Specific character?

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Stephen R. Granade

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Apr 7, 1994, 12:58:04 PM4/7/94
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Hihi,

Having now gotten back from spring break and gotten our Internet connection
back, I was wading through some of this group's threads when one of them
struck home. The question I'm pondering is: should the character in IF
1) be a well-defined person, 2) be a neutral person (one size fits all), or
3) be chosen from a group of players?

I read some objections to having a set character that the player plays.
However, isn't that sometimes necessary?

Okay, here's my example, for what it's worth. I've been thinking about
a (hypothetical) game in which the player is going mad. His madness would
be linked to specific things that happened to him in the past. Generic
madness may be interesting, but it's much more appealing to me when it
is rooted in a character. Making the main character be generic cuts off
many of the options I'm considering: how can I refer to a past when I
have NO idea what sort of background the player has?

Granted, I could make the game without a specific past. But I'm really
interested in having these different threads from the character's past
slowly converging until, at the end, they all pull together, giving
the player the opportunity to alter his life (in the game), or "win"
the game without having grown at all (a partial win at best).

I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts y'all have on this.

Stephen
--
_________________________________________________________________________
| Stephen Granade | "My research proposal involves reconstructing |
| | the Trinity test using tweezers and |
| sgra...@obu.arknet.edu | assistants with very good eyesight." |

Gerry Kevin Wilson

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Apr 7, 1994, 3:17:09 PM4/7/94
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In article <2o1e2s$k...@usenet.ins.cwru.edu>,

Stephen R. Granade <bz...@cleveland.Freenet.Edu> wrote:
>
>Hihi,
>
>Having now gotten back from spring break and gotten our Internet connection
>back, I was wading through some of this group's threads when one of them
>struck home. The question I'm pondering is: should the character in IF
>1) be a well-defined person, 2) be a neutral person (one size fits all), or
>3) be chosen from a group of players?

Don't forget 4) Multiple pre-defined characters at once and whatever other
variations on the above three this can make.

>I read some objections to having a set character that the player plays.
>However, isn't that sometimes necessary?

Well, this is getting to be my motto..."It depends." Some people like to
play second person IF (You are near a white house.) and some like to play
other personalities/people. Personally, it depends. A game can handle
either way poorly or it can handle either way well. This is just a tool,
and its mileage is going to vary wildly.

>Okay, here's my example, for what it's worth. I've been thinking about
>a (hypothetical) game in which the player is going mad. His madness would
>be linked to specific things that happened to him in the past. Generic
>madness may be interesting, but it's much more appealing to me when it
>is rooted in a character. Making the main character be generic cuts off
>many of the options I'm considering: how can I refer to a past when I
>have NO idea what sort of background the player has?

Well, you _could_ drop this entire pre-fabricated past onto the player.
Wait, I didn't say you _should_. I can't stand games that do this. If
you use a generic player object, you should make NO assumptions about
what your player likes/dislikes/is willing to do. Only the player has
the knowledge to decide that. I believe that a female poster mentioned
that she had frequently encountered games that told her things like, "You
look at the blonde tied to the tree. Wow, what a babe!" and that really
killed her suspension of disbelief, because it wasn't at all the way she
thought. Thus, in my personal opinion, you shouldn't refer to a past
when using a generic player object.

>Granted, I could make the game without a specific past. But I'm really
>interested in having these different threads from the character's past
>slowly converging until, at the end, they all pull together, giving
>the player the opportunity to alter his life (in the game), or "win"
>the game without having grown at all (a partial win at best).
>
>I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts y'all have on this.

Sounds fun. Lemme know if you decide to do this one.

--
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< V R I O Software. We bring words to life! | ~~\ >
< T | /~\ | >
<_WATCH for Avalon in early MAY!____wh...@uclink.berkeley.edu_|_\__/__>

Fraser Wilson

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Apr 8, 1994, 4:11:16 AM4/8/94
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I nearly cried when bz...@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Stephen R. Granade) explained:

>Okay, here's my example, for what it's worth. I've been thinking about
>a (hypothetical) game in which the player is going mad. His madness would
>be linked to specific things that happened to him in the past. Generic
>madness may be interesting, but it's much more appealing to me when it
>is rooted in a character. Making the main character be generic cuts off
>many of the options I'm considering: how can I refer to a past when I
>have NO idea what sort of background the player has?

I think that this is where IF has to ultimately go, if it is to be
worthy of the title. That the "player", which is the object which
happens to be under the control of the Interactive Reader, has to
have character in some form or another. Otherwise there is no point
to the plot -- which is not to say that a character-less protagonist
to an Adventure is pointless, merely that it is a game as opposed to
an Interactive Fiction.

The question is, where does the character come from? Is it possible to
use the human player's character? My gut feeling is that this would be
difficult, simply because it doesn't seem practical to write an IF that
is appropriate for everybody. Gender, for example, would be hard to
write around.

This is not necessarily a problem. People are able to associate with
characters who are not themselves: this is why we still read books.
Are there any fundamental difficulties with an IF protagonist who is
not the player, but whom the player controls? What comes to mind
immediatly are uncharacteristic actions, which are enough of a problem
in non-interactive fiction. Something more than "I don't want to do
that" is required.

Another problem is viewpoint: first, second or third. Second person would
only work, I think, if the player were willing to submerse themselves in
a character, and in some sense cooperate with the story. Of course, the
very nature of IF would allow them to be uncooperative, which brings us
back to "you decide not to do that."

First person I've never liked, but there you go. Third person would allow
you to move into a prose format, for example:

Tharg entered the chamber, and noticed a large and interesting
rock in the dead centre of the room.

> get rock

He grasped the rock, but was unable to shift it.

> examine rock

He looked closer, and saw glimmers of reflection from his torch.

Suddenly, Og arrived.

> say to Og, where's the gold

Tharg asked Og about the gold, but Og just shrugged.

Would this be too distant from the player? I'm not sure -- there's an extra
semantic layer in there, but I'm kind of thinking that if it works for
paper fiction, it should work for IF, though not necessarily with Tharg
in particular.

Anyway, so what I think is that having a definite character in mind with
IF is great, and something I would be extraordinarily keen on, the only
problem being that the problems need to be defined and solved. I think
that part of the uncharacteristic character problem is endemic in our
preconception of what IF is, and if we could step aside for a moment and
either decide that "you don't want to do that" is not so bad, or find
some other way around it, we would open up some excellent opportunities.

Character is plot!

BTW: I like the idea of a mad protagonist. My current bit of nonIF
concerns someone who is progressively going mad due to idealism and
a failure to deal with the consequences of a failure to live up to
idealism. Madness is fascinating.

Fraser.
+------------------------------------------------+
\._, | Fraser Wilson | Email: fra...@jtec.com.au | __o
< / | Jtec Pty Ltd | Voice: +61 2 390 0191 | -\<,
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Nor, indeed, are they necessarily mine. I might be possessed.
Or drunk.

Ron Hale-Evans

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Apr 11, 1994, 11:18:44 AM4/11/94
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Stephen R. Granade <bz...@cleveland.Freenet.Edu> writes:

>Okay, here's my example, for what it's worth. I've been thinking about
>a (hypothetical) game in which the player is going mad. His madness would
>be linked to specific things that happened to him in the past. Generic
>madness may be interesting, but it's much more appealing to me when it
>is rooted in a character. Making the main character be generic cuts off
>many of the options I'm considering: how can I refer to a past when I
>have NO idea what sort of background the player has?

I thought you should know that I myself am working on a TADS game
centred around the experience of madness. The game is "interactive
autobiography," in that it is based on events in my own life.

I should add that if you do decide to go on with this project, you
should be aware that there is an active community of people who
have been through the "mental health" mill that might be upset
if your depiction of madness proves to be inaccurate.

--
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Let us create therefore without fear; for we can create nothing
that is not GOD."--Aleister Crowley, _The Book of Lies_, ch.21
Ron Hale-Evans, ev...@binah.cc.brandeis.edu, rw...@delphi.com
PGP 2 public key: finger ev...@binah.cc.brandeis.edu

Stephen R. Granade

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Apr 14, 1994, 12:47:24 PM4/14/94
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In a previous article, rw...@delphi.com (Ron Hale-Evans) says:
[my game idea deleted]

>I thought you should know that I myself am working on a TADS game
>centred around the experience of madness. The game is "interactive
>autobiography," in that it is based on events in my own life.

I appreciate the notice.

>I should add that if you do decide to go on with this project, you
>should be aware that there is an active community of people who
>have been through the "mental health" mill that might be upset
>if your depiction of madness proves to be inaccurate.

If/when I start this project, I plan on doing research into this subject.
It would strike me as being rather arrogant if I simply started writing
the game with an, "Oh, I read *I Never Promised You A Rose Garden.*"

els...@kuhub.cc.ukans.edu

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Apr 14, 1994, 6:03:53 PM4/14/94
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> Having now gotten back from spring break and gotten our Internet connection > back, I was wading through some of this group's threads when one of them > struck home. The question I'm pondering is: should the character in IF > 1) be a well-defined person, 2) be a neutral person (one size fits all), or > 3) be chosen from a group of players? > I read some objections to having a set character that the player plays. > However, isn't that sometimes necessary? (snip, snip) >I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts y'all have on this. I've been following this discussion off and on and I think I've finally figured out what I think. There is a viewpoint that argues that since interactive fiction is in the first person, the player can't identify with one set character. Okay, I'm oversimplifying, because my view is this: In good non-interactive fiction the reader should be able to identify with the character, too, and it is NOT necessary to make the main character different for each reader -- except to the extent that each reader's interpretations of the character will differ slightly. It seems to me that good interactive fiction does the same thing; the character the player "plays" may have a well-described background or none at all, but it's really how well he or she is written that makes him or her identifiable-with. So I would say yes, go ahead and write your game for your character -- and if your playtesters can't identify with the main character, then rewrite your character until they do "relate". Sometimes this means making a character less extreme, or "non-sexist" (I know, but it's amazing how many games leave gender entirely neutral, so unless it is really necessary to your character's history, don't mention it.). A lot of times, I think it means writing your character better. One other thought; in good noninteractive fiction, being able to identify with a character or caring about what happens to him or her doesn't always mean you, the reader, LIKE the person. Does the player have to like the character in interactive fiction -- so you'll care enough about the character's survival or success -- or is it possible to write a game with a truly unlikeable (but fascinating) main character? Well, that's my $0.02 worth. I'd say the short form would be, Playtest! Playtest! Playtest! Because all of this is just theory, when people are actually playing the game will be the practice! > Stephen > -- > _________________________________________________________________________ > | Stephen Granade | "My research proposal involves reconstructing | > | | the Trinity test using tweezers and | > | sgra...@obu.arknet.edu | assistants with very good eyesight."| Elspeth ------------------------------------------------------------------------ internet: els...@kuhub.cc.ukans.edu * SnailNet: Elizabeth B. Naime bitnet: els...@ukanvm.bitnet * German Department * University of Kansas * Standard Disclaimers Apply * * Lawrence, KS 66045-2127 ----------------------------------------------------------------------- ---- Open mouth. Insert foot. Echo internationally. ----
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