Long vs short games

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W. Top Changwatchai

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May 11, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/11/00
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[Cross-posting to rec.arts.int-fiction]

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

> Short is good. I've heard it said (by various people at various times)
> that the novella is the perfect length for prose, in terms of having
> enough length to deliver an impact but not long enough to allow any
> slop.

Stephen R. Donaldson expressed this very well in his introduction to a
collection of short stories. I won't try to reproduce what he wrote, but
essentially he said writing short stories required great craft and careful
selection of the right details to include, while writing novels (he'd
written like a six-volume epic) was like throwing as many words as you can
at a subject, hoping some of them would stick.

In a sense that's what an IF writer has to do all the time. Descriptions
can't be too long, or you'll bore a player who wants to do something.
Likewise you can't describe too many events unfolding without player
participation.

> I wonder if there isn't some length like that for IF, leaning toward the
> short.

I was browsing some of the r*if archives and recall several people wondering
if the annual competition was placing too much of an emphasis on short
games.

I think it takes a lot more work to write a long game that's enjoyable than
a short one, both because you have a lot more opportunities to touch on
somebody's pet peeves, and also because sins that can be forgiven once or
twice can become quite tedious over a long stretch (just think of a witty
quip that's repeated 50 times).

On the other hand, I think the most memorable IF are long ones that manage
to pull it off. There's just so much more scope for storytelling,
atmosphere, character interplay.

What do people think? Is short or long better, or does it not matter? Are
your favorite games short ones or long ones?

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

Andrew Plotkin

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May 11, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/11/00
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In rec.arts.int-fiction W. Top Changwatchai <n...@spam.com> wrote:
>> I wonder if there isn't some length like that for IF, leaning toward the
>> short.
>
> I was browsing some of the r*if archives and recall several people wondering
> if the annual competition was placing too much of an emphasis on short
> games.
>
> I think it takes a lot more work to write a long game that's enjoyable than
> a short one, both because you have a lot more opportunities to touch on
> somebody's pet peeves, and also because sins that can be forgiven once or
> twice can become quite tedious over a long stretch (just think of a witty
> quip that's repeated 50 times).
>
> On the other hand, I think the most memorable IF are long ones that manage
> to pull it off. There's just so much more scope for storytelling,
> atmosphere, character interplay.

One of the original reasons for having the IFComp be a *short* game
competition, was that we felt that otherwise, any long entries would get
all the attention. Short games would never win.

I still think this is true -- other things (like writing quality) being
equal.

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

W. Top Changwatchai

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May 11, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/11/00
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Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> One of the original reasons for having the IFComp be a *short* game
> competition, was that we felt that otherwise, any long entries would get
> all the attention. Short games would never win.
>
> I still think this is true -- other things (like writing quality) being
> equal.

Really...I just assumed that it was due to practical considerations. If you have
twenty games, each of which takes twenty hours to play and solve, then you're
gonna have to have a much longer judging period. (I can't imagine logistics of a
"long game" competition!)

Plus, if you didn't have some restrictions, then the competition would be likely
to suck up virtually all new games ("I just finished 'War and Peace: An
Interactive Epic'! Can't wait till the next competition so I can release it.").

okbl...@my-deja.com

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May 11, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/11/00
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In article <8ff0kv$5ma$1...@slb7.atl.mindspring.net>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> One of the original reasons for having the IFComp be a *short* game
> competition, was that we felt that otherwise, any long entries would
get
> all the attention. Short games would never win.

And, IIRC, wasn't the point to spur the creation of *short* works? Not
just as a voting concern but part of the raison d'etre?

> I still think this is true -- other things (like writing quality)
being
> equal.

Well, that's a subtle point now, isn't it? "Other things being equal" a
longer work would deserve to win because it's just that much harder to
pull off. But the difficulty is in keeping other things equal.

I haven't noticed the longer comp games getting any special attention,
as a completely subjective and limited view. Well, except for some
slaps on the wrist for being too long.
--
[ok]


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

Charybdis

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May 11, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/11/00
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> "Photopia" took me about 20 minutes. I suppose that's three or four
> times the length of "Pass The Banana", but it's still pretty short. I
> think the *very* short games tend to be gags.

Trapped in a One Room Dilly was OK.

- Richard

Andrew Plotkin

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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In rec.arts.int-fiction okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:
> In article <8ff0kv$5ma$1...@slb7.atl.mindspring.net>,
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>>
>> One of the original reasons for having the IFComp be a *short* game
>> competition, was that we felt that otherwise, any long entries would
> get
>> all the attention. Short games would never win.
>
> And, IIRC, wasn't the point to spur the creation of *short* works? Not
> just as a voting concern but part of the raison d'etre?

That was part of it too. But, if I recall, we went back and on it a
bit.

The newsgroup archives on gmd.de will have the raunchy details.



>> I still think this is true -- other things (like writing quality)
>> being equal.
>
> Well, that's a subtle point now, isn't it? "Other things being equal" a
> longer work would deserve to win because it's just that much harder to
> pull off. But the difficulty is in keeping other things equal.

I'm not trying to be subtle. We were looking at, say, _Curses_, and
thinking "What if I played a two-hour game which had this quality of
writing and puzzle design? Would I vote for it? Hell no -- _Curses_ would
kick its ass, because it's got so much good stuff."

> I haven't noticed the longer comp games getting any special attention,
> as a completely subjective and limited view.

Very short entries tend to finish farther down the list. That's my
subjective view, anyway. I don't see much difference between "medium" and
"long" games, but then length of a game is a fuzzy concept anyway.

--Z

Kevin Forchione

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:8ffu74$brt$1...@slb7.atl.mindspring.net...

> Very short entries tend to finish farther down the list. That's my
> subjective view, anyway. I don't see much difference between "medium" and
> "long" games, but then length of a game is a fuzzy concept anyway.

Perhaps it is tied to a vague concept like player fulfillment? Now there's a
soft, touchy-feeling term one can bandy about.

--Kevin

Stephen Granade

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> writes:

> In rec.arts.int-fiction okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:
> > In article <8ff0kv$5ma$1...@slb7.atl.mindspring.net>,
> > Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> >>
> >> One of the original reasons for having the IFComp be a *short* game
> >> competition, was that we felt that otherwise, any long entries would
> > get
> >> all the attention. Short games would never win.
> >
> > And, IIRC, wasn't the point to spur the creation of *short* works? Not
> > just as a voting concern but part of the raison d'etre?
>
> That was part of it too. But, if I recall, we went back and on it a
> bit.

To add confusion to the fire, another of the initial driving impulses
was to create more Inform source code for folks to look at.

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

Kevin Forchione

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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"Stephen Granade" <sgra...@login1.phy.duke.edu> wrote in message
news:jdln1gf...@login1.phy.duke.edu...

> To add confusion to the fire, another of the initial driving impulses
> was to create more Inform source code for folks to look at.

Heh. Seems like that would be "as broad as it is long" in terms of amount of
source code ... unless you mean more parser hacks to browse.

But doesn't that intention favour one system over another?

--Kevin

Andrew Plotkin

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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Yes. Later, we decided to allow TADS games in the competition as well.

--Z (not *much* later)

Kevin Forchione

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:8fh5l5$lk2$3...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net...

> In rec.arts.int-fiction Kevin Forchione <Lys...@email.msn.com> wrote:
> > "Stephen Granade" <sgra...@login1.phy.duke.edu> wrote in message
> > news:jdln1gf...@login1.phy.duke.edu...
> >> To add confusion to the fire, another of the initial driving impulses
> >> was to create more Inform source code for folks to look at.
> >
> > Heh. Seems like that would be "as broad as it is long" in terms of
amount of
> > source code ... unless you mean more parser hacks to browse.
> >
> > But doesn't that intention favour one system over another?
>
> Yes. Later, we decided to allow TADS games in the competition as well.

Mighty generous! Those TADS folks are such trouble-makers.

--Kevin

okbl...@my-deja.com

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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In article <8ffu74$brt$1...@slb7.atl.mindspring.net>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> That was part of it too. But, if I recall, we went back and on it a
> bit.
>
> The newsgroup archives on gmd.de will have the raunchy details.

I believe I've read those, actually. But not memorized.

> I'm not trying to be subtle. We were looking at, say, _Curses_, and
> thinking "What if I played a two-hour game which had this quality of
> writing and puzzle design? Would I vote for it? Hell no -- _Curses_
would
> kick its ass, because it's got so much good stuff."

I suspect Graham spent more time on _Curses_ than average. Don't get me
wrong: I'm certainly not advocating even the slightest inkling of the
merest glimmer of considering a possible alteration of the two hour
guideline, as I suspect that people might sacrifice robustness for
scope--and of the comp entries I played pre-comp, I certainly felt a
distinct lack of robustness.

> Very short entries tend to finish farther down the list. That's my
> subjective view, anyway. I don't see much difference between "medium"
and
> "long" games, but then length of a game is a fuzzy concept anyway.

"Photopia" took me about 20 minutes. I suppose that's three or four


times the length of "Pass The Banana", but it's still pretty short. I
think the *very* short games tend to be gags.

W. Top Changwatchai

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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[*SPOILERS* for the ending of Trapped in a One Room Dilly]

s
p
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i
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Charybdis wrote:

> > "Photopia" took me about 20 minutes. I suppose that's three or four
> > times the length of "Pass The Banana", but it's still pretty short. I
> > think the *very* short games tend to be gags.
>

> Trapped in a One Room Dilly was OK.

Even though this was a one-room game, it definitely took me more than two
hours to solve. I just kept fiddling and fiddling with the...er...red
herrings. Overall I liked the game, but was rather disappointed at the lack
of any sort of payoff at the end. In fact, the end came quite suddenly,
before I was consciously aware of solving a final puzzle.

I think a good ending would have made me like the game a lot more. Really,
it could have been anything--it wouldn't have had to explain how I ended up
in the room in the first place. For example: say you escape the room, and
discover yet another one-room dilly. Or perhaps you discover an observation
pane where you observe someone else trying to escape a one-room dilly. Or
you find out that you're a test subject for a group of hyper-intelligent
goldfish, and the one you saw in the window was just a scientist checking up
on you. Or really anything else that provides some revelation to the
player, beyond simply, "You escape."

Any thoughts on the importance of endings in IF?

J. Robinson Wheeler

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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W. Top Changwatchai at n...@spam.com wrote:

> [*SPOILERS* for the ending of Trapped in a One Room Dilly]
>
> s
> p
> o
> i
> l
> e
> r
> s
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Charybdis wrote:
>> Trapped in a One Room Dilly was OK.
>
> Even though this was a one-room game, it definitely took me more than two
> hours to solve. I just kept fiddling and fiddling with the...er...red
> herrings. Overall I liked the game, but was rather disappointed at the lack
> of any sort of payoff at the end. In fact, the end came quite suddenly,
> before I was consciously aware of solving a final puzzle.

My memory of Dilly isn't crystal-clear, but isn't the final puzzle
climbing out through the ceiling of the room? As in, escaping the
room? That seems like a good enough ending.

Since it is a one-room game, if you escape, the game has to end
there, before you see what's outside. It's beyond the realm of
the construct.



> I think a good ending would have made me like the game a lot more. Really,
> it could have been anything--it wouldn't have had to explain how I ended up
> in the room in the first place. For example: say you escape the room, and
> discover yet another one-room dilly. Or perhaps you discover an observation
> pane where you observe someone else trying to escape a one-room dilly. Or
> you find out that you're a test subject for a group of hyper-intelligent
> goldfish, and the one you saw in the window was just a scientist checking up
> on you. Or really anything else that provides some revelation to the
> player, beyond simply, "You escape."

Again, my memory isn't the best here, but wasn't there a shelf full
of books in the room, and if you read them (repeatedly) you were
presented with a full range of possible explanations for how you
ended up in the room? One of them involved being a test subject for
a group of hyper-intelligent aliens, I think.

> Any thoughts on the importance of endings in IF?

My own opinion is that, especially in IF with narrative, the ending
should be well-planned with a build-up, climax, and clear finale.
Presumably well-crafted endings are of the same importance to IF as
to anything else designed to engage our attention and imagination.
It is, however, possible for the author to subvert these ideas, or
play them out subtly, or backwards, or in any number of variations.

All in all, the ending should suit the piece, and it should signal
us that we are at the end.


--
J. Robinson Wheeler http://thekroneexperiment.com
whe...@jump.net


W. Top Changwatchai

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May 12, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/12/00
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[SPOILERS for the novel "Smilla's Sense of Snow" at the end of this message]

"J. Robinson Wheeler" wrote:

> >> Trapped in a One Room Dilly was OK.
> >
> > Even though this was a one-room game, it definitely took me more than two
> > hours to solve. I just kept fiddling and fiddling with the...er...red
> > herrings. Overall I liked the game, but was rather disappointed at the lack
> > of any sort of payoff at the end. In fact, the end came quite suddenly,
> > before I was consciously aware of solving a final puzzle.
>
> My memory of Dilly isn't crystal-clear, but isn't the final puzzle
> climbing out through the ceiling of the room? As in, escaping the
> room? That seems like a good enough ending.
>
> Since it is a one-room game, if you escape, the game has to end
> there, before you see what's outside. It's beyond the realm of
> the construct.

I guess my point is that from the beginning you *knew* you were supposed to
escape. So just saying, "You escape into the light" (or whatever the ending
message was) didn't provide me with anything I didn't already know.

I consider myself a pretty hardcore puzzlist, in that I enjoy solving puzzles for
their own sake (I *love* the black-box puzzle in The Magic Toyshop and one day, I
vow, I shall solve it). But I still find it really nice to get some other
positive reinforcement for solving puzzles...be it advancement of the story,
access to new unexplored areas, witty comments, whatever. The ending, especially,
should be rather satisfying. And I suspect this is even more true of people who
don't see solving puzzles as its own reward.

Hmm, now that I've mentioned The Magic Toyshop, oddly enough I have a completely
different reaction for that game. I don't expect to receive any sort of payoff
for solving it, and I don't think it will bother me. Why is this? It may be that
to me, the puzzles in The Magic Toyshop are inherently more fun to solve in and of
themselves. In addition, Dilly had sort of an implied mystery which remained
unresolved.

Comments?

> Again, my memory isn't the best here, but wasn't there a shelf full
> of books in the room, and if you read them (repeatedly) you were
> presented with a full range of possible explanations for how you
> ended up in the room? One of them involved being a test subject for
> a group of hyper-intelligent aliens, I think.

Yes, I really liked this feature. Funny, and it helped me pass the time while I
was banging my head (not literally) on the slot machine. There were some other
nice touches, like the paintings (for the longest time I had this theory that you
could do something with the paintings which would change the window to reflect the
painting) and the alternate solution to the dart board.

It's possible it would have been a nice reward for solving the game (so you can
only read the books after escaping, perhaps), but even that wouldn't feel like an
ending to me.

> > Any thoughts on the importance of endings in IF?
>
> My own opinion is that, especially in IF with narrative, the ending
> should be well-planned with a build-up, climax, and clear finale.
> Presumably well-crafted endings are of the same importance to IF as
> to anything else designed to engage our attention and imagination.
> It is, however, possible for the author to subvert these ideas, or
> play them out subtly, or backwards, or in any number of variations.
>
> All in all, the ending should suit the piece, and it should signal
> us that we are at the end.

Endings don't have to take a traditional form to be satisfying. In fact, the
possible endings I mentioned previously can all be considered non-endings too, but
somehow they seem more satisfying to me. Perhaps because they seem to explain
*something*. And I firmly believe endings should be satisfying, not designed to
infuriate the audience like the subject of my rant below.

I believe carefully crafting endings are more important to longer works of IF. I
wonder how much reactions to endings vary from person to person. I've played two
full-sized games since rediscovering IF a few months ago: Christminster and
Anchorhead. Anchorhead had a fine ending. With Christminster, I wish there was
more of a denouement, more of an explanation, but thought the ending was
serviceable. Wonder what other people think?

I'll end this over-long post with an over-long rant about a horrible ending to a
book I read a few years ago. Please skip unless you enjoy reading rants.

The novel Smilla's Sense of Snow has the best example of a horrible ending I can
think of. While I was reading I thought it was first-rate: gripping,
intelligent, wonderfully plotted and paced, full of intriguing characters, and
arching over everything--more and more hints of a larger conspiracy, coverup,
alien crash in an arctic wasteland, secret identities, betrayals. Wow, I thought
to myself while reading, what an amazing story. I couldn't put it down.

Anyway, the ending: Smilla has stowed away on a ship bound for the alien crash
site. On board are the mysterious main bad guy and the equally mysterious good
guy who she's found out has lied to her from the beginning. She continues
uncovering clues as she tries to avoid detection. Tension mounts. Finally, they
reach shore and there's a race through the snow to the crash site. They reach the
site, there's a confrontation--and that's it.

Smilla starts walking back to the ship, and novel ends with something like,
"Sometimes stories have no endings." Nothing at all is explained. Nothing about
the mysterious conspiracies, nothing about the charcters' identities and
motivations, nothing. I decided I hated the novel. What had seemed to be
masterful weaving of plot elements now seems like just a cheap trick to get the
reader to keep reading.

A friend of mine had another great example of a terrible ending, but I'll save
that for another time.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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May 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/14/00
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"Charybdis" <char...@floor-13.co.uk> wrote:

> > "Photopia" took me about 20 minutes. I suppose that's three or four
> > times the length of "Pass The Banana", but it's still pretty short. I
> > think the *very* short games tend to be gags.
>

> Trapped in a One Room Dilly was OK.

Don't forget FreeFall...


--

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

okbl...@my-deja.com

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May 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/16/00
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In article <391e170e...@news.bright.net>,
jon...@bright.net (Jonadab the Unsightly One) wrote:
>
> Don't forget FreeFall...

I still haven't solved FreeFall. And I've played for *days*.

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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May 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM5/18/00
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okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:

> > Don't forget FreeFall...
>
> I still haven't solved FreeFall. And I've played for *days*.

Hmmm... I figured it was just me. The thing that's really
keeping me from solving it, though, is probably the lack of
a save game feature. I'm running Windows here, and every
day or so I have to reboot or my system becomes unstable.
So the save game feature is really important for games that
just can't be solved in one sitting.

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