Gratuitous objects

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ni...@dewey.cc.utexas.edu

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Sep 30, 1994, 9:26:32 PM9/30/94
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An earlier thread (point+click and The Multidimensional Thief) contained some
admittedly gratuitous discussion of an important, if distinct subject: The
appearance of gratuitous objects in a game. These items, which would serve
no puzzle-solving function and would not reveal anything in the way of important
information to the player, are nevertheless important (the consensus seems to
be) for "realism."

My question is this: why are gratuitous elements in a film or novel seen as
bad (the term is derogatory when used in reviews) but as essential in
interactive fictions? I am not without a cherub of an idea on this topic but
would be curious to hear some other ideas.
--
/
Nick Montfort / ni...@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu
________________________________/

S.P.Harvey

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Sep 30, 1994, 10:12:13 PM9/30/94
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ni...@dewey.cc.utexas.edu wrote:

: My question is this: why are gratuitous elements in a film or novel seen as


: bad (the term is derogatory when used in reviews) but as essential in
: interactive fictions? I am not without a cherub of an idea on this topic but
: would be curious to hear some other ideas.

Speaking only for myself (whom else can I speak for?), as someone who's
studied a bit of film art and technique, and am currently teaching myself
the artistic science of IF design...

Gratutious elements are an essential part of IF, as the major emphasis
other than storytelling is puzzle solving. The onus is on the player as a
participant in the action to bring that action to a conclusion. This is
not true in a film, even a suspense film or mystery. The convention of
cinema is that all the answers will be revealed if you sit still for two
hours.

The only films which regularly contain gratutious and "unused" elements
are usually shelved under "art" or "avant-garde".

Film (and televison) is simply a spectator medium, while interactive
fiction is just that, interactive. You and you alone have to do the
majority (but not all) of the action to make the plot progress. The
reason these extra elements are derided in filmmaking is (opinion alert):
The majority of the audience does not want surprises, false leads, and
red herrings. Also, see the earlier thread for resource issues. Think
of an average successful Hollywood film. Say, Pretty Woman. As soon as
the lights in the theatre go down, we all know that it will end for the
better. And all we have to do is sit and goggle.

I've yet to meet a piece of IF that doesn't wrack my brain.

Scott

--
----------------------| S.P. Harvey |--------------------------
"Most of the world was mad. And the part that wasn't mad was angry.
And the part that wasn't mad or angry was just stupid.
I had no chance. I had no choice." - Charles Bukowski, 'Pulp'
----------------------| sha...@interaccess.com |--------------------------

Gerry Kevin Wilson

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Sep 30, 1994, 10:55:20 PM9/30/94
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In article <36ids8$g...@dewey.cc.utexas.edu>,
<ni...@dewey.cc.utexas.edu> wrote:

>My question is this: why are gratuitous elements in a film or novel seen as
>bad (the term is derogatory when used in reviews) but as essential in
>interactive fictions? I am not without a cherub of an idea on this topic but
>would be curious to hear some other ideas.

Well, I would have to say that you are comparing apples and oranges
here. In a film/movie, the audience wants to watch the movie, see the
story, and leave the theatre. In IF, you are dealing with people who
want to Interact with the game, hence the name Interactive Fiction. They
want to do this in as many ways as possible, laugh at all the little
jokes, etc. Different mindset.

--
<~~~VERTIGO~~~~~~~~~~~~THE~BRASS~LANTERN~~~~~~ISSUE~1~INCL~W/AVALON~~|~~~~~~~>
< In the irreverent tradition of _The New Zork Times_ comes The | ~~\ >
< Brass Lantern, an informative newsletter from Vertigo Software. | /~\ | >
<___SOFTWARE____________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Neil K. Guy

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Sep 30, 1994, 11:21:46 PM9/30/94
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ni...@dewey.cc.utexas.edu writes:

>My question is this: why are gratuitous elements in a film or novel seen as
>bad (the term is derogatory when used in reviews) but as essential in
>interactive fictions? I am not without a cherub of an idea on this topic but
>would be curious to hear some other ideas.

In addition to the comments made by others concerning the generally
more interactive nature of i-f compared with more static media, I
think it's also important to define the scope of one's gratuitous
objects.

For example, in a movie an actor may walk into a bakery, order a
doughnut, and leave. It would be a truly bizarre bakery that contained
a single doughnut for the actor to order. Any decent bakery will have
a vast panoply of baked goods - bread, cookies, pastries, etc. None of
these items shown on-screen are necessary to the plot of the movie per
se, but are pretty essential for maintaining realism. However if the
purchase of this doughnut was built up into a big event and then
abandoned, critics may well complain about it.

Same with i-f. Most games are of the "walk into the bakery and spy a
single doughnut" style. Which may be good for a puzzle-solving
perspective, if you need to feed the doughnut to some belligerent
actor later on to win, say. I much prefer games that provide a few
items for realism to establish atmosphere. Unless you're writing yet
another Adventure clone - a few objects lying around empty caves. The
line between "object that helps establish atmosphere" and "another
bloody red herring to frustrate the player" can be thin sometimes,
IMO.

- Neil K.

ni...@louie.cc.utexas.edu

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Oct 1, 1994, 4:13:11 PM10/1/94
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The idea that interactivity is at the heart of the need for "extra" objects
seems to be a popular one. But I'm not sure that film/novels and interactive
fictions are truly "apples and oranges" as whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry
Kevin Wilson) suggests -- and even if they are, a comparison may be, er,
fruitful. After all, as sharvey@interaccess ( S.P.Harvey) acutely points out,
"the major emphasis [in IF] other than storytelling is puzzle solving." The
major emphasis in feature film, novels and IF is narrative. They all spring
from a storytelling seed. Of course, interactivity is an important difference.

On to the doughnut shop analogy. None of the doughnuts in the movie, except for
a prop doughnut which the shop owner is to hand over to the purchaser, is
actually an interactive doughnut. If the shop is a set, they may be fake; even
if it's an on-location doughnut shop shoot there is no doubt an understanding
(tacit or explicit) that the cast will not rifle the stores of the shop.

I also take issue with the idea that film would have more gratuitous material
in it if budgets would allow. Wouldn't filmmakers simply use the money for
some purpose that advanced the narrative? "Artistic," or "art," films, by the
way, have far fewer elements in them that are gratuitous when compared to
mainstream movies. The violence and sex in mainstream film, for instance,
often serves no end whatever except to sate the audiences appetite for vice.
In art films like La Femme Nikita and Last Tango in Paris (to name a few French
films with strong female leads) there's actually a purpose for the bloodshed
and sex. I suspect people think art films are supposed to have more gratuitous
elements because people often can't be bothered to figure out what the film is
about...

But back to the main point. I'm not persuaded "realism" is a very good reason
for inserting interactable objects into IFs. Real people wake up and shower,
brush their teeth, use the restroom, and so on, every morning. But novels and
films don't describe and show these routine actions every morning of the
story's progress, because although these actions may make things more "real,"
a novel or film ISN'T REAL -- it's a story. So it uses its words or scenes
to further the narrative, not saddle the reader or viewer with the minutiae of
reality.

This is not to say that every object must have a puzzle-solving purpose. But it
should help tell the story, by providing narrative information or
importantly (not gratuitously) enriching the landscape.

Phil Goetz

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Oct 1, 1994, 10:44:52 PM10/1/94
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>My question is this: why are gratuitous elements in a film or novel seen as
>bad (the term is derogatory when used in reviews) but as essential in
>interactive fictions? I am not without a cherub of an idea on this topic but
>would be curious to hear some other ideas.

I think you're talking about 2 kinds of gratuitousness.
By "gratuitous elements" in IF you mean objects and rooms not needed
to finish. If you applied this usage to film, it would mean that in
all the views of all the locations of the film, there were no
walk-ons in the background, no radios or pencils on desks -- in fact
no desks -- no traffic lights, no other cars, etc.

Phil go...@cs.buffalo.edu

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Oct 2, 1994, 2:27:39 PM10/2/94
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Excerpts from netnews.rec.arts.int-fiction: 1-Oct-94 Re: Gratuitous
objects ni...@louie.cc.utexas.ed (2677)

> On to the doughnut shop analogy. None of the doughnuts in the movie, except for
> a prop doughnut which the shop owner is to hand over to the purchaser, is
> actually an interactive doughnut. If the shop is a set, they may be fake; even
> if it's an on-location doughnut shop shoot there is no doubt an understanding
> (tacit or explicit) that the cast will not rifle the stores of the shop.

But note that -every doughnut that the actors touch- is interactive. I
think this should be true in IF as well.

The difference is that in a movie, you can get away with exactly one
movable doughnut, and in IF you have to make provision for all of them
to be movable -- if you want to achieve the same effect.

I think this merely underlines that IF is not just narrative fiction
with interactivity tacked on the end; it's a very different (and largely
unexplored) art form. It really is apples and oranges -- both fruit, but
just because movie directors have never had to deal with peeling their
fruit doesn't mean it's a trivial problem for us.

> This is not to say that every object must have a puzzle-solving purpose. But it
> should help tell the story, by providing narrative information or
> importantly (not gratuitously) enriching the landscape.

I don't think I disagree; but I would say that what you call
"gratuitously enriching the landscale" does in fact help support the
narrative. The purpose that I'm going for when I write IF is to tell a
narrative that requires interaction to complete. If this is either too
easy or too hard, the purpose is defeated. And if you can tell that
every object is important to solving a problem, it may be too easy.

Wait, I have a better analogy than the doughnut shop. Consider a movie
where, say, the Heroes are searching for an Important Necklace, and one
of them has some dirty old necklace that you see at the start of the
movie. Well, gosh, guess what that turns out to be. So the audience
guesses it immediately, and the movie is boring. (There are probably
fifty million movies and books that have this problem, and naturally I
can't think of any off-hand.)

I think that's the same problem we're dealing with here in the IF realm.
There are several standard ways to deal with it:
- put a false Important Necklace in plain sight, so everybody thinks
that's the real one until the end.
- have a convincing mundane explanation for the dirty old necklace,
which happens to preclude it being Important (although nobody says so in
so many words)
- have a convincing *Important* explanation for the dirty old necklace,
but a different one; and then reveal at the end that it's Important in
two ways at once.
- have so many necklaces around that nobody considers that the dirty old
one might actually be important

The latter is the correct parallel to purely gratuitous IF objects. And,
I must agree, it's an inferior solution. Try one of the others, then; or
come up with a new one; there must be plenty of room.

--Z

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

David Baggett

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Oct 2, 1994, 6:41:13 PM10/2/94
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>My question is this: why are gratuitous elements in a film or novel seen as
>bad (the term is derogatory when used in reviews) but as essential in
>interactive fictions?

I'd say "gratuitous" is derogatory when applied to IF elements as well.
The problem is the definition of "non-gratuitous" for IF, which seems to be
"used in a puzzle." In my opinion, this definition is out of date.

As you pointed out in another post, we should be judging IF works at least
as much by the standards of static fiction as we do by the standards of
computer games.

Felix recently mentioned The Great American Text Adventure. Don't know
just what it's going to look like, but it ain't gonna be "get cheez kee.
put cheez kee in door. *** Your score just went up *** ... ad nauseum."
It's going to look a lot more like a good novel.

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu MIT AI Lab He who has the highest Kibo # when he dies wins.
ADVENTIONS: We make Kuul text adventures! Email for a catalog of releases.

David Baggett

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Oct 2, 1994, 6:52:00 PM10/2/94
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In article <oiXjiPG00...@andrew.cmu.edu>,

Andrew C. Plotkin <ap...@andrew.cmu.edu> wrote:

>The difference is that in a movie, you can get away with exactly one
>movable doughnut, and in IF you have to make provision for all of them
>to be movable -- if you want to achieve the same effect.

To achieve the same effect, you need only do the following:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>get donuts

There a zillion donuts. You've eaten too much already. Quit fooling
around.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

People who complain about not being able to manipulate individial donuts
that have no bearing on the plot need to get a grip. You can't clip your
toenails in an IF game, either.

>I think this merely underlines that IF is not just narrative fiction
>with interactivity tacked on the end; it's a very different (and largely
>unexplored) art form.

Ultimately, perhaps. Right now, IMHO, no. As I've said many times before,
I don't think that people will find "simulationist" IF very interesting.
People are not good at making up exciting drama as they go along -- they
need authors to do that for them. Without an author-imposed plot, there is
no drama. To impose a plot, an author must prevent the player from
wandering around willy-nilly and doing absolutely anything he wants to.

>The purpose that I'm going for when I write IF is to tell a narrative that
>requires interaction to complete. If this is either too easy or too hard,
>the purpose is defeated.

Having just finished writing an impossibly difficult game (without the
on-line hints, at least) I don't think difficulty has any relevance to the
real merit of an IF work.

As long as the reader comes away from the work feeling and knowing what the
author wanted him to feel and know, the work is successful. Isn't that the
point of any fiction? I don't see how interactivity should change that.

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Oct 3, 1994, 12:42:47 PM10/3/94
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Excerpts from netnews.rec.arts.int-fiction: 2-Oct-94 Re: Gratuitous
objects David Bag...@case.ai.mi (2150)

> >The purpose that I'm going for when I write IF is to tell a narrative that
> >requires interaction to complete. If this is either too easy or too hard,
> >the purpose is defeated.

> Having just finished writing an impossibly difficult game (without the
> on-line hints, at least) I don't think difficulty has any relevance to the
> real merit of an IF work.

> As long as the reader comes away from the work feeling and knowing what the
> author wanted him to feel and know, the work is successful. Isn't that the
> point of any fiction? I don't see how interactivity should change that.

What I mean is that if I whiz through the thing in one afternoon, I'm
still in "fool around" mode; I haven't gotten involved in the scenario;
I'm still pushing buttons.
Whereas if I never finish the game at all, I can't possibly get
everything the author intended to put in -- I didn't read the ending.

On-line hints don't change this, because they just mean that I can
finish an otherwise hard game in button-pushing mode (only now I feel
embarrassed, too, because I peeked at the hints.)

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Oct 3, 1994, 12:48:44 PM10/3/94
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Excerpts from netnews.rec.arts.int-fiction: 2-Oct-94 Re: Gratuitous
objects David Bag...@case.ai.mi (2150)

> In article <oiXjiPG00...@andrew.cmu.edu>,


> Andrew C. Plotkin <ap...@andrew.cmu.edu> wrote:

> >The difference is that in a movie, you can get away with exactly one
> >movable doughnut, and in IF you have to make provision for all of them
> >to be movable -- if you want to achieve the same effect.

> To achieve the same effect, you need only do the following:

> -----------------------------
> >get donuts

> There a zillion donuts. You've eaten too much already. Quit fooling
> around.
> -----------------------------

> People who complain about not being able to manipulate individial donuts


> that have no bearing on the plot need to get a grip. You can't clip your
> toenails in an IF game, either.

Doughnuts are a (deliberately) silly example.

My main point is, however, the solution you describe is the traditional
one, but it arises directly from the limitations of 1980's computers and
floppy disks. I think that those solutions should be reexamined now that
we have 500 meg of disk space and 4 meg of memory available for the game.

Neil K. Guy

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Oct 3, 1994, 3:16:28 PM10/3/94
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"Andrew C. Plotkin" <ap...@andrew.cmu.edu> writes:

>Doughnuts are a (deliberately) silly example.

What?! As the originator of the doughnut example, I deeply resent
that suggestion! Doughnuts are noble and dignified things. In fact, my
game in progress features a fine example of a doughnut, though it'd be
a spoiler to say whether or not it's gratuitous.

obligatory smiley -> :)

>My main point is, however, the solution you describe is the traditional
>one, but it arises directly from the limitations of 1980's computers and
>floppy disks. I think that those solutions should be reexamined now that
>we have 500 meg of disk space and 4 meg of memory available for the game.

Well, agreed to an *extent*. My aforementioned game in progress is
around a meg of TADS binary and it's nowhere near finished. Yet it's
taken two years of time off and on and it's debatable whether all the
stuff I've added that bloated the game up considerably from any of the
more svelte offerings of Infocom, Inc., have made it a better game.

- Neil K.

Felix Lee

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Oct 3, 1994, 9:16:02 PM10/3/94
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S.P.Harvey:

>Gratutious elements are an essential part of IF, as the major emphasis
>other than storytelling is puzzle solving.

Well, only some types of puzzles, like mazes, have items irrelevent to
the solution. Crossword puzzles, especially the cryptic type, don't
really have gratuitous information. Useless objects are only one type
of misdirection.

Shades of Gray has a nice bit of misdirection at the beginning that
doesn't get explained until the end. There aren't any gratuitous
objects in it; if anything, it has gratuitous puzzles. (The
20-location drop-objects-to-map-the-maze puzzle near the end was
particularly annoying.)

Shades of Gray is more a story than a puzzle; the puzzles in it are
pretty easy. It tries to do something complicated: explore moral
issues in the context of IF. I don't think it really succeeds at
this, but it's an interesting attempt.
--

Phil Goetz

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Oct 5, 1994, 8:22:44 PM10/5/94
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In article <36ndig...@life.ai.mit.edu>,
David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:

>Having just finished writing an impossibly difficult game (without the
>on-line hints, at least) I don't think difficulty has any relevance to the
>real merit of an IF work.
>
>As long as the reader comes away from the work feeling and knowing what the
>author wanted him to feel and know, the work is successful. Isn't that the
>point of any fiction? I don't see how interactivity should change that.

If the game is too difficult, the reader won't come away feeling much
except frustration. How can you say difficulty has no relevance?
If I have to use hints, it greatly diminishes my enjoyment.

Phil go...@cs.buffalo.edu

David Baggett

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Oct 7, 1994, 10:31:31 PM10/7/94
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In article <Cx86D...@acsu.buffalo.edu>,
Phil Goetz <go...@cs.buffalo.edu> wrote:

>If the game is too difficult, the reader won't come away feeling much
>except frustration. How can you say difficulty has no relevance?

I said it has nothing to do with whether or not the work has *artistic
merit*. Fun is a totally different matter.

Also, I was more attacking the claim that "too easy is bad" -- I tacitly
assumed that it was obvious to everyone that a game that is impossible to
finish is not going to be successful. (This is really an absurd case.)

>If I have to use hints, it greatly diminishes my enjoyment.

If this and the previous claim that "too easy is bad" are really true for
most people, it is a great tragedy, because it means that every IF game is
doomed to alienate a significant number of readers.

What I think is actually true is that easier is almost always better (in
terms of fun).

This trend against using hints is insidious. It pretty much makes me want
to stop writing puzzle-based stuff, frankly, because I don't want to write
things that are simply inaccessible to people who aren't capable of solving
the puzzles without frustration. I want everyone to be able to finish the
game. (And if I make a game too easy, then if what I'm hearing is true a
decent portion of the audience will think it's boring because it offers
them no challenge.)

Unnkulia One-Half is probably our most popular game. It is also the
shortest, took the least time to write, got the smallest amount of
proofreading, playtesting, redesign, and editing. It's by far the easiest
to finish.

Anyway, how is it different to have the computer give you a (short) list of
hint topics when you type "hint" than it is for someone who's won the game
to tell you how to get past the current puzzle? I think these attitudes
are just reactionary.

David Baggett

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Oct 7, 1994, 11:12:14 PM10/7/94
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In article <neilg.7...@sfu.ca>, Neil K. Guy <ne...@fraser.sfu.ca> wrote:
>"Andrew C. Plotkin" <ap...@andrew.cmu.edu> writes:

>>I think that those solutions should be reexamined now that
>>we have 500 meg of disk space and 4 meg of memory available for the game.

>Yet [my huge game has] taken two years of time off and on ....

If anyone knows this, it's Neil! Really, it's probably impossible to write
a 500M text adventure using current techniques. I mean, you still have to
write all the text, right? And that's not going to change any time soon.
500 megs is a lot of copies of _War and Peace_.

russell wallace

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Oct 8, 1994, 8:15:46 AM10/8/94
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In <375480$4...@nntp.interaccess.com> sharvey@interaccess ( S.P.Harvey) writes:

>David Baggett (d...@min.ai.mit.edu) wrote:

>: This trend against using hints is insidious. It pretty much makes me want


>: to stop writing puzzle-based stuff, frankly, because I don't want to write
>: things that are simply inaccessible to people who aren't capable of solving
>: the puzzles without frustration. I want everyone to be able to finish the
>: game. (And if I make a game too easy, then if what I'm hearing is true a
>: decent portion of the audience will think it's boring because it offers
>: them no challenge.)

>I must agree with Dave on this point. What's the use of IF designers
>wracking their brains to come up with creative and challenging puzzles,
>if no one wants to feel the frustration involved in trying to solve these
>puzzles? One must remember that incredible elation that comes when a
>puzzle is cracked, and the solution is elegant, realistic, and novel.
>The frustration and the reward are two halves of the same whole. Myself,
>I can still remember _to this day_ the frustration of the "lighted face"
>puzzle in Enchanter. This was what, 10 years ago? The next memory in
>line is of finally decoding the dream, solving the puzzle, and reaping
>the reward. It's a glorious combination.

Indeed, some people find this to be the case. Personally, I don't
particularly like puzzles, when I run into one that I can't solve
immediately I prefer to use a hints command or a walkthru file rather
than have the thread of the plot broken by spending some long and
indeterminate amount of time trying to guess the answer, and if there
isn't any hints command or walkthru file available I usually give up.
(Yes, I feel this way even about well designed puzzles.)


--
"To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem"
Russell Wallace, Trinity College, Dublin
rwal...@vax1.tcd.ie

S.P.Harvey

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Oct 7, 1994, 11:38:40 PM10/7/94
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David Baggett (d...@min.ai.mit.edu) wrote:

: This trend against using hints is insidious. It pretty much makes me want


: to stop writing puzzle-based stuff, frankly, because I don't want to write
: things that are simply inaccessible to people who aren't capable of solving
: the puzzles without frustration. I want everyone to be able to finish the
: game. (And if I make a game too easy, then if what I'm hearing is true a
: decent portion of the audience will think it's boring because it offers
: them no challenge.)

I must agree with Dave on this point. What's the use of IF designers

wracking their brains to come up with creative and challenging puzzles,
if no one wants to feel the frustration involved in trying to solve these
puzzles? One must remember that incredible elation that comes when a
puzzle is cracked, and the solution is elegant, realistic, and novel.
The frustration and the reward are two halves of the same whole. Myself,
I can still remember _to this day_ the frustration of the "lighted face"
puzzle in Enchanter. This was what, 10 years ago? The next memory in
line is of finally decoding the dream, solving the puzzle, and reaping
the reward. It's a glorious combination.

: Anyway, how is it different to have the computer give you a (short) list of


: hint topics when you type "hint" than it is for someone who's won the game
: to tell you how to get past the current puzzle? I think these attitudes
: are just reactionary.

The only major difference is one of attitude: the on-line hints are
impartial, while the readers on rec.games.int-fiction are real people
from whom one must beg an answer.

While hints are a good idea, the trend toward instant gratification is
not such a winner. When I was working my way through the Infocom catalog
when I was in high school, I didn't have the luxury of pop-up hints or a
Usenet feed. I was on limited funds (hasn't changed!) and could only get
puzzle solutions by purchasing a hint book. I remember when I was
working on Sorcerer, and the solution to a puzzle occured to me while I
was vaccuuming the carpeting in my living room (the puzzle had nothing to
do with vaccuuming)... I switched off the vaccuum and dashed to the PC,
booted up Sorcerer, and it worked!

My belabored point is this: I understand the point of wanting everyone to
be able to finish the game, and I agree with that. I do not agree,
however, with the readily-available hint method. Too many excellent
puzzles are trivialized this way. Would "Curses" be as excellent a game
if we had a pop-up hint system to hold our hand? I think not.

Scott


--
----------------------| S.P. Harvey |--------------------------

"All men dream, but not equally."
- T.E. Lawrence
----------------------| sha...@interaccess.com |--------------------------

The Grim Reaper

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Oct 8, 1994, 9:59:23 PM10/8/94
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In article <3750a3...@life.ai.mit.edu>,

David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>In article <Cx86D...@acsu.buffalo.edu>,
>Phil Goetz <go...@cs.buffalo.edu> wrote:
[snip]

>Also, I was more attacking the claim that "too easy is bad" -- I tacitly
>assumed that it was obvious to everyone that a game that is impossible to
>finish is not going to be successful. (This is really an absurd case.)
>
>>If I have to use hints, it greatly diminishes my enjoyment.
>
>If this and the previous claim that "too easy is bad" are really true for
>most people, it is a great tragedy, because it means that every IF game is
>doomed to alienate a significant number of readers.
>
>What I think is actually true is that easier is almost always better (in
>terms of fun).

I'm not really sure if easier is better, but certainly, easier isn't worse.
One of the most elegant pieces of i-f I've played was "The Sound of One Hand
Clapping," (available on the archive as onehand.zip), which I at least found
really easy (ie, completed it in a single night, a couple hours or less).
But still, the game itself was excellent. It was simple, but really fit
its theme, had creative (if easy) puzzles, and so on. So there's a certain
kind of thrill that comes from solving a game like that, when the fun comes
from the final sense of accomplishment in that one, from watching the plot
unfold. BTW, I think a problem with difficult/slow (tend to be synonomous,
althought they don't have to) is that you lose track of the plot somewhat,
and you miss the thrust of the thing, because you're so busy wandering
around playing guess the parser or whatever. Of course, there's another
view. OTOH, there's also a kind of enjoyment that comes from solving a tough
puzzle. I got this a lot in the early part of "Enhanced" (also available
on the archive, as Enhanced.zip or somesuch), where I'd struggle for days
and finally get a puzzle. That was cool too, but in a different way.
The trick, of course, is that if a game is easy, you have to be careful
to keep the puzzles interesting so the person stops to admire them as they
whiz through. Then, if you're making a "hard" game, you need to make sure
it's not too hard, so people don't quit in frustration, but also make it
linear and difficult enough that they always have a puzzle to be chewing on
(and make sure people are rewarded when they do solve the puzzle!).

>Unnkulia One-Half is probably our most popular game. It is also the
>shortest, took the least time to write, got the smallest amount of
>proofreading, playtesting, redesign, and editing. It's by far the easiest
>to finish.

I liked this one the best, definitely. Why? Well, because it was easy, I
guess. It was fun, kind of like eating sugary candy or reading AD&D novels..
sort of fluffy, but amusing for a bit. With UU1, and UU2, I just got
bogged down or confused, or lost, and eventually quit in frustration both
times. Also, having less cheez references was a plus in UUone-half.

>Anyway, how is it different to have the computer give you a (short) list of
>hint topics when you type "hint" than it is for someone who's won the game
>to tell you how to get past the current puzzle? I think these attitudes
>are just reactionary.

Of course, it actually is kinda tricky to give hints without having the
hint questions be spoilers. Plus, some people might say that hints should
be as far removed from the game as possible. Having to ask on r.g.i-f is
more removed than typing "hint", is more removed than asking the demon in
Curses, etc. Personally, I'm not really sure yet. I was considering having
a room where you can get hints, but maybe I'll just write a decent "hint"
command and stick with it.

>Dave Baggett
>__
>d...@ai.mit.edu MIT AI Lab He who has the highest Kibo # when he dies wins.
> ADVENTIONS: We make Kuul text adventures! Email for a catalog of releases.

+----------------------------------------------------------+
| One .sig to rule them all, one .sig to find them... |
| One .sig to bring them all and in the darkness bind them |
+----------------------------------------------------------+
| The Grim Reaper (Reaper of Souls, Stealer of .sigs) |
| scy...@u.washington.edu |
+----------------------------------------------------------+

Felix Lee

unread,
Oct 9, 1994, 9:51:33 AM10/9/94
to
Russell Wallace:

>Personally, I don't
>particularly like puzzles, when I run into one that I can't solve
>immediately I prefer to use a hints command or a walkthru file rather
>than have the thread of the plot broken by spending some long and
>indeterminate amount of time trying to guess the answer, and if there
>isn't any hints command or walkthru file available I usually give up.
>(Yes, I feel this way even about well designed puzzles.)

This is part of the reason Doom is successful. There are puzzles in
it, but most of them aren't essential. You can just go blasting ahead
to something else if you don't care about them or if you get
frustrated by a particular one. It's easy enough to come back later.

It's not just Doom. The whole genre of platform games tends to be
filled with hidden secrets and hidden puzzles that aren't essential to
forward progress. It's a way of allowing for different playing
styles.
--

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Oct 9, 1994, 2:02:18 PM10/9/94
to
Excerpts from netnews.rec.arts.int-fiction: 8-Oct-94 Re: Gratuitous
objects David Bag...@min.ai.mit (2024)

> >If I have to use hints, it greatly diminishes my enjoyment.

> If this and the previous claim that "too easy is bad" are really true for
> most people, it is a great tragedy, because it means that every IF game is
> doomed to alienate a significant number of readers.

Tragedy? This has *always* been true, in *every* field of artistic
endeavor, and nobody thinks of it as a disaster. Science fiction that
boggled my brain when I was twelve is now trite and dull (or would be,
if it weren't for nostalgia value :-) There are people to whom Piers
Anthony's 45th Xanth novel is the apex of interesting fiction with a
surprising ending; those people may be "doomed to be alienated" by
_Tigana_, but it doesn't mean that the genre of the fantasy novel is a
failure.

> This trend against using hints is insidious. It pretty much makes me want
> to stop writing puzzle-based stuff, frankly, because I don't want to write
> things that are simply inaccessible to people who aren't capable of solving
> the puzzles without frustration.

Grn. On the one hand, I don't mind *other* people using hints, as long
as I can avoid using them and the game is fun without them. On the other
hand, I just wrote a story-game heavily laden with puzzles (see previous
posting) and I'm not providing hints, because I can't bear to see my
design work wasted. Admittedly, that's not a completely relevant
example, because most (not all) of the puzzles are independent --
they're only incidental to the plot.

There's also the side issue of my lousy will-power; I often look at
hints even though I know I will enjoy the game less because of it. It
would be nice if there was a way to delete the hint file entirely, or at
least make it inaccessible without reinstalling the software. (Infocom's
"HINTS OFF" command didn't work at all; it's trivial to type "RESTART"
and then jump into the hints module.) This is, however, only a technical
problem.

russell wallace

unread,
Oct 9, 1994, 2:26:10 PM10/9/94
to
In <cia30eG00...@andrew.cmu.edu> "Andrew C. Plotkin" <ap...@andrew.cmu.edu> writes:

>Grn. On the one hand, I don't mind *other* people using hints, as long
>as I can avoid using them and the game is fun without them. On the other
>hand, I just wrote a story-game heavily laden with puzzles (see previous
>posting) and I'm not providing hints, because I can't bear to see my
>design work wasted. Admittedly, that's not a completely relevant
>example, because most (not all) of the puzzles are independent --
>they're only incidental to the plot.

If someone looks at the hints for most of the puzzles (as I tend to do)
still only some of your design work is wasted; if that person, finding
no hints, gives up and deletes the game (as I also tend to do :)) all
your design work is wasted...

>There's also the side issue of my lousy will-power; I often look at
>hints even though I know I will enjoy the game less because of it. It
>would be nice if there was a way to delete the hint file entirely, or at
>least make it inaccessible without reinstalling the software. (Infocom's
>"HINTS OFF" command didn't work at all; it's trivial to type "RESTART"
>and then jump into the hints module.) This is, however, only a technical
>problem.

Good point. It should be easy enough to provide a facility to
permanently disable the hints facility.

Phil Goetz

unread,
Oct 10, 1994, 3:07:11 PM10/10/94
to
In article <3750a3...@life.ai.mit.edu>,

David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>In article <Cx86D...@acsu.buffalo.edu>,
>Phil Goetz <go...@cs.buffalo.edu> wrote:
>
>>If the game is too difficult, the reader won't come away feeling much
>>except frustration. How can you say difficulty has no relevance?
>
>I said it has nothing to do with whether or not the work has *artistic
>merit*. Fun is a totally different matter.

It is? Explain how a game that's no fun can have artistic merit.
That's like food that tastes bad having 'culinary merit'.

I believe that the majority of critics (literature and art) today take your
view, that artistic merit is separate from enjoyment. That's why
books like Thomas Pynchon's _Gravity's Rainbow_ and James Joyce's
_Ulysses_ are so fashionable, despite the fact that for most people
they work best as paperweights.

>Anyway, how is it different to have the computer give you a (short) list of
>hint topics when you type "hint" than it is for someone who's won the game
>to tell you how to get past the current puzzle? I think these attitudes
>are just reactionary.

First, the computer's hints are best if not given as hints, but as
supporting evidence, or events that make the player think along the
right lines. Second, a hint given by the game is "legal"; you can take
the hint and still say you finished the game by yourself, without
"breaking the rules".

Phil

Phil Goetz

unread,
Oct 10, 1994, 3:09:28 PM10/10/94
to
In article <375480$4...@nntp.interaccess.com>,

S.P.Harvey <sha...@interaccess.com> wrote:
>David Baggett (d...@min.ai.mit.edu) wrote:
>
>: This trend against using hints is insidious. It pretty much makes me want
>: to stop writing puzzle-based stuff, frankly, because I don't want to write
>: things that are simply inaccessible to people who aren't capable of solving
>: the puzzles without frustration. I want everyone to be able to finish the
>: game. (And if I make a game too easy, then if what I'm hearing is true a
>: decent portion of the audience will think it's boring because it offers
>: them no challenge.)
>
>I must agree with Dave on this point. What's the use of IF designers
>wracking their brains to come up with creative and challenging puzzles,
>if no one wants to feel the frustration involved in trying to solve these
>puzzles? One must remember that incredible elation that comes when a
>puzzle is cracked, and the solution is elegant, realistic, and novel.
>The frustration and the reward are two halves of the same whole. Myself,
>I can still remember _to this day_ the frustration of the "lighted face"
>puzzle in Enchanter. This was what, 10 years ago? The next memory in
>line is of finally decoding the dream, solving the puzzle, and reaping
>the reward. It's a glorious combination.

Um, aren't you actually disagreeing with Dave on this point?

Phil

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 10, 1994, 3:56:54 PM10/10/94
to
In article <375480$4...@nntp.interaccess.com>,
S.P.Harvey <sha...@interaccess.com> wrote:

>The only major difference is one of attitude: the on-line hints are
>impartial, while the readers on rec.games.int-fiction are real people from
>whom one must beg an answer.

Yes, but most people don't have access to rec.games.int-fiction, so they
get *no* hints. (And you can't tell me that having a walkthrough is
*better* than having on-line hints!)

Nowadays, IF games get amazingly limited distribution, and we have plenty
of people playing our games who don't know a single other person who's
doing the same. These people are forced to be frustrated if the puzzles
are too hard. (And of course, some puzzles that are trivial for certain
people are very difficult for others.)

>While hints are a good idea, the trend toward instant gratification is
>not such a winner.

I wish there were some way to prevent "using online hints" from getting
equated with "getting instant gratification". Is this a simple matter of
attitude, or is it a technical problem we must overcome?

>I do not agree, however, with the readily-available hint method. Too many
>excellent puzzles are trivialized this way.

I wish there were some alternative. Is there one I haven't thought of?

>Would "Curses" be as excellent a game if we had a pop-up hint system to
>hold our hand? I think not.

Excellent example! I've never come close to finishing Curses, because I
get stuck and don't have the time to spend weeks on it. Here is an
important work (one that certainly seems to have merit) that I have missed
much of simply because the puzzles are in my way, and because there is no
walkthrough available. If I can't finish a work in a few full-time days
(optionally with a walkthrough), I'm pretty much forced to ignore it. You
can say all you want about making time for things, but standard IF works
seem to expect weeks or months of play. This is far too much; this is what
I hope to change in my own works.

And as I pointed out earlier, being able to get through a work in a day or
so is not "instant gratification". I can read most good novels within a
single day, because most novels are about the right length for this. This
is no accident! Only a few very long works manage to make a big impression
on the world, because only a few are good enough to get a fair number of
people to plow through that much text. How many people here have read _Don
Quixote_? It's interesting, but it only survives at that length for
historical reasons; i.e., it is not as good as it is long.

If Curses is just a game, I suppose I don't care. But if it is something
more (i.e., has something to *say*), then I care, and don't think the
"game" part should be getting in my way. If you want to take the moral
high ground, and argue that I don't "deserve" to finish the game unless I
give the puzzles a "fair try", well fine. But that is most definitely a
cloistered "art is for artists" attitude --- one that I personally think is
directly contrary to the whole purpose of art, which is to say something
that everyone (not just the "in crowd") can deeply identify with.

Call me a radical, but I no longer find IF puzzle-games very intertesting
unless they offer something *else*. If I just wanted verbal brain-teasers,
I'd buy a Games magazine. (The answers are in the back --- is this a bad
thing?)

Gerry Kevin Wilson

unread,
Oct 10, 1994, 7:13:33 PM10/10/94
to
In article <37c6a...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>

[Deletia.]

>Call me a radical, but I no longer find IF puzzle-games very intertesting
>unless they offer something *else*. If I just wanted verbal brain-teasers,
>I'd buy a Games magazine. (The answers are in the back --- is this a bad
>thing?)

Ah! The thread takes a turn in a direction I like. Hints are fairly
straightforward. I make them available to anyone who has my game by
printing them in the back of the manual in the letter swap oced. If they
feel they will cave in to temptation and don't want to, they can give the
book to a friend to hold for them, or whatever, since most of it is just
atmosphere in the manual, and none of it is TRULY essential for an
experienced IF player. Just the part on digging, mostly.
On the other hand, I must comment on Dave's remark that games
need to be more than brain teasers. <applause> Look at Trinity, a Mind
Forever Voyaging, Shades of Grey. The VERY BEST IF has a point to make.
Usually social commentary of some sort. Why? Beats me. But it seems
important to give your game a deeper meaning, otherwise it's all just
hand waving.

--
<~~~VERTIGO~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SPAG~~~~THIRD~ISSUE~DUE~OCT~26~~~~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< The Society for the Preservation of Adventure games. Filled with | ~~\ >
< reviews, ratings, and advertisements...all about text adventures. | /~\ | >
<___SOFTWARE______E-MAIL...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Russ Bryan

unread,
Oct 10, 1994, 9:23:32 PM10/10/94
to
My attitude about hints is well-known. Recently, while playing Curses, I
found myself stuck at a few places, so I asked for help. I then spent 48
hours (not straight, obviously) working further, solving many of my
questions, and if any were left at that point I would check back with
RGIF to get the answer. This method worked well for me -- it meant that,
in the end, I only failed to solve two puzzles on my own, and I didn't
have to stress for days to solve those two (which, in perfect sour grapes
style, I consider to be the only two puzzles in Curses which were poorly
executed).

I also recently beta-tested a piece of I-F with a full hints system
installed. INSTANT GRATIFICATION! I wouldn't say that I overused the
system, but I did use it at a couple of points when it just wasn't
necessary -- particularly, there was a riddle which I had all but figured
out, but I got a little frustrated and BEHOLD! the answer was RIGHT THERE.

I probably used the on-line hints for this game six or seven times --
deplorable for me, but SO tempting! -- and for that reason, I didn't
enjoy the game. I don't even consider it that good, although it has all
of the features I look for in IF. My entire impression of the game was
destroyed because the sense of accomplishment was gone.

The solution to this problem? I think it was best implemented in
Curses. Most puzzles had a solution which the devil or the angel could
help you with. The hint was always quite small, but JUST big enough to
help me move on. Most hint systems, even those systems which gradually
give narrower and narrower hints, always end with a hint like :"Get the
tomato. Throw it at the rabbit. Eat the sodium capsule," step-by-steps
instructions on how to win. A hint system which gives ONE hint per
puzzle is helpful, but doesn't ruin the game.

Nice thing about Shareware and Freeware is that you don't find yourself
writing for the masses. If someone is going to give up because one or
two puzzles stump him, then I don't care if he ends up disliking interactive
fiction, anymore than HE would care that I dislike arcade games. The
reason so many game manufacturers out there used to provide on-line hints
was because they would sell more games that way. Now, they've gone the
other way -- making some puzzles so hard that people MUST buy the hint
book to win (unless, of course, you've played IF like us -- does anyone
else consider graphic adventures to be pathetically easy?).

Anyway, enough babbling. It's a matter of personal taste. I'll continue
to not make games that provide hints, and I'll continue to dislike games
that provide hints.

I wouldn't buy a jigsaw puzzle with a solution, either.

--

| In Computer Room, sitting Score: $635/23 years |
| > GET LIFE I don't see any "life" here. rbr...@netcom.com |
| > LOOK UNDER BED The Essential Addittion |

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 10, 1994, 10:03:10 PM10/10/94
to
In article <cia30eG00...@andrew.cmu.edu>,

Andrew C. Plotkin <ap...@andrew.cmu.edu> wrote:
>Excerpts from netnews.rec.arts.int-fiction: 8-Oct-94 Re: Gratuitous
>objects David Bag...@min.ai.mit (2024)

>> If this and the previous claim that "too easy is bad" are really true for


>> most people, it is a great tragedy, because it means that every IF game is
>> doomed to alienate a significant number of readers.
>
>Tragedy? This has *always* been true, in *every* field of artistic
>endeavor, and nobody thinks of it as a disaster.

Maybe I am missing your point, but I don't think this is true at all for
either literature or music, and though I don't know much about (visual)
art, I'd venture that it isn't true there either.

I can think of plenty of great books and pieces of music that are neither
too simple to offend veterans nor to difficult for newcomers to handle.
Yes, there are plenty of *examples* of art that is not accessible to many
people (e.g., _Finnegan's Wake_, _Pierrot Lunaire_), but it is not
something *inherent* in fiction or music that makes these works
inacessible, and many great works seem to have the same impact on almost
everyone. Think about popular symphonies: Mozart's "Jupiter", Beethoven's
Fifth, Dvorak's "New World". These are all quite complex, but they are all
accessible. And who can read _Of Mice and Men_ and not get it? No one who
is a reader at all can miss the point there.

The problem with IF games, it would seem, is that it is impossible to write
a game that is neither too simple for verterans nor too difficult for
novices. This is a problem with the form itself, not with particular
examples of the form.

On the other hand, maybe everyone who's saying IF games have to be hard to
work is wrong...

>There are people to whom Piers Anthony's 45th Xanth novel is the apex of
>interesting fiction with a surprising ending; those people may be "doomed
>to be alienated" by _Tigana_, but it doesn't mean that the genre of the
>fantasy novel is a failure.

No, but it may indicate failings in _Tigana_ and _Xanth XLV_. There is
nothing about the Fantasy genre that makes it doomed to generate works that
simply cannot appeal to all readers. I think almost anyone could read
Tolkien and "get it" and like it. Many people may recoil at the mere
mention of "Fantasy" but I bet these people could handle Tolkien, were it
suitably disguised as "not Fantasy" to avoid the public relations problems
with Fantasy that (in my opinion) works like _Xanth_ have caused. (And no,
I do not count myself as guitless here... :)

>On the other hand, I just wrote a story-game heavily laden with puzzles
>(see previous posting) and I'm not providing hints, because I can't bear to
>see my design work wasted.

A designer who has put a really clever maze in his game will say the same
thing, but I tell you, the maze should go, and the desiger's hard work on
the maze should be wasted, for the good of the work.

If there is not enough story to your story-game for the work to survive the
ruination of the puzzles, then the work is a brain-teaser, not a work of
fiction with any artistic merit. (You may say, "fine, I wasn't trying to
make a work of art", to which I'd respond, "I am only talking about art,
because I am interested in the artistic potential of IF.")

I admit I am being a bit severe here, but I must confess to getting more
and more frustrated with IF fans' seeming inability to accept anything but
brain-teasers as acceptable works. If that's all it comes down to, then it
strikes me as much ado about nothing.

>There's also the side issue of my lousy will-power; I often look at hints
>even though I know I will enjoy the game less because of it.

I often despereately want to skip ahead in a novel when it gets boring. I
almost *never* let myself do this. But when I wear myself down and
actually skip ahead, it's almost *always* worth it in retrospect, in that I
later find that I didn't miss much.

Few works are 100% good. Skipping stuff is fine! And if you come across
that rare work where every word counts, or ever note matters, then you can
keep exploring it until you've gotten it all.

In general, the very idea of an art form wherein works are ruined for us
after we've experienced them once (e.g., solved all the puzzles) seems
suspect to me. How many IF games have you *really* replayed again and
again?

Oh jeez, there goes that "Wonderful! Counselor!" part of _Messiah_ again!
I've already heard that before --- it's ruined! :)

Felix Lee

unread,
Oct 10, 1994, 10:30:42 PM10/10/94
to
S.P.Harvey:

>I do not agree, however, with the readily-available hint method. Too many
>excellent puzzles are trivialized this way.

Dave Baggett:


>I wish there were some alternative. Is there one I haven't thought of?

Don't make the hard puzzles critical to the main storyline. Make them
relatively easy to access at any time. A player can "read" the story
within a few days, and solve the puzzles at leisure. (Solving the
puzzles may reveal more parts of the story, but the bare story should
be satisfying in itself.)

Provide a key that will bypass but not solve a puzzle. The 7th Guest
has this. (Beautiful-looking game, but weak story and weak puzzles.)

What else? I don't know.

>And as I pointed out earlier, being able to get through a work in a day or
>so is not "instant gratification". I can read most good novels within a
>single day, because most novels are about the right length for this. This
>is no accident!

Right. A novel where every paragraph is encrypted with a different
substitution cipher is not going to be popular in any sense. People
who want to read the story will not want to decode every paragraph.
Cryptogram enthusiasts will find the paragraph-length ciphers easy and
uninteresting.
--

S.P.Harvey

unread,
Oct 11, 1994, 2:52:34 AM10/11/94
to
Felix Lee (fl...@cse.psu.edu) wrote:

: Don't make the hard puzzles critical to the main storyline. Make them


: relatively easy to access at any time. A player can "read" the story
: within a few days, and solve the puzzles at leisure. (Solving the
: puzzles may reveal more parts of the story, but the bare story should
: be satisfying in itself.)

I suppose this is actually a decent tack. I, however, have long-equated
puzzle-solving with interactive fiction games. What I've done to ensure
a full decent plot was what seemed logical to me: I designed (not
sketched) the entire storyline and plot before beginning to dream up any
puzzles. I've always disliked IF games where all the puzzles involve
finding a key_object to open the door_object and then proceed. I prefer
to solve (and design) puzzles which involve using objects in an
innovative way. Hence, we've come full-circle on this thread.

We've already beaten to death which sorts of puzzles are "bad" and which
are "good", so I won't go into that again. As for hints, I like the
concept of having the clues (or maybe just the bigger hints) encoded with
something like a substitution cipher, and then provided physically (as in
a manual), to prevent the "instant gratification". You want a hint,
fine. You'll have to work for it.

Off-the-top-of-my-head idea here:

What about some sort of mechanism that allows hints only as the game
progresses? Similar to "footnotes"; giving only little tidbits as the
plot moves forward. Sort of a gentle, deliberate push to keep the player
in the flow of the plot. I'm considering adding an NPC (actually,
expanding the NPC's role) who's able to give subtle feedback on
puzzle-objects and situations. Again, the NPC will probably be coded not
to give out hints one after another. If you ask, say, two in a row, he
tutt-tutts you and says "begging will get you nowhere" until some
specified number of turns has passed, or some other condition has been
satisfied (bribes?). Also, the NPC will never give explicit answers.

How about: a "difficulty" setting? The ability to access more explicit
hints as "read the plot" setting, but more cryptic/vague hints under
"puzzle me, please!" setting? This way, you might be able to satisfy
people's need for hints without giving away the baby and the bathwater.

Scott

--
----------------------| S.P. Harvey |--------------------------

"Abducted by an alien circus company, Professor Doyle is forced to write
calculus equations in center ring." - The Far Side
----------------------| sha...@interaccess.com |--------------------------

Felix Lee

unread,
Oct 11, 1994, 3:06:20 PM10/11/94
to
Russ Bryan:
> No two of us will use the exact same reasoning to, for
>example, open the childproof bottle in Curses -- there are four ways of
>doing it! Enter the on-line hint system, and suddenly you are seeing the
>solutions to puzzles using not only someone else's reasoning, but the
>AUTHOR'S reasoning.

heh. bad example. the childproof bottle was a puzzle I had to ask
the demon about. I don't think I could have figured any of the four
ways by myself, because they all violate my expectations of physical
reality. (If hitting it with a pipe wrench doesn't do anything, then
why should the solutions work?) So, essentially, I had to figure out
the author's reasoning anyway.
--

Russ Bryan

unread,
Oct 11, 1994, 10:44:59 AM10/11/94
to
>Excellent example! I've never come close to finishing Curses, because I
>get stuck and don't have the time to spend weeks on it. Here is an
>important work (one that certainly seems to have merit) that I have missed
>much of simply because the puzzles are in my way, and because there is no
>walkthrough available. If I can't finish a work in a few full-time days
>(optionally with a walkthrough), I'm pretty much forced to ignore it. You
>can say all you want about making time for things, but standard IF works
>seem to expect weeks or months of play. This is far too much; this is what
>I hope to change in my own works.

>If Curses is just a game, I suppose I don't care. But if it is something


>more (i.e., has something to *say*), then I care, and don't think the
>"game" part should be getting in my way. If you want to take the moral
>high ground, and argue that I don't "deserve" to finish the game unless I
>give the puzzles a "fair try", well fine. But that is most definitely a
>cloistered "art is for artists" attitude --- one that I personally think is
>directly contrary to the whole purpose of art, which is to say something
>that everyone (not just the "in crowd") can deeply identify with.

What I consider insidious is our pompous belief that we have transcended
the game and made interactive fiction into an art. What egos we have!
IF as art has appeared once, in A Mind Forever Voyaging. Not one of the
games that any of us have written could stand up without the puzzles.
Not ONE. "I just read this great book called Trinity, where you walk
through mushrooms to travel through time, and... yeah, I said
mushrooms... why are you looking at me like that?"

Why do you fear the game within interactive fiction? Actually, my
comment above was a little incorrect. IF can be an art, but it must be
an art within its own rules. You can't judge sculpture by the rules of
art on canvas; you can't judge interactive fiction by the rules of
ordinary fiction. They are different beasts. What makes Curses a work
of art is the ability to work through puzzles and get to more of the
story, creating the connections the way YOU want them to. A hint system
destroys that aspect of IF.

Everyone figures out the solution to a puzzle in a different way, taking
our own individual experiences with clues provided by the game to reach a
solution. No two of us will use the exact same reasoning to, for

example, open the childproof bottle in Curses -- there are four ways of
doing it! Enter the on-line hint system, and suddenly you are seeing the
solutions to puzzles using not only someone else's reasoning, but the
AUTHOR'S reasoning.

If you want your work to be considered a piece of IF artwork, an on-line
hint system is not the way to do it. If I glanced at the back of Munch's
"The Scream," would I find the artist's interpretation of his own work?
Do sculptures feature a small "What this means" plaque at their base? My
fascination with interactive fiction has always been the process -- the
subtle mental links which form in my mind to create the overall
impression of a solution. That's what makes it so lasting for me. Most
of my friends have agreed to play a game or two which I provide them
with, and I often will give them the hints (LTOI) to help them along.
One of my friends has become as fanatical as I have, and he is the only
one who did not take the hints.

Hint systems may improve distribution to novices in the short run, but it
won't create a lasting impression. If you're interested in getting new
people interested in the genre, don't give them a hard game and hold
their hand. Give them an EASY game, and let them explore, learn, and
discover for themselves. That is the essence of interactive fiction as art.

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 12, 1994, 2:42:31 PM10/12/94
to
In article <rbryanCx...@netcom.com>, Russ Bryan <rbr...@netcom.com>
wrote:

>>If Curses is just a game, I suppose I don't care. But if it is something
>>more (i.e., has something to *say*), then I care, and don't think the
>>"game" part should be getting in my way.

>...


>What I consider insidious is our pompous belief that we have transcended
>the game and made interactive fiction into an art. What egos we have!

I don't think that "artistic" is a binary condition. What's wrong with
looking for (or, as the author, adding) artistic elements in current
interactive fiction?

I don't see the change to "artistic IF" as one person's leap across a
chasm. There are plenty of works out there that have a lot more to them
than just puzzles. _A Mind Forever Voyaging_ is definitely not the only
such game. I sense that _Curses_ is also in this category; I was trying to
say that I am, at this point, mainly interested in these *other* things,
and not the puzzles, so the puzzles are obstacles to my exploration
_Curses_ unless I have a walkthrough or some other relatively easy way to
get hints without spending weeks to finish the work.

>IF as art has appeared once, in A Mind Forever Voyaging. Not one of the
>games that any of us have written could stand up without the puzzles.

Whether or not the works would still be enjoyable without the puzzles is a
different question than whether the works have artistic merit. I don't
think the puzzle parts of the games can have much artistic merit, but that
is my personal opinion, and it certainly could be wrong. In any case, this
says nothing about the *other* stuff in current IF works -- the stuff that
is not about the puzzles.

If you mean that none of these games could be *fun* without the puzzles,
then perhaps I'd agree with you. But that is partly because they were all
designed in the text adventure context, where puzzles are assumed to be
mandatory for enjoyment. The failure of these works with their puzzles
removed says little about the potential of new works designed under a
different paradigm. I have already given examples of non-puzzle IF works
that could be enjoyable.

>Not ONE. "I just read this great book called Trinity, where you walk
>through mushrooms to travel through time, and... yeah, I said
>mushrooms... why are you looking at me like that?"

You would get funny looks describing _Waiting for Godot_, too. What's the
problem?

>Why do you fear the game within interactive fiction?

I don't; I just haven't seen any evidence that the game part can be
anything more than an amusing diversion. There is nothing wrong with
amusing diversions, but there are greater things to work towards.

>You can't judge sculpture by the rules of art on canvas; you can't judge
>interactive fiction by the rules of ordinary fiction.

The easiest way for an artist to escape the conclusion that his stuff is
crap is to redefine what crap is. This is almost never valid! If you make
things out of words, you have to deal with the fact that people will have
preconceived expectations of your work, because they've seen thousands of
other works that have words in them that have a certain character. And
ultimately, the power to assign "art" or "masterpiece" status to a work
rests with the people, not with the cloistered artists.

Please; go buy or rent a Stockhausen CD and listen to it. Tell me that you
can't judge his work in terms of Western musical tradition. Tell me that
all of music before Stockhausen is irrelevant, that this is some new kind
of art that is so far beyond Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms,
Stravinsky, that it's not reasonable to judge it alongside the works of
these masters.

If you can't say that, don't tell me that it's not fair, reasonable, or
correct to judge IF in the context of literary tradition.

>They are different beasts. What makes Curses a work of art is the ability
>to work through puzzles and get to more of the story, creating the
>connections the way YOU want them to.

That's *not* art! That's a *game*, like a Rubik's Cube! A Rubik's Cube is
not art! Art *says* something, or at least makes you *feel* something.
Solving puzzles or a Rubik's Cube only makes you feel *like you're solving
a puzzle* -- nothing more.

>A hint system destroys that aspect of IF.

Phooey.

>If you want your work to be considered a piece of IF artwork, an on-line
>hint system is not the way to do it.

I *never* claimed that you could make a game artistic just by adding a hint
system. What I said was that a hint system is necessary to ensure that
everyone will get to the *other stuff* in the work -- the stuff that really
has artistic potential. You've played _Legend_ -- did you not notice the
"other stuff"? If you think it was all about solving puzzles, "play" the
"game" again -- only this time, don't worry about figuring out the puzzles;
just read the words carefully. I did the whole puzzle part in a few
months. I put a lot more into the "other stuff" -- that's where the real
work is.

_Legend_ may not be art -- it may not be remotely close -- but there's
definitely more to it than solving puzzles. [1]

>Do sculptures feature a small "What this means" plaque at their base?

You do not get a "what this means" plaque in _Legend_ either. Nothing
tells you in 50 words or fewer what the philosophical point of the work is.
You are not given Cliff's Notes that explain all the subthemes, how they
relate to the larger issue of cybernetics and society, what devices are
used to establish connections in the reader's mind between the fantasy
futuristic elements and the real world (i.e., your society *now*), etc. I
do not like enumerating such things in a laundry list, because this takes
away from the work itself. But these things are there, and I actually
worry that many of them were *too* blatant, to the point where the reader
may feel as though he's being clubbed over the head now and then.

What you *do* get is solutions to all the puzzles, which, though often
related to the theme, are *not* the point of the work. In fact, I keep
asking myself what

>My fascination with interactive fiction has always been the process -- the
>subtle mental links which form in my mind to create the overall impression
>of a solution.

This is indeed fascinating and fun, but if it is art, then proving
mathematical truths is art too. Perhaps mathematics *is* art in some
sense, but certainly not in the same way that literature or painting or
music is. And I don't see the potential for intellectual stimulation in IF
that mathematics has demonstrated it has.

Dave Baggett

[1] No, I do not think _Legend_ is the pinnacle of IF, by a long shot. In
fact, I'm not particularly satisfied with it as "art", if you want to
know the truth -- it has serious problems. It's a fun game; it is
more "art" than UU2; but all in all it is only a marginally better
failure than UU2.

S.P.Harvey

unread,
Oct 11, 1994, 3:24:10 PM10/11/94
to
Felix Lee (fl...@cse.psu.edu) wrote:

: one variant would be to let the player choose an NPC companion who
: will help push the player along. This isn't essentially different
: from a hint or a bypass system, but it's integrated into the setting.

I'm currently working on enhancing one of my NPC's to the point where the
NPC may actually solve puzzles FOR the player, or at least provide truly
useful assistance or advice. This is still in what I call the
"subconscious" level of design. I take an idea and let it simmer in the
back of my brain for a few days, and usually the answer presents itself.
I've got lawns to mow this afternoon, so I'll put some good jazz in the
walkman and ponder while mowing.

Potentially, the NPC could help solve problems which have been attempted
unsuccessfully by the player a certain number of times. Naturally, the
NPC isn't going to be omnipotent. In this scenario, the NPC (vague terms
again, sorry) "exists in the world the game is set in", while the player
is either a visitor or invited guest. The NPC is also an intelligent
character (a professor) who would actually know his way around the
setting, and have valid insights into the puzzles.

Comments?

Scott

--
----------------------| S.P. Harvey |--------------------------

"I do not know which to prefer, / The beauty of inflections /
Or the beauty of innuendoes / The blackbird whistling /
Or just after." - Wallace Stevens
----------------------| sha...@interaccess.com |--------------------------

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Oct 11, 1994, 2:56:53 PM10/11/94
to
Excerpts from netnews.rec.arts.int-fiction: 11-Oct-94 Re: Gratuitous
objects David Bag...@case.ai.mi (4691)

> I can think of plenty of great books and pieces of music that are neither
> too simple to offend veterans nor to difficult for newcomers to handle.

Ok, I guess I can too.

I'm going to partially back off now, and say that what I've been
describing is what I want in a game. It's obvious at this point that not
everybody here is looking for the same thing in IF.

I am interested (both playing and writing) in a blend of puzzle and
story in which the thought about the puzzle illuminates the story. ("The
literature of epiphany" is the pretentious catchphrase I like to use.)
This means that the puzzle difficulty *is* part of the IF, and letting
people skip around it breaks something essential.

> The problem with IF games, it would seem, is that it is impossible to write
> a game that is neither too simple for verterans nor too difficult for
> novices. This is a problem with the form itself, not with particular
> examples of the form.

There may be technical solutions, such as a very clever hint system.
However, I agree that the IF form (the one *I* want) does have this
problem. This doesn't change the fact that it's what I want.

(Actually, now I want to debate your claim by saying that a truly clever
puzzle would be equally accessible for both novices and veterans. Maybe
I don't want puzzles of a particular *difficulty*, but rather a
particular *cleverness*. This will take several years of further
investigation. I'll get back to you :-)

> If there is not enough story to your story-game for the work to survive the
> ruination of the puzzles, then the work is a brain-teaser, not a work of
> fiction with any artistic merit. (You may say, "fine, I wasn't trying to
> make a work of art", to which I'd respond, "I am only talking about art,
> because I am interested in the artistic potential of IF.")

Well, I *was* trying to make a work of art, nyah nyah... Ahem. :-)

I'd say that the story is not a separate thing from the puzzles. A story
attempts to evoke a set of reactions in the reader. Traditionally,
novels do this with prose, movies do it with dialogue, images, and
music... etc. I am trying to do it with prose and, well, puzzles. A
puzzle of the correct difficulty evokes frustration, concentration, and
finally epiphany. These are common enough feelings in stories. I want to
write (and play) stories in which the puzzle is responsible for that
part of the story, instead of prose or background music or whatever.
That, to me, is the most interesting form of interactivity. See what I
mean? I could babble further...

Let me also note that my base assumption in writing games is that my
audience is people exactly like me. This is why I keep harping on what I
want in a game. I hope nobody thinks that this Usenet discussion is
going to resolve the True Way to put together a work of IF...

> In general, the very idea of an art form wherein works are ruined for us
> after we've experienced them once (e.g., solved all the puzzles) seems
> suspect to me. How many IF games have you *really* replayed again and
> again?

When I got the LTOI on CD, I played through most of them again once. But
that was years after I played them the first time, and I'd forgotten a
lot of things, so your point is valid.

But then, for the parts that I did remember, I was (to some extent)
recalling the fun I had playing them the first time. Is this very
different from re-reading books? I've re-read books which contained
surprises (even mysteries, where the surprise is central to the plot);
they weren't ruined the second time around, they were still fun, but the
experience is different.

Robert Paige Rendell

unread,
Oct 12, 1994, 6:48:11 PM10/12/94
to
fl...@cse.psu.edu (Felix Lee) writes:

>ah, right. something I was going to ask about, but forgot.

>one variant would be to let the player choose an NPC companion who
>will help push the player along. This isn't essentially different
>from a hint or a bypass system, but it's integrated into the setting.

By "bypass system", I presume you mean a la Wishbringer, using a wish to
solve a puzzle - you didn't get (many) hints from the solution via the
wish as to how you might tackle it more mundanely, so you could progress
through the story unhindered, but you could go back later and try it again
without using wishes, and although you now knew more of the later plot of
the story, it didn't necessarily help work out the puzzles between here
and there.

I like this as an alternative to hints, since it gives the player an out -
they're rarely going to feel completely stuck, if they know that they
can call on Biggles to help out, but it doesn't satisfy their curiosity
about individual puzzles (... and live happily every after, only nagged
by the fact that you never did work out how to open that damn door.)

This way, you cater to the rabid puzzle solvers (who never resort to hints
anyway), the people who are more interested in the story than the puzzles
(who may use hints if they feel that the puzzle they're up against has
stalled the story), and the weak willed folk in between (who would resort
to hints to progress through the story if they were available, but feel
guilty about it :)

So, how tricky is this to impliment? In Wishbringer, it works because
the player has to name the specific wish to tackle the puzzle they're
stuck at, so it's probably no harder than a hints system... OTOH, if
your bypass is an NPC, you'd expect them to decide the manner in which
they help, requiring the plot progress tracking stuff being discussed in
the other thread. Also, ideally your "puzzles" are not of the how-do-I-
get-through-this-locked-door variety, but things integral to the plot...
arranging a bypass that doesn't make it obvious how to solve it yourself
may not be trivial.

Anyway, I just thought I'd muse out loud :)

--
Robert Rendell \((/
ren...@molly.cs.monash.edu.au ~oo~
What do you know about Tweetle beetles? Well... /))\

Felix Lee

unread,
Oct 11, 1994, 8:25:40 AM10/11/94
to
S.P.Harvey:

>How about: a "difficulty" setting? The ability to access more explicit
>hints as "read the plot" setting, but more cryptic/vague hints under
>"puzzle me, please!" setting?

ah, right. something I was going to ask about, but forgot.

one variant would be to let the player choose an NPC companion who
will help push the player along. This isn't essentially different
from a hint or a bypass system, but it's integrated into the setting.

--

S.P.Harvey

unread,
Oct 13, 1994, 3:51:05 AM10/13/94
to
Felix Lee (fl...@cse.psu.edu) wrote:

: hmm, not necessarily. If the NPC has ways past the obstacles that are
: independent of the player's, like a different security clearance or
: metalevel access to the game or whatever, then the NPC can just help
: the player through any place the player wants.
: --

I'm going to combine the best of both worlds in my major NPC that's being
designed. He'll have what you call "metalevel" access, due to his status
in the world of the game. In addition, I'm writing his character to be a
bit cantankerous, mainly as an excuse to keep from spewing out answers
like a walking hint system, but partly because it's fun.

I suppose some method of plot-tracking is necessary for a character of
this type. I don't envision anything elaborate, just an array of
achieved puzzles which he won't answer about. In fact, this could help
solve puzzling puzzles in and of itself. If the state of a puzzle
(solved or unsolved) is unclear to the player, the NPC will be able to
"inspect the work" and give the okay or not. Hmm, this may call for some
obscure puzzle design on my part... :)

Mike Threepoint

unread,
Oct 13, 1994, 10:44:33 AM10/13/94
to
The d...@ai.mit.edu writes:
=> Few works are 100% good. Skipping stuff is fine! And if you come across
=> that rare work where every word counts, or ever note matters, then you can
=> keep exploring it until you've gotten it all.

=> In general, the very idea of an art form wherein works are ruined for us
=> after we've experienced them once (e.g., solved all the puzzles) seems
=> suspect to me. How many IF games have you *really* replayed again and
=> again?

Actually, I've played The Secret of Monkey Island through at least
five times. I've also played through just Part One several more. In
some ways it's like rewatching a favorite movie. And each time, its
quirky charms grow on me a little more.

The game gains some replay value from the fact that there are a couple
things you can do and a couple dialogue choices you can make which
parts of the story later on. All the puzzles are the same, but the
plot and dialogue can unfold a little differently later on. There are
also a number of side jokes one can miss the first time.

The second time I played, I tried solving the three initial quests in
a different order, and discovered an entire cut scene I'd never seen
the first time! Further on, I didn't undo a disastrous error (knowing
the game will never kill you or put you in a no-win situation) and got
lots of new dialogue options and different cut scenes for the rest of
the game.

My major complaint with Monkey Island is LucasFilm's moneygrubbing
upgrade policies. Although the box listed both VGA and EGA graphics,
only the EGA graphics were included. The package included a card to
mail to buy the VGA graphics for $15. Someone who did buy the
graphics told me that only a few locations were different and it was a
ripoff.

Eventually, I bought the CD-ROM version at a computer show for less
than LucasFilm's CD-ROM upgrade fee. (Anyone want to buy a used IBM
3.5" disk version?) This included the VGA graphics, the soundtrack in
CD audio, and also included 4 foreign language versions of the game in
French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

It was worth it! Naturally, I replayed to see the high resolution
graphic. Most of the differences were in the facial shots in the cut
scenes, but a big improvement there. The Monkey Island 2 style menu
with the graphic inventory was nicer. And the music was so gorgeous,
I took to playing the CD-ROM in my CD player. (I think I'll pop it in
right now...)

Even now, after I've seen all the possible dialogue options, it's
still fun to walk though it. However, it's even more fun watching
someone else play it for the first time, seeing it anew through their
eyes. (Too bad most of my local friends aren't into adventure games.)

One of these days, I'm going to sit down with a dictionary and play
through the French version to see all the different jokes. I didn't
get all the jokes last time I scanned the beginning in French (up to
the sword fights, when knowing what the dialogue choices say becomes
important). I did catch the joke right in the beginning about
Guybrush looking more like the Little Prince than a pirate. :-)

I really never thought I'd love a graphic adventure game until I
played The Secret of Monkey Island. (And I never thought I'd find one
challenging until Monkey Island 2!)

Felix Lee

unread,
Oct 13, 1994, 2:46:10 AM10/13/94
to
Robert Paige Rendell:

>By "bypass system", I presume you mean a la Wishbringer, using a wish to
>solve a puzzle - you didn't get (many) hints from the solution via the
>wish as to how you might tackle it more mundanely, so you could progress
>through the story unhindered, but you could go back later and try it again

right. I've never played Wishbringer though, so I'm not familiar with
its specifics.

I think I like bypass better than hints, but bypass is something that
has to be accounted for when you design the game, whereas hints can be
tacked on later.

>OTOH, if
>your bypass is an NPC, you'd expect them to decide the manner in which
>they help, requiring the plot progress tracking stuff being discussed in
>the other thread.

hmm, not necessarily. If the NPC has ways past the obstacles that are

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 16, 1994, 12:04:31 AM10/16/94
to
In article <CxH14...@acsu.buffalo.edu>,
Phil Goetz <go...@cs.buffalo.edu> wrote:

>It is? Explain how a game that's no fun can have artistic merit.

_Schindler's List_ as an IF work wouldn't be fun to play, but it could
certainly have artistic merit. The movie is certainly not "fun" to watch,
but it is a tremendous work.

>That's like food that tastes bad having 'culinary merit'.

This analogy illustrates the problem I'm having with this whole discussion.
The analogy of food to art, like the claim that a Rubik's Cube is art,
reveals a fundamental difference of opinion we have about what art is.

Food is not a medium through which one can communicate *anything*. Without
communication, there is no art. People talk about "the art of cooking" and
"the art of bricklaying" -- there should be another word for that kind of
"art", because it has no bearing on the kind of "art" that Hamlet, Mona
Lisa, and Messiah are.

If you call a Rubik's Cube or a great omelette art, then I can definitely
see why you'd claim that simulationist IF can be artistic, and why puzzle
games can be artistic.

Judging from the discussion so far, I seem to be out in left field in this
group. So think of it this way: for whatever misguided reason, I think
that it's worth trying to make IF works that are artistic in the same way
the three great works I mentioned earlier are artistic. To me, comparing a
Rubik's Cube to any of these things is like, well, comparing an omelette to
any of these things --- totally silly. Not the same ballpark. Not the
same ball *game*.

To make works that fit this definition of art, we will need to stop
requiring IF works to be "fun", puzzle-based, not "cheatable", and/or
simluationist. (The latter at least until we "solve AI", which isn't going
to happen any time soon.)

>I believe that the majority of critics (literature and art) today take your
>view, that artistic merit is separate from enjoyment.

Art is not separate from enjoyment; a work of art must be fulfilling in
some way, or it is unsuccessful. But fulfillment is not the same as
enjoyment, which is not the same as fun! This is the crux of the problem
-- IF works are locked into this stupid "game" mentality. Is _Hamlet_ fun?
No -- and that is *not* the same as saying it is dreary, inaccessible Art
World mumbo jumbo.

And if you can't get into _Gravitys Rainbow_, read _The Crying of Lot 49_.
It's short, totally comprehensible (albeit weird), and at times absolutely
hilarious. You can get a feel for Pynchon's work without reading his
magnum opus. (And like I said earlier, few works are as good as they are
long...)

>the computer's hints are best if not given as hints, but as supporting
>evidence, or events that make the player think along the right lines.

Yeah, well, you can put as much of that stuff in as you want, and people
will still get get hopelessly stuck. What's painfully obvious to one
person goes over another's head.

Also, when I said "hints", I meant "hints" -- not outright spoilers. You
don't get outright spoilers in _Legend_ until you've gotten a bunch of
nudges on the same topic already.

>Second, a hint given by the game is "legal"; you can take the hint and
>still say you finished the game by yourself, without "breaking the rules".

Jeez -- who the hell cares?! Do you worry about whether you can say you
understood Hamlet fully without help? I think this whole concept of
honorable playing is really counterproductive.

Dave Baggett

S.P.Harvey

unread,
Oct 16, 1994, 1:26:58 PM10/16/94
to
David Baggett (d...@case.ai.mit.edu) wrote:
: Food is not a medium through which one can communicate *anything*. Without

: communication, there is no art. People talk about "the art of cooking" and
: "the art of bricklaying" -- there should be another word for that kind of
: "art", because it has no bearing on the kind of "art" that Hamlet, Mona
: Lisa, and Messiah are.

Okay, but what sort of "art" is interactive fiction? Once we start
proferring charges against certain things as "art" and certain things as
"not art" we start to run into a lot of trouble. Is Robert
Mapplethorpe's photography art, or is it homoerotic pornography? I
suppose the answer depends on your outlook. I consider it art. Jesse
Helms does not. I would rather not have other words for what other
people consider art.

: If you call a Rubik's Cube or a great omelette art, then I can definitely


: see why you'd claim that simulationist IF can be artistic, and why puzzle
: games can be artistic.

Both are art, in my opinion. There is truly a measure of creative skill,
talent, and passion that can go into making a great omelette. To me,
these are the things that define art, not what message it sends.
Actually, a well-prepared and excellent omelette can say something; you
just need to recognize what it says. Well-prepared food can say "I love
you and I love making this effort." Just a Rubik's Cube is a sublimely
beautiful expression of a man's genius in engineering and design. It's
art is in the utter simplicity of the design.

: >Second, a hint given by the game is "legal"; you can take the hint and


: >still say you finished the game by yourself, without "breaking the rules".

: Jeez -- who the hell cares?! Do you worry about whether you can say you
: understood Hamlet fully without help? I think this whole concept of
: honorable playing is really counterproductive.

The way I see it, it's not so much about "honorable playing" as it is
about being able to be proud of the work you did yourself.

As for being able to understand Hamlet, I don't worry about how I came to
understand Hamlet. It was an amalgam of the text, footnotes, a
dictionary, an excellent professor or two, and Lawrence Olivier. The
text is of course, the primary source of the knowledge. I try to make
sense of the text without the footnotes whenever possible, simply as a
mental exercise.

What's more rewarding: sitting by the fireplace with your Complete Works
of Shakespeare and reading Hamlet slowly and carefully, or reading a
Hypertext version of Hamlet complete with numerous windows explaining
every single nuance, archaic word, and obscure reference?

David Baggett

unread,
Oct 16, 1994, 1:27:13 PM10/16/94
to
In article <rbryanCx...@netcom.com>, Russ Bryan <rbr...@netcom.com> wrote:

>My entire impression of the game was destroyed because the sense of
>accomplishment was gone.

This pretty much sums it up. If the only reason you like IF is because it
gratifies your ego to solve tricky puzzles, you are never going to
appreciate any work that is not a brain-teaser, and anything that destroys
the puzzle aspect of the work is going to destroy the work for you.

But I have to ask you, do you look up all the answers in a Games magazine
two minutes into the puzzle?

Would it help matters to provide an option to letter-swap the hints? Then
they'd at least be somewhat annoying to read through.

>Nice thing about Shareware and Freeware is that you don't find yourself
>writing for the masses. If someone is going to give up because one or two
>puzzles stump him, then I don't care if he ends up disliking interactive
>fiction, anymore than HE would care that I dislike arcade games.

Likewise, why would an artist ever try to please you, given your admittedly
narrow criteria for evaluating a work? Your criteria don't preclude
artistic games, but they limit such things to brain-teasers that are *also*
artistic. Yet another tough constraint on an already overly constrained
medium.

>The reason so many game manufacturers out there used to provide on-line
>hints was because they would sell more games that way.

I think you are overanalyzing this.

>I wouldn't buy a jigsaw puzzle with a solution, either.

If I wrote a game that was nothing but a jigsaw puzzle, I'd delete it.

Felix Lee

unread,
Oct 16, 1994, 3:47:18 PM10/16/94
to
Dave Baggett:

>So think of it this way: for whatever misguided reason, I think
>that it's worth trying to make IF works that are artistic in the same way
>the three great works I mentioned earlier are artistic. To me, comparing a
>Rubik's Cube to any of these things is like, well, comparing an omelette to
>any of these things --- totally silly.

Okay, I think I agree with that. Like I said before, this is a
direction that interests me too, and I don't think extending IF in
this direction will be much like going in other directions.

Well, let me try sketching out something potentially implementable..
--

ken...@kennedy.bridgewater.ne.hcc.com

unread,
Oct 14, 1994, 7:17:27 PM10/14/94
to
In <rbryanCx...@netcom.com>, rbr...@netcom.com (Russ Bryan) writes:
>What I consider insidious is our pompous belief that we have transcended
>the game and made interactive fiction into an art. What egos we have!
>IF as art has appeared once, in A Mind Forever Voyaging. Not one of the
>games that any of us have written could stand up without the puzzles.
>Not ONE. "I just read this great book called Trinity, where you walk
>through mushrooms to travel through time, and... yeah, I said
>mushrooms... why are you looking at me like that?"

De gustibus, and all that. I myself put Trinity on a _higher_ plane
than AMFV. Don't you think there's something a little outre about
mushrooms?


John W. Kennedy - Hoechst Celanese - Team OS/2 - (The OS/2 Hobbit) - TIPA
IBMMAIL: USAHC29S IBMLink: NAAO3IY "Compact is becoming contract;
CompuServe: 75136,1413 Prodigy: MTMV04A Man only earns and pays."
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