Trying to Understand Appeal of Text Adventures (I Really Am)

Hey Janka – here’s a thought. If you think that — why are you participating in the discussion?! Color me confused. Do you normally participate in things you find to be going nowhere? (That might explain the interest in text adventures, perhaps.)

In any event, I do notice text adventure folks get the most defensive when you question why people are interested in the medium. You don’t see this in other game forums. Curious. But it would probably … go nowhere … to discuss it.

Everyone CAN be a novelist, as long as they have basic literacy and access to writing utensils. Everyone can be a filmmaker if they have access to a camera. It doesn’t mean that what they produce will be any good, but given the tools and the time, anyone can make something. Text adventures are no different.

I think a better question is why you continue to draw it out. We get it, you don’t like text adventures. That’s fine. You claim that you want to know why other people do like them, but you argue with every reason that anyone gives you. It’s obvious you don’t want to be convinced. I don’t know why you’re devoting so much energy to something you have such disdain for.

These threads sound interesting. Can you link to some of them?

This comment from maga nicely expresses what I think IF’s potential is. Especially point 2:

Now, I don’t play mainstream games, so I can’t speak to maga’s statements about them first-hand. But the ones that aren’t time management/hidden object games* do seem mostly to be about shooting stuff when they aren’t about whacking stuff with swords or casting spells on stuff. Indie games can be nice but they still seem to basically fall be about those, or to be puzzles of some sort (sometimes puzzles about how to effectively whack stuff with swords – I like those), or to be platformers which may or may not deliver some deeper meaning through some kind of pretty abstract symbolism; which is really the only option, because a story that was actually about someone running around and jumping on stuff would be pretty silly.

Obviously there’s crap IF, and IF that doesn’t respect its audience, and genre IF, but IF at least has the potential (sometimes realized) to be about things that don’t get addressed in most games.

*Which probably don’t count as games gamers play; they’re marketed toward middle-aged women, so even thinking about them probably gives you girl cooties. There’s like one game writer I’ve read who takes time management games seriously; her descriptions don’t make them sound appealing to me, but at least they aren’t about shooting stuff.

Did I say this? I think I did. I believe I called it “intelligent trolling”. Not that I haven’t done the very same, without so much the intelligent part.

Every single genre, every popular game, has some of this. I’m not sure from whence the comment is born regarding IF being elitist in defending its medium. I can’t pick up a copy of Game Informer without seeing pages of reviews burying games of ever flavor that are horrible and an equal number of comments glorifying those things which make it great regardless. For an extreme and common example, jump on the World of Warcraft forums. You can’t say “Hi, my name is Jack.” without someone screaming at you that Jack is a rogue’s name and rogues are OP in PvP and Blizzard has done crap since patch 32.3.221 when they released the “Tinkerdust: Another Pointless Expansion Where We Didn’t Change Anything That Won’t Piss Everyone Off” expansion.

Game doesn’t have multiplayer? Crucified…

I think this was an unnecessary jab.

This conversation is going nowhere. It never got anywhere. Asking someone who loves IF why they write IF and why it’s a better medium is like asking a chef why s/he cooks Italian food over French. If s/he was a really great chef, s/he would be able to cook both, right? There are some chefs out there (very few) who can do both, who can do amazing things in either style. But a lot of them don’t, because they prefer not to or because they have a better feel for one style over another. Or because their customers prefer one style over another.

It doesn’t really matter because they’re cooking what they love for the people who love it, not for the people who don’t.

I enjoy foie gras. I don’t give a damn if you do or not. When I cook, I prefer French, Southern American or Indian influences. Not because I can’t cook something else. I’m handy with Italian, German, Mexican, Spanish and Asian. I just happen to PREFER French, Southern American and Indian, because that’s what I personally like. If you don’t… Don’t eat it. I don’t need to convert you. I don’t care if you like it. I don’t care if you don’t understand why I like it. I don’t care you if you don’t understand or agree that I’m a liberal. I don’t care if you don’t understand or agree that I believe in Jesus. (Though my writing my indicate otherwise.) I don’t care if you don’t understand or agree that I prefer the color red.

I got through English classes in school writing, because my teachers recognized that I knew the grammar and was bored to the point that I was going to fail the classes. So I wrote stories. A lot of them. That’s what I was graded on. That grasp has since faded under the influences of lethargy and alcohol. But I know that if I really wanted to write a novel, I could. Hell, if Terry Pratchett can get published, any of my pre-teen children can. But if I’m going to write, I prefer the IF medium. I believe it gives a stronger sense of immersion.

People who make fancy graphical games do so because they love fancy graphical games. The only people who give a damn about the story are the people paid to write the story, and in a lot of cases even their hands are tied by what can be graphically achieved. Most game companies care about the bottom dollar, with the exception of a few gems. If they didn’t, there would never be a video game based on a movie. They know that their game is going to be a flash in the pan and forgotten, in many cases. They will give the lip service because they have to. “We love the classic love story between our steroid fueled opossum and the coffee mug. We think it’s a wonderful combination of writing and graphical advancement.”

BS. It’s flashy. Things blow up. People eat it up.

Point being, people do what they love for reasons that are personal to them. Not for reasons that they have to explain to the rest of the world. And no medium, craft, theology, political bent or love for French/Southern American/Indian cuisine is immune.

I also understand and acknowledge the irony of the fact that I wrote this long post about something I don’t care about. :slight_smile:

Huh? That seems somewhat elitist–“It can’t be that great because anyone can do it.”

It’s also a strange assertion to make. The bar to do any of those things is lower right now than it has ever been in history. Using cheap (or even free) tools, one can write (and publish/print) a novel, make (publish/distribute) a movie, and program (publish/distribute) a graphical game. And those same people can write (publish/distribute) a text adventure.

Some of these endeavors tend to require a great deal of investment if you want to have a big, commercially successful product, but even there you have exceptions. Many people prefer independent films, self-published niche market novels, and indie games.

Interesting to me, there are no massive commercial production tools required to write really top notch IF; you can use the same free tools that the terrible writers are using. The entry cost is very low, but that doesn’t mean that the resulting work has little value.

I meant in the sense that it’s possible for anyone to write IF. It’s not possible for anyone to write a FPS or an MMO, at least not on their own and not without having considerably financial backing. Not everyone can be a film director on their own - they need actors and set designers and story writers and people to promote the film and cinemas willing to show it. Not everyone can be a novellist - sure, anyone can write one but they still need publishers to get them into print* and bookshops to stock them. But yes, anyone can write IF. It might not be good IF, but the barriers holding you back in other fields don’t apply as strongly in the IF world.

Although if eBook readers take off in the way I hope they do, even that might be something that Joe Ordinary can do.

I also suspect that the vast majority of IF authors also write non-IF fiction or do non-IF programming/game design, and that a large portion do both. I do both, for instance (and illustration, to boot).

I think vanishingly few people have written IF without skills in any related field.

For an MMO that might be true, but in the case of an FPS, that’s no longer the case now that engines such as Unity are available.

I’ve never heard of Unity and don’t play FPS, but I’m kind of doubtful that something like, say, Call of Duty 4 could be written by a single person. The best IF game in the world could be written by a person on their own; the best FPS couldn’t.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by “better”. I’d have to borrow models and textures and animations, but there are resources for that, just as I’ve borrowed artistic resources for my IF WIP. I’d need some advise on pathing and AI probably, just like I need advice on some game design issues in IF. I’d probably crib from someone else - just like I crib from IF extension authors. My particle effects probably wouldn’t be as awesome - explosions would be cruder, or I’d have to get them sourced. But the meat of the game? Plot, level design, scripting, physics collisions, force applications from explosions? All that I can do on my own (or get the engine to do for me - same diff, right?). I’d need external beta testers for sure, but that’s not different than IF either. I’d need voice actors, if I designed a plot that included voice actors, but that seems like a different category than a co-worker.

I could certainly make a better game than, say, Descent.

It would take me a long time to make a commercial length game. But I’ve seen what people can do with Unity, and you’re dismissing it too readily. Of course, if you mean that I should build the engine from the ground up . . . that’s different. (But plenty of commercial team games don’t build their own engines either.)

I don’t necessarily think it’s ideal to do your own FPS, but then I don’t necessarily think it’s ideal to write your own large IF*. But possible? Heck, yeah.

  • Not strictly true. I’m thinking of my WIP. Other people don’t talk enough about their design process for me to have any clue what would be helpful for them. But I can imagine even the most literary works finding a researcher, or a widget programmer, or a scenery writer useful.

Cripes. I changed my mind. This thread was a total troll because the original poster never had any intention of trying to understand anything, and I got suckered and helped legitimise it — sorry everyone.


But how much are you willing and able to pay? I’ve found that it’s a lot harder than one might think to find art on the Internet that’s unambiguously reusable and royalty free, especially if there’s a specific something you want depicted – clothing of a particular style or era, for instance. And if you do find it, there’s the matter of reconciling the diverse styles and moods of the work. As I high school student I used to try writing things in Ren’Py, but my biggest problem was always finding images that really fit what I was saying. I have no drawing skill whatsoever, so I made do with what I could get. I wound up illustrating one project using a NASA image, an old photograph of the interior of a Japanese passenger train, a filtered webcam picture of my own hand, GIMP-made renderings of simple, abstract shapes, and, for the characters, those male-and-female icons that appear on signs for public toilets. In my head, of course, there was all this unrefined, hand-sketched nonsense with evocative textures and dramatic facial expressions, but there was no way I was going to find all that ready-made, or raise the money to commission illustrations. And the story was one of those little high school experiments, probably not worth someone else’s hard effort. But I think, for this reason, IF is more accessible to the independent game maker with a story in mind.

It’s true that if you have a very unusual and particular vision for your artwork and are unwilling to compromise, things are going to be significantly more difficult. Want a 90,000 vertice model of Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding hat? Want a hand-drawn graphical novel but can’t draw yourself? Yeah, you’re . . . going to have some problems.

But then, in my vision, all my prose is sharp and witty and spare. So we’ve all got problems matching up to the vision of games in our heads.

Why Text Games?
They don’t require super-power expensive machinery or the fast reflexes of a hyped up teenage male. They do require an understanding of life and of language. Two very different markets: the one is young and spendthrift and so ‘good’ for business; the other refuses to overspend on entertainment, ‘not good’ for business. That is why Computer Game Companies aim at the young by using lots of ‘bling’.
I’m a pensioner that runs and plays table top RPGs and most of my companions are in their early twenties. One of the major problems I have is their lack of vocabulary, there are others. The problem has got worse over the decades.
I read books, wouldn’t have a kindle as a gift, and still listen to the radio. Reason - the colour’s better and so are the characters.

That’s my answer, but unfortunately it requires a different set of skills to those that the target audience of the Gaming Companies. So, very few commercial games. Ain’t life tough! :wink:

I read books too, and i love my Kindle.
To me the value of a book is in it’s content, not the physical pages of paper.
And you can play IF on them! :smiley:

I don’t see what age really has to do with the appeal. I’m a huge multiplayer FPS and action-game fan, and fit squarely in that target audience and its stereotypes (late-teens, male, etc. etc.). On the other hand, I can’t tolerate any adventure games but IF/text adventures. Maybe it’s just the “cozy” kind of feel that it evokes (my family owned a hilariously out-of-date computer running DOS/Windows 95 up until about 2009, leaving me with few gaming options aside from our Playstation), but I think in general it’s entirely up to individual tastes. I mean, I stopped listening to radio ever since I really got into underground music, but I can’t ever see myself reading books on anything but regular old paper.

I have a Kindle myself and after 5 minutes of using it, I found it was perfectly natural to read on. I can adjust the font size, type and spacing - something I never could do with a normal book. In fact, the more I use my Kindle, the more I find reading a normal book a chore. Just the other day, I was flicking through a book in a bookshop and noticing how bad the typeface was. Small, not particularly easy on the eyes. Quite an eyesore in fact. Being able to change things like that and read the book the way you want to is worth the price of a Kindle in my opinion.

Fully agree, my number one concern with the kindle was eye strain, but in fact it is much easier on my eyes than a book.
Change is inevitable, i’m sure Caxton caused a bit of a stir with people lamenting the loss of handwritten texts, but it’s not really a concern now.
Also, E-readers in general may be a factor in IF popularity over the next few years

I like to read.
I like solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles.
I like typing silly commands on the off chance that the author thought of the same thing.

Also, I like to read.