Quick reactions to games

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doug bassett

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Mar 28, 2001, 12:22:47 AM3/28/01
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Over at r.a.i.f they're having an interesting discussion about keeping
older games in everybody's frame of reference. Here's a piece of it:

> Say it anyway. Play a game, and whenever you have a "what?" "huh?" or
> "whoah" reaction to some part of it, whip off a post to raif.

Hear hear (though I'd suggest rgif rather than raif). Even if you just
post one line reading "I just played Textfire Golf, and I thought it was
pretty OK," that post may make somebody think, "Oh yeah, Textfire Golf! I
meant to download that one -- maybe I'll do that this afternoon." Or it
might prompt a reply saying "Pretty OK? It rocked!"

Actually, I think it would be cool if every time somebody finished a game,
they posted a reaction to rgif and sent a score to the SPAG scoreboard.
But maybe that's just me.

Most of that is Paul O'Brien, I think.

Anyhow, I'm tired and it's late and I haven't played text adventures in
quite awhile, but I'm getting back into them because they're free, and I
just moved to Philly from a small town and my budget's limited and "free"
fits in my price range nicely.

I've been wanting to do just this for awhile, but I thought everybody
expected heavy-duty reviews for games, and frankly, I don't like a lot of
text adventures, but I feel weird being overly critical of them. (I mean,
they *are* free, and offered with the hope that someone will enjoy them, and
how can you be too mean about that?) So maybe this format will rope in some
of the harshness. I'll try to rope in some more of it, just by being a nice
guy.

Of course, this is just my two cents, etc., etc. I should mention that I
don't design games, and have no real interest in doing so. Nor do I know
much of anything about computers or programming languages. I'm interested in
good writing -- an area where I think a lot of text adventures fail -- and
frankly just fun. I mean, it is a game.

I've been following the list here: www.igs.net/~tril/if/best/index , which
accounts for the odd order, I guess.

Photopia -- Well, this is one of the classics of the genre, of course. I
have a friend who's new boyfriend is doing a lot of that hypertext stuff,
and I talked to him a bit about it, and told him that I thought most
hypertext experiments are dull failures, games without the fun. (The only
exception that occurs to me is something Geoff Ryman did, where you follow
the passengers of a train right before an accident, but even there one
finishes the piece more out of a sense of duty than anything else.) It
occurs to me that Photopia is a far better example of how to use
interactivity in fiction than any straight hypertext piece -- it's a very
formal piece of experimentation, in it's way, but the whole thing is very
cannily put together, very enjoyably presented. Essay question: would
somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that work
dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?

Worlds Apart -- Sorry, I know a lot of people like this one, and maybe I'm
just deaf to it's charms or something, but I really couldn't stand this.
This is a type of sf much beloved by intense girls who also listen to a lot
of Joni Mitchell and spend a lot of time drinking chai at the local coffee
house. Once I saw the wise alien mother (or whatever she was) I bugged on
out of there.

The Light: Shelby's Addendum -- Didn't stick with this one, either. I don't
like timed puzzles, generally, and I find timed puzzles right at the very
start of a game highly annoying. What should be fun becomes highly
irritating, as you have to remember a series of arbitrary steps just to get
*anywhere*. I didn't think there was much of a story to really make me want
to continue -- or at least the setup didn't do much for me -- so I'm sorry,
that whole thing is going to have to remain a mystery to me.

Glowgrass -- Alien crashes to a weird planet where everybody's died....but
GASP! It's really earth! Once I realized that was the set-up here I quit
this one, too. Would have been neat to see Charlton Heston run around in a
loincloth, though.

LASH -- Preachy, well-meaning, but to my mind rather offensive game which
strains to make a connection between the player/"character" relationship (or
whatever you call the figure you move about) and slavery. Actually, a game
you can spend a lot of time talking about: I'll just point out that the two
relationships compared in LASH are not equal, since slavery occured to real
people and the protagonist of a game is a fictious character.

Babel -- One of my favorite games. A textbook example of how to integrate
puzzles into a plot. Extremely well-written; the game that got be back into
text adventures (and the only one to date I've played twice).

Right now I'm playing "Delusions". When I've done a few more I'll do
something like this again. I'll be curious to see if anyone responds.

doug


Mark Musante - Sun Microsystems

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Mar 28, 2001, 10:11:49 AM3/28/01
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doug bassett (dougb...@conectiv.net) wrote:
> Glowgrass -- Alien crashes to a weird planet where everybody's died....but
> GASP! It's really earth! Once I realized that was the set-up here I quit
> this one, too. Would have been neat to see Charlton Heston run around in a
> loincloth, though.

Glowgrass was one of my favorite games from the 1997 IF Comp. It placed
third only because The Edifice and Babel were such excellent games
themselves. Glowgrass was nominated for both the Best Story and Best
Game XYZZY award as well.

What I'm awkwardly trying to say here is that I think you may want to
give it another look. Your Planet of the Apes allusion is misplaced.


-markm


PS. For those who haven't tried it:
ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/competition97/tads/glow/glow.gam

Also, The Edifice and Babel can be found here:
ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode/edifice.z5
ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/Babel31.gam

Joachim Froholt

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Mar 28, 2001, 10:51:53 AM3/28/01
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Warning, this post contains mild spoilers.

> I've been following the list here: www.igs.net/~tril/if/best/index , which
> accounts for the odd order, I guess.
>
> Photopia -- Well, this is one of the classics of the genre, of course. I
> have a friend who's new boyfriend is doing a lot of that hypertext stuff,
> and I talked to him a bit about it, and told him that I thought most
> hypertext experiments are dull failures, games without the fun. (The only
> exception that occurs to me is something Geoff Ryman did, where you follow
> the passengers of a train right before an accident, but even there one
> finishes the piece more out of a sense of duty than anything else.) It
> occurs to me that Photopia is a far better example of how to use
> interactivity in fiction than any straight hypertext piece -- it's a very
> formal piece of experimentation, in it's way, but the whole thing is very
> cannily put together, very enjoyably presented. Essay question: would
> somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
> response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that work
> dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?
>

I've wondered about that too. Photopia is, without doubt, the IF game which I've
most wanted to share with others, but I fear that they might get lost trying to
get used to the IF medium, and end up not getting that emotial impact which I
got while playing the game.

> Worlds Apart -- Sorry, I know a lot of people like this one, and maybe I'm
> just deaf to it's charms or something, but I really couldn't stand this.
> This is a type of sf much beloved by intense girls who also listen to a lot
> of Joni Mitchell and spend a lot of time drinking chai at the local coffee
> house. Once I saw the wise alien mother (or whatever she was) I bugged on
> out of there.

Hmm, I like Worlds Apart, but I do see what you mean. However, the game is
really deep and involving, and there's several 'sequences' which I really like -
freeing the.. um.. fish creature thing.., for instance - I felt I accomplished
something good.

> Glowgrass -- Alien crashes to a weird planet where everybody's died....but
> GASP! It's really earth! Once I realized that was the set-up here I quit
> this one, too. Would have been neat to see Charlton Heston run around in a
> loincloth, though.

I'd really, really advice you to stick with this one. It never struck me that
Glowgrass was set on another planet, btw, I just saw that something horrible had
happened to earth, and as I dug into the game, I found out what the story was. I
found the ending particularily moving, but I won't discuss it here because of
spoilers. Again, though, stick with this one, it's a real gem!

> LASH -- Preachy, well-meaning, but to my mind rather offensive game which
> strains to make a connection between the player/"character" relationship (or
> whatever you call the figure you move about) and slavery. Actually, a game
> you can spend a lot of time talking about: I'll just point out that the two
> relationships compared in LASH are not equal, since slavery occured to real
> people and the protagonist of a game is a fictious character.

I didn't get to the end of LASH - got stuck early, and gave up. I do mean to
finish it one day, though. The bits that I did play (the beginning - exploring
the mansion) was quite atmospheric, almost eerie.

> Right now I'm playing "Delusions". When I've done a few more I'll do
> something like this again. I'll be curious to see if anyone responds.

I didn't like this one too much. The beginning was nice, but once I got into the
'real world', I sort of lost track of everything. But this game certainly has
depth, and I'm willing to give it another chance someday.

Joachim

ems...@mindspring.com

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Mar 28, 2001, 1:18:42 PM3/28/01
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Joachim Froholt <jfro...@c2i.net> wrote:
> Warning, this post contains mild spoilers.

>> I've been following the list here: www.igs.net/~tril/if/best/index , which
>> accounts for the odd order, I guess.

>> Right now I'm playing "Delusions". When I've done a few more I'll do


>> something like this again. I'll be curious to see if anyone responds.

> I didn't like this one too much. The beginning was nice, but once I got into the
> 'real world', I sort of lost track of everything. But this game certainly has
> depth, and I'm willing to give it another chance someday.

Delusions Spoilers ahoy
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Hmm. I did like it, but I'm not sure now whether this is some kind of
golden age rosy sunglasses thing: when I sit down to name what was so
great about it, I find it difficult to put my finger on what it did
right, and I can think of a lot of things it did wrong. I certainly got
hopelessly lost and confused during the recursions, and I relied heavily
on the walkthrough to get a lot of the bits with the computer turning
senses on and off. *And* and I found the triggering of the Important
Realization finicky and got annoyed with my PC for not figuring out what
I had long since already realized.

So why did I like it? Well, aside from the fact that it was the first
non-Graham Inform game I played (having been introduced to the
post-Infocom community through Curses, Jigsaw, and Delusions in more or
less that order, and then Change in the Weather and then all hell broke
loose...): there was, first of all, a kind of forward momentum to the
plot, even though I kept being strapped to a table and shouted at. I
felt nervous about what was going on, and eager to resolve the plot.
Bits of overheard conversation made me nervous: this sticks with me as
one of the more effective ways of doing NPC characterization, because
you can offer the player important bits of dialogue without making it
interactive enough to get messed up. Zarf knows this as well, of
course. But enough on that.

Two: the sheer vividness of some of the sense descriptions. I can't
pull up examples since I don't have the game in front of me at the
moment, but I still seem to recall definite sensations-- temperature,
color, pain-- with a clarity and presence rare in IF.

ES

Billy Harris

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Mar 28, 2001, 1:25:59 PM3/28/01
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In article <99rsft$6gh$1...@grendel.conectiv.net>, doug bassett
<dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:

One of the problems with quick reactions -- other than not wanting to
appear unpolished -- is that if your post includes several games,
either everyone will need to be careful not to put in any spoilers,
which limits the range of discussion, or else people cheerfully discuss
spoilers, meaning that after just a few postings, the only ones able to
read the thread in good concience are those who have played every game
mentioned.

Anther problem is that very often someone will post a
discussion-oriented question only to get the reply:
"This was discussed 5 years ago. Follow this URL to dejanews"
which not only excludes the possibility of finding new ideas on an old
topic but also prevents the poster from posting discussion-oriented
questions on any game that has been discussed before.

Anyway, I have played two of the games in your list:

> Photopia

> Essay question: would
> somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
> response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that work
> dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?

Well, it's hard for me to get knowlege of IF out of my head to give a
definitive answer, but I think it has a gentle enough introduction that
someone can use this as their first game without any problems. I think
the emotional impact comes from identifying with the main character,
which will happen for anyone who has enough interest to play the game
to the end -- which certainly includes 90% of people who enjoy, or will
come to enjoy, IF.

> Babel -- One of my favorite games. A textbook example of how to integrate
> puzzles into a plot. Extremely well-written; the game that got be back into
> text adventures (and the only one to date I've played twice).

I won't call it my favorite, but among TADS games, I like it a lot. It
has two clichés in it which it handles very very well. First, you are
exploring an abandoned research base. Fertile ground for puzzles, as
you said, but Babel has a much better and more detailed backstory of
the purpose of the research station (who built it, why was it in the
middle of nowhere, ....).

The other cliché is having amnesia, which is often used in the
introduction to reconcile the player, who is exploring an environment
for the first time, to the PC who supposedly has lived there for many
years. However, again Babel handles this much much better than most;
as you explore the base, you begin to get a deeper understanding of who
you actually are [unlike most games of the era which kept the nameless,
genderless, generic adventurer even without the amnesisa] and also a
plausible explanation of why you lost your memory. Quite a bit of
catharsis.

Babel also creates an excellent atmosphere -- things are spooky. Again,
most games of the era lacked npcs. But with Babel, you begin to worry
more and more about "Where did everyone else go? And if they left, why
am I still here?" questions which never occur to most IF players
because so often the game ducks these questions.

Lucian P. Smith

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Mar 28, 2001, 2:40:08 PM3/28/01
to
doug bassett (dougb...@conectiv.net) wrote in <99rsft$6gh$1...@grendel.conectiv.net>:
: Over at r.a.i.f they're having an interesting discussion about keeping

: older games in everybody's frame of reference. Here's a piece of it:
:
: > Say it anyway. Play a game, and whenever you have a "what?" "huh?" or
: > "whoah" reaction to some part of it, whip off a post to raif.

Yay followthrough! And now, a few responses. Spoilers follow, of course.

: Essay question: would


: somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
: response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that work
: dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?

I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at here. The emotional impact is
from the inevitability of the end, and I think you'd get that regardless
of your impressions of the genre--surely, an IF newbie would expect to be
able to affect the story here?

The one way I had a different reaction to the game based on my IF
experience was that I could see some of the wires--the way the game kept
you on track in the blue and red areas, for example. I suppose I could
have been annoyed by that, but I ended up appreciating it all the more
instead.


: Glowgrass -- Alien crashes to a weird planet where everybody's died....but


: GASP! It's really earth! Once I realized that was the set-up here I quit
: this one, too. Would have been neat to see Charlton Heston run around in a
: loincloth, though.

You've missed the premise for the plot here, I think. I don't think
you're supposed to be stunned and amazed that it's really the earth,
you're supposed to just find out that that's the case. And it's not an
alien visiting, either, it's another human.

One suggestion, if you go back to this game: Use the 'WHAT IS' command a
lot. It greatly increased my own enjoyment of the game.

: LASH -- Preachy, well-meaning, but to my mind rather offensive game which


: strains to make a connection between the player/"character" relationship (or
: whatever you call the figure you move about) and slavery. Actually, a game
: you can spend a lot of time talking about: I'll just point out that the two
: relationships compared in LASH are not equal, since slavery occured to real
: people and the protagonist of a game is a fictious character.

Erm. Regardless of the merits or lack thereof of LASH, I strongly
disagree with your last statement. You can't compare real life to
fiction? Huh? What about a fictitious account of an actual slave? What
about a fictitious account of a fictitious slave in a real-life
situation? What about a fictitious account of a fictitious slave in a
fictitious situation that closely parallels real life? What about... oh,
wait, we've reached 'LASH' already.

My point is that a game like LASH is intended to make you think about
slavery, not provide proof about slavery. So, while your statement may be
technically correct (the two situations are not 'equal'), it is also moot.

: Right now I'm playing "Delusions". When I've done a few more I'll do


: something like this again. I'll be curious to see if anyone responds.


Yay! This was fun. Somebody do another ;-)

-Lucian

doug bassett

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Mar 28, 2001, 3:31:50 PM3/28/01
to
Note the title thread -- if you haven't played Photopia, and LASH, and you
want to, better just walk on by:
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> : Essay question: would
> : somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
> : response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that
work
> : dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?
>
> I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at here. The emotional impact is
> from the inevitability of the end, and I think you'd get that regardless
> of your impressions of the genre--surely, an IF newbie would expect to be
> able to affect the story here?

Well, I'm thinking of two specific instances:

-- the solution to the "caught in the maze" puzzle, which involves the
wonderful realization that you have wings. I remember, when I realized what
was going on, and typed in "fly", the rush was amazing -- and perfectly
attuned to the sense of wonder a child might have, understanding new
possibilities. But would someone who knew nothing about ifiction really get
the same rush? I'm not saying "no", I'm saying "I wonder".

-- a more important example occurs near the end, in that memorably spooky
passage where the girl recounts a dream that seems to foretell her own
passing. Remember how you suddenly lose control of the game? That the
choices are predetermined for you? That's a very formal sort of
experimentation, and I really think it's effective because most players
"understand" the rules of ifiction. Would it work with someone who didn't,
though? Again, I'm just asking.

>
> : Glowgrass -- Alien crashes to a weird planet where everybody's
died....but
> : GASP! It's really earth! Once I realized that was the set-up here I quit
> : this one, too. Would have been neat to see Charlton Heston run around in
a
> : loincloth, though.
>
> You've missed the premise for the plot here, I think. I don't think
> you're supposed to be stunned and amazed that it's really the earth,
> you're supposed to just find out that that's the case. And it's not an
> alien visiting, either, it's another human.
>
> One suggestion, if you go back to this game: Use the 'WHAT IS' command a
> lot. It greatly increased my own enjoyment of the game.

Okay, okay, everybody's telling me I missed the boat on this one. I'll try
it again after Delusions and see if I was fulla crap the last time. :) I
still think the premise is ridiculous, though.

>
> : LASH -- Preachy, well-meaning, but to my mind rather offensive game
which
> : strains to make a connection between the player/"character" relationship
(or
> : whatever you call the figure you move about) and slavery. Actually, a
game
> : you can spend a lot of time talking about: I'll just point out that the
two
> : relationships compared in LASH are not equal, since slavery occured to
real
> : people and the protagonist of a game is a fictious character.
>
> Erm. Regardless of the merits or lack thereof of LASH, I strongly
> disagree with your last statement. You can't compare real life to
> fiction? Huh? What about a fictitious account of an actual slave? What
> about a fictitious account of a fictitious slave in a real-life
> situation? What about a fictitious account of a fictitious slave in a
> fictitious situation that closely parallels real life? What about... oh,
> wait, we've reached 'LASH' already.
>
> My point is that a game like LASH is intended to make you think about
> slavery, not provide proof about slavery. So, while your statement may be
> technically correct (the two situations are not 'equal'), it is also moot.

Sorry, disagree with you here. I think LASH is well-meaning, but I don't
want games to preach to me about issues. I don't think a game "intended to
make you think about slavery" is a very interesting sort of game. There are
plenty of history books down at Barnes and Noble that can do that job very
well.

It's rather like when a millionare rock star lectures me on some social ill:
I"m offended. I consider it self-aggrandizing.

As for my specific point, I tried to be brief and most likely ended up
confusing. The "message" of the piece occurs when I reflect on my
relationship to the robot, and compare it to the slave/slave master
relationship, right? I'm supposed to draw parallels? But in fact, the
parallel is ridiculous -- as anyone who pauses for a moment to reflect upon
it will admit. Unless someone wants to argue otherwise? Am I supposed to
feel for Ms. Pac-Man when she gets melted by the ghosts?

Here's a way to think about it:

-- If LASH had turned out to be about, say, child abuse instead of slavery,
would that have made a difference? Certainly there are parallels of a sort
to be drawn between both situations here, too -- we control the robot, the
abuser controls the victim, etc. Are you saying that *any* parallel would
work here? Are you saying that the intention alone makes the parallel work?

-- Scenario: someone wants to an ifiction adaptation of, say, Orwell's
_Animal Farm_. Would the fact that it's interactive change the piece? In
other words, does the fact that a work's interactive change the way a writer
has to draw symbolism?

I don't have an answer to question 2, but it's an interesting question.

Yeah, this is sort of fun.

doug


Jason Melancon

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Mar 28, 2001, 4:02:46 PM3/28/01
to
On Wed, 28 Mar 2001 00:22:47 -0500, "doug bassett"
<dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:
> On 27 Mar 2001 12:31:15 -0800, Fraser Wilson
> <blanc...@blancolioni.org> wrote:

> > Say it anyway. Play a game, and whenever you have a "what?" "huh?" or
> > "whoah" reaction to some part of it, whip off a post to raif.
>

> Worlds Apart -- Sorry, I know a lot of people like this one, and maybe I'm
> just deaf to it's charms or something, but I really couldn't stand this.
> This is a type of sf much beloved by intense girls who also listen to a lot
> of Joni Mitchell and spend a lot of time drinking chai at the local coffee
> house. Once I saw the wise alien mother (or whatever she was) I bugged on
> out of there.

Du-u-ude, that game rawwwked!

All kidding aside, I've bawled my eyes out exactly once playing IF,
and it was near the end of this game.

[mild spoilers]

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

The crystal sphere story did it. Everything about that plot -- the
setup, the exploration, the backstory, and the final revelation and
associated outburst -- was just perfect. Give it another chance,
because you won't regret it.

Sure, parts of it were new-agey, but they were just as solid and
intelligently done as the more original parts. I'm patiently awaiting
the next chapter, with the expectation that it will rawwk just as
hard.

While I'm at it, another game that made me a little bright-eyed was
Shade.

[worse spoilers]

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

Something about the glee with which the PC abandoned reality,
especially shoving the papers off the desk to have them turn to sand
before they even hit the ground, was very tragic.

--
Jason Melancon

Jason Melancon

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Mar 28, 2001, 4:43:14 PM3/28/01
to
On 28 Mar 2001 18:18:42 GMT, ems...@mindspring.com wrote [regarding
Delusions]:

> Bits of overheard conversation made me nervous: this sticks with me as
> one of the more effective ways of doing NPC characterization, because
> you can offer the player important bits of dialogue without making it
> interactive enough to get messed up. Zarf knows this as well, of
> course. But enough on that.

Yeah. And don't you go getting any funny ideas, either, please. Just
keep inventing revolutionary new ways to actually interact, instead of
starting to fake it. I vastly prefer your approach.

--
Jason Melancon


Gabe McKean

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Mar 28, 2001, 5:32:10 PM3/28/01
to
doug bassett wrote in message <99thoc$k7r$1...@grendel.conectiv.net>...

>Note the title thread -- if you haven't played Photopia, and LASH, and you
>want to, better just walk on by:
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[snip stuff about Photopia and Glowgrass]

>As for my specific point, I tried to be brief and most likely ended up
>confusing. The "message" of the piece occurs when I reflect on my
>relationship to the robot, and compare it to the slave/slave master
>relationship, right? I'm supposed to draw parallels? But in fact, the
>parallel is ridiculous -- as anyone who pauses for a moment to reflect upon
>it will admit. Unless someone wants to argue otherwise? Am I supposed to
>feel for Ms. Pac-Man when she gets melted by the ghosts?

I personally feel that the parallel is not ridiculous at all. If robots (or
computers in general) ever achieve sentience (and the MULE character is
quite clearly sentient), then issues of slavery *will* apply to them.

Unless you're saying that it's ridiculous for the game to make you feel
guilty for bossing around an NPC, which is really just a game object. In
this case, I think you're looking at it from the wrong angle. If one can't
have a legitimate emotional reaction to the things that are represented by
game objects, then there's really not much point in IF as a literary medium
at all, is there?


OKB -- not okblacke

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Mar 28, 2001, 6:27:55 PM3/28/01
to
For some reason my news server did not pick up the original message of
this thread, so I'm quoting this response in order to respond to the original.
. .

>> Glowgrass -- Alien crashes to a weird planet where everybody's died....but
>> GASP! It's really earth! Once I realized that was the set-up here I quit
>> this one, too. Would have been neat to see Charlton Heston run around in a
>> loincloth, though.

When I played Glowgrass, I didn't really even pay attention to that
"planet-of-the-apes" aspect of it. I was drawn in by the writing and the
central NPC. I found the end somewhat confusing (but I was in a confused mood
at the time), but the middle was so good I didn't care.

>> Right now I'm playing "Delusions". When I've done a few more I'll do
>> something like this again. I'll be curious to see if anyone responds.

I couldn't really get into this. I found it very compelling from the
outset, but after playing for a few minutes, I became restless, perhaps because
I couldn't get the NPCs to respond satisfactorily, or because I couldn't get a
handle on exactly what I was supposed to do.

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Fraser Wilson

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Mar 28, 2001, 6:31:53 PM3/28/01
to
"doug bassett" <dougb...@conectiv.net> writes:

[On Photopia]


> Essay question: would
> somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
> response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that work
> dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?

In a word, no. To the second question. The emotional impact of that
work is not dependent on the preconceptions of its intended audience.
If, in fact, it has an intended audience as such -- obviously the Comp
judges, and people who play these things, but presumably not limited
to that.

major spoiler ...

Anyway, so I made my sister play it, and when she finished she said
"Fuck. She died. That was great, and let's never speak of this
again."

Fraser.

Lelah Conrad

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Mar 28, 2001, 7:13:36 PM3/28/01
to
On Wed, 28 Mar 2001 00:22:47 -0500, "doug bassett"
<dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:


>Glowgrass -- Alien crashes to a weird planet where everybody's died....but

>GASP! It's really earth! ...

I don't remember this being that way at all. I remember it as being
one of the more eerie and yet elegant pieces that I have played. Its
setting was marvelously described.

Lelah

James Mitchelhill

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Mar 28, 2001, 7:23:06 PM3/28/01
to

>> My point is that a game like LASH is intended to make you think about


>> slavery, not provide proof about slavery. So, while your statement may be
>> technically correct (the two situations are not 'equal'), it is also moot.
>
>Sorry, disagree with you here. I think LASH is well-meaning, but I don't
>want games to preach to me about issues. I don't think a game "intended to
>make you think about slavery" is a very interesting sort of game. There are
>plenty of history books down at Barnes and Noble that can do that job very
>well.

I disagree that the central theme of LASH is slavery, rather it is
racism. Sure, slavery is highlighted in the main part of the game, but
there's two other times that are presented: the near future and the
far future. Through reading Lisa's journal, the player learns of the
second civil-war and its racial origins. And note that the PC is
controlling the MULE from American Africa.

Taken in this context, I don't think LASH preaches so much as
provokes.


--
James A. Mitchelhill
http://www.dreamingbutterflies.com/james/
ja...@dreamingbutterflies.com

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Mar 28, 2001, 8:11:54 PM3/28/01
to
The thing that really impressed me about Glowgrass was the
descriptions. Everything is described with clinical detachment, but
with moments of emotion showing through. And it's all so impressively
concise.

Looking at the skycar, you feel a surge of hope. Despite
the vehicle's age, it seems intact. Maybe, if you could
somehow get it to work...

The thought dies as quickly as it came. Stupid idea.
You have no idea how to fly the thing, and who knows
what parts are missing?

Even just the two words "Stupid idea" say so much about the character.
That you're desperate enough to clutch at straws, but self-critical
enough to realize when you're doing so. Which ties into the clinical
detachment again: the character is a trained observer, much like David
Bowman in 2001, but has entered into a situation of such raw tragedy
that it's difficult to maintain that distance.

Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, Glowgrass is a lot like
LASH. Both involve archeological expeditions to future ruins, both
involve discovering events through tangible evidence, and both have
sense of distance that erodes through a more direct contact with the
past.

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Mar 28, 2001, 8:29:22 PM3/28/01
to
On Wed, 28 Mar 2001 00:22:47 -0500, "doug bassett"
<dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:

>LASH -- Preachy, well-meaning, but to my mind rather offensive game which
>strains to make a connection between the player/"character" relationship (or
>whatever you call the figure you move about) and slavery. Actually, a game
>you can spend a lot of time talking about: I'll just point out that the two
>relationships compared in LASH are not equal, since slavery occured to real
>people and the protagonist of a game is a fictious character.

Well, except that the slaves within the game are also fictional
characters. Furthermore - and it took my a while to fully appreciate
this - the slaves in the game are fictional even within the context of
the game's fiction. It's no coincidence that the historical sim's
author and its player character are both named Lisa. I doubt that
there was an "actual" Lisa on the plantation.

I may be wrong about this, but I suspect that the author was trying
more to provoke than to moralize.

Jason Melancon

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Mar 28, 2001, 7:53:00 PM3/28/01
to
On Wed, 28 Mar 2001 14:32:10 -0800, "Gabe McKean" <gmc...@wsu.edu>
wrote:

Well, to reference one of my own recent flurry of posts, when I cried
about the crystal sphere in Worlds Apart, I was crying about a
*story.* When I was little and my Dad got sick, and he showed me how
weak he was by squeezing my hand as hard as he could, and I could
barely feel it, I was crying about *my Dad.* Those were two very
different reactions.

IOW, I think the literary media are going to be okay for the
foreseeable future. I haven't actually played the game in question,
so that's all I have to add to this particular discussion.

Well, alright, I started it, but didn't find that it hooked me very
effectively, and the setting wasn't that interesting to me (irony
noted), so I dropped it. But I'd like to give it a second look
someday.

--
Jason Melancon

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Mar 28, 2001, 9:35:15 PM3/28/01
to
On Wed, 28 Mar 2001 15:31:50 -0500, "doug bassett"
<dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:

>-- Scenario: someone wants to an ifiction adaptation of, say, Orwell's
>_Animal Farm_. Would the fact that it's interactive change the piece? In
>other words, does the fact that a work's interactive change the way a writer
>has to draw symbolism?

I think so. *How* it would change it, I don't know. It would depend
on what kind of control you give to the player. It would certainly
change the tone of the work if you could take the management of the
farm in different directions.

But even giving any control at all to the player can affect a work. I
remember, when I played "The Lurking Horror", feeling a sense of
creepiness and dread as I entered the wireheads' lair, knowing that I
could do something wrong and wake them up at any time. In static
fiction, you can get the sense of creepiness and dread, but not the
sense of personal responsibility for the consequences. This is even
stronger in Photopia: there comes a point where you know what's going
to happen, but unlike a non-interactive tragedy, you can try in vain
to stop it.

Adam Myrow

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Mar 28, 2001, 9:51:56 PM3/28/01
to
In article <3ac28be9....@News.CIS.DFN.DE>, ca...@wurb.com says...

> It's no coincidence that the historical sim's
> author and its player character are both named Lisa. I doubt that
> there was an "actual" Lisa on the plantation.

The sim's character's name was Linda, not Lisa.

As for the reasons for writing LASH, Paul O'Brian told me in an email
conversation that he had always been interested in racism and wondered
how a sentient computer would behave if forced to endure slavery. He had
read books by Isaac Asimov where robots called owners "master" and the
owners called the robots "boy" and wondered why Asimov never really
expanded on this. In fact, the second scrap of paper in the game is a
quote from an Asimov book. I'm not familiar at all with Asimov, so can't
comment further. That's just what I was told.

Lash was one of the few games that for me, achieved something close to
mimesis. The documentation, the descriptions, everything felt real, not
like some imagined future world. The Journal of Lisa Percy was chilling
in its recounting of the second civil war as it happened, the desolation
and destruction was haunting in a way that I've never read before.

Ok, the Mule reminded me a bit too much of Data from Star Trek, the Next
Generation, especially when it used phrases like "my apologies." Also,
the robot feeling like it was a slave and wanting freedom has been done
before. Yet, this was original because instead of watching helplessly,
you got to shape the outcome. You decided how the simulation ends and
ultimately, you decide whether to voluntarily let the Mule go free, or
fight it. The cool thing is how the simulation effects the Mule's
reaction to a shutdown or airlift command.

doug bassett

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Mar 28, 2001, 11:12:49 PM3/28/01
to
Unfortunately, I got rid of the original post here, so this isn't Mr.
Melancon. But, to whoever it was:

> >
> > >As for my specific point, I tried to be brief and most likely ended up
> > >confusing. The "message" of the piece occurs when I reflect on my
> > >relationship to the robot, and compare it to the slave/slave master
> > >relationship, right? I'm supposed to draw parallels? But in fact, the
> > >parallel is ridiculous -- as anyone who pauses for a moment to reflect
upon
> > >it will admit. Unless someone wants to argue otherwise? Am I supposed
to
> > >feel for Ms. Pac-Man when she gets melted by the ghosts?
> >
> > I personally feel that the parallel is not ridiculous at all. If robots
(or
> > computers in general) ever achieve sentience (and the MULE character is
> > quite clearly sentient), then issues of slavery *will* apply to them.

Sorry. I know you don't mean this to be funny, but I find this statement
hilarious. No offense, but I'm going to add this to my list of "Things I'm
not going to worry about in my lifetime", right behind "What if I start
spending too much time on the holodeck and decide that it's nicer there than
on the Enterprise?"

> >
> > Unless you're saying that it's ridiculous for the game to make you feel
> > guilty for bossing around an NPC, which is really just a game object.
In
> > this case, I think you're looking at it from the wrong angle. If one
can't
> > have a legitimate emotional reaction to the things that are represented
by
> > game objects, then there's really not much point in IF as a literary
medium
> > at all, is there?

The point isn't "one can't have a legitimate emotional reaction to game
objects" so much as "LASH forces the emotional context". To my mind, LASH
operates about at the same level of, say, Dr. Seuss's "Starbellied
Sneetches". That teaches us lessons about racism as well, you know.

I'm not saying that ifiction games can't attack serious subjects -- just
that LASH fails. At least to me. But you may well differ.

>
> Well, to reference one of my own recent flurry of posts, when I cried
> about the crystal sphere in Worlds Apart, I was crying about a
> *story.* When I was little and my Dad got sick, and he showed me how
> weak he was by squeezing my hand as hard as he could, and I could
> barely feel it, I was crying about *my Dad.* Those were two very
> different reactions.

Okay, we're back to Mr. Melancon. You see, that's why I asked that question
about literary symbols in ifiction. Does interactivity change the way a
symbol functions in ifiction? The question isn't one of emotional response;
the question, rather, is one of intent. If the author is trying to create
certain resonances with a figure in the game, how does he handle the fact
that this is an interactive environment?

Does anyone understand what the heck I'm saying here? I'm not sure I do,
truthfully.

doug


doug bassett

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Mar 28, 2001, 11:21:32 PM3/28/01
to
This is getting interesting.

> <dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:
>
> >-- Scenario: someone wants to an ifiction adaptation of, say, Orwell's
> >_Animal Farm_. Would the fact that it's interactive change the piece? In
> >other words, does the fact that a work's interactive change the way a
writer
> >has to draw symbolism?
>
> I think so. *How* it would change it, I don't know. It would depend
> on what kind of control you give to the player. It would certainly
> change the tone of the work if you could take the management of the
> farm in different directions.

Then how would an author who wants to create symbols with certain specific
resonances handle the interactivity? Like or hate _Animal Farm_ , Orwell
controls the meaning of his piece fairly well from start to finish. (This is
why I chose it as an example.) Does player involvement/interaction equal a
loss of such control? If so, could an *original* piece of ifiction even be
crafted that acheives the sort of goals _Farm_ sets out to achieve?

I'm suggesting, I think, that LASH fails because the interactivity disturbs
the symbol's meaning; I can't buy the parallel because I'm sitting on my
futon playing the game, interacting with the story, and I know damn well
the two relationships aren't similar.

doug


Mitch Shaw

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Mar 29, 2001, 2:07:30 AM3/29/01
to
On Wed, 28 Mar 2001 00:22:47 -0500, "doug bassett"
<dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:

>
>
>Photopia -- Well, this is one of the classics of the genre, of course. I
>have a friend who's new boyfriend is doing a lot of that hypertext stuff,
>and I talked to him a bit about it, and told him that I thought most
>hypertext experiments are dull failures, games without the fun. (The only
>exception that occurs to me is something Geoff Ryman did, where you follow
>the passengers of a train right before an accident, but even there one
>finishes the piece more out of a sense of duty than anything else.) It
>occurs to me that Photopia is a far better example of how to use
>interactivity in fiction than any straight hypertext piece -- it's a very
>formal piece of experimentation, in it's way, but the whole thing is very
>cannily put together, very enjoyably presented. Essay question: would
>somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
>response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that work
>dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?
>

I've been hooked on IF for a long time, but only started playing the
community-generated (i.e. non-Infocom) games in the last year. In
that year, though, I've played what I would consider a fair number of
the ones on gmd.de -- at least I've gone through the comp lists and
tried to play at least the top 3 of each year. All that said, I can
honestly tell you that Photopia is the only piece of IF (commercial or
non-commercial) that actually brought me to tears. Big tip of the hat
to Adam Cadre for that.

>Glowgrass -- Alien crashes to a weird planet where everybody's died....but
>GASP! It's really earth! Once I realized that was the set-up here I quit
>this one, too. Would have been neat to see Charlton Heston run around in a
>loincloth, though.
>

Like others have said, I don't think that the big surprise of the game
was supposed to be the revelation that the planet was earth. I had
pretty much guessed that from the beginning; besides, the way in which
it's revealed in-game is fairly blase about it. Once you actually
encounter the NPC, though, it becomes much more moving. (Minor
spoiler ahead...)

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

I didn't quite get the very end, though -- the last few sentences, to
be exact. The PC comments on the glowing predators in the distance,
and hopes that the girl "doesn't notice the taller ones, or the green
glowing blood oozing down my arm." So... either the narrator was not
human or a mutated human? Referring to the people he's studying as
"Ancients" seems to indicate to me (possibly mistakenly) that his own
culture is descended from the Ancients. Dunno.

>LASH -- Preachy, well-meaning, but to my mind rather offensive game which
>strains to make a connection between the player/"character" relationship (or
>whatever you call the figure you move about) and slavery. Actually, a game
>you can spend a lot of time talking about: I'll just point out that the two
>relationships compared in LASH are not equal, since slavery occured to real
>people and the protagonist of a game is a fictious character.
>

I had mixed feelings about this. It was wonderfully atmospheric
through most of it (I kept waiting for a band of mutant "Fodders" to
jump out at me) and I have to say that I really enjoyed the
text-interface explanation, which actually made even more sense than
Suspended did. But, I did find it somewhat heavy-handed in its
message, and I still have no idea how to open the tone safe (although
I'm pretty sure I have the necessary parts, just don't know exactly
what to do with them). A nice touch in my opinion was how the room
descriptions changed after the MULE's "experience" -- but I'm a sucker
for little touches like that.

>Babel -- One of my favorite games. A textbook example of how to integrate
>puzzles into a plot. Extremely well-written; the game that got be back into
>text adventures (and the only one to date I've played twice).
>

Agreed. I thought this was one of the best non-commercial IF games
I've ever played. Maybe I just don't give a lot of thought as to
where a plot is going during a game, but the very ending surprised me.


I've had some mixed reactions to Adam Cadre's other works -- Varicella
was way too... political? for me; Shrapnel was an interesting
experiment in non-linear storytelling; 9:05 annoyed me because it
seemed more like an excuse for a punchline than a game or a story.


Carl Muckenhoupt

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Mar 29, 2001, 3:41:23 AM3/29/01
to
On Wed, 28 Mar 2001 19:51:56 -0700, Adam Myrow <my...@eskimo.com>
wrote:

>In article <3ac28be9....@News.CIS.DFN.DE>, ca...@wurb.com says...
>> It's no coincidence that the historical sim's
>> author and its player character are both named Lisa. I doubt that
>> there was an "actual" Lisa on the plantation.
>
>The sim's character's name was Linda, not Lisa.

You're right. Drat. I thought I had noticed something clever.
[general grumbling about women's names in LASH and Happy Ever After]

Still, Lisa's diary (specifically, the entry for 9/25/46) makes it
clear that the sim contains material that isn't supported by
historical data, because there simply isn't enough historical data to
fill in all the details. And I think this is an important point to
remember as you play - it's all too easy to slip into thinking of the
sim as a kind of time travel, rather than a reconstruction done long
after the fact.

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Mar 29, 2001, 4:05:27 AM3/29/01
to
On Wed, 28 Mar 2001 23:21:32 -0500, "doug bassett"
<dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:

>Then how would an author who wants to create symbols with certain specific
>resonances handle the interactivity? Like or hate _Animal Farm_ , Orwell
>controls the meaning of his piece fairly well from start to finish. (This is
>why I chose it as an example.) Does player involvement/interaction equal a
>loss of such control? If so, could an *original* piece of ifiction even be
>crafted that acheives the sort of goals _Farm_ sets out to achieve?

How about "So Far"? Much of it is directed towards making a point,
although the player may not realize this until the ending. The author
largely directs the player to this point through puzzles: every time
you figure out a puzzle, you are being rewarded for thinking the way
the author wants you to think. In this way, the author lets you do
whatever you desire, but takes control of your desires.

This approach obviously wouldn't work very well for Animal Farm, which
illustrates its points through failures rather than successes. (Well,
unless you made Napoleon the PC, and made the subjugation of the other
animals into an explicit or implicit goal, in which case the failures
of the Animalist movement would be successes for the player. But I
think that would alter the tone of the work quite a bit too.) I'm not
saying that there couldn't be a work of IF that achieves Orwell's
goals, but such a work probably wouldn't bear much resemblance to
Animal Farm.


Jon Ingold

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Mar 29, 2001, 6:25:15 AM3/29/01
to
> >LASH

> But, I did find it somewhat heavy-handed in its
> message

I'm a bit puzzled by this -- what is LASH's message supposed to be?
Slavery is bad? We know that. I didn't really see it as a message game
particularly; more it was a rendering. The player isn't supposed to sit
back and go "My! That slavery thing *was* really bad, wasn't it!", he's
supposed to try and experience the situation.Why? For interest, I guess.
Certainly not to think "I'm just as bad in the way I treat my robot",
because as someone pointed up-thread, the robot isn't real.

Incidentally, the one thing that did annoy me about it was that after
the MULE has his trip, he keeps threatening to start disobeying, but he
never actually does anything apart from insert the odd comment. I kept
feeling there was an end, a end that tied stuff up, coming, but it never
quite happened.

Jon


Nospam

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Mar 29, 2001, 11:38:34 AM3/29/01
to
Possible spoilers for Photopia, Varicella and Galatea below.


In article <3ac29d2e....@News.CIS.DFN.DE>, Carl Muckenhoupt
<ca...@wurb.com> writes


>But even giving any control at all to the player can affect a work. I
>remember, when I played "The Lurking Horror", feeling a sense of
>creepiness and dread as I entered the wireheads' lair, knowing that I
>could do something wrong and wake them up at any time. In static
>fiction, you can get the sense of creepiness and dread, but not the
>sense of personal responsibility for the consequences. This is even
>stronger in Photopia: there comes a point where you know what's going
>to happen, but unlike a non-interactive tragedy, you can try in vain
>to stop it.


This describes my frustration with Photopia, you are unable to influence
the outcome in any meaningful way. I've even stopped the car and got out
but to no avail. The story relentlessly grinds on and there is nothing I
can do to stop it (other than stop the game but it still plays out
inside my head). This really annoyed me despite how well the game is
written. Perhaps that was its intention, I don't know. I even Txd'd it
to see if I could get an alternative ending but I didn't see one.

In a similar vein I had a problem with Varicella. I had no problem
killing off the other aspirants to the throne but I was not happy about
the guards death. The others were deserving cases but the guard had, to
the best of my knowledge, done no wrong and I didn't like the fact I had
to kill him indirectly to get the test tubes. Again, another well
written game but that one piece grated. Arguably perfectly in character
but outside what I (as in me not the PC) wanted to do (which didn't stop
me doing it of course to finish the damn game).

Now I know it is only fiction and I have no problem 'killing' people
when playing TFC etc. on the net but for some reason 'making' me do
something I don't want to do grates. Again this may be the intention,
how far do we subsume ourselves in a character and accept the role
without questioning the rights and wrongs of the situation? I can
remember many years ago not playing a game through to completion because
I didn't want to be responsible for the 'deaths' of the characters
within the game. Weird I admit but I can still recall the death of a
group the first and last time I played it. Can't recall the name of the
game mind. Obviously my morals are slipping, I still 'killed' the poor
guard in Varicella. Now if he had been a nasty guard I wouldn't be
having this angst, but oh no, he was a frightened, quivering guard. Why
damn you!

Equally I have a problem with Galatea, I'm happy developing the endings
which seem right to me, morally whatever, but I have no interest in
developing the other endings that I know exist. I know the character
isn't real, I know it's just a game but I can't bring myself to explore
those other avenues, they seem wrong. Still a great piece of work and
I'm probably missing out but I won't follow the alternatives. I have to
live with myself :) Enough of this rambling, I think I'll go kill a few
TFC'ers with a quick round of Dustbowl.

Oh, and while I think of it some of the best sci-fi explores the
question of sentience in non-humans and how humans do or don't recognise
and accept or deny other sentient beings. Guess I'll have to play this
LASH and se what I think. Just because its fiction doesn't mean it isn't
real inside my head :)

Cheers

Versif

Ross Presser

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Mar 29, 2001, 12:10:16 PM3/29/01
to
"Jon Ingold" <j...@ingold.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:

> Incidentally, the one thing that did annoy me about it was that
> after the MULE has his trip, he keeps threatening to start
> disobeying, but he never actually does anything apart from insert
> the odd comment. I kept feeling there was an end, a end that tied
> stuff up, coming, but it never quite happened.

The MULE's level of disaffection is tied to exactly what he experienced
on the trip, and whether he actually disobeys depends both on this and
on how you choose to end the game. If he's had a particularly bad time
of it on the trip, and you tell him to get on the platform, he will
refuse and go off wandering.

--
Ross Presser * ross_p...@imtek.com
"A free-range shoggoth is a happy shoggoth, and a happy shoggoth is
generally less inclined to eat all of you at once." - Tim Morgan

Aris Katsaris

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Mar 29, 2001, 1:00:25 PM3/29/01
to

Adam Myrow <my...@eskimo.com> wrote in message
news:MPG.152c513a6...@spamkiller.newsfeeds.com...

> In article <3ac28be9....@News.CIS.DFN.DE>, ca...@wurb.com says...
> > It's no coincidence that the historical sim's
> > author and its player character are both named Lisa. I doubt that
> > there was an "actual" Lisa on the plantation.
>
> The sim's character's name was Linda, not Lisa.
>
> As for the reasons for writing LASH, Paul O'Brian told me in an email
> conversation that he had always been interested in racism and wondered
> how a sentient computer would behave if forced to endure slavery. He had
> read books by Isaac Asimov where robots called owners "master" and the
> owners called the robots "boy" and wondered why Asimov never really
> expanded on this.

Asimov did expand. My all-time favourite Asimov short story, accomplishing
in five or so pages what I felt LASH failed to do in 356KB

"Robot Dreams"

Aris Katsaris


Neil Cerutti

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Mar 29, 2001, 1:22:07 PM3/29/01
to
Nospam posted:

>Equally I have a problem with Galatea, I'm happy developing the
>endings which seem right to me, morally whatever, but I have no
>interest in developing the other endings that I know exist. I
>know the character isn't real, I know it's just a game but I
>can't bring myself to explore those other avenues, they seem
>wrong. Still a great piece of work and I'm probably missing out
>but I won't follow the alternatives. I have to live with myself
>:) Enough of this rambling, I think I'll go kill a few TFC'ers
>with a quick round of Dustbowl.

For an example of a game that forces you to explore several moral
solutions and attitudes toward guilt, try Tapestry. Or not, if
that would bug you. ;-)

--
Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net>
*** One of your mules lost a bolt. Repairs cost you $100. ***

Carl Muckenhoupt

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Mar 29, 2001, 2:31:17 PM3/29/01
to
On Thu, 29 Mar 2001 21:00:25 +0300, "Aris Katsaris"
<kats...@otenet.gr> wrote:

>Asimov did expand. My all-time favourite Asimov short story, accomplishing
>in five or so pages what I felt LASH failed to do in 356KB
>
>"Robot Dreams"

See also the works of Joihn Sladek - _Tik Tok_ in particular - for
some excellent satire of these stories.

Aris Katsaris

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Mar 29, 2001, 3:08:12 PM3/29/01
to

Adam Myrow <my...@eskimo.com> wrote in message
news:MPG.152c513a6...@spamkiller.newsfeeds.com...
> In article <3ac28be9....@News.CIS.DFN.DE>, ca...@wurb.com says...
> > It's no coincidence that the historical sim's
> > author and its player character are both named Lisa. I doubt that
> > there was an "actual" Lisa on the plantation.
>
> The sim's character's name was Linda, not Lisa.
>
> As for the reasons for writing LASH, Paul O'Brian told me in an email
> conversation that he had always been interested in racism and wondered
> how a sentient computer would behave if forced to endure slavery. He had
> read books by Isaac Asimov where robots called owners "master" and the
> owners called the robots "boy" and wondered why Asimov never really
> expanded on this. In fact, the second scrap of paper in the game is a
> quote from an Asimov book. I'm not familiar at all with Asimov, so can't
> comment further. That's just what I was told.

I remember Asimov write that before his time most robot stories fell
into either "Robots-as-menace" technophobia cliche, or into the
"Robots-as-pathos" sentimentality cliche...

The latter category concerns evil humans oppressing poor innocent robots.
It's the category which probably LASH falls into, though perhaps not so
bluntly as to be really bad. To have Asimov expand too much on the slavery
parallel from the robots' point of view would probably throw his stories
also
into the "Robots-as-pathos" category. He wanted to do "Robots-as-tools"
instead...

I do feel that he managed to depict the self-destructiveness, indulgence and
decadence that robotic slavery caused on the *humans'* side. The downfall
of the Spacer worlds and Solaria for example...

Aris Katsaris

Gabe McKean

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Mar 29, 2001, 3:33:09 PM3/29/01
to
Spoilers for LASH below...

Ross Presser wrote in message ...


>"Jon Ingold" <j...@ingold.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
>
>> Incidentally, the one thing that did annoy me about it was that
>> after the MULE has his trip, he keeps threatening to start
>> disobeying, but he never actually does anything apart from insert
>> the odd comment. I kept feeling there was an end, a end that tied
>> stuff up, coming, but it never quite happened.
>
>The MULE's level of disaffection is tied to exactly what he experienced
>on the trip, and whether he actually disobeys depends both on this and
>on how you choose to end the game. If he's had a particularly bad time
>of it on the trip, and you tell him to get on the platform, he will
>refuse and go off wandering.

Actually, I think that's what happens if Linda succeeds in escaping. If she
gets killed, the MULE commits suicide rather then return to you, and if she
gets 'sold down the river', the MULE will submit to your commands (and you
get an extra million bucks for retrieving the 'damaged' robot). In all
three cases, you can explicitly command the MULE to leave the plantation,
and it'll be grateful to you.

There's an ending I've heard of (but haven't found) where Linda kills her
master, and the MULE vows to kill you after it escapes.


Gabe McKean

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Mar 29, 2001, 3:41:16 PM3/29/01
to
doug bassett wrote in message <99ucon$3ti$1...@grendel.conectiv.net>...

>Sorry. I know you don't mean this to be funny, but I find this statement
>hilarious. No offense, but I'm going to add this to my list of "Things I'm
>not going to worry about in my lifetime", right behind "What if I start
>spending too much time on the holodeck and decide that it's nicer there
than
>on the Enterprise?"

I wasn't suggesting we should start a 'Petition for Robots Rights' any time
soon, or anything like that. I mean, it is a *science fiction* game we're
talking about, here. The fact that it got me to think about the future (and
its relationship to the past) in a different way then I had previously was
one of the things I liked about the game. If you feel it didn't work for
you, that's fine, but I still think you're missing the point. As others
have said in this thread, LASH was trying to be provocative about its themes
(racism and slavery) rather than preachy.


Jon Ingold

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Mar 29, 2001, 5:34:08 PM3/29/01
to
> Asimov did expand. My all-time favourite Asimov short story,
accomplishing
> in five or so pages what I felt LASH failed to do in 356KB
>
> "Robot Dreams"

My all-time fave Asimov short story is "Catch That Rabbit", but then,
that's nothing to do with slavery at all.

Jon


James Taylor

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Mar 29, 2001, 8:24:11 PM3/29/01
to
Spoilers for LASH below...

In article <9a0676$9op3$1...@murrow.murrow.it.wsu.edu>, Gabe McKean


<URL:mailto:gmc...@wsu.edu> wrote:
>
> There's an ending I've heard of (but haven't found) where Linda kills
> her master, and the MULE vows to kill you after it escapes.

Really? How exciting! Can someone substantiate that with appropriate
instructions, or is it just a rumour?

--
James Taylor <james (at) oakseed demon co uk>
Based in Hammersmith, London, UK.
PGP key available ID: 3FBE1BF9
Fingerprint: F19D803624ED6FE8 370045159F66FD02

Jonathan Blask

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Mar 30, 2001, 3:02:33 AM3/30/01
to
Okay, in the spirit of what's been going on lately, I thought I'd
like to throw out some opinions of my own. Actually, of the ones that
have been mentioned, I only want to add comments to one. It's full of
spoilers, actually.

LASH- One of the things I liked best about this game was the room
layout and descriptions. To me, it says a lot when you can just jump into
the game and get emerged in the story so quickly. Most of the rooms have
something to catch your interest and make you wonder about the recent and
distant past, like the grafitti and corpse and everything else. I enjoyed
this game for both the treasure-hunting aspect (trying to find everything)
and the recreated past thing. I think I was kind of disappointed that the
two can't really co-exist. Actually, I never even beat the game. I spent
so much time trying to find the best solution in the past that whenever I
got to the future, I quit. I kind of fault the game for losing my
interest. Still, I have to appreciate all the things that are available
to do in the past; it was fun trying to figure out what triggered each
event. Anyone play the game enough to find a reasonable path 'for what
really happened' (so that different things from the past are left in the
proper place? like the ring (?) in outhouse?)? Does this have an
especially interesting effect on the outcome?

Shrapnel- I only wanted to mention this because I thought having
the setting be a pseudo-White House was brilliant (this goes along with
LASH as far as games that show how important it is, or at least how
satisfying it can be, to not intimidate the player with the initial
setting). Yeah, put the player in a comfort zone ('hey, I know this
place... kind of'), so when the hammer hits, it's even more effective.
This game made me sort of jealous because it conveyed the exact tone that
I would've used to write an IF game based on Stephen Tunney's novel,
_Flan_.... The catch being, of course, that I never would've thought of
this kind of approach.

Rematch- I'm glad to see that people are playing this one again,
as the hint requests seem to indicate. The setting and main NPCs are, for
the most part (there are some IF injokes in there), completely realistic.
At least one of the 'supporting' NPCs is one of the funniest NPCs ever,
and the internal logic of the game is charming and entertaining. My
biggest grudge against the game was that the parser somewhat misled me by
not accepting certain phrases.

Punk Points- It was cool to see this get nominated for a XYZZY
award, although it got nominated for one of the few categories it
originally faltered on (I haven't yet played through the entire post-comp
release, available at http://www.nomediakings.org/punkpoints). Few, if
any, other IF games from last year got my adrenaline pumping as much as
this one. This was the game that I ended up telling all of my friends
about ('and then you do this...') and tried to get them play it (with some
success) even though I thought I had given up on them and IF years ago.
Sure, I've never been a punk or listened to punk music, but I have enough
friends that listen to those bands that the gave me sort of a warm Wedding
Singer [watches as punk rockers in the audience squirm at the
reference] nostalgic feeling. Some folks might object to the conformist
aspect of the game, which is something that the game kind of acknowledges
itself and is just one of those silly things about growing up. Also, at
more points than one may realize, there are alternate solutions
(especially in cases where peer pressure applies). I'd also recommend
people go check out Jim Munroe's scifi book, Angry Young Spaceman (I'd
describe it as Walter Jon Williams meets, I dunno, someone funny).

Heroine's Mantle- On one hand, I have sympathy for those that give
up on Andy Phillips games, but I think that anyone should try to struggle
through because Phillips always does interesting things with plot
development and game design. HM does a good job of not having too many
rooms available at once (which, again, would intimidate the player) and
maintains a pretty decent momentum.

Arthur Yahtzee: The Curse of Hell's Cheesecake- ah, just go read
my review: http://members.dencity.com/petro/ccake.html

Lastly, even though I'm sure people find it just fine, I thought
I'd reiterate that besides SPAG and Baf's fine site, there's Review From
Trotting Krips (http://members.dencity.com/petro/reviews.html). I like to
think that those guys usually have a different sort of take on things, and
you can get a pretty good idea if a game is interesting.

-jon

"If I got stranded on a desert island (with electricity)/
And I could bring one record and my hi-fi/
I'd bring that ocean surf cd (Relaxing Sound of Ocean Surf)/
So I could enjoy the irony." - Dylan Hicks

Jake Wildstrom

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Mar 30, 2001, 3:59:34 AM3/30/01
to
In article <9a0676$9op3$1...@murrow.murrow.it.wsu.edu>,

Gabe McKean <gmc...@wsu.edu> wrote:
>Spoilers for LASH below...
>
>Ross Presser wrote in message ...
>>The MULE's level of disaffection is tied to exactly what he experienced
>>on the trip, and whether he actually disobeys depends both on this and
>>on how you choose to end the game. If he's had a particularly bad time
>>of it on the trip, and you tell him to get on the platform, he will
>>refuse and go off wandering.
>
>Actually, I think that's what happens if Linda succeeds in escaping. If she
>gets killed, the MULE commits suicide rather then return to you, and if she
>gets 'sold down the river', the MULE will submit to your commands (and you
>get an extra million bucks for retrieving the 'damaged' robot). In all
>three cases, you can explicitly command the MULE to leave the plantation,
>and it'll be grateful to you.
>
>There's an ending I've heard of (but haven't found) where Linda kills her
>master, and the MULE vows to kill you after it escapes.
>
>

There are AFAIK 5 endings to the simulation. Linda can escape, die, get sold,
kill the master, or burn down the plantation.

Offhand I can't remember where the gun is. It might be in the dresser
after the master goes to sleep.

Burning down the plantation is difficult. I can't remember what all
you do but you need to get hold of a candle, the oil from the lamp,
and a jar.


+--First Church of Briantology--Order of the Holy Quaternion--+
| A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into |
| theorems. -Paul Erdos |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+
| Jake Wildstrom |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+

Kvan

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Mar 30, 2001, 4:31:03 AM3/30/01
to
Nospam <ver...@remove.ntlworld.com> writes:

> Possible spoilers for Photopia.


>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> This describes my frustration with Photopia, you are unable to
> influence the outcome in any meaningful way. I've even stopped the
> car and got out but to no avail.

Strange--this is part of why I really loved about the game, and one of
its main points as far as I can tell. Yes, it's a horrible feeling
when you try to do everything in your power to stop the disaster you
*know* is coming, to no avail.

However, this is precisely what made the game so good (especially the
second time through): The horror of the whole tragedy--which in real
life would amount to a small notice on page six of the local
paper--hit me full force. I was truly *sad* that this wonderful human
being had been lost. Most of all, my sadness was caused by the
reflection that this was "just one of those things", an
accident. Worst of all, this particular accident *could* have been
prevented, making it that much more meaningless and horrible. And
*that* emotional response is intimately tied to the futility aspect.

In short, few works of fiction have managed to elicit as strong an
emotional response from me as Photopia did, and this as a direct
consequence of Adam not allowing me, the player, to "save the day".

- Kvan.

Matthew T. Russotto

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Mar 30, 2001, 9:40:28 AM3/30/01
to
In article <ant30011...@oakseed.demon.co.uk>,

James Taylor <ja...@NOSPAM.demon.co.uk> wrote:
}Spoilers for LASH below...
}
}
}
}In article <9a0676$9op3$1...@murrow.murrow.it.wsu.edu>, Gabe McKean
}<URL:mailto:gmc...@wsu.edu> wrote:
}>
}> There's an ending I've heard of (but haven't found) where Linda kills
}> her master, and the MULE vows to kill you after it escapes.
}
}Really? How exciting! Can someone substantiate that with appropriate
}instructions, or is it just a rumour?

I got that ending, though I don't recall if Linda killed her master.
Sorry, no step by step.
--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Joachim Froholt

unread,
Mar 30, 2001, 9:51:27 AM3/30/01
to

Nospam wrote:

> Possible spoilers for Photopia, Varicella, Wasted Dreams and Galatea


> below.
>
> In article <3ac29d2e....@News.CIS.DFN.DE>, Carl Muckenhoupt
> <ca...@wurb.com> writes
> >But even giving any control at all to the player can affect a work. I
> >remember, when I played "The Lurking Horror", feeling a sense of
> >creepiness and dread as I entered the wireheads' lair, knowing that I
> >could do something wrong and wake them up at any time. In static
> >fiction, you can get the sense of creepiness and dread, but not the
> >sense of personal responsibility for the consequences. This is even
> >stronger in Photopia: there comes a point where you know what's going
> >to happen, but unlike a non-interactive tragedy, you can try in vain
> >to stop it.
>
> This describes my frustration with Photopia, you are unable to influence
> the outcome in any meaningful way. I've even stopped the car and got out
> but to no avail. The story relentlessly grinds on and there is nothing I
> can do to stop it (other than stop the game but it still plays out
> inside my head). This really annoyed me despite how well the game is
> written. Perhaps that was its intention, I don't know. I even Txd'd it
> to see if I could get an alternative ending but I didn't see one.

Kvan posted a very good response to this, and I agree with him 100%.

> In a similar vein I had a problem with Varicella. I had no problem
> killing off the other aspirants to the throne but I was not happy about
> the guards death. The others were deserving cases but the guard had, to
> the best of my knowledge, done no wrong and I didn't like the fact I had
> to kill him indirectly to get the test tubes. Again, another well
> written game but that one piece grated. Arguably perfectly in character
> but outside what I (as in me not the PC) wanted to do (which didn't stop
> me doing it of course to finish the damn game).

I have a very similar problem with a game I'm playing at the moment: Wasted
Dreams. This is an adventure game, with puzzle solving and character
interaction, but it frustrates me how I'm forced to kill people (sometimes
people that I've previously interacted with). I don't like it, and I try to
save&restore my way out of situations where innocent people get killed. The
problem, I guess, is that in an adventure game or piece of IF, I tend to
identify with the player character, and when this character solves problems
by doing stuff I'd never do myself, I don't feel good about it - especially
when the game is pretty good (as with both Varicella and Wasted Dreams),
because it is certainly harder for me to quit playing good games than bad
ones (it didn't take me long to lose interest in Harvester, for instance).

Joachim

Nospam

unread,
Mar 30, 2001, 11:26:13 AM3/30/01
to
In article <ulmpn61t...@kvans.dk>, Kvan <kv...@kvans.dk> writes

>Nospam <ver...@remove.ntlworld.com> writes:
>
>> Possible spoilers for Photopia.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> This describes my frustration with Photopia, you are unable to
>> influence the outcome in any meaningful way. I've even stopped the
>> car and got out but to no avail.
>
>Strange--this is part of why I really loved about the game, and one of
>its main points as far as I can tell. Yes, it's a horrible feeling
>when you try to do everything in your power to stop the disaster you
>*know* is coming, to no avail.

My frustration arose through not being able to influence a piece of IF.
The interaction in the fiction was predominantly in the form of
emotional context and relationship. The story would have told just as
well without the minor interaction in terms of speaking to people and
examining objects etc. Now I accept that this is still a form of IF,
after all even a non-interactive fiction still tries to engage the
reader, to make you empathise with one or more characters, to bind you
up in the story as if it were real. This applies even to fantasy or sci-
fi, it just takes a little more suspension of disbelief.

The essential problem for me was that my frustration with not being able
to influence the game meant that I did not identify the characters as
real, they remained objects within a game because of that frustration.
See below.


>
>However, this is precisely what made the game so good (especially the
>second time through): The horror of the whole tragedy--which in real
>life would amount to a small notice on page six of the local
>paper--hit me full force. I was truly *sad* that this wonderful human
>being had been lost. Most of all, my sadness was caused by the
>reflection that this was "just one of those things", an
>accident. Worst of all, this particular accident *could* have been
>prevented, making it that much more meaningless and horrible. And
>*that* emotional response is intimately tied to the futility aspect.

Despite wanting to influence the outcome (obviously just power crazed)
there were very few points where I identified either with any of the
characters or considered them real and the one where I did I'm not
saying :) I didn't feel sad, I felt frustrated. Big difference. Now for
all I know this may also have been the intention of the author.

Don't get me wrong, I recognise Photopia as a great piece of work, it
simply irked me in a way that few other games have.

>
>In short, few works of fiction have managed to elicit as strong an
>emotional response from me as Photopia did, and this as a direct
>consequence of Adam not allowing me, the player, to "save the day".
>

Well it elicited an emotion but I don't think it was the one the author
intended judging by your reaction to the work. Then again perhaps it was
(only the author truly knows) since he may well have wished to question
my assumptions about my role in a game, my ability to influence the
outcome, as you put it, my ability to "save the day". Still bloody well
irks me though. You're a swine Cadre and I hate you :) There, now I feel
better. Think I might give 905 or I-O a tryout.

Cheers

Versif

David Thornley

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Mar 30, 2001, 12:35:36 PM3/30/01
to
In article <uq3nqVAl...@ntlworld1.com>,
Nospam <ver...@remove.ntlworld.com> wrote:

>irks me though. You're a swine Cadre and I hate you :) There, now I feel
>better. Think I might give 905 or I-O a tryout.
>

Do so. There is no such thing as a typical Cadre game, any more than
a typical Plotkin game. The stuff that seems to bother you most
about Photopia is generally not there in his other games.

--
David H. Thornley | If you want my opinion, ask.
da...@thornley.net | If you don't, flee.
http://www.thornley.net/~thornley/david/ | O-

Nospam

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Mar 30, 2001, 5:56:14 PM3/30/01
to
In article <It3x6.9242$SB2.8...@ruti.visi.com>, David Thornley
<thor...@visi.com> writes

>In article <uq3nqVAl...@ntlworld1.com>,
>Nospam <ver...@remove.ntlworld.com> wrote:
>
>>irks me though. You're a swine Cadre and I hate you :) There, now I feel
>>better. Think I might give 905 or I-O a tryout.
>>
>Do so. There is no such thing as a typical Cadre game, any more than
>a typical Plotkin game. The stuff that seems to bother you most
>about Photopia is generally not there in his other games.

It is tongue in cheek. I may be irked by Photopia but I recognise talent
when it gets up and irks me :) Hence I will be playing 905 and/or I-O on
the basis that he can't keep irking me forever :) Or maybe he can?
Bugger reflection, play the game I say and send in some more comments.
Don't think I've experienced anything by Andrew Plotkin but there's time
yet.

Cheers
Versif

Sean T Barrett

unread,
Mar 31, 2001, 6:01:01 AM3/31/01
to
David Thornley <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
>Do so. There is no such thing as a typical Cadre game, any more than
>a typical Plotkin game. The stuff that seems to bother you most
>about Photopia is generally not there in his other games.

On the other hand, there are elements that are typical of Cadre, and
if those elements are the things that irk you, it could be a problem.
The one I am most aware of is that Cadre often does things which (to
me) ruin mimesis/immersion. Shrapnel with 'restart'; Photopia with
its reduced "interactivity"; 9:05 in hindsight; PacMan by
its focus on communicating a *different* experience from the
original. I imagine people will disagree, but even Varicella
forced me away from the character, both by constant implication
that the character had knowledge I did not (the 'master plan'),
the need to reload and retry due to time constraints, and perhaps
just from the clearly-drawn character whose mindset I couldn't
get into.

SeanB
I may have posted this before; if so I apologize for beating a dead horse.

OKB -- not okblacke

unread,
Mar 31, 2001, 11:08:18 AM3/31/01
to
buz...@world.std.com (Sean T Barrett) wrote:
>On the other hand, there are elements that are typical of Cadre, and
>if those elements are the things that irk you, it could be a problem.
>The one I am most aware of is that Cadre often does things which (to
>me) ruin mimesis/immersion. Shrapnel with 'restart'; Photopia with
>its reduced "interactivity"; 9:05 in hindsight; PacMan by
>its focus on communicating a *different* experience from the
>original. I imagine people will disagree, but even Varicella
>forced me away from the character, both by constant implication
>that the character had knowledge I did not (the 'master plan'),
>the need to reload and retry due to time constraints, and perhaps
>just from the clearly-drawn character whose mindset I couldn't
>get into.

I personally was similarly "irked" by the need to repeatedly
restore/restart in Varicella. However, the lack of interactivity in Photopia
didn't annoy me at all; I was too immersed in the story to care.

Perhaps I might have been able to put up with restarting if I'd been
interested in the plot and/or characters of Varicella -- but, darn it, I didn't
have enough time! :-) I was forced to restart so often and so early in the
game that I was unable to "get into" it. With Photopia, I didn't even notice
the non-interactivity because I was hooked early on by the story.

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Tina

unread,
Mar 31, 2001, 12:14:46 PM3/31/01
to
In article <99rsft$6gh$1...@grendel.conectiv.net>,
doug bassett <dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:
[...]

>cannily put together, very enjoyably presented. Essay question: would
>somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
>response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that work
>dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?

I don't think it is, actually. Of course, it's been a while since I played
it and I'm in the target audience... but I'm fairly sure you could take
anyone who enjoyed reading to begin with, give them the five-minute
intro to playing IF, sit them down in front of Photopia, and they'd probably
have the same range of reactions regular IF players have. While there are
things in it that take advantage of the medium, I don't think there's
anything in it that depends on a -familiarity- with the medium. In fact,
some of it could be achieved in purely static fiction... though I don't
know if you could do an -identical- thing. The tricks you can use for
pacing in static fiction are not entirely dissimilar to the ones in IF,
after all.

>LASH -- Preachy, well-meaning, but to my mind rather offensive game which
>strains to make a connection between the player/"character" relationship (or
>whatever you call the figure you move about) and slavery. Actually, a game
>you can spend a lot of time talking about: I'll just point out that the two
>relationships compared in LASH are not equal, since slavery occured to real
>people and the protagonist of a game is a fictious character.

I don't understand this at all. I haven't played LASH, but I can just from
the above paragraph see just how one could draw such an analogy, and I
don't understand how you can dismiss it so lightly. That it happens to an
fictional person doesn't invalidate the idea. Analogies aren't meant to be
equivalencies.

In fact, slavery in this country was sometimes justified by the phrase
"they're not human, after all", or similar beliefs about supremacy. So,
"it's just a fictional character, after all" has an interesting little
parallel.

Damn, now I'm going to have to download LASH and find time to play it.

>Babel -- One of my favorite games. A textbook example of how to integrate
>puzzles into a plot. Extremely well-written; the game that got be back into
>text adventures (and the only one to date I've played twice).

I also liked this game quite a lot. The pacing was very good.

And now, let me add my few cents...

Jigsaw -- very often on people's best-of lists and deservedly so. I can
still remember -details- about the game I played last at least two years
ago, and I'm one of those people who re-reads books because I can actually
-forget- the majority of the contents. (Okay, sometimes I reread them just
because they're enjoyable to read, but still...) So if people are already
going to play it because it's a classic, why mention it? Because it really
is that interesting.

Anchorhead -- Very, very often, Lovecraftian style fiction is poorly done
or just feels recycled. There's nothing particularly new in the ideas
behind this game, but somehow it feels fresh. Most of this, I think, can
be attributed t othe way the protagonist was written; it's not the puzzles
or the story itself that is the main source of interest to me but the way
she -views- them all, views the town she's in, the various facts she
uncovers, and the progression of horror.

Christminster -- An intriguing little mystery with some of the most
interesting and fun characters I've ever seen in a game, and while I
realize I may be in a minority on this, I -love- the idea of using
cryptograms in a work of IF. This is one of the few games I can think of
where most of the puzzles' solutions came naturally to me (a higher
percentage than usual at least); I'm not a good puzzle solver generally,
but these fit my mindset well.

David Thornley

unread,
Mar 31, 2001, 3:40:39 PM3/31/01
to
In article <GB26L...@world.std.com>,

Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote:
>
>On the other hand, there are elements that are typical of Cadre, and
>if those elements are the things that irk you, it could be a problem.
>The one I am most aware of is that Cadre often does things which (to
>me) ruin mimesis/immersion. Shrapnel with 'restart'; Photopia with
>its reduced "interactivity"; 9:05 in hindsight; PacMan by
>its focus on communicating a *different* experience from the
>original.

True. He tends to try to use IF conventions in different sorts of
ways, and he really doesn't care what sort of condition they're in
when he's finished with them. Kind of like using an umbrella
as a prybar. If you really wanted to use it to stay dry, you
might be better off with other people's games.

These games generally worked for me, within their limits. It's
obvious what 9:05 is trying to do, and the notes in Shrapnel
basically outline where he ran out of inspiration and figuratively
ran over everybody with a truck. I liked the early part of
Shrapnel a lot, myself. It seemed very spooky to me.

I imagine people will disagree, but even Varicella
>forced me away from the character, both by constant implication
>that the character had knowledge I did not (the 'master plan'),
>the need to reload and retry due to time constraints, and perhaps
>just from the clearly-drawn character whose mindset I couldn't
>get into.
>

At one point, you (as Varicella) are told something that strongly
implies that you are meant to play the game, fail, and collect
information until you learn enough to succeed. This worked for
me; I felt after that that a puzzle that depended on knowledge
that you weren't going to get beforehand was fair. Even when I
knew I'd gotten the game in an unwinnable state, I usually was
able to continue and learn more useful things.

And, yes, it makes demands on the character in terms of playing
Varicella. Varicella is a very strongly drawn character for a
PC, and he is not anybody that I would respect, like, want
affecting my life, or would like to be. If you have problems
with running such a PC, I do understand, and, yes, it will
interfere with enjoying the game. The part with the guard at
Modo's door is, I think, necessary for the character
development.

Sean T Barrett

unread,
Apr 1, 2001, 12:44:25 AM4/1/01
to
A tiny and probably unnecessary clarification.

David Thornley <thor...@visi.com> wrote:
>Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote:
>>On the other hand, there are elements that are typical of Cadre, and
>>if those elements are the things that irk you, it could be a problem.
>>The one I am most aware of is that Cadre often does things which (to
>>me) ruin mimesis/immersion.
>

>These games generally worked for me, within their limits. It's
>obvious what 9:05 is trying to do, and the notes in Shrapnel

I love almost all of Cadre's games, but they all work for me in a very
different way than the typical work of IF, since for me they are
non-immersive. That he can make compelling works without getting
me immersed is all the more impressive.

>At one point, you (as Varicella) are told something that strongly
>implies that you are meant to play the game, fail, and collect
>information until you learn enough to succeed.

Hmm, I either missed that or didn't get that far.

>If you have problems
>with running such a PC, I do understand, and, yes, it will
>interfere with enjoying the game.

I guess Adam's works generally achieve suspension of disbelief
and perhaps the typical prose fiction identification-with-protagonist
for me, and that is enough, but I'd hate it if every game ever
written were that way.

SeanB

Chris Piuma, etc.

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Apr 1, 2001, 3:25:04 AM4/1/01
to
In article <1nNxJTAK...@ntlworld1.com>, Nospam

<ver...@remove.ntlworld.com> wrote:
> Possible spoilers for Photopia, Varicella and Galatea below.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> In article <3ac29d2e....@News.CIS.DFN.DE>, Carl Muckenhoupt
> <ca...@wurb.com> writes
> >This is even
> >stronger in Photopia: there comes a point where you know what's going
> >to happen, but unlike a non-interactive tragedy, you can try in vain
> >to stop it.
> This describes my frustration with Photopia, you are unable to influence
> the outcome in any meaningful way. I've even stopped the car and got out
> but to no avail. The story relentlessly grinds on and there is nothing I
> can do to stop it (other than stop the game but it still plays out
> inside my head). This really annoyed me despite how well the game is
> written. Perhaps that was its intention, I don't know. I even Txd'd it
> to see if I could get an alternative ending but I didn't see one.

Well, now, as I recall (and it's been a while since I've played the
game), the character you are playing at that point in the game has no
idea what is going to happen as he drives along, even though you, the
player, do. It would not make *any* sense for the character to stop at
that point. But of course, you -- the player -- desparately want the
character to stop the car, to not let happen what you know will happen.

I thought the author did a great job of not letting you get your way --
as I recall, if you stop the car, it's the stopping of the car that
causes the tragedy (I may be misremembering). Similar things happen if
you speed up or slow down (I think). [1]

And, I mean, I have to ask you -- if you'd actually managed to stop the
car, had the tragedy averted -- would you have liked the game more?
Would that have in any way satisfied you?

That would have struck me as a terrible Hollywood-style forced happy
ending. It would have been completely false to the story.

--
Chris Piuma, etc.
http://www.flim.com
[1] Part of the difficulty is that I'm not the type to open up a game
(especially one as emotionally heavy as Photopia) and play through it
just to verify a small detail such as this. And therefore it's hard to
make effective comments on a game, especially one you haven't played in
a while -- you can't just "flip to page XXX".

Chris Piuma, etc.

unread,
Apr 1, 2001, 3:44:02 AM4/1/01
to

*** Kinda sorta spoilers to Photopia. ***

In article <9a53a6$28o$1...@nntp.Stanford.EDU>, Tina


<ti...@eniac.stanford.edu> wrote:
> In article <99rsft$6gh$1...@grendel.conectiv.net>,
> doug bassett <dougb...@conectiv.net> wrote:
> [...]
> >cannily put together, very enjoyably presented. Essay question: would
> >somebody who knew nothing about interactive fiction get the same sort of
> >response from Photopia? In other words, is the emotional impact of that work
> >dependent on the preconceptions of it's intended audience?
> I don't think it is, actually. Of course, it's been a while since I played
> it and I'm in the target audience... but I'm fairly sure you could take
> anyone who enjoyed reading to begin with, give them the five-minute
> intro to playing IF, sit them down in front of Photopia, and they'd probably
> have the same range of reactions regular IF players have. While there are
> things in it that take advantage of the medium, I don't think there's
> anything in it that depends on a -familiarity- with the medium.

I think, in the climactic scene, the awareness that you are being
railroaded adds to the crunch of emotions you feel. Something is about
to happen that you don't want to have happen, and yet you realize that
you're being railroaded and it is simply going to happen, and yet you
probably will try very hard to think up a command that will prevent it
from happening, and yet some part of you probably realizes, even though
you're not thinking about it, that if you succeeded in averting the
tragedy, it would feel esthetically wrong.

Someone who is unfamiliar with the genre would, I suspect, not realize
they are being railroaded, and would therefore not feel as helpless,
because they wouldn't realize that in *most* IF, you *can* change the
outcome of events -- that averting disaster is the *point*. Instead, it
would just read like a short story.

> In fact,
> some of it could be achieved in purely static fiction... though I don't
> know if you could do an -identical- thing. The tricks you can use for
> pacing in static fiction are not entirely dissimilar to the ones in IF,
> after all.

I think Photopia would have failed as a short story. I mean, the girl
still would have been sweet, but the tragedy would have been fairly
hollow. Sad, but an obvious ploy for yanking your heartstrings about.

The emotion in the story comes from, in part, its inevitability, but
mostly from how it puts you in the driver's seat, puts you in a
situation where you are expected to somehow avert the tragedy, and
makes you feel as helpless (and perhaps as remorseful, or almost) as
the character in the story who does the driving.

Traditional fiction has no mechanism where you, the reader, are
responsible for the outcome of the story.

Nospam

unread,
Apr 1, 2001, 8:23:37 AM4/1/01
to
Possible spoilers for photopia.

In article <310320012325047123%pi...@flim.com>, Chris Piuma, etc.
<pi...@flim.com> writes


>Well, now, as I recall (and it's been a while since I've played the
>game), the character you are playing at that point in the game has no
>idea what is going to happen as he drives along, even though you, the
>player, do. It would not make *any* sense for the character to stop at
>that point. But of course, you -- the player -- desparately want the
>character to stop the car, to not let happen what you know will happen.
>

Incorrect, the character can determine that neither he nor the driver is
in a fit state to be driving and hence make the leap that an accident
may well occur. Otherwise why allow the character to get out of the car?
It may primarily for the benefit of the player but it is also a
legitimate option for the character and one that should in some way
influence the outcome.

>I thought the author did a great job of not letting you get your way --
>as I recall, if you stop the car, it's the stopping of the car that
>causes the tragedy (I may be misremembering). Similar things happen if
>you speed up or slow down (I think). [1]

I didn't find that stopping the car altered it any way, the NPC still
died. Neither did slowing or speeding up the car. As a side note the
game allows you very little time to actually stop the car but will go on
for quite some time on the first scene while you mess about.

>
>And, I mean, I have to ask you -- if you'd actually managed to stop the
>car, had the tragedy averted -- would you have liked the game more?
>Would that have in any way satisfied you?
>
>That would have struck me as a terrible Hollywood-style forced happy
>ending. It would have been completely false to the story.

Strange, you must watch different movies, not all end in "happiness",
good doesn't always triumph etc. You miss my point, the level of
interaction or rather lack of it is my gripe. I can't influence the
outcome. Stopping the car in itself need not alter the event, although
that is/was a possible option. It should have influenced the ending, if
only along the lines of reading about it the next day in the papers and
realisation dawning on you. You would then left be wondering, did my get
getting out of the car cause it or would it have occurred anyway? Fairy
tale endings are not what I'm looking for but I am looking to influence
the game in a meaningful way. You can't in Photopia, period. I would
have settled for the game ending at that point so that if I want to
explore the rest of the game I have to stay in the car, a legitimate
option as far as I'm concerned . Stopping the game at that point is an
influence, an outcome dependent upon my actions as the player. No
influence, same ending irrespective. I want interaction, I could just as
easily have read Photopia or browsed it on the web and achieved the same
level of involvement. If I can't interact/influence then why bother? Art
for art's sake I suppose. Perhaps this is easily resolved by saying that
evidently I don't care for low interactive IF. Perhaps I'm just a
dinosaur, if I want to *read* I'll go pick up a book. When I pick up a
piece of IF I want to interact and influence the game in some way.
Perhaps my interpretation of the I in IF is "influencing" rather than
the "static" interaction that Photopia allowed me. I accept that this is
my personal opinion but I'm as entitled to it as those who are happy
with low interactivity. Just opposite ends of the spectrum.

Cheers
Versif

Aris Katsaris

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Apr 1, 2001, 9:07:54 AM4/1/01
to

Nospam <ver...@remove.ntlworld.com> wrote in message
news:QQcIULAJ...@ntlworld1.com...

> I want interaction, I could just as
> easily have read Photopia or browsed it on the web and achieved the same
> level of involvement.

Do you really think so? Other people have also said so, but thing is I
don't buy it. Sure I can't prove you wouldn't have achieved the same
level of "involvement" and you can't prove you would have.

But where I'm concerned the fact that I 'played' it rather than 'read' it,
very strongly influenced its effect on me.

Aris Katsaris

Nospam

unread,
Apr 1, 2001, 9:00:32 AM4/1/01
to
In article <bhrx6.9628$SB2.9...@ruti.visi.com>, David Thornley
<thor...@visi.com> writes

>And, yes, it makes demands on the character in terms of playing
>Varicella. Varicella is a very strongly drawn character for a
>PC, and he is not anybody that I would respect, like, want
>affecting my life, or would like to be. If you have problems
>with running such a PC, I do understand, and, yes, it will
>interfere with enjoying the game. The part with the guard at
>Modo's door is, I think, necessary for the character
>development.

Why? You already know that Varicella is without morals, scruples or just
about anything else for that matter. Killing the guard certainly
demonstrates his lack of respect for other human beings but it is
illogical. The table is untouched by the green slime, it refuses to go
near it because the test tubes are on it, yet it attacks the guard who
carries them in his hand. Why doesn't it shun him in the same manner?
Possibly because he is alive but there is no indication that the green
slime has a predilection for living tissue, it seems to want to consume
anything.

No, I think the death of the guard is gratuitous. You could have as
easily learnt of its dangers by being attacked when you entered the room
or if you failed to get the guard to get the tubes within a certain time
span, after all the rest of the game makes extensive use of elapsed
time. Perhaps the author is testing how far we are prepared to go with
the character as if we are the character. That presupposes though that
you identify with the PC. I'd be worried by anybody that did :)

The PC is merely a vehicle/tool with which to explore the
game/world/piece of work. It isn't me or even an extension of me other
than in the limited sense of being the point of interaction within the
current setting. Sorry, I never achieve the level of immersion where I
think of the PC as me, "me" always sits outside the world looking at it
through my perspective irrespective of how tightly, well drawn or
crafted the PC is. I see that world through the PC and I'm willing to
react in a way which fits the PC parameters but that doesn't mean parts
won't irk or grate. The guard did not develop the PC in any way for me,
he (the PC) was already well drawn, as you say, strongly drawn. I accept
the death of the guard was perfectly within character for the PC it
simply wasn't necessary in my view. This is of course a personal point
of view and in no way detracts from the fact that Varicella was very
well written and implemented.

Cheers


Versif

Nospam

unread,
Apr 1, 2001, 11:27:22 AM4/1/01
to
In article <9a79d1$lvd$1...@usenet.otenet.gr>, Aris Katsaris
<kats...@otenet.gr> writes

>Do you really think so? Other people have also said so, but thing is I
>don't buy it. Sure I can't prove you wouldn't have achieved the same
>level of "involvement" and you can't prove you would have.
>
>But where I'm concerned the fact that I 'played' it rather than 'read' it,
>very strongly influenced its effect on me.

You are right, neither one of us can prove it one way or another. I buy
it, you don't. You "played" it, I "read" it. We differ. That's good.

Cheers

Versif

sid...@freedom.net

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Apr 1, 2001, 7:32:26 PM4/1/01
to
doug bassett wrote:

> LASH -- Preachy, well-meaning, but to my mind rather offensive game which
> strains to make a connection between the player/"character" relationship (or
> whatever you call the figure you move about) and slavery.

I admired LASH quite a bit, and I also have strong criticisms. I think the
author was quite courageous to take on such a volatile issue in a game. He
clearly put a lot of thought and research into the game, and to a certain extent
it pays off, but somehow the game is still hollow at the core to me: there's
some crucial sense of authenticity that just isn't there.

The ingenious setup really should have helped with this problem. The game
doesn't even pretend to tell you what being a slave is like: it only pretends
to tell you what it's like to be the controller of a robot avatar playing the
role of a slave in a historical simulation. All these levels of distance (I
count three) should have bought O'Brien some breathing room, authenticity-wise.
And there are really smart touches: like when you first meet Momma, and she
starts talking like a Joel Chandler Harris character, and suddenly the robot
breaks in and apologizes for the stereotyped diction. Things like that are what
saved this game for me. Without a postmodern awareness, an understanding of the
unbridgeable gulf between experience and representation, LASH would have been
insulting in the extreme.

And so I really wonder why, after establishing such an intelliegent and subtle
approach to its material, LASH still ended up relying on stereotypes. Lisa's
diary was marvelous: I completely believed in this woman and her situation.
She was ambivalent and multifaceted, just like a real person. In contrast,
every figure in the simulation was a flat, one-note character. Even the
plantation owner's soliloquy to his dead wife was extremely cliched. Suddenly,
LASH was no longer trying to tell an original story: it was just reciting to
us.

The problem is that anybody who's taken the equivalent of a first-year college
course in Southern lit or African-American lit will already have a more
sophisticated understanding of the historical information LASH wants to
present. It seemed to me that LASH was assuming the player has never heard the
arguments that were used to justify slavery; isn't aware that many children born
in slavery were fathered by the plantation owner; and doesn't know anything
about the strategies of resistance employed during slave times. Because without
these "shocking" revelations, what's left? Some stock NPCs and a
collect-the-items game puzzle.

Any game attempting to teach Americans about slavery is immediately confronted
with a pit of quicksand--that being that everybody already has a ton of
preconceptions about the subject, and these will have to be carefully subverted
if the game wants to establish a new and meaningful and relationship between the
player and the material. LASH acknowledged the quicksand, built a careful
bridge across it, and then ignored the bridge and took a running leap back into
the quicksand.

And that's a shame, because the part of the game that's built around the
slave-simulation is so very good. The atmosphere is spot-on; the backstory is
ingenious; the setting is evocative and convincing.

I really admired the bit with the robot. Here O'Brien is working against a very
strong force: the inclination of the player to identify with the game's
protagonist. During the whole game, I felt like it was me in that ruined house,
and me trying to escape from that slave plantation. And it was really
surprising to me when the robot started rejecting me, and claiming the story as
its own. *That* put me in a position I've never been in before, and although it
was an uncomfortable position, it was also pretty neat.

So, in the end, I think LASH failed: but even in failure it's one of the better
games I've played.

~Sid.

sid...@freedom.net

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Apr 1, 2001, 7:44:48 PM4/1/01
to

Jonathan Blask wrote:

>Heroine's Mantle- On one hand, I have sympathy for those that give
>up on Andy Phillips games, but I think that anyone should try to struggle
>through because Phillips always does interesting things with plot
>development and game design. HM does a good job of not having too many
>rooms available at once (which, again, would intimidate the player) and
>maintains a pretty decent momentum.

I just gave up on this game after infiltrating the penthouse. I was really
annoyed by the Asian sex-killer, and by the fact that I had to repeatedly take
off all my clothes (because I'm a girl, doncha know). If I wanted to wander
through some guy's sordid sexual fantasies, I'd be playing xtrek.

I'd have stuck with the game (like I stuck with I-O) if it gave me anything in
return. I-O was juvenile, but unprententiously so, and at least it had
interesting scenery and amusing text.

~Sid.

Jonathan Blask

unread,
Apr 2, 2001, 1:29:01 AM4/2/01
to
On Sun, 1 Apr 2001 sid...@freedom.net wrote:

> Jonathan Blask wrote:
>
> >Heroine's Mantle- On one hand, <blah blah blah>

> I just gave up on this
game after infiltrating the penthouse. I was really
> annoyed by the Asian sex-killer, and by the fact that I had to repeatedly take
> off all my clothes (because I'm a girl, doncha know). If I wanted to wander
> through some guy's sordid sexual fantasies, I'd be playing xtrek.
>

> ~Sid.

I can understand that one might feel that way. I, personally,
thought it felt reminiscent of comic books and anime (not that I'm an
expert on either) and thought it was just one more piece of silliness
in a somewhat silly genre.
Also, your clothes pretty much stay intact for the rest of the
game. That's not to say that there wouldn't be anything else that one
might possibly find offensive.

>I'd have stuck with the game (like I stuck with I-O) if it gave me
>anything in

>return. I-O was juvenile, but unpretentiously so, and at least it