"Led by the nose"

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Robotboy8

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Jan 30, 2002, 9:28:27 PM1/30/02
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In several recent discussions people have mentioned not liking being "led by
the nose" from puzzle to puzzle. However, it seems as though there would have
to be exceptions for pieces like _Photopia_ or (another personal favorite)
_Mercy_. Both were quite linear, and I have an idea that would have to be
linear. So I was wondering, just how much is good and how much is bad? Or is
it one of those "it depends on the case" things?

--
Sanity is a sure sign of a lazy mind.

Skeet

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Jan 30, 2002, 10:16:53 PM1/30/02
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I won't presume to speak for everyone. IMHO, nearly the only thing
that can hope to compensate for the "railroad syndrome" is an excess
of immersive plot, memorable NPCs, and/or emotional resonance. I
don't think I've played _Mercy_ which you mentioned, but of course
_Photopia_ is a very good example of a well-detailed, meticulously
plotted, if not overly interactive story. _Kaged_ is another example
that I consider to be very linear, but the well-done atmosphere helped
most people overlook that "shortcoming".
Well, that's my two cents, FWIW.

---------------------------------
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
(T.S. Eliot)

Jim Aikin

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Jan 31, 2002, 12:40:24 AM1/31/02
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> In several recent discussions people have mentioned not liking being "led by
> the nose" from puzzle to puzzle.


The question I would ask is, if the game/story is entirely linear, why
not write it as conventional fiction? If you're going to go to all the
trouble of coding IF, there should probably be some reason for doing so
that makes sense within the context of the story itself.

This is a deep literary question, actually. I'm curious what perspective
others may have on it.

--Jim Aikin

Matthew F Funke

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Jan 31, 2002, 8:01:55 AM1/31/02
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In article <20020130212827...@mb-de.aol.com>,

Well, I guess a sense of balance has to be struck.
Usually, a game can be split into three rough areas: the opening, the
midgame, and the close. (These are not *my* delineations, by the way, but
I think them useful.) The opening is sort of an introduction, a means of
getting the player familiar with the scenery and atmosphere. The midgame
is where most of the puzzles are solved and the plot moves along. The
endgame is where things get resolved. (This is overly simplistic, of
course, but bear with me here.)
Now, in IF, it seems to me that there is usually a clear *reason* for
the midgame to begin. Some simple puzzle has been solved, usually, which
causes the game's landscape to explode in scope.
It's usually shown after the puzzle is solved why the player now has
so much open to her. She's figured out how to get out of the cave, for
example, and now is in the magical fantasy land the writer created. Or
she's become allied with a starfaring race which will allow her the
resources she needs to expand her explorations. Basically, it's a new
introduction of sorts; now that the player has a basic familiarity with
the mechanisms in the world and can maneuver capably within it, the
author wants to introduce her to the world he's devised.
There's a certain expectation on the part of the player, too, that
once she has gotten past a few puzzles, she'll be able to piece together
widely disparate items in the author's universe to create a picture of the
game world as a whole. In a way, it's even more rewarding when seemingly
dissimilar items are revealed to show similarity. (To pick a graphical
example, the way that many things were based on the number five in Riven.)
Now, imagine instead that the world you're exposed to is essentially
a series of locked doors to which keys must be found. There's never a
sense that you're exposed to an atmosphere or a world; instead, it feels
more like a puzzle magazine than a work of interactive fiction.
Some games do an exceptional job of describing a fictional world
without offering the player too many choices. These can avoid the
expansive choices if done well enough.
Basically, in my opinion, the player *wants* to be immersed in the
world created within the game. A thin game is not immersive. The depth
can either be created in descriptive atmosphere or in the size and
interactivity of the world created. A game which ignores this desire for
depth is difficult to involve oneself in, and contributes to the feeling
that one is being "led around by the nose."
This has been somewhat rambling in nature -- I haven't had my cup of
coffee yet this morning -- but I hope it gives you some useful insight
into this frequent complaint (one I, too, have raised).
--
-- With Best Regards,
Matthew Funke (m...@hopper.unh.edu)

Eytan Zweig

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Jan 31, 2002, 8:45:02 AM1/31/02
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"Jim Aikin" <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in message
news:3C58D8CC.9090607@kill_spammers.org...

>
>
> > In several recent discussions people have mentioned not liking being
"led by
> > the nose" from puzzle to puzzle.
>
>
> The question I would ask is, if the game/story is entirely linear, why
> not write it as conventional fiction? If you're going to go to all the
> trouble of coding IF, there should probably be some reason for doing so
> that makes sense within the context of the story itself.
>

The one reason I can think of is immersion. By making something IF, the
player is brought one more step into the action. He's still detached, of
course, because typing OPEN DOOR is not the same as opening a door. But it's
closer than reading "Then he opened the door".

I think that Photopia is a great example of this - the emotional strength of
Photopia is not that the story is strikingly original, nor that it's very
interactive. But by putting the player in the world, it becomes personal,
and produces a different effect than if the same story was told in regular
fiction. Think of the purple area - actually, what happens is that the game
turns to non-IF for a while. But it doesn't feel like "and now I'm reading
the story". It feels like "Oh, I've lost control of the world". That's a
great exampel of the sort of effect that linear IF needs in order to work.

Eytan


ally

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Jan 31, 2002, 9:31:52 AM1/31/02
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On 31 Jan 2002, Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in
news:3C58D8CC.9090607@kill_spammers.org:

> The question I would ask is, if the game/story is entirely linear, why
> not write it as conventional fiction? If you're going to go to all the
> trouble of coding IF, there should probably be some reason for doing so
> that makes sense within the context of the story itself.
>
> This is a deep literary question, actually. I'm curious what
> perspective others may have on it.
>

In addition to what Eytan said,

even a linear game/story can be subject to the player-reader's own
filters. It might not get you off the rails you're on whether or not you
spill the milk, burn the portrait or ask the pixie about tir nan og, but
each of those actions could reveal optioal bits and pieces that other
player-readers might not have thought of or cared about. Sure, in
conventional fiction you can semi-skip passages that strike you as boring,
and re-read passages that don't, but the text will be the same either way.

~ally

Lewis Raszewski

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Jan 31, 2002, 12:31:54 PM1/31/02
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Matthew F Funke wrote:
>

> Now, imagine instead that the world you're exposed to is essentially
> a series of locked doors to which keys must be found. There's never a
> sense that you're exposed to an atmosphere or a world; instead, it feels
> more like a puzzle magazine than a work of interactive fiction.
> Some games do an exceptional job of describing a fictional world
> without offering the player too many choices. These can avoid the
> expansive choices if done well enough.

And, of course, there are some games that do a fair job of describing a
fictional world and which *are* essentially a series of locked doors to
which keys must be found. :-)

Tom Smith

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Jan 31, 2002, 1:10:20 PM1/31/02
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ally wrote:

> ... but

> each of those actions could reveal optioal bits and pieces that other
> player-readers might not have thought of or cared about. Sure, in
> conventional fiction you can semi-skip passages that strike you as boring,
> and re-read passages that don't, but the text will be the same either way.

This is the real point of 'linear' interactive fiction. IF is a medium
- indeed, the only medium which I can think of - in which the reader
actively writes the story. It is the only medium in which the reader
and not only the author affects not just what the text that is read
means but what that text actually is.

This may be "a deep literary question" - however, it also has
practical results: it is this 'reader-as-writer' effect that gives you
the immersion of Photopia or Rameses, and the sheer depth of an
otherwise short story like Galatea. IF is, if you like, the first
two-dimensional medium, where the story has breadth as well as length.

Tom Smith

Tom Smith

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Jan 31, 2002, 1:14:52 PM1/31/02
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m...@hypatia.unh.edu (Matthew F Funke) wrote:

> Some simple puzzle has been solved, usually, which

> causes the game's landscape to explode in scope ... now

> that the player has a basic familiarity with
> the mechanisms in the world and can maneuver capably within it, the
> author wants to introduce her to the world he's devised.

This is not so much a function of IF as a form, rather a convention of
current IF.

> the world you're exposed to is essentially
> a series of locked doors to which keys must be found. There's never a
> sense that you're exposed to an atmosphere or a world

... and this is the flipside: the conventional structure where the
game explodes in scope _can_ (not necessarily _will_) result in this
series of locked doors; actually, in my opinion it is this more than
anything that results in the 'sterility' of some IF (whether linear or
non-linear).

Tom Smith

Jim Aikin

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Jan 31, 2002, 10:13:04 PM1/31/02
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> By making something IF, the
> player is brought one more step into the action. He's still detached, of
> course, because typing OPEN DOOR is not the same as opening a door. But it's
> closer than reading "Then he opened the door".


A good writer of conventional fiction would very, very seldom make use
of a sentence like "Then he opened the door." With a dull thud falls it.

The point being, good fiction is immersive, whether its medium is oral
recitation, paper, staged drama, film/video, or interactive computer
simulation. Bad fiction fails to be immersive, again irrespective of its
medium.

The reason why the *medium* of IF isn't as immersive as, for instance,
film is due at least in part to the limitations of present-day parsers.
Most of the things one can actually do in IF -- open the door, show the
gold brooch to Aunt Mathilda, whatever -- aren't very involving.

Plus, the act of figuring out what to do next actually pulls you OUT of
the story. Reading a good mystery is, frankly, at least twice as
immersive as the best IF. It's immersive PRECISELY because you don't
need to type anything! No groping. You're transported.


> I think that Photopia is a great example of this - the emotional strength of
> Photopia is not that the story is strikingly original, nor that it's very
> interactive. But by putting the player in the world, it becomes personal,


I guess I'll have to commit a minor heresy here. I didn't find Photopia
all that involving emotionally. It was innovative in that it tried to do
something genuinely new with the medium, I'll grant that. But Photopia
always gets dragged into discussions of this sort, quite likely because
there's nothing else (or nothing better, or nothing as well known) that
people can point to as an example of "literary" IF.

I'd much rather put this discussion on hold until we have six or eight
stories that are, in some respect or other, like Photopia. Then it will
be possible, perhaps, to make some useful generalizations.

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Jan 31, 2002, 10:21:28 PM1/31/02
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> even a linear game/story can be subject to the player-reader's own
> filters. It might not get you off the rails you're on whether or not you
> spill the milk, burn the portrait or ask the pixie about tir nan og, but
> each of those actions could reveal optioal bits and pieces that other
> player-readers might not have thought of or cared about. Sure, in
> conventional fiction you can semi-skip passages that strike you as boring,
> and re-read passages that don't, but the text will be the same either way.


I hate to split hairs (well, actually I _love_ to split hairs), but the
text of an IF game/story is the same whether it's displayed on the
screen or not. The act of failing to display a paragraph on the screen
is functionally identical to the act of letting your eyes drift past it
on the page.

I had a lot of fun putting 3-layer-deep descriptions of scenery in "Not
Just An Ordinary Ballerina." I hope it added to some people's enjoyment
of the game. But I think the virtue in this type of thing is kind of the
opposite of what you're saying. The fun part is not skipping the boring
bits but rather discovering fun bits that other readers quite likely
missed. Plus, you get to pat yourself on the back for having thought to
type 'x dust'.

However: If this is the only interactive aspect of an otherwise linear
story in which (to refer back to the head of this thread) the reader is
being "led by the nose," I for one feel it would be a waste of time to
write a lot of code in order to give the reader that petite frisson. I'd
much prefer to write conventional fiction -- in which I control the
horizontal, I control the vertical....

--Jim Aikin


Jim Aikin

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Jan 31, 2002, 10:38:50 PM1/31/02
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> IF is a medium
> - indeed, the only medium which I can think of - in which the reader
> actively writes the story. It is the only medium in which the reader
> and not only the author affects not just what the text that is read
> means but what that text actually is.


I don't want to start a flame war here. Honestly. So I'm going to try to
be positive and upbeat. Please try to accept my remarks in the spirit in
which you wish they had been intended. But:

It seems to me that this point of view reflects the PR of IF, or the
fond wishes of IF enthusiasts, rather than the reality. It's what the IF
author *hopes* the reader/player will feel, but it's *not* what's
actually going on. Beyond possibly entering your name at the beginning
of the game, after which the software will coyly address you as Boris,
Belinda, or whatever, there is nothing whatever that you can do as a
reader/player that will have the slightest effect on what the text
actually is.

The truly horrible thing about IF -- and I speak here as an author of
both conventional fiction and IF -- is that the author has no control
over the order or pacing of the text. It's more or less inevitable that
the reader/player will jump around, missing some of the author's best
bits and getting other bits in a confusing or unsatisfying order.

The result is a bit like trying to read a conventional novel after
tearing out all the pages and throwing them down a flight of stairs.
When people start touting the virtues of interactive nonlinear
storytelling, they generally ignore the fact that a common paperback
book is a random-access medium. You can read the pages, the paragraphs,
or indeed the words, in any order that amuses you.

Generally, people don't do that. Generally, they prefer to read a book
from start to finish. The reason is because the author put quite a lot
of effort into getting all the bits in what he or she hoped would be an
effective dramatic order.

There *are* ways to structure IF that preserve some semblance of a
dramatic structure. You can do the piece in five acts, for instance, and
not let the reader/player back up to a previous act, while allowing
him/her to roam at will within the confines of the present act.

It's finding an effective balance between dramatic structure and random
access that's the true challenge (or anyhow _a_ true challenge) facing
the IF author. I rather doubt there are any hard and fast rules that can
be laid down on the subject. A good story makes its own rules, and in
the process convinces us, the readers, that those particular rules
actually did make sense. That's as true in conventional fiction as in
IF. And it's also true that, during the time when the story is being
written, the author can never be entirely sure whether the dramatic
structure he/she has chosen is going to work, or whether it's going to
fall apart.

Art is not pretty, and making art isn't pretty either.

--Jim Aikin

OKB -- not okblacke

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Jan 31, 2002, 10:46:29 PM1/31/02
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Jim Aikin kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org wrote:
>The question I would ask is, if the game/story is entirely linear, why
>not write it as conventional fiction? If you're going to go to all the
>trouble of coding IF, there should probably be some reason for doing so
>that makes sense within the context of the story itself.
>
>This is a deep literary question, actually. I'm curious what perspective
>others may have on it.

I think there are many possible reasons. People have mentioned immersion,
but I think that's one of the less-important ones, mainly because, the way it's
referred to, it seems to be regarded as a drop-in technique. Take story, add
immersion, and hey presto! Instant IF!

I am more interested in reasons for linearity that arise from the story
being told or the themes being explored. An obvious example of this is
Rameses, where the character of the PC is reflected in the style of
interaction.

Ultimately, to me, the question is not "if you have a linear story, why
write it as IF and not static fiction?", simply because most stories that
people write are linear. The question I would ask is "given that you are
writing this story as interactive fiction, why make it linear as opposed to
letting the player substantively affect it?"

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Eytan Zweig

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Feb 1, 2002, 2:00:25 AM2/1/02
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Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in message news:<3C5A07AA.3010400@kill_spammers.org>...

> > By making something IF, the
> > player is brought one more step into the action. He's still detached, of
> > course, because typing OPEN DOOR is not the same as opening a door. But it's
> > closer than reading "Then he opened the door".
>
>
> A good writer of conventional fiction would very, very seldom make use
> of a sentence like "Then he opened the door." With a dull thud falls it.

Well, yeah, but that's mainly because of the "then", which implies
stringing sentences along without much thoughts (not that there won't
be contexts when it's a great sentence to use, but I agree that they'd
be rare). But a simple "he opened the door" would work fine - and it
would probably be most author's preferred way of mentioning a
relatively unimportant event of door opening (of course, sometimes
substituting a name or other pronoun for "he").

> The point being, good fiction is immersive, whether its medium is oral
> recitation, paper, staged drama, film/video, or interactive computer
> simulation. Bad fiction fails to be immersive, again irrespective of its
> medium.

"Good fiction is immersive" is just as wrong as "interactive fiction
is immersive". "Fiction that tries to be immersive and succeeds is
good" would probably be a better statement - some fiction isn't
immersive because immersion is not what it's about. Also, some bad
fiction is immersive - a lot of pulp fiction can take you along for
the ride wonderfully, but the moment you drop the book then you
realize it's trash.

To explain myself better than before, immersion isn't a necessary
feature of literature, interactive or not. It's definitely not
something found in IF that's not in Non-IF. Immerison is an effect,
that can be caused in many different ways. IF, by its very nature, has
ways of causing immersion that aren't available to non-IF, at least
not most non-IF.

> The reason why the *medium* of IF isn't as immersive as, for instance,
> film is due at least in part to the limitations of present-day parsers.
> Most of the things one can actually do in IF -- open the door, show the
> gold brooch to Aunt Mathilda, whatever -- aren't very involving.
>

Well, sure, but that's not what I was saying. I was saying that IF
*can* be immersive in ways that non-IF can't be. I was not saying that
it always, or even often, is, nor that there aren't problems also
unique to IF.

> Plus, the act of figuring out what to do next actually pulls you OUT of
> the story. Reading a good mystery is, frankly, at least twice as
> immersive as the best IF. It's immersive PRECISELY because you don't
> need to type anything! No groping. You're transported.
>

Some of this is down to the difference between different readers. I
find written literature, of all types, very immersive. I find cinema -
even at its very, very best, non-immersive - I always feel detached
when watching a movie. I might feel moved, or enlightened, or enjoy
myself, but there is almost never a moment when I see a movie and feel
any qualms about getting up and stopping to see it - even if it's a
great movie. I have a friend whose the opposite - movies really grab
her, books don't.

I find IF very immersive. Others may not. That's not an argument,
either way.

>
> > I think that Photopia is a great example of this - the emotional strength of
> > Photopia is not that the story is strikingly original, nor that it's very
> > interactive. But by putting the player in the world, it becomes personal,
>
>
> I guess I'll have to commit a minor heresy here. I didn't find Photopia
> all that involving emotionally. It was innovative in that it tried to do
> something genuinely new with the medium, I'll grant that. But Photopia
> always gets dragged into discussions of this sort, quite likely because
> there's nothing else (or nothing better, or nothing as well known) that
> people can point to as an example of "literary" IF.
>

The reason I brought Photopia into this discussion is that immersion
is a professed goal of the author, expressed explicitly within the
author's notes. Whether it's a success or not is irrelvent - some
people find it to be one, some people don't. But the question I was
answering was "why do people write this as IF?" (well, actually "why
don't people write this as non-IF") *not* "what do they achieve?" or
"do they succeed".

> I'd much rather put this discussion on hold until we have six or eight
> stories that are, in some respect or other, like Photopia. Then it will
> be possible, perhaps, to make some useful generalizations.

If what you're asking is "how does IF create immersion", or even "can
IF create immersion", then yes. But that's not what you asked - you
asked about the reasons the stories were written. And there are far
more than six or eight stories that were written with Immersion being
a reason in mind.

Eytan

> --Jim Aikin

Sean T Barrett

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Feb 1, 2002, 7:51:46 AM2/1/02
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OKB -- not okblacke <bren...@aol.comRemove> wrote:
>I think there are many possible reasons. People have mentioned immersion,
>but I think that's one of the less-important ones, mainly because, the way it's
>referred to, it seems to be regarded as a drop-in technique. Take story, add
>immersion, and hey presto! Instant IF!

I thought it was "Take story, add IF, and hey presto! Instant immersion!"

>The question I would ask is "given that you are writing this
>story as interactive fiction, why make it linear as opposed to
>letting the player substantively affect it?"

Seconded.

SeanB

Jon Ingold

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Feb 1, 2002, 9:07:52 AM2/1/02
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> The question I would ask is "given that you are
> writing this story as interactive fiction, why make it linear as opposed
to
> letting the player substantively affect it?"

To which I respond (as ever, I'm afraid): "Why would being able to affect
the story make it any more satisfying?"

Jon


Ben A L Jemmett

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Feb 1, 2002, 9:29:30 AM2/1/02
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"Jon Ingold" <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote in message
news:a3e7j1$rja$1...@pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk...

> To which I respond (as ever, I'm afraid): "Why would being able to affect
> the story make it any more satisfying?"

But if the story runs in the same way no matter what the PC does, it's
hardly interactive fiction, is it? It's more like piping a text file
through $PAGER... I don't know about anyone else, but if I've sat there
paging through the text, having to type something which won't have an
effect, I get annoyed and look for a good old printed book.

--
Regards,
Ben A L Jemmett.
(http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ben.jemmett/, http://www.deltasoft.com/)


Sean T Barrett

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Feb 1, 2002, 10:54:00 AM2/1/02
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Strawman.

"Why would being able to affect the story make it any more

satisfying a story?"

"Why would being able to affect the interactive fiction make
it any more satisfying an interactive fiction?"

SeanB

J. Ingold

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Feb 1, 2002, 11:19:29 AM2/1/02
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> But if the story runs in the same way no matter what the PC does, it's
> hardly interactive fiction, is it? It's more like piping a text file
> through $PAGER... I don't know about anyone else, but if I've sat there
> paging through the text, having to type something which won't have an
> effect, I get annoyed and look for a good old printed book.

Could you affect the plot of "Spider and Web"? Did that make the
slightest difference? Was it not IF? And more relevantly, when finally
you *could* affect something, [right at the end] - did it make any
difference to the way you felt about it?

Now ask the same question, replacing "Spider and Web" with:

Kaged
The Weapon
The Djinni Chronicles
The Cove
Heroes

...being a list of the IF games I've played in the last couple of months
(off the top of my head).

Then ask yourself: Would Galatea have worked if it had run the same
regardless of what you did? The answer is No. Which is to say - there
isn't a hard and fast rule for this *in either direction*.

The point isn't "the story running the same way regardless of what the
PC does" -- the point is that the story *doesn't run at all* unless you
the player do *something*. Probably something more specific from a less
specific set of options. That's interaction. But I don't think that
interaction being able to swing the story / plot / resolution /
revelations / whatever about an arc of possibilities is necessarily
important. (In Galatea it is, but then, that's the point of Galatea. In
Kaged you definitely can't, and that's the point of Kaged. And so
forth).

Jon

Jim Aikin

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Feb 1, 2002, 12:43:23 PM2/1/02
to

>>A good writer of conventional fiction would very, very seldom make use
>>of a sentence like "Then he opened the door." With a dull thud falls it.
>
> Well, yeah, but that's mainly because of the "then", which implies
> stringing sentences along without much thoughts (not that there won't
> be contexts when it's a great sentence to use, but I agree that they'd
> be rare). But a simple "he opened the door" would work fine.


No. Good writers seldom mention the opening and closing of doors AT ALL.
There's no earthly reason to do so, and every reason not to: It would
slow the description of a scene to a crawl. Most of the normal movements
of characters (opening a cabinet, for instance, to get a cup in order to
make a cup of coffee) are implied rather than expressed in CF. You can
simply write, "She made herself a cup of instant coffee," and all of
your readers (at least, those in Europe and America, and the
middle-class ones throughout the world) will get it.

Choosing the right details to include in a scene is part of the craft of
conventional fiction. In IF, we have the dubious luxury of including
extra details, but we also have the burden of handling the many boring
details.


>>The point being, good fiction is immersive, whether its medium is oral
>>recitation, paper, staged drama, film/video, or interactive computer
>>simulation. Bad fiction fails to be immersive, again irrespective of its
>>medium.
>
> "Good fiction is immersive" is just as wrong as "interactive fiction
> is immersive". "Fiction that tries to be immersive and succeeds is
> good" would probably be a better statement - some fiction isn't
> immersive because immersion is not what it's about. Also, some bad
> fiction is immersive - a lot of pulp fiction can take you along for
> the ride wonderfully, but the moment you drop the book then you
> realize it's trash.


We can debate about what constitutes "good" fiction or what we mean by
"immersive." I would maintain that all good fiction is immersive, and
that any fiction that fails to be immersive is not good. Bad fiction can
ALSO be immersive, I agree. I'm a big fan of Erle Stanley Gardner's
Perry Mason books, and they're DREADFUL.


> Immerison is an effect


> that can be caused in many different ways. IF, by its very nature, has
> ways of causing immersion that aren't available to non-IF, at least
> not most non-IF.


I agree. As does film. In film, the visuals, sound, and music add to the
immersive effect. In IF, the fact that you can interact with the
environment can, if well handled, add to the immersive effect. No debate
there. But bad interactivity is at least as off-putting as a bad
filmscore -- maybe moreso.

--Jim Aikin

Matthew F Funke

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Feb 1, 2002, 12:43:35 PM2/1/02
to

Right. But the intent of my original ramble (which may not have been
at all clear) was to show that the depth of the playing world is what
players who complain of linearity are really missing.
If a linear game *seems* to be deep and wide (usually because of the
description of the world), chances are that the linearity won't be
something that draws complaint. At least not from me. :) The depth --
which is what the gamer was after -- has been achieved in description, if
not in actual scope.
On the other hand, if a game is linear, but doesn't have any other
facet which makes the world appear large (in the descriptions or
elsewhere), the shallowness of the game becomes apparent... and it's
usually then that I start complaining of too much linearity.
After all, a line is "thin" in more than one dimension. :)
Of course, a gameworld that appear deep because of its puzzles has,
in my opinion, a better chance of being replayed than one that appears
deep because of its descriptive power. (To choose graphical examples,
I've played "Star Control II" by Accolade many, many times, but "The
Crystal Key" by Dreamcatcher only once.) Your mileage may vary, though.

Matthew F Funke

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Feb 1, 2002, 1:04:28 PM2/1/02
to
Tom Smith <hept...@swirve.com> wrote:
>m...@hypatia.unh.edu (Matthew F Funke) wrote:
>> Some simple puzzle has been solved, usually, which
>> causes the game's landscape to explode in scope ... now
>> that the player has a basic familiarity with
>> the mechanisms in the world and can maneuver capably within it, the
>> author wants to introduce her to the world he's devised.
>
>This is not so much a function of IF as a form, rather a convention of
>current IF.

True... hence the "usually" in my paragraph above. Of course, I'll
be the first to admit that it was a poorly organized post, so I can't
expect others to be able to get significant meaning out of it. :)

>> the world you're exposed to is essentially
>> a series of locked doors to which keys must be found. There's never a
>> sense that you're exposed to an atmosphere or a world
>
>... and this is the flipside: the conventional structure where the
>game explodes in scope _can_ (not necessarily _will_) result in this
>series of locked doors; actually, in my opinion it is this more than
>anything that results in the 'sterility' of some IF (whether linear or
>non-linear).

Well, yes, if they're all *obviously* locked doors. I think I may
have mentioned that making puzzles of all the same *type* is bad form as
well... at least, it is if you want *me* to play your game (and I honestly
don't expect you to care one way or the other).
I mentioned "Star Control II" elsewhere in this thread as a game that
has high replayability value (and, one can rightly assume, enjoyability
value) for me. Most of the puzzles in the midgame are of the obvious "get
appropriate carrot to dangle in front of extraterrestrial race to get them
to ally with you" sort. What kept it from being sterile, IMHO, is that
the various carrots were quite different in nature; one race might need to
lure another race to destruction to gain their trust, or they might need
to fix their broken magical item, or they might need to pummel enough of
them to cause the entire race to submit. Moreover, the *reason* all these
puzzles made sense was because the game had a history (going back
thousands of years) which showed how all these races had interacted with
one another, so the puzzles seemed logical and consistent with the
player's place and time.
I recognize that getting carrots is just a variation on the "locked
door" puzzle. But it was the *description* that kept it from seeming too
repetitive or shallow.

David Thornley

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Feb 1, 2002, 2:37:05 PM2/1/02
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In article <3C5A07AA.3010400@kill_spammers.org>,

Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote:
>
>A good writer of conventional fiction would very, very seldom make use
>of a sentence like "Then he opened the door." With a dull thud falls it.
>
FWIW, I can think of one good reason for using that sentence: when
the reader is aware that opening the door may do something out of
the ordinary: "he" may find his wife in flagrante delicto, may
discover that it now opens onto a world in Delta Quadrant, may
be eaten by the escaped lion, whatever. If you like suspense,
that'd be a good time for a chapter break or a viewpoint switch.

--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Jim Nelson

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Feb 1, 2002, 3:42:37 PM2/1/02
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Jim Aikin wrote:
>
> When people start touting the virtues of interactive nonlinear
> storytelling, they generally ignore the fact that a common paperback
> book is a random-access medium. You can read the pages, the paragraphs,
> or indeed the words, in any order that amuses you.

That's an interesting point. It's also true interactive fiction
prevents true random access. Most games don't offer the luxury of
thumbing to the "last page" to read/experience the ending.

Jim

Gary Shannon

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Feb 1, 2002, 8:43:13 PM2/1/02
to

"Jim Aikin" <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in message
news:3C5AD3C3.7030300@kill_spammers.org...
>
<snip>

>
> No. Good writers seldom mention the opening and closing of doors AT ALL.
> There's no earthly reason to do so, and every reason not to:

Counter example: Poe spent several hundred words opening one door in "The
Tell Tale Heart".

--gary


ally

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Feb 3, 2002, 5:17:22 AM2/3/02
to
On 01 Feb 2002, Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in
news:3C5A09AD.5060209@kill_spammers.org:

>
>> even a linear game/story can be subject to the player-reader's own
>> filters. It might not get you off the rails you're on whether or not
>> you spill the milk, burn the portrait or ask the pixie about tir nan
>> og, but each of those actions could reveal optioal bits and pieces
>> that other player-readers might not have thought of or cared about.
>> Sure, in conventional fiction you can semi-skip passages that strike
>> you as boring, and re-read passages that don't, but the text will be
>> the same either way.
>
>
> I hate to split hairs (well, actually I _love_ to split hairs), but the
> text of an IF game/story is the same whether it's displayed on the
> screen or not. The act of failing to display a paragraph on the screen
> is functionally identical to the act of letting your eyes drift past it
> on the page.

Not _quite_, I think. Having played through a piece of IF, you'll never
know for sure what and how much you've missed, or why. And you won't know
whether "x me" would have elicited a lazy "You look about the same as
always" or turned the story upside down (in your mind, not as far as the
internal state of a linear game's "world" is concerned).

(Note that I'm thinking of transcripts here, not the entirety of the
output a piece of IF could possibly produce.)

When you skip a passage in a book, you're _aware_ you're missing out on
whatever the author has put into this _known_ amount of text, and you're
likely to have at least a vague idea as to what that something was about
and why you didn't bother reading it, unless you've remixed the book with
scissors and glue, or are reading through the book sideways, approaches
that "conventional" storytellers don't usually take into account (I
guess), whereas a work of IF is supposed to make sense no matter how many
of its optional bits the player has failed to procure.

Am I splitting hairs? I've been agonizing over this post for days and
still don't feel as though I'd managed to say what I meant to say.


> I had a lot of fun putting 3-layer-deep descriptions of scenery in "Not
> Just An Ordinary Ballerina." I hope it added to some people's enjoyment
> of the game. But I think the virtue in this type of thing is kind of
> the opposite of what you're saying. The fun part is not skipping the
> boring bits but rather discovering fun bits that other readers quite
> likely missed.

I thought that _was_ what I had been saying. Or rather, I had been saying
both, because I consider them opposite sides of the same coin. Obviously,
discovering something interesting is more fun than ignoring something
because you expect it to be boring.


> Plus, you get to pat yourself on the back for having
> thought to type 'x dust'.
>
> However: If this is the only interactive aspect of an otherwise linear
> story in which (to refer back to the head of this thread) the reader is
> being "led by the nose," I for one feel it would be a waste of time to
> write a lot of code in order to give the reader that petite frisson.
> I'd much prefer to write conventional fiction -- in which I control the
> horizontal, I control the vertical....

I would agree (if that's what you're saying) that (much or most of) IF's
potential lies in non-linearity; however, there are games that make
elegant use of linearity in order to achieve a certain effect. (I'm sure
someone has already mentioned Rameses and Photopia elsewhere in this
thread; imagine Rameses in print--it'd just not be the same. Of course,
the fun there is not "discovering something of interest under the sofa" or
anything like that.)

I apologize for having produced this verbose, tangled mess. I'm kinda new
to this rational discussion thing (and not a native speaker).

~ally

--
"It is bone-deep with her, though buried and frozen."

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