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Eytan Zweig

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Jun 13, 2002, 4:33:56 AM6/13/02
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Hi,

I'm faced with a design question for my IF in progress: I want a section of
the game to be played without the player having any involvement in what's
going on. Not as a participant, not as an observer from within, not even as
an abstract entity. I want the player to have the same role as he or she has
in most non-IF: an external observer, that doesn't exist in the world in
question. There will be an event unfolding (more-or-less), and it will be
interactive in that the player will be able to choose what parts of it to
observe - but that's it.

My problem is, what do I do about all the commands that actually require a
player to exist? INVENTORY, X ME, even NORTH, all require the player to have
an avatar in the world. Even if I say "you don't have an inventory", I'm
still introducing a "you". Any idea how I can handle this in a graceful
manner?

Eytan


L. Ross Raszewski

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Jun 13, 2002, 4:07:17 AM6/13/02
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This soudns like a really neat idea. I've tried a few experiments in
this direction, and my usual solution is to fall back to having a
"detached avatar", in the sense of a suspended-type player character,
who is a person, but not able to directly interact with the world, or
the player character from the FMV game 'critical path'.
If you're really set on not havign an avatar, I'd say the easiest
thing is simply to disable those commands that imply one.

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 13, 2002, 4:45:25 AM6/13/02
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In article <ae9iap$52lj3$1...@ID-101183.news.dfncis.de>,

Well, there still is a "you", of course: the player in person, rather
than the player-character. But I see your problem: how do you make
clear the fact that the game is addressing the player directly,
bypassing the game world as it were.

It's a difficiult question, because it has to do with player
expectations, both the expectations built up by your game up to that
point (which you can influence) and those built up by the genre (which
you can't).

I think that as a player, I wouldn't be too much jarred by a response
such as "You don't have an inventory", but "north" would be a problem;
for example,

>north
You can't go anywhere.

impliesm just what you say, viz. that there is a "you" entity in the
game who could, psosibly, go somewhere.

If I were in your shoes, I'd try to formulate the game responses so
that it's clear that they're not part of the game:

>north
That command is not available.

You could also use the convention from some IF where meta-information
is enclosed in brackets:

>north
[Movement commands are not available right now]

The situation is in some ways analogous to communication in a
role-playing game such as D&D: how does a player indicate that it's
the player, and not the player's character, who is saying something?

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Billy Harris

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Jun 13, 2002, 5:00:13 AM6/13/02
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In article <ae9iap$52lj3$1...@ID-101183.news.dfncis.de>, Eytan Zweig
<eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> There will be an event unfolding (more-or-less), and it will be
> interactive in that the player will be able to choose what parts of it to
> observe - but that's it.

Well, you can have any movement commands break out of the flashback [or
whatever it is], possibly with a warning that you missed vital
information. If this section is a major portion of the game, a better
solution would be to shift the viewpoint. For example:

MOUNTAIN TOP
Jagged Clifs loom on all sides save for the south, where a slightly
less steep path ends its long, windy path from the plains below.

The count Ducal pulls out a knife and advances toward the Duchess
Marian.

> NORTH

North of the mountain and past the cliffs, a forest quietly grows.

FOREST
Tall, healthy trees grow so thickly that not even deer can form a path
between the trunks. A bird chirps happily, oblivious to the monumental
political changes taking place a few hundred yards away.


--------

For inventory, you can either alias it to "look", or have it list the
contents of ALL the active NPCs in the area. Bad idea to have it just
list the contents of the "interesting" NPC or the player will think
he's the PC.

---------

Since you said this is for "a section" of the game, I assume that a PC
exists for part of it. So, a possible solution would be "John Knight is
still in the pub, far away from the political intrigues in the
Devonshire province".

If, on contrast, there is no PC at all, a simple parser error suffices:

> X ME

You can't see any such thing.

Richard Bos

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Jun 13, 2002, 6:50:18 AM6/13/02
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"Eytan Zweig" <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> I'm faced with a design question for my IF in progress: I want a section of
> the game to be played without the player having any involvement in what's
> going on. Not as a participant, not as an observer from within, not even as
> an abstract entity. I want the player to have the same role as he or she has
> in most non-IF: an external observer, that doesn't exist in the world in
> question. There will be an event unfolding (more-or-less), and it will be
> interactive in that the player will be able to choose what parts of it to
> observe - but that's it.

Ok, first thing: you _cannot_ not have an avatar at all. To misquote
Descartes: you observe, therefore you are. _Something_ must be doing the
observing, and since this something is in control of the player, it is
the player's avatar.

> My problem is, what do I do about all the commands that actually require a
> player to exist? INVENTORY, X ME, even NORTH, all require the player to have
> an avatar in the world. Even if I say "you don't have an inventory", I'm
> still introducing a "you".

You have already introduced a "you" by allowing "you" to observe the
scene. The avatar exists, even if only as an observing mind. You could
try to deny its existence, but that will only have people wondering
what's doing the looking in the first place.
Perhaps the best solution is to say something like "You have no physical
existence in this world"; that will clue people in to the impossibility
of taking inventory, while still allowing for a merely observing entity
to exist.

Richard

John Colagioia

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Jun 13, 2002, 8:01:21 AM6/13/02
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Eytan Zweig wrote:
[...]

I suppose that'll depend on the language, probably heavily. In Inform,
I know you can give the player object an orders() property/method that
preempts anything other than, for example, the Examine verb with an
observable object as noun. For lack of a better explanation, the
actor's orders property kind of sits between (and mediates between) the
parser and the verb activity.

A quick glance through Google, though, only shows posts form you
regarding TADS, ALAN, and ADRIFT. This may not be any more useful than
vague, theoretical advice, then, for which I apologize.

With any luck, though, someone can pull this into a "real" answer for
the language that you're working in.

An obvious alternative (though by no means as elegant, for programmer or
player; but, if that's all you have to work with, that's it) is to kind
of usurp the parser's role. You could have a series of cut-scenes,
chosen from an ugly menu that pops up between said cut-scenes.

I suppose a "quasi-post-modern" approach, wherein you take all the
aforementioned verbs and have them apply to the reader (rather than
anyone in the action) might be viable, as well. See the Inform game
"Tokyo: Present Day," for a fairly well-done example of such a layered
reality (though with interaction).

Aris Katsaris

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Jun 13, 2002, 9:30:41 AM6/13/02
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"Richard Bos" <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote in message
news:3d087653....@news.tiscali.nl...

> "Eytan Zweig" <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> > I'm faced with a design question for my IF in progress: I want a section of
> > the game to be played without the player having any involvement in what's
> > going on. Not as a participant, not as an observer from within, not even as
> > an abstract entity. I want the player to have the same role as he or she has
> > in most non-IF: an external observer, that doesn't exist in the world in
> > question. There will be an event unfolding (more-or-less), and it will be
> > interactive in that the player will be able to choose what parts of it to
> > observe - but that's it.
>
> Ok, first thing: you _cannot_ not have an avatar at all.

Ofcourse you can.

> To misquote
> Descartes: you observe, therefore you are. _Something_ must be doing the
> observing, and since this something is in control of the player, it is
> the player's avatar.

Nonsense. Not all stories use first person or third person-limited. There's the
also quite popular third person-omniscient, where the scene is described by
a narrator which isn't part of the world in question.

> > My problem is, what do I do about all the commands that actually require a
> > player to exist? INVENTORY, X ME, even NORTH, all require the player to have
> > an avatar in the world. Even if I say "you don't have an inventory", I'm
> > still introducing a "you".
>
> You have already introduced a "you" by allowing "you" to observe the
> scene. The avatar exists, even if only as an observing mind. You could
> try to deny its existence, but that will only have people wondering
> what's doing the looking in the first place.

Not all books need acknowledge their readers. Not all games need do so
either.

> Perhaps the best solution is to say something like "You have no physical
> existence in this world"; that will clue people in to the impossibility
> of taking inventory, while still allowing for a merely observing entity
> to exist.

So if I write a book about the end of all life in a universe, am I not allowed
to describe the black and empty vastness afterwards? Why must we allow
"observing entities" to exist?

"You have no physical existence in this world" sounds a bit lame to me to
describe the player's position as observer... For starters the world also
doesn't have any "physical existence" except as encoded bytes in a
gamefile in my hard disk. And if we are talking in-game, then I don't exist
there at all. There's indeed no "me" in there, when I don't have an avatar.

The best solution, I think, for external to the story commentary, is to
include them in brackets. Then you can say stuff "as [You can't use that
command.]" and acknowledge both your existence as player and leave the
rest of the game "pure", so to speak, without the need for any "observing
entities" to exist.

Aris Katsaris


Richard Bos

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Jun 13, 2002, 10:10:28 AM6/13/02
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"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:

> "Richard Bos" <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote in message
> news:3d087653....@news.tiscali.nl...
> > "Eytan Zweig" <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> >
> > > I'm faced with a design question for my IF in progress: I want a section of
> > > the game to be played without the player having any involvement in what's
> > > going on. Not as a participant, not as an observer from within, not even as
> > > an abstract entity. I want the player to have the same role as he or she has
> > > in most non-IF: an external observer, that doesn't exist in the world in
> > > question. There will be an event unfolding (more-or-less), and it will be
> > > interactive in that the player will be able to choose what parts of it to
> > > observe - but that's it.
> >
> > Ok, first thing: you _cannot_ not have an avatar at all.
>
> Ofcourse you can.

Not in the situation described.

> > To misquote
> > Descartes: you observe, therefore you are. _Something_ must be doing the
> > observing, and since this something is in control of the player, it is
> > the player's avatar.
>
> Nonsense. Not all stories use first person or third person-limited. There's the
> also quite popular third person-omniscient, where the scene is described by
> a narrator which isn't part of the world in question.

But the question wasn't about all stories. The question was about an
event unfolding, and the user _observing_ various parts of this event.
The user can choose which part of the scene is to be observed;
therefore, the user does have an avatar who can observe these various
parts.

> > > My problem is, what do I do about all the commands that actually require a
> > > player to exist? INVENTORY, X ME, even NORTH, all require the player to have
> > > an avatar in the world. Even if I say "you don't have an inventory", I'm
> > > still introducing a "you".
> >
> > You have already introduced a "you" by allowing "you" to observe the
> > scene. The avatar exists, even if only as an observing mind. You could
> > try to deny its existence, but that will only have people wondering
> > what's doing the looking in the first place.
>
> Not all books need acknowledge their readers. Not all games need do so
> either.

No, but the scene _as described_ does.

> > Perhaps the best solution is to say something like "You have no physical
> > existence in this world"; that will clue people in to the impossibility
> > of taking inventory, while still allowing for a merely observing entity
> > to exist.
>
> So if I write a book about the end of all life in a universe, am I not allowed
> to describe the black and empty vastness afterwards? Why must we allow
> "observing entities" to exist?

We must, because in the game as Eytan described it there _is_ someone
who makes active choices about what to observe.

> The best solution, I think, for external to the story commentary, is to
> include them in brackets. Then you can say stuff "as [You can't use that
> command.]"

But that breaks immersion. It's a valid decision, but it isn't one I
like.

Richard

David Brain

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Jun 13, 2002, 10:14:00 AM6/13/02
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In article <ae9iap$52lj3$1...@ID-101183.news.dfncis.de>, eyt...@yahoo.com
(Eytan Zweig) wrote:

> Hi,
>
> I'm faced with a design question for my IF in progress: I want a section
> of
> the game to be played without the player having any involvement in what's
> going on. Not as a participant, not as an observer from within, not even
> as
> an abstract entity. I want the player to have the same role as he or she
> has
> in most non-IF: an external observer, that doesn't exist in the world in
> question. There will be an event unfolding (more-or-less), and it will be
> interactive in that the player will be able to choose what parts of it to
> observe - but that's it.
>

Sounds interesting. I was working on a similar idea but I can't work out
how to stop people from simply saving their position, watching event X and
then restoring and watching event Y, assuming that events X and Y are
occuring simultaneously and the player can choose to observe one or the
other but participate in neither. I want the story to develop according to
information received from /either/ X or Y but not both. I can't see a way to
stop this short of disabling the Save function.

However, that's my problem and not yours ;-)
You could try using the "Suspended" method - switch from (observer) avatar
to avatar rather than having a fixed character.

--
David Brain
London, UK

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 13, 2002, 10:40:57 AM6/13/02
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In article <3d08a6b3....@news.tiscali.nl>,

Richard Bos <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
>"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>
>> "Richard Bos" <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote in message
>> news:3d087653....@news.tiscali.nl...
>> > "Eytan Zweig" <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:
(...)

>> > To misquote
>> > Descartes: you observe, therefore you are. _Something_ must be doing the
>> > observing, and since this something is in control of the player, it is
>> > the player's avatar.
>>
>> Nonsense. Not all stories use first person or third person-limited.
>There's the
>> also quite popular third person-omniscient, where the scene is described by
>> a narrator which isn't part of the world in question.
>
>But the question wasn't about all stories. The question was about an
>event unfolding, and the user _observing_ various parts of this event.
>The user can choose which part of the scene is to be observed;
>therefore, the user does have an avatar who can observe these various
>parts.

Another take on it:

A piece of IF can be viewed as a simulation of a fictional world.
This simulation itself exists in a larger universe. Whether this larger
universe is simply the physical universe or if there's an intermediate
level - a "narrative universe" containing the narrator, the audience
and the simulation - is an interesting question, but not really relevant
to the original question.

Now, the player's "avatar" certainly exists in the "larger universe"
(and if the "larger universe" equals the physical universe, then the
avatar is the player himself). But does it exist in the simulated
universe? That is, does the *simulation* contain an object
representing the player? Is there a "player character" object that
other simulated objects can interact with?

As I interpret Eytan's original question, he has a case where the
"player avatar" (which certainly exists in the "larger universe")
doesn't exist in the simulated universe, and another case where
it does, and he wants to distinguish those two cases.

I think this distinction is a very valid one, although it's rather
unexplored in IF. Psychologically, it does make difference if I am to
view the "you" in the narrative as referring to a player character
("avatar") actually forming a part in the simulated world - an actor
on the stage - or to a disembodied observer who is watching the
simulation from the outside - a member of the audience. The difference
is real.

>> The best solution, I think, for external to the story commentary, is to
>> include them in brackets. Then you can say stuff "as [You can't use that
>> command.]"
>
>But that breaks immersion. It's a valid decision, but it isn't one I
>like.

I'm not sure I like it either, and, yes, it does break immersion.
The question is whether replies like "You can't go that way" break
immersion even more, which seems to be what Eytan is worried about.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Eytan Zweig

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Jun 13, 2002, 11:40:21 AM6/13/02
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"Richard Bos" <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote in message
news:3d08a6b3....@news.tiscali.nl...

> "Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>
> > "Richard Bos" <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote in message
> > news:3d087653....@news.tiscali.nl...
> > > "Eytan Zweig" <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> > >

[snip me]

> > >
> > > Ok, first thing: you _cannot_ not have an avatar at all.
> >
> > Ofcourse you can.
>
> Not in the situation described.
>
> > > To misquote
> > > Descartes: you observe, therefore you are. _Something_ must be doing
the
> > > observing, and since this something is in control of the player, it is
> > > the player's avatar.
> >
> > Nonsense. Not all stories use first person or third person-limited.
There's the
> > also quite popular third person-omniscient, where the scene is described
by
> > a narrator which isn't part of the world in question.
>
> But the question wasn't about all stories. The question was about an
> event unfolding, and the user _observing_ various parts of this event.
> The user can choose which part of the scene is to be observed;
> therefore, the user does have an avatar who can observe these various
> parts.
>

Yes, but I want you to be able to do so unmediated by an in-game persona. Of
course there is someone observing, and making active choices - you, the
person sitting on the other side of the computer screen. I want to make it
clear to the player that (in this part of the of the game) he is totally
external to the action; he obviously exists, since otherwise he can't be
reading my text, but he doesn't exist in the same world as the events
described.

This is partially because in other parts of the game you *do* have personas,
and part of my problem is to make it clear that you are not one conciense
that's controlling or possessing different entities. Sometimes you're
someone, sometimes you're not. And I don't want the two to get confused with
each other.

[snip further]

>
> We must, because in the game as Eytan described it there _is_ someone
> who makes active choices about what to observe.

Again, the player does so by typing in commands such as "EXAMINE GIRL"; but
I want it to be clear to the player that what he's doing is ordering the
TADS interpreter to examine something and report the results, not some sort
of entity within the game world. Sort of like the way that when I type "SAVE
GAME", I'm not (in most games) telling the PC to save a copy of his life,
but I'm telling the interpreter to do so for him.

Eytan


Eytan Zweig

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Jun 13, 2002, 11:42:31 AM6/13/02
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"John Colagioia" <JCola...@csi.com> wrote in message
news:3D08899...@csi.com...

I need advice with how to design the game, not the technical side of how to
actually code it (which I'm doing in TADS, btw - maybe TADS 3 if I manage to
figure out the syntax without documentation).

> I suppose a "quasi-post-modern" approach, wherein you take all the
> aforementioned verbs and have them apply to the reader (rather than
> anyone in the action) might be viable, as well. See the Inform game
> "Tokyo: Present Day," for a fairly well-done example of such a layered
> reality (though with interaction).
>

Thanks, I'll look into it.

Eytan


Eytan Zweig

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Jun 13, 2002, 11:44:49 AM6/13/02
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"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:ae9m35$16p$1...@news.lth.se...

Actually, INVENTORY is the bigger problem. Since what I'm trying to simulate
is the player directing the program where to turn it's attention, I can just
interpret NORTH as "look north", and respond in kind. INVENTORY implies "be
introspective", and that's what I can't handle smoothly.

Eytan


Eytan Zweig

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Jun 13, 2002, 11:48:13 AM6/13/02
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"David Brain" <ne...@davidbrain.co.uk> wrote in message
news:memo.20020613...@atlan.compulink.co.uk...

I'm actually hoping that the player will end up getting all the information
about everything that's going on. What I want to leave up to the player is
the need to join that information together to form a unified view.

> However, that's my problem and not yours ;-)
> You could try using the "Suspended" method - switch from (observer) avatar
> to avatar rather than having a fixed character.

That's more or less what I'm doing. I want to have the player play through a
situation through a number of avatars - but between these scenes, I want to
have an "avatar-less" glue situation where the player is totally external.
The feeling I'm trying to recreate, in a way, is that of looking at a
painting or a TV-show, then becoming one of the characters in the image and
seeing this from his/her/its POV, then moving out again. That doesn't work
unless I have a distinct "out" to move to.

Eytan

Eytan Zweig

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Jun 13, 2002, 12:03:23 PM6/13/02
to
> >> The best solution, I think, for external to the story commentary, is to
> >> include them in brackets. Then you can say stuff "as [You can't use
that
> >> command.]"
> >
> >But that breaks immersion. It's a valid decision, but it isn't one I
> >like.
>
> I'm not sure I like it either, and, yes, it does break immersion.
> The question is whether replies like "You can't go that way" break
> immersion even more, which seems to be what Eytan is worried about.
>

Not "immersion" per se, actually, but something similar. When looking at a
TV show, it would never occur to you to check inventory, because that's
meaningless. Since what I'm doing is, in a sense, trying to emulate one of
those "interactive movies" of a few years back, I want to make it clear to
the player that it's a meaningless option. But the thing is, since I'm using
a medium in which this is normally a meaningful option, I have to deal with
this expectation. What a square brackets reply would do would not so much
break immersion, since the player isn't supposed to be immersed, but rather
break the cohesiveness of the picture presented to him; it's like having the
commercial break come on in the middle of a tense television show and remind
you that you're not looking in at a story, you're looking at a square thing
that sits on a table.

Eytan

> --
> Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)


Magnus Olsson

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Jun 13, 2002, 11:18:31 AM6/13/02
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In article <aeac9o$5117p$1...@ID-101183.news.dfncis.de>,

Eytan Zweig <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>> >> The best solution, I think, for external to the story commentary, is to
>> >> include them in brackets. Then you can say stuff "as [You can't use
>that
>> >> command.]"
>> >
>> >But that breaks immersion. It's a valid decision, but it isn't one I
>> >like.
>>
>> I'm not sure I like it either, and, yes, it does break immersion.
>> The question is whether replies like "You can't go that way" break
>> immersion even more, which seems to be what Eytan is worried about.
>>
>
>Not "immersion" per se, actually, but something similar. When looking at a
>TV show, it would never occur to you to check inventory, because that's
>meaningless. Since what I'm doing is, in a sense, trying to emulate one of
>those "interactive movies" of a few years back, I want to make it clear to
>the player that it's a meaningless option. But the thing is, since I'm using
>a medium in which this is normally a meaningful option, I have to deal with
>this expectation. What a square brackets reply would do would not so much
>break immersion, since the player isn't supposed to be immersed,

I think the player *is* supposed to be immersed in the sense that he/she
concentrates on "watching" the "movie" and doesn't notice the machinery
presenting it, the way you usually aren't aware of anything outside
of the TV screen while watching TV.

>but rather
>break the cohesiveness of the picture presented to him; it's like having the
>commercial break come on in the middle of a tense television show and remind
>you that you're not looking in at a story, you're looking at a square thing
>that sits on a table.

That's what I meant with "breaking immersion", and I think that in
principle the problem, as you present it, is unsolvable. The player typing
"inventory" and getting a reply (whatever it looks like) is analogous
to my watching TV and by mistake pressing a channel button rather than
the volume button on the remote.

In an ideal world, your game would put the player in such a frame of
mind that typing "inventory" simply wouldn't occur to him or her. One
could argue that if the player even thinks of giving such a command,
the immersion (or cohesiveness, call it what you like) you're after
has - to some extent - already been broken.

In that situation, what can be done is to minimize the impact of the
breach - and *that* can be achieved by judicious choice of game
responses.

Or - an alternative idea just struck me: in the "interactive movie"
sequences, the "avatarless" parts, you could switch user interfaces
altogether, so that *none* of the usual commands work. That would
be somewhat artifical and inconvenient for the player, but once
the player had accepted it, once immersion was achieved, there'd be
a much lower risk of dissonance between the "avatar" and "avatar-less"
modes of interaction, since they would (hopefully) be separate things
in the mind of the player.

Did that make any sense?

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jun 13, 2002, 12:29:27 PM6/13/02
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On Thu, 13 Jun 2002 16:30:41 +0300, Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>
>Nonsense. Not all stories use first person or third
person-limited. There's the
>also quite popular third person-omniscient, where the scene is described by
>a narrator which isn't part of the world in question.
>

Yes, but the narrator still exists as an entity -- a rather chatty
entity in, say, Dickens.

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jun 13, 2002, 12:37:48 PM6/13/02
to
On Thu, 13 Jun 2002 14:10:28 GMT, Richard Bos
<in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
>
>> The best solution, I think, for external to the story commentary, is to
>> include them in brackets. Then you can say stuff "as [You can't use that
>> command.]"
>
>But that breaks immersion. It's a valid decision, but it isn't one I
>like.

Oh no; don't play it both ways. You can't say that it breaks immersion
to remove commands that it would break immersion to leave in.

I mean, I think I know what you're saying, and it's something like "My
immersion is broken when the normal commands are not available". But
this requires a different definition of immersion than the one we
usually use, which whould say "It breaks immersion when I can do
things that don't make sense in the context of this story"

Andrew Plotkin

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Jun 13, 2002, 12:43:06 PM6/13/02
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Here, Eytan Zweig <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>>
>> I think that as a player, I wouldn't be too much jarred by a response
>> such as "You don't have an inventory", but "north" would be a problem;
>> for example,

> Actually, INVENTORY is the bigger problem. Since what I'm trying to simulate
> is the player directing the program where to turn it's attention, I can just
> interpret NORTH as "look north", and respond in kind. INVENTORY implies "be
> introspective", and that's what I can't handle smoothly.

_The Space Under The Window_ is actually the result of trying to do
something very like this. I solved the problem by pitching the usual
IF command structure entirely, and allowing the player to enter only
single words. (Another possibility would be to allow only noun phrases
-- the names of objects -- no verbs.)

If you want to keep the standard parser, I'd just have all illegal
verbs -- including INVENTORY -- trigger the same brief, bland message.
"You only observe." "Action is not possible." Put in it parentheses,
or square brackets, if you want to keep it out of the game-world voice.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Lucian P. Smith

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Jun 13, 2002, 1:27:32 PM6/13/02
to
Eytan Zweig <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote in <ae9iap$52lj3$1...@ID-101183.news.dfncis.de>:

: My problem is, what do I do about all the commands that actually require a


: player to exist? INVENTORY, X ME, even NORTH, all require the player to have
: an avatar in the world. Even if I say "you don't have an inventory", I'm
: still introducing a "you". Any idea how I can handle this in a graceful
: manner?

Two options: Passive voice, or assuming that commands like this are
actually directives. Let me give examples:

>I

There is no inventory.

>I

Nobody here is carrying anything.

[Or, if there is:]

>I

Oswald is carrying a letter opener, a bread basket, and an opened
letter.

[Or, heck, if there are two people:]

>I

Oswald is carrying a letter opener.

George is carrying a can of Pringles.

>JUMP

There is nobody here to do that.

>JUMP

That action can't be done in this mode.

>JUMP

[switching to controlling Oswald]

You jump on the spot, fruitlessly.

>X ME

There is no 'me' to examine.

>X ME

[assuming you mean Oswald]

Oswald is about 50, and wearing slacks.

>NORTH

There is no exit in that direction.

>NORTH

This room has no exit in that direction.

----

That should get you started, at least.

-Lucian


lament

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Jun 13, 2002, 8:24:19 PM6/13/02
to
On Thu, 13 Jun 2002 08:33:56 +0000, Eytan Zweig wrote:

> Hi,
>
> I'm faced with a design question for my IF in progress: I want a section
> of the game to be played without the player having any involvement in
> what's going on. Not as a participant, not as an observer from within,
> not even as an abstract entity. I want the player to have the same role
> as he or she has in most non-IF: an external observer, that doesn't
> exist in the world in question. There will be an event unfolding
> (more-or-less), and it will be interactive in that the player will be
> able to choose what parts of it to observe - but that's it.

"Space Under The Window", by Andrew Plotkin.

Richard Bos

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Jun 14, 2002, 8:59:40 AM6/14/02
to
"Eytan Zweig" <eyt...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> "Richard Bos" <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote in message

> news:3d08a6b3....@news.tiscali.nl...


> > But the question wasn't about all stories. The question was about an
> > event unfolding, and the user _observing_ various parts of this event.
> > The user can choose which part of the scene is to be observed;
> > therefore, the user does have an avatar who can observe these various
> > parts.
>
> Yes, but I want you to be able to do so unmediated by an in-game persona. Of
> course there is someone observing, and making active choices - you, the
> person sitting on the other side of the computer screen. I want to make it
> clear to the player that (in this part of the of the game) he is totally
> external to the action; he obviously exists, since otherwise he can't be
> reading my text, but he doesn't exist in the same world as the events
> described.

Ok, but the commands he gives aren't totally external to the game.
_Something_ is influenced. Whether you call it the player's point of
view or the player's avatar, fact remains that you want _some_ commands
the player gives have to have an influence, even if it is only a
cosmetic influence.

> This is partially because in other parts of the game you *do* have personas,
> and part of my problem is to make it clear that you are not one conciense
> that's controlling or possessing different entities. Sometimes you're
> someone, sometimes you're not. And I don't want the two to get confused with
> each other.

Yes, that is rather a complication. It means you make the player take
two different technical roles - not just two different personas, but two
different levels of being. I don't think it really _is_ possible to do
that without using some kind of meta-remarks on the order of [You are
now an external observer, not part of the scene].
Then again, perhaps you can do something with language. For example, you
could use second-person language in the active parts, then use a clear
context switch between the active and passive parts - a cleared screen,
for example, or a change of colour - and use third-person for the
passive parts. Something like:

----------------

# enter house

You enter the house. As you walk through the door, a vision, a mirage,
comes to you, as lively as if it were actually happening...

[ Wait for a key. Scroll the above text to the top of the screen. ]

A large man and two women are sitting at a table, apparently arguing
about the budget. In the hearth, a kettle is boiling over a burning
fire.

# examine kettle

There is water in the kettle, but it's boiling away fast. At the table,
one of the women slaps her hand on the table.

# take kettle

You cannot interfere with what appears to be only a mirage.

---------------------

But I'm not sure whether that would work.

Richard

Richard Bos

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Jun 14, 2002, 8:59:41 AM6/14/02
to
lrasz...@loyola.edu (L. Ross Raszewski) wrote:

> On Thu, 13 Jun 2002 14:10:28 GMT, Richard Bos
> <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
> >
> >> The best solution, I think, for external to the story commentary, is to
> >> include them in brackets. Then you can say stuff "as [You can't use that
> >> command.]"
> >
> >But that breaks immersion. It's a valid decision, but it isn't one I
> >like.
>
> Oh no; don't play it both ways. You can't say that it breaks immersion
> to remove commands that it would break immersion to leave in.

The problem is that you're not removing the commands. The player can,
and probably will, still type them.

> I mean, I think I know what you're saying, and it's something like "My
> immersion is broken when the normal commands are not available". But
> this requires a different definition of immersion than the one we
> usually use, which whould say "It breaks immersion when I can do
> things that don't make sense in the context of this story"

No... I think what I want to say is "my immersion is broken when the
game does something that reminds me it's a game, and not a complete
story". This means, of course, that when I try to take inventory in this
situation, immersion is already broken. However, a response that makes
sense _within_ the story does more to restore immersion than a response
that is, in essence, _about_ the story, not part of it.

Richard

Matthew Russotto

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Jun 14, 2002, 9:54:09 AM6/14/02
to
I thought the Avatar was the goody-two-shoes character in Ultima?

> USE THE SKULL OF MONDAIN
<CRASH, BANG, FLASH, FLASH... all enemies on screen dead or dying>
You have lost an eighth!
You have lost an eighth!
You have lost an eighth!
You have lost an eighth!
You have lost an eighth!
You have lost an eighth!
You have lost an eighth!
You have lost an eighth!
--
Matthew T. Russotto mrus...@speakeasy.net
=====
Every time you buy a CD, a programmer is kicked in the teeth.
Every time you buy or rent a DVD, a programmer is kicked where it counts.
Every time they kick a programmer, 1000 users are kicked too, and harder.
A proposed US law called the CBDTPA would ban the PC as we know it.
This is not a joke, not an exaggeration. This is real.
http://www.cryptome.org/broadbandits.htm

John Colagioia

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Jun 14, 2002, 10:20:53 AM6/14/02
to
Eytan Zweig wrote:

>I need advice with how to design the game, not the technical side of how to
>actually code it
>

Oh! Your initial comments seemed to me like you had the concept figured
out (since you described it fairly thoroughly) but couldn't quite figure
out how to make the game do what you envisioned. I wasn't going to
presume to suggest anything beyond that, if you already had a plan.

Might I then suggest allowing the player to hop between perspectives of
characters, but not allow them to interfere in the action? Something like:

] WHO AM I
You are Ook of the Banana Clan, keeper of the shiny thing found in the
river.

Oooku picks a grub off of Ukka's back. "Don't let anyone say I don't
love you," he grunts.

] LOOK
Lush Meadow

You stand between several trees--a meeting place--blah, blah, blah. You
see Ukka and Oooku here.

Ukka swats Oooku away, trying to finish reading "Ulysses." You respond
by trying to tug the book from her grasp, until she pokes you in the eye.

] JUMP
That is not what is to be.

Angry, you swat back at Ukka.

] UKKA, LOOK
(as Ukka)
Lush Meadow

You stand between several trees--a meeting place--blah, blah, blah. You
see Ook and Oooku here.

Ook apoligizes for hitting you, obviously guilty for trying to take your
book.

...and so on. It has the advantage of looking like "normal" IF, but
fairly easy to determine the mechanisms that'll work.

On the downside, you'd probably have to rewrite most of the text (or
have a more general engine) to account for each perspective.

[...]

Daniel Barkalow

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Jun 14, 2002, 4:49:59 PM6/14/02
to
On Thu, 13 Jun 2002, Eytan Zweig wrote:

> Yes, but I want you to be able to do so unmediated by an in-game persona. Of
> course there is someone observing, and making active choices - you, the
> person sitting on the other side of the computer screen. I want to make it
> clear to the player that (in this part of the of the game) he is totally
> external to the action; he obviously exists, since otherwise he can't be
> reading my text, but he doesn't exist in the same world as the events
> described.
>
> This is partially because in other parts of the game you *do* have personas,
> and part of my problem is to make it clear that you are not one conciense
> that's controlling or possessing different entities. Sometimes you're
> someone, sometimes you're not. And I don't want the two to get confused with
> each other.
>
> [snip further]
>
> >
> > We must, because in the game as Eytan described it there _is_ someone
> > who makes active choices about what to observe.
>
> Again, the player does so by typing in commands such as "EXAMINE GIRL"; but
> I want it to be clear to the player that what he's doing is ordering the
> TADS interpreter to examine something and report the results, not some sort
> of entity within the game world. Sort of like the way that when I type "SAVE
> GAME", I'm not (in most games) telling the PC to save a copy of his life,
> but I'm telling the interpreter to do so for him.

Can the player do anything other than (meta commands, like 'save'
and) "examine {x}"? If not, you could just disable all non-meta verbs, and
have the user typing nouns to focus on. So those commands would say that
no such thing exists, except for "NORTH", which would describe whatever is
to the north of the viewpoint (if you even have a viewpoint).

Additionally, this would mean that, while in this mode, the user isn't
using verbs at all, only nouns. This seems to me to fit better with the
sort of interaction you intend.

This also gives a sharp contrast with the sections with a persona, because
the only commands which would be entered in the same way would be the meta
commands; even getting descriptions of objects would be done differently,
depending on whether there's someone in the game examining the object.

-Iabervon
*This .sig unintentionally changed*

Joao Mendes

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Jun 15, 2002, 9:30:46 PM6/15/02
to

Hey, all, :)

in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl (Richard Bos) wrote in
news:3d09dd7f...@news.tiscali.nl:

> No... I think what I want to say is "my immersion is broken when the
> game does something that reminds me it's a game, and not a complete
> story". This means, of course, that when I try to take inventory in
> this situation, immersion is already broken. However, a response that
> makes sense _within_ the story does more to restore immersion than a
> response that is, in essence, _about_ the story, not part of it.

A thought: reinterpret the command. Basically, taking inventory is taking
stock of what you have. The only thing an observer has is what he's looking
at. An idea would be to make the inventory command list the observable
contents of the scene:

> i

You can observe the man, the woman or the kettle.

> kettle

The kettle has boiling water. It whistles.

Etc... Simplistic, yes, but hey... BTW, this holds true for other commands
as well:

> n

You look north. You see the living room.

> get kettle

The kettle has boiling water. It whistles.

> talk to woman

The woman is talking to the man. "You're wrong", she says.

And so on...

J.

Jayzee

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Jun 20, 2002, 6:51:21 AM6/20/02
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ne...@davidbrain.co.uk (David Brain) wrote in message news:<memo.20020613...@atlan.compulink.co.uk>...

Hi
I'm curious; why is this a "problem"? The player is essentially using
the "lawnmower solution" to find out as much about the game as
possible, but I don't see this as a problem that the author has to
solve. Isn't it analagous to a person reading a standard linear-prose
whodunit who takes a peek at the ending? In the (presumed) opinion of
the author those ending-peekers are ruining the suspense and mystery
of the story, but it's their choice - the author feels no obligation
to devise some intricate mechanical contraption that will clamp the
pages shut.
Perhaps we should just relax, and suggest to the players that they
will just have *more fun* if they stay within the boundaries of the
story.

On a broader note, what about debugging? It's fair to say at the
moment that all IF authors are amateurs (in the unpaid sense), doing
this in their spare time; this means that author-time is a precious
commodity.
If someone reports "well, I robbed the shop by putting the cash-till
in the matchbox, but then the game crashed", wouldn't it be a better
use of time to reply "well don't be so ruddy stupid then" and spend
the time polishing room descriptions or dialogue rather than trying to
make the game proof against rules-lawyers?

I'm new to this (I only discovered IF by accident after surfing the
net stuffed with too much turkey and booze at xmastime) so perhaps I'm
missing some important point, but it seems to me that concerns about
players taking shortcuts, exploiting authorial oversights or even
outright "cheating" are misplaced. All of those activities suggest to
me that the player is just interested in the story, and is impatient
to know what happens next, which sounds like the definition of a good
game to me.

Jayzee

David Brain

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Jun 20, 2002, 10:20:00 AM6/20/02
to
In article <8bc3adfc.02062...@posting.google.com>,
hal...@hotmail.com (Jayzee) wrote:

> ne...@davidbrain.co.uk (David Brain) wrote in message
> news:<memo.20020613...@atlan.compulink.co.uk>...

> > I want the story to
> > develop according to information received from /either/ X or Y but not
> > both. I can't see a way to stop this short of disabling the Save
> > function.
> >
> > However, that's my problem and not yours ;-)
>

> Hi
> I'm curious; why is this a "problem"? The player is essentially using
> the "lawnmower solution" to find out as much about the game as
> possible, but I don't see this as a problem that the author has to
> solve.

I'm trying to think of an example that I can use (that isn't from my game!)
You're in a room with two doors. Behind the red door there is a key, behind
the blue door is a password. Assume that only one of the doors may be
opened. Further on there is a locked door, which can be opened with either
the key or the password. Now the player could open the blue door, learn the
password, restore, open the red door, take the key, go to the locked door,
open it with the password (remember, they didn't learn the password in this
run through) and still have the key for a (possible) later problem. Let me
assume further that information about how to open the red and blue doors is
obtained in a similar fashion (get information X, restore and get
information Y.)

(In fact, there are several easy ways to fix this, such as ensuring that the
password is only generated at the point of opening the blue door, thus
making the save/restore solution worthless, which is why it isn't an
entirely useful example!)

Although I take your point that the player might view this as a valid
solution to the problem, it is likely to detract spectacularly from the
atmosphere that I am trying to build in my particular game.

> Perhaps we should just relax, and suggest to the players that they
> will just have *more fun* if they stay within the boundaries of the
> story.

This, of course, I do agree with!

--
David Brain

"The text adventure is ... as dead as a dodo" Steven Poole, Trigger Happy
"Oh yeah?" rec.arts.int-fiction

John Colagioia

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Jun 21, 2002, 8:33:40 AM6/21/02
to
Jayzee wrote:

>ne...@davidbrain.co.uk (David Brain) wrote in message
>

[...]

>>I can't work out
>>how to stop people from simply saving their position, watching event X and
>>then restoring and watching event Y,
>>

[...]

>>However, that's my problem and not yours ;-)
>>

[...]

>I'm curious; why is this a "problem"? The player is essentially using
>the "lawnmower solution" to find out as much about the game as
>possible, but I don't see this as a problem that the author has to
>solve.
>

It might not be something necessary to solve, but it may be desirable.
Don't think just of the players who are actively trying to "mow" their
way through the game (nice metaphor, incidentally), but of the players
who played once, and are taking another shot--or got stumped in one
direction, and are trying again. If you allow all the solutions, you
have to account for every possible combination of their applications. Ew.

There are, however, also authors (from what I've read around here) who
seem to believe that you should be typing the "one, true transcript." I
still don't quite understand that.

>Isn't it analagous to a person reading a standard linear-prose
>whodunit who takes a peek at the ending? In the (presumed) opinion of
>the author those ending-peekers are ruining the suspense and mystery
>of the story, but it's their choice - the author feels no obligation
>to devise some intricate mechanical contraption that will clamp the
>pages shut.
>

I did have an elementary school teacher who had an adhesive binding
device (kind of like masking tape, but not quite) to prevent us from
reading ahead of books we were discussing...I thought it was weird, but
I can sort of see his point. Kind of.

>Perhaps we should just relax, and suggest to the players that they
>will just have *more fun* if they stay within the boundaries of the
>story.
>

It's also fun (in different moods) to poke at the boundaries and see how
complete the simulation might be. Just like it's quite a lot of fun,
after enjoying a movie, to sit back and pick at the various holes in the
plot. It's just a different kind of fun.

>On a broader note, what about debugging? It's fair to say at the
>moment that all IF authors are amateurs (in the unpaid sense), doing
>this in their spare time; this means that author-time is a precious
>commodity.
>If someone reports "well, I robbed the shop by putting the cash-till
>in the matchbox, but then the game crashed", wouldn't it be a better
>use of time to reply "well don't be so ruddy stupid then" and spend
>the time polishing room descriptions or dialogue rather than trying to
>make the game proof against rules-lawyers?
>

It depends on your perspective. From a "customer-service" perspective,
no. They're valid customers (see above), and with such a small
community, it's best not to piss anyone off by telling them they're
misusing the product. More importantly, though, it's a great feeling
(not that I've released anything publically) when someone types
something obscure, and you *handled* it. Every mishandled input, no
matter how obscure, feels wrong.

And, perhaps most importantly, wierd things like that usually (in my
limited experience) mean that there's something much more sinister
lurking in the game. To use your example, if putting big things in
small things crashes a game, there's a fairly good chance that the
entire inventory management system has a major bug in it that may
manifest itself under more ordinary circumstances.

I do understand your reasoning, though, in case it sounds like I'm just
bashing you. It's entirely possible to go too far, which is one of the
reasons I haven't released anything yet (well, that and I've split my
energies between a bunch of games, which probably isn't a very good idea
in the long run...).

[...]

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