Wow, I'm a genius (Shrapnel)

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John Hill

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Mar 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/13/00
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Not only did I catch the rvafgrva nanpuebavfz (spoiler), but also, also,
I refrained from posting something like "Hey, Cadre, lbh shpxrq hc!"
(profanity)

Wow, I'm a travhf.

I really enjoyed Shrapnel. The funky ascii special effects gave me an
adrenaline rush, and reminded me of Bad Machine.

I'm not such a fan of screen-wipes. The screen buffer is my friend. If
Shrapnel had been a puzzle game, the wipes would have bothered me.

I'm wondering about the pause-for-emphasis device. It worked for me. I
didn't get tired of it. But my attention span might be a little...
modern. Pause could be an innovation in IF grammar, or it could be a
gimmick. I'm thinking that for it to work, it needs to be established
early in a game, so that it doesn't break mimesis later.

There are lots of games I haven't played. Is the pause device relatively
new, or has it been around for a while?

Cheers,
JH

--
One equals spamblock.

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/13/00
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John Hill <john...@onefuse.net> wrote:
>
> There are lots of games I haven't played. Is the pause device relatively
> new, or has it been around for a while?

It's been sprinkled in games from the beginning.

Mostly in the category of "a mistake everyone makes once"... :) Although
I agree that Shrapnel used it non-annoyingly.

People's reading speed varies too much. I've been known to kill a program
halfway through a two-second cosmetic delay, because I had gotten bored
with it. (I'll put up with unavoidable hardware delays, of course. Text
games have no such excuse.) Shrapnel allowed you to hit a key to continue,
right? That's necessary; you'd rather have me whacking the space bar
repeatedly, instead of ctrl-alt-escape, if I find myself expecting any
chance of a delay at all.

--Z

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

Adam Cadre

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Mar 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/13/00
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[spoilers for Hunter, in Darkness follow]

Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> People's reading speed varies too much. I've been known to kill a
> program halfway through a two-second cosmetic delay, because I had

> gotten bored with it. [...] Shrapnel allowed you to hit a key to
> continue, right?

Well, not just "allowed" -- that was how text flow was resumed. It
wasn't a timed delay. (Or wasn't meant to be, at any rate. Does
Inform have a default number of seconds after which text flow resumes
if no key is pressed?)

My thinking in my decision to use pauses was influenced by the fact
that I read a lot of comics. A comic book is split into pages, and
each page split up into panels -- but though the panels are read one
at a time, an awareness of every panel on a given page (or, rather,
every two-page spread) seeps into the reader's consciousness the
moment it's visible. So if you want your surprises to really be
surprising, you can't put the set-up on panel two and the actual
surprise on panel three of the same page. You need to set it up such
that the set-up is on the last panel of a given page and that a page
turn is necessary to see the surprise on the following page.

The same is true for IF. After each new chunk of text appears, a
player is aware of some aspects of what has happened even without
reading it: have I died (or won)? Have I been transported to a new
room? Has enough suddenly happened to require a full paragraph or
more? Has something different happened from the last time I tried
this?

Your own Hunter, in Darkness uses pauses -- when you enter the leftmost
cavern, you don't *know* what happens after "the floor drops away to
nothing beneath you" until you press a key. Are you okay? Do you
fall into a new room? Do you die? With the pause, the outcome is
truly surprising, just as if it had occurred after a page turn in a
comic; without it, not so much.

Contrast this with the Tight Crawl. You're crawling forward...

| >G
| You brace your legs as best you can, and shove futilely against the
| trap.
|
| >G
| You brace your legs as best you can, and shove futilely against the
| trap.
|
| You are never going to leave this place.

It seems pretty clear to me that the purpose of repeating the previous
message verbatim is to make it seem as if you've reached a default
message -- that no matter how many times you try to go forward from
here, you'll get the same response. Only it doesn't work! Even
before we read the second line, we know we've received a new message,
because two lines appeared on the screen instead of one. This is, of
course, a clue -- knowing that the response was indeed different, and
just pretending to be the same, I knew to press forward yet again.
But what a difference a pause could have made! If I had had to press
a key before the second line had come up, it would have looked like a
real default response instead of a fake one, a true dead end instead
of a transparent illusion of one. And with that feeling sinking in
as I read the line and pressed the space bar, how much more dramatic
would the follow-up line have been?

This specific moment was, in fact, what prompted me to go whole hog
on the pauses in Shrapnel. The squandered drama was an object lesson
in how effective a pause can be.

Er, no offense.

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

Dan Schmidt

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Mar 13, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/13/00
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Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> writes:

| [spoilers for Hunter, in Darkness follow]

| Contrast this with the Tight Crawl. You're crawling forward...
|
| | >G
| | You brace your legs as best you can, and shove futilely against the
| | trap.
| |
| | >G
| | You brace your legs as best you can, and shove futilely against the
| | trap.
| |
| | You are never going to leave this place.
|
| It seems pretty clear to me that the purpose of repeating the previous
| message verbatim is to make it seem as if you've reached a default
| message -- that no matter how many times you try to go forward from
| here, you'll get the same response. Only it doesn't work! Even
| before we read the second line, we know we've received a new message,
| because two lines appeared on the screen instead of one. This is, of
| course, a clue -- knowing that the response was indeed different, and
| just pretending to be the same, I knew to press forward yet again.
| But what a difference a pause could have made! If I had had to press
| a key before the second line had come up, it would have looked like a
| real default response instead of a fake one, a true dead end instead
| of a transparent illusion of one. And with that feeling sinking in
| as I read the line and pressed the space bar, how much more dramatic
| would the follow-up line have been?

When I encountered this, I thought that I _was_ getting the same
message twice in a row, and that the "You are never going to leave
this place" etc. messages were simply time-triggered to fire after a
certain number of turns in the room. If there had been a pause, I
would have known something was up.

So I guess my reaction is exactly the opposite of yours -- I thought
it worked as is, and that putting in a pause would have killed it.

--
Dan Schmidt | http://www.dfan.org

Robb Sherwin

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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In article <8ajob0$kdf$1...@slb6.atl.mindspring.net>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>> John Hill <john...@onefuse.net> wrote:
>> There are lots of games I haven't played. Is the pause device
>>relatively new, or has it been around for a while?
> It's been sprinkled in games from the beginning.
> Mostly in the category of "a mistake everyone makes once"... :)
>(I'll put up with unavoidable hardware delays, of course. Text
> games have no such excuse.)


Heh... when I first started playing Zork I it was on a PCjr from a
floppy drive. I should mention at this point that I had never played
anything like it before and it creeped the living hell out of me. The
game would pull info off the 5.25" floppy drive but -- and this is the
thing -- it would sometimes do so after it had already displayed all
the text for a new room and was awaiting my command.

So I'd, for instance, be playing in the middle of the night in complete
darkness, finally get into Hades, be reading the description, get
almost to the end of it and suddenly -- BAM! -- the game would access
the incredibly noisy and obnoxious PCjr floppy drive. The drive's LED
would light like the devil's lone eyeball looking back at you.

Unfortunately, with 3.5" drives, drives with green (?!?) lights, hard
disks and (slightly) faster floppy access time such an effect is
unknown to the modern generation of video game player.


--Robb

--
Robb Sherwin, Fort Collins CO
Reviews From Trotting Krips: http://ifiction.tsx.org
Knight Orc Home Page: www.geocities.com/~knightorc


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

Joe Mason

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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Robb Sherwin <robb_s...@juno.com> wrote:
>So I'd, for instance, be playing in the middle of the night in complete
>darkness, finally get into Hades, be reading the description, get
>almost to the end of it and suddenly -- BAM! -- the game would access
>the incredibly noisy and obnoxious PCjr floppy drive. The drive's LED
>would light like the devil's lone eyeball looking back at you.

YES! I want a floppy drive emulator! An old, XT, grinding-floppy emulator.
I want a Z-machine/TADS/etc. interpreter (in other word, a Glk library) that
randomly makes "I'm loading the floppy now" noises when it gets to a prompt.

Or better yet, while it's buffering text, with the chance of 'loading' being
proportional to the length of the text. Then I can play IF in the dark and be
REALLY spooked out again.

Anybody have an old, grinding floppy? Any chance of recording the sound of it
for me? (Preferably a couple times so I can make it sound slightly different
each time.)

Joe

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
>
> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>> People's reading speed varies too much. I've been known to kill a
>> program halfway through a two-second cosmetic delay, because I had
>> gotten bored with it. [...] Shrapnel allowed you to hit a key to
>> continue, right?
>
> Well, not just "allowed" -- that was how text flow was resumed. It
> wasn't a timed delay.

Oh. I feel dumb now. (I *did* play the game, honest.)

I was sure I remembered timed pauses -- obviously the power of suggestion,
from earlier messages.

I've used hit-a-key-to-continue pauses in just about every one of my
games.

Further comments about _Hunter_, with spoilers, in next message.

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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Adam Cadre <a...@adamcadre.ac> wrote:
> [spoilers for Hunter, in Darkness follow]
>
>
>
>
>
>
> My thinking in my decision to use pauses was influenced by the fact
> that I read a lot of comics. A comic book is split into pages, and
> each page split up into panels -- but though the panels are read one
> at a time, an awareness of every panel on a given page (or, rather,
> every two-page spread) seeps into the reader's consciousness the
> moment it's visible. So if you want your surprises to really be
> surprising, you can't put the set-up on panel two and the actual
> surprise on panel three of the same page. You need to set it up such
> that the set-up is on the last panel of a given page and that a page
> turn is necessary to see the surprise on the following page.

Sure. Pacing. There are paragraph, section, and chapter breaks in books
for the same reason. Even on the sentence level -- I have a tendency to
structure my prose so that the critical word of a sentence is *last*.

(I overdo it, I'm sure.)

> Your own Hunter, in Darkness uses pauses -- when you enter the leftmost
> cavern, you don't *know* what happens after "the floor drops away to
> nothing beneath you" until you press a key. Are you okay? Do you
> fall into a new room? Do you die? With the pause, the outcome is
> truly surprising, just as if it had occurred after a page turn in a
> comic; without it, not so much.

Absolutely. Although also -- maybe more -- I think of such breaks as
representing a hiatus in the *character's* consciousness. Not necessarily
a period of *un*consciousness, but at least a moment where thought is
broken and has to get underway again, from a standing start.

> Contrast this with the Tight Crawl. You're crawling forward...
>
> | >G
> | You brace your legs as best you can, and shove futilely against the
> | trap.
> |
> | >G
> | You brace your legs as best you can, and shove futilely against the
> | trap.
> |
> | You are never going to leave this place.
>
> It seems pretty clear to me that the purpose of repeating the previous
> message verbatim is to make it seem as if you've reached a default
> message -- that no matter how many times you try to go forward from
> here, you'll get the same response. Only it doesn't work! Even
> before we read the second line, we know we've received a new message,
> because two lines appeared on the screen instead of one. This is, of
> course, a clue -- knowing that the response was indeed different, and
> just pretending to be the same, I knew to press forward yet again.

That whole section was a balancing act, of course. What I *really* wanted
-- well, I *really* wanted the player to back up and then shift forward
again. Failing that (and most people did), I wanted the player to type
"forward" *without having any hope that it would work*.

You can imagine all the different ways I could have structured this. I
chose that particular one as a mildly superior option of several, not
because it was *the* correct way.

In fact, I hoped that "You are never going to leave this place" would
appear as a *daemon* message, rather than part of the command response. (I
had already had lots of timed daemon messages on the subject of weariness,
pain, losing blood, and so on.) Not a perfect imposture, particularly the
second time you play the sequence, but as good as I could think of.

> But what a difference a pause could have made! If I had had to press
> a key before the second line had come up, it would have looked like a
> real default response instead of a fake one, a true dead end instead
> of a transparent illusion of one.

Surely the blinking cursor, with no command prompt, is as much a clue as
extra output? The previous pauses in the game *signalled* something
entirely new about to happen. They produce heightened tension, not a sense
of futility.

(Unless I put a pause after *every* motion in that crawl. Which would get
mechanical.)

One could *use* the standard command prompt, but interrupt it the first
time a key is hit. But that is itself a new effect, and I think the effect
is jarring expectations. (A variant of what you did with auto-typing
"RESTART".) I would use something like that to convey the player being
startled out of his skivvies; not giving up.

> And with that feeling sinking in
> as I read the line and pressed the space bar, how much more dramatic
> would the follow-up line have been?
>

> This specific moment was, in fact, what prompted me to go whole hog
> on the pauses in Shrapnel. The squandered drama was an object lesson
> in how effective a pause can be.

Okay, I'll tell you how I would get the effect you want. I'd create a
second window (or use the status line), and pop timed messages in there
*independently* of the player's commands. Perhaps a comment on the
protagonist's feelings -- a thought-in-the-back-of-the-head -- which
changes every minute, or every thirty seconds, or some such interval.
Faster in tense situations.

Okay? Now I can throw in all *sorts* of commentary, while hiding the fact
the link to what the player typed. He types "forward"; five seconds
player, the status line flashes "You are never going to leave this place."
(Or, depending on style, "I am never going to leave this place.") But
*something* was going to flash up there anyhow.

I know I should write this game rather than telling you about it, but
hell, ideas are cheap. I declare this one public domain.

Magnus Olsson

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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In article <wkvh2qm...@thecia.net>, Dan Schmidt <df...@thecia.net> wrote:
>| [spoilers for Hunter, in Darkness follow]
>

>When I encountered this, I thought that I _was_ getting the same
>message twice in a row, and that the "You are never going to leave
>this place" etc. messages were simply time-triggered to fire after a
>certain number of turns in the room. If there had been a pause, I
>would have known something was up.
>
>So I guess my reaction is exactly the opposite of yours -- I thought
>it worked as is, and that putting in a pause would have killed it.

Just as a data point, I think my mind works like Dan's, rather than
like Adam's, in this case.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------

Paul O'Brian

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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On 14 Mar 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> I was sure I remembered timed pauses -- obviously the power of suggestion,
> from earlier messages.

There are also timed pauses... but not until the very end of the game.

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
SPAG 20: Coming very soon to an Inbox, web site, or IF Archive near you.
http://www.sparkynet.com/spag


James M. Power

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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I used to use this, way back when, playing Zork on my Apple II clone
(yes, there was such a thing...) If I recall correctly, I could tell
whether a command was going to work or give me a bong message by the
sound of the floppy...

-Jim

Sean T Barrett

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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John Hill <john...@onefuse.net> wrote:
>Pause could be an innovation in IF grammar, or it could be a
>gimmick. I'm thinking that for it to work, it needs to be established
>early in a game, so that it doesn't break mimesis later.

Hmm, I found Shrapnel to be one of the least mimetic games
I've ever played (which says nothing about your main point--I
don't think pauses necessarily break mimesis). I have a short
posting I want to write at some point about mimesis in several
of Adam Cadre's games, but I'm curious, did anyone find Shrapnel
or any other similarly self-aware work to provide mimesis?
To me, things like the 'restart' trick and the Zork references
constantly made me aware of the boundary between player and game.

SeanB

Adam Cadre

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
to
[spoilers for Hunter, in Darkness follow]

Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> In fact, I hoped that "You are never going to leave this place"
> would appear as a *daemon* message, rather than part of the command
> response.

And apparently this is exactly what happened for many people, as this
thread attests. Hunh. It never would've occurred to me that that
sort of message would be part of a daemon.

Well, I guess that's why reader-response criticism that devolves into
"this is the reader's response" doesn't work.

Sean T Barrett

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Mar 14, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/14/00
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Paul O'Brian <obr...@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> wrote:
>On 14 Mar 2000, Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>> I was sure I remembered timed pauses -- obviously the power of suggestion,
>> from earlier messages.
>There are also timed pauses... but not until the very end of the game.

Well, if you want to get technical, the opening "banner" sequence is done
with timed pauses, but neither that nor the ending are really intended to
be interactive at all.

John Hill

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Mar 15, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/15/00
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In article <FrFC7...@world.std.com>, Sean T Barrett
<buz...@world.std.com> wrote:

> Hmm, I found Shrapnel to be one of the least mimetic games
> I've ever played (which says nothing about your main point--I
> don't think pauses necessarily break mimesis). I have a short
> posting I want to write at some point about mimesis in several
> of Adam Cadre's games, but I'm curious, did anyone find Shrapnel
> or any other similarly self-aware work to provide mimesis?
> To me, things like the 'restart' trick and the Zork references
> constantly made me aware of the boundary between player and game.

Cool. Looking forward to your post.

For me, mimesis, if that's the right word (Webster's is not
helping...bah), goes in and out rapidly. Reading a book, what have you.

Also, Shrapnel was played under special conditions: I knew about the
r e s t a r t schtick going in, so I bounced right out of mimesis.
But I did not know that I would be fgnevat ng zl tevfyl erznvaf. That
was distubing enough that it sucked me right back in, on a dime.
However, by the eleventh time this happened, I'll admit that what I was
having was a good old-fashioned postmodern hootenanny.

Another mimesis moment, another time, a different game, also under
special conditions, not reproducible anywhere else, ever:

My Mac was suffering an infuriating extensions conflict. My brand new
shiny printer driver and god-knows-what were conspiring against, well,
plenty of their other little friends. Weird behavior everywhere. I was
starting to get a little paranoid, thinking maybe I was on the wrong
track, maybe I had a virus. I was sick of hunting it down, so I decided
to take an IF break.
There were recent posts that Bad Machine was a nifty game.
The download went without incident.
"Oh, it's a .gam.
Haven't fired up MaxTads in a while. Where the hell did I put it?
Okay, there you are."
(clickity-click)
And I was presented with screens and screens of gibberish. And I
believe I said something like "LEAVE TADS ALONE. LEAVE TADS ALONE."
(whack whack whack whack whack)
BAk M3_eIN~
BAp MAxHIN~
BAD MACHINE
It was sublime.

--
One equals spamblock

Chris Piuma, etc.

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Mar 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/16/00
to
In article <FrFC7...@world.std.com>, Sean T Barrett
<buz...@world.std.com> wrote:
> I'm curious, did anyone find Shrapnel
> or any other similarly self-aware work to provide mimesis?

My dictionary (American Heritage Dictionary) defines mimesis as: "The
imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world,
especially human actions, in literature and art."

In which case, yes, aspects of the sensible world were imitated and/or
represented. I could "see" the world in which the game was taking
place, to the same extent that I can in most other games, or for that
matter other works of literature and art. Particular scenes come to
mind quite vividly, especially involving the daughter in her room.

> To me, things like the 'restart' trick and the Zork references
> constantly made me aware of the boundary between player and game.

Sure. And? Things like "You don't need to refer to that in this game"
and "Whee!" and "Taken" also make me aware that it's a game. The
dryness in my eyes from staring at the monitor and the pain in my
wrists from too much typing also remind me.

I think you can be aware of artifice and still be enraptured by it.

--
Chris Piuma, etc.
Editor, flim
http://www.flim.com
Leapin' lizards!

Andrew Plotkin

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Mar 17, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/17/00
to
Chris Piuma, etc. <edi...@flim.com> wrote:
> In article <FrFC7...@world.std.com>, Sean T Barrett
> <buz...@world.std.com> wrote:
>> I'm curious, did anyone find Shrapnel
>> or any other similarly self-aware work to provide mimesis?
>
> My dictionary (American Heritage Dictionary) defines mimesis as: "The
> imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world,
> especially human actions, in literature and art."

The local definition (based on RAIF discussions of a couple of years
ago) is more like "The *seamless* representation of a consistent world" --
the aspects of IF that support a player's belief in it, as opposed to
signalling "This is a game running on my computer".

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