Am trying to get back into an IF project that has been sitting around
stuck at 50% done for a while. With the benefit of not having looked
at it seriously for a year, am reassessing the structure. It has lots
of endings, 50 or so--though is v. different from Aisle in other
respects--and some of them are contradictory. e.g. in one Hamlet loves
Ophelia, in another he doesn't. Personally, I love this kind of thing.
I remember being deliriously excited when I misread the Deadline
manual and thought that the identity of the murderer changed,
depending on what evidence the player found. Not only do you get the
ending you deserve, you get the story you deserve.
I also loved it in Aisle (I tend to write, as I guess most people do,
what I most want to read myself).
However, most of the reviews I've read tend not to like this aspect of
Aisle as--despite the warning at the start--they played it as a kind
of detective game where they tried to piece together a coherent story.
That there were 4 or so discreet stories blurred the experience.
Quick call of hands: Did you like/dislike this aspect of Aisle?*
*Possible third answer, "I didn't notice".
I kept trying to form explanations for how the stories made sense
together, so I guess that should make me a 'dislike'. These
explanations got wonderfully convoluted and complex, which was fun,
though. Put me down as a 'dislike the principle, like finding ways
I have decidedly mixed feeling about this aspect of *Aisle*,
mostly due to its structure.
That is, since *Aisle* is a one-move work, you only get one
piece of information (per ending), so it's natural to try
to piece together the various endings, and that they are
inconsistent frustrates this goal.
However in a longer work, where one learns something about
the world and *then* gets an ending which allows one to
reinterpret the world based on the ending, I think there are
no problems with inconsistent endings.
Further, the endings in *Aisle* are not a problem (to me) if
instead of trying to piece them together, one sees them as
different (possible) perspectives on a situation - some
perspectives will be more or less compatible with each
other. (but see below)
One caution is that in a richly detailed world, one
naturally wishes to (re)interpret *everything* - so if the
ending changes meanings, then either:
(i) most aspects of the world are inessential/scenary
(ii) one has to create several stories which can all be
realized in overlapping ways in the work.
suppose one writes a piece of IF (or in fact conventional
fiction) with several endings, say about a person found
dead ('corpse'), and there's an NPC ('Juan').
In situation (i) the role of Juan doesn't change - perhaps
he's always your friend, or whatever - but if he doesn't
matter to the ending (and overall meaning), why include him?
In situation (ii), the role of Juan changes: perhaps in one
ending he murdered corpse, while in another he was corpse's
old lover come in from out of town for the weekend, and
found him dead, or whatever. In this later case he's much
more integrated into the work and richer, but now all of his
activities and utterances are constrained to admit an
interpretation for every ending.
Thus, I'd suggest that if you want your multiple-endings to
be more than a gimmick, you have a few options:
(1) Have the differences in the ending affect only a small
piece of the work - say, at some point you find a locket
whose picture is missing, and at the end you learn whose
locket it was. Note that you can have the locket (or
whatever) be a major or minor part of your work, but there
should be a reason to mention it in the ending.
The distinguishing aspect here is that the ambiguity is
localized, so the whole work doesn't revolve around it.
(2) Have the differences in ending affect the whole work.
In this case, I'd suggest keeping the work small, else
you'll have a difficult time keeping everything
fluid/ambiguous enough without being bland.
(3) Leave some threads unresolved in different endings;
this allows you to give different meanings to certain
aspects, without needing to interpret every aspect for every
* * * *
Turning back to how *Aisle* works, I think it's somewhat
inaccurate to say it has different 'endings', since the base
story (you're in an aisle. there's a brunette, and some
pasta) is so generic as to be meaningless. Instead, it has a
story for every input.
(indeed, it reminds one of Queneau's 'Les exercices de style',
in that the base is utterly banal, and one produces
variations on it, though in the case of *Aisle* the
differences are substantive, rather than stylistic)
'Pick up the phone booth and Aisle' perhaps exhibits this
better, in that the 'endings' have nothing to do with each
other - they're each a different story.
You might also look at Andrew Plotkin's 'The Space Under the
Window', which also has perhaps incompatible endings (though
it's so vague/allusive that I'm not sure one can really say
they are incompatible). Instead, I'd say it's more of a
world with multiple exits.
You can also look at Adam Cadre's 'Textfire Golf', which has
a lot of endings, but I always felt like there was one
story/character (but perhaps I didn't see enough endings).
But perhaps the best example of multiple endings that I know
(and multiple interpretations) is Emily Short's 'Galatea', where
every time one goes through it, the person of Galatea is a
bit different, but internally consistent (and largely
consistent across paths, but not quite...)
(Emily also suggest Tapestry, Metamorphoses, and Masquerade,
though I haven't seen these)
So for your work-in-progress, I'd say:
if each ending is complete (and doesn't beg to be pieced
together with other endings), few people will mind, except
those who long for a single 'correct'/authoritative ending.
note that 'complete' doesn't necessarily mean that it
explain everything, just that the ending doesn't pose
further questions (that require one to go to other endings
if the ending are patchy/incomplete enough to
require/suggest being compared with other endings in order
to get a fuller picture, then you'll frustrate many of the
same people who were bothered by *Aisle*.
* * * *
...and for my vote?
I'm not *bothered* by that aspect of *Aisle*, but think
it a weaker work as a result. If all of the endings were
about the same guy, then one could hope to understand him
better over time/re-readings. If they were all (radically)
different takes on the situation, each complete in itself,
then one could understand the situation through these stories.
As it stands, it's a sort of muddy mixture - or perhaps
rather, you only get a piece of a piece for each ending,
which makes it somewhat unsatisfying.
The piece lacks unity, in that the only thing holding it
together is the ambiguous scene; I think the form has
potential (think Monet's series of paintings of
La cathédrale de Rouen, or musical variations on a theme),
but works best when it focuses
around a central idea which is illuminated by alternative
viewings (it can also work when it's just a kinda
exhaustive catalog of possibilities, like Queneau, but
not as well).
I guess I'm not sure what you're planning (I only realized
that you wrote *Aisle* half-way through writing): if you're
planning something like *Aisle* (one-move, or at least very
short), I'd suggest more unity: make all the endings add
something to our understanding of what's going on; or make
them explicitly disjointed (though this is less satisfying).
If you're planning something longer, my other remarks would
be more useful: make the endings give some sense to the whole
work (or some parts of it), but don't make the world so
generic that the ending could have been tacked on to
something completely different - the ending should feel
fitting, natural, almost necessary (even, or rather
especially, if there's another contradictory ending).
From this perspective the problem with *Aisle* is that the
soil of the set-up is too barren for an story to grow from
it; rather, each ending is another potted plant dropped on
the same stone.
where USER is n8c649hnti001 and HOST is sneakemail.com
I generally don't like it, because it violates some tenets
of interactivity. The best example of this off the top of my
head is found in Bureaucracy; there's a plane that's going to
crash that you're trying to get off of, and if you don't get
off in time, it crashes and you die; if you do get off in
time, it doesn't crash. Ha ha, very funny, kill author.
In other words, it tends to kill immersion by making it clear
that cause-and-effect is violated--the player's actions have
In a work like Aisle, I didn't mind this at all, because it
was already non-immersive, being a one-turn game. But in a
larger game it tends to annoy me.
I liked it a lot. It's a great concept, and the game uses it well.
I think it was wise to warn players about it at the beginning. It's
too bad that some players failed to digest the warning and were
confused anyway, but I don't think that should deter you from using
the concept again.
> Quick call of hands: Did you like/dislike this aspect of
> Aisle?* *Possible third answer, "I didn't notice".
I disliked it.
Even though I read the warning, I still tried to piece the
stories together. The reason was the some endings *were*
'compatible', and seemed to indicate that there *was* more to
the game than just several unconnected story fragments.
I liked the game, but felt (and still feel) that it would be
much better if it was possible to piece the fragments together.
Then, even though it was a one-move game, it would still have a
rich story. But since this wasn't possible, I see it as a very
Karl Ove Hufthammer
I agree almost competely with this... The problem with the conflicting
endings, for me, was not that they were confusing, but that they gave the
impression that the game was totally random - do something, get a result,
without any real consistancy or meaning being formed, outside of what a
specific ending offered within it. Galatea, which someone else mentioned in
this thread, also used conflicting endings, but didn't suffer from this
problem, because it took more time to get to each ending so they all felt
consistant with my gameplay, if not with each other. Aisle just didn't offer
me enough to form either kind of consistency.
Au contrare; you are violating your own immersion by bringing
knowledge of a previous play-session with you. Had you only played
once, you would have no way to know that causality was "violated".
I had no reason to believe, playing _Aisle_, that the author intended
me to play only once. Indeed I felt quite strongly that the author
expected me to play many times, trying lots of different commands.
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.
Besides, even if you widen the field to IF in general, replaying the games
are part of the experience; I don't think that any IF game was written under
the assumption that no-one will replay it (except perhaps some of the
"one-joke parody" games, but those aren't really representative). Many IF
works were written so that no one is *required* to replay them, but that's
hardly the same thing.
IF can be viewed as either art or simulation, but either way, unlike
real-life, art and simulations are both repeatable experiences. IF, being a
dynamic artform (that changes depending on your experience of it, as opposed
to static art which is the same each time, only your reaction may differ),
is obviously even more likely to be repeated, and, while an author is under
no obligation to let this affect the game design, deciding that it won't be
done is, well, rather foolish.
>IF can be viewed as either art or simulation, but either way, unlike
>real-life, art and simulations are both repeatable experiences. IF, being a
>dynamic artform (that changes depending on your experience of it, as opposed
>to static art which is the same each time, only your reaction may differ),
>is obviously even more likely to be repeated, and, while an author is under
>no obligation to let this affect the game design, deciding that it won't be
>done is, well, rather foolish.
Oh, I agree, but these are distinct viewings, and I think it's unfair
to consider information which is unique to the experience of IF-as-Art
when determining something specific to IF-as-Simulation:
'Immersiveness' is a property of the IF simulation. I don't think
it's fair to claim that your immersiveness was destroyed as a result
of *your act of viewing the work outside of its simulation*. You
can't really measure immersiveness when outside of the
simulation. Saying "I stepped out of the simulation and discovered
that the simulation was not immersive" is like saying "I reached out
and touched the TV screen, and found that it was just a piece of glass
and not a window into another world, ruining my immersion", or,
perhaps "How can I believe in these characters when I see the actors
in different roles on another show?"
Basically, I'm just saying that I don't think that cross-playsession
immersion is really the same thing as in-playsession immersion. The
claim which caused me to start this was, basically, "WHen I replayed,
I found that had I resolved the situation which killed me last time,
that situation would have turned out not to have been life threatening
in the first place. This destroyed my immersion." I say, instead,
that the *fact that in one play-session, you died* means that the
subsequent playsession *cannot be* expected to be consistent with the
first; that PC is *dead*. I'm not saying that the player should
"forget" everything he learned in a previous playing, but I think it's
not fair for the player to use evidence of previous lives to claim
that his immersion is broken -- if it is, then his immersion was
broken the moment he started the second playing; he's *dead*,
An alternate version of him, who began to diverge at the point where I
restored my last save, is dead. I'd expect the universe up to the
point of divergence to be the same, including parts of it he hasn't
After many replays through different paths, the plot of a game becomes
a mass of possibilities; a phase space which can be viewed in many
ways. If different parts of that space are inconsistent--if the land
on the other side of the mountains is desert or jungle depending on
what the protagonist had for breakfast, say--I can no longer construct
an interesting view of the plot as a whole.
"...all of them sad."
True, but then again the author in this case *does* state beforehand
that the accounts will be contradictory... Only different histories could
explain all the possible different actions.
In most games with a strongly defined PC the method used is that the
PC's personality limits the number of possible actions. Here the method
used is that action defines the personality (and thus part of the history
also) of the person.
Personally, I liked it. However, I didn't like it as much as the structure
used--the idea of a one-move game intrigued me. I enjoyed all three of the
Aisle-type games (Aisle, Pick Up the Phone Booth and Aisle, and I'll) enough
that I tried something similar in principle for my own (unfinished) game.
However, the idea of an 8-move game is a lot less intuitive and easy to get
into, especially when it's not complete.
This is sort of true, but not entirely. Immersiveness is the
'suspension of disbelief' of interactive works, and hence it
is a property of interacting with a work; I don't think it
has to do with simulation per se, as much as it has to do with
the much misused 'mimesis'. But you might even be able to become
immersed in a CYOA.
Anyway, dropping into a metagame, e.g. upon dying, does tend to kill
immersiveness at that instant. But when I go back into the game,
I still carry knowledge of that experience with me during
further playthroughs. That knowledge can work like any knowledge
I might carry into a game which might ruin its immersiveness:
knowledge that it's using an engine known to be minimally
interactive; knowledge gleaned from a review that it's not
consistent and realistic. The difference is that this is
knowledge acquired from playing the game itself 'as it was
meant to be played'--the author must have known that the vast
majority of players would have exactly this experience, hence
the author most likely intended players to have this experience.
I had the experience, and didn't like it.
If I watch a movie, and somebody breaks the fourth wall and
totally stops suspension of disbelief, and then we rewind the
movie to somewhere much earlier and start watching, I may still
have my suspension of disbelief ruined. The difference is that
one the case I used is a case that is the natural way of
experiencing the work (IMO).
I disliked that aspect at first, but gradually decided everything
doesn't have to be an intricate puzzle-box where everything is
interrelated and one perfect plot is formed. But I liked the work
overall, even at first.
Most aisle endings have the items the proprietor is trying to
get rid of, but you can find decent bargains there. Some are
on your list of things you want, some aren't.
Thus ends the bad analogy portion of our program.
And any game that has the word "fuckers" in it is OK in my book.
I laughed, I cried, I replayed 50 times.
I don't understand that. If the story is shaped by your probes, like
in Aisle, isn't the game *more* interactive ?
On the contrary, if the games just allows you to uncover always the
same thing, but in a different order, that makes it less interactive,
I liked it. I would have liked it better if all possible stories had
the same depth. In Aisle, I got the feeling that things were a bit
skewed towards tragedy.
Okay, I've been following this thread for a while and thinking about
my feelings. Basically, the first time I played the game, I admired
the concept but didn't enjoy the actual endings I reached - not that
they were poorly written or anything, they just produced no response
in me. I think I may have finally figured out why.
My guess - and I'm curious to hear if anyone else feels this way - is
that it was hard for me to relate to any of the endings because I had
no idea where they were coming from. It had much the same effect of a
complete stranger coming up to me and telling me about some deep
tragedy that occured twenty years ago. "Huh. That's unfortunate. Who
are you again?"
I found myself trying to fit the endings together because I was
genuinely curious about the character's background. So he'd lost
Clare. That would mean something to me, if I had some idea of who
Clare was, or exactly what had happened - but when I tried to find
out, reality kind of morphed around whatever concept I presented. I
think I may have been partly misled by how it was set up, too - Clare
was introduced as a concept in one of the character's memories, and
subsequent play-throughs responded to thinking about her, talking
about her, et cetera. So it was not unreasonable for me to assume that
there would be overlap between the stories.
Anyway, that's it for me - so many of his responses seemed to be huge,
antisocial emotional eruptions, but I couldn't figure out where they
were coming from and thus was more confused than involved. I don't
know if this was a deliberate effect or not, but it was frustrating.
Anyone else, or is this just me?
> However, most of the reviews I've read tend not to like this aspect of
> Aisle as--despite the warning at the start--they played it as a kind
> of detective game where they tried to piece together a coherent story.
> That there were 4 or so discreet stories blurred the experience.
> Quick call of hands: Did you like/dislike this aspect of Aisle?*
> *Possible third answer, "I didn't notice".
To begin with, I didn't notice there were different stories. Later, when
I'd played with it a bit more, I did notice, but - not having read the
warning closely - I interpreted them not as different actual stories,
but as the effect severe psycho-trauma would have on the protagonist.
There are, in this interpretation, no factual differences between the
stories; it's just that there are different ways in which his hurt mind
tries to cope with the situation.
Yes, I know that this interpretation clashes with what the author says
about Aisle. But since when did that ever stop a reviewer <g>?
: There are, in this interpretation, no factual differences between the
: stories; it's just that there are different ways in which his hurt mind
: tries to cope with the situation.
I take it you didn't try typing >SMILE ?
Would a larger game share this property?
In "The Big Mama", there is a person who can turn out to be either of two
different characters depending on how you address her. This struck me as
very odd at the time. There's actually a great many Aisle-like endings
in this game, where a single action will immediately lead to an ending
that may contradict other endings. But since the endings don't affect
your next session, they didn't bother me like this mid-game
discontinuity. It seemed like my actions were affecting the world model
in a way that they shouldn't.
But note that Aisle doesn't really even have a world model in the first
place - since the world can never be subjected to lasting changes of
state, it doesn't need one. If you ask me, the jarring sensation in
Aisle is a different phenomenon from that in The Big Mama, even though
the causes are similar. In Aisle, it's a matter of contradictions in
what is effectively a single session. In The Big Mama, it's a matter of
Note that no one complains about randomized elements in the premises of
games, such as passwords or combinations, or the Jester's name in Zork
Zero. Such things avoid the Aisle phenomenon because they're clearly
per-session, and they avoid the Big Mama phenomenon because they're
beyond the player's control.
Wistful fantasies are quite a common way of trying to cope with a