New Game Uploaded to If-Archive: Suprematism in IF

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u...@mail.ru

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Feb 3, 2007, 12:43:57 PM2/3/07
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Have you ever dreamt of playing a game in which you could control just
everything (the plot, the setting, the way it reacts to your commands,
the score you get, etc.)? If you have, your dreams are fulfilled now!
(Well, sort of...)

The experimental work Suprematism*) in IF by Andrey Grankin deals with
problems of non-linearity in text adventures, and ways the player
perceives them. It actually consists of two pieces, each of them
representing one of the two extremes of interactivity.

Currently, you can find it under

ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/unprocessed/suprematism.zip

Later, it (hopefully) should be moved to its permanent location at /if-
archive/games/tads.

Enjoy!

* The Soviet Encyclopaedic Dictionary defines suprematism as a
"variety of abstract art introduced in 1913 by the Russian artist K.
S. Malevich: a combination of coloured fundamental geometric forms
(square, circle, triangle), later also so-called "architectons" -
three-dimensional shapes applied to planes."

Aaron A. Reed

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Feb 4, 2007, 1:33:16 AM2/4/07
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Interesting. While the two games purport to offer exactly opposite
experiences (accepting any command offered versus accepting no
commands offered), they are actually more or less the same game, with
slightly different messages. To some hypothetical, none-too-bright
player who took the bait, the "black" game might prove for hours of
frustration as command after command was tried in the hopes to advance
in some way, while conversely to this same dimwitted player the white
game is everything it promises, a sort of "Eliza" of interactive
fiction, pretending at full comprehension while actually shifting all
the burden of storytelling wholly back to the player.

It's an interesting way to remind us that IF is a delicate illusion,
like a magician's trick. What an IF author does, in fact, is very like
what a magician does to "force a card" on a succeptible audience
member. Out of the nearly infinite number of possible inputs, an IF
author's goal is to threaten, instruct, plead, and seduce the player
into typing the exact input which his or her game has planned for.

The black game does not hold our attention for long because there is
nothing to hold our interest: locations, characters, a story, even
interesting error messages. The white game, on the other hand, gives
us everything, as long as we think of it ourselves. "How elaborate!
What vivid images!" the game says, and we feel we're being mocked: of
course we're not actually making up an entire world on the spot. In my
mind this feels like revenge from every poorly implemented game ever
written (which, ultimately, is all of them). "Oh, you're unhappy
there's no description for the tea kettle on the stove?" the put-upon
game asks. "Maybe you'd like to WRITE IT YOURSELF."

There's a number of interesting points that might come out of this--
Does/Can the player ever really participate in telling a story with
IF? Are we focused too much on endlessly raising the bar on
implementation details, and not enough on stories? Is there an
audience for abstract IF art experiments? But I'll shut up for now.

James Mitchelhill

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Feb 4, 2007, 7:11:08 AM2/4/07
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On 3 Feb 2007 22:33:16 -0800, Aaron A. Reed wrote:

> Interesting. While the two games purport to offer exactly opposite
> experiences (accepting any command offered versus accepting no
> commands offered), they are actually more or less the same game, with
> slightly different messages. To some hypothetical, none-too-bright
> player who took the bait, the "black" game might prove for hours of
> frustration as command after command was tried in the hopes to advance
> in some way, while conversely to this same dimwitted player the white
> game is everything it promises, a sort of "Eliza" of interactive
> fiction, pretending at full comprehension while actually shifting all
> the burden of storytelling wholly back to the player.

Except IF has never put any of the burden of storytelling on the player.
That's not what the 'interactive' in 'interactive fiction' is about.
Storytelling is entirely the author's domain. The interactivity is
expressed in terms of agency and meaningful choice.



> It's an interesting way to remind us that IF is a delicate illusion,
> like a magician's trick. What an IF author does, in fact, is very like
> what a magician does to "force a card" on a succeptible audience
> member. Out of the nearly infinite number of possible inputs, an IF
> author's goal is to threaten, instruct, plead, and seduce the player
> into typing the exact input which his or her game has planned for.

It's the same with any artform. The author always needs the audience to
play along. A mystery writer relies on the reader not sneaking a look at
the last page. A film-maker trusts that the audience isn't going to
fast-forward through the dialogue to get to the sex scenes (except in very
specific types of films, anyway).

IF as a medium does require the player to be aware of the conventions by
which authors signal intended responses, but I don't see this as
substantially different to the way writers of genre fiction work.

<snip>


> There's a number of interesting points that might come out of this--
> Does/Can the player ever really participate in telling a story with
> IF?

I can only really think of a couple of artforms that involve the audience
participating in telling a story. Table-top role playing games are one
example and improv theatre is the other. Both require intelligent humans to
make decisions. Indeed, in RPGs there's a tendency for the person running
the game to have their own story in mind and meld the players' input into
their own vision. Improv is a somewhat niche hobby.

In any case, I don't think that letting the player come up with the story
is likely to lead to very interesting stories. I read fiction because I'm
interested in the story that the author wants to tell. Authors are skilled
at creating interesting stories (or at least they should be), the majority
of people aren't.

Then again, there are people exploring this. You may want to look at Chris
Crawford's Storytron system <http://www.storytron.com/>.

> Are we focused too much on endlessly raising the bar on
> implementation details, and not enough on stories?

The more sophisticated games that are closer to player-participation in the
story (Facade, for example) tend to take an 'interactive drama' approach,
modelling characters, conflicts and possibilities. It's interesting to note
that this means a huge amount of implementation, probably several orders of
magnitude above even the most heavily simulationist IF. I'd still say that
the player is experiencing the story that's been created for them - it's
just a very big story with lots of different possibilities.

Simulation for the sake of simulation is interesting, but empty. But I
think most authors who implement deeply tend to do so for the sake of the
story.

> Is there an audience for abstract IF art experiments? But I'll shut up for
> now.

A few years ago, people were complaining that IF was too experimental.

--
James Mitchelhill
ja...@disorderfeed.net
http://disorderfeed.net

Aaron A. Reed

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Feb 4, 2007, 4:35:44 PM2/4/07
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On Feb 4, 2:11 am, James Mitchelhill <j...@disorderfeed.net> wrote:
<snip>

> Except IF has never put any of the burden of storytelling on the player.

Right, and I think part of what this piece is doing is questioning
that assumption. Traditionally if the player is near a lake and they
type DIVE IN LAKE, they're likely to get a message explaining that the
game doesn't understand DIVE or LAKE. Perhaps it might be better for
the game to say "Okay, well, you do that, but nothing much comes of
it." One could say that the illusion of comprehension is broken if the
player types "CALCULATE THE ROOT OF -1" or "FSKDFK SKDFJHSDKJFSDF",
but the illusion is equally broken if the game responds "I don't see
any fskdfk here. "

> > It's an interesting way to remind us that IF is a delicate illusion,
> > like a magician's trick. What an IF author does, in fact, is very like
> > what a magician does to "force a card" on a succeptible audience
> > member. Out of the nearly infinite number of possible inputs, an IF
> > author's goal is to threaten, instruct, plead, and seduce the player
> > into typing the exact input which his or her game has planned for.
>
> It's the same with any artform. The author always needs the audience to
> play along. A mystery writer relies on the reader not sneaking a look at
> the last page. A film-maker trusts that the audience isn't going to
> fast-forward through the dialogue to get to the sex scenes (except in very
> specific types of films, anyway).

> <snip>...


> IF as a medium does require the player to be aware of the conventions by
> which authors signal intended responses, but I don't see this as
> substantially different to the way writers of genre fiction work.

I'm not sure I understand you here-- in fiction, what is the "intended
response" of the reader, other than either finishing the book or not?
IF is unconventional in the sense that the reader's response is
continuous and non-binary. Of course, one could argue that all the
business with EXAMINE, TAKE SWORD, and COVER DISPENSER WITH TOWEL is
really just a protracted means of the player deciding they wish to
continue the story, as opposed to typing QUIT, but the best IF goes
beyond this, asking us, at least occasionally, which story we'd like
to continue. Take Slouching Towards Bedlam, or The Baron. A less
obvious example might be 1893, where the player decides if they'd like
a story about solving a murder, or about wandering around a world's
fair fiddling with the exhibits-- each experience can be equally
satisfying.

James Mitchelhill

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Feb 5, 2007, 2:19:11 AM2/5/07
to
On 4 Feb 2007 13:35:44 -0800, Aaron A. Reed wrote:

> On Feb 4, 2:11 am, James Mitchelhill <j...@disorderfeed.net> wrote:
> <snip>
>> Except IF has never put any of the burden of storytelling on the player.
>
> Right, and I think part of what this piece is doing is questioning
> that assumption.

I'm not sure I'd call it an assumption. There's essentially no good way for
a game to do so. Chris Crawford's put literally decades of work into his
storytron system (previously known as the erasmatron), which is intended to
allow the player to explore 'storyworlds' and, as yet, there's no product.
It may be possible without some heavy advances in AI, but nobody except
Crawford knows how and Crawford's (in the memorable words of Adam Thornton)
'batshit insane'.

> Traditionally if the player is near a lake and they
> type DIVE IN LAKE, they're likely to get a message explaining that the
> game doesn't understand DIVE or LAKE. Perhaps it might be better for
> the game to say "Okay, well, you do that, but nothing much comes of
> it."

That has to do with the depth of simulation, not the ability of the player
to participate in storytelling. In order for this to be storytelling, the
game would need to recognise what the player intends for this action to
mean. It would have to conspire to move Miss Bennett to the lakeside in
order to ramp up the romantic tension.

IF deals with meaningful choice by providing the illusion of agency via
careful planning by the author. This is part of the magic trick you were
talking about. But there's no way to replace the careful planning with
programmatic control.

> One could say that the illusion of comprehension is broken if the
> player types "CALCULATE THE ROOT OF -1" or "FSKDFK SKDFJHSDKJFSDF",
> but the illusion is equally broken if the game responds "I don't see
> any fskdfk here. "

This is another convention of the medium. It's not possible for the
computer to understand everything the player types. Players understand this
and, when cooperating with the work, refrain from typing things like
"FSKDFK SKDFJHSDKJFSDF". The general trend has been to move away from
trying to maintain the illusion of comprehension. TADS 3 now responds with
'The word "FSKDFK" is not necessary in this story."

The ideal is for an IF game to understand every possible command that's
relevant to the story, not every possible command.

>>> It's an interesting way to remind us that IF is a delicate illusion,
>>> like a magician's trick. What an IF author does, in fact, is very like
>>> what a magician does to "force a card" on a succeptible audience
>>> member. Out of the nearly infinite number of possible inputs, an IF
>>> author's goal is to threaten, instruct, plead, and seduce the player
>>> into typing the exact input which his or her game has planned for.
>>
>> It's the same with any artform. The author always needs the audience to
>> play along. A mystery writer relies on the reader not sneaking a look at
>> the last page. A film-maker trusts that the audience isn't going to
>> fast-forward through the dialogue to get to the sex scenes (except in very
>> specific types of films, anyway).
>> <snip>...
>> IF as a medium does require the player to be aware of the conventions by
>> which authors signal intended responses, but I don't see this as
>> substantially different to the way writers of genre fiction work.
>
> I'm not sure I understand you here-- in fiction, what is the "intended
> response" of the reader, other than either finishing the book or not?

"If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in
the last." (generally attributed to Anton Chekhov)

I don't want to get into a discussion of literary theory, as such, but one
of the ways of understanding a text is as a cooperation between the reader
and the author. Both bring something to the table. In genre fiction more
than literary fiction, the author references the conventions of the medium
either in order to produce expectations in the reader or to subvert them.
This requires knowledge of the genre from the reader.

I'm sure this has been brought up before by someone, but take a look at the
essay 'SF Words and Prototype Worlds' by Eric S. Raymond.
<http://www.catb.org/~esr/sf-words/essay.html>:

"It is thus clear that the process of reading SF involves merging the
stream of prose presented by the writer with a rather large amount of
special context. To some extent, of course, this is true of any genre of
fiction or art not set in the reader's everyday world -- readers of
Westerns (for example) need to know what a Peacemaker is, and why a vaquero
might throw a lariat, and what he throws it at. But the context an SF
reader (and writer) needs is unusual in some important respects."

In IF, the reader has to understand conventions of the medium in much the
same way. There are techniques which signal to the player that they should
focus on specific parts of the story (eg. the next thing to do to advance
tha story), and, while the techniques are different, they require the same
type of contextual knowledge as in standard fiction.

Aaron A. Reed

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Feb 5, 2007, 6:53:30 AM2/5/07
to
On Feb 4, 9:19 pm, James Mitchelhill <j...@disorderfeed.net> wrote:
>>> Except IF has never put any of the burden of storytelling on the player.
>>
>> Right, and I think part of what this piece is doing is questioning
>> that assumption.
>
>I'm not sure I'd call it an assumption. There's essentially no good way for
>a game to do so.

No, not directly; but letting the player participate in the story,
even in subtle ways, is I think a tremendously useful and powerful
tool of interactive stories. One example is allowing the player to
project some of himself into the protagonist, by leaving gender or age
unspecified, for example. The "Myst" series does this. Another example
is games with sandboxes: "Oblivion" has a plot, but lets you ignore it
entirely to create your own adventures; Grand Theft Auto does
something similar. In The Sims there's no story at all, but in the
playing you often create very story-like tales complete with true
love, rags to riches, and untimely deaths. In most MMOs you're usually
given only the brief introduction of a story, and explicitly told that
"the rest is up to you."

This is certainly a lot different than the holodeck, but I think the
success of these games is a sign that people do enjoy being allowed to
participate in the storytelling process, even tangentially. To bring
this back to the original post, the white game, by being permissive
about allowable actions to ridiculous fault, in some ways emulates the
failure of Oblivion to complain if you decide to stack a mound of
fruits and vegetables in your house, or the way Grand Theft Auto will
happily allow you to obey the speed limit, if you prefer. This is
explored less in IF, probably because it's tricky to create situations
complex enough for interesting emergent behavior with a one-man team.
It's also possible that this sort of thing is less suited to a medium
based on text.

> On 4 Feb 2007 13:35:44 -0800, Aaron A. Reed wrote:
> > I'm not sure I understand you here-- in fiction, what is the "intended
> > response" of the reader, other than either finishing the book or not?
>
> "If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in
> the last." (generally attributed to Anton Chekhov)

Ah, okay, I see what you mean now. The IF player recognizes that "It's
too dark to see anything in here!" probably indicates they need to
find a light source, in much the same way the reader of a romance
novels recognizes that the introduction of a muscular shirtless
gardener is likely to be an important development. Both are learned
behaviors on the part of the audience. Fair enough.

I suppose the distinction I see is that if you've never read a romance
novel before you might just miss a bit of foreshadowing, whereas if
you've never played IF you might get stuck and be completely unable to
continue with the game. It doesn't just help the player to be familiar
with conventions, it's usually *required* of him. That's why the IF
author has to be more of a magician, in my view. Your point is taken,
though.

James Mitchelhill

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Feb 5, 2007, 12:20:20 PM2/5/07
to
On 5 Feb 2007 03:53:30 -0800, Aaron A. Reed wrote:

> On Feb 4, 9:19 pm, James Mitchelhill <j...@disorderfeed.net> wrote:
>>>> Except IF has never put any of the burden of storytelling on the player.
>>>
>>> Right, and I think part of what this piece is doing is questioning
>>> that assumption.
>>
>>I'm not sure I'd call it an assumption. There's essentially no good way for
>>a game to do so.
>
> No, not directly; but letting the player participate in the story,
> even in subtle ways, is I think a tremendously useful and powerful
> tool of interactive stories. One example is allowing the player to
> project some of himself into the protagonist, by leaving gender or age
> unspecified, for example. The "Myst" series does this. Another example
> is games with sandboxes: "Oblivion" has a plot, but lets you ignore it
> entirely to create your own adventures; Grand Theft Auto does
> something similar. In The Sims there's no story at all, but in the
> playing you often create very story-like tales complete with true
> love, rags to riches, and untimely deaths. In most MMOs you're usually
> given only the brief introduction of a story, and explicitly told that
> "the rest is up to you."

We mean two different things by 'partipate in telling a story', I think.
Being able to identify with the protagonist is part of experiencing a
story, not participating in its telling.

You seem to be talking about agency, ie. the ability to make meaningful
actions within a system. The Sims is full of agency, but the stories that
arise from this are not stories that the player and system have cooperated
in telling. They may be stories that the player tells /using/ the game,
though.

> This is certainly a lot different than the holodeck, but I think the
> success of these games is a sign that people do enjoy being allowed to
> participate in the storytelling process, even tangentially. To bring
> this back to the original post, the white game, by being permissive
> about allowable actions to ridiculous fault, in some ways emulates the
> failure of Oblivion to complain if you decide to stack a mound of
> fruits and vegetables in your house, or the way Grand Theft Auto will
> happily allow you to obey the speed limit, if you prefer. This is
> explored less in IF, probably because it's tricky to create situations
> complex enough for interesting emergent behavior with a one-man team.
> It's also possible that this sort of thing is less suited to a medium
> based on text.

Or: Text generation is hard.

It's probably entirely possible to produce IF that allows for emergent
behaviour to take place. The difficult bit is generating interesting text
from it. Combinatorial explosion happens because there is often no way to
programmatically define the descriptions involved in interaction.

> I suppose the distinction I see is that if you've never read a romance
> novel before you might just miss a bit of foreshadowing, whereas if
> you've never played IF you might get stuck and be completely unable to
> continue with the game. It doesn't just help the player to be familiar
> with conventions, it's usually *required* of him. That's why the IF
> author has to be more of a magician, in my view. Your point is taken,
> though.

Things get more complicated with novels that require a high level of
contextual knowledge though. Because stories are such a central part of our
culture we're exposed to them from a very young age - we're trained to
understand them. We start out with "Jack and Jill went up the hill..." and
end up being able to interpret things like William Gibson's _Neuromancer_.
There's a considerable amount of learning that goes on in between.

If you've never read stories before, understanding what's going on in a
romance novel is going to be almost impossible. It's just that there's so
few people this applies to.

Emily Short

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Feb 5, 2007, 6:42:19 PM2/5/07
to
On Feb 4, 1:35 pm, "Aaron A. Reed" <aar...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Feb 4, 2:11 am, James Mitchelhill <j...@disorderfeed.net> wrote:
> <snip>
>
> > Except IF has never put any of the burden of storytelling on the player.
>
> Right, and I think part of what this piece is doing is questioning
> that assumption. Traditionally if the player is near a lake and they
> type DIVE IN LAKE, they're likely to get a message explaining that the
> game doesn't understand DIVE or LAKE. Perhaps it might be better for
> the game to say "Okay, well, you do that, but nothing much comes of
> it." One could say that the illusion of comprehension is broken if the
> player types "CALCULATE THE ROOT OF -1" or "FSKDFK SKDFJHSDKJFSDF",
> but the illusion is equally broken if the game responds "I don't see
> any fskdfk here. "

Yes, but I think I'd mostly rather have the parser guide me as much as
possible towards the kinds of actions that are meaningful, rather than
feigning comprehension of things that aren't.

I might be a little persuaded if it were possible to let the player
express commands in various and colorful ways while the parser still
extracted basic semantic content, but I've yet to get this to work.
(So far I've just experimented a bit with dialogue where the player
could type anything but the parser would extract keywords and move the
conversation on based on the closest match it could find -- chatbot
behavior, basically -- but it's not an unalloyed success.)

On a separate note, "White" falls down a bit because of the parser
questions/responses that actively encourage meta-commentary rather
than participation. For instance:

> look over the balcony
Strange choice. Interesting, what happens now?

> I see a man walking below
Well, that's an interesting approach. Where did you learn to play so
well?

> I had the best instructors
You do precisely that. The way it turned out was to expect.

...at which point of course we lose even the Eliza-esque illusion.

I was just reading articles in Second Person about several procedural-
narrative systems where the player shuffles cards and chooses them
randomly to produce a story; the most effective of these seem to be
the ones where the cards describe ambiguous, evocative events and the
player/reader is at liberty to construct some kind of causality to
explain how we got from A to B. It strikes me that the IF equivalent
of this, sort of like White but more convincing and with a little more
content (call it "Grey") would be a game in which most parseable
actions are allowed, but there's no causal connection between the
actions and the results; the game just randomly chooses a result for
any given valid action, leaving the player to invent an explanation.
Something like this:

<Inform 7 code>
The Dharma Project Chamber is a room. "An underground concrete
chamber, fitted out with all the comforts of civilization ca. 1975. An
old beige computer sits in the center of the room; on the wall, a
timer counts down. A heavy metal door seals the next room."

It contains a computer and a count-down timer. The computer is a
scenery device. The timer is a scenery device. The timer is switched
on. The computer is switched on.

A metal door is north of the Chamber and south of the Hallway. It is a
scenery door. The metal door is closed and locked. The description is
"It appears to be made of stainless steel and is very thick."

Jack is a man in the Chamber. Kate is a woman in the Chamber. Rule for
writing a paragraph about Kate: say "[Kate] and [Jack] are [if a
random chance of 1 in 2 succeeds]watching you
apprehensively[otherwise]whispering to one another[end if]."

The description of Jack is "He is looking sweaty and grim." The
description of Kate is "You can tell from her expression that she's
hiding something." The description of the timer is "Black and white
numerals on the wall which are constantly ticking away to the
deadline." The description of the computer is "It's quite an old
model, but fortunately it still works."

Instead of taking inventory:
say "You're empty-handed, as usual."

Instead of doing something other than waiting, thinking, looking,
examining, smelling, or listening:
if the noun is a person, say "[The noun] exchanges glances with [a
random person who is not the noun]." instead;
if the second noun is a person, say "[The second noun] exchanges
glances with [a random person who is not the second noun]." instead;
otherwise advance the plot.

To advance the plot:
if the number of blank rows in the Table of Plot Events is greater
than 3
begin;
say "You do, but this, it seems, is a mistake...";
end the game saying "A brilliant, lilac-colored light suffuses your
vision-- the sky shrieks--";
stop the action;
end if;
if switching on or switching off, say "You flick the switch with your
thumb. ";
if opening the door or going north, say "You rattle ineffectively at
the door, trying to force the lock open. It resists you, for the
moment. ";
choose a random row in the Table of Plot Events;
say "[event entry][paragraph break]";
blank out the whole row.

Table of Plot Events
event
"'Don't!' says Kate urgently, but Jack holds her back so she can't
interfere with what you're doing."
"Suddenly the numbers on the timer flick over and turn red, counting
in hieroglyphics now rather than numerals[introduce hieroglyphics]."
"The computer beeps."
"The lights dim briefly, then come back on, brighter than before."
"On the computer screen, a sequence of familiar digits
appears[introduce digits]."
"There is a deep bellow from the hallway, as though someone or
something there were wounded. Is Evan back?"
"The ground shakes underfoot. This must be what Michael warned you
about."
"Kate looks nervously at Jack. Neither speaks. You find yourself
thinking of Claire's nightmares."
"An unseen intercom crackles. 'One minute two seconds,' says a deep
male voice."

To say introduce (new-thing - a thing):
move the new-thing to the location.

Some digits are a thing. They are scenery. The description of the
digits is "The numerals parade past in their familiar order."

Some hieroglyphics are a thing. They are scenery. The description is
"A bird, an owl, a snake. You think. But what does it mean?" Instead
of examining the timer in the presence of the hieroglyphics: try
examining the hieroglyphics.
</code>

I still wouldn't claim that the result is an interesting game, but it
does kind of leave it up to the player to determine which actions will
have apocalyptic results. Does that freedom make the experience more
interactive, or less?

Adam Thornton

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Feb 5, 2007, 7:16:14 PM2/5/07
to
In article <1170718939.5...@h3g2000cwc.googlegroups.com>,

Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>I was just reading articles in Second Person about several procedural-
>narrative systems where the player shuffles cards and chooses them
>randomly to produce a story; the most effective of these seem to be
>the ones where the cards describe ambiguous, evocative events and the
>player/reader is at liberty to construct some kind of causality to
>explain how we got from A to B.

BRION GYSIN COME HOME STOP ALL IS FORGIVEN STOP

Adam

James Mitchelhill

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Feb 5, 2007, 8:59:08 PM2/5/07
to

STOP BRION IS HOME STOP ALL COME FORGIVEN GYSON

Adam Thornton

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Feb 5, 2007, 9:27:05 PM2/5/07
to
In article <12abl0tbr2yf7.fy98t6p9dnv3$.d...@40tude.net>,

James Mitchelhill <ja...@disorderfeed.net> wrote:
>On Mon, 5 Feb 2007 18:16:14 -0600, Adam Thornton wrote:
>> BRION GYSIN COME HOME STOP ALL IS FORGIVEN STOP
>STOP BRION IS HOME STOP ALL COME FORGIVEN GYSON

Oh, *stop* it, you cut-up!

Adam

Aaron A. Reed

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Feb 6, 2007, 4:40:50 AM2/6/07
to
On Feb 5, 1:42 pm, "Emily Short" <emsh...@mindspring.com> wrote:
> <experimental game snipped>

>
> I still wouldn't claim that the result is an interesting game, but it
> does kind of leave it up to the player to determine which actions will
> have apocalyptic results. Does that freedom make the experience more
> interactive, or less?

This kind of thing certainly falls apart upon multiple play-throughs.
But used judiciously and at key moments-- if this was a single scene
in a larger game, it could actually work quite nicely. It certainly
keeps the tension a lot higher to have exciting things happening in
response to your actions, rather than getting "You find nothing of
interest" and so on. The calm, dry tone of a library message has
undercut the drama of many a well-crafted scene over the years.

(This is actually spinning me off in a different direction entirely:
library messages that can be taught story pacing, so smelling or
looking under something during an action sequences might result in
"There's no time! Hurry!")

Anyway... this also reminds me of the I7 example where an object is
sneakily in the last drawer you open. Played multiple times you'd
figure out the trick; played a single time you might guess, but you
might also think "Man, just my luck!" which might be exactly the
mindset the main character is *meant* to be in. I think that *is* more
interactive, and more interesting.

David Goldfarb

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Feb 6, 2007, 6:25:46 AM2/6/07
to
In article <1170754850....@v45g2000cwv.googlegroups.com>,

Aaron A. Reed <aar...@gmail.com> wrote:
>Anyway... this also reminds me of the I7 example where an object is
>sneakily in the last drawer you open. Played multiple times you'd
>figure out the trick; played a single time you might guess, but you
>might also think "Man, just my luck!" which might be exactly the
>mindset the main character is *meant* to be in. I think that *is* more
>interactive, and more interesting.

Don't need I7 for that; Andrew Plotkin did it in _Shade_.

--
David Goldfarb |From the fortune cookie file:
gold...@ocf.berkeley.edu |"You have an ability to sense and know
gold...@csua.berkeley.edu | higher truth."

Emily Short

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Feb 6, 2007, 4:18:03 PM2/6/07
to
On Feb 6, 3:25 am, goldf...@OCF.Berkeley.EDU (David Goldfarb) wrote:
> In article <1170754850.072356.71...@v45g2000cwv.googlegroups.com>,

> Aaron A. Reed <aar...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> >Anyway... this also reminds me of the I7 example where an object is
> >sneakily in the last drawer you open. Played multiple times you'd
> >figure out the trick; played a single time you might guess, but you
> >might also think "Man, just my luck!" which might be exactly the
> >mindset the main character is *meant* to be in. I think that *is* more
> >interactive, and more interesting.
>
> Don't need I7 for that; Andrew Plotkin did it in _Shade_.

Yes. The Mars sequence in Photopia doesn't do quite the same thing,
but it strikes me as related. There's also a passage in City of
Secrets -- not its best bit, since it seems to have confused quite a
few players -- where the player has to do a certain number of
antisocial things in order to get noticed and picked up by the police;
as I recall, you get caught after the third one, if you're playing on
standard difficulty.

I think the technique works in Shade and similar cases because the
point of these scenes is not how the player finds the lost item, but
that he spends X turns looking for it in frustration -- the activity
of looking being an important bit of the narrative. And I suppose if
you wanted your story to include a scene where the player spends a few
minutes playing with some incomprehensible machinery before it all
blows up horribly (Microsoft Word comes to mind for some reason), then
an implementation like this might also make sense.

All that said, this makes for experiential interactivity -- the player
experiences the search and frustration -- but not much agency, since
whatever the player does is just going to hit a trigger sooner or
later, but he has no control over the plot direction or even the
pacing of events. I incline to think this is best used sparingly; it
*can* be done well, but it tends to be obvious on replay and feel a
bit flat and stagy if the author isn't careful.

gran...@mail.ru

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Feb 7, 2007, 2:23:57 PM2/7/07
to
Hello everybody!
I'm very glad what my "game" is able to rise such discussion. Since it
came to the topic of automatic text generation, you may be interested
in reading this:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/2007/1842077.htm
I'd like to see it...

Back to the topic: It seems IF community have a large experience of
theorization and established terminology. But I almost don't know it
and rely on intuition, as well as most of other Russian IFers. So,
once I wanted to explain what does mean "linearity" of game and found
it isn't easy question at all. It obviously has direct relation with
technical qualities of game, but surely it isn't enough for
explanation!
For example, one game can have almost endless variety of choices, but
player will never find them. It is very easy to imagine. And there
should be another situation: game with endless phantom choices, but
not having any.
Everything in the middle of that extremes appears to be too complex.
Even the simplest of IF games compiled on the base of standard
libraries have a plenty of states in terms of finite state machines.
And entropy grows rapidly with every new location and object, even if
they totally useless. Of course, we should take in mind only
"important" things and actions. In such way we can understand any
interactive story without great efforts, but it's quite subjective.
At the end I came to philosophical conclusion: the freedom is the
sense of freedom. So the most important is to cheat player. Oh, no:
just help a player to cheat himself.
This game surely fails in it, but can explain the idea. As far as I
can see it isn't something new for you, but nevertheless glad of that.

Dr.Cool

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Feb 11, 2007, 5:55:00 PM2/11/07
to
I'm not quite sure I understand the point of this experiment. I see
one game, "black", in which you cannot change anything in the game and
it tells you so. I see another game "white" in which you cannot change
anything in the game and it pretends that you can. I thought it was
already universally understood that any game in which you cannot
actually do something to change what is happening in the game is bad.
Is this a question of which bad option is worse?

u...@mail.ru

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Feb 12, 2007, 10:17:07 PM2/12/07
to
On 12 Feb, 01:55, "Dr.Cool" <hombrev...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> I'm not quite sure I understand the point of this experiment.

Heck, it's called Suprematism. What's the point of Malevich's Black
Square?;)

> I see one game, "black", in which you cannot change anything in the game and
> it tells you so. I see another game "white" in which you cannot change
> anything in the game and it pretends that you can. I thought it was
> already universally understood that any game in which you cannot
> actually do something to change what is happening in the game is bad.
> Is this a question of which bad option is worse?

Actually, almost *any* IF-game doesn't let the player do anything
apart from what's the game author intended for her to do. The question
is, how good the game author is at deceiving the player, at making her
think she's free to do anything she wants.

For me, this work is basically a proof that a)any idea can be driven
to an (absurd) extreme, and b) this absurd extreme hardly will be
something enjoyable, no matter which direction you went initially.

You also might have noticed that most of the discussion in this thread
wound around the "white" game. Which shows (at least, to me) that the
author's approach worked;).

Finally, I probably wouldn't take the whole thing too seriously if I
were you. I think this experiment was also meant (at least partly) as
a big joke.

Sorry, I've answered for the game author, he probably has something
else in mind;).

Valentine

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