TimeHunt and a hello

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Danny Kodicek

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Jan 9, 2004, 11:23:52 AM1/9/04
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Hi,

I've only just discovered this group (through www.faqs.org) and I'm excited
to find it exists. I thought I'd introduce myself, and I hope to spend some
time here!

I'm part of a small company called Wellspring, and IF (or Interactive
Storytelling as we prefer to think of it) is our main area of interest. Our
main project to date is called TimeHunt (URL in sig), which is an online
treasure hunt centred around the character of Michael Poverus, a
little-known alchemist of the 16th Century, whose story we uncovered.
Because he's virtually unknown, we were interested to see if his life-story
could form the basis of an online community, mixing research and invention.
So far we've been disappointed, mostly because most of our money and time
was spent building up the treasure hunt element and we couldn't devote as
much time to the forum as we would have liked, but in the long run we're
still hoping that the story will become the more enduring part of the game.

I've mostly been very unimpressed with the attempts at interactive
storytelling that I've seen, which seem to fit into either the
'choose-your-own-adventure' mould, with a small, fixed number of choices all
pre-determined by the game writer, or the God-game style of the Sims, which
tires for me very quickly because although each game is different, at the
meta-level they're all just variants on a theme. For me the only true IF is
to be found in online RPGs and MUDs, but I'm interested in looking for new
models (and Wellspring has a number of projects in the pipeline that hope to
add something new to the concept). I'm also due to be teaching (or more
accurately 'presiding over', as I'm hoping it'll be more of a creative
brainstorming event than a bunch of lessons) a course in interactive
storytelling over the summer, if there is sufficient interest (any of you
that are based in London and are interested, it'll be in the City Lit for a
week).

My own background is quite mixed - I've been a writer of fiction, a
programmer, an actor and a mathematician among other things, and I haven't
been in the IF game for long. I'm very interested in combining it with AI
and AL techniques - I'm extremely interested in Douglas Hofstadter's
computer models of creative analogy-making in particular.

I guess that'll do for now. I've committed the cardinal sin of posting
without lurking, so now I'm off to read some posts...

Best
Danny

--
--------

Join the quest through Time and Space
Register free at http://www.timehunt.com


Robin Johnson

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Jan 9, 2004, 4:19:31 PM1/9/04
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On Fri, 9 Jan 2004 16:23:52 -0000, "Danny Kodicek"
<dra...@well-spring.co.uk> wrote:

[snip]


>I've mostly been very unimpressed with the attempts at interactive
>storytelling that I've seen, which seem to fit into either the
>'choose-your-own-adventure' mould, with a small, fixed number of choices all
>pre-determined by the game writer,

But in games which take a text input, you the player aren't presented
with 'choices', you have to guess what to do. Yes, the correct choice
is predetermined by the game author, but many game authors like to
have several different ways to solve the one problem. (Not something I
do - I like there to be one "right answer", because I see the games
more as puzzles than as stories - but that's my personal opinion.)

>or the God-game style of the Sims, which
>tires for me very quickly because although each game is different, at the
>meta-level they're all just variants on a theme.

I don't think the Sims would be classified as interactive fiction.

>For me the only true IF is
>to be found in online RPGs and MUDs, but I'm interested in looking for new
>models (and Wellspring has a number of projects in the pipeline that hope to
>add something new to the concept).

I made a couple of games (not really distributed or, for that matter,
very good) with a graphical point-n'-click interface, but I've
recently come back to the plain old text adventure. No graphical
representation of a scene or a character will ever be as vivid as the
image a good writer can conjure up in his readers' imaginations; and
for the player, conversing with the game engine in natural language
is, I think, what really makes it "interactive fiction". All computer
games are necessarily interactive and fictional, but only text IF
games intertwine those two things, as both the input and the output
are in 'story' format. Does that make sense?

>I'm also due to be teaching (or more
>accurately 'presiding over', as I'm hoping it'll be more of a creative
>brainstorming event than a bunch of lessons) a course in interactive
>storytelling over the summer, if there is sufficient interest (any of you
>that are based in London and are interested, it'll be in the City Lit for a
>week).

I'm based in Leicester and I might be in London by summer; put me down
as "interested, maybe" if you like.
--
Robin Johnson
rj at robinjohnson.f9.co.uk
http://www.robinjohnson.f9.co.uk
"Please [...] quote me out of context."

Danny Kodicek

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Jan 10, 2004, 6:05:37 AM1/10/04
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"Robin Johnson" <r...@NO-SPAM-PLEASE.robinjohnson.f9.co.uk> wrote in message
news:942uvv00n9j6ku7es...@4ax.com...

> On Fri, 9 Jan 2004 16:23:52 -0000, "Danny Kodicek"
> <dra...@well-spring.co.uk> wrote:
>
> [snip]
> >I've mostly been very unimpressed with the attempts at interactive
> >storytelling that I've seen, which seem to fit into either the
> >'choose-your-own-adventure' mould, with a small, fixed number of choices
all
> >pre-determined by the game writer,
>
> But in games which take a text input, you the player aren't presented
> with 'choices', you have to guess what to do. Yes, the correct choice
> is predetermined by the game author, but many game authors like to
> have several different ways to solve the one problem. (Not something I
> do - I like there to be one "right answer", because I see the games
> more as puzzles than as stories - but that's my personal opinion.)

And I love puzzle games as much as the next sad geek, of course :) (With
Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle coming out as clear winners in my
mind). But for me that highlights the difference between interactive
*fiction* and interactive *storytelling*, because the participants in these
games are not contributing to the story, they're just doing their best to
thread their way through it (with more or less choice about the route they
take).

I remember seeing Douglas Adams talking in the Festival Hall a few years
ago, just before Starship Titanic came out. It sounded so exciting, because
he was really pushing the idea that this was something new, a true
'interactive novel'. And when it came out it was so disappointing. I
remember thinking at the time 'the only true interactive novel is a word
processor'. My views on that have changed a little now, and I'm more
interested in exploring the idea of action-led stories, inspired mainly by
the parlour game Daniel Dennett calls 'Psychoanalysis', where the story
seems to be telling itself. But I don't want to give *too* much away!

>
> >or the God-game style of the Sims, which
> >tires for me very quickly because although each game is different, at the
> >meta-level they're all just variants on a theme.
>
> I don't think the Sims would be classified as interactive fiction.

No, now that I've done more reading on the group I see that IF is defined
here more strictly than that. Again, the Sims are more interactive
storytelling than interactive fiction. But it doesn't work as either for me.

>
> >For me the only true IF is
> >to be found in online RPGs and MUDs, but I'm interested in looking for
new
> >models (and Wellspring has a number of projects in the pipeline that hope
to
> >add something new to the concept).
>
> I made a couple of games (not really distributed or, for that matter,
> very good) with a graphical point-n'-click interface, but I've
> recently come back to the plain old text adventure. No graphical
> representation of a scene or a character will ever be as vivid as the
> image a good writer can conjure up in his readers' imaginations; and
> for the player, conversing with the game engine in natural language
> is, I think, what really makes it "interactive fiction". All computer
> games are necessarily interactive and fictional, but only text IF
> games intertwine those two things, as both the input and the output
> are in 'story' format. Does that make sense?

Yes and no. I understand what you're saying, but that seems a rather narrow
view of what 'fiction' is. Sure, a good writer can create vivid scenes in
someone's imagination, but so can a good director - think Terry Gilliam or
Tim Burton, for example (at least in their better movies!). And after all,
if text adventures are so much better at conjuring up images in people's
imaginations, why did people jump for graphical games as soon as they
possibly could? (I played Leisure Suit Larry on an old Amstrad many years
back...)


>
> >I'm also due to be teaching (or more
> >accurately 'presiding over', as I'm hoping it'll be more of a creative
> >brainstorming event than a bunch of lessons) a course in interactive
> >storytelling over the summer, if there is sufficient interest (any of you
> >that are based in London and are interested, it'll be in the City Lit for
a
> >week).
>
> I'm based in Leicester and I might be in London by summer; put me down
> as "interested, maybe" if you like.

Thanks :) It may be a weird course.

Danny


Piglet

unread,
Jan 10, 2004, 10:37:26 AM1/10/04
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> <snip>

> And after all, if text adventures are so much better at conjuring
> up images in people's imaginations, why did people jump for
> graphical games as soon as they possibly could? (I played
> Leisure Suit Larry on an old Amstrad many years back...)
> <snip>

IMHO there is a large difference between the 'conjuring' of images
through text and the 'representation' of images through graphics. The
images that a peice of fiction (or text based game) will often (if
written well enough) equal more than the sum of there parts (and more
than an aquivalent graphical representation), as they generally allow
you to invlove your imagination in there interpretation. This however
does not mean that graphics are with out a place in games, far from it
as they allow for information to be taken in faster (and in many cases
making it easier to comprehend positioning, dimensions etc.)

As a (probably fairly shoddy) example it would be difficult to make a
good prose based game that is action orientated or a good graphical game
that allowed you to smell or taste etc. your enviroment.

Jonathan Whiting

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