Untimely Endings to the Story

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Molley the Mage

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Apr 6, 1994, 3:46:32 PM4/6/94
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I've noticed the recent discussions of the merits of killing or not
killing the player. Without quoting from any of the thread, because
it's gotten so long, I will now leap boldly in with my own views. :-)

I believe that there are situations where the death of the player is
justified. I am not going to use the example of the "three doors"
puzzle as the previous postings have done because in my opinon that is
a dumb puzzle to begin with. Instead, I'll use examples from my game,
which of course is not finished yet. :-)

At one point I have an angry gorilla confront the player. The player
needs to get past this creature. The gorilla is not aggressive, but
it is clearly threatening and mean. If the player enters the cage
with the gorilla, should he be killed?

At first, I said yes and had the gorilla bash him off the wall. Then,
however, I figured that most intelligent players would know that
entering a gorilla's cage was likely to result in death and would have
saved right before taking that action anyway, so now he just flings
you out of his domain with a humorous message. This is an example of
a situation when you *could* kill the player, but it's really
pointless to do so. Either way, the player winds up back outside the
cage, facing the gorilla again.

Later in the game, you are in a convention hall during a meeting of
the Guild of Wizards. You are NOT supposed to be at this meeting,
which is abundantly clear beforehand. If the wizards discover you,
then they put you to death. Nastily. Now, how could I get around
this *without* killing the player? They're known to be irate and
touchy in the first place; you know you're not welcome; in short, I
consider this to be a case of YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. I mean, what
could they do? They can't just teleport you away, because you need to
be witness to the proceedings to learn a valuable piece of
information, so you'd just sneak back in and they know it.
They could imprison you, but why should they? They're
powerful mages, and you're an insignificant intruder. ZOT.

Now, before you start clamoring for more concrete examples, let me
disclaim that the game isn't ready yet and won't be for at least a
month. I'm projecting the first week in May. So you can all pick up
a copy then and see if you agree with my implementation of things :-)

A few other notes: I don't allow players to UNDO the move which
causes them to die. If I'm going to punish you with death, then I
want you to be DEAD. I don't believe in random death, however: simply
trying various things that seem innocent is highly unlikely to get you
killed. If you're going to get it, you have at least some warning. I
do allow UNDO at other times, though, so you can't ruin an entire game
by accidentally destroying some critical object, for example.

I would also like to point out that the entire set of possible
terminations to a game is NOT { win, die }. There are other ways to
end the game. You can be captured, or diverted from the goal
permanently, or carried off by a flight of swallows and deposited in
Mercia. True, they all force a restore, but IMHO they are not equal.

Another point: Some of us LIKE doing crazy things to see how we will
die. I don't like Sierra games much, but I will admit to playing
them, and I will also admit to trying to get killed in every way
possible just to see the cute animations and read the funny messages
that they print for each of the many various deaths you can have.
Infocom games often are loaded with funny deaths, which are as much a
part of the game experience as the other text. My game has several
(hopefully) funny deaths, which I hope people find and enjoy.

So you see, there are no absolutes. I agree that random death is bad:

>TURN THE CRANK ON THE JACK-IN-THE-BOX

POP! goes the weasel, springing out right in your face!

Unfortunately you have a bad heart, and this sudden shock brings on an
instant coronary event. You try and claw your way to the phone to
dial 911, but find when you get there that you've forgotten the
number. You expire quietly on the kitchen floor.

*** You have fallen and you can't get up ***

... but I say that death (or other termination of the story) is a
valuable and often enjoyable tool in the author's bag of tricks.
However, LucasArts have shown that it's not MANDATORY (although, did
you know, there *is* one way to *die* in Monkey Island), however, and
perhaps their games have a lower frustration quotient because of it.
Personally, the frustration for me comes not from saving/restoring the
game because I died, but from stupid puzzles. Which is another thread
entirely :-)

Sean
--
M. Sean Molley, CS Department, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY
RealSpace : (502) 745-4027 | Email: mol...@wkuvx1.wku.edu | Life : Sucks
--
Thought for the day: If "progress" is good, then what the hell is Congress?
--

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