Why so little Puzzleless IF?

53 views
Skip to first unread message

Joe Merical

unread,
Feb 28, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/28/99
to
There are four factors that, in my opinion, can make a successful IF game:
Plot, characters, puzzles, and map-size.

I'm not a judge in any competition, but if I were, I would probably rate
each game on a scale of 1 - 10 in each category. I'd say that bad games get
a composite of 10, average games would get 20 and great IF games or stories
would get 30. Under this formula, a game could be great even if it has no
puzzles. Photopia would definitely get a 30, but so would Zork I even
though the two are totally different in puzzles and plot. I haven't played
any games so far that I would rate as a perfect 40, but I'm sure I'll find
one.

If you want to write non-interactive IF, go ahead. We all have to remember
that IF stands for "Interactive Fiction" because some of us forget that at
times. The idea is not to make a bunch of puzzles but to create an entirely
different world that we can explore. Once you get the perfect blend of
fiction and puzzles, you will have a perfect game.

- Joe

Stark

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
I don't like puzzles.

I find them to be irritating, pointless, tedious, and a waste of my time.
Because of this, I have little interest in text adventure games.

However, I am intrigued by the idea of interactive fiction. I like the
idea of being able to play a part in a story, being able to experience a
story interactively in a way which has never before been possible.

Unfortunately for me, most of what has been written falls under the
category of text adventure games. Lots of rooms full of objects which must
be manipulated in the proper fashion to solve puzzles, and perhaps some
interesting text woven through it all or a story wrapped around it, or
perhaps not.

There have also been attempts made at writing quality interactive fiction,
in which the story and the characters are of primary importance. However,
as far as I've seen, most of these are heavily influenced by text adventure
games. They are as much games as stories, forcing the reader/player to
solve puzzles in order to allow the story to progress. [By "puzzle", I'm
referring to those actions a player has to take in order to continue the
plot, and which are obscure enough that they might not occur to the player,
thus resulting in the player being stuck]

Having read through some of the threads on the topic of puzzles and
puzzle-less IF that have been posted over the years, it seems that many
people have believed that text based IF >has< to have puzzles in order for
it to hold people's attention and be enjoyable. Without puzzles it would
be boring, without puzzles there'd be no point to the interactivity and one
might as well just go read a book.

But I would think that a few of the recent IF stories that have come out
should disprove the above. In the End and Tapestry contain no puzzles(ok,
so Tapestry contains a couple). Mercy is completely without puzzles, and
seemed to have been well-liked. And of course, there is Photopia.

Photopia was almost completely puzzleless, and yet it was quite successful.
People loved it, it won awards, and so on. Photopia proves that
interactive fiction does not need puzzles.

So why are the above works of IF the only puzzleless ones in existance?
There must be 1000 games in the IF archive, and yet 99.5 % of them are full
of puzzles and of no interest to me. And I've already finished the 5 or so
which are puzzle free.

Stark

Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
In article <01be637a$2021d280$69d4...@Stark.foxinternet.net>,

Stark <Stark4(delete-this-&-the-4)@foxinternet.net> wrote:
>I don't like puzzles.
>But I would think that a few of the recent IF stories that have come out
>should disprove the above. In the End and Tapestry contain no puzzles(ok,
>so Tapestry contains a couple). Mercy is completely without puzzles, and
>seemed to have been well-liked. And of course, there is Photopia.
>
>Photopia was almost completely puzzleless, and yet it was quite successful.
> People loved it, it won awards, and so on. Photopia proves that
>interactive fiction does not need puzzles.
>
>So why are the above works of IF the only puzzleless ones in existance?
>There must be 1000 games in the IF archive, and yet 99.5 % of them are full
>of puzzles and of no interest to me. And I've already finished the 5 or so
>which are puzzle free.

Two things:

One: quitcher bitching and write some! No, really. People haven't written
many non-puzzle IF, granted. Many people don't have much interest
in writing such a thing, or don't see why they should write it as IF
rather than a short story. So show us how it's done. Write one. If
it's good, it'll generate *plenty* of discussion, and maybe more
people will try their hands at writing non-puzzle IF.

Two: _Space Under the Window_. And there are a whole bunch in which
puzzles are not the point. _The Tempest_. I'd say that the puzzles
are a minor part of _So Far_. Honestly. The symbolism is a lot more
important. Unfortunately you have to fight through some hard puzzles
to see the prose that the game is about.

Three: Or you could simply go for well-written puzzle games and play them
with a walkthrough in hand, playing for the plot/prose rather than
the puzzles.

Adam

--
ad...@princeton.edu
"There's a border to somewhere waiting, and a tank full of time." - J. Steinman

Iain Merrick

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
Joe Merical wrote:

> There are four factors that, in my opinion, can make a successful IF game:
> Plot, characters, puzzles, and map-size.
>
> I'm not a judge in any competition, but if I were, I would probably rate
> each game on a scale of 1 - 10 in each category.

[...]


> Once you get the perfect blend of
> fiction and puzzles, you will have a perfect game.

Hmmm... on that scale, Photopia would be a better game if it had more
puzzles. Is that your intended meaning? If so, I couldn't disagree more.

On the other hand, removing the puzzles from, say, Jigsaw wouldn't make
it better either: the puzzles are a defining characteristic of that
game, just as the lack of puzzles is a defining characteristic of
Photopia.

It's easy to quantify the 'puzzleness' of a game, but that doesn't mean
it's orthogonal to the other properties: you can't vary the level of
puzzles without changing the entire game.

(Using my two examples: adding puzzles would ruin the atmosphere and
pacing of Photopia, and removing puzzles would ruin the sense of
adventure and player involvement in Jigsaw. IMHO, anyway.)

--
Iain 'Holistic' Merrick

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
Stark (Stark4(delete-this-&-the-4)@foxinternet.net) wrote:

> Having read through some of the threads on the topic of puzzles and
> puzzle-less IF that have been posted over the years, it seems that many
> people have believed that text based IF >has< to have puzzles in order for
> it to hold people's attention and be enjoyable. Without puzzles it would
> be boring, without puzzles there'd be no point to the interactivity and one
> might as well just go read a book.

I don't think anyone still believe that's an absolute truth. We've seen
the same examples you have, so to an extent you're arguing a straw man.

But I, for a start, *like* puzzles. I write games with puzzles in them. I
write what I would enjoy playing. The direct answer to your question "why
so little" is that many other authors like puzzles too.

The more interesting answer, at least for me, is that I call a very wide
range of things "puzzles". I think IF *has* to have plot-scenes that
involve the player, that involve *participation* by the player, that hold
the attention. It's not that there's no point to the interactivity without
puzzles; it's that the puzzles *are* the interactivity.

I don't consider _Photopia_ to be puzzle-free.

And -- it goes without saying :) -- a "puzzle" does not have to be a
meaningless object-manipulation, interactivity divorced from the fiction.

--Z

--

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

Mike Berlyn

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
Stark,

Chameleon, long overdue because of the complexity of the project, is
puzzleless IF (as Muffy and I see it). Writing it has proven to be
infinitely more complex than writing puzzle-based IF for myself and for my
partner. We started the design over 15 years ago and had sold it to Infocom.
Thankfully, they were taken over by Activision, and Activision reverted the
rights back to us. I say thankfully because it has proven to be a bear to
write, and we would have missed every milestone by a margin too large to
calculate. Just talking to each other about the stories requires a few
minutes of explanation as to what story we are talking about.

I have been actively coding and scripting the product for over a year, now,
and am still not finished. I have, through experimentation and earlier
prototypes, learned that "press any key to read the next section" is an
unrewarding experience for text adventure players, and that readers, unlike
players, do not necessarily enjoy the wide-open environments supplied in
puzzle-based IF. These adjustments to the presentation have made for a
strange hybrid product which requires more thought and work than I had
originally thought.

Some overarching structures needed inventing, like a Scene, and some
messaging systems needed implementation and debugging. A reliable method of
getting characters to move independently using a generalized system similar
to that in Deadline, was a tremendous effort in itself. (When the product
ships, I will post the movement system, written in Inform, to the gmd site.)
A generalized method of tracking characters, their attitudes, and their
pasts had to be designed and implemented. None of this was trivial.

However, no matter how hard the code was/is to write, the design proved
harder. One of the major design problems is as follows:
When writing puzzle-based IF, you are writing (i.e.: you have to think up)
only one story and one environment. When writing non-puzzle-based IF, you
have to write several stories which interact with each other based on what
the player-reader does. Each story line must be equally compelling. Each
plot within the story line must make sense based on the characters in the
story. In essence, I have found the experience an order of magnitude more
difficult than, say, writing Suspended was.

I hope this explains somewhat why there is so little puzzleless IF. It sure
does for me. :)

-- Mike Berlyn
mbe...@cascadepublishing.com
http://www.cascadepublishing.com


Stark wrote in message <01be637a$2021d280$69d4...@Stark.foxinternet.net>...


>I don't like puzzles.
>

>I find them to be irritating, pointless, tedious, and a waste of my time.
>Because of this, I have little interest in text adventure games.
>
>However, I am intrigued by the idea of interactive fiction. I like the
>idea of being able to play a part in a story, being able to experience a
>story interactively in a way which has never before been possible.
>
>Unfortunately for me, most of what has been written falls under the
>category of text adventure games. Lots of rooms full of objects which must
>be manipulated in the proper fashion to solve puzzles, and perhaps some
>interesting text woven through it all or a story wrapped around it, or
>perhaps not.
>
>There have also been attempts made at writing quality interactive fiction,
>in which the story and the characters are of primary importance. However,
>as far as I've seen, most of these are heavily influenced by text adventure
>games. They are as much games as stories, forcing the reader/player to
>solve puzzles in order to allow the story to progress. [By "puzzle", I'm
>referring to those actions a player has to take in order to continue the
>plot, and which are obscure enough that they might not occur to the player,
>thus resulting in the player being stuck]
>

>Having read through some of the threads on the topic of puzzles and
>puzzle-less IF that have been posted over the years, it seems that many
>people have believed that text based IF >has< to have puzzles in order for
>it to hold people's attention and be enjoyable. Without puzzles it would
>be boring, without puzzles there'd be no point to the interactivity and one
>might as well just go read a book.
>

>But I would think that a few of the recent IF stories that have come out
>should disprove the above. In the End and Tapestry contain no puzzles(ok,
>so Tapestry contains a couple). Mercy is completely without puzzles, and
>seemed to have been well-liked. And of course, there is Photopia.
>
>Photopia was almost completely puzzleless, and yet it was quite successful.
> People loved it, it won awards, and so on. Photopia proves that
>interactive fiction does not need puzzles.
>
>So why are the above works of IF the only puzzleless ones in existance?
>There must be 1000 games in the IF archive, and yet 99.5 % of them are full
>of puzzles and of no interest to me. And I've already finished the 5 or so
>which are puzzle free.
>

>Stark

Steven Marsh

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
On Mon, 1 Mar 1999 08:01:30 -0800, "Mike Berlyn"
<mbe...@cascadepublishing.com> wrote:

<snip>

Good post, Mike.


>In essence, I have found the experience an order of magnitude more
>difficult than, say, writing Suspended was.

See, that's odd. I've always admired Suspended for being
quasi-puzzle-less, in the sense that the "puzzles" were so seemlessly
integrated into the game. It's not a puzzle (in my mind) if you can't
figure something out (like interpreting the robots' responses);
otherwise, mystery novels are "puzzles" (which, I suppose they are,
when looked at from the right angle).

I guess I admire games where the puzzles are honestly (transparently)
a part of the game; I've recently gained an appreciation of Plundered
Hearts, which had so many solutions to the few "puzzles" that it was
difficult -to- get stuck. Likewise, I consider the Infocom mysteries
to be (for the most part) puzzleless (sans Ballyhoo). Sure, you need
to poke around and investigate, but that's just a simulation... much
like Suspended is.

All told, then, I suppose I'd rather have a game with an object but
transparent puzzles, than true "puzzleless" IF. Otherwise, I'd just
stick to Choose-your-own-adventures (not that there's anything wrong
with that; I'm greatly saddened that my Steve Jackson books were
destroyed in a flood).

My 2 cents' worth.

Steven Marsh
ma...@nettally.com

Joe Merical

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to

Iain Merrick wrote in message <36DA7D...@cs.york.ac.uk>...

>Joe Merical wrote:
>
>> There are four factors that, in my opinion, can make a successful IF
game:
>> Plot, characters, puzzles, and map-size.
>>
>> I'm not a judge in any competition, but if I were, I would probably rate
>> each game on a scale of 1 - 10 in each category.
>[...]
>> Once you get the perfect blend of
>> fiction and puzzles, you will have a perfect game.
>
>Hmmm... on that scale, Photopia would be a better game if it had more
>puzzles. Is that your intended meaning? If so, I couldn't disagree more.
<SNIP>
>--
>Iain 'Holistic' Merrick


When I say puzzles, I mean puzzles that go with the style of the game, not
the quantity of them. I agree that Photopia's puzzles (the few it has)
blend in nicely with the game and that Jigsaw's puzzles blend in nicely with
the game. Therefore, they would probably both get a similar score even
though they're too different games. Like most competitions, scores are
subjective, so there's no way to measure how good a game is without others
disagreeing. At least scales like the one I would use are a more unified
way of seeing how good a game is.

- Joe

Joe Merical

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to

Stark

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
Mike, want to tell us something about what Chameleon will be like? How
will the player/reader interact with the story?

Another question: You said:

> When writing puzzle-based IF, you are writing (i.e.: you have to think
up)
> only one story and one environment. When writing non-puzzle-based IF, you
> have to write several stories which interact with each other based on
what
> the player-reader does.

Why is this?

It had not occurred to me that this would be neccesary, but then, I have
been thinking in terms of short IF stories. An IF story like Mercy
contains only one story, and this works fine. I hadn't fully considered
what a novel length work of puzzleless IF would be like.

Stark

Kevin Forchione

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
"orthogonal to the other properties" Hmmm. It's been a while since I got my
math degree, but "at right angles to the other properties" seems to have
escaped me. Must be significant though, because I keep encountering people
using the word in connection with text-based game design!

Still, it begins to sound a bit too Carrollesque (how's that one?) for me.
Why don't we drag in some jargon from group and ring theory too? How about
some stochastic processes?

Sorry, I'm being obtuse, wrong angle...

Kevin
------------


Iain Merrick wrote in message <36DA7D...@cs.york.ac.uk>...
>Joe Merical wrote:
>
>> There are four factors that, in my opinion, can make a successful IF
game:
>> Plot, characters, puzzles, and map-size.
>>
>> I'm not a judge in any competition, but if I were, I would probably rate
>> each game on a scale of 1 - 10 in each category.
>[...]
>> Once you get the perfect blend of
>> fiction and puzzles, you will have a perfect game.
>
>Hmmm... on that scale, Photopia would be a better game if it had more
>puzzles. Is that your intended meaning? If so, I couldn't disagree more.
>

Stark

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
Yes, I might. (Or I might not. we shall see)

Question: does a new piece of IF get played/read by more people if released
as part of the big yearly IF competition, or if released sometime during
the rest of the year?

Stark

Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote in article

David Glasser

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
Stark <Stark4(delete-this-&-the-4)@foxinternet.net> wrote:

*** Photopia Spoilers ***

> By my definition of "puzzle", Photopia is almost puzzle free. There are a
> couple places while playing the Wendy character when one might possibly
> have not known what to do, but that's about it.

The main puzzle (or puzzles) of Photopia are not just interaction with
the parser, in my opinion. Rather, they are mind-puzzles: what the hell
is going on? The satisfaction of figuring that out is just as good as
unlocking a gate, if not better, and I would call it a puzzle. Just
because it's not programmed into the game doesn't mean it doesn't
happen.

--
David Glasser: gla...@NOSPAMuscom.com http://onramp.uscom.com/~glasser/
DGlasser@ifMUD:orange.res.cmu.edu 4001 | raif FAQ http://come.to/raiffaq
"Also, if/when is David Glasser v2 coming out, and will it support
HTML-TADS? Version 1 is pretty buggy." --Steven Marsh on raif

David Glasser

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to
Kevin Forchione <Lys...@email.msn.com> wrote:

> "orthogonal to the other properties" Hmmm. It's been a while since I got my
> math degree, but "at right angles to the other properties" seems to have
> escaped me. Must be significant though, because I keep encountering people
> using the word in connection with text-based game design!

I believe that orthogonal is frequently used here to mean "consistent,
in that learning half helps you learn the whole". For example, if the
"if" feature of a programming language was

if (foo) then [ bar ] : end

and the "while" feature was

while {foo} execute "bar" and finish

it would not be very orthogonal.

The Jargon file defines it as

orthogonal, adj. [from mathematics] Mutually independent; well
separated; sometimes, irrelevant to. Used in a generalization of its
mathematical meaning to describe sets of primitives or capabilities
that, like a vector basis in geometry, span the entire 'capability
space' of the system and are in some sense non-overlapping or mutually
independent. For example, in architectures such as the PDP-11 or VAX
where all or nearly all registers can be used interchangeably in any
role with respect to any instruction, the register set is said to be
orthogonal. Or, in logic, the set of operators 'not' and 'or' is
orthogonal, but the set 'nand', 'or', and 'not' is not (because any one
of these can be expressed in terms of the others). Also used in
comments on human discourse: "This may be orthogonal to the discussion,
but..."

but this isn't really how we use it here, I think.

--
David Glasser: gla...@NOSPAMuscom.com http://onramp.uscom.com/~glasser/
DGlasser@ifMUD:orange.res.cmu.edu 4001 | raif FAQ http://come.to/raiffaq

"Well, it's interesting. We're willing to kill in the name of David
Glasser." --Steven Marsh on rec.arts.int-fiction

Mike Berlyn

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to

Stark wrote in message <01be6434$c656b200$4bbe...@Stark.foxinternet.net>...

>Mike, want to tell us something about what Chameleon will be like? How
>will the player/reader interact with the story?


In Chameleon, the player/reader wanders around a series of environments,
much like in an adventure. Room descriptions exist as do lots of objects
with which you interact. As in a mystery, picking up a journal of someone in
the game and reading it may lead to some interesting insights when dealing
with them. In addition, Chameleon is character-based, meaning that the
characters are the primary reflection of your actions. Asking people about
things and other people, interacting with the characters in appropriate
ways, all generate a different feel than, say, a text adventure would.

>Another question: You said:
>
>> When writing puzzle-based IF, you are writing (i.e.: you have to think
>up)
>> only one story and one environment. When writing non-puzzle-based IF, you
>> have to write several stories which interact with each other based on
>what
>> the player-reader does.
>
>Why is this?
>
>It had not occurred to me that this would be neccesary, but then, I have
>been thinking in terms of short IF stories. An IF story like Mercy
>contains only one story, and this works fine. I hadn't fully considered
>what a novel length work of puzzleless IF would be like.


Well, in Chameleon's case, there are multiple stories, each of which has
multiple plot lines. For example (and this is not in Chameleon, so forgive
its lameness) If you hang out with a bunch of guys who want to steal a car,
or throw eggs at someone's house, do you go along with them? If so, the
story takes a very different turn than if you decide against it. If you do
go along with it and steal the car, do you tell your parents later? The
police? Do it again? Each of these produce very different stories and
different characters. Doing one or two things different in Chameleon will
result in a very different story, never mind a different plot path.

-- Mike

Mycophile

unread,
Mar 1, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/1/99
to

Kevin Forchione wrote in message ...

>"orthogonal to the other properties" Hmmm. It's been a while since I got my
>math degree, but "at right angles to the other properties" seems to have
>escaped me. Must be significant though, because I keep encountering people
>using the word in connection with text-based game design!


Well, in context it seems to me to be derived from the fact that the
dimensions of a point are orthogonal to and independent of each other. For
any x and y, you can define any number of z coordinates along a line
orthogonal to the x-y plane. This would seem to be the root upon which
other uses of the term are based.


Adam J. Thornton

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
In article <01be6440$e667cf00$4bbe...@Stark.foxinternet.net>,

Stark <Stark4(delete-this-&-the-4)@foxinternet.net> wrote:
>Yes, I might. (Or I might not. we shall see)
>
>Question: does a new piece of IF get played/read by more people if released
>as part of the big yearly IF competition, or if released sometime during
>the rest of the year?

I'd release it not during the competition, m'self. That way, maybe it will
be the thing everyone's talking about for a couple weeks. Whereas, during
the competition, we can't discuss the games, and afterwards, everyone's
talking about them all at once.

Stark

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
So are you defining "puzzle" to mean anything which the player has to do to
further the plot and keep the story going?(if not, then you can ignore the
rest of this) I have seen the term defined as broadly as that in this
newsgroup, but I think it's not a good or useful definition.

First of all, this doesn't fit with the usual way that the word puzzle is
used. My dictionary (webster's) defines puzzle as "a question or problem
that puzzles", with synonyms for puzzle as a verb such as perplex and
bewilder, or as a toy or problem for testing cleverness, skill, or
ingenuity, and goes on to explain "puzzle implies such a baffling quality
or such intricacy, as of a problem, situation, etc., that one has great
difficulty in understanding or solving it".

So, if an IF player finds himself in a room with a ringing phone, which he
must answer to further the plot and continue on with the game, I can't see
why this should be called a puzzle. All he has to do is answer the phone,
it would be practically impossible not to "solve" this.

If we were to refer to the above as a puzzle, then we might also say that
all books contain many puzzles. After all, the reader has to turn each
page before he can get to the next page. And he has to figure out >when<
to turn the page. And he needs to only turn 1 page at a time, and he
needs to proceed through the pages in a forward direction. Puzzles
aplenty.

I wonder if the attempt to redefine the term puzzle to include any acts
which the IF reader/player must carry out isn't actually an attempt to
justify the existence of puzzles in interactive fiction. In other words,
"Well, since everything a player has to do is really a puzzle, then you
have to have puzzles, and since you're gonna have puzzles, you might as
well make them good ones".

By my definition of "puzzle", Photopia is almost puzzle free. There are a
couple places while playing the Wendy character when one might possibly
have not known what to do, but that's about it.

Stark

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote in article

>
> The more interesting answer, at least for me, is that I call a very wide
> range of things "puzzles". I think IF *has* to have plot-scenes that
> involve the player, that involve *participation* by the player, that hold

> the attention. It's not that there's no point to the interactivity

Kevin Forchione

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Thanks!

I knew I'd get an answer to this one... if I just worded my query right.
Now, can anyone tell me what "(imho)" means?

Yes, today I'm going to get to the heart of this jargon, and not just bandy
it about with my usual ignorance!

Kevin
-----------------
Mycophile wrote in message <7bfvar$p6q$1...@nntp3.u.washington.edu>...

Kevin Forchione

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
I suppose that a parallel can be drawn here between puzzleless Interactive
Fiction and the Detective story without the dead body -- it can be done, and
is, but by far the majority love the genre with corpses strewn about -- and
especially when the dead bodies add up to more than just cord-wood.

I would like to here more of your ideas on "plot-scenes". For instance, what
did you think of Mike's use of "cut-scenes" in The Plant? He comments on
them himself, saying that he felt there needed to be something beyond just
having the player waiting for the story to unfold. I think the answer to
that is to engage the player in a puzzle while the scenes play out, make it
a "ticking bomb" perhaps?

Can you give me some examples of what you consider to be effective
plot-scenes?

Kevin

Kevin
--------------
Andrew Plotkin wrote in message ...


>Stark (Stark4(delete-this-&-the-4)@foxinternet.net) wrote:
>
>> Having read through some of the threads on the topic of puzzles and
>> puzzle-less IF that have been posted over the years, it seems that many
>> people have believed that text based IF >has< to have puzzles in order
for
>> it to hold people's attention and be enjoyable. Without puzzles it would
>> be boring, without puzzles there'd be no point to the interactivity and
one
>> might as well just go read a book.
>

>I don't think anyone still believe that's an absolute truth. We've seen
>the same examples you have, so to an extent you're arguing a straw man.
>
>But I, for a start, *like* puzzles. I write games with puzzles in them. I
>write what I would enjoy playing. The direct answer to your question "why
>so little" is that many other authors like puzzles too.
>

>The more interesting answer, at least for me, is that I call a very wide
>range of things "puzzles". I think IF *has* to have plot-scenes that
>involve the player, that involve *participation* by the player, that hold
>the attention. It's not that there's no point to the interactivity without
>puzzles; it's that the puzzles *are* the interactivity.
>
>I don't consider _Photopia_ to be puzzle-free.
>
>And -- it goes without saying :) -- a "puzzle" does not have to be a
>meaningless object-manipulation, interactivity divorced from the fiction.
>

Iain Merrick

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Kevin Forchione wrote:

> "orthogonal to the other properties" Hmmm. It's been a while since I got my
> math degree, but "at right angles to the other properties" seems to have
> escaped me. Must be significant though, because I keep encountering people
> using the word in connection with text-based game design!
>

> Still, it begins to sound a bit too Carrollesque (how's that one?) for me.
> Why don't we drag in some jargon from group and ring theory too? How about
> some stochastic processes?
>
> Sorry, I'm being obtuse, wrong angle...

Heh.

'Orthogonal' may be jargon, but it sounds cool and it's a really useful
word.

North-south is orthogonal to east-west because you can move along the
north-south axis without moving east or west. (Well, that's a
back-to-front definition, but you get the idea).

If puzzles were orthogonal to plot, you could blithely add extra puzzles
to a game without affecting the plot. My point was that they're _not_
orthogonal, because you can't do that. (Although I may have read more
into Joe Merical's post than he intended; he wasn't really claiming that
they were orthogonal in the first place.)

Now, does someone want to explain 'stochastic'? This is also a
cool-sounding work; is it useful? :)

--
Iain Merrick

Sam Barlow

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
On 1 Mar 1999, Stark wrote:

> But I would think that a few of the recent IF stories that have come out
> should disprove the above. In the End and Tapestry contain no puzzles(ok,
> so Tapestry contains a couple). Mercy is completely without puzzles, and
> seemed to have been well-liked. And of course, there is Photopia.

If I remember Tapestry's author said the game was his attempt to combine
a realistic story *with* conventional IF-style puzzles (I think it's in
the game text somewhere?)

> Photopia was almost completely puzzleless, and yet it was quite successful.
> People loved it, it won awards, and so on. Photopia proves that
> interactive fiction does not need puzzles.

Photopia was not puzzleless at all; the puzzles were, however, very
easy... this is not the same. I would define a puzzle as an obstacle
between A and B, where A might be not having the gold doubloons and B
having the gold doubloons. You might not have noticed the puzzles in
photopia because (a) they were handed out in a very linear fashion and
(b) they were so easy, but they were definitely there. I think Mercy was
similar.

Puzzleless If would be IF where the situations cannot be defined in
terms of binary opposites--a conventional piece of IF might have a
situation where the character meets a beautiful girl. The story
starts with the girl disliking the character and then progresses
(through the players actions) to a situation where the girl likes the
player. This is a puzzle. Puzzleless If would allow the player to
move on with the girl continuing to dislike him or to make the girl
like him. This is then a choice, not a puzzle.

To make a piece of IF puzzleless it is not a case of making the puzzles
easy enough so that they go unnoticed (if this were true, is a game with
On-line hints "puzzleless"?) but of removing the structure which defines
an IF story in terms of a set no. of goals which must be achieved. The
Space Under The Window is about the only example of puzzleless IF that
immediately springs to mind.

BTW: I don't *mind* games with puzzles, though I spent far too much of
my life playing So Far. I *loved* Losing Your Grip which was chokka
with puzzles. It would be nice to see some more puzzleless stuff though.

Sam.


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Iain Merrick (i...@cs.york.ac.uk) wrote:
> If puzzles were orthogonal to plot, you could blithely add extra puzzles
> to a game without affecting the plot. My point was that they're _not_
> orthogonal, because you can't do that.

I disagree. You can't look at it in terms of a particular game; that's too
confusing. You can't do *anything* to a particular game without affecting
every aspect of it.

That is: You can't add *monkeys* to _The Space Under the Window_ without
affecting the plot, but it's obvious (I hope) that monkeys and plot are
orthogonal -- you could write either a complicated multithread game
including monkeys, or a shallow monkey treasure hunt with a single "you
win" conclusion.

It's possible to write non-puzzle-oriented games which are either
single-plot-threaded or multi-plot-threaded. That's my point.

> > Still, it begins to sound a bit too Carrollesque (how's that one?) for me.
> > Why don't we drag in some jargon from group and ring theory too? How about
> > some stochastic processes?

> Now, does someone want to explain 'stochastic'? This is also a


> cool-sounding work; is it useful? :)

Just means "random".

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Stark (Stark4(delete-this-&-the-4)@foxinternet.net) wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote in article
> >
> > The more interesting answer, at least for me, is that I call a very wide
> > range of things "puzzles". I think IF *has* to have plot-scenes that
> > involve the player, that involve *participation* by the player, that hold
> > the attention. It's not that there's no point to the interactivity
> > without puzzles; it's that the puzzles *are* the interactivity.
> >
> > I don't consider _Photopia_ to be puzzle-free.
> >
> > And -- it goes without saying :) -- a "puzzle" does not have to be a
> > meaningless object-manipulation, interactivity divorced from the fiction.

(By the way, standard Usenet quoting is quoting-first. Much easier to
follow long htreads that way.)

> So are you defining "puzzle" to mean anything which the player has to do to
> further the plot and keep the story going?(if not, then you can ignore the
> rest of this) I have seen the term defined as broadly as that in this
> newsgroup, but I think it's not a good or useful definition.

Yes, I think I am. I realize that a definition which includes everything
is useless, but I think here it's a matter of symbolism and intent (to
quote Randall Garrett.) I put in game elements for a common purpose; I
call them by a common name.

> First of all, this doesn't fit with the usual way that the word puzzle is
> used.

This is a craft. We have jargon. I could pick a different word, but it
wouldn't change the discussion.

> So, if an IF player finds himself in a room with a ringing phone, which he
> must answer to further the plot and continue on with the game, I can't see
> why this should be called a puzzle. All he has to do is answer the phone,
> it would be practically impossible not to "solve" this.

It's a very easy puzzle. So is "I have the ruby key, the emerald key, and
the linoleum key; which one opens the ruby lock?" But very easy puzzles
serve the same purpose. Maybe I intend to involve the player in a very
minor way, but it's still involvement and complicity.

> If we were to refer to the above as a puzzle, then we might also say that
> all books contain many puzzles. After all, the reader has to turn each
> page before he can get to the next page.

You could, but I'd say that you were being very silly. Anything can be
reduced to absurdity. And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf
of paper, he's not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving;
he's intending it to be reflexive and transparent.

(I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the way. :-)

Adam Cadre

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf of paper, he's
> not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving; he's
> intending it to be reflexive and transparent.
>
> (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the
> way. :-)

The Little Golden Book featuring Grover from Sesame Street, right?

-----
Adam Cadre, Anaheim, CA
http://adamcadre.ac

Mycophile

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to

Kevin Forchione wrote in message ...
>Thanks!
>
>I knew I'd get an answer to this one... if I just worded my query right.
>Now, can anyone tell me what "(imho)" means?


LOL... FYI, IIRC it means "In My Humble Opinion." Now, as long as we're OT,
someone want to explain HTH? I've always assumed it either means "Happy To
Help" or "How'd That Happen?" but sometimes those don't make sense.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Adam Cadre (a...@adamcadre.ac) wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> > And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf of paper, he's
> > not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving; he's
> > intending it to be reflexive and transparent.
> >
> > (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the
> > way. :-)

> The Little Golden Book featuring Grover from Sesame Street, right?

Oh, good one. That certainly counts.

I was thinking of a book called _Encyclopedia_. The author (I don't
remember his name) came up with this detailed plot, many people
interacting over the course of several years. Then he wrote everything in
the form of *encyclopedia entries*. Like (this is just an example, I
haven't seen the book in a while):

Eggbeater: Stainless steel, Sears mail-order model. Final straw in an
argument over kitchen decor between *Fred* and *Ethyl* in 1961. Remained
in Ethyl's basement on *Walken Street*, after she moved out, until 1967;
then purchased at a *yard sale* by *Helen*, who could no longer afford
full-price kitchen equipment.

Okay, that's a goofy example, but the whole book was like that. In (of
course) alphabetical order. You could eventually assemble this rich
detailed history of the town, with lots of characters, but only by
frantically flipping around trying to trace connections.

Yes, the whole thing is ripe for hypertext conversion. One of my friends
keeps trying to contact the author or publisher and get permission.

Kevin Forchione

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote in message ...
>> Now, does someone want to explain 'stochastic'? This is also a
>> cool-sounding work; is it useful? :)
>
>Just means "random".

Not exactly, but the meaning of "stochastic process" is subtle.
Unfortunately the Oxford English Dictionary would lead you to conclude
"random", but the concept is more specific and perhaps a better definition
is as follows:

"A (finite) sequence of experiments in which each experiment has a
finite number
of outcomes with given probabilities." (Shaum's Outline Series: Theory
and Problems
of Finite Mathematics)

An example would be:

Given three boxes as follows:
Box I has 10 light bulbs of which 4 are defective.
Box II has 6 light bulbs of which 1 is defective.
Box III has 8 light bulbs of which 3 are defective.

If we select a box at random and then draw a bulb at random. What is the
probablility p that the bulb is defective?

p = 1/3 * 2/5 + 1/3 * 1/6 + 1/3 * 3/8 = 31.39% (approx.)

The determination of this probability is a stochastic process. True, there
is "randomness" involved, but if I recall rightly, stochastic processes,
though random, have a deterministic quality of being able to arrive at a
probability for any of the steps along their sequence.

Kevin

fra...@synopsys.middle-earth.com.ha

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
I nearly cried when my...@u.washington.edu said:

>LOL... FYI, IIRC it means "In My Humble Opinion." Now, as long as we're OT,
>someone want to explain HTH? I've always assumed it either means "Happy To
>Help" or "How'd That Happen?" but sometimes those don't make sense.

I've always used it as "Hope This Helps." YMMV, of course.

Fraser.
(I blame yacc for this acronym proliferation)

Matthew T. Russotto

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
In article <eqUcw6DZ#GA....@upnetnews02.moswest.msn.net>,

Kevin Forchione <Lys...@email.msn.com> wrote:
}"orthogonal to the other properties" Hmmm. It's been a while since I got my
}math degree, but "at right angles to the other properties" seems to have
}escaped me. Must be significant though, because I keep encountering people
}using the word in connection with text-based game design!

In this context, it means "independent of".

}Still, it begins to sound a bit too Carrollesque (how's that one?) for me.
}Why don't we drag in some jargon from group and ring theory too? How about
}some stochastic processes?

I think we've done that already.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Mary K. Kuhner

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
In article <36DC0A...@adamcadre.ac>, Adam Cadre <ne...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
>Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>> And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf of paper, he's
>> not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving; he's
>> intending it to be reflexive and transparent.

>> (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the
>> way. :-)

>The Little Golden Book featuring Grover from Sesame Street, right?

Gosh! I'd forgotten that. What a disturbing little book. I wonder if
you could do the equivalent in a text adventure? I guess "A New Day"
toys with the idea a little bit.

(For those that haven't encountered it, Grover spends the entire book
trying to dissuade the reader from turning the next page. I believe
the title was along the lines of "There's a Monster at the End of
this Book".)

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

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Sam says...
>...The Space Under The Window is about the only example of puzzleless

>IF that immediately springs to mind.

I wouldn't call SUTW "puzzleless". If your goal is to get to the
(more or less) "happy" ending, you have to choose your sequence
of words very carefully.

Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) says...

>I was thinking of a book called _Encyclopedia_. The author (I don't
>remember his name) came up with this detailed plot, many people
>interacting over the course of several years. Then he wrote everything in
>the form of *encyclopedia entries*.

There was also a novel, called "The Dictionary of the Kazars", in the
form of a dictionary.

Another off-beat approach is "Pale Fire" by Nabokov; it is a novel in
the form of footnotes to a long poem.

Adam Cadre

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> Eggbeater: Stainless steel, Sears mail-order model. Final straw in
> an argument over kitchen decor between *Fred* and *Ethyl* in 1961.
> Remained in Ethyl's basement on *Walken Street*, after she moved out,
> until 1967; then purchased at a *yard sale* by *Helen*, who could no
> longer afford full-price kitchen equipment.
>
> Okay, that's a goofy example, but the whole book was like that.

Sounds like _253_ by Geoff Ryman. The print version was released
quite recently; the online version was at http://www.ryman-novel.com
last time I checked.

ne...@norwich.edu

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
In article <erkyrathF...@netcom.com>,
erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) responds:

> You could, but I'd say that you were being very silly. Anything can be
> reduced to absurdity. And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf

> of paper, he's not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving;
> he's intending it to be reflexive and transparent.
>
> (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the way. :-)

Yeah. Sesame Street's "Don't Turn the Page!". My favorite book as a child. I
just loved scaring the shit out of Grover.

Neil Cerutti
ne...@norwich.edu

-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own

David Given

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
In article <7bhab1$o5e$1...@remarq.com>,

fra...@synopsys.middle-earth.com.ha writes:
> I nearly cried when my...@u.washington.edu said:
>>LOL... FYI, IIRC it means "In My Humble Opinion." Now, as long as we're OT,
>>someone want to explain HTH? I've always assumed it either means "Happy To
>>Help" or "How'd That Happen?" but sometimes those don't make sense.
>
> I've always used it as "Hope This Helps." YMMV, of course.

..and it conveys a largely slab of sarcasm, too, especially if followed
by `HAND' (`Have a nice day').

> Fraser.
> (I blame yacc for this acronym proliferation)

ACRONYM: A Contrived Reduction of Nomenclature, Yielding Mnemonics.

--
+- David Given ---------------McQ-+ "No, I won't go and see your therapist! I
| Work: d...@tao.co.uk | won't even go and see mine!" --- Ally
| Play: dgi...@iname.com | MacBeal
+- http://wired.st-and.ac.uk/~dg -+

Erik Max Francis

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Kevin Forchione wrote:

> >Just means "random".
>
> Not exactly, but the meaning of "stochastic process" is subtle.
> Unfortunately the Oxford English Dictionary would lead you to
> conclude
> "random", but the concept is more specific and perhaps a better
> definition
> is as follows:

_Oxford Concise Science Dictionary_, p. 666:

Any process in which there is a random variable.

_VNR Concise Encyclopaedia of Mathematics_, p. 594:

_Random_ or _stochastic processes_ are described by random
variables that depend on at least one parameter. Such a parameter
can either assume only a discrete set of values or can vary
continuously. The degree of wear on a car tyre, for example,
depends on the number t of miles it has been driven, but according
to the initial conditions it is a random function of t.

It means a process which has at least one random variable, either
discrete or continuous. If there's an element of randomness, no matter
how small or limited, then it's stochastic.

--
Erik Max Francis / email m...@alcyone.com / whois mf303 / icq 16063900
Alcyone Systems / irc maxxon (efnet) / finger m...@members.alcyone.com
San Jose, CA / languages En, Eo / web http://www.alcyone.com/max/
USA / icbm 37 20 07 N 121 53 38 W / &tSftDotIotE
\
/ Many would be cowards if they had courage enough.
/ Thomas Fuller

Erik Max Francis

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Mycophile wrote:

> LOL... FYI, IIRC it means "In My Humble Opinion." Now, as long as
> we're OT,
> someone want to explain HTH? I've always assumed it either means
> "Happy To
> Help" or "How'd That Happen?" but sometimes those don't make sense.

"Hope this helps." That's why I never use those acronyms; ultimately
they only lead to confusion, somewhere. (Besides, what a few more
keystrokes to be unambiguous?)

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
Darin Johnson (da...@usa.net.NOSPAM) wrote:
> ma...@nettally.com (Steven Marsh) writes:

> > I guess I admire games where the puzzles are honestly (transparently)
> > a part of the game;

> I dislike games with few puzzles, as that's what I like about them.
> Face it, few IF authors are really good at writing, and on top of that
> the expository form isn't well suited for good writing. I'm the sort
> of person that thinks fan-fiction is mostly horrendous, and IF writing
> style is about on par. (no offense to fan-fic authors, but we each
> have our own tastes) When I read novels, there are things I like, and
> things I don't like. If a lot of these IF's were turned into novels,
> I wouldn't be reading them. AMFV bored me to tears, and people have
> said that's some of the best IF writing there is - yikes.

I would ask you to distinguish between the IF we have, and the IF we
*want*.

green_g...@my-dejanews.com

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
In article <7bhb95$es8$1...@nntp3.u.washington.edu>,

mkku...@kingman.genetics.washington.edu (Mary K. Kuhner) wrote:
> In article <36DC0A...@adamcadre.ac>, Adam Cadre <ne...@adamcadre.ac>
wrote:
> >Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> >> And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf of paper, he's
> >> not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving; he's
> >> intending it to be reflexive and transparent.
>
> >> (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the
> >> way. :-)
>
> >The Little Golden Book featuring Grover from Sesame Street, right?
>
> Gosh! I'd forgotten that. What a disturbing little book.

> (For those that haven't encountered it, Grover spends the entire book


> trying to dissuade the reader from turning the next page. I believe
> the title was along the lines of "There's a Monster at the End of
> this Book".)

Disturbing??? That's my 4yr old sons favorite story! He really gets into
turning the pages and telling me not be scared, that it's really just grover
at the end. He's got the whole thing memorized. <It was my favorite book as
a kid as well>

The Monster at the End of This Book (Little Golden Storybook) by Jon Stone

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0307160254/qid=920413966/sr=1-4/002-7650392-2188467

-- Excuse me while I dance a little jig of despair.

Mark J. Tilford

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
On Tue, 02 Mar 1999 21:01:26 GMT, ne...@norwich.edu <ne...@norwich.edu> wrote:
>In article <erkyrathF...@netcom.com>,
> erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) responds:
>> You could, but I'd say that you were being very silly. Anything can be
>> reduced to absurdity. And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf

>> of paper, he's not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving;
>> he's intending it to be reflexive and transparent.
>>
>> (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the way. :-)
>
>Yeah. Sesame Street's "Don't Turn the Page!". My favorite book as a child. I
>just loved scaring the shit out of Grover.
>
>Neil Cerutti
>ne...@norwich.edu
>

Hmmm.. I remember _The Monster at the End of this Book_; are you thinking
of that one?

>-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
>http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own


--
-----------------------
Mark Jeffrey Tilford
til...@cco.caltech.edu

Arcum Dagsson

unread,
Mar 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/2/99
to
In article <7bhab1$o5e$1...@remarQ.com>, fra...@synopsys.middle-earth.com.ha wrote:

> I nearly cried when my...@u.washington.edu said:
>

> >LOL... FYI, IIRC it means "In My Humble Opinion." Now, as long as we're OT,
> >someone want to explain HTH? I've always assumed it either means "Happy To
> >Help" or "How'd That Happen?" but sometimes those don't make sense.
>

> I've always used it as "Hope This Helps." YMMV, of course.

^^^^
Yodeling Monkeys Mangle Vines?
Yellow Moths Multiply Visibly?
Yeti Mantras Mandate Visions?
or, possibly,
Your Mileage May Vary...

>
> Fraser.
> (I blame yacc for this acronym proliferation)

Yoda Acting Classically Cryptic?
Yawning Activist Communist Clowns?
Yaks Activating Clandestine Computers?
Young Associates Creating Committees?
--Arcum Dagsson (insert separator for .sig here)
"Zaphod, last time I knew you, you were one of the richest men in the
Galaxy. What do you want money for?"
"Oh, I lost it all."
"All of it? What did you do, gamble it away?"
"No, I left it in a taxi."
"Stylish."

Mark J. Tilford

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
On Tue, 2 Mar 1999 16:58:45 GMT, Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>Adam Cadre (a...@adamcadre.ac) wrote:
>> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>> > And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf of paper, he's
>> > not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving; he's
>> > intending it to be reflexive and transparent.
>> >
>> > (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the
>> > way. :-)
>
>> The Little Golden Book featuring Grover from Sesame Street, right?
>
>Oh, good one. That certainly counts.
>
>I was thinking of a book called _Encyclopedia_. The author (I don't
>remember his name) came up with this detailed plot, many people
>interacting over the course of several years. Then he wrote everything in
>the form of *encyclopedia entries*. Like (this is just an example, I
>haven't seen the book in a while):
>
<snip>

That reminds me of the story "Your Horoscope for Today", a story which
ran on thecase.com as a twist some time back. Basically, it gave a
series of horoscopes; taken together, they form a story.

Doeadeer3

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
>Having read through some of the threads on the topic of puzzles and
>puzzle-less IF that have been posted over the years, it seems that many
>people have believed that text based IF >has< to have puzzles in order for
>it to hold people's attention and be enjoyable. Without puzzles it would
>be boring, without puzzles there'd be no point to the interactivity and one
>might as well just go read a book.

Exactly, IF has to be interactive to be more interesting than reading a book.

>But I would think that a few of the recent IF stories that have come out
>should disprove the above.

Nope, not necessarily. After all, few of the game authors in this group are as
good a writer as Adam Cadre. (And I mean FEW.)

Most great writers are being published, most VERY GOOD writers are probably in
other newsgroups, not trying to write computer games. They are writing short
stories, novels and plays and trying to get them pulished and produced.

(I am not disparaging anyone in raif, it is just the way it is, those of us
here either have an inclination toward writing/playing computer games and/or we
are also programmers of various ilks. Actually all IF authors, if they don't
start out as one, end up a programmer of some kind. Programming and writing are
slightly different ways of thinking and all IF games must currently fit into
the programming mold, whether puzzless or not.)

Doe :-) Frankly I am tired of people equating writing/programming an IF game
with WRITING, period. It really isn't the SAME.

Speaks a non-writer...


Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
****************************************************************************
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain

Doeadeer3

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
>Subject: Re: Why so little Puzzleless IF?
>From: Arcum_Dagsson

>> I've always used it as "Hope This Helps." YMMV, of course.
> ^^^^
>Yodeling Monkeys Mangle Vines?
>Yellow Moths Multiply Visibly?
>Yeti Mantras Mandate Visions?
>or, possibly,
>Your Mileage May Vary...

Close. Your Mimesis May Vary

I think, but am not sure, that L. Ross Raszewski was the originator of this
acronym.

Doe :-) Anyway I saw it first in a LRR post.

Joe Mason

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
Mary K. Kuhner <mkku...@kingman.genetics.washington.edu> wrote:
>
>(For those that haven't encountered it, Grover spends the entire book
>trying to dissuade the reader from turning the next page. I believe
>the title was along the lines of "There's a Monster at the End of
>this Book".)

Oh, yeah! I remember that book! (And I'm quietly amazed that the three of
you all knew exactly what each other was talking about...)

Joe
--
Congratulations, Canada, on preserving your national igloo.
-- Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas

Joe Mason

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
Darin Johnson <da...@usa.net.NOSPAM> wrote:
>
>I dislike games with few puzzles, as that's what I like about them.
>Face it, few IF authors are really good at writing, and on top of that

Well thanks for the vote of confidence. You haven't played any of the XYZZY
winners, have you?

>the expository form isn't well suited for good writing. I'm the sort

That is, perhaps, a more salient point: it really is more difficult to write
in the expository form. We seem to be pulling it off, though.

Stark

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote in article
>
> > First of all, this doesn't fit with the usual way that the word puzzle
is
> > used.
>
> This is a craft. We have jargon. I could pick a different word, but it
> wouldn't change the discussion.

Ok, I believe I see your point in the usefulness of broadening the usual
definition of the word "puzzle". Since pretty much everyone writing IF has
been including puzzles (by the usual dictionary definition of that word) in
their games, puzzles are a part of almost every piece of IF. So from this
standpoint, it becomes useful to define the word "puzzle" so that
everything a player has to do can fit within that one category.

This seemed odd to me originally, because I'm envisioning IF being written
which contains no puzzles(dictionary definition). If a large percentage of
the IF being written was puzzle free, then I think it would be confusing to
use the broader definition for the word.

Stark

Avrom Faderman

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to

Doeadeer3 wrote in message <19990302203744...@ng-fu1.aol.com>...

>Exactly, IF has to be interactive to be more interesting than reading a
book.


I do agree with you about this (although, certainly, IF doesn't have to be
*more interesting* than reading a book; I assume you mean *differently
interesting*).

>>But I would think that a few of the recent IF stories that have come out
>>should disprove the above.
>
>Nope, not necessarily. After all, few of the game authors in this group are
as
>good a writer as Adam Cadre. (And I mean FEW.)


But, well, the existence of Adam Cadre is at least a proof that it's
*possible* for an IF game to have a lot of merit purely in its writing.

And, well, I agree that Photopia was pretty remarkably well-written, but I
certainly think it's *far* from the *only* well-written game we've had.

And that includes lots of games with classic puzzles.

So Far, IMO, was brilliant, both in puzzles and in writing (*especially* in
the latter, actually).

Kissing the Buddha's Feet was *wonderfully* witty--in the way only writing
can be.

Muse was maybe not *quite* at that level, but at times, I thought, it got
pretty darn close. (And, again, the virtue is all in the writing here--I
didn't even *like* all the puzzles.)

Spider and Web...well, I don't know if Zarf knows that Agatha Christie did
that [IYKWIMAITYD] first; but it was a brilliant device when she did it and
it's still brilliant if executed as well as he did (and the interactiveness
of it--and the shifting from first person to second person--does add
something new).

I think, even though it doesn't contain a single sentence of coherent human
language, Bad Machine is not just an excellent game, but has to qualify as
excellent writing: it makes you think--about important issues--and does so
eloquently, in its own way.

I'm not overly fond of Anchorhead's genre, but it is, without question,
among the better-executed examples of that genre I've encountered. The
writing is *good*, at least in that it admirably accomplishes what it tries
to do.

>Most great writers are being published, most VERY GOOD writers are probably
in
>other newsgroups, not trying to write computer games. They are writing
short
>stories, novels and plays and trying to get them pulished and produced.


Most, probably, since the audience is bigger. But, of course, some very
good writers are very good programmers and want to do both at once. Some
writers enjoy experimenting with new media. Some writers are,
fundamentally, *participatory* storytellers. All those writers may be drawn
to IF.

>Doe :-) Frankly I am tired of people equating writing/programming an IF
game
>with WRITING, period. It really isn't the SAME.
>
>Speaks a non-writer...


Oh that's *certainly* true. One can easily tell a good story without
writing a good (or even bad) piece of IF (if one can easily write good
stories, period). And one can easily write a good piece of IF without
writing a good story, or any but the most rudimentary of stories at all:
witness Enchanter, or The Magic Toyshop, or 99% of the great I-F out there.
But *some* great I-F, a not-insignificant and ever growing amount, has lots
of at least very good writing, writing that at its best brushes against
greatness.

Avrom


IF

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to

Adam Cadre wrote:

> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> > And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf of paper, he's
> > not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving; he's
> > intending it to be reflexive and transparent.
> >
> > (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the
> > way. :-)
>
> The Little Golden Book featuring Grover from Sesame Street, right?
>

I remember that book! It disturbed me deeply.

Ian Finley


LucFrench

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
Jeeze, I would've thought you people had more willpower. A 40 post thread on
Puzzleless IF, spawning from a blantent troll. (Not nessisarily for flames, but
blatent nontheless.)

Just a note: if you're gonna go trolling for long threads, try to be brief.
This particular thread could have been set-off by the following post:

> Why isn't there more Puzzleless IF?
>
> I liked Mercy and Photopia; why don't people write more games
> like that?
>
> [Insert obligitory .sig here]

With maybe a touch more seed matereal. You don't need to be negitive in tone.
(Although, with some topics, it does help.)

Thanks
Luc "Threaded" French

J. Robinson Wheeler

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
Erik Max Francis wrote:

> It means a process which has at least one random variable, either
> discrete or continuous. If there's an element of randomness, no matter
> how small or limited, then it's stochastic.


Hmmm, 'Four in One - An Interactive Stochastic Process'?


--
J. Robinson Wheeler
whe...@jump.net http://www.jump.net/~wheeler/jrw/home.html

Doeadeer3

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
>Subject: Re: Why so little Puzzleless IF?
>From: "Avrom Faderman" <Avrom_F...@email.msn.com>
>Date: 3/2/99 10:39 PM Pacific Standard Time

>Doeadeer3 wrote in message <19990302203744...@ng-fu1.aol.com>...
>>Exactly, IF has to be interactive to be more interesting than reading a
>book.
>
>
>I do agree with you about this (although, certainly, IF doesn't have to be
>*more interesting* than reading a book; I assume you mean *differently
>interesting*).

No, I was responding to the question about puzzless IF. IF without puzzles has
to be MORE interesting than reading a book, otherwise most wouldn't bother. (I
know I wouldn't, I'd rather read a story from pages than sit at a computer and
hit a space bar to read it. For one thing, one can arrange one's self more
comfortably to read a book, one has to sit upright at a computer, not a minor
point if the story is long. Not to mention eye strain, etc. Reading is easier.
So, MORE interesting.)

>>Doe :-) Frankly I am tired of people equating writing/programming an IF
>game
>>with WRITING, period. It really isn't the SAME.
>>
>>Speaks a non-writer...
>
>
>Oh that's *certainly* true. One can easily tell a good story without
>writing a good (or even bad) piece of IF (if one can easily write good
>stories, period). And one can easily write a good piece of IF without
>writing a good story, or any but the most rudimentary of stories at all:
>witness Enchanter, or The Magic Toyshop, or 99% of the great I-F out there.
>But *some* great I-F, a not-insignificant and ever growing amount, has lots
>of at least very good writing, writing that at its best brushes against
>greatness.

So where does that leave the rest of us? Should we quit raif in despair because
we can't ever measure up to others' writing abilities? More and more often it
sounds like that is what people are saying.

I think writing IF requires more than one skill, more than WRITING skill. I
think sometimes people are overemphasizing this skill to the determent of the
other skills involved (which is not JUST programming).

And, frankly, they are giving the rest of us an inferiority complex. This is
NOT a minor problem, if you ask me.

Doe :-) If I wanted to join a Writer's Workshop, I wouldn't be here in raif.
Grumble, grumble.

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
In article <7bh898$b...@edrn.newsguy.com>,
Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> wrote:
>erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) says...

>
>>I was thinking of a book called _Encyclopedia_. The author (I don't
>>remember his name) came up with this detailed plot, many people
>>interacting over the course of several years. Then he wrote everything in
>>the form of *encyclopedia entries*.
>
>There was also a novel, called "The Dictionary of the Kazars", in the
>form of a dictionary.

And published in two versions, one "male" and one "female". I have the
"male" version in my bookshelf (mostly unread, not because it's bad but
because I haven't had the time to read it). Has anybody here read
both versions? What's the difference?

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------

Steven Marsh

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
On 3 Mar 1999 07:34:19 GMT, lucf...@aol.com (LucFrench) wrote:

>Jeeze, I would've thought you people had more willpower. A 40 post thread on
>Puzzleless IF, spawning from a blantent troll. (Not nessisarily for flames, but
>blatent nontheless.)
>

<snip>

Well, this topic has obviously struck a cord in the IF
community in general, and has produced some very useful commentary.
(Actually, I'm just ticked pink it's not another Copyright
debate or another TADS vs. INFORM debate. I am getting sooooo tired
of eating kittens.)
Perhaps even more amazing to me is that a surprising
percentage of the posts have been -on- topic (with the "Monster at the
End of This Book... Oh, Yeah I Remember That" subthread being the only
significant digression... not counting this one.).

Steven Marsh
ma...@nettally.com

ne...@norwich.edu

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
In article <slrn7dosmo....@ralph.caltech.edu>,

til...@cco.caltech.edu wrote:
> On Tue, 02 Mar 1999 21:01:26 GMT, ne...@norwich.edu <ne...@norwich.edu>
wrote:
> >In article <erkyrathF...@netcom.com>,
> > erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) responds:
> >> You could, but I'd say that you were being very silly. Anything can be
> >> reduced to absurdity. And when an author plans a bunch of words on a sheaf

> >> of paper, he's not intending page-turning to be difficult or involving;
> >> he's intending it to be reflexive and transparent.
> >>
> >> (I can think of at least one book that's a counterexample, by the way. :-)
> >
> >Yeah. Sesame Street's "Don't Turn the Page!". My favorite book as a child. I
> >just loved scaring the shit out of Grover.
> >
> >Neil Cerutti
> >ne...@norwich.edu
> >
>
> Hmmm.. I remember _The Monster at the End of this Book_; are you thinking
> of that one?

That's the one. Oops.

Neil Cerutti
ne...@norwich.edu

Gareth Rees

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
LucFrench <lucf...@aol.com> wrote:
> spawning from a blatant troll.

Don't forget that blatant (or indeed any other kind of) trolls are
firmly on-topic in this newsgroup.

--
Gareth Rees

Mindstars

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
This is a reply to the question about the _Dictionary of the Khazars_. The
passage where the difference is can be found starting on page 293; it's in
italics.

Marian Taylor

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
LucFrench (lucf...@aol.com) wrote:
> Jeeze, I would've thought you people had more willpower. A 40 post thread on
> Puzzleless IF, spawning from a blantent troll. (Not nessisarily for flames, but
> blatent nontheless.)

That wasn't a troll.

*Your* post may count as a troll.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Mar 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM3/3/99
to
Darin Johnson (da...@usa.net.NOSPAM) wrote:
> erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) writes:

> > I would ask you to distinguish between the IF we have, and the IF we
> > *want*.

> To be truthful, I don't think any digital text is going to be anywhere
> as good as printed word for quite a long time. By "good", I don't
> necessarily mean quality, I mean easy to read, easy to use, easy on
> the eyes, etc.

I agree with this. You mean it as an analogy, right? I don't think the
analogy is perfect. I can't give my audience a better display, but I can
try to give them better writing.

> The basics of current IF don't seem to be leading to anything vastly
> different. To me, interactive fiction isn't necessarily having to
> specify every little action, but should be like a novel where
> occasionally you redirect the paths of a character. Other people may
> differ, I fully agree. But I like having a story told to me, I don't
> like having to work to extract the story in bits and pieces. I'd
> rather have the story continue along on automatic and be able to say
> "wait, let's take a closer look at what's happening over there", than
> to have to explicitly take a closer look at everything all the time.
> That's one of the things that really felt wrong about AMFV for me.

You're still wavering between "This isn't what I want" and "This isn't
good."

> In short, non-linear doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with
> story-telling (in my view of course).

In my view, practically nothing goes hand-in-hand with anything. Have you
noticed that I get most vehement when someone says "Well, of course Y can
only be done with/without Z."?

> Someone may try to put the two together, but will it feel natural?

It has thus far.

> And can it be done with amateur writers?

Uh, just about all writers of fiction are amateur writers. Including many
of the ones I really admire. And *all* of them *started* as amateur
writers.

In the past year I've seen two amateur, unpublished, sit-at-home-and-
write-a-novel friends sell a first novel to a publisher.

No, I want to make that stronger. This may seem arrogant as hell coming
from me, but I don't believe in talent. I really don't. There is desire
and there is practice. (Mostly practice.) The only way IF could fail to
produce brilliant work -- and I include current-style IF, yea verily, even
old-fashioned cave-crawling IF -- is if we all decided it couldn't
possibly be done.