Why would we want commercial IF? (long and preachy)

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Harry

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Jul 13, 2003, 12:25:12 PM7/13/03
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I've followed threads about the revitalizing of commercial IF for a
couple of years now, and I can't seem to find an answer to the most
basic question regarding the subject:

*Why* would we want to get IF back into the commercial playing field?

There are some wonderfully creative people here who enjoy writing
games of astounding quality. We have an annual comp that virtually
guarantees at least a couple of real gems each year, and on top of
that, five to ten full size games are released.


And then there is the Archive... The virtual treasure trove, stuffed
to the brim with classic adventures of every genre and style... Dozens
of really, really good games, free and easily available. (And of
course hundreds of shitty ones. But take a look at your local
gamestore (or bookstore, for that matter) and tell me the ration of
quality versus licensed crap)

Now this takes care of my personal gaming needs. I can't imagine
getting bored if the only thing I wanted to do was play IF.

This, of course, isn't news to anyone in this group. But still the
discussion keeps cropping up: Wouldn't it be great if...? Why don't
people...?

Why?

What would we have to gain with all this? Money? I can't believe that
would be the motivation. If it was just that, why not try to write a
bestseller to cash in on the literary skills that are otherwise
invested in a commercial IF game?

Would be it be exposing 'other people' to a genre of games that they
would otherwise miss out on? Nope, I can't believe that either. IF has
become a very marginal activity with a small group of followers. But
if someone is interested in it for whatever reason, he or she *will*
find his or her way to this group or the Archive through the magic of
Google.

Would the quality of games improve with a commercial incentive? Now,
let's look at the eighties. No really *look*... How many text
adventures were really good? And how many stunk? And this was during
the *golden age* when there was real money to be made. When it was
*state of the art*.

Now look at what we've got at the beginning of the 21st century:
brilliant new games that are free. I can't really see the problem.

But maybe, just maybe, it has to do with a kind of discomfort with the
fact that this has become a marginal thing. Maybe some people would
like to feel they aren't 'wasting their time' on a rather outdated
genre. A commercial market (however small) for IF would, for some
people, legitimize that they still enjoy it. If this is the reasoning
behind it, I say: look at all the other hobbies out there. How many
professional clog-dancers do you know? How many people can make a
living with needle pointing? When is the last time you heard of
someone getting profiled in Forbes for his successful selling of
homemade pottery? IF is like those activities. Nothing wrong with
that. No reason to be ashamed about it. And not a snowball's chance in
hell to get rich with it.

Personally, I'd like to see more people join this community of writers
and players. I'd like to see new ideas and games, and I would love to
see more people exposed to the great work that has been done. That
would honestly be enough for *me*.

Now, of course I'd love to walk into a bookstore and buy IF, complete
with good packaging, feelies and that whole crisp 'new game in a box
feeling'. But I am part of a very small minority, so I guess I'll just
have to make do with what we got.
-------------------------
"Hey, aren't you Gadget?"
"I was."

http://www.haha.demon.nl
(To send e-mail, remove SPAMBLOCK from address)

sfzapgun

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Jul 13, 2003, 12:47:25 PM7/13/03
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Good points. Your article made me question why I want to try my hand at IF.
I'm certainly not doing it with dreams of making lots of money. I have a
story (or four) I want to tell and IF is a "New" way for me to tell it.

Personally, I think that the community should promote IF's accessibility,
it's hobby status, and the fact that it's something creative and FREE that
anybody with a little determination can try their hand at. How? Well, I had
an idea of maybe making web banners that say what is possible with IF. If
everybody who has a webpage would create such a banner and join a banner
exchange program, that would be some more exposure for IF.

Just an idea. I'm new to the IF community and am perhaps speaking out of
turn. There must be more experienced people here with other ideas.

Lee

http://www.angelfire.com/journal2/chaos_unleashed/


"Harry" <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote in message
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Michael Coyne

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Jul 13, 2003, 1:09:45 PM7/13/03
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On Sun, 13 Jul 2003 11:47:25 -0500, sfzapgun said to the parser:

> Good points. Your article made me question why I want to try my hand at IF.
> I'm certainly not doing it with dreams of making lots of money. I have a
> story (or four) I want to tell and IF is a "New" way for me to tell it.
>
> Personally, I think that the community should promote IF's accessibility,
> it's hobby status, and the fact that it's something creative and FREE that
> anybody with a little determination can try their hand at. How? Well, I had
> an idea of maybe making web banners that say what is possible with IF. If
> everybody who has a webpage would create such a banner and join a banner
> exchange program, that would be some more exposure for IF.
>
> Just an idea. I'm new to the IF community and am perhaps speaking out of
> turn. There must be more experienced people here with other ideas.

Good points, Lee, to add to Harry's original ones.

I know that since I started work on my first piece of IF, I've now gotten
my wife, brother and parents interested in the hobby. My wife has been
doing some beta-testing for me, but now wants to look at our old Infocom
games to compare them to mine, and also explore what other amateurs have
written, so all this is serving to increase the distribution of works on
the IF Archive, which is great.

But you're right: authors and players should take a more active role
evangelising IF. Maybe others on the ng are doing a lot of this, but I
know I haven't been. Perhaps I should start.


Michael

Rob Steggles

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Jul 13, 2003, 1:41:20 PM7/13/03
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> > *Why* would we want to get IF back into the commercial playing field?

Why would we want to make *some* money at it? To pay the rent, get food on
the table, put petrol in the car etc. And a wee bit more for some of life's
luxuries - but not a great deal, certainly not enough to get filthy rich, as
you seem to suggest is the motivation for making IF commercial. If this
were possible, it would mean that some folks could have a 'real' job doing
something they love doing. Where's the harm in that? I can't accept that
it necessarily destroys either the artistry or the hobbyist community that
wants to distribute games free. If you're talking *big* business, where
commercial decisions can impinge on creativity, then maybe you have a point,
but not at the 'writer's co-operative' level where everyone takes all and
only a living wage (if only that were possible!)

> > If it was just that, why not try to write a
> > bestseller to cash in on the literary skills that are otherwise
> > invested in a commercial IF game?

Good point. but a lot of the previous discussion (on other threads) has
shown that (a) most authors don't make a great living, if any at all and (b)
writing for IF/creating games is a different skill (though undoubtedly
similar) from the talent required to write a book

> > This, of course, isn't news to anyone in this group. But still the
> > discussion keeps cropping up: Wouldn't it be great if...? Why don't
> > people...?

I started the most recent debate as I discovered nothing in FAQ about this
subject and nothing to suggest that I shouldn't. The debate about the
future of IF seems relevant to me for this group. If the future is going to
come from anywhere it will come from the collective imagniations and
activities of a group of interested parties. Some folks have posted that
they agree with this and others that they don't. Is there a mediator of
the group that can decide whether this discussion is relevant?

Having said that, the debate certainly seems over for now, but I'm sure it
will crop up again because (a) external circumstances change all the time
(people will question whether 'now is the right time') and (b) someone else
like me will want to *try* to make a living at IF. If stars (a) and (b)
coincide with the next arrical of Halley's comment, we could be in busness
;-)

In summary, the post I made earlier today (on the 'Making a viable business
from IF?' thread) shows that I'm quite happy to have a go at this as a
hobby, but treating it as a hobby doesn't alter the fact that I'd *like* to
be 'full time' on it, as I used to be. If I were to be full time on it,
however, the reality of my life is that I would need to get paid somewhere
along the line.

Rob Steggles

Harry

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Jul 13, 2003, 2:03:35 PM7/13/03
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On Sun, 13 Jul 2003 19:41:20 +0200, "Rob Steggles"
<robert....@talk21.com> made the world a better place by saying:

> > > *Why* would we want to get IF back into the commercial playing field?
>
>Why would we want to make *some* money at it? To pay the rent, get food on
>the table, put petrol in the car etc. And a wee bit more for some of life's
>luxuries - but not a great deal, certainly not enough to get filthy rich, as
>you seem to suggest is the motivation for making IF commercial. If this
>were possible, it would mean that some folks could have a 'real' job doing
>something they love doing. Where's the harm in that?

No harm whatsoever. And also, there is nothing wrong in wanting to
become filthy rich, through IF or otherwise. I just doubt IF can make
you more then small change. Again: nothing wrong with that either. But
why bother?

> I can't accept that
>it necessarily destroys either the artistry or the hobbyist community that
>wants to distribute games free.

I never even came *near* that argument.

>If you're talking *big* business, where
>commercial decisions can impinge on creativity, then maybe you have a point,
>but not at the 'writer's co-operative' level where everyone takes all and
>only a living wage (if only that were possible!)
>

Again: you're debating yourself here, as I did not make any such
claim.

>> > If it was just that, why not try to write a
>> > bestseller to cash in on the literary skills that are otherwise
>> > invested in a commercial IF game?
>Good point. but a lot of the previous discussion (on other threads) has
>shown that (a) most authors don't make a great living, if any at all and (b)
>writing for IF/creating games is a different skill (though undoubtedly
>similar) from the talent required to write a book
>

My point: it is hard to become rich through writing *mainstream static
fiction*. Imagine how hard it is to make money write Interactive
Fiction, a genre most people today never even heard of. And again: if
you can do it, I'll cheer you on! Please try! Please succeed! I just
have my doubts.

>> > This, of course, isn't news to anyone in this group. But still the
>> > discussion keeps cropping up: Wouldn't it be great if...? Why don't
>> > people...?
>I started the most recent debate as I discovered nothing in FAQ about this
>subject and nothing to suggest that I shouldn't. The debate about the
>future of IF seems relevant to me for this group. If the future is going to
>come from anywhere it will come from the collective imagniations and
>activities of a group of interested parties. Some folks have posted that
>they agree with this and others that they don't. Is there a mediator of
>the group that can decide whether this discussion is relevant?
>

It is very relevant. And interesting. Hence my contribution to the
debate.

>Having said that, the debate certainly seems over for now, but I'm sure it
>will crop up again because (a) external circumstances change all the time
>(people will question whether 'now is the right time') and (b) someone else
>like me will want to *try* to make a living at IF. If stars (a) and (b)
>coincide with the next arrical of Halley's comment, we could be in busness
>;-)
>

When Halley comments on IF, it must indeed be time to give it a go.

>In summary, the post I made earlier today (on the 'Making a viable business
>from IF?' thread) shows that I'm quite happy to have a go at this as a
>hobby, but treating it as a hobby doesn't alter the fact that I'd *like* to
>be 'full time' on it, as I used to be. If I were to be full time on it,
>however, the reality of my life is that I would need to get paid somewhere
>along the line.
>

And gain: I hope you succeed.

>Rob Steggles
>
>
Harry

Rob Steggles

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Jul 13, 2003, 3:23:27 PM7/13/03
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"Harry" <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote in message
news:d073hvg4rohj9fkl9...@4ax.com...

> On Sun, 13 Jul 2003 19:41:20 +0200, "Rob Steggles"
> <robert....@talk21.com> made the world a better place by saying:
>

> I just doubt IF can make


> you more then small change. Again: nothing wrong with that either. But
> why bother?

To me 'doubt' expresses possibility. I was just exploring the possibility
for the length of a discussion. I think I've come to the answer too that
the best is probably small change but there are *possibilities* for
something more...


> > I can't accept that
> >it necessarily destroys either the artistry or the hobbyist community
that
> >wants to distribute games free.
>
> I never even came *near* that argument.

Agree and apologies for putting words in your mouth. It just seemed to be
your general drift and is something others have posted. Sorry ;-)

> >If you're talking *big* business, where
> >commercial decisions can impinge on creativity, then maybe you have a
point,
> >but not at the 'writer's co-operative' level where everyone takes all and
> >only a living wage (if only that were possible!)
> >
> Again: you're debating yourself here, as I did not make any such
> claim.

(see above) It seems I was rather over-sensitive on this section...


> >> > If it was just that, why not try to write a
> >> > bestseller to cash in on the literary skills that are otherwise
> >> > invested in a commercial IF game?
> >Good point. but a lot of the previous discussion (on other threads) has
> >shown that (a) most authors don't make a great living, if any at all and
(b)
> >writing for IF/creating games is a different skill (though undoubtedly
> >similar) from the talent required to write a book
> >
> My point: it is hard to become rich through writing *mainstream static
> fiction*. Imagine how hard it is to make money write Interactive
> Fiction, a genre most people today never even heard of. And again: if
> you can do it, I'll cheer you on! Please try! Please succeed! I just
> have my doubts.

> And gain: I hope you succeed.

Thanks for the encouragement! Here's hoping indeed....

Rob Steggles


Harry

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Jul 13, 2003, 5:31:45 PM7/13/03
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On Sun, 13 Jul 2003 21:23:27 +0200, "Rob Steggles"

<robert....@talk21.com> made the world a better place by saying:

>> I never even came *near* that argument.


>
>Agree and apologies for putting words in your mouth. It just seemed to be
>your general drift and is something others have posted. Sorry ;-)
>

No problem ;-)

>
>Thanks for the encouragement! Here's hoping indeed....
>

Be sure to remember us when you *do* get filthy rich ;-)

Quintin Stone

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Jul 13, 2003, 7:34:55 PM7/13/03
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On Sun, 13 Jul 2003, Harry wrote:

> Would the quality of games improve with a commercial incentive? Now,
> let's look at the eighties. No really *look*... How many text adventures
> were really good? And how many stunk? And this was during the *golden
> age* when there was real money to be made. When it was *state of the
> art*.

Yeah, but this is why the comparison is a bad one. Sure, many of them
don't stand up when compared to today's game.... But try pitting Unreal 2
or Quake 3 against the original Castle Wolfenstein 3D.

Even so, there are some great 80s games that still stand out. I played A
Mind Forever Voyaging (1985) for the first time several months ago and I
was blown away.

/====================================================================\
|| Quintin Stone O- > "You speak of necessary evil? One ||
|| Code Monkey < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
|| st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
|| http://www.rps.net/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
\====================================================================/

Quintin Stone

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Jul 13, 2003, 7:36:53 PM7/13/03
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On Sun, 13 Jul 2003, Harry wrote:

> *Why* would we want to get IF back into the commercial playing field?

Oh, I forgot to address this in my last post. I know there are probably
quite a few people who would love to make a living at writing IF games.
It'd be a great way to combine your job and your hobby. How many of us
really love our jobs? (I know I don't!)

Adam Thornton

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Jul 13, 2003, 8:02:41 PM7/13/03
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In article <Pine.LNX.4.44.03071...@yes.rps.net>,

Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net> wrote:
>Yeah, but this is why the comparison is a bad one. Sure, many of them
>don't stand up when compared to today's game.... But try pitting Unreal 2
>or Quake 3 against the original Castle Wolfenstein 3D.

For a more historically-appropriate comparison, pit it against Castle
Wolfenstein. Yeah, the *real* one.

Adam

Jim Aikin

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Jul 14, 2003, 1:07:38 AM7/14/03
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> *Why* would we want to get IF back into the commercial playing field?

I've had a few offline discussions with others in the community about
commercial IF. Speaking strictly for myself, I have a bias in favor of
creative artists being paid for their work. Living in a garret is not
charming.

Granted, success (assuming a degree of financial success were even
*possible* in text-based IF, which is highly unlikely) has its own dangers.
For one thing, you find yourself needing to make artistic compromises in
order to be assured of a continuing cash flow that will support a business
structure. For another, a lot of your time gets soaked up in things other
than writing -- promotional activities and so on.

> What would we have to gain with all this? Money? I can't believe that
> would be the motivation.

What's so difficult to believe? As Bessie Smith (I think it was Bessie
Smith) said, "Honey, I been rich and I been poor. Rich is better." Offer me
$10,000 for the unfinished interactive novel languishing on my hard drive
and watch the smoke fly from my keyboard.

> If it was just that, why not try to write a
> bestseller to cash in on the literary skills that are otherwise
> invested in a commercial IF game?

You may be confusing a desire for money (nothing wrong with that) with a
willingness to do ANYTHING for money (which is reprehensible in the
extreme). My desire is to make a certain amount of money (a modest living,
perhaps) doing work that I find enjoyable and meaningful.

Besides, if it was easy to write a best seller, everybody would do it. Ain't
easy at all.

> Would be it be exposing 'other people' to a genre of games that they
> would otherwise miss out on? Nope, I can't believe that either.

Why is that so hard to believe?

> IF has
> become a very marginal activity with a small group of followers. But
> if someone is interested in it for whatever reason, he or she *will*
> find his or her way to this group or the Archive through the magic of
> Google.

Unclear. I'd guess there are probably a lot of people hanging out here who
are still pinin' for the glory days of Infocom. A dying breed, in other
words. Why would it be a bad thing to have a million people enjoying
interactive fiction? I can't think of a reason offhand.

> Would the quality of games improve with a commercial incentive?

Yes. Reason #1: The writers who are already in the field would have more
incentive to spend more time polishing their next game. Reason #2: More good
writers would be attracted to the field. Reason #3: Paid testers.

> Now,
> let's look at the eighties. No really *look*... How many text
> adventures were really good? And how many stunk? And this was during
> the *golden age* when there was real money to be made. When it was
> *state of the art*.

Don't forget Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap. The fact that bad
stuff IF was produced in the '80s means nothing.

> Now look at what we've got at the beginning of the 21st century:
> brilliant new games that are free. I can't really see the problem.

It's not a problem for players, necessarily. Everybody likes getting stuff
for free. But I got laid off last year. This year, as a freelance writer,
I'll make perhaps 1/3 of what I made last year as a salaried writer/editor.
Please don't decide *for* me that I couldn't use that extra $10,000.

> If this is the reasoning
> behind it, I say: look at all the other hobbies out there. How many
> professional clog-dancers do you know? How many people can make a
> living with needle pointing? When is the last time you heard of
> someone getting profiled in Forbes for his successful selling of
> homemade pottery? IF is like those activities. Nothing wrong with
> that. No reason to be ashamed about it. And not a snowball's chance in
> hell to get rich with it.

There are a lot more potters making a living than IF authors. And while
needlepoint may be marginal for those who do it, I'd venture to guess that
there are some specialty shops and manufacturers who supply them. Contrast
the latter with the situation Mike Roberts, Graham Nelson, and the other
programmers are in: They're supplying this charming cottage industry with
essential support products, and they aren't making a dime on it either. That
sucks.

> Now, of course I'd love to walk into a bookstore and buy IF, complete
> with good packaging, feelies and that whole crisp 'new game in a box
> feeling'. But I am part of a very small minority, so I guess I'll just
> have to make do with what we got.

If I had nothing more pressing to do with my time, and a pile of money to
invest in marketing, I'd try it. You might not like my interactive novel, of
course. No guarantees.

The interesting question, it seems to me, is not, "Why would we want to make
IF commercially viable?" The interesting question is, "HOW can we make IF
commercially viable?"

People have tried it. People are still trying it. Nobody has yet hit on a
formula that will allow them to penetrate the mass market, even in a very
modest way, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

--JA


Asa Rossoff

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Jul 14, 2003, 2:54:47 AM7/14/03
to

"Jim Aikin" wrote:
> If I had nothing more pressing to do with my time, and a pile of money to
> invest in marketing, I'd try it. You might not like my interactive novel,
of
> course. No guarantees.
>
> The interesting question, it seems to me, is not, "Why would we want to
make
> IF commercially viable?" The interesting question is, "HOW can we make IF
> commercially viable?"
>
> People have tried it. People are still trying it. Nobody has yet hit on a
> formula that will allow them to penetrate the mass market, even in a very
> modest way, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

Some interesting published definitely interactive-fiction -- paper-bound --
I've enjoyed are Nick Bantock's _Griffin & Sabine_ books (pub. Chronicle
Books). They don't allow the reader to change the course of the story, but
the reader is still an active participant. They're a series of
correspondence between two lovers (with added psycho drama that one lover
may only exist in the imagination of the other), and the actual letters,
postcards, and envelopes are in the pages of the book... you unfold the
letters, etc. The margins of the pages are filled with additional layers of
the story, in the form of notes and artwork by the characters in the story.

I'm *sure* IF can sell, in the right form, and marketed well....

Asa


Rob Steggles

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Jul 14, 2003, 3:27:52 AM7/14/03
to

"Asa Rossoff" <a...@lovetour.info> wrote in message
news:betjnl$pof$1...@news.chatlink.com...

> Some interesting published definitely interactive-fiction --
paper-bound --
> I've enjoyed are Nick Bantock's _Griffin & Sabine_ books (pub. Chronicle
> Books). They don't allow the reader to change the course of the story,
but
> the reader is still an active participant. They're a series of
> correspondence between two lovers (with added psycho drama that one lover
> may only exist in the imagination of the other), and the actual letters,
> postcards, and envelopes are in the pages of the book... you unfold the
> letters, etc. The margins of the pages are filled with additional layers
of
> the story, in the form of notes and artwork by the characters in the
story.

I'd never heard of that book - I'll have to go look it up now....

> I'm *sure* IF can sell, in the right form, and marketed well....

What sort of form do you think it would take? i was wondering if 'training'
IF newbies couldbe achieved by presenting them with familiar stories, then
they would only have to learn the interaction part and that couldbe quite
fun for them, cf. Disney introducing the 'new' medium of cartoons by using
well known fairy tales, Shrek using familiiar characters (Wonderland from
Maggot Rolls?).

These introductory games would have to be quite short, I think because
(taking your point from your other post on the other thread) I agree that
attention span/eye strain is a problem. Some of the games I have read seem
to have *too much* text to be useful, by which I mean that it interferes
somewhat with gameplay (subjective opinion). I find I can't take all that
info in in one go and have to re-read several times. I found some of the
older games, where text space was limited, much easier to play, in fact.
Maybe I'm just showing my age....

I'd also like ot pick up on 'marketed well' On one of my earlier posts, I
gave some definitions of target markets for prospective new players
(cut&pasted below). Do you have any good ideas about how to reach these
people?

[snip from earlier post follows]

, it seems to me that the people who might
potentially play IF (not necessarily those that do) have some or all of
these qualities:
1. they can type and have a computer, though are not necessarily whizz-bang
techies
2. they have time to play
3. they are intelligent and like puzzle solving
4. they can read english well

people that naturally fall into these categories are:
1. IF hobbyists (this forum, for example)
2. Retired folks
3. Unemployed (in between searching for jobs of course)
4. Advanced language students
5. (in a sweeping generalisation...) housewives/husbands with the kids off
their hands
6. others????

[end snip]

The only other suggestion that was posted aboutthis list was from Jessica
Knoch who added that the first dset of points described her mother and she
also added 'those with an interst in teaching to the second list...

Rob Steggles


Rob Steggles

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Jul 14, 2003, 3:41:11 AM7/14/03
to

"Jim Aikin" <darn_those_spammers@fake_address.org> wrote in message
news:uUqQa.11$nG6.2...@newssvr13.news.prodigy.com...

> > *Why* would we want to get IF back into the commercial playing field?
>
> I've had a few offline discussions with others in the community about
> commercial IF. Speaking strictly for myself, I have a bias in favor of
> creative artists being paid for their work. Living in a garret is not
> charming.

It seems we are of the same mind ont his issue Mr Aikin...

> What's so difficult to believe? As Bessie Smith (I think it was Bessie
> Smith) said, "Honey, I been rich and I been poor. Rich is better."

Too right. And something tells me my wife would agree

> > Would the quality of games improve with a commercial incentive?
>
> Yes. Reason #1: The writers who are already in the field would have more
> incentive to spend more time polishing their next game. Reason #2: More
good
> writers would be attracted to the field. Reason #3: Paid testers.

#4 more time & money spent on good packaging and extras???

> If I had nothing more pressing to do with my time, and a pile of money to
> invest in marketing, I'd try it. You might not like my interactive novel,
of
> course. No guarantees.

If I ever get that pile of money, I may well get in touch with you. But to
get that pile of money I will need a good marketing plan. Ah here comes the
next question, that's the very chap.....

> The interesting question, it seems to me, is not, "Why would we want to
make
> IF commercially viable?" The interesting question is, "HOW can we make IF
> commercially viable?"

Answering this, gives us a pile of money (after some hard work of course),
ie we have to know what we want to do with the money before asking for it
(IMHO).

> People have tried it. People are still trying it. Nobody has yet hit on a
> formula that will allow them to penetrate the mass market, even in a very
> modest way, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

Exactly. Couldn't have put it better myself.

Rob Steggles


Harry

unread,
Jul 14, 2003, 5:25:29 AM7/14/03
to
On Sun, 13 Jul 2003 19:34:55 -0400, Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net> made

the world a better place by saying:

>On Sun, 13 Jul 2003, Harry wrote:


>
>> Would the quality of games improve with a commercial incentive? Now,
>> let's look at the eighties. No really *look*... How many text adventures
>> were really good? And how many stunk? And this was during the *golden
>> age* when there was real money to be made. When it was *state of the
>> art*.
>
>Yeah, but this is why the comparison is a bad one. Sure, many of them
>don't stand up when compared to today's game.... But try pitting Unreal 2
>or Quake 3 against the original Castle Wolfenstein 3D.
>

I did not mean: compare games from twenty years ago to games from
today: I meant: look at the quality to crap ratio at the time when IF
was state of the art. And this was to prove my point that a commercial
incentive does not enhance the quality of games.

>Even so, there are some great 80s games that still stand out. I played A
>Mind Forever Voyaging (1985) for the first time several months ago and I
>was blown away.
>

Yes, there were some wonderful games back then. And there are some
wonderful games now. See what I mean?

> /====================================================================\
> || Quintin Stone O- > "You speak of necessary evil? One ||
> || Code Monkey < of those necessities is that if ||
> || Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
> || st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
> || http://www.rps.net/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
> \====================================================================/

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

Harry

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Jul 14, 2003, 5:27:20 AM7/14/03
to
On Sun, 13 Jul 2003 19:36:53 -0400, Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net> made

the world a better place by saying:

>On Sun, 13 Jul 2003, Harry wrote:


>
>> *Why* would we want to get IF back into the commercial playing field?
>
>Oh, I forgot to address this in my last post. I know there are probably
>quite a few people who would love to make a living at writing IF games.
>It'd be a great way to combine your job and your hobby. How many of us
>really love our jobs? (I know I don't!)
>

Yeah, I guess that is a good reason. I wouldn't mind a job like that
myself. Hm. So basically we all want to work at Infocom? If only that
were possible...

Harry

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Jul 14, 2003, 5:54:31 AM7/14/03
to
On Mon, 14 Jul 2003 05:07:38 GMT, "Jim Aikin"
<darn_those_spammers@fake_address.org> made the world a better place
by saying:

>> *Why* would we want to get IF back into the commercial playing field?


>
>I've had a few offline discussions with others in the community about
>commercial IF. Speaking strictly for myself, I have a bias in favor of
>creative artists being paid for their work. Living in a garret is not
>charming.

Sure, I agree. There is nothing romantic about being a starving
artist.

<snip>

>> What would we have to gain with all this? Money? I can't believe that
>> would be the motivation.
>
>What's so difficult to believe? As Bessie Smith (I think it was Bessie
>Smith) said, "Honey, I been rich and I been poor. Rich is better." Offer me
>$10,000 for the unfinished interactive novel languishing on my hard drive
>and watch the smoke fly from my keyboard.
>

I find it difficult to believe that making money through IF would be
the sole motivation. There are easier ways to make money. Even in the
creative field. Like writing static fiction.

>> If it was just that, why not try to write a
>> bestseller to cash in on the literary skills that are otherwise
>> invested in a commercial IF game?
>
>You may be confusing a desire for money (nothing wrong with that) with a
>willingness to do ANYTHING for money (which is reprehensible in the
>extreme). My desire is to make a certain amount of money (a modest living,
>perhaps) doing work that I find enjoyable and meaningful.
>
>Besides, if it was easy to write a best seller, everybody would do it. Ain't
>easy at all.
>

I am not saying writing a bestseller (or even just a seller. Or even
just a publishable manuscript) is easy. But I think it is far more
likely to happen than making serious cash (by which I mean: enough to
pay the rent) with Interactive Fiction.

>> Would be it be exposing 'other people' to a genre of games that they
>> would otherwise miss out on? Nope, I can't believe that either.
>
>Why is that so hard to believe?
>

There are other ways to expose others to IF. No need for a commercial
revival if that is your goal.

>> IF has
>> become a very marginal activity with a small group of followers. But
>> if someone is interested in it for whatever reason, he or she *will*
>> find his or her way to this group or the Archive through the magic of
>> Google.
>
>Unclear. I'd guess there are probably a lot of people hanging out here who
>are still pinin' for the glory days of Infocom. A dying breed, in other
>words. Why would it be a bad thing to have a million people enjoying
>interactive fiction? I can't think of a reason offhand.
>

I would love this to happen. And as stated by others in this thread,
some concentrated effort on the promotion of our little hobby might be
a Good Thing.

>> Would the quality of games improve with a commercial incentive?
>
>Yes. Reason #1: The writers who are already in the field would have more
>incentive to spend more time polishing their next game. Reason #2: More good
>writers would be attracted to the field. Reason #3: Paid testers.
>

Maybe. But then again: look at the gems from the eighties and look at
the gems from the past decade. I think the unpaid writers and testers
have done a very professional job.

And sure, they deserve to be paid... But what are you gonna do?

>> Now,
>> let's look at the eighties. No really *look*... How many text
>> adventures were really good? And how many stunk? And this was during
>> the *golden age* when there was real money to be made. When it was
>> *state of the art*.
>
>Don't forget Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap. The fact that bad
>stuff IF was produced in the '80s means nothing.
>

It means that even though there were paid writers and testers, and
publishers willing to invest in advertising and such, there still
weren't more 'great games' in the Golden Age than today, in the
freeware market. So apparently, people will write great (and not so
great) games regardless of getting paid for it.

>> Now look at what we've got at the beginning of the 21st century:
>> brilliant new games that are free. I can't really see the problem.
>
>It's not a problem for players, necessarily. Everybody likes getting stuff
>for free. But I got laid off last year. This year, as a freelance writer,
>I'll make perhaps 1/3 of what I made last year as a salaried writer/editor.
>Please don't decide *for* me that I couldn't use that extra $10,000.
>

I got laid off last year too. And I also work as a freelance writer
for a minimal amount of money. I feel your pain.

>> If this is the reasoning
>> behind it, I say: look at all the other hobbies out there. How many
>> professional clog-dancers do you know? How many people can make a
>> living with needle pointing? When is the last time you heard of
>> someone getting profiled in Forbes for his successful selling of
>> homemade pottery? IF is like those activities. Nothing wrong with
>> that. No reason to be ashamed about it. And not a snowball's chance in
>> hell to get rich with it.
>
>There are a lot more potters making a living than IF authors. And while
>needlepoint may be marginal for those who do it, I'd venture to guess that
>there are some specialty shops and manufacturers who supply them. Contrast
>the latter with the situation Mike Roberts, Graham Nelson, and the other
>programmers are in: They're supplying this charming cottage industry with
>essential support products, and they aren't making a dime on it either. That
>sucks.
>

Now here is something I wholeheartedly agree to. But I think you need
a couple of thousand enthusiasts for the 'support market' to get
going. Then you could be talking print magazines, commercial tools and
yes, commercial games. If there were 10,000 people who were
passionately interested in writing and playing IF, it would be a very
different story. Currently, there are 200. And now I made myself cry.

>> Now, of course I'd love to walk into a bookstore and buy IF, complete
>> with good packaging, feelies and that whole crisp 'new game in a box
>> feeling'. But I am part of a very small minority, so I guess I'll just
>> have to make do with what we got.
>
>If I had nothing more pressing to do with my time, and a pile of money to
>invest in marketing, I'd try it. You might not like my interactive novel, of
>course. No guarantees.
>
>The interesting question, it seems to me, is not, "Why would we want to make
>IF commercially viable?" The interesting question is, "HOW can we make IF
>commercially viable?"

I think the 'why' question is equally important. If you don't know
what you want to achieve, any plan will be doomed from the start.

And I think money would be as good a motivation as anything.

>
>People have tried it. People are still trying it. Nobody has yet hit on a
>formula that will allow them to penetrate the mass market, even in a very
>modest way, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.
>
>--JA

Here's hoping.

Harry

Quintin Stone

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Jul 14, 2003, 10:00:15 AM7/14/03
to
On Mon, 14 Jul 2003, Adam Thornton wrote:

> In article <Pine.LNX.4.44.03071...@yes.rps.net>,


>
> For a more historically-appropriate comparison, pit it against Castle
> Wolfenstein. Yeah, the *real* one.

Too true. I remember playing it (and the sequel, Escape From Castle
Wolfenstein) on the old Atari 800. The lockpicking system was
particularly original.

Seebs

unread,
Jul 14, 2003, 12:52:51 PM7/14/03
to
In article <9st4hvgnd79urh21o...@4ax.com>,

Harry <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote:
>I find it difficult to believe that making money through IF would be
>the sole motivation. There are easier ways to make money. Even in the
>creative field. Like writing static fiction.

Well, consider:

I can write IF now. What changes if IF becomes commercially viable? I can
get *paid* for it!

>I am not saying writing a bestseller (or even just a seller. Or even
>just a publishable manuscript) is easy. But I think it is far more
>likely to happen than making serious cash (by which I mean: enough to
>pay the rent) with Interactive Fiction.

Indeed. Which is why people are asking whether it's *possible* to change
that.

>Maybe. But then again: look at the gems from the eighties and look at
>the gems from the past decade. I think the unpaid writers and testers
>have done a very professional job.

Unpaid artists are sometimes as good as professionals, perhaps better, but the
vast, vast, majority of unpaid artists are AWFUL.

The only advantage of the current model is that you don't, mostly, actually
*see* the really awful stuff.

>And sure, they deserve to be paid... But what are you gonna do?

Well, maybe start by saying "it would be good if we could change this."

>It means that even though there were paid writers and testers, and
>publishers willing to invest in advertising and such, there still
>weren't more 'great games' in the Golden Age than today, in the
>freeware market. So apparently, people will write great (and not so
>great) games regardless of getting paid for it.

It's hard to say whether there were more or fewer. I think the average
quality of published games was better than the average quality of free ones
today. There are more free ones.

>>It's not a problem for players, necessarily. Everybody likes getting stuff
>>for free. But I got laid off last year. This year, as a freelance writer,
>>I'll make perhaps 1/3 of what I made last year as a salaried writer/editor.
>>Please don't decide *for* me that I couldn't use that extra $10,000.

>I got laid off last year too. And I also work as a freelance writer
>for a minimal amount of money. I feel your pain.

I'd say "me too", but I got laid off *this* year and work as a freelance
writer. (Hey, anyone need tech writing?)

>>The interesting question, it seems to me, is not, "Why would we want to make
>>IF commercially viable?" The interesting question is, "HOW can we make IF
>>commercially viable?"

>I think the 'why' question is equally important. If you don't know
>what you want to achieve, any plan will be doomed from the start.

>And I think money would be as good a motivation as anything.

I think it's a good starting point. :)

-s
--
Copyright 2003, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
http://www.seebs.net/log/ - YA blog. http://www.seebs.net/ - homepage.
C/Unix wizard, pro-commerce radical, spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

David Thornley

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Jul 14, 2003, 1:18:41 PM7/14/03
to
In article <fit4hvstshent74c4...@4ax.com>,

Harry <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote:
>>
>I did not mean: compare games from twenty years ago to games from
>today: I meant: look at the quality to crap ratio at the time when IF
>was state of the art. And this was to prove my point that a commercial
>incentive does not enhance the quality of games.
>
Right.

What it does is enhance the quantity. Given some sort of stability
in ratio of bad to good, this enhances the number and quality of good
games.

Moreover, it means that the people that can write good games can
afford to spend more of their time doing so

>>Even so, there are some great 80s games that still stand out. I played A
>>Mind Forever Voyaging (1985) for the first time several months ago and I
>>was blown away.
>>

Didn't like it, personally.

>Yes, there were some wonderful games back then. And there are some
>wonderful games now. See what I mean?
>

However, it appears to me that the difficulty in creating a good game
has diminished. We now have better tools than Infocom had, and Infocom
had better tools than anybody else.

This means that an effort similar to Infocom's, with similarly talented
people, would produce more games, some of which would likely be very
good.


--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

David Thornley

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Jul 14, 2003, 1:26:50 PM7/14/03
to
In article <3f12dfe2$0$1100$3c09...@news.plethora.net>,

Seebs <se...@plethora.net> wrote:
>
>Unpaid artists are sometimes as good as professionals, perhaps better, but the
>vast, vast, majority of unpaid artists are AWFUL.
>
Right. And, without any sort of tangible reward, there isn't any good
way of separating the two. I mean, "Savoir Faire" made as much money
as "Amissville", right? This means that Emily Short and A.P. Hill
have the same financial incentives and independence of the day job
to create more IF.

>The only advantage of the current model is that you don't, mostly, actually
>*see* the really awful stuff.
>

Publishing, right now, means sending to the IF Archive. Anybody can
do that, pretty much as much as they like. If we don't see really awful
stuff, it's mostly because nobody wants to post it.

>I'd say "me too", but I got laid off *this* year and work as a freelance
>writer. (Hey, anyone need tech writing?)
>

I can share half my salary with you for the foreseeable future (or
double my salary, makes no difference).

Seebs

unread,
Jul 14, 2003, 2:37:19 PM7/14/03
to
In article <3f12e5f1$0$154$a186...@newsreader.visi.com>,

David Thornley <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
>However, it appears to me that the difficulty in creating a good game
>has diminished. We now have better tools than Infocom had, and Infocom
>had better tools than anybody else.

I think what we're doing is reducing substantially the *accidental*
difficulties of creating good IF.

Another change; while most people want graphical games, there are thousands
of times more computers out there, now. Furthermore, IF is well-suited to
PDA's (at least ones with keyboards) and other niche markets. I think there's
a potential market out there, now.

If I were trying to do something like this, I'd probably work on distribution
media which provided games in EVERY possible format, along with interpreters
for an insane variety of platforms. Games in PDB (both frotz and frobnitz),
interpreters for old Mac, new Mac, Windows, Linux, BSD, Zaurus, PocketPC,
Palm... You get the idea. The more platforms you can play a game on, the more
people could potentially buy it. Maybe even a Playstation 2 version for
people with the keyboard. (You could do a NetBSD-bootable Dreamcast disk that
would play an IF game, for that matter.)

I think it might be possible to pull this off, but it's something that had
better start as a hobby, because I don't think the income would be there early
on.

dreamfarmer

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Jul 14, 2003, 7:03:01 PM7/14/03
to
Harry <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote in message news:<nhv2hvgq463p869uk...@4ax.com>...


> And then there is the Archive... The virtual treasure trove, stuffed
> to the brim with classic adventures of every genre and style... Dozens
> of really, really good games, free and easily available. (And of
> course hundreds of shitty ones. But take a look at your local
> gamestore (or bookstore, for that matter) and tell me the ration of
> quality versus licensed crap)
>


I just want to observe that at my most recent count via Baf's, the
Archive has around 2050 games in it. Sounds like an impressive amount,
right?

But on the IF Ratings site, less than 800 have been rated-- and that's
with every SpeedIF game rated. And of that 800, only 250 have a rating
higher than 5. Now, obviously the IF Ratings site has only been around
for a short time, but it seems clear that there's some extremely
random stuff in the Archive.

As Harry says: dozens of good games, hundreds of bad ones. But if we
can't improve the ratio, I'd like to at least improve the quantity of
good games. Dozens seems like such a small amount, considered over
years. Not that I'm knocking the good stuff people have done; it's
amazing when you ponder it. It's just dwarfed by the size of the
archive.

Anyhow, that's one benefit of a larger, ahem, market for IF. Paying
authors and developers also doesn't suck and what publishers provide
is basic (and perhaps more than basic) quality control.


--Chrysoula
http://www.carouselchain.com/if/

Asa Rossoff

unread,
Jul 15, 2003, 5:11:11 AM7/15/03
to

"Rob Steggles" <robert....@talk21.com>:

> > I'm *sure* IF can sell, in the right form, and marketed well....
>
> What sort of form do you think it would take? i was wondering if
'training'
> IF newbies couldbe achieved by presenting them with familiar stories, then
> they would only have to learn the interaction part and that couldbe quite
> fun for them, cf. Disney introducing the 'new' medium of cartoons by
using
> well known fairy tales, Shrek using familiiar characters (Wonderland from
> Maggot Rolls?).

I think that's a great idea -- and aiming for young audiences, especially at
first, might work well. Something familiar, educational, simple enough,
entertaining...

> These introductory games would have to be quite short, I think because
> (taking your point from your other post on the other thread) I agree that
> attention span/eye strain is a problem. Some of the games I have read
seem
> to have *too much* text to be useful, by which I mean that it interferes
> somewhat with gameplay (subjective opinion). I find I can't take all that
> info in in one go and have to re-read several times. I found some of the
> older games, where text space was limited, much easier to play, in fact.
> Maybe I'm just showing my age....

It definitely depends on my mood -- how much reading I want and how much
getting on with the game/story I want. People watch more TV than ever, and
have less patience than ever. .. I'd hate to give in and provide some kind
of immediate gratification with IF -- defeats the purpose -- but I think
reasonably short descriptions and real-time play could help keep interest.

In regards to form, that might depend on the intended audience. The
prospects you listed:

> 1. they can type and have a computer, though are not necessarily
whizz-bang
> techies
> 2. they have time to play
> 3. they are intelligent and like puzzle solving
> 4. they can read english well
>
> people that naturally fall into these categories are:
> 1. IF hobbyists (this forum, for example)
> 2. Retired folks
> 3. Unemployed (in between searching for jobs of course)
> 4. Advanced language students
> 5. (in a sweeping generalisation...) housewives/husbands with the kids
off
> their hands
> 6. others????
>
> [end snip]
>
> The only other suggestion that was posted aboutthis list was from Jessica
> Knoch who added that the first dset of points described her mother and she
> also added 'those with an interst in teaching to the second list...

... seem too limited. They are however probably the realistic audience for
IF as it exists right now.

Popular recreation today includes:
- TV Sitcoms
- TV news
- Movies; action, horror, romance
- Listening to music
- Dancing
- Online chatting, email, surfing
- Travel
- Getting high

Most of these activities take little effort and take the participant out of
their real life and allow them to experience another one. News doesn't
clearly fall into that category, and neither do online communications.... so
I think communication and information might be an important ingredient.

If the medium appeals to more senses it becomes easier to comprehend. The
words shouldn't be let go, though, because they are the core strength and
quality of IF. But if the game wasn't just a reading and writing story, but
a story plus a story-teller, it becomes much easier for the player to
comprehend, and the telling of the story by audio, video, or theoretically,
touch, taste, and smell, can help bring it alive. I think the sophisticated
story-lines available through IF can dwindle those of movies, music and TV
because the size of an IF story is often greater, and because the player's
imagination can make a fantasy more perfect than a filmmakers.

A good reading or performance of a piece of writing is thoroughly
enjoyable...

I guess I would like to see -- or should I say, hear -- some vocal or
multimedia IF like I described in the other thread. A game that talks to
the player(s), and the players get to talk to the game. Modern computers
can handle a lot of data throughput, and it could even be made multi-player
(communication aspect). Imagine several friends in a room, basically
putting on a performance for themselves and a computer facilitator/narrator.
It could work over the net on faster connections (which are becoming more
and more available at least here in the US)...

NPC voices could be recorded by popular actors, and popular music or
composers could be used for a score. Getting to kiss someone in an IF work
whose voice is that of your favorite actor.... hmm...

It would be a HUGE undertaking to put out a high quality voice game, but it
seems like it might appeal to a large audience... mostly children, teens,
and college students (who have time), and possibly retirees and "stay at
home" parents.

Asa


David Thornley

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Jul 15, 2003, 8:56:38 AM7/15/03
to
In article <3f12f85f$0$1095$3c09...@news.plethora.net>,

Seebs <se...@plethora.net> wrote:
>In article <3f12e5f1$0$154$a186...@newsreader.visi.com>,
>David Thornley <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
>>However, it appears to me that the difficulty in creating a good game
>>has diminished. We now have better tools than Infocom had, and Infocom
>>had better tools than anybody else.
>
>I think what we're doing is reducing substantially the *accidental*
>difficulties of creating good IF.
>
Are you referring to Weinberg, "The Psychology of Computer Programming"?
If so, I agree with you.

It used to be that the best people in the business, the Infocom
implementors, had to use ZIL and "borrow" parsers from game to
game. In the ZIL source I've seen, there's no obvious use
of any canned packages other than the parser.

It is now not necessary to program as much to write good IF,
and that programming is in something better than ZIL. (Not that
I have anything against Lisp-based languages - I love them - but
ZIL seems to have darn little in common with Lisp other than some
of the syntax.)

>Another change; while most people want graphical games, there are thousands
>of times more computers out there, now. Furthermore, IF is well-suited to
>PDA's (at least ones with keyboards) and other niche markets. I think there's
>a potential market out there, now.
>

Yup. There's a lot of games that cannot be played, or at least are
impractical, on my PDA. I usually play IF or Minesweeper, myself.

>If I were trying to do something like this, I'd probably work on distribution
>media which provided games in EVERY possible format, along with interpreters
>for an insane variety of platforms. Games in PDB (both frotz and frobnitz),
>interpreters for old Mac, new Mac, Windows, Linux, BSD, Zaurus, PocketPC,
>Palm... You get the idea.

Yup. Just like Infocom. The range of availability was very impressive
for the time.

>I think it might be possible to pull this off, but it's something that had
>better start as a hobby, because I don't think the income would be there early
>on.
>

On the other hand, I think it'd need serious marketing, which would
provide money. It's a chicken-and-egg thing, with the complication
that we don't know if a chicken is even theoretically possible.

crazydwarf

unread,
Jul 15, 2003, 3:12:41 PM7/15/03
to
OK maybe I am the only one here, but havn't any of you seen all those
ads for commercial IF and MUDS. They are all over google. Now of
course I have never bought any of them but they don't realy look that
great. And selling something doesn't make it better then giving it
away for free. Also I don't think many people would buy IF when you
can get it for free. Of course for those people who do want to sell
their games i might suggest doing it for PDAs. Why because you can't
get great graphics on them anyways and so people wouldn't be as put
off by IF's lack of graphics. Well hope i helped, probably didn't
thought, oh well...

Rexx Magnus

unread,
Jul 15, 2003, 6:05:57 PM7/15/03
to
On Tue, 15 Jul 2003 19:12:41 GMT, crazydwarf scrawled:

MUDs are not quite in the same vein as most IF. It's the difference
between having an MMORPG and a regular CRPG. With online games, they're
usually a framework, with maybe a few quests - but largely a social
experience. IF and CRPG is more of a personal experience, and not
dependant on subscription/being online.

IF is largely platform independant anyway, unless you're talking about
games written in native code for a particular OS - so the market is pretty
much open-ended, even if it might be aimed at systems that have lesser
graphics capability.

--
UO & AC Herbal - http://www.rexx.co.uk/herbal

To email me, visit the site.

Mike Roberts

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Jul 15, 2003, 6:54:15 PM7/15/03
to
"crazydwarf" <crazyd...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Of course for those people who do want to sell their games i
> might suggest doing it for PDAs. Why because you can't get
> great graphics on them anyways and so people wouldn't be as
> put off by IF's lack of graphics.

You're not the only person to think along these lines - a couple of years
ago, an actual commercial venture bought into pretty much this line of
reasoning, but for "PDA's" substitute "cell phones." It didn't pan out for
them - which doesn't mean the theory is wrong, but doesn't lend it any
support.

Personally, I'm skeptical of this hypothesis. First, I can't see why anyone
would like a kind of game just because their computer can run it. I'm more
inclined to think that people who like to run games on PDA's started out
liking the kinds of games PDA's can run, so it's just a bonus that PDA's can
run them. Second, it's not like most PDA users have never seen a "real"
computer before; I see no reason why their expectations should be lower just
because one platform they use has technical limitations.

But most importantly, this idea that PDA users will like text IF because
they have lower expectations is rooted in a belief that text is somehow a
really low-end form of graphics - as though there's a linear quality/power
progression from monochrome text to colored text to CGA to EGA to VGA to XGA
or something. To my mind, text and graphics are simply different media, and
text IF is simply a distinct kind of game, not a low-end version of any
other kind of game.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com

David Thornley

unread,
Jul 15, 2003, 11:15:26 PM7/15/03
to
In article <pI%Qa.17$dr1...@news.oracle.com>,

Mike Roberts <mjrUND...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>Personally, I'm skeptical of this hypothesis. First, I can't see why anyone
>would like a kind of game just because their computer can run it. I'm more
>inclined to think that people who like to run games on PDA's started out
>liking the kinds of games PDA's can run, so it's just a bonus that PDA's can
>run them. Second, it's not like most PDA users have never seen a "real"
>computer before; I see no reason why their expectations should be lower just
>because one platform they use has technical limitations.
>
It's not so much liking a kind of game because it runs on their computer,
but liking several kinds of games and having some that won't run.
People don't generally buy PDAs to play games on (this community
excepted), but the fact that people can play games on them is a nice
feature.

>But most importantly, this idea that PDA users will like text IF because
>they have lower expectations is rooted in a belief that text is somehow a
>really low-end form of graphics - as though there's a linear quality/power
>progression from monochrome text to colored text to CGA to EGA to VGA to XGA
>or something. To my mind, text and graphics are simply different media, and
>text IF is simply a distinct kind of game, not a low-end version of any
>other kind of game.
>

No. We know that lots of people potentially like IF. There is no
reason to think that that number is smaller than at Infocom's
peak. Lots of people don't play them because they like other sorts
of games more, and there isn't much in the way of advertising anymore.

This means that, if some people were aware of IF and how they could
play it on their PDAs, they'd be tempted, since they can't play the
games they like better on the PDA. Text IF is not a low-end version
of graphical games, but it does have considerably smaller system
requirements, and it is frequently liked less than graphic games.
(Some people have no taste....)

So, there is reason to think that there might be an unexploited
market opportunity.

crazydwarf

unread,
Jul 16, 2003, 12:46:38 AM7/16/03
to
> But most importantly, this idea that PDA users will like text IF because
> they have lower expectations is rooted in a belief that text is somehow a
> really low-end form of graphics - as though there's a linear quality/power
> progression from monochrome text to colored text to CGA to EGA to VGA to XGA
> or something. To my mind, text and graphics are simply different media, and
> text IF is simply a distinct kind of game, not a low-end version of any
> other kind of game.
>
> --Mike
> mjr underscore at hotmail dot com

Sorry, I didn't want it to come off as saying that text is just realy
bad graphics. I did not mean that at all but I am betting that if you
asked someone who doesn't normaly play IF and showed them a piece of
IF and asked them what they thought they would probably mention, "Are
their any graphics?" or "The graphics are realy bad!" or something to
that like so if you are trying to get more people to like IF you have
to get over that. Also as for peoples expectations not being any
lower for PDA's it is not their expectations being lower it is just
the fact that being able to take it everywhere is a bonus some people
might think that it doesn't matter that the game has worse graphics,
it is just a tradeoff of it being portable. Like sometimes I will opt
to buy a gameboy game rather then a computer or console game just
because a game boy is portable.

Mike Roberts

unread,
Jul 16, 2003, 2:08:05 AM7/16/03
to
"David Thornley" <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
> No. We know that lots of people potentially like IF. There is no
> reason to think that that number is smaller than at Infocom's
> peak. Lots of people don't play them because they like other sorts
> of games more, and there isn't much in the way of advertising anymore.
>
> This means that, if some people were aware of IF and how they
> could play it on their PDAs, they'd be tempted, since they can't play
> the games they like better on the PDA.

Perhaps, but the part I'm skeptical about is this notion that there are lots
of people who like graphical over text games, in degrees; it seems the more
common sentiment is to like graphical games not just more than but actually
instead of text games. Anecdotally, it seems like most people I talk to
about IF, when they even know what it is, either like it or they don't. For
those who dislike text games, it doesn't seem to be the technical qualities
they dislike so much as the style of gameplay; they'd much rather play a
primitive graphical game on a PDA than a text adventure.

But that's just my own anecdotal experience. Maybe there's a huge market
out there just waiting to be tapped - it would be great if someone proved me
wrong.

lament

unread,
Jul 16, 2003, 2:29:33 AM7/16/03
to

But PDAs have ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE input methods.

Frobnitz is genius, but even with it playing IF is So Much Pain. A
foldable keyboard solves that, but then bye bye real portability.

Alexandre Owen Muniz

unread,
Jul 16, 2003, 3:50:00 AM7/16/03
to
lament wrote:

> But PDAs have ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE input methods.
>
> Frobnitz is genius, but even with it playing IF is So Much Pain. A
> foldable keyboard solves that, but then bye bye real portability.

I consider thumbboards to be essentially good enough. And I got through 10 hours worth of
playing City of Secrets on my Zaurus without feeling annoyed by the input method, so if
they're good enough for that, they should be good enough for anything. (But YMMV.)

(As an aside, this illustrates the reasons I like the Zaurus as a PDA for IF: built in
thumbboard, the ability to play TADS and Glulx games, and CF and SD memory cards slots for
holding lots and lots of games.)

**Owen

Joe Mason

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Jul 16, 2003, 3:51:22 AM7/16/03
to
In article <pan.2003.07.15....@shaw.NOSPAM.ca>, lament wrote:
> But PDAs have ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE input methods.
>
> Frobnitz is genius, but even with it playing IF is So Much Pain. A
> foldable keyboard solves that, but then bye bye real portability.

Enh, I never found it that bad when I used a Palm.

But more and more PDA's are getting built-in keyboards now. The
Handspring Treo, the new Sony Clie's, the Sharp Zaurus... And I've seen
add-on keyboards for the Palm that don't fold out so they're still
pretty portable.

Joe

Rob Steggles

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Jul 16, 2003, 5:25:02 AM7/16/03
to

"Asa Rossoff" <a...@lovetour.info> wrote in message
news:bf0g3c$ko7$1...@news.chatlink.com...

>
> I think that's a great idea -- and aiming for young audiences, especially
at
> first, might work well. Something familiar, educational, simple enough,
> entertaining...

I think most IF authors naturally enough want to write about he stuff that
appeals to themselves and for which they have good ideas - to follow their
muse. And I don't have a problem with that. But if you want to make a
living, then it's worth looking at what has to be the most susccessful
(commerically definitely and artistically - well, that's a whole other
debate) story teller this century (in the anglo-saxon world at least) -
Disney Corp. OK, I know there are some duds that they have released but the
ratio of good:crap is rather impressive. Like 'em or loathe 'em you have to
admit they spend time and effort on the stories and on new media. And this
has made them incredibly successful. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting
we go work for Disney but if we want to make games commercially viable, then
look at what they have done/do do and see if there are any lessons to learn
about the craft. I think there are...
.
I'm just trying to get set in mind's eye who the potential audience is and
see if I am then prepared to write a game to meet that audience, eg for
preference I'd write something vaguely historical and Flashman-esque but, if
fairy tales sell, and I feel I can create a decent enough scenario then I I
wouldn't be averse to changing direction and I could come back to the
self-indulgent stuff later on, or in my 'spare' time (hah!).

Having said that, Peter Nepstad seems to have found outlets for his
'historical fiction' that are tied in with theproduct. This seems to be an
entirely sensible symbiotic relationship. Other examples of historical
tie-ins with existing museums/interested parties begin to bubble up into
the conscious. Again, it's all about widening the distribution and the
potential audience.

> If the medium appeals to more senses it becomes easier to comprehend. The
> words shouldn't be let go, though, because they are the core strength and
> quality of IF. But if the game wasn't just a reading and writing story,
but
> a story plus a story-teller, it becomes much easier for the player to
> comprehend, and the telling of the story by audio, video, or
theoretically,
> touch, taste, and smell, can help bring it alive. I think the
sophisticated
> story-lines available through IF can dwindle those of movies, music and TV
> because the size of an IF story is often greater, and because the player's
> imagination can make a fantasy more perfect than a filmmakers.
>
> A good reading or performance of a piece of writing is thoroughly
> enjoyable...
>
> I guess I would like to see -- or should I say, hear -- some vocal or
> multimedia IF like I described in the other thread. A game that talks to
> the player(s), and the players get to talk to the game. Modern computers
> can handle a lot of data throughput, and it could even be made
multi-player
> (communication aspect). Imagine several friends in a room, basically
> putting on a performance for themselves and a computer
facilitator/narrator.
> It could work over the net on faster connections (which are becoming more
> and more available at least here in the US)...

I like this idea, but i maybe a bit unreachable (financially) right now.
<puts suggestion in 'there is a future' folder>

> NPC voices could be recorded by popular actors, and popular music or
> composers could be used for a score.

I agree that sensory overload makes for amore complete experience but with
limited production costs, the suggestion youmake of having NPCs talk seems
like a brilliant suggestion. We may have to stick with using out of work
actors and musician friends that are prepared to do something for 'future
gain'.

> Getting to kiss someone in an IF work
> whose voice is that of your favorite actor.... hmm...

I think I just heard the distant sound of an exploding spotty fourteen year
old boy...

> It would be a HUGE undertaking to put out a high quality voice game, but
it
> seems like it might appeal to a large audience... mostly children, teens,
> and college students (who have time), and possibly retirees and "stay at
> home" parents.

Yep, I think these split neatly into two camps which for the sake of
convenience, I'll call mature and young.

Thoughts on the YOUNG: I can certainly see that parents and educators might
like their children playing IF rather than other computer games (advanced
literacy, use of imagination etc) and this wouldbe who you would sell to in
fact. But to make this really work you have to come up with a project of
Harry Potter-esque or Disney-esque proportions, by which I mean kids are not
going to play something their parents want them to play - you have to appeal
directly to the kids and get the parents (literal) buy-in. The Fairy
Tale/Disney type ones may appeal to a slightly younger market, so language
and reading skill may have to be accounted for. All my 8-14 year old
nephews (several of them - my focus group) also read Lemony Snicket and
Artemis Fowl. The girls read their teen-mags and want to know about pop
stars and boys so teen-romance stuff might work here. (Amazing how those
stereotypes won't go away ain't it?)

Thoughts on the MATURE. Retirees and older parents looking for something
other than just a good read. They will need to 'learn' how to play IF so
will also need familiar scenarios at first. If you're a brit, think of the
audience as Terry Wogan's TOGS - that's who I have in my crosshairs - there
are between 2 and 4 million or so of them that tune into Radio 2 every
morning. What do they read, write, are interested in? Gemeralities are
difficult here and I don't know for sure how to answer this but I guess they
would be more inclined towards historical fiction, wodehouse and bogart
(humphrey) as a general rule. I don't have what I think is a representative
focus group to ask here, ie MATURE plus COMPUTER. Anyone else got any
suggestions?

Rob Steggles


Rob Steggles

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Jul 16, 2003, 6:37:00 AM7/16/03
to

"Rob Steggles" <robert....@talk21.com> wrote in message
news:3f1519f6$0$14184$79c1...@nan-newsreader-03.noos.net...

I guess they
> would be more inclined towards historical fiction, wodehouse and bogart
> (humphrey) as a general rule.

Just found this superb quote from PG Wodehouse, so I shall repectfully
withdraw from the room with the middle suggestion hastily concealed beneath
my coat and my tail between my legs....

"One great advantage in being a historian to a man like Jeeves is that his
mere personality prevents one selling one's artistic soul for gold. In
recent years I have had lucrative offers for his services from theatrical
managers, motion-picture magnates, the proprietors of one or two widely
advertised commodities, and even the editor of the comic supplement of an
American newspaper, who wanted him for a "comic strip". But, tempting though
the terms were, it only needed Jeeves deprecating cough and his murmured "I
would scarcely advocate it, sir," to put the jack under my better nature.
Jeeves knows his place, and it is between the covers of a book."

(from Wodehouse's introduction to The World of Jeeves, 1967)

Rob Steggles


David Thornley

unread,
Jul 16, 2003, 8:41:31 AM7/16/03
to
In article <9Z5Ra.1103$x73...@newssvr22.news.prodigy.com>,

Mike Roberts <mj...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>"David Thornley" <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
>> No. We know that lots of people potentially like IF. There is no
>
>Perhaps, but the part I'm skeptical about is this notion that there are lots
>of people who like graphical over text games, in degrees; it seems the more
>common sentiment is to like graphical games not just more than but actually
>instead of text games.

Very likely. The composition of the computer games market has changed
a lot since the 1980s. I would think this is mostly due to expanding
the market, rather than changing it.

In other words, there used to be enough people who played text
adventures to support several companies. This was back in the days
when using a computer meant typing and reading, of course, and so
a lot of people who play computer games nowadays would not have
been interested. Given the immense increase in numbers of computer
game players since then, it seems likely to me that the bulk of
the gamers nowadays simply won't like text games.

However, there is a difference between relative and absolute growth.
Even though a much smaller proportion of computer gamers like
text games nowadays, that doesn't mean that there aren't more
computer gamers who do like them nowadays.

Part of the issue here is advertising and shelf space, which are
considerably harder problems with a more dispersed target audience.
Presumably the cost of magazine ads has gone up more or less with
the gamer population, which means that they're a lot more expensive
for text games, relative to the sales they'll attract.

It could be that graphic games have changed people's tastes so that
they no longer enjoy text IF, but I rather doubt it. Every so often,
somebody stumbles on the IF Archive or something and is delighted.
The Adrift community seems to be doing OK.

>But that's just my own anecdotal experience. Maybe there's a huge market
>out there just waiting to be tapped - it would be great if someone proved me
>wrong.
>

Yup. I have reasons to think there is a large market (I wouldn't say
"huge") out there, but I don't know a practical way to reach it.
I doubt that conventional advertising is going to be cost-effective.

Michael

unread,
Jul 16, 2003, 3:21:49 PM7/16/03
to
"Rob Steggles" <robert....@talk21.com> wrote in message news:<3f1519f6$0$14184$79c1...@nan-newsreader-03.noos.net>...
> "Asa Rossoff" <a...@lovetour.info> wrote in message
> But if you want to make a
> living, then it's worth looking at what has to be the most susccessful
> (commerically definitely and artistically - well, that's a whole other
> debate) story teller this century (in the anglo-saxon world at least) -
> Disney Corp. OK, I know there are some duds that they have released but the
> ratio of good:crap is rather impressive. Like 'em or loathe 'em you have to
> admit they spend time and effort on the stories and on new media. And this
> has made them incredibly successful.

I have to disagree here. Disney is successful today because they are a
corporate giant, they can market their crap virtually anywhere, they
have oodles of merchandising avenues, they're an established kiddy
icon, and that's just to name a few reasons. But it's NOT because of
their storytelling abilities. Every single animated movie they've
released since The Little Mermaid has followed the same formula; happy
times for cutsie/spunky animal/child/both with prodigious amounts of
"musical" numbers accompanied by a neverending entourage of animal
sidekicks voiced by black voice actors, then twisty-moustached vilain
makes things bad for Cheese-protagonist & Co., then everything gets
lovingly resolved at the end and wrapped up in a clean,
family-friendly package. If they stray from this formula at all, it's
only to incorporate some aspect of the popular story they're currently
raping.

Rob Steggles

unread,
Jul 16, 2003, 5:42:06 PM7/16/03
to

"Michael" <bilgepu...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:e984b78f.03071...@posting.google.com...
>successful.

>
>. But it's NOT because of
> their storytelling abilities. Every single animated movie they've
> released since The Little Mermaid has followed the same formula; happy
> times for cutsie/spunky animal/child/both with prodigious amounts of
> "musical" numbers accompanied by a neverending entourage of animal
> sidekicks voiced by black voice actors, then twisty-moustached vilain
> makes things bad for Cheese-protagonist & Co., then everything gets
> lovingly resolved at the end and wrapped up in a clean,
> family-friendly package. If they stray from this formula at all, it's
> only to incorporate some aspect of the popular story they're currently
> raping.

So for he 50 or so years from 1937-ish to 1989 (Little Mermaid) they did OK
in your opinion?. That's enough to make my point that they have *something*
to say on how to take an old story and make it commercial. Can I just add
to my point the case of Toy Storys 1 and 2, both of which received critical
acclaim from Halliwell (4* and 3* respectively - 4* reserved for landmark
films a la Citizen Kane.) as well as HUGE box office success.

:Let me just say I thought I might arouse some 'anti big business' opinions
with that one, but just look at what they do, how they do it and *see* if
you can learn anything. You never know....

Rob Steggles


Michael Bechard

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Jul 16, 2003, 6:38:37 PM7/16/03
to
Same Michael here...

Well, as much as my nostalgia hates to admit it, even the early days of
Disney were plagued by the formulaic nature I mentioned. Yes, Disney
movies have been vastly popular and raked in a lot of money over the
years, but you have to consider two big factors if you're going to use
them as model for marketing IF; look at their target audience, and look
at their size. Some of the strategies Disney uses to market and
distribute their movies aren't even pheasable for a $40 million company.

I'm not saying Disney has never done anything good; your point about Toy
Story is well taken, but sadly proves to be a rarity. For every good
film Disney has done, I could point out twenty horrid movies they
produced (Air Bud, anyone?). Good/bad ratio? Pretty bad, in my book. And
by the way, when I talk about "good," I'm talking about my personal
opinion on the story, not whether it was successful with its target
audience.

I'm actually not anti big business. Making money isn't "bad" in my book.
I just happen to hate most of the "entertainment" Disney mass produces
like so many cans of Spam on an assembly line. But I agree that maybe
some of their strategies, i.e. remaking the same stories over and over
for gullible kids, might work in IF. I'd hate to see Disney movies in
IF, but it might work.

Michael

Seebs

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Jul 16, 2003, 9:19:46 PM7/16/03
to
In article <3f13fa06$0$187$a186...@newsreader.visi.com>,

David Thornley <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
>Are you referring to Weinberg, "The Psychology of Computer Programming"?

Actually, Brooks, but same idea.

Bennett Standeven

unread,
Jul 16, 2003, 10:42:21 PM7/16/03
to
se...@plethora.net (Seebs) wrote in message news:<3f12dfe2$0$1100$3c09...@news.plethora.net>...

> In article <9st4hvgnd79urh21o...@4ax.com>,
> Harry <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote:
> >I find it difficult to believe that making money through IF would be
> >the sole motivation. There are easier ways to make money. Even in the
> >creative field. Like writing static fiction.
>
> Well, consider:
>
> I can write IF now. What changes if IF becomes commercially viable? I can
> get *paid* for it!
>
> >I am not saying writing a bestseller (or even just a seller. Or even
> >just a publishable manuscript) is easy. But I think it is far more
> >likely to happen than making serious cash (by which I mean: enough to
> >pay the rent) with Interactive Fiction.
>
> Indeed. Which is why people are asking whether it's *possible* to change
> that.
>

Certainly not! At best it might be equally easy to write a publishable
manuscript as a publishable program, and even that seems unlikely to happen,
since IF requires programming skill as well as writing skill.

> >Maybe. But then again: look at the gems from the eighties and look at
> >the gems from the past decade. I think the unpaid writers and testers
> >have done a very professional job.
>
> Unpaid artists are sometimes as good as professionals, perhaps better, but the
> vast, vast, majority of unpaid artists are AWFUL.
>
> The only advantage of the current model is that you don't, mostly, actually
> *see* the really awful stuff.
>

You mean the current model for computer gaming, the current model for IF, or
the current model for writing?

Rob Steggles

unread,
Jul 17, 2003, 7:13:54 AM7/17/03
to

"Michael Bechard" <not...@nothing.com> wrote in message
news:NtkRa.85747$X43...@clmboh1-nws5.columbus.rr.com...

>
> Well, as much as my nostalgia hates to admit it, even the early days of
> Disney were plagued by the formulaic nature I mentioned. Yes, Disney
> movies have been vastly popular and raked in a lot of money over the
> years, but you have to consider two big factors if you're going to use
> them as model for marketing IF; look at their target audience, and look
> at their size. Some of the strategies Disney uses to market and
> distribute their movies aren't even pheasable for a $40 million company.

I wasn't considering their marketing model other than to the extent that
they take old stories and change them to appeal to contemporary audiences.
And that this 'method' could possibly perhaps be applied to IF if one were
writing for an audience other than the audience that currently exists for
IF.


>
> I'm not saying Disney has never done anything good; your point about Toy
> Story is well taken, but sadly proves to be a rarity. For every good
> film Disney has done, I could point out twenty horrid movies they
> produced (Air Bud, anyone?). Good/bad ratio? Pretty bad, in my book. And
> by the way, when I talk about "good," I'm talking about my personal
> opinion on the story, not whether it was successful with its target
> audience.

So you don't like the movies then. OK. I don't want to get into a debate
about good/bad disney movies here. But I have some kids that would be
seriously annoyed if you started dissing Jungle Book ;-)

> But I agree that maybe
> some of their strategies, i.e. remaking the same stories over and over
> for gullible kids, might work in IF. I'd hate to see Disney movies in
> IF, but it might work.

OK. I'm not sure about actually putting Disney movies in IF. I don't think
I'd personally like to see it either. I was just thinking of using some or
all of the method/formula to come up with some different ideas to address
new markets.

Sequels seem to work quite well across the board as money makers though are
widely (rightly?) derided as 'not being up to scratch' artistically.

And, by the way, it isn't generally the kids that buy this stuff, it's the
parents. Don't forget that Disney markets to them as well (safe, family
entertainment)

Rob Steggles


James Glover

unread,
Jul 18, 2003, 3:20:05 PM7/18/03
to
On Thu, 17 Jul 2003 13:13:54 +0200, Rob Steggles
<robert....@talk21.com> wrote:

>
> "Michael Bechard" <not...@nothing.com> wrote in message
> news:NtkRa.85747$X43...@clmboh1-nws5.columbus.rr.com...
>

>> I'm not saying Disney has never done anything good; your point about Toy


>> Story is well taken, but sadly proves to be a rarity. For every good
>> film Disney has done, I could point out twenty horrid movies they
>> produced (Air Bud, anyone?). Good/bad ratio? Pretty bad, in my book. And
>> by the way, when I talk about "good," I'm talking about my personal
>> opinion on the story, not whether it was successful with its target
>> audience.
>
> So you don't like the movies then. OK. I don't want to get into a
> debate
> about good/bad disney movies here. But I have some kids that would be
> seriously annoyed if you started dissing Jungle Book ;-)

I think it must be one of those rights of passage. Everyone, at somepoint
in their life reaches a point at which Diseny Films Aren't as good as they
used to be. (For myself and the majoritory of people I know of a similar
age (First year uni student if you must know) this occured somewhere
arround The Lion King) It must be part target audience and part nostalgia
that keeps them popular. Disney market for children and are undeniably
succesful in that respect. Once you are outside that target audience the
new films lack the apeal yet nostalgia ensures the older films retain the
charm they first had. [I've seen people mention nostalgia having a simmilar
effect of rising the profile of Adventure above that of Zork in some
peoples minds.]

Having said all that I can't think of a single good 'live action' diseny
film. I preferred the animation.

--
James Glover
E-mail: ja...@jaspsplace.co.uk
Web: http://www.jaspsplace.co.uk
MSN: ja...@jaspsplace.co.uk
ICQ: 75440795

Paul Drallos

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Jul 19, 2003, 9:38:04 AM7/19/03
to
James Glover wrote:

>
> Having said all that I can't think of a single good 'live action' diseny
> film. I preferred the animation.
>

There was a recent Disney live-action release called 'Holes' which
was way-cool. Another classic live-action (which I recently got on
DVD) was Old Yeller.

It's true, however, that the consistency of quality of the animated
films is higher.


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