Uber Game?

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sna...@my-dejanews.com

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Mar 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/12/99
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I was just thinking about a perfect world, and this hypothetical came up...

What could we do with IF given unlimited resources? I'm talking about the
manpower that went into Final Fantasy 7, devoted to a text game. I guess it
just begs the question, would it help? Could a cd (or dvd) full of code make
a more realistic troll? Or (as I've heard argued) are the problems we run
into tapping out games in INFORM simply problems inherant to the medium, and
given a billion lines of code you'd still have a 'You can't do that here'
response, just with a more clever or more specific wording? Or could we make
a perfect IF world?

The second question is if we could create a 'perfect' IF universe, in which
you could interact with the world in any way - VR, more or less, and if it
was set in a truly great game, could there be a (gasp!) mass market for a
text adventure?

Of course I know a better parser doesn't make a better game - it's all in the
storytelling. But I think it's an interesting hypothetical.


snarker

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Den

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Mar 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/15/99
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On Fri, 12 Mar 1999 sna...@my-dejanews.com wrote:

> I was just thinking about a perfect world, and this hypothetical came
> up...
>
> What could we do with IF given unlimited resources?

You've finally settled all inter-cultural differences and created a
perfect world; no more war or strife, no hunger or injustice. And the
first thing you want to do is create IF? I call that dedication!

Seriously though...

> I'm talking about the manpower that went into Final Fantasy 7,
> devoted to a text game. I guess it just begs the question, would it
> help?

Ask yourself: why don't I see more fiction written by more than one
author? Answered your other question yet?

--
Den


sna...@my-dejanews.com

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Mar 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/15/99
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>
> > I'm talking about the manpower that went into Final Fantasy 7,
> > devoted to a text game. I guess it just begs the question, would it
> > help?
>
> Ask yourself: why don't I see more fiction written by more than one
> author? Answered your other question yet?


How many novels, do you mean? Or poems? Not many. How many movies, or stage
plays, or computer games, or any other piece of fiction that requires some
production? Uh... plenty. Just like those other forms, I don't see why IF
couldn't be written with an auteur and an army of people behind him.

not that it matters at all. ;)

Den

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Mar 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/16/99
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On Mon, 15 Mar 1999 sna...@my-dejanews.com wrote:

>>> I'm talking about the manpower that went into Final Fantasy 7,
>>> devoted to a text game.

>> Ask yourself: why don't I see more fiction written by more than one
>> author? Answered your other question yet?
> How many novels, do you mean? Or poems? Not many. How many movies,
> or stage plays, or computer games, or any other piece of fiction that
> requires some production? Uh... plenty.

But movies, plays and most computer games aren't exclusively textual
media. Even in those media, I'll bet that the actual _writing_ in a large
proportion of them is mostly the work of one person. I suppose that where
dialogue is concerned, having a few people to bat ideas around can be
invaluable - look at how many sitcoms and soaps are written by
partnerships or committees (not that I'm saying that this is the pinnacle
of art, but the most acclaimed sitcoms tend to have more than one writer).
But for text alone, it often seems to be a case of too many authors
spoiling the literary broth.

Of course, what you say does make some sense. After all, most people
writing i-f in this ng are using a lot of other people's code. Where the
coding takes place, there may be advantage in numbers, provided you've got
competent direction.

Perhaps we should ask the collaborators in the bunch to relate their tales
of how easy it is to work with another person on a piece of i-f.

--
Den


Sam Barlow

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Mar 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/16/99
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On Mon, 15 Mar 1999, Den wrote:

> Ask yourself: why don't I see more fiction written by more than one
> author? Answered your other question yet?

Most IF is produced by several people:-- the process of beta-testing is
a collaborative writing process with the author as auteur. The final
text is written by the author, but the beta-testers contribute ideas for
puzzles, sub-plots, responses, etc.--ideas fundamental to the finished
product.

Sam.


Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/16/99
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Well, that varies a lot. For some people, I guess. For me, beta testers
contribute bug reports.

And novels have beta-testers too. They get nice thank-yous in the
dedication, not co-writing credit.

--Z

--

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

John W Kennedy

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Mar 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/16/99
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Den wrote:
>
> look at how many sitcoms and soaps are written by
> partnerships or committees (not that I'm saying that this is the pinnacle
> of art, but the most acclaimed sitcoms tend to have more than one writer).

Actually, any given episode of a soap is mostly written by a single
writer. It's an assembly-line process, with head writers and assistant
heads, but at the bottom, you have a staff of five who write the actual
scripts for Mondays, Tuesdays....

Sitcoms are something else. Every episode of a British sitcom is
usually written by a single writer or partnership, which is why British
sitcoms tend to be satirical and character-oriented. American sitcoms
are usually written by teams who sit in a small room and bounce jokes
off each other until they have enough to fill a half-hour, which is why
American sitcoms tend to be purely gag-oriented.

Most American TV dramas have good-sized writing staffs, and many (less,
since the "Hill Street Blues" revolution) also use freelance writers.
However, David Kelley is doing all of "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice",
and J. Michael Straczynski wrote 101 of the 120 hours of "Babylon 5",
including 77 of the last 78.)

--
-John W. Kennedy
-rri...@ibm.net
Compact is becoming contract
Man only earns and pays. -- Charles Williams

Jim Aikin

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Mar 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/17/99
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sna...@my-dejanews.com wrote:
>
> What could we do with IF given unlimited resources? I'm talking about the
> manpower that went into Final Fantasy 7, devoted to a text game. I guess it

> just begs the question, would it help?

Yes.

> Could a cd (or dvd) full of code make
> a more realistic troll? Or (as I've heard argued) are the problems we run
> into tapping out games in INFORM simply problems inherant to the medium, and
> given a billion lines of code you'd still have a 'You can't do that here'
> response, just with a more clever or more specific wording? Or could we make
> a perfect IF world?

The village in Riven can look extraordinarily realistic, even though
there's almost nothing you can do with or in it. If you write a text
description that has anything like a comparable amount of detail, you're
inviting the reader/player to type "examine ladder", "examine catwalk",
"examine gourds", et cetera ad infinitum. Of course, it probably
wouldn't take any longer to code a hundred scenery objects for such a
village than it would to design the graphics, and the results would be a
LOT more interactive, but probably less compelling.

> The second question is if we could create a 'perfect' IF universe, in which
> you could interact with the world in any way - VR, more or less, and if it
> was set in a truly great game, could there be a (gasp!) mass market for a
> text adventure?

My (thoroughly cynical) opinion is that most people want to be passively
entertained, not to interact. Of course, Myst and Riven *were*
best-selling interactive fiction, but there was a much higher "ooh-ahh"
factor. And a computer screen is *not* a great interface for reading,
compared to a book. We all do it all the time, but there's probably a
reason why the Internet really took off *after* it started to include
graphics and sound.

But really, I don't think it would take VR-class programming chops by
any means. What it will take is (a) a truly compelling story/scenario
that could not be articulated in any other way, (b) consistently
excellent writing (of which there is rather a dearth in IF; Graham
Nelson is the *only* really decent writer I've run into so far, though
I'm sure there must be others), (c) yes, a decently large block of code
that lets you pick up, examine, and even manipulate dozens of objects
that are only window-dressing, code in which most or all of the things
you might expect to do with the game objects are handled gracefully and
in which you never, ever have to hunt for the right verb, and (d)
innovative marketing with some oomph behind it. Oh, and (e) music and
graphics. If only a splash screen and a map that shows where you've been
and what you've discovered.

> Of course I know a better parser doesn't make a better game - it's all in the
> storytelling.

It isn't ALL in the story-telling. I just bought Once and Future
yesterday, and it looks pretty darn cool from what little I've seen so
far, but in the opening scene (NO SPOILERS HERE...) you're holding a
poker hand. I tried "fold", "bet", and "draw", among other things, and
the parser didn't recognize any of them. Presumably there's no technical
reason why sensible error-messages couldn't have been implemented:

> fold
Oh, come on! It's only a pair of twos, but maybe you're sitting across
from a busted flush.

> draw three cards
The draw was what gave you the pair of twos.

It's just a lot of work to do that kind of thing. The poker hand is,
well, technically it's window-dressing except that it's not, apparently;
not entirely. So how anal does the author need to be about coding this
stuff? Good question. I prefer to err in the direction of too much code
that nobody will ever even stumble onto, but then I don't have a social
life to speak of.

--Jim Aikin

"It's more fun to compute."
--Kraftwerk, ca. 1985

Thomas J. Sanocki

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Mar 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/18/99
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<snip>

> I'm sure there must be others), (c) yes, a decently large block of code
> that lets you pick up, examine, and even manipulate dozens of objects
> that are only window-dressing, code in which most or all of the things
> you might expect to do with the game objects are handled gracefully and
> in which you never, ever have to hunt for the right verb, and (d)
> innovative marketing with some oomph behind it. Oh, and (e) music and
> graphics. If only a splash screen and a map that shows where you've been
> and what you've discovered.

<snip>

> It's just a lot of work to do that kind of thing. The poker hand is,
> well, technically it's window-dressing except that it's not, apparently;
> not entirely. So how anal does the author need to be about coding this
> stuff? Good question. I prefer to err in the direction of too much code
> that nobody will ever even stumble onto, but then I don't have a social
> life to speak of.

The question was raised about how we could write IF if we had the
resources of a Final Fantasy 7. Here's one way: have one person design the
game/story, and divide up the work of implementing the rooms, objects,
NPCs, etc among a bunch of different people. This would allow us to have a
really high level of interactivity -- where you could draw, fold, etc in a
poker hand that's only a small part of the game. If a bunch of different
people put moderate effort into one object each, chances are you'd get a
game with a really interactive world.

Of course there are still logistical problems with this method -- mainly
how to keep a consistant style and theme across all objects and rooms.
You'd probably need a team of editors (who may or may not be involved in
the initial game/story design). Or perhaps a small team of people could
write all of the descriptive text and a catalog of standard responses to
valid and invalid actions, and the people implementing the objects
would just write the code and add a few personal touches.

This is of course assuming that high interactivity is a desired part of
IF, which if I remember correctly has been debated here before.

Has anyone tried collaborative IF other than _Shades of Gray_? How did it
work out?

- Tom

Jim Aikin

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Mar 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/18/99
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> The question was raised about how we could write IF if we had the
> resources of a Final Fantasy 7. Here's one way: have one person design the
> game/story, and divide up the work of implementing the rooms, objects,
> NPCs, etc among a bunch of different people. This would allow us to have a
> really high level of interactivity -- where you could draw, fold, etc in a
> poker hand that's only a small part of the game. If a bunch of different
> people put moderate effort into one object each, chances are you'd get a
> game with a really interactive world.

Gee, I'd love to be the creative mastermind in this scenario and let
others do the grunt work. ;-) I see a couple of problems, though.

First, where am I going to get this army of unpaid volunteers to do the
drudgery for me?

Second, I don't know how it is in other languages, but from what little
I've learned so far of Inform, it appears that many of the puzzles I'm
creating involve customizing the grammar in various ways. If you have
only three or four people (an army compared to the assistance I have
now) writing object code, there are quite likely to be conflicts that
will need to be resolved. So all of a sudden you've got coding standards
to adhere to, and technical specs, and you're a Code Shop. Unpaid, as I
said, but it's even less fun than before.

Third, my _suspicion_ is that many of the people who would fancy
themselves suited to wear the creative guru beanie in such a
collaborative effort would lack the coding experience to understand how
wildly impractical their ideas are. It seems to me that you really need
to be rolling up your sleeves and barking your knuckles on the
carburetor before you develop an appreciation for simple but doable
puzzles.

> Of course there are still logistical problems with this method -- mainly
> how to keep a consistant style and theme across all objects and rooms.

Any good writer can do that.

> You'd probably need a team of editors (who may or may not be involved in
> the initial game/story design). Or perhaps a small team of people could
> write all of the descriptive text and a catalog of standard responses to
> valid and invalid actions, and the people implementing the objects
> would just write the code and add a few personal touches.

Standard responses are not the solution, they're the problem. Besides,
standard responses (in Inform, anyhow) only need to be coded once. All
of the object-specific code involves non-standard responses.

--Jim Aikin

"First pull up, then pull down."
--Benjamin Franklin

David Glasser

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Mar 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/19/99
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Jim Aikin <jaikin.s...@pacbell.net> wrote:

> consistently
> excellent writing (of which there is rather a dearth in IF; Graham
> Nelson is the *only* really decent writer I've run into so far, though

> I'm sure there must be others)

I could argue with that. Adam Cadre. Andrew Plotkin. Gareth Rees.
Some others who I'm being too stupid to remember who manage to always
write the right thing. Some others who (Den) should be writing (Den)
because they are (Den) very very funny on raif.

--
David Glasser: gla...@NOSPAMuscom.com http://onramp.uscom.com/~glasser/
DGlasser@ifMUD:orange.res.cmu.edu 4001 | raif FAQ http://come.to/raiffaq
'No, GLK is spelled "G L K". What is this Java you speak of?'
--Joe.Mason on that portable thing on rec.arts.int-fiction

Den

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Mar 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/21/99
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On Fri, 19 Mar 1999, David Glasser wrote:

> Jim Aikin wrote:
>> Graham Nelson is the *only* really decent writer I've run into so
>> far, though I'm sure there must be others)
> I could argue with that. Adam Cadre. Andrew Plotkin. Gareth Rees.
> Some others who I'm being too stupid to remember who manage to always
> write the right thing. Some others who (Den) should be writing (Den)
> because they are (Den) very very funny on raif.

Ack! My head! It's swelling up!

--
Den If I had as much fun programming as I had writing to raif, I'm
sure I'd produce something that might merit your attention. But...
Thanks for the highest flattery, anyway.


Den

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Mar 22, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/22/99
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On Sun, 21 Mar 1999, Den wrote:
> If I had as much fun programming as I had writing to raif, I'm
> sure I'd produce something that might merit your attention. But...

Which I suppose brings us full circle to the matter of collaborators. One
unspoken reason why you don't see so many good collaborations is that you
only need a little bit of perfectionism to want to do it all on your own,
or rather, to not want to share your baby with someone else and risk
having them dilute your great ideas. I'm not happy about collaborating
because I'm basically a selfish bastard where my ideas are concerned. I'd
want to see hot programming credentials and a good deal of subservience
before teaming up with a coder. :)

--
Den


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