An embarrassment of riches?

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David Baggett

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Mar 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/14/96
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In article <4i8nn0$l...@news.lth.se>,
Magnus Olsson <m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:

>As an author, however, I'm a bit concerned. Is it worth the effort (if
>ever it was) to write a piece of IF when it is almost guaranteed to
>drown in the flood of new releases?

This is why sensible criticism is so important. Then your concern as an IF
author will mainly be of running afoul of boneheaded critics. :)

In all seriousnes: we need more mini-reviews posted here that:

- Describe the game broadly (treasure hunt, historical, SF, "literary").
- Discuss the overall quality and difficulty level.
- Estimate the importance of the game to the genre.

If every game had a half dozen capsule reviews posted here that touched on
these three points, readers could prioritize the games according to their
own preferences.

Given how long it takes to *play* one of these things, I'm amazed at how
little time people spend critiquing them. Perhaps it's an old habit of
avoiding direct criticism for fear of scaring authors away?

>Will anybody even have the time to notice my game when they're so busy
>playing all the hugely complex new ones?

If someone writes a review that says "this is the most important IF game of
the millenium --- there is no greater achivement possible from any living
IF author" (as Adam has done for Jigsaw), then you can be sure that people
will take a look at your work.

If you write something that few people take an immediate interest in, you
may lose out against other "catchier" works. But it's not like your'game
gets deleted six months after it's released. If your work is good, people
will discover it --- some time. Now that our data is so widely archived
(and amassed as well at one site, ftp.gmd.de) I doubt any more IF works
will be lost.

>Of course, in absolute terms the flow of new IF is still just a
>trickle. But considering that the potential audience is so small,

There's also the fact that everyone wants to try his hand at writing IF.
That's good, but in the rest of the world's media there are barriers to
entry that weed out everything that fails to meet some minimum standard.
There is no such thing for IF, because there are no IF publishers, and no
one is making money. (This same phenomenon explains why Usenet is, on the
whole, so awful.)

>Today, would even "Curses" make an impact?

Of course.

>I gave up on "Christminster" when I realized just how hard it was; I don't
>even *dream* of starting on "Jigsaw" or "The Legend Lives"... :-(

This is another reason I disagree with the standard adventure game formula
that still dictates most of what IF authors are doing. Curses and Jigsaw
are both fantastically difficult games for any but veteran IF fans. I
don't personally like games that take me a month to solve. I want to be
able to commit as much time to a first reading of an IF work as I do to a
long novel. Then, if there is merit to the work, I'd rather spend the
extra month analyzing and rereading.

That's why I put the hint system in Legend. You can finish that game in a
day if you use all the hints. But the irony is that because it's easy
(with hints), few people post about it, so few people hear about it, so few
people play it, so the standard brain-teaser formula appears to have all
the popular support. (Or maybe the standard brain-teaser formula still
*does* have all the popular support...)

For my part: I've been too busy this last year to really explore the
no-puzzle direction I've been eager to take since 1992. But eventually! I
still believe that puzzles weaken IF and limit it to a very narrow
audience. Books can appeal to many different kinds of people. IF games
now seem limited to a fringe group of Games magazine readers and computer
hardware reactionaries.

>So, is there any point in writing anymore, or is the market saturated?

You've said too much. You should have asked "Is there any point in
writing?"

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu
"Mr. Price: Please don't try to make things nice! The wrong notes are *right*."
--- Charles Ives (note to copyist on the autograph score of The Fourth of July)

Gerry Kevin Wilson

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Mar 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/14/96
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Well, since I haven't posted any non-SPAG and non-Contest related in a
long while, I'll write a response to this. Basically, Magnus was worried
that his work would get lost in the flood of I-F lately released.

Well, one way around this is making people aware of your game. Offhand,
I'd say I'm the reigning champion here. Of course, I've had about 3
years of my .sig advertising Avalon, and I've acquired my own millenarian
order, but hey, advertising is advertising. Even when it's bad
advertising, you still attract those people perverse enough to want to
see what the fuss is about. If I had it to do over, I'd just do a quiet
sig advert like Bonni does.

Betatesters are the first people to look at your game. Try to get
permission to quote them when you announce your game. Having Michael
Kinyon's seal of approval can go a long way. :)

Need I say it? Advertise in SPAG. It's free, guys.

Announce the game on the major online services. AOL and Compuserve at
the least.


The reaction you get is often based on the effort you expend to get
people to play your game, and the effort you expend to get people's
reactions to the game. I understand that authors giving away their games
don't want to expend any more effort, but the gratitude of your players
will only carry you so far. Just as a writer in the novel field, you
must sell yourself and your work. [Hmm, maybe I've been reading too much
Machiavelli....]

But seriously, if you want people's opinions, you have to have for them.
I don't mean a note in your game, I mean answering hint questions about
your game and slipping in a 'By the way, would you mind giving me your
reaction to the game?' It's not rude, it's essential. Remember the
reaction of 99% of all people to a daylight theft of a car. "Enh,
someone else will report the guy."

You think people are going to get more involved over a game? Doubt it.

Remember, you are the only person in the world (and your co-authors, of
course) to whom your game is anything more than a pleasant diversion.
Others may enjoy it, but most are unable to appreciate the amount of work
you have put into it. You are probably the only person who will ever see
every bit of text in your game (unless you release the source code.)

Writing is work, yes. But I would say that it's more fulfilling than
almost anything else you can do. I've been writing a game for three
years. You think I'd do that if I didn't like to write? Hell no.
Writing is also a singularly thankless hobby. You have to be a pushy
s.o.b. You push to get people to buy/register/download your game. You
push for them to play it. You push for them to give you their opinions
of it.

I'm willing to help other authors out. I've got SPAG all set up. I used
it to get some short games written (last year's contest would not have
pulled in as much reaction without the calls for reviews, I'm sure.) The
magazine space is still there for reviewers. And just to start:

I want reviews for SPAG 9.

I need reviews on the Windhall Chronicles.

I need some on SpiritWrak.

I need some on Shelby's Light/Addendum.

I would also like some of the newly ported games reviewed, like
Frustration, etc.

Oh, and will someone review Golden Wombat of Destiny, while we're at it?

There. That will likely pull in a few reviews. The games I don't get
reviewed, I'll pick out some of my more prolific review writers and try
to talk them into reviewing.

You just gotta be bossy, is all.
--
<~V~E~SOF~~~~~~~~~~~AVALON~~~~~~~~DUE~DURING~THE~20TH~CENTURY~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~>
< RTI T Into the afterlife, with dogtag and helmet. Frank | ~~\ >
< G O WAR E Leandro is lost in a world of magic, love, and adventure.| /~\ | >
<_______________________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

mathew

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Mar 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/14/96
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In article <4i8nn0$l...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
> I'm also in a bit of despair that, considering the time it takes for
> me to solve even the simplest games, I'll probably never, get the time
> to play them all.

Why is this a problem? I don't have time to read all the books that are
published, or watch all the movies that are made.

A lot of IF just doesn't appeal to me. Take the Unnkulia series, for
example; very highly spoken of, but the entire style just turned me right
off from the start. I played "Christminster" for a while, but didn't get
on with it. "Curses" seems more my style, though I've not done much more
than wander around in it so far.

I'm currently working through TLTOI and TLTOI II. Some of the games I
love; others I hate. Much to my surprise, I loved "Plundered Hearts", but
found "Starcross" irritating. I enjoyed "Wishbringer", but couldn't get
into "Moonmist" at all.

The point is that if there's an embarrassment of riches, it means I can
skip through the games I don't like so much, or even ignore them entirely,
and concentrate on the ones I really enjoy. I'd rather have fifty games
appear per year, and play and really enjoy only five of them, than have
five games appear per year and play them all but only really get
enthusiastic about one...

> A long game like "Jigsaw" will probably take me
> months to get through, and even though "Jigsaw" remains the longest
> piece of IF ever written, I'm not sure it will for very long.

I dunno. My favourite piece of IF to date is "A Mind Forever Voyaging".
Infocom's largest, but I finished it in a couple of days. Size doesn't
necessarily entail long playing times. A lot depends on the complexity of
the puzzles, and whether your mind works the same way as the author's...


mathew
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I global kill '!!', '$$', '??', '**', '>>', 'please read', 'FREE', all-caps subject lines, and postings with 'From' lines which don't contain Internet addresses.

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Mar 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/14/96
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m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) writes:
> As a player of IF, I should be overjoyed, and of course I am, though

> I'm also in a bit of despair that, considering the time it takes for
> me to solve even the simplest games, I'll probably never, get the time
> to play them all. A long game like "Jigsaw" will probably take me

> months to get through, and even though "Jigsaw" remains the longest
> piece of IF ever written, I'm not sure it will for very long.
> (Due to my slowness and lack of time, I much prefer short pieces like
> "John's Fire Witch" and "Lethe Flow Phoenix", but tastes differ).

As a player, I can still play them (or get tired and drop them) faster
than they're coming out.

> As an author, however, I'm a bit concerned. Is it worth the effort (if
> ever it was) to write a piece of IF when it is almost guaranteed to

> drown in the flood of new releases? Will anybody even have the time


> to notice my game when they're so busy playing all the hugely complex
> new ones?

Flood? Flood? _Spiritwrak_ came out this week; _Hero_ (a short game)
came out last week; what was the one before that? _Path to Fortune_
was two or three months ago.

The four by Jim MacBrayne are kind of anomalous data point, since
they're ports of older games, and therefore the author could build and
upload them relatively quickly.

> Today, would even "Curses" make an impact?

The other way to interpret things is that now we have enough games
that not every one is a celebrity. Jigsaw and Curses made an impact, I
submit, because they are well-written. I spent a lot of time on them.
I didn't spent much time on the four Jim MacBrayne games, because
frankly I didn't like either the writing or the game design. Hero
really caught my attention, and Spiritwrak seems to have as well
(mostly because the author has done such a good job of pastiche. Not
everyone seems to agree, but that's a separate debate.)

I can now make critical judgements which are less shallow than "This
is the best game I've played this year, because it's the only one." I
*choose* not to play every game. This means that I enjoy the games I
play more. This is good. Get it?

> The question is: with all the recent releases, and the huge size and
> complexity of many of these games, do people still have the time and
> energy to play all new IF? Do people even have the energy to *notice*
> all the new games?

I decided to accept a limited audience back when I started working on
text games. So now maybe it's even more limited, to the text-game
players who have a lot of spare time or are quick solvers. Not a big
deal, to me.

> Will my current projects just result in bored yawns and embarrassed
> "That'll have to wait until I get some more time - maybe after I'm
> retired or so"? Or, even worse, will it just drown among the other
> new releases so people won't even bother trying it?

Every field of art has this trouble. Authors compete for audience's
attention. The pack is now big enough that the losers are way back.
It's no surprise.

You and me have a leg up, anyway, from having won last year's
competition. People will give us a shot. I intend to take advantage of
this.

--Z

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

ErsatzPogo

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Mar 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/14/96
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>Why is this a problem? I don't have time to read all the books that are
>published, or watch all the movies that are made.
>
>A lot of IF just doesn't appeal to me. Take the Unnkulia series, for
>example; very highly spoken of, but the entire style just turned me right
>off from the start. I played "Christminster" for a while, but didn't get
>on with it. "Curses" seems more my style, though I've not done much more
>than wander around in it so far.

This is why I'm most excited about all the new games being written -- with
any luck, we're going to see a much broader diversity in the types of
games that are released. With any luck, that will even attract new players
who either a) aren't particularly interested in the "classic"
SF/dungeon-type plots, or b) get interested in what this whole new flurry
of games is all about. (Did Lebling et al. worry that they would be
flooding the market when they started Infocom, or did they figure that
they'd be creating a groundswell that would build on itself?)

Obviously, this depends on other factors as well -- all the things we
talked about in the "bringing more people to I-F" thread -- but more and
different games can only be A Good Thing.

As for the perspective of the I-F author -- Magnus, I hope you'd look at
it as I do: At least this way, I know people are playing my game because
they like it, and not because they have no other options. I'd much rather
have five die-hard fans than 50 lukewarm ones, anyway.

Neil

Sarinee Achavanuntakul

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Mar 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/15/96
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I agree with the others who posted that although there are many
new, complex games, there remains a FEW good ones. One thing about IF (at
least to me) is that, contrary to graphics-intensive games, It DOESN'T
take long at all before I realize I don't like the game and decide to
stop playing it. Usually the initial 10-15 minute session is enough for
me to tell.
Magnus seems to be implying that all (or most) of the recent
games are very good, and that most are huge so he doesn't have time to
finish them. That's a matter of personal taste, I guess. But still there
is a small number of games that are WORTH finishing, and the majority
that aren't.
So, the bottom line is: I do have time to download new games from
ftp.gmd.de, and at least start playing on all of them. But I feel
captivated enough to finish only maybe 20 percent of what I play. Size of
the game usually is not a factor for me, as I've finished both A Change
in the Weather and Jigsaw.

As someone else said, sheer size of the game also isn't perfectly
correlated with playing time. I know Jigsaw is bigger than Curses, but it
took me an eternity longer to solve the latter.

-Sarinee

Matthew Amster-Burton

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Mar 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/15/96
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Yikes--my other two posts today have been the height of pedantry.
Substance!

ersat...@aol.com (ErsatzPogo) wrote:

>This is why I'm most excited about all the new games being written -- with
>any luck, we're going to see a much broader diversity in the types of
>games that are released. With any luck, that will even attract new players
>who either a) aren't particularly interested in the "classic"
>SF/dungeon-type plots, or b) get interested in what this whole new flurry
>of games is all about.

I agree. My game--in stasis at the moment due to laziness and a
typing injury--has no magic or SF and is political. Not something
I've seen before. Maybe people will play it because they're
interested in a game like that.

Of course, I need to decide whether to try to turn this game into a
contest entry or shelve it and write a new contest entry (yes, I'm
dawdling). We'll see.

>Obviously, this depends on other factors as well -- all the things we
>talked about in the "bringing more people to I-F" thread -- but more and
>different games can only be A Good Thing.

When there's only a trickle of games, one has to identify simply as
"an IF fan." With more authors putting out games more frequently, we
can get a better sense of each author's particular style, just as we
do for authors of books. For example, I prefer Jonathan Kozol to John
Grisham, but there's no parallel to this in the IF milieu. Yet. I
hope we'll be around long enough that comments such as "the writing
style has a touch of Andrew Plotkin" begin to appear in reviews.

Of course, I'm as lazy as the next person about actually writing
reviews. Kevin, when's the deadline for the next SPAG?

Matthew

C.A. McCarthy

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Mar 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/15/96
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d...@rice-chex.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett) wrote:

>In article <4i8nn0$l...@news.lth.se>,
>Magnus Olsson <m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:

>>As an author, however, I'm a bit concerned. Is it worth the effort (if
>>ever it was) to write a piece of IF when it is almost guaranteed to
>>drown in the flood of new releases?

I can relate to Magnus' concern here. Where are the postings for
Shelby (but more of that later)? The last year has been rather
prolific for new IF releases so many will invariably fall by the
wayside. But, as is stated somewhere else in this thread, quantity
does not equate with quality (particularly in the IF world), and if a
game is good it will most certainly be picked up and played at some
point and garner more attention.


>In all seriousnes: we need more mini-reviews posted here that:

> - Describe the game broadly (treasure hunt, historical, SF, "literary").
> - Discuss the overall quality and difficulty level.
> - Estimate the importance of the game to the genre.

>If every game had a half dozen capsule reviews posted here that touched on
>these three points, readers could prioritize the games according to their
>own preferences.

A good idea.

>>Will anybody even have the time to notice my game when they're so busy
>>playing all the hugely complex new ones?

Initially, probably not, but as I said, if it's any damn good they'll
pick up on it at some point. The market isn't THAT saturated and
there's almost certain to be a lull in new games being produced.

>If you write something that few people take an immediate interest in, you
>may lose out against other "catchier" works. But it's not like your'game
>gets deleted six months after it's released. If your work is good, people
>will discover it --- some time. Now that our data is so widely archived
>(and amassed as well at one site, ftp.gmd.de) I doubt any more IF works
>will be lost.

Ah, there it is, in this very article :-) I agree wholeheartedly with
Dave here, and god bless Volker Blasius and his archive. We owe him a
huge debt.

>There's also the fact that everyone wants to try his hand at writing IF.
>That's good, but in the rest of the world's media there are barriers to
>entry that weed out everything that fails to meet some minimum standard.
>There is no such thing for IF, because there are no IF publishers, and no
>one is making money. (This same phenomenon explains why Usenet is, on the
>whole, so awful.)

Well, Shelby's been a nice little earner for me, amazingly enough.
It's gratifying to know that people are enjoying it, and even better
that they're registering it...but I digress...

The fact that everyone thinks they can write IF is probably partly
responsible for the latest slew of games, but most of these games fail
miserably to meet any kind of minimum standard that the genre should
have. This has always been true in any gaming genre, but has been
particularly evident in IF (due to its basis in plain text, no doubt.
A very unforgiving medium). Still, good games will prevail in the
end.

>>I gave up on "Christminster" when I realized just how hard it was; I don't
>>even *dream* of starting on "Jigsaw" or "The Legend Lives"... :-(

>This is another reason I disagree with the standard adventure game formula
>that still dictates most of what IF authors are doing. Curses and Jigsaw
>are both fantastically difficult games for any but veteran IF fans. I
>don't personally like games that take me a month to solve. I want to be
>able to commit as much time to a first reading of an IF work as I do to a
>long novel. Then, if there is merit to the work, I'd rather spend the
>extra month analyzing and rereading.

>That's why I put the hint system in Legend. You can finish that game in a
>day if you use all the hints. But the irony is that because it's easy
>(with hints), few people post about it, so few people hear about it, so few
>people play it, so the standard brain-teaser formula appears to have all
>the popular support. (Or maybe the standard brain-teaser formula still
>*does* have all the popular support...)

>For my part: I've been too busy this last year to really explore the
>no-puzzle direction I've been eager to take since 1992. But eventually! I
>still believe that puzzles weaken IF and limit it to a very narrow
>audience. Books can appeal to many different kinds of people. IF games
>now seem limited to a fringe group of Games magazine readers and computer
>hardware reactionaries.

I agree. There is far too much emphasis put on puzzle solving in IF.
The puzzles in Shelby were all relatively easy to solve and were there
out of obligation to "the IF standard", but the game is intensely plot
driven (and as a result you don't see many "help me" posts on usenet).
All I wanted to do was tell a story. The puzzles just get in the way.
I too would like to see a move away from the brain-teaser type games.

>>So, is there any point in writing anymore, or is the market saturated?

Absolutely godammit...now get back and write one.

Here's me bus! Cheers.

Colm

"Elvis people are nicer people than the people who laugh at Elvis People."
David Thomas - "Media Priests Of The Big Lie"


Andrew C. Plotkin

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Mar 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/15/96
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whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson) writes:
> The reaction you get is often based on the effort you expend to get
> people to play your game, and the effort you expend to get people's
> reactions to the game. I understand that authors giving away their games
> don't want to expend any more effort, but the gratitude of your players
> will only carry you so far. Just as a writer in the novel field, you
> must sell yourself and your work. [Hmm, maybe I've been reading too much
> Machiavelli....]

I was surprised by how different Whizzard's post to this thread was from
mine. Then I realized, oh yeah, I am untypical in that A) I never pay
attention to advertisements, and B) I never read back-cover blurbs.

Please normalize for that when reading my opinions.

(I do read reviews, though. (As long as they have relevant spoiler
warnings.) I agree that rec.games.int-fiction would be greatly spruced
up if people got into the habit of posting capsule reviews, or
comments, or anything but hint requests. Now I just have to find the
time myself...)

(Sorry, off to write one more room description before I go to bed. :-)

Uncle Bob

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Mar 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/15/96
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: If someone writes a review that says "this is the most important IF game of

: the millenium --- there is no greater achivement possible from any living
: IF author" (as Adam has done for Jigsaw), then you can be sure that people
: will take a look at your work.

And, if someone writes, "This is the worst game ever written"--- people
will take a look at it too! I am guessing that most IF fans download
every new work as soon as they know about it, and will explore
it--- eventually.

: This is another reason I disagree with the standard adventure game formula


: that still dictates most of what IF authors are doing. Curses and Jigsaw
: are both fantastically difficult games for any but veteran IF fans. I

Does this tend to put off possible "recruits" to IF games? I think it
might, at least to some degree.

: For my part: I've been too busy this last year to really explore the


: no-puzzle direction I've been eager to take since 1992. But eventually! I

I continue to attempt to write IF (although with precious little time and
projects never seeming to near completion) because I want to use that
medium as a means of self-expression. Do I care if the end product is
played? Yes, of course I do; but on the other hand I am not anxious to
see the work devoured by someone whose goal is to see how fast the
puzzles can be solved.

And in this I agree with Dave Baggett's comment above about no-puzzle
IF. It has never been the mold; even works with rich storylines and
messages have been puzzle based (hint systems notwithstanding).

But whether or not there is more out there than can be played, and
whether or not my works (may they be completed some day) get
"submerged"--- I'll still write IF, simply because I want to.

Bob Newell


Gerry Kevin Wilson

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Mar 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/16/96
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The deadline for SPAG 9 is the end of April. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Definitely the end of April.
--
<~~~VERTIGO~~~~~~~~~~~~THE~BRASS~LANTERN~~~~~~ISSUE~1~INCL~W/AVALON~~|~~~~~~~>
< In the irreverent tradition of _The New Zork Times_ comes The | ~~\ >
< Brass Lantern, an informative newsletter from Vertigo Software. | /~\ | >
<___SOFTWARE____________...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Adam J. Thornton

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Mar 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/16/96
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In article <4i9t52$p...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>If someone writes a review that says "this is the most important IF game of
>the millenium --- there is no greater achivement possible from any living
>IF author" (as Adam has done for Jigsaw), then you can be sure that people
>will take a look at your work.

Er, I don't think I quite said _that_. I said it was the best IF I'd ever
played with the possible exception of _Trinity_. I can't see how anyone,
even Graham, is going to top it, but that doesn't mean I reject the
possibility.

I do find it interesting that the two games I love best in all the world
are universe-hopping games that are, fundamentally, about war and the
twentieth century.

There's another game coming out soon (er, maybe) that you can tell just
from the ads fits _that_ description.

Somewhere in the murky depths of my brain, an idea of the game _I_ want to
write is beginning to take shape. Don't look for it this year. Don't look
for it _next_ year. In fact, I'll bet that I never do write it. But I
kind of know what it would look like. It's also about war and the
twentieth century, and, well, those of you know know me know that I'm a
historian of technology who does mainly history of computing, and the game
is--or rather, will be, and that's "will" in the sense of "future less
vivid"-- also about the second derivative of technology with respect to
time.

Let's face it: the last fifty years have been, historically, a collective
attempt to cope with the psychoses induced by the Holocaust and the Bomb.
In the last quarter century, the Americans among us have had to deal with,
as the Firesign Theatre put it, "the specter of Vietnam, still stalking the
land like a wounded beast." And when you toss "technology"--a word so
broad as to be fundamentally meaningless, but nevertheless I hope you
understand what I mean--into this dance, you get a positive feedback loop
with way too much gain. Impressionistically speaking, you get a lurching,
wheezing, uncontrollably accelerating polka, played by shivering zombies on
Ritalin and line current in the rattling boxcar--racing towards parts
unknown behind a streamlined art-deco steam locomotive whose engineer we
never see--that hosts the Sock Hop of the Damned, faster and faster until
the sides of the accordion blow out in white light and gamma rays.

That's what the game would be about, were I to write it. Not the Sock Hop
of the Damned, exactly. Unfortunately, while I'd be trying to write the
_Gravity's Rainbow_ of the nineties (and no, I haven't gotten to _Infinite
Jest_ yet), I have a premonition that it will come out more like _Space
Aliens Laughed at my Incomprehensibly Postmodern Cardigan_.

I have impressions, I have scenes, I have objects. I don't yet have
characters, a plot, or puzzles. I don't know whether it needs puzzles (I
think Dave is on to something there). However, at the moment, it's not
unlike The Land in _Jigsaw_: evocative, impressionistic, and mostly inchoate.

My problem, of course, is that Sean Molley never finished either "Challenge
of the Czar" or the Molley Brain Interface before he vanished mysteriously
in a cloud of black greasy smoke. And having finally plotted the game, I'm
sure that the MBI problem would hit me--I'd have done the interesting part,
and the actual coding would get tedious.

This non-game does, however, have a title, which I think I'll share,
because I'm pretty proud of it and its resonances. If I were ever to write
the game, this is the only title it could have. It bounces off several
great works--both IF and traditional fiction--on those themes: "Toll."


But I didn't come here to write a manifesto. I just came here to say
"Yeah, I liked _Jigsaw_, but I don't deny the possibility that someone will
come along and give us something better someday."

Adam
--
ad...@phoenix.princeton.edu | Viva HEGGA! | Save the choad! | 64,928 | Fnord
"Double integral is also the shape of lovers curled asleep":Pynchon | Linux
Thanks for letting me rearrange the chemicals in your head. | Team OS/2
You can have my PGP passphrase when you pry it from my cold, dead brain.

Matthew Amster-Burton

unread,
Mar 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/17/96
to
On Fri, 15 Mar 1996, bonni mierzejewska wrote:

> On Fri, 15 Mar 1996 17:01:52 GMT, mam...@u.washington.edu (Matthew
> Amster-Burton) wrote:
>
> > ... My game--in stasis at the moment due to laziness and a
> >typing injury-- ...
>
> A *typing* injury?

:). Okay, stupid terminology. But typing injuries really aren't funny.
It's also called Repetitive Strain Injury, and means that I can't type
for long without having tremendous pain in my fingers and forearms. A
sad state of affairs for a computer geek. I'm getting some therapy soon,
don't worry.

Did anyone ever see the episode of Evening Shade where everyone found
out that Burt Reynolds had a sex injury? That was pretty funny.

Matthew

Gareth Rees

unread,
Mar 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/17/96
to
David Baggett <d...@rice-chex.ai.mit.edu> wrote:
> Given how long it takes to *play* one of these things, I'm amazed at
> how little time people spend critiquing them.

I'd like to write more criticism, but for me the barrier is the number
of games I complete. I'm not a particularly highly-skilled player of
text adventures, and I much prefer to solve a game on my own rather than
use hints, walkthroughs or r.g.i-f. I also consider it unfair to
criticise a game unless I've finished it (for example, I have some ideas
about what I might say about "Legend", should I ever finish it, but it
would be embarrassing to write something which turned out to be false
because of something that happened at the very end). Perhaps I should
just swallow my pride and start reading the hints?

> Perhaps it's an old habit of avoiding direct criticism for fear of
> scaring authors away?

I sincerely hope that no-one would be put off writing because of
anything I say. I make an effort to be critical because I know that as
a writer I need tough criticism. Lots of people have said good things
about "Christminster", which is very flattering, but it would be much
more useful to me if someone who doesn't like it would try to explain
why they don't like it. I want my next game to be better than
"Christminster", and of course I have my own ideas about which direction
to move in, but it would be nice to read other peoples' opinions.

I know that Magnus Olsson was upset and discouraged by some comments I
posted about "Uncle Zebulon's Will". But I did enjoy UZW despite my
published reservations, and I would certainly go out of my way to play
any new game he were to write. I would be quite upset if I thought I
had contributed to scaring someone away from writing.

> "Curses" and "Jigsaw" are both fantastically difficult games for any
> but veteran IF fans.

But they are much easier than Infocom games like "Zork III" and
"Spellbreaker".

--
Gareth Rees

David Baggett

unread,
Mar 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/17/96
to
In article <4idh1i$l...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>,

Adam J. Thornton <ad...@flagstaff.princeton.edu> wrote:

>Er, I don't think I quite said _that_. I said it was the best IF I'd ever
>played with the possible exception of _Trinity_. I can't see how anyone,
>even Graham, is going to top it, but that doesn't mean I reject the
>possibility.

Oh, I was just needling you for being hyperbolic --- it's silly to think
that one of the first few IF games ever written is the pinnacle of the
genre!

Bernd Schmidt

unread,
Mar 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/18/96
to
d...@rice-chex.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett) writes:

>For my part: I've been too busy this last year to really explore the
>no-puzzle direction I've been eager to take since 1992. But eventually! I

>still believe that puzzles weaken IF and limit it to a very narrow
>audience. Books can appeal to many different kinds of people. IF games
>now seem limited to a fringe group of Games magazine readers and computer
>hardware reactionaries.

So what? IF games are not books. I enjoy playing IF games, and that involves
solving puzzles. If I don't want to solve puzzles, I read a book.
No-puzzle IF sounds to me a bit like all the graphical "adventure games" that
you can buy (like Kings Quest MCMXXI etc.) which are essentially self-playing
and are just showing off animations and graphics. There are some alibi puzzles
in some of these games that involve clicking on the right pixel... Bah.
Why is it bad if IF games are limited to a certain audience, if the audience
enjoys them?

As for the "mini-reviews" that were suggested in this thread, I'd like to
recommend "Path to Fortune", "Christminster" and "Lethe Flow Phoenix" to anyone
who likes good games. "Lethe" is fairly easy, and I finished it in less than a
day, but it sure is worth checking out. Strangely enough, while I loved
"Curses", "Jigsaw" left little impression on me (I only played through the
first three or four parts). Maybe I'll pick it up later.

Bernd Schmidt
cr...@pool.informatik.rwth-aachen.de

David Baggett

unread,
Mar 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/18/96
to
In article <4ijdam$6...@news.rwth-aachen.de>,
Bernd Schmidt <cr...@informatik.rwth-aachen.de> wrote:

>No-puzzle IF sounds to me a bit like all the graphical "adventure games" that
>you can buy (like Kings Quest MCMXXI etc.) which are essentially self-playing
>and are just showing off animations and graphics.

That is certainly one direction no-puzzle IF could take, and not IMHO a
very good one. But there's no reason to think that to have engaging
interactivity you need puzzles per se.

>There are some alibi puzzles in some of these games that involve clicking
>on the right pixel... Bah.

And I've criticized the most popular and worst offenders (Myst, King's
Quest *) more than once here.

>Why is it bad if IF games are limited to a certain audience, if the audience
>enjoys them?

You could say the same thing of serialist music. Yes, there is an audience
for it, but it's fringe. If you're a serialist composer, you have to ask
yourself why your work is only able to communicate to a tiny minority, and
whether you could perhaps get your message across in a way that makes it
more approachable.

I'm not a composer, so I don't know, but perhaps serialists feel that some
aspect of 12-tone music is key to their artistic ideals. But I do know IF
pretty well, and I don't personally feel that the puzzles are what make
really good IF good. What makes really good IF good (in my opinion) is
similar to what makes really good static fiction good: plot, characters,
setting, theme.

If anything, the puzzle part constantly reminds the reader that the work
is, first and foremost, a game. To me, this mainly limits suspension of
disbelief.

Note that I'm not saying that we should *take away* your puzzles games.
I'm just saying that puzzle games shouldn't be the *only* kind of
text-based IF we consider writing (and playing), and that I see greater
potential for thematic development in works that aren't obliged to be games
as well.

John Baker

unread,
Mar 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/18/96
to
In <4iihg5$a...@life.ai.mit.edu> d...@lf.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett)
writes:
>hints), I think we need to re-examine what's really making these works
>enjoyable. If the primary source of enjoyment is the
keep-you-up-at-night
>challenge of the puzzles, then in my opinion there's little potential
for
>the genre to grow as an art form.

Of course, as always, there is both the black and white as well as the
shades of grey (a pun!) to where people get their enjoyment from the
games. I enjoy the games for different reasons than others do. I
wouldn't want to see the genre shift to all 'Legend' type games any
more than I would want to see it shift to all games similar to my own.

I think that there is definitely room for the genre to grow as an art
form and people who are are eagerly awaiting more works that expand
those horizons, and also that there will be a large group who just like
to play Zorky/Scott Adamsy type games.
--
John Baker
"What the hell does that mean? Huh? 'China is here.'?
I don't even know what the hell that means!"
- Jack Burton

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Mar 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/18/96
to
bak...@ix.netcom.com(John Baker ) writes:
> In <4iihg5$a...@life.ai.mit.edu> d...@lf.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett)
> writes:
> >hints), I think we need to re-examine what's really making these works
> >enjoyable. If the primary source of enjoyment is the
> keep-you-up-at-night
> >challenge of the puzzles, then in my opinion there's little potential
> for
> >the genre to grow as an art form.
>
> Of course, as always, there is both the black and white as well as the
> shades of grey (a pun!) to where people get their enjoyment from the
> games. I enjoy the games for different reasons than others do. I
> wouldn't want to see the genre shift to all 'Legend' type games any
> more than I would want to see it shift to all games similar to my own.

IF without puzzles that draw you in is like science fiction without
whizzy spaceships and aliens. You can do it -- you can do it *well* --
but you're leaving out one of the things I love. I liked Gadget, for
example, but it didn't absorb me the way Myst did. (Both of these are
non-text games, but that's a detail.)

IF without plot and theme -- IF without the "art" -- is like science
fiction without plot and theme. Exactly the same thing holds true.

End analogy.

Footnote: puzzles that draw you in are not the same thing as difficult
puzzles. See my comments on Spiritwrak, which I'm about to post.

Xiphias Gladius

unread,
Mar 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/18/96
to
Matthew Amster-Burton <mam...@u.washington.edu> writes:

> On Fri, 15 Mar 1996, bonni mierzejewska wrote:

>> On Fri, 15 Mar 1996 17:01:52 GMT, mam...@u.washington.edu (Matthew
>> Amster-Burton) wrote:
>>
>> > ... My game--in stasis at the moment due to laziness and a
>> >typing injury-- ...
>>
>> A *typing* injury?

> :). Okay, stupid terminology. But typing injuries really aren't
> funny. It's also called Repetitive Strain Injury, and means that I
> can't type for long without having tremendous pain in my fingers and
> forearms. A sad state of affairs for a computer geek. I'm getting
> some therapy soon, don't worry.

And for authors in general, and for if-authors, being both computer
geeks and authors. . .

They're really nasty, and a plurality of my friends has them. I've a
couple friends who had to leave school to recuperate -- they couldn't
take notes or type papers. I've got friends who lost jobs -- and OSHA
doesn't fully recognize RSI yet, so it can be hard to get workman's
comp.

I suspect that RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will be the *most*
common industrial injury in the US in the next few decades -- and,
hopefully, after that, we'll have ergonomic keyboards, better
voice-recognition, and what-have-you.

Until then, we'll make do. I've found that I've had some success
avoiding injury by going to the gym and doing wrist, arm, and back
exercises, which allows me to keep a reasonable posture while typing.

- Ian

Richard Barnett

unread,
Mar 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/18/96
to
In article <4icbvf$f...@new-news.cc.brandeis.edu> i...@cs.brandeis.edu (Xiphias Gladius) writes:

Well, you are wondering if people will notice your game . . . I, for
one, will. I check out ftp.gmd.de every couple of weeks for new
releases.

I don't finish all the games I play, but, well, I just enjoy starting
them.

Heck -- I'm about twelve turns into every game by that guy who wrote
"Frustration." I'm stuck in *all* of them, so, I go to another game.

Maybe after a couple weeks of having my subconcious mull over it, I'll
get through some of it.

Yes, release your game. I'll see it, at least. And I'll enjoy it.

i agree.

i've downloaded almost every inform and tads game from gmd, and i'm stuck in
all but the ones i've finished (which can be counted on the fingers of one
hand, i think)

but i enjoy playing them; i switch between them when i get stuck; sometimes i
ask for hints, or use the solutions on ftp, or (usually with the larger &
more complex games, paradoxically) refuse to do this and just persevere.

i'll be buying a machine to play them on at home soon (which will help, of
course), and i'll buy the ltoi sets & get stuck on those too.

further, inform/tads games act as a spur for me to get on with writing my own
game (this year's competition, if i'm lucky), and give me targets (games to
beat & games to aim for).

-- richard
--
_______________________________________________________________________________

richard barnett ric...@wg.icl.co.uk
_______________________________________________________________________________

David Baggett

unread,
Mar 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/18/96
to
In article <GDR11.96M...@cl.cam.ac.uk>,
Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:

>I'd like to write more criticism, but for me the barrier is the number
>of games I complete. I'm not a particularly highly-skilled player of

>text adventures...

Just a little pat on the back: I'm always eager to read one of your
reviews. In my opinion, your criticism has been excellent --- exactly the
sort of thing that we need.

I've noticed that almost *everyone* says that they're not very good at
these games, and that they can't get through many. And this is from a
self-selected group of text adventure fans.

>Perhaps I should just swallow my pride and start reading the hints?

Honestly, I never intended _Legend_ to be played *without* hints. You're
supposed to use them. It shouldn't regarded as cheating. And if people
feel let down by finishing the game so quickly (because they've used the


hints), I think we need to re-examine what's really making these works
enjoyable. If the primary source of enjoyment is the keep-you-up-at-night
challenge of the puzzles, then in my opinion there's little potential for

the genre to grow as an art form. (Crossword puzzles have the same
problem, don't they?)

>> "Curses" and "Jigsaw" are both fantastically difficult games for any
>> but veteran IF fans.
>
>But they are much easier than Infocom games like "Zork III" and
>"Spellbreaker".

That's why I used them as examples. They're certainly not the hardest IF
games around, yet I suspect they're still way too hard for the average avid
reader to get into. I certainly know plenty of very intelligent avid
readers who are instantly put off by the very idea that they're required to
solve puzzles, manage inventory, etc.

Christopher E. Forman

unread,
Mar 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/18/96
to
(Sorry to go back to the very beginning of this thread, but I just got
back from spring break -- and no, I did not go to Fort Naughtytail! B-)

Magnus Olsson (m...@marvin.df.lth.se) wrote:
: I'm actually getting worried that there is too much IF being released
: right now.

Nonsense, the world can never have too much I-F. It's those graphic-stuffed,
clunky-even-on-a-Pentium interactive adventure-esque movies-on-CDROM that
have become far too numerous. But don't worry, nature balances this out.
As the CD adventures become far too numerous, the food available for them is
less and less, and many die off, returning the population to normal.

Damn, I should know better than to watch those nature documentaries on the
Discovery Channel.

I guess what I should stop wasting bandwidth and say is the simple "too
much" concept of today's entertainment marketplace. There are far, far
too many movies, TV shows, books, albums, mass-market computer games, and
yes, even I-F for someone to have the time to enjoy every single one of
them. So what happens? The buyer is forced to pick and choose from what's
available. And most entertainment media have several sources of information
to help people decide what they'd enjoy.

This is where zines such as SPAG and XYZZYnews, web sites such as Baf's
Guide, and the (hopefully) increasing new trend of posting reviews to the
r.*.i-f groups come in. (And I'm really hoping to see more of this last
one. Even short reviews will get discussions going.) Any type of review,
if done right, can let the player know if the game in question is something
s/he would enjoy.

So I guess what I'm saying is, unless you're a rich millionaire and can
afford to sit around all day playing I-F, you're never going to have the
time to solve everything that comes out. Download a few, play a few moves,
and see if it's something you're likely to enjoy. If not, look elsewhere.
But even a clutter of the I-F market would be a good thing. Not having
time to play all the new releases is far preferable to sitting around
complaining about all the great games that will never be released now that
Infocom's gone (which is where we were a few years back).

--
C.E. Forman cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Read the I-F e-zine XYZZYnews, at ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/magazines/xyzzynews,
or on the Web at http://www.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzynews.html

Jim MacBrayne

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Mar 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/19/96
to
cinn...@shell.one.net (athol-brose) wrote:

>That is definitely a matter of opinion. I solved "Spellbreaker" in one
>marathon session at a computer software store where I knew the manager
>(but yes, I had bought the game), whereas "Curses", despite many hours
>of play, stil just confoozles me.

You obviously weren't as stupid as I was! It was only after completing
Spellbreaker that someone pointed out to me you could write on the
cubes with the burin.

I'd managed to finish the blasted thing by never having two white
cubes in the same place at the same time, and identifying each one by
always keeping track of where I'd put it down. Needless to say, it
made the game a bit more difficult!

Still, Spellbreaker and Trinity were my all-time favourites.

Jim MacBrayne

----------------------
Jim MacBrayne
jm...@medusa.u-net.com
CIS 100411,461
----------------------


Jacob Solomon Weinstei

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Mar 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/19/96
to
m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) writes:

>I'd be interested in hearing a little more about your vision of
>puzzle-less yet engagingly interactive IF, since I have some
>difficulty imnagining such works. That may of course be because I'm so
>conditioned to traditional, puzzle based IF, but I think not. In fact,
>I tend to agree with Jacob Weinstein when he writes that puzzles are
>essential (see his "critical essay" on Christminster, posted here
>recently).

I'm glad you agree with me. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to disagree
with you. That'll teach you not to say anything nice about me!

I did say that puzzles are one of the most effecitve (and one of the only
really effective) ways of providing characterization in IF. But that's
not the same thing as saying they're necessary. Just because there aren't
many other effective ways doesn't mean that an IF author couldn't come up
with a brilliant new way--or that he couldn't use the other means we
already have in a brilliantly effective manner.

As an example, consider The One That Got Away, which featured terrific
characterization that really didn't have much to do with puzzles.

Even so, I'm skeptical that a really great, full-length work could be
truly puzzless in all senses of the word. But I'm open to broader
definitions of puzzles than we usually use. The reason is that, in pretty
much all the fiction I like, there's some sort of obstacle that must be
overcome, or goal to be reached. By overcoming the obstacles, or reaching
the goals--or trying to do so and failing--the novel's characters, in a
sense, solve puzzles.

In other words, getting the cattle across the country in _Lonesome Dove_,
or committing a murder and getting away with it in _Crime and
Punishment_, all involve solving a series of puzzles of various sorts.
(And,as I said, in fiction, some puzzles can't be solved.) But those
puzzles are of an entirely different sort than those of the IF we've seen
so far; they involve internal struggles between hope and fear, greed and
generousity, love and hate. Perhaps it's these sorts of puzzles that Dave
Baggett would be willing to include in his "puzzless" IF.

To turn this from the theoretical to the more specific: I'm arguing that
one can do away with traditional IF puzzles and still provide a challenge
to the reader/player. Imagine you're playing Lonesome Dove, the
interactive version. You couldn't simply start off in Lonesome Dove,
Texas, and type:

>drive cattle to montana
Congratulations! You've driven the cattle across country. The end.

Instead, you'd have to interact with the men on the drive, and help them
master their fears and fight the elements. These would be puzzles--but
not traditional IF puzzles.


-Jacob Weinstein

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Mar 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/19/96
to
In article <4ikeh1$a...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>In article <4ijdam$6...@news.rwth-aachen.de>,
>Bernd Schmidt <cr...@informatik.rwth-aachen.de> wrote:
>
>>No-puzzle IF sounds to me a bit like all the graphical "adventure games" that
>>you can buy (like Kings Quest MCMXXI etc.) which are essentially self-playing
>>and are just showing off animations and graphics.
>
>That is certainly one direction no-puzzle IF could take, and not IMHO a
>very good one. But there's no reason to think that to have engaging
>interactivity you need puzzles per se.

I'd be interested in hearing a little more about your vision of


puzzle-less yet engagingly interactive IF, since I have some
difficulty imnagining such works. That may of course be because I'm so
conditioned to traditional, puzzle based IF, but I think not. In fact,
I tend to agree with Jacob Weinstein when he writes that puzzles are
essential (see his "critical essay" on Christminster, posted here
recently).

My current view of things is that plot comes first, puzzles second;
puzzles should be used as plot devices, and the plot should never
become an excuse for introducing a puzzle. Puzzles should never become
so difficult that they destroy the narrative - if a puzzle causes the
player to run around in virtual circles, trying all possible actions
over and over again, then the author has failed to maintain suspension
of disbelief.

Of course, this vaires with the genre. In a puzzle game like "Magic
Toyshop", the plot is indeed just an excuse for the puzzles, and nobody
expects anything else.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Bernd Schmidt

unread,
Mar 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/19/96
to
d...@lf.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett) writes:

>>No-puzzle IF sounds to me a bit like all the graphical "adventure games" that
>>you can buy (like Kings Quest MCMXXI etc.) which are essentially self-playing
>>and are just showing off animations and graphics.

>That is certainly one direction no-puzzle IF could take, and not IMHO a
>very good one. But there's no reason to think that to have engaging
>interactivity you need puzzles per se.

But I don't see in what other way you want to achieve interactivity.

>I'm not a composer, so I don't know, but perhaps serialists feel that some
>aspect of 12-tone music is key to their artistic ideals. But I do know IF
>pretty well, and I don't personally feel that the puzzles are what make
>really good IF good. What makes really good IF good (in my opinion) is
>similar to what makes really good static fiction good: plot, characters,
>setting, theme.

I certainly don't object to IF games with a good plot, on the contrary. And I
can enjoy games that have few puzzles, but other qualities (like AMFV, or "The
One that Got Away"). But _no_ puzzles? How would such a game differ from a
book, if you can just walk through it from the beginning to the end? Some small
obstacles are a good way to keep the player/reader from getting bored, and to
make him explore the possibilites of a game.
To keep the player interested, you'd have to provide a much greater
interactivity and more possibilities for the player to change the path of the
story. Smarter NPCs would also help. I don't think all of this is feasible.
I'd like to see such a program, though.

Bernd Schmidt
cr...@pool.informatik.rwth-aachen.de

David Baggett

unread,
Mar 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/19/96
to
In article <4imh29$e...@news.rwth-aachen.de>,
Bernd Schmidt <cr...@informatik.rwth-aachen.de> wrote:

>>That is certainly one direction no-puzzle IF could take, and not IMHO a
>>very good one. But there's no reason to think that to have engaging
>>interactivity you need puzzles per se.
>
>But I don't see in what other way you want to achieve interactivity.

Why not? You interact with things in real life and aren't constantly
solving puzzles!

>But _no_ puzzles? How would such a game differ from a book, if you can just
>walk through it from the beginning to the end?

Even if all you do is walk through from beginning to end (which is only one
possible result of the premise that there are no puzzles), the experience
is still not the same as reading a book. In a book, you're told that the
main character is doing this or that, and you're given certain details the
author has selected for you. In an interactive work --- even a vacuuous
one with no puzzles and no other motivation at all --- you get to select
which parts of the story you'd like to focus on. (You might decide to look
behind the newspaper vending machine on the street corner, or you might
not.) So-called hyperfiction is certainly different from static fiction.
Whether or not it succeeds is another discussion; in any case, I'm not
advocating a hyperfiction approach, because I don't think it has *enough*
interactivity.

You seem to be getting at the idea that pointless IF won't be very
interesting, and that I certainly agree with. But you're assuming that not
having puzzles implies pointlessness. I think that would be awfully hard
to demonstrate.

If I sound vague here, it's because I'd rather write something like what
I'm trying to describe than try to describe something I hope to eventually
write.

Matthew Amster-Burton

unread,
Mar 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/19/96
to
On Tue, 19 Mar 1996, Jim MacBrayne wrote:

> You obviously weren't as stupid as I was! It was only after completing
> Spellbreaker that someone pointed out to me you could write on the
> cubes with the burin.

Whoa, I thought I was the only person this dumb! And yet I solved it.
One of my finest hours at the keyboard.

Funny and totally unrelated thing: Lately I've been occasionally posting
using Pine, and when you post to a newsgroup, it says, "Your message will
be seen by thousands of people--really post?" Well, I guess it is a
program for newbies....

Matthew


Trevor Barrie

unread,
Mar 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/20/96
to
gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk (Gareth Rees) wrote:

>> "Curses" and "Jigsaw" are both fantastically difficult games for any
>> but veteran IF fans.

>But they are much easier than Infocom games like "Zork III" and
>"Spellbreaker".

They are? I found Curses even harder than Zork I; it was certainly
harder than Zork III, the easiest of the trilogy.


Laurel Halbany

unread,
Mar 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/20/96
to
gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk (Gareth Rees) wrote:

>I know that Magnus Olsson was upset and discouraged by some comments I
>posted about "Uncle Zebulon's Will". But I did enjoy UZW despite my
>published reservations, and I would certainly go out of my way to play
>any new game he were to write. I would be quite upset if I thought I
>had contributed to scaring someone away from writing.

But let's be fair: we can't worry so much about each others' feelings
that we avoid genuine, meant-to-be-constructive criticism.


Laurel Halbany

unread,
Mar 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/20/96
to
d...@lf.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett) wrote:

>I've noticed that almost *everyone* says that they're not very good at
>these games, and that they can't get through many. And this is from a
>self-selected group of text adventure fans.

Puzzles are meant to be difficult in most cases (would we really be
thrilled if we waltzed through all of them easily?), but part of the
difficulty is approaching the problem from an angle which the game's
author also saw. e.g., I wanted to try something in Jigsaw with the
grenade and the pterodactyl along the lines of Sinbad's trick of
getting into the Roq's nest, but it's not fair of me to expect that
Graham would have foreseen *every* weird player trick. :*

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Mar 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/20/96
to
In article <4invls$e...@alcor.usc.edu>,
Jacob Solomon Weinstei <jwei...@alcor.usc.edu> wrote:

>m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) writes:
>
>>I'd be interested in hearing a little more about your vision of
>>puzzle-less yet engagingly interactive IF, since I have some
>>difficulty imnagining such works. That may of course be because I'm so
>>conditioned to traditional, puzzle based IF, but I think not. In fact,
>>I tend to agree with Jacob Weinstein when he writes that puzzles are
>>essential (see his "critical essay" on Christminster, posted here
>>recently).
>
>I'm glad you agree with me. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to disagree
>with you. That'll teach you not to say anything nice about me!

I promise never to write anything nice about you again :-).

To be serious, I'm sorry for misrepresenting your views. However, I
think we agree after all. I think that the crucial point is how one
defines a puzzle.

>I did say that puzzles are one of the most effecitve (and one of the only
>really effective) ways of providing characterization in IF. But that's
>not the same thing as saying they're necessary. Just because there aren't
>many other effective ways doesn't mean that an IF author couldn't come up
>with a brilliant new way--or that he couldn't use the other means we
>already have in a brilliantly effective manner.
>
>As an example, consider The One That Got Away, which featured terrific
>characterization that really didn't have much to do with puzzles.

"The One That Got Away" is rather special in that it's so short. It's
very interactive indeed - you can try doing basically anything, and
you usually get an appropriate and interesting response. The puzzle
aspect of the game is much toned down - there *is* a couple of
puzzles, but they are simple and the enjoyment of the game comes not
from solving them but from all the interaction, especially that with
old Bob. You can basically just walk around and try everything. Actually,
that's perhaps the best way of enjoying "TOTGA".

I have the feeling, however, that this is possible only because the game
is so small.

>Even so, I'm skeptical that a really great, full-length work could be
>truly puzzless in all senses of the word. But I'm open to broader
>definitions of puzzles than we usually use. The reason is that, in pretty
>much all the fiction I like, there's some sort of obstacle that must be
>overcome, or goal to be reached. By overcoming the obstacles, or reaching
>the goals--or trying to do so and failing--the novel's characters, in a
>sense, solve puzzles.

Actually, that's pretty much my view of the matter, so, as I wrote above,
it seems we do agree after all.

Perhaps it's all a matter of words, and what David Bagget means when
he's speaking of "puzzle-less IF" is something with "puzzles" in this
broader sense.

However, if David or anybody else has a vision of truly puzzle-less
IF, that's still interactive, and still fiction, I'd be very
interested in sharing that vision. I don't think the "simulationist
school" of IF counts here - of course, if you create a good simulation
of real life you'll have plenty of interactivity, but I think you'd
still have to have some form of obstacles to overcome - "puzzles" in
the wider sense - in order to make it interesting as IF.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Mar 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/20/96
to
In article <4invls$e...@alcor.usc.edu>,
Jacob Solomon Weinstei <jwei...@alcor.usc.edu> wrote:
[Book Classics magically made IF]

>>drive cattle to montana
>Congratulations! You've driven the cattle across country. The end.

I *do* like this idea:

Catcher In The Rye, an Interactive Adventure by J.D. Salinger
Your Room at School...
>go nuts
You have ended up institutionalized! The end.

The Sun Also Rises, an Interactive Diversion by Ernest Hemingway
Paris
>drink everything
"Yes, wouldn't it be pretty?" The end.

Naked Lunch, an Interactive Hallucination by Wm. S. Burroughs
Interzone
>shoot up
I only understood you as far as wanting to shoot.
>shoot heroin
Dr. Benway, a Mugwump, and six giant centipedes take you to Mexico and
violently sodomize you. The end.

Huckleberry Finn
Mississippi
>escape with Jim
You have gotten Jim to freedom! Congratulations! The end.

>Instead, you'd have to interact with the men on the drive, and help them
>master their fears and fight the elements. These would be puzzles--but
>not traditional IF puzzles.

Yeah, but for a '90's version of the classics, I think the original idea
works. Just like pureeing the Cliff's Notes and then mainlining them.

Jacob Solomon Weinstei

unread,
Mar 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/20/96
to
ad...@tucson.princeton.edu (Adam J. Thornton) writes:


>I *do* like this idea:

>Catcher In The Rye, an Interactive Adventure by J.D. Salinger
>Your Room at School...
>>go nuts
>You have ended up institutionalized! The end.

(Various other clever examples deleted)

Actually, many moons ago, the New Zork Times had a contest where you had
to identify famous works by the transcripts of an imaginary game that
might be based on them. One based on _The Producers_, for example,
included something like this:

You're in the theater lobby. You see the critic for the New York Times here.
>give bill to critic
You give him a ten dollar bill. He looks disgusted at your attempt to
bribe him, and throws the money on the ground.
**Your score has just increased.**

And, of course, there's my very own text-adventure version of Waiting for
Godot, which is in the TADS directory at ftp.gmd.de as modern.gam..

-Jacob Weinstein

Xiphias Gladius

unread,
Mar 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/20/96
to
Matthew Amster-Burton <mam...@u.washington.edu> writes:

> Funny and totally unrelated thing: Lately I've been occasionally
> posting using Pine, and when you post to a newsgroup, it says, "Your
> message will be seen by thousands of people--really post?" Well, I
> guess it is a program for newbies....

Anyone remember rn?

"You are posting this to thousands of machines across the world,
costing the net hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Do you really
want to be doing this? (n/y) n"

I think that the 'net would be a calmer place with the rn warning. . .

**** INCLUDE A SONG WRITTEN BY SOMEONE ELSE (i've never written
anything this good, unfortunately. . . I wish I had. . .)***

From: spa...@titan.ucs.umass.edu (Rex Dart... Spatula Spy)
Newsgroups: alt.music.filk
Subject: Re: A song I wrote

"The Flamer"
To the tune of "The Boxer" by P. Simon and A. Garfunkel

I am just a lurker tho my story's seldom told,
I have squandered my commitments for a terminal and access, such are Usenetters
All flames and jest,
Still a man reads what he wants to read and killfiles the rest.

When I started reading newsgroups I was no more than a boy
In the company of newbies, in the quiet of the on-line helpfiles, running
scared
Confused as hell,
Seeking out the stupid keystrokes all you gurus knew so well,
Looking for alt.tv.saved-by-the-bell.


CHORUS:
Li li li (FLAME!)
Li li li li li li li,
Li li li (FLAME!)
Li li li li li li li li li li li.
(repetive lil' sucker ain't it?!)

Asking frequently-asked questions, I come looking for a file
But I get no answers,
Just a come-on from the gang on alt.hi.are.you.cute
I do declare
There were times when I was so bored I read the posts up there

(instrumental)
(chorus)

Now I'm sending this across the world, and costing the net hundreds
(if not thousands)
Of dollars, do I really want to be doing this?
Doing this....
What the hell.

In the carrel types a flamer and an idiot by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every piece of hate e-mail that he got
Till he cries out, in his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, you all suck, " but we flame him just the same

(chorus)
(chorus)
(repeat chorus until you feel the song should be over.)
(repeat it again just to make sure.)

--
_____ spa...@titan.ucs.umass.edu
|\ /| "And I am the Iconoclast, an offbeat eccentric who marches to the tune
| O | of a different drummer... or you can call me 'Noodle Noggin'."
|/ \| - Brain, 'Animaniacs'


Sean O'Leary and/or Dawn-Marie Fletcher

unread,
Mar 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/20/96
to
In article <4in9i7$7...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

> My current view of things is that plot comes first, puzzles second;
> puzzles should be used as plot devices, and the plot should never
> become an excuse for introducing a puzzle.

One of the things I learned from a screenwriting book is that structure is
character. For instance, pick a movie or a book. Most fiction shows the
character by how she is revealed by her actions. How a character copes
with the plot elements results in the definition of the character.

For instance, detective stories place the hero in a variety of situations
where he has to solve a crime. The techniques the Sam Spade uses are
different than Archie Goodwin, or Hercule Poirot.

The neat thing would be a game that allows for different techniques. Your
character concept doesn't use guns, ok, the story is different that one
where the main character has a license to kill.

Christminster suceeded in developing the character of Christobel, mainly
through the use of puzzles. How she discovered things gave you insight to
her character. Structure defines character.

As games become more complicated, the 'puzzles' will have more solutions,
and things like structure and character will become more important that
"put paper under door, put knife in keyhole, get paper, get key" puzzles.

For instance, there's a guard standing at the door to Mr. Big's house. You
have decided you must get inside. A game that allows for different tactics
will be more interesting and more playable. For example, you could...

KISS GUARD
You walk up to the guard and plant one on him. He gulps and say's "Hey,
that's some kisser you got there, how about going into the alley with me
for another?" He hops off the stoop and makes way for a nearby alley.

or

ATTACK GUARD WITH ICEPICK
You saunter up to the guard with the icepick hidden in the newspaper. As
you pass, you smile and nod. While he doffs his cap, you thrust up and in,
impaling the icepick deep in his left eye. He crumples noiselessly.

Obviously, two entirely different characters (or it could be Sharon
Stone). The game would further adapt so that if you were a violent type,
you would be placed in violent situations. Similarly, if you demonstrated
earlier in the game that you were a milktoast, you wouldn't be able to
resort to acts of violence.

It's kinda like the bathroom in Leather Goddesses of Phobos. You decided
what sex you were by which bathroom you went into first. As games become
more advanced, there will be more opportunities to affect the game by your
actions rather than affecting the game by solving puzzles.

Yikes, I rambled. But hopefully not off topic.

Sean O out.

David Gilbert

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
Jacob Solomon Weinstei (jwei...@mekab.usc.edu) wrote:


: Actually, many moons ago, the New Zork Times had a contest where you had

: to identify famous works by the transcripts of an imaginary game that
: might be based on them. One based on _The Producers_, for example,
: included something like this:

: You're in the theater lobby. You see the critic for the New York Times here.
: >give bill to critic
: You give him a ten dollar bill. He looks disgusted at your attempt to
: bribe him, and throws the money on the ground.
: **Your score has just increased.**

I never saw those! Is it possible to make transcripts of these and post them?
I would love to see these.

: And, of course, there's my very own text-adventure version of Waiting for

: Godot, which is in the TADS directory at ftp.gmd.de as modern.gam..

Saw it. Downloaded it. Played it forever trying to win until you told me that
you couldn't. :P

Only from the warped mind of,

David L. Gilbert

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
teadd...@aol.com (TEAddition) writes:
> > You obviously weren't as stupid as I was! It was only after completing
> > Spellbreaker that someone pointed out to me you could write on the
> > cubes with the burin.
>
> I'm glad someone else fell to that little trap. I just juggled cubes
> through the gold box until I knew I had the right one in my hands.
> Amazing how some of the really difficult puzzles in games can come to you
> right away, and the most elementary crap escapes you.

This actually brings up an interesting point: if some puzzle (or
realization, or whatever) isn't truly necessary to finish a game, some
players will never get it. No matter how annoying the game is without
it.

If a particular scene is spposed to be important to the overall
effect, you'd better make sure there's no way around it.

Christopher E. Forman

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
Magnus Olsson (m...@marvin.df.lth.se) wrote:
: My current view of things is that plot comes first, puzzles second;
: puzzles should be used as plot devices, and the plot should never
: become an excuse for introducing a puzzle. Puzzles should never become

: so difficult that they destroy the narrative - if a puzzle causes the
: player to run around in virtual circles, trying all possible actions
: over and over again, then the author has failed to maintain suspension
: of disbelief.

Well, there's always the extreme example of puzzle-less I-F, namely, Matt
Barringer's "Detective." Then again, it doesn't really have a plot either.

John Baker

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
In <4ipi8c$s...@new-news.cc.brandeis.edu> i...@cs.brandeis.edu (Xiphias

Gladius) writes:
>Anyone remember rn?
>
>"You are posting this to thousands of machines across the world,
>costing the net hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Do you really
>want to be doing this? (n/y) n"
>
>I think that the 'net would be a calmer place with the rn warning. . .

Postnews told me to edit the quoted article of excess verbage. Does
anyone know what that means?

Christopher E. Forman

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
Sarinee Achavanuntakul (sach...@fas.harvard.edu) wrote:
: Dave, your post reminded me of a game I once played a long time
: ago, called "Portal" (for the Commodore 64). It's a very interesting
: "interactive novel" with NO puzzles at all.

Could you describe it in a little more detail? I'm interested.

: Perhaps the term "Interactive Novel" would more aptly describe
: what you're talking about? Calling it a "game" without puzzles sort of
: defeat the purpose.

What I'm interested in is the method used by the program to maintain the
game's challenge and long-term playability. With puzzles and objects to
manipulate, this isn't a big deal. But if the game has no puzzles, how does
an author keep the player from finishing it in a single session? Even the
simple need to figure out what to do next to advance the plot could be seen
as a puzzle of sorts.

George Caswell

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
On 21 Mar 1996, Christopher E. Forman wrote:

> Magnus Olsson (m...@marvin.df.lth.se) wrote:
>
> Well, there's always the extreme example of puzzle-less I-F, namely, Matt
> Barringer's "Detective." Then again, it doesn't really have a plot either.
>

Oh yeah? There was that guy who died... that guy who was mayor, I
think... you were on a quest to provide him some dignity-- since no one
could tell who he was, it was decided the only way to provide this poor
lost soul with the peace and humanity he so richly deserved in his
(poorly-implemented) afterlife was to define him through the
circumstances of his death... (Of course, the circumstances of his death
could have been as simple as taking a wrong turn going to McDonald's..
but...) In the process, the player experiences a great deal of personal
growth, sees strange sights and events, gets to passively interact with
the Audio-Animatronics which populate the city. He experiences spatial
paradoxes, optical illusions, danger, intrigue... he feels the spirit of
rebellion against society of the man in the cell, he feels the
helplessness of the city which is without its nameless leader, he feels
the intense boredom of the guy who gives him a cheeseburger, he feels the
bizarre and arbitrary madness of the madman west of north of the video
store... he feels the need to ask people, arbitrarily, about the
murder... (remember the video store clerk?) And finally, the personal
growth and experience so draws in the player that he can determine where
the murderer is...
(Yes, I'm talking about the same DETECTIVE... I'm just going on a
sarcastic rant... <g>)

....T...I...M...B...U...K...T...U... ____________________________________
.________________ _/>_ _______......[George Caswell, CS '99. 4 more info ]
<___ ___________// __/<___ /......[http://the-eye.res.wpi.edu/~timbuktu]
...//.<>._____..<_ >./ ____/.......[Member LnL+SOMA, sometimes artist, ]
..//./>./ /.__/ /./ <___________.[writer,builder.sysadmin of the-eye ]
.//.</.</</</.<_ _/.<_____________/.[____________________________________]
</.............</...................


TEAddition

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
> You obviously weren't as stupid as I was! It was only after completing
> Spellbreaker that someone pointed out to me you could write on the
> cubes with the burin.

I'm glad someone else fell to that little trap. I just juggled cubes
through the gold box until I knew I had the right one in my hands.
Amazing how some of the really difficult puzzles in games can come to you
right away, and the most elementary crap escapes you.

Oh, in regards to the thread, keep in mind that ordinary fiction is
usually filled with puzzles, it's just that we're reduced to the point of
watching the characters solve them all. Interactive fiction without
puzzles may have an artistic attraction, but there is no action without
conflict, conflict is essentially problem-solving. Anything else would be
-- well, interactive poetry, I suppose.

-TEA-

Sarinee Achavanuntakul

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
David Baggett (d...@lf.ai.mit.edu) wrote:

: Even if all you do is walk through from beginning to end (which is only one


: possible result of the premise that there are no puzzles), the experience
: is still not the same as reading a book. In a book, you're told that the
: main character is doing this or that, and you're given certain details the
: author has selected for you. In an interactive work --- even a vacuuous
: one with no puzzles and no other motivation at all --- you get to select
: which parts of the story you'd like to focus on. (You might decide to look
: behind the newspaper vending machine on the street corner, or you might

Dave, your post reminded me of a game I once played a long time

ago, called "Portal" (for the Commodore 64). It's a very interesting
"interactive novel" with NO puzzles at all.

Perhaps the term "Interactive Novel" would more aptly describe

what you're talking about? Calling it a "game" without puzzles sort of
defeat the purpose.

-Sarinee

Xiphias Gladius

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
ad...@tucson.princeton.edu (Adam J. Thornton) writes:

>In article <4invls$e...@alcor.usc.edu>,
>Jacob Solomon Weinstei <jwei...@alcor.usc.edu> wrote:
>[Book Classics magically made IF]
>>>drive cattle to montana
>>Congratulations! You've driven the cattle across country. The end.

>I *do* like this idea:

>Catcher In The Rye, an Interactive Adventure by J.D. Salinger
>Your Room at School...
>>go nuts
>You have ended up institutionalized! The end.

Hmm . . .

The Grapes of Wrath, an Interactive Tale by Steinbeck

The Great Plains

You see a lot of dust here.

Obvious exits are
California

>go California

California

It's not really great here. You are getting hungry

>starve

You starve. The end.

- Ian

Jacob Solomon Weinstei

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
dgil...@bu.edu (David Gilbert) writes:

>Jacob Solomon Weinstei (jwei...@mekab.usc.edu) wrote:


>: Actually, many moons ago, the New Zork Times had a contest where you had
>: to identify famous works by the transcripts of an imaginary game that
>: might be based on them. One based on _The Producers_, for example,
>: included something like this:

> I never saw those! Is it possible to make transcripts of these and post them?


>I would love to see these.

Alas, I have no idea what happened to my once-might collection of the New
Zork Times... If it's going to be posted, it'll have to be by somebody else.

-Jacob

John Baker

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
In <4isa1n$c...@news.duke.edu> sgra...@scratchy.phy.duke.edu (Stephen
Granade) writes:
>In article <4iqalv$8...@ixnews3.ix.netcom.com>
bak...@ix.netcom.com(John
>Baker ) writes:
>> Postnews told me to edit the quoted article of excess verbage. Does
>> anyone know what that means?
>It means, remove everything you possibly can from the quotation which

>won't reduce your post to illegibility.

Er, I was making a joke. :)

OB Interactive-Fiction: I've decided that if I don't set a deadline
for FireWitch II, I'll never finish it. Now, I know none of us take
relase dates very seriously, but I'm gonna hold myself to it. I swear.
1/31/97. Notice I've given myself plenty of time.

Stephen Granade

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
In article <4iqalv$8...@ixnews3.ix.netcom.com> bak...@ix.netcom.com(John
Baker ) writes:
> In <4ipi8c$s...@new-news.cc.brandeis.edu> i...@cs.brandeis.edu (Xiphias

> Gladius) writes:
> Postnews told me to edit the quoted article of excess verbage. Does
> anyone know what that means?

It means, remove everything you possibly can from the quotation which
won't reduce your post to illegibility.

As Strunk & White say, simplify.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | "You fools! Money doesn't put fish
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | on the table! FISH puts fish on
Duke University, Physics Dept | the table!"
| -- Mr. Smartypants, from The Tick

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
to
cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu (Christopher E. Forman) writes:
> Sarinee Achavanuntakul (sach...@fas.harvard.edu) wrote:
> : Dave, your post reminded me of a game I once played a long time

> : ago, called "Portal" (for the Commodore 64). It's a very interesting
> : "interactive novel" with NO puzzles at all.
>
> Could you describe it in a little more detail? I'm interested.

Yeah, I had that for the Apple... it was, hmm, a walk through a
database is the best way to describe it. The idea is that you are a
starship pilot, and you come out of cold sleep in orbit around Earth
(instead of where you were headed), and Earth is empty. No people. So
you land and find a working computer terminal. The only active program
is an entertainment AI, a storyteller named Homer. He starts giving
you access to various databases -- genealogical, technological,
educational records, historical and news, all sorts of stuff. You read
a few of those, and then Homer synthesizes the scraps into a new
segment of the story (actually two stories, one early in the life of
the main character, and one about the Big Disappearance.) Then more
scraps appear in the databases.

It was a nifty concept. Unfortunately, it was pretty bad SF.

The whole thing was later published as a book -- just a straight text
dump of what you'd read going through the game. _Portal_, by Rob
Swigart. It works nearly as well in that form as it did on computer.
Which may indicate a failing of the concept. Dunno.

> : Perhaps the term "Interactive Novel" would more aptly describe


> : what you're talking about? Calling it a "game" without puzzles sort of
> : defeat the purpose.
>

> What I'm interested in is the method used by the program to maintain the
> game's challenge and long-term playability. With puzzles and objects to
> manipulate, this isn't a big deal. But if the game has no puzzles, how does
> an author keep the player from finishing it in a single session?

Most modern graphic adventures do this simply by having slow
interfaces! I was surprised when I realized this, but it's true. The
pacing is provded by having video or audio scenes, which you can't go
through faster than real-time, and then by having lots of things to do
that take a few minutes of clicking and jumping around.

I contend that one of the biggest, secret advantages of text IF is
that you can't do that. People can skim text if they're bored; they
can enter commands very quickly if they know the scene. The *only*
tool to provide pacing is making the player think. The
counterpart-benefit is that the player is never bored; he always
spends the majority of his time reading new material or thinking about
it. Unless he's stuck so badly that he gives up -- in which case the
game has failed for him.

> Even the
> simple need to figure out what to do next to advance the plot could be seen
> as a puzzle of sorts.

When done right, it's by far the best kind of puzzle. (ie, when the
player *does* have to figure it out, instead of stumbling into it or
realizing it immediately.)

David Baggett

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Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
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In article <4irvuk$d...@decaxp.HARVARD.EDU>,
Sarinee Achavanuntakul <sach...@fas.harvard.edu> wrote:

>Dave, your post reminded me of a game I once played a long time
>ago, called "Portal" (for the Commodore 64). It's a very interesting
>"interactive novel" with NO puzzles at all.

I've never played Portal. Is there a version of PC's?

>Perhaps the term "Interactive Novel" would more aptly describe what you're
>talking about? Calling it a "game" without puzzles sort of defeat the
>purpose.

That's one reason I often use the word "work" instead of "game" when
talking about these things.

Joe Mason

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Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
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"Re: An embarrassment of r", declared Bernd Schmidt from the Vogon ship:

BS>So what? IF games are not books. I enjoy playing IF games, and that
BS>involves solving puzzles. If I don't want to solve puzzles, I read a book.
BS>No-puzzle IF sounds to me a bit like all the graphical "adventure games"
BS>that you can buy (like Kings Quest MCMXXI etc.) which are essentially

But books aren't *interactive*. As somebody mentioned before - you could
write an Inform or TADS program that just printed text to the screen, and then
you'd have a "book". But if you let the user make choices, and develop the
plot on his own, you've got IF - which doesn't neccessarily need puzzles, as
long as it communicates the atmosphere well with prose that holds your
interest, intriguing characters to interact with (the weak point right now),
etc. Among other advantages is the way to see what would happen if the main
character had *not* made the crucial decision (I know I've always wondered
what would have happened in Star Wars if Luke had killed Vader). Another good
one that somebody pointed out a while ago is the way you can communicate
emotion to the player, because its *him* (or her) who's actually doing things.
The parrot in Christminster is the perfect example - the first time I met Ed,
I went back and replayed the opening to see if there was any way I could do it
without releasing the parrot.

To everybody who scoffs: watch for my entry in the 1996 IF competition.
Hopefully, it will make you think - more then a similar, non-interactive story
would. I don't want to sound like I'm tooting my own horn (I am, but I don't
want to *sound* like it), but I feel confident that "In the End" will show
that non-puzzle oriented IF will work - and while it's doing it, it will evoke
your emotions, engage your mind, and, hopefully, disturb you just a bit...
This is not a game!

Which brings up another point I've been meaning to ask about - what should I
call it? It's not a game, its certainly not *fun* any more then, say,
Schindler's List was entertainment, but I can't call it a "story". Well, I
guess I could, but it doesn't seem to fit. And do you "play" it? Not
really... but you certainly don't "read" it. Any suggestions for new
terminology?

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --
---
þ CMPQwk #1.42þ UNREGISTERED EVALUATION COPY

Tim Hollebeek

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Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
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John Baker (bak...@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
: In <4ipi8c$s...@new-news.cc.brandeis.edu> i...@cs.brandeis.edu (Xiphias

: Gladius) writes:
: >Anyone remember rn?
: >
: >"You are posting this to thousands of machines across the world,
: >costing the net hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Do you really
: >want to be doing this? (n/y) n"
: >
: >I think that the 'net would be a calmer place with the rn warning. . .

: Postnews told me to edit the quoted article of excess verbage. Does


: anyone know what that means?

It means you should change your quoting character on your newsreader
to something like ':', since postnews is so stupid it only looks for
'>' :-) Of course, you could simply post more of your own info, or
cut down on the amount you quoted, but that's too easy ...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tim Hollebeek | Disclaimer :=> Everything above is a true statement,
Electron Psychologist | for sufficiently false values of true.
Princeton University | email: t...@wfn-shop.princeton.edu
----------------------| http://wfn-shop.princeton.edu/~tim (NEW! IMPROVED!)

Xiphias Gladius

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Mar 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/21/96
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George Caswell <timb...@the-eye.res.wpi.edu> writes:

>On 21 Mar 1996, Christopher E. Forman wrote:

>> Magnus Olsson (m...@marvin.df.lth.se) wrote:
>>
>> Well, there's always the extreme example of puzzle-less I-F, namely, Matt
>> Barringer's "Detective." Then again, it doesn't really have a plot either.
>>
> Oh yeah?

[ Explanation of the deep interpersonal growth engendered by the game
snipped. ]

It also has puzzles in a more traditional sense. The one that springs
to mind is "How can someone be shot with a knife?"

It's almost a Zen koan, thus furthering the player's spiritual
development.

(Just as an aside, we all only know this game through "MST3K", right?)

- Ian

David Baggett

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Mar 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/22/96
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In article <4invls$e...@alcor.usc.edu>,
Jacob Solomon Weinstei <jwei...@alcor.usc.edu> wrote:

>...perhaps it's these sorts of puzzles that Dave Baggett would be willing
>to include in his "puzzless" IF.

I certainly didn't mean to equate "puzzle" with "conflict". Imagine an IF
work where you find yourself homeless on the streets of Detroit. You can
wander around, talk to people, find things out about your local community,
etc. What's the point? Well, the author would presumably build in
particular plots that you can pick up. Perhaps one leads to your ending up
a tragic hero. I'm not talking about computer-generated plots or plot
assembly here, either. I'm talking about multiple plots that the reader
can follow seamlessly simply by doing what he'd do if he were really put in
this situation (modulo the strict limitations of the interface).

Maybe one riddle the reader would like to solve is how he came to be in
such a sorry state. Or instead, he might try to find a way out of it.
Could you call such things puzzles? I suppose. But these are different
enough tasks from "give treasure to troll" that I think it's misleading to
call them puzzles. In any case, whatever you choose to call them, I'd like
less of the "give X to Y" variety and more of this new kind.

You'd need to solve many difficult problems to make this kind of IF work.
But I don't think it's impossible. You wouldn't want to start out trying
to write a Legend-sized work in this format, however.

>Instead, you'd have to interact with the men on the drive, and help them
>master their fears and fight the elements. These would be puzzles--but
>not traditional IF puzzles.

This is much closer to what I'm talking about.

David Baggett

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Mar 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/22/96
to
In article <4iskkn$s...@thor.cmp.ilstu.edu>,

Christopher E. Forman <cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:

>But if the game has no puzzles, how does an author keep the player from
>finishing it in a single session?

You can read a whole book or listen to an entire piece of music in one
sitting. Why do you want to specifically avoid this in IF?

>Even the simple need to figure out what to do next to advance the plot
>could be seen as a puzzle of sorts.

Ideally, the reader shouldn't really be conscious that he needs to do
something in particular to advance the plot. Again, this has got to
adversely affect suspension of disbelief.

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/22/96
to
In article <66.410...@tabb.com>, Joe Mason <joe....@tabb.com> wrote:
>Which brings up another point I've been meaning to ask about - what should I
>call it? It's not a game, its certainly not *fun* any more then, say,
>Schindler's List was entertainment, but I can't call it a "story". Well, I
>guess I could, but it doesn't seem to fit. And do you "play" it? Not
>really... but you certainly don't "read" it. Any suggestions for new
>terminology?

Interesting question.

I agree that the term "text adventure game" has the wrong
connotations, at least to many people.

It gives the impression of a non-serious work ("How can I take
something labeled as a game seriously?"). I think Whizzard's
experience with the Vietnam veterans is telling - if I remember
correctly (please correct me if I'm wrong, Whizzard), he was
threatened with physical violence when he told people on a veteran's
mailing list that he was doing research for Avalon. My personal theory
is that it was the word "game" that triggered that reaction.

Also, for amny people, "text adventure game" carries associations to
the early, Scott Adams-type games, where puzzles were everything, the
writing nearly non-existant, and the limited parser turned playing
into a find-the-verb nightmare. (OK, perhaps I'm being unfair to Scott
Adams; I'm really talking about the games of the period, not his
specific games).

Finally, many people seem to think that not only can a game not be serious,
but it can't be taken seriously. I remember the debate about the
possible immorality of actions taken by the player in some games
(such as killing the thief in Zork). Some people reacted quite
vehemently, calling me all sorts of things for wanting to apply morals
to a *game*. Someone even went so far as to say that the characters in
a game were only concretizations of the puzzles and no more real characters
than chessmen, so it was very silly indeed to try to apply moral standards
to their actions. Of course, the people who cried when Floyd died will
probably not agree... :-)


So, the term "text adventure game" is unsuitable. What about
"Interactive Fiction?"

Well, it does capture the aspects of seriousness and depth. However, I
think it's too broad. Graphical games like "Phantasmagoria",
tree-structured hyperfiction and "choose your own path" game books are
all interactive and they're all fiction.

Also, there's no good counterpart to the word "game" that's derived
from "itneractive fiction". "Piece of interactive fiction" is so
cumbersome, and "interactive novel" is already taken (by Scott Adams).


I'm currently working on a peice of IF in a cyberpunk setting, which I
feel is
too serious to be called a game. I'm actually calling it an
"Interactive story", and where I normally would use the word "game" in
the docs and help texts, I use the word "story" instead. The implied
metaphor is that you're not interacting with a game, but with a story
or a story "book". I think this works quite well.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Matteo Vaccari

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Mar 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/22/96