Defining IF (again)

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fel...@yahoo.com

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Feb 1, 2006, 6:13:20 AM2/1/06
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Hello everyone,

I just noticed something strange in a recent thread. Although
everyone talks about *interactive fiction*, some voices insist in
comparing this genre to chess and similar games. Does that mean
we have a trend in the community leading back from IF to *adventure
games*? Because, you know, I don't like the prospect at all.

Let's say I'm right, and we're actually talking games here. Then
the comparison with chess is fallacious, because chess doesn't have
hidden rules. Everything is out in plain sight. Bridge does hide
information, but, again, all the *rules* are public. Even the most
complex strategy games make it very clear what the player *can* do;
it's up to her, then, to determine what works and when. On the other
hand, adventures seem to rely on hiding some of the rules, which are
already too many and complex! What could that mean from a game
design perspective? Think about it...

But perhaps I'm wrong, and Interactive Fiction is still what it
claims to be. That is, "interactive" and "fiction". A way to tell
the audience a story such that they must actually participate in it.
It shouldn't matter exactly how the audience gets involved, or the
actual degree of involvement, as long as the involvement is
mandatory and the end experience is satisfactory. It shouldn't even
matter how the story is told.

Now, if you accept my definition, can you exclude CYOA from it?
Or hyperfiction? You may not like these particular subgenres, just
as you may not like balet, but just as you can't exclude balet from
the definition of art, you cannot deny hyperfiction the status of IF.
Now, you may complain that the choices are limited in a CYOA book, or
that too much is out there in plain sight, but what's that have to do
with interactivity, or storytelling? It can make a good experience
nevertheless.

My point? If it's not already obvious, I'm beginning to think
that technical arguments of the kind "how to make IF accessible to
newcomers" (or whether we should, for that matter), may be moot.
And you know why? Because, after so many years, we still disagree
about exactly what interactive fiction is. We are like the
proverbial blind philosophers trying to understand the elephant.
We won't succeed unless we put our observations together into a
coherent definition. Then we may think about ways to introduce the
genre to newcomers, perhaps even launch a "beginner's IF" subgenre,
similar to the children's books from literature.

Have a nice talk,
Felix

Jackdaw

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Feb 1, 2006, 7:17:51 AM2/1/06
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<fel...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:1138792399....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
> Hello everyone,
BIG SNIP

>We are like the
> proverbial blind philosophers trying to understand the elephant.
> We won't succeed unless we put our observations together into a
> coherent definition. Then we may think about ways to introduce the
> genre to newcomers, perhaps even launch a "beginner's IF" subgenre,
> similar to the children's books from literature.
>
> Have a nice talk,
> Felix

The beginners game idea, I like that. And, like some children's books, they
do not have to be boring.

--
Jackdaw collector of junk, trivia and bright twinkly things.


Boluc Papuccuoglu

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Feb 1, 2006, 8:31:01 AM2/1/06
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On 1 Feb 2006 03:13:20 -0800, "fel...@yahoo.com" <fel...@yahoo.com>
wrote:

>Hello everyone,
>
>I just noticed something strange in a recent thread. Although
>everyone talks about *interactive fiction*, some voices insist in
>comparing this genre to chess and similar games. Does that mean
>we have a trend in the community leading back from IF to *adventure
>games*? Because, you know, I don't like the prospect at all.
>
>Let's say I'm right, and we're actually talking games here. Then
>the comparison with chess is fallacious, because chess doesn't have
>hidden rules. Everything is out in plain sight. Bridge does hide
>information, but, again, all the *rules* are public. Even the most
>complex strategy games make it very clear what the player *can* do;
>it's up to her, then, to determine what works and when. On the other
>hand, adventures seem to rely on hiding some of the rules, which are
>already too many and complex! What could that mean from a game
>design perspective? Think about it...

That is not exclusive to adventure games, almost all computer games
incorporate this to some extent, and I think it is a useful tool to
maintain the element of surprise. In the game types you mentioned
(chess, card games, strategy games, etc.) the element of surprise is
provided by the human opponent. Challenging AI is difficult to write,
(or some may even say yet impossible, in a Turing test kind of way) so
you can keep the player on his toes by obfuscating his input domain or
the consequences thereof.

It may be interesting for some to note that most (indeed almost all)
pen and paper RPG's implement this. My guess is that since the DM/GM
is not supposed to be trying to defeat the PC's, such a thing is
necessary.

Boluc

David Thornley

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Feb 1, 2006, 10:52:22 AM2/1/06
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In article <1138792399....@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,

fel...@yahoo.com <fel...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>Hello everyone,
>
>I just noticed something strange in a recent thread. Although
>everyone talks about *interactive fiction*, some voices insist in
>comparing this genre to chess and similar games. Does that mean
>we have a trend in the community leading back from IF to *adventure
>games*? Because, you know, I don't like the prospect at all.
>
To be honest, there are always different trends running one
place to another. There never has been a consensus of what the
ideal IF/adventure game is, any more than a consensus of what
the ideal novel or movie should be.

I don't worry about people who write games I really don't like,
because there are plenty who write games I really do like.

>Let's say I'm right, and we're actually talking games here. Then
>the comparison with chess is fallacious, because chess doesn't have
>hidden rules. Everything is out in plain sight. Bridge does hide
>information, but, again, all the *rules* are public. Even the most
>complex strategy games make it very clear what the player *can* do;
>it's up to her, then, to determine what works and when.

Not necessarily. Let's take an example: the WWII miniatures wargame
Command Decision: Test of Battle (currently in beta test). It has
a "Fog of War" deck, which consists of a number of cards, each of
which allows the holder to change the rules a bit. The players do
not necessarily know every card, and therefore don't necessarily
know what the other player might do. It is also possible to play
a miniatures game without knowing much of the rules, given a good
referee.

Some wargamers have argued that knowing the rules is ahistorical,
and that an ideal wargame would have some rules unknown until they were
actually tried. For example, in an early WWII game, what could air
support actually do?

In computer games, the player is sometimes kept ignorant of significant
portions of the rules.

In live RPGs, there are no limits as to what a player can try.

I think that the "fixed rules" idea is essential to some games (like
chess, go, and bridge), and an undesirable necessity in some others.

On the other
>hand, adventures seem to rely on hiding some of the rules, which are
>already too many and complex! What could that mean from a game
>design perspective? Think about it...
>

If there are too many, and too complex rules, then hiding some may
be necessary to allow the player to play. Given that this is a
computer game, that's feasible.

There is also the fact that adventure games tend not to be replayed
as much as other games, and players tend to play a lot more different
games. I can play chess, or run WWII miniatures battles, on a
frequent basis for years, and if the rules don't change the players
and I will be very familiar with them. Heck, if I play Pokemon
long enough on my Game Boy Advance, I'll get very familiar with
the results of the hidden rules.

If players selected three or four IF games and played them over and
over again, there'd be nothing hidden about the rules.



>Now, if you accept my definition, can you exclude CYOA from it?
>Or hyperfiction? You may not like these particular subgenres, just
>as you may not like balet, but just as you can't exclude balet from
>the definition of art, you cannot deny hyperfiction the status of IF.
>Now, you may complain that the choices are limited in a CYOA book, or
>that too much is out there in plain sight, but what's that have to do
>with interactivity, or storytelling? It can make a good experience
>nevertheless.
>

The IF we normally discuss is that which can be implemented using the
IF languages we have, using them more or less as intended. If I
understand the word "hyperfiction", then Andrew Plotkin's "Space
Under the Window" qualifies. There are CYOA games out there.

On the other hand, the IF normally discussed is that which uses
some sort of parser to interpret semi-free-form text commands.

>My point? If it's not already obvious, I'm beginning to think
>that technical arguments of the kind "how to make IF accessible to
>newcomers" (or whether we should, for that matter), may be moot.
>And you know why? Because, after so many years, we still disagree
>about exactly what interactive fiction is. We are like the
>proverbial blind philosophers trying to understand the elephant.
>We won't succeed unless we put our observations together into a
>coherent definition. Then we may think about ways to introduce the
>genre to newcomers, perhaps even launch a "beginner's IF" subgenre,
>similar to the children's books from literature.
>

I don't see that we need a coherent definition. Having one is good,
if it really means what we want it to, but having one that restricts
us unnecessarily is bad.

As Wittgenstein pointed out (IIRC), many simple words don't have a
coherent definition. There are all different sorts of games, for
example, and I am not sure there's any single specific characteristic
that applies to all of them. That doesn't stop us from designing,
playing, and analyzing all sorts of games.

--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Andrew Plotkin

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Feb 1, 2006, 11:08:14 AM2/1/06
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Here, fel...@yahoo.com <fel...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> I just noticed something strange in a recent thread. Although
> everyone talks about *interactive fiction*, some voices insist in
> comparing this genre to chess and similar games. Does that mean
> we have a trend in the community leading back from IF to *adventure
> games*? Because, you know, I don't like the prospect at all.

I have always used the terms "interactive fiction" and "adventure
games" as synonyms. However, I don't think of them as games in the
same sense as chess.

The historical inspiration for text IF is paper-and-pencil
role-playing games. We call those "games" even though they share
almost nothing with chess: they are not competitive, they have
tremendous amounts of hidden information, the player options are
deliberately open-ended and subject to creative expression.

(I'm not saying that IF is the same as role-playing games *either*.
I'm pointing out that the term "game" has a very broad range.)

> Let's say I'm right, and we're actually talking games here. Then
> the comparison with chess is fallacious, because chess doesn't have
> hidden rules. Everything is out in plain sight. Bridge does hide
> information, but, again, all the *rules* are public.

I think you're stretching this analogy all out of proportion. You
could as well say that the "rules" of IF are completely
straightforward: you type a command, and the game responds. There is
no fixed, known list of commands. A board-game analog (not that IF is
a board game) might be Scrabble. Nobody plays Scrabble with an
exhaustive word list in hand -- that would be cheating.

> Even the most
> complex strategy games make it very clear what the player *can* do;
> it's up to her, then, to determine what works and when. On the other
> hand, adventures seem to rely on hiding some of the rules, which are
> already too many and complex! What could that mean from a game
> design perspective? Think about it...

I have thought about it extensively, and my conclusion is this:
Adventures are about exploring and discovering new experiences, and
all their structure is derived from that goal. (Just as the structure
of chess is derived from the goal of engaging in a purely strategic,
logical competition.)



> But perhaps I'm wrong, and Interactive Fiction is still what it
> claims to be. That is, "interactive" and "fiction".

Argument from etymology is generally a waste of time. I do not define
IF as "fiction that is interactive". It's a term of art, and when we
discuss its definition, we are discussing the category, not the label.

("Adventure game" is equally useless as a literal label. Unless you
mean "A game in the style of Crowther and Woods' _Adventure_.")

> My point? If it's not already obvious, I'm beginning to think
> that technical arguments of the kind "how to make IF accessible to
> newcomers" (or whether we should, for that matter), may be moot.
> And you know why? Because, after so many years, we still disagree
> about exactly what interactive fiction is.

Well, that's certainly true. That's how we know we have a living art
form, as opposed to a historical legacy.

--Z

--
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
If the Bush administration hasn't subjected you to searches without a warrant,
it's for one reason: they don't feel like it. Not because you're innocent.

fel...@yahoo.com

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Feb 1, 2006, 12:43:10 PM2/1/06
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David Thornley wrote:
> Some wargamers have argued that knowing the rules is ahistorical,
> and that an ideal wargame would have some rules unknown until they were
> actually tried. For example, in an early WWII game, what could air
> support actually do?

I don't know... What it used to do during the actual war?

> In live RPGs, there are no limits as to what a player can try.

And you get a sensible response to anything you try... which makes
tabletop RPGs different from all other games.

> If there are too many, and too complex rules, then hiding some may
> be necessary to allow the player to play. Given that this is a
> computer game, that's feasible.

So you argue that hiding the rules is actually legitimate in many kinds
of games? Hmmm...

> On the other hand, the IF normally discussed is that which uses
> some sort of parser to interpret semi-free-form text commands.

> I don't see that we need a coherent definition. Having one is good,


> if it really means what we want it to, but having one that restricts
> us unnecessarily is bad.

Did you notice that your definition is far more restrictive than mine?

> As Wittgenstein pointed out (IIRC), many simple words don't have a
> coherent definition. There are all different sorts of games, for
> example, and I am not sure there's any single specific characteristic
> that applies to all of them. That doesn't stop us from designing,
> playing, and analyzing all sorts of games.

But it stops us from progressing in the field of game design.
Basically,
we still don't know what we're doing. See "The Art of Computer Game
Design" by Chris Crawford (who, by the way, suggests a set of
specific characteristics of games).

Good points anyway,
Felix

fel...@yahoo.com

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Feb 1, 2006, 1:13:18 PM2/1/06
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Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> I have always used the terms "interactive fiction" and "adventure
> games" as synonyms. However, I don't think of them as games in the
> same sense as chess.

Alright then. We need a shorter name for "works of interactive fiction"
anyway, and "adventure" sounds just fine.

> The historical inspiration for text IF is paper-and-pencil
> role-playing games. We call those "games" even though they share
> almost nothing with chess: they are not competitive, they have
> tremendous amounts of hidden information, the player options are
> deliberately open-ended and subject to creative expression.

As I mentioned before, pen&paper RPGs are unique in that a player
can try absolutely anything and expect a sensible response. There
can't be many rules to that (except for combat and character
advancement, but those are mini-games *inside* the RPG -
optional ones, at that).

> I think you're stretching this analogy all out of proportion. You
> could as well say that the "rules" of IF are completely
> straightforward: you type a command, and the game responds. There is
> no fixed, known list of commands. A board-game analog (not that IF is
> a board game) might be Scrabble. Nobody plays Scrabble with an
> exhaustive word list in hand -- that would be cheating.

Oh come on... Remember the argument about clicks in a graphical
adventure a couple of weeks ago? The rules in chess don't just say
"move a piece in a particular manner, then let your opponent do the
same". It's not that simple. As for Scrabble, you actually *do* play
with an exhaustive word list in hand. It's called a dictionary.
[By the way, I was playing once with some friends, and one of them
was pretty much stuck. He made up a word that just "sounded nice"
and... what do you know, it actually was in the dictionary. He earned
a nice score that time. I don't remember who won, though.]

> Argument from etymology is generally a waste of time. I do not define
> IF as "fiction that is interactive". It's a term of art, and when we
> discuss its definition, we are discussing the category, not the label.

Why, that particular label seems quite telling to me.

> Well, that's certainly true. That's how we know we have a living art
> form, as opposed to a historical legacy.

Because we don't have a good definition and a formal theory? By your
standards, then, most art forms are historical legacies, no longer
living.

Admit it, you're just being stubborn :-)
Felix

Nathan

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Feb 1, 2006, 1:29:29 PM2/1/06
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fel...@yahoo.com wrote:

> Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> > I think you're stretching this analogy all out of proportion. You
> > could as well say that the "rules" of IF are completely
> > straightforward: you type a command, and the game responds. There is
> > no fixed, known list of commands. A board-game analog (not that IF is
> > a board game) might be Scrabble. Nobody plays Scrabble with an
> > exhaustive word list in hand -- that would be cheating.

> As for Scrabble, you actually *do* play with an exhaustive word list in hand.


> It's called a dictionary.

Did you deliberately misinterpet this? Using the dictionary in Scrabble
in the same way as you propose listing all available commands in a
text adventure is against the rules of Scrabble, and for good reason.
The correct use of the dictionary in Scrabble is, I think, rather
comparable to the standard situation in IF that you criticize.
Sometimes, when trying something new, you're not sure that
your input will succeed.

> > Argument from etymology is generally a waste of time. I do not define
> > IF as "fiction that is interactive". It's a term of art, and when we
> > discuss its definition, we are discussing the category, not the label.
>
> Why, that particular label seems quite telling to me.

That's your problem. Having a private definition of a word just
hampers your ability to communicate. Around here, IF is a
well-understood term of art, as Zarf calls it. Misunderstanding
through ignorance is understandable, but now you've been told
what we're talking about. Continuing to misinterpet it would
just be stubborn and pointless.

Stephen Bond

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Feb 1, 2006, 1:53:45 PM2/1/06
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fel...@yahoo.com wrote:
> David Thornley wrote:

> > As Wittgenstein pointed out (IIRC), many simple words don't have a
> > coherent definition. There are all different sorts of games, for
> > example, and I am not sure there's any single specific characteristic
> > that applies to all of them. That doesn't stop us from designing,
> > playing, and analyzing all sorts of games.
>
> But it stops us from progressing in the field of game design.

Really? And I thought IF design had progressed in the last
dozen years, certainly if you compare design expectations at
the time _Curses_ was released to today. Or maybe you mean
something different by "progress". Care to elaborate?

> Basically, we still don't know what we're doing.

Basically, we can progress without knowing or caring exactly
what it is we are progressing towards.

> See "The Art of Computer Game
> Design" by Chris Crawford (who, by the way, suggests a set of
> specific characteristics of games).

I'm tempted to say "see _Erasmatron_ by Chris Crawford", but that
would be a cheap shot.

Stephen.

Brian Wh.

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Feb 1, 2006, 2:27:54 PM2/1/06
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Andrew Plotkin said:
"I think you're stretching this analogy all out of proportion. You
could as well say that the "rules" of IF are completely
straightforward: you type a command, and the game responds. There is
no fixed, known list of commands. A board-game analog (not that IF is
a board game) might be Scrabble. Nobody plays Scrabble with an
exhaustive word list in hand -- that would be cheating. "

There is _so_ a fixed, known list of commands in every IF-- the list of
all verbs that
don't return a default/error message.

Andrew Plotkin

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Feb 1, 2006, 2:29:58 PM2/1/06
to
Here, fel...@yahoo.com <fel...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
> > The historical inspiration for text IF is paper-and-pencil
> > role-playing games. We call those "games" even though they share
> > almost nothing with chess: they are not competitive, they have
> > tremendous amounts of hidden information, the player options are
> > deliberately open-ended and subject to creative expression.
>
> As I mentioned before, pen&paper RPGs are unique in that a player
> can try absolutely anything and expect a sensible response.

Yes. Adventures are unique in different ways.

> > I think you're stretching this analogy all out of proportion. You
> > could as well say that the "rules" of IF are completely
> > straightforward: you type a command, and the game responds. There is
> > no fixed, known list of commands. A board-game analog (not that IF is
> > a board game) might be Scrabble. Nobody plays Scrabble with an
> > exhaustive word list in hand -- that would be cheating.
>
> Oh come on... Remember the argument about clicks in a graphical
> adventure a couple of weeks ago? The rules in chess don't just say
> "move a piece in a particular manner, then let your opponent do the
> same". It's not that simple. As for Scrabble, you actually *do* play
> with an exhaustive word list in hand. It's called a dictionary.

Er, that was my point. You don't have the dictionary in hand. It is
kept hidden, except in specific situations (challenges of a disputed
word) and then it is consulted only for that word. And there are
in-game consequences for a dictionary check.

> > Argument from etymology is generally a waste of time. I do not define
> > IF as "fiction that is interactive". It's a term of art, and when we
> > discuss its definition, we are discussing the category, not the label.
>
> Why, that particular label seems quite telling to me.

I am not sure what you are trying to assert. I'll be happy to call
them "adventures" if it'll make my posts easier for you to read. (Only
I'll probably forget sooner or later.)



> > Well, that's certainly true. That's how we know we have a living art
> > form, as opposed to a historical legacy.
>
> Because we don't have a good definition and a formal theory? By your
> standards, then, most art forms are historical legacies, no longer
> living.

Do you really think that most art forms have a "formal theory" and a
definition? That everyone agrees on? If you went out and investigated
the novel, or the full-length cinema film, would you be able to write
down a universal statement of what it was and what its goals were?

We don't have a definition; we have theories (plural) and discussions.
I've posted my theory before, and done my best to back it up.

> Admit it, you're just being stubborn :-)

No "just" about it, thanks.

--Z

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

If the Bush administration hasn't shipped you to Syria for interrogation, it's

Daryl McCullough

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Feb 1, 2006, 2:21:05 PM2/1/06
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fel...@yahoo.com says...
>
>David Thornley wrote:

>> On the other hand, the IF normally discussed is that which uses
>> some sort of parser to interpret semi-free-form text commands.
>
>> I don't see that we need a coherent definition. Having one is good,
>> if it really means what we want it to, but having one that restricts
>> us unnecessarily is bad.
>
>Did you notice that your definition is far more restrictive than mine?

I think of David's definition as a classification of the *medium*,
rather than the *content* of the work. Dead-tree CYOA games or live-action
RPGs may have a lot in common with computer adventure games, but they
are very different *media*. They take different skills to produce.

--
Daryl McCullough
Ithaca, NY

Stephen Bond

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Feb 1, 2006, 2:56:54 PM2/1/06
to

The list is not known to the player (which is precisely what you've
been complaining about). This is crucial. The analogy is that the
typical Scrabble player doesn't know the full dictionary of words.

Stephen.

Richard Bos

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Feb 1, 2006, 6:36:08 PM2/1/06
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"Brian Wh." <bri...@sympatico.ca> wrote:

Not true. It is quite possible (and has been done, though possibly not
in a work of IF downloadable from the Archive) to define non-default,
not-obviously-error messages for specific verbs, for all or a large part
of the objects in a game, and yet have that verb do nothing and give no
real information. It is just as possible to never remove a verb from the
Standard Library, yet never return anything except the Library default
message for any object.

Richard

Andrew Plotkin

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Feb 1, 2006, 7:03:08 PM2/1/06
to
Here, Richard Bos <ral...@xs4all.nl> wrote:
> "Brian Wh." <bri...@sympatico.ca> wrote:
>
> > Andrew Plotkin said:
> > "I think you're stretching this analogy all out of proportion. You
> > could as well say that the "rules" of IF are completely
> > straightforward: you type a command, and the game responds. There is
> > no fixed, known list of commands. A board-game analog (not that IF is
> > a board game) might be Scrabble. Nobody plays Scrabble with an
> > exhaustive word list in hand -- that would be cheating. "
> >
> > There is _so_ a fixed, known list of commands in every IF-- the list of
> > all verbs that don't return a default/error message.
>
> Not true.

Brian Wh. was misunderstanding my claim, in any case. I was proposing
the view that *all* possible inputs (including cat-like typing) are
"valid according to the rules of IF". You type it, the machine
responds.

That's not a deep view, but it does describe text IF in a very simple
and clear-to-the-player way.

--Z

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

Just because you vote for the Republicans, doesn't mean they let you be one.

David Thornley

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Feb 1, 2006, 7:44:58 PM2/1/06
to
In article <1138815790.7...@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,

fel...@yahoo.com <fel...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>David Thornley wrote:
>> Some wargamers have argued that knowing the rules is ahistorical,
>> and that an ideal wargame would have some rules unknown until they were
>> actually tried. For example, in an early WWII game, what could air
>> support actually do?
>
>I don't know... What it used to do during the actual war?
>
That is the usual solution, and arguably the more historical.
However, it leads to ahistorical play, since everybody knows
what their units can do.

Historically, there were various different theories as to what
air support and tanks were good for, and people learned what
was wrong with their theories during the war.

To generalize, I don't know what the rules are in life, and I've
been working on it for mumble years now. If a game is to simulate
that aspect of life, the rules need to be hidden.

>> If there are too many, and too complex rules, then hiding some may
>> be necessary to allow the player to play. Given that this is a
>> computer game, that's feasible.
>
>So you argue that hiding the rules is actually legitimate in many kinds
>of games? Hmmm...
>

Precisely.

>> On the other hand, the IF normally discussed is that which uses
>> some sort of parser to interpret semi-free-form text commands.
>
>> I don't see that we need a coherent definition. Having one is good,
>> if it really means what we want it to, but having one that restricts
>> us unnecessarily is bad.
>
>Did you notice that your definition is far more restrictive than mine?
>

I didn't give a definition of IF. I described what is normally
discussed, which is a certain type of game with a certain skill set.
People can deviate from that and still have IF.

>> As Wittgenstein pointed out (IIRC), many simple words don't have a
>> coherent definition. There are all different sorts of games, for
>> example, and I am not sure there's any single specific characteristic
>> that applies to all of them. That doesn't stop us from designing,
>> playing, and analyzing all sorts of games.
>
>But it stops us from progressing in the field of game design.
>Basically,
>we still don't know what we're doing.

Why do you think we need to know what we're doing? Why can't we
know what we're doing with a lack of a specific definition?

I'm serious here. We have a collection of IF, which is a fuzzy
area in some sort of "game space". It is normally done with
certain tools in certain methods. People do different things.
Every so often, somebody does something that others emulate,
and we make progress.

It's a stochastical sort of thing, but it is real progress.
Nor do I see how to set down rules for making progress. Rules
would codify what we're doing, and not allow progress.

fel...@yahoo.com

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 12:02:05 AM2/2/06
to
Nathan wrote:
> That's your problem. Having a private definition of a word just
> hampers your ability to communicate. Around here, IF is a
> well-understood term of art, as Zarf calls it. Misunderstanding
> through ignorance is understandable, but now you've been told
> what we're talking about. Continuing to misinterpet it would
> just be stubborn and pointless.

My, what a firm statement. I thought we just agreed that we
don't have a final definition of what IF is. Now I'm told there is
one. And what a definition! Keeping the analogy with other forms
of art, you're basically restricting visual arts to oil painting,
because that's what *you* like. And when someone points out
that there are many other forms of painting, not to mention
sculpture, photography and whatnot, you take it as a personal
offense.

Oh well,
Felix

fel...@yahoo.com

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 12:09:14 AM2/2/06
to
Stephen Bond wrote:
> Really? And I thought IF design had progressed in the last
> dozen years, certainly if you compare design expectations at
> the time _Curses_ was released to today. Or maybe you mean
> something different by "progress". Care to elaborate?

Of course it did, only not so much as it could have. It's a
common complaint around here. To ellaborate, I'd have to
revive a number of old threads. I'm trying to get a little further.

Felix

fel...@yahoo.com

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 12:20:54 AM2/2/06
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> Do you really think that most art forms have a "formal theory" and a
> definition? That everyone agrees on? If you went out and investigated
> the novel, or the full-length cinema film, would you be able to write
> down a universal statement of what it was and what its goals were?

I don't know about cinema, but painting and music do have such a
formal theory. And why investigate the full-length cinema film in
isolation? There are other kinds of motion pictures, you know.
Why do you like to narrow definitions so much?

> No "just" about it, thanks.

Fair enough,
Felix

fel...@yahoo.com

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 12:39:23 AM2/2/06
to
Daryl McCullough wrote:
> I think of David's definition as a classification of the *medium*,
> rather than the *content* of the work. Dead-tree CYOA games or live-action
> RPGs may have a lot in common with computer adventure games, but they
> are very different *media*. They take different skills to produce.

So, basically, what you're all trying to tell me is that "interactive
fiction"
equals "parser-based text adventures" and that's it? The medium is more
important than the content? Do you read any kind of book simply because
it's a book? I mean, science books are literature too, you know?

I think we're making some serious confusions here,
Felix

P.S. I apologize for the successive postings. It's the only way I can
keep up.

Chris Pickett

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 1:28:57 AM2/2/06
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
> Brian Wh. was misunderstanding my claim, in any case. I was proposing
> the view that *all* possible inputs (including cat-like typing) are
> "valid according to the rules of IF". You type it, the machine
> responds.

Ok, we have an infinite set of inputs. I claim that this set can be
meaningfully partitioned into a finite set of equivalence classes. At
least for the vast majority of games, and more at least as far as
"seeing all there is to see in the game" is concerned.

Chris

Kevin Forchione

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 2:22:53 AM2/2/06
to
"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:drri7r$sf1$1...@reader2.panix.com...

> Here, Richard Bos <ral...@xs4all.nl> wrote:
>> "Brian Wh." <bri...@sympatico.ca> wrote:
>>
>> > Andrew Plotkin said:
>> > "I think you're stretching this analogy all out of proportion. You
>> > could as well say that the "rules" of IF are completely
>> > straightforward: you type a command, and the game responds. There is
>> > no fixed, known list of commands. A board-game analog (not that IF is
>> > a board game) might be Scrabble. Nobody plays Scrabble with an
>> > exhaustive word list in hand -- that would be cheating. "
>> >
>> > There is _so_ a fixed, known list of commands in every IF-- the list of
>> > all verbs that don't return a default/error message.
>>
>> Not true.
>
> Brian Wh. was misunderstanding my claim, in any case. I was proposing
> the view that *all* possible inputs (including cat-like typing) are
> "valid according to the rules of IF". You type it, the machine
> responds.
>
> That's not a deep view, but it does describe text IF in a very simple
> and clear-to-the-player way.

As well as for the author, who must bear in mind that for every player
command there is a game world response.

--Kevin


Stephen Bond

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 4:43:59 AM2/2/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com wrote:
> Stephen Bond wrote:
> > Really? And I thought IF design had progressed in the last
> > dozen years, certainly if you compare design expectations at
> > the time _Curses_ was released to today. Or maybe you mean
> > something different by "progress". Care to elaborate?
>
> Of course it did, only not so much as it could have.

An easy claim to make, not even subjectively falsifiable,
and not one I buy for a second.

Forms like the novel progressed for a long time without
a formal definition or theory. Whether the rate of progress
accelerated as a direct result of a formal definition (if
there is one -- I don't know or particularly care) would
be highly debatable.

> It's a common complaint around here.

Do you mean the newbie complaints about parser
deficiencies? In which case the problem is certainly not
the lack of a formal theory and definition. Ditto for the
complaints about IF no longer being widely popular or
commercially viable. I've no idea what other complaints
you could be talking about. "You can't progress without
a formal theory!" is itself a reasonably common
complaint, and yet the medium keeps progressing
regardless.

Stephen.

fel...@yahoo.com

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 6:44:23 AM2/2/06
to
Stephen Bond wrote:
> An easy claim to make, not even subjectively falsifiable,
> and not one I buy for a second.

Nice words, but my claim is based on common complaints right here,
on r.a.i.f. It's all subjective, I know. It's not just me, though.

> Do you mean the newbie complaints about parser
> deficiencies?

No, I mean even *authors* complain about parser
deficiencies. Just look at all the talk about making parsers
smarter. Why do you think this topic keeps coming back?

Felix

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 7:08:54 AM2/2/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com says...

>So, basically, what you're all trying to tell me is that "interactive
>fiction" equals "parser-based text adventures" and that's it? The
>medium is more important than the content?

I said that the medium is what makes it "interactive fiction", in
the same way that the medium is what makes something a "novel" or
a "movie" or a "painting". None of those classifications say
much about the content, they are all about the medium.

>Do you read any kind of book simply because it's a book?

No, but I *call* it "a book" simply because it's a book.

Nathan

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 10:47:29 AM2/2/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com wrote:
> Nathan wrote:
> > That's your problem. Having a private definition of a word just
> > hampers your ability to communicate. Around here, IF is a
> > well-understood term of art, as Zarf calls it. Misunderstanding
> > through ignorance is understandable, but now you've been told
> > what we're talking about. Continuing to misinterpet it would
> > just be stubborn and pointless.
>
> My, what a firm statement. I thought we just agreed that we
> don't have a final definition of what IF is. Now I'm told there is
> one. And what a definition! Keeping the analogy with other forms
> of art, you're basically restricting visual arts to oil painting,
> because that's what *you* like.

Let me clarify. The phrase "oil painting" has a well-established
meaning. Suppose I had some artistic talent (ha!) and I were to
decide to create some amazing paintings using my car's dirty
engine oil as a medium. Suppose I then labeled my creations
"oil paintings", tried to get groups who focus on oil paintings
to discuss them, entered them in the oil painting category of
art contests, etc. Let's say I responded to my rejection with
the argument, "I'm painting with oil, so these are oil paintings!"

This is a bit like trying to persuade interactive fiction
enthusiasts to call every interactive form of fiction IF, as
opposed to what the term really means.

> And when someone points out that there are many other
> forms of painting, not to mention sculpture, photography
> and whatnot, you take it as a personal offense.

Please don't misunderstand. I have taken nothing personally.
Oil painting doesn't mean "any kind of painting done with
oil", and interactive fiction doesn't mean "any kind of fiction
that is interactive".

I'm certainly not opposed to other kinds of fiction, just
trying to point out what the focus of this newsgroup is.

Jackdaw

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 11:05:03 AM2/2/06
to

"Nathan" <nts...@netscape.net> wrote in message
news:1138895249.6...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...
> fel...@yahoo.com wrote:
>> Nathan wrote:
snip

> Let me clarify. The phrase "oil painting" has a well-established
> meaning. Suppose I had some artistic talent (ha!) and I were to
> decide to create some amazing paintings using my car's dirty
> engine oil as a medium. Suppose I then labeled my creations
> "oil paintings", tried to get groups who focus on oil paintings
> to discuss them, entered them in the oil painting category of
> art contests, etc. Let's say I responded to my rejection with
> the argument, "I'm painting with oil, so these are oil paintings!"

You should really try the Tate Modern in London. It might do very well
there!

rgrassi

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 11:37:31 AM2/2/06
to
Hi,

> I said that the medium is what makes it "interactive fiction"

And what's the medium of IF?
Rob

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 12:07:23 PM2/2/06
to
rgrassi
>> I said that the medium is what makes it "interactive fiction"
>
>And what's the medium of IF?

Parser-based text adventures.

Rikard Peterson

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 12:37:39 PM2/2/06
to

"fel...@yahoo.com" wrote in
news:1138857654.0...@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com:

> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>> Do you really think that most art forms have a "formal theory"
>> and a definition? That everyone agrees on? If you went out and
>> investigated the novel, or the full-length cinema film, would you
>> be able to write down a universal statement of what it was and
>> what its goals were?
>
> I don't know about cinema, but painting and music do have such a
> formal theory.

You have obviously not been reading rec.music.compose - discussions on
what music is are not rare. 4'33" is commonly brought up, but it
wouldn't be that difficult to find two persons disagreeing on if, say,
atonal music is music, and it would even be possible to find people
arguing that what Bartok wrote wasn't music. (See for example
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.music.compose/browse_frm/thread/
2c125cce552187e2/ )

Yes, music theory exists, but normal music theory doesn't apply to
everything I call music. A definion (singular) of music does not exist,
but several different definitions does. Arguing about them is probably
mostly done by composers and musicians, though.

Rikard

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 12:57:13 PM2/2/06
to
Here, fel...@yahoo.com <fel...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> > Do you really think that most art forms have a "formal theory" and a
> > definition? That everyone agrees on? If you went out and investigated
> > the novel, or the full-length cinema film, would you be able to write
> > down a universal statement of what it was and what its goals were?
>
> I don't know about cinema, but painting and music do have such a
> formal theory.

What are these theories?

This is a serious question. If I knew what you were talking about, I
could try to formulate the equivalent for the field of IF. (Or maybe I
already have.)

Quick web-searching leads me to believe that there are formal
*theories* of (say) painting. As many as there are movements in
painting; maybe as many as there are painters. This strikes me as a
good thing.

(I imagine the various theories of painting are pretty close together.
That would be because painting has had a couple of millennia to sort
itself out.)

In a different post, you write:

> [about the lack of progression in IF]


> No, I mean even *authors* complain about parser
> deficiencies. Just look at all the talk about making parsers
> smarter. Why do you think this topic keeps coming back?

I don't actually disagree with you. There is a lot of disagreement
about how to make IF better, and that stems from implicit disagreement
(and explicit disagreement) (and simple lack of understanding) about
what IF is trying to do. This has prompted a lot of people to think
about the question. I have a position; I get into threads like this
and try to convince people of it. Naturally, I believe that I am
absolutely right and will ultimately prevail. :)

What else do you want? You can promote a theory, and then we'll all
whale on it. You could write an academic thesis about the subject. I'm
not an academe, but some of us are (Nick Montfort, Emily Short) and
they've been writing books and articles.

> And why investigate the full-length cinema film in
> isolation? There are other kinds of motion pictures, you know.
> Why do you like to narrow definitions so much?

Enough with the leading rhetoric. I picked a tight example to make it
easier for you to answer the question.

--Z

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

If the Bush administration hasn't thrown you in military prison
without trial, it's for one reason: they don't feel like it. Not
because of the Fifth Amendment.

rgrassi

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 1:02:21 PM2/2/06
to
Hi,

> Parser-based text adventures.

Wrong.
It's the WORD, written or spoken.
Rob

Chris Pickett

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 1:02:42 PM2/2/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com wrote:
> Hello everyone,
>
> But perhaps I'm wrong, and Interactive Fiction is still what it
> claims to be. That is, "interactive" and "fiction". A way to tell
> the audience a story such that they must actually participate in it.
> It shouldn't matter exactly how the audience gets involved, or the
> actual degree of involvement, as long as the involvement is
> mandatory and the end experience is satisfactory. It shouldn't even
> matter how the story is told.

I think there are two useful meanings (definitions??) of IF:

1) text-based story-driven computer games, like the kind discussed here
frequently

2) consider a continuum between pure ludology and pure narratology,
where we have computer chess or go on one end and dvd movies on the
other. the ludological (gameplay) aspects bring interaction, and the
narratologial (storytelling) aspects bring fiction, so then anything in
between is interactive fiction.

Basically I think (1) makes an interesting medium in its own right, but
i also think that a large part of what is discussed here actually
applies to many other games out there (2).

I bit (2) from this work that for some reason I keep coming back to by
Mirjam Eladhari (paper and thesis, google them if you care).

Chris

Mike Roberts

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 2:35:51 PM2/2/06
to
"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> Here, fel...@yahoo.com <fel...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>> As for Scrabble, you actually *do* play with an exhaustive
>> word list in hand. It's called a dictionary.
>
> Er, that was my point. You don't have the dictionary in hand.
> It is kept hidden, except in specific situations (challenges of a
> disputed word) and then it is consulted only for that word.

Okay, this is straying a bit from the point, but you're both analogizing the
dictionary the wrong way here. Felixp7, Zarf's right that the dictionary
isn't like a menu from which you can choose words as you play. But on the
other hand, it's equally wrong to equate it with an IF parser by calling it
"hidden." The dictionary isn't hidden; everyone knows what's in it to a
greater or lesser extent, depending on their vocabulary, and it's just there
as a disinterested arbiter. It's exactly the opposite of the hidden word
list in IF: it has *more* words than any one person knows, plus all the
words they do know.

To be remotely analogous with the IF parser, the "dictionary" in Scrabble
would have to be a list of words arbitrarily selected by one of the players
and then kept hidden from other players until they tried to play a word, at
which point they could find out whether or not they get any points for it.
To be remotely analogous with Scrabble, an IF parser would have to not only
accept but understand all of the words in a standard English dictionary -
any word in the dictionary has equal potence under the rules in Scrabble,
after all.

But the only meaningful conclusion we can draw here is that Scrabble isn't a
good analogy for what's fun in IF.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com


Daryl McCullough

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 3:18:26 PM2/2/06
to
rgrassi says...

That is not a very useful notion of "medium". Speeches,
books, interactive fiction, plays, jokes, rap songs all
use words, but people usually consider these different
media.

Before we go further about the correct definition of
interactive fiction, perhaps I should ask: Correct
for what *purpose*? Why do you care about a definition?
For the purposes of rec.arts.int-fiction, the reason
for lumping certain things together is so that there
is more grounds for sharing of techniques, strategies,
etc.

Richard Bos

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 5:20:07 PM2/2/06
to
"Jackdaw" <dicon-...@jackdaw-crafts.co.uk> wrote:

> "Nathan" <nts...@netscape.net> wrote in message
> news:1138895249.6...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...
>

> > Let me clarify. The phrase "oil painting" has a well-established
> > meaning. Suppose I had some artistic talent (ha!) and I were to
> > decide to create some amazing paintings using my car's dirty
> > engine oil as a medium. Suppose I then labeled my creations
> > "oil paintings", tried to get groups who focus on oil paintings
> > to discuss them, entered them in the oil painting category of
> > art contests, etc. Let's say I responded to my rejection with
> > the argument, "I'm painting with oil, so these are oil paintings!"
>
> You should really try the Tate Modern in London. It might do very well
> there!

No, no, Nathan postulated that he had some artistic _talent_ - the Power
Plant Modern would never let him in!

Richard

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Feb 2, 2006, 6:13:00 PM2/2/06
to
Here, Mike Roberts <mj...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> "Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> > Here, fel...@yahoo.com <fel...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> >> As for Scrabble, you actually *do* play with an exhaustive
> >> word list in hand. It's called a dictionary.
> >
> > Er, that was my point. You don't have the dictionary in hand.
> > It is kept hidden, except in specific situations (challenges of a
> > disputed word) and then it is consulted only for that word.
>
> Okay, this is straying a bit from the point, but you're both analogizing the
> dictionary the wrong way here. Felixp7, Zarf's right that the dictionary
> isn't like a menu from which you can choose words as you play. But on the
> other hand, it's equally wrong to equate it with an IF parser by calling it
> "hidden." The dictionary isn't hidden; everyone knows what's in it to a
> greater or lesser extent, depending on their vocabulary, and it's just there
> as a disinterested arbiter. It's exactly the opposite of the hidden word
> list in IF: it has *more* words than any one person knows, plus all the
> words they do know.

I agree that the analogy isn't perfect, but there is some (positive)
comparison. Everyone knows common words that can be used in Scrabble.
You know some uncommon words too, but you may have to think longer to
come up with them. And part of the fun is in hunting around in the
space of possible plays; which is fun because it's a blurry space with
fuzzy borders (from your limited point of view! But your view *must*
be limited for Scrabble to be fun; this is the note on which I came
in. :)

Obviously there are plenty of differences: IF is not a game of
Scrabble. The Scrabble choice space is much, much larger. (But, like a
text game, a subset of the possible combinations of letters.) I'd say
the analogy instead breaks down at a higher level: Scrabble words are
ultimately meaningless (despite their notional derivation from "the
list of real English words"), and you don't have to understand them at
all to know what is a legal play. Words in a text IF game are very
closely tied to their meaning (or their use in the game world, if that
is non-mundane).

--Z

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

Bush's biggest lie is his claim that it's okay to disagree with him. As soon as
you *actually* disagree with him, he sadly explains that you're undermining
America, that you're giving comfort to the enemy. That you need to be silent.

fel...@yahoo.com

unread,
Feb 3, 2006, 12:25:49 AM2/3/06
to
Nathan wrote:

> I'm certainly not opposed to other kinds of fiction, just
> trying to point out what the focus of this newsgroup is.

Citing from the Interactive Fiction article on IFWiki:
"The term has been used more generally in some academic
writing, to include literary hypertext and other sorts of computer
games and digital art."
Interestingly enough, hyperfiction was included in the definition
of IF in an older version of the r.a.i.f FAQ. Also, members of the
community write and play multiple choice adventures and I didn't
notice anyone telling them to go away.

Yet anytime people discuss ways to improve on IF, they focus
on parser-based works, as if there wasn't anything else. Like
the few particular effects that can only be achieved with a parser
are all that matters. Granted, parser-based works are the norm
in the community, but analysing them in isolation isn't likely to
further our understanding, and there are urgent problems to
solve, if some of the recents threads are any indication.

Am I very much wrong?
Felix

rgrassi

unread,
Feb 3, 2006, 5:51:06 AM2/3/06
to
Hi,

> What else do you want? You can promote a theory, and then we'll all whale on it.

I still don't have a complete theory but i'm collecting puzzles.
One question I'm trying to answer is:
1) Why many people playing "classical" IF (parser-based one, i mean) in
interested in roguelike, mud, cyoa, pen-and-paper rpg, hyperfiction,
etc...

What's the connection?
Rob

rgrassi

unread,
Feb 3, 2006, 6:02:35 AM2/3/06
to
Hi,

> That is not a very useful notion of "medium". Speeches,
> books, interactive fiction, plays, jokes, rap songs all
> use words, but people usually consider these different
> media.

Most of your examples use the WORD as a medium but are *not*
interactive.

> Why do you care about a definition?

Definition (their discussion, obsolescence, renewal, etc...) is always
important
because gives you the *scope* to tell "what's in and what's out".
Definitions come from agreement and are *always* wrong or incomplete.
Rob

Stephen Bond

unread,
Feb 3, 2006, 6:28:40 AM2/3/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com wrote:
> Stephen Bond wrote:
> > Do you mean the newbie complaints about parser
> > deficiencies?
>
> No, I mean even *authors* complain about parser
> deficiencies. Just look at all the talk about making parsers
> smarter. Why do you think this topic keeps coming back?

Whether the complaints come from authors or newbies, what
has it got to do with the lack of a formal definition of IF?
That parsers don't understand every conceivable command is
an AI problem.

Unless you mean that if we formally defined IF as having
parser deficiencies, the complaints would be groundless.
Or if we formally defined IF as not necessarily having a parser,
then the parser problems would no longer be IF problems.
But the problems are still there, either way.

> Yet anytime people discuss ways to improve on IF, they focus
> on parser-based works, as if there wasn't anything else. Like
> the few particular effects that can only be achieved with a parser
> are all that matters. Granted, parser-based works are the norm
> in the community, but analysing them in isolation isn't likely to
> further our understanding, and there are urgent problems to
> solve, if some of the recents threads are any indication.
>
> Am I very much wrong?

Maybe not. You'd have to start being more concrete before I
could tell. How does your definition of IF help us solve our
"urgent" problems? Can you show me the game where you
solve them?

Stephen.

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Feb 3, 2006, 7:09:05 AM2/3/06
to
rgrassi says...

>> Why do you care about a definition?
>
>Definition (their discussion, obsolescence, renewal, etc...)
>is always important because gives you the *scope* to tell
>"what's in and what's out".

I meant: For what purpose are you trying
to decide what's in and what's out. It seems to me that
for rec.arts.int-fiction, the reason is because of similarity
of techniques. The group is for authors, and two authors
of "parser-based text adventures" are more likely to have
"tricks of the trade" to share.

My use of the word "media" is as a way of grouping such
techniques.

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Feb 3, 2006, 7:17:40 AM2/3/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com says...

>Citing from the Interactive Fiction article on IFWiki:
>"The term has been used more generally in some academic
> writing, to include literary hypertext and other sorts of computer
> games and digital art."
>
>Interestingly enough, hyperfiction was included in the definition
>of IF in an older version of the r.a.i.f FAQ. Also, members of the
>community write and play multiple choice adventures and I didn't
>notice anyone telling them to go away.

I think that this group would welcome discussions about a broader
notion of "interactive fiction". To say that the focus of this
group is "parser-based text adventure" is just descriptive, not
prescriptive. *Most* of the discussions are about such games,
but we could certainly talk about other things as well.

fel...@yahoo.com

unread,
Feb 3, 2006, 10:22:00 AM2/3/06
to
Stephen Bond wrote:
> Maybe not. You'd have to start being more concrete before I
> could tell. How does your definition of IF help us solve our
> "urgent" problems? Can you show me the game where you
> solve them?

I'm still striving to finish my first attempt at IF (which, being a
first, will not try to solve anything). But I didn't know I have to be
a chicken (or a professional cook...) in order to discuss omelet
recepies :D

As for my definition, it aims to provide a broader view on IF.
AFAIK, looking at something from afar is often a good way
to gain insights. We're all too passionate about it, aren't we?

Cheers,
Felix

Stephen Bond

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Feb 3, 2006, 10:39:23 AM2/3/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com wrote:
> Stephen Bond wrote:
> > Maybe not. You'd have to start being more concrete before I
> > could tell. How does your definition of IF help us solve our
> > "urgent" problems? Can you show me the game where you
> > solve them?
>
> I'm still striving to finish my first attempt at IF (which, being a
> first, will not try to solve anything). But I didn't know I have to be
> a chicken (or a professional cook...) in order to discuss omelet
> recepies :D

I didn't mean to suggest that you have to be a game author to
talk about games! It's just that I'm not convinced abstract
theorising is the best way to advance IF or any artistic medium.
A lot of people come along with bright ideas about revolutionising
the medium, but I tend to be skeptical until I see the ideas
actually implemented and working -- which they rarely are.

And I feel compelled to point this out every February or so.

Stephen.

Daryl McCullough

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Feb 3, 2006, 11:34:49 AM2/3/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com says...

>Granted, parser-based works are the norm
>in the community, but analysing them in isolation isn't likely to
>further our understanding, and there are urgent problems to
>solve, if some of the recents threads are any indication.

I'm a little uncertain as to what you are considering an
"urgent problem"? What is an example of such a problem?

Rubes

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Feb 3, 2006, 2:02:01 PM2/3/06
to

rgrassi wrote:
> > That is not a very useful notion of "medium". Speeches,
> > books, interactive fiction, plays, jokes, rap songs all
> > use words, but people usually consider these different
> > media.
>
> Most of your examples use the WORD as a medium but are *not*
> interactive.


So do you consider Myst to be interactive fiction?

rgrassi

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Feb 3, 2006, 2:51:32 PM2/3/06
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Hi,

> So do you consider Myst to be interactive fiction?

NO, in a "strictu sensu" definition.
Rob

JayDee

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Feb 3, 2006, 10:32:59 PM2/3/06
to

I think people who play IF are more fussed about how good a game is
rather than how it looks. Same goes for Roguelikes, and Muds etc. I
suspect that the main reason people have for not playing these kinds of
games is that they take one look and say no thanks.

~JayDee

Mark Thern

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Feb 4, 2006, 1:37:31 AM2/4/06
to
I think a discussion about these problems that you allude to would be a
better starting point for what you want to accomplish than a semantic
debate about the definition of i-f. I'd be very interested in hearing
about what you'd like to experience from interactive stories that
you're not getting from parser-based i-f, and what measures might
improve this situation.

Speaking for myself, my greatest concern about i-f as it exists today
is that it still tends to revolve around puzzles and physical
simulations rather than people and relationships. There are exceptions
here and there, but they tend not to be especially interactive,
interactive meaning that you have a lot of say about who you can form
relationships with and what directions the relationships can take. I'd
like to experience works -- note that I didn't say "play games"--
where you can divorce your spouse, have a kid, throw your best friend
to the wolves in order to achieve a goal, or have a bitter quarrel with
a family member and manage to patch it up later. Not that you should
necessarily be able to do all this in the same work, mind you.

My solution to the problem? Well, I don't have any easy answers. I
think that a successful work of this nature requires a great of written
material. Clever programming can help, but it can't solve the problem
entirely. This is what the Erasmatron tried to do, and that's why I
think it failed.

I would not go so far as to restrict the reader's choices to 3-5
options at a given point like a cyoa, but I do think that you should
prune out all the unnecessary choices. If "put the book on the
table" isn't dramatically important to the story, then it shouldn't
be offered as a choice. For this reason, I'm not using a parser for my
work-in-progress and opting instead for a verb and keyword list
approach, which I think is particularly well-suited for games that
revolve around social interaction.

Will my solutions work? Well, I'm working on it...

fel...@yahoo.com

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Feb 4, 2006, 1:38:34 AM2/4/06
to
Daryl McCullough wrote:
> I'm a little uncertain as to what you are considering an
> "urgent problem"? What is an example of such a problem?

As I already said, a few topics seem to crop up very often
lately - more so than others. One of them is "how to attract
beginners to IF", which, I noticed, always goes in the "how
to make the parser friendlier" direction. But from there it
goes around in circles, so I began to think that perhaps
it's not the right question. I call it "urgent" because it seems
to nag people so much lately - the typical sign of a pressing
issue.

It's really simple,
Felix

Daryl McCullough

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Feb 4, 2006, 2:26:35 PM2/4/06
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fel...@yahoo.com says...

Yes, having more people interested in IF would be very nice,
but I don't see that that has anything to do with how IF is
defined.

fel...@yahoo.com

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Feb 5, 2006, 2:42:21 AM2/5/06
to
Daryl McCullough wrote:
> Yes, having more people interested in IF would be very nice,
> but I don't see that that has anything to do with how IF is
> defined.

No offense, but have you been paying attention? There are two
main issues:

1. Many members of the community seem to define IF strictly as
"parser-based text adventures".

2. The parser is what drives off most newbies.

Add 1 + 2 together. What do you get? Here's my own answer:

It's time to either redefine the very concept of a parser or decide
that it's not really essential, thus redefining IF itself. Incremental
progress doesn't seem to help anymore.

Or, indeed, we could just forget about the newbies...

Felix

James Mitchelhill

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Feb 5, 2006, 4:35:50 AM2/5/06
to

Dear Climbing Monthly,

I have been thinking about your hobby (climbing mountains? how
old-school!) and would like to make a couple of comments.

1. Many members of the community seem to define climbing strictly as
"pulling themselves to the top of mountains".

2. The height of the mountains is what drives off most beginners.

Add 1 + 2 together. What do you get? Here's my own answer:

It's time to either redefine the very concept of a mountain or decide
that it's not really essential, thus redefining climbing itself.
Incremental erosion doesn't seem to help anymore.

Or, indeed, we could just forget about the beginners...

Sincerely,

James Mitchelhill.

fel...@yahoo.com

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Feb 5, 2006, 5:51:08 AM2/5/06
to
James Mitchelhill wrote:

> It's time to either redefine the very concept of a mountain or decide
> that it's not really essential, thus redefining climbing itself.
> Incremental erosion doesn't seem to help anymore.

Riight, I'd fogotten that mountain climbing is supposed to be very
difficult, otherwise it ain't fun. After all, a true climber never goes
anywhere near a climbing wall, nor does one use a safety rope.

Suit yourself then,
Felix

Paolo M

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Feb 5, 2006, 8:16:22 AM2/5/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com:

>It's time to either redefine the very concept of a parser or decide
>that it's not really essential, thus redefining IF itself. Incremental
>progress doesn't seem to help anymore.
>Or, indeed, we could just forget about the newbies...

In 1984 I was a newbie, and we all know that old days adventures were really
cruel. Moreover, I am italian and in 1984 my english as a little kid was not so
good.
But here I am, 22 years later, devotional and loyal to the cause.
One could argue that people taste for videogames has changed and that text
parsers are not appealing any more; I think that it's just a question of
visibility.

Paolo

Daryl McCullough

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Feb 5, 2006, 8:54:14 AM2/5/06
to
fel...@yahoo.com says...

>Daryl McCullough wrote:
>> Yes, having more people interested in IF would be very nice,
>> but I don't see that that has anything to do with how IF is
>> defined.
>
>No offense, but have you been paying attention? There are two
>main issues:
>
>1. Many members of the community seem to define IF strictly as
>"parser-based text adventures".
>
>2. The parser is what drives off most newbies.
>
>Add 1 + 2 together. What do you get?

That many newbies would prefer to play something other than
interactive fiction?

fel...@yahoo.com

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Feb 5, 2006, 11:00:07 AM2/5/06
to
Daryl McCullough wrote:
> >1. Many members of the community seem to define IF strictly as
> >"parser-based text adventures".
> >
> >2. The parser is what drives off most newbies.
> >
> >Add 1 + 2 together. What do you get?
>
> That many newbies would prefer to play something other than
> interactive fiction?

Err... You just restated half of point two. What's your point?

Pun intended,
Felix

James Mitchelhill

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Feb 5, 2006, 12:23:40 PM2/5/06
to

You're entirely right - to follow the metaphor, climbing walls and
safety ropes are good things for newbies. I applaud any effort to make
parsers smarter and easier for newcomers to use. (Hell, I've written a
guide to playing IF aimed at newbies and mildly encourage authors to
include it in any packages they release).

But it's *ridiculous* to think that changing what IF is will make it any
more popular. It might be more popular, but it wouldn't be IF anymore.

People keep turning up and suggesting this. But most IF authors who post
here are, by definition, interested in parser-based text adventures.
Trying to tell us that we should change this is exactly like telling
mountain climbers that their hobby would be more popular if the
mountains were horizontal.

This isn't to say a subset of people here aren't interested in
non-parser driven IF, but it would be *another type of game*.

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

Mike Roberts

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Feb 5, 2006, 2:34:00 PM2/5/06
to

From my perspective as a long-time reader of the group, this - expanding
IF's audience - is actually an old and frequently-discussed topic. It comes
up cyclically, and I don't detect any particular recent jump in the
intensity at which this question nags people here. Also, your impression
that the topic inevitably turns toward questions of parser friendliness
isn't actually that accurate; that's the way it's turned in the latest
incarnation of the topic, but it often turns in other directions, such as
seeking more press attention or finding a way to market IF commercially.

You might be right that IF as the term is used here isn't going to find much
of an audience beyond its present level. Here's the thing, though: if it
comes down to a choice between IF-as-we-know-it and a wider audience, the
evidence is that most of the people here will choose the former. It's not
as though there aren't already half a dozen well-known gaming formats they
could immediately switch to if wider popularity were their top objective.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com


Daryl McCullough

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Feb 5, 2006, 2:27:50 PM2/5/06
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fel...@yahoo.com says...

My point is that I don't understand what your point is. You seem
to think that IF can become more popular with newbies if we have
a broader definition of "interactive fiction". Well, there is a
sense in which that's true. If I consider "Grand Theft Auto" to
be interactive fiction, then IF is *already* popular. If I can
consider hip hop to be jazz, then suddenly jazz is a lot more
popular. But that's not much consolation to fans of David Brubeck.

I'm interested in a particular *type* of interactive
fiction, namely parser based text adventures. I can try
to make those more popular by improving the parser, or
various other ways. But I can't make them more popular
by redefining IF.

fel...@yahoo.com

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Feb 5, 2006, 3:17:56 PM2/5/06