coherent IF

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Jacek Pudlo

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May 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/27/00
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Warning, possible spoiler
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There is game, I've forgotten it's name, where the player is supposed to
heat up some chinese food in a micro-wave oven and then give it to a hacker.
Being the kind of IF consumer who enjoys experimenting with stuff I promptly
inserted a can of Coke into the oven. Nothing noteworthy happened.
"Allright" I thought "maybe the oven is too important to the plot to be
destroyed . But the chocolate should work fine." When I took the chocolate
out of the oven, after ten minutes of exposing it to micro waves, it wasn't
even lukewarm.
How coherent should IF reality be? Should we accept that a micro-wave oven
only works on chinese food (from a specific province) or is this something
that decreases the enjoyment of the game? Should game makers avoid items
that are too complex for them to handle in a realistic way?

ahop...@yahoo.com

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May 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/28/00
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Jacek Pudlo wrote:

> There is game, I've forgotten it's name,

It's Infocom's "Lurking Horror"


Passenger Pigeon

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May 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/28/00
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In article <xtYX4.5894$wYl.22...@newsb.telia.net>, "Jacek Pudlo"
<jacek...@hotmail.com> wrote:

There's an elegant term for this effect which I have forgotten, so I'll
just call it "explosive expansion": when you add one object, you have
to make sure it behaves appropriately with every other object in the
game. It's easy to miss one or two, and then you get in trouble,
because inquisitive people like you and I will try silly things and be
bothered when it doesn't work. Like any work of literature, it takes
very little to make somebody stop believing. And then the fairies die.
There are also, of course, several articles on this exact subject, most
of which use the nifty word "mimesis." qv. the raif archive and all
(http://bang.dhs.org/).

My personal take would be that no, you shouldn't be forced to accept a
magical microwave, but in a large-scale game slips like this are bound
to crop up, especially in a limited memory/code environment like Infocom
was working with in The Lurking Horror (the game you were describing).
It's possible they actually lacked the room to allow the microwave to
explode, melt stuff, give you cancer, etc., and still fit it all into
the Z-machine. This, I think, is one of the main reasons shorter games
are more common than longer ones, to the point of taking over the Comp:
less likelihood of crimes against mimesis.

Perfection is unattainable. BTO!

--
William Burke, passenge...@hotmail.com
Hey! This isn't the way to San Jose!
Visit my web page! Marvel! Marvel! http://come.to/passenger-pigeon/

Kevin Forchione

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May 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/28/00
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"Passenger Pigeon" <passenge...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:passenger_pigeon-0BA9D2.00022428052000@news-server...

> There's an elegant term for this effect which I have forgotten, so I'll
> just call it "explosive expansion": when you add one object, you have
> to make sure it behaves appropriately with every other object in the
> game.

It's called "exponential explosion".

>It's easy to miss one or two, and then you get in trouble,
> because inquisitive people like you and I will try silly things and be
> bothered when it doesn't work. Like any work of literature, it takes
> very little to make somebody stop believing. And then the fairies die.
> There are also, of course, several articles on this exact subject, most
> of which use the nifty word "mimesis." qv. the raif archive and all
> (http://bang.dhs.org/).
>
> My personal take would be that no, you shouldn't be forced to accept a
> magical microwave, but in a large-scale game slips like this are bound
> to crop up, especially in a limited memory/code environment like Infocom
> was working with in The Lurking Horror (the game you were describing).
> It's possible they actually lacked the room to allow the microwave to
> explode, melt stuff, give you cancer, etc., and still fit it all into
> the Z-machine. This, I think, is one of the main reasons shorter games
> are more common than longer ones, to the point of taking over the Comp:
> less likelihood of crimes against mimesis.

Actually the reasons for the shorter comp games have been revealed in some
recent threads.
The reasons put forth is the threads amount to:

a. To avoid favoritism toward longer games. Longer games were viewed to
be so much richer and more aesthetically satisfying that they were deemed to
pose an unfair advantage (Just as private education was deemed an unfair
advantage over public education, with the consequent dumbing down of overall
test scores.)
b. To provide the opportunity for more Inform source code to infiltrate
the community.

Mimesis wasn't a concept at the time. IMHO mimesis probably owes its
inception to the profusion of smaller games that cropped up and the sudden
drop in psychological richness and aesthetic pleasure that was originally
feared.

Certainly we've seem some very good works come of it, regardless of the
reasons. Short stories are an art form in themselves, and done properly are
capable of quite dramatic impact.

> Perfection is unattainable. BTO!

But are you coding with Quality?

--Kevin


Andrew Plotkin

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May 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/28/00
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Jacek Pudlo <jacek...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Warning, possible spoiler
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
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> .
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> There is game, I've forgotten it's name

Infocom's _The Lurking Horror_.

> where the player is supposed to
> heat up some chinese food in a micro-wave oven and then give it to a hacker.
> Being the kind of IF consumer who enjoys experimenting with stuff I promptly
> inserted a can of Coke into the oven. Nothing noteworthy happened.
> "Allright" I thought "maybe the oven is too important to the plot to be
> destroyed . But the chocolate should work fine." When I took the chocolate
> out of the oven, after ten minutes of exposing it to micro waves, it wasn't
> even lukewarm.
> How coherent should IF reality be? Should we accept that a micro-wave oven
> only works on chinese food (from a specific province) or is this something
> that decreases the enjoyment of the game? Should game makers avoid items
> that are too complex for them to handle in a realistic way?

Well, everyone's opinion varies, but -- yes, I think this decreases the
enjoyment of the game. And game makers should be try to account for those
realistic effects wherever possible.

It is equally true that "wherever possible" does not mean "absolutely
everywhere" -- otherwise no game would ever be released.

(Each of my games has a bug list. At the bottom of each bug list are some
unresolved cases -- many of them of this sort. I may never get around to
releasing new versions of those games. But even though I may never fix the
bugs, they're still bugs.)

One must also note that Infocom had resource limitations that modern IF
pretty much doesn't. They had to be compatible with 140K floppies, and
even in a multi-disk game, .z5 was their biggest format. I believe LH was
.z3.

I think the community standards have gone up since then, just *because* we
have more room for details.

--Z

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

Ashley Price

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May 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/28/00
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Hi Jacek

While your point is a valid one and I am all for "coherent IF" (as you put
it), there has to be a limit.

In your microwave oven example, if the player puts anything other than the
correct food in it I would probably have a message saying "after <x> minutes
the contents of the oven turns to a googy mess." This doesn't really work
for a can of coke (again as in your example) as obviously the can would
probably explode doing damage to the oven.
But, obviously, putting a relevant message for every conceivable item that
the player could put in the oven would be far too time consuming.

However, the author of the game shouldn't be afraid of letting the player
destroy an essential item before it's using it correctly as they will just
have to play from their last save. After all, why write a game that protects
a player from performing a negative action (i.e destroying, throwing away,
etc.) before the positive action has been performed? If that was the case
you wouldn't have a "death" scenario at any point in the game because you
don't want the player to kill themselves before the end of the game.

Ashley


Jacek Pudlo <jacek...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:xtYX4.5894$wYl.22...@newsb.telia.net...


> Warning, possible spoiler
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
>

> There is game, I've forgotten it's name, where the player is supposed to

Jacek Pudlo

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May 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/28/00
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Ashley Price <ashle...@btinternet.com> skrev i
diskussionsgruppsmeddelandet:8grglp$7eg$1...@neptunium.btinternet.com...

> Hi Jacek
>
> While your point is a valid one and I am all for "coherent IF" (as you put
> it), there has to be a limit.
>
> In your microwave oven example, if the player puts anything other than the
> correct food in it I would probably have a message saying "after <x>
minutes
> the contents of the oven turns to a googy mess." This doesn't really work
> for a can of coke (again as in your example) as obviously the can would
> probably explode doing damage to the oven.
> But, obviously, putting a relevant message for every conceivable item that
> the player could put in the oven would be far too time consuming.

Instead of writing a relevant message for every conceivable item one could
categorize the items depending on the "material" they are made of. A can of
Coke would be made of "metal" while a cat would be made of "living tissue".
Any item made out of "metal" would cause the oven to explode while items
made out of "living tissue" would "decease" after a longer sojourn in the
oven. A suitable message for the can of Coke, or any other "metal" item,
would be "The oven is going berserk! Putting a(n) <name of item> wasn't the
smartest thing to do." The sad demise of the cat, or any other "living
tissue" item, could be laconically commented "The <name of item> is dead." A
special message relating to the death of a cat could be created "You have
empirically proven that cats have only one life.". In order to placate
sensitive players one could add "No fictional animals were hurt during the
execution of the game."

> However, the author of the game shouldn't be afraid of letting the player
> destroy an essential item before it's using it correctly as they will just
> have to play from their last save. After all, why write a game that
protects
> a player from performing a negative action (i.e destroying, throwing away,
> etc.) before the positive action has been performed? If that was the case
> you wouldn't have a "death" scenario at any point in the game because you
> don't want the player to kill themselves before the end of the game.

Would the be informed that the game has become unwinnable?

> Ashley


Jacek Pudlo

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May 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/28/00
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> There's an elegant term for this effect which I have forgotten, so I'll
> just call it "explosive expansion": when you add one object, you have
> to make sure it behaves appropriately with every other object in the
> game. It's easy to miss one or two, and then you get in trouble,

> because inquisitive people like you and I will try silly things and be
> bothered when it doesn't work. Like any work of literature, it takes
> very little to make somebody stop believing. And then the fairies die.
> There are also, of course, several articles on this exact subject, most
> of which use the nifty word "mimesis." qv. the raif archive and all
> (http://bang.dhs.org/)
>
> My personal take would be that no, you shouldn't be forced to accept a
> magical microwave, but in a large-scale game slips like this are bound
> to crop up, especially in a limited memory/code environment like Infocom
> was working with in The Lurking Horror (the game you were describing).
> It's possible they actually lacked the room to allow the microwave to
> explode, melt stuff, give you cancer, etc., and still fit it all into
> the Z-machine. This, I think, is one of the main reasons shorter games
> are more common than longer ones, to the point of taking over the Comp:
> less likelihood of crimes against mimesis.
>
> Perfection is unattainable. BTO!

The problem is that I've seen similar, or even worse, slips in many of the
newer games.

-> ENTER TAVERN

As you enter the tavern you notice that all eyes turn on you. In the
unberable silence you can hear the wooden floor boards squeek under your
feet.

-> EXAMINE FLOOR BOARDS

You see no such thing here.

This is a much more blatant example of incoherence than the micro-wave oven.
It's obvious that some items are used merely as props; they are supposed to
enhance the atmosphere. But when it turns out that these items do not exist,
not even in the world of fiction, the atmosphere is hardly enhanced.

Another example is Photopia. When you try to EXAMINE CAR at the very start
of the game, speeding along some boulevard, you get the message "That is
either not in the area or does not need to be referred to." Deciding which
items are important and which are not is one of the things a player has to
do in order to solve the game. And would it really be that time consuming to
include a description of the car?

BrenBarn

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May 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/28/00
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>However, the author of the game shouldn't be afraid of letting the player
>destroy an essential item before it's using it correctly as they will just
>have to play from their last save. After all, why write a game that protects
>a player from performing a negative action (i.e destroying, throwing away,
>etc.) before the positive action has been performed? If that was the case
>you wouldn't have a "death" scenario at any point in the game because you
>don't want the player to kill themselves before the end of the game.
You're absolutely right; in most cases, I, personally, would NOT want the
player to die before the end of the game. Although this is a different issue
than "coherent IF", mimesis/world-modeling still plays a part.
The point of not allowing the player to lock himself out of victory is
two-fold: A) to not aggravate the player so that he won't play your game; B) to
emulate the "intelligence" of the player's character.
For example, a real person, reasonably intelligent, would probably not
deliberately microwave a can of Coke just to see what would happen. Doing this
is a "meta"-experiment, an experiment with the game as a game, not an
experiment that makes sense within the game world.
So you prevent the player from doing that (or you make it a harmless
action). Although you may decrease the realism of the world in one sense
(i.e., microwaving a Coke doesn't cause damage to either the Coke or the
microwave), you preserve it another sense (i.e., in reality, there are many
reasons NOT to put the Coke in the microwave -- reasons which you have not
implemented in your game).
--BrenBarn (Bren...@aol.com)
(Name in header has spam-blocker, use the address above instead.)

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Weird Beard

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
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"Ashley Price" <ashle...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
news:8grglp$7eg$1...@neptunium.btinternet.com...
> Hi Jacek

> However, the author of the game shouldn't be afraid of letting the player
> destroy an essential item before it's using it correctly as they will just
> have to play from their last save. After all, why write a game that
protects
> a player from performing a negative action (i.e destroying, throwing away,
> etc.) before the positive action has been performed? If that was the case
> you wouldn't have a "death" scenario at any point in the game because you
> don't want the player to kill themselves before the end of the game.
>

Hey, it worked for LucasArts.

Ashley Price

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
Hi Jacek

> The problem is that I've seen similar, or even worse, slips in many of the
> newer games.
>
> -> ENTER TAVERN
>
> As you enter the tavern you notice that all eyes turn on you. In the
> unberable silence you can hear the wooden floor boards squeek under your
> feet.
>
> -> EXAMINE FLOOR BOARDS
>
> You see no such thing here.
>
> This is a much more blatant example of incoherence than the micro-wave
oven.
> It's obvious that some items are used merely as props; they are supposed
to
> enhance the atmosphere. But when it turns out that these items do not
exist,
> not even in the world of fiction, the atmosphere is hardly enhanced.
>
> Another example is Photopia. When you try to EXAMINE CAR at the very start
> of the game, speeding along some boulevard, you get the message "That is
> either not in the area or does not need to be referred to." Deciding which
> items are important and which are not is one of the things a player has to
> do in order to solve the game. And would it really be that time consuming
to
> include a description of the car?
>

You have hit on my biggest bug-bear with any IF - mentioning something in
the main description and then not letting the player interact with it (even
if it is just examining it). This takes so little extra time to add but adds
immensely to the joy of the game.

I am currently starting to write a game and am trying to be careful to add
at least a mini description for every item that I mention in a room, even if
it doesn't have any significance. For instance my first room has a window.
It has one extra line (using Hugo) to add a description ("The window is
really a small opening in the castle wall, in fact it's little more than a
crack. It looks out over the moat and to the fields and woods beyond."). If
you try getting out of the window the game will display: "The window is far
too small even for your puny body." Rather than just simply saying "You
can't."

I don't know about the other IF systems but Hugo makes this sort of thing so
easy to add, that it is no bother whatsoever.

So, I would implore other authors to seriously consider this when writing.
It will add so much more to people's enjoyment of the game.

Ashley

Ashley Price

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
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Hi Jacek

> Instead of writing a relevant message for every conceivable item one could
> categorize the items depending on the "material" they are made of. A can
of
> Coke would be made of "metal" while a cat would be made of "living
tissue".
> Any item made out of "metal" would cause the oven to explode while items
> made out of "living tissue" would "decease" after a longer sojourn in the
> oven. A suitable message for the can of Coke, or any other "metal" item,
> would be "The oven is going berserk! Putting a(n) <name of item> wasn't
the
> smartest thing to do." The sad demise of the cat, or any other "living
> tissue" item, could be laconically commented "The <name of item> is dead."
A
> special message relating to the death of a cat could be created "You have
> empirically proven that cats have only one life.". In order to placate
> sensitive players one could add "No fictional animals were hurt during the
> execution of the game."

There are still problems here - would a metal key in a microwave cause the
same problems as a full can of coke? Most metals inside a microwave just
make the odd sparks and cracks, they don't actually explode. I think you
could be forever catagorising and keep finding something that doesn't
completely fit in each of the categories.

> > However, the author of the game shouldn't be afraid of letting the
player
> > destroy an essential item before it's using it correctly as they will
just
> > have to play from their last save. After all, why write a game that
> protects
> > a player from performing a negative action (i.e destroying, throwing
away,
> > etc.) before the positive action has been performed? If that was the
case
> > you wouldn't have a "death" scenario at any point in the game because
you
> > don't want the player to kill themselves before the end of the game.
>

> Would the be informed that the game has become unwinnable?

This is a difficult one, and depends on whether you are a realist or an
escapist in adventure games:

A realist would say "no, you shouldn't be directly informed". An escapist
would say "but it's fantasy, why not be informed?"

I would say that you can possibly get round it. I would assume that it
wouldn't take long for someone to realise that they have gone wrong if they
blew up the microwave before using the correct item in it especially if this
is an essential to the completion of a task or to move the story or
whatever. If someone is going to put a metal key in a microwave surely they
must realise what the obvious (and correct) thing to put in there is, and
once they realise they can no longer do that, they will play from their last
save (and it is usually a good idea to save just before doing something
"unusual" in a game).

It's a difficult one to judge and at the end of the day it's each person's
own preference. I wonder what others think?

Ashley

Jacek Pudlo

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
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Barbara Robson <robson...@cwr.uwa.edu.aus> skrev i
diskussionsgruppsmeddelandet:8gtccq$b91$1...@cyllene.uwa.edu.au...

> "Ashley Price" <ashle...@btinternet.com> writes:
>
> >I am currently starting to write a game and am trying to be careful to
add
> >at least a mini description for every item that I mention in a room, even
if
> >it doesn't have any significance. For instance my first room has a
window.
> >It has one extra line (using Hugo) to add a description ("The window is
> >really a small opening in the castle wall, in fact it's little more than
a
> >crack. It looks out over the moat and to the fields and woods beyond.").
>
> "> X MOAT. X FIELDS. X WOODS."
>
> "Murky water fills the moat far below."
> "Corn fields stretch eastwards for several miles, interrupted
> only by the occasional homestead and a few herds of cows."
> "The woods are dark and disturbing, a forest of towering oaks and
> inpenetrable undergrowth."
>
> "> X WATER. X CORN. X HOMESTEAD. X TREES. X COWS. X UNDERGROWTH."
>
> The author has to decide to stop somewhere (or else constrain descriptions
> mercilessly so they don't refer to anything not in the game).
>
> It is great if the author can include as scenery at least everything in
> the top level of description, but if the description is rich and detailed,
> even this can add up to a lot of work. In the end, I'd prefer good
> descriptions to exhaustive inventories, if a choice has to be made.

I see your point but I think this could be solved by introducing an "atomic"
level of description. On this level no new items would be introduced.

-> EXAMINE WATER

The water is murky.

-> EXAMINE CORN

It's ordinary corn.

The "atomic" level descriptions might seem dull and corny (no pun intended)
but they fulfill their purpose of ending the regression and providing the
player with a sence of coherence.

Jacek Pudlo

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
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> You have hit on my biggest bug-bear with any IF - mentioning something in
> the main description and then not letting the player interact with it
(even
> if it is just examining it). This takes so little extra time to add but
adds
> immensely to the joy of the game.
>
> I am currently starting to write a game

Let me know when you're finished. I'm writing a game myself and wouldn't
mind some inspiration.

>and am trying to be careful to add
> at least a mini description for every item that I mention in a room, even
if
> it doesn't have any significance. For instance my first room has a window.
> It has one extra line (using Hugo) to add a description ("The window is
> really a small opening in the castle wall, in fact it's little more than a
> crack. It looks out over the moat and to the fields and woods beyond.").

If
> you try getting out of the window the game will display: "The window is
far
> too small even for your puny body." Rather than just simply saying "You
> can't."
> I don't know about the other IF systems but Hugo makes this sort of thing
so
> easy to add, that it is no bother whatsoever.
>
> So, I would implore other authors to seriously consider this when writing.
> It will add so much more to people's enjoyment of the game.

I fully agree with you, Ashley. It's really annoying when something that is
explicitally mentioned in the description turns out to be non-existent. But
what about "implied items"?

-> EXAMINE DOOR

It's an ordinary door.

-> OPEN IT

It's locked.

-> UNLOCK IT

You unlock the door.

-> EXAMINE LOCK ON DOOR

You see no such thing.

In the game you mentioned that you are writing there is a room with a small
window. Presumably there are also four walls, a ceiling and a floor of some
kind. Do you mention them as well? Do you think one should, as an IF author,
mention "implied items"?

Jacek Pudlo

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to

> Well, everyone's opinion varies, but -- yes, I think this decreases the
> enjoyment of the game. And game makers should be try to account for those
> realistic effects wherever possible.
>
> It is equally true that "wherever possible" does not mean "absolutely
> everywhere" -- otherwise no game would ever be released.
>
> (Each of my games has a bug list. At the bottom of each bug list are some
> unresolved cases -- many of them of this sort. I may never get around to
> releasing new versions of those games. But even though I may never fix the
> bugs, they're still bugs.)

Wouldn't it be great if there was an IF creation system that included a
complete physical model where an item defined as "micro-wave oven" would
behave in a realistic way. What games have you written? Where can I get
them? It would be interesting to find out if I can find those bugs that you
are talking about.

> One must also note that Infocom had resource limitations that modern IF
> pretty much doesn't. They had to be compatible with 140K floppies, and
> even in a multi-disk game, .z5 was their biggest format. I believe LH was
> .z3.
>
> I think the community standards have gone up since then, just *because* we
> have more room for details.

This is true in some cases but in many others it seems that many present day
IF writers are content with writing in accordance with the Infocom
tradition.

Joe Mason

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
Jacek Pudlo <jacek...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>Wouldn't it be great if there was an IF creation system that included a
>complete physical model where an item defined as "micro-wave oven" would
>behave in a realistic way. What games have you written? Where can I get

Oh, be *careful* what you wish for - we don't want to resurrect R**F-P**L.

Life as we know it might not survive this time...

Joe

Jacek Pudlo

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
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Joe Mason <jcm...@uwaterloo.ca> skrev i
diskussionsgruppsmeddelandet:EsuY4.114178$55.25...@news2.rdc1.on.home.com.
..

What is "R**F-P**L"?

Ashley Price

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to

Barbara Robson <robson...@cwr.uwa.edu.aus> wrote in message
news:8gtccq$b91$1...@cyllene.uwa.edu.au...

> "> X MOAT. X FIELDS. X WOODS."
>
> "Murky water fills the moat far below."
> "Corn fields stretch eastwards for several miles, interrupted
> only by the occasional homestead and a few herds of cows."
> "The woods are dark and disturbing, a forest of towering oaks and
> inpenetrable undergrowth."
>
> "> X WATER. X CORN. X HOMESTEAD. X TREES. X COWS. X UNDERGROWTH."
>
> The author has to decide to stop somewhere (or else constrain descriptions
> mercilessly so they don't refer to anything not in the game).

This is not necessarily a good example - being that you are looking through
a window at "fields and woods beyond" you would not be close enough to them
to examine them, although I understand your point.

Ashley

Ashley Price

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
Hi Barbara

Barbara Robson <robson...@cwr.uwa.edu.aus> wrote in message

news:8gtbmd$9gq$1...@cyllene.uwa.edu.au...

> What seems obvious to the author may not be obvious to the player. And
> what seems "unusual" to the author may not seem so to the player. So
> it is quite possible that the player will do something that makes the
> game unwinnable, then continue playing (perhaps spending a lot of time
> going a long way forward through the game before realising their mistake,
> and quite possibly even saving over their last "winnable" saved game,
> so they would have to start from scratch to win the game). I remember
> doing this by, for example, failing to collect the junk mail from the
> doorstep at the start of "Hitchhiker's".

Where I said "obvious" and "unusual" I meant in relation to real life. Food
is put in a microwave, a can of coke isn't. However, I agree that there are
limitations (after all, in the original example, chocolate is a food but was
not part of the solution). Surely the player would try the "obvious" first,
i.e. putting the food in the microwave before unusual things like coke?
(Which leads to the joke that if you put instant coffee in a microwave would
you go back in time?)


> In general, I prefer it to be obvious if a (puzzle-based) game is
> unwinnable - perhaps if you are concerned about the effect this may
> have on realism you could implement a switch (analogous to the
> VERBOSE switch) that lets a player decide whether they want to be
> warned in such cases.
> --

Good idea and something I may nick for my game - hope you don't mind.

Ashley

Ashley Price

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
Hi,

> I fully agree with you, Ashley. It's really annoying when something that
is
> explicitally mentioned in the description turns out to be non-existent.
But
> what about "implied items"?

This is, I think a very grey area. Because so much could be implied at what
point do you draw the line? In a standard location you are going to have at
the very least sky and land. Of course, are there clouds in the sky? It the
land completely smooth or full of cracks and what is it made of? If there
are cracks what's in them etc.

I realise this is extreme but the question is that if an object is of any
use at all it would be mentioned at some point rather than simply implied. I
think many players would realise that implied items are simply there and
they do not need to worry about them. I guess there will always be some
players who will try *everything*.

Ashley

Mike Sousa

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
>
> In general, I prefer it to be obvious if a (puzzle-based) game is
> unwinnable - perhaps if you are concerned about the effect this may
> have on realism you could implement a switch (analogous to the
> VERBOSE switch) that lets a player decide whether they want to be
> warned in such cases.

I added a system verb called winnable to my game. I keep track of whether or not
the PC put him/herself in that state and display a true/false type of message.

I could have alerted the PC right away, but I wanted to maintain mimesis.

-- Mike


BrenBarn

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
>This is, I think a very grey area. Because so much could be implied at what
>point do you draw the line? In a standard location you are going to have at
>the very least sky and land. Of course, are there clouds in the sky? It the
>land completely smooth or full of cracks and what is it made of? If there
>are cracks what's in them etc.
Without really getting into the issue, I'd like to say that I think this
sort of thing is an extremely interesting approach to IF. It would be
interesting to play a game in which the author has carefully modelled the world
down to the smallest detail, even if the game had no "story" as such. (This is
sort of along the lines of IF art show, although the few of those games I've
played seemed more surrealistic than realistic.)

Field Marshall Stack

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
On 29 May 2000 17:02:05 +0800, Barbara Robson <robson...@cwr.uwa.edu.aus> wrote:
>"Ashley Price" <ashle...@btinternet.com> writes:
>
>>I would say that you can possibly get round it. I would assume that it
>>wouldn't take long for someone to realise that they have gone wrong if they
>>blew up the microwave before using the correct item in it especially if this
>>is an essential to the completion of a task or to move the story or
>>whatever. If someone is going to put a metal key in a microwave surely they
>>must realise what the obvious (and correct) thing to put in there is, and
>>once they realise they can no longer do that, they will play from their last
>>save (and it is usually a good idea to save just before doing something
>>"unusual" in a game).
>
>What seems obvious to the author may not be obvious to the player. And
>what seems "unusual" to the author may not seem so to the player. So
>it is quite possible that the player will do something that makes the
>game unwinnable, then continue playing (perhaps spending a lot of time
>going a long way forward through the game before realising their mistake,
>and quite possibly even saving over their last "winnable" saved game,
>so they would have to start from scratch to win the game). I remember
>doing this by, for example, failing to collect the junk mail from the
>doorstep at the start of "Hitchhiker's".
>
>In general, I prefer it to be obvious if a (puzzle-based) game is
>unwinnable - perhaps if you are concerned about the effect this may
>have on realism you could implement a switch (analogous to the
>VERBOSE switch) that lets a player decide whether they want to be
>warned in such cases.

It's a great idea, but I'm somewhat compelled to point out that it would be
an entirely inappropriate solution for Hitchhiker's itself, since the
entire idea of the game was to be as nasty and mean as possible to the
player. I mean, the junk mail is nothing, *nothing* compared to the cheese
sandwich.

--
Field Marshall Stack
uv...@fcrnxrnfl.pbz
rot13, then change com to org to mail...

BrenBarn

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
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>> Would the be informed that the game has become unwinnable?
[snip]

>If someone is going to put a metal key in a microwave surely they
>must realise what the obvious (and correct) thing to put in there is, and
>once they realise they can no longer do that, they will play from their last
>save (and it is usually a good idea to save just before doing something
>"unusual" in a game).
I have many comments on this, which I've largley expounded on other
threads. In short, I don't think a game should rely on the player's saving
habits; the game should handle "unusual" circumstances on its own, without
counting on the player to know when to save.

>It's a difficult one to judge and at the end of the day it's each person's
>own preference. I wonder what others think?

I agree that it is totally a personal preference thing. Personally (as
I've said in other threads), I think the game should be designed so that it is
impossible not to FINISH. The game can have more than one beginning, more than
one end, and/or more than one middle, but ideally it will always be possible to
proceed to one of the endings. Whether this ending is a "win" or a "loss"
(which depends as much on the player's attitude as on the author's intention)
is not very important, since a game of this sort would lend itself to replay
anyway.
In this sort of game, warning the player of a "stuck"/"locked-out"
situation is a moot point, since there are no such situations.
That's what I think, anyway. I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing this
one-note-samba out of me, especially since I'm not writing any actual code.

BrenBarn

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
>"Murky water fills the moat far below."
>"Corn fields stretch eastwards for several miles, interrupted
> only by the occasional homestead and a few herds of cows."
>"The woods are dark and disturbing, a forest of towering oaks and
>inpenetrable undergrowth."
>
>"> X WATER. X CORN. X HOMESTEAD. X TREES. X COWS. X UNDERGROWTH."
>
>The author has to decide to stop somewhere (or else constrain descriptions
>mercilessly so they don't refer to anything not in the game).
>
True, but one way to handle this is to make one object that stands for all
of these scenery things. Then, if the player examines any one of them, give a
general description of the whole bundle. Like:

>X CORN (or X HOMESTEAD or X TREES or X COWS or X UNDERGROWTH or X CORRAL or X
FARM)
The small homestead is surrounded on three sides by a field of tall corn. On
the fourth side is a small corral where a few cows graze peacefully. Beyond
the borders of this little farm, the landscape is covered with tall trees
rising from the thick undergrowth.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
"Kevin Forchione" <Lys...@email.msn.com> wrote:

> > Perfection is unattainable. BTO!
>
> But are you coding with Quality?

Hey, I happen to know personally the CEO of jentesal 2000 Ltd.,
the (self-proclaimed) world's leading producer of stand-alone
quality.

(Unfortunately, stand-alone quality is difficult to infuse
into products, and it's usually easier to just start with
product quality in the first place... so his sales are
not impressive.)


--

Forward all spam to u...@ftc.gov

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
bren...@aol.comRemove (BrenBarn) wrote:

> So you prevent the player from doing that (or you make it a harmless
> action). Although you may decrease the realism of the world in one sense
> (i.e., microwaving a Coke doesn't cause damage to either the Coke or the
> microwave), you preserve it another sense (i.e., in reality, there are many
> reasons NOT to put the Coke in the microwave -- reasons which you have not
> implemented in your game).

IMO, it is less dammaging to have the game say "that would serve no
purpose" when the coke or chocolate is in the microwave and the
player tries to turn on the microwave than to have the microwave
run for a while and nothing unusual happen as a result.

I _prefer_, if the author has the resources to do it, that
the coke destroys the microwave or the chocolate melts
and resolidifies into a hard, dark, inedible disc, in the
shape of the rotating carosel -- or whatever. But if not,
then it's better that the player be told not to nuke those
items than that he be told nothing happens when he does so.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
Barbara Robson <robson...@cwr.uwa.edu.aus> wrote:

> What seems obvious to the author may not be obvious to the player. And
> what seems "unusual" to the author may not seem so to the player. So
> it is quite possible that the player will do something that makes the
> game unwinnable, then continue playing (perhaps spending a lot of time
> going a long way forward through the game before realising their mistake,
> and quite possibly even saving over their last "winnable" saved game,
> so they would have to start from scratch to win the game). I remember
> doing this by, for example, failing to collect the junk mail from the
> doorstep at the start of "Hitchhiker's".

Okay, there's a substantial and qualitative difference between
failing to pick up some junk mail and microwaving a can of coke.
The first could be an oversight, and a reasonable game will try
to go out of its way to avoid silently putting the game in an
unwinnable state without warning.

Microwaving a can of coke is entirely another matter. The
game can quite reasonably put the game in an unwinnable
state as a result of THAT kind of action, and I hope most
sensible players will quickly figure it out.

It the difference between penalising the player for failure
to solve the puzzle and rewarding the player in kind for
deliberately attempting something destructive. If the
player puts a fifty-pound bag of unpopped popcorn in a
self-cleaning oven and sets it to clean, lights the kitchen
table on fire, drops his entire inventory down a well, or
jumps off the top of a building, he normally expects
consequences, and he'll certainly be able to figure out
the cause of those consequences. That's very different
from making the game unwinnable in chapter seven without
a particular item having been taken in chapter one.

> In general, I prefer it to be obvious if a (puzzle-based) game is
> unwinnable - perhaps if you are concerned about the effect this may
> have on realism you could implement a switch (analogous to the
> VERBOSE switch) that lets a player decide whether they want to be
> warned in such cases.

I suppose that would be harmless. Unless you miss a case and the
game says it's winnable when it's not. THAT would be even more
maddening than the babel fish dispenser running out.

Ashley Price

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
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Hi

BrenBarn <bren...@aol.comRemove> wrote in message
news:20000529113852...@ng-xb1.aol.com...


> I have many comments on this, which I've largley expounded on other
> threads. In short, I don't think a game should rely on the player's
saving
> habits; the game should handle "unusual" circumstances on its own, without
> counting on the player to know when to save.
>

> I agree that it is totally a personal preference thing. Personally
(as
> I've said in other threads), I think the game should be designed so that
it is
> impossible not to FINISH. The game can have more than one beginning, more
than
> one end, and/or more than one middle, but ideally it will always be
possible to
> proceed to one of the endings. Whether this ending is a "win" or a "loss"
> (which depends as much on the player's attitude as on the author's
intention)
> is not very important, since a game of this sort would lend itself to
replay
> anyway.
> In this sort of game, warning the player of a "stuck"/"locked-out"
> situation is a moot point, since there are no such situations.
> That's what I think, anyway. I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing
this
> one-note-samba out of me, especially since I'm not writing any actual
code.

Thanks for the comments.

I wasn't suggesting that we should expect the player to know when to save,
rarely do we always it's a good time. But we can only do so much to protect
the player against themselves without making the game a "walk in the park".
We could take this to extremes and say we should not expect the player to
move the character. At some point the player has to take responsibility for
their actions. We present our game and how they play it is up to them. If
they want to blow up a microwave with a can of coke, fine, but they can't
then expect to complete the game. However, your second point would clear
this up anyway...

Different endings, what a great idea! More and more games - both IF and
others - tend to do this now. I don't know why I didn't think of it.
Fortunately, my IF is in the **very** early stages (as in, I am only on the
third room), so I will be able to use this.

Well done, and by the way, just because you don't write games doesn't mean
your opinion doesn't count. In fact having an "outsider" coming up with
points is just as vital as those of us who are writing (or struggling to
write in my case) an IF.

Ashley

W. Top Changwatchai

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
Jacek Pudlo wrote:

> What is "R**F-P**L"?

RAIF-POOL. It's a raif in-joke about the ultimate IF language. For a good
summary, check out Suzanne Britton's excellent recently-updated IF web page:

http://www.igs.net/~tril/if/

Click on "Fun Stuff" and follow the RAIF-POOL links.

Top
--
W. Top Changwatchai
chngwtch at uiuc dot edu

Paul E. Bell

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May 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/29/00
to
You know, though the Tex Murphy games are of the multiple choice/pick
your path-type games, I really liked the way that, even though you might
not "get the girl" or even "save the world", you could still end the
game. You could go back and attempt to save the world, with another
approach, and win the girl, too. Though, there were a couple definite
no-win places where you died because of your actions, but, they were
logical, and immediate. If you went back to just before the scenario
where you died, you could redeem yourself, and still win on all
accounts.

I think this is an important mix: fatal mistakes are immediatly obvious,
non-fatal mistakes lead to less than desirable endings, but,
nevertheless do end the game. In the case of Tex Murphy: Overseer (a
rewrite/flashback to the first Tex Murphy game: Mean Streets), the very
end of the game always started from the same scene, only with the
characters having different attitudes, and thus, different reactions to
your choices. Just where you went wrong was not immediately evident,
so, you might play the whole game again, making different choices, just
to attempt to better the outcome. Oh, and, there was no score, so, no
rating as to a good or bad ending, only the value you put on various
ending scenarios yourself.

Anyway, I think you can put the PC into situations, if you plan ahead,
where, if he does something that causes him to lose out on something
great, he may settle for something not so great, up to, and including,
his death, defeat, or going home empty handed. It just takes more work
that way.

If you are not going to go to the trouble of making multiple paths in
your game, then, by all means, give the player the option of being told,
some sufficient time after painting himself into a corner, that he has
done so. I suggest a random number of moves beyond the "mistake", such
that you aren't announcing "That was a dumb move" the moment the PC
makes the losing move. It should be within a reasonable number of moves
after the "losing" move, so the player doesn't go and do too much before
knowing that he should quit and wait.

Anyway, I've babbled enough, on to the next mission...

Paul

BrenBarn wrote:
>
> >> Would the be informed that the game has become unwinnable?
> [snip]
> >If someone is going to put a metal key in a microwave surely they
> >must realise what the obvious (and correct) thing to put in there is, and
> >once they realise they can no longer do that, they will play from their last
> >save (and it is usually a good idea to save just before doing something
> >"unusual" in a game).

> I have many comments on this, which I've largley expounded on other
> threads. In short, I don't think a game should rely on the player's saving
> habits; the game should handle "unusual" circumstances on its own, without
> counting on the player to know when to save.
>

> >It's a difficult one to judge and at the end of the day it's each person's
> >own preference. I wonder what others think?

> I agree that it is totally a personal preference thing. Personally (as
> I've said in other threads), I think the game should be designed so that it is
> impossible not to FINISH. The game can have more than one beginning, more than
> one end, and/or more than one middle, but ideally it will always be possible to
> proceed to one of the endings. Whether this ending is a "win" or a "loss"
> (which depends as much on the player's attitude as on the author's intention)
> is not very important, since a game of this sort would lend itself to replay
> anyway.
> In this sort of game, warning the player of a "stuck"/"locked-out"
> situation is a moot point, since there are no such situations.
> That's what I think, anyway. I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing this
> one-note-samba out of me, especially since I'm not writing any actual code.

--
Paul E. Bell | Email and AIM: wd0...@millcomm.com | ifMUD: Helios
IRC: PKodon, DrWho4, and Helios | webpage: members.xoom.com/wd0gcp/
Member: W.A.R.N., Skywarn, ARES, Phoenix Platform Consortium, ...
_____ Pen Name/Arts & Crafts signature:
| | _ \ _ _ |/ _ _(
| | (_X (_/`/\ (_) (_` |\(_) (_) (_|_) (/`
)

J. Robinson Wheeler

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May 30, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/30/00
to
Ashley Price wrote:

>> -> EXAMINE FLOOR BOARDS
>>
>> You see no such thing here.
>>
>> This is a much more blatant example of incoherence than the micro-wave
>> oven.
>>

>> Another example is Photopia. When you try to EXAMINE CAR at the very start
>> of the game, speeding along some boulevard, you get the message "That is
>> either not in the area or does not need to be referred to." Deciding which
>> items are important and which are not is one of the things a player has to
>> do in order to solve the game. And would it really be that time consuming
>> to include a description of the car?

Yes, but read what you're saying. The player is exploring the world of
the game, and trying to decide what is important and what is not. Trying
to examine the car explicitly tells you that the car is not an important
object. If it had printed a description, it would suggest to the player
that further exploration was possibly important.

Note also that the game had the word "car" in its vocabulary, which
means the author did take the time to add it.

> You have hit on my biggest bug-bear with any IF - mentioning something in
> the main description and then not letting the player interact with it (even
> if it is just examining it). This takes so little extra time to add but adds
> immensely to the joy of the game.

On the contrary, adding interaction for every noun mentioned in a
description takes extraordinary amounts of time and patience, and
trying to fill out sub-descriptions like this can bog down a project
and doom it to indefinite in-progress status. Yes, it's nice, but
there are limits.


> I am currently starting to write a game and am trying to be careful to add


> at least a mini description for every item that I mention in a room, even if
> it doesn't have any significance. For instance my first room has a window.
> It has one extra line (using Hugo) to add a description ("The window is
> really a small opening in the castle wall, in fact it's little more than a
> crack. It looks out over the moat and to the fields and woods beyond."). If
> you try getting out of the window the game will display: "The window is far
> too small even for your puny body." Rather than just simply saying "You
> can't."

Okay. Can the player now EXAMINE MOAT, FIELDS, WOODS? Now that you've
mentioned those in the window's description, you'd better let the
player interact with them, right? Can the player type >EXAMINE MY PUNY
BODY? What about the "castle wall"? Does that have a description?

What it comes down to, to me, is that this stuff is extra dressing, but
not the bones and meat of a work of IF. If you have time, if the
inspiration strikes, if it's just your personal style, cram in the
extra descriptions. But if it's a choice between writing those and
actually completing the game, focus on making something complete
enough to release.

> So, I would implore other authors to seriously consider this when writing.
> It will add so much more to people's enjoyment of the game.

--
J. Robinson Wheeler http://raddial.com
whe...@jump.net

Jacek Pudlo

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May 30, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/30/00
to

J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> skrev i
diskussionsgruppsmeddelandet:B558ECDF.410%whe...@jump.net...

> Jacek Pudlo wrote:
>
> >> -> EXAMINE FLOOR BOARDS
> >>
> >> You see no such thing here.
> >>
> >> This is a much more blatant example of incoherence than the micro-wave
> >> oven.
> >>
> >> Another example is Photopia. When you try to EXAMINE CAR at the very
start
> >> of the game, speeding along some boulevard, you get the message "That
is
> >> either not in the area or does not need to be referred to." Deciding
which
> >> items are important and which are not is one of the things a player has
to
> >> do in order to solve the game. And would it really be that time
consuming
> >> to include a description of the car?
>
> Yes, but read what you're saying. The player is exploring the world of
> the game, and trying to decide what is important and what is not. Trying
> to examine the car explicitly tells you that the car is not an important
> object. If it had printed a description, it would suggest to the player
> that further exploration was possibly important.

I think there are more subtle ways of telling the player what is important
and what is not than a default "error" message. Sure, by providing a
description of the car the game might mislead the player into entering a
dead end alley. But that's part of the IF experience; to be forced to make
intelligent deductions from hints and clues rather than default "error"
messages.

> Note also that the game had the word "car" in its vocabulary, which
> means the author did take the time to add it.

typing EXAMINE DDGFGFG will result in the same message.
conclusion: the author did not take time to add the word "car" to the
vocabulary.

Ashley wrote:

> > You have hit on my biggest bug-bear with any IF - mentioning something
in
> > the main description and then not letting the player interact with it
(even
> > if it is just examining it). This takes so little extra time to add but
adds
> > immensely to the joy of the game.
>
> On the contrary, adding interaction for every noun mentioned in a
> description takes extraordinary amounts of time and patience, and
> trying to fill out sub-descriptions like this can bog down a project
> and doom it to indefinite in-progress status.

Writing fiction, whether it's pure or interactive, is a very demanding task.
People who would like to write fiction but are either too lazy or too busy
to do so properly soon realize they are in the wrong business.

>Yes, it's nice, but there are limits.

There are also limits to the patience of an average IF consumer. If the
player realizes that potentially important items mentioned in the
description do not "exist" chances are good that he/she will loose interest
in the game.

> > I am currently starting to write a game and am trying to be careful to
add
> > at least a mini description for every item that I mention in a room,
even if
> > it doesn't have any significance. For instance my first room has a
window.
> > It has one extra line (using Hugo) to add a description ("The window is
> > really a small opening in the castle wall, in fact it's little more than
a
> > crack. It looks out over the moat and to the fields and woods beyond.").
If
> > you try getting out of the window the game will display: "The window is
far
> > too small even for your puny body." Rather than just simply saying "You
> > can't."
>
> Okay. Can the player now EXAMINE MOAT, FIELDS, WOODS? Now that you've
> mentioned those in the window's description, you'd better let the
> player interact with them, right? Can the player type >EXAMINE MY PUNY
> BODY? What about the "castle wall"? Does that have a description?

I think that has been answered earlier in the thread.

> What it comes down to, to me, is that this stuff is extra dressing, but
> not the bones and meat of a work of IF. If you have time, if the
> inspiration strikes, if it's just your personal style, cram in the
> extra descriptions.

It's not just a question of the extra dressing. By giving some items lavish
descriptions and providing others with merely default "error" messages the
writer is giving the player a "meta-advantage". Possible misstakes are
avoided not because the player has used his/hers deductive skills but
because of the limitations of the game.

>But if it's a choice between writing those and
> actually completing the game, focus on making something complete
> enough to release.

If the choice is between releasing a mediocre product and not releasing
anything at all I would choose the latter.

jbur...@usc.edu

unread,
May 30, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/30/00
to

> It's a difficult one to judge and at the end of the day it's each
> person's own preference. I wonder what others think?

Personally, I despise games with unwinnable states. Death is okay as
long as a single UNDO will get you out of it. In fact I would much
rather the author go to great lengths to make the game impossible to
produce an unwinniable states than flesh out the environment. Before
playing any game I go to the IFMud and ask around to see if there are
any unwinnable states. If there are, I don't play the game.

In the coke can/microwave example I would simply produce a message like:

You don't want to damage the microwave.

Or for those of you who have a problem with the game telling you how
you feel (I don't. I'm very much a role-player, as opposed to "Me in a
story") I would write:

That would just damage the microwave.

My 2 cents.

Jesse Burneko


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Paul E. Bell

unread,
May 30, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/30/00
to
Just for the record:

Has anyone actually put a can of Coke in a microwave to see what
happens? Judging from what I have seen other metal objects do in the
microwave, it would seem to me that the can itself would throw sparks,
might get a little warm if empty, but, full, would not do much to the
Coke, as the Coke is cold (having just come from the refrigerator), and
shielded from the microwaves by the can. A few seconds of sparks are
enough to make most normal people open the microwave and stop the light
show before the microwave is ruined (though, I hear, too many metal
objects, or CDs, for that matter, placed in the microwave for short
bursts, can, in time, still ruin the tube that generates the
microwaves).

BTW, wasn't the Coke in a bottle in The Lurking Horror? If so, then, I
could see the bottle exploding and making a sticky mess out of it.

As for cats in the microwave, I do remember a news story of a live cat
that had been given a bath and placed in the microwave to dry it off.
It blew up, too, making a terrible mess. I don't know if I want that
much realism in my game (live animals in microwaves blow up, pop in cans
sparks, pop in bottles blows up, water in mugs boils over, etc.).
Besides, that's an aweful lot of stuff for an author to keep track of.

I rather like your idea that the PC find out that he's smarter than he
looks, unless the game is designed to be stupid/backwards (such that,
the way to solve this puzzle is to freeze the Chinese Dinner, and
microwave the Coke, or freeze the Coke so that when the hacker goes to
open it, he gets a shower, causing him to drop his keys and run out the
door looking for a towel).

--

Brian B. Rodenborn

unread,
May 30, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/30/00
to
In article <3933FBAD...@millcomm.com>,
Paul E. Bell <wd0...@millcomm.com> wrote:
>Just for the record:

>
>BTW, wasn't the Coke in a bottle in The Lurking Horror? If so, then, I
>could see the bottle exploding and making a sticky mess out of it.

I seem to recall that it was a 2-liter bottle, which would probably be
plastic. It would probably boil the coke, and eventually rupture the
bottle, spewing boiling coke about. Sounds kind of fun.

>As for cats in the microwave, I do remember a news story of a live cat
>that had been given a bath and placed in the microwave to dry it off.
>It blew up, too, making a terrible mess.

If by "news story" you mean urban legend, then yes there is such a tale.
The canonical version is that of a poodle being micro dried. See:

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/techno/micropet.htm


Sean Givan

unread,
May 30, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/30/00
to

Barbara Robson <robson...@cwr.uwa.edu.aus> wrote in message
news:8gtccq$b91$1...@cyllene.uwa.edu.au...

> "Ashley Price" <ashle...@btinternet.com> writes:
>
> >I am currently starting to write a game and am trying to be careful to add
> >at least a mini description for every item that I mention in a room, even if
> >it doesn't have any significance. For instance my first room has a window.
> >It has one extra line (using Hugo) to add a description ("The window is
> >really a small opening in the castle wall, in fact it's little more than a
> >crack. It looks out over the moat and to the fields and woods beyond.").
>
> "> X MOAT. X FIELDS. X WOODS."
>
> "Murky water fills the moat far below."
> "Corn fields stretch eastwards for several miles, interrupted
> only by the occasional homestead and a few herds of cows."
> "The woods are dark and disturbing, a forest of towering oaks and
> inpenetrable undergrowth."
>
> "> X WATER. X CORN. X HOMESTEAD. X TREES. X COWS. X UNDERGROWTH."
>
> The author has to decide to stop somewhere (or else constrain descriptions
> mercilessly so they don't refer to anything not in the game).
>
> It is great if the author can include as scenery at least everything in
> the top level of description, but if the description is rich and detailed,
> even this can add up to a lot of work. In the end, I'd prefer good
> descriptions to exhaustive inventories, if a choice has to be made.
>
> Barbara
> --
> [Change the "aus" in my address to "au" to reply].

I was just playing Adventure today, and I spotted this phenomenon, which I remembered
was a commonly used technique to solve these problems..

>x forest
The trees of the forest are large hardwood oak and maple, with an occasional grove of pine or
spruce. There is quite a bit of undergrowth, largely birch and ash saplings plus nondescript bushes
of various sorts. This time of year visibility is quite restricted by all the leaves, but travel is
quite easy if you detour around the spruce and berry bushes.

>x leaves
The trees of the forest are large hardwood oak and maple, with an occasional grove of pine or
spruce. There is quite a bit of undergrowth, largely birch and ash saplings plus nondescript bushes
of various sorts. This time of year visibility is quite restricted by all the leaves, but travel is
quite easy if you detour around the spruce and berry bushes.

>x bushes
The trees of the forest are large hardwood oak and maple, with an occasional grove of pine or
spruce. There is quite a bit of undergrowth, largely birch and ash saplings plus nondescript bushes
of various sorts. This time of year visibility is quite restricted by all the leaves, but travel is
quite easy if you detour around the spruce and berry bushes.

Nothing jarring like an error message, but the player gets the hint.

-Sean Givan


John W. Kennedy

unread,
May 30, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/30/00
to
Field Marshall Stack wrote:
> It's a great idea, but I'm somewhat compelled to point out that it would be
> an entirely inappropriate solution for Hitchhiker's itself, since the
> entire idea of the game was to be as nasty and mean as possible to the
> player. I mean, the junk mail is nothing, *nothing* compared to the cheese
> sandwich.

Except, of course, that you have another chance with the cheese
sandwich. (It's amazing how many people never get that.)

--
-John W. Kennedy
-jwk...@attglobal.net
Compact is becoming contract
Man only earns and pays. -- Charles Williams

Weird Beard

unread,
May 30, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/30/00
to

"Paul E. Bell" <wd0...@millcomm.com> wrote in message
news:3933FBAD...@millcomm.com...
> Just for the record:

>
>
> As for cats in the microwave, I do remember a news story of a live cat
> that had been given a bath and placed in the microwave to dry it off.
> It blew up, too, making a terrible mess. I don't know if I want that
> much realism in my game (live animals in microwaves blow up, pop in cans
> sparks, pop in bottles blows up, water in mugs boils over, etc.).
> Besides, that's an aweful lot of stuff for an author to keep track of.
>
Have you ever played Maniac Mansion?

BrenBarn

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
>Microwaving a can of coke is entirely another matter. The
>game can quite reasonably put the game in an unwinnable
>state as a result of THAT kind of action, and I hope most
>sensible players will quickly figure it out.
Now, I totally understand what you're saying, but I think there are others
besides me who would dispute that "quite reasonably" part. As with everything,
it's a matter of the individual.

>If the
>player puts a fifty-pound bag of unpopped popcorn in a
>self-cleaning oven and sets it to clean, lights the kitchen
>table on fire, drops his entire inventory down a well, or
>jumps off the top of a building, he normally expects
>consequences, and he'll certainly be able to figure out
>the cause of those consequences.

Agreed. But "consequences" don't have to be meta-consequences -- and
sometimes the difference is not obvious.
Take, for example, the case of microwaving a Coke. Frying the microwave
to the point of unusability is a totally within-game consequence -- it happens
within the game world, under the rules of the game world.
But making the game unwinnable is NOT a within-game consequence. It goes
outside of the game world to the "gameness" of the game. Unless the
player-character knows that he is in a game (which would be interesting in its
own right), any reliance on or reference to the actual mechanics of the program
is a departure from the game world.

BrenBarn

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
>We could take this to extremes and say we should not expect the player to
>move the character.
I know you intended this as an absurd hyperextension of my suggestion, but
(heaven help me) -- I DON'T DISAGREE :-). Honestly, I think a game which
instigated events on its own (if the player didn't) would be really cool.

>We present our game and how they play it is up to them.

Wow, I'm going to sound like a real nutcase now. . . Ironically, I agree
with this wholeheartedly. I do not hold with the author-as-servant philosophy
that the author is out to please the reader (or player). All of my suggestions
on IF writing are just suggestions about games that would be interesting in
some way or another. Some people may harken to them because they think writing
such a game would be fun. Some may do it because they think others will like
it. Most will probably ignore it in the first place :-). In any case, I
support the Author with a capital A, the Creator with a capital C, the
unapologetic maniac who writes what he wants to regardless of popular opinion
-- but I digress :-).

>Fortunately, my IF is in the **very** early stages (as in, I am only on the

>third room), so I will be able to use this [different endings].
Huzzah! I will await this masterpiece eagerly.

>Well done, and by the way, just because you don't write games doesn't mean
>your opinion doesn't count. In fact having an "outsider" coming up with
>points is just as vital as those of us who are writing (or struggling to
>write in my case) an IF.

Thank you. I draw my will to continually babble from: A) a lack of social
intelligence; B) a stubborn desire to put forth my ideas; C) in this case, the
fact that I HAVE written ONE game (yes, it's actually true :-); and D) kind
comments such as yours.
But more importantly, thank YOU for responding to my comments so
earnestly, and also for adding your own opinions to the pile. The more the
merrier! :-)

Daniel Barkalow

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
On Mon, 29 May 2000, Ashley Price wrote:

> This is, I think a very grey area. Because so much could be implied at what
> point do you draw the line? In a standard location you are going to have at
> the very least sky and land. Of course, are there clouds in the sky? It the
> land completely smooth or full of cracks and what is it made of? If there
> are cracks what's in them etc.

I personally think that descriptions of the cardinal directions are a good
idea, especially since the Inform library otherwise says the somewhat
annoying "You see nothing special about the west wall" right after you
give an exciting and outlandish description of the terrain to the west of
the player, while the player is outside. Furthermore, this lets the player
look into nearby locations and somewhat avoid the feeling of being in a
tight cave or dense fog. Directions often have interesting features, which
may be pointed out in the room description and which should then be
obvious to someone trying to look in the specified direction.

Most other things fall in the category of "If the player is looking at
that, we've got problems already."

> I realise this is extreme but the question is that if an object is of any
> use at all it would be mentioned at some point rather than simply implied. I
> think many players would realise that implied items are simply there and
> they do not need to worry about them. I guess there will always be some
> players who will try *everything*.

It really hurts mimesis for me at least when an object (or collection of
objects) clearly would be useful, but the author insists it is not. Jigsaw
was particularly bad at this, in my opinion. You end up in a workshop, and
there are things you might want to manipulate with tools, but the tools
are not important? I think it's better to make the stuff that's not
implemented actually seem useless and not implement it.

-Iabervon
*This .sig unintentionally changed*


charm

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
In article <8gt9n6$aln$1...@uranium.btinternet.com>, Ashley Price wrote:
>You have hit on my biggest bug-bear with any IF - mentioning something in
>the main description and then not letting the player interact with it (even
>if it is just examining it). This takes so little extra time to add but adds
>immensely to the joy of the game.

Ditto here, as a new/old if-fan, description has always bothered me because
all too often the description is misleading or useless to the game. I
understand that setting the scene is important, but if a scene is set,
make sure to actually include the objects.

Another bugbear is having the same description for an object after its
status has changed. For example, drop vase, the vase breaks, look,
you see a beautiful vase.

What I really love is the unexpected things. I wrote an IF game 8 years
ago, where players who tried really sick things in the game were sent to
hell, had to avoid demons, and face Belzebub to beg for redemption/one
more chance.

Cheers!

Ashley Price

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
Hi all

> >As for cats in the microwave, I do remember a news story of a live cat
> >that had been given a bath and placed in the microwave to dry it off.
> >It blew up, too, making a terrible mess.
>

> If by "news story" you mean urban legend, then yes there is such a tale.
> The canonical version is that of a poodle being micro dried. See:
>

Slightly off topic this, but a version this has actually happened in the UK
and the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Provention of Cruelty to Animals) now
uses a kitten in a microwave for its latest ad campaign.

Ashley

Jon Ingold

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to

> Take, for example, the case of microwaving a Coke. Frying the
microwave
>to the point of unusability is a totally within-game consequence -- it
happens
>within the game world, under the rules of the game world.
> But making the game unwinnable is NOT a within-game consequence. It
goes
>outside of the game world to the "gameness" of the game. Unless the
>player-character knows that he is in a game (which would be interesting in
its
>own right), any reliance on or reference to the actual mechanics of the
program
>is a departure from the game world.


Yes, but the game world is defined by the mechanics of the program. No-one
ever assumes that a text game will understand verbs like "sneeze" or "laugh"
or "dispute <political philsophy>" but that isn't a departure from the game
environment; it's a definition. Similarly, the "game" is defined by the fact
it is a game, it has boundaries, you can't get away from that; so you may as
well incorporate it.

Jon

Message has been deleted

Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
jcm...@uwaterloo.ca (Joe Mason) wrote:

> Oh, be *careful* what you wish for - we don't want to resurrect R**F-P**L.
>
> Life as we know it might not survive this time...

I don't know what you people are so paranoid about. Sure,
Version 1.0 had its problems, but after the cleanup we
simply took the old 0.17.8.3b binary and had it write
ethics controls into the version 1 sources (which somehow
managed to survive the fallout -- not sure how that
happened, but anyway). Since then Version 1.1 has
been completely safe as long as you don't leave it
unattended. There was only one minor incident, and
the programmer was deliberately making a WWII simulation
and forgot to put a backdoor in the Hitler code. Really,
as long as you don't do something stupid like that,
RAIF-POOL is safe.

Peter Smith

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to

Jon Ingold <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote in message news:8h2p0b$lq3

>
> Yes, but the game world is defined by the mechanics of the program. No-one
> ever assumes that a text game will understand verbs like "sneeze" or
"laugh"
> or "dispute <political philsophy>" but that isn't a departure from the
game
> environment; it's a definition. Similarly, the "game" is defined by the
fact
> it is a game, it has boundaries, you can't get away from that; so you may
as
> well incorporate it.
>

Very true. You need to suspend disbelief and accept a fictional simplified
world whenever you read a book watch a film or play IF. Provided it's not
overdone I find humour based on this very amusing - like graphic adventures
telling you not to play with the pixels.

Graphic adventures have this advantage when the cursor indicates what you
can interact with - it is a lot easier running the cursor over the screen
than it is examining things.

Peter Smith.


Jonadab the Unsightly One

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
bren...@aol.comRemove (BrenBarn) wrote:

> >If the player [...] lights the kitchen

> >table on fire, drops his entire inventory down a well, or

> >[...] he normally expects consequences, [...]

> Agreed. But "consequences" don't have to be meta-consequences -- and
> sometimes the difference is not obvious.

> Take, for example, the case of microwaving a Coke. Frying the microwave
> to the point of unusability is a totally within-game consequence -- it happens
> within the game world, under the rules of the game world.

Yes...

> But making the game unwinnable is NOT a within-game consequence. It goes
> outside of the game world to the "gameness" of the game.

What? In the real world, if you destroy your microwave, and
you *need* to microwave something, it's just too bad.

Not that life ends, or anything... perhaps we should make
a distinction between "unwinnable state" and "unfinishable
state". Many players aren't willing to accept a tragic
ending, or even a neutral one, as a "win". But if the
player can always win no matter what actions he takes,
the game has no reality.

> Unless the
> player-character knows that he is in a game (which would be interesting in its
> own right),

Diary of a Text Adventurer. The implementor's nightmare,
BTW, but mainly because it's so huge. It'll be finished
one of these decades, maybe. At least I have most of the
plot figured out now. Going to rewrite all the code from
scratch... someday.

Mark Musante - Sun Microsystems

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
Paul E. Bell (wd0...@millcomm.com) wrote:
> As for cats in the microwave, I do remember a news story of a live cat
> that had been given a bath and placed in the microwave to dry it off.

My, my, how stories mutate in the telling.

http://www.urbanlegends.com/animals/lawyer_microwaved_pet.html


-=- Mark -=-

Andrew Plotkin

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May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
Peter Smith <peter...@smallworld.co.uk> wrote:
>
> Graphic adventures have this advantage when the cursor indicates what you
> can interact with - it is a lot easier running the cursor over the screen
> than it is examining things.

In a well-designed graphical game, you don't have to run your cursor
around the screen; you can see what's important.

In a well-written text game, you don't have to examine everything; you can
see what's important.

(In both cases, you check a few borderline cases, just to be sure. But
there are no huge surprises.)

I call this quality "focus" in my game reviews. Is the player's attention
focussed on the important elements, or is the player lost in a sea of mud?

--Z

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

Aquarius

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
Peter Smith spoo'd forth:

> Graphic adventures have this advantage when the cursor indicates what you
> can interact with - it is a lot easier running the cursor over the screen
> than it is examining things.

But that leads to hunt-the-pixel, which is highly annoying, I find...

Zarf tends to moan about this sort of thing in his graphic adventure
reviews :)

Aquarius

--
An Oxford scholar, meeting a porter, who was carrying a hare through the
streets, accosts him with this extraordinary question: "Prithee, friend,
is that thy own hare, or a wig?"
"Popular Fallacies: That The Worst Puns Are The Best" -- Essays of Elia

Aquarius

unread,
May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
Andrew Plotkin spoo'd forth:

> In a well-designed graphical game, you don't have to run your cursor
> around the screen; you can see what's important.
[snip]
> I call this quality "focus" in my game reviews. Is the player's attention
> focussed on the important elements, or is the player lost in a sea of mud?

Ha. And Zarf is quite capable of answering for himself, too; that'll
teach me to read a whole thread before replying to any of it. :)

I've played a couple of games where I've literally had to resort to
checking every screen inch by inch for things I might have missed. When I
get to that stage, I'm normally about five minutes from giving up
entirely :)

Having said this, it tended to happen, to me at least, on older games
more frequently, which might be a limitation of poor graphics rather than
anything else...

Ashley Price

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May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
Hi Niz

Niz <nizam...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:8h2p2t$i...@nntpa.cb.lucent.com...
>
> Ashley Price wrote in message <8h2lrh$39c$1...@neptunium.btinternet.com>...


>
> >> >As for cats in the microwave, I do remember a news story of a live cat
> >> >that had been given a bath and placed in the microwave to dry it off.

> >> >It blew up, too, making a terrible mess.
> >>
> >> If by "news story" you mean urban legend, then yes there is such a
tale.
> >> The canonical version is that of a poodle being micro dried. See:
> >>
> >
> >Slightly off topic this, but a version this has actually happened in the
UK
> >and the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Provention of Cruelty to Animals)
now
> >uses a kitten in a microwave for its latest ad campaign.
>
>

> Do you have any evidence that this has "actually happened", or did it
> "actually happen" to a friend of a friend?
>
I don't have the evidence personally, but it was reported in all the papers
and as I said in my previous message the RSPCA use it as a "Case History" in
their advertising. With a charity I think there is a difference between
truth and fiction in their advertising.

Ashley
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
> .
>
>
>

charm

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May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
In article <20000530204513...@ng-fq1.aol.com>, BrenBarn wrote:
> Take, for example, the case of microwaving a Coke. Frying the microwave
>to the point of unusability is a totally within-game consequence -- it happens
>within the game world, under the rules of the game world.
> But making the game unwinnable is NOT a within-game consequence. It goes
>outside of the game world to the "gameness" of the game. Unless the

The solution, of course, is to have multiple ways of solving a puzzle. Was
the microwave really necessary to solve the puzzle? Or could you have
heated the leg of lamb over an open fire? Better yet, could you have just
called up Kentucky Fried Chicken and ordered a meal for the king?

*chuckles for free*


Joe Pfeiffer

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May 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/31/00
to
ge...@shuswap.net (Gene Wirchenko) writes:

> In real life, a can of coke is food.

Yep -- caffeine and sugar. Just add rum and some french fries and you
have all four basic food groups covered -- an excellent meal.
--
Joseph J. Pfeiffer, Jr., Ph.D. Phone -- (505) 646-1605
Department of Computer Science FAX -- (505) 646-1002
New Mexico State University http://www.cs.nmsu.edu/~pfeiffer
VL 2000 Homepage: http://www.cs.orst.edu/~burnett/vl2000/

Joe Mason

unread,
Jun 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM6/1/00
to
Ashley Price <ashle...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>I don't have the evidence personally, but it was reported in all the papers
>and as I said in my previous message the RSPCA use it as a "Case History" in
>their advertising. With a charity I think there is a difference between
>truth and fiction in their advertising.

You would think, wouldn't you?

I'm inclined to be skeptical.
Joe

Joe Mason

unread,
Jun 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM6/1/00
to
John W. Kennedy <jwke...@bellatlantic.net> wrote:
>Field Marshall Stack wrote:
>> It's a great idea, but I'm somewhat compelled to point out that it would be
>> an entirely inappropriate solution for Hitchhiker's itself, since the
>> entire idea of the game was to be as nasty and mean as possible to the
>> player. I mean, the junk mail is nothing, *nothing* compared to the cheese
>> sandwich.
>
>Except, of course, that you have another chance with the cheese
>sandwich. (It's amazing how many people never get that.)

But you still wouldn't know that you'd need it at that point, would you?

Joe

Gene Wirchenko

unread,
Jun 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM6/1/00
to
"Ashley Price" <ashle...@btinternet.com> wrote:

>Barbara Robson <robson...@cwr.uwa.edu.aus> wrote in message

>news:8gtbmd$9gq$1...@cyllene.uwa.edu.au...
>
>> What seems obvious to the author may not be obvious to the player. And
>> what seems "unusual" to the author may not seem so to the player. So
>> it is quite possible that the player will do something that makes the
>> game unwinnable, then continue playing (perhaps spending a lot of time
>> going a long way forward through the game before realising their mistake,
>> and quite possibly even saving over their last "winnable" saved game,
>> so they would have to start from scratch to win the game). I remember
>> doing this by, for example, failing to collect the junk mail from the
>> doorstep at the start of "Hitchhiker's".
>
>Where I said "obvious" and "unusual" I meant in relation to real life. Food
>is put in a microwave, a can of coke isn't. However, I agree that there are

In real life, a can of coke is food.

[snip]

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko

Computerese Irregular Verb Conjugation:
I have preferences.
You have biases.
He/She has prejudices.

Anssi

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Jun 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM6/1/00
to
How about a puzzle in which you have to use an object which is
not in the room description but only implied? Would that be
unfair to the player? I am asking because I am implementing a
room where the room description mentions a bed, among other
things (this is a moderated example of the puzzle, to not give
anything away in advance; the case in the real game is a bit
different). You have to find an object under the pillow (which is
on the bed, but not mentioned) to proceed. I mean, because there
is a bed, there most probably has to be a pillow on it too,
right? I thought this wouldn't be too hard a puzzle as it applies
'common knowledge'.
Or, what do others think?

Anssi

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Jacek Pudlo

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Jun 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM6/1/00