[Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction

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Marnie Parker

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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Over a year in development! Thousands of words and tons of quotes! (Well,
thankfully, only a few quotes.) Original, ground-breaking, common sensical,
obvious, humdrum, boring.

You decide.

The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction: Why We Like What We Like
(Version 2.20)

This theory, although the basis of the IF Art Show, only mentions it once.
Because the focus of this "paper" is computer interactivity, specifically, IF's
interactivity.

It is too long, approx. 40 "pages", to publish here, so I have put it on my web
page. I certainly don't expect anyone who reads it to agree with all of it, or
even with just parts, but I think almost every IF author/player can get
SOMETHING out of it. So I now offer it for your perusal.

Reader comments:

"I think it should be required reading for nearly everyone writing IF."
Stephen Granade

"A very thoughtful and thought-provoking study."
Den of Iniquity (Dennis Scott)

"Congratulations, Doe; this is a fine piece of theory -- even if I don't agree
with all of it, it's still thought-provoking and worth
discussing/debating/otherwise chewing over."
Michael Gentry

"Read Doe's essay and think about it. Agree with her or not, this essay gives
us all a common theoretical footing and a vocabulary with which to begin
discussion of IF as theory."
Adam J. Thornton

If you have any reactions to this theory, please don't email me but post your
comments to this thread so we can keep any discussion in the newsgroup.

Thank you, Doe

http://members.aol.com/doepage/theory.html

doea...@aol.com ------------------------------------------------------
Inform Tips - http://members.aol.com/doepage/infotips.htm
IF Art Gallery - http://members.aol.com/iffyart/
IF Review Conspiracy - http://www.textfire.com/conspiracy/


David Cornelson

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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"Marnie Parker" <doea...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:20000315072930...@ng-cd1.aol.com...

> Over a year in development! Thousands of words and tons of quotes! (Well,
> thankfully, only a few quotes.) Original, ground-breaking, common
sensical,
> obvious, humdrum, boring.
>
> You decide.
>
> The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction: Why We Like What We Like
> (Version 2.20)
>

[Gulp]

I'm still digesting this 'paper'. I'd say it's stunning

Hey Doe - you also have to add another 'type'. People who tend write games
and tools, hang around for conversations, but only rarely play any games at
all. Babel was the last game that I truly liked. Most others have lightly
tickled me or in some cases, I just didn't get it.

Anyway - required reading for sure. If you're going to even think about
writing IF, this should be a place to start - for several reasons. For the
enlightened, it gives some direction. For the dabbler, it may give you an
honest feel for just how difficult it is to create a widely liked game.

Marnie - I nominate you IF Person of the Month. (Swimsuit calendars will be
available later.)

Jarb

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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Marnie Parker <doea...@aol.com> wrote:
> "Read Doe's essay and think about it. Agree with her or not, this essay gives
> us all a common theoretical footing and a vocabulary with which to begin
> discussion of IF as theory."

Nooo! Not a sound theoretical footinnnnnng!

--Z

(I look forward to reading it -- after work, though)

--Z

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

Marnie Parker

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>From: "David Cornelson" dcorn...@placet.com
>Date: 3/15/00 6:49 AM Pacific Standard Time

>[Gulp]
>
>I'm still digesting this 'paper'. I'd say it's stunning

Thanks.

>Hey Doe - you also have to add another 'type'. People who tend write games
>and tools, hang around for conversations, but only rarely play any games at
>all. Babel was the last game that I truly liked. Most others have lightly
>tickled me or in some cases, I just didn't get it.

Hehehe. I admit, except for yearly comp games -- the more I write WIPs, plain
coding stuff, etc. -- the less I have played.

>Anyway - required reading for sure. If you're going to even think about
>writing IF, this should be a place to start - for several reasons. For the
>enlightened, it gives some direction. For the dabbler, it may give you an
>honest feel for just how difficult it is to create a widely liked game.
>
>Marnie - I nominate you IF Person of the Month. (Swimsuit calendars will be
>available later.)

I like soft furry animals, walks on moonlight beaches, and men with a sense of
humor. I also dislike intolerant people. And I am working on my college degree
and when I finish I plan to...

Oops. Sorry, was dazed there for a minute, don't know what came over me.

Doe :-)

Dennis Smith

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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Doe wrote:

>"A very thoughtful and thought-provoking study."
> Den of Iniquity (Dennis Scott)

Hoo. You spelled Iniquity right!

Rodman. Dennis Rodman.

--
Den


The Solar Echo

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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Doe:

I'd have to say that this is a masterpiece. I felt enlightened, especially
reading it as a new writer of I-F.

Interactive Fiction is barely classified. Matching an I-F game to a players
likes and dislikes is difficult, either involving random downloads and trial
and error, or reviews written by people who may or may not share your I-F
personality type.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a site where games were classified according
to their I-F structure? Anyone visiting the site could take a test to
determine their I-F personality type, and linked to games that fit.

Not only would this take a lot of the guesswork out of finding games that
appeal to you, it would make it easier for I-F authors to match their games
with their target audience.

Just a few ideas. Thanks for the The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction,
Doe....it certainly was food for thought.
Solar

((((((:. The Solar Echo .:))))))

J.D. Berry

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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In article <20000315152530...@ng-de1.aol.com>,

thesol...@aol.com (The Solar Echo) wrote:

> Interactive Fiction is barely classified. Matching an I-F game to a
> players likes and dislikes is difficult, either involving random
> downloads and trial and error, or reviews written by people who may
> or may not share your I-F personality type.

I found this part of Doe's oeuvre (if you will ;-) the most
intriguing.

>
> Wouldn't it be nice if there was a site where games were classified
> according to their I-F structure? Anyone visiting the site could take
> a test to determine their I-F personality type, and linked to games
> that fit.

The problem is that there aren't enough ratings in the first place, let
alone a break down by personality types.

I think a detailed review of a game can provide enough clues, though,
to how a given player will enjoy the game. Terms like "puzzle
fest" "puzzleless" "off the wall" "straightforward" "highly
interactive" say a lot. And, yes, that won't work every time, but
neither will personality type classification.

...
All in all, nice work, Doe. :-)

Jim
Also an INFP


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Adam Cadre

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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> Interactive Fiction is barely classified.

Good. This is something that's come up before, albeit in another
context -- the last time around I believe it was all about Genre:
dividing games up into categories like Mystery, Sci-Fi, College,
Everyday-World, Tragical-Comical-Historical-Pastoral, Scene
Individable, Poem Unlimited or what have you. And then someone
says, "But I prefer works that don't fit into a particular category"
and the taxonomists cry, "Great! We'll put those works in a category
called Uncategorizable!" and then there are tears.

> Wouldn't it be nice if there was a site where games were classified
> according to their I-F structure?

Not so much, no. I mean, the temptation when someone comes along and
makes some new and interesting points is to want to build a System
out of it. Observations are often packed with truth and meaning;
systems rarely are. If this essay causes people start talking more
about the way that a particular game engages their minds, the way it
causes them to construct or reconstruct sensory experience, then that's
certainly all to the good and a huge contribution to our understanding
of this still quite embryonic medium. But when people start to try to
fit their experiences into a pre-existing framework -- to "classify
games according to their IF structure" -- that seems more likely to
limit understanding than enhance it. To borrow from a buzzphrase of
the day, it encourages us to Think Inside The Box.

> Anyone visiting the site could take a test to determine their I-F
> personality type, and linked to games that fit.

See, this I really don't like. What shape would this test take? It
seems to me that it'd end up devolving either into tautologies ("5. Do
you like games with big maps to explore? Then you might want to try
games with big maps to explore") or an exercise in dubious connections
("11. How many dots end up on the inside of the cube when folded up?
Your spatial relations are strong enough that you'd like these puzzle-
oriented games...")

> Not only would this take a lot of the guesswork out of finding games
> that appeal to you, it would make it easier for I-F authors to match
> their games with their target audience.

Hmmm.

I was going to say that a more likely way to match up players with
games would be to simply have a web-like database where you pick a
game you've liked, and it says, "If you liked game X, you might
also like W, Y and Z," and then traveling on to W reveals that "you
might also like X, Z and Q" and so forth. But now that I think about
it, I'm not sure that even this would work.

After all -- if people started constructing lists of games they liked,
would it be likely that games would cluster up? That if someone does
like game A, that they pretty much always also like B and C, and that
if they dislike A, chances are they won't like B or C? My suspicion
is that that would *not* be the case. Just from my own experience: I
write games that I as a player would enjoy playing -- that's how I
decide whether a project is going well as I'm working on it. If
someone were to ask what category of game I most enjoy, I'd round up
the games on my web site and say, "The category to which these belong."
But few people tend to think of my games as belonging in the same
category at all -- one reviewer once asked how many games I could write
that bore no resemblance to previous ones -- and very few people tend
to like (or, more hearteningly, dislike) all of them. Just to take my
main releases of each of the last four years: do you group I-0 with
Varicella for offering a lot of freedom of action, and Photopia with
Shrapnel for offering not much freedom at all? Or do you group
Varicella with Shrapnel for covering much of the same thematic
territory, and I-0 with Photopia for not straying into such dark
territory? Or do you group Photopia with Varicella for being fairly
complete works, and I-0 with Shrapnel as being more experiments than
full games? And this is even *before* you branch out into works by
other authors. Is someone who likes Photopia likely to enjoy Babel?
You'd get a vehement yes from some people and an equally vehement no
from others. Zarf has a sizeable body of work out there -- do people
either enjoy or not enjoy "Zarfian" works? If so, why is it that I
really enjoyed Spider and Web and (in retrospect) Hunter, in Darkness,
but didn't much care for So Far or A Change in the Weather?

Again, I think it'd be worth it to do some empirical research rather
than relying on hunches. But until that research is done, my hunch
is that people are no more likely to like a random game chosen from
their designated "personality category" than they are to like a random
game chosen from the archive as a whole.

-----
Adam Cadre, Sammamish, WA
http://adamcadre.ac

Joe Mason

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
>I was going to say that a more likely way to match up players with
>games would be to simply have a web-like database where you pick a
>game you've liked, and it says, "If you liked game X, you might
>also like W, Y and Z," and then traveling on to W reveals that "you
>might also like X, Z and Q" and so forth. But now that I think about
>it, I'm not sure that even this would work.

www.alexlit.com does this for science fiction and fantasy. The IMDB does it
for movies. The IMDB recommendations have been pretty useless, I've found,
probably because it's just one of the many things IMDB does (and not an
important one) so it's not done very well. I've never used alexlit, but the
observation on rec.arts.sf.written is something like, "You give it a highly
personalized list of books which you've liked in the past, and it goes through
a sophisticated matching process, correlates your taste with those of other
users, and tells you to read Lois McMaster Bujold."

Which is always a good recommendation, but it doesn't really need a web rating
system to tell you that. In an IF context, 80% or so of users are going to
be told 'You'll like stuff by Zarf,' no matter what they put in. The reason,
or at least the reason that seems reasonable to me, is that these games are
liked by people with a wide variety of tastes and are therefore going to show
up for a wide variety of input lists. (Now for a philosophical question: is a
recommendation service which always says "Zarf" more useless for people who
*like* Zarf's work, or who *hate* Zarf's work?)

Of course, it can't HURT to do a recommendation service like this, and there's
always the chance that it'll benefit people. alexlit still gets recommended
on rec.arts.sf.written fairly often, so the fact that Bujold and _Bridge of
Birds_ show up on every recommendation list doesn't seem to be much of a
problem. The big thing about a recommendation service is that it doesn't try
to slot things into categories, so there isn't a danger of starting to focus
on the wrong thing.

(BTW, I haven't read Doe's essay yet - midterms and assignments and stuff this
week. Which is also why I haven't yet typed up the IF Conspiracy review I was
supposed to have done for Friday. I'll probably get a chance this weekend.)

Joe

Second April

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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On Wed, 15 Mar 2000, J.D. Berry wrote:

> In article <20000315152530...@ng-de1.aol.com>,
> thesol...@aol.com (The Solar Echo) wrote:
>
> > Interactive Fiction is barely classified. Matching an I-F game to a
> > players likes and dislikes is difficult, either involving random
> > downloads and trial and error, or reviews written by people who may
> > or may not share your I-F personality type.
>
> I found this part of Doe's oeuvre (if you will ;-) the most
> intriguing.
>
> >

> > Wouldn't it be nice if there was a site where games were classified

> > according to their I-F structure? Anyone visiting the site could take


> > a test to determine their I-F personality type, and linked to games
> > that fit.
>

> The problem is that there aren't enough ratings in the first place, let
> alone a break down by personality types.

And it's not clear that personality types dictate enjoyment all that much
anyway.

If you ask me for a short list of IF that I enjoyed most, I'd probably
mention Babel, Sunset Over Savannah, Varicella, Little Blue Men, Change in
the Weather, Worlds Apart, Spellbreaker, and Trinity. Oh, and Losing Your
Grip.

So what category am I in? Sunset and Worlds Apart could probably be called
"emotive," if that means anything, but it's hard to see how Varicella or
Spellbreaker or Little Blue Men could qualify. Change in the Weather was
highly visual, but I don't think you could say that of Little Blue Men or
Trinity--and if "enjoying words" is in opposition to visual, than I'm in
the "linguistic" category because it's the quality of the writing in
Varicella and Trinity that really appealed to me. Do I require movement to
process information? There's movement in all of the above, but varying
amounts of it, and I liked Enlightenment too. And I'll venture to say that
I liked Grip--and others too--because it rewarded analysis and thought,
which isn't really related to information processing at all.

I don't mean to bash Doe, really. There are probably lessons here for
potential authors, along the lines of "use all the senses." But
personality and information-processing types only dictate a narrow range
of reactions, namely to unusual works of IF that tend to favor one type of
processing approach over another. Photopia may be one example, but I'm
hard pressed to think of another.

Duncan Stevens
dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu

But buy me a singer to sing one song--
Song about nothing--song about sheep--
Over and over, all day long;
Patch me again my thread-bare sleep.

--Edna St. Vincent Millay

mathew

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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The Solar Echo <thesol...@aol.com> wrote:
> I thought of that too, but I don't think it would work either. Amazon.com has
> something like this for books and music, and it's never seemed to work very
> well at all for me.

Well, on the other hand, www.moviecritic.com has been stunningly good at
predicting movies I'll like -- to the extent that I'm planning to watch
something I was sure I'd hate, simply because moviecritic is convinced
I'll like it...

However, that accuracy comes after having rated over 300 movies. I'm
not sure I've played more than thirty pieces of IF.


mathew

dcorn...@my-deja.com

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Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
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In article <38D013...@adamcadre.ac>,

re...@adamcadre.ac wrote:
> > Interactive Fiction is barely classified.
>
<Snip Lot's of stuff Adam said>

And I'd add to Adam's statement that on any given day I may like a game
like Photopia and then on other days, ach, give me a crobar and let me
do some damage. Yet on other days I just wanna find stuff and fix
things and not 'talk' to anyone (NPC's).

This is the piece that's likely missing from Doe's theory (even though
it's a great start). That we all evolve and change and that includes our
tastes in game-playing.

Categorization is a bad idea. As I've mentioned before, the best way to
weed out games is that the author should write something catchy that
describes the content and feel of their game and then potential gamers
can decide from the 'trailer' whether to play it or not. Reviews help a
lot too, but we're (RAIF) just not very good at reviews overall.

I know Doe mentioned categorization in her theory, but I think the value
lies in writing new games, not in categorizing already written games.

Her theories are more of a 'guideline', not a 'rule'.

I just thought of something else. I think real books and book stores are
moving in the non-categorization direction as well. Sci-Fi/Fantasy book
racks used to be huge and the general fiction section was the same or
smaller. Sci-Fi/Fantasy shelves are nothing compared to the general
fiction sections of today and you can certainly find overlap in both
directions.

Nothing concrete should come of this - it's just a "Hey, think about
this when you write a game" kind of thing.

IMHO

Jarb

ct

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Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
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In article <1lVz4.23598$Hq3.5...@news2.rdc1.on.home.com>,

Joe Mason <jcm...@uwaterloo.ca> wrote:
>important one) so it's not done very well. I've never used alexlit, but the
>observation on rec.arts.sf.written is something like, "You give it a highly
>personalized list of books which you've liked in the past, and it goes through
>a sophisticated matching process, correlates your taste with those of other
>users, and tells you to read Lois McMaster Bujold."

And, indeed, it did! Oh, ok, it recommended a variety of other books
too, a number of which I'd read and loved - it must be doing something
right. (Though I'm less convinced about Dorothy Sayer...)

>(Now for a philosophical question: is a recommendation service which
>always says "Zarf" more useless for people who *like* Zarf's work, or
>who *hate* Zarf's work?)

As a recommendation service, it'd be crap - it shouldn't be suggesting
things you've already 'rated'.

regards, ct


The Solar Echo

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Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
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Yeah....I really get your point here, and I feel wiser for it.
It's not that I really think that it would work, it's just that it would be
nice if there was a way it could work.

>I was going to say that a more likely way to match up players with
>games would be to simply have a web-like database where you pick a
>game you've liked, and it says, "If you liked game X, you might
>also like W, Y and Z," and then traveling on to W reveals that "you
>might also like X, Z and Q" and so forth. But now that I think about
>it, I'm not sure that even this would work.

I thought of that too, but I don't think it would work either. Amazon.com has


something like this for books and music, and it's never seemed to work very
well at all for me.

RudeJohn

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Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
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And lo, there was much rejoicing amongst the people when
thesol...@aol.com (The Solar Echo) didst proclaim:

...snip...
=> Wouldn't it be nice if there was a site where games were classified
according
=> to their I-F structure? Anyone visiting the site could take a test
to
=> determine their I-F personality type, and linked to games that fit.
...snip...


Howdy,


Is it just me, or is this whole concept of "IF personality typing" a
tad spooky? I mean, what if I change my mind? What if my taste in
entertainment changes from week to week. Am I going to have to pay a
fine? Will I have to take the test over and over and over again? Are
the IF Police going to drag me out of my bed and rush me off to a
Reeducation Facility? Will the lobotomy hurt? Will someone use this
bit of speculation as a theme for a short piece of IF?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. ];-)


C'ya,
RJ
"I'm rude. It's a job."

Plant Kingdom

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Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
On Wed, 15 Mar 2000 14:50:02 -0800, Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac>
wrote:

>> Interactive Fiction is barely classified.
>

>Good. This is something that's come up before, albeit in another
>context -- the last time around I believe it was all about Genre:
>dividing games up into categories like Mystery, Sci-Fi, College,
>Everyday-World, Tragical-Comical-Historical-Pastoral, Scene
>Individable, Poem Unlimited or what have you. And then someone
>says, "But I prefer works that don't fit into a particular category"
>and the taxonomists cry, "Great! We'll put those works in a category
>called Uncategorizable!" and then there are tears.

I propose three categories: "Bad IF", "Good IF", and "Mediocre IF To
Be Played When You've Played All the Good IF." Uncategorize that!

>> Wouldn't it be nice if there was a site where games were classified

>> according to their I-F structure?
>
>Not so much, no. I mean, the temptation when someone comes along and
>makes some new and interesting points is to want to build a System
>out of it. Observations are often packed with truth and meaning;
>systems rarely are. If this essay causes people start talking more
>about the way that a particular game engages their minds, the way it
>causes them to construct or reconstruct sensory experience, then that's
>certainly all to the good and a huge contribution to our understanding
>of this still quite embryonic medium. But when people start to try to
>fit their experiences into a pre-existing framework -- to "classify
>games according to their IF structure" -- that seems more likely to
>limit understanding than enhance it. To borrow from a buzzphrase of
>the day, it encourages us to Think Inside The Box.

With so much of an IF game being tied up in its structure, the simple
act of publishing classifications might act as a spoiler. The body of
available IF works is becoming large enough that there might be
interesting generalizations to be drawn, but I prefer not to know too
much in advance.

Novelty is the main draw in many works, and something is only novel
once (except perhaps viewed through the filter of nostalgia). Trying
to classify the level of novelty in a game is clearly a fraught
enterprise.

The things I would be most interested to know in advance are:

a) Has the author done something nasty and ill-advised to the parser?
(Lobotomized it, that is.)

b) Does the author know how to use Mr. Apostrophe in a non-heinous
manner?

c) Is the scatological humor at least mildly redeemed by ANYTHING else
in the work?

And so on.

[major snippage]

>Just to take my
>main releases of each of the last four years: do you group I-0 with
>Varicella for offering a lot of freedom of action, and Photopia with
>Shrapnel for offering not much freedom at all? Or do you group
>Varicella with Shrapnel for covering much of the same thematic
>territory, and I-0 with Photopia for not straying into such dark
>territory? Or do you group Photopia with Varicella for being fairly
>complete works, and I-0 with Shrapnel as being more experiments than
>full games? And this is even *before* you branch out into works by
>other authors.

Clearly, one would want to use a system like WordNet - one can choose
which morphological threads to follow through the labyrinth of
ftp.gmd.de. (Assuming one were to undertake this venture, of course.)


Remember, some of us may actually _like_ the waters largely uncharted.
Is the frontier as interesting once it has been tamed?

[snip]

>Again, I think it'd be worth it to do some empirical research rather
>than relying on hunches. But until that research is done, my hunch
>is that people are no more likely to like a random game chosen from
>their designated "personality category" than they are to like a random
>game chosen from the archive as a whole.

I prefer is the recommendations of individuals to distillations of
mass knowledge. With the individual, I can form opinions about their
tastes, and determine whether their ideas of what constitutes
enjoyable IF are likely to jibe with mine. Aphoristically: when
dipping one's spoon into the porridge of agglomerated opinion, the
chances of fetching out a raisin of enlightenment are heavily
dependent on the number of raisins.

Er. Somebody slap me now.

> Adam Cadre, Sammamish, WA
> http://adamcadre.ac

Plant Kingdom
p...@littleraven.com


"You, Sir, talk like a Rosicrucian who will love nothing but a sylph, who
does not believe in a sylph, and who yet quarrels with the universe for
not containing a sylph."
--Thomas Love Peacock, _Nightmare Abbey_

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
Joe Mason <jcm...@uwaterloo.ca> wrote:

> Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
>>I was going to say that a more likely way to match up players with
>>games would be to simply have a web-like database where you pick a
>>game you've liked, and it says, "If you liked game X, you might
>>also like W, Y and Z," and then traveling on to W reveals that "you
>>might also like X, Z and Q" and so forth. But now that I think about
>>it, I'm not sure that even this would work.
>
> www.alexlit.com does this for science fiction and fantasy. The IMDB does it
> for movies. The IMDB recommendations have been pretty useless, I've found,
> probably because it's just one of the many things IMDB does (and not an
> important one) so it's not done very well. I've never used alexlit, but the
> observation on rec.arts.sf.written is something like, "You give it a highly
> personalized list of books which you've liked in the past, and it goes through
> a sophisticated matching process, correlates your taste with those of other
> users, and tells you to read Lois McMaster Bujold."

And Barry Hughart. (Oh, damn, you mention that farther down. Sorry.)

You're right; it's an interesting tool, but it should be regarded as an
adjunct to Going Out And Getting Some Damn Book Recommendations.

Note that rec.arts.sf.written is an *excellent* mechanism for getting book
recommendations -- because it's a big fat pool of sci-fi fans.

Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
>Subject: Re: [Theory] The Meta-Puzzle of Interactive Fiction
>From: thesol...@aol.com (The Solar Echo)
>Date: 3/15/00 12:25 PM Pacific Standard Time

>Wouldn't it be nice if there was a site where games were classified according

>to their I-F structure? Anyone visiting the site could take a test to

>determine their I-F personality type, and linked to games that fit.

>Not only would this take a lot of the guesswork out of finding games that


>appeal to you, it would make it easier for I-F authors to match their games
>with their target audience.

Well, I had obviously played around with the idea mentally, or it wouldn't have
been mentioned in my paper.

And it wouldn't really matter if people didn't agree with it, because there are
all kinds of rating / recommendation services out there that people don't agree
with. Like Baf's guide, which I think is now defunct, I often disagreed with
that, although it was pretty good and often helpful.

But imagine the work involved! Imagine how many games one would have to play!

Maybe if I am still around in 8-10 years I might. Because I also might have
finally played enough IF games by then.

Glad you enjoyed the paper.

YesuSlave

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
>Remember, some of us may actually _like_ the waters largely uncharted.
>Is the frontier as interesting once it has been tamed?


I think that the question no longer comes down to "will we chart these waters"
but "how will it happen?" We either have the choice of working together to
create a good and acceptable system, or we will completely separate on this
issue and the work will be done, but not as well as it could have been.

Josh

Play Deephome, an interactive exorcism and repair job.
Http://www.angelfire.com/nj2/Yesuslave

Iain Merrick

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:
[...]

> And I'd add to Adam's statement that on any given day I may like a game
> like Photopia and then on other days, ach, give me a crobar and let me
> do some damage.

...to some cute, fluffy lion-cubs?

Don't worry, everyone has days like that. I think.

--
Iain Merrick
i...@cs.york.ac.uk

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
YesuSlave <yesu...@aol.com> wrote:
>>Remember, some of us may actually _like_ the waters largely uncharted.
>>Is the frontier as interesting once it has been tamed?
>
> I think that the question no longer comes down to "will we chart these waters"
> but "how will it happen?" We either have the choice of working together to
> create a good and acceptable system, or we will completely separate on this
> issue and the work will be done, but not as well as it could have been.

I know I'm repeating myself, but I don't think this is a task which
improves with concensus.

Nor is it a matter of "charting a frontier", for heaven's sake. Have you
*noticed* that the task of genre classification has *never been done*, not
for books, not for movies, not for board games or wallpaper patterns?

Paul O'Brian

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
On Thu, 16 Mar 2000 dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:

> Reviews help a
> lot too, but we're (RAIF) just not very good at reviews overall.

I'm not so sure about that. I've been pretty impressed with the number of
reviews I've received for SPAG. This last issue had 22 reviews in it, from
a variety of sources. Not only that, there's the IF Review Conspiracy,
which seems to be cranking out the reviews at healthy rate. Not only that,
there are the scads and scads of competition reviews that show up every
year. Not only that, there are the occasional one-off reviews that appear
in rgif from time to time. (You say RAIF above, but I assume you're
referring to the community as a whole. Rec.arts.int-fiction isn't the most
appropriate forum for reviews.) From what I can see, I'd say we're pretty
damn good at reviews, especially for a hobbyist community where nobody
gets renumerated for their work.

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
> GET SPAG ISSUE 20 FROM HTTP://WWW.SPARKYNET.COM/SPAG. EXAMINE IT.
This lovingly produced zine features news, reviews, and more, all focusing
on interactive fiction! It's nice and thick, too.


YesuSlave

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
>I know I'm repeating myself, but I don't think this is a task which
>improves with concensus.

To clarify, I don't mean that we should all sit down and agree whether Photopia
should be counted in the Sci-fi realm or not because of the sections in it that
may be construed in such a way...but how we see IF as a whole.
Practically tested, a few people would set up a page to catagorize a small
section of randomly chosen IF and classify it. We could then get the responses
from people as to how such a system might be improved and expanded to be most
useful.
Please also understand that this isn't an attempt to Nazize the world of IF,
but simply a way of making the games less enigmatic. The info at the IF
Library on each game is certainly wanting greatly. If I showed up there
looking for a puzzleless game, I would have no idea where to look or how to
find it.

Alan Trewartha

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
> > Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
> > important one) so it's not done very well. I've never used alexlit, but the
> > observation on rec.arts.sf.written is something like, "You give it a highly
> > personalized list of books which you've liked in the past, and it goes through
> > a sophisticated matching process, correlates your taste with those of other
> > users, and tells you to read Lois McMaster Bujold."

This reminds me of the website of the publishers I work for. They had a
"gift suggester" sort of thing where you filled in a little form describing
the person (relation, age, etc), but it always came back with
"Angela's Ashes" no matter what!


dcorn...@my-deja.com

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
In article
<Pine.GSO.3.96.100031...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU>,

Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> wrote:
> On Thu, 16 Mar 2000 dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
> > Reviews help a
> > lot too, but we're (RAIF) just not very good at reviews overall.
>
> I'm not so sure about that. I've been pretty impressed with the number
of
> reviews I've received for SPAG. This last issue had 22 reviews in it,
>

Well, I guess what I meant was that the overall review process for IF
hasn't been consistent. I also believe that although many of the reviews
are good, they also leave something to be desired in the way of helping
people locate games they would like to play.

There are several types of reviews:

1. Critical - reviewer just didn't like the game
2. Fan - reviewer loved the game or loves the author's work in general
and simply repeats "this is great!"

Then overlapping these types are spoiler/non-spoiler reviews.

I dislike both types of reviews in that they polarize (thumbs up, thumbs
down) review process.

A more accurate review (in my opinion) would talk about the story, plot,
puzzles, npc's, sounding like an innocent bystander and add spoilers at
the end of the review so that a person could stop at a certain point or
read on to get detailed info.

Of course I'm a monority here. I really find critical reviews
distasteful and the 'fan' reviews, well, some people just feel the need
to heap praise on others no matter what.

The review process in IF should be strictly directed at the author so
that he/she may become a better writer.

What is written for the masses should be as non-subjective as possible.

Adam Cadre

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
from Alan Trewartha's post:
> > > Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
> > > [...]

Just a quick reminder to double-check your attributions -- I didn't
write any of that stuff. Not a huge deal this time out, but just for
future reference...

-----

Brian 'Beej' Hall

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
In article <8ap8so$gpl$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, <dcorn...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>Categorization is a bad idea. As I've mentioned before, the best way to
>weed out games is that the author should write something catchy that
>describes the content and feel of their game and then potential gamers
>can decide from the 'trailer' whether to play it or not. Reviews help a

>lot too, but we're (RAIF) just not very good at reviews overall.

I agree with what you said about the best way to weed out games, and
that a "trailer" is a great way to decide if you want to play an
individaul game or not.

That being said, I think categorization is also a good thing. When
I walk into my favorite used bookstore and I feel like reading some
sci-fi, it wouldn't be acceptable at all for the owner to tell me, "I'm
sorry, but we don't believe in categorization. Read all the back covers
and choose the books you like."

Admittedly, there are billions of books, and only several score pieces
of IF...but it's still enough IF that lazy me doesn't feel like reading
all the teasers. :)

And I still think that a loose-fit keyword categorization would work
better than just saying that Babel is sci-fi. Or is it horror? You see
my point.

-Beej


Paul O'Brian

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
On 16 Mar 2000, Brian 'Beej' Hall wrote:

> That being said, I think categorization is also a good thing. When
> I walk into my favorite used bookstore and I feel like reading some
> sci-fi, it wouldn't be acceptable at all for the owner to tell me, "I'm
> sorry, but we don't believe in categorization. Read all the back covers
> and choose the books you like."

Well, of course it wouldn't. The owner of the fabled categoryless
bookstore should instead say something like, "Sci-fi, eh? OK, how about
Asimov? Do you like Heinlein? Have you tried Connie Willis?"

You know, a conversation.

My point is that if you walk into a bookstore asking for something that
falls into the store's preset categories, the staff can just grunt and
point toward the proper shelves. But as soon as your wants get more
specific ("Science fiction about galactic empires", "Alternate histories",
"I liked Doomsday Book. What's like it?"), the store's categories aren't
all that helpful. What would be helpful is reading reviews, trying out a
few pages of some things that look interesting, and talking to people.

These are the sorts of things that the IF community already offers.

Stephen Granade

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
dcorn...@my-deja.com writes:

> A more accurate review (in my opinion) would talk about the story, plot,
> puzzles, npc's, sounding like an innocent bystander and add spoilers at
> the end of the review so that a person could stop at a certain point or
> read on to get detailed info.

I disagree. While you can strive to write a more balanced review, at
some point it all boils down to whether or not you liked the game. You
can talk about the writing, the craft, and all of that; but at some
point you'll have to give your opinions of such things.

> The review process in IF should be strictly directed at the author so
> that he/she may become a better writer.

Good lord, no. In that case, why not just mail your review straight to
the author and never mind posting it? While reviews can help authors,
they can also help other players know whether or not they want to play
a game.

> What is written for the masses should be as non-subjective as possible.

I think this is wrong in many, many ways.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | Interested in adventure games?
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | Visit About.com's IF Page
Duke University, Physics Dept | http://interactfiction.about.com

dcorn...@my-deja.com

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
In article <jdhfe6a...@login2.phy.duke.edu>,
Stephen Granade <sgra...@login2.phy.duke.edu> wrote:
> dcorn...@my-deja.com writes:
>
<snip me and Stephen disagreeing>

>
> I think this is wrong in many, many ways.
>

Where books and movies are concerned, you need the reviews and
categorization.

Where IF is concerned, and it's such a incestuous little group of
people, well, I think it does more harm than good. The one difference
between our hobby and most other artisitic endeavors is that we're more
or less a closed society.

Our games aren't played by the masses, nor are they generally played by
people that aren't interested in writing games.

Most of the players are also authors too.

So the review process has a different effect. I think we're still too
small of a group to handle public criticism well. I think we need more
encouragement and education, more marketing (to each other and to the
masses), and less "your game sucked and here's why..."

It's almost like we're on one side of a glass wall and no one is on the
other side. The reviews are generally meant for the other side - but no
one is there to hear them. So we end up sharing the reviews amongst
ourselves and - well - I just think it's unnecessary.

If we were to weigh the two - I would actually favor categorization over
reviews.

Nick Montfort

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
For the record, regarding the "purpose of reviews" discussion, I think
it's good for some reviews to have authors (not just the single author
of the particular game) as an intended readership. Additionally, it
makes sense to write reviews to help people decide what they'd like to
play. But that's not why I'm posting...

dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:

> Our games aren't played by the masses, nor are they generally played

> by people that aren't interested in writing games. [...]


>
> It's almost like we're on one side of a glass wall and no one is on
> the other side. The reviews are generally meant for the other side
> - but no one is there to hear them.

Although the closed-off IF community is quite vibrant, aren't there some
people interested in broadening the appeal of their works so that those
who aren't Zork fans might enjoy their work?

Of course many recent IF works are a far cry from Zork. But even the
most experimental, diverging, non-puzzle-cenetered, and otherwise
un-Zork-like works often assume that the player has been initiated by
Infocom and knows the rules of compass-direction navigation,
object-taking, puzzle-solving, what the letter "i" does, etc.

Are there others who are interested in writing IF for different
audiences? If so, what have you been doing to bring your works outside
the IF community?

-Nick M.

Adam Cadre

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
Nick Montfort wrote:
> Are there others who are interested in writing IF for different
> audiences?

Yup.

> If so, what have you been doing to bring your works outside the IF
> community?

Plugging them on the book jacket of my novel.

Brian 'Beej' Hall

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
>Well, of course it wouldn't. The owner of the fabled categoryless
>bookstore should instead say something like, "Sci-fi, eh? OK, how about
>Asimov? Do you like Heinlein? Have you tried Connie Willis?"
>
>You know, a conversation.

Yes. This is kinda like what happens on rgif when someone wants "a
fantasy game".

>My point is that if you walk into a bookstore asking for something that
>falls into the store's preset categories, the staff can just grunt and
>point toward the proper shelves. But as soon as your wants get more
>specific ("Science fiction about galactic empires", "Alternate histories",
>"I liked Doomsday Book. What's like it?"), the store's categories aren't
>all that helpful. What would be helpful is reading reviews, trying out a
>few pages of some things that look interesting, and talking to people.

Agreed.

One of the reasons this thread is coming to no resolution is because we
have different types of searches here, and they require different tools.

o Searches for a game of a certain good quality, being of no
particular genre or category: try SPAG.

o High quality tailored searches for a particular category of game:
try rgif and have a conversation.

>These are the sorts of things that the IF community already offers.

Yes, but I find there's a void here:

o Low quality searches on a particular type of game: Baf's aging
guide.

(I don't mean to belittle Baf's guide in any way by saying it's good for
low quality searches; it's just more likely to give you games you don't
like than a conversation with actual players on rgif.)

Back to the bookstore, when you walk into ftp.gmd.de, there are no
categories, and there is no knowledgeable bookkeeper. As someone
pointed out, you have to have a protracted conversation on rgif to get
your answer. Sometimes you just want something quick.

-Beej


Stephen Granade

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
dcorn...@my-deja.com writes:

> Where books and movies are concerned, you need the reviews and
> categorization.
>
> Where IF is concerned, and it's such a incestuous little group of
> people, well, I think it does more harm than good. The one difference
> between our hobby and most other artisitic endeavors is that we're more
> or less a closed society.

I'm not sure what "it" refers to in "it does more harm than good," so
forgive me if I guess wrong. I think you're saying that reviews,
especially ones which point out flaws, hurt more than help. That's
only true if you assume that all authors are too thin-skinned to take
any negative criticism, and that such critiques can only degenerate
into flame wars and hurt feelings.

Oh, and I don't think we're a closed society by any means.
Slowly-changing, perhaps, but putting aside the fact that this group
has been growing over the past five years, there has to be an influx
of newcomers to replace the oldtimers who leave.

> Our games aren't played by the masses, nor are they generally played by
> people that aren't interested in writing games.
>

> Most of the players are also authors too.

I'll grant you that they aren't played by the masses, but I do think
they are played by people who aren't interested in writing
games. The Inform competition games got around 100 votes each, and I
don't think that number is an upper bound on either the r*if audience
or the text-adventure-playing audience.

For the sake of argument, let me double that number. (I think that's a
low estimate, by the way.) Adding in the competition authors, do you
think there are 250 current authors of IF who are also players? I
don't.

> So the review process has a different effect. I think we're still too
> small of a group to handle public criticism well. I think we need more
> encouragement and education, more marketing (to each other and to the
> masses), and less "your game sucked and here's why..."

If I take your suggestion that reviews should be for authors in order
for them to improve, how will it do them any good for me to give them
an A for effort? You may not need to rip a game to shreds for an
author to get better, but you do need to point out what didn't work
for you, and why.

People write reviews based on their interests. Authors will write
reviews that appeal to authors more than casual players -- I know
that's true of reviews I write. Players who aren't authors will take a
different view of games in their reviews. Both of these are
needed.

Who are they needed by? By players who want to learn more about a
game. By authors who want to see what other authors think of
games. Especially by the specific author who wants to know that
someone is playing their game. Chris Forman and I once talked about
how much fun it is to release a game that is more-or-less ignored on
the newsgroup and is never reviewed. You don't know how well you've
done, and it's no fun at all. For that purpose alone, reviews are a
good thing.

Dan Schmidt

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
As an author, I'd much rather have reviews than categorization.

On the other hand, as a player, I'd much rather have reviews than
categorization.

Balancing these two wildly disparate desires, I think that overall I'd
much rather have reviews than categorization.

--
Dan Schmidt | http://www.dfan.org

Chris Piuma, etc.

unread,
Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
In article <8aqt1j$6iq$1...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net>, Andrew Plotkin

<erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> Have you
> *noticed* that the task of genre classification has *never been done*, not
> for books, not for movies, not for board games or wallpaper patterns?

Well, I think Mr. Dewey and his Magic Decimal System gave it the old
college try for books...

--
Chris Piuma, etc.
Editor, flim
http://www.flim.com
Leapin' lizards!

Plant Kingdom

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
On 16 Mar 2000 15:02:11 GMT, Andrew Plotkin [z] <erky...@eblong.com>
wrote:

>YesuSlave [ys] <yesu...@aol.com> wrote:
>>>[pk] Remember, some of us may actually _like_ the waters largely


>>>uncharted. Is the frontier as interesting once it has been tamed?
>>

>> [ys] I think that the question no longer comes down to "will we chart


>> these waters" but "how will it happen?" We either have the choice of
>> working together to create a good and acceptable system, or we will
>> completely separate on this issue and the work will be done, but not as
>> well as it could have been.
>

>[z] I know I'm repeating myself, but I don't think this is a task which
>improves with concensus.

[pk] I tend to agree with Z's viewpoint on this one. The quest for
perfect systemization is a flawed one. (Which is not to say that
analysis doesn't reveal interesting new ideas and insights. Marnie's
paper gave me a lot to think about.) If one wishes to make a list of
games similar to Baf's, devise some categories that appeal to you,
reveal your biases, and run with it. Perhaps the type of IF one likes
is linked to the categorical systems one finds useful and
acceptable....

>[z] Nor is it a matter of "charting a frontier", for heaven's sake. Have you


>*noticed* that the task of genre classification has *never been done*, not
>for books, not for movies, not for board games or wallpaper patterns?

[pk] Perhaps an infelicitous metaphor, but I was thinking more of what
Adam Cadre was saying about Systems. Systems that try to slot
everything in neatly can provide talismanic comfort, but IF is
particularly untidy in the slot department. I am very keen on games
like yours, Andrew, that twist themselves about to avoid careless
categorization.

Actually, what I was really thinking was:

He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

"What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones and Meridian Lines?"
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply,
"They are merely conventional signs!

"Other maps are such shapes with their islands and capes!
But we've got our brave Captain to thank"
(So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best-
A perfect and absolute blank!"

--Snark, "Fit the Second"

Plant Kingdom [pk]
----

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
> Nick Montfort wrote:
>> Are there others who are interested in writing IF for different
>> audiences?
>
> Yup.
>
>> If so, what have you been doing to bring your works outside the IF
>> community?
>
> Plugging them on the book jacket of my novel.

That's cool.

Go go go!

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
Second April <dns...@merle.acns.nwu.edu> wrote:
> And it's not clear that personality types dictate enjoyment all that much
> anyway.

I also was fascinated by the personality type / IF technique / reaction
list in the paper.

Now, I certainly wouldn't take it as a guide -- "You are type Q, find
matching column, look up IF techniques that will turn you on, play
appropriate games."

Everybody is all of those "personality types"; but at different times and
to different degrees. It's still worth considering how those different
authorship styles will strike you, and why. That's the important point
here.

> If you ask me for a short list of IF that I enjoyed most [...]

If you ask me what books I've enjoyed recently, I'd mention: Ken McLeod's
sci-fi (he does the best politics I've seen in years -- both human
politics, the life of political factions and movements, and the projected
politics between humanity and evolving artificial intelligence. Sharp,
sharp writer). John M. Ford ("The Illusionist", a mystery in a theater, he
*knows* theater -- absolutely emotionally wringing). The Liaden books, by
Lee and Miller (self-styled space opera, romance and non-stop action, fun
and not at all deep).

Does this mean I'm three different people? No, it means I was into the
books for three different reasons. Realistic political analysis,
emotionally dense prose, and adrenaline rush. You could easily map that
further into the sense-categories that Doe is using.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
Chris Piuma, etc. <edi...@flim.com> wrote:
> In article <8aqt1j$6iq$1...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net>, Andrew Plotkin
> <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>> Have you
>> *noticed* that the task of genre classification has *never been done*, not
>> for books, not for movies, not for board games or wallpaper patterns?
>
> Well, I think Mr. Dewey and his Magic Decimal System gave it the old
> college try for books...

Subjects, not genres. Very different.

*Fiction* books are still shelved by author's name.

Marnie Parker

unread,
Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
>Subject: Re: Reviews (was: classification again)
>From: dcorn...@my-deja.com
>Date: 3/16/00 12:08 PM Pacific Standard Time
>Message-id:

>Where IF is concerned, and it's such a incestuous little group of
>people, well, I think it does more harm than good. The one difference
>between our hobby and most other artisitic endeavors is that we're more
>or less a closed society.
>

>Our games aren't played by the masses, nor are they generally played by
>people that aren't interested in writing games.
>
>Most of the players are also authors too.
>

>So the review process has a different effect. I think we're still too
>small of a group to handle public criticism well. I think we need more
>encouragement and education, more marketing (to each other and to the
>masses), and less "your game sucked and here's why..."
>

>It's almost like we're on one side of a glass wall and no one is on the
>other side. The reviews are generally meant for the other side - but no

>one is there to hear them. So we end up sharing the reviews amongst
>ourselves and - well - I just think it's unnecessary.

I think there is a great deal of truth to this.
A great deal. Of course the IF Mud is the smallest group of all, the group of
writers who are also players is larger, and I do think there is a larger group
of people who play, who are not all writers. Reading just raif all the time,
not reading rgif, one may lose touch with this. Not every player is an author
or wanna-be-author.

And, yes, it is possible for reviews to be hurtful, because in a sense, there
is no OUTSIDE PARTY, who is not also a part of the larger group, to do reviews.

However, I helped start the conspiracy for IF authors to get feedback, which is
an very important part of any review process. Movie, book, IF, whatever.

>If we were to weigh the two - I would actually favor categorization over
>reviews.

Not sure I agree with this. But I don't think categorizaton hurts. I think the
problem is not everyone agrees what falls into what category. But any
categorization "service" could also have a section that offers disagreeing
views.

I really like that glass wall description. Maybe, someday, we can break it.

Later, Doe :-)

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
In article <160320002112028146%edi...@flim.com>,

Chris Piuma, etc. <edi...@flim.com> wrote:
>In article <8aqt1j$6iq$1...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net>, Andrew Plotkin
><erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>> Have you
>> *noticed* that the task of genre classification has *never been done*, not
>> for books, not for movies, not for board games or wallpaper patterns?
>
>Well, I think Mr. Dewey and his Magic Decimal System gave it the old
>college try for books...

Isn't that classification by *subject* rather than *genre*?

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------

Stephen Granade

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
m...@bartlet.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) writes:

> In article <160320002112028146%edi...@flim.com>,
> Chris Piuma, etc. <edi...@flim.com> wrote:
> >
> >Well, I think Mr. Dewey and his Magic Decimal System gave it the old
> >college try for books...
>
> Isn't that classification by *subject* rather than *genre*?

Yes indeed. In fact, if you visit a Dewey-based library which has no
separate fiction section, you'll get to browse the 800s (mostly, mm,
823, I think) for fiction.

Paul O'Brian

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
On 16 Mar 2000, Brian 'Beej' Hall wrote:

> Yes, but I find there's a void here:
>
> o Low quality searches on a particular type of game: Baf's aging
> guide.

[snip]


> Back to the bookstore, when you walk into ftp.gmd.de, there are no
> categories, and there is no knowledgeable bookkeeper. As someone
> pointed out, you have to have a protracted conversation on rgif to get
> your answer. Sometimes you just want something quick.

OK, I'm beginning to be persuaded by this argument. However, what the
"classification exercise" thread showed (and, in fact, what I expected it
to show) is that everybody has their own ideas of what the proper
categories are, and that lots of games don't slot neatly into any
category. Arcum Dagsson suggests that the ideal system would match
on multiple keys, much like Baf's Guide did, and this makes sense to me,
but I still feel that any given classification system is going to be,
well, wrong a lot of the time for a not insignificant number of people.
Sure, you can class Wearing The Claw as fantasy, and you won't get much
disagreement, because it fits neatly into that genre category. But
Varicella? It's... kind of a courtly intrigue, a bit of a thriller with
its countdown clock, some sort-of advanced tech, some science fictional
elements, some horror, some experimentalism. Where does it end up?

Zarf said that this is not a task that improves with consensus. I'm
inclined to agree. Plant Kingdom said: "If one wishes to make a list


of games similar to Baf's, devise some categories that appeal to you,
reveal your biases, and run with it. Perhaps the type of IF one likes is
linked to the categorical systems one finds useful and acceptable...."

I'm inclined to agree with that, too.

Paul O'Brian

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
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On Thu, 16 Mar 2000 dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:

> Where IF is concerned, and it's such a incestuous little group of
> people, well, I think it does more harm than good. The one difference
> between our hobby and most other artisitic endeavors is that we're more
> or less a closed society.

Really? I didn't realize. When did we become closed? Was it after I
joined? (Must've been.) Was it after you joined? (Must've been.) Was it
after Josh joined? (Must've been.)

YesuSlave

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
I would like to suggest that any game that could not specifically fit under one
catagory would go under many. We don't need to say something as simple
as...well, Zork is fantasy, so we can't classify it as comedy or adventure.
That would be foolish. I am in favor of classification, but I also like the
search idea. Let me put in the word "fantasy" and ge Zork and Enchanter, and
then let me put in adventure and get "Zork and Enchanter" This is a valid
search. The thing is is that I'm not looking for fantasy and getting Photopia.

MFischer5

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
>From: dcorn...@my-deja.com

>>So the review process has a different effect. I think we're still too
>>small of a group to handle public criticism well. I think we need more
>>encouragement and education, more marketing (to each other and to the
>>masses), and less "your game sucked and here's why..."

From: doea...@aol.com (Marnie Parker)
>However, I helped start the conspiracy for IF authors to get feedback, which
is
>an very important part of any review process. Movie, book, IF, whatever.
>
>>If we were to weigh the two - I would actually favor categorization over
>>reviews.
>
>Not sure I agree with this.

I think there are two different kinds of feedback needed about a game:

There's a General Review (including a category if the author likes), like Roger
Ebert might give about a movie:

"This dragon-quest had a nice little story, though the pacing could have been
better and the ending was cliched. However it was full of laughs, and its
imagintive use of puzzles more than make up for it. Two thumbs up."

This is what I, as a player, might want to see to determine if I should play
the game. After reading that, I might decide I don't like cliche's and I'm not
in the mood for humor, so the ficticious game might not be the one for me...
unless I'm really into puzzles.

The other is a Technical Review - which MUST contain spoilers to be of any use,
and will probably NOT be of interest to non-author players. Perhaps these kinds
of reviews are only for rai-f.

"The game began OK, but I felt the author overused daemons - especially the one
for the Sea Otter that printed the same 3 lines every other turn for the entire
game. By the time the game was over I was ready to roast that critter. I found
the NPC's to be stilted, except for the Baker whose response to "EAT THE OTTER"
was perfect. More of that kind of humor would have greatly improved the
atmosphere for me. On the bright side, the author's descriptions of things were
wonderful. <example>."

Of course, it's hard enough to even get ONE review, let alone two, and I'm not
sure how many people would be brave enough to provide a full blown Technical
Review.... which is sort of like a public Beta Test report. The advantage,
however, of it being public is that someone, upon reading that, might respond
with:

"I think that had the NPC's been more interactived, it would have detracted
from the true purpose of the game. And extraneous humor in a thriller isn't
always the best thing anyway."

Kathleen ($0.02)

dcorn...@my-deja.com

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
In article <20000317111445...@ng-ca1.aol.com>,
mfis...@aol.com (MFischer5) wrote:

<snip>

> I think there are two different kinds of feedback needed about a game:
>
> There's a General Review (including a category if the author likes),

> The other is a Technical Review - which MUST contain spoilers to be of
any use,

I like this and I'm sorry I haven't been able to articulate it.
Technical reviews are far more common in the newsgroups, general reviews
are not common OR these two types of reviews are inter-mixed...

There are parts for the author to read as "you could have done better
here" and there are parts for a potential game-player to read as "the
overall plot revolved around dragons.."

Does anyone else agree that we would be better served with a
differentiation of review types?

Jarb

Brian 'Beej' Hall

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
>> o Low quality searches on a particular type of game: Baf's aging
>> guide.
>
>Arcum Dagsson suggests that the ideal system would match on multiple
>keys, much like Baf's Guide did, and this makes sense to me, but I
>still feel that any given classification system is going to be, well,
>wrong a lot of the time for a not insignificant number of people.

This is absolutely correct, unfortunately. But that's why I called it a
"low quality search". :)

-Beej


Stephen Granade

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
dcorn...@my-deja.com writes:

> I like this and I'm sorry I haven't been able to articulate it.
> Technical reviews are far more common in the newsgroups, general reviews
> are not common OR these two types of reviews are inter-mixed...
>
> There are parts for the author to read as "you could have done better
> here" and there are parts for a potential game-player to read as "the
> overall plot revolved around dragons.."
>
> Does anyone else agree that we would be better served with a
> differentiation of review types?

Possibly, but I'm not sure I could write just one or the other. When I
review a game, I am both player and game designer. I don't think I
could pass a magnet over my review and remove just the parts which
would be of interest to authors.

dcorn...@my-deja.com

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
In article <jdsnxpx...@login1.phy.duke.edu>,

Stephen Granade <sgra...@login1.phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>
> Possibly, but I'm not sure I could write just one or the other. When I
> review a game, I am both player and game designer. I don't think I
> could pass a magnet over my review and remove just the parts which
> would be of interest to authors.

Agreed. That's why we need more non-authors to write reviews.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
In article <8atp6e$org$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
> Does anyone else agree that we would be better served with a
> differentiation of review types?

Paul O'Brian seems to agree, given that the latest issue of SPAG
includes a new section called "SPAG Specifics", reviews with spoilers
for both "Bliss" and "9:05".

--
[ok]

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:
> In article <20000317111445...@ng-ca1.aol.com>,
> mfis...@aol.com (MFischer5) wrote:
>
> <snip>
>
>> I think there are two different kinds of feedback needed about a game:
>>
>> There's a General Review (including a category if the author likes),
>> The other is a Technical Review - which MUST contain spoilers to be of
> any use,
>
> I like this and I'm sorry I haven't been able to articulate it.
> Technical reviews are far more common in the newsgroups, general reviews
> are not common OR these two types of reviews are inter-mixed...
>
> There are parts for the author to read as "you could have done better
> here" and there are parts for a potential game-player to read as "the
> overall plot revolved around dragons.."
>
> Does anyone else agree that we would be better served with a
> differentiation of review types?

Which kind do I write?

This is a serious question. Feel free to use, as examples, the graphical
reviews I've posted in the past few days on RGIF.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
In article <8aqt1j$6iq$1...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> I know I'm repeating myself, but I don't think this is a task which
> improves with concensus.

It's worth repeating. There are interesting comparisons to be drawn
between the by-committee "Leonard Maltin's Film Guide" and Michael
Weldon's "Psychotronic Film Encyclopedia", of which Weldon appears to be
sole author. The Psychotronic book is more useful, in the long run,
because it has a consistent voice and one can interpret the reviews
accordingly.

> Nor is it a matter of "charting a frontier", for heaven's sake. Have


you
> *noticed* that the task of genre classification has *never been done*,
not
> for books, not for movies, not for board games or wallpaper patterns?

I don't understand what you mean here. Genre classification has never
been done? You mean *formally*? Publishers still look for
science-fiction, horror, romance, etc. Movies are still arranged by
genre in the video store. IMDB lists many genres and which movies fall
into which categories.

What am I misunderstanding?

dcorn...@my-deja.com

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
In article <8au22g$c5c$2...@slb6.atl.mindspring.net>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> Which kind do I write?
>
> This is a serious question. Feel free to use, as examples, the
graphical
> reviews I've posted in the past few days on RGIF.

I just read the ZGI one and I would say this is a Critical Review
(hybrid).

A purely technical review would have focused on the interface and the
vacuum cleaner issue, while a general review would have stuck to the
humor comments and comparisons to previous zork games/the zork world.

At least that my take. I would admit though that in the case of
graphical reviews, a critical review seems to be the best. Many of the
reasons you purchase graphical games is based on the interface design
and flexibility, which is a technical item.

Whereas in IF, technical issues are related to grammar usage, NPC
communication, puzzle definition ... and these can easily be left out of
a review with nothing being lost as far a game player is concerned.

Remember - a non-writing game player doesn't know the difference between
good NPC development and bad. They'll be more inclined to differentiate
plot devices and storylines than technical details such as these.

Jarb

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:
> In article <8au22g$c5c$2...@slb6.atl.mindspring.net>,
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>>
>> Which kind do I write?
>>
>> This is a serious question. Feel free to use, as examples, the
> graphical
>> reviews I've posted in the past few days on RGIF.
>
> I just read the ZGI one and I would say this is a Critical Review
> (hybrid).

Okay, that's good. I certainly *intended* to cover every base I could. :)



> A purely technical review would have focused on the interface and the
> vacuum cleaner issue, while a general review would have stuck to the
> humor comments and comparisons to previous zork games/the zork world.
>
> At least that my take. I would admit though that in the case of
> graphical reviews, a critical review seems to be the best. Many of the
> reasons you purchase graphical games is based on the interface design
> and flexibility, which is a technical item.
>
> Whereas in IF, technical issues are related to grammar usage, NPC
> communication, puzzle definition ... and these can easily be left out of
> a review with nothing being lost as far a game player is concerned.

Jeesh, really?



> Remember - a non-writing game player doesn't know the difference between
> good NPC development and bad.

Can I *teach* him?

Seriously -- I can't imagine any aspect of a game where it's *useless* to
tell players whether it's well-done or not. Maybe the player has no grasp
of how good NPCs are implemented, but surely he's going to notice the
difference? Even if it's only "For some reason, I didn't care about the
other characters."

I'm not a filmmaker, but I appreciate film reviews that comment on
technical aspects -- direction, sound, whatever. Maybe I'll say "Hey, I
didn't notice that!" and pay more attention to that aspect next
time. Maybe I'll say "Nope, I *never* notice that* -- and then I know more
about how I react to movies.

dcorn...@my-deja.com

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
In article <8aua31$qdg$1...@slb6.atl.mindspring.net>,

I'm the same way - I'm fairly critical of most hollywood product because
I've actually had a little 'schooling' on the 'art' of movie-making. So
when Roger Ebert mentions cinematogrophy, I pay attention to that sort
of thing. Heck, I was in shock when in Hannah and Her Sisters, at the
lunch scene, the camera never cut and continued to pan around the table.
I felt like I was in a dance with the three women. I felt the same shock
during the opening 7 minutes of The Player, also uncut.

But is IF the same? Maybe.

I think it's more likely that you in particular are capable of walking
the middle ground, giving both general and technical information,
without boring the writer-audience or scaring the player-audience. At
the same teaching the less knowledgable.

Not to mass-offend the other IF reviewers (heh), but this isn't always
the case. I think some would be better served writing general reviews,
some technical, and very very few should be writing critical reviews.

The critical review shouldn't be too technical and it shouldn't be all
plot, story information. Somewhere in the middle.

Paul O'Brian

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
On Fri, 17 Mar 2000 okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:

> In article <8atp6e$org$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,
> dcorn...@my-deja.com wrote:
> >

> > Does anyone else agree that we would be better served with a
> > differentiation of review types?
>

> Paul O'Brian seems to agree, given that the latest issue of SPAG
> includes a new section called "SPAG Specifics", reviews with spoilers
> for both "Bliss" and "9:05".

Well...

I don't know that I endorse the notion of separating all reviews into
Technical vs. General. I just wanted a place in SPAG where people could
send reviews that don't try to skirt around spoilers. SPAG's general
policy is that reviews must be spoiler-free, but sometimes it's very
useful for a review to discuss specific aspects of a particular work, even
if that discussion contains spoilers. Thus, SPAG Specifics.

For me, the difference between regular SPAG reviews and SPAG Specfics
reviews is that the former must not contain spoilers, and the latter may
(and in fact probably should, if it's going to usefully address specifics
about the game). The former may or may not include in-depth analysis of
particular aspects of the work, while the latter must. I'm not certain
that these categories map perfectly onto the Technical/General categories
Dave proposes, especially since Dave is actually suggesting a third
category (Critical) that synthesizes the other two. I don't think there
can be a synthesis of a regular SPAG review and a SPAG Specifics review --
either the review contains spoilers or it doesn't.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00