"Observational" IF?

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Adam Thornton

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Oct 12, 2001, 6:44:19 PM10/12/01
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In article <b65b6566.01101...@posting.google.com>,
Will Grzanich <william....@morningstar.com> wrote:
>I picked up a copy of Janet Murray's _Hamlet on the Holodeck_ last
>weekend, and I've been slowly reading through it...Murray seems to
>envision interactive fiction not so much as an environment where the
>user can affect the story, but rather where she can *explore* the
>story. I keep thinking about an IF "game" that is simply a story that
>unfolds in multiple places at once, where the "player" doesn't really
>do anything but wander around, following this character or that, and
>enjoying the story he wants to enjoy. For instance, there could be,
>say, 10 NPCs; all their paths would cross at key points in the story.
>While they are apart, their lives continue independently, and the
>player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
>listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
>of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
>yet?

I've thought about it.

I think such an approach will lead to boring, pointless, plotless
simulationist environments, not entirely like the Erasmatron's demo
environments.

I believe that narrative drives story. In a world in which Aristotelean
dramatics really worked, maybe character could drive plot, but the
current state of the art will leave you with pointless, flat, landscapes
with nothing of interest to populate them.

Your mileage may vary. I would not be interested in investing my time
in an environment such as you describe.

Adam

Gabe McKean

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Oct 12, 2001, 7:12:28 PM10/12/01
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"Will Grzanich" <william....@morningstar.com> wrote in message
news:b65b6566.01101...@posting.google.com...

> I picked up a copy of Janet Murray's _Hamlet on the Holodeck_ last
> weekend, and I've been slowly reading through it...Murray seems to
> envision interactive fiction not so much as an environment where the
> user can affect the story, but rather where she can *explore* the
> story. I keep thinking about an IF "game" that is simply a story that
> unfolds in multiple places at once, where the "player" doesn't really
> do anything but wander around, following this character or that, and
> enjoying the story he wants to enjoy. For instance, there could be,
> say, 10 NPCs; all their paths would cross at key points in the story.
> While they are apart, their lives continue independently, and the
> player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
> listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
> of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
> yet?
>
> -Will

This idea reminds me of an 'interactive movie' my dad bought cheap on DVD,
called "I'm Your Man." Although it's a movie, it's pretty close to what you
describe. The 'audience' can select one of three characters to follow
around during the movie, and can choose to switch between them at certain
points. The audience can also make choices to affect the course of the plot
at a few key points.

The plot itself is extremely silly, and it was fun to watch through a few
variations. There are problems with the 'interactivity' of the movie,
though. The points at which the movie pauses to allow the audience to
switch characters tend to happen while an actor is in mid-sentence or even
mid-word, so it can be hard to follow what's being said. Also, most of the
'choices' have little or no effect on the course of the movie. I doubt that
the same techniques could be used to successfully make a longer, more
serious movie.

Of course, the problems above could be alleviated fairly easily in a work of
IF, so don't let me discourage you. :)


Papillon

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Oct 12, 2001, 7:47:33 PM10/12/01
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>say, 10 NPCs; all their paths would cross at key points in the story.
>While they are apart, their lives continue independently, and the
>player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
>listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
>of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
>yet?

I've thought about it. It wouldn't be *quite* that ghost-like... you would
be able to interact, somewhat, but your options would be limited because gur
punenpgre pbaprcg vf gung bs na rkgerzryl hacbchyne 'bhgfvqre' genccrq va n
fznyy fcnpr jvgu n ybg bs crbcyr jub zbfgyl vtaber ure. Fur pna cvpx hc
vgrzf naq zbir nebhaq, ohg crbcyr trarenyyl qba'g abgvpr ure naq jba'g fcrnx
gb ure, hayrff gurl'er nybar.

One of many ideas fighting for dominance as the theme of my next game.

Daryl McCullough

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Oct 12, 2001, 7:32:22 PM10/12/01
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ad...@fsf.net says...

>
>In article <b65b6566.01101...@posting.google.com>,
>Will Grzanich <william....@morningstar.com> wrote:
>>I picked up a copy of Janet Murray's _Hamlet on the Holodeck_ last
>>weekend, and I've been slowly reading through it...Murray seems to
>>envision interactive fiction not so much as an environment where the
>>user can affect the story, but rather where she can *explore* the
>>story. I keep thinking about an IF "game" that is simply a story that
>>unfolds in multiple places at once, where the "player" doesn't really
>>do anything but wander around, following this character or that, and
>>enjoying the story he wants to enjoy. For instance, there could be,
>>say, 10 NPCs; all their paths would cross at key points in the story.
>>While they are apart, their lives continue independently, and the
>>player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
>>listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
>>of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
>>yet?
>
>I've thought about it.
>
>I think such an approach will lead to boring, pointless, plotless
>simulationist environments, not entirely like the Erasmatron's demo
>environments.

Why in the world would it need to be a simulationist environment?
If the player doesn't actually *affect* the unfolding of events,
then the author can script them in complete detail. Simulation
is only necessary if the player can affect things in ways that
can't be anticipated (in detail) by the author.

>I believe that narrative drives story. In a world in which Aristotelean
>dramatics really worked, maybe character could drive plot, but the
>current state of the art will leave you with pointless, flat, landscapes
>with nothing of interest to populate them.

I don't see that what Will is suggesting is letting character
drive the story. What he's suggesting is letting the story be
driven by whatever the author wants, but that the player can
choose what aspects of the story he sees.

To implement what Will is suggesting would be just like writing
a play, except that the author would need to also figure out what each
character is doing when offstage.

--
Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Mark J. Tilford

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Oct 12, 2001, 9:07:13 PM10/12/01
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You mean like the old Infocomics, which flopped horribly?

--
------------------------
Mark Jeffrey Tilford
til...@ugcs.caltech.edu

J.L. Thomas

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Oct 13, 2001, 12:11:33 AM10/13/01
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"Anson Turner" <anson@DELETE_THISpobox.com> wrote in message
news:anson-AF7177....@nntp.mindspring.com...
> In article
<b65b6566.01101...@posting.google.com>,
> Infocomics?

I was thinking that this also sounded a bit like "A Mind
Forever Voyaging".


Urbatain

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Oct 13, 2001, 8:37:20 AM10/13/01
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william....@morningstar.com (Will Grzanich) wrote in message news:<b65b6566.01101...@posting.google.com>...

> player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
> listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
> of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
> yet?
>

Yes, me. But in spanish, for a competition from here about rare games.
Just 2 weeks ago :). I wanted to make a game about a short story from
a friend, so the only aproach that I could imagine was make something
like "What a wonderful life" when the protagonist see the world
without him, like a ghost.

I think that works, I'll say you when the nanocomp2 (spanish rare
games comp) over.

Urbatain.

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Oct 13, 2001, 11:45:17 AM10/13/01
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In article <9q7ro3$fip$1...@news.fsf.net>, ad...@fsf.net says...

>
> I think such an approach will lead to boring, pointless, plotless
> simulationist environments, not entirely like the Erasmatron's demo
> environments.
>
> I believe that narrative drives story. In a world in which Aristotelean
> dramatics really worked, maybe character could drive plot, but the
> current state of the art will leave you with pointless, flat, landscapes
> with nothing of interest to populate them.

I'd disagree with this. Erasmatron's failure is not that it's
observational, but that it leaves too much of the story up to the
mechanics of the simulation rather than direct authorial control.
There's nothing about the "observational" model that dictates this.

Even without true interactivity, there's room for puzzle-solving, as the
player unravels the story to determine what's worth observing. Infocom's
mysteries come pretty close to being "observational" as I understand the
term. "Masque of the Last Faeries" comes even closer.

Mark Silcox

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Oct 13, 2001, 3:03:45 PM10/13/01
to

> I picked up a copy of Janet Murray's _Hamlet on the Holodeck_ last
> weekend, and I've been slowly reading through it...Murray seems to
> envision interactive fiction not so much as an environment where the
> user can affect the story, but rather where she can *explore* the
> story. I keep thinking about an IF "game" that is simply a story that
> unfolds in multiple places at once, where the "player" doesn't really
> do anything but wander around, following this character or that, and
> enjoying the story he wants to enjoy. For instance, there could be,
> say, 10 NPCs; all their paths would cross at key points in the story.
> While they are apart, their lives continue independently, and the
> player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
> listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
> of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
> yet?

Murray's model for intereactive storytelling is Hypertext Narrative, of the
sort that's produced on a very specific piece of design software - Eastgate
systems' _Storyspace_ program, and which has a very substantial following
amongst academics, literary theorists and people in creative writing
depatments. The most famous hypertexts that have been published so far are
"afternoon" by Michael Joyce and "Victory Garden" by Stuart Moulthrop.

The peole who use _Storyspace_ have very strong views about what's
appropriate in genuinely "artistic" interactive writing (as opposed to mere
'games') one of the things they all believe with absolute rigidity is that
interactive stories should NEVER, EVER use "gamestates" as a programming
device - ie. at no point in the story (they think) should information about
the character's progress be saved out for furutre reference in determining
the shape of the narrative. A weird view, to be sure - still, the sheer lack
of communication between the hypterext community (which, does, after all,
contain some awfully gifted writers) and TADS and INFORM wonks continues to
blow my mind.
There were a lot of very articulate and interesting debates between game
designers and hypertext people about this stuff in the nineties - none of
this stuff ever seems to have been paid much attention to within our own
communty.

Here's a link to Eastagte's homepage. Perhaps a litle cross-pollination is
in order?

http://www.eastgate.com/

-M. Silcox


Philip Swartzleonard

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Oct 13, 2001, 6:49:17 PM10/13/01
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Papillon || Fri 12 Oct 2001 04:47:33p:

>
>> say, 10 NPCs; all their paths would cross at key points in the story.
>> While they are apart, their lives continue independently, and the
>> player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
>> listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
>> of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
>> yet?

Sounds rather interesting, maybe someone could make a small one (2-4 npcs,
6-12 rooms maybe) for the art show? Kind of a um... analasys of a section of
time not altogheter unlike a ghost-record of a car in a racing game... (SOME
startrek uses the holadeck to this effect for a least a molment, i think...
:\ )

>I've thought about it. It wouldn't be *quite* that ghost-like... you
>would be able to interact, somewhat, but your options would be limited
>because gur punenpgre pbaprcg vf gung bs na rkgerzryl hacbchyne
>'bhgfvqre' genccrq va n fznyy fcnpr jvgu n ybg bs crbcyr jub zbfgyl
>vtaber ure. Fur pna cvpx hc vgrzf naq zbir nebhaq, ohg crbcyr trarenyyl
>qba'g abgvpr ure naq jba'g fcrnx gb ure, hayrff gurl'er nybar.

Um, it is impossible to make the judgement on weather or not to un-rot this
without knowing what it would spoil...

>One of many ideas fighting for dominance as the theme of my next game.

--
Philip Sw "Starweaver" [rasx] :: www.rubydragon.com - a few thousand lines
of PHP, HTML, and CSS; but still useless :)

gegi

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Oct 13, 2001, 7:01:53 PM10/13/01
to

>>I've thought about it. It wouldn't be *quite* that ghost-like... you
>>would be able to interact, somewhat, but your options would be limited
>>because the character concept is gung bs na rkgerzryl hacbchyne

>>'bhgfvqre' genccrq va n fznyy fcnpr jvgu n ybg bs crbcyr jub zbfgyl
>>vtaber ure. Fur pna cvpx hc vgrzf naq zbir nebhaq, ohg crbcyr trarenyyl
>>qba'g abgvpr ure naq jba'g fcrnx gb ure, hayrff gurl'er nybar.
>
>Um, it is impossible to make the judgement on weather or not to un-rot this
>without knowing what it would spoil...

*grin* True. Basically, it's a matter of "do you want to know, or care,
about someone else's idea for a game they might not write?" and I wanted a
chance to test the rot13 function.

richard m nixon

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Oct 14, 2001, 9:54:56 PM10/14/01
to
On Sat, 13 Oct 2001 14:03:45 -0500, "Mark Silcox"
<marks...@sprynet.com> wrote:

>
>Murray's model for intereactive storytelling is Hypertext Narrative, of the
>sort that's produced on a very specific piece of design software - Eastgate
>systems' _Storyspace_ program, and which has a very substantial following
>amongst academics, literary theorists and people in creative writing
>depatments. The most famous hypertexts that have been published so far are
>"afternoon" by Michael Joyce and "Victory Garden" by Stuart Moulthrop.
>

...


>The peole who use _Storyspace_ have very strong views about what's
>appropriate in genuinely "artistic" interactive writing (as opposed to mere
>'games') one of the things they all believe with absolute rigidity is that
>interactive stories should NEVER, EVER use "gamestates" as a programming
>device - ie. at no point in the story (they think) should information about
>the character's progress be saved out for furutre reference in determining
>the shape of the narrative.

...


>
>Here's a link to Eastagte's homepage. Perhaps a litle cross-pollination is
>in order?
>
>http://www.eastgate.com/
>
>-M. Silcox
>

What an excellent point. I had completely forgotten about this genre,
even though I'd taken a senior seminar involving that type of work.

The sort of documents involved here -- hypertext fiction, for want of
a better term, and because 'interactive fiction' has a specific
definition for readers of this group -- consist of a static document,
floating in idea space, composed of a number of nodes connected by
hyperlinks. The idea is that the document can be experienced in any
number of orders, making the reader a participant in their
interpretation and viewing of the story (although they don't _act_
upon it.)

I believe past IF comps have had examples of "IF Poetry", where the
users typed various words mentioned in the text to move to different
nodes? this might be the closest IF stepping stone to the Storyspace
paradigm.

One example that's been given (okay, it's mine; it's extremely rare I
get to brag about my 15 seconds of fame) is the argument that
_Slaughterhouse Five_ by Kurt Vonnegut can be considered a transcript
of a session navigating through a hypertext document describing the
protagonist's life. There was at least one printed book that was
written as hypertext,although the links were fairly rigid; that's
_Hopscotch_, by Julio Cortazar. (a favorite of mine; he reads a little
bit like Borges).

I find it interesting that the Storyspace method of "hypertext
fiction" was intended to be the close parallel to "hypertext
nonfiction" -- the World Wide Web. The original idea for the WWW was
that you'd browse through documents hyperlinked by content, context,
or other textual linkages; for instance, you might be reading a
document and be offered hyperlinks to the references used in its
construction. Of course, as we see, the actual Web turned out to be
something much more like "Interactive TV" than a giant
cross-referenced document. But I digress.


Daniel Barkalow

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Oct 16, 2001, 2:01:40 PM10/16/01
to
On 12 Oct 2001, Will Grzanich wrote:

> I picked up a copy of Janet Murray's _Hamlet on the Holodeck_ last
> weekend, and I've been slowly reading through it...Murray seems to
> envision interactive fiction not so much as an environment where the
> user can affect the story, but rather where she can *explore* the
> story. I keep thinking about an IF "game" that is simply a story that
> unfolds in multiple places at once, where the "player" doesn't really
> do anything but wander around, following this character or that, and
> enjoying the story he wants to enjoy. For instance, there could be,

> say, 10 NPCs; all their paths would cross at key points in the story.
> While they are apart, their lives continue independently, and the
> player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
> listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
> of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
> yet?

It seems like this would be very interesting from a design point of view,
in understanding how to get a series of actions taken by NPCs to
work. This would be a bit like writing a play, in that you have a set of
people doing things, all of whom you script, but interestingly different
in that they're not in the real world, but in the game world, where time
flows somewhat differently. Getting the characters to fit both the
expected timing of IF (everything is in turns, rather than time being
continuous, etc) and sensible narrative pacing (two characters
shouldn't have a full conversation in the time it takes a third character
to pick up the things on a desk and go through a door) seems like good
practice for eventually possibly having NPCs who do things while the PC is
doing other things.

-Iabervon
*This .sig unintentionally changed*

Chris

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Oct 16, 2001, 7:53:01 PM10/16/01
to
william....@morningstar.com (Will Grzanich) wrote in message news:<b65b6566.01101...@posting.google.com>...
> I picked up a copy of Janet Murray's _Hamlet on the Holodeck_ last
> weekend, and I've been slowly reading through it...Murray seems to
> envision interactive fiction not so much as an environment where the
> user can affect the story, but rather where she can *explore* the
> story. I keep thinking about an IF "game" that is simply a story that
> unfolds in multiple places at once, where the "player" doesn't really
> do anything but wander around, following this character or that, and
> enjoying the story he wants to enjoy. For instance, there could be,
> say, 10 NPCs; all their paths would cross at key points in the story.
> While they are apart, their lives continue independently, and the
> player can move about as a sort of ghost, examining objects and
> listening to dialog and observing actions, but unable to perform any
> of his own. Has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone done it
> yet?
>
> -Will

At least some attempts at what you're describing has been tried before
-- one person correctly mentioned Infocomics, but a better example may
be EA's Psychic Detective: you really could follow one person as a
ghost, and then at various points link up. The whole game moved in
realtime, so you people continues to live their lives while you
watched one person. A few other "interactive movies" also tried this
in the mid 1990s.

The problems were manifold, but here are a few: it was too expensive
to produce, live action, with video, to have enough branches to be
interesting (the initial Psychic Detective script was 900+ pages); the
video quality was usually awful, and the machines of the time limited
playback to a small window; it's ultimately pretty frustrating to just
be able to watch stuff happen -- you always seem to miss the big
dramatic moments, and re-watching gets boring quick.

While some of these things could be overcome with today's technology
-- 3D space could be used instead of video, lessening the production
overhead (voice overs are still expensive, though), etc. But I don't
think that solves the fundemental problem that you can easily miss big
important parts of the "story," unless you craft it so that climaxes
happen in an artificial way (the detective in the room saying "one of
you is guilty" etc).

Someone else brought up A Mind Forever Voyaging, which I'd argue is
the correct way to do an exploration vs. "gameplay" style experience
(although AMFV's puzzles at the end were really non in line with the
rest of the game).

DaveL

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Oct 16, 2001, 9:02:01 PM10/16/01
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"Chris" <cerbiu...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:273eac09.01101...@posting.google.com...

>
> Someone else brought up A Mind Forever Voyaging, which I'd
argue is
> the correct way to do an exploration vs. "gameplay" style
experience
> (although AMFV's puzzles at the end were really non in
line with the
> rest of the game).

I brought up AMFV, and I agree with both of your points
here.

There is also a contest entry this year that heavily
emphasizes this type of exploration. I'm fairly new to the
newsgroup and I'm not sure whether mentioning the title of
said entry at this point would be enough to unfairly
influence the judging, so I'll hold off unless someone who
knows better can tell me that it's safe.

Daryl McCullough

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Oct 17, 2001, 11:22:37 AM10/17/01
to
cerbiu...@hotmail.com says...

>At least some attempts at what you're describing has been tried before
>-- one person correctly mentioned Infocomics, but a better example may
>be EA's Psychic Detective: you really could follow one person as a
>ghost, and then at various points link up. The whole game moved in
>realtime, so you people continues to live their lives while you
>watched one person. A few other "interactive movies" also tried this
>in the mid 1990s.

This idea has been used in theater. I can't remember specifics
(somebody's wedding, a murder mystery) but the idea is that,
rather than having a play on a stage, the actors perform the
play in a restaurant, or in a house. An audience member
is free to walk around and observe and talk to the actors,
who answer in character.

Chris

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Oct 24, 2001, 6:25:53 PM10/24/01
to
da...@cogentex.com (Daryl McCullough) wrote in message news:<9qk7n...@drn.newsguy.com>...

I went to that wedding -- can't quite recall the name. It's similar
but not quite the same. While the characters always reply in
character, and there is some ad-libbing of course, there's not much
you can do as a participating observer to change the plot. The uncle
always gets drunk, there is always a fight, etc. (It's actually pretty
fun, though. Somewhere between an actual play and a ren faire type
experience.)

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