Linearity -> Fiction

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Michael Berlyn

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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I noticed comments in a thread about a piece of IF being linear, too
linear, not linear enough, etc. Thought I'd kick around an idea and see
what kind of interest it generates (if any).

It seems to me that, fundamental to the basic concept of narrative, time
must progress. And in like manner, idea must follow like idea, events
must follow previous events, etc. This is cause and effect. I don't know
what you call it, but where I come from, the technical term for it is
linearity. Even if these events and ideas are presented to the reader
out of order, or even in random order, there must be an objective time
line which corresponds to the events in the narrative. The reader will
ultimately search for this time line and put the narrative's events in
order in his own mind after the experience in order to make sense of
what has been related.

While we typically call any kind of interactive text experience IF, for
the sake of this thread, I would ask you to distinguish between the
follow types of "products:"
1. Puzzles (Zork, Suspended, Deadline, Dr. Dumont's Wild PARTI, etc.).
2. Games (replayable, where there is no unique solution. Fooblitzky,
Risk, Parcheesi, Monopoly are games).
2. IF (fiction in which the reader is expected to interact. While there
is typically a "solution/end," like a puzzle, there are no obstacles
hindering the narrative's progress. An example: Which Way books.).

Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?

-- Mike
mailto: mbe...@cascadepublishing.com

Muke Tever

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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Michael Berlyn <mbe...@cascadepublishing.com> wrote:
> It seems to me that, fundamental to the basic concept of narrative,
> time must progress. And in like manner, idea must follow like idea,
> events must follow previous events, etc. This is cause and effect. I
> don't know what you call it, but where I come from, the technical
> term for it is linearity. Even if these events and ideas are
> presented to the reader out of order, or even in random order, there
> must be an objective time line which corresponds to the events in the
> narrative. The reader will ultimately search for this time line and
> put the narrative's events in order in his own mind after the
> experience in order to make sense of what has been related.

Right so. Even the concept of a "beginning" and an "end" of a story
indicate linearity--it only takes two points, just like math ;)

> While we typically call any kind of interactive text experience IF,
> for the sake of this thread, I would ask you to distinguish between
> the follow types of "products:"
> 1. Puzzles (Zork, Suspended, Deadline, Dr. Dumont's Wild PARTI, etc.).
> 2. Games (replayable, where there is no unique solution. Fooblitzky,
> Risk, Parcheesi, Monopoly are games).
> 2. IF (fiction in which the reader is expected to interact. While
> there is typically a "solution/end," like a puzzle, there are no
> obstacles hindering the narrative's progress. An example: Which Way
> books.).
>
> Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?

It would have to be a construct where the plot arises out of the user's
interaction of the world instead of vice versa, where the user is
unable to point to a certain event and say "I have acheived my only
objective", where the order of events is not bound by anything other
than the progression of time (i.e. "You can't dethrone the evil vizier
before killing the dragon and saving the princess"), etc.

Presumably this text-experience would have to be more MUD-like than IF-
like, as this would require constant epimethodical world-programming
and real-people characters (Genuine People Personalities?)

*Muke!
--
http://i.am/muke ICQ: 1936556 AIM: MukeTurtle

"Profound quotes prove nothing."


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

W. Top Changwatchai

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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Michael Berlyn wrote:

> I noticed comments in a thread about a piece of IF being linear, too
> linear, not linear enough, etc. Thought I'd kick around an idea and see
> what kind of interest it generates (if any).
>

> It seems to me that, fundamental to the basic concept of narrative, time
> must progress. And in like manner, idea must follow like idea, events
> must follow previous events, etc. This is cause and effect. I don't know
> what you call it, but where I come from, the technical term for it is
> linearity. Even if these events and ideas are presented to the reader
> out of order, or even in random order, there must be an objective time
> line which corresponds to the events in the narrative. The reader will
> ultimately search for this time line and put the narrative's events in
> order in his own mind after the experience in order to make sense of
> what has been related.

Linearity can be defined in many different ways, but in this context, I
would define linearity for a set of experiences as the extent to which these
experiences are perceived to occur in a fixed sequence. If the player is
forced to steal the ogre's bag of bones before capturing the fairy, then
this appears linear to the player. If the player feels she can choose which
to do first, then this appears nonlinear.

On the "stuckness" thread I mentioned that linearity helps tell a story,
while nonlinearity helps encourage player interaction. I feel that an IF
author who consciously chooses which elements are linear and which are
nonlinear has much more control over the player's experience with, and
ultimately enjoyment of, the game.

Also, personally I'm not too interested in making the storyline itself
nonlinear, the way Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books are. I think it's much
better for the author to focus on a single storyline (e.g., evil scientist
threatens the world with space ray THEN the hero finds out that the evil
scientist is really the head of the planetary research lab THEN the hero
realizes that the head of research is only doing this because aliens
kidnapped her husband THEN ...), and leave the nonlinearity to the player's
discovery of the elements of this plotline (e.g. the hero can interview the
lab's research staff in any order, then later the hero can explore the space
station and tackle its puzzles in any order). I suspect the vast majority
of IF games follow exactly this model, though from skimming through archives
of this newsgroup I see that some people seem to like the idea of storyline
nonlinearity.

To sum, I like a linear story but I like to be able to discover the story in
a nonlinear way.

Of course there are exceptions: limited ways in which a player can affect
the storyline that I like. But this post is getting long.

> While we typically call any kind of interactive text experience IF, for
> the sake of this thread, I would ask you to distinguish between the
> follow types of "products:"
> 1. Puzzles (Zork, Suspended, Deadline, Dr. Dumont's Wild PARTI, etc.).
> 2. Games (replayable, where there is no unique solution. Fooblitzky,
> Risk, Parcheesi, Monopoly are games).
> 2. IF (fiction in which the reader is expected to interact. While there
> is typically a "solution/end," like a puzzle, there are no obstacles
> hindering the narrative's progress. An example: Which Way books.).
>
> Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?
>

> -- Mike
> mailto: mbe...@cascadepublishing.com

Brenbarn mentioned that Photopia is nonlinear, but I haven't played it, and
I don't know whether it's nonlinear according to your definition or any of
my definitions.

Top
--
W. Top Changwatchai
chngwtch at uiuc dot edu

Emily Short

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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----------
In article <3921BEAE...@cascadepublishing.com>, Michael Berlyn
<mbe...@cascadepublishing.com> wrote:

>I noticed comments in a thread about a piece of IF being linear, too
>linear, not linear enough, etc. Thought I'd kick around an idea and see
>what kind of interest it generates (if any).
>
>It seems to me that, fundamental to the basic concept of narrative, time
>must progress. And in like manner, idea must follow like idea, events
>must follow previous events, etc. This is cause and effect. I don't know
>what you call it, but where I come from, the technical term for it is
>linearity. Even if these events and ideas are presented to the reader
>out of order, or even in random order, there must be an objective time
>line which corresponds to the events in the narrative. The reader will
>ultimately search for this time line and put the narrative's events in
>order in his own mind after the experience in order to make sense of
>what has been related.

Right -- for instance "Photopia" or "Spider and Web." Part of the challenge
of these games becomes the metapuzzle of figuring out what has happened.


>While we typically call any kind of interactive text experience IF, for
>the sake of this thread, I would ask you to distinguish between the
>follow types of "products:"
>1. Puzzles (Zork, Suspended, Deadline, Dr. Dumont's Wild PARTI, etc.).
>2. Games (replayable, where there is no unique solution. Fooblitzky,
>Risk, Parcheesi, Monopoly are games).
>2. IF (fiction in which the reader is expected to interact. While there
>is typically a "solution/end," like a puzzle, there are no obstacles
>hindering the narrative's progress. An example: Which Way books.).
>
>Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?

I wonder how your definition of linearity is helpful in analyzing what I
would otherwise refer to as interactive fiction, but should here (I gather)
refer to as "products." If we define "linear" to mean "following a temporal
plot" (as in most "products") or "hinting at the existence of a temporal
plot" (as in eg. "Photopia") then the only thing I can think of that breaks
this mold is "Space Under the Window." Since the whole story is mutable in
a single move, one's overall perception, coming away, is not of one plot
that one has experienced from beginning to end, but of a number of variant
adjacent plots -- sort of a quantum universe approach.

Personally, I would call my IF Art Show piece "Galatea" non-linear IF,
because almost all actions are available at any given time, there is no set
plot or sequence of events, and the outcome depends on what the player
chooses to do. But I have hitherto understood "linear" as the opposite of
"broad," an imprecise but useful way of talking about how many options lie
before the player at any given time, and thus whether the experience is one
of focused progress or of diverse exploration. Temporally speaking
"Galatea" is, yes, linear, in the sense that the player experiences it as a
sequence of events in time -- but that sequence depends on her own choice,
not on the restrictions of the piece. I'm sure there are several other
"products" that do the same thing -- offer the player a very broad range of
options which are available throughout -- though the only one I can think of
at the moment is Ian Finley's "Exhibition."

Though I enjoyed SutWin, I somehow doubt that things like it are likely to
become a dominant presence in the "market." So perhaps in purely
utilitarian terms it makes sense to preserve the old sense of linearity,
since it makes a useful distinction between two existing types of "product."

Or possibly I'm missing some of your argument here.

ES

Adam Cadre

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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W. Top Changwatchai wrote:
> Brenbarn mentioned that Photopia is nonlinear, but I haven't played
> it, and I don't know whether it's nonlinear according to your
> definition or any of my definitions.

That's easily remedied.

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

Lucian Paul Smith

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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Michael Berlyn (mbe...@cascadepublishing.com) wrote:
: I noticed comments in a thread about a piece of IF being linear, too
: linear, not linear enough, etc. Thought I'd kick around an idea and see
: what kind of interest it generates (if any).

: It seems to me that, fundamental to the basic concept of narrative, time
: must progress. And in like manner, idea must follow like idea, events
: must follow previous events, etc. This is cause and effect. I don't know
: what you call it, but where I come from, the technical term for it is
: linearity. Even if these events and ideas are presented to the reader
: out of order, or even in random order, there must be an objective time
: line which corresponds to the events in the narrative.

If I understand what you're saying, your claim is that when a player plays
a game, the resulting narrative they create is necessarily 'linear', both
in the sense that they encountered one section of the game before another
section and so on, and in the fact that those events could also be
re-mapped onto an objective timeline, where one event happened before
another. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

Fair enough.

But what is usually being discussed in linear vs. non-linear threads is
not the state of the narrative *after* the player has encountered it, but
the state of the narrative *before* the player has encountered it. It's a
kind of quantum-physics 'the observer changes the state of the observed'
thing.

You could also say it's like predestination vs. free will. Whichever is
true, the *past* is fixed. But the *future* looks very different through
those two different viewpoints.

A so-called 'linear' game (as defined in typical r*if threads, not as
defined above) is a game where predestination has taken over. No matter
what personal characteristics you may bring to the game, if you make
progress, you will see A first, then B, then C, and so on. If there are
multiple options at some junctures, you only get the choice of B, B', and
B", and still don't get to see D before C (and, if you chose B', you don't
get to see B or B" at all).

A so-called 'non-linear' game is one where free will is more
pronounced. You get to A first, and then you get to see B, C, or D next,
and once you've done C you can get to D or E, etc. Neil Cerutti recently
posted a puzzle dependence graph for John's Fire Witch that illustrates
this point. (I have it archived for the bookclub at
http://www.bioc.rice.edu/~lpsmith/IF/bookclub/firwitch/msg00055.html). The
game is called 'non-linear' because there are a variety of
(linear) potential paths that lead through the game. Any one person might
experience a different path than someone else, or even than themselves on
a different playthrough.

Most games, of course, have somewhat of a mix of the two. Typically, the
beginning is 'linear' (predestined, if you will), the middle is non-linear
(free will), and the ending is back to linear again. Some games have
'focus points' where previous non-linearity funnels back to linearity for
a while (or even just a simple point). 'Losing Your Grip' is an example
like that--between the fits, you can typically do a variety of things in a
variety of orders, but by the end of the fit you have to accomplish one
particular task, which ends that fit and moves you to the next.

The reason people talk about this kind of linearity vs. non-linearity is
that it has a palpable effect on gameplay. If I am stuck going from point
B to point C in a linear game (or at a linear section of a game), I am
stuck for good--there is nothing else I can do in the game to advance the
narrative and obtain a feeling of accomplishment. If I am stuck going
from point B to C in a non-linear game, I can still go from point B to
point D and point E, and come back to point C later, after I've mulled it
over in my head some. Eventually, I'll need to travel through point C
(assuming it's not an optional puzzle), and if I'm good and stuck on it,
I'll eventually reduce the game to a linear future--or a predestined next
step. But I'm less likely to reach that point.

With that in mind...

: While we typically call any kind of interactive text experience IF, for


: the sake of this thread, I would ask you to distinguish between the
: follow types of "products:"
: 1. Puzzles (Zork, Suspended, Deadline, Dr. Dumont's Wild PARTI, etc.).
: 2. Games (replayable, where there is no unique solution. Fooblitzky,
: Risk, Parcheesi, Monopoly are games).

: 3. IF (fiction in which the reader is expected to interact. While there


: is typically a "solution/end," like a puzzle, there are no obstacles
: hindering the narrative's progress. An example: Which Way books.).

In terms of predestination vs. free will, I would say that 1 is
typically the most predestined, 3 the next, and 2 the next. Any game that
reaches a 'predestined' state is no longer fun to play--that's the reason
chess games are often resigned.

The 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books typically have at least two
potential futures that must immediately be decided between, with a
potential two more after each of those, and so on. While the scope of the
story is more limited than a game, there is almost never a point where the
next bit is predestined (when it is, it's for long narrative sections,
where after turning to page 5, it then tells you to turn to page 22, or
whatever).

IF 'puzzles' are the most 'predestined' of the above, because they
typically have one final outcome to them, or 'squeeze points' you have to
get through (After A, you may be able to do B, C, or D, but only after
doing all three in some order can you get to E.)

: Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?

A model for IF pasts? No. A model for IF futures? Yes.

-Lucian Smith

W. Top Changwatchai

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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Adam Cadre wrote:

> W. Top Changwatchai wrote:
> > Brenbarn mentioned that Photopia is nonlinear, but I haven't played
> > it, and I don't know whether it's nonlinear according to your
> > definition or any of my definitions.
>
> That's easily remedied.

I will, I will! I rediscovered IF a few months ago when I happened upon
SPAG #19, and the first game on my to-play list was Photopia. For some
reason I never ended up playing it though. I'm especially interested in
checking it out because I'm a very puzzle-centric player.

Now that the semester's over I'll have the time to properly enjoy it.

It'll be especially nice because it seems many discussions on this
newsgroup seem to refer to a select number of games: Photopia,
Christminster, Jigsaw and Curses, Anchorhead. What games am I leaving
out? That is, if you were to teach a class in IF, what games would be on
your "required playing" list?

Paul O'Brian

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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On Tue, 16 May 2000, W. Top Changwatchai wrote:

> if you were to teach a class in IF, what games would be on
> your "required playing" list?

Ooh, what a fun question. Of course, there's enough IF in existence that a
class could really take *lots* of approaches ("gender in IF", "IF
Mysteries", etc.). Here's what might be on my syllabus if I were
approaching IF from a historical standpoint:

Adventure/Colossal Cave
Pirate Adventure
Zork Trilogy & Dungeon
A Mind Forever Voyaging
Gateway
Unnkulian Unventure
Curses
Delusions
Sunset Over Savannah
Spider & Web and The Space Under The Window
Photopia
Anchorhead
Worlds Apart
Zork:Nemesis & Zork:Grand Inquisitor

(Oh, and did I mention LASH? :)

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian

LASH -- Walk the command line at http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian/lash.html


BrenBarn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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>It would have to be a construct where the plot arises out of the user's
>interaction of the world instead of vice versa,
This is my "spiritual ideal" of IF. I aspire to write a game in which the
possible "paths" for the character to follow are seemingly (but not necessarily
in reality) infinite.

>where the order of events is not bound by anything other
>than the progression of time (i.e. "You can't dethrone the evil vizier
>before killing the dragon and saving the princess"),

This is not part of my spritual ideal, but it would be awesome. A game
where cause and effect were not valid would be extremely interesting. You
would simply be doing things, without reference to when they occurred. . .
whoa. . .
--BrenBarn (Bren...@aol.com)
(Name in header has spam-blocker, use the address above instead.)

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

BrenBarn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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>Brenbarn mentioned that Photopia is nonlinear, but I haven't played it, and
>I don't know whether it's nonlinear according to your definition or any of
>my definitions.
This being the second reference to my comment, I must clarify: the story
of Photopia is presented non-linearly; that is, the story is broken into
segments which are revealed to the player in a non-chronological order.
However, these segments can be (and, I imagine, usually are) rearranged by the
player mentally so that he can piece together the story in its chronological
sequence.
I have never played a totally non-linear game, one in which the actions of
the player do not fit (and are not meant to fit) on any temporal arrow. But
then, I haven't played very many games.

BrenBarn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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Just some general thoughts about linearity of various types. . .
It seems that linearity is being discussed in three different "modes".
First we have what I will call "Narrative Linearity", meaning that a story
has a single beginning, a single end, and a single set of single events between
them. The story may also include time-unspecific information (such as "T-H-E
spells the"), but all events that take place in the physical world do so at a
specific time (even if this time is not apparent to the reader). (Whether
these events are related to the reader/player is irrelevant.) Even most
"free-form" fiction (such as Dictionary of the Khazars) is linear in this
sense. Photopia is linear in this sense.
Then there is "Path Linearity" which refers to a game (or book, or
whatever) having more than one path by which all of the events can be
played/read. A Path-Linear product has more than one path by which all events
can be reached, but has at least one path that reaches all events. Dictionary
of the Khazars is non-linear in this sense, but Photopia is linear.
Then we have "Total Linearity". (In fact this should be "Total
Non-linearity", because I've never seen anything that isn't Totally linear.)
Something that is Totally Non-linear is something in which time is not a
factor. For example, an IF game in which no action the player takes
necessarily relates to any other action.
The very act of writing this has helped me clear my head of the
ambiguities that were growing there. Hopefully this post will help others do
the same.

Martin Julian DeMello

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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BrenBarn <brenbarn> wrote:
> Then we have "Total Linearity". (In fact this should be "Total
> Non-linearity", because I've never seen anything that isn't Totally linear.)
> Something that is Totally Non-linear is something in which time is not a
> factor. For example, an IF game in which no action the player takes
> necessarily relates to any other action.

This would be a degenerate example of 'path linearity', I think - as Muke
pointed out upthread, the very fact that something is a game gives it a
beginning and an end, and those two points are enough to define some sort of
line.

Perhaps a game which catapults you into a random scene, and lets you wander
aimlessly until it ends at some nonpredeterminedly random point :)

--
Martin DeMello

W. Top Changwatchai

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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[Mild SPOILERS for Photopia]

s
p
o
i
l
e
r
s

Adam Cadre wrote:

> W. Top Changwatchai wrote:
> > Brenbarn mentioned that Photopia is nonlinear, but I haven't played
> > it, and I don't know whether it's nonlinear according to your
> > definition or any of my definitions.
>

> That's easily remedied.

OK, I just played Photopia.

Wow.

What a great experience. This was the first game I've played where I
didn't want to the get to the ending, where I was doing everything I
could to prevent the end from happening. In the scene in Wendy's
bedroom, just as Wendy might want to delay going to sleep, I wanted to
prevent the story from advancing. I was trying to think of all the
things I could do to prevent time from marching forward, to capture and
hold on to these moments with Alison, not to let them slip away...

Without a doubt this game belongs on anybody's "must-play" list. And
this from a hard-core puzzler.

<ahem> Where was I? Oh yes. It's pretty clear according to my
definition (and the definition of most others) that Photopia is as linear
as they come. But that's no problem--the story is so strong and has such
emotional impact that this is the right structure for it. And it makes a
good case for my earlier observation that linearity is great for
storytelling. I doubt it would be nearly as good in a "Choose Your Own
Adventure" multipath story setting.

Although Photopia is extremely linear, I think it is still much more
effective as IF than it would be as straight fiction. The interactivity
draws the player into each character much more than just reading static
text would. I hadn't realized how effective this technique could be.

Top

PS As a kid I used to play the same games Wendy and Alison would. I
wasn't into RPG's but loved adventure games, and I wanted to share some
of the adventure game experience with friends of mine who wouldn't
otherwise get into them. (I draw a distinction between this and
collaborative story-telling.) So I would extemporaneously set up worlds
and puzzles and have a friend wander through them. On-line adaptive
hints and no parser problems! Wonder how many other people did something
similar?

W. Top Changwatchai

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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Paul O'Brian wrote:

> On Tue, 16 May 2000, W. Top Changwatchai wrote:
>
> > if you were to teach a class in IF, what games would be on
> > your "required playing" list?
>
> Ooh, what a fun question. Of course, there's enough IF in existence that a
> class could really take *lots* of approaches ("gender in IF", "IF
> Mysteries", etc.). Here's what might be on my syllabus if I were
> approaching IF from a historical standpoint:
>
> Adventure/Colossal Cave
> Pirate Adventure
> Zork Trilogy & Dungeon
> A Mind Forever Voyaging
> Gateway
> Unnkulian Unventure
> Curses
> Delusions
> Sunset Over Savannah
> Spider & Web and The Space Under The Window
> Photopia
> Anchorhead
> Worlds Apart
> Zork:Nemesis & Zork:Grand Inquisitor

I see the historical aspect but I wonder what specifically you would want to
highlight about each of these games? I can guess at most of them (the first
seven lines, for instance, represent milestones in either technology or design
approach, and Photopia brought home the relevance of puzzle-less IF).

> (Oh, and did I mention LASH? :)

That's also on my "to play" list ^_^

Top

Robb Sherwin

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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On 17 May 2000 02:28:27 GMT, bren...@aol.comRemove (BrenBarn) wrote:
> I have never played a totally non-linear game, one in which the actions of
>the player do not fit (and are not meant to fit) on any temporal arrow. But
>then, I haven't played very many games.

I found Elite and Starflight to be totally non-linear, but I
admittedly have not come close to finishing either of them. Elite
basically gives you a spaceship and allows you to stake your claim in
the universe however you like -- be it a pirate, avenger, smuggler,
etc. Your only real overall goal is to get the tag of "ELITE". You're
never really pushed in any direction, given a moral compass or
required to *do* anything.

Along IF lines, I'd classify the first third of Knight Orc as
non-linear. You need to get 100 feet of rope, but how you do it is up
to you and getting segments of rope is not dependent on previously
obtained segments. You can also have your lone follower get most of
the rope for you, so depending on how "lazy" you play your character,
the game Player X sees compared to Player Y could be quite different.

(The last two-thirds of the game, however, are quite different than
the first in terms of linearity and more standard IF fare.)

-- R.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Robb Sherwin, Fort Collins CO
Reviews From Trotting Krips: http://ifiction.tsx.org
Knight Orc Home Page: www.geocities.com/~knightorc

Jon Ingold

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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> This is my "spiritual ideal" of IF. I aspire to write a game in which
the
>possible "paths" for the character to follow are seemingly (but not
necessarily
>in reality) infinite.


But would this be actually any fun/of any interest to play? Do people really
want Interactive Fiction, I mean actual fiction that's properly interactive?
I don't think so -- the idea, say, of Interactive cinema has been around
since, what, mid-Eighties, where the audience has a vote at crucial points;
but it's never taken off because - I think - people don't want that sort of
control. I think IF is just as passive a medium as all the others; cinema,
literature, when it's done well. The fact you have to think to "get through"
and "reach" the story is not an input really, no more than having to think
to work out what's going on in a film.

What this boils down to is: mediums such as literature, cinema serve two
purposes. The first is communication from author to reader/player/viewer.
The second is an absolvement of responsibility. I don't think audiences want
to *feel responsible* for the way a story is going, I think they want to be
guided, they want to be impressed, entertained; and the same is true in IF.
A totally non-linear, free-form game would become roleplay rather than
anything else; and I'm not sure you can really communicate anything in
roleplay, for the simple reason the player doesn't know what the author
intends.

Perhaps because I write this stuff means I don't want to have to "write" the
other games I play. Maybe people who don't write as a rule enjoy the
creative environment your idea of IF would generate. Maybe. I just think
that whatever game you wrote like this would be hugely unsatisfying: there
would little or no structure, because it's free. There would be huge amounts
of material "extraneous" to your particular play through of the game (as
I've said before on this topic, if you can cross the chasm either on big
ball of pumice or using a ladder made of goat's bones, players who take the
agricultural solution will reach the end and think "What was that big ball
of pumice all about?") It would lose any feeling of construction, of
completion. ie. Any of that subconcious "satisfaction" of a full, completed
story.

Offhand, what games that are around now would you say approach your ideal? I
can't think of any that I've liked, but I may well be forgetting some.

Jon

Tom Hatfield

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to

You're talking about Daggerfall. In this sense, you can consider the game
to be completely non-linear. If you ignore the main story (which is
linear), you can do whatever you want without regard to time. All quests in
the game apart from the main story itself had no relationship to one
another. They were just random quests to keep you occupied. Even some of
the quests themselves were non-linear, but that's irrelevant.

The problem with this system is that, without a bonding relationship between
objectives, there is no guide to the story. An explanation for events
transpired is left entirely up to the player, and often this explanation is
little more than a 'home video' with no director:

"Well, I got this mission from my guildmaster to kill orcs in a dungeon, and
after that I figured I'd relax in the tavern and grab a drink. That's when
the barkeeper asked me to find his missing daughter who was last sighted in
a nearby town. On my way I needed to get my sword fixed at the blacksmith,
and he mistook me for another guy who stole his shoes. So now I have to
clear my name while looking for the barkeep's daughter. On my way to the
guard post, there was this guy. . ."

No one has ever successfully made a non-linear story that still held
together in an interesting fashion according to what the designer intended.
Once you remove linearity, you also remove coherence. Without a guiding
light, the game quickly loses focus, and players quickly lose interest.

The solution is to allow players to make their own story. To do so, players
must want to make their own story, and they must want to keep it moving all
the time. I'm working on a project that will do just that. It's a long
shot, but it's worth a try, right?


- Tom -

Paul O'Brian

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
On Wed, 17 May 2000, W. Top Changwatchai wrote:

> Paul O'Brian wrote:
> >
> > Adventure/Colossal Cave
> > Pirate Adventure
> > Zork Trilogy & Dungeon
> > A Mind Forever Voyaging
> > Gateway
> > Unnkulian Unventure
> > Curses
> > Delusions
> > Sunset Over Savannah
> > Spider & Web and The Space Under The Window
> > Photopia
> > Anchorhead
> > Worlds Apart
> > Zork:Nemesis & Zork:Grand Inquisitor
>
> I see the historical aspect but I wonder what specifically you would want to
> highlight about each of these games? I can guess at most of them (the first
> seven lines, for instance, represent milestones in either technology or design
> approach, and Photopia brought home the relevance of puzzle-less IF).

Well, the first part of the answer is a bit weasely, which is that I
wouldn't want to nail it down quite so specifically. I think that each of
these games can represent lots of things, and I'd be interested to see
what elements a particular *class* would pick up on.

That said, let me now completely contradict myself and lay out some
possible things that could be highlighted for each:

Adventure/Colossal Cave: This one's pretty obvious: the founding work of
the genre.

Pirate Adventure: Scott Adams tries to transfer that same feeling to the
8-bit micros just beginning to come into people's homes. There wasn't a
lot of room on those machines, but SA games helped lots of people bond
with their home computer, helping to move this new gadget from an
intimidating presence to another comfortable tool like the TV or the food
processor.

Zork Trilogy & Dungeon: MIT makes the big leap in parser technology,
allowing more complex sentences. In addition, this pairing encapsulates
the next step for what we looked at the previous two weeks: mainframe
gaming and home computer adventures.

A Mind Forever Voyaging: Painful to only take one more Infocom game. I
chose this one because it's a great representative of initial explorations
into the possibilities of IF as serious literature. Also, it represents
another technological step forward -- I think Infocom called it
"Interactive Fiction Plus" -- we call it .z5 (or was AMFV .z4? In any
case, it was another step forward.)

Gateway -- a look at Legend, for all practical purposes Infocom's
successor. Though the Spellcasting games were probably Legend's real
flagship, they were (let's face it) pretty tired rehashes of Meretzky's
juvenile side. However, their presence as moneymakers did allow Legend to
produce high-quality works like the Gateway games and TimeQuest.

Unnkulian Unventure -- homemade IF has been around for almost as long as
the genre has been in existence, but it was typically games (AGT and such)
that fell far below their commercial counterparts. However, as the 90's
began, those commercial ventures began to fade, and hobbyist IF really
started to surge. The Adventions games were one of the most technically
sophisticated achievements of that hobbyist movement at that time, and
they're still worth playing today.

Curses -- This is kind of another no-brainer. Can't explore the history of
IF without touching on Graham Nelson. Curses, by being an excellent game
in its own right as well as the first hobbyist game to run on the
z-machine, launched interest in Inform, which in turn played a significant
role in the current IF renaissance.

Delusions -- The 1996 competition was a knockout in a lot of ways, not
just the number of new games that were created for it but the quality of
those games as well. Delusions also gives us an opportunity to talk about
the theme of Virtual Reality in IF, something that remains prominent to
this day.

Sunset Over Savannah -- An idea of how far the competition came in just
one year, SOS is also one of the most successful pieces of mainstream IF,
where there's no nifty science fiction gadgets, no magical potions and
spells, just a real-life dilemma edged by just a hint of surrealism.

Spider & Web and The Space Under The Window -- Zarf (Andrew Plotkin) is
another one of those giants of the current field whose work couldn't be
ignored by any class on IF History. These two games help show why. From
the radical approach of SUTW to the clever narrative tricks, outstanding
puzzle design and superlative writing of S&W, Zarf's works help both to
deepen extant ideas of IF and to broaden them beyond their current
horizons. I might also throw in Freefall or Lists and Lists to reflect on
his technical wizardry with Inform.

Photopia -- In my opinion, Photopia is one of the most significant games
of the last 5 years. It's a piece of IF that has an undeniable impact on
everyone who plays it, not that everyone likes it, but it's so strong that
most people tend to have a pronounced reaction to it. I think it's a
triumph of the fictional element of IF, as well as an exploration of the
medium itself. An under-discussed aspect of Photopia is all of its
meta-levels, all of the ways in which it muses on how IF operates.

Anchorhead -- This game represents the .z8 format, which has been around
since Jigsaw but is seeing more and more use as time goes on. Anchorhead
is in the tradition of Infocom games, and in fact can be seen as a
representative of where they might have gone had the marketplace allowed
them to continue growing. Also, Anchorhead innovated a lot of
"player-friendly" design choices, such as the key ring, which cut down on
tedium and inventory management and allow the player to focus more on the
emerging story.

Worlds Apart -- Far beyond .z8, there are the capabilities of TADS, which
allows authors to create games pretty much as large as they want. Those
capabilities gave Suzanne Britton the freedom to create an IF epic of
unparalleled breadth, depth, and scope. She's not kidding when she says
"there's more to it than you think" -- you can explore Worlds Apart for
days and still feel like you're just scratching the surface. It stands as
a milestone of what modern, hobbyist IF can achieve.

Zork:Nemesis & Zork:Grand Inquisitor -- I'd wrap up with a look at the
current adventure game market. What has it inherited from its
predecessors? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of text vs.
graphics as adventure game interfaces? And what does the future hold?

There, does that answer your question? :)

Andrew Plotkin

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:
[...a list of games, with justification.]

If I were teaching a class on IF, I wouldn't really deal much with
underlying technical advances. A game isn't interesting because it's the
first .z4, .z5, or .z8 game (or even a prominent example of same.) And,
I'm forced to say, I wouldn't spend any time on _Freefall_ or _Lists_
either. :)

Parser advances, those are different. (But also basically nonexistent
since 1980. *That* is a topic to spend a couple of weeks on.)

--Z

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

Michael Berlyn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
BrenBarn wrote:
>
> >It would have to be a construct where the plot arises out of the user's
> >interaction of the world instead of vice versa,
> This is my "spiritual ideal" of IF. I aspire to write a game in which the
> possible "paths" for the character to follow are seemingly (but not necessarily
> in reality) infinite.

Why bother with infinite? If the "decisions" the player makes are hidden
(i.e. not presented as puzzles are presented) then those hidden
decisions would be indistinguishable from an infinite number of choices.



> >where the order of events is not bound by anything other
> >than the progression of time (i.e. "You can't dethrone the evil vizier
> >before killing the dragon and saving the princess"),
> This is not part of my spritual ideal, but it would be awesome. A game
> where cause and effect were not valid would be extremely interesting. You
> would simply be doing things, without reference to when they occurred. . .
> whoa. . .

> --BrenBarn (Bren...@aol.com)
> (Name in header has spam-blocker, use the address above instead.)
>
> "Do not follow where the path may lead;
> go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
> --Author Unknown


-- Mike
mailto: mbe...@cascadepublishing.com

"No matter where you go, there you are."
-- Buckaroo Bonzai

Michael Berlyn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
Muke Tever wrote:

>
I wrote:
> > While we typically call any kind of interactive text experience IF,
> > for the sake of this thread, I would ask you to distinguish between
> > the follow types of "products:"
> > 1. Puzzles (Zork, Suspended, Deadline, Dr. Dumont's Wild PARTI, etc.).
> > 2. Games (replayable, where there is no unique solution. Fooblitzky,
> > Risk, Parcheesi, Monopoly are games).
> > 2. IF (fiction in which the reader is expected to interact. While

> > there is typically a "solution/end," like a puzzle, there are no
> > obstacles hindering the narrative's progress. An example: Which Way
> > books.).
> >
> > Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?

You wrote:
> It would have to be a construct where the plot arises out of the user's

> interaction of the world instead of vice versa, where the user is
> unable to point to a certain event and say "I have acheived my only

> objective", where the order of events is not bound by anything other


> than the progression of time (i.e. "You can't dethrone the evil vizier

> before killing the dragon and saving the princess"), etc.

The example you have used is a puzzle, not IF and not a narrative.

The user's awareness of the implications of his actions does nothing to
mitigate linearity. Here's an example:
You go to a friend's house to play after school. There's a bunch of toys
to play with. You choose the football, the result of which is you get
into an argument with your friend. Thereafter, interactions with this
character are different. In another world, you choose the electric
trains with which to play. You go "woo woo" as the train goes around.
Your friend is forever grateful. You go to the kitchen for milk and
cookies... There's a jar filled with spare change his parents leave on
the table. You take it... you don't take it... his parents catch you,
they're not there to catch you... The point is, all of your interactions
with the environment will result in different future events.

> Presumably this text-experience would have to be more MUD-like than IF-
> like, as this would require constant epimethodical world-programming
> and real-people characters (Genuine People Personalities?)

Hmmm... I think I disagree. Simulation of personality and some smart
code which observes your actions and then determines what characters
will do based on your personality isn't that far off.

-- Mike
mailto: mbe...@cascadepublishing.com

Michael Berlyn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
Jon Ingold wrote:
>
> > This is my "spiritual ideal" of IF. I aspire to write a game in which
> the
> >possible "paths" for the character to follow are seemingly (but not
> necessarily
> >in reality) infinite.
>
> But would this be actually any fun/of any interest to play?

We'll see. I believe so.

> Do people really
> want Interactive Fiction, I mean actual fiction that's properly interactive?

Again, I believe so. As long as the narrative, characters, conflicts and
environments are compelling, why not? I don't care much about Lady
Elfrich's husband, Lord Gringle's court problems... so picking the story
you want to tell becomes a writer's task.

> I don't think so -- the idea, say, of Interactive cinema has been around
> since, what, mid-Eighties, where the audience has a vote at crucial points;
> but it's never taken off because - I think - people don't want that sort of
> control.

It was the mechanism which turned people off. The were forced to make
the decision. As I answered above in this thread, the trick is to hide
the decision mechanism so that no anxiety is created in the player.

>I think IF is just as passive a medium as all the others; cinema,
> literature, when it's done well.

I maintain this does not have to be so. If there were any medium in
which true interactivity were possible, we're looking at it.

>The fact you have to think to "get through"
> and "reach" the story is not an input really, no more than having to think
> to work out what's going on in a film.
>
> What this boils down to is: mediums such as literature, cinema serve two
> purposes. The first is communication from author to reader/player/viewer.
> The second is an absolvement of responsibility. I don't think audiences want
> to *feel responsible* for the way a story is going, I think they want to be
> guided, they want to be impressed, entertained; and the same is true in IF.
> A totally non-linear, free-form game would become roleplay rather than
> anything else; and I'm not sure you can really communicate anything in
> roleplay, for the simple reason the player doesn't know what the author
> intends.


This supports my point: players do not want the responsibility for
making decisions for which they do not know the implications.

> Perhaps because I write this stuff means I don't want to have to "write" the
> other games I play. Maybe people who don't write as a rule enjoy the
> creative environment your idea of IF would generate. Maybe. I just think
> that whatever game you wrote like this would be hugely unsatisfying: there
> would little or no structure, because it's free. There would be huge amounts
> of material "extraneous" to your particular play through of the game (as
> I've said before on this topic, if you can cross the chasm either on big
> ball of pumice or using a ladder made of goat's bones, players who take the
> agricultural solution will reach the end and think "What was that big ball
> of pumice all about?") It would lose any feeling of construction, of
> completion. ie. Any of that subconcious "satisfaction" of a full, completed
> story.
>
> Offhand, what games that are around now would you say approach your ideal? I
> can't think of any that I've liked, but I may well be forgetting some.
>
> Jon

I'm working on it.

Michael Berlyn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
Lucian Paul Smith wrote:
>

> If I understand what you're saying, your claim is that when a player plays
> a game, the resulting narrative they create is necessarily 'linear', both
> in the sense that they encountered one section of the game before another
> section and so on, and in the fact that those events could also be
> re-mapped onto an objective timeline, where one event happened before
> another. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)
>

You are correct.

> Fair enough.
>
> But what is usually being discussed in linear vs. non-linear threads is
> not the state of the narrative *after* the player has encountered it, but
> the state of the narrative *before* the player has encountered it. It's a
> kind of quantum-physics 'the observer changes the state of the observed'
> thing.
>
> You could also say it's like predestination vs. free will. Whichever is
> true, the *past* is fixed. But the *future* looks very different through
> those two different viewpoints.

Well, that's a good point, but consider this: Scene 1 is in the present.
There are 1,024 Scene 2, all in a flashback. The scene two in the
flashback is picked as a result of some interaction in scene 1. So the
past does not have to be fixed _until_ some characteristics/properties
in the present have been fixed. But I do agree in general.



> A so-called 'linear' game (as defined in typical r*if threads, not as
> defined above) is a game where predestination has taken over. No matter
> what personal characteristics you may bring to the game, if you make
> progress, you will see A first, then B, then C, and so on. If there are
> multiple options at some junctures, you only get the choice of B, B', and
> B", and still don't get to see D before C (and, if you chose B', you don't
> get to see B or B" at all).
>
> A so-called 'non-linear' game is one where free will is more
> pronounced. You get to A first, and then you get to see B, C, or D next,
> and once you've done C you can get to D or E, etc. Neil Cerutti recently
> posted a puzzle dependence graph for John's Fire Witch that illustrates
> this point. (I have it archived for the bookclub at
> http://www.bioc.rice.edu/~lpsmith/IF/bookclub/firwitch/msg00055.html).

Thanks. I'll take a look at it. If you've played Suspended, you know
that you can set in motion any number of robots at once, each of them
having a separate task, and yet time marches on... In this sense, there
are two worlds: the timeline, which is somewhat fixed, and the
environment, which is completely non-linear. So, is it non-linear?

(Not if you ask me.) :)

Games? Games are infinitely replayable models in which the ending is
determined by the players actions. In no way is predestination involved
with games, sports, etc. Puzzles, on the other hand, fit your definition
nicely. A chess "game" is a puzzle with multiple solutions whose
solutions diminish over time.



> The 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books typically have at least two
> potential futures that must immediately be decided between, with a
> potential two more after each of those, and so on. While the scope of the
> story is more limited than a game, there is almost never a point where the
> next bit is predestined (when it is, it's for long narrative sections,
> where after turning to page 5, it then tells you to turn to page 22, or
> whatever).
>
> IF 'puzzles' are the most 'predestined' of the above, because they
> typically have one final outcome to them, or 'squeeze points' you have to
> get through (After A, you may be able to do B, C, or D, but only after
> doing all three in some order can you get to E.)
>
> : Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?
>
> A model for IF pasts? No. A model for IF futures? Yes.
>
> -Lucian Smith

Hmmm... sounds like we have more to talk about. :)

Michael Berlyn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
Paul O'Brian wrote:
>
> On Tue, 16 May 2000, W. Top Changwatchai wrote:
>
> > if you were to teach a class in IF, what games would be on
> > your "required playing" list?
>
> Ooh, what a fun question. Of course, there's enough IF in existence that a
> class could really take *lots* of approaches ("gender in IF", "IF
> Mysteries", etc.). Here's what might be on my syllabus if I were
> approaching IF from a historical standpoint:
>
> Adventure/Colossal Cave
> Pirate Adventure
> Zork Trilogy & Dungeon
> A Mind Forever Voyaging
> Gateway
> Unnkulian Unventure
> Curses
> Delusions
> Sunset Over Savannah
> Spider & Web and The Space Under The Window
> Photopia
> Anchorhead
> Worlds Apart
> Zork:Nemesis & Zork:Grand Inquisitor
>
> (Oh, and did I mention LASH? :)

Thanks for leaving all of mine off the list. LOL

Michael Berlyn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
Emily Short wrote:
>
> ----------
> In article <3921BEAE...@cascadepublishing.com>, Michael Berlyn
> <mbe...@cascadepublishing.com> wrote:
>
> >I noticed comments in a thread about a piece of IF being linear, too
> >linear, not linear enough, etc. Thought I'd kick around an idea and see
> >what kind of interest it generates (if any).
> >
> >It seems to me that, fundamental to the basic concept of narrative, time
> >must progress. And in like manner, idea must follow like idea, events
> >must follow previous events, etc. This is cause and effect. I don't know
> >what you call it, but where I come from, the technical term for it is
> >linearity. Even if these events and ideas are presented to the reader
> >out of order, or even in random order, there must be an objective time
> >line which corresponds to the events in the narrative. The reader will
> >ultimately search for this time line and put the narrative's events in
> >order in his own mind after the experience in order to make sense of
> >what has been related.
>
> Right -- for instance "Photopia" or "Spider and Web." Part of the challenge
> of these games becomes the metapuzzle of figuring out what has happened.
>
> >While we typically call any kind of interactive text experience IF, for
> >the sake of this thread, I would ask you to distinguish between the
> >follow types of "products:"
> >1. Puzzles (Zork, Suspended, Deadline, Dr. Dumont's Wild PARTI, etc.).
> >2. Games (replayable, where there is no unique solution. Fooblitzky,
> >Risk, Parcheesi, Monopoly are games).
> >2. IF (fiction in which the reader is expected to interact. While there

> >is typically a "solution/end," like a puzzle, there are no obstacles
> >hindering the narrative's progress. An example: Which Way books.).
> >
> >Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?
>

Yes, you are, but through no fault of your own. Clearly it is my lack of
a proper explanation which has caused your reaction.

What I am saying is that making an environment within which the player
may freely explore has nothing to do with "linearity." Linearity deals
with narrative, and not with the order in which puzzles must be solved,
or interactions must be encountered.

If a product were a network of plots which intersected in a tangle of
branches, you might experience the narrative of the product as a
straight-ahead linear series of events. And yet the product's design may
be anything BUT linear.

Providing a player with a plethora of choices does not make a product
less linear. The final experience, when the reader/player is done,
determines whether or not the product was linear. And, BTW, I maintain
that a player's inability to map a linear timeline onto a product dooms
the product to failure. Just look at Zork. :)

Paul O'Brian

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
On 17 May 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> If I were teaching a class on IF, I wouldn't really deal much with
> underlying technical advances. A game isn't interesting because it's the
> first .z4, .z5, or .z8 game (or even a prominent example of same.)

No, the format isn't interesting in and of itself. However, what can be
interesting are the things that the format makes possible. AMFV was able
to do things that Zork couldnt. Anchorhead could do things that AMFV
couldn't. A historical approach can put those sorts of advances in
perspective. But no, it isn't about the format itself.

> And,
> I'm forced to say, I wouldn't spend any time on _Freefall_ or _Lists_
> either. :)

Well, how much time can you spend, really? It's just a five-minute "and
here's an example of how far this z-machine thing can stretch." I think
that the flexibility of the z-machine is well worth covering, especially
since it opens IF to more modern environments like handhelds and Java
applets.

> Parser advances, those are different. (But also basically nonexistent
> since 1980. *That* is a topic to spend a couple of weeks on.)

Yeah, I can see the argument that parser advances are the most important
technical innovation. I don't know that I'd spend two weeks talking about
the lack of advances, though. How long can you look at an empty space? :)

Paul O'Brian

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
On Wed, 17 May 2000, Michael Berlyn wrote:

> Thanks for leaving all of mine off the list. LOL

OK Mike, when Chameleon is finished I'll do a semester-long seminar on
your works. "Michael Berlyn, IF Survivor"

W. Top Changwatchai

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
[much interesting expatiation snipped. My "to-play" list just got longer...]

Paul O'Brian wrote:

> There, does that answer your question? :)

I have just one more: when does the class meet?

Michael Berlyn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
> Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:
> [...a list of games, with justification.]
>
> If I were teaching a class on IF, I wouldn't really deal much with
> underlying technical advances. A game isn't interesting because it's the
> first .z4, .z5, or .z8 game (or even a prominent example of same.) And,

> I'm forced to say, I wouldn't spend any time on _Freefall_ or _Lists_
> either. :)
>
> Parser advances, those are different. (But also basically nonexistent
> since 1980. *That* is a topic to spend a couple of weeks on.)
>
> --Z
>
> "And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
> borogoves..."

The first (and only major) parser advance at Infocom was Deadline's
extensions for following and talking to multiple characters. The second
(and last) major parser advance was done (by Marc) for Suspended, where
you could address multiple characters simultaneously. All other advances
were, at best, incremental.

Michael Berlyn

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to

Hehe. I'd rather remain anonymous. :)

Andrew Plotkin

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:
>> Parser advances, those are different. (But also basically nonexistent
>> since 1980. *That* is a topic to spend a couple of weeks on.)
>
> Yeah, I can see the argument that parser advances are the most important
> technical innovation. I don't know that I'd spend two weeks talking about
> the lack of advances, though. How long can you look at an empty space? :)

Start by listing all the *proposed* advances which never got implemented,
or never caught on. (Starting with adverbs, of course.) Go on to an
analysis of *why* they never did, and what that implies about the goal of
"a better parser". Use that as a jumping-off point for the *actual* goal
of the parser in a text adventure.

That leads into a couple of lectures on the player's perceived scope of
the possible. (My "two free variable" theory fits in there -- see posts
from several months ago, around the UseComp.) This is probably *the* most
important topic in IF design.

Paul O'Brian

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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On Wed, 17 May 2000, W. Top Changwatchai wrote:

> Paul O'Brian wrote:
>
> > There, does that answer your question? :)
>

> I have just one more: when does the class meet?

Just as soon all the students pay their tuition.

Sam Barlow

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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I guess my game, Aisle, is near as dammit non-linear:

(um, maybe slight **spoilers** for Aisle)

(1) There is no progression within the 'game'. So no line.
(2) You *can't* put all the pieces together. Or rather, you can,
but there'll always be something that doesn't fit.
(3) The experience is different depending on how you play it
(not in an amazing, dynamic, on-the-fly way but near enough).

However, I wouldn't recommend Aisle as a model.

Is Chameleon going to be 'non-linear'?

I always like it when games companies talk about their RPGs
being 'non-linear', when what they mean is "yes it has a very
strictly defined path, but the path isn't really straight, in
fact it's quite squiggly."

--Sam.

* Sent from RemarQ http://www.remarq.com The Internet's Discussion Network *
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Field Marshall Stack

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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On Wed, 17 May 2000 03:29:02 -0500, W. Top Changwatchai <n...@spam.com> spewed:

I did, though...hm. I never really saw the line between roleplaying and
adventure-gaming all that clearly. I used to devise little adventure games with
my friends all the time, though by late elementary school we wandered off into
D+D, where by default I became the DM (I think it's my knack for establishing
myself as leader, while trying my best to convince myself that I'm not), ahem,
by default I became the DM for the group, despite my complete and total lack of
organization. So generally the way things would go is we'd start off by playing
an extremely structured roleplaying game within the rules of the system we'd
use and as I ran out of prepared story/dungeon/etc., we'd gradually wander off
into adventure-game mode, generally finishing up sometime past midnight with
nary a dice roll having taken place in at several hours.


--
Ben Allen
"HORSE!"
-Flaming Carrot

Sean T Barrett

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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Jon Ingold <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>I think IF is just as passive a medium as all the others; cinema,
>literature, when it's done well. The fact you have to think to "get through"
>and "reach" the story ...

This is based on a particular assumption about what it means for
it to be "done well". I think I disagree, but I have a bias here...

>What this boils down to is: mediums such as literature, cinema serve two
>purposes. The first is communication from author to reader/player/viewer.
>The second is an absolvement of responsibility. I don't think audiences want
>to *feel responsible* for the way a story is going, I think they want to be
>guided, they want to be impressed, entertained; and the same is true in IF.

Certainly IF is intended to entertain, but the assumption that the
"right" form of IF is a traditional narrative telling a traditional
story with roadblocks in the form of puzzles that prevent the
readers from turning the page... this is an assumption, and I
certainly don't see it as proven.

>A totally non-linear, free-form game would become roleplay rather than
>anything else; and I'm not sure you can really communicate anything in
>roleplay

You can't necessarily communicate a particular story if you give
more control to the player, but that doesn't prevent you from
having communicating a theme by having some authorial control
over the kinds of outcomes.

In the context of commercial games, there's a write-up of some
discussions at the (Computer) Game Developer's Conference this
year at http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20000413/kreimeier_01.htm
(although I disagree with much of the author's commentary, such as
his reference to 'design patterns' which just sweeps the problem
under the rug).

Notably on this subject is a quote from a coworker of mine:
"Our desire to create traditional narrative and exercise
authorial control over the gaming world often inhibits the
player's ability to involve themselves in the game world."

This is the real tension, to me, not the crossword at war
with the narrative. Interaction can amplify your story by
drawing players much more deeply into the experience than
non-interactive fiction. The challenge is finding satisfying
balances between the player being immersed due to apparent
but free-of-significance interactivity that allows a canned
story (e.g. Photopia) and the player being immersed due to total
freedom of interactivity but no canned story.

Because IF as we know and love it is tied to text and words
in a way that commercial graphical games are not, there's
a requirement for a certain level of authorship, but I don't
think that means we *ought* to think of IF as books with
restrictions on turning the pages. Moreover, I think there's
room for more machine generation of text; I certainly don't
see authors in any hurry to hand-write inventory lists, anyway.

Sean

Sean T Barrett

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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Michael Berlyn <mbe...@cascadepublishing.com> wrote:
>If a product were a network of plots which intersected in a tangle of
>branches, you might experience the narrative of the product as a
>straight-ahead linear series of events. And yet the product's design may
>be anything BUT linear.
>
>Providing a player with a plethora of choices does not make a product
>less linear. The final experience, when the reader/player is done,
>determines whether or not the product was linear.

As long as your reader/player is human, their experience
is always going to be of a linear series of events unfolding over
time. Therefore all produced works of mankind are linear.
Therefore I have my doubts as to the utility of this definition.

To return to my understanding of the traditional definition,
the issues are:
- player perception of the past (_fixed_, not 'linear' or 'non-linear')
- player perception of the future (linear or non-linear)
- authorial effort (linear or non-linear)
where I use chronological terms to refer to the play-experience
timeline, not the story timeline.

An author goes to more effort to write a "non-linear" experience,
one in which different players can experience things in a different
order, or have entirely different experiences.

A player who believes the future is fixed (linear) may approach
the work differently than one who thinks it is not fixed. Note
that this is the fallacy of "hidden decisions"; unless the player
experiences the work more than once, the player may see event B
late in the game and remember having taken action A, and realize
that B followed from A, but still never realize that there was
an alternative to action A. At which point you have different
people experiencing different games, possibly reviewing them
differently, totally unaware of it, and the only payoff is a tiny
degree of increased immersion because 'every' action works like
you expect it to, moreso than without such consequences.

Sean

Paul O'Brian

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
On Wed, 17 May 2000, Sean T Barrett wrote:

> In the context of commercial games, there's a write-up of some
> discussions at the (Computer) Game Developer's Conference this
> year at http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20000413/kreimeier_01.htm

In that same article, I found this tidbit:

"[In a discussion of ethics in gaming,] the questioner cited an Infocom
game that included the option to torture an NPC. In an ironic twist, it
turned out that panelist Bob Bates had himself suggested adding this
element to the game in jest -- and had resigned from the project
when it was actually added."

Uhhh, which game was this? The only thing I can think of is Border Zone,
but I don't recall such an opportunity. Shogun, maybe? I haven't played
that one yet.

Muke Tever

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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Michael Berlyn <mbe...@cascadepublishing.com> wrote:
> You wrote:
> > It would have to be a construct where the plot arises out of the
> > user's interaction of the world instead of vice versa, where the
> > user is unable to point to a certain event and say "I have acheived

> > my only objective", where the order of events is not bound by
> > anything other than the progression of time (i.e. "You can't
> > dethrone the evil vizier before killing the dragon and saving the
> > princess"), etc.
>
> The example you have used is a puzzle, not IF and not a narrative.

I think I have miscommunicated.

I meant the only reason the dragon-princess-vizier sequence should
happen in any order is the author saying "Because I say so."

That, of course, is linearity. I suppose I left a "not" out or
something in my first message, the dragon-princess-vizier sequence was
supposed to be a _bad_ example.


*Muke!
--
http://i.am/muke ICQ: 1936556 AIM: MukeTurtle

"Profound quotes prove nothing."


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

Emily Short

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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----------
In article <3922B578...@cascadepublishing.com>, Michael Berlyn
<mbe...@cascadepublishing.com> wrote:

>Emily Short wrote:
>>
>> Though I enjoyed SutWin, I somehow doubt that things like it are likely to
>> become a dominant presence in the "market." So perhaps in purely
>> utilitarian terms it makes sense to preserve the old sense of linearity,
>> since it makes a useful distinction between two existing types of "product."
>>
>>
>> Or possibly I'm missing some of your argument here.

>Yes, you are, but through no fault of your own. Clearly it is my lack of


>a proper explanation which has caused your reaction.
>
>What I am saying is that making an environment within which the player
>may freely explore has nothing to do with "linearity." Linearity deals
>with narrative, and not with the order in which puzzles must be solved,
>or interactions must be encountered.

And what I was saying is that people have used "linearity" to mean the
latter; that that seems a useful thing to be able to talk about; and that I
wasn't sure how your redefinition was helpful to the analysis -- especially
if, as you're quick to point out, there aren't many (or any) examples of IF
that fit your definition of "non-linear." Not so much a question of what
you meant as why it would be helpful to attempt to shift the established
usage.

It seems to me valid (though not necessarily true) to say, "Whether or not
it is presented in the correct sequence, a work of IF needs to build the
awareness of a consistent plot in the player's mind." Why confuse *that*
issue by simultaneously changing the meaning of a somewhat muddily-defined
but still quite useful bit of IF terminology? There is plenty of argument
to be had there as it is.

ES

Paul O'Brian

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
to
On Wed, 17 May 2000, Sean T Barrett wrote:

> this is the fallacy of "hidden decisions"; unless the player
> experiences the work more than once, the player may see event B
> late in the game and remember having taken action A, and realize
> that B followed from A, but still never realize that there was
> an alternative to action A. At which point you have different
> people experiencing different games, possibly reviewing them
> differently, totally unaware of it, and the only payoff is a tiny
> degree of increased immersion because 'every' action works like
> you expect it to, moreso than without such consequences.

This is where the designer firmly hopes that players either replay the
game out of curiosity for what could have gone differently, or talk to
each other via (for example) posts on rgif. (He said, speaking from
experience.)

Neil Cerutti

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May 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/17/00
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Martin Julian DeMello posted:

>BrenBarn <brenbarn> wrote:
>> Then we have "Total Linearity". (In fact this should be "Total
>> Non-linearity", because I've never seen anything that isn't Totally linear.)
>> Something that is Totally Non-linear is something in which time is not a
>> factor. For example, an IF game in which no action the player takes
>> necessarily relates to any other action.
>
>This would be a degenerate example of 'path linearity', I think - as Muke
>pointed out upthread, the very fact that something is a game gives it a
>beginning and an end, and those two points are enough to define some sort of
>line.
>
>Perhaps a game which catapults you into a random scene, and lets you wander
>aimlessly until it ends at some nonpredeterminedly random point :)

Try _A Fable_ for this.

The MYST3K version is more fun than the original AGT version.

There seems to be a strange bump in the fish.

--
char NeilCerutti[]= "cer...@together.net";

Giles Boutel

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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"Paul O'Brian" <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> wrote in message
news:Pine.GSO.3.96.100051...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU...

> On Tue, 16 May 2000, W. Top Changwatchai wrote:
>
> > if you were to teach a class in IF, what games would be on
> > your "required playing" list?
>
> Ooh, what a fun question. Of course, there's enough IF in existence that a
> class could really take *lots* of approaches ("gender in IF", "IF
> Mysteries", etc.). Here's what might be on my syllabus if I were
> approaching IF from a historical standpoint:
>
> Adventure/Colossal Cave
101: for that essential introduction into logic, illogic and sheer random
pain. Give me an adventure player at the age of 7, and I'll have him be a
bastard too clever by half for the rest of his life.

> Pirate Adventure

102: It's a piece of the proverbial, but the endorphin rush doesn't know
that after 101's suppresion

> Zork Trilogy & Dungeon

103: Why life isn't fair. The perversely reactionary yet strangely
enjoyable game with a whopping great parser

> A Mind Forever Voyaging

201: Big games don't have to take more than a day


> Gateway

202: Why pictures never really took off


> Unnkulian Unventure

203: Retro is cool - again

> Curses

extra credit: Name the author, the genre, and compare and contrast two of
the love interests

> Delusions

301: Suspending disblief enough to be deluded, a neat trick, or just another
gimmick?

> Sunset Over Savannah

302: 302

> Spider & Web and The Space Under The Window

303: Two intricately intertwined works dependant upon one another for
meaning, How would tearing them apart like dissonant siamese twins improve
their interaction?

> Photopia

401: How long is a piece of string


> Anchorhead

402: What dark and hungry being salivates in readiness at the other end of
the piece of string out of space?

> Worlds Apart

403: What opaque and ravenous being expectorates in watchful joy to see the
penultimate section of string sadly fail beside its brother

> Zork:Nemesis & Zork:Grand Inquisitor

masters level - are the above two games zork?


> (Oh, and did I mention LASH? :)

As much as I mentioned E A T

-Giles "the Matriculator"


oh, well - I had to refer to it somewhere, just once.

R. Alan Monroe

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
to
In article <3922E0A3...@spam.com>, "W. Top Changwatchai" <n...@spam.com> wrote:
>[much interesting expatiation snipped. My "to-play" list just got longer...]
>
>Paul O'Brian wrote:
>
>> There, does that answer your question? :)
>
>I have just one more: when does the class meet?

Q: When does the class meet, Madge?
A: You're soaking in it!

Only if you remember 1970's US TV advertising will this make sense.
:^)

Have fun
Alan

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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"W. Top Changwatchai" <n...@spam.com> wrote:

> It'll be especially nice because it seems many discussions on this
> newsgroup seem to refer to a select number of games: Photopia,
> Christminster, Jigsaw and Curses, Anchorhead. What games am I leaving
> out? That is, if you were to teach a class in IF, what games would be on
> your "required playing" list?

Of all the ones you listed there, Photopia will take you
*substantially* less time than the others. At least, if
you only go through it once. I had to read it a second
time, though.

My required playing list would definitely include Delusions
as well as The Meteor, the Stone, and a Long Glass of Sherbet
and Christminster. I'd say Spider and Web except that I
haven't finished it myself yet. Curses is my all-time fave.
I keep meaning to get to Anchorhead. I never finished Jigsaw,
and (having played far enough to get a good feel for its style)
I don't plan to ever finish it, but YMMV.


--

Forward all spam to u...@ftc.gov

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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"Jon Ingold" <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> > This is my "spiritual ideal" of IF. I aspire to write a game in which
> the
> >possible "paths" for the character to follow are seemingly (but not
> necessarily
> >in reality) infinite.
>
> But would this be actually any fun/of any interest to play?

Yes.

TableSaw

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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[WARNING this post contains PLOT SPOILERS for Babel.]

In article <3921BEAE...@cascadepublishing.com>,


Michael Berlyn <mbe...@cascadepublishing.com> wrote:
> I noticed comments in a thread about a piece of IF being linear, too
> linear, not linear enough, etc. Thought I'd kick around an idea and
see
> what kind of interest it generates (if any).

Well. So far it has generated a lot of confusion. Before it goes on, I'd
like to offer some definitions:

Story -- The objective story of the work, it includes actions onstage
and offstage and refers to what 'actually' happened.

Narrative -- The order in which events are related to the viewer.

An example: The narrative of Hamlet begins with the ghost appearing to
the guards on the battlement, because this is the first thing that the
audience sees. But the story begins much earlier, with the killing of
Hamlet's father by Claudius, something that the audience does not know
until later. The narrative includes several different accounts of
Ophelia and Hamlet's relationship, but a viewer may choose one or the
other to create an objective story.

Next I want to abolish the use of the word linear entirely, because
there are two groups of people using it in two completely different ways
and confusing anyone who tries to read this damn thread.

Definition one: Linear meaning having temporally sequential narrative.
This will be replaced by: Sequential vs. Non-sequential

Definition two: Linear referring to how many options are open to a game
player (linear vs. broad). This shall be replaced by: Restricted vs.
Broad.

Example: Photopia is restricted because it allows the player to only do
one thing at a time. It is also non-sequential because it's narrative is
not in temporal order.

All right. Now let's begin.

> It seems to me that, fundamental to the basic concept of narrative,
time
> must progress. And in like manner, idea must follow like idea, events
> must follow previous events, etc. This is cause and effect. I don't
know
> what you call it, but where I come from, the technical term for it is
> linearity. Even if these events and ideas are presented to the reader
> out of order, or even in random order, there must be an objective time
> line which corresponds to the events in the narrative. The reader will
> ultimately search for this time line and put the narrative's events in
> order in his own mind after the experience in order to make sense of
> what has been related.

Which is why nobody talks about story being non-sequential (or
non-linear using your definitions). The story must always be linear
because that's what a viewer perceives as a story, but the story is
presented through the narrative in different ways.

[Babel spoilers.]

Babel is an example, if the PC went through the story sequentially, it
wouldn't have the same effect. It would begin with the PC entering
Babel, falling in love and taking the Telerus virus, then going mad and
killing everyone, followed by a very annoying passage during which you
wander around with no memories remembering things you already saw
happening. Even within the story, the flashbacks are not sequential.
Suspense is built by showing the effects of the Telerus virus before it
is known what caused them. This 'product' would not be effective with a
sequential narrative.

[/Babel spoilers]

> While we typically call any kind of interactive text experience IF,
for
> the sake of this thread, I would ask you to distinguish between the
> follow types of "products:"
> 1. Puzzles (Zork, Suspended, Deadline, Dr. Dumont's Wild PARTI, etc.).
> 2. Games (replayable, where there is no unique solution. Fooblitzky,
> Risk, Parcheesi, Monopoly are games).

> 3. IF (fiction in which the reader is expected to interact. While


there
> is typically a "solution/end," like a puzzle, there are no obstacles
> hindering the narrative's progress. An example: Which Way books.).

'Puzzles' seem to be broad/sequential. There can be no non-sequential
puzzle because there is no story beyond the actions taken by the player.
Since there is a one-to-one ratio between narrative and story, the
narrative is sequential.
'IF' (in this description) seems to be restricted with a possibility for
a sequential or non-sequential narrative.
I have no idea how 'Games' fit into this.

> Does ANYONE out there have a model for IF which is non-linear?

Here's one:

A Play for Analysis, by Gertrude Stein.

The original is a play of around 60 parts, each with around four acts.
Each act is a single line. This creates 240 scenes which the player may
be in at any given time. The narrative moves freely between these scenes
responding to the actions of the player.

The interface is something of a hybrid of Aisle and Space Under the
Window. When a player decides on an action in a given scene, the scene
changes to a new scene related to the previous scene by the action
chosen.

The narrative of the play jumps through time, and so does the player.
There is no objective way of telling what time it is in any given scene
(ie. no statusline clock/calendar) although there are indicators in
descriptions.

There is no ending, simply a massive web of thought-movement.

--
Tony

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a^2 cos 2 phi! --Stanislaw Lem.

Stephen Granade

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
to
buz...@world.std.com (Sean T Barrett) writes:

> A player who believes the future is fixed (linear) may approach
> the work differently than one who thinks it is not fixed. Note

> that this is the fallacy of "hidden decisions"; unless the player


> experiences the work more than once, the player may see event B
> late in the game and remember having taken action A, and realize
> that B followed from A, but still never realize that there was
> an alternative to action A. At which point you have different
> people experiencing different games, possibly reviewing them
> differently, totally unaware of it, and the only payoff is a tiny
> degree of increased immersion because 'every' action works like
> you expect it to, moreso than without such consequences.

If the alternatives are different enough, people will eventually
notice it when they start asking for hints, discussing it on the
newsgroup, reading reviews, etc.

Stephen

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

Stephen Granade

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
to
**POSSIBLE TRINITY SPOILER BELOW**

Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> writes:

> On Wed, 17 May 2000, Sean T Barrett wrote:
>

> > In the context of commercial games, there's a write-up of some
> > discussions at the (Computer) Game Developer's Conference this
> > year at http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20000413/kreimeier_01.htm
>
> In that same article, I found this tidbit:
>
> "[In a discussion of ethics in gaming,] the questioner cited an Infocom
> game that included the option to torture an NPC. In an ironic twist, it
> turned out that panelist Bob Bates had himself suggested adding this
> element to the game in jest -- and had resigned from the project
> when it was actually added."
>
> Uhhh, which game was this? The only thing I can think of is Border Zone,
> but I don't recall such an opportunity. Shogun, maybe? I haven't played
> that one yet.

If the questioner wasn't using "torture" to specifically mean
tormenting a person, perhaps Trinity and the skink?

Paul O'Brian

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
to
On 18 May 2000, Stephen Granade wrote:

> **POSSIBLE TRINITY SPOILER BELOW**
[Well, it's a definite Trinity spoiler now]

> If the questioner wasn't using "torture" to specifically mean
> tormenting a person, perhaps Trinity and the skink?

That's a pretty loose interpretation of the word "torture," if so. My
recollection of Trinity is that you kill the skink rather quickly without
an eye towards causing it pain.

Andrew Plotkin

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
to
Stephen Granade <sgra...@login2.phy.duke.edu> wrote:
> buz...@world.std.com (Sean T Barrett) writes:
>
>> A player who believes the future is fixed (linear) may approach
>> the work differently than one who thinks it is not fixed. Note
>> that this is the fallacy of "hidden decisions"; unless the player
>> experiences the work more than once, the player may see event B
>> late in the game and remember having taken action A, and realize
>> that B followed from A, but still never realize that there was
>> an alternative to action A. At which point you have different
>> people experiencing different games, possibly reviewing them
>> differently, totally unaware of it, and the only payoff is a tiny
>> degree of increased immersion because 'every' action works like
>> you expect it to, moreso than without such consequences.
>
> If the alternatives are different enough, people will eventually
> notice it when they start asking for hints, discussing it on the
> newsgroup, reading reviews, etc.

That never changes my opinion of the game I played, though.

Stephen Granade

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
to
Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> writes:

> On 18 May 2000, Stephen Granade wrote:
>
> > **POSSIBLE TRINITY SPOILER BELOW**
> [Well, it's a definite Trinity spoiler now]
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> > If the questioner wasn't using "torture" to specifically mean
> > tormenting a person, perhaps Trinity and the skink?
>
> That's a pretty loose interpretation of the word "torture," if so. My
> recollection of Trinity is that you kill the skink rather quickly without
> an eye towards causing it pain.

Right, but I don't know if the questioner used the word "torture" or
if that's just the word the author of the article decided to use.

Stephen Granade

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> writes:

A couple of points. One, I was objecting to the "people won't notice."
They may not notice in the context of the game, but may on a
meta-level in the community discussion. Two, I do know such
alternatives can change people's opinions. Three, on further
reflection, I'd even disagree with the characterization of the payoff
for such as "tiny". If alternatives keep people from being so
frustrated, or from asking, "Why didn't the author implement this
perfectly sensible solution to a puzzle?" then I'd say that's a fairly
large payoff.

Sean T Barrett

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> wrote:
>On Wed, 17 May 2000, Sean T Barrett wrote:
>> this is the fallacy of "hidden decisions"
>
>This is where the designer firmly hopes that players either replay the
>game out of curiosity for what could have gone differently, or talk to
>each other via (for example) posts on rgif.

Indeed. That comment, like many of my comments, is informed by the
commercial computer game world as well as the IF world. There's a
lot more shared design vocabulary amongst IF authors, and that fallacy
is problematic in the commercial world more than the IF world.

>(He said, speaking from experience.)

But there are different experiences as well. On "Hunter, In Darkness"'s
maze puzzle receiving an XYZZY nomination, somebody posted "which one;
there are two", and apparently not at all facetiously. But no discussion
followed. When I complained about my experience with that puzzle to
a friend, he said, "oh, it was easy, I typed the right command on the
very first turn". At the time, it never dawned on me that it was possible
his 'right command' wasn't my 'right command'. (And I never bothered
following it up to find it out, although I suspect we did actually
solve the same version of it.)

None of this is meant to fault "H,ID"; Zarf knew what he was doing, and
did leverage the "immersiveness" payoff that I mentioned, I think.
Assuming it's really true that it had two different variations.

Sean

Sean T Barrett

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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Stephen Granade <sgra...@login2.phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>I'd even disagree with the characterization of the payoff
>for such as "tiny". If alternatives keep people from being so
>frustrated, or from asking, "Why didn't the author implement this
>perfectly sensible solution to a puzzle?" then I'd say that's a fairly
>large payoff.

Given that the context was non-linearity, I would suggest that
alternative solutions which do not cause branching (which do
not have further consequences down the road) are much easier
to implement, and produce the same payoff. The additional
payoff to creating alternative solutions which result in
continued deviation is tiny if the player is never aware of
it.

I do not consider "mere" alternative solutions without significant
additional consequences to be "non-linear", but I don't know how
others would define the term. But I certainly agree that the payoff
for allowing alternative solutions is high.

Sean

Michael Berlyn

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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Sean T Barrett wrote:
>
<snip>

> An author goes to more effort to write a "non-linear" experience,
> one in which different players can experience things in a different
> order, or have entirely different experiences.

(IMHO) This should be a serious goal of people trying to write IF (as
opposed to, say, text adventures).

> A player who believes the future is fixed (linear) may approach
> the work differently than one who thinks it is not fixed.

Do we really care _how_ the player approaches the work? When I write a
novel, I would prefer the reader doesn't start with the final chapter,
but hey, I have no control over that. The assumptions a player makes
when playing a work of IF are beyond our control. A
what-the-heck-do-I-do-next book is proof of that. Some people read them
without making decisions and jumping to new chapters. While I would not
hesitate to say that this is a foolish approach, especially since it
negates the value of the book, there's nothing anyone can do about that.

> Note
> that this is the fallacy of "hidden decisions"; unless the player
> experiences the work more than once, the player may see event B
> late in the game and remember having taken action A, and realize
> that B followed from A, but still never realize that there was
> an alternative to action A.

In what way is this a fallacy? It doesn't matter if there was a
multitude of variations the player never sees and never experiences.
You're approaching this as an author who wants to be appreciated as
opposed to an author who wants to write IF.

> At which point you have different
> people experiencing different games, possibly reviewing them
> differently, totally unaware of it, and the only payoff is a tiny
> degree of increased immersion because 'every' action works like
> you expect it to, moreso than without such consequences.

Sean, you make that sound like a bad thing. Do you care if reviewer #1
says, "And I really liked the way Mr. Plum yelled at Ms. Peach," while
reviewer #2 says, "Mr. Plum didn't say a word through the entire
experience, and Ms. Peach just yelled at him the whole time?" You seem
to want more than what is reasonable.

Lucian Paul Smith

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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Spoilers for 'Hunter, in Darkness' follow...

Sean T Barrett (buz...@world.std.com) wrote:

: But there are different experiences as well. On "Hunter, In Darkness"'s


: maze puzzle receiving an XYZZY nomination, somebody posted "which one;
: there are two", and apparently not at all facetiously.

Hey, that was me!

: But no discussion followed.

Yeah, I noticed that, too ;-)

: When I complained about my experience with that puzzle to


: a friend, he said, "oh, it was easy, I typed the right command on the
: very first turn". At the time, it never dawned on me that it was possible
: his 'right command' wasn't my 'right command'. (And I never bothered
: following it up to find it out, although I suspect we did actually
: solve the same version of it.)

Yup; there were two versions, one of which was *much* easier to solve
(IMO) than the other. It all hinged on whether or not you had shot the
wumpus in the very first scene. If you had, once you got to the maze
A) you had lost your crossbow, and B) the wumpus was bleeding. The trick
was to follow the blood trail of the wumpus through the maze, as evidenced
by where the bats were congregating.

If you hadn't, when you got to the maze A) you still had your crossbow,
and B) the wumpus wasn't bleeding. A non-bleeding wumpus is a musky
wumpus, apparantly, and by using >SMELL you could follow the scent of your
prey.

Both solutions were hinted at by staying in one room for a certain number
of turns. In the first, you got a message about bats. Who hung around a
while first, mind you, before settling down near the exit you needed to
take. In the second, you eventually got a message like, "You catch a
whiff of something musky". I would guess that the majority of people,
upon encountering the bat message, thought, "Eeeagh! Bats!" and left the
room by some random exit. Conversely, upon receiving the second message,
I would guess 90% (or more) players would next type >SMELL.

Personally, I first encountered the 'SMELL' version, and when I was
replaying it and encountered the blood version, I thought I had put the
game in an unwinnable state. I even mapped out the 'smell' path, then
replayed and tried to use it in the blood version. It didn't work. (The
final exit just took me to a different part of the maze.) Foreknowledge
of the Smell path when playing the smell version, though, did indeed work.

So you see, these are really two quite different puzzles. I still want to
know which one won the XYZZY.

: None of this is meant to fault "H,ID"; Zarf knew what he was doing, and


: did leverage the "immersiveness" payoff that I mentioned, I think.
: Assuming it's really true that it had two different variations.

I'm not at all sure immersiveness was changed by having two versions. It
looks the same as the parallel fits in 'Grip' to me. (Which is kind of
ironic, since when Zarf found out about the parallel fits, told Stephen he
would never have the stamina to make parts of the game that players
probably wouldn't see.)

-Lucian