Innovation Comp results

12 views
Skip to first unread message

David Fisher

unread,
May 1, 2007, 7:59:34 PM5/1/07
to
There was only a single entry in the Innovation Comp, which was from Victor
Gijsbers - making him the automatic winner. Congratulations!

You can download his 10 page essay "Co-authorship and Community" and a short
sample game here:

http://lilith.gotdns.org/~victor/innovationcomp/Innovation.pdf
http://lilith.gotdns.org/~victor/innovationcomp/Figaro.z5

He has already started a thread called "OpenFate - an experiment" to try out
some of these ideas, but I am sure he would appreciate whatever other
feedback you might want to give him.

Here is an excerpt from the essay:

"All the interactive fiction which has been written, all of it, conforms to
a conception of the relationship between the author and the reader that
was natural within the Zork-paradigm, but fails to be natural outside of
it. That conception is as follows: the author creates a world, creates rules
for manipulating that world, and controls the generation of text by the
work based on what happens in the world. The player explores this world,
manipulates it in the ways which were allowed by the author, and reads
the text the author has created. To use a metaphor, the author is the
God of the fictional world, and the player is allowed to live out his life
within it. The author has all the power, except as much as he deigns to
give away.

"This means that if I, the player, dislike how the world works, or have a
better idea, I am out of luck. I can only interact with the world in the
ways that the author has provided for me. Now this is very natural if
the world is a kind of puzzle which I have to solve: allowing the player to
change the rules of the puzzle is going to take all of the challenge away.
But if the world is not a puzzle, why not let the player tinker with the
world itself? Or to say it a different way, why do we allow the player to
play the piece, but not to play with the piece?

"Changing this would open up a vast new territory to explore. It would
allow completely new ways of interacting with a piece of interactive
fiction,
new ways which would allow the player to freely use his creativity for the
first time, and which would allow the player to be a real co-author for
the first time. The player could change the work, add to it, rewrite it,
improve it, or accept the voice of the author out of free choice."

David Fisher


Jim Aikin

unread,
May 1, 2007, 9:07:13 PM5/1/07
to
I guess I have some reservations about this point of view.

> "This means that if I, the player, dislike how the world works, or have a
> better idea, I am out of luck.

But that's largely true of any other art form as well. I mean, I'm sure you
can find a gallery somewhere where they'll let you daub paint on the
paintings -- but I very much doubt that any reputable artist would let his
or her work be hung in such a gallery with the idea that more paint was
going to be slapped onto the canvases.

It's true that jazz composers often write tunes that are used as bases for
improvisation by others. This is an example of what you're talking about.
But it's understood (or at least hoped) that the improvisers will be
experts. Jazz players don't invite the audience up onstage to honk into the
saxophone a bit! (At least, I hope they don't, and I don't want to attend
any concerts where they do.)

The presumption -- and it's a very natural presumption -- is that the artist
has devoted years to perfecting his or her skills, and is in consequence an
expert, able to guide and control the work of art in ways that audiences
will find satisfying. I see no reason why that presumption should be
discarded in interactive fiction, or even questioned.

The reason it comes into question, I think, is because a well-written work
of IF gives players the _illusion_ that they have a measure of control over
the model world. But confusing the illusion with an actual divestiture of
control is unlikely to be productive, in my view. To give another example,
there are stage magicians who ask for "volunteers" from the audience, but
always choose planted confederates. The magician who foolishly chose an
actual volunteer in such a circumstance would bring on quick disaster.

> But if the world is not a puzzle, why not let the player tinker with the
> world itself? Or to say it a different way, why do we allow the player to
> play the piece, but not to play with the piece?

Because it's very unlikely to improve the piece, that's why. Anyone who has
the skill set needed to improve it can go write their own game (and will
likely be doing so).

> "Changing this would open up a vast new territory to explore. It would
> allow completely new ways of interacting with a piece of interactive
> fiction,
> new ways which would allow the player to freely use his creativity for the
> first time, and which would allow the player to be a real co-author for
> the first time. The player could change the work, add to it, rewrite it,
> improve it, or accept the voice of the author out of free choice."

Okay, let's say that as a player, I happen to want to create a verb --
"spungle." When I spungle an object, I want it to turn bright green, and I
want its description to reflect that fact.

As the original author of the game, how exactly will you code that to allow
the player to do it -- without knowing in advance what sort of actions your
players may want to create?

I claim that this can only be done by asking the player to become a
programmer -- to learn the entire syntax of the IF language used, and to be
provided the source code of the game. In which case, she isn't a player
anymore, she's a collaborator. There's nothing wrong with collaboration, of
course. Collaborations can be very productive. But there's a huge difference
between collaboration among artistic equals and allowing the player to muck
around at random.

I, for one, would not want to collaborate with anyone who wasn't clear about
the difference.

--Jim Aikin


George Oliver

unread,
May 1, 2007, 11:44:04 PM5/1/07
to
Of course people can just read the article, but for some more context
for people who won't, two more quotes:

<blockquote>

Ideally, what we would like is that the player of an interactive
fiction is engaged in a game of offering, accepting and rejecting in
which she is allowed both to offer, and to accept and reject offers
made to her. The radical way to achieve this is to turn the playing of
interactive fiction from a private to a public activity. By using the
combined creative and judging powers of the community, we can
transform the playing of interactive fiction into a game of offering,
accepting and rejecting that we play not with the program, but with
the other players of the interactive fiction.

[....]

Suppose you are the author of a work, returning to it after a year.
Many people have played it; a good number has been inspired to release
some change. Two of them have even gone as far as to start a new
version. You love one of them, but hate the other -- it completely
fails to take into account the thematic content you so carefully
placed! Let's rate it down. Oh, but this change is cute! Let's
incorporate it into the official version...

In short, the admittedly radical changes I propose would completely
alter the nature, not only of reading interactive fiction, but in fact
of the interactive work itself. It used to be a model world frozen
into binary code, playable again and again in the exact same way by
ever new readers. But now...now it is something organic, something
alive: something that changes as it is played, and that can take off
in directions never envisaged by its author.

</blockquote>

The first thing I thought of reading the essay was Aaron A. Reed's
"For Whom the Telling Changed", where the game presents a
storyteller's circle with the listeners having some apparent control
over how the storyteller relays the tale. Victor's proposal
essentially turns this game into a model of IF authorship, and I find
this proposal so compelling not in the least because it (a) leverages
many of the strengths of this digital medium and (b) at the same time
brings us back to the storyteller's circle, back from what some would
say is a brief and sadly ill-conceived detour into the cul-de-sac of
heroic auteurship.

One thing I'm still wrestling with is Victor's point that by "using
the combined creative and judging powers of the community, we can
transform the playing of interactive fiction into a game of offering,
accepting and rejecting that we play not with the program, but with
the other players of the interactive fiction". It seems reasonable
that not all players will participate in this part of the game. How
will their experience compare to the player that does participate?
Will the non-participant in collaborative IF (collaborative fiction --
CF? Or maybe it's time to lose these acronyms altogether!) see
essentially no difference in their experience? On the surface, perhaps
no, but fundamentally of course the experience will be totally
different, because the rules have changed. There is no expert auteur
as JIm says in this model, rather we abandon that expert by thrusting
the game into the sphere of collaboration, and you lose an essential
part of the game if you do not participate. How can the model engage
the player who does not participate? Does it take the 'moderate'
approach, and will this satisfy?

I played "Figaro", and indeed it is amusing. The interesting thing
about it for me is that I found the 'meta game' no more of an
intrusion than figuring out in other games which noise makes which box
turn on and off, or which key fits in which door -- in other words, I
wonder if the collaboration does not become a puzzle itself, or
rather, a toy (I prefer the latter term). However we would not want
only to amuse, and from playing other games ("De Baron" and "Fate" of
course among them) I don't see any reason the 'moderate' approach can
not trigger other emotional sensations as well.

Recently I also got turned on to new RPGs (some of them Victor
mentions in a footnote) like "Polaris" and "Shock:" and so maybe I'm a
sucker for this sort of thing. And I'm not against the auteur. But I
think it's clear these two modes of IF, of the auteur and of the
audience -- both the spectators and the moment where the spectator
gains admittence to the royal chambers to speak their mind -- can
coexist.

On May 1, 6:07 pm, "Jim Aikin" <edi...@musicwords.net> wrote:
>
> The presumption -- and it's a very natural presumption -- is that the artist
> has devoted years to perfecting his or her skills, and is in consequence an
> expert, able to guide and control the work of art in ways that audiences
> will find satisfying. I see no reason why that presumption should be
> discarded in interactive fiction, or even questioned.
>
> The reason it comes into question, I think, is because a well-written work
> of IF gives players the _illusion_ that they have a measure of control over
> the model world. But confusing the illusion with an actual divestiture of
> control is unlikely to be productive, in my view.
>

fel...@yahoo.com

unread,
May 2, 2007, 12:32:06 AM5/2/07
to
On May 1, 9:07 pm, "Jim Aikin" <edi...@musicwords.net> wrote:

> As the original author of the game, how exactly will you code that to allow
> the player to do it -- without knowing in advance what sort of actions your
> players may want to create?

By simulating the entire universe? :-P

By building the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Mark II?

By skipping the computer entirely and acting as a plain old game
master?

None of these could be called IF anymore. Your own suggestion to arm
the player with the game author's tools would make for... hmmm... a
single player MUD? Still not IF. Certainly not as we understand it
today.

At least that would be technically feasible...

Felix

Victor Gijsbers

unread,
May 2, 2007, 6:38:16 AM5/2/07
to
On May 2, 3:07 am, "Jim Aikin" <edi...@musicwords.net> wrote:

> The presumption -- and it's a very natural presumption -- is that the artist
> has devoted years to perfecting his or her skills, and is in consequence an
> expert, able to guide and control the work of art in ways that audiences
> will find satisfying. I see no reason why that presumption should be
> discarded in interactive fiction, or even questioned.

Here are two reasons:

1. This presumption has been successfully questioned and discarded in
contemporary roleplaying games. Any group of moderately intelligent
and creative persons can tell a great and gripping story together. Of
course, such a story would lose much of its power when written down
and read like a static story, but this is because roleplaying and
reading static fiction are entirely different activities with
different criteria of excellence. Why wouldn't the same hold for
reading static fiction and interacting with IF? You mention a jazz
concert, and mention that you don't want to attend a concert where
anyone can chime in with the musicians. Sure--but that's because you
are thinking of "attending a concert". There is, however, a popular
activity called a "jam session", in which amateur musician are often
asked to participate. Will they make better music? No. But you're not
supposed to be a passive audience at a jam session: you're supposed to
participate! It's a different kind of activity, with different
standards of excellence.

2. Look at the interactive fiction community. How many people who play
IF have also written it? I don't know the numbers, but I wouldn't be
surprised if the answer is 50% or more. In practice, then, the
audience/writer distinction doesn't exist in interactive fiction--and
that is classical IF.

Also, your example of the painter doesn't hold water. Because IF is an
electronic medium, you can change a work without destroying it. You
can have people tinker with a piece and yet lose nothing. It is a win-
win situation.

> Because it's very unlikely to improve the piece, that's why. Anyone who has
> the skill set needed to improve it can go write their own game (and will
> likely be doing so).

I don't understand this argument. Is its structure: "Anyone who is
good enough to do A could also do B, and therefore should do B and
have no time left for doing A."?

> Okay, let's say that as a player, I happen to want to create a verb --
> "spungle." When I spungle an object, I want it to turn bright green, and I
> want its description to reflect that fact.
>
> As the original author of the game, how exactly will you code that to allow
> the player to do it -- without knowing in advance what sort of actions your
> players may want to create?

Did you, in fact, read the essay?

Regards,
Victor

Victor Gijsbers

unread,
May 2, 2007, 6:41:39 AM5/2/07
to
On May 2, 1:59 am, "David Fisher" <d...@hsa.com.au> wrote:
> There was only a single entry in the Innovation Comp, which was from Victor
> Gijsbers - making him the automatic winner. Congratulations!

Thanks, but of course it's a bit disappointing. I was hoping that
other people would have more readily implementable ideas. Now the
competition risks creating the illusion that innovating IF requires
extreme changes. :/

> He has already started a thread called "OpenFate - an experiment" to try out
> some of these ideas, but I am sure he would appreciate whatever other
> feedback you might want to give him.

Not really, actually. OpenFate is, if people wish to join it, a
classical collaborative open source effort. It's not nearly as radical
as anything I wrote in the essay. :)

David Fisher

unread,
May 2, 2007, 7:55:42 AM5/2/07
to
"Victor Gijsbers" <V.Gij...@let.leidenuniv.nl> wrote:
> On May 2, 1:59 am, "David Fisher" <d...@hsa.com.au> wrote:
>>
>> There was only a single entry in the Innovation Comp, which was from
>> Victor Gijsbers - making him the automatic winner. Congratulations!
>
> Thanks, but of course it's a bit disappointing. I was hoping that
> other people would have more readily implementable ideas. Now the
> competition risks creating the illusion that innovating IF requires
> extreme changes. :/

Oh, well. That's OK - people are free to enter these things or not, as they
like.

>> He has already started a thread called "OpenFate - an experiment"
>> to try out some of these ideas, but I am sure he would appreciate
>> whatever other feedback you might want to give him.
>
> Not really, actually. OpenFate is, if people wish to join it, a
> classical collaborative open source effort. It's not nearly as radical
> as anything I wrote in the essay. :)

Well, how about "as a small step in that direction"? :-)

David Fisher


Jeff Nyman

unread,
May 2, 2007, 8:50:06 AM5/2/07
to
I read Victor's paper. I want to read it again with my critical analysis hat
on, but here are my initial thoughts at the concept overall.

I actually like the idea. One way I've learned various IF systems is by
taking existing works and "re-imagining" them by re-coding them with largely
the same elements, but changes here and there. I found that not only did
this help me learn the language but ... and here's the relevant part ... it
helped me think about how to tell a story better. (At least in my opinion.)
I found ways I could change the narrative structure, or the
person-viewpoint, or the tense, or remove something that was a puzzle and
instead make it a situation, etc.

This all may speak to one aspect Victor mention's in the paper: "A player
might create new objects; change rules; add new dialogue options; and so
forth. All these actions change the game itself." Now, in my case, how much
I changed "the game itself" (as opposed, I guess, to some aspects of the
game) depended very much on what I was doing. I never changed the ending or
the key paths to get there, but I clearly could have.

From the paper, I definitely agree with this line:

"To change the figure, we are still much more captive in the Zork-paradigm
than
we are generally aware of. As I see it, the two - not unrelated - changes
that are
most necessary are the following:"

I'm not sure I agree that option (2) in the paper is a *necessary* aspect to
getting away from the "Zork-paradigm" but I do think it's a sufficient way
to do so. It's one way among a few, that is.

However ...

I see more of an emphasis on creating stories that reflect situations and
that utilize narrative effectively to allow the reader/player a more varied
experience while dealing with the work of fiction. As I re-read Victor's
paper, I think part of what the idea (2) speaks to is just a more extended
idea of what I've been looking at.

My ideas centered around the ideas of others before me: allowing for clever
forms of narrative variation and the management of the dramatic structure of
the game in a more conscious way than has been done in most works of
text-based IF that I've seen. (This does get to point (1) of the paper a bit
because I think puzzles have defined the genre to a large extent, as has an
almost exclusive focus on second-person viewpoint.)

To me, it often seems like writing IF is done without conscious reflection
of what has made other story-telling media so effective. Part of that
probably is due to the "Zork-paradigm" mentality. I think if we saw the
above kind of effort being put into games -- meaning more actual
story-telling ability, with an understanding of and usage of various
elements that make other storytelling media so successful -- then perhaps an
idea of co-authorship could fall out of that naturally.

Or is it the reverse? Will a co-authorship focus allow for better
story-telling? An intriguing possibility and not one I had considered.

The hard part is that different people have very different story-telling
abilities, just as we see with filmmakers and novelists and screenplay
writers. I see this kind of thing having the potential to produce games that
are very different in their style of presentation. That can be jarring. (If
Stephen King and Dean Koontz wrote a book together, that might not be so
jarring for a reader who might not even be able to tell who wrote which
parts. If Stephen King and I wrote a book together, it would be very
jarring. My parts would probably stand out like a sore thumb. A good example
of this in fiction is when Arthur C. Clarke teamed up with Gentry Lee. Fans
didn't like those novels because the differences in storytelling were so
evident.)

Another hurdle I see is that while I can see how this might be interesting
for authors, I'm not sure I can see how or why it would be interesting for
many players as opposed to a game that was not written in the co-authorship
mode. In other words, how would a player operationally tell they are dealing
with a "co-authorship game"? If they can't, then to what extent are they
really co-authoring? To this topic, the paper says:

"What is distinctive about this transcript is that the piece offers the
player
several potential ways the game world might be. These are presumably taken
from a finite list, so the player has only limited control, and only where
the
game author has decided to give her that control. This would still
constitute a
significant break with current interactive fiction, where the result of an
action is
always determined by the author, and where the game-world is always
conceived
of as already being determined at the start of the game."

I'm not sure I see the "significant break." Those elements are *still* built
in. They are *still* a finite list determined by either one author or many
and the overall concept is *still* determined from the start. That's why I'm
trying to figure out how such a game would be operationally distinguishable
(to a player) from a game that wasn't built on this co-authorship model.

In any event, I think Victor's experiment is interesting. I want to think
more about the implementation ideas. One thing I could see immediately is
something like an "ifUnit" element (think Junit, Nunit, etc), which is a way
to have "tests" (maybe rule-based tests) that are always run for any
proposed change (or set of changes). These could be "consistency tests" of a
sort for the world model, either relative to one version (from one author)
or as a whole with all the versions of the world. That's a bit off-the-cuff
on my part. It just sprang to mind immediately as I read the paper.

- Jeff


George Oliver

unread,
May 2, 2007, 11:09:02 AM5/2/07
to
I think this transcript is an example of the 'moderate' (i.e.
achievable now with current tools) approach, not an implementation of
the ideas in the main part of the article, but I had basically the
same question -- what is the experience for the player that does not
participate in the 'meta-game' of offering ideas, and accepting and
rejecting ideas? Does the experience reduce to the 'moderate'
approach?

One key difference between this model and something like a
contemporary RPG is that everyone at the table playing an RPG will
contribute within the system framework of the game -- indeed, if they
do not contribute, they are not playing the game. However in this
model of IF it is not required that everyone contribute, and I suspect
that not everyone picking up such a game will contribute -- it's been
seen time and time again in virtual worlds for example that not all
players are content creators.

Jim Aikin

unread,
May 2, 2007, 11:44:47 AM5/2/07
to
> 1. This presumption has been successfully questioned and discarded in
> contemporary roleplaying games. Any group of moderately intelligent
> and creative persons can tell a great and gripping story together.

Having participated in writers' workshops with people who were moderately
intelligent and creative and yet were entirely unable to put together "a
great and gripping story" in repeated attempts although it was their avowed
intention to do so, I find your assertion unpersuasive. But perhaps your
standards for what constitutes a great and gripping story are, shall we say,
more relaxed and forgiving than mine. I thought the most recent Tony
Hillerman novel was boring, and he sells a lot of books.

> You mention a jazz
> concert, and mention that you don't want to attend a concert where
> anyone can chime in with the musicians. Sure--but that's because you
> are thinking of "attending a concert". There is, however, a popular
> activity called a "jam session", in which amateur musician are often
> asked to participate. Will they make better music? No. But you're not
> supposed to be a passive audience at a jam session: you're supposed to
> participate! It's a different kind of activity, with different
> standards of excellence.

Having participated, over the years, in too many jam sessions to count, I
can testify first-hand that the level of music-making is (a) in direct
proportion to the abilities of the individual players, and therefore (b)
generally abysmal. Yet people DID sit around and listen to us, nodding their
heads and seemingly enjoying the music. My conclusion: Most people wouldn't
know good music if it hit them over the head.

I've participated in jam sessions with people who could barely play. It's a
painful and annoying process. If that's your model for IF, count me out.

> Did you, in fact, read the essay?

No. I only read the excerpt posted here.

--JA


Emily Short

unread,
May 2, 2007, 2:18:30 PM5/2/07
to
On May 2, 5:41 am, Victor Gijsbers <V.Gijsb...@let.leidenuniv.nl>
wrote:

> On May 2, 1:59 am, "David Fisher" <d...@hsa.com.au> wrote:
>
> > There was only a single entry in the Innovation Comp, which was from Victor
> > Gijsbers - making him the automatic winner. Congratulations!
>
> Thanks, but of course it's a bit disappointing. I was hoping that
> other people would have more readily implementable ideas.

The thing about readily implementable ideas is that people usually
just go off and implement them to see if they work...

steve....@gmail.com

unread,
May 2, 2007, 3:51:42 PM5/2/07
to

That wasn't his point.

steve....@gmail.com

unread,
May 2, 2007, 4:29:51 PM5/2/07
to
Victor Gijsbers writes:
> > He has already started a thread called "OpenFate - an experiment" to try out
> > some of these ideas, but I am sure he would appreciate whatever other
> > feedback you might want to give him.
>
> Not really, actually. OpenFate is, if people wish to join it, a
> classical collaborative open source effort. It's not nearly as radical
> as anything I wrote in the essay. :)

I'm going to risk that "not really, actually" was intended to
introduce a clarification of what OpenFate is about, and not to
discourage feedback. :)

The way I7 is set up, it's already very much like the author is a
player. Indeed, there's little aesthetic or affective difference
between I7 and the TADS dungeon diggers. Thus I think the substantial
suggestion of your paper is to provide more concrete narrative
structures, rather than the "blank page" that authoring systems strive
to provide.

I'm glad to see someone thinking about developing the genre. I wish I
shared your optimism about the untapped creative richness of the
community. I don't know if a community *can* be sufficiently
sophisticated. Instead I would say that you've hit upon an interesting
structure for artistic production, but I think the interest of the
productions themselves would be that they were produced in an
interesting way, and that the works considered of themselves wouldn't
gain much intrinsic value. You're as well off exploring IFMud, which,
by the way, nobody ever does.


Emily Short

unread,
May 2, 2007, 5:30:12 PM5/2/07
to

David Fisher wrote:
> There was only a single entry in the Innovation Comp, which was from Victor
> Gijsbers - making him the automatic winner. Congratulations!
>
> You can download his 10 page essay "Co-authorship and Community" and a short
> sample game here:
>
> http://lilith.gotdns.org/~victor/innovationcomp/Innovation.pdf
> http://lilith.gotdns.org/~victor/innovationcomp/Figaro.z5

Okay, having now had time to play this: I suspect this particular
technique works well for a short game, but would be quite hard to
develop into a novel-length implementation. Leaving aside the
combinatorial horrors of having to code up three inventories for the
player, multiple NPCs for each major role, etc., etc., etc., the
options in this example work as options because the scenario is so
constrained. We have already had the setup, we know why the player is
in the trunk, and now we are in a somewhat contrived spot where
everything we can reasonably do will effectively help characterize the
PC or the scene. If there were a more detailed situation, I think it
would be much harder to do this kind of thing. (Also that the player
might run out of patience with it. I'm not sure how I'd feel about a
game where I was constantly having to make all the choices about
everyone's motivations and purposes. A few carefully selected choices?
Sure. But there are times when an excess of choice actually makes one
feel less powerful and the individual options less significant.)

I also found that being able to choose my inventory (revenge weapon,
or comedy object?) made less of a difference than I expected; it was a
lot like being able to choose an action, namely whether to attack or
fool around. The available possibilities within the world have just
been delimited a bit differently. So I'm curious: how did other people
feel about this? Did it seem like a different kind of freedom than one
usually has in IF, or just a reshaping of an old one?

I do continue to like the effect of getting to pick my PC's moral
stance, though.

Victor Gijsbers

unread,
May 2, 2007, 5:40:53 PM5/2/07
to
Jim Aikin wrote:

>> 1. This presumption has been successfully questioned and discarded in
>> contemporary roleplaying games. Any group of moderately intelligent
>> and creative persons can tell a great and gripping story together.
>
> Having participated in writers' workshops with people who were moderately
> intelligent and creative and yet were entirely unable to put together "a
> great and gripping story" in repeated attempts although it was their avowed
> intention to do so, I find your assertion unpersuasive. But perhaps your
> standards for what constitutes a great and gripping story are, shall we say,
> more relaxed and forgiving than mine. I thought the most recent Tony
> Hillerman novel was boring, and he sells a lot of books.

No, I actually don't think we disagree here. I don't know Tony
Hillerman, so I can't comment on that specifically, but I am very
critical in my reading habits. What I'm saying is that different
activities come with different standards of excellence. I suppose that a
storyteller could keep his audience enthralled with a story that would
fail dismally when written down as a transcript of what he said. I know
that I have participated in emotionally engaging and very successful
roleplaying sessions that would have made pretty bad stories when
transcripts of what we said would have been written down. The suggestion
is that an interactive fiction in which the player is a co-author might
not need the kind of skills that great fiction needs.

Whether that is the case or not, is, of course, something that remains
to be seen. :)

> I've participated in jam sessions with people who could barely play. It's a
> painful and annoying process. If that's your model for IF, count me out.

Yes, but where the jam session analogy breaks down is that in
electronic, web-based media we have very powerful tools that allow a
community to rate submitted content. I don't know how easy it is to
think of a combination of a jam session and Wikipedia, but there you
are. I have two paragraphs about this role of the community in my essay,
and they're there for a reason.

Regards,
Victor

Emily Short

unread,
May 2, 2007, 6:41:10 PM5/2/07
to

Victor Gijsbers wrote:
> What I'm saying is that different
> activities come with different standards of excellence. I suppose that a
> storyteller could keep his audience enthralled with a story that would
> fail dismally when written down as a transcript of what he said. I know
> that I have participated in emotionally engaging and very successful
> roleplaying sessions that would have made pretty bad stories when
> transcripts of what we said would have been written down. The suggestion
> is that an interactive fiction in which the player is a co-author might
> not need the kind of skills that great fiction needs.

Yes, I think this is true. Most IF and RPG experiences I've enjoyed
would make mediocre short stories at best, but I'm not sure that's
entirely a condemnation (though people here sometimes use it as such).
There are good movies that would make bad novels, too. (Of course,
it's well-known that plenty of novels make bad movies. Somehow,
though, the assumption seems to be that if a novel can't be turned
into a movie well, it's because the movie form is inferior, and if a
movie can't be turned into a good novel, it's again because movies are
inferior, and that conversion into "real" literature has simply
exposed the flaws and feebleness of the original. My point here is
that written literature tends to be considered the yardstick by which
all other forms of storytelling get measured. While I think it's quite
legitimate to ask ourselves what aspects of static literary craft we
could usefully apply to IF, I also think it's a bad idea to assume
that the requirements of one medium will be identical to those of
another.)

Preaching to the choir, I know. Still... a lot of what would be
"wrong" with my favorite IF, if transferred to short story format, has
to with pacing and narrative structure. Sometimes plot threads don't
get tied off in a given playthrough. Sometimes things are repeated, or
I get stuck working something out and the story doesn't progress for a
while. This can be a good play experience even if it's a bad written
experience. (It's also possible for IF to be paced badly *as IF*, but
that's not what I'm talking about here.) And I think this points at a
fundamental difference in the way the two media handle exposition. You
talk about wanting to get away from puzzles and exploration; I can
sympathize to an extent, but I also think these elements have more of
a function even in literary IF than you're giving them credit for, as
an interactive format of exposition.

One of the things people have most often told me they liked about
Floatpoint was the computer database system. I originally designed it
with the intention of creating a *good* research puzzle -- one that
was experientially a bit like doing real research, which would feel
fun in the same way and which wouldn't simply require boundless
patience from the player reading every entry in a book (for instance).
In its final form, I'm not sure whether to describe this as a puzzle
or not: it was a mechanism that interactively dispensed expository
information, in a way that encouraged creative associations on the
part of the player. In one sense it needed to be solved -- that is,
the player needed to look up enough things to understand the major
choices of the game. But there was no one single piece of information
that needed to be extracted from it, and (from the way players talk
about it) many of them seemed not to have perceived it as a puzzle.

I bring this up largely because I think the kind of IF you want to
write, in which the player explores moral or thematic issues rather
than solving a game, still has room for -- in fact, still needs --
some elements that might seem to you to derive from the Zork paradigm.
It's possible for a very short story to consist almost entirely of
choices, but a longer one also needs some passages of development and
discovery, to lend weight to the moments of decision.

Those passages can be implemented in such a way that they don't feel
like they rely on contrived or mechanized puzzles, and so that they
are not challenging and/or don't often get the player stuck; but they
will still require some of the same techniques that go into good
puzzle design, such as doling out information to the player in
response to his exploration, concealing some information until other
information has been found (and perhaps used), and so on. We lose some
of the structure and pacing that goes into expository passages in
written literature, but we make up for it by letting the player/reader
control the focus: after all, part of the point of concern for
structure and pacing in printed text is to keep the reader interested
and to make sure he learns all the relevant pieces of the story in an
order that makes sense. If we have an interactive mechanism for
exposition, then the challenge of keeping the reader interested
becomes different: we have to lay clues about what he might want to
follow up on, and then we have to provide enough information on the
topics that he chooses to pursue, and we have also to guarantee that
he misses nothing critical.

As I said, when you look at it this way, the design of interactive
exposition begins to feel like puzzle design again -- even if it is
not your intention ever to let your reader get stuck.

steve....@gmail.com

unread,
May 2, 2007, 8:27:33 PM5/2/07
to
Emily Short writes:
> Okay, having now had time to play this: I suspect this particular
> technique works well for a short game, but would be quite hard to
> develop into a novel-length implementation.

"Novel-length implementation"?! What the heck?! IF is of the order of
flash fiction. There are no novel-length works of IF. *Of course*!

They say in the movie industry that screenplays can at best capture
short stories. Filming a novel means reducing it to a story or
expanding the movie to a mini-series. IF is much more compressed than
a movie.

I can only assume Short somehow considers herself a novelist, despite
the fact that she's been writing shorter-than-short fiction, no pun
intended.

Other than that, I guess Short's point is that the shorter the game,
the easier it is to customize. DUH.

Ryusui

unread,
May 2, 2007, 8:36:24 PM5/2/07
to
Last night I tried "The Baron" for myself. It may not have earned high
marks in the Spring Thing, but I actually quite...I suppose the word
*enjoyed* might not be the word here, since the story - just as
advertised - turns out to be quite a disturbing tale indeed, but it
was certainly a unique and interesting take on interactive fiction,
breaking the "action - reward" model nicely: I felt guilty killing the
she-wolf, felt compelled to listen to the gargoyle's story, etc. I had
my suspicions early on as to the true nature of the, ahem,
"protagonist"...the game only openly admitted it once in my
playthrough, but it was still a nasty shock as the pieces fit
together.

Perhaps the mentality behind the game's design can be put to use in a
better implementation of the idea behind Figaro. Maybe it's because I
have been a fan of console gaming for far longer than I have been a
fan of IF, but there are certain mechanisms by which Figaro's idea of
allowing the player to direct what happens might be made a bit less
obvious: instead of the game leaping out at you every turn asking you
how you want to play the game, instead the machinery of the game
silently watches as the player makes his decisions and adjusts what
transpires accordingly. "The Erudition Chamber" does this by judging
how the player solves puzzles: in a more literary work, this would be
judged more subtly.

For example, the classic SNES title Mother 2, a.k.a. "Earthbound",
finds an excuse to ask the player for his/her real name: in the finale
of the game, that same name is given as the person who deals the final
blow to the evil Gyiyg (pronounced "geeg", and called Giygas in the
U.S. version). More recently we have the game "Shin Megami Tensei 3:
Nocturne" for PS2, wherein the player's alignment has a dramatic
effect on the endgame. A major aspect of gameplay is recruiting
monsters - referred to as "demons" in the context of the game, but in
fact based upon figures from mythologies and religions from around the
world - to join your party and fight alongside you. Some of these
demons will pose you questions about your worldview and join your
party if they like your answer: your answers to these questions will
affect your alignment, although you will not know what your alignment
truly is until the endgame, when it becomes set in stone. You may
choose to align with one of the three Reasons vying to remake the
world in their image, you may choose to defy them all and restore the
world to the way it was, or you may choose to defy your fate
completely and break the cycle of reincarnation. The only gameplay
difference between the paths is which end bosses you fight. (There is
also one other path you can choose, but following it is mainly a
matter of battling your way through an incredibly difficult dungeon.)

Tom Hudson

unread,
May 2, 2007, 10:13:07 PM5/2/07
to
On May 2, 8:36 pm, Ryusui <TheRyu...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Perhaps the mentality behind the game's design can be put to use in a
> better implementation of the idea behind Figaro. Maybe it's because I
> have been a fan of console gaming for far longer than I have been a
> fan of IF, but there are certain mechanisms by which Figaro's idea of
> allowing the player to direct what happens might be made a bit less
> obvious: instead of the game leaping out at you every turn asking you
> how you want to play the game, instead the machinery of the game
> silently watches as the player makes his decisions and adjusts what
> transpires accordingly. "The Erudition Chamber" does this by judging
> how the player solves puzzles: in a more literary work, this would be
> judged more subtly.

Ryusui captured my thoughts about how I'd like to see a Figaro-style
game. I don't know the canon well enough to know if anything along
those lines have been done, but what was implemented in Figaro was
horribly mimesis-breaking for me.

What I understand of Victor's broader ideas about collaboration make
me think of Atlas Games' "Once Upon a Time" storytelling game. Every
player has a half-dozen cards that may be characters, locations,
objects, events - all straight out of stereotypical fairy tales. They
also each have one or two resolutions. The point of the game is to
tell a story that includes all of the cards in your hand, then
concludes in one of your resolutions. Other players can interrupt you
and try to take the story off in their own directions.

How I'd mimic this in single-player IF would be to try creating a
large cast of characters and objects, with something like RAP behind
them. The game starts with a random subset of them active, and another
random subset given to the player; the player can stop action and
introduce one of the things she holds, or replace one of the active
things in the world, or trade in one of the things she holds for a
random thing out of the cast, trying to control the conclusion of the
story.

Tom

James Cunningham

unread,
May 2, 2007, 10:40:12 PM5/2/07
to

Doc, I'm glad you're around to point out what people say as opposed to
what they plainly mean. Without you I might not even *notice* that kind
of petty little crap! I suppose your point is -- well -- I suppose your
*point* is that you've stuck something *too thorny* up your ass and
only pointless snark can relieve the pain for a moment.

I can only assume you consider yourself an editor, despite your
demonstrated inability to find the errors your own posts here are
riddled with.

(No pun involved.)

Best,
James

Daphne Brinkerhoff

unread,
May 3, 2007, 12:02:04 AM5/3/07
to
On May 2, 7:27 pm, steve.bres...@gmail.com wrote:
> Emily Short writes:
> > Okay, having now had time to play this: I suspect this particular
> > technique works well for a short game, but would be quite hard to
> > develop into a novel-length implementation.
>
> "Novel-length implementation"?! What the heck?! IF is of the order of
> flash fiction. There are no novel-length works of IF. *Of course*!

I don't know how much text there is in The Mulldoon Legacy, but it's
got to be a lot closer to a novel than to flash fiction. I could name
other long games, but that's the one that leapt to my mind.

--
Daphne

Ryusui

unread,
May 3, 2007, 2:21:41 AM5/3/07
to

There's a difference between having a lot of content and detail and
having a lot of *story*. I relate to you my observations of a recent
XBox 360 game entitled "Crackdown" ("Riot Act" in some countries): the
game deals with a futuristic crimefighting agency tasked with ridding
a city of its three major crime gangs. This core task can be
accomplished in a matter of hours and comprises the only real "story"
the game has: "these are the city's crime bosses; kill them all and
you win". However, the game is set in a massive city full of detail:
much of it is pure window dressing, but there are numerous bonus tasks
and special accomplishments. Seeing absolutely *everything* the game
has to offer can take days, if not weeks. (Somebody even posted a
video on YouTube of something the game designers likely hadn't
intended: it's possible to create a "dumpster tank", or "skiptank" as
they called it, by throwing a dumpster - an easy task for the game's
superhuman crimestoppers - on top of a vehicle.)

The unfairly-maligned PS1 classic "Legend of Mana" would be an example
of a game with plenty of content *and* story: appropriately for the
topic, the game world begins as a blank slate. The player builds the
world, one location at a time, by placing "artifacts" he/she obtains
on the landscape grid. The story is non-linear, but can mostly be
divided into three, non-exclusive paths: clearing any of the three
will allow you to reach the game's final confrontation, but you can
complete as much or as little of the other stories as you'd like
before progressing into the endgame. How much you accomplish does not
affect the ending, but each individual story is a fully-realized
plotline in and of itself.

I believe Legend of Mana, despite being a critical failure (although
nonetheless a cult classic), is very much relevant to the discussion
at hand. There's easily enough story in the game for a novel, rather
than merely a novella. One of the three storylines involves a decision
very much reminiscent of Mr. Gijsbers' work, where two potential
allies come to a deadly impasse: both are former friends of the
episode's villain, but while one wishes to try and save him from his
destructive path, the other wants revenge at any cost. You can side
with either, or you can side with neither: whoever you choose against
will die in the confrontation, and if you choose to join neither one,
one of the two will die in the battle while the other will go on ahead
to face the villain and die in his attempt to infiltrate his fortress.
Whichever choice you make, the story progresses regardless: the only
thing your choice affects is who, if anyone, survives the story's
conclusion, and thus is available for you to recruit into your party
afterward (a matter of personal preference rather than combat
advantage). If you have a little extra money to spare, it might be
worth your while to purchase a Playstation of some description (all
three are capable of playing Playstation 1 titles) and search the
bargain bins at your local game stores for a copy; copies of the game
can also be found on eBay for as little as 20 U.S. dollars.

steve....@gmail.com

unread,
May 3, 2007, 3:51:46 AM5/3/07
to
Daphne Brinkerhoff writes:
> > "Novel-length implementation"?! [...]

>
> I don't know how much text there is in The Mulldoon Legacy, but it's
> got to be a lot closer to a novel than to flash fiction. I could name
> other long games, but that's the one that leapt to my mind.

We're not talking about word count, but narrative complexity. Many
works of IF are "long" enough to be novels, if you count the
characters in the source code. I mainly wanted to point out how
tortured is the phrase "novel-length implementation" -- and how
obvious is the point that more narrative complexity means more work
for those electing to work on the narrative.

Victor Gijsbers

unread,
May 3, 2007, 7:38:55 AM5/3/07
to
On May 2, 11:30 pm, Emily Short <emsh...@mindspring.com> wrote:

> Okay, having now had time to play this: I suspect this particular
> technique works well for a short game, but would be quite hard to
> develop into a novel-length implementation. Leaving aside the
> combinatorial horrors of having to code up three inventories for the
> player, multiple NPCs for each major role, etc., etc., etc., the
> options in this example work as options because the scenario is so
> constrained. We have already had the setup, we know why the player is
> in the trunk, and now we are in a somewhat contrived spot where
> everything we can reasonably do will effectively help characterize the
> PC or the scene. If there were a more detailed situation, I think it
> would be much harder to do this kind of thing.

Absolutely. The format used in Figaro would have to be carefully dosed
(I'm not _quite_ sure this is English idiom) in order not become both
overwhelming and bewildering in a larger game.

The combinatorial explosion, though, might not be as big a problem as
you imagine. Since, as authors, we already create a model world which
has many possible states apart from the one it is currently in, smart
choices of what to simulate might prevent a combinatorial explosion.
(For instance: the fact that our authoring systems model containment
means that we can create containers and give the player a choice as to
put what into what without facing a combinatorial explosion.)

> I also found that being able to choose my inventory (revenge weapon,
> or comedy object?) made less of a difference than I expected; it was a
> lot like being able to choose an action, namely whether to attack or
> fool around. The available possibilities within the world have just
> been delimited a bit differently. So I'm curious: how did other people
> feel about this? Did it seem like a different kind of freedom than one
> usually has in IF, or just a reshaping of an old one?

Objects in IF are usually tools, which makes them little more than
means to an action. This _need_ not be the case though: choosing
whether you are carrying a bunch of red roses, an expensive ring or
two tickets for a football match to your date might help you to
characterise the protagonist. (Especially if all of them have the same
effect on your date, and _especially_ if the characterisation of your
date will depend on the present you choose to have with you.)

Regards,
Victor

JDC

unread,
May 3, 2007, 10:50:49 AM5/3/07
to
On May 3, 7:38 am, Victor Gijsbers <V.Gijsb...@let.leidenuniv.nl>
wrote:

> Objects in IF are usually tools, which makes them little more than
> means to an action. This _need_ not be the case though: choosing
> whether you are carrying a bunch of red roses, an expensive ring or
> two tickets for a football match to your date might help you to
> characterise the protagonist. (Especially if all of them have the same
> effect on your date, and _especially_ if the characterisation of your
> date will depend on the present you choose to have with you.)

It seems that some of these choices could be presented without asking
the question directly. For instance, rather than asking the player in
Figoro what inventory item he is carrying, you could have a scene of
the PC preparing to conceal himself, and a number of objects available
(axe, etc.) and see which he takes (prod him to take one, if
necessary). I'm curious if, and to what extent, you find the direct
questioning more effective than something like this. I suppose it
could change the narrative structure somewhat, but perhaps if you
jumped to a short "flashback scene" when the player takes inventory,
wherein the player has the option of selecting his inventory item,
this would have much the same narrative effect.

-JDC

Jeff Nyman

unread,
May 3, 2007, 11:10:29 AM5/3/07
to
"JDC" <jd...@psu.edu> wrote in message
news:1178203849....@e65g2000hsc.googlegroups.com...

> It seems that some of these choices could be presented without asking
> the question directly. For instance, rather than asking the player in
> Figoro what inventory item he is carrying, you could have a scene of
> the PC preparing to conceal himself, and a number of objects available
> (axe, etc.) and see which he takes (prod him to take one, if
> necessary).

This is how I tend to see something like this being more effectively, as
well. Going with past discussions on the newsgroup here, I can see the
emphasis taken off of the puzzles, per se, and more on the situational
elements that the game responds to. (To the player, choosing the "right"
choice from a set -- even if there is no, one "right" choice -- can seem
like a puzzle.) So, in your example, the game responds to whatever item the
player happens to take. How it responds and how that keeps the story flowing
is where the interesting parts come in.

The "prodding" is also, I think, a key element that can be worked on,
because it speaks to how the narrative itself is paced but also allows the
player a bit of freedom to experiment and look around while still keeping
the main story arc together, without the player necessarily feeling
pigeonholed into choosing choice A or choice B.

Victor's original comment was "Especially if all of [the objects] have the

same effect on your date, and _especially_ if the characterisation of your
date will depend on the present you choose to have with you."

I think that's one part of it but still the situation is essentially the
same from the player point of view. Maybe a different bit of dialogue will
happen with the date or maybe the date will respond a little differently (a
slap, a frown, a smile, etc). Where I see the situational elements getting
clever is when the situation of the game as a whole can change somewhat
based on the actions you take; where the narrative arc can turn.

That's where (maybe) the idea of co-authorship could have its most impact:
different people who have a different idea of how the narrative should
enfold based on given actions. I might prefer a darker turn, for example,
where someone else may prefer a more forgiving set of follow-on
circumstances. I don't think this kind of approach *needs* co-authorship,
necessarily, since a single game author could do this kind of thing, but
it's undoubtedly the case that different people will have their own spin on
how things should or could proceed from given situational points in the same
game.

That's where I think co-authorship of some sort could be potentially
interesting to investigate. I don't see this so much in terms of allowing
the player to be a co-author because I have yet to see how that would really
effectively be done. Or, more to the point, from the player point of view,
they're still playing what is (to all appearances) a game with a
pre-determined set of situations and allowable actions.

- Jeff


George Oliver

unread,
May 3, 2007, 11:28:09 AM5/3/07
to
To go back to "Whom the Telling Changed" again, you make precisely
such a choice at the beginning of the game (it's been a while, but you
choose one item to select your gender I believe). The advantage direct
questioning has is that the player knows why they are choosing, and
the why is critical to the act of choosing. In "Whom the Telling
Changed" it is not clear (unless you've played the game before) why
you are making the choice, and the author basically has to rely on a
player choosing the right 'feel' in order for the choice to really
'work'. However this probably is not an either/or situation.

Emily Short

unread,
May 3, 2007, 3:46:48 PM5/3/07
to
On May 2, 9:13 pm, Tom Hudson <tom.hudson....@gmail.com> wrote:
> How I'd mimic this in single-player IF would be to try creating a
> large cast of characters and objects, with something like RAP behind
> them. The game starts with a random subset of them active, and another
> random subset given to the player; the player can stop action and
> introduce one of the things she holds, or replace one of the active
> things in the world, or trade in one of the things she holds for a
> random thing out of the cast, trying to control the conclusion of the
> story.
>
> Tom

I tried writing this game once. The mechanism was slightly different,
but the conceit was that the player could introduce his choice of
characters and props onstage and then play the resulting scene; then
reconfigure things and play another scene; and so on. The props were
chosen to be things that could be obviously significant but could
(ideally) play out that significance in multiple ways: a weapon, a
wedding ring, etc. The underlying model tried to select a scene that
best matched the player's prop/character choices and the state of the
drama so far (it tracked what relationships had been established
between characters, e.g., and also whether we wanted rising conflict,
crisis, or resolution).

The reason this never saw the light of day is that it was a dead bore.
The interest value of the scenes was directly tied to how much they
were pre-written, and to how much stative knowledge I preserved about
*precisely* what had happened in earlier scenes -- moving away from an
abstract model to something much more specific -- so quite soon I
realized that to do anything good with it I would basically have to
convert it to a really big CYOA in structure.

Now, the fact that I didn't make this work doesn't mean it's
impossible; someone else might be able to pull it off, either through
being a better writer or through designing a better mechanism. "Once
Upon a Time" also has a couple of characteristics that my game (and
your proposed version above) lack: it functions at a pretty abstract
level, so there is no dialogue or detailed narration unless the
players happen to ad-lib some; and secondly, it allows the players to
manipulate *events* rather than just objects and people. The
physicality of the typical IF interface doesn't make it entirely
obvious how to inject such things, but possibly something could be
done. It's a little less clear how a really abstract IF story would be
interesting:

>DRAGON

And then there's a conflict with a big red dragon, which also somehow
involves the princess and the giant emerald!

>SWORD

Thank goodness: the dragon is successfully defeated!

>PRINCESS

A happy ending occurs, involving the princess!

...No. We need scenes and narrative, and that requires either text
generation far beyond our current abilities or pre-written material;
and if we're using prewritten material, then the job of the model
underneath becomes, not to determine abstractly what kind of thing
might happen next and then narrate that, but rather to select from the
collection of written elements the author has provided; content-
generation becomes the major constraint on the feasibility of the
whole project, rather than engine design.

There are still some ways to manage this, maybe. I think I didn't set
sufficiently rigorous constraints on the opening premise; I allowed
the player a lot of freedom in determining what kind of story it was
going to be from the outset, which made everything resulting come out
rather bland and homogenized, whereas I think this kind of thing would
function much better with an extremely constrained premise that pre-
defines the major conflicts of the work. (Trading away the player's
freedom already, I know...)

"Once Upon a Time" goes halfway with this by insisting that the story
take place in the domain of traditional fairy tales, which means that
the player and the game designer both have a pretty good idea of what
kinds of events, characters, props, and resolutions are appropriate to
this universe. (_Second Person_ has an article that partly deals with
"Once Upon a Time," and I think rightly emphasizes that the game works
only because it is grounded on a firm understanding of genre.)

Emily Short

unread,
May 3, 2007, 4:12:43 PM5/3/07
to
On May 3, 6:38 am, Victor Gijsbers <V.Gijsb...@let.leidenuniv.nl>
wrote:

> The combinatorial explosion, though, might not be as big a problem as


> you imagine. Since, as authors, we already create a model world which
> has many possible states apart from the one it is currently in, smart
> choices of what to simulate might prevent a combinatorial explosion.
> (For instance: the fact that our authoring systems model containment
> means that we can create containers and give the player a choice as to
> put what into what without facing a combinatorial explosion.)

Hmm. Hmm hmm hmm. Okay, perhaps. It seems like the idea of modeling
the underlying thematic issues somewhat undermines the idea of giving
the player as much thematic freedom as possible, in that it will
naturally tend to focus the author's attentions on one or two axes of
the game. This might not be a bad thing, but it runs counter to what I
thought I understood you saying you wanted.


> Objects in IF are usually tools, which makes them little more than
> means to an action. This _need_ not be the case though: choosing
> whether you are carrying a bunch of red roses, an expensive ring or
> two tickets for a football match to your date might help you to
> characterise the protagonist. (Especially if all of them have the same
> effect on your date, and _especially_ if the characterisation of your
> date will depend on the present you choose to have with you.)

No, that's all fair. I think my inclination would be to put thematic
choices into the regular structure of the game as much as possible and
minimize the amount I directly addressed the player with a question.
With "Fate" I felt that the explicit questions called attention to the
key moments of the game, and this prevented them from being
distracting, but they easily could have become so if used more freely.

This whole issue reminds me again of "Scavenger", where the player is
allowed to buy equipment at the beginning of the game. Since I wanted
to play a minimally-violent character, I steered away as much as
possible from the weapons and towards other kinds of tools; this felt
like quite a natural way of folding PC-definition into the game. (And
making it significant later, of course, since puzzles had to be solved
differently depending on the available equipment. "Scavenger" made
moderate thematic use of this, but it would have been quite possible
to do more from the same setup.)

Adam Thornton

unread,
May 3, 2007, 4:31:34 PM5/3/07
to
In article <1178221608.6...@q75g2000hsh.googlegroups.com>,

Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>"Once Upon a Time" goes halfway with this by insisting that the story
>take place in the domain of traditional fairy tales, which means that
>the player and the game designer both have a pretty good idea of what
>kinds of events, characters, props, and resolutions are appropriate to
>this universe. (_Second Person_ has an article that partly deals with
>"Once Upon a Time," and I think rightly emphasizes that the game works
>only because it is grounded on a firm understanding of genre.)

I'll basically agree with that. Nanofictionary is less genre-limited,
although by the nature of the stuff in it--it's clearly a Looney Labs
game--it tends towards SF stonerdom stories rather than fairy tales.

I'd be all over a western or a space opera version of Once Upon A Time,
but, clearly, again you're relying on genre conventions to set
boundaries and expectations for the play. The
somewhat-more-traditional-RPG version of that would be _Dogs In The
Vineyard_, although its combining of Mormon theology and morality with
the genre conventions of the Western make it more interesting than it
might otherwise be.

Adam

Victor Gijsbers

unread,
May 3, 2007, 5:10:26 PM5/3/07
to
Emily Short wrote:

> Hmm. Hmm hmm hmm. Okay, perhaps. It seems like the idea of modeling
> the underlying thematic issues somewhat undermines the idea of giving
> the player as much thematic freedom as possible, in that it will
> naturally tend to focus the author's attentions on one or two axes of
> the game. This might not be a bad thing, but it runs counter to what I
> thought I understood you saying you wanted.

I think the issue may be becoming a bit muddled, because in this thread
we are talking about (a) the radical proposals in my PDF, (b) the much
less radical examples in Figaro, and (c) other ways to give more
authorship to the player. So what I say in one place may run counter to
what I say in another because I'm talking about rather different things. :)

Regards,
Victor

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
Message has been deleted
0 new messages