New cadet rolls up his sleeves...

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rem0ve_...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca

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Dec 8, 2000, 5:00:31 PM12/8/00
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Well, the IF bug has bitten yet again, but this time I think I'm ready for
it; I've been enjoying writing ordinary non-interactive fiction
recreationally for several years and I've just finished a C++ course so
I'm no longer intimidated by talk of class inheritance and member
functions. I've got an Idea, I've got some spare time, I'm ready to try
some real IF-writing work.

Anyone have any advice for a newbie on a good approach to starting this?
I'm wondering just how much I should plan out on paper ahead of time, and
how much I should worry about as I go along. I know this is an
individual-dependant thing to ask about, but I figured it'd be a good idea
to ask experienced IF writers for nasty dead-ends to watch out for (I
don't want to have to retroactively add new action responses to every
object in a game if I later decide to add a new verb, for example).

Also, since I haven't actually _played_ any text adventures since the old
Infocom era, does anyone have any suggestions for good ones to try? I
don't know what look-and-feel is popular these days, and while I plan to
write this game primarily for my own enjoyment I certainly wouldn't mind
the ego-boost that comes from others playing the heck out of it too. I
guess I'm worried about my puzzlemaking skills the most, since I'm more
used to writing the purely-story-telling kind of fiction.

--
Bryan Derksen (bder...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca)
http://www.ualberta.ca/~bderksen/
Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes

Tina

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Dec 8, 2000, 7:57:23 PM12/8/00
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Hi there! As someone who has never actually completed a work of IF but
who has, however, started at least 12 times in the last 4 years to set
out to do so, here's my hints:

Make Your Map On Graph Paper.
Make Your Map On Graph Paper.
Make Your Map On Graph Paper.

That's it! That's all you need to know! The rest is easy...

Oh, no, wait.

More seriously... Plan out the outline of everything. Story outline,
basic ideas for where story advancement should require some sort of
action by the player, make a basic map (yes, on graph paper), before you
even do so much as make sure your parser actually is set up correctly.
Then go read these things:

http://www.weblint.org/~neilb/intfiction/craft/
http://www.duke.edu/~srg3/IFdesign/raif/index.html

Then wait for about a dozen people to give you 15 different answers (and
probably more pointers), throw everything you've accumulated on paper
out, and start over, because by then you will be thoroughly confused.

Then go back to my 'outline' advice. I would say you -must- work that out
first. I also believe it's essential to keep a paper list of everything
you create once you do start programming. Once you actually start
creating... it depends. I don't think things like room descriptions must
be worked out before-hand, for instance -- just basic room function.
NPCs, on the other hand, should definitely be worked out, and so should
conversational trees. They can be -added- to (or slightly modified, or
detailed) on the fly. But if you add a new puzzle and a new item, you
really should add it to your list and run through it to see if those
things might affect the old stuff...

So, in short: outline first. Outline changes. Detail on the fly.

There's my advice in a nutshell, which is still one of the most bizarre
phrases ever, if you ask me.

J. Robinson Wheeler

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Dec 9, 2000, 2:46:43 AM12/9/00
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rem0ve_...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca wrote:
>
> Well, the IF bug has bitten yet again, but this time I think I'm ready for
> it; ... I've got an Idea, I've got some spare time, I'm ready to try
> some real IF-writing work.

Hooray.


> Anyone have any advice for a newbie on a good approach to starting this?
> I'm wondering just how much I should plan out on paper ahead of time, and
> how much I should worry about as I go along.

I think that avoiding what can kill your enthusiasm is the main thing.
Writing IF can often mirror the experience of playing it; you can get
stuck, and become frustrated with your inability to progress. Like
with any creative project, it takes a different set of muscles to
finish a project than it does to come up with the idea and make your
first, excited attempts to realize it.

I'd say, develop a general plan on paper, and use it as a general
guide, but follow your excitement. If there's sections of the
game that you're really looking forward to implementing, do a bit
of that when you're in the mood. Just don't leave *all* of the
boring bits for later, because it will be such a tedious chore that
you may not finish at all.

Something you might want to seek out is Graham Nelson's essay, "Craft
of Adventure," in which he addresses many of these issues. For example,
he advises authors to write things like room descriptions as they go,
rather than leaving dozens and dozens of them to be written all at
once later on -- a depressing prospect that can kill one's enthusiasm.
(This essay is on the gmd if-archive, under "info" I think. There's
also a nice essay called "Crimes Against Mimesis" that's worth a look;
recent threads have repeated a URL where it can be found.)


>I know this is an individual-dependant thing to ask about, but I
> figured it'd be a good idea to ask experienced IF writers for
> nasty dead-ends to watch out for (I don't want to have to
> retroactively add new action responses to every object in a game
> if I later decide to add a new verb, for example).

Sometimes this does need to be done. It's actually not that bad.
New verbs come with generic behavior. Identifying all of the objects
that might have a special-case reaction to it, and then implementing
that stuff, might take an hour, might take an afternoon, but it's
not that bad. Then beta-testers will find a dozen or so applications
for the verb you didn't think of; this is the more annoying case.

So, I don't think that particular example is a dead end. What is
a dead end to be avoided? I already mentioned a couple, above.
Certainly, you don't want to write or code any more than you
have to. Don't plan out a huge map on paper that will be just
plain uninspiring work to implement (and a waste of the player's
time, wandering through it) -- think instead about economy, about
what needs to be there for the story to unfold. When planning,
think as players think. Which leads to your next question.


> Also, since I haven't actually _played_ any text adventures since the old
> Infocom era, does anyone have any suggestions for good ones to try? I
> don't know what look-and-feel is popular these days, and while I plan to
> write this game primarily for my own enjoyment I certainly wouldn't mind
> the ego-boost that comes from others playing the heck out of it too. I
> guess I'm worried about my puzzlemaking skills the most, since I'm more
> used to writing the purely-story-telling kind of fiction.

Everyone has their own list; I tend not to make suggestions. I do
endorse playing some of the games in the archive for which there is
source code available. Play the game, then see how the author achieved
the various effects. "Christminster" is a good example, and a good
game as well. The archive is a tremendous resource; put it to use.


My last bit of advice:

Never, ever take two weeks off in the middle of writing the game,
because this "break" will actually grow into eight or nine months
of inactivity.


--
J. Robinson Wheeler http://thekroneexperiment.com
whe...@jump.net

Gadget

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Dec 9, 2000, 8:59:33 AM12/9/00
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On 8 Dec 2000 22:00:31 GMT, rem0ve_...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca made
the world a better place by saying:

>
>Anyone have any advice for a newbie on a good approach to starting this?
>I'm wondering just how much I should plan out on paper ahead of time, and
>how much I should worry about as I go along. I know this is an
>individual-dependant thing to ask about, but I figured it'd be a good idea
>to ask experienced IF writers for nasty dead-ends to watch out for (I
>don't want to have to retroactively add new action responses to every
>object in a game if I later decide to add a new verb, for example).

I'll bet a lot of people will tell you to write *everything* down and
make a list of *all* the stuff you put in the game. This can be a
tremendous help in the planning stages, but in my experience, a lot of
new ideas, objects and puzzles (and even locations) come up while
coding and it would be a shame to ignore those new ideas just because
you didn't plan them in the allmighty lists. Sometimes you may find
that your initial puzzle idea is not workable or too complex to carry
out. Then you should not feel hindered by your own preliminary charts
and graphs.

What I mean is: plan ahead, but don't plan yourself into a corner.

And the main thing is: keep working! I tend to do a bit of coding
*every day*, even if it is just a couple of lines or a small bugfix. I
also tell myself that I don't *have* to sit three hours behind the
keyboard: it's a hobby, not a chore. And when I am not in the mood I
have no problem turning my computer off, knowing I at least did
*something* to progress.

>Also, since I haven't actually _played_ any text adventures since the old
>Infocom era, does anyone have any suggestions for good ones to try? I
>don't know what look-and-feel is popular these days, and while I plan to
>write this game primarily for my own enjoyment I certainly wouldn't mind
>the ego-boost that comes from others playing the heck out of it too. I
>guess I'm worried about my puzzlemaking skills the most, since I'm more
>used to writing the purely-story-telling kind of fiction.

I think puzzlewriting is something you have to learn by doing. Looking
at others for ideas is allways helpful, but just like you don't learn
how to write a book by reading one, I think good puzzle creation is
something that you just have to *do*.

What is always helpful is having someone else play your game, or part
of it.

I am sure that in the game I am working on now, there are bad puzzles.
But I can't seperate the good from the bad anymore, since I am too
close to the whole thing. I can't pretend *not* to know the answers,
since I created them!

Hope this helps.


--
"So... you've compiled your own Kernel... Your skills are now complete..."
-----------------
It's a bird
It's a plane
No it's... Gadget?

Village Magazine: http://www.villagemagazine.nl
To send E-mail: remove SPAMBLOCK from adress.

T Raymond

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Dec 9, 2000, 2:11:38 PM12/9/00
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Tina was overheard typing about:

>So, in short: outline first. Outline changes. Detail on the fly.
>
>There's my advice in a nutshell, which is still one of the most
>bizarre phrases ever, if you ask me.

Hmm, and add to that, once you've started programming....
make backups!

Tom
--
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Tom Raymond adk AT usaDOTnet
"The original professional ameteur."
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Tina

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Dec 9, 2000, 2:21:07 PM12/9/00
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In article <3A31E366...@jump.net>,

J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> wrote:
>My last bit of advice:
>
>Never, ever take two weeks off in the middle of writing the game,
>because this "break" will actually grow into eight or nine months
>of inactivity.

SECOND!

(Or, for those of you who were wondering, JRW just summed up the reason
I have never released a game.)

Arcum Dagsson

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Dec 9, 2000, 4:49:35 PM12/9/00
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In article <90rllv$aaq$1...@pulp.srv.ualberta.ca>,
rem0ve_...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca wrote:
>
> Also, since I haven't actually _played_ any text adventures since the old
> Infocom era, does anyone have any suggestions for good ones to try? I
> don't know what look-and-feel is popular these days, and while I plan to
> write this game primarily for my own enjoyment I certainly wouldn't mind
> the ego-boost that comes from others playing the heck out of it too. I
> guess I'm worried about my puzzlemaking skills the most, since I'm more
> used to writing the purely-story-telling kind of fiction.

Good games. Let's see what I can come up with, offhand:

Curses.

Anchorhead, for the solid coding and the wonderful atmosphere.

Photopia, for the latest developments on puzzleless IF.

Jigsaw.

Any, or indeed all, games by Andrew Plotkin.

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch, though, but this is just a quick sampling. One
thing you will notice is that a lot of the more modern text adventures are
written in Inform or TADS. Not only does this give instant portability to almost
any platform, it avoids having to write a parser from scratch, allowing you to
focus on writing the game...

--
--Arcum Dagsson
"You say there's a horse in your bathroom, and all you can do is stand
there naming Beatles songs?"

REM0VE_...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca

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Dec 10, 2000, 4:18:08 AM12/10/00
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Tina <ti...@eniac.stanford.edu> wrote:
> In article <3A31E366...@jump.net>,
> J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> wrote:
> >Never, ever take two weeks off in the middle of writing the game,
> >because this "break" will actually grow into eight or nine months
> >of inactivity.

> SECOND!

Heh. Third, from me. I've lost many a piece of conventional fiction this
way. :)

Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I'm going to be using Inform, and for
starters I'm going to use a simpler plot idea that can be worked out in
detail as I go as a learning experience. Considering how modular these IF
programming languages are, the "do a little bit each day" thing might even
be easier for this than for regular fiction. I'll see how it goes.

Stark

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Dec 10, 2000, 6:32:28 PM12/10/00
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> Well, the IF bug has bitten yet again, but this time I think I'm ready
> for it; I've been enjoying writing ordinary non-interactive fiction
> recreationally for several years and I've just finished a C++ course so
> I'm no longer intimidated by talk of class inheritance and member
> functions. I've got an Idea, I've got some spare time, I'm ready to try
> some real IF-writing work.
>
> Anyone have any advice for a newbie on a good approach to starting this?

The only piece of advice I'd have (bearing in mind that I've never
succesfully finished writing a game!) is to start by making a small game.
A very, very small game. Even these soak up an enormous amount of effort,
so letting yourself be seduced by the idea of creating the next big game
is a bad idea. I know, because my two games have suffered badly from this.

> Also, since I haven't actually _played_ any text adventures since the
> old Infocom era, does anyone have any suggestions for good ones to try?

It's possibly obvious, but I'd recommed playing the top-rated games in
this year's competition. See http://www.textfire.com/comp00/ for more
info. It's worth noting that producing a puzzle-less environment is more
popular at the moment.

Cheers
Stark

Gadget

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Dec 10, 2000, 7:38:26 PM12/10/00
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On Sun, 10 Dec 2000 23:32:28 +0000, "Stark"
<m...@tardis.remove_this_rubbish.ed.ac.uk> made the world a better place
by saying:

> It's worth noting that producing a puzzle-less environment is more


>popular at the moment.
>
>Cheers
>Stark

Darn. There go the past three months of my life. Better go back and
remove all those puzzles now :->

Jon Ingold

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Dec 11, 2000, 8:34:15 AM12/11/00
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>It's worth noting that producing a puzzle-less environment is more
>popular at the moment.


..but is it? I have a feeling puzzle-less is more popular with authors than
players. Look at the comp's - Winter Wonderland, Metamorphoses, Ad Verbum
all did well, and are all puzzley games. For myself, way more people stopped
to write and tell me they liked "Mulldoon" - a puzzle game through and
through - than "My Angel", which isn't puzzle-less but is less
puzzle-orientated.

The likes of "Photopia" may well be more the exception than the rule.
Thoughts?

Jon


J.D. Berry

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Dec 11, 2000, 10:38:35 AM12/11/00
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In article <912l2v$5lk$1...@pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk>,

"Jon Ingold" <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> >It's worth noting that producing a puzzle-less environment is more
> >popular at the moment.
>
> ..but is it? I have a feeling puzzle-less is more popular with
> authors than players.

I think you're right.

For an author, it's difficult to come up with original and context
appropriate puzzles that are also at just the right difficulty level.
For a player, it sure is fun to tackle those kinds of puzzles.

For an author, it's easier to pace the story when there are no
puzzles. For a player, it sure is fun to tackle fun puzzles (:-)), but
hey author be sure to keep MY pace with the story.

> The likes of "Photopia" may well be more the exception than the rule.
> Thoughts?

I agree here, too. The less emphasis the author puts on puzzles, the
more the writing has to carry the day.

The author should not look at puzzles as a burden, though. They
provide a story involvement that static fiction cannot. And did I
mention they're fun?

Jim


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Gadget

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Dec 11, 2000, 11:02:42 AM12/11/00
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On Mon, 11 Dec 2000 13:34:15 -0000, "Jon Ingold" <ji...@cam.ac.uk>

made the world a better place by saying:

>>It's worth noting that producing a puzzle-less environment is more

Well, what is the main reason people come back to IF? I'm willing to
bet that 90% (let's not discuss this number PLEASE) got involved with
the genre (again) was because they liked the old text adventures like
Zork and Hitchhikers Guide. I can of course only speak for myself but
I like text adventures more because they are *games* then because
they are *stories*. I like a sence of discovery in a game: a world to
discover, chalenges to face, puzzles to solve. Maybe it is because of
the fact that I played the old Level 9 games before I played Infocom.
Games like Snowball, Return to Eden and Worm in Paradise (yes, they
are a trillogy ;-) ) were a puzzle-fest *first*, and a story second.

Nothing against puzzle-less games though. They're great once and a
while, but I prefer a good game over a good story.

Stephen van Egmond

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Dec 12, 2000, 2:13:11 PM12/12/00
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In article <3A31E366...@jump.net>,
J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> wrote:
>(This essay is on the gmd if-archive, under "info" I think. There's
>also a nice essay called "Crimes Against Mimesis" that's worth a look;
>recent threads have repeated a URL where it can be found.)

Honk!

http://bang.dhs.org/if/library/design/mimesis.html

Part of the handy (and going-far-farther-back-than-Deja-ever-did)
http://bang.dhs.org/if/library/ .

/Steve
--
,,,
(. .)
+--ooO-(_)-Ooo------------ --- -- - - - -
| Stephen van Egmond http://bang.dhs.org/

Kaia Vintr

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Dec 12, 2000, 5:35:49 PM12/12/00
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Jon Ingold wrote in message <912l2v$5lk$1...@pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk>...

There are very few truly "puzzle-less" games and Rameses is the only one, of
those I have seen, that I would consider successful. (I don't think
Exhibition made good use of the medium at all.) Games like Aisle are not
puzzle-less---the puzzle is to see how many of the endings you can
find---and Photopia obviously isn't.

Most works of IF, no matter how story-oriented or experimental, still
contain puzzles. They may, however, be easier, less time-consuming puzzles
and things that don't seem like puzzles (especially if you find them
trivial) but actually are. They may be so neatly woven into the plot (e.g.
Photopia) or the interactive fabric of the piece (e.g. The Space Under the
Window and Galatea) that you do not perceive them as distinct elements.

I really think the "puzzle-less" label has led people off on the wrong
track. The few works to which the label literally applies are just red
herrings that do not form a distinct genre or sub-form. It's not the
presence of puzzles that's important but rather how skillfully they are
integrated into a cohesive work and whether they serve some purpose or are
just diversions or stumbling blocks. And I don't think Metamorphoses tells
less of a story than Photopia. If you make the player fiddle with things it
doesn't mean you've stopped telling a story, it's just a different style of
narration.

What I personally dislike is games that resemble blue movies in their
formula. There's a twisted, ridiculous plot whose sole purpose is to get
you from one puzzle to the next because it is assumed that the puzzles are
all you're really interested in. But I guess I don't hate these games
enough that I mind playing them once in a while; they usually have their
"moments" and they're still better than Quake (or did Quake have its moments
too? I forget.)


-Kaia

Vincent Lynch

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Dec 12, 2000, 8:24:16 PM12/12/00
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Kaia Vintr <ka...@xoe.com> wrote in message
news:9LxZ5.605$0U2....@news20.bellglobal.com...

> Jon Ingold wrote in message <912l2v$5lk$1...@pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk>...
> >>It's worth noting that producing a puzzle-less environment is more
> >>popular at the moment.
> >..but is it? I have a feeling puzzle-less is more popular with authors
> >than players. Look at the comp's - Winter Wonderland, Metamorphoses,
> >Ad Verbum all did well, and are all puzzley games. For myself, way
> >more people stopped to write and tell me they liked "Mulldoon" - a
> >puzzle game through and through - than "My Angel", which isn't
> >puzzle-less but is less puzzle-orientated.
> >The likes of "Photopia" may well be more the exception than the rule.
> >Thoughts?
>
> There are very few truly "puzzle-less" games and Rameses is the only one,
> of those I have seen, that I would consider successful. (I don't think
> Exhibition made good use of the medium at all.) Games like Aisle are not
> puzzle-less---the puzzle is to see how many of the endings you can
> find---and Photopia obviously isn't.

I don't consider finding all the endings in Aisle to be a puzzle. If it is
a puzzle, it's very much guess-the-verb. ;-)

> Most works of IF, no matter how story-oriented or experimental, still
> contain puzzles. They may, however, be easier, less time-consuming
> puzzles and things that don't seem like puzzles (especially if you find
> them trivial) but actually are. They may be so neatly woven into the
> plot (e.g. Photopia) or the interactive fabric of the piece (e.g. The
> Space Under the Window and Galatea) that you do not perceive them as
> distinct elements.
>
> I really think the "puzzle-less" label has led people off on the wrong
> track. The few works to which the label literally applies are just red
> herrings that do not form a distinct genre or sub-form. It's not the
> presence of puzzles that's important but rather how skillfully they are
> integrated into a cohesive work and whether they serve some purpose or are
> just diversions or stumbling blocks. And I don't think Metamorphoses
> tells less of a story than Photopia. If you make the player fiddle with
> things it doesn't mean you've stopped telling a story, it's just a
> different style of narration.

I don't think your definition of puzzleless is the crucial distinction here,
and I doubt it's the one Jon had in mind. (Not that I've played Winter
Wonderland, Metamorphoses or Ad Verbum...) What you've said applies to
story-orientated games. But sometimes I want a game where the emphasis *is*
on solving puzzles, rather than one that just tells a story. And when
that's the case, puzzles-that-don't-seem-like-puzzles really don't count.
Puzzles can be integrated into a story, and I think this can add to a game
considerably, but in a puzzle-orientated game, the puzzles themselves are
crucial.

-Vincent

Kaia Vintr

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Dec 12, 2000, 10:13:58 PM12/12/00
to
Vincent Lynch wrote in message ...

>I don't consider finding all the endings in Aisle to be a puzzle. If it is
>a puzzle, it's very much guess-the-verb. ;-)

Well it certainly is, if you respond to it in that way. Perhaps some
people don't---they just try the actions that make sense to them and then
leave it at that---but I'm sure most try to explore a little further. Just
because there's no bell that rings when you've "solved" it doesn't mean it's
not a puzzle.

>I don't think your definition of puzzleless is the crucial distinction
here,
>and I doubt it's the one Jon had in mind.

Well I was mostly talking about the "old puzzleless thing" which has been
bothering me for some time. Jon's actual distinction was between more and
less "puzzle-oriented" games, recognising that there is a continuum. I
can't see a clear-cut distinction between "puzzle games" and "story games"
though a lot of people seem to imply that there is.

>(Not that I've played Winter
>Wonderland, Metamorphoses or Ad Verbum...) What you've said applies to
>story-orientated games. But sometimes I want a game where the emphasis
*is*
>on solving puzzles, rather than one that just tells a story.

I think you should play Metamorphoses.

>And when
>that's the case, puzzles-that-don't-seem-like-puzzles really don't count.
>Puzzles can be integrated into a story, and I think this can add to a game
>considerably, but in a puzzle-orientated game, the puzzles themselves are
>crucial.

What if you are so in tune with the game's logic (and the author's mind
perhaps) that when you encounter a particular puzzle you solve it instantly
without really thinking about it, even though it is quite difficult for many
other people? Is it still a puzzle? Or would you consider it just a puzzle
that failed (for you at least)? That's partly what I meant by
puzzles-that-don't-seem-like-puzzles.


-Kaia

OKB

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Dec 13, 2000, 12:07:53 AM12/13/00
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"Kaia Vintr" ka...@xoe.com wrote:
>Just
>because there's no bell that rings when you've "solved" it doesn't mean it's
>not a puzzle.

I started to write a reply along the lines of "okay, then, what IS a
puzzle?" but I realized that I agree with you to a substantial degree.
Personally, I think the best kind of puzzles are not those to which the
solution is obvious, nor are they those which have hard-to-find solutions, nor
anything in between. The puzzles I like best are those in which it is not
apparent that there is anything to be solved at all.


But really, as I think about it, I can't call those puzzles. I'd say that
a puzzle is something (intentionally included by the author) that impedes the
player's progress through the game world. The "bell that rings" when you solve
the puzzle is the opening up of the pathway so you can continue to explore the
game. (This doesn't have to mean literally moving from one room to another; it
could mean changing room or object descriptions, or something like that.)

These "puzzleless puzzles" (puzzles which aren't apparent as such) are
what I want to stuff my games with as much as possible. I suppose I'd call
them "crossroads" or "junctions" or something. They are points where the
player's action can shift the PATH of the game. The difference is that when
you solve a puzzle, you clear the way to reach the same result you were heading
for (consciously or not) before; but when you pass a crossroads, you may begin
(consciously or not) heading toward a different result.

>What if you are so in tune with the game's logic (and the author's mind
>perhaps) that when you encounter a particular puzzle you solve it instantly
>without really thinking about it, even though it is quite difficult for many
>other people? Is it still a puzzle? Or would you consider it just a puzzle
>that failed (for you at least)? That's partly what I meant by
>puzzles-that-don't-seem-like-puzzles.

(If a puzzle is solved in the forest, and a bell doesn't ring, was it
really a puzzle? :-)

This is somewhat what I'm talking about, except that my "junctions"
ideally don't require to you to be in tune with the author's mind and/or the
game's logic. There is no "solution"; there are simply many ways to pass
through. You cannot do other than "solve" it instantly; the critical element
is how you solve it -- different actions may lead to different paths.

I've been babbling about these "invisible puzzles" off and on for months
now, so there's probably little of interest in these posts, but thanks for
bringing up the topic, because it's helped me to refine my own thoughts about
the issue.

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com)

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Jon Ingold

unread,
Dec 13, 2000, 9:49:55 AM12/13/00
to
> >I don't consider finding all the endings in Aisle to be a puzzle. If
it is
> >a puzzle, it's very much guess-the-verb. ;-)
> Well it certainly is, if you respond to it in that way. Perhaps some
> people don't---they just try the actions that make sense to them and
then
> leave it at that---but I'm sure most try to explore a little further.
Just
> because there's no bell that rings when you've "solved" it doesn't
mean it's
> not a puzzle.

I don't think I would define it as a puzzle, because it doesn't have a
definite solution point. You can never tell in Aisle if you've read all
the various bits (unless you TXD it I suppose, but that's outside the
context of the game). A puzzle by my personal definition has a
beginning, a middle (which involves a forehead and a brick wall), and an
end.

> Well I was mostly talking about the "old puzzleless thing" which has
been
> bothering me for some time.

" The old... " more as reference to the thread than the subject
matter -- it's a thread that's kinda common.

> Jon's actual distinction was between more and
> less "puzzle-oriented" games, recognising that there is a continuum.
I
> can't see a clear-cut distinction between "puzzle games" and "story
games"
> though a lot of people seem to imply that there is.

There is a continuum, of course, but then most games do have an
emphasis. The emphasis of Metamorphoses, for instance, is fiddle with
stuff to produce result to get you further, and you grab a story as you
go. The emphasis in Galatea - to really pick on Emily, and irritate her
if she's searching deja for her own name.. ;) - is more to type whatever
you want to and see what happens. It's more exploration than puzzle, I
would say.

> What if you are so in tune with the game's logic (and the author's
mind
> perhaps) that when you encounter a particular puzzle you solve it
instantly
> without really thinking about it, even though it is quite difficult
for many
> other people?

If you solve it because you're in tune with author or character, yes, I
think so; but you're still going to notice it was a puzzle. If you solve
it because it's "There's a key in the lock" and you type "Turn key"; no,
because that's just simulation. I guess a puzzle ought to have some
mechanism, or trick, (that is, some *solution* I suppose, as a stronger
term than just *answer*) to it.

> Is it still a puzzle? Or would you consider it just a puzzle
> that failed (for you at least)? That's partly what I meant by
> puzzles-that-don't-seem-like-puzzles.

Personally, I guess, a game with only puzzles-that-don't... would be
pretty dull if it were a puzzle-orientated game, as it would just be
typing what I was supposed to. So it would be a story game.

.. but that's not really what I was arguing about originally, anyway.
Damn.

Jon


Knight37

unread,
Dec 13, 2000, 1:09:08 PM12/13/00
to
Quoting "Jon Ingold" <ji...@cam.ac.uk> from Mon, 11 Dec 2000 13:34:15
GMT:

>>It's worth noting that producing a puzzle-less environment is more
>>popular at the moment.
>
>
>..but is it? I have a feeling puzzle-less is more popular with authors
>than players. Look at the comp's - Winter Wonderland, Metamorphoses, Ad
>Verbum all did well, and are all puzzley games. For myself, way more
>people stopped to write and tell me they liked "Mulldoon" - a puzzle
>game through and through - than "My Angel", which isn't puzzle-less but
>is less puzzle-orientated.

I agree.

>The likes of "Photopia" may well be more the exception than the rule.
>Thoughts?

Photopia is definitely an exceptional piece of IF.


Why did you mark this off topic?

--

Knight37

"Be born then, gasp wind, screech at the surgeon's slap,
seek manhood, taste a little of godhood, feel pain,
give birth, stuggle a little while, succumb.
(Dying, leave quietly by the rear exit, please.)"
-- A Canticle for Leibowitz

Stark

unread,
Dec 13, 2000, 6:34:03 PM12/13/00
to
In article <9LxZ5.605$0U2....@news20.bellglobal.com>, "Kaia Vintr"
<ka...@xoe.com> wrote:

> Jon Ingold wrote in message <912l2v$5lk$1...@pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk>...
>>>It's worth noting that producing a puzzle-less environment is more
>>>popular at the moment.
>>..but is it? I have a feeling puzzle-less is more popular with authors
>>than players. Look at the comp's - Winter Wonderland, Metamorphoses, Ad
>>Verbum all did well, and are all puzzley games. For myself, way more
>>people
> stopped
>>to write and tell me they liked "Mulldoon" - a puzzle game through and
>>through - than "My Angel", which isn't puzzle-less but is less
>>puzzle-orientated. The likes of "Photopia" may well be more the
>>exception than the rule. Thoughts?
>
> There are very few truly "puzzle-less" games and Rameses is the only
> one, of those I have seen, that I would consider successful. (I don't
> think Exhibition made good use of the medium at all.) Games like Aisle
> are not puzzle-less---the puzzle is to see how many of the endings you
> can find---and Photopia obviously isn't.
>

[snip]

I'd like to point out (as an aside) that what I meant was that games
without a primary focus on puzzles seem to be more popular. The aim was to
reassure new authors that writing is as valued as coding fun puzzles.
Perhaps "puzzle-free" was the wrong term to use... :-)

I'd also agree that pure "puzzle-less" games are very rare. Would Space
Under The Window count? Games like Photopia, with fairly minimal puzzle
content, were more what I was thinking of at the time.

Cheers,
Stark

P.S. My Angel is on my to-play list, after Metamorphoses - I was a bit
busy during the comp...

Kaia Vintr

unread,
Dec 13, 2000, 6:42:03 PM12/13/00
to
Jon Ingold wrote in message <9182ii$nkh$1...@news6.svr.pol.co.uk>...

>.. but that's not really what I was arguing about originally, anyway.
>Damn.

You were suggesting that "non-puzzle-orientated" games are more popular with
authors than with players. You are probably right, currently.

As for myself, it is true that although I haven't released a game yet I am
more like an author than a player in that I am more interested in exploring
what the medium can do than in being entertained. But I don't think
interest in stories is a trait that only authors posess.

I guess my argument is that there isn't such a big gap between story games
and puzzle games. The "community" hasn't split into two pieces, and there's
probably a good reason for that (I mean besides that it's too small).

I still wonder though if there might not be a large number of people out
there who rarely play computer games (and thus are not immediately attracted
to the idea of text adventures, and perhaps don't even know they exist) but
who love words and reading and would appreciate many of the story-oriented
and certain experimental IF works but perhaps not so much the puzzly ones.

>I don't think I would define it as a puzzle, because it doesn't have a
>definite solution point. You can never tell in Aisle if you've read all
>the various bits (unless you TXD it I suppose, but that's outside the
>context of the game). A puzzle by my personal definition has a
>beginning, a middle (which involves a forehead and a brick wall), and an
>end.

Hmm.... Ok, how about if you consider the discovery of each individual
ending as an individual puzzle? Something like:
BEGINNING -- "Have I found all the endings yet? No, surely there are still
a few more."
MIDDLE -- Player furiously types in commands, most of which involve
verbs and nouns that aren't recognised by the game until finally...
END -- ... finding one that works and a new story ending is discovered.

>There is a continuum, of course, but then most games do have an
>emphasis. The emphasis of Metamorphoses, for instance, is fiddle with
>stuff to produce result to get you further, and you grab a story as you
>go. The emphasis in Galatea - to really pick on Emily, and irritate her
>if she's searching deja for her own name.. ;) - is more to type whatever
>you want to and see what happens. It's more exploration than puzzle, I
>would say.

I'm sure Emily Short really wanted us to explore in Metamorphoses as well.
The puzzles effectively lead you through the world, like a tour guide or a
trail, and help you to see more of what she has created while still leaving
plenty of room for experimentation. But they aren't especially difficult
puzzles and probably wouldn't stand on their own (without the story, without
the ingenuity of the setting and without the aesthetic qualities). Galatea
might have benefited from having a similar means of directing, or focusing
the audience's experience.

Another possible way of looking at it is that the puzzles are there to
occupy your left brain while your right brain appreciates the other aspects.
(I know this isn't quite accurate---you certainly use your right brain in
creative problem solving---but I hope you know what I'm getting at.)

>If you solve it because you're in tune with author or character, yes, I
>think so; but you're still going to notice it was a puzzle. If you solve
>it because it's "There's a key in the lock" and you type "Turn key"; no,
>because that's just simulation. I guess a puzzle ought to have some
>mechanism, or trick, (that is, some *solution* I suppose, as a stronger
>term than just *answer*) to it.

As an example, consider a situation in which knowledge gleaned from the text
of the game is required to solve a puzzle. If you are paying close
attention to the text, and if you have a good memory, then when you come to
a given place in the game that requires you to apply that knowledge you may
simply do what makes sense based on what you have read. If this happens it
is not much like a puzzle since you are just playing your part in the story
or reading your line in the script (though it better be a little more
involving than the latter). But if you missed or forgot the "hint" you may
have to try many different things and perhaps ultimately restore a saved
game so you can re-read the text. In that case it is more of a puzzle (if a
rather annoying one).

>> Is it still a puzzle? Or would you consider it just a puzzle
>> that failed (for you at least)? That's partly what I meant by
>> puzzles-that-don't-seem-like-puzzles.
>Personally, I guess, a game with only puzzles-that-don't... would be
>pretty dull if it were a puzzle-orientated game, as it would just be
>typing what I was supposed to. So it would be a story game.

In a well-constructed game, I'd expect a little bit of each. Basically, I
don't think that IF story-tellers can neglect puzzles (though theirs
shouldn't generally say "Hi, I'm a puzzle!") or that game-creators can
neglect the story (or the context or the simulation of an interesting
environment). This doesn't explain Ad Verbum's success though. Perhaps
having such a well-defined theme helped, or perhaps the puzzles were
so clever that they stood mostly on their own.


- Kaia

Andrew MacKinnon

unread,
Dec 13, 2000, 7:21:06 PM12/13/00
to
Kaia Vintr wrote:
>
> You were suggesting that "non-puzzle-orientated" games are more popular with
> authors than with players. You are probably right, currently.
>
> I guess my argument is that there isn't such a big gap between story games
> and puzzle games. The "community" hasn't split into two pieces, and there's
> probably a good reason for that (I mean besides that it's too small).
>
> >I don't think I would define it as a puzzle, because it doesn't have a
> >definite solution point. You can never tell in Aisle if you've read all
> >the various bits (unless you TXD it I suppose, but that's outside the
> >context of the game). A puzzle by my personal definition has a
> >beginning, a middle (which involves a forehead and a brick wall), and an
> >end.
>
> >There is a continuum, of course, but then most games do have an
> >emphasis. The emphasis of Metamorphoses, for instance, is fiddle with
> >stuff to produce result to get you further, and you grab a story as you
> >go. The emphasis in Galatea - to really pick on Emily, and irritate her
> >if she's searching deja for her own name.. ;) - is more to type whatever
> >you want to and see what happens. It's more exploration than puzzle.

>
> >If you solve it because you're in tune with author or character, yes, I
> >think so; but you're still going to notice it was a puzzle. If you solve
> >it because it's "There's a key in the lock" and you type "Turn key"; no,
> >because that's just simulation. I guess a puzzle ought to have some
> >mechanism, or trick, (that is, some *solution* I suppose, as a stronger
> >term than just *answer*) to it.
>
> As an example, consider a situation in which knowledge gleaned from the text
> of the game is required to solve a puzzle. If you are paying close
> attention to the text, and if you have a good memory, then when you come to
> a given place in the game that requires you to apply that knowledge you may
> simply do what makes sense based on what you have read. If this happens it
> is not much like a puzzle since you are just playing your part in the story
> or reading your line in the script (though it better be a little more
> involving than the latter). But if you missed or forgot the "hint" you may
> have to try many different things and perhaps ultimately restore a saved
> game so you can re-read the text. In that case it is more of a puzzle (if a
> rather annoying one).

I don't like these "memory" puzzles.

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD

I think most games have puzzles but many are considered "puzzleless".
Well, in the quote puzzleless unquote I-0, you have to figure out how to
stop Jack while hitch-hiking. (FOOTNOTE: You MUST hitch-hike to complete
I-0; Adam wrote a scene which can not be accessed because there is no
way to open the back door in the garage (really!).

--
Andrew MacKinnon
andrew_mac...@yahoo.com
http://www.geocities.com/andrew_mackinnon_2000/

Jon Ingold

unread,
Dec 13, 2000, 5:26:23 PM12/13/00
to
> Why did you mark this off topic?

Well, off thread - the topic was "Hey, I'm new to writing games!!!" I'm
asking a more general question. I think.

Jon


Adam Cadre

unread,
Dec 13, 2000, 10:00:53 PM12/13/00
to
Andrew MacKinnon wrote:
> I think most games have puzzles but many are considered "puzzleless".
> Well, in the quote puzzleless unquote I-0, you have to figure out how
> to stop Jack while hitch-hiking. (FOOTNOTE: You MUST hitch-hike to
> complete I-0;

This is not true.

> Adam wrote a scene which can not be accessed because there is no
> way to open the back door in the garage

This is not true.

> (really!).

Even if you say "really!", it's still not true.

-----
Adam Cadre, Sammamish, WA
web site: http://adamcadre.ac
novel: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060195584/adamcadreac

Message has been deleted
Message has been deleted
Message has been deleted

Kaia Vintr

unread,
Dec 14, 2000, 1:13:19 AM12/14/00
to
Andrew MacKinnon wrote in message <3A38128B...@yahoo.com>...

>> (A curiously edited version of what I wrote)

I can now clearly see why "<snip>" was invented. That wasn't the entire
message, in case anyone thought so.


- Kaia

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Dec 14, 2000, 9:59:19 AM12/14/00
to
"Vincent Lynch" <ma...@csv.warwick.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> Surely changing the subject line covers this?
>

Indeed, since you are now off-topic. The wonders of self-fulfilling
prophecy.

-- Gunther


Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Dec 14, 2000, 10:03:47 AM12/14/00
to
"Kaia Vintr" <ka...@xoe.com> wrote:
> Andrew MacKinnon wrote in message <3A38128B...@yahoo.com>...
>
> >> (what I wrote)
>
> That was the entire
> message.
>
>
> - Kaia

Why do you feel you must point this out?

[Er, sorry. But like my temporarily out-of-order .sig used to say, "I
couldn't resist it. I can resist everything except temptation."]

-- Gunther

Kaia Vintr

unread,
Dec 14, 2000, 12:09:08 PM12/14/00
to
Gunther Schmidl wrote in message <91anu8$h1f$2...@newsg4.svr.pol.co.uk>...

> I, Gunther, can feel everything except my But.
>
> it out-of-order
>
> "Why?" you say
>
> I couldn't resist temptation

My condolences.


- Kaia
(nor can I, obviously)

Jake Wildstrom

unread,
Dec 14, 2000, 3:52:33 PM12/14/00
to
In article <3A38128B...@yahoo.com>,

Andrew MacKinnon <andrew_mac...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>I think most games have puzzles but many are considered "puzzleless".
>Well, in the quote puzzleless unquote I-0, you have to figure out how to
>stop Jack while hitch-hiking. (FOOTNOTE: You MUST hitch-hike to complete
>I-0;

You didn't just take off your shirt and do silly things for a while? What
kind of pervert are you? :-)

Seriously, I didn't figure out that "HITCHHIKE" was a verb until I checked
the source code, and I still got a ride off Jack.

> Adam wrote a scene which can not be accessed because there is no
>way to open the back door in the garage (really!).

Well, that scene could have been better written, but actually you can reach
the back door.

+--First Church of Briantology--Order of the Holy Quaternion--+
| A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into |
| theorems. -Paul Erdos |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+
| Jake Wildstrom |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+

Kaia Vintr

unread,
Dec 14, 2000, 4:26:00 PM12/14/00
to

Gunther Schmidl wrote in message <91anu8$h1f$2...@newsg4.svr.pol.co.uk>...

>you can resist my order temporarily.
>But everything must feel like I do.
>sorry
>
>-- Gunther

Damn you and your android rebellion!


- Kaia

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Dec 14, 2000, 5:47:28 PM12/14/00
to
"Kaia Vintr" <ka...@xoe.com> wrote...

> Damn you and your android rebellion!

Ok, that ruled.

-- g.


REM0VE_...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca

unread,
Dec 17, 2000, 3:00:19 AM12/17/00
to

Heh. If it helps, I certainly don't mind; this discussion is quite
interesting to one who is new at this IMO (at least, it's interesting to
_me_ :)

I've been puttering away at writing my first adventure, and I've found
that puzzles are actually developing themselves fairly easily and
naturally as I go along. I have a "plot" in mind, but in order to keep the
player from winding up simply reading my story non-interactively I'm
putting little obstacles in the way to break up the flow. There aren't
many real _branches_ in my plot yet, but it was easy enough reducing it to
a couple of choke points to allow for more diverse paths in between.

Not sure if what I just said makes much sense, I'm not sure what the
proper terminology is for some of these things. :)

--
Bryan Derksen (bder...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca)
http://www.ualberta.ca/~bderksen/
Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes

Marnie Parker

unread,
Dec 22, 2000, 1:37:08 PM12/22/00
to
>Subject: New cadet rolls up his sleeves...
>From: rem0ve_...@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca
>Date: 12/8/00 2:00 PM Pacific Standard Time

>I've got an Idea, I've got some spare time, I'm ready to try
>some real IF-writing work.

1. Figure out as much of it as possible before coding.

2. Make notes of everything. Even strange not-quite-complete ideas that you are
not sure you will ever use (but whatdoyouknow may end up developing later).
Maps are good too -- I draw them with also locating where the puzzles are.

3. Try to allot a certain amount of time each week/month for the actual
writing/coding. Maybe even make a work schedule and set a tentative
completetion date (it doesn't need to be written down.)

4. Set small goals along the way to the big goal of finishing so you can feel
good about work completed. "I'll finish this section/this puzzle/this
description by such and such a date. Or I'll finish this first before I do
that."

5. Once actually writing/coding let your idea change/grow/develop. See if new
things emerge -- it may become more interesting than you originally planned.

6. Persist.

Doe Number 6 is the most important.


doea...@aol.com
Glulx/Glk for Dunces http://members.aol.com/doepage/glkdunces.htm
Iffy Theory http://members.aol.com/doepage/theory.html
IF Art Gallery http://members.aol.com/iffyart/
IF Review Conspiracy http://www.textfire.com/conspiracy/

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