Defining IF (yet again) (was: Are there any IF+RPG?)

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Magnus Olsson

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Jul 8, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/8/99
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In article <37840842...@jump.net>,
J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> wrote:
>Magnus Olsson wrote:
>
>> And, more to the point, none of the roguelikes can be said to be IF
>> in the usual sense of the word. OK, they're certainly interactive,
>> and they're fictional, and there's some little plot (in the form
>> of quests etc) but in that case Doom is IF as well.
>
>Well -- it is, isn't it? I wouldn't say it's outside the circle
>entirely.

Well, if you think of it that way, almost any computer game is IF,
considering that almost all computer games nowadays have some sort of
storyline to keep things together (there are exceptions, like chess
games, of course).

We must draw the line somewhere. Exactly where is hard to define, but
if we start counting rogue as IF then the distinction ebtween
IF and other computer games becomes meaningless.

>Really, DOOM is an exaggerated version of Hunt the
>Wumpus.

Well, you could say that an awful lot of computer games are exaggerated
versions of Wumpus, but when you broaden your definitions like that they
ultimately become meaningless. "A horse is just like a cat; they're both
quadrupedal mammals" is a true statement, in a sense, but it's not very helpful
when you're looking for a good pack animal.

> Is Wumpus IF? I guess maybe not.

A more meningful way of thinking of Wumpus is as a precursor of
IF, in that it was the first game that represented the world as
a directed graph of "rooms" connected by "passages" (previous games
would either have no notion of geography at all, or take place
on a grid-like "board").

>Rogue and Wumpus were both text games.

I don't think Rogue can be considered a text game - it's a *graphic*
game, only it's character graphics rather than bitmaps or vector graphics.

This is a very important distinction - Rogue was one fo the first
games (perhaps the first) where you actually could see your character
moving around on a map, rather than just reading descriptions of
what happened. (OK, "Star Trek" had its cahracter graphics "sensor
scans" before Rogue)

> Rogue was also a sort of
>adventure game. Go into the dungeon, get the MacGuffin of Whoozis,
>climb back up.

Rogue is *definitely* an adventure game. It's just not IF.

> Not much of a plot, but one could imagine that you
>could stick a plot in there

Which people have done: Nethack, the direct descendant of Rogue,
contains a rudimentary plot, quests of different kinds, etc. It's
still not IF. WHy? Perhaps because the plot is not integral to the
game, but just an excuse for fighting monsters?

>or write a back-story to Wumpus.

Obviously, that wouldn't make Wumpus IF either.

> Are
>we just talking about plotless games? Is the plot the fiction we're
>talking about in IF? Obviously not.

Not so obviously, actually. The more I think of it, the more I'm
convinced that plot is an essential element in IF, just as plot is an
essential element in a non-interactive novel or short story. OK, there
are experimental novels that try to be plotless, but do they succeed?
Are they really novels? (That they can be works of art is obvious).

>Is it just the prose? Hmmm.

Not *just* the prose, but I think prose is essential as, in the sense
that text IF uses text as the primary medium for interaction. The
player types textual commands and the game responds with textual
descriptions. To some extent, this can be replaced and/or extended
with other interaction forms (such as the player clicking on a compass
rose to move, or the response to the player's typing "light candle"
being a pciture of a burning candle).

Of course, this means that graphic IF isn't text IF, which is a bit of
a tautology, but obviously these categories of games have something
in common. Which prings me back to what I called "plot" above.

On further consideration, "plot" isn't really what I'm after. It's more
what Espen Aarseth called "beign caught in a story" (he used it in
a negative sense, but I actually think this is something *desired* by
devotees of IF-as-we-know-it (which, incidentally, is one of the reasons
Espen met such angry reactions on this group - he essentially said
that "IF is flawed because..." and then proceeded to list the very
properties of IF which *define* the genre, atl east for some of us)).

It's a bit hard to describe what I'm after, but it's the sense that
the game world is driven by some sort of master plan where you have to
follow a more or less rigidly defined path in order to set certain
events in motion and to advance the story. In its cruder forms - what
we call "linear" games - the player must perform a certain chain of
well-defined actions for anything to happen at all. The driving force
is usually a plot, but it needn't be; at least not a plot in the usual
sense of the word. For example, does "Advent" have a plot in the
conventional sense? It's debatable, but it certainly has the driving
force that says, essentially, that "OK, here's this cave for you to
explore, but you must explore it in the way the author has decided".

Also, it's essential that there is an element of simulation - the game
world contains objects with which you can interact and which respond
to your actions in certain well-defined ways, but the simulation
should be subordinate to the driving force.

So, where does this leave Nethack?

TO begin with, the interactionis primarily graphical, not textual,
though text is used for game messages and there are some "cut scenes"
in the form of largish chunks of prose. So it's not text IF.

Is it graphic IF, or some other non-text IF?

Well, the simulation elements are there. And there is a "plot"
structure; the game is driven by the need to solve problems, perform
certain actions and fulfill quests.

But this isn't the essence of the game. At its heart, Nethack (and its
ancestor Rogue) is about killing monsters - 95% of the time and effort
goes into combat against randomly occuring monsters. There is no
"plot" or "driving force" behind this combat (well, of course there is
the driving force of needing to win the combat, but that kind of
driving force exists in *all* games - it's called rules).

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

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

Discord

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Jul 8, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/8/99
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The distinction I draw between IF and other types of games is what the
emphasis is on. If the emphasis is on the story and the puzzles and/or
combat exist as a way of getting you through the story, I would call it
IF. If the emphasis is on the combat or puzzles, and the story exists to
provide context to those things, it's something else.

Whether or not anyone else agrees with me is another matter altogether.
--
ti...@ripco.com - you...@foad.org - help, I'm stuck in a bottle

Daniel Giaimo

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Jul 8, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/8/99
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Magnus Olsson <m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:7m1rau$aqa$1...@bartlet.df.lth.se...

> Which people have done: Nethack, the direct descendant of Rogue,
> contains a rudimentary plot, quests of different kinds, etc. It's
> still not IF. WHy? Perhaps because the plot is not integral to the
> game, but just an excuse for fighting monsters?

The plot is very integral to the game in Nethack. You can't win without
completing your quest.

--
--Daniel Giaimo
Remove nospam. from my address to e-mail me. |
dgiaimo@(nospam.)ix.netcom.com
^^^^^^^^^<-(Remove)
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Magnus Olsson

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Jul 8, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/8/99
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In article <7m2kp8$h...@dfw-ixnews13.ix.netcom.com>,

Daniel Giaimo <dgi...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>Magnus Olsson <m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote in message
>news:7m1rau$aqa$1...@bartlet.df.lth.se...
>> Which people have done: Nethack, the direct descendant of Rogue,
>> contains a rudimentary plot, quests of different kinds, etc. It's
>> still not IF. WHy? Perhaps because the plot is not integral to the
>> game, but just an excuse for fighting monsters?
>
> The plot is very integral to the game in Nethack. You can't win without
>completing your quest.

Yes, but the quest itself consist only of fighting monsters. And (with
the exception of your Quest Nemesis) what monsters appear, how they
attack you, all the details, are random.

There is a plot structure in Nethack, yes. It serves to give an overall
structure to what would otherwise just be a lot of random encounters
with monsters. In contrast, the plot structure in an IF game *is* the
game.

Another take on it:

You could in principle read a transcript of an IF game as a book. A very
strange book, and a book in sore need of editing, but still it would
be recognizable as a story.

You could write a story *about* a Nethack game, but the game itself
is not a story. Of course, this makes Nethack more like real life than
an IF game is.

Perhaps you could say that Nethack is more of a simulation given
structure by a story, while an IF game is a story told with the
simulation as its medium.

Take away the plot from Nethack and you have a less structured,
less interesting game, but still a game with the same basic idea.

Take away the plot from an IF game and you have nothing. (Note: I'm
using the non-standard definition of "plot" from my earlier post, so I
count puzzles as plot).

Daniel Giaimo

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Jul 8, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/8/99
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Magnus Olsson <m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:7m2vo4$9v7$1...@bartlet.df.lth.se...

> In article <7m2kp8$h...@dfw-ixnews13.ix.netcom.com>,
> Daniel Giaimo <dgi...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> >Magnus Olsson <m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote in message
> >news:7m1rau$aqa$1...@bartlet.df.lth.se...
> >> Which people have done: Nethack, the direct descendant of Rogue,
> >> contains a rudimentary plot, quests of different kinds, etc. It's
> >> still not IF. WHy? Perhaps because the plot is not integral to the
> >> game, but just an excuse for fighting monsters?
> >
> > The plot is very integral to the game in Nethack. You can't win
without
> >completing your quest.
>
> Yes, but the quest itself consist only of fighting monsters. And (with
> the exception of your Quest Nemesis) what monsters appear, how they
> attack you, all the details, are random.

There is randomized combat in Zork and Dungeon, yet they are still IF,
are they not?

>
> There is a plot structure in Nethack, yes. It serves to give an overall
> structure to what would otherwise just be a lot of random encounters
> with monsters. In contrast, the plot structure in an IF game *is* the
> game.
>
> Another take on it:
>
> You could in principle read a transcript of an IF game as a book. A very
> strange book, and a book in sore need of editing, but still it would
> be recognizable as a story.
>
> You could write a story *about* a Nethack game, but the game itself
> is not a story. Of course, this makes Nethack more like real life than
> an IF game is.
>
> Perhaps you could say that Nethack is more of a simulation given
> structure by a story, while an IF game is a story told with the
> simulation as its medium.
>
> Take away the plot from Nethack and you have a less structured,
> less interesting game, but still a game with the same basic idea.
>
> Take away the plot from an IF game and you have nothing. (Note: I'm
> using the non-standard definition of "plot" from my earlier post, so I
> count puzzles as plot).

If you removed the plot from Nethack, then there would be no way to win
and no point to playing it, but I do think I understand what you are saying.
I suppose you could say that in a true IF game, the degree to which random
encounters impact the experience of the game is much less than in a game
such as Nethack.

Magnus Olsson

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Jul 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/9/99
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In article <7m42t0$g...@dfw-ixnews13.ix.netcom.com>,

Daniel Giaimo <dgi...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>Magnus Olsson <m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote in message
>news:7m2vo4$9v7$1...@bartlet.df.lth.se...

>> Yes, but the quest itself consist only of fighting monsters. And (with
>> the exception of your Quest Nemesis) what monsters appear, how they
>> attack you, all the details, are random.
>
> There is randomized combat in Zork and Dungeon, yet they are still IF,
>are they not?

Yes and yes, but I think - and I believe many other people think so as
well - that this detracts from the "IF experience". There is IF - of the
graphic variety - where the game changes modes and turns into an arcade
game when you enter combat. These games don't seem very popular among
IF fans.

There is a place for random events in IF. But randomized combat (for
example) breaks out of the genre. I think this is because normally you
do things in IF with high-level commands, such as "break statue with
sledgehammer". Combat sequences of the type in Zork suddenly require
you to interact at a much lower level. Rogue-type combat is on an even
lower level (semantically speaking) because you have to control a lot
of variables (such as your position relative to the monsters) that an
IF game handles for you.

>> Take away the plot from Nethack and you have a less structured,
>> less interesting game, but still a game with the same basic idea.

> If you removed the plot from Nethack, then there would be no way to win

Well, obviously you'd have to change the victory condition as well.

>and no point to playing it,

Wouldn't there? Bashing monsters is fun! :-)

>but I do think I understand what you are saying.
>I suppose you could say that in a true IF game, the degree to which random
>encounters impact the experience of the game is much less than in a game
>such as Nethack.

Yes. I suppose you could say that in IF, you play a part in a story
written by somebody else. In Nethack, you make your own story as you
go along; the plot imposed by the game doesn't define your story, it just
defines the limits for it.


Ah. Insight. I finally found a good parallel:

Playing IF is like playing Hamlet in Shakespeare's play, only you
don't know the story in advance, so you have to experiment a little to
find the right course of action ("right" == "what Shakespeare had in
mind"). If you try to do things differently, the director will sooenr
or later tell you that you're doing things wrong and have to try
again.

Playing Nethack, or a single-person RPG, or "interactive mythos", or
most other kinds of games, is like participating in a role-playing
session based on Hamlet.

J. Robinson Wheeler

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Jul 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/9/99
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Magnus Olsson wrote:

> We must draw the line somewhere. Exactly where is hard to define,

> but if we start counting rogue as IF then the distinction between


> IF and other computer games becomes meaningless.
>
> >Really, DOOM is an exaggerated version of Hunt the
> >Wumpus.
>

> A more meaningful way of thinking of Wumpus is as a precursor of


> IF, in that it was the first game that represented the world as
> a directed graph of "rooms" connected by "passages" (previous games
> would either have no notion of geography at all, or take place
> on a grid-like "board").

Yes, exactly. My dry, snide statement about DOOM was saying
the same thing: that Wumpus was a precursor to that type of
game as well. Rooms. Passages. Geography. Shooting.
The person who traced DOOM to Wolfenstein was missing the
point, not that I was making much of a point. It was meant
to be an aside.

I think there's a point to be made in tracing back to a
common ancestor. There are genres for which Wumpus was not
a precursor.

I still haven't figured out what my point is. At the moment,
it seems like we're discussing just to have a discussion.
I think that's good, because it seems like defining IF is
something we should reasonably be able to do at some point.
At the moment, we just know it when we see it -- or something.


> Rogue is *definitely* an adventure game. It's just not IF.
>
> > Not much of a plot, but one could imagine that you
> > could stick a plot in there
>
> Which people have done: Nethack, the direct descendant of Rogue,
> contains a rudimentary plot, quests of different kinds, etc. It's
> still not IF. WHy? Perhaps because the plot is not integral to the
> game, but just an excuse for fighting monsters?
>
> >or write a back-story to Wumpus.
>
> Obviously, that wouldn't make Wumpus IF either.

Ohhhh, but it might. If each little room had a description
instead of just a number...

Also, one could imagine -- aha -- a genuine IF game that
included Wumpus in one location, in the same way that people
stick jumping peg and Fifteen puzzles in there.

Peculiarly, this makes Wumpus allowable *in* IF, but not
IF in and of itself (in the same way that, ahem, jumping
peg and Fifteen puzzles are not IF). So the ancestor is
swallowed up by the descendant, like some sort of Greek
myth.

Someone poke me with the stick if I come close to making
a point about something.


> > Are we just talking about plotless games? Is the plot the
> > fiction we're talking about in IF? Obviously not.
>
> Not so obviously, actually. The more I think of it, the more I'm
> convinced that plot is an essential element in IF, just as plot is
> an essential element in a non-interactive novel or short story.

The reason I stopped and said "Obviously not" was because I
thought of Colossal Cave, Zork, and the Scott Adams adventures.
I'm sorry, plot? These are seminal works, created before the
notion that good IF needed plots.

It's true enough to say that adding plots to IF allowed the
medium to mature and grow and flourish. And now, authors are
getting experimental again.

> >Is it just the prose? Hmmm.
>
> Not *just* the prose, but I think prose is essential as, in the sense
> that text IF uses text as the primary medium for interaction.
>

> On further consideration, "plot" isn't really what I'm after. It's more

> what Espen Aarseth called "being caught in a story".

This is a wonderful idea, in that it conjures some sense of what
grabbed many of our young minds when we first encountered good IF.
Or even bad IF. IF had something, that quality that made total
weird absorption, hours flying by (What, dark outside already?),
happen.

Even early, plot-less, story-less IF had this. We need a word
for it, even if we have to invent one. Such a word would be a
helpful tool in further discussions.

> It's a bit hard to describe what I'm after, but it's the sense that
> the game world is driven by some sort of master plan where you have to
> follow a more or less rigidly defined path in order to set certain
> events in motion and to advance the story. In its cruder forms - what
> we call "linear" games - the player must perform a certain chain of
> well-defined actions for anything to happen at all. The driving force
> is usually a plot, but it needn't be; at least not a plot in the usual
> sense of the word. For example, does "Advent" have a plot in the
> conventional sense? It's debatable, but it certainly has the driving
> force that says, essentially, that "OK, here's this cave for you to
> explore, but you must explore it in the way the author has decided".

Okay, you managed to explain how Advent has no plot and yet has
something Wumpus doesn't. However, don't say that it has a plot
in the conventional sense. It does not. There is no debating
this.

> Also, it's essential that there is an element of simulation - the game
> world contains objects with which you can interact and which respond
> to your actions in certain well-defined ways, but the simulation
> should be subordinate to the driving force.
>
> So, where does this leave Nethack?

Or DOOM, more to the point?



> Is it graphic IF, or some other non-text IF?
>
> Well, the simulation elements are there. And there is a "plot"
> structure; the game is driven by the need to solve problems, perform
> certain actions and fulfill quests.
>

> But this isn't the essence of the game. [Combat is.]


Discord wrote:
>
> The distinction I draw between IF and other types of games is what the
> emphasis is on. If the emphasis is on the story and the puzzles and/or
> combat exist as a way of getting you through the story, I would call it
> IF. If the emphasis is on the combat or puzzles, and the story exists to
> provide context to those things, it's something else.

Again, Colossal Cave, Zork, and the Scott Adams adventures stand
before my eyes, challenging this kind of definition. I suppose
the problem is that I'm not drawing a line between modern IF and
genesis IF.

However, genesis IF seems recognizably to be IF, even though it
doesn't work by the definitions we've created after playing a lot
of modern IF. The emphasis was on puzzles (and even combat).

Magnus Olsson wrote:

> Another take on it:
>
> You could in principle read a transcript of an IF game as a book. A very
> strange book, and a book in sore need of editing, but still it would
> be recognizable as a story.

Hummmmmmmm. Okay, I'll walk that far with you.

> You could write a story *about* a Nethack game, but the game itself
> is not a story.

Hmmmmmmmmm. Okay. So there is a story-ness to IF that other
things don't have. This might be what traces its ancestry to
Wumpus. A transcript of a game of Wumpus would be a silly,
childish story, but it is story-like. Conflict, mystery,
action -- I killed it! Yay! (Or: I'm dead. The end.)

Nethack is obviously not descended from Wumpus.

Relatedly, outputting the video from a game of DOOM would result
in a movie-like thing. A movie sorely in need of editing, but
it would be recognizable as a Jerry Bruckheimer production. (Ha.)

> Perhaps you could say that Nethack is more of a simulation given
> structure by a story, while an IF game is a story told with the
> simulation as its medium.

Hm. Hm. Hm. You could say that. It's not incorrect to say
that, having followed your argument this far. I'm not sure
we've reached the end of the path yet, so I don't think it's
time yet to sum things up like this.


> Take away the plot from Nethack and you have a less structured,
> less interesting game, but still a game with the same basic idea.
>

> Take away the plot from an IF game and you have nothing. (Note: I'm
> using the non-standard definition of "plot" from my earlier post, so I
> count puzzles as plot).

Let's stop using the word "plot," which has a meaning of its
own. We should be able to discuss this without having to alter
the meanings of existing words. I don't like redefining "plot"
to be plot = puzzles, because then we can't talk about actual
plots when we mean actual plots.

Maybe we should use "Plotz" when we mean a sloppy definition of
"plot" that means "a story-ness to a work of IF, even if it's
just puzzles, that linearly drives the experience forward
even in the absence of a plot."

Colossal Cave, Zork, and the Scott Adams adventures all had Plotz.
But they didn't have plots. So Far had quite a lot of Plotz.
Spider and Web and Photopia, of course, had a genuine plots.


--
J. Robinson Wheeler
whe...@jump.net http://www.jump.net/~wheeler/jrw/home.html

stan...@slu.edu

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Jul 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/9/99
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In article <7m21u0$a4b$1...@gail.ripco.com>,

ti...@ripco.com (Discord) wrote:
> The distinction I draw between IF and other types of games is what
> the emphasis is on. If the emphasis is on the story and the puzzles
> and/or combat exist as a way of getting you through the story, I
> would call it IF. If the emphasis is on the combat or puzzles, and
> the story exists to provide context to those things, it's something
> else.
>
> Whether or not anyone else agrees with me is another matter
> altogether.

So, you would consider, say, Ultima 6 as IF?


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Share what you know. Learn what you don't.

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/9/99
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In rec.arts.int-fiction J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> wrote:
>
> The reason I stopped and said "Obviously not" was because I
> thought of Colossal Cave, Zork, and the Scott Adams adventures.
> I'm sorry, plot? These are seminal works, created before the
> notion that good IF needed plots.

Perhaps "narrative" rather than "plot". Wumpus had no sense of narrative,
even though it used English sentences, because there was no attempt at
making the text *interesting*. "I smell a Wumpus" is always "I smell a
Wumpus". And no attempt to talk about the rooms, only to label them.

(Also: Zork *did* have a plot. A trivial, trite plot is still a plot. But
then I can't differentiate that very well from Wumpus or Nethack. So I
guess I don't see your Plotz category. I consider Colossal Cave to be a
innovation because of presentation, not plot. The presence of a
narrative, as opposed to a sequence of events that you could invent
narrative about.)

[Much snipped.]

--Z

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

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/9/99
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In rec.arts.int-fiction Magnus Olsson <m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote:
>> There is randomized combat in Zork and Dungeon, yet they are still IF,
>>are they not?
>
> Yes and yes, but I think - and I believe many other people think so as
> well - that this detracts from the "IF experience". There is IF - of the
> graphic variety - where the game changes modes and turns into an arcade
> game when you enter combat. These games don't seem very popular among
> IF fans.
>
> There is a place for random events in IF. But randomized combat (for
> example) breaks out of the genre. I think this is because normally you
> do things in IF with high-level commands, such as "break statue with
> sledgehammer". Combat sequences of the type in Zork suddenly require
> you to interact at a much lower level.

Much more simulation of a set of rules, much less "about"ness.

This fits with my other post about narrative, in my head, but I'm having
trouble expressing it.

The fundamental question I'm seeing is: Did the author *think* about the
piece of text that just appeared on the screen? In terms of what came
before, what's going to happen next? And do you have to read it in terms
of what comes before and after?

If not, you have a bunch of independent snippets, and that's Nethack.

(Of course, all IF contains such snippets. "Taken". "Violence is not the
answer." We don't object when these are glue and infrastructure. The
problem is when they become the focus of the game, in the foreground.
That's my objection to the fighting in Beyond Zork.)

Keith Snyder

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Jul 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/10/99
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> We must draw the line somewhere.

Speaking as an rank newcomer to IF, but a published novelist and composer...

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that "drawing the line" is the last thing
you should want to do. The most interesting things happen when you're not sure
where the lines are. Once everything's all codified nicely, rules develop, and
everybody starts either following them or arguing with them. Much better to be
a little uncertain.

> OK, there are experimental novels that try
> to be plotless, but do they succeed?

It depends on what you mean by "plot." Some do, some don't.

My exposure to IF is very limited (I'm working on remedying that), but compared
to the plots of good novels -- or even short stories -- the few IF plots I've
seen have been extremely crude. My few IF experiences have suggested to me
that IF is, if I may lapse into novelist-speak, plot-driven, rather than
character-driven. That is, there are THINGS that happen, and that's the point
of it. There's a puzzle that needs to be solved, or an obstacle that needs to
be overcome, and the satisfaction comes from solving the puzzle, overcoming the
obstacle, outwitting the game designer.

In the more complex and satisfying conventional fiction, the things that happen
happen ONLY because of WHO the characters are. Different things will happen to
different characters. Obstacles are carefully chosen so that they match the
characters' shortcomings. Skillful handling of this is part of what makes
great printed fiction.

I have not seen this to any degree in the few IF experiences I have had. Yes,
in gaming, an orc (for instance) is stronger than a halfling, and thus would be
able to break down an oak door that the halfling would be stopped by, but I
have seen nothing that springs from the personalities and natures of the
characters as individuals, rather than as classes.

Instead of flaming me for this, please tell me where I can find IF that will
broaden my opinion. I'm new to this and willing to try things.

> Are they really novels? (That they can be
> works of art is obvious).

Some are, some aren't.

If you haven't already, read IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER by Italo
Calvino. Is it a novel? Is it a literary experiment? Is it any less
"interactive" than interactive fiction?


Keith

http://www.woollymammoth.com/keith

Discord

unread,
Jul 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/10/99
to
In article <3785ED81...@jump.net>,

J. Robinson Wheeler <whe...@jump.net> wrote:
>Discord wrote:
>>
>> The distinction I draw between IF and other types of games is what the
>> emphasis is on. If the emphasis is on the story and the puzzles and/or
>> combat exist as a way of getting you through the story, I would call it
>> IF. If the emphasis is on the combat or puzzles, and the story exists to
>> provide context to those things, it's something else.
>
>Again, Colossal Cave, Zork, and the Scott Adams adventures stand
>before my eyes, challenging this kind of definition. I suppose
>the problem is that I'm not drawing a line between modern IF and
>genesis IF.

Maybe you and I just have different definitions of what constitutes
'emphasis on telling a story'. The distinction I'm drawing isn't 'Zork'
(really bad story which almost /is/ the puzzles, but a story nonetheless)
versus, say, Photopia (very cool story with minimal interaction). The
distinction I'm drawing is between 'story as backdrop' (Mortal Kombat --
you can pay attention to the story but it means absolutely nothing to the
game; the point of the game is that you're beating the hell out of your
opponents) and 'story you're walking through' (regardless of the fact
that the author keeps putting these locked doors, mazes, and so forth in
your way).

It's possible that some people will disagree with me and say that a lot
of IF is merely a story holding puzzles together. Sometimes it is, but I
don't think it is intended that way. It's possible Zork /was/ intended
that way, but then, most people (that I know) don't consider it very
/good/ IF. It's just that it has high name recognition, so it's used a
lot as an example.

Things I would consider IF:

Hitchhiker's Guide, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Wishbringer, Lurking
Horror, etc. from Infocom, Jigsaw, Anchorhead, etc. modern Inform games,
Myst, Shivers, Gabriel Knight. (I am already putting on my
flame-resistant suit, having mentioned graphical games and IF in the same
breath....) Someone asked about Ultima 6; I haven't played it, but I
would consider putting Ultima /5/ in this category... have to play it
again before I decided, I think.

Things I would not consider IF:

Doom, Quake, Mortal Kombat, Alpha Centauri, Theme Hospital, Descent.

Things I would not call IF that have elements of IF -- most of which /I/
would categorize as 'RPG or some close facscimile':

Nethack (yes, really), ADOM, and other Rogue-like games; the SSI D&D
adventures, the first 4 Ultimas, Might and Magic, Wizardry.

Note that I consider RPG and IF to be closely related; not twins, but
certainly siblings. Certain platform adventure games are cousins. Games
that use a story to make the combat more interesting are like that
great-Uncle everyone likes bringing up as a bad example without telling
you exactly why. Strategy games are that woman from across the ocean who
married into your family.

Whether or not you agree with me is, of course, up to you.

Matt Kimball

unread,
Jul 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/10/99
to
Keith Snyder <flowo...@aol.common> wrote:
> In the more complex and satisfying conventional fiction, the things
> that happen happen ONLY because of WHO the characters are.
> Different things will happen to different characters. Obstacles are
> carefully chosen so that they match the characters' shortcomings.
> Skillful handling of this is part of what makes great printed
> fiction.

> I have not seen this to any degree in the few IF experiences I have had.

...


> Instead of flaming me for this, please tell me where I can find IF
> that will broaden my opinion. I'm new to this and willing to try
> things.

I agree that this is desirable and seems to be lacking in most IF.
However, some of the better moments in modern IF are character driven
moments to one degree or another. If you haven't already, try
Photopia, I-0, Jigsaw, Anchorhead, Delusions, and Christminster. All
of those had memorable characters, and all of those had some
interesting character driven moments of some sort.

And, interestingly enough, if I were asked to pick my favorite works
of IF, it would probably be more or less that list.

--
Matt Kimball
mkim...@xmission.com

just...@home.com

unread,
Jul 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/10/99
to
Keith Snyder wrote:
>
> > We must draw the line somewhere.
>
> Speaking as an rank newcomer to IF, but a published novelist and composer...
>
> My opinion, for what it's worth, is that "drawing the line" is the last thing
> you should want to do. The most interesting things happen when you're not sure
> where the lines are. Once everything's all codified nicely, rules develop, and
> everybody starts either following them or arguing with them. Much better to be
> a little uncertain.
>
> > OK, there are experimental novels that try
> > to be plotless, but do they succeed?
>
> It depends on what you mean by "plot." Some do, some don't.
>
> My exposure to IF is very limited (I'm working on remedying that), but compared
> to the plots of good novels -- or even short stories -- the few IF plots I've
> seen have been extremely crude. My few IF experiences have suggested to me
> that IF is, if I may lapse into novelist-speak, plot-driven, rather than
> character-driven. That is, there are THINGS that happen, and that's the point
> of it. There's a puzzle that needs to be solved, or an obstacle that needs to
> be overcome, and the satisfaction comes from solving the puzzle, overcoming the
> obstacle, outwitting the game designer.
>
> In the more complex and satisfying conventional fiction, the things that happen
> happen ONLY because of WHO the characters are. Different things will happen to
> different characters. Obstacles are carefully chosen so that they match the
> characters' shortcomings. Skillful handling of this is part of what makes
> great printed fiction.
>
> I have not seen this to any degree in the few IF experiences I have had. Yes,
> in gaming, an orc (for instance) is stronger than a halfling, and thus would be
> able to break down an oak door that the halfling would be stopped by, but I
> have seen nothing that springs from the personalities and natures of the
> characters as individuals, rather than as classes.
>
> Instead of flaming me for this, please tell me where I can find IF that will
> broaden my opinion. I'm new to this and willing to try things.
>
> > Are they really novels? (That they can be
> > works of art is obvious).
>
> Some are, some aren't.
>
> If you haven't already, read IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER by Italo
> Calvino. Is it a novel? Is it a literary experiment? Is it any less
> "interactive" than interactive fiction?
>
> Keith
>
> http://www.woollymammoth.com/keith

Keith,

If can't really have the same approach to a story as a novel,
and a novel can't really have the same approach to a story as if.
Which if games have you played? Early if games were more or less
treasure hunts with no real story. Not to say that they're not
fun. However the modern concept of IF is that an IF game has a
little more of a story line. There are some works of if with
very detailed characters and good story lines. Especially the
INTERLOGIC games from Infocom. Mysteries where you could interact
with characters, ask them questions, get answers in order to solve
a mystery. Almost all modern if games have a good story line, I'm not
going to name any because I'm afraid I might leave one out and the
author would be offended.

:-)

Justin
just...@home.com

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jul 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/11/99
to
Keith Snyder <flowo...@aol.common> wrote:
> My exposure to IF is very limited (I'm working on remedying that), but compared
> to the plots of good novels -- or even short stories -- the few IF plots I've
> seen have been extremely crude. My few IF experiences have suggested to me
> that IF is, if I may lapse into novelist-speak, plot-driven, rather than
> character-driven. That is, there are THINGS that happen, and that's the point
> of it. There's a puzzle that needs to be solved, or an obstacle that needs to
> be overcome, and the satisfaction comes from solving the puzzle, overcoming the
> obstacle, outwitting the game designer.

This is an accurate observation, I think. And it's because we (authors)
try to focus as much of the game as possible on what the player is
*doing*. (In the name of increasing interactivity and complicity, of
course. No player wants to sit around reading and hitting the space bar
every so often -- we have books for that.)

And, equally of course, "what the player is doing" is, well, things.

We've had forty-zillion discussions on how to do characterization in IF. I
don't think we've come up with any really general answer. Let me try to
break out some of the attempts.

Pure surrealism. (_So Far_, _Losing Your Grip_). The whole universe is
expressing character -- a honkin' big reified subconscious -- and the
player wanders around in it. This gimmick has worked well (especially when
I did it :-) but if everyone used it, it'd get worn out pretty fast.

Make the story about an NPC (non-player character). The player is
secondary. (_Photopia_, and in a sense _Spider and Web_.) Then you can use
all the usual static-fiction techniques to portray the NPC.

Put the player in situations where his best choice *does* express a
particular character. By solving the puzzles the player is acting from the
character's definition, and -- by the same token -- by thinking in harmony
with the character, the player is more able to solve the puzzles. (I'm
using the word "puzzles" very generally here; that's another forty-zillion
arguments... heh.) This is what I tried to do in _A Change in the
Weather_, although it was only half-successful, even aside from the fact
that most people said the puzzle was too hard.

> If you haven't already, read IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER by Italo
> Calvino. Is it a novel? Is it a literary experiment? Is it any less
> "interactive" than interactive fiction?

It's not a novel, it is a literary experiment, and it is less interactive
than interactive fiction -- in fact, non-interactive.

Well, IMO, anyway. :)

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Jul 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/11/99
to
In article <19990710151422...@ng-da1.aol.com>,

Keith Snyder <flowo...@aol.common> wrote:
>
>> We must draw the line somewhere.
>
>Speaking as an rank newcomer to IF, but a published novelist and composer...
>
>My opinion, for what it's worth, is that "drawing the line" is the
>last thing you should want to do. The most interesting things happen
>when you're not sure where the lines are. Once everything's all
>codified nicely, rules develop, and everybody starts either following
>them or arguing with them. Much better to be a little uncertain.

OK. I agree with you, of course, but that's not really what I meant.

Let me rephrase: We can not - and should not - draw a sharp line
dividing IF from non-IF. But we must be able to say "this is not IF".
Categories which are so vague as to become all-encompassing are meaningless.
I feel that if we start classifying games like Rogue, Doom and (why not)
Mario Brothers and Tomb Raider as IF, then we've lost something.

That's not to say that those games don't have IF *aspects*, and of
course it doesn't mean that we shouldn't discuss them here, as long
as the discussion has some kind of "IF relevance". Who gets to decide
that? I hear you say. Well, so far we've managed to keep some kind
fo vague consensus of what is IF. And the groups tolerate quite a lot
of OT threads, of course.

>> OK, there are experimental novels that try
>> to be plotless, but do they succeed?
>

>It depends on what you mean by "plot." Some do, some don't.

This reminds me of an interesting discussion on rec.arts.sf.composition:
Does a story have to have a protagonist (or protagonists)? You can
certainly tell about, say, the Napoleon wars without having any
protagonist, but are you then telling a story or just recounting
history (possible invented history)?


> In the more complex and satisfying conventional fiction, the things
>that happen happen ONLY because of WHO the characters are. Different
>things will happen to different characters. Obstacles are carefully
>chosen so that they match the characters' shortcomings. Skillful
>handling of this is part of what makes great printed fiction.
>
>I have not seen this to any degree in the few IF experiences I have
>had. Yes, in gaming, an orc (for instance) is stronger than a
>halfling, and thus would be able to break down an oak door that the
>halfling would be stopped by, but I have seen nothing that springs
>from the personalities and natures of the characters as individuals,
>rather than as classes.

I think we have not yet found a satisfactory paradigm for making
character-driven IF. There are attempts at making it, but the problem
is how to let the player retain freedom at the same time as giving
him or her a personality. "Interstate 0" is an interesting experiment,
which goes part of the way in that it allows the player to make,
what shall I call it, "personality choices" - the choices are not
whether to use a hammer or a wrench to break a glass case, but
(crudely put) whether to persuade a guy to do something by trying
to get his sympathy or by seducing him. Where I think "I-0" fails
is in that such choices don't influence the gmae more than locally -
you can play widely different personalities in different encounters.

Aris Katsaris

unread,
Jul 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/11/99
to

Keith Snyder <flowo...@aol.common> wrote in message
news:19990710151422...@ng-da1.aol.com...

> >
> > OK, there are experimental novels that try
> > to be plotless, but do they succeed?
>
> It depends on what you mean by "plot." Some do, some don't.
>
> My exposure to IF is very limited (I'm working on remedying that), but
compared
> to the plots of good novels -- or even short stories -- the few IF plots
I've
> seen have been extremely crude. My few IF experiences have suggested to
me
> that IF is, if I may lapse into novelist-speak, plot-driven, rather than
> character-driven. That is, there are THINGS that happen, and that's the
point
> of it. There's a puzzle that needs to be solved, or an obstacle that
needs to
> be overcome, and the satisfaction comes from solving the puzzle,
overcoming the
> obstacle, outwitting the game designer.
>
> In the more complex and satisfying conventional fiction, the things that
happen
> happen ONLY because of WHO the characters are. Different things will
happen to
> different characters. Obstacles are carefully chosen so that they match
the
> characters' shortcomings. Skillful handling of this is part of what makes
> great printed fiction.
>
> I have not seen this to any degree in the few IF experiences I have had.
Yes,
> in gaming, an orc (for instance) is stronger than a halfling, and thus
would be
> able to break down an oak door that the halfling would be stopped by, but
I
> have seen nothing that springs from the personalities and natures of the
> characters as individuals, rather than as classes.
>
> Instead of flaming me for this, please tell me where I can find IF that
will
> broaden my opinion. I'm new to this and willing to try things.

Hmm... try out Photopia. Muse is another character-driven story. (First and
second place winners in the last I-F competition) So Far is hard and long,
but perhaps that too. Spider in the Web is perhaps not exactly
character-driven (though there's a very well-fleshed character in there) but
it has a complex and rather intriguing story. Try that too; it's my second
all-time favourite game (the first is the aforementioned Photopia).

For far more experimental works, try out "The Space Under the Window" and
"Aisle"

Aris Katsaris

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Jul 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/11/99
to
It just struck me that what I've been trying to say with all
this talk about "driving forces", "being stuck in somebody else's
story" and "plots" that aren't what's ordinarily called plots (OK,
let's call them plotz instead) is this:

What distinguishes a piece of IF from other games with narratives,
such as Nethack, RPG's, Tie Fighter or interactive mythos, is that
whereas all these games have narrative, in IF the narrative is
essentially fixed by the author, but in the other games only the
outline of the narrative is fixed, and you create the detailed
narrative as you play.

Take Nethack as an example. When you start a new game, the authors
have decreed that you must go down into the dungeon, clear out the dwarvish
mines, help your old mentor by going on a quest and defeating your
quest nemesis, hunt down the Wizard of Yendor, steal his amulet,
take it to the astral plane and sacrifice it.

This, however, is not narrative; it's a plot, and it's an outline of
a narrative. But the actual narrative is created when you play:
"Grognr the barbarian encountered his first kobold on level 2. He smote
it a mighty blow with his two-handed sword, but missed..."

In contrast, the essence of an IF game is to me that I'm playing
out a more or less pre-defined part in an existing narrative (OK,
I have some freedom in details, and in the order I choose to do
things, and there may even be plot branchings).

dwmyers

unread,
Jul 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/12/99
to
Magnus, in all this discussion about IF and the origins of
IF, and what it 'is', is it possible the word you're
dancing around is deterministic, that IF are _largely_
deterministic games whose outcome is determined almost
entirely by the game of the player?

**** Posted from RemarQ - http://www.remarq.com - Discussions Start Here (tm) ****

Erik Max Francis

unread,
Jul 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/12/99
to
dwmyers wrote:

> Magnus, in all this discussion about IF and the origins of
> IF, and what it 'is', is it possible the word you're
> dancing around is deterministic, that IF are _largely_
> deterministic games whose outcome is determined almost
> entirely by the game of the player?

So is chess, but I wouldn't call it interactive fiction.

--
Erik Max Francis / email m...@alcyone.com / whois mf303 / icq 16063900
Alcyone Systems / irc maxxon@efnet / finger m...@members.alcyone.com
San Jose, CA / languages En, Eo / web http://www.alcyone.com/max/
USA / icbm 37 20 07 N 121 53 38 W / &tSftDotIotE
\
/ Laws are silent in time of war.
/ Cicero

dwmyers

unread,
Jul 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/12/99
to
Well, that chess is also deterministic is fine. I'm not
suggesting that determinism alone is the defining factor in
IF. However, something like the three criteria below might
be:

Another proposed 'definition' of IF

1. IF is largely deterministic; or it might be piecewise
deterministic if regions of randomness are encountered. But
unlike a role playing game, the elements of randomness are
supressed and the outcome is, by and large, determined by
the moves of the player.

2. IF uses a language oriented interface and the use of
this language oriented interface is integral to the design
and play of the game (i.e., minimally, a verb noun
structure). Chess can be played by moving pieces, and no
language other than one that can be mapped into the
geometric movement of pieces is necessary. I'd argue that
Nethack's interface would be easily mapped to a fancy
joystick and that the concept of language isn't an
essential component of Nethack.

3. The output of IF also heavily involves text. Unlike a
movie-on-computer this outputted text is, as well, integral
to the playing of the game.

I'm very tempted to toss in 2a, which would be the scope of
language in IF, that the number of nouns and verbs are
large and possible responses wide. It's possible to fold
language responses into a menu and select from the menu,
but if those choices are limited to 2 or 3 (say 'yes' 'no'
'maybe') I'd argue that such a game is scarcely IF.

Dylan O'Donnell

unread,
Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
to
dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> writes:
> I'm very tempted to toss in 2a, which would be the scope of
> language in IF, that the number of nouns and verbs are
> large and possible responses wide. It's possible to fold
> language responses into a menu and select from the menu,
> but if those choices are limited to 2 or 3 (say 'yes' 'no'
> 'maybe') I'd argue that such a game is scarcely IF.

Damn. Zarf? We're going to need those XYZZYs back, I'm afraid.

(Yes, I know this isn't how it was meant...)

--
Dylan O'Donnell : "Peek-a-boo, I can't see you, everything must
Demon Internet Ltd : be grand; / Boo-ka-pee, you can't see me,
Resident, Forgotten Office : as long as I've got me head in t'sand..."
http://www.fysh.org/~psmith/ : -- Michael Flanders, "The Ostrich"

okbl...@my-deja.com

unread,
Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
to
In article <9318137...@www.remarq.com>,

dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> wrote:
>
> 1. IF is largely deterministic; or it might be piecewise
> deterministic if regions of randomness are encountered. But
> unlike a role playing game, the elements of randomness are
> supressed and the outcome is, by and large, determined by
> the moves of the player.

Often true, but hardly a requirement. If one were trying to create an IF
parallel to Alice's adventures, one might specifically require
randomness and dissociation of the player's actions with the outcome.

And then, at the other end of the scale, there is "Photopia", where the
moves of the player don't matter one whit to the outcome.

> 2. IF uses a language oriented interface and the use of
> this language oriented interface is integral to the design
> and play of the game (i.e., minimally, a verb noun
> structure).

You're referring now to text IF which, despite this community's focus,
is only one kind of IF. To suggest that graphical IF isn't IF is to
suggest that movies aren't narratives because they aren't books.

> Chess can be played by moving pieces, and no
> language other than one that can be mapped into the
> geometric movement of pieces is necessary. I'd argue that
> Nethack's interface would be easily mapped to a fancy
> joystick and that the concept of language isn't an
> essential component of Nethack.

Nethack's interface, in a visual/positional format would not much
different from any given work of IF put into a visual/positional format.
Nethack would have a larger array of inventory items than most works of
IF, and could probably compete with most works of IF in terms of the
variety of actions that one could take with those items.

> 3. The output of IF also heavily involves text. Unlike a
> movie-on-computer this outputted text is, as well, integral
> to the playing of the game.

There is a certain tautology here. You must be dismissing ALL graphical
IF, but if that's the case, you're actually saying that "the output of
TEXT IF also heavily involves TEXT."

The intriguing thing is that your items 2, proposed 2a and 3 could be
considered violated by "Photopia" because whatever you input or the game
puts out has no impact or bearing on the game at all. In fact, given
that "Photopia" has only one outcome (and this is true of other works of
IF, too), can it really be considered a game?

> I'm very tempted to toss in 2a, which would be the scope of
> language in IF, that the number of nouns and verbs are
> large and possible responses wide. It's possible to fold
> language responses into a menu and select from the menu,
> but if those choices are limited to 2 or 3 (say 'yes' 'no'
> 'maybe') I'd argue that such a game is scarcely IF.

You're obviously working off a different deifnition of IF than I am.
--
[ok]

Neil Cerutti

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
to
In article <7mf71r$fuu$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:
> Often true, but hardly a requirement. If one were trying to
> create an IF parallel to Alice's adventures, one might
> specifically require randomness and dissociation of the
> player's actions with the outcome.
>
> And then, at the other end of the scale, there is "Photopia",
> where the moves of the player don't matter one whit to the
> outcome.

That depends on how you define "outcome".

--
Neil Cerutti
ne...@norwich.edu

dwmyers

unread,
Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
to
>> dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> wrote:
>> 1. IF is largely deterministic; or it might be
>> piecewise deterministic if regions of randomness are
>> encountered. But unlike a role playing game, the
>> elements of randomness are supressed and the outcome is,
>> by and large, determined by the moves of the player.

> Often true, but hardly a requirement. If one were trying


> to create an IF parallel to Alice's adventures, one might
> specifically require randomness and dissociation of the >
player's actions with the outcome.

********************

A game whose purpose is to drive you batty with no
connection between your input and what you actually get in
screen... has it been done? Can you point to a single
example of 'IF' created in this fashion? I'd argue that
you've created a game, but the game is hardly IF.

********************

> And then, at the other end of the scale, there is
> "Photopia", where the moves of the player don't matter one
> whit to the outcome.

********************

Photophia is totally deterministic, one outcome. What's the
point?

********************


>> 2. IF uses a language oriented interface and the use of
>> this language oriented interface is integral to the
>> design and play of the game (i.e., minimally, a verb
>> noun structure).

> You're referring now to text IF which, despite this
> community's focus, is only one kind of IF. To suggest that
> graphical IF isn't IF is to suggest that movies aren't
> narratives because they aren't books.

Give an example of this 'graphical IF'. Are you sure chess
doesn't fit the definition you're giving yourself for
graphical IF? Are you sure there is any continuity
whatsoever to the examples of 'IF' you keep tossing out,
or is IF whatever you wish to call IF? Are you sure you're
not using IF to mean 'computer game', and while you're at
it, distinguish a 'computer game' from IF, unless you
consider all 'computer games' IF.

Let me give an example: is Star Control II IF ? There is no
text entry, but by virtue of a menu, you do control the flow
of the narrative. Conversations have a major impact on how
the game plays out, but so do your combat skills. The plot
is crucial to the final outcome of the game, and the reward
in large part is the unraveling of the story. So what is it?

>> Chess can be played by moving pieces, and no
>> language other than one that can be mapped into the
>> geometric movement of pieces is necessary. I'd argue that
>> Nethack's interface would be easily mapped to a fancy
>> joystick and that the concept of language isn't an
>> essential component of Nethack.

> Nethack's interface, in a visual/positional format would
> not much different from any given work of IF put into a
> visual/positional format. Nethack would have a larger
> array of inventory items than most works of IF, and could
> probably compete with most works of IF in terms of the
> variety of actions that one could take with those items.

>> 3. The output of IF also heavily involves text. Unlike
>> a movie-on-computer this outputted text is, as well,
>> integral to the playing of the game.

> There is a certain tautology here. You must be dismissing
> ALL graphical IF

Actually, I'm not sure I am. I have nothing against a
mouse pointing to words that are selected, or broad based
menu driven interfaces. Nor do I think I've automatically
deselected for that.

> , but if that's the case, you're actually saying
> that "the output of TEXT IF also heavily involves TEXT."

I'm not too worried at this point about this; I do believe
IF can have graphical output, just that words seem to me
to be key to it all. If you have a counter example I'd be
happy to know of it.

> The intriguing thing is that your items 2, proposed 2a and
> 3 could be considered violated by "Photopia" because

> whatever you input or the game puts out has no impact or
> bearing on the game at all. In fact, given that "Photopia"
> has only one outcome (and this is true of other works of
> IF, too), can it really be considered a game?

My understanding is that there are choices to be made in
"Photophia" and that they do affect what you see, that
choices are broad. That it's a linear narrative that is (in
your mind) totally deterministic makes it still, IF.

Still, if we're going to argue things, you'll need to define
your own terms, because I'm not sure that you're making any
distinction between a computer game and IF. The original
notion I was trying to dance around was Magnus's idea of a
author-as-despot whose shadow loomed over the game as a kind
of metaopponent. That seemed to me to be the effect of
authorship rather than the defining characteristic of IF.
I don't think that a reader needs to see the author's
thumbprint buried in the game in order for it to be IF, but
the question then is, how do you distinguish IF from a
graphical game of complexity? I'd agree with Magnus that the
Roguelike games aren't IF. They're graphically oriented.
Including them as IF means that things like StarCraft have
to be considered IF as well, as it has a clean narrative, a
genuine storyline, etc.

> You're obviously working off a different deifnition of IF
> than I am. -- [ok]

It's not clear to me that you disambiguate any computer
games from IF so far. And yes, obviously I'm exploring a
trial definition in order to work around the problem I see
in Magnus's definition. You're pointing out problems, which
I think is cool. It's in the "Yes, but" clauses that people
actually figure things out :>

Aris Katsaris

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> wrote in message
news:9318792...@www.remarq.com...

> > You're referring now to text IF which, despite this
> > community's focus, is only one kind of IF. To suggest that
> > graphical IF isn't IF is to suggest that movies aren't
> > narratives because they aren't books.
>
> Give an example of this 'graphical IF'.

Grim Fandango. And others.

Aris Katsaris

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>
> dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> wrote in message
> news:9318792...@www.remarq.com...
>> > You're referring now to text IF which, despite this
>> > community's focus, is only one kind of IF. To suggest that
>> > graphical IF isn't IF is to suggest that movies aren't
>> > narratives because they aren't books.
>>
>> Give an example of this 'graphical IF'.
>
> Grim Fandango. And others.

If _Myst_ was not interactive fiction, then you're so far off my
defintions that it may not be worth trying to reconcile them.

dwmyers

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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Ok, let's try at least to summarize what I've seen. People
have pointed out that IF doesn't require a plot or
characterization (J. Robinson Wheeler), others claim that
IF doesn't require language or words (okblacke), the
interface can be anything you want, etc.

The problem is still that there isn't any distinction that
I can derive between a computer game and IF; that IF is
defined by the notion, "By Jove, I know it's IF when I see
it", and I'd say that it's a non-definition if it's left
essentially to taste. Magnus was trying to get at
something, which is the essence of what IF is, and if the
only thing that defines IF is whim, then I can claim
StarCraft is IF (even though it calls itself a real time
strategy game).

dwmyers

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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>>> Give an example of this 'graphical IF'.


>> Grim Fandango. And others.

> If _Myst_ was not interactive fiction, then you're so far

> off my definitions that it may not be worth trying to
> reconcile them.

Well, let's ask somehing easier: what makes Myst IF? In the
process I might not have to guess what your definition of
IF is.

Discord

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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In article <9318792...@www.remarq.com>,

dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> wrote:
>Give an example of this 'graphical IF'. Are you sure chess

Myst. (Presumably also Riven, though I haven't played it.) Sanitarium.
Shivers and Shivers 2. Curse of Monkey Island.

dwm...@my-deja.com

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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In article <7mfud2$il5$1...@gail.ripco.com>,

ti...@ripco.com (Discord) wrote:
> In article <9318792...@www.remarq.com>,
> dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> wrote:
> >Give an example of this 'graphical IF'. Are you sure chess
>
> Myst. (Presumably also Riven, though I haven't played it.) Sanitarium.
> Shivers and Shivers 2. Curse of Monkey Island.

Ok, I've never played Myst but my understanding of it is that you do
wander around finding pieces of a man's diary and in the process of
playing not only do you resolve a mystery but you as well piece
together a person's (or is it a family's) life. It's not a silent movie
by any stretch.

So what makes Myst IF and Chessmaster a game? Both are graphical. What
differentiates a plot driven RPG like Ultima from a graphical IF? What
differentiates a RTS game such as StarCraft from a graphical IF game
like Myst?

I'm not trying to be cruel but I'm looking for an analytical way to
define what it is in a game that makes it IF. It's nice that people
recognize it for what it is, but what is it they're recognizing? What's
the common element here? Or are we reduced to "IF is what is is, you
recognize it by gut feel and no definition fits." Somehow the last
seems lacking.

David

Ross Presser

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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alt.distinguished.dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com>.wrote.posted.offered:

>Ok, let's try at least to summarize what I've seen. People
>have pointed out that IF doesn't require a plot or
>characterization (J. Robinson Wheeler), others claim that
>IF doesn't require language or words (okblacke), the
>interface can be anything you want, etc.
>
>The problem is still that there isn't any distinction that
>I can derive between a computer game and IF; that IF is
>defined by the notion, "By Jove, I know it's IF when I see
>it", and I'd say that it's a non-definition if it's left
>essentially to taste. Magnus was trying to get at
>something, which is the essence of what IF is, and if the
>only thing that defines IF is whim, then I can claim
>StarCraft is IF (even though it calls itself a real time
>strategy game).
>

By analogy, is there a distinction between the novel and the movie? Is one
fiction (non-interactive fiction, NIF?) and the other not? Both are
"stories" presented in different media. Why can't we say that a story
presented as a text game is textual IF, and a story presented as a
graphical game is graphical IF?

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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(Note that I'm restricting this to just rec.arts.int-fiction -- there's no
reason to crosspsot it.)

In rec.arts.int-fiction dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> wrote:
> Ok, let's try at least to summarize what I've seen. People
> have pointed out that IF doesn't require a plot or
> characterization (J. Robinson Wheeler), others claim that
> IF doesn't require language or words (okblacke), the
> interface can be anything you want, etc.
>
> The problem is still that there isn't any distinction that

> I can derive between a computer game and IF

Oh, there are plenty of distinctions. JRW has one, okblack has one, I have
one.... :-)

I, for example, think IF absolutely has to have a plot. But I don't recall
if JRW disagrees with me, or if we're just cutting our terms a little
differently. (I think Zork 1 has a plot, but not everyone agrees with me.)

(And from a different post:)

> What makes Myst IF?

Well, it has a plot. There is a narrative. (Or the movie equivalent of
narrative -- I may be stretching the term.) All the parts are there
because the authors put them there. "Considered in terms of what comes
before and what comes after," to quote my earlier post. The environment --
the *interesting* features of the environment -- all have thought in them.

Contrast Starcraft: The map is certainly planned, as are the scenarios and
the events that occur in them. But these are a minority of what you *do*
in the game. The focus of the game is this army of monsters, whose
behavior is algorithmic, generated, and narratively meaningless.

Naturally, if someone invents real AI and puts interesting, talking
monsters in Starcraft 12, that'll be different. But this has not yet
occurred.

dwmyers

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
to
>By analogy, is there a distinction between the novel and
>the movie?

We'll simplify and assume by 'the movie' you mean a
fictional drama. And in that case you have the difference
between a novel (usually written by a single author) and
the product of an ensemble (writer, screenwriter, actors,
producers, directors). Fiction lacks sound and usually
visuals, whereas movies generally use sound (and often
color) to engage multiple senses. I don't have to turn
pages to watch a movie. Fiction requires imagination to
invoke the imagery of words, whereas movies can touch the
most unimaginative people. I can be much less engaged when
watching a movie, whereas in fiction I need to at least
unravel and understand (misunderstand?) the print in front
of me.


>Is one fiction (non-interactive fiction, NIF?) and the
>other not?

Movies aren't always fiction. They could be biography, or
history, or informational. They could be propaganda, in
which case they're clearly fiction.


> Both are "stories" presented in different media.

I beg to differ. Movies, or film, are not always stories.
It's a broader medium than fiction. Is the apt comparison
writing and movies? Then you don't have these context
issues.

> Why can't we say that a story presented as a text game is
> textual IF, and a story presented as a graphical game is
> graphical IF?

Which again begs the question, why isn't StarCraft IF? If
it's IF, what makes it IF and if it isn't, why isn't it so?
Is any computer game that tells a story IF? What if the
story happens to be true and not fiction :>?

Haha! If someone wrote a walk-through story of the life of
Einstein in Inform (thus a true narrative), does it no
longer qualify as interactive fiction? Does it become
interactive biography instead?

By the definitions (or lack thereof) of graphical IF, is
Microsoft Encarta IF? It has narrative, it has structure,
it has little motion pictures. It has small interactive
slide shows. Are those components graphical IF (even if the
whole is not)?

What if I made a touch n click stack of jpegs that allowed
you to tour the Grand Tetons? Is that graphical IF?
(Probably not, which brings on the next question) What if I
stuck pictures of my friend Bob, wearing a yeti costume in
it, 'terrorizing' my friends in the Grand Tetons. At that
point you have a point n click story, told only in visuals,
told badly perhaps but told after a fashion. No words,
nothing said, but interactive. Is that graphical IF? If it
is, why so? What makes it IF, the 'story'?

Kathleen M. Fischer

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Jul 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/13/99
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dwm...@my-deja.com wrote:
> I'm not trying to be cruel but I'm looking for an analytical way to
> define what it is in a game that makes it IF. It's nice that people
> recognize it for what it is, but what is it they're recognizing? What's
> the common element here? Or are we reduced to "IF is what is is, you
> recognize it by gut feel and no definition fits." Somehow the last
> seems lacking.

I would define interactive fiction as "A fictional narrative where the
player's actions are an integral part of the story telling process and
directly influence the narration."

If it doesn't tell a story, it isn't interactive fiction (IMHO). It
could be interactive non-fiction, or an interactive game, but it's
not IF. IF doesn't require text. Ever looked at a child's picture
book? Some of them have no words at all and yet still tell a story.
If the player's actions have an effect on the narrative flow, then it's
interactive. In the hyper fiction I have seen (click on the blue word),
the player action's do not effect the story enough to meet the
above definition, being used simply to select major plot branches.
However, in theory I don't see why one couldn't write one that did.
In principle they are no different than a graphics work where you
are using your mouse to click one of the few available hot spots.
I absolutely consider A Space Under The Window to be IF, and I don't
see any reason why you could do that with hypertext.

There are no doubt fence sitters - works like a Fools Errand that is
more game than fiction, or Photopia that hangs on to interactivity
by a thread. So be it. There is a fine line between music and noise
too.

Kathleen (just my $0.02(US))


--
*******************************************************************
* Kathleen M. Fischer *
* kfis...@greenhouse.nospam.gov (nospam = l l n l) *
** "Don't stop to stomp ants while the elephants are stampeding" **

SteveG

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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On Tue, 13 Jul 1999 15:58:00 -0700, "Kathleen M. Fischer"
<kfis...@greenhouse.nospam.gov> wrote:

>dwm...@my-deja.com wrote:
>> I'm not trying to be cruel but I'm looking for an analytical way to
>> define what it is in a game that makes it IF. It's nice that people
>> recognize it for what it is, but what is it they're recognizing? What's
>> the common element here? Or are we reduced to "IF is what is is, you
>> recognize it by gut feel and no definition fits." Somehow the last
>> seems lacking.
>
>I would define interactive fiction as "A fictional narrative where the
>player's actions are an integral part of the story telling process and
>directly influence the narration."
>
>If it doesn't tell a story, it isn't interactive fiction (IMHO). It
>could be interactive non-fiction, or an interactive game, but it's
>not IF.

[...snip....]

I agree with Kathleen. I think the defining feature of IF is that it
tells a story. I was writing a reply to an earlier post when
Kathleen's message arrived so I'll tack my reply on here ....

On Tue, 13 Jul 1999 07:20:41 -0800, dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com>
wrote:
[...snip...]


>The original
>notion I was trying to dance around was Magnus's idea of a
>author-as-despot whose shadow loomed over the game as a kind
>of metaopponent. That seemed to me to be the effect of
>authorship rather than the defining characteristic of IF.
>I don't think that a reader needs to see the author's
>thumbprint buried in the game in order for it to be IF, but
>the question then is, how do you distinguish IF from a
>graphical game of complexity?

[...snip...]

For me, the "author's thumbprint" *is* the defining characteristic of
IF.

Certainly Interactive Fiction has to be "interactive" - that's the bit
that distinguishes it from a novel or movie.

But a work of Interactive Fiction must also include a "fiction" - a
story/narrative/plot or "plotz" as various people have called it. The
fact that the author is telling a story is what distinguishes an
Interactive Fiction from a simulation or puzzle or arcade game.

The appealing aspect of Interactive Fiction for me is that its like
reading a book (or comic or watching a movie - the prose medium isn't
a defining feature of IF) where the text magically changes due to my
own influence on the story. The story that I read results from the
collaboration of my influence on the narrative and the author's
over-riding vision of the story he or she is trying to narrate. If
there wasn't that over-riding story then it wouldn't be so interesting
for me.

Magnus quote:
>... It's more
>what Espen Aarseth called "being caught in a story" (he used it in
>a negative sense, but I actually think this is something *desired* by
>devotees of IF-as-we-know-it ...

Yes I think that is so. The fact that the author is telling the story
is the appeal. In an IF the player/reader can influence, twist or
explore the story to some extent, which adds the extra appeal of
Interactive Fiction over "just Fiction", but in the end the story is
the author's to tell and the reader's to enjoy.

The non-computerised analogies that I can think of are of a
story-teller in a pre-electric society spinning a yarn to a group of
sceptical listeners around an evening campfire or a parent telling a
bedtime story to an inquisitive child. The listeners' questions and
interruptions influence the story but in the end the speaker tells the
tale.

[Note: follow ups set to just raif group - crosspost to rgif removed]


--
SteveG
(Please remove erroneous word from address if emailing a reply)

Discord

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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In article <7mg9su$umu$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, <dwm...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>So what makes Myst IF and Chessmaster a game? Both are graphical.

So?

> What
>differentiates a plot driven RPG like Ultima from a graphical IF?

I'm not sure I wouldn't count Ultima as IF at this point. Not originally,
certainly; the game had something like a plot but it was more a story
piecing together combat than combat piecing together a story (go back and
find my original note on this). But Ultima 5 is certainly very close to
IF even if it isn't strictly IF, and the ones after it may be even more
so. It's very hard to make a distinction between IF and RPG games. Kinda
like asking someone to make a distinction between 'hard rock' and 'heavy
metal', or between 'industrial' and 'techno', or 'techno' and 'ambient'.
Some of it /is/ a matter of opinion -- and what's wrong with that?

> What
>differentiates a RTS game such as StarCraft from a graphical IF game
>like Myst?

Well, I haven't played Starcraft, but strategy games don't exist for the
point of a story. A story may be a backdrop, there may be a gameworld,
but the point of the game isn't to be involved in a story. It's to be
involved in a decision-making process.

>I'm not trying to be cruel but I'm looking for an analytical way to
>define what it is in a game that makes it IF. It's nice that people
>recognize it for what it is, but what is it they're recognizing? What's

I don't understand why you think this hasn't been answered. I think it's
pretty clear. The point of an IF game is the story and your ability to do
things in the story. Whether that 'doing things' is a limited set of
choices that can't really affect the outcome ('Photopia') or if you have
a set of choices where you can have failure vs success (most IF) or even
where your choices change the outcome of the story to varied endings (I
can't think of a game offhand but I know there are a few). The point of
IF, as I said before, is the involvement in the story.

Now people will argue "What's the difference between IF and reading a
book?", of course, but I leave that as an exercise to the reader.

Discord

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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In article <378BC478...@greenhouse.nospam.gov>,

Kathleen M. Fischer <kfis...@greenhouse.nospam.gov> wrote:
>I would define interactive fiction as "A fictional narrative where the
>player's actions are an integral part of the story telling process and
>directly influence the narration."

Oh, this is a much more elegant description than mine. Shoulda read
ahead. :)

Thomas Nilsson

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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Keith Snyder wrote:
>
> > We must draw the line somewhere.
>
> Speaking as an rank newcomer to IF, but a published novelist and composer...
>
> My opinion, for what it's worth, is that "drawing the line" is the last thing
> you should want to do.

In my opinion "drawing the line" is both a good and a bad thing. It is
good because you can compare and discuss the term that is being
defined. It is also handy because you can easily see when somebody's
definition is not the same as yours.

However it is bad because, as has already been said, once boxed in it
becomes stiff and rigid, and ultimately uninteresting.

However I think a definition could be useful, but *only* as to define
the essence or core of IF. Thus the definition could be used to
explain IF to others and ourselves. There will, as also had been said
already, always be work at the edges and work that bridge both the IF
and other definitions. This is good and necessary for the genre to
evolve.

Possibly after enough of the edges has been worked on there comes a
time when our view on IF has changed and then it might become
necessary to create a new, broader, tighter or at least different,
definition.

This is, I think, what really happens. Just consider definitions of,
say, science over time.

Thomas

thomas.nilsson.vcf

Dennis Smith

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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<delurk>
<newsgroups snipped>

S'funny how much more attention this thread is getting than it got in
1997...

http://x37.deja.com/=dnc/getdoc.xp?AN=290551958

Well, it's short so here it is again:

- My definition of the 'adventure game':
-
- A work in which one advances a narrative by issuing instructions which
- may affect the behaviour (or give the illusion of affecting the
- behaviour) of an actor or actors within the work.

(Actor means anything that acts, of course). In effect I think the
definition falls down on what is or isn't a narrative. (I don't think
'plot' is required for narrative.)

--
Den

<relurk>


dwmyers

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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Some of this is extrania, but I thought I'd drop a couple
comments in here:

>> What differentiates a RTS game such as StarCraft from a
>> graphical IF game like Myst?

> Well, I haven't played Starcraft, but strategy games don't
> exist for the point of a story. A story may be a backdrop,
> there may be a gameworld, but the point of the game isn't
> to be involved in a story.

Be very careful about what you're saying here. StarCraft is
one of the most story-immersive experiences I've gone
through. The 30 scenario introduction to playing it has more
storyline than nearly anything I've touched on a computer.

One could argue the *point* of Zork wasn't the story either,
but the puzzles you solved along the way. Arguably, since
the point of many puzzles is to confound the reader, the
plot in Zork was a backdrop as well. After all, if story
were the dominant issue, why stop the reader dead in his
tracks and make him solve a puzzle to proceed?

Further, you don't have to be a good strategist to work
through Starcraft. It teaches you the technique as you play.
But if you have to be good at puzzles to solve Zork, then I
would ask, what really is the point and what really is the
backdrop?

> It's to be involved in a decision-making process.

Which solving a puzzle isn't?

But as I said, that's mostly an aside. Kathleen's definition
is quite good, and at least grounds the discussion (as have
Andrew, Aris, and others who have tendered definitions as
well).

Tom Spidell

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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I thought it might be interesting to interject a definition of Interactive
Fiction from Infocom itself. This is from the 1983 "Our Circuits,
Ourselves" sales brochure. It's not a good, tight definition at all, but it
still gets the point across effectively.

...
"Interactive fiction? What's that?"
"Well, in one way, it's like a computer game. And in another, it's like
a novel. And in another, it's neither." Delwood's face was a blank.
"You've read a novel, haven't you?" Delwood nodded; he had, once.
"They communicate in prose, and have plots, and tell stories that progress
through time, and have characters who change and react to one another as the
story moves along," the steward continued. "Interactive fiction has all
that, but it's active, not passive. You participate in the story as the
main character - you go places, interact with people, strive to outwit
opponents, repair broken equipment, interrogate suspects, decipher
languages, and so forth. Each story is about the length of a short novel,
but because you're actively engaged in the plot, your adventure can last for
days and weeks."
"But how is it like a computer game?"
"It can be experienced only with the help of your Micro-American. But
while the events in some games always happen the same way, in the same
order, interactive fiction stories grow out of what you do. That's because
Infocom uses the full potential of your computer to create new worlds that
are complete and logical in every detail."
"But how?" Delwood queried.
"You know how you dehydrate oatmeal?" Delwood blanched, remembering his
dream. "In a sense, our Infokins do the same thing - taking the vast amount
of information that goes into making up a world, then condensing it down
from the mainframe level to a floppy disk you can slip into your
Micro-American, without losing any of the 'goodness.' When you do, you're
transported to that world, right into the body of the main character. And
you can chose from hundreds, even thousands, of courses of action at every
step of your journey."
"Can I talk to the people I meet there?"
"As easily as you're talking to me now. You can type in full English
sentences, and you're provided with all the words you need. For instance, a
command like 'Del, put the tofu flavoring and the marshmallows in the cereal
extruder, then get off the conveyer belt and start the machine,' which would
stump any ordinary computer game, is a piece of cake for Infocom's
interactive fiction."
"But what do I do while I'm in one of these worlds?"
"Well, of course, you'll be engaged in exciting adventures,
life-and-death situations and such; but more than that, there are mysteries
to unravel the likes of which you've never seen before - humorous, often
hilarious, and always totally logical and original."
"Hmm. I'm beginning to see what this interactive fiction is... but how
do I fit in?"
"Right at the heart of the story. You see, interactive fiction is more
than the plot and the puzzles and the communication - it's the whole
experience of *being* inside the story, of actually *living* it. For
instance, you don't just read an interactive fiction story about a detective
solving a complicated locked-door mystery. You, Delwood Bland, can examine
the evidence, interview witnesses, and make the arrest. And when the letter
of congratulations comes from Police Headquarters after the case is finally
closed, the glory will be yours.
"That feeling of total involvement - the excitement, frustration, anger,
outrage, and ultimately, victory - is what many Micro-Americans in our
therapy sessions like best."
...


Tom Spidell

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
to
Thomas Nilsson <thomas....@progindus.se> wrote:

> Keith Snyder wrote:
>> Speaking as an rank newcomer to IF, but a published novelist and composer...
>>
>> My opinion, for what it's worth, is that "drawing the line" is the last thing
>> you should want to do.
>
> In my opinion "drawing the line" is both a good and a bad thing. It is
> good because you can compare and discuss the term that is being
> defined. It is also handy because you can easily see when somebody's
> definition is not the same as yours.
>
> However it is bad because, as has already been said, once boxed in it
> becomes stiff and rigid, and ultimately uninteresting.

I don't think it's a big deal, honestly. If you ask me whether a given
work is IF, I'll almost certainly say either "no" or "yes". If you then
ask me to explain why, I can probably manage it (and it's an interesting
exercise.)

This doesn't really box in, because (1) my definition isn't going to be
identical to anyone else's, and (2) I'm figuring out how to verbalize what
I already feel, not creating walls to drop things left or right of.

(The same is true of, say, the distinction between fantasy and science
fiction. Most people can categorize the books they've read, but it's well
known that no group of people can ever agree on the definition of which is
which.)

On the other face of the coin, exploring my categorization doesn't really
accomplish a whole lot. So you know that I think Starcraft is not IF. What
can you do with that information?

It doesn't get any game written.

Philip W. Darnowsky

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
to
Discord (ti...@ripco.com) wrote:
: In article <378BC478...@greenhouse.nospam.gov>,

: Kathleen M. Fischer <kfis...@greenhouse.nospam.gov> wrote:
: >I would define interactive fiction as "A fictional narrative where the
: >player's actions are an integral part of the story telling process and
: >directly influence the narration."

: Oh, this is a much more elegant description than mine. Shoulda read
: ahead. :)

How about, "Interactive fiction is what I'm pointing at when I say
interactive fiction?"

--
----------------------------------------------------
Phil Darnowsky pdar...@spameggsbaconandspam.qis.net
Remove spam, eggs, bacon, spam, and dot to reply.

Due to circumstances beyond your control
you are master of your fate
and captain of your soul.

Neil Cerutti

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
to
In article <mx0j3.7127$Li1.17...@news-read1.qis.net>,

pdar...@qis.net (Philip W. Darnowsky) wrote:
> How about, "Interactive fiction is what I'm pointing at when I say
> interactive fiction?"

I am not!

--
Neil Cerutti
ne...@norwich.edu

David Brain

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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In article <9318882...@www.remarq.com>, anon...@web.remarq.com
(dwmyers) wrote:

> if the
> only thing that defines IF is whim, then I can claim
> StarCraft is IF (even though it calls itself a real time
> strategy game).

StarCraft can't possibly be IF since certain specialist abilities are needed to progress
through the story.
Now, you could argue that "guess the verb" is a specialist ability too, but on the whole
that's achievable with external resources (e.g. a dictionary or clever friends). And more
recent IF games avoid this problem (different thread, different argument :-) removing
even this problem.

My inability to complete StarCraft (or, indeed, most other RTS games) is not thanks to
the lack of a "walk-through" or even a cheat, but down to a dexterity requirement that I
can't match - my shelves are full of games that I'd like finish but can't.

In fact, I'd be almost prepared to define IF as "any game I can get to the end of" (and even
there I have some problems ;-) On the whole, IF games don't have an increasing
difficulty curve - a puzzle that one player can solve in two minutes might take another
two hours, whereas the time take to complete a level of Quake might have a similar
time span but for very different reasons.

Now, CivII *might* qualify as IF under those conditions...

--
David Brain
London, UK

David Brain

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
to
In article <7mfql3$cc7$1...@newssrv.otenet.gr>, kats...@otenet.gr (Aris Katsaris)
wrote:
> >
> > Give an example of this 'graphical IF'.
>
> Grim Fandango. And others.

I'm currently playing "Outcast" which is coming dangerously close to "graphical IF" - a lot
closer than almost any other first/third-person 3d game; I rate it higher than, say,
Half-Life in this respect, because the other characters have a much more convincing life
than usual - and early on at least the shooting is relegated to a less than major part of the
game, which for crap gamers like myself is of vital importance ;-)

It is certainly easy to summarize the game in an IF-friendly way: collect objects, solve
(occasionally fairly complex) problems, interact with (almost-convincing) NPCs, plod
from place to place and so on, plus there is a nicely structured plot bolted on top and
your activities can definitely affect how easy or difficult resolving this plot is going to be.
And it is the story that is driving the game, rather than the other way around (my main
gripe with both *Half-Life* and *Thief* which have brilliant concepts but fall short in the
execution, no matter how good the game engine is.)

Mind you, I think that the two *Little Big Adventure* games are IF, so what do I know?

Bob Reeves

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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I thought I had all the sales brochures. That one is wonderful. Has anyone
posted it to the IF archive or on the Web anywhere (other than this excerpt
today)?


Alex H.

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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Bob Reeves <rre...@unm.edu> wrote:

Yep, it's in the archive.
http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/infocom/adverts/our_circuits.html

--
I haven't got a signature.

Thomas Nilsson

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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Thomas Nilsson wrote:
<snip>

Ok, so let me just comment myself and make it shorter and clearer:

It might be interesting to discuss different peoples definition of the
*essence* or *core* of IF, because then we could understand each
others viewpoints a bit better.

There is not much point in trying to create a universal definition of
what IF *is*. Because we all have different views and it will not be
tomorrow what we think it is today.

Thomas

thomas.nilsson.vcf

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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In article <7mfdgi$i0b$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,
Neil Cerutti <ne...@norwich.edu> wrote:
> In article <7mf71r$fuu$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:
> >
> > And then, at the other end of the scale, there is "Photopia",
> > where the moves of the player don't matter one whit to the
> > outcome.
>
> That depends on how you define "outcome".

Indeed it does. And, in fact, I was thinking about that OTHER definition
of outcome as being a defining element of IF--but it's not.

Anyone here ever play EGA's game Starflight? The game has you rushing
about the galaxy dealing with aliens, looking for fuel, all in a very
typical turn-based strategy way, but at the end you make a discovery
regarding your fuel which, while it has no impact on the game whatsoever
(it might even be part of the denouement), can completely change your
perception of what you've been doing.

Maybe this is "IF-like", though, which is something else that needs to
be established. There are things in IF which are not IF-like, such as
the random combat in Zork, and there are things in non-IF games that are
IF-like--like story elements influencing one's perception of the game.

It might be that if one isolated all these IF-like elements and
contrasted them with the non-IF-like elements, one could come up with a
decent definition of IF.
--
[ok]

Adam Cadre

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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> Anyone here ever play EGA's game Starflight?

Perhaps you mean EA's CGA game Starflight. (And let's just take the
smiley as read.)

> The game has you rushing about the galaxy dealing with aliens, looking
> for fuel, all in a very typical turn-based strategy way,

Turn-based? Not as I recall. True, time only passes while your ship is
moving (I believe -- man, it's been a while), but there are no demarcated
turns.

> but at the end you make a discovery regarding your fuel which, while
> it has no impact on the game whatsoever (it might even be part of the
> denouement),

Indeed it is.

> can completely change your perception of what you've been doing.
>
> Maybe this is "IF-like", though, which is something else that needs to
> be established. There are things in IF which are not IF-like, such as
> the random combat in Zork, and there are things in non-IF games that are
> IF-like--like story elements influencing one's perception of the game.

Starflight has even more story than your description of it implies -- you
do fly around the galaxy landing on planets and picking up minerals and
such, and when you encounter aliens, you can and often do fight them in
arcade sequences (not very good ones, though -- Star Control was a
gajillion times better in this respect), but you also spend a lot of time
talking to aliens and trying to piece together the mystery of the Crystal
Planet. The narrative is more than just window dressing -- there would
be no game without it. (Unlike Alpha Centauri, where I was disappointed
to find that what at first seemed like a vital story component was in
fact just narrative window dressing.)

So is Starflight IF? If not, is Starflight 2? (Slightly greater story
component.) How about Star Control 2? (Much, *much* greater story
component -- this is an adventure game, no doubt about it -- but it still
has arcade sequences that as are integral to the game as the story is
integral to Starflight.) Not that I'm arguing that Starflight is IF,
necessarily. But drawing any kind of line seems to be a hopeless task,
like drawing a line between white and black in a seamless gradient strip.

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

David Glasser

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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IF is a story you can hit with a stick.

--
David Glasser: gla...@iname.com | http://www.uscom.com/~glasser/
DGlasser@ifMUD:orange.res.cmu.edu 4001 | raif FAQ http://come.to/raiffaq
"Maybe Glulxification will cause people to start using Scheme for IF. Or
maybe not. Anyhow, I just like saying 'Glulxification'." -andyf on ifMUD

dwmyers

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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> So is Starflight IF? If not, is Starflight 2? (Slightly
> greater story component.) How about Star
> Control 2? (Much, *much* greater story component -- this
> is an adventure game, no doubt about it -- but it still
> has arcade sequences that as are integral to the game as
> the story is integral to Starflight.) Not that I'm arguing
> that Starflight is IF, necessarily. But drawing any kind
> of line seems to be a hopeless task, like drawing a line
> between white and black in a seamless gradient strip.

The thing about Star Control 2, is that if you're a two left
thumbs type like me, you could go down to Yehat land (I'm
not sure of this spelling), collect as many of their ships
as you could, set the game on computer controlled fighting
and you would mop up. The arcade element of the game could
be minimized with a little forethought.

I've seen nothing like Star Control 2 since (Well SC3, which
was a disappointment not so much for the storyline but the
puppets they chose for representing the races). And I'm not
sure we will see anything like it again. It was easily one
of the three or so most satisfying game experiences I've had
on a computer.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
to
In article <9318792...@www.remarq.com>,
dwmyers <anon...@web.remarq.com> wrote:
>
> A game whose purpose is to drive you batty with no
> connection between your input and what you actually get in
> screen... has it been done? Can you point to a single
> example of 'IF' created in this fashion? I'd argue that
> you've created a game, but the game is hardly IF.
>

Okay, let me give you a hypothetical game that would fit this criteria
of random game with no conneciton between your input and what you
actually get on-screen: "Photopia 2". (Sorry to beat that dead horse,
but....)

*******PHOTOPIA SPOILER

This much-awaited sequel, starring Kirsten Dunst as the reincarnated
Alley, is EXACTLY like the original, except that in this situation,
there is a random chance that Alley doesn't die.

> Photophia is totally deterministic, one outcome. What's the
> point?

The point is the story. The point of the *interaction* with the story
is to involve the reader in a more immediate way than can be obtained
with, um, blatantly static fiction.

However effective "Photopia" may be as art, however, it may be a *bad*
example of "IF". Or it may suggest sub-genres within IF. It certainly
borrows from the expectation of interactivity.

> Give an example of this 'graphical IF'.

"Full Throttle". Looking it over, graphical IF tends to be more like
"Photopia", i.e., deterministic (a limitation inherent in the cost of
making significantly different environments).

> Are you sure chess doesn't fit the definition you're giving yourself
> for graphical IF?

Absolutely.

> Are you sure there is any continuity whatsoever to the examples of
> 'IF' you keep tossing out,

Absolutely.

> or is IF whatever you wish to call IF?

No. That would make communication here quite difficult. But then, to
paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, "The words mean exactly what I want them to
mean."

> Are you sure you're not using IF to mean 'computer game',

Absolutely. I'm not sure IF needs to be a "game" at all.

> and while you're at it, distinguish a 'computer game' from IF,

No. :-) I'm nearly prepared to present my thesis, but it ain't short.
I hope to be able to boil it down to something nice and neat, a line or
two at the most. But I fear that even if I manage to do that I'll have
to defend myself from extensive misinterpretations, unless I back up my
definition with precise examples and lengthy explanations of my logic,
which will ALSO be misinterpreted. (That's life on Usenet, though, eh?)

> unless you consider all 'computer games' IF.

No.

> Let me give an example: is Star Control II IF ? There is no
> text entry, but by virtue of a menu, you do control the flow
> of the narrative. Conversations have a major impact on how
> the game plays out, but so do your combat skills. The plot
> is crucial to the final outcome of the game, and the reward
> in large part is the unraveling of the story. So what is it?

It's not IF, though it may borrow elements of IF just as some IF borrows
elements of other genres (like RPGs or platform games). There are clues
there to a stable, concise definition of IF.

> >> 3. The output of IF also heavily involves text. Unlike
> >> a movie-on-computer this outputted text is, as well,
> >> integral to the playing of the game.
>
> > There is a certain tautology here. You must be dismissing
> > ALL graphical IF
>
> Actually, I'm not sure I am. I have nothing against a
> mouse pointing to words that are selected, or broad based
> menu driven interfaces. Nor do I think I've automatically
> deselected for that.

OK, then you've automatically deselected non-verbal IF. I believe a
story can be told without words, or with minimal words, and quite
effectively. I don't see what a reliance on text has to do with
anything, except that it's the most common medium for narrative in IF.

> I'm not too worried at this point about this; I do believe
> IF can have graphical output, just that words seem to me
> to be key to it all. If you have a counter example I'd be
> happy to know of it.

I would hesitate to try to define IF based solely on what has BEEN.
After all, the more interesting and lively purpose of such a definition
would be exploring what COULD BE, yes?

> My understanding is that there are choices to be made in
> "Photophia" and that they do affect what you see, that
> choices are broad.

So does choosing to be the Orcs in "Warcraft" versus choosing to be the
humans.

> That it's a linear narrative that is (in
> your mind) totally deterministic makes it still, IF.

Actually, the "totally deterministic linear narrative" either is or
isn't a fact of the program. If "Photopia" is indeed IF, it's because
it SEEMS to be interactive.

> Still, if we're going to argue things, you'll need to define
> your own terms, because I'm not sure that you're making any
> distinction between a computer game and IF. The original

</