[GENERAL] First-Person Past Tense...

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Jason Peter Brown

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Jul 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/15/98
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I'm working on a game which is currently written in like so:

"You are standing in a field, looking at the moon..."

But have come up with an idea might be great in theory, but I don't know
how it will effect playability. Without wanting to give away too much of
the idea, I will only tell you that it involves writing the text along
these lines:

"I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."

I was hoping on some input in regard to how you folks think this might
change the way a player gets involved in the game. Do you think the game
will seem to distant and not immersive enough? Or do you see any
possibility that it might work? On a related note, what do you think would
be the best way to handle the default responses, like:

"I couldn't pick that up"

or something like:

"[You can't pick that up]"

How about this standard message:

"Please be more specific about what you'd like to get"

...It would sound pretty unnatural inthe first person past tense... Anyway,
your input will be appreciated!

JPB

Joe Mason

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Jul 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/16/98
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Jason Peter Brown <yu21...@yorku.ca> insribed:

>I'm working on a game which is currently written in like so:
>
>"You are standing in a field, looking at the moon..."
>
>But have come up with an idea might be great in theory, but I don't know
>how it will effect playability. Without wanting to give away too much of
>the idea, I will only tell you that it involves writing the text along
>these lines:
>
>"I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."
>
>I was hoping on some input in regard to how you folks think this might
>change the way a player gets involved in the game. Do you think the game
>will seem to distant and not immersive enough? Or do you see any

I think it would make a great change. It depends on the game whether it
would be a good thing.

Check out the opening to Piece of Mind, which I thought was the best part
of the game. AFAIK, its never been done for a complete game, so I
definitely think you should try it!

>"I couldn't pick that up"
>
>or something like:
>
>"[You can't pick that up]"

Hmm... depends. If its something that the PC attempts and fails, it
should be in the first person. If it's something that isn't even
attempted because it obviously won't work, the second person sounds
natural, probably because the generic second person is often used for
impossibilities ("You can't teach an old dog new tricks").

However, if you try to mix the two it could get really confusing.

What about trying an impartial message? "That can't be picked up."
Again, you have the tense problem - "can't" or "couldn't"?

BTW, the first one would actually sound more natural as, "I couldn't pick
it up", instead of "that". I think a natural, conversation style language
is something that you should strive for.

>How about this standard message:
>
>"Please be more specific about what you'd like to get"
>
>...It would sound pretty unnatural inthe first person past tense... Anyway,
>your input will be appreciated!

"I couldn't tell what I was expected to get."

Perhaps?

Joe

burn...@cs.lafayette.edu

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Jul 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/16/98
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In article <01bdaf8a$7a0a87a0$eddb3f82@lockheed>,

"Jason Peter Brown" <yu21...@yorku.ca> wrote:
> "I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."

I was thinking about doing something exactly. In fact I was working on an
Inform library extention that would replace all of the default messages to
first person past tense. However, this proved to be WAY too daunting a task
for me and so I abandoned it.

I think it would be a neat idea and don't think it would feel awkward at all.
I think it would feel unique and different.

Regarding the default messages. I was planning to go with:

"I couldn't pick that up."

which I think is most appropriate. The other WOULD be awkward. I think at
the very least they should be something like:

"I didn't pick that up."

Anyway, I think it would be neat and if you can handle all the rewritting of
the default messages then more power to you.

Jesse

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Den of Iniquity

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Jul 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/16/98
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On 15 Jul 1998, Jason Peter Brown wrote:

>"I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."
>

>I was hoping on some input in regard to how you folks think this might
>change the way a player gets involved in the game.

Well, just because Infocom tended to go for the second person doesn't mean
that everyone did. (Someone help me out here, my mind's gone
completely blank.) After momentary adjustment I don't think it causes much
problem - certainly I don't have any 'involvement' problems when reading
(or writing) static fiction in the second person.

As for changing all the library messages - that might require some effort,
some moments of inspiration - when you do manage it, it might be useful to
share your efforts with the group so no-one else has to start from scratch
again when they come to write first-person and/or past tense i-f. Having
said which, has anyone else ever done this? There's pastense.gam, which
has both present and past tenses, which would be worth looking at for a
start.

--
Den


michael...@ey.com

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Jul 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/16/98
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In article <01bdaf8a$7a0a87a0$eddb3f82@lockheed>,
"Jason Peter Brown" <yu21...@yorku.ca> wrote:
> I'm working on a game which is currently written in like so:
>
> "You are standing in a field, looking at the moon..."
>
> But have come up with an idea might be great in theory, but I don't know
> how it will effect playability. Without wanting to give away too much of
> the idea, I will only tell you that it involves writing the text along
> these lines:
>
> "I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."
>
> I was hoping on some input in regard to how you folks think this might
> change the way a player gets involved in the game.

I really like the way that particular style sounds, and I've occasionally
toyed around with writing my next big project that way. There's only one
problem with it, having to do with the way text adventures are played and how
the player experiences mimesis.

It seems to me (though you may feel differently) that writing in 1st person,
past tense (or third person, past tense, for that matter) sets up a different
kind of mimesis for the player.

In a "standard" IF, mimesis means immersion in the story, of being able to
suspend disbelief and actually *be* there, in the dungeon, or in the arctic
lab, or in your dorm room, wherever. You're there, *doing* those things. And
mimesis is broken when the game intrudes, when the "gears" show through --
the parser doesn't understand what seems like a simple request, you're not
allowed to perform a perfectly logical action, etc.

Now, when you put the prose in a more conventional narrative style like 1st
person past, mimesis is slightly different. You still don't want the gears to
show through, of course. Bt rather than the illusion of *being* in the story,
the player is given the illusion of *reading* a story -- a conventional work
of fiction. The fact that the player is directing the plot starts to become
invisible, and instead you're just reading this incredible story.

The problem: When you play an IF you're going to be experimenting with
objects, trying different things. A lot of times you're not going to get
anywhere: sometimes you're going to be going through a lot of repetition to
work out the solution to a problem, going back through the same rooms over
and over again -- "What if I put this on the altar? Okay, how about this? Or
this? Or this?" You know, just thrashing about, trying to find an answer.

When you're *in* the story (the first kind of mimesis), that might not bother
you so much. After all, if you were *really* there, that's how you'd go about
figuring things out, right? You'd try stuff, screw up, try other stuff.
Experiment. Real life isn't like an adventure, even when it superficially
resembles one. You're going to bumble about a bit. It doesn't necessarily
break mimesis.

But if you were reading a piece of fiction (the second kind of mimesis), you
wouldn't expect that. Authors have a very nice habit of cutting through all
the directionless bumbling that real people do and letting their characters
get right to the point of things. Even if the character makes mistakes, he
would make them for a reason, not just because he's not sure where to go
next.

If you had to read a story in which the hero, faced with a locked cabinet,
first tried to open it, then tried kicking it, then tried bashing it with
several different heavy objects in turn, then went back over the same ground
that the author had already described with a fine-toothed comb, looking for a
key, then finally found some acid, only to find that it doesn't dissolve the
cabinet door... after twenty pages of this nonsense you'd be ready to scream.
A typical first-time player's transcript of "Spider and Web", translated
directly into story form, would be the size of a telephone book and only
slightly less repetitive.

In an adventure game that works, because it's *you* trying all those things.
In a typical story, where it's someone else, it doesn't work. The more you
make your adventure game like reading a typical story, the more that problem
is going to show through.

Now, bear in mind that this is NOT a reason why you shouldn't do it. It's just
something to think about in the balance. Your comment gave me an interesting
idea about mimesis and I wanted to expand on it, is all. Anyone else care to
comment on my theory?

--
--M.

David Brain

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Jul 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/16/98
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In article <01bdaf8a$7a0a87a0$eddb3f82@lockheed>, yu21...@yorku.ca (Jason
Peter Brown) wrote:

> I'm working on a game which is currently written in like so:
>
> "You are standing in a field, looking at the moon..."
>
> But have come up with an idea might be great in theory, but I don't know
> how it will effect playability. Without wanting to give away too much of
> the idea, I will only tell you that it involves writing the text along
> these lines:
>
> "I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."

Isn't it really annoying when you are developing a game that you thought
was innovative until someone pops up on the newsgroup with the same idea?
:-)
I'm in the middle of doing a game where the story is supposed to read like
an eighteenth century journal novel (my reference source in this case was
Gulliver's Travels) - "I strode up the beach towards the swaying palm
tree" etc.
At the moment I am trying to use the trick of recasting error messages in
a different text style to separate them from the normal output (it also
helps that I am using slightly more archaic language for the story text,
so that the error messages just don't /feel/ part of the game.)
But it might be interesting to see what other people suggest.

--
David Brain
London, UK

> Light creates shadow; light destroys shadow. <
> Such is the transience of darkness. <

rad...@my-dejanews.com

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Jul 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/16/98
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In article <6ol2lf$jsn$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>,

michael...@ey.com wrote:
> Now, when you put the prose in a more conventional narrative style like 1st
> person past, mimesis is slightly different. You still don't want the gears to
> show through, of course. Bt rather than the illusion of *being* in the story,
> the player is given the illusion of *reading* a story -- a conventional work
> of fiction. The fact that the player is directing the plot starts to become
> invisible, and instead you're just reading this incredible story.

This is one of this things that makes this idea very intriguing to me.
Having myself tell the story (I did this..), rather than someone else telling
me what I did (You do that..), makes it much more believable to me. I always
get annoyed at games that say things like "You feel such-and-such." Don't
tell me how I feel! Your descriptions should MAKE me feel that way. On the
other hand, saying "I felt such-and-such." seems more acceptable, because
when you're telling a story, you need to explain to your listeners how you
felt.

> The problem: When you play an IF you're going to be experimenting with
> objects, trying different things.

>[...]


> When you're *in* the story (the first kind of mimesis), that might not bother
> you so much.

>[...]


> But if you were reading a piece of fiction (the second kind of mimesis), you
> wouldn't expect that.

Right. In addition to your example of trying multiple things to solve a
puzzle, just walking around would cause some problems. When telling a story,
you need to describe a location... once. Seeing "It was a dark and stormy
night. I was standing beneath the old oak tree." is great the first time.
But the next time you pass through, it would seem odd to read the description
again, unless something changed. So it would seem that "I" have to be taken
out of any static descriptions to avoid this problem, which limits the story
telling aspect of first-person past tense.

Still, I think these problems could be overcome with some creativity. It's
a great idea; something I've considered doing myself.

Tim

Lucian Paul Smith

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Jul 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/16/98
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Jason Peter Brown (yu21...@yorku.ca) wrote:

: But have come up with an idea might be great in theory, but I don't know


: how it will effect playability. Without wanting to give away too much of
: the idea, I will only tell you that it involves writing the text along
: these lines:

: "I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."

There are a few games you should look at that utilize this approach.
First of all, many old Scott Adams games utilize the first person present
tense, which isn't exactly what you want, but could at least give you a
feel for what happens in a different setting. Next, the opening of 'Piece
of Mind' (ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/infocom/piece_v3.z5) is in the
first person past tense, and then moves to the first person present for
the rest of it. A final game to look at would be 'Madame L'estrange'
(ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/competition97/inform/lest/lest.z5)
which alternates (though not very neatly) between third person past tense
and second person present.

One of my own ideas for a section of a game would be a flashback sequence,
where one person was telling their story to another. It's just an idea,
but I thought I might alternate between direct messages to the player and
*quoted* messages from the character to the listener. Something like:

>EAST

"I glanced east, but didn't see any exit there."

>EAST

[The only exits are to the north, and down.]

>DOWN

"I looked back down the stairs, but I didn't want to get caught, and the
stairs were just too creaky to attempt descending without making too much
noise. Besides, I wanted to see what was in the attic."

>DOWN

"I was scared, though, and the stairs looked tempting. My curiosity got
the better of me, though, and I decided to stay."

>DOWN

[Sorry; Abigail isn't going to go downstairs until she's had a look around
the attic first.]

>UNDO

"Oh, wait, that's not quite the way it happened,..."

[Undone.]

>NORTH

"Cautiously, I crept north into the darker recesses of the attic,..."

Attic

The attic, full of low beams and awkward angles, begins here in a
relatively tidy area that extends north, south, and east [...]

-------

At any rate, you get the idea. I think manipulating the person/tense of
the text could be an interesting and effective way of accomplishing
various effects, and I say go for it! The most difficult part of it will
probably be changing the library messages, but fortunately, Graham has
consolidated all text into English.h, so all you should need to do is
change this to something like PastTense.h and work from there. Heck, such
a hack would probably be a welcome addition to the IF archive.

Good Luck!

-Lucian

ne...@norwich.edu

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Jul 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/17/98
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In article <6olj75$c2k$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>,

rad...@my-dejanews.com wrote:
> In article <6ol2lf$jsn$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>,
> michael...@ey.com wrote:
> > Now, when you put the prose in a more conventional narrative style like 1st
> > person past, mimesis is slightly different. You still don't want the gears
to
> > show through, of course. Bt rather than the illusion of *being* in the
story,
> > the player is given the illusion of *reading* a story -- a conventional
work
> > of fiction. The fact that the player is directing the plot starts to become
> > invisible, and instead you're just reading this incredible story.
>
> This is one of this things that makes this idea very intriguing to me.

If you can, and haven't yet, try playing the late Infocom game Journey, which
is written from the perspective of the diary of a participant in the story. It
thus switches from 1st person past to 3rd person past tense quite often.

Of course, they used an elaborate menu system instead of a parser for this
one, so parser fans may be unsatisfied.

In my opinion, the illusion of total interactivity is almost always
maintained. Also, the illusion of reading a pre-written narrative is quite
effective. A clever device is the embedded hints, which you can receive after
your game ends, buy asking the narrator to 'muse' on various subjects.

Neil Cerutti
ne...@norwich.edu

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Jul 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/17/98
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rad...@my-dejanews.com wrote

> michael...@ey.com wrote:
> > Now, when you put the prose in a more conventional narrative style
> > like 1st person past, mimesis is slightly different. You still
> > don't want the gears to show through, of course. Bt rather than
> > the illusion of *being* in the story,
> > the player is given the illusion of *reading* a story -- a
> > conventional work of fiction. The fact that the player is
> > directing the plot starts to become invisible, and instead you're
> > just reading this incredible story.

Hey, an ON-TOPIC pronouns thread!

rad...@my-dejanews.com wrote

> This is one of this things that makes this idea very intriguing to me.

> Having myself tell the story (I did this..), rather than someone else
> telling me what I did (You do that..), makes it much more believable
> to me. I always get annoyed at games that say things like "You feel
> such-and-such." Don't tell me how I feel! Your descriptions should
> MAKE me feel that way.

Which is a perfectly decent alternative to the above approach. MAKE the
reader feel. Of course, there are some readers (players) who won't feel
what you're aiming for, but that's the same thing regular old fiction has
to deal with, and many authors manage to produce very emotional works.

But to *really* control the effect completely you'd need to control the
player's mood and surroundings while reading. For example, reading Fall of
the House of Usher for the first time normally produces certain thoughts
and feelings, but what I did, reading it for the first time from a library
book (Annotated Works of Edgar Allen Poe) that was due the next day,
staying up late to finish it (way past normal bedtime), sitting on my bed
with only a small lamp illuminating an otherwise dark bedroom, with my back
to the door, and, right at the climax of the story, having my mom
unexpectedly come up quietly behind me to (just as the character started
hearing strange sounds) tap me on the shoulder and tell me it was getting
late -- well, it's a whole different experience. You can't expect everyone
who experiences your work to experience the fullest potential, because you
can't control the circumstances of the reading or playing. But you can
still try to produce an emotional work, if that's part of your goal.

> On the
> other hand, saying "I felt such-and-such." seems more acceptable, because
> when you're telling a story, you need to explain to your listeners how
> you felt.

Acceptable, yes, but it's different. It doesn't necessarily get the reader
to feel much himself. As with above, though, you can aim for that, as
well.



> > The problem: When you play an IF you're going to be experimenting with
> > objects, trying different things.

Unless it's Hello Cruel World ;-)

>
> Right. In addition to your example of trying multiple things
> to solve a puzzle, just walking around would cause some
> problems. When telling a story, you need to describe a
> location... once. Seeing "It was a dark and stormy
> night. I was standing beneath the old oak tree." is
> great the first time.
> But the next time you pass through, it would seem odd to
> read the description again, unless something changed. So
> it would seem that "I" have to be taken out of any static
> descriptions to avoid this problem, which limits the story
> telling aspect of first-person past tense.

Not necessarily. You can easily (Inform does this automatically except in
verbose mode -- I assume it can be done with other systems, as well. It
would also be possible (though, IMO, not a good idea) to disable verbose
mode.) have the locations only be described once, unless the player
explicitly looks around again.


Yr. Obd't & Humble Servant,
Jonadab the Unsightly One


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TenthStone

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Jul 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/19/98
to
"Jonadab the Unsightly One" <jon...@zerospam.com> caused this to appear in our collective minds on 17 Jul 1998 11:39:50 GMT:

>rad...@my-dejanews.com wrote
>
>> michael...@ey.com wrote:
>> > Now, when you put the prose in a more conventional narrative style
>> > like 1st person past, mimesis is slightly different. You still
>> > don't want the gears to show through, of course. Bt rather than
>> > the illusion of *being* in the story,
>> > the player is given the illusion of *reading* a story -- a
>> > conventional work of fiction. The fact that the player is
>> > directing the plot starts to become invisible, and instead you're
>> > just reading this incredible story.

Understand, however, that a very carefully designed game could still maintain this
atmosphere: "I couldn't do that" is a statement that a certain action wasn't available
to the player. This could actually aid mimesis: if the writer wishes to disable a
certain action, it would make more sense. Say that there's a pencil hidden under
a... harpsichord bench, for instance, and the player hasn't yet looked under the bench.

>GET PENCIL
I couldn't see a pencil anywhere.

This sounds more plausible, as most certainly, at one point in time, the player didn't
know there was a pencil under the bench. The present-tense second-person form,
"You can't see a pencil here", sounds like a flimsier excuse. Or, at least, it does
to me.

Note that Mr. N. decided to forgo this latter option in favor of something else.

>rad...@my-dejanews.com wrote
>
>> This is one of this things that makes this idea very intriguing to me.
>> Having myself tell the story (I did this..), rather than someone else
>> telling me what I did (You do that..), makes it much more believable
>> to me. I always get annoyed at games that say things like "You feel
>> such-and-such." Don't tell me how I feel! Your descriptions should
>> MAKE me feel that way.

>Which is a perfectly decent alternative to the above approach. MAKE the
>reader feel. Of course, there are some readers (players) who won't feel
>what you're aiming for, but that's the same thing regular old fiction has
>to deal with, and many authors manage to produce very emotional works.

The problem with this is that an author of a normal piece of work is able
to spend tens (at the very least) of pages creating a strong connection
between the reader and the character in the book. Most authors would be
hung and quartered long before the second screenful of text was complete.
Further more, the envelopment potential (oh dear) of a non-participatory
work is far greater; its the same reason why people tend to be more sympathetic
towards others than to themselves -- in their thoughts, if not in their words.

>> On the
>> other hand, saying "I felt such-and-such." seems more acceptable, because
>> when you're telling a story, you need to explain to your listeners how
>> you felt.
>
>Acceptable, yes, but it's different. It doesn't necessarily get the reader
>to feel much himself. As with above, though, you can aim for that, as
>well.

Oh, of course. When a game tells me "You feel tired and upset" the first
thing I say is "Why, yes, I suppose I do."

I think the element of gameplay nearly always detracts from the element of
story; i.e., an IF author generally is forced to work towards one or the other.

>> > The problem: When you play an IF you're going to be experimenting with
>> > objects, trying different things.

That's what I mean.

>Unless it's Hello Cruel World ;-)
>
>>
>> Right. In addition to your example of trying multiple things
>> to solve a puzzle, just walking around would cause some
>> problems. When telling a story, you need to describe a
>> location... once. Seeing "It was a dark and stormy
>> night. I was standing beneath the old oak tree." is
>> great the first time.
>> But the next time you pass through, it would seem odd to
>> read the description again, unless something changed. So
>> it would seem that "I" have to be taken out of any static
>> descriptions to avoid this problem, which limits the story
>> telling aspect of first-person past tense.

I think this is a general rule, anyway, to avoid the use "you" in a description.
It bogs down the writing. "As you look at the glass ball, you see strange
mists within it twirling." can be very tiring to repeatedly read.

>Not necessarily. You can easily (Inform does this automatically except in
>verbose mode -- I assume it can be done with other systems, as well. It
>would also be possible (though, IMO, not a good idea) to disable verbose
>mode.) have the locations only be described once, unless the player
>explicitly looks around again.

This is typical of newer IF; older systems always gave the description the first
time, and on succeeding turns would randomize whether the room description
would be given upon entry or not.

Included is my reply to the original post as well:
>From: "Jason Peter Brown" <yu21...@yorku.ca>
>Newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction
>Subject: [GENERAL] First-Person Past Tense...
>Date: 15 Jul 1998 00:43:44 GMT
>Organization: York University, Ontario, Canada

>I'm working on a game which is currently written in like so:

>"You are standing in a field, looking at the moon..."

>But have come up with an idea might be great in theory, but I don't know
>how it will effect playability. Without wanting to give away too much of
>the idea, I will only tell you that it involves writing the text along
>these lines:

>"I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."

Actually, despite your subject line, I believe this is known as the imperfect tense.
But, then again, I could be wrong... I'm not perfect, you know.

Ouch.

Really, this is a neat idea.

>I was hoping on some input in regard to how you folks think this might

>change the way a player gets involved in the game. Do you think the game
>will seem to distant and not immersive enough? Or do you see any

>possibility that it might work?

I think it's a very good idea, but you'll need to reprogram any libraries that
you're using, just to convert every message -- or nearly every message -- to
the imperfect.

>"I couldn't pick that up"

>or something like:

>"[You can't pick that up]"

As M. Mason said:
>>Hmm... depends. If its something that the PC attempts and fails, it
>>should be in the first person. If it's something that isn't even
>>attempted because it obviously won't work, the second person sounds
>>natural, probably because the generic second person is often used for
>>impossibilities ("You can't teach an old dog new tricks").

Maybe the passive: "It could not be picked up.", or perhaps
"I was unable to pick the warthog gargoyle up."

As for an impossible, how about, "I didn't even consider doing that."
or "I didn't even consider doing something that daft." or "It would have
been absurd for me to type on the wildebeast."

>How about this standard message:

>"Please be more specific about what you'd like to get"

>...It would sound pretty unnatural in the first person past tense...

You'd need to develop a starting position if you're going to make
it seem like a story. That is, maybe an old man is telling of his youthful exploits.
In that case, something such as

"I'm not sure what you expected me to take."

would be satisfactory, provided it was made to be understood that
the crowd was also listening to the story and occaisionally interjecting comments.
-- TenthStone
tenth...@hotmail.com mcc...@erols.com a987...@titan.vcu.edu

Joe Mason

unread,
Jul 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/20/98
to
TenthStone <mcc...@erols.com> insribed:

>
>As M. Mason said:
>>>Hmm... depends. If its something that the PC attempts and fails, it
>>>should be in the first person. If it's something that isn't even
>>>attempted because it obviously won't work, the second person sounds
>>>natural, probably because the generic second person is often used for
>>>impossibilities ("You can't teach an old dog new tricks").
>
>Maybe the passive: "It could not be picked up.", or perhaps
>"I was unable to pick the warthog gargoyle up."

The tenets of conventional writing discourage the passive. Among other
things, it lacks drama, and generally sounds very weak. I think this is
one tenet which we should try to maintain.

BTW, that'd be "J" Mason, actually. Although I was almost an M...

>As for an impossible, how about, "I didn't even consider doing that."
>or "I didn't even consider doing something that daft." or "It would have
>been absurd for me to type on the wildebeast."

Well, that's an option, but it's an option in the present system, too.
"You can't even consider doing that" or "You don't even consider doing
something that daft" or "It would be absurd for you to type on the
wildebeas" or "The mere thought doesn't even begin to speculate about the
barest possibility of crossing your mind."

Point is, I was talking about a general usage which wouldn't need to be
tailored. Messages to individual possibilities could be as wacky as you
want them to be.

Joe


Michael Straight

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Jul 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/21/98
to

On 16 Jul 1998, Lucian Paul Smith wrote:

> Jason Peter Brown (yu21...@yorku.ca) wrote:
>

> : But have come up with an idea might be great in theory, but I don't know


> : how it will effect playability. Without wanting to give away too much of
> : the idea, I will only tell you that it involves writing the text along
> : these lines:
>
> : "I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."
>

> There are a few games you should look at that utilize this approach.
> First of all, many old Scott Adams games utilize the first person present
> tense, which isn't exactly what you want, but could at least give you a
> feel for what happens in a different setting. Next, the opening of 'Piece
> of Mind' (ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/infocom/piece_v3.z5) is in the
> first person past tense, and then moves to the first person present for
> the rest of it. A final game to look at would be 'Madame L'estrange'
> (ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/competition97/inform/lest/lest.z5)
> which alternates (though not very neatly) between third person past tense
> and second person present.

Infocom's "Journey" is done in third person, past tense. One of the main
reasons it works is that it's much more "choose your own adventure" and
less "wander around, examine every object, try to use x on y, etc." A
transcript of even a first-time player's game would still be fairly
interesting and non-tedious.

SMTIRCAHIAGEHLT

Phil Goetz

unread,
Jul 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/26/98
to
In article <35b22665...@news.erols.com>,
TenthStone <mcc...@erols.com> wrote:

>Further more, the envelopment potential (oh dear) of a non-participatory
>work is far greater; its the same reason why people tend to be more sympathetic
>towards others than to themselves -- in their thoughts, if not in their words.

I would disagree on both counts: I hope the potential for immersion in an
interactive fiction is greater; and I don't think the people I know are
more sympathetic to others than to themselves.

Phil

Phil Goetz

unread,
Jul 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/27/98
to
Somebody whose attribution I've lost wrote:

>: But have come up with an idea might be great in theory, but I don't know
>: how it will effect playability. Without wanting to give away too much of
>: the idea, I will only tell you that it involves writing the text along
>: these lines:
>
>: "I was standing in a field, looking at the moon..."

Interesting. You could try to cast it as a retelling, like when someone
in real life is telling you a story, and they tell the story by what
questions you ask. Sort of like The Space Under the Window.

Ideally I'd want it to look like this:

I was standing in a field, looking at the moon.

>What about the moon?

It looked flat and two-dimensional, as it had always looked to me.
It seemed impossible that Sheila could actually be there.

>Who is Sheila?

I must ask that myself that a dozen times a week. Who is Sheila,
really, and what do I matter to her? At the time, though, I
thought I knew.


but I suppose we'd have to settle for

I was standing in a field, looking at the moon.

>examine moon

It looked flat and two-dimensional, as it had always looked to me.
It seemed impossible that it could have anything to do with Sheila.

>examine sheila

I must ask that myself that a dozen times a week. Who is Sheila,
really, and what do I matter to her?


If you write it as a dialogue, the difficult question becomes, How can you
present puzzles? You could present them as a guessing game:

And what do you think I did then?

>Did you spray the dog with the ammonia?

but this reminds me of the goofy Jeopardy "state your answer
in the form of a question" format.

I suspect first person past tense would be better for stories with no
puzzles, and no branching plot. Branching, in that you explore some things
to different depths, but no branching plot -- the same thing always happens.

You could create meta-puzzles this way -- the story seems to be one way,
until you ask the right questions, when eventually you come to realize
that what you thought was a happy ending was actually tragic
(like a short story "Happy Ending" which presents the ending first, then
the middle, then the beginning, which makes you then reinterpret the
ending and understand it is not a happy ending).
There's some of this in Frederick Pohl's "Gateway", in which the
true significance of the plot to the main character is not revealed
until the end. There are also movies like this. One is called "The Wife",
about a psychiatrist and his wife, and one of his patients and his wife,
who have dinner together, and discover more than they wanted to know about
each other. Another movie, I forget the title, same director, in which
two people have a date, and at the start you think that the woman is a loser
and the man is a noble, together kind of guy, and by the end of the movie
you discover that the man is even more emotionally crippled than the woman
is and the way you see the whole scenario flips.
This style would have more in common with hypertext fictions than
adventure games.

Here are some more concrete subclasses of this approach:
Imagine a game in which you are a psychiatrist, and the person providing
first-person past tense descriptions is your patient. Your goal is to
figure out what really happened, or for you to help your patient discover
what is going on in his head. Or a game in which you are a detective
interviewing witnesses and suspects. In this case large
portions of the game could be just that kind of dialogue,
intermixed with the traditional present tense.


Phil Goetz
go...@zoesis.com

TenthStone

unread,
Jul 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/27/98
to
go...@cs.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) caused this to appear in our collective minds on 27 Jul 1998 04:09:07 GMT:

>Ideally I'd want it to look like this:
>
> I was standing in a field, looking at the moon.
>
> >What about the moon?
>
> It looked flat and two-dimensional, as it had always looked to me.
> It seemed impossible that Sheila could actually be there.
>
> >Who is Sheila?
>
> I must ask that myself that a dozen times a week. Who is Sheila,
> really, and what do I matter to her? At the time, though, I
> thought I knew.
>
>
>but I suppose we'd have to settle for
>
> I was standing in a field, looking at the moon.
>
> >examine moon
>
> It looked flat and two-dimensional, as it had always looked to me.
> It seemed impossible that it could have anything to do with Sheila.
>
> >examine sheila
>
> I must ask that myself that a dozen times a week. Who is Sheila,
> really, and what do I matter to her?

No, I think that if you really wanted to, you could do this -- in Inform,
of course, you could, but in TADS as well (using preparse or preparseCmd).
Detect a "did you" or a "why didn't you" at the beginning and remove it.
Detect a "did Marianne" and convery it to "Marianne, ". Detect a "who/what is "
and make it "ask myself about". If you wanted, you could always disallow standard
commands, but many players would complain and the second run through the
function would catch it.

It would be a pain, of course, but it could become a contest between players
to see who could make the most prosaic, natural log file. The winner would
use articles, pick interesting verbs, etc.

>If you write it as a dialogue, the difficult question becomes, How can you
>present puzzles? You could present them as a guessing game:
>
> And what do you think I did then?
>
> >Did you spray the dog with the ammonia?

This sounds reasonable. What have to be remembered are the limits
to this medium. Who would tell this story, and where? Well, it would
probably be told in a pub, maybe, or any other informal grouping of
people. In formal situations, people don't tell stories as much; and when
they do, frequent interruption would be frowned upon. You can't maintain
an austere mood in a tense like this.

>but this reminds me of the goofy Jeopardy "state your answer
>in the form of a question" format.

True, but the player would rebel at having to type "you should have taken
the point of glass"; plus, this implies that the actor didn't (and it would be
a true pain to listen to "But I did!" at the beginning of every command for
several thousand turns). Furthermore, this would require the verbs to
be declared in the past participle -- not fun.

>I suspect first person past tense would be better for stories with no
>puzzles, and no branching plot. Branching, in that you explore some things
>to different depths, but no branching plot -- the same thing always happens.

It would work well this way, it's true. But games of art need be brief.

>Here are some more concrete subclasses of this approach:
>Imagine a game in which you are a psychiatrist, and the person providing
>first-person past tense descriptions is your patient. Your goal is to
>figure out what really happened, or for you to help your patient discover
>what is going on in his head. Or a game in which you are a detective
>interviewing witnesses and suspects. In this case large
>portions of the game could be just that kind of dialogue,
>intermixed with the traditional present tense.

Now that might be interesting...
-----------

The inperturbable TenthStone
tenth...@hotmail.com mcc...@erols.com mcc...@gsgis.k12.va.us

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