a nerdy bent and,
therefore, tend to respect implementation of ideas rather than just
talking about theory. Talk is cheap... code is hard.

That doesn't mean that theoretical discussions aren't important. Just
that a concrete working example does far more to convince or interest or
whatever the crowd. If somebody (particularly a relative newcomer who
hasn't produced anything for public consumption) comes along and says -
"hey you know that traditional Infocom model is pretty lame... why don't
you guys try something more like a story, focused on specific objects?"
we're likely to nod politely and say "Go ahead. Write such a program". But
if someone comes along, as Andrew Plotkin did a little while ago with
Space Under the Window, and offers a working example of a different
paradigm, then we're going to be much more interested, I think. It's like
someone saying "hey wouldn't it be cool to have a compiler that produced
code compatible with Infocom interpreters?" and Graham Nelson actually
going out and *doing* it.

It's easy to identify problems with the current model upon which the
typical adventure game is based. It's also easy to sit back and come up
with all kinds of exciting new directions the genre can go in. It's not
easy to implement a new model that actually works.

The example you cite - the use of cardinal compass points to specify
directions in a game - is very easy to criticize. I mean, it's utterly
artificial. The player hasn't got a compass - how is he or she supposed to
know absolute directions? The underlying model is clearly that of an
absolute grid, a Cartesian map of points with vectors connecting them.
Phoney, restrictive, not very naturalistic. But, thing is that it works.

Much of the reason we still use it is, of course, because it's tradition.
It's worked since Adventure, (though Adventure did support non-compass
directions) and people are familiar with it. Once a novice is introduced
to the model there's not much learning curve. But there are other reasons.
It's an unambiguous model, which works well with our relatively limited
parsers. The underlying grid model is artificial, but is easy to implement
on a computer. (sure, subdividing rooms arbitrarily by supporting commands
like "stand next to the table" or "move until I'm 3 metres away from the
plane" would be nice, but a nightmare to implement.) It's a clear way of
the player informing the computer what should be done next. Proposed
deviations from the model often place a heavy burden of assumption upon
the author, which simulationist-oriented players object to. Etc.

I should stress that my post isn't meant to dissuade you from posting
your theoretical discussions. All I'd like to point out is that I suspect
people are going to be skeptical of and not incredibly receptive to your
ideas unless you can back them up with interesting working examples.
Otherwise it's just another newbie to the group telling us that our
current model (or use of vocabulary like "non-linear") is all wrong. And
we turn into a bunch of defensive nerds. :)

And I do mean working examples. You illustrate your comments neatly with
examples, but written examples and working examples are very different
creatures. I've found many a time that it's easy to argue something using
simple examples, but it's a totally different story when it comes actually
to *implementing* such an example. All of a sudden all kinds of bizarre
problems you never thought of pop up out of nowhere. And you realize that
maybe there is a reason why things are generally implemented the way they
are after all. Paradigm shifts are easy to think up and hard to make real.

I'd like to conclude this ramble by admitting I am being a little
hypocritical. I have a huge game in progress that implements a lot of
ideas I have about I-F, but it's not publicly available yet. So every time
I participate in one of these little discussions I'm as guilty of the
crime of handwaving as the next person. By means of feeble defence I hope
that when my game is actually released someday all my pontificating will
make sense...

- Neil K.

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

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

> Why not develop a game where we traverse according to the player's

> psychology and mood, not the lay of the land? Sure, it has different
> authorial problems and consequences. But deal with those consequences,
or
> else don't deal with them, if that's your mood. Maybe you have something

> to offer to this discussion, but you're being rather cryptic, and I don't


> see your one-liner as imparting any value or insight into the problem.

> It's tantamount to saying "well I like paintings of ducks, barns, and
> sunsets, because I know what I'm looking at. Why paint anything else?"

Well, there is always Nord and Bert, where the landscape is traversed by
typing in the room name you want to go to...
--

+------------------------+----------------------------------------------+
+ Gunther Schmidl + "I couldn't help it. I can resist everything +
+ Ferd.-Markl-Str. 39/16 + except temptation" -- Oscar Wilde +
+ A-4040 LINZ +----------------------------------------------+
+ Tel: 0732 25 28 57 + http://oberon.home.ml.org - german homepage! +
+------------------------+---+------------------------------------------+
+ sothoth (at) usa (dot) net + please remove the "xxx." before replying +
+----------------------------+------------------------------------------+


Adam Cadre

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

Neil K. wrote:
> I'd like to preface my comment by saying that I don't claim or even
> think to speak for most of the regulars on this group.

You speak for me, at least this time around. Great post.

Matthew Daly

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

"Gunther Schmidl" <sot...@xxx.usa.net>, if that is your REAL name, said:

>> Why not develop a game where we traverse according to the player's
>> psychology and mood, not the lay of the land? Sure, it has different
>> authorial problems and consequences. But deal with those consequences,
>or
>> else don't deal with them, if that's your mood. Maybe you have something
>> to offer to this discussion, but you're being rather cryptic, and I don't
>> see your one-liner as imparting any value or insight into the problem.
>> It's tantamount to saying "well I like paintings of ducks, barns, and
>> sunsets, because I know what I'm looking at. Why paint anything else?"
>
>Well, there is always Nord and Bert, where the landscape is traversed by
>typing in the room name you want to go to...

Suspect allows both "normal" compass directions and commands like "GO TO
KITCHEN" which calculates the shortest path to that room and moves you one
step closer at every move that you keep moving. I'm sorry that it wasn't
picked up as a universal convention -- it was very useful.

-Matthew, wondering why Clyde "Fred" Sloniker's quote hasn't shown up in
this thread yet.
--
Matthew Daly I feel that if a person has problems communicating
mwd...@kodak.com the very least he can do is to shut up - Tom Lehrer

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

--- Support the anti-Spam amendment! Join at http://www.cauce.org ---

Branko Collin

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

On 6 Sep 1997 20:45:55 GMT, "Brandon Van Every" <vane...@blarg.net> wrote
[why do we move by stating the directions? why not like:]
>Let's say
>we're experiencing the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The game's

>reaction to a statement like "I'M HUNGRY" might bring you to Grandma's
>house. The game's reaction to "PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH" might be to bring

>you to a place where the Wolf is likely to be (based on your character's
>current knowledge) and then wait around for awhile. Then when it's time
>for the rising action of pulling out the wolf's choppers, we go back into a
>finer-grained, manual mode of interaction.
>
>This creates a game that is about guessing the logic and intentionality of
>the author. Admittedly, that's hard for the author to communicate and hard
>for the player to successfully guess. I think we traditionally use N, S,
>E, W because it tacitly defines how the game universe works. It's a common
>convention, it is readily communicated. But structurally, it also results
>in some boring and predictable plot developments. You simply have to keep

>iterating over all of those rooms in order to cause the game to advance.
>Why bother with that? Why not just tell the computer what you want, and
>then have the computer (approximately) give it to you? Or give you a
>mediation between what you want, and what is appropriate for the game's
>plotline? "KILL WOLF IMMEDIATELY" might be what you want to do, but it's
>appropriate for the game to say "Not so fast. But while chopping wood all
>day you have come upon a lovely axe, sharp and precise...."

You may want to take a look at The Space Under the Window (SUTWIN.Zx) at
the IF-archive.

--
Branko Collin - col...@xs4all.nl
"ze had niets in de gaten / ze sliep zo diep en stil
heb ik haar laat verlaten / twas ochtend twee april"
- Jaap Fisher


Neil K.

unread,
Sep 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/7/97
to

In article <34137b69...@news.accessone.com>, al...@accessone.com
(Alan Conroy) wrote:

> [...] I just wouldn't want to squelch a theorist who couldn't
> code to save his life. Who knows, the next new theory here could
> catch people's imaginations and send IF in a whole new direction.
> Would you want to discourage that?
>
> [...] For example, do
> they put the words "WARNING: A THEORY FOLLOWS" in the title when they
> post a new message so those who aren't interested can skip that
> thread? [...]

True enough. Perhaps my post was a little unfair, and perhaps
theory-related posts should be prefaced with a [THEORY] tag so that bitter
former grad students like me who have slogged through a painful decade of
navel-gazing academia can cheerfully ignore them in favour of dissecting
little bits of code. Or, in my case, read them anyway because this is one
of the few newsgroups which I actually pretty well read in its entirety.

Really, though. I don't object to theoretical discussions because they
deal with theory. I guess what annoys a bit is rehashing of ideas that: a)
are not very good, b) have already been discussed and/or implemented for
years and years or c) are so vague as to be useless.

But I admit that carping about this is all rather churlish. Sorry.

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu> wrote in article
<341306...@acpub.duke.edu>...

>
> Brandon Van Every wrote:
> > Adam, what is it with you and this stock phrase? Every time you use
> > it, I'm convinced you're saying absolutely nothing and dodging the
> > point. I suppose I've only heard you use it twice, but both times
> > it left the same impression.
>
> That's funny -- I could've sworn I've only used it once, namely, when
> I came up with it yesterday evening.

My apologies. After I posted, I realized that it was in fact someone else
who'd used the same kind of phrase.

> > If I take your statement above at face value, I believe you're saying
> > that "we should always move about in a game from room to room, with N
> > S E W as the means of navigation. Cartesian space is the only method
> > of interactivity that the user can hope to understand."
>
> 'Twas a joke, son, nothing more than a joke. The message you were
> meant to come away with was, "Why, Q, X and Z don't correspond to any
> directions at all! And 5, a number -- how delightfully incongruous!
> I'm so amused by the comic shenanigans of that lovable scamp that
> I feel compelled to send him several thousand dollars."

Well, that's the pitfall of being a pithy smart-ass, the message doesn't
always come through as you intended. A smiley-face is good insurance, if
you really want something to be read as a joke, rather than a dismissal of
what was being discussed. I would probably have read your phrase as a joke
if you'd posted at least one paragraph reacting seriously to what I
originally posted, thereby clarifying your true thoughts and intents. But
you didn't do that.

> > I don't see your one-liner as imparting any value or insight into the
> > problem.
>

> Insight? Hell no. Value? Well, I dunno 'bout you, but where I come
> from, about 3% of the point of human conversation is to exchange useful
> information and the other 97% is to make each other laugh.

Well I guess then we have this difference of culture. I'd say I come up
with something amusing maybe 20% of the time, the other 80% I'm trying to
develop/exchange useful information. That's just me. It wouldn't be the
1st time that someone said I took things too seriously.

David Gatewood

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Brandon Van Every (vane...@blarg.net) wrote:
: Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu> wrote in article
: <341306...@acpub.duke.edu>...

[somethin' about Q, X, Z, and 5 being confusing directions]

: >
: > Brandon Van Every wrote:
: > > If I take your statement above at face value, I believe you're saying


: > > that "we should always move about in a game from room to room, with N
: > > S E W as the means of navigation. Cartesian space is the only method
: > > of interactivity that the user can hope to understand."
: >
: > 'Twas a joke, son, nothing more than a joke. The message you were
: > meant to come away with was, "Why, Q, X and Z don't correspond to any
: > directions at all! And 5, a number -- how delightfully incongruous!
: > I'm so amused by the comic shenanigans of that lovable scamp that
: > I feel compelled to send him several thousand dollars."
:
: Well, that's the pitfall of being a pithy smart-ass, the message doesn't
: always come through as you intended. A smiley-face is good insurance, if
: you really want something to be read as a joke, rather than a dismissal of
: what was being discussed. I would probably have read your phrase as a joke
: if you'd posted at least one paragraph reacting seriously to what I
: originally posted, thereby clarifying your true thoughts and intents. But
: you didn't do that.

Well Adam, now that you've been sufficiently chided, let me thank you for
what I had naively assumed - that's me, always jumping to conclusions - to
be a mildly amusing joke. (Especially that bit about "X" - why, that's
not a compass direction at all, you pithy smart-ass!) In payment, you
should be receiving a check for $30 from me shortly - I'll just send it
care of Tom Butters.

Dave

(Erm, not to mislead you - I'm not actually sending you any money. I was
just kidding about that part.)

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Gord Jeoffroy <crs...@inforamp.net> wrote in article
<3413f6e1...@news.istar.ca>...


> On 6 Sep 1997 20:45:55 GMT, "Brandon Van Every" <vane...@blarg.net>

> wrote:
> >Then let the game itself bring you to a new location. It can summarize

> >some scenic highlights along the way, like "you go over a river and


through
> >the woods to Grandma's house, and now...."
>
> Trouble is, you're denying the meticulous players the opportunity to
> explore those woods. You've gone from one extreme to the other.

Not necessarily, if the woods actually exist and are capable of being
explored for their own sake. See my other posts about nonlinearity and how
one might cope with the labor requirements.

> >The game's
> >reaction to a statement like "I'M HUNGRY" might bring you to Grandma's
> >house.
>

> Which is unlike reality. If I say "I'm hungry," very little happens --
> at best I'll have someone tell me to shut up and go eat. I then have
> to "traverse the landscape" to a McDimwit's.

True, it is unlike reality. However, we're writing IF, which doesn't have
to be reality. In nonlinear universes, I'd like to explore the possibility
of action unfolding without the player's complete and meticulous
specification, or only a partial nod to the player's intention. Some
events might sweep you along like a river, and that very much is like real
life. Just because you're not doing anything, or you want to do things in
order from A to B to C, doesn't mean the universe is going to stand still
and accomodate you!

> A solution, which was a thread some months ago, is to program the game
> so that it'll react intelligently to commands like "GO TO McDIMWIT'S."
> If you (the character) know where that is, the game figures out the
> best route and takes you there. Otherwise, you've got to go exploring
> on your own, with NSEW.

This is a macro function on spatial movement, and it's a good thing to have
for convenience, but it's not really the device I'm after. What I'm after
is about the psychological state of the player, translating his/her
abstract intentions into concrete game actions. "GO INSANE" might simply
advance the plotline in a new direction than what was otherwise unfolding.
It doesn't necessarily have to bring you to a state of insanity, it just
carries you more towards that aspect of the plot development.

> > The game's reaction to "PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH" might be to bring
> >you to a place where the Wolf is likely to be (based on your character's
> >current knowledge) and then wait around for awhile.
>

> I'd strongly protest a construct like this. "PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH" is
> a command that ought to happen immediately and in the current
> location. On the other hand, I'd be happy with something like "GO TO
> WHERE I CAN PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH." I can see why that would bring me

> "to a place where the Wolf is likely to be."

This is where I think we're differing in paradigm. As a player, you seem
to want to be in control of your actions at every moment, with the full
power to specify exactly what you're doing. That's fine, but it's also
laborious. My own feeling as a player is gee, I'd like to pursue my own
fantasies about what I want to do right now, not what the game says I
can/can't do, just skip me a litte farther forwards to the good stuff, ok?
Why don't I just imagine myself yanking out the wolf's teeth, and as
Jean-Luke Picard would say, the computer simply "makes it so." Or at least
partially. Then when I'm halfway there, I can drop back into the level of
detail where PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH is a highly specific action, rather than
a musing on where you'd like the plot to go.

Maybe the solution would be to have a special command form to disambiguate
the two? Such as IMAGINE: I PULL OUT THE WOLF'S TEETH. I don't know if
the keyword IMAGINE: is the best choice, but it's a start. Could also use
words like DREAM:, THINK:, PLAN:, DESIRE:.

> >This creates a game that is about guessing the logic and intentionality
of
> >the author.
>

> In my opinion, a bad idea that is a whole other thread altogether. I
> didn't buy Starcross because I wanted to guess the authors' logic and
> intentionality -- I bought it because I wanted to fool around on a
> spaceship.

But unfortunately, *all* IF games are about guessing the logic and
intentionality of the author. If you and the author already share a lot of
common ground and expectations, you may not perceive it as such. But when
there is a big difference, you notice. Check out my recent post about "I'm
too stupid for I-0." I think the intent of the author - what actions he
enabled, what he chose to cover - is an irreducible problem of IF that we
can never really sidestep.

> >You simply have to keep
> >iterating over all of those rooms in order to cause the game to advance.

> >Why bother with that?
>

> Because that's part of what IF is: the exploration of many places.
> It's not boring if the author's done a good job.

Well, structurally I find it boring, because it tends to make games more
similar to each other than different. Yet-another-key-in-the-hole
syndrome. But to each their own. Personally I don't see a necessity in
exhaustively searching every room in the game just to extract the maximum
value out of it. I'd like to think that the universe is sufficiently vast
and complex that I couldn't even do that. To date, no piece of IF meets
that criterion.

Alan Conroy

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

On Sun, 07 Sep 1997 13:20:20 -0700, fake...@anti-spam.address (Neil
K.) wrote:

> I'd like to preface my comment by saying that I don't claim or even think
>to speak for most of the regulars on this group. However, I have hung
>around here for rather a long time and so have a bit of a sense of where
>discussions have gone and tend to go. And one generalization I think I'm
>fairly comfortable here with is that most of us are of a nerdy bent and,
>therefore, tend to respect implementation of ideas rather than just
>talking about theory. Talk is cheap... code is hard.

Your post was very well thought out and I agree with most of what you
had to say. I agree that talk is cheap and that a good implementation
is worth a thousand theories. HOWEVER, I enjoy hearing other people's
theories. I'm in the middle of a several-year-long programming
project which owes a heck of a lot to the musings of some people who
never have (and probably never will have) implemented anything along
the lines of what I'm working on.

I didn't get the impression that the original poster was so much
pointing out problems with the compass concept (although I'd have no
qualms about that), as he was throwing out an interesting idea. I've
given it some thought and am unconvinced that it has any merit for me
personally, but I'm glad to see that people are thinking along
unconventional lines and are willing to share their thoughts.

The FAQ does mention that this news group is for IF theory, among
other things. Once there is an implementation of something, it is no
longer a THEORY. I think the post was within the guidelines for this
news group. I just wouldn't want to squelch a theorist who couldn't


code to save his life. Who knows, the next new theory here could
catch people's imaginations and send IF in a whole new direction.
Would you want to discourage that?

What does everyone else think? I've only been reading this news group
for a few months now. Has the theorectical been missing historically?
Is this really just for programming questions on Inform, Hugo, and
TADS? Do we want it to be that way? If we want to encourage theory
and brainstorming, what guidelines should there be? For example, do


they put the words "WARNING: A THEORY FOLLOWS" in the title when they
post a new message so those who aren't interested can skip that

thread? I don't really have all the answers, but I do like to take
other people's ideas. mill them about in my head, and maybe synthesize
something new from them. Is this the right forum for that?

- Alan Conroy

Adam Cadre

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Neil K. wrote:
> True enough. Perhaps my post was a little unfair, and perhaps
> theory-related posts should be prefaced with a [THEORY] tag so that
> bitter former grad students like me who have slogged through a painful
> decade of navel-gazing academia can cheerfully ignore them in favour
> of dissecting little bits of code.

As a bitter current grad student, I'd like to suggest that perhaps part
of the problem here is that Usenet has a different protocol than, say,
an academic journal. This is not a medium suited for long, convoluted
monographs. One can get away with talking for ninety minutes straight
in a lecture hall, but not in a conversation. This past week has proven
that a newsgroup is not a lecture hall.

For a much better model of online theoretical discussion, I'd suggest
all and sundry check out http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?IntFicMudDiscussion --
it's about nonlinearity, no less.

-----
Adam Cadre, Durham, NC
http://www.duke.edu/~adamc

http://www.retina.net/~grignr

Neil K.

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

In article <01bcbc7e$fdd001a0$a69f...@hammurabi.blarg.net>, "Brandon Van
Every" <vane...@blarg.net> wrote:

> Well this sort of ego tripping is really rather tiring, I have to say. [...]

> [...] Over
> dozens of high-powered intellectual newsgroups, I've consistently observed
> that people are interested in talking about the things that I tend to talk
> about, and I never have any shortage of people who want to participate and
> contribute.

Wow!

Man. I am *chastened*!

Carl Muckenhoupt

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

This all makes me think of two works in particular:

The Space Under the Window, while not exactly narrative, lets the player
explore an idea space (or something like that) by selecting words from
the output. The effect can be anything from a slight transfomation of
the text to an entirely separate scene.

Mop and Murder is much more conventional. It takes place in one
highly-detailed room. Other than that, it's a plain ordinary text
adventure - exploration consists of examining objects, with locked
containers taking the place of locked doors.

It seems that what Mr. Van Every wants is somewhere between the two:
M&M's concreteness and grounding in narrative, with SUTW's fluidity and
lack of established goals. Yesno?

--
Carl Muckenhoupt ca...@earthweb.com
EarthWeb http://www.earthweb.com/

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Brandon Van Every (vane...@blarg.net) wrote:

> > That doesn't mean that theoretical discussions aren't important. Just
> > that a concrete working example does far more to convince or interest or
> > whatever the crowd. If somebody (particularly a relative newcomer who
> > hasn't produced anything for public consumption) comes along

> Well this sort of ego tripping is really rather tiring, I have to say.

You *choose* to say. (And that's all the snarking I will do in this post;
honest.)

> I'm
> not going to play games about who's a newcomer and who isn't. If you feel
> that threatened

... .

Here is a problem: in the past, people have popped up and said, lo,
current IF is blindly charging into a dead end. It is all crap. Here is
my theory, which will lift IF into a new realm of literary merit.

And these people are -- understandably, if not necessarily fairly --
pounded up one side of r.a.if and down the other. This is not really
because they were proffering *theory*; it was because of the "you're all
idiots" part of the statement.

I do not believe that you, Brandon Van Every (any relation to Chris Van
Allsburg? Sorry.) have made such a statement. But you must understand that
there is a certain amount of built-up resentment, and a tendency to see
that kind of challenge in (literally) neutral questions like "Why are we
still using N, S, E, W?"

There has also been a lot of interesting theorizing from people who have
not in fact written code. And the poster quoted above is (literally)
correct; a concrete working example has far more influence then a Usenet
post.

Now, I'm sure *this* Usenet post is going to have no influence whatsoever,
but nonetheless I suggest that the whole discussion be tabled for four
weeks. When the '97 competition entries are released, I am sure --
absolutely certain -- that we will see more new IF ideas than you or I can
possibly think up in a year. And *all* of them will be concrete working
examples. And then we will all go "holy shit" and commence thinking up
yet another set of ideas.

(As my own personal ego trip, I will claim that a lot of this competition
wide-rangingness was inspired by my own "Space Under the Window"
experiment. (Not that the games will *resemble* SUTWIN! They'll be all
over the map, or lack thereof. I just mean that I wrote SUTWIN as proof
that you *can* throw away huge chunks of the IF conventions of yore, and
the audience will be right there with you, judging the work on its own
merits.)

But you can ignore the ego trip, if you like. Previous paragraphs still
hold.)

--Z

--

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

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Branko Collin <col...@xs4all.nl> wrote in article
<5uvaer$cv0$1...@news0.xs4all.nl>...

>
> You may want to take a look at The Space Under the Window (SUTWIN.Zx) at
> the IF-archive.

Yeah, it's next on my list of examples to dissect. (Andrew be warned. :-)

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Neil K. <fake...@anti-spam.address> wrote in article
<fake-mail-070...@van-as-02c14.direct.ca>...

>
> True enough. Perhaps my post was a little unfair, and perhaps
> theory-related posts should be prefaced with a [THEORY] tag so that
bitter
> former grad students like me who have slogged through a painful decade of
> navel-gazing academia can cheerfully ignore them in favour of dissecting
> little bits of code. Or, in my case, read them anyway because this is one
> of the few newsgroups which I actually pretty well read in its entirety.

Now here is an irony. I feel that I should hand you my job at DEC, so you
can experience the tedium of implementation detail in its fullest capacity.
Ever wondered how those spiffy 3D triangles and lines come out so fast and
pretty? We're going to have to learn to respect each other's turn-on's and
turn-off's.

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Neil K. <fake...@anti-spam.address> wrote in article
<fake-mail-070...@van-52-0327.direct.ca>...

> In article <01bcbb05$2b27f200$9e9f...@hammurabi.blarg.net>, "Brandon Van
> Every" <vane...@blarg.net> wrote:
>
> That doesn't mean that theoretical discussions aren't important. Just
> that a concrete working example does far more to convince or interest or
> whatever the crowd. If somebody (particularly a relative newcomer who
> hasn't produced anything for public consumption) comes along and says -
> "hey you know that traditional Infocom model is pretty lame... why don't
> you guys try something more like a story, focused on specific objects?"
> we're likely to nod politely and say "Go ahead. Write such a program".

Well this sort of ego tripping is really rather tiring, I have to say. I'm


not going to play games about who's a newcomer and who isn't. If you feel

that threatened about your own works of IF as "a veteran," that's your
problem, not mine. I feel my only burdens are to be honest in what I
think, to pursue my ideas with intellectual integrity, and to keep my
criticism constructive. And much as you say, I'm inclined to nod politely
to you and say "Go ahead. Talk about whatever you wish. (Or not.)" Over


dozens of high-powered intellectual newsgroups, I've consistently observed
that people are interested in talking about the things that I tend to talk
about, and I never have any shortage of people who want to participate and
contribute.

> It's easy to identify problems with the current model upon which the


> typical adventure game is based.

I simply don't agree with you here. If it were easy, people would perceive
the problems and fix 'em. The problems are "deep" and require some
attention to the structural underpinnings of our paradigms. It's as though
you said "Sure, there are problems with representational painting," and
ignored the fact that Impressionists painted in reaction to an entrenched
paradigm. The people who advocated representational painting did not
perceive any "problems," per se.

> It's also easy to sit back and come up
> with all kinds of exciting new directions the genre can go in. It's not
> easy to implement a new model that actually works.

And it's easy to spread negative energy where none is required. To some
degree one has to be cautious about spreading it, although it will
inevitably happen. And when one receives it, one can hopefully remember to
have a slightly thicker skin, so as not to escalate it. High morale is the
only thing that gets volunteer projects done. In fact, high morale is
pretty important to getting commercial projects done as well, $$$$ will
only take you so far.



> The example you cite - the use of cardinal compass points to specify
> directions in a game - is very easy to criticize. I mean, it's utterly
> artificial. The player hasn't got a compass - how is he or she supposed
to
> know absolute directions? The underlying model is clearly that of an
> absolute grid, a Cartesian map of points with vectors connecting them.
> Phoney, restrictive, not very naturalistic. But, thing is that it works.

This has absolutely *nothing* to do with what I've been developing
regarding spatial traversal! Go back and read it all again. Traversing a
2D or 3D landscape according to motions upon an axis is not "artificial,"
it's a darn accurate description of how people move around in the physical
universe. My point, is why are we so hung up on traversing a game in terms
of space? I'm more interested in traversing a game in terms of psychology.

> It's a clear way of
> the player informing the computer what should be done next.

Yes, and the assumptions of that paradigm is what I want to move away from.
I want the player to specify what they want to do next according to their
mood. Not some compass direction, just because adventurers have been doing
it that way for awhile.

> Proposed
> deviations from the model often place a heavy burden of assumption upon
> the author, which simulationist-oriented players object to. Etc.

And wherein you say Etc. and want to get back to your code writing, I want
to deal with the problems and produce a different system. Hence I discuss
the design requirements for said systems, and hence so do other interested
parties.



> I should stress that my post isn't meant to dissuade you from posting
> your theoretical discussions. All I'd like to point out is that I suspect
> people are going to be skeptical of and not incredibly receptive to your
> ideas unless you can back them up with interesting working examples.
> Otherwise it's just another newbie to the group telling us that our
> current model (or use of vocabulary like "non-linear") is all wrong. And
> we turn into a bunch of defensive nerds. :)

I think, though, that in some cosmic sense there's a burden upon you to
actually read and attempt to understand before criticizing. I *do* make
the effort to read and understand before criticizing, by using tools like
DejaNews, playing people's games extensively before commenting on them,
scrutinizing people's posts very carefully, etc.

> And I do mean working examples. You illustrate your comments neatly with
> examples, but written examples and working examples are very different
> creatures. I've found many a time that it's easy to argue something using
> simple examples, but it's a totally different story when it comes
actually
> to *implementing* such an example.

And it's a complete waste of time to argue about why the example isn't here
yet.

> I'd like to conclude this ramble by admitting I am being a little
> hypocritical. I have a huge game in progress that implements a lot of
> ideas I have about I-F, but it's not publicly available yet.

Well at least you have the qualities of honesty and self-awareness, which
is commendable.

> So every time
> I participate in one of these little discussions I'm as guilty of the
> crime of handwaving as the next person. By means of feeble defence I hope
> that when my game is actually released someday all my pontificating will
> make sense...

This is all a question of timescale, isn't it? I mean, you have no idea
how long I've been pursuing my own particular projects, what scope they
encompass, or when they're likely to get done in the real world.
Personally, I think it's a mistake to play games about "you're not doing
something legitimate unless you're adhering to the Ideal Schedule." There
is no Ideal Schedule, your game is going to get completed when it does, so
is mine. There are many twists and turns along the way, and it's simply
not relevant whether a theoretical discussion occurs or doesn't occur in
the meantime. Your developments are a matter of ongoing process, not
product. Otherwise you wouldn't bother to do anything.

Lucian Paul Smith

unread,
Sep 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/8/97
to

Brandon Van Every (vane...@blarg.net) wrote:

: Let's say
: we're experiencing the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The game's


: reaction to a statement like "I'M HUNGRY" might bring you to Grandma's

: house. The game's reaction to "PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH" might be to bring


: you to a place where the Wolf is likely to be (based on your character's
: current knowledge) and then wait around for awhile.

Actually, this isn't too far off from something I'd like to see in modern
IF. Something like:

----------------
>PUT THE FROTZ IN THE SPORK.

Oops, you seem to have left the Frotz back in the Main Kitchen. Go there
now? (Y/N)

>Y

[The game takes over at this point, taking you to the Main Kitchen]

...You see a Frotz here.

Do you still want the Frotz? (Y/N)

>Y

(Taken)

Go back to the Spork room? (Y/N)

>Y

[The game takes you back across the landscape,...]

...There is a Spork here.

Do you still want to put the Frotz in the Spork? (Y/N)

>Y

The Spork doesn't seem to be able to contain things.

-----------

Well, the last line would be a little frustrating, but at least you'd have
been reminded about where the Frotz was, and let you get it with a minimal
amount of effort.

This would, to me, constitute a much friendlier parser response than
Inform's current (though generally excellent) response of 'You can see no
such thing.' It has to do with a new concept of 'scope', one which I've
mentioned before here, and which I really do plan on trying to code up one
of these days,...

-Lucian "Lucian" SMith

FemaleDeer

unread,
Sep 9, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/9/97
to

My two cents...

In real life, there are real directions. Our doors DO face north or
northeast or east or something. Real rooms have real dimensions and
(usually) four walls. Okay, we don't have to say, "Feet, go north." But
anything more complicated in IF would probably make it too complicated for
me to code. I have difficulty enough now.

1.) KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid - as much for novice players as for
novice writers and writers who are NOT super-computer-wizards. (Otherwise
IF could only be written by a small few, that few is small enough now.)

2.) The level of intelligence you may be talking about in a game is
probably artificial intelligence, which we do not yet have (and may never
REALLY have), but when (or if) we do have it -- text adventures as we know
them will be dead. (So I am in no hurry to see it.)

3.)

>Do you still want the Frotz? (Y/N)
>
>>Y
>
>(Taken)
>
>Go back to the Spork room? (Y/N)
>
>>Y
>
>[The game takes you back across the landscape,...]
>
>...There is a Spork here.
>
>Do you still want to put the Frotz in the Spork? (Y/N)
>
>>Y
>
>The Spork doesn't seem to be able to contain things.
>
>-----------
>
>Well, the last line would be a little frustrating, but at least you'd have
>been reminded about where the Frotz was, and let you get it with a minimal
>amount of effort.
>
>This would, to me, constitute a much friendlier parser response than
>Inform's current (though generally excellent) response of 'You can see no
>such thing.' It has to do with a new concept of 'scope', one which I've
>mentioned before here, and which I really do plan on trying to code up one
>of these days,...
>
>-Lucian "Lucian" SMith

Lucian's idea has merit. (Oops, Lucian, 1 & 2, weren't addressed to you),
but when I leave something in another room (in real life) and I have
forgotten it is there -- then I have to go and LOOK. Any one with a remote
control KNOWS what I am talking about. So why should a game make it that
much easier than real life? (Although you can't see any such thing is an
annoying message, I change it.)

4.) What is AI anyway? Something that approaches real life or is
tremendously easier than real life?

FD ... for what they are worth
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Femal...@aol.com The Tame Computer
"Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or
freed a human soul." Mark Twain (or won a game)

Julian Arnold

unread,
Sep 9, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/9/97
to

In article <fake-mail-070...@van-as-02c14.direct.ca>, Neil K.

<URL:mailto:fake...@anti-spam.address> wrote:
> True enough. Perhaps my post was a little unfair, and perhaps
> theory-related posts should be prefaced with a [THEORY] tag so that bitter

OK, I'll mention this in the FAQ, even though I personally think it's
unnecessary.

> Really, though. I don't object to theoretical discussions because they
> deal with theory. I guess what annoys a bit is rehashing of ideas that: a)
> are not very good, b) have already been discussed and/or implemented for
> years and years or c) are so vague as to be useless.

Me too. However, I think it's an annoyance we just have to put up with.
And I probably contribute to such threads from time to time anyhow.

Jools
--
"For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand
ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me
from ever completing anything." -- Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"
[ Please reply to jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk ]


Jeff Hatch

unread,
Sep 9, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/9/97
to

Lucian Paul Smith wrote:

> Actually, this isn't too far off from something I'd like to see in modern
> IF. Something like:
>
> ----------------
> >PUT THE FROTZ IN THE SPORK.
>
> Oops, you seem to have left the Frotz back in the Main Kitchen. Go there

> now? (Y/N)
>
> >Y
>

> [The game takes over at this point, taking you to the Main Kitchen]
>

> ...You see a Frotz here.


>
> Do you still want the Frotz? (Y/N)
>
> >Y
>
> (Taken)
>
> Go back to the Spork room? (Y/N)
>
> >Y
>
> [The game takes you back across the landscape,...]
>
> ...There is a Spork here.
>
> Do you still want to put the Frotz in the Spork? (Y/N)
>

> This would, to me, constitute a much friendlier parser response than
> Inform's current (though generally excellent) response of 'You can see no
> such thing.' It has to do with a new concept of 'scope', one which I've
> mentioned before here, and which I really do plan on trying to code up one
> of these days,...
>
> -Lucian "Lucian" SMith


I like that idea! It's practical, simple, and easy to code, and it
would make things a lot easier for the player in some games. (Zork Zero
comes to mind. Some objects are dozens of rooms away from the places
you need them.)

I'd be interested in hearing a bit more about your concept of "scope."
Any idea when you originally posted it? I'm too lazy to hunt through
the entire rec.arts.int-fiction archive. I've had some ideas about
scope myself, but I'd rather not bring them up since I haven't done any
of the coding yet.


-Rúmil

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/10/97
to

> In article <fake-mail-070...@van-as-02c14.direct.ca>, Neil K.
> <URL:mailto:fake...@anti-spam.address> wrote:

> > Really, though. I don't object to theoretical discussions because they
> > deal with theory. I guess what annoys a bit is rehashing of ideas that:


Some counterpoints, not aimed at anyone or anything in particular:

> > a) are not very good,

That's always a matter of opinion.

> > b) have already been discussed and/or implemented for years and years

Newcomers do not know these things. Unless you want to scare off "new
blood," let them have their discussions. Educate, don't condemn.

c) are so vague as to be useless.

Before labelling something as "vague" make an effort to really understand
it, using your most sympathetic and imaginative faculties. Then seek
clarification from the author.

Lucian Paul Smith

unread,
Sep 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/10/97
to

Jeff Hatch (jeff...@juno.com) wrote:

: Lucian Paul Smith wrote:

: > Actually, this isn't too far off from something I'd like to see in modern
: > IF. Something like:
: >
: > ----------------
: > >PUT THE FROTZ IN THE SPORK.

<snip the game guiding you through getting the Frotz then taking you back>

: > This would, to me, constitute a much friendlier parser response than


: > Inform's current (though generally excellent) response of 'You can see no
: > such thing.' It has to do with a new concept of 'scope', one which I've
: > mentioned before here, and which I really do plan on trying to code up one
: > of these days,...
: >

: > -Lucian "Lucian" Smith

: I like that idea! It's practical, simple, and easy to code, and it


: would make things a lot easier for the player in some games. (Zork Zero
: comes to mind. Some objects are dozens of rooms away from the places
: you need them.)

Thanks!

: I'd be interested in hearing a bit more about your concept of "scope."

: Any idea when you originally posted it? I'm too lazy to hunt through
: the entire rec.arts.int-fiction archive.

<sounds of rummaging through dejanews>

Ah, there it is. I posted it here on 9/5/97, and the title is 'Thoughts
on Scope'. That should be enough info for dejanews.

The basic idea there that has to do with this thread is my idea of
'concept scope'. Basically, it would include anything in the game that
you had seen or, as a character, knew about. (i.e. if you were playing
someone wandering through their own house, the vast majority of rooms and
objects should be in 'concept scope' from the very beginning of the game.)

At the very least, even if the game didn't take you by the hand back to
where you had left something, it could give you a different error message:
'That's not here right now' or 'You left that in the Kitchen' instead of
'You can see no such thing.' Objects not encountered or known about would
still get the 'You can see no such thing.' error message.

There are certain complications with this which would have to be accounted
for; here are some:

-What happens when something gets moved without the player's
knowledge? The player should still be able to refer to it, but they
should not be told by default its new location.

-If an object existed with the sole purpose of being a concept
(like 'joblessness' so you could ASK SENATOR ABOUT JOBLESSNESS) the game
should probably not tell you "That's not here right now" if you tried 'EAT
JOBLESSNESS' or something equally silly.

-If the game tried to take you to the item's location, some areas
might not accessible without solving some puzzle. In Zork Zero, for
instance, there are many areas beyond the Oracle, to which you should not
be automatically transported.

-Some objects (NPCs in particular) get coded up as more than one
game object. The game would have to know how to deal with this.

: I've had some ideas about

: scope myself, but I'd rather not bring them up since I haven't done any
: of the coding yet.

Hey, that didn't stop me ;-) Of course, some of my ideas, as I re-read
them, seem a little off-kilter, now that I know more of the background
behind it, but I'm still glad I posted my ideas, since they were able to
be refined by some of the more experienced crowd.

-Lucian "Lucian" Smith

John Francis

unread,
Sep 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/10/97
to

In article <5v6idt$5f3$1...@joe.rice.edu>,

Lucian Paul Smith <lps...@rice.edu> wrote:
>
>The basic idea there that has to do with this thread is my idea of
>'concept scope'. Basically, it would include anything in the game that
>you had seen or, as a character, knew about. (i.e. if you were playing
>someone wandering through their own house, the vast majority of rooms and
>objects should be in 'concept scope' from the very beginning of the game.)

I think this is a very useful idea. I toyed with something similar when I
played around with writing a game interpreter for a DECSystem-20, which
had command completion (simiar to filename completion in csh). I wanted
to have a dynamic list of known objects for several reasons, one of which
was pretty much the 'concept scope' idea.


>
>At the very least, even if the game didn't take you by the hand back to
>where you had left something, it could give you a different error message:
>'That's not here right now' or 'You left that in the Kitchen' instead of
>'You can see no such thing.' Objects not encountered or known about would
>still get the 'You can see no such thing.' error message.
>
>There are certain complications with this which would have to be accounted
>for; here are some:
>
> -What happens when something gets moved without the player's
>knowledge? The player should still be able to refer to it, but they
>should not be told by default its new location.


A response like "You left that in the Kitchen" would still work for this.
Then when the player reenters the kitchen the game can say "That's odd!
You are certain that you left your wallet on the countertop, but it
doesn't seem to be here any more.". There are a few niggly complications
(what happens if the player stumbles across the wallet in it's new home
before he gets back to the kitchen?), but that's what makes game design
fun, isn't it? :-)

> -If the game tried to take you to the item's location, some areas
>might not accessible without solving some puzzle. In Zork Zero, for
>instance, there are many areas beyond the Oracle, to which you should not
>be automatically transported.

You should also not be transported across bridges which no longer exist,
through passages blocked by rockfalls, etc. Passageways are also subject
to a form of scope - you should not automatically be moved through paths
you don't know about. Referring to earlier discussions on goal-directed
motion will produce several good ideas (and even more tough problems).

> -Some objects (NPCs in particular) get coded up as more than one
>game object. The game would have to know how to deal with this.

This is often done because it is the easiest way of solving the problem.
Maybe some new object classes designed to standardize the most common
forms of these type of problems (links between two locations, a wallet
that has been moved from the kitchen to the driveway, ...) would help.

--
John Francis jfra...@sgi.com Silicon Graphics, Inc.
(650)933-8295 2011 N. Shoreline Blvd. MS 43U-991
(650)933-4692 (Fax) Mountain View, CA 94043-1389
Unsolicited electronic mail will be subject to a $100 handling fee.

Jeff Hatch

unread,
Sep 10, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/10/97
to

Lucian Paul Smith wrote:

> The basic idea there that has to do with this thread is my idea of
> 'concept scope'. Basically, it would include anything in the game that
> you had seen or, as a character, knew about. (i.e. if you were playing
> someone wandering through their own house, the vast majority of rooms and
> objects should be in 'concept scope' from the very beginning of the game.)
>

> There are certain complications with this which would have to be accounted
> for; here are some:
>
> -What happens when something gets moved without the player's
> knowledge? The player should still be able to refer to it, but they
> should not be told by default its new location.
>

> -If an object existed with the sole purpose of being a concept
> (like 'joblessness' so you could ASK SENATOR ABOUT JOBLESSNESS) the game
> should probably not tell you "That's not here right now" if you tried 'EAT
> JOBLESSNESS' or something equally silly.
>

> -If the game tried to take you to the item's location, some areas
> might not accessible without solving some puzzle. In Zork Zero, for
> instance, there are many areas beyond the Oracle, to which you should not
> be automatically transported.
>

> -Some objects (NPCs in particular) get coded up as more than one
> game object. The game would have to know how to deal with this.

Thanks for summarizing your ideas! Now I won't even have to look in the
archives.

My thoughts on the complications you mention:
1) Every portable object should probably have two "locations" in
memory--the real location and the last place you saw it. (Doesn't
Inform already have this ability? The "Objects" command in Curses told
me where everything I'd handled was.)

2) You can make a special object class for abstract nouns like
"joblessness" to make sure different rules apply to those things.

3) Most of the time, if you've actually seen something, you can get to
it, can't you? If not, follow the example of Suspended or Moonmist, in
which the robots (or you) move in the right direction but stop if an
obstacle intervenes or if something interesting happens on the way.
(Well, Moonmist was never actually *interesting* per se! But I
digress.)

4) This one has me baffled. Why do objects get coded as more than one
game object? Maybe I'm betraying my ignorance; despite my praise of
Tads and Inform in other threads, I'm not really very familiar with
either system.


> : I've had some ideas about
> : scope myself, but I'd rather not bring them up since I haven't done any
> : of the coding yet.
>
> Hey, that didn't stop me ;-) Of course, some of my ideas, as I re-read
> them, seem a little off-kilter, now that I know more of the background
> behind it, but I'm still glad I posted my ideas, since they were able to
> be refined by some of the more experienced crowd.

I'm glad you didn't let it stop you. The reason I don't want to bring
up any ideas I haven't implemented is simple: I've already coded several
new concepts which I haven't mentioned yet in this forum, and I'd rather
get feedback on what I've already done first. Either that or I'm just
timid.


-Rúmil

Jake Roberts

unread,
Sep 11, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/11/97
to

Brandon Van Every wrote:
>
> Neil K. <fake...@anti-spam.address> wrote in article
> <fake-mail-070...@van-52-0327.direct.ca>...
> > In article <01bcbb05$2b27f200$9e9f...@hammurabi.blarg.net>, "Brandon Van
> > Every" <vane...@blarg.net> wrote:

...


> to you and say "Go ahead. Talk about whatever you wish. (Or not.)" Over
> dozens of high-powered intellectual newsgroups, I've consistently observed
> that people are interested in talking about the things that I tend to talk
> about, and I never have any shortage of people who want to participate and
> contribute.

I've lurked on this group for quite a while. It's the theoretical
discussions that I usally poke into, skipping over questions about
minute subtleties of Inform or TADS coding. But even the theoretical
discussions touch base frequently with practical issues of
implementation. I think this is in many ways a nuts-and-bolts crowd.
After all, one of the most attractive things about IF is that a single
person can complete an entire work on his/her own, working only in
his/her spare time. It's quite remarkable, when you think about it.
This precious quality, "finishableness", is what makes amateur
IF-writing feasable for most people who do it. People want things that
work, now. That (in addition, I think, to a perceived tone of contempt
on your part for the games people have humbly been producing so far) is
why folks are suspicious of what sound like remote fanciful goals for
the future of IF.

Still, I'd be surprised if this kind of discussion didn't have an
impact, perhaps subtle but still signifigant, on the way some future
games are written. Authors want to please their audience, and it pains
them when a member of that audience (you) vocally criticizes the style
in which they work. So I think many authors (including me as soon as I
legitimately become an author) will keep your remarks at the back of
their/our minds.

> And it's easy to spread negative energy where none is required. To some
> degree one has to be cautious about spreading it, although it will
> inevitably happen. And when one receives it, one can hopefully remember to
> have a slightly thicker skin, so as not to escalate it. High morale is the
> only thing that gets volunteer projects done. In fact, high morale is
> pretty important to getting commercial projects done as well, $$$$ will
> only take you so far.

Do I correctly perceive (from your allusion to the Impressionist
movement, for one thing) that you'd like there to be a movement in the
IF community, cooperation, common focusing of energy, in order to
achieve the sort of sweeping, long-term paradigm-movement that you've
been suggesting? Is this why you're talking about morale?

If so, I think it's important to consider why people like traditional IF
before trying to persuade them to look beyond it's sad old predictable
devices. In my very basic analasys, traditional IF games are, broadly
speaking, three things to the people who enjoy them:

1. A story
2. A puzzle
3. A place

Although of course the relative importance of these three ingredients
varies from game to game. By "a place", I mean a world whose structure
is comprehensible, whose character, landmarks, and layout becomes
familiar, a volume of space that you can wonder around in, go in circles
if you want to.

My point is that in proposing the idea of a non-linear, non
goal-oriented design, you stepped on numbers 1 and 2, and in proposing
trancendental, logic-of-the-heart style navigation commands, you've now
trodden on number 3 as well. And although some things need stepping on
from time to time, insensitivity to these issues won't help you win
support for your ideas. I, for example, don't ever want to see any of
these three qualities lost by the body interactive fiction as a whole.

But I'm being a little unfair. For one thing, your suggestion that "I'm
hungry" should beam you to grandmother's house, can, as you've
suggested, happily coexist with a regular old cartesian-mapped,
compass-navigated route to grandmother's place. The game is simply
playable on more than one level, in more than one style. And this, I
think, is the key to success. Ideas like the ones you propose are best
eased into, in such a way that everyone can stop easing along with you
at whatever point they choose. If you're going to write anything, I
would start with a traditionally structured game overlayed, enriched,
with elements of your new approach. A game which must be entirely
navigated with commands like "I'm cold and lonely" will either be hell
to write, hell to play, or both, while a mostly straight-laced game that
responds sympathetically to such desperate pleas, as well as
understanding the usual commands, could be quite powerful and thought
provoking. And of course, finishable. You would also be exploring the
possibilities of your ideas in circumscribed, miniature form, where I
think you have a better chance of initial success. I'd quite like to
see this, and if you don't write it then maybe, somewhere down the line,
I will.

What I'm saying is, I think you should take the suggestion that you
produce a working model *as* a suggestion, rather than just a petulant
complaint.

- Jake

Terence Fergusson

unread,
Sep 12, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/12/97
to

In article <01bcbbfd$83e9f840$319f...@hammurabi.blarg.net>, Brandon Van
Every <vane...@blarg.net> scribed:
<A lot snipped, but I'll get down to specific parts of this later>

Hiya Brandon. Anyway, down to my thoughts on the subject.

I think the N,S,E,W,etc directions are very useful, basically because of
its use in mapping. True, it does seem that almost all text-IF
characters seem to have an intrinsic compass. I once tried writing an
adventure game (in AMOS, back when I had an Amiga), with a slightly
different system. The first room you started in was a cell, and you
started facing a random direction. All descriptions were wired to tell
you where things were in relation to you, or if you found a compass
later on, in relation to the compass directions. So, if you had the
compass, the closet would be to the northwest of you, while if you
didn't, and you had just come out of the closet, it would be behind you.

The hardest part of this, as I believe, was the new commands. They were
extremely unintuitive, due to their non-standard usage. I had these as
my eight directions: forward, left, right, backward, forward-left,
forward-right, backward-left, backward-right. In turn, these could be
abbreviated to F,L,R,B,FL,FR,BL,BR. Notice that I've just lost the
abbreviation for Look.

Once you found the compass, you could still use the F,L,R,B commands,
but the game wouldn't explicitly tell you which direction you were
facing (I never really finished the game; just got to a few rooms).
Also, you couldn't use the N,W,S,E commands without the compass, because
"you aren't sure which direction that is". Of course, skilled
adventurers might want to try "LOOK AT SUN", or "LOOK AT STARS" to
orient themselves, but that would be a temporary fix, and would increase
the complexity of the interface.

If you were ever knocked out and locked up, you were spun in a random
direction, and then had to deal with your perspective of where things
were. But mapping was still possible. If you lost sight of the
compass, things would revert to their pre-compass state until you found
it. And so forth.


But that's one solution. Another might be keywords. People have
already talked about these, where places mentioned in the description
can be visited just by typing in the keyword (perhaps, "GO TO FOREST",
or something like that). This, however, promotes a highly generalised
idea of mapping. Which may be more like real-life, but is it really
what's best for the genre? Maybe.

However, this system quickly falls down with mazes. Yes, I know that
mazes are really disliked around here. But mazes are a fact of life.
And I'm not talking about the Zork "Where-do-you-want-to-get-lost-today"
stuff....

Consider the headquarters of some large sinister corporation. You've
just infiltrated their outer security, and now you're in the building.
You decide to enter the ventilation shafts in order to evade most of the
people and the locked doors you're sure to find. Now. How are you
going to navigate.

This is where cardinal directions, or even the simple left-right-
forward-backward system comes in extremely handy. Even traversing the
maze-like corridors of an office building would be extremely difficult
for mapping and traversing via the keyword system, at least how I would
see it.


Those are two systems that I've outlined above. What's the third?
Something that just isn't possible with text adventures. 3-D.

Anyone here played System Shock? True, it wasn't an out and out
adventure game, but you could configure it to be. A whole station to
explore. Now, compare that to Stationfall. I'm sure a lot of you still
have the maps of the station that came with the game. What are your
comments on that, compared to the virtual reality of System Shock.

Perhaps 3-D is the new paradigm of adventure games. But it is not an
option to most of us on this newsgroup. Unless someone can figure out a
way?

>True, it is unlike reality. However, we're writing IF, which doesn't have
>to be reality. In nonlinear universes, I'd like to explore the possibility
>of action unfolding without the player's complete and meticulous
>specification, or only a partial nod to the player's intention. Some
>events might sweep you along like a river, and that very much is like real
>life. Just because you're not doing anything, or you want to do things in
>order from A to B to C, doesn't mean the universe is going to stand still
>and accomodate you!

True. But this smacks more of a time limit then anything else. People
are going around, doing their own thing. This, to have any potential
effect on the game, will probably make your job a lot more difficult.
That is, if we're talking about a quest game, or something like that.
After a certain amount of time, the game might become impossible due to
certain events.

Unless we're talking about a more non-linear IF (taking, in this case,
your definition of the word). With this, events continuing would be
more realistic, and would probably be more beneficial. Quests, tasks,
and so on, could make themselves available due to the universe
continuing without your help. And because of your options at that
point, you can then direct the course of the game. Note that not doing
anything is, of course, an option. You could go along your own
business, and then find later that people are starting to interfere with
you for whatever reason.

But I have yet to see any sort of IF where waiting has caused a
significant change in play. That said, I've seen several cases where
waiting has made the game impossible....

I'm not sure, but I believe that the best use of the universe continuing
is going to be used in (to use Brandon's usage again) non-linear IF,
like Daggerfall and Frontier. Say, like, the Thargoids attack, and
major war breaks out. The game isn't over, but your continuing
interaction will certainly be affected. Maybe you'll join both sides.
Maybe you'll start targetting the Military, or cleaning up around battle
sites in the hopes to scavenge stuff to sell or use. Perhaps you'll
just steer clear of it entirely.

But as I said in a different thread, I don't believe we're allowed this
luxury in text adventure games, at least for now. We can't have this
vast universe due to size, programming, and detail constraints. True,
the amount of work put into a game is not limited.


So, for now, at least in text IF, we may have to make do with either
time-limits, where peoples actions will seriously reduce your chances of
winning (think Deadline), or where people go about their daily business,
but have no effect on your quest, or some mixture of the two.

Feel free to prove me wrong.

>This is where I think we're differing in paradigm. As a player, you seem
>to want to be in control of your actions at every moment, with the full
>power to specify exactly what you're doing. That's fine, but it's also
>laborious. My own feeling as a player is gee, I'd like to pursue my own
>fantasies about what I want to do right now, not what the game says I
>can/can't do, just skip me a litte farther forwards to the good stuff, ok?
>Why don't I just imagine myself yanking out the wolf's teeth, and as
>Jean-Luke Picard would say, the computer simply "makes it so." Or at least
>partially. Then when I'm halfway there, I can drop back into the level of
>detail where PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH is a highly specific action, rather than
>a musing on where you'd like the plot to go.

That suggests a far greater intuition on the game's part than what we
already have. Changing the level of detail within a game in this way is
extremely difficult. I still think it's because of the textual
interface we're using; the English language is so hideously complex,
that the parser can't cope with every conceivable command.

In addition, perhaps I didn't want to go to the forest to pull out the
wolf's teeth. Maybe I wanted to go to the zoo. There's a large amount
of game-specificness and stuff that would be extremely difficult to
implement.

Also, consider this. I'm walking towards the forest from whereever I
am, and suddenly, I enter a location where an important cutscene takes
place. That's one possibility. Another, is that I notice from the
description of one location (just in passing, let's say) something
different, or interesting, or something that makes me think that I'm not
prepared. So instead of going to the forest, I make a quick detour to
do something else.

What I'm trying to say here is that there is no standard way of
implementing this. Everything is going to have to be done specifically.
If I want to IMAGINE: PULL OUT WOLF'S TEETH, first the game will have to
know what that means. Then, it has to know where that's likely to
happen, and if there are any alternatives. Next, it checks the correct
path, and starts me on that journey. The question of whether the player
can interrupt this path during going there might be one considering.
Also, while the game continues towards the forest, any important scenes
must be checked for, which might mean moving the player towards the
forest bit by bit.

Also, this IMAGINE business smacks a lot of the game doing the thinking
for the player. If I want to do that, then I'll ask for a hint on that
topic. Otherwise, I'll stick with: 1) Well, the forest is pretty good
area to look for wolves, and 2) Well, then, let's GO TO FOREST.

I'll welcome comments on this, but in the end, I think we'll be more
interested in finding out ways of implementing this. Pseudo-code
accepted. ^_^

>But unfortunately, *all* IF games are about guessing the logic and
>intentionality of the author. If you and the author already share a lot of
>common ground and expectations, you may not perceive it as such. But when
>there is a big difference, you notice. Check out my recent post about "I'm
>too stupid for I-0." I think the intent of the author - what actions he
>enabled, what he chose to cover - is an irreducible problem of IF that we
>can never really sidestep.

Hmmm.... back to the interface problem again.

Text IF gives us a very wide and open interface, where only a handful of
those options produce results. A graphical interface cuts down on that,
because we only have a few options, but that can be susceptible to trail
and error testing. (The failing of most mediocre graphic adventure
games is when you're stuck at a puzzle, and you give up, so you start
trying USE <FOO> WITH STRANGE UNIDENTIFIABLE OBJECT....)

So no, it isn't an irreducible problem of IF. Nothing a decent
programmer can't handle, anyway. But it gets more difficult the more
objects and people you have.

Until someone can accurately portray both the physics and personalities
of everyone and everything in the world, we'll be stuck with the
author's portrayed solutions of their own puzzles.

>Well, structurally I find it boring, because it tends to make games more
>similar to each other than different. Yet-another-key-in-the-hole
>syndrome. But to each their own. Personally I don't see a necessity in
>exhaustively searching every room in the game just to extract the maximum
>value out of it. I'd like to think that the universe is sufficiently vast
>and complex that I couldn't even do that. To date, no piece of IF meets
>that criterion.

False. If we're talking about IF as in not-just-text, then I say this
is false. Off the top of my head, I can name a number of titles that
are extremely large, extremely complex, and that without exhaustively
searching every room, you won't find the maximum value of the game. But
these games *are* extremely big. The only reason all the secrets have
*almost* been found in these games, is because there are enough people
playing them, so that they can co-ordinate notes.

Try Ultima VII, or Final Fantasy III. Play them through, and see if you
can get everything.

Of course, something like this only works if the game is completable
without finding all the hidden stuff. Unless you were talking about
something else when you said "maximum value".

Any which way, I would enjoy hearing your comments on what I've had to
say. Oh, and let me know what you think of Frontier as compared to
"non-linear IF".

Ciao,
Terence Fergusson
-- Student of Advanced Murphodynamics

Dave Gatewood

unread,
Sep 12, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/12/97
to

Dragonslayer wrote:
>
> What about replacing the standard IF room with something a little
> closer to reality? Even the most extensively described and
> decorated room is reduced to a drab cube within the depths of the
> libraries. Instead of using those, one could define a set of
> points which could be linked together and called a room.
> Distances could be determined using whatever unit the author wished
> (say, meters, or bloits). You could create much more interesting
> rooms that way. For instance:

[example snipped]

Most rooms such as the one you describe can be implemented simply by
breaking up the one "real" room into several "game" locations: e.g.,
break up a ballroom into "Ballroom, East End", "Ballroom, West End", and
"Orchestra."

In other cases a "move forward ten bloits" system could work fine in a
limited capacity (such as the croquet puzzle in Curses) - without
necessarily making this the standard of movement for the entire game.

Unless the content of the game demanded such a system of movement by its
very nature (and this would be a very different sort of game than
anything we've seen so far) I would find it tedious to do this for
long. The only benefit - added realism - is not nearly worth the
headache. I think this is akin to the frustration with games that make
the player find something to eat every 100 turns - sure it's more
realistic, but it's not fun.

Dave

Dragonslayer

unread,
Sep 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/13/97
to

What about replacing the standard IF room with something a little closer to reality?
Even the most extensively described and decorated room is reduced to a drab cube within
the depths of the libraries. Instead of using those, one could define a set of points which
could be linked together and called a room. Distances could be determined using whatever
unit the author wished (say, meters, or bloits). You could create much more interesting
rooms that way. For instance:

.-------------------.DD.-------.
/ \ With rooms like these, you could
/ \ accomplish effects like the
. \ two doors leading west. Movement
| .------.DD.---. could be accomplished by, say,
. | "Go north 10 meters". If this style of
D | room were designed as being on a
D | coordinate plane, an object could
. | have properties which held the object's
| | distance from the origin point. Of course,
. | objects wouldn't need to be built the same
D | way as the rooms. An object could
D | simply be called a cube of a certain
.-----------------------------------------------------------. size.

So, whaddya think?


/------------------------------------------------------\
| Dragonslayer dragon...@mad.scientist.com |
| |
| "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the masonry." |
| -Feet of Clay |
\------------------------------------------------------/

Mary K. Kuhner

unread,
Sep 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/13/97
to

My gut feeling is that coordinate-system rooms are trying to use
text to do something *much* better done by graphics; for a text-
only game, better to stick to what text does well.

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Nathan Thompson

unread,
Sep 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/13/97
to

On Sat, 13 Sep 97 00:19:13 GMT, dragon...@mad.scientist.com
(Dragonslayer) wrote:

>What about replacing the standard IF room with something a little closer to reality?
>Even the most extensively described and decorated room is reduced to a drab cube within
>the depths of the libraries. Instead of using those, one could define a set of points >which could be linked together and called a room.

[vast snippage]

I can already feel the pain, man.

The trouble is, it's already irritating to have to make maps of
complex room layouts - especially those that don't use cardinal
directions, which is why most IF uses SW, NE, etc., very sparingly.
Removing the monotony of square rooms is an admirable goal, but a
visual automapping feature of some kind would be a necessity. And, of
course, if the game included up/down directions, the map would become
fairly hard to use as well.

From the author's perspective, coding oddly shaped rooms would be
nontrivial, although a library designed for this would make things
easier.

Nathan Thompson
---------------
Remove '.no.spam' to reply.

Brandon Van Every

unread,
Sep 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/13/97
to

> From: Dragonslayer <dragon...@mad.scientist.com>

>
> What about replacing the standard IF room with something a little closer
to reality?

[nice drawing of an arbitrarily-shaped room deleted]

I just think that if you're going to go to that trouble, you should
probably implement a 2D or 3D graphical game. This gives you the
continuity of space that (I think) you're looking for. Also, most of the
authoring problems you'll come up with about distances and object
visibility are well-studied problems in the 2D and 3D realms, so paradigms
if not actual implementations would be easy to find.

Of course, you could just create a room with "several points of interest."
This is akin to subsampling the continuous geometry of the room. In
traditional IF, this has been accomplished by implementing an area of the
game as more than one room. (Courtyard North, Courtyard South, Courtyard
West) etc. If directionality is important to you, then you could use the
traditional method. If directionality is irrelevant, then you could
implement some sublocations for a room and have specific commands for
accessing the locations. Maybe (GO ALTAR, GO TAPESTRY, GO PENTAGRAM, GO
BEHIND DOORWAY).

All of these methods bring up the "rope problem," however. How do I get an
object to exist in multiple rooms or locations? Basically you have to
repeat stuff. It also doesn't really get easier in 2D or 3D, because for
efficiency the database has to be composed of "rooms" at some level.
Storage is a hierarchy, going from CPU, to SRAM cache, to main memory, to
HD space. The more levels of hierarchy your object occupies, the more you
slow down the system to the lowest speed level.


Cheers,

Erik Hermansen

unread,
Sep 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/13/97
to

On Sat, 13 Sep 97 00:19:13 GMT, dragon...@mad.scientist.com
(Dragonslayer) wrote:

>What about replacing the standard IF room with something a little closer to reality?

>Even the most extensively described and decorated room is reduced to a drab cube within
>the depths of the libraries. Instead of using those, one could define a set of points which

>could be linked together and called a room. Distances could be determined using whatever
>unit the author wished (say, meters, or bloits). You could create much more interesting
>rooms that way. For instance:
>
> .-------------------.DD.-------.
> / \ With rooms like these, you could
> / \ accomplish effects like the
> . \ two doors leading west. Movement
> | .------.DD.---. could be accomplished by, say,
> . | "Go north 10 meters". If this style of
> D | room were designed as being on a
> D | coordinate plane, an object could
> . | have properties which held the object's
> | | distance from the origin point. Of course,
> . | objects wouldn't need to be built the same
> D | way as the rooms. An object could
> D | simply be called a cube of a certain
> .-----------------------------------------------------------. size.
>
>So, whaddya think?

It sounds like it could be interesting, but probably would cause the
user to spend 90% of his time thinking about moving, which would make
the game seem unrealistic and maybe unfun.

Would you be describing the rooms with words or diagrams? Imagine a
text description of the above room that indicated all the relevant
measurements. A bit complicated, huh?

This kind of reminds me of typing in logo commands on an Apple II back
in the 7th grade. That isn't a bad thing, though.

>
> /------------------------------------------------------\
>| Dragonslayer dragon...@mad.scientist.com |
>| |
>| "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the masonry." |
>| -Feet of Clay |
> \------------------------------------------------------/


/* Deadly Rooms of Death - puzzling game of dungeon */
/* exploration for Windows. Easy to play, damned */
/* hard to win. Download from: */
/* http://webfootgames.com/catalog/drod.htm */

Alan Conroy

unread,
Sep 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/14/97
to

On 13 Sep 1997 18:35:42 GMT, "Brandon Van Every" <vane...@blarg.net>
wrote:

>All of these methods bring up the "rope problem," however. How do I get an
>object to exist in multiple rooms or locations? Basically you have to

Adventure Builder solves this particular problem rather nicely, I
think. A "large" object can be made up of several normal objects.
Each normal object respresents a part of the whole, usually so that
the object can exist in two locations (such as both sides of a door).
The object attributes (open/closed, etc) are shared between all
objects automatically within a large object, but the characteristics
(location, etc) are unique to each part. This is just one of many
possible solutions. Conceptually, this is like having a large
irregularly shaped room be composed of several smaller "nodes".

- Alan Conroy

Russell Glasser

unread,
Sep 17, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/17/97
to

Dragonslayer wrote:
>
> What about replacing the standard IF room with something a little closer to reality?
> Even the most extensively described and decorated room is reduced to a drab cube within
> the depths of the libraries. Instead of using those, one could define a set of points which
> could be linked together and called a room. Distances could be determined using whatever
> unit the author wished (say, meters, or bloits). You could create much more interesting
> rooms that way. For instance:
>

[GARISH ASCII PICTURE SNIPPED]

> Movement could be accomplished by, say, "Go north 10 meters".

Sheeeesh. Isn't anybody unpleasantly reminded of Chris Forman's
satirical effort to code a GUI in a text-only interface? ("Double click
the hand icon.")
If you're going to do it that way, you MIGHT AS WELL go ahead and use a
little animated cartoon character who walks around the screen...
wouldn't you say so?
Oops, I just noticed that Brandon already offered a similar post, but
I'm going to hit "send" anyway and you can't stop me. Nyah.

--
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one
persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all
progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-- George Bernard Shaw

Russell can be heckled at
http://www.willynet.com/rglasser

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/18/97
to

Russell Glasser (rgla...@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
> Dragonslayer wrote:
> >
> > What about replacing the standard IF room with something a little closer to reality?
> > Even the most extensively described and decorated room is reduced to a drab cube within
> > the depths of the libraries. Instead of using those, one could define a set of points which
> > could be linked together and called a room. Distances could be determined using whatever
> > unit the author wished (say, meters, or bloits). You could create much more interesting
> > rooms that way. For instance:

> [GARISH ASCII PICTURE SNIPPED]
>
> > Movement could be accomplished by, say, "Go north 10 meters".

> Sheeeesh. Isn't anybody unpleasantly reminded of Chris Forman's
> satirical effort to code a GUI in a text-only interface? ("Double click
> the hand icon.")

The "standard IF room" was *never* a concession to crude or simplistic
programming.

It's an abstraction; it gathers together a bunch of objects under the
criterion "Is it *interesting* to talk about moving between these
locations?" It is interesting to talk about moving from the Kitchen to
the Living Room, because you can suddenly see all the things in the
living room, and not the things in the kitchen.[1] But it is not
interesting to talk about moving from the trophy cabinet to the oriental
carpet in the center of the room. That's the sort of two-pace movement
which you would do unconsciously; and therefore it is elided from the IF
program.

Sometimes I'm amazed by how much Crowther and Woods got right, in the new
genre they were inventing. Without any prior mistakes to think about.

[1] Of course this is an approximation. In real life you can see through
doorways. Our IF libraries ignore this, and generally assume that
uninteresting movement is the same as line-of-sight movement. (I wonder if
this is because Colossal Cave was almost entirely underground, with twisty
passages, or mist, blocking lines of sight? There aren't many places in CC
where two different rooms *can* be within sight of each other.)

Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Sep 18, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/18/97
to

In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
[..]

>The "standard IF room" was *never* a concession to crude or simplistic
>programming.

I disagree. Althought, as you say, it's useful, it's *hard* to do
coordinate-based programming as well. Scope and lighting issues
suddenly come in to play, and they're difficult to deal with,
especially in 3-d. I bet if C&W could have done collossal cave as a
3-d virtual experience with surround-sound(tm) they would have. They
just couldn't.

>It's an abstraction; it gathers together a bunch of objects under the
>criterion "Is it *interesting* to talk about moving between these
>locations?" It is interesting to talk about moving from the Kitchen to
>the Living Room, because you can suddenly see all the things in the
>living room, and not the things in the kitchen.[1] But it is not
>interesting to talk about moving from the trophy cabinet to the oriental
>carpet in the center of the room. That's the sort of two-pace movement
>which you would do unconsciously; and therefore it is elided from the IF
>program.

I disagree. What's "interesting" depends on the story you're
writing. It's no coincidence that many of our stories are suitable or
somewhat suitable for room-based systems, since that's what we've got.
OTOH, one of my various half-finished games was set in a grarden. It
was pretty obvious when you played it that dividing it up into 9
square rooms was extremely false and artificial. To take another
example, at a cocktail party the action might all be taking place in
one room, logically, but when one of the people pulls out a gun and
starts shooting it's *extremely* important if you're two steps to the
left or not.

This is not the say the room model is *bad*, of course. I think it's
the best thing out there for text-based adventures. But it's by no
means perfect.

[..]
>--Z
--
Dan Shiovitz :: scy...@u.washington.edu :: sh...@cs.washington.edu
..................................................................
"Alas, I do not rule the world and that, I am afraid, is the story
of my life: always a godmother, never a God." -- Fran Lebowitz
...http://weber.u.washington.edu/~scythe/home.html................

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/19/97
to

Dan Shiovitz (scy...@u.washington.edu) wrote:
> In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
> [..]
> >The "standard IF room" was *never* a concession to crude or simplistic
> >programming.

> I disagree. Althought, as you say, it's useful, it's *hard* to do
> coordinate-based programming as well. Scope and lighting issues
> suddenly come in to play, and they're difficult to deal with,
> especially in 3-d. I bet if C&W could have done collossal cave as a
> 3-d virtual experience with surround-sound(tm) they would have. They
> just couldn't.

The conditional is meaningless, since what they *could* do and what they
*wanted* to do are inextricably entwined. (Just like they are today.) But
they could have done quite a number of things, and they did what they
did.

The more "modern" graphical IF I play, the more I think that most of the
stupid design decisions are made by not paying attention to Crowther &
Woods. That is, doing things different because they *can* be done
differently -- reasoning "they only did it that way because they lacked
the technology." This is very often just not true.

I may add that "The Space Bar", Meretzky's new graphical game, is very
good at avoiding these stupid design decisions. And this is not a
coincidence.

> >It's an abstraction; it gathers together a bunch of objects under the
> >criterion "Is it *interesting* to talk about moving between these
> >locations?" It is interesting to talk about moving from the Kitchen to
> >the Living Room, because you can suddenly see all the things in the
> >living room, and not the things in the kitchen.[1] But it is not
> >interesting to talk about moving from the trophy cabinet to the oriental
> >carpet in the center of the room. That's the sort of two-pace movement
> >which you would do unconsciously; and therefore it is elided from the IF
> >program.

> I disagree. What's "interesting" depends on the story you're
> writing.

*That* I agree with, but I meant that example specifically. In the Zork 1
story, the kitchen/living room example *does* work that way.

And the [1] footnote was meant to point out that it's an approximation
which works well for the games we have. Which is pretty much what you go
on to say:

> It's no coincidence that many of our stories are suitable or
> somewhat suitable for room-based systems, since that's what we've got.
> OTOH, one of my various half-finished games was set in a grarden. It
> was pretty obvious when you played it that dividing it up into 9
> square rooms was extremely false and artificial. To take another
> example, at a cocktail party the action might all be taking place in
> one room, logically, but when one of the people pulls out a gun and
> starts shooting it's *extremely* important if you're two steps to the
> left or not.

And (great, I just lost the last paragraph of your message), as you say,
it's not a bad model, it's the best approximation we've got. My point is,
I think this is *why* it's a good approximation. Knowing that is
important, because then you can see when it's a good idea to switch to
some different abstraction, and when you're just falling down the hole of
"they only did it that way because they lacked the technology."

Den of Iniquity

unread,
Sep 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/24/97
to

[Sorry the reply is late, I just got the post]

On Fri, 12 Sep 1997, Terence Fergusson wrote:

>I think the N,S,E,W,etc directions are very useful...

[etc etc]

>However, this system quickly falls down with mazes. Yes, I know that
>mazes are really disliked around here. But mazes are a fact of life.
>And I'm not talking about the Zork "Where-do-you-want-to-get-lost-today"
>stuff....
>
>Consider the headquarters of some large sinister corporation. You've
>just infiltrated their outer security, and now you're in the building.
>You decide to enter the ventilation shafts in order to evade most of the
>people and the locked doors you're sure to find. Now. How are you
>going to navigate.

[I've suggested this before, but nobody batted an eye-lid so I'll restate
it]

One possibility you have with the z-machine is fancy ascii displays -
hence little z-machine shorts like Z-life, freefall and robots. I envisage
(though I'm no programmer) a library that would assist a programmer in
creating a top-down visual maze, where you can see your character as a
central 'O' and an area of about, say, 7x7 characters around you, (this
may be variable, perhaps depending on the power of your light source)
something vaguely along the lines of Moria (is Nethack similar?), with
walls, doors, NPCs and objects all represented by other characters. You
would use redefinable keyboard keys to move you vertically and
horizontally, take, drop, wait (unless you use timed input) and examine.
Having broken into the secret enemy HQ, you could advance up and down
twisty corridors, all alike, using this maze method, with the game
reverting to normal textual display whenever you enter a room of any
importance or meet characters, etc.

Does anyone feel tempted? Any objections? Yes, it could be overused; I
think it is unuseful in most situations. It would walk an interesting line
between the cardinal compass directions and the 'forward 10 metres'
suggestions. Mazes would be so much less irritating if you could actually
see how the little twisty passages literally twisted, all different.

Might help people who want to tend in the direction of RPG i-f.

--
Den


Phil Goetz

unread,
Sep 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/27/97
to

MUSHes don't use compass directions by default. You create a portal,
which is an object in the room. It has a name. You link it to another
location. When someone types the portal's name, or one of a list of
synonyms you have provided, they are transported to the location it is
linked to. "North", "South", etc., are common portals, but others are
used. Try a MUSH, see how you like it. It works well, esp. when
you have many directions from one location, but requires care in the
room description lest the player be unable to visualize the map anymore.
(If you simply have the exit "Street" without any mention of what
direction it is in, and the street has similar exits, players will
get lost.)

Phil Go...@cs.buffalo.edu

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Sep 28, 1997, 3:00:00 AM9/28/97
to

In article <5vsc39$ila$1...@nntp5.u.washington.edu>,

Dan Shiovitz <scy...@u.washington.edu> wrote:
>
>In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
>Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>[..]
>>The "standard IF room" was *never* a concession to crude or simplistic
>>programming.
>
>I disagree.

Hmmm. I was about to post that I agreed with everything Andrew had
written, and that I couldn't have expressed it better myself, etc,
but I think I see Dan's point as well. To me, it seems like you disagree
because you're discussing different things.

To start with, the *origin* of the "standard IF room". Having read all
the interesting "history of _Colossal Cave_" docs, I think it's pretty
clear that Crowther's made a conscious choice of world model. Cavers
seem to think of caves as "rooms" connected by twisty passages, not
just by convention, but because real caves often look that way.

And "Colossal Cave" wasn't written in the stone age - while computer
modelling has certainly advanced a lot since then, there were surely
other ways of modelling a cave available in 1972. A coordinate based
grid, for example, would have been feasible on the PDP-10 (which was
quite a large computer with virtual memory, so memory constraints
wouldn't have been much of a problem).

(I can see a disturbing tendency, BTW, of people who, wanting to
change the IF conventions in one way or another, claim that the old
conventions are due to incompetence or lack of imagination, and that
present-day IF authors cling to them out of sheer conservativism. It's
a facile way of making your proposed "paradigm shift" look more
attractive, but in most cases it's simply not true, and an insult to
boot.)

But of course Dan is right in the sense that, like all conventions,
the discrete-rooms-connected-by-pathways has been misapplied to cases
where it's less than appropriate. In some cases this may be due to
sloppy design (sloppy programming is something different: that's what
leads to bugs :-) ). In most of the cases, however, I think it's a
case of not knowing the limits of your tools.

The Inform library by itself is, for example, not very suitable for
handling rooms that consist of many locations where you can see
objects in the other locations (if you're in the west part of the
living room, shouldn't you be able to see everything in the east part
as well?). In such a case, you either have to extend your tools, or
lower your ambitions and change the design.

Another case: The AGT game "Mop and Murder" takes place almost
entirely in one room, the office of a CIA agent. However, when I
played it, I got the feeling that the room really ought to have been
divided into sub-locations. One puzzle concerned a bookshelf; when I
was trying to solve that, I mentally placed myself in front of the
bookshelf, and was just distracted by the room description describing
everything else. In short, the game state didn't reflect what I was
doing to a sufficient degree.

Another shortcoming of the current convention is that there is no
concept of what is behind and in front of the player. A room
description sort of supposes that you look around you and note
everything you see. This is OK in 99% of the cases, but suppose you
have a puzzle involving someone sneaking up behind you? How do you
implement "look behind me" in a consistent way, *and* make your world
modelling acknowledge the fact that you

1) are always facing one way or another

and

2) can't see things behind your back?

And remember that this modelling has to be consistent, or the player
will be confused: you can't cheat and just have the notion of "behind
me" when a single puzzle is concerned.


--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------
Not officially connected to LU or LTH.

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages