Game Suggestions

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Chris

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Mar 31, 2002, 5:50:19 PM3/31/02
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Hi all,

I have an idea of a game brewing in my head. I'm sure it's been done before,
but doesn't mean the story can't be re-told.

The basic idea I have is this: Your ten, and one summer while visiting your
grandmother (who always told you stories about a fantastic fairy-tale kind
of land) she disappears one morning. Now you will quickly find yourself in
the actuall land that you thought were just stories.

Now here's the part I can't quite figure out, your grandmother has been
telling you these stories for quite a while, so in real life you would be
familiar with what she told you. How do I introduce ideas into the game,
that the player would actually already remember if it actually happened?

I have considered, writing a game, where the grandmother is a young girl and
finds out about the land first, and then my main idea as a sequal, but I
don't really want to do that. I'd rather at some point in the future have to
write a prequal.

Any suggestions?

Chris


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nils barth

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Mar 31, 2002, 6:22:49 PM3/31/02
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Thus wrote Chris <nospam....@sbcglobal.net>:

>I have an idea of a game brewing in my head. I'm sure it's been done before,
>but doesn't mean the story can't be re-told.
>
>The basic idea I have is this: Your ten, and one summer while visiting your
>grandmother (who always told you stories about a fantastic fairy-tale kind
>of land) she disappears one morning. Now you will quickly find yourself in
>the actuall land that you thought were just stories.
>
>Now here's the part I can't quite figure out, your grandmother has been
>telling you these stories for quite a while, so in real life you would be
>familiar with what she told you. How do I introduce ideas into the game,
>that the player would actually already remember if it actually happened?

Have a prologue in which the grandma tells you the story.
Say, you're in some city apartment, and your grandma is in
town visiting, and tells you a story (not just infodump - have
some interactivity here). Then you go to sleep/transition,
and the story proper begins: you're visiting your grandma in
the country etc.

--
nils

email: USER@HOST
where USER is n8c649hnti001 and HOST is sneakemail.com

Eytan Zweig

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Mar 31, 2002, 7:29:07 PM3/31/02
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"Chris" <nospam....@sbcglobal.net> wrote in message
news:LoMp8.3986$ZZ2.3143894114@newssvr21.news.prodigy.com...

> Hi all,
>
> I have an idea of a game brewing in my head. I'm sure it's been done
before,
> but doesn't mean the story can't be re-told.
>
> The basic idea I have is this: Your ten, and one summer while visiting
your
> grandmother (who always told you stories about a fantastic fairy-tale kind
> of land) she disappears one morning. Now you will quickly find yourself in
> the actuall land that you thought were just stories.
>
> Now here's the part I can't quite figure out, your grandmother has been
> telling you these stories for quite a while, so in real life you would be
> familiar with what she told you. How do I introduce ideas into the game,
> that the player would actually already remember if it actually happened?
>
> I have considered, writing a game, where the grandmother is a young girl
and
> finds out about the land first, and then my main idea as a sequal, but I
> don't really want to do that. I'd rather at some point in the future have
to
> write a prequal.
>
> Any suggestions?
>
> Chris
>
>

Well, a lot depends on the nature of the "things" you know about. One quite
simple possibility is simply to include the relevant "memory" in
descriptions, such as:

A Fork in the Path

Here, the path splits into two directions, the northwesternly branch leading
deeper into the forest and the southwest one leading into a small clearing.
This must be the very same clearing in which [the hero/ine of your
grandmother's tales] defeated the ferocious troll.

A shiney glint in the grass catchs your eye.

> X GLINT

You look in the grass, and to your amazement find a golden watch; inscribed
on it are the letters "T. S." You remember your grandmother telling you
about Tod Spencer, the famous explorer - could this have been his?

etc, etc...

Of course, this could rapidly get annoying, and probably would have to be
constructed so that when you get other confirmation to your memories, the
data will change (the watch description sounds awkward once you meet Tod
Spencer and he recognizes it).

A second option is to have the stories come in, perhaps as cutscenes, and
let the player realize the connections on his or her own. This, again, can
be a problem unless used in moderation - non-interactive sections, even if
very well written, are disruptive to the flow of the game.

A third option is to have a special command for memories - say, CONTEMPLATE
WATCH, gives you whatever you remember having heard about a watch. On the
one hand, this could avoid annoying repitition of the backstory within the
game. On the other hand, it could seem very stilted (you don't usually need
to actively think about something to remember where you heard about it), and
can be very annoying if you need to type it over and over for every item.

The major problem you're facing, is, paradoxically enough, that IF is built
to provide information linearly. Unless complicated steps are taken, usually
at the expense of understandability, IF works on a cause-and-effect basis -
you do something, and get a response. Non-Interactive fiction can mix
time-frames, jump from one narrative to another, and display parallel
narratives quite easily, but IF, by having the player as an active element,
introduces a stable pivot that can't be played with - you can change your
character, but you can't make me, the player of the game, be a different
person than I was when I typed the last command. You also have the problem
that passive actions, like listening to a story, don't carry well into IF,
so you can't just have the player be the 10-year old character listening to
the stories. In other words, IF is not necessarily the best medium to do
what you're trying to do. Which isn't to say that you can't do it, or even
that you can't do it very well - just that it's going to be more difficult
than a simpler, single-layer narrative.

Eytan


Andy Fischer

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Mar 31, 2002, 7:01:45 PM3/31/02
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In article <LoMp8.3986$ZZ2.314...@newssvr21.news.prodigy.com>,
nospam....@sbcglobal.net says...

If you're going to have several "stories" that you want the player to
learn, I think the best way to present them is scattered throughout the
game, rather than all at once at the beginning. Like a previous poster
suggested, a good way to do this is to have cue objects or places that,
when interacted with, bring back the memories of the stories.

In fact, rather than just tell the stories, you could put the game into
full-blown flashback mode, where as soon as the player begins to remember
the story, they find themselves as a character *in* the story, and they
must complete certain actions to finish it.

I think this could work as an effective game structure. First, you
flashback into fantasy story-land, where everything is metaphor and
allegory, and all the characters and puzzles have a bizarre fairy-tale
logic to them. Then, when you finish the story, you find yourself plonked
back into the real world, where you have to essentially do the same
things you did in the story, but the puzzle is to figure out what the
fairy tale's elements were metaphors for.

So, say you start out in fairy-tale land, and you figure out the solution
to a particular puzzle is to give the Enchanted Coin from the Smelly
Marsh to Master Bobo Billigins, in exchange for a magical glowing potion
that will aide your quest. Then, back in the real world, the solution to
a puzzle involves fishing a $20 bill from under a sewer grating in order
to buy some drugs off a local dealer.

Okay, maybe that's not the exact storyline you had in mind, but you get
the idea.

Andy

Jim Aikin

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Mar 31, 2002, 7:32:25 PM3/31/02
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"Eytan Zweig" <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:a8864h$q042f$1...@ID-101183.news.dfncis.de...

> A second option is to have the stories come in, perhaps as cutscenes, and
> let the player realize the connections on his or her own. This, again, can
> be a problem unless used in moderation - non-interactive sections, even if
> very well written, are disruptive to the flow of the game.

I've read variations on this comment several times on raif. I suspect it
depends on the preferences of your reader/user/player. I doubt it's an
absolute truth.

First of all, the argument is being loaded by the use of the word "game."
The idea that the IF genre consists of games and nothing but games is
unnecessarily limiting.

The most extreme form of computer game is the arcade twitch game. Certainly,
interrupting a twitch game with a flashback that took ten minutes to read
(or even ten seconds) would violate the expectations of the game-players.
But IF game-players are quite willing to pause for ten seconds while reading
a paragraph. From which I would conclude that reader/user/player
expectations are a variable, not a constant.

I don't think there's any reason *a priori* why IF shouldn't involve fairly
large stretches in which one is reading, alternating in some clever way with
pivot points in which one is interacting.

To give two examples, Galatea is mostly reading, as is Photopia. The
interactivity in Galatea is at least modestly real, while the interactivity
in Photopia seemed rather phony to me. But in either case, one is reading a
story on a computer screen -- a story in which there is some interactivity.
Whether either story is a "game" is highly debatable.

If you find the idea of reading six or eight 1,000-word fixed episodes
within an IF framework distasteful, all I can say is, your tastes run a bit
more toward the twitch end of the spectrum than mine do. Immersion comes in
two flavors -- literary and interactive. To achieve the best results, one
needs both.

Graham Nelson suggested, I believe, that a room description should seldom
exceed one paragraph. I feel this is just as unnecessarily limiting as
avoiding fixed episodes. A decent description of a setting sometimes
requires two hefty paragraphs -- unless your settings are all extremely
trite, I suppose. (Graham's aren't trite, but for that very reason I often
wish his writing weren't so terse.)

If _all_ your descriptions are bulky, the effect will be numbing, but that's
as true in conventional fiction as it is in IF. Varying the rhythm and
pacing is an important technique. Providing nothing but a "hot" stream of
interactivity quickly becomes as numbing as forcing your reader/user/player
to wallow through endless prose.

Having said all that, I suppose I should add the caveat that if you're not
an accomplished writer, you're probably better off sticking with short
descriptions and plenty of interactivity.

--Jim Aikin


Chris

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Mar 31, 2002, 9:49:46 PM3/31/02
to
HI all,

Thanks for all the suggestions, I was wondering about this possible
solution:

Including a text or html file that has all the stories your supposed to
know. This way as long as the player is in some kind of windowed
environment, they could jump back and forth?

What does everyone think?

Chris


"Chris" <nospam....@sbcglobal.net> wrote in message
news:LoMp8.3986$ZZ2.3143894114@newssvr21.news.prodigy.com...

nils barth

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Apr 1, 2002, 12:45:52 AM4/1/02
to
Thus wrote Chris <nospam....@sbcglobal.net>:

>HI all,
>
>Thanks for all the suggestions, I was wondering about this possible
>solution:
>
>Including a text or html file that has all the stories your supposed to
>know. This way as long as the player is in some kind of windowed
>environment, they could jump back and forth?
>
>What does everyone think?

that's roughly like the game material/feelies in old infocom
games. I'm not crazy about it (I prefer a certain unity to a
work of IF that I think essential feelies detracts from),
but it can work and has much to recommend it.

Eytan Zweig

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Apr 1, 2002, 2:01:26 AM4/1/02
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"Jim Aikin" <spam...@musicwords.net> wrote in message news:<tUNp8.6565$ml2.4...@newsread1.prod.itd.earthlink.net>...

I probably should have expressed myself better. When I said that the
shift from interactivity to non-interactivity is disruptive, I didn't
mean that doing so forms bad IF, or that I find it distasteful. I
meant that doing so changes the IF experience. The paradigmatic IF
experience is the one where you type something, get a response, and
continue typing. The longer the text you get, the less response-like
it seems; the experience becomes type something, read something, type
something, which isn't the same thing.

Is this bad? no. It could be very, very good. It is probably more
difficult to acheive well than simple puzzle-based IF games, but could
be very rewarding when done right (though whether either is *more*
rewarding is a matter of taste, of course). It also doesn't seem to me
to be what the person who started the thread means to do, given the
way he posed the question, which is why I warned him that it may
happen.

The way the text flows in IF is a very important part of the
experience of any IF, er, work. Which isn't to say that there is any
right way of doing it, but, that in order to create good IF, it must
be taken into account. Otherwise, you might end up producing a
different experience than you meant to.

Eytan

Uli Kusterer

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Apr 1, 2002, 7:53:39 AM4/1/02
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In article <LoMp8.3986$ZZ2.314...@newssvr21.news.prodigy.com>,
"Chris" <nospam....@sbcglobal.net> wrote:

> Now here's the part I can't quite figure out, your grandmother has been
> telling you these stories for quite a while, so in real life you would be
> familiar with what she told you. How do I introduce ideas into the game,
> that the player would actually already remember if it actually happened?

Chris,

I can only say how I (personally) would react to the different
approaches mentioned so far:

1) A separate text file with the story, to which you switch:
I wouldn't like that. It kind of feels like using a walkthrough to
finish a game; you're recruiting outside help to understand the game.
I'm usually of the type that, after downloading a game, takes a quick
glance at the readme whether there are any caveats (or if it was an
impulse download, to read the blurb that says what the game is about)
and then I just start up the game. Ideally, I'd want to just download
the game and start playing it. Kind of like you read the average novel.

2) Memories mentioned as soon as you come across or examine an object:
This feels the most homogenous to me. It's like in real life: You walk
past the trash can and remember: "Oh yeah, I promised mom to take out
the trash..." things like that. However, as mentioned this can become
very tiring if every object in your world fires memories at you. In real
life people would probably become catatonic if this kept happening to
them. In IF they'd probably just quit the game. So, what I suggest is
that if you go this route, have a few key objects for every fairy tale,
and only those trigger the memories, and only once. You could use some
common key like "... it looks like from a fairy tale" to indicate such
objects to your players, or even better, make them stand out in some
other way.

3) Telling all stories before the game proper starts:
I don't like that much either. It means that before I go through the
game, I have to read past some long stories. Some people will probably
just skip this stuff by hitting return, and all your good writing will
have been for naught. A page of introduction into a game is OK, but
anything longer, especially if it doesn't serve to set up the mood but
is rather just information slapped together before the game starts, will
feel like the bastard child of #1. It's a little better as the file
can't get lost, but it's not good either, especially if it can't be
re-read later.

4) Cut scenes at pivotal points:
This is a compromise if you want to go the route of #1 and #3. They can
be rather disrupting as well, but when you put them in between the
"chapters" of your story, they may well work. LucasArts games constantly
had this kind of scenes that hinted at things about to happen, or
provided clues (like the song with the bones that the PC wrote down and
which you later used to get through LeChuck's maze). The advantage of
these scenes is that a) you're in control of when the player reads them
b) you can have one story in each cut scene, which is not as taxing on
the player's attention because they get a couple of short stories with
breathing space (actual interaction) in between these scenes instead of
one huge block of text at startup.

5) Something that hasn't been mentioned yet, but which lies somewhere in
between the others above, is the "Diary approach". Somewhere at the
beginning, or at pivotal points through the game, the player finds a
book, or keeps finding pages torn out of a book, which provide useful
information. This is a very old and often-used approach in graphical
games (Myst uses this, Marathon had computer terminals fulfilling the
same purpose). It is still a little contrived, but has several
advantages over #1 and #3: a) The player carries around these books or
pages in their inventory and can choose to read them now or later. They
will probably have a quick look at the title or glance over the text,
and then later when they're stuck will check them out and actually read
them. The choice when to read what and to what extent is the player's
just as with #1. b) The player doesn't have to leave the game to read
them, and uses the same interface used during the game to read this
book. That means, that immersion doesn't have to be suspended (too much)
while the player reads your "hints". c) You can provide a table of
contents, summaries or bookmarks that point impatient players at
important parts, and provide the rest for those who want to know more
about your world.


Whew! That became rather long. But that probably is a case in point: If
a game started with such a long list, you'd probably need a good reason
to read past it. just like with #3 :-)

Cheers,
M. Uli Kusterer
"The Witnesses of TeachText are everywhere..."

Branko Collin

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Apr 1, 2002, 7:47:34 PM4/1/02
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"Chris" <nospam....@sbcglobal.net>, you wrote on Sun, 31 Mar 2002
22:50:19 GMT:

>I have an idea of a game brewing in my head. I'm sure it's been done before,
>but doesn't mean the story can't be re-told.
>
>The basic idea I have is this: Your ten, and one summer while visiting your
>grandmother (who always told you stories about a fantastic fairy-tale kind
>of land) she disappears one morning. Now you will quickly find yourself in
>the actuall land that you thought were just stories.
>
>Now here's the part I can't quite figure out, your grandmother has been
>telling you these stories for quite a while, so in real life you would be
>familiar with what she told you. How do I introduce ideas into the game,
>that the player would actually already remember if it actually happened?
>
>I have considered, writing a game, where the grandmother is a young girl and
>finds out about the land first, and then my main idea as a sequal, but I
>don't really want to do that. I'd rather at some point in the future have to
>write a prequal.

How does any writer deal with it? Usually by introducing the world as
you go along. Only very complex and rich mythologies tend to get maps,
dictionaries, encyclopedias, et cetera.

--
branko collin
Volk van San Theodoros, ik heb U begrepen.

Branko Collin

unread,
Apr 1, 2002, 7:47:34 PM4/1/02
to
"Chris" <nospam....@sbcglobal.net>, you wrote on Sun, 31 Mar 2002
22:50:19 GMT:

>I have an idea of a game brewing in my head. I'm sure it's been done before,


>but doesn't mean the story can't be re-told.
>
>The basic idea I have is this: Your ten, and one summer while visiting your
>grandmother (who always told you stories about a fantastic fairy-tale kind
>of land) she disappears one morning. Now you will quickly find yourself in
>the actuall land that you thought were just stories.

BTW, it sounds like an interesting idea, although I also feel I have
seen this angle before somewhere. Lord of the Flies, maybe... Or is it
the living out of an abandonment fear/fantasy? I remember that as very
little kids me and my brothers both feared and fantasized about being
on ourselves.

Or does it sound like this year's competition entry, Triune?

Dennis G. Jerz

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Apr 2, 2002, 3:22:06 PM4/2/02
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"Chris" <nospam....@sbcglobal.net> wrote in message
news:eVPp8.4147$zU2.3209144346@newssvr21.news.prodigy.com...

> HI all,
>
> Thanks for all the suggestions, I was wondering about this possible
> solution:
>
> Including a text or html file that has all the stories your supposed to
> know. This way as long as the player is in some kind of windowed
> environment, they could jump back and forth?
>
> What does everyone think?
>


I'm sure its possible to combine interaction and long-sh passages of text in
interesting and rewarding ways, but these are some of my own responses to
the idea.

In the mid-80s, many of the commercial IF titles included a 30-page short
story that you were supposed to read first, before you played the game.
This booklet helped keep the file size low, and also was a kind of
copy-protection. While I like such "feelies" as much as the next guy, I
personally feel that if the game is so complex that it is impossible for you
to present the rules/values of your world in IF format, then you're writing
two different texts with some overlap. As some other posters have noted,
making that transition can be jarring.

You might have a prologue that includes "book" objects, that lets you
actually read the stories within the realistic portion of the game world
(and take them with you on your adventures). Or, you could implement the
grandmother as an NPC who will "tell me about X" (and then go get a book off
the shelf and start reading). But the linear format of a prose story
doesn't always translate well to the computer screen. People are generally
impatient reading long blocks of text on a screen, and they won't read an
online paragraph as closely as they would a paper paragraph. Good narrative
prose implies a careful reader who wants to drink in every word, and who's
reading slowly enough that one expects that he/she won't need to go back and
read it all again. There are probably people who do read IF that way, but
novels are already the perfect form for people who like to read that way, so
I would suspect that people who enjoy IF are at least partially attracted to
the possibilities connected to inhabiting and interacting with an imaginary
textual world.

Good IF prose involves room and object descriptions that may be read once,
twice, or twenty times (depending on whether you have verbose set, and
depending on how the game is set up). It makes sense to keep those room and
object descriptions short.

If you plan to write several paragraphs at a time, you've got to fill those
paragraphs up with something. If the paragraphs are full of descriptive
prose, then the player is going to expect to be able to interact with all
the objects mentioned. If you fill those paragraphs up with actions or
conversations, then the player is going to feel railroaded by a description
of an action that he/she didn't want to take. ("You decide to go outside,
where you find a white horse. Intrigued by the horse, you climb on its
back." Well... what if I wanted to get a rope instead first?)

An occasional cut-scene can be a good reward, but consider the person who's
playing a game over again in an effort to get an optimal score, or simply to
try something new. I've been playing Baldur's Gate, and am nearing a
climactic showdown. an important scene that features about thirty NPCs and
about 20 lines of dialogue -- much of it voiced by actors -- happens just
before a battle. I kept getting killed during the battle, so I had to go
back to a saved game, reconfigure my party, and try a different battle
tactic. But that meant clicking through the cut-scene again and again and
again. After that I find myself in a maze, where it's almost impossible to
maneuver my stupid party members, since they keep trying to walk in straight
lines rather than follow the mouse pointer around corners. In both cases,
the game is frustrating because it's not my playing strategy or my in-game
abilities that are keeping me from winning, it's an annoying design decision
that's delaying my advance towards the conclusion of the game. I'm not
angry at the bad guy I'm supposed to be chasing, I'm angry at the game
designers.

I'll get over it, of course, but my point is that a long prose passage
inserted into an interactive game can be very jarring -- not simply because
of the length, but because a player who's been enjoying the interative
portion of the game may feel cheated by your decision not to permit the
player to interact with some of these interesting details. The volcano room
of "Colossal Cave Adventure" is an anticlimax because there's nothing to DO
once your're there.

--
Dennis G. Jerz, Ph.D.; (715)836-2431
Dept. of English; U Wisc.-Eau Claire
419 Hibbard, Eau Claire, WI 54702
------------------------------------
Literacy Weblog: www.uwec.edu/jerzdg

Mark J. Tilford

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Apr 4, 2002, 9:44:10 AM4/4/02
to

Actually, there was a game in AGT which did something like that...


> Okay, maybe that's not the exact storyline you had in mind, but you get
> the idea.
>
> Andy

[SPOILERS for an AGT game]


The second part of Shades of Gray involved a situation where you were
hallucinating on and off. The puzzles could be worked in either mode and
had different descriptions. (For example, in the real world, you were
attacked by a mugger in an alley and had to hit him with a crowbar; in
fantasy land, you had to fight a gladiator in the colloseum, and there
was a club handy.


--
------------------------
Mark Jeffrey Tilford
til...@ugcs.caltech.edu

Chris

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Apr 6, 2002, 1:33:24 AM4/6/02
to
Hi all,

After considering everyone's input, how about this idea:

Having full stories in a text/html file as a 'feelie'. And then have a book
object in the game, were the full story is also.

Chris

"Chris" <nospam....@sbcglobal.net> wrote in message

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