My defininition of IF (sorry!)

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Aris Katsaris

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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Okay I was bored, and thought to define IF. Sorry for starting a new thread,
but since the following is not meant as response to any single post in
particular, I thought it possibly better.

I'd really appreciate it if people told me if they'd agree with my
definition and if they think that it truly includes all IF games, excludes
all non-IF and leaves room for speculation for those games which may be IF
and may be not.

(Btw I wrote this before Andrew Plotkin's last post in the thread where he
referred to the difference between narrative and algorithmic created
situations - his post may have made mine superfluous)

Here's a definition of Interactive fiction:

"Interactive fiction is above all else a narrative (hence the 'fiction')
which can not only influence (by being read/played) but is also influenced
by the 'player' (hence the 'interactive'). That influence by the player must
be the intended influence - regardless of whether the result of it is known,
unknown or even random to some extent. Moreover the narrative must be the
most important part of the IF piece."

Points of clarification:
1. It's not important whether the narrative is shown in graphic or text -
but it has to be a narrative of some sort. Colours flashing in the screen
and changing depending on which letter you press is not 'narrative'.

2. The influence can be great or small, can affect the ending or it may not.
Photopia and I-0 both qualify for IF. An online version of Herodotus'
History does not (even if you have to solve puzzles to see to the next
page).

3. Puzzles may be part of the narrative. Infact even complex and obtrusive
puzzles may be part of the narrative. But they have to be connected with it
in some way, no matter how ridiculous it is ("Enemies" therefore does
qualify as IF regardless the Mensa-style silly puzzles). If they are
completely isolated and unconnected though (a Fifteen game), they are
intrusions to the narrative. If these kind of puzzles form the most
important part of the game (the reason most people play it perhaps), perhaps
it should not be called IF. The inform-version of Tetris (I don't remember
the name, sorry!!) is not IF.

4. Combat, even random combat, may be part of the narrative. But not when
strength and stamina are represented by numbers - that's algebra, not
narrative.
"You see the giant spider falling on you to crush you with her body.
> RAISE SWORD
With her own weight the giant spider is pierced by your sword through
layers of fat and flesh."
That is narrative. The following though is not:
"The spider attacks you. You have now 6/12 stamina points. It has 10 Stamina
points left.
>HIT SPIDER
The spider has now 9 stamina points."

5. The "influence" must be willingly made (even if the outcome of it is
unknown). A shoot-em-up where quickness of hand is required, does not
qualify for IF because our contributions to the game are often other than
what we intend. (our reflexes slower than we'd like and so on). Therefore
the obstacles (puzzles, etc) must be mental problems alone and not physical
in any way as in shoot-em-ups, soccer games and often real-time strategy
games.

6. The reason strategy games are not IF, is that they have not been
interested in being IF: There's minimal or no narrative, with numbers or
positions being the most important elements controlling the game.
(A very advanced kind of strategy game though, where you can flirt with a
foreign duchess to take valuable info from here, could qualify though. It
all depends on how important the narrative part of the story is.)

7. Space Under the Window is IF. So is hyper-fiction, though it's a very bad
kind of IF in all the examples I've yet seen. Perhaps someone would care to
add a rule or something, which would manage to exclude hyper-fiction from
being IF, but I don't really see any reason to.

Finally I'd have to say that I don't believe we really need a definition for
IF. I know which things are blue without being able to define 'blue'. Sure,
sometimes I may not be absolutely certain whether I should something IF or
not, but sometimes there are green-bluish or purple-bluish things which
would similarly confuse me.
Scientist might ofcourse be able to define blue as the light emitted between
two frequencies, but that would be rather useless for practical purposes.

-------
Aris Katsaris - kats...@otenet.gr
Home Page: http://users.otenet.gr/~katsaris

Eric O'Dell

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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On Wed, 14 Jul 1999 00:28:09 +0300, "Aris Katsaris"
<kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:

>I'd really appreciate it if people told me if they'd agree with my
>definition and if they think that it truly includes all IF games, excludes
>all non-IF and leaves room for speculation for those games which may be IF
>and may be not.

I think your definition excludes too much. But then, I tend to object
to definitions of any kind of art as too restrictive.

>2. The influence can be great or small, can affect the ending or it may not.
>Photopia and I-0 both qualify for IF. An online version of Herodotus'
>History does not (even if you have to solve puzzles to see to the next
>page).

I think an IF version of Herodotus could very well leave a lot open to
the player. Like all histories, only the broad details are recorded,
and there is certainly room to introduce purely fictional subplots.
Moreover, the interpretation of the historical narrative contains room
for significant flexibility.

>4. Combat, even random combat, may be part of the narrative. But not when
>strength and stamina are represented by numbers - that's algebra, not
>narrative.
>"You see the giant spider falling on you to crush you with her body.
>> RAISE SWORD
> With her own weight the giant spider is pierced by your sword through
>layers of fat and flesh."
>That is narrative. The following though is not:
>"The spider attacks you. You have now 6/12 stamina points. It has 10 Stamina
>points left.
>>HIT SPIDER
>The spider has now 9 stamina points."

The only difference between overt variables ("you have 5 hit points
left") and covert variables ("you are feeling quite weak") is in the
manner of their presentation to the player. A lot of IF depends on
algebra; the degree to which this is revealed to the player is a
matter of style and has little bearing on whether or not it is
narrative.

>5. The "influence" must be willingly made (even if the outcome of it is
>unknown). A shoot-em-up where quickness of hand is required, does not
>qualify for IF because our contributions to the game are often other than
>what we intend. (our reflexes slower than we'd like and so on). Therefore
>the obstacles (puzzles, etc) must be mental problems alone and not physical
>in any way as in shoot-em-ups, soccer games and often real-time strategy
>games.

Nonsense. The contributions of real people to their lives are often
not what they intended; if art imitates life, then the contributions
of characters -- including the player character -- to the narrative
will not always be what they intended:

>GET LANTERN

You reach for the lantern, but it slips
from your hand and shatters on the floor.
Flames spread rapidly across the carpet.

An interface that depended on physical reflexes would certainly be a
departure from most IF, but I see no reason why it would rule out
narrative any more than any other interface.

>Finally I'd have to say that I don't believe we really need a definition for
>IF. I know which things are blue without being able to define 'blue'. Sure,
>sometimes I may not be absolutely certain whether I should something IF or
>not, but sometimes there are green-bluish or purple-bluish things which
>would similarly confuse me.

I don't see that we need a definition, either. Artistic genres tend to
shade continuously into one another rather than being discrete
categories.


Regards,
E.


+-------------------------------------------------------------------+
| "I have come a very long way from myself only to realize that |
| identity is a skill and self-betrayal is a habit. Once lost, the |
| former is very hard to regain; once gained, the latter is very |
| hard to lose." ---I. Corvus, _The Europe of Our Dreams_ |
+-------------------------------------------------------------------+
http://members.tripod.com/~abadger

Aris Katsaris

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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Eric O'Dell <eod...@pobox.com> wrote in message
news:378c16e6...@news.nash1.tn.home.com...

> On Wed, 14 Jul 1999 00:28:09 +0300, "Aris Katsaris"
> <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>
> >I'd really appreciate it if people told me if they'd agree with my
> >definition and if they think that it truly includes all IF games,
excludes
> >all non-IF and leaves room for speculation for those games which may be
IF
> >and may be not.
>
> I think your definition excludes too much. But then, I tend to object
> to definitions of any kind of art as too restrictive.
>
> >2. The influence can be great or small, can affect the ending or it may
not.
> >Photopia and I-0 both qualify for IF. An online version of Herodotus'
> >History does not (even if you have to solve puzzles to see to the next
> >page).
>
> I think an IF version of Herodotus could very well leave a lot open to
> the player. Like all histories, only the broad details are recorded,
> and there is certainly room to introduce purely fictional subplots.
> Moreover, the interpretation of the historical narrative contains room
> for significant flexibility.

Yes, because then there would be influence. If there's nothing open to the
player though, then there no influence and no IF. I don't think we disagree
here.

> >4. Combat, even random combat, may be part of the narrative. But not when
> >strength and stamina are represented by numbers - that's algebra, not
> >narrative.
> >"You see the giant spider falling on you to crush you with her body.
> >> RAISE SWORD
> > With her own weight the giant spider is pierced by your sword through
> >layers of fat and flesh."
> >That is narrative. The following though is not:
> >"The spider attacks you. You have now 6/12 stamina points. It has 10
Stamina
> >points left.
> >>HIT SPIDER
> >The spider has now 9 stamina points."
>
> The only difference between overt variables ("you have 5 hit points
> left") and covert variables ("you are feeling quite weak") is in the
> manner of their presentation to the player. A lot of IF depends on
> algebra; the degree to which this is revealed to the player is a
> matter of style and has little bearing on whether or not it is
> narrative.

There was a bit greater difference in the above two passages I mentioned. In
the first, the player forms the narrative with his own deeds. In the second
there's no narrative to be formed. I can imagine the first one coming out of
a book (indeed it did come out of a book). Not the second one though.

> >5. The "influence" must be willingly made (even if the outcome of it is
> >unknown). A shoot-em-up where quickness of hand is required, does not
> >qualify for IF because our contributions to the game are often other than
> >what we intend. (our reflexes slower than we'd like and so on). Therefore
> >the obstacles (puzzles, etc) must be mental problems alone and not
physical
> >in any way as in shoot-em-ups, soccer games and often real-time strategy
> >games.
>
> Nonsense. The contributions of real people to their lives are often
> not what they intended; if art imitates life, then the contributions
> of characters -- including the player character -- to the narrative
> will not always be what they intended:
>
> >GET LANTERN
>
> You reach for the lantern, but it slips
> from your hand and shatters on the floor.
> Flames spread rapidly across the carpet.

This example of yours, is included in my definition of IF. The influence is
what they intended (the character reaching for the lantern). But the outcome
is not.

Would it still be I-F if (in many such cases) you had to complete writing
the sentence in under two seconds?

"The mummy approaches you.
>shoot mummy with crossb
"The mummy grabs you and eats your head. Type faster next time!"

> An interface that depended on physical reflexes would certainly be a
> departure from most IF, but I see no reason why it would rule out
> narrative any more than any other interface.

Having rethought about it, I now think that the 'intended' part of my
definition may be needless. Shootemups are excluded for other reasons as
well. So consider it removed from the definition. But still I don't remember
seeing any IF which would, (nor can imagine any good IF which could) depend
on reflexes.

Aris Katsaris

Dr. Weird Beard

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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> > >GET LANTERN
> >
> > You reach for the lantern, but it slips
> > from your hand and shatters on the floor.
> > Flames spread rapidly across the carpet.
>
> This example of yours, is included in my definition of IF. The influence
is
> what they intended (the character reaching for the lantern). But the
outcome
> is not.
>
In the case of an FPS influence (shooting the weapon) is intended but the
outcome (missing and getting toasted is not) I agree that FPSs aren't IF,
but not for that reason.

>
> Having rethought about it, I now think that the 'intended' part of my
> definition may be needless. Shootemups are excluded for other reasons as
> well. So consider it removed from the definition. But still I don't
remember
> seeing any IF which would, (nor can imagine any good IF which could)
depend
> on reflexes.
>

Border Zone. Especially getting over the border. The timing is murder.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
to
In article <7mgb61$hvi$1...@newssrv.otenet.gr>,

"Aris Katsaris" <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>
>
> I'd really appreciate it if people told me if they'd agree with my
> definition and if they think that it truly includes all IF games,
OK. I seem to have taken up this banner so I'll take a shot. :-)

> (Btw I wrote this before Andrew Plotkin's last post in the thread
where he
> referred to the difference between narrative and algorithmic created
> situations - his post may have made mine superfluous)

Zarf has a way of doing that. The real stinger, though, is "it doesn't
get any games written." :-)

> "Interactive fiction is above all else a narrative (hence the
'fiction')

OK.

> which can not only influence (by being read/played) but is also
> influenced by the 'player' (hence the 'interactive').

Except that the interactivity must be perceived, it needn't be "real".

> That influence by the player must be the intended influence -
> regardless of whether the result of it is known,
> unknown or even random to some extent.

This could be more clealry stated. The idea is that the user's reflexes
(for example) do not impact the game materially, for example.

> Moreover the narrative must be the
> most important part of the IF piece."

Mmmm. That sounds right.

> 1. It's not important whether the narrative is shown in graphic

OK.

> 2. The influence can be great or small, can affect the ending or it

I think the bit about perception is important here.

> 3. Puzzles may be part of the narrative.

OK.

> 4. Combat, even random combat, may be part of the narrative.

Ah. Someone else pointed out the problem with using a character's
numeric attributes as a way to disqualify a game as being an IF; all I
would add is that there is a line where random combat violates the
"rules" of IF.

> 5. The "influence" must be willingly made (even if the outcome of it

See my previous note about stating this more clearly.

I'm not going to address the other points because I've already clogged
the newsgroup with my opinions on those issues. :-)

I'd say it's not bad.
--
[ok]


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Share what you know. Learn what you don't.

Gunther Schmidl

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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> >But still I don't remember
> > seeing any IF which would, (nor can imagine any good IF which could)
> > depend on reflexes.
> >
> Border Zone. Especially getting over the border. The timing is murder.
>

Sylenius Mysterium from the 1996 (I think) IF Competition.

--
Gunther

Knight37

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Jul 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/16/99
to

Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote

> Okay I was bored, and thought to define IF. Sorry for starting a new thread,
> but since the following is not meant as response to any single post in
> particular, I thought it possibly better.
>

> I'd really appreciate it if people told me if they'd agree with my

> definition and if they think that it truly includes all IF games, excludes


> all non-IF and leaves room for speculation for those games which may be IF
> and may be not.

Congratulations. You have the best definition of IF that I've read
yet in these past weeks of discussion. It's not perfect, but it's
a good try.

> Here's a definition of Interactive fiction:
>

> "Interactive fiction is above all else a narrative (hence the 'fiction')

> which can not only influence (by being read/played) but is also influenced

> by the 'player' (hence the 'interactive'). That influence by the player must


> be the intended influence - regardless of whether the result of it is known,

> unknown or even random to some extent. Moreover the narrative must be the


> most important part of the IF piece."

This is very good. In fact, if you had left off almost all of the
clarifications, I would agree completely with this definition. I think
the key phrase that makes this definition work is "above all else."
In that, you leave room for interactive fiction that contains some
non-narrative game elements, yet remains essentially a narrative. Bravo!

> Points of clarification:
> 1. It's not important whether the narrative is shown in graphic or text -
> but it has to be a narrative of some sort. Colours flashing in the screen
> and changing depending on which letter you press is not 'narrative'.

Agree.

> 2. The influence can be great or small, can affect the ending or it may not.
> Photopia and I-0 both qualify for IF. An online version of Herodotus'
> History does not (even if you have to solve puzzles to see to the next
> page).

Agree.

> 3. Puzzles may be part of the narrative. Infact even complex and obtrusive
> puzzles may be part of the narrative. But they have to be connected with it
> in some way, no matter how ridiculous it is ("Enemies" therefore does
> qualify as IF regardless the Mensa-style silly puzzles). If they are
> completely isolated and unconnected though (a Fifteen game), they are
> intrusions to the narrative. If these kind of puzzles form the most
> important part of the game (the reason most people play it perhaps), perhaps
> it should not be called IF. The inform-version of Tetris (I don't remember
> the name, sorry!!) is not IF.

Agree, hesitantly. I consider games like 7th Guest to be interactive fiction.
And there is little story between the puzzles, but it is there.

> 4. Combat, even random combat, may be part of the narrative. But not when
> strength and stamina are represented by numbers - that's algebra, not
> narrative.

Completely disagree. I don't see how having numbers representing stats
has anything to do with whether or not something is IF. I consider the
Quest for Glory games to be IF, but they have numbers for stats.

> 5. The "influence" must be willingly made (even if the outcome of it is
> unknown). A shoot-em-up where quickness of hand is required, does not
> qualify for IF because our contributions to the game are often other than
> what we intend. (our reflexes slower than we'd like and so on). Therefore
> the obstacles (puzzles, etc) must be mental problems alone and not physical
> in any way as in shoot-em-ups, soccer games and often real-time strategy
> games.

If you mean by this "there can't be any action sequences or arcade-style
sequences in the game or it's not an IF", then I disagree. If you mean
"any action sequences and arcade-style sequences in the game must be
secondary to the narrative" then I do agree.

> 6. The reason strategy games are not IF, is that they have not been
> interested in being IF: There's minimal or no narrative, with numbers or
> positions being the most important elements controlling the game.
> (A very advanced kind of strategy game though, where you can flirt with a
> foreign duchess to take valuable info from here, could qualify though. It
> all depends on how important the narrative part of the story is.)

I agree. I also believe that there could be IF that contains elements
of strategy games and it would still be IF.

> 7. Space Under the Window is IF. So is hyper-fiction, though it's a very bad
> kind of IF in all the examples I've yet seen. Perhaps someone would care to
> add a rule or something, which would manage to exclude hyper-fiction from
> being IF, but I don't really see any reason to.

I agree. So are the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and the
various immitators.

> Finally I'd have to say that I don't believe we really need a definition for
> IF. I know which things are blue without being able to define 'blue'. Sure,
> sometimes I may not be absolutely certain whether I should something IF or
> not, but sometimes there are green-bluish or purple-bluish things which
> would similarly confuse me.

> Scientist might ofcourse be able to define blue as the light emitted between
> two frequencies, but that would be rather useless for practical purposes.

I *completely* agree. I see no need to define what I already know. :)

And your example of "blue" was a good one.

Of course, it would be nice to have a definition that any human, regardless
of previous experience (except they must be literate), could read and then
immediately understand what IF was, in such a way as to distinguish IF from
other forms of fiction and other forms of games.

Knight37


Dr. Weird Beard

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Jul 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/16/99
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Gunther Schmidl <gsch...@xxx.gmx.at> wrote in message
news:378de...@alijku02.edvz.uni-linz.ac.at...
I'll have to check it out. Also, what I think might be fun is something of a
combo of Beyond Zork, Border Zone, and Doom (possibly Beyond the Border of
Doom?)Lots of grues, theives, hellhounds, etc. to kill with with all sorts
of weapons with a reasonably fast time-out rate. (Perhaps a similar affect
could be achieved by having a Rogue clone that automatically made a move
every 10-20 seconds?, as well as in response to the player moving)

R. Alan Monroe

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Jul 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/17/99
to
In article <7moq73$3u2g$1...@newssvr04-int.news.prodigy.com>, "Dr. Weird Beard" <weird...@prodigy.net> wrote:
>of weapons with a reasonably fast time-out rate. (Perhaps a similar affect
>could be achieved by having a Rogue clone that automatically made a move
>every 10-20 seconds?, as well as in response to the player moving)

Diablo.

Have fun
Alan

Stefan Blixt

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Jul 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/17/99
to
OK, I'd like to try this as well, although since this
discussion pops up every now and then, obvious and
simple theories have probably been repeated many times.

Actually, I would like to limit IF to computers (just to
siplify the argument). Having IF elsewhere (such as writing,
or installations, or whatever) seems to me as perfectly
possible, but mostly only as an artistic idea with low
potential for being copied, which stops it becoming a genre.
This may apply to artistic works written in popular IF
programming languages (Inform, TADS etc.) that break the
definitions that we present.

For example, although I consider 'Aisle' to be a work of IF
(it fits my definition), _if_ it didn't fit my definition,
it would be OK, because either it is an experimental
work of art for which the possibility for making a work of
IF in a similar style is very low, or because it is so
different from the works that we normally look upon as IF,
that 'Aisle' and all works like it make up a whole new
genre of their own.

OK, here's my definition:

A work of IF is a work of fiction (where 'fiction' is already
defined) wherein the reader at least once must make a choice
that affects the contents of the fiction.

Now that I see that this definition could include games like
'Doom', I realize that what we really want to define is perhaps
'fiction'. Or maybe 'affect the content of'. And we're maybe
back to square one.

What I was thinking of in a text adventure was that, if all
you have to do is to press the space bar to continue the story,
it's not IF, but if you occasionally have a choice (like "Do
you want to go through the left or the right door"), then we
have IF.

One way to look at it in 'Doom', is that you really only have
one choice all the time, and that is to stay alive and find
the exit, the equivalent of hitting the space bar in a work
of IF. Yes, you can shoot the monsters between you and the
exit in any order you like or not at all, but that doesn't
affect the story, which turns the monster-shooting into
arcade sub-games of the story. And of course you have the
option to die, but quitting a game has been a required feature
since after the death of the 8-bit home computers, and it
doesn't affect the story either, it just turns it off.
There is no way to affect the contents of the fiction, just
end it.

It seems that we're constantly trying to jump through hoops
to construct a definition of this thing. Strange, a work of
IF is so easy to recognize, I think. You think you can tell
someone what it is, and then your definition fits a lot of
other things as well. I once took a course in operating
systems, and the professor spent maybe one and a half hour
showing us a definition of an operating system. And it was
probably wrong as well.

/Blixt


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