How can game writers play more games?

I have to admit that writing a game is fun. But there is a huge list of games I am sure are mostly very good that I’ve never gotten around to.

So, other people that write, how do you balance playing and writing? It’s easy in theory to say “play til you get sick of it, write til you get sick of it, repeat,” but I’ve found it’s hard in practice to do this.

And it seems a bit silly to set goals for games played. But I know that good games help me see how to, at least, avoid huge pitfalls.

What do other people do to make sure they get around to playing the games they want to play, while still being able to make the games they want to?

As they say: Want to write good novels? Read a lot.
As they say: want to make good games? Play a lot.

But life isn’t like that. Unless you make it for a living (which isn’t my case), you have to decide what to do in the average hour-a-week you can dedicate to IF. So: I write (not a lot, there is no time even for that) and don’t play.

I have to:

  1. Test Tree&Star by Paul Lee
  2. Test XXXXX (name withheld on purpouse) by Robert DeFord
  3. Fix Apocalypse
  4. Write the new game
  5. Play Counterfeit Monkey
  6. Play Escape from Summerland
  7. Play Make it good!

All I’m able to do atm is… none of the above.

AH! I have to finish a novel, too.
Life is hard.

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You could set some IF time apart every day. Do one or the other. Repeat.

This is what I’ve tried to do. It’s worked well, doing one or the other–except it’s usually one (coding) and not the other (playing.) I can’t imagine I’m the only one, either.

I know a lot of this is up to me, but I’m not sure how to approach playing a new game. There seem to be so many possibilities. I’m curious what works for other people–e.g. just randomizing a list of games to play and taking the first one, regardless, or some other method.

I am sporadic about it, but attending ClubFloyd on IFMud has been useful for me. I can either participate or just let it scroll by in the background as I’m doing other work.

Over the last few years, if I start a text game and I don’t immediately have a goal or feel motivation to DO something or laugh, then I quit. The thing where the player is expected to wander around for a few turns and then hopefully start to unravel what on earth the game is about – I just can’t do it any more. I’m out. (Some of my stuff puts players in that situation; sorry about that.)

I don’t know if this is viewed as OK because Zork did it or what.

It has had the effect of letting me experience the beginnings of more games, but that is it.

All of my (two) games must suck bigtime to you, then :wink:

Do you make a living from that?

For me, it’s the “start off boring” thing being discussed in another thread about “raising the stakes”. It’s viewed as OK because some people love it, and that’s pretty much it. :slight_smile: Speaking for myself, there is a certain pleasure in starting a typical day, or exploring some location, and then either pick up bits and bobs of a conspiracy, or have the world change in some apocalyptic way. It’s the contrast that makes it great, for me. In Andromeda Dreaming [EDIT - I meant “Awakening”, thanks Matt!], for instance, it couldn’t have started in a more typical way, despite the foreshadowing of doom. Apartment. Expired ticket. Train. Then all hell breaks loose.

If I start when all hell already broke loose… well, it’ll be a different sort of game, really, won’t it?

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I have the same issue Ice Cream Jonsey does,* but I think the “start off boring” thing is pretty much the opposite of it. Drop me off in the PC’s typical day and, if it’s well done, I’ll know what to do and be able to do it. Andromeda Awakening (not Dreaming, I think) does that very well – it tells you you need to head to the subway station, you do, and (er, after I hit the walkthrough to solve the first puzzle) all hell breaks loose. If it had just dropped you in the underground wreckage to wander around there’d be a lot less incentive to go along. Rover’s Day Out, ditto: you have an ordinary day (though you’ve also got commentary indicating that a lot of other stuff is going on), but you’ve got goals too. Death of Schlig is another game that did this well; the scene in the grocery was my favorite part, because even if it’s ordinary it gives you direction about what to do.

Not that this is the only way to do it (Counterfeit Monkey starts off by giving you a nicely restricted puzzle, and then feeds you goals for a little while until things have pretty much opened, even though things are non-ordinary from the beginning), but still, I find a big difference between a game that starts by directing you through a more or less ordinary routine and a game that drops you in with no direction.

*Though I don’t elevate it to a principle. I’m sure there’s been a non-IFComp game where I had to wander around for a while to see what was in all the rooms and I didn’t sort of drop it and never remember to pick it up again. Hrm. Must be one. OK, Wetlands.

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I assume it’s viewed as ok because exploration is a big part of adventuring, so if you’re playing an adventure game, you kind of expect to do some exploration.

Curiosity about the world you’re dropped into is a motivator. That’s not unique to the IF tradition; it’s conventional in SF and fantasy as well.

Not to say that it works for everybody, or that a game (or story) should rely on it alone.

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I don’t have an easy time digging into the average game, either, but I find forcing myself to push through is usually pretty rewarding. Getting through just 3-5 larger-sized games a year satisfies my game-exploring yearnings pretty well. I’m not averse to looking up solutions as I play so it’s not like weeks are spent on any given game. I especially like playing older games where I find the story-to-puzzle ratio to be especially crunchy.

The rest of the time, I don’t really feel bad about not playing all of the games on my “to do” list just because time spent playing is not time spent writing (er, that should probably be “designing”, given my rate of productivity).

My point is, yeah, I think it’s good to make yourself play stuff, as it’s a good way to reinvigorate your appreciation of the form and you see a lot of stuff you wouldn’t think of on your own.

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I find it easy to play lots of small to medium games by a combination of having goals and wielding serendipity.

Re: goals - I have the same compulsion to play horror games as I do to watch horror movies, so I’m on a sorta permanent quest to try to play all (or at least lots of) horror games on IFDB, except for ones I don’t want to or can’t for various reasons (speed IFs, particular subject matter doesn’t interest me, foreign language, PC only, etc.) Also, searching for ‘horror’ in the name or 'horror in the tags doesn’t necessarily catch or even correctly identify them all.

The serendipity part is when I go to IFDB and I’m mooching about for games at random, or I see a new listing or review on the front page, and sometimes I just grab that game and play it. Or maybe I feel like writing a review. These work well for me.

My gap is in playing bigger games. I find I have to steel myself to the idea of the time commitment. And I have a kind of anxiety around walkthroughs and related issues. There is a problem with the nature of these games and the times we live in. I’d ideally like to have again the experience I had when I was a kid and me and my dad laboured over Wizard and the Princess or something else for months, solving the whole thing ourselves. The impossibility of solving such a game any other way at the time was an essential part of that experience. Who now can resist checking the help when they get stuck? And I have this fear that if I don’t check, I may be sticking on something where I’m literally wasting my time. In a way it’s almost like I don’t trust the games to be handling things ‘right’, but I also get bugged if I check the walkthrough and find it clumsy, or that it goofs up my experience. That happened to me with Anchorhead.

So in answer to the original question, I don’t think I have any good advice about tackling bigger games, but I find poking smaller games in all around the place is both fun and motivational (for writing, or for other things.)

  • Wade
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As an unorganized and unmotivated bum, I also have difficulty finding time for IF – either playing it or writing. I play the Comp games during the Comp, but I always fail to come back to finish the ones I didn’t win. This year, I feel particularly guitly about not having seen the end of Spiral. I tried once, but I just can’t get up enough motivation to re-immerse myself in the story. I think it would almost be easier to start again from the beginning than to resume a saved position, but that’s still not very easy.

Lately, I’ve only been playing short games from the IFDB. I want to play long games, but there so many that I’ve given up on. Most recently, I gave up on City of Secrets because there was no particular hint that could help me, and I didn’t know what to do or how to ask for a hint. When I played The King of Shreds and Patches, I eventually got all the way to the endgame, but I lost because I had put the game in an unwinnable state by not solving a particularly puzzle much earlier on. The summer before last, I had been playing through Worlds Apart, and I finally got through Part I, but then the hard drive on my old laptop died, and I lost my saved positions.

Fixing “Tree and Star” has been on the number 1 spot on my to-do list longer than testing it has been on yours. Don’t feel any obligation to test it.

Yes, it’s one of the four primary playing styles given my Bartle’s Test. The truth is, I’ve probably spent a lot more time in my life playing MUDs and MMORPGs than IF, and part of the appeal of multiplayer worlds for me is the sense of open exploration. It helps make the setting more immersive. I have a theory that the term “immersive” means the same in relation to setting and worldbuilding as “mimetic” does in relation to narrative structure, but that’s off-topic. I would love to see a greater sense of open exploration in IF, although I’m sure that some writers must have already tried things like that. (Another part of the reason that I make more time to play MMOs than IF is that I don’t want to let down the other players in guilds and in-character roleplaying groups.)

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While I was writing A Killer Headache, I pretty much didn’t play any IF at all, but I made an effort to put in some time writing every day. Except for the 3 or 4 weeks where I got distracted by Kerkerkruip, and didn’t work on my game at all…

Then I blitzed through the comp games, which was fun, but I didn’t finish a lot of them, and most of them I did with a lot of hints. I’ve been meaning to get back to Andromeda and Escape from Summerland, but I don’t think it will happen soon. I’m feeling a bit burned out and focusing on real-life stuff.

Although I got carried away with Kerkerkruip again for a while. Right now I’ve been making an effort not to play it…

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So, authors have a hard time playing through games without hints for lack of time. :slight_smile: That’s cool to know, but it doesn’t give me much of an incentive to finish games on my own. :unamused:

Do you mean - it doesn’t give you incentive to solve games without using hints, given that even authors can’t do that?

  • Wade

I’m mostly poking fun at the authors here, I’m not talking too seriously, but I mean that if authors don’t have the time to solve puzzles without hints, I as a player don’t feel very motivated to finish their own games, their own puzzles, without hints, which defeats the purpose of puzzles altogether. :wink:

Notice the smileys. I’m only half-serious.

No worries. That was sorta what I guessed. But I just wasn’t actually sure when you said ‘to finish games on my own’, whether you were talking about finishing playing games, or finishing making games.

  • Wade