The role of scenery

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Kathleen Fischer

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Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
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I just received a very nice posting from a fellow raif-er who, in response to
one of my other postings, mentioned that there was an interesting thread at the
beginning of the year about the handling of scenery objects. Bummer that I
missed it, as this is an area that I (being a newbie) have been grappling with.

So, if you all don't mind me bringing it up again... here are a few questions:

1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them
in a game? For example, you walk into the kitchen and there is a table
with 4 chairs. Should the chairs be completely scenery?

> x chair
The chairs are covered in an attractive blue print.

> get chair
That is not something you need to refer to in the course of this game.

Or... should they at least be static supporters (Inform) where you can sit
on
it, but not take it.

Or... should you be able to drag that chair around with you even though it
will do you no good what-so-ever in this particular game?

2. If an object is just scenery, then should it be mentioned at all? Should
the 4 chairs from above even be mentioned in the room description?

My opinion is that a player shouldn't be made aware that an item is just
scenery unless there is a programming reason for it (ie, I don't want you to be
able to take this chair because I know you will try to use to stand on to open
the stuck window in the next room and I would rather you find the ladder in the
garage to do that with. Whew. What a sentance), but the item should definitly
be mentioned. I want to know that rooms are "lived in" and fleshed out. Of
course, if I had my druthers then I think the player SHOULD be able to take the
chair into the other room, stack three books on it and stand on it and reach
the window. The problem is how to code such a thing (ah reality rears its ugly
head) so that the heights work out just right. What if a user puts a balloon
on the chair instead of a book, or a watermellon.

So, anyone have thyme to offer some sage advice for a rosey cheeked newbie :)
Kathleen

ps. (Program Status):
Well, it took me 5 hours, but I now have a fully functional sink that has on
and off running water (no particular temperature.. yet) that can be used to
fill appropriate objects. The sink can be plugged/unplugged and manages
overflowing in a code efficient, game appropriate fashion. Of course, NOW I
need to handle what happens when something "strange" gets put into the sink.
Whew. I think I need a new hobby!

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


Jon

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Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
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Kathleen Fischer wrote:
>

> 1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them
> in a game? For example, you walk into the kitchen and there is a table
> with 4 chairs. Should the chairs be completely scenery?

I say YES. Personally, I'm more of a minimalist when it comes to adventure
games. Obviously, there are others who feel differently, but I really hate
it when I am overwhelmed by objects in a game. Take this game I am playing
right now, Unnkulia: The Legend Returns! There is a machine that can
manufacture twenty different objects not gettable anywhere else in the
game. Presumably there are some people who drool at this kind of thing
but I HATE it because a) I can't carry all of these objects b) there is
practically no way of telling which objects are useful and which aren't.
There doesn't seem like any need to make your poor players wonder if
they need the chairs, or if they only need ONE of those chairs. And you
don't need the hassle of coding yet another object. A couple of red herrings
are fun, but in general I think you should probably just leave useless
objects ungettable.

In the specific case of the chairs, it would be cool if you made them
"sitable", but not takeable.

> 2. If an object is just scenery, then should it be mentioned at all? Should
> the 4 chairs from above even be mentioned in the room description?

Well, it seems that unless the chairs are important somehow (to either
puzzles or mood), you could just get away with saying in the Kitchen
description "there are chairs here", not having to describe or code
the red chair, green chair, etc., individually. In the case of a
room that commonly has chairs in it (if not the kitchen, then the
dining room, a den, etc.), you could leave out the description of the
chairs entirely but still code them in, the rationale being that everybody
knows there are chairs in a dining room.

Jon

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Jun 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/12/96
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Kathleen Fischer <kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> writes:
> So, if you all don't mind me bringing it up again... here are a few questions:
>
> 1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them
> in a game? For example, you walk into theTAKETHIS <0ljYQaO00...@andrew.cmu.edu>
Path: hunter.premier.net!uunet!in1.uu.net!newsfeed.pitt.edu!bb3.andrew.cmu.edu!andrew.cmu.edu!ap1i+
From: "Andrew C. Plotkin" <erky...@CMU.EDU>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction
Subject: Re: The role of scenery
Date: Wed, 12 Jun 1996 00:27:18 -0400
Organization: Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA
Lines: 33
Message-ID: <0ljYQaO00...@andrew.cmu.edu>
References: <4pkqad$s...@lll-winken.llnl.gov>
NNTP-Posting-Host: po6.andrew.cmu.edu
In-Reply-To: <4pkqad$s...@lll-winken.llnl.gov>

Kathleen Fischer <kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> writes:
> So, if you all don't mind me bringing it up again... here are a few questions:
>

> 1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them
> in a game? For example, you walk into the kitchen and there is a table
> with 4 chairs. Should the chairs be completely scenery?
>

> > x chair
> The chairs are covered in an attractive blue print.
>
> > get chair
> That is not something you need to refer to in the course of this game.
>
> Or... should they at least be static supporters (Inform) where you can sit
> on
> it, but not take it.
>
> Or... should you be able to drag that chair around with you even though it
> will do you no good what-so-ever in this particular game?

I have no firm rules about this. In fact, I'm pretty inconsistent
about it even within a game. As much detail as you can stand to put
in, I'd say.

Actually, that does answer your question. The player *should* be able
to drag around every object mentioned in the game text, and do
interesting things with each one. But this is never going to happen,
not as long as I have a day job. So I get to declare an arbitrary
cutoff.

--Z

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


Paul Boink Bonk Boink Woods Blink Boink

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Jun 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/12/96
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Well i wrote the below reply... then i started fiddling. I have stopped
fiddling now. What the fiddling ended up with is a pretty crappy (but
better than nothing?) subject index of the r.a.i-f archived articles.
Feel free to check it out...

http://www.io.org/~tm/raif-subjects.html

11 Jun 1996 22:00:45 GMT,


Kathleen Fischer <kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> wrote:
>one of my other postings, mentioned that there was an interesting thread at
>the
>beginning of the year about the handling of scenery objects. Bummer that I
>missed it, as this is an area that I (being a newbie) have been grappling
>with.

The newsgroup postings are, it seems, archived all the way back to november
1992 on the raif ftp site. ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/rec.arts.int-fiction

Of course *finding* anything specific in there can be quite a chore.
Someone needs to index all the subject lines or something... wheee.

--
.._,.,._.,.,.,_,._,,,.,_,.,_,..,..,_..,.,.,_,,.,.,_._.,_.,.._,.,_..,.
Tim Muddleton =-=-=- with love and squalor -=-=-= as...@torfree.net
-=-=-= read the Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum: forget Disney =-=-=-
~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~"~

Dan Lyke

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
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In article <4pkqad$s...@lll-winken.llnl.gov>, kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov
says...

>1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them
> in a game? For example, you walk into the kitchen and there is a table
> with 4 chairs. Should the chairs be completely scenery?

Objects need not be necessary, foreshadowing should give you some idea of which
objects you will and won't need, otherwise puzzles are a matter of "pick up
everything I can possibly carry whenever I see something". Objects mentioned
should be manipulatible, which, yes, includes carrying that worthless chair
around.

I think in the earlier thread we decided that it was generally possible to
leave unimportant items unmentioned. The specific example I remember was a
grocery store, where the important clues were mentioned as "among the various
fruits and vegetables available are..." rather than "You see celery, carrots,
spinach, lettuce, peppers, chard, apples, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines..."
when only one or two of those were essential to a puzzle, and the rest had
canned "You don't need that." or "I don't understand xxx" messages on them.

>2. If an object is just scenery, then should it be mentioned at all? Should
> the 4 chairs from above even be mentioned in the room description?

When I write fiction (or anything, for that matter), I write the first pass as
though I'm speaking it, then I go back and cull anything that doesn't directly
relate to what I'm trying to say. If the chairs don't have a purpose in pushing
the plot forward, don't put 'em in. If they do, integrate 'em in to the
environment in a reasonable manner. If the user wants to pick 'em up, make 'em
concrete park benches.

>So, anyone have thyme to offer some sage advice for a rosey cheeked newbie :)

Me too, or, as the model railroading folks say, "I'm an armchair IF writer",
ie: I spend a lot of time dreaming.

Dan


Neil K. Guy

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
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Kathleen Fischer (kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov) wrote:
: 1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them

: in a game? For example, you walk into the kitchen and there is a table
: with 4 chairs. Should the chairs be completely scenery?

Well, my feeling is that the chairs should behave as much as possible
like chairs. You should be able to sit on them, stand on them, put things
on them, etc. I feel this question generally boils down to "do you want
the user to be able to pick the thing up?"

This question - I dunno. I feel that red herrings are important for
adding ambience to a game, if they're objects that make sense in the
context of the game. Like most people I dislike mad treasure hunts, where
you end up with a ballpoint pen, a turkey baster, a rearview mirror, a
small blueberry and a portable nuclear reactor and have to figure out
which thing is useful. However I'm quite happy with a convincing array of
objects, particularly if some have more than one use. Or if a problem can
be solved more than one way.

I think games need a fair whack of objects, else they end up seeming
like old Adventure games - lots of roaming around empty underground
caves. The problem is then managing tons of items. What I end up doing
is making as many of them as possible bolted down (though not mere
decorations - they can actually do a few things) and so more manageable. Or
inaccessible in some reasonable way.

One thing I really dislike, however, is the standard "That item isn't
important; leave it alone" message. I feel it shatters the illusion far
more obviously than subtler ways of making objects clearly unavailable
to the player.

- Neil K. Guy

--
n...@vcn.bc.ca * Neil K. Guy * ne...@sfu.ca

Nulldogma

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
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> One thing I really dislike, however, is the standard "That item isn't
> important; leave it alone" message. I feel it shatters the illusion far
> more obviously than subtler ways of making objects clearly unavailable
> to the player.

Such as "You pick up the chair, but feel so foolish lugging it around that
you place it back where you found it"; or "You pick up the chair, but a
passing salesperson points out that while sitting on the merchandise is
perfectly okay, walking off with it is not"; or "A sudden twinge in your
shoulder reminds you that hefting heavy objects isn't at the top of your
priority list for the day."

Of course, these may only set the exceptionally stubborn player off on a
search for a disguise, a sales receipt, or some liniment, but that isn't
necessarily a bad thing...

Neil

Kathleen Fischer

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
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Jon <en...@ucla.edu> wrote:

>Kathleen Fischer wrote:
>>
>
>> 1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them
>> in a game? For example, you walk into the kitchen and there is a table
>> with 4 chairs. Should the chairs be completely scenery?
>
>I say YES. Personally, I'm more of a minimalist when it comes to adventure
>games. Obviously, there are others who feel differently, but I really hate
>it when I am overwhelmed by objects in a game. Take this game I am playing
>right now, Unnkulia: The Legend Returns! There is a machine that can
>manufacture twenty different objects not gettable anywhere else in the
>game. Presumably there are some people who drool at this kind of thing
>but I HATE it because a) I can't carry all of these objects b) there is
>practically no way of telling which objects are useful and which aren't.
>There doesn't seem like any need to make your poor players wonder if
>they need the chairs, or if they only need ONE of those chairs. And you
>don't need the hassle of coding yet another object. A couple of red herrings
>are fun, but in general I think you should probably just leave useless
>objects ungettable.
>
>In the specific case of the chairs, it would be cool if you made them
>"sitable", but not takeable.

Its interesting that several people (this message, and several private e-mails)
have refered to to the chairs as red herrings. When I think of a red herring
I think of something obviously out of place that is just begging to be picked
up that turns out to be completely useless... ie, "You see a bird whistle on
the kitchen table." ... but you can't use it anywhere. Now a kitchen chair
in the kitchen is a reasonable thing, and I would think that added code to make
it sitable and such would only increase the realism of the game (as well as
the game complexity for both the author and the player).

Kathleen Fischer

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
to dan...@pixar.com

dan...@pixar.com (Dan Lyke) wrote:
>In article <4pkqad$s...@lll-winken.llnl.gov>, kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov
>says...
>>2. If an object is just scenery, then should it be mentioned at all? Should
>> the 4 [kitchen] chairs from above even be mentioned in the room

>> description?
>>
>When I write fiction (or anything, for that matter), I write the first pass as
>though I'm speaking it, then I go back and cull anything that doesn't directly
>relate to what I'm trying to say. If the chairs don't have a purpose in pushing
>the plot forward, don't put 'em in. If they do, integrate 'em in to the
>environment in a reasonable manner. If the user wants to pick 'em up, make 'em
>concrete park benches.

Kitchen

Its your typical tract house kitchen with a stove, refrigerator, and a stunning
set of concrete park benches.


.. Hmmmmm :)

Damien Neil

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
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On 11 Jun 1996 22:00:45 GMT, Kathleen Fischer <kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> wrote:
>1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them
> in a game? For example, you walk into the kitchen and there is a table
> with 4 chairs. Should the chairs be completely scenery?

``It depends.'' :>

I'd recommend that you include just enough detail to avoid forcably
reminding the user of the restrictions inherant in the world, while
conveying the fact that the chairs are of no use whatsoever.

To be less abstract, I would prefer not to have objects mentioned in
a room description which I cannot look at. However, I would prefer
not to be allowed to interact overmuch with objects that exist merely
as window dressing.

> > x chair
> The chairs are covered in an attractive blue print.

As an aside, this is a perfect description, as far as I am concerned.
Short, succinct, and to the point. Takes little time for the author
to write (freeing her time for more important things), and takes less
time to read. I'd rather not wade through a paragraph of text on
the kitchen chairs.

> > get chair
> That is not something you need to refer to in the course of this game.

Valid. I wouldn't object to a response like this, although I generally
dislike active references to the game in narrative text.

> get chair
Leave the chairs alone.

> get chair
The chairs are a bit too heavy and bulky to lug around.

Personally, I would use something more like these responses. I would
never suggest that they are fundamentally `better' than the default
scenery response, though.

Attempting to sit on a chair should give a response.

> sit on chair
This is no time for sitting around!

> sit on chair
You briefly sit at the kitchen table, but soon grow bored and stand up.

> sit on chair
But it isn't dinnertime yet.

Any of these would be valid responses. (Actually, I don't really like
any of them; the first only makes sense if there is some immidiate
urgency about the situation, the second is intrusive (Who is the game
to say I'll grow bored? How long did I spend sitting on that chair,
during the course of one game turn?), and the third just lacks
aesthetic appeal.)

Permitting the player to just sit on the chair would be valid, and
easy enough to code. Just be consistent; if the player can sit on
the chair, she should be able to place objects on the table. And
on every other table in the game.

> Or... should you be able to drag that chair around with you even though it
> will do you no good what-so-ever in this particular game?

No. Unless you deliberately choose to create many, many red herrings,
don't create them at random. (Is there a set of silverware in the
kitchen that I can carry around? If there isn't, why not, when I can
take the chair? Aha! Clearly the chair is important...I'd better
take it with me.)

There is, of course, another solution. Create a situation which requires
the chair. :>

>2. If an object is just scenery, then should it be mentioned at all? Should

> the 4 chairs from above even be mentioned in the room description?

Err...personal choice. Try writing the room both ways, and see which
you prefer. Ask other people which they prefer. Consider it an
opportunity to form a theory of scenery description while getting
critiques of your writing style. (Having others dissect one's writing
can be very educational, if somewhat painful.)

Were this Infocom, the chairs and table would probably have been left
out. The Infocom Implementors labored under constraints that do not
apply as much today, however...

(Still, there is something to be said for the `ignore unimportant things.
concentrate on the significant' attitude.)

>My opinion is that a player shouldn't be made aware that an item is just
>scenery unless there is a programming reason for it (ie, I don't want you to be
>able to take this chair because I know you will try to use to stand on to open
>the stuck window in the next room and I would rather you find the ladder in the
>garage to do that with. Whew. What a sentance), but the item should definitly
>be mentioned. I want to know that rooms are "lived in" and fleshed out.

I agree with the idea that scenery objects can help to provide texture
to the surroundings. (Beware of making the game a treasure hunt,
however. Personally, I find looking on, under, in, behind, over, and
around every object in sight quite tedious.)

If there is a possible use for a chair, definately account for it.
One of the most annoying things in a game is a solution that should
work, but doesn't. If you really, really want the solution to require
a ladder rather than a chair, make the window too high to reach with
the chair.

I wouldn't worry too much about stacking objects on the chair to raise
the height further.

>So, anyone have thyme to offer some sage advice for a rosey cheeked newbie :)

Ouch. :>

- Damien
--
The earth is flat.
All opinions expressed in the above are mine, not necessarily JPL's.


Kathleen Fischer

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
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oops... that was last post supposed to be email... It's just not my morning.
I think I'm going to log out now :(

Kathleen

Kathleen Fischer

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
to ne...@godzilla.jpl.nasa.gov

Damien,

ne...@godzilla.jpl.nasa.gov (Damien Neil) wrote:
>
> > get chair
> Leave the chairs alone.

I don't have time to chat right now... but I had to let you know that I
got a big kick out of that response :)

Talk about "Short, succinct, and to the point." ... its great!

(I wish I had thought of it myself)

Thanks for posting (have filed it away for reading tonight when I have
time to THINK)

Neil K. Guy

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Jun 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/13/96
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Nulldogma (null...@aol.com) wrote:

: Such as "You pick up the chair, but feel so foolish lugging it around that


: you place it back where you found it"; or "You pick up the chair, but a
: passing salesperson points out that while sitting on the merchandise is
: perfectly okay, walking off with it is not"; or "A sudden twinge in your
: shoulder reminds you that hefting heavy objects isn't at the top of your
: priority list for the day."

Yeah, but the problem with this approach is that ends up telling the
player how he or she thinks or feels. I have never liked that technique
of explaining things away in adventure games (though yes - it's just a
personal preference thing). Used sparingly, I feel emotional reactions to
things can be useful, especially if they're intended to reveal things
about the internal state of the character that you're playing. But I feel
somehow that "You decide not to do X" messages are just too intrusive and
make too many assumptions.

I guess I prefer the approach of a *seemingly* amoral world - where
players can do whatever they want. Any moral consequences of their
actions are revealed through changes in the world around them, as
necessary. eg: you can steal the old lady's handbag if you really want
to; the game won't stop you. But a few hours later you are arrested by a
police officer. I very much prefer that to the moralistic approach - "You
reach for the woman's handbag, but have a sudden crisis of conscience and
collapse sobbing on the ground..." The former gives the illusion of
freedom of choice, which is kind of how the world operates, imo. The
latter doesn't even bother pretending.

Anyway, this is a bit of a jump from picking up chairs and making off
with them, but I feel it's kind of on the same continuum - the way
obvious compromises in game design are a bit too visible if the game is
up-front about things.

- Neil K. Guy

--
Neil K. Guy * ne...@sfu.ca n...@vcn.bc.ca

Jason Dyer

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Jun 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/15/96
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Neil K. Guy (n...@vcn.bc.ca) wrote:
: : Such as "You pick up the chair, but feel so foolish lugging it around that
: : you place it back where you found it"; or "You pick up the chair, but a
: : passing salesperson points out that while sitting on the merchandise is
: : perfectly okay, walking off with it is not"; or "A sudden twinge in your
: : shoulder reminds you that hefting heavy objects isn't at the top of your
: : priority list for the day."
: Yeah, but the problem with this approach is that ends up telling the
: player how he or she thinks or feels. I have never liked that technique
: of explaining things away in adventure games (though yes - it's just a
: personal preference thing). Used sparingly, I feel emotional reactions to
: things can be useful, especially if they're intended to reveal things
: about the internal state of the character that you're playing. But I feel
: somehow that "You decide not to do X" messages are just too intrusive and
: make too many assumptions.

Of the three mentioned, only the first one tells an emotional state,
and since it isn't all that funny it wouldn't be a good choice. The
second one, however, has interference from the outside world that
is both funny and reasonable. And the third comment is the effect
on the physical state of the character, which can be reasonable
assumed to be radically different than the person controlling the
character so that response is reasonable.

: I guess I prefer the approach of a *seemingly* amoral world - where

: players can do whatever they want. Any moral consequences of their
: actions are revealed through changes in the world around them, as
: necessary. eg: you can steal the old lady's handbag if you really want
: to; the game won't stop you. But a few hours later you are arrested by a
: police officer. I very much prefer that to the moralistic approach - "You
: reach for the woman's handbag, but have a sudden crisis of conscience and
: collapse sobbing on the ground..." The former gives the illusion of
: freedom of choice, which is kind of how the world operates, imo. The
: latter doesn't even bother pretending.

The only problem with this is that if every situation like this was
made, the programmer would never finish. And the above is quite mundane;
it would be far more amusing to find out the old lady happens to have
a black belt in both judo and karate. This would allow for an instant
message that wouldn't require the programming and/or extra rooms
as above.

Also, there has to be limits with everything. What really is needed
is some creativity in the responses, such as this one from what
I'm working on at the moment:

"This game will admittedly let you sink to some pretty low morals. This
is not one of them."

--
Jason Dyer - jd...@indirect.com

Gerry Kevin Wilson

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Jun 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/16/96
to

Well, since Avalon has an established main character, I guess I have it
easier than most folks. The player is asked to roleplay being the main
character, and so messages about "You would never do that to a child." are
not unreasonable. My writing of default messages and stuff is simple. I
just visualize the character, his likes, morals, and such, and then follow
them. I find this to be an interesting ay to write I-F, because it allows
me to showcase my protagonist in ways that static fiction can't do.

If the player becomes adept at understanding the main character by the end
of the game, then they have a very good idea of what he is intended to be
like, which is one of my goals for Avalon, to experiment in making
game-based characters more interesting. Both the player-controlled
character and the NPCs have things done to them to enhance them above and
beyond what has been tried in the past.

Even if it flops, it's fun to write about this character, much more so
than some 'generic' PC that has to somehow become the embodiment of the
'Everyman' archetype. I feel that writing for a main character that
doesn't exist is a bit out of my talent range, or worse, that it cheapens
what I do write in an artificial attempt to appeal to more people.

So, the bottom line is, I'm just writing a game I would like to play. Any
technique can be of some use in the proper circumstance, but no single
technique is going to be appropriate for every circumstance. Whizzard's
Guide is written vaguely because I don't pretend to be such a genius that
I can make up strict rules that apply to all works of I-F, now and
forever. I'm sorry that it's even as specific as it is, i.e. espousing a
plot-driven game.

Hmm, funny, the thread is the role of scenery. How the heck did I get
here from there? Oh well.
--

Allison Weaver

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Jun 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/16/96
to

In a thread begun by Kathleen, I think...

On 13 Jun 1996, Neil K. Guy wrote:

> Nulldogma (null...@aol.com) wrote:
>
> : Such as "You pick up the chair, but feel so foolish lugging it around that
> : you place it back where you found it"; or "You pick up the chair, but a
> : passing salesperson points out that while sitting on the merchandise is
> : perfectly okay, walking off with it is not"; or "A sudden twinge in your
> : shoulder reminds you that hefting heavy objects isn't at the top of your
> : priority list for the day."
>
> Yeah, but the problem with this approach is that ends up telling the
> player how he or she thinks or feels. I have never liked that technique
> of explaining things away in adventure games (though yes - it's just a
> personal preference thing). Used sparingly, I feel emotional reactions to
> things can be useful, especially if they're intended to reveal things
> about the internal state of the character that you're playing. But I feel
> somehow that "You decide not to do X" messages are just too intrusive and
> make too many assumptions.

This is looking like a damned if you do, damned if you don't, situation.
I'm not sure how the 'vote' has split, but it sure seems to me that at
least three very valid, mutually exclusive options offerred to Kathleen's
original question. So like so many other questions have been answered
here -- now you've heard from us, it's up to you to write it the way you
are most comfortable. How's that for a nice definitive answer?

Allison


Greg Ewing

unread,
Jun 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/17/96
to

Kathleen Fischer wrote:
>
> When I think of a red herring
> I think of something obviously out of place that is just begging to be picked
> up that turns out to be completely useless.

I think that whether the player perceives an object as a red herring
depends on the context of the game as a whole, as well as the context
of any particular object.

If the player has been through ten rooms in which chairs are mentioned
but can't be taken, then comes across a chair which can, he's probably
going to think "Aha! This chair must be needed for something!" And
if it turns out to be useless, he will then think "Oh, it was just
a red herring."

> I would think that added code to make
> it sitable and such would only increase the realism of the game

Do that by all means. If all chairs are consistently functional,
and the player is given a clue if and when he needs one, it can
only increase the quality of the game.

> // Kathleen Fischer
> // kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov

Greg

Greg Ewing

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Jun 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/17/96
to

Kathleen Fischer wrote:
>
> Its your typical tract house kitchen with a stove, refrigerator, and a stunning
> set of concrete park benches.

It's a lot more amusing than your average IF-kitchen-description!
Could be the beginning of a great game here...

> // kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov

Greg

Kathleen Fischer

unread,
Jun 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/17/96
to

Greg Ewing <gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:
>Kathleen Fischer wrote:
>>
>> Its your typical tract house kitchen with a stove, refrigerator, and a stunning
>> set of concrete park benches.
>
>It's a lot more amusing than your average IF-kitchen-description!
>Could be the beginning of a great game here...

Yes, a game that revolves around playing IF-games. Things that shouldn't be
manipulated are described in such immovable ways and things that are red
herrings are named after fish... "You see a yellow-fin tuna resting on the
coffee table." Everything you need sticks out like a sore thumb. "Next to
the tuna is a hub cap, a hand grenade, and a rubber duckie."

Anyone searching for an idea for the competition? Will sell this one cheap
:)

Kathleen.

--

// Kathleen Fischer
// kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov

Kathleen Fischer

unread,
Jun 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/17/96
to kfischer

Allison Weaver <awe...@nova.umuc.edu> wrote:
>In a thread begun by Kathleen, I think...

<snip>

>This is looking like a damned if you do, damned if you don't, situation.
>I'm not sure how the 'vote' has split, but it sure seems to me that at
>least three very valid, mutually exclusive options offerred to Kathleen's
>original question. So like so many other questions have been answered
>here -- now you've heard from us, it's up to you to write it the way you
>are most comfortable. How's that for a nice definitive answer?

Yup, Kathleen began it, and she has read every word! (Great, talking about
myself in 3rd person past tense again... usually means I've been around my two
year old too much ... "Yes sweetie, mommy had a token and she rode the pony
too.")

Three options, eh? ... I guess that would be:
1. Minimalist
If you can't do anything with it, leave it out
2. Masochistic :)
Code everything, let the player sort it out later.
3. Humerous limitation
Include it, but make it clear in an amusing/readable way that the
player
doesn't need it/can't have it.

The first method is touted as been the friendliest to the player but could
leave
your world feeling rather empty and contrived.
> Examine store
The store is empty so as not to confuse you with irrelevant objects.

The second method is certainly the most realistic (and the way I was coding my
original game.. see the postscript for more on that one), but the game will
probably never be finished and if it is then the player will most certainly
curse you and your progeny before they are through playing it.
> You see apples, celery, carrots, spinach, lettuce, peppers, chard,
oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and a tomato.
> get apples,
That's just scenery
> get celery
That's just scenery
> get carrots
That's just scenery
...
> get tangerines
That's just scenery
> get tomato
Taken
> Throw tomato at author

The third method seems like a nice way to combine 1 and 2 and still retain
your (programming) sanity.

Examples that I picked at random (and in no particular order):

"You pick up the chair, but a passing salesperson points out that while sitting

on the merchandise is perfectly okay, walking off with it is not."
-- Neil K. Guy
{ except that I would have to create a NPC salesperson }

(on trying to steal the old ladies handbag)
"...old lady happens to have a black belt in both judo and karate."
-- Jason Dyer

"> get chair
Leave the chairs alone."

-- Damien Neil

"> Its your typical tract house kitchen with a stove, refrigerator, and a
stunning set of concrete park benches."

-- me :)

.. are the ones that seem to satisfy me as a player.

I think I will change my "That's just scenery" message... thought I'm not sure
to what. Maybe I'll go so far as too create a few basic object class (Inform)
and create my scenery from them... more work but after reading this I think
I will be happier.

Thanks to all who participated!
Kathleen

ps (Program Status): Well, I have shelved my original game for the moment. I
discovered I was trying to learn needlpoint by starting a tapestry. I have
started a smaller, sampler (and hopefully simpler) game. One that will allow to
me experiment as an "artist" and perfect (ok, fine, LEARN) my
writing/progamming
skills.

Is it too late to start a competition entry :)

John Wood

unread,
Jun 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/17/96
to

Kathleen Fischer <kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov> writes:
> 1. Should a player be aware that a particular object is of no use to them
> in a game? For example, you walk into the kitchen and there is a table
> with 4 chairs. Should the chairs be completely scenery?

My vote would be to stop the player doing anything drastic with the
chair. My definition of "drastic": anything whose consequences will
require a lot of the author's time to think through/code around.

If you were writing a simulation, you'd need to allow for all sorts of
interaction with the chairs. You're not (I hope 8-), so your time and
energy is far better spent on other things.

I liked Whizzard's example of introducing a match into an adventure.
Chairs are far less troublesome, but it won't improve the game (for me,
anyway) if you can lug them around but can't do anything interesting
with them.

John


Neil K. Guy

unread,
Jun 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/18/96
to

Kathleen Fischer (kfis...@greenhouse.llnl.gov) wrote:

: "You pick up the chair, but a passing salesperson points out that while sitting


: on the merchandise is perfectly okay, walking off with it is not."
: -- Neil K. Guy
: { except that I would have to create a NPC salesperson }

Um, actually I didn't say that. I forget who did - I didn't quote him
properly, and the article has expired from my site. Sorry. Regardless, I
don't deserve credit for the idea.

Also, note that you don't need to create an NPC for this. You could do
what Infocom often did, which is to use this method but not to code
anything. The player is meant to assume, I think, that the aforementioned
salesperson suddenly loomed out of the darkness, issued his or her
admonition, and then went off to harass the next potential customer. You
can't interact with the NPC, since he or she doesn't actually exist.

- Neil K. Guy

--
Neil K. Guy * ne...@sfu.ca * n...@vcn.bc.ca
49N 16' 123W 7' * Vancouver, BC, Canada

Nulldogma

unread,
Jun 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/18/96
to

> : "You pick up the chair, but a passing salesperson points out that
while sitting
> : on the merchandise is perfectly okay, walking off with it is not."
> : -- Neil K. Guy
> : { except that I would have to create a NPC salesperson }
>
> Um, actually I didn't say that. I forget who did - I didn't quote him
> properly, and the article has expired from my site. Sorry. Regardless, I

> don't deserve credit for the idea.

'Twas me, the other Neil.

>
> Also, note that you don't need to create an NPC for this. You could do
> what Infocom often did, which is to use this method but not to code
> anything. The player is meant to assume, I think, that the
aforementioned
> salesperson suddenly loomed out of the darkness, issued his or her
> admonition, and then went off to harass the next potential customer. You
> can't interact with the NPC, since he or she doesn't actually exist.

An excellent point. Though you might want to code up some kind of
salesperson object, if only so that you could have the game respond "The
salesperson is no longer here" rather than "You don't see any salesperson
here" or (god forbid) "I don't know the word 'salesperson'".

Of course, since I neglected to read the original problem carefully and
this actually takes place in a kitchen, a passing salesperson probably
isn't a great solution anyway...

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

Kathleen Fischer

unread,
Jun 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/18/96
to

null...@aol.com (Nulldogma) wrote:
>> : "You pick up the chair, but a passing salesperson points out that
>while sitting
>> : on the merchandise is perfectly okay, walking off with it is not."
>> : -- Neil K. Guy
>> : { except that I would have to create a NPC salesperson }
>>
>> Um, actually I didn't say that. I forget who did - I didn't quote him
>> properly, and the article has expired from my site. Sorry. Regardless, I
>
>> don't deserve credit for the idea.
>
>'Twas me, the other Neil.

There are two of you? Sigh. No wonder I was confused. My apologies Neil
deMause, Neil K. Guy. I will try to do better with my references in the future.

>Of course, since I neglected to read the original problem carefully and
>this actually takes place in a kitchen, a passing salesperson probably
>isn't a great solution anyway...

Thirty lashes with a wet spegetti noodle (just as soon as add one to the
kitchen). However, you're talking about a kitchen that sports a handsome set
of concrete park benches... somehow I imagine the salesperson would fit in just
fine. (Hmm, this game is starting to sound right up Cardinal's alley)

Joe Mason

unread,
Jun 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/18/96
to

"Re: The role of scenery", declared Kathleen Fischer from the Vogon
ship:

KF>> > get chair
KF>> Leave the chairs alone.

KF>I don't have time to chat right now... but I had to let you know that
KF>I got a big kick out of that response :)

KF>Talk about "Short, succinct, and to the point." ... its great!

KF>(I wish I had thought of it myself)

Personally, I hate that response. I detest being told what to do by the
game. That's the reason I don't like "You sit there for a while, but
then get bored and stand up." I can stand up by my self just fine,
thanks.

I don't mind being told how I feel though (strangely enough). I'd see
no problem with sitting on the chair being told, "You start to feel a
bit bored." As long as it tells me I'm bored and then lets *me* stand
up. As long as its done with a good description of how I feel
(for example, "Your mind starts to wander. You find yourself
contemplating what it would be like to be an ant on the table...")
instead of just "You feel bored." all the time.

However, I'm told a lot of people do get mad at this, which is too bad
because I'm guilty of using it a lot in the game I'm writing... :-(

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --

_ CMPQwk 1.42 9550 _Therapy helps, but screaming obscenities is cheaper.

Michael Blaheta

unread,
Jun 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/20/96
to

Quoth Joe Mason:

> "Re: The role of scenery", declared Kathleen Fischer from the Vogon
> ship:
> KF>> > get chair
> KF>> Leave the chairs alone.
>
> KF>I don't have time to chat right now... but I had to let you know that
> KF>I got a big kick out of that response :)
>
> Personally, I hate that response. I detest being told what to do by the
> game. That's the reason I don't like "You sit there for a while, but
> then get bored and stand up." I can stand up by my self just fine,
> thanks.

Of course, with sitting you could just make the response be "You
sit."--after all, sitting doesn't (generally) preclude other things, and
if you leave the room one would assume you stand first. I do like witty
responses to that sort of thing, though. Even a general response like
"You start to, but then notice a tiny message inscribed in the <object>
which reads as follows: `The author thanks you not to <action> things
which he hasn't written descriptions for. Please <action> the more
important objects of the game, which the author has lovingly crafted for
your gaming pleasure.'" Or something similar. Or a randomly rotating
"hands off" response--I'd sit there taking the chairs for quite a while
to read them all. :)

Don

-=-=-=-Don Blaheta-=-=-=-bla...@quincy.edu-=-=-=-dbl...@aol.com-=-=-=-

A nuclear war can ruin your whole day.

Dan Lyke

unread,
Jun 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/21/96
to

In article <4q6kde$6...@newsbf02.news.aol.com>, null...@aol.com says...

>An excellent point. Though you might want to code up some kind of
>salesperson object, if only so that you could have the game respond "The
>salesperson is no longer here" rather than "You don't see any salesperson
>here" or (god forbid) "I don't know the word 'salesperson'".

Or, going for realism: "The salesperson is on the phone, has looked at you and
decided you're not worth his time to bother with. Why don't you try
mail-order?"

Dan

Allison Weaver

unread,
Jun 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/21/96
to

On 18 Jun 1996, Kathleen Fischer wrote:

> There are two of you? Sigh. No wonder I was confused. My apologies Neil
> deMause, Neil K. Guy. I will try to do better with my references in the future.

And just to add to the mix, we've also got Damien Neil. Reading those
ascriptions very carefully is becoming mandatory.

> Thirty lashes with a wet spegetti noodle (just as soon as add one to the
> kitchen). However, you're talking about a kitchen that sports a handsome set
> of concrete park benches... somehow I imagine the salesperson would fit in just
> fine. (Hmm, this game is starting to sound right up Cardinal's alley)

So now we've got kunkels and cardinals -- though obviously one is far
superior to the other.

Allison


NEIL SLATER

unread,
Jun 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/22/96
to

KF> >'Twas me, the other Neil.

KF> There are two of you?

There are at least three then! But I haven't been round long enough (or
said anything interesting enough) to get quoted :-)

Neil

---
* RM 1.3 U0448 * Neil....@Almac.co.uk


Nulldogma

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Jun 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/22/96
to

> > There are two of you? Sigh. No wonder I was confused. My apologies
Neil
> > deMause, Neil K. Guy. I will try to do better with my references in
the future.
>
> And just to add to the mix, we've also got Damien Neil. Reading those
> ascriptions very carefully is becoming mandatory.

To make things a little easier, I've at least finally figured out how to
make this damn kunkelesque AOL newsreader create a .sig file. Maybe
someday I'll even figure out how to format it.

Nulldogma

unread,
Jun 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/22/96
to

Neil Slater wrote:
>
> There are at least three then! But I haven't been round long enough (or
> said anything interesting enough) to get quoted :-)
>
> Neil

Happy now? :)

Neil K. Guy

unread,
Jun 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/22/96
to

NEIL SLATER (neil....@almac.co.uk) wrote:
: KF> >'Twas me, the other Neil.

: KF> There are two of you?

: There are at least three then! But I haven't been round long enough (or

: said anything interesting enough) to get quoted :-)

And a fine lot we are, too!

At least this isn't like one mailing list I'm on, which has a Neil, a
Neal and a Neile.

- Neil K. Guy

--
Neil K. Guy * n...@vcn.bc.ca * n...@tela.bc.ca

Adam J. Thornton

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Jun 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/23/96
to
In article <4qh0t1$e...@newsbf02.news.aol.com>,

Nulldogma <null...@aol.com> wrote:
>To make things a little easier, I've at least finally figured out how to
>make this damn kunkelesque AOL newsreader create a .sig file. Maybe
>someday I'll even figure out how to format it.

YM "kunkelic". HTH!

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.

Damien Neil

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Jun 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/24/96
to

On Tue, 18 Jun 1996 19:51:00 -0500, Joe Mason <joe....@tabb.com> wrote:
>I don't mind being told how I feel though (strangely enough).

Same here. Which makes me want to mention what I feel is the single
funniest thing I have seen recently: the pole in the ice in So Far.

I was sitting in a coffee house, Friday night, playing on a laptop
when I encountered the scene. The people sitting near me must have
thought I was quite odd, chortling insanely to myself while staring
at my laptop...

- Damien
--
I double-dog-dare you...

Greg Ewing

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Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

Joe Mason wrote:
>
> I'd see
> no problem with sitting on the chair being told, "You start to feel a
> bit bored."

Even better might be to let you sit there for a few turns
and then say "Aren't you feeling a bit bored by now?"

Or just let him sit there for as long as he likes and
say nothing. Pretty soon he'll get bored for real...

Greg

Greg Ewing

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Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

Allison Weaver wrote:
>
> So now we've got kunkels and cardinals -- though obviously one is far
> superior to the other.

Around the table is a handsome set of concrete park benches.
Sitting on one of the benches is a kunkel, eyeing his
surroundings with barely-concealed contempt.

On the table is a wet spaghetti noodle.

> examine bench

"Examine bench? Examine bench?" he scoffs. "If this game
had decent graphics you wouldn't have to type 'examine
bench' -- you'd just be able to *look* at the darn thing!"

> take bench

They're too heavy, especially the one with the kunkel
sitting on it.

"Examine bench. Take bench. Don't you ever get sick of
all those two-word commands? If we *have* to have text
input, let's get a decent parser in here, puh-leeze!"

> Take the noodle, wrap it around the kunkel's neck, and
slowly tighten it around his excessively vitriolic
windpipe until he turns blue and begs for mercy.

Taken.
Done.

With bulging eyes, the kunkel vainly tries to pry the
noodle loose with increasingly ineffectual fingers.
Eventually he sinks to the floor and expires.

[Your score just went up by 5000 points.]

Greg

Kevin Soucy

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Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

ROTFLMAO!

(Still wiping tears from his eyes) Oh, that was so good! I almost fell on
the floor laughing!<g>

Allison Weaver

unread,
Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to

On Tue, 25 Jun 1996, Greg Ewing wrote:

> Allison Weaver wrote:
> >
> > So now we've got kunkels and cardinals -- though obviously one is far
> > superior to the other.
>
> Around the table is a handsome set of concrete park benches.
> Sitting on one of the benches is a kunkel, eyeing his
> surroundings with barely-concealed contempt.
>
> On the table is a wet spaghetti noodle.

[most of game snipped]

> Take the noodle, wrap it around the kunkel's neck, and
> slowly tighten it around his excessively vitriolic
> windpipe until he turns blue and begs for mercy.
>
> Taken.
> Done.
>
> With bulging eyes, the kunkel vainly tries to pry the
> noodle loose with increasingly ineffectual fingers.
> Eventually he sinks to the floor and expires.
>
> [Your score just went up by 5000 points.]

Greg,

I love it, but where's Cardinal? Or is that such a superior object that
it can't be mentioned in the same scene?

Allison


John Francis

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Jun 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/25/96
to
Greg Ewing wrote:
>
> Allison Weaver wrote:
> >
> > So now we've got kunkels and cardinals -- though obviously one is far
> > superior to the other.
>
> Around the table is a handsome set of concrete park benches.
> Sitting on one of the benches is a kunkel, eyeing his
> surroundings with barely-concealed contempt.
>
> On the table is a wet spaghetti noodle.
>[snip, regrettably]
>
> > Take the noodle

Which noodle do you mean?
The wet spaghetti noodle, or the kunkel?

BPD

unread,
Jun 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/28/96
to
Greg Ewing <gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:

>"Examine bench. Take bench. Don't you ever get sick of
>all those two-word commands? If we *have* to have text
>input, let's get a decent parser in here, puh-leeze!"

>> Take the noodle, wrap it around the kunkel's neck, and


>slowly tighten it around his excessively vitriolic
>windpipe until he turns blue and begs for mercy.

>Taken.
>Done.

>With bulging eyes, the kunkel vainly tries to pry the
>noodle loose with increasingly ineffectual fingers.
>Eventually he sinks to the floor and expires.

>[Your score just went up by 5000 points.]

>Greg

<applauding wildly> Bravo!


Joe Mason

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Jun 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/28/96
to
"Re: The role of scenery", declared Greg Ewing from the Vogon ship:

GE>> I'd see
GE>> no problem with sitting on the chair being told, "You start to feel
GE>> a bit bored."

GE>Even better might be to let you sit there for a few turns
GE>and then say "Aren't you feeling a bit bored by now?"

Yep, that'd be better...

GE>Or just let him sit there for as long as he likes and
GE>say nothing. Pretty soon he'll get bored for real...

But I agree that telling the player how he feels should be saved for
more intense situations, where it's important to the plot that the
character is feeling something. You do have to be careful not to overdo
it...

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --

þ CMPQwk 1.42 9550 þGenius is perseverence in disguise.

Allison Weaver

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Jun 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/29/96
to
On Wed, 26 Jun 1996, Chris Nebel wrote:

> [Truly excellent game transcript by Greg Ewing clipped for space.]
>
> <THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE>
>
> Thank you, Greg! I truly enjoyed that! By the way, would someone please
> clue me in to what a cardinal is exactly? I missed that part...

Chris,

It would probably be too hard to explain this properly. You had to be
there? In short, Cardinal asked everyone to contribute a location, a
character, and an object. None of the three needed to be related in
anyway to each other or to any posted by other contributors. The results
were hilarious. Cardinal is putting together a game using all these
disparate contributions.

Check the archives at GMD for the months of April and May (?). And stand
by for Cardinal Teulbach's game. (How's it going, Cardinal? We haven't
seen you lately. Did the spam and pork get to you?)

Allison


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