PCGamer, IF, Laugh

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aph...@altavista.com

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Aug 29, 2005, 3:12:14 PM8/29/05
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So I'm thumbing through looking for Madden 2006 review and I stumble
upon comedy. Thanks to Malinche and Galatea, honorably mentioned in
this months mag, IF is set for a HUGEEEEE comeback. Laugh.

Look, there is only one way to turn this ship to glory and it starts
with me and my talent. Let's get onboard people!

A.P. Hill
Poopdeck Master

Gregory Weir

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Aug 29, 2005, 11:00:12 PM8/29/05
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Yes, it was quite cool reading about IF in PC Gamer. Unfortunately,
their review of Malinche's The First Mile was very unfavorable (19%),
but comfortingly, it wasn't because "the graphics were lousy" or "IF is
dead" but criticisms of writing, grammar, and some pretty blatant
cultural stereotyping. I came out of reading the review thinking that
the magazine had been quite fair... although it would be nice to see a
positive review of an IF game.

Gregory Weir

David Whyld

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Aug 30, 2005, 2:07:54 PM8/30/05
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Kind of disappointing that they chose a Malinche game to review. It
hardly shows the current IF scene in a popular light. I recently played
a Malinche game and while it wasn't quite as horrible as I'd been led
to believe, there still wasn't a lot about it that I could recommend.

Mike Roberts

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Aug 30, 2005, 3:20:24 PM8/30/05
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"David Whyld" <dwh...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Kind of disappointing that they [PC Gamer mag] chose a

> Malinche game to review. It hardly shows the current IF
> scene in a popular light.

I think to some extent we all assume that the commercial gaming magazines
aren't interested in text IF because text IF is so uncool, simply on its
merits as a technology. But this appearance in PC Gamer seems to suggest
another explanation - it's not the format that's out of scope, it's the
business model. Specifically, maybe the commercial gaming magazines define
their scope as the commercial gaming industry, which puts text IF out of
scope only because it's freeware. This seems to fit the data - when someone
slaps a commercial label and the trappings of a commercial enterprise on a
text IF game, they get a review.

(I haven't seen the article, so it's possible there's another explanation.
Like, say, it's a one-time novelty thing, an "oddly enough..." column, where
the gist was "hey, check this out, there's this looooser out there still
writing *text adventures*!" Or it was in their annual abandonware round-up;
something like that. But I get the impression it was a straightforward,
unironic review.)

Anyway, it makes me wonder. Whenever the question of reviving IF
commercially comes up around here, I always have to roll my eyes, because
long experience has proven that it's always just talk and never goes
anywhere. One of the big reasons it never goes anywhere is the resistance
of a significant fraction of the community who see the freeware aspect as a
bigger benefit than commercial opportunities would be. Another big reason
is that it's really not viable commercially. But here's what it (first
paragraph above) makes me wonder. I wonder what would happen if someone
with some time on their hands (and we're probably talking non-trivial time)
were to put together the *trappings* of a commercial enterprise, selling
*freeware* text IF (which would remain freeware, too, of course). Take a
few of the best freeware games, dress them up with some artwork on the box
and CD and a nice manual and a feely or two, put up a web site to take
orders at $29.95 per game (the price has to be sufficiently audacious to be
taken seriously), buy some of the same 10-cents-a-click Yahoo-search keyword
ads that our friend at Malinche buys, send out offiical press releases to
the gaming mags. All games offered with authors' permission, of course, and
suitable profit sharing.

It would actually be very much like feelies.org in the details; the only
real difference is that this would be more "outward" facing - whereas
feelies.org is a community service that sees its customer base as coming
from within our community, this would be external, the face of IF to the
outside world. The point wouldn't be to make a profit (it almost certainly
wouldn't, although I could believe it might cover its own costs of doing
business). The real point would be to show the familiar face of a
commercial enterprise to the commercial gaming world, so that IF could get
regular coverage in the gaming magazines and other media. A side benefit
would be that it'd create an expanded range of feelies.org-type offerings
for people within the community.

With such modest goals in terms of money-making potential, I have a hard
time imagining this would be attractive enough to anyone to start up. But I
thought I'd toss out the idea in case there's anyone out with a surfeit of
spare time and a burning desire to see IF get a wider audience.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com


James Mitchelhill

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Aug 30, 2005, 3:47:01 PM8/30/05
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On Tue, 30 Aug 2005 19:20:24 +0000, Mike Roberts wrote:

<snip>


> I wonder what would happen if someone
> with some time on their hands (and we're probably talking non-trivial time)
> were to put together the *trappings* of a commercial enterprise, selling
> *freeware* text IF (which would remain freeware, too, of course). Take a
> few of the best freeware games, dress them up with some artwork on the box
> and CD and a nice manual and a feely or two, put up a web site to take
> orders at $29.95 per game (the price has to be sufficiently audacious to be
> taken seriously), buy some of the same 10-cents-a-click Yahoo-search keyword
> ads that our friend at Malinche buys, send out offiical press releases to
> the gaming mags. All games offered with authors' permission, of course, and
> suitable profit sharing.

It strikes me TADS3 as a significant authoring tool could also wear
these trappings of commerciality. After all, in the commercial world, we
don't see game engines being given away free of charge for the use of just
anyone. Hell, there's companies out there that make their money selling
physics engines for games.

Of course TADS3 is a free tool, but that doesn't mean the support should
be. Charge a couple of hundred dollars for a yearly support contract
(while, of course, everyone is still free to turn to the community with
their questions) and suddenly, TADS3 goes from being a freeware tool to
produce retro text adventures, and unworthy of commercial notice, to a
sophisticated *product* capable of the latest in cutting-edge interactive
fiction design.

Maybe.

--
James Mitchelhill
ja...@disorderfeed.net
http://disorderfeed.net

Kevin Venzke

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Aug 30, 2005, 5:16:56 PM8/30/05
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"Gregory Weir" <gregor...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1125370812.0...@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

I take it this review isn't available on the internet...

Which culture got stereotyped?

Kevin Venzke


ChicagoDave

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Aug 30, 2005, 6:18:12 PM8/30/05
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I agree with Mike and have said this in different terms many times.
And...I had every intention of doing this until 9/11 sort of killed my
ability to start anything.

I'm still a year or two from being back on my feet and maybe I'll take
another shot them, but in the meantime...anyone else want to take a
shot?

David C.

Mike Roberts

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Aug 30, 2005, 6:53:51 PM8/30/05
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"ChicagoDave" <david.c...@gmail.com> wrote:
[about my idle musing about setting up a commercial IF concern
that would market our freeware to the outside world]
>I agree with Mike and have said this in different terms many times. [...]

> I'm still a year or two from being back on my feet and maybe I'll take
> another shot them, but in the meantime...anyone else want to take a
> shot?

I'm probably not the right person to take this on, either, but I have one
more idea to throw out, this time for an initial source of income to get off
the ground, that would also tie into the feelies.org-like community-service
aspect that I mentioned.

In the past, people have floated the idea of an "IF of the Month Club,"
where subscribers pay a monthly fee and get a newly-written game each month.
That's never flown, in large part because of the complete implausibility
that authors who are only getting token pay will deliver on schedule; but
the idea of being able to subscribe to something like this seems attractive
to a lot of people here. My scheme to repackage existing freeware doesn't
involve any author bottlenecks - the games to be repackaged are already on
the Archive. The only bottleneck is the packaging work - not trivial, but
certainly less work than writing a game, and a heck of a lot more
predictable. Okay, so here's the idea: a good number of people here are
clearly interested in buying packaged versions of their favorite freeware
games, a la feelies.org, but probably not at the $29.95-per-game list price.
So, offer a subscription/membership plan that gets you a year's worth of
releases - 6 or 10 or 12, whatever seems plausible - for a price that's
steeply discounted from the individual game prices, say $50 or $60 for a
year. Subscribers wouldn't get to cherry-pick releases they wanted, but in
exchange they'd get the whole set for a cheap per-game price. If you can
sign up a couple dozen people, that could be enough initial cash to keep it
going for long enough to see if it's going to fly, and hopefully long enough
to fulfill those initial subscriptions. Don't advertise the special deal
outside raif; to the outside world, you're an ordinary commercial publisher
that gets $29.95 a copy for each modern text IF classic; but those in the
know can get the special deal.

Poster

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Aug 30, 2005, 7:31:38 PM8/30/05
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Mike Roberts wrote:
> "ChicagoDave" <david.c...@gmail.com> wrote:
> [about my idle musing about setting up a commercial IF concern
> that would market our freeware to the outside world]
>
>>I agree with Mike and have said this in different terms many times. [...]
>>I'm still a year or two from being back on my feet and maybe I'll take
>>another shot them, but in the meantime...anyone else want to take a
>>shot?
>
>
> I'm probably not the right person to take this on, either, but I have one
> more idea to throw out, this time for an initial source of income to get off
> the ground, that would also tie into the feelies.org-like community-service
> aspect that I mentioned.

I can help. I have some time on my hands. I can do some graphics design,
marketing, and such like. Setting up a business isn't hard if you
incorporate in the right state. For instance, South Dakota is super
cheap. I've can help do that too.

I'm all for getting this off the ground myself!!

-- Poster


www.intaligo.com/ -^-^-^- Inform libraries and extensions!
www.intaligo.com/building/ *- B U I L D I N G -* Dark IF.

aph...@altavista.com

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Aug 30, 2005, 9:58:41 PM8/30/05
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Here's a scan, there's actually two articles. The scans can be
enlarged.

http://www.santoonie.com/software/if1.jpg

http://www.santoonie.com/software/if2.jpg

~Hill

PTN

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Aug 30, 2005, 10:14:59 PM8/30/05
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"Mike Roberts" wrote:

> I wonder what would happen if someone with some time on their hands (and
> we're probably talking non-trivial time) were to put together the
> *trappings* of a commercial enterprise, selling *freeware* text IF (which
> would remain freeware, too, of course). Take a few of the best freeware
> games, dress them up with some artwork on the box and CD and a nice manual
> and a feely or two, put up a web site to take orders at $29.95 per game
> (the price has to be sufficiently audacious to be taken seriously), buy
> some of the same 10-cents-a-click Yahoo-search keyword ads that our friend
> at Malinche buys, send out offiical press releases to the gaming mags.
> All games offered with authors' permission, of course, and suitable profit
> sharing.

I think this would work. But I disagree about your price point -- I think it
needs to be much more reasonably priced so that people who figure out they
could have gotten the game for free don't feel like they've been scammed at
the end of it. Frankly I think commercial IF could use a little less
audacity, at this point.

Another thing to consider is that, if you are only a virtual shop, the
amount of sales you rack up won't be worth the effort. 90% of my sales take
place in stores -- and consider, 1893 is only available in about 5 stores
worldwide. And they're all in convenient walking distance from where I work.

The biggest consideration, though, is the time issue you mention. Can I just
say that sales is a miserable, life-sucking business? Whoever takes this on
can expect to NOT find any time to write any new IF until the project is
done. In short, you'd better love pitching, cold calling, talking to buyers,
& etc. It takes time out of your life that you could be spent doing things
you love -- and lets face it, most of us already do that eight or nine hours
every day in our regular jobs.

Regarding getting a review in one of the major computer game magazines, I
always thought I would pester them for one if 1893 ended up commercially
available in software stores (otherwise, only a small percentage of people
who read the article will buy the game, since it wouldn't be conveniently at
their local Best Buy). But, in order to do that, it seems you need to get
your game into Ingram, where all the stores order from (or plenty do,
anyway). Then you can try and get the different chain buyers to order your
product through Ingram. Ingram, for their part, will only take a game if
you've a publisher with at least 5 titles, or something like that. I keep
looking into it on occassion, but the world of wholesale/retail sales is
apparently utterly beyond my ability to understand. Oh well. If they ever
make that DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY movie they keep talking about, I think
1893 might have a good shot at getting in there anyway in spite my lack of
sales acumen, but who knows.

-- Peter
http://www.illuminatedlantern.com/1893

lumi...@hotmail.com

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Aug 30, 2005, 10:56:58 PM8/30/05
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I don't even think there would need to be many 'commercial trappings'
to sell games. Set up a nice website, put some games with nice
descriptions there, and let people download them at $9.99 a pop. Maybe
some artwork or other supplementary materials (newspaper articles or a
short story set in the gameworld?) or whatever could be packaged with
the download to spruce it up a little, but no CDs or boxes or anything
physical that raises the cost required. There'd be some kind of fee for
the guy running the website, and everything else could be pure profit
for the author.

And I think a place for people who purchased the games to write reviews
would be a nice feature, sort of like Amazon has.

Of course I can only speak for myself, but I'd definitely buy. Heck,
I'd even buy some games I've already played (Anchorhead and City of
Secrets, to name a couple), just to support the authors I like.

Mike Roberts

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Aug 30, 2005, 11:33:10 PM8/30/05
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"PTN" <peterdelete...@gmx.de> wrote:
[on my commercialized-freeware scheme]
> I think this would work. But I disagree about your price point [$29.95] --
> I think it needs to be much more reasonably priced so that people who
> figure out they could have gotten the game for free don't feel like
> they've been scammed at the end of it.

Quite possibly; I was just picking a number out of the air. But there's a
psychological angle to software pricing; it can't be too low, or people will
think that you yourself feel that your product is a bargain-rack remainder.
Plus, this is going to be a boutique operation without any economies of
scale; if it can't ask enough of a price to comfortably cover its costs,
then there really isn't much of a point. As for the buyer feeling scammed,
I think it would be best for everyone to disclose on the company's web site
that the software part is also available for free; people who choose to buy
would be making that decision in full awareness of the free alternative, and
would be buying for the added value - the tangible box, and presumably an
easier install process that doesn't involve any hunting around learning
about interpreters or archives.

> Another thing to consider is that, if you are only a virtual shop, the
> amount of sales you rack up won't be worth the effort. 90% of my sales
> take place in stores -- and consider, 1893 is only available in about 5
> stores worldwide.

I take your point, and that's a very interesting statistic, but I want to
emphasize that my idea here is to attempt this explicitly for reasons other
than profit - the primary goal would be to create something that the gaming
magazines and others outside the raif community will recognize as the kind
of operation they're accustomed to dealing with.

I personally don't think it's a viable business in the sense that its owner
would be able to quit their day job and do this full time - there are enough
enterprising people here that it should have happened by now if it were at
all likely. I think it would have to be motivated more by the sorts of
things that motivate people to write IF games in the first place - the glory
(such as it is), the learning experience, the satisfaction at an
accomplishment, that sort of thing.

And, of course, I think there would be a certain element of hope - even if
it's a longshot, even if a lot of people around here (myself included) are
skeptical - that there'd be a pump-priming effect, that with the publishing
mechanism in place and maybe a little publicity and a little attention
outside of our insular group, a real commercial hit might actually emerge at
some point. (With this kind of operation, you wouldn't need Doom 3-type
numbers to qualify as a hit, either. Let the others have their Gold Records
and Platinum CD-ROMs; we'll be perfectly happy with our Brass Lanterns. :)

> The biggest consideration, though, is the time issue you mention. Can I
> just say that sales is a miserable, life-sucking business? Whoever takes
> this on can expect to NOT find any time to write any new IF until the
> project is done.

You speak from experience, I know, and in the interest of full disclosure
mentioned above, this kind of information is important for the prospective
businessperson to consider. But my thinking is that maybe there are a few
people around here who aren't necessarily planning to write any IF
themselves, but would be into this kind of project.

Quintin Stone

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Aug 31, 2005, 10:34:20 AM8/31/05
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The desktop icon for The First Mile is the Infocom logo? Wow, that's not
only pompous and terribly misleading, it's also a trademark violation.
And in a commercial product, no less.

==--- --=--=-- ---==
Quintin Stone "You speak of necessary evil? One of those necessities
st...@rps.net is that if innocents must suffer, the guilty must suffer
www.rps.net more." - Mackenzie Calhoun, "Once Burned" by Peter David

Jake Wildstrom

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Aug 31, 2005, 1:15:29 PM8/31/05
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The Prophet Quintin Stone known to the wise as st...@rps.net, opened the Book of Words, and read unto the people:

>The desktop icon for The First Mile is the Infocom logo? Wow, that's not
>only pompous and terribly misleading, it's also a trademark violation.
>And in a commercial product, no less.

I'm pretty sure that's one of the standard WinFrotz icons, so if it's
a trademark violation, it's _their_ trademark violation. Some might
question the wisdom of Malinche's choice to be complicit in the
violation, but I'd say indiscretion is only one among Howard's many
problems.

--
D. Jacob (Jake) Wildstrom, Math monkey and freelance thinker

"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."
-Alfred Renyi

The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily endorsed by the
University of California or math department thereof.

Jimmy Maher

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Aug 31, 2005, 3:01:49 PM8/31/05
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Mike Roberts wrote:

> I think to some extent we all assume that the commercial gaming
magazines
> aren't interested in text IF because text IF is so uncool, simply on its
> merits as a technology. But this appearance in PC Gamer seems to suggest
> another explanation - it's not the format that's out of scope, it's the
> business model. Specifically, maybe the commercial gaming magazines define
> their scope as the commercial gaming industry, which puts text IF out of
> scope only because it's freeware. This seems to fit the data - when someone
> slaps a commercial label and the trappings of a commercial enterprise on a
> text IF game, they get a review.

While I can see your logic, I feel like pursuing the commercial game
industry is barking up the wrong tree. I just don't think that the
average reader of PC Gamer is interested in what IF is offering. IF in
this environment is the proverbial knife at a gun fight.

Contemporary gamers are not stupid, and I don't mean to denigrate them
at all, but I just think that they are not that terribly interested in
prose or narrative technique or even puzzle design. The two
best-selling types of games in the PC market are the FPS and the RTS.
These games are much more "gamey" than IF, all about scores and kill
counts and in more recent years competitive online play. Sure, they
usually have stories grafted in, but (with ocassional exceptions) those
stories are usually just there to provide an excuse for more cool
environments to explore and new and different stuff to blow up. I
really have a hard time imagining a significant number of people who are
interested in this sort of thing as well as the more sedate, dare I say
it, "artistic" nature of a good piece of IF. (Yes, I know those people
do exist, and some are probably reading this message. I claim only that
these people are unusual, not non-existent.)

(This brings up another interesting point. Even though we persist in
calling IF works "games," are they really? There is no real element of
competition, which seems something of a pre-requisite. Would we better
off, pretentious as it may sound, referring to them as literature?
Perhaps we should take a cue from Infocom and just call them stories.)

If I were to try to orchestrate a commercial comeback for IF, I would
not target computer or console gamers. I would go after readers. I
would try to set up a little display at bookstores featuring
contemporary games priced at about the level of a typical mass market
paperback, say $7 or $8.

I actually think that there IS a huge chunk of people who would be
interested in IF if they only knew about it. I just don't think
computer game players, in general, are those people. I don't buy the
argument that IF is simply too intelectual or cerebral to be profitable.
Books by "difficult" authors like Umberto Eco sell by the millions.
There are PLENTY of smart people out there.


--
Jimmy Maher
Editor, SPAG Magazine -- http://www.sparkynet.com/spag
Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!

Quintin Stone

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Aug 31, 2005, 3:36:03 PM8/31/05
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On Wed, 31 Aug 2005, Jake Wildstrom wrote:

> The Prophet Quintin Stone known to the wise as st...@rps.net, opened the
> Book of Words, and read unto the people:
> >The desktop icon for The First Mile is the Infocom logo? Wow, that's not
> >only pompous and terribly misleading, it's also a trademark violation.
> >And in a commercial product, no less.
>
> I'm pretty sure that's one of the standard WinFrotz icons, so if it's a
> trademark violation, it's _their_ trademark violation. Some might
> question the wisdom of Malinche's choice to be complicit in the
> violation, but I'd say indiscretion is only one among Howard's many
> problems.

Ah, interesting. Since I typically play z-machine games in Linux, I don't
even know what icon my Windows machine associates with z files, or which
terps I have installed for them. So does this mean that The First Mile
commercial dist installs WinFrotz as its terp?

Also, now that I think about, exactly what "Infocom logo" would fit in a
windows icon? The only logo that I know of is the word "INFOCOM" in their
classic Infocom font.

John W. Kennedy

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Aug 31, 2005, 4:19:05 PM8/31/05
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Quintin Stone wrote:
> On Wed, 31 Aug 2005, Jake Wildstrom wrote:
>
>
>>The Prophet Quintin Stone known to the wise as st...@rps.net, opened the
>>Book of Words, and read unto the people:
>>
>>>The desktop icon for The First Mile is the Infocom logo? Wow, that's not
>>>only pompous and terribly misleading, it's also a trademark violation.
>>>And in a commercial product, no less.
>>
>>I'm pretty sure that's one of the standard WinFrotz icons, so if it's a
>>trademark violation, it's _their_ trademark violation. Some might
>>question the wisdom of Malinche's choice to be complicit in the
>>violation, but I'd say indiscretion is only one among Howard's many
>>problems.
>
>
> Ah, interesting. Since I typically play z-machine games in Linux, I don't
> even know what icon my Windows machine associates with z files, or which
> terps I have installed for them. So does this mean that The First Mile
> commercial dist installs WinFrotz as its terp?
>
> Also, now that I think about, exactly what "Infocom logo" would fit in a
> windows icon? The only logo that I know of is the word "INFOCOM" in their
> classic Infocom font.

The icon of Windows Frotz 2002 is:

INFO
COM

in the traditional font.

--
John W. Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play, now annotated!
http://pws.prserv.net/jwkennedy/Double%20Falshood/index.html

Kevin Venzke

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Aug 31, 2005, 5:02:43 PM8/31/05
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<aph...@altavista.com> wrote in message
news:1125453521.1...@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

Thanks very much. I see they recommend an 8meg 3D card.

I, for one, am a bit surprised that Fong owned a Buddha statue.
Very nice screenshot.

Also, the review speaks of "female breasts," which seems unusual
for a magazine.

It says "[m]ost of the time you'll walk around looking for
weapons and monsters, hoping to pair up the correct ones
through trial and error." Sounds like Shadowgate, maybe?

Kevin Venzke


Mike Roberts

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Aug 31, 2005, 5:07:21 PM8/31/05
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"Jimmy Maher" <mah...@SPAMgrandecom.net> wrote:

> Mike Roberts wrote:
>> But this appearance in PC Gamer seems to suggest another explanation -
>> it's not the format that's out of scope, it's the business model. [...]
>> This seems to fit the data - when someone slaps a commercial label and
>> the trappings of a commercial enterprise on a text IF game, they get a
>> review.
>
> While I can see your logic, I feel like pursuing the commercial game
> industry is barking up the wrong tree. I just don't think that the
> average reader of PC Gamer is interested in what IF is offering. IF in
> this environment is the proverbial knife at a gun fight.

I pretty much agree, actually - I always seem to find myself on the
skeptics' side in the annual threads about how we need to do more to
popularize IF and how we just need to find the right business model and
we'll strike it rich and so on; there are no stars in my eyes on this one,
and I don't give much credence to the idea that there's some vast untapped
vein of IF lovers out there waiting to be discovered, in the gaming world or
anywhere else.

What I'm talking about is more incrementalist: that the reason IF isn't
taken seriously as a gaming format might be in large part because even *we*
don't take it seriously as a gaming format. This PC Gamer article is just
one data point, but it got me thinking: the heart of what our friend Howard
is doing, when you think about it, is insisting on being taken seriously;
and lo and behold, he got someone to take him seriously.

> Contemporary gamers are not stupid, and I don't mean to denigrate them at
> all, but I just think that they are not that terribly interested in prose
> or narrative technique or even puzzle design.

I'm going to go with the incrementalist view here, too. Specifically, I
don't think it's as simple as you put it. I think it's more like 95% of
gamers are 95% uninterested in anything remotely like IF. I know I'm
extrapolating a lot from this one PC Gamer datapoint, but here's what I read
into it: the gaming mags are staffed by gamers; these guys had enough
interest to look at a text game and write a review, and they made a business
calculation that there'd be enough reader interest to justify printing it.

> (This brings up another interesting point. Even though we persist in
> calling IF works "games," are they really? There is no real element of
> competition, which seems something of a pre-requisite. Would we better
> off, pretentious as it may sound, referring to them as literature? Perhaps
> we should take a cue from Infocom and just call them stories.)

Someone fifteen years ago worked out a nomenclature for gamish things with
varying degrees of competition and interactivity - 'toy' for things where
the entire point is the interaction, 'puzzle' for things where there's a
problem to solve but no competition in solving it, and 'game' where there's
competition. IF seems to fit mostly into the puzzle category, but we do
have toys (Art Show entries), and I think most gamers would admit AIs as
valid competitors, so IF in which the player struggles against antagonistic
NPCs could arguably be called a game in this system.

Myself, I've kind of come full circle back to just plain 'game', because
it's short and simple and it conveys pretty much the right idea. The others
don't work for me because they don't capture the interactivity at all. This
becomes especially apparent when you try to pair one of their with a verb -
all of those other terms require 'read' as the verb, which just doesn't
work. Likewise the nouned form of said verb - 'reader'. I know a few
people like 'interact with' and 'interactor', but those are just too long,
and 'interactor' is a bit on the stilted side (and it's the kind of word
that sounds like it refers to a programming design pattern, or a management
training facilitator, or something like that).

> If I were to try to orchestrate a commercial comeback for IF, I would not
> target computer or console gamers. I would go after readers.

That's something this putative publisher could look into as well. This has
been raised before in the context of similar threads, and I'm personally a
bit skeptical that this is where the untapped IFers lie - static fiction and
IF seem to have rather non-overlapping appeal, to me. The appeal of IF
seems more similar to the appeal of RTSs and other currently-popular gaming
formats than it does to books, at least to my mind. I think people for the
most part go into bookstores with a rather narrow idea of what they want,
and IF of any kind isn't going to fit that idea. But I can only speculate,
as we have no data one way or the other; if anyone does pursue the publisher
idea, I certainly wouldn't discourage looking at bookstores as a channel.

Nathan

unread,
Aug 31, 2005, 5:14:29 PM8/31/05
to

Kevin Venzke wrote:
> Also, the review speaks of "female breasts," which seems unusual
> for a magazine.

Really? It didn't used to be unusual for a magazine.
I understand it is getting more unusual, as that sort of thing
moves from magazines to the web.

Jimmy Maher

unread,
Aug 31, 2005, 7:07:28 PM8/31/05
to
Mike Roberts wrote:

>>Contemporary gamers are not stupid, and I don't mean to denigrate
them at
>>all, but I just think that they are not that terribly interested in prose
>>or narrative technique or even puzzle design.
>
>
> I'm going to go with the incrementalist view here, too. Specifically, I
> don't think it's as simple as you put it. I think it's more like 95% of
> gamers are 95% uninterested in anything remotely like IF. I know I'm
> extrapolating a lot from this one PC Gamer datapoint, but here's what I read
> into it: the gaming mags are staffed by gamers; these guys had enough
> interest to look at a text game and write a review, and they made a business
> calculation that there'd be enough reader interest to justify printing it.

Your 95% figure sounds about right to me, and I certainly commend PC
Gamer for going out on a limb a bit and looking for something different.
I am going to guess that there is perhaps one member of their staff
who has an interest in IF, and was able to get these articles in print.
That's the way things usually work in these environments, in my
experience. I would just point out, though, that a one-off article
along the lines of "hey, remember text adventures? some people are
still writing and playing them!" is very different from regular, serious
coverage. Of course, the fact that the only publisher making a serious
go at selling IF is peddling crap games doesn't help our cause at all.

In short, if, as you say, 95% of the readership of PC Gamer are mostly
to entirely disinterested in IF, is there really much profit for them in
giving it regular coverage?

>>If I were to try to orchestrate a commercial comeback for IF, I would not
>>target computer or console gamers. I would go after readers.
>
>
> That's something this putative publisher could look into as well. This has
> been raised before in the context of similar threads, and I'm personally a
> bit skeptical that this is where the untapped IFers lie - static fiction and
> IF seem to have rather non-overlapping appeal, to me. The appeal of IF
> seems more similar to the appeal of RTSs and other currently-popular gaming
> formats than it does to books, at least to my mind. I think people for the
> most part go into bookstores with a rather narrow idea of what they want,
> and IF of any kind isn't going to fit that idea. But I can only speculate,
> as we have no data one way or the other; if anyone does pursue the publisher
> idea, I certainly wouldn't discourage looking at bookstores as a channel.

I have to disagree here, actually. I used to love many types of
computer gaming, but IF and the ocassional graphical adventure or RPG
are about all that can hold my interest nowadays. As far as other forms
of gaming go... well, I'd rather read a book. Granted, I am only one
data point, but with its emphasis on prose, its narrative drive, and its
sometimes loftier artistic and thematic aims, I think IF is pitched
somewhere right between books and current commercial gaming forms.

Infocom had considerable success back in the day putting their product
into the bookstore distribution pipeline. I actually first discovered
Infocom at the Waldenbooks in my local mall.

There ARE substantial numbers of people who enjoy all sorts of
intelectual pursuits, many of them much more "difficult" than IF. It
seems to me that IF could be much more popular than it is. Look around
an airport sometime and notice how many people, in this day of I-Pods
and portable DVD players and portable gaming consoles, are still doing
crosswords.

Another place to pitch IF might be a conventional gaming shop, the sort
selling wargames, unusual board games, and paper-and-pencil RPGs. There
are fewer of these around then there used to be, but they are still out
there.

A separate issue: one thing that rarely comes up in these "wouldn't it
be nice" discussions about commercial IF is whether the
commercialization of some of the community would really be a completely
good thing. It would have a dramatic effect on the type of games that
get written. Just as an example, think of all of the developers of the
80's who filled their games with notoriously unintuitive, unfair
puzzles, both to disguise the fact that their $35+ masterpieces were
really only a few hours in length at best and to hopefully make a little
extra money by selling some hint books at $10+ a pop. Infocom actually
wasn't too horrible about this, but many others (yes, I'm looking at
you, Sierra) were.

This sort of thing still goes on with commercial graphical adventures
today. I've been playing on and off a game called Still Life recently.
In the thick of a serial killer investigation, the PC must visit her
father for Christmas and... bake cookies! Naturally this involves
solving a complicated, unintuitive puzzle by trial and error, i.e.
blatant length extender. Some games are of course ABOUT their puzzles,
and that's fine, even though (with ocassional exceptions) those
generally aren't the sorts of games I enjoy. In a narrative-driven
game, though, this sort of thing is just sloppy and lazy in my opinion.

Just some food for thought (pun intended).

Nathan

unread,
Aug 31, 2005, 7:27:56 PM8/31/05
to

Jimmy Maher wrote:

(snip)

> I have to disagree here, actually. I used to love many types of
> computer gaming, but IF and the ocassional graphical adventure or RPG
> are about all that can hold my interest nowadays. As far as other forms
> of gaming go... well, I'd rather read a book. Granted, I am only one
> data point, but with its emphasis on prose, its narrative drive, and its
> sometimes loftier artistic and thematic aims, I think IF is pitched
> somewhere right between books and current commercial gaming forms.

Here's another data point. I play IF, Nethack, and Minesweeper. That's
it.

> There ARE substantial numbers of people who enjoy all sorts of
> intelectual pursuits, many of them much more "difficult" than IF. It
> seems to me that IF could be much more popular than it is. Look around
> an airport sometime and notice how many people, in this day of I-Pods
> and portable DVD players and portable gaming consoles, are still doing
> crosswords.

I love crosswords, and don't have any of that portable high-tech stuff.
My wife has a PDA, which I frequently borrow just to play IF on the go.

> A separate issue: one thing that rarely comes up in these "wouldn't it
> be nice" discussions about commercial IF is whether the
> commercialization of some of the community would really be a completely
> good thing.

On the contrary, it seems to me this issue comes up every time. Much of
the community seems to hold the opinion that there are many advantages
to releasing IF as freeware, beyond just maximizing the small audience.

> It would have a dramatic effect on the type of games that
> get written. Just as an example, think of all of the developers of the
> 80's who filled their games with notoriously unintuitive, unfair
> puzzles, both to disguise the fact that their $35+ masterpieces were
> really only a few hours in length at best and to hopefully make a little
> extra money by selling some hint books at $10+ a pop. Infocom actually
> wasn't too horrible about this, but many others (yes, I'm looking at
> you, Sierra) were.

Remembering how many of us were willing to pay money to companies
that did that, I can see why modern commercial developers would be
so tempted. In my opinion, it's nonsense like this that gave puzzles
a bad name in the first place. The community has moved beyond that,
and maybe the lack of commercial pressures has played a role.

Edo

unread,
Aug 31, 2005, 7:32:50 PM8/31/05
to
On Wed, 31 Aug 2005 21:07:21 GMT, "Mike Roberts" <mj...@hotmail.com>
wrote:

> The appeal of IF
> seems more similar to the appeal of RTSs and other currently-popular gaming
> formats than it does to books, at least to my mind. I think people for the
> most part go into bookstores with a rather narrow idea of what they want,
> and IF of any kind isn't going to fit that idea.

May I just butt in here to say that my experience as an IF consumer is
quite different from what you describe?

What drew me so strongly to Zork I when I was about 10 years old, was
the appeal of exploring a fictional world and getting to read a story.
Perhaps comparably, I occasionally play Fighting Fantasy gamebooks,
but never bother with rolling any dice. Why bother? I have always
approached IF and similar pursuits from a "readerly" angle, instead of
a "gamerly" one (I don't even like puzzles all that much, to be
honest), and I am quite sure that readers are a potential audience for
the sort of thing you descibe, simply because they are curious people
who like to experience things in their heads.

(All of this is only relevant if you are interested in seeing IF
reinstated as a mass-market product, of course. Frankly, I don't see
the point, although a it would be nice if graphic adventures made a
come-back -- but that's another discussion altogether, and a rather
pointless one at that.)

Edo

samwyse

unread,
Aug 31, 2005, 10:59:14 PM8/31/05
to
Mike Roberts wrote:

> "Jimmy Maher" <mah...@SPAMgrandecom.net> wrote:
>
>>(This brings up another interesting point. Even though we persist in
>>calling IF works "games," are they really? There is no real element of
>>competition, which seems something of a pre-requisite. Would we better
>>off, pretentious as it may sound, referring to them as literature? Perhaps
>>we should take a cue from Infocom and just call them stories.)
>
> Someone fifteen years ago worked out a nomenclature for gamish things with
> varying degrees of competition and interactivity - 'toy' for things where
> the entire point is the interaction, 'puzzle' for things where there's a
> problem to solve but no competition in solving it, and 'game' where there's
> competition. IF seems to fit mostly into the puzzle category, but we do
> have toys (Art Show entries), and I think most gamers would admit AIs as
> valid competitors, so IF in which the player struggles against antagonistic
> NPCs could arguably be called a game in this system.

So, where do Solitare and Mine Sweeper land in this system?

Chris Pickett

unread,
Aug 31, 2005, 11:43:10 PM8/31/05
to
Mike Roberts wrote:
> "Jimmy Maher" <mah...@SPAMgrandecom.net> wrote:
>>If I were to try to orchestrate a commercial comeback for IF, I would not
>>target computer or console gamers. I would go after readers.
>
>
> That's something this putative publisher could look into as well. This has
> been raised before in the context of similar threads, and I'm personally a
> bit skeptical that this is where the untapped IFers lie - static fiction and
> IF seem to have rather non-overlapping appeal, to me. The appeal of IF
> seems more similar to the appeal of RTSs and other currently-popular gaming
> formats than it does to books, at least to my mind. I think people for the
> most part go into bookstores with a rather narrow idea of what they want,
> and IF of any kind isn't going to fit that idea. But I can only speculate,
> as we have no data one way or the other; if anyone does pursue the publisher
> idea, I certainly wouldn't discourage looking at bookstores as a channel.

My initial reactions to selling IF in bookstores, not having really
considered it at all before, are that:

1) it's certainly an appropriate venue... in the larger bookstores I've
been to (Chapters and Indigo in Canada, horrible as they may be), there
are several other products besides straight books, including music CDs,
audiobooks, gift shop-type items, and of course consumables (Starbucks).
the portability of IF is a big plus here, think about all the people
just idly browsing who also happen to own a PDA.

2) if I got an IF mini-CD included at the back of a novel, I'd certainly
be inclined to try it out. For example, you could imagine HG2G at the
back of the hardcover edition, or some games included with books like
Twisty Little Passages (if there are any others currently for sale).

3) there are many fiction authors that I would love to see try their
hand at IF, whereas I can't say the same for most people in the "games
industry". um, the point here is that I would be absolutely ecstatic if
some of these people started writing IF as a result of it being sold in
bookstores.

4) many pieces of IF feel more like short stories than novels. since
short stories aren't really sold individually (although you do find them
in magazines... hmmm), maybe a collection makes more sense. i think
publishing polished, expanded versions of a selection of IF works could
work out quite well, say 5--10 of the most highly-rated ones since the
death of Infocom, and only one game per author in the collection. also,
perhaps getting a well-known static fiction author to do a guest
appearance could help with marketability.

5) get on the phone with some forward-thinking book publishers,
bookstore owners, if such people exist. also, having professional
editors work on the pieces could help with any qualms about
amateurishnessness.

Chris

ChicagoDave

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 1:16:58 AM9/1/05
to
In my mind, these are some of the steps _I_ would take as a game
publisher...

1. Hire a programmer to develop flash/flashier front-end to z-machine,
tads, and hugo games, probably starting with z-machine games. I think
courier is simply going to play really poorly with "today's audience".
I know you can change the font in most terps these days, but my point
is more that the game and interpreter need to be married into a 21st
century user interface.

2. Contract with current IF authors for rights to sell current works.

3. Contract with current IF authors for new works, with a fee paid up
front for the effort and a sliding scale for royalties after sales
begin.

4. Contract with mall game shops for counter space for cd case
displays.

5. Contract with book stores for counter or shelf space for cd case
displays.

6. Get games established in Ingrams, which I'm already familiar with
since I did it with the DM4 and IBG.

7. Promote game development at colleges and high schools. University of
Georgia already teaches a class and uses the DM4 and IBG as official
texts.

8. Market published games via web ads and magazine ads.

9. Develop creative series' of games much like Buck Rogers or Hardy
Boys Mysteries. I have always loved the idea of selling a series of
games, one per month, to kids...and have these games contain
cliff-hangers to the next month.

10. Develop creative work systems so that I can have a producer,
writer, programmer, and editor all pull together a single concept in a
short period of time.

I think those are my main ideas. I'm sure I've left out others.

David C.

Adam Thornton

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 2:00:29 AM9/1/05
to
In article <1125530876.6...@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,

Nathan <nts...@netscape.net> wrote:
>On the contrary, it seems to me this issue comes up every time. Much of
>the community seems to hold the opinion that there are many advantages
>to releasing IF as freeware, beyond just maximizing the small audience.

Yeah, that's me.

Hey, I *have* a day job. The amount I could make by selling IF in the
*best* of all possible (well, OK, plausible) worlds is miniscule
compared to what I pull in as the compensation for said day job. I'd
much rather write it, give it away, and let people look at the source
code instead. Maybe something will turn up in the SMTUC sources that
will inspire someone to create something really good.

Adam

P.S. Unfortunately, the story seems to be much the same for SF authors.
Even if you're a *damn good*--but still B-list, but published by the
large SF houses, and generally favorably reviewed--author (I have a
friend in Philly who is exactly that) you still need a day job in order
to eat.

Felix

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 2:57:34 AM9/1/05
to
Hello everyone,

First, let me argue that there is one category of
contemporary computer gamers who *are* interested
in stories: the RPG fans. So there might be a
gamer audience for IF after all. BUT.

No contemporary gamer will accept a game in which
one has to type commands. You may argue time and
again that typing is an intrinsic part of IF.
They just don't care. Sorry about that. After all,
even we, who are familiar with this kind of
interaction, often have problems with parser
limitations and bugs. How about someone who's
never seen a computer whitout a mouse?

And that goes for readers too. Selling IF in
bookstores is definitely a nice idea, but the
potential buyers will not be hardcore computer
users. They will want a point'n'click interface
or nothing at all.

By the way, which were the most popular adventures
of all times? Right, the Monkey Island series and
Myst. What did they have in common except graphics?
That's right, mouse-only interface. It helped the
users forget they were sitting in front of a
computer and just go along with the story. And
anyone with a minimum of computer practice could
join in the fun.

Even I, who am a programmer and don't mind typing,
(and I play IF as often as I can) have given up
using MUDs after a few attempts. I just don't have
the patience for it. If it's online, I want it
simple. I want a modern-day interface. I want to
focus on what's happening in the game world.

In conclusion: making IF works look and feel
commercial isn't all that hard (see City of Secrets).
But if the potential players are forced to type
commands, most of them will just reject the works
in question at first sight. If we are to make IF
popular, we'll have to be flexible about it.

Thanks for reading my rant,
Felix

Rikard Peterson

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 4:46:16 AM9/1/05
to

"samwyse" wrote in
news:68uRe.7362$sF6....@newssvr24.news.prodigy.net:

> Mike Roberts wrote:
>>
>> Someone fifteen years ago worked out a nomenclature for gamish
>> things with varying degrees of competition and interactivity -
>> 'toy' for things where the entire point is the interaction,
>> 'puzzle' for things where there's a problem to solve but no
>> competition in solving it, and 'game' where there's competition.
>> IF seems to fit mostly into the puzzle category, but we do have
>> toys (Art Show entries), and I think most gamers would admit AIs
>> as valid competitors, so IF in which the player struggles against
>> antagonistic NPCs could arguably be called a game in this system.
>
> So, where do Solitare and Mine Sweeper land in this system?

Puzzle? There is a problem to solve, but there is no competition.

Rikard Peterson

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 5:00:56 AM9/1/05
to

"Felix" wrote in news:1125557854.365261.130130
@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com:

> In conclusion: making IF works look and feel
> commercial isn't all that hard (see City of Secrets).
> But if the potential players are forced to type
> commands, most of them will just reject the works
> in question at first sight. If we are to make IF
> popular, we'll have to be flexible about it.
>
> Thanks for reading my rant,
> Felix

So, what is your suggestion? A Legend-like interface or are you
thinking of something completely different?

To me, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, the typing of commands is a
major part of the appeal of IF. I like point-and-click adventures too
(I'm even currently creating one) but I think what draws me to IF is
the typing.

Rikard

Rexx Magnus

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 5:20:03 AM9/1/05
to
On Thu, 01 Sep 2005 09:00:56 GMT, Rikard Peterson scrawled:

> So, what is your suggestion? A Legend-like interface or are you
> thinking of something completely different?
>
> To me, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, the typing of commands is a
> major part of the appeal of IF. I like point-and-click adventures too
> (I'm even currently creating one) but I think what draws me to IF is
> the typing.
>
> Rikard

You know what I'd love to see? An interface similar to that in Neverwinter
Nights or Temple of Elemental Evil, whereby you could (for example) right
click on a word in the game text and bring up a radial context menu, with
various different groupings of verbs. I think it would have to show *all*
verbs, grouped in a logical fashion, otherwise you'll end up giving too
much away by revealing only possible actions, but at least players won't
have to type lots of different possibilities just to hit on the right one.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.

Felix

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 8:33:10 AM9/1/05
to
Rexx Magnus wrote:
> You know what I'd love to see? An interface similar to that in Neverwinter
> Nights or Temple of Elemental Evil, whereby you could (for example) right
> click on a word in the game text and bring up a radial context menu, with
> various different groupings of verbs. I think it would have to show *all*
> verbs, grouped in a logical fashion, otherwise you'll end up giving too
> much away by revealing only possible actions, but at least players won't
> have to type lots of different possibilities just to hit on the right one.
>
That's one possibility. A low-tech alternative would be
to take advantage of the hyperlink capability in certain
authoring systems and add a "typical actions" menu to
every element in the game: rooms, items, the inventory...
The player might not be able to finish the game whitout
typing any commands, but she should be able to at least
explore the game world and, hopefully, see for herself
that the commands she *does* have to type are actually
nothing to be afraid of.

Just swinging ideas,
Felix

Poster

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 9:28:31 AM9/1/05
to
In short, we won't know until we really try -- and try means to do
something incrementalist and stick to it.

Poster

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 9:32:37 AM9/1/05
to
ChicagoDave wrote:
> In my mind, these are some of the steps _I_ would take as a game
> publisher...
>
>
> 4. Contract with mall game shops for counter space for cd case
> displays.

If you write the right kinds of games, even places like Hot Topic would
carry your CDs. Which is to say you shouldn't overlook stores that fit
the audience of your game, even if they're not computer-related.

The other ideas mentioned sound spot-on to me. :)

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 9:34:48 AM9/1/05
to
Here, Adam Thornton <ad...@fsf.net> wrote:
> In article <1125530876.6...@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,
> Nathan <nts...@netscape.net> wrote:
> >On the contrary, it seems to me this issue comes up every time. Much of
> >the community seems to hold the opinion that there are many advantages
> >to releasing IF as freeware, beyond just maximizing the small audience.
>
> Yeah, that's me.
>
> Hey, I *have* a day job. The amount I could make by selling IF in the
> *best* of all possible (well, OK, plausible) worlds is miniscule
> compared to what I pull in as the compensation for said day job. I'd
> much rather write it, give it away, and let people look at the source
> code instead. Maybe something will turn up in the SMTUC sources that
> will inspire someone to create something really good.
>
> P.S. Unfortunately, the story seems to be much the same for SF authors.
> Even if you're a *damn good*--but still B-list, but published by the
> large SF houses, and generally favorably reviewed--author (I have a
> friend in Philly who is exactly that) you still need a day job in order
> to eat.

The difference is, that SF author is reaching tens of thousands of
people, not a couple of hundred. The system eats a lot of revenue in
the form of marketing and distribution -- that doesn't wind up in the
author's pocket, but it keeps the SF audience large and active; it
keeps SF books in big stores everywhere.

It also means the SF audience has dozens of new titles per month to
pick and choose from.

It also means that SF fans (and authors) get together in large
conventions, where they talk about SF nonstop for days at a time and
also throw room parties.

Frankly, speaking as a member of the IF audience, I'd love to see IF
wind up in that position. Even if it didn't free me personally from
the tyranny of the day job.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.

Poster

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 9:44:10 AM9/1/05
to
Felix wrote:
> Hello everyone,
>
> First, let me argue that there is one category of
> contemporary computer gamers who *are* interested
> in stories: the RPG fans. So there might be a
> gamer audience for IF after all. BUT.
>
> No contemporary gamer will accept a game in which
> one has to type commands. You may argue time and

My experience has argued otherwise.

>
> And that goes for readers too. Selling IF in
> bookstores is definitely a nice idea, but the
> potential buyers will not be hardcore computer
> users. They will want a point'n'click interface
> or nothing at all.

That of course, is arguable. Readers are mostly text-oriented. You seem
to take pleasure in unsupported massive generalizations, though.


> That's right, mouse-only interface. It helped the
> users forget they were sitting in front of a
> computer and just go along with the story. And
> anyone with a minimum of computer practice could
> join in the fun.

The same thing could be argued for text interfaces. After a while, there
is a point that you forget that you are typing, because you are
thoroughly ensconced in the fictional world.

My point? People learn through different mechanisms, which suggests that
many people have a favored form of input. For some, it's audio. For
some, it's visual (graphics). For some it's text. The existence of one
type does not invalidate the existence of other types!

IF will never appeal to the people who prefer an audiovisual
overwhelming experience. But then again, IF will never be works whose
reliance upon gee-whiz FX makes them look laughable later. In other
words, "Creature from the Black Lagoon" IF is not.

> Even I, who am a programmer and don't mind typing,
> (and I play IF as often as I can) have given up
> using MUDs after a few attempts. I just don't have
> the patience for it. If it's online, I want it
> simple. I want a modern-day interface. I want to
> focus on what's happening in the game world.

In other words, if you can't see the latest graphics (which will be
obsolete tomorrow) and use only the mouse (which restricts your
interaction with the world rather severely), then you don't want to
play. That's fine, but by definition, you don't want IF.

> In conclusion: making IF works look and feel
> commercial isn't all that hard (see City of Secrets).
> But if the potential players are forced to type
> commands, most of them will just reject the works
> in question at first sight. If we are to make IF
> popular, we'll have to be flexible about it.

In other words, make IF interactive but not fictional. Well gee, why
bother with a whole post if all you really meant was "Let's make a
Myst-type game?" If you want to do that, by all means, do it!

Poster

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 9:50:15 AM9/1/05
to
Rexx Magnus wrote:

>
>
> You know what I'd love to see? An interface similar to that in Neverwinter
> Nights or Temple of Elemental Evil, whereby you could (for example) right
> click on a word in the game text and bring up a radial context menu, with
> various different groupings of verbs. I think it would have to show *all*
> verbs, grouped in a logical fashion, otherwise you'll end up giving too
> much away by revealing only possible actions, but at least players won't
> have to type lots of different possibilities just to hit on the right one.
>

Ugh.

The lack of verb richness has been addressed by some INFORM extensions
(I dunno about TADS). Emily Short wrote one called "Rich verbs" or
something like that. There are other solutions, too, like for nouns you
have the Scenic extensions by Roger Firth and others. I don't think that
we need to create a whole new interface because some games are
poorly-written. :o

With that said, I think the suggestion could work for simple games. Heck
you could even highlight certain words to show that they were "hot", and
then the game could work like a HTML interface. I just wouldn't want to
do this for any game of considerable complexity, because you'd see a
chunk of text with every fifth word "hot". Again, ugh.

And what about items that you have to search for?

Rexx Magnus

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 10:07:27 AM9/1/05
to
On Thu, 01 Sep 2005 13:50:15 GMT, Poster scrawled:

> Rexx Magnus wrote:
>
>>
>>
>> You know what I'd love to see? An interface similar to that in
>> Neverwinter Nights or Temple of Elemental Evil, whereby you could (for
>> example) right click on a word in the game text and bring up a radial
>> context menu, with various different groupings of verbs. I think it
>> would have to show *all* verbs, grouped in a logical fashion, otherwise
>> you'll end up giving too much away by revealing only possible actions,
>> but at least players won't have to type lots of different possibilities
>> just to hit on the right one.
>>
>

*snip*

>
> With that said, I think the suggestion could work for simple games. Heck
> you could even highlight certain words to show that they were "hot", and
> then the game could work like a HTML interface. I just wouldn't want to
> do this for any game of considerable complexity, because you'd see a
> chunk of text with every fifth word "hot". Again, ugh.
>
> And what about items that you have to search for?
>
> -- Poster

I don't think it would cause any problem for things such as that. Hidden
stuff is going to be found by searching visible items anyway. As visible
items are mentioned in the game text (or using appropriate synonyms) it
doesn't really create a problem. Of course, if the game is badly written
and doesn't actually 'reveal' the found items (so that they appear again
should the text containing the name of said object disappear for some
reason), then you have a problem.

Edo

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 10:55:05 AM9/1/05
to
On 31 Aug 2005 23:57:34 -0700, "Felix" <fel...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> No contemporary gamer will accept a game in which
> one has to type commands.

[8<]


> And that goes for readers too. Selling IF in
> bookstores is definitely a nice idea, but the
> potential buyers will not be hardcore computer
> users. They will want a point'n'click interface
> or nothing at all.

Actually, I strongly doubt that a point-'n'-click interface is by
definition the most accessible interface for inexperienced computer
users. To many people of a certain age, a graphical interface is just
as baffling as a text interface. For one thing, I am pretty sure (even
though I have no real evidence for this) that most IF players are a
little older than the average "gamer," and grew up in a logocentric
environment instead of today's image-saturated world.

When Dutch companies switched from WordPerfect 5.1. for DOS to MS Word
as the de facto standard word processor about 10-15 years ago, many
secretaries complained bitterly about no longer having access to the
key combinations they had learned to use so efficiently and having to
resort to that clumsy and unhealthy input device -- the mouse. As it
turns out, clicking on a printer icon is -- bizarrely enough -- not
actually significantly more intuitive than typing SHIFT+F7, P (or
whatever the keys were).

And it's not just a matter of what you are used to, either: later,
more research was done, much of which suggested that women are in
general more comfortable working with a "verbal" interface than with a
graphical one. It's that whole "women have to turn the map in the
direction they are facing; men have smaller vocabularies" thing again.

And of course what you are used to is also very important. Many
readers are not visual thinkers. I once suggested a comic book to one
of my English lit professors and he confessed that his brain was
simply not wired to read comics -- he was comfortable with dealing
with the world in words and letters, and pictures with text balloons
just confused him. Another example is my mother: she's an avid reader,
but comics and contemporary user interfaces are virtually meaningless
to her, simply because she does not have the mental tools to figure
out what the stylized, non-verbal cues used in them represent.

I really don't think a non-hardcore computer user would be turned off
by an interface just like that. For one thing, they are not
experienced enough to have grown really used to one (which in most
cases means adapting themselves to the clumsy, inconsistent metaphors
of most GUIs). And secondly, they do not have any expectations or
demands regarding the mechanism for communicating with the mysterious
machine on their desk, either. How many people do you know who simply
cannot remember that (in Windows) the Print option is usually found in
the File menu? I know many: every time they have to perform a routine
task, they have to go through all the menus again to find the option
they want.

Avid computer users may wear their favourite interfaces like a
comfortable pair of shoes, and avoid others like the plague; most
casual users couldn't tell the interface from the underlying logic if
you held a gun to their dog's head.

I realize these are just anecdotes, but I think it's important to
challenge generalizations whenever possible.

Edo

Rexx Magnus

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 11:06:35 AM9/1/05
to
On Thu, 01 Sep 2005 14:55:05 GMT, Edo scrawled:

> And it's not just a matter of what you are used to, either: later,
> more research was done, much of which suggested that women are in
> general more comfortable working with a "verbal" interface than with a
> graphical one. It's that whole "women have to turn the map in the
> direction they are facing; men have smaller vocabularies" thing again.

This is strongly supported by research. Men have a better visio-spatial
capacity, whilst women have greater linguistic ability (on the whole). Of
course, there are exceptions to that (our receptionist being one of them)!

Mike Roberts

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 1:51:17 PM9/1/05
to
"samwyse" <deja...@email.com> wrote:

> Mike Roberts wrote:
>> Someone fifteen years ago worked out a nomenclature for gamish things
>> with varying degrees of competition and interactivity - 'toy' for things
>> where the entire point is the interaction, 'puzzle' for things where
>> there's a problem to solve but no competition in solving it, and 'game'
>> where there's competition.
>
> So, where do Solitare and Mine Sweeper land in this system?

They seem to fit the 'puzzle' category.

Felix

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 1:56:34 PM9/1/05
to
Edo wrote:
> When Dutch companies switched from WordPerfect 5.1. for DOS to MS Word
> as the de facto standard word processor about 10-15 years ago, many
> secretaries complained bitterly about no longer having access to the
> key combinations they had learned to use so efficiently and having to
> resort to that clumsy and unhealthy input device -- the mouse. As it
> turns out, clicking on a printer icon is -- bizarrely enough -- not
> actually significantly more intuitive than typing SHIFT+F7, P (or
> whatever the keys were).

I know you're right, and in fact the only text editor I'm
comfortable with is Emacs. But a mouse and a GUI is what
most contemporary computer users expect. I'm not
generalizing here, I'm talking about a majority. Ignoring
this majority is like refusing to support the world's most
popular operating system because you disagree with its
manufacturer's policies. You're only punishing some users.

> And of course what you are used to is also very important. Many
> readers are not visual thinkers.

True again. But I'll bet many of them are.

> I really don't think a non-hardcore computer user would be turned off
> by an interface just like that. For one thing, they are not
> experienced enough to have grown really used to one (which in most
> cases means adapting themselves to the clumsy, inconsistent metaphors
> of most GUIs). And secondly, they do not have any expectations or
> demands regarding the mechanism for communicating with the mysterious
> machine on their desk, either.

We seem to think alike in many regards :) BUT.
What are those users exposed to from the first
moment they ever sit in front of a computer?
A GUI, of course. Now, some of them may still
adapt to a CLI interface after this first
contact, but honestly, how many? Note, I
*began* with the command line (on a
ZX Spectrum... he he), so it was only natural
for me to return to it. But consider the
*typical* user. But, but, but....

> How many people do you know who simply
> cannot remember that (in Windows) the Print option is usually found in
> the File menu?

None, actually :) Guess I'm plain lucky.

> Avid computer users may wear their favourite interfaces like a
> comfortable pair of shoes, and avoid others like the plague; most
> casual users couldn't tell the interface from the underlying logic if
> you held a gun to their dog's head.

This is very true and very sad.

> I realize these are just anecdotes, but I think it's important to
> challenge generalizations whenever possible.

I hope I managed to convince you by now
that I'm not generalizing. I just care
about the ordinary people. Do you cater
only to elites? I like to think you don't.

Cheers,
Felix

P.S. In my childhood, I've been exposed both
to books and comics (mainly books). Perhaps
that's why I'm as comfortable with pictures
as I am with text?

Mike Roberts

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 2:20:46 PM9/1/05
to
"Jimmy Maher" <mah...@SPAMgrandecom.net> wrote:
> I would just point out, though, that a one-off article along the lines of
> "hey, remember text adventures? some people are still writing and playing
> them!" is very different from regular, serious coverage.

Absolutely - before reading the article, I was a little worried that the
tone was going to be more novelty than review, but it actually was a fairly
straightforward review without a lot of apologies made for the format.
Whether they'd see fit to do regular reviews if there were more games coming
out remains to be seen; I don't see any good way to find out other than to
do the experiment.

> Another place to pitch IF might be a conventional gaming shop, the sort
> selling wargames, unusual board games, and paper-and-pencil RPGs.

That strikes me intuitively as a really good fit, customer-wise. Not only
that, but it seems to me that a lot of game shops are independents, and that
independents are probably be a lot more open to dealing with a small
publisher than chain operations would be.

> A separate issue: one thing that rarely comes up in these "wouldn't it be
> nice" discussions about commercial IF is whether the commercialization of
> some of the community would really be a completely good thing.

That concern actually does enter these popularization/commercialization
threads pretty reliably. But as I mentioned in my first note about this
scheme, one of its charms is that it neutralizes those concerns. The
reason: the publisher is packaging games that were previously written
without expectation of profit. In the short term, at least, the existence
of this publisher wouldn't change anything; no one's going to start selling
out their artistic vision to be more commercial purely on spec that this
could take off. If we actually do get to the point in a few years where we
have hit games, and a few authors are making more than token money at it,
then maybe the sell-out problem will actually arise, but isn't that getting
awfully far ahead of ourselves? And even if it does happen, then in a sense
it just creates a market vacuum for new artsy authors to enter the freeware
scene with games that express their disgust with how corporate IF has
gotten - so ultimately it could actually be beneficial in terms of
increasing the total amount and diversity of IF being created.

David Alex Lamb

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 2:31:58 PM9/1/05
to
In article <Yj2Re.3463$oJ2....@newssvr17.news.prodigy.com>,
Mike Roberts <mj...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>... I wonder what would happen if someone
>with some time on their hands (and we're probably talking non-trivial time)
>were to put together the *trappings* of a commercial enterprise, selling
>*freeware* text IF (which would remain freeware, too, of course). Take a
>few of the best freeware games, dress them up with some artwork on the box
>and CD and a nice manual and a feely or two, put up a web site to take
>orders at $29.95 per game (the price has to be sufficiently audacious to be
>taken seriously), buy some of the same 10-cents-a-click Yahoo-search keyword
>ads that our friend at Malinche buys, send out offiical press releases to
>the gaming mags. All games offered with authors' permission, of course, and
>suitable profit sharing.

This is a reaction to the subthread that started here.

I think selling "freeware" IF could only work if there were some "value added"
to what gets sold. Perhaps packaging with a walkthrough and author bio would
be a start. But I suspect a commercial enterprise would need to go further,
and edit the game sources themselves, at least to correct spelling and
grammer, but also to remove bugs, add synonyms, add hints if the author didn't
include them, and so on. These seem to me to be the IF equivalents of what a
commercial publisher's editors do -- and which would likely be highly resisted
by the current freeware authors.

There are other minor issues such as autoinstallers for the interpreters; I
presume that's a once-per-interpreter-per-platform issue.
--
"Yo' ideas need to be thinked befo' they are say'd" - Ian Lamb, age 3.5
http://www.cs.queensu.ca/~dalamb/ qucis->cs to reply (it's a long story...)

Mantar, Feyelno nek dusa

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 3:08:15 PM9/1/05
to
On Thu, 01 Sep 2005 02:59:14 +0000, samwyse wrote:

> So, where do Solitare and Mine Sweeper land in this system?

I don't know this Mine Sweeper guy, but Solitare is a warrior. Look, he
has action missiles!

Damian Dollahite

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 4:15:45 PM9/1/05
to
ChicagoDave wrote:
> In my mind, these are some of the steps _I_ would take as a game
> publisher...
>
> 1. Hire a programmer to develop flash/flashier front-end to z-machine,
> tads, and hugo games, probably starting with z-machine games. I think
> courier is simply going to play really poorly with "today's audience".
> I know you can change the font in most terps these days, but my point
> is more that the game and interpreter need to be married into a 21st
> century user interface.
>

I'm working on that one already, though it's currently only in the
planning phases. My idea is hook a VM up to an XPCOM interface and send
the output through Gecko (The HTML renderer used in Firefox). The trick
will be figuring out how to handle communication between the display
layer and the VM. When I get it all worked out, it'll give any
interpreter implemented for the system pretty much any modern display
feature it wants.

Of course, one problem is that there just /aren't/ many nice-looking
monospace fonts to choose from. There's basically just Courier New,
Lucida Console, and Bitstream Vera Sans Mono; the few other monospace
fonts available all pretty much look like crap. Most IF, of course, is
playable in variable-width fonts, but there are some games that rely on
an 80-column monospaced display for layout.

--
Ryukage

Damian Dollahite

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 4:26:37 PM9/1/05
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> Here, Adam Thornton <ad...@fsf.net> wrote:
>
>> In article <1125530876.6...@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,
>> Nathan <nts...@netscape.net> wrote:
>>
>>
>> Yeah, that's me.
>>
>> Hey, I *have* a day job. The amount I could make by selling IF in
>> the *best* of all possible (well, OK, plausible) worlds is
>> miniscule compared to what I pull in as the compensation for said
>> day job. I'd much rather write it, give it away, and let people
>> look at the source code instead. Maybe something will turn up in
>> the SMTUC sources that will inspire someone to create something
>> really good.
>>
>> P.S. Unfortunately, the story seems to be much the same for SF
>> authors. Even if you're a *damn good*--but still B-list, but
>> published by the large SF houses, and generally favorably
>> reviewed--author (I have a friend in Philly who is exactly that)
>> you still need a day job in order to eat.
>
>
> The difference is, that SF author is reaching tens of thousands of
> people, not a couple of hundred. The system eats a lot of revenue in
> the form of marketing and distribution -- that doesn't wind up in the
> author's pocket, but it keeps the SF audience large and active; it
> keeps SF books in big stores everywhere.
>
> It also means the SF audience has dozens of new titles per month to
> pick and choose from.
>

Which is probably why you can't make any money as a Sci-Fi author: the
market is already flooded to about 10 times its capacity, which makes it
incredibly difficult for the few good authors to get noticed among all
the cheap hacks. The only really well-known SF authors are the ones who
were already famous before the market started flooding in the 70s, and
most of them really aren't half as good as some of those drowning in the
deluge of garbage.

--
Ryukage

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 4:55:30 PM9/1/05
to

Yes...

> which makes it incredibly difficult for the few good authors to get
> noticed among all the cheap hacks.

No. That is to say, there *are* cheap hacks (just as there have always
been) but it's quite possible to look at what's out there and find
what's good. Or find what you want, which may not be what *I* think is
"good".

> The only really well-known SF authors are the ones who were already
> famous before the market started flooding in the 70s, and most of
> them really aren't half as good as some of those drowning in the
> deluge of garbage.

It is true that the era of super-big-name SF writers is over. (In the
US. Less so in other countries, which have smaller groups of
home-grown writers. Pratchett and Banks are arguably still superstars
in the UK.)

It is not obvious that the era of superstars was actually a good
thing. I mean, it was obviously great for Asimov, Bradbury, and
Clarke. But for readers? The current model offers me more good books
than I can read. More good authors than there were SF authors
*available at all* in the 1980s bookstores I grew up with.

And even the failing authors make *some* money. More than I've made
off IF in my life.

Damian Dollahite

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 6:01:32 PM9/1/05
to
Jimmy Maher wrote:

> Contemporary gamers are not stupid, and I don't mean to denigrate them
> at all, but I just think that they are not that terribly interested in
> prose or narrative technique or even puzzle design. The two
> best-selling types of games in the PC market are the FPS and the RTS.
> These games are much more "gamey" than IF, all about scores and kill
> counts and in more recent years competitive online play. Sure, they
> usually have stories grafted in, but (with ocassional exceptions) those
> stories are usually just there to provide an excuse for more cool
> environments to explore and new and different stuff to blow up. I
> really have a hard time imagining a significant number of people who are
> interested in this sort of thing as well as the more sedate, dare I say
> it, "artistic" nature of a good piece of IF. (Yes, I know those people
> do exist, and some are probably reading this message. I claim only that
> these people are unusual, not non-existent.)
>

I'd agree about FPS and RTS being the most popular and not being much
like IF, but expand the focus a little. Just behind the FPS and RTS is
the RPG. The MMO variety notwithstanding, the criteria on which RPGs
have been judged for the last five years is virtually identical to
criteria we judge IF on: engaging storyline, deep characterization,
artistic vision, and technical innovation. The segment of the gaming
audience that looks for intellectual games may not be the biggest
segment, but it's in the top 5.

Plus lately there's been a growing trend of artistic games across the
board. Half the titles for the Nintendo DS are quirky artistic
experiments that don't fit comfortably into any existing genre. And even
the traditionally "dumb" genres like FPS and TPS have lately seen a
growing number of unusually artistic offerings, such as Killer 7, Advent
Rising, ICO, etc. These games tend to end up being either runaway hits,
horrible failures, or cult favorites--which is pretty much what you'd
expect of experimental art.

A few years back, a rather intelligent fellow became frustrated by all
the trashy porn flooding the internet. But he didn't go running to the
government and try to have it banned and censored. He started his own
website posting hand-chosen pictures of what /he/ wanted to
see--high-quality photos of naturally beautiful girls in the nude,
obscured by neither overt sexuality nor artistic enigmatism. At the
time, no one would have thought anyone would be interested in photos
like that--who would want to look at nude photos that were neither
capital-A Artistic nor pornographic? Today, he has millions of members
and dozens of copycats, and runs not only his original site but a
personal site of his own work and a portal linking to those dozens of
copycats. Seems there was quite a large market of people just as
frustrated as he was with trashy porn and pretentious Art.

You can never really know how many people are frustrated with the status
quo until you take a chance and test the water. New people seem to show
up here on RAIF and RGIF with great regularity--for every one who finds
us, there could be 10 or 20 more who don't, perhaps because they don't
even know specifically what they're looking for. It's a well-known rule
of commerce that clients and consumers rarely have any idea what they
really want until a contracter or merchant actually provides it to them.

I can also give an anecdote from my own life.

My first experience with RPGs was Dragon Warrior. It was terrible.
Mostly it was boring--no story, no characters, no plot, no
action--except when it became frustrating because of poor battle
calculations (even with 100 HP, I found could still be killed by a lowly
green slime that does only 1 damage per attack and would die from a
single hit, simply because the stupid random number generator would
sometimes roll a miss 100 times in a row). But mostly it was boring. I
went back to action games for a long time after that; I might still
suffer frustrating defeats, but with the PC's actions under my direct
control at least I had a chance of learning and getting past the next
time. But I was never really satisfied--20 minutes to an hour of play
and I'd get tired and decide to go read a book.

Years later, Chrono Trigger came along. The reviews were interesting
enough that I gave it a try--and I loved it. It had an complex and
fascinating storyline, developed characters, and it even turned out that
the battle system was less frustrating than action games, because the
characters were as effective as action game characters without wearing
out my thumbs or requiring faster reflexes than I possessed. Turns out I
had been missing out for years on what is now the only console genre I
play, all because my first impression of the genre was from a really
poorly designed title (to this day I have absolutely no clue why the
Dragon Warrior series is so popular--maybe Japanese gamers are
sadomasochists or something).

What can we learn from that? Well, one thing we already knew: that the
old, cruel IF games have made and continue to make a bad impressions on
a lot of people. Also something that hasn't been discussed as much: that
some of those people playing action games might find they really like IF
if they just played a well-crafted title that really represented the
best of the modern offerings.


I've rambled on way longer than I should have, so I'd better hit "send"
before I think of something else to go one about.

--
Ryukage

Gregory Weir

unread,
Sep 1, 2005, 8:34:07 PM9/1/05
to
Felix wrote:
> But if the potential players are forced to type
> commands, most of them will just reject the works
> in question at first sight. If we are to make IF
> popular, we'll have to be flexible about it.

I disagree. Two of the main, fundamental uses of the Intarweb these
days are e-mail and instant messaging. A whole lot of people use word
processors to type memos every day. People are used to typing, and it
shouldn't be hard to get them to go with the command-typing interface.
Especially since it doesn't have that "computer jargon" to it. There
are only a few magic words in IF (LOOK, INVENTORY, etc.), and the rest
are straightforward things like GET THE LAMP. Even if people would have
trouble typing "cd /usr/user1", that doesn't mean they'd have trouble
with LOOK AT THE FISH.

Gregory Weir

Felix

unread,
Sep 2, 2005, 2:39:05 AM9/2/05
to
Gregory Weir wrote:
> I disagree. Two of the main, fundamental uses of the Intarweb these
> days are e-mail and instant messaging. A whole lot of people use word
> processors to type memos every day. People are used to typing, and it
> shouldn't be hard to get them to go with the command-typing interface.

No offense, Gregory, but did you actually try to
introduce IF to a couple of people? I mean,
directly? Looking over their shoulder?

> Especially since it doesn't have that "computer jargon" to it. There
> are only a few magic words in IF (LOOK, INVENTORY, etc.), and the rest
> are straightforward things like GET THE LAMP. Even if people would have
> trouble typing "cd /usr/user1", that doesn't mean they'd have trouble
> with LOOK AT THE FISH.

No, but they won't like it when they (mis)type
LOOK AT THE FISJ and the parser barks at them.
E-mail clients and word processors are much more
forgiving. Not to mention, people will be very
surprised when they type TALK TO GOLDEN FISH
and the parser won't even understand what
they mean. We tend to forget that for every
noun or verb an IF author can think of and
implement, a hundred others remain uncovered.
And the users *will* think of them. Trust me.

No, a command line is a command line. Only
some people can get used to it. Even fewer
will actually like it. If you don't provide
an alternative, you'll never get all the
others to play your game/use your software.

Ok, enough talk. I haven't even managed to
finish my first IF work, and I'm already
thinking of better ways to do things. Oh well.
I promise I'll make a proof of concept as soon
as I have a good story. It may take a while :)

Best regards,
Felix

James Mitchelhill

unread,
Sep 2, 2005, 3:18:13 PM9/2/05
to
On Thu, 01 Sep 2005 23:39:05 -0700, Felix wrote:

> No offense, Gregory, but did you actually try to
> introduce IF to a couple of people? I mean,
> directly? Looking over their shoulder?

I'm not Gregory, but I have. They type. They are interested by this
strange thing, especially if they're people who read a lot anyway. Hell,
when I was first introduced to IF (by myself), I typed. And this was
mostly before I got at all technically minded.



> No, but they won't like it when they (mis)type LOOK AT THE FISJ and the
> parser barks at them.

My (postponed/abandoned) project had a beginner mode where the first few
times the player did this, it would politely tell them "The word 'fisj'
was not understood. (If you mistyped a word, rather than retype the whole
sentence, you can simply type "oops" and then the word you meant.)"
There's libraries available to do things like this.

> E-mail clients and word processors are much more
> forgiving.

Mail Undeliverable!

Word has encountered a serious error and will now close. That
report you just spent the last hour typing will be completely lost.
There's a useless back-up copy somewhere on disk, but, oops, that got
corrupted too. We hope this has not caused you any inconveneience.

> Not to mention, people will be very surprised when they type
> TALK TO GOLDEN FISH and the parser won't even understand what they mean.
> We tend to forget that for every noun or verb an IF author can think of
> and implement, a hundred others remain uncovered. And the users *will*
> think of them. Trust me.

Well, the parser in most modern systems will know what they mean (that
they want to talk to the golden fish) and will respond correctly, telling
them that it doesn't know how to do that.

Besides, I don't think this is something we forget. Especially if we have
good beta-testers.

> No, a command line is a command line. Only some people can get used to
> it. Even fewer will actually like it. If you don't provide an
> alternative, you'll never get all the others to play your game/use your
> software.

The primary difference between an IF command line and a standard command
line is that one deals gracefully with ambiguity and the other doesn't.
The problem most people seem to have with command lines is that they are
brittle - failing to completely understand what format it expects your
input to be in and forgetting what frequently incomprehensible options
mean can have potentially disastrous effects. These are not problems that
IF tends to share: The input is expected as a subset of natural language
and if something has gone wrong, there's always UNDO.

--
James Mitchelhill
ja...@disorderfeed.net
http://disorderfeed.net

Felix

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Sep 3, 2005, 1:26:16 PM9/3/05
to
James Mitchelhill wrote:
> Well, the parser in most modern systems will know what they mean (that
> they want to talk to the golden fish) and will respond correctly, telling
> them that it doesn't know how to do that.

And that's exactly what will surprise and annoy many users,
as the game otherwise claims to understand English. "What
do you mean, you don't know how to talk to someone?!" At
least, a menu system presents you with the exact list of
supported actions. Which, of course, eliminates some
categories of puzzles, but that's a different story.

Oh and, I did meet people who did enjoy typing commands
and stuff when I showed them how. I'm just saying they
are a minority. *We* are a minority. Is that such an
unrealistic claim?

Felix

Gregory Weir

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Sep 3, 2005, 4:06:36 PM9/3/05
to
Felix wrote:
> Gregory Weir wrote:
> > I disagree. Two of the main, fundamental uses of the Intarweb these
> > days are e-mail and instant messaging. A whole lot of people use word
> > processors to type memos every day. People are used to typing, and it
> > shouldn't be hard to get them to go with the command-typing interface.
>
> No offense, Gregory, but did you actually try to
> introduce IF to a couple of people? I mean,
> directly? Looking over their shoulder?

Yes, and they often had a bit of trouble. Just when I tried to
introduce people to Half-Life or Super Smash Brothers or the games on
orisinal.com. Very few games are immediately easy to use. We still
haven't quite figured out how to make an "intuitive" interface for a
game.

> > Even if people would have
> > trouble typing "cd /usr/user1", that doesn't mean they'd have trouble
> > with LOOK AT THE FISH.
>
> No, but they won't like it when they (mis)type
> LOOK AT THE FISJ and the parser barks at them.
> E-mail clients and word processors are much more
> forgiving. Not to mention, people will be very
> surprised when they type TALK TO GOLDEN FISH
> and the parser won't even understand what
> they mean. We tend to forget that for every
> noun or verb an IF author can think of and
> implement, a hundred others remain uncovered.
> And the users *will* think of them. Trust me.

This is a good point. The problem can be dealt with in two ways, IMO:
implementing as much as one can (using the help of beta testers of all
levels of experience) and making more informative and helpful error
messages, as has been talked about elsewhere in this thread.

Gregory Weir

Richard Bos

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Sep 3, 2005, 5:29:20 PM9/3/05
to
Damian Dollahite <ryu...@aol.com> wrote:

> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> > The difference is, that SF author is reaching tens of thousands of
> > people, not a couple of hundred. The system eats a lot of revenue in
> > the form of marketing and distribution -- that doesn't wind up in the
> > author's pocket, but it keeps the SF audience large and active; it
> > keeps SF books in big stores everywhere.
> >
> > It also means the SF audience has dozens of new titles per month to
> > pick and choose from.
>
> Which is probably why you can't make any money as a Sci-Fi author: the
> market is already flooded to about 10 times its capacity, which makes it
> incredibly difficult for the few good authors to get noticed among all
> the cheap hacks. The only really well-known SF authors are the ones who
> were already famous before the market started flooding in the 70s, and
> most of them really aren't half as good as some of those drowning in the
> deluge of garbage.

Neal Stephenson would be surprised at being a famous author before
writing his first book. China Mieville would be surprised at being a
famous author before being able to write, period.

Richard

James Mitchelhill

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Sep 3, 2005, 6:37:28 PM9/3/05
to
On Sat, 03 Sep 2005 10:26:16 -0700, Felix wrote:

> James Mitchelhill wrote:
>> Well, the parser in most modern systems will know what they mean (that
>> they want to talk to the golden fish) and will respond correctly, telling
>> them that it doesn't know how to do that.
>
> And that's exactly what will surprise and annoy many users,
> as the game otherwise claims to understand English. "What
> do you mean, you don't know how to talk to someone?!"

I think this is a game design issue. After all, a more sophisticated game
will have taken this into account and respond:

"The fish doesn't seem to understand you."

or even:

"I don't speak fish."

or:

"The fish bubbles happily to itself, fixing you with beady eyes. Whether
it understood you or not, it doesn't seem in any hurry to reply."

> At
> least, a menu system presents you with the exact list of
> supported actions. Which, of course, eliminates some
> categories of puzzles, but that's a different story.

I think this eliminates more puzzles than you think. Any puzzle that
relies on the player realising that an expanded range of commands is
available within the context of the story is reduced to "Let's try that
new command available from the menu." Any puzzle that relies on the player
realising that they are able to interact with something that was not
initially obvious is reduced to "Let's try doing something to that object
available from the menu."

Galatea-style conversations are right out, or reduced to a CYOA.

> Oh and, I did meet people who did enjoy typing commands
> and stuff when I showed them how. I'm just saying they
> are a minority. *We* are a minority. Is that such an
> unrealistic claim?

It's not an unrealistic claim, it's just that I don't think there's a
larger number of people who would prefer IF with a less rich method of
input.

Felix

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Sep 4, 2005, 10:45:31 AM9/4/05