Competition mini-reviews

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Chuan-Tze Teo

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Dec 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/4/96
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Well, now that the voting is finally over, I feel justified in posting my
opinions on some of the games. If your entry doesn't appear on this list,
don't feel offended; I am fairly short of time at the moment.

Before I start, I should like to say that, despite any criticisms I may
make, the general standard of this year's entries was extremely high, and
my congratulations go to the winners and thanks to Whizzard for
organizing the competition.


DELUSIONS

One of my favourite games of the contest, brimming with creative ideas;
debugging the fish VR, the lab simulating itself, the TV gameshow
parody, coupled with an ambitious plot. The self-discovery scene
disturbed me more than any of the horror-genre games managed to.
Locations are well written and well fleshed out, NPCs convincingly
characterised.

Core puzzles were difficult but in general had satisfying solutions. This
being said, much of the repetition became annoying. Examples of this are
having to search the storeroom multiple times, wandering around looking
for the next object you're supposed to examine, long scenes after failure
in the fish VR or lab sim worlds. Frustrating bug in the endgame.

(Musician's nitpick: As a violinist myself, I take issue with the choice
of repertoire- much of which is very fine music indeed, but not really
suitable for the particular instrument...)

However, I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Nice work.


PIECE OF MIND

I liked the use of the first person point of view. Like interacting with
a character in a story; only the character himself proceeds to enter a
different story again. The switch from past tense in the dream scene to
present tense ingeniously conveys a degree of immediacy/waking up from a
dream. I almost hear the text, rather than reading it, as if the
protagonist is telling a blind advisor what happens as he walks around.
Nice touch. However, the writing is overdone in parts; many long words
are used where shorter ones would have sufficed. These tend to break the
flow of the conversation; worse still, many are misspelt, which is very
irritating to the eye.

The pulp-SF parody scene was well written, but could have been fleshed
out more. If this is a million-mile spaceship, there ought to be a reason
why I can't explore more than just two locations, and there ought to be
more interactive background objects.

An offbeat plot flows smoothly to the end. It's a shame that this game
hadn't had a little more polishing before its release.


THE METEOR, THE STONE AND A LONG GLASS OF SHERBET

Another very atmospheric opening. Short works of IF really need strong
openings to draw the player in; those that have, in this competition,
have made a much better impression on me that those that haven't.
Unfortunately, the game tends to suffer from a lack of synonyms, and I
had to refer to the hints on occasion to find out the right words.

After the introduction, the player ends up in a house reminiscent of Zork
I, whereupon the game suddenly turns into a traditional but brilliantly
executed cave crawl, with magical twists and clever puzzles. The plot is
well thought out and well explained in the end. Unfortunately, I wasn't
really aware of this during the midgame, which made it feel somewhat
disjointed. Perhaps the secret mission should have been made slightly
more explicit, to convey the impression that there was a point to all
this exploration and the protagonist wasn't just wandering around out of
boredom.

Despite the above minor complaints, this excellent adventure proves that
no genre is ever truly exhausted.


Further reviews to follow.

- Chuan

Chuan-Tze Teo

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Dec 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/5/96
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TAPESTRY

The first thing that struck me about this game was the sheer amount and
quality of prose- excellent style, though on a few occasions rather
heavy-handed. The premise is intriguing and takes good advantage of the
medium; the story is communicated in this case much more effectively than
static fiction could by forcing the player to make moral decisions. One
constraint I found somewhat irritating was having the Fates force me down
a particular path; I would have preferred being able to make three
decisions which each affected the course of the game, as opposed to
effectively one. The multiple endings are well thought out and presented
though.

I found the puzzles rather tedious, especially after the first time when
replaying to see the multiple endings, and got little satisfaction out of
solving them. Had to look up the hints to work out exactly how to deal
with the medicine. But then, the puzzles aren't the point of this game;
for what they're worth they fit well within the setting. I suppose the
background information behind the decisions needs to be presented in some
way, but perhaps just letting the player wandering around exploring the
environment and talking to people may work better.

Innovative and convincingly executed. I look forward to playing this
author's next piece.


IN THE END

Paradoxically, I eventually "solved the game" due to giving up in
frustration. This, I suspect, is not the author's intent. Not enough
is provided on the protagonist's drives, history or personality to draw
the player into roleplaying the character. Because of this, In The End
fails where Tapestry succeeded.

The writing is evocative and conjures up images of the scenery
beautifully. Unfortunately, these images are not depressing enough.
Obviously, one would feel saddened at a friend's death, perhaps
philosophical, but why suicidal? More impetus definitely required here. I
went to the bar and fed "ORDER WHISKY. DRINK WHISKY." into Jzip twenty
times, and was rather disappointed not to get drunk.

The idea behind the game is very original, and I think it had the
potential to make a deep and moving work if better implemented.
Unfortunately, this concept by its very nature can only ever work once...


THE LAND BEYOND THE PICKET FENCE

I'm not sure why this game works for me; the prose somehow has a certain
charm and the simple puzzles somehow fit together intuitively. An
enjoyable, light-hearted fantasy. Having a native English speaker
proofread the test would have helped, and some of the syntaxes needed to
enter commands seemed a little clumsy (TADS and Inform really spoil you
when it comes to command syntax...) but the tone was just right.


SMALL WORLD

Another charming concept; the world and its environs are prettily
described and fun to look at. The devil is one of the most memorable NPCs
in the competition, and had me smiling a lot which is always a good
thing.

Some of the puzzle solutions are bizarre and boil down to "guess what the
author is thinking". This game more than any others required extensive
use of the hint system; even so it is often unclear why certain
actions solve the puzzle. The gravity implementation is inconsistent,
ludicrous in its effects(if my stuff flies away, why don't I?) and a real
pain to work around. However, they have their cute moments, for example
shaking the little green men off and washing your socks in the sea. These
more than anything else make the game work.

Julian Arnold

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Dec 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/5/96
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In article <32A689...@hermes.cam.ac.uk>, Chuan-Tze Teo
<URL:mailto:ct...@hermes.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> TAPESTRY
>
> [...]

>
> I found the puzzles rather tedious, especially after the first time when
> replaying to see the multiple endings, and got little satisfaction out of
> solving them. Had to look up the hints to work out exactly how to deal
> with the medicine. But then, the puzzles aren't the point of this game;
> for what they're worth they fit well within the setting. I suppose the
> background information behind the decisions needs to be presented in some
> way, but perhaps just letting the player wandering around exploring the
> environment and talking to people may work better.

"Tapestry" was far and away the best game in the competition. I'm
interested that many people have commented on the linearity and lack of
interactivity of this game. (Non-)linearity was not a factor in my
appreciation of the game. It is easy to confuse linearity with lack of
interactivity, which is maybe what many people have done with this game.
The interactivity, the fact that it is you, the player, making the
decisions and dealing with the consequences, makes the game. This is
what raises "Tapestry" far above the level of a mere "Twilight Zone"
clone-- which is what it may have become if it had been static fiction.

It is true that once you have set off along a path, your choices are
limited, you may not leave the path. Such linearity may be something to
frown upon in a review, but during play I found this completely
irrelevant. I viewed my enforced adherence to my chosen path (not that
I ever felt the inclination to purposefully stray from this path) as a
perfectly reasonable and expected consquence of my choice-- I made my
bed, now I've got to lie in it. For similar reasons, I had no wish to
go back and replay the game, trying the other paths. Sometimes it's
better not to know what might have been.

That's it, I just wanted to make the distinction between linearity and
interactivity, not to review the game, so I'll stop here.

Jools
--
"For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand
ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me
from ever completing anything." -- Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"


Dan Shiovitz

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Dec 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/5/96
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In article <ant05122...@arnod.demon.co.uk>,

Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <32A689...@hermes.cam.ac.uk>, Chuan-Tze Teo
><URL:mailto:ct...@hermes.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>>
>> TAPESTRY
>>
>> [...]
>>
>> I found the puzzles rather tedious, especially after the first time when
>> replaying to see the multiple endings, and got little satisfaction out of
>> solving them. Had to look up the hints to work out exactly how to deal
>> with the medicine. But then, the puzzles aren't the point of this game;
>> for what they're worth they fit well within the setting. I suppose the
>> background information behind the decisions needs to be presented in some
>> way, but perhaps just letting the player wandering around exploring the
>> environment and talking to people may work better.
>
>"Tapestry" was far and away the best game in the competition. I'm

*cough* Really? Weren't you at all bothered by the stereotypical characters
and situations, the near-total lack of any sort of subtlety in the moral
issues, and the fairly bizarre all-or-nothing attitude it required you
to take towards changing the past?

(personally, I liked Small World the best, despite the fact that it had
that IMO poorly done last puzzle.)

>Jools
--
dan shiovitz scy...@u.washington.edu sh...@cs.washington.edu
slightly lost author/programmer in a world of more creative or more
sensible people ... remember to speak up for freedom because no one else
will do it for you: use it or lose it ... carpe diem -- be proactive.
my web site: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~scythe/home.html some ok stuff.


Julian Arnold

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Dec 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/6/96
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In article <ant05122...@arnod.demon.co.uk>, Julian Arnold
<URL:mailto:jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>
> "Tapestry" was far and away the best game in the competition. I'm
> interested that many people have commented on the linearity and lack of
> interactivity of this game. [...]

Sorry to follow-up my own post, but previously I wasn't very clear. I
meant that people seem to have said "this game lacks interactivity,"
when they should probably have said "this game is very linear."
Non-interactivity and linearity are not the same thing.

Julian Arnold

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Dec 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/6/96
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In article <5878to$8...@nntp5.u.washington.edu>, Dan Shiovitz

<URL:mailto:scy...@u.washington.edu> wrote:
>
> In article <ant05122...@arnod.demon.co.uk>,
> Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> >
> >"Tapestry" was far and away the best game in the competition. I'm
>
> *cough* Really? Weren't you at all bothered by the stereotypical characters
> and situations, the near-total lack of any sort of subtlety in the moral
> issues, and the fairly bizarre all-or-nothing attitude it required you
> to take towards changing the past?

No.

Actually, I don't mean to sound so flippant. It seems to me though that
certainly the last two of your comments can be traced back to the
linearity I mentioned previously. I might suggest that this linearity
was a result of the time constraints of the contest, but this would just
be making excuses-- maybe Dan Ravipinto would like to comment on this?

As for the stereotypical characters and situations. Well, yes, they
were. OTOH, I think this stereotypicality was probably necessary and
intentional-- Dan R?

> (personally, I liked Small World the best, despite the fact that it had
> that IMO poorly done last puzzle.)

I liked that one a lot too, although I haven't finished it.

Dan Shiovitz

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Dec 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/7/96
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In article <ant06115...@arnod.demon.co.uk>,

Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <5878to$8...@nntp5.u.washington.edu>, Dan Shiovitz
><URL:mailto:scy...@u.washington.edu> wrote:
>>
>> In article <ant05122...@arnod.demon.co.uk>,
>> Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>> >
>> >"Tapestry" was far and away the best game in the competition. I'm
>>
>> *cough* Really? Weren't you at all bothered by the stereotypical characters
>> and situations, the near-total lack of any sort of subtlety in the moral
>> issues, and the fairly bizarre all-or-nothing attitude it required you
>> to take towards changing the past?
>
>No.
>
>Actually, I don't mean to sound so flippant. It seems to me though that
>certainly the last two of your comments can be traced back to the
>linearity I mentioned previously. I might suggest that this linearity
>was a result of the time constraints of the contest, but this would just
>be making excuses-- maybe Dan Ravipinto would like to comment on this?
>
>As for the stereotypical characters and situations. Well, yes, they
>were. OTOH, I think this stereotypicality was probably necessary and
>intentional-- Dan R?

I dunno. I read through what the author posted on the topic and I'm still
not convinced; maybe I just don't get what he was trying to do. I'm not
sure what everyone was raving about in this game. Though my comments above
were overly extreme, I'm not convinced there was any depth or complexity to
the moral issues presented. I guess this in part the consequence of doing
the story in game form, especially in a short contest-type game, but I'd
think it could be done better even there. (_So Far_, not entirely a fair
comparison, is much more complex philosophically, though it loses clarity
in the process. Oh well.)

[..]

Cardinal Teulbachs

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Dec 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/8/96
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Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> made so bold as to state:

>Sorry to follow-up my own post, but previously I wasn't very clear. I
>meant that people seem to have said "this game lacks interactivity,"
>when they should probably have said "this game is very linear."
>Non-interactivity and linearity are not the same thing.

I, for one, consider them to be pretty nearly the same thing, since I
take "interactivity" to mean "freedom of action". To wit, there are
two senses of the word "interactive" that need to be distinguished:

The Microsoft program Windows, just as an example, is "interactive" in
the sense that it puts itself into an endless loop and refuses to do
anything more until a message is received from the user. The player
"advances" the program (if you follow the analogy with i-f stories) by
clicking on something or typing something in. In a similar way, one
could consider an i-f game interactive simply on the grounds that it
doesn't run itself--the user has to do something, no matter how
minimal, in order to display some more text and/or cause something to
happen. This might not even be the typing of any very particular
command; a regular ol' prose story, for example, might be called
"interactive" if the reader simply has to press a key in order to
display the next screenful of text, as in a text editor or word
processor. This is an extreme example, to be sure, and no one would
call such a thing "interactive" in every sense, but it's illustrative
of one sense of the word.

The other sense is that in which the player/reader has some influence
upon the way the story proceeds. The story doesn't simply advance in
response to a key press, but it advances in a particular way. Typing
"take the sword" causes something different to happen than typing
"beat the sword into a plowshare" does. More to the point, though,
these commands are directed at objects within the story itself, with
the aim in mind of molding or directing the story. The story isn't
static, because events are not constrained to happen in
one-and-only-one determinate order. They happen in the order the
player/reader causes them to happen in. "Interactivity" in this sense,
then, means being in a certain way within the story and directing its
course.

Now, if "interactive" is taken in the first sense, there's nothing to
prevent a story from being entirely linear and entirely interactive at
the same time. Just as I mentioned, a novel can be read from a
word-processing program with all the mundane "interactivity" such an
activity implies. Indeed, the mere reading of a book could itself be
called "interactive" in this sense, in that the reader has to turn the
pages and whatnot in order to "advance the story".

But if "interactive" is taken in the second sense, then it's not so
hard to see that the more interactive a story becomes, the less linear
it can be. Linearity necessarily *means* that events must happen in
some predetermined order; hence, the more freedom allowed the reader
in violating that order, the less linear the story will be.

But since complete freedom of action is impossible (that would, in
fact, be real life and not fiction), all i-f stories are linear in one
degree or another. The battle is over *how* linear and determinate a
story ought to be. Some authors (the extreme "gamer" types) want there
to be only a determinate ending, with the sequence of events in
between remaining entirely fluid and indeterminate. This sort of
author, no matter how much he may want to have a story, finds himself
in the unfortunate position of not being able to have one consisting
of anything more than the merest shell surrounding a bunch of puzzles
or arbitrary actions. Other authors (by far the largest group) opt for
a story that breaks down into a certain number of events that are
constrained to happen in a predetermined order, but with a fair amount
of freedom granted the player in between. There are certain key
junctures at which one and only one action will serve to advance the
story, because it is necessary for event A to happen before event B,
but in between there is left room for the player to roam. Then,
finally, some authors (theoretically, anyway, as they're not
represented up to this point) may opt for a story in which every
action is necessary. That is, they may opt for a story in which one
and only one action will "work" at each step or turn along the way.
Every event, down to the most picayune, would be completely
predetermined by the author, and every other action save the one that
triggers that event would be disallowed. This kind of story would be
the most linear possible, and also the least interactive, in that it
would provide no freedom of action at all--but it would have "story"
coming out the kazoo, whereas the other, more familiar kinds of i-f
are by proportion weaker in that area.

Thus, anyway, and therefore, linearity and interactivity (in the sense
of "freedom of action") are inversely proportional to one another, and
if "Tapestry" is truly more linear than other games, then it is also
less interactive--but this is not to say that it's not interactive at
all, or that less interactivity is somehow in itself bad. If the
story's the thing, then less interactivity is in fact quite good.

IF 201, according to

--Cardinal T

I mean, what the hell kind of villain thwarts the hero's
progress with soup cans in the kitchen pantry?
--Russ Bryan

Are there any text games prominently featuring dinosaurs?
If not, does anyone besides me think it would be cool?
--Matthew Amster-Burton

Please be as rational as possible
--Mike Thomas

"Bathroom? Yeah. Go through that door, on the end
of the hall, on your left." "Pardon?" "South twice,
than east." "Ah."
--Clyde "Fred" Sloniker


Trevor Barrie

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Dec 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/9/96
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card...@earthlink.net (Cardinal Teulbachs) wrote:

>But since complete freedom of action is impossible (that would, in
>fact, be real life and not fiction), all i-f stories are linear in one
>degree or another. The battle is over *how* linear and determinate a
>story ought to be. Some authors (the extreme "gamer" types) want there
>to be only a determinate ending, with the sequence of events in
>between remaining entirely fluid and indeterminate.

That's funny, I thought that was the extreme "linear" type.:) Having only a
single determinate ending is one thing that bugs me about even the best IF
out there.

>This sort of author, no matter how much he may want to have a story,
>finds himself in the unfortunate position of not being able to have one
>consisting of anything more than the merest shell surrounding a bunch of
>puzzles or arbitrary actions.

It's not clear to me at all that this would be the case, unless you mean
that by being entirely fluid they're not even going to have any sort of
cause-and-effect in their simulated environment.

Julian Arnold

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Dec 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/9/96
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In article <58dan7$m...@costarica.earthlink.net>, Cardinal Teulbachs

<URL:mailto:card...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
> Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> made so bold as to state:
>
> >Sorry to follow-up my own post, but previously I wasn't very clear. I
> >meant that people seem to have said "this game lacks interactivity,"
> >when they should probably have said "this game is very linear."
> >Non-interactivity and linearity are not the same thing.
>
> I, for one, consider them to be pretty nearly the same thing, since I
> take "interactivity" to mean "freedom of action". To wit, there are
> two senses of the word "interactive" that need to be distinguished:
>
> [...Cardinal's definitions deleted...]

>
> But if "interactive" is taken in the second sense, then it's not so
> hard to see that the more interactive a story becomes, the less linear
> it can be. Linearity necessarily *means* that events must happen in
> some predetermined order; hence, the more freedom allowed the reader
> in violating that order, the less linear the story will be.

I think we are talking at slight cross-purposes. Perhaps I should say
that while a *story* can be very linear, the *game* surrounding that
story can at the same time be very interactive-- at any one time, the
player may be able to attempt any of, say, a hundred actions (GET,
EXAMINE, PUSH, etc., etc.) on many different objects, but only one
particular combination of action and object (and of course the object is
optional, or there may be more than one object involved) will advance
the story. Hence, story linear, game interactive.

Now, what is most relevant to our IF-writing attempts, is that this
interactivity is at its least interesting when the responses to those
inconsequential actions are merely those default responses offered by
the library. By including context-sensitive individualized responses,
even though they may ultimately still be completely inconsequential, the
author is greatly enhancing the game's perceived interactivity. The
story itself may be completely linear.

> [...]


> finally, some authors (theoretically, anyway, as they're not
> represented up to this point) may opt for a story in which every
> action is necessary. That is, they may opt for a story in which one
> and only one action will "work" at each step or turn along the way.
> Every event, down to the most picayune, would be completely
> predetermined by the author, and every other action save the one that
> triggers that event would be disallowed.

Or, the fourth type is like this, but rather than disallowing all
non-triggering actions, the game gives some relevant but inconsequential
response, as I've described above. This response isn't limited to a
single paragraph either, it may be a sequence of events which, while
seemingly more than just glorified "You can't" messages, are in fact of
no relevance to the story. If the game acknowledges the player's
attempts to interact with his surroundings (and no, endlessly saying
"You can't do that," or "I don't understand" doesn't count) then the
game is accordingly more interactive. If these acknowledgements,
however complex and convoluted they may be, have no effect on the
outcome, or the direction of the story, then the story is accordingly
more linear.

> This kind of story would be
> the most linear possible, and also the least interactive, in that it
> would provide no freedom of action at all--but it would have "story"
> coming out the kazoo, whereas the other, more familiar kinds of i-f
> are by proportion weaker in that area.

But I argue that the fourth type is both linear and interactive. I say
that, at a fairly basic level, the degree of interactivity is reflected
by the player's control of the rate of progression of the story, while
the degree of linearity is reflected by the player's control of the
direction of progression of the story.

> Thus, anyway, and therefore, linearity and interactivity (in the sense
> of "freedom of action") are inversely proportional to one another, and
> if "Tapestry" is truly more linear than other games, then it is also
> less interactive--but this is not to say that it's not interactive at
> all, or that less interactivity is somehow in itself bad. If the
> story's the thing, then less interactivity is in fact quite good.

Nah, you're wrong.

And I know in the post that you replied to I didn't distinguish between
game and story, and now suddenly I am, but my excuse is that we (the IF
community) rarely do make the distinction. Perhaps we should.

Also, I realise I've repeated the same point four times, but hell, you
only live once.

> IF 201, according to
>
> --Cardinal T

Yer such a pompous elitist snob, Cardinal. :)

Cardinal Teulbachs

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Dec 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/11/96
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Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> made so incredibly foolishly
bold as to state:

>Perhaps I should say
>that while a *story* can be very linear, the *game* surrounding that
>story can at the same time be very interactive-- at any one time, the
>player may be able to attempt any of, say, a hundred actions (GET,
>EXAMINE, PUSH, etc., etc.) on many different objects, but only one
>particular combination of action and object (and of course the object is
>optional, or there may be more than one object involved) will advance
>the story. Hence, story linear, game interactive.

So if we draw a distinction between "interactivity of story" and
"interactivity of game", it would look like:

1. interactivity of story = nonlinearity; the course of events leading
up to the conclusion can be affected or changed.

2. non-interactivity of story = linearity; the course of events can't
be affected or changed.

3. interactivity of game = freedom of action; the player is free to at
least *try* more than one, single action at a given time; i.e. the
parser will give some response.

4. non-interactivity of game = enslavement; the player can't even try
more than a single action at a given time; i.e. the parser will go
"huh?"

>Now, what is most relevant to our IF-writing attempts, is that this
>interactivity is at its least interesting when the responses to those
>inconsequential actions are merely those default responses offered by
>the library. By including context-sensitive individualized responses,
>even though they may ultimately still be completely inconsequential, the
>author is greatly enhancing the game's perceived interactivity. The
>story itself may be completely linear.

Is the story really completely linear in that case? The kid didn't
just hide in the apple barrel; he hid in it after he tried to hide in
a dozen other places first. The story's changed, hasn't it?

If so, then maybe the main thrust of what I said before still holds.
If all the kid can do--if all he can even *attempt* to do--is hide in
the barrel, then the "interactivity of game" or freedom of action is
gone. But if he can attempt to do other things, whether or not those
attempts are successful, then the "interactivity of story", or
non-linearity, is destroyed.

On this reading, "freedom of action" simply means "what the parser
will respond to". But then "linearity" also means "enslavement to one
and only one sequence of events", so that it wouldn't really be right
to say that a story which provides any freedom of action in the parser
is "completely linear."

>> [...]
>> finally, some authors (theoretically, anyway, as they're not
>> represented up to this point) may opt for a story in which every
>> action is necessary. That is, they may opt for a story in which one
>> and only one action will "work" at each step or turn along the way.
>> Every event, down to the most picayune, would be completely
>> predetermined by the author, and every other action save the one that
>> triggers that event would be disallowed.

>Or, the fourth type is like this, but rather than disallowing all
>non-triggering actions, the game gives some relevant but inconsequential
>response, as I've described above. This response isn't limited to a
>single paragraph either, it may be a sequence of events which, while
>seemingly more than just glorified "You can't" messages, are in fact of
>no relevance to the story. If the game acknowledges the player's
>attempts to interact with his surroundings (and no, endlessly saying
>"You can't do that," or "I don't understand" doesn't count) then the
>game is accordingly more interactive. If these acknowledgements,
>however complex and convoluted they may be, have no effect on the
>outcome, or the direction of the story, then the story is accordingly
>more linear.

The difficulty, I think, surrounds this business of "story". What is
it? Is it just a broad outline, or is it the sum total of significant
(whatever that might mean) actions a player can take, or is it the sum
total of all actions, period? If we could answer that, we'd be in a
better position to determine whose analysis is correct, or at the
least whose is more nearly correct.

>> Thus, anyway, and therefore, linearity and interactivity (in the sense
>> of "freedom of action") are inversely proportional to one another, and
>> if "Tapestry" is truly more linear than other games, then it is also
>> less interactive--but this is not to say that it's not interactive at
>> all, or that less interactivity is somehow in itself bad. If the
>> story's the thing, then less interactivity is in fact quite good.

>Nah, you're wrong.

If I'm wrong, then static fiction is by its nature inferior to i-f as
a vehicle for storytelling.

(Woo woo! Thrust and parry!)

>Yer such a pompous elitist snob, Cardinal. :)

"Yes, but he has such a nice personality..."

Julian Arnold

unread,
Dec 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/12/96
to

In article <58lk15$8...@costarica.earthlink.net>, Cardinal Teulbachs
<URL:mailto:card...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
> [...some stuff...]

> The difficulty, I think, surrounds this business of "story". What is
> it? Is it just a broad outline, or is it the sum total of significant
> (whatever that might mean) actions a player can take, or is it the sum
> total of all actions, period? If we could answer that, we'd be in a
> better position to determine whose analysis is correct, or at the
> least whose is more nearly correct.

I guess, in this case, I'm using the word to mean "the sum total of
significant actions the player can take," while you're meaning one of
the other two, but I'm not sure which one.

As you hint, this is just a question of definitions, but
"interactivity," "story," and, I suppose, "linearity" are vague words.
It is probably pointless to try to pin specific definitions to them.

> >> Thus, anyway, and therefore, linearity and interactivity (in the sense
> >> of "freedom of action") are inversely proportional to one another, and
> >> if "Tapestry" is truly more linear than other games, then it is also
> >> less interactive--but this is not to say that it's not interactive at
> >> all, or that less interactivity is somehow in itself bad. If the
> >> story's the thing, then less interactivity is in fact quite good.
>
> >Nah, you're wrong.
>
> If I'm wrong, then static fiction is by its nature inferior to i-f as
> a vehicle for storytelling.

OK, I was really disagreeing with the first part of what you wrote. The
part after the "--" I agree with.

> (Woo woo! Thrust and parry!)

(side-step and away-- 'Til we meet again, Cardinal!)

Cardinal Teulbachs

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Dec 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/13/96
to

Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> made so bold as to state:

>In article <58lk15$8...@costarica.earthlink.net>, Cardinal Teulbachs
><URL:mailto:card...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>>
>> [...some stuff...]


>> The difficulty, I think, surrounds this business of "story". What is
>> it? Is it just a broad outline, or is it the sum total of significant
>> (whatever that might mean) actions a player can take, or is it the sum
>> total of all actions, period? If we could answer that, we'd be in a
>> better position to determine whose analysis is correct, or at the
>> least whose is more nearly correct.

>I guess, in this case, I'm using the word to mean "the sum total of


>significant actions the player can take," while you're meaning one of
>the other two, but I'm not sure which one.

In static fiction, the story is the sum of all actions, period. In
i-f, it can be taken that way or as the sum of significant actions
only, depending upon the perspective. More in the next section...

>As you hint, this is just a question of definitions, but
>"interactivity," "story," and, I suppose, "linearity" are vague words.
>It is probably pointless to try to pin specific definitions to them.

"Interactivity" is harder maybe, but I think the other two are clear
enough. A story is nothing but a false history. Leaving aside the
tense it's told in, it's simply an account of "something that
happened". As such, it is entirely determinate--it's already happened
and nothing can change the fact that these particular things occurred
and others didn't. It is therefore also entirely linear, since
"linear" in this context is just another word for "determinate" or
"invariable". Static fiction represents the ideal story, since it is
an invariable history of what has happened or is happening or will
happen, and it's to this quality of static fiction that we have to
look when considering the nature of i-f on the story or "literary"
side.

The most story-like i-f (i.e. that piece of i-f that is strongest in
the story department) will be one that allows no freedom whatsoever
for the player/reader to perform, or even attempt, any action outside
the bounds of a completely predetermined storyline. Every move will be
necessary, and no move that isn't necessary can even be acknowledged
by the parser--it will be like reading a book in which you have to
guess what each sentence is going to be before you can read it. I'm
making no claim that such a thing would be "fun"; I'm simply saying
that by looking at what a story is in its nature we can see what the
most story-strong kind of i-f would have to look like, and that it
will be as I've said. Moreover, then, we can also see that the
interactivity in such a "game" would be reduced to little more than
the pressing of a key or keys to display the next section of text.

But your average piece of i-f isn't like that at all. Your average
piece of i-f allows the player/reader to attempt to do other things in
between successful actions. In this case, the story can be looked at
in two ways: if it's looked at "before the fact", then the story is
only the sum of successful (i.e. significant) actions the author
intended to lead up to his conclusion. But if it's looked at "after
the fact" then the story can be thought of as the sum of all the
actions the player/reader took, regardless of their success or
significance. For instance, looked at "before the fact", an i-f story
might be:

John got out of bed. John looked under his bed. John found a treasure
map and followed it. John found a treasure.

While, looked at "after the fact", the same story might turn out as:

John tried to walk, but he was in bed. John got out of bed. John
walked into the bathroom. John brushed his teeth. John came back to
his bedroom. John tried to examine his dirty laundry, but the author
failed to implement it. John finally looked under his bed. Etc...

Which is the real story? It seems to me that the first one is, since
that one is the invariable history the author intends to relate, and
with respect to that story, it is no more interactive than any other
fully determinate story is. The player/reader is not free to change
the events one whit, nor is he free to change their order. Yet if this
is the story, then what is the second kind--the "after the fact" kind?
It seems to me that that, except for those few actions which *do* make
up the story (getting out of bed, looking under bed, following
treasure map), is merely a succession of "experiences" or "happenings"
and not a story at all. Those actions can't be thought of as forming
part of a history, and hence, a story, since there's no necessity that
they happen or not happen. They are then simply experiences, or things
made up (so to speak) by the player/reader as he or she goes along,
and this is the "interactive" or "game" side of i-f. While the
"fiction" or "story" side of i-f is concerned with actualities, the
"interactive" or "game" side is concerned with potentialities, and
those actions which belong to the "interactive" side of i-f are
thought of as belonging to the story or the history only after the
fact--after they have actually been made to happen and the
player/reader reflects back upon them in that light.

So there are these two ways in which the word "story" can be applied
to i-f, and they are the cause of our disagreement, I think. I'm
looking at the story from the author's, or "before the fact",
perspective alone--as a particular and invariable series of events
which form the false history he intends to relate to the
player/reader. On that view of "story", the more interactivity
introduced into the game, the more the integrity or determinate nature
of the story will be lost or damaged. On your view, however, in which
the story is "that which the player caused to happen", a plotline of
sorts can exist alongside a wide range of potential, non-necessary
actions--it's just that the whole story can never be known beforehand
by the author since it's largely determined by the player him/herself.


Which is the long way 'round of saying we're both right in our own
way. God, I feel so tolerant...

>> >> Thus, anyway, and therefore, linearity and interactivity (in the sense
>> >> of "freedom of action") are inversely proportional to one another, and
>> >> if "Tapestry" is truly more linear than other games, then it is also
>> >> less interactive--but this is not to say that it's not interactive at
>> >> all, or that less interactivity is somehow in itself bad. If the
>> >> story's the thing, then less interactivity is in fact quite good.
>>
>> >Nah, you're wrong.
>>
>> If I'm wrong, then static fiction is by its nature inferior to i-f as
>> a vehicle for storytelling.

>OK, I was really disagreeing with the first part of what you wrote. The


>part after the "--" I agree with.

Oh, you're a slippery one...

>> (Woo woo! Thrust and parry!)

>(side-step and away-- 'Til we meet again, Cardinal!)

Doh!

--Cardinal T

I mean, what the hell kind of villain thwarts the hero's
progress with soup cans in the kitchen pantry?
--Russ Bryan

Are there any text games prominently featuring dinosaurs?
If not, does anyone besides me think it would be cool?
--Matthew Amster-Burton

"The axe bounces off Geoffrey's neck. Doh!"
--Graham Manson

Darrell Rudmann

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Dec 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/13/96
to

Sorry to jump in on your thread. In reading the previous posts, a point that
makes the issue of linearity vs interactivity confusing to me is that the
reader experiences the story in a linear fashion, no matter what. The reader
would either have to have multiple copies of the IF story running or have a
bunch of saved games that were flipped between after every command. Perhaps
I'm misunderstanding something basic about non-linearity; the same thought
occurs to me with so-called nonlinear movies. The audience sees the movie in
a linear fashion.

Perhaps nonlinear stories actually just loose, flexible story structures and
linear are not. The only difference a reader should notice is that a more
rigidly structured story will restrict global, large movements and provide
tidier events, whereas a dynamic story will place fewer restraints on what
can be attempted when, and probably will result on more orientation confusion
(there will be no real answer to "What am I supposed to be doing now?").

It seems like most stories can be differentiated on linearity in global and
local aspects separately. For example, a story could provide much freedom
within areas, but each area is sequentially accessed. Or, areas could be
pretty restricted in possible actions but those areas can be visited on an
as-needed basis. I would imagine that a locally-free but globally-restricted
format is what most IF stories use for entertainment, because readers feel
like they have much freedom yet the story has enough structure that they know
what the overall purpose is and are rewarded as they advance through the
plot.

Yadda yaddda.....

Darrell Rudmann


Darin Johnson

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Dec 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/13/96
to

>Perhaps nonlinear stories actually just loose, flexible story structures and
>linear are not. The only difference a reader should notice is that a more
>rigidly structured story will restrict global, large movements and provide
>tidier events, whereas a dynamic story will place fewer restraints on what
>can be attempted when, and probably will result on more orientation confusion
>(there will be no real answer to "What am I supposed to be doing now?").

One thing I've noticed is that many I-F things would make terrible
books. For instance, Buried in Time - chapter 1 would be the
character examining every item in his house. A yawner to say the
least. Zork - well, we know how bad the Zork books turned out :-)
Some games would be great books though - Riddle of Master Lu say.

In this sense, I think a lot of I-F is really more of a simulation
than a story, and are easily bogged down in details. Some stop the
story line cold if you run across a puzzle you can't solve. Who wants
to put down a book for a month in the middle of a chapter? I feel it
should be important for I-F to keep the pace moving along, even if the
direction is being varied by the player (ie, linear or not).

--
Darin Johnson
da...@connectnet.com


Darrell Rudmann

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Dec 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/14/96
to

In article <slrn5b3g0n...@connectnet1.connectnet.com>,
da...@connectnet1.connectnet.com says...

>In this sense, I think a lot of I-F is really more of a simulation
>than a story, and are easily bogged down in details. Some stop the
>story line cold if you run across a puzzle you can't solve. Who wants
>to put down a book for a month in the middle of a chapter? I feel it
>should be important for I-F to keep the pace moving along, even if the
>direction is being varied by the player (ie, linear or not).

Yes, I can't tell if IF is more similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure
book, or more like a low-tech version of virtual reality. This may best
be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Darrell


Nulldogma

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Dec 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/15/96
to

In article <slrn5b3g0n...@connectnet1.connectnet.com>,
da...@connectnet1.connectnet.com says...
>In this sense, I think a lot of I-F is really more of a simulation
>than a story, and are easily bogged down in details. Some stop the
>story line cold if you run across a puzzle you can't solve. Who wants
>to put down a book for a month in the middle of a chapter? I feel it
>should be important for I-F to keep the pace moving along, even if the
>direction is being varied by the player (ie, linear or not).

Well, one difference between I-F and a book is that even if the "plot"
drags to a halt, there can still be plenty of things for the player to do.
I'm a lot more tolerant of nasty puzzles if I've got the freedom to try
many things, wander around, etc., while I'm stuck.

Really, that's one of the beauties of Zork -- it's so non-linear, so
seemingly open-ended, that it's hard to feel stuck. Conveying that feeling
while still having some semblance of plot is more difficult, of course,
but still absolutely essential, IMHO.

(The other option, of course, is the one that A Change in the Weather
used: the plot keeps rolling along whether or not you solve the puzzles.)

Neil
---------------------------------------------------------
Neil deMause ne...@echonyc.com
http://www.echonyc.com/~wham/neild.html
---------------------------------------------------------

Russell Glasser

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Dec 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/15/96
to

Nulldogma wrote:

> (The other option, of course, is the one that A Change in the Weather
> used: the plot keeps rolling along whether or not you solve the puzzles.)
>
> Neil

This tactic was also used, to very excellent effect (IMHO) in
Spellcasting 301. The game progresses continuously, regardless of what
you do... but when it comes to the crunch, you don't get to play the
last part of the game unless you accomplished most of the tasks
successfully.
--
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one
persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all
progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-- George Bernard Shaw

Russell can be heckled at
http://sdcc8.ucsd.edu/~rglasser

Brad O`Donnell

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Dec 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/16/96
to

Darrell Rudmann wrote:
>
> Yes, I can't tell if IF is more similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure
> book, or more like a low-tech version of virtual reality. This may best
> be decided on a case-by-case basis.
>
> Darrell

You know, I've always thought of CYOA books as low-tech IF, (having
been introduced to IF first.)


--
Brad O'Donnell

Darin Johnson

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Dec 16, 1996, 3:00:00 AM12/16/96
to

>Well, one difference between I-F and a book is that even if the "plot"
>drags to a halt, there can still be plenty of things for the player to do.
>I'm a lot more tolerant of nasty puzzles if I've got the freedom to try
>many things, wander around, etc., while I'm stuck.

Yes, but compare to Charlotte's Web say, as an example. If this is an
IF game, and the player is stuck and can't figure out how to save to
save the pig, what do they do? Spend a day talking to the duck,
another day talking to the horse, another with the cow? Or perhaps
the "reader" spends the day trying to figure out how to get they hay
down from the loft (which has nothing to do with the story, but the
reader is stuck and it's better than doing nothing). In a book, the
story tends to stay on track. In a typical adventure game, the story
can go wildy off track, into areas the author never thought of. In an
adventure game, the "reader" does "look under rug" *every* time a rug
is noticed. Every little bit of window dressing is examined in
detail, poked prodded and twisted. An opening of "it was a dark and
stormy night" turns into a quest for a lamp.

In a Novel, one spends time setting up a nice background. In an IF story,
doing so only creates thousands of red herrings. And inevitably, the same
level of background results in far far fewer words in Novel form (where
after all, you don't have to describe the back of paintings, or even go
into detail at all).


--
Darin Johnson
da...@connectnet.com

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