My first experiences with IF. How did you feel?

I dont quite know how to start. I think my concerns might sound silly to some of you, nevertheless, I am interested in IF too much to let it go without attempts to try to solve its puzzles.

When I first heard of IF, I fell in love with the idea of exploring stories by making options.
But when I started playing games - even simplest ones- the process of Searching for a right verb - that is supposed help me to move through - would take so much time and effort that I did not even care where I move as long as I move.

I mean the whole fun of making choices was taken away. My only choice was to find at least one choice.

At the end, I realise that I am not even reading what I get, I am not even enjoying the text, I am interested in it as long as I feel it might contain hints for further movement. So, I am becoming a slave of a keyword search, not of story.

What is it?
Is it just me? Am I looking for wrong things in IF? Or other beginners feel the same?
Is it that I simply need more practice to be getting a feeling of “right” things to input without making too much effort and so not losing track of the story?
Or is it indeed the salt of these games - looking for action movers, but not the returning story blocks themselves?

Any opinion of yours or tips of dealing with frustration would be so much appreciated!
What were your first playing experiences?

No, I don’t think you’re looking for the wrong things. I think the reality is that many IF games are pretty bad. Of course this isn’t a characteristic exclusive to the IF genre, but you could make the point that in a ‘bad’ shoot-em-up game at least you have some buzzing lights and sounds to distract your brain from the badness of it all.

There are many games I start playing and just abandon because I don’t like them. However there are some very good games too, and it’s worth seeking them out.

I think the best games are worth reading just like you would read any story. Don’t be discouraged by the bad games.

I don’t think your concerns sound silly, tsiqa. In fact, I think that’s the number one concern of any IF author - will people know what to do?

I don’t think you’re looking for the wrong things in IF, but it is a diverse genre/medium. There are games that are about exploring a story, which seems to be what you’re looking for, but there are also (probably a greater number of) games about solving puzzles to progress through a story. If you’re finding it hard to play IF, one option is to simply focus on the easier games. Photopia, Galatea and Vespers are all simple, story-focused IFs. Photopia is linear, but Galatea and Vespers both allow you to easily make profound choices.

My own first experiences playing IF were positive. One of the first IF games I played was Graham Nelson’s Jigsaw, which has ludicrously hard puzzles. I played it with a walkthrough, though, and got to enjoy the writing and learn a lot of the common IF actions in the process.

Fact: Most games are riddled with flaws and problems.

Fact: IF is just as prone, if not worse, due to the generally independent nature of development. One of the flaws of small amounts of people being involved in the testing process, though the benefits can often outweigh that.

Fact: Quite frankly it’s not easy to learn to take the sideways step needed to learn to interface with your average IF game correctly.

Opinion: Keep trying, there’s so many types out there, I’m sure you’ll find something you like. And try not to fret about not liking a lot of games, tastes differ and stuff like that.

my first experience with IF was Thy Dungeonman on It was not a difficult game so searching for the correct verb didn’t diminish the enjoyment of it. The high level of humor and absurdity made it a pleasure to play even if it was awkward playing a ‘typing game’ at first.

My first experience with IF was on an old greenscreen computer my grandparents had. There was Sid Miers Pirates and this wierd text adventure where you landed on an alien desert, went south or died, then got eaten by a monster in a tunnel… My more recent (and much mroe positive) experience with IF has been Photopia, which I found an excellent story, although I played it through several times trying to find differences.
Actually I was wondering if anyone knew of a way to make the text be selectable in Photopia, I wanted to send an excerpt to a friend?

I think it depends on the interpreter you’re using – some don’t have cut and paste built in. Most, though, allow you to save or log a transcript of the game you’re playing, and you can open those up in any text editing program to obtain an excerpt.

And welcome to the forums Antinumeric :slight_smile:.

As George said, it depends what interpreter you’re using. Gargoyle doesn’t allow you to select text. If you’re using Windows Frotz, Windows Glulxe or Windows Git, pressing Ctrl+L will bring up the “scrollback” and let you select and copy text from it. If you’re playing Photopia 2.01, the one with the decorative borders, which comes bundled with its own interpreter, it will be running on Windows Glulxe, so try pressing Ctrl+L.

my first experience with IF was Zork, lol

but the first game that showed me what the medium can really achieve was Photopia, and this one has not been surpassed so far

what I really hate is when you get stuck and you have to go from room to room again and again to see if something has changed or to pay attention to some miniscule detail you would never notice by yourself (Anchorhead is a prime example for both of these flaws) and there is no different solution to the puzzle, such things can ruin even the best writing

also fairy tales :slight_smile:

My first experience with IF was “the Hobbit” on a trusty 48K Spectrum, and at that time most of the adventuring was “guess the verb” Today, however, I feel that even amateurs like us has come a long way. Yes, there are some bad games out there, but I don’t think you can blame it all on the author.
The first thing I look for if I find a game that looks interesting is if there’s a walkthrough, or some kind of hint sheet to go along with it. If there’s no walkthrough the next thing is checking if the author has provided an e-mail address so I can ask for help in case I get stuck. If none of the above excists I’m reluctant to start the game. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting stuck, knowing what you have to do, but not being able to find the right command.
This is why beta testing games is so important, but unfortunately finding a beta tester is not that easy, and if you want a beta tester who sticks with you it’s even harder.

My first experience with IF was playing Zork Zero with my father. I found the world so expansive and the entire experience enthralling. As a kid I found the humor in Zork Zero hilarious.

Zork 1 was my first text game. It blew me away that a game could just be … text. And when the floppy disk’s light would suddenly go red, indicating that my brother and I had found our way into a new room, well, that was magic.

Yes, I have very similar memories about the first text adventure I really enjoyed (not quite the first one I played, but almost), the French game Conspiration in 1988. But it was a cassette version (for the Amstrad CPC 464), so, instead of the floppy disk’s light, there was a “Loading please wait” screen and the cassette playing. But the effect was the same, and we had ample time to look forward to the next part of the game and wonder what would happen in it :slight_smile: .

I took a stab at playing IFs a longish while ago, back when the Amiga 500 was new. Mainly, it was Hitchhiker’s Guide, Planetfall and some brief time later an odd game called Demoniak. I finished none of those, or indeed got very far into them. Only recently have I come back to IF, beginning with the excellent Galatea. It sold me on IF as a medium.

There could be many reasons for why those earlier games didn’t grab me, though. For one, I wasn’t back then quite as good at English as I am today, and for another, I was a lot easier to distract due to Attentive Deficit Disorder. Regardless, I think for the most part, it was that I just couldn’t trust the game I was playing to have my back.

Interactive Fiction, for better or worse, requires one’s willing suspension of disbelief to a greater degree than do graphical games, because feedback not as instant; you conceptualise your immediate surroundings in your head rather than on-screen. However, I’ve felt similar levels of irritation in modern-day games as well; for instance, when enemy units fade into existence between me and the thing I’m supposed to protect in Wing Commander or GTA like games, or when my fragile main character is teleported into close combat because the designers were morons (NWN 2, 'tis you I scoff at). It’s frequently arbitrary (or appears so), often unnecessary, and always detrimental to the ‘fun’ aspect of gameplay.

Interactive Fiction has an attraction beyond glitz precisely because it lacks graphics; it can avoid the dependence on flashy graphical extravaganza that tends to mar so many modern games. For me as a beginner back in the eighties and early nineties, the illusion of a parser understanding English in at least some shape or form was immediate, and so very intriguing. That’s a powerful tool right there for IF authors. The neophyte, faced with this possibility, may simply take it and run with it; instantly, there so many things you just want to try out.

The flip side, though, is when the illusion shatters, as it so often will. It’s not as big of a problem when the parser clearly says “I don’t understand that verb” or whatever - it’s an annoyance to be sure, but I can forgive the parser admitting that it doesn’t understand what I mean by wanting to “confibulate” the wrench, particularly when the parser actually admits to not understanding. That, I can live with. All games require a paring down of effective choices, because if your mind is overwhelmed with choices, gameplay generally suffers - I believe there’s even mathematical proofs on the subject (although they define gameplay as something decidedly different). Regardless, we can’t make provisions for allowing players infinite freedom. They can’t do anything, and wouldn’t, as a rule, thank us if they could.

But guess-the-verb for common verbs, especially when having to do something necessary or apparently necessary? Worse, how about its evil cousin, guess-the-noun? Evil, both of them. Instantly ruinous to immersion, for much the same reason that discovery of AI cheating killed the fun in your common 1990s RTS game. Even worse is the parser clearly giving misleading information, such as “there is no documents in the room”, despite the fact that there’s a “folder containing secret documents” right there on the desk, and the character just died because the parser wasted your last moments alive failing to understand you.

I stop trying to play a game when grinding and reloading becomes the only way to conquer poor implementation. When that happens, then the fault lies not in the game being difficult, but the controls themselves. I won’t sit down and try to have fun with a game in which I can’t fully participate, anymore than I’ll boot up a flight sim after discovering glitches in my joystick. Elements of chance have their place, but not, I feel, in the normal course of an IF game.

The ideal game for me:

  • Always presents me with a goal, something my avatar ought to strive for - even if I might disagree.
  • Does not smack my fingers for acting rationally.
  • Varies pace and descriptions to match mood.
  • Does not force me to perform menial work (if I find myself continuing another game beyond the text “you can’t read a closed advertisment flier,” then it was either written by a reanimated Roger Zelazny, or I was paid handsomely for reviewing it).
  • Presents its information in a way that doesn’t overwhelm my mind’s eye.
  • Understands my intent even if it doesn’t allow it automatic success, even (and especially) if it’s an action vital to the plot.
  • Give me a reason, emotionally, for doing what I do (again I must mention Galatea, and how effortlessly it made me feel: empathy for the titular character, and a vague sense of voyeuristic shame toward myself for my part in her predicament, however small that part might have been).

Nota bene: This post is a bit overlong and rambling, for which I apologise. Since I woke up today my eyes won’t focus properly. Might be time for a visit to the doctor’s.

galatea might be technically groundbreaking (like all of Emily Short’s works), but I found it dull and devoid of an interesting setting (like all of Emily Short’s works)

well I’ll try it once more :neutral_face:

Did you also find City of Secrets “devoid of an interesting setting”?

can’t say I played every game but I played four or five (each one of the full lengths has technical features/ideas I’m gonna steal, eh borrow), which is more than of any other author

the short one in the inform 7 tutorial with the lesbians and the evil fish is actually interesting, more of that! :wink:

tried it again, and galatea just does nothing at all for me, not “manipulative” :unamused: enough

Ah, I disremember exactly what my first IF was. I do remember that one of the earliest was “Zork” - I’d bought a package that included Zork Anthology (Zorks 1, 2, 3, Beyond and Zero, plus .DAT files for a bunch of Infocom games with zero documentation, so they were absolutely worthless), Return to Zork and Zork Nemesis.

What I remember very clearly is that I’d tried some IF before and after Zork, and something in Zork just kept me coming back to it. It seemed much more alive, somehow. I was then about ten or eleven, maybe twelve, and I recall the following games from that period:

  • Crypt
  • Dungeons of Dunjin (have to replay that one, I have good memories)
  • The Doppy and Pru trilogy (Strangest thing ever! Not in a good way)
  • TZero (Fat chance of a non-english 11year old kid understanding that one)
  • Deep Space Drifter, I think. Or some similar title. Was in DOS.
  • Some Indiana Jones game
  • The Mist
  • Unkullian Underworld 1 and 2.
  • And let’s not forget Gateway, the first IF I ever won (with extensive hints). Masterpiece.

There were others, of course. These are the earliest ones I remember. Back then, all I wanted was adventure games, adventure games, adventure games. I got to play a lot of greats and a lot of crap, but I was pretty omnivorous.

Now, I tend to look for games that’ll flick my switches, push my buttons. I want to go on gaming trips in which I can make an emotional connection. “Fahrenheit”, which I played recently, was one such game. In IF, the recent game I’ve played which did that was “Chancellor”, a game with which I connected very strongly, for some reason. I also connected strongly with “Across the Stars”. Oh, and Photopia, of course. I suppose there’s no rhyme or reason for these things.

Still, if a game is good, it doesn’t matter whether it’s “old-school” or “new-school”. I want to play a sort of game which is likelier to be found in new- than old-school, but I was hooked on “Adventurer’s Museum” from the very first couple of screens.

After a long hiatus of IF, in which I just played graphical adventures, I have to say it was great to return to it. Graphical adventures are relatively limited - you have fixed verbs and fixed hotspots. If you’re stuck, and want to see the rest of the story, you either resort to a walkthrough (there goes the gaming enjoyment) or brute force you way around it. IF has the potential to remove such boundaries. IF is limitless in its interaction - or it gives that illusion. I like that freedom. It’s much better to think “What can I do now in this place at this time?” than to think “Ok, what can I do with these hotspots and these inventory items?”. Sure, some IF games have very transparent mechanics, but that’s the fault of an author, not of the genre.

Personally, and I hope I’m not going too far off-topic, I prefer games with multimedia content. I don’t want games to rely on graphics, but I want my IF game to be an emotional experience, and emotional experiences shouldn’t be limited to any one medium. Sound, images and animations are extremely effective, and pictures can be worth a thousand words, and I wish more games used them, and used them well. I’m afraid that by sticking too closely to an all-text format simply because “text can do things other mediums can’t” (no argument there, but a well-placed sound or image or animation can do things text can’t, because it’s so immediate, and has the potential to seduce, enthrall, or frighten in a second - can induce serenity or paranoia very easily) we might be missing out on a real potential storytelling aspect of IF. The book metaphor has served us well, but Infocom was the first to say - despite their marketing: “Find out what it’s like to enter a story. Get one from Infocom. There’s room for you in every disk.” - that Shakespeare didn’t have to wonder about whether Hamlet did decide to kill Laertes after the fateful play, therefore skipping the rest of “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”. IF isn’t a book, any more than adventure games aren’t movies, and I sometimes wonder whether we’re scared to admit that. And that allowing multimedia would be a way to admit we’re playing games, and trying to inject more art into them than there actually is.

Make no mistake, IF - and games in general - has the potential to be art. High art. I firmly believe this. And it doesn’t need to be cooped up in all-text format to do it.

Heh. Early-morning rant. Well, it was building up and had to come out.

My first experiences with I-F were just a few years ago, and I felt the exact same way. The first I-F I actually enjoyed was Emily Short’s Bronze, because it has a tutorial mode that displays the relevant verbs and such. After playing through the whole game, I felt I finally had enough of a handle on “how to play I-F” that I could try other works (that are still for beginners, even though they lack an explicit tutorial).

Re: other’s comments, yes, Emily’s Galatea was a bit dull, but it was written for a purpose other than purely to entertain.

I don’t quite remember how I got into this. I think it was still in late 90’s, while I was searching for old-school arcade games emulators. In any case, I quickly hit ifarchive and TADS and Inform as well as becoming aware of the rich history of the genre (Infocom included) by reading those fantastic implementations manuals. I got hooked in no time.

I know I tried (without completing) several games from the community back then: Ditch Day Drifter, The Horror of Rylvania, Balances, Curses, Photopia, Metamorphoses, A Change in the Weather and Uncle Zebulon’s Will. Truth be told, back then the only one I was able to complete was Zebulon: it just captured my imagination like no other and was pretty well paced and showed a vivid IF setting that just got me hooked in the media. I also was not aware that Balances would be so short or that Photopia was pretty linear and puzzleless behind that dense script.

I don’t really remember much guess-the-verb pain though, perhaps because I forced myself to learn the essential commands (and abbrevs) before playing; perhaps because the community games were much better at not frustrating the player just so that the experience lasted longer; or perhaps because I just tried not to stray too far from the script and current context, thus making sensible, expected choices…

In any case, I felt damn good to have a new, shiny, geeky hobby that looked like a forgotten treasure. :slight_smile:

Peter Pears, it’s not a matter of looking like a book, it’s a matter of having words alone making your imagination flow like no other medium. Being passively submitted to imagery is not the same experience at all… and if I truly wanted that, I’d probably look into SCUMM rather than TADS… :wink:

hey, don’t you guys beat Emily! Love Metamorphoses, Savoir-Faire and Floatpoint – amazing settings, fantastic prose and fair puzzles. Galatea is not a game and shouldn’t be judged like one.