Why is IF so hard?

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juui...@hotmail.com

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Jun 9, 2004, 12:13:27 AM6/9/04
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I have played many IF games and it seems I always get stuck. It's as
if I have to read the author's mind to get on with the game.

Personally, I think that "wurm.z5" (a Z-code version of the classic
"snake" video game) is better than any IF I have ever played.

I don't understand how anyone can have the mindset required to solve
many IF games.

Paul Allen Panks

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Jun 9, 2004, 3:53:56 AM6/9/04
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I have both played and written IF games for many years. Playing IF is much
like reading a story, while also putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
Sometimes you have to look beyond the puzzle in order to find the answers.

I agree that some IF remain too difficult in their own right, but that's
just the way IF is. "Guess the verb syndrome" is more about lack of
planning than poor writing. An adeqaute "help" command is a must when
programming IF, but many IF authors don't always seem to put in the
desired (and needed) help system.

A famous response to typing "help" in a game was the reply:

>help
How should I know? Try tap dancing.

Older IF, such as David Malmberg's "Castle Adventure", didn't have the
space available to implement a large and elaborate help system (in most
cases). If you've got 16K on a TRS-80, you can't waste 2-3K of that on a
help menu. But with later systems, such as the Commodore 64, you would
implement a better help system, and thus this was largely the case in
other games of the genre, such as Magnetic Scrolls "The Pawn".

Some authors are lazy, and just don't put in the time (or effort) to
implement an effective help system. Others just don't care, or want the
game to be challenging. Not including a help command (or decent
instructions), for whatever reason, does indeed frustrate the
majority of IF-players.

My advice is to play adventure games with one eye open, and the other on
the IF-archive Frequently Asked Questions website:

http://tinyurl.com/3xu64

Sincerely,

Paul Allen Panks [a/k/a "Dunric"]
dun...@yahoo.com
ICQ# 12234336
Homepage: http://www.geocities.com/dunric/westfront.html
Other Page: http://members.tripod.com/~panks/hlaadv.html

--
pa...@sdf.lonestar.org
SDF Public Access UNIX System - http://sdf.lonestar.org

Valjean

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Jun 9, 2004, 5:29:53 AM6/9/04
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"Paul Allen Panks" <pa...@sdf.lonestar.org> wrote in message
news:ca6fmk$gem$1...@chessie.cirr.com...

> I have both played and written IF games for many years. Playing IF is much
> like reading a story, while also putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
> Sometimes you have to look beyond the puzzle in order to find the answers.
>
> I agree that some IF remain too difficult in their own right, but that's
> just the way IF is. "Guess the verb syndrome" is more about lack of
> planning than poor writing. An adeqaute "help" command is a must when
> programming IF, but many IF authors don't always seem to put in the
> desired (and needed) help system.

I am not sure I agree with you on this one (if what you are talking about
is a full blown hint system). I think some games function better without a
help / hint system and that the temptation to fall back on to hints when you
come to something tricky is too great for the weak willed like me. I think
the part of the fun is in the "solving community" - currently for me that is
this
group, though I am pretty much a silent member, only occasionally uttering
something vaguely intelligible. In the past - and i mean the dim and distant
past - my solving community was a group of long haired geeks (we were
open about our geekyness back then) operating a mini computer, which had
24 bit words for some wierd reason, with the original adventure. If there
had
been a comprehensive set of hints etc I am sure that playing would have been
a solitary pleasure, as there wasn't it was a much more communal activity
and,
in my opinion, more fun.

It is a bit like publishing the answers for a cryptic crossword on the next
page.
Tempting to take a peek, and even if you do you may not get the reasoning
behind the answer. With a community like this you can get hints, outright
solutions, and the answer to "what the heck made you think of doing that?",
the final bit is often the key to getting better at solving the next piece
you try.

Also many authors put a huge amount of time into responses to clever (or
stupid) incorrect attempts to solve puzzles, which in some instances act as
clues to the correct answer as well, and this additional colour can be
entirely
missed if there is too much use of hint / walkthroughs.

It may just be that I am particularly prone to giving up too easily (Doom
was
entirely spoiled 2/3 of the way through when I was stuck and discovered "God
Mode") but I much prefer a community based approach which encourages me
to find solutions because I do not want to feel really dumb by asking
something
obvious, but also makes me feel good when I see questions that I knew the
answer
to (in my Geek days, being first to kill the dragon ) and very occasionally
being able
to help by actually being in time to give the answer myself - rare because I
am a
daily reader rather than hourly!

I am not saying help/hints are bad, I have played IF in which they were very
well
implemented and essential, but I think not having them can sometimes give
you
more enjoyment.

Val

dgr...@cs.csbuak.edu

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Jun 9, 2004, 6:02:41 AM6/9/04
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Valjean <Val...@no.mail.thanks> wrote:

> It may just be that I am particularly prone to giving up too easily (Doom
> was
> entirely spoiled 2/3 of the way through when I was stuck and discovered "God
> Mode") but I much prefer a community based approach which encourages me
> to find solutions because I do not want to feel really dumb by asking
> something

"Shadowgate (inform)" includes a silly sort of "God Mode". You can win
the game at any time, even at the first move. The trick is to get
frustrated and try something silly.


--
David Griffith
dgr...@cs.csbuak.edu <-- Switch the 'b' and 'u'

Liability Grimwood

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Jun 9, 2004, 2:09:22 PM6/9/04
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It does require a certain mindset to play IF. I know that not everyone
can get off on the intellectual buzz obtained by solving a good problem.
But then, I'm the sort of person who buys puzzles and refuses the
solution sheet. Advance knowledge of how it's done spoils the feeling
when I (eventually) find the solution for myself.

A good puzzle is one that gets you thinking, and then when you find the
solution, kicking yourself for failing to see what (after the event) is
blindingly obvious.

Maybe this is why I'm also a computer programmer. I'd rather be pushed
into thinking in less conventional ways than stare blankly at the Tv.

Mark.

ems...@mindspring.com

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Jun 9, 2004, 4:21:07 PM6/9/04
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juui...@hotmail.com wrote in message news:<9159d95e.04060...@posting.google.com>...

Personally, I tend to play difficult IF with at least one other player
-- working together makes it much easier to get through the
challenging puzzles.

If you're looking for IF that is a little more accessible, try out the
list here:

http://www.carouselchain.com/if/statistics.php?playtime=1&type=playtime&limit=10

These are all short, and most are relatively easy. Or try out the
"puzzleless" category on the same site.

-- Emily

ems...@mindspring.com

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Jun 9, 2004, 4:21:19 PM6/9/04
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Personally, I tend to play difficult IF with at least one other player

Dennis Kuhn

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Jun 9, 2004, 5:09:18 PM6/9/04
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"Valjean" <Val...@no.mail.thanks> wrote in message news:<lMAxc.18632$g4.3...@news2.nokia.com>...

> "Paul Allen Panks" <pa...@sdf.lonestar.org> wrote in message
> news:ca6fmk$gem$1...@chessie.cirr.com...
> > Sometimes you have to look beyond the puzzle in order to find the answers.
[snip]

> >"Guess the verb syndrome" is more about lack of
> > planning than poor writing. An adeqaute "help" command is a must when
> > programming IF, but many IF authors don't always seem to put in the
> > desired (and needed) help system.
>
> I am not sure I agree with you on this one (if what you are talking about
> is a full blown hint system). I think some games function better without a
> help / hint system and that the temptation to fall back on to hints when you
> come to something tricky is too great for the weak willed like me. I think
> the part of the fun is in the "solving community" - currently for me that is
> this group, though I am pretty much a silent member, only occasionally
> uttering something vaguely intelligible.


Everyone has their favorite ways of getting hints. I read one
newsgroup where Every Single Time someone asked for a hint, this one
person would always reply, "Just go to gamefaqs.com", usually in an
annoyed tone. Not the best community for hints. :)

I know another guy who buys a new game, and downloads the walkthrough
for it right away, and then beats the game in an hour or two by simply
reading the hints and doing everything they mention. Now, where's the
fun in that?

I can understand the problem of being weak-willed when it comes to
hints, but after you've spoiled a game or two by taking that route...
I'm guessing you'd have yourself pretty well trained to avoid reading
hints until some personal time limit you set for yourself. That's how
it worked for me, anyway. I realized that I'd robbed myself of my
favorite part of IF; the "aha!" factor. So nowadays I usually let
myself flail at a problem for a day or two, THEN go to the hints.

Of course, these days I've only got time to play games for a couple of
hours a week. Back in the 80's it was a couple of hours a DAY.

Here's the weirdest form of "online help" I used: Back in '85, my tech
college had a DECSystem mainframe, and a friend of mine found
ADVENTURE residing on it in a public directory. He knew a lot of the
cave system, but I'd never played before. So, we connected two
terminals so he could watch me play and type hints at me as I went
along.

I went into the brick building, and spotted the food. So I did what
any newbie adventurer would do (I assume): I ate it. Hey, exploring
caves is hungry work! Well, before I can hit [ENTER], my screen
starts filling up with:

"Nooooooooooooo!"

I guess that was his idea of a helpful hint to hang onto the food. By
the end of the year, I'd created a 3' x 2' map of the cave rooms, with
little drawings of the treasures and other objects. But I never let
him connect to my terminal again. :)

Dennis

Pax

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Jun 9, 2004, 8:30:13 PM6/9/04
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<juui...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> I have played many IF games and it seems I always get stuck. It's as
> if I have to read the author's mind to get on with the game.

Yes ofcourse.

> Personally, I think that "wurm.z5" (a Z-code version of the classic
> "snake" video game) is better than any IF I have ever played.

It was fun, what other IF have you played ?

> I don't understand how anyone can have the mindset required to solve
> many IF games.

Just don't give up.


PaulCsouls

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Jun 9, 2004, 9:27:02 PM6/9/04
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Cheating is part of the game. I give up after a couple of days on a
puzzle and look for hints on the web. I really hate when you can screw
up and can't win or go on for while before you figure it out. Then you
have to start all over again.

Paul

James Marshall

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Jun 9, 2004, 11:31:17 PM6/9/04
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In article <avdfc0di22g97cgrp...@4ax.com> PaulCsouls <paulc...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
>On 8 Jun 2004 21:13:27 -0700, juui...@hotmail.com wrote:

>>I have played many IF games and it seems I always get stuck. It's as
>>if I have to read the author's mind to get on with the game.

Actually, you're right. Sometimes you do basically have to think exactly
like the game author did in order to solve a puzzle.

>>Personally, I think that "wurm.z5" (a Z-code version of the classic
>>"snake" video game) is better than any IF I have ever played.

You've played "many IF games" and think wurm.z5 is the better than all
of them? Wow. Maybe you picked all poor games to start with or something
because there are a bunch of games far better than some abuse of the
Z-machine. I think I posted these in a recent thread, but check out
these sites which have ratings, reviews, classifications, etc. of games:

http://www.wurb.com/if/index.html
http://www.igs.net/~tril/if/best/index.html
http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/literacy.htm
http://www.carouselchain.com/if/statistics.php

I have them all linked up on one of my web pages and they should provide
you with a lot of information on the games and help you pick some good
ones to play. Make sure you try some of the games that are generally
considered some of the best before you give up on IF.

>>I don't understand how anyone can have the mindset required to solve
>>many IF games.

Well, it's true that it does help to have a certain mindset to play and
enjoy IF. I don't think it's a requirement, but it often helps to think
in particular ways. I think you can learn that by practice and playing
a bunch of games. Things like examining everything and taking everything
that's not nailed down are common IF practices that you wouldn't do in
real life. Once you get a feel for IF, you should pick up on these sorts
of things and it should become slightly easier. But if you've given IF a
fair try and don't like it, that's fine. No problems here. Of course
almost everyone here is a fan of IF though.

>Cheating is part of the game.

This is true. It is often difficult if not impossible to avoid getting
stuck in IF games. That's when you need help from hints, walkthroughs,
a second opinion (get a friend to play along) or whatever. Because
sometimes you do have to think exactly like the author, as already
mentioned, don't feel bad about getting help. I think we've all done
so at one point or another. You just *don't* think exactly like
someone else so it's pretty much inevitable that you'll need help.

>I give up after a couple of days on a
>puzzle and look for hints on the web.

I guess I do something similar. I try for a while, leave it, come back
to it later, try again, and when I finally get frustrated, go looking
for help. I do like hint systems built in to the game because I can
read the first few, see they're things I already know/did, and work up
to the hint that's got something new, then stop and try it again.
Sometimes that's all I need, that one missing piece that I just keep
overlooking.

>I really hate when you can screw
>up and can't win or go on for while before you figure it out. Then you
>have to start all over again.

Yeah, those are pretty bad. But isn't there an idea that games should
be coded so that you can't unknowingly get into an unwinnable state?
That you should get some sort of warning or indication that what you
want to do may be a bad move? I thought I read about that before.

--
. . . . -- James Marshall (ORI) * ,
,. -- )-- , , . -- )-- , mars...@astro.umd.edu
' ' http://www.astro.umd.edu/~marshall '''
"Astronomy is a dyslexic's nightmare." , *

Cedric Knight

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Jun 11, 2004, 6:54:36 PM6/11/04
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juui...@hotmail.com wrote:
> I have played many IF games and it seems I always get stuck. It's as
> if I have to read the author's mind to get on with the game.
>
> Personally, I think that "wurm.z5" (a Z-code version of the classic
> "snake" video game) is better than any IF I have ever played.

Glad if you enjoyed it - I'm tempted to ask your high score. It was
written in an hour one night as a diversion from work on a real (but
puzzleless) IF. I'd obviously realised how one can have a sufficiently
devious mind to play IF, but not sufficiently devious to write it. BTW
should abuses be in a separate folder on the archive?

I think sometimes we get lazy and expect solutions to come easily. It's
very similar to doing a crossword; very occasionally you can complete
the grid quickly, but mostly it takes considerable effort and
frustration, and that's why there are so many abandoned, half-completed
puzzles. I've found this with IF quite often, too - I never finished
Mike Sousa's 'Friendly Foe', for example, although I was sure it was
going to be clever. IF is often designed to take days or weeks to
solve, not just minutes as with a crossword.

If you are playing a piece of IF and you think 'Oh, here's a puzzle to
get past, and it's probably got some complex technical solution. But
I'm not really interested in unravelling it', then it's time to leave
the computer, do some work, or play a mindless arcade game. When you
feel sufficiently in need of a cerebral challenge, you can come back to
it, and get the satisaction of completing it and passing the test. But
it should give a decent reward in terms of logic and story, so check out
the four- and five-star IF at Baf's Guide.

A lot of puzzle solutions only make sense in retrospect, but a kind of
open, persistent exploration helps. 'I'm completely stuck at this brick
wall at point A, but there's a plant, and a watering can in room B. I
wonder what happens...' Sometimes one fails to notice a tiny detail of
text, or the author hasn't drawn sufficient attention to possible action
or object, so you have to re-read everything.

In story-based IF, it shouldn't be a mixture of reading the text and
solving the occasional puzzle. Instead, the story should suggest goals
and other elements that can be used as clues. It's always possible to
misread any type of clues. So if a idea doesn't seem to get anywhere,
try a completely different approach. And another, and another... the
solving of the puzzles should be creative itself.

CK

Yoon Ha Lee

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Jun 11, 2004, 7:09:38 PM6/11/04
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Cedric Knight <ckn...@gn.babpbc.removeallBstosend.org> wrote:

> juui...@hotmail.com wrote:
> > I have played many IF games and it seems I always get stuck. It's as
> > if I have to read the author's mind to get on with the game.
> >
> > Personally, I think that "wurm.z5" (a Z-code version of the classic
> > "snake" video game) is better than any IF I have ever played.
>
> Glad if you enjoyed it - I'm tempted to ask your high score. It was
> written in an hour one night as a diversion from work on a real (but
> puzzleless) IF. I'd obviously realised how one can have a sufficiently
> devious mind to play IF, but not sufficiently devious to write it. BTW
> should abuses be in a separate folder on the archive?

--vice versa also happens. *looks ashamed* I can think of maybe two
games I finished without MAJOR resorting to walkthroughs or hints,
in-game or otherwise. Also why I am so behind on playing IF. *looks at
little devourer of brains*
--
Yoon Ha Lee
http://pegasus.cityofveils.com
Pi = 3, for small values of pi and large values of 3.

Max

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Jun 12, 2004, 9:22:01 AM6/12/04
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You refer to IF. You mean text adventures.

I generally dislike text adventures. I generally love Interactive Fiction.
A good dose of both combined is alright (with a hint book, maybe).

--Max

<juui...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:9159d95e.04060...@posting.google.com...

Andrew Plotkin

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Jun 12, 2004, 9:52:13 AM6/12/04
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Here, Max <remove_th...@mweb.co.za> wrote:
> You refer to IF. You mean text adventures.
>
> I generally dislike text adventures. I generally love Interactive Fiction.

If you're going to make such a statement, you're going to have to
explain how you define the terms, and what the difference is.

There are a lot of definitions running around. (I, for example, use
"IF" and "adventure games" interchangeably.) That doesn't bother me,
but it does mean that I don't understand your statement.

--Z

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

Nikos Chantziaras

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Jun 14, 2004, 4:39:11 PM6/14/04
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juuitchan wrote:
>
> I have played many IF games and it seems I always get stuck. It's as
> if I have to read the author's mind to get on with the game.
>
> I don't understand how anyone can have the mindset required to solve
> many IF games.

There are easy games and there are difficult games. Just like with any
other genre. There are action games where it's really impossible to win
without "God Mode", especially for newbies. If you're new to IF, you should
focus on easier games.


Magnus Olsson

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Jun 15, 2004, 5:11:17 AM6/15/04
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In article <9159d95e.04060...@posting.google.com>,

<juui...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>I have played many IF games and it seems I always get stuck. It's as
>if I have to read the author's mind to get on with the game.

You're not alone, if that's of any comfort.

>Personally, I think that "wurm.z5" (a Z-code version of the classic
>"snake" video game) is better than any IF I have ever played.
>
>I don't understand how anyone can have the mindset required to solve
>many IF games.

So what's your point?

Are you looking for easier IF where you won't get stuck? There are
such games around. There's even a lot of "puzzleless" IF where there's
nothing to get stuck on (at least in theory).

Or do you feel that you somehow "ought to" like IF, but don't? In
that case, don't sweat it - tastes differ. Very few people like
all kinds of games.

Or did you just want to vent your frustration? In that case, as
I wrote above, you're not alone.

Or are you trolling?

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)
PGP Public Key available at http://www.df.lth.se/~mol

Max

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Jun 15, 2004, 11:18:12 AM6/15/04
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"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:caf1qd$imk$1...@reader2.panix.com...

> Here, Max <remove_th...@mweb.co.za> wrote:
> > You refer to IF. You mean text adventures.
> >
> > I generally dislike text adventures. I generally love Interactive
Fiction.
>
> If you're going to make such a statement, you're going to have to
> explain how you define the terms, and what the difference is.
>
> There are a lot of definitions running around. (I, for example, use
> "IF" and "adventure games" interchangeably.) That doesn't bother me,
> but it does mean that I don't understand your statement.
>
By interactive fiction, I mean that it is more similar to other forms of
fiction (such as a novel or play) than to other genres of games (RPGs,
roguelikes, etc.)

--Max


Jason Farrell

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Jun 15, 2004, 2:25:49 PM6/15/04
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> I don't understand how anyone can have the mindset required to solve
> many IF games.

The key for me in why I like and play IF Games is 1) they make me a
participant in a (hopefully)interesting story and 2) they require, to
some degree or other, mental involvement. I have worked in a
videogame/software store for several years and have watched the
profligation of storytelling games that practically play themselves.
Although for some reason I still enjoy a good Final Fantasy-type
game,which could be classified as Interactive Fiction in a broader
sense of the term, the degree to which you make any choices or have to
"figure anything out" is very limited. The plots and characters of
such games are also heavily recycled.
There are players who will seek out games, of any type, that provide a
challenge to them and who get a great sense of accomplishment from
solving them. Then there are people who play only to "win" and are
immediately frustrated if everything doesn't fall neatly into place
for them. I'm no puzzle expert, myself, and since I'm in it mostly
for the story I do use hints if I get hopelessly stuck rather than
ruin narrative flow and risk missing the rest of the game. But I also
solve about 60% of the puzzles myself and often feel a great sense of
satisfaction when I do so. As long as the puzzle solution is fair I
never begrudge their inclusion. I'm grateful that IF, and the IF
community, keeps alive the tradition of games that require some effort
beyond watching pretty cut-scenes and pushing fire buttons and in the
process tell some of the best stories ever in interactive anything.

Jacek Pudlo

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Jun 21, 2004, 10:04:51 AM6/21/04
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"Magnus Olsson"

> Or are you trolling?

Are you a bully in real life, too? Or is Usenet the only place where you
have the guts to vent your resentment and aggression?

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