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Roger Carbol

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Mar 27, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/27/96
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In the one of the latest discussions, an interesting topic
was brought up as a bit of a sidebar. It's a personal
peeve of mine, so I'd thought I'd expand on it.

It deals with the whole issue of player knowledge of the
protagonist, essentially. Almost every I-F I know of starts
off with something like "You wake up..."

Which is fair enough. However, I think it breaks the abeyance
of the work to build puzzles around things which the protagonist
obviously would know, but that the player has to dig around
for.

For example, imagine a piece of IF in which the protagonist
is a brain surgeon. Can you imagine a puzzle which hinges
on the player trying to figure out exactly what a drug
like diazepam does? Sure, the player could run out in Real Life
and look it up, assuming the drug acts in the game like it
does in Real Life. But why should she have to? A brain
surgeon should know these things.

I find this obliquely related to the "teleportation" introductions
which some I-F uses, in the following sort of form:

"You're just walking down the street one day, minding your
own business, when SUDDENLY, you're transported to a
mind-boggling world for no reason whatsoever."

This, I think, perhaps errs on the other side: it assumes
the protagonist knows nothing about his world, much like
the player.

Perhaps these are just petty points...


Roger Carbol // uq...@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA // hello, floyd


Andrew C. Plotkin

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Mar 27, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/27/96
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uq...@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA (Roger Carbol) writes:
> In the one of the latest discussions, an interesting topic
> was brought up as a bit of a sidebar. It's a personal
> peeve of mine, so I'd thought I'd expand on it.
>
> It deals with the whole issue of player knowledge of the
> protagonist, essentially. Almost every I-F I know of starts
> off with something like "You wake up..."

The way I count it, very few. Maybe I'm not understanding what you
mean? Most games these days, and a fair proportion of the early ones,
give a brief orientation paragraph so that you have some background of
your character's life.

Could you give examples of what you mean?

(In fact, people (including me) have been following the style of the
introduction to Trinity, nearly slavishly. Ah well.)

> Which is fair enough. However, I think it breaks the abeyance
> of the work to build puzzles around things which the protagonist
> obviously would know, but that the player has to dig around
> for.

Opinion seems to be against this sort of thing. In the first release
of Christminster, there was a puzzle of exactly this sort, and Gareth
got enough annoyed comments to change it.

--Z

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

Matthew T. Russotto

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Mar 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/28/96
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In article <1996Mar27.0...@freenet.victoria.bc.ca>,

Roger Carbol <uq...@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA> wrote:
}
}In the one of the latest discussions, an interesting topic
}was brought up as a bit of a sidebar. It's a personal
}peeve of mine, so I'd thought I'd expand on it.
}
}It deals with the whole issue of player knowledge of the
}protagonist, essentially. Almost every I-F I know of starts
}off with something like "You wake up..."
}
}Which is fair enough. However, I think it breaks the abeyance
}of the work to build puzzles around things which the protagonist
}obviously would know, but that the player has to dig around
}for.
}
}For example, imagine a piece of IF in which the protagonist
}is a brain surgeon. Can you imagine a puzzle which hinges
}on the player trying to figure out exactly what a drug
}like diazepam does? Sure, the player could run out in Real Life
}and look it up, assuming the drug acts in the game like it
}does in Real Life. But why should she have to? A brain
}surgeon should know these things.

Quantum Leap effect, perhaps.

}I find this obliquely related to the "teleportation" introductions
}which some I-F uses, in the following sort of form:
}
}"You're just walking down the street one day, minding your
} own business, when SUDDENLY, you're transported to a
} mind-boggling world for no reason whatsoever."

No, it was a perfectly good reason, as was explained if you'd read the
rule book:

"Hello, Prisoner!
You are a captive of the Leather Goddesses of Phobos. As an experimental
subject, your unspeakably painful death will help our effort to enslave humanity
and turn the Earth into our private pleasure world. Consider this to be a great
honor, human."

--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com russ...@his.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Cameron Perkins

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Mar 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/28/96
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Roger Carbol (uq...@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA) wrote:
: For example, imagine a piece of IF in which the protagonist

: is a brain surgeon. Can you imagine a puzzle which hinges
: on the player trying to figure out exactly what a drug
: like diazepam does? Sure, the player could run out in Real Life
: and look it up, assuming the drug acts in the game like it
: does in Real Life. But why should she have to? A brain
: surgeon should know these things.

A good solution to this might be to have the parser able to
handle a wide variety of questions, along the lines of the
classic "What is a grue?" response that you could get from
the Infocom games.

--
Cameron Perkins <gt5...@prism.gatech.edu>

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Mar 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM3/28/96
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gt5...@prism.gatech.edu (Cameron Perkins) writes:
> Roger Carbol (uq...@freenet.Victoria.BC.CA) wrote:
> : For example, imagine a piece of IF in which the protagonist
> : is a brain surgeon. Can you imagine a puzzle which hinges
> : on the player trying to figure out exactly what a drug
> : like diazepam does? [...]

>
> A good solution to this might be to have the parser able to
> handle a wide variety of questions, along the lines of the
> classic "What is a grue?" response that you could get from
> the Infocom games.

A long time ago, when I was first reading this group, I suggested the
adoption of a "recall" verb as a standard technique to pull up
background information. "recall diazepam" would tell you whatever your
character knew from medical school on the subject, yes? This would
allow authors to pack in a lot of stuff without the current hacks
(Long introductory scenes, or mysteriously helpful manuals everywhere.
Long chunks of text are boring, at least to me; and helpful manuals
break my suspension of disbelief, which is exactly where this thread
started -- my character is supposed to know this!)

Naturally, nobody adopted the idea. Not even me. But if anybody wants
to use it, please feel free.

Damien Neil

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Apr 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/2/96
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On Thu, 28 Mar 1996 23:08:17 -0500, "Andrew C. Plotkin" <erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:

>A long time ago, when I was first reading this group, I suggested the
>adoption of a "recall" verb as a standard technique to pull up
>background information. "recall diazepam" would tell you whatever your
>character knew from medical school on the subject, yes?

Reminds me (somewhat) of _Mindshadow_, an old text adventure from
Interplay. The game begins as the character awakes on a beach on
a desert island, with no knowledge of his past. As the game progresses,
you can use the `remember' verb to try to remember elements from the
character's past. Winning the game requires that you track down enough
things to remember to break the character's amnesia.

I found it rather amusing that it was possible to win the game without
getting off the island, or even leaving the first room -- remembering
all the topics results in a win, regardless of where you are. Of
course, it would be necessary to play the game through to find out
what the topics are.

_Mindshadow_ sticks in my mind due to one puzzle. You arrive
penniless in London. You need to acquire money in order to buy a
(forged) plane ticket to Luxembourg. There is a fat man sleeping
in an alley. It is impossible to wake or communicate with him, but
searching him turns up a sum of money. (``You find a hat and 200
pounds'' -- when I first read that, I thought it was a joke -- after
all, he was described as being fat.)

I played most of the game through with my father. The means of
obtaining money did't bother me; it was, after all, just a game.
It did bother him. I remember proudly telling him that I had won.
``With that man's money,'' he replied.

I now can see why the puzzle disturbed him; it does the same to me,
now. I feel that this illustrates the greatest strength of IF: the
player IS the character. The actions the character takes are the
same as the actions the player takes. This makes it possible for
the author to present the player with actual moral dilemmas. Unlike
a work of static fiction, where the burden of choice rests on the
characters alone, in IF the player must share in the responsibility.

I don't know of any games which take advantage of this. Someday, I
hope to write one which does.

I have seen some games which offer a very limited number of
supposed moral choices. Unfortunately, these generally are
fake choices; one action is clearly the `right' one, and rewards
the player, the other is `wrong', and penalizes him. Most games
which offer such choices have only one at the very end which determines
the ending. (_Shades of Gray_ comes to mind.)

- Damien, hoping to find time to write a contest entry.
(These opinions mine, not JPL's.)


The Ur-Grue

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Apr 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/3/96
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: I now can see why the puzzle disturbed him; it does the same to me,

: now. I feel that this illustrates the greatest strength of IF: the
: player IS the character. The actions the character takes are the
: same as the actions the player takes. This makes it possible for
: the author to present the player with actual moral dilemmas. Unlike
: a work of static fiction, where the burden of choice rests on the
: characters alone, in IF the player must share in the responsibility.


I agree here. What I love about IF is that its the most
non-linear gam type around. At least much less linear than most
sierra/lucasarts/etc games. I really love to encounter choices
in games where neither is right or wrong, but they affect the
game. There isn't too much of this around. Hero's Quest
had some of that, in that most 'puzzles' could be solved in
about three different ways. Something like this in an IF game
would be fantastic.
I don't quite agree with your father being disturbed by
th stealing of the fat man's money. Personally I play computer
games to do the things I can't do in reality, or in fact
don't even want to do in reality. Live out fantasies, in a way,
or at least entertain them.
My favorite thing to do in computer games is steal stuff.
Maybe I was a thief in a past life, maybe I would've been a
thief or pickpocket but somehow suppressed that. In any case,
I find great enjoyment in stealing things in computer games,
although I don't do it in real life, and wouldn't. Maybe I'm
a closet kleptomaniac. Whatever it is, if I can sneak around
in some house at night where the occupants are sleeping, and
steal their silverware, it is enough for me.
PS. If anyone knows any good thief games around, let me
know. Guild of Thieves is one but I can't find it for IBM anywhere.


Bozzie

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Apr 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/4/96
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ne...@godzilla.jpl.nasa.gov (Damien Neil) wrote:

>I now can see why the puzzle disturbed him; it does the same to me,
>now. I feel that this illustrates the greatest strength of IF: the
>player IS the character. The actions the character takes are the
>same as the actions the player takes. This makes it possible for
>the author to present the player with actual moral dilemmas. Unlike
>a work of static fiction, where the burden of choice rests on the
>characters alone, in IF the player must share in the responsibility.

I've played Cruise for a Corpse. In it, you have to get something for
somebody who happens to be an alcoholic. The way to get something from
them is to give them a drink. No other way round it. Which pretty much
shocked me. I mean, killing evil trolls is one thing, but giving a drink
to someone with a problem? Since then, Ive seen simmilar problems here
and there, but not much... Still, in a way, it does depend on the game.
If you're playing someone who's mean, I guess it's fine. Or if you're
given annother way out, which let's you define the character. Plus, in a
given situation, I might do something amoral. If I've been framed and
someone sends me notes which tell me he's done it, and I can't show it to
anyone, hell yeah, I'm gunna escape, even steal money if I have to. But
that's unlikely...


Carl Muckenhoupt

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Apr 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/5/96
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fori...@black.clarku.edu (The Ur-Grue) writes:

> I agree here. What I love about IF is that its the most
>non-linear gam type around. At least much less linear than most
>sierra/lucasarts/etc games. I really love to encounter choices
>in games where neither is right or wrong, but they affect the
>game. There isn't too much of this around. Hero's Quest
>had some of that, in that most 'puzzles' could be solved in
>about three different ways. Something like this in an IF game
>would be fantastic.

Hmm. I know we all disagree about what constitutes "interactive fiction"
- I'd say graphic adventures have as much claim to that title as text, so
long as they are both interactive and fictional. But to claim that IF is
the most non-linear type of game around is to reduce the definition of
the word "game" by a truly mind-boggling factor. I can't think of any
work of I-F that's as nonlinear as the average strategy game. Some
action games afford the player incredible freedom. And let us not forget
chess, go, twenty questions, tag...

> PS. If anyone knows any good thief games around, let me
>know. Guild of Thieves is one but I can't find it for IBM anywhere.

Have you tried Multi-Dimensional Thief? It's on GMD.

--
Carl Muckenhoupt | Text Adventures are not dead!
b...@tiac.net | Read rec.[arts|games].int-fiction to see
http://www.tiac.net/users/baf | what you're missing!

The Ur-Grue

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Apr 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/6/96
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: Hmm. I know we all disagree about what constitutes "interactive fiction"
: - I'd say graphic adventures have as much claim to that title as text, so
: long as they are both interactive and fictional. But to claim that IF is
: the most non-linear type of game around is to reduce the definition of
: the word "game" by a truly mind-boggling factor. I can't think of any
: work of I-F that's as nonlinear as the average strategy game. Some
: action games afford the player incredible freedom. And let us not forget
: chess, go, twenty questions, tag...

I see what you mean. That's not exactly what I meant. I didn't
mean "non-linear" in the sense that you understood it. What I meant is
that in IF games you have more interaction with an environment, and
more freedom to interact with it in whatever way you choose, than
in most other types of games. For example in strategy games, of course
it's "non-linear" but you have very few options regarding what to do.
You can move your armies, attack armies, build armies, etc. You can't
send a spy over to bomb an enemy troop (or even if you can, I can list
plenty more things that you can't do). IOW it's you doing one particular
thing - what the programmer wants you to do. Now granted IF games are
also limited to the programmer's imagination/wishes, but the thing
is that most IF authors attempt to create a world, where you can
travel, explore, poke around, interact with the environment, and
somewhere along the way solve the game. A huge benefit is that it
is textual, the world is created in your mind, and hence you can
alter it to your liking, which again gives you more freedom...you
might call this non-linearity as well.
I got so immersed in the world's of A Mind Forevr Voyaging
and Trinity that I really felt a connection with that world, and
I was extremely sad (and happy at the same time) when I finished
them. I've never felt that way with any graphical game. I think
it's simply because they don't create a world, especially not in
your mind, but it's a predesigned sequence, already drawn for you.
It leaves nothing for me to create.

Laurel Halbany

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Apr 7, 1996, 4:00:00 AM4/7/96
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ne...@godzilla.jpl.nasa.gov (Damien Neil) wrote:

[snip]

>I now can see why the puzzle disturbed him; it does the same to me,
>now. I feel that this illustrates the greatest strength of IF: the
>player IS the character. The actions the character takes are the
>same as the actions the player takes. This makes it possible for
>the author to present the player with actual moral dilemmas. Unlike
>a work of static fiction, where the burden of choice rests on the
>characters alone, in IF the player must share in the responsibility.

>I don't know of any games which take advantage of this. Someday, I


>hope to write one which does.

This was an element that I liked a great deal about _Jigsaw_.
Specifially, the Sarajevo puzzle; the solution was presented as the
only way to set history right, but not one that the character/you
undertakes lightly or casually.

Ross Raszewski

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Apr 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/10/96
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I understand what you're saying, but I don't think that the problem is
simply that "Graphical games don't involve players in the world as well
as text adventures", but rather that the same thing is wrong with most
graphical IF as is wrong with most bad text IF, lazy writers. A
graphical IF could be just as good as-even better than Text IF, if the
writers would write them that way. THe writers just don't want to bog
themselves down with havign to design any more scenes than necessary.
Like Phantasmagoria; the graphics were great, and it would have been a
hell of a game, except that there's only ever ONE thing you can do toa
advance the game. It's like watching a movie, not playign a game (just
you have to pass a pop quiz every five minutes to get to see the next
scene) In fact, some of the early graphical games were almost as good as
Text IFs, and I hope that they'll someday come round full circle, and
start making really good, interactive graphical games!

Nulldogma

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Apr 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/12/96
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>A graphical IF could be just as good as-even better than Text IF, if the
>writers would write them that way.

Well, it's a *little* more complicated than that, for the same reason that
there are (IMHO) a lot less good Hollywood movies than good novels:
creating snazzy graphics takes a lot of people-hours, which takes a lot of
money, which means you need to descend to the lowest-common- denominator
imperatives of the marketing mavens...

You *could* create a graphical game that's as creative as a text game,
just like you *could* create a really intelligent, creative,
groundbreaking TV show that's as good as a really good novel. But given
the state of the industry, I don't expect either one to happen anytime
soon.

Neil

Sanjay S Vakil

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Apr 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/12/96
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I totally agree with the concept of having to pander to the lower
common denominator. However, at the risk of a somewhat off topic
post, I'd suggest B5 as an instance of a 'groundbreaking TV show'.

Having plugged it, I'll redirected followups to there (:
sanj

Xiphias Gladius

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Apr 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/14/96
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null...@aol.com (Nulldogma) writes:

> You *could* create a graphical game that's as creative as a text
> game, just like you *could* create a really intelligent, creative,
> groundbreaking TV show that's as good as a really good novel. But
> given the state of the industry, I don't expect either one to happen
> anytime soon.

Heven't been watching Babylon 5, have you? :) Seriously, I think
we'll see a really good graphical game fairly soon, and for the same
reason that we saw B5 -- someone's gonna have a specific dream, and is
going to go for it.

Anyway, I'd like to make the comment, in defense of graphical games,
that "Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers" was as enjoyable and
creative as many text games I've played. Yes, it's still true that
the *best* text adventures are better than the *best* graphical
adventures, and the average text adventure leaves the average
graphical game far in the dust, but we're at the point where the best
graphical games are better than the average text adventure.

- Ian

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