Introduction and questions about modern IF

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Jon Ripley

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Jul 23, 2004, 8:19:36 PM7/23/04
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I am thinking about returning to the IF community and would like to know
others opinions about the current state of play relating to the
design, implementation and features of modern IF games. I have
researched this myself but I hope that this request for more information
will be fruitful.

I have a few minor commercial releases under my belt in the old style, I
would be shocked and astonished if anyone has heard of or seen my
efforts. I know that none would stand up to the light of today. I have
played a very minor role in the IF community in the past five years and
would like to go much further, it has been nine years since I last
created any major works. I do appreciate that modern commercial
interactive fiction is a faded dream for most but I am here for the love
and challenge of IF.

Reading about interactive fiction today I see that many perceive two
distinct schools of interactive fiction, old and modern. When I was last
heavily involved in IF the old school was the modern way and things have
come on a long way since then.

What elements might a modern IF game contain compared to the old style
games?

What have been the major developments in IF games since the old days?

Some of the main ones I can see are:

o The move towards natural language parsers.
o Greater depth of game play with more involving plots.
o Moving towards a feeling of first person involvement for the player.
o Greater realism and depth of descriptive text.

What do authors strive towards when creating new works?

Any ways, I don't want to bore everyone on my first visit so...

Adieu,
Jon Ripley

PS. Thanks in advance for all the wonderful replies.

S

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Jul 23, 2004, 10:48:34 PM7/23/04
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Hi Jon,

Welcome (back).

> What elements might a modern IF game contain compared
> to the old style games?

I think the only true, general answer to this question is "fewer puzzles
and more narrative flow". There's a lot more you can say about specific
works, but I think the shift from puzzles to narrative is *the* fundamental
difference between the schools. An old-school work is a game, a new-school
work is a story or experience.
Some side effects of this are more involved NPC's (sometimes), more
named protagonists (not always), deeper simulation (but this is also present
in "new old-school" games).

> What do authors strive towards when creating new works?

I would say there is a very strong desire in the community, and to some
degree a social "demand", that new works must try new things. In other
words, a strong push for experimentation and advancement of the medium -- be
it more detailed simulations, artistic or literary experimentation,
gimmicks, etc.
At times, solid-but-non-experimental games can be dismissed a bit
quickly, while original-but-gimmicky games will get a little more attention
than they deserve. I think some new old-school games remain unwritten
because their authors fear the game would be unwanted (though an extremely
polished new old-school game is always well-received).

> PS. Thanks in advance for all the wonderful replies.

No no, thank you for giving me an excuse to say "old school" 5 times in
one post. It was quite liberating.

S.

Dan Shiovitz

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Jul 24, 2004, 2:20:25 AM7/24/04
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In article <EZjMc.42136$Gf7.1...@news20.bellglobal.com>,

S <do...@spam.com> wrote:
>
>> What elements might a modern IF game contain compared
>> to the old style games?
>
> I think the only true, general answer to this question is "fewer puzzles
>and more narrative flow". There's a lot more you can say about specific
>works, but I think the shift from puzzles to narrative is *the* fundamental
>difference between the schools. An old-school work is a game, a new-school

Hmm, I would actually class this as part of a larger trend towards
"not annoying the player". Or, to put it another way, "writing as
though the player has many possible demands on their time." In older
games it was ok to make the player map; force them to replay a game
from the start numerous times because they accidentally made it
unwinnable; make them type out >EXAMINE or >LOOK; make them put items
away in a container to make room to pick up a key, pick up the key,
say to unlock the door with the key, then open the door instead of
letting the player just do >OPEN DOOR; and generally do more work to
fit the game. In modern IF this is all frowned on, and I think the
moves towards fewer puzzles and better game design are part of the
same trend of making shortier, snappier games that are more fun to
play, because players don't have as much time for longer games (and
authors don't have as much time to write them).

[..]


> At times, solid-but-non-experimental games can be dismissed a bit
>quickly, while original-but-gimmicky games will get a little more attention
>than they deserve. I think some new old-school games remain unwritten

Hmm, I guess it depends what "more attention than they deserve"
means. I agree that, say, 9:05 has gotten much more attention
proportionate to the time it probably took to write it than, say,
Mulldoon has. But on the other hand, Mulldoon is still doing pretty
well in absolute terms, and 9:05 does have a pretty clever twist. I
certainly hope that nobody's holding back on writing a big puzzle game
because they're worried it won't get attention -- Anchorhead,
Savoir-Faire, and First Things First are all obvious examples of games
whose reputations show there's still interest in the style.

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

Christopher Hazell

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Jul 24, 2004, 4:14:21 AM7/24/04
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Well, I'm new too, but I've decided to learn how to write text
adventures. Yay me.

Anyway, while I haven't done a lot of writing, I've done a lot of
playing, and the main differance I've noticed is that as time goes on
games get more and more player friendly.

One thing that seems to be frowned on these days is puzzles that
require dying multiple times to solve. It seems that the current
perception is that a player should, if they are perceptive enough, be
able to solve a puzzle on the first try. Essential information should
not be included only in the death messages, in other words.

Another big thing is multiple endings and multiple paths through
games. A related idea is that the group of possible endings should not
have a "best" ending along with several worse ones, but instead all
endings should have good points and bad points. Pretty much exactly
what "Slouching Towards Bedlam" did.

In a way, the basic philosophy of gaming has turned 180 degrees; In
the old days, the idea was for the author to frustrate the player in
his (or her) goals, wheras now the idea is for the author to
facilitate the players action.

Tommy Herbert

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Jul 24, 2004, 5:46:34 AM7/24/04
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Jon Ripley <j...@stryker.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

> What elements might a modern IF game contain compared to the old style
> games?
>
> What have been the major developments in IF games since the old days?

Have you read Gerry Kevin Wilson's aritcle in the latest issue of SPAG
(http://sparkynet.com/spag)? He talks at length on those exact
questions.

S mentioned more named protagonists, and I think that's a very
important development. These days, most player characters have a
complete personality of their own, and the player's job is therefore
to play a role rather than react to the situation as he would if he
were in it himself. I think it's fair to say that most people now
find it disappointing if they "x me" and find that they are "As
good-looking as ever."

Greg Boettcher

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Jul 24, 2004, 8:44:17 AM7/24/04
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Hi Dan. I am a somewhat newer member of the IF community, and I
normally wouldn't take issue with somebody like you who has earned a
reputation, but in this case I must.

d...@cs.wisc.edu (Dan Shiovitz) wrote:
> I think the
> moves towards fewer puzzles and better game design are part of the
> same trend of making shortier, snappier games that are more fun to
> play, because players don't have as much time for longer games (and
> authors don't have as much time to write them).

I don't. I think this is entirely the influence of the IF Comp.

You can't think that society has changed so much in the last fifteen
years that the audience for long games has disappeared. I suspect what
you mean is that you've gotten older and you have less time now to
spend on this stuff than you did in the 80s and 90s. That's true of me
too, but I'm not going to overgeneralize about how much time other
people have.

Are you really saying that the entire IF community consists of people
who are older now and have more responsibilities and no time to play
longer games? If this is what you mean, then I hope you're wrong. I
hope, for one thing, that younger players are replenishing the
audience for IF, because if not, then we are the last generation of IF
authors and players. I also hope that older players have enough time
to engage a form of art (long IF) that I think has intrinsic value.

Even if it were true that nobody has time anymore for long games, this
would still be a separate issue from good design.

> I certainly hope that nobody's holding back on writing a big puzzle
> game because they're worried it won't get attention -- Anchorhead,
> Savoir-Faire, and First Things First are all obvious examples of games
> whose reputations show there's still interest in the style.

Yes, I agree. IF's status as art is severely compromised if authors
have to make decisions based on what players have time for, rather
than what is best for their work. The way I see it, IF would then be
valuable only in an instrumental sense, being subservient to and less
important than the lifestyle of the player. IF is supposed to be
valuable in itself; otherwise we are all fools to be writing it for
free.

That may sound like a simplistic view of the matter, but I think it's
not. I think that's what it really boils down to.

I'm saying this with all due respect. Sorry if it sounds harsh. I hope
you don't take offense.

Greg

S

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Jul 24, 2004, 10:27:08 AM7/24/04
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Hi Dan,

> > I think the only true, general answer to this question is
> > "fewer puzzles and more narrative flow".
>

> Hmm, I would actually class this as part of a larger trend
> towards "not annoying the player". Or, to put it another
> way, "writing as though the player has many possible
> demands on their time."

I agree completely with the list of developments you propose, but I see
nearly all of them as emerging from the desire to have more narrative flow
(something I believe is happening with mainstream games as well). Here's
how I see it:

-Desire for more narrative flow
(1) large pauses to solve puzzles become unacceptable (they kill
pacing)
(2) after-death knowledge and other "4th-wall-breakers" become
unacceptable (they kill immersion)
(3) general advancements in "convenience" (x for examine; automatic
key use, etc) (inconvenience is a distraction from narrative)

Note that (1) says it's "stumping", rather than puzzle-solving itself,
which is in competition with narrative. Even among the puzzle-focussed
games, I think we have moved toward easier puzzles, more-hinted puzzles, and
more world-integrated puzzles (i.e. fewer "mysterious machines"). I think
this is part of a greater trend toward making the puzzle subservient to the
narrative, which does not mean it can't exist, but it takes 2nd priority.
As for (2), we've had a lot of "concept" or "gimmick" games that play
with various meta-concepts, but in games which are NOT "concept" games, that
type of thing has become less acceptable.

Anyway, what I'm mainly trying to say is I disagree that people have
less time for IF. I have about the same amount of time as I always did
(i.e. not enough ;^D). But I can say for sure that I'd like to see more
long, involved games. I also agree with Greg that the annual Comp may be
partly to blame, though I use the word "blame" in the most neutral sense.

S.

Jon Ripley

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Jul 24, 2004, 10:49:25 AM7/24/04
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Dan Shiovitz wrote:
> I think the moves towards fewer puzzles and better game design are
> part of the same trend of making shortier, snappier games that are
> more fun to play, because players don't have as much time for
> longer games (and authors don't have as much time to write them).

I think it is safe to say that this can also apply to modern commercial
games for both home computers and consoles. I have seen a great many
games that once bought for £40 can be completed in a few days. Though
the record I have seen was for a 3 disk PS1 RPG that was completed in a
few hours on the first sitting. Needless to say I often come across
modern commercial non-IF games that whilst providing a wonderful in
depth world they suffer from little longevity.

From minor investigations with other gamers the question of having
beautifully realised games with a low puzzle element and a short
gamespan the overwhelming answer was - what's the point? Many have
proven frustration on this point.

I appreciate that the views on short easy games however beautifully
realised may have something to do with the amount of money paid for said
games. A lot of expenditure for a little gametime can be seen as a bad
thing. Modern IF games now are largely free sofrware and with so many
games available I wonder if it is easy for people to bore quickly with a
larger or more complex game and look elsewhere for the short shap fix of
an easy win.

I appreciate that smaller games have their place but I hope that the
collective works of modern IF do not compromise IFcomp style games which
can be completed in a few hours. Larger, more complex games can offer a
lot to the player who is willing to stick with the game for the love of
playing. Personally I hope the trend does not continue.

Anyways...

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 24, 2004, 11:11:43 AM7/24/04
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Here, Greg Boettcher <WRITET...@gregboettcher.com> wrote:
> d...@cs.wisc.edu (Dan Shiovitz) wrote:
> > I think the
> > moves towards fewer puzzles and better game design are part of the
> > same trend of making shortier, snappier games that are more fun to
> > play, because players don't have as much time for longer games (and
> > authors don't have as much time to write them).
>
> I don't. I think this is entirely the influence of the IF Comp.

I think it's both.



> You can't think that society has changed so much in the last fifteen
> years that the audience for long games has disappeared. I suspect what
> you mean is that you've gotten older and you have less time now to
> spend on this stuff than you did in the 80s and 90s. That's true of me
> too, but I'm not going to overgeneralize about how much time other
> people have.
>
> Are you really saying that the entire IF community consists of people
> who are older now and have more responsibilities and no time to play
> longer games?

No, it's *mostly* people who are older now and have more
responsibilities.

I'm about in the center of the Zork Boom: I was ten years old in 1980,
when my family got a personal computer and Infocom's first product. I
see a lot of IF players within five years of my age. I see a secondary
group who were the *adults* buying their first personal computer in
1980. And there are plenty of outliers, older players and young
newcomers, but they're not the majority.

> If this is what you mean, then I hope you're wrong. I hope, for one
> thing, that younger players are replenishing the audience for IF,
> because if not, then we are the last generation of IF authors and
> players.

I hope that too. I have less hope of the (more optimistic) view that
the next generation of IF players will be as large as this one.

In any case, it's worth noting that graphical computer games have
*also* evolved towards not bogging down the player for long periods of
time. This isn't the same as being shorter, since there are
countervailing publishing pressures towards long games that are
expensive to develop, but it's part of the same trend towards computer
gaming that doesn't ask as much of the player.

> Yes, I agree. IF's status as art is severely compromised if authors
> have to make decisions based on what players have time for, rather
> than what is best for their work.

Oh, dear, compromising your art for what the audience wants. What a
tragedy.

--Z

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

ems...@mindspring.com

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Jul 24, 2004, 12:38:49 PM7/24/04
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d...@cs.wisc.edu (Dan Shiovitz) wrote in message news:<cdsv39$e24$1...@drizzle.com>...

> fit the game. In modern IF this is all frowned on, and I think the
> moves towards fewer puzzles and better game design are part of the
> same trend of making shortier, snappier games that are more fun to
> play, because players don't have as much time for longer games (and
> authors don't have as much time to write them).

I think it has something to do with the amount of time that players
have, and a *lot* to do with the number of other options they have.
I've talked to a number of people about this phenomenon, and by and
large the response seems to be "if I'm playing IF and I get stuck or
bored, I just download something else." Because games are numerous
and free, there's little to compel anyone to stick with a game that
has let them down, even momentarily, unless they're hooked.
Frequently -- not always, but often -- the strongest game hooks come
from having a good narrative whose end the player wants to discover
(or determine, if there are multiple endings).

As for authorial time, though, most of the time I spend working on any
given game goes into making it more accessible and less frustrating.
Something very old school, with cruel and underclued puzzles and a
large number of sparsely-implemented rooms, wouldn't take very much
longer to construct than a thoroughly-implemented compact game.

It just wouldn't get much play, I think.

Anyway, to the original poster, I'd suggest reading the retrospective
article in the most recent SPAG; Graham Nelson's "Craft of Adventure",
which has been around for a few years but has had considerable
influence on the way things have developed; and a bunch of reviews.
Puzzle-fests are not dead. Long games are not dead either, though
they are fewer simply because they take more work and because they get
less feedback. Certain kinds of player-abuse and player-neglect are
discouraged, though in fact you will still find games being written
that do play as though they are just in from 1979.

Zach Flynn

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Jul 24, 2004, 12:59:56 PM7/24/04
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> Are you really saying that the entire IF community consists of people
> who are older now and have more responsibilities and no time to play
> longer games? If this is what you mean, then I hope you're wrong. I
> hope, for one thing, that younger players are replenishing the
> audience for IF, because if not, then we are the last generation of IF
> authors and players. I also hope that older players have enough time
> to engage a form of art (long IF) that I think has intrinsic value.
>
Well, I thought I'd encourage you. I am starting up as an IF author and
I was not alive when Zork came out. I'm really an amateur game designer
who wanted to create a non-arcade game for once but as I don't have a
team I thought I couldn't create a journey, but I discovered IF and a
single author can write a whole game! So I have joined your ranks now.

Wish me luck.

Paul Drallos

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Jul 24, 2004, 1:04:47 PM7/24/04
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Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> Here, Greg Boettcher <WRITET...@gregboettcher.com> wrote:
>

<snip>


>
>>Yes, I agree. IF's status as art is severely compromised if authors
>>have to make decisions based on what players have time for, rather
>>than what is best for their work.
>
>
> Oh, dear, compromising your art for what the audience wants. What a
> tragedy.
>

I agree with your sentiment. But Greg's point is still valid in a
limited sense because there isn't just one audience.

Maybe the largest audience prefers short and simpler games, but one
doesn't always want to pitch to the largest audience. Consider
popular music verses classical/symphonic music for example. The popular
music audience is much larger, but it would indeed be a tragedy if
symphony orchestras abandoned their traditional, albeit, smaller audience
and catered only to the popular crowd.

So, your right. The artist should still cater to his/her audience,
but that need not be the largest and most vocal one.

Michael Roy

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Jul 24, 2004, 4:40:49 PM7/24/04
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[ Contains mostly-non-spoiler discussion of Anchorhead, Misdirection,
Theatre, and Once and Future ]

S wrote:

<snip>


>
> -Desire for more narrative flow
> (1) large pauses to solve puzzles become unacceptable (they kill
> pacing)

I would add the caveat that, for myself at least, this is only the case
if the puzzle is not intended to halt progress. Anchorhead, for
example, has puzzles presented on one day which cannot be solved until
later days, which I felt both made the game more realistic and suggested
that the protagonist herself had to take some time to solve these
puzzles, adding to the overall feel. Additionally, this may have been
more appropriate because I was expecting it from the game. I was much
more tolerant of long pauses in it than I was of short ones in, say,
Misdirection, because the latter game was more essentially a story than
Anchorhead and it's Guess-The-Magic-Trick style reminded me most of the
experience of a story stopped by writer's block.

So, I suppose, I would argue that larger pauses work best if they
complement the narrative flow. Thus, the time spent on the "maze" style
puzzles kills pacing, but any time I spend thinking about how to
overcome an obstacle can improve the pacing, especially if the puzzle is
such that I can think about it while I'm away from the game.

> (2) after-death knowledge and other "4th-wall-breakers" become
> unacceptable (they kill immersion)
> (3) general advancements in "convenience" (x for examine; automatic
> key use, etc) (inconvenience is a distraction from narrative)
>
> Note that (1) says it's "stumping", rather than puzzle-solving itself,
> which is in competition with narrative. Even among the puzzle-focussed
> games, I think we have moved toward easier puzzles, more-hinted puzzles, and
> more world-integrated puzzles (i.e. fewer "mysterious machines"). I think
> this is part of a greater trend toward making the puzzle subservient to the
> narrative, which does not mean it can't exist, but it takes 2nd priority.

I agree. If the narrative is designed to accommodate the puzzles, it'll
almost certainly fall apart. Alternatively, there are some good
examples of the two standing equally without stepping on each other's
toes, such as the journal entries in Theatre or the brief exposition
sections strewn across Once and Future. In these cases, I suggest that
the pacing provided by the puzzles improves the narrative flow (most of
my interest in Theatre came from gradually gathering the pages out of
order).

S

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Jul 25, 2004, 1:07:04 AM7/25/04
to

"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> > Yes, I agree. IF's status as art is severely compromised if authors
> > have to make decisions based on what players have time for, rather
> > than what is best for their work.
>
> Oh, dear, compromising your art for what the audience wants. What a
> tragedy.


That's not what he said at all.

Should all movies be edited down to 100 minutes? Should every play have
only three acts? All he's saying is that a work should be executed
appropriately, and if people don't have time for a long work, they should
choose something shorter, rather than the work being inappropriately
shortened.

S.

S

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Jul 25, 2004, 1:08:24 AM7/25/04
to

> Well, I thought I'd encourage you. I am starting up as an IF author and
> I was not alive when Zork came out. I'm really an amateur game designer
> who wanted to create a non-arcade game for once but as I don't have a
> team I thought I couldn't create a journey, but I discovered IF and a
> single author can write a whole game! So I have joined your ranks now.
>
> Wish me luck.

Good luck! It's a fun hobby. :^)

S.

S

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Jul 25, 2004, 1:12:42 AM7/25/04
to
> > (1) large pauses to solve puzzles become unacceptable
>
> I would add the caveat that, for myself at least, this is only the
> case if the puzzle is not intended to halt progress.

Agreed completely. I think you make an excellent point in saying that
the best games use their puzzles/obstacles to *create* their pacing.

S.

S

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Jul 25, 2004, 1:22:29 AM7/25/04
to
> I appreciate that the views on short easy games however
> beautifully realised may have something to do with the
> amount of money paid for said games.

In mainstream gaming their exists a certain sentiment that play time is
equivalent to quality or value. Games will advertise their expected
play-time (often on the box) to show value-for-money. To a certain degree,
mainstream players have been conditioned to reject shorter games as "bad
value" -- and this is often reinforced by the gaming media in reviews.
In other words, I would take those comments with a grain of salt - in my
opinion some of them are conditioned reactions.

> ... I wonder if it is easy for people to bore quickly with a larger


> or more complex game and look elsewhere for the short
> shap fix of an easy win.

...thought it's not always about a "win" any more. :^)

S.

Roberto Grassi

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Jul 25, 2004, 5:40:34 AM7/25/04
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Hi all,

> All he's saying is that a work should be executed
> appropriately, and if people don't have time for a long work, they should
> choose something shorter, rather than the work being inappropriately
> shortened.

Agree...
And, about new forms of IF for new (and young) players i was thinking
about the 'boom' of graphical FLASH AG like MOTAS and Viridian Room,
etc...
"Simple" and "fast" games all based on point & click.
I think we should work about IF authoring completely Web based,
with preference to point & click, oriented to occasional players...
That could be ONE form of IF, of course.
Rob

--
Posted via Mailgate.ORG Server - http://www.Mailgate.ORG

Richard Bos

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Jul 25, 2004, 11:13:07 AM7/25/04
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

Are you saying that he _should_ do what the audience wants, even if that
is not what he wants to write? Hmmm... I can see the point of that if
you're a rock band, or a thriller writer. However, if mainstream artists
would take that attitude as a given, Rembrandt's Night Watch would have
looked rather different, and in fact a lot more boring[1]. Ditto for
Bach's Matthaeus Passion. Ditto, in spades, for Joyce's Ulysses, which
would probably not even have existed.

Richard

[1] When they finish rebuilding the Rijksmuseum, I recommend going to
see it to anyone. When I was there, they had the Night Watch there,
accompanied by a couple of more "mainstream" pieces in the same genre
from that time. It was immediately obvious why Rembrandt is considered a
genius.

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 25, 2004, 12:34:42 PM7/25/04
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Here, Richard Bos <r...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> > Here, Greg Boettcher <WRITET...@gregboettcher.com> wrote:
> > > Yes, I agree. IF's status as art is severely compromised if authors
> > > have to make decisions based on what players have time for, rather
> > > than what is best for their work.
> >
> > Oh, dear, compromising your art for what the audience wants. What a
> > tragedy.
>
> Are you saying that he _should_ do what the audience wants, even if that
> is not what he wants to write?

Fair question. No, I'm not. I'm saying that "IF's status as art" is
not at all compromised if an author *does* take his audience into
account.

Whether the author "has to" is a rather loaded question, since
obviously nobody *has* to write short works, long works, or any other
length of work.

Stefano Gaburri

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Jul 25, 2004, 12:45:19 PM7/25/04
to
Richard Bos wrote:

> you're a rock band, or a thriller writer. However, if mainstream artists
> would take that attitude as a given, Rembrandt's Night Watch would have

> looked rather different, and in fact a lot more boring.

On the other hand, the concept of "art as art" is absolutely modern and
most (if not all) great artists of the past are likely not to share a
similiar vision. Try asking Benvenuto Cellini to work "for art's sake"
instead of a nice, hefty wad of (papal) money... :)

Of course, the masters didn't have to go against their style to get some
work. But still, imagine a famous contemporary painter putting Bill
Gates or somebody else in the foreground of his/her work just because
hey, he's the one paying!

ciao
S

Daniel Barkalow

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Jul 27, 2004, 1:28:43 AM7/27/04
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On Sat, 24 Jul 2004, Dan Shiovitz wrote:

> In article <EZjMc.42136$Gf7.1...@news20.bellglobal.com>,
> S <do...@spam.com> wrote:
> >
> >> What elements might a modern IF game contain compared
> >> to the old style games?
> >
> > I think the only true, general answer to this question is "fewer puzzles
> >and more narrative flow". There's a lot more you can say about specific
> >works, but I think the shift from puzzles to narrative is *the* fundamental
> >difference between the schools. An old-school work is a game, a new-school
>
> Hmm, I would actually class this as part of a larger trend towards
> "not annoying the player". Or, to put it another way, "writing as
> though the player has many possible demands on their time." In older
> games it was ok to make the player map; force them to replay a game
> from the start numerous times because they accidentally made it
> unwinnable; make them type out >EXAMINE or >LOOK; make them put items
> away in a container to make room to pick up a key, pick up the key,
> say to unlock the door with the key, then open the door instead of
> letting the player just do >OPEN DOOR; and generally do more work to
> fit the game. In modern IF this is all frowned on, and I think the
> moves towards fewer puzzles and better game design are part of the
> same trend of making shortier, snappier games that are more fun to
> play, because players don't have as much time for longer games (and
> authors don't have as much time to write them).

I think that the trend is towards snappier games of any length. Anchorhead
is both longer and snappier than Lurking Horror, for example. One gets a
lot more text and a little more action out of a given number of keystrokes
in the recent piece.

For that matter, I think that recent old-school games (Risorgimento
Represso comes to mind) have the characteristics above of putting effort
into being pleasant to play, while still being thick with puzzles relative
to plot. Even if the game is willing to get you completely stuck, it makes
all of the parts that aren't supposed to be difficult convenient. This has
come to be seen as polish. So even the old-school games aren't actually
particularly like old games; So Far is careful to avoid annoying the
player while still frustrating the player as much as possible.

-Iabervon
*This .sig unintentionally changed*

Paul O'Brian

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Jul 29, 2004, 9:47:53 AM7/29/04
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On Sat, 24 Jul 2004, Tommy Herbert wrote:

> Have you read Gerry Kevin Wilson's aritcle in the latest issue of SPAG
> (http://sparkynet.com/spag)? He talks at length on those exact
> questions.

A small correction -- I think you're referring to Duncan Stevens' article
in that issue.

Also possibly of interest: I wrote a review of "Dungeon" for IF-Review
that spends a little time discussing the philosophical shift
between some of the earliest IF and more modern works. It's at
http://www.ministryofpeace.com/if-review/reviews/20010629.html.

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
Issue #37 of SPAG is here, celebrating 10 years of IF reviews, news, and
articles! Get yours at http://sparkynet.com/spag.


Tommy Herbert

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Jul 30, 2004, 2:34:03 PM7/30/04
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> A small correction -- I think you're referring to Duncan Stevens' article
> in that issue.

Oh, yes. Sorry. Most of my posts recently seem to have been in some
way erroneous. I'm just one of those forces for good that make Usenet
such a valuable resource.

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