Survey about why some people don't like graphical IF...

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Mike Rozak

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Dec 15, 2003, 9:24:02 PM12/15/03
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I am currently writing a 3d modeller (http://www.mxac.com.au/m3d). I have
been thinking about building an IF authoring system on top of it. About a
month ago I posted a few questions about graphical IFs and conversation
models, receiving many good answers. One response pointed me to "Twisty
little passages", which just arrived in the mail. (It takes 2-3 weeks to get
a book to Darwin, Australia from Amazon.com). TLP provides a good discussion
of IF work over the past few decades. It didn't list too many graphical IF
works though, which got me thinking about another issue...

Many IF authors/readers do not like graphical IF. (Conversely, many do like
graphical IF). My scan through previous years' usenet posts, and trying to
read between the lines, has come up with the following real or perceived
problems with graphical IF:


(Issues that also arise when books are converted to movies.)
- The plot/story suffers because so much work goes into the graphics.

- Graphics often cannot compete with imagination, especially for surreal
situations like IF objects that cannot exist in reality ("get the sound
wave"). Furthermore, some concepts just cannot be visualized and require a
narrator to express.

- The graphics distract from the mental image created by the text. And/or
the poor-quality graphics distract from the text... if you can't do it right
then don't do it at all.

- Association with large(r) companies: Graphical IF is expensive to produce,
so it's in the realm of large companies. This has political ramifications
(anti-estabilishment and anti-Goliath) and quality implications (large
company = mass market = McIF).

- Graphics are a lot of work and don't really add anything to the
experience. Or, it's not worth the work.

- Graphical IFs don't work well for blind or vision-impaired users.


(Issues more specific to IF.)
- In general, graphical IF developers (such as for Myst) have decided to
toss out language. They do so because a narrator doesn't seem to fit, and
recording narration in umpteen languaes is expensive. Ultimately, the lack
of narration reduces the depth of what can be expressed in the IF. (If you
don't think Myst if IF then call it an adventure game.)

- Similarly, graphical IFs tend to rely on mouse-clicks, reducing the
complexity of interaction. Even those graphical IF books/games that use
commands have a very limited parser.

- A graphical IF is going to be limited to a few platforms (due to graphical
API incompatability), will take a long time to download, and requires a fast
CPU with lots of memory (no palm pilot support).

Is there anything else I should add to the list? Before I undertake such a
huge task, I'd like to know what elements could cause (or has caused)
amateur graphical IF to fail. Many of the issues cannot be overcome (such as
handheld support and vision-impaired users), but some can be worked around
or mitigated. (I like learning from other people's mistakes so I can avoid
them, enabling me to make my own new and more-innovative mistakes.)


--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Rexx Magnus

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Dec 16, 2003, 5:29:57 AM12/16/03
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On Tue, 16 Dec 2003 02:24:02 GMT, Mike Rozak scrawled:

> Is there anything else I should add to the list? Before I undertake such a
> huge task, I'd like to know what elements could cause (or has caused)
> amateur graphical IF to fail.

*snip*

Probably the worst point of all, in that it is tremendously difficult to
cater graphically for the plethora of actions that the player could take -
this is why most games that have graphics do so only to supplement location
descriptions, rather than depict the action.

--
UO & AC Herbal - http://www.rexx.co.uk/herbal

To email me, visit the site.

JAN THORSBY

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Dec 16, 2003, 6:42:34 AM12/16/03
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Mike Rozak <Mike...@bigpond.com> skrev i
meldingsnyheter:61uDb.54299$aT.2...@news-server.bigpond.net.au...

> - Similarly, graphical IFs tend to rely on mouse-clicks, reducing the
> complexity of interaction. Even those graphical IF books/games that use
> commands have a very limited parser.

This is the biggest problem for me. I liked the first Police Quest game, it
has a fairly good parser. But later games (Not all of them I think) use just
point and click, and are not much fun.

Another problem with graphical games is that it can be hard to tell what
objects one can interact with. In Goblins 3 you are supposed to interact
with a small rock on the ground. It looks just like an ordinary rock. I
think many people thought it was just scenery. You get the same problem in
IF, but to a much smaller degree, because every object is in the room
description. (or in other descriptions). There can also sometimes be a
problem to realise that two objects is not just one object. Like if the head
of a monster is another object than the body of the monster.

I guess a solution to this would be if there was a button on the interface
that showed you what things where objects. Like when you pushed it small
signs would appear on each object with the name of the object, then
dissapear again when youn cliked again. But quite possible many people would
think this took away the exploring aspect or something, and would not like
it.


Rexx Magnus

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Dec 16, 2003, 6:46:27 AM12/16/03
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On Tue, 16 Dec 2003 11:42:34 GMT, JAN THORSBY scrawled:

> I guess a solution to this would be if there was a button on the
> interface that showed you what things where objects. Like when you
> pushed it small signs would appear on each object with the name of the
> object, then dissapear again when youn cliked again. But quite possible
> many people would think this took away the exploring aspect or
> something, and would not like it.

NWN has this, and it's quite a useful feature, though you're right - it does
detract from the exploration aspect if you overuse it.

Paul Drallos

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Dec 16, 2003, 12:43:15 PM12/16/03
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If the work of IF under consideration is something like an illustrated text
adventure, I think the graphics are very distracting, and reduce the impact of the
text.

I also think that text IF requires much more attention and concentration to play,
while graphical games can be played more casually. So when I'm playing a text IF
game, I find *anything* else distracting. I even find the auto-mapping and
description box distracting in Zork Zero. I think the game would have been much
better if it had used the standard z5 format.

On the other hand, many times I am more in the mood for a graphic game because they
don't require as much concentration and I often don't want to have to work so hard
as I do in a text game. In that case, the text is a distraction.

Text and graphics are both wonderful, but the sum is less than the parts.

Kevin Forchione

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Dec 16, 2003, 2:30:03 PM12/16/03
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"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message
news:61uDb.54299$aT.2...@news-server.bigpond.net.au...

Fundamentally, you're dealing with different psychological effects on the
audience. If you think about the ways that movies and books satisfy you,
you'll come closer to an answer that will explain the phenomenon. Also, with
text adventures there is an intermediate step, a translation that the brain
must make. This intermediate step engages the brain differently from, say,
what happens when you watch an action played out in a movie or play. It may
be that these two modes are not very compatible.

Although I have no data to support my hypothesis, I suspect that the
difficulty is similar to that of reading a book while trying to watch
television. Students do claim to do it, but there is a loss of concentration
on both sides. The brain-wave shift between the translation process and the
non-translation process is probably non-trivial. Hence the observation made
by many players that they found one element or the other _distracting_.

The graphical IF hybrid can probably be made to work in the same way that
experimental theatre works - on the fringe, and with a limited audience.

--Kevin


Mike Rozak

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Dec 16, 2003, 5:48:15 PM12/16/03
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> Another problem with graphical games is that it can be hard to tell what
> objects one can interact with.

I've experienced this too. I also experienced the reverse, where the change
in cursor as you move it over the scene makes it way too obvious what should
be done. But, I had similar problems with text IF where it isn't obvious if
an element of the description is actually an object or not, since some
objects can be hidden from the object list. One possible solution is to
provide a list of objects, and/or leave it up to the author whether the
objects are listed in his/her work.

Elder Scrolls:Morrowind, while a RPG, had an interesting solution to this.
Everything in the room/scene was an object. If you walked into a kitchen,
there were random bowls, jars, and other bits lying around. You could pick
any of them up, and wander around the world with as many useless trinkets as
you wished. They didn't have rocks lying around (like the game you cited),
but the principle could be extended. Unfortunately, such a solution spawns
other problems.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

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Dec 16, 2003, 5:53:16 PM12/16/03
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> Text and graphics are both wonderful, but the sum is less than the parts.

I agree that reading text and trying to look at images is pointless. Would
you say the same about "NARRATION and graphics"? I don't have an IF
precedent to go on, but TV documentaries and slide-shows are a combination
of narration and graphics, and they to work well for me.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

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Dec 16, 2003, 6:37:49 PM12/16/03
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From a different post:

> Probably the worst point of all, in that it is tremendously difficult to
> cater graphically for the plethora of actions that the player could take -
> this is why most games that have graphics do so only to supplement
location
> descriptions, rather than depict the action.

Completely agree. Animation is a real pain, and some events that can be
described in a few words take an awful lot of animation.


> Fundamentally, you're dealing with different psychological effects on the
> audience. If you think about the ways that movies and books satisfy you,
> you'll come closer to an answer that will explain the phenomenon.

There definitely are different psychological effects happening. I'm not sure
how to deal with this, or if I pull out the old artistic phrase, "Every
medium has its place." Some scenes are best portrayed in oil paintings while
other scenes work better as water colors.


> Although I have no data to support my hypothesis, I suspect that the
> difficulty is similar to that of reading a book while trying to watch
> television. Students do claim to do it, but there is a loss of
concentration
> on both sides. The brain-wave shift between the translation process and
the
> non-translation process is probably non-trivial. Hence the observation
made
> by many players that they found one element or the other _distracting_.

I agree about the shifting between reading and seeing. However, if the text
is narrated is it still a problem? If there is a clash between narration and
interactive visuals then the prospect of a graphical IF is hurt
sigificantly.


Maybe I should more clearly define what I'm thinking about since that will
allow people to more accurate assess it:


Possible IF UI #1:
- Start with a text IF, but have the computer speak the text, either with
pre-recorded audio or text-to-speech. (The text could also be displayed, but
I suspect that won't be necessary unless the player is deaf or playing in
quiet mode.). Also throw in sound effects.

- While the narration is going on, bring up "slides" (taking up all/most of
the screen) that illustrate key points in the narration. The slides are JPEG
images, or automatically generated by the 3D engine. (Animations are
possible, but they're a lot of work for an author to create, unless they're
simple camera or object movements.) Example: "You say hello to the dragon
but it glares back at you silently." could be accompanied by a still-image
slide of the dragon glaring at the user.

- If the user examines an object, he/she could be presented with a narration
"It's a long wooden stick with some fancy carving at the end", along with a
3d model of the object that could be rotated and zoomed in on.

- If the user talks with a NPC then show an animated talking head. I have
seen OK-looking automatically animated heads (lip sync based on what
speaking, automatic blinks, automatic eye movement, automatic head movment).
An author would be able to add extra cues, such as emotions or specific
movements to improve the quality.

- When just looking around a room provide a 360 degree pan capability like
Zork Nemesis or Myst III. Perhaps provide small thumbnail images of objects
in the room or the user's inventory.

- Clicking on hot-spots in the room image could act like a traditional
graphcs aventure. (You could do the same for examining objects or the
talking head, but poking a NPCs eyes would only annoy him/her.)

- Provide an edit field for typing commands, and/or provide speech
recognition so a user could speak the commands. (The edit field vs. clicking
provides its own UI dilemma since it's a mental shift to switch between
clicking and typing/speaking. I think this is part of the reason why
graphical IF systems don't provide a command edit field anymore.)

- Alternatively, provide a menu of choices.

- At any stage an author could decide NOT to show images and just end up
with text IF that's read by the computer.

Possible UI #2: (Although not exclusive to UI #1)
- Begin with a 3d model of the environment and let the user wander around
the environment, like in any MMORPG or first-person shooter.

- Provide narration only when the user sees a new object or enters a new
location. (Or if requested). MMORPG and other first person games do NOT
provide narration, but I think it's important, especially when the PC has
visited a location before but the player has not. For example: The player
walks into a bedroom an hears the PC/narrator say, "This is my brother's
bedroom. He's a real idiot. Etc." Similar information is common for text IF
to give out in a room description.

- Unfortunately, this approach requires more animation, signfnicantly
increasing the amount of work for the author to do. Still scenes require no
extra work. Walking (and other common tasks) would be easy, but if the
author wants a juggling NPC he/she would have to animate it. (Which would
mean that authors wouldn't include juggling NPCs, or other
complex-to-animate objects.)

- Clicking acts like a traditional graphical adventure. Edit field for
commands, as above. Or a menu, as above.

Possible UI #3:
- I haven't come up with one, but I'm sure others are out there. A 3rd
person view (like Syberia) could work, but I personally find them less
engrossing than 1st person graphical IF. I suspect most people prefer 3rd
person graphical IF since they seem more common than the 1st person view.


Just to complicate matters: UI #1 works really well for tablet PCs and
notebooks, allowing you to lie in bed and experience the IF. UI#2 works
really well for 3D virtual-reality glasses and data gloves.


--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


M.D. Dollahite

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Dec 17, 2003, 3:45:36 AM12/17/03
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>I agree that reading text and trying to
>look at images is pointless. Would
>you say the same about "NARRATION
>and graphics"? I don't have an IF
>precedent to go on, but TV >documentaries and slide-shows are a >combination
of narration and graphics,
>and they to work well for me.

First of all, Mike, I'd like to point out that the majority of the larger
population does not feel as the majority (or at least the loudest minority, I
haven't been here long enough to know which) of the people in this group do.
If most people thought graphics distracted from text and vice-versa, then we'd
hardly have as many picture books, illustrated novels, magazines, and web pages
as we do, eh? Not to mention that two very famous and popular (in their time)
IF games, Shadowgate and Deja Vu, both combined text descriptions with
first-person graphics and a point-n-click interface.

Correctly mixing text and graphics can have a powerful effect -- people in fact
major in the subject in college -- incorrectly mixing them can indeed be
amateurish and distracting. But I firmly believe that the author of a
game-making engine should assume that the users of that engine will know what
they're doing; after all, no tool can instantly turn a novice into a master, so
don't limit the master by trying to make his tools novice-proof.

On the subject of narration, check out Zork: Grand Inquisitor. It has a
narrator (who also happens to be a visible character, but that doesn't really
matter). It also renders death scenes as transcripts of what a text version of
the game might display (including the fatal command typed by the player), which
might interest to you.

>- Clicking on hot-spots in the room image could act like a traditional
>graphcs aventure. (You could do the same for examining objects or the
>talking head, but poking a NPCs eyes would only annoy him/her.)
>- Provide an edit field for typing commands, and/or provide speech
>recognition so a user could speak the commands. (The edit field vs. clicking
>provides its own UI dilemma since it's a mental shift to switch between
>clicking and typing/speaking.

>- Alternatively, provide a menu of choices.

Two words: Verb Coin.

The Verb Coin class of interfaces provides the versatility of a text parser in
a form that works smoothly with a mouse-driven interface. I personally
consider it the best possible interface for graphical adventure games.

In fact, I've been thinking about ways to adapt the verb coin interface to text
IF. It would make a nice complement to the TADS 3 "topic inventory" system,
eliminating guess-the-verb the same way the topic inventory eliminates
guess-the-noun.

I believe you mentioned verb coin interfaces yourself in an earlier thread, so
I shouldn't have to say any more about it.

OKB (not okblacke)

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Dec 17, 2003, 3:46:09 AM12/17/03
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Mike Rozak wrote:
> Maybe I should more clearly define what I'm thinking about since
> that will allow people to more accurate assess it:
>
>
> Possible IF UI #1:
> - Start with a text IF, but have the computer speak the text,
> either with pre-recorded audio or text-to-speech. (The text could
> also be displayed, but I suspect that won't be necessary unless the
> player is deaf or playing in quiet mode.). Also throw in sound
> effects.
>
> - While the narration is going on, bring up "slides" (taking up
> all/most of the screen) that illustrate key points in the
> narration. The slides are JPEG images, or automatically generated
> by the 3D engine. (Animations are possible, but they're a lot of
> work for an author to create, unless they're simple camera or
> object movements.) Example: "You say hello to the dragon but it
> glares back at you silently." could be accompanied by a still-image
> slide of the dragon glaring at the user.
>
> - If the user examines an object, he/she could be presented with a
> narration "It's a long wooden stick with some fancy carving at the
> end", along with a 3d model of the object that could be rotated and
> zoomed in on.

These last two bullet points describe the kind of thing I find
annoying in graphical IF -- and it's basically one of the points you
identified in your original post. It's annoying when the text and the
graphics are redundant. It's not so much that one distracts from the
other as that both seem to be annoyingly jostling one another for
position.

Most of the King's Quest games I played were like this: I go to
move a log, I see my character pick up the log and move it, and then the
game says to me "Alexander moves the log to the side." Well, thanks for
telling me: I can SEE that he's moved the log. Similarly, showing me a
picture of a glaring dragon and simultaneously saying "the dragon is
glaring" is going to annoy me.

I think your point about having the game speak the text rather than
printing it on the screen is a good one -- it generally is less
distracting if one element is auditory rather than visual -- but I think
that this can only be a convenience, never a cure. If you have so much
text that printing it on the screen would be distracting, you cannot get
around this by having the game say it out loud.


> - At any stage an author could decide NOT to show images and just
> end up with text IF that's read by the computer.

I think that if this is an option, the game isn't really what I
would call graphical IF -- it's text IF with graphics.

> Possible UI #2: (Although not exclusive to UI #1)
> - Begin with a 3d model of the environment and let the user wander
> around the environment, like in any MMORPG or first-person shooter.
>
> - Provide narration only when the user sees a new object or enters
> a new location. (Or if requested). MMORPG and other first person
> games do NOT provide narration, but I think it's important,
> especially when the PC has visited a location before but the player
> has not. For example: The player walks into a bedroom an hears the
> PC/narrator say, "This is my brother's bedroom. He's a real idiot.
> Etc." Similar information is common for text IF to give out in a
> room description.

This is, I think a much better mechanism, but. . .

> - Unfortunately, this approach requires more animation,
> signfnicantly increasing the amount of work for the author to do.
> Still scenes require no extra work. Walking (and other common
> tasks) would be easy, but if the author wants a juggling NPC he/she
> would have to animate it. (Which would mean that authors wouldn't
> include juggling NPCs, or other complex-to-animate objects.)

. . . right.



> Possible UI #3:
> - I haven't come up with one, but I'm sure others are out there. A
> 3rd person view (like Syberia) could work, but I personally find
> them less engrossing than 1st person graphical IF. I suspect most
> people prefer 3rd person graphical IF since they seem more common
> than the 1st person view.

Personally I like a third-person view, but I can see either one
working.

I just sort of came up with this thought, so maybe it's half-baked,
but it occurs to me that what's important here is that the visual and
text/speech streams have to be describing things that are
fundamentally along different axes. That is, the words must tell you
something that you cannot see in the picture, and the picture must show
you something that would be cumbersome to describe verbally.

For instance, a good use of words in a graphical game is for
dialogue between characters, or internal monologue of the type you
outlined above ("this is my brother's room, he's a dork. . ."), because
these are things outside the purvey of the image itself. Having a voice
narrate things like "the dragon glares at you" is not so good -- it's
better conveyed by a picture of a glaring dragon. Now, it may be the
case that many objects don't warrant a full image, so for them a verbal
description is fine, but there's no point in having a verbal description
AND a picture.

Basically, for me, it comes down to, what makes me like the
graphical IF that I like. This then basically comes down to what makes
the classic LucasArts graphical adventures (Indiana Jones and the Fate
of Atlantis, Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle, etc.) seem so much
better to me than most other graphical IF. In particular, I find it
helpful to compare them to the Sierra games (King's Quest, Laura Bow,
etc.), which are in many ways quite similar to the LucasArts ones, but
which always seemed much cheesier and less good through and through than
the LucasArts games. Part of the difference is, I think, what I
outlined above -- and these are the differences that have most to do
with the interface.

--
--OKB (not okblacke)
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is
no path, and leave a trail."
--author unknown

Paul Drallos

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Dec 17, 2003, 8:40:29 AM12/17/03
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I would *not* say the same about graphics and narration because narration
is passive and works very well with graphics.

Paul Drallos

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Dec 17, 2003, 8:58:09 AM12/17/03
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M.D. Dollahite wrote:


> If most people thought graphics distracted from text and vice-versa, then we'd
> hardly have as many picture books, illustrated novels, magazines, and web pages
> as we do, eh? Not to mention that two very famous and popular (in their time)

There is a big difference between illustrated novels, magazines, etc., and
illustrated IF. In non-interactive illustrated text, the outcome or advancement
of the plot does not depend on how carefully the text is read or the illustrations
scanned. In IF, the smallest detail may be critical to the advancement of the
work and missing it may be fatal. In books, the story goes on exactly the same
regardless of whether the text or graphics are carefully examined.

I love pictures, I love text, I love pictures and text. But I find one or
the other distracting in IF.

mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu

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Dec 17, 2003, 5:56:52 PM12/17/03
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Paul Drallos <pdra...@tir.com> wrote:

It's not the passivity that matters. It's the fact that in one case you
are trying to push two information streams through a single sense (sight
for graphics and sight for reading the narrative) and in the other you
are pushing the two information streams, each through their own sense
(sight for graphics and audio for narration).

Your eyes cannot be focused on the words and the graphics at the same
time, so you have to toggle back and forth between them. The *same*
problem would happen if you made a game for the blind where everything
was audio, and you tried having a voice describe the room layout
while another voice narrated at the same time. The listener would
have to choose which to pay attention to and which to filter out
as background noise, because your brain can't easily parse to two
streams of language at the same time.

Mike Rozak

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Dec 17, 2003, 8:08:39 PM12/17/03
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> The Verb Coin class of interfaces provides the versatility of a text
parser in
> a form that works smoothly with a mouse-driven interface. I personally
> consider it the best possible interface for graphical adventure games.

It seems to be the optimum if the author can only pick one of the possible
UI devices. What if the author could use a verb coin for the most
common/obvious actions, and a command line (or really-really long menu so it
would work with SR) for everything else? How much would two possible input
methods confuse the user and/or weaken the experience? I don't know. (Mouse
and keyboard (arrows, and ilk) seems to work well, but mouse and typed
command line doesn't - from my experience.)


From another post:


> I just sort of came up with this thought, so maybe it's half-baked,
> but it occurs to me that what's important here is that the visual and
> text/speech streams have to be describing things that are
> fundamentally along different axes. That is, the words must tell you
> something that you cannot see in the picture, and the picture must show
> you something that would be cumbersome to describe verbally.

"Orthogonality" is the mathematical term for what you're describing. (I took
far too much math.) Totally agree. My examples were flawed.


> First of all, Mike, I'd like to point out that the majority of the larger
> population does not feel as the majority (or at least the loudest
minority, I
> haven't been here long enough to know which) of the people in this group
do.
> If most people thought graphics distracted from text and vice-versa, then
we'd
> hardly have as many picture books, illustrated novels, magazines, and web
pages
> as we do, eh?

Good point.

This brings up another design issues: No matter what feature is proposed
some people will be for and some against. In a broader sense, this applies
to the basic system design. The majority of potential IF users in the world
"obviously" prefer graphics like Myst or Syberia because they sell more
copies. Text IF definitely doesn't sell as much, and probably doesn't
distribute as many free copies either.

However:
1) I don't really want to cater for the majority. There are plenty of large
companies that do that, and they do it well. Plus, I have never really been
part of the majority.

2) While I prefer graphics, text IF titles have something about them that's
lost in graphical IF. The style of IF changes depending upon the medium,
with some things lost and some gained. I'm trying to wrap my mind around the
reasons why this change occurs in the hope that I can create a graphical IF
with (some of) the depth of text. (Which may end up being a quest for the
holy grail.)

As a result, it's good to hear from people that don't like graphical IF
because they are more in-tune with what's lost in the transition from text
to graphics. I suppose that before choosing a design, I want to know why it
works, and why it doesn't work. Since I'm naturally biased towards graphical
IF, I need to hear an alternate POV. (Hearing from people that like
graphical IF is also good, since some like different aspects than I do.) So
far, responses to my posts have brought up many good issues for me to
ponder.

Design is full of hidden pitfalls, so other people's experience is very
useful. Here is example of another idea I've been thinking about, but which
isn't really related to IF. It does illustrate the design issues that keep
popping up:

I like the concept in a MMORPG where users can interact with one another,
and even share the plot. If I had never played a MMORPG, I'd be gung-ho
about this idea. However, when the concept is applied to reality, the
multi-user aspect doesn't work well because:

1) There are 100K people wandering around in the virtual world, many of
which you won't like. Running into likable people is fine, but the odd
encounters with griefers puts some people (or at least me) off.

2) Because there are 100K people, it's impossible to have any plots that
involve one person changing the world. It's impossible to have puzzles and
not have people "cheat" by posting all the solutions. (Although they're
really cheating themselves). And, it's very difficult to have anything other
than just pure combat because 100K people are running all over one another
stepping on each others' toes. Even combat is flawed because you may get to
the dragon's lair to find it slain only a few moments before. The net is a
static world with regenerating hoards of monsters.

3) There are some 100+ MMORPG in development, many with $10M+ budgets. The
budgets will only increase exponentially. I can't compete.

I have come up with one solution to this, although it has flaws: Allow
players to play offline, but they can always go online for some
socialization. The only thing users can do online is chat with one another
when in nearby pieces of the IF. Other users will not be able to affect each
other's worlds - they're all in independent, so you won't have griefers
getting to the treasure before you. Furthermore, the IF subject matter
chosen by the author could be used to self-select certain types of users.
For example: if there isn't any combat in the IF people that like killing
will go elsewhere. Lots of puzzles will encourage puzzle-solvers, etc.

... This also has a bizarre metaphysical(?) aspect to it, which is totally
off subject but rather interesting: Multiple time-lines will converge. To
illustrate: Assume that Harry Potter is turned into IF. Harry Potter goes
into Hogsmead several times per book, so that could be one of the places
where people interested in a chat might hang out. What happens when you have
several hundred players chatting away in Hogsmead when they are all on
DIFFERENT timelines? Some of the people are still in book 2, while some are
on book 7. (Of course, some idiot who has reached book 7 will give away the
plot.) MMORPG and MUDs only have one time line, so this is never a problem.

Unfortunately, such a solution just turns the IF into a large chat room. I
don't know this for sure, but I've been reading about MUDs. They started out
as multi-user IF. From what I've read, players quickly consume the content
and then need to find other ways to entertain themselves. They either leave,
go on repetitious moster hunts, try to find flaws with the system, beome
wizards/builders in the virtual world, or socialize. With a single-user
system, the user just shelves the program and pulls out another one. (Many
IF readers also become builders, as this newsgroup shows.)

Life for the author seems a lot simpler in IF than a MUD. But, if IF were
more MUD-like it would be easier for the author to see how people experience
their work, enabling them to do a better job. (I REALLY like this aspect
multiuser systems. Feedback from beta testers is good, but invisibly
watching a beta tester try to use your product is equally (or more) useful.
Being able to step in and ask "Are you having a problem?" is also useful
because a) it saves the user from total frustration, and b) you can get
feedback about the beta tester's current state-of-mind which he/she would
never remember to send you. Not to mention the opportunity for machine
learning from all the data that could be collected.)

And so the pros and cons go on ad infinitum... If I ever did a multiuser
system it would be a LONG time from now. Knowing that I might impliment
multiuser ability allows me to make some simple changes to the design now
that make implimenting multiuser much easier later on, though. Looking a few
years out is always a good thing.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Daniel Barkalow

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Dec 18, 2003, 2:15:52 PM12/18/03
to
On Tue, 16 Dec 2003, Mike Rozak wrote:

> I agree about the shifting between reading and seeing. However, if the text
> is narrated is it still a problem? If there is a clash between narration and
> interactive visuals then the prospect of a graphical IF is hurt
> sigificantly.

Two games you should look at: "City of Secrets" and "Words of Power"; both
are GLULX games with significant graphics (and optional sound).

> Maybe I should more clearly define what I'm thinking about since that will
> allow people to more accurate assess it:
>
>
> Possible IF UI #1:
> - Start with a text IF, but have the computer speak the text, either with
> pre-recorded audio or text-to-speech. (The text could also be displayed, but
> I suspect that won't be necessary unless the player is deaf or playing in
> quiet mode.). Also throw in sound effects.

Good so far, except that speech is much slower than reading. Also, IF
tends to repeat things a lot, since the information is often useful and is
easy to skip if it's not needed.

> - While the narration is going on, bring up "slides" (taking up all/most of
> the screen) that illustrate key points in the narration. The slides are JPEG
> images, or automatically generated by the 3D engine. (Animations are
> possible, but they're a lot of work for an author to create, unless they're
> simple camera or object movements.) Example: "You say hello to the dragon
> but it glares back at you silently." could be accompanied by a still-image
> slide of the dragon glaring at the user.

Sure, although I think it would be best to have some convention for what's
on the screen while the game tells you things that don't make good images
or that the game doesn't have an image of. Consider a puzzle where you
have to throw something (it doesn't matter what, so long as it's not
something fragile) at a target; this is going to be a pain to illustrate
convincingly.

> - If the user examines an object, he/she could be presented with a narration
> "It's a long wooden stick with some fancy carving at the end", along with a
> 3d model of the object that could be rotated and zoomed in on.

This could certainly be nice for objects with interesting details (many of
the items from So Far, some from Slouching, etc.); I'd leave most objects
to the player's imagination, and avoid issues like how everything fits
into a backpack, and things that don't look like much (a spherical seed
pod, e.g.).

> - If the user talks with a NPC then show an animated talking head. I have
> seen OK-looking automatically animated heads (lip sync based on what
> speaking, automatic blinks, automatic eye movement, automatic head movment).
> An author would be able to add extra cues, such as emotions or specific
> movements to improve the quality.

I think a static image might be just as good, especially if you're not
going to have voices for each NPC. A set of images with different emotions
could be useful.

> - When just looking around a room provide a 360 degree pan capability like
> Zork Nemesis or Myst III. Perhaps provide small thumbnail images of objects
> in the room or the user's inventory.

I'm not sure this is worthwhile. I'd save the graphics for scenic
vistas. The main case in which I'd render a whole room would be if the
player was looking into it from a different room through a window or
something. The point is essentially to give the player a good idea of what
it's like to be somewhere, and a general view is not really that
useful. You really want to use some photographic composition to convey
what you want to convey.

> - Clicking on hot-spots in the room image could act like a traditional
> graphcs aventure. (You could do the same for examining objects or the
> talking head, but poking a NPCs eyes would only annoy him/her.)

This is, of course, rather limited.

> - Provide an edit field for typing commands, and/or provide speech
> recognition so a user could speak the commands. (The edit field vs. clicking
> provides its own UI dilemma since it's a mental shift to switch between
> clicking and typing/speaking. I think this is part of the reason why
> graphical IF systems don't provide a command edit field anymore.)

I think that typing text is necessary in order to have interesting
interaction with the world. And switching between modalities is worse than
just sticking with text for everything. It might be useful to allow
pointing at pictures to identify the things in them, though.

> Possible UI #2: (Although not exclusive to UI #1)
> - Begin with a 3d model of the environment and let the user wander around
> the environment, like in any MMORPG or first-person shooter.

This is actually relatively difficult to write; you need to come up with a
substantial amount of architecture for even a modest game. Furthermore, IF
maps are designed in a highly stylized way, which omits a long of
connective areas which aren't interesting and focuses on the important
parts. They ignore differences in scale, and let you walk to town in a
single easy action, while requiring a number of actions and more time to
walk through a house. It would be difficult to design a 3D model which was
both reasonably realistic and at all useful for story-telling.

-Iabervon
*This .sig unintentionally changed*

Michael Bechard

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Dec 18, 2003, 2:22:34 PM12/18/03
to
Rexx Magnus wrote:
> On Tue, 16 Dec 2003 02:24:02 GMT, Mike Rozak scrawled:
>
>
>>Is there anything else I should add to the list? Before I undertake such a
>>huge task, I'd like to know what elements could cause (or has caused)
>>amateur graphical IF to fail.
>
>
> *snip*
>
> Probably the worst point of all, in that it is tremendously difficult to
> cater graphically for the plethora of actions that the player could take -
> this is why most games that have graphics do so only to supplement location
> descriptions, rather than depict the action.
>

Well, actually there are plenty of graphic adventure games that animate
all the PC's actions rather well. PC's bend down to pick things up,
bring objects to their mouth to eat them, etc. The Gabriel Knight series
has some examples of this kind of animation. The real issue is that,
generally, not that many actions are implemented in modern graphic
adventure games, compared to IF. When I sit down to play IF, I can type
in literally anything, and it can be a candidate for a player's action.
With graphic adventures, you can only make do with what verb icons you
are supplied with.

Michael

Rexx Magnus

unread,
Dec 18, 2003, 3:14:04 PM12/18/03
to
On Thu, 18 Dec 2003 19:22:34 GMT, Michael Bechard scrawled:

>
> Well, actually there are plenty of graphic adventure games that animate
> all the PC's actions rather well. PC's bend down to pick things up,
> bring objects to their mouth to eat them, etc. The Gabriel Knight series
> has some examples of this kind of animation. The real issue is that,
> generally, not that many actions are implemented in modern graphic
> adventure games, compared to IF. When I sit down to play IF, I can type
> in literally anything, and it can be a candidate for a player's action.
> With graphic adventures, you can only make do with what verb icons you
> are supplied with.
>
> Michael
>

Well, yes, but I'd assumed we were talking about an IF interface with a
graphical representation of what was going on - which causes it to be a
more complicated kettle of fish. :)

Mike Roberts

unread,
Dec 18, 2003, 3:19:43 PM12/18/03
to
"Michael Bechard" <not...@nothing.com> wrote:
> The real issue is that, generally, not that many actions are
> implemented in modern graphic adventure games, compared
> to IF. When I sit down to play IF, I can type in literally anything,
> and it can be a candidate for a player's action. With graphic
> adventures, you can only make do with what verb icons you
> are supplied with.

To be fair, the claim that "I can type literally anything" could just as
well hold true in a graphical game. If you think about it, most of the
"literally anything" you can type in a text game is just random stuff you're
making up that isn't understood by the game; you could just as well make up
your own random control inputs that are equally not understood in a
graphical game. For example, while playing a graphical adventure, you could
say to yourself: "if I move the mouse really fast to the right, I want it to
mean 'run east.'" That would be every bit as meaningful as saying to
yourself, while playing some text game: "if I type in RUN REALLY FAST EAST,
it means 'run really fast east." In each case, you're just making up your
own command that has nothing to do with what the game accepts as valid
inputs, and in each case the game responds, in its own way, "I don't
understand."

The only reason the two cases *seem* different is that the graphical game
tells you up front what control inputs it accepts, while the text game
leaves it up to you to figure out what inputs are valid. The graphical
game's up-front enumeration doesn't in any way prohibit you from making up
your own inputs, but once you have the valid ones laid out for you, it just
never occurs that you would try anything else. The text game's use of a
(tiny) subset of human natural language also obscures what's going on. The
text game is actively misleading; it encourages the naive player to make a
generalization error, specifically "valid commands look like natural
language -> natural language yields valid commands." Some people claim to
like that illusion of control, but I claim that only an experienced player
is capable of maintaining the illusion, because only an experienced player
intuitively limits herself to the valid command set; the inexperienced
player is quickly disillusioned by the fifty "I don't understand that
command" errors in a row, and goes to find a nice graphical adventure to
play.

You're right that the *real* issue is the range of valid inputs actually
implemented, not the amount of illusion inherent in the UI. The bang for
the buck in implementation effort is obviously much higher working in text
than in animated graphics; even a hobbyist author working alone on a text
game can run circles around a highly paid team of professionals building a
graphical game, in terms of the number of valid inputs and distinct events
implemented.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com

Mike Rozak

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Dec 18, 2003, 6:23:55 PM12/18/03
to
> Two games you should look at: "City of Secrets" and "Words of Power"; both
> are GLULX games with significant graphics (and optional sound).

Thanks. I'll check these out.


> Good so far, except that speech is much slower than reading. Also, IF
> tends to repeat things a lot, since the information is often useful and is
> easy to skip if it's not needed.

Good issue. Hadn't thought about that.


> Consider a puzzle where you
> have to throw something (it doesn't matter what, so long as it's not
> something fragile) at a target; this is going to be a pain to illustrate
> convincingly.

As you point out, animation would be a major pain. Animating the thing being
thrown, while in mid-air, isn't terribly difficult (newton's laws). The act
of a character throwing and the bounces off the ground are. My inital guess
at how to solve this is to just narrate, "You throw X at Y. It misses", and
leave it at that. Maybe throw a slide in to show object X sitting outside of
Y to reinforce that it misses.

Of course, it would all be up to the author, but I would weigh off how much
work an animation vs. how much it improves the story. If the throwing
weren't an integral part of the story, it's not worth spending the 1+ hours
to animate it.

> I think a static image might be just as good, especially if you're not
> going to have voices for each NPC. A set of images with different emotions
> could be useful.

A static image would work.See http://www.curiouslabs.com for poser. They
provide with "poses" for different facial expressions; I'll get that
impimented at some point. I also do lip sync from audio, BUT doing a 30 fps
animation might be taxing depending upon the detail that the author choses
to use for the character models. I have seen a 500 polygon head animated at
30 fps real-time, but a head whose quality is the same as poser is
5000-10,000 polygons = 3 fps. In time this will be possible. (This assumes
that the hair is drawn game-style, and not realistically. To draw completely
realistic hair, like you see in Monsters Inc., can take 1 hr. per frame.)
So, the author might be forced to use a static image.

I do have the ability to make different voices, either from TTS or from a
recording of an original speaker. See http://www.mxac.com.au/m3d/tts.htm.
The algorithm isn't going to replace actors, but it will allow an amateur to
create a variety of different voices from their own. If a different TTS
voice is acquired by the author, even more voices can be created. Plus,
authors can always call up their friends and have their friends record.


> I'm not sure this is worthwhile. I'd save the graphics for scenic
> vistas. The main case in which I'd render a whole room would be if the
> player was looking into it from a different room through a window or
> something. The point is essentially to give the player a good idea of what
> it's like to be somewhere, and a general view is not really that
> useful. You really want to use some photographic composition to convey
> what you want to convey.

I appreciate your point, but don't agree entirely. Ideally, the author
wouldn't have to show 360 room views for rooms that aren't visually
interesting, but once you show an image from one room, the user is going to
expect it for all of them. This brings up complications of how much detail
to render into an image. In pure text, if the author omits certain details
the reader magically isn't bothered by their omission. In graphics, if
they're omitted and expected by the user (such as a kitchen scene lacking a
sink) the reader will notice. This is a flaw of graphics, and one reason why
it's so much work.


> I think that typing text is necessary in order to have interesting
> interaction with the world. And switching between modalities is worse than
> just sticking with text for everything. It might be useful to allow
> pointing at pictures to identify the things in them, though.

This is one of my worries. I too suspect that switching modalities is bad.
One alternative is to rely on object-specific interaction menus (like many
Lucas games). The other is to use speech recognition, which I don't think
will have a modality problem with mouse click. But SR has accuracy probolems
which may (or may not) cause a problem. The only way to tell if SR will work
is for me to try it out. If I organize the text parser properly then SR will
be easy to impliment. SR also has the advantage of working on tablet PCs
(aka: PDAs with enough CPU to run graphics IF), which would be a good win.
SR is a must when using VR glasses.

> This is actually relatively difficult to write; you need to come up with a
> substantial amount of architecture for even a modest game. Furthermore, IF
> maps are designed in a highly stylized way, which omits a long of
> connective areas which aren't interesting and focuses on the important
> parts. They ignore differences in scale, and let you walk to town in a
> single easy action, while requiring a number of actions and more time to
> walk through a house. It would be difficult to design a 3D model which was
> both reasonably realistic and at all useful for story-telling.

There are two point here:

I'm trying to make the construction of 3d models as easy as possible. But
not matter what I do it will always be more difficult to construct 3d than
write the lines of text for description. Another flaw in graphics.

Also agree with your comment about how a nodal representation of space (as
in text IF) has a convenient way of skipping the dull bits of scenery which
a spatial representation (MMORPG, 1st person shooter) does not. To some
extent the author can work around the problem, but not completely.


--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Jeff

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Dec 19, 2003, 6:13:47 AM12/19/03
to
"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message news:<61uDb.54299$aT.2...@news-server.bigpond.net.au>...


Hello Mike!

I'm one of those people who tends to dislike graphical IF games. The
main reason is that they don't draw me into the story like an all text
game can. Consider the following bit of text, taken from the
description of the first room in Michael Gentry's classic
"Anchorhead".

"Outside the Real Estate Office.

A grim little cul-de-sac, tucked away in a corner of the
claustrophobic tangle of narrow, twisting avenues that largely
constitute the older portion of Anchorhead. Like most of the streets
in this city, it is ancient, shadowy, and leads essentially nowhere.
The lane ends here at the real estate agent's office, which lies to
the east, and winds it's way back to the center of town to the west. A
narrow, garbage-choked alley opens to the southeast."

This is a great example of the author taking advantage of the text
medium. Not only do I know what's there, I know exactly how I'm
supposed to feel about what's there, how it looks to the protagonist.
This is something a picture can't do. If this was a picture instead of
a description I likely wouldn't think "grim" when looking at the
cul-de-sac, "claustrophobic" when looking at the streets, etc. What I
would probably do is glance briefly at the picture, see there's no
object to pick up, and click the door. Once I found that locked I'd
try the alley. Even if I did stop to try to get a feel from the
picture before moving on, who's to say I'd see it the way the author
wanted me too? Worse still, if there's a narration along with the
picture I might disagree with the author. It's very hard for the
author to convince me to see the cul-de-sac as grim if I look at the
picture and think it looks cozy. At that point, I'm no longer into the
story so much as I'm now disbelieving it.

Anyway, good luck with your project.

JAN THORSBY

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Dec 19, 2003, 6:34:06 AM12/19/03
to

Mike Roberts <mjrUND...@hotmail.com> skrev i
meldingsnyheter:Z4oEb.18$Da4...@news.oracle.com...
> "Michael Bechard" <not...@nothing.com> wrote:

> The only reason the two cases *seem* different is that the graphical game
> tells you up front what control inputs it accepts, while the text game
> leaves it up to you to figure out what inputs are valid.

There is a point you overlook. When you are told the all the commands it can
be considered spoilers. What if the soulution to a puzzle is to dance? (I
don't know why, maybe to impess some woman at a disco or something.) If you
where told upfront that it is possible to dance, it would be a very easy
puzzle.


mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu

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Dec 19, 2003, 2:19:41 PM12/19/03
to
JAN THORSBY <jtho...@c2i.net> wrote:
:
:Mike Roberts <mjrUND...@hotmail.com> skrev i
:meldingsnyheter:Z4oEb.18$Da4...@news.oracle.com...
:
:> The only reason the two cases *seem* different is that the graphical game

:> tells you up front what control inputs it accepts, while the text game
:> leaves it up to you to figure out what inputs are valid.
:
:There is a point you overlook. When you are told the all the commands it can
:be considered spoilers. What if the soulution to a puzzle is to dance? (I
:don't know why, maybe to impess some woman at a disco or something.) If you
:where told upfront that it is possible to dance, it would be a very easy
:puzzle.

Yes, but what frustrates a lot of players is when they think they
know what they need to do, but the game doesn't recognize it so
they assume it was wrong when it was actually on the right track.
(For example, if the player knew the character had to dance, but
it turns out it's not "dance", but "waltz" that's the right verb.
So after a lot of time spent trying to "dance" or "sashay" or
"rhumba" or "boogie" or "gyrate" or "mamba", the player eventually
gives up, assuming that the solution must be something other than
dancing. Then the player looks up in some hint book and finds out
that dancing *was* the right answer, but had to use the word "waltz".
That's going to anger the player since he knows he had the answer
right and a human being would have recognized it as correct even
though the computer doesn't.)

Another annoying feature (this is one that was very common in
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy) is when the text description
of things is insufficient to tell you the info to solve the
problem. For example, there's a tool that you are supposed to
use to remove part of your brain. But when you look at the tool,
it never says what it's for, never says what it looks like,
and nowhere is there any hint telling you that this tool
is somehow a medical instrument. Then there was the "thing your
aunt gave you which you don't know what it is" (that's the
actual text description). It's an item that you can't get rid of,
because it keeps coming back to your inventory in a few turns.
It turns out that it's a container, and the ONLY way to discover
this is to type the command to use it like a container: "put foo in
thing", which you won't do if you don't realize it's a container.
(I never realized it was a container until I looked at some hint
book.)

And the worst part was trying to get the babel fish. It was a
complex puzzle during which one part of the puzzle involved a
trapdoor set into the floor, which flips up and a cleaning robot
pops out of it, sweeps stuff up, and then goes back in the
compartment and the trapdoor closes. To solve the puzzle you
had to realize that an object placed on the trapdoor would be
flung up into the air if the cleaning robot came out and the
door popped open. The big problem with this puzzle was that
nothing in the text descriptions helped tell me that the trapdoor
was a trapdoor in the floor. It was always described as a "panel",
and it was described in a manner that made me think it was set
in the wall near the floor, not in the floor itself. (This was
reinforced by the fact that the floor cleaning robot was
described as rolling on wheels (not flying), and so I naturally
was picturing a panel on the wall that the robot drives out of,
not something it would pop UP out of.) So anyway, because of
this description, I could never solve the puzzle without a
hintbook. I was trying to put things "in front of" the panel
instead of "on top of" the panel, and it kept telling me that
made no sense, without telling me why. That was particularly
frustrating because I was *right* in my guess that the answer
involved obstructing the panel in some way. It's just that
it gave an ambigious description of the panel that led me to
using the wrong prepositions every time I tried.

Michael Coyne

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Dec 19, 2003, 3:12:59 PM12/19/03
to
mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu wrote:

> this description, I could never solve the puzzle without a
> hintbook. I was trying to put things "in front of" the panel
> instead of "on top of" the panel, and it kept telling me that
> made no sense, without telling me why. That was particularly
> frustrating because I was *right* in my guess that the answer
> involved obstructing the panel in some way. It's just that
> it gave an ambigious description of the panel that led me to
> using the wrong prepositions every time I tried.

Just a little correction here. The panel was described properly; it was
set into the wall, and you *were* supposed / allowed to put things in
front of it.

SPOILERS!


The robot came OUT from somewhere and went INTO the panel in the wall.
You had to put the satchel in front of the panel. The robot would hit
it, and the fish would fly through the air and then get caught by the
flying cleaning robot. Then, you had to think of adding something to
the top of the satchel, so that more than just the fish would fly into
the air, confusing the flying robot. So you put the mail on top of the
satchel.

It sounds like you may be mis-remembering the puzzle.


Michael

Julio Juliopolis

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Dec 19, 2003, 4:02:08 PM12/19/03
to
mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu wrote:


That's just simply bad programming. If the command sought was "Waltz", there
should be a reply to "Dance" that would lead you to guess it. Such as...
"What kind of dance do you want to perform?" True, it takes more effort on
the designer's part to consider that than simply offering up a list of all
the usable commands, but I think it's worth it. In addition to the "spoiler
effect" mentioned above, (which could be minimized by include many
non-essential verbs), there's also a certain joy in trying something that
you're not sure if the parser will allow you to do and having it work. I'd
personally rather see...

>rhumba
You don't know how to rhumba very well.
>boogie
Don't be ridiculous, this isn't the 70s.
>sashay
I don't understand that command.
>gyrate
You do your best impression of the water buffalos you saw going at it on
"Wild Kingdom" last night. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to impress
anyone. Tough crowd.
>mamba
I don't understand that command.
>waltz
You dance a perfect waltz, gaining admirers as you move about the floor. The
woman you noticed earlier seems to be watching you with a renewed interest
now.

...as a result of playing "guess the verb" than simply going down the list
of commands and typing each one in turn.


>
> Another annoying feature (this is one that was very common in
> Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy) is when the text description
> of things is insufficient to tell you the info to solve the
> problem. For example, there's a tool that you are supposed to
> use to remove part of your brain. But when you look at the tool,
> it never says what it's for, never says what it looks like,
> and nowhere is there any hint telling you that this tool
> is somehow a medical instrument.


Actually you don't need a tool to take your "common sense".


> Then there was the "thing your
> aunt gave you which you don't know what it is" (that's the
> actual text description).


It's a pouch. Arthur isn't exactly the brightest bulb on the tree.


> It's an item that you can't get rid of,
> because it keeps coming back to your inventory in a few turns.


My current theory on that is that the ghost of Arthur's aunt is following
him around returning it to him whenever he foolishly drops it somewhere.


> It turns out that it's a container, and the ONLY way to discover
> this is to type the command to use it like a container: "put foo in
> thing", which you won't do if you don't realize it's a container.


Well, since you didn't know what it is, surely you tried manipulating it in
a variety of ways, right?


> (I never realized it was a container until I looked at some hint
> book.)
>
> And the worst part was trying to get the babel fish. It was a
> complex puzzle during which one part of the puzzle involved a
> trapdoor set into the floor, which flips up and a cleaning robot
> pops out of it, sweeps stuff up, and then goes back in the
> compartment and the trapdoor closes. To solve the puzzle you
> had to realize that an object placed on the trapdoor would be
> flung up into the air if the cleaning robot came out and the
> door popped open. The big problem with this puzzle was that
> nothing in the text descriptions helped tell me that the trapdoor
> was a trapdoor in the floor. It was always described as a "panel",
> and it was described in a manner that made me think it was set
> in the wall near the floor, not in the floor itself. (This was
> reinforced by the fact that the floor cleaning robot was
> described as rolling on wheels (not flying), and so I naturally
> was picturing a panel on the wall that the robot drives out of,
> not something it would pop UP out of.)


Er, actually you were thinking correctly. It is a panel in the wall. You
block the panel with Ford's satchel. Then you put the mail on top of the
satchel, so when the robot hits that the mail flies through the air, along
with the fish which lands with a loud squish in your ear.


> So anyway, because of
> this description, I could never solve the puzzle without a
> hintbook. I was trying to put things "in front of" the panel
> instead of "on top of" the panel, and it kept telling me that
> made no sense, without telling me why. That was particularly
> frustrating because I was *right* in my guess that the answer
> involved obstructing the panel in some way. It's just that
> it gave an ambigious description of the panel that led me to
> using the wrong prepositions every time I tried.


I can easily see how a player might not get the correct image of what the
puzzle looks like from that description. I agree that for certain puzzles a
picture might prove invaluable, however I'd personally prefer the mainstay
of the game remain all text.

mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu

unread,
Dec 19, 2003, 4:03:09 PM12/19/03
to
Michael Coyne <coy...@mtsdot.net> wrote:
:
:SPOILERS!

I don't think you need to worry about spoilers for a game that's
been out of print now for over 15 years.

:
:
:The robot came OUT from somewhere and went INTO the panel in the wall.

:You had to put the satchel in front of the panel. The robot would hit
:it, and the fish would fly through the air and then get caught by the
:flying cleaning robot. Then, you had to think of adding something to
:the top of the satchel, so that more than just the fish would fly into
:the air, confusing the flying robot. So you put the mail on top of the
:satchel.
:
:It sounds like you may be mis-remembering the puzzle.

It must be. I might have had it backward - perhaps I was trying to
put things ON it and I had to put them in FRONT of it. But I do
remember trying over and over to PUT <thing> <preposition> PANEL in
a number of ways and getting the frustrating error message that it
doesn't make any sense to do that. So I never got to the part about
the mail on top of the satchel because I could never put anything
<preposition> the panel in the first place. When I finally looked
at a hintbook I can remember being very mad at the game for letting
me get so close and yet giving me an error message that made it sound
like I was miles away from the correct answer.

I wonder if a parser can be constructed that is aware of all the
legal prepositions for a verb-object pair and can thus give
better error messages for cases like this. Instead of
"That doesn't make any sense", it could say, "I can't do
that, but I could put something in front of it, or next to it."

Or, if that's too much of a hint, perhaps just "It has no
top surface to put things on" would at least hint to the
player that the problem is with the choice of the "on top of"
preposition phrase (as opposed to problem being because the
panel won't let you put things relation to it, or the problem
being that the satchel isn't an object you can put somewhere
in relation to the panel.

The problem was that as a player, the response from "put satchel
on panel" was the same as for "put guide on panel" or "put satchel
on guide" - so the response didn't clue me in that "satchel" and
"panel" can actually go together some way.

mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu

unread,
Dec 19, 2003, 4:24:08 PM12/19/03
to
Julio Juliopolis <Ju...@juliopolis.com> wrote:

Yes, and I'd like a pony. The thing is, that level of detail takes
entirely too much time to expect the author to include all of it.
(Each and every puzzle would have to include each and every possible
alternate solution for it mapped out with proper messages. That
turns into an exponential progression pretty fast. A reasonable
solution is to reduce the options so you don't have to know the
*exact* verb to make it work. Make 'dance' and 'rhumba' and 'gyrate'
and so on all map to do the same as just "dance". This is essentailly
what graphical IF makers are doing with the mouse-driven interfaces.
There are only a limited set of actions - walk to X, Look at X,
take X, drop X, use X, and use X with Y. So anything you try to do
has to be expressed as one of those. (In the dancing example, it
would probably be some mouse action that equates to "use dance
floor area".)

:>
:> Another annoying feature (this is one that was very common in


:> Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy) is when the text description
:> of things is insufficient to tell you the info to solve the
:> problem. For example, there's a tool that you are supposed to
:> use to remove part of your brain. But when you look at the tool,
:> it never says what it's for, never says what it looks like,
:> and nowhere is there any hint telling you that this tool
:> is somehow a medical instrument.
:
:
:Actually you don't need a tool to take your "common sense".
:
:
:> Then there was the "thing your
:> aunt gave you which you don't know what it is" (that's the
:> actual text description).
:
:
:It's a pouch. Arthur isn't exactly the brightest bulb on the tree.
:
:
:> It's an item that you can't get rid of,
:> because it keeps coming back to your inventory in a few turns.
:
:
:My current theory on that is that the ghost of Arthur's aunt is following
:him around returning it to him whenever he foolishly drops it somewhere.
:
:
:> It turns out that it's a container, and the ONLY way to discover
:> this is to type the command to use it like a container: "put foo in
:> thing", which you won't do if you don't realize it's a container.
:
:
:Well, since you didn't know what it is, surely you tried manipulating it in
:a variety of ways, right?

If I took that approach with every item that is in the game, I'd still
be playing it 15 years later. It's unreasonable to expect people to
try every action in the game with every object until they find the
combinations that work.

Julio Juliopolis

unread,
Dec 19, 2003, 5:29:11 PM12/19/03
to
mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu wrote:

> Julio Juliopolis <Ju...@juliopolis.com> wrote:
>

<snipping>


I think you overestimate the difficulty in that. I've used several IF
authoring systems which allowed for easy implementation of synonyms.


> (Each and every puzzle would have to include each and every possible
> alternate solution for it mapped out with proper messages.


That is the "ideal", but it's probably not a realistic one. Even in the
example I gave above I used the default "I don't understand that command"
twice.


> That
> turns into an exponential progression pretty fast. A reasonable
> solution is to reduce the options so you don't have to know the
> *exact* verb to make it work. Make 'dance' and 'rhumba' and 'gyrate'
> and so on all map to do the same as just "dance".


Just seperate those words with commas in the synonyms list for dance and
you're done. But if it really didn't matter what type of dance then simply
having one command "dance" should be good enough. I don't think the player
will consider rhumba and sashay yet miss simply typing dance when those
come back as unknown commands.


> This is essentailly
> what graphical IF makers are doing with the mouse-driven interfaces.
> There are only a limited set of actions - walk to X, Look at X,
> take X, drop X, use X, and use X with Y. So anything you try to do
> has to be expressed as one of those. (In the dancing example, it
> would probably be some mouse action that equates to "use dance
> floor area".)


I've used those types of interfaces and for me they just aren't as
entertaining. The point and click feels too much like hyperlink and the
graphics don't set the mood the way text descriptions do. (See my post as
"Jeff" in this thread).


<snip>


> :> It turns out that it's a container, and the ONLY way to discover
> :> this is to type the command to use it like a container: "put foo in
> :> thing", which you won't do if you don't realize it's a container.
> :
> :
> :Well, since you didn't know what it is, surely you tried manipulating it
> :in a variety of ways, right?
>
> If I took that approach with every item that is in the game, I'd still
> be playing it 15 years later. It's unreasonable to expect people to
> try every action in the game with every object until they find the
> combinations that work.


I just meant that the item's description actually said you didn't know what
it was, which should have encouraged you to play with it in a multitude of
ways. And remember this is Douglas Adams we're talking about here. How much
do you really expect a picture of the G'gvunts Ultra-plasmic Vacuum Awl to
help? You're not supposed to understand what those things are in that game,
because Arthur has, (much like yourself), never seen them before, with the
humorously ironic exception of the pouch his aunt gave him.

Most games however have items whose uses you can guess pretty easily. If you
find a game with a flashlight that doesn't understand the command "turn on
flashlight", odds are that author wouldn't have written a sensible game
with a graphical interface anyway.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Dec 19, 2003, 5:42:28 PM12/19/03
to
Here, mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu wrote:
> Julio Juliopolis <Ju...@juliopolis.com> wrote:
> :I'd personally rather see...
> :
> :[various synonyms with different results]

> :
> :...as a result of playing "guess the verb" than simply going down the list
> :of commands and typing each one in turn.
>
> Yes, and I'd like a pony. The thing is, that level of detail takes
> entirely too much time to expect the author to include all of it.
> (Each and every puzzle would have to include each and every possible
> alternate solution for it mapped out with proper messages. That
> turns into an exponential progression pretty fast. A reasonable
> solution is to reduce the options so you don't have to know the
> *exact* verb to make it work. Make 'dance' and 'rhumba' and 'gyrate'
> and so on all map to do the same as just "dance". This is essentailly
> what graphical IF makers are doing with the mouse-driven interfaces.

But it's *not* essentially the same; that's Julio's point, and I
agree.

The particular example of the dance may be misleading. One can imagine
an IF scenario in which it matters which kind of dance you're doing;
and a different scenario in which it doesn't. One would implement them
differently. (One would also implement *the rest of the game*
differently, so that the player has enough sense of the world to
understand what the interesting range of action is.)

I have argued in the past that the essence of IF lies in *not* giving
a menu-list of actions, but instead giving a free range of action
which the player has room to explore. Whenever I encounter a menu
interface -- and this includes dialogue menus in text games as well as
verb pop-up menus -- I find that my sense of the game-world
immediately vanishes. I have a mechanical strategy available to me
("try everything on everything"), and it's easier to follow that than
to visualize myself as a *person* in a *situation*.

I decided that the reason I like Myst-style graphical IF is that it
*acknowledges* that selecting an action for an object is
uninteresting. In this sort of game, there's only one action -- click,
which means "use this". The explorable range of action becomes *the
visual world which is presented to you*, which you can explore to
discover which objects are reactive and interesting.

--Z

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

Julio Juliopolis

unread,
Dec 19, 2003, 6:38:41 PM12/19/03
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> Whenever I encounter a menu
> interface -- and this includes dialogue menus in text games as well as
> verb pop-up menus -- I find that my sense of the game-world
> immediately vanishes. I have a mechanical strategy available to me
> ("try everything on everything"), and it's easier to follow that than
> to visualize myself as a *person* in a *situation*.


I appreciate where you're coming from because that is exactly the same thing
that happens to me on those sorts of games. If it's a text-based puzzle
I'll wrap my mind about it much like a riddle. In a graphical format, I'll
try pointing and clicking for about 45 seconds before I bother trying to
figure out what the puzzle even is.

Another major advantage text games have over graphical for me is that the
text helps me to empathize with the character. This could be well
illustrated with your own game "Hunter in Darkness". If that game were
ported to a graphical interface and the text and graphics versions could
stand side by side for comparison I think it would be very obvious that the
text conveys certain aspects of the story in a way that you just can't get
from images.

J. Robinson Wheeler

unread,
Dec 19, 2003, 9:30:46 PM12/19/03
to
mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu wrote:
> Michael Coyne <coy...@mtsdot.net> wrote:
> :
> :SPOILERS!
>
> I don't think you need to worry about spoilers for a game that's
> been out of print now for over 15 years.


Yes, you do. It's an especially polite gesture when one is about to reveal
pretty much the entire solution to an all-time classic puzzle, one which
is really rewarding to solve on one's own.

There may be readers of this newsgroup who have the Hitchhiker's game
on their "will play that someday" list, who really ought to get the chance
to solve it on their own steam.

The sensibility of including spoiler warnings remains valid for other games
as well, regardless.

--
J. Robinson Wheeler Games - http://raddial.com/if/
JRW Digital Media Movie - http://thekroneexperiment.com
j...@jrwdigitalmedia.com Comic - http://adamcadre.ac/comics.html

Rikard Peterson

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 3:27:29 AM12/20/03
to
J. Robinson Wheeler wrote in
news:b5b859fd.03121...@posting.google.com:

> mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu wrote:
>>
>> I don't think you need to worry about spoilers for a game that's
>> been out of print now for over 15 years.
>
> Yes, you do. It's an especially polite gesture when one is about
> to reveal pretty much the entire solution to an all-time classic
> puzzle, one which is really rewarding to solve on one's own.
>
> There may be readers of this newsgroup who have the Hitchhiker's
> game on their "will play that someday" list, who really ought to
> get the chance to solve it on their own steam.

There is at least one such reader.

M.D. Dollahite

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 9:14:08 AM12/20/03
to
From: IFBeg...@yahoo.com (Jeff)

>Worse still, if there's a narration along with the
>picture I might disagree with the author. It's very hard for the
>author to convince me to see the cul-de-sac as grim if I look at the
>picture and think it looks cozy. At that point, I'm no longer into the
>story so much as I'm now disbelieving it.

That's an issue of bad authoring, not a general problem with mixing text and
graphics. It could certainly happen if the game author used a bad artist, but
a good artist should be able to make the picture convey exactly what it's
supposed to to anyone who isn't completely insane.


In regards to all the discussion of the limitation of graphical interfaces and
the freedom of a text parser: This is why I like the verb coin class of
interfaces so much.

The reason graphical games have such a limited range of action is not that the
programmers are lazy or anything like that, it's that there's simply not enough
room on the screen to display icons for 300+ verbs, most of which are just
going to respond "That action is totally illogical to even attempt." As a
result, they boiled all the verbs down to just a few basic categories, and even
then you get a lot of "illogical" responses.

The verb coin system, popularized by one of the later Monkey Islands and also
used in other forms by Return to Zork and Leisure Suit Larry 7, is designed to
allow graphical games to handle large numbers of verbs without having to crowd
them all onto one menu. In this system, you select an object to interact with
first, and then the verb icons are displayed. This allows the game to display
only the verbs that make sense with that object. It doesn't guarantee that all
displayed verbs have a useful result, and in some cases it doesn't even
guarantee that all verbs are displayed (see LSL7). It does guarantee that you
don't waste screen real estate on a "pour" icon when the direct object is a
Rubik's Cube, and thus you can implement a verb set of arbitrary size and
expressiveness just like text games can.

With the verb coin system, the only verbs that are removed from consideration
by the enumeration of options are the ones that you probably weren't
considering in the first place. In fact, a verb coin system could have an even
larger range of verbs than text games, because the interface itself helps the
player narrow the search space to only the logical options, and also allows for
special commands that only work at one particular point in the story (much like
the special topics in TADS 3's conversation system). Unless the programmers
are in fact lazy, the verb coin system should usually provide even more options
than you thought of yourself. Yes, there will always be a couple verbs the
programmers didn't think of, but that isn't any different from text games,
really, as Mr. Roberts already pointed out.


:> Then there was the "thing your
:> aunt gave you which you don't know what it is" (that's the
:> actual text description).
:
:
:It's a pouch. Arthur isn't exactly the brightest bulb on the tree.

Actually, it's not a pouch, at least not as an Earthman would know it. Note
that it has infinite capacity but negligible bulk and weight, even when every
other item in the game is inside of it. That's certainly not your everyday
briefcase. I always figured that item was described like that because Mr.
Adams didn't feel like coming up with some technobabble B.S. to explain it when
he could just make a joke instead.

Incidentally, I don't remember how exactly I first figured out what the thing
was for, but I don't think it was either random experimentation (I'm not the
kind who does that) or a hintbook (I didn't have one at the time). I think
there was a clue somewhere in Arthur's bedroom about it, or in the description
of the item itself. I could be mistaken, though.


And a direct response to the guy who started all this:


"It seems to be the optimum if the author can only pick one of the possible
UI devices. What if the author could use a verb coin for the most
common/obvious actions, and a command line (or really-really long menu so it
would work with SR) for everything else? How much would two possible input
methods confuse the user and/or weaken the experience? I don't know. (Mouse
and keyboard (arrows, and ilk) seems to work well, but mouse and typed
command line doesn't - from my experience.)"

Making people switch between two different interfaces is a bad idea from the
start. Some people like to type commands, some people like to click icons,
some people like to do one or the other depending on their mood. I don't know
anyone who likes having to switch back and forth at the whim of the game
author. Providing both text parser and mouse interfaces is a good idea -- I
myself am one of those people who changes preference depending on my mood, so
it'd be great to have a game that gave me both options -- but you need to make
sure that the entire game can be played start to finish using only one of the
interfaces, so that it remains entirely up to the player to choose the input
method. And since you're leaving it up to the player to decide on the input
method, they both need to have the same level of specificity, otherwise the
less specific input method will become like a hint system due to it's ability
to automatically select the correct verb from among several equally logical
candidates.

You might argue that having a "simple" versus "complex" input method allows
players to choose their difficulty level, but that would restrict their choice
of input method if they wanted a particular difficulty. And I can't speak for
anyone else, but I think having an "easy" mode so readily available would be
just little too tempting. Even online hint systems have the overhead of
calling up the menu and searching for the correct hint; getting the game to
solve the puzzle for me just by grabbing the mouse presents no real overhead at
all.


From: Paul Drallos pdra...@tir.com
"There is a big difference between illustrated novels, magazines, etc., and
illustrated IF. In non-interactive illustrated text, the outcome or
advancement
of the plot does not depend on how carefully the text is read or the
illustrations
scanned. In IF, the smallest detail may be critical to the advancement of the
work and missing it may be fatal. In books, the story goes on exactly the same
regardless of whether the text or graphics are carefully examined."

But what about the simple pleasure of exploring the game world? That's what
the graphics and the larger part of the room descriptions are really there for,
after all. If solving the puzzle and advancing the plot was all that mattered,
room descriptions would be nothing but a list of interactive objects. The sole
purpose for flowery prose is to let you experience the game's locales as if
they were real places, and if graphics can add to that experience, why not use
them? If we are to take your logic that anything which distracts the player
from important details is to be eliminated, then we'd better get rid of those
room descriptions as well, and reduce all objects descriptions down to "this is
what this is, this is how you use it, and this is what you do with it."

I can certainly see how graphics could detract from a text game, if the author
had weak art or composition skills. But that's not really any different from
the text-only disasters resulting from people with weak writing skills. Poor
design skills, also: if you have to scan a graphic pixel for pixel, or a text
letter for letter, to find that critical detail, then the game is pretty poorly
designed to begin with.

I can also see how people who simply don't like looking at beautiful things
would dislike graphics, just as much as someone who doesn't like to read would
dislike text, but neither is an inherent property of either medium, nor of
their mixture, just a personal preference of a particular individual. And I
think Mr. Rozak is looking for objective opinions on game design, not
subjective preferences of what kind of game a specific individual personally
prefers.

And "fatal"? We're not talking about Super Mario Bros. here, where a single
misstep forces you to start all over from the beginning. A well-designed IF or
adventure game should never present a situation that can't be gotten out of
without giving clear warning, unless that situation is simply part of the story
and therefore cannot be avoided except by not even playing the game.


To sum up my position on all of this:
I think graphical games have some qualities that text games lack, and text
games have some qualities that graphical games lack; only when the proponents
of each finally stop fighting and work together will The Ultimate Game have a
chance of being realized.

Adrien Beau

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 3:13:12 PM12/20/03
to
On Samedi 20 Décembre 2003 09:27, Rikard Peterson wrote:
>
>> There may be readers of this newsgroup who have the
>> Hitchhiker's game on their "will play that someday" list, who
>> really ought to get the chance to solve it on their own steam.
>
> There is at least one such reader.

There are at least two.

--
spam....@free.fr
You have my name and my hostname: you can mail me.
(Put a period between my first and last names).

Arthur Milliken

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 3:49:57 PM12/20/03
to
M.D. Dollahite wrote:

> Two words: Verb Coin.
>
> The Verb Coin class of interfaces provides the versatility of a text parser in
> a form that works smoothly with a mouse-driven interface. I personally
> consider it the best possible interface for graphical adventure games.
>
> In fact, I've been thinking about ways to adapt the verb coin interface to text
> IF. It would make a nice complement to the TADS 3 "topic inventory" system,
> eliminating guess-the-verb the same way the topic inventory eliminates
> guess-the-noun.
>
> I believe you mentioned verb coin interfaces yourself in an earlier thread, so
> I shouldn't have to say any more about it.

"Verb Coin"? Is that when a context-sensitive hierarchichal menu
appears whenever you click on an object or character, as in Neverwinter
Nights?


Mike Rozak

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 4:42:12 PM12/20/03
to
> This is a great example of the author taking advantage of the text
> medium. Not only do I know what's there, I know exactly how I'm
> supposed to feel about what's there, how it looks to the protagonist.
> This is something a picture can't do.

Thanks for the info. Good point about emotions and thoughts being implanted
by the author. This is something that words can do fairly easily, but
visuals either can't do or find it very difficult.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 5:17:39 PM12/20/03
to
> (For example, if the player knew the character had to dance, but
> it turns out it's not "dance", but "waltz" that's the right verb.
> So after a lot of time spent trying to "dance" or "sashay" or
> "rhumba" or "boogie" or "gyrate" or "mamba", the player eventually
> gives up, assuming that the solution must be something other than
> dancing.

Does anyone know if there's a public domain thesaurus available? (I have
found a public domain lexicon = word pronunciations, but haven't found a
thesaurus) A freely available thesaurus would solve some of the
guess-the-verb problems, but not all.


L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 5:21:19 PM12/20/03
to
On Sat, 20 Dec 2003 20:49:57 GMT, Arthur Milliken
<arthur_...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>"Verb Coin"? Is that when a context-sensitive hierarchichal menu
>appears whenever you click on an object or character, as in Neverwinter
>Nights?
>
>

While that would probably be covered, the term also applies to a
context insensitive menu of static choices (typically 'examine',
'use', 'talk to') which pops up when an interactive object is clicked
upon (And which, in many games, any particular object responds
meaningfully to no more than two of these, typically only one, but
it's a popular interface because, well, um. Probably because some
LucasArts games used it. Though I imagine they used it better)

Michael Coyne

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 9:06:20 PM12/20/03
to
Mike Rozak wrote:

> Does anyone know if there's a public domain thesaurus available? (I have
> found a public domain lexicon = word pronunciations, but haven't found a
> thesaurus) A freely available thesaurus would solve some of the
> guess-the-verb problems, but not all.

Did you try the rather obvious solution?

http://www.thesaurus.com

You've got to love the Internet. : )


Michael

Gene Wirchenko

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 10:58:45 PM12/20/03
to
Michael Coyne <coy...@mtsDOS.net> wrote:

>Mike Rozak wrote:
>
>> Does anyone know if there's a public domain thesaurus available? (I have
>> found a public domain lexicon = word pronunciations, but haven't found a
>> thesaurus) A freely available thesaurus would solve some of the
>> guess-the-verb problems, but not all.
>
>Did you try the rather obvious solution?
>
>http://www.thesaurus.com

What is another word for "thesaurus", and would that not be more
appropriate?

>You've got to love the Internet. : )

I do?

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko

Computerese Irregular Verb Conjugation:
I have preferences.
You have biases.
He/She has prejudices.

Rick Clark

unread,
Dec 20, 2003, 11:16:49 PM12/20/03
to
"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message
news:61uDb.54299$aT.2...@news-server.bigpond.net.au...
> (Issues that also arise when books are converted to movies.)

I think that this is your real answer. The differences between text IF and
graphical IF are much the same as between a novel and a movie, IMO. Each one
is a different experience, and though a movie may be based on a book, it
isn't the book. The same can be said for books based on movies. When you
take the same material and express it in different mediums, you end up with
different products.

Although people love to complain how a particular movie wasn't as good as
the book, they are really comparing apples and oranges. You simply can't
compare a book to a movie, or visa versa. They are totally distinct
products, each with their own formats and requirements. They are truly as
different as apples and oranges.

The reason is very simple. Reading is active and viewing is passive. When
you read a book, you are actually doing something, and this translates into
a certain experience for the reader. When you watch a movie, you are passive
and this creates a completely different experience. One isn't better than
the other, just different, and each has their own rules and methods of
execution.

I think the same could be said for text based IF and graphical based IF. I
have played both and each medium is a different experience, using different
rules and operating in different ways. For me it is very much like the book
and movie. I experience each one differently.

Could you combine the two? You could, but personally, I think you would end
up something much less than the parts. You would have to dilute both aspects
in order to combine them, and loose the impact of both.
--
Rick Clark
http://www.rickclark.org


Seebs

unread,
Dec 21, 2003, 4:35:48 AM12/21/03
to
In article <b5b859fd.03121...@posting.google.com>,

J. Robinson Wheeler <j...@jrwdigitalmedia.com> wrote:
>Yes, you do. It's an especially polite gesture when one is about to reveal
>pretty much the entire solution to an all-time classic puzzle, one which
>is really rewarding to solve on one's own.

Speaking of spoilers:

I once saw a claim that there's a "do this thing early on" puzzle in that
game, where if you don't do something meaningless very early in the game,
you lose later - except I saw a claim that there was an elaborate,
incomprehensible, way around it.

So...

SPOILER WARNING

(rot13)

Vs lbh qba'g tvir gur fnaqjvpu gb gur qbt, vf gurer fbzrguvat ryfr lbh pna
qb gb xrrc vg sebz rngvat gur syrrg? Vs fb, jung vf vg?

-s
--
Copyright 2003, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
http://www.seebs.net/log/ - YA blog. http://www.seebs.net/ - homepage.
C/Unix wizard, pro-commerce radical, spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Dec 21, 2003, 9:33:19 AM12/21/03
to
Here, Rick Clark <rickc...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> The reason is very simple. Reading is active and viewing is passive. When
> you read a book, you are actually doing something, and this translates into
> a certain experience for the reader. When you watch a movie, you are passive
> and this creates a completely different experience.

This is, I would say, both simplistic and a lousy parallel for
text/graphical IF. When I play graphical IF I *am* doing something --
far more than when I'm reading, in which my only level of control is
to slow down, speed up, or skip.

Rick Clark

unread,
Dec 21, 2003, 5:59:22 PM12/21/03
to
"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:bs4avf$46o$1...@reader2.panix.com...

> This is, I would say, both simplistic and a lousy parallel for
> text/graphical IF. When I play graphical IF I *am* doing something --
> far more than when I'm reading, in which my only level of control is
> to slow down, speed up, or skip.
>
> --Z

Simplistic? Hardly. There have been numerous studies that show that reading
engages the brain in an active manner while passive viewing does not. A
simple Google search will bring up numerous cases.

Far more than reading? Again, hardly. Yes, deciding which icon to click does
involve some brain power, but it hardly produces the mental interconnections
that reading produces. How many times will an icon invoke a memory or
emotion that reading sometimes produces? Images will always fail when
compared with imagination, and images do not stimulate the imagination they
way finely crafted prose can do. There is a reason why we are still reading
Dickens and Shakespeare in this modern world.

That being said, my point was that the mediums are different, and invoke
different responses. I don't feel that one is better than the other, each
have their strengths and their weaknesses. The original question was
(paraphrased) how could graphical and text IF exist within the same package?
My view is that in order to do it, you have to compromise, sacrifice some of
the strengths of both, in order to marry the disparate mediums.

This can be done, and done successfully. Comics are a good example. As a
designer you simply have to understand the strengths and limitations of each
medium, understand he impact of the medium on the player and then try to
maximize the strengths toward whatever major goal is trying to be achieved
by the package. It will almost certainly come down to compromises and
sacrifice, but that doesn't mean a good product cannot be produced.

J. Robinson Wheeler

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 12:30:31 AM12/22/03
to
Seebs wrote:

> Speaking of spoilers:
>
> I once saw a claim that there's a "do this thing early on" puzzle in that
> game, where if you don't do something meaningless very early in the game,
> you lose later - except I saw a claim that there was an elaborate,
> incomprehensible, way around it.
>
> So...
>
> SPOILER WARNING
>
> (rot13)
>
> Vs lbh qba'g tvir gur fnaqjvpu gb gur qbt, vf gurer fbzrguvat ryfr lbh pna
> qb gb xrrc vg sebz rngvat gur syrrg? Vs fb, jung vf vg?
>

Hfvat gur vzcebonovyvgl qevir yngre va gur tnzr, lbh nccrne nf
qvssrerag punenpgref ng enaqbz, naq va bar bs gurfr fpranevbf,
lbh ner Sbeq sebz gur gvzr bs gur cebybthr. Nf Sbeq, lbh pna
znxr fher gb tvir gur purrfr fnaqjvpu gb gur qbt.

Gung'f jung V erzrzore, naljnl.

mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 2:39:56 AM12/22/03
to
Julio Juliopolis <Ju...@juliopolis.com> wrote:

What I described amounts to just plain synonyms. But what *you*
described, didn't. There were seperate messages for different types
of dance.

:
:
:> (Each and every puzzle would have to include each and every possible

The point and click wasn't the point. The point was that they *reduce*
rather than increase the command set and that removes the frustrating
tedious typing part of solving problems while retaining the thinking part.
The same effect could be had by reducing the verbs to a generic
"use X, Y" that would almost always act as an appropriate
synonym for other things (like "shoot X at Y" or "attach X to Y").
You could still do that and keep text descriptions.

:
:
:<snip>


:
:
:> :> It turns out that it's a container, and the ONLY way to discover
:> :> this is to type the command to use it like a container: "put foo in
:> :> thing", which you won't do if you don't realize it's a container.
:> :
:> :
:> :Well, since you didn't know what it is, surely you tried manipulating it
:> :in a variety of ways, right?
:>
:> If I took that approach with every item that is in the game, I'd still
:> be playing it 15 years later. It's unreasonable to expect people to
:> try every action in the game with every object until they find the
:> combinations that work.
:
:
:I just meant that the item's description actually said you didn't know what
:it was, which should have encouraged you to play with it in a multitude of
:ways.

No, actually it encouraged me to say, "ahh, this is an item Douglas
Adams threw in here for it's silliness rather than it's usefulness."
(Not an unreasonable thing to assume, since there *were* tools strewn
about that you didn't know what *they* were either, and some of *them*
never did anything.)

: And remember this is Douglas Adams we're talking about here. How much

Quintin Stone

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 8:57:15 AM12/22/03
to
On 21 Dec 2003, J. Robinson Wheeler wrote:

> Seebs wrote:
>
> > Speaking of spoilers:
> >
> > I once saw a claim that there's a "do this thing early on" puzzle in that
> > game, where if you don't do something meaningless very early in the game,
> > you lose later - except I saw a claim that there was an elaborate,
> > incomprehensible, way around it.
> >
> > So...
> >
> > SPOILER WARNING
> >
> > (rot13)
> >
> > Vs lbh qba'g tvir gur fnaqjvpu gb gur qbt, vf gurer fbzrguvat ryfr lbh pna
> > qb gb xrrc vg sebz rngvat gur syrrg? Vs fb, jung vf vg?
> >
>
> Hfvat gur vzcebonovyvgl qevir yngre va gur tnzr, lbh nccrne nf
> qvssrerag punenpgref ng enaqbz, naq va bar bs gurfr fpranevbf,
> lbh ner Sbeq sebz gur gvzr bs gur cebybthr. Nf Sbeq, lbh pna
> znxr fher gb tvir gur purrfr fnaqjvpu gb gur qbt.
>
> Gung'f jung V erzrzore, naljnl.

Gur svefg fprar vaibyivat gur jneevat syrrgf cbcf hc enaqbzyl fbzr gvzr
nsgre lbhe svefg glcb/aba-erpbtavmrq pbzznaq. Vg'f lbhe "vafhyg" gung
frgf gur gjb syrrgf svtugvat, naq gura va frnepu bs Rnegu.

Jung unccraf vs lbh arire znxr n zvfgnxr?

/====================================================================\
|| Quintin Stone O- > "You speak of necessary evil? One ||
|| Code Monkey < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
|| st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
|| http://www.rps.net/QS/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
\====================================================================/

DI Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 9:09:48 AM12/22/03
to
Quintin Stone wrote:
>
> Jung unccraf vs lbh arire znxr n zvfgnxr?
>

Gura vg whfg pubbfrf fbzr aba-zvffcryyrq jbeq.

-- Gunther


Michael Bechard

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 11:07:43 AM12/22/03
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> I have argued in the past that the essence of IF lies in *not* giving
> a menu-list of actions, but instead giving a free range of action
> which the player has room to explore. Whenever I encounter a menu
> interface -- and this includes dialogue menus in text games as well as
> verb pop-up menus -- I find that my sense of the game-world
> immediately vanishes. I have a mechanical strategy available to me
> ("try everything on everything"), and it's easier to follow that than
> to visualize myself as a *person* in a *situation*.

I'm going to play devil's advocate here and make a point opposite of
what I made earlier in this thread. As Mike Roberts pointed out, the
range of actions in a text-adventure game isn't really free. The game's
parser is setup to only accept commands in a semi-grammatical format,
and the verbs that an author chooses to implement are rather limited,
given the full range of the English language. This, compounded with the
"standards" of the IF commandset given by most parsers that IF veterans
are quite familiar with (x, up, north, take, etc.) makes for a
more-or-less spelled-out interface; the trick for newbies is to get
acquainted with it. It seems to me that the immersion and
free-formedness that most IF players feel is really an illusion.

>
> I decided that the reason I like Myst-style graphical IF is that it
> *acknowledges* that selecting an action for an object is
> uninteresting. In this sort of game, there's only one action -- click,
> which means "use this".

<snip>

I guess, as a non-Myst fan, this is one thing I have never understood
about those games and why people prefer them. You have one possible
course of action for everything; click. It's anybody's guess as to what
"click" exactly does, but that's all you get. Granted, for most
situations it's easy to deduce what clicking on an object will do (click
on a door and it opens, etc.), but it still seems exceedingly bland to
me. What if IF used this approach? Just "use" everything. Neato.

As in IF, having a set of verbs to use *increases* my sense of
interaction and also serves to further pull me into the game. Not only
do I know that I'm opening the door, I'm *choosing* to open the door.
And what if I want to listen to the door? To knock on it? To force it
open by pushing on it or attacking it? Granted, those verbs must be
implemented in the game in order to be an option, but it's possible.
Objects in Myst, to me, have a very one-dimentional aspect to them,
since I can't do any of those things to the door.

My biggest gripe with Myst style games is the lack of *any* NPC
interaction, but that's another conversation...

Michael

Mike Rozak

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 6:00:43 PM12/22/03
to
Actually, I mean public domain as in freely distributable. This would allow
an IF authoring system to automagically build some of the thesaurus for the
author and/or user. If a freely distributable dictionary (with work
definitions) were availalble then a word-net could be constructed that could
further remove some of the guess-the-verb.

You'd never eliminate all the guess the verb problems though using a
thesaurus or word-net. Another approach is to get 100+ beta testers and scan
their play logs looking for unexpected (but correct) commands.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au
"Michael Coyne" <coy...@mtsDOS.net> wrote in message
news:Tc7Fb.8781$Tb7....@news1.mts.net...

Mike Rozak

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 7:11:30 PM12/22/03
to
> Comics are a good example.

Yes and no. Comics are a good example because they include graphics and
text, but bad because on a computer you could have graphics and recorded
speech. I think TV documentaries (or newscasts) might be a better example of
the ways to combine them. (Although they're not fiction. Cross comics with
documentary?)

> Although people love to complain how a particular movie wasn't as good as
> the book, they are really comparing apples and oranges. You simply can't
> compare a book to a movie, or visa versa. They are totally distinct
> products, each with their own formats and requirements. They are truly as
> different as apples and oranges.

> The reason is very simple. Reading is active and viewing is passive. When


> you read a book, you are actually doing something, and this translates
into
> a certain experience for the reader. When you watch a movie, you are
passive

> and this creates a completely different experience. One isn't better than
> the other, just different, and each has their own rules and methods of
> execution.

> Far more than reading? Again, hardly. Yes, deciding which icon to click


does
> involve some brain power, but it hardly produces the mental
interconnections
> that reading produces.

I agree that it's apple and oranges. I don't necessarily agree about passive
and active. (Although I suspect TV broadcasts are designed to be passive and
inane, especially morning news shows.) Maybe it's a left brain vs. right
brain issue? (To pull out a cliche.)


> Could you combine the two? You could, but personally, I think you would
end
> up something much less than the parts. You would have to dilute both
aspects
> in order to combine them, and loose the impact of both.

To use the fruit analogy: Some people like cran-apple drink. Personally, I
like orange-mango and orange-tangerine, but not orange-apple. Seriosly, I am
worried about the possibility that combining oranges and apples results in
bad combination though. I keep doing mind experiments, starting with pure
text IF and then adding only a few images/sounds and seeing how well that
works, or conversely, starting with a first-person shooter UI and adding IF
components.

I know that when text and graphics were combined in the late 1980's the
experience did NOT work. The apple II graphics adventures were fairly awful
because of the poor graphics, only 4 lines of text, and the difficulty of
reading the text and trying to look a the pitcutres. I only played the early
king's quest for a few minutes, and it didn't appeal to me either.

Nor does text superimposed on graphics (such as all the diaries in Myst
I-IV) work. Not only are they difficult to read, the text diaries feel
completely out of place in the graphics world.

Neither tried recorded speech. Lucas arts uses recorded speech, combined
with graphics. I am ambilent towards them. The speech and graphics seems to
work OK, but they don't use a narrator (except for occasional comments by
the character) so some concepts (as pointed out in other posts) cannot
easily be commuinicated. Plus, their context-sensative command menus, while
making life easier, reduce some of the open-endedness of the world.


--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Papillon

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 7:31:51 PM12/22/03
to

As I often ramble in this sort of discussion...


I still fail to understand why the best hybrid of graphical adventure games
and IF (best, at least, in as far as combining the most elements of both)
seems to be not very popular.

That would be the Sierra engine right before it gave up the text parser -
when mouse clicking was starting to be meaningful, but not yet the only
method of interaction.

You had the graphical display of what was going on, the visualisation of the
scene.

You had, thankfully, a game that would PAUSE when you were typing something,
so you couldn't be killed because you couldn't finish your command fast
enough. :)

You had the fairly-necessary addition of mouse-look, so that if you failed
to understand what a pixelised-graphical-object WAS, you could always look
at it, figure out what it was called and get a general idea of whether or
not it was important.

And you had the open-endedness of the text parser, allowing you to pursue
topics/information at your own whim instead of, say, clicking through a
dialog menu (given a list of topics to talk about, it seems quite obvious
that the correct approach is to click ALL of them, making it dull)
---
Hanako Games
http://www.hanakogames.com/

Mike Rozak

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 7:38:15 PM12/22/03
to
> It seems to me that the immersion and
> free-formedness that most IF players feel is really an illusion.

One nice feature about a parser (even if it is an illusion) is that the
player doesn't know where the limits of its understanding lie. (This is also
the frustrating part.) The inability to easily perceive the limits creates
the illusion that anything can be done. It's like people that live on a 1/2
acre block and plant thick, bushy trees around the edge of their lot so they
can't see their neighbors or the road. It gives the illusion that the house
is isolated in a forest, even though it isn't. Personally, I prefer the
illusion of a huge forest surrounding my house. Facing the reality of living
in a suburb is too much. (I have since moved into a huge forest/savanah, and
must now face the reality that I can't get pizza delivery.)

The point-and-click interface completely destroys this illusion since it's
obvious where the limits are. (But it also removed the guess-the-verb
frustration.)


> My biggest gripe with Myst style games is the lack of *any* NPC
> interaction, but that's another conversation...

Agree. They had to do this because pointing and clicking on people is
considered rude. Or maybe because the work of creating a conversation tree,
recording all the speech, and then trying to animate/video it is too much
work. (I have to admit, the world they created has a clever excuse for no
NPCs, but you can only wander around so many deserted landscapes.) The
conversation trees in all the graphical adventures that I've played have
been sparse because of the costs.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Rick Clark

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 8:34:47 PM12/22/03
to
"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote:
> I know that when text and graphics were combined in the late 1980's the
> experience did NOT work. The apple II graphics adventures were fairly
awful
> because of the poor graphics, only 4 lines of text, and the difficulty of
> reading the text and trying to look a the pitcutres. I only played the
early
> king's quest for a few minutes, and it didn't appeal to me either.

It seems to me that the problem lies in the transition between the two
medias when they are combined, not necessarily the media format themselves.
Take a movie that has sub-titles, for example. Switch from watching the
movie to reading the subtitles, for me at least, diminishes the movie
experience. I cannot get immersed into the movie because I have to mentally
stop, read the subtitle and then try to relate that to what I am seeing on
the screen.

For me, this combination process of viewing/reading applies to games as
well. When I first played Doom, I was so immersed into the game, that I
actually jumped when my wife entered the computer room. If, while playing
the game, I had to stop and read a bunch of text info, it would have ruined
the experience.

To bring it closer to IF, I have read some of the TADS stories, both with
and without the graphics. I found myself much more absorbed in the text-only
versions, rather than the graphic versions, because I didn't have to break
out of reading mode, look at a picture, and then get back into reading mode.
The graphic versions just ended up being annoying (while still being good
stories) because I had to switch my brain between the two modes. For me, the
problem is the transition between the two modes that draw me out of the
story and remind me that I am indeed just playing a game.

Rick Clark

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 8:48:12 PM12/22/03
to
"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote:
> You'd never eliminate all the guess the verb problems though using a
> thesaurus or word-net. Another approach is to get 100+ beta testers and
scan
> their play logs looking for unexpected (but correct) commands.

There has been some success in this problem by using AI techniques such as
neural nets or genetic algorithms (GA)/classifier systems(CS). A GA system
might be a better approach since it lends itself to wildcards within the
coded gene that greatly reduce the number of rules that must be kept within
the system. By bulding a GA/CS it could automatically adjust itself based on
the user input (assuming you have a text interface) and handle unexpected
situations (once the system has generated enough rules) that would be
impossible to hard-code.

John W. Kennedy

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 10:36:49 PM12/22/03
to
J. Robinson Wheeler wrote:

> Seebs wrote:
>
>
>>Speaking of spoilers:
>>
>>I once saw a claim that there's a "do this thing early on" puzzle in that
>>game, where if you don't do something meaningless very early in the game,
>>you lose later - except I saw a claim that there was an elaborate,
>>incomprehensible, way around it.
>>
>>So...
>>
>>SPOILER WARNING
>>
>>(rot13)
>>
>>Vs lbh qba'g tvir gur fnaqjvpu gb gur qbt, vf gurer fbzrguvat ryfr lbh pna
>>qb gb xrrc vg sebz rngvat gur syrrg? Vs fb, jung vf vg?
>>
>
>
> Hfvat gur vzcebonovyvgl qevir yngre va gur tnzr, lbh nccrne nf
> qvssrerag punenpgref ng enaqbz, naq va bar bs gurfr fpranevbf,
> lbh ner Sbeq sebz gur gvzr bs gur cebybthr. Nf Sbeq, lbh pna
> znxr fher gb tvir gur purrfr fnaqjvpu gb gur qbt.
>
> Gung'f jung V erzrzore, naljnl.

Actually, it isn't random.

--
John W. Kennedy
"But now is a new thing which is very old--
that the rich make themselves richer and not poorer,
which is the true Gospel, for the poor's sake."
-- Charles Williams. "Judgement at Chelmsford"

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Dec 22, 2003, 11:57:45 PM12/22/03
to
Here, Michael Bechard <not...@nothing.com> wrote:

> > I decided that the reason I like Myst-style graphical IF is that it
> > *acknowledges* that selecting an action for an object is
> > uninteresting. In this sort of game, there's only one action -- click,
> > which means "use this".
> <snip>
>
> I guess, as a non-Myst fan, this is one thing I have never understood
> about those games and why people prefer them. You have one possible
> course of action for everything; click. It's anybody's guess as to what
> "click" exactly does, but that's all you get. Granted, for most
> situations it's easy to deduce what clicking on an object will do (click
> on a door and it opens, etc.), but it still seems exceedingly bland to
> me. What if IF used this approach? Just "use" everything. Neato.

You snipped the completion of my point, which is that these games
give you a *different* range of action, to replace the missing one of
the verb choice.

In graphical games, this range is a cluttered and interesting visual
world, which must be parsed and understood. Much more so than the
prose of a text game.

I'm not saying that reading prose is *not* mind-engaging work. But
it's to a different end. For the purpose of understanding what's going
on around you, prose is pre-analyzed -- already in the language of
thought, in a sense. (Adam Cadre posted an interesting and related
point on his web site -- http://adamcadre.ac/calendar/ if you don't
follow it, the recent entries on autism.)

(Yes, I'm leaving aside here the sub-group of text IF which *is*
obscure and hard to read, right down in the prose of room descriptions
and such. People do this, but it's not common, any more than it is in
novels.)

Seebs

unread,
Dec 23, 2003, 4:45:48 AM12/23/03
to
In article <vuf6j7l...@corp.supernews.com>,

Rick Clark <rickc...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>Take a movie that has sub-titles, for example. Switch from watching the
>movie to reading the subtitles, for me at least, diminishes the movie
>experience. I cannot get immersed into the movie because I have to mentally
>stop, read the subtitle and then try to relate that to what I am seeing on
>the screen.

Interesting. I don't have that. I have the problem that I cannot control my
reading behavior; if words pass in front of my eyes, they are fed to me by the
part of my brain which reads. I'm one of the people who needs about a
paragraph of text in front of a spoiler to give my conscious brain enough
time to stop reading before the text spooler gets to the spoiler.

mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu

unread,
Dec 23, 2003, 6:36:54 AM12/23/03