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Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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Ok, here's the thing that bothers me:

Back in the old days ('95), people used to tell me that a text IF work
couldn't possibly have the kind of plot and character development that a
book did. Because text IF (in the Colossal Cave tradition) was
fundamentally a *game*, it was basically a bunch of puzzles with some
stuff stuck on top; interactivity meant puzzles. And puzzles were
mechanical game which couldn't be used to tell a story. If you tried to
put a story in, the puzzles would get in the way. The author might as well
write a new Tetris variant and forget IF.

These days, people tell me that a text IF work (in the Colossal Cave
tradition) can't possibly be *interactive* fiction, because the shallow
if-then tree nature of the programming is a straitjacket. Without AI, the
player can't have any real impact on the storyline, so the player is just
following railroad tracks laid down by the author. (With perhaps a
railroad switch at the end leading to a few author-defined multiple
endings.) The author might as well write a book and forget IF.

You understand why this has been incredibly frustrating to me. *Both
ways*, I reply "Look, I want to write games that do what a novel (or short
story) do, but with player interaction. Can a book have a plot? Then so
can IF. Can a book tell a story without feeling like a straitjacket? Then
so can IF; the added interactivity can't make the player *less* involved."
(Unless you do it wrong, of course.)

I like to think that I caused this viewpoint shift...

(I was originally going to call this post "Life's Like *This*: How I
Created And Destroyed Modern IF." Fortunately for you-all, I couldn't keep
the gag going for the entire length of the essay.)

...really, it's not a monolithic viewpoint shift. The first quoted view is
what I remember of the position I was arguing against most vehemently in
1995; the second is the position I was arguing against most vehemently in
the past year. (Most recently, in comp.sys.mac.games.adventure, although
the thread died without going anywhere.) These are just the issues that
are most important to me.

But I did write "A Change in the Weather" specifically to stick a fork in
that first viewpoint; and then _So Far_. They must have worked, because of
the number of people who said "Oh, *that's* the shape that fits what I
want to do!" and did it. Ok, good.

The second viewpoint... is harder to argue with. Because it's not saying
that what I want is impossible (as the first one did); it's saying that
what I want doesn't go far enough. Which may be true. I guess these are
the people that *always* found CC and Planetfall and Trinity to be
restrictive and straitjacketed, and have always looked ahead to some art
form that doesn't feel that way. Obviously, I have to say "go for it". But
it's not what I want to do.

I just deleted a paragraph-long rant about the people who say "You're
holding back the future of IF gaming." As you might expect, I ignore such
people. (And yes, they really exist. See that thread on csmga.) The point
is this: Colossal-Cave-style IF is now a pretty mature art form. It was
essentially mature in *1990*. Innovations since then have been:

(1) Techniques useful for particular games. (The consult-book verbs,
for example.)

(2) Improvements in development systems. (Exponentially better from the
author's point of view, but with no impact on what the author *wants* to
do; the brilliance of Inform 6 is that it makes it so much easier for the
author to make the game he was thinking of already.)

(3) Expanding the explored range of *content*. This, again, is what I
think I can take some credit for. At least at first. Now the ball is
rolling, and people will keep inventing new things to say for years, I
hope. Just like novels.

It's (3) I'm interested in as a player, and ultimately as an author. So I
have no patience at all with people who tell me that *I* have to move on
to the next thing. A mature art form is not destroyed by the next art form
to be born. People keep writing more books. They even keep writing more
science fiction books, an art form even more conventional than the written
word in general.

(I was at a Pittsburgh SF con yesterday, and prominent SF editor said "The
three most influential SF writers are Heinlein, Samuel Delaney, and..."
Ok, I forget the third; maybe it was Wolfe or Clarke. But in all three
cases it was stuff written in the 60's or earlier. SF has got itself
pretty well figured out these days. A genuinely new movement will be a
*new genre*, not something that will change SF-as-it-exists.)

(And this does *not* mean that SF is dead!)

In the case of IF, it's pretty obvious that the Next Thing will be not be
an incremental improvement of what we have now. All the current attempts,
like the Erasmotron, are entirely new approaches. I sometimes hear "Ok, we
could have CC-style IF with better NPCs," but I don't see it; if the NPCs
are that much better, it changes all the assumptions. The program
structure may still be like TADS/Inform, but the art form will be entirely
new. I could be wrong about this, but I'll wait and see.

I'm out of words for now.

--Z

--

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

Adam Cadre

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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Zarf wrote:
> These days, people tell me that a text IF work (in the Colossal Cave
> tradition) can't possibly be *interactive* fiction, because the shallow
> if-then tree nature of the programming is a straitjacket. Without AI, the
> player can't have any real impact on the storyline, so the player is just
> following railroad tracks laid down by the author. (With perhaps a
> railroad switch at the end leading to a few author-defined multiple
> endings.) The author might as well write a book and forget IF.

This is something I was going to add to a different thread (namely, the
"What is an adventure then?" thread, where I believe it has been posited
by at least one person that without puzzles, a piece of IF might as well
be a book), but I think I'll say it here instead. Which is: okay, let's
imagine a completely linear piece of IF, where before every prompt the
program comes out and says, "Now pick up the box" or "Now scrape the
parrot" or what have you, and refuses to respond to any other input. The
player can have no impact on the direction of the storyline other than
stopping it by turning the program off. How does this differ from
reading a static narrative?

Complicity.

There is a difference between reading a story which says, "Then the
protagonist kicked her cat" or even "You kick your cat" and one in which
you of your own volition type "KICK CAT".

And if the whisperings I've heard about upcoming comp games do indeed
reflect the nature of this year's crop, I suspect that complicity is
something we're going to be talking about in the next few months.

-----
Adam Cadre, Anaheim, CA
http://www.retina.net/~grignr

Michael Gentry

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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Anyone mind if I stick my big fat opinion here? No? Good.


Andrew Plotkin wrote in message ...


>Ok, here's the thing that bothers me:
>
>Back in the old days ('95), people used to tell me that a text IF work
>couldn't possibly have the kind of plot and character development that a
>book did. Because text IF (in the Colossal Cave tradition) was
>fundamentally a *game*, it was basically a bunch of puzzles with some
>stuff stuck on top; interactivity meant puzzles. And puzzles were
>mechanical game which couldn't be used to tell a story. If you tried to
>put a story in, the puzzles would get in the way. The author might as well
>write a new Tetris variant and forget IF.


It seems to me like we've pretty much put this argument to rest (and rightly
so) by a) re-evaluating what we classify as a "puzzle", and b) exploring the
idea of puzzle-less IF.

a) refers to the idea on "common-sense" puzzles -- puzzles that differ
little from the conundrums we encounter in everyday life. Like, you need to
get the laundry detergent off the high shelf, so you need a stool, and the
stool is perhaps hidden from you but not in a place where you REALLY
wouldn't expect to find it -- e.g. out in the garage, as opposed to Halfway
Up The Volcano.

(You might argue that nothing in, say, "Spider & Web" comes close to
anything that you'd encounter in "everyday life", but I would counter that
it does -- if you were a hi-tech super-spy. Tossing your lockpick down a
hallway to distract some guards is a pretty common-sense solution to a
pretty straightforward problem, unlike, say, solving a 5 liter/2 liter milk
jug puzzle to defuse a bomb.)

b) has been done, although not, in my opinion, done particularly well. Yet.
"Mercy" (and, to a lesser extent, "I-Zero"), at the very least, demonstrates
that it's perfectly possible to create puzzle-less IF. I don't think
anyone's made an effort yet to create a fully developed, in-depth work of
puzzle-less IF -- but I can't think of any reason why someone *couldn't*.
The tools we have seem to be capable of supporting the form.

>These days, people tell me that a text IF work (in the Colossal Cave
>tradition) can't possibly be *interactive* fiction, because the shallow
>if-then tree nature of the programming is a straitjacket. Without AI, the
>player can't have any real impact on the storyline, so the player is just
>following railroad tracks laid down by the author. (With perhaps a
>railroad switch at the end leading to a few author-defined multiple
>endings.) The author might as well write a book and forget IF.
>

>The second viewpoint... is harder to argue with.

Yes, it is.

The problem is, without AI, you're not really interacting with the *game* so
much as you're interacting with the *author*. Everything that you can
possibly do in any given IF has been anticipated by the author -- if you do
something that the author didn't think of beforehand, you've probably
stumbled onto a bug in the game. The degree of freedom that you feel while
playing, the degree to which you feel you have an effect on the storyline --
that's the degree to which the author anticipated it, allowed for it, and
coded it in.

Here it seems we are limited by our tools. It's a function of how difficult
it is, using whatever development language we're using, to create and
maintain branching and/or intertwining storylines, and how willing we are to
shoulder that difficulty. Since the difficulty grows exponentially with each
added branch, that willingness doesn't tend to go very far. But again, it's
not so much that we can't do it; it's that as yet no one's really worked
hard enough on it. (And really, can you blame them? It's not like we're
getting paid for this.)

BUT... as far as you go with this idea, it's still going to be a matter of
what the author anticipates and prepares for. Until someone develops a
computer that can react and interact like a human being (and until someone
develops a practical application of that technology to IF games), it's all
going to be railroad tracks, and how many railroad tracks there are, and how
many directions those railroad tracks go in. Right now, if you want real
interactivity, if you want total responsiveness and an intelligent,
dynamically changing storyline, then what you need to do go play a White
Wolf RPG or something. You need a human being in front of you, making it up
as you both go along.

--M
================================================
"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Stark

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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Andrew, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. (Perhaps you're
expanding on points you've made before and which I've missed since I read
this group only sporadically)

You're referring to people who say that you are holding back interactive
fiction, who believe that what you want in IF doesn't go far enough. What,
then, is the direction in which they are suggesting IF should go? What is
the "next thing" which people are suggesting that you move on to?

Stark


Doeadeer3

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew
Plotkin) writes:

>In the case of IF, it's pretty obvious that the Next Thing will be not be
>an incremental improvement of what we have now. All the current attempts,
>like the Erasmotron, are entirely new approaches. I sometimes hear "Ok, we
>could have CC-style IF with better NPCs," but I don't see it; if the NPCs
>are that much better, it changes all the assumptions. The program
>structure may still be like TADS/Inform, but the art form will be entirely
>new. I could be wrong about this, but I'll wait and see.

I don't disagree with anything you have said, except possibly with how much
credit you give yourself. I thought some of those Infocom games had a lot of
plot. What hooked me on IF was "Deadline" and "Witness", exactly because they
had plots. I wouldn't argue, though, that you have been in the "forefront" of
IF, have set trends, tried new things and are one of its best (current)
writers.

Okay, moving on, what IS the next thing? I have no idea. Can any of us have a
real idea? It is very hard to see something before it happens. I suspect the
abilities computers will end up with is something we cannot now imagine.

But, for now, IF IS limited by hardware and software. And, yes, the fact that
there is no true AI (but if we create an AI will it want to "waste time"
playing games with us? Hey, that might be a whole new problem. :-) )

So it is a bit hard to figure out what you are saying/asking and/or upset
about.

To respond, I would say, except for the hardware and software, as concerns the
current state of IF, you ARE ONLY LIMITED BY YOUR IMAGINATION.

Have you been wasting your time writing IF? Will you be wasting your time if
you continue to write IF and not "move on" (to some unspecified thing)? Only
you can answer that one. But if I had to vote, I would vote, no.

Is that what you are asking?

Doe :-)


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

Drone

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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Plotkin) wrote:

> You understand why this has been incredibly frustrating to me. *Both
> ways*, I reply "Look, I want to write games that do what a novel (or short
> story) do, but with player interaction. Can a book have a plot? Then so
> can IF. Can a book tell a story without feeling like a straitjacket? Then
> so can IF; the added interactivity can't make the player *less* involved."
> (Unless you do it wrong, of course.)
>

Andrew, I would like to offer in response to this (and at risk of
jeopardising my own long-waylaid plans for IF-domination) an argument very
similar to yours, but ending in a very different place.

Can a book develop plot and story through text? Yes. Then so can IF.

Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
second-person? Hrmmm. It would be pretty difficult, and you'd have to
navigate a lot of issues about reader identity and the like. It would be
very thorny. And what do you do about characterisation that you have to
handle with kid gloves so as not to impose too many attributes on the
reader? It's an approach that would not recommend itself to many people
who don't want to write a postmodern opus, but just want to develop story
and character in a novel.

And yet IF has saddled itself with this burdensome narrative voice almost
exclusively. Experiments in puzzle-less IF are all fine and dandy and I
think they can work but it isn't game elements or puzzle elements that
interfere with character.

Nor is it interactivity. Character and story are all about interaction.
They cannot possibly be opposed to interactivity. If interactive fiction
ever suffers for story, it must be because the *interactivity* is
happening in a way that character and story are not functioning properly
on one or the other side of the equation. That is because in the duet
between the game and the player, the content-side (the character) is
placed in the hands of the reader (the player typing the command line).
Very little character is provided in a command line, and as I mentioned
earlier, authors generally shy from crossing the equation too much to
determine the "player-character's" actions.

A third person approach puts the development of the character squarely on
the other side of the equation, in the hands of the author. The player is
not burdened to "act" the character. The player interacts *with* the
character in guiding its actions. For a graphical analogy, compare
something like DOOM with something like Resident Evil 2. How would you
reproduce all of the story and character elements of RE-2. Using purely a
DOOM engine. There's no way you could. It would be like you were
handcuffed. And yet I identified with and cared much more what happened to
Leon, and felt I was "there" with him, much more than I did with the DOOM
shooter.

And to sidestep common but misguided objections: the command set does not
have to look one jot different in third person IF. And the text does *not*
have to be in past tense. There are riches of storytelling at our
fingertips, all we have to do is let go of the notion that the player must
*be* the lead character.

Drone.

Steven Marsh

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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First, let me just say what an odd... honor... it is to suddenly have
Andrew Plotkin rant from out of the ether. It'd be like having a
respected college professor call up after you haven't heard from her
in two years, and she suddenly starts complaining about the state of
the subject she taught you those years ago.

... That wasn't anywhere near as complementary as I'd meant it. Damn.

Anyway...

On Sun, 06 Sep 1998 21:00:41 -0500, foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone)
wrote:

<snip>


>Andrew, I would like to offer in response to this (and at risk of
>jeopardising my own long-waylaid plans for IF-domination) an argument very
>similar to yours, but ending in a very different place.
>
>Can a book develop plot and story through text? Yes. Then so can IF.
>

Okay. (Though, as an aside [and, thus, an absurdly long
parenthetical aside] it's a dangerous arguement; text does not
necessarily begat plot/story, and I'm unsure of the natural causal
link between fiction & IF, given the earliest IF... Adventure,
Zork/Dungeon, and the like. Their plot and story was... lacking, to
say the least.)

>Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
>second-person? Hrmmm. It would be pretty difficult, and you'd have to
>navigate a lot of issues about reader identity and the like. It would be
>very thorny. And what do you do about characterisation that you have to
>handle with kid gloves so as not to impose too many attributes on the
>reader? It's an approach that would not recommend itself to many people
>who don't want to write a postmodern opus, but just want to develop story
>and character in a novel.

Actually, 2nd person troubles has been more-or-less resolved
in the literary world. One of the best known, and most accessable,
examples is Italo Calvino's "If On A Winter's Night a Traveller"
(though any if Calvino's works can be recommended). The basic jist
is: "You" is a character. Not, as IF might have you believe, an
actor. In and of itself, that's a revelation that most IF authors
just can't believe. Off the top of my head, only two pieces of IF
have -any- attempt at active characterization within the confines of
the game: Infidel and (to a lesser extent) Hitchhiker's Guide to the
Galaxy. What I've heard of "Spider & Web", it does similar, but I
haven't played it yet. I'm a slacker.
This realization is instrumental (IMO) in breaking the
limitations of IF. Ironically, there's a lot of focus on plot/story,
but (at least in modern literature) there's very little "plot" per se.
(Only lately has there been a resurgence of stories/novels with a
"strong narative pull" as one editor put it; "You mean a plot?" I
asked. "Well... yes," she said.) No, the focus of contemporary
literature has been characterization, still almost abcent in IF.
Now, a -very- easy trick here is the realization that
characters (and, done right, subsequently readers) are usually mired
in thoughts, the past, their goals, etc. Now, there's a very easy
link with our own lives. Look around your house/cubicle/dorm
room/cell. Look at the items there. Momentos. Knicknacks. Big
things. Pick one up. Does a story suggest itself? Do you remember
where you got it? Or, in your mind, do you think, "Taken."
Consider a snippet from a (hypothetical) detective story.

<begin example>

Your Office
The rent's cheap, the landlord understanding. Probably the best that
can be said about this place. There's a closed door to the south.
Your desk is a mess. Unpaid bills, unfiled papers, unsolved cases.
Your gun and a pack of cigarettes is here.

> GET GUN
You pick up the gun. Beth used to hate it when you left the gun
loaded, just lying on the desk. "You're going to blow your arm off
some day," she'd say. You wonder if she complains to her doctor
boyfriend (Husband? Damn.) that way.

> X BILLS
You haven't dealt with them in the past five months. Why start now?

> FILE PAPERS
Beth did that, more out of disgust than any like of the job. By
counting the months of unsorted papers, you can tell how long she's
been gone.

> OPEN DOOR
The door swings open. Let the day begin. Maybe you'll get shot.

> S
Without your cigarettes? You wouldn't last an hour.

> GET CIGARETTES
You pick up the cigarettes. There's a pack of free supermarket
matches tucked in the celophane. If you were stronger, you'd be able
to quit smoking. If you were weaker, you wouldn't feel guilty.

> S
You leave the office and get in your 1982 Chevette. It's seen more
than its share of trouble, and has the dents and scratches to show for
it. (You try not to make the parallel.)
There's a camera here, fully loaded. It was Beth's. "Keep it," she
said as she hung up. Let's see if you ever call to return something
at 2 AM again.
The drive to Mrs. Havish's estate is uneventful. If her husband's
cheating, you're more than willing to profit from it.

Mrs. Havish's Driveway
From the "flaunt it" school of decoration, the Havish driveway
is gaudy, with pruned animal hedges and cobblestone. The house is to
the north.

> EXIT CAR
You get out of the car. The door creaks shut. "I'll oil it soon,"
you lie to yourself.

etc.

<end example>

Now, I did a detective story example because of Doe's comment
about them. There's wisdom there: Infocom's mysteries probably had
the highest imersion of character for me personally, once beyond
Zork's "gee whiz the computer's talking to me" appeal. It also has
the most potential for a plot-driven story, while still feeling
limitless.

<snip>

>A third person approach puts the development of the character squarely on
>the other side of the equation, in the hands of the author. The player is
>not burdened to "act" the character. The player interacts *with* the
>character in guiding its actions. For a graphical analogy, compare
>something like DOOM with something like Resident Evil 2. How would you
>reproduce all of the story and character elements of RE-2. Using purely a
>DOOM engine. There's no way you could. It would be like you were
>handcuffed. And yet I identified with and cared much more what happened to
>Leon, and felt I was "there" with him, much more than I did with the DOOM
>shooter.
>

The trouble there is that it's easy to do bad. I remember an old
Apple II (I think) Sherlock Holmes mystery told in 3rd Person, with
Watson providing most commentary. A typical exchange went:

> READ PAPER
Holmes picked up the paper and started reading.
"Holmes! What are you doing? We've a case to solve!" said Watson.

Besides, the rift between 2nd & 3rd isn't as great as most people
think. It's very easy to eliminate point of view in a passage once
clues are established:

> TAKE VASE
You tuck the vase into your coat. Not like they'll miss it, rich
bastards.

or,

> SHOOT MR. HAVISH
The old man falls, dropping the poker. Taking a life: you used to
think it would never get easier. If only that were true. Damn. You
notice your gun's already reloaded.

>And to sidestep common but misguided objections: the command set does not
>have to look one jot different in third person IF. And the text does *not*
>have to be in past tense. There are riches of storytelling at our
>fingertips, all we have to do is let go of the notion that the player must
>*be* the lead character.

Agreed. (Obviously. :b ) OTOH, I imagine that a lot of IF players
may feel differently. For example, many feel (myself included) that
Infidel is one of the weaker Infocom games, and a lot of folks point
to the ending as a reason why. (I tend to disagree, personally; I
think the uninspired puzzles doomed Infidel more than anything.)
>
>Drone.

Steven Marsh
ma...@nettally.com
"Gimme five, glowing hand of justice." -- Rain, House of Secrets

Adam Cadre

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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Steven Marsh wrote:
> "You" is a character. Not, as IF might have you believe, an
> actor. In and of itself, that's a revelation that most IF authors
> just can't believe. Off the top of my head, only two pieces of IF
> have -any- attempt at active characterization within the confines of
> the game: Infidel and (to a lesser extent) Hitchhiker's Guide to the
> Galaxy.

See, you talk like that, you're gonna make Tracy cry.

ct

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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In article <sodding.pine.refs-far.too.long> Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu> wrote:

> There is a difference between reading a story which says, "Then the
> protagonist kicked her cat" or even "You kick your cat" and one in which
> you of your own volition type "KICK CAT".
>
> And if the whisperings I've heard about upcoming comp games do indeed
> reflect the nature of this year's crop, I suspect that complicity is
> something we're going to be talking about in the next few months.

And after 'Spider and Web', we can probably pin this one on Zarf too.

(I've never been quite so impressed with the way an IF game made feel as
that one did...)

regards, ct


Lelah Conrad

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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On Sun, 6 Sep 1998 18:57:19 GMT, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin)
wrote:


>It's (<expanding the explored range of *content*> ) I'm interested in as a player,


> and ultimately as an author. So I
>have no patience at all with people who tell me that *I* have to move on
>to the next thing. A mature art form is not destroyed by the next art form
>to be born. People keep writing more books.

Don't try to move on! Write what you like. I'm sure many people will
play them. (Why do you think you have to be responsible for the
future of IF, whatever that might be?) Personally I think that the
range of content is just starting to be explored.

Lelah

Adam J. Thornton

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>(I was at a Pittsburgh SF con yesterday, and prominent SF editor said "The
>three most influential SF writers are Heinlein, Samuel Delaney, and..."
>Ok, I forget the third; maybe it was Wolfe or Clarke. But in all three
>cases it was stuff written in the 60's or earlier. SF has got itself
>pretty well figured out these days. A genuinely new movement will be a
>*new genre*, not something that will change SF-as-it-exists.)

Ah.

But there you go.

I say it's Wolfe. I can't argue with the first two, although I can suggest
alternatives. But what Wolfe did that *really* changed the way I thought
of SF is stuff written in the 80s, _The Book of the New Sun_.

_Dhalgren_ is 1972, I think. And that's certainly the Delaney I'd point to
as the Turning Point. It *might* have been late '60s, but I doubt it. So,
really, you've got a 50s author, a mid-70s author, and an 80s author. So
the 90s didn't turn up anything. So? I don't believe that SF has itself
well figured out. There may be another _Book of the New Sun_ waiting just
around the corner. And Zarf, if you ain't read it, you *need* to.

IF relevance? None. Although Nessus would make a lovely setting for a
game.

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

Doeadeer3

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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In article <199809062344...@ladder03.news.aol.com>, doea...@aol.com
(Doeadeer3) writes:

>To respond, I would say, except for the hardware and software, as concerns
>the current state of IF, you ARE ONLY LIMITED BY YOUR IMAGINATION.

I left off a line here. Meant to add, "so the sky is the limit". In other
words, those who can't see that IF is not deadended and there still remains a
lot to be explored (genres, techniques, approaches) must have very limited
imaginations.

>(I was at a Pittsburgh SF con yesterday, and prominent SF editor said "The
>three most influential SF writers are Heinlein, Samuel Delaney, and..."
>Ok, I forget the third; maybe it was Wolfe or Clarke. But in all three
>cases it was stuff written in the 60's or earlier. SF has got itself
>pretty well figured out these days. A genuinely new movement will be a
>*new genre*, not something that will change SF-as-it-exists.)

Robert Silverberg. I don't even particularly like his writings anymore (rather
depressing on the whole), but I would say Silverberg is the third. (Okay, Dick
fans, Phillip K. Dick runs a close fourth. Well, not really, but I want to
avoid Dick flames.) Clarke while innovative, did nothing THAT unusual.

Doe :-) Oh, darn, Bradbury, how could I forget him? Hmmm, Bradbury or
Silverberg, Silverberg or Bradbury? Toss a coin. And David Brin for current
sci-fi.

David Given

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <35f308ba...@news2.nettally.com>,
Steven Marsh <ma...@nettally.com> wrote:
[...]

>>Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
>>second-person? Hrmmm. It would be pretty difficult, and you'd have to
>>navigate a lot of issues about reader identity and the like. It would be
>>very thorny. And what do you do about characterisation that you have to
>>handle with kid gloves so as not to impose too many attributes on the
>>reader? It's an approach that would not recommend itself to many people
>>who don't want to write a postmodern opus, but just want to develop story
>>and character in a novel.

Iain Banks, _Complicity_.

Not all of it's in the second person; but chunks of it are. (It's a murder
mystery, with some *wondefully* revolting murders --- only banks would
kill [well, put into a coma] someone by injecting him with... er... this
*is* a family newsgroup, isn't it? Anyway, the second-person bits are the
reader seeing through the murderers eyes.) In fact, it's probably a nod
towards the IF world. An adventure games feature quite prominently.

> Actually, 2nd person troubles has been more-or-less resolved
>in the literary world. One of the best known, and most accessable,
>examples is Italo Calvino's "If On A Winter's Night a Traveller"
>(though any if Calvino's works can be recommended). The basic jist
>is: "You" is a character. Not, as IF might have you believe, an
>actor. In and of itself, that's a revelation that most IF authors
>just can't believe. Off the top of my head, only two pieces of IF
>have -any- attempt at active characterization within the confines of
>the game: Infidel and (to a lesser extent) Hitchhiker's Guide to the
>Galaxy. What I've heard of "Spider & Web", it does similar, but I
>haven't played it yet. I'm a slacker.

I was quite impressed with the characterisation in _Curses_. The way the
player acts changes *markedly* throughout the course of the game. At the
beginning, you're this tired, ennui-filled, hen-pecked[1] character who
doesn't really give a damn about the whole business. By the end, you're a
confident, striding mage, wielding spectacular powers and delving into
ancient mysteries.

I like it. Of course, it helps that _Curses_ basically *defined* my early
IF experiences. It took me three years to do that damn game. It didn't
help that Graham kept releasing new versions...

[1] That's how I felt, anyway; I don't thing Graham gives the character an
explicit sex. At the risk of resurrecting old threads, I felt that I was
male in _Curses_ and female in _Jigsaw_.

[...]

--
+- David Given ----------------+
| Work: d...@tao.co.uk | Always be smarter than the people
| Play: dgi...@iname.com | who hire you. But never let them know.
+- http://wiredsoc.ml.org/~dg -+

Michael Gentry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to

Doeadeer3 wrote in message

> (Okay, Dick
>fans, Phillip K. Dick runs a close fourth. Well, not really, but I want to
>avoid Dick flames.) Clarke while innovative, did nothing THAT unusual.


Well, Dick is always handicapped by the fact that he often can't write for
beans. But he DID, if not revolutionize science fiction, at least leave his
indelible stamp on it for all time.

Thomas M. Disch wrote: "Indeed, Dick's esthetic failings could become
virtues for his fellow SF writers, since it is so often possible for us to
take the ball he fumbled and continue for a touchdown. Ursula K. LeGuin's
_The Lathe of Heaven_ is one of the best novels Dick ever wrote -- except he
didn't write it."

Watching "Gataca" and then "The Truman Show", it occurred to me: there's a
substantial cross-section of science fiction that wouldn't exist today if
Dick (or at least someone like Dick, but it happened to be Dick so hooray
for him) hadn't planted the seeds in the public imagination.

Mark Stevens

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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On Sun, 6 Sep 1998 17:57:40 -0400, "Michael Gentry"
<edr...@email.msn.com> wrote:

>b) [...] I don't think anyone's made an effort yet to create a fully

>developed, in-depth work of puzzle-less IF -- but I can't think of any
>reason why someone *couldn't*. The tools we have seem to be capable of
>supporting the form.

I'm actually developing my first piece of Inform IF at the moment.
Whilst I wouldn't describe it as puzzle-less, it's less bound by the
constraints of "standard" puzzle-based IF than most. It's still quite
experimental and I don't know if it will turn out as I expected. The
story is split into four parts. Each part is then arranged into scenes
in a two-layered hub. "Solve" a scene on the first layer and you gain
access to its relative second layer scene. You only have to "solve"
about 50% of the second layer scenes to progress to the next part.

In essence, what I'm trying to do is lose a bit of the linearity of
most IF, but at the same time use a strong plot and characters. On
paper, it works fine (I've got pretty much everything mapped out and
pseudo-coded already) but the crunch will come when coding it up. I'm
a bit worried that even a Z8 file might not be able to contain
everything. Needless to say, I will be letting a select few ruthlessly
playtest it before I release it publically.

I'm putting "solve" in speech marks because I'm not sure exactly what
will be required here. The player will be required to apply some sort
of logical thinking in order to progress. Having said that, I reckon
the game's literary qualities will still remain intact even if I did
go to town on the puzzle content.

This piece of IF actually based on a novel I'm developing -- I decided
to use Inform as a tool to experiment with certain ways of structuring
the novel. Somewhere along the line, it's taken off as a major IF
project.

I probably won't finish it until early next year, but I'm sure it
should interest a lot of people.


/\/)ark

http://www.sonance.demon.co.uk/


Séan O'Halpin

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote in article
<6svite$dv2$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>...


> In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:

> >(I was at a Pittsburgh SF con yesterday, and prominent SF editor said
"The
> >three most influential SF writers are Heinlein, Samuel Delaney, and..."
> >Ok, I forget the third; maybe it was Wolfe or Clarke.

[snip]


>
> I say it's Wolfe. I can't argue with the first two, although I can
suggest
> alternatives. But what Wolfe did that *really* changed the way I thought
> of SF is stuff written in the 80s, _The Book of the New Sun_.
>

> So,
> really, you've got a 50s author, a mid-70s author, and an 80s author. So
> the 90s didn't turn up anything.

[snip]


> IF relevance? None. Although Nessus would make a lovely setting for a
> game.
>
> Adam
> --

I would agree that Wolfe is a *much* better writer than Clarke (I almost
wrote my final thesis on him), but who has he influenced? I haven't come
across any sf/fantasy writer who has combined strong narrative structure
and richly suggestive background with anything like his moral complexity. A
far more _influential_ writer must be William Gibson. Whatever you think
about the torrents of cyberjunk that followed in his wake [er... mixed
metaphor?], Neuromancer did influence a whole generation of late 80s and
90s writers.

Also, here in the UK we tend to think of the early 60's 'new wave'
(Ballard, Aldiss, et al) as the starting point for modern sci-fi.

My own personal opinion is that Philip K. Dick is by far the greatest
writer in the sf genre of all time bar none. (Just thought I'd throw that
in.)

Finally, to get back on-topic, there were elements in _So Far_ that
reminded me of Wolfe - the play, the beasts at the 'rodeo', the
disorientation in the non-naturalistic realms and, most of all, the way the
hints at a wider world around you opened up the imaginative space. And I
must agree, Nessus would be a fine setting for an adventure (oh dear, I
used that bad word ;o).

Michael Gentry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to

Mark Stevens wrote in message

>I'm actually developing my first piece of Inform IF at the moment.
>Whilst I wouldn't describe it as puzzle-less, it's less bound by the
>constraints of "standard" puzzle-based IF than most. It's still quite
>experimental and I don't know if it will turn out as I expected. The
>story is split into four parts. Each part is then arranged into scenes
>in a two-layered hub. "Solve" a scene on the first layer and you gain
>access to its relative second layer scene. You only have to "solve"
>about 50% of the second layer scenes to progress to the next part.


This sounds really interesting. I've been mulling over a similar idea
involving a web of scenes, wherein progressing from one scene to the next
hinges not on solving puzzles but on decisions the character makes. Example:
you've been arrested, you're at the jail, and you get one phone call: do you
call your best friend or your ex-wife? Neither option is wrong, but your
choice determines who posts bail and picks you up and where they take you
afterwards, and the consequences will affect later scenes down the road.

Characterization would be very important in a game like that, since the big
question is: what drives the player/character to make those choices? When
you eliminate the curious-little-monkey syndrome, the story must be all the
more engaging in order to keep the player interested.

>I probably won't finish it until early next year, but I'm sure it
>should interest a lot of people.


Let me know.

Steven Marsh

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
On Mon, 07 Sep 1998 10:19:48 GMT, dg@ (David Given) wrote:

<snip>

>I was quite impressed with the characterisation in _Curses_. The way the
>player acts changes *markedly* throughout the course of the game. At the
>beginning, you're this tired, ennui-filled, hen-pecked[1] character who
>doesn't really give a damn about the whole business. By the end, you're a
>confident, striding mage, wielding spectacular powers and delving into
>ancient mysteries.
>

Well, I haven't finished it yet (understatement understatement
understatement), but, from what I've seen, characterization seems to
be presented as a... reward, almost, for doing things right. Thru
much of the game (at least what I've played), it seems to be fairly
transparent "IF fare". (Not meant as an insult; it's very good "IF
fare" ; but I felt [again, in what I've played] like a Sam Beckett
[Quantum Leap version]. leaping into people that are obviously
different people, but still "me".)

>I like it. Of course, it helps that _Curses_ basically *defined* my early
>IF experiences. It took me three years to do that damn game. It didn't
>help that Graham kept releasing new versions...

How did that work? Did you have to start over from the
beginning after each new version? (I try to avoid games 'til they
stabalize... obnoxious, in a way, but then I'm able to play them in a
form most like what the author intended. Can't wait for Anchorhead
2.0...)

<snip>

Steven Marsh
ma...@nettally.com
Wondering if I could keep time in a bottle, would it have an
experation date?

Adam J. Thornton

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <Pine.SOL.3.91.980906...@godzilla2.acpub.duke.edu>,

Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu> wrote:
>See, you talk like that, you're gonna make Tracy cry.

Surely you don't think those are *real* tears?

(ooh, ooh, can we jump into a Carrolian metafiction debate now?)

Adam J. Thornton

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <01bdda63$2c5928a0$6a6b06c2@instant>,

Séan O'Halpin <se...@zenithmedia.co.uk> wrote:
>> alternatives. But what Wolfe did that *really* changed the way I thought
>> of SF is stuff written in the 80s, _The Book of the New Sun_.
>I would agree that Wolfe is a *much* better writer than Clarke (I almost
>wrote my final thesis on him), but who has he influenced? I haven't come
>across any sf/fantasy writer who has combined strong narrative structure
>and richly suggestive background with anything like his moral complexity.

Er, no one. I guess. Although I keep hoping. Frankly, almost all of the
recent SF I've read has been cyberpunk, because it seems that what gets
published is either cyberpunk or something with dragons and short furry
people on the cover. So maybe SF *is* dead. But hey, if there's one
mechanical engineer out there who writes hellishly complicated Catholic
Neoplatonic allegories out there, maybe there are others.

And that would be *so* much better than Still More Generic Fantasy And
Cyberpunk.

And, oh yes, _New Sun_ is most definitely a Christian allegory, although it
hinges on Wolfe's rather unique image of Jesus-as-professional-torturer.
Hey, go out there and read it. I can't do it justice.

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
Séan O'Halpin (se...@zenithmedia.co.uk) wrote:

> Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote in article
> <6svite$dv2$1...@cnn.Princeton.EDU>...
> > In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
> > Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:

> > >(I was at a Pittsburgh SF con yesterday, and prominent SF editor said
> "The
> > >three most influential SF writers are Heinlein, Samuel Delaney, and..."
> > >Ok, I forget the third; maybe it was Wolfe or Clarke.

> [snip]


> I would agree that Wolfe is a *much* better writer than Clarke (I almost
> wrote my final thesis on him), but who has he influenced? I haven't come
> across any sf/fantasy writer who has combined strong narrative structure

> and richly suggestive background with anything like his moral complexity. A
> far more _influential_ writer must be William Gibson. Whatever you think
> about the torrents of cyberjunk that followed in his wake [er... mixed
> metaphor?], Neuromancer did influence a whole generation of late 80s and
> 90s writers.

I believe the original comment was taking a much richer view of
"influence". Gibson got a lot of writers to copy his scenery and his
adjectives. Heinlein and (according to this guy) Delaney changed the scope
of what you can say in SF. (I don't know Delaney's stuff very well, but
I'll certainly put Heinlein in that category. No sex jokes, please.)

In terms of SF influence, John Campbell is probably bigger than any single
writer. But the original question was about writers.

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
Whoa, I started some talk.

Doeadeer3 (doea...@aol.com) wrote:
> So it is a bit hard to figure out what you are saying/asking and/or upset
> about.

A few people said this, I think. I apologize! I didn't meant to *ask*
anything at all, and I wasn't really suggesting anything either. Please
don't take my post that way.

I was just seized by the urge to say where we are now, compared to where
we were three years ago. Then I sat down at the keyboard and rambled for a
while. It came out more as a comparison between where *I* was and am.

Plus, I got to rant about people who disagree with me (then and now),
which is always fun.

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:

> Can a book develop plot and story through text? Yes. Then so can IF.


>
> Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
> second-person? Hrmmm. It would be pretty difficult, and you'd have to
> navigate a lot of issues about reader identity and the like. It would be
> very thorny. And what do you do about characterisation that you have to
> handle with kid gloves so as not to impose too many attributes on the
> reader? It's an approach that would not recommend itself to many people
> who don't want to write a postmodern opus, but just want to develop story
> and character in a novel.
>

> And yet IF has saddled itself with this burdensome narrative voice almost
> exclusively. Experiments in puzzle-less IF are all fine and dandy and I
> think they can work but it isn't game elements or puzzle elements that
> interfere with character.

I don't think I can buy this. I am very, very suspicious of claims that
such a low-level, syntactic convention is the real problem. Changing text
from 2nd to 3rd person can nearly be done by a *computer*, so how
important can it be?

I've read a few static fiction works in second person. (_Complicity_,
mentioned by someone, is sitting in my to-read pile. There was also a
story in Asimov's (Magazine) which sticks in my head, although not enough
to recall the title.) It was a fairly transparent atmospheric effect (as
it is in IF); I don't think it constrained the author at *all* in
characterization.

Consider: there is a writing technique, sometimes called "third person
subjective" or something like that; it's 3rd-person writing, but filtered
through the protagonist's subjective viewpoint. (Lois Bujold is often
accused of this.) Essentially it takes all the possibilities of 1st-person
writing and uses them with different syntax. It works great. I see no
reason why this isn't just as applicable to 2nd-person writing, including
2nd-person IF writing.

In fact I've tried to do this in my past games. Not heavily or with any
stunning success, but it worked ok. Wish I could bring to mind some
specific examples.

Mark Stevens

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
On Sun, 06 Sep 1998 21:00:41 -0500, foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone)
wrote:

>Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
>second-person? Hrmmm.

Try Iain Banks' 'Complicity', snippets of which are in second-person.

Or also Iain Banks' 'A Song of Stone', which is written in
first-person but refers to the reader in second-person. It sounds
tricky, but it works very well.


/\/)ark

http://www.sonance.demon.co.uk/


Michael Gentry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to

Mark Stevens wrote in message <35f7feee...@news.demon.co.uk>...

>On Sun, 06 Sep 1998 21:00:41 -0500, foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone)
>wrote:
>
>>Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
>>second-person? Hrmmm.
>
>Try Iain Banks' 'Complicity', snippets of which are in second-person.
>


And "Bright Lights, Big City," by, um... McInerny, I think. I might have the
name spelled wrong. I haven't read it, but it got pretty famous for being
written in 2nd person.

Adam Cadre

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
I've responded to this already, but I'm just so amazed at how
mind-bogglingly WRONG it is that I have to respond again.

Steven Marsh wrote:
> "You" is a character. Not, as IF might have you believe, an
> actor. In and of itself, that's a revelation that most IF authors
> just can't believe. Off the top of my head, only two pieces of IF
> have -any- attempt at active characterization within the confines of
> the game: Infidel and (to a lesser extent) Hitchhiker's Guide to the
> Galaxy.

Then you're completely unfamiliar with, say, I-0? Bloodline? Sylenius
Mysterium? A Bear's Night Out? The Lost Spellmaker? Mercy? Christminster?
In the End? Losing Your Grip? Ralph? Plundered Hearts, for heaven's sake?
We batted around this question over on ifMUD and came up with dozens of
examples. The fact that you missed all of these leads me to believe that
you're completely unfamiliar with the state of modern IF and thus in no
position to make this kind of claim.

"Only two pieces of IF have -any- attempt..." Yeesh, where have you
*BEEN*? Sorry to veer into flame territory, but when you make a claim
*that* strong, and are *that* wrong...

Doeadeer3

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <01bdda63$2c5928a0$6a6b06c2@instant>, "Séan O'Halpin"
<se...@zenithmedia.co.uk> writes:

>Neuromancer did influence a whole generation of late 80s and
>90s writers.

Yep. Gibson would have to be right up there for current IF. AND Brin. But I am
prejudiced, I like Brin.

Doe :-)

Doeadeer3

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <#IZ$#Rl29GA.395@upnetnews03>, "Michael Gentry"
<edr...@email.msn.com> writes:

>Watching "Gataca" and then "The Truman Show", it occurred to me: there's a
>substantial cross-section of science fiction that wouldn't exist today if
>Dick (or at least someone like Dick, but it happened to be Dick so hooray
>for him) hadn't planted the seeds in the public imagination.
>
>--M

True. I'm not going to argue about Dick, because I always liked him. And, in
keeping with the public imagination idea, more Dick novels have been made into
movies than any other sci-fi writer's (not talking about script writers like
Ellison). So obviously, just because of that, if nothing else, Dick has had a
tremendous impact.

A lot of influential sci-fi writers couldn't write for beans, sometimes. Also,
at the beginning of sci-fi, most books were shorter than they are now. I have
found that an interesting development over time; the increasing length,
complexity and quality of writing. Sort of "science-fiction emerging from it's
pulp magazine days" into finally the "serious" novel form. Once that happened
(consistently) sci-fi became a serious genre.

Drone

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <35f308ba...@news2.nettally.com>, ma...@nettally.com
(Steven Marsh) wrote:

> On Sun, 06 Sep 1998 21:00:41 -0500, foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone)
> wrote:
>
> <snip>
> >Andrew, I would like to offer in response to this (and at risk of
> >jeopardising my own long-waylaid plans for IF-domination) an argument very
> >similar to yours, but ending in a very different place.
> >
> >Can a book develop plot and story through text? Yes. Then so can IF.
> >
> Okay. (Though, as an aside [and, thus, an absurdly long
> parenthetical aside] it's a dangerous arguement; text does not
> necessarily begat plot/story, and I'm unsure of the natural causal
> link between fiction & IF, given the earliest IF... Adventure,
> Zork/Dungeon, and the like. Their plot and story was... lacking, to
> say the least.)
>

I think the argument is not that text always begets story, but that all
the tools necessary to beget story are present in text and that in the
hands of an able craftsman ... text should always be able to beget story.

> >Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
> >second-person? Hrmmm.

> >very thorny. And what do you do about characterisation that you have to


> >handle with kid gloves so as not to impose too many attributes on the
> >reader? It's an approach that would not recommend itself to many people
> >who don't want to write a postmodern opus, but just want to develop story
> >and character in a novel.
>
> Actually, 2nd person troubles has been more-or-less resolved
> in the literary world. One of the best known, and most accessable,
> examples is Italo Calvino's "If On A Winter's Night a Traveller"

Well, Calvino's an interested author and that's an interesting book but it
happens to be exactly what I meant by a "postmodern opus" -- I actually
had that specific book in mind when I wrote that phrase, ironically
enough. I'm not against postmodern opuses but I wouldn't say the majority
of writers (here or anywhere) are interesting in writing one.

> just can't believe. Off the top of my head, only two pieces of IF
> have -any- attempt at active characterization within the confines of
> the game: Infidel and (to a lesser extent) Hitchhiker's Guide to the
> Galaxy. What I've heard of "Spider & Web", it does similar, but I
> haven't played it yet. I'm a slacker.

Spider & Web actually does not impose too much character on the PC. I
think HHGTTG imposed much more character on the PC than S&W. But S&W is
extremely good at veiling the *motives* of the PC, and it uses these
techniques in an intricate dance with a *very* well characterised NPC. I
think it's a beautiful piece of work. And I don't want anyone to
misunderstand my viewpoint to mean that beautiful pieces of work cannot
happen along these lines and in second person. I don't want to suggest
stopping any of the fascinating experiements that are already going on.
I've just been a little frustrated at what I see as a group blindspot
around here.

And before I get barraged with this, I already know the standard r.a.i-f
response. "If you see it working then make it happen. Write a game." Thank
you.

> things. Pick one up. Does a story suggest itself? Do you remember
> where you got it? Or, in your mind, do you think, "Taken."

This line just about pinpoints where I think second person IF is weakest.

> > GET GUN
> You pick up the gun. Beth used to hate it when you left the gun
> loaded, just lying on the desk. "You're going to blow your arm off
> some day," she'd say. You wonder if she complains to her doctor
> boyfriend (Husband? Damn.) that way.
>

And this is the kind of thing most authors have shied away from (Mercy
being a notable exception). I believe this is mostly because they don't
want to step too hard on the character of "YOU". They want the player to
wonder, but they don't want to tell the player exactly what they're
wondering. I sympathise with this. I wouldn't want to either. Which is why
imagining writing certain things (that are my style) in second-person IF
makes me cringe.

> >character in guiding its actions. For a graphical analogy, compare
> >something like DOOM with something like Resident Evil 2. How would you
> >reproduce all of the story and character elements of RE-2. Using purely a
> >DOOM engine. There's no way you could. It would be like you were
> >handcuffed. And yet I identified with and cared much more what happened to
> >Leon, and felt I was "there" with him, much more than I did with the DOOM
> >shooter.
> >
> The trouble there is that it's easy to do bad. I remember an old
> Apple II (I think) Sherlock Holmes mystery told in 3rd Person, with
> Watson providing most commentary. A typical exchange went:
>
> > READ PAPER
> Holmes picked up the paper and started reading.
> "Holmes! What are you doing? We've a case to solve!" said Watson.
>

I know this seems awkward. But there is a solution that involves a little
bit of alienation theatre. You're controlling Holmes, telling him to do
something, and you have Watson complaining because it isn't something
Holmes would do. But if Holmes wouldn't do it, then why shouldn't he
object himself? If you allow the protoganist to break the "fourth wall"
and talk back to the player, you now have character-based interaction
between the main character and the player.

> Besides, the rift between 2nd & 3rd isn't as great as most people
> think. It's very easy to eliminate point of view in a passage once
> clues are established:
>

> > SHOOT MR. HAVISH
> The old man falls, dropping the poker. Taking a life: you used to
> think it would never get easier. If only that were true. Damn. You
> notice your gun's already reloaded.
>

I don't see how point of view is eliminated here. Feelings are still being
ascribed to the 'reader-character'.

> I imagine that a lot of IF players
> may feel differently. For example, many feel (myself included) that
> Infidel is one of the weaker Infocom games, and a lot of folks point
> to the ending as a reason why. (I tend to disagree, personally; I
> think the uninspired puzzles doomed Infidel more than anything.)

I quite enjoyed the characterisation of the main character in Infidel, but
I did find myself wishing that I could just direct him and see how this
miscreant behaved, rather than feel I had to *be* him.


>
> Steven Marsh

Drone.

Message has been deleted

Drone

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>, erky...@netcom.com (Andrew
Plotkin) wrote:

> Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
>
> > And yet IF has saddled itself with this burdensome narrative voice almost
> > exclusively. Experiments in puzzle-less IF are all fine and dandy and I
> > think they can work but it isn't game elements or puzzle elements that
> > interfere with character.
>
> I don't think I can buy this. I am very, very suspicious of claims that
> such a low-level, syntactic convention is the real problem. Changing text
> from 2nd to 3rd person can nearly be done by a *computer*, so how
> important can it be?
>

That's an interesting point. Here's a counterpoint. Take any work you've
written. Have your computer search and replace the word "said" with the
word "shouted". It's purely syntactical and computer-driven, but it
completely changes the feel of the work in question. If you wanted your
characters shouting all the time, you would have written it that way. And
when you want the player to feel he or she *is* the protagonist and thus
reduce the feeling of critical distance and 'pure observation' from the
player's experience of the protagonist's personality, then by all means
write in second person. But that isn't always (or even often) the case in
a work of fiction. So why should IF be handcuffed to it? In the end,
everything is low-level syntax and these decisions are very important to
the overall effect so I think it's legitimate to examine those effects.

> Consider: there is a writing technique, sometimes called "third person
> subjective" or something like that; it's 3rd-person writing, but filtered
> through the protagonist's subjective viewpoint. (Lois Bujold is often
> accused of this.) Essentially it takes all the possibilities of 1st-person
> writing and uses them with different syntax. It works great. I see no
> reason why this isn't just as applicable to 2nd-person writing, including
> 2nd-person IF writing.
>

You're say there are techniques that make characterisation totally
possible in 2nd person and I agree with this to an extent. I believe my
problem with it is that a certain type of characterisation (the type I've
grown attached to as a writer) is made more awkward and difficult by 2nd
P.

> In fact I've tried to do this in my past games. Not heavily or with any
> stunning success, but it worked ok. Wish I could bring to mind some
> specific examples.
>

I was thinking about your work in this light as well, but 'Weather' is too
distant for me and I don't think it's really there in Spider & Web (which
I loved nonetheless -- see elsewhere in this thread). 'So Far' kind of
alienated me early though I'm not sure why. No actually I think I know why
(I hate it when people have 'general' objections to my work, so I gave it
some more thought). I found the theatrical play at the beginning quite
interesting as well as the PC's apprehension about meeting someone, and
when I had to leave that area to continue playing the game and was faced
with just objects and puzzles and no immediate continuation of these
threads, it felt ... empty. If it simply began with objects and puzzles, I
wouldn't have blinked. But I think you raised my story expectations too
high for what immediately followed. I trailed away to something else soon
after I solved the pillar thing.

Drone.

Drone

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <35f7feee...@news.demon.co.uk>, ma...@sonance.demon.co.uk
(Mark Stevens) wrote:

> On Sun, 06 Sep 1998 21:00:41 -0500, foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone)
> wrote:
>
> >Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
> >second-person? Hrmmm.
>

> Try Iain Banks' 'Complicity', snippets of which are in second-person.
>

I like Iain Banks but I didn't know he had written in 2nd P, and this
one's been mentioned several times now by IFers. That's too much potential
energy to resist. I'll be sure to pick it up.

Drone.

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
Doeadeer3 (doea...@aol.com) wrote:

> A lot of influential sci-fi writers couldn't write for beans, sometimes. Also,
> at the beginning of sci-fi, most books were shorter than they are now. I have
> found that an interesting development over time; the increasing length,
> complexity and quality of writing. Sort of "science-fiction emerging from it's
> pulp magazine days" into finally the "serious" novel form. Once that happened
> (consistently) sci-fi became a serious genre.

Um, maybe.

Another comment from that con (I forget who said this one, but it might
have been Swanwick): The short story was the dominant form for SF sixty
years -- solidly, no question. And the short story is still the dominant
artistic form. New ideas appear in stories first, and then work their way
into novels.

The speaker's case in point *was* cyberpunk: Gibson wrote "Burning Chrome"
first. That was the whole thing in a nutshell. Then he wrote
_Neuromancer_, repeating the same thing at novel length. (Just as
enjoyably, mind you.)

For what it's worth, I agree. I don't read a lot of SF short fiction, but
I do read Asimov's every month, and it's way above the Borders SF shelf in
terms of experimentation, ideas, quality of writing, and complexity --
eveything but length, in fact.

The novel is the *commercially* successful form, and it's dominant now
because SF is a commercially successful marketing category.

Anyone who wants to make analogies to the IF world is welcome to.

Blake Hyde

unread,
Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
On Mon, 07 Sep 1998 18:19:20 GMT, ma...@sonance.demon.co.uk (Mark Stevens) dared to utter:

>On Sun, 06 Sep 1998 21:00:41 -0500, foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone)
>wrote:
>
>>Can a book develop plot and story through text written solely in the
>>second-person? Hrmmm.
>
>Try Iain Banks' 'Complicity', snippets of which are in second-person.
>
>Or also Iain Banks' 'A Song of Stone', which is written in
>first-person but refers to the reader in second-person. It sounds
>tricky, but it works very well.
>
Some of L.E. modesitt's Recluce books are second person.

--

Blake Hyde (ROT13: ou...@pbaarpgh.arg)
-==(UDIC)==-
Novan Dragon
--------------
d+ e- N+ T--- Om-- U1347'!S'8!K u uC++ uF uG++ uLB+ uA nC+ nR nH- nP nI--
nPT nS+ nT wM wC+ wS- wI++ wN- o oA++ y a666
--------------

Christopher Wren

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>, erky...@netcom.com says...

> Drone (foxg...@globalserve.net) wrote:
>
> > And yet IF has saddled itself with this burdensome narrative voice almost
> > exclusively. Experiments in puzzle-less IF are all fine and dandy and I
> > think they can work but it isn't game elements or puzzle elements that
> > interfere with character.
>
> I don't think I can buy this. I am very, very suspicious of claims that
> such a low-level, syntactic convention is the real problem. Changing text
> from 2nd to 3rd person can nearly be done by a *computer*, so how
> important can it be?

How important? Like all *psychological* issues, either not very
important, or completely decisive. Almost all fiction is not second-
person. It's third-person omniscient, third-person limited, or first-
person (to follow Orson Scott Card's terminology). These three viewpoints
are presumably used because they jar the least. First- and third-person
viewpoints recount most easily what happened to somebody *else*. The
difficulty with second-person is that it jars the suspension of disbelief
("breaks mimesis") extraordinarily easily. Avoiding second-person
viewpoints is *much* more than just a syntactic convention.

Graphical fiction also (comics, movies) is nearly always third-person,
with an occasional first-person, and a very rare second-person.

Interestingly, interactive *graphical* fiction avoids second-person
viewpoints with consumnate ease, while maintaining interactivity. Games
like "Myst" and "Riven" are first-person: "Curse of Monkey Island" and
"Sanitarium" are examples of third-person. (I'm not even sure what a
second-person graphical IF would look like, or why you would want to do
it.)

It seems that, as soon as technology allows it, the word "you" is
generally dropped from story-telling.

This leaves written IF in odd position of being one of the few story-
telling media in which second-person seems to work. The fact that it
works may be just that -- an oddity. It may be a dead-end oddity;
something that can't be grown on.

Perhaps second-person viewpoint is something that was just used in early
IF, because it *seemed* so attractive and compelling, and later story-
tellers have just followed that initial direction, without realizing it
was a dead-end.

Is the second-person viewpoint of written IF a necessity? Would it be
better if written IF were in third-person? Would third-person ever be
worse? Would third-person allow a better foundation for written IF in
general?


Michael Gentry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
>Well, Calvino's an interested author and that's an interesting book but it
>happens to be exactly what I meant by a "postmodern opus" -- I actually
>had that specific book in mind when I wrote that phrase, ironically
>enough. I'm not against postmodern opuses but I wouldn't say the majority
>of writers (here or anywhere) are interesting in writing one.


Again, I point you to "Bright Lights, Big City." Story, character.
Ba-da-boom.

Michael Gentry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to

Christopher Wren wrote in message ...

>Interestingly, interactive *graphical* fiction avoids second-person
>viewpoints with consumnate ease, while maintaining interactivity. Games
>like "Myst" and "Riven" are first-person: "Curse of Monkey Island" and
>"Sanitarium" are examples of third-person. (I'm not even sure what a
>second-person graphical IF would look like, or why you would want to do
>it.)
>


It's a tricky distinction, but I would say that POV graphic games like Myst
and Riven are still 2nd person. Ist person and 3rd person, to my mind,
involve the story being told to a reader/viewer who is not actually involved
in the story in anyway. An objective narrator (3rdP) or an actual character
(1stP) is telling the story to someone who is entirely separate from the
events described.

In 2nd person, on the other hand, the reader/viewer is actually
participating in the story -- at least, that's the illusion the author is
shooting for. The narrative voice (or, in the case of graphics, the images
shown) describe what is actually happening to the reader/viewer. In text,
you create this illusion by using the pronoun "You" all the time. In
graphics, you create this illusion by drawing everything from the viewer's
point of view, as if the player were actually standing there with a
cardboard box on his head and a monitor-shaped hole cut in the front.

This is pretty much how Myst and Riven and similar POV graphics games are
set up. And notice that when the NPCs speak to the character, they use the
pronoun "You."

I don't know how you'd create a 1st person graphics game, actually. I guess
if the game gave you a running commentary of the main character's thoughts
spoken in the 1st person, you'd have a close approximation. But then you'd
essentially be falling back on a textual device -- even if the commentary
were digitized speech, anything that can be spoken can be written down, so
it's essentially the same as text.

Neat! Something that text games can do that graphics games can't!

Drone

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <MPG.105e057ad...@news.earthlink.net>,
Christo...@email.msn.com (Christopher Wren) wrote:

> Interestingly, interactive *graphical* fiction avoids second-person
> viewpoints with consumnate ease, while maintaining interactivity. Games
> like "Myst" and "Riven" are first-person: "Curse of Monkey Island" and
> "Sanitarium" are examples of third-person. (I'm not even sure what a
> second-person graphical IF would look like, or why you would want to do
> it.)
>

Second Person doesn't apply. Although I agree with a lot of your post, the
terminology of perspective in cinematic-graphic-arts is entirely different
from in writing. When the "camera" shows the main character's perspective
it's called first person (or more commonly POV) -- even though the effect
is more analogous to written second-person, everything else is third --
though it's not usually referred to as such.

The analogy to written first-person would most likely be
narration/voiceover in the voice of a character.

Drone.

Drone

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <MPG.105e057ad...@news.earthlink.net>,
Christo...@email.msn.com (Christopher Wren) wrote:

> Perhaps second-person viewpoint is something that was just used in early
> IF, because it *seemed* so attractive and compelling, and later story-
> tellers have just followed that initial direction, without realizing it
> was a dead-end.
>

Well, I said in my other post that I agreed with yours, but I hadn't read
quite this far. I'd like to reiterate that I don't think second-person is
a dead end. I just think that it has some limitations that put a lot of
restrictions on content. The style of content it is well-suited for can
probably be developed well and artistically for a long time to come.

Drone.

Drone

unread,
Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <OXIIgNr29GA.297@upnetnews03>, "Michael Gentry"
<edr...@email.msn.com> wrote:

> Again, I point you to "Bright Lights, Big City." Story, character.
> Ba-da-boom.
>

Thanks, I'll at least take a flip through that next time I'm at the book store.

Drone.

Drone

unread,
Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
I saw this post after I wrote mine. We seem to be, save for our
application of the terminology, in complete sync on the written/graphic
comparison.

Drone.

In article <eWJYjNr29GA.297@upnetnews03>, "Michael Gentry"

Adam Cadre

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
Michael Gentry wrote:
> > Again, I point you to "Bright Lights, Big City." Story, character.
> > Ba-da-boom.

Are we listing works written in the second person now? Tom Robbins, HALF
ASLEEP IN FROG PAJAMAS.

Christopher Wren

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <eWJYjNr29GA.297@upnetnews03>, edr...@email.msn.com says...

>
> Christopher Wren wrote in message ...
>
> >Interestingly, interactive *graphical* fiction avoids second-person
> >viewpoints with consumnate ease, while maintaining interactivity. Games
> >like "Myst" and "Riven" are first-person: "Curse of Monkey Island" and
> >"Sanitarium" are examples of third-person. (I'm not even sure what a
> >second-person graphical IF would look like, or why you would want to do
> >it.)
> >
>
> It's a tricky distinction, but I would say that POV graphic games like Myst
> and Riven are still 2nd person. Ist person and 3rd person, to my mind,
> involve the story being told to a reader/viewer who is not actually involved
> in the story in anyway. An objective narrator (3rdP) or an actual character
> (1stP) is telling the story to someone who is entirely separate from the
> events described.

I understand what you say, but this is not the conventional way of
describing viewpoints.

Ask the question: "Whose viewpoint (*eyes*) is the story told through?"

If the story is related as directly seen by one particular set of eyes
belonging to a character inside the story-universe, then that is a first-
person story. A text example: "I turned right and saw steps going up from
the dock." A graphical example: the reader clicks on the right-arrow, and
the picture on the screen now shows some steps going up from the dock.
("Myst" and "Riven").

If the story is told as seen by a set of eyes that are inside the story-
universe, but do not belong to any character in that universe, then that
is third-person. A text example: "He picked the coconut off the tree." A
graphical example: the reader clicks on the coconut, and sees a character
on the screen reach up and pick a coconut off a tree. ("Curse of Monkey
Island" and "Sanitarium".)

The second-person viewpoint has two different varieties. If the story is
told as seen by a set of eyes that are inside the story-universe, but
belong to a character that is not the main protagonist or center of
attention, then that is second-person. A text example: "You then flew the
plane to Chicago." A graphical example: in MS Flight Simulator, the view
of the plane can be changed from the pilot's viewpoint to that of the
control-tower.

There is another variety of second-person viewpoint. If the story is told
as seen by a set of eyes that are apparently inside the story-universe,
but the owner of the set of eyes is never specifically identified or
described, and never take a part in the story, then that is also second-
person. Perhaps this should be called second-person omniscient. This is
the viewpoint that is common in written IF, but which is extremely rare
elsewhere. A text example: "You open the door." A graphical example: I
don't know -- graphically this is hard to distinguish from regular third-
person.

Steven Marsh

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
On Mon, 7 Sep 1998 15:43:56 -0400, Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu>
wrote:

>I've responded to this already, but I'm just so amazed at how
>mind-bogglingly WRONG it is that I have to respond again.
>

Look, Adam, I got a scholarship for being as ignorant as I am,
okay? :b

>Steven Marsh wrote:
>> "You" is a character. Not, as IF might have you believe, an
>> actor. In and of itself, that's a revelation that most IF authors

>> just can't believe. Off the top of my head, only two pieces of IF
>> have -any- attempt at active characterization within the confines of
>> the game: Infidel and (to a lesser extent) Hitchhiker's Guide to the
>> Galaxy.
>

>Then you're completely unfamiliar with, say, I-0? Bloodline? Sylenius
>Mysterium? A Bear's Night Out? The Lost Spellmaker? Mercy? Christminster?
>In the End? Losing Your Grip? Ralph? Plundered Hearts, for heaven's sake?
>We batted around this question over on ifMUD and came up with dozens of
>examples. The fact that you missed all of these leads me to believe that
>you're completely unfamiliar with the state of modern IF and thus in no
>position to make this kind of claim.
>

"Now comes the point in our program, gentle listener, when we
berate Steven Marsh."
Reread what I wrote. It says, "Off the top of my head." In
other words, those were the examples that were either good enough or
(at the least) memorable enough to be immediately recallable. No
mentions of exhaustive lists or the like. (I mean, I didn't mention
Zork: A Troll's Eye View.) Of those you've mentioned, I've played...
I-0, Christminster, In the End, Ralph. (That I can think off hand...
lots of games' names meld together, unfortunately.) Of those, only
Ralph, fer chrissakes, made me feel like I was anything other than a
25-year-old guy pretending to be something else. And Ralph actually
made me think more often than not, "I'm a dog!", rather than, "I'm me,
pretending to be a dog."
Christminster?!? In Christminster... um... you have a
brother, I think. Now, I just played this a couple of months ago, and
I remember it as being a good game, but I certainly don't remember
thinking, "Hmm... here I am, a woman trapped within the confines of a
man's society. I am completely immersed." At best, I was a
25-year-old guy pretending to be a woman.
I-O?!? I'm sorry, but any game that begins with, "You're
Tracy Valencia..." as a means of immediately placing myself into
character doesn't work off the bat. (Now, that opening paragraph
would be great "dust jacket" material... but as the first words the
player reads, it does little more than point out the obvious "No I'm
Not!" reaction... not dissimilar to the old "You Are Joe's Spleen"
articles in Reader's Digest.) To be fair, the rest of the game does a
fair job of
Although I will add another to my "off the top of my head"
list: Border Zone. Although quite a few problems keep it from being a
great game, it -does- succeed (IMO) at transplanting the player into 3
-different- people, and making them act accordingly.
Then again, the appeal of Border Zone may just be the same
appeal of the mystery genre, of which I've already mentioned the
benefits.

Compare -any- of those to... jeez, I dunno, any of the
Lucasarts or Sierra adventures. For me personally (YMMV), I -was-
Bernard/Hogie/Lavern in Day of the Tenticle. I -was- the Princess or
Queen in King's Quest VII. I -was- Indiana Jones in Fate of Atlantis.
Now, fan as I am of the IF genre, I refuse to believe that this is
merely because of the pretty pictures/talking people. No, I think the
bulk of it is what someone described earlier: that tendency to want to
make the player actor an "anyman", and, in so doing, makes them no
one.
Okay; since I don't know much about the state of modern IF...
of those that you mentioned earlier, describe the characters you play.
What does her/his voice sound like? How tall is s/he? How old is
s/he? Where were they born? Ethnicity? Likes? Dislikes? Read any
modern fiction; those kind of details are going to be in there. If
they're -not-, then you're not approaching the level of complexity
needed (IMO) to honestly say that you're portraying another character.
A name doesn't do it. A car doesn't do it. Having a consistant
character portrait that, when someone asks a question like, "What's
this character's favorite movie?", you can answer it, even though that
information wasn't in the original. -That's- active characterization.
Consider Leisure Suit Larry I. (Chosen because of the lack of
graphics/sound firepower, hopefully distancing it from the whole
"graphics/sound=characterization" arguement.) Not a magnum opus of
western lit, to be sure, but LSL did manage (again, IMO) to transport
me into that character. While playing it, I -was- Leisure Suit Larry.
I had a bald spot, bad breath, shallow goals, etc. When I'd look at a
fan, and it'd say, "It's going around and around (not unlike your
life).", I thought, "Don't I know it." Not because of the
reverberations in my own life, but because of the resonance in the
persona I was playing.

>"Only two pieces of IF have -any- attempt..." Yeesh, where have you
>*BEEN*? Sorry to veer into flame territory, but when you make a claim
>*that* strong, and are *that* wrong...

Now, look... characterization is not just placing a label on
someone, giving them a name, a job, and a goal. I mean, I'm -not-
enacting the role of a postman because I play Wishbringer... I am not
becoming King Arthur because I play Arthur. Lost New York says you
hate banana flavored bubble gum, but that doesn't define that
character.
As an exercise, how would the following characters react to
being trapped in an elevator with a 22-year-old woman who talked too
much?

Sam (from Sam & Max)
Protagonist from In The End
Laverne (from Day of the Tenticle)
Protagonist from Infidel
Gabriel Knight (from Gabriel Knight series)
Christabel (from Christminster)
Tex Murphy (from Under a Killing Moon, Pandora Prophacy, others)
Tracy (from I-O)
Leisure Suit Larry (from the Leisure Suit Larry series)
Ralph (from Ralph)

Of those, I'm able to come up with reactions for the "graphic"
adventure characters fairly easily. For the others... well, I know
what Ralph would do. I've an absurd idea of what the protagonist from
In The End would do... again. :b ... Um, beyond that, I can't easily
think of what the others would do (that wasn't required to solve
whatever puzzle was presented to get out of the elevator).
Now, lest you think this to be too harsh a test, think of any
book with characters you've liked (or liked to dislike). Can you
answer same/similar questions for them? Yossarian (Catch 22)? Piggy
(Lord of the Flies)? Satan (Incarnations of Immortality series)?
What about favorite characters from movies/TV? The Pretender Guy,
Indiana Jones, Jake (from Chinatown)... all of them evoke some
semblence of character beyond "Your name is Yossarian, and you want
out of the army." And for all of them, after hearing their
stories/watching them/whatever, you're able to answer questions like,
"How old were they when they kissed someone romantically?"... again,
even if it isn't explicitly stated.
Now, again, I may be wrong... I'll go look over the list of
games there I -haven't- played, and play 'em. But I suspect that they
do little more than superficial "You are Bob" characterization. And
that's what I mean when I say there's not much active characterization
in modern IF.

Steven Marsh
ma...@nettally.com
Wondering, if I could keep time in a bottle, would it have an
experation date?

Michael Gentry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to

Christopher Wren wrote in message ...

>I understand what you say, but this is not the conventional way of


>describing viewpoints.
>
>Ask the question: "Whose viewpoint (*eyes*) is the story told through?"
>
>If the story is related as directly seen by one particular set of eyes
>belonging to a character inside the story-universe, then that is a first-
>person story. A text example: "I turned right and saw steps going up from
>the dock." A graphical example: the reader clicks on the right-arrow, and
>the picture on the screen now shows some steps going up from the dock.
>("Myst" and "Riven").


Yes, but do those eyes belong to a character who is separate from you (the
player), or do they belong to *you*, in the sense that it is you who are *in
the game*? It's a fuzzy distinction but an important one.

From the instruction booklet provided in Riven:

"Become lost in the beauty of its worlds and think as if
*you*were*actually*there*."
(emphasis mine)
(a bit later)
"When you would like to move forward, click near the center of the screen.
When you want to turn right or left..."

...and so on. Notice: "you", "you", "you" and more "you". It doesn't say,
"When you would like _me_ to move forward, click near the center of the
screen and _I_ will respond." It says YOU.

>If the story is told as seen by a set of eyes that are inside the story-
>universe, but do not belong to any character in that universe, then that
>is third-person. A text example: "He picked the coconut off the tree." A
>graphical example: the reader clicks on the coconut, and sees a character
>on the screen reach up and pick a coconut off a tree. ("Curse of Monkey
>Island" and "Sanitarium".)


That is correct.

>The second-person viewpoint has two different varieties.

That, actually, is not. Or if it is, I would like you to cite the particular
manual of style you gleaned it from.

>If the story is
>told as seen by a set of eyes that are inside the story-universe, but
>belong to a character that is not the main protagonist or center of
>attention, then that is second-person. A text example: "You then flew the
>plane to Chicago."

Your text example is second-person, but the way you describe it is not. It
doesn't matter whether your "set of eyes" belongs to the main protagonist or
not; if they belong to the reader/viewer (referred to in the story as
"you"), then your story is second-person.

>A graphical example: in MS Flight Simulator, the view
>of the plane can be changed from the pilot's viewpoint to that of the
>control-tower.


Flight Simulator is a shaky example, since there are no "characters" as
such, but I'll go with it for now. What I'm saying is that it's
second-person whether you're in the plane or in the tower or on the ground
or hanging from a landing strut, as long as the perspective is presented as
the player's POV. You're changing characters (from the guy in the plane to
the guy in the tower), but not the way the story is presented to you.

>There is another variety of second-person viewpoint. If the story is told
>as seen by a set of eyes that are apparently inside the story-universe,
>but the owner of the set of eyes is never specifically identified or
>described, and never take a part in the story, then that is also second-
>person. Perhaps this should be called second-person omniscient.

No. It should be called third-person, *precisely because* the storyteller is
not identified -- neither a character in the story nor the reader/viewer. A
good example would be: "Fred kicked the bucket."

The term "omniscient" has nothing to do with who's telling the story. It
refers to whether or not the events are filtered through one character's
perceptions (which is not the same as being told through the mouth of that
character), or whether the unidentified narrator's knowledge is unlimited by
restrictions of time and space. The opposite of "omniscient" would be
"subjective".

An example of third-person subjective: "Fred kicked the bucket. He wondered
where Tracy was at that moment, and what she might be doing."

An example of third-person omniscient: "Fred kicked the bucket. Although he
could not have known it at that time, Tracy was at that moment halfway
across the country, buying the farm."

>A text example: "You open the door."

This is indeed an example of second person, but it is not an example of what
you erroneously labelled "second-person omniscient". You are describing
third-person, giving an example that is second-person, and calling it
something that I've never heard used to describe a point of view.

Second-person omniscient would involve an interesting paradox. You could
certainly present a story to a reader as if the reader were a being whose
knowledge is not limited by time or space -- "You separate the heavens from
the earth, and cause mountains to rise from the sea... meanwhile, in the
Magellanic Clouds, your phone will be ringing three years from now..." --
but it would still be filtered through *your* perspective, however unlimited
that perspective may be. Which would make it subjective. But I ramble....

>A graphical example: I
>don't know -- graphically this is hard to distinguish from regular third-
>person.
>


As I said before, graphically this is done by presenting the scene as though
it were from the player's point of view.

Drone noted elsewhere in this thread that the terminology is different in
the realm of film-making -- over there they call viewer POV "first-person".
Maybe that's where this confusion is coming from. Be that as it may, from a
literary standpoint the terms are pretty clear. As soon as you identify the
"pair of eyes" as belonging to the reader/viewer, the story is second
person.

Michael Gentry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to

Steven Marsh wrote in message <35f44b39...@news2.nettally.com>...

Of those, only
>Ralph, fer chrissakes, made me feel like I was anything other than a
>25-year-old guy pretending to be something else. And Ralph actually
>made me think more often than not, "I'm a dog!", rather than, "I'm me,
>pretending to be a dog."


(some more excellent and exhaustive arguments snipped)

Maybe the issue here is the distinction between an *attempt* at
characterization and actual, decent, effective characterization.

To quote from your original post:

"Off the top of my head, only two pieces of IF have -any- attempt at active
characterization within the confines of the game:"

Well, you can't really argue that there's no *attempt* at characterization
in, say, I-O. A clumsy, half-assed attempt, maybe, but an attempt
nonetheless. Same goes for the other games mentioned.

What you seem to be saying is that most "attempts" at characterization don't
really cut the mustard, and with that point I'd be willing to agree. It's
not that there's no characterization; it's that what there is is kind of
pitiful and ineffective. Whether that's because IF authors as a whole need
to hone their skills, or because we're all lazy and don't take IF seriously
as a form of literature, or because we need more practice applying
characterization to this medium, or what, is another matter entirely.

Just trying to throw some sand on the fire, folks.

J. Robinson Wheeler

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
Michael Gentry wrote:

> Watching "Gataca" and then "The Truman Show", it occurred to me: there's a
> substantial cross-section of science fiction that wouldn't exist today if
> Dick (or at least someone like Dick, but it happened to be Dick so hooray
> for him) hadn't planted the seeds in the public imagination.

Not to disagree (nor to insult you by pointing out something that you may
already know), but both "Gattaca" and "The Truman Show" were written by
the same man, Andrew Niccol. At the very least, we know whom he's been
reading...


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

J. Robinson Wheeler

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
Drone wrote:

> Second Person doesn't apply. Although I agree with a lot of your post, the
> terminology of perspective in cinematic-graphic-arts is entirely different
> from in writing. When the "camera" shows the main character's perspective
> it's called first person (or more commonly POV) -- even though the effect
> is more analogous to written second-person, everything else is third --
> though it's not usually referred to as such.
>
> The analogy to written first-person would most likely be
> narration/voiceover in the voice of a character.


This is an interesting side-bar to the main thread because I'm primarily
a filmmaker (and inclined to see IF and cinema merge). I think the
cinema definitions above are apt. Let me run through them again just
for my own clarification.

Narration/voiceover would be first-person storytelling (audio
only).

"Breaking the fourth wall" would be second-person storytelling.
The people on screen address YOU, the audience.

POV shots, while looking through the eyes of one of the characters,
do not break the fourth wall. Even if, during a POV shot, another
character on the screen stares directly into the eye of the camera,
it is assumed that the fourth wall still exists, and that it is
not the audience being addressed, but the character through whose
eyes we are seeing. Therefore, this must be an odd form of third-
person storytelling. (Even if it is known in the movie industry
as a "first-person" camera angle.)

Default is third person storytelling.

Christopher Wren

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <usXfzRt29GA.156@upnetnews05>, edr...@email.msn.com says...

>
> Christopher Wren wrote in message ...
>
> >I understand what you say, but this is not the conventional way of
> >describing viewpoints.

> Yes, but do those eyes belong to a character who is separate from you (the


> player), or do they belong to *you*, in the sense that it is you who are *in
> the game*? It's a fuzzy distinction but an important one.

> [...Other points omitted by CW...]


> Maybe that's where this confusion is coming from. Be that as it may, from a
> literary standpoint the terms are pretty clear. As soon as you identify the
> "pair of eyes" as belonging to the reader/viewer, the story is second
> person.

Again, all I can say is that I understand everything you say, but it is
not the conventional way of looking at things. Some sources for the
convention I'm largely following would be:

The book:
"Characters and Viewpoint" by Orson Scott Card;

the web article:
http://www.steampunk.com/sf-clearing-house/writing/ckilian/ (especially
the section on "Narrative Voice");

and the way games such as "Doom" "Quake" "Unreal" are all called by
reviewers (on GameSpot, GameCenter, etc.) "first-person shooters",
whether the eyes you are looking through are supposed to be the player's
or some character's in the story-universe.


Mark Stevens

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
On Mon, 07 Sep 1998 16:55:45 -0500, foxg...@globalserve.net (Drone)
wrote:

>I like Iain Banks but I didn't know he had written in 2nd P, and this
>one's been mentioned several times now by IFers. That's too much potential
>energy to resist. I'll be sure to pick it up.

Yeah, 'Complicity's great stuff. Oh, and here's a snippet from 'A Song
of Stone', so you can see that "author = first-person, reader =
second-person" thing in action:

You reach up from behind me and hold my elbow, squeezing.
I turn back to you, brushing a wisp of jet-black hair away
from your brow. Around you are clustered the bags and chests we
thought to take, stuffed with whatever we hoped might prove useful for
us but not too tempting to others. A few more precious items are
hidden within and beneath the carriage. You have been sitting with
your back to me in the open carriage, looking back along our route,
perhaps trying to see the home we left, but now you are twisting round
on the seat, trying to see past me, a frown troubling your expression
like a flaw in a statue's marble face.
"I don't know why we've stopped," I tell you. I stand up for a
moment, looking out over the heads of the people in front of us. A
tall-bodied truck fifty metres ahead hides the view beyond; the road
here is straight for a kilometre or so, between the fields and the
woods (our fields, our woods, our lands, as I still think of them).


/\/)ark

http://www.sonance.demon.co.uk/


Adam Cadre

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
Michael Gentry wrote:
> Well, you can't really argue that there's no *attempt* at characterization
> in, say, I-O. A clumsy, half-assed attempt, maybe, but an attempt
> nonetheless.

Yay, backlash. Is this the part where you say I've "sold out" and you're
not gonna wear my t-shirts anymore?

-----
Adam Cadre, Anaheim, CA

actually used 60% of his ass

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
J. Robinson Wheeler (whe...@jump.net) wrote:
> This is an interesting side-bar to the main thread because I'm primarily
> a filmmaker (and inclined to see IF and cinema merge). I think the
> cinema definitions above are apt. Let me run through them again just
> for my own clarification.
>
> Narration/voiceover would be first-person storytelling (audio
> only).
>
> "Breaking the fourth wall" would be second-person storytelling.
> The people on screen address YOU, the audience.
>
> POV shots, while looking through the eyes of one of the characters,
> do not break the fourth wall. Even if, during a POV shot, another
> character on the screen stares directly into the eye of the camera,
> it is assumed that the fourth wall still exists, and that it is
> not the audience being addressed, but the character through whose
> eyes we are seeing. Therefore, this must be an odd form of third-
> person storytelling. (Even if it is known in the movie industry
> as a "first-person" camera angle.)
>
> Default is third person storytelling.

The terms "first-person", "second-person", "third-person" are syntactic
terms; they derive directly (not incidentally) from three modes of English
speech. Speech is directed from one person, to a second person, about a
third person (or object or whatever). I *don't* think the terms can be
generalized to all forms of storytelling.

Applying them to film is necessarily going to be inexact, because film
*isn't* speech. It's communication, but not speech. Pictures are broadcast
from objects and actions to every observer in eyeshot. There just isn't an
analog to the first and second people.

The exceptions, as you note, are (1) when someone outside the film-frame
is talking (in which case there *is* speech), or (2) when someone in the
film-frame violates the fourth wall and talks to the audience, instead of
performing acts which are observed. But, as I said, I'm leery of saying
this *is* second-person storytelling. It's analogous and may be done for
similar reasons, but it's an imperfect analogy.

Steven Marsh

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
On Tue, 8 Sep 1998 00:00:12 -0400, Adam Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu>
wrote:

>Michael Gentry wrote:


>> Well, you can't really argue that there's no *attempt* at characterization
>> in, say, I-O. A clumsy, half-assed attempt, maybe, but an attempt
>> nonetheless.
>
>Yay, backlash. Is this the part where you say I've "sold out" and you're
>not gonna wear my t-shirts anymore?
>

Let me just say that I forgot that you'd done I-O, Adam.
D'oh. Sorry about that. (Not that I would've changed what I'd
written, mind you, but I at least like to be aware who my audience is.
[Like the time I did my final in-class Shakesperian essay on Troilus &
Cressida, where I concluded with the phrase, "Troilus and Cressida is
like a flawed gemstone: multi-faceted, but ultimately worthless." It
wasn't until two hours after taking the test that I realized the
teacher had written his doctoral thesis on Troilus and Cressida.])
And, to add insult to injury, somehow the part of my post
where I actually complement I-O got chopped off. Anyway, to
reconstuct what I'd said there, "To be fair, the rest of [I-O] does a
fair job of creating a more developed persona than most games. But
it's still a far cry from a fully-fleshed character, or even a
developed role."

Steven Marsh
ma...@nettally.com
Who's trying to figure out if Shogun was a step in the right
direction, or playing hopscotch on a dung heap.


Adam Cadre

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
Steven Marsh wrote:
> I-O?!? I'm sorry, but any game that begins with, "You're
> Tracy Valencia..." as a means of immediately placing myself into
> character doesn't work off the bat. (Now, that opening paragraph
> would be great "dust jacket" material... but as the first words the
> player reads, it does little more than point out the obvious "No I'm
> Not!" reaction... not dissimilar to the old "You Are Joe's Spleen"
> articles in Reader's Digest.) To be fair, the rest of the game does
> a fair job of

A fair job of what, I guess I don't get to find out. Oh well.

I find your reaction to "You're Tracy Valencia" rather odd, however.
Your reaction is "No I'm not"? Is your reaction to "Call me Ishmael"
to say, "No, I'm going to call you Herman! That's your name -- says
so right on the book jacket!"? After all, you've had exactly as
much opportunity to get into the story: you're three words in. And
the fact that you are not, in fact, Tracy Valencia is exactly as true
as the fact that the human being who wrote those words was not, in
fact, called Ishmael. What am I missing?

I take it from your objection here that you would rather not have
been overtly told who you're supposed to be, but rather, I dunno, had
to figure it out by looking at your driver's license or something?
Why? There's no reason for you *not* to know who you're supposed to
be right off the bat -- "discover your identity" has nothing to do
with this game, unlike, say, Delusions, or Babel.

Now, let's see whether this clumsy and half-assed game answers the
questions that you claim comprise characterization.

> What does her/his voice sound like?

The kind of voice that

> How tall is s/he?

5'7".

>How old is s/he?

17 years, 364 days.

> Where were they born?

New Granada, Dorado, USA.

> Ethnicity?

Latina.

> Likes?

Pina coladas, getting caught in the rain.

> Dislikes?

Banana-flavored bubble-gum.

> Read any modern fiction; those kind of details are going to be in
> there.

Whaaaaat?

What are the ethnicities of the two main characters in Toni Morisson's
"Recitatif", or that of the guest in JM Coetzee's "Age of Iron"? How
tall is the protagonist of AM Homes's "The End of Alice"? What's his
name? What's the Invisible Man's name? You could make a list of some
modern fiction where the characters' vital stats are given, and I
could make a list of some modern fiction where many aspects are left
deliberately ambiguous. See, when you make such sweeping claims,
you're pretty much guaranteed to be wrong. There is very, very little
that can be said about "any" modern fiction. You can't even say that
if you read any modern fiction you'll find the letter E.

Now, you can say that that's not what you meant, that even without
knowing the Invisible Man's name that you have a sense of his soul
because the characterization is so wonderful, but then you'd be going
and changing this part of your argument. Just like you changed "-any-
attempt at active characterization" to "a successful immersive
experience."

> Compare -any- of those to... jeez, I dunno, any of the
> Lucasarts or Sierra adventures. For me personally (YMMV), I -was-
> Bernard/Hogie/Lavern in Day of the Tenticle. I -was- the Princess
> or Queen in King's Quest VII. I -was- Indiana Jones in Fate of
> Atlantis. Now, fan as I am of the IF genre, I refuse to believe
> that this is merely because of the pretty pictures/talking people.

There's that "any" again. "-Were-" you the cop in Police Quest 1?

I find this reaction odd again, in that third-person games like
Indy 4 aren't *asking* you to "-be-" anyone -- you're just directing
around a character, similar to what Drone's been discussing.
Personally, I find this dissociates me from the character, decreases
the sense of complicity: Guybrush is the jerk throwing the rat into
the stew, not me. But then, I've never had such an immersive
experience that I forgot I was playing a role, which seems to be
your criterion for whether something counts as "-active-"
characterization. (Hmm. If "Ralph" had succeeded, would you have
had to stop playing the moment you were fully immersed? Dogs can't
type.) Nor am I really interested in such an experience. So I
think on this point we're doomed to talk past each other.

But let's look at characterization. You seem to be arguing that the
more you know about a character -- even physical details -- the more
immersed you become, or the better the characterization is. But what
defines a character? I'll make a stab at answering (and this isn't
a considered manifesto here, just a preliminary attempt): what they
do, what they say, what they think, how they feel.

One at a time. What the character does. "Action is character" and
all that (existentialist mantra, no?) Except that in an interactive
work, what the character does is up to the player. Even in the most
"linear" (let's please not start a "what is linearity" thread, please
please) IF, where, say, every action that doesn't lead to an eventual
*** You have won *** message leads to a *** You have died *** message,
the action is up to the player: if you feel like your actions are
being dictated to you by the author, it's purely because of your own
lack of satisfaction with a story about a character who dies, and
that's your own lookout. (Note: I'm well aware this is only one way
of looking at it. Hence the disclaimer.) So, though the author can
and generally does do a lot to nudge the player toward certain actions,
in a very real sense, you as a player still have to bring your own
character to the table.

Now, speech. To bring up a hoary old thread that people are going to
throw religious tomatoes at me for ressurrecting: to the extent that
much of our sense of characters comes from the way they speak, could
the menu-driven conversational interfaces have had anything to do with
your sense of graphical adventures having better characterization? In
most (but not all) text IF, we don't choose or even necessarily find
out what the PC says when talking to NPCs.

Thinking and feeling: not really the province of the graphical
adventures I've seen. Conventional wisdom says that text is better
suited to interiors than exteriors--

--er. I have to go now. More later, maybe.

-----
Adam Cadre, Anaheim, CA

http://www.retina.net/~grignr

Steven Marsh

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
Sorry if I get the "who said what"s wrong...


On Mon, 7 Sep 1998 22:58:52 -0400, "Michael Gentry"
<edr...@email.msn.com> wrote:

>
>Christopher Wren wrote in message ...
>

<snip>


>>There is another variety of second-person viewpoint. If the story is told
>>as seen by a set of eyes that are apparently inside the story-universe,
>>but the owner of the set of eyes is never specifically identified or
>>described, and never take a part in the story, then that is also second-
>>person. Perhaps this should be called second-person omniscient.
>
>No. It should be called third-person, *precisely because* the storyteller is
>not identified -- neither a character in the story nor the reader/viewer. A
>good example would be: "Fred kicked the bucket."
>

I think (I'm not sure, though) I understand what he's saying.
It's... it's possible to write a story without a definite point of
view.

<begin example>

The door opens. It's a bar. Too many people with too much free time
drinking too much they won't realize until it's too late.

'Have a drink, luv?' asks the barkeep. Sandy? Cindy? Sheela?
Sheela. That's the name. It's cold, and it laminates the tongue.
(The drink, not the name.) Four later, Sheela's talking. "Gotta wake
up, luv. Cain't sleep here."

It's difficult to drive when intoxicated. Slowly, drifting side to
side. There's no cops, not this late, but the doorknob always dances
away from the key.

The sun shines through the open blinds. The pillow smells of dried
vomit. What, precisely, happened? A momentary thought. But, no...
better not knowing. The news is droning about a murder. Something
about a bar. How many Sheelas can there be in this town? Shit.

<end example>

Mayhaps there's a rule about de facto 2nd person (ie. when there's no
other implicit POV). But if so, I'm not familiar with it. :)

<snip>

Steven Marsh
ma...@nettally.com
Still an anagram of "Events Harms."


Drone

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
In article
<Pine.SOL.3.91.980908...@godzilla5.acpub.duke.edu>, Adam
Cadre <ad...@acpub.duke.edu> wrote:

> I find your reaction to "You're Tracy Valencia" rather odd, however.
> Your reaction is "No I'm not"? Is your reaction to "Call me Ishmael"
> to say, "No, I'm going to call you Herman! That's your name -- says
> so right on the book jacket!"? After all, you've had exactly as
> much opportunity to get into the story: you're three words in. And
> the fact that you are not, in fact, Tracy Valencia is exactly as true
> as the fact that the human being who wrote those words was not, in
> fact, called Ishmael. What am I missing?
>

You're missing the distinction that in the first case, the narrator is
saying something the reader knows a priori not to be true, whereas in the
second place the narrator is saying something the reader needs to read on
to evaluate. The first is an immediate imposition on the reader's good
will. The second is a sly invitation. The first says to the reader, "Sit
over there, now be good here's your role -- think this way." The second
says, "What if I were to tell you X, do you believe me? What do think?
Interested? Well I have more to tell you."

Some have done it (in IF as well), but it's very difficult to execute the
first case above without giving the impression of writing with a hammer.

Drone.

> I find this reaction odd again, in that third-person games like
> Indy 4 aren't *asking* you to "-be-" anyone -- you're just directing
> around a character, similar to what Drone's been discussing.
> Personally, I find this dissociates me from the character, decreases
> the sense of complicity: Guybrush is the jerk throwing the rat into
> the stew, not me.

Hey, if complicity's your bag, I think second person has it all over third
in that department. But if emotional identification is your preferred
style of involving the reader (and it is mine) then I think the
situation's reversed. T