Instant Death

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Christopher E. Forman

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Mar 6, 1995, 12:40:55 PM3/6/95
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Neil K. Guy (ne...@kits.sfu.ca) wrote:
: Over the past few weeks I've downloaded three or four free or
: shareware games from ftp.gmd.de. And have been very disappointed by
: all of them. Why? Because all of them killed my character without any
: real warning after a handful of turns.

Could you be a bit more specific, even if it means including spoiler
warnings?

: Am I the only one old-fashioned enough to find this damned tiresome
: and rather rude on the part of the author? I really wish that more
: people would read Graham Nelson's excellent list of game suggestions
: in his bill of rights... dropping dead of starvation after 2 minutes
: or being frozen to death or mauled by a monster after stepping through
: a doorway isn't my idea of fun.

True, it's not. But, if used sparingly, and if the program includes an
"UNDO" feature, it isn't so bad, IMHO. For example, in a game I've been
working on (although it's nowhere near completion), there is only one
location in the game where the player can die immediately upon entry, and
that's only because you're supposed to get a ride through the territory.
The game warns you that it's hostile territory in the room description, and
the player can always use the "UNDO" command, so it doesn't strike me as
being unfair.

As for food, I've attempted a somewhat different approach in my game. Your
character starts out with a pack of supplies and automatically eats whenever
he gets hungry (provided he's not in a life-or-death situation at the time).
This eliminates the need to keep track of how long it's been since your
character has eaten. Of course, the player can always drop the pack, and
THEN he'll starve to death if he doesn't retrieve it soon enough, but there's
plenty of warning given in advance.

: The reason I've posted this to arts and not games is because I'm
: interested in this from an author's perspective. I'm still plugging
: away at my own opus in a rather desultory fashion, but one thing I've
: been trying to avoid is the Instant Death Syndrome. You can die in my
: game if you leap off cliffs or kick electrified rail lines, but you
: don't die just by typing "e" one too many times. But given all these
: other games with IDS I'm wondering if it's a problem. Do people care?

I care. I don't like dying without any warning any more than you do. But
if used sparingly, and if some sort of notice is given in advance, it can be
a good technique.

Just my opinions. Post agreements or flames as you like.

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Neil K. Guy

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Mar 5, 1995, 7:18:06 PM3/5/95
to

Over the past few weeks I've downloaded three or four free or
shareware games from ftp.gmd.de. And have been very disappointed by
all of them. Why? Because all of them killed my character without any
real warning after a handful of turns.

Am I the only one old-fashioned enough to find this damned tiresome


and rather rude on the part of the author? I really wish that more
people would read Graham Nelson's excellent list of game suggestions
in his bill of rights... dropping dead of starvation after 2 minutes
or being frozen to death or mauled by a monster after stepping through
a doorway isn't my idea of fun.

The reason I've posted this to arts and not games is because I'm


interested in this from an author's perspective. I'm still plugging
away at my own opus in a rather desultory fashion, but one thing I've
been trying to avoid is the Instant Death Syndrome. You can die in my
game if you leap off cliffs or kick electrified rail lines, but you
don't die just by typing "e" one too many times. But given all these
other games with IDS I'm wondering if it's a problem. Do people care?

I know I type "quit" when I'm randomly killed for no reason, but
perhaps I lack the true stamina to be a diehard adventurer. Or does
everyone else just roll their eyes and type "undo"?

Puzzled,

- Neil K.

--
49N 16' 123W 7' / Vancouver, BC, Canada / n_k...@sfu.ca

Jason Dyer

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Mar 6, 1995, 6:27:25 PM3/6/95
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Neil K. Guy (ne...@kits.sfu.ca) wrote:

: I know I type "quit" when I'm randomly killed for no reason, but


: perhaps I lack the true stamina to be a diehard adventurer. Or does
: everyone else just roll their eyes and type "undo"?

Yes. Or at least, I do.

/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\
Jason Dyer - jd...@indirect.com - Custom PC programming available
Anyone who consults a shrink should have his head examined. - Heinlein
Never trust a tall dwarf. He's lying about something. - Gerrold

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 7, 1995, 4:51:55 AM3/7/95
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In article <neilg.7...@sfu.ca>, Neil K. Guy <ne...@kits.sfu.ca> wrote:
>
> Over the past few weeks I've downloaded three or four free or
>shareware games from ftp.gmd.de. And have been very disappointed by
>all of them. Why? Because all of them killed my character without any
>real warning after a handful of turns.
>
> Am I the only one old-fashioned enough to find this damned tiresome
>and rather rude on the part of the author?

No, certainly not.

Let's face it: many of the games in the if-archive stink. Or, if they
don't stink, then they're not very good.


The if-archive doesn't weed out the bad games, nor should it. It's
great to have an archive site where all IF is welcome, not just some
selection based on somebody's personal likes and dislikes.

However, what is needed is a "Guide to good adventure games", something
to guide you through the jungle of if-archive. Just downloading games
at random and trying them out can be a very tedious process.

I think Whizzard is compiling such a guide right now. Until it's
published, my advice to you is to check out the back issues of SPAG (also
avialable from if-archive) for reviews. I can also give you some personal
recommendations of games that I liked myself:

John's Firewitch
The Sound of One Hand Clapping
World
Jacaranda Jim

Neither of these games is very likely to kill you off without warning.

Then there's Curses, of course, which I haven't played myself but
which everyone seems to love, and, if I may shamelessly plug my own
game, Dunjin (which does kill you off sometimes, but generally not
without warning).

Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se) / yacc computer club, Lund, Sweden
Work: Innovativ Vision AB, Linkoping (magnus...@ivab.se)
Old adresses (may still work): mag...@thep.lu.se, the...@selund.bitnet
PGP key available via finger (to df.lth.se) or on request.

Gerry Kevin Wilson

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Mar 7, 1995, 5:09:33 AM3/7/95
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In article <3jhabr$l...@nic.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@loglady.df.lth.se> wrote:
>
>Let's face it: many of the games in the if-archive stink. Or, if they
>don't stink, then they're not very good.

Ain't it the truth. I may have to put in a Golden Doodoo award for IF
games, though I imagine Aliens Laughed at my Cardigan could hold the
title for years running.

>The if-archive doesn't weed out the bad games, nor should it. It's
>great to have an archive site where all IF is welcome, not just some
>selection based on somebody's personal likes and dislikes.

Right. It's a very democratic, happy system. No need to tamper.

>However, what is needed is a "Guide to good adventure games", something
>to guide you through the jungle of if-archive. Just downloading games
>at random and trying them out can be a very tedious process.
>
>I think Whizzard is compiling such a guide right now. Until it's
>published, my advice to you is to check out the back issues of SPAG (also
>avialable from if-archive) for reviews. I can also give you some personal
>recommendations of games that I liked myself:

Ahh, thank you for the plug, Magnus. Yes, I am working on Whizzard's
Guide to Text Adventures. I hope to include info on Infocom, Level 9,
the if-archive, and others.

>John's Firewitch

Ditto

>Jacaranda Jim

Never got very far though.

>Then there's Curses, of course, which I haven't played myself but
>which everyone seems to love, and, if I may shamelessly plug my own
>game, Dunjin (which does kill you off sometimes, but generally not
>without warning).

Don't forget Avalon, the only text adventure to become a classic before
its completion. ;) Seriously, if I don't hurry up, the game is gonna
finish itself without me. Definitely done this century, no sweat.


--
<~~~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__|_\__/__>

Gary Berkson

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Mar 6, 1995, 1:30:44 PM3/6/95
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If I may go off on a side track, what I object to in some games is
the "random" maze. By that I mean a maze that is not constructed
room by room but where, as an example, going north keeps you in the
same room. There are a number of examples of this, one being
Sorcerer's Revenge. If a maze is going to be used, I feel that you
should be able to solve it fairly.

I realize that this has nothing to do with dying and I don't mean to
flame. Just thought I would add a second opinion.

As for dying, as long as the UNDO command is implemented, I don't
mind. What I DO mind is when being killed automatically ends the
game without a chance at restarting (example is the small "Pesach
Adventure").

Gary

--
--------------------------------------------- |\ |)
Gary Berkson 10003...@compuserve.com | /|
--------------------------------------------- | \|)
The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings. X| |

Jason Noble

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Mar 8, 1995, 4:19:17 AM3/8/95
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In article <3jjfki$3...@agate.berkeley.edu>,
Oliver Crow <oc...@zonker.cs.berkeley.edu> wrote:

>The no-die treatment may seem extreme, but consider this; how often do
>you die in real life? Yet most people find real life compelling (well,
>some of the time at least). What is the role of dying? Surely its
>an ending, not a middle. Certainly other people's deaths are part of
>our life stories, and so is our own, but only once.

>Oliver

Bravo, and well put. This was so densely and poetically stated that I
actually had to look back to the top and check that it wasn't Oliver Sacks
who had posted this gem.

Any feature in an IF game/work that makes the player think about meta-game
issues like keeping an up-to-date save file is surely a Bad Thing (tm).

Regards,


---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jason Noble | jno...@bunyip.bhs.mq.edu.au
National Centre for HIV Social Research | jno...@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia | ph. (61 2) 850 8667
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Neil K. Guy

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Mar 8, 1995, 4:05:53 AM3/8/95
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d...@rice-chex.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett) writes:

>I've noticed that no one wants to "name names" in this newsgroup.
>Unfortunately, feedback -- positive or negative -- only benefits authors if
>we know who and what you're targeting.

Hm. Well, Dave's challenged me, so here we go...

Here are some of the Instant Death Syndrome examples that annoyed me
and prompted me to post my original complaint. I'd like to stress that
I'm *not* saying these are bad games or anything, and I'm not trying
to pick on the authors... I just don't like these scenes.

SPOILERS for Veritas, Fire Witch and WayStation.

Here's an example from Veritas:

>look
Stairwell, 4th floor
You are in the fourth floor stairwell of G Entry. North leads to
your room (G-43); stairs lead down.

Your roommate follows you.

>south
You tumble over the railing of the stairwell and plummet four stories,
landing with a thud on the cold, hard marble floor. You have broken
your neck in several places.

***** You're toast, pal! *****

In 2 turns you have achieved a score of 0 out of 400. This makes you a
high school applicant.


And one from Fire Witch:

>look
Side Corridor
This is a side corridor leading east and west. It is somewhat
smaller than the long tunnel, which lies to the east. An archway lies
to the west. You can't put your finger on it, but you have a very
strange feeling about that archway.

>examine archway
The archway is made of the same tiled stone as the rest of the
construction seems to be made of. Shining your light through the
archway reveals the dim outline of a room with a safe in the wall
beyond it.

There is something that you can't put your finger on about the archway
that bothers you.

>west
As you are moving through the archway, you hear a sound much like that
of breaking glass, and you suddenly become very disoriented. When you
regain your senses a moment later, you are not where you thought you
would be.

Eastern Cell
You are in a non-descript 10 x 10 room of tiled stone. It has the
appearances of a cell, but has no door.
There is an exit to the west.

There is a loud and horrible rushing noise in your ears, and the room
appears to be filling up with what you would describe as steam if it
were not so very very cold.

>west
You frantically try to push out of the room, but moving through the
doorway is like trying to push through thick molasses.

Your flesh feels like leather and your eyes like glass as a huge block
of ice forms around you. Mysteriously you are not killed outright by
this; instead you fall into a deep sleep. Unfortunately, within a few
days without food you expire anyway.

*** You have died ***

In a total of 19 turns, you have achieved a score of 0 points out of a
possible 10.


And finally one from WayStation:

>look
Building Entrance
You are standing in what appears to be the entrance to this
building. To the south is an open door; sunlight streams through it.
You can sometimes see a glittering strand of some sort across the
entrance. A hallway continues north. To the west is a small doorway.

>examine strand
You squint, trying to bring the glittering into sharper focus. After a
moment, you notice that the glitter is coming from dust motes
reflecting several red beams.

>south
You begin to walk south through the entrance. As you do so, you
suddenly lose all feeling in your legs. When you look down to see
what's wrong, you notice that your legs have been cut into tiny bits by
laser beams that cross the threshold of the door. "My, that happened
quickly!" you think as you fall backwards, into the beams. The second
cut splits your torso into more bits, speeding your death.

>> You have died <<

In a total of 16 turns, you have achieved a score of 8 points out of a
possible 110, giving you the rank of Inept Discoverer.


What annoys me about these scenes is that they're quite arbitrary. I
don't call "You feel uneasy about the archway" or "You see glittering
red beams" to be adequate warnings at all. The descriptions of the
deaths are gleefully morbid (ha ha - you died!). And then a couple of
these games, like many games, insult the player by printing a snide
rank (you have 0 out of 21303 points - this makes you a total loser)
when you croak. In all, these scenes make me not want to play the
games any further. And in fact I didn't.

So there you go. Just more ramblings. I'll hop off this particular
hobby horse now; I'm sure it's getting boring for most folk.

Mark Green

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Mar 8, 1995, 6:06:00 AM3/8/95
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cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu (Christopher E. Forman) writes:

>Neil K. Guy (ne...@kits.sfu.ca) wrote:
>: Over the past few weeks I've downloaded three or four free or
>: shareware games from ftp.gmd.de. And have been very disappointed by
>: all of them. Why? Because all of them killed my character without any
>: real warning after a handful of turns.

>Could you be a bit more specific, even if it means including spoiler
>warnings?

>: Am I the only one old-fashioned enough to find this damned tiresome
>: and rather rude on the part of the author? I really wish that more
>: people would read Graham Nelson's excellent list of game suggestions
>: in his bill of rights... dropping dead of starvation after 2 minutes
>: or being frozen to death or mauled by a monster after stepping through
>: a doorway isn't my idea of fun.

>As for food, I've attempted a somewhat different approach in my game. Your


>character starts out with a pack of supplies and automatically eats whenever
>he gets hungry (provided he's not in a life-or-death situation at the time).

I've gotten to the stage now where I can't help thinking that Shareware
adventure games which begin with the player half-starved and then have lots
of inedible or lethal food lying around (Busted and Save Princeton come to
mind) are in fact using this as a shareware cripple - they say "register to
get help" - what they don't mention is that without the help, you'll never
find the food, and be severely limited as to how you can play. I don't mind
lightly crippled Shareware, but if this is true, it's ridiculous.
And - for evidence - the game Starship Columbus (ADVSYS) had a large
warning message that came up as soon as you found the item of food necessary
to play properly - "If you play beyond this point, you must register." Well,
by that point, I didn't want to.


--
Mark Green, CS Undergrad, Reading, UK Standard Disclaimers apply
Finger my acc...@laurel.rdg.ac.uk for G-Code and PGP 2.3 Public Key Block
"Sometimes after an electrical storm, I can see in five dimensions.."

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 8, 1995, 6:35:22 AM3/8/95
to
In article <3jj1rp$l...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>In article <neilg.7...@sfu.ca>, Neil K. Guy <ne...@malibu.sfu.ca> wrote:
>
>> Hm. Well, I could of course. The reason I didn't in my original post
>>is that I wouldn't to come across like I was specifically attacking
>>the authors of the three games I was going to cite. I dunno. Wonder if
>>they'd mind. :)

>
>I've noticed that no one wants to "name names" in this newsgroup.

Indeed, and I confess to being guilty of this in particularly damning
circumstances (hopefully, only dmb knows what I'm referring to :-)).
Maybe it's partly because r.a.i-f has such a small number of regular
contributors - things seem to get more personal.

>Unfortunately, feedback -- positive or negative -- only benefits authors if
>we know who and what you're targeting.

Also, in cases like this, I don't think anybody should be afraid of
hurting the authors' feelings. After all, if I publish a work of
I-F, it's the same as if I publish a novel or a painting; I should
expect criticism, good or bad. Saying that you don't like, say,
Dunjin because it contains mazes won't hurt my feelings. Similarly,
saying that you don't like game X because you get killed too often
shouldn't cause the author to feel personally attacked. If he does feel
hurt, you'd be in your full rights to say "but why do you publish if
you can't take criticism?".

It's of course a totally different matter if you're attacking a person's
opinions as stated here on the group; that's much more sensitive.

>Personally, I'd like to see more reviews and analyses of the better games.

There is a lot of reviews in SPAG. So far, the focus seems to be on
getting at least one brief review of every games in existence; I
suppose that when that objective is fulfilled, we'll see more in-depth
analyses of the better games. But maybe I should leave it to Whizzard
to comment on that :-).

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 8, 1995, 6:42:15 AM3/8/95
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In article <baf.79...@max.tiac.net>,
Carl Muckenhoupt <b...@max.tiac.net> wrote:

>whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson) writes:
>
>>In article <3jhabr$l...@nic.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@loglady.df.lth.se> wrote:
>>>
>>>Let's face it: many of the games in the if-archive stink. Or, if they
>>>don't stink, then they're not very good.
>
>>Ain't it the truth. I may have to put in a Golden Doodoo award for IF
>>games, though I imagine Aliens Laughed at my Cardigan could hold the
>>title for years running.
>
>Hah! No way. Sure, Cardigan is rife with typos and misspellings, was
>apparently never debugged, and suffers from all the ills of AGT and
>more, but at least it was created with an understanding of the
>fundamental basis of IF. Try "detect" for an AGT game that doesn't
>even rise to AGT's usual level of technical merit. Or worse, "cavchao2",
>which is glorified hypertext, except that you have to type the words
>yourself instead of just clicking on them. Plus, it kills without
>warning, has a hackneyed plot, has no save feature, and runs in 40 column
>mode.
>

Ah, but there's a difference between bad and bad. "Detective" is a very
bad adventure: it's author simply can't write, and clearly hasn't even
the faintest idea of what makes a good IF game.

"Cardigan", however, is bad in a trulymagnificent manner; in its own
perverse way, it's a glorious achievement of bad IF. See my review in
SPAG4 for a more detailed opinion.

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Mar 8, 1995, 9:59:42 AM3/8/95
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Excerpts from netnews.rec.arts.int-fiction: 8-Mar-95 Re: Instant Death
Oliver Cr...@zonker.cs.be (2567)

> Ok, why is it a good technique? If you die you must have done something
> wrong, right? But does it enhance the enjoyment of the game? It seems to
> me that for dying to be meaningful there has to be some penalty for it.
> If you can just "undo" or restart where you left off, then you don't
> really feel that your character has died, only that you (the player) did
> the wrong thing and will have to try something else. So in that case, you're
> not really in the game environment any more - your character died, but you
> didn't. You don't identify with your character.

I do. It's part of the suspension of disbelief, kind of -- as part of
the internal game of identifying with the character, I feel like I've
made a fatal mistake when my character dies. Then I restart, but the
thread has been broken, and the "snap" is still in my kinesthetic
memory, if you see what I mean.

Probably I had to learn to do this, but hey, I had to learn to read, too.

It helps if the game does something to emphasize the break. Even
something as trivial as blanking the screen before presenting the
"restore/undo/quit" prompt.

> The only approaches that seem pleasing to me (that I can think of) are
> not being able to die at all (as in "Myst" for example),

As I've said many times before, I feel that this produces inferior
games. Just about every unlosable game I've played has given me less
enjoyment than a decent losable game. (The argument has hashed out many
times before too, so feel free not to engage in it if you don't want to.)

> and dying being
> permanent, but you get plenty of warning and can only die by behaving
> really recklessly.

This reduces to one of the previous cases. If they can save or restore,
it's not permanent death, it's just the Infocom solution where the
restore command includes running the game. If not, it's an incredibly
annoying variant where people have to go through the beginning of the
game a zillion times.

--Z

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

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Mar 7, 1995, 1:56:07 PM3/7/95
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whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson) writes:

>In article <3jhabr$l...@nic.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@loglady.df.lth.se> wrote:
>>
>>Let's face it: many of the games in the if-archive stink. Or, if they
>>don't stink, then they're not very good.

>Ain't it the truth. I may have to put in a Golden Doodoo award for IF
>games, though I imagine Aliens Laughed at my Cardigan could hold the
>title for years running.

Hah! No way. Sure, Cardigan is rife with typos and misspellings, was

apparently never debugged, and suffers from all the ills of AGT and
more, but at least it was created with an understanding of the
fundamental basis of IF. Try "detect" for an AGT game that doesn't
even rise to AGT's usual level of technical merit. Or worse, "cavchao2",
which is glorified hypertext, except that you have to type the words
yourself instead of just clicking on them. Plus, it kills without
warning, has a hackneyed plot, has no save feature, and runs in 40 column
mode.

>>I think Whizzard is compiling such a guide right now. Until it's

>Ahh, thank you for the plug, Magnus. Yes, I am working on Whizzard's

>Guide to Text Adventures. I hope to include info on Infocom, Level 9,
>the if-archive, and others.

I, too, have seen the need for a guide, and started work on an HTML
document that will, in theory, eventually contain brief reviews of
everything in the if-archive, indexed by date, development system, genre,
author, platform, and possibly other qualities. Watch this space for
more details.

--
Carl Muckenhoupt | Is it true that Kibo habitually autogreps all of Usenet
b...@tiac.net | for his name? If so: Hi, Kibo. Like the sig?

Jacob S Weinstein

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Mar 8, 1995, 11:42:33 AM3/8/95
to
ssu9...@reading.ac.uk (Mark Green) writes:


> I've gotten to the stage now where I can't help thinking that Shareware
>adventure games which begin with the player half-starved and then have lots
>of inedible or lethal food lying around (Busted and Save Princeton come to
>mind) are in fact using this as a shareware cripple - they say "register to
>get help" - what they don't mention is that without the help, you'll never
>find the food, and be severely limited as to how you can play. I don't mind
>lightly crippled Shareware, but if this is true, it's ridiculous.

As the author of Save Princeton, I can assure you that this was not my
intention. I put in the food puzzle without realizing how annoying it would
be. In fact, I was dumb enough to think that the creative solution to it would
make it less annoying than the standard "you must find a piece of food every
100 moves" kind of hunger you find in classic games. Boy, was I wrong. It
ended up being the single-most-complained-about puzzle in the whole damn thing.

As the saying goes--"Never attribute to malice what can be adequately
explained by stupidity."

I am, by the way, at work on a revision of Save Princeton that will make
the food puzzle significantly less annoying. Look for it in a couple of
weeks.


-Jacob Weinstein

Christopher E. Forman

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Mar 8, 1995, 11:49:14 AM3/8/95
to
Oliver Crow (oc...@zonker.cs.berkeley.edu) wrote:
: Ok, why is it a good technique?

If used properly (i.e. only once or twice in the game), it can create the
impression of a very dangerous place.

: If you die you must have done something


: wrong, right? But does it enhance the enjoyment of the game? It seems to
: me that for dying to be meaningful there has to be some penalty for it.

I'd call being jarred back into reality a penalty. Don't you?

: If you can just "undo" or restart where you left off, then you don't


: really feel that your character has died, only that you (the player) did
: the wrong thing and will have to try something else. So in that case, you're
: not really in the game environment any more - your character died, but you
: didn't. You don't identify with your character.

: Now if there is a penalty, you might actually feel the loss, and
: so you feel more attached to your next character (knowing of its mortality).
: The problem is, if you can resurrect your character (as with restoring
: a saved game) you're in a different scenario again. In this case you feel
: the loss (as you might not have a recent save, and have to go back far),
: but you aren't feeling in the role of your character - in fact you might
: be more concerned with when you last saved (and making sure that you
: always save at critical moments) than you are with the game itself. This
: seems even more distracting than the "undo". You are worried with the
: "real world" problem of getting you character back and keeping up to
: date saves, and not the situations in the game itself.

There's a fine line between these two sides. Some players get extremely
frustrated, even to the point of quitting, when faced with any backtracking
at all, and sometimes it's hard to remember what all you need to do again.
On the other hand, "UNDO," like you said, doesn't make the player feel any
connection to his character at all. IMHO, it's Picard-vs-Kirk all over
again. Different people prefer one or the other for different reasons, but
there's no real way to say which is "better." I prefer a straight "UNDO,"
because I tend to dislike backtracking when faced with it on numerous
occasions (like when dying, as opposed to, say, doing something really stupid
and having to restore because of it).

: The only approaches that seem pleasing to me (that I can think of) are
: not being able to die at all (as in "Myst" for example), and dying being


: permanent, but you get plenty of warning and can only die by behaving
: really recklessly.

Not dying? I'm sorry, but I have to disagree here. Dying makes the player
feel vulnerable. It gives him the sense that the world of the game is full
of danger, and tells him a misstep might be deadly. If you can't die, what's
the challenge? The game becomes "solve-the-puzzle-or-have-your-progress-
halted-indefinitely." This can seriously hamper the enjoyment of the game.
Four words (and a number): Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2. Need I say more?

Now your second example, that can be a good technique to follow. I've seen
a lot of good text games that make dying a challenge. TimeQuest and MoonMist
are good examples. This technique also serves to give the game an added
dimension of enjoyment: players can try to find ways to get the game to kill
them off. A good way to breathe life back into a game you've already won.

: The no-die treatment may seem extreme, but consider this; how often do


: you die in real life? Yet most people find real life compelling (well,
: some of the time at least). What is the role of dying? Surely its
: an ending, not a middle. Certainly other people's deaths are part of
: our life stories, and so is our own, but only once.

You're (pardon the cliche) comparing apples and oranges here. The whole
point of interactive fiction is that it's NOT real life. It gives you the
opportunity to go places you could never go in real life, to do things that
are realistically impossible.

If you're going to criticize dying in adventure games because it doesn't
resemble real life, then you also have to criticize everything else that's
fictitious. For example, since when do you get a score in real life? And
the use of magic in any fantasy games would be unrealistic. And since when
do all rooms have exits that lead exactly in the compass directions? See
what I mean? I-F and life are two different things. Realism is good when
you're building an I-F story, but I-F will NEVER exactly resemble real life,
so let's not overdo it.

Gerry Kevin Wilson

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 12:02:56 PM3/8/95
to
In article <3jk4pq$1...@nic.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:

>>Personally, I'd like to see more reviews and analyses of the better games.
>
>There is a lot of reviews in SPAG. So far, the focus seems to be on
>getting at least one brief review of every games in existence; I
>suppose that when that objective is fulfilled, we'll see more in-depth
>analyses of the better games. But maybe I should leave it to Whizzard
>to comment on that :-).

Ok. Here's the deal on that. The only games I don't like to accept
repeat reviews for are the Infocom games. Why?

1. There are plenty of '80s magazines with Infocom revies in them.
2. If I accepted repeats on those games, we'd have to sit through 80
reviews of every one of them. That gets old, no matter how original the
opinion.

Any other game I will gleefully accept duplicate reviews for. But then,
I don't writes 'em, I just edits 'em.

--
<~~TREV ERA~~~~~~~~~~~~~SIGHT~UNSEEN~~~~~~~~NO~RELEASE~DATE~YET~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< I W In the jungle of the big city, a predator stalks one | ~~\ >
< GO SOFT he considers easy prey, a blind student. Feel the fear | /~\ | >
<_______________________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Neil K. Guy

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 4:08:24 PM3/7/95
to
cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu (Christopher E. Forman) writes:

>Neil K. Guy (ne...@kits.sfu.ca) wrote:
>: Over the past few weeks I've downloaded three or four free or
>: shareware games from ftp.gmd.de. And have been very disappointed by
>: all of them. Why? Because all of them killed my character without any
>: real warning after a handful of turns.

>Could you be a bit more specific, even if it means including spoiler
>warnings?

Hm. Well, I could of course. The reason I didn't in my original post


is that I wouldn't to come across like I was specifically attacking
the authors of the three games I was going to cite. I dunno. Wonder if
they'd mind. :)

>The game warns you that it's hostile territory in the room description, and


>the player can always use the "UNDO" command, so it doesn't strike me as
>being unfair.

Yeah, but I *don't like* being killed, is what I'm griping I suppose.
I just don't enjoy suddenly reading a gruesome description of my
character's gory death after I've walked through a doorway or
somesuch, undo or no undo. I don't find it heightens the tension or
anything - the sheer arbitrariness of it grates.

- Neil K. (whine whine)

Jon Drukman

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 5:21:41 PM3/8/95
to
Mark Green (ssu9...@reading.ac.uk) wrote:
: I've gotten to the stage now where I can't help thinking that Shareware

: adventure games which begin with the player half-starved and then have lots
: of inedible or lethal food lying around (Busted and Save Princeton come to
: mind) are in fact using this as a shareware cripple - they say "register to
: get help" -

This is a load of crap. As the author of Busted, I can state without
fear of contradiction that Busted is Freeware. Personally, I hate the
whole Shareware concept and wouldn't touch it with a dead mackerel.

Nowhere in my game does it say "register to get help." I just
wouldn't do something like that; it's not in my character.

: what they don't mention is that without the help, you'll never


: find the food, and be severely limited as to how you can play. I don't mind
: lightly crippled Shareware, but if this is true, it's ridiculous.

It's not true. Your allegation is ridiculous.

Many people have solved Busted without help. My email address comes
up when anyone types "help" and I answer all requests within a day of
receipt.

/jon

David Baggett

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 6:34:22 PM3/8/95
to
In article <3jkrm5$3...@ixnews4.ix.netcom.com>,
John Baker <bak...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:

>BTW, on a non-related note, I am writing this from a hotel in Hollywood,
>Florida, with a view of the beach and a Sam Adams in front of me. Taking
>a break from sunning myself and watching the scenery walk by. And I've got
>many days of vacation to go. Anyone jealous?

How many of the seven sins does this count as? :)

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu MIT AI Lab "Verbing weirds language" -- Calvin
ADVENTIONS: Kuul text adventures! Email for a catalog of releases.

Corlock the Lich

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 4:08:38 PM3/7/95
to
In <baf.79...@max.tiac.net> b...@max.tiac.net (Carl Muckenhoupt)
writes:

>
>whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson) writes:
>
>>In article <3jhabr$l...@nic.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson
<m...@loglady.df.lth.se> wrote:
>>>
>>>Let's face it: many of the games in the if-archive stink. Or, if they
>>>don't stink, then they're not very good.
>
>>Ain't it the truth. I may have to put in a Golden Doodoo award for IF
>>games, though I imagine Aliens Laughed at my Cardigan could hold the
>>title for years running.
>
>Hah! No way. Sure, Cardigan is rife with typos and misspellings, was
>apparently never debugged, and suffers from all the ills of AGT and
>more, but at least it was created with an understanding of the
>fundamental basis of IF. Try "detect" for an AGT game that doesn't
>even rise to AGT's usual level of technical merit. Or worse,
"cavchao2",
>which is glorified hypertext, except that you have to type the words
>yourself instead of just clicking on them. Plus, it kills without
>warning, has a hackneyed plot, has no save feature, and runs in 40
column
>mode.

You're all wrong. Infiltration to IBM Headquarters is by far the worst.
Play it and you'll see why. (I would especially appreciate being told
why the only exit from a "north-south hallway" is an unlisted door to
the east) Cardigan at least *tries* to be if...

Corlock (My game, now titled "Lost Colony", will be in beta sometime in
late May- I'm beginning to learn the realities of coding large games...)


--
/ / / NB "Corlock" Webb / / / cor...@ix.netcom.com / / / / /
/ / / "It's the end of the world as we know it, and / / / / /
/ / / I feel fine." -REM / / / Kupo! / / / A-P, OPPS / / /
/ / / loves anime, hates sentai / / / VChromium Software / /
/ / / GO -d+ H+@H s+:+ !g p?+@p1+ au- !a@a? w++@w+++ v++ / / /
/ / / C++, but C++++ U*>UL++ P+ L+>L++ 3 E N++ K++ W+@ M+/ / /
/ / / !V -po+ Y+ t+ 5 j R+(R+++) G++ tv b+++ D++>D+++ B--- / /
/ / / e* ;) u---(u**)(u*) h* f+ r n--- y? / / / / / / / / / /

Derek Jones

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 5:57:35 PM3/7/95
to
ne...@kits.sfu.ca (Neil K. Guy) writes:


> Over the past few weeks I've downloaded three or four free or
>shareware games from ftp.gmd.de. And have been very disappointed by
>all of them. Why? Because all of them killed my character without any
>real warning after a handful of turns.

> ...

> I know I type "quit" when I'm randomly killed for no reason, but
>perhaps I lack the true stamina to be a diehard adventurer. Or does
>everyone else just roll their eyes and type "undo"?

> Puzzled,

> - Neil K.

Speaking for myself, I figure that dying a lot can just be part of the
game, if the game is set in a very dangerous setting. Nearly every
adventure has the ability to save game state. I suppose that the "without
warning" aspect is the frustrating one. If the game lets me know that
my life is in peril, I'm not as taken aback if I die due to a misstep.
In terms of adventure gaming frustation, I am much more ticked off by having
to play "guess the verb".

Incidentally, I hope that I didn't contribute to your frustration with
my games! (They are "starship.acx" and "gorreven.acx" under the
games/archetype directory.) If so, I apologize!

Some very fine adventure games never really endanger the player character.
"Myst" comes to mind as one in which you have to go to some trouble to "lose"
the game.

--Derek Jones
d...@primenet.com

--
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Derek Jones
d...@primenet.com
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

David Baggett

unread,
Mar 7, 1995, 8:39:05 PM3/7/95
to
In article <neilg.7...@sfu.ca>, Neil K. Guy <ne...@malibu.sfu.ca> wrote:

> Hm. Well, I could of course. The reason I didn't in my original post
>is that I wouldn't to come across like I was specifically attacking
>the authors of the three games I was going to cite. I dunno. Wonder if
>they'd mind. :)

I've noticed that no one wants to "name names" in this newsgroup.


Unfortunately, feedback -- positive or negative -- only benefits authors if
we know who and what you're targeting.

Furthermore, when you don't name names, you just leave us authors wondering
if you're talking about our games. By all means, let us know what you
don't like so we can do a better job next time (or at least take the
criticism under advisement, or patiently explain why you're wrong. :)

Personally, I'd like to see more reviews and analyses of the better games.

Dave Baggett

The Essential Addition

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 10:30:20 PM3/8/95
to
In article <neilg.7...@sfu.ca>, Neil K. Guy <ne...@malibu.sfu.ca> wrote:
> Yeah, but I *don't like* being killed, is what I'm griping I suppose.
>I just don't enjoy suddenly reading a gruesome description of my
>character's gory death after I've walked through a doorway or
>somesuch, undo or no undo. I don't find it heightens the tension or
>anything - the sheer arbitrariness of it grates.

Oh, I must disagree. I don't feel as though I've really FINISHED a game
until I've died in every possible manner. I liberally save games so that
if I see an opportunity to die, I can take it. I find that lots of
times, an author's wittiest material shows up when you die. If you're
into text adventures then you probably read Choose Your Own Adventure
books as a kid. You didn't stop reading when you got to a happy ending,
did you?

$.02


--
_____________________________________________________
rbryan@ =--> ....... | ............... | ....... |...| ....|
netcom.com | ..... | ...... | ...|..| .... |.... .... | The Essential
|......|..........|.................|......|.....|.. =--> Addition
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oliver Crow

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 12:34:10 AM3/8/95
to
Christopher E. Forman <cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:
>Neil K. Guy (ne...@kits.sfu.ca) wrote:
>: Over the past few weeks I've downloaded three or four free or
>: shareware games from ftp.gmd.de. And have been very disappointed by
>: all of them. Why? Because all of them killed my character without any
>: real warning after a handful of turns.
>
>: Am I the only one old-fashioned enough to find this damned tiresome
>: and rather rude on the part of the author?
>
>I care. I don't like dying without any warning any more than you do. But
>if used sparingly, and if some sort of notice is given in advance, it can be
>a good technique.

Ok, why is it a good technique? If you die you must have done something

wrong, right? But does it enhance the enjoyment of the game? It seems to
me that for dying to be meaningful there has to be some penalty for it.

If you can just "undo" or restart where you left off, then you don't
really feel that your character has died, only that you (the player) did
the wrong thing and will have to try something else. So in that case, you're
not really in the game environment any more - your character died, but you
didn't. You don't identify with your character.

Now if there is a penalty, you might actually feel the loss, and
so you feel more attached to your next character (knowing of its mortality).
The problem is, if you can resurrect your character (as with restoring
a saved game) you're in a different scenario again. In this case you feel
the loss (as you might not have a recent save, and have to go back far),
but you aren't feeling in the role of your character - in fact you might
be more concerned with when you last saved (and making sure that you
always save at critical moments) than you are with the game itself. This
seems even more distracting than the "undo". You are worried with the
"real world" problem of getting you character back and keeping up to
date saves, and not the situations in the game itself.

The only approaches that seem pleasing to me (that I can think of) are


not being able to die at all (as in "Myst" for example), and dying being
permanent, but you get plenty of warning and can only die by behaving
really recklessly.

The no-die treatment may seem extreme, but consider this; how often do


you die in real life? Yet most people find real life compelling (well,
some of the time at least). What is the role of dying? Surely its
an ending, not a middle. Certainly other people's deaths are part of
our life stories, and so is our own, but only once.

Oliver


Jeff Somers

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 3:09:11 AM3/8/95
to
So adventures should either not allow the player to die (Myst and most
LucasArts adventures) or should allow the player to die, and make sure
that the player's character is deleted (like NetHack)? This is, I
assume, what you mean by "dying being permanent". I disagree. I think
you are arguing that adventures should be simulations (like "real life")
and therefore the character's death should be simulated as realisticly
as possible (death is permanent). I agree that some aspects of a game
should be handled as a real life simulation. If my character picks up a
basket, he should be able to sit on it, put things in it, cover lamps with
it, etc. Why? Because this makes sense, and it makes the game more
enjoyable. I can try out new things with the newly found basket, and
I'm not bumping up against artificial limits in the game.

But say the character dies. Then, in my role as game player, I find
that my character has been deleted. Thus I have to 1) replay the game
to get back to where I was (not fun) and 2) take steps to protect my
character file from being erased, in order to avoid having to do 1) again.
Unlike NetHack, adventures are not randomly generated worlds, so replaying
the game is even more of a drag than it is in NetHack. The end result
is not "I feel the loss of my character, gee this game is realistic",
instead it's "this game better not screw me over again, how can I
protect my character file?" When I replay the game, I am now worried
about my character file being deleted, which distances me from the
game, instead of drawing me in with its versimilatude. After all, if
it were "really" real, I would only get one shot at the game, just like
real life. But, since I'm godlike enough to get another shot at the
game, then I should be godlike enough to resurrect an old character.

In the end, I think it's a matter of how much you enjoy computer
simulations. Computer simulations work well if the game player has
lots of free room to experiment in the simulation and tweak the
various setup configurations in order to produce different results
(building cities in SimCity, trying different missiles in a flight
sim, etc.) I don't think this applies well to adventure games. However,
it's basically a matter of personal preference. For me, a "permanent"
death just makes me mad, and does not at all enhance the game for me.
Either an undo command, restoring a previous game, or playing the game
over is a "real world" operation which distances me from the game. Since
an undo is the quickest, simplest and most effective of the three
choices, it's the one I prefer in a game where my character can die.

jeff s.
jso...@marcam.com

In article <3jjfki$3...@agate.berkeley.edu>, oc...@zonker.cs.berkeley.edu (Oliver
Crow) writes:
[snip]

John Baker

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 1:05:57 PM3/8/95
to
In <neilg.7...@sfu.ca> ne...@malibu.sfu.ca (Neil K. Guy) writes:

>cef...@rs6000.cmp


>>Could you be a bit more specific, even if it means including spoiler
>>warnings?
>

> Hm. Well, I could of course. The reason I didn't in my original post
>is that I wouldn't to come across like I was specifically attacking
>the authors of the three games I was going to cite. I dunno. Wonder if
>they'd mind. :)

I don't think you would come across as attacking the authors. I don't
even think you'd come across as *attacking* their games (whatever they
may be ;)). I think one of the main purposes of r.a.i is to discuss
these types of issues and offer these types of critiques. Any author who
can't stand a critic is in for a rough life. Of course, the author is
always free as to whether they think they have something to learn from
the critic or if they don't.

Carl Muckenhoupt

unread,
Mar 9, 1995, 2:28:03 PM3/9/95
to
kv...@diku.dk (Casper Kvan Clausen) writes:

>ne...@kits.sfu.ca (Neil K. Guy) writes:

>> Am I the only one old-fashioned enough to find this damned tiresome
>>and rather rude on the part of the author?

>No. In fact, I much prefer the approach seen in LucasArts games, where it is
>IMPOSSIBLE to die. This does not detract from the tension if done properly,
>and greatly enhances gameplay. After all, dying only makes people

>a) Stop playing your game, or
>b) Restore or Undo (and then what have you gained?).

>So all in all, I think you should never be able to get killed in IF.

In terms of gameplay, death is never necessary. If you can implement a
death scene, you can implement a "near-death" scene in which the player
character realizes at the last moment what's going to happen and retreats
to safety (or some variation thereupon.)

Note that near-death is different from forbidding action. Near-death is
"As you enter the lair, the dragon's head swivels in your direction, ears
perked up and nostrils twitching. You wisely retreat." and not "You
wisely decide not to enter the dragon's lair." It's a subtle distinction,
but makes a world of difference to the feel of the game. The former
feels protective, the latter restrictive. Near-death makes the player
say "Whew, that was a close one"; forbidding action makes the player say
"Yes, I know there's a dragon in there. I want to take my chances, dammit."
In addition, a forbidden action can be misinterpreted by the player as an
action that will always be forbidden, ie in the same class as "eat sword".
When that is indeed the case, forbidding the action might be justified. I
have no problems with not being allowed to walk off a cliff. The cliff
just becomes another barrier, like a wall. A statement like "You step
off the cliff with one foot. Realizing that you're about to fall to your
death, you quickkly regain your balance and step away" may well be
overdramatic for the situation. (Or not, if the room description is full
of phrases like "your precarious perch" and "the howling wind".)

The best argument I've ever seen in favor of death is that it can enhance
an atmosphere of danger. Near-death doesn't feel the same as death.
Wandering around in the more secret regions of "The Lurking Horror" has a
strong edge to it, a sense that every step you take is putting your life
at risk. This sensation would probably be lost if you knew that the worst
that could happen to you is that you'd get stuck for a while.
Still, this only argues in favor of death with lots of warning. It
certainly doesn't justify that stairwell in "Veritas", although the case
in "John's Fire Witch" is debatable - the sight of John frozen in the cell
communicates some sense of danger, but is it adequate?

Christopher E. Forman

unread,
Mar 9, 1995, 7:23:33 PM3/9/95
to
Carl Muckenhoupt (b...@max.tiac.net) wrote:
: Note that near-death is different from forbidding action. Near-death is

: "As you enter the lair, the dragon's head swivels in your direction, ears
: perked up and nostrils twitching. You wisely retreat." and not "You
: wisely decide not to enter the dragon's lair." It's a subtle distinction,
: but makes a world of difference to the feel of the game.

I don't know. I personally don't care for either of these. The first, as
you say, is very restrictive, but I find the second to be that way as well.
Take your example. The game has you "wisely retreat" from the dragon. But
what if you don't WANT to be wise? What if you want to be stupid and see
what happens if you stand around and let yourself get killed? For me,
being forced to retreat gives the impression that you don't have complete
control over your character. You can't make him do whatever you want him
to. Thus, you don't feel that you yourself ARE that character. The
connection is lost.

Jason Dyer

unread,
Mar 8, 1995, 6:30:24 PM3/8/95
to
Oliver Crow (oc...@zonker.cs.berkeley.edu) wrote:
: The no-die treatment may seem extreme, but consider this; how often do

: you die in real life? Yet most people find real life compelling (well,
: some of the time at least). What is the role of dying? Surely its
: an ending, not a middle. Certainly other people's deaths are part of
: our life stories, and so is our own, but only once.

And since when is an adventure anything close to real life? If it
was, you would be typing commands like TYPE PAPER. DRIVE. GO TO
WATER COOLER.
I find that dying usually depends on the game I'm playing. If it's
like a cartoon (such as Day of the Tentacle) I want to be totally
immortal. If it's a horror (like The Lurking Horror) I don't mind
how often I die.
A good strategy is sometimes to have a Zorkian type resurrection
where your objects get scattered. Of course, this only works for
fantasy.

/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\_/~\
Jason Dyer - jd...@indirect.com - Custom PC programming available
Anyone who consults a shrink should have his head examined. - Heinlein
Never trust a tall dwarf. He's lying about something. - Gerrold

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Mar 10, 1995, 3:23:44 AM3/10/95
to
In article <neilg.7...@sfu.ca>, Neil K. Guy <ne...@kits.sfu.ca> wrote:
> Here are some of the Instant Death Syndrome examples that annoyed me
>and prompted me to post my original complaint. I'd like to stress that
>I'm *not* saying these are bad games or anything, and I'm not trying
>to pick on the authors... I just don't like these scenes.
>
> SPOILERS for Veritas, Fire Witch and WayStation.

(spoilers deleted)

> What annoys me about these scenes is that they're quite arbitrary. I
>don't call "You feel uneasy about the archway" or "You see glittering
>red beams" to be adequate warnings at all. The descriptions of the
>deaths are gleefully morbid (ha ha - you died!). And then a couple of
>these games, like many games, insult the player by printing a snide
>rank (you have 0 out of 21303 points - this makes you a total loser)
>when you croak. In all, these scenes make me not want to play the
>games any further. And in fact I didn't.


Well, well, well. I can't say about _Waystation_ and _Veritas_, but you
certainly missed something when ditching _Fire Witch_ just because you
died. Of course, it's a matter of taste. Maybe WHizzard and the other people
compiling "guides to IF" should mention the "killing level" of each game,
like

0: Impossible to die (example: Predition's Flames)
1: Possible to die, but only after very definite warnings
("You're standing immediately north of a sheer, 1000-foot precipice.
> south
Doing that would surely get you killed!
> south
You fall and break your neck. Didn't I tell you so?")
2: Will occasionally kill you after a not quite explicit warning
(example: Waystation)
3: Will sometimes kill you without warning (example: Veritas)
4: Will kill you often, without warning, and gloat about it
(example: Another Lifeless Planet And Me With No Beer)

Would such a rating help you? Would many people appreciate that?

(The examples from Veritas and Waystation are the ones you quoted; as
I said, I haven't played those games so I don't know if they're
characteristic of the whole games).


As for your particular examples, here are my comments:

1. Veritas: I agree. I think you shouldn't be able to break your
neck just by typing the wrong direction in such a mundane situation.
After all, one might misread the room description...

2. Waystation: Again, I agree that the warning is not explicit enough.
Sure, the description of the laser beam is quite accurate; _however_,
as anybody who's been working with laser can tell you, most laser beams
(especially the kind used to monitor doors!) are of much too low power
to hurt you at all, unless you stared directly into the beam.

3. Fire Witch: Here I must protest! You're really being unfair - because
you've misunderstood the entire thing! This is *not* an "Instant death",
this is a *puzzle*. You have an entire move to get out of the trap, and
I can give you this much of a spoiler: unless you've dropped it, you
were carrying the means of survival when you get caught, you just failed to
use it. Blaming the author for that isn't quite fair, is it? Furthermore,
in fact you can't win the game without setting of the trap (though
under slightly different circumstances).

On the other hand, maybe the warning about the trap should've been a little
more explicit, like "you sense danger approaching the archway.
Are you sure you want to continue?"

Casper Kvan Clausen

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Mar 9, 1995, 8:25:47 AM3/9/95
to
ne...@kits.sfu.ca (Neil K. Guy) writes:

> Am I the only one old-fashioned enough to find this damned tiresome
>and rather rude on the part of the author?

No. In fact, I much prefer the approach seen in LucasArts games, where it is
IMPOSSIBLE to die. This does not detract from the tension if done properly,
and greatly enhances gameplay. After all, dying only makes people

a) Stop playing your game, or
b) Restore or Undo (and then what have you gained?).

So all in all, I think you should never be able to get killed in IF.

--
_ _ _ _ __ _ _ | Yes. Thank you, naive human. Now I can
( )/ )( \/ )/__\ ( \( ) | finish taking over the world!
) ( \ //(__)\ ) ( @diku.dk |
(_)\_) \/(__)(__)(_)\_) | - Purple Tentacle

Matthew Russotto

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Mar 9, 1995, 5:15:31 PM3/9/95
to
In article <3jj1rp$l...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:

}I've noticed that no one wants to "name names" in this newsgroup.
}Unfortunately, feedback -- positive or negative -- only benefits authors if
}we know who and what you're targeting.

Well, not to name any names, but I wonder if certain "guess the verb"
problems are a result of the players (including myself) not thinking
in English :-)

james reese

unread,
Mar 10, 1995, 3:57:26 PM3/10/95
to
Neil wrote:

Here's an example from Veritas:

>look
Stairwell, 4th floor
You are in the fourth floor stairwell of G Entry. North leads to
your room (G-43); stairs lead down.

Your roommate follows you.

>south
You tumble over the railing of the stairwell and plummet four stories,
landing with a thud on the cold, hard marble floor. You have broken
your neck in several places.

***** You're toast, pal! *****

In 2 turns you have achieved a score of 0 out of 400. This makes you a
high school applicant.


I reply:

1) As author of VERITAS, no offense taken.
2) I wrote this little bit on a whim, trying to liven up the game with
some descriptive prose that I thought few would find (until now :) ).
Since TADS offers undo, I felt that some players would appreciate the
death scene, undo, and then move on--I never figured that it would annoy
anyone so much. Sorry.

3) BTW, in VERITAS you can kill yourself without warning in 2 or 3 more
places, all with a (hopefully) entertaining death description; an
immediate undo should solve any harm done.

My $0.02,
Jim!
jre...@leland.stanford.edu


Oliver Crow

unread,
Mar 12, 1995, 5:57:00 PM3/12/95
to
In article <1995Mar8.1...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu>,

Christopher E. Forman <cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:
>I'd call being jarred back into reality a penalty. Don't you?
Perhaps the wrong kind of penalty. Penalising the player by preventing
progress in the game is OK, but causing the player hassle and breaking
the illusion of the fantasy world may just turn people off (IMHO).

>Some players get extremely
>frustrated, even to the point of quitting, when faced with any backtracking
>at all, and sometimes it's hard to remember what all you need to do again.
>On the other hand, "UNDO," like you said, doesn't make the player feel any
>connection to his character at all. IMHO, it's Picard-vs-Kirk all over
>again. Different people prefer one or the other for different reasons, but
>there's no real way to say which is "better."

I think it may depend as much on the game and how its written, as on the
person playing as to which works better. Of course different people prefer
different games, but I like games that make me feel "really there".

>Not dying? I'm sorry, but I have to disagree here. Dying makes the player
>feel vulnerable. It gives him the sense that the world of the game is full
>of danger, and tells him a misstep might be deadly.

Sure, having a sense of mortality may enhance the game environment for
some games. But you've got to be careful to give it meaning. Unless I
die for a good reason, consistent with the game's world, I may feel
frustrated with the game and ejected from it, rather than excited by the
tension and danger and drawn into the game.

>If you can't die, what's the challenge?

Perhaps, solving the game, perhaps saving the world, perhaps falling in
love, perhaps understanding an ancient mystery. It just depends.

>The game becomes "solve-the-puzzle-or-have-your-progress-
>halted-indefinitely." This can seriously hamper the enjoyment of the game.
>Four words (and a number): Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2. Need I say more?

Sorry, haven't played LTGP2, but I did play Myst, and being stuck in that
game made the times when you finally did solve the puzzle all the more
glorious (for me). Anyway, dying isn't a solution to that problem - I
feel no more fulfilled when I die than when I'm stuck - less so in fact.

>If you're going to criticize dying in adventure games because it doesn't
>resemble real life, then you also have to criticize everything else that's
>fictitious. For example, since when do you get a score in real life?

Don't get me started - I think scores are just pointless. But the point
is that in fiction you build a fantasy world. It doesn't have to be
*realistic* but it should be *convincing*.

Now you could make it an axiom of your fantasy that people may die at
any time and explore that as a theme in your game (as for example
Algis Budrys does in his Sci-Fi novel Rogue Moon), but that's not what
generally happens. Usually you just die and have to restart or resume.

Oli


David Whitten

unread,
Mar 12, 1995, 8:53:57 PM3/12/95
to
Magnus Olsson (m...@marvin.df.lth.se) made the very good suggestion :
: Maybe WHizzard and the other people

: compiling "guides to IF" should mention the "killing level" of each game,
: like

: 0: Impossible to die (example: Predition's Flames)
: 1: Possible to die, but only after very definite warnings
: ("You're standing immediately north of a sheer, 1000-foot precipice.
: > south
: Doing that would surely get you killed!
: > south
: You fall and break your neck. Didn't I tell you so?")

Maybe the use of the exclamation point?
> south!
You fall and break your neck. didn't I tell you so?

: 2: Will occasionally kill you after a not quite explicit warning
: (example: Waystation)

: 3: Will sometimes kill you without warning (example: Veritas)
: 4: Will kill you often, without warning, and gloat about it
: (example: Another Lifeless Planet And Me With No Beer)

: Would such a rating help you?

I think it is a really good idea!

Would many people appreciate that?

I think those who don't mind dying wouldn't be bothered by it, and those who
do mind would appreciate it.

David (whi...@netcom.com) (214) 437-5255

Casper Kvan Clausen

unread,
Mar 13, 1995, 7:28:12 AM3/13/95
to
b...@max.tiac.net (Carl Muckenhoupt) writes:

>It
>certainly doesn't justify that stairwell in "Veritas", although the case
>in "John's Fire Witch" is debatable - the sight of John frozen in the cell
>communicates some sense of danger, but is it adequate?

I don't think so. Sure, you get a sense of danger, but it doesn't relate to
the archway at all. I think a good way to do it would be to have the player
feel a chill as he approached the archway. This would make for a tighter
connection with what happens, giving the player a chance to actually predict
the consequences of his actions.

Fred Sloniker

unread,
Mar 13, 1995, 3:55:37 PM3/13/95
to
Oliver Crow <oc...@zonker.cs.berkeley.edu> wrote:

>Sure, having a sense of mortality may enhance the game environment for
>some games. But you've got to be careful to give it meaning. Unless I
>die for a good reason, consistent with the game's world, I may feel
>frustrated with the game and ejected from it, rather than excited by the
>tension and danger and drawn into the game.

IMHO:

Dying in an int-fiction game turns me off pretty quickly. Finding out
all my save spots are useless because of something I didn't do five
hundred turns ago sends the game out the window. Being stuck, on the
other hand... I fiddle with it a while. I save the game and eat
something while trying to figure out what to do. I ask my brother if
he has any ideas. I sleep on it, sometimes waking with an
inspiration. I post in appropriate newsgroups. But I *don't* *give*
*up*, as long as the game doesn't *encourage* me to give up by
stiffing my character repeatedly.

On the other hand, in the right environment... (odd thought ahead!)

Edge of the Cliff

A chill wind whips over your body, threatening to throw you out into
space at any moment. Unfortunately, it's the least of the dangers to
you at the moment; the villagers are approaching from behind, and
they're armed with rather sharp axes. Think fast...

> look over cliff

It's about a thousand-foot drop onto jagged rocks; the tide's out at
the moment, which means that your body wouldn't be washed out to sea.
There is no way to climb up or down, though a long winding path leads
from the shore below to a quiet village.

The villagers are close enough to hear now. They're chanting
something about killing the demon. That would be you...

> jump over cliff

Given the circumstances, probably a wise move. Unfortunately, rather
a painful one.

*** You have died ***

Bottom of Cliff

The scenery here's rather nice, actually, but you can't really
appreciate it because you're dead. It will comfort you to know,
though, that the villagers have no way of reaching you here.

> wait

Time passes...

The villagers mill around the cliff edge a moment. One of them steps
too close; with a scream, he's sucked over by the wind. He makes a
huge mess right next to you.

> wait

Time passes...

With the warning of their dead comrade, the villagers hastily retreat,
confident that not even a 'demon' could survive that kind of fall.
Without the light of their torches, it gets rather dark out.

> wait

Time passes...

*** You have recovered ***

Bottom of Cliff

You're lying sprawled against some rather sharp rocks, a rather
uncomfortable position, and you think you've been lacerated in places
you didn't even know bled, but it beats having let the axe-wielding
maniacs above make a more surgical strike. A pity about the stinking
corpse lying next to you; not dead three minutes and he already smells
like a charnel house...

> get up

A difficult proposition, but you manage it. You see a rather large
bloodstain where you were lying, and reflect that a place where you
can rest and recover would be a very good idea. Preferably somewhere
out of the tide's reach-- as it's starting to rise.

...so what do you guys think? (:3

---Fred M. Sloniker, stressed undergrad
L. Lazuli R'kamos, FurryMUCKer
laz...@u.washington.edu

Remember: once you pull the pin, Mr. Hand Grenade is no longer your friend.

Steve Morocho

unread,
Mar 15, 1995, 7:15:24 PM3/15/95
to
Jacob S Weinstein (jac...@larry.wyvern.com) wrote:
: ssu9...@reading.ac.uk (Mark Green) writes:


: -Jacob Weinstein


Personally.. I think games should not put a food limit on the number of
moves you make but rather the time you have been playing the game since
you last ate. For example a slow traveller may make 100 moves in about 1
hour while a faster player can make 100 moves in a few minutes. There
should be a way to check for the time that has passed instead of the
number of moves that one makes. Oh well... just a suggestion.

Steve


Ps. Can someone give me a couple ftp sites where to find the latest
int-fiction games. It's been a while since I've played some.

Gerry Kevin Wilson

unread,
Mar 16, 1995, 2:21:09 AM3/16/95
to
In article <3k7vus$h...@hptemp1.cc.umr.edu>,
Steve Morocho <smor...@saucer.cc.umr.edu> wrote:

>Personally.. I think games should not put a food limit on the number of
>moves you make but rather the time you have been playing the game since
>you last ate. For example a slow traveller may make 100 moves in about 1
>hour while a faster player can make 100 moves in a few minutes. There
>should be a way to check for the time that has passed instead of the
>number of moves that one makes. Oh well... just a suggestion.
>
> Steve

Well, I have a different view on the matter. Consider. The human body
will last quite well w/o food for quite awhile as long as water is
available. Consider. There are no reported cases of students
accidentally starving to death on campus that I can think of. Consider.
Most games are supposed to take place within a span of hours. It is
physically impossible to starve to death that quickly unless you have
already been starving for quite awhile. Conclusion. Why don't we all
sign a GMD-va convention banning starvation puzzles from our games and
move on to more interesting fare.

Btw, I have to say that I found the food puzzle in Save Princeton
humorous, but kind of difficult.

>Ps. Can someone give me a couple ftp sites where to find the latest
>int-fiction games. It's been a while since I've played some.

ftp.gmd.de is the greatest repository of IF of our time. Be sure to pay
a visit.


--
<~V~E~SOF~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~CYBER~CHESS~~~~~~~~~~~~~NO~RELEASE~DATE~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< RTI T In the distant future, entire planets are won or lost | ~~\ >
< G O WAR E in a single battle. Vertigo's first strategy game. | /~\ | >
<_____DONT-HOLD-YOUR-BRE...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Gareth Rees

unread,
Mar 16, 1995, 7:26:24 AM3/16/95
to
I get very annoyed by games that start out with the requirement to find
food quickly or die. It seems to me that the authors are sufficiently
desperate for puzzles to solve that they cast all ideas of realism
aside. In real life, people can go for very long periods (some months)
without food. In temperate climates, it is possible to survive for a
few days without drinking any water at all.

--
Gareth Rees

Mark Green

unread,
Mar 16, 1995, 8:52:15 AM3/16/95
to
smor...@saucer.cc.umr.edu (Steve Morocho) writes:

>Jacob S Weinstein (jac...@larry.wyvern.com) wrote:
>: ssu9...@reading.ac.uk (Mark Green) writes:


>: > I've gotten to the stage now where I can't help thinking that Shareware
>: >adventure games which begin with the player half-starved and then have lots
>: >of inedible or lethal food lying around (Busted and Save Princeton come to
>: >mind) are in fact using this as a shareware cripple - they say "register to
>: >get help" - what they don't mention is that without the help, you'll never
>: >find the food, and be severely limited as to how you can play. I don't mind
>: >lightly crippled Shareware, but if this is true, it's ridiculous.

>: As the author of Save Princeton, I can assure you that this was not my
>: intention. I put in the food puzzle without realizing how annoying it would
>: be. In fact, I was dumb enough to think that the creative solution to it would
>: make it less annoying than the standard "you must find a piece of food every
>: 100 moves" kind of hunger you find in classic games. Boy, was I wrong. It
>: ended up being the single-most-complained-about puzzle in the whole damn thing.
>: As the saying goes--"Never attribute to malice what can be adequately
>: explained by stupidity."
>: I am, by the way, at work on a revision of Save Princeton that will make
>: the food puzzle significantly less annoying. Look for it in a couple of
>: weeks.
>: -Jacob Weinstein

I apologise for my mild paranoia.
The main thing I found annoying about that puzzle wasn't that it required an
unusual solution, but that so many dead-ends were thrown at you near the
beginning. Die once by starvation: "Look in NW corner." Look in NW corner.
Aha! Food-like item. Eat food-like item. <Thunk>.
Restore. Look elsewhere. Find Murray-Dodge. Aha! Cookie dough. Bake
cookies. Game script says cookies are delicious. Eat cookies. <Thunk>.
Try cooking food-like item. Doesn't work. Try and think of some way of
removing sugar from cookies. Can't (yet - am I on the right track with this?)


--
Mark Green, CS Undergrad, Reading, UK Standard Disclaimers apply
Finger my acc...@laurel.rdg.ac.uk for G-Code and PGP 2.3 Public Key Block
"They said to me to be myself; I was, and now they hate me."

Neil K. Guy

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Mar 16, 1995, 12:47:58 PM3/16/95
to
gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk (Gareth Rees) writes:

I've sort of wondered if this starve-the-player thing is also
something approximating historical momentum. The first major IF game I
can think of to implement sleeping, drinking and eating using various
timers was Enchanter. And I sort of got the sense that they might have
been thinking "hey - this is a cool feature!" and then really
overdoing it by having the player expire miserably if s/he doesn't get
something to eat or drink within a certain period of time, etc. And
then hundreds of other games followed suit out of habit.

Of course, I could be totally out to lunch on this one.

*** You haven't eaten enough lunch. You have died ***

- Neil K.

Carl Muckenhoupt

unread,
Mar 16, 1995, 9:39:17 PM3/16/95
to
ne...@malibu.sfu.ca (Neil K. Guy) writes:

> I've sort of wondered if this starve-the-player thing is also
>something approximating historical momentum. The first major IF game I
>can think of to implement sleeping, drinking and eating using various
>timers was Enchanter. And I sort of got the sense that they might have
>been thinking "hey - this is a cool feature!" and then really
>overdoing it by having the player expire miserably if s/he doesn't get
>something to eat or drink within a certain period of time, etc. And
>then hundreds of other games followed suit out of habit.

I remember the first time I encountered it: in Planetfall.
And, indeed, I did think "hey - this is a cool feature!"
Planetfall had a lot of cool features like that. At the time,
they added up to an unprecedented level of realism. Nowadays,
we see them as unnecessary and annoying. But they really did serve
to draw me into the game, years and years ago.

Strange association: Ever see any old musicals? I mean, really old.
George M. Cohan is what I'm getting at. Basically, they would take
a bunch of songs and a play and put them together. The mechanism was
basically: have people perform the play for a while, then find some
excuse for someone to say something that leads into one of the songs.
Only when we started getting musicals like Oklahoma did the songs turn
into integral parts of the play. Planetfall was the Oklahoma of I-F.

JeffJetton

unread,
Mar 17, 1995, 4:58:21 PM3/17/95
to
b...@max.tiac.net (Carl Muckenhoupt) metaphorically states:

>Planetfall was the Oklahoma of I-F.

I'd never thought about it like that, bravo!

- Jeff

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 22, 1995, 4:38:38 AM3/22/95
to
In article <GDR11.95M...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,


It is interesting that it's pretty obvious that the original reason for
adding hunger, thirst and sleepiness to IF was to provide additional
realism. However, just as you say, almost all games that use these devices
are utterly unrealistic in htat you starve to death after a few hundred
moves, which would perhaps take a few hours in real life.

Part of the problem is that time, as measured in moves, is highly
non-linear; a move may correspond to something that takes a lot of
time in real life (say, climbing a mountain, crossing a lake in a
small boat), or something that's very quickly done, like lighting a
match or taking a gulp of water. Yet most adventure games simply
measure time by the number of moves.

IMHO adding thirst and hunger "just for realism" is a plot device that
has far outlived its novelty. Like those endless "drop an object and
try all exits" mazes, they used to be great, now they're only boring
and irritating.

Things such as thirst, hunger and the need for sleep should *only* be
present in a game if they add something to the plot (I'm of course
discussing "traditional" IF here, not simulationist games). In
Enchanter, for example, there is a day-night cycle which plays a role
in the plot, and not only does the player get sleepy at night, but
some puzzles can actually be solved only by sleeping. That's great.
What's not so great about the same game is that you get hungry and
thirsty and have to find food and water - apparently for no reason at
all bu to make the game harder. (I might be wrong since I haven't
played the game for many years).

For a modern example, consider Fire Witch: you get sleepy and have
to sleep, but again one puzzle can only be solved by sleeping, and
you only have to sleep once (which is realistic, since the entire plot
takes place in one day).

Christopher E. Forman

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Mar 22, 1995, 1:05:57 PM3/22/95
to
Magnus Olsson (m...@loglady.df.lth.se) wrote:
: It is interesting that it's pretty obvious that the original reason for

: adding hunger, thirst and sleepiness to IF was to provide additional
: realism. However, just as you say, almost all games that use these devices
: are utterly unrealistic in htat you starve to death after a few hundred
: moves, which would perhaps take a few hours in real life.

I'm currently working on a design for a game which is more realistic. The
player can get by eating only one meal a day, but when you're hungry, your
character tends to overlook things he could find if he didn't have the
hunger to break his concentration (it's a detective game, BTW). Further,
one or two puzzles directly involve eating and/or drinking.

: Part of the problem is that time, as measured in moves, is highly


: non-linear; a move may correspond to something that takes a lot of
: time in real life (say, climbing a mountain, crossing a lake in a
: small boat), or something that's very quickly done, like lighting a
: match or taking a gulp of water. Yet most adventure games simply
: measure time by the number of moves.

Again, this is a concept I'm working to make more realistic. Each move takes
about the time it would in real life. (I know, this is probably far too
ambitious for a person with my limited programming experience, but I'm
giving it my best shot. It's going to be a HUGE game if it ever gets done.)

: IMHO adding thirst and hunger "just for realism" is a plot device that


: has far outlived its novelty. Like those endless "drop an object and
: try all exits" mazes, they used to be great, now they're only boring
: and irritating.

True, although there are variations that make it tolerable. For example,
in another game I'm fiddling around with in my spare time, the player has
a pack with food and water that he can carry throughout the game. He'll
eat whenever he gets hungry. Doing something stupid like dropping the
pack, though, can cause the character to starve to death. I don't find
this unfair.

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