Now I feel positively right that you’ve either not played many IF and/or had the bad luck of only playing a couple of old dungeon crawls. Come on! Just to keep up with a very well-known work that describes pretty much what you’re talking about: ever heard of Photopia?
I would appreciate not being insulted. I played Photopia several years ago and it was a major inspiration for me to write my first IF which I released without any expectation of having anyone actually play it. Photopia is in fact the very first game I would recommend to anyone interested in this medium.
That example I posted was just a spur of the moment idea. I literally came up with those specifics in 5 minutes. My conceptual design that I would likely implement would be something completely different. I don’t want this topic to grow out of control so I will state that I appreciate the input from those who responded and it definitely seems most would be interested in something innovative. I realize how challenging my goals are.
This makes me wonder about holding a Roomless Comp. Going to split this.
No insult intended.
A roomless comp sounds like a novel concept.
No pun intended?
First statement was to johnb820.
Hm. OK, you might be interested in this blog post by Emily Short, in which she divvies up input into a few notable categories, one of which you seem to be less enamored with. It sounds like you’re interested in letting “expressive” actions – SMILE, FROWN, CRY – drive the story forward. My last post’s example had the reader entering nouns to drive it, (again, alas) but if you cue the reader with something like:
When play begins: change the command prompt to "[bold type]You feel [roman type]".
and, say, tell the reader her input is restricted to a single word (via
After reading a command: if the number of words in the player's command is greater than one, say "(One word only, please.)" instead.
) to keep down how much you have to parse, then I think you have a workable system there. I-F yet not I-F.
Regarding that, I think you might want to be careful about removing any sense of agency or control from the reader. If the unexpected happens every time the reader enters something, the reader will quickly begin to wonder why she’s entering anything at all. I mean, what’s the point of her making decisions at the prompt if it’s always furglewitz one way and foobar the other?
Also, anything involving a dream sequence? Writer beware. Dream sequences are the new mazes. Confusing, easy for the lazy author to throw in, elicits much eye-rolling in players, etc. I think I’ve read only one dream sequence in all of trad fic and int fic that actually worked for me. (Donna Tartt, The Little Friend)
Much of I-F is tedious, yes. You’re not alone in thinking that, and it’s why I-F still stands in the long shadow of videogames. I think the number of works I’ve thoroughly enjoyed end-to-end I can count on my hands. One hand if it’s not required I finish the game. But like in any endeavor where you toss out everything and the cat, you’ll be viewed with skepticism by those who have seem many other bright-eyed newcomers create something unsatisfying in, at best, whole new ways.
oh good. I thought it was because of graphics and fast button-mashing action.
Neither reading a book or reading a visual novel is tedious. So why is IF so tedious? My guess is providing players a logical level of interaction while also being forced to provide output for illogical actions. Why does the player get to have so much freedom to try and pick up the 10 ton weight or try to put the 10 foot statue in their pocket? I want to forgo these silly time consuming actions by taking the game outside the real world.
My guess for why IF can be tedious is that it’s usually possible to get stuck for a long time, wandering around (or trying verbs) with no idea what to do next, and that the responses you get won’t be engaging enough to stay non-tedious through the time that you’re stuck. Books and visual novels don’t get this because the way forward is clearly marked and you can’t get stuck. (Well, some books are tedious and you can get stuck in them, but it isn’t a feature of the medium.) And video games can provide you with more stimulation as you keep trying, so it’s not as tedious to get stuck. (This is the graphics and button-mashing of which namekuseijin speaks. And of course getting stuck in a video game can be tedious too.)
Photopia propels you along with almost no hope of getting stuck, so it isn’t tedious, but it’s a rare IF that has actual puzzles and that keeps you from getting stuck in this way. Especially since different people will get stuck on different puzzles. The payoff is when a puzzle’s solution turns out to be satisfying enough to redeem the tedium or frustration – which for me can happen even when I have to use the hints.
Anyway, I don’t think that the problem is the player’s freedom to try to pick up the 10-ten statue or put the 10-foot statue in their pocket per se; it’s easy enough to disable those actions with a curt default response, and that won’t reduce the tedium for a player who tried them. The problem is that the player wants to try this sort of thing because they’re not sure how to move forward. One way to make sure that the player doesn’t waste time on silly actions would be to disable the freeform parser and have them select from a limited menu, which would seem to put us in the realm of the choose-your-own-adventure or hypertext rather than what I think of IF. Another way is to make the options extremely clear, but that requires very good game design, and may not even be what you want if you’re writing a puzzly game – though perhaps the point in question is partly whether IF needs to transcend puzzles.
John B, have you played Emily Short’s conversation games like Galatea and Best of Three? Those seem like they direct you toward interaction on the emotional/conceptual level rather than interaction with objects. (As does Alabaster, perhaps, but I found that unlike the other two games I named it was possible to get very stuck in Alabaster.)
[My first post, by the way. I’ll head to the Introductions thread now.]
Is it? I wouldn’t be here if it was, so many exciting literature and games out there…
Your first sentence sounds like as if you’re telling IF as a work is tedious, but by reading the above you sound like as if you’re telling that crafting an IF work is tedious.
In any case, if either crafting or playing IF is so tedious for you, what exactly are you doing here in the first place?
I have a feeling that a player who tries arbitrary insane actions like those is not the kind of audience IF authors should be courting. Just give them the default stupid message and let it up to them for either to persist and get into the shoes of the protagonist or leave for greener pastures. May be good for their bovine health.
I have no argument against squashing tediousness, but I would be careful about rejecting frustration in IF wholesale. It’s a major part of the medium in my opinion; Espen Aarseth and Jeremy Douglass discuss this much better than I if you’re interested.
Tricky ground, there. IF isn’t necessarily “the player is roleplaying as someone else”, just as it isn’t necessarily “the player is making his own choices as if he/she him/herself were there”. What I love about IF, in fact, is that, today, it isn’t necessarily anything.
The trouble with giving the player curt messages for when he’s trying insane things is… well, in puzzle games, sometimes you have to do non-standard stuff. And in order to solve those puzzles, you have to think a bit crazy - not too much, just a bit. And in order to do that, you have to feel confident that the game will be behind you, supporting you, as you try your crazy stuff. Not that the game has to allow you to do crazy stuff, but it should behave rather like the real world. The following is a spoiler for Hollywood Hijinx: hanging a full leaking bucket on a coathanger is hardly something you’d do every day, but it was the puzzle that was the most gratifying for me to solve. It forced me to think outside the box, I tinkered with the elements of the puzzle a LOT and the game always felt as though it was encouraging me to tinker, even as I got things wrong; so that when I got it right, I felt insanely rewarded.
Tedium in IF is no different from tedium in graphical adventures, except that it can be even worse in IF games that aren’t properly implemented. But people will complain about “a game in which anything I do seems not to matter” just as much as “a game in which there’s so many puzzles I just can’t go on, I want to see the story.”
In fact, we have so many players nowadays. We have cave-explorerers, we have pure-puzzlers, we have Photopiers. We have people who want story, people who want puzzles, people who want old-school, people who want mixtures of these. We don’t HAVE to accomodate for everyone, but we should acknowledge that they exist, and that the player who, upon finding a fork in a road tries to “eat spaghetti with fork”, should not be punished. Maybe not rewarded, either, but if his action makes sense, it should at least be acknowledged. We’re trying to model worlds in IF, after all. Maybe we don’t want to go as far as to build the “toyworlds” that have been on discussion on RAIF, but we should make it at least deep enough for the player to say “Ok, I see, this is the gameworld. I feel perfectly at home in it, and as soon I get stuck on a puzzle I’ll be ready to look at it in a three-dimensional way, looking for ways to solve the puzzle as I would in real life.”
The biggest question isn’t probably whether IF has artistic credibility, since in fact art can have so many definitions. The question is, to which definition of art do we want IF to adhere, and do we really want THAT definition?
At any rate, IF is merely a genre. “The Twelve Monkeys” is more likely to be considered “art” than “Dumb and Dumber”. Similarly, “Photopia” and “Anchorhead”, “Bad Machine” and “The Gostak” are probably more “art” than, say, “69105 Keys”.
But the point in reading a book is that a book, like every art form, is a finite experience, structured carefully in, usually, three pieces - beginning, middle, end. It’s carefully constructed so that it’s a journey. Granted, the best part is the journey itself, and not the end - but if it didn’t end, it wouldn’t make sense. It wouldn’t have the impact. There would be no catharsis. You claim that the “reader” doesn’t have to “win” in order to experience a book. Well, I’ve read neither of the books you mentioned, but I can tell you that if I hadn’t read “Moby Dick” all the way through, choosing to stop about three quarters of the book through, the experience would have been lost. I would not have “won”, and neither would I have experienced it properly.
So it follows that IF must have an end. That end is usually victory. Doesn’t have to be, though. But there must be an end, a feeling of conclusion.
Of course, there are more modern theories that go against this and the need for a narrative. Personally, I’m strictly against them. But if you’re interested, you can read up on Chris Crawford’s ideas. He’s trying to make a narrative emerge from the player’s actions. I don’t like it because I don’t feel it can ever be as passionate as the narrative an author came up with, but you might enjoy it.
Also, like many people said, IF is VERY free form. It merely has a standard to which many games adhere to. But there are plenty of games that do NOT. And they all lieve together in peace and harmony, even when they don’t. That’s the beauty of IF.
My two cents, which will be familiar to people who have read my posts and reviews.
I have a very simple definition for “art”. Art is something, created by someone or a group of someones, that makes you feel something. Simple as that. I can feel disgust, as I felt when, at a young age, I read “Brave New World”. I can feel awe, as when I read “Moby Dick”. I can question my motivations, as I did after recently playing Bioshock (Gasp! Consternation! Uproar! An FPS, art?! You know, for me, Bioshock is rather artistic, yes). I can feel infinitely sad, as after watching “El Labirinto del Fauno”, aka “Pan’s Labyrinth”. I can feel very, very uplifted, as when I hear Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma”.
Some IF makes me feel like that. “Photopia” did. “Beyond” did. “A Mind Forever Voyaging” did. So did “Wishbringer”. And many others.
Does IF have artistic credibility?
I don’t think so, and don’t give a damn, because “artistic credibility” nowadays seems to be a very warped thing, exclusive to an elite of people who have a very strange sense of art that seems to discount emotions altogether. I want no part of that.
Does IF have the potential for art?
By God, yes.
None of them involving eating a chair or pocketing an edifice. Not even Grunk would think like that (nor Douglas Adams). There’s a difference between out-of-the-box thinking and insane thinking.
Doesn’t sound all that crazy, but then, I don’t have the context.
I don’t like it too those old games that relied too much on Rube Goldberg machinery… still, they have their logic in their own complicated manner, quite different from trying stupid actions like taking a tree.
I can agree with that.
people who want combat a la rogue or RPGs…
Sure. As long as there is any spaghetti around at all.
How about having the protagonist be a hardened military protagonist entering the remains of a nursery, where he sees a pacifier. Should we allow the player to make the hardened hero look silly with it in the mouth?
I can feel horny watching porn. Is that art?
Ayuh, but a corteous “That’s physically impossible.” would be better than chastising the player. Unless you want to chastise the player, of course. It’s your prerogative as the author.
Heh, just to make sure you read it right - by “fork in the road” I didn’t mean the utensil, I meant the place where the road forks into different paths. I thought you’d balk at letting the player get away with something this crazy!
Nice example. I, for one, would be cross if the game didn’t let me do it without reason. If the game said “You’re much too tough for that!”, or “What would your comrades think?!”, I’d be ok. If it said “You put it on, feel like a right tit, and remove it when you see a nearby baby staring at you. Great, you’ve embarassed yourself.” If it just allowed it, I’d be ok.
But even when the game said “no”, it would be acknowledging the action. That’s all I ask for.
I thought someone would say something like this. It’s not a watertight definition, I wouldn’t write an essay with it. But for the purposes of the discussion, this definition fits.
Well, in the recent JayIsGames comp, there was one game where you had to TAKE CLOUD (maybe “touch cloud” worked as well). I see that both Peter and namekuseijin reviewed that game, so you know that it wasn’t great, but it’s hard to know in advance that the game won’t ask you to do something like that. For that matter, in Dual Transform, which was great, about the first thing you had to do was
pick up the equation.
The big difference was not in the craziness of the actions, but in how well they were clued.
Anyway, I agree with what Peter has said about the right way to respond to these kinds of actions when they’re not intended.
This is nitpicky, because I agree with your general point, but I don’t necessarily agree that even narrative artworks have to have ends. (Paintings, definitely not.) There are great books that are unfinished, or whose endings have been lost. There’s debate about whether The Tale of Genji is finished in the form we have it in – one translator (according to Wikipedia) thinks Murasaki had no ending planned and would have gone on as long as she could. And that’s one of the greatest works of literature ever. Comic strips can be similar; they go on as long as the author keeps them up, without building to an overall conclusion, even though individual arcs may come to conclusions.
And an artistically valid game might conceivably do something similar – something like the Sims (as I understand it), where you start up characters, let them develop, and can follow them for as long as you want, without pushing toward a predetermined goal. Which I guess is the Chris Crawford ideal.
Anyway, I’m largely in agreement about the many different kinds of players – not every game should necessarily try to accommodate every player, but broader reach is probably better if you can do it.
I don’t remember that about the clouds. If I knew it rewarded TAKE CLOUD, I’d give it -1 instead of 0.
now that you mention it, it lets you “touch the cloud” and “feel nothing unexpected”… n00b author…
In any case, the action you tell about is not regarding the clouds:
>look at sun
You look up at the sun. Though bright, it is not nearly as blinding as you expect. It is, however, quite warm and seems almost close enough to touch.
at least, the author hints at the possibility. I had no problem with that.
well, “An Open Field” was also clued, but is still a stinker for other reasons…
and no, there’s no craziness of actions in Dual Transform: in the fiction, it is stated right upfront you’re dealing with “true metasemanticity”. From there on, it’s suspension of disbelief. Also, you’re not trying out crazy things: they take physical form and you can inspect and get a hint of their purpose.
I have to say that watching the Sims live their little virtual sitcom lives does the same to me as watching/feeding fish in an aquarium. Amusing, but not quite art.
I love to disagree. It’s the basis of my conversations with namekuseijin.
Naturaly, since they are a different form of art. They are not, like films or opera or theater or books or even music, a sucession of scenes and moments that move linearly through time to construct an experience - be it narrative or completely f****d up.
Those are unintentional - at least their authors didn’t intend it to be that way. Turandot was finished by one of Puccini’s students, and I personally stop listening to Turandot when Liu dies (the last bit Puccini wrote). It’s a conscious decision of mine. But that’s just an example to add to yours - bottom line, authors set out to write stories… and the stories are never complete until they’re finished.
Never heard about it, to my shame. Nevertheless, it’s an exception - and it’s great that we can have exceptions. Also, it doesn’t mean that, at some point, Murasaki would not finally find the end to the story (something most authors seem to agree is elusive and impossible to force - the story will end as it ends, when it ends, or so I read). But I know this is pure speculation. In effect, if he left it unfinished and he meant never to finish it, then he has accomplished it… except of course that, eventually, the story itself stops because there’s simply no more. Less interesting than a real ending, I feel. But it was his choice. I like it when people do strange things.
That’s a cat of a different colour. Comic strips, like tv shows, are born of a certain premise and a handful of characters. They effectively exist because of the premise and the characters. House exists because of that medical team; Desperate Housewives exists because of those 5 women; Spiderman exists because a guy got bitten by a radioactive spider and now has spider powers.
And then, like you say, you have story arcs. You seem to undervalue the story arcs. I put it to you that the story arcs are probably the basis of the entire thing. Characters aren’t enough to drive a comic strip without a plot. I’m reminded of The Sandman graphic novels, which has individual stories which won prizes, and which nevertheless was also one big story.
With regular comic strips, you basically churn out new plots, some good, some bad, some so-so, and sometimes something absolutely genius and epic (I’m reminded of the whole Thanos, or Thanatos or whatever, saga). The fact that you’re reusing characters isn’t really all that important in terms of what we’re discussing.
Regarding the Sims, I’m an example of someone who just doesn’t see the point, because of the lack of narrative - but then, I’m a sucker for narrative, for a story, for a good yarn. I realize some works of art may eschew narrative in favor of something else, and I’m all for it. Just give me a good yarn when I’m done.
I could easily be misremembering it – when I played it, “take all” was still enabled, and “take sun” had the same result as “touch sun,” so I didn’t see the cluing for that. But you’re right that the eccentricities of this game are down to the author’s noobiness, and that the odd action in “Dual Transform” isn’t as odd in the given environment.
I actually haven’t played the Sims at all, but it seems to me from reading Alice and Kev and Emily Short’s description of Delores and Doofus that you definitely can get narrative out of it. It might not be very arc-y, but I wouldn’t expect the narrative that comes out of something sandboxy to be like the narrative we get in other media, any more than a narrative you get from IF would be like a narrative you get from films (ohmigod why did the hero have to walk back and forth across these rooms so many times before finding how to get out what is wrong with the pacing of this thing). But it does sound like you’d have to add a lot more to it to get, on any regular basis, narrative or art or anything like that. Maybe I should check out Dwarf Fortress.