Lack of interest in puzzle games?

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Chad Schultz

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Jan 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/20/00
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Now, ever since the 80s it seems that people want "puzzleless IF". No "real"
mazes. No way to get blocked off from victory. But why?

Recently, Stephen Granade has written an excellent article
(interactfiction.about.com) on taking notes when playing. I only do this
very rarely, but I agree. I _like_ playing a game, getting drawn into it,
even mapping mazes! Just as an example, _Deephome_ contains a _maze_. A
real, honest-to-goodness "the only way out of here is to drop objects and
map it" maze. Nevertheless, I continued and even starting writing a map of
the maze! (Don't ask for it. Even if it's still on my computer and would
mean anything to anyone else, I probably wouldn't hand it out.) Boy, I
enjoyed it when I finally finished it.

My question is this: would people be more likely to take notes and use less
hints, walkthroughs, and other spoilers (and would it be more convenient),
if the maps and notes were in the saved game file? Granted, this would take
a lot of hacking, but it might be worth it.

While I'm at it, what do other people think of the idea of not letting a
player zip through hints? These should be context-sensitive to make sure you
don't prevent him from waiting to reach solutions for puzzles he's already
solved, but how about, say, not letting the player view the next hint until
after so many turns have passed. This wouldn't work everywhere (such as in
time puzzles), and the player could just type ">Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.Z.",
but I know I'd use it instead of straight hints or setting the hints "off"
so I have to go through the whole game again before I can view a hint!

Chad Schultz (chads...@hotmail.com)
thazz.tripod.com
You are in a maze of twisted ideas, all different.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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In article <3887b...@speedtrap.i2k.com>,

"Chad Schultz" <chads...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Now, ever since the 80s it seems that people want "puzzleless IF". No
"real"
> mazes. No way to get blocked off from victory. But why?

Frustration is not something many people consciously pick as a pastime.

That, and it tends to dampen the emotional impact unless done just so.

> Recently, Stephen Granade has written an excellent article
> (interactfiction.about.com) on taking notes when playing. I only do
this
> very rarely, but I agree. I _like_ playing a game, getting drawn into
it,
> even mapping mazes!

That has its place. But it's a different beast from being enveloped in
a story. Mapping a maze is an intellectual effort--a potentially
tedious one at that.
--
[ok]


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

Peter Smith

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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Chad Schultz wrote

> Now, ever since the 80s it seems that people want "puzzleless IF". No
"real"
> mazes. No way to get blocked off from victory. But why?
>

There may be more of "puzzleless IF" but different people like widely
different things about Adventure games. Some still like their brain
crunching problems which require working out on paper. Some doubtless enjoy
the challenge of finding themselves down dead ends and having to retrace
their steps. Some like the setting for the puzzles as much as the puzzles
themselves. What the right balance is between puzzle and story depends on
the player.

> My question is this: would people be more likely to take notes and use
less
> hints, walkthroughs, and other spoilers (and would it be more convenient),
> if the maps and notes were in the saved game file? Granted, this would
take
> a lot of hacking, but it might be worth it.
>

Automated mapping would be nice, my maps end up as multi-page spaghetti.

This may be heresy but I wouldn't mind being able to type "Go to library"
instead of "N then SW then NE then W ...".

Peter Smith.


Jon Ingold

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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I think the problem is that, from the authors point of view, there's nothing
very *special* about writing a puzzle game. You think of some problems
involving fiddly objects, or mazes, or bits of machinery, and know that
people will play the game and think "derivative". The only way these days to
make a game which stands out a little is to give it a prominent
story/twist/character or somesuch, and none of these will be puzzle related
at all, or at least, not very. Personally, I never enjoyed mazes that often
but every now and then it was fun - (There's a great one in Ballerina which
doesn't allow you to drop objects, so I had enormous fun mapping it by
identifying each room solely by its exits. I also mapped the Leather
Goddesses of Phobos maze like that, which will teach me for getting a
pirated copy of the game.. five years on I now own the thing and am quite
chuffed with managing it.)

I'm a bit puzzled though by the question of playability. After all, IF
produces *games* except in very, very rare cases (I haven't played Photopia
but people say it's Good with a capital G, so maybe that's a "work" not a
"game"), and they need to be fun. But the coding problem authors talk about
most is NPC's, and maybe it's just me, but I HATE Npc's in games. Invariably
you need to end up giving them a random object for no reason, or taking an
insane line of questioning, or being in just the right place at just the
right time as they wander around (eg. Suspect & Deadline). They're not
*fair* puzzle devices, they're frustrating, and they're not satisfying when
you finally get whatever it was you needed from them. Unless they're done
extremely well, or contain no challenges to overcome - that is, they are
purely sources of background/help/atmosphere etc in which case none of the
above complaints apply - they tend to be just infuriating, and not
entertaining. There's only so many times you can read a witty KISS CHAPLAIN
response until it tires.

So everyone's trying to write *good* *emotional* *character-driven*
*stories* and not games, and puzzles have little or no place in them. (I got
a real shock when playing Worlds' Apart when I was suddenly hit by a puzzle,
and it took me a while to realise I was going to have to *think*; which is a
compliment to the atmosphere and writing of the game). And similarly, puzzle
games that are written are often dismissed because they end up being far too
random, far too irritating, or far too unrewarding (it takes a very good
puzzle to leave you with a high from cracking it).

I always thought the best balance was story and puzzles, the best example
that comes to mind being "So Far", a game flawed only by being too short. :)

Jon

David Picton

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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In article <3887b...@speedtrap.i2k.com>,

"Chad Schultz" <chads...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Now, ever since the 80s it seems that people want "puzzleless IF". No
"real"
> mazes. No way to get blocked off from victory. But why?

I think that people don't necessary want IF to be puzzleless, but they
have grown tired of puzzles and game features which are unnecessarily
tedious. I would certainly put large mazes in this category, except
where the game provides a convenient way to find the right route. The
novelty of mapping mazes wore off a long time ago! I also find it
frustrating to discover around turn 4000 that my progress is blocked,
because of something I failed to do around turn 250.

> My question is this: would people be more likely to take notes and use
less
> hints, walkthroughs, and other spoilers (and would it be more
convenient),
> if the maps and notes were in the saved game file? Granted, this would
take
> a lot of hacking, but it might be worth it.

I think this is a good idea, but it would need a lot of work. Evin
Robertson is implementing an automapping facility in his excellent
NITFOL interpreter, but he's found it quite difficult to make it
work in all cases! I suspect that it will never be able to cope with
the most complex cases (e.g. the vending machine maze in Adventure).

>
> While I'm at it, what do other people think of the idea of not letting
a
> player zip through hints? These should be context-sensitive to make
sure you
> don't prevent him from waiting to reach solutions for puzzles he's
already
> solved, but how about, say, not letting the player view the next hint
until
> after so many turns have passed.

Personally, I feel that's a bad idea. You'd just annoy the player to
no good effect! However, I do believe that the availability of hints
should be carefully controlled; it is perfectly reasonable to withhold
(say) the last 4 hints on a topic until the player has carried out
a certain action.

> Chad Schultz (chads...@hotmail.com)
> thazz.tripod.com
> You are in a maze of twisted ideas, all different.

--
David Picton, University of Birmingham, England
pict...@my-deja.com, da...@aps5.ph.bham.ac.uk

ical...@my-deja.com

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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In article <869fl9$p4o$1...@soap.pipex.net>,

"Peter Smith" <peter...@smallworld.co.uk> wrote:
>
> This may be heresy but I wouldn't mind being able to type "Go to
> library" instead of "N then SW then NE then W ...".

My soon-to-be-released game will have this feature available for
players who hate to map (I'm one of them). Each time the player
enters GO TO LIBRARY, the player character is moved one location
closer to the library. So, for example, you can do this:

>GO TO LIBRARY
You head for the public library.

>AGAIN
You make your way toward the public library.

>AGAIN
You arrive at the public library.

You can change your mind at any time and GO <somewhere else>. And,
since the PC is not moved directly to the final location, you're
less likely (I hope) to miss anything exciting along the way.

Thanks to Kathleen Fischer for the original idea and code examples.
I think it's a nice compromise between the retrace-your-steps vs
transport-magically-to-a-new-location methods.

irene

Nicholas Shore

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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.
>
> This may be heresy but I wouldn't mind being able to type "Go to library"
> instead of "N then SW then NE then W ...".
>
> Peter Smith.
>
An ally, an ally!!!
(This seems to be a controversial subject. Read the contributions towards
Location Management/Revisiting Locations above.)

Nicholas Shore

Nick Montfort

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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In article <3887b...@speedtrap.i2k.com>, "Chad
Schultz" <chads...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> Now, ever since the 80s it seems that people want "puzzleless IF". No
> "real" mazes. No way to get blocked off from victory. But why?

It's possible to have puzzle-driven IF without mazes - e.g. Deadline -
and puzzle-driven IF in which one can't "die" or otherwise get blocked
off from victory - e.g. Myst. So these are separate issues: have
puzzles? have mazes? allow the player to render the game unwinnable?

My problem with puzzles is that I see a tension between a mode of
literary thinking - in which consideration of the writing and
interaction leads the reader to link the "text world" with the world in
which he or she lives - and a mode of puzzle-solving thinking - in
which the "text world" is like an engine that needs to be taken apart
and rebuilt. The parts all relate to each other in some intricate and
challenging way, but in considering this in puzzle-solving detail it's
easy to lose sight of the bigger questions that the work is trying to
pose. And I think any good collection of words, interactive or
otherwise, should provoke the reader to think about the world in a way
that is somehow fresh and new.

The tension between puzzle-solving and deep reading suggests to some
authors that they should look for alternatives to puzzles, or at least
look at ways to play down puzzles and otherwise engage the interactor.

If literary pleasures aren't what draws you to IF - maybe it's more
along the lines of mathematical challenge - of course you wouldn't
share this opinion or be bothered by the prominent role of puzzles. But
people have different goals, and that's why puzzlecraft is not being
pursued by everyone.

> My question is this: would people be more likely to take notes and
> use less hints, walkthroughs, and other spoilers (and would it be
> more convenient), if the maps and notes were in the saved game file?

This would tend to make mapping and note-taking less convenient rather
than more, I think. Just being in the save game file doesn't mean that
it's as easy to use as pencil and paper. The only way this would be a
real boon, in my opinion, is if the map is fully integrated into the
game a la Beyond Zork. Even better, from my standpoint, is to make
mapping unnecessary by providing a large, rich environment that the
interactor can navigate without notes or a scribbled-out map.

> While I'm at it, what do other people think of the idea of not
> letting a player zip through hints?

Methods of slowing down hint revelation have been in development since
InvisiClues. Ultimately, though, you can always grab a walkthrough.

-Nick M.

Nicholas Shore

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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> I'm a bit puzzled though by the question of playability. After all, IF
> produces *games* except in very, very rare cases (I haven't played
Photopia
> but people say it's Good with a capital G, so maybe that's a "work" not a
> "game"), and they need to be fun. But the coding problem authors talk
about
> most is NPC's, and maybe it's just me, but I HATE Npc's in games.
Invariably
> you need to end up giving them a random object for no reason, or taking an
> insane line of questioning, or being in just the right place at just the
> right time as they wander around (eg. Suspect & Deadline). They're not
> *fair* puzzle devices, they're frustrating, and they're not satisfying
when
> you finally get whatever it was you needed from them. Unless they're done
> extremely well, or contain no challenges to overcome - that is, they are
> purely sources of background/help/atmosphere etc in which case none of the
> above complaints apply - they tend to be just infuriating, and not
> entertaining. There's only so many times you can read a witty KISS
CHAPLAIN
> response until it tires.
It all depends on the quality of the game. If the author makes the NPC's
stupid, or rather, if he doesn't put an awful lot of thought into them,
they're bound to be frustrating. Small wonder all 'normal' computer games
usually limit interaction with NPC's to fixed dialogue or multiple choice. I
must say, although it's dissapointing in some way, I don't really think

that's a bad idea.

>


> So everyone's trying to write *good* *emotional* *character-driven*
> *stories* and not games, and puzzles have little or no place in them. (I
got
> a real shock when playing Worlds' Apart when I was suddenly hit by a
puzzle,
> and it took me a while to realise I was going to have to *think*; which is
a
> compliment to the atmosphere and writing of the game). And similarly,
puzzle
> games that are written are often dismissed because they end up being far
too
> random, far too irritating, or far too unrewarding (it takes a very good
> puzzle to leave you with a high from cracking it).

The problem is you actually need two people to write a good story with good
puzzles: one storyteller and one puzzle designer. Otherwise it's often the
case that either the puzzles feel out of place (like in Words Apart, which I
like very much) or the story is kind of cranked around the puzzles, the
result is what you say, that the puzzles don't feel satisfactory either. It
might sound polemic, but how about combining a good story and 'The
Incredible Machine'?

> Jon
>
>
Nicholas Shore

Lucian Paul Smith

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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David Picton (pict...@my-deja.com) wrote:
: In article <3887b...@speedtrap.i2k.com>,
: "Chad Schultz" <chads...@hotmail.com> wrote:

:>While I'm at it, what do other people think of the idea of not letting a
:>player zip through hints? These should be context-sensitive to make sure you


:>don't prevent him from waiting to reach solutions for puzzles he's already
:>solved, but how about, say, not letting the player view the next hint until
:>after so many turns have passed.

: Personally, I feel that's a bad idea. You'd just annoy the player to


: no good effect! However, I do believe that the availability of hints
: should be carefully controlled; it is perfectly reasonable to withhold
: (say) the last 4 hints on a topic until the player has carried out
: a certain action.

Well, this is exactly what I did with 'Edifice'. I also toyed with the
idea of waiting until a certain amount of real time had passed before
revealing the next hint, but decided it was beyond my coding skilz at the
time. Nobody seemed to complain,... but I also included a walkthrough,
so. Also, some people *did* complain when the hints didn't track their
progress tightly enough (a problem I tried to fix in release 2). Nobody's
complained since then, but of course, it could just be that nobody's
bothered telling me it was annoying.

So, I think if you want to do it this way, it can work, as long as you
*closely* track the player's progress in the game. This can be tricky--I
had, for example, more than one way to start a fire and forgot to connect
up the hints to one of those ways.

-Lucian

Adam J. Thornton

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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In article <869shj$349$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

David Picton <pict...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>I think that people don't necessary want IF to be puzzleless, but they
>have grown tired of puzzles and game features which are unnecessarily
>tedious. I would certainly put large mazes in this category, except
>where the game provides a convenient way to find the right route. The
>novelty of mapping mazes wore off a long time ago! I also find it
>frustrating to discover around turn 4000 that my progress is blocked,
>because of something I failed to do around turn 250.

I'm playing Planescape:Torment right now. I would argue that it certainly
*is* IF, but that's not important to this discussion. What is important is
that it really pisses me off that the game lacks any quick mode of
transportation. I'm having to do a lot of back-and-forth to satisfy
various people

***AHEM*** Well, *THAT* didn't come out right. Let's try again, shall we?

I'm having to run all over the map, getting the Mystical Foo of Baz from
Florble and giving it to Izzy in return for the Mogelschnitzer which you
need to deliver back to Florble. And each time, it's a couple minutes,
realtime, of transiting the map.

And that annoys me.

Adam

--
ad...@princeton.edu
"My eyes say their prayers to her / Sailors ring her bell / Like a moth
mistakes a light bulb / For the moon and goes to hell." -- Tom Waits

Joe Mason

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote:
>I'm having to run all over the map, getting the Mystical Foo of Baz from
>Florble and giving it to Izzy in return for the Mogelschnitzer which you
>need to deliver back to Florble. And each time, it's a couple minutes,
>realtime, of transiting the map.
>
>And that annoys me.

I found that a little annoying, too. It gets slightly better after the "Alley
of Lingering Sighs", when the map suddenly becomes non-continuous for no
adequately explained reason. Well, there's a reason, and it's explained, but
its not adequate. But you still have to walk to the edge of each scene before
you can pick the next location to go to (the difference is, insteading of
walking through four scenes, you can now jump to any scene you've visited
after leaving your current location.) I think the designers were trying to
show that you've now gained enough knowledge of the city to navigate easily,
and I guess it works for the most part.

Joe

Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
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Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote:
>
> [Planescape Torment]

> I'm having to run all over the map, getting the Mystical Foo of Baz from
> Florble and giving it to Izzy in return for the Mogelschnitzer which you
> need to deliver back to Florble. And each time, it's a couple minutes,
> realtime, of transiting the map.
>
> And that annoys me.

Sure.

I have long theorized that the biggest difference in game balance between
graphical and text adventures is that a text adventure can respond as fast
as you type, but graphical games constantly throw disk delays at you.
Replaying pieces of a graphical adventure is really boring.

(Replaying pieces of a text game is boring too, but at least there's no
*waiting* involved. And almost everybody can get into the habit of "E
<return> NE <return> S <return>", and so on, for commonly-used movement
sequences -- completely ignoring the text that spews by.)

(No waiting, I should say, on modern desktop machines. Matters were
different on original Apple 2 interpreters, and are still different on
Palmpilots, etc.)

--Z

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

Dan Shiovitz

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
to
In article <3887b...@speedtrap.i2k.com>,
Chad Schultz <chads...@hotmail.com> wrote:
[..]

>Recently, Stephen Granade has written an excellent article
>(interactfiction.about.com) on taking notes when playing. I only do this
>very rarely, but I agree. I _like_ playing a game, getting drawn into it,
>even mapping mazes! Just as an example, _Deephome_ contains a _maze_. A
>real, honest-to-goodness "the only way out of here is to drop objects and
>map it" maze. Nevertheless, I continued and even starting writing a map of

Actually, the maze in Deephome has its solution nearby:

Written nearby, in fact.

Look at the sign again.

Take the capital letters from the poem. There's one letter in there
that's capitalized but shouldn't be, which screws things up. I think
it's an S on like the sixth line in the middle. But if you ignore that
it works.

>Chad Schultz (chads...@hotmail.com)
--
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW

Jon Ingold

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Jan 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/22/00
to
>The problem is you actually need two people to write a good story with good
>puzzles: one storyteller and one puzzle designer.

..or just someone talented.. :)

> Otherwise it's often the
>case that either the puzzles feel out of place (like in Words Apart, which
I
>like very much) or the story is kind of cranked around the puzzles, the
>result is what you say, that the puzzles don't feel satisfactory either. It
>might sound polemic, but how about combining a good story and 'The
>Incredible Machine'?


Precisely. But in most story games I've played to date the puzzles are an
afterthought and ruin the enjoyment. And similar for most puzzle games, the
story - however promising - never really kicks in. Personally I think this
is a far more important design issue than the realistic NPC's and the GO TO
LIBRARY problems of this world..

Jon

ical...@my-deja.com

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Jan 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/22/00
to
In article <86c84b$ooe$1...@pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk>,

"Jon Ingold" <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> But in most story games I've played to date the puzzles are an
> afterthought and ruin the enjoyment. And similar for most puzzle
> games, the story - however promising - never really kicks in.
> Personally I think this is a far more important design issue than
> the realistic NPC's and the GO TO LIBRARY problems of this world..

Except that the ability to "tell a good story" isn't really an i-f
design issue as much as it is...something else. I can solve the GO
TO LIBRARY problem once and for all by providing specific code. I
can make NPCs seem more realistic by providing code as well. But I
CAN'T solve a person's inability to tell a good story by providing
code. Solving the mysteries of realistic NPCs and location-to-location
movement will allow people who do know how to tell a good story to
implement that story well, without cardboard NPCs and clunky movement
getting in the way.

I'm not sure that anyone can solve the problem of telling a good
story in i-f without coming up with some kind of "formula." And
formulas are, to me, the kiss of death in story telling.

irene

Jon Ingold

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Jan 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/22/00
to
>Except that the ability to "tell a good story" isn't really an i-f
>design issue as much as it is...something else. I can solve the GO
>TO LIBRARY problem once and for all by providing specific code. I
>can make NPCs seem more realistic by providing code as well. But I
>CAN'T solve a person's inability to tell a good story by providing
>code. Solving the mysteries of realistic NPCs and location-to-location
>movement will allow people who do know how to tell a good story to
>implement that story well, without cardboard NPCs and clunky movement
>getting in the way.
>
>I'm not sure that anyone can solve the problem of telling a good
>story in i-f without coming up with some kind of "formula." And
>formulas are, to me, the kiss of death in story telling.


By 'design issue' I mean "thing to think really hard about when writing"
rather than "problem with specific solution or formula".

No-one can classify how to tell a good story. It's just a shame so many of
the games produced these days don't even seem to *try*.

Jon

(Alright, maybe that's a bit harsh).

ical...@my-deja.com

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Jan 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/22/00
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In article <86d1g7$hm5$1...@pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk>,
"Jon Ingold" <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> By 'design issue' I mean "thing to think really hard about when
> writing" rather than "problem with specific solution or formula".

Oh, ok, I misunderstood you. I wonder what proportion of coders
to writers make up the group of people who create i-f? I know we
have several very talented writers in this group, and they produce
consistently high-quality i-f. I would guess we have many more
people who approach i-f from the programming POV, who probably
have very little training or experience in story-telling. Seems
to me that the story-telling aspect is more difficult to get
right than the programming aspect. You can (almost) always tell
when you haven't programmed something correctly because it
causes errors or odd behavior, but it's much more difficult to
tell when you haven't told your story well.

> No-one can classify how to tell a good story. It's just a shame so
> many of the games produced these days don't even seem to *try*.

I would give almost anything to be able to tell a story well, but
I'm not quite sure how to develop that ability. Sure, I've read
everything I can get my hands on and I've gone to classes and I'm
reasonably competent with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but
I'm completely at sea when it comes to putting it all together
into a compelling, coherent story. I know good writing when I see
it in other people's work, but that doesn't seem to help me when
I try to do it myself. <sigh>

Eric Mayer

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Jan 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/22/00
to
On Sat, 22 Jan 2000 22:35:20 GMT, ical...@my-deja.com wrote:
> Seems
>to me that the story-telling aspect is more difficult to get
>right than the programming aspect.

As a long time writer myself, I suspect you're saying that because
you know more about programming! Having experimented a little with IF
programming in the past few months I guarantee even programming IF
difficult enough for me that I have no chance of every learning any
appreciable amount.

>You can (almost) always tell
>when you haven't programmed something correctly because it
>causes errors or odd behavior, but it's much more difficult to
>tell when you haven't told your story well.
>

I think this is exactly true. What I really loved when I started
playing around with Alan was that, so far as the programming went, it
pretty much worked or it didn't. Unlike story quality it wasn't always
a matter of someone's opinion. (Especially an editor's opinion for
example) So I guess I have ended up, so far, concentrating on having
fun getting simple little bits of coding right than on telling
stories.

But telling a story in IF is I would say quite a bit different than
telling a story in regular fiction. I really don't think anyone (like
me for example) is going to be an outstanding writer of IF without
being an outstanding programmer of IF any more than a novelist could
be outstanding without having a firm grasp of how to use the language.
I quite enjoying messing about with IF but the good stuff is going to
originate with those who have control of their programming tools as
well as their writing tools.

>
>I would give almost anything to be able to tell a story well, but
>I'm not quite sure how to develop that ability. Sure, I've read
>everything I can get my hands on and I've gone to classes and I'm
>reasonably competent with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but
>I'm completely at sea when it comes to putting it all together
>into a compelling, coherent story. I know good writing when I see
>it in other people's work, but that doesn't seem to help me when
>I try to do it myself. <sigh>


After more years of trying than I care to mention I seem finally to
have begun, in my regular writing, to grasp just a little of how to
tell a story - or so I've been told occassionally by editors which
never happened in the past. And the only tip I can offer is that often
the problem is trying too hard -- particularly trying to hard to
"write" rather than just using words to tell the story you have in
mind.
--
Eric Mayer
Web Site: <http://home.epix.net/~maywrite>

"The map is not the territory." -- Alfred Korzybski

ical...@my-deja.com

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
In article <3889f641...@newsserver.epix.net>,

emay...@epix.net (Eric Mayer) wrote:
> On Sat, 22 Jan 2000 22:35:20 GMT, ical...@my-deja.com wrote:
> > Seems to me that the story-telling aspect is more difficult to get
> > right than the programming aspect.
>
> As a long time writer myself, I suspect you're saying that because
> you know more about programming!

Maybe, although I got into programming in the first place because I
was fascinated by the idea of using a language to communicate with
machines. I wanted to see if it was similar to using language to
communicate with people. :)

> But telling a story in IF is I would say quite a bit different than
> telling a story in regular fiction. I really don't think anyone (like
> me for example) is going to be an outstanding writer of IF without
> being an outstanding programmer of IF any more than a novelist could
> be outstanding without having a firm grasp of how to use the language.
> I quite enjoying messing about with IF but the good stuff is going to
> originate with those who have control of their programming tools as
> well as their writing tools.

True, but at least with the programming part, once I've got it
right I don't have to start from scratch again and again. If
I've coded a chair once, I can pretty much use that chair code
whenever and wherever I want. And if a particular programming
task is beyond my abilities, I can always "borrow" someone else's
code. If I did that with the writing part, I'd be branded (and
rightly so) as a plagiarist.

> After more years of trying than I care to mention I seem finally to
> have begun, in my regular writing, to grasp just a little of how to
> tell a story - or so I've been told occassionally by editors which
> never happened in the past. And the only tip I can offer is that often
> the problem is trying too hard -- particularly trying to hard to
> "write" rather than just using words to tell the story you have in
> mind.

That seems like very good advice. But I imagine it takes a little
more effort than simply writing down everything that pops into one's
head and hoping it comes out right. (By the way, are you working on
another book? I enjoyed One For Sorrow.)

Eric Mayer

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
On Sun, 23 Jan 2000 01:56:44 GMT, ical...@my-deja.com wrote:


>
>True, but at least with the programming part, once I've got it
>right I don't have to start from scratch again and again. If
>I've coded a chair once, I can pretty much use that chair code
>whenever and wherever I want. And if a particular programming
>task is beyond my abilities, I can always "borrow" someone else's
>code. If I did that with the writing part, I'd be branded (and
>rightly so) as a plagiarist.
>

Indeed, but I have been a little reluctant to "borrow" even though I
know that is the sensible way. Maybe it is my past conditioning with
regular fiction but partly it is because I keep wanting to figure it
out like a puzzle. Come to think about it, I guess the "tools" I
should be learning to use to produce IF include available coding.

>
>That seems like very good advice. But I imagine it takes a little
>more effort than simply writing down everything that pops into one's
>head and hoping it comes out right.

My experience has been that it takes some technique but less than I
would have thought years ago. I'm not sure how to express it -- I got
into a state of mind where I figured wriitng was so hard it had to
feel hard. It had to be real work. But in fact, I finally found that
except for the occassional knotty problem if it felt that hard when I
was writing - if it wasn't fun - then I was overwriting.


>(By the way, are you working on
>another book? I enjoyed One For Sorrow.)
>


Whoaaa!!! I am always brought up short when someone announces they've
actually bought the book and read it. It is still a shock to the
system. I'm really glad you liked it, not to say relieved. (I hope we
can get someone to do a paperback which is more in my price range)
Yes, we are about 2/3 of the way through TWO FOR JOY out in October.

Magnus Lindström

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Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to

Eric Mayer <emay...@epix.net> skrev i
diskussionsgruppsmeddelandet:388abfd6...@newsserver.epix.net...

> On Sun, 23 Jan 2000 01:56:44 GMT, ical...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
>
> >
> >True, but at least with the programming part, once I've got it
> >right I don't have to start from scratch again and again. If
> >I've coded a chair once, I can pretty much use that chair code
> >whenever and wherever I want. And if a particular programming
> >task is beyond my abilities, I can always "borrow" someone else's
> >code. If I did that with the writing part, I'd be branded (and
> >rightly so) as a plagiarist.
> >
>
> Indeed, but I have been a little reluctant to "borrow" even though I
> know that is the sensible way. Maybe it is my past conditioning with
> regular fiction but partly it is because I keep wanting to figure it
> out like a puzzle. Come to think about it, I guess the "tools" I
> should be learning to use to produce IF include available coding.

Generally the best way to learn and improve your programming skills is to
get a working piece of code, then trying to understand it. Often changing
small things and then observing how the changes altered the final result is
a great boost towards enlightment. This is the way i mostly do it and it
works great for me.
Borrowing without trying to understand doesn't lead anywhere but often
introduces bugs which may be hard to find.

There is actually a possibility to copyright computer algorithms (not the
code itself but how the code works) if you can prove it isn't general
knowledge. I know the encoding of gif images is copyrighted and therefor
illegal to have support for in a commercial program without license.

/Magnus

Matthew T. Russotto

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
In article <388b...@news.mdh.se>,

Magnus Lindström <stray...@mds.mdh.se> wrote:
}
}
}There is actually a possibility to copyright computer algorithms (not the
}code itself but how the code works) if you can prove it isn't general
}knowledge. I know the encoding of gif images is copyrighted and therefor
}illegal to have support for in a commercial program without license.

Algorithms cannot be copyrighted. The LZW compression in GIF is patented,
which is what makes it illegal to have GIF support in any program (not
just commercial ones) without a license. Though as the
comp.compression FAQ points out, LZW has in fact been patented twice,
which ain't supposed to happen...

Software patents generally suck. Even when the subject may be considered
reasonable, they claims they make are overbroad; Public Key Partners
claims to have a lock on the use of exponentiation in a finite
field in any public key encryption scheme, for example.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Magnus Lindström

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
> Algorithms cannot be copyrighted. The LZW compression in GIF is patented,
> which is what makes it illegal to have GIF support in any program (not
> just commercial ones) without a license. Though as the
> comp.compression FAQ points out, LZW has in fact been patented twice,
> which ain't supposed to happen...
>
> Software patents generally suck. Even when the subject may be considered
> reasonable, they claims they make are overbroad; Public Key Partners
> claims to have a lock on the use of exponentiation in a finite
> field in any public key encryption scheme, for example.

Ah.. My mistake... Greed is a strong force for many people

/Magnus

ical...@my-deja.com

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
In article <388abfd6...@newsserver.epix.net>,
emay...@epix.net (Eric Mayer) wrote:

> >(By the way, are you working on
> >another book? I enjoyed One For Sorrow.)
> >
>
> Whoaaa!!! I am always brought up short when someone announces they've
> actually bought the book and read it. It is still a shock to the
> system. I'm really glad you liked it, not to say relieved. (I hope we
> can get someone to do a paperback which is more in my price range)
> Yes, we are about 2/3 of the way through TWO FOR JOY out in October.

I look forward to it. I see you've left yourself plenty of room by
using numbers in the titles. Not like Sue Grafton, who will run out
of letters pretty soon! ;)

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
Jon Ingold <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> No-one can classify how to tell a good story. It's just a shame so many of
> the games produced these days don't even seem to *try*.
>
> (Alright, maybe that's a bit harsh).

I look at the most recent IF Competition, and I think that's *extremely*
harsh. The vast majority of entries tried to tell a good story.

Volker Lanz

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
> > No-one can classify how to tell a good story. It's just a shame so many of
> > the games produced these days don't even seem to *try*.
> >
> > (Alright, maybe that's a bit harsh).
>
> I look at the most recent IF Competition, and I think that's *extremely*
> harsh. The vast majority of entries tried to tell a good story.

My impression is just the opposite. Most games seem to tell good stories, but
the coding is often flawed. Good coding is an art in itself -- and I'm not only
talking about the compiled games but also about the source code. I'd bet that up
to half of the bugs that players encounter in current I-F releases wouldn't be
there if the authors were in the habit of coding a bit "cleaner".

-- v


IF

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to

Eric Mayer wrote:

>
>
> But telling a story in IF is I would say quite a bit different than
> telling a story in regular fiction. I really don't think anyone (like
> me for example) is going to be an outstanding writer of IF without
> being an outstanding programmer of IF any more than a novelist could
> be outstanding without having a firm grasp of how to use the language.
> I quite enjoying messing about with IF but the good stuff is going to
> originate with those who have control of their programming tools as
> well as their writing tools.
>

I have to disagree here. While I doubt the word "outstanding"
applies, I like to think of myself as a decent IF writer and I assure you
my grasp of programming is slim to none. After three years I still am
wary of including daemons in my programming. I've just found unorthodox
and inelegant means of getting it to do what I want, rather than actually
UNDERSTANDING the subtler points (or even many non-subtle points) of the
system.

Ian Finley


kar...@fermi2.chem.yale.edu

unread,
Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
Eric Mayer <emay...@epix.net> wrote:
> On Sun, 23 Jan 2000 01:56:44 GMT, ical...@my-deja.com wrote:


> Indeed, but I have been a little reluctant to "borrow" even though I
> know that is the sensible way.

> Come to think about it, I guess the "tools" I


> should be learning to use to produce IF include available coding.

Speaking as one who's a serious programming geek but can't write for
[insert meaningful noun here], using available coding, otherwise known as
"stealing", is one of the most important tools a programmer can use. The
guy who invented the programming language Perl says that one of three great
virtues of the programmer is Laziness. (The others are impatience and
hubris.)

If you think about it, what are computers good at? Doing the same thing
over and over again. Programmers quickly learned that the hard part was
doing something the first time. After that, the computer does all the work.
So if you've done something once, you should never have to do it again.
(Hence macros, subroutines, and Cut & Paste.)

From there, it's only a very short distance to saying that once someone
*else* has done something, you should never have to do it again. Of course,
the real world butts in with ugly issues like patents, copyrights,
and intellectual property. These are things that have to be dealt with, and
there's something to be said for not giving the product of your labors to
your business competitor. On the other hand, if you're talking about free
games that people are writing for fun, where it's to all of our benefit for
more people to be able to write them more easily, and we know that almost
noone is going to make bundles of money out of this, it makes a lot of
sense.

Oops. I seem to have accidentally moved from good programming ideas to a
rambling ode to free software. What my point was supposed to be was that
there are many many examples of IF code out there that you can steal from.
(Two f'r instances: the directory of game source code, and the TADS
(and other?) example code directory on GMD.) Of course if you steal them
without changing them, the resulting game will be, shall we say,
"derivative". But if you steal the programming ideas behind them, and use
them in new and (literarily) interesting ways, I think everyone benefits.

> Maybe it is my past conditioning with regular fiction but partly it is
> because I keep wanting to figure it out like a puzzle.

Rest assured that even with liberal stealing, you will have many
opportunities to beat your head against the monitor in frustration when the
coding doesn't work out.

Incidentally, it's also possible that you're suffering from wanting the
code to fit the story perfectly, when in fact you may need to change little
details to work with the abilities of the software. I'd suggest (as the
wildly successful author of zero games, published or un-) that you should
just try and build the overall structure of your game, not worrying if
certain code doesn't seem to work. The story might eventually change to get
rid of that part anyway.

-Amir

Jon Ingold

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Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to

Andrew Plotkin wrote in message <86f8qa$d5q$2...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net>...

>Jon Ingold <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>> No-one can classify how to tell a good story. It's just a shame so many
of
>> the games produced these days don't even seem to *try*.
>>
>> (Alright, maybe that's a bit harsh).
>
>I look at the most recent IF Competition, and I think that's *extremely*
>harsh. The vast majority of entries tried to tell a good story.


The thread was about puzzle games - how many of the Comp. games were puzzle
games trying to tell a good story? And how many were just "here's a story,
you read it as fast as you want, and type every now and then too!"

(Alright, that's also harsh, but hey)

Jon

J Walrus

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Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to

Matthew T. Russotto <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com> wrote:

> Software patents generally suck. Even when the subject may be
considered
> reasonable, they claims they make are overbroad; Public Key Partners
> claims to have a lock on the use of exponentiation in a finite
> field in any public key encryption scheme, for example.

Software patents always suck. Things are getting ridiculous: things like
Microsoft and Macintosh trying to copyright the 'look and feel' of their
user interfaces so that everyone else has to redesign the GUI from
scratch.


JW

(long live the GPL)

Jonathan Blask

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Jan 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/23/00
to
On 23 Jan 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> Jon Ingold <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> > No-one can classify how to tell a good story. It's just a shame so many of
> > the games produced these days don't even seem to *try*.
> >
> > (Alright, maybe that's a bit harsh).
>
> I look at the most recent IF Competition, and I think that's *extremely*
> harsh. The vast majority of entries tried to tell a good story.
>

> --Z

Personally, I had similar feelings. There were a lot of games in
the comp (and throughout the year) that I'd happily recommend to anybody
if only they had a couple more rounds of beta-testing or just some general
polishing.
-jon

"If I got stranded on a desert island (with electricity)/
And I could bring one record and my hi-fi/
I'd bring that ocean surf cd (Relaxing Sound of Ocean Surf)/
So I could enjoy the irony." - Dylan Hicks


Eric Mayer

unread,
Jan 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/24/00
to
On Sun, 23 Jan 2000 12:34:41 -0700, IF <mord...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:

>. I really don't think anyone (like
>> me for example) is going to be an outstanding writer of IF without
>> being an outstanding programmer of IF any more than a novelist could
>> be outstanding without having a firm grasp of how to use the language.
>> I quite enjoying messing about with IF but the good stuff is going to
>> originate with those who have control of their programming tools as
>> well as their writing tools.
>>
>
> I have to disagree here. While I doubt the word "outstanding"
>applies, I like to think of myself as a decent IF writer and I assure you
>my grasp of programming is slim to none.


I can't offer much argument here, except that the word "outstanding"
wuld apply, since Babel, in particular, as the game which really
piqued my interest in IF last spring when I stumbled on the whole
thing on the web. Of course I don't know what your definition of slim
to none is :)

>After three years I still am
>wary of including daemons in my programming.

What's a daemon? (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

> I've just found unorthodox
>and inelegant means of getting it to do what I want, rather than actually
>UNDERSTANDING the subtler points (or even many non-subtle points) of the
>system.
>
>

I wouldn't have guessed that from playing your games. So, you give me
hope.

Eric Mayer

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Jan 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/24/00
to
On 23 Jan 2000 19:33:14 GMT, kar...@fermi2.chem.yale.edu wrote:

>Eric Mayer <emay...@epix.net> wrote:
>> On Sun, 23 Jan 2000 01:56:44 GMT, ical...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
>
>> Indeed, but I have been a little reluctant to "borrow" even though I
>> know that is the sensible way.
>
>> Come to think about it, I guess the "tools" I
>> should be learning to use to produce IF include available coding.
>
>Speaking as one who's a serious programming geek but can't write for
>[insert meaningful noun here], using available coding, otherwise known as
>"stealing", is one of the most important tools a programmer can use. The
>guy who invented the programming language Perl says that one of three great
>virtues of the programmer is Laziness. (The others are impatience and
>hubris.)

Thanks for this very enlightening advice. Very well said. Now I need
more ALAN code to steal!

>Incidentally, it's also possible that you're suffering from wanting the
>code to fit the story perfectly, when in fact you may need to change little
>details to work with the abilities of the software. I'd suggest (as the
>wildly successful author of zero games, published or un-) that you should
>just try and build the overall structure of your game, not worrying if
>certain code doesn't seem to work. The story might eventually change to get
>rid of that part anyway.
>

I can see this. I do believe that any kind of art is a melding of
inspiration with technque. To some extent what you imagine is affected
by what you can do.

Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/24/00
to
Jon Ingold <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> Andrew Plotkin wrote in message <86f8qa$d5q$2...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net>...
>>Jon Ingold <ji...@cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>>> No-one can classify how to tell a good story. It's just a shame so many
> of
>>> the games produced these days don't even seem to *try*.
>>>
>>> (Alright, maybe that's a bit harsh).
>>
>>I look at the most recent IF Competition, and I think that's *extremely*
>>harsh. The vast majority of entries tried to tell a good story.
>
> The thread was about puzzle games - how many of the Comp. games were puzzle
> games trying to tell a good story? And how many were just "here's a story,
> you read it as fast as you want, and type every now and then too!"

The thread was about puzzle games. If you look just at the puzzle games in
the Comp, the majority were trying to tell a good story.

You're switching topics out from under yourself. If you're going to
complain about IF that isn't so interactive, say so -- don't start out by
claiming that "so many games don't try to tell a good story".

sg

unread,
Jan 29, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/29/00
to
emay...@epix.net (Eric Mayer) wrote:
>On Sun, 23 Jan 2000 12:34:41 -0700, IF <mord...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
[snip]

>>After three years I still am
>>wary of including daemons in my programming.

Very prudent too. And, as in real life, you should try to avoid bugs,
gremlins and other nasties in your programming. :-)

>What's a daemon? (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

I'll try my amateur's definition and hope I don't embarrass myself:

A program, or just a bit of code within a larger program, that
executes at intervals, usually performing some task if some specified
circumstance exists at that moment.

(In ALAN an 'Event' that you schedule to run every X turns would be
equivalent to a 'daemon' in some other IF languages.)

[snip]


--
SteveG.
(Remove the 'wrongbit' from my
address if replying via email.)

Stuart Adair

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Feb 3, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/3/00
to
<ical...@my-deja.com> wrote in message news:86fag1$pb3$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

> I look forward to it. I see you've left yourself plenty of room by
> using numbers in the titles. Not like Sue Grafton, who will run out
> of letters pretty soon! ;)

What letter's she up to now, anyway? I've always wondered what she's going
to do for X; Xylophone-bludgeoning? Or maybe she'll take the E-Z way out and
chop the initial 'E' off a word beginning 'Ex'...

--
__)\_____)\__ >---------- - - - - // - - - - --------<
___/_ ___:____ \\ stuart adair v21 beta 4 // swap @ and . to mail me \
) ) / __ )> http://stu042.cjb.net // mailto:stu042.bigfoot@com >
\_______/________/<__________ _ _ _ // _ _ _ _ _________/


Stuart Adair

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Feb 3, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/3/00
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David Picton <pict...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:869shj$349$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...
> I also find it
> frustrating to discover around turn 4000 that my progress is blocked,
> because of something I failed to do around turn 250.

How would people feel about a story-based game that allowed you to block off
the "optimum" conclusion near the beginning, but still allowed you to reach
a conclusion? Fr'example, if the game revolves around saving the village
from the evil dragon living nearby, the optimum ending would be defeating
the dragon and saving the village (not to mention winning the hand of the
maiden fair), if it was blocked off early on, the dragon could still be
defeated but the protagonist would have to sacrifice their life to save the
lives of others. Would anyone be interested in something like that?

Um, without the dragons and sundry other clichés, natch.

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