CYOA variations?

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Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 29, 2004, 5:08:35 PM1/29/04
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I was thinking about Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (apparently
_Deathtrap Dungeon_ is back in print, I really should pick it up, I've
never tried it) and wondering what variations have been tried.

One of my big problems with the CYOA format is that everyone (yes, you
too) does backtracking. Particularly from "instant death" pages. More
generally, you can do lookahead -- check out all the out-linked
variations of the current scene, and pick the one which looks best.
This makes the interaction mechanical and non-mimetic, which (for me
at least) means not fun.

The simplistic fix is to have the bad outcomes hidden two or three
links down the tree. If you make a bad choice, you won't know it for
another couple of pages. This doesn't help a lot, because looking
ahead (or backtracking) two or three links isn't much harder than
doing it for one link. And if your bad-ending trees are deeper than
that, they start to dominate the whole book -- it feels like bad
design, although I haven't quantified that.

If you compare a CYOA structure to a maze (remind me to write an essay
on why _The Cave of Time_ is more interesting than any CYOA book
since), then you can steal some strategies. A maze, particularly a
walk-through maze, is more fun if it *has* no dead ends -- only loops.
And that structure also reduces the temptation to backtrack, because
you realize you've made a mistake when you come back to a place where
you've been. Trying something new means keeping on ahead, but making
different choices. Okay, you *are* technically backtracking some of
the time, but that's not the effect.

Simple no-escape loops in a CYOA aren't much better than dead-end
chains. Too easy to recognize.

I'm imagining some structure where there aren't even no-escape areas.
Any page has outlets that lead back into the main part of the
structure; so it's all loops, but it's got big loops as well as small
ones. However, there's also player state. (Scores that you keep
running totals of, for example.) Wandering around randomly won't get
you stuck, but your state won't get to a place where you can win.

Going around loops might trade off one score against another. Finding
the *right* set of loops, in the right order, puts you in the winning
state. I think you could set up such a structure which made winning
difficult, without having any dead ends or other parts of the maze in
which you were permanently screwed.

Has anyone done something like that?

--Z

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

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jan 29, 2004, 6:32:45 PM1/29/04
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On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 22:08:35 +0000 (UTC), Andrew Plotkin
<erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
>If you compare a CYOA structure to a maze (remind me to write an essay
>on why _The Cave of Time_ is more interesting than any CYOA book
>since), then you can steal some strategies. A maze, particularly a
>walk-through maze, is more fun if it *has* no dead ends -- only loops.
>And that structure also reduces the temptation to backtrack, because
>you realize you've made a mistake when you come back to a place where
>you've been. Trying something new means keeping on ahead, but making
>different choices. Okay, you *are* technically backtracking some of
>the time, but that's not the effect.
>
>Going around loops might trade off one score against another. Finding
>the *right* set of loops, in the right order, puts you in the winning
>state. I think you could set up such a structure which made winning
>difficult, without having any dead ends or other parts of the maze in
>which you were permanently screwed.
>
>Has anyone done something like that?

While we aren't quite yet at your level of thinking, the 'Time
Machine' CYOA series is indeed structured without
dead-ends. Meandering to a bad decision puts you into a different
place in the story. This can often, but not invariably, lead to a
loop, generally a very very long one. Since the story structure is
based around being able to travel through time, to some extent, the
effect of a bad choice results in, more or less, randomizing the page
number: since most jump-to points result from using the time machine,
there is not as much need for the destination to have any obvious
relationship to the source (frequently it comes down to "You do
something stupid. You're about to be killed, and don't have time to
set the time machine properly before you jump out, thereby landing on
a random page). Of course, this does make the story somewhat
stateless.

Adam Thornton

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Jan 29, 2004, 6:19:58 PM1/29/04
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In article <bvc093$gpd$1...@reader2.panix.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>I'm imagining some structure where there aren't even no-escape areas.
>Any page has outlets that lead back into the main part of the
>structure; so it's all loops, but it's got big loops as well as small
>ones. However, there's also player state. (Scores that you keep
>running totals of, for example.) Wandering around randomly won't get
>you stuck, but your state won't get to a place where you can win.

Christopher Manson's _Maze_, albeit there is a dead-end path.

Adam

Papillon

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Jan 29, 2004, 7:12:43 PM1/29/04
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lrasz...@loyola.edu (L. Ross Raszewski) wrote:

>>Going around loops might trade off one score against another. Finding
>>the *right* set of loops, in the right order, puts you in the winning
>>state. I think you could set up such a structure which made winning
>>difficult, without having any dead ends or other parts of the maze in
>>which you were permanently screwed.
>>
>>Has anyone done something like that?
>
>While we aren't quite yet at your level of thinking, the 'Time
>Machine' CYOA series is indeed structured without
>dead-ends. Meandering to a bad decision puts you into a different
>place in the story. This can often, but not invariably, lead to a
>loop, generally a very very long one. Since the story structure is
>based around being able to travel through time, to some extent, the
>effect of a bad choice results in, more or less, randomizing the page
>number: since most jump-to points result from using the time machine,
>there is not as much need for the destination to have any obvious
>relationship to the source (frequently it comes down to "You do
>something stupid. You're about to be killed, and don't have time to
>set the time machine properly before you jump out, thereby landing on
>a random page). Of course, this does make the story somewhat
>stateless.

I'm not sure if I'm thinking of exactly what you are, but I was also going
to recommend the Falcon time-traveler gamebooks (downloadable as pdfs from
The Underdogs if you can't locate a physical copy).

While it was possible to die and have to start over, you were more likely
to, by going the wrong way, waste time, and when you got to the RIGHT place
the bad guy would have gotten there first and be more prepared for you than
if you had gone the right way first.

As if the world continues to operate behind the scenes while you are
playing, unlike the traditional CYOA line where the world is *completely*
inconsistent from one path to another.

Definitely maintains state, though. You're supposed to keep track of letter
codes that signify when you did something particularly right or wrong, plus
in some of the stories you have a small inventory (Did you take the glowing
crystal, or the extra fuel rods?) to keep track of. And many repetitions of
scenes from slightly different perspectives depending on how you got there.
Lots of the numbered paragraphs are really, really short, which while it
does mean more page-flipping also makes it much harder than the typical
CYOAs to cheat - in those you could often flip randomly, read a long
passage, and roughly figure out what was going on and continue from there
eveni f you didn't know how you got there.


---
Hanako Games
http://www.hanakogames.com/

Fred the Wonder Worm

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Jan 29, 2004, 7:38:46 PM1/29/04
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In article <bvc093$gpd$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> Going around loops might trade off one score against another. Finding
> the *right* set of loops, in the right order, puts you in the winning
> state. I think you could set up such a structure which made winning
> difficult, without having any dead ends or other parts of the maze in
> which you were permanently screwed.
>
> Has anyone done something like that?

It's not what you mean, but you've reminded me of an arcade game that
I quite liked, so I thought I'd mention it. At the end of every
section, there was a choice between two or three exits, which lead to
other sections in a static way. The right set of choices would let
one confront the boss monster, where victory would start the game over
again, but harder. Most choices eventually lead this way, but there
were loops in the section map, and this was a useful thing to exploit
since one could pick up extra lives in certain sections.

[ Sadly, I cannot recall it's name; it was a vertically-scrolling
shoot-em-up, but it had an innovative alternative to the usual 'bomb'
button. Instead, the second button produced a short reversal of time;
it would run the trajectories of all objects on screen backwards for
the appropriate length of time (maybe a second, not more). If you were
hit, then you could use this ability if you reacted quickly enough;
the key point is that since the bullet that hit you was no longer on
the screen, it could not be run backwards so there would now be a hole
in the attack that you could slide through. ]

Cheers,
Geoff.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Geoff Bailey (Fred the Wonder Worm) | Programmer by trade --
ft...@maths.usyd.edu.au | Gameplayer by vocation.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fred M. Sloniker

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Jan 30, 2004, 2:23:06 AM1/30/04
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Fred the Wonder Worm wrote:

> It's not what you mean, but you've reminded me of an arcade game that
> I quite liked, so I thought I'd mention it.

[description snipped]

Doesn't ring any bells for me, but I'm curious. If anybody else can
identify this game, post to the group, please!

Glenn P.,

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Jan 30, 2004, 3:40:53 AM1/30/04
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On Thu., 29-Jan-2004, at 10:08:35pm GMT, "Mr. Andrew Plotkin"
<erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> If you compare a CYOA structure to a maze...

I haven't. Certainly I've thought about CYOA's a lot, but not in terms
of mazes. I've tended to view them as "trees" -- like in geneology. In
fact, mentally, I call the decision tree of a CYOA its "geneology".

Thinking of them as a Maze certainly *does* bring in the possibility of
loops, which the Tree metaphor did not, and so I find this interesting.
A loop on a Decision tree would be an unmistakable anomoly, but in a
maze would be Just Another Day At The Office.

I shall have to ponder on this for awhile, and consider all the nuances
and implications! Thank you for an interesting post!

-- _____ %%%%%%%%% "Glenn P.," <C128UserD...@FVI.Net> %%%%%%%%%%
{~._.~} -----------------------------------------------------------------
_( Y )_ ...For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are
(:_~*~_:) standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are...
(_)-(_) --Lewis, C.S.: "The Magician's Nephew",
========= Book I in "The Chronicles Of Narnia".

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Jdyer41

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Jan 30, 2004, 3:40:37 AM1/30/04
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>Andrew Plotkin writes:
>One of my big problems with the CYOA format is that everyone (yes, you
>too) does backtracking. Particularly from "instant death" pages.

This is one of the several reasons to not have instant death pages.

>More generally, you can do lookahead -- check out all the out-linked
>variations of the current scene, and pick the one which looks best.
>This makes the interaction mechanical and non-mimetic, which (for me
>at least) means not fun.

Really, I'd say the trick here to prevent cheating is to make none
of the punishments for things are too severe. If everything can be
thought out logically and failure doesn't mean instant death, I imagine
people would be much less inclined to cheat.

Someone already mentioned the Time Traveller series for loops. My
favorite of the ones I played involves dinosaurs, and includes an
extremely clever navigation puzzle.

Jason Dyer
jdy...@aol.com

Rexx Magnus

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Jan 30, 2004, 4:13:02 AM1/30/04
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On Fri, 30 Jan 2004 00:38:46 GMT, Fred the Wonder Worm scrawled:

> [ Sadly, I cannot recall it's name; it was a vertically-scrolling
> shoot-em-up, but it had an innovative alternative to the usual 'bomb'
> button. Instead, the second button produced a short reversal of time;
> it would run the trajectories of all objects on screen backwards for
> the appropriate length of time (maybe a second, not more). If you
> were hit, then you could use this ability if you reacted quickly
> enough; the key point is that since the bullet that hit you was no
> longer on the screen, it could not be run backwards so there would now
> be a hole in the attack that you could slide through. ]

Sounds like a similar idea used in Prince of Persia: Sands of time -
killing monsters fills your dagger with sand, the sand can be used up to
reverse time by up to 10 seconds, luckily if you die, you get about 3
seconds before you actually lose consciousness to press the button and
start rewinding again.

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

To email me, visit the site.

Glenn P.,

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Jan 30, 2004, 4:20:49 AM1/30/04
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Andrew Plotkin writes:

> One of my big problems with the CYOA format is that everyone (yes, you
> too) does backtracking. Particularly from "instant death" pages.

Likening CYOA's to Text Adventures, I implement some personal "metacommands"
when I read a CYOA. In particular, before I begin I give myself a set number
-- generally three, but possibly five if I anticipate it will be a difficult
story -- "undo's". In other words, I still cheat, but according to a personal
set of specific rules! :)

In other words, since cheating is inevitable (you can't beat 'em...), make
the "cheating" A PART OF THE GAME (...so join 'em!).


> More generally, you can do lookahead -- check out all the out-linked
> variations of the current scene, and pick the one which looks best.
> This makes the interaction mechanical and non-mimetic, which (for
> me at least) means not fun.

"Non-mimetic"? Oh, puh-LEEZE. If you can't be serious, can you at least be
reasonable? I assume you've typed "UNDO" as a command into numberless Text
Adventures; since when is that "mimetic"?! Yet I don't hear you bitch and
scream and yell at the game authors for including the command! Honestly!

I don't usually look ahead, but for an interesting reason.

The companion option to my "undo's" above are "reservations", which are
essentially the equivalent of "saves" in a Text Adventure. If a choice
looks dubious or dangerous, I can declare a "reservation" against it (again,
I only give myself a fixed number of these) which gives me the right to
recind that choice and return to the decision point and choose again if
Things Go Wrong. This requires foresight -- if I am caught napping, I
might be forced to use an Undo instead!

The interesting part to this is that I haven't "looked ahead", and I haven't
"cheated" (yet) -- but merely "reserved" the right to do so. Half the time,
I decide NOT to take the reservation after all, but accept the outcome of
my decision.

The point to all this is that these "cheats" are limited by my rules, so
there is still a certain degree of suspense. The limits even bring in the
idea of resource management (do I expend my last Undo now, or save it for
something possibly more serious later on?).

The guaranteed way to eliminate ALL such "cheatings" is to simply eliminate
the book. Make the CYOA computer-based, and all such "cheating" (which, to
be frank, I consider a lot of fun and would miss if it were denied to me)
would pretty much vanish. I guess that's one reason why, besides laziness,
and much as I enjoy CYOA's, I have avoided looking into Adventure Book for
the PC... I'm afraid it'd take all the FUN out of the thing! :/

Glenn P.,

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Jan 30, 2004, 5:01:40 AM1/30/04
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Another "take" on the matter...

Andrew Plotkin writes:
> One of my big problems with the CYOA format is that everyone (yes, you
> too) does backtracking. Particularly from "instant death" pages.

It seems to me, Mr. Plotkin, that there is ONE form of "backtracking" which
is COMPLETELY legitimate, and UTTERLY unavoidable, even in "bookless"
computer CYOA's which carefully disallowed every other form of it. It's
called "restart", and it means exactly and precisely the same thing in a
CYOA as it does in a Text Adventure -- you start over again at the beginning
and play the game (or read the CYOA) over again.

Now, you may (or may not) have noticed, but Real Life isn't like that --

"...Like the grass on the lawn
Man will pass by the Way and be gone
A lesson to learn,
We walk but once, there's no return --
Time is always moving on."

-- Real Life isn't like that, but that's the whole point. "The moving finger,
having writ, moves on" and all that. That's what makes CYOA's so appealing,
so engaging, so... well, so FUN: the ability TO MAKE ANOTHER CHOICE. *Sure*,
you could make a computer-based CYOA that would refuse to run more than once
on any given computer. Then every choice you made would be Permanent and
Irreversible. Just like Real Life! How "un-fun" is that!? Hey, isn't the
whole point of Playing A Game to ESCAPE Real Life for awhile...? (I shudder
just thinking aobut it.)

In short, CYOA's and Text Adventures alike have three big lures:

1. They simulate, to a lesser or greater degree, what "Zork I" called a
"miniature universe", in which you are free to make choices;

2. The "miniature universe" is imaginary and your choices, howsoever
horrible or gruesome in the game world, have no consequences in
ours; and

3. If you make a mistake you can always go back a step and try again,
or failing that, start over at the beginning and play again.

A "game" (so-called) which lacked property 1 or 2 wouldn't really be a
game. A game which lacked property 3 might still be a game but it sure
wouldn't be much fun... or at any rate not for very long. Think about it!

Rexx Magnus

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Jan 30, 2004, 5:39:12 AM1/30/04
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On Fri, 30 Jan 2004 10:01:40 GMT, Glenn P., scrawled:

> -- Real Life isn't like that, but that's the whole point. "The moving
> finger, having writ, moves on" and all that. That's what makes CYOA's so
> appealing, so engaging, so... well, so FUN: the ability TO MAKE ANOTHER
> CHOICE. *Sure*, you could make a computer-based CYOA that would refuse
> to run more than once on any given computer. Then every choice you made
> would be Permanent and Irreversible. Just like Real Life! How "un-fun"
> is that!? Hey, isn't the whole point of Playing A Game to ESCAPE Real
> Life for awhile...? (I shudder just thinking aobut it.)

I don't think he was suggesting that a game should be simulationist,
simply that even playing a game over from scratch without an undo is very,
very tedious. Yes, you can do all of the exact same things if you don't
have an undo, but you can do that anyway - so you either stick an undo in
the game, or make it such that there isn't a point of no return.

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

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Jan 30, 2004, 12:09:13 PM1/30/04
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
:I was thinking about Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (apparently

:_Deathtrap Dungeon_ is back in print, I really should pick it up, I've
:never tried it) and wondering what variations have been tried.
:
:One of my big problems with the CYOA format is that everyone (yes, you
:too) does backtracking. Particularly from "instant death" pages. More
:generally, you can do lookahead -- check out all the out-linked
:variations of the current scene, and pick the one which looks best.
:This makes the interaction mechanical and non-mimetic, which (for me
:at least) means not fun.

True, but you know what else isn't fun? Re-reading the entire
text up to that point and then picking a different choice, which
is essentially the same thing as backtracking, but more time
consuming and dull. And when I used to read choose-your-own
adventure books, I hated the feeling that there were some
'unread' pages buried in there somewhere, and so I'd want to
eventually try all the possible paths, and see all the possible
stories. (I don't want to pay for a 130 page book, only read
30 pages of it, and then never open it again.) This is very much
what I use save games for in interactive fiction. I come to a spot
where I could make a choice that I *know* is dumb, and I suspect
very strongly will result in death or at least some premature
end of the game, but I want to try it anyway because I want to see
what fun response the author has created for that contingency.
Often the error messages are even more fun than the successful
messages.


Adam Thornton

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Jan 30, 2004, 2:16:49 PM1/30/04
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In article <Pine.LNX.4.58.04...@Bfjrtb.SbkInyyrl.arg>,

Glenn P., <C128UserD...@FVI.Net> wrote:
>-- Real Life isn't like that, but that's the whole point. "The moving finger,
>having writ, moves on" and all that.

Neither Piety nor Wit has any place on Usenet.

HTH! HAND!

Adam

P.S. And Cancels aren't generally honored in this day and age either.

Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 30, 2004, 2:50:40 PM1/30/04
to

Yeah, I was going to make the point that you're going to have to pick
your narrative pretty carefully for this sort of thing. Loops in a
CYOA are *usually* obtrusive and break the mood.

I haven't seen the "Time Machine" books. That's a clever approach.

Adam Thornton:
> _Maze_

I feel entirely dumb for forgetting this. It's one of my favorites.
(It avoids the narrative loop problem by having no narrative; the text
is all room descriptions.)

Adam Thornton

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Jan 30, 2004, 2:40:40 PM1/30/04
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In article <bvecig$ao9$1...@reader2.panix.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>I feel entirely dumb for forgetting this. It's one of my favorites.
>(It avoids the narrative loop problem by having no narrative; the text
>is all room descriptions.)

Well now, that's debatable.

I think there *is* a Narrative. It's just...an *implicit* Narrative.

Let's start with the easy question: who's the Narrator?

Adam

Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 30, 2004, 4:34:52 PM1/30/04
to

You are.

Nice work, by the way.

(Is there *ever* a narrator in traditional second-person IF? If so,
that's the answer. But it's not a concept I've found necessary.)

Dan Shiovitz

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Jan 30, 2004, 6:09:05 PM1/30/04
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In article <bveils$db1$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
[..]

>
>(Is there *ever* a narrator in traditional second-person IF? If so,
>that's the answer. But it's not a concept I've found necessary.)

Not even in Spider & Web?

>--Z
--
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW

Adam Thornton

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Jan 30, 2004, 6:40:15 PM1/30/04
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In article <bveils$db1$1...@reader2.panix.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>Here, Adam Thornton <ad...@fsf.net> wrote:
>> I think there *is* a Narrative. It's just...an *implicit* Narrative.
>> Let's start with the easy question: who's the Narrator?

>You are.
>Nice work, by the way.
>(Is there *ever* a narrator in traditional second-person IF? If so,
>that's the answer. But it's not a concept I've found necessary.)

Er, now I'm confused. Are we talking about the hypothetical
loop-structured CYOA, or about _Maze_?

Because _Maze_ is *told* in the first person, by a character who's
definitely *not* "the guy flipping the pages". To be more clear: I
believe that the Guide is the Narrator. The interesting question is
really, "who is the Guide?" and the Implicit Narrative is in the answer
to "and what's *his* story?"

He drops hints, of course, and I once thought the answer was obvious,
but now I'm not so sure.

I maintain that the question is actually a subset of the larger question
of the book, which is something like, "What is the logic of the Maze?"
That is, once you know which doors to go through, and what the riddle
is, and what the answer to the riddle is, then you can ask, "Why were
the choices that determined the path the correct choices?" I suspect
there's some logic to Manson's choices.

Of course, perhaps this drive to find meaning in it is just an attempt
to postpone our ultimate, and inevitable, arrival in room 24.

Adam

L. Ross Raszewski

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Jan 30, 2004, 8:20:40 PM1/30/04
to
On Fri, 30 Jan 2004 17:09:13 +0000 (UTC),
mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu <mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu> wrote:

>
>True, but you know what else isn't fun? Re-reading the entire
>text up to that point and then picking a different choice, which
>is essentially the same thing as backtracking, but more time
>consuming and dull. And when I used to read choose-your-own

This was my gut reaction to what Zarf said too, but then it occured to
me that he couldn't possibly be saying something so lame. So I thought
harder. I don't think Zarf's beef is that backtracking is cheating and
therefore fun-reducing. Just as I don't think he's implying by
analogy that 'UNDO' is vile in IF. Rather, I think he's arguing
against a certain mode of play. I know I've done it, and he's right:
it's not fun when you reach a decision page, stick your thumb in the
book, and look up each outcome, possibly going two or three jumps
ahead, then deciding which one you like best and sticking to it. The
IF analog would be playing a game the way Nitfol does its mapping: at
every turn, try every possible move, undoing after each, then stick
with the one that got you the best result.

It would, of course, be nice for Zarf to clarify this point since I
don't want to stick words in his mouth.

Mark J. Tilford

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Jan 31, 2004, 1:26:07 AM1/31/04
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I think the dinosaur book was in the Time Machine series.

--
------------------------
Mark Jeffrey Tilford
til...@ugcs.caltech.edu

Dave Holland

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Jan 31, 2004, 7:03:25 AM1/31/04
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L. Ross Raszewski <lrasz...@loyola.edu> wrote:
>I know I've done it, and he's right:
>it's not fun when you reach a decision page, stick your thumb in the
>book, and look up each outcome, [...]

Maybe not for some people (purists?); but for those with limited time
and/or experience of IF then this approach makes the whole experience
more fun. (I'm not denying that in some sense it devalues the game, of
course.)

I read those FF gamebooks for *fun*, not to be able to crow about how I
finished it without looking ahead/fiddling the stats/ignoring a dice
roll/whatever. I suspect many other people do, and to ignore that is to
ignore a large chunk of the audience.

>It would, of course, be nice for Zarf to clarify this point since I
>don't want to stick words in his mouth.

Aye.

Dave

Joe Mason

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Jan 31, 2004, 10:43:38 AM1/31/04
to
In article <bvc093$gpd$1...@reader2.panix.com>, Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> I was thinking about Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (apparently
> _Deathtrap Dungeon_ is back in print, I really should pick it up, I've
> never tried it) and wondering what variations have been tried.
>
> One of my big problems with the CYOA format is that everyone (yes, you
> too) does backtracking. Particularly from "instant death" pages. More
> generally, you can do lookahead -- check out all the out-linked
> variations of the current scene, and pick the one which looks best.
> This makes the interaction mechanical and non-mimetic, which (for me
> at least) means not fun.

Meh, I see backtracking like going to the walkthrough - mechanical for a
bit, but if you get back into the game soon it's not so bad. In fact,
it's sometimes fun to exhaustively read every variation. (I recently
read the third Lone Wolf book by depth first search.)

> I'm imagining some structure where there aren't even no-escape areas.
> Any page has outlets that lead back into the main part of the
> structure; so it's all loops, but it's got big loops as well as small
> ones. However, there's also player state. (Scores that you keep
> running totals of, for example.) Wandering around randomly won't get
> you stuck, but your state won't get to a place where you can win.

The _Time Machine_ series worked just like this. IIRC there was no player
state, though, so it was simply a maze.

Joe

Joe Mason

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Jan 31, 2004, 10:51:21 AM1/31/04
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In article <slrnc1mf4t....@ralph.earthlink.net>, Mark J. Tilford wrote:
>> Someone already mentioned the Time Traveller series for loops. My
>> favorite of the ones I played involves dinosaurs, and includes an
>> extremely clever navigation puzzle.
>
> I think the dinosaur book was in the Time Machine series.

According to the first Google hit for "Time Machine gamebooks" (just
closed it and lost the URL), it was, and Time Traveller was a variation
on Time Machine for younger readers by the same publisher. (For more on
structure, the page notes that Time Machine had only one correct ending,
and the task was to find it, which makes the "maze" analogy pretty
obvious.)

Joe

Mark J. Tilford

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Jan 31, 2004, 12:26:05 PM1/31/04
to

It varied. In a few books (Civil War Secret Agent and Sword of the
Samurai for two), you could pick from a small inventory at the beginning
of the book, and at some points, it would ask whether you brought a
certain item. In those books, it didn't matter what you brought; the
shortest path didn't even take you through any of those choices.

According to demian, one of the other books could only be completed if you
chose the right item/items at the beginning, though I don't remember which
one.

maddin...@netscape.net

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Jan 31, 2004, 4:19:41 PM1/31/04
to
Hi, I'm a newbie here, though I've been hanging around raif for a few
months. The ideas suggested in this thread reminded me of a work of
regular old reader-response fiction (sorry, I can't bring myself to
call it "static"), a novel called _Jealousy_, by Alain Robbes-Grillet.
Here's a capsule discussion, though it's been a long time since I
looked at it:

From a plot standpoint, it "explores" a love triangle on a banana
plantation in a French colony, as seen through the eyes of a male
protagonist. Despite the title, though, we never get into the
protagonist's head, at least not directly. Rather, there is a very
different storytelling premise. The "narrator," the first-person
viewpoint, expresses none of his thoughts or feelings at all. His
voice encompasses only very precise, camera-like descriptions of the
rooms of the plantation house and the surrounding landscape, sometimes
the other two protagonists enter the "frame," often we are left with
only locations. The effect is very cinematic, like a movie camera on a
Steadicam gliding through the hallways of the house, through the
fields, etc. Despite the absence of any humanity in the narration,
however, the story gets told--in this regard, it may be similar to
"Maze," discussed by a few of the previous posts (though I've never
read it). So, how is the narrative revealed in _Jealousy_? To use the
useful language employed by other posters, the narrative "loops": The
"camera" fades out abruptly and then fades in on another location;
many locations are repeated over and over again, but the descriptions
change as the "state" of the narrator and narrative changes--new
objects or characters, changes in atmosphere or perspective
(especially in the description of the view over the banana fields,
which is the most oft-repeated vignette). It's been about 10 years
since I read it, and my copy is in some attic somewhere, so I can't
give many specific examples (maybe some people out there have read it
and could provide more details?), but after a period of settling in
and wondering just where all this is going, the reader begins to pick
up on hints and patterns, and see that something lurks beneath the
still waters of the narrative itself...

The book's not for everyone, but those who jive with it and invest the
mental effort required (the narrative doesn't dress our meat for us
nor does he put it on a platter), will find it both effective and
intriguing. Of course, there is no reader input into the story (it's
not IF or CYOA), but it is interesting to me that the core
storytelling techniques are similar to (the same as?) those described
by Plotkin and others in this thread. Actually, I can imagine the
novel effectively adapted to a CYOA-like I-F whose interface is
limited to, say, the directional commands and "look," allowing the
reader to move the "camera" (analogous to the restriction of the
interface in Space under the Window--actually, I think are a number of
other analogies between the techniques in that game and in Jealousy).
It would take a lot of planning on the author's part, but it might
make for an interesting IF "experiment" (admittedly more on the
"literary" side than the puzzle side, though IMHOP those shouldn't
necessarily be considered opposite poles).

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

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Jan 31, 2004, 5:50:23 PM1/31/04
to
L. Ross Raszewski <lrasz...@loyola.edu> wrote:
:On Fri, 30 Jan 2004 17:09:13 +0000 (UTC),

Actually, you describe two different things. On the one hand you
describe a full-walk of the tree as Nitfol does (which I assume is
some sort of automated mapping tool or something - I've never
heard of it). On the other hand you talk of a partial probe
forward to decide which path to take and then taking only that
one path forward from that point. I would hate the second, but
I like the first. I'm not talking about backing up for the sake
of correcting a mistake and going on. I'm talking about backing
up because I want to follow (not just probe) all choices to their
bitter ends. If I don't, I feel like I haven't finished reading
the CYOA book.

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

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Jan 31, 2004, 5:51:24 PM1/31/04
to
L. Ross Raszewski <lrasz...@loyola.edu> wrote:

:It would, of course, be nice for Zarf to clarify this point since I


:don't want to stick words in his mouth.

Oh, by the way, Who's Zarf? Is that another name for this Andrew
guy I was replying to?

Mike Rozak

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Jan 31, 2004, 6:16:28 PM1/31/04
to
> adventure books, I hated the feeling that there were some
> 'unread' pages buried in there somewhere, and so I'd want to
> eventually try all the possible paths, and see all the possible
> stories. (I don't want to pay for a 130 page book, only read
> 30 pages of it, and then never open it again.) This is very much
> what I use save games for in interactive fiction. I come to a spot


Here's a random idea I had a few years ago, although I suspect it's too
bizarre to go anywhere...

A stereotypical IF is mostly spatial... ie: you move around the world in
XYZ, and solving puzzles allows you access to additional spaces. As a
consequence, it's possible to create a map (usually on paper) with rooms and
connections between rooms. The player knows that areas should be explored
because room descriptions list "exits". Players know how far they've
progressed (approximately) based upon the number of unexplored rooms and the
fact that they haven't yet won.

What if an IF were made so it was less spatial and more "temporal"? (Note:
temporal is not the right term here. I'd really like something that says
"dealing with alternate realities".) So, just like a CYOA, the player is in
a given state and his/her choices affect the future.

Expanding upon the idea of termporal exploration:
1) Allow the player to "rewind"... basically flipping back pages in the
CYOA.

2) Provide a 3d map (technically it needs to 6D, but for purposed of human
comprehension flatten it to 3D) of where the player has been, not only of
spatial movement, but also temporal movement, so players can see which
version of reality they've gone down. (This is similar to ticking the pages
in a CYOA book.)

3) CYOA provides a menu of choices, but on a PC some of the choices could be
hidden => puzzle. So that players don't miss an opportunity, indicate that
there is a temporal branch available, but don't necessarily indicate how to
go there.

4) (Optional) As the narrative progresses, menu choices will (sometimes)
automatically be made unless the player indicates otherwise. (I'm vaguely
thinking of the old Dragon's Lair laser-disc video game.) This allows the
player to first watch a narrative from beginning to end, like a movie, and
later go back and explore the world and alternate-realities. (UI: Menu
choices could be displayed at the bottom of the screen 1-10 seconds before
they need to be made, with the default ones being highlighted.)

5) (Optional) Allow the players to tie themselves to specific characters, so
they follow the character through the narrative until the player decides to
jump to another charater. As in (4), automatically stick with the same
character unless the player chooses otherwise.

6) (Optional, and very bizarre) This one is best explained by example: The
player starts following character A, then attaches to character B, and then
"rewinds" to a time before character A met charater B. The player can then
see what happened to character B before it met A, and perhaps even change
the "past" so that character B will never meet character A, exploring a set
of realities not originally possible (before the rewind).

--

Mike Rozak
http://www.mxac.com.au


L. Ross Raszewski

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Feb 1, 2004, 11:38:27 AM2/1/04
to
On Sat, 31 Jan 2004 17:26:05 GMT, Mark J. Tilford
<til...@ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
>It varied. In a few books (Civil War Secret Agent and Sword of the
>Samurai for two), you could pick from a small inventory at the beginning
>of the book, and at some points, it would ask whether you brought a
>certain item. In those books, it didn't matter what you brought; the
>shortest path didn't even take you through any of those choices.

Also one of the dinosaur books (I *think* there were two, one of which
involved tracking down an archaeopteryx). What's interesting is that
this piece of state information comes from outside the narrative: it's
not something you do within the story that you're asked about later,
but a decision you made during the "background" which preceeds the
narrative.

Mike Kozlowski

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Feb 2, 2004, 11:14:56 AM2/2/04
to
In article <bvc093$gpd$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

>I'm imagining some structure where there aren't even no-escape areas.
>Any page has outlets that lead back into the main part of the
>structure; so it's all loops, but it's got big loops as well as small
>ones. However, there's also player state. (Scores that you keep
>running totals of, for example.) Wandering around randomly won't get
>you stuck, but your state won't get to a place where you can win.

Back in elementary school, I read a book (title long forgotten) that
worked like this. IIRC, you could pick up items at certain points,
and you were supposed to keep a sheet of paper that listed all your
items. Then at certain pages, you'd get "If you have the Vorpal
Sword, go to page x, otherwise page y."

The resultant feel was of a cross between an adventure game and a
book, but it wasn't hugely successful. Keeping track of things was a
bit of a pain; you could obviously cheat whenever you felt like it
(though, IIRC, the book would occasionally give you false choices, so
that saying you had the Ring of Death would take you to a "Cheater!
Die!" page); and if you _didn't_ have the Vorpal Sword (because you'd
taken a different route and missed the entire track where you could
get it), the feeling of missing out on something was more pronounced
than usual.

Actually, now that I think about it more, I might be conflating this
other book with the Zork books.

--
Mike Kozlowski
http://www.klio.org/mlk/

Eric Mayer

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Feb 2, 2004, 12:04:14 PM2/2/04
to
maddin...@netscape.net wrote:

> Hi, I'm a newbie here, though I've been hanging around raif for a few
> months. The ideas suggested in this thread reminded me of a work of
> regular old reader-response fiction (sorry, I can't bring myself to
> call it "static"), a novel called _Jealousy_, by Alain Robbes-Grillet.
> Here's a capsule discussion, though it's been a long time since I
> looked at it:
>

I've got nothing useful to add to this but seeing as no one commented I
wanted to say that the similarity to If of some of Robbe Grillet's work,
particularly Jealousy, has occured to me also. I even mentioned it
recently, although I can't remember where. Not here. I read Jealousy
over 20 years ago. The French title was La Jalousie and the cover showed
a man looking through a venetian blind, kind of like the If player peers
through the computer monitor. I suspect some of what attracted me to If
years later was what I found fascinating about the book -- the continual
return to dry, personalty-less, details which become somehow compelling,
mesmerizing, perhaps even meaningful simply by dint of obsessive,
repetitive examination. Robbe Grillet, like some If authors, tried (or
said he tried in his critical work "For a New Novel" if I recall) to
keep himself out of the world he depicted and thus, as in some If, the
only human element is (supposedly) the reader who, ideally, is
presented only with facts and not told by the writer how to react to
them. So I think If writers could get a lot of pointers by reading
Jealousy and If players might find the book quite enjoyable.

Jdyer41

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Feb 3, 2004, 2:58:15 AM2/3/04
to
>Mike Rozak wrote:
>Expanding upon the idea of termporal exploration:
<long message clipped>

What you described sounds like a more complicated
version of Invisicomics.

Jason Dyer
jdy...@aol.com

John W. Kennedy

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Feb 3, 2004, 10:18:07 AM2/3/04
to
Jdyer41 wrote:
>>Mike Rozak wrote:
>>Expanding upon the idea of termporal exploration:
>
> <long message clipped>
>
> What you described sounds like a more complicated
> version of Invisicomics.

You mean InfoComics?

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

Arthur Milliken

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Feb 4, 2004, 1:49:01 PM2/4/04
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
> One of my big problems with the CYOA format is that everyone (yes, you
> too) does backtracking.

Why is this a "problem"? Do you actually expect all players to start
over from the beginning every time they make a mistake?

Backtracking is simply a way of avoiding needless wastes of time for the
reader. I think it's a "good" thing.

Arthur Milliken

Glenn P.,

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Feb 6, 2004, 12:44:33 AM2/6/04
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On 30-Jan-04 at 5:09pm -0000, <mad...@bmrb.wisc-antispam.edu> wrote:

>:_Deathtrap Dungeon_ is back in print...

It *IS*!!!??? Woooo-HOOOOO!!! That's one of the "Fighting Fantasy"
gamebooks, one of my favorite series!!! (For that matter, "Deathtrap
Dungeon" was one of my most favorite "FF" book.) Yay!!!

This is VERY encouraging -- it means that the "Fighting Fantasy" gamebooks
MAY be coming back!!! :) THAT's a developement I'd very much ?welcome!

BTW, for those of you who have a Commodore-64, I (years ago) wrote a program,
called "Dungeon Fighter", that will automate the various tasks and battles
called for in Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I still have the relevant program
and documentation file; anyone who wants a copy need only request it, and
I'll E-Mail it as a C64-executable Self-Dissolving Archive. :)

(You're welcome.)

-- _____
{~._.~} >>>>>> [ "Glenn P.," <C128UserD...@FVI.Net> ] <<<<<<
_( Y )_ ---------------------------------------------
(:_~*~_:) [My Sister, On Her Dog's Obedience]: "Nothing with teeth bigger
(_)-(_) than mine is going to think it's in charge around here."

Florian Edlbauer

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Feb 6, 2004, 6:57:34 AM2/6/04
to
Andrew Plotkin writes:
[...]
> The simplistic fix is to have the bad outcomes hidden two or three
> links down the tree. If you make a bad choice, you won't know it for
> another couple of pages. This doesn't help a lot, because looking
> ahead (or backtracking) two or three links isn't much harder than
> doing it for one link. And if your bad-ending trees are deeper than
> that, they start to dominate the whole book -- it feels like bad
> design, although I haven't quantified that.

I think your terminology shows that you have played mostly bad CYOA
games - "bad outcomes", you say, "bad choice". - Different "bad" and
"not so bad" outcomes are crucial to interesting CYOA games, I
believe. To me, CYOA only makes sense if it offers several "good
outcomes" - alternative endings, divergent paths. What the author has
to do is force the reader to make decisions. If possible, hard
decisions - the ones where there is no "bad choice", only several
"good choices".

Some of the different paths should be many links deep. So, what you
call backtracking is what I call replayability - to make the player
wish to go back (far back -- as many links as possible) and explore
different paths. In a very good game, the player may even wish to
start from the beginning again, just so as not to miss any interesting
variation. And because he sees the story as a complete story and wants
to enjoy another good story from the start.

[...]


> I'm imagining some structure where there aren't even no-escape areas.
> Any page has outlets that lead back into the main part of the
> structure; so it's all loops, but it's got big loops as well as small
> ones. However, there's also player state. (Scores that you keep
> running totals of, for example.) Wandering around randomly won't get
> you stuck, but your state won't get to a place where you can win.

If you'd do a CYOA version of some simulation game, like Civilzation
II, that would fit your criteria exactly. You could do a round-based
strategy game with text as the medium, with small loops concerning
attack formations and big loops concerning resource management, what
have you. Loops make CYOA very gamey.

Of course, loops of different kinds have long been part of CYOAs. They
are the CYOA counterpart to puzzles in regular IF, I believe [1].
However, going through loops can get stale very soon.

As I see it, the problem of most CYOA games, whether in book or
electronic format, is not that "choices" (the C in CYOA) are
inherently bad. The problem is that in most CYOA games, the reader is
not given enough interesting choices -- really hard decisions. If all
choices but one are "bad choices", as you say, there isn't much of a
game (the G in CYOA? :o).

The best example to discuss different CYOA game possibilities is, in
my opinion, King of Dragon Pass by A-Sharp [2]. Just because it is
such a good CYOA game - despite the graphics, which are only
illustrative. It offers lots of loops; in fact, it is a kind of
simulation game with resources management etc. It includes really
difficult choices, and sometimes all choices will be "bad", sometimes
several will be "good". IIRC, Stephen Granade reviewed it back then
for about.com. (I also did a review for Gamespot.de at the time, but
alas, that site no longer exists, either.)

Florian

[1] See my German article <http://www.textfire.de/werkst/cyoa.htm>.
[2] http://www.a-sharp.com/kodp

Seebs

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Feb 6, 2004, 10:57:47 PM2/6/04
to
In article <67815c45.04020...@posting.google.com>,

Florian Edlbauer <florian....@zdnet.de> wrote:
>The best example to discuss different CYOA game possibilities is, in
>my opinion, King of Dragon Pass by A-Sharp [2].

This game hurts my head, it is so absolutely beautiful. I am in awe of
it.

-s
--
Copyright 2004, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
http://www.seebs.net/log/ - YA blog. http://www.seebs.net/ - homepage.
C/Unix wizard, pro-commerce radical, spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

Jdyer41

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Feb 7, 2004, 6:07:40 PM2/7/04
to
>From: "John W. Kennedy"
>You mean InfoComics?

Er, right. InfoComics. My apologies.

Jason Dyer
jdy...@aol.com

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