Parchment transcripts from IFComp

Careful, though, what you"re communicatingto your players. If you give them a tutorial explaining exactly how this game is played, that is what they will understand: These are instructions for this game. How much time would you think the average newcomer would be willing to spend learning to play a random IF Comp sized game?

Telling them “this is how you play this game and a couple of thousand more”, on the other hand, might make it worth the effort learning these basics.

That is irony incarnate.

In that case, I suggest adding an introduction (interactive, maybe) to the Comp’s site, rather than in all of the games. A big red button before the download, saying “click here if you haven’t played IF before”.

Now that I think about it, wall of texts, instructions and tutorials (all the xtras that don’t shout “this is the main game and just the main game”) are very likely skipped. By anyone. Take the game The Guardian by Lutein Hawthorn. It had feelies. Not even experienced players looked at those feelies. Half the story was in there, 90% of the people missed it.

So, on one hand we have people who will not read the hint menu.
On the other, imagine strolling through a dozen or more (38!) tutorials all alike for a dozen (38!) games who differ just for the ability to PUSH CLIFF or not to PUSH CLIFF.
If we had a third hand (and I hope none of you do), in there would fit people so lost to the parser as to try and use it as a web browser.
The eventual fourth hand would hold people that won’t go in a game other than by the game itself, skipping all the extras.

This is a mess.


I don’t think this is a good example because this didn’t happen because of a lack of interest in feelies. Lutein hit a specific problem - I would say he made a mistake (or an oversight - he might have failed to tick or untick a box) concerning a thing that I thought might happen if I let my game be played online… that it would become detached from its feelies. That did happen for The Guardian, so for people playing online, there was no sign initially that feelies existed. Then on the IFComp website, the gblorbs and such were available on their own, again detached from the feelies. So that’s the kind of thing all authors have to be wary of, and probably a logistical improvement that IFComp should look into next year.

In such a scenario, I expect you’d play one game with tutorial mode, hopefully get the idea, then you might play one more game with tutorial mode, or just proceed to leaving tute mode off from then on. I don’t think anyone’s advocating forcing tutorial mode to be on in every game. You can just ask the player.

Some people will never read anything extra-curricular, but it’s not really worth worrying about them. Just concentrate on making sure people who will or might read stuff are given the opportunity to do so when it’s relevant. Obviously not every game has to be for everyone or do things the same way. But if you’ve got feelies or instructions and do want people to read them, you have to do what you can as an author to encourage that to happen with your game.

A big red button to click first might be a good idea. Apparently IFComp does draw at least some non-IF people every year based on what some people have said about the online transcripts they got back. A tutorial would definitely help get new people oriented, but it would have to be IF also (not static text), and it would have to be fun-- short, merciful, VERY robust in responding logically to user input, not fiddly, no custom verbs, no excessively purple prose, no maudlin/angsty story-line, and focused on having the player learn by doing instead of throwing walls of explanatory text at them.

We don’t need yet another static-text article about “how to play IF”. There are several of those already, and it’s not reasonable to expect a player to have to read so much before starting to have fun and play.

That means I can’t be doing the job [emote]:)[/emote]

But yes, I mean a very fast, very easy tutorial IF.
I’m working on it. Will show something for you all to put straight in no time.

Wow, you’re an asshole!

I almost never read supplemental materials until after I’ve played the game, and then only if I liked the game fairly well.

If I’m playing an IF game, that’s what I’ve signed on for: it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m interested in the author’s static fiction or art or whatnot. I think it’s reasonable to assume that all crucial information will be delivered within the game, and that supplemental materials will be supplemental. If I like a game enough that I want more, I’ll look at feelies. If I’m unimpressed by the game, I’m not going to waste my time on them.

The design assumption that feelies will be experienced before the game is a holdover from the Infocom days, when it made sense: when you opened the box, you could read the leaflets and fondle the whatsits more immediately than you could load up the game. For moderns, this isn’t the case: the files are all equally accessible (or the reverse: my IF terps load a lot faster than my PDF viewer.)

Eh? I’m confused.

Seems like there’s confusion and misunderstanding both ways: It looks like you’re saying that it’s ironic that it’s Emily who discredits walls of text, implying that the irony is that she herself made the extension that’s basically a collection of walls of text (and/or that she tends to write games that are too wordy). You probably wanted to say, instead of specifically pointing at a single person, that it’s ironic that text is undesired in the context of text-only games in general.

At least I hope this is the case. I’ve been known to misinterpret things.

Just a note: I’m working on some major updates to Smarter Parser and related extensions taking into account the feedback here, but this is not reflected in the updates that just were posted on the I7 Extensions page, which were older fixes I hadn’t submitted until recently.

But I am listening to the feedback, and future updates will definitely take advantage of it.

Hehe, putting the floppy in the computer and turning it on was not a big deal. 8-bit computers may have had loading times, but they had no startup time and no hard drives and no fans or anything that had to power up. They booted up way faster than 16 bit computers, often instantly. I speak from experience [emote]:)[/emote]

My point was about the author taking responsbility for what they’re doing, not about people’s habits. If Lutein was dead set on having that feelie, with you personally, he’s not gonna succeed no matter what he does. If he doesn’t tell you to read it, you won’t read it. If he tells you to read it at the start of the game, you’ve said you won’t read it. Basically, you’re not gonna read it til after, which with this game, was too late. In that sense, you’re one of the players I would say he can’t worry about.

On the other hand, if he wants to scoop up such players - who as you say, are the majority - he’d move the feelie content into the game. But then in his case, it potentially becomes a wall of text issue. And you lose all the aesthetics of the feelie. If we keep viewing it from all these bad things that might happen, it keeps looking like a negative. I view it as a positive when the author owns and dictates the circumstances of the thing they really want to do (in this case - tell player at game start to read feelie - though more gracefully than I just did) and is clear in communicating it.

Still, you open the box and you can read the text straight away. If you can read data from a floppy in your hand faster than you can read text on a piece of paper in your hand, I think you’ve got a non-trivial superpower.

Well, it isn’t very difficult to get images into games. If I were going to spend time on making illustrations, say, given the current distribution model of IF I’d never consider putting them anywhere except in-game. Even if they weren’t crucial content. Art’s really hard work!

The wall-o’-text thing is another issue, though. I remember really enjoying Worlds Apart but glazing over at the big piles of information in the (in-game) leaflet. But this is an inherent problem of mixed-media, I think, and not one that I can solve in this margin.

Yes! Totally! But it’s not really dictating the circumstances if you put your feelies in the same folder and mention them in the game. That’s like saying “you really ought to to read the tie-in novel before you see my movie” and leaving copies in the cinema lobby. If there’s something that you need the player to know, it’s best to put it where they can’t miss it.

Exactly. I merely meant that this statement about “walls of text” being “unattractive” made me smile, because I couldn’t help thinking about applying it to the medium as a whole. Whether I believe Emily’s games too wordy (or too brief, for that matter) is hardly of any consequence to this discussion and I’ve used the help menu extension in games myself before. My sincere apologies if this came across in an insulting or otherwise offensive way.

You make it sound as though that were the major reason for feelies. IIRC, the major major reason for the first Infocom game to have feelies - Deadline - was because there was a heapload of background information, necessary information, that simply wouldn’t fit in the disk. Things got more expansive and more fun and soon included glow-in-the-dark wishbringers, and a lot of copy-protection, but it originated simply because there was more game that could fit in the disk.

Yeah, I wasn’t meaning to say anything about the reasons for feelies, just why there was more expectation that they would be consumed before the game was played.


The two main reasons they had feelies are:

  1. they contained anti-pirating codes
  2. they felt guilty for pricing $50+ games with no graphics.

[emote];)[/emote] … elies.html

I’d like to sincerely apologize to you, Hannes. I misinterpreted your post.

Update: I’ve made some major revisions to Smarter Parser and started a new thread about it, for anyone who’s interested.