What is IF really?

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Adam Myrow

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Jun 18, 2002, 7:24:21 PM6/18/02
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Mr. Panks's now infamous article on adventure game design started me
thinking of something. Has there ever been a formal definition of
Interactive Fiction that most of us could agree on? I find myself
confused on what makes Interactive Fiction and what makes, for example,
RPG. To me, Westfront PC is pure RPG, but Beyond Zork is IF with RPG
added to it. I feel this way because Westfront PC has no developing plot
nor any interactive characters. However, where does Zork I fall in?
Infocom called it IF, but I am not sure. Like Westfront PC, it is lacking
in actual plot and has a limited amount of combat. Westfront PC is almost
strictly combat. Zork I, however, does have its sequels which
increasingly move towards what I consider IF. Deadline is obviously IF
and so is Enchanter. So, here is what I consider to be IF for sure. It
must have a plot. It must have actions that the player must perform to
move the story along. It must be primarily text-based. So, is there
anything else that you all feel is mandatory for it to be IF? For that
matter, what is an "adventure game?" Is it an Adventure-like text-based
game involving treasure hunting? Can IF be an adventure game? Which
would First Things First be? I would say that it is IF, but the author
calls it an adventure game. Maybe adventure game is a broader category
than IF.

Sorry if this starts a flame war, but I am interested in seeing how the
newsgroup feels on this. Has it ever been hammered out before?

Grant D. Watson

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Jun 18, 2002, 8:22:10 PM6/18/02
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>Is it an Adventure-like text-based
>game involving treasure hunting? Can IF be an adventure game? Which
>would First Things First be? I would say that it is IF, but the author
>calls it an adventure game. Maybe adventure game is a broader category
>than IF.

Well, since adventure games can be graphical, I'd throw out the text-based
requirements for them (but, of course, leave them in for IF).

I think it's pretty well understood that most (or at least, most puzzleful)
pieces of IF qualify as adventure games also, with the exceptions of
puzzle-less IF and other avant-guardish things. ;-)

Grant D. Watson
grwa...@georgefox.edu
VBas...@aol.com

Dan Shiovitz

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Jun 18, 2002, 9:15:56 PM6/18/02
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In article <5ffoea.lv.ln@localhost>, Adam Myrow <my...@eskimo.com> wrote:
>Mr. Panks's now infamous article on adventure game design started me
>thinking of something. Has there ever been a formal definition of
>Interactive Fiction that most of us could agree on? I find myself
[..]

>Sorry if this starts a flame war, but I am interested in seeing how the
>newsgroup feels on this. Has it ever been hammered out before?

Nick Montfort did a reasonable first pass at a theoretical analysis of
IF which included some definitions as a necessary first step. There
was a thread about it on the newsgroup a few months ago; the essay
itself is here:
http://nickm.com/if/toward.html

--
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW


Aris Katsaris

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Jun 18, 2002, 9:56:06 PM6/18/02
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"Adam Myrow" <my...@eskimo.com> wrote in message news:5ffoea.lv.ln@localhost...

>
> So, here is what I consider to be IF for sure. It
> must have a plot. It must have actions that the player must perform to
> move the story along. It must be primarily text-based.

I disagree with this. I find no reason to add a "primarily text-based"
criterion to our definition of interactive fiction... "Grim Fandango" was
wholly graphical, and nonetheless I'd certainly call it interactive fiction..

As for "actions that the player must perform to move the story along"
that's a bit too vague I think... The player ought to be able not just
to move the narrative along, but to *affect* it, even infinitesmally
so. Or else would simply pressing the spacebar be possibly considered
such a action that the player must perform?

> So, is there
> anything else that you all feel is mandatory for it to be IF?

IMO, Interactive Fiction ought to be *above all else* a story (or narrative
if you will), the progression of which can be affected by the player. Needn't
be text-based.

The "above all else" phrase, removes from that category those (e.g.) RPG
games which are mostly combat, instead of narrative...

Aris Katsaris


Paul Drallos

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Jun 18, 2002, 11:31:32 PM6/18/02
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I think it is not a good idea to take the phrase 'Interactive Fiction'
too literally. One could certainly organize different types of IF into
different catagories. However, I think, the phrase Interactive Fiction
really means Interactive Text, because it really doesn't even have to be
fiction.

It seems that your question is really asking, 'What are the
characteristics of Literary-IF?'

The cool thing about IF is that it is virtually unlimited in what it can
be and what it doesn't have to be.

Paul Drallos

Aris Katsaris

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Jun 19, 2002, 6:21:30 AM6/19/02
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"Paul Drallos" <pdra...@tir.com> wrote in message
news:3D0FFB20...@tir.com...

> I think it is not a good idea to take the phrase 'Interactive Fiction'
> too literally. One could certainly organize different types of IF into
> different catagories. However, I think, the phrase Interactive Fiction
> really means Interactive Text, because it really doesn't even have to be
> fiction.

And you feel that the "text" criterion is more important than the "fiction"
criterion?

Aris Katsaris


Paul Drallos

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Jun 19, 2002, 9:36:38 AM6/19/02
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Aris Katsaris wrote:

> And you feel that the "text" criterion is more important than the
"fiction"
> criterion?
>

Well, yes. Text is essential, otherwise we are including graphic
adventures
like the Myst series. Myst is Interactive and it is Fiction, but I don't
think most posters here consider it IF.

Meanwhile, many interactive text works are accepted as IF even if they have
no plot, or or aren't even fiction. For instance, 'Galatea' (one of my
favorites), Schroedenger's Cat', 'School' (an Inform tutorial), 'Tokyo'
(or some such name is a tour of downtown Tokyo).

My point is that fiction and plot are not necessary for a work to be
accepted as IF. But take away the text and people will strongly argue
against it.

Personally, I like graphic adventures too, but I don't consider them
interactive
fiction. I always called what we now call Interactive Fiction, Text
Adventures.

Paul Drallos

Andrew Plotkin

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Jun 19, 2002, 10:42:03 AM6/19/02
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Here, Paul Drallos <pdra...@tir.com> wrote:
> Aris Katsaris wrote:

> > And you feel that the "text" criterion is more important than the
> "fiction"
> > criterion?
> >

> Well, yes. Text is essential, otherwise we are including graphic
> adventures
> like the Myst series. Myst is Interactive and it is Fiction, but I don't
> think most posters here consider it IF.

I do.

But that's a pretty trivial point. We can easily factor text/graphics
out of the discussion, and talk about what IF is otherwise. If,
afterwards, half of us wind up saying "text IF and graphical IF" and
the other half say "IF and graphical adventures", that's a minor
terminological split.

> Meanwhile, many interactive text works are accepted as IF even if they have
> no plot, or or aren't even fiction. For instance, 'Galatea' (one of my
> favorites), Schroedenger's Cat', 'School' (an Inform tutorial), 'Tokyo'
> (or some such name is a tour of downtown Tokyo).

_Galatea_ is certainly fiction -- science fiction at that. Same for
_Downtown Tokyo Present Day_, if that's the game you're thinking of.
_Informatory_ has a frame of fiction, even if it's thin. And
_Schroedinger's Cat_ is fiction even though the actual fictional world
is entirely implicit -- it still has the form of "here is something
that didn't really happen."

_Informatory_ is a borderline case, but that's because it's borderline
fiction. _Schroedinger's Cat_ is another kind of borderline case, but
in the same sense that "The last man on Earth sat in a room" is.
Surely this implies that the "fiction" is integral to "interactive
fiction" -- the two cases vary in the same way, for the same reasons.

There are Z-machine "abuses" that we don't count as IF -- the text
editor, for example -- and it's precisely because they don't have even
a pretense of a story.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Walter Sandsquish

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Jun 19, 2002, 11:15:22 AM6/19/02
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Adam Myrow <my...@eskimo.com> wrote in message news:<5ffoea.lv.ln@localhost>...
<< [...] Has there ever been a formal definition of
Interactive Fiction that most of us could agree on?
I find myself confused on what makes Interactive
Fiction and what makes, for example, RPG. [...]
For that matter, what is an "adventure game?"
[...] Can IF be an adventure game?>>

An adventure game is a piece of software that is
similar to Crowther and Woods' "Adventure."
Interactive fiction is what Infocom called its brand
of adventure game. These games were a little more
concerned with plot and character than many, but
not all, of the adventure games produced by
Infocom's competitors.

Some members of r.a.i-f have experimented with the
format and expanded its boundaries a little, but I
think the genre hasn't really changed significantly.
(Even Infocom did odd things on occasion, like "AMFV"
and "Nord and Bert," but they always returned to,
pretty much, what they started doing after "Zork.")

Character, story and "simulation" may play a slightly
more important role now, partially because of the
efforts of some of the people here, but I think an
adventure game and IF are, essentially, the same
thing. They are computer programs that tell a story
when the player solves the problems, usually
"puzzles" of some sort, that the story's protagonist
encounters.

RPGs, on the other hand, seem less concerned with
plot and problem solving and more concerned with
combat and player-character statistics.

CYOA stories are also less concerned with problem
solving, but they are very interested in branching
plots.

Hyperfiction also has little concern for problem
solving and seems to be more about "exploring"
different aspects of a story (or a character, or an
environment).

Sometimes the boundaries between these things get
a little blurry. This is okay with me, but I think
most of what goes on around here is still about
"adventure games" because most of the stuff that
r.a.i-f produces still has a significant amount of
problem solving for the player to do. (If this weren't
true, I probably would have stopped reading r.*.i-f,
and playing the games associated with them, a long
time ago.)

Jim Nelson

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Jun 19, 2002, 11:58:44 AM6/19/02
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Paul Drallos (pdra...@tir.com) wrote:
> Aris Katsaris wrote:
>
> > And you feel that the "text" criterion is more important than the
> "fiction"
> > criterion?
> >
>
> Well, yes. Text is essential, otherwise we are including graphic
> adventures
> like the Myst series. Myst is Interactive and it is Fiction, but I don't
> think most posters here consider it IF.

Why not? If Myst doesn't work for you, what about Grim Fandango (which
Aris mentioned earlier)?

I'd suggest to the original poster (and anyone else interested) to apply
top-down methodology here. First define 'interactive' and 'fiction'
separately before attacking the big enchilada.

--
Jim Nelson
jim_n...@mindspring.com

Steven M. Castellotti

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Jun 19, 2002, 12:13:55 PM6/19/02
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On Wed, 19 Jun 2002 09:42:03 -0500, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>> Well, yes. Text is essential, otherwise we are including graphic
>> adventures
>> like the Myst series. Myst is Interactive and it is Fiction, but I
>> don't think most posters here consider it IF.
>
> I do.
>
> But that's a pretty trivial point. We can easily factor text/graphics
> out of the discussion, and talk about what IF is otherwise. If,
> afterwards, half of us wind up saying "text IF and graphical IF" and the
> other half say "IF and graphical adventures", that's a minor
> terminological split.


I would have to second that. I have a game that I'm putting the
finishing touches on which can be played in either entirely graphical
mode, or entirely text mode, or any combination of the two. It's the exact
same game code, runnning on the same game engine, with different
frontends.

While you might have a hard time converting Myst into a purely text
interface (how would you differenciate between different piano keys in
the spaceship without becoming tedious, for instance?)


-Steve Castellotti
SteveC (at) innocent.com
http://cogengine.sourceforge.net/

Andrew Plotkin

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Jun 19, 2002, 12:17:47 PM6/19/02
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Here, Steven M. Castellotti <Ste...@nospam.innocent.com> wrote:

> I have a game that I'm putting the
> finishing touches on which can be played in either entirely graphical
> mode, or entirely text mode, or any combination of the two. It's the exact
> same game code, runnning on the same game engine, with different
> frontends.

Now that, while it's always been a theoretical possibility, seems like
it's hard to get right. Do both formats work as games? How do you deal
with keeping the focus -- what objects are obvious or hidden, what
actions are obvious or clever -- the same between the two modes? Or is
it not that kind of game?

Are you able to keep the same level of alternate messages and extra
information flowing in the graphical version as in the text version?

Paul Drallos

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Jun 19, 2002, 12:58:34 PM6/19/02
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Please take my previous posts within the context of Adam Mayrow's post
which is the origin of this thread. I will repeat his post here:

> Mr. Panks's now infamous article on adventure game design started me

> thinking of something. Has there ever been a formal definition of


> Interactive Fiction that most of us could agree on? I find myself
> confused on what makes Interactive Fiction and what makes, for example,

> RPG. To me, Westfront PC is pure RPG, but Beyond Zork is IF with RPG
> added to it. I feel this way because Westfront PC has no developing
plot
> nor any interactive characters. However, where does Zork I fall in?
< Infocom called it IF, but I am not sure. Like Westfront PC, it is
lacking
> in actual plot and has a limited amount of combat. Westfront PC is
almost
> strictly combat. Zork I, however, does have its sequels which
> increasingly move towards what I consider IF. Deadline is obviously IF
> and so is Enchanter. So, here is what I consider to be IF for sure. It
> must have a plot. It must have actions that the player must perform to
> move the story along. It must be primarily text-based. So, is there

> anything else that you all feel is mandatory for it to be IF? For that


> matter, what is an "adventure game?" Is it an Adventure-like text-based
> game involving treasure hunting? Can IF be an adventure game? Which
> would First Things First be? I would say that it is IF, but the author
> calls it an adventure game. Maybe adventure game is a broader category
> than IF.

In Adam's post, he wonders if Zork I, for instance, falls into the catagory
of IF because it doesn't have a real plot. I am not arguing
that Galatea is not fiction. Of course it is fiction. I am arguing
that it
doesn't have a plot in the sense of what Adam is refering to in his post.
I am also arguing that Informatory, School, Schroedinger's Cat, and
Downtown
Tokyo also fail to meet Adam's criteria. But most importantly, I am
arguing
that Adam's definition is too restrictive because I consider all of these
works to be fine example of IF.

The business about text verses graphics is something else. Far be it
for me
to dictate what is IF. Certainly graphic adventures are interactive and
they
are fiction, so in the technical sense they are interactive fiction.
But my
*impression* is that people in the Interactive Fiction community have a
bit of
a hostility toward graphical adventures and don't consider them to be IF.

I don't know how to say it. Yes, they are interactive fiction, but no,
they
are not IF? I would just say that the people who call themselves the
interactive
fiction community could be more accurately described as the interactive text
community. But of course, it is still IF.

I hope I'm making myself clear here, but I don't think there is a simple
answer
to Adam's question.

Paul


Matthew Russotto

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Jun 19, 2002, 1:19:14 PM6/19/02
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In article <752Q8.64564$uX3....@nwrddc01.gnilink.net>,

Steven M. Castellotti <Ste...@nospam.innocent.com> wrote:
>
> While you might have a hard time converting Myst into a purely text
>interface (how would you differenciate between different piano keys in
>the spaceship without becoming tedious, for instance?)

It was tedious in the graphical game, it could be tedious in the text
game as well.
--
Matthew T. Russotto mrus...@speakeasy.net
=====
Every time you buy a CD, a programmer is kicked in the teeth.
Every time you buy or rent a DVD, a programmer is kicked where it counts.
Every time they kick a programmer, 1000 users are kicked too, and harder.
A proposed US law called the CBDTPA would ban the PC as we know it.
This is not a joke, not an exaggeration. This is real.
http://www.cryptome.org/broadbandits.htm

Mike Roberts

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Jun 19, 2002, 1:56:35 PM6/19/02
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"Paul Drallos" <pdra...@tir.com> wrote:
> But my *impression* is that people in the Interactive
> Fiction community have a bit of a hostility toward graphical
> adventures and don't consider them to be IF.

If you're defining "the IF community" as roughly the readership of raif, I
think it would be more accurate to say that *some* people in the IF
community feel that way. You can probably find a good number of raif'ers
who are indifferent to graphical adventures, but I'd be kind of surprised if
there were very many who actually harbor "hostility" toward them; and I
don't think it's accurate to conclude that there's a consensus among raif
readers that IF can't be graphical.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com

Andy M

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Jun 19, 2002, 2:28:35 PM6/19/02
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"Paul Drallos" <pdra...@tir.com> wrote in message
news:3D10B84...@tir.com...

> The business about text verses graphics is something else. Far be it
> for me
> to dictate what is IF. Certainly graphic adventures are interactive and
> they
> are fiction, so in the technical sense they are interactive fiction.
> But my
> *impression* is that people in the Interactive Fiction community have a
> bit of
> a hostility toward graphical adventures and don't consider them to be IF.
>
> I don't know how to say it. Yes, they are interactive fiction, but no,
> they
> are not IF? I would just say that the people who call themselves the
> interactive
> fiction community could be more accurately described as the interactive
text
> community. But of course, it is still IF.
>

I tend to agree. I think we have made the mistake of taking the term
"interactive fiction" too literally in this thread. I see some people
trying to come up with a single definition that would apply to all things
that could possibly be meant by the term. But let's be blunt. When someone
here says interactive fiction, they don't mean Grim Fandango, or Myst, or
even Choose Your Own Adventure, although those are all examples of things
that are interactive and fiction. They mean a primarily text-based computer
game. That's what you tell people when they ask you what IF is, and that's
what this board is dedicated to. Or is someone going to honestly tell me
that if I started a discussion on rgif about the relative merits of King's
Quest 5 versus King's Quest 6, it would be considered on-topic? Of course
not. I would rightly be told to take it the adventure game boards, becausd
rgif is for text games. Let's try to come up with a definition for what we
all know IF *is*, and not what the words "interactive fiction" literally
mean.

--Andy


Andrew Plotkin

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Jun 19, 2002, 2:46:27 PM6/19/02
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Here, Andy M <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote:
> I see some people
> trying to come up with a single definition that would apply to all things
> that could possibly be meant by the term.

I'd like to see a good general definition, yes. (I haven't worked much
to construct one. It's on my todo list. :)

> But let's be blunt. When someone
> here says interactive fiction, they don't mean Grim Fandango, or Myst, or
> even Choose Your Own Adventure

I do.

It's true that the R*IF newsgroups are more about text games than any
other kind of game.

> Or is someone going to honestly tell me
> that if I started a discussion on rgif about the relative merits of King's
> Quest 5 versus King's Quest 6, it would be considered on-topic?

I would consider it on-topic, if you were discussing design issues
applicable to both graphical games and text games. (And there are
plenty of such issues.)

I've been posting reviews of graphical adventure games to RGIF for
years now.

Philipp Lenssen

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Jun 19, 2002, 3:00:12 PM6/19/02
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"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote in message
news:n34Q8.326$zN4.3...@news2.news.adelphia.net...
>..

> But let's be blunt. When someone
> here says interactive fiction, they don't mean Grim Fandango, or Myst, or
> even Choose Your Own Adventure, although those are all examples of things
> that are interactive and fiction. They mean a primarily text-based
computer
> game. That's what you tell people when they ask you what IF is, and
that's
> what this board is dedicated to.
>...

Here we go again.
- When I talk about Interactive Fiction, I include
Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, as well as Lucasarts-type game
- I am on this board, and I do inform about my CYOA system* once in a while,
and I do get interested people coming back at me telling they found the
system via this newsgroup

If I want to seperate different forms of IF (which mostly happens in
discussions like these), I simply say "text input based IF", or "multiple
choice IF" and so on. It's fine by me if most people actually mean just one
kind of IF when they talk about it. But when we want to discuss broader
theories, limits of the genre, and so on, we need to differentiate instead
of limiting the scope artificially. Doing so can come off as a "don't move
in our neighborhood" attitude, when actually I think most of us respect the
different genres and find them appropriate, independent of wether or not
they want to play or discuss e.g. point-and-click games themselves.

* http://questml.com


Steven M. Castellotti

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Jun 19, 2002, 3:23:11 PM6/19/02
to
On Wed, 19 Jun 2002 11:17:47 -0500, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>> I have a game that I'm putting the
>> finishing touches on which can be played in either entirely graphical
>> mode, or entirely text mode, or any combination of the two. It's the
>> exact same game code, runnning on the same game engine, with different
>> frontends.
>
> Now that, while it's always been a theoretical possibility, seems like
> it's hard to get right. Do both formats work as games? How do you deal
> with keeping the focus -- what objects are obvious or hidden, what
> actions are obvious or clever -- the same between the two modes? Or is
> it not that kind of game?

The game is your typical adventure game format, but the engine [the "Cog
Engine"] is a little different than most IF engines. Both the engine and
the game are geared towards kids creating their own video games, so the
syntax and game play is fairly simplified. It breaks down like this:

Each room in the game gets a number, as does each direction you can
travel, each item, and each obstruction ("obstructions" are simply objects
which block you from traveling in a particular direction). In the room
editor you click on a direction to add it to the list of directions the
player can travel, and you tell the program which room that direction
leads to.

All items are "visible" - that is they will be listed in the text mode
when you enter the room, and an icon will be displayed representing them
in graphical mode. Obstructions work the same way, although you can check
off a box in the GUI development enviornment in order to keep them from
being listed. This is beneficial if you want to say that the player can't
enter a cave because it's too dark (you create an obstruction called
"darkness" which doesn't have a description or an icon), but you want to
give them the hint that they *would* be able to travel in that direction
if they could figure out how to produce a light source. In other cases,
where a player might be able to climb up a cliff if they shot a rope tied
to an arrow at a tree stump on top of the cliff, you simply don't list the
rooms as being connected.

That sets up the game environment, and an english-like syntax can be
point-and-clicked together from widgets that are generated from the
enviroment information you already set up, creating "events" which can
occur in the game. An example event would be:

(Extra carriage returns added to prevent line-wrapping)

Get Item[2 - Rock] ->

Removes Item[2 - Rock] from CurrentRoom

and Adds Item[30 - Rock (moved aside)] to CurrentRoom

and Adds Item[1 - Dagger] to CurrentRoom

and TextMessage[Rolling the rock aside, you find a dagger hidden underneath!];


and:

Use Item[1 - Dagger] on Obstruction[1 - Stranger] ->

Removes Obstruction[1 - Stranger] from Room[5 - Stranger]Direction[West]

and Removes Obstruction[1 - Stranger] from Room[7 - Rope]Direction[East]

and Adds Item[4 - Arrow] to CurrentRoom

and Adds Item[3 - Bow] to CurrentRoom

and TextMessage[Although this person has done nothing to you, you attack.
With lightning reflexes you lunge at the stranger with your blade.
Your arc falls wide however, and your target is left unhurt.
Frightened by your actions, the shadowy figure runs off into the
forest brush, leaving behind a hand-crafted bow and an arrow.];

In the case of the rock, there's two objects, with two pictures. It's
admittedly not the most elegant approach, but since the program is geared
towards children, it's reasonable tradeoff in favor of simplicity.

Incidentally, the Rope tied to Arrow trick goes like this:

Combine Item[5 - Rope] with Item[4 - Arrow] ->

Removes Item[5 - Rope] from Inventory

and Removes Item[4 - Arrow] from Inventory

and Adds Item[6 - Rope Tied to Arrow] to Inventory

and TextMessage[You tie the rope onto the end of the arrow.];

followed by:

Use Item[6 - Rope Tied to Arrow] on Item[7 - Tree Stump]

(Requires Item[3 - Bow]InInventory) ->

Removes Item[6 - Rope Tied to Arrow] from Inventory

and Adds Item[8 - Arrow (with Rope) shot intoStump] to Room[129 - Ledge over Mountain River]

and Adds Item[8 - Arrow (with Rope) shot into Stump] to Room[104 - Top of Cliff]

and Modifies Room[129 - Ledge over Mountain River] DirectionObject[Up]ToWhichRoom[104 - Top of Cliff]

and Modifies Room[104 - Top of Cliff]DirectionObject[Down]ToWhichRoom[129 - Ledge over Mountain River]

and Removes Item[7 - Tree Stump] from Room[129 - Ledge over Mountain River]

and Removes Item[7 - Tree Stump] from Room[104 - Top of Cliff] and

TextMessage[You take the arrow that you have tied your rope onto and pull
it back on your bow. After taking aim at the tree stump, on the top of
the cliff high above the ground, you release the arrow. Your shot is
clean and diectly on target, lodging into the tree stump. You can now
climb Up or Down the rope along the cliff.];

> Are you able to keep the same level of alternate messages and extraneous


> information flowing in the graphical version as in the text version?

The engine uses two tricks to overcome this:

1) You can use "Closeup" images when the user asks to look at an object.

2) Text-to-Speech synthesis. The engine supports TTS under Linux and
Windows.


Each verb in the game can be given a graphic to be used as a mouse
pointer. The user can then right-click to cycle through the verbs. If the
user right-clicks and cycles to an eyeball (representing "Look") and then
clicks on an object, the Closeup graphic will be displayed (if one
exists), and the text description will be fed to the TTS system. Same goes
for the "TextMessage" portions of the events above.


As the engine grows in complexity, so will the features available to the
game designer, but the overriding priciple is that if it gets too hard to
understand how to use the tool, the tool becomes useless, no matter how
powerful it is.


Incidentally, the code is GPL, and the project website is at:

http://cogengine.sourceforge.net/

Adam Thornton

unread,
Jun 19, 2002, 3:44:27 PM6/19/02
to
In article <n34Q8.326$zN4.3...@news2.news.adelphia.net>,

Andy M <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote:
>But let's be blunt. When someone
>here says interactive fiction, they don't mean Grim Fandango, or Myst, or
>even Choose Your Own Adventure, although those are all examples of things
>that are interactive and fiction. They mean a primarily text-based computer
>game.

I might.

I've been known to talk about Grim Fandango and Planescape: Torment
here. I consider them both interactive fiction, and no one, that I
recall, jumped on my ass because I started talking about them.

Adam

Aris Katsaris

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Jun 19, 2002, 4:03:58 PM6/19/02
to

"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote in message
news:n34Q8.326$zN4.3...@news2.news.adelphia.net...
>
> I tend to agree. I think we have made the mistake of taking the term
> "interactive fiction" too literally in this thread. I see some people
> trying to come up with a single definition that would apply to all things
> that could possibly be meant by the term. But let's be blunt. When someone
> here says interactive fiction, they don't mean Grim Fandango,

I already said that I *do* mean Grim Fandango, so please don't tell me
that I don't mean it. I know quite well that I mean it.

> or Myst, or
> even Choose Your Own Adventure,

I've not played Myst, but CYOA games I certainly consider to be interactive
fiction.

> Let's try to come up with a definition for what we
> all know IF *is*, and not what the words "interactive fiction" literally
> mean.

Sorry, you clearly have a different kind of "knowledge" than mine about
what IF *is*, since we clearly disagree on whether something is IF or not.
CYOA games have been accepted in the IFComp for starters.

Aris Katsaris


Andy M

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Jun 19, 2002, 5:32:45 PM6/19/02
to

"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote in message
news:n34Q8.326$zN4.3...@news2.news.adelphia.net...
> I tend to agree. I think we have made the mistake of taking the term
> "interactive fiction" too literally in this thread. I see some people
> trying to come up with a single definition that would apply to all things
> that could possibly be meant by the term. But let's be blunt. When
someone
> here says interactive fiction, they don't mean Grim Fandango, or Myst, or
> even Choose Your Own Adventure, although those are all examples of things
> that are interactive and fiction. They mean a primarily text-based
computer
> game. That's what you tell people when they ask you what IF is, and
that's
> what this board is dedicated to. Or is someone going to honestly tell me
> that if I started a discussion on rgif about the relative merits of King's
> Quest 5 versus King's Quest 6, it would be considered on-topic? Of course
> not. I would rightly be told to take it the adventure game boards,
becausd
> rgif is for text games. Let's try to come up with a definition for what
we
> all know IF *is*, and not what the words "interactive fiction" literally
> mean.
>
> --Andy

I think some clarification is in order here.

First, although no one has accused me of it yet, I just want to reiterate
that I don't consider graphical adventures to be inferior to their textual
counterparts. I can see how someone could take that away from my post, so I
wanted to clear that up.

Second, I was referring to Choose Your Own Adventure books, on real paper,
not hypertext CYOA or CYOA implemented in an IF development language. I
know some of you will insist that paper CYOA is IF too, but I just wanted to
make that clear.

Third, it is obviously silly for me to tell people what they mean when they
use certain terms. I meant to say that when *most people* use the term IF,
they mean text games. This brings me to my final and most important point.

We need to draw a distinction between defining what one thinks "interactive
fiction" should mean, and defining what it does mean. An anecdote: I worked
for about a year as a programmer at a computer game developer. This company
had been responsible for developing a few graphical adventure games, the
most popular among them being Sanitarium. When I asked people who had
worked on these games what they thought of interactive fiction, the response
was invariably, "Interactive fiction, what's that?" It was only when I
would say, "You know, text adventures," that I would get a response. "Oh,
like the Infocom games. I remember those."

My point is that terms are defined by what most people think they mean, not
by the dictionary writers. These people, who had created numerous examples
of what some here would consider interactive fiction, had never heard of the
term. They called their games, as everybody involved with the game industry
does, "adventure games" (or sometimes "classical adventure games" to
distinguish them from combat adventure games). Nobody refers to them as
graphical interactive fiction.

Similarly, I think the large majority of people consider "interactive
fiction" to be the name for the text-based stuff, and "adventure game" to be
the name for the graphical stuff. And I think the definition of what IF is
should reflect that. You can agitate for change, of course. You can say
people should start calling them both interactive fiction, that it's more
accurate, more fair, more whatever. I'm sympathetic to that. But that
doesn't change the fact that it isn't that way now.

So then the question is, what are we doing in this particular thread?
Defining what IF means or what it should mean?

--Andy


Aris Katsaris

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Jun 19, 2002, 6:07:03 PM6/19/02
to

"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote in message
news:1M6Q8.389$zN4.4...@news2.news.adelphia.net...

>
> Similarly, I think the large majority of people consider "interactive
> fiction" to be the name for the text-based stuff, and "adventure game" to be
> the name for the graphical stuff.

I've not gotten that impression. For starters I think that "adventure games" is
what most people once used to describe *both* text and graphical games
of this sort.

That currently all (or almost all) such commercial games happen to be
graphical isn't a sign that "adventure games" wasn't used to include the
text-based ones! You called them yourself "text adventures"! 'Adventure'
being the key word.

> And I think the definition of what IF is
> should reflect that. You can agitate for change, of course. You can say
> people should start calling them both interactive fiction, that it's more
> accurate, more fair, more whatever. I'm sympathetic to that. But that
> doesn't change the fact that it isn't that way now.

We first have to agree on what the "fact" is. Would most people of this
community refuse to call "interactive fiction" a game which was mostly
graphical, simply because it was mostly graphical?

Aris Katsaris


toppsoft

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Jun 19, 2002, 6:23:56 PM6/19/02
to
"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote in message
news:1M6Q8.389$zN4.4...@news2.news.adelphia.net...

As a newbie in this group, I have to say that in my mind, IF is a lot
broader than just text adventures or adventure games. My little venture into
alternate reality gaming falls completely within my definition of IF.

I read the FAQ before posting and considered the thread(s) I started to be
on-topic. To quote from the beginning of the faq, "Welcome to
rec.arts.int-fiction. The newsgroup discusses writing text adventures and
interactive fiction games."

My conclusion was that interactive fiction games are distinct from text
adventures. Sadly, text adventures really aren't what I consider
"mainstream" products. The market seems to be substantially nostalgia,
non-commercial, or older platforms. There isn't anything wrong with that,
but I believe it is the reality of today's gaming market and this market
(and these games) will become even more obscure as time passes.

With that said, it's pretty obvious that the majority of posters here are
most interested in adventures, primarily of the text variety. I enjoyed many
of Infocom's games and still have Bureaucracy, Hitchhiker, and a couple of
others on the shelf. And to the extent that any discussion I'm interested in
crosses over between my interests and yours, I'm sticking around hoping to
learn a bit and contribute a bit.

I'd be really interested in seeing more posts about plot development,
character development, and puzzle creation. I think they would be both
relevent and interesting.

Regards,
Bill Shaw
Email is munged with an obviously invalid domain. See
http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2606.txt para. 3 if you need help figuring it
out.
Alternate Reality discovered at www.deaddrop.us/sdx


Lucian P. Smith

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Jun 19, 2002, 6:28:20 PM6/19/02
to
Andy M <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote in <1M6Q8.389$zN4.4...@news2.news.adelphia.net>:

: We need to draw a distinction between defining what one thinks "interactive


: fiction" should mean, and defining what it does mean.

<snip anecdote about people not knowing the term IF>

: Similarly, I think the large majority of people consider "interactive


: fiction" to be the name for the text-based stuff, and "adventure game" to be
: the name for the graphical stuff.

You may think so. I don't think so. I think the majority of people
who know the term think it applies to both, and I think the majority of
people who hear the term for the first time will deduce that it applies
to both, if they aren't told, as you told the Sanitarium people, that
it only applies to one.

Case in point: People on rec.games.design were somewhat miffed a few
years back when Stephen posted an invitation to join the "Annual
Interactive Fiction Competition" and, visiting the site, thought that
he meant only *computer*-based fiction. "Why can't I enter a CYOA
book?" one complained, "That's 'interactive fiction' too!" And
Stephen's response was, "You are welcome to enter a CYOA book if you
like." The only reason we tend to get text adventures exclusively is
because of the community it's geared towards. (And that's changing--I
expect we'll have an actual graphical IF entered in the annual comp
pretty soon, if not this year. (If you don't already count games like
'Arrival' or 'SMTUC'.))

To summarize: many people have posted here that they personally
consider IF to apply pretty widely. People who haven't heard the term
before will extrapolate from what they know the words 'interactive' and
'fiction' mean, and come up with pretty much the same wide definition.
Which is why...

: You can say


: people should start calling them both interactive fiction, that it's more
: accurate, more fair, more whatever. I'm sympathetic to that. But that
: doesn't change the fact that it isn't that way now.

I directly disagree with this last sentence.

-Lucian

Mike Roberts

unread,
Jun 19, 2002, 6:46:13 PM6/19/02
to
"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote:
> I think the large majority of people consider "interactive fiction" to
> be the name for the text-based stuff, and "adventure game" to be
> the name for the graphical stuff. And I think the definition of what
> IF is should reflect that.

Sorry if I missed the point somewhere upstream in the thread, but which "the
definition" exactly are you proposing to establish here? Are you writing a
dictionary of gaming or something? My sense of the thread is that it's the
raif vernacular that's at issue, and I think it's pretty clear that there's
no consensus among raif readers that IF is limited to text. If raif usage
is the question, then it seems awfully circular to argue that people in raif
should stop using "IF" to refer to graphical games because no one in raif
uses "IF" to refer to graphical games.

> An anecdote: I worked for about a year as a programmer at a

> computer game developer. [...] When I asked [co-workers] what


> they thought of interactive fiction, the response was invariably,
> "Interactive fiction, what's that?" It was only when I would say,
> "You know, text adventures," that I would get a response.
>

> My point is that terms are defined by what most people think

> they mean.

The point your anecdote makes is that IF means *nothing* to most people, not
that it means "text adventures." You were the one who told these people
that it means text games; they weren't the ones who came up with that.

Philipp Lenssen

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Jun 19, 2002, 6:50:40 PM6/19/02
to
"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote in message
news:1M6Q8.389$zN4.4...@news2.news.adelphia.net...
>..

> I know some of you will insist that paper CYOA is IF too
>....

Oh, absolutely and completely!

As to your elaboration on what it does versus what it should mean, I hear
your words. But I do think we need to differentiate the target group and
where you talk about something. I will have some very different images in my
head simply for the fact that my native language is german, and in the Real
World I don't call it "Interactive Fiction". Or "Interaktive Fiktion", which
would be a literal translation. I call all that stuff "Abenteuerspiele",
which would translate back to "adventure games". The CYOA books, Infocom
text-games, the Maniac Mansion's and Grim Fandango's, and all that.

What to me is distinctive about it and common to all them is not as much the
interface (text-input, point-and-click) or medium (digital, paper), but the
fact that you can decide what to do in a story, and that by large parts
positive outcome is related to your understanding of it. Different
approaches have different strenghts and should play them out accordingly,
but from the player perspective, I see very similar thrills and rewards in
all the sub-genres of IF.

Just take my own CYOA system, which has export wizards to a static,
print-optimized version to be put on paper. I see a lot of technical
differences as to what is possible in each medium, but I would never create
a clear-cut distinction: "this is digital IF, this is IF on paper". No, for
me it's digitally stored AND can exist on paper. And yes, in the digitally
played version you can also have text-input, very helpful at times. All this
IMO blurs artificial distinctions. (So do many other games which combine
different interface elements, like the Arcade bits in Indiana Jones
adventures.)

Almost unrelated sidenote: from the marketing side, what it does mean is
important in advertising, but from the developer side, what it could mean is
important to push the limits and hit on a new niche. The best (and often,
most successful) games have been pushing the genres -- at times so far as to
justify new words. Like, it's not just Strategy after Populous, Sim City --
it's now a God game. Span the gap by creating a bridge from old to new:
"XYZ: A Strategy Game so Different, We Call it God Game".


Adam Thornton

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Jun 19, 2002, 7:23:28 PM6/19/02
to
In article <aer0i4$3s0$1...@joe.rice.edu>,

Lucian P. Smith <lps...@rice.edu> wrote:
>(And that's changing--I
>expect we'll have an actual graphical IF entered in the annual comp
>pretty soon, if not this year. (If you don't already count games like
>'Arrival' or 'SMTUC'.))

I defy anyone to tell me that SMTUC wasn't graphic.

Adam

Andy M

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Jun 19, 2002, 8:55:45 PM6/19/02
to
I'm going to condense my replies to several posts into one, in the interest
of not reprinting arguments into several different posts.

"Mike Roberts" <mjr-S...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:XQ7Q8.25$%O....@news.oracle.com...


> Sorry if I missed the point somewhere upstream in the thread, but which
"the
> definition" exactly are you proposing to establish here? Are you writing
a
> dictionary of gaming or something? My sense of the thread is that it's
the
> raif vernacular that's at issue, and I think it's pretty clear that
there's
> no consensus among raif readers that IF is limited to text. If raif usage
> is the question, then it seems awfully circular to argue that people in
raif
> should stop using "IF" to refer to graphical games because no one in raif
> uses "IF" to refer to graphical games.

Adam Myrow started the thread by posing the following question: Has there


ever been a formal definition of Interactive Fiction that most of us could

agree on? What I'm proposing is that the term interactive fiction refers to
primarily text-based games, and not to primarily graphical ones. And I
propose that this is so because most people mean text-based stuff when they
say interactive fiction. Others disagree that most people think this.
That's fine. I don't have any polling numbers or anything to submit as
evidence, that's just my sense of things. I want to point out, though, that
I am not arguing that raif readers should stop using any particular term to
talk about graphical games. I made it clear that posters should feel free
to advocate the use of whatever terms they want. But I believe they should
realize that as it stands now, IF implicitly means text to most people who
have heard the term at all. I also think that this question of an IF
definition
extends beyond raif. That is, whatever definition we might come up with
should keep in mind what even those IF enthusiasts who do not subscribe
to this board mean when they say "interactive fiction".

> The point your anecdote makes is that IF means *nothing* to most people,
not
> that it means "text adventures." You were the one who told these people
> that it means text games; they weren't the ones who came up with that.

This is something that both you and Lucian pointed out, and I can see that I
wasn't clear. I want to stress that my point with the anecdote was not that
people tend to equate interactive fiction with text adventures after I tell
them the two are equivalent. This is obvious, and naturally helps my
argument not a bit. The point was that these people, who worked
professionally on graphical adventure games, had never heard the term
"interactive fiction". They, and everyone they had ever interacted with,
had always referred to their games as classical adventure games. I
intended to show that the commonly accepted term for the games they
made is not "interactive fiction". Go to any major website devoted to
computer games and you will hear them called simply "adventure games".

Last, I wanted to reply briefly to Aris's post.

"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote in message
news:aeqve9$khd$1...@usenet.otenet.gr...


> I've not gotten that impression. For starters I think that "adventure
games" is
> what most people once used to describe *both* text and graphical games
> of this sort.
>
> That currently all (or almost all) such commercial games happen to be
> graphical isn't a sign that "adventure games" wasn't used to include the
> text-based ones! You called them yourself "text adventures"! 'Adventure'
> being the key word.

You're right. It used to be that when a person talked about this great
adventure game they were playing on their computer, it wasn't assumed that
the game was graphical. These days, in the absence of clues to the
contrary, it is. I wish it weren't so, but it is. To an average person,
adventure game means graphical adventure game; you have to say text
adventure if you want them to think of text-based adventure games.

--Andy


Penner Theologius Pott

unread,
Jun 19, 2002, 9:09:08 PM6/19/02
to
"Steven M. Castellotti" <Ste...@nospam.innocent.com> wrote in message news:<752Q8.64564$uX3....@nwrddc01.gnilink.net>...

> While you might have a hard time converting Myst into a purely text
> interface (how would you differenciate between different piano keys in
> the spaceship without becoming tedious, for instance?)

I'm not sure I understand the function of this question...if the
implication is that it wouldn't be interactive fiction if it didn't
adapt well to text, then I'm not sure I buy into it. After all, how
many novelizations of movies turn out well, though we recognize them
both as fiction?

JJK

unread,
Jun 19, 2002, 9:26:36 PM6/19/02
to
Paul Drallos wrote:

> Well, yes. Text is essential, otherwise we are including graphic adventures
> like the Myst series. Myst is Interactive and it is Fiction, but I don't
> think most posters here consider it IF.

I find it interesting that there isn't more disagreement with this
statement. Even I only mildly disagree with it. Odd, since the reason
I found rec.games.int-fiction (followed by this group) was my search for
non-spoiler Myst hints. Rec.games.int-fiction was full of them, as well
as a vigorous discussion of Riven, the sequel. I just Googled for Myst
in this group and my memory is correct: rec.games.int-fiction used to be
a hotbed of Myst talk.

Not sure what to make of the transition, not even sure if it is a
transition. There are several regulars who post now and again about
graphical adventure games, with reviews and some discussion. No one
looking for hints that I can remember though. Maybe it is just that
there hasn't since been anything remotely like the tidal wave of players
bought in by Myst.

-Jim

JJK

unread,
Jun 19, 2002, 9:33:13 PM6/19/02
to
Paul Drallos wrote:
> I am not arguing
> that Galatea is not fiction. Of course it is fiction. I am arguing that it
> doesn't have a plot in the sense of what Adam is refering to in his post.
>

I felt that not only did Galatea have a plot, it was a fascinating
modernization of one literally millenia old. On top of that, the plot
was revealed in a truly interactive manner, one not possible to
replicate in a traditional text. Incredibly apt use-of-medium.

-Jim

Mike Roberts

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Jun 19, 2002, 10:17:36 PM6/19/02
to
"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote:
> What I'm proposing is that the term interactive fiction refers to
> primarily text-based games, and not to primarily graphical ones.
> And I propose that this is so because most people mean text-based
> stuff when they say interactive fiction. [...] I don't have any polling

> numbers or anything to submit as evidence, that's just my sense of
> things.

Okay, but my sense of things doesn't agree with yours here.

> But I believe [raif readers] should realize that as it stands now, IF


> implicitly means text to most people who have heard the term at all.

Perhaps you mean: raif readers should realize that this is your sense of
things. I think it's a bit of a leap to go from "this is my sense of
things" to "everyone must be made to open their eyes and realize that this
is the way it really is, and they're just living in denial if they think
otherwise." That might be more forceful than you intended, but that's the
way it sounds to me when you say "people should realize..."

(And I really do doubt IF actually means "text adventure" to people who've
never heard the term at all. If you've never heard the term before, "text
adventure" seems awfully obscure to be the first thing that would spring to
mind, especially in today's modern cyberworld where "interactive" is
buzzword-enabled for 3D motion simulators, web multimedia delivery vehicles,
and lots of other stuff that isn't especially textual.)

> [Some graphical game developers] and everyone they had ever


> interacted with, had always referred to their games as classical
> adventure games. I intended to show that the commonly accepted
> term for the games they made is not "interactive fiction".

It's not clear to me why this matters. It's not as though they made a
deliberate decision that what they're doing is *not* interactive fiction;
it's just that it never occurred to them to even consider the term because
they'd never heard of it. But anyway, can a thing not go by several
different names? If I always call a collie a dog, does it create a monopoly
so that no one can refer to it as an animal as well? I think the situation
is somewhat analogous, in that a lot of people around here (raif) use IF as
a broader category that includes text-based and graphical adventure games,
as well as some other things. The fact that said game developers never use
the term IF merely suggests to me that they're not especially interested in
the broader categories into which their games might fit.

tarage

unread,
Jun 19, 2002, 11:46:59 PM6/19/02
to
Mike Roberts wrote:
>
> (And I really do doubt IF actually means "text adventure" to people who've
> never heard the term at all. If you've never heard the term before, "text
> adventure" seems awfully obscure to be the first thing that would spring to
> mind, especially in today's modern cyberworld where "interactive" is
> buzzword-enabled for 3D motion simulators, web multimedia delivery vehicles,
> and lots of other stuff that isn't especially textual.)

Ahem. Interactive FICTION...what is FICTION, if not text? (Yes, someone
will say anything ficticious is therefore a fiction, but that's pretty
clear from the term that we're not talking about an interactive untruth
in that sense.)

The other things to which you refer are not termed "FICTION." They are
termed interactive <otherstuff> by which otherstuff is the defining
term, as it is with FICTION.

Sorry if the caps offended anyone. The attention drawn to the term is
purposeful.

~Mike


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 12:31:16 AM6/20/02
to
Here, Mike Roberts <mjr-S...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> "Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> wrote:
>> I think the large majority of people consider "interactive fiction" to
>> be the name for the text-based stuff, and "adventure game" to be
>> the name for the graphical stuff. And I think the definition of what
>> IF is should reflect that.

> Sorry if I missed the point somewhere upstream in the thread, but which "the
> definition" exactly are you proposing to establish here? Are you writing a
> dictionary of gaming or something? My sense of the thread is that it's the
> raif vernacular that's at issue

Actually, I was kinda hoping we could talk about what the stuff *is*,
rather than what words we're going to use to label it.

(If I wasn't tired, I'd post a rough cut at a definition. Sorry.
Maybe tomorrow.)

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 12:31:57 AM6/20/02
to

I'm very careful to distinguish between a graphical game and a graphic
game. :)

>cox.net

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 12:36:41 AM6/20/02
to
On Wed, 19 Jun 2002 23:46:59 -0400, tarage
<tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> wrote:


>Ahem. Interactive FICTION...what is FICTION, if not text?

<snip>
>~Mike
>
>

I just got finished watching Star Trek same as I do every night at
11pm. It isn't text but it is clearly fiction. So why wouldn't a
graphical game be fiction as well?

Saying that the word fiction implies text is absurd.


---Daniel

Left, left, I hadda good brain but it left...

Paul Drallos

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 12:39:15 AM6/20/02
to
Here's an idea: How about if we consider where the term Interactive
Fiction
came from in the first place?

The way I remember things, back in the 80s, first there were
text-adventures.
I can't remember for sure if we called them text-adventures, or just
adventure
games. But some years later, graphic-adventures started to appear and
the old
text games were then routinely called text-adventures.

The text games rapidly lost market share to the graphical games. As
part of it's
survival, text games expanded into other genre besides adventure. To
reflect this
broader application of interactive text, somebody (I don't know who)
came up with
the term Interactive Fiction. I am certain that this term was initially
used only
for text-based games and not graphical games.

Over the years, this usage has apparently expanded to include graphical
games as
well. Some posters here obviously feel IF applies equally to text and
graphics,
some don't. Personally, when I hear the term, I assume it means
text-based. Most
of the time I'll be right, sometimes I'll be wrong. It is a matter of
common usage
which is subject to change.

But maybe text-based IF wants to have a term that means text-based and only
text-based. Is that term IF? Not according to some of you. Is it IT
(Interactive
Text)? Well, yes. But nobody uses that term.

Paul


Jim Nelson

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Jun 20, 2002, 12:47:17 AM6/20/02
to
tarage (tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net) wrote:
>
> Ahem. Interactive FICTION...what is FICTION, if not text? (Yes, someone
> will say anything ficticious is therefore a fiction, but that's pretty
> clear from the term that we're not talking about an interactive untruth
> in that sense.)
>
> The other things to which you refer are not termed "FICTION." They are
> termed interactive <otherstuff> by which otherstuff is the defining
> term, as it is with FICTION.

Okay -- I can live with Paul's idea that interactive fiction is, really,
you know, not being dictionary-like or all, text adventures. Or type-in
text games, or those Infocom things. I don't strictly agree with the
definition, but okay.

However: fiction must be text? Now the thread's gone where no thread's
gone before.

As I suggested elsewhere, perhaps defining "interactive" and "fiction"
separately is a place to start. If there's this much variety on the
second term, then forget about defining the combination. No two people
will ever agree on it.

--
Jim Nelson
jim_n...@mindspring.com

Andy M

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 1:39:07 AM6/20/02
to

"Mike Roberts" <mjr-S...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:5XaQ8.28$%O....@news.oracle.com...

> > But I believe [raif readers] should realize that as it stands now, IF
> > implicitly means text to most people who have heard the term at all.
>
> Perhaps you mean: raif readers should realize that this is your sense of
> things. I think it's a bit of a leap to go from "this is my sense of
> things" to "everyone must be made to open their eyes and realize that this
> is the way it really is, and they're just living in denial if they think
> otherwise." That might be more forceful than you intended, but that's the
> way it sounds to me when you say "people should realize..."

What I wrote is exactly what I meant. You have added a bunch of meaning
that is not contained in my statement, and which I don't think you can
reasonably infer from it given my previous statements. I believe raif
readers should realize that IF implicitly means text. I do not believe
everyone must be made to realize this, because that implies a forced
imposition of my views on others, which I have neither the power nor the
inclination to carry out.

> (And I really do doubt IF actually means "text adventure" to people who've
> never heard the term at all. If you've never heard the term before, "text
> adventure" seems awfully obscure to be the first thing that would spring
to
> mind, especially in today's modern cyberworld where "interactive" is
> buzzword-enabled for 3D motion simulators, web multimedia delivery
vehicles,
> and lots of other stuff that isn't especially textual.)

I think you misread the sentence.

> > [Some graphical game developers] and everyone they had ever
> > interacted with, had always referred to their games as classical
> > adventure games. I intended to show that the commonly accepted
> > term for the games they made is not "interactive fiction".
>
> It's not clear to me why this matters. It's not as though they made a
> deliberate decision that what they're doing is *not* interactive fiction;
> it's just that it never occurred to them to even consider the term because
> they'd never heard of it. But anyway, can a thing not go by several
> different names?

I think the fact that the vast majority of people who play graphical
adventure games do not call them interactive fiction is relevant to a
discussion of what the term IF means, though I can understand why you don't
think so.

--Andy

Please be aware that I will be away from home Thursday through Monday and
won't be reading any posts till I get back. I wouldn't want anyone to think
I was ignoring their responses.


Dennis G Jerz

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 2:11:21 AM6/20/02
to
"Steven M. Castellotti" <Ste...@nospam.innocent.com> wrote in message news:<752Q8.64564$uX3....@nwrddc01.gnilink.net>...
> While you might have a hard time converting Myst into a purely text
> interface (how would you differenciate between different piano keys in
> the spaceship without becoming tedious, for instance?)

Actually, I found that particular puzzle on Myst to be rather tedious
in its graphical form. And in "Fine-Tuned" (minor spoiler) I had a
simple puzzle that involved musical notes. The PC for that scene is a
professional singer with perfect pitch, so I simply had the text
identify what note the PC was hearing, and later, the player could
just type "sing A flat" (or whatever).

But commenting on the larger issue... if we're talking about language,
there are prescriptive definitions and descriptive definitions. It's
a bit solipsistic to define "interactive fiction" as "whatever this
group spends its time talking about," and it's pedantic to note that,
for instance, this group was originally founded as a forum for
discussing hypertext literature (although my visit to the gooja
archvies suggests there was never much activity on that topic). The
definitions of words do change over time, so it's useful to challenge
our assumptions about whether "interactive fiction" is the best term
to use.

To many people, "interactive fiction" means literary hypertext,
because that's really the only computer-mediated narrative that many
humanities types have encountered. The term "adventure game" stuck
long after the genre was no longer strictly focused on adventures, but
so too has the term "novel" stuck long after the form it describes is
no longer "novel."

Does the addition of graphics slowly move a given work away from IF
and towards something else? I don't think so. When does a short story
become a novella, and when does a novella become a novel? The
differences between a short story and a novel aren't simply
differences of length, but we might imagine that a boring novel could
be edited down to an exciting short story, and a thin short story
could be fleshed out and expanded to make an engrossing novel. Still,
there is no single agreed-upon definition for these genres, which is
good for English professors because it means they get to keep writing
books that struggle with these questions.

Elsewhere on the thread it's been pointed out that even the plotless
simulations describe the PC's experience of events that did not take
place in the real world, but I still have some problems with
"interactive fiction," mostly because I worry that people who are
familiar with literary prose bring certain expectations to something
with the word "fiction" in it. Since the literary types are often
(but now always) disisinterested in or completely inexperienced with
the coding aspect of the game, then they tend to judge the textual
output (or, just as oftn, a transcript that they find in books like
"Hamlet on the Holodeck") as if it were an excerpt from a novel. (I
realize that the opinions of literary types are not the only ones that
matter, of course.)

The genre is old enough now that, even if I had a "better" term to
suggest, I would still have to differentiate it from other terms used
by other people.

Dennis

Philipp Lenssen

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 3:42:51 AM6/20/02
to
"tarage" <tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> wrote in message
news:3D115033...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net...
>..

> Ahem. Interactive FICTION...what is FICTION, if not text?
>..

Let me jump over to dictionary.com, their first definition of "fiction" is:
"An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but
has been invented"
You can see from another term, "Science Fiction", that it encompasses
different media, because there are Science Fiction movies, Science Fiction
books, and so on. Just the same, we have digital Interactive Fiction
(text-parsed, choice-based, point-and-click...), we have Interactive Fiction
movies on DVD, there's IF in book form, etc.


tarage

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 7:31:46 AM6/20/02
to
erthwin@ cox.net (Daniel Freas) wrote:
> On Wed, 19 Jun 2002 23:46:59 -0400, tarage
> <tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> wrote:
>
>
>
>>Ahem. Interactive FICTION...what is FICTION, if not text?
>
> <snip>
>
>>~Mike
>>
>>
>
>
> I just got finished watching Star Trek same as I do every night at
> 11pm. It isn't text but it is clearly fiction. So why wouldn't a
> graphical game be fiction as well?
>
> Saying that the word fiction implies text is absurd.


Please explain how the term "fiction" as opposed to "poetry" or
"non-fiction" is not sufficiently clear. Are you purposefully taking a
word out of context?

Perhaps you need to consult a dictionary if you cannot fathom how
"fiction" implies "text." Fiction is a kind of writing, again, as are
poetry and non-fiction. Most people have been to a library in their lives...

TV as we know it today is certainly not interactive. I've watched it
once or twice and don't remember interacting in any way. You watch; you
listen; you are passive.

~Mike


tarage

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 7:37:48 AM6/20/02
to
Dennis G Jerz wrote:
>
> Does the addition of graphics slowly move a given work away from IF
> and towards something else? I don't think so. When does a short story
> become a novella, and when does a novella become a novel? The

You're comparing variations of written text to differences in entire
media types. It would be more accurate to ask when does a play become a
movie? Fundamentally, at the point that a different media type is used.

~Mike

Megan White

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 7:49:46 AM6/20/02
to
From the sacred text of Inform:

" Object -> mushroom "speckled mushroom"
[...]
has edible;

...the edible notation means that it can be eaten, so that for
the first time, the player can change the game state irrevocably:
from a game with a forest and a mushroom to a game with just a
forest" (DM4, p77)

That's more interesting than it might look. In fact, AFAIC, the
ability to change the game state irrevocably is a defining feature
of IF. If you can't, all you can affect is which parts of something
you look at and in what order. That leaves you with something like
a hypertext book - or, if you lose the fiction requirement, an
interactive encyclopedia, and indeed, the web.

That's not to say that everything in IF has to change the game
state, irrevocably or otherwise: Most of the commands in text-based
games don't, in fact, unless there's a time limit. I think most
people would agree, though, that a game in which you can't make
irrevocable changes isn't IF. For instance, the game would have
no end - a win is definitely an irrevocable change. (and in my
view, if it doesn't have some sort of end, it's not IF.)

Once you've added the requirement for a fictional and imaginative
setting to be described (verbally or visually), you seem to
come down to roughly the sorts of things people are discussing
on this newsgroup - in other words, IF on the wider view that
some people are suggesting. (including CYOA etc.) Describe a
fictional setting, and let me make changes, which you also
describe, until I reach an end: you've been telling a narrative
of some sort. You've got your plot and your 'actions that the
player must perform to move the story along' as Adam Myrow
suggests, and if you want to add a 'must be text-based' requirement
before you'll call it IF, well, fine by me.

I can see why some people are reluctant to call CYOA interactive
fiction. In CYOA you're generally *required* to change the game
state irrevocably at every turn. In a way, that takes some of the
pressure off the decision. In the sort of IF that's generally
entered in the annual comp, you'd be able to hang around for a
few turns, and examine a few more things, before you made a decision,
even if such a decision obviously had to be made. That's what
gives you the feeling of freedom, despite the fact that in nearly
all such IF, there's only really one plotline implemented - so you
actually have far less choice in terms of plot than in CYOA.

For me it's the irrevocable decisions that make IF fun, and I like
as many of them as possible. That's why I get annoyed when a
game which pretends to be interactive presents me with 'choose
which order you're going to say these things in, or don't say them
and don't win the game' - which might as well be a cut scene, AFAIC.
It's probably also why most of my favourite games can be got
into unwinnable states. Although it's annoying, it also makes
you think more carefully about what you're doing and stops you
from feeling like you're being forced along one plot. It takes
a fair amount of skill to stop players putting games into unwinnable
states without making them feel they've been denied the chance to
make a decision. The best solution, perhaps, is to keep the decision-
making and implement another solution to the puzzle which still works.
(See below spoiler space for an example from Christminster).

It needn't always be obvious, either. I'm inclined to suspect
that you can make decisions in Galatea which prevent you from
later reaching certain endings, but I can't be sure, and I
certainly couldn't tell you what they are. In a way it doesn't
matter, as long as I think that what I say each turn is
important to the overall state of the game.

Most of the conclusions I've come to here are fairly conventional,
but I hope the way I've come to them is interesting nonetheless.
If not, don't worry, I'm toddling back off to lurkerdom.

------Spoiler for Christminster-------

If you miss your chance to collect the tears from Edward
(the easy way) then prick yourself with the pin to make
yourself cry (a harder puzzle to punish you for mucking
it up the first time round.) Great puzzle.

Stephen Granade

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 8:50:51 AM6/20/02
to
"Andy M" <an...@dreamforge.com> writes:

> "Mike Roberts" <mjr-S...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
> news:5XaQ8.28$%O....@news.oracle.com...
> > > But I believe [raif readers] should realize that as it stands now, IF
> > > implicitly means text to most people who have heard the term at all.
> >
> > Perhaps you mean: raif readers should realize that this is your sense of
> > things. I think it's a bit of a leap to go from "this is my sense of
> > things" to "everyone must be made to open their eyes and realize that this
> > is the way it really is, and they're just living in denial if they think
> > otherwise." That might be more forceful than you intended, but that's the
> > way it sounds to me when you say "people should realize..."
>
> What I wrote is exactly what I meant. You have added a bunch of meaning
> that is not contained in my statement, and which I don't think you can
> reasonably infer from it given my previous statements. I believe raif
> readers should realize that IF implicitly means text.

You keep making this statement despite having a number of raif people
(including now me) tell you that they consider interactive fiction to
include graphical adventures. In addition, the support you've offered
for your position shows only that most people don't think of the term
"interactive fiction" at all.

> > (And I really do doubt IF actually means "text adventure" to
> > people who've never heard the term at all. If you've never heard
> > the term before, "text adventure" seems awfully obscure to be the
> > first thing that would spring to mind, especially in today's
> > modern cyberworld where "interactive" is buzzword-enabled for 3D
> > motion simulators, web multimedia delivery vehicles, and lots of
> > other stuff that isn't especially textual.)
>
> I think you misread the sentence.

That doesn't invalidate Mike's point.

> > > [Some graphical game developers] and everyone they had ever
> > > interacted with, had always referred to their games as classical
> > > adventure games. I intended to show that the commonly accepted
> > > term for the games they made is not "interactive fiction".
> >
> > It's not clear to me why this matters. It's not as though they made a
> > deliberate decision that what they're doing is *not* interactive fiction;
> > it's just that it never occurred to them to even consider the term because
> > they'd never heard of it. But anyway, can a thing not go by several
> > different names?
>
> I think the fact that the vast majority of people who play graphical
> adventure games do not call them interactive fiction is relevant to
> a discussion of what the term IF means, though I can understand why
> you don't think so.

He's not saying that it isn't relevant. He's saying that it doesn't
support the conclusions you're drawing from it. To go back to what you
said earlier:

But I believe [raif readers] should realize that as it stands now,
IF implicitly means text to most people who have heard the term at
all.

Your example of graphical adventure game designers who haven't heard
the term "interactive fiction" actually undermines your claim: the
fewer people outside of raif who know of the term "interactive
fiction," the higher the percentage of raif'ers (many of whom would
apply the term IF to graphical adventure games) in your sample, and
the higher the percentage of people who apply IF to non-text games.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade
sgra...@phy.duke.edu
Duke University, Physics Dept

Stephen Granade

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 8:53:01 AM6/20/02
to
tarage <tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> writes:

What's the difference in media type between, say, Losing Your Grip and
Arrival? Both can be played on the same computer using the same
interpreter. Both are stored on computer media, be it hard drive or
CD. Graphical adventure games and text adventure games are not
different media, not by a long shot.

David Brain

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 10:20:00 AM6/20/02
to
In article <3D11BD22...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net>,
tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net (tarage) wrote:

> TV as we know it today is certainly not interactive. I've watched it
> once or twice and don't remember interacting in any way. You watch; you
> listen; you are passive.
>

Now that's interesting. I've found TV becoming extremely interactive in the
last few years - from trivial examples of TV shows simply hijacking the
radio phone-in format via phone-poll interactivity (Big Brother style
voting) to full-blown web-chats and discussion boards running live alongside
the programmes (or immediately afterwards.)
Of course, I'm in the UK which may explain things!

You're still right though - fundamentally TV isn't interactive.

--
David Brain
London, UK

Aris Katsaris

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 10:27:00 AM6/20/02
to

"tarage" <tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> wrote in message
news:3D11BD22...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net...

> erthwin@ cox.net (Daniel Freas) wrote:
> >
> > I just got finished watching Star Trek same as I do every night at
> > 11pm. It isn't text but it is clearly fiction. So why wouldn't a
> > graphical game be fiction as well?
> >
> > Saying that the word fiction implies text is absurd.
>
> Please explain how the term "fiction" as opposed to "poetry"

As opposed to it? Poetry can be fictional. It often isn't, but
it sometimes is.

> or
> "non-fiction" is not sufficiently clear.

Of course fiction is opposed to non-fiction.

> Perhaps you need to consult a dictionary if you cannot fathom how
> "fiction" implies "text."

It doesn't imply it. Starwars is a fictional story. So is the play A Midsummer
Night's Dream, so is the poem "Lay of Leithian" that Tolkien started writing,
so are the Star Trek series, etc, etc, etc...

> Fiction is a kind of writing,

Nope. Writing can be fictional, and fiction can be writing, but the one doesn't
imply the other.

> again, as are
> poetry and non-fiction. Most people have been to a library in their lives...

Like it or not, fiction is *not* necessarily writing.

> TV as we know it today is certainly not interactive.
> I've watched it once or twice

Ah! A snobbish troll. Sorry, I thought you had actually meant the stuff
you said.

Aris Katsaris


Aris Katsaris

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 10:33:35 AM6/20/02
to

"Megan White" <megan...@yahoo.co.uk> wrote in message
news:b4eccb5f.02062...@posting.google.com...

>
> That's not to say that everything in IF has to change the game
> state, irrevocably or otherwise: Most of the commands in text-based
> games don't, in fact, unless there's a time limit. I think most
> people would agree, though, that a game in which you can't make
> irrevocable changes isn't IF.

One word: "Aisle".

Aris Katsaris


Richard Bos

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 10:47:55 AM6/20/02
to
tarage <tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> wrote:

> TV as we know it today is certainly not interactive. I've watched it
> once or twice and don't remember interacting in any way. You watch; you
> listen; you are passive.

That's what the TV presenter said.

I changed channel on him.

Richard

Richard Bos

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 10:52:09 AM6/20/02
to
"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:

All changes in Aisle are irrevocable, for that one run of the game.

Richard

Philipp Lenssen

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 10:52:16 AM6/20/02
to
"Megan White" <megan...@yahoo.co.uk> wrote in message
news:b4eccb5f.02062...@posting.google.com...
>..

> I can see why some people are reluctant to call CYOA interactive
> fiction. In CYOA you're generally *required* to change the game
> state irrevocably at every turn.
>...

> despite the fact that in nearly
> all such IF, there's only really one plotline implemented - so you
> actually have far less choice in terms of plot than in CYOA.
>

(Completely agreed.)

> For me it's the irrevocable decisions that make IF fun, and I like
> as many of them as possible. That's why I get annoyed when a
> game which pretends to be interactive presents me with 'choose
> which order you're going to say these things in, or don't say them
> and don't win the game' - which might as well be a cut scene, AFAIC.
> It's probably also why most of my favourite games can be got
> into unwinnable states. Although it's annoying, it also makes
> you think more carefully about what you're doing and stops you
> from feeling like you're being forced along one plot.

So what do you think about a LucasArts approach to not let there be any dead
ends, but applied to CYOA?
I'm wondering about that one myself.

(What I *do* think should be done is to immediately tell about dead-ends, if
one is reached and the game is puzzle-based -- Sierra didn't always follow
that rule.)

If the choice is a moral one, it doesn't seem to make sense to have it be
revocable:
- you give a coin to the beggar
- you ignore the beggar

Same goes for "define yourself" choices:
- you take the sword
- you take the magic staff

And for some choice-based puzzles.
- you eat the red berry
- you eat the blue berry


Andrew Plotkin

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Jun 20, 2002, 10:58:08 AM6/20/02
to
Here, Steven M. Castellotti <Ste...@nospam.innocent.com> wrote:
> On Wed, 19 Jun 2002 11:17:47 -0500, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>>> I have a game that I'm putting the
>>> finishing touches on which can be played in either entirely graphical
>>> mode, or entirely text mode, or any combination of the two. It's the
>>> exact same game code, runnning on the same game engine, with different
>>> frontends.
>>
>> Now that, while it's always been a theoretical possibility, seems like
>> it's hard to get right. Do both formats work as games? How do you deal
>> with keeping the focus -- what objects are obvious or hidden, what
>> actions are obvious or clever -- the same between the two modes? Or is
>> it not that kind of game?

> The game is your typical adventure game format, but the engine [the "Cog
> Engine"] is a little different than most IF engines. Both the engine and
> the game are geared towards kids creating their own video games, so the
> syntax and game play is fairly simplified. It breaks down like this:
>
> [Explanation snipped]

Interesting. Thanks for posting the detailed explanation.

I originally thought (for some reason) that you were talking about a
game which ran in either Myst-style graphical mode or
Colossal-Cave-style text mode. (Don't ask me why I thought that --
blind assumption on my part. :)

Paul Drallos

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 11:24:05 AM6/20/02
to
I think what we've found out in this thread is that there simply isn't
a consensus about what IF is.

Everybody's right. Everybody's wrong. It depends on who you talk to
or how argumentative you want to be.

-Paul

Marnie Parker

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 11:33:55 AM6/20/02
to
Fiction can be just story telling -- no written words involved at all. Verbal
story telling is much older than written language. A human activity that is so
old it, like art and music, is almost now instinctual.

In my opinion, the harder definition is INTERACTIVE.

I consider Carma IF. And it's graphical.

Doe :-) But not graphic.


doea...@aol.com
IF http://members.aol.com/doepage/intfict.htm
(An Iffy Theory | Glulx/Glk for Duncies | unglklib | Inform Primer)
IF Art Gallery http://members.aol.com/iffyart/
IF Review Conspiracy http://zork.plover.net/~textfire/conspiracy/

Aris Katsaris

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 11:41:25 AM6/20/02
to

"Richard Bos" <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote in message
news:3d11ebf2....@news.tiscali.nl...

Depends on how you define "run of the game". I could argue that to
experience any single "run of the game" of Aisle you have to keep
on typing commands until you are no longer interested in continuing
to do so.

Thus, the only irrevocable change is in *your* state (aka in your
memory and understanding of the situation), not in the game's.

Aris Katsaris


John W. Kennedy

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 12:08:16 PM6/20/02
to
tarage wrote:
> erthwin@ cox.net (Daniel Freas) wrote:
>
>> On Wed, 19 Jun 2002 23:46:59 -0400, tarage
>> <tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> wrote:
>>
>>
>>
>>> Ahem. Interactive FICTION...what is FICTION, if not text?
>>
>>
>> <snip>
>>
>>> ~Mike
>>>
>>>
>>
>>
>> I just got finished watching Star Trek same as I do every night at
>> 11pm. It isn't text but it is clearly fiction. So why wouldn't a
>> graphical game be fiction as well?
>> Saying that the word fiction implies text is absurd.


> Please explain how the term "fiction" as opposed to "poetry" or
> "non-fiction" is not sufficiently clear. Are you purposefully taking a
> word out of context?

> Perhaps you need to consult a dictionary if you cannot fathom how
> "fiction" implies "text." Fiction is a kind of writing, again, as are
> poetry and non-fiction. Most people have been to a library in their
> lives...

If you're going to get snarky about it, read a dictionary yourself;
you're flat wrong.

--
John W. Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play, now annotated!
http://pws.prserv.net/jwkennedy/Double%20Falshood.html

>cox.net

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 12:28:12 PM6/20/02
to
On Thu, 20 Jun 2002 07:31:46 -0400, tarage
<tar...@NOSPAM.bellsouth.net> wrote:

>Please explain how the term "fiction" as opposed to "poetry" or
>"non-fiction" is not sufficiently clear. Are you purposefully taking a
>word out of context?

No I'm not taking the word out of context, I'm simply objecting to
your non-existant logic that the word implies something it clearly
does not.

>Perhaps you need to consult a dictionary if you cannot fathom how
>"fiction" implies "text." Fiction is a kind of writing, again, as are
>poetry and non-fiction. Most people have been to a library in their lives...

Very well, lets consult a dictionary shall we?

Fiction: An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent
actuality but has been invented.

So where in that definition do you see the word text? Or even see it
implied? I've heard radio broadcasts that were fiction, I've seen
fictional movies, I watch fictional television shows, I've seen
fictional plays, and yes I have played fictional games - they even had
graphics.

>TV as we know it today is certainly not interactive. I've watched it
>once or twice and don't remember interacting in any way. You watch; you
>listen; you are passive.
>
>~Mike

I wasn't implying that it is interactive, nor do I consider television
to be IF. It *is* fiction though which was the point. Saying that text
implies fiction makes no sense and is based on nothing that I can see
other than your wish that it be so.

>cox.net

unread,
Jun 20, 2002, 12:39:03 PM6/20/02