Yet Another Definition Of IF

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burn...@cs.lafayette.edu

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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The following is taken from my undergradute thesis, "Building
Character: The Role Of Emotional Agents In Interactive Fiction."

"Interactive Fiction can be [defined] as the presentation by computer
of interactive worlds, inhabited by dynamic and complex characters and
shaped by aesthetically pleasing stories where the user takes on the
role of the central character and interacts directly with the story-
world and the characters within it."

Giving credit where credit is due the first part comes from a paper
written by Joseph Bates published on work from his Oz Project at
Carnegie-Mellon University. (Up to "aesthetically pleasing stories")
The second part is my own addition to the definition, although I
suppose a VERY interesting piece of IF could be written with the user
playing some secondary character, but then as far as the player is
concerned they are the central character from their perspective whether
or not they are in the story.

Thoughts? Complaints? Praises?

Jesse Burneko


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
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okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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In article <7mj1t2$ttc$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

burn...@cs.lafayette.edu wrote:
> The following is taken from my undergradute thesis, "Building
> Character: The Role Of Emotional Agents In Interactive Fiction."
>

Devil's advocate time:

> "Interactive Fiction can be [defined] as the presentation by computer
> of interactive worlds,

1. Lots of game genres present interactive worlds.

> inhabited by dynamic and complex characters

2. No IF does this. Some achieve a passing illusion of this, though not
necessarily better than any other genre.

> shaped by aesthetically pleasing stories

3. See point 1.

> where the user takes on the role of the central character and

> interacts directly with the story-world and the characters within it.

4. See point 1.

> Thoughts? Complaints? Praises?

If you don't know what IF is, this doesn't tell you. It doesn't
distinguish IF well.

A variety of FPS/3PS/RTS/TBS/ETC games can be described as the
presentation of an interactive world inhabited by "dynamic and complex
characters" (as much as ANY game is) where the user takes on the role of
the (or a) central character and interacts directly with the story-world
and characters within it.

But IF *is* different. The question is: How?
--
[ok]

Alex H.

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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<okbl...@my-deja.com> wrote:

Right. You took the words right out of my mouth (post?).


> But IF *is* different. The question is: How?

Maybe an element of IF is that it's possible to interact with the world
without affecting your sucess at the game? (It seemed solid. I'd give,
oh, 5 minutes for someone to post a counterexample.)


> --
> [ok]
>
>
> Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
> Share what you know. Learn what you don't.


--
I haven't got a signature.

Adam Cadre

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Jul 14, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/14/99
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> A variety of FPS/3PS/RTS/TBS/ETC games can be described as the
> presentation of an interactive world inhabited by "dynamic and complex
> characters" (as much as ANY game is) where the user takes on the role of
> the (or a) central character and interacts directly with the story-world
> and characters within it.

Heh. A variety of first-person shooters present dynamic and complex
characters? Shades of Full Metal Jacket. "I wanted to come to Vietnam,
jewel of southeast Asia. I wanted to meet people from a vibrant, dynamic
culture, and kill them."

-----
Adam Cadre, Issaquah, WA
http://adamcadre.ac

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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In article <1duy576.km2...@ppp29.conn.localnet.com>,

phoe...@SPAMBEGONE.localnet.com (Alex H.) wrote:
> Maybe an element of IF is that it's possible to interact with the
> world without affecting your sucess at the game? (It seemed solid.
> I'd give, oh, 5 minutes for someone to post a counterexample.)

I'd rebut this--it may even be only five minutes after you posted
it--but I'm not sure what you mean. :-)

If I understand you correctly, then Duke Nukem would qualify because you
can blow up mirrors and toilets, which doesn't really affect your game.

BrenBarn

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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>I
>suppose a VERY interesting piece of IF could be written with the user
>playing some secondary character, but then as far as the player is
>concerned they are the central character from their perspective whether
>or not they are in the story.
What you are now reading, mind you, is a post totally unrelated to the
Definition of IF which the above post was concerned with. I am merely going to
say this: "Photopia" was a game in which the central character was never played
by the player, and yet was clearly the central character. In fact, this fact
was integral to the game's "wholeness", its focus.
Sorry for posting such a narrow response. :-)


From,
Brendan B. B.
Bren...@aol.com
(Name in header has spam-blocker, use the address above instead.)

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

burn...@cs.lafayette.edu

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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In article <7mj77a$vrm$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,
okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:

> If you don't know what IF is, this doesn't tell you. It doesn't
> distinguish IF well.

Actually, I really like your points which made me think about all the
people I've told this definition to. See, a lot of people find out I
like computer games and I'm really ONLY into IF and Graphical
Adventures with the VERY RARE RPG thrown in for variety. Of course,
when I tell people I like computer games the only thing they think of
is DOOM clones. So I tell them about IF. When they ask what IF is, I
give them this defenition they say, "Ooooo that does sound different."
And actually without further comment they do have a pretty good idea of
what I'm talking about. So your arguement makes me wonder why no one
else notices this point.

Jesse Burneko

Supafly 16

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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I think everyone here is missing the point on the definition of 'Interactive
Fiction' by a long shot....
"So what is the definition of interactive fiction you smart ass !?"
(You ask me)

Well, this is my answer.....

THERE IS NONE. (Return true)

Just kidding. The thing in parenthesis was for humor, a command I learned from
Hugo. - but anyway, yes - there is none. At least to a certain extent- nothing
is absolute in our world (except for numbers in math, but who knows- even
aliens can prove us wrong)
First off, lets break down the definition -

To you - what does 'interactive' mean to you?
And also - ... - what does 'fiction' mean to you?
I will not insult your intelligence by telling you what those two words
mean. But there you have it- your definition of IF. If this doesn't make any
sense, then - well, let me give some examples.

Example 1 - You search for a CD of your favorite band at your local music
store, yet you cannot find it.
Lets say (for example, of course) you are looking for that CD "Daughters of
the Celtic Moon, by Lisa Lynn", which would be normally be found under the "New
Age" section (for after all, you heard her album from a New Age program on the
radio, and to you - she is a "New Age' artist) yet you find the album under the
"World" music section since her music is generally "Celtic influenced", which -
to the visual merchandisers and minimum wage workers of the store - should
fall under "World Music" category.

Example 2 - You are in a grocery store searching for a bunch of black olives
because you are in the mood for them to handle your 'munchies' syndrome (Might
make a bad example to you people - the readers - as being a food that
satisfies your 'munchies' , but I have always found black olives to be a good
delicacy to curb my hunger and 'munchies' ), you search the vegetable section
to no avail, but - to your chagrined satisfaction - you find a glorious can
of black olives in the ' canned food section ' of the grocery store.

Example 3 - You are frustrated at playing your new 'ADVENTURE TEXT' game (mark
those capitalized words- that is an example of what I am trying to get to --
if you understand what I am trying to get to) because whenever you try to tell
the parser of your 'Interactive Fiction' game
> attack monster with sword

and it tells you -

" which sword do you mean - the one handed sword or the two handed claymore
sword? "

You (the people trying to give a definition of IF) have tried breaking down
the whole meaning of ' interactive fiction' so much that you have failed to
realize the simple, logical solution in front of you. Believe me - it's very
simple - it has been in front of you the whole time.

So in other words, Interactive Fiction is (___________).

I left those words blank to see if anyone realizes what I am saying :) :)

Tenzin Alexander


Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:
> In article <7mj1t2$ttc$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,
> burn...@cs.lafayette.edu wrote:
>> The following is taken from my undergradute thesis, "Building
>> Character: The Role Of Emotional Agents In Interactive Fiction."
>>
>
> Devil's advocate time:
>
>> "Interactive Fiction can be [defined] as the presentation by computer
>> of interactive worlds,
>
> 1. Lots of game genres present interactive worlds.
>
>> inhabited by dynamic and complex characters
>
> 2. No IF does this. Some achieve a passing illusion of this, though not
> necessarily better than any other genre.

Well, he said this clause was from the Oz Project, which spent several
years working on *exactly* this. Character AI, at the level of goals,
emotion levels, etc.

Actually along similar lines to the Erasmatron stuff.

(Just because there is very little of this on ftp.gmd.de doesn't meaning
nobody has tried it. And of course, the people who have tried it say that
it's integral to the definition of IF. :-)

The Oz Project is currently incarnated as a startup company in Boston, and
last I heard Phil Goetz was working there. You out there?

--Z

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

nickmo...@my-deja.com

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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In article <19990714231047...@ng-fy1.aol.com>,

bren...@aol.comRemove (BrenBarn) wrote:
> >I
> >suppose a VERY interesting piece of IF could be written with the user
> >playing some secondary character [...]

>
> What you are now reading, mind you, is a post totally unrelated to the
> Definition of IF which the above post was concerned with. I am merely
> going to say this: "Photopia" was a game in which the central
> character was never played by the player[...]

You could say that about Sherlock: Riddle of the Crown Jewels and
even, if you brought out dexterous arguments, about Suspended.

Back to the definition...

It seems a fine definition of what types of things you want to talk
about in your thesis. I wouldn't claim that that is the single true
definition of IF, however, but say something more along the lines
of "when I refer to interactive fiction in this thesis, I mean..."

In my undergraduate thesis on IF, I defined a computer narrative as
"any story told through the computer medium," and then said "If the
computer narrative is designed to allow the software user to
explicitly interact with the story, possibly altering the course of
events and outcome ... this narrative lies in the special category
known as interactive fiction." In retrospect, while the defining I
did wasn't great, it seems I wisely dodged the issue of what the
entire category of interactive fiction is. If I hadn't, I probably
would have done something silly - for instance, said that IF has to
involve a computer. Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch, Raymond Queneau's
Story As You Like It, and Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars
would all give the lie to this.

Interactive fiction does have a definition, but it is also used at
different times to mean different things. On this newsgroup, IF
does not functionally refer to hypertext or printed texts - I'm not
going to come here for help on Storyspace. At Brown University, IF
does not functionally refer to text adventure games. My definition
would include both of these types of works, although I find the
former form less interesting. I'd also include books and stories
like the three mentioned above. But of course, any usual novel,
even if digitized into an online file or read in a subversive way
by a reader, is not IF.

-Nick M.

Alex H.

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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<okbl...@my-deja.com> wrote:

> In article <1duy576.km2...@ppp29.conn.localnet.com>,
> phoe...@SPAMBEGONE.localnet.com (Alex H.) wrote:
> > Maybe an element of IF is that it's possible to interact with the
> > world without affecting your sucess at the game? (It seemed solid.
> > I'd give, oh, 5 minutes for someone to post a counterexample.)
>
> I'd rebut this--it may even be only five minutes after you posted
> it--but I'm not sure what you mean. :-)
>
> If I understand you correctly, then Duke Nukem would qualify because you
> can blow up mirrors and toilets, which doesn't really affect your game.

I've never played Duke Nukem, but I meant it as a signifigant
characteristic--if you can interact in a game but all the interactions
are related to the goal, the game may not be IF (okay, a game which is
entirely under a time limit bends the rules a bit, but there aren't many
such games). Conversely, similar actions in games that are clearly not
IF may make them more IF-like--Duke Nukem isn't IF, but it's closer to
it than, say, Space Invaders, where your interaction is more strictly
tied to the goal. Sorry if I failed to make that clear.

According to MacSOUP, you posted no more than 44 minutes afterwards and
probably a lot less. Most likely within about ten.
> --
> [ok]


>
>
> Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
> Share what you know. Learn what you don't.

Dr. Weird Beard

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Jul 15, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/15/99
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<burn...@cs.lafayette.edu> wrote in message
news:7mkdan$cc6$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

> In article <7mj77a$vrm$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,
> okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
> > If you don't know what IF is, this doesn't tell you. It doesn't
> > distinguish IF well.
>
> When they ask what IF is, I
> give them this defenition they say, "Ooooo that does sound different."
> And actually without further comment they do have a pretty good idea of
> what I'm talking about. So your arguement makes me wonder why no one
> else notices this point.
>
To be honest, your definition reads more like ad copy than a real
definition. I can't think of any part of it that can't be said about a
well-written graphic adventure or rpg. Even some FPSs fill the definition
better than some IF I've seen (yes, even the part about interesting
characters.)

Kristofer Osegard

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Jul 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/16/99
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Interactive Fiction:

A story presented wholly or primarily in written text which promts the
reader to make one or more decisions, then provides a response.

Just a thought.

-K


Knight37

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Jul 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/16/99
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<burn...@cs.lafayette.edu> wrote
> The following is taken from my undergradute thesis, "Building
> Character: The Role Of Emotional Agents In Interactive Fiction."
>
> "Interactive Fiction can be [defined] as the presentation by computer
> of interactive worlds, inhabited by dynamic and complex characters and
> shaped by aesthetically pleasing stories where the user takes on the
> role of the central character and interacts directly with the story-

> world and the characters within it."

I consider "interactive worlds" to be something more commonly found
in other kinds of computer games, like RPGs, or FPS games, rather
than in IF. I think IF is more concerned with an "interactive story"
than it is "interactive world." Just my $.02.

Also, I prefer not to limit IF to the realm of computers. There is
such a thing as an interactive novel.

Knight37


okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/19/99
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In article <1duycjq.fwp...@ppp28.conn.localnet.com>,

phoe...@SPAMBEGONE.localnet.com (Alex H.) wrote:
> >
> I've never played Duke Nukem, but I meant it as a signifigant
> characteristic--if you can interact in a game but all the interactions
> are related to the goal, the game may not be IF (okay, a game which is
> entirely under a time limit bends the rules a bit, but there aren't
> many such games). Conversely, similar actions in games that are
> clearly not IF may make them more IF-like--Duke Nukem isn't IF, but
> it's closer to it than, say, Space Invaders, where your interaction is
> more strictly tied to the goal. Sorry if I failed to make that clear.

OK. Let me say that I think that that's a valid observation of IF versus
other genres, but it strikes me more as a side-effect than a really
definitive point. The thing about IF that makes irrelevance possible is
the relatively "casual" nature of it. IF tends toward a free-form
attitude regarding time (and space for that matter) and this allows more
time for, em, frittering. A strategy game or RPG *could* do the same
thing. Nethack allows a lot of frittering.

*But*, there is something to the whole concept of "Duke Nukem" being
closer to IF than "Space Invaders". We're trying to find some absolute
and say "Well, that, that's IF right there." But it's more a set of
characteristics that are "IF-like". The wildly acclaimed "Half-Life" is
wildly acclaimed largely *because* it has IF-like features (i.e., a
semi-interactive narrative).

In previous years, a game in any genre could be lavishly praised for
doing what it did *well*. FPSes only needed good action and graphics,
strategy depth and/or breadth, platform jumpers needed good moves and so
on. Now, they not only get chided for not having *stories* but for the
stories not affecting the gameplay in some way. (This is true even of
a lot modern day arcade shoot-em-ups like "Incoming".)

I doubt that we'll see a super-genre subsume everything because a body
often wants the specific experience that comes from a pure IF, RTS, FPS,
whatever. But I suspect we'll see a lot more IF in other genres as time
passes.

> According to MacSOUP, you posted no more than 44 minutes afterwards
> and probably a lot less. Most likely within about ten.

[insert comment here]

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/19/99
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I opined:

"A variety of FPS/3PS/RTS/TBS/ETC games can be described as the
presentation of an interactive world inhabited by "dynamic and
complex characters" (as much as ANY game is) where the user takes on the
role of the (or a) central character and interacts directly with the

story-world and characters within it."

Adam Cadre responded:


"Heh. A variety of first-person shooters present dynamic and complex
characters? Shades of Full Metal Jacket. "I wanted to come to
Vietnam, jewel of southeast Asia. I wanted to meet people from a
vibrant, dynamic culture, and kill them.""

My reresponse:

Heh. I meant "variety" to apply all of the non-IF genres, not just FPS,
which may or may not have the fewest entries that have dynamic and
complex characters. "Half-Life" is the obvious example. A lot of the
upcoming FPS games seem to have more emphasis on character-development,
like Daikatana.

The real stinger is that, unless you have a *very* generous idea of what
constitutes as "dynamic and complex" character, you would have to search
pretty hard to find *any* examples, even in IF. IF does complex better
than dynamic, I think, usually at the expense of dynamic.

The [rhymes-with-orgasmatron] would be an example of an environment that
have dynamic, but simple, characters, at least if I understand the
inventor's intent.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/19/99
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In article <7mkdan$cc6$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

burn...@cs.lafayette.edu wrote:
>
> When they ask what IF is, I give them this defenition they say, "Ooooo
> that does sound different." And actually without further comment they
> do have a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about. So your
> arguement makes me wonder why no one else notices this point.

Because they don't know what IF is, and you haven't told them.

If you told *me* that definition, I'd probably say the same thing!

Who wouldn't want to play a game like you described? How many times
have we (the royal we, the consumer of games) seen copy very much like
that on the back of a box?

The more savvy among us know exactly what the limitations of the field
are and know that the back of the box is usually not very informative,
just as we suspect that the creme filling of a Twinkie may not, in fact,
be the "nutritious part".

The other problem with your definition may be that it isn't true, that
what you've described is what IF *strives* to be. Perhaps IF pays more
than lip-service to the ideas (unlike some other game genres) but IF is
not unique in having it as a goal.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/19/99
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In article <7mkpup$1...@dfw-ixnews10.ix.netcom.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>
> Well, he said this clause was from the Oz Project, which spent several
> years working on *exactly* this. Character AI, at the level of goals,
> emotion levels, etc.
>
> Actually along similar lines to the Erasmatron stuff.

Which, if I've understood your previous missives, runs counter to *your*
ideas about IF, no? (That is, the E-word stuff.)

I think that this direction is more RPG-ish than IF-ish. That is, the
characters have a set of attributes which affect their behaviors, and
even if those behaviors get more complex than "kill" and "run away", you
still have something more akin to RPG than IF.

> (Just because there is very little of this on ftp.gmd.de doesn't
> meaning nobody has tried it. And of course, the people who have tried
> it say that it's integral to the definition of IF. :-)

Developing more complex NPCs would advance IF; doing it in this
particular way might or might not.

> The Oz Project is currently incarnated as a startup company in Boston,
> and last I heard Phil Goetz was working there. You out there?

I haven't seen him around in a while. I wouldn't expect to if he's
really involved in a startup.

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/20/99
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okbl...@my-deja.com wrote:
> In article <7mkpup$1...@dfw-ixnews10.ix.netcom.com>,
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>>
>> Well, he said this clause was from the Oz Project, which spent several
>> years working on *exactly* this. Character AI, at the level of goals,
>> emotion levels, etc.
>>
>> Actually along similar lines to the Erasmatron stuff.
>
> Which, if I've understood your previous missives, runs counter to *your*
> ideas about IF, no? (That is, the E-word stuff.)

It is, yes. But I don't want to condemn the entire plan as "inherently
not IF." (Well, I maybe *want* to, but I know it would be completely
unfair. :-)

Shattertown Sky (the current Erasmatron demo game) wasn't IF, in my view,
because it just didn't work; I had no sense of story at all.

Ditto for the Oz project demos that I saw (although those were nearly ten
years ago.) The Woggles reacted, but I didn't feel like they reacted
artfully -- nothing was communicated.

> I think that this direction is more RPG-ish than IF-ish. That is, the
> characters have a set of attributes which affect their behaviors, and
> even if those behaviors get more complex than "kill" and "run away", you
> still have something more akin to RPG than IF.

It's rule-based rather than being a bunch of hand-written exceptions -- is
that what you mean? That's certainly true, but it's not quite the
substance of my distinction. A set of rules can communicate, can be
crafted, just as well as a big pile of "if" and "print" statements. (Ask
the designers of board and card games!)

>> The Oz Project is currently incarnated as a startup company in Boston,
>> and last I heard Phil Goetz was working there. You out there?
>
> I haven't seen him around in a while. I wouldn't expect to if he's
> really involved in a startup.

He's posted once or twice in the past few years.

okbl...@my-deja.com

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Jul 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/21/99
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In article <7n20vu$a...@dfw-ixnews15.ix.netcom.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>
> It is, yes. But I don't want to condemn the entire plan as "inherently
> not IF." (Well, I maybe *want* to, but I know it would be completely
> unfair. :-)

The term "Interactive Fiction" doesn't have to be a blanket that covers
every form of interaction with an envrionment that might happen to
suggest a narrative to the user.

> Shattertown Sky (the current Erasmatron demo game) wasn't IF, in my
> view, because it just didn't work; I had no sense of story at all.
> Ditto for the Oz project demos that I saw (although those were nearly
> ten years ago.) The Woggles reacted, but I didn't feel like they
> reacted artfully -- nothing was communicated.

We also are wandering into IF as a form of "virtual pet". I mean, the
level of interaction is about the same as a Tamogotchi or
Dogz/Catz/Petz/Whatever. Just because the interaction may someday be
scaled up to something more resembling human intelligence won't make it
IF--though such things will probably be used in IF.

> It's rule-based rather than being a bunch of hand-written exceptions
> -- is that what you mean? That's certainly true, but it's not quite
> the substance of my distinction. A set of rules can communicate, can
> be crafted, just as well as a big pile of "if" and "print" statements.
> (Ask the designers of board and card games!)

Well, all those hand-written exceptions are still "rule-based": The set
of rules is just very broad and specific. :-)

But the rules in IF are designed to shape the narrative, as opposed to
being designed to shape play which may ultimate create a narrative.

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