Stephen's Comp02 Comments (Spoilers)

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Stephen Bond

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Nov 17, 2002, 7:50:54 AM11/17/02
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Comp02: the comp of... enh. I don't remember as many
*bad* games as last year, but then I just don't remember as
many of the games. The TADS games were a particularly
forgettable bunch: even now, most of the titles seem
unfamiliar. MOONBASE? EVACUATE? CONCRETE PARADISE? I can't
recall if I actually played any of these, and their
unpromising blocks of opening text don't encourage me to
go and refresh my memory. Sorry.

I said this last year, but once again: the opening is the
most important part of any game. You've got a few paragraphs
to convince me to donate my time, so use them wisely. Don't
be long-winded, like SAMUEL GREGOR or COLOR AND NUMBER;
don't be juvenile, like COFFEE QUEST II or TERRIBLE
LIZARDS; don't be pedestrian, like NOT MUCH TIME.

Of course, openings aren't everything. TILL DEATH MAKES A
MONK-FISH OUT OF ME had a striking opening scene, but in
spite of this, and its quality and pedigree, I lost interest
very quickly. I didn't find the funny situations
particularly funny, and I really wasn't motivated to start
messing around with robots and artificial legs and things.
Maybe if there was a walkthrough I would have read through
to the end, but as it was I was typing 'hint' three times
for every move, which didn't make for a fun experience.

TILL DEATH is not the only large and detailed game I
couldn't get into: JANITOR and FORT AEGEA were not my thing
at all, and as for WHEN HELP COLLIDES - oh dear.

I finished some small games that were, to be blunt, a waste of
time. KOAN left me unenlightened. Then there's RAMON
AND JONATHAN - I hope the story of this is worked out in the
author's mind, because it's certainly not worked out in the
game. I admit SCARY HOUSE AMULET was amusing, and the game's
insistence that I was terrified was oddly disturbing in its
own way; but this is just a one-joke game, and by the end, the
joke is beaten thin enough to cover Canada.

SCREEN had a well-written and evocative intro. The PC,
obviously unsettled in some way, is drawn back to a place
from his childhood, to relive old memories, maybe find out
what's bothering him. Sounds promising? Well, turns out the
problem was that he never caught the follow-up to an old
episode of BATMAN. Dreadful. Also, "Nicky looked sweat" is a
really bad typo, unless 'sweat' is meant to be slang for
something.

HELL: A COMEDY OF ERRORS has a bit of a learning curve; but
the premise was intriguing enough that I persisted with it.
And that's my where my reaction ends, really: intriguing
premise, sketchy implementation. (Actually, I do have one
comment on the about text: advertising that there are bugs
in the game is the IF equivalent of cringing when you make
a mistake on the piano. It just draws attention to them.
If you know your game has bugs, and you really must
release the game in the competition, the least you could do
is pretend the bugs are not there.)

IDENTITY THIEF: I happened to play this as I was reading
SNOW CRASH for the first time, so I was in the mood for a
bit of IF cyberpunkiness. And the game was okay. It ended
rather abruptly. Sixth place in my rankings.

Which brings me to my top five.

========================================

5th: THE MOONLIT TOWER

Um, I'm meant to start praising games now, right? Well,
MOONLIT is better than any of the games I've mentioned so far,
but still isn't really my thing. The prose was a bit too
stylised for my liking, the story a bit too much in the
background, character interaction almost absent. Altogether
the game feels like some beautiful, exquisite ornament I
just want to throw away, or maybe cash in. But it does what
it does very well.


4th: THE TEMPLE

I enjoyed this quite a bit, but then I'm always game for a
bit of good old Lovecraft-style hokum. Yes, some of the
PC's actions are unmotivated, and yes, the prose gets a bit
rocky at times, but this just makes the Lovecraft homage all
the more faithful. I had fun hunting for the HPL catchwords
(I found 'monstrous' and 'eldritch'; maybe 'blasphemous'
and 'cosmic' are lurking somewhere in there too) and dammit,
I just had fun.

Strangely enough, THE TEMPLE probably has my favourite NPC
of the competition. Charles may not be the most talkative or
interesting guy in the world, but the game did make me care
about him. Perhaps I fell for his sentimental story, or
perhaps I felt a sense of duty towards him after he saved me.
For whatever reason, I felt happy when he was reunited with
his lost love, so a good job has been done somewhere.


3rd: PHOTOGRAPH

My favourite Monty Python sketch is 'How to recognise
different types of trees from quite a long way away'. You see,
more than almost anything else I would love to be able to
recognise trees. Few things in life could match the
satisfaction of pointing at a conifer and saying
"There, my friends, is a larch." And as PHOTOGRAPH shows,
when you know your myrtle from your mistletoe, it adds a
lot of flavour to your writing:

"Depicted are a young man and young woman leaning with their
backs to the rail of a rough wooden deck, backed by the spray
of a narrow waterfall cascading down two tiers of mudstone
outcrop. Bordering the waterfall is thick temperate
rainforest vegetation: a canopy of tall myrtle and sassafras
trees, beneath which are leatherwood and tree-ferns, all
covered in moss, lichen, shell-fungus."

Isn't that wonderful? I'm already savouring the sound of
'mudstone', but when I see the 'myrtle and sassafras' -
I'm sold. Hell if I know what sassafras is, but I'm there,
I'm in the thick of the Australian rainforest, I can smell
the tree ferns, I can breathe in the water spray. No other
game this year is as successful in creating a sense of place.

No other game is as successful in creating a player character,
either. This guy seemed authentic and lived-in. I believed he
was fifty-five years old. I believed in his love of nature,
in his regrets, his longings, his failures; I found the
climactic moments of the game genuinely moving.

So why doesn't this game get my top rating? Well I'm not too
keen on the coda, which is gimmicky and takes from the game
before it; but more importantly, I'm not sure PHOTOGRAPH
gains anything from being a game. The author mentions that
it was originally a short story, and it probably should have
stayed that way. Sure, the IF format lets me get a few more
descriptions here and there, but the puzzles and interactive
elements seem forced. And ultimately, I felt this was the
PC's story, not mine.


2nd: CONSTRAINTS

My second-favourite game of the comp: I almost wish it wasn't.
Much of the writing made me cringe, especially 'Inanimate',
which could have written by Grant from BEST OF THREE.
Pretentious parentheticals ("Introducing, then, Knoll and
Lona"), pretentious archaisms ("if you are to fumble your
lines, 'tis best to stay in the wings"), pretentious
punctuation ("Death, in your pocket") and, well, just plain
flat-out pretentiousness ("Lona would shoot Knoll. A
conditional, there, for the modern age"). Oh please.
'Something' was a bit more bearable in this regard, but its
closing line - "There's a void, not just a space, between
something and some thing" - is almost, almost the kind of
thing you'd hear at a corporate motivation weekend.

Human beings don't come across very well in CONSTRAINTS. The
pompous vase in 'Inanimate' reasons that "unoriginal though
the petty emotional and interpersonal concerns of humanity
may be, they're all you have to work with", and I have a sad
feeling its opinions are shared by the game. The only human
relationship we see - between the caricatures Knoll and Lona
- *is* petty and unoriginal, and the people in 'Something'
are hardly encouraging. Are we really that bad? Seems a
bit cynical.

But in spite of everything, I can't deny that I enjoyed this.
'Inanimate', with its vase that wants to fall and break at the
most artistic possible moment, is a brilliant idea that makes
its point very well. I was impressed at how the author could
stretch out the joke for so many turns and still keep it
fresh and entertaining. And when the vase finally breaks,
the mere irritation its owners feel brings home the
tragedy of a life wasted doing nothing. Yes, this is good
stuff. 'Something' and 'Falling' have similar themes; I
preferred the former to the latter (yes, I played them in the
wrong order) but after 'Inanimate' I had pretty much decided
how I would rank the game.


1st: JANE

JANE at times make difficult reading; it must also have been
difficult to write. On the one hand, you want to treat the
tricky subject of domestic violence with tact and sensitivity;
on the other, you want to avoid becoming preachy, and still
want to make the IF experience compelling. JANE succeeded
admirably. No game this year had such a powerful effect on me.

The changing viewpoints highlighted the feeling of dread: as
Jane, dread of what John would do; as John, dread of what I
would do. (I'm glad the game didn't force me to hit Jane).
And the medium of IF emphasises how trapped Jane feels. As
Jane, you can try to escape the beating sessions, but there's
nothing you can do; eventually, like Jane, you're forced to
wait and hope that they'll be over with as quickly as
possible.

There are nice details buried here and there in the game:
the sonnets on the bedside table, the changing descriptions
of the bedroom. The behaviour of the characters is also
carefully observed. I liked the moment in the car where John
is "surprised to note that he was holding his breath" after
Jane reports what she said to the nurse. And Jane's words
when she finally confides to the social worker - "it's
hard sometimes" - seem wonderfully authentic in their
understatement. I can feel the dams of emotion bursting when
she says this.

If I had one criticism of the game, it would be that Jane
and John are about as anonymous as their names. We don't know
much more about them than 'abused' and 'abuser'. This might have
been a deliberate decision, but still, I would have preferred
a bit more character background and colour.

But I don't want to carp too much. As far as I'm concerned,
JANE single-handedly raises this comp above the last one,
and it's the best piece of IF to appear in the last two years.

Stephen.
http://www.maths.tcd.ie/~bonds/

Adrien Beau

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Nov 17, 2002, 9:24:42 AM11/17/02
to
Stephen Bond wrote:
>
(...)
>
> 3rd: PHOTOGRAPH
(...)

> So why doesn't this game get my top rating? Well I'm not too
> keen on the coda, which is gimmicky and takes from the game
> before it; but more importantly, I'm not sure PHOTOGRAPH
> gains anything from being a game. The author mentions that
> it was originally a short story, and it probably should have
> stayed that way. Sure, the IF format lets me get a few more
> descriptions here and there, but the puzzles and interactive
> elements seem forced. And ultimately, I felt this was the
> PC's story, not mine.
>
(...)

>
> 1st: JANE
>
> JANE at times make difficult reading; it must also have been
> difficult to write. On the one hand, you want to treat the
> tricky subject of domestic violence with tact and sensitivity;
> on the other, you want to avoid becoming preachy, and still
> want to make the IF experience compelling. JANE succeeded
> admirably. No game this year had such a powerful effect on me.
(...)

> But I don't want to carp too much. As far as I'm concerned,
> JANE single-handedly raises this comp above the last one,
> and it's the best piece of IF to appear in the last two years.

Interestingly, my feelings can pretty much be expressed by
exchanging the words "Photograph" and "Jane" in the previous
paragraphs.

I don't think Jane did gain much from being IF. Clearly, this
was Jane's story, not mine. There was no danger of puzzles or
interactive elements seeming forced, since there weren't any.
Sure, you were allowed to have a look around and reveal some
interesting information (the room's window ornaments and
especially the bathroom were quite revealing), but mostly, you
could just wait and press enter to watch it unfold under your
eyes.

Of course, Photograph's theme was lighter than Jane's, even
though it was still quite serious. At no point did the puzzles
or IF elements seem forced to me; I was in the character, and
everything was following a logical path. I just had to do these
things, not because the author was heavily handing me, but
because it felt natural to me to do whatever mundane activities
the character was engaging into¹.

No game this year had such a powerful effect on me. I haven't
played last year's games, so I can't compare, but I know that
Photograph will stay at or near the top of the best IF
I've played for quite some time.


¹ Except after waking up from a nightmare, all sweaty, only to
discover that "I don't want to have a bath." Well, yes I do.

--
adrie...@yahoo.guess

Yoon Ha Lee

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Nov 17, 2002, 10:00:54 AM11/17/02
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Stephen Bond <steph...@NObelgacomSPAM.net> wrote:

> 5th: THE MOONLIT TOWER>

> the game feels like some beautiful, exquisite ornament I
> just want to throw away, or maybe cash in. But it does what
> it does very well.

Oh, please do cash it in! And tell me where I can cash it in, too.
(I'm a substitute teacher; 'nuff said.) *smiles*

Jane was also my favorite of the games I played--the implementation
wasn't perfect, but I'm hardly one to speak, and it dealt honestly with
a tough subject. I respect that a lot.

YHL

Martin Bays

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Nov 17, 2002, 10:31:21 AM11/17/02
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> I don't think Jane did gain much from being IF. Clearly, this
> was Jane's story, not mine. There was no danger of puzzles or
> interactive elements seeming forced, since there weren't any.
> Sure, you were allowed to have a look around and reveal some
> interesting information (the room's window ornaments and
> especially the bathroom were quite revealing), but mostly, you
> could just wait and press enter to watch it unfold under your
> eyes.

Ah yes, but the eyes it unfolded under were not just your own, they were
Jane's, and John's, and those of the other characters. This, to me, is one
of the great strengths of IF - a true identification with the protagonist,
not because you are empathetic to their situation, or recognise parts of
yourself in them, but simply because you *are* them, and what happens to
them happens *to you*. Nothing in static fiction can touch it, not even
first-person stream of consciousness. Jane, I thought, made good use of
this aspect, and though it fell down in other areas (particularly the lack
of appropriate responses to anything outside the narrow range of actions
the author intended you to make), I certainly thought it worked much
better as IF than it would have as SF.

Martin

Adrien Beau

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Nov 17, 2002, 1:42:52 PM11/17/02
to
Martin Bays wrote:
>
>> I don't think Jane did gain much from being IF. Clearly, this
>> was Jane's story, not mine. There was no danger of puzzles or
>> interactive elements seeming forced, since there weren't any.
>> Sure, you were allowed to have a look around and reveal some
>> interesting information (the room's window ornaments and
>> especially the bathroom were quite revealing), but mostly,
>> you could just wait and press enter to watch it unfold under
>> your eyes.
>
> Ah yes, but the eyes it unfolded under were not just your own,
> they were Jane's, and John's, and those of the other
> characters. This, to me, is one of the great strengths of IF -
> a true identification with the protagonist, not because you
> are empathetic to their situation, or recognise parts of
> yourself in them, but simply because you *are* them, and what
> happens to them happens *to you*.

Well, what happened to Jane obviously didn't happen *to me*.
During most of the game, I was in a programmer/debugger
mindset, poking the game around and watching the characters
(including "me") evolve, there was no identification with any
character. "Suspension of disbelief", they say? Nowhere in this
game, for me.

I'm not saying that in terms of a story Jane was a failure. I
appreciated what others have noted, for example the fact that
as John you don't get to hit Jane and as I said above, the
answers to some "advanced" examinations. The story remained
focused on the goal the author had chosen, which is rather good
in this case. I was also happy that the author avoided lots of
pitfalls and managed to pull his story out, "undisturbed".

But next time, please, add more interactivity. You can let the
player do a lot of things without compromising your story. When
Jane came home, followed by an angry John ready to hit her, she
couldn't even take an umbrella do defend herself! Next time,
allow the player to take it, you only need to make it fail
miserably.

> Nothing in static fiction
> can touch it, not even first-person stream of consciousness.
> Jane, I thought, made good use of this aspect, and though it
> fell down in other areas (particularly the lack of appropriate
> responses to anything outside the narrow range of actions the
> author intended you to make), I certainly thought it worked
> much better as IF than it would have as SF.

You mean fiction, rather than science-fiction, right? I agree
with you (and with the author, if I remember correctly), but I
still think it didn't work much as IF.

--
adrie...@yahoo.guess

Andrew Plotkin

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Nov 17, 2002, 7:45:55 PM11/17/02
to
Here, Adrien Beau <adrie...@yahoo.guess> wrote:
>> I certainly thought it worked
>> much better as IF than it would have as SF.

> You mean fiction, rather than science-fiction, right?

SF: "static fiction", meaning non-interactive, in this context.

I avoid using the abbreviation; too confusing. But "static fiction" is
better than "books and short stories and, er, I guess movies too."

--Z

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

Martin Bays

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Nov 17, 2002, 8:07:38 PM11/17/02
to
>
> Martin Bays wrote:
> >
> > Ah yes, but the eyes it unfolded under were not just your own,
> > they were Jane's, and John's, and those of the other
> > characters. This, to me, is one of the great strengths of IF -
> > a true identification with the protagonist, not because you
> > are empathetic to their situation, or recognise parts of
> > yourself in them, but simply because you *are* them, and what
> > happens to them happens *to you*.
>
> Well, what happened to Jane obviously didn't happen *to me*.
> During most of the game, I was in a programmer/debugger
> mindset, poking the game around and watching the characters
> (including "me") evolve, there was no identification with any
> character. "Suspension of disbelief", they say? Nowhere in this
> game, for me.

Well, of course that attitude is the enemy of immersion, and so of
identification. Actually, this might sound strange, not to mention
contradict something I said earlier, but on further thought I suspect
perhaps the often shallow implementation of Jane actually *helped* avoid
that debugger mindset. For sure, for the first few scenes I found myself
playing with the system, trying out verbs just to see what would happen,
going against the story to see how it would be handled. We all do that,
and it's the IF's job to artfully discourage it, or artfully handle it.
But with Jane, I generally just found a simple "I don't suppose John would
care for that", or "keep your mind on the game", or even "violence isn't
the answer to this one".

So, I soon got bored and stopped tinkering, and let the story flow.

Now I'm not really saying this is some underhand genius on Jane's part,
I doubt it was deliberate. But it's an interesting "solution" to the
problem.

Any thoughts?


>
> But next time, please, add more interactivity. You can let the
> player do a lot of things without compromising your story. When
> Jane came home, followed by an angry John ready to hit her, she
> couldn't even take an umbrella do defend herself! Next time,
> allow the player to take it, you only need to make it fail
> miserably.

I do agree with this one though. Or at least hide - I really felt the need
to find a hiding place, and felt very let down to find it not implemented.

>
> > author intended you to make), I certainly thought it worked
> > much better as IF than it would have as SF.
>
> You mean fiction, rather than science-fiction, right? I agree
> with you (and with the author, if I remember correctly), but I
> still think it didn't work much as IF.

Static Fiction. SF. Sorry, I guess that volume of acronym space is already
used up.

>
> --
> adrie...@yahoo.guess
>


Joseph Grzesiak

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Nov 18, 2002, 10:00:25 AM11/18/02
to
> > But next time, please, add more interactivity. You can let the
> > player do a lot of things without compromising your story. When
> > Jane came home, followed by an angry John ready to hit her, she
> > couldn't even take an umbrella do defend herself! Next time,
> > allow the player to take it, you only need to make it fail
> > miserably.
>
> I do agree with this one though. Or at least hide - I really felt the need
> to find a hiding place, and felt very let down to find it not implemented.

Time for my first-ever post to Usenet. I feel so special. Now to try
not to screw this up.

My goal with that scene was to show the inevitability of what was
about to happen to Jane. As a rookie author, it was enough of a
headache just to keep the dialogue consistent as he chases her through
the house (as someone said, it doesn't matter how ugly the code is, as
long as it works) and I admittedly focused too much on that and not
enough on other actions.

Failing to implement responses to kiss/push/etc/etc is the most
painful oversight, especially given the effort put into altering >HIT.
There's no genius there, just an egregious newbie mistake.

/J

David Given

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Nov 19, 2002, 8:18:51 AM11/19/02
to
In article <3dd7e32e$0$2156$626a...@news.free.fr>,
Adrien Beau <adrie...@yahoo.guess> writes:
[...]

> I'm not saying that in terms of a story Jane was a failure. I
> appreciated what others have noted, for example the fact that
> as John you don't get to hit Jane and as I said above, the
> answers to some "advanced" examinations. The story remained
> focused on the goal the author had chosen, which is rather good
> in this case. I was also happy that the author avoided lots of
> pitfalls and managed to pull his story out, "undisturbed".

[I've just read this message over before posting, and I think it may sound
unduly harsh. It's not supposed to be. _Jane_ was I game I felt strongly
about, and I'm trying to present my honest feelings here. But I'm not
trying to offend anyone.]

I thought _Jane_ was by far the best written of the embarassingly small
number of games I managed to play; the prose was superb, and the
characterisation very nice.

Unfortunately, that particular storyline made for a lousy game. The problem
is that nothing actually happens: the plot consists of a number of set
pieces that portray the situation that the author wants to talk about.
There was no interactivity. All I could do, as the player, was the
equivalent of "Press SPACE to continue". About half way through I gave up
trying to interact with the game and just skimmed through, because I wanted
to read the rest of the story.

The prime symptom of this: most of the dialogue menus had one entry.

One problem with the game was the disclaimer at the beginning. It made it
painfully obvious what the story was going to be, and that there would be
no surprises. I have particular issues with stories that are, well, preachy
(don't get me started on _A Kestrel For A Knave_, one of my all time least
favourite books). There just weren't any surprises. It was obvious that
Jane was going to be randomly abused for the bulk of the game and then
finally muster up enough courage to tell someone and things would get
better just in time for the denouement.

One area where the author particularly set himself up for failure was with
characterisation. Doing this well in IF is really hard. The problem is that
the character's, um, character has to come through regardless of what the
player does. This tends to work well with passive characters rather than
extremely active characters; one of the most memorable characters in a game
in recent years was the in _Rameses_, which very cleverly turned the
inability of the player to actually do anything into a major personality
trait.

In _Jane_, this broke down. The fact that the player had full knowledge of
what was going on at all times introduced a major barrier between the
player and the character. When I was John, I didn't want to do any of the
things that the game wanted me to do --- because I'm not John. When I got
into the house, my first reaction was to go into the living room and sit
down, because I'd just had a hard day at the office. The game stopped until
I finally got up and went looking for Jane. The only reason I did this was
because I knew that was how to advance the plot. The switching between the
different viewpoints made it much harder to identify with anyone, too.
There was no time to develop any history for a lot of the characters.

There was great potential here; Jane, trapped in her life and being
dominated completely by John, should be perfect IF character fodder. But
she needed to be allowed to do enough things to convey how little she can
actually do, if that makes sense. Remember the prime rule of writing IF: a
good game puts the player on a railroad plot but gives the illusion of free
will. In _Jane_, there was no illusion.

I look forward to seeing the author's future games. As I said, the prose
was wonderful (at times John even came across as sympathetic, which was a
neat trick), but the game design was poor. With better game design, he
could produce some extremely impressive work.

--
+- David Given --McQ-+
| d...@cowlark.com | "I tried Zen once, but I understood it." ---
| (d...@tao-group.com) | Anonymous
+- www.cowlark.com --+

Yoon Ha Lee

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Nov 17, 2002, 4:00:54 AM11/17/02
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From: yl...@cornell.edu (Yoon Ha Lee)

Stephen Bond <steph...@NObelgacomSPAM.net> wrote:

YHL
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Martin Bays

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Nov 17, 2002, 4:31:21 AM11/17/02
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+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: Martin Bays <mbaysATfree...@spamless.org>

> I don't think Jane did gain much from being IF. Clearly, this
> was Jane's story, not mine. There was no danger of puzzles or
> interactive elements seeming forced, since there weren't any.
> Sure, you were allowed to have a look around and reveal some
> interesting information (the room's window ornaments and
> especially the bathroom were quite revealing), but mostly, you
> could just wait and press enter to watch it unfold under your
> eyes.

Ah yes, but the eyes it unfolded under were not just your own, they were


Jane's, and John's, and those of the other characters. This, to me, is one
of the great strengths of IF - a true identification with the protagonist,
not because you are empathetic to their situation, or recognise parts of
yourself in them, but simply because you *are* them, and what happens to

them happens *to you*. Nothing in static fiction can touch it, not even


first-person stream of consciousness. Jane, I thought, made good use of
this aspect, and though it fell down in other areas (particularly the lack
of appropriate responses to anything outside the narrow range of actions

the author intended you to make), I certainly thought it worked much


better as IF than it would have as SF.

Martin

Adrien Beau

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Nov 16, 2002, 3:42:52 PM11/16/02
to
+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: Adrien Beau <adrie...@yahoo.guess>

Martin Bays wrote:
>
>> I don't think Jane did gain much from being IF. Clearly, this
>> was Jane's story, not mine. There was no danger of puzzles or
>> interactive elements seeming forced, since there weren't any.
>> Sure, you were allowed to have a look around and reveal some
>> interesting information (the room's window ornaments and
>> especially the bathroom were quite revealing), but mostly,
>> you could just wait and press enter to watch it unfold under
>> your eyes.
>
> Ah yes, but the eyes it unfolded under were not just your own,
> they were Jane's, and John's, and those of the other
> characters. This, to me, is one of the great strengths of IF -
> a true identification with the protagonist, not because you
> are empathetic to their situation, or recognise parts of
> yourself in them, but simply because you *are* them, and what
> happens to them happens *to you*.

Well, what happened to Jane obviously didn't happen *to me*.

During most of the game, I was in a programmer/debugger
mindset, poking the game around and watching the characters
(including "me") evolve, there was no identification with any
character. "Suspension of disbelief", they say? Nowhere in this
game, for me.

I'm not saying that in terms of a story Jane was a failure. I

appreciated what others have noted, for example the fact that
as John you don't get to hit Jane and as I said above, the
answers to some "advanced" examinations. The story remained
focused on the goal the author had chosen, which is rather good
in this case. I was also happy that the author avoided lots of
pitfalls and managed to pull his story out, "undisturbed".

But next time, please, add more interactivity. You can let the

player do a lot of things without compromising your story. When
Jane came home, followed by an angry John ready to hit her, she
couldn't even take an umbrella do defend herself! Next time,
allow the player to take it, you only need to make it fail
miserably.

> Nothing in static fiction


> can touch it, not even first-person stream of consciousness.
> Jane, I thought, made good use of this aspect, and though it
> fell down in other areas (particularly the lack of appropriate
> responses to anything outside the narrow range of actions the
> author intended you to make), I certainly thought it worked
> much better as IF than it would have as SF.

You mean fiction, rather than science-fiction, right? I agree

with you (and with the author, if I remember correctly), but I
still think it didn't work much as IF.

--
adrie...@yahoo.guess

Adrien Beau

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Nov 16, 2002, 11:24:42 AM11/16/02
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+ User FidoNet address: 1:396/4
From: Adrien Beau <adrie...@yahoo.guess>

Stephen Bond wrote:

I don't think Jane did gain much from being IF. Clearly, this

was Jane's story, not mine. There was no danger of puzzles or
interactive elements seeming forced, since there weren't any.
Sure, you were allowed to have a look around and reveal some
interesting information (the room's window ornaments and
especially the bathroom were quite revealing), but mostly, you
could just wait and press enter to watch it unfold under your
eyes.

Of course, Photograph's theme was lighter than Jane's, even

though it was still quite serious. At no point did the puzzles
or IF elements seem forced to me; I was in the character, and
everything was following a logical path. I just had to do these
things, not because the author was heavily handing me, but
because it felt natural to me to do whatever mundane activities
the character was engaging into .

No game this year had such a powerful effect on me. I haven't
played last year's games, so I can't compare, but I know that
Photograph will stay at or near the top of the best IF
I've played for quite some time.


Except after waking up from a nightmare, all sweaty, only to
discover that "I don't want to have a bath." Well, yes I do.

--

Joseph Grzesiak

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Nov 17, 2002, 12:00:25 PM11/17/02
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From: grze...@winternet.com (Joseph Grzesiak)

> > But next time, please, add more interactivity. You can let the
> > player do a lot of things without compromising your story. When
> > Jane came home, followed by an angry John ready to hit her, she
> > couldn't even take an umbrella do defend herself! Next time,
> > allow the player to take it, you only need to make it fail
> > miserably.
>

> I do agree with this one though. Or at least hide - I really felt the need
> to find a hiding place, and felt very let down to find it not implemented.

Time for my first-ever post to Usenet. I feel so special. Now to try
not to screw this up.

My goal with that scene was to show the inevitability of what was
about to happen to Jane. As a rookie author, it was enough of a
headache just to keep the dialogue consistent as he chases her through
the house (as someone said, it doesn't matter how ugly the code is, as
long as it works) and I admittedly focused too much on that and not
enough on other actions.

Failing to implement responses to kiss/push/etc/etc is the most
painful oversight, especially given the effort put into altering >HIT.
There's no genius there, just an egregious newbie mistake.

/J

Martin Bays

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Nov 17, 2002, 2:07:38 PM11/17/02
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From: Martin Bays <mbaysATfree...@spamless.org>

>
> Martin Bays wrote:
> >
> > Ah yes, but the eyes it unfolded under were not just your own,
> > they were Jane's, and John's, and those of the other
> > characters. This, to me, is one of the great strengths of IF -
> > a true identification with the protagonist, not because you
> > are empathetic to their situation, or recognise parts of
> > yourself in them, but simply because you *are* them, and what
> > happens to them happens *to you*.
>
> Well, what happened to Jane obviously didn't happen *to me*.
> During most of the game, I was in a programmer/debugger
> mindset, poking the game around and watching the characters
> (including "me") evolve, there was no identification with any
> character. "Suspension of disbelief", they say? Nowhere in this
> game, for me.

Well, of course that attitude is the enemy of immersion, and so of


identification. Actually, this might sound strange, not to mention
contradict something I said earlier, but on further thought I suspect
perhaps the often shallow implementation of Jane actually *helped* avoid
that debugger mindset. For sure, for the first few scenes I found myself
playing with the system, trying out verbs just to see what would happen,
going against the story to see how it would be handled. We all do that,
and it's the IF's job to artfully discourage it, or artfully handle it.
But with Jane, I generally just found a simple "I don't suppose John would
care for that", or "keep your mind on the game", or even "violence isn't
the answer to this one".

So, I soon got bored and stopped tinkering, and let the story flow.

Now I'm not really saying this is some underhand genius on Jane's part,
I doubt it was deliberate. But it's an interesting "solution" to the
problem.

Any thoughts?
>


> But next time, please, add more interactivity. You can let the
> player do a lot of things without compromising your story. When
> Jane came home, followed by an angry John ready to hit her, she
> couldn't even take an umbrella do defend herself! Next time,
> allow the player to take it, you only need to make it fail
> miserably.

I do agree with this one though. Or at least hide - I really felt the need
to find a hiding place, and felt very let down to find it not implemented.

>


> > author intended you to make), I certainly thought it worked
> > much better as IF than it would have as SF.
>
> You mean fiction, rather than science-fiction, right? I agree
> with you (and with the author, if I remember correctly), but I
> still think it didn't work much as IF.

Static Fiction. SF. Sorry, I guess that volume of acronym space is already
used up.

>
> --
> adrie...@yahoo.guess
>

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

David Given

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Nov 19, 2002, 2:18:51 AM11/19/02
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From: d...@pearl.tao.co.uk (David Given)

In article <3dd7e32e$0$2156$626a...@news.free.fr>,
Adrien Beau <adrie...@yahoo.guess> writes:
[...]

> I'm not saying that in terms of a story Jane was a failure. I
> appreciated what others have noted, for example the fact that
> as John you don't get to hit Jane and as I said above, the
> answers to some "advanced" examinations. The story remained
> focused on the goal the author had chosen, which is rather good
> in this case. I was also happy that the author avoided lots of
> pitfalls and managed to pull his story out, "undisturbed".

[I've just read this message over before posting, and I think it may sound

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