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Joe Mason

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May 21, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/21/97
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"Re: ask rec.arts.int-fict", declared Big Mad from the Vogon ship:

BM>James Cole (jrc...@ozemail.com.au) wrote:
BM>: Using a monkey island style of the ask/tell format you ask the
BM>: questions: 1) What can you tell me about this object?

BM>SHOW OBJECT TO MECHANIC

BM>: 2) I saw a man drop this, he was wearing a red sweater.
BM>: Do you know who he could be?

BM>ASK MECHANIC ABOUT MAN IN RED SWEATER

"Oh you mean old Dan. You should maybe give that back to him - he hates
to lose stuff."

1) Do you know where I can find him?
2) Hates to lose stuff? Why?
3) What do you think he'll do if I don't give this back to him?
4) Hey, is this the same Dan who owes $100 to the bartender at Jake's?
5) Is Dan a member of this mysterious cult I've been hearing about?
6) Are YOU a member of this mysterious cult I've been hearing about?

Implement all these as keyword style questions.

Now a tougher task - implement these using keywords so that EVERYBODY
can instantly guess which keyword to use as soon as they think up the
question. (It's all very well to say, "TELL ME ABOUT THE MYSTERIOUS
CULT", but which of the two questions does that mean?)

Joe

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şSoftware Independent: Won't work w/ any software

Liza Daly

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May 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/22/97
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Joe Mason (joe....@tabb.com) wrote:

: BM>ASK MECHANIC ABOUT MAN IN RED SWEATER

: "Oh you mean old Dan. You should maybe give that back to him - he hates
: to lose stuff."

: 1) Do you know where I can find him?
: 2) Hates to lose stuff? Why?
: 3) What do you think he'll do if I don't give this back to him?
: 4) Hey, is this the same Dan who owes $100 to the bartender at Jake's?
: 5) Is Dan a member of this mysterious cult I've been hearing about?
: 6) Are YOU a member of this mysterious cult I've been hearing about?

: Implement all these as keyword style questions.

If I were going to do a dialogue-rich game (which I'm not, for the
moment), I'd simply hack the library to include more types of
questions, and put this information in the "First-time players should
type ABOUT" message.

These don't perfectly correspond, but they greatly expand the type of
questions available.

WHERE IS [name]?
WHY?
HOW IS [name] RELATED TO [object]?

Or you can implement a Bureaucracy-style conversation subroutine,
where the game behaves more like TSUTW. (I included other possible
responses in parentheses.)

"Oh you mean old Dan. You should maybe give that back to him - he
hates to lose stuff."

>> STUFF? (or DAN)

"He's always losing things, ever since he joined that cult."

>> CULT? (or JOINED, or WHEN)

"Yeah, the Order of NPC Dialogians. They've got lots of members."

>> YOU? (or MEMBERS, or ORDER)

He gulps nervously. "No, I'm not a member. Now, get out of here!"

>

In the trade-off between natural sentences and what Andrew referred to
as the "feeling of boundlessness," I much prefer the boundlessness.
That's just my opinion as a player, of course.

--Liza

--
ge...@retina.net "By the way, I've visited Mr. Joffe's site,
. . . . . . . . and find it quite garish and unappealing."
Iguanas Mailing List: - The House of Erotic Massage (May edition)
http://iml.retina.net/ http://fovea.retina.net/~gecko/

Neil Brown

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May 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/22/97
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In article <66.916...@tabb.com>, Joe Mason <joe....@tabb.com>
writes

>"Re: ask rec.arts.int-fict", declared Big Mad from the Vogon ship:
>
>BM>James Cole (jrc...@ozemail.com.au) wrote:
>BM>: Using a monkey island style of the ask/tell format you ask the
>BM>: questions: 1) What can you tell me about this object?
>
>BM>SHOW OBJECT TO MECHANIC
>
>BM>: 2) I saw a man drop this, he was wearing a red sweater.
>BM>: Do you know who he could be?
>
>BM>ASK MECHANIC ABOUT MAN IN RED SWEATER
>
>"Oh you mean old Dan. You should maybe give that back to him - he hates
>to lose stuff."

> 1) Do you know where I can find him?
> 2) Hates to lose stuff? Why?
> 3) What do you think he'll do if I don't give this back to him?
> 4) Hey, is this the same Dan who owes $100 to the bartender at Jake's?
> 5) Is Dan a member of this mysterious cult I've been hearing about?
> 6) Are YOU a member of this mysterious cult I've been hearing about?
>
>Implement all these as keyword style questions.

The problem with multiple choice questions is that they are so much
easier than having to come up with the answer for yourself. Then again,
the current ASK/TELL/SAY system is a bit primitive, and can develop into
a 'guess the word' scenario. Neither solution holds up the illusion of a
conversation well.

I would feel greatly distressed if I were presented with a list of
questions like those above - I'd feel the urge to try them all out very
quickly, and anyway, they are all fairly sensible things to ask (some of
which may not have occurred to me otherwise), so I'd probably end up
asking all of them, one at a time. So why not just display a chunk of
pre-written dialogue between the NPC and the player?

I remember playing a section of Simon the Sorcerer. At one point, I
needed to say a password to progress. I didn't know the password at that
point, so the multiple choice menu gave me a number of words beginning
with B to choose from. How could I possibly have known that the password
began with a B? And it was possible to actually go through each one of
these in turn until the right one was found, though it was a bit slow.

My own personal preference is the ASK/SAY/TELL way of doing it, and I
think this is the area where all our development efforts should be
focused.

As for the questions above, it is possible to implement them using ASK
and SAY commands. Using the way Christminster handles talking, by
defining objects with names and finding the one with the best fit,
an object for the first question might look like:

Object Qwhereisdan with name "where" "can" "i" "find" "dan" "is" "him";

Then, pick up the object Qwhereisdan in the NPC's life property (using
the fake action Response). The routine for deciding which object the
player is refering to may need an overhaul, though.
______________

Neil James Brown
ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk
http://www.highmount.demon.co.uk

James Cole

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May 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/23/97
to

ld...@bu.edu (Liza Daly) wrote:

>Joe Mason (joe....@tabb.com) wrote:
>
>: BM>ASK MECHANIC ABOUT MAN IN RED SWEATER


>
>: "Oh you mean old Dan. You should maybe give that back to him - he hates
>: to lose stuff."
>
>: 1) Do you know where I can find him?
>: 2) Hates to lose stuff? Why?
>: 3) What do you think he'll do if I don't give this back to him?
>: 4) Hey, is this the same Dan who owes $100 to the bartender at Jake's?
>: 5) Is Dan a member of this mysterious cult I've been hearing about?
>: 6) Are YOU a member of this mysterious cult I've been hearing about?
>
>: Implement all these as keyword style questions.
>

>If I were going to do a dialogue-rich game (which I'm not, for the
>moment), I'd simply hack the library to include more types of
>questions, and put this information in the "First-time players should
>type ABOUT" message.
>

[..example snipped..]

But your example only has set up types of specific questions. You can't do
something like Joe's example in a general way. You can also still ask only
"simple" questions.

What you're doing is turning the conversation into a multiple choice quiz
(boy, have I've wanted to say that :-) ). If you give the player a
predefined set of specific questions then he/she might as well just try
them all out with every player.
... well, not exactly, I just wanted to say the thing about a multiple
choice quiz.

---------------
James Cole
jrc...@ozemail.com.au

James Cole

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May 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/23/97
to

Neil Brown <ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>In article <66.916...@tabb.com>, Joe Mason <joe....@tabb.com>
>writes
>>"Re: ask rec.arts.int-fict", declared Big Mad from the Vogon ship:
>>

[...]


>>
>>Implement all these as keyword style questions.
>

>The problem with multiple choice questions is that they are so much
>easier than having to come up with the answer for yourself.

but that doesn't simply mean that because all your options are visible that
you don't have to think about what to say. And it's not exactly like you
think "gee if that option is going to be the right one, I would never have
thought of it if I hadn't seen it." Sure, that can happen in cases, but
not usually.

> Then again,
>the current ASK/TELL/SAY system is a bit primitive, and can develop into
>a 'guess the word' scenario. Neither solution holds up the illusion of a
>conversation well.

but that doesn't have to mean they hold up equally badly.

>I would feel greatly distressed if I were presented with a list of
>questions like those above - I'd feel the urge to try them all out very
>quickly, and anyway, they are all fairly sensible things to ask (some of
>which may not have occurred to me otherwise), so I'd probably end up
>asking all of them, one at a time.

But what if there wasn't one correct answer? What if you weren't punished
for choosing the "wrong" answer?

> So why not just display a chunk of
>pre-written dialogue between the NPC and the player?

That conclusion is silly.

>I remember playing a section of Simon the Sorcerer. At one point, I
>needed to say a password to progress. I didn't know the password at that
>point, so the multiple choice menu gave me a number of words beginning
>with B to choose from. How could I possibly have known that the password
>began with a B? And it was possible to actually go through each one of
>these in turn until the right one was found, though it was a bit slow.
>

yes, there definitely _can_ be problems like this.

>My own personal preference is the ASK/SAY/TELL way of doing it, and I
>think this is the area where all our development efforts should be
>focused.

Isn't that a bit arrogant. How can you say this if it's only your personal
preference? Why should I do this if it's only your opinion?

Before anybody says anything about the things I've said: I may not like the
ask/tell style, but I've never made any statements like this, and I always
try to give reasons for my opinion.

>
>As for the questions above, it is possible to implement them using ASK
>and SAY commands. Using the way Christminster handles talking, by
>defining objects with names and finding the one with the best fit,
>an object for the first question might look like:

No it isn't. Especially in a general way. (and it is VERY important that
it is in a general way with the ask/tell style)

[...]
---------------
James Cole
jrc...@ozemail.com.au

Neil Brown

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May 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/23/97
to

In article <33851be4...@news.netspace.net.au>, James Cole
<jrc...@ozemail.com.au> writes
>Neil Brown <ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>>The problem with multiple choice questions is that they are so much
>>easier than having to come up with the answer for yourself.
>
>but that doesn't simply mean that because all your options are visible that
>you don't have to think about what to say. And it's not exactly like you
>think "gee if that option is going to be the right one, I would never have
>thought of it if I hadn't seen it." Sure, that can happen in cases, but
>not usually.

Of course you have to think about the answer. But the chances of picking
the right answer, or at least a favourable answer, are quite high.
There's no way you could conjure an answer out of thin air with
Ask/Tell/Say.

For instance, if I went to a party, saw an attractive stranger in black
in the corner and wanted to chat up Black, the chances of me doing so
would be greatly increased if I were given five options to choose from
instead of having to come up with an answer for myself.

This scenario would be difficult to implement in the Ask/Tell/Say way,
but not impossible. If handled correctly, it could turn out really well.
(Memo to self: must try implementing this scenario.)

>> Then again,
>>the current ASK/TELL/SAY system is a bit primitive, and can develop into
>>a 'guess the word' scenario. Neither solution holds up the illusion of a
>>conversation well.
>
>but that doesn't have to mean they hold up equally badly.
>

Of course. It depends on how good the program is, rather than which
method is used. I'll grant you that the Ask/Say/Tell way is harder to
implement well, but in my opinion, worth it in the end.

>>I would feel greatly distressed if I were presented with a list of
>>questions like those above - I'd feel the urge to try them all out very
>>quickly, and anyway, they are all fairly sensible things to ask (some of
>>which may not have occurred to me otherwise), so I'd probably end up
>>asking all of them, one at a time.
>
>But what if there wasn't one correct answer? What if you weren't punished
>for choosing the "wrong" answer?

I'm not sure what relevance that has to what I was saying, but if this
were the case, what would be the point in being given the choice?
Options a, b and d are the correct ones, and option c won't be punished.
It seems very artificial. (Disclaimer: this is my opinion. I am not
passing this off as fact.)

>> So why not just display a chunk of
>>pre-written dialogue between the NPC and the player?

>That conclusion is silly.

How is it silly? If the player is eventually going to see all the
responses to the options, (which was what I was getting at with my
original point), why bother with the pretence of choice? I know that the
menus-based system can be used for more than just explaining the plot,
but I refute that what I originally said was 'silly'. "I drive an ice-
cream road brick" - now that's silly.

>>I remember playing a section of Simon the Sorcerer. At one point, I
>>needed to say a password to progress. I didn't know the password at that
>>point, so the multiple choice menu gave me a number of words beginning
>>with B to choose from. How could I possibly have known that the password
>>began with a B? And it was possible to actually go through each one of
>>these in turn until the right one was found, though it was a bit slow.
>>
>yes, there definitely _can_ be problems like this.
>
>>My own personal preference is the ASK/SAY/TELL way of doing it, and I
>>think this is the area where all our development efforts should be
>>focused.
>
>Isn't that a bit arrogant. How can you say this if it's only your personal
>preference? Why should I do this if it's only your opinion?

Arrogant? Me? I'm too perfect to be arrogant. But what I was getting at
was that the ideal solution, admittedly a long way off, would be to type
something like 'Brian, hello, how's the kids?' and get an intelligent
response ("What kids?" says Brian). Or indeed, to get an intelligent
response from anything typed in. The MI way of doing it is an adequate
alternative way of handling conversations until a greater level of
articifial intelligence can be introduced. Maybe I didn't state my case
too well - what I meant was that we should be thinking about doing the
ground work for these artificial intelligence systems by slowly building
up from the ASK/TELL system. I can't see how the MI way of doing it can
be improved much more than it already is, or how it can benefit from AI.
(Any suggestions?)

>Before anybody says anything about the things I've said: I may not like the
>ask/tell style, but I've never made any statements like this, and I always
>try to give reasons for my opinion.

An over-reaction. And anyway, I've read lots of your postings where you
don't justify your opinions.

[Neil ducks as a great wall of flame roars over from Australia.]

>>As for the questions above, it is possible to implement them using ASK
>>and SAY commands. Using the way Christminster handles talking, by
>>defining objects with names and finding the one with the best fit,
>>an object for the first question might look like:
>
>No it isn't.

Oh yes it is.
>Oh no it isn't
Oh yes it is.

> Especially in a general way. (and it is VERY important that
>it is in a general way with the ask/tell style)

Actually, yes it is possible to implement them the way I said. You may
feel that this implementation may not be any good, and that would
certainly be a valid point, but then I'm talking about code that hasn't
been written yet, so how can you dismiss it out of hand?

Gareth Jones

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May 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/24/97
to

Neil Brown <ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk> writes:

>
> In article <33851be4...@news.netspace.net.au>, James Cole
> <jrc...@ozemail.com.au> writes
> >Neil Brown <ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> For instance, if I went to a party, saw an attractive stranger in black
> in the corner and wanted to chat up Black, the chances of me doing so
> would be greatly increased if I were given five options to choose from
> instead of having to come up with an answer for myself.
>
> This scenario would be difficult to implement in the Ask/Tell/Say way,
> but not impossible. If handled correctly, it could turn out really well.
> (Memo to self: must try implementing this scenario.)

The main problem with ask/tell/say is not being able to choose _how_
to say something, this is (IMO) where the MI system is better. The
"expand the player's words" approach can produce a very different
impression than the one intended and can you really imagine chatting
up Black if all you can do is ask about simple noun phrases, tell Black about
simple nouns phrases and say stock phrases? This implies that more
sophisticated statements should be allowed, but it might get rather
dull having to type out a full conversation.

> >> Then again,
> >>the current ASK/TELL/SAY system is a bit primitive, and can develop into
> >>a 'guess the word' scenario. Neither solution holds up the illusion of a
> >>conversation well.

The conversation should be 'guess the word' in some games. For
example, if the player is a detective then asking the right question
may be the only way to procede. It should be possible to deduce the
correct question from the game however.

> >>I would feel greatly distressed if I were presented with a list of
> >>questions like those above - I'd feel the urge to try them all out very
> >>quickly, and anyway, they are all fairly sensible things to ask (some of
> >>which may not have occurred to me otherwise), so I'd probably end up
> >>asking all of them, one at a time.
> >
> >But what if there wasn't one correct answer? What if you weren't punished
> >for choosing the "wrong" answer?
>
> I'm not sure what relevance that has to what I was saying, but if this
> were the case, what would be the point in being given the choice?
> Options a, b and d are the correct ones, and option c won't be punished.
> It seems very artificial. (Disclaimer: this is my opinion. I am not
> passing this off as fact.)

Perhaps he means that each answer starts a different plot? Good for
the player, horrible for the author (whithout cheating by merging the
plots later which annoys the player). OTOH, consider how different
the average day would be if you responded differently to random
encounters (and most NPCs are random encounters). Most of the time it
wouldn't matter whether you said "Good morning, can I have X please?",
or "Give me X." at the time, but only when you met that person again
which, in if, you might well not. If, however, the author chose
one of these in response to the command NPC, GIVE ME X then the
player would get some information about the player character. If the
NPCs really were intelligent and these two phrasings produced
different responses then I would probably not play. Typing SAY "Good
morning, can I have X please?" TO NPC instead of NPC, GIVE ME X would
just be too annoying (IMHO).

>
> >> So why not just display a chunk of
> >>pre-written dialogue between the NPC and the player?

This approach seems to be used in quite a few games and generally
works well (IMO), but it is still putting words into the players
mouth. What frequently seems to happen is that the player shows
something to an NPC or asks them a fairly innocuous question and then
screeds of text ensue whereby the player tells the NPC pretty much all
they've discovered so far in the game. Now this is invariably the
correct solution but suppose I distrust the NPC and want to keep my
investigations secret? Perhaps it should be handled differently, TELL
NPC ABOUT INVESTIGATIONS, EXPLAIN PLOT TO NPC, TELL NPC THAT X DID IT
may be better triggers for the set piece than SHOW NPC THE MEMO.
However, set pieces are useful if handled well.


> But what I was getting at
> was that the ideal solution, admittedly a long way off, would be to type
> something like 'Brian, hello, how's the kids?' and get an intelligent
> response ("What kids?" says Brian). Or indeed, to get an intelligent
> response from anything typed in. The MI way of doing it is an adequate
> alternative way of handling conversations until a greater level of
> articifial intelligence can be introduced. Maybe I didn't state my case
> too well - what I meant was that we should be thinking about doing the
> ground work for these artificial intelligence systems by slowly building
> up from the ASK/TELL system. I can't see how the MI way of doing it can
> be improved much more than it already is, or how it can benefit from AI.
> (Any suggestions?)

You could implement the MI system by creating a pseudo NPC that
shadows the player's actions and, whenever dialog is necessary, works
out the sentances that the it (the pseudo player) would consider and
give these as choices to the player. This would mean that the
player's dialog choices were constrained by the AI of the system
rather than the intelligence of the author (no comparison drawn :).
This would allow special cases to be inserted transparantly but if the
player is just choosing between choices of which a computer would
think, then perhaps the player's (or the author's) intelligence is
being insulted? (I'm not sure about this, but it sounds a bit
dull since AI cannot currently produce good jokes and is not likely
to for some time).

> >>As for the questions above, it is possible to implement them using ASK
> >>and SAY commands. Using the way Christminster handles talking, by
> >>defining objects with names and finding the one with the best fit,
> >>an object for the first question might look like:
> >
> >No it isn't.
> Oh yes it is.
> >Oh no it isn't
> Oh yes it is.
>
> > Especially in a general way. (and it is VERY important that
> >it is in a general way with the ask/tell style)
>
> Actually, yes it is possible to implement them the way I said. You may
> feel that this implementation may not be any good, and that would
> certainly be a valid point, but then I'm talking about code that hasn't
> been written yet, so how can you dismiss it out of hand?

It is possible, it has been done (albeit not in if), and it will be
done better. What I see as the main problem to truly realistic NPCs
is the amount of knowledge they must have. The knowledge base for an
NPC who was supposed to be an average present day citizen would be
enormous. Imagine trying to code all the knowledge for the dons in
Christminster.

--
Gareth Jones (gd...@doc.ic.ac.uk)
Any email that looks like spam gets silently killed automatically, so you may
not be able to email me, but at least the illusion of freedom to
contact me is maintained.

Mary K. Kuhner

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May 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/27/97
to

In article <5mf4jn$bpl$2...@netty.york.ac.uk> ric...@manor.york.ac.uk writes:

> The way I see it conversation with an NPC could either:

> A) Just be entertaining.
> B) Provide interesting but non-vital background information about the
>NPC/game (pretty much what 99% of NPC interaction does now).
> C) Spilt you into different bits of the plot - if you're playing the
>type of game that has plot branches.
> D) Be some kind of impediment to progress through the game.

> You seem to be seeing D as the only possible reason for NPC
>conversation.

I think the problem comes in when the player feels she needs to be
looking out for (D), and therefore sticks with an otherwise boring
conversation. It's similar to the situation caused by a game with
many boring locations (like the hotel rooms we discussed a few months
ago). If the player is stuck, she is likely, in an attempt to get
un-stuck, to start going through all the boring rooms hoping for a
clue. This is not a fun activity, so the game author may not want
to make it possible (by coding all those rooms in the first place).

Similarly, if I am badly stuck in a menu game, I will go back and try
every option of every menu, even if I don't enjoy doing so--because
the alternative, assuming there really *is* a case of (D) involved, is
abandoning the game.

This is not necessarily a reason to eschew menus, but it's a caution.
In many IF games the player cannot always be assumed to be doing only
things she enjoys, because almost all players have some desire to
explore more of the game, and perhaps finish it, and will do icky things
on occasion if they think it'll help.

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Richard G Clegg

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May 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/27/97
to

Neil Brown (ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk) wrote:
: I'm not sure what relevance that has to what I was saying, but if this

: were the case, what would be the point in being given the choice?
: Options a, b and d are the correct ones, and option c won't be punished.
: It seems very artificial. (Disclaimer: this is my opinion. I am not
: passing this off as fact.)

Um... you seem to be seeing conversation as "barrier to progress
through game" rather than conversation as "method to interact with
characters/learn about game". Why should conversation with NPCs have
any goal other than to be entertaining anyway? I remember one section
in Day of the Tentacle where there was a conversation between a roadie
and a very obviously dead hotel clerk which (for me anyway) went
something like (with various menu options omitted).

Nice hat dude
(Silence)
No really, I like it, wheredya get it.
(Silence)
It could be improved with like a feather or something tho.
(Silence)
.
.
etc etc

There was no reason whatsoever to talk to the mummy except that it was
really enjoyable.

The way I see it conversation with an NPC could either:

A) Just be entertaining.
B) Provide interesting but non-vital background information about the
NPC/game (pretty much what 99% of NPC interaction does now).
C) Spilt you into different bits of the plot - if you're playing the
type of game that has plot branches.
D) Be some kind of impediment to progress through the game.

You seem to be seeing D as the only possible reason for NPC
conversation.

: How is it silly? If the player is eventually going to see all the


: responses to the options, (which was what I was getting at with my
: original point), why bother with the pretence of choice?

I think, what you're saying is "What about the type of player who,
when presented with a menu of choices which he/she doesn't enjoy/find
entertaining to interact with will nontheless search through for every
possible response?" to which I respond "What about the type of player
who would otherwise really enjoy your game but unfortunately is poking
toasting forks into his/her legs while playing and is distracted by
being in blinding agony." If someone repeatedly does something they
don't really enjoy doing for no particularly good reason... well to be
honest they've got worse problems in life than not having good
interactive fiction.

--
Richard G. Clegg Only the mind is waving
Dept. of Mathematics (Network Control group) Uni. of York.
email: ric...@manor.york.ac.uk
www: http://manor.york.ac.uk/top.html


Neil Brown

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May 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/27/97
to

In article <5mf4jn$bpl$2...@netty.york.ac.uk>, Richard G Clegg
<rg...@york.ac.uk> writes
>Neil Brown (ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk) wrote:
>: I'm not sure what relevance that has to what I was saying, but if this

>: were the case, what would be the point in being given the choice?
>: Options a, b and d are the correct ones, and option c won't be punished.
>: It seems very artificial. (Disclaimer: this is my opinion. I am not
>: passing this off as fact.)
>
> Um... you seem to be seeing conversation as "barrier to progress
>through game" rather than conversation as "method to interact with
>characters/learn about game". Why should conversation with NPCs have
>any goal other than to be entertaining anyway?

No, actually I really enjoy talking to NPCs. What I don't enjoy is
having to select every single option on a menu, one at a time, to
discover stuff about the plot. My point was: what's the point in
pretending that the player has a choice if they eventually have to (or
feel compelled to, in case they miss a vital clue) read through
everything in the menu. That doesn't feel like a conversation to me - it
feels more like fighting with a computer operating system.

Anyway, the type of menu I'm talking about shouldn't appear very often
in well-written games.

> I remember one section
>in Day of the Tentacle where there was a conversation between a roadie
>and a very obviously dead hotel clerk which (for me anyway) went
>something like (with various menu options omitted).
>
> Nice hat dude
> (Silence)
> No really, I like it, wheredya get it.
> (Silence)
> It could be improved with like a feather or something tho.
> (Silence)
> .
> .
> etc etc
>
> There was no reason whatsoever to talk to the mummy except that it was
>really enjoyable.
>

Oh 'eck. You're not one of these people who keeps a pet brick, are you?
:-)

> The way I see it conversation with an NPC could either:
>
> A) Just be entertaining.
> B) Provide interesting but non-vital background information about the
>NPC/game (pretty much what 99% of NPC interaction does now).
> C) Spilt you into different bits of the plot - if you're playing the
>type of game that has plot branches.
> D) Be some kind of impediment to progress through the game.
>
> You seem to be seeing D as the only possible reason for NPC
>conversation.
>

Nope, I was just focusing on D in that particular part of my original
posting. NPC conversations can also reveal vital plot points, an option
that seems to be missing from your list. In The Wedding, for instance (I
really ought to give examples from other peoples' games but my memory is
terrible), you eventually discover who the villain is by talking to
various NPCs. It wasn't handled terribly well but what the heck, it was
my first effort.

>: How is it silly? If the player is eventually going to see all the


>: responses to the options, (which was what I was getting at with my
>: original point), why bother with the pretence of choice?
>

> I think, what you're saying is "What about the type of player who,
>when presented with a menu of choices which he/she doesn't enjoy/find
>entertaining to interact with will nontheless search through for every
>possible response?" to which I respond "What about the type of player
>who would otherwise really enjoy your game but unfortunately is poking
>toasting forks into his/her legs while playing and is distracted by
>being in blinding agony."

Well, for your information, the local S&M club holds IF nights on a
regular basis while sticking painful objects into each other. I haven't
heard any complaints from them yet. (Howls of agony, but no complaints
:-)

> If someone repeatedly does something they
>don't really enjoy doing for no particularly good reason... well to be
>honest they've got worse problems in life than not having good
>interactive fiction.

The 'good reason' is that a vital plot point may be explained in one of
the options, and anyway, how is this frustrated player to know that none
of the options in the menu have any effect on the game?

Mark Green

unread,
May 28, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/28/97
to

> in Day of the Tentacle where there was a conversation between a roadie
> and a very obviously dead hotel clerk which (for me anyway) went
> something like (with various menu options omitted).
>
> Nice hat dude
> (Silence)
> No really, I like it, wheredya get it.
> (Silence)
> It could be improved with like a feather or something tho.
> (Silence)
> etc etc
> There was no reason whatsoever to talk to the mummy except that it was
> really enjoyable.

There was every reason to talk to the mummy: it was a twisted kind of help
system. As you went through the dialogue, the options available to the
player changed to reflect a thought process that provided help with game
problems. Such as:

I have to get some vinegar.
(silence)
Maybe I could make some vinegar.

And similar. Now, THAT would be bizarre - I-F that lets you talk to
yourself..

Mg
--


Adam Cadre

unread,
May 28, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/28/97
to

Mark Green wrote:
> And similar. Now, THAT would be bizarre - I-F that lets you talk to
> yourself...

But... but... if there's one thing I've learned from the fine folks at
Infocom, it's that talking to oneself is a sign of impending mental
collapse!

-----
Adam Cadre, Durham, NC
Now you can play I-0, the "jailbait on the interstate" game, online!
Find it at http://www.duke.edu/~adamc -- still open while I redecorate.

Carl Muckenhoupt

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May 28, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/28/97
to

Richard G Clegg wrote:
>
> Um... you seem to be seeing conversation as "barrier to progress
> through game" rather than conversation as "method to interact with
> characters/learn about game". Why should conversation with NPCs have
> any goal other than to be entertaining anyway? I remember one section

> in Day of the Tentacle where there was a conversation between a roadie
> and a very obviously dead hotel clerk which (for me anyway) went
> something like (with various menu options omitted).
>
> Nice hat dude
> (Silence)
> No really, I like it, wheredya get it.
> (Silence)
> It could be improved with like a feather or something tho.
> (Silence)
> .
> .

> etc etc
>
> There was no reason whatsoever to talk to the mummy except that it was
> really enjoyable.

Actually, there kind of *was* a reason. Talking to the mummy (in any of
the three time periods) was a way to get hints. All the major branches
of the conversation tree eventually lead to the protagonist discussing a
particular obstacle in the game, or describing something similar to one
of the solutions. This is interesting, in that it takes deliberate
advantage of something that has been cited as a disadvantage of "Monkey
Island-style" conversation: that it reveals information to the player
via the choices you're given.

--
Carl Muckenhoupt ca...@earthweb.com
EarthWeb http://www.earthweb.com/

Mark Green

unread,
May 30, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/30/97
to

In article <338CB3...@acpub.duke.edu>

ad...@acpub.duke.edu "Adam Cadre" writes:
> Mark Green wrote:
> > And similar. Now, THAT would be bizarre - I-F that lets you talk to
> > yourself...
> But... but... if there's one thing I've learned from the fine folks at
> Infocom, it's that talking to oneself is a sign of impending mental
> collapse!

And mental collapse can be very, very useful in solving I-F. :)

mg
--


Big Mad Drongo

unread,
Jun 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/4/97
to

Joe Mason (joe....@tabb.com) wrote:
[snippage]
: Implement all these as keyword style questions.

Congratulations. You've discovered that there are some things that can't
be handled by the MI style, and some things that can't be handled by the
ASK/TELL style. Do you want a medal for this?

Adrian

Richard G Clegg

unread,
Jun 8, 1997, 3:00:00 AM6/8/97
to

Neil Brown (ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk) wrote:
: In article <5mf4jn$bpl$2...@netty.york.ac.uk>, Richard G Clegg
: > Um... you seem to be seeing conversation as "barrier to progress

: >through game" rather than conversation as "method to interact with
: >characters/learn about game". Why should conversation with NPCs have
: >any goal other than to be entertaining anyway?

: No, actually I really enjoy talking to NPCs. What I don't enjoy is


: having to select every single option on a menu, one at a time, to
: discover stuff about the plot. My point was: what's the point in
: pretending that the player has a choice if they eventually have to (or
: feel compelled to, in case they miss a vital clue) read through
: everything in the menu. That doesn't feel like a conversation to me - it
: feels more like fighting with a computer operating system.

If the clues are "vital" then we are talking about "conversation as
barrier to progress" again. I agree it is very annoying to have to go
through every possible option to discover things - that's just poor game
design rather than a fault of the menu based conversation system.


: >in Day of the Tentacle where there was a conversation between a roadie


: >and a very obviously dead hotel clerk which (for me anyway) went
: >something like (with various menu options omitted).

<snippage>
: > There was no reason whatsoever to talk to the mummy except that it was
: >really enjoyable.

: Oh 'eck. You're not one of these people who keeps a pet brick, are you?

No, I don't have the time for such a pet... although curiously I did
by my partner a pet stone the other day (with legs and eyes glued on it)
and a very handsome stone it is too.

: > The way I see it conversation with an NPC could either:


: >
: > A) Just be entertaining.
: > B) Provide interesting but non-vital background information about the
: >NPC/game (pretty much what 99% of NPC interaction does now).
: > C) Spilt you into different bits of the plot - if you're playing the
: >type of game that has plot branches.
: > D) Be some kind of impediment to progress through the game.
: >
: > You seem to be seeing D as the only possible reason for NPC
: >conversation.

: Nope, I was just focusing on D in that particular part of my original
: posting. NPC conversations can also reveal vital plot points, an option
: that seems to be missing from your list. In The Wedding, for instance (I
: really ought to give examples from other peoples' games but my memory is
: terrible), you eventually discover who the villain is by talking to
: various NPCs. It wasn't handled terribly well but what the heck, it was
: my first effort.

If they are _vital_ plot points then it's D) above. If they are
non-vital plot points they are B) above. I am quite interested in IF
games where conversation is important tho'. It seems often to be missed
out (but then I haven't played that much modern IF).

<Snippage about masochistic players>
: Well, for your information, the local S&M club holds IF nights on a


: regular basis while sticking painful objects into each other. I haven't
: heard any complaints from them yet. (Howls of agony, but no complaints
: :-)

Ah... personally I like to blu-tak drawing-pins point end up to all
the keys and then touch-type. Persuading someone to flagellate you
every time you look at a walkthrough also helps to keep you "honest".

: > If someone repeatedly does something they


: >don't really enjoy doing for no particularly good reason... well to be
: >honest they've got worse problems in life than not having good
: >interactive fiction.

: The 'good reason' is that a vital plot point may be explained in one of
: the options, and anyway, how is this frustrated player to know that none
: of the options in the menu have any effect on the game?

How is the frustrated player supposed to whether ASK <SUBJECT> ABOUT
<OBJECT> has no effect on the game or contains a vital plot point? It's
exactly the same. If the game is well done then the player will know,
if it is not well done the player will have to resort to brute force (or
a walkthrough) and it's a lot easier to brute force your way through
menus than a list of ASK X ABOUT Y - but in that situation either the
player is being dense or the game design is cock-eyed.

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