The IF-Chive (&) Volume 1, Edition 3

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J. D. Berry

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Sep 21, 2001, 10:03:01 AM9/21/01
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Rand McNally to incorporate red herrings, Easter eggs.

In response to accusations of one-dimensionality and slavish adherence
to accuracy, map publisher Rand McNally exited the beaten interstate
today with the introduction of its "Challenger" Road Atlas, 2002. The
Challenger represents years of development and testing, matching the
years of public anticipation. The atlas will hit book and grocery
stores later this week.

"This is the direction all maps will be heading over the coming years,"
punned now ex-director of marketing Bob Stevens to open the press
conference. "Those of Generation-X and younger need to be entertained
for even the most mundane of activities--no offense intended. And older
audiences will appreciate being kept awake on their long drives--no
offense intended. The Challenger is for everyone."

The Challenger, its introduction states, is an adaptive reference tool
with an emphasis on fun. It develops an almost uncanny relationship
with its reader, sensing his strengths, tendencies and motivations.
If a reader finds a destination too quickly, the maps increase in level
of difficulty. What had been route 1 may now be shown as a canal to
the Hudson Bay. The last-chance gas station may turn out to be a "no
restrooms" rest area. Thus, a reader may get to Ottawa once, but
there's no assurance he'll do so the next time.

Conversely, the reader may travel too far astray for too long. If so,
the atlas provides hints of progressive clarity. These hints may take
a playful tack--a style so often neglected in most referential works.
For example:

How do I get to Cleveland?
> Why would you want to do that?

No, really, I want to get to Cleveland.
> Is there anything there with FOUR wheels?

All right, I have the car. I've started it. I'm driving. What
route do I take?
> You want the lowest PRIME number of the road which crosses a river
with the name of a 15th-century British monarch.

I still can't figure it out!
> OK, OK, turn left at the light. Go ten miles to interstate 80.
You want I-80 WEST...

Perhaps the most talked-about feature is the sheer number of Easter
eggs scattered among every page. As the reader follows the road with
a pencil, the bottom of the page may reveal a message. These messages
range in scope from the musical reference "you get your kicks from
this route" to the literary "two roads diverged in a yellow wood" to
the playful "How like your love life; you're at the end of the Bland
Street cul-de-sac."

Despite the fun, Rand McNally does caution readers not to read and
drive simultaneously. They also stress the importance of drawing a
good map while using this product.

##
IF-Comp author feels own work should have finished several places
higher

##
Spoiler rampage ends; man spoils 45 then spoils own game

Confronted by an angry newsgroup community, frequent poster Vic Grogeur
ended his "reign of spoilage" yesterday in a violent, ranting spoiler of
"Dark Gnoll," his own interactive fiction game. With a distinct lack of
blank lines, Grogeur's last post read, "I wouldn't come back to this group
of losers if you paid me. But before I go, be sure to tell the gnoll chief
about the gold. Secret passage is N, N, W, move rug. The chief is REALLY
the shopkeeper! Recognizing an allusion to 'Gulliver's Travels' helps you
gain passage on the ship."

A local alignment expert--name withheld on request of anonymity--pointed
out that most standard newsreaders end the screen of text here. One more
line and 'Dark Gnoll' would have been completely ruined, its main gimmick
exposed.

Many who knew him described Grogeur as a discerning man, one who could
talk around the key elements of any work of entertainment and still
present a thorough and provocative treatment of topic, themes and
gameplay. Rik Rogers, friend of and beta-tester for the mass-spoiler,
elaborated with shock and sadness. "Vic would have been the last guy I
thought to commit such acts. He knew full well the taboos associated.
He even advocated for better spoiler notifications. It's a tragedy."

The carnage began innocently enough with an incidental spoiler posted by
Grogeur three days ago. A few people replied politely but firmly,
"please include "spoiler room" in the body of the text. "I think that's
when Vic lost it," claims Rogers. "'I'll show you who can spoil and what
spoilage is,' pretty much indicates his state of mind at that time."

By the time people realized what was happening, ten spoiler posts were
already on the wire.

The peak of spoilage culminated late Sunday when Grogeur spoiled every
game from the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition in one post.
Ironically, with so much information to absorb in one reading, the
spoilage itself was spoiled. This loss of momentum meant the beginning
of the end. Grogeur's posts quickly subsided. His fate concluded in
the aforementioned showdown, but only after 45 games had been blatantly
spoiled.

Spoiler authorities hope this story can be used as a warning to
future posters. Agent Jen Carrella states, "you may think you've warned
someone enough that there will be spoilers by titling your message 'Help
requested for 'Game you may not have played''. But you haven't. People
are curious. Or blind. Or browsing with that water-bird thingy that
Homer Simpson used to continue his computer work. The point is that the
message WILL be viewed."

"The return key is free. Use a few extras. The story you save may be
your own," says Carrella.

##
"Player's Bill of Rights" Amendment Proposal

"Not to need to do anything even remotely complicated or that which
might make one feel stupid in any way."

##
Passages of text found hardcoded in many games

Anathema to programmers and theorists alike, hardcoding is a practice
thought by most to have been abandoned long ago. Harvard's* recent
analysis of interactive fiction source code asserts that hardcoding is
not only in use but that it runs rampant in the form of textual
passages.

Harvard claims source code across-the-board is filled with explicit,
literal text and that such occurrences are not even hidden. "Almost
always, you will find said hardcoding naked and unashamed between two
quotation marks. From great lines like 'The sun is gone. It must be
brought. You have a rock.' to the notorious 'The phone never ring.',
the text is just sitting there in the code." Harvard paused to sneer
then added simply, "a travesty."

The masterwork "Trinity" has not been updated, according to Harvard,
because of just such hardcoding. "Take the opening lines, 'Sharp words
between the superpowers. Tanks in East Berlin.' Well, the city hasn't
been 'East' in years. But, if one wanted to update this for a sequel,
one would have to delete the word 'east' in this line. Had this been
represented by a symbolic name, one could just delete 'east' in ONE
variable and be done. It's a maintenance nightmare." Harvard stated
off the record that while this is probably not the best example, the
game itself is a popular one.

"The computer world of 1989 was just beginning to embrace solid
programming concepts, but with programs written after 1995 we should not
be seeing this," Harvard opined before going off on a tangent. "If the
IF authorial community had adopted the capability maturity model, we'd
be producing level 4 or level 5 games right now. Instead, we're looking
at games from heroes who faced chaos and mismanaged change."

While Harvard personally has not written any games, he strongly urges
peer reviews of code, traceability to a Game Requirements Document and
strict adherence to UML standards. "Even in Speed-IF," cautioned
Harvard as he walked away from the interview.


*-Thomas Harvard, Trade-Magazine Reader

##
Friend likes other friend's game

##
Adult IF-ware means business when it says 'you must be 18 to play this
game'.

Since 'Candy for the Taking', an adult IF software title, was released
last year, an estimated 300,000 adolescents have been turned away from
playing. Authors credit these impressive statistics to the stern
phrasing of the question "Are you at least 18?" and the inclusion of a
clever follow-up query "What year were you born?" This verifies the
player's age so subtly, the player won't know he can't play the game
until it's too late.

Most of the kids taking the time to download stuff without their parents'
permission are basically honest. They'll type 'n', the game will politely
escort them from the game, and they'll be on their way never to try again.
The remaining few rascals will invariably fall into the trap of entering
the year of their birth. The game will not be so polite at this point.
The player will be promptly reprimanded and threatened with being reported.

Authors of the game plan to include a buzzer that goes off, embarrassing
any latch-key loner who would play this game. If the CD on the child's
stereo is between tracks and the walls are thin, a neighbor might hear
the shrill tone and report the disturbance to the parents.

Thus, consider yourself warned. Candy may be for the taking, but only
if you're 18.

##
Nostradamus, Wingdings Font predict 2001 Comp Winner.

Details November 16th.

--
JDB

Neil Cerutti

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Sep 21, 2001, 10:32:23 AM9/21/01
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J. D. Berry posted:

>Rand McNally to incorporate red herrings, Easter eggs.

<snip>

>##
>Nostradamus, Wingdings Font predict 2001 Comp Winner.
>
>Details November 16th.

Yay!

This rag needs an editorial page. ;-) Or how about a letters
page?

Dear IF-Chive dudes:

I never wrote a letter to a usenet publication before, but
I was so impressed by the last issue. It was so good, and I liked
it so much. You guys are so awesome! Tha article about maps was
so cool.

_@|_CoweLik_Boy_|@_

--
Neil Cerutti <cer...@trans-video.net>

Knight37

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Sep 21, 2001, 10:33:58 AM9/21/01
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ber...@earthlink.net (J. D. Berry) let out a barbaric YALP and then said:

> Rand McNally to incorporate red herrings, Easter eggs.

[snipity]

> Spoiler rampage ends; man spoils 45 then spoils own game

[snippy]

> Thus, consider yourself warned. Candy may be for the taking, but only
> if you're 18.

[snip]

An excellent issue, very entertaining! Really liked the spoiler segment. :)

Keep 'em coming. :)

--

Knight37

"All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It's really just a question
Of your honesty, yeah, your honesty!"
-- Rush "The Spirit of Radio"

Jason Melancon

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Sep 22, 2001, 7:39:21 AM9/22/01
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On 21 Sep 2001 07:03:01 -0700, ber...@earthlink.net (J. D. Berry)
wrote:

> Rand McNally to incorporate red herrings, Easter eggs.
>
> In response to accusations of one-dimensionality and slavish adherence
> to accuracy, map publisher Rand McNally exited the beaten interstate
> today with the introduction of its "Challenger" Road Atlas, 2002.

[snip]


> If a reader finds a destination too quickly, the maps increase in level
> of difficulty.

[snip]


> ##
> "Player's Bill of Rights" Amendment Proposal
>
> "Not to need to do anything even remotely complicated or that which
> might make one feel stupid in any way."

Dear editor:

Objective media, indeed. This publication is clearly anti-puzzlic.
The use of puzzles in interactive fiction is an ancient tradition,
dating back to the first IF work ever, "Collossal Cave" -- hollowed be
its name -- and in fact, *all* IF was quite puzzling until well into
Infocom's heyday. And yet, I respect AMFV and the puzzle-less sects.
All I ask is that you do the same for us.

--
Jason Melancon

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