I’ve recently watched a few different lectures given by Chris Crawford and have found his design philosophy to be very inspiring. For those unfamiliar Crawford is a game designer focused on Process driven Interactive games, which he uses those two terms in specific ways. When it comes to these two concepts I feel parser based IF has a few elements which could lend itself to this design philosophy.
With the parser, even though Crawford himself has expressed doubt (timestamp 7:25) at the ability to use keyboard input in game design, I do feel there is a way for the parser to offer a unique level of interactivity to game design that is also process oriented. While expressing these doubts Crawford himself admits that the keyboard is the most expressive way for the player to interact, especially since with the parser we can tap into the player’s preexisting knowledge of natural language. The verb focus of a parser also lends itself to process oriented game design since verbs themselves are processes. I also believe that parser games (especially text focused parser games) have an easier time increasing the actually accessible states of the game by being able to include more verbs more easily (as compared to graphics based games which then need to implement visual representations of different state changes; for example it is much easier to write in text how fire propagates rather then modeling fire propagation in a 3d environment with particle effects, animations etc). The problem with a parser however is that the parser intrinsically creates a huge amount of imaginable states (see previous video) and so extra care has to be taken to create the context of the game and to align the imaginable states of the player with the accessible states of the game. And all of this ultimately ties back to the idea of listening as we are able to use an intuitive language of listening (natural language), and we are able to more easily listen to more of what the player would like to do (creating more accessible states).
I am only really familiar with Inform 7 so for this section I will be focusing on I7 entirely but this may well be applicable to other languages, I just don’t have the knowledge to say so. When it comes to I7 I feel that there is a similarity to languages such as Prolog (Timestamp 19:50) primarily in the logical programming paradigm such as through the use of relations, facts and rules, (for example in I7 the code
Every person has nose.) which lend itself both to process based design and to thinking. In this case I don’t think I7 has a necessary advantage, but instead it offers a unique approach. Crawford has previously used classic adventure games as an example of poor game design(timestamp 31:58), primarily pointing to their reliance on boolean states. However this form of design is avoidable. I feel this logical approach allows for an author to more easily design a complex state with rules (processes) by which to change it. Just as the verb approach of the parser aids with Listening, the rules of each verb literally
Carry out the Thinking of interactivity.
Here is a tiny example
"Example 1" Laboratory is a room. A nose is a kind of thing. A nose is part of every person. A nose has a number called usability. The usability of a nose is usually 100. Carry out an actor attacking someone(called the target): say "[The actor] punches [the target]"; decrease the usability of a random nose that is part of the target by 5.
Without creating any specifics of the game we have created processes by which the initial state of the game is created (giving everyone a nose) and rules by which that state can change (attacking people decreases the usability of their nose(and this is represented in a non-boolean fashion you could go further in creating equations to calculate the amount by which the usability of a nose is decreased by)). This example by itself is nothing too interesting but it shows this design philosophy of creating rules for interactivity rather than creating specific interactions, as well as interactivity which is non-boolean (as it’s not just a matter of if one has a nose but what state that nose is in).
Finally when it comes to the Speaking aspect of interactivity I think text based games have a huge advantage because text is a much cheaper medium than most other forms of speech. This not only allows for more people to be able to start making games and interactive stories, but it also means that projects which would be impossible if done graphically become possible (Dwarf fortress which while still somewhat graphical is a great example of this). Text also allows for the author to better utilize negative space, to allow the player to use their imagination to fill in the gaps left by text which can be harder to do in visual representations.
I would be really interested to hear what other people think of this design philosophy. As I have mentioned elsewhere in the forums I’m not very well versed in traditional IF games, and I’ve never played a classic adventure game. Instead I’ve been brought to IF primarily from Twine and Ren’Py AIF games which I felt were doing really interesting things when it came to interactivity and emergent storytelling especially within languages that people often view as more constrained/linear. So if anyone has examples of parser games which have similar design philosophies which I’m not aware of I would love to check them out. I unfortunately haven’t been able to play Crawford’s Gossip but I especially thought his approach to character driven games, using this interactive and process focused design especially peaked my interest in this design philosophy. One similar game project I am aware of which relates to IF (I don’t recall if it was a parser game or not) was the Versu project which I’ve heard a couple lectures from Emily Short about. Unfortunately however the games (the main one being blood and laurels) are no longer available.