atmosphere vs red-herrings

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richard develyn

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Jan 26, 2006, 5:48:39 AM1/26/06
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An example (more or less straight from my game):

The setting is a medieval / fairy-tale castle. You find a piece of
clothing. In order to progress the story you need to deliver this to
the appropriate person (this bit isn't really important to the point
I'm trying to make).

I am wondering whether to code the following:

If you drop the clothing outside, it gets dirty (and is described as
so). If you drop it within the confines of the castle and leave it it
gets picked up, washed, and hung on the washing line (which already
exists in the game). The garment is now described as clean.

The above doesn't affect the story in the slightest. Question is, would
this be seen as:

a) An annoying red-herring
b) An acceptable red-herring provided for the sake of adding atmosphere
and "life" to the castle.

Richard

Jeff Nyman

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Jan 26, 2006, 7:41:22 AM1/26/06
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richard develyn wrote:
> The above doesn't affect the story in the slightest. Question is, would
> this be seen as:
>
> a) An annoying red-herring
> b) An acceptable red-herring provided for the sake of adding atmosphere
> and "life" to the castle.

To me, I think it would set some expectations that the garment in
question has some importance. Why else (I imagine me thinking) would
the author have gone to all this trouble to bring focus to it,
depending on what I did with it. So I would not immediately think it a
red-herring. Only later, if it eventually became clear that the garment
had no real use whatsoever, would I think it a red-herring (and maybe
an annoyance). How much I think the garment (and the actions
surrounding it) added "life" or "realism" to the game would probably
depend on how frustrated I was by trying to figure out its purpose.

Here I am speaking to the experience (and thus expectations) of playing
a game, as opposed to reading a novel. In a game, I expect things to
happen for a general reason or for conditions to exist for some
purpose. That is, after all, what a game tends to do: present
circumscribed locations and/or situations and expect you (as the
player) to deal with those. That said, I think some amount of "realism"
can be welcome in a game. But, again speaking as a player, I am not so
concerned about all aspects of realism because I know that I am playing
a game. My expectations are that the author wants me to complete the
game (to experience their work fully) but has also tried to put in some
complications (puzzles, perhaps) that will make the experience more
enjoyable along the way. (Similar to how a written novel will not just
tell you what is happening all at once, but allow you to figure it out
over the course of the narrative.) Extraneous elements, put in place
solely for the sake of "realism", may be less welcome in that sense.

In your case, perhaps delivering the garment to the person is enough of
what is needed as part of the game. Now, if the game makes it very
clear that the garment must be delivered clean, then perhaps you have
some elements you could put in to allow the player to get it cleaned.
For example, maybe a "background NPC" routinely walks around the castle
with a basket of dirty garments and then later is seen with the same
basket full of clean garments. In that case, the player is being asked
to draw an association between this (seemingly background) detail and
the actual puzzle: getting a dirty garment clean so that it can be
delivered.

- Jeff

Samwyse

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Jan 26, 2006, 7:55:08 AM1/26/06
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richard develyn wrote:
> An example (more or less straight from my game):
>
> If you drop the clothing outside, it gets dirty (and is described as
> so). If you drop it within the confines of the castle and leave it it
> gets picked up, washed, and hung on the washing line (which already
> exists in the game). The garment is now described as clean.
>
> The above doesn't affect the story in the slightest. Question is, would
> this be seen as:
>
> a) An annoying red-herring
> b) An acceptable red-herring provided for the sake of adding atmosphere
> and "life" to the castle.

I'd say (c) a wasted side-bar that most players will never see.

Unless you can make it so that events force the clothing to be dropped
outside. Then it becomes (d), a new puzzle added to the game.
Remember, puzzles are often used to advance plot. This one gives you an
opportunity to take the player somewhere they otherwise wouldn't go.
Perhaps they can visit the laundry room and find a missing item, or
perhaps they can meet the NPC who hangs the laundry out to dry and get
some valuable gossip.

richard develyn

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Jan 26, 2006, 8:41:09 AM1/26/06
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I actually avoided using the word "realism" because what I'm really
driving at here is "life" and "atmosphere", in the sense of it being a
much smaller ambition.

I remember a similar case in an old Scott Adams adventure, Vodoo
Castle, where a maid chases you out of the ballroom with a broom if you
go in covered in soot. It's got nothing to do with the plot, but it
adds a bit of life - a feeling that you are in something more than just
a tableux, or where everything non-static purely exists in order to be
engaged in by you.

Richard

richard develyn

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Jan 26, 2006, 8:45:42 AM1/26/06
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Conceivably it is a puzzle - in the sense that a person could drop the
garment without knowing what was goin gto happen, then find on
returning that the garment has gone (and I would put a message to the
effect that this isn't a bug in the game), then have to figure out what
has happened and find it.

However, since the puzzle is essentially optional, it doesn't advance
the plot, it works within the plot. To my mind it's there to enrich the
atmosphere and help your immersion, but I suppose some people might
think it annoying in that it is pointless.

Richard

Jeff Nyman

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Jan 26, 2006, 10:00:40 AM1/26/06
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richard develyn wrote:
> I actually avoided using the word "realism" because what I'm really
> driving at here is "life" and "atmosphere", in the sense of it being a
> much smaller ambition.

Point taken. A good distinction.

> I remember a similar case in an old Scott Adams adventure, Vodoo
> Castle, where a maid chases you out of the ballroom with a broom if you
> go in covered in soot. It's got nothing to do with the plot, but it
> adds a bit of life - a feeling that you are in something more than just
> a tableux, or where everything non-static purely exists in order to be
> engaged in by you.

Interesting. Now, in that case (and I have not played this game), if
the point was that you *had* to be clean to enter this ballroom, that
was made manifestly clear to the player by the maid's actions. I agree
that if this was not pivotal to the plot, it could be seen as an
annoyance, yet on the other hand it does offer a little verisimilitude,
I suppose, in terms of what could happen in the real world. It can also
serve as a complicating element in terms of advancing the plot. If you,
as the player, *need* to get into that ballroom and if prior to that
you get covered with soot, then a complication is that you cannot enter
the ballroom while dirty. If there is absolutely no reason to go to the
ballroom (even when clean) then I guess you could argue that this
episode with the maid does provide a little atmosphere.

Going to your topic, (if this is a red herring or atmosphere) I guess
it depends on when the episode happens from the player's point of view.
If I have never been in the ballroom then I have no idea if anything is
important in there. In that case, the maid shooing me out (if I was
dirty) would lead to some expectation in my mind that I potentially
need to check out that room. Therefore I need to get clean somehow.
Even if it turns out that the ballroom is useless, I guess you could
argue that you had both: a red herring and an atmospheric element.

Whether a player would enjoy that probably depends very much on the
player. (I could imagine dialog that makes the nature of the red
herring clear. For example, after finally getting clean you wander into
the ballroom and after examining it, the game says: "You wonder what
the heck that maid was so worried about?! There's nothing in here
anyway.")

- Jeff

Nathan

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Jan 26, 2006, 10:27:43 AM1/26/06
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Samwyse wrote:
> richard develyn wrote:
> > An example (more or less straight from my game):
> >
> > If you drop the clothing outside, it gets dirty (and is described as
> > so). If you drop it within the confines of the castle and leave it it
> > gets picked up, washed, and hung on the washing line (which already
> > exists in the game). The garment is now described as clean.
> >
> > The above doesn't affect the story in the slightest. Question is, would
> > this be seen as:
> >
> > a) An annoying red-herring
> > b) An acceptable red-herring provided for the sake of adding atmosphere
> > and "life" to the castle.
>
> I'd say (c) a wasted side-bar that most players will never see.
>
> Unless you can make it so that events force the clothing to be dropped
> outside.

Just because most players will never see it doesn't mean it's wasted.
I'm still finding fun surprises in Infocom games. They included a lot
of easter eggs and "atmospheric" things that most players never saw;
they're still fun for those who do find them.

Mike Snyder

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Jan 26, 2006, 10:54:30 AM1/26/06
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"richard develyn" <ric...@skaro.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
news:1138272519.9...@o13g2000cwo.googlegroups.com...

> a) An annoying red-herring
> b) An acceptable red-herring provided for the sake of adding atmosphere
> and "life" to the castle.

I tend to look for uses any time I can (a) pick up the object or (b) see
special attention given to an object (piece of scenery, etc).

I don't think it's a red herring as long as it has a point in the story or
setting. Just don't implement too *many* things, else it becomes impossible
to figure out what's useful and what isn't. Ideally, I'd see a clue that the
item isn't important, or is important in a way that doesn't make me waste
time trying to look for a *more* important use.

--- Mike.


richard develyn

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Jan 26, 2006, 12:28:42 PM1/26/06
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Well, I decided to implement it, just to see how it felt, and taking
the point made by a poster further down not to do too much of this. I
like it, myself, but I note it's considerably more work to do than just
a simple throw away message.

I have to be aware now of where it makes sense for some servant to pick
up the garment in the background - so to speak.

I'm also now pondering what to do if you hang the dirty garment
yourself on the washing line. At the moment, it stays there looking
incongruously dirty, which is rather fun, but maybe I should have the
maid who's hanging out the clothes notice it at some point and wash it.
If you drop the garment on the floor where the washing line is then as
soon as you go away it gets washed and hung up.

And remember - none of this has anything to do with advancing the plot.
It's just that I like the idea that my castle is a living place and a
few things should happen in the background to remind you of the fact.

(And I haven't even started a discussion yet about another nagging
issue - how do you give the illusion of time passing in an adventure
which is basically a tableaux...)

Richard

Jeff Nyman

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Jan 26, 2006, 1:36:32 PM1/26/06
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richard develyn wrote:
> I have to be aware now of where it makes sense for some servant to pick
> up the garment in the background - so to speak.

Right -- and can this event happen (garment picked up by servant) even
when the player is not in the location? That might be a consideration
as well.

> I'm also now pondering what to do if you hang the dirty garment
> yourself on the washing line. At the moment, it stays there looking
> incongruously dirty, which is rather fun, but maybe I should have the
> maid who's hanging out the clothes notice it at some point and wash it.
> If you drop the garment on the floor where the washing line is then as
> soon as you go away it gets washed and hung up.

The last sentence there probably answers my previous question. It
sounds like this happens when the player leaves the location. What if
the player is still in the location? Does all this logic still happen
in that case? I guess I would make it consistent because I would expect
that as a game player. If something can happen when I am not there, it
presumably could happen while I am there (provided I do not interfere).
So if the servant/maid comes and takes the garment off the ground and
washes it, she would probably do likewise if it were just hanging on
the line already. Further, she would probably do this whether the
player is in the location or not. (Leaving the player to perhaps
wonder, for a time, where the garment went until it was brought back.)

The other side of this is what the player may do. If the maid/servant
takes the garment, can the player take it right back? In other words,
if the "atmosphere" can intrude a bit, can the player intrude on the
"atmosphere"?

In other words, does the atmosphere, as it were, extend to how the
other characters in the game (in this case, the maid/servant) react to
the player as well as to things laying around?

> And remember - none of this has anything to do with advancing the plot.
> It's just that I like the idea that my castle is a living place and a
> few things should happen in the background to remind you of the fact.

Understood. The trick (for lack of a better term) with "atmosphere" and
"life" does seem to have something to do with the emphasis placed on it
and the extent to which this emphasis makes the player think there is
more to the situation or event than there in fact is. In other words,
if it is clear that a certain amount of hustle-and-bustle, as it were,
is part of the "background noise" and sets expectations for the player,
I can see it being very effective. Further, I think if your game is
consistent with this kind of world model (meaning it becomes clear to
the player that events do happen and some events are there to
complement the plot rather than advance it), your players will start to
have that understanding and set their expectations accordingly.

- Jeff

richard develyn

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Jan 27, 2006, 5:29:11 AM1/27/06
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Having someone pick up the discarded garment while you're still there
is something I am wondering about. Currently I don't, quite
deliberately, in order to create the illusion that this really only
happens infrequently (and I might make it a random event to enhance
this) but also to leave it slightly more mysterious. As soon as it
happens right in front of your face I think it becomes more of a game
mechanic. Of course, the player shouldn't know that this never happens
while you're there, he should just think to himself that it's
coincidence that he's never there when it does.

There's probably also a bit of a throw-back to my childhood, here,
where my discarded clothes would myseteriously get picked up, washed,
and put away when I wasn't looking :-)

Richard

Samwyse

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Jan 28, 2006, 10:52:10 AM1/28/06
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Nathan wrote:

> Just because most players will never see it doesn't mean it's wasted.
> I'm still finding fun surprises in Infocom games. They included a lot
> of easter eggs and "atmospheric" things that most players never saw;
> they're still fun for those who do find them.

Yeah, but Infocom games were commercial. They cost a lot and people
wanted to feel that they got their money's worth, so when you finished
they'd list some easter-egg-like items and give you the chance to play
again and look for them. Current games mostly don't cost people any
money, so they don't mind playing once and throwing the game away, so
they'll less likely to replay a game and look for things that they may
have missed the first time.

I will say that, upon reflection, Richard's idea does make sense if he
lists it as one of the amusing things a player can go back and try out.

Autymn D. C.

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Feb 1, 2006, 12:37:50 AM2/1/06
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It's got -> It has
tableux -> tableau

Autymn D. C.

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Feb 1, 2006, 12:43:34 AM2/1/06
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richard develyn wrote:
> The setting is a medieval / fairy-tale castle. You find a piece of

Can someone explain the dumbness of the spaces about a slash, that only
shows up on the internet and not elsewhere?

richard develyn

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Feb 1, 2006, 4:57:56 AM2/1/06
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It probably comes down to short line lengths and word-wrap.

Richard

Samwyse

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Feb 1, 2006, 6:24:46 AM2/1/06
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Attention, everyone! As evidenced by the lack of ad hominem attacks in
this reply, someone is impersonating the real Autymn D. C.

Whomever you are, no this: I've been insulted by Autymn D. C., I know
Autymn D. C.s stile, Autymn D. C. is a troll of this groups. You dum
retard, you are no Autymn D. C.!

Tommy Herbert

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Feb 1, 2006, 7:49:37 AM2/1/06
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Samwyse wrote:
> Whomever you are, no this: I've been insulted by Autymn D. C., I know
> Autymn D. C.s stile, Autymn D. C. is a troll of this groups. You dum
> retard, you are no Autymn D. C.!

Gnice work, Samwise.

samwyse

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Feb 1, 2006, 4:45:26 PM2/1/06
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Yore welcome.

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