Photopia: Parallels, Stupid question, Random observations

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Phil Goetz

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Dec 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/3/98
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I like the structure: showing you one life and all the other lives
that intersect with it. It has the same structure mentioned in a section in
Janet Murray's book _Hamlet on the Holodeck_ which proposed writing an
interactive fiction about someone's suicide and then showing many different
points of view of the different people affected by this death. This is also
the structure of Williaim Faulkner's _The Sound and the Fury_, which
consists of three parts told by three brothers: Benjy the idiot, Quentin the
anguished failed protector, and Jason the survivor. Each story centers
around their sister Caddy and the destruction of their family. (Aside --
if anyone can explain to me -- why do people sometimes call Caddy "Quentin"?
All three narrators do it -- Benjy, Quentin, and Jason.)

SPOILERS.

A difference is that Alley's fate is not the result of her own actions.
If you think that life is a meaningless sequence of one damn thing after
another, then this change is probably an improvement for you.
I would be more satisfied if the entire story didn't hinge around a random
incident. But it's truthful. Someone on this group asked Adam if Photopia
were based on a true story. Garrison Keillor (in the intro th the 1998
Best American Short Stories) said that is the highest compliment you
can pay an author.

In any case, Photopia is a milestone on the path to interactive literature.

Stupid question:

I just finished Photopia... I think.
I played through the scene in which I am Alley's mother.
Then it said "END OF SESSION".
Am I the culprit of some Java bug, or is that the end of Photopia?
If that's the end, it's a hopeless one.
No other message than "She's dead, Jim."

Random observations:

I couldn't play with colors, because the dark blue was too hard to read.

I read the comments here about the opening quote about ten minutes
after reading the opening quote, and already couldn't remember what
it was. You mean the "Tell me a story" opening?

I think I liked the way you much later find out why the narrator is
defining words, though I think the language within those definitions is
too complex for Wendy to understand.


Phil Goetz

Jon Petersen

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Dec 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/3/98
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Phil Goetz wrote:
>
> This is also
> the structure of Williaim Faulkner's _The Sound and the Fury_, which
> consists of three parts told by three brothers: Benjy the idiot, Quentin the
> anguished failed protector, and Jason the survivor. Each story centers
> around their sister Caddy and the destruction of their family.

Don't forget the fourth chapter, which is told from a 3rd-person
perspective. I believe Faulkner once said that he planned to write the
fourth chapter from Caddy's point of view, but couldn't do it.

> (Aside --
> if anyone can explain to me -- why do people sometimes call Caddy "Quentin"?
> All three narrators do it -- Benjy, Quentin, and Jason.)

Hooboy, you got zapped by the same thing that zapped a lot of people,
and you're probably gonna have to reread the book now :) There are
actually two Quentins; the brother, and Caddy's daughter. The characters
are referring to her, not to Caddy.

Jon

Adam Cadre

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Dec 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/4/98
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Phil Goetz wrote:
> SPOILERS.

>
> Stupid question:
>
> I just finished Photopia... I think.
> I played through the scene in which I am Alley's mother.
> Then it said "END OF SESSION".
> Am I the culprit of some Java bug, or is that the end of Photopia?

The last scene in Photopia takes place in the nursery. Your last action
should be to turn off the lights.

> If that's the end, it's a hopeless one.
> No other message than "She's dead, Jim."

Someone once asked Douglas Adams what the message of Hitchhiker's was.
He replied, "No message. If I'd wanted to write a message I'd have
written a message. I wrote a book."

That said -- ie, this is not a message game -- everyone'll take away
their own thoughts from Photopia. "She's dead, Jim" is one possibility.
Here's another -- not The Message, just something for your consideration.

Alley *isn't* dead at the end of the story. Indeed, the end of the story
is where she has more of her life ahead of her than in any other scene.

Every single person you know has more of their life ahead of them right
now than they will ever have again.

Appreciate that.

*shrug*

-----
Adam Cadre, Anaheim, CA
http://www.retina.net/~grignr

Magnus Olsson

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Dec 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/4/98
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In article <7475vn$9t4$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,

Phil Goetz <go...@cse.buffalo.edu> wrote:
>I just finished Photopia... I think.
>I played through the scene in which I am Alley's mother.
>Then it said "END OF SESSION".
>Am I the culprit of some Java bug, or is that the end of Photopia?
>If that's the end, it's a hopeless one.

I'm not sure which of the scenes you're referring to. The end of
Photopia is the scene where the word "Photopia" is explained (among
other things, but I don't want to put in spoilers here).

For some reason, I found the ending scene to be the most touching of
them all. And oddly hopeful, despite everything.

>I couldn't play with colors, because the dark blue was too hard to read.

I couldn't play with colours on WinFrotz; the coloured text on black
background was almost unreadable on my screen. But DOS Frotz in a DOS
window worked fine.

>I think I liked the way you much later find out why the narrator is
>defining words, though I think the language within those definitions is
>too complex for Wendy to understand.

I think this was some gentle irony on Adam's part. That, and the fact
that some of the definitions were rather inaccurate.

Despite the serious theme, there's a lot of humour in "Photopia". Did
you notice the IF in jokes? Again, Adam is sublimely ironic: people
have complained a lot about the silliness of IF in-jokes in games, and
here comes Adam and puts a few of them in a tragedy. And he makes it
work - they didn't break the mood for me, and they didn't feel
incongruous. Of course, they didn't make me laught out loud, and that
wasn't the intention either, I suppose. Instead, the effect was, what
shall I say, bitter-sweet.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------

Brandon Van Every

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Dec 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/4/98
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Adam Cadre wrote in message ...

>
>Someone once asked Douglas Adams what the message of Hitchhiker's was.
>He replied, "No message. If I'd wanted to write a message I'd have
>written a message. I wrote a book."

>
>That said -- ie, this is not a message game -- everyone'll take away
>their own thoughts from Photopia. "She's dead, Jim" is one possibility.
>Here's another -- not The Message, just something for your consideration.

The complexities of living in the real universe are often better expressed
by a complexity than by a single bumper sticker slogan. For instance, how
would you communicate the nature of an entire culture? You wouldn't do it
by saying "the people of the USA are all basically consumers." I mean you
could, but it would be a pretty shallow thing to say. And someone wouldn't
take you seriously, someone would deride you as a whiney intellectual,
shooting at targets too easy for your intellect.

One of my favorite bumper sticker slogans is that old engineering addage,
"It Depends." :-) But even this slogan isn't universally applicable,
sometimes moral situations arise where it jolly well doesn't depend.

I think as authors we may at times trap ourselves into believing a singular,
easily digested message is essential. It's what we're supposed to be doing,
right? It's what people want out of us, right? Well, maybe it's better to
make people exercise their brains than to spoon-feed them messages. Maybe
they really *shouldn't* understand a work all at once, but should be drawn
into its contemplation, over periods of days and months. If you saw a work
and it left your mind immediately, then how could its truths say anything
deeply to you?

Also, to write in terms of truths is terribly difficult. Most truths are
too easy. If you hold them up people will laugh at you, because you have
not tested them against that old bugaboo, the real world.

Sometimes there aren't any truths in a work at all. We just already have
our own truths, and we like to look at ourselves in mirrors. It's
narcissistic but terribly human. If you loved a story, maybe it's just
because you loved your ability to see yourself in it, regardless of what the
author may or may not have had to say. If you hated it, or were indifferent
to it, same thing. Maybe your own ego was more important than the story.

>Alley *isn't* dead at the end of the story. Indeed, the end of the story
>is where she has more of her life ahead of her than in any other scene.


I think it's natural to perceive 2 kinds of ending: the end of the
narrative, and the chronological ending. In the latter case, Alley's dead.
So for some people the narrative ending is a Real Bummer (TM), as it
reflects upon the chronological ending. Just depends at story's end if
you're more focused on what's good about Alley's life, or tragic about
Alley's death. I don't even think it's Optimism vs. Pessimism, I think it's
two sides of the same coin.

Cheers, 3d graphics optimization jock
Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
If we are all Gods and we have thrown our toys the mortals away
and we are Immortal What shall we do
and we cannot die to entertain ourselves?


Phil Goetz

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Dec 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/4/98
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>Hooboy, you got zapped by the same thing that zapped a lot of people,
>and you're probably gonna have to reread the book now :) There are
>actually two Quentins; the brother, and Caddy's daughter. The characters
>are referring to her, not to Caddy.
>
> Jon

I thought that might be what was happening. Being Faulkner, he doesn't
actually come out and say that there was a baby. I'm still trying to figure
out whether Quentin and Caddy had sex, and if so, if the daughter is his.

Phil

Phil Goetz

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Dec 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/4/98
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In article <7488fk$d1c$1...@bartlet.df.lth.se>,

Magnus Olsson <m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote:
>For some reason, I found the ending scene to be the most touching of
>them all. And oddly hopeful, despite everything.

Maybe I will come around to that way of seeing it. It is a different
kind of closure than I'm used to. One that stands outside time.

BTW, I recommend using the "who am i" command when you play Photopia.

>Despite the serious theme, there's a lot of humour in "Photopia". Did
>you notice the IF in jokes?

No. I'm thick that way. Or maybe I'm not "in" enough. Clue me in.

Phil

David Glasser

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Dec 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/4/98
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Phil Goetz <go...@cse.buffalo.edu> wrote:

> I like the structure: showing you one life and all the other lives
> that intersect with it. It has the same structure mentioned in a section in
> Janet Murray's book _Hamlet on the Holodeck_ which proposed writing an
> interactive fiction about someone's suicide and then showing many different

> points of view of the different people affected by this death. This is also


> the structure of Williaim Faulkner's _The Sound and the Fury_, which
> consists of three parts told by three brothers: Benjy the idiot, Quentin the
> anguished failed protector, and Jason the survivor. Each story centers

> around their sister Caddy and the destruction of their family. (Aside --


> if anyone can explain to me -- why do people sometimes call Caddy "Quentin"?
> All three narrators do it -- Benjy, Quentin, and Jason.)

(No comment. Should read book.)

> SPOILERS.
>
> Stupid question:


>
> I just finished Photopia... I think.
> I played through the scene in which I am Alley's mother.
> Then it said "END OF SESSION".
> Am I the culprit of some Java bug, or is that the end of Photopia?
> If that's the end, it's a hopeless one.

> No other message than "She's dead, Jim."

It's the end, yes. However, it isn't really hopeless. Sure, she's
dead. But the last scene serves to highlight the good of her life. I
think its point is to say "She had a good life; it unfortunately ended
too soon".

> Random observations:


>
> I couldn't play with colors, because the dark blue was too hard to read.

Zip Infinity does the colors legibly, which is great.

> I read the comments here about the opening quote about ten minutes
> after reading the opening quote, and already couldn't remember what
> it was. You mean the "Tell me a story" opening?

Yep, that. I forgot it for a while too.

> I think I liked the way you much later find out why the narrator is
> defining words, though I think the language within those definitions is
> too complex for Wendy to understand.

I don't know about that. Don't forget how many definitions those
definitions are building on. (My favorite was astro-nautical.)

--
David Glasser gla...@NOSPAMuscom.com http://onramp.uscom.com/~glasser
DGlasser @ ifMUD : fovea.retina.net 4000 (webpage fovea.retina.net:4001)
Sadie Hawkins, official band of David Glasser: http://sadie.retina.net
"We take our icons very seriously in this class."

Ricardo Dague

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Dec 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/5/98
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Adam Cadre wrote:
>
> > SPOILERS.

> >
>
> The last scene in Photopia takes place in the nursery. Your last action
> should be to turn off the lights.
>

Ack. That nukes my theory that the last scene was a story
made up by Wendy after Alley's death, the same way the
scenes of the winged Wendy were actually stories by Alley.
This would make Photopia a realistic story, not SF, and the
theme would be how the accident helped Wendy understand
life.

I thought up the theme after your "Melodrama in Photopia"
post reminded me of Graham Greene's definition of melodrama.
It's part of a criticism of Henry James from _The Lost
Childhood_:

"The novel by its nature is dramatic, but it need not be
melodramatic, and James's problem was to admit violence
without becoming violent. He mustn't let violence lend the
tone (that is melodrama): violence must draw its tone from
all the rest of life; it must be subdued, and it must not,
above all, be sudden and inexplicable. The violence he
worked with was not accidental; it was corrupt; it came from
the Pit, and therefore it had to be fully understood.
Otherwise, the moral background would be lost."

The first thing that Photopia was about that occurred to me
was "Drunk driving kills a bright girl! Horrifying!" which
indeed is horrifying, but not original. I see that all the
time on the TV news and in the newspaper. I'm saturated, and
need more depth. So your game kept nagging me for a week
until it occurred to me that the last scene may not be real.

> That said -- ie, this is not a message game -- everyone'll take away
> their own thoughts from Photopia. "She's dead, Jim" is one possibility.

Well, I milked a message out of the story... Good enough. :)

-- Ricardo

David Glasser

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Dec 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/5/98
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Photopia: Gettin' spoilly wit' it:

Phil Goetz <go...@cse.buffalo.edu> wrote:

Well, in the you-are-Wendy-in-bed scene, look at the bear.

I don't know of any others, unless the ifMUD mindset has just permeated
me to make me not notice it.

Schep

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Dec 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/5/98
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Magnus Olsson wrote:
>
> In article <7475vn$9t4$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,

> Phil Goetz <go...@cse.buffalo.edu> wrote:
> >I just finished Photopia... I think.
> >I played through the scene in which I am Alley's mother.
> >Then it said "END OF SESSION".
> >Am I the culprit of some Java bug, or is that the end of Photopia?
> >If that's the end, it's a hopeless one.

"END OF SESSION" was not a part of the game, probably what the
interpreter did when the game exited.

> Despite the serious theme, there's a lot of humour in "Photopia". Did

> you notice the IF in jokes? Again, Adam is sublimely ironic: people
> have complained a lot about the silliness of IF in-jokes in games, and
> here comes Adam and puts a few of them in a tragedy. And he makes it
> work - they didn't break the mood for me, and they didn't feel
> incongruous. Of course, they didn't make me laught out loud, and that
> wasn't the intention either, I suppose. Instead, the effect was, what
> shall I say, bitter-sweet.

Darn you! Now I'll have to play it again. And here I thought I could get
by with once.

--
Schep -----------------------------------------------------
Reply by email should be schepler at pilot dot msu dot edu.
The other automatic one is an anti-spam device.
Nothing against the meat. (yes, spam contains meat)

Jake Wildstrom

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Dec 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/5/98
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In article <Pine.SOL.3.91.98120...@godzilla2.acpub.duke.edu>,

Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu> wrote:
>Alley *isn't* dead at the end of the story. Indeed, the end of the story
>is where she has more of her life ahead of her than in any other scene.
>
>Every single person you know has more of their life ahead of them right
>now than they will ever have again.

Hm. Sounds very Tramalfadorian, to steal a term from Kurt Vonnegut. Actually,
the whole story had (very vaguely, only in the layout) a Slaughterhouse-5 kind
of feel to it.

So we're supposed to look at all the good times in Alley's life? Is that the
message whose existence you deny? ;-)

+--First Church of Briantology--Order of the Holy Quaternion--+
| A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into |
| theorems. -Paul Erdos |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+
| Jake Wildstrom |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+

Matthew T. Russotto

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Dec 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/5/98
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In article <36691616...@mail.server.net>,

Schep <Sc...@mail.server.net> wrote:
}Magnus Olsson wrote:
}>
}> In article <7475vn$9t4$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,
}> Phil Goetz <go...@cse.buffalo.edu> wrote:
}> >I just finished Photopia... I think.
}> >I played through the scene in which I am Alley's mother.
}> >Then it said "END OF SESSION".
}> >Am I the culprit of some Java bug, or is that the end of Photopia?
}> >If that's the end, it's a hopeless one.
}
}"END OF SESSION" was not a part of the game, probably what the
}interpreter did when the game exited.

Yep. ZPlet prints that. It's what the old Apple II interpreters printed.

--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Adam J. Thornton

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Dec 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/5/98
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In article <1djj9or.1so...@usol-209-186-16-69.uscom.com>,

David Glasser <gla...@DELETEuscom.com> wrote:
>Photopia: Gettin' spoilly wit' it:
>
Getting Spoilier:


>Well, in the you-are-Wendy-in-bed scene, look at the bear.
>
>I don't know of any others, unless the ifMUD mindset has just permeated
>me to make me not notice it.

I read the whole Queen scene as an indictment of IF as it currently exists.

It seems that Alley and Adam are bemoaning the fact that IF worlds are
inherently dead and sterile. We're fine with picking things up and
dropping them, but character interaction is way, way beyond the abilities
of current computing systems. We can give NPCs scripts, but fundamentally
the computer cannot do anywhere near as well as even a mediocre human
storyteller when it comes to creating characters who interact with the
player.

Doe tells me I'm overreading and being silly, because this has prompted a
bit of a crisis of faith on my part.

But it *has*. Character-heavy IF is doomed, at least until we have real
AI, because the characters can't possibly be as well fleshed-out as even a
lousy storyteller can make them.

Sure, we get around this by having them be trolls, or interrogators, or
enigmatic but attractive ciphers. But a bright 12-year-old storyteller can
become Floyd the endearing robot sidekick in a way that no computer can.

Adam
--
ad...@princeton.edu
"There's a border to somewhere waiting, and a tank full of time." - J. Steinman

Magnus Olsson

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Dec 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/6/98
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In article <36687FE6...@hotmail.com>,

Ricardo Dague <tri...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>Adam Cadre wrote:
>>
>> > SPOILERS.

>> >
>>
>> The last scene in Photopia takes place in the nursery. Your last action
>> should be to turn off the lights.
>>
>
>Ack. That nukes my theory that the last scene was a story
>made up by Wendy after Alley's death, the same way the
>scenes of the winged Wendy were actually stories by Alley.
>This would make Photopia a realistic story, not SF,

In what ways is Photopia (without your theory) not a "realistic"
story? And what makes it SF? (The story-within-a-story is of course
SF, kind of, but that's still a story told by one character to
another, not the story itself).

Aris Katsaris

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Dec 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/6/98
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Adam J. Thornton wrote in message <74ajl4$lk5$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>...

>In article <1djj9or.1so...@usol-209-186-16-69.uscom.com>,
>David Glasser <gla...@DELETEuscom.com> wrote:
>
>I read the whole Queen scene as an indictment of IF as it currently exists.
>
>It seems that Alley and Adam are bemoaning the fact that IF worlds are
>inherently dead and sterile. We're fine with picking things up and
>dropping them, but character interaction is way, way beyond the abilities
>of current computing systems. We can give NPCs scripts, but fundamentally
>the computer cannot do anywhere near as well as even a mediocre human
>storyteller when it comes to creating characters who interact with the
>player.
>
>Doe tells me I'm overreading and being silly, because this has prompted a
>bit of a crisis of faith on my part.

I think Adam said that is indeed one of the reasons everything is dead.
Because in most IF everything is similarly dead, with few or no interactive
characters.

Ricardo Dague

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Dec 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/6/98
to
Magnus Olsson wrote:
>
> In article <36687FE6...@hotmail.com>,
> Ricardo Dague <tri...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> >Adam Cadre wrote:
> >> > SPOILERS.

> >Ack. That nukes my theory that the last scene was a story
> >made up by Wendy after Alley's death, the same way the
> >scenes of the winged Wendy were actually stories by Alley.
> >This would make Photopia a realistic story, not SF,
>
> In what ways is Photopia (without your theory) not a "realistic"
> story? And what makes it SF? (The story-within-a-story is of course
> SF, kind of, but that's still a story told by one character to
> another, not the story itself).

Ummm, it's SF since in the last scene Alley is described as
growing out of a larval(?) stage and the Photopia machine
seems like some futuristic device.

And by realistic I meant set in the present, and not
fantastic or historical. The story certainly is about beings
having pain and problems I identify with. I just using the
word in another sense. :)

-- Ricardo

Adam Cadre

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Dec 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/6/98
to
Ricardo Dague wrote:
> Ummm, it's SF since in the last scene Alley is described as
> growing out of a larval(?) stage and the Photopia machine
> seems like some futuristic device.

You mean the bit where she's said to have grown out of the "reptilian
newborn stage"? That's just imagery. Newborns look like lizards.

The Photopia is just an LCD screen. There are way more futuristic
devices at your local electronics store.

> And by realistic I meant set in the present, and not
> fantastic or historical.

It is set in the present.

-----
Adam Cadre, Anaheim, CA

http://www.retina.net/~grignr if retina.net is ever resurrected

Adam Cadre

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Dec 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/6/98
to
Adam "Bruce" Thornton wrote:
> I read the whole Queen scene as an indictment of IF as it currently exists.
>
> It seems that Alley and Adam are bemoaning the fact that IF worlds are
> inherently dead and sterile.

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it an indictment. A commentary,
certainly.

> Doe tells me I'm overreading and being silly, because this has prompted a
> bit of a crisis of faith on my part.
>

> But it *has*. Character-heavy IF is doomed, at least until we have real
> AI, because the characters can't possibly be as well fleshed-out as even a
> lousy storyteller can make them.

Well, that's what I'll be trying to remedy in the V game.

Which I'm ready to get back to coding except for the fact that my
computer has dropped stone cold dead for the second time in three weeks.

Daryl McCullough

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Dec 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/6/98
to
Ricardo says...

Photopia spoilers!!!

>Ummm, it's SF since in the last scene Alley is described as
>growing out of a larval(?) stage and the Photopia machine
>seems like some futuristic device.

You can call it a larval stage, but we humans like
to refer to our larvae as "babies". 8^)

I didn't think the Photopia machine was futuristic,
it was just the sort of educational toy
that parents might buy for their budding Einsteins.
It's just a programmed pattern of lights.

Off the topic announcement: My wife and I recently
got back from China, where we picked up a little
larval stage human of our own. (In ordinary English:
we adopted a baby). She's beautiful, and good-natured
and intelligent, and her name is Bridget McCullough
(nice Chinese name, isn't it?)

Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Doeadeer3

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Dec 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/6/98
to

In article <74ajl4$lk5$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>, ad...@princeton.edu (Adam J.
Thornton) writes:

>Doe tells me I'm overreading and being silly, because this has prompted a
>bit of a crisis of faith on my part.

Hey, I never said you were silly. :-)

When one is creating/making a craft/piece of art, one uses what medium one has.


When one is oil painting, one cannot expect to create a sculpture.

Or a watercolor, the mediums are different, the painting techniques are
different.

Fact of life.

Mastery of one's craft is when one can push the medium to its furthest extent.

Some oil painters achieved, through a combination of colors, textures and
perspectives, a real sense of depth in their paintings despite the fact that
they were done on a 2-dimensional surface.

That is skill.

Doe :-)


Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
****************************************************************************
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain

David Glasser

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Dec 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/6/98
to
Ricardo Dague <tri...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> Magnus Olsson wrote:
> >
> > In article <36687FE6...@hotmail.com>,
> > Ricardo Dague <tri...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> > >Adam Cadre wrote:
> > >> > SPOILERS.
>
>
> > >Ack. That nukes my theory that the last scene was a story
> > >made up by Wendy after Alley's death, the same way the
> > >scenes of the winged Wendy were actually stories by Alley.
> > >This would make Photopia a realistic story, not SF,
> >
> > In what ways is Photopia (without your theory) not a "realistic"
> > story? And what makes it SF? (The story-within-a-story is of course
> > SF, kind of, but that's still a story told by one character to
> > another, not the story itself).
>

> Ummm, it's SF since in the last scene Alley is described as
> growing out of a larval(?) stage and the Photopia machine
> seems like some futuristic device.

Metaphor? Blinking lights?

--
David Glasser gla...@NOSPAMuscom.com http://onramp.uscom.com/~glasser
DGlasser @ ifMUD : fovea.retina.net 4000 (webpage fovea.retina.net:4001)

Sadie Hawkins, official band of David Glasser: http://www.port4000.com/
rec.arts.int-fiction FAQ: come.to/raiffaq

Geoff Bailey

unread,
Dec 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/7/98
to

Photopia spoilers still ahead:

In article <1djj9or.1so...@usol-209-186-16-69.uscom.com>,
David Glasser <gla...@DELETEuscom.com> wrote:

>Photopia: Gettin' spoilly wit' it:
>

>Phil Goetz <go...@cse.buffalo.edu> wrote:
>> In article <7488fk$d1c$1...@bartlet.df.lth.se>,
>> Magnus Olsson <m...@bartlet.df.lth.se> wrote:

>>> Despite the serious theme, there's a lot of humour in "Photopia". Did
>>> you notice the IF in jokes?
>>

>> No. I'm thick that way. Or maybe I'm not "in" enough. Clue me in.
>

> Well, in the you-are-Wendy-in-bed scene, look at the bear.
>
> I don't know of any others, unless the ifMUD mindset has just permeated
> me to make me not notice it.

My favourite one takes place during 'Purple', when Ally realises that the
queen is herself.

Cheers,
Geoff.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Geoff Bailey (Fred the Wonder Worm) | Programmer by trade --
ft...@cs.usyd.edu.au | Gameplayer by vocation.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Dec 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/7/98
to
Doeadeer3 (doea...@aol.com) wrote:

> In article <74ajl4$lk5$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>, ad...@princeton.edu (Adam J.
> Thornton) writes:

> >Doe tells me I'm overreading and being silly, because this has prompted a
> >bit of a crisis of faith on my part.

> Hey, I never said you were silly. :-)
>
> When one is creating/making a craft/piece of art, one uses what medium
> one has.

Yeah. There have been a couple of "I am now in despair" posts, and I want
to try to approach this more positively.

Problem: A program can't be as fully interactive as talking to a living,
creative human being. Therefore, NPCs in IF come off like cardboard.

I figure: I don't want to write a game NPC that feels like talking to a
living person. (Well, I *do*, but I know I don't know how right now.) What
I want to do is write a game NPC that feels like reading a book about a
living person. I *know* it's possible to have characters in books
that are convincing and interesting. (I don't know how to do *that*
either, but I figure I should start trying.)

I consider: The problem is player expectation.

One very common technique for "managing expectation" (terrible phrase,
unfortunately useful): Keep the NPCs out of direct interaction. For
example, show them only in flashbacks. (Examples: Babel, Zork Nemesis,
Seventh Guest, Morpheus, Amber -- undoubtedly others in the graphical IF
realm; it's so common there it's become a cliche.)

Another technique: Make the interaction go through an interface which is
so awkward that it swamps the awkwardness of programmed behavior. For
example, no shared language, or only yes/no answers. (Edifice, Spider And
Web, So Far.) Someone once suggested only allowing empathy -- psionic
sensing of emotional state, no specific thoughts or words. I don't know if
that's been done.

So, you're all bright young motivated people. Come up with more ideas.

One might ask: What's the point of writing interactive fiction if the
characters aren't going to be interactive?

I figure: The situation is *not* all-or-nothing. I think Photopia is
dominating discussion to such an extent that people are judging "the
Photopia approach", instead of the particular design decisions Adam made.
(The same thing happened with "In The End" a couple of competitions ago.)
So you don't want to write a linear-action game, where the player can't
affect the outcome of any scene or the overall plot. Could you still use
the writing and interaction techniques in Photopia, in an entirely
different overall structure?

Also, a game can be interactive in some aspects but not others. Can a game
be interactive in ways that evolve complicity, without being interactive
in ways that allow the player to probe the weak spots? I think that's the
key question.

(As an analogy, consider the graphical adventure world again. Games do
very well by *reducing* the user interface, to a single verb: "click".)

--Z

--

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

Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Dec 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/7/98
to
In article <erkyrathF...@netcom.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
[..]

>I figure: I don't want to write a game NPC that feels like talking to a
>living person. (Well, I *do*, but I know I don't know how right now.) What
>I want to do is write a game NPC that feels like reading a book about a
>living person. I *know* it's possible to have characters in books
[..]

>I consider: The problem is player expectation.
>
>One very common technique for "managing expectation" (terrible phrase,
>unfortunately useful): Keep the NPCs out of direct interaction. For
>example, show them only in flashbacks. (Examples: Babel, Zork Nemesis,
[..]

>Another technique: Make the interaction go through an interface which is
>so awkward that it swamps the awkwardness of programmed behavior. For
>example, no shared language, or only yes/no answers. (Edifice, Spider And
>Web, So Far.) Someone once suggested only allowing empathy -- psionic
[..]

>So, you're all bright young motivated people. Come up with more ideas.

I think more precisely the problem is that there are many possible
topics that could be asked about at any one time. Most games give
relatively little guidance where to make the conversation go, so we
get into guess-the-topic. Um. Off-hand, I can think of
- menu-based conversation. we've already done this one, of course.
- in the manual, give the player a list of all possible statements
they can make. they can use these and these only, but at any time they
want. obviously, there are spoiler issues and stuff here.
- all conversations begin with >TALK TO NPC. At this point, a bunch of
conversation topics present themselves, which are listable by typing
>TOPICS. You can talk to the NPC about any of those with the standard
>ASK ABOUT syntax. As the conversation continues, topics move in and
out of the topic listing.
- um. no explicit >TOPICS listing, but >TALK TO NPC can be used at any
time to continue the conversation and hopefully suggest some new
things to talk about.

>One might ask: What's the point of writing interactive fiction if the
>characters aren't going to be interactive?

This is a different question, though. A flaw that I see in a lot of
games which *is* correctable now is that most NPCs don't do much.
Forget talking with them, they're so simple they don't even have
agendas of their own, so of course they end up feeling like props just
to serve a purpose for the character. Not to pick on the comp games
specifically, but consider the aliens&parents in Arrival, the wolf in
Mother Loose, the (and I'm looking for examples of even sort of good
NPCs that appear for more than a scene and having a hard time of it),
even Konstanza in Muse. Umpty years of IF development, and the
farthest we've come in giving the NPCs something to do is that they
follow the PC around and -- here's the clever bit -- make occasional
random remarks so we won't realize they're not real AIs.

Ok, this is a little unfair. For one thing, this is the comp, and NPCs
take a long time to do correctly. For another, there was Purple, which
I can't praise highly enough for having an NPC that doesn't just sit
around waiting for the player to make everything happen. On the third
hand, having NPCs that solve puzzles obviously makes less for the
player to do (of course, you could try increasing the number of
puzzles...).

But still, the only good NPCs I can think of that have any illusion of
self-motivation tend to be the ones that come on stage only briefly.
Even those tend to flop if they have to sit around waiting for players
to guess-the-verb to let them do their thing. I strongly suspect
increases in activity will repay your time far more than thinking up
even more irrelevant conversation topics to have the NPCs respond to.

>--Z
--
Dan Shiovitz || d...@cs.wisc.edu || http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~dbs
"...Incensed by some crack he had made about modern enlightened
thought, modern enlightened thought being practically a personal buddy
of hers, Florence gave him the swift heave-ho and--much against my
will, but she seemed to wish it--became betrothed to me." - PGW, J.a.t.F.S.


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Dec 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/7/98
to
Dan Shiovitz (d...@cs.wisc.edu) wrote:
> >One very common technique for "managing expectation" (terrible phrase,
> >unfortunately useful): Keep the NPCs out of direct interaction. For
> >example, show them only in flashbacks. (Examples: Babel, Zork Nemesis,
> [..]
> >Another technique: Make the interaction go through an interface which is
> >so awkward that it swamps the awkwardness of programmed behavior. For
> >example, no shared language, or only yes/no answers. (Edifice, Spider And
> >Web, So Far.) Someone once suggested only allowing empathy -- psionic
> [..]
> >So, you're all bright young motivated people. Come up with more ideas.

> I think more precisely the problem is that there are many possible
> topics that could be asked about at any one time. Most games give
> relatively little guidance where to make the conversation go, so we
> get into guess-the-topic.

Agreed. However, I don't want to assume *anything* about about interaction
system. *Are* there going to be topics? Maybe it's a given what you're
talking about. Maybe the interaction is on a different level -- answering
questions, giving orders, pointing out objects.

> But still, the only good NPCs I can think of that have any illusion of
> self-motivation tend to be the ones that come on stage only briefly.
> Even those tend to flop if they have to sit around waiting for players
> to guess-the-verb to let them do their thing. I strongly suspect
> increases in activity will repay your time far more than thinking up
> even more irrelevant conversation topics to have the NPCs respond to.

True. Of course, lists of ask-about replies are easy to do, which is why
people do them. Coordinating, say, a roomful of busy workers undertaking
interacting tasks -- that's harder. :-)

Stacy the Procrastinating

unread,
Dec 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/7/98
to
On 7 Dec 1998, Dan Shiovitz wrote:

> I think more precisely the problem is that there are many possible
> topics that could be asked about at any one time. Most games give
> relatively little guidance where to make the conversation go, so we

> get into guess-the-topic. Um. Off-hand, I can think of
> - menu-based conversation. we've already done this one, of course.
> - in the manual, give the player a list of all possible statements
> they can make.

<snip>

> - all conversations begin with >TALK TO NPC. At this point, a bunch of
> conversation topics present themselves, which are listable by typing
> >TOPICS.

<snip>

> - um. no explicit >TOPICS listing, but >TALK TO NPC can be used at any
> time to continue the conversation and hopefully suggest some new
> things to talk about.

I think you nailed it when you said guidance is the problem. The thing
that most impressed me about Photopia, and the real reason I consider it
such a brilliant game, is the way the player is subtly guided by the
writing. I always knew what to do next, because the writing, while never
outright saying "do this," always left me with a clear action in mind. I
suspect that's one of those things that came off looking much easier than
it was, and it's something I've never seen done quite so well in any other
game.

I like the menu-driven system in the context of Photopia, but I
would be leery of seeing that become the standard NPC interface (not to
say it shouldn't ever be done again, just that it shouldn't be done all
the time). The writing tricks in Photopia, though, are something I would
love to see emulated. It's also one possible way to deal with the NPC
problem: if the writing can let the player know what to ask about and
where conversations should go, the interaction can feel much more lifelike
(or, at least, booklike).

- Stacy

*****************************************************************
* bookbug of the brower's bookweb, http://bookweb.simplenet.com *
* ----- *
* to reply to this message, cut the animal out of the address *
*****************************************************************


Daryl McCullough

unread,
Dec 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/7/98
to
erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) says...

>Problem: A program can't be as fully interactive as talking to a living,
>creative human being. Therefore, NPCs in IF come off like cardboard.

Right. That's part of the answer to the question you asked long
ago: why the trend in IF towards surrealism/magical realism? In
a surreal, dreamlike setting, you don't expect NPCs to
behave like real people; you expect them to be cyphers, or
metaphors. In a dream, you don't expect a real conversation.

>Another technique: Make the interaction go through an interface which is
>so awkward that it swamps the awkwardness of programmed behavior. For
>example, no shared language, or only yes/no answers. (Edifice, Spider And
>Web, So Far.) Someone once suggested only allowing empathy -- psionic

>sensing of emotional state, no specific thoughts or words. I don't know if
>that's been done.

I once thought that for comic effect, it might work to have
a game that takes place on an alien world, where one finds
a *really* *bad* universal translator (perhaps a Microsoft
product). Then the player could "say" whatever he wants to
the NPCs, but the stupid translator will mangle it into something
completely different.

I think if it's done right, players might be willing to
pretend that their communication problems are in the
game-world rather than real-world limitations of IF.

David Glasser

unread,
Dec 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/8/98
to
Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> wrote:

> erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) says...


>
> >Another technique: Make the interaction go through an interface which is
> >so awkward that it swamps the awkwardness of programmed behavior. For
> >example, no shared language, or only yes/no answers. (Edifice, Spider And
> >Web, So Far.) Someone once suggested only allowing empathy -- psionic
> >sensing of emotional state, no specific thoughts or words. I don't know if
> >that's been done.
>
> I once thought that for comic effect, it might work to have
> a game that takes place on an alien world, where one finds
> a *really* *bad* universal translator (perhaps a Microsoft
> product). Then the player could "say" whatever he wants to
> the NPCs, but the stupid translator will mangle it into something
> completely different.
>
> I think if it's done right, players might be willing to
> pretend that their communication problems are in the
> game-world rather than real-world limitations of IF.

Actually, that was basically my excuse for TC5 in VirtuaTech, though it
may not have been explicit enough: "It's not *my* buggy AI, it's Virtua
Inc.'s!"

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Dec 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/9/98
to
gla...@DELETEuscom.com says...

>Actually, that was basically my excuse for TC5 in VirtuaTech, though it
>may not have been explicit enough: "It's not *my* buggy AI, it's Virtua
>Inc.'s!"

Sorry for my ignorance, but I've never heard of VirtuaTech. Is that
an Inform game?

robb_s...@juno.com

unread,
Dec 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/9/98
to

> Problem: A program can't be as fully interactive as talking to a living,
> creative human being. Therefore, NPCs in IF come off like cardboard.
> I figure: I don't want to write a game NPC that feels like talking to a
> living person. (Well, I *do*, but I know I don't know how right now.) What
> I want to do is write a game NPC that feels like reading a book about a
> living person. I *know* it's possible to have characters in books
> that are convincing and interesting. (I don't know how to do *that*
> either, but I figure I should start trying.)
> I consider: The problem is player expectation.
> So, you're all bright young motivated people. Come up with more ideas.


One of the reasons I think Level 9's "Knight Orc" is so solid is because it
deals with this kind of thing (successfully, IMHO). The player, not being
human, isn't really expected to converse with the NPCs in the game because
they are mostly aggressive, dangerous bigots. Besides that, the game will
update the status of most NPCs each turn in a typically degrading manner. For
instance, the player might type in "inventory" and the game displays it and
afterwards will comment on whoever is in the room: "Kris the Ant-warrior
picks her nose. Denzyl peers at you suspeciously." So the game also gives the
player the idea that these characters are not *worth* conversing with, per
se. Because they're a bunch of losers.

They are still developed, however. If they were simply animate objects to use
in the game (and a lot of NPCs, especially later, have that use) then it
would be like manipulating the monks in Lode Runner and not be terribly
effective use of genre. But I'd maintain that even though you rarely get any
information out of most of the NPCs in the game, they are still quite a
number of memorable ones (due to their actions, descriptions and the way they
are involved in puzzles).

> One very common technique for "managing expectation" (terrible phrase,
> unfortunately useful): Keep the NPCs out of direct interaction. For
> example, show them only in flashbacks. (Examples: Babel, Zork Nemesis,

> Seventh Guest, Morpheus, Amber -- undoubtedly others in the graphical IF
> realm; it's so common there it's become a cliche.)

> Another technique: Make the interaction go through an interface which is
> so awkward that it swamps the awkwardness of programmed behavior. For
> example, no shared language, or only yes/no answers. (Edifice, Spider And
> Web, So Far.) Someone once suggested only allowing empathy -- psionic
> sensing of emotional state, no specific thoughts or words. I don't know if
> that's been done.

> So, you're all bright young motivated people. Come up with more ideas.

I liked that one scene in "Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls"
where, when the player gets back to his dorm room, the kids who live on the
same floor as him are all playing a D&D-type game (Malls and Muggers, I
think). It was kind of set up as a running joke, as a scripted portion of the
game will occur after every turn (and then start over from the top if you
loiter in the room). I think that's a good technique: it provides an excuse
as to why the NPCs would not be able to talk about any and all subjects
("Sorry Ernie, I'm really involved in this game right now, ask me later") and
provide a solid opportunity for NPC depth both when nothing is going on and
when the player does get to a programmed topic of conversation ("Duffy rolls
the dice, generating a 20. 'Dammit, I broke my brass knuckles!' He looks up
at you and responds, 'I think the statue you're looking for is located in the
computer room.'"). Getting the NPCs involved in something really funny that
demands their attention lowers player expectation.

[An aside: I haven't played Four in One yet, but based on the author's
comments it seems like he implemented this kind of thing. Like, Groucho's got
better things to do then stick around waiting for you to film him.]


> (As an analogy, consider the graphical adventure world again. Games do
> very well by *reducing* the user interface, to a single verb: "click".)

Well, they *sell* well, anyway. =) Personally I haven't found a graphical
click- based adventure to be as satisfying as anything by Infocom or Magnetic
Scrolls for years now (but that's just me). I thought it was pretty
depressing that Starship Titanic sold so relatively poorly -- it kind of
sends a message that people aren't interested in typing anything in their
adventure games (and I thought Douglas Adams made a lot of sense when he said
that the internet & e- mail has brought typing back into style).


Robb Sherwin
www.geocities.com/Area51/Nebula/1556
robb_s...@juno.com


--
"How many shitty Billy Joes can one team start in a year? Who's up for week 8,
the lead singer for Green Day?" -- Brian Gramling on the New Orleans Saints

-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own

TenthStone

unread,
Dec 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/9/98
to
Daryl McCullough thus inscribed this day of 6 Dec 1998 09:29:53 -0800:

>Off the topic announcement: My wife and I recently
>got back from China, where we picked up a little
>larval stage human of our own. (In ordinary English:
>we adopted a baby). She's beautiful, and good-natured
>and intelligent, and her name is Bridget McCullough
>(nice Chinese name, isn't it?)

Congratulations!

-----------

The imperturbable TenthStone
tenth...@hotmail.com mcc...@erols.com mcc...@gsgis.k12.va.us

Stephen Granade

unread,
Dec 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/9/98
to
On Wed, 9 Dec 1998, TenthStone wrote:

> Daryl McCullough thus inscribed this day of 6 Dec 1998 09:29:53 -0800:
> >Off the topic announcement: My wife and I recently
> >got back from China, where we picked up a little
> >larval stage human of our own. (In ordinary English:
> >we adopted a baby). She's beautiful, and good-natured
> >and intelligent, and her name is Bridget McCullough
> >(nice Chinese name, isn't it?)
>
> Congratulations!

Baby cries!

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | Interested in adventure games?
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | Visit Mining Co.'s IF Page
Duke University, Physics Dept | http://interactfiction.miningco.com


David Glasser

unread,
Dec 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/10/98
to
Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> wrote:

> gla...@DELETEuscom.com says...
>
> >Actually, that was basically my excuse for TC5 in VirtuaTech, though it
> >may not have been explicit enough: "It's not *my* buggy AI, it's Virtua
> >Inc.'s!"
>
> Sorry for my ignorance, but I've never heard of VirtuaTech. Is that
> an Inform game?

It's ok; it was rather forgettable. It was my TADS entry in last year's
competition. Came in 21st out of 30-some, which was rather nice for my
first game. The goal was to print out a report, and the game included
such enjoyable puzzles as calling tech support. I think the general
opinion of it was that there wasn't much bad about it, but there wasn't
much good either.

Phil Goetz

unread,
Dec 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/10/98
to
In article <Pine.SOL.3.96.981207140417.15376A-100000@eclipse>,

Stacy the Procrastinating <sc...@okapi.columbia.edu> wrote:
>I like the menu-driven system in the context of Photopia, but I
>would be leery of seeing that become the standard NPC interface (not to
>say it shouldn't ever be done again, just that it shouldn't be done all
>the time). The writing tricks in Photopia, though, are something I would

Are y'all dead-set against menu-driven Choose-Your-Own-Adventure
IF? It /would/ let you write believable characters.
In some cases the gain in character would outweigh
the loss of interactivity.

I think CYOAs have a bad name because they were usually done badly,
not because it's a bad form.

Have any of you made CYOA menu-driven prototypes
of your games to test them before coding the more interactive versions?
(Or used Inform or TADS to write prototypes for graphical games?)

Phil go...@zoesis.com

Eric O'Dell

unread,
Dec 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/11/98
to
On 10 Dec 1998 21:43:21 GMT, go...@cse.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) wrote:

>Are y'all dead-set against menu-driven Choose-Your-Own-Adventure
>IF? It /would/ let you write believable characters.
>In some cases the gain in character would outweigh
>the loss of interactivity.

I will reluctantly confess to liking CYOA's -- at least, I did when I
was a teenager, especially Steve Jackson's _Sorcery!_ series, which
different from the Bantam CYOA(tm) line in that they were larger and
more finely grained, plus they had the spellbook gimmick and a
dice-based combat system.

That being said, I think there are two drawbacks to CYOA's, aside from
the loss of interactivity:

1. If you want to approach "real" literature (cf. J.L. Borges' _The
Garden of Forking Paths_), the work will be exceedingly large.

2. Personally, I think CYOA is better suited to print form than to a
screen.

>I think CYOAs have a bad name because they were usually done badly,
>not because it's a bad form.

Agreed.

>Have any of you made CYOA menu-driven prototypes
>of your games to test them before coding the more interactive versions?
>(Or used Inform or TADS to write prototypes for graphical games?)

I believe there's a TADS library for that purpose, but why bother? If
you don't want graphics and sound, you can do a reasonably good job in
something like 100 lines of C, and if you do, you may as well use an
ordinary HTML browser, Adobe Acrobat, or Macromedia Director,
depending on how far you want to go (and how much you can spend).


--Eric


+-------------------------------------------------------------------+
| "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_ |
+-------------------------------------------------------------------+

Mark J Musante

unread,
Dec 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/11/98
to
Eric O'Dell (eod...@pobox.com) wrote:
> I believe there's a TADS library for that purpose

Yes! It's at
ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/tads/examples/cyoa_lib.zip

> but why bother?

Oh. Um, well, that guy over there wrote it. Yeah, him. The one behind
that stack of TADS manuals with the signs "portability" and "mild
encryption" taped to them.


-=- Mark -=-

Erik Max Francis

unread,
Dec 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/11/98
to
Phil Goetz wrote:

> Have any of you made CYOA menu-driven prototypes
> of your games to test them before coding the more interactive
> versions?

I've written some m4 macros for putting together a stateless (the only
state is "what room you're in," though strictly speaking, it doesn't
have to be a room) CYOA engine which outputs HTML; the source file is
itself one very large list of the rooms, which gets chopped up by awk
and processed into HTML accordingly.

The only existing implementation is a particularly rude CYOA parody.

The format looks like this:

# outside-house.jyoa
TITLE(Outside the white house)
IMAGE(house)

So you're outside the house. Congratulations.<p>

OPTION(through-window, try to crawl through the window?)
OPTION(around-back, poke around behind the house?)
OPTION(down-driveway, go down the driveway?)

etc.

--
Erik Max Francis / email m...@alcyone.com / whois mf303 / icq 16063900
Alcyone Systems / irc maxxon (efnet) / finger m...@finger.alcyone.com
San Jose, CA / languages En, Eo / web http://www.alcyone.com/max/
USA / icbm 37 20 07 N 121 53 38 W / &tSftDotIotE
\
/ I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.
/ Albert Einstein

Erik Max Francis

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Dec 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/11/98
to
Eric O'Dell wrote:

> I will reluctantly confess to liking CYOA's -- at least, I did when I
> was a teenager, especially Steve Jackson's _Sorcery!_ series, which
> different from the Bantam CYOA(tm) line in that they were larger and
> more finely grained, plus they had the spellbook gimmick and a
> dice-based combat system.

I came across one of the _Sorcery_ books long after the CYOA craze had
died down, and they're quite entertaining. That was something that was
distinctly lacking in the CYOA books -- some kind of state. I thought
the _Sorcery_ books were a good way of doing that -- the state is how
healthy you are, essentially, which will make you want to take different
paths (i.e., trying to avoid a monster rather than fighting him, etc.).

There were also some (I've only seen one) CYOA books based on Zork,
which were particularly unimaginative. They attempted to add a state by
saying "You have found a green widget," at some point during the story,
and then later, when that becomes relevant, asking, "Did you find the
green widget? If so, turn to page X. If not, turn to page Y." They
even had a few red herrings in there, asking if you had gotten objects
that never appeared in the game, to make sure you weren't cheating.

> 1. If you want to approach "real" literature (cf. J.L. Borges' _The
> Garden of Forking Paths_), the work will be exceedingly large.

Agreed.

> 2. Personally, I think CYOA is better suited to print form than to a
> screen.

Well, some people don't like electronic books at all.

> >I think CYOAs have a bad name because they were usually done badly,
> >not because it's a bad form.
>
> Agreed.

Without a doubt. The target audience for traditional CYOAs has always
been children of juveniles, as far as I know, so it's not surprising
that the quality isn't very good.

> I believe there's a TADS library for that purpose, but why bother? If
> you don't want graphics and sound, you can do a reasonably good job in
> something like 100 lines of C, and if you do, you may as well use an
> ordinary HTML browser, Adobe Acrobat, or Macromedia Director,
> depending on how far you want to go (and how much you can spend).

See my other post on some awk chopping and an m4 macro set which dumps
out HTML.

David Glasser

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Dec 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/12/98
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Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com> wrote:

> Without a doubt. The target audience for traditional CYOAs has always
> been children of juveniles, as far as I know, so it's not surprising
> that the quality isn't very good.

Now, now, now, one shouldn't be implying that CYOA's publisher promotes
juvenile sex, eh?

Bob Newell

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Dec 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/12/98
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Mark J Musante (olo...@world.std.com) wrote:
: Yes! It's at

Because, actually, the library is really very good, convenient, and easy.
If you write a little Perl front end, then coding CYOA can be done
essentially as fast as you can type. (However it wouldn't hurt to spend a
little time developing your story first....)

If you are into proprietary stuff and Windows-only, there is also the
commercial "StoryHarp" which works reasonably well and is also quick and
easy.

Bob Newell
Los Alamos, New Mexico

Fred M. Sloniker

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Dec 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/13/98
to
On Fri, 11 Dec 1998 15:44:49 -0800, Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com>
wrote:

>There were also some (I've only seen one) CYOA books based on Zork,


>which were particularly unimaginative. They attempted to add a state by
>saying "You have found a green widget," at some point during the story,
>and then later, when that becomes relevant, asking, "Did you find the
>green widget? If so, turn to page X. If not, turn to page Y." They
>even had a few red herrings in there, asking if you had gotten objects
>that never appeared in the game, to make sure you weren't cheating.

Excuse me while I gag and choke remembering the particularly bad one
of those I saw... there was only one 'good' ending, and in order to
get it, you had to follow an exact path through the choices. Diverge
at any point, and you died gruesomely at some later point...

...hmm. Rather similar to the source material, I suppose. (:3


Erik Max Francis

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Dec 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/13/98
to
Fred M. Sloniker wrote:

> Excuse me while I gag and choke remembering the particularly bad one
> of those I saw... there was only one 'good' ending, and in order to
> get it, you had to follow an exact path through the choices. Diverge
> at any point, and you died gruesomely at some later point...

They're all pretty much the same calibre. I have one of them buried in
a mountain of mass market books somewhere, but I don't remember if it's
the one you describe. Needless to say, it's not very good.

--
Erik Max Francis / email m...@alcyone.com / whois mf303 / icq 16063900
Alcyone Systems / irc maxxon (efnet) / finger m...@finger.alcyone.com
San Jose, CA / languages En, Eo / web http://www.alcyone.com/max/
USA / icbm 37 20 07 N 121 53 38 W / &tSftDotIotE
\

/ God will forgive me; that's his business.
/ Heinrich Heine

p a t c h.net

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Dec 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/13/98
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On Sun, 13 Dec 1998 02:25:04 -0800, Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com>
wrote:

>Fred M. Sloniker wrote:


>
>> Excuse me while I gag and choke remembering the particularly bad one
>> of those I saw... there was only one 'good' ending, and in order to
>> get it, you had to follow an exact path through the choices. Diverge
>> at any point, and you died gruesomely at some later point...
>
>They're all pretty much the same calibre. I have one of them buried in
>a mountain of mass market books somewhere, but I don't remember if it's
>the one you describe. Needless to say, it's not very good.

My favorite series were the Time-Traveller series which were more
intermediate CYOAs -- almost CYOA on steroids. A little bit of
inventory handling but what made the books stand out was the fact that
you were travelling through time and space as you flipped the pages
(whoah, immersive) and so sometimes a story path loop would pop up,
yet be totally justified. Unless you want to argue the paradoxes of
being in the same place twice, but I won't go into that.

Some of the other bizarre tricks CYOA books (and their ilk, since CYOA
was, I believe a trademark, and I had plenty of other books with
series titles like Pick-A-Path or Twist-A-Plot) used were inanities
like "Flip a coin: Is it heads? Turn to page 34..." and even ones that
sent you down a path based on your age. Exhausting the story tree
with those were annoying, since I felt lying about my age was a worse
moral decision than flipping back and taking a different path based on
action (or, even, reverse-engineering ending paths.) The worst one
was in some car racing book where your uncle was dying and needed a
blood transfusion, and if you were 18 or older, you could legally give
him blood and save the day, but if you were younger (and these books
really were targeted at a younger age group) sorry, you can't give
blood, and your uncle dies. Talk about cheap.

The absolute best CYOA book was "Hyperspace". I'm surprised it was
included in the series for such young kids. Heavy on the
science-fiction with drastically different plots based on your actions
in the beginning, with I believe at least one death ending within
three "turns" of beginning. The opening plot centers around this
mysterious jar you receive from a scientist relative. The contents of
the jar are even different for each storyline. And the endings - woo!
some of the endings just scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a
young'un, and probably still would today. Spatch Bob sez check it
out.


--
der spatchel reading, mass 01867
resident cranky fovea.retina.net 4000
spatchCoaster! http://spatch.ne.mediaone.net/coasters/
"Here's how the world will end: Kittens Discover Fire" - J. Kujawa

David Brain

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Dec 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/14/98
to
In article <3671AE71...@alcyone.com>, m...@alcyone.com (Erik Max Francis)
wrote:

> I came across one of the _Sorcery_ books long after the CYOA craze had
> died down, and they're quite entertaining. That was something that was
> distinctly lacking in the CYOA books -- some kind of state. I thought
> the _Sorcery_ books were a good way of doing that -- the state is how
> healthy you are, essentially, which will make you want to take different
> paths (i.e., trying to avoid a monster rather than fighting him, etc.).

I don't think the original CYOAs had a major UK publication, but we benefitted instead
from the "Fighting Fantasy" series, which started with /The Warlock of Firetop Mountain/
and ran unstoppably for much of the next fifteen years at least.
The FF books added role-playing attributes to the character you played, which affected
the way you played. The really well constructed ones had some very sneaky alternate
routes and were *much* longer than the CYOA books (as well as occasionally having
real plots). Steve Jackson's[1] Sorcery! series evolved from the FF books, and IMO is the
peak of the form - apart from a couple of bugs in the numbering, the integration of the
magic system made the story much stronger than the regular ones, and the feeling of
satisfaction when you finally get to the end is amazing...

[1] That's the UK one, not the US one.
--
David Brain

Apotheosis can be somewhat unnerving.
-- Expecting Someone Taller, Tom Holt


David Glasser

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Dec 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/14/98
to
<spatula@s> wrote:

> My favorite series were the Time-Traveller series which were more
> intermediate CYOAs -- almost CYOA on steroids. A little bit of
> inventory handling but what made the books stand out was the fact that
> you were travelling through time and space as you flipped the pages
> (whoah, immersive) and so sometimes a story path loop would pop up,
> yet be totally justified. Unless you want to argue the paradoxes of
> being in the same place twice, but I won't go into that.

Ooh, I remember these! You had to agree not to break some set of laws
(the ones I read had something where you could break the
don't-kill-anything rule near the beginning). They were educational,
too: I read some George Washington one and a Break Nazi/Japanese Codes
one.

ObIF: Because of the second one, I had some clue what a certain part of
Jigsaw was about.

--
David Glasser gla...@NOSPAMuscom.com http://onramp.uscom.com/~glasser

DGlasser @ ifMUD : fovea.retina.net:4001 | r.a.i-f FAQ: come.to/raiffaq

Erik Max Francis

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Dec 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/14/98
to
David Brain wrote:

> I don't think the original CYOAs had a major UK publication, but we
> benefitted instead
> from the "Fighting Fantasy" series, which started with /The Warlock of
> Firetop Mountain/
> and ran unstoppably for much of the next fifteen years at least.
> The FF books added role-playing attributes to the character you
> played, which affected
> the way you played. The really well constructed ones had some very
> sneaky alternate
> routes and were *much* longer than the CYOA books (as well as
> occasionally having
> real plots).

Yes, these definitely sound like a better way to go. All of the CYOA
books I came across when I was a kid were stateless -- there was no
depth to the character himself (or herself) at all.

Adding a character with stats and abilities really adds quite a bit of
depth, because it opens up a whole new set of motivations for making
choices -- should I run or should I fight, should I cast this or that
spell (in the case of _Sorcery!_ in particular), etc.

> Steve Jackson's[1] Sorcery! series evolved from the FF books, and IMO
> is the
> peak of the form - apart from a couple of bugs in the numbering, the
> integration of the
> magic system made the story much stronger than the regular ones, and
> the feeling of
> satisfaction when you finally get to the end is amazing...

It's pretty neat. Plus they don't bother forcing the elements of the
story to page boundaries; they just separate them by paragraphs and
numbers. The _Sorcery!_ book I have has already 500 nodes.

> [1] That's the UK one, not the US one.

Ah! I didn't realize that; I just presumed it was the same Steve
Jackson from Steve Jackson Games (didn't seem like a bad assumption). I
see, though, that my copy of _Sorcery! 3: The seven serpents_ does
indeed indicate that it was originally published in Great Britain.

Learn something new every day.

--
Erik Max Francis / email m...@alcyone.com / whois mf303 / icq 16063900
Alcyone Systems / irc maxxon (efnet) / finger m...@finger.alcyone.com
San Jose, CA / languages En, Eo / web http://www.alcyone.com/max/
USA / icbm 37 20 07 N 121 53 38 W / &tSftDotIotE
\

/ Success and failure are equally disastrous.
/ Tennessee Williams

Curt Siffert

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Dec 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/14/98
to

Erik Max Francis wrote in message <3671AE71...@alcyone.com>...
>Eric O'Dell wrote:
>

>> 1. If you want to approach "real" literature (cf. J.L. Borges' _The
>> Garden of Forking Paths_), the work will be exceedingly large.
>
>Agreed.


There *are* ways to work around this. I've been studying this
quite a bit with my site, StorySprawl. If you assume two choices
per chapter, then it grows out of control - it seems the alternative
is to have no choices or short threads, but there are other ways.

StorySprawl allows group authorship of CYOA's - find an
unfinished thread and add onto it. These types of stories on
the web are usually horrid quality with wandering plots that
grow out of control and never end. But by letting some choices
converge in with other alternate threads, you can have the
illusion of choice while still not getting out of control in size.

We've actually managed to finish one complete story on
StorySprawl, so it's proven to me that it's possible. The
threads are far longer than any of the old pre-teen CYOA
books, and it's still a manageable 75 chapters or so in
total. Since we had open submissions, the quality isn't
always great, but with the moderation controls we had, I'm
pretty happy with the outcome. You can even "map" out
the narrative paths to see the structure.

http://www.storysprawl.com/library/

Curt Siffert
StorySprawl admin


David Brain

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Dec 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/15/98
to
In article <367583EC...@alcyone.com>, m...@alcyone.com (Erik Max Francis)
wrote:

> > [1] That's the UK one, not the US one.


>
> Ah! I didn't realize that; I just presumed it was the same Steve
> Jackson from Steve Jackson Games (didn't seem like a bad assumption). I
> see, though, that my copy of _Sorcery! 3: The seven serpents_ does
> indeed indicate that it was originally published in Great Britain.
>
> Learn something new every day.

Yes, it is rather confusing - I didn't realise there were two either until I met the US Steve
Jackson and wondered why he didn't look like the photos of the UK one.
The UK Steve Jackson, like an amazingly large number of "first-generation" RPG writers,
now works at a software development house (Lionhead, I think). This would explain
why the RPG market is rather short of talent ATM, whereas the Computer Games world
is bursting...

Joe Mason

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Dec 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/15/98
to
David Brain <da...@atlan.cix.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <367583EC...@alcyone.com>, m...@alcyone.com (Erik Max Francis)
>wrote:
>
>> > [1] That's the UK one, not the US one.
>>
>> Ah! I didn't realize that; I just presumed it was the same Steve
>> Jackson from Steve Jackson Games (didn't seem like a bad assumption). I
>> see, though, that my copy of _Sorcery! 3: The seven serpents_ does
>> indeed indicate that it was originally published in Great Britain.
>>
>> Learn something new every day.

(This time I received the original, but couldn't reply to it because my
news server wasn't working. Here's my second try.)

I remember one of the FF books being dedicated to "the /other/ Steve Jackson".
Or at least there was a "thanks to..."

Joe
--
Congratulations, Canada, on preserving your national igloo.
-- Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas

JamesG

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Dec 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/15/98
to
Erik Max Francis wrote:
> David Brain wrote:
re: Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy books.
> > [1] That's the UK one, not the US one.

> Ah! I didn't realize that; I just presumed it was the same Steve
> Jackson from Steve Jackson Games (didn't seem like a bad assumption). I
> see, though, that my copy of _Sorcery! 3: The seven serpents_ does
> indeed indicate that it was originally published in Great Britain.
>
> Learn something new every day.

I made the same assumption initially. Strangely enough Steve Jackson[US]
did write some of the FF books - ghost written under Steve Jackson[UK]'s
name...

JamesG,
is it still ghost writing if it's your name on the cover?
************************************************************************
* Compulsive Volunteer. Will design starships for food. *
* (-o-) http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Corridor/2843 <*> *
* "Making books is a skilled trade, like making clocks." *
* Jean de la Bruyère *
************************************************************************

David The CyberGuineaPig Jacobs

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Dec 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/18/98
to
On Fri, 11 Dec 1998 15:44:49 -0800, Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com>
wrote:

>There were also some (I've only seen one) CYOA books based on Zork,


>which were particularly unimaginative. They attempted to add a state by

The first book was "The Forces of Krill", the second "The Malifestro
Quest" and the third "The Cavern of Doom". They were written by S.
Eric Meretzky (Steve Meretzky, not wanting to besmirch his name?).
They _were_ particularly bad IMHO, on par with the actual CYOA series.

See, I knew my compulsive stockpiling of books would come in useful
someday. #%o)


David "The CyberGuineaPig" Jacobs
-- dmja...@zipworld.com.au --
Proudly subverting Australia's political
system in the name of the Mythos.

Phil Goetz

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Dec 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/19/98
to
In article <3675c7cc$0$1...@nntp1.ba.best.com>,

Curt Siffert <sif...@museworld.com> wrote:
>
>Erik Max Francis wrote in message <3671AE71...@alcyone.com>...
>>Eric O'Dell wrote:
>>
>
>>> 1. If you want to approach "real" literature (cf. J.L. Borges' _The
>>> Garden of Forking Paths_), the work will be exceedingly large.
>>
>>Agreed.
>
>
>There *are* ways to work around this. I've been studying this
>quite a bit with my site, StorySprawl. If you assume two choices
>per chapter, then it grows out of control - it seems the alternative
>is to have no choices or short threads, but there are other ways.

The novel _Hopscotch_ by, hmm, Cortazar? circa 1960, was supposedly multi-pathed,
though I think it was simply that there were a large number of optional
chapters, and you got a different story if you left them all out than if
you put them all in, perhaps because they provided context that made
you reinterpret the events in the nonoptional chapters. I don't know;
I didn't read the book. Has anybody read it, and can explain it?

Phil go...@zoesis.com

Phil Goetz

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Dec 19, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/19/98
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In article <1djw6da.m90...@usol-209-186-16-79.uscom.com>,

David Glasser <gla...@DELETEuscom.com> wrote:
>Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com> wrote:
>
>> Without a doubt. The target audience for traditional CYOAs has always
>> been children of juveniles, as far as I know, so it's not surprising
>> that the quality isn't very good.
>
>Now, now, now, one shouldn't be implying that CYOA's publisher promotes
>juvenile sex, eh?

"I believe in making the world safe for our
children, but not for our children's children, because I don't believe
children should be having sex." - Deep Thoughts from Jack Handey

Phil

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