A Deeper Definition of IF

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David Graves

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Oct 12, 1990, 5:08:56 PM10/12/90
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Okay, here's a deeper definition of Interactive Fiction. Here I also
reveal my personal preferences on how I'd like to see the genre develop.
Perhaps my options are in conflict with yours; if so, I hope you'll post a
rebuttal. I'd love to see us get some hot discussions rolling again.

Interactive Fiction (IF) is difficult to define concretely, as it is a new
artistic form, still in its infancy. The first work of computer-based IF
was a story-game called "Adventure". To this day, games of this type are
called Adventure games, named after the original instance.

IF offers great potential, but since its appearance about a decade ago,
its growth has been plagued by two problems: how to develop the computer
technology required to support a work of Interactive Fiction, and how to
develop stories that exploit this new genre.

Interactive Fiction differs from traditional fiction in that the author
give up some of the control of the flow of the story. This is because the
reader (or player) is allowed to participate to some degree in the shaping
of the plot through his role as a character in the action. Since the
player-as-character will be making decisions about what he will do next,
the author must allow for multiple paths through a set of plot potentials.
The most primitive way of doing this is through plot branching:
presenting the reader with a small set of fixed choices, each set
corresponding to a branch in a fixed set of potential plot paths.
Unfortunately, this technique is intrinsicly limited and has historically
resulted in relatively uninteresting games.

A more interesting approach is to create a rich set of plot fragments and
character behaviors which may be assembled by the computer to allow the
creation of new stories each time the program is used. In the finished
product, the individual elements of the story can combine in new and
wonderful ways not anticipated by the author or programmer.

Rich G. -Psi

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Oct 13, 1990, 10:45:23 AM10/13/90
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In article <315...@hpsemc.HP.COM>, d...@hpsemc.HP.COM (David Graves) writes...

>Okay, here's a deeper definition of Interactive Fiction. Here I also
>reveal my personal preferences on how I'd like to see the genre develop.
>Perhaps my options are in conflict with yours; if so, I hope you'll post a
>rebuttal. I'd love to see us get some hot discussions rolling again.
>
>Interactive Fiction (IF) is difficult to define concretely, as it is a new
>artistic form, still in its infancy. The first work of computer-based IF

oh! word games on the computer! a friend of mine has one of those, and
I have a few small ones with not much meaning to 'em...
you can say I'm unschooled on the subject!

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KIENENBERGER MIKE L

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Oct 13, 1990, 3:48:37 PM10/13/90
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In article <315...@hpsemc.HP.COM>, d...@hpsemc.HP.COM (David Graves) writes...
[....deleted for space conservation...]

>A more interesting approach is to create a rich set of plot fragments and
>character behaviors which may be assembled by the computer to allow the
>creation of new stories each time the program is used. In the finished
>product, the individual elements of the story can combine in new and
>wonderful ways not anticipated by the author or programmer.

Have you ever seen InfoCom's Moonmist game?
It was attempted there. A random "plot" was chosen, and clues were
randomly distributed. I think that there were 5 plots in all, and
after awhile, you started to know where everything was to be found.
Although the game seemed pretty simple, I think it was the best attempt of
where things *should* be heading...

-Mike Kienenberger
FX...@ALASKA.BITNET
(FXMLK%ALASKA...@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU for the network impaired)

Jeffrey L Standish

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Oct 13, 1990, 11:51:02 AM10/13/90
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In article <315...@hpsemc.HP.COM> d...@hpsemc.HP.COM (David Graves) writes:
>A more interesting approach is to create a rich set of plot fragments and
>character behaviors which may be assembled by the computer to allow the
>creation of new stories each time the program is used. In the finished
>product, the individual elements of the story can combine in new and
>wonderful ways not anticipated by the author or programmer.

One idea that I have been (trying) to work on is to create a discrete
area of locations -- i.e. your typical dungeon, mansion, or other location
in which players can adventure. But rather than having a set plot, there
is no real plot at all.
This simulation started out as a means of trying to set up a method for
creating a more interesting type of computer controlled personas for
adventures. Now I'm trying to get it set up as about thirty or forty
computer controlled personas who engage in various activities, and interact
with one-another. Each has its own personality type, which would govern
how they would interact.
As it is, all I've gotten done so far is set up most of the code for
performing various activities: eating, sleeping, engaging in personal
interests. Beyond this, I'm going to add in the code for interpersonal
activities: conversations, parties, fights, etc. This would allow for
the generation of subplots as based on the personalities of the various
characters and how they interact.
Right now, I'm not too sure just how far I can take this on a PC, but
at least it provides an interesting thought-problem. Players in this sort
of game would interact with the computerized personas, developing
aquaintences, enemies, and such forth. I guess the best description for
this simulation would be an interactive (ack!) soap-opera.

David Graves

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Oct 15, 1990, 2:49:29 PM10/15/90
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I agree with Mike Kieneberger that Moonmist was a significant step: up to
five possible plots instead of one. There was no significant upgrade in
technology, however. You still had a static branch tree which dictated
the plot. I don't mean to put down on Moonmist -- I just can't help looking
beyond that level. If you use dynamically plot elements, you could see 500
different plots, not just 5.

Jeffrey Standish points out another means for automating the action in
a fantasy world: let each character have their own personalities and
motivations. They interact with the player character and with the other
simulated characters. This is a very reasonable approach. (By the way,
I am also making progress on this very same approach). I would disagree,
however, that this results in "no plot at all". The plot is not explicit,
but it is implied by the motivations of the characters. In using this
technique (which some call "Artificial Personality") you are influencing
the probabilities associated with any given event in an indirect manner.
Plot springs forth from the decisions made by the player character and
the non-player characters.

Stephen M. Smith

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Oct 16, 1990, 8:53:19 PM10/16/90
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In article <15...@mentor.cc.purdue.edu> stan...@mentor.cc.purdue.edu (Jeffrey L Standish) writes:
>>A more interesting approach is to create a rich set of plot fragments and
>>character behaviors which may be assembled by the computer to allow the
>>creation of new stories each time the program is used.
>
> One idea that I have been (trying) to work on is to create a discrete
>area of locations -- i.e. your typical dungeon, mansion, or other location
>in which players can adventure. But rather than having a set plot, there
>is no real plot at all.

I like what has been discussed under this heading. I am a novice
of sorts when it comes to games (I've only been playing RPG's for
a year or so), but I would like to hear more on this subject.
There is a commercial game out called Knights of Legend which does
not have a defined plot, and I am somewhat familiar with its
setting. Instead of having a linear path with "gates" through
which the player is steered (to keep him/her from deviating from
the predefined plot too far), Knights of Legend has numerous quests
which can be undertaken in almost any order. As far as I know
there is not one "ultimate" goal, except that one of the quests
is distinguished as being particularly significant. Rather than
identifying with one particular character, the player may have a
number of adventurers in various towns who can be called upon to
complete tasks that are they are specialized in. This game was
originally designed to have a sequel which would carry one into
new (geographical) territory adjacent to that of the first module.
Unfortunately, Origin, the game's producer, decided not to create
any new modules.

In the last issue of Gaming World there was a lengthy article on
some of the discussions which occurred at this summer's gaming
conference. There seems to be a trend away from linear plots to
a greater emphasis on creating a "mood", as it were, with a rich
gaming environment into which the player is dropped. This world, they
said, should have many elements which do not *need* to be
experienced in order to solve the puzzles which you come across;
they would only be there to *experience* for their own sake in order
to let one explore at will and discover the world for oneself.

But most people are end-oriented, aren't they? We are taught in
this culture to set and accomplish goals. Is it possible to make
the game so complex that people can set their *own* goals within
the parameters of play, whether that be an "ultimate goal" or
simply the desire for growth and exploration? Actually, maybe the
only way to achieve this is to be a programmer--you then can have
the game any way you want, but of course there would be no room
for discovery.

Any thoughts?

S. "Stevie" Smith \ + / "In every act of rebellion the rebel simultaneously
<smsmith@hpuxa. \ +++ / experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringe-
ircc.ohio-state. \ + / ment of his rights and a complete and spontaneous
edu> \ + / loyalty to certain aspects of himself."
BTW, WYSInaWYG \ + / --Albert Camus

Sean Shapira

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Oct 17, 1990, 5:45:34 AM10/17/90
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In article <315...@hpsemc.HP.COM> d...@hpsemc.HP.COM (David Graves) writes:
>Okay, here's a deeper definition of Interactive Fiction. [...]

David, do you define IF to include computer based systems only, or are
paper-and-pencil based systems (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons) part of the
genre as well?
--
Sean Shapira "If there were no winters to guard against, then the
s...@jazzie.wa.com grasshoppper would not get his come-uppance, nor the
(206) 322-4742 ant his shabby victory." --Bernard Suits

Dave Donat

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Oct 17, 1990, 1:00:05 PM10/17/90
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In article <57...@nisca.ircc.ohio-state.edu> sms...@hpuxa.ircc.ohio-state.edu (Stephen M. Smith) writes:
>In the last issue of Gaming World there was a lengthy article on
>some of the discussions which occurred at this summer's gaming
>conference. There seems to be a trend away from linear plots to
>a greater emphasis on creating a "mood", as it were, with a rich
>gaming environment into which the player is dropped. This world, they
>said, should have many elements which do not *need* to be
>experienced in order to solve the puzzles which you come across;
>they would only be there to *experience* for their own sake in order
>to let one explore at will and discover the world for oneself.

This is always the sort of game that I thought would be pretty fascinating to
use. The only problem... would it sell? I think that an abstract game like
this would need to team up with some pretty sophisticated graphics/sound
effects in order to be accepted by the general game-buying public. This is not
bad (I never bought Infocom's line about graphics being "negative"), and I
think necessary. Simply not enough people are going to want to play a game
where they have no particular goal.

>But most people are end-oriented, aren't they? We are taught in
>this culture to set and accomplish goals. Is it possible to make
>the game so complex that people can set their *own* goals within
>the parameters of play, whether that be an "ultimate goal" or
>simply the desire for growth and exploration? Actually, maybe the
>only way to achieve this is to be a programmer--you then can have
>the game any way you want, but of course there would be no room
>for discovery.

Yes, I think it is possible. I am a little fuzzy (OK, very fuzzy) as to how
this gets done. I do think that there has to be SOME structure developed by
the author. Also, shouldn't these ideas apply in theory to one-player games as
well as multi-user? I think it is much more challenging to write scenarios
that are interesting for just one player, when he does not have other human
personalities around to amuse himself with.

>S. "Stevie" Smith \ + / "In every act of rebellion the rebel simultaneously
><smsmith@hpuxa. \ +++ / experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringe-
> ircc.ohio-state. \ + / ment of his rights and a complete and spontaneous
> edu> \ + / loyalty to certain aspects of himself."
> BTW, WYSInaWYG \ + / --Albert Camus

------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | Dave Donat | "I was standing all alone |
| Interactive Fiction Buff | at the gas station of love |
| d...@cec2.wustl.edu | And I have to use the self-service pumps!" |
| | - "Weird Al" Yankovic | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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