room descriptions; how much is too far?

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Sean Don

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Jan 1, 2002, 12:10:32 AM1/1/02
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Hi,

My question is in regards to how far I should take my room descriptions.
I noticed that there are several formats to room descriptions:

Note: Beforehand, I *did* read the DM's article on how to avoid mediocre
room descriptions.
Note: Please pardon my generalizations.


#1
Some games describe a room by first listing all the unimportant stuff in one
or two lines, then giving all the important items their own sentence.
(eg. Gram Nelson's games)

> look
Food Mart
Several shelves of junk food and cheap souvenirs line the market, numerous
kinds of drinks can be seen through slide-able glass doors on the west wall,
stands packed full of chips and comic books are placed near the entrance,
and ice-cream treats wait under the class lid of a ice-box on the east wall.
Behind a counter, in the back of the market, waits a teller.

> open ice box
That's not something you need to refer to in the coarse of this game.


#2
Other games seem to simply leave out much of the scenery; and only implement
the necessary stuff.
(eg. Mike Robert's games)

> look
Food Mart
This market is filled with all the usual modern junk food; behind a long
counter in the back of the market waits an anxious teller.


#3
Finally, a few games seem to implement everything; even when they are what I
call "interactive scenery"; viz, scenery that is either a supporter, a
container, or enterable, even though they're not important.
(eg. A Good Breakfast)

> look
Food Mart
Florescent lights brightly contrast all the colors of the market. In the
middle of the room, three shelves run east and west; they contain bags of
chips, candies, and various cheap souvenirs. On the west wall, in
refrigerators behind sliding glass doors, you can see an assortment of sodas
and other drink. Near the entrance is a stand full of comic books. And
placed against the east wall is a ice box; just south of which is an old
arcade game. On a counter, in the back of the market, is the usual rack of
candies and gum, and a jar of beef jerky. Behind the counter waits a man, he
is leaned way back in a chair whilst his legs rest on the counter. Currently
he stares at a TV that is fixed in a corner of the ceiling.

> l in ice box
You can't see inside since it is closed.

> open ice box
You slide open the ice box; a wave of cold air stems up before you. A peak
inside reveals all your favorites, including ice cream sandwiches, pop
cycles and ice cream cookies. Unfortunately, these items cannot help you in
your quest very much; so you slide the box shut and move on to other
matters.


Right now I think method #3 would offer the best experience; but I'm stumped
as to which style is the most desired by players.


Please Respond. :)

Thanks In Advance,
Sean

joh

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Jan 1, 2002, 9:16:27 AM1/1/02
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Speaking for myself as a player, these are the laws I would lay down
on the subject:

1. If it isn't necessary to the game, it should be interesting in and
of itself. There's no point in an exacting _literal_ description of
a grocery store. But if you can make the grocery store beautiful,
eerie, inspiring, profound, sublime, etc., then hey, pile it
on. Ask yourself if you'd enjoy reading a walkthrough of the game
if it was published as a short story.

2. If all you mention are the things needed for the game, then the
game becomes nothing but puzzles with, as reward, more puzzles or
perhaps "You win." No thanks. Plus it becomes a less interesting
puzzle: you _know_ you're going to need that carton of milk for
something, so you fill your pockets with every toad and marble and
try each in succession at every locked door.

3. If you mention it, implement it. Obviously, an author's time is
finite, but few things take me out of a game like "That's not
something you need to refer to in the course of this game." So if
you want me to get really immersed in the game, either implement
everything, or write your descriptions so that nothing seems
"interactive."

joh

>>>>> "Sean" == Sean Don <sea...@loop.com> writes:

Sean> Hi,

Sean> My question is in regards to how far I should take my room
Sean> descriptions.
...

Xiphias Gladius

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Jan 1, 2002, 10:05:12 AM1/1/02
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Sean Don <sea...@loop.com> wrote:

> Right now I think method #3 would offer the best experience; but I'm stumped
> as to which style is the most desired by players.

For me, it Depends On The Game. (What a helpful response, eh?) In
general, I prefer things more to the #3 "Implement Everything" end of the
scale, especially now that we've got less space restriction on games. I
think CURVES is a good example of a game which is large mostly because of
all the extra stuff implemented -- there are abandoned buildings in it
that you can break into and look around in that are there purely because
they *would* be there, not because they're important to the plot. There
are characters you can have entire converstations with who have, maybe,
one piece of information that's plot-related, if that.

If you do this, though, there are two things to watch out for. The first,
obvious one is that you have to maintain that for the entire game: if you
leave that store and find yourself on

A Street

Streetlight cast pools of light on the cars parked along this east-west
street leads from downtown to the country.

>EXAMINE CARS
You can't see that here.

>EXAMINE DOWNTOWN
You don't need that word to finish the story.

>EXAMINE STREETLIGHT
That's not important.

-- it's a lot more jarring than if *everything* was implemented at that
level of detail

The other thing to realize is that a more fully-implemented world is
going to feel a little bare -- one person just can't implement everything
that a person would interact with in a busy city. So the world is going
to have something of an empty, deserted feeling. My favorite
"fully-implemented" games are therefore the ones which are set in empty,
deserted-type areas: the city in CURVES is economically decaying, with
boarded-up storefronts, and few people, for instance.

- Ian
--
"We could watch THE PRISONER and then watch TELETUBBIES!" -- my mother

Sean Don

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Jan 1, 2002, 1:26:45 PM1/1/02
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joh <j...@bigblueheron.com> wrote in message
news:87wuz26...@hammurabi.foo.bar...

> Speaking for myself as a player, these are the laws I would lay down
> on the subject:
>
> 1. If it isn't necessary to the game, it should be interesting in and
> of itself. There's no point in an exacting _literal_ description of
> a grocery store. But if you can make the grocery store beautiful,
> eerie, inspiring, profound, sublime, etc., then hey, pile it
> on.


This point has me re-evaluate what is said in DMv4:

"Whirlpool Ledge
The path runs a quarter-circle from south to west around a broken ledge of
this funnel cavern. A waterfall drops out of the darkness, catching the
lamplight as it cascades into the basin. Rapid currents whip into a roaring
whirlpool below.

Even so, there is nothing man-made, nothing alive, no colour and besides it
seems to miss the essential feature of all the mountain water-caves I've
ever been to, so let us add a second paragraph (with a line break, which is
easier on
the eye):

Blue-green algae hangs in clusters from the old guard-railing, which has
almost rusted clean through in the frigid, soaking air."
~ DMv.4 ~


However, rather than take these tips as "Be sure to mention all the literal
color of a room," instead "Be sure to focus on the interesting color of a
room."


> Ask yourself if you'd enjoy reading a walkthrough of the game
> if it was published as a short story.


Good idea.


< snippage>

> 3. If you mention it, implement it.

<snip>


Right. And of coarse what it all comes down to is what I mention to begin
w/.


Thank You Very Much,
Sean

Sean Don

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Jan 1, 2002, 1:27:07 PM1/1/02
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Xiphias Gladius <i...@eris.io.com> wrote in message
news:IekY7.420055$uB.39...@bin3.nnrp.aus1.giganews.com...

> Sean Don <sea...@loop.com> wrote:
>
> > Right now I think method #3 would offer the best experience; but I'm
stumped
> > as to which style is the most desired by players.
>
> For me, it Depends On The Game. (What a helpful response, eh?)

<snip>


> The other thing to realize is that a more fully-implemented world is
> going to feel a little bare -- one person just can't implement everything
> that a person would interact with in a busy city. So the world is going
> to have something of an empty, deserted feeling.


You mean because so much of the object-based scenery would not reflect much
of the on going live activities?


> My favorite
> "fully-implemented" games are therefore the ones which are set in empty,
> deserted-type areas: the city in CURVES is economically decaying, with
> boarded-up storefronts, and few people, for instance.


I'll check that one out.
Thanks,
Sean

TheCycoONE

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Jan 1, 2002, 10:09:49 PM1/1/02
to
My opinion has always been to implement absolutly everything you can think
of. If I'm betatesting work for an author who used method 2, I would write
them in my list of suggested improvements item by item what needs a
description, and anything I think the player may try which could have a
response. In my own game I'm attempting to implement an entire town, not
because it's important to the game, but because I don't see why the player
should be limited to areas which are important to the plot. It also serves
as a wonderful place to include all those extra bits of humour which just
wouldn't fit in otherwise.

I suppose on the other side of the coin, it takes me forever to write games,
it becomes quite tedious and time consuming, and I find that unless I take
long breaks, the overall quality of the important descriptions decreases
dramatically. I believe in the future I will finnish writing the game
before I add the extra detailing, and I suggest that if you are the type of
person to become jaded, that you do the same.

Then there are always those who disagree, I beleive that point was made
rather obvious in a descussion several months ago on this newsgroup about
the 'perfect game'.

TheCycoONE
cyc...@hotmail.com
http://cvtg.emsai.net


Sean Don

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Jan 1, 2002, 11:51:42 PM1/1/02
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Hi Again,

My question is in regards to a few major downsides I found to #3:


I found that implementing Switchables (eg. scenery lamps), Climbables (eg.
trees), and Enterables (eg. couches, chairs), have no problems. They really
help complete the scene, make the scene feel more natural --and perhaps add
more mimesis.
Even adding Containers and Supporters are fine, so long as there's no
additional Un-Important Scenery in them or on them. (eg. an empty drawer or
two, and an empty microwave are fine) Or, if there is more scenery in them,
they add beauty or depth to the scene. (eg. the soiled food in the fridge in
A Good Breakfast)

The problem comes in when I think of all the Containers and Supporters that
would contain *more* Un-Important Scenery. For example, drinks in a Food
Mart's refrigerator, or ice cream in an Ice Box.
They aren't particularly beautiful or interesting; plus I really think
players would get sick of "You see all this stuff in this container, but
ignore it all, none of it's important."


So, would it be acceptable writing practice to first *briefly* list all
Non-Interactive Scenery AND containers and supporters that include more
Un-Important scenery, w/o really implementing them?
Then go on to implement everything else?


[ For Example ]:


Food Mart
Florescent lights brightly contrast all the colors of the market. In the

middle of the room, three shelves of junk food and cheap souvenirs run east
and west, numerous kinds of drinks can be seen through slide-able glass


doors on the west wall, stands packed full of chips and comic books are

placed near the entrance, and, on the east wall, is an ice box full of
frozen treats.

Placed nearby is one particular shelf that contains some novelty items that
catch your eye. Behind a counter waits a man, he is leaned way back in a


chair whilst his legs rest on the counter. Currently he stares at a TV that
is fixed in a corner of the ceiling.

On the shelf is a board game and a can of food.

> x lights
You can't really interact with the florescent lights.

> x ice box
That's not important.

> get novelty can of food. put it on counter.
Taken.
Done.

> x tv
Apparently a game of base ball in in play. On the TV are two dials and a
switch.
. . .


Thanks In Advance,
Sean

Xiphias Gladius

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Jan 2, 2002, 12:16:30 AM1/2/02
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Sean Don <sea...@loop.com> wrote:

> Xiphias Gladius <i...@eris.io.com> wrote in message

>> The other thing to realize is that a more fully-implemented world is


>> going to feel a little bare -- one person just can't implement everything
>> that a person would interact with in a busy city. So the world is going
>> to have something of an empty, deserted feeling.

> You mean because so much of the object-based scenery would not reflect much
> of the on going live activities?

I'm not sure if I understand what you're saying here.

What I mean is that, sitting at my desk right here, there are maybe a
hundred different objects I can pick up and manipulate, without standing
up. Okay, I'm a slob, but an IF version of my desk could be implemented
one of two ways:

"Ian's desk is covered in junk, with one working computer swimming in it.
There's also probably a telephone in there somewhere."

That would involve coding, what, three or four objects. That's
reasonable.

Or, you could do a more fully realized version of my desk, and implement
the dictionary, the Linux for Dummies, the empty Coke can, the letter that
was sent to me months ago, the several pencil stubs, Lost Treasures Of
Infocom disks 1 through 5 in the 3.5 size and 1 through 10 in the 5.25
inch side, the pens, the expired health insurance cards, a couple dozen
CDs, some of which are too scrached to read, an ad for bartenders torn out
of the paper, a five-page list of family names in Elizabethan England, a
sheet of cardboard torn from a pasta box, and so forth.

That's not reasonable to do.

A clean desk with nothing on it can be fully realized. A messy desk is a
clean desk with the single item "A pile of junk" added to it. It's just
not reasonable to expect everything in a pile of junk to be actually
*there*.

But, if I'd gotten used to being able to unwrap the ice cream bar that was
in the ice cream display case, and put the wrapper into the "Take a
penny-Leave a penny" jar, then I'd start to *expect* to be able to
manipulate each item in a junk pile, and find it jarring if I couldn't.

To a certain extent, of course. I've never really had a problem in IF,
when searching trash cans, of being unable to pull out old banana peels
and coffee grounds. But that's sorta the concept I'm trying to get
across.

Because of that, worlds in which more things are put in explicitly, rather
than just as "assume that the stuff that should be here is here and you
can't manipulate it because it's not important" tend to have fewer
*things* in them.

Okay: here's another way to put it.

If you've got a bookshelf with five books on it, you can implement each
book. If you've got a bookshelf with three thousand books on it, you
can't. So, if you like implementing every object in a game explicitly,
then you can't have bookshelves with three thousand books, although you
can have bookshelves with five books.

I like playing in games in which I can look at all the books on the
bookshelf. As such, I accept that those games are going to only have five
books on the bookshelf, instead of three thousand books.

Does that make any sense?

Xiphias Gladius

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Jan 2, 2002, 12:41:18 AM1/2/02
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Sean Don <sea...@loop.com> wrote:

> So, would it be acceptable writing practice to first *briefly* list all
> Non-Interactive Scenery AND containers and supporters that include more
> Un-Important scenery, w/o really implementing them?
> Then go on to implement everything else?

Personally, I don't like it so much.


> [ For Example ]:
> Food Mart
> Florescent lights brightly contrast all the colors of the market. In the
> middle of the room, three shelves of junk food and cheap souvenirs run east
> and west, numerous kinds of drinks can be seen through slide-able glass
> doors on the west wall, stands packed full of chips and comic books are
> placed near the entrance, and, on the east wall, is an ice box full of
> frozen treats.

> Placed nearby is one particular shelf that contains some novelty items that
> catch your eye. Behind a counter waits a man, he is leaned way back in a
> chair whilst his legs rest on the counter. Currently he stares at a TV that
> is fixed in a corner of the ceiling.

> On the shelf is a board game and a can of food.

To me, this feels. . . um, okay, I got this picture of the food mart in my
head. And what it is, is it's got three walls which are made of colored
moulded plastic, with pictures of chips and comic books, and frozen treats
and stuff all cast in the plastic. It's all one big piece of plastic, but
it's got all that stuff carved out of it. And then, in front of the
moulded plastic, you've got this shelf with a couple things on it, and
there's a counter with a guy behind it.

Me, I'd rather deal with either, "You're in a food mart that looks just
like every other food mart you've ever seen. Yeah, they sell the dog food
your dog likes, and you can find a game to buy your niece. You really
shouldn't have waited until December 24th to do your Christmas shopping",

OR

"You're in a food mart. Or, at least, it was, once. First snowstorm of
the year, and everybody panics. Bare shelves line all the walls. They've
even sold out of ice cream. Who eats ice cream in a blizzard? Far back
in one corner of the store, you see that the hordes of shoppers missed one
can of Alpo, and there's one cheap checkers set in the toy item. All the
Scrabble and Boggle and dominoes are gone; the panicking shoppers seem to
have decided that, if they WERE going to be trapped inside for, oh, HOURS,
they'd damn well better have someting to do."

The first way tells the player to fill in the blanks themselves. The
second way keeps there from being that much to fill in. . . .

Sean Don

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Jan 2, 2002, 3:15:13 AM1/2/02
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Xiphias Gladius <i...@hagbard.io.com> wrote in message
news:24xY7.120293$m05.10...@bin5.nnrp.aus1.giganews.com...

> Sean Don <sea...@loop.com> wrote:
>
> > So, would it be acceptable writing practice to first *briefly* list all
> > Non-Interactive Scenery AND containers and supporters that include more
> > Un-Important scenery, w/o really implementing them?
> > Then go on to implement everything else?
>
> Personally, I don't like it so much.


Ok, that's what I needed to here.


<snip>

> To me, this feels. . . um, okay, I got this picture of the food mart in my
> head. And what it is, is it's got three walls which are made of colored
> moulded plastic, with pictures of chips and comic books, and frozen treats
> and stuff all cast in the plastic. It's all one big piece of plastic, but
> it's got all that stuff carved out of it. And then, in front of the
> moulded plastic, you've got this shelf with a couple things on it, and
> there's a counter with a guy behind it.


Right.


> Me, I'd rather deal with either, "You're in a food mart that looks just
> like every other food mart you've ever seen. Yeah, they sell the dog food
> your dog likes, and you can find a game to buy your niece. You really
> shouldn't have waited until December 24th to do your Christmas shopping",


<snip>

> The first way tells the player to fill in the blanks themselves.

<snip>


And of coarse, having the player fill in the blanks also ties into your
point about dealing w/ a desk that has an unlimited amount of interactive
junk on it.


Thank you very much,
Sean

Sean Don

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Jan 2, 2002, 3:42:11 AM1/2/02
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TheCycoONE <cyc...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:u34u9ur...@corp.supernews.com...

> My opinion has always been to implement absolutly everything you can think
> of. If I'm betatesting work for an author who used method 2, I would
write
> them in my list of suggested improvements item by item what needs a
> description, and anything I think the player may try which could have a
> response. In my own game I'm attempting to implement an entire town, not
> because it's important to the game, but because I don't see why the player
> should be limited to areas which are important to the plot. It also
serves
> as a wonderful place to include all those extra bits of humour which just
> wouldn't fit in otherwise.

<snip>


I like a game which makes rooms, houses, (and whatever else) seem complete,
even if they don't go into great detail.

That is, I think I'd want my games to include all the usual switchable,
enterable, climbable stuff. Such as a tall lamp in an office that can be
turned off and on, a chair that you can sit in, a microwave that can be
opened and can container a few items.

However, as Gladius pointed out, I think that when we get into supporters
and containers that *already* contain a huge amount of irrelevant scenery,
we should leave these out of the description and allow the player to fill in
the blanks.

What's your opinion?
--as if I needed to ask. ;-)


> Then there are always those who disagree, I believe that point was made
> rather obvious in a discussion several months ago on this newsgroup about
> the 'perfect game'.


A quick search of Deja brought me to that just now.
One of the issues mentioned there was the old "simulation vs. game"
debate.

I always liked the following quote --included in DMv.4 :)

"The odyssey of `Zork: Mimesis' begins in a field behind a white house. You
climb in through an open window, take the water and sack lunch from the
table, go in the living room and move the rug aside to reveal a blank floor!
Soon the owner of the house an underemployed, alcoholic bricklayer is
covering you with a shotgun as his unfaithful, neurotic wife dials 911. The
puzzle-free, super-literary action continues as you are funneled through the
criminal justice system."
~ Roger Giner-Sorolla, conceding that mimesis is not everything ~ (pg.
382)


Thanks,
Sean

Kevin

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Jan 2, 2002, 11:46:44 AM1/2/02
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"Sean Don" <sea...@loop.com> wrote in message news:<u354lhi...@corp.supernews.com>...

> The problem comes in when I think of all the Containers and Supporters that
> would contain *more* Un-Important Scenery. For example, drinks in a Food
> Mart's refrigerator, or ice cream in an Ice Box.
> They aren't particularly beautiful or interesting; plus I really think
> players would get sick of "You see all this stuff in this container, but
> ignore it all, none of it's important."

I've always dreamed of being able to model my town in perfect
detail, down to the smallest little items, and being able to play with
everything in the virtual world. Shenmue for the Dreamcast is a good
example of doing that-- you can walk around opening drawers and
cabinets, turning off lights, manipulating stuff, buying cans of coke,
playing with little toys. The logistics of coding such a game can
become monotonous, especially with text games.

> So, would it be acceptable writing practice to first *briefly* list all
> Non-Interactive Scenery AND containers and supporters that include more
> Un-Important scenery, w/o really implementing them?
> Then go on to implement everything else?

Seeing default or generic responses, to what I believe might be a
perfectly logical (or illogical) thing to do to an object, is somewhat
annoying to come across. If you list a florescent light, I expect to
have a specific response for doing basic things to the light, even if
it's just a simple response. For items containing other items, I like
seeing at least one or two sub-items, such as a few specific drinks or
comics listed when examining the whole lot.

> Food Mart
> Florescent lights brightly contrast all the colors of the market. In the
> middle of the room, three shelves of junk food and cheap souvenirs run east
> and west, numerous kinds of drinks can be seen through slide-able glass
> doors on the west wall, stands packed full of chips and comic books are
> placed near the entrance, and, on the east wall, is an ice box full of
> frozen treats.
>
> Placed nearby is one particular shelf that contains some novelty items that
> catch your eye. Behind a counter waits a man, he is leaned way back in a
> chair whilst his legs rest on the counter. Currently he stares at a TV that
> is fixed in a corner of the ceiling.
>
> On the shelf is a board game and a can of food.

> x lights
They're bright.

> take lights
You jump up to grab the lights, but find that they're just out of your
reach.

> attack lights
You flail wildly at the lights, only to discover you're not tall
enough to reach them.

> eat lights
Don't be silly.

> x ice box
Inside the ice box you can make out an assortment of ice cream bars
and other frozen treats.

> open ice box
Cold air flows over your hands as you slide open the glass.

> x comic books
A whole bunch of colorful comic books are packed within the stand. It
seems that the new issue of X-Men is already out.

> x x-men
The clerk tears his gaze from the TV and yells out to you, "This isn't
a library! Either buy it or leave it alone."

> x board game
The side of the game box is labled "Die Siedler von Catan".

> open board game
You open the board game box with a little too eagerly and manage to
spill little wooden pieces all over the floor. The clerk notices your
mess, "You better clean that up before you leave."

For things like eat, lick, attack etc. you should make your own
generic responses, or code individual ones for each object if you're
bored. I like little details like that.

Sean Don

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Jan 2, 2002, 1:05:53 PM1/2/02
to

Kevin <map...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:1f9ffd8e.02010...@posting.google.com...

> "Sean Don" <sea...@loop.com> wrote in message
news:<u354lhi...@corp.supernews.com>...
>
> The problem comes in when I think of all the Containers and Supporters
that
> > would contain *more* Un-Important Scenery. For example, drinks in a Food
> > Mart's refrigerator, or ice cream in an Ice Box.
> > They aren't particularly beautiful or interesting; plus I really
think
> > players would get sick of "You see all this stuff in this container, but
> > ignore it all, none of it's important."
>
> I've always dreamed of being able to model my town in perfect
> detail, down to the smallest little items, and being able to play with
> everything in the virtual world. Shenmue for the Dreamcast is a good
> example of doing that-- you can walk around opening drawers and
> cabinets, turning off lights, manipulating stuff, buying cans of coke,
> playing with little toys. The logistics of coding such a game can
> become monotonous, especially with text games.

<snip>


Very Nice.

You cleverly work around some of the problems of sub-objects of scenery
here; namely via the fact that you can't buy anything here so you fail to
take items out of the store, because the clerk keeps complaining.

> take ice cream bar
Taken.

> go north
The clerk spots you stealing and yells "Hey! Where are you going w/ that?".
(You first put the ice cream back into the ice box.)


Also, if all this stuff is totally unimportant to the game, I could make it
so that the player never gets that few dollars to buy stuff with.


However, say we're in a kitchen (w/ no clerk). You open a refrigerator and
find a wad of food... there's no clerk to stop you from taking the food.
Wouldn't it get irritating to hear "There's stuff in here, but it's not
important." over and over again?


Kitchen

> open fridge
You open the fridge revealing a two liter bottle of cream soda, a green
container of left over food, a red container, and a gallon of milk (half
drunk). There are also two drawers near the bottom inside the fridge.

> get bottle
Errr... you don't need to refer to any of the stuff in the fridge.


Technically I could allow the player to take this stuff; but it may be
highly misleading.
I've sworn to allow players to come close to beating a game by
themselves, w/o having them get swamped by a huge wad of items.

NOTE: I wouldn't have to implement *everything* in the fridge (nor would I
have to implement everything on a messy desk). Just a select few of
expected items would make the object (or room) seem near complete.


So far I've considered Gladius's recommendation: (when it might be
misleading, allow the player to fill in the blanks)

Kitchen

> open fridge
You open the refrigerator revealing the mess inside you've grown accustomed
too; you really ought to clean it sometime, but not today.

> search mess
You find one important item to the game... say, an apple.

OR

> search mess
You start to sift through the junk, but your head starts to spin.


Really, I still prefer the "#3" method (improved by Kevin [and by a few
others here at int-fiction] ), but is it true that there won't always be
ways to prevent the player from getting mislead by unnecessary items?


Any ideas?

Sean

joh

unread,
Jan 2, 2002, 1:33:09 PM1/2/02
to
>>>>> "Kevin" == Kevin <map...@hotmail.com> writes:

Kevin> I've always dreamed of being able to model my town in
Kevin> perfect detail, down to the smallest little items, and
Kevin> being able to play with everything in the virtual
Kevin> world. Shenmue for the Dreamcast is a good example of doing
Kevin> that-- you can walk around opening drawers and cabinets,
Kevin> turning off lights, manipulating stuff, buying cans of
Kevin> coke, playing with little toys. The logistics of coding
Kevin> such a game can become monotonous, especially with text
Kevin> games.

In other types of programming the usual solution to similar problems
is reusable code libraries. I rarely write, say, my own http server; I
use a library so that I don't have to implement things like returning
404 errors.

In the IF world, a furniture library, for instance, could implement
basic chairs, desks, lamps, etc., allowing you to throw these things
in with little work. And of course, you could customize whatever parts
you want.

Do IF programmers share libraries of base objects? If not, why not?

joh

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 2, 2002, 2:48:43 PM1/2/02
to
joh <j...@bigblueheron.com> wrote:

> In the IF world, a furniture library, for instance, could implement
> basic chairs, desks, lamps, etc., allowing you to throw these things
> in with little work. And of course, you could customize whatever parts
> you want.

> Do IF programmers share libraries of base objects? If not, why not?

I've found that the amount of customization I'd have to do for a
particular game greatly exceeds the amount of code that could be
shared.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Sean Don

unread,
Jan 2, 2002, 3:10:07 PM1/2/02
to

Ok, one last possibility --before I bore you all to death w/ this subject.
I've been thinking in regards to what Graham Nelson called the "triangle
of identities".

When the scenery doesn't prevent you (that is, if a store owner doesn't stop
you from doing something), the narrator still can.


Say, for example, I assume the Narrator-Player side to the triangle.

"Thomas Nilsson advises designers to:
Create an image of him or it [the narrator] and stick to it. Receiving
comments about your (limited) progress in the game might be funny, as long
as they are not out of character."
~ DMv.4 ~ (pg. 372)

Would it not be acceptable to do the following?


[ Just an Example ]
Kitchen

> open fridge
You open the fridge revealing a two liter bottle of cream soda, a green
container of left over food, a red container, and a gallon of milk (half

drunk). Also inside, there are two drawers near the bottom of the fridge.

> get bottle
You're not particularly thirsty right now; but perhaps you'll find something
else in the fridge that'll be of more use to you.

> open drawer
Which do you mean, the left drawer or the right drawer?

> right
You open the right drawer revealing the hidden key...


It would be just that simple.
Any problems w/ this?

Thanks,
Sean

Peter Seebach

unread,
Jan 2, 2002, 4:08:17 PM1/2/02
to
In article <u36qffd...@corp.supernews.com>,

Sean Don <sea...@loop.com> wrote:
>When the scenery doesn't prevent you (that is, if a store owner doesn't stop
>you from doing something), the narrator still can.

Agreed. From my own work:

> east
After the incident, we don't climb over the gearshift like that.

-s
--
Copyright 2001, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
$ chmod a+x /bin/laden Please do not feed or harbor the terrorists.
C/Unix wizard, Pro-commerce radical, Spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

Evil Banana

unread,
Jan 2, 2002, 6:54:09 PM1/2/02
to
"Sean Don" <sea...@loop.com> wrote in message
news:u36qffd...@corp.supernews.com...

>
>
> Ok, one last possibility --before I bore you all to death w/ this subject.
> I've been thinking in regards to what Graham Nelson called the
"triangle
> of identities".
>
> When the scenery doesn't prevent you (that is, if a store owner doesn't
stop
> you from doing something), the narrator still can.
>
> Say, for example, I assume the Narrator-Player side to the triangle.
>
> "Thomas Nilsson advises designers to:
> Create an image of him or it [the narrator] and stick to it. Receiving
> comments about your (limited) progress in the game might be funny, as long
> as they are not out of character."
> ~ DMv.4 ~ (pg. 372)
>
> Would it not be acceptable to do the following?
>
> [ Just an Example ]
> Kitchen
>
> > open fridge
> You open the fridge revealing a two liter bottle of cream soda, a green
> container of left over food, a red container, and a gallon of milk (half
> drunk). Also inside, there are two drawers near the bottom of the fridge.
>
> > get bottle
> You're not particularly thirsty right now; but perhaps you'll find
something
> else in the fridge that'll be of more use to you.

Hi everyone. I *really* like this way of doing things. In "Adventure-type"
IF, I never could quite understand why the PC had to lug so much stuff
around with him that wasn't necessary to finishing the game. So letting the
narrator (or even the PC themselves) *limit* what is takeable during the
course of the game makes a lot of sense to me.

However (to add a twist to what Sean was saying), items that are not
*currently* takeable don't have to just be unuseable scenery. When the PC
finds out that they need a particular item they have already seen, they can
go back to that location, and *Presto!* the item can now be taken, because
they found a use for it. And of course, my WIP uses this very technique to
limit the inventory of the PC.
-- For example --

Bedroom

>look

On your dressing table you see your old mirror, your pocket change, and
your favorite hairbrush.

>take hairbrush

You consider taking the hairbrush, but you decide that your hair looks
fine right now, so you just leave it there.

>brush hair

But it looks fine!

etc, etc...

-- End example --

And of course, if later in the game a gust of wind messed up the PC's
hair, they could go back to the dressing table, and the brush would be
takeable!

> It would be just that simple.

Agreed. :)

Does anyone know of examples of this system in IF? I can't think of any just
now.

> Thanks,
> Sean

Regards,
E. Banana


Sean Don

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Jan 2, 2002, 9:44:13 PM1/2/02
to

Evil Banana <evilba...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:B4NY7.203274$kf1.60...@news1.rdc1.ne.home.com...

> "Sean Don" <sea...@loop.com> wrote in message
> news:u36qffd...@corp.supernews.com...

< snip>

> > It would be just that simple.
>
> Agreed. :)
>
> Does anyone know of examples of this system in IF? I can't think of any
just
> now.


In regards to games that are highly implemented (#3) (which may be
inappropriate for some games; some may be better off w/ the descriptions
allowing the player to fill in more of the blanks), I don't know of too many
games that "open up" items later in the game.
But I do know of a couple that avoid misleading items via the *scenery*
(ie. the store owner complaining, as Kevin pointed out).
I'm not sure if I might know of too many that avoid misleading items via
a narrator that has an established personality (as opposed to annoying
z-machine responses, such as "Those are not important.")
But this last method is probably what I'll now be doing in my games.


Unless there are further objections; I'd like to thank everybody for their
comments.

Thanks!
Sean

Robotboy8

unread,
Jan 2, 2002, 10:20:57 PM1/2/02
to
As I've never actually finished making a game (came close but my harddrive
crashed and I'm NOT going to think about that little incidend) my input may not
count, but here's my input.

When I write (or try to) I try to write more towards the style of #3 but create
useless items you don't _really_ need to worry about. Here's an example:

Basement
When Mr. Galloway told you his girlfriend had been a neat freak he had not been
kidding. Most people's basements are just holding-places for junk. However,
this "Stacy" character has managed to keep her house's lowest level very clean
- every cranny is dusted, the magazines on the tables are arranged in 90-degree
angles, and even the flourescent lights are new. The walls, the staircase,
even the floor are painted a shockingly bright white and so clean they must
have been scrubbed recently. The window you came in through is shut, and you
have been sure to wipe it down so it would appear as pristine as the rest of
the basement.

You can see a sturdy oak table (on which is a magazine) here.

>take magazine
You'd surely mess it up.

>x table
You look over the table for any signs of hair, anything at all really, but you
cannot find one. It is, however, a nice table - so polished it reflects better
than some mirrors you've seen.

>x magazine
It's an issue of "Home and Garden Monthly", preserved perfectly and lined up
exactly in the center of the table.

I have the table there, and it's a supporter, but instead of coding an entire
magazine I just conveniently inform the player that it's not a good idea to
disturb something owned by an obsessive-compulsive ex-girlfriend. BTW, this
excerpt comes from a game I'm actually coding - it'll be available soon (well,
sooner than the GNU operating system's kernel, snicker snicker).

--
Sanity is a sure sign of a lazy mind.

L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Jan 3, 2002, 3:37:41 AM1/3/02
to

Well, this is a common paradigm in graphical adventure; simply don't
allow the action until the PC knows to do it. In the specific example
of taking things, this can be done, and can even be done well, but one
of the number one bitches in games that employ this tack is "Oh
fuck. I bet I'm allowed to pick up the frobnitz bit now. That's a
fifteen minute walk from here."

Kevin

unread,
Jan 3, 2002, 8:21:12 AM1/3/02
to
"Sean Don" <sea...@loop.com> wrote in message news:<u36j70c...@corp.supernews.com>...

> Really, I still prefer the "#3" method (improved by Kevin [and by a few
> others here at int-fiction] ), but is it true that there won't always be
> ways to prevent the player from getting mislead by unnecessary items?

As you mention, using the narrator to intervene would work well in
such situations. You just have to be careful to keep the tone constant
throughout the story-- wordy, tart, sarcastic, humorous,
etc.--otherwise he/she/it becomes very noticeable (not good, I think)
rather than a nebulous omnipotent being who steps in every once in a
while to slap your hand (desireable, to me at least).

LizM7

unread,
Jan 5, 2002, 3:46:29 PM1/5/02
to
"Evil Banana" <evilba...@hotmail.com> wrote in message news:<B4NY7.203274$kf1.60...@news1.rdc1.ne.home.com>...
> Bedroom
>
> >look
>
> On your dressing table you see your old mirror, your pocket change, and
> your favorite hairbrush.
>
> >take hairbrush
>
> You consider taking the hairbrush, but you decide that your hair looks
> fine right now, so you just leave it there.
>
> >brush hair
>
> But it looks fine!
>
> etc, etc...
>
> -- End example --
>
> And of course, if later in the game a gust of wind messed up the PC's
> hair, they could go back to the dressing table, and the brush would be
> takeable!
>

Aag, that irritates me. I'm a packrat by nature (my behavior in IF is
*nothing* compared to that in CRPGs, where I'll lug around a thousand
useless bits of scenery, just because you might find a use for them),
and I don't enjoy having to run back to one spot to do something. I'd
rather grab the brush, stick it in my purse, and leave, rather than
have to run back to use the brush later.

Especially since I tend to assume that a room is going to remain the
same once I leave it, or, if it isn't going to stay the same, the
reason causing the change will be one altering the scenery itself,
rather than altering the circumstances.

Myself, I'd prefer to have the brush be takeable, and if you don't
want to take it, you don't have to. Total mimesis aside, there is
something to be said for convenience - and, besides, for me, it ruins
the mimesis if I *can't* take the brush.

In general, it's really mimesis-breaking (to me) for an
alterable-circumstance related excuse to be given as to why I can't an
object (i.e. a circumstance that will be changed in the course of the
game, such as your hairbrush above - for me, it just screams
"puzzle"). It's also mimesis-breaking for an author to say that an
object is irrelevant to my current quest (the freezer example).

If I can't get an object, I'd prefer for there to be a valid
non-puzzle related excuse, so, with the freezer example:

>x freezer
You gaze longingly at the ice cream for a moment, but then pull
yourself away. You're on a diet, and you'd prefer not to tempt fate.

>open freezer
Better not; you're on a diet.

- Liz

Kevin Forchione

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Jan 5, 2002, 7:19:32 PM1/5/02
to
"LizM7" <hsel...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:d89b4999.02010...@posting.google.com...

> Myself, I'd prefer to have the brush be takeable, and if you don't
> want to take it, you don't have to. Total mimesis aside, there is
> something to be said for convenience - and, besides, for me, it ruins
> the mimesis if I *can't* take the brush.
>
> In general, it's really mimesis-breaking (to me) for an
> alterable-circumstance related excuse to be given as to why I can't an
> object (i.e. a circumstance that will be changed in the course of the
> game, such as your hairbrush above - for me, it just screams
> "puzzle"). It's also mimesis-breaking for an author to say that an
> object is irrelevant to my current quest (the freezer example).

This is an interesting point. Perhaps it has been discussed before.

Mimesis at the expense of acting "out of character". For example, a game
includes a gun, but it's not in the PC's nature to use a gun. In fact guns
are abhorrent. To be carrying a gun would go against her fundamental
beliefs. And yet, here is this gun, sitting on a dresser bureau.

Which is more in keeping with the internal consistency of the story?
Allowing the PC to pack the gun in her purse, or prevent this with an
explanation of why it is anathema?

Now, later on, the PC is pursued by a killer, and she must make a
life-and-death decision: take the gun and use it, or find an alternate
solution. In a well-developed story the temptation might exist, the
circumstances under which an extraordinary act might be performed might
justify ... or at least explain it.

Is it mimesis for an *actor* to be able to perform an action that is
possible in the "real" world, but which is not in keeping with its
character? Given that what we are supposedly writing are stories, and not
mere simulations, doesn't mimesis require that it be in keeping with the
internal consistency of the story? In this case, "breaking mimesis" would
mean the failure of the player to keep in character, even when the actions
of that character go against what the player would personally choose.

We might argue that the freedom to pick up the gun in the beginning should
be allowed, that this freedom always exists. We could even produce a display
such as:

>take gun
As much as you abhor it, you pick up the revolver, tucking it out of
sight in your purse.

But in this instance, the author has decided that character has bowed to
mimesis. The fact that the action is physically possible - but as Poirot
would say, "is it psychologically possible?" And if such an action is not
psychologically possible ... if, as we say in the courtroom, it is not
possible beyond a *reasonable* doubt, then ought we not acquit the actor
from having to commit the action?

--Kevin


Sean T Barrett

unread,
Jan 5, 2002, 8:13:59 PM1/5/02
to
Kevin Forchione <Ke...@lysseus.com> wrote:
>Is it mimesis for an *actor* to be able to perform an action that is
>possible in the "real" world, but which is not in keeping with its
>character? Given that what we are supposedly writing are stories, and not
>mere simulations,

Are we writing stories? I thought we were writing interactive
fiction. This kind of question lies at what I consider the
crux of the difference between the two.

>doesn't mimesis require that it be in keeping with the
>internal consistency of the story? In this case, "breaking mimesis" would
>mean the failure of the player to keep in character, even when the actions
>of that character go against what the player would personally choose.

If the simulation refuses to let me pick up the gun, my immersion
in the game will always be reduced. Always.

If the author has done her work in drawing the character, and
I am immersed, I won't WANT to pick up the gun. I will avoid
picking it up for as long as possible, so whether the simulation
allows it or not won't be relevant. But the way to create that
immersion in general is to allow choices, not to disallow choices;
otheriwse I'm just reading a story, not participating; I may
suspend disbelief but I won't be immersed. (In my opinion, in the
best-told story, the author will have made me extremely unwiling
to pick it up, and yet I'll be obligated to do so at some point.)

Of course, immersion is not the grail for every author or for
every player, but it seems fairly widespread.

SeanB

Gregg V. Carroll

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Jan 5, 2002, 8:49:29 PM1/5/02
to
On 1/5/02 8:13 PM, Sean T Barrett at buz...@TheWorld.com posted:

> If the author has done her work in drawing the character, and
> I am immersed, I won't WANT to pick up the gun. I will avoid
> picking it up for as long as possible, so whether the simulation
> allows it or not won't be relevant. But the way to create that
> immersion in general is to allow choices, not to disallow choices;
> otheriwse I'm just reading a story, not participating; I may
> suspend disbelief but I won't be immersed. (In my opinion, in the
> best-told story, the author will have made me extremely unwiling
> to pick it up, and yet I'll be obligated to do so at some point.)

What about:

> SAVE
Floyd's eyes light up. "Oh boy! Are
we gonna try something dangerous now?"

Talk about shattering the illusion, geez.

Gregg


Sean Don

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Jan 6, 2002, 2:21:08 AM1/6/02
to

Sean T Barrett <buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote in message
news:GpHsr...@world.std.com...

<snip>

> If the author has done her work in drawing the character, and
> I am immersed, I won't WANT to pick up the gun. I will avoid
> picking it up for as long as possible, so whether the simulation
> allows it or not won't be relevant. But the way to create that
> immersion in general is to allow choices, not to disallow choices;
> otheriwse I'm just reading a story, not participating; I may
> suspend disbelief but I won't be immersed. (In my opinion, in the
> best-told story, the author will have made me extremely unwiling
> to pick it up, and yet I'll be obligated to do so at some point.)


Actually, I think this is a great point.

Keep in mind that I personally wasn't really planning on "opening up" items
later in a game; but I was in fact looking for a way to make items less
misleading --the use of a narrator seemed like such a way.
Now, outside of being so involved in *designing* a game, in that I want
my games to be playable and beatable by other players; I must also recall
that when I *myself* play games I will generally ignore items until I'm
motivated to take them.

As for "packrats", they would be able to take all the useless scenery they
want.

Now, in graphical adventures (ie. Lucas Arts' games) I'll take everything,
because often the important stuff is the only stuff implemented in those
games, after all, they're given the luxury of fusing scenic-backgrounds with
sprites.
Yet, even in a game like Perdition's Flames, I found myself waiting to
take things, until I could make sense of what I needed.


Instead of preventing the player from doing something --which I might still
do, for the story's sake--, might it be a good idea to simply have the
narrator (or the coarse of events) *hint* at what is supposed to be done
through out a game?

Even so, I think I'd rather have my games (in particular) not allow players
to get into unrecoverable situations; for the same reasons I would not set
up food, water, and sleep simulation.

Just as there is a line between a "story" and "interactive fiction", there
is also the line between "simulation" vs "game" (found in other
discussions).


> Of course, immersion is not the grail for every author or for
> every player, but it seems fairly widespread.


Right, some reasons it changes from game to game is because:

1) Some games don't really have a protagonist; but a so-called "player /
narrator" relationship instead; viz, the player may not need get immersed
into another character, but immersed simply into the virtual world in the
game.
2) Some games, like Photopia, simply take a different approach to
"interactive" fiction.
3) Finally, some games depend on (or prefer to have) the player fill in the
blanks of the scene themselves.


Sean

L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Jan 6, 2002, 3:51:49 AM1/6/02
to
On Sun, 6 Jan 2002 01:13:59 GMT, Sean T Barrett <buz...@TheWorld.com> wrote:
>If the simulation refuses to let me pick up the gun, my immersion
>in the game will always be reduced. Always.
>
>If the author has done her work in drawing the character, and
>I am immersed, I won't WANT to pick up the gun. I will avoid
>picking it up for as long as possible, so whether the simulation
>allows it or not won't be relevant. But the way to create that
>immersion in general is to allow choices, not to disallow choices;
>otheriwse I'm just reading a story, not participating; I may
>suspend disbelief but I won't be immersed. (In my opinion, in the
>best-told story, the author will have made me extremely unwiling
>to pick it up, and yet I'll be obligated to do so at some point.)
>
>Of course, immersion is not the grail for every author or for
>every player, but it seems fairly widespread.
>
>SeanB


This sounds an awful lot like the "who is the player" question which
keeps popping up; from your response, it sounds like your immersion in
the game draws heavily from the illusion that, as infocom put it *you*
are the main character. If the intention is, on the other hand, for
you to be taking on a role, then I think disallowing certain choices
doesn't just make sense, it boosts the immersive quality of the game.
THe whole "you *are* the main character" approach doesn't generally
work for me; no matter how ageless, faceless, gender-neutral, and
culturally-ambiguous the character is, it's an awfully dull game that
doesn't alert me right away that this character is *not me*.

Sean T Barrett

unread,
Jan 7, 2002, 1:16:06 AM1/7/02
to
L. Ross Raszewski <lrasz...@loyola.edu> wrote:
>This sounds an awful lot like the "who is the player" question which
>keeps popping up; from your response, it sounds like your immersion in
>the game draws heavily from the illusion that, as infocom put it *you*
>are the main character.

Nope. The goal is to get you to believe that your consciousness
is in the virtual world, not to get you to believe that your
whole person/personality is.

>If the intention is, on the other hand, for
>you to be taking on a role, then I think disallowing certain choices
>doesn't just make sense, it boosts the immersive quality of the game.

I don't think it generally boosts the immersive quality of the
game. It generally "reminds me of what the character I'm supposed
to be playing is like", but that doesn't necessarily make me
*identify* with the role. If you want to role-play in a detached,
uninvolved way, that's great, but it's not immersion.

If the character doesn't like guns, you should still be able to pick
up guns; after all, your character would, if sufficiently motivated.
(If a player is playing as a pack-rat, they're not playing in character
in the first place, so you've already lost them, so how a pack-rat
would play is not particularly important to the situation.)

If the character once lost her fiancee because she was
obligated to handle a gun and somehow it went off and she shot
him and he died, then ok, you can refuse to let me pick up
the gun. But if it's not that extreme, and you don't want me
to pick up a gun, DON'T PUT A FRIGGING GUN IN THE GAME. There
aren't just two choices (you can pick it up or you can't).
Refusing to allow the player to interact is the absolutely
worst way to show character *in an interactive medium*.
(See Rameses for an exception.)

In some cases, of course, there's no third alternative of leaving
it out; "kiss NPC" is pretty much blocked in every game except in
the crucial cases. I'm not arguing that you should never prevent
actions; I'm arguing that the habit of preventing actions is a poor
one, and it's best kept as a last resort.

SeanB
(who prevents zillions of actions in his games)

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Jan 7, 2002, 10:08:42 AM1/7/02
to
Gregg says...

>What about:
>
>> SAVE
>Floyd's eyes light up. "Oh boy! Are
>we gonna try something dangerous now?"
>
>Talk about shattering the illusion, geez.

Well, humor has always been (or at least since the twentieth century)
full of such "category errors" or violations of the wall between
story and story-teller, audience and writer, actors and characters.
A really funny moment occurs in an old (40s era?) cartoon. At some
point during an old (40s era?) cartoon, a hair appears on the screen
(this is lost on the videotape generation, but it happened quite
often in showing a filmstrip). After wiggling around for a few
seconds, the hair is plucked out by one of the onscreen characters.
There were similar jokes, such as when the vertical hold went bad,
and the characters had to climb from the lower region of the screen
to the upper region.

In silly modern plays, it is quite common for the characters to
comment about the audience, or about the author. Breaking mimesis
is not necessarily a sin in a work of humor.

The problem for humor is that there have to *be* strong
conventions in order for there to be any payoff from breaking
them. If they are broken too often, then it all becomes
meaningless. In old Inforcom games, mimesis breaking was
the rule, rather than the exception, and it did become boring,
in my opinion.

--
Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Jan 7, 2002, 10:12:18 AM1/7/02
to
lrasz...@loyola.edu says...

>This sounds an awful lot like the "who is the player" question which
>keeps popping up; from your response, it sounds like your immersion in
>the game draws heavily from the illusion that, as infocom put it *you*
>are the main character. If the intention is, on the other hand, for
>you to be taking on a role, then I think disallowing certain choices
>doesn't just make sense, it boosts the immersive quality of the game.
>THe whole "you *are* the main character" approach doesn't generally
>work for me; no matter how ageless, faceless, gender-neutral, and
>culturally-ambiguous the character is, it's an awfully dull game that
>doesn't alert me right away that this character is *not me*.

I think that part of Sean's point was that, if you are playing
a role, then, if the author has done his/her job well enough,
you will not *want* to do something that is "out of character".
So it doesn't need to be enforced by the game.

Peter Seebach

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Jan 7, 2002, 12:58:49 PM1/7/02
to
In article <a1cdl...@drn.newsguy.com>,

Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> wrote:
>Well, humor has always been (or at least since the twentieth century)
>full of such "category errors" or violations of the wall between
>story and story-teller, audience and writer, actors and characters.

Agreed. I'm fine with violations of mimesis in some cases (e.g., the "save
fairy won't let you save" in Sorcerer). I know I'm playing a game, and a
*funny* reminder doesn't bug me.

Floyd's "are we going to do something dangerous" shatters a lot fewer
illusions than
> HOLD MY NOSE
You don't see that here.

>In silly modern plays, it is quite common for the characters to
>comment about the audience, or about the author. Breaking mimesis
>is not necessarily a sin in a work of humor.

It's hardly unique to modern plays; consider Puck's speech at the end of
_Midsummer Night's Dream_.

>The problem for humor is that there have to *be* strong
>conventions in order for there to be any payoff from breaking
>them. If they are broken too often, then it all becomes
>meaningless. In old Inforcom games, mimesis breaking was
>the rule, rather than the exception, and it did become boring,
>in my opinion.

Interesting point.

Gregg V. Carroll

unread,
Jan 7, 2002, 6:26:07 PM1/7/02
to
On 1/7/02 10:08 AM, Daryl McCullough at da...@cogentex.com posted:

>> What about:
>>
>>> SAVE
>> Floyd's eyes light up. "Oh boy! Are
>> we gonna try something dangerous now?"
>>
>> Talk about shattering the illusion, geez.

> Well, humor has always been (or at least since the twentieth century)
> full of such "category errors" or violations of the wall between
> story and story-teller, audience and writer, actors and characters.
> A really funny moment occurs in an old (40s era?) cartoon. At some
> point during an old (40s era?) cartoon, a hair appears on the screen
> (this is lost on the videotape generation, but it happened quite
> often in showing a filmstrip). After wiggling around for a few
> seconds, the hair is plucked out by one of the onscreen characters.
> There were similar jokes, such as when the vertical hold went bad,
> and the characters had to climb from the lower region of the screen
> to the upper region.

Or having a character in a film suddenly start talking to the audience.
Ferris Buhler's Day Off comes to mind.

> In silly modern plays, it is quite common for the characters to
> comment about the audience, or about the author. Breaking mimesis
> is not necessarily a sin in a work of humor.

Right. I'm not sure that Planetfall falls into the category of humor, but I
see your point. Floyd the character is something of a humorous relief is a
story that is somewhat grim. I wonder if Infocom would've written him as
such had SW not had it's C3PO or R2D2. But that's another thread. :)

> The problem for humor is that there have to *be* strong
> conventions in order for there to be any payoff from breaking
> them. If they are broken too often, then it all becomes
> meaningless. In old Inforcom games, mimesis breaking was
> the rule, rather than the exception, and it did become boring,
> in my opinion.

Yeah, the grass that grabs you and tosses you away in the first act of
Trinity was a bit much, even for me.

Gregg

Kevin Forchione

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Jan 7, 2002, 9:42:06 PM1/7/02
to
"Daryl McCullough" <da...@cogentex.com> wrote in message
news:a1cdl...@drn.newsguy.com...

> Gregg says...
>
> >What about:
> >
> >> SAVE
> >Floyd's eyes light up. "Oh boy! Are
> >we gonna try something dangerous now?"
> >
> >Talk about shattering the illusion, geez.
>
> Well, humor has always been (or at least since the twentieth century)
> full of such "category errors" or violations of the wall between
> story and story-teller, audience and writer, actors and characters.

Actually British pantomime goes back much farther than that, and there are
scenes in Shakespear, I believe, where an actor addresses the audience
directly.

> The problem for humor is that there have to *be* strong
> conventions in order for there to be any payoff from breaking
> them. If they are broken too often, then it all becomes
> meaningless. In old Inforcom games, mimesis breaking was
> the rule, rather than the exception, and it did become boring,
> in my opinion.

Interesting, given that I wouldn't have thought convention had been
established that early in IF.

--Kevin


TheCycoONE

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Jan 7, 2002, 10:03:26 PM1/7/02
to

<snip>

> Are we writing stories? I thought we were writing interactive
> fiction. This kind of question lies at what I consider the
> crux of the difference between the two.
>
> >doesn't mimesis require that it be in keeping with the
> >internal consistency of the story? In this case, "breaking mimesis" would
> >mean the failure of the player to keep in character, even when the
actions
> >of that character go against what the player would personally choose.
>
> If the simulation refuses to let me pick up the gun, my immersion
> in the game will always be reduced. Always.
>

I agree but...

> If the author has done her work in drawing the character, and
> I am immersed, I won't WANT to pick up the gun.
> I will avoid
> picking it up for as long as possible, so whether the simulation
> allows it or not won't be relevant. But the way to create that
> immersion in general is to allow choices, not to disallow choices;
> otheriwse I'm just reading a story, not participating; I may
> suspend disbelief but I won't be immersed. (In my opinion, in the
> best-told story, the author will have made me extremely unwiling
> to pick it up, and yet I'll be obligated to do so at some point.)
>

An excellent suggestion if only it were possible. However, many people,
including myself approch IF with an utter curiousity for the world I'm
exploring. I and what I beleive is a majority of players do not approch IF
as they would a MUD; we're not 'in character', instead the environment
revolves around me and my decisions OOC, while trying to keep the story as
real and with as much continuity as possible despite the players actions.
No matter what you say my past background is, I will always pick up that
gun, and the game must be prepared for this somehow. The solution as I see
it, is to include numerous surplus objects, but never ones which would
suggest any alternative ways to completing an undesired action. I believe
we have stumbled upon another difference between a story and IF. In IF the
player can not be expected to be one of high virtue or antivirtue of any
sort, in a story he has to be.

TheCycoONE

PS I'm tired, I hope that made sense.

<snip>

> SeanB


L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Jan 8, 2002, 1:42:57 AM1/8/02
to
On Tue, 08 Jan 2002 02:42:06 GMT, Kevin Forchione <Ke...@lysseus.com> wrote:
>> Well, humor has always been (or at least since the twentieth century)
>> full of such "category errors" or violations of the wall between
>> story and story-teller, audience and writer, actors and characters.
>
>Actually British pantomime goes back much farther than that, and there are
>scenes in Shakespear, I believe, where an actor addresses the audience
>directly.

For what it's worth, the specific example cited earlier, which was
either puck's speech at the end of Midsummer Night's dream, or
propsero's at the end of The Tempest, actually has a name -- it's a
claptrap, which is where the term comes from.

LoneCleric

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Jan 8, 2002, 1:48:04 AM1/8/02
to
LizM7 wrote:

>Aag, that irritates me. I'm a packrat by nature (my behavior in IF is
>*nothing* compared to that in CRPGs, where I'll lug around a thousand
>useless bits of scenery, just because you might find a use for them),
>and I don't enjoy having to run back to one spot to do something. I'd
>rather grab the brush, stick it in my purse, and leave, rather than
>have to run back to use the brush later.
>
>Especially since I tend to assume that a room is going to remain the
>same once I leave it, or, if it isn't going to stay the same, the
>reason causing the change will be one altering the scenery itself,
>rather than altering the circumstances.
>
>Myself, I'd prefer to have the brush be takeable, and if you don't
>want to take it, you don't have to. Total mimesis aside, there is
>something to be said for convenience - and, besides, for me, it ruins
>the mimesis if I *can't* take the brush.
>
>In general, it's really mimesis-breaking (to me) for an
>alterable-circumstance related excuse to be given as to why I can't an
>object (i.e. a circumstance that will be changed in the course of the
>game, such as your hairbrush above - for me, it just screams
>"puzzle"). It's also mimesis-breaking for an author to say that an
>object is irrelevant to my current quest (the freezer example).
>

Reading those comments remind me of that dilemma I had when writing NMNL
(<PLUG> http://www.wurb.com/if/game/1020 </PLUG>) about this issue. How
can you realistically describe a whole apartment full of misc stuff,
while implementing only a select few of its contents?

My experimental solution was to describe the implemented objects as
being "of particular note" to the PC - a solution which supported the
fact that the PC, like myself, could be very absent-minded and fail to
notice something right in front of his nose, unless there was an
immediate need for it.

The result was... less neat than what I hoped. Even if the game world
was very small and easily accessible (you can get in most locations with
one single command), many players found the concept a little too alien
for their tastes.

Nevertheless, <PLUG> I invite you all to see for yourself by giving the
game a quick try. </PLUG> ;-)

LC

PS: Once again, that's
http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/hugo/NMNL.hex

John W. Kennedy

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Jan 9, 2002, 9:08:28 PM1/9/02
to
Kevin Forchione wrote:
> Actually British pantomime goes back much farther than that, and there are
> scenes in Shakespear, I believe, where an actor addresses the audience
> directly.

There are no scenes in Shakespeare that I can recall where an character
clearly breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience in
the theater, except for "characters" named "Chorus", and the like, who
do nothing else, and so don't altogether count as characters. However,
there are lines that come close (most notably Lear's Fool's remark,
"This prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time."), and 99%
of soliloquies work best when performed that way. (In some cases, an
actor can even profit by taking the classic stripper's advice, picking
one member of the audience and addressing that one.)

Anyway you'll find mimesis breaking as early as Plautus. Perhaps even
earlier, but I'm not sure whether it counts with the Greeks; in some
measure, theatre was still a religious ritual for them, and it's not
safe to use quite the same aesthetic theory.

I'd also say that both mimesis and deliberate breaking of mimesis go
back all the way to Adventure 350.

--
John W. Kennedy
"Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays"
-- Charles Williams

John W. Kennedy

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Jan 9, 2002, 9:24:52 PM1/9/02
to

Ah, but that's an epilogue, which takes place outside the play proper.
In other playwrights, it may even be performed by an actor who wasn't in
the play. (As it happens, most plays of the Restoration -- which for
History-of-Theatre purposes lasts until 1732 -- include cast lists, so
we know this.)

By the way, I have never heard that "claptrap" had precisely that
meaning. Rather, I understand it to signify the "mandatory applause"
bit, such as this parodied version from "Ruddigore";

ROBIN
Soho! pretty one--in my power at last, eh? Know ye not that I have
those within my call who, at my lightest bidding, would immure ye
in an uncomfortable dungeon?
(Calling.)
What ho! within there!

RICHARD
Hold--we are prepared for this
(producing a Union Jack).
Here is a flag that none dare defy
(all kneel),
and while this glorious rag floats over Rose Maybud's head, the
man does not live who would dare to lay unlicensed hand upon her!

ROBIN
Foiled--and by a Union Jack!

I fear we have seen a lot of claptrap lately, and are likely to see more
yet.

Gregg V. Carroll

unread,
Jan 10, 2002, 12:22:07 AM1/10/02
to
On 1/9/02 9:08 PM, John W. Kennedy at jwk...@attglobal.net posted:

> Kevin Forchione wrote:

[snip]

> clearly breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience in

This is more than a little off-topic, but where does that term "fourth wall"
come from anyway? It is supposed to be some imaginary box enclosing the
actors from the audience?

Gregg

Peter Seebach

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Jan 10, 2002, 1:10:42 AM1/10/02
to
In article <B8628F27.1FAD%gr...@midcoast.com>,

Gregg V. Carroll <gr...@midcoast.com> wrote:
>This is more than a little off-topic, but where does that term "fourth wall"
>come from anyway? It is supposed to be some imaginary box enclosing the
>actors from the audience?

Well, a lot of stages are (and especially *used to be*) set up so that
the audience were all to one side of the stage; thus, three walls had no
audience members behind them, and one "wall" (not physically present)
separated the play from the audience.

Kevin Forchione

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Jan 10, 2002, 1:28:07 AM1/10/02
to
"Gregg V. Carroll" <gr...@midcoast.com> wrote in message
news:B8628F27.1FAD%gr...@midcoast.com...

Actually, this quote is attributable to Mr. Kennedy, not myself. Wonderful
and insightful discussion though. I'm soaking it all up for consideration,
believe me.

--Kevin


John W. Kennedy

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Jan 10, 2002, 1:48:41 PM1/10/02
to
"Gregg V. Carroll" wrote:
> This is more than a little off-topic, but where does that term "fourth wall"
> come from anyway? It is supposed to be some imaginary box enclosing the
> actors from the audience?

Think traditional late-19th-century, early-20th-century realistic stage
interiors. Three walls. So, yes, the fourth wall is the wall between
the actors and the audience. During the reign of terror of the
Ibsenists and the Chekovites, breaking the fourth wall was regarded as
anathema. Still is, for the most part, on screen, which tends to lag a
generation or two behind the stage.

Roger J. Long

unread,
Jan 12, 2002, 5:04:16 PM1/12/02
to
I'd also like some help with descriptions:

The Infocom Documentation Project has been providing the game manuals
in both a full-color PDF format and in a plain, text-only format. The
text-only format is intended to be used by those that need to use a
text-to-speech program or a Braille output device.

The text-only format includes descriptions for any pictures that
appear in the PDF files. The basic idea behind the description is that
if "a picture is worth a thousand words", use as many of those words
as necessary to describe most or all of the picture, and try to keep
it in the same tone that Infocom used. That way, anyone who has
partial or full vision impairment (partially or completely blind, when
we sweep aside the political correctness) can get just as much
enjoyment and experience the amount of detail Infocom put into their
manuals as anyone looking at the PDF file.

But, after just now seeing this topic, I have to wonder if the
descriptions might be going too far.

Please download the manuals in the "Screen reader-friendly manuals"
section and let me know what you think of the descriptions. Are they
too detailed? Do they need to be more detailed? Does the description
fit the tone of the manual? Et cetera.

InfoDoc Project: http://infodoc.plover.net

Roger Long


P.S. I will be going through the previous discussions on room
discussions a little bit later, but I wanted to send this message out
now.

TheCycoONE

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Jan 14, 2002, 3:52:11 PM1/14/02
to

"Gregg V. Carroll" <gr...@midcoast.com> wrote in message
news:B8628F27.1FAD%gr...@midcoast.com...

Perhaps I could be more inciteful on this topic? I don't know, just a few
years of drama class. Anyway, as you may or may not know there are three
main stage designes used for theatrical productions. These being Theatre in
the Round, the Thrust stage, and in the case of the box set, the Procenium
stage.

A lot of you seem to be suggesting that the forth wall is between the actors
and the audience, which in many cases is correct, but more accurately the
area cut out of the Procenium arch (the border around the stage) is the
forth wall. If the actors are blind to the audience such as they would be
inside a room speaking with one another they are to pretend that the
audience doesn't exist, or at least that they can't see them, instead there
is this wall at the procenium arch. When the actor wishes to break from the
play and address the audience, they could stand on the apron (an area of the
stage in front of the arch on many stages.)

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jan 14, 2002, 4:31:24 PM1/14/02
to
On Mon, 14 Jan 2002 15:52:11 -0500, TheCycoONE <cyc...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>Perhaps I could be more inciteful on this topic? I don't know, just a few
>years of drama class. Anyway, as you may or may not know there are three
>main stage designes used for theatrical productions. These being Theatre in
>the Round, the Thrust stage, and in the case of the box set, the Procenium
>stage.
>
>A lot of you seem to be suggesting that the forth wall is between the actors
>and the audience, which in many cases is correct, but more accurately the
>area cut out of the Procenium arch (the border around the stage) is the
>forth wall. If the actors are blind to the audience such as they would be
>inside a room speaking with one another they are to pretend that the
>audience doesn't exist, or at least that they can't see them, instead there
>is this wall at the procenium arch. When the actor wishes to break from the
>play and address the audience, they could stand on the apron (an area of the
>stage in front of the arch on many stages.)

Saturday night live, I think, once did a sketch based on the idea of
their revolutionary new idea of "showign the fourth wall". The set
was simply enclosed, and all the audience saw was the back of the prop
wall.

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