# {ANNOUNCE} PrologueComp

8 views

### David Samuel Myers

Apr 26, 2001, 10:02:21 AM4/26/01
to
[ANNOUNCE] PrologueComp

May 28th, 10:59 pm

It has to get done tonight.

You're aching all over from fatigue. Staring at the blank screen for so
long has provided you with a second problem, though- a splitting headache.
The first problem, of course, is that you have to finish this contest
submission NOW.

The organizers have asked for a prologue. That didn't seem so hard at the
time, did it? But when the clock is ticking, it's a little harder to
concentrate.

You decide to glance through the contest rules again:

1. One entry per person.
2. 2001 bytes or less.
3. Intended as the prologue/first screen/intro/
before-the-author-credit text from a hypothetical game
4. Juried by Paul O'Brian, Nick Montfort, Dennis Jerz, Robb
Sherwin, Digby McWiggle, and organizer David Myers.
5. All entries to be display on a to-be-specified website at
the end of the judging.
6. Many honorable mentions to be named.
7. Top prize will be a choice of
a. "If on a winter's night a traveler" by Italo Calvino
(sugg. by NM, a book of beginnings to novels)
b. "PICK UP AXE" (sugg. by DJ, a play with IF roots)
c. "It was a Dark and Stormy Night" (sugg. by DM, a
collection of the best entries of the Bulwer-Lytton
contest for the most awful opening line to a
hypothetically awful novel... NB- we hope the
entries in THIS contest are not awful.)
d. "The Book Of Adventure Games II" by Kim Schuette.
(sugg. by PoB, this contains maps and walkthroughs
for lots of old-skool adventures, including Inhumane
by Andrew Plotkin)
e. IFComp2000 CD (sugg. by RS)
8. Entries should be ASCII text or HTML, though plain ASCII
is encouraged heavily.
8a. HTML entries should not use graphics, java, javascript,
animated text, or blinking text. Colored text and
colored backgrounds are fine.
8b. The main reason for allowing HTML is to allow italics and
bold, should you need them.
8c. Your HTML tags (e.g., <hr>, <p>, <i>, </i>) count against
9. Entries should set the stage of the hypothetical game,
and can include any textual introductory material that
would seem appropriate in a real game, up to and including
the initial room description a player would see for
the first time. No prompts should appear until then.
10. For disclosure purposes, let it be noted that anyone judging
or organizing this contest can offer a prologue for
comment from other judges. These submissions will not
be considered as regular entries, and are not eligible
for the short list (honorable mentions) or top prize award.
11. Entries should be submitted via email to dmy...@ic.sunysb.edu
by 11:59 pm on May 28. Winners will be announced by June 8.

As a mock-up example of an acceptable entry created for
demonstration purposes, take a look at the following page,
which consists of an excerpted, minimally HTML-ized version
of the opening bits of the book Heart of Darkness, by Conrad:

Enjoy!

Only a short amount of time left. You'd better get cracking.

### Magnus Olsson

Apr 29, 2001, 5:05:29 AM4/29/01
to
In article <3ae81...@dilbert.ic.sunysb.edu>,
David Samuel Myers <dmy...@ic.sunysb.edu> wrote:
>[ANNOUNCE] PrologueComp

> 1. One entry per person.
> 2. 2001 bytes or less.
> 3. Intended as the prologue/first screen/intro/
> before-the-author-credit text from a hypothetical game

This is a great idea! (If nothing else because here, at long last,
is a mini-comp where I actually stand a chance of completing an
entry).

Not that I'm trying to second-guess the judges or anything, but it
would be nice if you could reveal just a little more of what you're
looking for here: good writing in general, or good game prologues?

OK, that probably sounded hopelessly obtuse, but I hope you get what
I'm after - is the primary goal of the competition to get great prose
disguised as game prologues, or great game prologues as such? And in
what way does a game prologue differ from, say, the opening scene of a
novel (apart from things like second-person-present-tense)?

As I said,I'm not trying to second-guess the judges, but it would be
illuminating to hear some opinions on the matter.

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

### Emily Short

Apr 29, 2001, 2:11:23 PM4/29/01
to
In article <9cglgp\$2k3\$1...@news.lth.se>, m...@pobox.com (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

> In article <3ae81...@dilbert.ic.sunysb.edu>,
> David Samuel Myers <dmy...@ic.sunysb.edu> wrote:
> >[ANNOUNCE] PrologueComp
> > 1. One entry per person.
> > 2. 2001 bytes or less.
> > 3. Intended as the prologue/first screen/intro/
> > before-the-author-credit text from a hypothetical game
>

> Not that I'm trying to second-guess the judges or anything, but it
> would be nice if you could reveal just a little more of what you're
> looking for here: good writing in general, or good game prologues?

I usually wind up having to go back and rewrite the prologue once the game
is partly or mostly concluded. The point isn't just to have good prose,
but to have prose that gives the player all the information he needs to go
on playing the game, yet draws him in with a quick hook. (Whether this
succeeds is anyone's guess, but that's what I'm going for, and I can't
judge whether it's going to be workable until I've got part of the game
written and know what the player is going to have to do.)

--
Emily Short
http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/index.htm

### Andrew Plotkin

Apr 29, 2001, 11:52:05 PM4/29/01
to
In rec.arts.int-fiction Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:

> [...] when I write games,

> I usually wind up having to go back and rewrite the prologue once the game
> is partly or mostly concluded. The point isn't just to have good prose,
> but to have prose that gives the player all the information he needs to go
> on playing the game, yet draws him in with a quick hook. (Whether this
> succeeds is anyone's guess, but that's what I'm going for, and I can't
> judge whether it's going to be workable until I've got part of the game
> written and know what the player is going to have to do.)

This is an interesting thread, now that you mention it.

When I write a game, the prologue is the first piece of text I write.
But at that point the game is mostly designed -- not in detail, but
I've certainly decided what information the player has at the
beginning and what he'll need. So I don't have to revise it later.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
http://www.gopbi.com/partners/pbpost/news/election2000_pbgore.html

### Dan Shiovitz

Apr 30, 2001, 4:13:08 AM4/30/01
to
In article <9cinh5\$2n2\$1...@news.panix.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>In rec.arts.int-fiction Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>
>> [...] when I write games,
>> I usually wind up having to go back and rewrite the prologue once the game
>> is partly or mostly concluded. The point isn't just to have good prose,
>> but to have prose that gives the player all the information he needs to go
>> on playing the game, yet draws him in with a quick hook. (Whether this
[..]

>This is an interesting thread, now that you mention it.
>
>When I write a game, the prologue is the first piece of text I write.
>But at that point the game is mostly designed -- not in detail, but
>I've certainly decided what information the player has at the
>beginning and what he'll need. So I don't have to revise it later.

I write the prologue when I have the feel of the game down. This isn't
always the first text I write -- sometimes I do some of the starting
rooms and bumble around writing the text there and working out puzzles
and so on as the game settles, but yeah, it's usually pretty early on,
because I wouldn't be writing anything if I didn't have the game roughed out.

Sometimes the prologue calls for a clever idea and I don't have one
for a while, or I'm inspired with a better way to get the same thing
across, or I think up some extra little tricksy hinty thing to
stick in, and I revise the prologue for that reason.

I can't help wondering if this depends more on the person's general
writing habits (ie, whether they revise a lot normally) or more on the
kind of prologue it is. It seems there's a bunch of objectives to
touch on in the prologue -- who the player is, what the game feels
like, what's going on, what's happened in the past, what the initial
goal is -- and prologues that concentrate on different objectives are
probably going to require different amounts of revising as the game is
refined.

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

### Paul O'Brian

Apr 30, 2001, 10:11:39 AM4/30/01
to
On 30 Apr 2001, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> This is an interesting thread, now that you mention it.
>
> When I write a game, the prologue is the first piece of text I write.
> But at that point the game is mostly designed -- not in detail, but
> I've certainly decided what information the player has at the
> beginning and what he'll need. So I don't have to revise it later.

I tend to always have a vision for how I want my game to begin, and my
general process is to write games chronologically, so that I work on the
first scenes first and the last scenes last.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't end up revising the prologue. I
read it so often in play-testing that I almost always end up revising it
multiple times -- not so much for content, but for style and tone.

--
Dearly beloved, we are gathered today in the spirit of IF celebration.
Now let's all read SPAG 24! It's got news, reviews -- all that stuff!
http://www.sparkynet.com/spag

Apr 30, 2001, 10:45:58 AM4/30/01
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> writes:

> In rec.arts.int-fiction Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>
> > [...] when I write games,
> > I usually wind up having to go back and rewrite the prologue once the game
> > is partly or mostly concluded. The point isn't just to have good prose,
> > but to have prose that gives the player all the information he needs to go
> > on playing the game, yet draws him in with a quick hook. (Whether this
> > succeeds is anyone's guess, but that's what I'm going for, and I can't
> > judge whether it's going to be workable until I've got part of the game
> > written and know what the player is going to have to do.)
>
> This is an interesting thread, now that you mention it.
>
> When I write a game, the prologue is the first piece of text I write.
> But at that point the game is mostly designed -- not in detail, but
> I've certainly decided what information the player has at the
> beginning and what he'll need. So I don't have to revise it later.

Like you, by the time I actually start coding I have a good feel for
the shape the game will take, and my prologue is written
accordingly. I tend to revise that piece of writing the most, though,
going back and tweaking it as the writing and coding progresses.

Stephen

--
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | Visit About Interactive Fiction
Duke University, Physics Dept | http://interactfiction.about.com

### Jaz

Apr 30, 2001, 1:24:44 PM4/30/01
to

Andrew Plotkin wrote in message <9cinh5\$2n2\$1...@news.panix.com>...

>When I write a game, the prologue is the first piece of text I write.
>But at that point the game is mostly designed -- not in detail, but
>I've certainly decided what information the player has at the
>beginning and what he'll need. So I don't have to revise it later.

I use to plan it all out..
Now I make it up as I go along.

Jaz - Must get rid of the giant Dwarf...

### David Samuel Myers

May 1, 2001, 12:39:25 AM5/1/01
to
In rec.arts.int-fiction Magnus Olsson <m...@pobox.com> wrote:

> This is a great idea! (If nothing else because here, at long last,
> is a mini-comp where I actually stand a chance of completing an
> entry).

Hope to see yours.

> Not that I'm trying to second-guess the judges or anything, but it
> would be nice if you could reveal just a little more of what you're
> looking for here: good writing in general, or good game prologues?

Purposefully, I did not instruct the judges on this matter. A diversity of
viewpoints is good, especially for a panel situation, anyway.

However, I guess you can expect that some combination of various traits
will have some weight, though not in any mathematical sense, to be sure. I
can imagine different people being sensitive to (in no order):

* good prose
* how good would I expect the game that this intro promises would be
* amount of detail packed into a small package
* clues that seem to indicate a potentially highly original game concept,
one which might not be like that seen before
* depth of insight to the PCs "predicament" (or rather, how much is
* humor
* emotional weight, in general
* etc.

I'm 100% sure I haven't answered your question, but hey, what did you
expect?

> OK, that probably sounded hopelessly obtuse, but I hope you get what
> I'm after - is the primary goal of the competition to get great prose
> disguised as game prologues, or great game prologues as such? And in
> what way does a game prologue differ from, say, the opening scene of a
> novel (apart from things like second-person-present-tense)?

This is a conversation I'd like to begin in this community. I think having
the entries, the comments that will ensue, and posts like yours and the
others that have followed up will lead to a bigger discussion of how
exactly a game is tacked onto a prologue or vice versa. And how they are
connected in general.

The higher questions as to how an opening sequence relates to the opening
of a novel, or of what a player should expect to be told or not told at
the outset- these are questions that I'd hope to firestart through this
endeavor.

There have already been some insightful posts by some writers who appear
to have a wide variety of decisions that they have made about the nature
of opening craft.

> As I said,I'm not trying to second-guess the judges, but it would be
> illuminating to hear some opinions on the matter.

I encourage more discussion on this wavelength from all.

Or maybe... I'm open to ..uh.. the discussion of opening craft of
opening? Adventure of craft opening? (I couldn't resist)

-d

### Dennis Carlyle

May 1, 2001, 1:30:12 AM5/1/01
to

David Samuel Myers wrote in message <3aee2...@dilbert.ic.sunysb.edu>...

>This is a conversation I'd like to begin in this community. I think having
>the entries, the comments that will ensue, and posts like yours and the
>others that have followed up will lead to a bigger discussion of how
>exactly a game is tacked onto a prologue or vice versa. And how they are
>connected in general.
>
>The higher questions as to how an opening sequence relates to the opening
>of a novel, or of what a player should expect to be told or not told at
>the outset- these are questions that I'd hope to firestart through this
>endeavor.
>
>There have already been some insightful posts by some writers who appear
>to have a wide variety of decisions that they have made about the nature
>of opening craft.

David, the example you give -- beginning of the prologue to _Heart of
Darkness_ -- is a great piece of writing (to me), and I know there's a fair
bit of Conrad criticism that focuses on it, partly (I think) because its
setting of structure (narrator -> Marlowe -> Marlowe's story) seems 'modern'
for its time.
But, although you could say there's good setting of mood, and
of the theme, there's really nothing that I can see in the quote that tells
the reader what the plot / quest / problem is going to involve. .... hmm
... well, on second thought, that's not true, because the book, and arguably
Marlowe's 'quest' really _is_ about that larger theme underlying the
specifics of the plot (which is pretty bare-bones). But as an IF prologue,
it would certainly leave things "hanging," giving the player _no_ direction
Still ... if I read this as a prologue to an IF game, I wouldn't care
about that in the least -- at the beginning. I would be _hooked_, and that,
of course, is a big part of the function of a game prologue. And yet, 10
minutes later I might be saying "Too bad ... great writing, but it's not
very interactive, so not the great game I hoped it might be.

Dennis

### Emily Short

May 1, 2001, 5:32:14 PM5/1/01
to

Shiovitz) wrote:

> Sometimes the prologue calls for a clever idea and I don't have one
> for a while, or I'm inspired with a better way to get the same thing
> across, or I think up some extra little tricksy hinty thing to
> stick in, and I revise the prologue for that reason.
>
> I can't help wondering if this depends more on the person's general
> writing habits (ie, whether they revise a lot normally) or more on the
> kind of prologue it is. It seems there's a bunch of objectives to
> touch on in the prologue -- who the player is, what the game feels
> like, what's going on, what's happened in the past, what the initial
> goal is -- and prologues that concentrate on different objectives are
> probably going to require different amounts of revising as the game is
> refined.

I don't think that I 'revise a lot normally' -- at least, it seems that I
change room descriptions less than I change the prologue. The prologue
for Pytho's Mask didn't reach its final form until nearly the end of the
writing process; likewise I think I changed the prologue to Metamorphoses
after I'd already sent it to Stephen as the teaser. Only a few minor
points, in that case, but still. The prologue to Galatea stayed more or
less in its original shape once it was written, IIRC, but that's because I
wanted the player to start off with minimal information.

I guess the point that this leads into is how much/what kinds of planning
people have done when they write the first parts of their games. I have
started several of my games with a programming challenge (conversation
system, simulationist gimmick, whatever) and built up the prose over that,
which probably has something to do with the back-revising nature of my
approach to prologues.

May 11, 2001, 8:14:27 PM5/11/01
to
On 26 Apr 2001 09:02:21 -0500, David Samuel Myers
<dmy...@ic.sunysb.edu> wrote:

>[ANNOUNCE] PrologueComp
>

>You decide to glance through the contest rules again:
>

> ...

> 2. 2001 bytes or less.

What am I doing wrong? Even a relatively short paragraph that I write
ends up being 19,000 bytes (I'm looking a file size in Word).

Thanks,

Lelah

### David Samuel Myers

May 11, 2001, 9:46:47 PM5/11/01
to
In rec.arts.int-fiction Lelah Conrad <l...@nu-world.com> wrote:
>> 2. 2001 bytes or less.
>
> What am I doing wrong? Even a relatively short paragraph that I write
> ends up being 19,000 bytes (I'm looking a file size in Word).

Don't save as a word document. Save as text or text-with-line-breaks. You
should try to be sending as plaintext when you submit anyway. If it's word
format, that's fine (just not preferred), but leave out the viruses and
also check your character count using the Tools menu, or wherever it is
buried in the version you have.

If you still have trouble, let me know.

I drafted up a document (see below) with 1960 chars (counting spaces). I
found that count from Word-->Tools--> Word Count:

40 lines with 49 characters each. Real paragraphs are going to contain
more or less... in any case I drafted the number of characters to fit the
typical "screen or two" of text that you might see in a real game. Twoish
screens of text of not quite full lines will give you about 2K characters.

Viz-

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
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Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

Cheers.

-david

### Kevin Lighton

May 12, 2001, 3:25:31 AM5/12/01
to
In rec.arts.int-fiction David Samuel Myers <dmy...@ic.sunysb.edu> wrote:
> In rec.arts.int-fiction Lelah Conrad <l...@nu-world.com> wrote:
>>> 2. 2001 bytes or less.
>>
>> What am I doing wrong? Even a relatively short paragraph that I write
>> ends up being 19,000 bytes (I'm looking a file size in Word).

> Don't save as a word document. Save as text or text-with-line-breaks. You
> should try to be sending as plaintext when you submit anyway. If it's word
> format, that's fine (just not preferred), but leave out the viruses and
> also check your character count using the Tools menu, or wherever it is
> buried in the version you have.

Also, make sure fast save is disabled... It saves a record of all the changes
that were made and inflates the file size drastically.

Ja, mata
--
Kevin Lighton lig...@bestweb.net or shin...@operamail.com
http://members.tripod.com/~shinma_kl/main.html
"Townsfolk can get downright touchy over the occasional earth-elemental in
the scullery. Can't imagine why..." Quenten _Winds of Fate_

### Paul Guertin

May 12, 2001, 4:20:54 AM5/12/01
to
David Samuel Myers <dmy...@ic.sunysb.edu> wrote:

> In rec.arts.int-fiction Lelah Conrad <l...@nu-world.com> wrote:
> >> 2. 2001 bytes or less.
> >
> > What am I doing wrong? Even a relatively short paragraph that I write
> > ends up being 19,000 bytes (I'm looking a file size in Word).
>
> Don't save as a word document. Save as text or text-with-line-breaks. You
> should try to be sending as plaintext when you submit anyway. If it's word
> format, that's fine (just not preferred), but leave out the viruses and
> also check your character count using the Tools menu, or wherever it is
> buried in the version you have.

Also be aware that a Word .doc contains more than just the text
you see. It might well contain text you previously deleted,
personal information, as well as the aforementioned viruses.
Stories abound of people getting in trouble for sending Word
documents containing sensitive information invisible in Word but

Paul Guertin
p...@sff.net

### Jaz

May 12, 2001, 1:55:54 AM5/12/01
to

Lelah Conrad wrote in message <3afc8009...@news.nu-world.com>...

My parser would be too big for the Comp.

Jaz

### Matthew Russotto

May 12, 2001, 4:50:25 PM5/12/01
to
In article <3afc8009...@news.nu-world.com>,

You're using Word.

Save as plain text if you want shorter byte counts.

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