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Playing Games

Postby David Whyld » Fri Jul 05, 2019 3:58 pm

Just out of curiosity, how many IF games do people play a year on average? Do you play multiple games at the same time or just stick to one till it’s finished before playing another? And if the number of games you play each year is less than it used to be, why? Less time for playing, less interest in games, spend your time doing other things?

The reason I'm asking is that I noticed the other day that I haven’t actually played a single IF game all year. I've downloaded plenty because they looked like something I might like or someone else has recommended them, but most are still sat on my hard drive unplayed. Which is weird because years ago I used to play a lot of games. I made a point at one time of playing every ADRIFT game out there and while I didn't get around to playing them all, I got through a pretty decent amount of them. Even if a lot of the games were bad (and to be fair, a lot were awful), it never discouraged me from playing others. If I got one good game out of ten, I’d consider it worthwhile.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby rotter » Fri Jul 05, 2019 6:12 pm

Now you mention it I haven't played anything in the last six months or so. But, I have played a few recently - some Quest games. :roll:

For me it was being made redundant a year ago, focused my mind on getting another job. That kept me busy. But even before that I was playing a lot less IF than I used to.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby Denk » Fri Jul 05, 2019 6:58 pm

Looking at my IFDB ratings in 2018, I played about 70 games, which is more than I normally play. I normally try to play as many parser games I can during IFcomp, Spring Thing and Ectocomp. In addition, I attempted to play all games by Ryan Veeder, which are many very short games. 2018 was also the year I discovered Eamon. I also wanted to play as many Eamon games I could. Eamon games are quite short too.

Since 2016 was the year I rediscovered Interactive Fiction, I guess it is too early to talk about what is normal for me. However, I believe that I will continue playing most parser competition games each year.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby The0didactus » Sat Jul 06, 2019 12:27 am

I made a point of playing almost all the IFCOMP games from last year, and I fully intend to do that this year too. Other than that I haven't played any games.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby P/o Prune » Sat Jul 06, 2019 4:03 pm

I must, shamefully, admit that I'm more of an author and a player.
The games I have played has mainly been beta testing games for other people.
Having said that, I do occasionally enjoy playing a game. I will pick one game that sounds interesting and I will stick to it until finished before I begin another one.
I have played less games this year do to some health problems, but they are, hopefully of the past so I hope to get back in the saddle and get back to playing (even though it's not a million games.)
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Re: Playing Games

Postby David Whyld » Mon Jul 08, 2019 4:01 pm

For myself, I'm not sure why I don't tend to play much IF these days. I still like IF and want to play it, but most times when I fire up an IF game, I sit there for a couple of minutes, type out a few commands then can’t be bothered to play any further and decide to come back to it later. Only I never do. I have IF games on my hard drive that have been there for years which I've never played.

I think some of the reason might be down to the fact that I'm not fond of the current IF scene right now. I don't want to play games about mental depression, equal rights, sexual equality or someone’s rant about whatever subject is the latest fan favourite. Whenever I play a game like this, it puts me off playing anything else for ages. I like IF games to be fun and entertaining, not things which don't interest me. (It’s not just IF I feel like this about. Give me a colourful superhero film in which people with incredible powers, silly names and zero wardrobe sense fly around the world saving us from big bad villains and I'm content. Give me a film where people spend two hours talking about how depressed they are and I’ll switch off.)

As far as ADRIFT games go, I've mentioned a time or two (hundred) in the past that I don't particularly care for the v5 Runner and this is what stops me playing v5 games for the most part. It feels clunky compared to the v4 Runner, lacks the useful shortcuts I got used to and games don't run half as smoothly with it as they did in the v4 days. Sure, the v4 Runner was hardly perfect and could never hold a candle to Inform or Tads, but it was more than adequate for what we needed it for. The v5 map makes me want to punch things.

Of course, that doesn't really explain why I don't play games in other systems these days. I just don't. I keep meaning to but for one reason or another, I never quite get around to it.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby Lumin » Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:15 pm

Really only Theo's games, aside from messing around with the ADRIFT comp entries a bit last year and just enough of the others to vote.

I downloaded the highest rated IFComp stuff intending to play it, but just never did. More often than not the sense of fun and discovery is missing now, or a game just fails to grab me. It probably is just be me though; I get burned out much more quickly now at the 'examine every noun in the room' game, or impatient at puzzles.

My theory is that Theo not having a background in traditional IF conventions (and 'traditional' is very much the right word...) is exactly the reason his games have all been so addictive to me. He's approaching games in different ways and doing things no one else has, and it's refreshing. I've been obsessively playing Skybreak days at a time....I'm 'testing' it, sure, but mostly I'm just bouncing around the galaxy having wacky adventures and roleplaying while making note of typos.

He's also writing them with players in mind who aren't veteran IF players and who aren't willing to put up with all the weird baggage of this weird inbred genre that we're so used to to the point we don't even notice it even as we imitate it in our own games.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby P/o Prune » Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:08 am

I have become more of a player now. One of the reasons are that summer is over and the weather has turned colder and wetter… another is that I have beta tested a couple of games and have thus found the pleasure of sitting in the "office" playing games enjoying a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

Lumin, you simply MUST write a review of Skybreak. Just by reading this post of yours I will absolutely give it a go.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby David Whyld » Fri Sep 20, 2019 2:28 pm

Lumin wrote:Really only Theo's games, aside from messing around with the ADRIFT comp entries a bit last year and just enough of the others to vote.

I downloaded the highest rated IFComp stuff intending to play it, but just never did. More often than not the sense of fun and discovery is missing now, or a game just fails to grab me. It probably is just be me though; I get burned out much more quickly now at the 'examine every noun in the room' game, or impatient at puzzles.

My theory is that Theo not having a background in traditional IF conventions (and 'traditional' is very much the right word...) is exactly the reason his games have all been so addictive to me. He's approaching games in different ways and doing things no one else has, and it's refreshing. I've been obsessively playing Skybreak days at a time....I'm 'testing' it, sure, but mostly I'm just bouncing around the galaxy having wacky adventures and roleplaying while making note of typos.

He's also writing them with players in mind who aren't veteran IF players and who aren't willing to put up with all the weird baggage of this weird inbred genre that we're so used to to the point we don't even notice it even as we imitate it in our own games.


I sometimes get tempted to just write a game which doesn't bother with any of the things people have come to expect in IF games. I once toyed with getting rid of EXAMINE - because, honestly, how many times do you really need to examine something? 99% of the things you can examine are just scenery items and it's irrelevant what they look like - but now I'm thinking: why stop there? Why do we need TAKE and DROP? How often do you come across an item and don't try to take it? (Unless it's a bomb or something similar.) And once you've taken it, why would you ever need to drop it? Inventory limits are a relic of early IF games and most of the games I play don't bother with them, and nor should they. They're just annoying and half the time don't make sense. I'm carrying around a wardrobe, a barrel, a coat, a backpack and a sword, yet I can't pick up a stamp because I'm carrying too much?

So maybe for my next WiP, I'll dispense with all the usual conventions and just write a totally off the rails game. People may hate it - heck, I'll probable hate it! - but it'll be interesting all the same.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby The0didactus » Sat Sep 21, 2019 11:17 pm

I think there's a pretty big gap between player preferences: it's clear to me that some people like TONS of verbs in their games (search vs look vs inspect; put inside vs. stuff; open vs. unlock) and other people don't. I saw a twitter discussion recently where IF enthusiasts were comparing games by number of verbs.

I'm a minimalist when it comes to verbs. I even get touchy about inside/outside, up and down...I like maps where you can draw it on a grid. I like puzzles that require a handful of verbs.

It's interesting to contrast what wins contests in this regard. IFCOMP had last years' "alias the magpie" which was a pretty standard IF where you could interact with objects in lots of interesting ways. The year before that, the winner was "the wizard sniffer" which was fairly minimalist.

In theory I think you could have a really fun game that tracks all your clothes and whats in various pockets of your backpack and jeans...definitely, I fondly remember my youth when everything felt like an adventure and I actually cared about, say, which pocket my character had their trusty dagger in...but the older I get, the more I want simplicity in mechanics, especially when it comes to keeping track of things (which I'm bad at IRL).


Here's how I handled it in my games:

* Tingalan: every item is either a number variable ("3 pounds of meat" "4 pounds of meat") or a binary on off ("you have a bow" vs "you have no bow"). The whole point of the game is collecting stuff so you always take things, and never drop things.

* Six Silver Bullets: There are only a small number of items. My general rule with six silver bullets was that every item did exactly one thing. Almost every item has a single use, and the game doesn't really care about inventory. There were 2 puzzles that involved dropping things (
[Reveal] Spoiler:
specifically, the above-mentioned bombs
).

* the dead of winter: very small number of items. I made this game REALLY quickly for a personal challenge, so there's really not a lot of verbs at all (Just movement and some basic survival mechanics)

* Skybreak: All items are simply variables, because they're cargo in your ship rather than like, items on your person...but Skybreak is pretty straightforwardly a CYOA so you don't really have IF interactions with items ever.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby Lumin » Tue Sep 24, 2019 2:27 pm

David Whyld wrote:I sometimes get tempted to just write a game which doesn't bother with any of the things people have come to expect in IF games. I once toyed with getting rid of EXAMINE - because, honestly, how many times do you really need to examine something? 99% of the things you can examine are just scenery items and it's irrelevant what they look like - but now I'm thinking: why stop there? Why do we need TAKE and DROP? How often do you come across an item and don't try to take it? (Unless it's a bomb or something similar.) And once you've taken it, why would you ever need to drop it? Inventory limits are a relic of early IF games and most of the games I play don't bother with them, and nor should they. They're just annoying and half the time don't make sense. I'm carrying around a wardrobe, a barrel, a coat, a backpack and a sword, yet I can't pick up a stamp because I'm carrying too much?

So maybe for my next WiP, I'll dispense with all the usual conventions and just write a totally off the rails game. People may hate it - heck, I'll probable hate it! - but it'll be interesting all the same.


>DROP is one I'd never thought of. No one ever drops anything. And I've spent a not insignificant amount of time giving dynamic items natural looking descriptions to fit the room they're found in only to go 'wait, oh no what if they drop it somewhere else??? THE IMMERSION!'

Just flat out disabling drop never occurred to me. I wonder if anyone would even notice.

"Important items are picked up as you come across them" is another one that seems so simple but would be revolutionary and would require almost an entirely different approach to writing these. I kind of want to do it now. I think all these changes that streamline things would leave a game open to more emphasis on plot and freedom; not the freedom to look at the table, notice there's a bottle on the table, and then take the bottle or NOT take the bottle and then open the bottle or NOT open the bottle, but you know, to give the player things that are more interesting to do now that you don't have to spend all the time writing responses for the tedious stuff.

Not to say that there's no place for traditional text adventures, but maybe it's time to step back and realize that we have an incredibly flexible engine that lets you put in and get out ANY text input to tell any kind of story or offer any kind of player experience, and that we don't always have to be limited to >GET KEY just because that's what the handful of people still into this niche hobby expect, because that's how they did it in the 80s.


I will at the very least be making a small game soon* that does away with the need for EXAMINE, just to see how that goes. The nouns within nouns within nouns style description has always been the bane of my IF writing experiences and I will do away with them all in one fell swoop.



*sometime before the end of the year. Maybe.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby The0didactus » Tue Sep 24, 2019 2:57 pm

One of the gimmicky mechanics in "The House With Ten Basements" is that you can't drop anything. There is a ton...just an absolute ton...of clutter, but once you pick up an item it becomes a magical and important thing that you have to carry with you all the time. This means if you approach the game like a traditional IF your inventory will soon be composed of hundreds and hundreds of items. (your inventory isn't "stuff you are physically carrying" but rather "stuff that you know exists and that you think is important").

This was done for artistic reasons of course, very important artistic reasons cutting right to the core of the protagonist's conflict with the world.

...but also because I am evil.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby David Whyld » Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:26 pm

The more I think about it, the more I'm warming to the idea of just writing a game like this and seeing how it goes. I imagine it'd be a breath of fresh air compared to writing most games.

As much as I like writing games, certain parts of the game writing process have always bored me to tears, mostly involving providing descriptions for every item the player can see and all the associated interactions with them. Here’s a bed. It needs a description for what the player sees when he looks at it. What if the player tries to lie on the bed? What if he jumps on it? Or stands on it? Or looks underneath it? Or tries to move it? Or smash it to pieces? Or takes the pillows and blankets off it?

In theory, you need to cover every response, but that's boring. And, most of the time, pointless anyway. When you need to do that kind of thing for every item in the game, you're talking a lot of time and effort for no real benefit. Unless there's a very good reason why the player should try and interact in a certain way with an item, there's no point in trying to cover it. And you can’t cover everything, unless you plan to spend an age working on your game and don't mind 90% of your time and effort being for nothing.

Even as a player, I don’t like that kind of thing. Sure, it’s nice to be able to open and close drawers, poke around in cabinets, look under and behind items, but is any of it really necessary? Doesn’t it just complicate the whole game writing / game playing procedure? If I look behind one item and find something important, that means I pretty much have to look behind every item in the game in case other important stuff is hidden there. That’s not interesting. It isn't good game play. It’s a chore. And a bore.

Strip away all that time-wasting and you could concentrate on the stuff that actually matters. Half the time now when I'm writing location descriptions, I'm deliberately doing it in such a way as to include as few items as possible so I don't need to waste time putting in descriptions for them or account for the player interacting with them. But take away the need for a description of every item, and all the various interactions with them the player might try, and you could really streamline the writing process a long way.

Thinking about it, a lot of what I've suggested sound very similar to limited parser games. They tend to strip out most parser commands and just leave you with a select few. Directional commands are always included, as are get / drop / examine, but only a few others. I've never been that bothered about them before and always figured they'd be way too restrictive – part of the appeal of IF games for me is the sheer variety of different things you can try – but the more I think about it, the more the idea is growing on me. Limited parser, but no get / drop / examine, with an emphasis on just writing the game and seeing what comes out.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby The0didactus » Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:03 pm

Substantially every game I've ever made with adrift has been a limited parser. I've never really had the guts to take on making something with all the fineness that goes into a "true parser." Six Silver Bullets had limited item interactions and a stripped-down library, and Tingalan had no "objects" in the traditional sense...though you could still look at locations.

And you're correct about what that allows a designer to do: everything like that that you cut out allows you to make a bigger world with more things of substance to do. Also, I've played a few games where sparse writing helped establish a particular mood: IFCOMP 2016 had Swigian, and I certainly tried to do something similar to that in Six Silver Bullets.
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Re: Playing Games

Postby David Whyld » Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:58 am

A lot of what appeals to me about it is cutting out the boring parts of game writing. Nothing is more tedious than providing descriptions for 15 different items the player can see, then all the other various things they might try with said items. Use a limited parser, strip out item descriptions and you get rid of a lot of that, leaving you to concentrate on the parts that actually matter.

I know it's been considered the done thing for years now that every item the player can see should carry a description and the player can interact with. I've even made this point myself a few times. But why? Why does every item need a description? Most are just scenery and don't serve any purpose. What difference does it make if the player can examine a wall he's just come across? It's not going to change the way the game plays. Aside from anything, from the player's viewpoint examining every single item they can see is boring. I don't enjoy doing it but I have to in case something important is hidden here.
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