Thoughts on Time and So Far

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Carl Muckenhoupt

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Apr 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/15/97
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I was just writing some email to the author of "Time: All Things Come to an End",
and it occured to me that much of what I was saying would be of interest to
this newsgroup. I missed the discussion of Time back when it was being discussed,
so I don't know what everyone else thought of it; I find it quite poorly designed.
The following explains, in part, why. Includes mild spoilers for Time and So Far.

[bug reports deleted]

Finally, some general criticism. I have, by now, finished your game, but only by making extensive use of
Paul Godfrey's walkthrough. Now, I am not a stupid person, nor am I unlearned in the ways of adventure
games. (Spellbreaker took me three days without hints. The authors of "GC: A Thrashing Parity Bit of
the Mind" say that I am the first person to solve it unaided.) Nor did I consult the hints frivolously,
but referred to them only when reasonably certain that I was never going to figure out the answer. Thus,
I think I am justified in saying that much of your game is unduly obscure. You have probably heard this
before, and may even have taken steps to remedy matters, but it is not a problem easily solved.

Consider the machine in Atlantis. To activate it, you have to hit it. Is this an unreasonable thing to
expect the player to try? Well, I didn't think of trying it. But also consider: In Andrew Plotkin's
excellent game "So Far", there comes a point where you also have to think of hitting a box in order to
produce a sound. On the face of it, hitting a recalcitrant machine seems more intuitive than using a box
as a drum - especially since the machine is something that you know you want to activate, whereas there's
no reason to think you need a drum in So Far until you try it and observe the effects. So why did I try
hitting the box and not the machine?

In part, it's context. The box is not the only percussion instrument in So Far; there are drummers at a
tribal dance you witness, and there is a sculpture in a park that produces pleasing tones when struck.
The sculpture is described in enough detail that the player wants to fiddle with it, and its structure
(taut wires and hanging pans) makes it almost inevitable that the player will try hitting it. This gets
the player thinking in percussive terms. The machine in Time, on the other hand, is alone; nothing else
in the game, as far as I know, invites hitting or responds positively to being hit - on the few
occasions where it produces anything but a default response, the player is punished for trying it.

Consider also the thought process leading up to the solution. Hitting the box in So Far is done in a
spirit of exploration and experiment - and, as pointed out above, the author goes to some pains to guide
the player's experiments along certain lines. Hitting the machine in Time, on the other hand, can only
be motivated by a desire to solve a specific puzzle. Now, the machine has an access panel, by means of
which the player must make some repairs, and a plastic box into which items can be put. There is no
indication what sort of thing should be put in the box, or what the machine will do with it - these are
things the player must discover, by experiment, once he or she has figured out how to activate the
machine. Not knowing this, however, the player is bound to spend time trying to activate the machine by
putting various items in the container, or, when that fails, making futile attempts at further repairs
via the panel. In short, where So Far subtly guides the player towards the solution, Time guides the
player away from it.

There are other considerations as well. The box in So Far is acquired early in the game, and the player
will probably spend time fiddling with it over the course of the game, searching for ways to open it,
when frustrated by other puzzles. Thus, it is entirely possible that the player will try hitting it
before finding the sculpture and well before it becomes relevant. This is hardly the case for the
machine. I could go on and on - indeed, I already have. This is but one example of Time's weakness, and
a relatively innocuous one at that. What I'm trying to point out is that making puzzles work (and a
puzzle which the player feels compelled to cheat on is one that has failed, IMHO) is a gestalt process.
Seemingly irrelevant factors contribute vastly to the player's experience of the thing. It is doubtful
that many of the puzzles in Time could be improved without major reworking of their contexts - in other
words, rewriting the game from the ground up. This is a pity, as a great deal of effort has obviously
been put into the game as it stands.

--
Carl Muckenhoupt | Text Adventures are not dead!
b...@tiac.net | Read rec.[arts|games].int-fiction to see
http://www.tiac.net/users/baf | what you're missing!

Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 15, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/15/97
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Carl Muckenhoupt (b...@max.tiac.net) wrote:

> I missed the discussion of Time back when it was being discussed, so I
> don't know what everyone else thought of it; I find it quite poorly
> designed. The following explains, in part, why. Includes mild spoilers
> for Time and So Far.

Hm. This is interesting enough that I will give into the temptation to
talk about my own game. Even bigger spoilers for So Far ahead...

(note: long lines in postings suck. 'nuff said.)

> Consider the machine in Atlantis. To activate it, you have to hit it.
> Is this an unreasonable thing to expect the player to try? Well, I didn't
> think of trying it. But also consider: In Andrew Plotkin's excellent game
> "So Far", there comes a point where you also have to think of hitting a box
> in order to produce a sound. On the face of it, hitting a recalcitrant
> machine seems more intuitive than using a box as a drum - especially since
> the machine is something that you know you want to activate, whereas
> there's no reason to think you need a drum in So Far until you try it and
> observe the effects. So why did I try hitting the box and not the machine?

> In part, it's context. The box is not the only percussion instrument in
> So Far; there are drummers at a tribal dance you witness, and there is a
> sculpture in a park that produces pleasing tones when struck. The
> sculpture is described in enough detail that the player wants to fiddle
> with it, and its structure (taut wires and hanging pans) makes it almost
> inevitable that the player will try hitting it. This gets the player
> thinking in percussive terms. The machine in Time, on the other hand, is
> alone; nothing else in the game, as far as I know, invites hitting or
> responds positively to being hit - on the few occasions where it produces
> anything but a default response, the player is punished for trying it.

> Consider also the thought process leading up to the solution. Hitting
> the box in So Far is done in a spirit of exploration and experiment - and,
> as pointed out above, the author goes to some pains to guide the player's

> experiments along certain lines. [...]

> There are other considerations as well. The box in So Far is acquired
> early in the game, and the player will probably spend time fiddling with it
> over the course of the game, searching for ways to open it, when frustrated
> by other puzzles. Thus, it is entirely possible that the player will try
> hitting it before finding the sculpture and well before it becomes

> relevant. [...]

Oookay. The interesting thing about this is that hitting the box is a
*third-rate* solution to that particular problem. That is, it's an
alternate solution; and the "preferred" solution can itself be done "right"
or "wrong". The second-rate solution -- well, I said there were spoilers
here -- is to "sing" while holding the box. (This is more effective than
hitting the box; you don't have to do it as often.) The first-rate
solution -- I won't say what it is, but it's even more effective; you only
have to do it once.

So no, I really wasn't trying to guide players towards percussion. I just
like bells. I thought the musical disc sculpture was a neat idea, and
hitting it obviously has to do something. (And the sculpture has other
connections of meaning, of course -- too many to describe in this
margin. :)

(And I put in responses to all sorts of actions -- many of which had
nothing to do with anything the player *needed* to do.)

On the other hand, I *was* trying to guide players towards the idea of
musical instruments, and sound in general. So in that sense (hearing, heh
heh) you're quite right. In a more specific sense, hitting musical
instruments -- not exactly. Of course, I don't rule out the possibility
that my own subconscious was being sneaky. That happens a lot.

(And I was *definitely* trying to evoke a spirit of exploration and
experiment. That is, after all, the plot hook for the entire storyline.)

What about "sing" -- did I try to lead players towards that? Not a lot,
although the grasslands "tribal" musicians are singing as well as drumming,
and there's an even more explicit clue if you examine them. I mostly
intended players to pick up on the general theme of music and sound in the
game, and the very specific theme of important sound in the puzzle where
you need the box.

In feedback, I found that most players picked up on "sing". Fewer picked
up on the first-rate solution, and many of *them* thought it was unfair or
insufficiently hinted at.

On the third hand, or fourth or however many we've got here: this is why I
allowed multiple solutions. You didn't figure out "sing", but you got
through anyway, and it was satisfying to you (because the solution you
found made sense) and to me (because even though I think of it as a
non-ideal solution, it still wound up making the correct connection --
sound as a tool.)

So -- you tell me whether you've changed your mind. I don't think I was
planning nearly as carefully as you think I was.

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Paul Avery

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Apr 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/19/97
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I've been a lurker on this newsgroup for some time now, but until this
moment, for reasons which will become obvious, have never felt I
particularly wanted to make a posting.

I'm 54 years of age, a physician, and thus have considerable
experience of life. I am a lifelong lover of classical music, and in
particular the music of Mozart. I remember once hearing someone say in
the introduction to a radio program, "Depending on your opinion of
Haydn, Mozart was either the greatest or the second greatest composer
who ever lived." This I can completely identify with.

In that case, I ask myself, why do modern composers produce works
which to me are cacophonous, malsonorous, disjointed conglomerations
of sound with absolutely no attraction whatsoever. My brother-in-law,
a professional musician and academic, explains this by saying that
they are trying to expand the frontiers of their art. I say, "Why
bother? Just let me enjoy the music I grew up with," and I think the
vast majority of music lovers would agree with me. As for the
academics - they're welcome to their ivory-tower opinions.

I have also been programming computers since the '70s, both playing
and writing interactive fiction almost all of that time. I've played
pretty well all of the Infocom games, my all time favourites being
Trinity and Spellbreaker (I too completed Spellbreaker unassisted),
plus many other works, both commercial and shareware.

And so to the point . . .

Of the two games mentioned, I'm in no doubt whatever as to which would
get my vote for giving me most enjoyment. I quite agree that Time,
especially towards the end, had some puzzles and situations which were
illogical, and I did tend to lose interest, but all in all it had me
pretty well hooked while playing it, and I *had* to complete it, even
if with the help of a walkthru.

On the other hand, I found SoFar *totally* incomprehensible. Even with
the help of a walkthru I couldn't make *any* sense or get any
enjoyment out of this game. I agree that the writing is first class,
but I am left with the distinct impression that the author is using
the game as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement rather than to entertain
the player.

This unfortunately seems to be a general trend with some authors who
seem determined to try and produce works of literary art. Thus in the
so-called "puzzle-less IF" one has simply to walk through the game
and experience the genius of the author.

The counter argument is, of course, that people *do* enjoy playing
these games, but of course there will always be acolytes willing to
pay obeisance, and one is reminded of the Emperor's New Clothes.

Fredrik Ramsberg

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Apr 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/19/97
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Paul,

What you are displaying in your article is intolerance. It's the reason
for racism, war and many other nasty things. Not much good has come out
of intolerance, though.

You say:


> "Why bother? Just let me enjoy the music I grew up with," and I
> think the vast majority of music lovers would agree with me.

Who is stopping you from listening to Mozart? No one. And who is forcing
you to listen to modern composers? No one. Similarily, for IF games, you
are free to play whatever games you like. There are usually reviews
available and if you read rec.games.int-fiction regularly you will
probably get some ideas on what games may suit you the best from there
as well.

I'm sure Andrew Plotkin was aware that everybody wouldn't like his game
when he wrote it, but he felt like writing it, and some other people
obviously feel like playing it. What is wrong with that?

A while ago, I argued against having discussions on web-based IF in this
group, because I didn't think most people here would be interested in
that. Someone made the good point that we _need_ to be exposed to
alternative forms of IF, because it can provoke our way of thinking and
help both the authors and the art form to evolve. I realised that I had
been wrong, but unfortunately there has not been much discussion on
web-based IF here anyway.

I am sure that _both_ the authors of Time and So Far were happy to
receive your feedback. There is definitely no unwritten rule here that
you have to like certain games.

/Fredrik

(FYI, I like Beethoven, Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Neil Young,
Suspended, Hollywood Hijinx, Donald E Westlake, Douglas Adams and Orson
Scott Card, and I generally don't like 19th and 20th century "classical"
composers, Prodigy, Macintosh or American college films. There are more
things I like and don't like - you can apply for a full list by e-mail;)

--
Fredrik Ramsberg, Spect...@Earthling.net
http://www-und.ida.liu.se/~d91frera
Macintosh - 0.4% Actual Users!

Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/19/97
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Paul Avery (scor...@deepthought.sirius.com) wrote:
> I've been a lurker on this newsgroup for some time now, but until this
> moment, for reasons which will become obvious, have never felt I
> particularly wanted to make a posting.

> I'm 54 years of age, a physician, and thus have considerable
> experience of life. I am a lifelong lover of classical music, and in
> particular the music of Mozart.

> In that case, I ask myself, why do modern composers produce works


> which to me are cacophonous, malsonorous, disjointed conglomerations
> of sound with absolutely no attraction whatsoever. My brother-in-law,
> a professional musician and academic, explains this by saying that

> they are trying to expand the frontiers of their art. I say, "Why


> bother? Just let me enjoy the music I grew up with," and I think the

> vast majority of music lovers would agree with me. As for the
> academics - they're welcome to their ivory-tower opinions.

Okay...

> Of the two games mentioned, I'm in no doubt whatever as to which would

> get my vote for giving me most enjoyment. [Time...]


> all in all it had me
> pretty well hooked while playing it, and I *had* to complete it, even
> if with the help of a walkthru.

> On the other hand, I found SoFar *totally* incomprehensible. Even with
> the help of a walkthru I couldn't make *any* sense or get any
> enjoyment out of this game. I agree that the writing is first class,
> but I am left with the distinct impression that the author is using
> the game as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement rather than to entertain
> the player.

> This unfortunately seems to be a general trend with some authors who
> seem determined to try and produce works of literary art. Thus in the
> so-called "puzzle-less IF" one has simply to walk through the game
> and experience the genius of the author.

> The counter argument is, of course, that people *do* enjoy playing
> these games, but of course there will always be acolytes willing to
> pay obeisance, and one is reminded of the Emperor's New Clothes.

First, let me congratulate you on the strongest negative post I've *ever*
seen about a creative work that *wasn't* a flame. I'm being serious here
-- that was very well-put, and without insult.

Second -- hm. Of course the canonical response for an author in this
position is "Sorry you didn't like it; I hope you enjoy my next one." Can
I add anything to that?

Only a bare claim of honesty: I *did* create _So Far_ to entertain people.
I tried to do all the things which entertain *me*, when I find them in
other peoples' work (both IF and static fiction.) And also: of course I
was trying to produce a work of literary art. (This is another way of
saying the same thing. Art is any communication that someone enjoys, and
therefore the stuff that entertains me is art, and therefore, since I'm
trying to entertain other people, I'm trying to create art.)

Was I trying to create "puzzle-less IF"? Of course not; there are puzzles
in _So Far_.

Was I trying to be self-aggrandizing? How could I not be? If people enjoy
my work, I am aggrandized, and by dint of my own effort. That's how life
works. (Heh.)

Is everyone who liked _So Far_ just sucking up to an ivory-tower academic
experiment? I can't answer that.

Do I like Mozart? Not so much; I really prefer baroque music to the
classical and romantic periods. But my real love is folk music. Which, of
course, is (by definition) the stuff which is accessible to the folk.
Put that in your allegory and smoke it. :)

But if your post really boils down to "Just let me enjoy the music I grew
up with," then I can't. I mean, of course I give you permission to enjoy
any game you want, but I'm not going to *write* the games you grew up
with. I'm going to write what I think people will enjoy, which means
(since I have no other brains to measure with) what I think *I* would
enjoy, and I like experimentation. Thus far it's worked; other people
*do* enjoy it. (Not *all* other people, for heaven's sake, this is art,
not heroin.)

So, heck, try "The Space Under the Window". Although actually I suspect
it will be even less your cup of tea than _So Far_. I wouldn't want to
prejudice you, though. For what it's worth, I'm *not* going in a single
direction here; my next effort will be experimental in an entirely
different way from either _SF_ or "SUTW".

Thanks for your comments.

Mike Fessler

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Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

: Of the two games mentioned, I'm in no doubt whatever as to which would
: get my vote for giving me most enjoyment. I quite agree that Time,

: especially towards the end, had some puzzles and situations which were
: illogical, and I did tend to lose interest, but all in all it had me

: pretty well hooked while playing it, and I *had* to complete it, even
: if with the help of a walkthru.
:
: On the other hand, I found SoFar *totally* incomprehensible. Even with
: the help of a walkthru I couldn't make *any* sense or get any
: enjoyment out of this game. I agree that the writing is first class,
: but I am left with the distinct impression that the author is using
: the game as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement rather than to entertain
: the player.

[further critique snipped]

That's really interesting, because my reaction was precisely the opposite. I
found "Time" to be excessively dependent on intricate puzzles, knowledge of
"previous lives" (i.e. saving and restoring), and doing things in precisely the
right order with the right timing. Its unforgiving nature and linear path really
destroyed any mimesis for me -- I was extremely conscious that I was playing a
game and trying to outwit the author. Generally speaking, the worlds that
"Time"'s author created didn't really engage me, because my horizons were so
limited. There wasn't the sense that I could *play* and explore the world,
because exploration was so often lethal, and because nearly everything was
directly puzzle-related.

In contrast, I found "So Far" to be outstanding -- it was more open-ended, it
let me learn about the game world through incidental, subtle details and
evocative images, exploration and experimentation wasn't immediately fatal as
they so often were in "Time", and it didn't resort to the "figure out how to
manipulate yet another high-tech machine" trap when it needed a puzzle. "Time"
had challenge, but "So Far" had challenge plus *atmosphere* -- I spent a great
deal of time smelling, feeling, tasting things because the game world was so
well fleshed out. I found its puzzles to be engaging, too -- the gate and the
beast puzzles were some of the best I've seen.

Just out of curiosity, how did you feel about "A Mind Forever Voyaging," if
you've played it?

To top it all off, my favorite composer is Mozart, too. :-)

Paul Avery

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Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

Well, I knew my posting would be taken as controversial, and would get
some response, but only Andrew seems to have even begun to perceive
what I was getting at.

For a start, Fredrik, could you demonstrate one iota of *intolerance*
in my posting? Of course you couldn't, as it doesn't exist - you
simply displayed a youthful knee-jerk reaction. I was but making an
observation and stating a personal preference. What people wish to
play (or indeed what opinions people wish to express), both in music
and in IF, is entirely their choice as we all know, and I have no
quarrel with that.

What set me off was the general tone of Carl's letter to the author of
Time. It was polite enough, and purported to be helpfully critical,
but I found it patronising in the extreme. Had I been the recipient I
should have been quite annoyed.

My posting is most certainly *not* to be seen as an attack on Andrew's
writing - I acknowledge his sincerity and talent - it was simply that
the comparison had originally been made between Time and So Far. I
could as easily have used as an example one of the other games which I
found "unusual" such as Christminster.

So, Andrew, no insult was intended.

And this leads to the point of my original posting, which is that this
newsgroup (together with rgif) is highly self-selected and cannot, by
definition, be representative of the IF-playing public at large. As an
extrapolation from this, both criticism and praise within the group
carry little weight, and cannot be taken as an indication whether or
not any single work of IF will "succeed" or "fail" in the real world.

It's all very well patting one another on the back and saying, "Great
game - Wonderful, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art IF" and so on, but at
the end of the day r*if is a small pond. Try putting some of the
acclaimed games on to a Compuserve adventure game forum and see how
often it's downloaded.

So how on Earth is a specialist newsgroup not representative of the
specialty at large? I base this observation on two things - Firstly,
of all the contacts I have made in the field of IF over a period of
many years, there are exactly *three* who access r*if, and in the case
of two of them this is an infrequent occurrence. There are lots of
people out there who own computers but don't access the 'net.
Secondly, how often do you see postings from people such as Steve
Meretzky, Brian Moriarty, the Magnetic Scrolls authors, and so on.

My Mozart reference, BTW, was purely as an illustration. Although it's
quite true that I admire Mozart above all others, I also particularly
like Bach. Two of my most favourite pieces of music are the Goldberg
variations and the Beethoven Violin Concerto - especially the slow
movement.

To answer your question, Mike, AMFV is one of the Infocom games I
haven't played - I just couldn't seem to get interested in it - I
suppose that speaks volumes, does it? :-)


Fredrik Ramsberg

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Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to Paul Avery

Paul Avery wrote:

> For a start, Fredrik, could you demonstrate one iota of *intolerance*
> in my posting? Of course you couldn't, as it doesn't exist - you
> simply displayed a youthful knee-jerk reaction. I was but making an
> observation and stating a personal preference. What people wish to
> play (or indeed what opinions people wish to express), both in music
> and in IF, is entirely their choice as we all know, and I have no
> quarrel with that.

I'm glad to hear that. It is indeed the opposite of the impression I got
from your original article, though. Your article, in my interpretation,
didn't seem to be saying "I like this, others like that, and that's OK"
but rather "I like this and I'm sure everyone else does as well, and I
can't see why some authors produce something else". As you ask me to
point at intolerance, here it is;

> The counter argument is, of course, that people *do* enjoy playing
> these games, but of course there will always be acolytes willing to
> pay obeisance, and one is reminded of the Emperor's New Clothes.

The way I read it, it says that no one can actually like So Far, from
the player's point of view. If anyone says he does, it's because he
thinks he is expected to do so. Either you have misunderstood the
Emperor's New Clothes, or I have.

As for the "youthful knee-jerk reaction": I'm not a teenager, if that's
what you think. I was not attacked, directly or indirectly. I haven't
played any of the two games in question for more than 10 minutes. I dare
to say what I think, and I never had a problem with you saying what you
think about different games, only with the way you said it.

> It's all very well patting one another on the back and saying, "Great
> game - Wonderful, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art IF" and so on, but at
> the end of the day r*if is a small pond. Try putting some of the
> acclaimed games on to a Compuserve adventure game forum and see how
> often it's downloaded.

I actually haven't heard of this. If it can help to spread IF games,
it's a good idea. I dare say none of the authors on the group _want_
their game to only be played by other people on the group.

I'm afraid you are right in that there are lots of people not accessing
the r*if groups. As for the people with access to the Web, I think the
best we can do is to make sure we store everything we can at IF-archive,
the central repository, _and_ spread the games and the word about
IF-archive and the newsgroups as much as we can. Make sure it's on all
search engines, put up good Websites that help people find what they
want, and try to make relevant sites link to these.

As for the people who are not on the Web: I think the Web has just maid
it so easy to reach the people on the Web that we tend to forget about
all the people who are not. There is an IF CD project coming along well,
it seems, and obviously some obscure shops sell freeware games for
profit, but perhaps we should make an effort to find more alternative
ways of distribution? Perhaps we could make proposals to people putting
together disks and CD's for magazines etc?

/Fredrik

Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

Paul Avery (scor...@deepthought.sirius.com) wrote:
> Well, I knew my posting would be taken as controversial, and would get
> some response, but only Andrew seems to have even begun to perceive
> what I was getting at.
>
> For a start, Fredrik, could you demonstrate one iota of *intolerance*
> in my posting? Of course you couldn't, as it doesn't exist - you
> simply displayed a youthful knee-jerk reaction.

Do you really want to get into this? Not everything I thought went into
my post. Let's lay off personal accusations.

> And this leads to the point of my original posting, which is that this
> newsgroup (together with rgif) is highly self-selected and cannot, by
> definition, be representative of the IF-playing public at large.

I did not understand this point at all, when I read your original post.

> As an
> extrapolation from this, both criticism and praise within the group
> carry little weight, and cannot be taken as an indication whether or
> not any single work of IF will "succeed" or "fail" in the real world.

I think your concept of the "real world" is naive. For example...

> It's all very well patting one another on the back and saying, "Great
> game - Wonderful, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art IF" and so on, but at
> the end of the day r*if is a small pond. Try putting some of the
> acclaimed games on to a Compuserve adventure game forum and see how
> often it's downloaded.

...In the "real world", Mozart is a failure -- if you insist on looking at
it that way. Go into a randomly-selected CD store, and you'll note that
the "classical" section is about a twelfth the size of the "pop/rock"
section. Does this mean that Neville Mariner cries himself to sleep at
night? Of course not; he's interested in how *classical music fans* react
to his work.

So tell me, are you talking about *text adventure* fans, or *computer
game* fans, or *computer users*, or *fans of any kind of English prose*,
or what? Within each of those group, I can make a guess how popular _So
Far_ is. By the end, it's a pretty small number. As a friend of mine once
said -- no matter who you are and what you do, a billion Chinese people
don't give a shit.

Several TADS and Inform works are posted on the Info-Mac archive, which
is the largest Mac shareware/freeware archive, and I think comparable to
the Compuserve forum. I don't have download stats, but questions about
them turn up every once in a while, on the Mac game newsgroups. I don't
think they're being totally snubbed. (Perhaps one of the authors who asks
for shareware fees could post stats about who registers these things.)

> So how on Earth is a specialist newsgroup not representative of the
> specialty at large? I base this observation on two things - Firstly,
> of all the contacts I have made in the field of IF over a period of
> many years, there are exactly *three* who access r*if, and in the case
> of two of them this is an infrequent occurrence. There are lots of
> people out there who own computers but don't access the 'net.
> Secondly, how often do you see postings from people such as Steve
> Meretzky, Brian Moriarty, the Magnetic Scrolls authors, and so on.

A couple of Infocom authors are known to lurk here, although they post
rarely.

But I think we are very far from each other's opinion of what "the
specialty" is. Text games, or story-games in general? This is really a
text IF newsgroup; we don't pretend otherwise. (I mean, we could
theoretically be writing graphics games, but we're not, and we really only
discuss graphical games in terms of how they affect our topic -- the
aspects that are common to all story games.)

(I know exactly why _So Far_ is not as big a hit as current graphical
games; it's because I can't spend millions of dollars on CGI rendering and
then hire Tia Carriere to pose for a camera wearing a low-cut jumpsuit.)

So, of all the contacts you have in the field of *text* IF, how many fail
to frequent this newsgroup? And I mean people who are working on text IF
now, not in 1985.

One name that was just discussed here is Chris Crawford, and the
Erasmatron stuff. Is that the kind of thing you mean? If so, why on earth
did you start out talking about "enjoying the kind of music you've always
enjoyed", when his concept bears practically no resemblance to anything
Infocom did? It seems to be a *much* more radical innovation than anything
in _So Far_.

And if this newsgroup is so far out of touch, how come you liked _Time_?
There's plenty of that kind of stuff in TADS and Inform. I never claimed
I was *the* future of IF -- only that I wanted to try out a nifty idea.

In fact, I don't think I understand your point at all. If this post seems
to go off on a lot of tangents, it's because I'm trying to figure out all
the possible points you might be making, and respond to all of them.

Paul Avery

unread,
Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

> As you ask me to
>point at intolerance, here it is;
>
>> The counter argument is, of course, that people *do* enjoy playing
>> these games, but of course there will always be acolytes willing to
>> pay obeisance, and one is reminded of the Emperor's New Clothes.
>
>The way I read it, it says that no one can actually like So Far, from
>the player's point of view. If anyone says he does, it's because he
>thinks he is expected to do so.

And that's intolerance?!?


Stephen van Egmond

unread,
Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

Paul Avery <scor...@deepthought.sirius.com> wrote:
>And this leads to the point of my original posting, which is that this
>newsgroup (together with rgif) is highly self-selected and cannot, by
>definition, be representative of the IF-playing public at large. As an

>extrapolation from this, both criticism and praise within the group
>carry little weight, and cannot be taken as an indication whether or
>not any single work of IF will "succeed" or "fail" in the real world.
>
>It's all very well patting one another on the back and saying, "Great
>game - Wonderful, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art IF" and so on, but at
>the end of the day r*if is a small pond. Try putting some of the
>acclaimed games on to a Compuserve adventure game forum and see how
>often it's downloaded.

I'm not sure how Compuserve is any more "real world" than Usenet or, say,
rgif. There are a lot of people who frequent rgif who don't frequent
raif even though they know it's here. Probably too ivory-tower for
them. Discussion on rgif has forever been more practical and
down-to-earth thhan here.

When I think of rec.arts.int-fiction (and, by extension the Web site I'm
trying to put together containing some of its collected knowledge and
disagreeements), I think of the dilemma faced by the narrator of Zen and
the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- except his field was rhetoric and
technical writing.

At first, there were adventure games which were, in essence programming
exercises; you had games with bugs (logical contradictions) and you had
games with relatively few bugs. There was a clear classical notion of
"good" and "bad" in assessing the game. But the form of IF (here's a
description, now what are you going to do?) includes a lot more than that,
and people here have within the past few years noticed that there is more
to a work of IF than just classical beauty, there's a romantic side to it
too that deals with the surface of the game. We try to break this down
into plot, characterization, atmosphere, mimesis, and so on -- not because
these rules are True, but because in many cases they're necessary (but in
themselves insufficient) for a good work.

>So how on Earth is a specialist newsgroup not representative of the
>specialty at large? I base this observation on two things - Firstly,
>of all the contacts I have made in the field of IF over a period of
>many years, there are exactly *three* who access r*if, and in the case
>of two of them this is an infrequent occurrence. There are lots of
>people out there who own computers but don't access the 'net.

>Secondly, how often do you see postings from people such as Steve
>Meretzky, Brian Moriarty, the Magnetic Scrolls authors, and so on.

I don't think Mr. Moriarty is in this industry any more, and I'm confused
whether Magnetic Scrolls is one of the old-timer companies or is still in
business. (I should know these things, I'm the rgif faq handler.)

On the other hand, it's worth noticing that many of the people
working in the "field" of IF (I suspect you mean the industry) are
working on stuff that sells, whereas we prefer to stick to our belief that
we're working on what's good.

"What is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good - need we ask anyone
to tell us these things?"

,,,
(. .)
+--oOO--(_)--OOo-----+
| Stephen Van Egmond +- svan...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca +--- - - -
| Bring your brain.

Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

In article <3359ebe2....@news.u-net.com>,

Paul Avery <scor...@deepthought.sirius.com> wrote:
>For a start, Fredrik, could you demonstrate one iota of *intolerance*
>in my posting? Of course you couldn't, as it doesn't exist - you
>simply displayed a youthful knee-jerk reaction. I was but making an
>observation and stating a personal preference. What people wish to
>play (or indeed what opinions people wish to express), both in music
>and in IF, is entirely their choice as we all know, and I have no
>quarrel with that.

There was an implication in your post that anyone who preferred _So Far_ to
_Time_ was a Zarf-toadie and bootlicking sycophant.

I preferred _So Far_ but I don't think I'm a Plotkin Puppet.

I thought _Space_ was an interesting game, if "game" is the right word. I
think it was sort of like what _In The End_ wanted to be, except that
_Space_ worked much better for me. That, however, is entirely due to the
quality of the prose. Something about the _Hamlet_-esque flowers really
got to me.

My finished-but-in-testing-but-maybe-I'll-just-wait-until-the-competition
game "Sins Against Mimesis," by the way, has as one of its targets (it's
explicitly an raif-targeted game) the opacity of the Plotkin _ouevre_. You
may be amused by it.

Adam
--
"I'd buy me a used car lot, and | ad...@princeton.edu | As B/4 | Save the choad!
I'd never sell any of 'em, just | "Skippy, you little fool, you are off on an-
drive me a different car every day | other of your senseless and retrograde
depending on how I feel.":Tom Waits| little journeys.": Thomas Pynchon | 64,928

Brad O`Donnell

unread,
Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

Since we're talking about Time, So_Far and IF in general (--and music!
...can't forget music!), I thought now would be a good time to jump in.

I've been dying to say something about both games (--and music!) for a
long time.


Obviously, this contains a few spoilers for both games, so you've been
warned.


Paul Avery wrote:

*snip the intro of Paul...Nice to meet you!*

> In that case, I ask myself, why do modern composers produce works
> which to me are cacophonous, malsonorous, disjointed conglomerations
> of sound with absolutely no attraction whatsoever.

Because it sells, and people listen to it.
Basically, I listen to music that I actively acknowledge as *noise*
for two reasons:

1. If you listen long enough, you sometimes hear some pretty cool
patterns and stuff running through the noise; listening to it can
be as much fun as reading a "Where's Waldo" book. (Before they made
them too hard...I'm looking for *Waldo*, not his bloody hat!).

2. Listening to noise makes me feel secure that I'm not accidentally
enjoying country music. :)

> And so to the point . . .

Oh, yeah, IF...

>
> Of the two games mentioned, I'm in no doubt whatever as to which would
> get my vote for giving me most enjoyment. I quite agree that Time,
> especially towards the end, had some puzzles and situations which were
> illogical, and I did tend to lose interest, but all in all it had me
> pretty well hooked while playing it, and I *had* to complete it, even
> if with the help of a walkthru.


At first, TIME provides a wonderful feeling of being a stranger in a
strange land; I was getting ready to meet new people, see new places,
and do new things.
But as soon as I entered the apartment, I was no longer an explorer,
no
longer a meeter of new people:

I was a contestant on a game show.

A constant barrage of timed puzzles, each making less sense than the
last.

On the good side, TIME is very well done; the actual resolutions of the
puzzles make sense even though they are insufficiently clued (as far as
I
got, anyway), and a great sense of place makes for a relatively
enjoyable
romp. The time machine is a good way of sectioning the game, and the
prose
is fun to read. Also, selected moments and puzzles (the tray and the
light
beam, for instance) were great.

But, I didn't *have* to complete TIME (and accordingly, I didn't).
It was just too big, and the
moments which I found inspiring were coming at longer and longer
intervals.
I intend to try it again some time soon, 'cause I might be misjudging
it
by not having seen the whole.
Perhaps I'm dense *and* impatient.

>
> On the other hand, I found SoFar *totally* incomprehensible. Even with
> the help of a walkthru I couldn't make *any* sense or get any
> enjoyment out of this game. I agree that the writing is first class,
> but I am left with the distinct impression that the author is using
> the game as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement rather than to entertain
> the player.
>

Ah, now...So Far was the second of the "New Generation" Text Games I
had
played (The first having been Shades of Grey).

So_Far was (and still is), without a doubt, the coolest (and best)
text
adventure I had ever played.

Up until the part with all the Sounds.

From then on, I was a Plink-o
chip, bouncing from peg to peg, using the walkthru to right myself on
the
way to the end, which, because the first (half? two-thirds?) of the
game
was *so* good, I did *have* to see.
Thankfully, the game started making
sense again toward the end (after the rougher/smoother/darker/lighter
maze)
and I was rewarded with a very cool ending.

Once again, perhaps I was dense or impatient... definitely impatient.


> This unfortunately seems to be a general trend with some authors who
> seem determined to try and produce works of literary art. Thus in the
> so-called "puzzle-less IF" one has simply to walk through the game
> and experience the genius of the author.
>

> The counter argument is, of course, that people *do* enjoy playing
> these games, but of course there will always be acolytes willing to
> pay obeisance, and one is reminded of the Emperor's New Clothes.

Consider "Modern Art" where paint is
splattered on canvas by throwing jars of it behind jet engines: What
is the artist selling? Certainly not the picture, because it's not
even
*supposed* to look like anything! What he's selling is the right to
tell
a certain story, ("You see this painting I got, Beth? It was done by a
man who lived in an alley up until he was 22, and got the brilliant
idea
to capture the essence of energy produced by technology by catching the
actual wave of a jet engine on canvas... The idea struck him when he
was
eighteen, and he bounced from airport to airport until he found one
that
saw the genius in it...") usually the story of the artist's life, or
the
process of making the art, or why it was created. Such paintings don't
tell a story (or at least not the one the artist intends) without
something
else providing the story's framework... whether this is valid is up to
the
individual. (I don't think it is, but hey...)

Short form: So_Far achieves its goal, (or doesn't, depending on who
you
are) based solely on the work itself. Even after all this time we
*still*
know very little about Andrew Plotkin, and knowing more or less about
The production of So_Far and/or the life and times of the author isn't
going to change opinions much.


All of this, of course, is entirely my opinion, and I might be totally
out to lunch. Feel free to punch huge holes through anything I've
said.


--
Brad O'Donnell
"A story is a string of moments, held together by memory."


p.s. My favorite song is "At The Hall of the Mountain King" by Grieg.
%P

Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

In article <335a7039...@news.u-net.com>,

Paul Avery <scor...@deepthought.sirius.com> wrote:
>>> The counter argument is, of course, that people *do* enjoy playing
>>> these games, but of course there will always be acolytes willing to
>>> pay obeisance, and one is reminded of the Emperor's New Clothes.

>>The way I read it, it says that no one can actually like So Far, from


>>the player's point of view. If anyone says he does, it's because he
>>thinks he is expected to do so.

>And that's intolerance?!?

Yes. I say, myself, that I *liked* _So Far_. I did not like _So Far_
because all my cool rec.arts.int-fiction friends would sneer at me if I did
not. I liked it because I felt the prose quality was extraordinary, certain
of the puzzles (the animals in particular) were first-rate and novel, and
the overall use of the two-things-almost-but-not-quite-touching-hanging-
in-tension motif was, quite simply, the best use of an extended metaphor I
have yet seen in interactive fiction. I felt it worked, for example, much
better than the (IMHO heavy-handed) retelling of the Christ story in _The
Legend Lives_ (which is not to say that _Legend_ is not an excellent game,
well worth playing, because it is).

And who are *you* to tell me that I didn't *really* like the game, that I
only "liked" it so that raif would think I was cool?

Perhaps it isn't intolerance. Perhaps it's just arrogance. In any case,
it's unpleasant.

Petronius put it "_De gustibus non est disputandum_." It might even be
true. But I'm willing to stipulate that it's not because your tastes are
an absolute measure of a Platonic Quality. And unlike Petronius, you are
not the official arbiter of taste.

Graham Nelson

unread,
Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to

In article <3359ebe2....@news.u-net.com>, Paul Avery
<URL:mailto:scor...@deepthought.sirius.com> wrote:
>
> And this leads to the point of my original posting, which is that this
> newsgroup (together with rgif) is highly self-selected and cannot, by
> definition, be representative of the IF-playing public at large. As an
> extrapolation from this, both criticism and praise within the group
> carry little weight, and cannot be taken as an indication whether or
> not any single work of IF will "succeed" or "fail" in the real world.
>
> It's all very well patting one another on the back and saying, "Great
> game - Wonderful, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art IF" and so on, but at
> the end of the day r*if is a small pond. Try putting some of the
> acclaimed games on to a Compuserve adventure game forum and see how
> often it's downloaded.

Actually, "Curses" did quite well there a few years back. Someone
reported back to me that it had been downloaded a bit under 1000
times in the first X months, where X is some number I've forgotten,
despite being there on only one platform (Amiga? Mac? I can't
remember that either).

Comment and praise within the group serve a useful purpose of
quality control, to some extent, and also help us to appreciate
the best of what has been done. This is called "literary
criticism" and it is not the same as advertising!

--
Graham Nelson | gra...@gnelson.demon.co.uk | Oxford, United Kingdom


Mark Tilford

unread,
Apr 20, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/20/97
to


-----------------------
Mark J. Tilford
til...@cco.caltech.edu

On Sun, 20 Apr 1997, Mike Fessler wrote:

> I
> found "Time" to be excessively dependent on intricate puzzles, knowledge of
> "previous lives" (i.e. saving and restoring), and doing things in precisely the
> right order with the right timing. Its unforgiving nature and linear path really
> destroyed any mimesis for me -- I was extremely conscious that I was playing a

> game and trying to outwit the author.

That's how I felt when I played "A Change in the Weather".


Laurel Halbany

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

scor...@deepthought.sirius.com (Paul Avery) wrote:

>For a start, Fredrik, could you demonstrate one iota of *intolerance*
>in my posting? Of course you couldn't, as it doesn't exist - you
>simply displayed a youthful knee-jerk reaction.

Well, *I* certainly found the following to be intolerant and
patronizing:

>The counter argument is, of course, that people *do* enjoy playing
>these games, but of course there will always be acolytes willing to
>pay obeisance, and one is reminded of the Emperor's New Clothes.

(cut from your original post)

Now, unless you have some truly obscure meaning I'm overlooking, the
"Emperor's New Clothes" line is generally a reference to people who
collectively agree to something nonexistent or bad being true and
good, because everybody else does and they're afraid to be different.
"Acolytes willing to pay obesiance" suggests that the respondents are
hoping to be like the person discussed, and are offering homage.

So it seemed to *me* that this comment of yours meant that the only
reasons *others* might actually claim to like these games you find
awful are

1) they are aspiring programmers and want to be like Andrew Plotkin,
so they praise him

2) everybody really thinks the game was awful but we are all afraid to
say so lest we be thought of as I-F dunderheads.

Now, perhaps you did not *mean* this to be patronizing and intolerant,
but I don't see that finding such in your post was "knee-jerk" or
farfetched.

>And this leads to the point of my original posting, which is that this
>newsgroup (together with rgif) is highly self-selected and cannot, by
>definition, be representative of the IF-playing public at large. As an
>extrapolation from this, both criticism and praise within the group
>carry little weight, and cannot be taken as an indication whether or
>not any single work of IF will "succeed" or "fail" in the real world.
>
>It's all very well patting one another on the back and saying, "Great
>game - Wonderful, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art IF" and so on, but at
>the end of the day r*if is a small pond. Try putting some of the
>acclaimed games on to a Compuserve adventure game forum and see how
>often it's downloaded.

....So r.a.i-f is *not* the "real world," but a Compuserve forum *is*
the "real world"? What definitions are you using here--volume? Ease of
accessibility? Numerosity of sites? And success is defined as the
number of downloads from a particular site?

As far as I know, there is nothing preventing anybody from posting to
a Compuserve forum (except perhaps not having a Compuserve account)
with their games--most of them are freely-distributable. And plenty of
them make their way from 'pond to pond,' as Matt Baringer
unfortunately discovered.

Mostly, though, these games are a work of love; there is practically
no commercial market anymore. Nobody is writing to try and win over
adoring throngs of I-F groupies; nobody is expecting to be nominated
for a literary prize, or to resurrect Infocom. (These things might be
nice, but nobody is EXPECTING them.) So to say that a game is
pointless because it isn't as popular as, I don't know, "Doom" is
irrelevant.

>Secondly, how often do you see postings from people such as Steve
>Meretzky, Brian Moriarty, the Magnetic Scrolls authors, and so on.

Have you looked at _XYZZYnews_ at all? Most of the 'old Implementors'
are no longer writing adventure games, or are not writing the sort of
i-f games that are part of r.a.i-f's discussion.

----------------------------------------------------------
Laurel Halbany
myt...@agora.rdrop.com
http://www.rdrop.com/users/mythago/

Stephen Granade

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

On Sun, 20 Apr 1997, Mark Tilford wrote:
>
> On Sun, 20 Apr 1997, Mike Fessler wrote:
>
> > I
> > found "Time" to be excessively dependent on intricate puzzles, knowledge of
> > "previous lives" (i.e. saving and restoring), and doing things in precisely the
> > right order with the right timing. Its unforgiving nature and linear path really
> > destroyed any mimesis for me -- I was extremely conscious that I was playing a
> > game and trying to outwit the author.
>
> That's how I felt when I played "A Change in the Weather".

This brings up a dichotomy which I often wrestle with when I play IF: at
what point do I stop playing the game and begin fighting with the author?

There are some obvious things which make me feel as if I am having to
outthink the author: poor syntax, being required to wait in one spot for
no particular reason, guess-the-verb puzzles.

However, there are some very non-obvious things which send me over that
line. For instance, I felt that way all throughout "A Change in the
Weather." The game's warning had a lot to do with it; when Andrew said that
the game was difficult and rather unfair, I immediately thought, "Aha! So
Andrew meant for me to have difficulty!" The troubles I had with the game
were no longer due to the game's universe. Instead, they were due to an
author. My suspension of disbelief was lessened.

The opposite occured in _So Far_, despite its difficulty. I was more
frustrated with _So Far_ than with "A Change in the Weather," yet I
attributed my frustration to the game rather than the author. In one case
my frustration served to divorce me from the game. In the other case it
served to deepen my immersion.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | "It takes character to withstand the
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | rigors of indolence."
Duke University, Physics Dept | -- from _The Madness of King George_


Magnus Olsson

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

In article <Pine.SUN.3.95.970420230426.27878B-100000@accord>,

Mark Tilford <til...@cco.caltech.edu> wrote:
>On Sun, 20 Apr 1997, Mike Fessler wrote:
>
>> I
>> found "Time" to be excessively dependent on intricate puzzles, knowledge of
>> "previous lives" (i.e. saving and restoring), and doing things in precisely the
>> right order with the right timing. Its unforgiving nature and linear path really
>> destroyed any mimesis for me -- I was extremely conscious that I was playing a
>> game and trying to outwit the author.
>
>That's how I felt when I played "A Change in the Weather".

So did I, and yet I loved "Weather". If it hadn't been for two things:
the excellent writing (including atmosphere) and its shortsize, I probably would
have hated it. (Perhaps a love-hate relationship is the appropriate
word?). Time has atmosphere, but it's a very large game and the
writing isn't very good.

I know that several people have said they liked the writing in
"Time". I didn't. It's not bad when you compare it to, say, the
semi-literacy of "Liquid", but it's IMHO not very good at all:
rambling, run-on sentences, weird punctuation, full of cliches.

Note that I'm *not* criticizing "Time" for not being "high-brow" or
"modernistic" enough; it's just that the author clearly has some sort
of literary ambition (the game is divided into "chapters" and so on),
and he just fails to deliver.


--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------
Not officially connected to LU or LTH.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

Stephen Granade (sgra...@phy.duke.edu) wrote:

> However, there are some very non-obvious things which send me over that
> line. For instance, I felt that way all throughout "A Change in the
> Weather." The game's warning had a lot to do with it; when Andrew said that
> the game was difficult and rather unfair, I immediately thought, "Aha! So
> Andrew meant for me to have difficulty!" The troubles I had with the game
> were no longer due to the game's universe. Instead, they were due to an
> author. My suspension of disbelief was lessened.

Oh, so not only will players complain if the game is unexpectedly hard,
they'll complain if the game is too hard and you *warn* them about it.

Great.

Dammit, I'm ordering another truckload of Zarf-sucking sycophants. This
batch has gone rancid.

--Z

(:-))

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

In article <335A7F...@romulus.sun.csd.unb.ca>,
Brad O`Donnell <s7...@romulus.sun.csd.unb.ca> wrote:


>Paul Avery wrote:
>> In that case, I ask myself, why do modern composers produce works
>> which to me are cacophonous, malsonorous, disjointed conglomerations
>> of sound with absolutely no attraction whatsoever.
>
> Because it sells, and people listen to it.

Hmmm. Interesting. I think Brad and Paul are talking about different
sets of composers (composers of "modern classical" music, aka
"serious" composers, vs. composers of certain kinds of modern popular
music, such as techno (real techno, not the quickened-up disco passed
of as "Eurotechno") or hard-core rap).

This is interesting because it sort of confirms my own view of it: the
problem with modern composers (the ones Paul are complaining about) is
not the music in itself - sure, it sounds awful if you're not used to
it, but as the current popularity of techno music shows, people can
get used to music that is radically different from the traditional
ideals - but in the composers' attitude towards their audience.

An excursion into history: Mozart and his contemporaries wrote music
primarily to entertain. That's what they were paid for. Mozart tried
to live as an independent artist towards the end of his life, writing
the music *he* liked, but didn't survive very well. The notion of music
art for art's sake started with the romantics.

It's also interesting that people have *always* complained that
"modern music is too difficult". Many people didn't like Mozart's
later works when they were first performed - "Too modern, too
difficult, no nice tunes". Beethoven's "Eroica" was shocking for its
day - people had never heard such strange dissonances in a symphony
before!

But Beethoven didn't lose his audience. People got used to his music
and learned to love it.

Late-romantic music (like Mahler or Richard Strauss) is *extremely*
advanced compared to Mozart. Mozart's audience would probably have
booed and hissed at a Strauss symphony.

But my feeling is that "serious" composers lost contact with their
audience sometime in the early 20th century, writing for a small elite
rather than for a broader audience (OK, Mozart wrote for the elite,
too, but that was for the economic elite, who could afford to pay him,
not for the self-styled artistic elite).

If I interpret Paul's article correctly, he's concerned about
something similar happening in IF: that we should get a circle of
artsy If authors who wrote games for each other, patting each other on
the back for conforming to some "high artistic standards", looking
down on the "populist" authors who write for the low-brow masses.

Frankly speaking, while there may be a small risk for that happening,
I think this is *not* what is happening right now. I think the reasons
people speak highly of "So Far" is that they liked it, not that they
want to impress anybody ("Look, I must be really smart, I actually
understood 'So Far'").

So you didn't like it, Paul. Well, don't feel that you have to like
it, or that people will look down on you for not liking it. We aren't
that snobbish around here :-). But please don't insult our
intelligence by telling us that we're just saying we liked it to
impress people.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I liked "So Far" primarily
for the same reasons I liked the Infocom games: excellent writing,
nice worlds to explore, fascinating puzzles that can actually be
solved without having to read the author's mind. The symbolic stuff,
the depth and so on, that's more of a bonus.

>> On the other hand, I found SoFar *totally* incomprehensible. Even with
>> the help of a walkthru I couldn't make *any* sense or get any
>> enjoyment out of this game.

Too bad. But tastes differ.

There are some things in "So Far" that you obviously aren't *supposed*
to understand - like why you're not allowed to enter any buildings in
the silent town, or what's inside the castle. But I think the key to
the enjoyment of this is to realize that you don't need to know
that. Of course, you may not like that: tastes differ.

>> I agree that the writing is first class,
>> but I am left with the distinct impression that the author is using
>> the game as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement rather than to entertain
>> the player.

You mean "Look how clever I am, I can write a game that nobody
understands?" Well, I never got that impression - not any more than
from a zillion other works. An artist, an author, or even a
programmer, *must* be allowed to show off at times.

It's of course easy to say "I don't understand this, so it must be
humbug." Lots of people say "I can't understand the theory of
relativity. Einstein must be a charlatan." as well.

It's also very easy to call people saying that philistine.

But let's refrain from ad hominem arguments, and accept that we have
different tastes, shall we?

Paul Avery

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

On 21 Apr 1997 19:34:06 +0200, m...@bartlet.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson)
uttered these words of wisdom:

>Hmmm. Interesting. I think Brad and Paul are talking about different
>sets of composers (composers of "modern classical" music, aka
>"serious" composers, vs. composers of certain kinds of modern popular
>music

Absolutely!

I may say that some music, which at one time I might have considered
extremely heavy, I now very much enjoy. An example is Bartok's
Concerto for Orchestra.

>If I interpret Paul's article correctly, he's concerned about
>something similar happening in IF: that we should get a circle of

>artsy If authors who write games for each other, patting each other on


>the back for conforming to some "high artistic standards", looking
>down on the "populist" authors who write for the low-brow masses.

Magnus - you got it - *exactly*! - 1000%

>Frankly speaking, while there may be a small risk for that happening,
>I think this is *not* what is happening right now. I think the reasons
>people speak highly of "So Far" is that they liked it, not that they
>want to impress anybody ("Look, I must be really smart, I actually
>understood 'So Far'").
>
>So you didn't like it, Paul. Well, don't feel that you have to like
>it, or that people will look down on you for not liking it. We aren't
>that snobbish around here :-). But please don't insult our
>intelligence by telling us that we're just saying we liked it to
>impress people.

Perhaps I *did* go a little too far in that direction, but remember
that the whole reason for my original posting was Carl's extremely
patronising letter. As I see it, to post such a letter by email would
be acceptable, but to post it as an open letter on a newsgroup and
thus publicly humiliate (again *perhaps* slightly too strong a word)
the author smacked of elitism - you *must* see what I'm getting at.

>It's of course easy to say "I don't understand this, so it must be
>humbug." Lots of people say "I can't understand the theory of
>relativity. Einstein must be a charlatan." as well.
>
>It's also very easy to call people saying that philistine.

Point taken - see how much understanding you can achieve by showing
that you can understand each other's arguments.

PS I *do* understald the theory of relativity :-)

Paul


Stephen Granade

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

On Mon, 21 Apr 1997, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> Oh, so not only will players complain if the game is unexpectedly hard,
> they'll complain if the game is too hard and you *warn* them about it.
>
> Great.

We certainly will complain; we'll just complain about different nit-picky
things.

> Dammit, I'm ordering another truckload of Zarf-sucking sycophants. This
> batch has gone rancid.

"Sorry, sir, but those are on back-order. Seems several other authors
liked the specs enough to order modified versions. We'll put you on the
list; it will only be four to six weeks before the next shipment is in."

Grue!

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

On Sun, 20 Apr 1997 19:59:16 GMT, svan...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca
(Stephen van Egmond) wrote:

>Paul Avery <scor...@deepthought.sirius.com> wrote:

>
>On the other hand, it's worth noticing that many of the people
>working in the "field" of IF (I suspect you mean the industry) are

>working on stuff that sells, whereas we prefer to stick to our belief that
>we're working on what's good.

Sounds good, but try telling that to the guys that used to work at
Infocom!!

Julian Arnold

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>, Andrew Plotkin


<URL:mailto:erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>
> Dammit, I'm ordering another truckload of Zarf-sucking sycophants. This
> batch has gone rancid.

:)

Jools
--
"For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand
ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me
from ever completing anything." -- Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"


Julian Arnold

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Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

In article <Pine.SUN.3.91.97042...@nebula.phy.duke.edu>,

Stephen Granade <URL:mailto:sgra...@phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>
> This brings up a dichotomy which I often wrestle with when I play IF: at
> what point do I stop playing the game and begin fighting with the author?
>
> There are some obvious things which make me feel as if I am having to
> outthink the author: poor syntax, being required to wait in one spot for
> no particular reason, guess-the-verb puzzles.
>
> However, there are some very non-obvious things which send me over that
> line. For instance, I felt that way all throughout "A Change in the
> Weather." The game's warning had a lot to do with it; when Andrew said that
> the game was difficult and rather unfair, I immediately thought, "Aha! So
> Andrew meant for me to have difficulty!" The troubles I had with the game
> were no longer due to the game's universe. Instead, they were due to an
> author. My suspension of disbelief was lessened.
>
> The opposite occured in _So Far_, despite its difficulty. I was more
> frustrated with _So Far_ than with "A Change in the Weather," yet I
> attributed my frustration to the game rather than the author. In one case
> my frustration served to divorce me from the game. In the other case it
> served to deepen my immersion.

Hmm, remaining game-specific, I found "Weather" ridiculously frustrating
and difficult, due to its heavy reliance on exquisitely timed and
ordered commands. I also found the prose somewhat... forced. I felt as
if Andrew had come racing over the hill and bellowed in my face "This is
beautiful, dammit!"

"So Far" OTOH, I found quite easy (post beta-testing that is, during I
couldn't even open the gate without help), and extremely well written,
plotted, paced, designed, and so on.

This doesn't really contribute to Stephen's argument, but hell, I've
said it now.

In "Weather" I definitely felt as if I was fighting the author (and the
author always always always has a *huge* advantage; the player can't
win).

"Window" was far more "Weather"-like than "so Far"-like.

Maybe it's not a question of fighting the author vs. playing the game,
but one of the degree to which the player is aware of the author's
"presence" during play?

Stephen Granade

unread,
Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

On Mon, 21 Apr 1997, Julian Arnold wrote:

> Maybe it's not a question of fighting the author vs. playing the game,
> but one of the degree to which the player is aware of the author's
> "presence" during play?

Not for me. I have played games in which the author was a very present
voice but which gave me no trouble. Contrariwise, I have played games in
which the author barely appears at all, yet I feel as if (s)he is always
there, attempting to frustrate me.

Perhaps what I feel is a refinement of your statement, Jools: it's a
question of the degree to which I am aware of the author's _inimical_
presence during play.

Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/21/97
to

Paul Avery (scor...@deepthought.sirius.com) wrote:
> >So you didn't like it, Paul. Well, don't feel that you have to like
> >it, or that people will look down on you for not liking it. We aren't
> >that snobbish around here :-). But please don't insult our
> >intelligence by telling us that we're just saying we liked it to
> >impress people.

> Perhaps I *did* go a little too far in that direction, but remember


> that the whole reason for my original posting was Carl's extremely
> patronising letter. As I see it, to post such a letter by email would
> be acceptable, but to post it as an open letter on a newsgroup and
> thus publicly humiliate (again *perhaps* slightly too strong a word)
> the author smacked of elitism - you *must* see what I'm getting at.

I don't.

I'm going to be presumptous now and defend Carl Muckenhaupt's criticism of
_Time_ -- even more so, because he was criticizing it in comparison to my
game, but bear with me for a moment.

I never saw Carl's post as elitist, patronising, or intended to humiliate
Andy Phillips. He posted a description of what he didn't like about the
game, and why; giving specific examples from the game, and also contrasting
examples from a different game. That's *exactly* what this newsgroup is
for. It's a writers' discussion group. We want *more* of that kind of
post.

We need feedback from each other and from players. If the feedback happens
in public, then we each benefit from exponentially more discussion. Yes?
No?

--Z

Steven Howard

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

In <3359ebe2....@news.u-net.com>, scor...@deepthought.sirius.com (Paul Avery) writes:
>It's all very well patting one another on the back and saying, "Great
>game - Wonderful, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art IF" and so on, but at
>the end of the day r*if is a small pond. Try putting some of the
>acclaimed games on to a Compuserve adventure game forum and see how
>often it's downloaded.

I don't know how this affects your argument, but at any given time there are
at least three IF games on the Internet download Top 40. Last time I looked,
"I-0", "A Change in the Weather", "So Far" and "Christminster" were on the
list.

========
Steven Howard
bl...@ibm.net

What's a nice word like "euphemism" doing in a sentence like this?

Fredrix Ramsberg

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

Steven Howard wrote:

>
> In <E8yCu...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca>, svan...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca (Stephen van Egmond) writes:
> >When I think of rec.arts.int-fiction (and, by extension the Web site I'm
> >trying to put together containing some of its collected knowledge and
> >disagreeements), I think of the dilemma faced by the narrator of Zen and
> >the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- except his field was rhetoric and
> >technical writing.
>
> And presumably you're not a paranoid schizophrenic.

The narrator is an ex-paranoid schizophrenic. Anyway, thinking about the
concept of quality, which I assume is the dilemma referred to, is hardly
an activity reserved for mentally ill people...

/Fredrik


> What's a nice word like "euphemism" doing in a sentence like this?

What's a nice post like you doing on a group like this? ;)

--
Fredrik Ramsberg, Spect...@Earthling.Net

Steven Howard

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

In <E8yCu...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca>, svan...@undergrad.math.uwaterloo.ca (Stephen van Egmond) writes:
>When I think of rec.arts.int-fiction (and, by extension the Web site I'm
>trying to put together containing some of its collected knowledge and
>disagreeements), I think of the dilemma faced by the narrator of Zen and
>the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- except his field was rhetoric and
>technical writing.

And presumably you're not a paranoid schizophrenic.

========
Steven Howard
bl...@ibm.net

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) writes:

>I never saw Carl's post as elitist, patronising, or intended to humiliate
>Andy Phillips. He posted a description of what he didn't like about the
>game, and why; giving specific examples from the game, and also contrasting
>examples from a different game. That's *exactly* what this newsgroup is
>for. It's a writers' discussion group. We want *more* of that kind of
>post.

I'll have to disagree with you a little. Now that it's been pointed
out, I can easily see my criticisms as patronising, from the
"I know more about games than you"-ish intro to the "Your game is
beyond redemption"-ish ending. I have send Mr. Phillips a note of
apology, pointing out that I would not have bothered to criticise his
game if I did not consider him capable of writing something better.
It was certainly not my intention to humiliate him. The only reason
I posted anything was the theoretical content - ie, how context
changes the experience of two outwardly-similar puzzles.

When I saw the number of followups to my post, I was pleased, thinking
I had sparked discussion about the usage of puzzles. Then I saw the
content, and was ashamed. Please, everyone, stop defending me; Mr. Avery
has valid points, and calling him names gets us nowhere.

On the other hand, I heartily agree with everything else Zarf says.
If there is one thing that can save us from becoming an elitist bunch
of artsy types patting each other on the back, it's reasoned criticism.

Now if only Andy Phillips would join the discussion, so we can hear his
side...

--
Carl Muckenhoupt | Text Adventures are not dead!
b...@tiac.net | Read rec.[arts|games].int-fiction to see
http://www.tiac.net/users/baf | what you're missing!

Julian Arnold

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

In article <Pine.SUN.3.91.970421...@nebula.phy.duke.edu>,


Stephen Granade <URL:mailto:sgra...@phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>

> On Mon, 21 Apr 1997, Julian Arnold wrote:
>
> > Maybe it's not a question of fighting the author vs. playing the game,
> > but one of the degree to which the player is aware of the author's
> > "presence" during play?
>
> Not for me. I have played games in which the author was a very present
> voice but which gave me no trouble. Contrariwise, I have played games in
> which the author barely appears at all, yet I feel as if (s)he is always
> there, attempting to frustrate me.
>
> Perhaps what I feel is a refinement of your statement, Jools: it's a
> question of the degree to which I am aware of the author's _inimical_
> presence during play.

Can't argue with this. (Damn, I can't argue with this; say something
else! :)

Paul Avery

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

On 22 Apr 97 15:46:48 GMT, b...@max.tiac.net (Carl Muckenhoupt) uttered
these words of wisdom:

>When I saw the number of followups to my post, I was pleased, thinking


>I had sparked discussion about the usage of puzzles. Then I saw the
>content, and was ashamed. Please, everyone, stop defending me; Mr. Avery
>has valid points, and calling him names gets us nowhere.

A *real* Gentleman!

I take my hat off to you sir!

Paul


Dan Shiovitz

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

In article <Pine.SUN.3.91.970421...@nebula.phy.duke.edu>,

Stephen Granade <sgra...@phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>On Mon, 21 Apr 1997, Julian Arnold wrote:
>
>> Maybe it's not a question of fighting the author vs. playing the game,
>> but one of the degree to which the player is aware of the author's
>> "presence" during play?
>
>Not for me. I have played games in which the author was a very present
>voice but which gave me no trouble. Contrariwise, I have played games in
>which the author barely appears at all, yet I feel as if (s)he is always
>there, attempting to frustrate me.
>
>Perhaps what I feel is a refinement of your statement, Jools: it's a
>question of the degree to which I am aware of the author's _inimical_
>presence during play.


>LOOK
The inimical Andrew Plotkin is here. He grins evilly at you.

>REPAIR BRIDGE
You start frantically repairing the bridge. Andrew Plotkin watches
with interest.

>KEEP REPAIRING
You keep going. Andrew Plotkin pulls a log out from under, and the
bridge collapses in a heap. "Whoops!" he says.

>REPAIR BRIDGE
Working even faster, you start again. Andrew Plotkin checks his
watch. "Uh-oh, you started a turn too late," he says, "you'll never
complete it now. Guess you'd better RESTART."

>THROW A BRICK AT PLOTKIN
I don't think Andrew Plotkin would appreciate that.

>Stephen
--
dan shiovitz scy...@u.washington.edu sh...@cs.washington.edu
slightly lost author/programmer in a world of more creative or more
sensible people ... remember to speak up for freedom because no one else
will do it for you: use it or lose it ... carpe diem -- be proactive.
my web site: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~scythe/home.html some ok stuff.

Stephen van Egmond

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

>>working in the "field" of IF (I suspect you mean the industry) are
>>working on stuff that sells, whereas we prefer to stick to our belief that
>>we're working on what's good.
>
>Sounds good, but try telling that to the guys that used to work at
>Infocom!!

I am, of course, referring to the current industry of IF that hasn't
impressed me terribly lately. I just tried a game called "Elk Moon
Murder" from Activision, and it's just a dog. I haven't been able to get
near anything from Legend, unfortunately -- their distribution in Canada
seems close to nil.

In the mid-80's Infocom was operating in a market that accepted text
games, and by no coincidence they were also able to make good stuff too.
I'm not equating all industry output with badness -- I think the problem
with commercial IF as it stands is the form they're using: actors,
expensive CGI, etc. not to mention writers who don't get it.

/Steve


Graham Nelson

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

In article <5jg8ee$6...@bartlet.df.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson

<URL:mailto:m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote:
>
> It's also interesting that people have *always* complained that
> "modern music is too difficult". Many people didn't like Mozart's
> later works when they were first performed - "Too modern, too
> difficult, no nice tunes". Beethoven's "Eroica" was shocking for its
> day - people had never heard such strange dissonances in a symphony
> before!

My favourite such case is of J. S. Bach, who was sacked as a
church organist for writing aggressively unsingable cantatas.
The local town council was particularly put out by what we now
call "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"... (to some extent one can see
their point, as it is quite hard to sing the vocal line of the
famous aria without stopping to listen to the instrumental parts).

And of course Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" was booed off the
stage in the early 20th century but still made it into the canon.
And a lot of people didn't like Philip Glass's debut in the 1970s,
but he sells records by the truckload now. And the Beatles were
rejected by five record companies. And... so on.

Daryl McCullough

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
to

In article <ant21192...@arnod.demon.co.uk>, Julian says...

>In "Weather" I definitely felt as if I was fighting the author (and the
>author always always always has a *huge* advantage; the player can't
>win).
>
>"Window" was far more "Weather"-like than "so Far"-like.

Oh, I disagree. In its feel while playing it, "The Space
Under the Window" was very much like one of the "abstract" locations in
"So Far" (you know, the ones with shapes and sounds and flying, etc.)
In both cases, you got the impression that you were not navigating in any
physical space, but in some kind of mental space, where the "treasure"
you were looking for was the right phrase to say, the right frame of
mind, the right way of looking at things.

In particular, Window was very reminiscent of the end-game for "So Far".
So Far and Window could have been two different steps in the relationship
of the same couple. Or at least, that's the way I thought of it.

Not to imply that the great Zarf would repeat himself! Forgive me
for suggesting that, O Zarf! I am not worthy to clean your monitor screen!
Have mercy! ...

[How's that for being a Zarf-sucking sycophant?]

Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Magnus Olsson

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

In article <ant2209180b0M+4%@gnelson.demon.co.uk>,


Graham Nelson <gra...@gnelson.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>And of course Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" was booed off the
>stage in the early 20th century but still made it into the canon.
>And a lot of people didn't like Philip Glass's debut in the 1970s,
>but he sells records by the truckload now.

Of course, Philip Glass is considered a shallow populist by some people :-).

This is totally off topic, of course, but it'd be interesting to make
a short list of "serious" (== "classical") post-WWI composers who have
managed to reach a large audience.

Some names that come into mind:

Stravinsky
Bartok
Hindemith
Holst
Britten
Orff (really just "Carmina Burana")
Bernstein (even if you don't count "West Side Story")
Glass
Prokofiev (or however you spell him in English)
Shostakovich
Rachmaninov (shouldn't count, since he continued to write like in
the 19th century).

Paul Bowler

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

Magnus Olsson wrote:

> This is totally off topic, of course, but it'd be interesting to make
> a short list of "serious" (== "classical") post-WWI composers who have
> managed to reach a large audience.
>
> Some names that come into mind:
>
> Stravinsky
> Bartok
> Hindemith
> Holst
> Britten
> Orff (really just "Carmina Burana")
> Bernstein (even if you don't count "West Side Story")
> Glass
> Prokofiev (or however you spell him in English)
> Shostakovich
> Rachmaninov (shouldn't count, since he continued to write like in

Where do I start (or stop for that matter).

R. Vaughan Williams
Copland
Debussy (Well, not really; he died in 1918!)
Durufle
Gershwin
Poulenc
Shoenberg (I can't believe you missed him!)
Sibelius
Villa-Lobos
Anton von Webern (Very, very imfluential).
etc...
--
Paul Bowler

-----------------------------------
Come si dice? Pericoloso sporgersi!
-----------------------------------

Matthew Amster-Burton

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

Paul Bowler <bowl...@huraix.hursley.ibm.com> wrote:

>R. Vaughan Williams
>Copland
>Debussy (Well, not really; he died in 1918!)
>Durufle
>Gershwin
>Poulenc
>Shoenberg (I can't believe you missed him!)
>Sibelius
>Villa-Lobos
>Anton von Webern (Very, very imfluential).
>etc...

Frankly, and you knew this was coming, I would find anyone's pantheon
of influential 20th century composers strikingly incomplete without
the mention of Lennon/McCartney, who were, as a team, certainly on a
par with Mozart. I realize they can't be thrown in the same category
as your others, but c'mon, we're talking about great 20th century
composers here, and that means we're talking about the fab two.

Matthew

Magnus Olsson

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

In article <336032d2...@news.u.washington.edu>,

Matthew Amster-Burton <mam...@u.washington.edu> wrote:
>Frankly, and you knew this was coming, I would find anyone's pantheon
>of influential 20th century composers strikingly incomplete without
>the mention of Lennon/McCartney, who were, as a team, certainly on a
>par with Mozart. I realize they can't be thrown in the same category
>as your others, but c'mon, we're talking about great 20th century
>composers here, and that means we're talking about the fab two.

No, no, you misunderstand: the list was not of "influential 20th
century composers", it was of (so-called) "serious" (i.e. writing in
the direct continuation of the "classical" tradition) 20th century
composers who have reached a broad audience.

Lennon/McCartney are/were enormously influential, and I don't doubt
their seriousness as artists, but they worked in a different genre
and for a different audience that was larger to begin with.

And was John Lennon on par with Mozart? Silly question, you can't
measure genius, but I don't think he wrote any symphonies at age 6,
did he?

But I suspect that the Beatles will be considered "classical" music in
a hundred years, just as Johann Strauss is considered classical today.

Kenneth Albanowski

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

Paul Avery apparently wrote:
>
>> On the other hand, I found SoFar *totally* incomprehensible. Even with
>> the help of a walkthru I couldn't make *any* sense or get any
>> enjoyment out of this game. I agree that the writing is first class,

>> but I am left with the distinct impression that the author is using
>> the game as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement rather than to entertain
>> the player.

You found the writing first class, but the game incomprehensible. OK. How is
this then some socially inacceptable act of pride on the part of the author?
Some people can't understand Special Relativity. Some can understand it, but
can't explain it to others. Einstein did both, and invented it to boot. If
you can't understand Special Relativity, does it somehow become merely a
vehicle for self-aggrandizement on the part of the author, instead of
something useful and entertaining to humanity?

If I happen to have some beautiful Japanese caligraphy lying around, and it
so happens that I can't read a word of Japanese, does the intent of the
painter change? Just because it's pretty and I can't understand it, should I
deem the author to have selfish intent?

Even the complete lack of meaning does not need encur ill. Certainly I may
find a work of art more rewarding if it is both beautiful and
comprehensible, but there seems no absolute need. Consider the deep moral,
economic, medical, and population issues of Oz, or the meaning of
Jabberwocky. Neither is comprehensible, but both are fun and rewarding to
read.

--
Kenneth Albanowski (kja...@kjahds.com)


Grue!

unread,
Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

Point taken about the current industry, good commercial games appear
to be few and far between these days. I have no problem with actors
and expensive CGI but you'd have thought they would know what to do
with these 'tools'

The Grue!

Graham Nelson

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

In article <5jknps$s...@bartlet.df.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson

<URL:mailto:m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote:
>
> Of course, Philip Glass is considered a shallow populist by some people :-).

Anyone who can write a six-hour opera on the life of Einstein
whose only moment of narration or plot comes when someone says
at the end of Act II, "Berne, Switzerland, 1905", cannot be
entirely populist... Though my favourite is "Akhnaten", to which
I sing along in Akkadian.

> This is totally off topic, of course, but it'd be interesting to make
> a short list of "serious" (== "classical") post-WWI composers who have
> managed to reach a large audience.
>
> Some names that come into mind:
>
> Stravinsky
> Bartok
> Hindemith
> Holst
> Britten
> Orff (really just "Carmina Burana")
> Bernstein (even if you don't count "West Side Story")
> Glass
> Prokofiev (or however you spell him in English)
> Shostakovich
> Rachmaninov (shouldn't count, since he continued to write like in

> the 19th century).

Gershwin? Part? Nyman? Gorecki? Taverner? It's a longer list
than one necessarily expects.

And of course John Williams, author of the themes to Star Wars,
Close Encounters, Raiders of The Same Bars From Star Wars, Schindler's
List, etc. Or perhaps he ~= serious.

Adam Cadre

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

Matthew Amster-Burton wrote:
>
> Frankly, and you knew this was coming, I would find anyone's pantheon
> of influential 20th century composers strikingly incomplete without
> the mention of Lennon/McCartney, who were, as a team, certainly on a
> par with Mozart. I realize they can't be thrown in the same category
> as your others, but c'mon, we're talking about great 20th century
> composers here, and that means we're talking about the fab two.

Ding! We have a winner.

Duke recently held a cross-disciplinary conference on rock music. It
was really quite compelling: you had literary critics analyzing lyrics,
sociologists discussing trends in rock culture, musicologists giving
learned treatises on the oeuvre of one Kurt D. Cobain... But perhaps
the most interesting paper was given by Robert Fink of the Eastman
School of Music, a musicologist who by his own account had avoided
popular music until the age of 27 (and he's only in his 30s now), in
which he argued that, in America at least, classical music has lost
its cultural capital. According to Fink, classical music in American
culture is simply one form among many, not only not privileged in status
but not even first among equals, whose enthusiasts are no longer viewed
by society at large as being somehow better or smarter than those who
primarily enjoy jazz or rock or folk or what have you.

He also contended that while the chief influence on rock in its 40-year
history has been the blues, classical is beginning to make strides with
the emergence of techno as an increasingly dominant form -- but
paradoxically, this only solidifies classical's status as simply
another color in the spectrum of music. (And how's that for a painful
bit of synesthesia?)

-----
Adam Cadre, Durham, NC
http://www.duke.edu/~adamc

Roger Giner-Sorolla

unread,
Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
to

On Wed, 23 Apr 1997, Graham Nelson wrote:

> > This is totally off topic, of course, but it'd be interesting to make
> > a short list of "serious" (== "classical") post-WWI composers who have
> > managed to reach a large audience.
> >
> > Some names that come into mind:
>

> Gershwin? Part? Nyman? Gorecki? Taverner? It's a longer list
> than one necessarily expects.
>
> And of course John Williams, author of the themes to Star Wars,
> Close Encounters, Raiders of The Same Bars From Star Wars, Schindler's
> List, etc. Or perhaps he ~= serious.

In the melancholic string orchestra division, let's not forget Gorecki and
Barber.

(sitting back, avoiding the flamebait, and waiting for a chance to sit
down with 'Space'...)

Roger Giner-Sorolla University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
rs...@virginia.edu Dept. of Psychology (Social)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Please, your Majesty," said the Knave, "I didn't write it, and they can't
prove I did: there's no name signed at the end."
"If you didn't sign it," said the King, "that only makes the matter worse.
You /must/ have meant some mischief, or else you'd have signed your name
like an honest man." -- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


Nulldogma

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Apr 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/24/97
to

Kenneth Albanowski wrote:
>Paul Avery apparently wrote:
>>
>>> On the other hand, I found SoFar *totally* incomprehensible. Even with
>>> the help of a walkthru I couldn't make *any* sense or get any
>>> enjoyment out of this game. I agree that the writing is first class,
>>> but I am left with the distinct impression that the author is using
>>> the game as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement rather than to entertain
>>> the player.
>
> You found the writing first class, but the game incomprehensible. OK.
How is
> this then some socially inacceptable act of pride on the part of the
author?

Not that I'm accusing Andrew of doing this in _So Far_, but being
willfully obscure in one's writing can be taken as pompous and disdainful
to the reader.

One of the most frustrating things about writing is the need both to speak
clearly to the reader and not to talk down to them. It'll drive you mad, I
tell ya.

Neil

---------------------------------------------------------
Neil deMause ne...@echonyc.com
http://www.echonyc.com/~wham/neild.html
---------------------------------------------------------

Roger Giner-Sorolla

unread,
Apr 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/24/97
to

On Tue, 22 Apr 1997, Graham Nelson wrote:

> My favourite such case is of J. S. Bach, who was sacked as a
> church organist for writing aggressively unsingable cantatas.
> The local town council was particularly put out by what we now
> call "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"... (to some extent one can see
> their point, as it is quite hard to sing the vocal line of the
> famous aria without stopping to listen to the instrumental parts).
>

> And of course Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" was booed off the
> stage in the early 20th century but still made it into the canon.
> And a lot of people didn't like Philip Glass's debut in the 1970s,

> but he sells records by the truckload now. And the Beatles were
> rejected by five record companies. And... so on.

And in 1820, the average Viennese would have identified Beethoven as the
composer of his most popular work at the time, the "Battle Symphony" or
"Wellington's Victory" -- a hamhandedly programmatic (mimetic?) work
originally written for a mechanical orchestra, representing the British
army with "Rule Britannia" and the French with "For He's A Jolly Good
Fellow." (Yes, even after the first seven symphonies and most of the
piano works for which he is known today).

Sometimes, the "Emperor's new clothes" have a way of taking on substance
as time passes ...

Graham Nelson

unread,
Apr 25, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/25/97
to

In article <Pine.SUN.3.91.970424...@xp.psych.nyu.edu>,

Roger Giner-Sorolla <URL:mailto:gi...@xp.psych.nyu.edu> wrote:
>
> And in 1820, the average Viennese would have identified Beethoven as the
> composer of his most popular work at the time, the "Battle Symphony" or
> "Wellington's Victory" -- a hamhandedly programmatic (mimetic?) work
> originally written for a mechanical orchestra, representing the British
> army with "Rule Britannia" and the French with "For He's A Jolly Good
> Fellow." (Yes, even after the first seven symphonies and most of the
> piano works for which he is known today).
>
> Sometimes, the "Emperor's new clothes" have a way of taking on substance
> as time passes ...

Yes, though I doubt if Beethoven thought "Wellington's Victory" was
anything other than a vulgar piece of fun.

I've always been slightly alarmed that the ninth-rate "King Stephen
Overture" is contemporary with the Missa Solemnis, the final string
quartets and the sublimely beautiful last piano sonata, no. 32. One
hopes it was just a contract job, theatre-music, pay the bills, etc.

Joe Mason

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Apr 26, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/26/97
to

"Re: [Off Topic] music Was", declared ad...@acpub.duke.edu from the
Vogon ship:

a>He also contended that while the chief influence on rock in its
a>40-year history has been the blues, classical is beginning to make
a>strides with the emergence of techno as an increasingly dominant form
a>-- but paradoxically, this only solidifies classical's status as
a>simply another color in the spectrum of music. (And how's that for a


a>painful bit of synesthesia?)

Rush's "La Villa Strangiato" pops to mind here - I would love to hear it
performed by a full orchestra. Come to think of it, I'd also love to
hear Hendrix play "Ode to Joy" - but I guess there's not much chance of
that now, is there?

Joe

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şThe future of Usenet: a foot stuck in a human mouth -- forever.

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