Groundhog Day as Interactive Fiction

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Daryl McCullough

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Apr 22, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/22/97
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If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend the movie
"Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray and Andy McDowell. Catch
it on video. I know it would be easy to lump this comedy in with
the usual lame-brained efforts of Saturday Night Live alumni
("Vacation", "Meatballs", "Stripes", "Caddyshack", etc.) but this
would be a big mistake. In spite of its silliness, and Bill Murray's
general unlikeableness, Groundhog Day is, I think, a thoughtful
exploration of what it means to live a good life (or a good day).

Why is this movie recommendation on rec.arts.int-fiction? Well, it
occurred to me the other day that Groundhog Day is very much like
some works of interactive fiction. Think about it (or don't): The
hero never really dies, the worst that ever happens to him is that
he has to start all over at the beginning. (Groundhog Day had no
"save game" feature.) The advantage that this invulnerability gave
Bill Murray is the same advantage that any interactive fiction
player has: you can just keep trying things, until you get it right.

But there is one element that Groundhog Day had that is missing from
most (if not all) interactive fiction: the motive of the "player"
evolves as he "plays the game". Initially, in finding out that he
was living the same day over and over again, Bill Murray was motivated
by the usual things: money, sex, and having a good time. However,
after a while, getting these things began to pale, and he had "higher"
motives: to bed, not just any beautiful woman, but Andie MacDowell,
someone he was in love with. Much later (having failed innumerable times
at this goal) he eventually discovered how to have a perfect day. One
review I read of this movie said that Bill Murray's character is led
to becoming a good person, not out of guilt, but out of boredom: it's
actually more *fun*, in the long run.

This is getting to be long-winded, but my challenge, for some ambitious
game-writer, is to write a game in which the motivations of the players
can change as they play. Perhaps it could start out as an old-fashioned
treasure hunt a la Zork, but as the player progresses towards what he
initially thinks is victory, he finds that maybe doing something completely
different might be more satisfying. I don't know, maybe it would be enough
to discover Zarf's bridge from "A Change in the Weather" while searching
for the magic sword.

Just my rambling thoughts,

Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
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Daryl McCullough (da...@cogentex.com) wrote:
> If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend the movie
> "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray and Andy McDowell. Catch
> it on video. I know it would be easy to lump this comedy in with
> the usual lame-brained efforts of Saturday Night Live alumni
> ("Vacation", "Meatballs", "Stripes", "Caddyshack", etc.) but this
> would be a big mistake. In spite of its silliness, and Bill Murray's
> general unlikeableness, Groundhog Day is, I think, a thoughtful
> exploration of what it means to live a good life (or a good day).

I also recommend the movie. (It was nominated for a Hugo (SF) award,
interestingly. Lost out to whatever megabudget effects special came out
that year. Jurassic Park, I think.)

> But there is one element that Groundhog Day had that is missing from
> most (if not all) interactive fiction: the motive of the "player"
> evolves as he "plays the game".

Hey, that's actually a pretty old trope. Many games start with a
motivation of "explore a neat place" and then develop a serious plot.
_Trinity_, for example. In _AMFV_ you start out doing a job, and then
discover an important angle that you have to figure out yourself. In
_Wishbringer_ you start out wanting to deliver a letter... you see what I
mean.

(I guess you could distinguish between changing *goals* and changing
*motivation*, but is there really a difference?)

> I don't know, maybe it would be enough
> to discover Zarf's bridge from "A Change in the Weather" while searching
> for the magic sword.

Well, I did try to establish an opening motivation in "Weather" which
radically changes as the game goes on. That's sort of the point.

--Z

--

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

Daryl McCullough

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
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Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> > But there is one element that Groundhog Day had that is missing from
> > most (if not all) interactive fiction: the motive of the "player"
> > evolves as he "plays the game".
>
> Hey, that's actually a pretty old trope. Many games start with a
> motivation of "explore a neat place" and then develop a serious plot.
> _Trinity_, for example. In _AMFV_ you start out doing a job, and then
> discover an important angle that you have to figure out yourself. In
> _Wishbringer_ you start out wanting to deliver a letter... you see what I
> mean.
>
> (I guess you could distinguish between changing *goals* and changing
> *motivation*, but is there really a difference?)

Well, I would like to make a subtle distinction. In the examples you
give,
the original goal is filler until the player discovers his *true* goal.
What I would like, (but maybe this is slightly harder to pull off) is a
game in which there is a surface-level goal---and the player can, if he
wishes, win the game by pursuing this goal---but there are also subtler
goals that the player can discover for themselves, and choose to pursue
or not. Maybe, even if you *can* win the game, that isn't what you
really
want to do. In real life, not everyone becomes a billionaire, and
(in the words of Stewart Smalley) that's OK.

Mary K. Kuhner

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
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In article <335E63...@cogentex.com> Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> writes:

>Well, I would like to make a subtle distinction. In the examples you
>give,
>the original goal is filler until the player discovers his *true* goal.
>What I would like, (but maybe this is slightly harder to pull off) is a
>game in which there is a surface-level goal---and the player can, if he
>wishes, win the game by pursuing this goal---but there are also subtler
>goals that the player can discover for themselves, and choose to pursue
>or not. Maybe, even if you *can* win the game, that isn't what you
>really want to do.

I thought _Jigsaw_ was fairly successful at this--and illustrated, in
the process, one of the hazards. I found myself impatient with the
episode right before the epilogue, because I'd figured out what my
real goals were, but the game stubbornly wanted me to save the world
first.

If you don't want to hit the player over the head with "This is your
goal", you're going to have to write a very flexible game with a lot
of options and endings. If you want the player/character to really
experience the kind of thing that happens in _Groundhog Day_ you need
not to put the player in the position of "Do it this way or you can't
progress". (This is a common failing of RPG scenarios that try to
deal with personal growth.)

I've never tried this in IF, but in RPGs dealing with such issues I've
found it fundamentally important not to cut the game off when it goes
down a "wrong" path. Whether the message is positive or not, having
the game end early tells the player "That wasn't what you were supposed
to do." (How many people found the instant-win solutions to "A Change
in the Weather" or "I-0" satisfactory?) The player needs to have time
to explore the consequences of her choices, or they aren't meaningful
ones. This makes for a nasty decision tree. In RPGs I cope by only
planning one session ahead, and by using various tricks to keep the
decision space managable--in particular, setting the game in a carefully
restricted locale can help. If you know *all* the people the PC can
meet, you can't be surprised by who he decides to shack up with.

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Kenneth Albanowski

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
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>Daryl McCullough (da...@cogentex.com) wrote:
>> If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend the movie
>> "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray and Andy McDowell. Catch
>> it on video. I know it would be easy to lump this comedy in with
>> the usual lame-brained efforts of Saturday Night Live alumni
>> ("Vacation", "Meatballs", "Stripes", "Caddyshack", etc.) but this
>> would be a big mistake. In spite of its silliness, and Bill Murray's
>> general unlikeableness, Groundhog Day is, I think, a thoughtful
>> exploration of what it means to live a good life (or a good day).

Actually, this gives me a chance to bring up an idea I've had floating
around for some time: what would results be if the game (or the characters
in the story, rather) were actually aware of the results of the ability to
save and restore the game?

I don't mean something like Sierra's "Codename: Iceman" (I think that was
the title) where saving and restoring inside a tedious poker game was
noticed by the card player. I'm thinking more alongs the lines of simply
noticing that _nothing really bad_ ever happens to the character.

By saving and restoring (or undoing) you can effectively shift probability
in your favour (except of course for well-designed Balancing-type puzzles.
:-) Shouldn't the NPC's eventually notice that there is something odd about
the PC, and that no matter what their evil plans are, the PC somehow manages
to escape.

I've no idea what to do with this idea, though. It seems to perhaps be more
relevant to an atmospheric game (like Christminster), but even then I'm not
sure what it would be worth.
--
Kenneth Albanowski (kja...@kjahds.com)


Daryl McCullough

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
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mkku...@phylo.genetics.washington.edu (Mary Kuhner) says...

>I thought _Jigsaw_ was fairly successful at this--and illustrated, in
>the process, one of the hazards. I found myself impatient with the
>episode right before the epilogue, because I'd figured out what my
>real goals were, but the game stubbornly wanted me to save the world
>first.

I haven't played that game (I'm embarrassed to admit), but maybe it's
because you came up with a notion of "winning" that the author didn't
anticipate?

>If you don't want to hit the player over the head with "This is your
>goal", you're going to have to write a very flexible game with a lot
>of options and endings. If you want the player/character to really
>experience the kind of thing that happens in _Groundhog Day_ you need
>not to put the player in the position of "Do it this way or you can't
>progress". (This is a common failing of RPG scenarios that try to
>deal with personal growth.)

Yes. I think for it not to seem like something was forced down the
player's throat, the author would have to design a game that "feels"
complete and satisfying even if the player doesn't take the high road.

>(How many people found the instant-win solutions to "A Change
>in the Weather" or "I-0" satisfactory?)

Umm..."instant-win"? I only found instant-lose solutions to "Weather".
Don't tell me! I guess I'll have to play it again.

Adam J. Thornton

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Apr 23, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/23/97
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In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:

>Daryl McCullough (da...@cogentex.com) wrote:
>> But there is one element that Groundhog Day had that is missing from
>> most (if not all) interactive fiction: the motive of the "player"
>> evolves as he "plays the game".
>(I guess you could distinguish between changing *goals* and changing
>*motivation*, but is there really a difference?)
>> I don't know, maybe it would be enough
>> to discover Zarf's bridge from "A Change in the Weather" while searching
>> for the magic sword.
>Well, I did try to establish an opening motivation in "Weather" which
>radically changes as the game goes on. That's sort of the point.

Take a look at _The Legend Lives!_ The character of the character changes
radically throughout the game. And that *is* the point. Goals and
motivations of course change too, but because they are ancillary to the
character's change.

Adam
--
"I'd buy me a used car lot, and | ad...@princeton.edu | As B/4 | Save the choad!
I'd never sell any of 'em, just | "Skippy, you little fool, you are off on an-
drive me a different car every day | other of your senseless and retrograde
depending on how I feel.":Tom Waits| little journeys.": Thomas Pynchon | 64,928

FReDRiK RaMSBeRG (WILdcARD)

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Apr 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/24/97
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erky...@netcom.com (Andrew Plotkin) writes:

>Daryl McCullough (da...@cogentex.com) wrote:
>> If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend the movie
>> "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray and Andy McDowell.

>I also recommend the movie.

Please add me to your list.

>> But there is one element that Groundhog Day had that is missing from
>> most (if not all) interactive fiction: the motive of the "player"
>> evolves as he "plays the game".

>Hey, that's actually a pretty old trope. Many games start with a

>motivation of "explore a neat place" and then develop a serious plot.
>_Trinity_, for example. In _AMFV_ you start out doing a job, and then
>discover an important angle that you have to figure out yourself. In
>_Wishbringer_ you start out wanting to deliver a letter... you see what I
>mean.

>(I guess you could distinguish between changing *goals* and changing

>*motivation*, but is there really a difference?)

I think the main difference is in that the poor guy in GD had essentially
both all problems _and_ everything needed to solve them on hand right from
the start. He just didn't understand what the problem was. To me, that's
pretty far away from going out to buy milk and ending up slaying a dragon.

Another interesting thing about the movie is that he, similar to IF, has a
restart feature. That definitely affects his method of problem solving...

/Fredrik


-
--
Fredrik Ramsberg, Spect...@earthling.net
http://www-und.ida.liu.se/~d91frera
Macintosh - 0.4% Actual Users!

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Apr 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/24/97
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Daryl McCullough wrote:
>
> mkku...@phylo.genetics.washington.edu (Mary Kuhner) says...
>
> >(How many people found the instant-win solutions to "A Change

> >in the Weather" or "I-0" satisfactory?)
>
> Umm..."instant-win"? I only found instant-lose solutions to "Weather".
> Don't tell me! I guess I'll have to play it again.
>
> Daryl McCullough
> CoGenTex, Inc.
> Ithaca, NY

FWIW, both Monkey Island games have a similar instant-win option. I
think it's ctrl-W. It's listed in the command summary card for MI1, but
in MI2 I believe it's completely undocumented.

--
Carl Muckenhoupt ca...@earthweb.com
EarthWeb http://www.earthweb.com/

Matthew Crosby

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Apr 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/24/97
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In article <5jmkim$7...@kjahds.com>,
Kenneth Albanowski <kja...@kjahds.com> wrote:
>>Daryl McCullough
>
>Actually, this gives me a chance to bring up an idea I've had floating
>around for some time: what would results be if the game (or the characters
>in the story, rather) were actually aware of the results of the ability to
>save and restore the game?
>
>I don't mean something like Sierra's "Codename: Iceman" (I think that was
>the title) where saving and restoring inside a tedious poker game was
>noticed by the card player. I'm thinking more alongs the lines of simply
>noticing that _nothing really bad_ ever happens to the character.
>
>By saving and restoring (or undoing) you can effectively shift probability
>in your favour (except of course for well-designed Balancing-type puzzles.
>:-) Shouldn't the NPC's eventually notice that there is something odd about
>the PC, and that no matter what their evil plans are, the PC somehow manages
>to escape.
>
>I've no idea what to do with this idea, though. It seems to perhaps be more
>relevant to an atmospheric game (like Christminster), but even then I'm not
>sure what it would be worth.

Floyd used to comment when you saved, as well as when you quit. But
that was tounge in cheek and nothing ever came out of it.

("Giving up, huh?" for quitting and "Oh Boy! Are we going to do something
dangerour now?" for saving)

--
Matthew Crosby cro...@cs.colorado.edu
Disclaimer: It was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead.

Jake Roberts

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Apr 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/24/97
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Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> I also recommend the movie. (It was nominated for a Hugo (SF) award,
> interestingly. Lost out to whatever megabudget effects special came out
> that year. Jurassic Park, I think.)

Wow, that's interesting. Now that I think of it, the movie was a far
better example of speculative sci-fi than one normally sees in the
movies. Not just because the concept was clever, but because the movie
wrung the possibilities out of it so thoroughly. There wasn't much I
would think of doing, if I had the same day over and over again, that
Bill Murray didn't try in the film. It was funny, too.

>
> > But there is one element that Groundhog Day had that is missing from
> > most (if not all) interactive fiction: the motive of the "player"
> > evolves as he "plays the game".
>
> Hey, that's actually a pretty old trope. Many games start with a
> motivation of "explore a neat place" and then develop a serious plot.
> _Trinity_, for example. In _AMFV_ you start out doing a job, and then
> discover an important angle that you have to figure out yourself. In
> _Wishbringer_ you start out wanting to deliver a letter... you see what I
> mean.

My impression was that the original poster meant something different
than what you're describing here. Rather than the PC's motivations
changing between the beginning of the game (or story, if you like) and
the end, what if they changed between one complete playing of the game
and the next. So
you could play through from beginning to end, achieving an experience
that was complete in sense (you got all the treasures stuffed in a
glass-topped case), but apon playing through again (which in itself is
an unusual activity, at least for me) you would discover new dimensions
to the game world, people places and things that were only in your
peripheral vision when you were working through the first time, gain new
signifigance, and in the process of investigating them more closely, you
develop new and hopefully more compelling objectives. It's like having
one (or more) games hidden inside another.

I'm quite taken with the idea of explicitly encorporating into the
game's story, or logic, or broad concept, the fact that the player will
be entering and exiting the game world and different points in time,
replaying the same scenarios over and over again.

I see games (notably "A Change In the Weather") criticized because there
is (practically speaking) no way to win without replaying parts of the
game more than once. Why? Well I suppose because when using
meta-commands, one is retracting oneself from the level of the story and
operating at a higher, fundamentally distinct level. Meta commands
should be transparent at the story level, because conceptually there is
only one story, only one timeline, no matter how many times we save and
restore. If saving and restoring is required for the player/character
to finish the game (and thus complete the story) then this abstraction
is violated, and the illusion is ruined.

But why shouldn't an IF game exploit the peculiarities of its medium,
trancend the level distinction between interpreter commands and acts
taken within the story world. A Groundhog Day-like time loop would be a
very direct way of doing this, making explicit and reasonable the need
to die-and-restart in order to win. (The puzzle from Fool's Errand
mentioned in another thread (although I don't remember it myself)
embodies this same kind of trancendance, IMO.)

> (I guess you could distinguish between changing *goals* and changing
> *motivation*, but is there really a difference?)

The difference I'm trying to highlight is whether the change happens
within a plotline, or across multiple plotlines.

- Jake

Erik Max Francis

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Apr 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/24/97
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Matthew Crosby wrote:

> Floyd used to comment when you saved, as well as when you quit. But
> that was tounge in cheek and nothing ever came out of it.

He'd also say something amusing like, "Oh boy, I've never seen my name in
print before!" when you type SCRIPT, and something like, "Be sure to give
me a copy of the output!" when you typed UNSCRIPT.

I enjoyed Planetfall as it was the first Infocom game I solved without any
outside help whatsoever.

--
Erik Max Francis, &tSftDotIotE / email / m...@alcyone.com
Alcyone Systems / web / http://www.alcyone.com/max/
San Jose, California, United States / icbm / 37 20 07 N 121 53 38 W
\
"The future / is right there."
/ Bill Moyers

Mary K. Kuhner

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Apr 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/24/97
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In article <5jlu6f$b...@lori.zippo.com> da...@cogentex.com (Daryl McCullough) writes:
>mkku...@phylo.genetics.washington.edu (Mary Kuhner) says...

>>I thought _Jigsaw_ was fairly successful at this--and illustrated, in
>>the process, one of the hazards. I found myself impatient with the
>>episode right before the epilogue, because I'd figured out what my
>>real goals were, but the game stubbornly wanted me to save the world
>>first.

>I haven't played that game (I'm embarrassed to admit), but maybe it's
>because you came up with a notion of "winning" that the author didn't
>anticipate?

Jigsaw seems intrinsically to have several goals, and the one I fixed on
was certainly part of the author's intent, but we disagreed on relative
importance. I latched onto the little personal goal by preference to
the Big Thing, which made my last few encounters with the Big Thing
rather frustrating (in a very in-character way; I had a distinct sense
of the character saying "But what about ....?")

I was pleased, on the whole, with how Jigsaw handled this; I fixed on
my little personal goal well before it was clear to me that the game
really supported it, and I was happy not to find it intractable. There
were just some problems with pacing and emphasis.

A looser plot structure would help. Not really possible for Jigsaw, but
something to remember in general. If the PC has to go through certain
key scenes in a certain order, there's a lot less room for player-
determined goals.

For me, avoiding tightly timed puzzles and highly lethal situations
helps if you want me to think about character motivations. If the game
is not too lethal, I can fool around with various character-driven
goals and even indulge in characterization activities (like a second
"LOOK" at something that really surprised the character, or "PRAY"
when confronted with something scary, or trying to tie up the mouth of
the corpse in Trinity). If I know I'll get clobbered for this, I'll
stop trying.

Room to move about, both physically and logically, provides more scope
for character decisions.

Mary Kuhner mkku...@genetics.washington.edu

Admiral Jota

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Apr 25, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/25/97
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Erik Max Francis <m...@alcyone.com> writes:
>Matthew Crosby wrote:

>> Floyd used to comment when you saved, as well as when you quit. But
>> that was tounge in cheek and nothing ever came out of it.

>He'd also say something amusing like, "Oh boy, I've never seen my name in
>print before!" when you type SCRIPT, and something like, "Be sure to give
>me a copy of the output!" when you typed UNSCRIPT.

And you can't forget about when you type VERSION: "Last version was
better. More bugs. Bugs make game fun."


--
/<-= Admiral Jota =->\
-< <-= jo...@tiac.net =-> >-
\<-=- -= -=- -= -=->/

Graham Nelson

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Apr 25, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/25/97
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In article <5joll0$g...@nntp5.u.washington.edu>, Mary K. Kuhner


<URL:mailto:mkku...@phylo.genetics.washington.edu> wrote:
>
> Jigsaw seems intrinsically to have several goals, and the one I fixed on
> was certainly part of the author's intent, but we disagreed on relative
> importance. I latched onto the little personal goal by preference to
> the Big Thing, which made my last few encounters with the Big Thing
> rather frustrating (in a very in-character way; I had a distinct sense
> of the character saying "But what about ....?")
>
> I was pleased, on the whole, with how Jigsaw handled this; I fixed on
> my little personal goal well before it was clear to me that the game
> really supported it, and I was happy not to find it intractable. There
> were just some problems with pacing and emphasis.

Yes, I think this is a just criticism. In mitigation, the fact that
the middle 15 scenes need to be playable in many different orders makes
it very hard to achieve narrative development -- though there is some,
I hope, and somewhere I have a tree diagram of all possible orders
the game can be played in. And a few lines of dialogue float from
scene to scene in the sense that they only occur after a certain time
has elapsed, and so on.

Of course I might remark that it's not obvious that Black is entering
the time zones in the same order that White is, and if that doesn't
complicate personal relations I'm not sure what does...

--
Graham Nelson | gra...@gnelson.demon.co.uk | Oxford, United Kingdom


Paul O'Brian

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Apr 25, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/25/97
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On Thu, 24 Apr 1997, Jake Roberts wrote:

> So you could play through from beginning to end, achieving an experience
> that was complete in sense (you got all the treasures stuffed in a
> glass-topped case), but apon playing through again (which in itself is
> an unusual activity, at least for me) you would discover new dimensions
> to the game world, people places and things that were only in your
> peripheral vision when you were working through the first time, gain new
> signifigance, and in the process of investigating them more closely, you
> develop new and hopefully more compelling objectives.

One big difference is that the Bill Murray character in "Groundhog Day"
was *forced* to "Restart". To extend the IF analogy, it would be as if
after a predetermined number of moves, the game automatically restarted
whether the player said so or not. In fact, I think the movie makes pretty
clear that the character would not have discovered these deeper dimensions
in life if he had not been forced to live through the same day over and
over, and by the end his real goal is to escape the time loop so that he
can start his new life.

If an IF game were to adopt this strategy, it would avoid the problems of
all data being lost at every restart. The game could enforce a limited day
length at the end of which the player must sleep (a la Planetfall) and
upon waking would find herself back aboard the Feinstein, or whatever the
starting locale for that game was. This loop would continue until a
certain flag gets tripped (the player_in_love flag, for example) which
would allow the player to wake up in the endgame. Perhaps subtle things
could even change in later iterations. In this scenario, if the player
herself commanded "Restart," it would put her at the top of the first
iteration of the time loop.

Hmm. Sounds interesting, eh? If I didn't already have too many ideas and
too little time for the competition, I might be tempted to give it a try
myself. Maybe not, though. I think it would take some exceptionally
skilled writing to create a world that can gradually reveal such depth in
a limited number of moves. I'd love to see it happen, though.

Paul O'Brian obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu
Remember Zork & Planetfall? Explore the Interactive Fiction Renaissance!
WWW: XYZZYnews at www.xyzzynews.com * FTP: The IF Archive at ftp.gmd.de
USENET: rec.arts|games.int-fiction * CD: Masterpieces of Infocom (US $20)


Samuel DAF Barlow

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Apr 25, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/25/97
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On Thu, 24 Apr 1997, Jake Roberts wrote:

> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
> My impression was that the original poster meant something different
> than what you're describing here. Rather than the PC's motivations
> changing between the beginning of the game (or story, if you like) and
> the end, what if they changed between one complete playing of the game

> and the next. So


> you could play through from beginning to end, achieving an experience
> that was complete in sense (you got all the treasures stuffed in a
> glass-topped case), but apon playing through again (which in itself is
> an unusual activity, at least for me) you would discover new dimensions
> to the game world, people places and things that were only in your
> peripheral vision when you were working through the first time, gain new
> signifigance, and in the process of investigating them more closely, you

> develop new and hopefully more compelling objectives. It's like having
> one (or more) games hidden inside another.
>

I'm always trying this when I replay games - especially infocom's
detective games (which I mentioned about a month ago in a post about
"save/restore" as time-travel-esque devices, which is kind of like some
of the ideas in the "groundhog" posts). The fact that there are
characters in the games who change with time and whose motivation you
only understand when you have won the game means that when re-playing
one often thinks "Right now Mr.X is in the Kitchen disposing of the
murder weapon..although to win the game I have to hide and then fish the
weapon out of the bin, couldn't I suprise him and bribe half of the
inheritance out of him?". This kind of attitude arises out of the game
having characters who have
(a) Motivations
(b) Actions which they carry out
So the "ground-hog changing motivation" concept already exists in
these games, it's just that the programmers haven't allowed for it in
their games. The Zork & Enchanter games (even more complex games like
Trinity) never give rise to these thoughts on the behalf of the player
because they don't have the structure to support them. Even something
like Jigsaw with it's supposedly interesting NPC "black" doesn't do this
because Black is so no-interactive and because she never *does* much -
she just sits around being "to busy for your questions", etc. So, what I
am trying to say, is that we don't need to create a radically new
structure for I-F, in order to do a "groundhog day" - the blueprint is
there with the detective games (or M.Scrolls "Corruption"). We just need
programmers/writers to expand on the plots and program what the player
wants to type.

Sam

Russell Glasser

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Apr 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/27/97
to

Erik Max Francis wrote:
>
> Matthew Crosby wrote:
>
> > Floyd used to comment when you saved, as well as when you quit. But
> > that was tounge in cheek and nothing ever came out of it.
>
> He'd also say something amusing like, "Oh boy, I've never seen my name in
> print before!" when you type SCRIPT, and something like, "Be sure to give
> me a copy of the output!" when you typed UNSCRIPT.

Same thing was done by Bob Bates in "Sherlock". If you typed "SAVE"
Holmes would say, "Excellent, Watson. These are dangerous times." And if
you typed "HINT" Sherlock would get mad at you, or later when Wiggins was
with you he would say "Did you learn anything?" I thought that was funny.
--
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one
persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all
progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-- George Bernard Shaw

Russell can be heckled at
http://sdcc8.ucsd.edu/~rglasser

Russell Glasser

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Apr 27, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/27/97
to

You're talking about gaining free knowledge through some elaborate
sequence of actions, then restoring the game, still keeping a mental image
of what's coming later. By doing this you gain advanced knowledge of what
will happen soon, without making your character go through the motions of
acquiring that knowledge.
This approach makes more sense for some genres than for others. For
example, in a game like "So Far" which is almost self-consciously surreal,
or a game like "Tapestry" where the whole POINT is to explore the various
possibilities of how things could have turned out differently, it's entirely
fitting and proper that replaying the game should add more to the
experience.
On the other hand, in the detective games I find it bothersome,
since it seems like these stories should be more similar to real life. That
whole "I know Mr. X is in the kitchen now because I accidentally barged in
on him before I restored, so now I should hide" syndrome sounds awfully
familiar.

[WARNING: Spoilers for Suspect ahead]


I think "Suspect" was one of the worst offenders of this kind of
thinking. I remember very clearly thinking "Gee, I need to talk to Richard
before he comes in contact with other characters and learns about the
murder, but I don't know where he is when the game begins." So I save the
game, wait for him to appear, restore, go to the place where he came from,
and repeat the process until I find his starting room. It's hard to
reasonably invent a situation where a real detective could have this luxury,
and that is one heck of a mood breaker.
Many other times in Suspect, you absolutely have to "happen to" be
in the right place at the right time. Fail to answer the door and notice
the rain when Alicia rings, and you can't win. In order to understand what
Michael is up to, you have to hide behind the car, THEN race him to the
library and hide behind the chair, THEN catch up to him at the fireplace
before his document burns. How would a reasonable person guess all that,
given that he would only have one chance to get it right in real life? He
wouldn't.
I don't mind dying or getting stuck when I make the wrong moves;
it's part of the game. But when all's said and done and the game is over, I
would like to think "It's at least within the realm of possibility that I
could have won the game on the first try without ever restoring, simply by
virtue of good logical thinking and insights which I eventually had. Maybe
I would have survived if I were actually thrust into this situation." Most
of the later, plot-driven Infocom games were "fair" in this sense; you
didn't really have to die in order to find what you were looking for.
"Border Zone", although tricky, just barely passes the test. ("Okay, I know
that patch of blood is suspicious, and I shouldn't be caught with these
physical documents on me, so logically I should...") I even thought "Change
In The Weather" passed this test successfully, in spite of its apparent
unfairness. Games which failed quite miserably in this regard included
Suspect, Trinity (Who would ever have completed the entire New Mexico
sequence successfully without mapping out a route based on previous life
experience?), Suspended (positioning those robots with perfect timing is
nearly impossible), and Starcross (How many times did you lose those colored
disks too early? How many times did you kill yourself in the endgame when
you were using trial and error on the controls?).
I think "A Mind Forever Voyaging" handled this more gracefully than
any other game in history, one of the many reasons why it's probably my
favorite text adventure. You DO learn more and discover additional nuances
by replaying the game. But "replaying the game" actually makes sense given
the context of running a computer simulation. Sort of like Groundhog Day.
(Glasser makes a heroic effort to get back on topic!!! He fails!!!!!)

Steven Howard

unread,
Apr 29, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/29/97
to

In <Pine.GSO.3.96.970425...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU>, Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> writes:
>One big difference is that the Bill Murray character in "Groundhog Day"
>was *forced* to "Restart". To extend the IF analogy, it would be as if
>after a predetermined number of moves, the game automatically restarted
>whether the player said so or not. In fact, I think the movie makes pretty
>clear that the character would not have discovered these deeper dimensions
>in life if he had not been forced to live through the same day over and
>over, and by the end his real goal is to escape the time loop so that he
>can start his new life.
>
>If an IF game were to adopt this strategy, it would avoid the problems of
>all data being lost at every restart. The game could enforce a limited day
>length at the end of which the player must sleep (a la Planetfall) and
>upon waking would find herself back aboard the Feinstein, or whatever the
>starting locale for that game was. This loop would continue until a
>certain flag gets tripped (the player_in_love flag, for example) which
>would allow the player to wake up in the endgame. Perhaps subtle things
>could even change in later iterations. In this scenario, if the player
>herself commanded "Restart," it would put her at the top of the first
>iteration of the time loop.
>

"Delusions" does this at one point, after a fashion.

========
Steven Howard
bl...@ibm.net

What's a nice word like "euphemism" doing in a sentence like this?

Joe Mason

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Apr 29, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/29/97
to

"Re: Groundhog Day as Inte", declared Kenneth Albanowski from the Vogon
ship:

KA>By saving and restoring (or undoing) you can effectively shift
KA>probability in your favour (except of course for well-designed
KA>Balancing-type puzzles. :-) Shouldn't the NPC's eventually notice
KA>that there is something odd about the PC, and that no matter what
KA>their evil plans are, the PC somehow manages to escape.

KA>I've no idea what to do with this idea, though. It seems to perhaps
KA>be more relevant to an atmospheric game (like Christminster), but
KA>even then I'm not sure what it would be worth.

Yeah, that's a good idea. But I wouldn't have the NPC's notice the
saving/restoring/undoing directly. Instead, I'd have them keep track of
what happens to the player, and if none of the bad things happen then
they would start to comment on the player's amazing luck and stuff like
that. So if you manage to play through perfectly on the first try, you
get the same reactions as if you'd restored a game everytime something
bad happened to you.

Reactions could range from awe: "He is a wetlander, but he walks through
the sands like a desertborn! Surely, this must be the Kwisatz
Haderach!" to fear: "Stay back! You have the Dark One's own luck! I
won't help you!"

Actually, this could be a good way to make the player choose a branching
path subtly. If he succeeds in all his tasks right away, someone won't
help him later on, which gives some motivation to see the side of the
story that would happen if he failed at a certain task.

Joe

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şMadness takes its toll. Please have exact change

Joe Mason

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Apr 29, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/29/97
to

"Re: Groundhog Day as Inte", declared Russell Glasser from the Vogon
ship:

RG> Same thing was done by Bob Bates in "Sherlock". If you typed "SAVE"
RG>Holmes would say, "Excellent, Watson. These are dangerous times."
RG>And if you typed "HINT" Sherlock would get mad at you, or later when
RG>Wiggins was with you he would say "Did you learn anything?" I
RG>thought that was funny. --

And none of the other characters noticed in, but in Beyond Zork "You
mumble the Spell of Saving." So it would actually be logical if the
characters DID react.

Joe

ş CMPQwk 1.42 9550 şAnd God said: E = «mvı - Zeı/r, and there was light!

Chris Lang

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Apr 30, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/30/97
to

Russell Glasser <rgla...@penning.lanl.gov> wrote:
>
>Erik Max Francis wrote:
>>
>> Matthew Crosby wrote:
>>
>> > Floyd used to comment when you saved, as well as when you quit.
But
>> > that was tounge in cheek and nothing ever came out of it.
>>
>> He'd also say something amusing like, "Oh boy, I've never seen my name
in
>> print before!" when you type SCRIPT, and something like, "Be sure to
give
>> me a copy of the output!" when you typed UNSCRIPT.
>
> Same thing was done by Bob Bates in "Sherlock". If you typed "SAVE"
>Holmes would say, "Excellent, Watson. These are dangerous times." And
if
>you typed "HINT" Sherlock would get mad at you, or later when Wiggins
was
>with you he would say "Did you learn anything?" I thought that was
funny.
>--

Ah, examples of 'breaking the fourth wall' in IF. Floyd, of course,
would break the fourth wall with several commands.
Of course, in some ways, Sherlock Holmes and Wiggins 'breaking the
fourth wall' and acknowledging that it is a computer game is even funnier,
as you certainly aren't expecting them to do such a thing.
Incidentally, here are a few things to try in Arthur: The Quest for
Excalibur.
ASK IDIOT ABOUT IDIOT. ASK IDIOT ABOUT KRAKEN. ASK IDIOT ABOUT BATES. ASK
IDIOT ABOUT MERETZKY. ASK IDIOT ABOUT PLANETFALL. ASK IDIOT ABOUT ZORK.
(You can also ask Merlin about Enchanter).

If anyone has any further examples of breaking the fourth wall (i.e.
characters acting as if they KNOW they're in a computer game), feel free
to post them here.

Chris Lang


Admiral Jota

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Apr 30, 1997, 3:00:00 AM4/30/97
to

MKS...@prodigy.com (Chris Lang) writes:

> Incidentally, here are a few things to try in Arthur: The Quest for
>Excalibur.
>ASK IDIOT ABOUT IDIOT. ASK IDIOT ABOUT KRAKEN. ASK IDIOT ABOUT BATES. ASK
>IDIOT ABOUT MERETZKY. ASK IDIOT ABOUT PLANETFALL. ASK IDIOT ABOUT ZORK.
>(You can also ask Merlin about Enchanter).

At one point he'll tell you he's not as dumb as he looks, and tell you to
ask him about anything. ASK IDIOT ABOUT ANYTHING.

Matt Ackeret

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May 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/2/97
to

In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>Daryl McCullough (da...@cogentex.com) wrote:
>> If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend the movie
>> "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray and Andy McDowell. Catch
>> it on video. I know it would be easy to lump this comedy in with
>I also recommend the movie.

It's hilarious. It's among my favorite movies of all time..

I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have
good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?

Of course there's "12:01" (the only one really appropriate to this group),
made into a Fox TV movie a few years ago.. and Groundhog Day.

In a previous discussion on this topic, a couple of years ago, I found out
about "Replay" by Ken Grimwood 0-441-71592-3
This one has an Ace Edition date of 1992.. It seems very Groundhog Day-ish
at first, but then changes. I actually remember I didn't like the ending but
it was still cool.
--
mat...@apple.com

John Holder

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May 5, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/5/97
to

In a fit of lunacy, Matt Ackeret (mat...@area.com) escribed:
: I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have

: good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?

My all time favorite Star Trek:The Next Generation episode is a time
loop episode. It's called "Yesterday's Enterprise"

I'll describe it if you like...

--
John Holder (jho...@frii.com) /\ http://www.frii.com/~jholder/
UNIX Specialist, Paranet Inc. <--> Raytracing|Fractals|Interactive Fiction
http://www.paranet.com/ \/ Homebrewing|Strange Attractors

Matthew T. Russotto

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May 5, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/5/97
to

In article <5kkrof$8di$1...@europa.frii.com>,

John Holder <jho...@deimos.frii.com> wrote:
}In a fit of lunacy, Matt Ackeret (mat...@area.com) escribed:
}: I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have
}: good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?
}
}My all time favorite Star Trek:The Next Generation episode is a time
}loop episode. It's called "Yesterday's Enterprise"
}
}I'll describe it if you like...

There's Heinlein's "-All You Zombies-". Wouldn't make much of an IF
game, but it's hard to top as a time loop short story.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Stephen Granade

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May 6, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/6/97
to

On 5 May 1997, Matthew T. Russotto wrote:

> There's Heinlein's "-All You Zombies-". Wouldn't make much of an IF
> game, but it's hard to top as a time loop short story.

I'd have to give my vote to "By His Bootstraps."

--
Stephen Granade | "It takes character to withstand the
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | rigors of indolence."
Duke University, Physics Dept | -- from _The Madness of King George_


Carl Muckenhoupt

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May 6, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/6/97
to

John Holder wrote:
>
> In a fit of lunacy, Matt Ackeret (mat...@area.com) escribed:
> : I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have
> : good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?

My former roommate speaks highly of a certain George Alec Effinger novel
involving
someone who travels back in time to an early World's Fair, only to wind
up living
a few hours over and over again. I've forgotten the name of it, but part
of the premise is that the protagonist isn't part of the loop. He needs
to eat and sleep, and that's pretty difficult in the middle of a World's
Fair in full swing without any money. It gets quite nasty, apparently.

This was before Mr. Effinger ran out of ideas and was reduced to writing
things like
"The Zork Chronicles".

Andrew Plotkin

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May 6, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/6/97
to

Carl Muckenhoupt (ca...@earthweb.com) wrote:
> John Holder wrote:
> >
> > In a fit of lunacy, Matt Ackeret (mat...@area.com) escribed:
> > : I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have
> > : good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?

> My former roommate speaks highly of a certain George Alec Effinger novel
> involving
> someone who travels back in time to an early World's Fair, only to wind
> up living
> a few hours over and over again. I've forgotten the name of it, but part
> of the premise is that the protagonist isn't part of the loop. He needs
> to eat and sleep, and that's pretty difficult in the middle of a World's
> Fair in full swing without any money. It gets quite nasty, apparently.

_The Nick of Time_ and _The Bird of Time_. A two-book series; I'm pretty
sure the World's Fair scene was in the first one.

It's really more comedy than anything else -- well, it's surreal wacko
stuff. I really like these books.

> This was before Mr. Effinger ran out of ideas and was reduced to writing
> things like
> "The Zork Chronicles".

Yeah, pretty much. Although the Zork book has Glorian of the Knowledge, a
character who was first introduced in _Heroics_, which was another early
novel which was very good. I like Glorian of the Knowledge.

Miron Schmidt

unread,
May 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/7/97
to

Matt Ackeret (mat...@area.com) inquired (if I'm still on track with quote
levels):

> : I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have
> : good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?

Alan Moore has written some comics involving time loops. The most clever one,
as far as I'm concerned, is called _Ring Road_ and tells the story of a
young woman who steals a car from an old woman and then drives through time,
reliving the birth of the earth (here's the time loop), and gets very old in
the process. In the end, she arrives at the sma eplace the story started and
has her car stolen by a young woman.

_Time Cops_ is told in a witty way, because the two time cops describe a
typical day in which they constantly encounter themselves. While the story
unfolds, and yet new twists are introduced, the reader can turn back the
pages and check where the cops were hiding in earlier panels.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Miron Schmidt "Look, this isn't going to get
s59...@tfh-berlin.de .oOo. any more exciting."
-- Andrew Plotkin, _So Far_
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Eric Rossing

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May 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/7/97
to

On 5 May 1997 14:44:31 GMT, jho...@deimos.frii.com (John Holder) wrote:

: In a fit of lunacy, Matt Ackeret (mat...@area.com) escribed:

: : I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have


: : good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?

:
: My all time favorite Star Trek:The Next Generation episode is a time


: loop episode. It's called "Yesterday's Enterprise"

"YE" isn't really a time loop story. It's a broken history story, but it
doesn't loop through the same period they way _Groundhog_Day_ does.

"Cause and Effect", which I've already mentioned, however, does loop...

Eric Rossing
ros...@iname.com
http://home.msen.com/~rossing
PGP Public key available on my WWW page

John Holder

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May 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/7/97
to

In a fit of lunacy, Eric Rossing (ros...@iname.com) escribed:

: On 5 May 1997 14:44:31 GMT, jho...@deimos.frii.com (John Holder) wrote:

: : In a fit of lunacy, Matt Ackeret (mat...@area.com) escribed:
: : : I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have
: : : good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?
: :
: : My all time favorite Star Trek:The Next Generation episode is a time
: : loop episode. It's called "Yesterday's Enterprise"

: "YE" isn't really a time loop story. It's a broken history story, but it
: doesn't loop through the same period they way _Groundhog_Day_ does.

: "Cause and Effect", which I've already mentioned, however, does loop...

Oops! Oh my! That is the one i was thinking of, not YE. Sorry, sorry,
sorry...

(slinks off into the ether...)

Phil Goetz

unread,
May 9, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/9/97
to

In article <5km322$4...@wanda.vf.pond.com>,

Matthew T. Russotto <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com> wrote:
>In article <5kkrof$8di$1...@europa.frii.com>,
>John Holder <jho...@deimos.frii.com> wrote:
>}In a fit of lunacy, Matt Ackeret (mat...@area.com) escribed:
>}: I guess this is somewhat off topic for this group.. But does anyone have
>}: good time loop movies/stories/TV to recommend?
>}
>}My all time favorite Star Trek:The Next Generation episode is a time
>}loop episode. It's called "Yesterday's Enterprise"
>}
>}I'll describe it if you like...
>
>There's Heinlein's "-All You Zombies-". Wouldn't make much of an IF
>game, but it's hard to top as a time loop short story.

It's hard to top for professional reasons. Science fiction writers
overdid time-loop stories in the 1940s. Heinlein's "All You Zombies"
and John Campbell's "By his bootstraps" are the most famous. (Campbell
rejected "All You Zombies", BTW. He said it was too circular. Maybe
I'm getting something confused here, because that doesn't all fit...)

If you try to write another time-loop story you will find it extremely
hard to sell to SF editors; it's one of a small set of story ideas,
like the one where a spaceship crashes on a planet and the pilot and
co-pilot are named Adam and Eve, that provoke an instantaneous
wastebasket reflex in SF editors.

Phil Go...@cs.buffalo.edu

Phil Goetz

unread,
May 9, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/9/97
to

> This was before Mr. Effinger ran out of ideas and was reduced to writing
> things like "The Zork Chronicles".

He didn't run out of ideas. More likely he ran out of money.
Go to your bookstore and check out the names on the new Star Trek
and Star Wars and Dragonlance and Battletech and Horseclans and White Wolf
etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. novels. You'll find some famous names writing
dreck.

That's because a great author who writes a great SF book might sell
100,000 copies. But whoever writes the next Star Trek book is
going to sell 500,000 copies. With media tie-ins, even the best
authors can be bought.

Phil Go...@cs.buffalo.edu
http://www.cs.buffalo.edu/~goetz

Subject your friends or enemies to the thought of the week
at http://www.cs.buffalo.edu/~goetz/thought.html

Nulldogma

unread,
May 11, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/11/97
to

> : My all time favorite Star Trek:The Next Generation episode is a time

> : loop episode. It's called "Yesterday's Enterprise"
>
> "YE" isn't really a time loop story. It's a broken history story, but
it
> doesn't loop through the same period they way _Groundhog_Day_ does.
>
> "Cause and Effect", which I've already mentioned, however, does loop...

"Cause and Effect" is truly great. (This is the one where the Enterprise
blows up in the opening scene, yes?) So great, in fact, that its author,
Brannon Braga, seems to have spent the rest of his writing career trying
to duplicate it, leading to some of the worst temporal anomaly stories
ever put on film.

Actually, I think Braga has single-handedly worn out this genre...

Neil

---------------------------------------------------------
Neil deMause ne...@echonyc.com
http://www.echonyc.com/~wham/neild.html
---------------------------------------------------------

g.eff...@genie.com

unread,
May 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/13/97
to

In article <5l06ko$9...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>,

I've read with a lack of amusement the opinion that I wrote THE ZORK
CHRONICLES because I ran out of ideas. Generally, I don't respond to
negative opinions of my work--I really don't expect everyone to like
everything I write. I don't like everything I write. I'm interested to
hear why some of my stories or novels don't work for particular readers;
however, "Mr. Effinger ran out of ideas" doesn't convey any useful
information to me.

I hadn't responded previously and I wouldn't be responding now, except to
clear up a couple of factual points. First, although I've faced large
medical debts for a considerable time, I didn't write ZORK for money. I
was paid $5,000 for it, a flat fee from the packager, with no
royalties--something I tell my writing class not to do (work-for-hire
it's called). I did it, knowing I'd never see another penny and knowing
that the $5,000 was probably not enough to cover my living expenses
during the time it took to write the book, because it was a book I'd
always wanted to write. Not THE ZORK CHRONICLES, but the third book
about the character of Glorian; he was in WHAT ENTROPY MEANS TO ME and
HEROICS, and this was to be his apotheosis. I was discouraged in writing
such a book because my Budayeen series looked more promising, and because
my earlier humorous books never did well in a commercial sense (BIRD,
NICK, and HEROICS have never even been in paperback). I wanted to write
the novel and this was an opportunity to do it. Also, I had worked with
Infocom when I wrote a game for them, "Circuit's Edge," based on
characters and locations in WHEN GRAVITY FAILS, and I liked the Infocom
people. They asked if I'd be interested in doing a novelization for
them, and they offered me what they called "the big one"--the Zork games.
I'd played all the games enthusiastically when I got my first computer,
years before, and I was glad they thought of me for the book. I had to
use locations in the game but I couldn't use any of the characters or
events. That made it more difficult. I personally feel I was as
inventive in ZORK as I ever was in the earlier humor books and that I
showed no thinness of ideas. I admit there were a lot of obscure
references in it: I relied heavily on Lord Raglan's study of heroic
patterns in mythology as well as Joseph Campbell's books on that topic; a
lot of satire on the Science Fiction Writers of America (another
organization in the book is called the SFWA); unlabeled appearances by
Nero Wolfe's house, etc.--a different genre or fictional game in each
chapter. The only way I could write something about three entire games
and do justice to all that material was by making the book episodic. I
myself had a lot of fun writing it, and I regret that you disapprove.
It's not to me clear if you read it.

Second--and this gets me furious whenever I see it, about myself or any
of my colleagues--is the suggestion that somehow we gear down for tie-in
books. Speaking for myself, I don't have speeds. I write everything the
same way. I don't think, "Well, this is only a game book, I don't have
to give them my best stuff." Aw hell. When I did a short story for Neil
Gaiman's anthology of "Sandman" stories, I did the best story I was
capable of; the same is true of anything I decide to turn my attention
to. And be careful what you say about "Star Trek" and "Star Wars"
fiction: I'm engaged to Barbara Hambly, who's written both, and I can
testify that she is was as concerned and careful and creative and honest
while writing CHILDREN OF THE JEDI and PLANET OF TWILIGHT as she was
while writing any of the books in her own several series. If you don't
like stories and novels set in other people's universes, okay, that's an
opinion. Saying something like "You'll find some famous names writing
dreck" does not sound like an opinion. It sounds like some kind of
Revealed Truth. You didn't say "I think it's dreck," but left me
wondering if you truly believe every Star Trek, Star Wars, Dragonlance,
Battletech, Horseclans title is dreck. If you've read them all and
believe that, I'm curious why you read them all. If you haven't read
them all, surely there's possibility that some of the books are good and
you are in error.

I am currently engaged in helping to develop a game entitled "Aeon" with
White Wolf, and I'll be doing more work-for-hire books for them. A
legal situation has prevented me from delivering any new books under my
name using previous characters or series--especially finishing the last
two books in the WHEN GRAVITY FAILS series. I may never be allowed to
publish them, so I've had to turn entirely to work-for-hire until the
final judgment is made later this year. However, although I'm making the
same money now that I made for the Zork book (i.e., not very much
although White Wolf will pay me royalties), I'm eager about the project.
Andrew Bates, the game's developer, has some wonderful SF ideas, and he's
been enthusiastic about my thoughts and suggestions. I was approached
originally about doing only an 8,000 word short story for the game's
original book, but the novels happened only after I decided I liked the
intelligence and possibilities of the setting and theme. The novels'
story and most of the characters are mine, not White Wolf's, and will be
incorporated in the game itself.

There's been only one project in 25 years that I took just for the money:
four "Planet of the Apes" novelizations in 1975, when I spent a total of
seven months in the hospital. I had to get something to pay those bills,
and to this day I wonder if the books are good, merely okay, or just
plain terrible. I don't know--I've never been able to re-read them. On
the other hand, I turned down a hardcover "Star Trek" offer for triple
the money I've ever made, because after a while I thought it would be
less enjoyable than what I was working on at the time.

I don't think I'm in the least unusual about that, either. Most writers
have a lot more integrity than some readers think. I also believe that
just because a book is connected to a series not the author's own
creation, that's not enough to label it dreck. And the line about "even
the best authors can be bought" is one of the most offensive I've ever
read.

George Alec Effinger

-------------------==== Posted via Deja News ====-----------------------
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Phil Goetz

unread,
May 28, 1997, 3:00:00 AM5/28/97
to

>> > This was before Mr. Effinger ran out of ideas and was reduced to
>> >writing things like "The Zork Chronicles".
>>
>> He didn't run out of ideas. More likely he ran out of money.
>> ...
>
>...

>I hadn't responded previously and I wouldn't be responding now, except to
>clear up a couple of factual points. First, although I've faced large
>medical debts for a considerable time, I didn't write ZORK for money.
>...

>Most writers
>have a lot more integrity than some readers think. I also believe that
>just because a book is connected to a series not the author's own
>creation, that's not enough to label it dreck. And the line about "even
>the best authors can be bought" is one of the most offensive I've ever
>read.
>
>George Alec Effinger

Oops.

>MAKE ASS OF SELF ON USENET
Okay.

>UNDO
Cannot undo.

Should've saved.

I haven't read "The Zork Chronicles." I wrote that Mr. Effinger had not
run out of ideas because writers typically have more ideas than they know
what to do with. I wrote that stuff about media tie-ins because it is a
sore spot with me. I didn't make it up, though; it's pretty much the
same thing that I have heard some well-known SF writers, including
Nancy Kress and Thomas Disch, complain of bitterly. I'm sorry I wrote it
in an offensive manner, and I'm sorry I didn't carefully state that I was
speaking about SF in general and not about that particular book.

I have seen the series books -- BattleTech, AD&D, DragonLance --
take over more shelf space every year even in the best bookstores.
Waldenbooks I gave up for lost years ago, but now the columns of
DragonLance books are steadily advancing even in Borders.
I was a member of an excellent science fiction discussion group,
which I recently quit because some young men joined the group
and began choosing BattleTech books as the monthly selections.
I am afraid that, while good SF is still very good and maybe getting better,
SF on the whole is getting worse, partly due to books whose appeal is
not their originality but their familiarity.

Probably there are some good media tie-ins. Sometimes, as with Terry
Bisson's recent adaptation of "The Fifth Element" (I will be careful now
to mention that I read only the first two chapters), the author adds
things that were impossible to express in visual media, and tells the
story with a new attitude. Sometimes the shared-world lets a story be
told with more economy. Sometimes the thorough exploration of a world,
based on years of thought, that is possible in worlds like Star Trek
or the White Wolf universe, can lead to deep insights.

But I thought most of the mass-media books I've looked at were bad.
I think they discourage readers from seeking out the new and strange,
and encourage them to take refuge in the old and the familiar.
And that is opposite the nature of SF.

The phrase "even the best authors can be bought" was, maybe, too colorful.
It's not very meaningful, since all authors, except those poor souls who
self-publish, are bought. I don't believe it's possible for authors to
"sell out", because I don't think they have obligations to their readers.
Readers should be obliged to authors, not the other way around.
So for me to use a morally loaded phrase was misleading.

That's what I wanted to say. I'm sorry I wasn't more careful.

Phil Goetz

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