Text vs. Graphics

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Jim Aikin

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Mar 8, 2002, 10:30:37 PM3/8/02
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Reading an essay by Stephen Granade on the gulf between big-budget
graphic adventures and no-budget text adventures. He said this: "What
I'd really like to see is a blending of the two branches of the family.
Right now we have a caste system, with an ever-widening gap between the
'haves' and the 'have-nots.'"

I've been musing about this "blending" for some weeks. I'd be curious to
read others' thoughts on what shape or form it might take. My experience
with graphic adventures (which is pretty much limited to Myst and Riven)
is that, as stunning as they can be graphically, the real interactivity
is actually of a lower order than what you'll find in even a workaday
text adventure. In other words, there seems to be a tradeoff: graphics
kill text, or something like that.

Possibly it's a marketing thing: The big software companies are afraid
to develop IF that forces users to do anything but point and click,
because they figure (rightly or wrongly) they'll cut their customer base
by about 90%. But you know, if any of the text IF authors in this
newsgroup could achieve 10% of the sales seen by a run-of-the-mill
graphic adventure, we'd have a stampede on our hands.

I'd love to see (or even help develop) an adventuring system in which
the parser and the interactive logic were as sophisticated as what we
can do today in text-based IF, if not moreso -- but in which beautiful
graphics and music ALSO played an important role.

HTML TADS, which is what I'm developing in at the moment, is obviously a
step in the right direction, but it's only a step.

Seems to me there might be a market for IF that used plentiful and
flexible text, if the multimedia support was there alongside it. In the
19th Century many novels had illustrations, right? That proves the two
media can be combined.

Have I been smoking too much opium, or is this a real possibility? Would
anybody besides me like to be working in that sort of environment?

--Jim Aikin

Kodrik

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Mar 8, 2002, 10:45:28 PM3/8/02
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> Have I been smoking too much opium, or is this a real possibility? Would
> anybody besides me like to be working in that sort of environment?

It is definitely a possibility. Text-command input with multimedia output
is on its way.

I think its a natural evolution and most engines will eventuall support
full multimedia experience.

Besides the implementation, we will be asking authors to be programmers,
writers and now multimedia artists.

Jim Aikin

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Mar 8, 2002, 11:18:06 PM3/8/02
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Kodrik wrote:


> Besides the implementation, we will be asking authors to be programmers,
> writers and now multimedia artists.


...or seeking to develop teams in which one unpaid lunatic writes the
code, another writes the text, a third writes the music, and a fourth
does the graphics. In return for a share of the future earnings, if any.

Just as interesting is the question of exactly what the interface would
look like. I'm picturing, say, an 800x600 window in which the left half
is devoted to conventional scrolling text. The right half might contain
a self-updating, clickable map and other toys. Whenever the
player/reader/user enters a new location, perhaps a button would flash
indicating that a full-window graphic was available for viewing. (Seems
to me throwing the graphic up on the screen automatically would be
impolite to your print-oriented users.)

--Jim Aikin

Kodrik

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Mar 8, 2002, 11:37:54 PM3/8/02
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> Just as interesting is the question of exactly what the interface would
> look like. I'm picturing, say, an 800x600 window in which the left half
> is devoted to conventional scrolling text. The right half might contain
> a self-updating, clickable map and other toys. Whenever the
> player/reader/user enters a new location, perhaps a button would flash
> indicating that a full-window graphic was available for viewing. (Seems
> to me throwing the graphic up on the screen automatically would be
> impolite to your print-oriented users.)

I see two kinds of games:

The way I see it, the author will design the viewing area however he likes,
the only elements that won't change are the very top part of the screen
with important information such as score, turn and of course the text input
field.
The rest of the screen is whatever the author thinks is more appropriate to
the area the player is in, the colors, fonts, background, and of course the
room description.

As for big pictures describing objects and other elements, I think the best
would be for the user to have a thumbnail or mark in the text on which he
can optionally click to view a large picture/movie.

Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.

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Mar 9, 2002, 12:01:58 AM3/9/02
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Jim Aikin wrote:

They can be combined.

The problem is that graphics, good graphics in particular, take a HUGE
amount of time to produce (and are therefore expensive). Some of our
character illustrations, for example, went through 8-10 redraws (over
several weeks). Some of the backgrounds take 5-10 hours to build, then
another 4-5 hours to render. Our trailer took three weeks of full-time
days (and then some). They are seen once. ^^

If all we had to do was sit down and write the game as a linear narrative,
it would be done in two weeks. All of the source material is done, it's
just a matter of building it into the required form: narrative, interactive
fiction, or in our case, zStory.

If an adventure game "construction" system were available to assist the
kind of development our company is doing, we'd even consider licensing it
commercially, provided it would reduce our development time (and provided
we could afford it). I'd really like to build a GUI of sorts to help
speed up development of our game, but there aren't enough hours. ^^


--
Jordan fades back... *swish* AND THAT'S THE GAME!!!!!!

Scott
Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.
http://www.heavycat.com - Only the Gameplay Matters
http://www.ladystar.net - Your Magical and Mysterious Adventure Awaits

CardinalT

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Mar 9, 2002, 12:52:49 AM3/9/02
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Jim Aikin wrote:

>
> Have I been smoking too much opium, or is this a real possibility? Would
> anybody besides me like to be working in that sort of environment?

It might be to a certain extent, but keep in mind that half of the text we
find so compelling in IF is there to describe things. In a visual (and
aural) environment, such description is redundant and useless. Even in the
area of nonmaterial things, like peoples' thoughts, when the medium is
visual and aural, we'd rather see or hear their thoughts than read them.

--
--CardinalT
Archbishop of Frith and Funeral Barker to the Stars

Mark W

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Mar 9, 2002, 2:43:18 AM3/9/02
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I tend to think this is more of a marketing thing. Video Games have
gone the way of movies. Once someone like Orson Wells could go to a
studio and do whatever he wanted to because who he was, and he'd
assemble the most talented people he could. The studio wouldn't see
the work until it was finished (and normally not decide to release
it).

Today the closest we have to that is the guy who put together Metal
Gear Solid I & II, and he's said that he doesn't want to work on
anything that big any more.

Let's face it, creating a graphical video game takes money. You have
to pay a lot of people for a lot of work, buy a lot of software and
equipment, and probably get the right marketing and distribution etc.
The same reason most hollywood movies suck or are formulaic is the
same reason most modern video games don't challenge you and don't rise
to the form of art. You don't have the same big personalities driving
the industry. You have money and everyone with only enough money to
fund the games that seem gauranteed to make it.

I recently learned that Philip Price, creator of one of my favorite
video games of all time, Alternate Reality (from 1984 & 1987), will be
working in his spare time to create a follow up to that classic. I'm
sure anything he does will be of the highest calibur. I think this is
a promising sign. Perhaps he can show that a high quality game can be
created by someone with no budget and for the love of it.

Just imagine what some of the higher quality IF game creators could do
if given the right resources, or if teamed together with graphics
folks and other coders. I wonder how many of these big game makers
play IF or even know that this world exists. "Yeah, Zork, I remember
Zork. You mean people are still making games like that?"

My 2 cents.

Mark

Kodrik

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Mar 9, 2002, 3:45:18 AM3/9/02
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>>I tend to think this is more of a marketing thing.<<

I see the main difference between IF and other forms of entertainment is
not the way you receive your data, but the way you request the data: in
your own language.

Whether you type or you speak your command, whether the result is text or
multimedia, this is irrelevant to what I see as being IF.

There are a few hurdles that I think current IF engines will have to pass
to come back to the front line, and I'm sure most major engine will pass
them with ease:
* Accessibiity: It should be extremelly easy to play your game: If you want
to view a quicktime movie, play a flash game or listen to an mp3, you can
usualy just click on the file, it gets on your computer and you can play it
as long as you have the player installed. Installing the player is usually
just a few easy clicks. This is a major step in the right direction towards
which every majoe engine is succesfully advancing.
* The engine should have multimedia support and permit the authors to make
custom interface that can change during the game, including multimedia
experience. You are in a forest and you hear the wind blow (foret skin on
the player and sound of wind howling), you go in the castle as the storm
breaks (stone wall skin, occasional lightning and sound of thunder and
rain). It should be easy for the auhor to incorporate these elements into
his game. Then of course, movies, animations and pictures that can be
launched on specific commands could be nice.
">Look at the statue": 3 d rotating statue -> IF you rotate for a view
under the statue, you notice a sticker.
">Look at the sticker". It is written, made in Taiwan.
I think you could combine multimedia and IF in interesting ways without
loosing the attraction of IF.
These features will be incorporated but equally important librairies will
have to be developed to support the authors to create easily adventures
with mutlimedia elements (sound, skins, compatibility with common
multimedia standards).
This might take years, but it will be available with most mutli-meia
engines.

But it is true the marketing still remains a big problem. I have been
developing my engine with the goal to sell it to someone who has the mean
to support it, promote it and already has considerable distribution power
in potential markets for works of IF. IF I fail in selling it or if they
fail in developing a market then the engine will be handled through this
community in a similar way that current engines are.
But if it succeeds, it should open some new doors to IF, not only for games
with on my engine, but for games on all robust engines. I don't think there
are any important features that any of the good engines can't incorporate
if a need for them is proven.

Kodrik

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Mar 9, 2002, 4:02:20 AM3/9/02
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>>I wonder how many of these big game makers
play IF or even know that this world exists. "Yeah, Zork, I remember
Zork. You mean people are still making games like that?"<<

Actually, most of them are very aware but so see any potential in it yet.
The first month I had phpzork up, I saw people sign-up with emails from
most gaming companies, and quite a few notorious game designers.
There is something about IF that is very appealing to people but we need to
find a way to package and present it right. One step at a time, together,
we will hopefully reach that goal.
I don't think it will be one engine or one concept that will solve our
situation, it will be steps taken from various source which once proven
succesful are ported to other engines, and eventually, with these many
little steps, we will have a product for mass market.

Rikard Peterson

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Mar 9, 2002, 8:55:28 AM3/9/02
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"Jim Aikin" <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> skrev i meddelandet
news:3C8981F6.8010005@kill_spammers.org...

>
> I've been musing about this "blending" for some weeks. I'd
> be curious to read others' thoughts on what shape or form
> it might take. My experience with graphic adventures (which
> is pretty much limited to Myst and Riven) is that, as
> stunning as they can be graphically, the real interactivity
> is actually of a lower order than what you'll find in even
> a workaday text adventure.

Yes, without a parser you will have to limit the number of actions
available. Most games do have more options than Myst, though.

<snip>

> I'd love to see (or even help develop) an adventuring system
> in which the parser and the interactive logic were as
> sophisticated as what we can do today in text-based IF, if
> not moreso -- but in which beautiful graphics and music ALSO
> played an important role.

The following is my experience with combining a modern adventure game
and a parser to get that extra level of freedom:

A while ago I did some experimenting with including the Inform parser in
a point and click environment. I did one interface test which I showed
in comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.adventure It combined the "verb coin"
interface seen in many modern adventure games with a text parser. That
post can be found at
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=sv&selm=9u3mam%2462mdg%241%40ID-26593
.news.dfncis.de (I think the test file is still on my server in case
anyone is interested what it looked like.) The problem with an
interface like that is that people don't like to alterate between mouse
and keyboard.

To solve that problem I went on to make an interface like Legend's Eric
the Unready. That project is currently on hold since I decided to team
up with a writer and do a traditional point and click adventure instead
right now (with four actions: look, use, pick up and talk - like the one
seen in Sam&Max). But when/if I return to make a parser-using graphical
adventure, I'll use that Eric-like interface (or make a 3d-game).

Hm. I'm starting to wonder what relevance (if any) this post has, but
I'll post is anyway. My point is that I don't think combining a
traditional 2d adventure with a parser would work, and doing a text
adventure with graphics and music (like Eric) is probably a better way
to go if you want to do the combining.

But I think a parser could be added to a 3d environment where you use
the keyboard for all interaction. Move with the arrow keys and type all
other interaction. That is a road I would like to walk down some time.

Rikard


nils barth

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Mar 9, 2002, 10:37:15 AM3/9/02
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Thus wrote Kodrik <kod...@zc8.net>:

>>>I tend to think this is more of a marketing thing.<<
>
>I see the main difference between IF and other forms of entertainment is
>not the way you receive your data, but the way you request the data: in
>your own language.
>
>Whether you type or you speak your command, whether the result is text or
>multimedia, this is irrelevant to what I see as being IF.

I think this is priviledging the parser *way* too much.
I see at least two main sides to IF: text/language input and
text/language output (or rather: 'an entertainment/art form in
which one inputs text/language and outputs text/language').

If one has a work in which one inputs text/language and it
outputs multimedia, then the result, while interesting and
worthy, is something rather different than text/language-IF.

Alternatively, if one removes the parser but still has the
sort of fragmented text characteristic of IF, one gets
something like hypertext (for instance).

One can even see this in the term we're using: Interactive
Fiction, where here I'm understanding 'Fiction' as 'text
(Fiction)'. This specifies the two sides of these works:
interactive/game-like, and fiction/textual.

So a multimedia work/game with a text/language parser is at
the least aethetically very different from a text-based (or
text-only) work. If the text is still primary, with
occasional graphics/background sounds etc., then it is as
like IF as an illustrated novel/book is like an
unillustrated one. If the text is secondary (but the parser
is still very important), then it seems more
like...Interactive Media?


My personal bias is to priviledge the text above the
parser/interface - I think of IF as a text-world (or
language-world) that one can explore.

--
nils

email: USER@HOST
where USER is n8c649hnti001 and HOST is sneakemail.com

OKB -- not okblacke

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Mar 9, 2002, 10:53:32 AM3/9/02
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Jim Aikin kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org wrote:
>My experience
>with graphic adventures (which is pretty much limited to Myst and Riven)
>is that, as stunning as they can be graphically, the real interactivity
>is actually of a lower order than what you'll find in even a workaday
>text adventure. In other words, there seems to be a tradeoff: graphics
>kill text, or something like that.

I have found most of the LucasArts graphical adventures (Indiana Jones
and the Fate of Atlantis, Sam & Max) as enjoyable and satisfying as any text IF
I've ever played.

>I'd love to see (or even help develop) an adventuring system in which
>the parser and the interactive logic were as sophisticated as what we
>can do today in text-based IF, if not moreso -- but in which beautiful
>graphics and music ALSO played an important role.

So would I. Curiously, this seems to be passe in the graphical game
industry, probably because of the marketing concerns you mentioned. There WERE
games that combined graphical output with text input; I'm thinking mainly of
those old David P. Gray games (the Hugo & Penelope series). Some of the early
King's Quest games also used this model, although as games I found them
tiresome.

The graphics in these games weren't "beautiful", though, they were
limited by the computer capabilities of the time; I wonder if something like
them might have more success if the quality of the graphics were updated.

And personally, I don't think a text parser is a necessary requirement for
interactive fiction. I consider the LucasArts games IF. (In their interface,
you pick actions from a menu, containing the common verbs like "Get" and
"Open".) Unfortunately, that style of game seems to be on the way out (very
far along the way, actually), and each new game moves closer to the "one click
fits all" model.

>Have I been smoking too much opium, or is this a real possibility? Would
>anybody besides me like to be working in that sort of environment?

I would love to create a quality graphical game. I think part of the
problem is that few people have the total package of skills necessary to create
one on their own (e.g., writing, coding, music, graphics). Collaboration is
the obvious answer, and probably the right one, but the fact remains that the
more people involved, the harder it is to get everything in sync. One person
can write a text IF game all by himself, and is thus completely free to manage
his own time. With, say, a team of 4 people working on a graphical game, it's
easier to get into a "When are you gonna have those graphics ready?" "As soon
as you finish coding the airlock!" situation.

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Gary Shannon

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Mar 9, 2002, 12:14:29 PM3/9/02
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Just my own brain dump on the subject:

When I think of a text+graphics game the first thing that comes to mind is a
flashy CYOA-style comic book or graphic novel; something bold and colorful
from the pages of Heavy Metal magazine. I see outrageous super heroes
battling ridiculous villains, or "Classics Illustrated" interactive
renditions of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea where you have to figure
out for yourself how to get the giant squid off the sub. I see something
graphically interesting enough and simple enough that the average 7-year old
would get a kick out of playing it, but rich enough that a sophisticated
adult gamer could find challenge in it.

I see licensing agreements with D.C. Comics to use their characters and big
money marketing campaigns. I see the fun being taken out of development by
the suits. I see money becoming the bottom line. I see the small successful
developer being bought out by some mega-corporation on the basis of profit
potential alone. I see divisions closed and developers laid off because this
quarter's profit fell 2% below the expected profit. I see recession,
depression, hoards programmers in line at the rescue mission waiting for a
bowl of thin, watery soup. I see game designers standing on the street
corners with cardboard signs: will code for food.

And then the inevitable happens. The programmers who worked on 3D shooter
games will blame their troubles on the IF authors and vice versa. Soon
random sporadic fistfights turn in to full-fledged open warfare. Innocent
civilians run for cover as the conflict intensifies. It's only a matter of
time before one side or the other (does it really matter which side?) lays
their hands on nuclear weapons. Then it's all over. Armageddon! The end of
civilization as we know it.

Best not even start down that slippery slope.

--gary


Papillon

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Mar 9, 2002, 9:25:16 AM3/9/02
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"Rikard Peterson" <trumg...@bigfoot.com> wrote:

>Hm. I'm starting to wonder what relevance (if any) this post has, but
>I'll post is anyway. My point is that I don't think combining a
>traditional 2d adventure with a parser would work,

What about the old Sierra games, before they transitioned into the icon
system? They had parsers...

Papillon

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Mar 9, 2002, 9:22:37 AM3/9/02
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Kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:

>Besides the implementation, we will be asking authors to be programmers,
>writers and now multimedia artists.

... some of us are already doing our damnedest to try.

Sleep? What's sleep? :)

- papillon
going to finish these h-games if it KILLS her

Mark W

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Mar 9, 2002, 12:45:38 PM3/9/02
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I've been wanting to respond to this thread and can never quite put my
thoughts together. I start typing and realize I'm not expressing myself
clearly. With that in mind, here are some jumbled thoughts.

In the mid 80's a number of games like this were created. Mask of the Sun,
Spider Man, and The Golden Fleece (I got the theme right but I know the
name is wrong). A static photo above a small text box. Hit a hotkey and the
graphic disappeared. To me these were a sleightly different genre than the
pure text games. Some sort of sub-genre. Not better or worse, but
different.

A lot of pure-graphics games don't translate well to text, and v.v.

I can get immersed in text games because they talk to a specific part of my
brain that graphics don't. You get lost in a novel in a different way than
you get lost in a movie. Tony Hawk and Metal Gear are different from Zork
and Photopia.

Will adding multimedia really improve the mass market appeal of IF? Is the
appeal of IF such that it's not really suitable for mass market. Perhaps
we're just a different kind of people. I don't think most people are
willing to get lost (read: immersed) the same way we are, or have we
forgotten how. People who were on the internet in the early days had a much
different experience than people who are on it now. It's become a much more
passive experience, and I think you could say that for a lot of games as
well. You're told what to do and experimentation and exploration is kept
down to a minimum.

Will bringing money and marketability into the IF equation produce the
desired results? Will IF become like television and radio - somehow out of
reach to the little guy. (Granted Inform and TADS and such will always be
available to us, but will adding graphics create a graphics hungry market?)
I know that the internet is the great equalizer and you can do these things
without getting a license or expensive equipment, but if there's an influx
of expensive flashy games, will the appetite for inexpensive vanilla text
games die down?

Something I could see as being really useful would be updating the parser
and libraries so they could handle more complex things like sophisticated
NPC interactions. Again, going back to my much beloved AR, that game kept
track of a lot more than most games do now and you actually had
relationships with NPC's - quit a guild and they'd send an assassin after
you. Kill a healer and word would get around that you were a jerk. Perhaps
we could create a world that's rich and varied. One where the goals were
ongoing and day-to-day, like MMORPGs and MUDs. Games that weren't
'winnable' in the traditional sense, but continuous like Maxis games.

And if someone added sophisticated parsers, again, would Activision own
exlcusive rights to them and we'd be left scrambling to catch up?

I realize this is more commercial v. non-commercial than grahics v. non
graphics, but I feel that good graphics games raise the amount of effort
required to make a game enough that it puts it out of the hand of the
little guy.

My $1.50

Mark

Jim Aikin

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Mar 9, 2002, 3:32:35 PM3/9/02
to
Gary Shannon wrote:


> I see licensing agreements with D.C. Comics to use their characters and big
> money marketing campaigns. I see the fun being taken out of development by
> the suits. I see money becoming the bottom line. I see the small successful
> developer being bought out by some mega-corporation on the basis of profit
> potential alone.
>

> Best not even start down that slippery slope.


Ah. I see you're a realist.

I suspect, though, that there's a middle ground. In the music
"industry," to take an example I'm familiar with, one doesn't face a
hardline choice between signing with a major label and being consigned
to utter obscurity in the bowels of mp3.com (which is more or less the
equivalent of r*if, I suppose). There's a vast and varied world of indie
labels and well-known indie bands and solo artists, some of which manage
to struggle on for years and make quite respectable livings in the
process. They may hire a press agent for a tour, but they don't keep one
on staff. Their overhead is low.

I think (hope) there's room for this kind of enterprise in the world of
interactive fiction as well.

--Jim Aikin

Branko Collin

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Mar 9, 2002, 8:53:13 PM3/9/02
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Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org>, you wrote on Sat, 09 Mar
2002 03:30:37 GMT:

>Reading an essay by Stephen Granade on the gulf between big-budget
>graphic adventures and no-budget text adventures. He said this: "What
>I'd really like to see is a blending of the two branches of the family.
>Right now we have a caste system, with an ever-widening gap between the
>'haves' and the 'have-nots.'"
>
>I've been musing about this "blending" for some weeks. I'd be curious to
>read others' thoughts on what shape or form it might take. My experience
>with graphic adventures (which is pretty much limited to Myst and Riven)
>is that, as stunning as they can be graphically, the real interactivity
>is actually of a lower order than what you'll find in even a workaday
>text adventure. In other words, there seems to be a tradeoff: graphics
>kill text, or something like that.

In the old days (ah, the old days!) the first graphical adventures had
a text parser for input.

And IIRC, Starship Titanic (as recent as 1998) had a text parser for
dialogs with NPC's.

>Possibly it's a marketing thing: The big software companies are afraid
>to develop IF that forces users to do anything but point and click,
>because they figure (rightly or wrongly) they'll cut their customer base
>by about 90%.

I think for the user there's a trade-off. The user has to choose
between being able to express himherself and not having to think about
how to express himherself. I feel graphical parsers offer more of the
latter.

If it's a cognitive thing, you're hardly going to woo players away
from pure graphical adventures.

>But you know, if any of the text IF authors in this
>newsgroup could achieve 10% of the sales seen by a run-of-the-mill
>graphic adventure, we'd have a stampede on our hands.

I am not sure what you are trying to suggest by that. That if big
software companies are afraid to cut 90% of their customers, we'll
automatically end up with the remaining 10% of the customers of these
big companies buying adventures with text-based parsers?

--
branko collin
Volk van San Theodoros, ik heb U begrepen.

Paul E. Bell

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Mar 10, 2002, 2:48:13 AM3/10/02
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Well, first off, let me say that, to me, there is a sense in which graphics
takes away from the artform we call Interactive Fiction. Though I enjoy
games like the Tex Murphy series, the Journeyman Project series, the new
adventures from Dreamcatcher (which is splitting that part of their
business off into something new called The Adventure Company), and of
course, Myst/Riven/Schizm, there is a sense in which the adding of
graphics, especially high-quality pre-rendered graphics, stifle the
immagination. And, I do believe that the player's immagination is the most
important part of Interactive Fiction.

I find the same shortcomings in the latest Sci-Fi series' and movies
(within the last two decades). So much goes into special effects and
hyper-realistic backgrounds that the story can sometimes even get lost,
because of the distraction of the WOW factor of the graphics.

This is not to say that graphics are wrong, but, I keep trying to remind
myself that these things are fiction, and that Interactive Fiction is an
artform that uses words rather than graphics, like story telling does.

And, in many ways, story telling is becoming a lost art form as well. It's
too easy to pop in a video or DVD for kids to watch, and too much work to
sit down and read them a real book. And, I believe that kid's
immaginations suffer because of it. Not that the don't have any, but that
they can be broadened and deepened with exposure to stories, both spoken
and written.

That being said, I would like to make mention of one form of combining
graphics with an I-F work, a form that has not seen much use, to my
knowledge: Isometric game engines. I've been looking into such a thing,
for low-budget graphics, but so far things have not been cheap on that
front, once you start actually developing.

I shall continue to persue this avenue and see what I can come up with.

Helios

Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in
news:3C8981F6.8010005@kill_spammers.org:

Gary Shannon

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Mar 10, 2002, 3:37:18 AM3/10/02
to
FWIW:
One advantage of pure text IF is that the author essentially has an infinite
special effects budget. I can blow up a whole galaxy for roughly the same
as it costs me to blow up a small truckload of alien invaders. That's one
place where text IF has it all over graphically oriented adventures, either
animated or static. Even rendering a static image of a whole galaxy blowing
up can be pretty costly.

--gary


Heavy Cat Multimedia Ltd.

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Mar 10, 2002, 5:17:11 AM3/10/02
to
Gary Shannon wrote:

Speaking as a developer with a finite special effects budget ^^ , I would
say I have to agree. There have been many times I have noted, entering my
fourth hour of building one 3D scene for one of dozens of images, that I
could have described the same scene much better in a few paragraphs three
hours ago. ^^


--
"I'm sorry, Captain, but I have an emergency call on
line five from a Mr. Ham."

"Alright, give me Ham on five, hold the Mayo."

David Thornley

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Mar 10, 2002, 11:34:25 AM3/10/02
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In article <u8jj6uj...@corp.supernews.com>, Kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>>>I tend to think this is more of a marketing thing.<<
>
>I see the main difference between IF and other forms of entertainment is
>not the way you receive your data, but the way you request the data: in
>your own language.
>
That's one of the differences.

Another is what feedback you get back. Infocom wasn't kidding when
they said they used the best video generation in existence. There
are things you can do with words that you can't do with visuals.
There are reasons why people still write books of fiction that are
intended to be experienced as a long string of words.

>* The engine should have multimedia support and permit the authors to make
>custom interface that can change during the game, including multimedia
>experience. You are in a forest and you hear the wind blow (foret skin on
>the player and sound of wind howling), you go in the castle as the storm
>breaks (stone wall skin, occasional lightning and sound of thunder and
>rain). It should be easy for the auhor to incorporate these elements into
>his game. Then of course, movies, animations and pictures that can be
>launched on specific commands could be nice.

It takes maybe a minute to write a decent room description, more if you
want to give a certain effect, or it's more significant than usual,
or if you like to polish your room descriptions. You can start with
a visualization and describe what's significant about it.

Now, suppose you had to create a three-dimensional model of it.
You need to either find pre-existing models of the scenery you
have in mind, or do it yourself. Consider something relatively
mundane, such as a living room. Ever noticed how many different
sorts of furniture there really are? That's a *lot* of models
you'd have to have available. Of course, if you wanted something
special, you're on your own.

What we've got, then, is a tremendous increase in the amount of
work required. This is the biggest problem.

You can solve it by throwing people at the job, but that's got
problems of its own. If you happen to get an author and a few
graphics people who share the same artistic vision, that's cool.
If not, somebody is going to have to subordinate their vision and
work to somebody else's specs, and that's not the best way to
recruit people for a whole lot of work without paying them.

>I think you could combine multimedia and IF in interesting ways without
>loosing the attraction of IF.

It could be done, but I see another potential problem.

When playing conventional IF, I read the text. I use the pictures,
if any, as supplemental, and so I look at them in a cursory sort of
way. When playing Myst, there is no text, so I have to examine the
graphics closely. I don't know that a close mix of the two is going
to work: it will require the player to keep shifting points of
view. It may be just me, but I have problems reading fiction in which
the pictures are an integral part of the story, rather than just
illustrations of the story that could be skipped without harm.
I find it jarring.

>These features will be incorporated but equally important librairies will
>have to be developed to support the authors to create easily adventures
>with mutlimedia elements (sound, skins, compatibility with common
>multimedia standards).

It is conceivable that libraries will make this feasible, but not in
the foreseeable future.

>But if it succeeds, it should open some new doors to IF, not only for games
>with on my engine, but for games on all robust engines. I don't think there
>are any important features that any of the good engines can't incorporate
>if a need for them is proven.
>

I honestly don't know what new doors it will open. It's possible to
write conventional fiction with illustrations in a form impossible
not that many years ago (although it's still much easier to read text
off paper than the computer screen). I may just be stuck in the
dark ages, but I haven't seen anything earthshattering done with them.
(If you have, please let me know.)


--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Jim Aikin

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Mar 10, 2002, 2:44:02 PM3/10/02
to
Paul E. Bell wrote:


> That being said, I would like to make mention of one form of combining
> graphics with an I-F work, a form that has not seen much use, to my
> knowledge: Isometric game engines. I've been looking into such a thing,
> for low-budget graphics, but so far things have not been cheap on that
> front, once you start actually developing.


Never heard of an isometric game machine, and searching for those words
on Google doesn't yield up anything very explanatory. Can you describe
what you're talking about? Thanks!

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Mar 10, 2002, 2:46:53 PM3/10/02
to
Gary Shannon wrote:


Very true -- and true of conventional fiction as well. There's another
advantage to written as opposed to graphic presentation: You can hide
things in plain view by the way you describe them.

My favorite example is the novel "The Family Tree" by Sheri S. Tepper.
I'm not going to spoil it by explaining what she does, but it's a
jaw-dropper. She absolutely plays fair with the reader, and yet I, for
one, had not the slightest idea what was going on until the point about
halfway through the book where she pulls the rug out from under. You
could NEVER do this in film, budget or no budget.

--Jim Aikin


wo...@one.net

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Mar 10, 2002, 3:30:45 PM3/10/02
to

Hi Jim,

>Reading an essay by Stephen Granade on the gulf between big-budget
>graphic adventures and no-budget text adventures. He said this: "What
>I'd really like to see is a blending of the two branches of the family.
>Right now we have a caste system, with an ever-widening gap between the
>'haves' and the 'have-nots.'"

In my opinion, it's two different media. Myst/Riven and their kin are
interactive *movies*. :) IF games are interactive *novels*. The gap
will pretty much always be there, at least until 3D graphics move into
the photo-realistic real-time arena.

Granted, we're creeping there slowly. Given another 10 years you may
not need to pay human actors for voices, or have graphic artists to
create the models the software animates.

However, IF, like the novel, is primarily a textual environment. We
still read books in the era of Star Wars Phantom Menace, Terminator,
and all the other movie magic. We probably always will.

Despite two (and more rarely three) author collaborations, novel
writing is still primarily a solitary endeavor, so will IF be.

Unless I'm totally mistaken, of course. :) It's been known to happen.

Respectfully,

Wolf

"The world is my home, it's just that some rooms are draftier than
others". -- Wolf

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 10, 2002, 4:19:08 PM3/10/02
to
(apologies if this appears twice.)

Isometric means there's no vanishing point, no use of perspective.
Isometric graphics were the way games did 3D graphics before computers
were powerful enough for modern-style 3D world modelling.

The detail of the artwork is all in small 2D images, rather than 3D
models. This is generally easier for a hobby-level game artist to
produce. (Yes, that's a generalization.) Also, of course, you don't
need a hefty 3D video card to play.

Diablo and Diablo 2 are recent games which work this way. Example:
http://www.blizzard.com/images/diablo2/ss01.jpg

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Gary Shannon

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Mar 10, 2002, 5:28:54 PM3/10/02
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"Jim Aikin" <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in message
news:3C8BB851.60006@kill_spammers.org...

I don't know. The movie Sixth Sense hid really BIG something in plain site
that blew my socks off first time I saw it!

--gary

> --Jim Aikin
>
>


Jim Aikin

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Mar 11, 2002, 10:43:53 AM3/11/02
to
wo...@one.net wrote:


> In my opinion, it's two different media. Myst/Riven and their kin are
> interactive *movies*. :) IF games are interactive *novels*.

>


> However, IF, like the novel, is primarily a textual environment. We
> still read books in the era of Star Wars Phantom Menace, Terminator,
> and all the other movie magic. We probably always will.

This is a good point. And it's true that movies have bigger budgets and
rake in far more cash than novels. (Stephen's point about the haves and
have-nots related to economics more than to media.) But it's also true
that text-based IF is off in this ghetto where there isn't _any_ money.

As a published but certainly not best-selling novelist, I have a violent
prejudice in favor of getting paid for my creative work. If I'm going to
put a year of evenings and weekends into a complex, serious piece of
fiction, interactive or otherwise, I don't feel it's out of line to
expect that I should be able to earn $5,000 to $10,000 for the effort.

But that ain't gonna happen anywhere around here. So what I'm looking at
(aside from the fact that I just want my work to LOOK nice) is enhancing
a piece of text-based (i.e., interactive novel) software with enough
"classy vibe" that it could find a middle ground in the marketplace. Be
taken seriously by people with credit cards, in other words.

--Jim Aikin

wo...@one.net

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Mar 11, 2002, 7:55:05 PM3/11/02
to

Hi Jim,

>wo...@one.net wrote:
>

>As a published but certainly not best-selling novelist, I have a violent
>prejudice in favor of getting paid for my creative work. If I'm going to
>put a year of evenings and weekends into a complex, serious piece of
>fiction, interactive or otherwise, I don't feel it's out of line to
>expect that I should be able to earn $5,000 to $10,000 for the effort.
>
>But that ain't gonna happen anywhere around here. So what I'm looking at
>(aside from the fact that I just want my work to LOOK nice) is enhancing
>a piece of text-based (i.e., interactive novel) software with enough
>"classy vibe" that it could find a middle ground in the marketplace. Be
>taken seriously by people with credit cards, in other words.

If you're looking for payment, you're playing in the wrong sandbox. :)

Interactive fiction is the programming equivalent of building a ship
in a bottle. And while I agree a ship in a bottle (if done well--no
cheating!) should be worth quite a bit of money there's nobody who
wants one badly enough to pay for it--except the person who's willing
to *build* it.

Of course you might find a *few* buyers, but not enough to make it
worthwhile to try and make money at it. That's why I give PAWS away,
and don't even try to restrict anyone from making money with it.

TADS used to cost money ($89? I forget) but the market simply wasn't
there, and so the author made it free.

Hey, I've been working on Thief's Quest for *24 years* :) (off and
on). There's no way I can make any kind of ROI on it, so I'm not even
going to try. If and when I manage to find the time to finish it, I'm
going to give it away.

Adam Thornton

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Mar 11, 2002, 8:23:38 PM3/11/02
to
In article <h9jq8u0d8dp3qri2f...@4ax.com>, <wo...@one.net> wrote:
>TADS used to cost money ($89? I forget) but the market simply wasn't
>there, and so the author made it free.

TADS was $50. I paid for it. I'm not at all sure that lack of market
was mjr's reason for making it free. But we can ask him: hey, Mike,
why'd you make TADS free?

Adam

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 12, 2002, 4:14:43 AM3/12/02
to
>If you're looking for payment, you're playing in the wrong sandbox. :)
>
>Interactive fiction is the programming equivalent of building a ship
>in a bottle.

Or the writing equivalent of poetry. (In terms of money, that is).


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

atholbrose

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Mar 12, 2002, 4:24:19 AM3/12/02
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ad...@fsf.net (Adam Thornton) wrote in news:a6jlaq$lur$2...@news.fsf.net:

> TADS was $50. I paid for it.

Well, TADS 1.0 was $25, plus $10 if you wanted Deep Space Drifter. I
remember scraping together the money. 2.0 was $40.

Adam Thornton

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Mar 12, 2002, 12:08:09 PM3/12/02
to
In article <Xns91CF2D8DA241...@209.249.90.101>,

Right, plus $10 for DSD. That's what I got.

Adam

Mark Borok

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Mar 12, 2002, 1:24:32 PM3/12/02
to
In article <3C8981F6.8010005@kill_spammers.org>, Jim Aikin
<kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote:

> Reading an essay by Stephen Granade on the gulf between big-budget
> graphic adventures and no-budget text adventures. He said this: "What
> I'd really like to see is a blending of the two branches of the family.
> Right now we have a caste system, with an ever-widening gap between the
> 'haves' and the 'have-nots.'"
>

> I've been musing about this "blending" for some weeks. I'd be curious to
> read others' thoughts on what shape or form it might take. My experience
> with graphic adventures (which is pretty much limited to Myst and Riven)
> is that, as stunning as they can be graphically, the real interactivity
> is actually of a lower order than what you'll find in even a workaday
> text adventure. In other words, there seems to be a tradeoff: graphics
> kill text, or something like that.
>

One of my best experiences with game authoring came from an old Mac
program called "World Builder". For those not in the know, it combined
a text window, a graphics window, a BASIC-like programming language
(only more limited), primitive paint tools for creating b+w graphic
elements, sounds (with a provided sound library) and a simple way of
creating items and enemies (it took an RPG approach, with character
stats and so on) with basic attributes. This was years ago, so if they
had kept developing it it would have been pretty darn powerful by now.
Unfortunately, from what I've seen, most of the people using it were
incapable of creating a really good game, partly due to their own
limitations as graphic artists.

A guy named Ray Dunakin adopted World Builder for a while and continued
to distribute it as freeware, and if you download the program now it
comes with a pretty decent essay he wrote on developing puzzles for IF,
using step-by-step examples from his own games.

What I think you're missing in your vision of the text/graphics
combination is that the user experience can be greatly enhanced by a
combination of the two, not simply by using graphics as
"illustrations", but by making them part of the game play. The example
I like to use is the old "find the item that opens the Secret Passage"
scenario (like in "Young Frankenstein" -- "Put... the candle... back").
Say you have a bookshelf and one of the books will cause a secret panel
to slide back, exposing the passage. In a text adventure, you have to
direct the user's attention to the book case by explicitly referring to
it. Then, at the command "examine book shelf", you would have to
explicitly direct the user's attention to the one book that acts as the
trigger to open the panel. "One of the books is different from the
others". However, with graphics the user can spot the different book
him/herself, which is much more rewarding. Furthermore, with graphics
you can make the titles of the books part of the clue (e.g. all the
book titles have something to do with birds, except one, which is about
raising goldfish). In a text adventure, you wouldn't have a good way to
refer to an arbitrary book from a set of twenty ("examine the first
book from the left on the second shelf from the top", etc. would be way
too tiresome to implement and annoying to use).

A similar case can be made for a puzzle that involves playing a
succession of notes on a piano, or for most mechanical puzzles.

At the same time, purely graphic adventures greatly limit the amount of
character interaction possible, esp. if they use recorded dialogue (you
can't insert variables, like the PC's name, into a bit of recorded
dialogue the way you can with text, etc.) I remember when graphic games
first came out, one of the big selling points was supposed to be "Point
and click interface! No typing required!". This was printed on the
packaging. I remember being puzzled and offended, as if someone had
patted me on the head and said, "There, there, I know typing long words
is hard for an illiterate like yourself, so here are some pretty
pictures you can click on."
> --Jim Aikin

Kodrik

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Mar 12, 2002, 1:53:45 PM3/12/02
to
> I honestly don't know what new doors it will open.  It's possible to
> write conventional fiction with illustrations in a form impossible
> not that many years ago (although it's still much easier to read text
> off paper than the computer screen).  I may just be stuck in the
> dark ages, but I haven't seen anything earthshattering done with them.
> (If you have, please let me know.)

New doors?
* Skins to reflect the environment
Example: COD, when you are in the dark room, the skin of your player is
black, when you are in rooms with the cloak on, the skin is light, but not
too light, when you remove your cloak, the skin is bright. This doesn't
take away from the readers experiences, it adds to it.
* Background sounds to enhance expereince
Example: COD, in the foyer, you can hear the rain fall, if you try to
leave, thunder goes to enhance the text about the storm. In the dark, no
sound except when you move some sound to reflect you are disturbing
somethign.
* Visual clues. You find a letter. Read letter. Instead of displaying just
a text, you see a letter badly handwritten with what you think are drops of
blood and other that might be sweat, plus there is a visual clue in it. The
author hand writes itthe way he wants and then scans it. In many cases, he
can take a picture of an object with a digital camera and cleanit up with
little work.

You can enhance written work with multimedia element and I think it will
open new doors. These are just examples frm the top of my head and there
are many more creative authors than me.


Rikard Peterson

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Mar 12, 2002, 3:47:30 PM3/12/02
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"Kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> skrev i meddelandet
news:u8sjvnm...@corp.supernews.com...

>
> You can enhance written work with multimedia element and I think
> it will open new doors. These are just examples frm the top of
> my head and there are many more creative authors than me.

But pure text is still just as (or maybe more?) exciting as any
multimedia. [Says the man currently making a point and click game.] Part
of what's great with text adventures is the freedom the parser brings,
but let's not forget that another great part is the lack of anything but
text. That fashinates me.

Rikard


Kodrik

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Mar 12, 2002, 4:00:28 PM3/12/02
to
>> You can enhance written work with multimedia element and I think
>> it will open new doors. These are just examples frm the top of
>> my head and there are many more creative authors than me.
>
> But pure text is still just as (or maybe more?) exciting as any
> multimedia. [Says the man currently making a point and click game.] Part
> of what's great with text adventures is the freedom the parser brings,
> but let's not forget that another great part is the lack of anything but
> text. That fashinates me.

I'm not suggesting removing the text element, it is IF.

I'm saying that you can add elements to existing text to enhance it. You
won't argue that the possibilty to add font-styles or font-colors to the
text is detriment in any way; adding dynamic skins to the player, sounds
and visual representation to the writing doesn't have to be either. And to
me it is obvious a good author could use them in innovative ways to enhance
his text stories.

The use of color in Photopia is an example of a door opening by enhancing
the plain text experience. This can be true with pictures, sound or other
multimedia.

Rikard Peterson

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Mar 12, 2002, 8:10:26 PM3/12/02
to
"Kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> skrev i meddelandet
news:u8srdfi...@corp.supernews.com...

> > But pure text is still just as (or maybe more?) exciting as any
> > multimedia. [Says the man currently making a point and click game.]
> > Part of what's great with text adventures is the freedom the parser
> > brings, but let's not forget that another great part is the lack of
> > anything but text. That fashinates me.
>
> I'm not suggesting removing the text element, it is IF.
>
> I'm saying that you can add elements to existing text to enhance it.
> You won't argue that the possibilty to add font-styles or font-colors
> to the text is detriment in any way;

I am actually arguing that it can be detriment.

> adding dynamic skins to the player, sounds and visual representation
> to the writing doesn't have to be either.

It doesn't have to be. But it might.

> And to me it is obvious a good author could use them in innovative
> ways to enhance his text stories.

Maybe. Maybe not.

> The use of color in Photopia is an example of a door opening by
> enhancing the plain text experience. This can be true with
> pictures, sound or other multimedia.

Yes, it is true, but there is also a danger in adding these
"enhancements". Their potential for ruining the experience is greater
than their potential for enhancing it. If it is done it must be done
really well.

After all, words are very powerful on their own.

Rikard


Gary Shannon

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Mar 12, 2002, 8:33:00 PM3/12/02
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"Magnus Olsson" <m...@df.lth.se> wrote in message
news:a6kgu3$k68$1...@news.lth.se...

> In article <h9jq8u0d8dp3qri2f...@4ax.com>, <wo...@one.net>
wrote:
> >If you're looking for payment, you're playing in the wrong sandbox. :)
> >
> >Interactive fiction is the programming equivalent of building a ship
> >in a bottle.
>
> Or the writing equivalent of poetry. (In terms of money, that is).
>

Now you've hit on the combination for fame and riches! An Epic Poem IF
adventure!

--gary

Kodrik

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Mar 12, 2002, 9:26:22 PM3/12/02
to
Rikard Peterson wrote:

> "Kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> skrev i meddelandet
> news:u8srdfi...@corp.supernews.com...
>> > But pure text is still just as (or maybe more?) exciting as any
>> > multimedia. [Says the man currently making a point and click game.]
>> > Part of what's great with text adventures is the freedom the parser
>> > brings, but let's not forget that another great part is the lack of
>> > anything but text. That fashinates me.
>>
>> I'm not suggesting removing the text element, it is IF.
>>
>> I'm saying that you can add elements to existing text to enhance it.
>> You won't argue that the possibilty to add font-styles or font-colors
>> to the text is detriment in any way;
>
> I am actually arguing that it can be detriment.

Of course it can, the tools you offer the author are as good as what he
does with them. It's how the user uses them.
Maybe your point is that offering those tools to authors will entice them
to overuse them and make bad stories out of good one.
I think it's moer the job of the testers and this community to criticize
the implementation than of the engine to block multimedia features.

>> adding dynamic skins to the player, sounds and visual representation
>> to the writing doesn't have to be either.
>
> It doesn't have to be. But it might.

It might. An author might write a good story or bad one. An author might
enhance his story with multimedia or make it worse. We're saying the same
thing.

>> And to me it is obvious a good author could use them in innovative
>> ways to enhance his text stories.
>
> Maybe. Maybe not.

That is the same as saying "a good author could do it", it doesn't he will,
but it's a possibility. I's up to the author to do a good job with his
story.


> Yes, it is true, but there is also a danger in adding these
> "enhancements". Their potential for ruining the experience is greater
> than their potential for enhancing it. If it is done it must be done
> really well.

Yes, I agree, it's a dangerous power to give. But again I think it's the
responsability of the community to criticize and write essays on how to
smartly implement these feature than to block them form the engine.
In the hand of good authors, we agree they can enhance the user experience.

Benjamin Haines

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Mar 13, 2002, 12:14:49 AM3/13/02
to
Gary Shannon recently scribbled:

> Now you've hit on the combination for fame and riches! An Epic Poem IF
> adventure!
>
> --gary

Ahem.

>x man
It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.

>talk to mariner
"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?"

>go north
The Mariner holds you with his skinny hand.
"There was a ship," quoth he.

>z
The Wedding-Guest stood still.

>listen
You cannot choose but hear; and thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner...


-ben

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