Save-Jump-Restore [was: Randomness]

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S.P.Harvey

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Sep 19, 1994, 1:59:41 PM9/19/94
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In all honesty, it seems a bit difficult to code a puzzle that cannot be
solved by the save-jump-restore method. It's not that it's difficult,
but it takes a lot more braintwisting than knowing which setting to turn
the dial to.

I also firmly agree that the gratutious death of the player is poor
design. However, as a beginning designer myself, it's a very easy pit to
fall into (pun intended). It's even more maddening to be constantly
barred entrance to a location with random pithy messages than to *** die ***.

Here's a variant for debate: how often is often enough for a random
Daemon message giving atmospheric descriptions that don't relate to
anything but setting? For example: "High overhead, a tortoise flaps
across the sun" (from G. Nelson's Balances).

Scott


--
----------------------| S.P. Harvey |--------------------------
"Most of the world was mad. And the part that wasn't mad was angry.
And the part that wasn't mad or angry was just stupid.
I had no chance. I had no choice." - Charles Bukowski, 'Pulp'
----------------------| sha...@interaccess.com |--------------------------

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Sep 19, 1994, 11:35:16 PM9/19/94
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Excerpts from netnews.rec.arts.int-fiction: 19-Sep-94 Save-Jump-Restore
[was: Ran.. S.P.Harvey@interaccess (1151)

> Here's a variant for debate: how often is often enough for a random
> Daemon message giving atmospheric descriptions that don't relate to
> anything but setting? For example: "High overhead, a tortoise flaps
> across the sun" (from G. Nelson's Balances).

If I play the game continuously for an hour, I should see any particular
message no more than once, on average.

Maybe that's an exaggeration, but not much. I get really tired of a
constant dance of three or four messages repeating themselves as I try
to play a game.

Actually, it depends on what kind of atmosphere you're talking about. If
it's supposed to be surprising or unusual (like the flying tortoise, or
a owl hooting in a scary forest, or something) it should be very rare,
as I said. Once or twice an hour. If it's something that is
*continually* on the edge of the player's mind, do it every five or six
turns. Booming surf is a good example, or getting your foot stomped on
in a heavy crowd. But vary the message, unless the event is really
repetitive (like the booming surf).

I haven't looked at Balances yet (soon!) but looking at that message, I
like the idea of 90% of them saying "A tortoise flaps by overhead" and
10% saying "High overhead, a tortoise flaps across the sun".

My favorite good example is from Zork 2 (MINOR ZORK 2 SPOILER!)

in the topiary garden. The sculptures move once every hundred turns. And
that's in a location that the player has no reason to stop and stand
around in. I played for *months* before I saw them moving. I was
stunned. That may not be the kind of atmospheric you're talking about,
but it was damnably effective at setting the mood.

--Z

Greg Ewing

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Sep 19, 1994, 9:29:26 PM9/19/94
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In article <35kjid$r...@nntp.interaccess.com>, sharvey@interaccess ( S.P.Harvey) writes:
|> how often is often enough for a random
|> Daemon message giving atmospheric descriptions that don't relate to
|> anything but setting?

I think that depends on two things. One is how "busy" is the
environment you're trying to convey the atmosphere of?
A busy shopping mall is going to have lots of things
going on everywhere all the time, so a message every
turn or two could be justified. A tranquil setting,
such as a peaceful forest, should have much less
frequent messages. Maybe once every 10 or 20 turns
for a really quiet setting.

The other is how many different messages you're prepared
to think up. If you're going to use them at a high rate,
you'd better have lots of them, or it's going to get
very boring. Ideally the player shouldn't see the same
message again until he's almost forgotten seeing it
the first time. I don't really know how long that's
likely to take. Maybe 100 turns? Just a wild guess.

|> Scott
|>
|> ----------------------| sha...@interaccess.com |--------------------------

Greg Ewing, Computer Science Dept, +--------------------------------------+
University of Canterbury, | A citizen of NewZealandCorp, a |
Christchurch, New Zealand | wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan Inc.|
gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz +--------------------------------------+

Jamieson Norrish

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Sep 21, 1994, 9:07:41 AM9/21/94
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In article <siTZVo200...@andrew.cmu.edu> "Andrew C. Plotkin"
<ap...@andrew.cmu.edu> writes:

My favorite good example is from Zork 2 (MINOR ZORK 2 SPOILER!)

in the topiary garden. The sculptures move once every hundred
turns. And that's in a location that the player has no reason to
stop and stand around in. I played for *months* before I saw them
moving. I was stunned. That may not be the kind of atmospheric
you're talking about, but it was damnably effective at setting the
mood.

Well, maybe you know this already, but they don't just move. Or
rather, they do in a way which can have a bad effect on the health of
your character.

Jamie

Gareth Rees

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Sep 21, 1994, 4:39:46 AM9/21/94
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S.P.Harvey (sharvey@interaccess) writes:
> How often is often enough for a random Daemon message giving

> atmospheric descriptions that don't relate to anything but setting?
> For example: "High overhead, a tortoise flaps across the sun" (from
> G. Nelson's "Balances").

A message like this is a red herring, and falls under the usual rules
for red herrings (i.e. not too many in the same game). If the player
can't examine the tortiose, shoot it, shout at it, and so on, then it's
just another bit of annoying wallpaper and eventually they will lose
interest in it.

--
Gareth Rees

Molley the Mage

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Sep 22, 1994, 12:34:39 PM9/22/94
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In article <mumble>,

> are the comments of : gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk (Gareth Rees)

>> " " " " : S.P.Harvey (sharvey@interaccess)

I don't entirely agree that messages of this sort are "red herrings".
I guess the primary phrase in your response that I object to is the
"annoying wallpaper" bit -- "wallpaper" in and of itself adds to the
game, not detracts from it.

I myself was rather amused by that particular message in "Balances",
although I would have made it appear only once or twice instead of
recurring. A "red herring" is something that seems to be significant
but really isn't, like the hole in the wall in Stationfall whose
dimensions are given with excruciating detail, but which does nothing.

Messages of the "tortoise" sort are more along the line of atmosphere
in my opinion. Take another game by Graham, "Curses." At one point,
the player is transported to 1920's Paris. Each location outdoors
has some sort of atmospheric message to it, and these messages are
random. They have absolutely no bearing on the game whatsoever, but
they help to reinforce the "feel" that you are really in Paris in
1920. I am a big fan of atmosphere, so I like these messages, and
it's fairly obvious that they are in no way significant to "solving"
the game. They are, however, very helpful in "experiencing" the game.
This is part of the "fiction" in "interactive fiction".

Really, I can think of four types of random or quasi-random messages
which games might provide. Let me list them and discuss each briefly
(oh no, this is turning into a Whizzard post! :)

1. "actor action" messages. These are the little messages that you
get when you're in the same room as a character, machine, etc. which
is constantly doing something. For example, the cleaning robot in
Deep Space Drifter, or Floyd in Planetfall. These "actions" do not
affect the game. However, they serve to make the NPC's more
believable and fun to play with. Ask anyone about Floyd, and they
will probably mention either the paddleball set or
Hucka-Bucka-Beanstalk. Sometimes these messages can be useful for
giving clues to the player; other times they are just for effect.
The type of message given is related to the type of NPC (for example,
a librarian's messages probably involve shelving books, etc.)

2. "atmospheric" messages. These are tidbits of activity that help to
reinforce the perception that the player is not alone in the game
world; that there are, in fact, other people and creatures moving
about and doing things totally unrelated to the goals and aims that
the main character is pursuing. For example, in my (supposedly
forthcoming) game, "Challenge of the Czar", at one point the player is
in a fairly large village. There are all sorts of people bustling
about, doing things, and events happening which don't affect the
player at all. After all, it's pretty unreasonable to assume that
you're the only person wandering around the city in the middle of the
day, unless there is a plague, war, other other extenuating
circumstances. All of this "extraneous activity" is conveyed to the
player through messages tacked on after the room descriptions.
Again, the type of atmospheric messages you give must relate to the
actual setting you are describing.

3. Combat messages. Not all games have these, but the fighting in
Zork I is a classic example. Unless the results of a combat are
strictly pre-determined, i.e. I attack you, you die, random combat
messages can help to increase the excitement and "feel" of a battle.
On the other hand, there is also something to be said for strict
combat determination, because random player death can be annoying to
some.

4. Truly random messages. Messages that appear any time, any place,
no matter what the player happens to be doing. I can't think of any
good reason to use these, myself. I guess if there is some event in
the plot that involves totally earth-shattering events, like
earthquakes, the occasional rumbling of the ground might be
appropriate. On the other hand, it might also be better to tightly
schedule things like that, so that each message is successively more
"severe" as the catastrophic event builds to a climax.

Anyway, I think that "atmosphere" and other such messages are a big
part of IF. They lend depth and credence to the NPC's and the setting
alike. The tortoise in "Balances" is a good example of a random
message that adds just a little bit to the game by reminding the
player of the fact that his actions have altered the state of the
world. If some players might find that annoying or confusing, it
wouldn't be any great stretch to put in a little message for when the
tortoise is overhead and the player tries to examine him. I always
try to provide descriptions for any nouns that I've used so that the
player gets a sense of "completeness" of the world.

But "annoying wallpaper"? I think not. ;)

All IMO, of course. Comments always welcomed.

Sean
--
M. Sean Molley, CS Department, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY
Internet: mol...@wkuvx1.wku.edu | That is not dead which can eternal lie....
--
"All my tales are based upon the fundamental premise that common human laws and
interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the cosmos-at-large."
-- H.P. Lovecraft

Mathematical Institute, (0865) 2-73525

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Sep 22, 1994, 8:47:38 AM9/22/94
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In article <35kjid$r...@nntp.interaccess.com>, sharvey@interaccess ( S.P.Harvey) writes:
> In all honesty, it seems a bit difficult to code a puzzle that cannot be
> solved by the save-jump-restore method. It's not that it's difficult,
> but it takes a lot more braintwisting than knowing which setting to turn
> the dial to.

Well, I suppose this might depend on whether the random number generator's
seed is saved along with the game, which is a nasty business to get into.



> I also firmly agree that the gratutious death of the player is poor
> design. However, as a beginning designer myself, it's a very easy pit to
> fall into (pun intended). It's even more maddening to be constantly
> barred entrance to a location with random pithy messages than to *** die ***.
>
> Here's a variant for debate: how often is often enough for a random
> Daemon message giving atmospheric descriptions that don't relate to

> anything but setting? For example.... (from G. Nelson's Balances).

I omit the actual example message, since I hope it's most amusing when
it comes as a surprise, but actually it does indicate something, and
is only partly present for atmosphere. I think that's the dividing line;
messages like "The ogre breathes heavily with annoyance." when the
player is dithering are quite fair enough. Otherwise, perhaps such
messages should only be reminders (such as, "You know, it's an awfully
tempting mountain up there. Wonder how hard it would be to climb?" which
could occur every now and then until the player takes the point).

Usually I like to vary the wording of repeated messages, to avoid
the effect being too mechanistic. Since "Balances" is going to have
its source code published, I've tried to keep it relatively uncluttered,
though, which is why the message cited above appears quite often.

Graham Nelson

Mathematical Institute, (0865) 2-73525

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Sep 22, 1994, 8:51:23 AM9/22/94
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In article <35orgi$p...@lyra.csx.cam.ac.uk>, gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk (Gareth Rees) writes:
> S.P.Harvey (sharvey@interaccess) writes:
>> How often is often enough for a random Daemon message giving
>> atmospheric descriptions that don't relate to anything but setting?
>> For example: "..." (from G. Nelson's "Balances").

>
> A message like this is a red herring, and falls under the usual rules
> for red herrings (i.e. not too many in the same game). If the player
> can't examine the tortiose, shoot it, shout at it, and so on, then it's
> just another bit of annoying wallpaper and eventually they will lose
> interest in it.
>

If, purely hypothetically, the author put the message in
for a reason, and the tortoise does have a further role to play, it
is not a red herring at all!

Graham Nelson

David Baggett

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Sep 22, 1994, 7:22:46 PM9/22/94
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In article <1994Sep22.145123.26123@oxvaxd>,

Mathematical Institute, (0865) 2-73525 <nel...@vax.oxford.ac.uk> wrote:

>If, purely hypothetically, the author put the message in for a reason, and
>the tortoise does have a further role to play, it is not a red herring at
>all!

["Hint, hint," eh Graham?]

Agreed, and I'll add this:

I put in lots of text that has nothing to do with the puzzles. However, I
never put in text for no reason; in that sense nothing is a red herring.
Prose that serves only to develop the setting, theme, etc. is every bit as
valid and important (IMHO) as prose that helps the player solve the
puzzles. In fact, I'd argue that in less puzzle-centric IF, the challenge
is to give the player the necessary information with finesse, so that the
work doesn't end up looking like a weird novel with puzzles tacked on.

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu MIT AI Lab He who has the highest Kibo # when he dies wins.
ADVENTIONS: We make Kuul text adventures! Email for a catalog of releases.

David Baggett

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Sep 22, 1994, 7:26:21 PM9/22/94
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>In article <35kjid$r...@nntp.interaccess.com>, sharvey@interaccess (
S.P.Harvey) writes:

>I also firmly agree that the gratutious death of the player is poor
>design.

Do you think this is still true of games that provide full UNDO?

S.P.Harvey

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Sep 22, 1994, 10:07:00 PM9/22/94
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David Baggett (d...@case.ai.mit.edu) wrote:

: >I also firmly agree that the gratutious death of the player is poor
: >design.

: Do you think this is still true of games that provide full UNDO?


Yes.

The programmed UNDO is a feature of the gaming system, not of the game
itself. The game still killed you. The progam allows you to be
forgiven, something the designer did not. If I were planning to write a
game with full UNDO-ability, I'd go ahead and make plenty of lethal
puzzles, knowing someone can just undo.

With full UNDO, the complaint simply changes euphemistically.

from save-jump-restore
to jump-undo

Same problem, different answer.

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Sep 23, 1994, 2:27:36 PM9/23/94
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David Baggett (d...@case.ai.mit.edu) wrote:

: >I also firmly agree that the gratutious death of the player is poor
: >design.
:
: Do you think this is still true of games that provide full UNDO?

Yes. You're less screwed if you happened to forget to save; but the
*game* is still badly designed.

I think I mostly dislike gratuitous death because it weakens the impact
of any *interesting* death that may occur later in the game. It's hard
to get involved in a scenario when your character is being splatted
between heavy rocks every few minutes.

--Z

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

Darin Johnson

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Sep 23, 1994, 4:01:40 PM9/23/94
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In article <35t3k6...@life.ai.mit.edu> d...@case.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett) writes:

> I put in lots of text that has nothing to do with the puzzles. However, I
> never put in text for no reason; in that sense nothing is a red herring.

One thing I've discovered is that anything at all in a game can
be taken as a red herring. For instance, on my mud, I only
put in a few explicit red herrings in my quest. Yet even before
they were in, I got the reputation of having tons of red herrings
because the atmosphere stuff was assumed to have some major
significance. In a music room, I put in a harp - because I felt
a musical instrument was necessary - yet players lugged this thing
about (solid gold) and played it in every room to see if something
would happen! Things like that.

Of course, most of my my explicit red herrings are really jokes.
For instance, I have a live (red) fish inside a bottle that's
just something for fun. But there was the player that confessed
he spent months trying to figure out what "clupeid rubeus" meant...

The moral is: it'll be assumed to be important no matter what it is.
--
Darin Johnson
djoh...@ucsd.edu
"Floyd here now!"

S.P.Harvey

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Sep 23, 1994, 10:37:46 PM9/23/94
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Darin Johnson (djoh...@seuss.ucsd.edu) wrote:
: significance. In a music room, I put in a harp - because I felt

: a musical instrument was necessary - yet players lugged this thing
: about (solid gold) and played it in every room to see if something
: would happen! Things like that.

I suppose the difference here (I don't know a lot about MUD's so...) is
that the best solution would be to make the harp playable but not
moveable. Generally, it seems that any item which can be carried is
assumed to have a purpose. If they played the harp and nothing happened,
well, the player should assume that nothing is going on with the harp.

If, however, you let them play it, then carry it around, it's a red
herring. Since, in all actuality, a solid gold harp is not exactly a
portable object. If you've made it possible for them to lug it around,
sure, they're going to try and use it. They're laboring (!) under the
assumption that there is a use for it, they just haven't found it yet.

I prefer to hide the true nature of items by allowing them to do
something patently obvious when first found which is camoflagued to look
innocuous. The second (or third, etc.) use of the item is the true
puzzle-solver. This way I'm able to help disguise the true purpose of
including said object into the world.

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