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Andrew Plotkin

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Aug 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/18/00
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I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
going to instigate some killing myself.

--Z

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

M. St. Bernard

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Aug 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/18/00
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People are saying this? I love, Myst, but it hasn't changed my
opinion of text adventures one bit...they're different breeds of game,
in my opinion. Same species, but different breed. :-) Sometimes you
like to see a beautiful graphical representation of a landscape, and
sometimes you'd rather visualize it in your mind.

Muffy.

BrenBarn

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Aug 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/18/00
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>I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
>going to instigate some killing myself.
Actually, I'm more of the opinion that Myst killed graphical adventures.
--BrenBarn (Bren...@aol.com)
(Name in header has spam-blocker, use the address above instead.)

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

Andrew Plotkin

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Aug 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/18/00
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BrenBarn <bren...@aol.comremove> wrote:
>>I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
>>going to instigate some killing myself.
>
> Actually, I'm more of the opinion that Myst killed graphical adventures.

That's a much more reasonable position (although not one I hold).

Daryl McCullough

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Aug 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/18/00
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In article <20000818144058...@ng-fd1.aol.com>,
bren...@aol.comRemove says...

>
>>I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
>>going to instigate some killing myself.
> Actually, I'm more of the opinion that Myst killed graphical
>adventures.

In my opinion, Myst killed Oswald and Jimmy Hoffa. Perhaps it was
the second gunman on the grassy knoll, as well.

Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY


BrenBarn

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Aug 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/18/00
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>>>I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
>>>going to instigate some killing myself.
>> Actually, I'm more of the opinion that Myst killed graphical
>>adventures.
>
>In my opinion, Myst killed Oswald and Jimmy Hoffa. Perhaps it was
>the second gunman on the grassy knoll, as well.
And suddenly. . . I had this terrible feeling that all these killings were
somehow. . .CONNECTED.
Text Adventures -- killed in his apartment for no apparent reason. His
brother, Graphical Adventures, shot dead in alley two weeks ago. Oswald --
shot after being apprehended by the police. Jimmy Hoffa -- missing and
presumed dead.
And then it hit me like that fuzzy static-electricity thing you get when
you brush the back of your hand across a CRT. Myst. Myst was everywhere, on
every shelf, in every software store, hiding in his box, with his best-selling
CD shiny and ready to strike at his next victim.
He had to be stopped.

Paul O'Brian

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Aug 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/18/00
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On 18 Aug 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
> going to instigate some killing myself.

What brought this on? Did I miss something?

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
SPAG is starving! Show your compassion by feeding it your interactive
fiction reviews -- deadline for issue #22 is September 10, 2000.


Jason Peter Brown

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Aug 18, 2000, 8:27:25 PM8/18/00
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I've got very little knowledge/opinion on this topic, but out of curiosity,
what did kill text adventures? I suppose it could be argued that they aren't
dead (Again, I'm not sure about this but it seems like more text adventures
have been produced over the last few years, since free compilers became
available, then in their "heyday"), but they are almost certainly
commercially dead (or at the very least in a coma). So what did them in?

Possibilities:
1) The graphics in games (of all sorts) continually got more and more
detailed, achieved higher and higher resolutions, and added more and more
colours. It gave gamers something to yearn for (and be impressed by),
whereas text adventures remained more or less stagnant.
2) Not only did text adventures stagnate visually, but they also didn't
advance much technologically. A few more verbs, and slightly bigger worlds,
but the underlying technology remained the same (or very similar), while the
AI in other video games continued to advance, continually surprising and
amazing gamers (okay, maybe thats an exaggeration in most cases, but there
are some new games that come out with AI (or illusion thereof) and
playability that amazes me, and I haven't played a text adventure in ages
that amazed me with its AI (or illusion thereof), and the playability of
TA's has remained relatively stagnant).
3) The major demographic of video game buyers is probably no longer the same
demographic that would be likely to buy text adventures (which require a
certain amount of patience, education, and intelligence compared to the
popular first person shooters of today). Many computer users during TA
heyday were techies (or wanted to be), or at least geeks/nerds (excuse me
for the poor choice of words, absolutely no insult intended), whereas now,
the techies are probably (again, I have no hard stats on this) vastly
outnumbered and underrepresented in the gamers market.

Anyway, I don't know how much any of the above factors are involved, they're
just some ideas I'm throwing around. But I am interested in some insight as
to why text adventures have "died".

"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:8njijk$32t$1...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net...


> I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
> going to instigate some killing myself.
>

Adam J. Thornton

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Aug 19, 2000, 2:08:21 AM8/19/00
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In article <Nvkn5.164719$Gh.28...@news20.bellglobal.com>,

Jason Peter Brown <x@x.x> wrote:
>I've got very little knowledge/opinion on this topic, but out of curiosity,
>what did kill text adventures? I suppose it could be argued that they aren't
>dead

Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom, and I'd argue
that Cornerstone killed Infocom.

Adam
--
ad...@princeton.edu
"My eyes say their prayers to her / Sailors ring her bell / Like a moth
mistakes a light bulb / For the moon and goes to hell." -- Tom Waits

Doug Lennox

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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I can certainly agree that commercial text adventures died with Infocom (as
I presume commercial text adventures were born, or at least nurtured with
them). Many (I think) of us are here because of our direct experiences with
Infocom (although it was Magnetic Scrolls that really sucked me into text
adventures, and led me to discover this newsgroup). I do not, however, have
any knowledge of Cornerstone...any links to point me in that direction?

Adam J. Thornton wrote in message <8nl88l$q8u$2...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>...

Stephen Granade

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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"Doug Lennox" <dle...@pathcom.com> writes:

> I can certainly agree that commercial text adventures died with Infocom (as
> I presume commercial text adventures were born, or at least nurtured with
> them). Many (I think) of us are here because of our direct experiences with
> Infocom (although it was Magnetic Scrolls that really sucked me into text
> adventures, and led me to discover this newsgroup). I do not, however, have
> any knowledge of Cornerstone...any links to point me in that direction?

I don't know of any beyond the Infocom fact sheet
(http://ifarchive.org/if-archive/infocom/info/fact-sheet.txt), but the
gist of it is this: Cornerstone was a relational database which used
Infocom's adventure game parser for communication. It was released in
late 1984, but went nowhere. A little over a year later they cut the
price from around $500 to $100, to no avail. The product killed
Infocom's nascent business division, and shortly thereafter Infocom
merged with Activision, itself not a bastion of financial strength in
those days.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | Interested in adventure games?
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | Visit About Interactive Fiction
Duke University, Physics Dept | http://interactfiction.about.com

Stefano Gaburri

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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"Adam J. Thornton" wrote:

> Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom,

This is too simple. What about Legend? And all the other great commercial houses?

The fact is that, quite suddendly, text adventures have not been commercially viable anymore. We can talk about the
causes of this phenomenon (and why it's still so), but the truth is that demand started to lack before (or at least
toghether with) offer.

ciao
S

Adam J. Thornton

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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In article <399EB2A3...@xenia.it>,
Stefano Gaburri <ste...@xenia.it> wrote:

>
>"Adam J. Thornton" wrote:
>
>> Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom,
>
>This is too simple. What about Legend? And all the other great commercial houses?

I said "essentially", and what other great commercial text adventure
houses? Legend was doing graphical adventures. Adventuresoft had
vanished years earlier, basically because the Scott Adams parser was
really cool on a 3K VIC-20 but kind of silly on a 64K Apple //e. I
can't think of any other company that made great *text* adventures,
offhand.

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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In article <8nl88l$q8u$2...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>,

ad...@princeton.edu (Adam J. Thornton) wrote:
> Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom, and I'd
argue
> that Cornerstone killed Infocom.

Another, somewhat depressing, aspect of this theory: Infocom killed
commercial text adventures outside of Infocom. Other companies that
produced text adventures - and there were quite a few; outfits like
Broderbund and Sir-Tech used to have text-adventure arms - found that
they couldn't compete with Infocom. The thing is, towards the end,
Infocom *wasn't* stagnating - they were consistently introducing
technical innovations: the "oops" command, Spellbreaker's dynamic
vocabulary, Beyond Zork's on-screen mapping, Nord and Bert's
experiments with directionless movement, etc. Other companies couldn't
keep up, and eventually stopped trying. So when Infocom went down for
reasons not fundamentally related to the success of their text
adventures, there was essentially no one else left.

Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Andrew Plotkin

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote:
> In article <Nvkn5.164719$Gh.28...@news20.bellglobal.com>,
> Jason Peter Brown <x@x.x> wrote:
>>I've got very little knowledge/opinion on this topic, but out of curiosity,
>>what did kill text adventures? I suppose it could be argued that they aren't
>>dead
>
> Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom, and I'd argue
> that Cornerstone killed Infocom.

I doubt Infocom would have lasted much longer as a producer of text
games. Nobody else did, and they weren't developing relational databases.

As far as I can tell, the "culprit" -- and I use sneer quotes advisedly --
was ongoing expansion of the computer game industry. And the expansion in
the number of people *buying* games -- people who were not (mostly)
hyperliterate geeks and tech-heads, as (most) computer owners were in the
mid-80's.

A game that sold well to the old Infocom audience was considered a flop.
No company wanted to make flops. End of story.

kevin and emma

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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how about Level 9?
kevin
"Adam J. Thornton" <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote in message
news:8nmfrd$a2k$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU...

> In article <399EB2A3...@xenia.it>,
> Stefano Gaburri <ste...@xenia.it> wrote:
> >
> >"Adam J. Thornton" wrote:
> >
> >> Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom,
> >
> >This is too simple. What about Legend? And all the other great commercial
houses?
>
> I said "essentially", and what other great commercial text adventure
> houses? Legend was doing graphical adventures. Adventuresoft had
> vanished years earlier, basically because the Scott Adams parser was
> really cool on a 3K VIC-20 but kind of silly on a 64K Apple file://e. I

> can't think of any other company that made great *text* adventures,
> offhand.
>

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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FWIW, the release of Cornerstone was spectacularly ill-timed. It was
released in 1985. 1984 saw the advent of the Macintosh: suddenly, you
couldn't sell a command-line application to the common user on the
basis of its ease of use. 1986 brought us the publication of the first
ISO SQL standard, which nailed the lid on the coffin for relational
databases with proprietary query languages. Perhaps Cornerstone would
have been a success a few years earlier, when Infocom began the
project. Or at any rate, tt almost certainly would have fared better.

Matthew T. Russotto

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Aug 19, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/19/00
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In article <8nmfrd$a2k$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>,

Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote:
}In article <399EB2A3...@xenia.it>,
}Stefano Gaburri <ste...@xenia.it> wrote:
}>
}>"Adam J. Thornton" wrote:
}>
}>> Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom,
}>
}>This is too simple. What about Legend? And all the other great commercial houses?
}
}I said "essentially", and what other great commercial text adventure
}houses? Legend was doing graphical adventures.

So was Infocom, towards the end. I don't think Infocom's demise
killed the commercial text adventure, though it may have shortened
it's suffering.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

BrenBarn

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Aug 19, 2000, 8:58:17 PM8/19/00
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>As far as I can tell, the "culprit" -- and I use sneer quotes advisedly --
>was ongoing expansion of the computer game industry. And the expansion in
>the number of people *buying* games -- people who were not (mostly)
>hyperliterate geeks and tech-heads, as (most) computer owners were in the
>mid-80's.
Interestingly, a similar phenomenon seems to have occurred more recently,
in which graphical IF was gradually replaced by shoot-em-ups, flight sims, etc.
In fact, I'm optimistic enough to think that this is still going on (i.e.,
good graphical IF is not dead).
I'm using the term "graphical IF" to refer to games whose intentions and
aspirations are similar to those of text IF (e.g., good stories, characters,
etc.), but which employ a graphical interface. For me, the best examples of
this are the various LucasArts adventures: Indiana Jones and the Fate of
Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, etc.
It seems that these kinds of games are becoming fewer and farther between,
as most games sold these days are either 3D-shooters, flight sims, Myst-style
puzzle-fests, or real-time strategy. (Of course, this is just my perspective
from wandering around in software stores and computer fairs; I have no actual
statistics. :-)
Just as text IF phased into graphics slowly, with games that mixed
graphics and text, so graphical IF slowly took on characteristics of these
other genres. Thus we have games like Inca II, which was part flight sim, part
Myst-style puzzles, and part graphical-IF.

Arcum Dagsson

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Aug 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/20/00
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In article <20000819205817...@ng-fd1.aol.com>,
bren...@aol.comRemove (BrenBarn) wrote:

Well, Monkey Island 4(http://www.lucasarts.com/products/monkey4/) is
supposed to be coming out next fall, so the genre isn't quite dead
yet, though it may involve emulation if you're not on windows...

--
--Arcum Dagsson
"You say there's a horse in your bathroom, and all you can do is stand
there naming Beatles songs?"

BrenBarn

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Aug 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/20/00
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<snipped my own long rant about graphical IF>

>Well, Monkey Island 4(http://www.lucasarts.com/products/monkey4/) is
>supposed to be coming out next fall, so the genre isn't quite dead
>yet, though it may involve emulation if you're not on windows...
Right, like I said, it seems this transition is still in process. It's
true that graphical IF is still being produced with moderate regularity -- for
which I'm thankful :-).
Monkey Island 4 is an interesting example. Although I have no definitive
information, I read somewhere that it's going to have one of those "one click
fits all" interfaces (like Myst). Also, the LucasArts website indicates that
the game will be "in 3D". Thus, they seem to be continuing the tradition of
the story and character part of graphical IF, but are moving in new directions
as far as graphics and interface.

Duncan Stevens

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Aug 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/20/00
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I assumed that the point of Andrew's original statement was that text
adventures aren't dead, since they certainly aren't. If the discussion is
about commercial viability, yes, it seems like they were in trouble long
before Myst came around, for a variety of reasons. Infocom's release of
Journey (when it was still Infocom) and the subsequent production of stuff
like Battletech and such reads like a statement that "hey, this text stuff
doesn't sell anymore." Presumably whoever decided to steer the Infocom name
in that direction was looking at the sales figures, and you don't try to use
the name to sell a whole different line of products and ditch the original
line unless the original line isn't going anywhere anymore. I suppose you
can also argue that the people at Activision who inherited Infocom were
lunkheads, but that seems a sweeping assumption. Ergo, text adventures were
in their last throes in 1989-90 or so, well before Myst.

--Duncan

Stefano Gaburri

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Aug 20, 2000, 10:20:43 PM8/20/00
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"Adam J. Thornton" wrote:
>
> In article <399EB2A3...@xenia.it>,
> Stefano Gaburri <ste...@xenia.it> wrote:
> >
> >"Adam J. Thornton" wrote:
> >

> >> Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom,
> >

> >This is too simple. What about Legend? And all the other great commercial houses?
>
> I said "essentially", and what other great commercial text adventure
> houses?

Magnetic Scrolls?
Also, I wouldn't call a game like Gateway "graphical". Ok, you can click on them pictures, but you can also solve the
whole thing without ever leaving the text-only screen. Not to (re)open the can o' worms, obviously...

ciao
S

Chris Charla

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:09:45 AM8/21/00
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In article <8nmpps$g98$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>, ca...@wurb.com says...

> In article <8nl88l$q8u$2...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>,
> ad...@princeton.edu (Adam J. Thornton) wrote:
> > Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom, and I'd
> argue
> > that Cornerstone killed Infocom.
>
> Another, somewhat depressing, aspect of this theory: Infocom killed
> commercial text adventures outside of Infocom. Other companies that
> produced text adventures - and there were quite a few; outfits like
> Broderbund and Sir-Tech used to have text-adventure arms - found that
> they couldn't compete with Infocom. The thing is, towards the end,
> Infocom *wasn't* stagnating - they were consistently introducing
> technical innovations: the "oops" command, Spellbreaker's dynamic
> vocabulary, Beyond Zork's on-screen mapping, Nord and Bert's
> experiments with directionless movement, etc. Other companies couldn't
> keep up, and eventually stopped trying. So when Infocom went down for
> reasons not fundamentally related to the success of their text
> adventures, there was essentially no one else left.
>
>
>
> Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
> Before you buy.
>

The sad reality is that no Infocom games ever sold as well as Zork I-III.
Infocom continued to innovate, of course, but even without Cornerstone,
or Activision buying them and then the people responsible for the
purchase at Activision immediatly being fired and replaced by people who
had no clue what Infocom was about, it isn't likely that Infocom could
have continued as a text adventure company for more than another product
cycle.

When Zork first arrived, it enabled your puny micro to do things that
were simply amazing -- and that got tons of people to buy it, who might
not have been into text adventures for their own sake otherwise (and the
numbers bear this out, because even as the number of computer owners
grew, the number of text adventure buyers slowly shrunk). By the time
Shogun limped out the door, if you wanted something amazing for your
computer, you bought Ancient Art of War (if you had a PC) or Marble
Madness (if you had a C64 or AII), or Defender of the Crown (if you had
an Amiga), or just sat around and played with MacPaint (if you had a
Mac).

One of the driving forces in the sales of "breakthorugh" titles is the
ability of the titles to impress the people who buy them, but who aren't
really clued in as to what makes a good game versus a bad one. Look at
MYST -- it sold great, but I would argue that the sales weren't because
of the gameplay (which sucked, IMO), but because it used this relatively
new technology -- CR-ROM, it was super pretty, and it ran on nearly any
system you could throw at it.

Anyway, the last paragraph was totally off the point, but, um, well, just
read the first and second paragraphs.

Oh yeah, how cool would it have been, though, to see whether or not the
Infocom crew could have hacked it in another genre. WHat would the
Infocom Doom have been like?

-Chris

Trevor Barrie

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
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In article <20000820113928...@ng-bg1.aol.com>,

BrenBarn <bren...@aol.comRemove> wrote:
> Monkey Island 4 is an interesting example. Although I have no
>definitive information, I read somewhere that it's going to have one of
>those "one click fits all" interfaces (like Myst). Also, the LucasArts
>website indicates that the game will be "in 3D".

<shrug> Grim Fandango used a 3D polygonned graphics style. It completely
failed to detract from the game's quality as an adventure game.

(And I can't remember whether GF was one-click or not. It certainly
didn't have as varied an interface as the earlier LucasArts classics,
but right- and left-clicking on an object may have had different
semantics.)

Trevor Barrie

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
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In article <8njijk$32t$1...@nntp9.atl.mindspring.net>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
>going to instigate some killing myself.

So have you, in fact, read that somewhere? Or is this just a roundabout
way of saying that reading it even once is enough to set you off?

(I swear, if I read one more time that Britney Spears is a more
significant historical figure than Gandhi...)


Andrew Plotkin

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to
Duncan Stevens <dn...@starpower.net> wrote:
> I assumed that the point of Andrew's original statement was that text
> adventures aren't dead, since they certainly aren't. If the discussion is
> about commercial viability, yes,

Actually, my point was that their commercial viability is dead.

(I would love Bedouin to demonstrate otherwise, but this has not yet
occurred.)

> Ergo, text adventures were
> in their last throes in 1989-90 or so, well before Myst.

Yes, exactly.

Lucian Paul Smith

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to
Andrew Plotkin (erky...@eblong.com) wrote:
: Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote:
: >
: > Commercial text adventures essentially died with Infocom, and I'd argue
: > that Cornerstone killed Infocom.

: I doubt Infocom would have lasted much longer as a producer of text


: games. Nobody else did, and they weren't developing relational databases.

: As far as I can tell, the "culprit" -- and I use sneer quotes advisedly --


: was ongoing expansion of the computer game industry. And the expansion in
: the number of people *buying* games -- people who were not (mostly)
: hyperliterate geeks and tech-heads, as (most) computer owners were in the
: mid-80's.

: A game that sold well to the old Infocom audience was considered a flop.


: No company wanted to make flops. End of story.

Well, that's the question, isn't it? Would Infocom have consented to make
'flops' according to industry standards at the time?

The thing about text adventures is that they're *cheap*. Extremely cheap,
as our little group has so amply demonstrated. Graphical IF has been in
trouble the past few years because they're expensive to make, and the
returns aren't all that great.

This is all sheer speculation, of course, but I think it's a not
unreasonable scenario to imagine that had Infocom not tried to develop
Cornerstone, they could have continued to make text adventures cheaply and
make money off of them. Sure, they might never had developed a
blockbuster. They would have been catering to a niche market. But had
they been able to keep their core audience, they could have continued to
make money. I have three data points to back up this speculation: The
sales figures for 'Masterpieces', the continued existence and sales of
games like 'Solitaire', and the 'Deer Hunter' phenomenon.

One problem plagued them--accessibility. Brian Moriarty explained this to
me when I got to meet him. You couldn't set a person down in front of an
Infocom game without prior IF experience and say, "Here, play
this." Invariably, they'd type things like, >HELLO. or >WHAT DO I DO
NOW? or >TRY THE DOOR. or >CHECK TO SEE IF THE DOOR IS LOCKED. or any of a
thousand thousand variations thereof. We haven't really worked too hard
on this, choosing instead to say, "Well, natural language parsing is nigh
impossible, so here, read this tract and come back when you
understand." I think Infocom would have (continued to) attack this
problem, which would help their market even more.

But, of course, we'll never know.

-Lucian

(sniff)

Mike Kozlowski

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
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In article <20000819205817...@ng-fd1.aol.com>,
BrenBarn <bren...@aol.comRemove> wrote:

> Interestingly, a similar phenomenon seems to have occurred more recently,
>in which graphical IF was gradually replaced by shoot-em-ups, flight sims, etc.

> I'm using the term "graphical IF" to refer to games whose intentions and
>aspirations are similar to those of text IF (e.g., good stories, characters,
>etc.), but which employ a graphical interface.

Graphical IF is alive and well -- but the adventure game that was its
traditional home is climbing into the casket. These days, graphical IF
has become the province of RPGs. A good RPG, like Black Isles' _Torment_,
has the character- and story-driven focus that used to drive adventure
games, but without the increasingly arbitrary puzzles that have become
synonymous with graphical adventure games as that genre has grown more
stylized and ritualized.

--
Mike Kozlowski
http://www.klio.org/mlk/

Giles Boutel

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
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I wonder how much of the (alleged) death of adventure games in general is
due to the fact that once you finish them they're not exactly replayable.
In fact, each game's longevity is almost entirely dependant upon it's
ability to frustrate your efforts. RPGs, which could be considered to have
the same innate drawback, at least extend the time it takes to complete them
through numerous combat and travel elements, and FPS games always have the
challenge of shooting stuff (not much variety, but at least it's still a bit
of a challenge). Adventure games, even the prettiest, are almost always
CONA (complete once - never again, or a least not for a couple of years).

Just a (not terribly considered) thought - and obviously not one applicable
to everyone, or this group wouldn't exist.

-Giles

BrenBarn

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
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>Oh yeah, how cool would it have been, though, to see whether or not the
>Infocom crew could have hacked it in another genre. WHat would the
>Infocom Doom have been like?
I can see it now. You accidentally push SHIFT instead of CTRL to fire
your Super-duper Rammaframma Blast-em-all-to-kingdom-come Gun -- and instead of
a click you hear a menacing computerized voice saying "I don't see any SHIFT
here."

BrenBarn

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to
>One problem plagued them--accessibility. Brian Moriarty explained this to
>me when I got to meet him. You couldn't set a person down in front of an
>Infocom game without prior IF experience and say, "Here, play
>this." Invariably, they'd type things like, >HELLO. or >WHAT DO I DO
>NOW? or >TRY THE DOOR. or >CHECK TO SEE IF THE DOOR IS LOCKED. or any of a
>thousand thousand variations thereof.
I think this is the main reason why we see such cruddy games coming out
these days, with cruddy "one click fits all" interfaces that never do what you
want or "big red button" interfaces where all you really have to do is shoot.
People want to be able to jump straight into a game and play it, without having
to learn any commands. It's the same philosophy that has led to
"plug-and-play" sound cards that detect the wrong IRQ and render your computer
mute.
Not that this is a bad thing in itself. I sometimes crave the same thing:
quick, cheap entertainment. But I think most modern gamers would quickly
disregard a given game if they couldn't figure out how it works in a few
minutes of untutored playing.
One thing I know for sure is that whenever I try to get some non-IF person
to play one of my games (okay, okay, my ONE game :-), they quickly become
frustrated when the game doesn't understand their commands. In fact, if I even
MENTION that the game has no graphics, they usually express a total lack of
interest. I can only feel sorry that they will not be able to experience
interactive fiction.

BrenBarn

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to
>I wonder how much of the (alleged) death of adventure games in general is
>due to the fact that once you finish them they're not exactly replayable.
I wonder too. But for me, almost no games are very replayable. Thus, I
get more enjoyment out of a good adventure game that I can't play again (at
least, not if I want to be challenged) than out of a good strategy game that I
get bored with.

>Adventure games, even the prettiest, are almost always
>CONA (complete once - never again, or a least not for a couple of years).

It's true. But if they have a good story, I often play them again just to
experience that story. Of course, this philosophy is not as valid for people
who like tough puzzles (unless they also have poor memories :-).
Right about here is where I would normally launch into another rant about
how games with multiple endings and transparently variable storylines could do
a lot to overcome this problem. But this isn't the right thread for that. :-)

R. Alan Monroe

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to
In article <8nq5ko$al2$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>, "Duncan Stevens" <dn...@starpower.net> wrote:
>doesn't sell anymore." Presumably whoever decided to steer the Infocom name
>in that direction was looking at the sales figures, and you don't try to use
>the name to sell a whole different line of products and ditch the original
>line unless the original line isn't going anywhere anymore. I suppose you
>can also argue that the people at Activision who inherited Infocom were
>lunkheads, but that seems a sweeping assumption. Ergo, text adventures were

>in their last throes in 1989-90 or so, well before Myst.

Was the original Infocom a publicly traded company?
What about Activision? Just curious.

Have fun
Alan

k denton

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to
Well, there are two (nonexclusive) answers which pop into my mind when thinking
of IF replayability.

Firstly, IF is a synthesis of two mediums: the adventure/ puzzle game, and plain
ol' everyday printed page fiction. Often much like a short story, the games
which utilize story telling have something to say, something to show to the
players. The replayability of a game, viewed in this light, is almost the same
attribute as the re-readability in a good short story or novel. What's gonna
bring players back are things like a well structured story, awesome prose style,
and anything else which makes reading a joyful thing. How many of us here have
read the Lord of the Rings more than once? Or watched Star Wars more than 10
times? We know how it's gonna turn out every time, but it's simply a happiness
to watch it unfold.

And then there's then interactive aspect of these things. It's a very powerful
technique, forcing the player to act through the eyes of a character, even more
so than the first person perspective in print. If it's disturbing to, say,
watch the Blair Witch kiddies being chased from the prey's-eye-view, how much
closer would you be to those characters if you were controlling their actions
personally?
Of course, true interactivity will probably lead to branching storylines (or at
least, plenty of ways to cut the story short), which leads to another kind of
replayability...

Well, I ramble plenty, but ultimately I'm trying to say that the replayability
of the game rests completely on the designer's ability to understand and execute
in the medium.


Giles Boutel wrote:

> I wonder how much of the (alleged) death of adventure games in general is
> due to the fact that once you finish them they're not exactly replayable.

> In fact, each game's longevity is almost entirely dependant upon it's
> ability to frustrate your efforts. RPGs, which could be considered to have
> the same innate drawback, at least extend the time it takes to complete them
> through numerous combat and travel elements, and FPS games always have the
> challenge of shooting stuff (not much variety, but at least it's still a bit

> of a challenge). Adventure games, even the prettiest, are almost always


> CONA (complete once - never again, or a least not for a couple of years).
>

Lucian Paul Smith

unread,
Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to
BrenBarn (bren...@aol.comRemove) wrote:
: >One problem plagued them--accessibility. Brian Moriarty explained this to

: >me when I got to meet him. You couldn't set a person down in front of an
: >Infocom game without prior IF experience and say, "Here, play
: >this." Invariably, they'd type things like, >HELLO. or >WHAT DO I DO
: >NOW? or >TRY THE DOOR. or >CHECK TO SEE IF THE DOOR IS LOCKED. or any of a
: >thousand thousand variations thereof.
: I think this is the main reason why we see such cruddy games coming out
: these days, with cruddy "one click fits all" interfaces that never do what you
: want or "big red button" interfaces where all you really have to do is shoot.
: People want to be able to jump straight into a game and play it, without having
: to learn any commands. It's the same philosophy that has led to
: "plug-and-play" sound cards that detect the wrong IRQ and render your computer
: mute.

Not to pick on you, but this is exactly the attitude I was talking
about. Frankly, it's elitist. Just because the opposite tack can be done
badly doesn't mean that it's not worth doing. Plug and play interfaces
are an absolute godsend to millions of people, when they work. And they
work a lot of the time.

There is indeed a method of solving the problem of complexity by recasting
the problem itself so it's not complex--hence one-click interfaces. There
is a place for these, especially when designing for them in the first
place. The sonnet and symphony--heck, the haiku and limerick--have rigid
strictures that impose limits on what an author can do within them, but
that didn't stop many people from coming up with wonderful examples of
each.

But I'm not convinced the only solution to translating user input into IF
commands is the modern parser. We just haven't really attacked the
problem, because of the attitude we posess. It's a shame, because we're
the ones with the technical expertise to actually do something about it.

For example--here's an idea I came up with when writing my above
post. What would happen if you took the Inform library, and re-wrote the
debugging messages in plain English? And what if you set up a new window
(say, in glk or some such) with a friendly interface that would contain
all this information, explaining to the user what their commands were
doing and how they were being interpreted by the computer? Essentially,
I'm saying: Drastically increase the *feedback* the user gets when
playing the game. Teach them how to play by showing them what all their
commands were doing.

This comes from a drastically different context, but read
http://iisd.ca/pcdf/meadows/feedback.html and you'll see where I'm coming
from.

This isn't necessarily the only solution, either. I remember someone's
comment that perhaps the parser watch for several errors in a row near the
beginning of the game, and cut in, saying "You seem to be new at
IF. Here's some information you might find useful..." With some
tweaking, this could be a great idea. It's several years old and still
vaporware.

If a company like Infocom were working on this stuff, an idea like that
would have been siezed upon, and experimented with. This isn't
necessarily better or worse than the current state of IF--a company
perhaps wouldn't feel as free to experiment as we have--just different, is
all.

-Lucian

k denton

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to

Lucian Paul Smith wrote:
<snipsnipsnip>

> For example--here's an idea I came up with when writing my above
> post. What would happen if you took the Inform library, and re-wrote the
> debugging messages in plain English? And what if you set up a new window
> (say, in glk or some such) with a friendly interface that would contain
> all this information, explaining to the user what their commands were
> doing and how they were being interpreted by the computer? Essentially,
> I'm saying: Drastically increase the *feedback* the user gets when
> playing the game. Teach them how to play by showing them what all their
> commands were doing.
>

<snip>

Actually, if you look at the vast majority of graphical games, there are usually at
least something of a tutorial available. It's really a requirement in most flight
games and any first person game with an interface more complex than the iD
three-button standard. I've got a copy of the Jane's Fighters Anthology keybard
reference in front of me, which has what looks like more than 50 seperate keyboard
commands listed. Not putting a tutorial in a game with this degree of complexity is
suicidal.

This quite tempts me to sit down and write a quick 10-minute play-through explanation
of the basics of Interactive Fiction.... If you've ever played around on a large
MUD, you'll know what I'm talkin' 'bout.


wo...@one.net

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to

Hi Chris,

>Look at
>MYST -- it sold great, but I would argue that the sales weren't because
>of the gameplay (which sucked, IMO), but because it used this relatively
>new technology -- CR-ROM, it was super pretty, and it ran on nearly any
>system you could throw at it.

Myst is still on top of the best selling games list. Like the great
text adventures before it, Myst's real genius is setting the mood and
sucking you in.

Sure the game engine is next to non-existant but that isn't the
*point*, the point is the story. Just as with all good text
adventures. :) And I would argue any computer game that's still a best
seller after 6 years is a great game by anybody's standards!


Respectfully,

Wolf

"The world is my home, it's just that some rooms are draftier than
others". -- Wolf

Arcum Dagsson

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
to
In article <2000Aug21.0...@jarvis.cs.toronto.edu>,
tba...@cs.toronto.edu (Trevor Barrie) wrote:

Well, the same day Zarf posted that, Slashdot had a story up referring
to the following article:

< http://gamecenter.com/Features/Exclusives/Deadburied/index.html>

Presumably, that or in the Slashdot comments is where he read it...

Daniel Barkalow

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
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On 21 Aug 2000, BrenBarn wrote:

> I think this is the main reason why we see such cruddy games coming
> out these days, with cruddy "one click fits all" interfaces that never do
> what you want or "big red button" interfaces where all you really have
> to do is shoot. People want to be able to jump straight into a game and
> play it, without having to learn any commands.

There's actually been a split recently in FP games; there's Quake 3, where
they finally ditched all concept of a story and just had shooting and
nifty architecture, because that's all they were doing well. But then
there's the games Looking Glass (and an ex-LG team leader) was putting
out: System Shock, Thief, Deus Ex, and one whose name I'm blanking
on. Some of these involve a bunch of shooting (although Thief, at least,
makes it advantageous to avoid foes), but they involve a lot of items for
various purposes, non-shooting/jumping puzzles, etc. They don't involve
people with realistic levels of ability like IF tends to, and they tend to
be "use item on target" sorts of things, but there's a reasonable ammount
of thought about puzzling, and a lot of thought about how you're going to
get through a section. Also, there's at least a reasonable quantity of
plot, with twists and such, and characters with histories and
personalities (which you don't interact with significantly, but read
messages from). Also, you get to choose abilities and personalize your
character significantly.

None of these have do quite as much of the sort of interaction which
affects the plot that IF often has; usually each section is independant,
as far as plot goes, and thus you will have to have the same effect on the
world as you pass each section each time you play the game. But there's no
clear reason that a FP game couldn't include an interaction early in the
game with consequences later where you actually choose what you do at the
beginning. And, of course, the first few generations of games didn't do
the interesting plot thing, because the only people who could write the
engines to make 3-d graphics fluid enough to play with didn't have time to
write good plots. Plots showed up when computers got fast enough that
normal-quality engine programmers could support what a story writer wanted
to do.

I think we haven't seen anything with a story as involved as some IF is
that it's hard to experiment when you have to build 3-d models of every
place you want to include and every item and character you want the player
to interact with. Also, there's not quite the level of standard tools that
IF has, so it's only the companies on tight budgets who can make games,
and not the risk-taking individuals.

> Not that this is a bad thing in itself. I sometimes crave the same
> thing: quick, cheap entertainment. But I think most modern gamers
> would quickly disregard a given game if they couldn't figure out how it
> works in a few minutes of untutored playing.

There are actually FP games with substantial tutorials these days. The
mere fact that these games are trying to not only have substantial
interaction, but do it in real time, at least theoretically in dangerous
locations, makes it necessary to teach the interface to newbies.

Oddly, I can picture So Far as a FP game. I think it would be doable with
a one-button interface, if you could hold up items and interact with their
parts. I'm not sure if it would even lose anything in the translation,
although it likely wouldn't gain anything, either.

-Iabervon
*This .sig unintentionally changed*


Paul O'Brian

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Aug 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/21/00
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On 22 Aug 2000, BrenBarn wrote:

> I envision games where the various outcomes are not specifically designed
> to make the player feel like he has "won" or "lost", but rather to convey a
> meaning or message from the author. For example (albeit a strange and
> arbitrary example), a given ending might be designed to plant in the player's
> brain the notion that Communism is evil.

This seems to me to be a much worse idea than the win/loss dichotomy. I'd
rather feel that I have two choices (winning or losing) than feel I have
one choice (to be preached at by the author by any given ending.) To put
it another way, I'd rather play a game than read a purely didactic tract.

Of course, I'm aware that some players felt LASH did the very thing I'm
decrying above. What I was shooting for (setting aside, for the moment,
the difference between what I shoot for and what I hit) in LASH, though,
was a situation where the player could make any one of several choices at
either level of the game, choices at the inner level affecting the outcome
of choices at the outer level, resulting in an array of available endings.
What ending a player reaches depends on how that player portrays the
character of the robot controller in a particular session, and those
endings are not simply wins or losses. Some of them fit better than others
into the modern conceptions of good or evil, and some of them (I hope)
differ in ways that are not so easy to assign such value judgments.
Granted, the situation in LASH doesn't exactly lend itself to unbiased
interpretations. But I don't see it falling into either of the two
categories you describe -- it is neither a clear win/loss division nor is
it an attempt on my part to deliver a particular message with each ending.
My own feeling about the various endings in LASH is that while some of
them are clearly superior to others, each has its own pros and cons.

Interestingly, my experience with player feedback in the case of LASH was
that many players really want to know what the *right* ending is. Messages
on rgif made presumptions about the goal of the game, even going so far as
to say that LASH offers three metrics of success and that the most
"winning" ending was the one that ranked the highest on all three ladders
(even though some measures couldn't be maximized without others being
drastically reduced.) I genuinely didn't expect that response to develop,
though in retrospect I can certainly see why it did. I certainly didn't
intend it -- though I'm of the school of thought that suggests it doesn't
matter one iota what the author of a work *intends* (and indeed, that
information isn't ever purely available, even to the author), only what
experience that work produces in conjunction with a particlar reader. But
that's a discussion for anther post.

Anyway, you may find, even with your theoretical "all-didacticism" game,
that players are so conditioned to look for the winning ending, they will
construct one with whatever materials you give them, even if the notions
of winning and losing are completely absent from your mind when you design
the game. I think this is part and parcel of IF's history as computer
games. The culture of IF, at the moment, is such that even authors
who want to create a work of interactive literature with sophisticated,
ambiguous multiple endings have little alternative but to refer to their
work as a game and its consumers as players. "Solving" and "winning" are
the dominant paradigms in many players' approaches to IF, and if your work
wants to defy those paradigms, it had better be *damn* good, much better
than a work that stays within them.

Something's not completely worked out, or a little askew, or something, in
that last bunch of statements I made, but I don't have time at the moment
to figure it out. Any help anyone can offer would be appreciated -- I'm
sort of thinking out loud here.

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
SPAG is starving! Show your compassion by feeding it your interactive
fiction reviews -- deadline for issue #22 is September 10, 2000.


okbl...@my-deja.com

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Aug 21, 2000, 8:25:53 PM8/21/00
to
In article <8nrj7o$nmo$1...@joe.rice.edu>,

lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul Smith) wrote:
>
> This is all sheer speculation, of course, but I think it's a not
> unreasonable scenario to imagine that had Infocom not tried to develop
> Cornerstone, they could have continued to make text adventures
cheaply and
> make money off of them. Sure, they might never had developed a
> blockbuster. They would have been catering to a niche market. But
had
> they been able to keep their core audience, they could have continued
to
> make money. I have three data points to back up this speculation:
The
> sales figures for 'Masterpieces', the continued existence and sales of
> games like 'Solitaire', and the 'Deer Hunter' phenomenon.

Hmmm. I don't think so. It isn't simply a matter of "Well, it cost $Y
to make, and X number of people bought it for $Z, and as long as X
times Z is greater than Y, they could've kept going."

The sales model for software has changed pretty drastically since
the '80s. In the early '80s, anybody with a floppy and a zip-loc(TM)
bag could call themselves a game publisher and sell stuff. By the time
the name of Infocom was buried, shelf-space was an issue. The stretch
between 1990 and 1995 would've been difficult to survive, as text-only
games would've been difficult to place.

The Web might've helped. But might've hurt, also. (The "core audience"
would have included people who had their attention diverted to Web-
based time-wasting.) TADS and Inform probably would've really wreaked
havoc.

Not to say that clever marketing might not have found a way, but
Infocom's staff would have had to continue to work just as hard for an
ever-decreasing return. How long would the best and the brightest have
persisted under those conditions?

--
[ok]

BrenBarn

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Aug 21, 2000, 9:41:11 PM8/21/00
to
>Myst is still on top of the best selling games list. Like the great
>text adventures before it, Myst's real genius is setting the mood and
>sucking you in.
For me, Myst set a mood, but didn't suck me in. I stuck with it for a
while because I heard it was great, but after a while of not getting hooked, I
dropped it.

BrenBarn

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Aug 21, 2000, 9:42:11 PM8/21/00
to
>And I would argue any computer game that's still a best
>seller after 6 years is a great game by anybody's standards!
Hardly. Commercial success is not a sure-fire indicator that I,
personally, will like a game.

BrenBarn

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Aug 21, 2000, 9:56:48 PM8/21/00
to
>Often much like a short story, the games
>which utilize story telling have something to say, something to show to the
>players. The replayability of a game, viewed in this light, is almost the
>same
>attribute as the re-readability in a good short story or novel.
I agree.

>Or watched Star Wars more than 10
>times?

Or more than 50. Or more than 100. :-)


>Of course, true interactivity will probably lead to branching storylines (or
>at
>least, plenty of ways to cut the story short), which leads to another kind of
>replayability...

Yay! I love this kind of thing. I haven't played very much IF, but most
of what I've played seems to follow the "one way to win, many ways to lose"
pattern of endings -- there is one "desired" outcome ("*** You have won ***"
:-), and many other "undesirable" outcomes ("You have died", "You have been
impaled", "You have been thrown into a dungeon", etc.). Although these various
"deaths" may have different messages, they are all essentially designed to
communicate the same message to the player: "You have failed."


I envision games where the various outcomes are not specifically designed
to make the player feel like he has "won" or "lost", but rather to convey a
meaning or message from the author. For example (albeit a strange and
arbitrary example), a given ending might be designed to plant in the player's
brain the notion that Communism is evil.

But, for once, I am not just going to TALK about this (gasp!). Yes,
strange as it may seem, I am actually WRITING a game with multiple endings,
which are not divided into "wins" and "losses", but many intermediate and
utterly different types.
When this game is released, then you'll see! :-) (And, of course, now
that I've mentioned it, it'll probably wind up being a piece of crap, making me
look like more of a blowhard than I already am, but that's life. . .:-)

BrenBarn

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Aug 21, 2000, 10:14:56 PM8/21/00
to
>: I think this is the main reason why we see such cruddy games coming

>out
>: these days, with cruddy "one click fits all" interfaces that never do what
>you
>: want or "big red button" interfaces where all you really have to do is
>shoot.
>: People want to be able to jump straight into a game and play it, without
>having
>: to learn any commands. It's the same philosophy that has led to
>: "plug-and-play" sound cards that detect the wrong IRQ and render your
>computer
>: mute.
>
>Not to pick on you, but this is exactly the attitude I was talking
>about. Frankly, it's elitist.
I agree. And don't worry about picking on me; as usual, I have expressed
an opinion that was not my own but an exagerrated version of my own, mixed with
some hunches. I deserve it :-).

>Just because the opposite tack can be done
>badly doesn't mean that it's not worth doing. Plug and play interfaces
>are an absolute godsend to millions of people, when they work. And they
>work a lot of the time.

True. I use them myself. I'm not trying to say that people who use
plug-and-play and one-click interfaces are evil (nor do I think that you though
I meant that); everything has a use.

>There is indeed a method of solving the problem of complexity by recasting
>the problem itself so it's not complex--hence one-click interfaces. There
>is a place for these, especially when designing for them in the first
>place.

Yes. As you said above, though, it can be done badly. I've played good
and bad. I suppose it's just that the bad one's I've played were worse than
the good ones were good.

>For example--here's an idea I came up with when writing my above
>post. What would happen if you took the Inform library, and re-wrote the
>debugging messages in plain English?

<snipped most of the example>


>Drastically increase the *feedback* the user gets when
>playing the game. Teach them how to play by showing them what all their
>commands were doing.

Great idea. I'm sure it would draw in many of the people who, though
interested in the genre, were frustrated by the interface.

>This isn't necessarily the only solution, either.

THIS is really what I try to remember whenever I'm thinking about almost
any issue, including this one.

>I remember someone's
>comment that perhaps the parser watch for several errors in a row near the
>beginning of the game, and cut in, saying "You seem to be new at
>IF. Here's some information you might find useful..." With some
>tweaking, this could be a great idea. It's several years old and still
>vaporware.

Another good idea. Now, without making any generalizations (for once :-),
I'll say that the reason I personally don't do this is just 'cause I'm lazy.
That's all. Sure, I might not have some of the technical knowledge, and maybe
I'm missing some experience, but if I really had the gusto, all that would
come.
And now I'll solidify the absurdity of this post with a (perhaps
irrelevant) quote from _The Great Gatsby_:
"Gatsby believed in the green light, in the orgastic future that day by
day recedes before us. It eluded us today, but no matter; tomorrow we will run
faster, stretch our arms out farther. And one fine morning. . ."
Somehow this seems, to me, connected.

J.D. Berry

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to
In article <Pine.GSO.3.96.100082...@ucsu.colorado.edu>,

Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:
> On 22 Aug 2000, BrenBarn wrote:
>
> > I envision games where the various outcomes are not specifically
designed
> > to make the player feel like he has "won" or "lost", but rather to
convey a
> > meaning or message from the author. For example (albeit a strange
and
> > arbitrary example), a given ending might be designed to plant in
the player's
> > brain the notion that Communism is evil.
>
> This seems to me to be a much worse idea than the win/loss dichotomy.
I'd
> rather feel that I have two choices (winning or losing) than feel I
have
> one choice (to be preached at by the author by any given ending.) To
put
> it another way, I'd rather play a game than read a purely didactic
tract.
>

BB wasn’t implying there should be no game elements (puzzles,
exploration, NPC interaction, “fun” stuff in general) involved or no
choices.

I think “Galatea” achieves one part of what he’s driving at. There’s
not really a won or lost with that game, but it was successful not only
as a literary work but as a game as well. Perhaps one play session
conclusion in that work had the theme of “does something not alive as
we know it have rights/feelings?” Perhaps another was the “Wizard of
Oz” ending. Each delivered some sort of message and in none did the
player *win*.

The main element required for a game is entertainment—fascinate, amuse,
evoke emotions. However the IF author can pull this off should be
completely open. It may be easier in the short term for an author to
fascinate using conventional objectives. A built-in goal of winning
can be reason enough to play a game. But I’ve abandoned many a game
before I’ve won simply because I wasn’t entertained sufficiently.

Right, but this is why I think you’re not really in disagreement with
him, Paul. Perhaps you interpreted “sending a message that Communism
is evil” as a blanket and forced ending with the whole game being an
indoctrination. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be that way. Though
that example does strike me as rather difficult to pull off. :-)


> Interestingly, my experience with player feedback in the case of LASH
was
> that many players really want to know what the *right* ending is.
Messages
> on rgif made presumptions about the goal of the game, even going so
far as
> to say that LASH offers three metrics of success and that the most
> "winning" ending was the one that ranked the highest on all three
ladders
> (even though some measures couldn't be maximized without others being
> drastically reduced.) I genuinely didn't expect that response to
develop,
> though in retrospect I can certainly see why it did. I certainly
didn't
> intend it -- though I'm of the school of thought that suggests it
doesn't
> matter one iota what the author of a work *intends* (and indeed, that
> information isn't ever purely available, even to the author), only
what
> experience that work produces in conjunction with a particlar reader.
But
> that's a discussion for anther post.
>

Interesting, indeed. Although I am a bit surprised this surprised
you. :-)

> Anyway, you may find, even with your theoretical "all-didacticism"
game,
> that players are so conditioned to look for the winning ending, they
will
> construct one with whatever materials you give them, even if the
notions
> of winning and losing are completely absent from your mind when you
design
> the game.

> I think this is part and parcel of IF's history as computer
> games. The culture of IF, at the moment, is such that even authors
> who want to create a work of interactive literature with
sophisticated,
> ambiguous multiple endings have little alternative but to refer to
their
> work as a game and its consumers as players. "Solving" and "winning"
are
> the dominant paradigms in many players' approaches to IF, and if your
work
> wants to defy those paradigms, it had better be *damn* good, much
better
> than a work that stays within them.
>

As The Firm might have sung,

Better hold on tight
If the game’s elastic
And it’s even worse
When it’s all-didactic


> Something's not completely worked out, or a little askew, or
something, in
> that last bunch of statements I made, but I don't have time at the
moment
> to figure it out. Any help anyone can offer would be appreciated --
I'm
> sort of thinking out loud here.
>

Your points were clear. My take was just that you were actually in
agreement with Bren but took a different route to his conclusion.

Thinking out loud, too,
Jim

kayce

unread,
Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to
Chris Charla wrote:
>
> When Zork first arrived, it enabled your puny micro to do things that
> were simply amazing -- and that got tons of people to buy it, who might
> not have been into text adventures for their own sake otherwise (and the
> numbers bear this out, because even as the number of computer owners
> grew, the number of text adventure buyers slowly shrunk). By the time
> Shogun limped out the door, if you wanted something amazing for your
> computer, you bought Ancient Art of War (if you had a PC) or Marble
> Madness (if you had a C64 or AII), or Defender of the Crown (if you had
> an Amiga), or just sat around and played with MacPaint (if you had a
> Mac).
>
> One of the driving forces in the sales of "breakthorugh" titles is the
> ability of the titles to impress the people who buy them, but who aren't
> really clued in as to what makes a good game versus a bad one.

I think this might be the actual reason. I don't have any actual
historical data to back this up, but usually top selling games often use
the latest technology:

- The first computers were text only or with silly graphics at best
- Newer computers learned B/W graphics, suddenly a game had to have B/W
pictures to appeal, text adventures became less sought after, instead
games like Tron, PAC MAN or Aldo became hits
- The first colour computers came out. Games like Maniac Mansion used
the first colour images
- True colour came out: Games like Myst impressed with naturalistic images
- 3D accelerator chips became cheap enough to ship them with computers:
Everybody begins jumping the 3D wagon.

I think Adventures will survive. Just like strategy games (Myth is a
good example, compare that to C&C or SimCity for a line of ancestors).
They will just look different. As to why TEXT adventures aren't that
sellable anymore? Well, books have been suffering from recession, too.
People who would read a book and appreciate its advantages will also
consider text adventures. Those who do not like books and prefer TV or
the movies will very likely prefer 3D adventures in the future.

That's my theory. Time to shoot it down <g>

--
Raven Kayce
Writer's block impersonated

BrenBarn

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to
>> I envision games where the various outcomes are not specifically designed
>> to make the player feel like he has "won" or "lost", but rather to convey a
>> meaning or message from the author. For example (albeit a strange and
>> arbitrary example), a given ending might be designed to plant in the
>player's
>> brain the notion that Communism is evil.
>
>This seems to me to be a much worse idea than the win/loss dichotomy. I'd
>rather feel that I have two choices (winning or losing) than feel I have
>one choice (to be preached at by the author by any given ending.) To put
>it another way, I'd rather play a game than read a purely didactic tract.
Okay, I knew I should have thought harder about what example to use. I
didn't intend to suggest that the author would (necessarily) be preaching some
"higher truth" to the player.
As another example, maybe the game has a character called Joe, another
character called Bill, and somewhere in the story there is, say, a secret
underground organization of some kind. Maybe one of the endings is designed to
make the player think that Joe and Bill are long-lost brothers, while another
is designed to make him think that Joe and Bill are both members of the secret
organization, while another is designed to make him think that Joe is a member
and Bill is not, etc. The "meaning" given by the ending may or may not have
significance outside the context of the game.

>What I was shooting for (setting aside, for the moment,
>the difference between what I shoot for and what I hit) in LASH, though,
>was a situation where the player could make any one of several choices at
>either level of the game, choices at the inner level affecting the outcome
>of choices at the outer level, resulting in an array of available endings.

Well, I haven't played LASH (although after reading this, it's on my list
of games to play). This is, essentially, what I'm talking about. I don't
think that the various "levels" should necessarily be clearly delineated in the
player's view, but, since I haven't played LASH, I'm not sure whether that's
the case there.

>My own feeling about the various endings in LASH is that while some of
>them are clearly superior to others, each has its own pros and cons.

This is pretty much what I was trying to say, but you said it better.
Replace "LASH" with "a game" and you'll have a pretty good idea of what I was
attempting to say.
I don't think that any of the various endings should necessarily be
"superior" to another, but that's largely (as you mention below) up to the
player, not the author.

>-- though I'm of the school of thought that suggests it doesn't
>matter one iota what the author of a work *intends* (and indeed, that
>information isn't ever purely available, even to the author), only what
>experience that work produces in conjunction with a particlar reader.

I agree. As you say, I think the author's "intentions" are often unclear
even to the author himself (I know such is the case with my current WIP). So
how the player experiences the game is as much (or more) dependent on his
personality as on the game itself. This makes it well-nigh impossible to
design a game with the aim of conveying a particular sensation (or experience,
or meaning, or whatever you want to call it) to any given player; all you can
do is take your best shot (or even any shot) and see what people think.
But as you say. . .

>But that's a discussion for anther post.

So I'll say no more.


>Anyway, you may find, even with your theoretical "all-didacticism" game,
>that players are so conditioned to look for the winning ending, they will
>construct one with whatever materials you give them, even if the notions
>of winning and losing are completely absent from your mind when you design
>the game.

Aside from the part about didacticism (which I addressed above), I think
this is true. Any one game would have to be stupendous and powerful in some
way to singlehandedly overcome this conditioning. It can only be truly
overcome with time (reverse conditioning).
And I don't mean to sound like the win/loss dichotomy is a bad thing, or
that players have been "brainwashed" into zombies chanting "Win! Lose! Win!
Lose!" :-) Far from it. Neither way is inherently better; I'm just
interested in non-win/loss games because I personally haven't seen as many of
them.

>The culture of IF, at the moment, is such that even authors
>who want to create a work of interactive literature with sophisticated,
>ambiguous multiple endings have little alternative but to refer to their
>work as a game and its consumers as players.

An interesting point. It reminds me of a discussion here some months ago
(I think) about what to call, um, shall we say, examples of the IF medium :-).
The predominant term is obviously "game", but there was also some talk about
calling them "works" or some such, or even creating some entirely new term.


>"Solving" and "winning" are
>the dominant paradigms in many players' approaches to IF, and if your work
>wants to defy those paradigms, it had better be *damn* good, much better
>than a work that stays within them.

True. But, referring to the above comments about the player
self-determining his reaction to the game, and also noting that "good" is a
subjective term, which may mean different things to different people, one could
also say that the author's intention to "defy those paradigms" may be totally
invisible to the player.
So it seems like whether the author "intends" to do a "paradigm shift"
might not even be relevant. If it's the player who determines how he reacts to
the game, the author's intention may not reach that player, or may reach him in
a warped or altered fashion, affecting his reaction.
Of course, by saying that I seem to imply that the author is shooting in
the dark, blindly trying to grasp the shadowy player and imprint some
proscribed meaning on his brain, which I think is hardly the case. When I
write games, I certainly don't chew my nails in worry, wondering, "How will
this affect the player's reaction?" I just write whatever I think works best
for me, and hope that my intention can, in some degree, reach the player.

>Something's not completely worked out, or a little askew, or something, in
>that last bunch of statements I made, but I don't have time at the moment
>to figure it out. Any help anyone can offer would be appreciated -- I'm
>sort of thinking out loud here.

Actually, I found those statements very profound and thought-provoking.
In fact, you've left ME feeling like MY statements were not completely worked
out, which is great, because it made me reconsider my thoughts more carefully.
This is becoming a very interesting discussion. :-)

k denton

unread,
Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to

BrenBarn wrote:

> But, for once, I am not just going to TALK about this (gasp!). Yes,
> strange as it may seem, I am actually WRITING a game with multiple endings,
> which are not divided into "wins" and "losses", but many intermediate and
> utterly different types.
> When this game is released, then you'll see! :-) (And, of course, now
> that I've mentioned it, it'll probably wind up being a piece of crap, making me
> look like more of a blowhard than I already am, but that's life. . .:-)

Well then, I guess I can consider you the competition.... The game I've been
working on uses a few branching storylines, and features very heavy character
interaction. Instead of the "Curses" style avoidance of creatures with the LIFE
attribute, the first two "scenes" are built almost completely on interaction and
dialouge, with the courses of the game often determined by how you interact with a
given character.

I started on this a few weeks ago, and (needless to say) I don't think it'll be
done in time for the compo...

-tom


k denton

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to

Paul O'Brian wrote:

>
> Anyway, you may find, even with your theoretical "all-didacticism" game,
> that players are so conditioned to look for the winning ending, they will
> construct one with whatever materials you give them, even if the notions
> of winning and losing are completely absent from your mind when you design

> the game. I think this is part and parcel of IF's history as computer
> games. The culture of IF, at the moment, is such that even authors


> who want to create a work of interactive literature with sophisticated,
> ambiguous multiple endings have little alternative but to refer to their

> work as a game and its consumers as players. "Solving" and "winning" are


> the dominant paradigms in many players' approaches to IF, and if your work
> wants to defy those paradigms, it had better be *damn* good, much better
> than a work that stays within them.
>

One of the things which has attracted my young mind to the IF communitiy is that,
as a medium, it is all but dead and entering that phase of its lifespan where it
becomes almost purely artistic and experimental. Seems like a good place to
experiment with alternate storytelling techniques.

A similar shift can be seen in any "obsoleted" medium, film being one of the most
versatile examples. When film first arrived, it consisted almost purely of very
short features such as "Man Standing on Head," which were purely technical
endeavours, as the technologies involved in creating a film were very, very
primitive. After film became somewhat more established and easily used, the movie
houses opened, and enjoyed a long reign as a news source. The fiction work of this
period is mostly lacking in quality, (I, for one, refuse to admit Citizen Kane as
the greatest film of all time) aiming mostly for the affections of the mainstream
audience, as network television does today. And indeed, once television came into
its own, film began a long road of decline, which ended in bankruptcy for the great
majority of the smaller houses and came very close to the complete death of the
medium. And then, somewhere in the late sixties (Kubrick) but mostly in the
seventies did the directors begin to realize that film had become free of all of
the restraints placed on the mainstream media. Normal people didn't go to the
movies anymore, so there was no need to bend over trying to placate their tastes.
Similarly, the director suddenly found himself able to do things in his films which
would have been completely unacceptable back when the movie-house was as much of a
public meeting house as anything else. And so along comes Jaws and Star Wars to
bring film back to the masses, with an edge of experimentalism which was before
largely impossible.

And this is where IF stands today: in the midst of a steady decline, and
controlled by (what seem to me) to be very tehnically competent and creative
people. Exactly the sort of people who can make great works out of a dying mass.
It's also a great place to just experiment, turn something out, and see how people
react. The compo seems to provide a somewhat captive audience...

I think that, should a major rennaisance occur, IF will need a couple of technical
facelifts, as has been discussed further up in this thread. Although, to add to the
tutorial debate, I think it would be GREAT if we could make some sort of "push" in
the Palm Computing area. Palm is a perfect media for IF to get involved in. The
graphics are still shit and it relies completely on a text interface. If we could
get, say, "Curses" out to more of the people who use these devices, I think we'd
see a lot more people hangin' out with us on these boards (for better or for
worse).

-tom


BrenBarn

unread,
Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to
>Well then, I guess I can consider you the competition.... The game I've been
>working on uses a few branching storylines, and features very heavy character
>interaction. Instead of the "Curses" style avoidance of creatures with the
>LIFE
>attribute, the first two "scenes" are built almost completely on interaction
>and
>dialouge, with the courses of the game often determined by how you interact
>with a
>given character.
Oh, yeah? Well MY game has optional AM/FM radio and passenger-side airbag
:-). Actually, although I'd REALLY REALLY love to gush about my work in
progress, I think I'll rein myself in until I actually release the game. I
have a tendency to get carried away and to preach more than I practice, which
means I might paint myself into a corner with my tongue as the brush.
Suffice it to say that I see similarities between my game and your
description of your game. I look forward to playing this masterpiece! :-)

>I started on this a few weeks ago, and (needless to say) I don't think it'll
>be
>done in time for the compo...

Oooh, geez, me too. I "started" the game a few months ago, but I only
really started working in earnest about a month ago. I'm moving pretty fast,
though (roughly 750 lines of code written in the past week and a half). . .
I'd really be stoked if I could get it done in time for the Comp.
Which means I'd better stop writing this and get to work on it. :-) I
await your game with bated breath.

BrenBarn

unread,
Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to
>(I, for one, refuse to admit Citizen Kane as
>the greatest film of all time)
That's two of us.

>Normal people didn't go to the
>movies anymore, so there was no need to bend over trying to placate their
>tastes.

Hey, I go to the -- oh yeah, you're right. :-)

>And this is where IF stands today: in the midst of a steady decline, and
>controlled by (what seem to me) to be very tehnically competent and creative
>people. Exactly the sort of people who can make great works out of a dying
>mass.
>It's also a great place to just experiment, turn something out, and see how
>people
>react.

You're right. It's really great having such a diverse and open-ended
environment to work (actually, play) in.

Trevor Barrie

unread,
Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to
In article <Arcum_Dagsson-970...@news.randori.com>,

Arcum Dagsson <Arcum_...@hushmail.c.o.m> wrote:
>> >I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
>> >going to instigate some killing myself.
>>
>> So have you, in fact, read that somewhere? Or is this just a roundabout
>> way of saying that reading it even once is enough to set you off?
>
>Well, the same day Zarf posted that, Slashdot had a story up referring
>to the following article:
>
>< http://gamecenter.com/Features/Exclusives/Deadburied/index.html>
>
>Presumably, that or in the Slashdot comments is where he read it...

I haven't checked Slashdot comments, but note that this article talks
about Myst killing off "adventure games", not "text adventures". It
gives no indication at all that the authours were unaware of the fact
that text adventures were commercially dead long before Myst; they're
talking about graphical adventures.

J. Robinson Wheeler

unread,
Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to
k denton wrote:

> A similar shift can be seen in any "obsoleted" medium, film being one of the
> most versatile examples. When film first arrived, it consisted almost purely
> of very short features such as "Man Standing on Head," which were purely
> technical endeavours, as the technologies involved in creating a film were
> very, very primitive. After film became somewhat more established and easily
> used, the movie houses opened, and enjoyed a long reign as a news source. The

> fiction work of this period is mostly lacking in quality, (I, for one, refuse
> to admit Citizen Kane as the greatest film of all time) aiming mostly for the


> affections of the mainstream audience, as network television does today. And
> indeed, once television came into its own, film began a long road of decline,
> which ended in bankruptcy for the great majority of the smaller houses and
> came very close to the complete death of the medium. And then, somewhere in
> the late sixties (Kubrick) but mostly in the seventies did the directors begin
> to realize that film had become free of all of the restraints placed on the

> mainstream media. Normal people didn't go to the movies anymore, so there was
> no need to bend over trying to placate their tastes. Similarly, the director


> suddenly found himself able to do things in his films which would have been
> completely unacceptable back when the movie-house was as much of a public
> meeting house as anything else. And so along comes Jaws and Star Wars to
> bring film back to the masses, with an edge of experimentalism which was
> before largely impossible.


Rather than go point-by-point through this largely erroneous (and myopically
US-centric) summary, correcting and refuting it piecemeal, I'd just like to
ask the collective readership to please not lodge any of this in your head
as an accurate history of filmmaking.


--
J. Robinson Wheeler http://thekroneexperiment.com
whe...@jump.net


Bennett Standeven

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Aug 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/22/00
to

"Daniel Barkalow" <iabe...@iabervon.org> wrote in message
news:Pine.LNX.4.21.00082...@iabervon.org...

> Oddly, I can picture So Far as a FP game. I think it would be doable with
> a one-button interface, if you could hold up items and interact with their
> parts. I'm not sure if it would even lose anything in the translation,
> although it likely wouldn't gain anything, either.
>

How would you do the dark region?


R. Alan Monroe

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Aug 22, 2000, 9:20:02 PM8/22/00
to
In article <39A2BE3...@ix.netcom.com>, k denton <kden...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>get, say, "Curses" out to more of the people who use these devices, I think
> we'd
>see a lot more people hangin' out with us on these boards (for better or for
>worse).

This reminds me of those social group size surveys (I've
heard about them only anecdotally, I have no quotable source). The
ones that say the break even point for a social group is about 400
members. More people than that and it loses coherency.
Anyone else heard tales like this?

Have fun
Alan

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Aug 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/23/00
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> I swear, if I read one more time that Myst killed text adventures, I'm
> going to instigate some killing myself.

That's a new one on me, certainly. Last I knew Myst
appealed to an entirely different kind of person than
text adventures, for the most part.


--

Forward all spam to u...@ftc.gov

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Aug 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM8/23/00