IF - Game or Novel

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gra...@preston.zynet.co.uk

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Jun 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/4/96
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Having only recently come across the r.a.i-f I have been trying to define
for my own benefit just what IF means to me. Here are my thoughts.

Fiction is a storey with characters, scenes and events constructed by an
author in a specific order. The story is unfolded by the author in
a controlled and precise manner to create the desired emotions in the
reader. There is only one plot, one route through the pages of the
story, one sequence of events, and that is the one created by
the author.

It seems that IF is asking a difficult task of an author to create
multiple plot lines, to hand over control to the reader/player, to
allow the reader/player free reign and yet still expect a viable
'story' to result. No author could imagine all possible alternatives
taken by a range of players and yet still hope to maintain the
storey line and atmosphere of the story. I can't image an author
willing to hand over artistic control of the story to a stranger.

The IF player takes part in every single line of the game. In a
fiction storey the main character may not appear for many pages. Other
characters are developed to interact with the story line, and brought
in by the author at the time deemed most appropriate for the
effect desired by the author. It seems difficult for a game that
can take an essentially random path to achieve this level of
control over the unfolding of the story.

Indeed moving characters about (N, N, E, UP) is just like rolling
a dice on a board game (throw a four, move four spaces, miss a turn),
the context may be fictional, the computer interactive, but
is not a story.

If the computer is a story-teller and you want to interact with it
I would suggest that this Interactive Fiction Story is different
from an Interactive Fiction Game.

With an Interactive Fiction Story the computer would present the
story, but you could question the compter (nee story-teller) about
current events, previous events and other charcaters. You could
ask to 'read' in more or less detail depending on whether you
wanted a quick story or trilogy. You could, for example, ask to
see a time line of the plot. How often when reading a book have
you wanted to go back to earlier pages to remind youself of
some previous action or event. Interaction with a story-teller
could make this easy.

You could also ask for insight from the author about the
chacaterisation or story line.

IF Games are fine and I like PLAYING them, but I like READING a
story.

Kathleen Fischer

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Jun 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/4/96
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gra...@preston.zynet.co.uk wrote:
>Fiction is a storey with characters, scenes and events constructed by an
> author in a specific order. The story is unfolded by the author in
>a controlled and precise manner to create the desired emotions in the
>reader. There is only one plot, one route through the pages of the
>story, one sequence of events, and that is the one created by
>the author.

Actually... there could be several plots, but let's not get into that here...

>It seems that IF is asking a difficult task of an author to create
>multiple plot lines, to hand over control to the reader/player, to
>allow the reader/player free reign and yet still expect a viable
>'story' to result. No author could imagine all possible alternatives
>taken by a range of players and yet still hope to maintain the
>storey line and atmosphere of the story. I can't image an author
>willing to hand over artistic control of the story to a stranger.

I'm not sure you could say that I-F players have ARTISTIC control of
the game... They certainly don't have free reign. If I don't want them
in the library until they have "learned something" then I can very
well lock it and hide the key until they have aquired the desired
knowlege.

>The IF player takes part in every single line of the game. In a
>fiction storey the main character may not appear for many pages. Other
>characters are developed to interact with the story line, and brought
>in by the author at the time deemed most appropriate for the
>effect desired by the author. It seems difficult for a game that
>can take an essentially random path to achieve this level of
>control over the unfolding of the story.

so what's your point?

>Indeed moving characters about (N, N, E, UP) is just like rolling
>a dice on a board game (throw a four, move four spaces, miss a turn),
>the context may be fictional, the computer interactive, but
>is not a story.

Hmmm, I looked "story" up in my Webster's Ninth New Collegiate
Dictionary...

story (n) 1 archaic : HISTORY 1,3
2a : an account of incidents or events
b : a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a
situation in question
3a : a fictional narrative shorter than a novel
b : the intrigue or plot of a narrative or dramatic work

-------- Warning: Lame example to follow

> n
Valley View
As you crest the hill you are greated with a stunning view of a small
valley and the craigy mountains that lay behind it. The dusty road continues
to the north with a small path branching off to the east toward a large
orchard.

> e
Orchard
The path ends abruptly a freshly painted picket fence that surrounds the
large orchard.

There is a large can of paint here.

> x can of paint
It must have been recently opened, as the white paint is still liquid.

> kick can of paint
You give the can of a paint a good solid kick, spilling the contents all
over the ground. At the sound of the can rattling down the lane an angry
farmer emerges with a very large shot gun aimed right at your head. He
seems to be yelling someting rather obscene.

> run w
You run down the lane as fast as your little feet will carry you...

Valley View
>


----------------
so, why isn't that a story? It contains an account of events (a scenic view, a
kicked over bucket, an angry famer), some facts (the paint was white), and is
definitly both fictional and shorter than a novel :)

If it was written in a (bad) novel it would come out something like this:

Heading north, Jane Doe crested the hill and was greated with a stunning view
of a small valley and the craigy mountains that lay behind it. Leaving the
dusty road which continued off to the north, she took a small path which
branched off to the east toward a large orchard. After a few minutes more
walking the path ended abruptly at a freshly painted picket fence that
surrounded the large orchard. Jane noticed a large can of paint there, which
must have been recently opened, as the white paint is still liquid. Feeling
a bit impish, she gave the can of a paint a good solid kick, spilling the
contents all over the ground. At the sound of the can rattling down the lane
an angry farmer emerged with a very large shot gun aimed right at her headand
yelling someting rather obscene. Realizing the error of her ways, Jane
retreated down the lane as fast as her little feet would carry her.

Not so different, eh?


Just my $.02(US)
Kathleen (who is finding that the simple act of adding water (or any liquid)
to a game complicates things enormously)


espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/5/96
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In article <4p2hm4$d...@lll-winken.llnl.gov>, Kathleen Fischer
<kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> wrote:

[...]


> Hmmm, I looked "story" up in my Webster's Ninth New Collegiate
> Dictionary...

> story (n) 1 archaic : HISTORY 1,3
> 2a : an account of incidents or events
> b : a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a
> situation in question
> 3a : a fictional narrative shorter than a novel
> b : the intrigue or plot of a narrative or dramatic work

> -------- Warning: Lame example to follow

[pseudo-example adventure game log deleted]


> ----------------
> so, why isn't that a story?

But _that_ *is* a story. However, the adventure game used to produce that
story is not itself a story. It is not "an account of incidents or
events", but it makes several *different* stories possible. See the
difference?

Another example: A game of football is not the same as a TV-transmission
of the game. In the latter case, camera angles, commentators, and
producers make sure that the viewers get an account of the game, not the
game itself. The difference between a game and a story is the difference
between playing and watching. Quite different, in fact.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Jun 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/5/96
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espen....@hf.uib.no writes:
> [pseudo-example adventure game log deleted]
>
>
> > ----------------
> > so, why isn't that a story?
>
> But _that_ *is* a story. However, the adventure game used to produce that
> story is not itself a story. It is not "an account of incidents or
> events", but it makes several *different* stories possible. See the
> difference?

I disagree with your interpretation. The most common mode of text game
has only one possible story. There are a number of trivial variations
-- what order you do things in, for example (but by the time you've
finished the story you *have* done all of them.) There are a lot of
"failed" stories, where you die or screw up or generally lose, but
it's clear to the player that these are not *the* story that the
author intended.

Jigsaw works like this, Christminster does, Weather does, pretty much
every game we're familiar with does. The player is not satisfied until
he has uncovered and completed the single story that the author wrote.

This is why I say such a work is both a story (fiction) and a game.

I have argued all this before.

--Z

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

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/5/96
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In article <8lhOqWC00...@andrew.cmu.edu>, "Andrew C. Plotkin"
<erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:

> espen....@hf.uib.no writes:
> > [pseudo-example adventure game log deleted]

> > > ----------------


> > > so, why isn't that a story?

> > But _that_ *is* a story. However, the adventure game used to produce that


> > story is not itself a story. It is not "an account of incidents or
> > events", but it makes several *different* stories possible. See the
> > difference?

> I disagree with your interpretation. The most common mode of text game
> has only one possible story.

One possible successful outcome, yes. If you call this "the story", then
what do you call the game itself? A game is not a story, was my point. It
may contain/produce/intend/privilege a certain sequence of events, but as
long as there are mutually exclusive alternatives, depending on the
player's actions, the game itself is something other than a story (as
defined by theories of narrative).

> There are a number of trivial variations
> -- what order you do things in, for example (but by the time you've
> finished the story you *have* done all of them.)

So if I do things that don't affect the outcome in a positive way, that is
not part of the story? Then what is it part of?

I seems to me (correct me if I assume wrongly) that you define story as
something like "the set of actions that will lead to a successful
conclusion." I think "subgoals" (or perhaps even "walkthru") is a better
term for this.

> There are a lot of
> "failed" stories, where you die or screw up or generally lose, but
> it's clear to the player that these are not *the* story that the
> author intended.

They are obviously intended, but not as the goal. But a failed outcome
constitutes (the end of) a story just as much as a successful one.

A story can't be lost, but a game can.

> Jigsaw works like this, Christminster does, Weather does, pretty much
> every game we're familiar with does. The player is not satisfied until
> he has uncovered and completed the single story that the author wrote.

> This is why I say such a work is both a story (fiction) and a game.

A game trying to be a story. As I see it, this is the biggest aesthetic
problem of the genre. Until adventure game writers stop trying to emulate
narrative literature, and instead start to look for the possibilities
native to the medium, the tradition will remain at a standstill.

> I have argued all this before.

As have I.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

Kathleen Fischer

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Jun 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/5/96
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espen....@hf.uib.no writes:
> [pseudo-example adventure game log deleted]

> > ----------------


> > so, why isn't that a story?
>

> But _that_ *is* a story. However, the adventure game used to produce that
> story is not itself a story. It is not "an account of incidents or
> events", but it makes several *different* stories possible. See the
> difference?

"A distinction without a difference."


Julian Arnold

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Jun 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/5/96
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In article <espen.aarseth-0...@mac22.hf.uib.no>,

mailto:espen....@hf.uib.no wrote:
>
> In article <4p2hm4$d...@lll-winken.llnl.gov>, Kathleen Fischer
> <kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> wrote:
>
> [...]
> > Hmmm, I looked "story" up in my Webster's Ninth New Collegiate
> > Dictionary...
>
> > story (n) 1 archaic : HISTORY 1,3
> > 2a : an account of incidents or events
> > b : a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a
> > situation in question
> > 3a : a fictional narrative shorter than a novel
> > b : the intrigue or plot of a narrative or dramatic work
>
> > -------- Warning: Lame example to follow
>
> [pseudo-example adventure game log deleted]
>
>
> > ----------------
> > so, why isn't that a story?
>
> But _that_ *is* a story. However, the adventure game used to produce that
> story is not itself a story. It is not "an account of incidents or
> events", but it makes several *different* stories possible. See the
> difference?

Well, if for the sake of argument we take Webster's definition as the
definitive definition (IMO not usually a particularly good move as
dictionaries vary so much in their definitions) then I would agree with you
to an extent. The IF transcript does not comply with some of the above
definitions. However it does with others. For instance, it contained the
"intrigue or plot of a narrative" although in itself it may not have been
that narrative. I say "may not", because an argument could also be made that
the IF was a narrative, just as much as the F.

In fact, maybe I don't agree with you after all. :) The definition is wrong,
in that it is not aware of interactive fiction, and therefore cannot account
for it.

I think the simple problem is that dictionaries do not consider fiction in an
interactive sense. I'd guess that if you look in any dictionary for the
words "fiction" or "story" or "narrative" or similar the definition will
implicitly relate only to traditional, static fiction. For instance, my
dictionary defines story as "a narrative of incidents in their sequence",
which IMO could be either IF or F-- the issue of interactivity is just not
raised. (Interestingly, this rigid definition would also preclude, say a
book or film, which contained flashback sequences or scenes not in their
chronological order, but there you go).

> Another example: A game of football is not the same as a TV-transmission
> of the game. In the latter case, camera angles, commentators, and
> producers make sure that the viewers get an account of the game, not the
> game itself. The difference between a game and a story is the difference
> between playing and watching. Quite different, in fact.

But also, the live football game, or at least the details of it, may appear
differently to individual spectators, based on the physical viewing location
or which team they support. In the same way people may bring certain
emotional or intellectual preconceptions to a story which they are reading or
hearing, and this will colour their interpretation of the story. Similarly,
the means by which the story is related will have an effect on its meaning.
In this way all stories are somewhat interactive. It's just that this
interactivity is more explicit in IF (OK, it also manifests itself very
differently, and, unlike in F, is fundamental to the form, but I think the
basic point I've made above is still valid).

Jools


espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/6/96
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In article <ant05154...@arnod.demon.co.uk>, Julian Arnold
<jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> > In article <4p2hm4$d...@lll-winken.llnl.gov>, Kathleen Fischer
> > <kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> wrote:

> > [...]


> > > Hmmm, I looked "story" up in my Webster's Ninth New Collegiate
> > > Dictionary...

> > > story (n) 1 archaic : HISTORY 1,3
> > > 2a : an account of incidents or events
> > > b : a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a
> > > situation in question
> > > 3a : a fictional narrative shorter than a novel
> > > b : the intrigue or plot of a narrative or dramatic work
> >
> > > -------- Warning: Lame example to follow

> > [pseudo-example adventure game log deleted]


> > > ----------------
> > > so, why isn't that a story?

> > But _that_ *is* a story. However, the adventure game used to produce that


> > story is not itself a story. It is not "an account of incidents or
> > events", but it makes several *different* stories possible. See the
> > difference?

> Well, if for the sake of argument we take Webster's definition as the
> definitive definition (IMO not usually a particularly good move as
> dictionaries vary so much in their definitions) then I would agree with you
> to an extent. The IF transcript does not comply with some of the above
> definitions. However it does with others. For instance, it contained the
> "intrigue or plot of a narrative" although in itself it may not have been
> that narrative. I say "may not", because an argument could also be made that
> the IF was a narrative, just as much as the F.

> In fact, maybe I don't agree with you after all. :) The definition is wrong,
> in that it is not aware of interactive fiction, and therefore cannot account
> for it.

I prefer to leave the term "interactive fiction" alone and talk of
adventure games, since "IF" is merely a marketing buzzword with no
analytical/theoretical value.

The only problem with the Webster definitions of "story" is that they
should have included a proper narratological alternative (something like
the _fabula_ of Aristotle or the russian formalists, Genette's _histoire_
etc.) instead of setting it equal to "plot". The story/plot distinction is
essential (se below).

> I think the simple problem is that dictionaries do not consider fiction in an
> interactive sense. I'd guess that if you look in any dictionary for the
> words "fiction" or "story" or "narrative" or similar the definition will
> implicitly relate only to traditional, static fiction.

There is of course also the rather less traditional, but still static,
hypertext fiction. The reason that we don't call games (such as, say,
Monopoly) fictions is that it is more useful to call them something else.
The are constructed differently from fiction, follow other ontological
principles, and must be approached in different ways by their users. The
relationship between fiction and the (various types of) adventure game is
a highly complex one.

> For instance, my
> dictionary defines story as "a narrative of incidents in their sequence",
> which IMO could be either IF or F-- the issue of interactivity is just not
> raised.

Since there is only one sequence (and this is a defining trait of
(written) narrative), there is no room for user interference. So there is
no issue of "interactivity" to raise.

Charmingly, The Sunday Times reported recently that some Hollywood
consortium was going to produce an "interactive movie" that would be
exactly ten minutes long! If the user can't even influence the endurance,
what else is there to influence?

> (Interestingly, this rigid definition would also preclude, say a
> book or film, which contained flashback sequences or scenes not in their
> chronological order, but there you go).

Sorry, but this is wrong. One commonly distinguishes between story and
plot (discourse, _sjuzet_). Story is the events in chronological order,
while plot is the sequence in which they are told. A narrative (e.g. King
Oedipus) may relate the cronological events A, B, C in the plot order B,
A, C.

> > Another example: A game of football is not the same as a TV-transmission
> > of the game. In the latter case, camera angles, commentators, and
> > producers make sure that the viewers get an account of the game, not the
> > game itself. The difference between a game and a story is the difference
> > between playing and watching. Quite different, in fact.

> But also, the live football game, or at least the details of it, may appear
> differently to individual spectators, based on the physical viewing location
> or which team they support. In the same way people may bring certain
> emotional or intellectual preconceptions to a story which they are reading or
> hearing, and this will colour their interpretation of the story. Similarly,
> the means by which the story is related will have an effect on its meaning.
> In this way all stories are somewhat interactive.

The watcher/reader is always actively constructing meaning. But in games,
the participant is also constructing sequence. It's a different thing.

Adventure games will never make good novels, because they are not novels.
But they are still literature. The fact that it is a different genre, with
quite different aesthetic possibilities, should be exploited, not covered
up.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Jun 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/6/96
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This has come down to:

"You can't make a story that way."

"It's already been done."

"It must have been a failure, because you can't make a story that
way."

I shall therefore shut up. I hope to have a new Inform game released
by the end of this month. (Although other constraints may interfere
with that, dammit.) It will be a story.

Julian Arnold

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Jun 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/6/96
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> [...big snip...]

Ok, your points are well taken. I think that this discussion shows that
there is little point in arguing definitions-- for the most part they simply
aren't well-defined enough, and the precise meaning of a word or concept is
often interpreted subtly, but very, differently by different dictionaries and
individuals.

I do still think that dictionary definitions fail interactive literature
because they simply aren't aware of it. Who's going to cook up some good
defs and submit them to their favourite dictionary-publishers? :)

> Adventure games will never make good novels, because they are not novels.
> But they are still literature. The fact that it is a different genre, with
> quite different aesthetic possibilities, should be exploited, not covered
> up.

You're right that text adventures are a different genre than static novels,
and have different possibilities. I suppose maybe the similarities between
the two have been wrongly highlighted in the past in an attempt to counter
the "it's just a game" argument.

Jools

Caesar

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Jun 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/6/96
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gra...@preston.zynet.co.uk wrote:
: Fiction is a storey with characters, scenes and events constructed by an
: author in a specific order. The story is unfolded by the author in
: a controlled and precise manner to create the desired emotions in the
: reader. There is only one plot, one route through the pages of the
: story, one sequence of events, and that is the one created by
: the author.

Not all fiction involves characters (Finnigan's Wake). I would have to
define fiction very loosely, as a description using words that is not
strictly factual (that is, made up). I realize this would include jokes
and simple descriptions, but I don't have a clear way of restricting it.

I-F departs from traditional story-telling in that it both uses a computer
as the medium and as a result of the computer's capabilities allows the
traditionally passive role of the reader to be more of a participant. The
level of participation in the computer medium can vary: I-F allows much
more participation than a hypertext story, and as a consequence, I-F is
built to be much more flexible.

I would call I-F "stories" or "fiction." They just don't feel like it
yet, with respect to traditional reading material.


/* Darrell S. Rudmann, drud...@csulb.edu
Psychology Department, CSU Long Beach, CA 90840-0901
"Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana." (G. Marx)
PGP Public key: finger drud...@nox.cs.du.edu */

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
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In article <espen.aarseth-0...@mac22.hf.uib.no>,

Really?

I can agree with you, Espen, on one thing: IF writers who try too hard to
make their games into a traditional, linear narrative, will not utilize
the possibilities of their medium to the full.

I don't know if this is what you had in mind, but for me, this brings
the "cut scenes" of certain recent games to mind: long, essentially
non-interactive sequences, where the player is simply witnessing events
unfolding, sometimes even being a passive witness to the protagonist's
thoughts.

But you seem to be implying that this is what the majority of IF
writers are doing, and I can't agree with you there. A rather small
fraction of IF tries to emulate "narrative literature" in that sense.


As for the more general question, "Can an adventure game be a story",
well, of course an adventure game is *more* than a story, but it
*contains* a narrative - or many narratives - it usually has a plot,
and so on. Traditional plot-building techniques (see for example
Whizzard's Guide) work for adventure games as well. The narrative(s)
contained in an adventure game can be analyzed as any narrative.


And, finally, I find theoretical discussions of the "possibilities
inherent in the medium", and of how people should or shouldn't write
games (or stories, or film scripts, or whatever) to be a pretty dry
exercise. You can theorize all you want; what counts is actual works
of IF, and how the audience reacts to them. I think we should stop
telling everybody how *we* think that *they* should write, and instead
go and write something ourselves. If it's good enough, people will
learn from it, perhaps emulate it. If you want to realize the full
potential of the medium, then do it, don't expect someone else to do
it for you just because you told them that what they're writing now is
wrong.

I think I'll leave this debate for now, and spend my energies on my
competition entry.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)
Speaking as a private citizen & taxpayer - no more, no less.

Espen Aarseth

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Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
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In article <AlhlI5e00WB2QMKgQ=@andrew.cmu.edu>, "Andrew C. Plotkin"
<erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:

> This has come down to:
>
> "You can't make a story that way."
>
> "It's already been done."
>
> "It must have been a failure, because you can't make a story that
> way."

Thank you for representing my views with such succinctness, objectivity,
and yet nuance. Yours is a truly rare gift.

> I shall therefore shut up.

Show me, don't tell me.

Kathleen Fischer

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Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
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Children, let's all play nicely together, ok?

--
// Kathleen Fischer
// kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov
// *** "Don't stop to stomp ants while the elephants are stampeding" ***


L.J. Wischik

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Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
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Magnus Olsson <m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:
>I can agree with you, Espen, on one thing: IF writers who try too hard to
>make their games into a traditional, linear narrative, will not utilize
>the possibilities of their medium to the full.

I remember playing Ultima VII. The entire game is graphical role-playing
with lots of story and interraction with other characters. It is, on the
whole, totally 'free': you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.
My favourite moment out of all of them was when you entered the court room
and stopped controlling things: you were stuck behind bars, you were not
allowed to speak, and everyone else spoke and acted and moved about. The
story was powerful and exciting. While I'd agree that the entire game
shouldn't be one long sequence like this, I'm convinced that
non-interractive scenes like this throughout the game (but ones that occur
within the same paradigm as the other parts of play) are a Good Thing.

--
Lucian

David Baggett

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Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
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In article <espen.aarseth-0...@hdbea.hf.uib.no>,
Espen Aarseth <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:

>As long as adventure game get their aesthetic ideals from a outside (and
>much stronger) tradition, the genre will not achieve the independence that
>would mark its rise to maturity.

Could you be more specifc about what specific sources you imagine
interactive fiction authors drawing upon?

I'm getting the same feeling from your recents notes here that I get from
overly-eager AI newbies: so many ideas waiting to be proven, if only
someone would get off his duff and *code*. And yet, these ideas never seem
to go anywhere, because when someone does sit down to code, he finds that
the ideas are not fleshed out enough after all --- that, in fact, the very
ideas represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. (Much as
people believe that the best way to reproduce a melody is to sing it,
rather than play it on an instruement, but then find that they can't get
the notes quite right, whereas once they've mastered an instrument they can
get the notes right every time.)

I don't mean to criticize here, except insofar as I don't think it's at all
useful to speak in generalities about IF any more than it has been to do so
about AI. (In the domain of AI, I would say it has been worse than useless
to do so --- it has had a misleading and therefore negative effect.)

>And how has the audience reacted the last 10 years?

Games like _Full Throttle_ do perfectly well, and they're certainly
interactive stories rooted in the text adventure tradition. How's
Zork Nemesis selling?

Or are you asking how the literary community feels? The answer to that is
that they have so little clue that they still think hyperfiction is the
only interesting interactive literature around...

>Ah, yes.. Critics, interlectuals, and discussions about principles; who
>needs them? After all, The Artist always knows best..

The artist knows what is really implementable. Right now, the vast, vast
majority of ideas proposed by theoreticians and critics for interactive
media are absurdly impractical. It's easy to criticise existing works for
what they don't do vs. what they could (I do it myself), but one has to
realize that most of what we say "could be done" is well beyond the
frontier of knowledge representation technology. As a result, this
newsgroup often reminds me of comp.compression, where every few days some
newbie will come along and claim to have invented "perfect compression",
which by definition defies the most basic results of information theory.

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu
"Mr. Price: Please don't try to make things nice! The wrong notes are *right*."
--- Charles Ives (note to copyist on the autograph score of The Fourth of July)

Espen Aarseth

unread,
Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
to

In article <4p8sbo$h...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

> >In article <8lhOqWC00...@andrew.cmu.edu>, "Andrew C. Plotkin"


> ><erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:
> >> Jigsaw works like this, Christminster does, Weather does, pretty much
> >> every game we're familiar with does. The player is not satisfied until
> >> he has uncovered and completed the single story that the author wrote.

> >> This is why I say such a work is both a story (fiction) and a game.

> >A game trying to be a story. As I see it, this is the biggest aesthetic
> >problem of the genre. Until adventure game writers stop trying to emulate
> >narrative literature, and instead start to look for the possibilities
> >native to the medium, the tradition will remain at a standstill.

> Really?

Yup.

> I can agree with you, Espen, on one thing: IF writers who try too hard to
> make their games into a traditional, linear narrative, will not utilize
> the possibilities of their medium to the full.

Good.

As long as adventure game get their aesthetic ideals from a outside (and
much stronger) tradition, the genre will not achieve the independence that
would mark its rise to maturity.

> I don't know if this is what you had in mind, but for me, this brings


> the "cut scenes" of certain recent games to mind: long, essentially
> non-interactive sequences, where the player is simply witnessing events
> unfolding, sometimes even being a passive witness to the protagonist's
> thoughts.

Those are obvious ones; but...

> But you seem to be implying that this is what the majority of IF
> writers are doing, and I can't agree with you there. A rather small
> fraction of IF tries to emulate "narrative literature" in that sense.

the main problem is not the use of cut scenes, but the use of static
obligatory event sequences, usually enacted through one-solution puzzles.

> As for the more general question, "Can an adventure game be a story",
> well, of course an adventure game is *more* than a story, but it
> *contains* a narrative - or many narratives - it usually has a plot,
> and so on. Traditional plot-building techniques (see for example
> Whizzard's Guide) work for adventure games as well. The narrative(s)
> contained in an adventure game can be analyzed as any narrative.

A more interesting question, IMO, is "what happens when we import terms
from a different field (static texts) and uncritically apply them to this
new thing?"

My own answer is that it unconciously stifles the creative freedom of the
writer, who in this case gets used to thinking about adventure games as
stories. This perspective will limit the potential for getting somewhere
we have not been before, like a crutch we have no need for.

> And, finally, I find theoretical discussions of the "possibilities
> inherent in the medium", and of how people should or shouldn't write
> games (or stories, or film scripts, or whatever) to be a pretty dry
> exercise. You can theorize all you want; what counts is actual works
> of IF, and how the audience reacts to them.

And how has the audience reacted the last 10 years?

> I think we should stop


> telling everybody how *we* think that *they* should write, and instead
> go and write something ourselves. If it's good enough, people will
> learn from it, perhaps emulate it. If you want to realize the full
> potential of the medium, then do it, don't expect someone else to do
> it for you just because you told them that what they're writing now is
> wrong.

Ah, yes.. Critics, interlectuals, and discussions about principles; who


needs them? After all, The Artist always knows best..

> I think I'll leave this debate for now,

Since you obviously don't anticipate the possibility of an interesting
response to your posting, you'll forgive me for not wasting too much of my
time with this reply.

> and spend my energies on my
> competition entry.

Good luck with that.

Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
to

In article <espen.aarseth-0...@hdbea.hf.uib.no>,
Espen Aarseth <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:
>In article <4p8sbo$h...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
[..]

>As long as adventure game get their aesthetic ideals from a outside (and
>much stronger) tradition, the genre will not achieve the independence that
>would mark its rise to maturity.
Define "aesthetic ideals." Define "maturity." Define "independence," for
that matter. By "maturity," do you mean a time when IF will be discussed
in formal literary criticism? ("Ah, yes, I think the character of the
thief clearly represents the character's supressed sexual urges ..").
Honestly, I don't think we're even at a state when we know where we're
going, let alone when we know how to get there. And the best way to
find out is trying things. Currently, we're trying fiction. Possibly
it will work, possibly it won't.

[..]


>> But you seem to be implying that this is what the majority of IF
>> writers are doing, and I can't agree with you there. A rather small
>> fraction of IF tries to emulate "narrative literature" in that sense.
>
>the main problem is not the use of cut scenes, but the use of static
>obligatory event sequences, usually enacted through one-solution puzzles.

"static obligatory event sequences"? Couldn't you just say "things the
player has to go through"? Perhaps that's not very clear either .. hmm.
I've been hunting around through backthreads trying to figure out what
you want from IF, and haven't succeeded. Maybe you could expound on
what a game that we could realistically make today (with no
static obligatory event sequences, of course) would be like?

[..]


>A more interesting question, IMO, is "what happens when we import terms
>from a different field (static texts) and uncritically apply them to this
>new thing?"
>
>My own answer is that it unconciously stifles the creative freedom of the
>writer, who in this case gets used to thinking about adventure games as
>stories. This perspective will limit the potential for getting somewhere
>we have not been before, like a crutch we have no need for.

I'm still confused here. How are we uncritically applying these terms,
and what terms are you talking about? (Besides "story," which there
seems to be some controversy over). I just don't understand where you
think we should be going, I guess, and so I find it hard to relate to
anything else you're saying.

>> And, finally, I find theoretical discussions of the "possibilities
>> inherent in the medium", and of how people should or shouldn't write
>> games (or stories, or film scripts, or whatever) to be a pretty dry
>> exercise. You can theorize all you want; what counts is actual works
>> of IF, and how the audience reacts to them.
>
>And how has the audience reacted the last 10 years?

Umm.. they've all switched to graphical IF and DOOM?

>> I think we should stop
>> telling everybody how *we* think that *they* should write, and instead
>> go and write something ourselves. If it's good enough, people will
>> learn from it, perhaps emulate it. If you want to realize the full
>> potential of the medium, then do it, don't expect someone else to do
>> it for you just because you told them that what they're writing now is
>> wrong.
>
>Ah, yes.. Critics, interlectuals, and discussions about principles; who
>needs them? After all, The Artist always knows best..

I don't think that's what he was saying. I think what he *was* saying is
that when it comes to it, we have to write the games to make the
"advancements" in the field. Games don't get written by doing litcrit on
rai-f, and they certainly don't get written by doing *meta*litcrit here.

--
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.


espen....@hf.uib.no

unread,
Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
to

In article <4p9l49$6...@nntp4.u.washington.edu>, scy...@u.washington.edu
(Dan Shiovitz) wrote:

> In article <espen.aarseth-0...@hdbea.hf.uib.no>,
> Espen Aarseth <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:

> >As long as adventure game get their aesthetic ideals from a outside (and
> >much stronger) tradition, the genre will not achieve the independence that
> >would mark its rise to maturity.

> Define "aesthetic ideals." Define "maturity." Define "independence," for
> that matter.

Oh, stop sounding like a C header file! If you really don't know what they
mean, look them up in a dictionary.

> By "maturity," do you mean a time when IF will be discussed
> in formal literary criticism?

No. I mean a time when adventure games reach a stage comparable to the
moving camera of the early film makers.

> ("Ah, yes, I think the character of the
> thief clearly represents the character's supressed sexual urges ..").

Freudian-literary-pseudo-interpretation-bashing went out of style years
ago..didn't they tell you?

> Honestly, I don't think we're even at a state when we know where we're
> going, let alone when we know how to get there. And the best way to
> find out is trying things. Currently, we're trying fiction. Possibly
> it will work, possibly it won't.

Do you want to talk about it? This is not a trick question..

> [..]
> >> But you seem to be implying that this is what the majority of IF
> >> writers are doing, and I can't agree with you there. A rather small
> >> fraction of IF tries to emulate "narrative literature" in that sense.
> >
> >the main problem is not the use of cut scenes, but the use of static
> >obligatory event sequences, usually enacted through one-solution puzzles.
>
> "static obligatory event sequences"? Couldn't you just say "things the
> player has to go through"? Perhaps that's not very clear either .. hmm.

What is so unclear, since you obviously managed to make sense of it? Or
are you just being difficult?

> I've been hunting around through backthreads trying to figure out what
> you want from IF, and haven't succeeded. Maybe you could expound on
> what a game that we could realistically make today (with no
> static obligatory event sequences, of course) would be like?

Well (and I am glad you asked) how about something where the player does
not get the feeling of being led by the nose, dancing to the
game-designer's tune, filling in the blanks like those draw-by-number
pictures? Where it is not clear, not even for the designer, exactly what
is going to happen? I would like an adventure game where the surprises
keeps me coming back several times, and where I experience something like
a world, and not a carefully planned obstacle race.

This may or may not be realistic, but the technology is not the bottleneck, IMO.



> [..]
> >A more interesting question, IMO, is "what happens when we import terms
> >from a different field (static texts) and uncritically apply them to this
> >new thing?"

> >My own answer is that it unconciously stifles the creative freedom of the
> >writer, who in this case gets used to thinking about adventure games as
> >stories. This perspective will limit the potential for getting somewhere
> >we have not been before, like a crutch we have no need for.

> I'm still confused here. How are we uncritically applying these terms,
> and what terms are you talking about? (Besides "story," which there
> seems to be some controversy over).

Terms: Story, plot, narrative, interactive, fiction, etc.

They are applied uncritically when they are used without concern for how
the things they used to describe differs from what we now want them to
describe. Take "interactive". For a relationship to be interactive, you
need two equally powerful, mutually interaware entities. "Interactive
fiction" is just a fiction, coined to sound good and sell the product. It
doesn't live up to its promise, and most likely never will. (It is quite
like "virtual reality".) As a theorist, I don't touch the term.

> I just don't understand where you
> think we should be going, I guess, and so I find it hard to relate to
> anything else you're saying.

Fair enough. Hope this posting clears that up some.

> >> And, finally, I find theoretical discussions of the "possibilities
> >> inherent in the medium", and of how people should or shouldn't write
> >> games (or stories, or film scripts, or whatever) to be a pretty dry
> >> exercise. You can theorize all you want; what counts is actual works
> >> of IF, and how the audience reacts to them.
> >
> >And how has the audience reacted the last 10 years?

> Umm.. they've all switched to graphical IF and DOOM?

Yes. And I don't think graphics is the main reason why that happened.
There are some very boring graphical games out there (e.g. Myst).

> >> I think we should stop
> >> telling everybody how *we* think that *they* should write, and instead
> >> go and write something ourselves. If it's good enough, people will
> >> learn from it, perhaps emulate it. If you want to realize the full
> >> potential of the medium, then do it, don't expect someone else to do
> >> it for you just because you told them that what they're writing now is
> >> wrong.

> >Ah, yes.. Critics, interlectuals, and discussions about principles; who
> >needs them? After all, The Artist always knows best..

> I don't think that's what he was saying. I think what he *was* saying is
> that when it comes to it, we have to write the games to make the
> "advancements" in the field. Games don't get written by doing litcrit on
> rai-f, and they certainly don't get written by doing *meta*litcrit here.

There are plenty of games, so that's not the problem. But from this
discussion so far, it seems to me that some good ol' self-critical
thinking is just what is lacking. There may be good alternatives to
"litcrit", but this horticultural "I-just-want-to-write-me-game" attitude
is not it.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
to

espen....@hf.uib.no (Espen Aarseth) writes:
> In article <AlhlI5e00WB2QMKgQ=@andrew.cmu.edu>, "Andrew C. Plotkin"

> <erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:
>
> > This has come down to:
> >
> > "You can't make a story that way."
> >
> > "It's already been done."
> >
> > "It must have been a failure, because you can't make a story that
> > way."
>
> Thank you for representing my views with such succinctness, objectivity,
> and yet nuance. Yours is a truly rare gift.

I have been complimented on my prose before. :)

> > I shall therefore shut up.
>
> Show me, don't tell me.

Like I said, I will be able to show something by July. But
beta-testing has not yet completed.

Or, I guess you meant to shut up rather than talk about shutting up.
Would you like to see the six or eight paragraphs I *didn't* post?

--Z

(Ok, I'm kidding. I only constructed a couple of sentences, and
they're not worth posting.)

Nulldogma

unread,
Jun 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/8/96
to

> > >And how has the audience reacted the last 10 years?

> > Umm.. they've all switched to graphical IF and DOOM?

> Yes. And I don't think graphics is the main reason why that happened.
> There are some very boring graphical games out there (e.g. Myst).

Well, the fact that Myst is on every Software Etc. shelf on the planet,
whereas discovering new I-F requires finding your way to an ftp site in
Germany, may just have *something* to do with that. There's a reason why
companies spend money on marketing. (Does anyone know how Infocom's sales
have been on Lost Treasures, meanwhile? I'd bet they've done fairly well
-- or they wouldn't still be trying to milk the market with new graphic
Zorks.)

I'm with all those who've had enough of this academic argument. There are
plenty of I-F works out there that people like, and plenty people don't.
Unless you can say "I want something more like this game, and less like
that one" -- or better, just write what you want to do and then show us --
it's getting a bit tiresome.

Neil

Gerry Kevin Wilson

unread,
Jun 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/8/96
to

>No. I mean a time when adventure games reach a stage comparable to the
>moving camera of the early film makers.

Well, that'll probably be around the time that gamers get tired of the
SOS and we have some inventive people with actual power to control what
they write. Judging by the response to DOOM, we still have a good 10
years before people get tired of witty new game engines and want a good
artistic as well as entertaining game. In fact, it might never happen at
all. Still, with Hollywood getting into the act, things could go either
more artistic, or less artistic, depending on whose money runs things.

>Well (and I am glad you asked) how about something where the player does
>not get the feeling of being led by the nose, dancing to the
>game-designer's tune, filling in the blanks like those draw-by-number
>pictures? Where it is not clear, not even for the designer, exactly what
>is going to happen? I would like an adventure game where the surprises
>keeps me coming back several times, and where I experience something like
>a world, and not a carefully planned obstacle race.

I see. This is an odd statement considering the way you write off
virtual reality below. Consider too that business-wise, an eternally
entertaining product is self-defeating, unless it breaks after a certain
amount of time. On the other hand, if you want what I think you want
(i.e. a simulationist style of game with randomized plot elements) then
you will probably not find someone willing to put the amount of effort
into it that it would require. Everything must be programmed. We have
no magic set of object classes that will create multiple puzzle solutions
on their own.

>This may or may not be realistic, but the technology is not the bottleneck,
> IMO.

It most certainly is a pipedream unless you either do it yourself (see
you in a few years) or convince someone else to do it for you. (Good
luck. A writer who'll write something he has little or no control over...)
Please remember exponential growth before you write off what today's IF
writers have accomplished. Start with 50 objects. Add 1. Now work out
how that 1 object interacts with all those other objects. Add 1 more.
Now work out how IT interacts with the other 51 objects. For x objects,
there are (help me out here folks, my math is worthless) !(n-1)
interactions which must be pared down to size. Now, my game currently
has over 1100 objects, around 300 of which are rooms, and another 100
perhaps are classes of various sorts, so can be eliminated. That leaves
me around !699 interactions to make, which I can tell you is a rather
large number.

So I look at this number and start to cry. Then I try to pare down as
many possibilities as I can. How do I do this? I impose standard
interactions on objects, and I impose plot on the game. The more linear
and restrictive the plot, the less work I do.

The bottleneck isn't the stubborness of the authors to listen to your
ideas. It's the length of our lifespan, and it IS the technology. I
haven't seen a knowledge base for IF yet. I haven't seen neural net
NPCs. I sure don't know how to code them up, nor would I want to.
Representing reality in more than a sketchy way is very complicated, and
again experiences exponential growth.

Now, maybe I'm on the wrong tack of what your idea is here, but it does
sound very similar to proposals we've heard in the past. Replayability,
lack of restrictive plot, simulated worlds, this is not a new concept.

Now if you want to discuss what can reasonably be done to increase
interactivity, that's great. Your idea is very complicated though,
moreso than it appears from the outside looking in. It faces many of the
same problems AI faces, and until we see more from the AI researchers, I
fear that this sort of game is beyond our reach.

>Terms: Story, plot, narrative, interactive, fiction, etc.
>
>They are applied uncritically when they are used without concern for how
>the things they used to describe differs from what we now want them to
>describe. Take "interactive". For a relationship to be interactive, you
>need two equally powerful, mutually interaware entities. "Interactive
>fiction" is just a fiction, coined to sound good and sell the product. It
>doesn't live up to its promise, and most likely never will. (It is quite
>like "virtual reality".) As a theorist, I don't touch the term.

Okay, this sounds directed at my guide to authoring i-f, so I'll respond
to it as well. The reason I use those terms is that that's the way I
write IF, as an interactive story with severe limitations on what sort of
control the player has. (i.e. an Infocom style parser.) Now, maybe I
should point out here that I'm not a professionally trained author, nor
am I trained in philosophy, so I don't really worry about the sort of
thing you mention. But still, I'm going to want a new paradigm to
communicate with before I abandon the old one. I talk in phrases like
"plot branches" and "characterization" and such because these are
well-defined, easy to understand terms that writers wanting to learn to
write IF are going to know.

If there's something wrong with writing a game using the techniques
elaborated on in Whizzard's Guide, I wish someone would've told me 3
years ago when I started applying them.

And in the meantime, I'm still going to call text adventures 'ifs', after
the method of programming so commonly used...

if (Me.location = WinnerCircle)
self.wingame;

>Yes. And I don't think graphics is the main reason why that happened.
>There are some very boring graphical games out there (e.g. Myst).

That's good to know. Of course, Myst sold quite a few copies, so maybe
your opinions aren't quite so universal. Of course, maybe they just
bought it for the pretty pictures, which I hear about constantly, and
which most game magazines include as one of their rating scales.

>There are plenty of games, so that's not the problem. But from this
>discussion so far, it seems to me that some good ol' self-critical
>thinking is just what is lacking. There may be good alternatives to
>"litcrit", but this horticultural "I-just-want-to-write-me-game" attitude
>is not it.

Well, anytime you're ready to begin some critical thinking, let us know.
So far you've managed to insult several very talented writers without
revealing a shred of original thought yourself. When you come to us and
tell us exactly how we've been sitting on our butts for years and doing
nothing, tell us how we don't ever consider how we should be writing our
games, and then don't drop a single original idea yourself, well, things
get standoffish, and communication ceases, and we have long threads like
this where we bicker pointlessly and try to outdo rec.games.frp.dnd's
fluff to stuff ratio.

Critical thinking about how we can realistically improve the art of IF is
all alot of us have been doing for several years. We've considered the
ideas you've expressed, and rejected them (for the present) for the
reasons I've expressed. There are technological and logistic
difficulties in a 'freestyle interactive literary experience' which cannot
currently be overcome for more than a pathetically short work. We need
better tools to work with, and we need more advanced learning algorithms
to be translated over to IF. Most of us are not capable of this sort of
programming, so we don't attempt it, we do the best we can with what we have.

Don't belittle folks' work just because you think you have a better way to
do it. You've managed to get my dander up, and I apologize for my
more caustic remarks. I've tried to explain why we non-freestyle
interactive literary experience don't do things your way, and hopefully
have made some good points. We have very real, very solid reasons for
using the style of interface we do, and for restricting plots the way we
do. Maybe someone will overcome these, but thus far, they've been
insurmountable. Have a look at the older archives for this newsgroup,
and read the threads on puzzle-less IF if you really want to continue on
the subject. Come back armed with some new arguments, and I'll be more
than happy to consider and debate them.

>_____________________________________________________________________
>espen aarseth aar...@uib.no


--
<~~~VERTIGO~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SPAG~~~~NINTH~ISSUE~DUE~REAL~SOON~NOW~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< The Society for the Preservation of Adventure games. Filled with | ~~\ >
< reviews, ratings, and advertisements...all about text adventures. | /~\ | >
<___SOFTWARE______E-MAIL...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Jun 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/8/96
to

whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson) writes:
> The bottleneck isn't the stubborness of the authors to listen to your
> ideas. It's the length of our lifespan, and it IS the technology. I
> haven't seen a knowledge base for IF yet. I haven't seen neural net
> NPCs. I sure don't know how to code them up, nor would I want to.
> Representing reality in more than a sketchy way is very complicated, and
> again experiences exponential growth.

I just want to write me sestina!

--Z

(That is a serious comment; that's how my position differs from
Whizzard's.)

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Jun 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/8/96
to

In article <espen.aarseth-0...@hdbea.hf.uib.no>,
Espen Aarseth <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:
>Ah, yes.. Critics, interlectuals, and discussions about principles; who
>needs them? After all, The Artist always knows best..

In a sense, the *audience* always knows best; people usually know what
they like and don't need critics to tell them what to like or why.
Only sheep need to be told what to like.

Artists are often wrong, but at least they are the ones who produce
something.

Critics - well, don't think I'm trying to blast critics, I've done
some criticism myself. And intellectuals - what is an intellectual
after all? And discussions about principles are interesting, but not
always productive; they can be, but more often than not they get
bogged down in hair-splitting metaprinciples and hypothetical cases.

But don't you ever make the mistake of thinking that you can tell
authors what they should do from theoretical principles and vague
generalities.

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Jun 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/9/96
to

In article <espen.aarseth-0...@hdbea.hf.uib.no>,
Espen Aarseth <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:
>In article <4p8sbo$h...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
>
>> >In article <8lhOqWC00...@andrew.cmu.edu>, "Andrew C. Plotkin"

>> ><erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:
>> >> Jigsaw works like this, Christminster does, Weather does, pretty much
>> >> every game we're familiar with does. The player is not satisfied until
>> >> he has uncovered and completed the single story that the author wrote.
>
>> >> This is why I say such a work is both a story (fiction) and a game.
>
>> >A game trying to be a story. As I see it, this is the biggest aesthetic
>> >problem of the genre.

Why is this such a big problem for you? You've repeatedly stated that
it's a problem, that you don't like it, and so on, but what exactly is
wrong with it? Why is it unsatisfying?

To prevent misunderstandings: I've understood that you don't think this
kind of IF realizes the possibilities of the medium, and I can agree with
you that it doesn't. For example, the possibilities of the medium
include world-building on the part of the player rather than that of
the author.

An amusing analogy from the world of RPG's: I heard of a Shadowrun
gamemaster who wasn't very generous with money; he'd send his players
on dangerous missions for so little pay that they decided to stop
accepting any missions, and took up stealing cars instead :-).

Now, the gamemaster in an RPG always has the possibility of adapting
to such situations, and letting his players steal cars for a while
(though this particular GM didn't, he killed them off instead). A
traditional piece of IF doesn't let the player deviate too far from
the the plot.


So, one possibility of the interactive medium is to let the player do
whatever he likes. In the extreme case, this of course leads to the
"simulationist" kind of IF.


But is this the *only* direction that IF can take? I think you, Espen,
as well as some other people who've been posting lately, tend to
assume that there is only *one* way to go.

>> > Until adventure game writers stop trying to emulate
>> >narrative literature, and instead start to look for the possibilities
>> >native to the medium, the tradition will remain at a standstill.

(...)

>As long as adventure game get their aesthetic ideals from a outside (and
>much stronger) tradition, the genre will not achieve the independence that
>would mark its rise to maturity.

When speaking of art in general terms, this is true. If a new art form
is to be recognized as a separate art form and not just adaptation or
imitation, it must find its own set of conventions, its own
aestethics, and so on. For example, film isn't just recorded theatre,
TV isn't just broadcast film, and so on.

So far for the generalities.

But in concrete terms, I think you are overstating your case. And more
than that: you're arguing from false premises, by constructing a
strawman, the hypothetical adventure game that tries slavishly to
follow the conventions of "static" fiction.

For the truth is that such a beast doesn't exist. The first adventure
games (Advent, Zork) didn't even try to introduce a coherent plot or
storyline. Advent started as a simulation, an "interactive map" where
the locations were described as text rather than pictures. Then puzzles
were added.

Zork is very similar. What narrative exists is either implicit in the
world (the background story) or arises naturally out of the puzzles:
the player is required to perform a timed series of events; the player
will naturally perceive this as plot.

Later games have become more and more "literary". This started already
with Infocom; perhaps because the authors discovered that their works
were incoherent and unsatisfying, perhaps because they wanted to
motivate their players by giving them an explicit plot.

But as I see it, rather few IF authors try to imitate "static"
fiction. Most IF in existence consists of a world to explore and a
number of puzzles to solve.

>the main problem is not the use of cut scenes, but the use of static
>obligatory event sequences, usually enacted through one-solution puzzles.

I think you're putting the cart before the horse here.

Most puzzles are one-solution things that require the player to go
through an "obligatory event sequence". But I think the puzzles are
the driving factor and not the means of enacting some master plan.

One very important reason is simplicity: its much simpler to construct
a game where every puzzle has just one solution, and where you have to
solve the puzzles in a certain order. Anybody who's ever tried writing an
adventure game knows what I'm talking about. Usually, the trouble is
creating a plot that forces the player to solve the puzzzles in the
right order, rather than creating puzzles that force the player to
follow the plot.

>
>> As for the more general question, "Can an adventure game be a story",
>> well, of course an adventure game is *more* than a story, but it
>> *contains* a narrative - or many narratives - it usually has a plot,
>> and so on. Traditional plot-building techniques (see for example
>> Whizzard's Guide) work for adventure games as well. The narrative(s)
>> contained in an adventure game can be analyzed as any narrative.
>

>A more interesting question, IMO, is "what happens when we import terms
>from a different field (static texts) and uncritically apply them to this
>new thing?"

They should never be applied *uncritically*, of course. Whizzard's
Guide is perhaps a bit uncritical in adopting the techniques used in
creating screenplays.

>My own answer is that it unconciously stifles the creative freedom of the
>writer, who in this case gets used to thinking about adventure games as
>stories. This perspective will limit the potential for getting somewhere
>we have not been before, like a crutch we have no need for.

Examples, please! Instead of just speculating about "stifled creative
freedom", please point to some cases where you can say that an actual
game actually suffers from the author wanting to tell a story.

As David Baggett has pointed out, it is oh so easy to say that artists
should throw away all conventions beacuse conventions just stifle
their creativity. But creativity doesn't work that way. Very few
people can just come up with something truly original out of thin air.


Actually, I'm more and more convinced that you have turned the whole
thing on its head.

It's not as if everybody first decided to write a computer game, and
then turned to the concept of "a game that is a story" for support. On
the contrary, many authors start with having a story to tell, and then
choose to use the medium of an interactive computer program. In this
case, it is *not* the conventions of storytelling that stifle
creativity, but the limitations of the medium.


>> And, finally, I find theoretical discussions of the "possibilities
>> inherent in the medium", and of how people should or shouldn't write
>> games (or stories, or film scripts, or whatever) to be a pretty dry
>> exercise. You can theorize all you want; what counts is actual works
>> of IF, and how the audience reacts to them.
>

>And how has the audience reacted the last 10 years?

That's a cheap remark.

But to answer your question: true, the audience has largely abandonde
text-based IF. But where have they gone? They seem to have turned to
grahic adventures instead, a genre which emulates film rather than
literature, but is just as constrained by plot and the conventions of
storytelling; in fact, even more constrained, for puerly practical
reasons (it's much more expensive to create video sequences of
alternative event sequences than to describe them in text).


>> I think we should stop
>> telling everybody how *we* think that *they* should write, and instead
>> go and write something ourselves. If it's good enough, people will
>> learn from it, perhaps emulate it. If you want to realize the full
>> potential of the medium, then do it, don't expect someone else to do
>> it for you just because you told them that what they're writing now is
>> wrong.
>

>Ah, yes.. Critics, interlectuals, and discussions about principles; who
>needs them? After all, The Artist always knows best..

I've already written a fairly impromptu and emotional response to that
last paragraph, but I'll think I'll have another go at it, since I've
thought things over since last night.

Critics are very useful, not for telling people what to like and not
to like, but for telling people what they _might_ like (a good review
may make me buy a book, see a film, or play a game I wouldn't have
considered otherwise). And critics are essential for providing
feedback to artists.

Intellectuals: again, I just ask "Who is an intellectual?" Not to be
snotty, just because I'm not sure what you mean.

Disucssions about pricniples can be very illuminating. They can also
miss the practical points entirely.

And is the artist always right? Yes and no.

The artist is always right in the sense that it's the artist who is
trying to express something and it is not for critics or theorists to
tell him (or her) what he should express or how he should do it. Of
course, they can be _helpful_.

But in the case at hand, and now it's getting a bit personal:

I don't know if I would like to call myself an artist in public :-),
but when it comes to IF, I'm one of the people who's actually doing the
writing (I do a fair lot of theorizing as well, as you may have
noticed). In particular, I happen to think that I have a story or two
to tell. I also happen to think that I've found an interesting medium
to tell those stories.

Now, who are you to tell me that I'm wrong, without even having seen
the results?

If you can point to my upcoming games ("Dunjin" and "Zebulon" don't
really count, since "Dunjin" doesn't really claim to be a story, and
"Zebulon" is just a trifle) and tell me exactly where I went wrong,
where I failed to realize the full potential of the medium, where my
creativity was stifled, where I had to cling to the crutches of
another genre's conventions, I'll be perfectly happy to listen and learn.

For, of course, artists are often wrong in the sense that they fail
in expressing whatever they wanted to express, fail to amuse their
audience, or whatever.

But I resent being told - on theoretical grounds and from pure
generalities - that I'm merely contributing to the general stagnation
of the genre.

>> I think I'll leave this debate for now,
>
>Since you obviously don't anticipate the possibility of an interesting
>response to your posting, you'll forgive me for not wasting too much of my
>time with this reply.

"Obviously"? I'm sorry for the misunderstanding and for expressing
myself ambiguously; I didn't mean anything like that at all, just that
I didn't intend to post any more myself. Which, of course, turned out
to be wrong. I should have learned by now...

Finally, my remarks should by no means be taken as implying that *all*
IF must follow the conventions of written literature, or that all IF
should have a single plotline, or even that all IF should have a story
to tell. Far from it. In fact, I'd love to see an example of your kind
of IF, the kind that realizes the full potentials of the medium. But
I'm afraid that you or somebody else will have to provide that example
before I can agree that story-based IF is moribund.

bonni mierzejewska

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Jun 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/9/96
to

On 8 Jun 1996 20:20:28 GMT, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

>Only sheep need to be told what to like.

A totally off-topic aside: I have a small flock of sheep, and you can't
tell them what to like - they know *exactly* what they like. (And what
they don't - you should hear my grumpy 8-year-old ewe after I've given her
an oral worm medicine...)

:O)
bonni
coming soon - 1996 IF Competition entry
C++ Turbo Vision archive: http://brooks.wvn.wvnet.edu/tvhome
__ __
IC | XC | bonni mierzejewska "The Lone Quilter"
---+--- | u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu
NI | KA | Kelly's Creek Homestead, Maidsville, WV

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/9/96
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>In article <4p9l49$6...@nntp4.u.washington.edu>, scy...@u.washington.edu
>(Dan Shiovitz) wrote:
>
>> In article <espen.aarseth-0...@hdbea.hf.uib.no>,
>> Espen Aarseth <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:

(quoting me, but the attribution has been lost on the way)

>> >> I think we should stop
>> >> telling everybody how *we* think that *they* should write, and instead
>> >> go and write something ourselves. If it's good enough, people will
>> >> learn from it, perhaps emulate it. If you want to realize the full
>> >> potential of the medium, then do it, don't expect someone else to do
>> >> it for you just because you told them that what they're writing now is
>> >> wrong.
>
>> >Ah, yes.. Critics, interlectuals, and discussions about principles; who
>> >needs them? After all, The Artist always knows best..
>

>> I don't think that's what he was saying. I think what he *was* saying is
>> that when it comes to it, we have to write the games to make the
>> "advancements" in the field.

Exactly. I'm glad there's somebody who seems to have understood the
point. Which is simply that art has never advanced, and will never
advance, merely because people *talk* about it. Art is advanced by
people *creating* things. And the same thing is true of every creative
endeavour. Of course, talking about it can be a help in understanding
what we're doing, but you can't expect people to develop a new
paradigm just because you tell them that the old paradigm is dead and
we need a new one.

>> Games don't get written by doing litcrit on
>> rai-f, and they certainly don't get written by doing *meta*litcrit here.
>

>There are plenty of games, so that's not the problem.

So why don't we all stop writing and spend the rest of our lives
discussing what we would write if we only knew how to do it? (Of
course, that's not what anybody is advocating.)

But I don't write because there's some quota of games to be filled,
and I honestly don't know how I should do to write a game that would
please you, Espen. Meanwhile, I have some ideas for IF that may not
create new paradigms, but will at least result in something. If people
don't like them because they feel "led by the nose", well, that's a
risk I'll have to take.

>But from this
>discussion so far, it seems to me that some good ol' self-critical
>thinking is just what is lacking.

Self-critical? With all due respect, Espen, you're not being
self-critical at all. You're criticizing other people's work from a
birds-eye perspective, with no risk of getting your hands dirty
actually doing anything constructive.

On the other hand, I think it should be pretty clear from the previous
discussion on this group that people _are_ indeed very conscious of
what they're doing. Self-critical, if you like.

>There may be good alternatives to
>"litcrit", but this horticultural "I-just-want-to-write-me-game" attitude
>is not it.

"Horticultural"? Well, I daresay the lowly gardener is a good deal
more productive than the chap leaning over the fence, telling him how
much better it would be if he could grow orange cucumbers rather than
green ones.

Adam J. Thornton

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Jun 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/9/96
to

In article <31b9b3ce...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu>,

bonni mierzejewska <u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu> wrote:
>On 8 Jun 1996 20:20:28 GMT, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
>>Only sheep need to be told what to like.
>A totally off-topic aside: I have a small flock of sheep, and you can't
>tell them what to like - they know *exactly* what they like.

Pasture

You are in a pasture. Rolling green hills lead down to a stream. The
farmhouse is to the west.

Shep the sheepdog is here.

Betty the Ewe is here.

>ASK BETTY ABOUT SHEP.

"Baa."

>ASK BETTY ABOUT BIG BAD WOLF.

"Bah!"

>ASK BETTY ABOUT MUTTON CHOPS.

"Bah!"

>ASK BETTY ABOUT GRASS

"Baa."

>ASK BETTY ABOUT WORM MEDICINE.

"Bah!"

>TELL BETTY ABOUT WORM MEDICINE.

You tell Betty that, although the worm medicine tastes foul, it will keep
her from getting sick. She regards you cynically and placidly.

>ASK BETTY ABOUT WORM MEDICINE.

"Bah!"


Adam
--
ad...@phoenix.princeton.edu | Viva HEGGA! | Save the choad! | 64,928 | Fnord
"Double integral is also the shape of lovers curled asleep":Pynchon | Linux
Thanks for letting me rearrange the chemicals in your head. | Team OS/2
You can have my PGP passphrase when you pry it from my cold, dead brain.

David Baggett

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Jun 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/9/96
to

>I would like an adventure game where the surprises keeps me coming back
>several times, and where I experience something like a world, and not a
>carefully planned obstacle race.
>
>This may or may not be realistic, but the technology is not the
>bottleneck, IMO.

If I may be so bold as to speak for the opposition, I think our main
response to this claim is that you will need to demonstrate that it is
*not* the techonology that's getting in the way (perhaps by showing a
simple proof of concept) before you're going to convince those of us who
have been trying to achieve what you envision for years now.

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <4pa1le$s...@life.ai.mit.edu>, d...@ai.mit.edu wrote:

> In article <espen.aarseth-0...@hdbea.hf.uib.no>,
> Espen Aarseth <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:

> >As long as adventure game get their aesthetic ideals from a outside (and
> >much stronger) tradition, the genre will not achieve the independence that
> >would mark its rise to maturity.

> Could you be more specifc about what specific sources you imagine

> interactive fiction authors drawing upon?

One example is Brenda Laurel's predilection for (Aristotelian) drama.

> >And how has the audience reacted the last 10 years?

> Games like _Full Throttle_ do perfectly well, and they're certainly


> interactive stories rooted in the text adventure tradition. How's
> Zork Nemesis selling?

> Or are you asking how the literary community feels? The answer to that is
> that they have so little clue that they still think hyperfiction is the
> only interesting interactive literature around...

They have been aware of adventure games since 1984. That's about twice as
long as their awareness of hyperfiction. The reason hyperfiction is more
successful with English professors is very simple: Works like Afternoon
are novels in the experimental, modernist tradition, while adventure games
are games. This is no value judgement; adv.games are just more exotic for
the English Dept. than hyperfiction is. And note that I don't think
adventure games have been getting the attention they deserve from literary
studies.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <4pf0oi$6...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

> >But from this
> >discussion so far, it seems to me that some good ol' self-critical
> >thinking is just what is lacking.

> Self-critical? With all due respect, Espen, you're not being
> self-critical at all. You're criticizing other people's work from a
> birds-eye perspective, with no risk of getting your hands dirty
> actually doing anything constructive.

You seem to know an awful lot about my thinking and working habits.

> On the other hand, I think it should be pretty clear from the previous
> discussion on this group that people _are_ indeed very conscious of
> what they're doing. Self-critical, if you like.

What modesty.

> >There may be good alternatives to
> >"litcrit", but this horticultural "I-just-want-to-write-me-game" attitude
> >is not it.

> "Horticultural"? Well, I daresay the lowly gardener is a good deal
> more productive than the chap leaning over the fence, telling him how
> much better it would be if he could grow orange cucumbers rather than
> green ones.

Nice image. But cucumbers are not very interesting vegetables.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <4peik4$q...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

> In article <espen.aarseth-0...@hdbea.hf.uib.no>,
> Espen Aarseth <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:

> >> >A game trying to be a story. As I see it, this is the biggest aesthetic
> >> >problem of the genre.

> Why is this such a big problem for you? You've repeatedly stated that
> it's a problem, that you don't like it, and so on, but what exactly is
> wrong with it? Why is it unsatisfying?

Because if I want to read a story, I prefer to read a story where I don't
have to guess exactly what the author expects me to do in order to
continue reading. When I play games, I like my participation to be
creative; that is, I like to discover potentially unknown ways in which to
progress. In short, I don't want to feel like a puppet. I may still be
one, but that's okay as long as the game doesn't make me feel like one.

[...]


> So, one possibility of the interactive medium is to let the player do
> whatever he likes. In the extreme case, this of course leads to the
> "simulationist" kind of IF.

> But is this the *only* direction that IF can take? I think you, Espen,
> as well as some other people who've been posting lately, tend to
> assume that there is only *one* way to go.

Not exactly. But I think the development of increasingly better tools will
eventually lead to more simulationist games. Which is a good thing, and I
admire the people on this group who are building tools.

> [...] I think you are overstating your case. And more


> than that: you're arguing from false premises, by constructing a
> strawman, the hypothetical adventure game that tries slavishly to
> follow the conventions of "static" fiction.

No, in this case the man of straw is your own. I have never mentioned
conventions. I was talking about ideals, which is quite a different thing.
In this case, the ideals of narrative literature (e.g. a "wellformed
story") through the means and conventions of the adventure game.

[I have deleted your further remarks about "conventions", because they
don't follow from anything I said.]

> >My own answer is that it unconciously stifles the creative freedom of the
> >writer, who in this case gets used to thinking about adventure games as
> >stories. This perspective will limit the potential for getting somewhere
> >we have not been before, like a crutch we have no need for.
>
> Examples, please! Instead of just speculating about "stifled creative
> freedom", please point to some cases where you can say that an actual
> game actually suffers from the author wanting to tell a story.

Any game where the progress at a given point depends on the player
performing some obscure act, or else nothing interesting is going to
happen. Since I am already being accused of insulting writers by my "vague
generalities", please forgive me for not naming any particular games.

> >> And, finally, I find theoretical discussions of the "possibilities
> >> inherent in the medium", and of how people should or shouldn't write
> >> games (or stories, or film scripts, or whatever) to be a pretty dry
> >> exercise. You can theorize all you want; what counts is actual works
> >> of IF, and how the audience reacts to them.

> >And how has the audience reacted the last 10 years?

> That's a cheap remark.

And I have to say that you asked for it. Besides, it was not merely a
rhetorical question, but one I find genuinely interesting.

> But to answer your question: true, the audience has largely abandonde
> text-based IF. But where have they gone? They seem to have turned to
> grahic adventures instead, a genre which emulates film rather than
> literature, but is just as constrained by plot and the conventions of
> storytelling; in fact, even more constrained, for puerly practical
> reasons (it's much more expensive to create video sequences of
> alternative event sequences than to describe them in text).

The next question (again not rhetorical) would be "Why have they gone
there?" and that can only be answered by theoretical consideration, i.e.
you can't write a game that explains it. But do you really think that the
answer (should we produce it) is worthless to people who want to make
better text games?

> Critics are very useful, not for telling people what to like and not
> to like, but for telling people what they _might_ like (a good review
> may make me buy a book, see a film, or play a game I wouldn't have
> considered otherwise). And critics are essential for providing
> feedback to artists.

> Intellectuals: again, I just ask "Who is an intellectual?" Not to be
> snotty, just because I'm not sure what you mean.

Well, ordinarily an intellectual is a person who can move between
disciplines and discourses, and kill her darlings and loyalties when
needed. In this context it is a person who can make people very upset by
some very dry and vague remarks.

> And is the artist always right? Yes and no.
>
> The artist is always right in the sense that it's the artist who is
> trying to express something and it is not for critics or theorists to
> tell him (or her) what he should express or how he should do it.

That is one perspective on the artist. There are others: there are those
who claim that the artist is a mere tool for the endless reproduction of
signs.

[...]


> But I resent being told - on theoretical grounds and from pure
> generalities - that I'm merely contributing to the general stagnation
> of the genre.

Oh, come on! Tell me what innovations have occurred in the last 10 years,
instead of complaining that I can't see them.

> But I'm afraid that you or somebody else will have to provide that example
> before I can agree that story-based IF is moribund.

This is not a logical request. Older traditions don't die out simply
because new ones appear; and they don't necessarily live on until
replaced. Here it seems to be you who "assume that there is only *one* way
to go."


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <4pcsrn$b...@agate.berkeley.edu>, whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu
(Gerry Kevin Wilson) wrote:

[Me:]


> >Terms: Story, plot, narrative, interactive, fiction, etc.
> >
> >They are applied uncritically when they are used without concern for how
> >the things they used to describe differs from what we now want them to
> >describe. Take "interactive". For a relationship to be interactive, you
> >need two equally powerful, mutually interaware entities. "Interactive
> >fiction" is just a fiction, coined to sound good and sell the product. It
> >doesn't live up to its promise, and most likely never will. (It is quite
> >like "virtual reality".) As a theorist, I don't touch the term.

> Okay, this sounds directed at my guide to authoring i-f, so I'll respond
> to it as well.

FYI, it was not directed at your guide, which I haven't studied. My
critique is general, directed at a general tendency, and I primarily
attack theorists and critics.

> ... But still, I'm going to want a new paradigm to

> communicate with before I abandon the old one.

Fair enough. I am proposing some new concepts in a book that will be
published next year.

> And in the meantime, I'm still going to call text adventures 'ifs', after
> the method of programming so commonly used...
>
> if (Me.location = WinnerCircle)
> self.wingame;

.-)

> >There are plenty of games, so that's not the problem. But from this
> >discussion so far, it seems to me that some good ol' self-critical
> >thinking is just what is lacking. There may be good alternatives to
> >"litcrit", but this horticultural "I-just-want-to-write-me-game" attitude
> >is not it.

> Well, anytime you're ready to begin some critical thinking, let us know.

Take a look at my chapter in George Landow (ed.): _Hyper/Text/Theory_
(Johns Hopkins UP, 1994) and tell me what you think. Unlike most of the
essays, mine is not devoted to hypertext.



> So far you've managed to insult several very talented writers without
> revealing a shred of original thought yourself.

Thank you. Though I have to say that as far as insulting goes, I really
wasn't trying. Y'all seem a pretty tender lot. Perhaps these words from
the FAQ is in order:

Controversial viewpoints are sometimes posted here and indeed are
to be encouraged; when you post a dissenting view, remember to
attack the idea, not the person. Let us debate, not battle.



> Don't belittle folks' work just because you think you have a better way to
> do it. You've managed to get my dander up, and I apologize for my
> more caustic remarks. I've tried to explain why we non-freestyle
> interactive literary experience don't do things your way, and hopefully
> have made some good points. We have very real, very solid reasons for
> using the style of interface we do, and for restricting plots the way we
> do. Maybe someone will overcome these, but thus far, they've been
> insurmountable.

I'm sorry if this is such a depressing issue for many, but I won't
appologize for trying to engage it once more. (All you have to do is
ignore me.)

> Have a look at the older archives for this newsgroup,
> and read the threads on puzzle-less IF if you really want to continue on
> the subject. Come back armed with some new arguments, and I'll be more
> than happy to consider and debate them.

Funny you should bring up the archives. I've been reading this group
fairly regularly since 1989, and seem to remember the two of us (yes, you
and me!) discussing this very issue back in 1993. So perhaps you should
take your own advice. (BTW, you were a lot less touchy then..)


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

David Baggett

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <espen.aarseth-1...@mac22.hf.uib.no>,
<espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:

>> Could you be more specifc about what specific sources you imagine
>> interactive fiction authors drawing upon?
>
>One example is Brenda Laurel's predilection for (Aristotelian) drama.

I'm not sure how you interpreted my question. Are you suggesting that IF
authors look to Laurel's work for inspiration, or citing her works as ones
that force IF authors into a narrow mindset?

For the record, I found _Computers as Theatre_ mildlly interesting but
nearly worthless from a practical standpoint. Like so many others, she
relies almost exclusively on hand-waving discussion, and appeals to
fascinating Holodeck-like scenarios that require so much technological
innovation that, were some breaktrhough to make them possible, new kinds of
fiction would be the last thing on our minds.

>This is no value judgement; adv.games are just more exotic for the English
>Dept. than hyperfiction is.

...or perhaps they're not exotic enough! Colossal Cave is just a bit too
banal to merit study if you're expecting _Ulysses_. Unless you're willing
to look past the details, that is.

The MST3K game is a similar example: who'd review that from a literary
standpoint with a straight face? Yet it's actually quite interesting
structurally.

Greg Ewing

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

Magnus Olsson wrote:
>
> Only sheep need to be told what to like.

I doubt that... they seem to like being left alone to
eat grass... they don't seem to take kindly to being
told to like anything else, such as being hauled into
a shed to get shaved...

> Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Greg

Adam J. Thornton

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to
>In article <4pf0oi$6...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

>> self-critical at all. You're criticizing other people's work from a
>> birds-eye perspective, with no risk of getting your hands dirty
>> actually doing anything constructive.
>You seem to know an awful lot about my thinking and working habits.

I don't remember seeing anything at ftp.gmd.de that was an Interactive
Anything By Espen Aarseth. I think that's what Magnus is saying too.

>Nice image. But cucumbers are not very interesting vegetables.

Post-Freudian, I take it?

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <4pg0bv$3...@life.ai.mit.edu>, d...@ai.mit.edu wrote:

> >> Could you be more specifc about what specific sources you imagine
> >> interactive fiction authors drawing upon?

> >One example is Brenda Laurel's predilection for (Aristotelian) drama.

> I'm not sure how you interpreted my question. Are you suggesting that IF
> authors look to Laurel's work for inspiration, or citing her works as ones
> that force IF authors into a narrow mindset?

Both. Far from all of them, mind you.

> For the record, I found _Computers as Theatre_ mildlly interesting but
> nearly worthless from a practical standpoint. Like so many others, she
> relies almost exclusively on hand-waving discussion, and appeals to
> fascinating Holodeck-like scenarios that require so much technological
> innovation that, were some breaktrhough to make them possible, new kinds of
> fiction would be the last thing on our minds.

Exactly. In addition to your excellent point, I have argued that her idea
is flawed for the simple reason that there is a conflict of interest
between the game-designer's "well-formed story" and the player's
independent actions and motives. One can't have both.

> >This is no value judgement; adv.games are just more exotic for the English
> >Dept. than hyperfiction is.

> ...or perhaps they're not exotic enough! Colossal Cave is just a bit too
> banal to merit study if you're expecting _Ulysses_. Unless you're willing
> to look past the details, that is.

Well, it did inspire Mary Ann Buckles' dissertation, which remains the
most interesting literary investigation of adventure games to date.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <4pg9l9$l...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>, ad...@tucson.princeton.edu (Adam
J. Thornton) wrote:

> >In article <4pf0oi$6...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus
Olsson) wrote:

> >> self-critical at all. You're criticizing other people's work from a
> >> birds-eye perspective, with no risk of getting your hands dirty
> >> actually doing anything constructive.
> >You seem to know an awful lot about my thinking and working habits.

> I don't remember seeing anything at ftp.gmd.de that was an Interactive
> Anything By Espen Aarseth. I think that's what Magnus is saying too.

As have others. Very nice, objective argument. "I'm not on gmd, therefore
my points are invalid." Why don't you simply ignore them, then? Perhaps
the FAQ should be changed to

Controversial viewpoints are seldom posted here and indeed are
to be discouraged; when a non-gmd-person posts a dissenting view,
remember to
attack the person, not the idea. Let us battle.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <4pfn8m$s...@life.ai.mit.edu>, d...@ai.mit.edu wrote:

> In article <espen.aarseth-0...@mac22.hf.uib.no>,


> <espen....@hf.uib.no> wrote:
>
> >I would like an adventure game where the surprises keeps me coming back
> >several times, and where I experience something like a world, and not a
> >carefully planned obstacle race.

> >This may or may not be realistic, but the technology is not the
> >bottleneck, IMO.

> If I may be so bold as to speak for the opposition, I think our main


> response to this claim is that you will need to demonstrate that it is
> *not* the techonology that's getting in the way (perhaps by showing a
> simple proof of concept) before you're going to convince those of us who
> have been trying to achieve what you envision for years now.

Well, I've had much fun playing Ultima Underworld: The Styigan Abyss,
which is a game where things can be done in more than one way. It was
suggested to me several years ago as an example of what I wanted, and I am
still very grateful to the person who suggested it.

I also remember fondly a British game from the early eighties, Twin
Kingdom Valley by Trevor Hall. Sometimes the NPCs would turn up in
inexpected places, and there was more than one way to skin a cat.

I think the keyword is bottom-up instead of top-down. Peter Bøgh Andersen
in Denmark is doing some very interesting things with catastrophy theory,
and his team has implemented a system ("Eye of Odin", on display in the
Viking museum in Ribe) where there is no preset story, but events
calculated and produced in unpredictable ways.

There is still a long way to go, obviously, but someone will get there
sooner or later. And I don't think we need AI-completeness to do it. It
is, after all, not the real world we're trying to emulate.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to
>In article <4peik4$q...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
>> >> >A game trying to be a story. As I see it, this is the biggest aesthetic
>> >> >problem of the genre.
>
>> Why is this such a big problem for you? You've repeatedly stated that
>> it's a problem, that you don't like it, and so on, but what exactly is
>> wrong with it? Why is it unsatisfying?
>
>Because if I want to read a story, I prefer to read a story where I don't
>have to guess exactly what the author expects me to do in order to
>continue reading. When I play games, I like my participation to be
>creative; that is, I like to discover potentially unknown ways in which to
>progress. In short, I don't want to feel like a puppet. I may still be
>one, but that's okay as long as the game doesn't make me feel like one.

(...)

>> Examples, please! Instead of just speculating about "stifled creative
>> freedom", please point to some cases where you can say that an actual
>> game actually suffers from the author wanting to tell a story.
>
>Any game where the progress at a given point depends on the player
>performing some obscure act, or else nothing interesting is going to
>happen.

Now, why didn't you say that from the beginning? That could have saved
us a lot of trouble trying to deduce what you meant from your general
principles. (In general, I find it far more useful to go from the
particular to the general when discussing things than the other way
round).

For obvious reasons, I don't really feel like discussing this at
length with you right now, which is a pity, because I think these
relatively concrete views could be the starting point of an
interesting discussion. Perhaps later, when feelings have calmed down
a bit.

>Since I am already being accused of insulting writers by my "vague
>generalities", please forgive me for not naming any particular games.

Hmmm. Since it was I was one of the accusing parties, let me just say
that it wasn't the "vague generalities" that were insulting, they were
just a bit frustrating; slippery like all generalities, and hard to
get a grip on. The insults came later.

>> But to answer your question: true, the audience has largely abandonde
>> text-based IF. But where have they gone? They seem to have turned to
>> grahic adventures instead, a genre which emulates film rather than
>> literature, but is just as constrained by plot and the conventions of
>> storytelling; in fact, even more constrained, for puerly practical
>> reasons (it's much more expensive to create video sequences of
>> alternative event sequences than to describe them in text).
>
>The next question (again not rhetorical) would be "Why have they gone
>there?" and that can only be answered by theoretical consideration, i.e.
>you can't write a game that explains it. But do you really think that the
>answer (should we produce it) is worthless to people who want to make
>better text games?

No, not at all. But to be useful, an answer must be a bit more
concrete than "they didn't like the way authors were trying to imitate
written literature". For that immedielatey raises the questions "Why
didn't they like that?" and "Why did they turn to graphical advenutres
that imitate films?".

Personally, I suspect that quite other factors were involved.

>> Intellectuals: again, I just ask "Who is an intellectual?" Not to be
>> snotty, just because I'm not sure what you mean.
>
>Well, ordinarily an intellectual is a person who can move between
>disciplines and discourses, and kill her darlings and loyalties when
>needed.

Implying that I and others on this group are unable to do that?

>In this context it is a person who can make people very upset by
>some very dry and vague remarks.

Oh, just like you, then? What a useful definition.

>> And is the artist always right? Yes and no.
>>
>> The artist is always right in the sense that it's the artist who is
>> trying to express something and it is not for critics or theorists to
>> tell him (or her) what he should express or how he should do it.
>
>That is one perspective on the artist. There are others: there are those
>who claim that the artist is a mere tool for the endless reproduction of
>signs.

Yeah, sure. I suppose that to an _intellectual_ like you, that phrase
actually means something?

>> But I resent being told - on theoretical grounds and from pure
>> generalities - that I'm merely contributing to the general stagnation
>> of the genre.
>
>Oh, come on! Tell me what innovations have occurred in the last 10 years,
>instead of complaining that I can't see them.

Where did I claim that there have been innovations that you can't see?

You are the one who is claiming that we need innovations, but you have
so far been utterly unable to tell us how to produce any.

I'm not saying htat there have been any great innovations in IF in the
last ten years, just that there's been some progress in the last five
years or so. I _think_ that there is potential for innovations, but
the current base of writers and players is too small; at the moment,
what little audience there is audience will happily accept any new
work of IF, regardless of whether it tries to be a story or not.


>> But I'm afraid that you or somebody else will have to provide that example
>> before I can agree that story-based IF is moribund.
>
>This is not a logical request. Older traditions don't die out simply
>because new ones appear; and they don't necessarily live on until
>replaced.

Why is it not logical? And what has those facts about traditions'
dying to do with it? You are the one who's making a claim that IF
authors *must* change their ways, or everything will stagnate. Is it
too much to ask you for the proof of that statement?


>Here it seems to be you who "assume that there is only *one* way
>to go."

Not at all. I have *never* said anything like it; on the contrary,
I've repeatedly stated that I'd *love* to see those great new genres
you and others are envisioning. It's just that I refuse to accept your
claim that you have found the cure for all the problems of the
"traditional" IF genre, viz. that authors should stop trying to
make their games into stories.

Adam J. Thornton

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to
>In article <4pg9l9$l...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>, ad...@tucson.princeton.edu (Adam
>J. Thornton) wrote:
>> I don't remember seeing anything at ftp.gmd.de that was an Interactive
>> Anything By Espen Aarseth. I think that's what Magnus is saying too.
>As have others. Very nice, objective argument. "I'm not on gmd, therefore
>my points are invalid." Why don't you simply ignore them, then? Perhaps
>the FAQ should be changed to

I think it's more along the lines of what Baggett's been saying: it is
difficult to convince those of us who *have* tried to write IF that many of
the problems you blithely wave away are *not* technical problems.

On the other hand, you seem to prefer simulation games, in which your
character is plopped into a world with a set of goals and the interactions
are determined by the "physics" of the word. You mention UU1 as one of
your favorites.

The simulation-vs.-puzzle argument comes up here every so often. Part of
the reason almost all IF is puzzle-driven text is that most of us don't
have the budget of Origin systems. One person can write a novel. One
person cannot produce, direct, shoot, and be all the actors in a feature
film.

It is, of course, possible to imagine a text-adventure world with a
physics. Unfortunately it would probably not be very interesting. How
many text-mode CRPGs have you played? How many were any good? I can think
of one: Eamon. And these days, it wouldn't seem very good anymore.

If what you mean is simply "I think simulationist RPGing is more fun/better
art/a better embodiment of Donna Harraway's theories than text adventures,"
then say so. The first two are clearly a matter of taste.

But what it comes down to is simply "everyone's a critic." Most of the
people here are occasionally engaged in trying to push some of the
boundaries--maybe not the ones you want to see pushed--of IF, by actually
producing IF. Whereas, all we've seen you do is lean over the garden fence
and say "that cucumber should be orange, and gardening's boring anyway."

espen....@hf.uib.no

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

In article <4pheiv$i...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

[...]


> >The next question (again not rhetorical) would be "Why have they gone
> >there?" and that can only be answered by theoretical consideration, i.e.
> >you can't write a game that explains it. But do you really think that the
> >answer (should we produce it) is worthless to people who want to make
> >better text games?

> No, not at all. But to be useful, an answer must be a bit more
> concrete than "they didn't like the way authors were trying to imitate
> written literature".

Yes, it must. BTW, who are you quoting?

[...]


> >> Intellectuals: again, I just ask "Who is an intellectual?" Not to be
> >> snotty, just because I'm not sure what you mean.

> >Well, ordinarily an intellectual is a person who can move between
> >disciplines and discourses, and kill her darlings and loyalties when
> >needed.

> Implying that I and others on this group are unable to do that?

Not in the least. Again, you seem to be offended by completely general remarks.

> >In this context it is a person who can make people very upset by
> >some very dry and vague remarks.
>
> Oh, just like you, then? What a useful definition.

I guess I forgot to append "...and still retain a sense of humour".



> >> And is the artist always right? Yes and no.

> >> The artist is always right in the sense that it's the artist who is
> >> trying to express something and it is not for critics or theorists to
> >> tell him (or her) what he should express or how he should do it.

> >That is one perspective on the artist. There are others: there are those
> >who claim that the artist is a mere tool for the endless reproduction of
> >signs.

> Yeah, sure. I suppose that to an _intellectual_ like you, that phrase
> actually means something?

Yes, to an _intellectual_ like me, that phrase actually means something.
So sue me.

> >> But I resent being told - on theoretical grounds and from pure
> >> generalities - that I'm merely contributing to the general stagnation
> >> of the genre.

> >Oh, come on! Tell me what innovations have occurred in the last 10 years,
> >instead of complaining that I can't see them.

> Where did I claim that there have been innovations that you can't see?

Well, if there aren't any, then we really are at a standstill, aren't we?

> You are the one who is claiming that we need innovations, but you have
> so far been utterly unable to tell us how to produce any.

Magnus, this isn't getting anywhere. Perhaps you should consider making
good your initial promise, and spend your energies on your competition
entry. I certainly have better ways to spend mine.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
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Espen Aarseth wrote:

>In article <4pf0oi$6...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus


>Olsson) wrote:
>
>> >But from this
>> >discussion so far, it seems to me that some good ol'
>> >self-critical thinking is just what is lacking.
>

>> Self-critical? With all due respect, Espen, you're not being

>> self-critical at all. You're criticizing other people's work
>> from a birds-eye perspective, with no risk of getting your
>> hands dirty actually doing anything constructive.
>
>You seem to know an awful lot about my thinking and working
>habits.

I wasn't talking about your thinking and working habits. I was
commenting on your attitude, as expressed in your postings.

>> On the other hand, I think it should be pretty clear from the
>> previous discussion on this group that people _are_ indeed very
>> conscious of what they're doing. Self-critical, if you like.
>
>What modesty.

You're really going out of your way to be offensive, aren't you? In
the last few posts, you've managed to imply - in more or less veiled
words - that I'm anti-intellectual, unable to change my views ("kill
my darlings"), unable to see things from different perspectives,
lacking in self-criticism, and now I'm immodest as well. What will
you think of next?

Come to think of it, that's a bit of an anticlimax, isn't it? The
insults are supposed to get worse, not lamer - I don't think I've ever
been renowned for my modesty, nor do I try to keep such an image.

And where does modesty enter it? I was merely pointing out that it
seems to me that a good deal of the discussion on this newsgroup is of
a self-critical nature: "What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Is
there a better way of doing it?" But I suppose the only true
self-criticism is that which agrees with your theories, right?

And then Espen commented on Adam's comments on the same paragraph:

>In article <4pg9l9$l...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>;, ad...@tucson.princeton.edu
>(Adam J. Thornton) wrote:

>>I don't remember seeing anything at ftp.gmd.de that was an Interactive
>>Anything By Espen Aarseth. I think that's what Magnus is saying too.
>
>As have others. Very nice, objective argument. "I'm not on gmd, therefore
>my points are invalid." Why don't you simply ignore them, then? Perhaps
>the FAQ should be changed to
>

> Controversial viewpoints are seldom posted here and indeed are
> to be discouraged; when a non-gmd-person posts a dissenting view,
>remember to
> attack the person, not the idea. Let us battle.

Don't be ridiculous.

The FAQ ought, perhaps, to be amended with "When you do post
controversial views, however, be prepared that other people will take
exception to them. And don't automatically assume that anybody opposing
your views is doing it because of stupidity, conservatism, inferior
education, or out of spite."


Your points are *of course* not invalidated by your status as a
"non-gmd-person". Nor does that automatically single you out as a
target for flaming.

In fact, one of the reasons I brought up the question whether you've
written any IF yourself was positive: if you know exactly what kind of
IF you want, I really think you should have a try at realizing your
visions. No avances were ever made by talking about the need for
advances, but by people actually doing something about it. Right?

But there's one more reason, and that's not really to try to discredit
you either.

You are dissatisfied with the current state of text-based IF, I think
we can agree on that. Believe it or not, we respect your opinions on
what you like and dislike, because you've obviously thought a lot about
the subject.

You also seem to have a pet theory, one that you think explains just
what's wrong with IF today, and even why the audience has moved over
to graphical games. IMO, that theory builds on a correct observation
(that IF is an immature art form which leads to authors trying to
apply what they've learned in other fields).

But to be honest, I think that it's of very limited utility: it
doesn't explain very much (for example, I think the audience left for
quite different reasons) and isn't of very much help in renewing
the genre either. But I still respect your opinion, and it's a pity we
couldn't have a civil discussion about it.


The thing I'm having trouble with is when you starting telling us
authors that you know exactly what we're doing wrong, why we're doing
it, and why we shouldn't be doing it. And here I cry: "Have you ever
written any IF yourself?". Not to use the negative answer to discredit
you, but because I have a strong feeling that you're arguing out of
ignorance.

What makes me upset (apart from the trading of insults, which I
suppose I'm just as guilty of as you) is that you're taking the
problems of IF authorship very lightly - as if we were too stupid, or
too conservative, or just unenlightened - to see the Truth, and
that all we had to do was to abandon the desire to tell a story.

And when some of use started to protest that we didn't recognize the
situation, and perhaps even _wanted_ to write the games-as-stories,
because we felt that is a feasible road to progress (not _the_ road,
just _a_ road), you just dismissed our arguments, restating your
theory.

I find your attitude more than a little arrogant and condescending - as
if you could sit in your ivory tower and solve our problems just by
thinking about them, dismissing our efforts as futile and "stagnant"
before you've even seen them (honestly, Espen, how many of the new
"literary" IF works have you actually played?).

My last point:

Even if you know everything about the theory of the creative process,
and have read every book there is on narrative theory and so on, there
are still problems that are unique to the medium. IF authors are
struggling with problems such as how to make an NPC seem like a living
human when it's at best just a finite state automaton, how to make text
that is split up into many small pieces that can be read in many
different orders still form a coherent whole, and so on.

How can you know - without ever having experienced those problems
yourself, or even, it seems, even bothering to listen to those who
have - that it's not those "technical" problems that *really* hamper
the authors' creativity? How can you reach these conclusions by just
sitting back and thinking? Or perhaps (what a horrible thought!) your
habit of dealing with general principles has made you forget those
ugly little details?


We've all heard of back-seat drivers and armchair generals. Now it
seems we're having to deal with theoretical IF writers as well.

Russell L. Bryan

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

espen....@hf.uib.no wrote:

[... a lot of things ... ]

I'm not getting involved, but why would anyone go out of his way to go
to a newsgroup just to tell everyone that he's not a fan of the subject
which that newsgroup is based on?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to head over to alt.fan.baywatch and
announce how ugly I find Pamela Anderson, and then I might share my
recipe for veal piccata with the good folks over at
alt.food.vegetarians.

-- Russ (Yes, I'm lurking -- so sue me)

Or is this just another argument over semantics?

John Baker

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Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
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In <espen.aarseth-1...@mac22.hf.uib.no>

espen....@hf.uib.no writes:
>Well, it did inspire Mary Ann Buckles' dissertation, which remains the
>most interesting literary investigation of adventure games to date.

Have read _Computers As Theatre_ and agree with Bagget about it's
utility for an IF author. Haven't seen the above dissertation or heard
of it. Could someone point me towards it?
--
John Baker - http://www.netcom.com/~baker-j
"What the hell does that mean? Huh? 'China is here.'?
I don't even know what the hell that means!"
- Jack Burton

Greg Ewing

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Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
to

Magnus Olsson wrote:
>
> If a new art form
> is to be recognized as a separate art form and not just adaptation or
> imitation, it must find its own set of conventions, its own
> aestethics, and so on.

Seems to me that IF has had all of this right from the
beginning. I don't think the creators of Advent and Zork
had any high-flying ideas about how the medium should
be used or how the result should be judged or any of
that stuff. They were just having fun creating this crazy
game. They weren't trying to follow any existing
conventions, and they didn't have any problem with
aesthetics - they knew they were enjoying it,
and so were their audience!

I wonder what would have happened if they'd had the
sort of machines we have now back then. Would they
still have chosen text as the means of expression, or
did they only do that because it was the best they could
do with the equipment they had? Would they have jumped at
the chance to use flashy graphics and sounds if they
could?

> Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Greg Ewing

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Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
to

espen....@hf.uib.no wrote:
>
> Nice image. But cucumbers are not very interesting vegetables.

Vegetable Garden

The usual crop of household vegetables are growing
here, including a nondescript cucumber.

> ignore cucumber

The cucumber seems rather miffed at your lack of attention.

> n

As you try to leave the garden, tendrils of cucumber
plant curl around your ankles. Pulled off your feet,
you are dragged deeper and deeper into a menacing
tangle of foliage...

> espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

Greg

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
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>In article <4pheiv$i...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
>> >> And is the artist always right? Yes and no.
>
>> >> The artist is always right in the sense that it's the artist who is
>> >> trying to express something and it is not for critics or theorists to
>> >> tell him (or her) what he should express or how he should do it.
>
>> >That is one perspective on the artist. There are others: there are those
>> >who claim that the artist is a mere tool for the endless reproduction of
>> >signs.
>
>> Yeah, sure. I suppose that to an _intellectual_ like you, that phrase
>> actually means something?
>
>Yes, to an _intellectual_ like me, that phrase actually means something.
>So sue me.

Hmmm. Instead of suing you, I think I'll just ask you what it *does* mean
to you.

This is not an invitiation to a new flame war (see my comments below).
And it doesn't have much to do with IF, so perhaps we should change
newsgroups, but anyway, I'd like to hear what it means to you.

Let me state my problem with the phrase: It certainly means things to
me as well, *taken in contest*. Unfortunately, I've forgotten what the
context was (though I do recognize the quote from somewhere).

But taken out of context, it seems to take on some general meaning which
to me is quite nonsensical.

>Magnus, this isn't getting anywhere. Perhaps you should consider making
>good your initial promise, and spend your energies on your competition
>entry. I certainly have better ways to spend mine.

I think we're in perfect agreement there, and I promise not to post
anything more in the "Game or Novel" thread. Perhaps we can get back
to the question of why you feel so constrained in most IF - I
recognize your frustration with the whole game being brought to a
standstill just because you can't find the correct action, I just
don't agree with you about the remedy for that kind of things - later,
when feelings have cooled down a bit.


Finally, just to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding: I'd be
very excited to see new games along the lines sketched by Espen in his
later posts.

espen....@hf.uib.no

unread,
Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
to

In article <4pjmfp$1...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

> >> >That is one perspective on the artist. There are others: there are those
> >> >who claim that the artist is a mere tool for the endless reproduction of
> >> >signs.

> >> Yeah, sure. I suppose that to an _intellectual_ like you, that phrase
> >> actually means something?

> >Yes, to an _intellectual_ like me, that phrase actually means something.
> >So sue me.

> Hmmm. Instead of suing you, I think I'll just ask you what it *does* mean
> to you.

Well, one usually associates this semiotic position with the French
post-structuralists, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault in particular. See
Barthes "Death of the Author" (in his _Music- Image - Text_) and
Foucault's "What Is an Author" (anthologized many places) for their own
views.

To try to explain this view briefly is probably a crime, so let me just
suggest that it holds that language speaks through the subject, rather
than the other way around, retelling and mutating its elements endlessly,
in a process where the individual speaker matters very little, if at all.
It is not unlike memetics, perhaps. In our context, the story of
Adventure's almost anonymous spread and mutation through the net and
elsewhere (people have often assumed it was made in the sixties) might
come close as an illustration.

(BTW, if someone wants to attack this view, fine; I will not be defending
or explaining it further. Alt.postmodern is the appropriate place for such
discussions.)

> Finally, just to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding: I'd be
> very excited to see new games along the lines sketched by Espen in his
> later posts.

Glad to hear it. And you do agree that the author-controlled storyline has
no place in them?

As for the (lack of) realism in making breakthrough games, I still
remember the feeling I had in 1984 when I first played Bell & Braben's
_Elite_ on my old Acorn Electron. That was literally an incredible game,
especially given the 32k RAM and the 2 (1?) MHz 6502 processor. Back then,
you had to see it to believe it.

No innovation is possible before one or two persons believe it can be
done. And that belief has to come before the product itself. In other
words, we need theorizing, just like the Manhattan-project scientists
needed a certain new theory of physics before they could split the atom
(not the most edible of analogies, I know...).

That's not all it takes, but it is essential. But perhaps a collective
spirit (such as the one centered on development systems here on this
group) is equally essential, to see such a project through.

If building flexible world and NPC models is such a hard task (and of
course it is) then it might be best to get rid of the lone Author as a
creative paradigm, and adopt Large Scale collective projects (like the GNU
project) as a more realistic principle of organization.

BTW, does anyone here know if something like an AGML --a
system-independent Adventure Game Modeling Language, inspired by the
success of certain other xxML standards-- has ever been proposed? If done
properly, it could be very useful.


_____________________________________________________________________
espen aarseth aar...@uib.no

Julian Arnold

unread,
Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
to

In article <espen.aarseth-1...@mac22.hf.uib.no>,

mailto:espen....@hf.uib.no wrote:
>
> I also remember fondly a British game from the early eighties, Twin
> Kingdom Valley by Trevor Hall. Sometimes the NPCs would turn up in
> inexpected places, and there was more than one way to skin a cat.

To elaborate, the NPCs in TKV consisted of trolls, gorillas, and castle
guards (all hostile), and elves (neutral to friendly). There were a few
others, but these were the main lot. With a few restrictions (ie, guards
were only found in or near the Desert King's castle) these NPCs randomly
wandered around the map. If an NPC entred a room and found a weapon lying
around he'd pick it up and be on his way. If a hostile NPC was in the same
room as the player or a friendly NPC he'd attack, and similarly friendly NPCs
would fight the hostile ones. Also, the player could GIVE a weapon TO an
NPC, or ASK a (friendly) NPC FOR a weapon he was carrying. It was a very
simple system of pseudo-intelligence, but worked remarkably well. Of course,
similar systems are used by many other IFs (the thief in Zork was a more
complex variation), but TKV worked particularly well, I believe, because of
the number of NPCs and the fact that one lot was hostile and one lot
friendly.

> There is still a long way to go, obviously, but someone will get there
> sooner or later. And I don't think we need AI-completeness to do it. It
> is, after all, not the real world we're trying to emulate.

Very true, and although players nowadays probably demand more from their NPCs
than in the days of TKV, I think the same general mechanisms for controlling
NPC behaviour are still valid. These mechanisms can be complexified (is that
a word?) without altering their basic structure.

Most people will attribute a greater level of capability to NPCs than
actually exists, or is manifested, often even if the person knows how the NPC
works (and thus knows it damn well is not capable of some things). This
phenomenon has been observed with Eliza-like AI programs, where the user
often makes excuses for the computers poor performance, and tailors her input
so as not to expose the AIs inadequacies. This can be (and indeed has been)
exploited in IF. People seem to implicitly accept quite severe limitations
to both the extent and form of their interaction with computers, and actually
go to lengths to avoid breaking those limits.

Jools


bout...@razor.wcc.govt.nz

unread,
Jun 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/12/96
to

In article <espen.aarseth-1...@mac22.hf.uib.no>, espen....@hf.uib.no writes:

>In article <4pf0oi$6...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
>> telling him how
>> much better it would be if he could grow orange cucumbers rather than
>> green ones.
>
>Nice image. But cucumbers are not very interesting vegetables.
>

That's not what my gi...oh, forget it - too easy a target ;)


-Tangle