observation for game designers

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Mark Borok

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Mar 14, 2002, 10:49:54 PM3/14/02
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Yestereve I fired up a game I had downloaded from the archive,
"YAGWAD". It's a fun game so far, but I noticed something that's
bothered me often before. There is a point at which you're listening to
a king making a proclamation while around you the crowd murmurs and
otherwise responds. I wasn't sure what to do when prompted, so I would
type "murmur" if the crowd was murmuring (just to get into the spirit
of the thing) and other verbs I picked up from the context. None of
them worked, of course (I wasn't too surprised).

Anyway, I notice that there are lots of instances where, during a long
sequence like this, the player is prompted for input but the only valid
input seems to be "wait". Wouldn't it be nice to use these places in a
game as opportunities to handle more creative responses, like, maybe,
"scratch buttocks"? (I didn't try that one, but I have a pretty good
idea that the game had no built-in response to it either). In general,
if an author thinks of at least a few things a person might ordinarily
do in a particular situation and programs them in, the player can at
least spend the time looking for amusing responses ("You scratch your
buttocks with pleasure, only to realize after a few moments that they
are actually someone else's. This realization if followed shortly by a
heavy blow.").

Just a thought.

--Mark

Mike Sousa

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Mar 15, 2002, 7:43:15 AM3/15/02
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Mark Borok wrote:

> Yestereve I fired up a game I had downloaded from the archive,
> "YAGWAD". It's a fun game so far, but I noticed something that's

<snip>
Indeed. A very fun game.

> Anyway, I notice that there are lots of instances where, during a long
> sequence like this, the player is prompted for input but the only valid
> input seems to be "wait". Wouldn't it be nice to use these places in a
> game as opportunities to handle more creative responses, like, maybe,

<snip>

I find myself racing against time to finish verbs that the game needs.
Most authors, in my opinion, would love to handle all responses, it's
just a function of time. Then there's the reality of "I'm spending xx
time on 'scratch buttocks' and *maybe* one out of every 100 players will
try it" -- and then I also need to add code to handle other verbs with
that object (to use your example of buttocks) PUT IN, SLAP, EXAMINE,
LOOK IN, etc...

But yeah, it would be nice.

-- Mike

Paul Trembath

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Mar 15, 2002, 6:21:08 PM3/15/02
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"Mike Sousa" <mjs...@attbi.com> wrote in message
news:3C91ED52...@attbi.com...

> Mark Borok wrote:
>
> > Yestereve I fired up a game I had downloaded from the archive,
> > "YAGWAD". It's a fun game so far, but I noticed something that's
<OP would appreciate diversions like SCRATCH BUTTOCKS>

>
> I find myself racing against time to finish verbs that the game needs.
<snip>

> But yeah, it would be nice.

There is a thread hereabouts pointing out that library extensions (in
Inform) tend to stomp on global resources like library routines, so they are
hard to combine. I found a similar problem with TADS 2 when I was looking
at it - though I haven't taken T3 on board as yet, so perhaps Mike Roberts
has fixed this before I can articulate it.

Actually, I thought about proposing various object-based solutions in T2,
but it seemed inappropriate for a newbie to suggest how eggs might best be
sucked. (For instance, an add-in library might replace an entry point
provided by the standard library or by the VM - but other libraries could
replace the same entry point, so that a game author could only have one
library unless they are prepared to hack the add-in libraries. Which works
until one or more of the library authors issues an upgrade. It would be
more flexible for the standard library or interpreter to call all objects
that have declared an interest in the entry point).

There might be some advantage in a set of conventions so that packaged
components like a buttock-scratching module could be combined fairly freely
into an existing game. This could provide resources to improve the texture
of games, reduce the learning curve for some authors, and give dabblers like
me a productive outlet.

--
Paul Trembath


OKB -- not okblacke

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Mar 15, 2002, 6:41:53 PM3/15/02
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"Paul Trembath" ptre...@compuserve.com wrote:
>Actually, I thought about proposing various object-based solutions in T2,
>but it seemed inappropriate for a newbie to suggest how eggs might best be
>sucked. (For instance, an add-in library might replace an entry point
>provided by the standard library or by the VM - but other libraries could
>replace the same entry point, so that a game author could only have one
>library unless they are prepared to hack the add-in libraries. Which works
>until one or more of the library authors issues an upgrade. It would be
>more flexible for the standard library or interpreter to call all objects
>that have declared an interest in the entry point).

As a matter of fact tads3 does have a system like this for initialization,
preinitialization, etc.

>There might be some advantage in a set of conventions so that packaged
>components like a buttock-scratching module could be combined fairly freely
>into an existing game.

Yes, I imagine the demand for a drop-in buttock-scratching module is quite
high. Perhaps this should be added to the FAQ ("How can I implement the PC
scratching his/her buttocks?"). :-)

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Branko Collin

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Mar 15, 2002, 9:37:27 PM3/15/02
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Mark Borok <mbo...@mindspring.com>, you wrote on Thu, 14 Mar 2002
22:49:54 -0500:

>Yestereve I fired up a game I had downloaded from the archive,
>"YAGWAD". It's a fun game so far, but I noticed something that's
>bothered me often before. There is a point at which you're listening to
>a king making a proclamation while around you the crowd murmurs and
>otherwise responds. I wasn't sure what to do when prompted, so I would
>type "murmur" if the crowd was murmuring (just to get into the spirit
>of the thing) and other verbs I picked up from the context. None of
>them worked, of course (I wasn't too surprised).
>
>Anyway, I notice that there are lots of instances where, during a long
>sequence like this, the player is prompted for input but the only valid
>input seems to be "wait". Wouldn't it be nice to use these places in a
>game as opportunities to handle more creative responses, like, maybe,
>"scratch buttocks"?

I can imagine two situations in which a long text would be presented
mid-game:

1) The text and its absorption and understanding by the player is
absolutely pivotal for the gaming experience; without it, the player
cannot finish the game or will not feel satisfied finishing the game.

2) the author mistakenly believes that 1) applies.

In the first case, there is really no need for the player to play with
the protagonist's buttocks. The best way to deal with it is to present
all the text in one go.

I can imagine that it is tempting for the author to suggest that
something else can be done while the proclamation is being read or the
credits are being scrolled up the screen or the protagonist is
captured by the book (s)he is reading, but if that suggestion takes
the shape of a command prompt, the author is basically fooling the
player.

In the case of 2, it is best to either shorten the text enormously or
to take it away altogether.

--
branko collin
Volk van San Theodoros, ik heb U begrepen.

Mark Borok

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Mar 15, 2002, 11:38:21 PM3/15/02
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In article <3c92ad83...@news.xs4all.nl>, Branko Collin
<col...@xs4all.nl> wrote:

I agree whole-heartedly. A long text, especially at the beginning of
the game (like a second introduction) would be welcome and would allow
the author to flex some creative muscle. As you point out, the player
may not want to be forced to type "wait" or "z" over and over just to
maintain an illusion of interactivity (on the other hand, a list of
randomly selected responses to the "wait" statement would be fun. I
just was programming a test game in TADS as a learning experience and
decided to alter the response to the command "Jump" to say "People look
at you strangely" if the room the player is in has the property
"isPopulated". It may sound dumb, but this is really the kind of thing
that makes IF a pleasure to me.)

--Mark

Jim Aikin

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Mar 16, 2002, 12:05:33 PM3/16/02
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Branko Collin wrote:


> I can imagine two situations in which a long text would be presented
> mid-game:
>
> 1) The text and its absorption and understanding by the player is
> absolutely pivotal for the gaming experience; without it, the player
> cannot finish the game or will not feel satisfied finishing the game.
>
> 2) the author mistakenly believes that 1) applies.


The third situation (less common than either of the above, perhaps, but
not unthinkable) would be that what the author is doing is not,
ultimately, a "game" at all but an interactive story or novel. Thinking
of it as a game puts you back a little too firmly into the shoot-'em-up
twitch mentality. It assumes that the "player" (again, a loaded word)
wants to DO STUFF, and will get impatient if not allowed to for a brief
interval.

An alternate assumption is that the reader wants to read your story, and
to interact where appropriate.


> In the first case, there is really no need for the player to play with
> the protagonist's buttocks. The best way to deal with it is to present
> all the text in one go.


Absolutely right. If you're using fake interactivity (and I know I may
make a few enemies by saying this, but I think Photopia falls pretty
much in that category), I'd suggest considering whether your concept
might better be realized as conventional fiction.

The difficulty with the latter being, of course, that then you have to
try to get published. One of the charms of the IF community is that it's
ALL self-published. We can debate the pros and cons of that another time.

--Jim Aikin

Branko Collin

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Mar 16, 2002, 2:07:18 PM3/16/02
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Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org>, you wrote on Sat, 16 Mar
2002 17:05:33 GMT:

>Branko Collin wrote:
>
>> I can imagine two situations in which a long text would be presented
>> mid-game:
>>
>> 1) The text and its absorption and understanding by the player is
>> absolutely pivotal for the gaming experience; without it, the player
>> cannot finish the game or will not feel satisfied finishing the game.
>>
>> 2) the author mistakenly believes that 1) applies.
>
>The third situation (less common than either of the above, perhaps, but
>not unthinkable) would be that what the author is doing is not,
>ultimately, a "game" at all but an interactive story or novel. Thinking
>of it as a game puts you back a little too firmly into the shoot-'em-up
>twitch mentality. It assumes that the "player" (again, a loaded word)
>wants to DO STUFF, and will get impatient if not allowed to for a brief
>interval.
>
>An alternate assumption is that the reader wants to read your story, and
> to interact where appropriate.

I seem to remember people saying in early multimedia days (I used to
use an Amiga, so that was 10-15 years ago) that people either interact
or consume, but will not switch back to interaction if being passive
has lasted longer than three seconds. Unfortunately I do not remember
if these 'facts' were just assumptions or backed by research.

Also the type of device you play it on could be influental. A
hand-held device may be much more suited to passively reading long
reams of text than a CRT monitor. (Or the other way around.)

>> In the first case, there is really no need for the player to play with
>> the protagonist's buttocks. The best way to deal with it is to present
>> all the text in one go.
>
>Absolutely right. If you're using fake interactivity (and I know I may
>make a few enemies by saying this, but I think Photopia falls pretty
>much in that category), I'd suggest considering whether your concept
>might better be realized as conventional fiction.
>
>The difficulty with the latter being, of course, that then you have to
>try to get published. One of the charms of the IF community is that it's
>ALL self-published. We can debate the pros and cons of that another time.

Hm, the one day people say IF does not reach a large enough audience,
the next day they say that if you want to reach any audience at all,
you have to release your novel as IF. <grin>

Dan Shiovitz

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Mar 17, 2002, 4:04:46 AM3/17/02
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In article <3c92ad83...@news.xs4all.nl>,
Branko Collin <col...@xs4all.nl> wrote:
[..]

>
>I can imagine two situations in which a long text would be presented
>mid-game:
[..]

>In the first case, there is really no need for the player to play with
>the protagonist's buttocks. The best way to deal with it is to present
>all the text in one go.
>
>I can imagine that it is tempting for the author to suggest that
>something else can be done while the proclamation is being read or the
>credits are being scrolled up the screen or the protagonist is
>captured by the book (s)he is reading, but if that suggestion takes
>the shape of a command prompt, the author is basically fooling the
>player.
[..]

You talk about fooling the player as though it's a bad thing. But, of
course, fooling the player is what IF is all about. The world isn't
really infinite, it's not really a natural-language parser, life
doesn't really work that way. And it really can feel different to the
player to read the text broken up into chunks separated by a prompt
than to get it all in one go, even if all their prompt input is
ignored.

As it happens, you can test this out. My first game, Lethe Flow Phoenix
(http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/tads/lethe.zip) has a
number of longish intragame cutscenes that aren't interactive. I
thought it'd work better that way but most people didn't like them.
You can play the game and see for yourself if you think long
cutscenes work. Obviously this isn't a proof as such, since it is at
least as plausible that my writing sucked or something, but if you
just want to get a feel for how it works, here you go.

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


Aleksey Linetskiy

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Mar 18, 2002, 11:21:18 AM3/18/02
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In article <140320022249546656%mbo...@mindspring.com>,
mbo...@mindspring.com says...

I don't think that trying to anticipate all possible random inputs is a
good idea. It's hard to predict what can a bored player do :). The better
solution, at least in my opinion, would be to give some small puzzle to
the player, so he/she can be occupied while getting parts of a cutscene.
For example:

(... the king gives the first part of his speech...)

You feel a sudden sharp pain in your left foot.
> TAKE OFF BOOTS

(... the king gives the second part of the speech...)

You take off the boots, and the pain immediately stops.
> LOOK IN BOOTS

(.... the king gives the third part of the speech... )

In your left boot you can see a small sparkling stone, no larger that a
bean.
> TAKE STONE

(... the king gives the last part of his long speech...)
> WEAR BOOTS

The puzzle should be easy, and should be solvable in just a few actions.
It is also possible to automatically solve the puzzle for player after
the end of speech.

--------------------------------------------
Aleksey "F" Linetskiy

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