Is it Possible? TES:Oblivion the IF?

Recently I discovered that there are programmers that make video games for that old atari 2600 consol system. It’s seen as a programming challenge due to its extreme limitations. see “Halo 2600” as an example.

So I thought to myself what would be the IF eqivalent. What video game
is so large in its setting, so immersive in its environment, and so engageing in its universe that it would be practicaly impossible to turn into an IF. The answer came to me quickly and I had to chuckle at how absurd it sounds and how IMPOSSIBLE it would be to create.

The Elder Scrolls Oblivion. . . . as an extremely striped down IF.
Or worse
As an 800 segment GameBook. (not including instructions)

I’m no programmer so I have no illusions.
If there is an IF out there that evokes that similar feeling of grand adventure and explorations point the way.
As for gamebooks I think that only “Fabled Lands” comes close.

So What do you guys think. Is it even remotely possible?

If you want a big game, you might want to check out Tin Star. As far as I know, it’s the largest gamebook ever made, at 1.3 million words. (A single playthrough from beginning to epilogue can run over 80,000 words.) … /tin-star/

IF can be very large indeed.

IF can be very immersive indeed.

IF can be very engaging indeed.

Theoretically, you could totally do this. Practical? Not really, but possible. What you wouldn’t want to do is do a straight conversion that, say, got you an IF “room” for every square meter in the original game. You adapt it to the medium, so as to retain immersion and, er, engagement?

Feelings of grand adventure, exploration… that’s what IF was originally all about, wasn’t it? Right back to Adventure and Zork.

You mean writing a big sprawling map, populating it with treasures and NPC’s and then leaving the player to explore it all and waste his time in tons of repetitive turn-based combat?

It’s doable, but not necessarily wanted. Repetitive combat may be fun when it requires skills and timing in real-time, not much in turns - which is why most IF shuns violence in favor of puzzle-solving. Without much combat, your very large map would feel rather empty, though.

The implied but omitted restriction seems to be “is it possible for one person”. No, it’s probably not possible for one person alone to replicate the combined effort of several hundred developers. But if you had the same resources available then I don’t see why not.

FYI: Dan, I clicked the Download for Android button on this page and it took me to the Play Store page for Choice of Kung Fu.

I’m not sure repetitive combat is really ever fun, though obviously it’s what a lot of video games are about. What makes Kerkerkruip great, for example, is its studied avoidance of repetitive combat in favor of successions of different–often radically different–tactical situations.

In answer to a few questions.
A. Ramshackle : I know that IF/Gamebooks are not suited for heavy combat. There great at story and any conversion of ‘Oblivion’ would have to omit a ton of combat and a ton of exploration to get to its core elements.
B. Juhana : Oh I didn’t mean for one person alone to make this conversion alone… The question is wither or not that once this strip down occurs would its story and plot still hold up under closer scrutiny.

Recently writeing my own gamebook (with rpg elements) I’ve taken it upon myself to examine the differnt gamebook systems out there. To play them and see how they work and integrate into the plot. I whole heartedly agree that combat is low on the list for the construction of good IF and gamebooks. That’s why many of the great successfull gamebooks from back in the day are often light on dice rolling and heavy on story. They tell a greater story, stick more to the plot, and in the end leave the reader with a greater sense of engagement than what would otherwise be acomplished through reptative combat. Fighting fantasy found a good balance between the two but I don’t believe they kept their books within the same universe. The Lone Wolf series kept the same universe and allowed you to advance your character taking it from book to book but still, like fighting fantasy, did not go heavy into combat. Then you got the dice heavy ‘sagard the barbarian’. Woo. Loads of rolling and it left a feeling of being too light on story and plot. My memory of it is fleeting like playing a cheap video game rpg where you easily forget it. Then you got fabled lands whose focus seems to be exploration with many mini quests, primary quests, and many books of which each represent a differnt region of the game world. In it your character seemed to advanced more by completeing quest than engageing combat, which seems to indicate once again, story and plot is the focus of all this.

In essence.
To have fun.

Whoops! That’s a bad copy and paste. Fixed.

Most recent post of addition to post is mine.
Potential Dead Thread
1 Tombstone.

MUDs used to grapple with the problem of being too large for their own good. I think a sprawling geography is something that text doesn’t do very well, at least not in the typically room-based format used by MUDs and parser IF. It’s very easy to get lost, and the room divisions are arbitrary. (I don’t know about gamebooks.) In general I think a large open world game is better suited to a graphical engine because a graphical environment is generally better simulates the experience of roaming a wide landscape without hard boundaries – or at least, comparatively few of them.

Back when I was playing MUDs, I did see a few MUDs go to extreme lengths to try to solve the problem of a vast geography in text. One or two MUDs I tried simulated a wilderness with an ASCII roguelike-looking environment. Another produced a “walking” message every time you travelled between rooms along with a corresponding delay, and the delay was much longer in wilderness areas than in the cities. I wouldn’t say that these attempts were wholly unsuccessful, especially when accompanied by the realistic detail simulation that text does much better than graphics. Still, the MUDs struggled endlessly over this problem, and I think this would probably kill any attempt to make a sprawling open world parser IF. Didn’t the some of the super-oldschool commercial era text adventures brag about having thousands of rooms, as a marketing gimmick?

I think there could be a lot of potential in open world IF as long as the open world is fairly small. Blue Lacuna comes to mind.

But TinStar was written using ChoiceScript. Could you really do justice to the TES games with ChoiceScript?

Interesting concept. Too bad it would be so hard to implement, because I think adapting a non-IF video game to IF would normally be a nice “exercise” for making IF.

I’ve noodled around with adapting a graphical RPG to parser IF, but the game I picked was Dark Sun: Shattered Lands. Definitely a huge difference in scope between that and Oblivion. Even so, I imagined a quality adaptation of Dark Sun would require oodles of rooms and oodles-upon-oodles of objects. Specifically, I’m making a rough estimate of over six hundred rooms. I’m not even sure how well tools like Inform can handle that much stuff.

Anyhow, this is fun to think about, so here are some totally hypothetical design thoughts I have: (focusing on fun factor with almost no concern for the practicality of implementation)

A Kerkerkuip-style combat system could be nice, but you probably want to downplay the combat in general (spend a smaller portion of game time fighting than in graphical Oblivion, maybe make the combat easier than Kerkerkuip) and focus more on other qualities.

Definitely don’t try to faithfully reproduce the floor plans using the IF room system. It will be way too many rooms. Also, don’t try to make everything to scale. Maybe a house needs five rooms but an open field that’s the same size as the house only needs one room.

As for the scale of the open world areas… hmm… maybe the shortest path between Anvil and Kvatch (for reference) should have about five to eight rooms. Make the areas feel big and exploration-y partially with the room description prose but also having a lot of interactive stuff–even just a bunch of examinable scenery objects which mention more examinable nouns in their descriptions. (And of course, you need to collect crafting ingredients.)

My first impression was that the rooms for the open world areas should usually have exits in all directions, but the more I think about it, the more unpleasant that sounds. Maybe better to redesign the map as a series of interconnected paths.

Implement “fast travel.”

In addition to fast travel, maybe some kind of Nightfall-style “go to” command would help match the navigation convenience of the graphical map and ever-present mini-map.

Is there anything that IF is good at where Oblivion could use improvement? If yes, embellish that. For Dark Sun, I was thinking NPC interaction. Nothing comes to mind of Oblivion though.

The appeal of Skyrim comes mostly from its lack of limitations. You can always point a direction and run off on your own adventure, at any point in the game. There are times where I’ve been so sidetracked bouncing from task to task in the wilderness, exploring and crafting and hunting and questing, that I forgot why I left the town walls in the first place. It’s easily modded, has a robust graphics engine, and was put together by a team who has done this many times now, and know what they’re doing.

Replicating this in interactive fiction would be difficult for a variety of reasons. Short of writing an engine that generates a large game world, it’s unfeasible for someone to write a text game with the same amount of detail that Skyrim’s graphics have. The size of the game world is an intimidating issue. There are parts of Skyrim I’ve still never seen, even after years of owning it. However, in a text game, writing rooms and elements of gameplay that the player never sees is easily interpreted as a “waste.” Combat is another large obstacle. Interactive fiction can be easily sideswiped by clunky combat code that takes the wind out of the story’s progression. If you leave combat to chance, then the player risks constantly dying as a punishment for playing. If you leave it to skill, then players who can’t figure it out are quickly turned off by the recurring puzzle.

All of this said, I am a long-time player of MUDs and find them immensely rewarding to play. However, MUDs are real-time and allow interaction with other players. A large turn-based single-player text world would, admittedly, be fun to explore, but in the realm of interactive fiction, if I couldn’t pluck a story out of the exploration, I’d probably eschew it for Skyrim itself.

But to answer your original question: yes! IF can be immersive, engaging, and massive! Just expect to encounter design issues unless you figure out how to best map out the project. Planning is key. As a project, I might recommend picking up a tabletop RPG gamebook, and trying to code that gamebook into an IF experience that replicates the rules and lore and locations. It would be rewarding to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

I think you could do a story set in a pre-existing universe…Telltale is doing this with “Tales from the Borderlands” where they are telling a story in the same universe with the same art, but doing it as more of an adventure game. It would be a simple matter to do this in ChoiceScript, but a smart author will eschew hundreds of rooms and thousands of objects and just tell a story in the best way the engine can. It won’t play like Oblivion or Skyrim, but fans of those might enjoy them the same way they’d enjoy a novelization or a board game of their favorite franchise.

OP, why did you laugh at the idea of having a huge open-world gamebook, but then mention in a later post that you are familiar with Fabled Lands? There are now 7 of the 12 planned books, all connected, with some 5-600 or so paragraphs in each book iirc(?) and I think they could keep adding more books for a while if they wanted to, plus there have been hints at (and one book published I think?) with stand-alone gamebooks set in the same world that you can use as one-off bigger quests within the same world.

Writing text (i-f or gamebook) for every location and quest is a lot of work, but imagine how much more work it is to make a graphical game. They have huge staffs of artists and writers when they do a big graphical RPG. And they work on each game for years. You could easily compete in scale even if you had a much smaller team working in only text.