How do YOU start writing a game?

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Paul Harker

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Sep 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/5/96
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As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
others go through this process. Do you start coding and see where it goes
from there? Make a map first? Write a short story then try to capture the
feel?

I'm interested in hearing about what has and hasn't worked for others.

Thanks....Paul


Matthew Amster-Burton

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Sep 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/5/96
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PaulH...@gnn.com (Paul Harker) wrote:

>As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
>formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
>others go through this process. Do you start coding and see where it goes
>from there? Make a map first? Write a short story then try to capture the
>feel?

Expecting to work out plot details while coding doesn't work. I'm
sure someone has a contrary example, but it's generally bad practice.
The most important part of game development is done without the aid of
the computer. Sit down with pen and paper, make maps, design puzzles,
and have a good idea of the entire game before you start coding.
Believe me, I tried to do it the other way and failed miserably.

Matthew

Nulldogma

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Sep 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/5/96
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The TADS manual (the one that's supposed to be available on the net any
minute now...) has a great chapter about how *not* to design a game. They
tell the story of coding the first half of Deep Space Drifter before the
second half was designed, and winding up with a horrible, patched-together
mess.

There'll invariably be some fine-tuning necessary after you've started
coding (or even when you're in beta-testing), and I find that a lot of my
scenic details don't happen until I'm actually writing room descriptions.
But it's vital to have the main plot, most of the mapping, and central
puzzles all worked out before you even sit down at a computer.

Neil
---------------------------------------------------------
Neil deMause ne...@echonyc.com
http://www.echonyc.com/~wham/neild.html
---------------------------------------------------------

PAZ SALGADO

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Sep 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/6/96
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Paul Harker (PaulH...@gnn.com) wrote:
: As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
: formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
: others go through this process. Do you start coding and see where it goes
: from there? Make a map first? Write a short story then try to capture the
: feel?

: I'm interested in hearing about what has and hasn't worked for others.

: Thanks....Paul

I usually start writing the story.Then I use to try to separate
the situations, the action, and character that are going to happen
in the story. Then with my friend David Mancera, we try to clarify all
this elements. I usually thinks the story like a little world. not
like a little film, so we must determine the *life* of each character
implied, etc.

Finally, we draw a map. When we have a good map, I start to program
and David start to write descriptions.

Meliton Rodriguez
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/5644


Glen Smith

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Sep 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/7/96
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In article <50mrbr$c...@news-e2d.gnn.com>, PaulH...@gnn.com says...

>
>As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
>formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
>others go through this process. Do you start coding and see where it goes
>from there? Make a map first? Write a short story then try to capture the
>feel?
>
>I'm interested in hearing about what has and hasn't worked for others.
>
>Thanks....Paul
>
Well, since I'm in the middle of my first IF game, I can tell you my
experience so far. I had the whole story and most of the puzzled worked
out before I started my code. Then, during the coding process, I've been
known to write a room description, then discover that that description
opens the door for a completely new puzzle, or something else. My game is
only about 70% the same as the original concept. Maybe this isn't the
best way to doing it, but who cares, it's fun and I'm learning! :)


Russell Wain Glasser

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Sep 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/7/96
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>As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
>formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
>others go through this process. Do you start coding and see where it goes
>from there? Make a map first? Write a short story then try to capture the
>feel?
>
>I'm interested in hearing about what has and hasn't worked for others.
>
>Thanks....Paul
>
Hmmm... I'm going to have to go out on a limb against popular
opinion here. Everybody says you must have your game completely
formulated and planned out before you even start to write code. My
game (which is, admittedly, my first) didn't go like that at all.
As a matter of fact, I began the game with only a rough idea of a
story and two characters (one main character and one NPC) to go in it.
As I coded up the characters and their locale, I gradually realized
that the story didn't fit them at all. So I turned the plot around and
wound up in a completely different genre. And, as I wrote more
interaction between them, the puzzles sort of snapped into place around
the story.
In one book, Stephen King said that trying to know the conclusion
before you write the story is like firing a missile and expecting it to
land perfectly in a basketball hoop halfway around the world. The
story has a way of just writing itself as you go along, and your
preconceived notion about how it will end may turn out to be completely
off base.
Did it work? I can't tell you. You'll just have to play
"Reverberations" in the second annual interactive fiction
competition...

Russell

Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/8/96
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>In article <50mrbr$c...@news-e2d.gnn.com>, PaulH...@gnn.com says...
>>
>>As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
>>formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
>>others go through this process. Do you start coding and see where it goes
>>from there? Make a map first? Write a short story then try to capture the
>>feel?

I figure it's probably best to work out most of the game in advance,
then code it... but I don't do that for a couple of reasons. One, I
don't like to wait that long, then leave the coding for one big,
possibly boring lump; I'm anxious to get coding and see parts of the
game in action. The other is that I can always use the practice... it's
nice to know what can and can't be easily done before I design a key
puzzle that I can't figure out how to implement. (This become crucial
with flexible NPC's... don't want to design and NPC that can't be
implemented properly.)

But I have a similar question... what do you do when you've got a nifty
plot line figured out, with a very moody setting, but you can't figure
out how to hang enough puzzles off of it? It's supposed to be a story,
not a puzzle romp, but suddenly you find that you've picked an
environment that doesn't lend itself to puzzles very well. (An old
ghost town with no NPC's except for a mysterious ghost. There aren't
characters to manipulate, no magical stuff, and precious little working
equipment that got left behind.) How would people react to a mystery
that had very few puzzles beyond solving the mystery itself?

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
Error locating MAFIA.EXE - program not executed.

bout...@razor.wcc.govt.nz

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Sep 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/9/96
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In article <50n3pq$2...@nntp4.u.washington.edu>, mam...@u.washington.edu (Matthew Amster-Burton) writes:

>PaulH...@gnn.com (Paul Harker) wrote:
>
>>As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
>>formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
>>others go through this process. Do you start coding and see where it goes
>>from there? Make a map first? Write a short story then try to capture the
>>feel?
>
>Expecting to work out plot details while coding doesn't work. I'm
>sure someone has a contrary example, but it's generally bad practice.

I fully agree with this - as that's the way I write everything and it sucks.
But old habits die hard. The one advantage of writing as you go is that, by the
time you get to the end, you're as surprised as anyone about the outcome of the
story. For me this makes the creative process more enjoyable, but the practical
side becomes infinitely more terrifying.


>The most important part of game development is done without the aid of
>the computer. Sit down with pen and paper, make maps, design puzzles,
>and have a good idea of the entire game before you start coding.
>Believe me, I tried to do it the other way and failed miserably.


Well, I hope I haven't failed *miserably* - in a worst case scenario I hope to
have failed *interestingly* :)

-Giles

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/9/96
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Carl D. Cravens (rave...@southwind.net) wrote:
> But I have a similar question... what do you do when you've got a nifty
> plot line figured out, with a very moody setting, but you can't figure
> out how to hang enough puzzles off of it? It's supposed to be a story,
> not a puzzle romp, but suddenly you find that you've picked an
> environment that doesn't lend itself to puzzles very well. (An old
> ghost town with no NPC's except for a mysterious ghost. There aren't
> characters to manipulate, no magical stuff, and precious little working
> equipment that got left behind.) How would people react to a mystery
> that had very few puzzles beyond solving the mystery itself?

I find that the "length" of a game is proportional to how much the player
has to do in the course of a run through it, beginning to end. So, if I'm
understanding your description correctly, your work will be a very short
one. Start up -- assume you already know all the clues, whatever they
are, from previous runs -- go to the end scene, and I'm done.

If you're willing to have written a short work, that's fine.

If not, you can think of ways to make the player run around the entire
game before doing the end-scene. (I like this better from a prose
perspective, as well. If the point is the story, the program shouldn't
let you skip large parts of it.) What ways? Well, very simple puzzles,
for one thing. One area is blocked by a rusted door; there's a crowbar in
another area, near a clue whose finding is part of the story. As long as
this stuff fits in with the environment, it will add to the interactivity
without interfering with the story. And nobody ever complains that
puzzles are too easy. :-) (As long as they *do* fit in. Gratuitous easy
puzzles are annoying; but then so are gratuitous hard puzzles.)

I'm really only using the word "puzzle" because it's traditional. The
point here is not to force the player to stop thinking about the story
and start solving a puzzle. It's just to make him interact with the
world, as opposed to just walking around and examining things.

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

George Caswell

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Sep 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/9/96
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On 9 Sep 1996 bout...@razor.wcc.govt.nz wrote:

> In article <50n3pq$2...@nntp4.u.washington.edu>, mam...@u.washington.edu (Matthew Amster-Burton) writes:
> >PaulH...@gnn.com (Paul Harker) wrote:
> >
> >>As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
> >>formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
> >>others go through this process. Do you start coding and see where it goes
> >>from there? Make a map first? Write a short story then try to capture the
> >>feel?
> >
> >Expecting to work out plot details while coding doesn't work. I'm
> >sure someone has a contrary example, but it's generally bad practice.
>
> I fully agree with this - as that's the way I write everything and it sucks.
> But old habits die hard. The one advantage of writing as you go is that, by the
> time you get to the end, you're as surprised as anyone about the outcome of the
> story. For me this makes the creative process more enjoyable, but the practical
> side becomes infinitely more terrifying.
>

I don't speak from personal experience, but I would say it depends on
the author and the project... I would definately think it would be best
to have at least the groundwork of the whole game laid out in your head
(or on paper) before starting... just how anal you need to be about
planning every detail depends on 1: how well you, personally can do that
kind of designing, 2: how well you can integrate 'i just thought of this'
elements without disjointing the story, and 3: how heavily the story
depends on everything fitting together. (Zork, for example, was not
really completely designed before implementation. Pieces were added,
removed, etc. as necessary)

....T...I...M...B...U...K...T...U... ____________________________________
.________________ _/>_ _______......[George Caswell, CS '99. 4 more info ]
<___ ___________// __/<___ /......[ http://www.wpi.edu/~timbuktu ]
...//.<>._____..<_ >./ ____/.......[ Member LnL+SOMA, sometimes artist, ]
..//./>./ /.__/ /./ <___________.[writer, builder. Sysadmin of adamant]
.//.</.</</</.<_ _/.<_____________/.[____________________________________]
</.............</...................


Bozzie

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Sep 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/9/96
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erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) writes:

>Carl D. Cravens (rave...@southwind.net) wrote:
>> But I have a similar question... what do you do when you've got a nifty
>> plot line figured out, with a very moody setting, but you can't figure
>> out how to hang enough puzzles off of it? It's supposed to be a story,
>> not a puzzle romp, but suddenly you find that you've picked an
>> environment that doesn't lend itself to puzzles very well. (An old
>> ghost town with no NPC's except for a mysterious ghost. There aren't
>> characters to manipulate, no magical stuff, and precious little working
>> equipment that got left behind.) How would people react to a mystery
>> that had very few puzzles beyond solving the mystery itself?

>I find that the "length" of a game is proportional to how much the player
>has to do in the course of a run through it, beginning to end. So, if I'm
>understanding your description correctly, your work will be a very short
>one. Start up -- assume you already know all the clues, whatever they
>are, from previous runs -- go to the end scene, and I'm done.

Well, that really depends. The length of a game depends on:

a) The size of the game (How many rooms)
b) The number of puzzle or sequences
c) How hard the game is (sure, the game isn't moving when you're thinking
of a puzzle, but it does seem to make the game longer.)

So, Moonmist would be a large game with a moderate number of puzzles and
be reletivly short.

>If you're willing to have written a short work, that's fine.

>If not, you can think of ways to make the player run around the entire
>game before doing the end-scene. (I like this better from a prose
>perspective, as well. If the point is the story, the program shouldn't
>let you skip large parts of it.) What ways? Well, very simple puzzles,
>for one thing. One area is blocked by a rusted door; there's a crowbar in
>another area, near a clue whose finding is part of the story. As long as
>this stuff fits in with the environment, it will add to the interactivity
>without interfering with the story. And nobody ever complains that
>puzzles are too easy. :-) (As long as they *do* fit in. Gratuitous easy
>puzzles are annoying; but then so are gratuitous hard puzzles.)

I can think of more ways of improving the work.

Add prose, etc. to your descriptions. But be careful when doing thins

Add some minor puzzles that fit with the story. Personally I'm getting tired
of all the crowbar-door puzzles. If you're going to add a puzzle of this
type, add some good descriptions, when using the bar (not just "You open the
door with the crowbar.) and place the crowbar where it should
be, not in the middle of the street.

Add scenes to your story. Have him enter one room. Get trapped (The door
shuts behind him) See the ghost of someone walk through the room, hear
a few screams and have the door open again.

However, make sure you do this over time. Such:

>E
Jail

This is the jail in which sherrif Bugglebottom kept the unswarthy
Rootin Tootin Joe McBob after he was arrested holding up a bank.
Joe escaped a year later and killed the sherrif in this same building.
Some say the ghost of bugglebottom still roams the area, looking to
recapture his man.

This is a small sherrifs office with a number of jails along the east wall.
The shrrif's desk is here <prose shortened>.

The wind's bellowing in the distance sends a shiver up your spine.

Suddenly the door slams behind you.

>Open door

It refuses to open. It's as if some unworldly power was keeping it closed.

>Look at desk

It's an old desk designed for efficient use.

You feel your hairs standing on the back of your neck.

>L at back of neck

I don't understand the word 'neck'.

Suddenly you see an old, harsh face peering at you from the shaddows of the
room.

>L at face

<fit in prose here>

Suddenly, you can see more of the ghost, as his faint image comes closer.
he looks as if he's trying to tell you something, as he points to the side
of the desk.

>ghost hello

You can see the ghost reply something, but you can't hear what.

Suddenly, as abruptly as he came, the ghost disapears.

>Examine side of desk

You examine the side of the desk and find a hidden compartment holding
an old letter.
*** end of example

One thing you want to do when making a scene is to set it over the course
of several turns (to make it seem longer, more interactive) but you
also want to allow the character to do things in those turns
(or at least, have him attempt to do things, and give appropriate
responses.)

>I'm really only using the word "puzzle" because it's traditional. The
>point here is not to force the player to stop thinking about the story
>and start solving a puzzle. It's just to make him interact with the
>world, as opposed to just walking around and examining things.

Nod. The thing is, how many times in a story do you have someone stop
and examine things? I think the emphasis should be on interacting
with things.

Bill Hoggett

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
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Giles <bout...@razor.wcc.govt.nz> wrote:
>
> Well, I hope I haven't failed *miserably* - in a worst case scenario I hope to
> have failed *interestingly* :)
>
> -Giles

Ah, but how about succeeding miserably ?

--
Bill Hoggett (aka BeeJay) <mas.su...@easynet.co.uk>

IF GOD IS LIFE'S SERVICE PROVIDER WHY HAVEN'T I GOT HIS I.P. NUMBER ?

Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
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On Mon, 9 Sep 1996 04:00:09 GMT, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) wrote:
>I find that the "length" of a game is proportional to how much the player
>has to do in the course of a run through it, beginning to end. So, if I'm
>understanding your description correctly, your work will be a very short
>one. Start up -- assume you already know all the clues, whatever they
>are, from previous runs -- go to the end scene, and I'm done.

>If you're willing to have written a short work, that's fine.

Actually, things progress slowly and there's a bit to explore... and
that exploration is essential to finishing the game. There's a lot of
'timed' stuff... certain events won't happen until the player has
reached a certain point in the game. The major plot of the story is
itself a puzzle. Granted, if the goal is to put the ghost to rest by
finding and burying its remains in the graveyard, you can skip
everything if you already know where the remains are. One might make
the location of the remains variable (I can think of about seven or
eight reasonable places for the murderer to hide them) and force the
player through the clue-finding process.

But I have to ask, why the concern about a 'second time through'? The
story's been read at that point, the game's been solved. (I don't see
IF as being something I'd play a second time... I could probably run
through Planetfall in about ten minutes right now.) I can read a novel,
then read it again and skip chapter three because I already know what
goes on there, or I can read chapter three because it's part of the
story. That's a choice of the player, really.

>If not, you can think of ways to make the player run around the entire
>game before doing the end-scene. (I like this better from a prose
>perspective, as well. If the point is the story, the program shouldn't
>let you skip large parts of it.) What ways? Well, very simple puzzles,
>for one thing. One area is blocked by a rusted door; there's a crowbar in
>another area, near a clue whose finding is part of the story. As long as
>this stuff fits in with the environment, it will add to the interactivity
>without interfering with the story. And nobody ever complains that
>puzzles are too easy. :-) (As long as they *do* fit in. Gratuitous easy
>puzzles are annoying; but then so are gratuitous hard puzzles.)

I disagree with the "nobody ever complains" part... or do you mean just
individual puzzles. I thought Infidel was way too easy. Planetfall was
fairly easy (am I just getting better at these things?)

>I'm really only using the word "puzzle" because it's traditional. The
>point here is not to force the player to stop thinking about the story
>and start solving a puzzle. It's just to make him interact with the
>world, as opposed to just walking around and examining things.

That's my goal. But I'm having trouble identifying what is a 'puzzle'
and what is a natural course of action.

For instance, in Planetfall, if you don't enter the escape pod, you die
and lose the game. Is the escape pod a puzzle or an obvious course of
action? It's mostly a pointless distinction, but it's bothering me for
some reason. I think it's because I started counting puzzles in
Planetfall and it seemed sadly short. (The thing that really gave
length to Planetfall was the high number of red herrings... you can
spend a long time trying to figure out how to get into rooms you'll
never get into.)

Planetfall was interesting because of its story. Let's throw out
'obvious courses of action' and 'locked doors with obvious keys' and how
many puzzles are there left? I think I am getting a lot better at
these, because things that I Planetfall's author probably felt were
puzzles I felt were just obvious things that needed done. (On the other
hand, it took me several attempts to figure out how to get through the
opening scene of Jigsaw.)

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
My reality check just bounced.

Russ Bryan

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
to

Carl D. Cravens wrote:

> But I have to ask, why the concern about a 'second time through'? The
> story's been read at that point, the game's been solved. (I don't see
> IF as being something I'd play a second time... I could probably run
> through Planetfall in about ten minutes right now.) I can read a novel,
> then read it again and skip chapter three because I already know what
> goes on there, or I can read chapter three because it's part of the
> story. That's a choice of the player, really.

It is the choice of the player, really. Just as you said. Which
strikes me as unusual, since you seem to consider the 'second time
through' issue as "Well, I don't play them a second time, so what's all
the fuss about?" I've run through Trinity three times and Spellbreaker
four times, and now that I'm thinking about it, I think I'll play
Trinity again as soon as I'm done here.

Incidentally, if you consider yourself finished with a game just because
you've gotten 400 out of 400 points, you've been missing a lot, and
should go back and play some of the good ones again.

Anyway, there are other reasons to be concerned about pre-emptive play.
Let's talk about the buried body puzzle. Personally, once I find a
shovel in my hands I try to start digging. Everywhere. If you haven't
provided protection against it, I could dig up that body on the
twentieth move and win the game with 5 points (no shareware fee from
me). It's also a style issue. I, being one of those players who will
play the game again, will try to dig up the body early just to see if it
can be done. If I find that I can do it, I will consider it to be
thoughtless design (no shareware fee there, either).

Think of your interactive fiction as any other type of game. How
popular would chess be if there were a guaranteed win available on the
fifth move? How much fun would Double Fannucci be if three undertrumps
after an opponent's discard of a Trebled Fromp is an indefensible
gambit? Oh, wait, three undertrumps after an opponenet's discard of a
Trebled Fromp IS an indefensible gambit -- hence its lack of modern
popularity, no doubt.

No form of entertainment presents itself with the expectation that it's
a one-time deal. If it's not interesting enough to see, read or play
again, it's really not interesting enough to play once. And if there is
any slight possibility that a million monkeys at a million keyboards can
solve your game in five moves by stumbling over the body, then chances
are good that I will be that monkey, and my interest in your future
games will be nil.

-- Russ

Phil Goetz

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
to

In article <323565...@javanet.com>,

Russ Bryan <cle...@javanet.com> wrote:
>No form of entertainment presents itself with the expectation that it's
>a one-time deal. If it's not interesting enough to see, read or play
>again, it's really not interesting enough to play once.

Are you one of those people who buys mystery-story videos? :)

Phil Goetz

Joe Mason

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Sep 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/10/96
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"Re: How do YOU start writ", declared Carl D. from the Vogon ship:

CD>But I have a similar question... what do you do when you've got a
CD>nifty plot line figured out, with a very moody setting, but you can't
CD>figure out how to hang enough puzzles off of it? It's supposed to be
CD>a story, not a puzzle romp, but suddenly you find that you've picked
CD>an environment that doesn't lend itself to puzzles very well. (An
CD>old ghost town with no NPC's except for a mysterious ghost. There
CD>aren't characters to manipulate, no magical stuff, and precious
CD>little working equipment that got left behind.) How would people
CD>react to a mystery that had very few puzzles beyond solving the
CD>mystery itself?

Well, well, well... An interesting question. The only answer is to
release the game and find out how people react! Don't be afraid to try
something just because it doesn't fit the mold!

(BTW, I think it would go over well, if well-written. My fondest
memories of most games are not the puzzles, but atmospheric scenes that
stand out.)

Joe

-- Coming soon: "In the End", a work of Interactive Fiction --
-- More about the 1996 IF Contest at rec.arts.int-fiction --
-- October 1 at ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/competition96 --

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şRead the docs. Wow, what a radical concept!

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/11/96
to

Carl D. Cravens (rave...@southwind.net) wrote:
> On Mon, 9 Sep 1996 04:00:09 GMT, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) wrote:
> >I find that the "length" of a game is proportional to how much the player
> >has to do in the course of a run through it, beginning to end. So, if I'm
> >understanding your description correctly, your work will be a very short
> >one. Start up -- assume you already know all the clues, whatever they
> >are, from previous runs -- go to the end scene, and I'm done.

> But I have to ask, why the concern about a 'second time through'? The


> story's been read at that point, the game's been solved. (I don't see
> IF as being something I'd play a second time... I could probably run
> through Planetfall in about ten minutes right now.) I can read a novel,
> then read it again and skip chapter three because I already know what
> goes on there, or I can read chapter three because it's part of the
> story. That's a choice of the player, really.

I was actually thinking of subgoals. (In games with several subgoals.)
The player may go through one segment of the game several times, trying
to solve it. When she eventually solves the game, she will be doing that
first segment for the "second time" (or dozenth). If previously-learned
information allows her to skip part of the game, I regard that as a
design flaw.

(Saving and restoring games are a conventional way to short-circuit the
story. That doesn't bother me. Being able to short-circuit within one
run-through does.)

> > And nobody ever complains that
> >puzzles are too easy. :-) (As long as they *do* fit in. Gratuitous easy
> >puzzles are annoying; but then so are gratuitous hard puzzles.)

> I disagree with the "nobody ever complains" part... or do you mean just
> individual puzzles. I thought Infidel was way too easy. Planetfall was
> fairly easy (am I just getting better at these things?)

Ok, I take that back. But if you emphasize the story over the puzzles, I
doubt that people will judge the game as being too easy.

> >I'm really only using the word "puzzle" because it's traditional. The
> >point here is not to force the player to stop thinking about the story
> >and start solving a puzzle. It's just to make him interact with the
> >world, as opposed to just walking around and examining things.

> That's my goal. But I'm having trouble identifying what is a 'puzzle'
> and what is a natural course of action.

There is no difference, if that's the kind of puzzle you want to use. I
very much like puzzles that are natural courses of action.

> Let's throw out
> 'obvious courses of action' and 'locked doors with obvious keys' and how
> many puzzles are there left?

Well, that's the tricky part. :) I think my own horn has been thoroughly
enough blown that I can do it myself: the opening scene in _So Far_. I
intended it to be puzzle-like but very easy (and very few people have
had trouble with it.) But it's reasonably interactive, I think.

Bozzie

unread,
Sep 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/11/96
to

erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) writes:

>Carl D. Cravens (rave...@southwind.net) wrote:
>> On Mon, 9 Sep 1996 04:00:09 GMT, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) wrote:
>> >I find that the "length" of a game is proportional to how much the player
>> >has to do in the course of a run through it, beginning to end. So, if I'm
>> >understanding your description correctly, your work will be a very short
>> >one. Start up -- assume you already know all the clues, whatever they
>> >are, from previous runs -- go to the end scene, and I'm done.

>> But I have to ask, why the concern about a 'second time through'? The
>> story's been read at that point, the game's been solved. (I don't see
>> IF as being something I'd play a second time... I could probably run
>> through Planetfall in about ten minutes right now.) I can read a novel,
>> then read it again and skip chapter three because I already know what
>> goes on there, or I can read chapter three because it's part of the
>> story. That's a choice of the player, really.

>I was actually thinking of subgoals. (In games with several subgoals.)
>The player may go through one segment of the game several times, trying
>to solve it. When she eventually solves the game, she will be doing that
>first segment for the "second time" (or dozenth). If previously-learned
>information allows her to skip part of the game, I regard that as a
>design flaw.


Personally, I *dislike* subgoals... when it's obvious that they're subgoals.
I'd prefer being unlimited in what I do. For example, if the first time
I played AMFV, I had to search and see everything, I wouldn't like it. (as much
anyway). It's good because of it's freedom. I dont *have* to go visit
every location, but I can (usually). And thus, I may miss some
things, which I can catch a second or this or forth time. Or can
be in the Have you done....

For example, I've played Witness a dozen times since I've solved it, and usually
I find something new. And that doesn't include the hundred or so times
I played before I solved it. If, in order to win, you had to find every
clue, completely interact with everyone, explore and examine everything,
etc, than the game wouldetc, the game would lose it's realism and
interactivity. I want to be able to do more than just go through
the walkthrough and see everything.

>(Saving and restoring games are a conventional way to short-circuit the
>story. That doesn't bother me. Being able to short-circuit within one
>run-through does.)

Well, agreed... But you may have something else happen. You have to
make the game realistic.... Perhaps you can save Miss Marmaduddle
from poisoning, to have her stabbed later... Or have her ignore
your warnings. As for save/restoring... Just make sure your puzzles
cant be solved via trial and error.

>> > And nobody ever complains that
>> >puzzles are too easy. :-) (As long as they *do* fit in. Gratuitous easy
>> >puzzles are annoying; but then so are gratuitous hard puzzles.)

>> I disagree with the "nobody ever complains" part... or do you mean just
>> individual puzzles. I thought Infidel was way too easy. Planetfall was
>> fairly easy (am I just getting better at these things?)

Yeah, but planetfall had a plot to overcome how easy it was (although
I thought it was slightly hard. infidel is easy, in that you ca
solve it in a matter of 8 or so hours.)

But moonmist was to easy. The treasure hunt just got annoying, because
the only thing that was programmed to any good extent was the characters, and
they were boring. little prose, puzzles, etc.

Seastalker was a little better. At least those puzzles were good
but easy puzzles.

>Ok, I take that back. But if you emphasize the story over the puzzles, I
>doubt that people will judge the game as being too easy.

Depends... AMFV, the first tw chapters, is very "easy" but great IF, and`
I don't think people view it's easiness first. Witness too, people
ocassionally say it's too easy, but they usually say it's very good
at what it tries to do.

>> >I'm really only using the word "puzzle" because it's traditional. The
>> >point here is not to force the player to stop thinking about the story
>> >and start solving a puzzle. It's just to make him interact with the
>> >world, as opposed to just walking around and examining things.

>> That's my goal. But I'm having trouble identifying what is a 'puzzle'
>> and what is a natural course of action.

>There is no difference, if that's the kind of puzzle you want to use. I
>very much like puzzles that are natural courses of action.

Nod, there are many shades of grey. The thing is (for me anyway) to
avoid puzzles that scream puzzles, like much of Z0... ie, the
type of thing that would be in GAMES magazine... try to make the puzzle
subtle and fit the story, like HHijinx


>> Let's throw out
>> 'obvious courses of action' and 'locked doors with obvious keys' and how
>> many puzzles are there left?

Quite a lot. Trying to interact with people. Trying to view something.
trying to stop someone, get someone to move. Trying to get things.

Although in the end, all a puzzle is is to try to get your character into a state
that is better suited to winning the game (but than, that is it, since you just change variables and pointers, etc.)

Carl D. Cravens

unread,
Sep 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/11/96
to

On 10 Sep 1996 18:09:10 GMT, go...@cs.buffalo.edu (Phil Goetz) quoted
somebody else...

>In article <323565...@javanet.com>,
>Russ Bryan <cle...@javanet.com> wrote:
>>No form of entertainment presents itself with the expectation that it's
>>a one-time deal. If it's not interesting enough to see, read or play
>>again, it's really not interesting enough to play once.

I haven't seen the original message yet (don't you love usenet?) but I
think it was in response to something I said. (It certainly addresses
my comment on replayability, even if it wasn't meant to specifically.)

I don't think your statement is true.

When you finish your crossword, do you erase all the answers and play it
again later? Where's the challenge when you've already figured out all
the answers?

How many roleplayers say, "Hey, that adventure was fun. Let's do it all
over again, with the same characters and everything just the way it
was"? I've certainly never planned a roleplaying adventure with the
idea that the players would see it more than once. Granted, you can
play "what if" and make very different decisions than before... but you
can't do that in a text-adventure. IF is pre-plotted and precious few
of them allow you a choice in crucial decisions.

Playing an IF story a second time means going through the same steps,
making the same choices, and seeing the same outcomes. Sure, watching
Star Wars for the twentieth time means watching the exact same sequences
over... but there's a vast difference between a movie and IF. Despite a
great many of us wanting 'literary' IF, IF is still really driven by
puzzles. Once you've figured out how to take apart a mechanical puzzle
(say, the ring trapped between two horseshoes connected by a pair of
chains), where is the pleasure in doing it a second time, except in
showing someone else how? The pleasure of the puzzle is not DOING, it
is SOLVING. Once solved, the *solving* can never occur in an individual
again, unless the solution is completely forgotten.

Now, that said, multi-branched IF is a different critter. IF where you
can play it three times, make X different sets of major choices and read
X different stories... is not what people generally associate with the
term "text adventure". Maybe someday, but not today.

To go back to your statement directly, do you think all the Infocom
games were written with replayability in mind? I don't think they
were... I can go back and skim through Planetfall in about ten minutes.
I don't even have to read much of the text... I could probably stick it
in terse mode at the beginning and never read a room description except
for the radio room. Why? Because most of the text isn't interesting...
it conveys some boring information and sometimes clues about what to do.
(Clues that are unnecessary the second time through, unless the game
randomly changes the clues, as in the color of the lights in the radio
room.) I'd say Infidel is even worse in that respect. Give me five
minutes in terse mode and I can clean that one up.

I have to admit that these older games often fail to immerse me... they
fail to convey atmosphere and I have trouble sinking out of "puzzle
solving mode" and into "in character mode". So if the only purpose in
playing the game is to solve puzzles, what is the point in replaying the
game after I've solved all of them?

Better prose, better plots... these might make it worth replaying. But
in that case, it becomes the rereading of a novel, not the replaying of
a game.

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
BASIC programmers never die, they GOSUB without RETURN.

Sam Hulick

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Sep 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/11/96
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PaulH...@gnn.com (Paul Harker) writes:
>As I work my Inform programming skills in shape on a "practice" game I am
>formulating a game concept for a "real" implementation. I've wondered how
>others go through this process.
....

>Write a short story then try to capture the
>feel?

Yes. Yes. And once more.. yes! This is very important. Have a good
plot as a foundation for your game. A great part of the fun lies in the
plot and character development, NOT in the actual puzzle-solving. Who
cares if you have a bunch of nifty gadgets and puzzles and such? If
there's no plot to get involved in, it's boring. My advice to you is,
think up the plot, the characters, what the characters are like, how
they interact with each other, and THEN set out to start the actual
programming.

Just my two cents.

--
========================================================================
Unix System Administrator Sam Hulick
Automated Manufacturing Solutions shu...@Indiana.EDU
Work: (812) 330-0330 http://copper.ucs.indiana.edu/~shulick/

Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/11/96
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On Wed, 11 Sep 1996 00:17:59 GMT, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) wrote:
>I was actually thinking of subgoals. (In games with several subgoals.)
>The player may go through one segment of the game several times, trying
>to solve it. When she eventually solves the game, she will be doing that
>first segment for the "second time" (or dozenth). If previously-learned
>information allows her to skip part of the game, I regard that as a
>design flaw.

For instance, the player needs a vital clue to get into a certain area
and can only get it from Old Mike... but because the clue is always the
same, the player doesn't have to bother solving the puzzles that block
the way to Old Mike when restarting the game. I can see the point
there. (Or perhaps the combination to the safe is on level five of the
complex, but the safe was all the way back on level one... but since the
combo doesn't change, the player gets to open it the first time it is
encountered, perhaps avoiding things later in the game because of it.)

>Ok, I take that back. But if you emphasize the story over the puzzles, I
>doubt that people will judge the game as being too easy.

Good... the story's coming along fine and I'm coming up with more
'puzzles' that fit right in. :) (If only I could finish it by the end
of the month. :(

>There is no difference, if that's the kind of puzzle you want to use. I
>very much like puzzles that are natural courses of action.

That's kinda the way I looked at it... except in the case of things like
"get in the life pod or die" there really isn't any challenge.

>Well, that's the tricky part. :) I think my own horn has been thoroughly
>enough blown that I can do it myself: the opening scene in _So Far_. I
>intended it to be puzzle-like but very easy (and very few people have
>had trouble with it.) But it's reasonably interactive, I think.

I'm going to have to pick that one up.

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
ERROR: Unable to comprehend lame tagline.

Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/11/96
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On Tue, 10 Sep 1996 12:56:07 +0000, Russ Bryan <cle...@javanet.com> wrote:
>Incidentally, if you consider yourself finished with a game just because
>you've gotten 400 out of 400 points, you've been missing a lot, and
>should go back and play some of the good ones again.

I consider myself finished with the game, not when I reach 400 of 400
points, but when I reach the end and the plot has been concluded
satisfactorily.

>No form of entertainment presents itself with the expectation that it's
>a one-time deal. If it's not interesting enough to see, read or play

>again, it's really not interesting enough to play once. And if there is
>any slight possibility that a million monkeys at a million keyboards can
>solve your game in five moves by stumbling over the body, then chances
>are good that I will be that monkey, and my interest in your future
>games will be nil.

The latter half of this paragraph has nothing to do with
replayability... it has to do with the possibility of bypassing the
normal course of the story by accidentally resolving the ultimate goal
before it should naturally occur. In a sense, skipping straight to the
climax. You can do that with a novel if you like. I did that with Star
Wars once... fast-forwarded to the Deathstar battle just to watch it by
itself. Does that make Star Wars flawed because I can intentionally
skip over the beginning and just watch the end?

One cannot *accidentally* miss the beginning of Star Wars through any
feature of the movie. (i.e. getting locked in the bathroom for the
first half doesn't count.) One should not *accidentally* be able to
solve a text adventure by randomly manipulating the things available.
But I do not see this as an argument for replayability.

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
Gimme another clip--we're gonna change lanes!

Greg Ewing

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Sep 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/12/96
to

Carl D. Cravens wrote:
>
> what do you do when you've got a nifty
> plot line figured out, with a very moody setting, but you can't figure

> out how to hang enough puzzles off of it?

I'd say, just go ahead and implement the story. Ideas for
puzzles may occur to you along the way. But if not, so what?
Plenty of people here have expressed a wish to move away
from puzzle-oriented IF. You may end up with something that
would appeal to them!

Greg

Den of Iniquity

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Sep 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/12/96
to

On Tue, 10 Sep 1996, Russ Bryan wrote:
> Let's talk about the buried body puzzle. Personally, once I find a
> shovel in my hands I try to start digging. Everywhere. If you haven't
> provided protection against it, I could dig up that body on the
> twentieth move and win the game with 5 points (no shareware fee from
> me). It's also a style issue. I, being one of those players who will
> play the game again, will try to dig up the body early just to see if it
> can be done. If I find that I can do it, I will consider it to be
> thoughtless design (no shareware fee there, either).

It is thoughtless design. Both instances should be easy to circumscribe -
what am I saying? They _are_ easy to prevent, no problem. Example - the
first case of digging everywhere - have an irate gardener throw you out,
confiscate your spade or phone the police. And finding that body in five
goes? Well...

> take spade. e. sw. out.
[...]
> dig ground
[with spade]

A few minutes' hard toil reveals a shoe - with the foot still in it!
Sweating, you make careful use of the spade to uncover the body and
then the face of the corpse. It is - or was - Professor Johnson. He _is_
dead after all, and from the looks of it, he was strangled with thick
rope. You stand back, leaning on the spade and take a deep breath,
wiping the moisture from your forehead with one sleeve.

Suddenly a hand lands on your shoulder. You spin round to behold
Inspector Cox and two large policemen. "Couldn't keep away, could you?
Just had to have one last look at your work, did you?" You start to
splutter an explanation but you can't find words to explain your
remarkable insight into the body's whereabouts. The policeman walk you to
their car, and eventually you are taken to the police station for a long,
hard interrogation. You maintain your innocence throughout but this just
irritates Cox. You are held 'overnight' in a cell, but you know full well
it could be a long time before you sleep in your own bed again.

You have finished "Where's old Johnson gone now?". If you send your
shareware fee to the following address you will receive the "Not Guilty"
sequel, a tale of courtroom intrigue and clairvoyance...


Which suddenly makes me think about the writing of sequels to i-f. I've
seen a few sequels to i-f games (some promised, in production) - if you
write a game which can have really genuinely different endings, does this
hamper the sequel writing process (if you must do such things) - do you
try to incorporate all possible endings into the start of the next work
or do you think it's worth writing more than one sequel? I'm pretty
certain there are no examples of i-f which have gone to this extreme.

--
Den (not that sequels are necessarily a good thing :)

Russ Bryan

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Sep 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/12/96
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Carl D. Cravens wrote:

> When you finish your crossword, do you erase all the answers and play it
> again later? Where's the challenge when you've already figured out all
> the answers?

True, with a crossword. The same might be said for watching reruns of
Jeopardy. But surely you can recognize the rigidity of crosswords
versus the freedom provided by good non-linear interactive fiction.

> How many roleplayers say, "Hey, that adventure was fun. Let's do it all
> over again, with the same characters and everything just the way it
> was"? I've certainly never planned a roleplaying adventure with the
> idea that the players would see it more than once. Granted, you can
> play "what if" and make very different decisions than before... but you
> can't do that in a text-adventure. IF is pre-plotted and precious few
> of them allow you a choice in crucial decisions.

True again with an RPG, although the best adventures do at least begin
the process of immersing you in a new adventure for the next time
around. From memory, my favorite cycle from AD&D was A1-4 (giant ants),
G1-3 (the giant trilogy), D1-3 (the Drow trilogy) and Q1 (Queen of the
Demonweb Pits). When run correctly, they became self-referential.
Also, when you run someone through your own RPG adventure, do they
ALWAYS hit every room you wrote for them? If they do, you're making it
too linear. If they don't, then there is something to be seen a second
time through. The difference, naturally, is that in an RPG getting the
adventurers to "what they missed" would require hours of replay, while
with IF a fast typist can get wherever they need to be in half an hour
or less.

> Playing an IF story a second time means going through the same steps,
> making the same choices, and seeing the same outcomes. Sure, watching
> Star Wars for the twentieth time means watching the exact same sequences
> over... but there's a vast difference between a movie and IF. Despite a
> great many of us wanting 'literary' IF, IF is still really driven by
> puzzles. Once you've figured out how to take apart a mechanical puzzle
> (say, the ring trapped between two horseshoes connected by a pair of
> chains), where is the pleasure in doing it a second time, except in
> showing someone else how? The pleasure of the puzzle is not DOING, it
> is SOLVING. Once solved, the *solving* can never occur in an individual
> again, unless the solution is completely forgotten.

Again, this depends on what you're working on. When I learned how to
solve the Rubik's Cube, I did it hundreds of times... in fact, I just
picked it up again a couple of days ago just to see if I still knew how
(I do).

Good interactive fiction gives you a lot to notice the second time
through. You can win A Mind Forever Voyaging three times without seeing
(i.e. recording) the same scenes twice. Once you've solved the crime in
any Infocom mystery you can go back and ask new questions, set up new
traps (catching the murderer in Witness, for example), and generally
approach the mystery from multiple points of view. The opening scene in
Trinity takes on new meaning once the game has been completed. I don't
think of interactive fiction as something to solve. There may be
puzzles to solve in the process, but this does not equate to "solving"
the story. Interactive fiction is meant to be experienced, and good
interactive fiction immerses you in the experience.

> To go back to your statement directly, do you think all the Infocom
> games were written with replayability in mind? I don't think they
> were... I can go back and skim through Planetfall in about ten minutes.
> I don't even have to read much of the text... I could probably stick it
> in terse mode at the beginning and never read a room description except
> for the radio room. Why? Because most of the text isn't interesting...
> it conveys some boring information and sometimes clues about what to do.
> (Clues that are unnecessary the second time through, unless the game
> randomly changes the clues, as in the color of the lights in the radio
> room.) I'd say Infidel is even worse in that respect. Give me five
> minutes in terse mode and I can clean that one up.

Have you played Trinity? It would seem that you haven't. Just about
every person who mentions Trinity on r.g.i-f admits to playing it MANY
times. Actually, many people admit to playing Planetfall three or four
times, as well. Does it occur to you that MAYBE, just MAYBE, the fact
that YOU don't enjoy playing IF a second time says nothing about the
rest of us? A bit of egocentrism, perhaps? Statements like "most of
the text isn't interesting ..." or "the pleasure of the puzzle is not
doing" smack of opinion. I really enjoy solving a Rubik's Cube, and the
pleasure is ENTIRELY in the doing.

You have admitted to not especially liking Infidel and Planetfall. Is
it any wonder you don't want to play them again?

There are some great jokes in Curses, and when I replayed it a few weeks
ago I found all sorts of witty statements that I had forgotten. In
fact, I enjoyed Curses MORE the second time because I could zip through
the puzzles which had frustrated me during the first play. I've played
Spellbreaker many times, and I still get a kick out of the deceptive
little merchant in the bazaar. Trinity was great the third time through
because I could concentrate on the text rather than the puzzles. Your
situation seems similar to that of a man whose only exposure to movies
was a Pauly Shore film festival. He wouldn't want to see those again,
either.

-- Russ

P.S. A stab in the dark, but I'll bet you've played the first level of
Doom fifty times. If that's the case, I'd have to say that we have very
different ideas of what enjoyable, immersive entertainment is all about.

Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/12/96
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On 11 Sep 1996 10:52:37 -0400, edh...@eden.rutgers.edu (Bozzie) wrote:
>>> Let's throw out
>>> 'obvious courses of action' and 'locked doors with obvious keys' and how
>>> many puzzles are there left?
>
>Quite a lot. Trying to interact with people. Trying to view something.
>trying to stop someone, get someone to move. Trying to get things.

A few months ago, I started trying to categorize puzzles. I realized
that the vast majority of puzzles are mechanical in nature... even if
they aren't a 'machine', they're still mechanical. NPC's are just
machines with a different description most of the time.

A great number of them are what I term 'locked door' puzzles. The troll
in Zork is a locked door. Until you unlock (kill) him with the key
(sword) you can't go further into the dungeon. Basically, *anything*
that keeps you from getting somewhere else is a 'locked door', whether
the anything is a physical door, a troll, an armed guard, a monk, a wide
pit, etc. This might be better termed the 'obstacle' puzzle.

Sometimes the 'key' to the 'locked door' is unrecognizable... you need
other clues to figure out which key to use. ("Say, 'The moon rises in
the west tonight' to the guard and he'll let you pass.") Discovering
this clue *might* be a different kind of puzzle.

I'd like to see examples of puzzles that do not resolve, at their heart,
into an 'obstacle' puzzle.

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
This tagline made from 100% recycled ASCII.

Stephen Granade

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Sep 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/13/96
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In article <i+MOywIe...@southwind.net> rave...@southwind.net (Carl
D. Cravens) writes:
> A great number of them are what I term 'locked door' puzzles. The troll
> in Zork is a locked door. Until you unlock (kill) him with the key
> (sword) you can't go further into the dungeon. Basically, *anything*
> that keeps you from getting somewhere else is a 'locked door', whether
> the anything is a physical door, a troll, an armed guard, a monk, a wide
> pit, etc. This might be better termed the 'obstacle' puzzle.
[...munch...]

> I'd like to see examples of puzzles that do not resolve, at their heart,
> into an 'obstacle' puzzle.

This seems to be an impossibility. Puzzles are designed to block my
actions, to keep me from moving through the game unhindered. Therefore,
they all constitute 'obstacles.'

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | "It takes character to withstand the
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | rigors of indolence."
Duke University, Physics Dept | -- from _The Madness of King George_

chris markwyn

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Sep 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/13/96
to

In article <51br4g$f...@newsgate.duke.edu>, sgra...@snowy.phy.duke.edu (Stephen Granade) writes:
> In article <i+MOywIe...@southwind.net> rave...@southwind.net (Carl
> D. Cravens) writes:
[discussion of Zork deleted]

>> I'd like to see examples of puzzles that do not resolve, at their heart,
>> into an 'obstacle' puzzle.
>
> This seems to be an impossibility. Puzzles are designed to block my
> actions, to keep me from moving through the game unhindered. Therefore,
> they all constitute 'obstacles.'
>

It seems to me that there are two basic types of puzzles, divided by their
purpose in the game. First, there are "obstacle" puzzles, as Carl D. Cravens
said, which prevent the player from gaining access to further sections of the
game, such as the troll in Zork I, or any locked door. Second, there are
"information" puzzles, which are designed to reward the player with information
required to progress in the game. An obstacle puzzle, when solved, allows the
player to gain access to more of the game _physically_. An information puzzle,
on the other hand, gives the player access to more of the game's _plot_.
(Assuming it has one.) A game like Zork, with only a few scraps of plot,
condenses down to obstacle puzzles. A game like A Mind Forever Voyaging, on
the other hand, has more of a balance between the two types. Just my two
cents.

Chris Markwyn |
mark...@carleton.edu | This .sig is uninteresting.
Carleton College, Northfield MN |

Julian Arnold

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Sep 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/13/96
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In article <i+MOywIe...@southwind.net>, Carl D. Cravens

<URL:mailto:rave...@southwind.net> wrote:
>
> A few months ago, I started trying to categorize puzzles. I realized
> that the vast majority of puzzles are mechanical in nature... even if
> they aren't a 'machine', they're still mechanical. NPC's are just
> machines with a different description most of the time.
>
> A great number of them are what I term 'locked door' puzzles. The troll
> in Zork is a locked door. Until you unlock (kill) him with the key
> (sword) you can't go further into the dungeon. Basically, *anything*
> that keeps you from getting somewhere else is a 'locked door', whether
> the anything is a physical door, a troll, an armed guard, a monk, a wide
> pit, etc. This might be better termed the 'obstacle' puzzle.
>
> Sometimes the 'key' to the 'locked door' is unrecognizable... you need
> other clues to figure out which key to use. ("Say, 'The moon rises in
> the west tonight' to the guard and he'll let you pass.") Discovering
> this clue *might* be a different kind of puzzle.
>
> I'd like to see examples of puzzles that do not resolve, at their heart,
> into an 'obstacle' puzzle.

How would you categorize puzzles which don't actually restrict the
player's movement in space, but do limit movement in time?

For example, in "Shelby" the player has only 100 turns in which to find
the phase bracelet (though I gather this may have changed in new
releases). The player has the same freedom of movement with the
bracelet as without, except without it there is a time limit.

I'm sure it's arguable that *all* puzzles are "obstacles." Perhaps a
division could be made between "obstacles" to game mechanics (ie,
puzzles, as above, which, upon resolution, open up new areas of the map
to the player, or which make it possible to obtain new objects, etc.)
and "obstacles" to plot mechanics (ie, the kind of puzzle which you
might find in a mystery game, though I can't offhand think of examples,
such as one through which the player learns some information which
indicates Leslie might be the murderer. This information, while it may
have been the goal of the puzzle is, in itself, of no value, but may be
the key to a further puzzle-- the player uses this knowledge to trick a
confession out of Leslie).

Puzzles are obstacles are locked doors.

Jools
--


Carl D. Cravens

unread,
Sep 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/14/96
to

On Thu, 12 Sep 1996 12:24:14 +0000, Russ Bryan <cle...@javanet.com> wrote:
>True, with a crossword. The same might be said for watching reruns of
>Jeopardy. But surely you can recognize the rigidity of crosswords
>versus the freedom provided by good non-linear interactive fiction.

But you said no entertainment is created without replayability in mind.

>Again, this depends on what you're working on. When I learned how to
>solve the Rubik's Cube, I did it hundreds of times... in fact, I just
>picked it up again a couple of days ago just to see if I still knew how
>(I do).

I was thinking of that when I wrote my message. The Cube is a little
different every time through.

>Good interactive fiction gives you a lot to notice the second time
>through. You can win A Mind Forever Voyaging three times without seeing
>(i.e. recording) the same scenes twice. Once you've solved the crime in

In the IF that I've played, I don't see much to do a second time
through. If the game is multi-threaded, that makes it an entirely
different situation than what I've experienced.

>The opening scene in Trinity takes on new meaning once the game has
>been completed.

Replaying the opening scene in Trinity is part of the game the first
time through.

>I don't
>think of interactive fiction as something to solve. There may be
>puzzles to solve in the process, but this does not equate to "solving"
>the story. Interactive fiction is meant to be experienced, and good
>interactive fiction immerses you in the experience.

>Have you played Trinity? It would seem that you haven't. Just about

I have. I've replayed the opening and about half the game more times
than I can count. I finally solved it last month. I don't think I'd go
back and play it again. But then, I rarely read novels more than
once... there are many more novels out there to be read and I would
rather read them than re-read an old one.

>every person who mentions Trinity on r.g.i-f admits to playing it MANY
>times.

I'm an 'every person' and I haven't played Trinity more than once all
the way through. Your statement is baldly over-generalized and untrue.

>Actually, many people admit to playing Planetfall three or four
>times, as well. Does it occur to you that MAYBE, just MAYBE, the fact
>that YOU don't enjoy playing IF a second time says nothing about the
>rest of us? A bit of egocentrism, perhaps? Statements like "most of

Lay off the personal attack.

>the text isn't interesting ..." or "the pleasure of the puzzle is not
>doing" smack of opinion. I really enjoy solving a Rubik's Cube, and the
>pleasure is ENTIRELY in the doing.

No, the pleasure is in the solving. Even when you know the method
required to solve the Cube, each configuration is different, and you're
still solving that particular configuration... it is still a challenge.
If the cube were always "Rotate right side forward, turn cube ninety
degrees clockwise, rotate left side forward, rotate top counter
clockwise 180 degrees, etc. etc." would there be any challenge to it?

>You have admitted to not especially liking Infidel and Planetfall. Is
>it any wonder you don't want to play them again?

Overall, I enjoyed Planetfall... I just didn't see what made it such a
classic. It had a great basis, but I saw a lot of room for
improvement... considering when it came along and what it had to model
itself after, it was very well done. Compared to the stuff created in
the mid-nineties, it was lacking.

>There are some great jokes in Curses, and when I replayed it a few weeks
>ago I found all sorts of witty statements that I had forgotten. In
>fact, I enjoyed Curses MORE the second time because I could zip through
>the puzzles which had frustrated me during the first play. I've played

Curses frustrated me too much. I quit playing it about halfway through,
I think. Too many puzzles seemed either illogical or lacking clues, to
me. (I've never been terribly good at these things.)

Maybe it's because I have a really good memory for stories that I don't
find myself wanting to replay the game. I can map out and describe
practically the whole of Trinity from memory. I can also tell you about
specific scenes from novels I read ten years ago. (On the other hand,
having been talking with a friend about Tolkien, I discovered that it
has been long enough since I read his works that I've forgotten very
large portions of them... they're in line to be re-read soon. I'm
planning on replaying Zork, too... because it's been so long that I've
forgotten most of the details.)

>Trinity was great the third time through
>because I could concentrate on the text rather than the puzzles. Your
>situation seems similar to that of a man whose only exposure to movies
>was a Pauly Shore film festival. He wouldn't want to see those again,

I try to give the text equal time the first time through. When I'm
finished with the game, I don't expect to see anything new the next time
through. And although it's very entertaining to see some of the funny
responses to stuff, I don't play it a second time through just to see
how Floyd reacts to being given everything, being told to go everywhere,
kissed, hugged, pushed, pulled, turned, attacked, etc. (I did, though,
ask the Bird Woman in Trinity about everything I could think of.)

>P.S. A stab in the dark, but I'll bet you've played the first level of
>Doom fifty times. If that's the case, I'd have to say that we have very
>different ideas of what enjoyable, immersive entertainment is all about.

More personal attack. I detested Doom and all it's ilk. They bore me
senseless. I looked at Doom to see where the technology was, said
'Cool', played about a quarter of the first level to get a good look,
then deleted it.

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
Ignoramus? I prefer the term "informationaly impaired"

BPD

unread,
Sep 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/15/96
to

mark...@carleton.edu (chris markwyn) wrote:

>In article <51br4g$f...@newsgate.duke.edu>, sgra...@snowy.phy.duke.edu (Stephen Granade) writes:
>> In article <i+MOywIe...@southwind.net> rave...@southwind.net (Carl
>> D. Cravens) writes:
>[discussion of Zork deleted]

>>> I'd like to see examples of puzzles that do not resolve, at their heart,
>>> into an 'obstacle' puzzle.
>>

>> This seems to be an impossibility. Puzzles are designed to block my
>> actions, to keep me from moving through the game unhindered. Therefore,
>> they all constitute 'obstacles.'
>>

>It seems to me that there are two basic types of puzzles, divided by their
>purpose in the game. First, there are "obstacle" puzzles, as Carl D. Cravens
>said, which prevent the player from gaining access to further sections of the
>game, such as the troll in Zork I, or any locked door. Second, there are
>"information" puzzles, which are designed to reward the player with information
>required to progress in the game. An obstacle puzzle, when solved, allows the
>player to gain access to more of the game _physically_. An information puzzle,
>on the other hand, gives the player access to more of the game's _plot_.
>(Assuming it has one.) A game like Zork, with only a few scraps of plot,
>condenses down to obstacle puzzles. A game like A Mind Forever Voyaging, on
>the other hand, has more of a balance between the two types. Just my two
>cents.

>Chris Markwyn |
>mark...@carleton.edu | This .sig is uninteresting.
>Carleton College, Northfield MN |

I think there's a third type: the "helper" puzzle - one that doesn't
neccessarily have to be solved to finish the main plot line of the
game but that will provide something useful, like (for example) a belt
that keeps you from getting hungry when worn. (Just keep tightening
it! ;-) ) It may not help you defeat the Scaly Meany later in the
game, but it helps out by keeping you from having to carry around
munchies everyplace.

George Caswell

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Sep 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/15/96
to

On Sun, 15 Sep 1996, BPD wrote:

> I think there's a third type: the "helper" puzzle - one that doesn't
> neccessarily have to be solved to finish the main plot line of the
> game but that will provide something useful, like (for example) a belt
> that keeps you from getting hungry when worn. (Just keep tightening
> it! ;-) ) It may not help you defeat the Scaly Meany later in the
> game, but it helps out by keeping you from having to carry around
> munchies everyplace.
>

The world isn't perfect, of course, but in a good game I would hope
that at least a few of the puzzles would be supported by pure -interest-
on the part of the player, rather than the player having an "OK, let's get
this over with" attitude (which -would- make the player see the puzzles as
obstacles...)

Russ Bryan

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Sep 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/15/96
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Carl D. Cravens wrote:

<Many points snipped, since polarized opinions will never change no
matter how much bandwidth we waste discussing it>

> Curses frustrated me too much. I quit playing it about halfway through,
> I think. Too many puzzles seemed either illogical or lacking clues, to
> me. (I've never been terribly good at these things.)

This is a shame, but also rather telling. Maybe you'll understand my
point of view better if I mention that SOLVING the puzzles in a game has
never been much of a problem for me. Sometimes I go back and play a
game a second time just to read all of the text I missed by not screwing
up (actually, I usually take advantage of 'undo' to die every way I can
-- sometimes that's where the best text is hidden away.

> More personal attack.

Yeah. Sorry about that. Sometimes the Internet becomes too handy an
outlet for the frustrations of real life.

> I detested Doom and all it's ilk. They bore me
> senseless. I looked at Doom to see where the technology was, said
> 'Cool', played about a quarter of the first level to get a good look,
> then deleted it.

Bravo. Really. I couldn't agree more.

So, what have we determined? I like playing games more than once. You
don't.

What a waste of time and bandwidth.

-- Russ

Carl D. Cravens

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Sep 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/15/96
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On 13 Sep 1996 14:29:36 GMT, sgra...@snowy.phy.duke.edu (Stephen Granade) wrote:
>This seems to be an impossibility. Puzzles are designed to block my
>actions, to keep me from moving through the game unhindered. Therefore,
>they all constitute 'obstacles.'

This is the way I felt about it, but sure as I say "this is the way it
is" someone will come up with an example that proves me wrong. I was
just inviting that example. :)

Not all puzzles have to be obstacles, unless you consider them obstacles
to points themselves. If I recall, you got the 'final' point in
Adventure for leaving a certain object in a certain room... you weren't
kept from doing anything if you didn't, you just didn't get that extra
point.

Is discovering the motive of a murderer a puzzle? Say you can catch the
murderer red-handed in another murder, collect evidence to prove his
first murder, but never found the clues that told you the motive. Is
this an unsolved puzzle that didn't block the progress of the game?

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
I've got a chainsaw... what could go wrong?

Carl D. Cravens

unread,
Sep 17, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/17/96
to

On Sun, 15 Sep 1996 09:57:39 +0000, Russ Bryan <cle...@javanet.com> wrote:
>So, what have we determined? I like playing games more than once. You
>don't.
>
>What a waste of time and bandwidth.

Actually, it isn't a waste. As an author of IF, I want to give the
reader what he wants, as long as it doesn't conflict with what I want.
If I'm not in tune with the reader's desires (because I don't have those
desires myself) I'm likely to fail to satisfy.

Considering my particular style, I'm tempted to say that if you like
replaying Planetfall and Trinity, you ought to like replaying my
(future) games, without my deliberately attempting to make it
'replayable'. But my concern is *what* makes the game replayable to
those that enjoy doing so? For me, the only 'replay' value is when the
game isn't the same but is just as good the second time through...
that is, it must be something new, which means areas and things I didn't
see the first time. I don't want to play a game a second time just to
see how many different responses Floyd generates... I enjoy seeing
those as they occur through my natural choice of actions the first time
around. If I miss a few, it's not worth it to me to have a second go.
What I want to know is, is this one of the things that makes replaying
the game worthwhile?

(I'm not ignoring your email... I've just been a tad to busy to give it
proper attention.)

--
Carl (rave...@southwind.net)
A bit of tolerance is worth a megabyte of flaming.

BPD

unread,
Sep 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM9/18/96
to

George Caswell <timb...@adamant.res.wpi.edu> wrote:

> The world isn't perfect, of course, but in a good game I would hope
>that at least a few of the puzzles would be supported by pure -interest-
>on the part of the player, rather than the player having an "OK, let's get
>this over with" attitude (which -would- make the player see the puzzles as
>obstacles...)

I agree! I think a large part of a good IF game is in the flavor,
which may or may not be intrinsically connected with the puzzles.
Good descriptive passages and anything that gets the player to think
about more of the game then the puzzle he is currently facing add a
great deal to the fun.


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