REVIEW: The Longest Journey

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Andrew Plotkin

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Dec 31, 2002, 1:42:44 AM12/31/02
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REVIEW: The Longest Journey

(Review copyright 2002, Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com>)

Graphics: pretty good
Atmosphere: okay (good in spots, but not coherent)
Plot: lots, but mediocre
Writing and Dialogue: poor
Difficulty: easy
Gameplay: mostly uninteresting
Forgiveness rating: you cannot die or make a fatal mistake.

(And I will suppress the temptation to refer to it as "The Longest Install".
Er... more than once.)

Those of you who occasion my review collection will have noted that I'm
missing a lot of well-known adventure titles. What happened to _Grim
Fandango_? What happened to _Day of the Tentacle_ and _Discworld_? What
about that peerless (or so I am told) pinnacle of pirate-based puzzling, the
_Monkey Island_ series?

In truth, there are two distinct strands of graphical adventure gaming. One
is the _Myst_ genre, of which I have voraciously devoured every possible
example and reviewed many. The other is -- I generally say the
"Lucas/Sierra" group, but if we persist in naming these groups for their
type specimens, I think it would have to be the _King's Quest_ genre. (If an
earlier example exists, let me know.)

The L/S group (as I will refer to it) has a long and proud tradition: from
the King's and Space Quests and _Leisure Suit Larry_ to a bunch of Star Trek
games, from _Loom_ to _The Dig_, and so on. And I know barely more about
them than their titles. You want to know how many games of this sort I've
played? Well, there was _Loom_, and _Grim Fandango_, and, mmm, _The Ward_,
and now _The Longest Journey_. Four. Why just four? Because, by and large, I
don't *like* them.

Which is really strange. I enjoy, and I'm going to be blunt about this, a
lot of real crap. I'm pretty good at saying "Okay, aside from all the
miserable parts of that game, I had fun." And here we have literally dozens
of games, from dozens of development groups and several major publishers.
They *all* rub me the wrong way? The *same* wrong way?

I've tried to enjoy some of these. _Loom_ is by Brian Moriarty, an Infocom
Implementor and author of some of my favorite text games. _Grim Fandango_
kicks around a story-concept -- deadpan Mexican afterlife bureaucracy --
which I purely love. So why, every time, do I walk out thinking "Wow, some
nice stuff there. Pity the game drowned it out with a tidal wave of No Fun"?

There must be some commonality here. I want to investigate it.

Let us consider the interface. The most obvious distinction is the
appearance of the hero. Literally: whether he appears. The _Myst_ games give
a first-person perspective ("through the eyes of the monster", as one
subtitle has it); you are a void, a Cartesian observer. The L/S games are
third-person; they put your character on the screen, a puppet which you lead
around and make to dance.

Is this it? Perhaps. Conventions of viewpoint *do* matter to me. In text
adventures, I am a traditionalist: I strongly prefer the second-person
construction ("You are in a small cavern") to the first-person ("I am on the
bridge of a spaceship") or the third ("Harry is in his bedroom"). I've
played third-person text games, and while I can enjoy them, the viewpoint
bugs me throughout. I want to *be* the protagonist, not *command* him. Maybe
I'm just reacting the same way to graphical games?

But no. The hypothesis does not hold, and I disprove it thus: _Ico_. And
_Soul Reaver_. And several others. Yea, even _Tomb Raider_ and _Super Mario
Sunshine_.

Those aren't adventure games, of course. They're action games, with some
proportion of exploration or puzzle content mixed in. I bring them up simply
because they're all third-person interfaces, and I've *never* had *any*
trouble identifying with the little character image running around the
screen. I've had a great time with these games. Whatever problem I have with
the L/S clan, the visibility of the avatar is not it.

So what *is* the problem? I ask myself this, and I feel two answers floating
around -- only they may be intertwined. Let's not worry about that yet. The
answers are: "telling", "range of action", and "convention".

Damn, they really *are* intertwined, aren't they. I can't even distinguish
them well enough to count reliably.

Okay, let's try this. I'll start talking about _The Longest Journey_ --
remember _The Longest Journey_? This is a song about _The Longest Journey_
-- and when any of this starts making sense to me, I'll get back to the wild
theoretical crap.

(Don't all cringe at once.)

_TLJ_ is a story about April Ryan, an art student in 23rd-century America.
How do we know this? Because there's about two hours of voice-over text to
listen to, as you examine every object in the game world. And talk to all of
April's friends. And plumb the depths of their dialogue menus. Maybe it's
three hours. Oh, dear, I've gotten bitter already.

I don't (much) want to get into the history of conversation interfaces in
interactive fiction. But I've never liked the menu system. Games use it
because it's easy, and it's interactive, right? It's not like a cut scene,
where you sit back and listen to pre-scripted dialogue. Everyone hates cut
scenes, and dialogue menus are better, right?

Wrong. I call bullshit on that reasoning, now and forevermore. In _TLJ_,
when you talk to a character, you get three to five choices of things to
say. If you get a little farther into the conversation, you might get a
submenu of four or five topics to ask about. And you know what? The right
answer is *always* to ask about *all* of them. They're all important clues
-- or important background information, or character-building, or some other
carefully crafted message from the designers.

And that means *each conversation is a cut scene*. It is *not interactive*.
I can't put it more clearly than that. You sit back and listen to the
pre-scripted dialogue, occasionally clicking a menu option to hear the next
paragraph. You could skip some options, or leave early, of course -- but why
bother? You're just going to come back later and listen to the rest. It's
the shallowest kind of interactivity.

(A game *could*, of course, have critical choices in its menus. Options
which have irrevocable consequences. That would make the interactivity
important. But _TLJ_, like most graphical games, forswears all critical
choices. You can never truly make a mistake. There *are* no wrong options,
only options which are not yet the right one. Thus, not interactive. End of
tangent.)

(Or, a game could have so many branching options in each conversation --
with certain choices excluding others from the tree -- that no player could
explore them all. I'm told that _Planescape Torment_ works this way. But
_TLJ_ doesn't. There are just a handful of choices available, and you *can*
run through them all -- except perhaps for a few tiny divergences that are
meaningless to the storyline. Thus, not interactive. End of further
tangent.)

So: in this here game, the first time you meet a character, you get a
ten-minute non-interactive cut scene to listen to. And you meet several
characters in the first chapter -- because that's how the designers feed you
background material.

It's copious. It's slow, because it's spoken text. It's boring and
(effectively) mandatory. What part of this sounds like *good* game design?

This is what I mean by "telling". In the L/S style of game, most of what you
learn about the world is *told* to you. Printed text, in the older games;
spoken text in the recent ones.

Whereas in _Myst_ style games, most of what you learn is *shown* to you; you
see images of the world -- detailed images -- and you must interpret them
yourself. _Myst_ itself was nearly wordless (except for other characters and
their diaries). Some of _Myst_'s imitators have had voice-overs, or smartass
sidekicks; but the bulk of the interaction is still what you *see*.

"Telling versus showing" is a cliche in narrative, and I don't want to wield
it too simplistically. (After all, I'm the text adventure freak, and those
are *all* printed text!) What bugs me here is a matter of degree -- the
degree of interpretation which the game provides.

You click on graphical objects in _Myst_. You click on graphical objects in
_TLJ_. In _Myst_, the object reacts. In _TLJ_, a pop-up window tells you
what the object is, and the narrator tells you what you can do with it (or
why you can't do anything with it). Do you see the distinction? In one case,
you act in the world and learn from the result. In the second case, you are
told how to act in the world in order to produce a result.

It's a subtle point... or maybe it's just another convention of viewpoint
that I'm freaking out about. But I don't think so. I think there's a real
difference in the sorts of choices and decisions that these games present
you with. When I'm playing a _Myst_-style graphical adventure, I'm always
thinking "What *is* that? What am I surrounded by? What in this room is
important?" Even after I pick up an object, and thus identify it as a
discrete manipulable thing in the game world, I'm asking "What is it made
of? What shape is it? What properties might it have?"

My options of investigation are limited, yes -- I probably can't do more
than click on the object, indicating my desire to "use it somehow". But
then, the game designers know that. They make the object visually
interesting. Or they make it react in an interesting way, which hints at
where else in the game I might use it.

In _TLJ_, those questions just don't arise. I know what's important in the
room, and what everything is, because there are pop-up labels. What the
labels don't mention, the protagonist explains. There is rarely any
important information illustrated by the game art. A graphical adventure in
which you never attain your flash of insight from the graphics! That's it;
that's what bugs me. If the graphics aren't critical, what are they there
for?

This is *not* an *inherent* distinction. I do not think that a L/S game must
be shallow and mechanical. I certainly don't think that every _Myst_-like
game is deep and engaging.

Heck, look at text adventures. They're *all* narration. When you examine an
object, the game prints a block of prose -- more or less in the
protagonist's voice -- telling you about it. Ideally, that prose leads you
to consider certain actions, without blatantly telling you what to do. You
try a few actions; they may fail, but you learn more from the reactions.
Eventually you understand the object deeply enough to think of the
surprising-but-logical approach.

There *are* text games which *do* constantly tell you what to do. We call
these "boring games". And there are _Myst_-style games in which every object
in the world is blatantly visible, and reacts in a trivial way. Those are
boring too.

It's just the conventions of the genres, I think. (Oh, this is going to
sound rude. I'm still going to say it:) The games I like, text and
graphical, try to be challenging. L/S games try to be easy. L/S players
expect clear and simple ranges of action. Clues should be laid out in a
line. A puzzle should be solvable, at worst, by trying your entire inventory
on the (clearly-labelled) hotspot in front of you.

*It's only a convention.* It's not a universal truth. You know how I know?
Because _TLJ_ has interesting, challenging, engaging parts. The designers
went every which way they could to get away from the "conventional" L/S
puzzle structure. They have alien machines and symbols, they have computer
interfaces, which you must comprehend by studying the game art. They have a
particularly nifty set of alchemical potions. They have a three-way popup
menu for using objects, which they stretch in as many directions as
possible. They have an on-and-off NPC who you can send off on missions. They
have monsters that chase you around (though not in a time-critical way).
They have an Escheresque labyrinth where nothing reacts as you might expect.
They have many puzzles that are entirely beautiful, by any adventure gamer's
standards.

And yet -- I can always sense the pull of Grandpa Same-Old-Same-Old, pulling
the designers back into the rut. In between the clever puzzles -- and
outnumbering them -- are acres of tedious hoops to jump through. Talk to the
character to learn the clue. Listen to the blatant pointer on what to do
next. Collect the arbitrary piece of junk. Use your inventory to rig the
incredibly contrived scenario which just happens to divert/satisfy/scare the
utterly implausible NPC. Watch the sense of realism dribble down the tubes,
as you follow the designers' monkey dance of plot contrivance.

It all turned into cliches ten years ago -- and *everyone forgot to quit*.
Most of these games have long since passed into self-parody, right? I only
saw bits of the _Leisure Suit Larry_ series, but I remember a lot of mockery
of its own genre. Certainly _Grim Fandango_ had plenty of winks and nudges.
I missed the first three _Monkey Island_ games, but the fourth one had a
terrible fetid air of jokes run into the ground. (For the two hours I
managed to play, before flinging it across the room.)

And those are games which are *supposed* to be funny. _The Longest Journey_
is trying to be serious work -- but half the time, it's buried in the same
hackneyed game structures! _Escape from Monkey Island_ foists these puzzle
formats on us with a wry, "look how silly it all is" shrug. Now I'm supposed
to take them seriously? When I'm buying a flute to play for the
superstitious sea captain so he'll sign a delivery slip? When I'm cheating
the gambler to win the talking bird to give to the lonely sailor so he'll
get me a berth on the ship? I'm sorry. It's bunk. If that's what the
audience wants, the audience is not on my planet.

It doesn't help that, by and large, _TLJ_ is lousily written. I got through
_Grim Fandango_, despite my annoyance with the game format, because it had a
witty and interesting, satirical worldview to get across. _TLJ_ doesn't. I'm
sure the authors wanted to invent a rich and detailed fantasy world, but the
fact is, it's all stock. There's barely an original note in the whole
thirteen-chapter story; and the writing is nowhere near strong enough to
breathe new life into the classic elements. Every character is a walking
cliche. A walking, talking cliche. Oh, lord, how they do talk. In cliches.

(Okay, not *every* one. Burns Flipper the geek had a voice -- you know, an
actual living character. I could listen to him. And the talking bird had a
few good moments. Everyone else -- actors regurgitating lines. One adjective
of personality, and a pet name to call the protagonist. Weirdly like _Animal
Crossing_, now that I think of it. ...Niblet.)

The protagonist herself doesn't have the worst speeches of the bunch, but
she's not very inspiring either. Her voice work is mostly bland, with
occasional patches of bad acting. But then the actor doesn't have a whole
lot to work with. The storyline develops her character only in the
shallowest strokes -- aside from a family-history thread which leaps onto
the stage at the end (and then stands there, looking awkward and
embarrassed).

I don't know. I don't usually complain this much about bad writing in games.
The field has so much bad writing to choose from. As I said, I enjoy a lot
of real crap...

I think it's the sheer duration. _TLJ_ is a *long* game to play. I don't say
"large game", because there are many ways to measure size: number of
puzzles, number of scenes, number of rooms. Comparing games of the same type
is difficult; comparing games between genres is impossible.

But you *can* measure total playing time. I spent a whole lot of hours on
_TLJ_. And most of those hours were spent listening to narration or
dialogue... and it just wasn't that pleasant.

Look. I *prefer* big games. Even if the quality is shaky, the sheer weight
of determination is impressive; effort and attention to detail always shine
through. _TLJ_ embodies *great* effort and attention. The designers put in
all the little details and customizations that I could desire. Objects have
long descriptions the first time you examine them, and shorter
summarizations on later examination. Labels on NPCs change as you learn
their names. Wrong guesses on solving puzzles produce interesting,
informative failure messages. Random NPCs wander in and out of areas as the
game progresses. The art is evocative, distinctive, and full of tiny detail
-- often *animated* detail.

And I liked some of the imagery, and some of the events, and some of the
puzzles, and some of the clever twists. The bit at the end, it did make me
smile. Honest.

But... if you're going to spend days of my time building up a world and a
story, and the world is just another fantasy mash, and the story is
uninspiring... then you have a problem. If your dramatic events leave me
saying, yeah, what next?... then you have a problem. If all your political,
philosophical, and artistic ideas are sophomoric and soporific, delivered in
bowling-ball-sized lumps by cardboard stooges who practically have quotation
marks tattooed on their foreheads... then you have a problem.

I am focussing on the negative here, I admit. I have written much on what I
disliked of _TLJ_, and little on what I enjoyed. I *did* enjoy the game
quite a bit. Just... not enough.

*Put it this way*: If I hadn't spent so much time wincing at the dialogue,
muttering about the puzzles, and flat-out bored with the game, I would have
said "Nice game. Large and detailed. Nothing brilliant in there, but
entertaining." Contrariwise, if there'd been brilliance buried in the game,
I would have forgiven the flaws. But as it stands? No thanks.

I hear a sequel is coming out. I might even buy it. Optimism says, the
unanswered questions from _TLJ_ might turn out to be more interesting than
the answered ones.

Ah, optimism.

(This review, and my reviews of other adventure games, are at
http://www.eblong.com/zarf/gamerev/index.html)

--Z

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

Anne Borland

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Dec 31, 2002, 8:38:30 AM12/31/02
to
ewww Andrew. so many words to review a game. I poughed through it and
eventually got to the important part, decided it wasn't worth buying after
your review. Point taken...eventually.
Anne


Andrew Plotkin

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Dec 31, 2002, 11:24:59 AM12/31/02
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I actually felt like I should have gone on *longer*. :-)

As you can see, I started out planning to review _TLJ_, but I wound up
reviewing an entire category of games. I had a lot of observation
backlogged in my brain, and this was the first time I'd been able to
put it into words. Hopefully even people who are just interested in
_TLJ_ will find something valuable in the torrent.

OKB (not okblacke)

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Dec 31, 2002, 12:25:58 PM12/31/02
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I've changed the subject line because I haven't played The Longest
Journey and I'm not going to be talking about it. But this review had
some things to say about graphical game design, and I have some opinions
about that too, so I thought I'd address them. I think that most of
what I'm saying here stems just from fundamentally different taste in
graphical games, but I figure it might be interesting to look at the
contrast in tastes.

Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> This is what I mean by "telling". In the L/S style of game, most of
> what you learn about the world is *told* to you. Printed text, in
> the older games; spoken text in the recent ones.
>
> Whereas in _Myst_ style games, most of what you learn is *shown* to
> you; you see images of the world -- detailed images -- and you must
> interpret them yourself. _Myst_ itself was nearly wordless (except
> for other characters and their diaries). Some of _Myst_'s imitators
> have had voice-overs, or smartass sidekicks; but the bulk of the
> interaction is still what you *see*.

Indeed, this is one of the things that makes me prefer L/S games to
Myst-style games. Whether I like a game has less to do with the nature
of the interaction per se and more to do with the gameplay. Here's what
I mean by this.

In my mind, the "interaction" refers to the mechanisms by which the
player does stuff in the game. In L/S, these mechanisms usually consist
of actions or dialogue choices chosen from a finite set and applied to
objects on the screen, or in some cases a one-click style of interaction
where clicking an object "uses" it in the appropriate way. In Myst-
style games, the mechanisms are usually things like sliding levers and
funky contraptions in the game world, with controls that the player
manipulates by clicking and dragging them and so forth. The difference
here (as you noted briefly in your review) is that interaction in L/S
games is more closely bound to the player-character than to the rest of
the world, and so as you progress through the game you don't open up any
truly different types of interaction, just new objects and situations
where you apply the same set of actions. In the Myst-type games, the
player-character doesn't take with him any particular mode of
interaction, so each object can have its own unique controls and stuff.

The gameplay, on the other hand, has little to do with exactly how
the player is doing things. It has to do with what he's doing -- the
kind of puzzles he's solving, for instance. In L/S games, the player
generally moves around the game world, picks up objects, talks to
characters, and uses objects with other objects. In Myst-like games (in
my experience) most of what the player does consists of either moving
from place to place or fiddling with strange devices trying to figure
out the controls.

Now, it doesn't HAVE to be this way. Theoretically someone could
design a game where the interaction is unique but the gameplay is still
varied. In my experience, however, although Myst-like games have
interesting ways to interact with objects on an immediate level, the
overall gameplay is invariably tedious. There is little chance to take
a larger view of the game world as anything other than a hodgepodge of
individual weird machines. In other words, to my taste, it doesn't
really matter if I as the player spend the whole game choosing from the
same set of 6 or 8 actions, as long as I'm using those actions on new
objects and to achieve new goals. On the negative side, in a Myst-like
game, it doesn't matter that I have all kinds of nifty gizmos to tinker
with if I'm never really "doing" anything but tinkering with gizmos.

Now, to get back to the text I quoted, which was about telling vs.
showing: the special-purpose interaction mechanisms of Myst-type games
virtually mandate "showing", because an attempt to describe them or
reduce them to a simple combination of building blocks would be
difficult and the result inaccurate. (That is, it's difficult to
DESCRIBE a complex system of levers and gears and whatnot, but it's
relatively easy to put a picture of it on the screen.) The interaction
of L/S games, on the other hand, is easier to "flatten" into a few
groups of things -- verbs, objects, NPCs -- and a few simple rules for
how they can be combined.

In fact, this is what text IF does. The actions that you choose
from a menu in Monkey Island are just the most common text IF verbs.
Most interaction in IF consists of the use of a small number of basic
verbs. When a text IF game tries to get too crazy with its interaction,
it runs the same risk as a Myst-type game -- getting too bogged down in
the details.

So, for me, it's not that telling is better than showing, but that
the kinds of interactions that REQUIRE showing tend to draw too much
focus onto themselves, and away from the "big picture" of the game.

Here we differ greatly. If the graphics are so critical that it is
possible to miss the important stuff simply by not scrutinizing the
screen closely enough (beyond a certain minimally required level of
scrutiny), I call that a piece of hunt-the-pixel nonsense. For me, the
graphics don't exist to BE the point, they serve to SUPPORT the point.
The game isn't ABOUT the graphics, but the graphics portray what the
game IS about more clearly and accurately than words could, and so bring
the player and author closer together, reducing the distance that the
idea must traverse from the author's vision to the player's
understanding.

> This is *not* an *inherent* distinction. I do not think that a L/S
> game must be shallow and mechanical. I certainly don't think that
> every _Myst_-like game is deep and engaging.

I found this statement amusing, because I have the exactly opposite
reaction. As I mentioned, though, my focus is different. I find that,
on a larger scale, Myst-type games are shallow and mechanical because
they follow the "look around -> find device -> fiddle with device ->
finally get device to do what you want -> open new area" ("->
impotence") cycle. Certainly, the particular mouse movements I'm making
in that "fiddle with device" stage aren't the kind I'd normally make,
but that doesn't really interest me. The L/S games may be mechanical on
the interface level, but the variety of scenery and story and situation
is almost always far greater.

> It's just the conventions of the genres, I think. (Oh, this is
> going to sound rude. I'm still going to say it:) The games I like,
> text and graphical, try to be challenging. L/S games try to be
> easy. L/S players expect clear and simple ranges of action. Clues
> should be laid out in a line. A puzzle should be solvable, at
> worst, by trying your entire inventory on the (clearly-labelled)
> hotspot in front of you.

I agree with the "clear and simple ranges of action" part. I don't
necessarily think this equates to "easy". In fact, I don't think ease
per se is really the issue. The issue for me is, when I am sitting down
playing this game, is what I am doing interesting to me? In Myst-like
games, the answer is generally no; what I'm doing is poking at some
strange controls. In L/S games, I'm usually doing something to bring
about some result within the game, or I'm learning about the characters,
or something.

I agree that these are genre conventions. What I see is that the
Myst-like genre has developed the convention that cool interfaces are
enough to make a good game, and that there's no need to engage the
player in a story or make him feel for the characters in the way that an
L/S game does -- indeed, no need to provide any overall structure to the
game. And, as you say, the L/S games have taken the opposite approach,
content with their existing type of interaction. I would be delighted
to see a game which used Myst-like interactions but put them in service
of a compelling storyline. To this point, though, what I've seen is
games that take a mediocre storyline and put IT in service the
interactions, and that, for me, takes a distant second place when
compared to an L/S style game.

--
--OKB (not okblacke)
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is
no path, and leave a trail."
--author unknown

Rick Reynolds

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Dec 31, 2002, 12:28:26 PM12/31/02
to
>> ewww Andrew. so many words to review a game. I poughed through it
>> and eventually got to the important part, decided it wasn't worth
>> buying after your review. Point taken...eventually.
>
> I actually felt like I should have gone on *longer*. :-)
>
> As you can see, I started out planning to review _TLJ_, but I wound up
> reviewing an entire category of games. I had a lot of observation
> backlogged in my brain, and this was the first time I'd been able to
> put it into words. Hopefully even people who are just interested in
> _TLJ_ will find something valuable in the torrent.

I read it with interest. Of course, any posting by Andrew gets my
attention. :) I really appreciate those kinds of postings/articles. It
helps me evaluate what I think about games I like/dislike.

Rick Reynolds


Tom Kenyon

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Dec 31, 2002, 1:19:57 PM12/31/02
to
I too read it with interest but I didn't agree with most of it. To me TLJ
represented the first significant conbtribution to 'L/S' (to use your term)
genre for several years. Maybe after such an expanse of mediocre or
disappointing games (sadly I feel including the latest Monkey Island
contribution) I have become particularly easy-to-please, to me TLJ
represents a way to move forward. But then we appear to have different
tastes I cannot stand games like 'Myst', it's all very well having an
expansive world but what about plot? What about characters and character
depth? To me a world isn't a world unless it's a living, breathing world one
that I feel a part of, not alien to.
Sure TLJ wasn't interactive, no matter what I said or what I did there was
nothing I could do 'wrong'. But I didn't care. The plot was expansive and
the characters (the main characters at least) had enough depth to draw me
into a state where I enjoyed watching the drama unfold. I'll admit that when
it comes down to actual interaction with the characters there basically
isn't any. I know this style of game isn't going to sound terribly appealing
for those who are used to the expansive and interactive worlds of IF but for
me it worked.


Eytan Zweig

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Dec 31, 2002, 1:23:34 PM12/31/02
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"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:ausgcr$81s$1...@reader1.panix.com...

> Here, Anne Borland <Anne_B...@btinternet.com> wrote:
> > ewww Andrew. so many words to review a game. I poughed through it and
> > eventually got to the important part, decided it wasn't worth buying
after
> > your review. Point taken...eventually.
>
> I actually felt like I should have gone on *longer*. :-)
>
> As you can see, I started out planning to review _TLJ_, but I wound up
> reviewing an entire category of games. I had a lot of observation
> backlogged in my brain, and this was the first time I'd been able to
> put it into words. Hopefully even people who are just interested in
> _TLJ_ will find something valuable in the torrent.
>

I found it very interesting - and while my tastes differ considerably from
yours - I think my most enjoyment ever derived from playing games on my
computer came from Grim Fandango and the first Monkey Island, while my view
of Myst could be summarized as "mostly harmless" - I found the review
enlightening as to why I feel that way.

Eytan

Quintin Stone

unread,
Dec 31, 2002, 2:28:37 PM12/31/02
to
On Tue, 31 Dec 2002, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> As you can see, I started out planning to review _TLJ_, but I wound up
> reviewing an entire category of games. I had a lot of observation
> backlogged in my brain, and this was the first time I'd been able to
> put it into words. Hopefully even people who are just interested in
> _TLJ_ will find something valuable in the torrent.

I never played _TLJ_, but I have played _The Dig_, some of _Grim
Fandango_, _Full Throttle_, and other similar games. I'm curious though
if you've ever played Origin's _Bioforge_? It is third-person, but of a
different style of the LucasArts games, with a much more adult feel to it.
From what I remember, that is. It's probably been 5 or 6 years at least
since I played it. Still, I consider it one of the best 3rd person
adventure games I've ever played.

/====================================================================\
|| Quintin Stone O- > "You speak of necessary evil? One ||
|| Weapons Master & Coder < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
|| st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
|| http://www.rps.net/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
\====================================================================/

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Dec 31, 2002, 3:03:34 PM12/31/02
to
Here, Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net> wrote:
> On Tue, 31 Dec 2002, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

>> As you can see, I started out planning to review _TLJ_, but I wound up
>> reviewing an entire category of games. I had a lot of observation
>> backlogged in my brain, and this was the first time I'd been able to
>> put it into words. Hopefully even people who are just interested in
>> _TLJ_ will find something valuable in the torrent.

> I never played _TLJ_, but I have played _The Dig_, some of _Grim
> Fandango_, _Full Throttle_, and other similar games. I'm curious though
> if you've ever played Origin's _Bioforge_? It is third-person, but of a
> different style of the LucasArts games, with a much more adult feel
> to it.

'Fraid not. I very vaguely remember the title, but I don't think I saw
even a demo.

Quintin Stone

unread,
Dec 31, 2002, 3:58:47 PM12/31/02
to
On Tue, 31 Dec 2002, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> > I never played _TLJ_, but I have played _The Dig_, some of _Grim
> > Fandango_, _Full Throttle_, and other similar games. I'm curious though
> > if you've ever played Origin's _Bioforge_? It is third-person, but of a
> > different style of the LucasArts games, with a much more adult feel
> > to it.
>
> 'Fraid not. I very vaguely remember the title, but I don't think I saw
> even a demo.

The trick nowadays would be, of course, actually finding a copy and
getting it to run on modern operating systems.

Sure, it's got one of the oldest plots in the book (you wake up with no
memory of yourself and try to discover who you are, what happened to you,
and why), but then it's an older game so it's more forgivable (they did it
before Planescape: Torment). Some people might be turned off by the
action segments: it's not all puzzle solving, there's also hand-to-hand
combat that's not quite on the same level as Street Fighter style games,
but close.

Drat, now all this reminiscing's got me wanting to play it again.

Tom Kenyon

unread,
Dec 31, 2002, 4:53:41 PM12/31/02
to
It is third-person, but of a
> different style of the LucasArts games, with a much more adult feel to it.
> From what I remember, that is. It's probably been 5 or 6 years at least
> since I played it. Still, I consider it one of the best 3rd person
> adventure games I've ever played.
>

Was the control/camera interface like 'Alone in the Dark'? I have a vauge
memory of it being quite hard (or at least the combat was). Also if it's the
game I remember it had a rather odd sequence where you had to kill something
with a severed arm...


Mike Roberts

unread,
Dec 31, 2002, 5:16:14 PM12/31/02
to
"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> It's just the conventions of the genres, I think. (Oh, this is
> going to sound rude. I'm still going to say it:) The games I
> like, text and graphical, try to be challenging. L/S games try
> to be easy. L/S players expect clear and simple ranges of
> action.

Okay, this might sound rude, too, but you've obviously never played a Sierra
game if you'd categorize them under "tries to be easy." My own experience
with the Sierra games (or the Lucas games, for that matter) isn't
comprehensive, the Sierra games I have played had some of the most
unmotivated, unclued, and just plain random puzzles I've encountered in any
adventure games; they were certainly *trying* to be challenging, just not in
a good way.

As for the Lucas games, I would characterize the ones I've played much more
as "tries to be fair" than "tries to be easy." You mention Loom as one of
your Lucas data points, but Loom is such an exception that I wouldn't
extrapolate from it. Loom was absolutely, by design, in the "tries to be
easy" category. Moriarty had developed a theory (which he presented at the
CGDC the year of Loom's release) that the problem with adventure games is
that they're too hard, this based on a striking statistical correlation in
Infocom customer surveys showing that everyone's favorite Infocom games were
the ones they finished on their own. I think Loom added a useful data point
that would suggest the need for some refinements in this theory, and I think
this was not lost on the other Lucas designers.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com

Quintin Stone

unread,
Dec 31, 2002, 8:44:07 PM12/31/02
to
On Tue, 31 Dec 2002, Tom Kenyon wrote:

> Was the control/camera interface like 'Alone in the Dark'? I have a
> vauge memory of it being quite hard (or at least the combat was). Also
> if it's the game I remember it had a rather odd sequence where you had
> to kill something with a severed arm...

Yeah, it was that style. Prerendered backgrounds at various perspectives.
The combat took some playing to get used to, as I recall. And the arm bit
does sound familiar, though I can't be sure. :)

Joachim Froholt

unread,
Jan 1, 2003, 6:22:57 AM1/1/03
to

Anne Borland wrote:

As Andrew said, he pretty much wound up reviewing the entire genre (though his
experiences with the genre seems to be a bit limited and I don't quite agree
with his conclusions). If you're really interested in finding out whether TLJ
is worth playing or not, you should also seek out some reviews by people who
are fond of the genre. Check these sites:

* http://www.justadventure.com/
* http://www.quandaryland.com/
* http://www.mrbillsadventureland.com/

I've only brief experiences with the game so I can't reccommend it or not.
Instead, I'll reccommend a more recent game in the same genre: Syberia. I
played it this christmas and I haven't enjoyed a graphics adventure so much
since Tex Murphy: The Pandora Directive. And that was a few years ago now...
Syberia is a wonderful game, definitely one of the best games released in
2002. Check some reviews of it at the sites mentioned above, I don't think
you'll regret it.

Joachim

Nikos Chantziaras

unread,
Jan 1, 2003, 4:03:22 PM1/1/03
to
(This isn't a direct response to anyone.)

Has anyone here actually played "Maniac Mansion", "Zak Mc Kracken" and
"Monkey Island 1&2" ? They're quite different from newer games like "The
Dig" or "Grim Fandango".


-- Niko


Eytan Zweig

unread,
Jan 1, 2003, 4:35:07 PM1/1/03
to

"Nikos Chantziaras" <for....@manager.de> wrote in message
news:auvl16$all5i$1...@ID-151409.news.dfncis.de...

Sure... I remember, at the time, you couldn't buy adventure games in Israel,
so I had to get my father to mail-order them from the US. I think Zak
McKraken was my 12th birthday present - it was definitely the first
adventure game I actually completed... Fond memories...

Monkey Island 2 was already closer to the newer adventure games - less
options of what to do, more elaborate conversations, puzzles mainly figuring
out how to use inventory items. I love both the new and older games, but I
agree that there's a difference - though, in terms of Zarf's criticism, I'm
not sure it's a significance that matters much.

Eytan

> -- Niko
>
>


Nikos Chantziaras

unread,
Jan 1, 2003, 5:02:19 PM1/1/03
to
Eytan Zweig wrote:
> "Nikos Chantziaras" <for....@manager.de> wrote in message
> news:auvl16$all5i$1...@ID-151409.news.dfncis.de...
> > Has anyone here actually played "Maniac Mansion", "Zak Mc Kracken" and
> > "Monkey Island 1&2" ? They're quite different from newer games like
"The
> > Dig" or "Grim Fandango".
>
> Sure... I remember, at the time, you couldn't buy adventure games in
> Israel, so I had to get my father to mail-order them from the US.

You should see the situation in Greece at that time. Most people thought
that a computer is a device whose whole purpose is to display random strings
and give a beep from time to time...

> Monkey Island 2 was already closer to the newer adventure games - less
> options of what to do, more elaborate conversations, puzzles mainly
figuring
> out how to use inventory items. I love both the new and older games, but I
> agree that there's a difference - though, in terms of Zarf's criticism,
I'm
> not sure it's a significance that matters much.

It matters only in that "Grim Fandango" or "The Dig" isn't what I call a
"Lucas Adventure". Criticizing the whole genre without having played these
particular games is a bit unfair. I mostly agree with Andrew's opinion
about the other games, but not with "Maniac", "Zak" and "Monkey" (especially
MI 1).


-- Niko


Nele Abels

unread,
Jan 1, 2003, 5:06:41 PM1/1/03
to

Actually, I am replaying "Maniac Mansion" on my C64 right at the
moment, and I have played dinosaurs like "Space Quest I", "King's
Quest I" etc. Emotionally, I would link "Monkey Island 1" (which I
have played too) already to the category "modern graphical IF".

And, yes, I would agree with you that those early games differ from
modern graphical IF. Their narrative is much more related to the
structure of the textadventures of their time, i.e. much ad hoc
problem solving, mostly puzzle-oriented etc.

Nele
--
Klingon function calls do not have 'parameters' -
they have 'arguments' - and they ALWAYS WIN THEM.

Eytan Zweig

unread,
Jan 1, 2003, 5:49:19 PM1/1/03
to

> > Monkey Island 2 was already closer to the newer adventure games - less
> > options of what to do, more elaborate conversations, puzzles mainly
> figuring
> > out how to use inventory items. I love both the new and older games, but
I
> > agree that there's a difference - though, in terms of Zarf's criticism,
> I'm
> > not sure it's a significance that matters much.
>
> It matters only in that "Grim Fandango" or "The Dig" isn't what I call a
> "Lucas Adventure". Criticizing the whole genre without having played
these
> particular games is a bit unfair. I mostly agree with Andrew's opinion
> about the other games, but not with "Maniac", "Zak" and "Monkey"
(especially
> MI 1).
>

I don't think I agree with you in this classification- I do agree that
Maniac and Zak are very different than later games, but I think that they
are the exceptions, not the rule, of Lucas adventures. Monkey Island 1 and 2
are definitely far better than 3 and 4 - but the problem here is quality of
execution, not a stylistic change. And *all* of these games, Maniac and Zak
included, are much closer to each other than they are to Myst.

Which games are most enjoyable, of course, is a totally different issue - my
favorite Lucas games are, in no particular order, Grim Fandango, Zak, Monkey
1 & 2, and Day of the Tentacle. My least favorite is the Dig. All the rest
fall somewhere in between. And I'm sure many, many people will disagree with
me on at least part of that list.

Eytan


>
> -- Niko
>
>


Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes

unread,
Jan 1, 2003, 8:36:39 PM1/1/03
to
Wed, 01 Jan 2003 11:22:57 GMT, Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net>:

> Anne Borland wrote:
>> ewww Andrew. so many words to review a game. I poughed through it and
>> eventually got to the important part, decided it wasn't worth buying after
>> your review. Point taken...eventually.
>> Anne
> As Andrew said, he pretty much wound up reviewing the entire genre (though his
> experiences with the genre seems to be a bit limited and I don't quite agree
> with his conclusions). If you're really interested in finding out whether TLJ
> is worth playing or not, you should also seek out some reviews by people who
> are fond of the genre. Check these sites:

All those sites really tell you, though, is "This is the sort of game
you'll like, if you like this sort of game".

What I got out of Andrew's review could be condensed to "There's no
challenge to this game, you just wade through the menus to hear bad
voice-acting". And since that's exactly the kind of thing I hate,
that's a really useful review.

There's a fine line of "no challenge" to "irritating". To use an
example from a different genre, I'm very fond of Zelda64, but it's not
challenging - if you have the faintest clue, you can't lose. Falling
into lava just causes 1 heart of damage and you bamf back to where you
entered the map. It's not even hard or dangerous to get money and items
like in previous Zelda games where you had to fight monsters to get
loot, you can just chop weeds, run indoors, run out, repeat. You can't
even be too confused about where to go next, since the damned fairy will
pester you with hints. And yet it's fun, and you can generally solve
the game in whatever order you like, and the world is amazing. Since
there was no challenge the first time, either, it's very replayable.

Meanwhile, I microwaved my Final Fantasy VII CD, because I was driven
crazy by the lack of choice in the plot, and wading through fake-choice
conversations with people, and sitting through endless "watch the
console play the game while I push X after every speech" animations.
It's just as impossible to lose in FF7 as it is in Zelda64, but FF7 is
no fun.

--
<a href="http://kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu/~kamikaze/"> Mark Hughes </a>
"We remain convinced that this is the best defensive posture to adopt in
order to minimize casualties when the Great Old Ones return from beyond
the stars to eat our brains." -Charlie Stross, _The Concrete Jungle_

Joachim Froholt

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 8:04:27 AM1/2/03
to

Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:

> Wed, 01 Jan 2003 11:22:57 GMT, Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net>:
> > Anne Borland wrote:
> >> ewww Andrew. so many words to review a game. I poughed through it and
> >> eventually got to the important part, decided it wasn't worth buying after
> >> your review. Point taken...eventually.
> >> Anne
> > As Andrew said, he pretty much wound up reviewing the entire genre (though his
> > experiences with the genre seems to be a bit limited and I don't quite agree
> > with his conclusions). If you're really interested in finding out whether TLJ
> > is worth playing or not, you should also seek out some reviews by people who
> > are fond of the genre. Check these sites:
>
> All those sites really tell you, though, is "This is the sort of game
> you'll like, if you like this sort of game".

Fair enough, but isn't it a good idea to check what people who like these games
thought about it? They don't give all graphics adventures good ratings just because
they like the genre - the same happens over here when people review comp games and
stuff. There are good pieces of IF and there are not so good pieces of IF and you
probably won't enjoy either if you dislike the genre. Judging by the amount of good
reviews TLJ got, I think it's fair to assume that it's a pretty good game. I also
know that it got some decent reviews by general gaming magazines and web sites (and
btw, most of the sites I mentioned also review 1st person adventures).

>
> What I got out of Andrew's review could be condensed to "There's no
> challenge to this game, you just wade through the menus to hear bad
> voice-acting". And since that's exactly the kind of thing I hate,
> that's a really useful review.

I didn't get quite the same impression. I got the impression that there's way too
many long conversations (which pretty much act as cut-scenes), but that there's a
lot of other stuff as well. Other reviews (from the sites I mentioned, for example)
also mention the amount of conversations, but they focus other aspects of the game.

>
> There's a fine line of "no challenge" to "irritating". To use an
> example from a different genre, I'm very fond of Zelda64, but it's not
> challenging - if you have the faintest clue, you can't lose. Falling
> into lava just causes 1 heart of damage and you bamf back to where you
> entered the map. It's not even hard or dangerous to get money and items
> like in previous Zelda games where you had to fight monsters to get
> loot, you can just chop weeds, run indoors, run out, repeat. You can't
> even be too confused about where to go next, since the damned fairy will
> pester you with hints. And yet it's fun, and you can generally solve
> the game in whatever order you like, and the world is amazing. Since
> there was no challenge the first time, either, it's very replayable.
>
> Meanwhile, I microwaved my Final Fantasy VII CD, because I was driven
> crazy by the lack of choice in the plot, and wading through fake-choice
> conversations with people, and sitting through endless "watch the
> console play the game while I push X after every speech" animations.
> It's just as impossible to lose in FF7 as it is in Zelda64, but FF7 is
> no fun.
>

I understand what you're saying, and I agree with it. It's all about how well the
game is designed. I've played incredibly boring non-linear games and incredibly
enjoyable linear games. I've never played any of the games you mention, so I can't
comment on those, though.

I also haven't played TLJ for more than an hour or so so I can't comment on how
challenging that is, but I don't think it tries to be easy, as the review suggests.
The fact that you can't die or make any wrong choices doesn't neccessarily make the
game easy. In most Sierra games, you could die (unfair and unforgiving instant
deaths is what they're famous for, after all) but that didn't really make them more
difficult than most old Lucasfilm games where you either couldn't die or where death
was pretty unusual. What made some Sierra games more difficult was mostly that their
puzzles were poorly designed (IMO).

Joachim


Quintin Stone

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 9:12:24 AM1/2/03
to
On 2 Jan 2003, Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:

> Meanwhile, I microwaved my Final Fantasy VII CD, because I was driven
> crazy by the lack of choice in the plot, and wading through fake-choice
> conversations with people, and sitting through endless "watch the
> console play the game while I push X after every speech" animations.
> It's just as impossible to lose in FF7 as it is in Zelda64, but FF7 is
> no fun.

Funny, I heard so many people sing the praises of FF7. Poor me, I ended
up getting FF8 and then hating every minute of it.

Eytan Zweig

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 9:19:34 AM1/2/03
to

"Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes" <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote in message
news:slrnb175sl....@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu...

> Wed, 01 Jan 2003 11:22:57 GMT, Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net>:
> > Anne Borland wrote:
> >> ewww Andrew. so many words to review a game. I poughed through it and
> >> eventually got to the important part, decided it wasn't worth buying
after
> >> your review. Point taken...eventually.
> >> Anne
> > As Andrew said, he pretty much wound up reviewing the entire genre
(though his
> > experiences with the genre seems to be a bit limited and I don't quite
agree
> > with his conclusions). If you're really interested in finding out
whether TLJ
> > is worth playing or not, you should also seek out some reviews by people
who
> > are fond of the genre. Check these sites:
>
> All those sites really tell you, though, is "This is the sort of game
> you'll like, if you like this sort of game".
>
> What I got out of Andrew's review could be condensed to "There's no
> challenge to this game, you just wade through the menus to hear bad
> voice-acting". And since that's exactly the kind of thing I hate,
> that's a really useful review.
>

Actually, what Zarf's review was telling you could be reduced to "This is
the sort of game you won't like, if you don't like this sort of game".

As someone who played TLJ from beginning to end, and enjoyed it a lot (it's
hardly a masterpiece, but it's a solid example of its genre), I can tell you
that there definitely is a challange to the game. It's just not necessarily
a challange Zarf enjoyed or appreciated very much. It's been far too long
since I played the game for me to give a useful description of this game -
and the sites mentioned above already do the work, so I won't. But I'd say
it's far more useful to look at a review by people who generally enjoy the
genre a game is set in, and see what they think of it (since, if they don't
like it, that's good evidence of a problem), compared to looking at a review
by people who dislike the entire genre. Unless of course you also are
predisposed to dislike the genre in question - but in that case, why bother
caring about reviews in the first place?

And by the above I'm not trying to suggest that Zarf's review isn't worth
reading. It is - it's a great critique of the game in question and the genre
in general - but it isn't necessarily the kind of review that could help
someone decide whether to buy the game, definitely not on its own.

Eytan

Eytan Zweig

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 9:46:38 AM1/2/03
to

"Quintin Stone" <st...@rps.net> wrote in message
news:Pine.LNX.4.44.03010...@yes.rps.net...

> On 2 Jan 2003, Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:
>
> > Meanwhile, I microwaved my Final Fantasy VII CD, because I was driven
> > crazy by the lack of choice in the plot, and wading through fake-choice
> > conversations with people, and sitting through endless "watch the
> > console play the game while I push X after every speech" animations.
> > It's just as impossible to lose in FF7 as it is in Zelda64, but FF7 is
> > no fun.
>
> Funny, I heard so many people sing the praises of FF7. Poor me, I ended
> up getting FF8 and then hating every minute of it.
>

FF7 is basically "be told an interesting story in between repetitive fight
scenes, with great graphics." FF8 is "be told a boring story in between
repetitive fight scenes, with great graphics". Neither of them is IF in any
sense of the word - but, at least in my case, FF7 really managed to grab me
into the plot (though the feeling was "I want to see what happens next",
*not* "I can influence this plot"), and also, in the later half of the game,
it opens up enough so that there are actual choices to be made (though none
plot-effecting in any real sense). FF8 I played through because I had
nothing better to do with my time at that point - and because I enjoyed
looking at the pretty pictures.

Eytan


Daniel Giaimo

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 12:12:25 PM1/2/03
to

"Eytan Zweig" <ez...@nyu.edu> wrote in message
news:HgYQ9.367$zu2....@typhoon.nyu.edu...

Why should being able to affect the plot be required to be IF? Not
that I think FF7 is IF, but most IF that I have played had a very set
plot that could really only be changed by the player dying. There is
usually only one way to win.

> FF8 I played through because I had
> nothing better to do with my time at that point - and because I
enjoyed
> looking at the pretty pictures.

I never bothered to play FF8. FF9 was great though still not up to
the standard they set themselves with FF6.

--
Daniel Giaimo


Anne Borland

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 12:19:58 PM1/2/03
to
>As you can see, I started out planning to review _TLJ_, but I wound up
>reviewing an entire category of games. I had a lot of observation
>backlogged in my brain, and this was the first time I'd been able to
>put it into words. Hopefully even people who are just interested in
>_TLJ_ will find something valuable in the torrent.

It looks as though they have, judging by the length of the thread.
Having always enjoyed your reviews, I was disappointed inasmuch as I was
expecting to read a long critique of TLJ and ended up feeling quite
frustrated at the diversity of the piece.
Will return to lurking, but not without thanking you for all the good
reviews from you I've enjoyed in the past and those still to come.

Happy New Year!
Anne

Anne Borland

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 12:19:57 PM1/2/03
to
>I'll reccommend a more recent game in the same genre: Syberia. I
>played it this christmas and I haven't enjoyed a graphics adventure so
>much
>since Tex Murphy: The Pandora Directive. And that was a few years >ago
now...
>Syberia is a wonderful game, definitely one of the best games released in
>2002. Check some reviews of it at the sites mentioned above, I don't >think
you'll regret it.

Thanks for your links to sites and also your recommendation, Joachim. I'll
certainly look them up.
I usually enjoy Andrew's reviews and, seeing how many k's were in the
message, I sat down to read a long critique of TLJ. It was mostly
disappointment at finding such a 'mixed bag' that made me reach for my
keyboard and of course after my email was sent I immediately regretted it.
C'est la vie and New Year spirits (mostly Vermouth).

Anne

Quintin Stone

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 12:25:30 PM1/2/03
to
On Thu, 2 Jan 2003, Eytan Zweig wrote:

> FF7 is basically "be told an interesting story in between repetitive
> fight scenes, with great graphics." FF8 is "be told a boring story in
> between repetitive fight scenes, with great graphics".

I think you mean FF8 is "be told a boring, confusing, meaningless story
with terrible writing, stupid characters, and a sophomoric romance plot in
between repetitive and excruciatingly long fight scenes, with great
graphics".

> FF8 I played through because I had nothing better to do with my time at


> that point - and because I enjoyed looking at the pretty pictures.

And I played through the whole thing because I had to have *something* to
play while on the exercise bike. If I hadn't found a walkthrough online,
though, I never would have finished it.

Henrik Nyström

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 12:43:53 PM1/2/03
to
"Anne Borland" <Anne_B...@btinternet.com> wrote in message news:<aus6kl$1c4$1...@knossos.btinternet.com>...

> ewww Andrew. so many words to review a game. I poughed through it and
> eventually got to the important part, decided it wasn't worth buying after
> your review. Point taken...eventually.
> Anne

I wouldn't dismiss him so lightly. After all, if anyone is an expert
on No Fun Games, it's Andrew Plotkin.

LizM7

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 3:07:33 PM1/2/03
to
"Tom Kenyon" <t...@kenyonfs.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
> But then we appear to have different
> tastes I cannot stand games like 'Myst', it's all very well having an
> expansive world but what about plot? What about characters and character
> depth? To me a world isn't a world unless it's a living, breathing world one
> that I feel a part of, not alien to.
> Sure TLJ wasn't interactive, no matter what I said or what I did there was
> nothing I could do 'wrong'. But I didn't care. The plot was expansive and
> the characters (the main characters at least) had enough depth to draw me
> into a state where I enjoyed watching the drama unfold. I'll admit that when
> it comes down to actual interaction with the characters there basically
> isn't any. I know this style of game isn't going to sound terribly appealing
> for those who are used to the expansive and interactive worlds of IF but for
> me it worked.

I played TLJ, and though I like characterization, I didn't find enough
there to draw me in. The soupcan puzzles irritated me, for one thing.
And the world didn't really have enough *depth* to draw me in.

If I want characters and plot, I'll play CRPGs. The *best* ones have
better characterization than almost all the L/S games (e.g. Betrayal
at Krondor) and far more choices available. *And* more expansive
universes.

I had a long rant/analysis on my feelings regarding this, but Google
ate it. Basically, what it boiled down to, though, is that L/S
adventures are based almost *entirely* on plot coupons - you get
something and you use it somewhere else. It's cliche, and it's boring
-- and it's far more jarring (for me) than the idea that (say) your
characters can manage to slaughter a few dozen armies by taking them
on in groups of four or five.

CRPGs may have main plots which you have to follow to get anywhere in
the game, but they also have side quests - which give you at least a
*feeling* of control, because *you don't have to be where you are*.
Adventure games, by contrast, are almost *entirely* linear, without
much of anything outside the scope of the game.

- Liz

LizM7

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 3:31:54 PM1/2/03
to
Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net> wrote:
> Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:
> > Wed, 01 Jan 2003 11:22:57 GMT, Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net>:
>>> As Andrew said, he pretty much wound up reviewing the entire genre
(though his
>>> experiences with the genre seems to be a bit limited and I don't
quite agree
>>> with his conclusions). If you're really interested in finding out
whether TLJ
>>> is worth playing or not, you should also seek out some reviews by
people who
>>> are fond of the genre. Check these sites:
>>
>> All those sites really tell you, though, is "This is the sort of
game
>> you'll like, if you like this sort of game".
>
>Fair enough, but isn't it a good idea to check what people who like
these games
>thought about it? They don't give all graphics adventures good
ratings just because
>they like the genre - the same happens over here when people review
comp games and
>stuff. There are good pieces of IF and there are not so good pieces
of IF and you
>probably won't enjoy either if you dislike the genre. Judging by the
amount of good
>reviews TLJ got, I think it's fair to assume that it's a pretty good
game.

First of all, can you cut down your line length by about five or ten
characters? This is irritating.

Secondly, I don't see how your point is really relevant. Andrew
didn't *write* a game review saying "this is the final word on TLJ,
and I know you'll agree with me." He wrote a review saying "this is
how *I* feel about the game."

And you can't judge much of *anything* based upon reviews. For
example, Planescape: Torment got rave reviews, yet I was *incredibly*
disappointed with it. Everyone else mentioned the expanse of the
gameplay, the characters, the plot.... What I noticed were the bugs,
and the way the plot decays into a hunt for plot coupons. The game
played as though the beta testers were fired about a quarter of the
way into the game, and then the designer walked out in protest.
That's *my* review of the game in a nutshell. You can take it or
leave it - but this is how *I* feel.

And - just to take a random review to nitpick - let's look at the
review at http://www.justadventure.com/reviews/TLJ/TLJ_review.shtm:

This review isn't. It's a whine by a reviewer about how adventure
games "just aren't understood" by the mainstream press. It's a
defense. It's not even *accurate* - pixel hunting *isn't* an inherit
part of a computer game - it's just something that exists because game
manufacturers are too stupid to stop. And yes the game *can* be found
in the US - I got it at a local Best Buys.

>I also
>know that it got some decent reviews by general gaming magazines and
web sites (and
>btw, most of the sites I mentioned also review 1st person
adventures).

And this somehow prevents Andrew from hating it because...?



> > What I got out of Andrew's review could be condensed to "There's no
> > challenge to this game, you just wade through the menus to hear bad
> > voice-acting". And since that's exactly the kind of thing I hate,
> > that's a really useful review.
>
>I didn't get quite the same impression. I got the impression that
there's way too
>many long conversations (which pretty much act as cut-scenes), but
that there's a
>lot of other stuff as well. Other reviews (from the sites I
mentioned, for example)
>also mention the amount of conversations, but they focus other
aspects of the game.

So? This doesn't make them any more well-rounded. If I write a
review of PS:T and spend most of my time discussing the ridiculous
number of bugs and stupidities, then that just means that that's what
I noticed. Maybe there was characterization - but from my experience
it was barely worth mentioning.

So you haven't finished the game. So then why are you defending it?

- Liz

Joe Mason

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 7:54:36 PM1/2/03
to
In article <d89b4999.03010...@posting.google.com>, LizM7 wrote:
> And you can't judge much of *anything* based upon reviews. For
> example, Planescape: Torment got rave reviews, yet I was *incredibly*
> disappointed with it. Everyone else mentioned the expanse of the
> gameplay, the characters, the plot.... What I noticed were the bugs,
> and the way the plot decays into a hunt for plot coupons. The game
> played as though the beta testers were fired about a quarter of the
> way into the game, and then the designer walked out in protest.
> That's *my* review of the game in a nutshell. You can take it or
> leave it - but this is how *I* feel.

Wow.

I don't often say this, but your opinion is completely wrong here. You
must not have played the game.

Buggy: I hit one game-stopping bug near the beginning, but installing
the patch fixed it. No others that I recall. It's possible that the
first version was buggier after that, but still - there's a patch.

Plot coupons: This is the game I point to show how to *not* use plot
coupons! The only gratuitous use I can think of was the apprenticeship
to become a mage, which was clumsy and boring, but one badly designed
segment doesn't mean the whole game's like that.

Designer walked out: I have no idea what you could mean.

Joe

Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 9:52:52 PM1/2/03
to
Thu, 2 Jan 2003 09:12:24 -0500, Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net>:

> On 2 Jan 2003, Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:
>> Meanwhile, I microwaved my Final Fantasy VII CD, because I was driven
>> crazy by the lack of choice in the plot, and wading through fake-choice
>> conversations with people, and sitting through endless "watch the
>> console play the game while I push X after every speech" animations.
>> It's just as impossible to lose in FF7 as it is in Zelda64, but FF7 is
>> no fun.
> Funny, I heard so many people sing the praises of FF7. Poor me, I ended
> up getting FF8 and then hating every minute of it.

Likewise. I'd enjoyed some of the earlier ones, though they were
still annoyingly linear. FF7 got rave reviews, so I bought it. FF7 has
pretty graphics for its time, and some people have a very high tolerance
for sitting back and going through someone else's story, even when it's
a really stupid story.

I'm not one of those people. I don't care about graphics as long as I
know what things are. I like to control my fate. I like a detailed
setting to interact with, *not* a detailed plot. And preferably, I'd
like there to be a real life-or-death, "can I figure this out?"
challenge to the game; I can accept a game that doesn't have that, if
it's otherwise interesting. But FF7 had nothing that interests me, and
everything I hate in games.

Interactivity is, as always, the thing it really comes down to (see
Chris Crawford's book and articles). And interactivity is the opposite
of plot. Books and movies and TV shows can have detailed plots, because
you don't control them.

There are two kinds of games. "Non-interactive games" have detailed
plots. I hate these things, but some people like being led by the nose
through a plot. A lot of IF is static, but not all of it. FF7's the
poster child of non-interactive games.

"Interactive games" should *not* have detailed plots; the whole point
of such a game is that you interact with it. An interactive game ought
to have at most a minimal plot that gives you something to do, and
preferably a choice of several plot threads running through the world.

Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 9:58:58 PM1/2/03
to
[ Joachim, can you fix your posting margins down to about 72 or 68
columns, please? ]

Thu, 02 Jan 2003 13:04:27 GMT, Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net>:


> Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:
>> Wed, 01 Jan 2003 11:22:57 GMT, Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net>:

>> > As Andrew said, he pretty much wound up reviewing the entire genre
>> > (though his experiences with the genre seems to be a bit limited
>> > and I don't quite agree with his conclusions). If you're really
>> > interested in finding out whether TLJ is worth playing or not, you
>> > should also seek out some reviews by people who are fond of the
>> > genre. Check these sites:
>> All those sites really tell you, though, is "This is the sort of game
>> you'll like, if you like this sort of game".
> Fair enough, but isn't it a good idea to check what people who like
> these games thought about it? They don't give all graphics adventures
> good ratings just because they like the genre - the same happens over
> here when people review comp games and stuff. There are good pieces of
> IF and there are not so good pieces of IF and you probably won't enjoy
> either if you dislike the genre. Judging by the amount of good reviews
> TLJ got, I think it's fair to assume that it's a pretty good game. I
> also know that it got some decent reviews by general gaming magazines
> and web sites (and btw, most of the sites I mentioned also review 1st
> person adventures).

I did go to those web sites. The reviews for TLJ, anyway, were puff
pieces. I didn't see anything there that even addressed what the
gameplay was like. Well, except for one, noting that the hotspots
weren't all clearly labelled so you couldn't miss them. That almost
suggested that there was some challenge, but I hate screen-scraping.

> I also haven't played TLJ for more than an hour or so so I can't
> comment on how challenging that is, but I don't think it tries to be
> easy, as the review suggests. The fact that you can't die or make any
> wrong choices doesn't neccessarily make the game easy.

What? If you can't fail, that does, necessarily, make the game easy.
Easy, the opposite of hard, you know?

Eytan Zweig

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 11:16:37 PM1/2/03
to

> > I also haven't played TLJ for more than an hour or so so I can't
> > comment on how challenging that is, but I don't think it tries to be
> > easy, as the review suggests. The fact that you can't die or make any
> > wrong choices doesn't neccessarily make the game easy.
>
> What? If you can't fail, that does, necessarily, make the game easy.
> Easy, the opposite of hard, you know?
>

Of course not. Just because you can't fail doesn't mean that it's easy to
succeed. In a simple example, it's impossible to fail to win a 64-ring tower
of Hanoi - if you persist long enough, you'll do it. It's also impossible to
succeed to do so within a human lifespan, even if you make absolutely no
mistakes. Still, at no point have you actually failed - you just haven't
achieved your goal yet (and yes, it's perfectly possible to fail to win TLJ
by dying in real life before managing to complete it).

More to the point, it's also impossible to fail to win Myst, or Riven,
except by saying "I've had enough of this". In fact, they are in no way
different than TLJ on this very point. Are you suggesting that Myst and
Riven are also easy? That's not a claim Zarf was making, I'm pretty sure.

Eytan

David Welbourn

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 11:49:25 PM1/2/03
to
Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:

> What? If you can't fail, that does, necessarily, make the game easy.
> Easy, the opposite of hard, you know?

Not necessarily. You may simply be unable to make progress. (eg: Possibly
you failed to pick up something, or find something. Or you didn't realize
that you could do somthing combining item A with item B. Or that item A
concealed item B. Or that item A could change status. Or you failed to visit
a location. Or you're supposed to figure out a combination lock on some
gadget, and haven't yet. etc.)

-- David Welbourn

gegi-NO...@wgp.org

unread,
Jan 2, 2003, 9:03:54 PM1/2/03
to
hsel...@hotmail.com (LizM7) wrote:

>CRPGs may have main plots which you have to follow to get anywhere in
>the game, but they also have side quests - which give you at least a
>*feeling* of control, because *you don't have to be where you are*.
>Adventure games, by contrast, are almost *entirely* linear, without
>much of anything outside the scope of the game.

Bias warning - I was a diehard oldschool Sierra fan, and therefore cannot be
trusted to have objectivity on the subject.

That said, I still want to bring up King's Quest 6 and praise it for the
number of options they *did* implement. IIRC, many of the early KQ games had
puzzles that could be solved "wrongly" (by violence) or "rightly" (and got
you more points). But, other than your total score, this didn't really
affect the game. I think. It's been a while.

KQ6 had two very different endgames and one of those endgames had about ten
different ways it could play out based on things that had happened
previously. Sure, they pretty much boiled down to "You Win", but they felt
much more involving. Even before the endsplit, there were still lots of
little things involving the romance sidequest that you could do in your own
order or not do at all.

The great failing of the D&D-based CRPGs, in my opinion and based on those
that I've played, has been a complete lack of meaningfully different
endings.

Anyway, I'm wandering off-topic. Insert plug for Fallout 2 here. :)

>- Liz

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 3, 2003, 12:06:42 AM1/3/03
to

You're welcome.

I see there are a score of posts following my review, and I'm not
going to try to reply to all of them. (Lordy forbid.)

In retrospect I'm not very satisfied with my comments on TLJ *or* on
the big category I'm calling it part of. I think I was trying to
define a category, explain my response to a group of games, and
describe a single game all in the same post. And I had trouble with
the category because I can't find anything systematic.

(I mean, I can point at choose-your-own-adventure games and say, hey,
these are missing some structural element that's critical to my
definition of IF. TLJ *isn't* lacking in any such simple way.)

On the other hand, I append no such wishy-washiness to my comments on
TLJ itself. :) We can argue about interactivity all night (and I
probably will), but I really did find the story and writing miserably
weak.

--Z

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

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 3, 2003, 12:16:51 AM1/3/03
to
Here, Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote:
> Thu, 02 Jan 2003 13:04:27 GMT, Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net>:

>> I also haven't played TLJ for more than an hour or so so I can't


>> comment on how challenging that is, but I don't think it tries to be
>> easy, as the review suggests. The fact that you can't die or make any
>> wrong choices doesn't neccessarily make the game easy.

> What? If you can't fail, that does, necessarily, make the game easy.
> Easy, the opposite of hard, you know?

No, no. If you can't fail, that makes the game *forgiving*. It's
almost a completely orthogonal axis to easy/difficult.

I've been saying *that* for... heh, seven years now.

("Almost" because the forgiveness quality of a game influences puzzle
design in a bunch of ways, and thus has an indirect effect on
difficulty. But of course *everything* indirectly influences
difficulty -- interface, subtleties of prose/artwork, how tired the
player is...)

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 3, 2003, 12:48:11 AM1/3/03
to
Here, Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote:

> Interactivity is, as always, the thing it really comes down to (see
> Chris Crawford's book and articles). And interactivity is the opposite
> of plot. Books and movies and TV shows can have detailed plots, because
> you don't control them.

> There are two kinds of games. "Non-interactive games" have detailed
> plots. I hate these things, but some people like being led by the nose
> through a plot. A lot of IF is static, but not all of it. FF7's the
> poster child of non-interactive games.

> "Interactive games" should *not* have detailed plots; the whole point
> of such a game is that you interact with it. An interactive game ought
> to have at most a minimal plot that gives you something to do, and
> preferably a choice of several plot threads running through the world.

Hm. So, I think I see "interactivity" as being available on a lot of
levels. I react to it differently on different levels.

I have no problem with IF games that have detailed plots (which the
player cannot influence, only progress through). You can probably
guess that, from the fact that all the games I write fit into this
category!

But the player can have a great deal of freedom "beneath" the
author-designed plot. After all, you can walk back and forth all you
want; you can pick up and drop the same object dozens of times if you
want. At this level, nearly every text adventure provides you
boundless freedom.

Now, that's an extremely *low* layer of interactivity. It doesn't
impress me, in itself. (It's akin to the conversation-menus that I so
disliked in _TLJ_. Meaningless choice, with no effect beyond the order
of the pre-scripted paragraphs.)

What I'm interested in is an intermediate level. Just because the
overarching plot of a game isn't influenced by your choices, that
doesn't mean your choices have no influence! There can still be
swatches of the game which are rich interactive playgrounds. These can
even wind up being most of what you wind up *doing* in the game (as
opposed to isolated minigames). You grasp, comprehend, and master
these parts of the game, and the plot moves along as you do so.
Making that seamless is what I try to do when I write IF.

That's getting into idealized theorizing, though. My immediate point
is: it's an oversimplification to say "interactivity is the opposite
of plot", because plot is just one part of story, whereas
interactivity can fit into *any* part of story.

Joachim Froholt

unread,
Jan 3, 2003, 7:26:29 AM1/3/03
to

Anne Borland wrote:

> >I'll reccommend a more recent game in the same genre: Syberia. I
> >played it this christmas and I haven't enjoyed a graphics adventure so
> >much
> >since Tex Murphy: The Pandora Directive. And that was a few years >ago
> now...
> >Syberia is a wonderful game, definitely one of the best games released in
> >2002. Check some reviews of it at the sites mentioned above, I don't >think
> you'll regret it.
>
> Thanks for your links to sites and also your recommendation, Joachim. I'll
> certainly look them up.

My work here is done. I am happy. :-)

> I usually enjoy Andrew's reviews and, seeing how many k's were in the
> message, I sat down to read a long critique of TLJ. It was mostly
> disappointment at finding such a 'mixed bag' that made me reach for my
> keyboard and of course after my email was sent I immediately regretted it.

I don't think there's any reason for you to regret posting that message. The
discussion which came as a result of it have been civilized and interesting.
Plus, you gave me a chance to reccommend Syberia. :-)

Joachim

Joachim Froholt

unread,
Jan 3, 2003, 7:26:36 AM1/3/03
to

LizM7 wrote:

> First of all, can you cut down your line length by about five or ten
> characters? This is irritating.

I think this problem was caused by a bug in my newsreader. I hope it's fixed now but if
it isn't, I'm sorry.

>
> Secondly, I don't see how your point is really relevant. Andrew
> didn't *write* a game review saying "this is the final word on TLJ,
> and I know you'll agree with me." He wrote a review saying "this is
> how *I* feel about the game."

Sure. I have no problems with that.

> And you can't judge much of *anything* based upon reviews.

I disagree. You can find out a lot about a game by reading reviews, but in most cases
you'll have to read more than one review in order to get an accurate-ish impression of
the game in question. That's why I suggested that people who are interested in the game
should read more than this single review written by someone who did not seem to like the
genre in general (I have tons of respect for Andrew Plotkin, just to make that clear,
but after having read a number of the reviews he's posted over the years, I realize that
and he and I enjoy very different game styles).

> For
> example, Planescape: Torment got rave reviews, yet I was *incredibly*
> disappointed with it. Everyone else mentioned the expanse of the
> gameplay, the characters, the plot.... What I noticed were the bugs,
> and the way the plot decays into a hunt for plot coupons. The game
> played as though the beta testers were fired about a quarter of the
> way into the game, and then the designer walked out in protest.
> That's *my* review of the game in a nutshell. You can take it or
> leave it - but this is how *I* feel.

Planescape: Torment is, in my view, one of the best RPG's ever so I'll leave it :-)

I also bought the game because of the reviews it got, btw. I was not disappointed.

>
> And - just to take a random review to nitpick - let's look at the
> review at http://www.justadventure.com/reviews/TLJ/TLJ_review.shtm:
>
> This review isn't. It's a whine by a reviewer about how adventure
> games "just aren't understood" by the mainstream press. It's a
> defense. It's not even *accurate* - pixel hunting *isn't* an inherit
> part of a computer game - it's just something that exists because game
> manufacturers are too stupid to stop. And yes the game *can* be found
> in the US - I got it at a local Best Buys.
>
> >I also
> >know that it got some decent reviews by general gaming magazines and
> web sites (and
> >btw, most of the sites I mentioned also review 1st person
> adventures).
>
> And this somehow prevents Andrew from hating it because...?
>

Um.. he didn't hate it. I don't quite follow you, though.

>
> > > What I got out of Andrew's review could be condensed to "There's no
> > > challenge to this game, you just wade through the menus to hear bad
> > > voice-acting". And since that's exactly the kind of thing I hate,
> > > that's a really useful review.
> >
> >I didn't get quite the same impression. I got the impression that
> there's way too
> >many long conversations (which pretty much act as cut-scenes), but
> that there's a
> >lot of other stuff as well. Other reviews (from the sites I
> mentioned, for example)
> >also mention the amount of conversations, but they focus other
> aspects of the game.
>
> So? This doesn't make them any more well-rounded. If I write a
> review of PS:T and spend most of my time discussing the ridiculous
> number of bugs and stupidities, then that just means that that's what
> I noticed. Maybe there was characterization - but from my experience
> it was barely worth mentioning.

You're entitled to your opinion and if you feel you've played Planescape: Torment enough
to write a review of it, then by all means do that. It will probably be useful to some
people, though many will ofcourse disagree with you and you'll have to be prepared to
handle that (i.e. you have to know your stuff and you have to be convinced that you gave
the game a fair chance).

> >I also haven't played TLJ for more than an hour or so so I can't
> comment on how
> >challenging that is, but I don't think it tries to be easy, as the
> review suggests.
>
> So you haven't finished the game. So then why are you defending it?

I think you have to reread what I wrote because you seem to have misunderstood me. I
apologize if I haven't been clear enough, but I've not tried to defend the game. I've
suggested that people who might be interested in buying it should not make their
decision based solely on this review.

The reason I got involved in the first place is that I've been looking for information
about the game (and other 3rd person point'n'click games) lately. I've just finished
Syberia and I wanted to find more new-ish games like it, plus I wanted to see if I had
maybe dismissed TLJ too early when I tried a borrowed copy of it last year or so. So all
those positive reviews of it were fresh in my mind when I read this review and I just
wanted to point out that there are many who don't agree with what Andrew said (and now
I'm repeating myself, so I'll stop).

Joachim


David Ploog

unread,
Jan 3, 2003, 8:00:48 AM1/3/03
to

Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> schrieb in im
Newsbeitrag:

> Interactivity is, as always, the thing it really comes down
> to (see Chris Crawford's book and articles). And
> interactivity is the opposite of plot. Books and movies
> and TV shows can have detailed plots, because you don't
> control them.
>
> There are two kinds of games. "Non-interactive games" have
> detailed plots. I hate these things, but some people like
> being led by the nose through a plot. A lot of IF is
> static, but not all of it. FF7's the poster child of non-
> interactive games.
>
> "Interactive games" should *not* have detailed plots; the
> whole point of such a game is that you interact with it.
> An interactive game ought to have at most a minimal plot
> that gives you something to do, and preferably a choice of
> several plot threads running through the world.
>

I never played FFx but I want to comment on your
interpretation of interactivity vs. plot.

IF means _interactive_ _fiction_, so there you have both
combined, interactivity and plot.

I usually prefer games in which I can do a lot, and more so
if I've got the possibility to change the story. I delight in
proking reactions of the game by simply playing around, so
don't misjudge me, but one of my favourite pieces of IF is
"photopia" which is widely acknowledged to be a great game,
though you can't really call it like that because it isn't a
game when it comes to interactivity, i.e. changing the course
of the story. But it is a beautiful story made up of dozens
of intertwining parts that are all very different where you
can play around, and it is definetely _worth_ playing around.
But the plot is what makes the game, not the playing around.
You may even say that this certain lack of interactivity is
due to the course of the story.

David

Quintin Stone

unread,
Jan 3, 2003, 9:23:17 AM1/3/03
to
On 3 Jan 2003, Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:

> What? If you can't fail, that does, necessarily, make the game easy.
> Easy, the opposite of hard, you know?

That's like saying that as long as you can reload a saved game, NO game
can be hard.

Quintin Stone

unread,
Jan 3, 2003, 9:24:43 AM1/3/03
to
On Thu, 2 Jan 2003 gegi-NO...@wgp.org wrote:

> Anyway, I'm wandering off-topic. Insert plug for Fallout 2 here. :)

Fallout & Fallout 2 so rock. But I'm off topic. :)

Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes

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Jan 3, 2003, 9:26:13 AM1/3/03
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Fri, 3 Jan 2003 05:48:11 +0000 (UTC), Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com>:

> Here, Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote:
>> Interactivity is, as always, the thing it really comes down to (see
>> Chris Crawford's book and articles). And interactivity is the opposite
>> of plot. Books and movies and TV shows can have detailed plots, because
>> you don't control them.
>> There are two kinds of games. "Non-interactive games" have detailed
>> plots. I hate these things, but some people like being led by the nose
>> through a plot. A lot of IF is static, but not all of it. FF7's the
>> poster child of non-interactive games.
>> "Interactive games" should *not* have detailed plots; the whole point
>> of such a game is that you interact with it. An interactive game ought
>> to have at most a minimal plot that gives you something to do, and
>> preferably a choice of several plot threads running through the world.
> Hm. So, I think I see "interactivity" as being available on a lot of
> levels. I react to it differently on different levels.
> I have no problem with IF games that have detailed plots (which the
> player cannot influence, only progress through). You can probably
> guess that, from the fact that all the games I write fit into this
> category!

Actually, I'd consider the games of yours I've played to be borderline
between interactive and non-interactive--they do have rigid plots, but
they're not very detailed plots, at least compared to, say, 50-hour
console RPGs.

Except for Freefall, of course. That was very interactive.

> That's getting into idealized theorizing, though. My immediate point
> is: it's an oversimplification to say "interactivity is the opposite
> of plot", because plot is just one part of story, whereas
> interactivity can fit into *any* part of story.

I'm fairly well convinced that as you increase the influence of the
plot in the game, you *must* lower the interactivity, or the player
won't stay on the plotline. I can't think of any counter-examples,
while I've been driven to microwaving CDs that show this case. You can
let the player walk back and forth in a room all you want, but if the
player has only one choice on leaving that room, that's probably not
interactive (one-room puzzle or social games aside--you know what I
mean).

And while I say "I hate non-interactive games", lots of people *do*
like to have detailed plots with no meaningful choices and just a thin
veneer of control over the game. Non-interactive games aren't
necessarily bad. They're just bad for me.

The term "Interactive Fiction" is a misnomer, because it's not
inherently interactive. "Text Adventures" is still the more accurate
term... But it seems likely that the world is stuck with "IF" to
describe both IF and NIF. <shrug>

Stas Starkov

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Jan 3, 2003, 1:42:08 PM1/3/03
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"Eytan Zweig" <ez...@nyu.edu> wrote:

> "Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes" <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote in
message
> news:slrnb175sl....@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu...
>> Wed, 01 Jan 2003 11:22:57 GMT, Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net>:

>>> If you're really interested in finding out whether TLJ
>>> is worth playing or not, you should also seek out some reviews by
>>> people who are fond of the genre. Check these sites:
>>
>> All those sites really tell you, though, is "This is the sort of game
>> you'll like, if you like this sort of game".
>>
>> What I got out of Andrew's review could be condensed to "There's no
>> challenge to this game, you just wade through the menus to hear bad
>> voice-acting". And since that's exactly the kind of thing I hate,
>> that's a really useful review.
>
> Actually, what Zarf's review was telling you could be reduced to "This
is
> the sort of game you won't like, if you don't like this sort of game".

This is what all reviews are saying. Really -- how can you believe one's
review if this isn't _your_ review?! You can't -- other people's points
of view usually way too different from your. So, basically, a reviewer
should describe what a game look like, and is it well done. I.e. you
must consider do you like the sort of games that reviewer like. And
sometime it's not easy to describe what type of games reviewer does
like. I think, Andrew succeed doing so.

As for me, I remember that I liked some LucasArts' (and few Sierra's)
games... sever years ago... before I met IF. Not a long time ago, I've
tried to replay several of the games. And I almost instantly quit it --
I couldn't stand, that PCs performed my commands so slowly: PC walks to
the object of my command, plays a small animation, and says "That
doesn't seem to work.". I couldn't been able to wait 5-10 seconds to
receive a generic refusal. IF games replies immediately.


P.S. Sorry for lame English.

--
Stas Starkov (stas_ at mail.rb.ru)


Cedric Knight

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Jan 3, 2003, 5:25:56 PM1/3/03
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"Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes" <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote
> I'm fairly well convinced that as you increase the influence of the
> plot in the game, you *must* lower the interactivity, or the player
> won't stay on the plotline.

I'm fairly convinced that the two are not 'at war', but can be
synthesized. A good plot in fiction will usually contain multiple
outcomes (that is how suspense is maintained), and frequently the
existence of these unrealized-on-paper outcomes (in the shape of hopes
and fears) drives the characters. Thus an 'interactive'
_Frankenstein_(*) where one can choose whether Frankenstein creates the
Monster's bride or not actually has the same plot as a non-interative
version - a different playing-out of the story, but the same motivations
and background. Multiple plotlines are more plot, not less. It's a
bit like improvization in theatre, where the story is sprung on the
characters when they're already formed.

The word 'interactive' is actually pretty meaningless, or at least
poorly defined. Either no computer game is interactive (you cannot
change the data on the CD), or they all are (there is a human-machine
interface - it's not a batch job).

COD & Chambers have very similar definitions, here combined:
1) allowing mutual action, influencing each other;
2) allowing continuous two-way communication, eg between a computer and
its user, responding to the user's input.

Most relationships of any kind seem to involve (1), so the second is
likely to be the relevant one.

(*) I happen to be thinking about implementing this which is why I chose
it as an example!

> The term "Interactive Fiction" is a misnomer, because it's not
> inherently interactive. "Text Adventures" is still the more accurate
> term... But it seems likely that the world is stuck with "IF" to
> describe both IF and NIF. <shrug>

'"Text Adventures"? What, like _Swallows and Amazons_?' I disagree
here too. (1) in a general context where we don't know we're talking
about computer software, it is ambiguous. The word 'interactive' at
least lets most people make a fair guess that it involves computers.
(Besides, it's slightly more respectable to mention at parties.)

Can you think of a better word than 'interactive', to either replace it
as it is used in 'interactive fiction' or describe what you mean about
influencing or transcending the plot?

(2) 'Adventure' was probably chosen as a name for the class of game
after the archetype of 'Colossal Cave', which is indeed an adventure -
it's an even more recent coinage than 'interactive'. The Nouvelle Vague
kind of IF that turned up several times this Comp is not in the genre of
'adventure' in any sense. We also seem to be edging towards interactive
non-fiction, recreations, interactive art/poetry, so I like the phrase
'interactive text' to describe textual IF that encompasses adventures as
a subset. I guess it the phrase could equally apply to the Bourne
shell, but for most people any computer program nowadays that primarily
communicates through text is a bit of a novelty.

There are already 2 directories for story files in the archive ('art'
and 'games'), but really there could be more:
stories-that-aren't-games-or-art, games-that-aren't-IF, and so on.

Just my opinions

CK

Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes

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Jan 3, 2003, 11:01:40 PM1/3/03
to
Fri, 3 Jan 2003 23:42:08 +0500, Stas Starkov <st...@mail.rb.ruANTISPAM>:

> "Eytan Zweig" <ez...@nyu.edu> wrote:
>> "Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes" <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote in
> message
>> news:slrnb175sl....@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu...
>>> All those sites really tell you, though, is "This is the sort of game
>>> you'll like, if you like this sort of game".
>> Actually, what Zarf's review was telling you could be reduced to "This
> is
>> the sort of game you won't like, if you don't like this sort of game".
> This is what all reviews are saying. Really -- how can you believe one's
> review if this isn't _your_ review?!

Not at all. A good review, like any good journalism, includes real,
objective facts, as well as your subjective opinion about those facts.
Even if you find that your opinions are different from the writer's, you
can still make your own judgement about the objective facts.

Andrew's TLJ review included the objective facts. The adventure game
sites' reviews didn't. They might as well have been written by the
game's PR staff.

> P.S. Sorry for lame English.

Your English is just fine.

Eytan Zweig

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Jan 4, 2003, 1:45:13 AM1/4/03
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"Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes" <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote in message
news:slrnb1cn4i.1...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu...

> Fri, 3 Jan 2003 23:42:08 +0500, Stas Starkov <st...@mail.rb.ruANTISPAM>:
> > "Eytan Zweig" <ez...@nyu.edu> wrote:
> >> "Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes" <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote in
> > message
> >> news:slrnb175sl....@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu...
> >>> All those sites really tell you, though, is "This is the sort of game
> >>> you'll like, if you like this sort of game".
> >> Actually, what Zarf's review was telling you could be reduced to "This
> > is
> >> the sort of game you won't like, if you don't like this sort of game".
> > This is what all reviews are saying. Really -- how can you believe one's
> > review if this isn't _your_ review?!
>
> Not at all. A good review, like any good journalism, includes real,
> objective facts, as well as your subjective opinion about those facts.
> Even if you find that your opinions are different from the writer's, you
> can still make your own judgement about the objective facts.
>
> Andrew's TLJ review included the objective facts. The adventure game
> sites' reviews didn't. They might as well have been written by the
> game's PR staff.
>

Ok, I'll bite - could you please name at least two objective facts that
Andrew's review mentions and most adventure game sites don't?

Eytan


Stas Starkov

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Jan 4, 2003, 3:40:48 AM1/4/03
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"Quintin Stone" <st...@rps.net> wrote:
> On Thu, 2 Jan 2003 gegi-NO...@wgp.org wrote:
>
> > Anyway, I'm wandering off-topic. Insert plug for Fallout 2 here. :)
>
> Fallout & Fallout 2 so rock. But I'm off topic. :)

Once I ran through "Fallout 2" as fast as I could. I didn't complete any
side quests that I thought won't push me to a victory. Why? Because plot
of the game was cliched and illogical. The setting? Well, it's not my
cup of tea -- I don't like dystopian setting, and I don't like to kill
unhappy people who are forced to live in the dystopian setting. Why have
I finished the game? Hmm... Well, there was a bit of plot and setting,
also I liked to kill people in the game... :-)

Overall, I think it's a so-so game.

Damien Neil

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Jan 4, 2003, 4:44:40 AM1/4/03
to
In article <slrnb1b7c5.1...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu>, Mark

'Kamikaze' Hughes <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote:
> I'm fairly well convinced that as you increase the influence of the
> plot in the game, you *must* lower the interactivity, or the player
> won't stay on the plotline. I can't think of any counter-examples,
> while I've been driven to microwaving CDs that show this case. You can
> let the player walk back and forth in a room all you want, but if the
> player has only one choice on leaving that room, that's probably not
> interactive (one-room puzzle or social games aside--you know what I
> mean).

RPGs seem to be better at blending plot and player interaction then
adventures, perhaps because they have simpler world physics. The game
author can provide the player with a fairly large range of action by
building it into the general phycics of the world, while adventure
games spend more time building special-case results.

For example: In the RPG _Morrowind_, you can receive an assignment to
retrieve the key to a certain building. Two people are known to hold
the key. One of them can be bribed into giving it to you. Either can
be pickpocketed, or simply killed. Whichever action the player chooses
will never affect the plot of the game--but it will affect the way the
player thinks about his character.

A clever game will build the results of these actions into the plot.
The game _Geneforge_ has quite a few different endings, depending on
actions the player decides to take. The player can (without spoilers):
use or not use a certain device, destroy or not destroy the device, and
kill, ally with, or ignore two important other characters. These
actions influence the plot of the game--they ARE the plot of the game.

This does place limitations on the kind of plot you can construct, of
course. Most console RPGs have a very strict plot for the player to
follow, and correspondingly limit the player's choices. The most
free-form games will hand the player a final goal and turn them loose
to make their own choices.

_Planescape: Torment_ has open sections where the player may run around
handling subquests, with occasional bottlenecks--eventually, you
realize you need to take a certain action to continue. This is a
fairly common approach. What makes it notable, however, is that the
results of the choices you make have a habit of coming back to visit
you. (This reminds me quite a bit of _Spider and Web_, where halfway
through the game you discover that the game has been paying more
attention to your actions than you realized.)

- Damien

Billy Harris

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Jan 4, 2003, 7:03:31 AM1/4/03
to
In article <slrnb1b7c5.1...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu>, Mark
'Kamikaze' Hughes <kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu> wrote:

> I'm fairly well convinced that as you increase the influence of the
> plot in the game, you *must* lower the interactivity, or the player
> won't stay on the plotline. I can't think of any counter-examples,

Just out of curiosity, where would you put Deus Ex? I abhor plotless
shoot-em-ups, but Deus Ex is one of my all-time favorite games. It has
an extremely rich plot, but much of it is optional; hidden away in
email messages and discarded papers that you are under no obligation to
read.

Billy Harris

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Jan 4, 2003, 7:41:43 AM1/4/03
to
In article <auvl16$all5i$1...@ID-151409.news.dfncis.de>, Nikos Chantziaras
<for....@manager.de> wrote:

> Has anyone here actually played "Maniac Mansion", "Zak Mc Kracken" and
> "Monkey Island 1&2" ? They're quite different from newer games like "The
> Dig" or "Grim Fandango".

Ranking them from low to high enjoyment:

€ Zak Mc Kracken
(never played)

€Maniac Mansion
(played as part of MI2, so judged old play by modern standards)

€ Grim Fandanog
(intersting world offset by lousy interface)

€ The Dig

€ Monkey Island 1

€ Monkey Island 2
(my favorite graphical adventure game).

I'm not sure what you mean by saying that Monkey Island 2 is different
from newer games like "the Dig". If I were to rank the games by
technology, Maniac Mansion is an old-style game with unwarned blockage
from victory, annoying puzzles and such. The Dig and both Monkey Island
games are the genre Andrew Plotkin calls "L/S" games; they have a
background, a character who moves to your mouse click, and traditional
adventure verbs to click on. Grim Fandango was an [lousy, imho] attempt
to have a three-d character controlled by the keyboard; the character
would look at relevant objects and type keys for "look, interact,
pickup". Grim Fandango had the same general sorts of puzzles as the
other two games.

Billy Harris

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Jan 4, 2003, 7:44:29 AM1/4/03
to
In article <auvofn$ameiq$1...@ID-151409.news.dfncis.de>, Nikos Chantziaras
<for....@manager.de> wrote:

> It matters only in that "Grim Fandango" or "The Dig" isn't what I call a
> "Lucas Adventure". Criticizing the whole genre without having played these
> particular games is a bit unfair. I mostly agree with Andrew's opinion
> about the other games, but not with "Maniac", "Zak" and "Monkey" (especially
> MI 1).

I do find it a bit ironic that the only Monkey Island game Plotkin
played was the 4th, which was my least favorite.

Billy Harris

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Jan 4, 2003, 7:48:54 AM1/4/03
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In article <Pine.LNX.4.44.03010...@yes.rps.net>,
Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net> wrote:

> On Thu, 2 Jan 2003 gegi-NO...@wgp.org wrote:
>
> > Anyway, I'm wandering off-topic. Insert plug for Fallout 2 here. :)
>
> Fallout & Fallout 2 so rock. But I'm off topic. :)

Can you post a review of Fallout 2, especially as compared to Fallout
1? My naive impression is that they yanked out the plot and added more
violence.