Text games in general (subthread of Text adventures).

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Brandon Van Every

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Oct 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/22/98
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John Giors wrote in message <362fa...@blushng.jps.net>...
>
>Who says that the content of text games had to be of the text
>adventure variety? Not every book is a love story. Could we really
>do something compelling with text games that would be
>difficult in other forms?


Ok, but can you give a concrete (hypothetical is fine) example of a text
game that is not a text adventure? What would that mean, exactly?

- a text wargame? (Been there, done that.)
- a text arcade game? (Wordtris?)
- a text puzzle game? (scrabble, crossword puzzle, The Fool's Errand)
- a text rhyming game? (Parappa the Rappa)
- a text convesation? (Eliza)
- something else?


>We could concentrate on one
>of the things that has eluded game design for so long--the simulation
>of interesting characters that have some depth.

How does the simulation of characters differ from the goals of character
development in narrative forms, such as the text adventure? Is it just
going to be an Eliza that people find interesting to talk to? What makes it
interesting to talk to this Eliza?

Whereas if the character is in a story of any sort, I put it to you that
you've got a text adventure. Not all books are novels, but all novels are
novels.

>Unfortunately, not much progress was made in this potential type of
>text gaming because text games basically were thrown out without
>hardly a thought. If the progress had been continued, we might already
>have very compelling text games.

Personally, I don't think concerns with plot development have gone away. I
think they've stayed about constant, actually. Thinking honestly about the
Infocom games I played as a child, they had the plot sensibilities of
programmers, not writers. I've never played a text adventure that had the
pacing of a good episode of, say, Star Trek. (A GOOD episode, not a cheesy
episode where the writers were asleep that week.) Nor have I seen it in 3D
graphics adventures, although take that with a grain of salt as I don't
consider myself broadly played.

Exception: the opening sequence of Andrew Plotkin's "Spider and Web" I
thought was brilliant for its pacing. But not too far into the game, I had
to start solving non-trivial puzzles and that ruined the pacing effect for
me. This is where my tastes (and I'm banking mass audience tastes) diverge
from those of hard-core interactive fiction gamers. Andrew's game is
excellent for a person who sees solving puzzles as the point of playing the
game. Whereas for someone craving the cinematic experience, it delivers
fully for the first 5 minutes of play, then as the game opens up the
cinematography is lost. In fairness, I didn't pursue the game much farther
than that as I didn't want to solve any puzzles. I might pick the game up
again sometime when I'm in a more cerebral mood, to see how the rest of it
goes.

So that there can be no misunderstanding from people new to my diatribes: I
am VERY far on the end of puzzle / no-puzzle spectrum. My current belief is
"screw puzzles. It's a way to bring plot action and cinematography to a
screeching halt." So lest you think the above is a flame (it isn't) I'm
only analyzing Andrew's work in terms of my current agenda. Andrew's work
is a perfectly good int-fiction game, indeed from what little I played of
it, it looks to be an excellent int-fiction game in traditional terms.


Cheers, 3d graphics optimization jock
Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA
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HarryH

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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In article <70og6n$ssc$1...@birch.prod.itd.earthlink.net>,
vane...@earthlink.net says...

>Exception: the opening sequence of Andrew Plotkin's "Spider and Web" I
>thought was brilliant for its pacing. But not too far into the game, I had
>to start solving non-trivial puzzles and that ruined the pacing effect for
>me.
[snip]

>Whereas for someone craving the cinematic experience, it delivers
>fully for the first 5 minutes of play, then as the game opens up the
>cinematography is lost.
[snip]

> My current belief is
>"screw puzzles. It's a way to bring plot action and cinematography to a
>screeching halt."

Go read a book. No, really. Read one of those CYOA books. You won't have the
pacing ruined. No plot halting due to your own stupidity. Nothing personal,
Brandon. :)

<rant>
I've been thinking. In the old days, where people actually buys these things,
it was common for them to spend weeks/months playing a game, and that made
them feel good because they got their money's worth.

Now, MA is supposed to be filled with extremely short IF stories? Is shorter
really better? It's troubling enough that people think puzzles have no place
in IF, now they're complaining about pacing. Pacing! Something that IF
players cannot take for granted.
</rant>

-------------------------------------------------------
When the grass on the other side is greener,
let us cultivate our garden!


Simon 'tufty' Stapleton

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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"Brandon Van Every" <vane...@earthlink.net> writes:

> Exception: the opening sequence of Andrew Plotkin's "Spider and Web" I
> thought was brilliant for its pacing. But not too far into the game, I had
> to start solving non-trivial puzzles and that ruined the pacing effect for

> me. This is where my tastes (and I'm banking mass audience tastes) diverge
> from those of hard-core interactive fiction gamers. Andrew's game is
> excellent for a person who sees solving puzzles as the point of playing the

> game. Whereas for someone craving the cinematic experience, it delivers


> fully for the first 5 minutes of play, then as the game opens up the

> cinematography is lost. In fairness, I didn't pursue the game much farther
> than that as I didn't want to solve any puzzles. I might pick the game up
> again sometime when I'm in a more cerebral mood, to see how the rest of it
> goes.

> So that there can be no misunderstanding from people new to my diatribes: I

> am VERY far on the end of puzzle / no-puzzle spectrum. My current belief is


> "screw puzzles. It's a way to bring plot action and cinematography to a

> screeching halt." So lest you think the above is a flame (it isn't) I'm
> only analyzing Andrew's work in terms of my current agenda. Andrew's work
> is a perfectly good int-fiction game, indeed from what little I played of
> it, it looks to be an excellent int-fiction game in traditional terms.

Sorry, Brandon, but that's <rudeword deleted>. If you liked the start of
the game, then you would have liked the rest. Except it had puzzles. But
those puzzles were integral to the plot and pacing of the game. And if
you couldn't be bothered to think through the puzzles, which weren't
*particularly* hard, then you didn't find out what the hell was going on.
And if you didn't do that, how can you judge what the game was like?

Yes, puzzles *can* slam the plot to a halt. They don't *always* slam
the plot to a halt.

Sometimes, the puzzles are intrinsic to both the plot *and* the pacing.
I would say that 'Spider and Web' is one of those games. I would also
say that there are others out there. But I really doubt that you would
be interested in them. After all, they've got - ugh! - puzzles.

Simon

Oh, and BTW, I've never seen an episode of Star Trek that I'd consider
"good". (Thinks : That should get the flames rolling in!)

_______
| ----- | Biased output from the demented brain of
||MacOS|| Simon Stapleton.
|| NOW ||
| ----- | sstaple AT liffe DoT com
| -+-.| (if you can't figure it out...)
|洵洵洵洱
-------

Kory Heath

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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I've missed the beginning of this thread (which, presumably, started in
c.g.d.d), but I'm jumping in anyway, because that's just the crazy,
caution-to-the-wind kind of guy I am.

Brandon Van Every wrote:
> Ok, but can you give a concrete (hypothetical is fine) example of a text
> game that is not a text adventure? What would that mean, exactly?

I've got a couple of (*very* hypothetical) ideas on that score, but I
might actually try to implement them at some point, and I wouldn't want
to spoil the surprise. (How's that for a cop-out?)

One familiar idea is the "simulationist" vision of an artificial-lifey
environment, in which the agents (NPCs) are given "personalities" and
behavioral proclivities, and are set loose to run around and interact
with each other and the player, with (hopefully) interesting and fun
results "emerging" from the low-level interactions.

Here's one of my own half-baked ideas: what about a text-based
"strategy" game of sorts, in which the opponents are text-adventurish
NPCs, and this fact is integral to the gameplay? That is, make it the
kind of strategy game where social interaction *matters*, and is a lot
of what makes the game fun or interesting - the kind of game that
traditionally doesn't translate well to (solo) computer gaming. What if
the game was cooperative - you and the NPCs are all on the same side,
working together towards some (self-selected) goal? Every once in a
while, in the evening, when the light is just right and anything seems
possible, I imagine that there may be whole new *kinds* of games waiting
to burst forth from the cocoon of the "text adventure". But that's just
my fanciful, youthful lyricism running away with me, of course.

Of course.

> How does the simulation of characters differ from the goals of character
> development in narrative forms, such as the text adventure?

Tentatively, I'd consider the goals of "character development in
narrative forms" to be a subset of the many goals one might have in
simulating characters. The two ideas above would require the creation
of NPCs, but not for use in a traditional "text adventure" narrative. I
think the resulting games would be different enough from "text
adventures" to warrant being called something else.

> Whereas if the character is in a story of any sort, I put it to you that
> you've got a text adventure.

It kind of depends on how wide your definitions are of the terms "story"
and "narrative" (and, of course, "text adventure" :). The
artificial-life scenario (in my imagination) would be presented in a
"narrative" much like the traditional text adventure, and the unfolding
events may be at least "story-like". But it wouldn't *feel* anything
like a traditional "text adventure". I don't think.

> Exception: the opening sequence of Andrew Plotkin's "Spider and Web" I
> thought was brilliant for its pacing. But not too far into the game, I had
> to start solving non-trivial puzzles and that ruined the pacing effect for
> me.

Since the moment I finished S&W, I've been mentally constructing a
monumental and erudite essay entitled "Spider And Web: Pacing in IF".
I'm going to start writing it any day now. I promise. [1]

I thought the pacing was brilliant all the way through Spider And Web;
but the concept of "pacing" takes on some interesting twists when
applied to interactive fiction (or at least, *this* kind of interactive
fiction). Pacing here is all about the author's (seemingly impossible)
task of *regulating the speed at which the player figures out what's
going on*. It's about orchestrating "ah-ha!" moments, and S&W does it
better than any game I've played. The puzzles aren't just tacked on to
the game; they *are* the game. Those "ah-ha" moments are the point of
the whole thing, and if you were to remove the puzzles (or make them
ridiculously easy or well-hinted, which is pretty much the same thing)
you'd lose the tension that makes the moments of insight so powerful.

Another issue is that a "cinematic" version of S&W (with easier or
nonexistent puzzles, but the "story" still intact) would be over in
about 10 minutes; in my terms, the "pacing" would be at breakneck speed,
or maybe it would be correct to say there just *wasn't* any pacing. I'm
not sure what you could to to shore it up; a lot more text, I guess.
(As an offhand note, I don't think that S&W would make particularly good
static fiction, in anything like its current form. The interactivity
seems to be so key in what makes it work.)

Anyway, I don't think you're really arguing that S&W would be better
without puzzles; you're just pointing out that it's different than the
kind of IF you'd like to see. For my part, S&W represents a unique and
pretty intense kind of experience - a kind that, for me, justifies the
existence of the whole medium. I wish there were more of it.

> Andrew's work
> is a perfectly good int-fiction game, indeed from what little I played of
> it, it looks to be an excellent int-fiction game in traditional terms.

I agree with Andrew's own comments to the effect that S&W is, *in some
ways*, deeply un-traditional IF. I'll elaborate more on that in the
essay, of course.

Of course.

--
Kory Heath
khe...@best.com

[1] Nothing could be more foolhardy than to promise feedback to an IF
author, *on r.a.if itself*, in full view of the public. [2] But that's
just the kind of crazy, foolhardy... (blah blah blah, you get the
picture).

[2] Now all I have to do is sit back and wait, and hope someone else
will write the damn essay for me. ;)

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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HarryH wrote in message <70opb0$8ar$1...@east43.supernews.com>...

>
>Go read a book. No, really. Read one of those CYOA books. You won't have
the
>pacing ruined. No plot halting due to your own stupidity. Nothing personal,
>Brandon. :)


[I don't take offense.] Is it "stupidity," or the author's usual complete
lack of interest in issues of pacing? Andrew Plotkin's work shows that
pacing can clearly be achieved. I also seem to recall the something
something something and The Sherbet, where at the start you're riding along
on an elephant. It's a good opening, but I got frustrated because it seemed
like you couldn't do anything else, shafted by a puzzle once again....

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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+
Simon 'tufty' Stapleton wrote in message ...

>
>Sorry, Brandon, but that's <rudeword deleted>. If you liked the start of
>the game, then you would have liked the rest. Except it had puzzles. But
>those puzzles were integral to the plot and pacing of the game. And if
>you couldn't be bothered to think through the puzzles, which weren't
>*particularly* hard, then you didn't find out what the hell was going on.
>And if you didn't do that, how can you judge what the game was like?

>
>Yes, puzzles *can* slam the plot to a halt. They don't *always* slam
>the plot to a halt.

It's all about whether the conventions between author and audience are
shared.

I can certainly judge the beginning part of the game, which I played. After
a certain point it went over my "gee I don't want to play this anymore"
threshold. This threshold, as you know, is different for different people.
My point is it's NOT a given that the mass market wants to solve puzzles in
the same way as a hard-core gamer. Or that such puzzles will be perceived
as "easy." Not speaking of Andrew Plotkin in particular, and perhaps more
of you, Simon: I am not sure that IF authors and players realize the extent
to which they are genrefied. You know a whole bunch of conventions about
text adventure gaming that Average Joe Public does not. What you might find
fascinating, Average Joe Public often finds terribly dull.

In fact, securing a *hostile* audience's buy-in is a difficulty that I don't
think many IF authors are pursuing, judging by the handful of works I've
played. IF people mostly write for the IF community. This is tantamount to
a group of writers who mostly like and approve of each other's work, writing
for each other's taste. There's nothing wrong with that and it's a
wonderful community-building process. But when Joe Average shows up, tries
something out, and says "Hey am I supposed to like this or something?" it
puts a fly in the ointment.

To secure a hostile audience, you have to do different things than for an
approving, easily motivated audience. You might have to try a whole lot
harder with pacing, cinematography, grab-ya prose, whatever. I've read
plenty of IF that had good writing in it. I have *not* read any IF to date,
that secured the hostile audience with the same power and conviction of a
good teleplay, or even an average Hollywood film with garden-variety
production values.

Part of this is intrinsic to the medium: the player must do something. Ergo
my current party line: eliminate puzzles, then the player's choices become
MUCH easier. The downside is that the player also whips through it faster,
you don't have a mechanism to slow down his action.

Part of this is the immaturity of the medium. Film basically hasn't changed
since the advent of sound. Computer graphics adds to it, but really,
camerawork is still camerawork, cut scenes are still cut scenes, etc.
Hollywood and others have had a long time to learn about the medium and what
can be done effectively with it. In contrast, IF is a newborn baby! It
hasn't even made it past "the talkies" yet, hasn't even changed its diapers.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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Kory Heath wrote in message <3630507B...@best.com>...

>
>One familiar idea is the "simulationist" vision of an artificial-lifey
>environment, in which the agents (NPCs) are given "personalities" and
>behavioral proclivities, and are set loose to run around and interact
>with each other and the player, with (hopefully) interesting and fun
>results "emerging" from the low-level interactions.


I think it would be a lot easier to do these kinds of games in 3D, because
then you can do geometry processing upon the simulated world. If you do it
in text, you have to do AI text-based processing. At this point in our
computational knowledge, I think the latter problem is considerably harder.

>Here's one of my own half-baked ideas: what about a text-based
>"strategy" game of sorts, in which the opponents are text-adventurish
>NPCs, and this fact is integral to the gameplay? That is, make it the
>kind of strategy game where social interaction *matters*, and is a lot
>of what makes the game fun or interesting - the kind of game that
>traditionally doesn't translate well to (solo) computer gaming. What if
>the game was cooperative - you and the NPCs are all on the same side,
>working together towards some (self-selected) goal?

How do you do it without becoming a rather boring Eliza? One answer: leave
the computer out of the picture. The Game Of Immortals is entirely run by
humans.

>> How does the simulation of characters differ from the goals of character
>> development in narrative forms, such as the text adventure?
>
>Tentatively, I'd consider the goals of "character development in
>narrative forms" to be a subset of the many goals one might have in
>simulating characters. The two ideas above would require the creation
>of NPCs, but not for use in a traditional "text adventure" narrative. I
>think the resulting games would be different enough from "text
>adventures" to warrant being called something else.


Ok, then why do we care about characters, outside of stories? Some
examples:
(1) docudrama. We want to follow around COPS as they bust heads.
(2) medical illustration.
(3) cultural archetype. Show the Ideal person, or the Evil person, or
whatever archetypes are culturally demanded to keep the balance of societal
power flowing smoothly for someone. Women's bodies should be skinny, men's
bodies should have big shoulders and pectorals, etc. Clifford Geertzian
"model of... model for." Actually this is pretty strongly related to the
vicarious experience of (1). Well if you REALLY want to get into it, it can
even inscribe (2), but that's getting deep....

Can you think of any others?

>Another issue is that a "cinematic" version of S&W (with easier or
>nonexistent puzzles, but the "story" still intact) would be over in
>about 10 minutes; in my terms, the "pacing" would be at breakneck speed,
>or maybe it would be correct to say there just *wasn't* any pacing. I'm
>not sure what you could to to shore it up; a lot more text, I guess.

Or a lot more graphics. In 3D, one possibility is distraction. Exploit the
propensity of many players to explore everything they can poke around in.
For geographical toplogy, maybe a medieval maze like London is better than a
pure grid like New York City. Here, the concept of a maze is not used to
befuddle, rather it is used to create interesting twists in the road.


Another possibility is "arcade game" interaction. I use that statement
crudely: it could be any situation where a 3D simulation can take over
temporarily from an otherwise multiple-choice, herd 'em down many paths
plotline.

Distraction translates to text games. Arcade interaction does not, IMHO.
Well, unless you crank out some Eliza that's really interesting to talk to.

>Anyway, I don't think you're really arguing that S&W would be better
>without puzzles; you're just pointing out that it's different than the
>kind of IF you'd like to see.

Agreed.

>For my part, S&W represents a unique and
>pretty intense kind of experience - a kind that, for me, justifies the
>existence of the whole medium. I wish there were more of it.


Well I'll have to give it a second look then!

Sam Barlow

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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On 23 Oct 1998, Simon 'tufty' Stapleton wrote:

> "Brandon Van Every" <vane...@earthlink.net> writes:

> > Exception: the opening sequence of Andrew Plotkin's "Spider and Web" I
> > thought was brilliant for its pacing. But not too far into the game, I had
> > to start solving non-trivial puzzles and that ruined the pacing effect for

> > me. This is where my tastes (and I'm banking mass audience tastes) diverge

> Sorry, Brandon, but that's <rudeword deleted>. If you liked the start of

Surely Brandom chose perhaps the *worst* example possible in trying to
separate plot & puzzle elements-- Spider & Web's "puzzles" *were* its
plot. Maybe Andrew Plotkin should put a disclaimer at the start; -This
is not really an Exciting Spy Adventure (tm)-

And on the issue of replayability; In my experience text wins every
time; because of the reduced interface of Graphic Games (say Riven) once
you have won the game you have pretty much seen everything and performed
every action (if you've clicked on every screen, on every object- that's
it). With a text game I can go back after winning it and quite easily
see 50% more text; trying different actions and getting "funny"
responses, examining scenery that I hadn't before, asking characters
about different things. Because Graphic games *show* you everything and
because it would take so much more development effort to implement
responses to different actions you don't get this. E.g. in a text game
you could type, "Eat table" and get a funny response, or in a comedy
game maybe the character would try to *eat* the table; this takes one
sentence. In a graphic game if you click on the table in the background
you'll just get a *Beep* because it is not related to any particular
puzzle-- and to implement an animated sequence, well the effort isn't
really justified. In Riven, the graphics were *nice* - extremeley
detailed, but this was just more frustrating because I couldn't
interact with the detail-- in a text adventure I could have typed "climb
tree"- if the programmer didn't want me to he could have implemented
"Sorry- the tree is too smooth and you slip down." ; now, in my mind I
have performed this action, the "tree" has treeness; in Riven my
interaction with the photographic-looking tree is limited to clicking on
it, and nothing-happens. It is not a tree, it has no treeness, it is
just a flat graphic.

So to recap; in text adventures our trees have treeness.

Sam.


David Brain

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
to
In article <70og6n$ssc$1...@birch.prod.itd.earthlink.net>, vane...@earthlink.net (Brandon Van Every)
wrote:

> - a text puzzle game? (scrabble, crossword puzzle, The Fool's
> Errand)

Um... I wouldn't have classed The Fool's Errand as a text puzzle game, since the central puzzle was almost
entirely graphical. Certainly it contained lots of textual puzzles, but it also contained picture puzzles.
Some sort of mutant hybrid perhaps. It's still one of the best "puzzle" games ever, though.

--
David Brain

Apotheosis can be somewhat unnerving.
-- Expecting Someone Taller, Tom Holt


Aris Katsaris

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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Brandon Van Every wrote in message
<70pl5n$g4$1...@holly.prod.itd.earthlink.net>...

>In fact, securing a *hostile* audience's buy-in is a difficulty that I
don't
>think many IF authors are pursuing, judging by the handful of works I've
>played. IF people mostly write for the IF community. This is tantamount
to
>a group of writers who mostly like and approve of each other's work,
writing
>for each other's taste. There's nothing wrong with that and it's a
>wonderful community-building process. But when Joe Average shows up, tries
>something out, and says "Hey am I supposed to like this or something?" it
>puts a fly in the ointment.
>
>To secure a hostile audience, you have to do different things than for an
>approving, easily motivated audience. You might have to try a whole lot
>harder with pacing, cinematography, grab-ya prose, whatever. I've read
>plenty of IF that had good writing in it. I have *not* read any IF to
date,
>that secured the hostile audience with the same power and conviction of a
>good teleplay, or even an average Hollywood film with garden-variety
>production values.
>
>Part of this is intrinsic to the medium: the player must do something.
Ergo
>my current party line: eliminate puzzles, then the player's choices become
>MUCH easier. The downside is that the player also whips through it faster,
>you don't have a mechanism to slow down his action.
>

Brandon, the more I read your messages, the more I'm convinced I know a game
which will be perfect for you. 'Photopia' from this year's competition. Go
play it, then
come back.

We'll discuss again then.

Aris Katsaris

J. Robinson Wheeler

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
to
Sam Barlow wrote:

> And on the issue of replayability; In my experience text wins every
> time; because of the reduced interface of Graphic Games (say Riven) once
> you have won the game you have pretty much seen everything and performed
> every action (if you've clicked on every screen, on every object- that's
> it).

You're overgeneralizing both graphic and text games to make your
point, ignoring text games that don't provide extra replayability
and graphic games that do.

> In Riven, the graphics were *nice* - extremeley
> detailed, but this was just more frustrating because I couldn't
> interact with the detail-- in a text adventure I could have typed "climb
> tree"- if the programmer didn't want me to he could have implemented
> "Sorry- the tree is too smooth and you slip down." ; now, in my mind I
> have performed this action, the "tree" has treeness; in Riven my
> interaction with the photographic-looking tree is limited to clicking on
> it, and nothing-happens. It is not a tree, it has no treeness, it is
> just a flat graphic.
>
> So to recap; in text adventures our trees have treeness.

Nonsense. I recently tried playing "Stationfall," and the parser
didn't recognize anything from the room descriptions, only separate
objects that were obvious -- by analogy, 'clickable'. Only games
by really fussy authors allow for special parser-recognition of
every bit of scenery. Graham Nelson doesn't even go that far, and
made sure Inform had a generic "You don't need to refer to that"
hack as a shortcut for himself and other programmers to use.

I like trees to have treeness, but it has nothing to do with the
difference between graphic and text games. I've found that LucasArts
games have a lot of treeness. In "Day of the Tentacle" I made every
character interact with every object in as many ways as possible, and
often got extra, silly responses for my effort.

It's all effort and diligence and time, and that's it.


--
J. Robinson Wheeler
whe...@jump.net http://www.jump.net/~wheeler/jrw/home.html

o...@mailcity.com

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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Aris Katsaris wrote:
> Brandon, the more I read your messages, the more I'm convinced I know a game
> which will be perfect for you. 'Photopia' from this year's competition. Go
> play it, then come back.
>
> We'll discuss again then.

But please do not discuss it until after the contest is over. Rules are
rules (and if Photopia got disqualified I would be sort of upset.)

Opal

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Stephen van Egmond

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
to
In article <70pl5n$g4$1...@holly.prod.itd.earthlink.net>,

Brandon Van Every <vane...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>Part of this is intrinsic to the medium: the player must do something. Ergo
>my current party line: eliminate puzzles, then the player's choices become
>MUCH easier. The downside is that the player also whips through it faster,
>you don't have a mechanism to slow down his action.

Then, what counts as a puzzle. I think that as long as IF's interface is

> _

and the user is challenged to think of something to respond, there are
puzzles. Riven showing you a pretty picture with things to click on is
not appreciably different.

A book on software usability I read last year took a few pot-shots at
adventure games: the author's point was that adventure games are software
which subvert the UI principle of visibility: you can see what you can do
and how you do it just by looking at the screen. With a book, it's easy
to see how to advance the story: turn the page. With a text file being
run through "more", it's almost as easy: hit the space bar. With a
typical adventure game, the user is presented with a tantalizing world
full of things and people, which has a sign on it saying, "play with me".
How? All the computer's giving them is

> _

and perhaps some stuff about "type 'help' for instructions on how to
interact with this game". This help usually catalogues the GET, DROP,
DON, INVENTORY, N, W, NW type of commands, then dumps the user back to

> _

There are innmerable ways of presenting prose to the reader:

1. linear
books, `more`

2. linear-branching
Choose your own adventure falls under this, almost as a degenerate
case of hypertext-links, by eliminating cycles in the graph.

3. linear-hypertext
Consider http://plg.uwaterloo.ca/~plragde/

4. linear-hypertext with obscurity
Interactive fiction would fall under this situation, since it
operates via a finite state machine. This one virtually demands puzzles
by virtue of the fact you can't see everything that can be done. If you
can, it falls into 2 or 3, above.

Eliminating puzzles produces a distinctly different experience. Though it
would broaden the audience for the work, you end up working with a
completely different "space" of stories that can be told in the medium,
some of which happens to intersect with current IF.

/Steve
--
,,,
(. .)
+--ooO-(_)-Ooo------------ --- -- - - - -
| Stephen van Egmond http://bang.ml.org/

Roger Carbol

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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Stephen van Egmond wrote:

> 4. linear-hypertext with obscurity
> Interactive fiction would fall under this situation, since it
> operates via a finite state machine. This one virtually demands puzzles
> by virtue of the fact you can't see everything that can be done.


There are computer games which are not finite state machines?

.. Roger Carbol .. r...@shaw.wave.ca .. make it sew

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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o...@mailcity.com wrote in message <70qls3$fg$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>...

>Aris Katsaris wrote:
>> Brandon, the more I read your messages, the more I'm convinced I know a
game
>> which will be perfect for you. 'Photopia' from this year's competition.
Go
>> play it, then come back.
>>
>> We'll discuss again then.
>
>But please do not discuss it until after the contest is over. Rules are
>rules (and if Photopia got disqualified I would be sort of upset.)


Ok dok will do.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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Stephen van Egmond wrote in message ...
>In article <70pl5n$g4$1...@holly.prod.itd.earthlink.net>,

>
>Then, what counts as a puzzle. I think that as long as IF's interface is
>
>> _
>
>and the user is challenged to think of something to respond, there are
>puzzles. Riven showing you a pretty picture with things to click on is
>not appreciably different.


There are other metaphors of response, such as exploration, or revelation,
or twisting the meaning on a second reading. A short example, punctuate and
capitalize the following sequence of words:

woman without her man is nothing

>Eliminating puzzles produces a distinctly different experience. Though it
>would broaden the audience for the work, you end up working with a
>completely different "space" of stories that can be told in the medium,
>some of which happens to intersect with current IF.


This I find a conundrum. (Personal anecdote mode on, here he goes again.)
Currently I'm involved in 2 PBEM RPGs. One is The Game Of Immortals, which
I'm running. We have 8 people, I daresay they're all good writers, and we
are working easily together. Another is Star Trek: The Andromeda Destiny
which is a big RPG club with a lot of people, highly variant in RPG and
writing abilities, and a chain of command for how stories and plotlines will
be resolved. The look-and-feel of the two groups is very different, to my
tastes the ST:TAD has a lot more machinery (i.e. looseness of storyline)
than TGOI. Yet, I see a common denominator for what makes either of these
story projects interesting. It's the "moment of revelation." It's cool
when the God of Ants roars. Ants aren't supposed to roar. It's cool when
after a series of bureaucratic fumbles, someone realizes that the Lt. Jr.
Grade down in engineering knows more about how the alien space engines work
than anyone on the bridge. It's the "Wesley saves the Enterprise" plotline,
aka smart nimble students know what they're doing and corporate old-timers
don't. Part of what makes the moments of revelation powerful is how they
interface to our thoughts and beliefs about the real world. It's a
fictional story, but at a metaphoric level the story is about the world we
live in, what we think about it, how we think it does work or should work.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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Sam Barlow wrote in message ...

>
>Surely Brandom chose perhaps the *worst* example possible in trying to
>separate plot & puzzle elements-- Spider & Web's "puzzles" *were* its
>plot. Maybe Andrew Plotkin should put a disclaimer at the start; -This
>is not really an Exciting Spy Adventure (tm)-


I thought it was a *very* exciting spy adventure for the first 5 minutes.
The "moments of revelation" were terribly powerful, and they hit you bang,
bang, bang. Even the initial nausea of trying to beat your head against an
unopenable door, the rudeness of an apparently unfathomable puzzle,
contributed to the pacing as it was a big setup.

For me though, I don't think "banging your head against a wall" had more
mileage than once at the opening. When required to solve more puzzles, I
felt like "gee am I going to have to bang my head against the wall again?
Is it worth my time?"

John Giors

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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>>Who says that the content of text games had to be of the text
>>adventure variety? Not every book is a love story. Could we really
>>do something compelling with text games that would be
>>difficult in other forms?
>
>Ok, but can you give a concrete (hypothetical is fine) example of a text
>game that is not a text adventure? What would that mean, exactly?
>
>- a text wargame? (Been there, done that.)
>- a text arcade game? (Wordtris?)
>- a text puzzle game? (scrabble, crossword puzzle, The Fool's Errand)
>- a text rhyming game? (Parappa the Rappa)
>- a text convesation? (Eliza)
>- something else?

I don't understand why its necessary to provide an example. Anyone can
provide his/her own in the replies. I figured people would come up with
their own ideas. I'll throw in my own if I have time.

>>We could concentrate on one
>>of the things that has eluded game design for so long--the simulation
>>of interesting characters that have some depth.
>

>How does the simulation of characters differ from the goals of character

>development in narrative forms, such as the text adventure? Is it just
>going to be an Eliza that people find interesting to talk to? What makes
it
>interesting to talk to this Eliza?

Not just a single Eliza character. Honestly, I don't know how to go about
doing this--I mentioned it was technologically very difficult. I'm not even
sure which form would be possible or interesting. That's why I posed the
question.

Character development would be much different in a game than in a book.
I don't think any specified linear (or even pre-determined branches) need
to be established, only characters and setting.

Wouldn't it be cool to be able to play a game that is the equivalent of
"Lord of the Flies". Only, there isn't any predetermined path from
beginning
to end. There's a bunch of 13 year old boys stranded on an island
that you have to negotiate with,
befriend, betray, gain power over, etc. You've got to survive long enough
for the helicopters to show up. The kids slowly move from "normal" kids to
tribesmen. Your most likely path to success is to become the head of a clan
(but
one of the others becomes the head of a second. Eventually, you
have wars. Hopefully your character survives and you don't compromise
your principles too much.

This is the kind of thing I'm talking about (it's hypothetical--please don't
post
that the example requires graphics or doesn't exactly fit in text form).
Doing
this kind of a game convincingly
with our present understanding of character behavior modeling would be
impossible. This is the kind of thing I want people to be able to do in
games at some point. I think it is achievable, but it is 1000 times an
Eliza.

Note that it's not up to the game designer to provide a story or plot. Only
the characters and setting. It's up to the player(s) to create their own
stories by playing the game.

IMO, far too much emphasis is placed on trying to force plot or story onto
games. I like to think more in terms of an "allegory", where characters
represent ideas (the character has specific traits that are
emphasized--greed,
passion, etc.). You can write stories that are allegories as well as making
games that are allegories (we just don't know how to program those games
yet).
I think the comparison between games and other media works better
thru allegory than thru plot.

>Whereas if the character is in a story of any sort, I put it to you that

>you've got a text adventure. Not all books are novels, but all novels are
>novels.

Well, I think that most people take the term "text adventure" to mean:

"go north"
You're in a new room.
"pick up book"
I don't understand 'pick up'
"get book"
Do you mean 'red book' or 'blue book'
"arrrrrgh"
I don't understand 'arrrrrgh'

So, you can technically state "any game using text is a text adventure", but
people will still think of the above and the connection to solving puzzles
rather
than some other form. The original posts seemed to be constrained
by the ideas of this type of game, so I thought it was appropriate to
mention
that we could think outside those constraints.


John Giors
Software Engineer
Eagle Interactive

jgi...@NOSPAMeagle-interactive.com

-----------------------------------------------------------

"Never, ever quote yourself." -- John Giors

"When you want to fool the world, tell the truth." -- Otto Von Bismark

John Giors

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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J. Robinson Wheeler wrote in message <3630B1FF...@jump.net>...

>Sam Barlow wrote:
>
>> And on the issue of replayability; In my experience text wins every
>> time; because of the reduced interface of Graphic Games (say Riven) once
>> you have won the game you have pretty much seen everything and performed
>> every action (if you've clicked on every screen, on every object- that's
>> it).
>
>You're overgeneralizing both graphic and text games to make your
>point, ignoring text games that don't provide extra replayability
>and graphic games that do.


I think its true that the games vary, but text adventures are more likely
to provide more "extras" because the cost of developing those extras is
subtantially less. The question probably becomes, "Is each 'exploding
cigar' in Day of the Tentacle better than ten descriptions in a text game?"

<snip>

>Nonsense. I recently tried playing "Stationfall," and the parser
>didn't recognize anything from the room descriptions, only separate
>objects that were obvious -- by analogy, 'clickable'. Only games
>by really fussy authors allow for special parser-recognition of
>every bit of scenery. Graham Nelson doesn't even go that far, and
>made sure Inform had a generic "You don't need to refer to that"
>hack as a shortcut for himself and other programmers to use.


I think we could eventually get to the point where the parser is "smart"
enough to "understand" every word that appears in the text. I envision
this as a design environment issue (you wouldn't want to have to generate
info on every word for every game).

edr...@concentric.net

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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>So to recap; in text adventures our trees have treeness.


Except for:

>CLIMB TREE
That's not something you need to worry about during the course of this game.

or:

>CLIMB TREE
I don't think much is to be achieved by that.

or even:

>CLIMB TREE
You can't see any such thing!

The tree in Riven didn't have treeness because the programmers decided not
to, or didn't think to, put it in. The same mistake can be and often is made
in text adventures.

The lack of interactivity isn't intrinsic to graphics games. It's a matter
of how completely the programmers develop their game, regardless of the
medium.

--M
================================================
"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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John Giors wrote in message <36312...@blushng.jps.net>...

>>
>>Ok, but can you give a concrete (hypothetical is fine) example of a text
>>game that is not a text adventure? What would that mean, exactly?
>>
>>- a text wargame? (Been there, done that.)
>>- a text arcade game? (Wordtris?)
>>- a text puzzle game? (scrabble, crossword puzzle, The Fool's Errand)
>>- a text rhyming game? (Parappa the Rappa)
>>- a text convesation? (Eliza)
>>- something else?
>
>I don't understand why its necessary to provide an example. Anyone can
>provide his/her own in the replies. I figured people would come up with
>their own ideas. I'll throw in my own if I have time.


I think it's necessary because it's not obvious, to me at least, what a text
game is going to be if not a text adventure. I like the theoretical idea
that such a game *could* exist, but whether it's possible, I am dubious.
Hence my desire to categorize the possible uses of text.

>Character development would be much different in a game than in a book.
>I don't think any specified linear (or even pre-determined branches) need
>to be established, only characters and setting.


Unless the game is about characters liking "red triangles" vs. "green
polygons," i.e. simulationist evolutionary behavior, I think you're going to
get forced into pre-specified plot developments, even if they're nonlinear
or highly branching. If only so that human beings can identify with the
characters and project themselves into the action. Is there a mechanism of
audience projection that defies plot creation?

>Wouldn't it be cool to be able to play a game that is the equivalent of
>"Lord of the Flies". Only, there isn't any predetermined path from
>beginning
>to end. There's a bunch of 13 year old boys stranded on an island
>that you have to negotiate with,
>befriend, betray, gain power over, etc. You've got to survive long enough
>for the helicopters to show up. The kids slowly move from "normal" kids to
>tribesmen. Your most likely path to success is to become the head of a
clan
>(but
>one of the others becomes the head of a second. Eventually, you
>have wars. Hopefully your character survives and you don't compromise
>your principles too much.


Ok, "Lord of The Flies, The Wargame." How do we make this truly different
from "Sid Meyer's Civilization, The Wargame?"

>Doing
>this kind of a game convincingly
>with our present understanding of character behavior modeling would be
>impossible. This is the kind of thing I want people to be able to do in
>games at some point. I think it is achievable, but it is 1000 times an
>Eliza.

>
>Note that it's not up to the game designer to provide a story or plot.
Only
>the characters and setting. It's up to the player(s) to create their own
>stories by playing the game.


What does this super-Eliza think about, if not plot?

>IMO, far too much emphasis is placed on trying to force plot or story onto
>games. I like to think more in terms of an "allegory", where characters
>represent ideas (the character has specific traits that are
>emphasized--greed,
>passion, etc.). You can write stories that are allegories as well as
making
>games that are allegories (we just don't know how to program those games
>yet).
>I think the comparison between games and other media works better
>thru allegory than thru plot.


Ok, what's the list of archetypes you want to represent? Also, are you
familiar with Chris Crawford's "The Erasmatron?" No, it's not a kinky sex
device from Woody Allen's "Sleeper." :-)
http://www.erasmatazz.com/index.html

I will try one of my reductive, talking-out-of-my-ass suppositions and see
if it sticks.
Plot = recursion over human emotive states = archetypes.

Peter Cowderoy/PSYCHO

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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HarryH <har...@iu.net.idiotic.com.skip.idiotic.com> wrote in article

<70opb0$8ar$1...@east43.supernews.com>...
> Go read a book. No, really. Read one of those CYOA books. You won't have
the
> pacing ruined. No plot halting due to your own stupidity. Nothing
personal,
> Brandon. :)
>

Hah! You could at least recommend one of the better series of gamebooks! :)
(I used to read the Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy series when I was about
10)

> <rant>
> I've been thinking. In the old days, where people actually buys these
things,
> it was common for them to spend weeks/months playing a game, and that
made
> them feel good because they got their money's worth.
>
> Now, MA is supposed to be filled with extremely short IF stories? Is
shorter
> really better? It's troubling enough that people think puzzles have no
place
> in IF, now they're complaining about pacing. Pacing! Something that IF
> players cannot take for granted.
> </rant>
>

This argument applies to a lot of genres, and I'm honestly not sure which
way to go. Quake II single-player was great for the first time through, and
completely useless afterwards. As a result, I'm damn glad it was my brother
paying for it ;) - but those couple of days playing through the game were
excellent, and I'd far rather have it like that than the same amount of
enjoyment thinned out over three times as long.

Similar arguments apply to Final Fantasy 7 - I keep hearing times for the
first game through of 80+ hours - I did it in under 50, and that was with a
fair amount of messing about on Disc 3. But the thing is, it was more fun
that way! The plot was actually moving, at a rate that really grabbed me.
My homework got started a lot later for about a week and a half :)

I have some not-so-pleasant memories of being bored out of my head with
some stupid puzzle, and I'm not exactly stupid. And seeing as I'm a fairly
heavy gamer, I'm a lot more likely to be able to solve 'typical' puzzles -
think what the casual or not-so-skilled gamer will be stuck with. It's not
a pleasant idea, is it?

--------------------------------------------------
psy...@nthfen.demon.co.uk

'In Ankh-Morpork even the shit have a street to itself...
Truly, this is a land of oppurtunity' - Detritus, Men at Arms

Kory Heath

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Oct 23, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/23/98
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Brandon Van Every wrote:
> I think it would be a lot easier to do these kinds of games in 3D, because
> then you can do geometry processing upon the simulated world. If you do it
> in text, you have to do AI text-based processing. At this point in our
> computational knowledge, I think the latter problem is considerably harder.

Well, I'm not sure how you'd define "AI text-based processing", but in
my view the really hard part of a project like this would be designing
the a-life engine (or more specifically, the NPC behavior model), which
you'd need whether you go with a text interface or a 3D engine. I think
a more important question, when choosing between a text-based
environment and a 3D graphical one, is: which one models the world at
the grain size I'm interested in? For the kind of game I'm envisioning,
the answer is unquestionably "text". I don't *want* to build an NPC
behavior model in which the NPC has to deal with moving through 3-space,
doing line-of-sight calculations, figuring out where other NPCs are in
relation to itself, walking over to them, etc., etc. Those are
incidentals, at a lower grain size than I'm interested in.

I'm not convinced we're really on the same page here; I'm not sure what
you're envisioning when you imagine an a-life scenario with a 3D engine,
but I have a suspicion it's not much like what I envisioned in the
original idea.

> How do you do it without becoming a rather boring Eliza?

Well, I didn't spell out a concrete picture of what such a game would be
like (because I don't have one - like I said, the idea's only half-baked
:), but don't my impressionistic ramblings at least *suggest* something
more interesting and game-like than a "boring Eliza"? At the very
least, there would be multiple "Elizas", with different "personalities",
who are NPCs in a text-game like environment. (In this case, the
suggested environment was a strategy-style game, which would be another
step away from the traditional text-adventure format.) Maybe it
wouldn't end up being very much *fun*, but it wouldn't be just another
version of Eliza.

Anyway, I never imagined the NPCs as specifically Eliza-like. I don't
really know that they'd be like - it's just a suggestive fantasy, after
all. I do know that I'm uncomfortable with the way that "Eliza" always
gets bandied about in these kind of discussions, as if there are only
two possibilities for implementing better NPCs: some version of Eliza,
or full-fledged Turing-Test-passable AI. I don't believe that at all.

> Ok, then why do we care about characters, outside of stories?

Maybe computer NPCs can be important as interactive partners in "events"
and "games" that are too loose and undirected to be called "stories".
After all, I care about other "characters" in real life, which is not,
by my definitions, a "story".

--
Kory Heath
khe...@best.com

Aris Katsaris

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
to

o...@mailcity.com wrote in message <70qls3$fg$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>...
>Aris Katsaris wrote:
>> Brandon, the more I read your messages, the more I'm convinced I know a
game
>> which will be perfect for you. 'Photopia' from this year's competition.
Go
>> play it, then come back.
>>
>> We'll discuss again then.
>
>But please do not discuss it until after the contest is over. Rules are
>rules (and if Photopia got disqualified I would be sort of upset.)


Ok. I apologise. I thought that it was only the authors who weren't allowed
to discuss the
games but I admit I haven't read the rules extremely well. But I won't
discuss the game


until after the contest is over.

Aris Katsaris

Andrew Plotkin

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
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Simon 'tufty' Stapleton (nob...@no.bloody.where) wrote:
> "Brandon Van Every" <vane...@earthlink.net> writes:

> > Exception: the opening sequence of Andrew Plotkin's "Spider and Web" I
> > thought was brilliant for its pacing. But not too far into the game, I had
> > to start solving non-trivial puzzles and that ruined the pacing effect for
> > me.

> Sorry, Brandon, but that's <rudeword deleted>. If you liked the start of

> the game, then you would have liked the rest. Except it had puzzles. But
> those puzzles were integral to the plot and pacing of the game. And if
> you couldn't be bothered to think through the puzzles, which weren't
> *particularly* hard, then you didn't find out what the hell was going on.

I've been mostly ignoring this thread, because the first two posts I read
in it were "You're an asshole" and "See what an asshole he is?"

I dropped in in the middle to see if anything had changed. Whee.

For the record, my position as an author is "I wrote the game that way
because I thought it worked best." And my judgement of "best", like
anybody's, is subjective.

(== "a bunch of blind prejudices masquerading as Art." And so what?)

--Z

--

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

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
to
: Ok, but can you give a concrete (hypothetical is fine) example of

a text
: game that is not a text adventure? What would that mean, exactly?
:
: - a text wargame? (Been there, done that.)
: - a text arcade game? (Wordtris?)

Kingdom of Kroz?

: - a text puzzle game? (scrabble, crossword puzzle, The Fool's


Errand)
: - a text rhyming game? (Parappa the Rappa)
: - a text convesation? (Eliza)
: - something else?

The Chicken Under the Window? I suppose that *could* be
considered an adventure...
What about a game version of some other form of literature
than adventure -- comedy, romance, or what-have-you?

Sure, Zork has elements of comedy, and Plundered Hearts has
elements of romance, but both also have elements of
adventure. What if you left out the adventure and just
had comedy or something?

: So that there can be no misunderstanding from people new to my


diatribes: I
: am VERY far on the end of puzzle / no-puzzle spectrum. My current
belief is
: "screw puzzles.

You're not required to have any puzzles in your games.
You're not required to play games with puzzles, either.

But I'm sure you realise that now you've stepped away
from *traditional* IF. That may not be bad, but it's
different. Personally, I'm somewhere in-between,
in the realm of "no hour-long headbang sessions,
but include some minor puzzlers". Puzzles, of course,
come in grades of difficulty.

--
[Insert hilarious quote here.]

-- jonadab

HarryH

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
to
In article <70pfp9$fqs$1...@nthfen.demon.co.uk>, pe...@nthfen.demon.co.uk
says...

>HarryH <har...@iu.net.idiotic.com.skip.idiotic.com> wrote in article
><70opb0$8ar$1...@east43.supernews.com>...
>> Go read a book. No, really. Read one of those CYOA books. You won't have
>the
>> pacing ruined. No plot halting due to your own stupidity. Nothing
>personal,
>Hah! You could at least recommend one of the better series of gamebooks! :)
>(I used to read the Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy series when I was about
>10)

Sorry. I really didn't have any experience with RPG gamebooks, so I'm not
qualified to recommend them. Of course, you're free to recommend any you
think is good.

>I have some not-so-pleasant memories of being bored out of my head with
>some stupid puzzle, and I'm not exactly stupid. And seeing as I'm a fairly
>heavy gamer, I'm a lot more likely to be able to solve 'typical' puzzles -
>think what the casual or not-so-skilled gamer will be stuck with. It's not
>a pleasant idea, is it?

Depends on the puzzle. See, it's this development that bothers me. People
nowadays are used to sit in front of TV and basically becomes couch potatoes.
If there's any problem, just sit and wait. The problem will either be gone in
half an hour or next week.

When we cross barrier, it seems that people are expecting IF just like TV.
But IF is not TV. IF is different. You have to work at those puzzles. Some of
them really, really hard. If IF has to grab the attention of the short
attention spanned, then IF is doomed. Better stick with RPG/CYOA.

What am I supposed to do? Say something like:
"Hey, this sitcom is bad! There's no text in it!"
"Hey, this IF is bad! I have to type something!"
"Hey, this word processor is buggy! It doesn't do spreadsheet!"

Hmmm?

-------------------------------------------------------
Of course I'll work on weekends without pay!
- successful applicant


Sam Barlow

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
to
On 23 Oct 1998 edr...@concentric.net wrote:

> Except for:


> >CLIMB TREE
> You can't see any such thing!
>
> The tree in Riven didn't have treeness because the programmers decided not
> to, or didn't think to, put it in. The same mistake can be and often is made
> in text adventures.

Yes, but my problem with Riven was that *none* of the scenery had any
interactivity; if you looked at all the possible actions (i.e. rendered
actions) in the game then 99% would have been necessary in order to win.
In an **average** text game I would estimate only about 50% of the text
you see is "essential".

> The lack of interactivity isn't intrinsic to graphics games. It's a matter
> of how completely the programmers develop their game, regardless of the
> medium.

In a perfect world. But in the above example, to remedy the problem in
a text game all that is needed is;

Climb,Enter: "You try to scale the tree, but without a decent
foothold you find yourself slipping off.";

In Riven, the programmers would have had to make a lot more effort
(needless to say the problem of performing an action such as "climbing"
in a POV game like Riven is great in itself; the standard seems to be
that only hand-manipulation actions are possible).

Sam.

R. Alan Monroe

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
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In article <01bdfefe$38955160$LocalHost@jonadab>, "Jonadab the Unsightly One" <jon...@zerospam.com> wrote:
>Sure, Zork has elements of comedy, and Plundered Hearts has
>elements of romance, but both also have elements of
>adventure. What if you left out the adventure and just
>had comedy or something?

Nord and Bert!
Especially the trite sitcom subgame... heh heh.

Have fun
Alan

Stephen van Egmond

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
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In article <36308D...@shaw.wave.ca>, Roger Carbol <r...@shaw.wave.ca> wrote:

>Stephen van Egmond wrote:
>> Interactive fiction would fall under this situation, since it
>> operates via a finite state machine. This one virtually demands puzzles
>> by virtue of the fact you can't see everything that can be done.
>
>There are computer games which are not finite state machines?

Where did I imply that?

Stephen van Egmond

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
to
Perhaps the long-windedness of my post led you to miss my point.

I argued that the interface of text games (a blank text prompt) implies
the existence of a puzzle. Do you suggest (a) modifying the interface to
the game (one example would be Journey) or (b) explaining what you mean by
a puzzle when you say "let's eliminate the puzzles, they get in the way
of a progressing plot"?

It is also essential to realize that changing the mode of interaction
carves out entire classes of expression in the medium, while of course
opening up new ones.

In my opinion, the current mode of interaction is the most satisfying to
the people who write it because it's so damn hard[1], and it's most
satisfying to the audience that plays it because they can appreciate the
difficulty in creating it. Of course, this is your original complaint
about text adventures (as I understand it): something written by and for
only the people who are involved in it.

But then, I've always felt that way about modern dance, and as far as I
can tell, they're not interested in making it more accessible to me,
except to the extent that their livelihood may depend on it.

[1] On Jigsaw and 'I', Graham Nelson
<http://www.users.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzy.6e.html>

/Steve

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
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Kory Heath wrote in message <36316B09...@best.com>...

>
>I don't *want* to build an NPC
>behavior model in which the NPC has to deal with moving through 3-space,
>doing line-of-sight calculations, figuring out where other NPCs are in
>relation to itself, walking over to them, etc., etc. Those are
>incidentals, at a lower grain size than I'm interested in.
>
>> How do you do it without becoming a rather boring Eliza?
>
>Well, I didn't spell out a concrete picture of what such a game would be
>like (because I don't have one - like I said, the idea's only half-baked
>:), but don't my impressionistic ramblings at least *suggest* something
>more interesting and game-like than a "boring Eliza"?

Sure. I'm trying to force you to bake the idea. What's the point in
suggesting a wonderful AI if you don't define its requirments? By forcing
you to bake, we're getting closer to being on the same page.

>At the very
>least, there would be multiple "Elizas", with different "personalities",
>who are NPCs in a text-game like environment. (In this case, the
>suggested environment was a strategy-style game, which would be another
>step away from the traditional text-adventure format.) Maybe it
>wouldn't end up being very much *fun*, but it wouldn't be just another
>version of Eliza.


Where does "personality" come from? A series of authorial hard-codes? A
simulation of a pituitary gland reacting to an environment? What will give
it cohesion, so that we can recognize and point at consistent behavior?

>I do know that I'm uncomfortable with the way that "Eliza" always
>gets bandied about in these kind of discussions, as if there are only
>two possibilities for implementing better NPCs: some version of Eliza,
>or full-fledged Turing-Test-passable AI. I don't believe that at all.


Well, suggest the alternatives. I'm playing Devil's Advocate. I'm saying
there are none, and that you're going to be forced to write a traditional
narrative in order overcome the problem.

>> Ok, then why do we care about characters, outside of stories?
>
>Maybe computer NPCs can be important as interactive partners in "events"
>and "games" that are too loose and undirected to be called "stories".

Then again, maybe they are stories, but poor ones?

>After all, I care about other "characters" in real life, which is not,
>by my definitions, a "story".


Actually from the view of a cultural anthropologist, much of our behavior
towards others in life is scripted.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
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Sam Barlow wrote in message ...
>
>In a perfect world. But in the above example, to remedy the problem in
>a text game all that is needed is;
>
> Climb,Enter: "You try to scale the tree, but without a decent
>foothold you find yourself slipping off.";


Doesn't remedy it for me, I find it boring. Just a fancy way of saying "You
can't go there." Ergo, I don't mind inaction from an environment because
completion of simulation is not what I'm looking for.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
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HarryH wrote in message <70so20$506$1...@east42.supernews.com>...

>
>Depends on the puzzle. See, it's this development that bothers me. People
>nowadays are used to sit in front of TV and basically becomes couch
potatoes.
>If there's any problem, just sit and wait. The problem will either be gone
in
>half an hour or next week.


I have to point out the matters of taste here. See, computer geeks sit in
front of a monitor playing games for hours and hours. (Or Usenet! :-)
They don't take care of their bodies and they get more and more out of
shape. Wait, you say that you exercise regularly as well as doing computer
games? Ok, then you see the fallacy in blaming it all on the TV couch
potatos. They might have otherwise active lives, and not feel like dealing
with intellectual mental gymnastics at the end of the day.

IMHO hybrids between passive and active entertainment have validity. If you
want to sit and let the game sweep you along, great. If you want to change
the course of events, great. I envision a model where you're not forced to
do one or the other, you have a choice.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
to

Stephen van Egmond wrote in message ...
>Perhaps the long-windedness of my post led you to miss my point.
>
>I argued that the interface of text games (a blank text prompt) implies
>the existence of a puzzle.

It's not the blank text prompt that implies a puzzle. It's when the blank
text prompt doesn't DO anything, that implies a puzzle. If instead the
blank prompt waits 30 seconds, then displays something, then gives you a
chance to respond again, there's no puzzle implied. Only communication is
implied.

edr...@concentric.net

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Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
to
>It's not the blank text prompt that implies a puzzle. It's when the blank
>text prompt doesn't DO anything, that implies a puzzle. If instead the
>blank prompt waits 30 seconds, then displays something, then gives you a
>chance to respond again, there's no puzzle implied. Only communication is
>implied.


Borderzone, from Infocom.

Kory Heath

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Oct 25, 1998, 2:00:00 AM10/25/98
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Brandon Van Every wrote:

> Sure. I'm trying to force you to bake the idea. What's the point in
> suggesting a wonderful AI if you don't define its requirments?

[snip]


> Where does "personality" come from? A series of authorial hard-codes? A
> simulation of a pituitary gland reacting to an environment? What will give
> it cohesion, so that we can recognize and point at consistent behavior?

Well, these are are interesting and important questions in their own
right, but we've kind of strayed from the original context of my
ramblings. Remember that the original question was (paraphrased) "are
there other, unexplored genres of text-based games possible that
wouldn't be considered text-adventures?", with a follow-up question of
"could (maybe text-adventure-style, maybe not) NPCs be used in such a
game, without turning the game into a text-adventure?" My answers are
"yes" and "yes", and the idea of a text-based strategy-game with NPCs
was an off-the-cuff example.

I'd love to know the details of the design of such a game as much as you
would; however, I'm arguing that I don't need to know those details to
make the point I wanted to make, which is simply that other kinds of
text games and other uses for NPCs are imaginable. No matter how you
end up implementing these NPCs - whether it's an Eliza-like
bag-of-tricks, full-fledged AI, multiple choice character interaction,
or standard IF character interaction (examine character, ask character
about X, push character) - the game is still not going to be what I
would call a "text-adventure".

> Actually from the view of a cultural anthropologist, much of our behavior
> towards others in life is scripted.

I wouldn't disagree with that, but I still want to draw a distinction
(even if it's fuzzy-edged) between "stories" and "narratives" in their
full-fledged, structural artistic sense, and the kinds of events that
happen to me in every day life, or the kinds of events that would arise
in an undirected text-based a-life scenario, or the kinds of events that
happen in the playing out of a strategy game.

--
Kory Heath
khe...@best.com

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 25, 1998, 2:00:00 AM10/25/98
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Kory Heath wrote in message <36339561...@best.com>...

>
>I'd love to know the details of the design of such a game as much as you
>would; however, I'm arguing that I don't need to know those details to
>make the point I wanted to make, which is simply that other kinds of
>text games and other uses for NPCs are imaginable.

We are arguing opposite points. I am saying that you can imagine whatever
you like, but you cannot escape the reduction to more conventional forms of
storytelling. Ergo, there is no such "out of bounds" text game
that-is-not-text-adventure. By examining the specific details of what this
game would entail, I believe you will arrive right back at narration and
storytelling. A simple way to put it: you don't get something for nothing.
Simulationist thinking is not a magic bullet for creating cohesion upon the
human condition.

I'd be happy to be proven wrong, which is why I'm trying to get people to
talk about specifics instead of claiming the generalities are feasible.

>> Actually from the view of a cultural anthropologist, much of our behavior
>> towards others in life is scripted.
>
>I wouldn't disagree with that, but I still want to draw a distinction
>(even if it's fuzzy-edged) between "stories" and "narratives" in their
>full-fledged, structural artistic sense, and the kinds of events that
>happen to me in every day life, or the kinds of events that would arise
>in an undirected text-based a-life scenario, or the kinds of events that
>happen in the playing out of a strategy game.


Ok, let's start naming some events. I'd suggest that you start with
examples from your own life, so that they are concrete and accessible.
Specify how these events shall arise from simulationist mechanisms. Let's
discuss what makes these events and their implementation solutions wholly
different from narrative forms.

Kory Heath

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Oct 25, 1998, 2:00:00 AM10/25/98
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Brandon Van Every wrote:
>
> We are arguing opposite points. I am saying that you can imagine whatever
> you like, but you cannot escape the reduction to more conventional forms of
> storytelling. Ergo, there is no such "out of bounds" text game
> that-is-not-text-adventure. By examining the specific details of what this
> game would entail, I believe you will arrive right back at narration and
> storytelling.

You keep saying "you cannot escape" storytelling, and "you will arrive
right back at" narration, as if this was a matter of inexorable logic,
but I don't see it. Where is the "invisible hand" forcing me into the
traditional IF channels of storytelling? I'm describing a scenario that
simply doesn't have a story, period - it's a strategy game, with NPCs as
the players, and an IF-like interface. I don't think I need to specify
any extra detail about the NPC engine to make my point.

Anyway, you may be simply *defining* "story" as (say) "any sequence of
events involving characters", and "narrative" as "any text describing
those events" - something I've been half-suspecting all along. If
that's the case, then your definitions are simply wider than mine are,
and we're talking past each other.

However, in this case I have a sneaking suspicion that what you're
really saying is: you'll be forced back into more traditional narrative
and storytelling because you'll realize the game isn't much fun without
it. If that's what you're saying, I cry foul; you're equating "what's
logically possible" with "what I (Brandon) would personally enjoy
playing". Whether or not you (or anyone else) would actually enjoy such
a game is incidental to whether such a game could actually exist, and
whether it actually is a "text-game which employs NPCs but doesn't
involve storytelling, and doesn't really feel much like a
text-adventure."

> A simple way to put it: you don't get something for nothing.
> Simulationist thinking is not a magic bullet for creating cohesion upon the
> human condition.

This is what makes me think I'm on the right track with the second
interpretation (above). *I* never claimed I wanted to create "cohesion
upon the human condition" (whatever that means :) - that's an extra
condition you've smuggled in. It may be that the overarching themes,
cohesiveness, sense-of-drama, etc., found in traditional stories *do*
require the use of traditional narrative structure and technique, and it
may be that *you* aren't interested in text games that don't provide
that kind of thing, but it doesn't mean that other kinds of games can't
exist. You may be reading me as a "simulationist" who hopes that good
high-level stories and narratives might just "fall-out" naturally from a
text-based a-life simulation, but I'm actually saying something else:
that "good high-level story and narrative" isn't the only possible goal
of a text-game. I enjoy social gatherings and playing games with
friends, not because these events make good "stories", but because that
kind of interaction with people is fun. Undirected interaction with
NPCs *might* be fun, too, even without a framework of soap-opera-level
"story" or "drama".

> Ok, let's start naming some events. I'd suggest that you start with
> examples from your own life, so that they are concrete and accessible.
> Specify how these events shall arise from simulationist mechanisms. Let's
> discuss what makes these events and their implementation solutions wholly
> different from narrative forms.

As an aside, I never claimed that what happens in everyday life (or what
might happen in a hypothetical text-game a-life environment) is "wholly
different" from stories or narrative forms; in fact, I clearly implied
that I thought the distinctions would be fuzzy-edged. As I said above,
if you define "story" and "narrative" in wide enough terms, all the
events in real life are "stories", and all descriptions of them are
"narratives". I prefer narrower definitions than that, but that doesn't
mean I think there's a *principled* way to determine what does and
doesn't count as "story", and what is and isn't a "text-adventure". I'm
no essentialist, in philosophy or anything else.

Anyway, I'm not really much interested in semantics, which is what I
think a lot of this comes down to. We could continue to try to analyze
why I'd prefer to make a (fuzzy and non-essentialist) distinction
between "text-adventures" and
"text-games-that-aren't-really-text-adventures", but that seems kind of
pointless, in the absence of existing games to apply the distinction
to. [1]

--
Kory Heath
khe...@best.com

[1] Actually, there are already plenty of games that push the
boundaries, but I still tend to consider them text-adventures. _The
Space Under the Window_ - and, by extension I guess, _The Chicken Under
the Window_ - are exceptions; I wouldn't consider those text-adventures
by any stretch of the imagination. I don't even know if I'd consider
them games - but that's just more semantics, I'm afraid.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/26/98
to

Kory Heath wrote in message <3633ED08...@best.com>...
>Brandon Van Every wrote:
>>
>>[stuff]

>
>I don't think I need to specify
>any extra detail about the NPC engine to make my point.


Look, we both know our theoretical positions here. But we CANNOT take this
discussion any further without delving into specifics. Without specifics,
this is an insoluable, religious issue. Why are so unwilling to address the
problem of specfics? I would have thought if you really want to develop
such a technology, that you'd gladly take any opportunity to apply
brainpower to get the job done.

I'm not trying to bust your chops, Kory. I am saying that you and I can
theorize all day, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the real world if
there's no application or implementation. We HAVE to talk specifics to see
the nature of the problem, WHATEVER the nature of that problem actually
turns out to be. Could be that I'm 100% right, and I convince you. Could
be that I'm 100% wrong, you convince me. Could be that the truth lies
between.

Make the effort. You'll be rewarded for it.

>However, in this case I have a sneaking suspicion that what you're
>really saying is: you'll be forced back into more traditional narrative
>and storytelling because you'll realize the game isn't much fun without
>it.

Well if the game is completely unintelligible, i.e. random simulationist
noise, how is it going to be fun? That's the central question: what kinds
of random simulationist noise will actually be focused by the audience's
mind into enjoyable activity. I can look at a series of clouds and see neat
things in it. I can also look at a series of clouds and be bored stiff by
it. Such is the mechanism of randomness. Now, WHAT precisely do you
propose to make an entertainment experience more than randomness? These are
the details we must discuss, if we are to get anywhere.

>> A simple way to put it: you don't get something for nothing.
>> Simulationist thinking is not a magic bullet for creating cohesion upon
the
>> human condition.
>
>This is what makes me think I'm on the right track with the second
>interpretation (above). *I* never claimed I wanted to create "cohesion
>upon the human condition" (whatever that means :) - that's an extra
>condition you've smuggled in.

Not at all. I am making a bold thesis: the ONLY form of entertainment is
man's struggle with his narrative condition. We cannot interpret the
universe except in those terms. Even DOOM is fundamentally about "Man vs.
The Enemy." It's not a very good narrative, but it still is one, and it
utilizes an easy draw (violence, survival).

The other categories of text games such as scrabble, jumble, and so forth
were eneumerated so as to remove a conflicting category: the "puzzle game."
Clearly (at least to me) there's no narrative in shuffling about the letters
A..Z until you find an anagram. It's just a fun intellectual puzzle.

This is why I am challenging you to eneumerate how your "thought
experimental" text game is different from a narrative. And what the
simulationist mechanisms of the game are. So that we can examine whether
your text game is "still a narrative" or not.

>that "good high-level story and narrative" isn't the only possible goal
>of a text-game. I enjoy social gatherings and playing games with
>friends, not because these events make good "stories", but because that
>kind of interaction with people is fun. Undirected interaction with
>NPCs *might* be fun, too, even without a framework of soap-opera-level
>"story" or "drama".


Ok, so you're looking for a chat channel? What about the chat channel makes
it a game? What about the NPCs makes them entertaining? The fact that they
exist at all? The length for which they can hold our suspension of
disbelief? Something else? The more you move towards the intelligibility
of the NPCs actions, the more you are moving towards narrative (I think).

>if you define "story" and "narrative" in wide enough terms, all the
>events in real life are "stories", and all descriptions of them are
>"narratives". I prefer narrower definitions than that,

Then present your narrowed definitions. I'll take ANY definition of
narrative. I think you're going to have a VERY hard time narrowing the
definition of "narrative." It's how we experience life. You don't have to
accept my say-so on this. Give examples, and I will provide evidence for
how it is a scripted narrative, and what the mechanisms of inscription are.

Please. Go ahead. Give a definition of "narrative." Any definition.

>Anyway, I'm not really much interested in semantics, which is what I
>think a lot of this comes down to. We could continue to try to analyze
>why I'd prefer to make a (fuzzy and non-essentialist) distinction
>between "text-adventures" and
>"text-games-that-aren't-really-text-adventures", but that seems kind of
>pointless, in the absence of existing games to apply the distinction
>to. [1]


It is far from pointless. The purpose is to either bring your thought
experiment to real-world fruition, or to discover that such pursuit is a
fool's errand owing to the nature of the human psyche. I'm not sure how you
feel about it, but I think either realization would be valuable.

What I don't think is valuable, is stating "I can do X, theoretically" and
then sitting back in the armchair. Let's go ahead and get our hands dirty.

I think you are resisting the effort because at best, what you propose is
VERY VERY HARD. (And as I said, at worst impossible.) But that's what
newsgroups are for! Share the burden. Plenty of bright people around here
to bang on the idea.

Phil Goetz

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Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to
In article <70opb0$8ar$1...@east43.supernews.com>,

HarryH <har...@iu.net.idiotic.com.skip.idiotic.com> wrote:
>> My current belief is
>>"screw puzzles. It's a way to bring plot action and cinematography to a
>>screeching halt."
>
>Go read a book. No, really. Read one of those CYOA books. You won't have the
>pacing ruined. No plot halting due to your own stupidity. Nothing personal,
>Brandon. :)

>
><rant>
>I've been thinking. In the old days, where people actually buys these things,
>it was common for them to spend weeks/months playing a game, and that made
>them feel good because they got their money's worth.
>
>Now, MA is supposed to be filled with extremely short IF stories? Is shorter
>really better? It's troubling enough that people think puzzles have no place
>in IF, now they're complaining about pacing. Pacing! Something that IF
>players cannot take for granted.
></rant>

In the old days, it was common for people to spend weeks/months playing
a game because the puzzles were poorly designed and there was no
rec.arts.int-fiction and no hint books and you had to bang your head
against the wall over and over and over and over and over and over
and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and
over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over
and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and
over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over
and over until you got the puzzle or gave up.

Phil

Phil Goetz

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Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to
In article <70so20$506$1...@east42.supernews.com>,

HarryH <har...@iu.net.idiotic.com.skip.idiotic.com> wrote:
>>I have some not-so-pleasant memories of being bored out of my head with
>>some stupid puzzle, and I'm not exactly stupid. And seeing as I'm a fairly
>>heavy gamer, I'm a lot more likely to be able to solve 'typical' puzzles -
>>think what the casual or not-so-skilled gamer will be stuck with. It's not
>>a pleasant idea, is it?
>
>Depends on the puzzle. See, it's this development that bothers me. People
>nowadays are used to sit in front of TV and basically becomes couch potatoes.
>If there's any problem, just sit and wait. The problem will either be gone in
>half an hour or next week.
>
>When we cross barrier, it seems that people are expecting IF just like TV.
>But IF is not TV. IF is different. You have to work at those puzzles. Some of
>them really, really hard. If IF has to grab the attention of the short
>attention spanned, then IF is doomed. Better stick with RPG/CYOA.

It's not a development. I hated puzzles that killed games then. I hate
them now.

2-part question for Harry:
A. List the adventure games you have played.
B. List the adventure games you have finished without resorting to hints or
help outside the game. Mention how long each took, if you remember.

For me, list A is long, and list B is very short.

Phil

Adam Shaikh

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Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to
>> We are arguing opposite points. I am saying that you can imagine
whatever
>> you like, but you cannot escape the reduction to more conventional forms
of
>> storytelling. Ergo, there is no such "out of bounds" text game
>> that-is-not-text-adventure. By examining the specific details of what
this
>> game would entail, I believe you will arrive right back at narration and
>> storytelling.
>
>You keep saying "you cannot escape" storytelling, and "you will arrive
>right back at" narration, as if this was a matter of inexorable logic,
>but I don't see it. Where is the "invisible hand" forcing me into the
>traditional IF channels of storytelling? I'm describing a scenario that
>simply doesn't have a story, period - it's a strategy game, with NPCs as
>the players, and an IF-like interface. I don't think I need to specify
>any extra detail about the NPC engine to make my point.


It *has* to have a story. Here's one, "Two men walk into a bar..." that
might be the entire pre created story, but the designer still has to have an
idea about what is supposed to happen in the bar. What are the different
characters going to do? If it is unpredictable, then you cannot ensure that
this will be an enjoyable experience. What happens if the player does
nothing? etc etc etc. Then, you will narrate to the player the events as
they unfold.


>
>Anyway, you may be simply *defining* "story" as (say) "any sequence of
>events involving characters", and "narrative" as "any text describing
>those events" - something I've been half-suspecting all along. If
>that's the case, then your definitions are simply wider than mine are,
>and we're talking past each other.

I think in this case, you are going to have to supply definitions of story
and narrative so that we know we aren't just arguing over definitions. My
definitions seem to be relatively similar to Brandon's.

>
>However, in this case I have a sneaking suspicion that what you're
>really saying is: you'll be forced back into more traditional narrative
>and storytelling because you'll realize the game isn't much fun without
>it. If that's what you're saying, I cry foul; you're equating "what's
>logically possible" with "what I (Brandon) would personally enjoy
>playing". Whether or not you (or anyone else) would actually enjoy such
>a game is incidental to whether such a game could actually exist, and
>whether it actually is a "text-game which employs NPCs but doesn't
>involve storytelling, and doesn't really feel much like a
>text-adventure."

But surely part of the argument is that you could write an enjoyable game,
not an exercise of logic or programming ability. Of course you could write
a system where the player can talk to a character in a non puzzle situation
(check out talking to the robots in Starship Titanic) but to make this one
element an entire game is a very different proposition. Eliza showed you
can sit someone down and let them talk to a computer, but this isn't the
same as producing a game where Eliza (or multiple Eliza characters) are the
only factors. To be a game, it has to be enjoyable, not to everyone,
otherwise it doesn't meet my criteria for a game.

>Anyway, I'm not really much interested in semantics, which is what I
>think a lot of this comes down to. We could continue to try to analyze
>why I'd prefer to make a (fuzzy and non-essentialist) distinction
>between "text-adventures" and
>"text-games-that-aren't-really-text-adventures", but that seems kind of
>pointless, in the absence of existing games to apply the distinction
>to. [1]

Surely that is what this newsgroup and thread are about - discussing
interesting ideas that don't necessarily exist in real life. Unfortunately,
semantics seem to be bogging the thread down, which is why we need to sort
them out so we can get down to the real meat.

Adam

Adam Shaikh
Game Designer
The Digital Village
ad...@tdv.com
www.tdv.com www.starshiptitanic.com

HarryH

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Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to
In article <71369v$ef6$1...@prometheus.acsu.buffalo.edu>, go...@cse.buffalo.edu
says...

>In article <70so20$506$1...@east42.supernews.com>,
>HarryH <har...@iu.net.idiotic.com.skip.idiotic.com> wrote:
>2-part question for Harry:
>A. List the adventure games you have played.

Somewhat long. I never finish any of Zork series. Enchanter? Hah! Witness,
Suspect, Hitchhiker, Adventure, etc, etc.

>B. List the adventure games you have finished without resorting to hints or
>help outside the game. Mention how long each took, if you remember.

Trinity (2 days), Wishbringer (1.5 day). Come to think of it. Those are
written by Brian Moriarty. King Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Roger Wilco
(basically Sierra's series). Varies, depends on how quickly I can "hunt the
pixels".

>For me, list A is long, and list B is very short.
>
>Phil

Assuming I still have them, I still play them from time to time because I
still enjoy playing them even though they baffle me clueless.

Noah Falstein

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Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to
Phil Goetz wrote:

At one point in the late 80's when LucasArts was particularly frustrated
that their games consistently got better reviews than Sierra adventures
but were outsold by Sierra (in the US anyway) by a large margin, they
asked someone who professed to liking Sierra better just why. He said
something to the effect of: "I like their puzzles. It's kind of like
beating your head against a wall sometimes they're so frustrating.
Then, when you finally solve them, it feels so great to get to stop."

Go figure.

--
Noah Falstein
The Inspiracy
Professional Interactive Design Services
www.theinspiracy.com

n...@theinspiracy.SPAMBGON.com
To reply remove the obvious

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to

HarryH wrote in message <714de7$89v$1...@east42.supernews.com>...
>
>Enchanter?

Enchanter, oddly enough, I finished in 9 days flat. Relative to my training
in the Zork genre, I found Enchanter to be extremely well-paced for
difficulty to solve. The best of the Infocom works I played in that
respect, actually. This doesn't mean it would be appropriate to all
audiences, just that it worked really well to me.

Contrast this to Sorceror, which I *would* have finished on my own, but I
got a mental block to an exit out of a particular room. It was right here
in the text, but aargh! I just didn't see it. I had to buy the cluebook and
BOY did I feel stupid afterwards.

Or Spellbreaker, which I never finished.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to

Noah Falstein wrote in message

>
>"I like their puzzles. It's kind of like
>beating your head against a wall sometimes they're so frustrating.
>Then, when you finally solve them, it feels so great to get to stop."
>
>Go figure.


It's a market, no denying it. The question for the present day is whether
there's an untapped mass market with a completely different disposition.
This is what I think Myst indicates, although even Myst has fairly shitty
puzzles for mass market tastes. That maze problem??!? I couldn't believe
that *I* tortured myself with that godawful beast, let alone that some Joe
Average would.

I have found that my willingness to waste time has changed as I've gotten
older. Also I've done enough head-banging puzzles already. Finally, I'm
employed. I get to bang my head for real dollars, why should I bang my head
for fun? One of my theories is that the older, professional class would
rather have 2 hours of seat-of-your pants enjoyment than 20 hours of solve,
get stuck, solve, get stuck, solve, get stuck....

Peter Cowderoy/PSYCHO

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to
Brandon Van Every <vane...@earthlink.net> wrote in article
<715dn6$lpg$1...@birch.prod.itd.earthlink.net>...

>
> Noah Falstein wrote in message
> >
> >"I like their puzzles. It's kind of like
> >beating your head against a wall sometimes they're so frustrating.
> >Then, when you finally solve them, it feels so great to get to stop."
> >
> >Go figure.
>
>
> It's a market, no denying it. The question for the present day is
whether
> there's an untapped mass market with a completely different disposition.
> This is what I think Myst indicates, although even Myst has fairly shitty
> puzzles for mass market tastes. That maze problem??!? I couldn't
believe
> that *I* tortured myself with that godawful beast, let alone that some
Joe
> Average would.
>
> I have found that my willingness to waste time has changed as I've gotten
> older. Also I've done enough head-banging puzzles already. Finally, I'm
> employed. I get to bang my head for real dollars, why should I bang my
head
> for fun? One of my theories is that the older, professional class would
> rather have 2 hours of seat-of-your pants enjoyment than 20 hours of
solve,
> get stuck, solve, get stuck, solve, get stuck....
>

There's certainly a market for seat-of-the-pants 20-50 hours games, Final
Fantasy VII sold shitloads :) OK, OK, most people seem to have taken a
little longer than that to finish the game (I think the number of times I
actually died stayed in single figures...), but it's most enjoyable like
that. Likewise, Quake II single player was great the first time through -
but thoroughly shitty the second. I was rather dissapointed when I
completed the mission pack (on hard!) in a day and a half. I was having too
much fun!

Obviously, there's a market for longer term games as well (XCOM!), and I
need a few of those every so often, but yeah, I appreciate shorter, more
intense games. The skill level needs to be right though - I guess the easy
mode would be judged for your average can't-play-to-save-their-lives
professional :), but there needs to be a mode that gives expert players a
challenge - I don't wanna romp through an FPS like I was on God mode 8)

It's not just older professionals who that applies to, I've only just
reached the point where I can legally get a full-time job :)

--------------------------------------------------
psy...@nthfen.demon.co.uk

'In Ankh-Morpork even the shit have a street to itself...
Truly, this is a land of oppurtunity' - Detritus, Men at Arms

Kory Heath

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to
Brandon Van Every wrote:
> I am making a bold thesis: the ONLY form of entertainment is
> man's struggle with his narrative condition. We cannot interpret the
> universe except in those terms. Even DOOM is fundamentally about "Man vs.
> The Enemy." It's not a very good narrative, but it still is one, and it
> utilizes an easy draw (violence, survival).

Ok, so we're back with my first interpretation (from the previous post)
- pretty much anything I dream up involving characters interacting with
each other is going to be narrative by your definition. If DOOM is
narrative, then my two hypothetical text games certainly would be. Ok,
that's fine. I still say this comes down to a fairly uninteresting
question of semantics.

> I think you're going to have a VERY hard time narrowing the
> definition of "narrative." It's how we experience life. You don't have to
> accept my say-so on this. Give examples, and I will provide evidence for
> how it is a scripted narrative, and what the mechanisms of inscription are.

Which is exactly why I think examples are a waste of time - it's clear
that, whatever I come up with, you're going to show me that it really
*is* narrative, after all. Again, that's ok; I'm just not sure why that
view of "narrative" is interesting or helpful.

> It is far from pointless. The purpose is to either bring your thought
> experiment to real-world fruition, or to discover that such pursuit is a
> fool's errand owing to the nature of the human psyche. I'm not sure how you
> feel about it, but I think either realization would be valuable.
>
> What I don't think is valuable, is stating "I can do X, theoretically" and
> then sitting back in the armchair. Let's go ahead and get our hands dirty.

Somehow, against my best efforts, this thread keeps careening away from
the intent of my first post, which was simply to kick around a few ideas
for text games that might not be considered text adventures. I never
went spouting off about how "I can do X, theoretically", unless you
count my implication that it would be possible to code (at least some
kind of) strategy-style game or an a-life environment with a text-game
interface - the truth of which I thought was too obvious to bother
defending. And I never claimed that I *was* interested in bringing
these thought experiments into real-world fruition - I was just having
fun with a few ideas.

To be honest, I've been so reluctant to enter into a discussion of
details, which you hope will "pull us out of the armchair", precisely
*because* that strikes me as such an "armchair discussion"! What could
be more armchair than a couple of guys on Usenet hacking out the details
of some hypothetical game which neither of them is going to implement,
in order to discuss why it is or isn't a "game", "story", "narrative",
or "text adventure"? I've been involved in (or started!) too many
discussions like this as it is, and I feel a little queasy when I think
about what I've got to show for it (that is, not a damn thing). I'm
kind of trying to defect to the "put up or shut up" school, but
obviously I haven't been trying hard enough. :)

Here's me trying one more time...

--
Kory Heath
khe...@best.com

Kory Heath

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to
Adam Shaikh wrote:
> I think in this case, you are going to have to supply definitions of story
> and narrative so that we know we aren't just arguing over definitions.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that's *all* we're arguing over. I don't have
a principled definition of story and narrative (just like I don't have a
principled definition of "science fiction"); I just know that the way I
use those words in common, everyday speech is narrower than you and
Brandon seem to use them. I fail to see the usefulness of definitions
which end up encompassing pretty much any imaginable computer game that
contains characters doing anything at all.

> But surely part of the argument is that you could write an enjoyable game,
> not an exercise of logic or programming ability.

Well, I was attempting a two-step argument: first, argue that games
without story or narrative are *possible*, without even worrying about
whether these games would be "fun". The second step was more implicit:
if such games are possible, there are bound to be some that are "fun" to
some people, in some sense of that word. So games don't *have* to be
"narratives" or "stories" to be fun.

Anyway, that argument chokes on the semantics of "narrative" and
"story", so it's not of much use at this point.

--
Kory Heath
khe...@best.com

Michael Straight

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to

On Tue, 27 Oct 1998, Brandon Van Every wrote:

> It's a market, no denying it. The question for the present day is whether
> there's an untapped mass market with a completely different disposition.
> This is what I think Myst indicates, although even Myst has fairly shitty
> puzzles for mass market tastes. That maze problem??!? I couldn't believe
> that *I* tortured myself with that godawful beast, let alone that some Joe
> Average would.

I thought that was a great example of puzzle design.

[SPOILERS FOR MYST FOLLOW]

Because on the surface it looks like a maze, like something you're
supposed to map out. But if you consider the context, you realize that
the other two puzzles related to this world had to do with sound (the
organ and the weird communications tower that gives you the combination to
get into the maze). Once you realize that you're supposed to navigate by
sound, the maze is trivial.

(And isn't there even an additional clue on the 'gear' world that helps
you figure out what the sounds in the maze mean?)

SMTIRCAHIAGEHLT


J. A. Holmes

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to
>>> storytelling. Ergo, there is no such "out of bounds" text game
>>> that-is-not-text-adventure. By examining the specific details of what

Imagine if you will, Civilaztion without the maps, and people and
resource icons, but instead a spread sheet interface: one page listing the
cities and thier pop/production stats. Another page listing known cities
and known enemy units, matrixed vs. your units and distance in turns.

I believe this fulfills the request of a text based game, that is not a
text adventure.


____________________________________________________________________
"Why is it legal to have sex with a woman after buying her jewelry and
a fur coat, but you can't just give her cash?",
<http://www.access.digex.net/~starfyr/index.html>

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to

Kory Heath wrote in message <36371338...@best.com>...

>Brandon Van Every wrote:
>> I am making a bold thesis: the ONLY form of entertainment is
>> man's struggle with his narrative condition. We cannot interpret the
>> universe except in those terms. Even DOOM is fundamentally about "Man
vs.
>> The Enemy." It's not a very good narrative, but it still is one, and it
>> utilizes an easy draw (violence, survival).
>
>Ok, so we're back with my first interpretation (from the previous post)
>- pretty much anything I dream up involving characters interacting with
>each other is going to be narrative by your definition.

No, by YOUR definition! :-) I will endeavor to demonstrate that REGARDLESS
of what semantics you, Kory, choose to define "narrative" with, they will
transform to cover all classes of entertainment that you would seek to
produce with a text-based simulator. Man does not have any other way to
perceive and make sense of reality.

>Which is exactly why I think examples are a waste of time - it's clear
>that, whatever I come up with, you're going to show me that it really
>*is* narrative, after all. Again, that's ok; I'm just not sure why that
>view of "narrative" is interesting or helpful.


Because battered with enough concrete examples, you might start questioning
whether simulationist thinking is an end-goal. I went through a
"simulationist" phase, myself. The mechanisms were valuable for my current
concepts about branching narrative structure. But ultimately, I got led
right down to narrative structure as the core of what makes any game
activity intelligible.

You might think the goal is to make some text-based game with simulationist
AI processing. I'm telling you it's unrealizable. The purpose of the
argument is to examine the validity of our conflicting positions.

>Somehow, against my best efforts, this thread keeps careening away from
>the intent of my first post, which was simply to kick around a few ideas
>for text games that might not be considered text adventures.

Dude, WE'RE KICKING AROUND THE IDEAS! Just because all of us don't agree
with your beliefs about what's possible/impossible, doesn't mean the ideas
aren't being kicked around. Nobody said we were just going to say "ah,
simulationist text game. Doing X Y Z would be cool, why don't you try
that?" Rather, some of us have thought very deeply about the issue you
propose, and have come to alternate conclusions than yourself. If you want
to share in our brainwork and find what works and what doesn't, that's
great, that's what we're here for. I don't have any a priori intellectual
investment in being 100% right in my views. But since you won't talk
specifics, it seems we're going to have to agree to disagree.

Anyways, let us know when you produce the simulationist text-based AI game.
We'd profit a lot from examining it.

>I never went spouting off about how "I can do X, theoretically",

See, people, this is why I get in trouble with people. I present a bold
idea. Someone else characterizes the discussion as "spouting off" or
"hostile." It was never such! But if you want to approach an argument with
hostility, simply because someone doesn't agree with you, that's your
perogative. My view: people are free to disagree with your ideas and that's
ok. They aren't duty-bound to discuss ideas only in your terms. Indeed,
I've offered to show how your terms and my terms are comparable. I might
fail in the attempt, but I've offered....

>And I never claimed that I *was* interested in bringing
>these thought experiments into real-world fruition - I was just having
>fun with a few ideas.


I think you'll find that some people are "implementation oriented." If they
hear a cool idea, they want to kick it around to see if it'll actually work.

>To be honest, I've been so reluctant to enter into a discussion of
>details, which you hope will "pull us out of the armchair", precisely
>*because* that strikes me as such an "armchair discussion"! What could
>be more armchair than a couple of guys on Usenet hacking out the details
>of some hypothetical game which neither of them is going to implement,
>in order to discuss why it is or isn't a "game", "story", "narrative",
>or "text adventure"?

Because although *you* may not wish to implement such a game, I do. If it's
possible. That's not an idle boast, go look back through r.a.i-f in
DejaNews and search for "Brandon Van Every AND nonlinear." Others have been
trying too. Others have also met certain stumbling blocks, others have
decided that narration is the key to the problem, others have thought maybe
the AI lens isn't such a good framework after all....

>I've been involved in (or started!) too many
>discussions like this as it is, and I feel a little queasy when I think
>about what I've got to show for it (that is, not a damn thing). I'm
>kind of trying to defect to the "put up or shut up" school, but
>obviously I haven't been trying hard enough. :)


There is tangible value in working out theoretical issues with your peers,
to see if implementation is feasible. But I agree that you and I personally
are at a point of diminishing returns. I'll leave it to others to carry the
ball forwards; unfortunately, it seems most others are already somewhat in
agreement with my position, so it's a bit like preaching to the choir. Not
very challenging, doesn't help me to refine my own ideas any.


Cheers, 3d graphics optimization jock
Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
If we are all Gods and we have thrown our toys the mortals away
and we are Immortal What shall we do
and we cannot die to entertain ourselves?


Brandon Van Every

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to

Michael Straight wrote in message ...

>
> [SPOILERS FOR MYST FOLLOW]
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>Because on the surface it looks like a maze, like something you're
>supposed to map out. But if you consider the context, you realize that
>the other two puzzles related to this world had to do with sound (the
>organ and the weird communications tower that gives you the combination to
>get into the maze). Once you realize that you're supposed to navigate by
>sound, the maze is trivial.


But it's still TEDIOUS! It takes FOREVER to get through that damn maze,
even when you know what sounds you're looking for. It's that damn slow
Quicktime Video thing, playing the damn video to get from everywhere to
everywhere. Even on a PowerMac 7100, a powerful machine for the day. After
the first few times it isn't cute anymore. Text adventures solve this
problem by having VERBOSE and BRIEF mode.

This maze was a disaster, it was SO tedious to work through it.

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to

J. A. Holmes wrote in message <717gfh$7...@access2.digex.net>...

>>>> storytelling. Ergo, there is no such "out of bounds" text game
>>>> that-is-not-text-adventure. By examining the specific details of what
>
>Imagine if you will, Civilaztion without the maps, and people and
>resource icons, but instead a spread sheet interface: one page listing the
>cities and thier pop/production stats. Another page listing known cities
>and known enemy units, matrixed vs. your units and distance in turns.
>
>I believe this fulfills the request of a text based game, that is not a
>text adventure.


Ok, like the old Atari game "Kingdom." Went by other names on other
platforms. Trade so many bushels of grain for so many acres of land. Also
stock market simulators. Question: is this a "text" game, or a NUMBERS
game?

Brandon Van Every

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Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98