First, let me apologise if this post is misdirected and please feel free to relocate it if necessary.
I am new here having registered only so I can obtain (hopefully) a copy of Rendezvous with Rama for the PC.
I am a writer researching the construction and design of habitable space stations, actual or fictional. I remember the book Rendezvous with Rama with great fondness; it was partly responsible for my love of all things space-oriented.
One of the websites that led me here featured a comment by the game’s author concerning his adaptation of the description of Rama for the computer game. This I found very interesting but I failed to discover how to contact that gentleman.
Any help I receive will be greatly appreciated.
Funny you should say that because I feel like almost every Infocom game is like Rendezvous with Rama. Protagonist explores mysterious environment in near-silence and with little (or only sporadic) human interaction. You probably could not pick a better example of a pre-IF novel that prefigures everything about computer puzzle games.
Well, yes. I don’t know if environments are easier to model than interactions (or is it just a bias that our tools have saddled us with?) but they really are genre-defining qualities right from the start gate.
Well, interaction with NPCs certainly are more complex. With a door, you only have to model its being open or closed, locked, picked, broken open, maybe burnt.
With an NPC, well, they should theoretically (and utopically) be able to do everything the player does, as well as respond to conversational gambits, and might even move and act of their own accord. Way too many variables, way too many things that can go wrong. Which is why the perfect NPC will never be created - not because it’s impossible, but because it’s far too gargantuan a piece of work to justify its appearance in a game where, most often, you can fake it to get as good as - or better! - an effect.
Here’s the thing though; every game has at least one NPC – the narrator. And you can make an NPC as intelligent as the narrator merely by treating it as part of the narration rather than as an independent AI to be manipulated like an object. It is not the existence of NPCs that is so difficult, it is their objectification as something to be freely acted *upon. I am probably not explaining this very clearly but I’m not in an ideal place to be typing. Whast you think of as a drawback of NPCs I tend to think of as merely a drawback of coinversational interfaces. you can have NPCs without a coinversatioin interface – it so much easier that way and they will seem more intelligent because every conversational interface is just another opportunity for an object to fail a Turing test. Anyway getting off topic here, sorry.
EDIT: FYI for the original poster. The above paragraph is more my pet theory about NPCs and I have not really seen it shared by many around here. What Peter expressed is really a lot closer to what seems to be the general consensus about NPCs (non-player characters).
That’s cute, but it’s not really true in a practical sense. You don’t directly interact with the narrator, unless he’s been created as an NPC and is therefore subject to what I mentioned.
Thus “faking it”. Which in the end depends on whether you want to simulate a world or you want to tell a story… Most Infocom games depended on a fairly detailed world, to encourage you to explore and try things out. “Enchanter” has two very important bits of character interaction that are par for the course in a detailed simulated environment, but would be hard to come up with in a story-heavy game, where the NPC’s detail is “faked”.
What I think is, we may be using different meanings for “NPC”. I consider an NPC to be an object in the game which represents a person/animal/living creature of the animal kingdom, and is therefore subject to a lot of complications inherent to the creature it’s simulating. Your notion of NPC seems to be more abstract, and to be honest I can’t quite grasp at it, because when you say the narrator is an NPC… what is the parser, then? The same NPC? Another entity (see “Bellclap”)? Are they both manifestations of the PC?
This is a standard approach by this point, although still not as commonly used as I might like. Fail-Safe. Ugly Chapter. Bellclap. Violet. Deadline Enchanter. Arguably Spider and Web. Probably another half-dozen games that I can’t think of offhand.
(There is the mechanical sense of ‘NPC’, which means an in-game entity of a particular kind, and there’s the narrative sense. It’s useful to clear up which sense you’re using before you get too far into a discussion.)
You don’t? To whom are you typing all your commands, then? I could easily make the case that the narrator is the ONLY thing you directly interact with. Everything else is just a variety of smoke and mirrors.
Actually, all the NPCs are faked. Giving it an object does not make it more ‘real’ – all of the objects are fake, too. The only question is, will people notice? The answer is, if you try to portray an open-ended conversation interface, they will notice it is fake and very quickly. More quickly than if you just fold interactions with NPCs into the narration without a conversation interface.
Maga explained it well. I personally see no reason why ‘NPC’ is necessarily associated with ‘object’ but it seems you are going by a different definition so we are talking past each other.
So how do you get the PC’s response to your commands, if not from the narrator? The putative tripartite soul of the IF game is not wholly distinct. The narrator subsumes every role, except that of typing commands, including the role of parsing commands. Most players do not distinguish the parser intelligence from the intelligence of the game itself and the narrator speaks for the game as a whole, thus the narrator speaks both for the parser and on the PC’s behalf. The narrator mediates everything in the game.