Opinions are split over this one. I like menu-based conversations and can't
stand ASK/SHOW/TELL (== guess-the-verb in my opinion). Others may disagree.
Mimesis is basically what you break when you make the player feel the
constraints of a game.
"Gunther Schmidl" <gsch...@gmx.at> wrote in message
Apologies if you took _Mimesis and Punishment_ personally. As well as
apologies to any Sgt. Duffy fans.
You will notice that in my game _Chicken and Egg_ I used a menu-based
conversation system, although I did not in my epic opus, _Sins Against
Mimesis_. I think it really depends on how you want to model your
character interactions. I don't like menu interfaces for the whole game
simply because it obviously constrains your choices, and I want to feel
as if I have more freedom of action.
As for mimesis, it's a kind of houseplant. It handles low light well,
and the variegated kind is rather pretty, IMHO.
"My eyes say their prayers to her / Sailors ring her bell / Like a moth
mistakes a light bulb / For the moon and goes to hell." -- Tom Waits
As far as NPC conversation goes, I much prefer menus to the
ASK/TELL/"FROG, JUMP" style of interaction. Outside of that context, I find
menus less desirable. Games with totally Choose-your-own-adventure interfaces
(every action is chosen from a menu) generally seem a bit less immersive than
traditional games with parsers.
--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke
"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
"OKB -- not okblacke" <bren...@aol.comRemove> wrote in message
Okay. First, mimesis is how "real" the game seems--for instance, messages
such as "That's not important in this game." are bad for mimesis, because it
states that one is playing a game. Which is true, but unneeded--like, if
you're reading a good, ~fictional~ book, you don't want to see, "This
shouldn't be in this book, but I, the author, am a very intelligent
person."--it will likely have nothing to do with the plot/storyline, and it
detracts from the "realism" of the book.
Next, the problem with menu-driven interfaces is kind of a
how-much-of-this-to-implement thing. I don't know if you've ever played any
Indiana Jones computer games, but Indy, when speaking, selected what he said
from a list of options.
And that's fine in some situations. But only in conversation, in my
opinion. Because there is so much MORE to a world than can be implemented
by a SIMPLE, CLUNKY menu. Menus are SIMPLE and CLUNKY for such things. I
*ALWAYS* want to be able to type "feel [ANYTHING I WANT]" or "listen to
[ANYTHING I WANT]" or even "smell [ANYTHING I WANT]"--also, "put [ANYTHING]
in [ANYTHING]" is important. And inventory, and all that good stuff, just
isn't usually achieved with menu-driven systems.
I like a parser. I like typing, not navigating with the arrow keys.
This is in the FAQ. The reason it's in the FAQ is because it is so very
frequently asked. Even if you didn't want to look in the FAQ, you
could've searched Google Groups and pulled up this post from all of three
Andrew Merenbach replied:
> Okay. First, mimesis is how "real" the game seems--for instance,
> messages such as "That's not important in this game." are bad for
> mimesis, because it states that one is playing a game. Which is true,
> but unneeded--
And here you've just gone from attempting to define to editorializing.
What if the author decides that calling attention to the fact that the
game is a game is exactly what's needed? You can agree or disagree with
the author's judgment call after the fact, but saying that this sort of
move is categorically wrong is going too far.
> like, if you're reading a good, ~fictional~ book, you don't want to see,
> "This shouldn't be in this book,
Hmmm. I've written a fictional book that refers to the fact that it is a
book. Guess it must not be any good, huh?
As with all literary techniques, breaking mimesis can be done well or
poorly. It's pretty much the whole foundation of postmodern narrative, a
category that, like most categories, includes works ranging from the
extremely good to the extremely bad. Waving the whole lot of them away
with a "you don't want to see this" is a bit peremptory, don't you think?
Adam Cadre, Brooklyn, NY
web site: http://adamcadre.ac
Well, the mimesis bit has been answered by better people than me, so I'll
just add my two cents to the other question...
In my opinion, while a menu can greatly facilitate playing (no more "guess
the verb"), it can also limit puzzles to no end.
Say, for example, that you have an inflatable raft somewhere in the game
that had to be constructed by the player and now needs to be inflated. A
text parser would give you the option of ">INFLATE RAFT" or possibly ">BLOW
UP RAFT". Not exactly a very good puzzle, but it will have to do for now.
As soon as you have a menu-driven interface, the verb needed for this
action needs to be in there. How do we, as game designers, solve this?
1) We add the verb INFLATE to the menu, thus giving the player the hint
that sooner or later, this odd little verb will have to be used, thereby
making the puzzle obvious.
2) We add another item to the game world, like bellows, or a bottle of
oxygen. Then, the player can combine the two items with the verb USE.
Apparently the player can't inflate a raft with his/her own lungs.
3) We rewrite the puzzle and simplify it to suit the available standard
verbs. The raft may be a Frobozz Magic Self-Inflatable Raft(TM).
One reason why I really dislike USE is because it is so limiting. In
"Secret of Monkey Island" alone, the USE verb could mean anything from
"pour on" via "put into", "tie to" or "dig with" to "tickle with". Of
course it makes solving your adventure easier, because if you just click
any item from your inventory on every hot spot on the screen, you're bound
to hit the right combination sooner or later.
(BTW, did anyone play "Zork Grand Inquisitor"? There is a brilliant spoof
of this very approach in one scene that had me rolling on the floor.)
> This may sound a bit silly, but the simplicity of the text based interface
> makes me forget that I'm playing a computer game. Much in the same way that
> when reading a good book you forget that you are reading!
> Menus kinda bring me back to reality, making me remember that I'm operating
> a computer.
I quite liked the system in Shrapnel, where you use >TALK TO x and it
just says stuff. That's not mimesis-screwing but does keep the player
on track more.
| Okay. First, mimesis is how "real" the game seems--for instance,
| messages such as "That's not important in this game." are bad for
| mimesis, because it states that one is playing a game. Which is
| true, but unneeded--like, if you're reading a good, ~fictional~
| book, you don't want to see, "This shouldn't be in this book, but I,
| the author, am a very intelligent person."--it will likely have
| nothing to do with the plot/storyline, and it detracts from the
| "realism" of the book.
Given the current Objectivity and Art discussion, this is a good place
to point out that providing a strong sense of mimesis, while currently
considered a valuable trait in the raif community circa 2000, need not
necessarily be a goal of any given game, as long as that game is aware
of what it's doing. A lot of the early Infocom games broke the fourth
wall all the time, and people enjoyed it. Sometimes, from discussions
here, it seems like people think that mimesis is a make-or-break thing,
the lack of which can automatically consign a game to some second tier
of IF, but I wouldn't necessarily consider it an automatic desideratum.
> Someone named James asked:
>> Also what is mimesis?
> This is in the FAQ. The reason it's in the FAQ is because it is so very
> frequently asked. Even if you didn't want to look in the FAQ, you
> could've searched Google Groups and pulled up this post from all of three
> weeks ago:
> Andrew Merenbach replied:
>> Okay. First, mimesis is how "real" the game seems--for instance,
>> messages such as "That's not important in this game." are bad for
>> mimesis, because it states that one is playing a game. Which is true,
>> but unneeded--
> And here you've just gone from attempting to define to editorializing.
> What if the author decides that calling attention to the fact that the
> game is a game is exactly what's needed? You can agree or disagree with
> the author's judgment call after the fact, but saying that this sort of
> move is categorically wrong is going too far.
You're right about that--but I haven't had experience with such games.
>> like, if you're reading a good, ~fictional~ book, you don't want to see,
>> "This shouldn't be in this book,
> Hmmm. I've written a fictional book that refers to the fact that it is a
> book. Guess it must not be any good, huh?
Hey, now, that's not what I meant. I'm making a general statement which, I
understand now, may not always be true--but it works in most cases. Next
time I'll refine it.
> As with all literary techniques, breaking mimesis can be done well or
> poorly. It's pretty much the whole foundation of postmodern narrative, a
> category that, like most categories, includes works ranging from the
> extremely good to the extremely bad.
>Waving the whole lot of them away
> with a "you don't want to see this" is a bit peremptory, don't you think?
That's right--I understand now.
Andrew Merenbach, who is constantly evolving here, and hopes to soon have
the ability not to offend people... :-)
The system in Shrapnel was the most weird one I've ever seen. It *wasn't*
just TALK TO x. If I remember correctly you typed "TALK" and you always
talked to the guys you had last "focused on" (as in referred or examined,
And then you could choose from one possible sentence which you saw, and
a hidden one which you couldn't see. You had no way to know what that hidden
sentence could be.
I admit that this was the most weird part of Shrapnel for me... I can think
reason Adam may have done it this way - but I'll have to recheck the game to
see if I'm possibly right... It'd be spoilery to say more...
<stuff about this is the author's choice and if done well, it's what
I don't know if I'm just broken or what, but I generally prefer games
that follow the Infocom patterns. Using a menu for Hints seems okay,
but I won't play a game with conversation menus. To me, that would be
the equivalent of reading a book and the author then tells me to play
Track # 13 of the enclosed CD before reading further. It's almost as
if IF with conversation menus is a whole separate branch or genre.
This is not to say that ask/tell IF is the 'right' branch or genre,
but identifying it as a separate branch from conversation menu IF
seems appropriate to me, just because I personally don't recongnize
the conversation menu branch as 'traditional IF'.
But this is all BS and opinion. No Flames necessary. 100%
How is a menu less mimesis breaking than a situation like this:
You are in a padded cell. There is a padded door with a window. Bob is
>ASK BOB ABOUT CELL
Bob scratches his nuts but says nothing.
>ASK BOB ABOUT WINDOW
Bob scratches his nuts but says nothing.
>ASK BOB ABOUT HOW WE GOT HERE
Bob scratches his nuts but says nothing.
>ASK BOB ABOUT FOOTBALL
"Oh, I love football, I can't wait to catch the next game!"
Violence isn't the answer.
>YES IT IS
I don't understand what you mean. Please rephrase your command.
Interviewer: "Can you... destroy the earth?"
The Tick: "EGAD! I *HOPE* not! That's where I keep all my STUFF!"
That made me smile. I see your point, unless the frustration of the
situation was part of the
writers way of showing the mindless boredom of incarceration. :)
Probably I have not played enough decent menu games to appreciate them.
Some suggestions would be welcomed.
I would perhaps group some point and click adventures in to the 'menu'
genre as well. The definition for me is that the player can see every choice
they are capable
of making, rather than the countless possibilities that language allows.
In such a situation I would choose the interface which provided the best
response to OXFORD!!! I INFLATE YOU!!
That made me smile. I see your point, unless the frustration of the
Isn't that a failure in writing the NPC, rather than the ask/show/tell system
It's certainly feasible to have each object in the game include something like
an "askabout" property, to provide an object-specific generic response.
Of course, this doesn't give an answer when asking about things outside the
game, but then why should it? A menu based system wouldn't either.
See Roger Giner-Sorolla's "Crimes Against Mimesis" posts to
rec.arts.int-fiction from 1997 (you can find them by searching
Speaking of which, does anyone know what happened to Roger?
Those "Crimes" essays are some of my favourite Usenet postings,
but after 1997 he seemed to disappear.
<snip more of the same>
>Isn't that a failure in writing the NPC, rather than the ask/show/tell system
I would say so.
>It's certainly feasible to have each object in the game include something
>an "askabout" property, to provide an object-specific generic response.
>Of course, this doesn't give an answer when asking about things outside the
>game, but then why should it? A menu based system wouldn't either.
Even if you had pleasing, non-mimesis shattering replies to all of the above
(and it certainly would be possible), there is still the problem of the
figuring out what *should* be asked. You may have solved the mimesis
but not the guess-the-topic one, which, if carried to extremes, turns into a
mimesis problem again. That is, requiring the player to run around asking
every NPC about every object before they hit on the Magic Topic That Will
Progress The Game isn't good for mimesis (or player patience) either.
While I'm not a fan of menu's, they do have the distinct advantage of
everyone on the same page.
An alternate solution is a hybrid system, like Sparrow (from SmoochieComp)
used. That game provides a TOPIC verb that rattles off a short list of
possible topics to try out on the NPC. When used, it's no less mimesis
shattering than a menu, but at least you only see it if you ask for it.
-- Masquerade (Comp2000, nominated for Best Story (XYZZY's))
-- The Cove - Best of Landscape, Interactive Fiction Art Show 2000
-- Excuse me while I dance a little jig of despair
Indeed, I actually really liked the way Ford told me about the Guide in
HHGG even though it broke mimesis.
The scientist gives you a key. "By the way," he says, "did you know that you
can type 'i' (for inventory) to look at what you're carrying?"
I'd prefer to use square brackets instead.
Feel free to contradict, as I'm quite a newbie here.
Make the menus context-sensitive. The INFLATE option should
only appear when the raft is present.
That approach should work in any case where the required
action is obvious once a certain game state is reached
(in this case, finding the raft).
Not so sure what to do if you want an action to be non-
obvious even when all the required objects are found.
But then I think you're getting dangerously close to a
guess-the-verb puzzle, so I'd say you shouldn't be trying
to build such a puzzle in the first place.
Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
To get my email address, please visit my web page:
Play Infocom's _Journey_ for what this type of system would be
There were several menu options, including all the spell-casting
ones, which were *always* available. This allowed for some degree
of guesswork and thought from the player.
Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net>
*** Your child was bitten by a bat lizard and the hospital bill
cost you $200. ***
_Planescape: Torment_ did this well. (Items in square brackets appear in the
game text in bold.)
MORTE: One more thing. Remember that these zombies are *slow*. There's
no shame in running away if you have to.
[To run, hold down the SHIFT key and click on your destination.]
MORTE: Way to go! Now search the body to see if he's carrying a ket.
[To search the body...]
It put most of the tutorial section in the mouth of a character, but separated
out the actual game mechanics stuff into the same font it uses to announce,
"Max HP increased!" or "You gained an item!".
(Those quotes were from paraphrased, BTW.)
Your example is *probably* more useful than the one I am about
to give, because your example is from a more text-orietned game than
mine, but I will mention it anyway as more data.
In the first-person graphics PC game Terra Nova, I wrote the
tutorial and was careful to do exactly the above: the "instructor"
who tells you how to operate your powered battle armor describes
some abstract controls, while overlaid HUD text prompts tell you
exactly which key to press on your physical keyboard. At the time
I felt this would be important to maintain immersiveness.
Having since played any number of PC games (e.g.--I think--Half
Life, Battlezone) in which the tutorial section features an
instructor who says things like "Try pressing T to turn on your
fromitz brobnigator", I have to say that in that context it
really doesn't seem to matter. This may only be true for graphics
games, or maybe it's only true for games which have a "separate"
tutorial section, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty much a stickler
for immersiveness usually, and it just didn't turn out to bother
me in practice.
Other things to think about with this issue:
I think it was Masquerade that reworked all the parser error
messages into the fiction; and on the other side of the coin
My Angel, which made explicit the "bracketed parser comment"
by moving it into the prompt area in novel mode.