[Worlds Apart] read and talk modes

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David Welbourn

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Apr 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/15/00
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Actually, the subject should probably be "[Worlds Apart][Galatea][Augmented
Fourth] read and talk modes", but I thought that'd be a tad long for a
subject line. I've played all three of the above games recently, and I'm
well pleased with all of them.

I'd especially like to recommend Worlds Apart -- if you haven't played it,
put it on your must-play list. I don't want to discuss the plot or puzzles
for fear of spoiling it for people, but I will say that the depth of
characterization and social structures presented is amazing for a work of
IF. However, I must also warn players that it ends with some of its story
unfinished; hopefully the author will write a sequel or two.

So, instead of discussing story, characterization, or puzzles, -- at least,
not yet -- I want to discuss how reading and talking was handled in Worlds
Apart, Galatea, and Augmented Fourth. Most of what I saw I liked very much,
and want to encourage in other games. Still, there is room for finetuning,
especially in games that have multi-paged books or are conversation heavy.

Before I get to that, I first want to say how much I appreciated the efforts
that the authors of Worlds Apart and Augmented Fourth put in to reduce, if
not eliminate, the usual problems of ambiguous object references. Worlds
Apart did this by permitting possessives, eg: "do you mean Kitara's mate or
Yuri's mate?" and by introducing the adjective "general" to refer to general
concepts, eg: "do you mean the hasidja caste or caste (in general)?". The
adjective "general" is such a wonderful idea, I hope it becomes incorporated
as a standard. Even more wonderful was the ability to distinguish between
two quantities of water by their containers, eg: "drink water" might have
the game respond with "do you mean the copper bowl, or the steel bowl?" No
more "do you mean the water, or the water?" prompts!

Augmented Fourth, as far as I can tell, simply gave an adjective to every
object that might be ambiguous -- not as clever, perhaps, but still
appreciated. Galatea trips up on this at least once, if you ask her about
travel at the right time, you'll get "do you mean the travel, or...?"

About reading and talking...
* If we're to have a "read mode", let's change the prompt to something like
">>" or "booklet>" so we know if we're just typing topics or not. Likewise,
if we're to have a "talk mode", change the prompt to ">>" or "ask Galatea>".
In Worlds Apart, it was sometimes not clear if a command had inadvertently
popped me out of read or talk mode. Frankly, I didn't like it when my
topics were interpreted as commands, and as a consequence preferred to type
in "ask Saal about Iana", "ask Saal about Dalhat", etc. the long way.

About reading...
* I loved the "random" topic supported by one of Augmented Fourth's books.
I wish that the notebook of herbal lore in Worlds Apart supported that
command.
* Entering nothing for the topic while in read-mode should either go to the
next topic/page in the book, or close the book and leave read-mode. Topic
words like "next", "off", and "quit" should do the obvious.
* Maybe there should also be a topic word like "back" or "prev" that lets
you go back a topic/page. Not that there's any real need to read a book
backwards, though.
* Of course, there will be books that the author doesn't want the player to
be able to read front to back. In those cases, "random", "next" and "prev"
will need to be disabled.
* One book in Worlds Apart has a table of contents. Strangely, it's not
implemented as the first topic in the book, so instead of typing "toc" or
"contents" to see it again, you have to re-examine the book.
* One of Anchorhead's "books" was a cardboard box of clippings with no
obvious topics; it was handled via a menu-driven interface. Augmented
Fourth's building code manual had 116 entries, labelled by code numbers 001
to 116; a menu-driven interface for it would be nearly meaningless. Imagine
how nice the book of dream interpretation from Winchester's Nightmare would
work with a menu-driven interface. Imagine how awful the Encyclopedia
Frobozzica from Zork Zero would be if it was handled the same way. Is there
an ideal way to present all of these books in the same gamespace with a
consistent way to read them, and yet still present them all to their best
advantage?
* Inform games that use a menu-interface for their books should repeat the
topic of the page as the first line of their page, if only so the topic will
be properly recorded when scripting is on. Either that, or ask someone to
update whatever part of Inform handles that (unless it's already fixed and
my copy of WinFrotz is out of date).

About talking...
* Entering nothing for the topic while in talk-mode should change the prompt
to normal and leave talk-mode.
* Please don't put me into talk-mode for creatures or things I can't talk
to; eg: "talk to pakal".
* As conversation becomes more important, the finality of "I've told you
everything I know about that" becomes more unacceptable. Either give me a
command like "ask Galatea about gods again", so she can tell me again what I
missed the first time, or make the relooping automatic, eg: "Saal sighs as
his eyes flicker skyward. "Lyesh, I've told you everything about the
universe already. Okay, one more time...'"
* I'm beginning to want a way to ask myself things; that is, things my
character presumably knows about, but that I-the-player do not. It would
have been nice to type "what is Iavos" or "ask me about Iavos" or "remember
Iavos" to learn, once and for all, if Iavos is either an island, country,
province, continent or some combination of the four.
* Start letting me ask "why". I think it's time to implement it. Galatea
shows us that it can make a difference in which order we ask questions, that
it's possible to keep track of what's been said before. So treat "why" as a
special topic that refers to the previous response engendered by an NPC.
That is, "why", "ask why", "ask galatea why", and "ask galatea about why"
are all the same command -- all asking Galatea why she said what she just
said. (That's probably complicated enough. I won't ask anyone to implement
"ask galatea why skin sparkled"; implementing "ask galatea about sparkle" is
still sufficient to answer the question.)

-- David Welbourn


Brian Uri!

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Apr 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/15/00
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On Sat, 15 Apr 2000 01:22:57 -0400, "David Welbourn" <d...@ionline.net>
wrote:

[No spoilers for Aug4]

>About reading...
>* I loved the "random" topic supported by one of Augmented Fourth's books.
>I wish that the notebook of herbal lore in Worlds Apart supported that
>command.
>* Entering nothing for the topic while in read-mode should either go to the
>next topic/page in the book, or close the book and leave read-mode. Topic
>words like "next", "off", and "quit" should do the obvious.
>* Maybe there should also be a topic word like "back" or "prev" that lets
>you go back a topic/page. Not that there's any real need to read a book
>backwards, though.

Interestingly, the testers for Aug4 were strongly divided on
the whole idea of Consult mode. I added it early in debugging at the
request of my head tester who had just played Worlds Apart and loved
it. (Still haven't played it yet... it's just sitting on my hard drive
waiting for a spare moment)
Another tester was very irritated with it, and would have
prefered that I remove it altogether. For that tester, it was much
easier to use the interpreter's command buffer to paste LOOK UP and
then modify the subject. Someone else suggested that any game command
in book-mode should work and also exit to the regular prompt
(something hard to disambiguate... are you going SOUTH or looking up
SOUTH for South Plaza?)
The random topic idea was easy to do, if tedious. That was in
from the beginning. Next and Previous were suggested late in
debugging, and will probably be in Release 2.

Cheers,
BU
--
http://buri.campus.vt.edu/
llam...@vt.edu

Emily Short

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Apr 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/15/00
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----------
In article <paTJ4.6184$Sb.13...@news-west.usenetserver.com>, "David
Welbourn" <d...@ionline.net> wrote:

>Augmented Fourth, as far as I can tell, simply gave an adjective to every
>object that might be ambiguous -- not as clever, perhaps, but still
>appreciated. Galatea trips up on this at least once, if you ask her about
>travel at the right time, you'll get "do you mean the travel, or...?"

I'll look into that, as it is effectively a bug. Galatea tries to
disambiguate based on conversation context. There are times when the
possible target topics are equidistant from the current topic, however, so
this gets shady. Often I flagged one of several options as the preferred
default topic when context otherwise doesn't dictate anything, but I may not
have gotten everything. Ideally, though, the player would *never* see a
disambiguation question about topics.


>* As conversation becomes more important, the finality of "I've told you
>everything I know about that" becomes more unacceptable. Either give me a
>command like "ask Galatea about gods again", so she can tell me again what I
>missed the first time

A reason to play with scripting on, then. I feel that it would break up the
flow to do this. (And would you want her to repeat exactly what she said
before? Or give you the slightly altered version of the answer that's
appropriate to the *current* game context? You see the problem, perhaps.)


>* Start letting me ask "why". I think it's time to implement it. Galatea
>shows us that it can make a difference in which order we ask questions, that
>it's possible to keep track of what's been said before. So treat "why" as a
>special topic that refers to the previous response engendered by an NPC.
>That is, "why", "ask why", "ask galatea why", and "ask galatea about why"
>are all the same command -- all asking Galatea why she said what she just
>said. (That's probably complicated enough. I won't ask anyone to implement
>"ask galatea why skin sparkled"; implementing "ask galatea about sparkle" is
>still sufficient to answer the question.)

Technically this wouldn't be hard. In fact, I did consider giving the
player who/what/why/how options as well as simple ask. But in the end I
vetoed that for two reasons, one aesthetic, one pragmatic. On the one hand,
I liked the austerity of a pure ask/tell system. On the other, offering
other options opens Pandora's box. Once you've implemented one question
word, you should really implement a bunch of them. And the amount of
writing involved is hellacious.

To explain: some of the major topics in Galatea produce 8 or 9 partly or
wholly different responses, depending on when you ask. So I'd have to keep
track of the topic, yes (my conversation library already does that) but also
flag which response was just given (still not hard, though I'd have to
modify a few things) and then (the stinger) write appropriate
who/what/why/how replies for each one of them -- each of these, of course,
also contextually nuanced.

I don't know how long it took me to create the existing prose, but there
were multiple 16-18 hour days after I'd already finished a fair amount of
it. The technical aspects of the game are handled by a conversation library
that was complete (save some trivial tweaking) before I started this
project, so that's all writing time. Scripting topics, anticipating segues
between them, refining answers to take game states into account, trying to
give some response to as many of the nouns as possible. People have asked
me about the number of endings, but those were easy: they happen, they end,
they don't have repercussions forever afterward.

That was all a great deal of fun, or I wouldn't have bothered. But in
practical terms, adding entire other *types* of question would be
mindbending amounts of work -- writing work, not programming work -- without
necessarily adding that much to the game. As Mike Roberts pointed out, I'm
already making assumptions about what the player wants to say: I feel no
compunction about disallowing further specificity. The game only works
because the player is forced to interact with it in limited terms. I give
the player a narrow range of options and then try to deal as thoroughly as
possible with the results. Having commands that produce interesting results
only once in a while might actually detract from the feeling of
completeness. And, naturally, the more topics there are and the more
different things can be said about them, the more opportunities there are to
develop unexpected continuity errors. Trying to debug a game like this is a
humbling exercise, second only to replaying the dratted thing after it's
already been released to the world...

So what you're suggesting *can* be done, but it would take dedication, and
I'm not sure whether I would like the results. Maybe, though. If someone
else wants to write it.

ES

Suzanne Britton

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Apr 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/15/00
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[Mild WA story spoilers follow]

David Welbourn <d...@ionline.net> wrote:

> However, I must also warn players that it ends with some of its story
> unfinished; hopefully the author will write a sequel or two.

Working on it :-)

This is as good a time as any to ask: How would people feel if the sequel
were a straight novel rather than a work of IF? I'm wrangling with this
decision right now.

> Even more wonderful was the ability to distinguish between
> two quantities of water by their containers, eg: "drink water" might have
> the game respond with "do you mean the copper bowl, or the steel bowl?"

Even better would have been "do you mean the water in the copper bowl, or in
the steel bowl?", but the other is a good, easily implemented compromise :-)

> * If we're to have a "read mode", let's change the prompt to something like
> ">>" or "booklet>" so we know if we're just typing topics or not. Likewise,
> if we're to have a "talk mode", change the prompt to ">>" or "ask Galatea>".

That's a good idea. However...

> In Worlds Apart, it was sometimes not clear if a command had inadvertently
> popped me out of read or talk mode.

Nothing other than an explicit "consult off" or "talk off" should "pop you
out" of read/talk mode. You can freely intermix normal commands with
topic commands. My intention was that no normal command would ever be
misinterpreted as a topic (thus, "east" causes you to go east even though
there is an "east passage" topic), and thus it should be comfortable to
remain in topic mode even while wandering around doing other stuff, e.g.
with Saal at night.

> * Please don't put me into talk-mode for creatures or things I can't talk
> to; eg: "talk to pakal".

This is a little tricky because of the presence of telepathy in WA :-)
It isn't always immediately obvious what Lyesh can communicate with and what
she cannot. The shylverine actually have a few distinct responses for
particular topics, for instance.

> * I'm beginning to want a way to ask myself things; that is, things my
> character presumably knows about, but that I-the-player do not. It would
> have been nice to type "what is Iavos" or "ask me about Iavos" or "remember
> Iavos" to learn, once and for all, if Iavos is either an island, country,
> province, continent or some combination of the four.

(Small continent. In modern times, there is no political division to speak of
between Iavos and Melas.)

One of my beta-testers argued strongly for such a facility, and I added one
in, only to be talked out of it later by another beta-tester with equally
vehement views :-) What it came down to was, I wanted to make things a little
difficult. I wanted the player to really have to work at the process of
immersion, paying attention to every detail and talking to everyone who
will give Lyesh the time of day, to find out more about the world around
her. Thus, hopefully, the immersion will be deeper and more rewarding when
it happens.

"Full Circle" will take a different approach, if it does become IF....I
plan to include a fairly thorough glossary/lexicon in the game.

Incidentally, "Chatter", the TADS library that grew out of my experience
programming Worlds Apart, does support this in the form of a
"what is"/"who is" command.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Suzanne

--
tr...@igs.net \
http://www.igs.net/~tril/ \ This space intentionally left blank.
"Worlds Apart" Homepage: \
http://www.igs.net/~tril/worlds/ /

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/15/00
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Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:

>"David Welbourn" <d...@ionline.net> wrote:
>>* As conversation becomes more important, the finality of "I've told you
>>everything I know about that" becomes more unacceptable. Either give me a
>>command like "ask Galatea about gods again", so she can tell me again what I
>>missed the first time

I have to agree with David that something like this is needed.

>A reason to play with scripting on, then. I feel that it would break up the
>flow to do this.

More than having to switch applications and view the transcript? Using an
interpreter with scrollback (like HTML Tads) would help, but that breaks
up the flow of interaction as well. Why not, well, ok, I'm not going to
suggest a good verb, but this will give you the idea:

> RECALL GALATEA'S RESPONSE TO BEING ASKED ABOUT GODS
You remember Galatea said: "There were seven gods he told me about:
Sleepy, Bashful ..."

Ok, now you're burdening the player's character with an
auditory eidetic memory, which perhaps isn't very realistic,
but in an actual conversation like this, with this much branching
of possible things to followup (about the only real-world scenario
I can think of with such a biased relationship is a police officer
quizzing a witness), people DO say things like, "Ok, what was it
you said about gods before? I wanted to follow that up." (Well,
or else they take notes, which isn't very enjoyable.)

Basically, if Galatea isn't going to put up with such questions
("Weren't you _listening_, you oaf?"--darn, I'm just not managing
to capture her style)--if she's going to EXPECT the player character
to have a perfect memory, then give the darn player character a
perfect memory, don't expect the player to do it manually or using
some other automation.

Finally, to consider some other cases, I don't see how it breaks up
the flow compared to having to (a) restore and try again because you
didn't think to turn on scripting in advance because you didn't know
you'd have this problem or (b) having to take notes on paper. The latter
of which I was thinking about doing when I realized I was going to lose
some topics, because it's an awful lot simpler than launching a text
browser and then having to periodically reload the file to get
caught up--especially since most windows apps refuse to reload the
current file if it's already loaded in an attempt to be helpful.
And the former of which I suspect many players might have found
themselves in (except rather than restoring they went ahead and
kept playing and got an unsatisfying ending and _then_ started
over).

>Or give you the slightly altered version of the answer that's
>appropriate to the *current* game context? You see the problem, perhaps.

A valid point, although "tell me what you said before" hedges a
little against it, and "remember what she said" avoids it.

[on supporting 'why?']


>I give
>the player a narrow range of options and then try to deal as thoroughly as
>possible with the results. Having commands that produce interesting results
>only once in a while might actually detract from the feeling of
>completeness. And, naturally, the more topics there are and the more
>different things can be said about them, the more opportunities there are to
>develop unexpected continuity errors.

This is basically like the problem with the explosion of combinations
of nouns and verbs; but where traditional noun/verbs may have some
varying context over time, it's mostly based around a world simulation
that can be expressed concretely (object X is in object Y), whereas
your context is more arbitrary and thus has more arbitrary effects
on the "nouns/verbs". So it's understandable you want to keep the
number of verbs low.

Anyway, all comments above aside, it's very impressive. I'm glad you
wrote it.

SeanB

Chad Schultz

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Apr 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/16/00
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In article <8da9rc$ne1$1...@news.igs.net>,

Suzanne Britton <tr...@host.ott.igs.net> wrote:
> [Mild WA story spoilers follow]
>
> David Welbourn <d...@ionline.net> wrote:
>
> > However, I must also warn players that it ends with some of its
story
> > unfinished; hopefully the author will write a sequel or two.
>
> Working on it :-)
>
> This is as good a time as any to ask: How would people feel if the
sequel
> were a straight novel rather than a work of IF? I'm wrangling with
this
> decision right now.

Leaping in with my own opinion, I'd like to say that WA was the _best_
IF I've _ever_ played. It's immersed me only as much as a few other
books, and no other IF. Please, do it again! :)

> > * I'm beginning to want a way to ask myself things; that is, things
my
> > character presumably knows about, but that I-the-player do not. It
would
> > have been nice to type "what is Iavos" or "ask me about Iavos"
or "remember
> > Iavos" to learn, once and for all, if Iavos is either an island,
country,
> > province, continent or some combination of the four.

Actually, that's an idea I've wanted to use myself, where the player
can ask the PC about topics. I _do_ think it's a good idea... after
all, why _shouldn't_ the player be able to find out some things that
the PC knows?


--
Chad Schultz (chads...@hotmail.com)
If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
and the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
and the address of the memory makes your floppy
disk abort, then the socket packet pocket has an
error to report.


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Lucian Paul Smith

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Apr 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/16/00
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Chad Schultz (chads...@my-deja.com) wrote:
: In article <8da9rc$ne1$1...@news.igs.net>,
: Suzanne Britton <tr...@host.ott.igs.net> wrote:

: > This is as good a time as any to ask: How would people feel if the


: sequel
: > were a straight novel rather than a work of IF? I'm wrangling with
: this
: > decision right now.

: Leaping in with my own opinion, I'd like to say that WA was the _best_
: IF I've _ever_ played. It's immersed me only as much as a few other
: books, and no other IF. Please, do it again! :)

I vote for IF, too. Then again, I don't have to write the beast ;-)

: > > have been nice to type "what is Iavos" or "ask me about Iavos"


: or "remember
: > > Iavos" to learn, once and for all, if Iavos is either an island,
: country,
: > > province, continent or some combination of the four.

: Actually, that's an idea I've wanted to use myself, where the player


: can ask the PC about topics. I _do_ think it's a good idea... after
: all, why _shouldn't_ the player be able to find out some things that
: the PC knows?

You all ready know what I'll say because I said it during beta testing ;-)
but I'm a big fan of 'what is...' It was used to its best effect ever in
'Glowgrass', I felt.

There were times in WA where I wanted to know what the PC knew. Like with
the label on the berry bush--did the PC know what 'jakwa' meant? It helps
me get in character if I can ask the game to define those sorts of things.

It also helps me remember odd words. I'm absolutely horrible with names,
so being able to type 'Who is the jester?' and get back "Yuri is..." would
have been a tremendous boon (and would have prevented me from having to
peruse transcripts/scrollback) every time I forgot his name.

The argument against this (as I recall) was something like, "If you're
really into the game, you won't need it, and having it there as a crutch
will actually prevent you from getting really into the game." I
personally disagree with this prediction, but I have no/little hard
data. What do others think? Does having a 'who/what is' crutch lessen
the likelihood that you'll immerse yourself in the game?

-Lucian

Paul O'Brian

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Apr 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/16/00
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On 17 Apr 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> (Unless, of course, you intend to reach a broader audience by writing a
> novel, selling it, making a pile of money, and becoming RAIF's second[*]
> genuine published writer. In which case I say good luck and go for
> it. Only I have no idea what you're in for.)
>
> [* Third, maybe. Does Michael Berlyn count? He hasn't been around much.]

Doesn't Michael Gentry count, too? He sold a story to The Silver Web. Come
to think of it, doesn't Jim Aikin also count? He's got a couple of novels
popular enough that my local library has them. And say, what about Eric
Mayer? He's got ONE FOR SORROW.

Anybody else out there had their fiction published?

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian

LASH -- Walk the command line at http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian/lash.html


Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/17/00
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Suzanne Britton <tr...@host.ott.igs.net> wrote:
> [Mild WA story spoilers follow]
>
> David Welbourn <d...@ionline.net> wrote:
>
>> However, I must also warn players that it ends with some of its story
>> unfinished; hopefully the author will write a sequel or two.
>
> Working on it :-)

>
> This is as good a time as any to ask: How would people feel if the sequel
> were a straight novel rather than a work of IF? I'm wrangling with this
> decision right now.

Hrm.

The problem with writing a novel is that there are *lots of novels*.
Hundreds per year published by actual publishers, which means a minimum
level of quality -- or at least correct audience targetting. I've never
read an unpublished novel off someone's web site, because if it was as
good as the zillions I've got on my shelves, why couldn't the author sell
it?

Okay, I know you. I would grab a sequel to _Worlds Apart_ in any
format. However, other people won't. If you are giving any weight to the
idea of reaching a broader audience with a novel than you did with IF, I'd
say that's a mistake.

(Unless, of course, you intend to reach a broader audience by writing a
novel, selling it, making a pile of money, and becoming RAIF's second[*]
genuine published writer. In which case I say good luck and go for
it. Only I have no idea what you're in for.)

--Z

[* Third, maybe. Does Michael Berlyn count? He hasn't been around much.]

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

Suzanne Britton

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Apr 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/17/00
to
[Followups set to rec.arts.int-fiction]

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> (Unless, of course, you intend to reach a broader audience by writing a
> novel, selling it, making a pile of money, and becoming RAIF's second[*]
> genuine published writer. In which case I say good luck and go for
> it. Only I have no idea what you're in for.)

If I were to go with a novel format, getting published would be my aim.
Whether it would happen is another question altogether :-)

Bert Byfield

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Apr 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/17/00
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> Anybody else out there had their fiction published?

Me, Bert Byfield, author of *Rage of the Bear*, Caravela Books / Amazon,
link and info at http://caravelabooks.com

Jon Ingold

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Apr 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/17/00
to

> Anybody else out there had their fiction published?

Er, local newspaper, aged 13, does that count? It doesn't count, does it..
damn..

Two stories published on an *internet* short story magazine? That might
count..
http://thunder.prohosting.com/~stirring October 99 and January 2000
editions.

Jon

Bones

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Apr 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/17/00
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Jim Aikin, recent author of Not Just an Ordianry Ballerina:

http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/ballerina102.z8

has written at least two (good) sf novels: "The Wall at the Edge
of the World" and "Walk the Moon's Road". Sadly, both seem to be
out of print. He has a number of shorts to his credit too.

Kind Regards,
Bruce.


* Sent from RemarQ http://www.remarq.com The Internet's Discussion Network *
The fastest and easiest way to search and participate in Usenet - Free!


Chad Schultz

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Apr 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/17/00
to

> : > > have been nice to type "what is Iavos" or "ask me about Iavos"

> : or "remember
> : > > Iavos" to learn, once and for all, if Iavos is either an island,
> : country,
> : > > province, continent or some combination of the four.
>

Personally, I _know_ it would help me remember. Something akin to "ask
me about situation" or letting the PCs surface thoughts might show too.
>ASK ME ABOUT SITUATION. "Poor little pakal... is there any way to save
it? And who is that guy guarding my sanctuary anyway?" This kind of
response might be helpful, especially if you loaded a saved game after
several days of not playing or simply forgot what you were doing. I
think that 'who/what is' would help immerse me. It's hard to get
immersed when you don't know what's going on! :)

Matthew T. Russotto

unread,
Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
In article <8de8pu$57q$1...@slb2.atl.mindspring.net>,

Bert Byfield <bbyf...@caravelabooks.com> wrote:
}> Anybody else out there had their fiction published?
}
}Me, Bert Byfield, author of *Rage of the Bear*, Caravela Books / Amazon,
}link and info at http://caravelabooks.com

Vanity press doesn't count.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

John Hill

unread,
Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
In article <UtPK4.3428$%L6.2...@monger.newsread.com>, Matthew T.
Russotto <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com> wrote:

> }Me, Bert Byfield, author of *Rage of the Bear*, Caravela Books / Amazon,
> }link and info at http://caravelabooks.com
>
> Vanity press doesn't count.

Self-publishing is not necessarily the same as vanity press. Closest
example on my bookshelf is Henry Rollins. I suppose the important
difference is whether you can sell it...

Hmm.
Next time one of my brother's friends tries to sell me a CD with that
suspicious green cast, maybe I should offer them a copy of _John's Book
of Terrific Opinions, by John_.

--
John.

Eric Mayer

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Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
On Tue, 18 Apr 2000 00:37:38 -0400, John Hill <john...@fufufuse.net>
wrote:

>In article <UtPK4.3428$%L6.2...@monger.newsread.com>, Matthew T.
>Russotto <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com> wrote:
>
>> }Me, Bert Byfield, author of *Rage of the Bear*, Caravela Books / Amazon,
>> }link and info at http://caravelabooks.com
>>
>> Vanity press doesn't count.
>
>Self-publishing is not necessarily the same as vanity press. Closest
>example on my bookshelf is Henry Rollins. I suppose the important
>difference is whether you can sell it...


With the internet making it possible, in theory, for anyone to
distribute their work it is becoming ever more difficult to sort out
what is "really" published from what is "self-published" which is not
entirely bad considering how little worthiness often has with getting
"really" published.

I haven't managed to write any more IF since my first game which was
treated so kindly here because my wife and I have been working on our
second mystery novel due out in the fall. Our publisher, Poisoned Pen
Press, is an independent, which means it isn't, say Random House. I
believe there are actually only about five big publishing
conglomerates left so the majority of writers, especially to start
turn to the independents who don't have the publicity resources.

Anyway, the point of this early morning groggy rambling is that I've
learned a lot since out book has come out and my wife and I have had
the chance to talk to real working writers. One thing I've learned is
that in the case of most of the books that fill book stores and
libraries there is very little compensation involved for the authors.
So it is very hard to pin down what is or isn't professional
publishing, but clearly being professionally published is not solely,
or maybe even mainly, a function of talent, ability etc.

Case in point - IF. So far as quality goes, clearly, there is plenty
of "professional quality" IF being produced, but you can't say it is
professional simply because there really isn't, so far as I know, any
IF market anymore.


--
Eric Mayer
Web Site: <http://home.epix.net/~maywrite>

"The map is not the territory." -- Alfred Korzybski

Paul O'Brian

unread,
Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
On Tue, 18 Apr 2000, Eric Mayer wrote:

> With the internet making it possible, in theory, for anyone to
> distribute their work it is becoming ever more difficult to sort out
> what is "really" published from what is "self-published" which is not
> entirely bad considering how little worthiness often has with getting
> "really" published.

The rule of thumb I learned was this: If the money flows from publisher to
author, it's "really" published. If the money flows from author to
publisher, it's "self-published" (i.e. vanity press). If there's no money
involved at all (like if I put a story up on my web page), then the term
"published" doesn't really apply in the same way. "Distributed" is
probably more apt.

Matthew T. Russotto

unread,
Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
In article <180420000037384330%john...@fufufuse.net>,

John Hill <john...@fufufuse.net> wrote:
}In article <UtPK4.3428$%L6.2...@monger.newsread.com>, Matthew T.
}Russotto <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com> wrote:
}
}> }Me, Bert Byfield, author of *Rage of the Bear*, Caravela Books / Amazon,
}> }link and info at http://caravelabooks.com
}>
}> Vanity press doesn't count.
}
}Self-publishing is not necessarily the same as vanity press.

Bert's been hyping his book in Fido for years now -- I'm guessing his
mother bought a copy, but aside from that...

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
John Hill <john...@fufufuse.net> wrote:
> In article <UtPK4.3428$%L6.2...@monger.newsread.com>, Matthew T.
> Russotto <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com> wrote:
>
>> }Me, Bert Byfield, author of *Rage of the Bear*, Caravela Books / Amazon,
>> }link and info at http://caravelabooks.com
>>
>> Vanity press doesn't count.
>
> Self-publishing is not necessarily the same as vanity press. Closest
> example on my bookshelf is Henry Rollins. I suppose the important
> difference is whether you can sell it...

The important difference is whether the publisher expects to make money
from selling the book, or from the author paying to get the book
published.

--Z

Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
Eric Mayer <emay...@epix.net> wrote:
> So it is very hard to pin down what is or isn't professional
> publishing, but clearly being professionally published is not solely,
> or maybe even mainly, a function of talent, ability etc.
>
> Case in point - IF. So far as quality goes, clearly, there is plenty
> of "professional quality" IF being produced, but you can't say it is
> professional simply because there really isn't, so far as I know, any
> IF market anymore.

I don't disagree with your assessment in general. But you're comparing the
IF world to the book world in a way that seems nonsensical to me.

There is no commercial IF market (that we've found), and there's a huge
book market. Well, that makes it pretty easy to pin down what
"professionally published" means for text IF: it means "I see no such
thing here". If Cascade Mountain jumps back up and starts selling huge
piles, that could change, but the status right now is clear.

Contrariwise, I think the limit of professional publishing of books is
*also* pretty clear. This is not an educated opinion, since you've
published books and I haven't, but I've spent a lot of time hanging out on
rec.arts.sf groups with writers and editors, who are sometimes vociferous
on the subject.

There are big publishing houses and small publishing houses, and nobody
questions that they're "real" publishing. There's some self-publishing,
and a lot of vanity press. I don't know which, for example, the Kalevala
(sp?) Press mentioned earlier counts as -- but I think if I asked around
on those newsgroups, I'd get a solid answer.

And getting published professionally may not be an indicator of *great*
ability, but the system *does* manage to filter out the vast majority of
submissions, who have *no* writing ability whatsoever. This is why vanity
presses have such a bad name; because they'll take anyone's money.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.colorado.edu> wrote:
> On Tue, 18 Apr 2000, Eric Mayer wrote:
>
>> With the internet making it possible, in theory, for anyone to
>> distribute their work it is becoming ever more difficult to sort out
>> what is "really" published from what is "self-published" which is not
>> entirely bad considering how little worthiness often has with getting
>> "really" published.
>
> The rule of thumb I learned was this: If the money flows from publisher to
> author, it's "really" published. If the money flows from author to
> publisher, it's "self-published" (i.e. vanity press).

Footnote: I mentioned true self-publication as being different from vanity
press. The only example I know of personally is Daniel Keys Moran, who by
god put together a book, paid a printer to physically assemble a load of
volumes, and sold them himself. And made enough money to do it again.

(On the other hand, he's sold books to the major houses -- one of the
books he self-published was a reprint of his out-of-print stuff. He was
selling to existing fans. On the other hand, that's just what the reprint
volumes of NESFA Press do, and *they're* certainly a real publisher.)

> If there's no money
> involved at all (like if I put a story up on my web page), then the term
> "published" doesn't really apply in the same way. "Distributed" is
> probably more apt.

--Z

David Welbourn

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Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to

Brian Uri! wrote ...
>[No spoilers for Aug4]

>
> Interestingly, the testers for Aug4 were strongly divided on
>the whole idea of Consult mode. [...]

>Someone else suggested that any game command
>in book-mode should work and also exit to the regular prompt
>(something hard to disambiguate... are you going SOUTH or looking up
>SOUTH for South Plaza?)

I'll support consult mode and talk mode if a) they use a prompt distinct
from the regular prompt, b) they don't process commands like the regular
prompt does, and c) the player isn't forced to use these modes if s/he
doesn't want to. If the prompt is "consult book about>" and I type "south",
the game and I should agree that I want to "consult book about south".
Ambiguity may be entirely justified for either story or puzzle requirements,
but when it comes to game mechanics, the less ambiguity, the better.

> The random topic idea was easy to do, if tedious. That was in
>from the beginning. Next and Previous were suggested late in
>debugging, and will probably be in Release 2.

I'm sorry to hear that the random topic was tedious to implement; I had
great fun using it. It wouldn't do to implement 'random' (and 'next' and
'previous') for every multi-paged book, of course, but it would be a treat
to have them available occassionally.

-- David Welbourn


David Welbourn

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Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to

Suzanne Britton wrote ...

>[Mild WA story spoilers follow]
>

>David Welbourn wrote...


>> * Please don't put me into talk-mode for creatures or things I can't talk
>> to; eg: "talk to pakal".
>

>This is a little tricky because of the presence of telepathy in WA :-)
>It isn't always immediately obvious what Lyesh can communicate with
>and what she cannot.

Well, okay. Point taken. :-) It's an exceptional circumstance though.

>> * I'm beginning to want a way to ask myself things; that is, things my
>> character presumably knows about, but that I-the-player do not.
>

>One of my beta-testers argued strongly for such a facility, and I added one
>in, only to be talked out of it later by another beta-tester with equally
>vehement views :-) What it came down to was, I wanted to make things a
little
>difficult. I wanted the player to really have to work at the process of
>immersion, paying attention to every detail and talking to everyone who
>will give Lyesh the time of day, to find out more about the world around
>her. Thus, hopefully, the immersion will be deeper and more rewarding when
>it happens.

You succeeded, Suzanne, you succeeded. (Is it possible to find the pakal's
nest in the treetops?) Anyway, I was imagining that WA might have
handled "who is/what is" queries in synch with what the player has learned.
For example, at the beginning of the game, most "what is" queries would
return a response like "You don't know what that is." or "You don't
remember." In midgame, "what is Iavos" might have replied simply "Iavos is
where you live." But by the end, "what is Iavos" should reply with
something like "Iavos is a small continent on Dyr with a temperate climate.
Your home is on its western coast." Near the end of the game, it
would have been nice to have been able to search Lyesh's memories, perhaps
learning how she feels about all that's happened -- as indeed the player is
doing.

-- David Welbourn


John Hill

unread,
Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
In article
<Pine.GSO.3.96.100041...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU>, Paul
O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> wrote:

> The rule of thumb I learned was this: If the money flows from publisher to
> author, it's "really" published. If the money flows from author to

> publisher, it's "self-published" (i.e. vanity press). If there's no money


> involved at all (like if I put a story up on my web page), then the term
> "published" doesn't really apply in the same way. "Distributed" is
> probably more apt.

The money-flow rule is a good one, especially when it's your money.
But I must nitpick.

Vanity press publishers are 'real' publishers in the sense that they
may handle the printing, the distribution[1], and the marketing[2] for
an author. In exchange for cash[3].

Self-publishing is a special case. The author is their own publisher.
The money flows out, not to a publisher, but to a print shop. Then
begins the backbreaking work of negotiating with distributors, and
self-promotion.

I respect that level of dedication, even if I don't like the product.

Is Amazon taking the backbreaking out of distribution? I hadn't looked
into that until now. Well, the time may have come for me to retire my
own rule of thumb.

It occured to me to mention this in the first place because I read a
few self-published[4] authors. These people came to my attention, I
should add, in the same ways that a really-published author would:
reviews in the 'real' press, public appearances, word of mouth.

John H.

[1][2][3] I was going to include some responsible cynicism here. Feh.

[4] I do own a few vanity press books as well, but they're all from the
50s and 60s, and I got them at Goodwill. Because bad writing from
the old days is neat. At least for a few pages.

John Hill

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Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
In article <Yb_K4.3533$%L6.2...@monger.newsread.com>, Matthew T.
Russotto <russ...@wanda.vf.pond.com> wrote:

> }Self-publishing is not necessarily the same as vanity press.
>

> Bert's been hyping his book in Fido for years now -- I'm guessing his
> mother bought a copy, but aside from that...

Can lose your shirt either way, yup.

Michael Straight

unread,
Apr 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/18/00
to
On Tue, 18 Apr 2000, Paul O'Brian wrote:

> On Tue, 18 Apr 2000, Eric Mayer wrote:
>
> > With the internet making it possible, in theory, for anyone to
> > distribute their work it is becoming ever more difficult to sort out
> > what is "really" published from what is "self-published" which is not
> > entirely bad considering how little worthiness often has with getting
> > "really" published.
>

> The rule of thumb I learned was this: If the money flows from publisher to
> author, it's "really" published. If the money flows from author to
> publisher, it's "self-published" (i.e. vanity press). If there's no money
> involved at all (like if I put a story up on my web page), then the term
> "published" doesn't really apply in the same way. "Distributed" is
> probably more apt.

Unless you're in academia.

SMTIRCAHIAGEHLT


David Glasser

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Apr 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/20/00
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> RAIF's second[*] genuine published writer

Um, you're either forgetting Neil deMause or Adam Cadre. (OK, so we
still have two months to go for Adam, but presumably Suzanne won't get
her novel to press that quickly.)

--
David Glasser | gla...@iname.com | http://www.davidglasser.net/
rec.arts.int-fiction FAQ: http://www.davidglasser.net/raiffaq/
"So, is that superior artistry, or the easy way out?"
--TenthStone on white canvases as art, on rec.arts.int-fiction

Aris Katsaris

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Apr 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/21/00
to

Chad Schultz <chads...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:8dfrb6$etj$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

Oh god! For me It would be hard to get immersed if what you are suggesting
took place. Talk about subtle - having the game tell you what you must
wonder
about...

Aris Katsaris

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/21/00
to
Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>Chad Schultz <chads...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
>> think that 'who/what is' would help immerse me. It's hard to get
>> immersed when you don't know what's going on! :)
>
>Oh god! For me It would be hard to get immersed if what you are suggesting
>took place. Talk about subtle - having the game tell you what you must
>wonder about...

Please note that this is not an either or. Simply design the game
so it can be played (well) without ever requiring information from
'who is X' and 'what is Y' and 'why is Z', but support the commands
so that they provide general useful information for orienting the
player to what's going on. (Especially in the 'I'm coming back to
this game two weeks later, which has definitely bit me too.)

I'm certainly in the "I'm not immersed if I don't know what the
player character knows"--which put me right off of Varicella's
master plan, and made the first half of Spider & Web's endgame
sequence unimmersive. Of course, immersion isn't necessary for
fun, but since in the case of Worlds Apart, the author was
advocating "drawing you in so in the long run you're deeply
immersed", I'll just say that I'm the exact opposite: the
fragmentary confusion (and I don't mean that pejoratively, I'm
sure it's intentional) that is the first several turns of WA
was so unimmersive to me that I couldn't convince myself to
play any further.

SeanB

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/22/00
to
Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message

>> I'm certainly in the "I'm not immersed if I don't know what the
>> player character knows"--which put me right off of Varicella's
>> master plan, and made the first half of Spider & Web's endgame
>> sequence unimmersive.
>
>But these were very popular and IMO excellent games - which
>implies there's something wrong in this kind of reasoning.
>Or that you are simply in a small minority...

>
>> Of course, immersion isn't necessary for
>> fun

Or that people had fun with them but weren't necessarily
immersed, right? I didn't say I *disliked* those games
at all, did I? I thought Shrapnel was quite an interesting
experience but you can hardly call those "restarts" immersive.

Of course, I may well be in a small minority.

>> but since in the case of Worlds Apart, the author was
>> advocating "drawing you in so in the long run you're deeply
>> immersed", I'll just say that I'm the exact opposite: the
>> fragmentary confusion (and I don't mean that pejoratively, I'm
>> sure it's intentional) that is the first several turns of WA
>> was so unimmersive to me that I couldn't convince myself to
>> play any further.
>

>Except that in this case the PC has amnesia - even with such
>commands as you suggest, how would it be any different?

I don't actually think this case is interesting, but actually
it applies. As far as I remember, as far as I had gotten in the
beginning, I didn't even KNOW the character had amnesia. With
commands as suggested, that would be spelled out.

The real answer, though, is that amnesia is a fine (but
overused) tool to try to overcome the barrier between
"what the player knows" and "what the player's character
knows". Presumably, from what other people were saying,
the character no longer has amnesia at some later point
in the game, at which point the questions are rather
relevant. (If the character never overcomes amnesia,
then yes, asking "what is blah" doesn't make very much
sense, although in an ideal world, it would remind you
whatever you had discovered about blah so far this game.)

>I'm afraid such command which pretty much synopsize your
>whole progress would be counter-productive where immersion
>is concerned. Some things *have* to be handled by the player,
>not be handed out by the game. And in my opinion it's a necessary
>task on the player's behalf to *remember* certain things.

I firmly disagree. Making the player take notes instead
of automating the notetaking by the program is strictly
*less* immersive rather than more, not to mention more
tedious and less fun. There is nothing wrong with saying
"the player who remembers this stuff will be more immersed"--
but it is a far different thing to therefore simply abandon
the player with an imperfect memory--or the player who comes
back to the game after two weeks.

The point of my post that you're replying to, and I'm not
sure why we're managing to talk around each other because
I thought I was pretty explicit, is that there is a hierarchy
of such knowing:

1. player remembers for herself
2. player has program to help remember things
3. player has notes to help remember things

I'm all for making sure players of type 1 have the optimal
experience. But as I started the previous post, it's not
an either or thing. You can still help out players of type 2
without in any way detracting from the experience of players
of type 1, since the latter need never type 'who is bob'.

>Think about the language puzzle in 'Edifice'. Would it be any better
>if we had a command that said "WHAT IS rakasha"

Ok, if you don't want to have a serious discussion, nevermind.

SeanB

Aris Katsaris

unread,
Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
to

Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message
news:FtDy5...@world.std.com...

> Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
> >Chad Schultz <chads...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
> >> think that 'who/what is' would help immerse me. It's hard to get
> >> immersed when you don't know what's going on! :)
> >
> >Oh god! For me It would be hard to get immersed if what you are
suggesting
> >took place. Talk about subtle - having the game tell you what you must
> >wonder about...
>
> Please note that this is not an either or. Simply design the game
> so it can be played (well) without ever requiring information from
> 'who is X' and 'what is Y' and 'why is Z', but support the commands
> so that they provide general useful information for orienting the
> player to what's going on. (Especially in the 'I'm coming back to
> this game two weeks later, which has definitely bit me too.)
>
> I'm certainly in the "I'm not immersed if I don't know what the
> player character knows"--which put me right off of Varicella's
> master plan, and made the first half of Spider & Web's endgame
> sequence unimmersive.

But these were very popular and IMO excellent games - which
implies there's something wrong in this kind of reasoning.
Or that you are simply in a small minority...

> Of course, immersion isn't necessary for

> fun, but since in the case of Worlds Apart, the author was


> advocating "drawing you in so in the long run you're deeply
> immersed", I'll just say that I'm the exact opposite: the
> fragmentary confusion (and I don't mean that pejoratively, I'm
> sure it's intentional) that is the first several turns of WA
> was so unimmersive to me that I couldn't convince myself to
> play any further.

Except that in this case the PC has amnesia - even with such
commands as you suggest, how would it be any different?

I'm afraid such command which pretty much synopsize your


whole progress would be counter-productive where immersion
is concerned. Some things *have* to be handled by the player,
not be handed out by the game. And in my opinion it's a necessary

task on the player's behalf to *remember* certain things. The
same way it's necessary in either times to solve certain things where
puzzles are concerned...

Think about the language puzzle in 'Edifice'. Would it be any better

if we had a command that said "WHAT IS rakasha" and which explained
all the info we had received by then? I don't think so....

Aris Katsaris

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
to
Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote:

> Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>>Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message
>>> I'm certainly in the "I'm not immersed if I don't know what the
>>> player character knows"--which put me right off of Varicella's
>>> master plan, and made the first half of Spider & Web's endgame
>>> sequence unimmersive.
>>
>>But these were very popular and IMO excellent games - which
>>implies there's something wrong in this kind of reasoning.
>>Or that you are simply in a small minority...
>>
>>> Of course, immersion isn't necessary for
>>> fun
>
> Or that people had fun with them but weren't necessarily
> immersed, right? I didn't say I *disliked* those games
> at all, did I? I thought Shrapnel was quite an interesting
> experience but you can hardly call those "restarts" immersive.
>
> Of course, I may well be in a small minority.

I don't remember anyone else saying that they found _S&W_ unimmersive --
not for that reason, anyway.

It is, of course, a game *about* the player not knowing everything the
protagonist does. If that throws you out of the game, _S&W_ isn't going to
work for you; this is clear. But it's not really relevant to your
argument; the information you're missing isn't something you were
presented with early, and then forgot. It's stuff you're supposed to
deduce.

The only meaningful response to "what is X?" in _S&W_ would be "You're
trying to *avoid* answering questions." :-)

Aris Katsaris

unread,
Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
to

Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message
news:FtFz0...@world.std.com...

> Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
> >Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message
> >> I'm certainly in the "I'm not immersed if I don't know what the
> >> player character knows"--which put me right off of Varicella's
> >> master plan, and made the first half of Spider & Web's endgame
> >> sequence unimmersive.
> >
> >But these were very popular and IMO excellent games - which
> >implies there's something wrong in this kind of reasoning.
> >Or that you are simply in a small minority...
> >
> >> Of course, immersion isn't necessary for
> >> fun
>
> Or that people had fun with them but weren't necessarily
> immersed, right? I didn't say I *disliked* those games
> at all, did I? I thought Shrapnel was quite an interesting
> experience but you can hardly call those "restarts" immersive.
>
> Of course, I may well be in a small minority.
>
> >> but since in the case of Worlds Apart, the author was
> >> advocating "drawing you in so in the long run you're deeply
> >> immersed", I'll just say that I'm the exact opposite: the
> >> fragmentary confusion (and I don't mean that pejoratively, I'm
> >> sure it's intentional) that is the first several turns of WA
> >> was so unimmersive to me that I couldn't convince myself to
> >> play any further.
> >
> >Except that in this case the PC has amnesia - even with such
> >commands as you suggest, how would it be any different?
>
> I don't actually think this case is interesting, but actually
> it applies. As far as I remember, as far as I had gotten in the
> beginning, I didn't even KNOW the character had amnesia. With
> commands as suggested, that would be spelled out.

I thought it was spelled out when the game said "You don't know who you are,
where you are, how you got here--but for the moment, none of these things
seem important. "

If you hadn't reached that point yet (three moves or so after the start)
then
the game did succeed in immersing you to the confusion of the PC... :-)

> The real answer, though, is that amnesia is a fine (but
> overused) tool to try to overcome the barrier between
> "what the player knows" and "what the player's character
> knows". Presumably, from what other people were saying,
> the character no longer has amnesia at some later point
> in the game, at which point the questions are rather
> relevant.

It's a gradual process. The character doesn't fully remember
until the very end of the game.

>(If the character never overcomes amnesia,
> then yes, asking "what is blah" doesn't make very much
> sense, although in an ideal world, it would remind you
> whatever you had discovered about blah so far this game.)

But would it be an ideal world? After all I may discover that
character A has a hesitation and/or aggressiveness when
talking about the character B. Shouldn't *I* notice that rather
than having the game tell me that I have discovered it?

Where I am concerned in most cases if the game is better
by telling me right out what is blah then it has already failed in
immersion. After all, not all novels have appendices in the end
with a complete list of characters and location which tell everything
about every character. They rely on the reader handling his own
part of the experience, which includes trying to remember...

> >I'm afraid such command which pretty much synopsize your
> >whole progress would be counter-productive where immersion
> >is concerned. Some things *have* to be handled by the player,
> >not be handed out by the game. And in my opinion it's a necessary
> >task on the player's behalf to *remember* certain things.
>

> I firmly disagree. Making the player take notes instead
> of automating the notetaking by the program is strictly
> *less* immersive rather than more, not to mention more
> tedious and less fun.

When the notes are factual information like maps or passwords
I may very well agree. But in anything more subjective like
'who is Yuri' -- where every player has his own idea about what is
important -- the notetaking simply cannot be made by the program,
because the program does not know what kind of
notes the individual player would take...

>There is nothing wrong with saying
> "the player who remembers this stuff will be more immersed"--
> but it is a far different thing to therefore simply abandon
> the player with an imperfect memory--or the player who comes
> back to the game after two weeks.

It's the same with a reader that comes back to a book after
two weeks. Some things are unfortunately lost - the reader/player
will simply have to make an effort.

> The point of my post that you're replying to, and I'm not
> sure why we're managing to talk around each other because
> I thought I was pretty explicit, is that there is a hierarchy
> of such knowing:
>
> 1. player remembers for herself
> 2. player has program to help remember things
> 3. player has notes to help remember things
>
> I'm all for making sure players of type 1 have the optimal
> experience. But as I started the previous post, it's not
> an either or thing. You can still help out players of type 2
> without in any way detracting from the experience of players
> of type 1, since the latter need never type 'who is bob'.

I think it does detract. Because then the game defines 'who is
bob', rather than letting you form your own opinion on the subject.

> >Think about the language puzzle in 'Edifice'. Would it be any better
> >if we had a command that said "WHAT IS rakasha"
>

> Ok, if you don't want to have a serious discussion, nevermind.

I should be very annoyed right now, and actually I am, but I'll prefer
to count to 20.

I am *perfectly* serious. Should the game remind you that the
word "blah" was only used in situations where the other guy
referred to his son and the word "grignr" when the other guy
was referring to a man-eating tiger? The very point of the
puzzle was that some thing the player should understand
by him/herself rather than have the game spell them out.

Some things the player *must* remember. And "who is grignr"
*would* detract from the pleasure...

Aris Katsaris

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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[general storyline spoilers for Spider and Web, I don't think anyone
should be bothered but I'd hate to give away the premise to someone
who hadn't yet played it]

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>>>Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message
>>>> I'm certainly in the "I'm not immersed if I don't know what the
>>>> player character knows"--which put me right off of Varicella's
>>>> master plan, and made the first half of Spider & Web's endgame
>>>> sequence unimmersive.
>

>I don't remember anyone else saying that they found _S&W_ unimmersive --
>not for that reason, anyway.
>
>It is, of course, a game *about* the player not knowing everything the
>protagonist does. If that throws you out of the game, _S&W_ isn't going to
>work for you; this is clear.

It could still work without immersion as an interesting puzzle game:
not only must I make up a story that will satisfy the interrogator,
but I must do it while not knowing what the true story is!

Fortunately for me, if you look closely, you'll see that I said
the first half of S&W's *endgame*--that is, the part of the time
when you are no longer under the constraints of the first part of
the game, and you should have ever opportunity to leverage your
knowledge of the truth--and the exact point at which I got stuck,
due, in truth, to the fact that I had no idea what the truth was
(well, or due to the lack of a clue, as we are discussing in a
thread on r.a.if)--and when you get stuck and you realize your
player character has no excuse being stuck, the immersion (at
least for me) is gone.

The main part of the game was, hmm, I'm not sure whether I can
qualify it as immersive or not. I guess that since, even though
I didn't know what my character knew, we shared the lack of knowledge
of what the interrogator knew, and therefore I never felt like I
was bumping into the boundary between character knowledge and
player knowledge, and since nothing was disrupting my immersion,
I was immersed.

>But it's not really relevant to your
>argument; the information you're missing isn't something you were
>presented with early, and then forgot. It's stuff you're supposed to
>deduce.
>
>The only meaningful response to "what is X?" in _S&W_ would be "You're
>trying to *avoid* answering questions." :-)

Clearly, during the endgame, as you're attempting to deduce
what you ACTUALLY did, these would no longer be meaningful
responses, but clearly, if it's supposed to be a puzzle you
wouldn't want to spell it out, even though there's no longer
a fictional justification for it. So I certainly wouldn't
advocate adding such things to S&W.

The relevence to my argument was indirect--I was presenting
two examples of experiences I found unimmersive to offer
suggestions to why a particular approach to producing immersion
gradually just doesn't work *for me*.

I don't consider 'who'/'what' a crucial thing for all or even
most games. I haven't played WA enough to form a strong opinion
of it; I entered into this thread with the comment though that
Galatea's need for note-taking is incredibly immersion breaking
for me, and expanding on it led to the above examples.

SeanB

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
to
Aris Katsaris <kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:
>Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message
>> I firmly disagree. Making the player take notes instead
>> of automating the notetaking by the program is strictly
>> *less* immersive rather than more, not to mention more
>> tedious and less fun.
>When the notes are factual information like maps or passwords
>I may very well agree. But in anything more subjective like
>'who is Yuri' -- where every player has his own idea about what is
>important -- the notetaking simply cannot be made by the program,
>because the program does not know what kind of
>notes the individual player would take...

Look at the automapping facilities of the better PC games,
say, Ultima Underworld. Look at the automatic plot journal
of Planescape: Torment. Think of these as examples of solving
the problem: "The player isn't perfect, and keeping track of
this stuff is not supposed to be where the fun of the game is".

>>There is nothing wrong with saying
>> "the player who remembers this stuff will be more immersed"--
>> but it is a far different thing to therefore simply abandon
>> the player with an imperfect memory--or the player who comes
>> back to the game after two weeks.
>
>It's the same with a reader that comes back to a book after
>two weeks. Some things are unfortunately lost - the reader/player
>will simply have to make an effort.

But (a) books don't require a computer, and therefore don't necessarily
have a handy computer built-in that makes it easy to do this sort of
thing, and (b) books don't present obstacles that prevent a reader
from turning to the next page, increasing the odds that the reader
will put the book down and try to come back to it later in the hopes
of having a fresh perspective.

And in the case of Galatea, (c) books let you flip back a page
trivially.

>> I'm all for making sure players of type 1 have the optimal
>> experience. But as I started the previous post, it's not
>> an either or thing. You can still help out players of type 2
>> without in any way detracting from the experience of players
>> of type 1, since the latter need never type 'who is bob'.
>
>I think it does detract. Because then the game defines 'who is
>bob', rather than letting you form your own opinion on the subject.

Then don't type 'who is bob'. That's like saying a hint system
you never use detracts from the experience of the game.

I guess that's the crux of the thing: you want to "discover"
the things your player character should already know, because
that's even more bonus fun. I'm perfectly happy to have
the gameplay come from things my player character doesn't know.

>> >Think about the language puzzle in 'Edifice'. Would it be any better
>> >if we had a command that said "WHAT IS rakasha"
>

>I am *perfectly* serious. Should the game remind you that the
>word "blah" was only used in situations where the other guy
>referred to his son and the word "grignr" when the other guy
>was referring to a man-eating tiger? The very point of the
>puzzle was that some thing the player should understand
>by him/herself rather than have the game spell them out.

I'm not sure why having 'when was blah used' providing you
a list of the situations that blah was used is any different
than having to take notes on it yourself, but obviously I'm
not advocating having 'what is rakasha' tell you anything
other than player character knowledge, any more than I advocate
having a 'win the game' hotkey in games to help out the players
who can't win on their own.

Someone can of course construct a puzzle in which the player
character knows something and the player is trying to guess it
or should otherwise be unaware of it, in which case these sorts
of commands would be inappropriate. All I'm advocating is that
there are two reasonable scenarios for providing this sort of
non-puzzle-centric information: when it provides information
that the player character should know and which is available in
the game in non-puzzle form anyway, and when it saves the player
from having to replay/transcript/take notes.

But I'll let someone else defend this position from now
on just in case I'm a minority of one.

SeanB
isili 'click kri'kla. tosa sstresh isili. tosa yeshor'click.

Emily Short

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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----------
In article <Ft2y0...@world.std.com>, buz...@world.std.com (Sean T
Barrett) wrote:

>Ok, now you're burdening the player's character with an
>auditory eidetic memory, which perhaps isn't very realistic,
>but in an actual conversation like this, with this much branching
>of possible things to followup (about the only real-world scenario
>I can think of with such a biased relationship is a police officer
>quizzing a witness), people DO say things like, "Ok, what was it
>you said about gods before? I wanted to follow that up." (Well,
>or else they take notes, which isn't very enjoyable.)
>
>Basically, if Galatea isn't going to put up with such questions
>("Weren't you _listening_, you oaf?"--darn, I'm just not managing
>to capture her style)--if she's going to EXPECT the player character
>to have a perfect memory, then give the darn player character a
>perfect memory, don't expect the player to do it manually or using
>some other automation.

This has puzzled me since you first posted it, but it's only with some of
your more recent posts that I figured out why. No, I don't expect the
player to take notes; no, I don't expect him to reload transcripts either.
Both of those things imply that there is vital information you might lose if
you're not paying attention. That you're dealing with a puzzle. Whereas
the point of the game was that the player would pursue it as one does a
casual conversation, moving forward from where he found himself at the
moment, returning to remembered topics when there was a lull. (But topics
that the *player* remembered.) All roads lead somewhere eventually; even
getting bored and having the player character walk out of the room is an
acceptable action with implications for the overall shape of the story.
Depending on when and under what circumstances you walk away, the game may
produce gentle hints about how to get more interaction out of her -- but
that doesn't mean it's a 'loss' ending, exactly.

So of course you'll lose topics, miss things the first time through, fail to
follow up everything. The story is structured so that you *can't* follow up
all the options on a single pass; it tries to conceal that the number of
options is finite at all. (This feeling of restriction is one of the chief
things that I don't like about menu-based conversations. Ask/tell, for all
its faults, at least doesn't feel so much like a CYOA novel. Anti-menu
prejudice was one of my main reasons for writing the underlying library for
Galatea in the first place.)

But it's clear that some players, at least, approach the game in a different
way than I anticipated. Someone said that the game was difficult, and I
thought, Hunh? How is it possible for a game to be difficult when there are
no wrong answers? Yes, maybe it's difficult to steer the game to a
particular ending you've heard exists, but that's not the idea. Winning, in
my view, is a matter of generating a plot that terminates. Some of the
endings would necessarily be counted as losses in a traditional game (if
you've found them you know what I mean) but I didn't intend them to be
viewed so here. Not all stories have happy endings.

Anyway. I'm not saying you're wrong -- as an axiom, I'd say the player is
more likely to be right than I am -- just that you're starting from a model
of gameplay that I hadn't intended.

ES

Adam Cadre

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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Emily Short wrote:
> All roads lead somewhere eventually; even getting bored and having
> the player character walk out of the room is an acceptable action

Hey, that's me! I feel so accepted.

> Someone said that the game was difficult, and I thought, Hunh? How
> is it possible for a game to be difficult when there are no wrong

> answers? [...] Some of the endings would necessarily be counted as


> losses in a traditional game (if you've found them you know what I
> mean) but I didn't intend them to be viewed so here. Not all stories
> have happy endings.

I found Galatea to be difficult in that most everything I tried
elicited an error message, a default response, or a (deliberately)
terse and uninteresting reply. As a result, all my playthroughs
resulted in a story about one character stumbling around fruitlessly,
attempting to strike up a conversation with another character who
doesn't seem much interested in chatting, and then shrugging and
walking away.

Not too fun.

The thing is, though, I've heard that many people did indeed reach
interesting stuff. These are, I assume, the people who in more
traditional IF games are able to get out of the starting room, avoid
getting killed in the first three moves, and otherwise display skills
which I do not possess. In other words, I suck.

Lately I've found myself giving a fair amount of thought to the way
we evaluate the quality of a work, and the way that's shaped both by
the skills of the artist and the sharpness of the audience. I haven't
come up with much (I suck as an analyst also) but here are some
observations.

In a traditional game, where there are clear differences between
winning and losing endings and the ending received depends upon the
cleverness of the player, players tend to blame themselves for any
shortcoming in their experience. It's not uncommon to hear people
assert that a given game was flat-out bad because it was too hard,
but more often people's reactions are more along the lines of "Oh,
I'm not good enough / smart enough to get anywhere in that one."
People tend to respect a too-hard game more than a too-easy one --
if they didn't have fun, they figure it's their own fault for being
dim.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the sort of work where
quality of the story that appears in a given playthrough may well be
dramatically affected by the player's cleverness (or, at least,
thoroughness), but that this is the case is non-obvious. You might
get to the end and grumble to your friends that it suffered from a
cardboard villain, only to learn that if you talk to your sidekick
you can learn the villain's tragic backstory that makes him into a
rich, wonderfully deep character and that the actions of his that
you'd dismissed as poorly written and utterly lacking in motivation
now make perfect sense, etc. But if the players never learn this,
chances are that they're not going to assume that the reason they
didn't have fun was because they weren't good enough or smart enough;
they'll just say that the author wrote a bad game. (The flip side
of this: the author can convince herself that those who found the
game to be poor simply weren't digging deeply enough to discover its
brilliance. Sometimes this will be the case. Sometimes the game will
simply be poor.)

(Parenthetical follow-up #2: how does this differ from regular prose
fiction? Unlike IF, all readers get the same words in the same order,
but still, some put in thought and attention and are rewarded for it,
while others don't and thus don't get much out of the book. And still
others will just skim it and think it's great, and a fourth group will
give the work careful consideration and conclude that it's crap.
Discourse communities, anyone?)

In between, you have the sort of work that isn't, at least on the
surface, a win/lose proposition, but in which the difference between
an interesting playthrough and a dull one clearly does ride on the
player's contribution. So is this more like the first case or the
second -- more like the game, or more like the story? My initial
answer would be that it's more like the game. Is there much difference
between "ooh, you were clever, here's some treasure" and "ooh, you were
clever, here's an interesting twist ending"? Or, alternatively, *isn't*
there a lot of difference between, "Hmm, having played that game from
start to finish, it didn't really grab me at all -- it sucks" and "Hmm,
having played that game from start to finish, it didn't really grab me
at all -- time for another playthrough and this time get somewhere!"
True, not all stories have happy endings. If the choices were among
several stories, all of roughly equal quality but differentiated by the
cheeriness of their outcomes, that would be a point. (Cf. Aisle here:
while some endings were more than a screen long and others were just a
couple of sentences, while some took off on bizarre flights of fancy
and others were mundane as could be, cumulatively, they all seemed of
equal quality. At least to me.) But if the choices are among several
stories, some of which take an intriguing turn and others of which are
dull and pointless, things start to skew much more vertically than
horizontally. Some stories *are* superior, the player feels. And
thus finding the superior ones becomes a game, and difficulty becomes
a factor.

-----
Adam Cadre, Sammamish, WA
http://adamcadre.ac

Message has been deleted

ical...@my-deja.com

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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In article <390323...@adamcadre.ac>,
re...@adamcadre.ac wrote:

> Emily Short wrote:
> > Someone said that the game was difficult, and I thought, Hunh? How
> > is it possible for a game to be difficult when there are no wrong
> > answers? [...] Some of the endings would necessarily be counted as
> > losses in a traditional game (if you've found them you know what I
> > mean) but I didn't intend them to be viewed so here. Not all
> > stories have happy endings.
>
> I found Galatea to be difficult in that most everything I tried
> elicited an error message, a default response, or a (deliberately)
> terse and uninteresting reply. As a result, all my playthroughs
> resulted in a story about one character stumbling around fruitlessly,
> attempting to strike up a conversation with another character who
> doesn't seem much interested in chatting, and then shrugging and
> walking away.

Oh, thank goodness. I had the same experience and thought it was
because I was just too stupid to figure out what I should be doing.
I especially had trouble with definite articles. ASK GALATEA ABOUT
THE CHISEL, for example, returns "Galatea doesn't seem to know what
you're talking about" while ASK GALATEA ABOUT CHISEL gives the non-
default response). I wonder if the other stuff I tried just wasn't
working because of the way I phrase things or ... ?

irene


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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Emily Short wrote:
[comments about you not being supposed to remember all topics]

Well, the problem is that once you run out, you get bored,
and boredom isn't fun, and as an author I think you should
think twice about whether that's really the experience you
want a participant to walk away with... but obviously that's
your call. (Also, when I get bored, I'm far more likely to
shutdown my interpret than to type 'out', so there's a lack
of closure with that particular scenario.)

I was particularly motivated to this attitude because there was a
list of gods ('a gods') that I could get and reexplore, but I couldn't
get the list of tools back up, and I don't understand why there
was this inconsistency, unless the former was just a bug.

>Anyway. I'm not saying you're wrong -- as an axiom, I'd say the player is
>more likely to be right than I am -- just that you're starting from a model
>of gameplay that I hadn't intended.

Ok, I concede that point. For the sake of the argument
I was making in favor of these sorts of built-in tools,
rewrite it as saying "in the case of Galatea-like gameplay",
instead of being about Galatea.

But as long as Adam is continuing the thread...

Adam Cadre <re...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
>Emily Short wrote:

>> Someone said that the game was difficult, and I thought, Hunh?

[snip]


>> Not all stories have happy endings.
>
>I found Galatea to be difficult in that most everything I tried
>elicited an error message, a default response, or a (deliberately)
>terse and uninteresting reply.

Ok, I had a much better experience with Galatea than that. I
fruitfully pursued a number of lines of conversation. However,
both of the endings that I reached were rather sudden and
unsatisfying, and I had heard a number of positive comments
here so I felt like I was missing out on things.

It sounds more like your experience was blocked by bugs
rather than an inability to come up with topics for discussion.

>These are, I assume, the people who in more
>traditional IF games are able to get out of the starting room, avoid
>getting killed in the first three moves, and otherwise display skills
>which I do not possess. In other words, I suck.

Yay, it's not just me. (PS: Jeez, and you WROTE Varicella?)

[snip great stuff]

Adam has expressed what I was thinking better than I could
ever have. Ok, better than I was expressing it to myself,
even. Ok, ok, he's expressed what I wish I had been thinking.

SeanB

Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
to
It sounds like some people think a "reiterate" command (under whatever
guise) is in the flow of the story, and can therefore break it; whereas
other people think it's like flipping back to an earlier page in a book --
an act which is entirely outside the flow, and can't disrupt anything.

For the record, I'm in the latter group.

Emily Short

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
to

----------
In article <390323...@adamcadre.ac>, Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:

>Emily Short wrote:
>> Someone said that the game was difficult, and I thought, Hunh? How
>> is it possible for a game to be difficult when there are no wrong
>> answers? [...] Some of the endings would necessarily be counted as
>> losses in a traditional game (if you've found them you know what I
>> mean) but I didn't intend them to be viewed so here. Not all stories
>> have happy endings.
>
>I found Galatea to be difficult in that most everything I tried
>elicited an error message, a default response, or a (deliberately)
>terse and uninteresting reply.

Really? Hmm. Error messages are bad, obviously; despite various efforts
there remain some disambiguation problems, apparently. When Galatea 2.0
occurs I'll try to deal with that, but in the meantime, people shouldn't
bother trying to use articles (as Irene notes, they won't always work). I
know, I know, it's evil, mea culpa, I'll fix it.

The non-technical side of this problem interests me more, though. Evidently
you had a way of going at the game that I failed to anticipate; and you're
by no means the only one. Ordinarily I'd probably just shrug and say,
'okay, well, not everyone gets everything'; but Galatea is a prototype for a
kind of game I'd like to write more of. So I'd like to figure out how to
make sure it doesn't feel inaccessible.

Maybe the answer is to get as many beta-testers as possible, so as to have
the largest possible sample of angles of approach; perhaps, too, it would
help to have the game intervene on the player's behalf more often. It
already does this occasionally (ie, there are things that happen of their
own accord to nudge you along, if the conversation has lagged), but maybe
not often enough. I don't know. It's tricky to calibrate: I don't want
people getting bored, I want there always to be *some* obvious topics of
conversation, but at the same time I don't want the player to feel
manipulated in any particular direction per se.

I'm starting to change my mind on the reiteration issue. I still think that
it would make the conversation seem less realistic if you could get Galatea
to repeat things verbatim, and I'm not comfortable with the exact-memory
business either. (There are technical reasons why this would be annoying to
implement, but more than that, it seems untrue to the story.) Maybe a
'think about x' command that would start out by reflecting the PC's own
knowledge about x and would then function as a cumulative summary of facts
learned?


>True, not all stories have happy endings. If the choices were among
>several stories, all of roughly equal quality but differentiated by the
>cheeriness of their outcomes, that would be a point.

Point taken. There are several strong negative endings in Galatea as well
as neutral and positive ones, but there are also, I suppose, a few endings
(like most that result from your walking out of the room) where it seemed
impossible to write a deeply satisfying conclusion. I mean, obviously, what
the player is saying by this action is that something wasn't satisfying. I
tried to make the prose that goes with that as specific and interesting as
possible (what has the player omitted to do that might have made her
experience richer? what mood has she left Galatea in?) but sometimes it's
not possible to go very far with it.

Anyway, there have been a lot of useful lessons in this, both technical and
not; I appreciate the input.

ES

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>It sounds like some people think a "reiterate" command (under whatever
>guise) is in the flow of the story, and can therefore break it; whereas
>other people think it's like flipping back to an earlier page in a book --
>an act which is entirely outside the flow, and can't disrupt anything.
>
>For the record, I'm in the latter group.

"Under whatever guise"? Just for the sake of argument (I'm really
not intending to say Galatea is a failure without something along
these lines, just thinking about how the experience can be improved),
how about:

> CONSULT NOTES ABOUT TOOLS
You check your notes to see what Galatea said about tools,
and read "chisel, awl, knife, axe".

Would that feel meta- to you, when playing a character who
might reasonably be expected to be taking notes?

I don't find the repetitive output from 'look' and 'i' to
break the flow of a game or to break immersion, personally,
but they're certainly a bit bizarre in game terms--one
imagines the player character isn't likely to forget what
she's carrying as easily as we players do, and yet that
hardly makes those commands meta--do you perceive them so?

SeanB

Lucian Paul Smith

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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[Cross-posted to raif from rgif]

Emily Short (ems...@mindspring.com) wrote:
: In article <Ft2y0...@world.std.com>, buz...@world.std.com (Sean T
: Barrett) wrote:

: >Basically, if Galatea isn't going to put up with such questions


: >("Weren't you _listening_, you oaf?"--darn, I'm just not managing
: >to capture her style)--if she's going to EXPECT the player character
: >to have a perfect memory, then give the darn player character a
: >perfect memory, don't expect the player to do it manually or using
: >some other automation.

: This has puzzled me since you first posted it, but it's only with some of
: your more recent posts that I figured out why. No, I don't expect the
: player to take notes; no, I don't expect him to reload transcripts either.
: Both of those things imply that there is vital information you might lose if
: you're not paying attention. That you're dealing with a puzzle. Whereas
: the point of the game was that the player would pursue it as one does a
: casual conversation, moving forward from where he found himself at the
: moment, returning to remembered topics when there was a lull.

"The Player Will Get It Wrong", anyone? ;-)

An author should realize that a very common goal of players is, "See all
of the text." I don't think it's quite fair to say that a player who
plays the game necessarily views it as a puzzle. But if the structure of
the game is such that certain sections of the game are hinted at, are
accessible, and are hard to get to, the player with that goal has been
presented with a puzzle they must solve if they are to reach their goal.

'Galatea' is a perfect example of how a game can change character
depending on the player's goals. If, as Emily predicted, the player's
goal is simply to reach *an* ending, the game is pretty simple (as far as
being a 'puzzle'), and quite evocative (responding, as it does, so
personally to the player's input). But if the player has the goal (as
Sean seems to have) of reaching all/most of the text, the game suddenly
becomes pretty complex as a puzzle, and less evocative inversely with
frustration. I would say that Galatea actually invites this approach
because of the different endings. We have been coached by past games (and
perhaps it makes intuitive sense, as well) to associate different endings
with significant amounts of text. If a wide variety of possible
conversational courses all funneled back into one ending, I dare say that
people would not be as concerned with trying to read all the text, even if
they had actually read the same percentage.

[Hmm. This seems to belie my earlier point. Perhaps 'reach all the
endings' is more important to people than 'read all the text'. I think we
associate the two, though, consciously or unconsciously. Perhaps a better
way to phrase it would be 'see all the items on the list', whether that be
endings (Galatea), ways to annoy your owner (Soft Food), or ways to not
get the last points (Mother Loose). Regardless, I press on.]

Accomodating players with different goals is not an easy task, but it must
be addressed by the author all the time. This is not only because
different people approach the game with different goals, but because the
same person can approach the game with diferent goals upon different
play-throughs or even within the same game!

Consider the perennial problem of room descriptions. When a player first
encounters a room, their goal is to find out as much about the room as
they can--layout, contents, exits, and the like. To this end, the more
detail the better. But upon subsequent viewings, the player needs only be
reminded of these facts, and the more verbose the description, the harder
it is to slog through and pick out the relevant details. The cannonical
way to deal with this is to write 'punchy' room descriptions that convey a
lot of detail in a short amount of space. In some cases (the red area of
'Photopia', for example), the room description actually changes the second
time you see it, so that the player's goals and needs at different points
in time can be individually addressed.

It is certainly possible, as an author, to only address a certain set of
goals. To make a somewhat silly example, the author could force the game
into 'brief' mode, and provide lengthy descriptions of rooms the first
time through, and spartan lists of objects and exits the next. Maybe
that's all the player 'needs' to complete the game. But it's *not* all
the player needs to experience a sense of place, of belonging in the
game.

To return to Galatea: Would it hurt the game to allow Galatea to repeat
answers? Perhaps. It's certainly not a unique design choice--the
characters in Losing Your Grip come to mind. And some things she says are
as first-time-viewing specific as a room description that reads, "Entering
from the west, you see a stairway in front of you..." and would have to be
either reworded completely or new text with the same information (a la
Photopia) would have to be inserted (and appropriately flagged) into the
game.

But either of these options might be a relatively small price to pay to
accomodate players on their second time through (say) who are trying to
reach a new ending. It's by no means a clear-cut case, but it's worth
thinking about at least--I've been talking more about Galatea, but my main
point is more that these are issues to be aware of when writing games.

-Lucian

Emily Short

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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----------
In article <8dvcue$sl3$1...@joe.rice.edu>, lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul Smith)
wrote:

[Snip quoted discussion of whether Galatea is a puzzle game]

>An author should realize that a very common goal of players is, "See all
>of the text." I don't think it's quite fair to say that a player who
>plays the game necessarily views it as a puzzle. But if the structure of
>the game is such that certain sections of the game are hinted at, are
>accessible, and are hard to get to, the player with that goal has been
>presented with a puzzle they must solve if they are to reach their goal.

To be fair, I did realize that people would replay a bit if they knew that
there was more than one ending. (This is where having the script from a
previous game would come in handy.) But I supposed they'd be content to
find only some of the endings. Getting *all* of them is quite a chore, and
different ones require rather different approaches. Moreover, I think the
first endings a player finds are likely to be the ones he likes best,
whereas those that involve less intuitive approaches may not be as
satisfying.

Of course, if the game is meant to respond to the way the player thinks,
maybe it's churlish of me not to cater to the obsessively thorough. But I
still don't want to list endings. I'd sooner create a bare-bones
walkthrough that would get the curious player to every single last bloody
one. Because, darn it, it's still *meant* to be more story than game.

ES

Adam J. Thornton

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Apr 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/25/00
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In article <FtGqJ...@world.std.com>,

Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote:
>Look at the automapping facilities of the better PC games,
>say, Ultima Underworld. Look at the automatic plot journal
>of Planescape: Torment.

Speaking of which: *WHY* did the early journal entries disappear after a
certain point in PLanescape? Yeah, sure, so I had (for example) solved
all the subquests around the Gathering Dust bar long since, but that
doesn't mean I don't want to flip back and look at what I did so I can
figure out how it fit into the Big Picture.

Adam
--
ad...@princeton.edu
"My eyes say their prayers to her / Sailors ring her bell / Like a moth
mistakes a light bulb / For the moon and goes to hell." -- Tom Waits

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/25/00
to
Adam J. Thornton <ad...@princeton.edu> wrote:
>Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote:
>>Look at the automapping facilities of the better PC games,
>>say, Ultima Underworld. Look at the automatic plot journal
>>of Planescape: Torment.
>Speaking of which: *WHY* did the early journal entries disappear after a
>certain point in PLanescape?

I didn't actually notice.

But that code looks to have been directly inherited from
Baldur's Gate; and, I hate to say it, but the vast majority
of things that are wrong with P:T are problems inherited
from BG; fortunately, it is only a subset thereof.

Are you sure it's not just a UI thing? I think in BG there were
effectively chapters, maybe you had to do extra work to review
journal entries from previous chapters?

SeanB

TableSaw

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Apr 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/25/00
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Emily Short opined thusly:

> Of course, if the game is meant to respond to the way the player thinks,
> maybe it's churlish of me not to cater to the obsessively thorough. But I
> still don't want to list endings. I'd sooner create a bare-bones
> walkthrough that would get the curious player through every single last bloody
> one.

I don't know if this is what you're talking about, but as one who is
investigating the game It could be helpful to be able to see a list, maybe
not of endings, but of different approaches that can be used. So that instead
of having a list of 1. Galatea tears your heart out of your chest then sets
it on fire. 2. Galate sprouts wing and flies away. I could approach the game
trying to be 1. Sympathetic. 2. Critical. 3. Vulnerable. Etc.

Tony

"If you fight me, you will lose. / See your fear: two great big shoes!"

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