if7/ narrative theory question

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Conrad

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Jan 29, 2007, 2:49:22 PM1/29/07
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Hey, guys, I'm into narrative theory & wonder if anyone here has
taken that angle as an approach to gamemaking.


Conrad.

David Fisher

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Jan 29, 2007, 6:01:09 PM1/29/07
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"Conrad" <conra...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1170100162....@a75g2000cwd.googlegroups.com...

>
> Hey, guys, I'm into narrative theory & wonder if anyone here has
> taken that angle as an approach to gamemaking.

Could you expand on that a bit ?

I checked the wikipedia entry
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_theory) and I am not sure how you
are thinking of applying it to IF ...

David Fisher


Conrad

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Jan 30, 2007, 12:48:19 PM1/30/07
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On Jan 29, 6:01 pm, "David Fisher" <d...@hsa.com.au> wrote:
>
> > Hey, guys, I'm into narrative theory & wonder if anyone here has
> > taken that angle as an approach to gamemaking.
>
> Could you expand on that a bit ?
>
> I checked the wikipedia entry
> (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_theory) and I am not sure how you
> are thinking of applying it to IF ...

I'm interested not so much in puzzle-solvers or simulators, but in
stories that the user interacts with in such a way that the story
adapts thematically to the user's play.

A goofy example of this would be monsters or adversaries that taunt
the
player for having entered a cheat code. "Oh, aren't we quite the
brave
adventurer with our 9999 hit points and our unlimited supply of ammo?"

A more serious example would be one where the player is set up to
make various choices early in the game that reflect implicity what
kind
of character he or she is playing: When caught in some
transgression,
does the player sell out the NPC partner in crime?

That will give us a betrayal or loyalty theme that we can tinker with
throughout
the game, with NPCs responding to PCs on that basis and with the ante
steadily rising.

What I'm thinking of is CYOAish at this stage, but only because I'm
keeping
it simple.

I'd very much like to know if anyone's done or been working on this
angle.


Conrad.

Adam Thornton

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Jan 30, 2007, 12:57:43 PM1/30/07
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In article <1170179299.5...@v33g2000cwv.googlegroups.com>,

Conrad <conra...@gmail.com> wrote:
>A more serious example would be one where the player is set up to
>make various choices early in the game that reflect implicity what
>kind
>of character he or she is playing: When caught in some
>transgression,
>does the player sell out the NPC partner in crime?
>
>That will give us a betrayal or loyalty theme that we can tinker with
>throughout
>the game, with NPCs responding to PCs on that basis and with the ante
>steadily rising.
>
>What I'm thinking of is CYOAish at this stage, but only because I'm
>keeping
>it simple.
>
>I'd very much like to know if anyone's done or been working on this
>angle.

Sure, although I dunno how much in text adventures.

However, the strength of _Planescape: Torment_ (and to a lesser extent
_Knights of the Old Republic_) was precisely that your character's
actions (and your character started as a complete tabula rasa in each
case) led you along certain moral paths.

This may work better in RPGs where the variables used to track such
things are visible to the player as a progress meter or goal.

Adam

Emily Short

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Jan 30, 2007, 3:18:22 PM1/30/07
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On Jan 30, 9:48 am, "Conrad" <conradc...@gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm interested not so much in puzzle-solvers or simulators, but in
> stories that the user interacts with in such a way that the story
> adapts thematically to the user's play.
>
> A goofy example of this would be monsters or adversaries that taunt
> the
> player for having entered a cheat code. "Oh, aren't we quite the
> brave
> adventurer with our 9999 hit points and our unlimited supply of ammo?"

I can think of a handful of things like this, though mostly in older
games. For instance, I believe if you used the SAVE command in Floyd's
presence (in Infocom's Planetfall), he would comment that you must be
about to do something dangerous. But this kind of thing breaks the
illusion that the game world is complete and self-contained, so
authors often avoid it these days.

> A more serious example would be one where the player is set up to
> make various choices early in the game that reflect implicity what
> kind
> of character he or she is playing: When caught in some
> transgression,
> does the player sell out the NPC partner in crime?

None of these are *exactly* what you describe, but they may be related
enough to be interesting:

-- Adam Cadre's I-0 offers a lot of possible courses of action, and
your choice will define the PC to some extent;
-- Textfire Golf, by the same author, works out its narrative based on
how well you have the PC play (and there are many many possible
outcomes);
-- One Week, which is indeed a CYOA, lets the player make choices
about how to manage her time during an important week of high school;
her later options depend somewhat on what resources she's accumulated
earlier in the week, and then the game ends by describing the kind of
person she's turned out to be.


JDC

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Jan 30, 2007, 3:47:57 PM1/30/07
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Another game that is sort of like what you describe is The Colour Pink
by Robert Street, where puzzles can be solved in several ways, and how
you solve puzzles will affect how later things are presented.

-JDC

Aaron A. Reed

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Jan 30, 2007, 4:15:17 PM1/30/07
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On Jan 30, 7:48 am, "Conrad" <conradc...@gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm interested not so much in puzzle-solvers or simulators, but in
> stories that the user interacts with in such a way that the story
> adapts thematically to the user's play.

Brief plug: you might try my game "Whom the Telling Changed," which
keeps track of the player's choices and behavior and adjusts both the
reactions of other characters and they way they are described
accordingly. For example, the same ending can be seen as "good" or
"bad" depending on the choices the player makes during the game.

I've played around with a related idea for a game, but later dropped
it. The concept was that as the game progressed it would offer the
player a number of subtle choices, along the lines of seeing whether
they they squish an icky spider or leave it alone, noting whether they
choose the well-trodden or half-overgrown path to explore first, that
sort of thing. Essentially there would be an invisible psych test
going on as the game is played. At the end a mind-reading NPC uses
this information to his advantage: using colors, behaviors, and
environments that we've determined the player is likely to be
receptive to. It turned out it was going to be a huge amount of work
for something that most players wouldn't even notice was going on (and
might not even work anyway, as people probably play IF a lot
differently than they would react in real life) but I thought the idea
at least was interesting.

Jan Thorsby

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Jan 30, 2007, 4:27:56 PM1/30/07
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> I'm interested not so much in puzzle-solvers or simulators, but in
> stories that the user interacts with in such a way that the story
> adapts thematically to the user's play.

Lazy Gods of Earth does something like this.


Conrad

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Jan 30, 2007, 9:54:07 PM1/30/07
to
On Jan 30, 3:18 pm, "Emily Short" <emsh...@mindspring.com> wrote:
> On Jan 30, 9:48 am, "Conrad" <conradc...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > I'm interested not so much in puzzle-solvers or simulators, but in
> > stories that the user interacts with in such a way that the story
> > adapts thematically to the user's play.
>
> > A goofy example of this would be monsters or adversaries that taunt
> > the
> > player for having entered a cheat code. "Oh, aren't we quite the
> > brave
> > adventurer with our 9999 hit points and our unlimited supply of ammo?"
>
> I can think of a handful of things like this, though mostly in older
> games. For instance, I believe if you used the SAVE command in Floyd's
> presence (in Infocom's Planetfall), he would comment that you must be
> about to do something dangerous.

Yes, I remember that. It's a framing violation. Here it's played for
a
laugh, but there's nothing inherently funny or un-dramatic in the
technique:

The oldest example I know of is in _Medea._ As an ancient Greek
drama, the play comes with a Greek chorus, who come on between
acts and have three little chants: strophe, antistrophe, and
strophe:
while they cross the stage from left to right, back right to left,
and
left to right again, exiting.

Usually they just kinda recap. But in _Medea_, they sympathise
with the princess-grown-old for her husband running off with a hot
young politically-well-connected princess: Kinda rough, they say:
sucks to be you. Greek chori don't generally talk to the characters.

Medea tells them: "It's all right: I'm going to get him, but good.
And
I'll let you in on it -- but you've got to *promise* to keep it
secret."

"Yeah, sure," they say: "We won't tell."

"I'm going to cook his two little beautiful boys and feed them to
him." Medea stalks off, calling for her kids.

"Aw, man," they say: "That's kinda screwed up." Now they're
talking to the audience: it's going from weird to weirder. "We know
we promised and all, but maybe we should tell him. I mean, geeze."

These days we'd call that kind of move post-modern; but Euripides
wouldn't have known that terminology.

A fine story-telling technique.


Thanks for the leads, all. I'll be a little while looking these up...


Conrad.


ps -

> But this kind of thing breaks the
> illusion that the game world is complete and self-contained, so
> authors often avoid it these days.

If that's considered troublesome, there are various ways around
it. Shakespeare's characters talked about plays being put on
within the play, for example.


Blank

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Jan 31, 2007, 7:15:14 AM1/31/07
to
I think the problem is at the moment that IF requires the player to act
in enough unnatural ways that we just don't want to add in anything
else: the player is already distanced more than enough.

Minor examples: the player as compass-head who not only always knows
which way is east, but habitually thinks about directions indoors as
north and south rather than, say left and right. (Yeah, I know, it's
generally accepted as the least-worst solution.)
The player having to explicitly LOOK all the time in order to check the
surroundings. In RL we're just more or less aware of our surroundings
the whole time. cf another thread on display styles - I really like the
idea of the room description being visible in an upper window the whole
time. Reading that discussion was a forehead-smacking moment for me.
(Now all I have to do is work out how to do it with my broken coding
skills!)

Major example: NPC conversation. In IF we can ASK, TELL or SHOW via the
prompt, otherwise we pretty much have to use menus. Worse than that,
because it's extremely difficult for an npc to ask the player a
question, all conversations are interrogations - with all those implicit
assumptions of power imbalance between the NPC and the PC.

Now all the conventions of play that IF uses are no more peculiar than,
say, opera, but how well received would comments from the cast to the
audience that "hey guys, you're watching an opera!" be? Strictly limited
to a one or two time gag, I'd say.

Incidentally, I think that some of the problems we have with bugs in IF
are because the conventions for players aren't fully codified yet. To
compare it to theatre again: audience members expect when visiting
proscenium theatre that they'll sit down for the duration of the
performance, which is designed to be seen from a fixed viewpoint. This
is such an ingrained part of the culture of theatregoing that audiences
aren't even aware of it. If someone gets out of their seat and walks
down to the curtain, of course it's obvious that the set slopes and the
television prop is just a cabinet with a blue light in it. But such
breaking of mimesis is seen as the fault of that audience member for
acting inappropriately, whereas in IF at the moment our response is
that the world model is broken if the player (by ignoring the plot)
discovers that the pizza boy doesn't really traverse Main Street and
Parking Lot to reach the Lobby.

jz

Conrad

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Feb 15, 2007, 3:57:35 PM2/15/07
to

I wrote a lengthy response to this... which the Usenet apparently
ate. I no longer remember what I said, so these are the thoughts that
now occur to me.

On Jan 31, 7:15 am, Blank <b...@nowhere.com> wrote:
>
> I think the problem is at the moment that IF requires the player to act
> in enough unnatural ways that we just don't want to add in anything
> else: the player is already distanced more than enough.
>
> Minor examples: the player as compass-head who not only always knows
> which way is east, but habitually thinks about directions indoors as
> north and south rather than, say left and right. (Yeah, I know, it's
> generally accepted as the least-worst solution.)
> The player having to explicitly LOOK all the time in order to check the
> surroundings. In RL we're just more or less aware of our surroundings
> the whole time. cf another thread on display styles - I really like the
> idea of the room description being visible in an upper window the whole
> time. Reading that discussion was a forehead-smacking moment for me.
> (Now all I have to do is work out how to do it with my broken coding
> skills!)

I'd argue that the goal of the simulator is not to approximate
reality, but to be as inobtrusive as possible. LOOKING and using
compass points is only problematic to the extent that it interferes
with the player's ability to put the game world together in his head,
or is inconvenient to the point of being an impediment.

For my part, I LOOK in a room several times, because I tend to rush
through the first time, and then go back for increasing levels of
detail. But also, I look around a room RL, for much the same reason.

> Major example: NPC conversation. In IF we can ASK, TELL or SHOW via the
> prompt, otherwise we pretty much have to use menus. Worse than that,
> because it's extremely difficult for an npc to ask the player a
> question, all conversations are interrogations - with all those implicit
> assumptions of power imbalance between the NPC and the PC.

Sure;

Room exits, if we weren't to use a compass-based solution, would be
menu driven. They'd probably look something like this:

> EXIT

Pick one: Do you want to exit via...
= the stairs
- the door to the outside
- the doorway to the living room
- the doorway to the hall


-- The thing is, we basically only have a limited set of options in
normal prowling-around style movement. Sure, in RL we always *can*
hop on one foot, crawl, walk backwards, and so forth; but it's not
reasonable to expect the programmer to account for all these, since
(a) we do these things only infrequently, except maybe when there are
small children around, and (b) we understand they're not liable to
have a big effect on the story.

And FWIW, a lot of time video games that are better able to simulate
physical reality end up being socially weirder; because you *can*
moonwalk, crawl, pull out various weird objects and place them around
the room, and *nobody says anything*.


But this is my thought: apart from exchanging information, there are
basically a pretty limited set of social moves available to us at any
time. We can insult someone, compliment them, give them advice,
threaten them, invite them back to our place, ignore them, and so
forth. And it's not real tough for a fuzzy-logic engine to handle
this kind of thing, and generate responses.

Basically, this is what the SIMS engine does, visually. There's no
particular reason it couldn't be done textually.


> Now all the conventions of play that IF uses are no more peculiar than,
> say, opera, but how well received would comments from the cast to the
> audience that "hey guys, you're watching an opera!" be? Strictly limited
> to a one or two time gag, I'd say.

Well, there's no need to be that rigid in the application. For
example, consider the npc Frank:


Frank is sitting at his computer playing a video game. He ignores
you.

> TALK TO FRANK

"I only talk to simulated people," Frank mutters.


This is a joke which is relevant to the gamer-programmer interaction.
The trick is to acknowledge the limitations of that interaction while
making it not a big deal.

I caught this program _The Jerry Springer Show_ once, which was
grostesquely intriguing. During the break, Springer comes on and says
something to the effect, "People often ask me, 'Where do you find the
people to come on your show?' After what you've just seen, heh, I
think the real question is, 'Where do you find the viewers?'"

--During the first question, I was thinking, "Yeah: what's up with
that?" When he finished, I kinda jumped internally, and thought,
"Okay, you got me: I was watching; I was into it. Mea culpa,
dammit."

By commenting on my emotional situation ("wtf *is* this?"), Springer
was able to change my reaction.


Another example might be in a menu-driven dating game (which I've
never seen the point of, but we'll go with it), to have some character
-- maybe a date; maybe a roommate; whatever; say at some point:

"Sometimes when I'm talking to someone I'll want to say something
that's on my mind... But I never seem to have the option to say it."


> Incidentally, I think that some of the problems we have with bugs in IF
> are because the conventions for players aren't fully codified yet. To
> compare it to theatre again: audience members expect when visiting
> proscenium theatre that they'll sit down for the duration of the
> performance, which is designed to be seen from a fixed viewpoint. This
> is such an ingrained part of the culture of theatregoing that audiences
> aren't even aware of it. If someone gets out of their seat and walks
> down to the curtain, of course it's obvious that the set slopes and the
> television prop is just a cabinet with a blue light in it. But such
> breaking of mimesis is seen as the fault of that audience member for
> acting inappropriately, whereas in IF at the moment our response is
> that the world model is broken if the player (by ignoring the plot)
> discovers that the pizza boy doesn't really traverse Main Street and
> Parking Lot to reach the Lobby.

I'd quarrel with you on that point; I think IF gamers are more
forgiving of the medium than you give them credit for.

Also, this is the area of IF that I find most exciting: because the
games are so easily broken, there are all kinds of opportunities to
set up the boundaries of a game in a way that increases player buy-in;
and (what I'm really into) there's the possibility of designing games
that are meant to be broken...


Conrad.


d...@pobox.com

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Feb 19, 2007, 6:08:01 AM2/19/07
to

Conrad wrote:
>
> Also, this is the area of IF that I find most exciting: because the
> games are so easily broken, there are all kinds of opportunities to
> set up the boundaries of a game in a way that increases player buy-in;
> and (what I'm really into) there's the possibility of designing games
> that are meant to be broken...

Sure, why not? Video games do it all the time. Have you played Metal
Gear Solid (the PlayStation version)? It's not full of fourth-wall
breakers but it definitely has more than its fair share. At one point
a villain, whist in the middle of monologuing, makes reference to how
often you save and looks at your memory card to see which other Konami
games you play. At another point your CO asks you to look on the back
of the CD case for a clue.

drj

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