Collaborations?

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Stacy the Procrastinating

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Dec 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/9/98
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I know the IF collaborators list exists, but does anyone know of any
games created by a collaboration between a programmer and a
non-programmer? (or a team with a combination of programmers and
non-programmers?) I'm curious because I'm kicking around a project idea,
but my many months of playing with Inform and Hugo tutorials have
convinced me that it'll be quite a while (as in, give or take a
decade or two) before my programming skills are up to snuff for
implementing a whole game. (I have some C programming experince, but
very very little - I once wrote what my Intro to Comp Sci TA called "the
most interestingly broken wumpus I have ever seen").

I've been wondering, though, if collaborations are truly possible between
a programming ignoramus and a techie: there are things that would seem
trivial to a non-programmer ("what do you mean I can't have the player
take half the dirt?") that would be obviously not so to a programmer.
I wonder if those technical limitations that are second nature to
programmes but foreign to non-programmers would become huge barriers. As
a somewhat-similar example, when I try to do collaborative Web projects
with print designers, it tends to end in frustration because they just
don't understand the limits of HTML. I wonder if that would be the case
in an IF collaboration. Obviously, determined parties could ideally
communicate well enough to work around such barriers, but I wonder if the
collaborative approach would work effectively in practicality. Thoughts?
(particularly from anyone who's tried it!)

-stacy

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
bookbug of the brower's bookweb
http://bookweb.simplenet.com
* to reply to this message, cut the animal out of the address *


Michael Gentry

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Dec 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/9/98
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Stacy the Procrastinating wrote in message ...

>I've been wondering, though, if collaborations are truly possible between
>a programming ignoramus and a techie: there are things that would seem
>trivial to a non-programmer ("what do you mean I can't have the player
>take half the dirt?") that would be obviously not so to a programmer.
>I wonder if those technical limitations that are second nature to
>programmes but foreign to non-programmers would become huge barriers.

A really good programmer would be able to focus on *why* you needed to take
half the dirt, and might thereby come up with a good work-around, or even
help the writer reconceptualize the puzzle so that taking half the dirt
isn't necessary. (Actually, a really good programmer would be able to whip
up some halvable dirt, but that's not really the point.)

Likewise, a really good writer would be flexible with her ideas, open to
reconceptualizing them, and willing to learn about the limits of the
programming medium so that she can shape her ideas accordingly.

In other words, I don't think the technical issues *have* to be huge
barriers; but they do pose a challenge, and both parties would have to
approach the project with patience and an open mind.

-M.
================================================
"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Bonnie Montgomery

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Dec 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/9/98
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With creative writing and a somewhat logical mind as my assets, I wrote
Firebird as my first stab at programming with a great deal of assistance
from Chris Nebel, a certified techie. It really did amount to a
collaboration, given the amount of time we spent talking through plot
ideas, implementation schemes, and the type of experience I wanted to
offer the player.

From the outset, Chris was of the opinion that I could code a great deal
of the game myself, and he was right. I started out coding rooms, objects,
and actors, looked at a lot of source code for old TADS games, and built
on my successes.

He would step in when I had reached the limits of my abilities. It became
apparent after a few months of work that I was not the natural programmer
he was, and it was often easier to have him code things when his
explanations of how to implement something met with my dull, returning
stare.

I did want to do a lot of things that were difficult or impossible to
code, especially at first, but I did develop a better sense over time of
the strengths and limitations of TADS.

The game was written in two qualitatively different stages. The first was
in 1994 and 1995, the first year that Chris and I were dating. Our
collaboration was limited to phone calls and weekly visits then. The
second chunk was written in 1997 and 1998, after we were married. It was
that ability to talk and work together every day that helped finally
finish the thing. That we were in a relationship is probably irrelevant.
We just happened to work pretty well together on this sort of project.
Come to think of it, that we did collaborate so well went a long way in
convincing me that Chris was a person who would make an excellent partner
in the big interactive game of marriage.

Chris and I are proof that a programmer and a non-programmer can write a
game together. Mostly it took patience and a willingness to see things
from the other person's perspective, especially when one of us was
frustrated with the other. And, don't think you will stay a non-programmer
for the entire project. As long as you're reasonably intelligent and
logical, you will catch on as you learn by doing.

Hope you find this encouraging. I was really glad in the end to have
finished and released a game. It was one of the highlights of my year.

Bonnie

In article <Pine.SOL.3.96.981209212748.24853B-100000@eclipse>, Stacy the
Procrastinating <sc...@okapi.columbia.edu> wrote:

> I know the IF collaborators list exists, but does anyone know of any
> games created by a collaboration between a programmer and a
> non-programmer? (or a team with a combination of programmers and
> non-programmers?) I'm curious because I'm kicking around a project idea,
> but my many months of playing with Inform and Hugo tutorials have
> convinced me that it'll be quite a while (as in, give or take a
> decade or two) before my programming skills are up to snuff for
> implementing a whole game. (I have some C programming experince, but
> very very little - I once wrote what my Intro to Comp Sci TA called "the
> most interestingly broken wumpus I have ever seen").
>

> I've been wondering, though, if collaborations are truly possible between
> a programming ignoramus and a techie: there are things that would seem
> trivial to a non-programmer ("what do you mean I can't have the player
> take half the dirt?") that would be obviously not so to a programmer.
> I wonder if those technical limitations that are second nature to

Steve Owens

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Dec 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/10/98
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Stacy the Procrastinating (sc...@okapi.columbia.edu) wrote:

: I've been wondering, though, if collaborations are truly possible between


: a programming ignoramus and a techie:

Not impossible, but challenging. Especially if you're doing it long
distance, like we were for Evil. While our finished product still had a
few kinks in it (and we appreciate a lot of the constructive criticism we
got) that was more a function of the amount of time we worked on it (about
a week) and the fact that I had never coded in Inform before.

Anyway, the way we worked it is that my partner would write room and
object descriptions, email them to me, and I would code them up. What was
most difficult about this was that I had to hammer his prose into
something that would work in an IF setting. But now that we've done it
once, our next project will be that much easier, and we'll know to spend a
little more time on it.

Steve
Creative Differences Productions Ltd.

---

"Thank you Mayor Blank, we all enjoyed saving your life. You see, evil
comes in many forms, whether it be a man-eating cow or Joseph Stalin, but
you can't let the package hide the pudding! Evil is just plain bad! You
don't cotton to it. You gotta smack it in the nose with the rolled-up
newspaper of goodness! Bad dog! Bad dog!"
--The Tick


Stacy the Procrastinating

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Dec 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/10/98
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On Wed, 9 Dec 1998, Bonnie Montgomery wrote:

> Come to think of it, that we did collaborate so well went a long way in
> convincing me that Chris was a person who would make an excellent partner
> in the big interactive game of marriage.
>
> Chris and I are proof that a programmer and a non-programmer can write a
> game together. Mostly it took patience and a willingness to see things
> from the other person's perspective, especially when one of us was
> frustrated with the other. And, don't think you will stay a non-programmer
> for the entire project. As long as you're reasonably intelligent and
> logical, you will catch on as you learn by doing.


Oh wow...that's quite a sucessful collaboration :) Thanks for all these
responses, all...it's useful to hear about the different ways people
have made/are making this sort of thing work.

Scarlet Herring

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Dec 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/10/98
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On Wed, 9 Dec 1998 21:52:07 -0500, Stacy the Procrastinating
<sc...@okapi.columbia.edu> wrote:

>I've been wondering, though, if collaborations are truly possible between

>a programming ignoramus and a techie: there are things that would seem
>trivial to a non-programmer ("what do you mean I can't have the player
>take half the dirt?") that would be obviously not so to a programmer.

You may have a few misconceptions about the nature of the "techie".
True, hard-core techies, interested only in the intricacies of
programming, do exist, but they won't be interested in writing
adventure games; if anything, they would like to program a new
adventure game authoring system, which obviously would be a whole lot
better than TADS or Inform (in their opinion, of course, personally I
am a great admirer of these systems). Most programmers are NOT
techies, though. They see programming as a necessary evil needed to
implement their ideas. Most programmers who work on adventure games do
so because they like to author an adventure game, not because they
like programming so much.

On the other hand, an author concentrating only on the authoring
aspect and not on the programming aspect would have a very hard time.
Certainly, an author could provide room descriptions and puzzles, but
far more than half of the authoring of an adventure game consists of
handling all the weird things the player tries, which are not part of
the main flow of the game. For example, if you would need the command
"take half the dirt" in a game, and a programmer would have
implemented it for you, you should also provide text and logic for
other instances where the player would try to take half things ("take
half the inventory", "take half the lamp").

What could be done, is that an author designs a game, providing texts
for rooms, puzzles, objects, etc, and when a programmer implements it,
he would leave all the extra texts he would need blank, with an
indication that text is needed there. Then the author could get a list
of all needed texts, and provide those. But my feeling is that it
would come down to the author discovering that he/she only provided
about 10% of the needed text in the first go. Also, the writing of
text alone wouldn't be enough: the author should also provide certain
logic, for instance: "when Floyd is in the same room as the player,
show about 1/3 of the time randomly one of the following ten texts:
[...], except when the current location is the laboatory, where ...".
You see, authoring would become a bit like coding in English.

No, the best way to work for a non-programmer author is to learn a bit
of programming, code most of the game him/herself (the basics of a
game won't be that difficult to program), and ask a programmer to
implement the difficult bits. You would certainly find many people in
this newsgroup willing to help you. But there won't be many willing to
do the complete programming of the game for you: that's just dirty
work.

-------------------------
Scarlet Herring
scarlet...@yahoo.com

Frank Filz

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Dec 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/10/98
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Scarlet Herring wrote:
>
> On Wed, 9 Dec 1998 21:52:07 -0500, Stacy the Procrastinating
> <sc...@okapi.columbia.edu> wrote:
> You may have a few misconceptions about the nature of the "techie".
> True, hard-core techies, interested only in the intricacies of
> programming, do exist, but they won't be interested in writing
> adventure games; if anything, they would like to program a new
> adventure game authoring system, which obviously would be a whole lot
> better than TADS or Inform (in their opinion, of course, personally I
> am a great admirer of these systems).

I consider myself a serious techie, and I certainly could, and would
enjoy, writing an edventure game authoring system, however, I know that
I don't have the time right now to outdo Inform (of course I'm happy to
contribute ideas about how one might go about writing a new improved
authoring system).
> ...


> You see, authoring would become a bit like coding in English.

Well, many prospective authors have asked for an authoring system which
is like coding in english. Seems to me a programmer can emulate such an
authoring system quite well...

> No, the best way to work for a non-programmer author is to learn a bit

> of programming...


> But there won't be many willing to
> do the complete programming of the game for you: that's just dirty
> work.

I know I would enjoy working in collaboration as a programmer. I think
I have enough authoring skill to fill in some of those blanks, sure I
would check with the author to see that they liked my added ideas. I
agree that it would help for the author to have some skill (as someone
else mentioned about collaborating with her SO), but I don't think the
programmer will just be left with the "dirty work".

--
Frank Filz

-----------------------------
Work: mailto:ff...@us.ibm.com
Home: mailto:ff...@mindspring.com

Stacy the Procrastinating

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Dec 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/10/98
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On Thu, 10 Dec 1998, Frank Filz wrote:

>
> I know I would enjoy working in collaboration as a programmer. I think
> I have enough authoring skill to fill in some of those blanks, sure I
> would check with the author to see that they liked my added ideas. I
> agree that it would help for the author to have some skill (as someone
> else mentioned about collaborating with her SO), but I don't think the
> programmer will just be left with the "dirty work".
>

Agreed. I've always approached this from the perspective that an author
would need _some_programming interest & skill, but having the skills to
implement 90% or so of a game just isn't a trivial thing. That's why
I'm curious about how people balance these things. I never saw it as "I
write, you code," but I'm wondering how much of a coding sense the writer
must have.

Pezman

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Dec 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/13/98
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Stacy the Procrastinating wrote:
>
> I know the IF collaborators list exists, but does anyone know of any

Just a note to everyone:
A mirror of the IF Collaborator's List can be found at :
http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Haven/1227/index.html
Once I get around to uploading my web page again* it will also be
found there:
http://crash.ihug.co.nz/~daleys


I _do_ like to hear about successful collaborations (I'm afraid I'm not
keeping up with the IF scene as much as I should).

* My ISP was hacked and all the web pages are lost, they're trying to
get the hacker extradited (is that the right word?) to the US because NZ
has very little in terms of computer crime laws

--
Nicholas Daley
<link_...@geocities.com>

PS What do people think about my making the site a more graphics/frames
oriented page? At present its text only because:
a) I wanted to make it easier for people with text only browses
b) I'm far too lazy :-)=

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Dec 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/17/98
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Stacy the Procrastinating <sc...@okapi.columbia.edu> wrote:

> I've been wondering, though, if collaborations are truly possible between
> a programming ignoramus and a techie: there are things that would seem
> trivial to a non-programmer ("what do you mean I can't have the player
> take half the dirt?") that would be obviously not so to a programmer.

You'd just both have to recognise that fact and be willing to discuss
alternatives with one another.

- jonadab

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Dec 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/17/98
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Stacy the Procrastinating <sc...@okapi.columbia.edu> wrote:

> Agreed. I've always approached this from the perspective that an author
> would need _some_programming interest & skill, but having the skills to
> implement 90% or so of a game just isn't a trivial thing. That's why
> I'm curious about how people balance these things. I never saw it as "I
> write, you code," but I'm wondering how much of a coding sense the writer
> must have.

Enough to do this:

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

Room westernhall "Western Hall"
with description "A real author would have a better
description, but this is an example.",
e_to easternhall,
has light;

Object table1 "table" westernhall
with name "table",
initial "A real author would have a better
text here, too.",
description "And here, as well.",
has static supporter;

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

I wouldn't want to code for a writer that couldn't
at least handle that level of programming.
Ability to handle such things as a before
rule that prints text and returns true would
nice, too.


- jonadab

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