"Use no scoring" as the default?

I’ve made a uservoice suggestion that “Use no scoring” should be the default.

My reasoning is that people who want to use scoring are already mucking around with the score; this lets people who don’t want to use scoring ignore the score entirely. And these days, it seems like most people don’t want to use scoring. Let us end the tyranny of “You scored 0 out of a possible 0 points, in 53 turns!” (I have one data point that newbies – well, one newbie – find that message particularly ridiculous.)

(I don’t know if it’s the done thing to hock your uservoice suggestions on the forum, but here it is.)

Makes sense to me.

Somehow, I was assuming (with zero evidence) that this would already be on the dev-team’s to-do-list. So, count me in on this one.

(And while we are at it, what about also stripping the turn counter from the status line?)

Thumbs up on both suggestions.

Sounds good.

I’m not a newbie, but I find that message particularly ridiculous, too…

Thanks for all the support!

I notice that on uservoice it still only has the two votes I gave it, though. :wink:

Uservoice has that scarcity problem :slight_smile:

Is there really much '0 out of 0’ing about? Of all the IF I played in the past half year, only 1 did that, and it was a WIP.

I’m not actually against changing the default position to ‘use no scoring’, though. It seems most games don’t use it.

I don’t care what sort of game you are writing, it should have a score. Or if you don’t want to call it a score, call it progress level, and maybe express it as a percentage. But you absolutely need a way to notify the player of how far they are through the story. People say books and movies don’t have scores but that is incorrect; or at least, it is only correct in the most meaningless, semantic way. Books and movies don’t have a thing called a ‘score’ but they both have a numerical equivalent with a different name. Books have a page count and movies have a minutes and seconds count. Web pages have a scroll bar. Music has a running time that all makers of music software make every effort to expose to the user. Why? Is it because music is laden down by its legacy origins in puzzle gaming? Obviously not. The reverse is true. Games need a score because they are too free from metrics used to measure progress in older media.

When I’m playing a game without a score, I feel like I’m reading a book with no page numbers and of a largely indeterminate thickness. It puts me off. Whatever it is that I may not be enjoying about certain parts of your story, I imagine that there might be so much more of it that I just give up on scoreless games, way easier. It also make my time management prediction more difficult, which also makes me more likely to give up because in a battle between prudent use of my time and your game, your game doesn’t win. Therefore your game needs to willingly cooperate with time management. Having no score sends the message, ‘Screw your time management – this is Art.’ The priorities of that are all wrong, and it’s not user-friendly. The score helps people stay aware of what they are getting into and thus stay motivated. Every game needs one, or a functional equivalent – it doesn’t matter whether its focus is on puzzle or on story.

I think the ‘problem’ authors have with the score is just a word, nothing more. I am more in favour of not calling it a score by default than I am of removing by default the only progress-tracking system the medium has. Why not change ‘score’ to a percentage by default, and change the standard message to ‘You are X% of the way through the story.’? If you want the old scoring you can ‘Use scoring’ or ‘Use old progress’. It would be a more prudent way of leaving behind the legacy of simplistic gaming, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 8)


I don’t think there can be an effective measure of progress in a game, though, unless it’s absolutely narrow and linear. The main reason games defy metrics is because much of their content is optional or conditional. Although game devs obviously want you to play their game forever, reach every different ending, find every little widget, explore each branch of the plot etc. most players probably only experience a fraction of it, and you have no way of knowing how big a fraction will hold their interest.

And since progress is usually linked to challenge and player skill, you have no way of knowing if the last 5% of the game will take you longer than the preceding 95%.

A better solution is to indicate early on how big the game is, for example with prominent entrances to the areas they have to unlock, or obvious tasks they have to solve or whatever. Or, you know, just by saying “This is a small/medium/large game and it will take minutes/hours/days to reach one ending/100% completion/the end of the main quest.”

Or: having games end with “'You are 0% of the way through the story.” by default isn’t much of an improvement. I think this is a design issue, like “You should implement hints.” You should (usually) implement hints, but “There are 0 out of 0 hints available at this time.” is obviously not a desirable default message to have in the standard rules. :stuck_out_tongue:

I also like to know how far along I am through a game, but I think “use no scoring” makes sense as a default, because as the original poster said, if the author is using scoring, they’re already mucking around with the score.

I don’t tend to trust other people’s evaluations of how long a game is. How big is a medium-sized game? I give up. How many hours did it take me to play Worlds Apart? No idea. But it would have been nice to be told something like “This is Chapter 2 of 4” or “The story ends at dawn, and it’s 9PM right now,” or “You’ve achieved 3 of the 8 goals you need to reach,” or ANYTHING. I’m all for letting the author define progress, but I hope that most authors will put some thought into it.

Well, I disagree here somewhat. A game doesn’t have to be linear to have measurable progress; if you have to solve eight puzzles to finish, but can solve them in any order, you can still have a progress meter. The question of side this-and-that is more interesting; should we just not fill the meter while you’re on an optional sidequest? Should a new meter sprout up for the sidequest? Should there be an array of meters that demonstrate your progress toward all the goals you might have? That might be inordinately spoily.

And I’m saying “progress meter” here, because I think that’s what you (Paul) really want; a passive indication of how far through you are, that you can glance up and check at any time. That’s closer to what traditional media provide – they don’t suddenly pop up and say “We have just completed a major plot point!” – Well, books have chapters and parts, but IF can do that too, and anyway the chapters and parts don’t tell you how much you’ve got left. The telltale compression of the pages does that, and that’s more like a progress meter.

One of the problems with the default scoring system is that it serves two masters – do you have 75% of the points because there’s still 25% of the game left to play, or because 24% of the points were tied up in optional achievements and sidequests? The player doesn’t know. The progress bar would hopefully be unambiguous here.

Hi, Cave Story!

In a lot of flash games, your way of measuring progress is by the level select screen, which has the same problem. Really, does any other kind of game use a numerical score as a measure of completion anymore? I get the impression that AAA games signal completion by giving you achievements, though that has the “sidequests and challenges” problem I complained about before. Or just by letting you see how you’re progressing through the plot.

This, very much. And that’s pretty much how theatrical releases of movies do it – the running time is in promotional materials and whatever, and probably can be figured out from the showtimes, but it’s not actually in the movie. Of course time management with movies is much simpler, because you know exactly how long it’s going to take. (But that also means that there’s no need to monitor your progress while the movie is going on.)

Yeah, this is my main point. If you’re going to implement scoring, you’re going to implement scoring, and putting one more line at the beginning of the code isn’t a great burden. As it is, having scoring on by default is basically just another trap for the newbie programmer. (I mean, I guess it can serve the player the way brown M&Ms do – if the programmer has forgotten to turn off scoring, there’s likely to be other problems – but feh.)

I guess there is another trap here, in that if scoring is off you can still program in changes to the score, they just won’t have any visible effect. Which would be annoying if you forgot to write “Use scoring.” But I think that should probably give a compile-time error anyway.

As Zarf said in the uservoice forums, it’d be nice to have scoring as an extension. Then people could write progress-bar extensions, or maybe act-and-scene management extensions, or just drop in Traditional Scoring by Graham Nelson. Or roll a system that’s specific to the game. Paul makes a good point about measuring progress, but I think we ought to be thinking about more ways to do it.

I like books that have a Table of Contents at the beginning.

I understand your position, although I don’t share it. However, it’s not a reason for the current scoring default. As others have posted, there is no problem for authors who pay attention to the problem: they will either turn off scoring or implement a meaningful progress display. But for authors who don’t pay attention to the problem, the current default is both ugly and useless. Changing the default to be absent would be less ugly and no less useless.

(I don’t like motivating the author to put in effort by providing an ugly default. It doesn’t always work, and then that makes the author look bad rather than merely careless. It would be like making the default player description “FILL IN DESCRIPTION HERE” – plausible, but not the road that I7 generally takes.)

I’d like to think of not having a progress meter as a distinct advantage. In a book, you’re always partly spoiled: the murderer cannot be the guy who is apprehended on page 130, because you still have 124 pages to go; the protagonist doesn’t die in the car crash, because you’re only halfway through the book (and you have seen his name come up in the rest when you were thumbing through it, trying to find the page you stopped reading last night.) Interactive fiction doesn’t have this problem. It is opaque. You never know what to expect. That is good. It is one of the strengths of the medium.

I don’t buy the time management argument. If you are enjoying the game, play on. If you are not, don’t. If you think you might be missing out on something good that is still to come, check the game’s score on the IFDB. And if you want to know whether it can be completed in one evening, or takes three months – well, that shouldn’t be too hard to point out in the documentation.

Additionally, as has been pointed out, score is an incredibly bad progress meter. There is zero guarantee that the player will accumulate score at a constant rate, and zero guarantee that you will finish the game with a full score.

And finally, there are many other and more elegant ways for a game to communicate how much of it you have seen. A numerical score will be the right solution for only a small number of games.

On a practical note, I’m looking at the way score is implemented currently. [rant]Allow me to pause for a moment to rant about the state of documentation. In what part of Writing with Inform will I learn the name of the variable that represents the total score? Hmm…

I look in Chapter 2 - The Source Text because it’s the first meaty chapter - don’t see any useful subheadings.

I look in Chapter 8 - Change, because the score is something that changes - looks like a dead end.

I do a search for “score” in the search bar. It looks like there IS something in Chapter 2 - but alas, it just tells me about “use no scoring.” Hmm, if that were the default, it wouldn’t even need to be in Chapter 2. But it’s just an example of a use option, so it’s not what we’re expected to be looking for here anyway.

Next hit comes up in Chapter 4 - Kinds, under Values that vary. Sounds promising. Nope, sorry, it’s an example of a new variable called “the target score.” This text search thing isn’t turning out to be very useful.

Skimming around, I see in Chapter 8, the score is mentioned under “Now…” Lets see… no that was more irrelevant examples.

Well, I think increasing the score is done using a phrase. Let’s see if I can find something listing phrases in I7. Chapter 11 is all about phrases. Conditions and questions maybe? Well, it happens to mention the score, but it’s just another example.

I’m running out of ideas. Maybe I need to search for “increase the score”… Well, 8.12 does tell me how to do that, but still nothing about the total score.

At this point I give up and decide that the source of the Standard Rules is a better form of documentation than the manual. Here we go…

Hmm… searches for “obituary” and “final score” don’t turn up anything useful. Requesting the score? Handled in I6. Finally I think of “the score.” Now we get a list of variables. Here we go! The maximum score, that’s it!

Out of curiosity, let’s search for “maximum score” in the documentation. Awarding Points is section 9.2 in the chapter on “Time.” Well, I guess since we’re talking about progress, running time, and playing time, that kind of makes sense, but it’s a stretch if you ask me.

Okay, now I can get to the point.[/rant] Why not behave as though there is no score if the maximum score is zero? A use option could override that, but in almost all cases with or without scoring, the author wouldn’t have to think about it at all. This might have to be done at runtime in case the maximum score is added up when play begins, but that doesn’t sound too expensive.

Yeah, I just suggested that at Uservoice. Inform could just assume the game uses no scoring if the author hasn’t provided a “The maximum score is X” instruction.

For some quirky reason, I had no problem finding this with “scoring” – there aren’t many relevant hits. Of course I was looking for the use option. Anyway, I agree that the chapter on Time is a really weird place to put this.

They’re called bytes, Laroquod.