What is IF?

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chads...@my-deja.com

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Sep 29, 1999, 3:00:00 AM9/29/99
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The subject screams "newbie", but that's not what I'm talking about.

We all know what IF is, right? We play it a lot, sometimes even review
it or write it. But...

CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

If you've taken a programming class at some point in life, you've
probably heard of "IPO"- Input, Processing, Output.

Input:
Now, if you type in english like commands such as "kill troll with
sword", it's IF. I doubt anyone will disagree with that. But what if
it's a two word parser? It's still IF, right? What if it's a ONE LETTER
parser? What if you use drop-down lists and/or menus to form sentences?
Still IF, right?

What if you click on buttons or links for actions such as "drink water"
or "north"?

What if you click on parts of the screen, as in Myst? I think many
people will be uncertain at this point. What if there's some action,
where you have to quickly type a few commands or use arrow keys, as in
Space Quest?


Processing:
IF is not entirely story; but is it entirely a simulation? Is SimCity
2000 IF? Would a Star Trek holodeck be IF? Would it be IF if the author
defined properties for objects without defining a rigid storyline?


Output:
Text only? Text and graphics (Arrival)? Graphics entirely (Myst)?


If those weren't enough questions, here are some more:

Is Adventure IF?
Is Wolfenstein 3d?
Is Space Quest?
Is Myst?
Is Frogger?

"Interactive Fiction" would seem to mean a storyline that the user can
change. If action or arcade games, winning will produce a storyline,
and dying will produce a "You have failed. The aliens destroy the
earth" type message. This is more "interactive fiction" then many games
we call "interactive fiction" where only the sequence of turns may
change, not the storyline- in Photopia, for example.

I believe this is because the WORLD created is interactive, not
necessarily the FICTION.

What do you all think?

Chad Schultz (chads...@hotmail.com)
Because I Can


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

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 29, 1999, 3:00:00 AM9/29/99
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chads...@my-deja.com wrote:
> The subject screams "newbie", but that's not what I'm talking about.
>
> We all know what IF is, right? We play it a lot, sometimes even review
> it or write it. But...
>
> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

No.

As you point out, it's a fuzzy category, with fuzzy boundaries. Just like
"science fiction", or "humor", or "physics", or "worm".

We define it by example, and more examples appear all the time, changing
the definition.

--Z

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

T Raymond

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Sep 30, 1999, 3:00:00 AM9/30/99
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chads...@my-deja.com spoke about :

>The subject screams "newbie", but that's not what I'm talking about.
>
>We all know what IF is, right? We play it a lot, sometimes even review
>it or write it. But...
>
>CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?
>

Nope, abolutely not, because any absolute definition wouldn't be
subject to change and IF changes with each new step or idea. There's a
rough description on my homepage, I'll probably have to change it
after the next comp. wonderment (when I get around to that of course).

But if you want to look just the same, it's at
<http://www.geocities.com/athens/delphi/7442/if/>

Tom

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Tom Raymond adk @ usa.net
"The original professional ameteur."
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Jon Ingold

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Sep 30, 1999, 3:00:00 AM9/30/99
to

<chads...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:7stppl$ipm$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

> The subject screams "newbie", but that's not what I'm talking about.
>
> We all know what IF is, right? We play it a lot, sometimes even review
> it or write it. But...
>
> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

I would say the main feature of IF is text-output. A game like Myst is more
Interactive Cinema than Interactive Fiction (taking fiction to mean more
literature that just stuff-that's-made-up). The input method isn't that
important because that's the 'interactive' part. As for text-and-graphics,
erm.. that's just 'Interactive Cinema (with subtitles)'

jon

Aris Katsaris

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Oct 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/1/99
to

<chads...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:7stppl$ipm$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...
> The subject screams "newbie", but that's not what I'm talking about.
>
> We all know what IF is, right? We play it a lot, sometimes even review
> it or write it. But...
>
> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

Once I tried to define IF. After some commentary I simplified my definition
to the
following: "Interactive fiction is above all else a narrative (hence the
'fiction')
which not only influences (by being read/played) but is also influenced
by the 'player' (hence the 'interactive')."

Critical words on the above are the "above all else". The narrative must be
the most important part of the game.

Points of clarification:
1. It's not important whether the narrative is shown in graphic or text -
but it has to be a narrative of some sort. Colours flashing in the screen
and changing depending on which letter you press is not 'narrative'.

2. Puzzles may be part of the narrative. Infact even complex and obtrusive
puzzles may be part of the narrative. But they have to be connected with it
in some way, no matter how ridiculous it is ("Enemies" therefore does
qualify as IF regardless the Mensa-style silly puzzles). If they are
completely isolated and unconnected though (a Fifteen game), they are
intrusions to the narrative. If these kind of puzzles form the most
important part of the game (the reason most people play it perhaps), perhaps
it should not be called IF. The inform-version of Tetris (I don't remember
the name, sorry!!) is not IF.

3. The reason strategy games are not IF, is that they have not been
interested in being IF: There's minimal or no narrative, with numbers or
positions being the most important elements controlling the game.
(A very advanced kind of strategy game though, where you can flirt with a
foreign duchess to take valuable info from here, could qualify though. It
all depends on how important the narrative part of the story is.)

4. Space Under the Window is IF. So is hyper-fiction, though it's a very bad
kind of IF in all the examples I've yet seen. Perhaps someone would care to
add a rule or something, which would manage to exclude hyper-fiction from
being IF, but I don't really see any reason to.

> If you've taken a programming class at some point in life, you've
> probably heard of "IPO"- Input, Processing, Output.
>
> Input:
> Now, if you type in english like commands such as "kill troll with
> sword", it's IF. I doubt anyone will disagree with that.
> But what if
> it's a two word parser? It's still IF, right? What if it's a ONE LETTER
> parser? What if you use drop-down lists and/or menus to form sentences?
> Still IF, right?
>
> What if you click on buttons or links for actions such as "drink water"
> or "north"?
>
> What if you click on parts of the screen, as in Myst? I think many
> people will be uncertain at this point.

According to my definition, and according to the beliefs of many, the
kind of input is irrelevant.

> What if there's some action,
> where you have to quickly type a few commands or use arrow keys, as in
> Space Quest?

Speed of typing, reflexes, is a part of the game which is obtrusive to the
narrative. If
this kind of puzzle was happening very often in a game it should perhaps not
be considered interactive fiction.

> Processing:
> IF is not entirely story; but is it entirely a simulation? Is SimCity
> 2000 IF?

IMO it's not because the "simulation" there is more important than
the narrative.

> Would a Star Trek holodeck be IF?

I don't know what you mean by Star Trek holodeck.

> Would it be IF if the author
> defined properties for objects without defining a rigid storyline?

Like the IF-art competition? I think it could be so though here we
enter more ambiguous waters. In the IF-art competition there's still
a narrative, a feel of someone doing something even if there's no
"plot" exactly.

> Output:
> Text only? Text and graphics (Arrival)? Graphics entirely (Myst)?

Irrelevant. Grim Fandango certainly was Interactive fiction.

> If those weren't enough questions, here are some more:
>
> Is Adventure IF?

Yes.
> Is Wolfenstein 3d?
Haven't played it.
> Is Space Quest?
Yes
> Is Myst?
Haven't played it.
> Is Frogger?
Is that the one with the frog trying to pass oncoming traffic? (btw I don't
know why didn't they make
him a chicken; felt like a wasted opportunity :-) If so, no. There's no
interactive narrative there.

> "Interactive Fiction" would seem to mean a storyline that the user can
> change. If action or arcade games, winning will produce a storyline,
> and dying will produce a "You have failed. The aliens destroy the
> earth" type message.

But there the narrative isn't the most important part of the game, even
though a short "narrative" is in the end produced.

> This is more "interactive fiction" then many games
> we call "interactive fiction" where only the sequence of turns may
> change, not the storyline- in Photopia, for example.

On photopia the narrative is far more important than in shoot-em-ups.

Aris Katsaris

Lucian Paul Smith

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Oct 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/1/99
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chads...@my-deja.com wrote:

: CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

Interactive Fiction is that set of all games currently defined as
"Interactive Fiction".

-Lucian

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Oct 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/1/99
to
In article <7stppl$ipm$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

chads...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

"Interactive fiction is a collection of unique significances which the
user perceives himself to be arranging for the purpose of forming a
narrative. If there are perceptible, surmountable obstacles to achieving
the desired arrangement, you also have a game."

I've been trying to cajole a friend of mine into building an IF
language. So he's been lurking this forum occasionally and ended up
muttering about people trying to work without definitions and drummed up
a fairly lengthy thesis (which boils down to the above, subject to
further refinement). He's like that.

The only problem I had with it was his use of the phrase "unique
significances". I mean, after I thought about it for a moment, it made
sense, but I think the initial response is "huh?" It requires too much
thought for my taste. :-)
--
[ok]

TenthStone

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Oct 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/1/99
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On Wed, 29 Sep 1999 19:37:27 GMT, chads...@my-deja.com wrote:

>The subject screams "newbie", but that's not what I'm talking about.
>
>We all know what IF is, right? We play it a lot, sometimes even review
>it or write it. But...
>

>CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

Yes. It just won't be accurate.

It certainly won't be accurate in a few weeks/days.

----------------
The Imperturbable TenthStone
mcc...@erols.com tenth...@hotmail.com mcc...@gsgis.k12.va.us

David Glasser

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Oct 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/1/99
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<chads...@my-deja.com> wrote:

> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

Interactive Fiction is what we discuss on on-topic messages in
rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction.

--
David Glasser | gla...@iname.com | http://www.davidglasser.net/
rec.arts.int-fiction FAQ: http://www.davidglasser.net/raiffaq/
tr/y/k;

Gene Wirchenko

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Oct 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/2/99
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gla...@iname.com (David Glasser) wrote:

><chads...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>
>> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?
>
>Interactive Fiction is what we discuss on on-topic messages in
>rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction.

Next, we cover the term "on-topic".

Since every message is about some topic, every message is on
(dealing with) some topic. Therefore, every message is on-topic.

If there is anything else that you need unexplained, just ask.
(It'll be on-topic, too!)

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko

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

Michael Brazier

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Oct 4, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/4/99
to
David Glasser wrote:
>
> <chads...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>
> > CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?
>
> Interactive Fiction is what we discuss on on-topic messages in
> rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction.

Ergo, Turkish Delight is interactive fiction -- which will surprise the
confectioners of the world.

--
Michael Brazier
"... go do something you hate! Being miserable builds character!"
-- Calvin, _Calvin & Hobbes_

Andrew Pearce

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Oct 5, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/5/99
to

I don't know about that, but I know that sex is interactive friction.

Andrew

Howard Sherman

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Oct 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/9/99
to
Every so often someone posts this question to this newsgroup and r.g..if.

Not to be abrasive or anything, but I'd suggest searching alot of old posts
for just the question you asked. If the archives go back far enough,
you'll find hundreds of posts to answer your question.

Howard

http://users.erols.com/lordrandom

chads...@my-deja.com wrote:

> The subject screams "newbie", but that's not what I'm talking about.
>
> We all know what IF is, right? We play it a lot, sometimes even review
> it or write it. But...
>

> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?
>

> If you've taken a programming class at some point in life, you've
> probably heard of "IPO"- Input, Processing, Output.
>
> Input:
> Now, if you type in english like commands such as "kill troll with
> sword", it's IF. I doubt anyone will disagree with that. But what if
> it's a two word parser? It's still IF, right? What if it's a ONE LETTER
> parser? What if you use drop-down lists and/or menus to form sentences?
> Still IF, right?
>
> What if you click on buttons or links for actions such as "drink water"
> or "north"?
>
> What if you click on parts of the screen, as in Myst? I think many

> people will be uncertain at this point. What if there's some action,


> where you have to quickly type a few commands or use arrow keys, as in
> Space Quest?
>

> Processing:
> IF is not entirely story; but is it entirely a simulation? Is SimCity

> 2000 IF? Would a Star Trek holodeck be IF? Would it be IF if the author


> defined properties for objects without defining a rigid storyline?
>

> Output:
> Text only? Text and graphics (Arrival)? Graphics entirely (Myst)?
>

> If those weren't enough questions, here are some more:
>
> Is Adventure IF?

> Is Wolfenstein 3d?
> Is Space Quest?
> Is Myst?
> Is Frogger?
>

> "Interactive Fiction" would seem to mean a storyline that the user can
> change. If action or arcade games, winning will produce a storyline,
> and dying will produce a "You have failed. The aliens destroy the

> earth" type message. This is more "interactive fiction" then many games


> we call "interactive fiction" where only the sequence of turns may
> change, not the storyline- in Photopia, for example.
>

> I believe this is because the WORLD created is interactive, not
> necessarily the FICTION.
>
> What do you all think?
>
> Chad Schultz (chads...@hotmail.com)
> Because I Can
>

M. David Krauss

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Oct 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/10/99
to
Your friend sounds interesting...

I've been working on developing an IF language. Maybe we should talk.

:)

On Fri, 01 Oct 1999, okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:
>In article <7stppl$ipm$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,
> chads...@my-deja.com wrote:
>>

>> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?
>

>"Interactive fiction is a collection of unique significances which the
>user perceives himself to be arranging for the purpose of forming a
>narrative. If there are perceptible, surmountable obstacles to achieving
>the desired arrangement, you also have a game."
>
>I've been trying to cajole a friend of mine into building an IF
>language. So he's been lurking this forum occasionally and ended up
>muttering about people trying to work without definitions and drummed up
>a fairly lengthy thesis (which boils down to the above, subject to
>further refinement). He's like that.
>
>The only problem I had with it was his use of the phrase "unique
>significances". I mean, after I thought about it for a moment, it made
>sense, but I think the initial response is "huh?" It requires too much
>thought for my taste. :-)
>--
>[ok]
>
>

Nick Montfort

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Oct 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/11/99
to
chads...@my-deja.com wrote:

> CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?

FOR WHAT PURPOSE? IN WHAT CONTEXT?

As I mentioned the last time this topic came up, I think there *are*
concise and precise definitions of "interactive fiction." Some things
are in the category and some aren't. For instance, an interactive
documentary which includes only footage of actual news events with
supporting historical documents is not an interactive fiction, because
it's not fiction. Jorge Luis Borges's story The Garden of Forking Paths,
as suggestive of multilinear fiction as it is, is not interactive
fiction because it isn't "interactive" -- everyone reading it is
presented with the same text in the same order. A CD-ROM of beautiful
but non-narrative photographs which can be accessed in any way also
isn't interactive fiction, as fiction presupposes some sort of
narrative. On the other hand, one would be hard pressed to come up with
a meaningful definition of IF that excludes "Zork."

There are different definitions depending on your perspective -- reader,
player (a different perspective on being a reader), critic, programmer,
writer. "Novel" also means different things to different entities, as
does "science fiction," but they are still well-defined within all of
these contexts. Particular authors, readers, critics, publishers, and
bookstores know very well what those terms mean.

What context are we asking about, here? I could guess it is that of
programming, but is it?

Howard Sherman <lordr...@erols.com> wrote:

> Every so often someone posts this question to this newsgroup [...]


> If the archives go back far enough,
> you'll find hundreds of posts to answer your question.

This is true. One can go back and read the last concise, precise
definition I gave. But within different contexts, there are different
valid and meaningful definitions, which may not have been posted
already. Hence my prompting for the context once again.

-Nick M.

chads...@my-deja.com

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Oct 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/11/99
to
In article <7tt1od$1gm$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

Nick Montfort <nickmo...@my-deja.com> wrote:
> chads...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
> > CAN YOU GIVE ME A CONCISE AND PRECISE DEFINITION?
>
> FOR WHAT PURPOSE? IN WHAT CONTEXT?

Does it matter? Could anybody give me a definition that wouldn't look
out of place in a dictionary that more than one person could agree on?

> As I mentioned the last time this topic came up, I think there *are*
> concise and precise definitions of "interactive fiction."

Yes, I've read some of those. Ever found two the same?

> Some things
> are in the category and some aren't.

Obviously; the question is, what is and what isn't?

> For instance, an interactive
> documentary which includes only footage of actual news events with
> supporting historical documents is not an interactive fiction, because
> it's not fiction. Jorge Luis Borges's story The Garden of Forking
Paths,
> as suggestive of multilinear fiction as it is, is not interactive
> fiction because it isn't "interactive" -- everyone reading it is
> presented with the same text in the same order.

I haven't read that. I believe that which-way and choose-your-own-
adventure books are "interactive fiction" because with your
interaction, you can change the very story. Or does "interactive
fiction" have a specific definition not obvious from the game, which
might make it only certain computer games, or games without pictures?

> A CD-ROM of beautiful
> but non-narrative photographs which can be accessed in any way also
> isn't interactive fiction, as fiction presupposes some sort of
> narrative. On the other hand, one would be hard pressed to come up
with
> a meaningful definition of IF that excludes "Zork."

How about:

Interactive Fiction: A work of fiction where the reader can "interact
with" and change or choose the plot.

The plot of Zork does not change much, unless you count where you can
lose the game- and what if interactive fiction counts only stories, and
not games?

> There are different definitions depending on your perspective --
reader,
> player (a different perspective on being a reader), critic,
programmer,
> writer.
> "Novel" also means different things to different entities, as
> does "science fiction," but they are still well-defined within all of
> these contexts. Particular authors, readers, critics, publishers, and
> bookstores know very well what those terms mean.

Or at least pretend to; the same book may be found in different
sections in different stores or libraries.

> What context are we asking about, here? I could guess it is that of
> programming, but is it?

Good question; does IF include only computer games? Any narrative that
is interactive in any way?

> Howard Sherman <lordr...@erols.com> wrote:
>
> > Every so often someone posts this question to this newsgroup [...]
> > If the archives go back far enough,
> > you'll find hundreds of posts to answer your question.

Where could I find these archives? I'd like to read some of those older
messages.

> This is true. One can go back and read the last concise, precise
> definition I gave. But within different contexts,

More like different skulls.

>there are different
> valid and meaningful definitions, which may not have been posted
> already. Hence my prompting for the context once again.

The context? Um... say you open the dictionary and find "interactive
fiction". What would you expect (or hope) to see there?

Webster's definition of "interaction":
"mutual or reciprocal action or influence"

"fiction":
"1 a: something invented by the imagination or feigned; specifically an
invented story. b: fictitious literature (as novels or short stories)"
(other definitions deleted)

So "interactive fiction" would mean what? A story I can influence? I
would like people inputting their opinions in here.

Chad Schultz (chads...@hotmail.com)
--------------------------------------
When you make a piece of interactive
fiction, you put part of your soul
into it. It comes as no surprise that
commercial IF authors sold their soul.

okbl...@my-deja.com

unread,
Oct 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/11/99
to
In article <939550088....@news.detroit.mi.ameritech.net>,

M. David Krauss <Fa...@frodo.com> wrote:
> Your friend sounds interesting...
>
> I've been working on developing an IF language. Maybe we should talk.

I'll give him your E-mail.

--
[ok]

Michael Brazier

unread,
Oct 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/11/99
to
Nick Montfort wrote:
>
> Jorge Luis Borges's story The Garden of Forking Paths,
> as suggestive of multilinear fiction as it is, is not interactive
> fiction because it isn't "interactive" -- everyone reading it is
> presented with the same text in the same order.

On the other hand, the book that Borges' story is about, if it really
existed, very probably would be interactive fiction. (I rather hope
that nobody ever gave Borges a Choose Your Own Adventure book...)

--
Michael Brazier But what are all these vanities to me
Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?
X^2 + 7X + 53 = 11/3
-- Lewis Carroll

Gene Wirchenko

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Oct 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM10/12/99
to
Michael Brazier <mbra...@argusinc.com> wrote:

That's an appropriate quadratic equation. The roots are:
-7 +/- i7 root 15
-- ----------
2 6
No real roots!

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