"Thinking" in game under development

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Marshall T. Vandegrift

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Dec 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/2/97
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In the game I'm working on (in Inform) I'm toying with a "thought system,"
which works similarly to a normal inventory, but controls ideas instead of
objects.

Pretty much all I want to know is what people think of it.

Examples (not from my game) follow...

>i

In addition to your mind, you have:
a small jewel (providing light)
a pine box
your diary

>think

Your mind currently contains:
some thoughts on magic (which are currently condensed)
some thoughts on local items (which are currently uncondensed)
a small jewel
your diary
your greatest secret

(Note: the "thoughts on local items" contains information on every "thinkable
object currently in scope)

>x diary

A small book, bound with brown leather.

>t diary

(Note: "t"="think" or "think about")

Every day for the past ten years you have recorded your experiences in this
book.

>uncondense thoughts on magic

Uncondensed.

>condense thoughts on items

Condensed.

>t

Your mind currently contains:
some thoughts on magic (which are currently uncondensed)
some thoughts on bright magic
some thoughts on dark magic
some thoughts on local items (which are currently condensed)
your greatest secret

>t secret

You shudder to even think about it.
.

So, tell me what you think!

----------
Marshall T. Vandegrift (mailto:ma...@intrlink.com)
"Even in laughter, the heart is sorrowful." --Proverbs 14:13

Chris [Steve] Piuma

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Dec 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/2/97
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In article <65vska$a...@snews2.zippo.com>, ma...@intrlink.com (Marshall T.
Vandegrift) wrote:

> In the game I'm working on (in Inform) I'm toying with a "thought system,"
> which works similarly to a normal inventory, but controls ideas instead of
> objects.

[....]

> Your mind currently contains:
> some thoughts on magic (which are currently condensed)
> some thoughts on local items (which are currently uncondensed)
> a small jewel
> your diary
> your greatest secret

Sounds interesting. I'd like to see a game which implemented it. But what's
with all the condensing and uncondensing? And do you need to list all the
in-scope items? That could get unwieldy.

--
Chris [Steve] Piuma, etc. Nothing is at: http://www.brainlink.com/~cafard
[Editor of _flim_, Keeper of the R.E.M. Lyric Annotations FAQ, MST3K #43136]
....this message brought to you by the letters N and W and the number 36....
So, does anyone want to come up with the default message...?

Aquarius

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Dec 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/2/97
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Chris [Steve] Piuma <caf...@brainlink.com> wrote:

> In article <65vska$a...@snews2.zippo.com>, ma...@intrlink.com (Marshall T.
> Vandegrift) wrote:
>
> > In the game I'm working on (in Inform) I'm toying with a "thought system,"
> > which works similarly to a normal inventory, but controls ideas instead of
> > objects.

> Sounds interesting. I'd like to see a game which implemented it. But what's


> with all the condensing and uncondensing? And do you need to list all the
> in-scope items? That could get unwieldy.

I like the sound of the idea; I debated it a while ago but couldn't work
out how to do it effectively in TADS.
I assume the condensing is a kind of 'think hard' about something;
uncondensing thoughts brings them to the forefront of your mind. I
wouldn't have chosen the word 'uncondensing' myself, though, but that's
just a matter of style.
Surely covering all in-scope items is taken care of by the 'local items'
thought-group; then just giving each item a think-desc or something
would work fine.

I also thought of a 'remember' idea, which works in much the same way;
provides the player with information about things without having it
overtly listed in the gametext itself. Never got around to doing it,
though.

Aquarius

--
o |~> --------------------------------------------------------------
| (\._[~] aqua...@cryogen.com | Beer: it's not just for breakfast
|~|) |~~| "The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace" - Ronin, FM
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Den of Iniquity

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Dec 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/4/97
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On Tue, 2 Dec 1997, Marshall T. Vandegrift wrote:

>In the game I'm working on (in Inform) I'm toying with a "thought system,"
>which works similarly to a normal inventory, but controls ideas instead of
>objects.

>>think


>
>Your mind currently contains:
> some thoughts on magic (which are currently condensed)
> some thoughts on local items (which are currently uncondensed)
> a small jewel
> your diary
> your greatest secret

I'm repulsed by this idea, though it's taken me some time to figure out
why. It seems so inhuman. It's not _that_ bad to make an inventory of
belongings, though even that is slightly artificial. Whether to include
clothing, for example, is up to the author, and the inclusion of clothing
almost always hints that it might be important in some way. And you often
secretly carry around an inventory of body parts which can be referred to.
But to itemise thoughts in this way... Most games rely on the player, not
the protagonist, to remember where they left the small jewel, or what it
looked like. (Of course with TADS and some interpretations of other
systems you can scroll back to find the text as it was.) I'm wary of this
other method of 'remembering'.

As for thoughts about your protagonist's past, their secrets and so on,
well you'd rather hope that they were introduced through the prose, in
much the way that you'd hope that you'd find out that Character A was a
grumpy chap with a weakness for alcohol through conversation or
straightforward implication rather than being told explicitly. Well,
that's the way I prefer it, otherwise the character is in danger of
becoming a cardboard cut-out alcoholic (a locked door for whom a bottle of
brandy is the key, perhaps?) as opposed to a character in a story.

I described the idea of itemising knowledge as inhuman - which means of
course that you might get away with it with a more novel protagonist, an
android, for instance, that cannot (for a very simple example) unlock a
door with a key until the correct procedures have been uploaded into RAM
or the android has witness another being performed such an action and
deduced the mechanism involved. Add to that the possibility of altering
the way the world is portrayed by upgrading one's sensor array (shades of
AMFV, perhaps) and I'm getting an idea about which I'm much more
enthusiastic.

As for think, well, I'd see it in a slightly different role, as a way of
augmenting the information that is available to the player in a given
situation, as if it were an 'authorised' hint. But I'd then have to ask if
that information should just be carried in the main body of text instead.

--
Den


cody sandifer

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Dec 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/4/97
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> As for think, well, I'd see it in a slightly different role, as a way of
> augmenting the information that is available to the player in a given
> situation, as if it were an 'authorised' hint. But I'd then have to ask if
> that information should just be carried in the main body of text instead.

I implemented "thoughts" in this fashion when I found that playtesters
couldn't solve a crucial puzzle in "Everybody Loves a Parade". It was a
5-6 turn daemon that eventually told the player that s/he should get the
attention of a certain NPC (specifically, to discover the point of the
game!). It was more of a quick fix than anything else, though.

Just feeling chatty,

cody

Jason Anthony Melancon

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Dec 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/4/97
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Marshall T. Vandegrift (ma...@intrlink.com) wrote:
> In the game I'm working on (in Inform) I'm toying with a "thought system,"
> which works similarly to a normal inventory, but controls ideas instead of
> objects.

> Pretty much all I want to know is what people think of it.

> Examples (not from my game) follow...

> >i

> In addition to your mind, you have:
> a small jewel (providing light)
> a pine box
> your diary

> >think

> Your mind currently contains:
> some thoughts on magic (which are currently condensed)
> some thoughts on local items (which are currently uncondensed)
> a small jewel
> your diary
> your greatest secret

> (Note: the "thoughts on local items" contains information on every "thinkable
> object currently in scope)

> >x diary

> A small book, bound with brown leather.

> >t diary

> (Note: "t"="think" or "think about")

> Every day for the past ten years you have recorded your experiences in this
> book.

> >uncondense thoughts on magic

> Uncondensed.

> >condense thoughts on items

> Condensed.

> >t

> Your mind currently contains:

Jason Anthony Melancon

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Dec 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/4/97
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That's what I *posted.* Now, for what I *meant* to post (brother!):

Marshall T. Vandegrift (ma...@intrlink.com) wrote:
> In the game I'm working on (in Inform) I'm toying with a "thought
> system," which works similarly to a normal inventory, but controls
> ideas instead of objects.

> >i

> In addition to your mind, you have:
> a small jewel (providing light)
> a pine box
> your diary

> >think

> Your mind currently contains:
> some thoughts on magic (which are currently condensed)
> some thoughts on local items (which are currently uncondensed)
> a small jewel
> your diary
> your greatest secret

> So, tell me what you think!

My first reaction is, as others have expressed, that this sort of
thing belongs in the room and object descriptions themselves or,
ideally, as part of one-time game text to avoid the appearance of
rethinking identical things with every LOOK (AT).

But continuing this line of argument made me wonder if this might
even be the way conventional inventory itself should be handled,
since, as someone said, inventories may be similarly artificial.
Is there a way to treat objects that are

part of the PC,
in constant contact with the PC, and
in the field of vision of the PC
(and thoughts of the PC)

the same, with no divisions? Certain objects, carried or not, would
become relevant to the story at certain junctures, just as thoughts
are usually handled now. If they become irrelevant, there would be no
need to keep track of them. Would this have to be done in the manner
of The Space Under the Window, since actions would be either impossible
or given away, preordained from the situations?

Jason Melancon


Aquarius

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Dec 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/4/97
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Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> wrote:

> As for thoughts about your protagonist's past, their secrets and so on,
> well you'd rather hope that they were introduced through the prose, in
> much the way that you'd hope that you'd find out that Character A was a
> grumpy chap with a weakness for alcohol through conversation or
> straightforward implication rather than being told explicitly.

I'm not sure I agree with this; the point about remembering is, if
anything, it makes your character seem more human rather than less. If
you want to get a tim-opener from your kitchen, you don't search all the
drawers or walk around 'asking people about tin-opener' until someone
lets drop the information you requested, you go and get it because you
remember where you keep it. The problem with the basic IF implementation
is that the character is a zombie with no thoughts or experience of the
world at all; now, in some games, where you're supposed to be abandoned
in a strange place, this is the designer's intent. In others, however,
it is supposed to be the characters normal world; they should have some
knowledge of it, and presenting all of this in prose would lead to
dauntingly long lists of information about things every time you so much
as glanced at them. When I look at my computer, I think: this is a
computer. I don't overtly think about exactly what sort of computer it
is, what it was like when I first connected it up, the happiness I felt
when I got it and where exactly it came from. However, this information
*is* accessible to me, should I choose to think about it.

Marshall T. Vandegrift

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Dec 5, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/5/97
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In article <Pine.SGI.3.95L.97120...@ebor.york.ac.uk>,

Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> wrote:

>I'm repulsed by this idea, though it's taken me some time to figure out
>why. It seems so inhuman.

[SNIP]

Now that I look at it again, the way I currently have it implemented is rather
unhuman. My original intent (clouded by my implementation) was to make a way
so that the player *didn't* have to remember the secret code word, etc. and
would have important world information or flash-backs stored so that they
could be re-read. Reading the inscriptions about the terrible triggly-tork
would reveal the information, but *also* add the information as an "idea."

My intent with "think about object X" was to split the physical description of
an object from what the protaganist may know/think about it. The way I
implemented it (listing "thinkable" objects), however, merely adds to the
inhumanity of the system.

>As for thoughts about your protagonist's past, their secrets and so on,
>well you'd rather hope that they were introduced through the prose, in
>much the way that you'd hope that you'd find out that Character A was a
>grumpy chap with a weakness for alcohol through conversation or

>straightforward implication rather than being told explicitly. Well,
>that's the way I prefer it, otherwise the character is in danger of
>becoming a cardboard cut-out alcoholic (a locked door for whom a bottle of
>brandy is the key, perhaps?) as opposed to a character in a story.

The secret really was a bad example. But as for your example (with A being an
alcoholic), what's the difference between talking to A and having it implied
that A's an alcoholic and thinking about A and having it implied that A's an
alchoholic? This is assuming the protagonist already knows A. If he doesn't,
than I can quite readily see your viewpoint.

>I described the idea of itemising knowledge as inhuman - which means of
>course that you might get away with it with a more novel protagonist, an
>android, for instance, that cannot (for a very simple example) unlock a
>door with a key until the correct procedures have been uploaded into RAM
>or the android has witness another being performed such an action and
>deduced the mechanism involved. Add to that the possibility of altering
>the way the world is portrayed by upgrading one's sensor array (shades of
>AMFV, perhaps) and I'm getting an idea about which I'm much more
>enthusiastic.

Hmm. Now, that's interesting. If I end up deciding to cut my thought system
from my current game, my next game might be something along those lines.
Thanks for the idea!

>As for think, well, I'd see it in a slightly different role, as a way of
>augmenting the information that is available to the player in a given
>situation, as if it were an 'authorised' hint. But I'd then have to ask if
>that information should just be carried in the main body of text instead.

The way I'm planning on restructuring it, the only part a player would
absolutely have to use in order to win would be "think about object X" part.
I already have a kind of "authorized hint system" in that when the player
thinks about the player object, he's told if he's currently messing with a
puzzle that can't be solved yet.

Thank you for the comments. I'll probably still include the concept, but
I'll try to make it as low-profile as possible. (Starting with removing that
list of thinkable objects...)

Den of Iniquity

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Dec 5, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/5/97
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On Fri, 5 Dec 1997, Marshall T. Vandegrift wrote:

>Now that I look at it again, the way I currently have it implemented is rather
>unhuman. My original intent (clouded by my implementation) was to make a way
>so that the player *didn't* have to remember the secret code word, etc. and
>would have important world information or flash-backs stored so that they
>could be re-read.

Yes, I think it was definitely the 'itemisation' of thoughts that bothered
me. To these other points: secret code word - well, if you don't require
the player to have to remember it, why not just set a flag that the player
has learned it, such that a transcript goes like this:

-> OPEN DOOR

- You press a few keys randomly, to no avail. You'll never get through
- without the password.

[Huge chunk of play butchered]

-> READ DOCUMENT

- The password, it says, is 'Xyzzy'.

[Small chunk of one's return to the door removed]

-> OPEN DOOR

- You type 'Xyzzy' into the control pad then hit return. After a few
- paranoid seconds of silence, the door suddenly swishes open.


As for flashbacks, well, in static fiction, they're thrown in when the
plot calls for them. If you give the player the option to choose when to
reminisce, would you prevent the player from having a flashback too early
on in the development of the plot?


>The secret really was a bad example. But as for your example (with A being an
>alcoholic), what's the difference between talking to A and having it implied
>that A's an alcoholic and thinking about A and having it implied that A's an
>alchoholic? This is assuming the protagonist already knows A. If he doesn't,
>than I can quite readily see your viewpoint.

Well, I suppose it all comes down to a matter of taste. What's wrong with
this?

-> JANE, HELLO
-
- Jane gives you a cold 'good evening'. Her attention is clearly on the
- behaviour of her husband, Jeremy, who is wolfing down as much of the
- liver pate as he can while he thinks her vegan back is turned.
-
- Over by the piano, Dr Alexis is leafing through Maggie's collection of
- sheet music. Well, that's what his hands are doing, but the old sot's
- eyes are clearly trained on Maggie's cleavage.

This second paragraph is thrown in no matter what the player's instruction
was (provided it involved staying in the room and wasn't too dramatic,
like lobbing a grenade into the room) and so we learn that Dr Alexis is a
lecherous old drunkard. (And that Maggie is probably wearing a low-cut
dress, not that it need be important. ;)

Overall, I think it is a matter of taste as to whether the player should
be reminiscing to find out extra information. If very important
information is only provided in a 'thought about something' it would lose
its appeal. Instead of 'guess the verb' we'd have guess the
thought/flashback/reminiscence and stuck players may find themselves
trying to 'think' about everything. (Finally thinking of naturism and
learning that Maggie is an unstoppable nudist... Aargh!)

Done well, I can see that it could provide an extra dimension to a
player's interactions - but for the moment I wonder if most
implementations might well go in the main text.

--
Den


Magnus Olsson

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Dec 5, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/5/97
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In article <Pine.SGI.3.95L.97120...@ebor.york.ac.uk>,
Den of Iniquity <dms...@york.ac.uk> wrote:
>On Tue, 2 Dec 1997, Marshall T. Vandegrift wrote:
>
>>In the game I'm working on (in Inform) I'm toying with a "thought system,"
>>which works similarly to a normal inventory, but controls ideas instead of
>>objects.
>
>>>think
>>
>>Your mind currently contains:
>> some thoughts on magic (which are currently condensed)
>> some thoughts on local items (which are currently uncondensed)
>> a small jewel
>> your diary
>> your greatest secret
>
>I'm repulsed by this idea, though it's taken me some time to figure out
>why. It seems so inhuman.

[ remainder of an excellent post deleted to save bandwidth ]

At first sight, I tend to agree with you, Den, but I think it would
depend a lot on what the rest of the game was like.

Most IF players seem to dislike being told what they think and feel. I
think they'll object even more to being told what their mind contains
:-).

But I still think it might be worthwhile to try it in a game. It's all
too easy to condemn things like this on theoretical grounds - "Good IF
shouldn't be like that" - but seeing it implemented is something
completely different. Who knows, people may like it when they actually
play it!

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

Jay Walton

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Dec 5, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/5/97
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<snip>

> Now that I look at it again, the way I currently have it implemented is
rather
> unhuman. My original intent (clouded by my implementation) was to make a
way
> so that the player *didn't* have to remember the secret code word, etc.
and
> would have important world information or flash-backs stored so that they

> could be re-read. Reading the inscriptions about the terrible triggly-tork
> would reveal the information, but *also* add the information as an "idea."

Would an "automatic note-taking notebook" type of thing work well in this
situation?

David A. Cornelson

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Dec 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/7/97
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In article <65vska$a...@snews2.zippo.com>,

ma...@intrlink.com (Marshall T. Vandegrift) wrote:
>
> In the game I'm working on (in Inform) I'm toying with a "thought system,"

<snip>

It's my opinion that you run into the problem of creating a "tool" that
the game player has to "use" more than once. This has always been one of
my biggest pet peeves in I-F, and why the newer Activision Zork games get
pummeled.

When you build your story around a similar use of the same tool over and
over, you've pretty much gotten lazy about threading that functionality
into the story by other means.

For example, I would consider Enchanter's method the best of all time. In
the game, you needed sleep occasionally, and each time you had a
prophetic dream that helped you solve a puzzle. In this manner, the
"tool" was sleeping, and the "use" was a hint, but it flowed with the
story in that as the main character, you had these inherent abilities.

Your idea is an excellent one, but the implementation should be threaded
into the story so that the player never "thinks" about it, and inherently
understands that it is a part of his/her character within the game. Now,
the difficult part is teaching the player that they have this ability is
another story.

You could possibly use the Dune Mentat characterization where each
decision made triggers a wave of possible solutions, but this seems like
overkill.

Hmmm, it seems you're trying to change the "examine" function to include
the player's mind. This is possibly the answer. Using a Verb "Remember"
or "Ponder" or whatever, you could parse for local objects and when a
combination is available, you trigger something special.

....

You are in a dusty bedroom with a four-poster bed, a cracked and rotted
armoir, broken chairs, and an odd standing mirror next to the north wall.
The door to the hallway is hanging by one hinge, and an open doorway
leads to an ajoining room south.

> fix door

You stuggle mightily to lift the door on it's second and third hinges,
eventually succeeding. With a quick hand, you slam the pins in place.

> look at door

The door, now hanging correctly, leads to the hallway.....but something
is amiss, you experience a sort of deja vu that triggers a memory of long
ago.

> remember

You concentrate on the feelings the door has triggered and....

You are in a bedroom on a four-poster bed. Your wife is sitting on a
chair, combing her hair and talking about something. The mood is light
and she returns to your embrace for a moment. Then suddenly, she twists
the bottom right post of the bed and a secret passage opens behind the
headboard. She kisses you and disappears through the passage...

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

This is how I would implement this idea....

David A. Cornelson, Chicago

-------------------==== Posted via Deja News ====-----------------------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Post to Usenet

Scott Steubing

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Dec 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/7/97
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On Sun, 07 Dec 1997 07:32:38 -0600, dcorn...@placet.com (David A.
Cornelson) wrote:

>
>You are in a dusty bedroom with a four-poster bed, a cracked and rotted
>armoir, broken chairs, and an odd standing mirror next to the north wall.
>The door to the hallway is hanging by one hinge, and an open doorway
>leads to an ajoining room south.
>
>> fix door
>
>You stuggle mightily to lift the door on it's second and third hinges,
>eventually succeeding. With a quick hand, you slam the pins in place.
>
>> look at door
>
>The door, now hanging correctly, leads to the hallway.....but something
>is amiss, you experience a sort of deja vu that triggers a memory of long
>ago.
>
>> remember
>
>You concentrate on the feelings the door has triggered and....

<snip>

Since looking at the door triggers a memory (that presumably has
information important to the game), I'd much rather have the flashback
printed immediately after the door's description (only on the first
time you look at the door, of course), instead of having to type
another command to get the information.

If past memories of places/things/events are important to the game,
then such information should be presented when the game says "Hey, you
have a memory of this object". In real life, if experiencing something
inspires a memory, we automatically experience it. We don't have to
consciously dredge up the memory. If it's something that we can't
immediately remember, we usually do sometime later. This can be
implemented by a daemon started when we examine at an object or enter
a room; the daemon would print the memory 5 to 15 turns afterwards.

Now, if the character was a computer, automaton or alien whose memory
didn't work like human memory does, then your method would be fitting.


<*> Scott Steubing
<*> ScottS...@worldnet.att.net
<*> http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Vault/2355 - The Unofficial Whizzy Home Page

E-mail address intentionally messed up to prevent spam. Add ".net" to the end.
There is a special circle in Hell reserved for those who send out unsolicited commercial email.

Matt Ackeret

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Dec 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/7/97
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Marshall T. Vandegrift (ma...@intrlink.com) wrote:
> Your mind currently contains:
> some thoughts on magic (which are currently condensed)
> some thoughts on local items (which are currently uncondensed)
> a small jewel
> your diary
> your greatest secret

If this stuff is *automatically* or even manually added (with a remember
command), this would be VERY cool.

This type of thing could be analogous to auto-mapping (which I *love*
in games).. If I were able to have the computer specifically "remember"
items, it would mean less writing of things down.

In other words:

You are in Room X
There is a major important thingeemabob here.

> get thingeemabob
Gotten.

> Remember "thingeemabob was found in Room X"
Remembered.


This way, you can effectively take notes but the game handles it all for
you. I don't know if this sort of thing could be done in a Zcode game since
it would involve arbitrary memory allocation.
--
mat...@area.com

Den of Iniquity

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Dec 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM12/8/97
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On 7 Dec 1997, Matt Ackeret wrote:
>You are in Room X
>There is a major important thingeemabob here.
>
>> get thingeemabob
>Gotten.
>
>> Remember "thingeemabob was found in Room X"
>Remembered.

-> THINK

- You have Post-It notes stuck all over your brain, numbered 1 - 872.

;)
--
Den


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