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New to IF: Queries Within

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New to IF: Queries Within

Postby MOGz » Sat Oct 19, 2019 5:40 am

So having tinkered around with the system a bit, now I think I am ready to get some *actual* ideas running, but before jumping headlong into the wonderful world of IF I do think I should refine a few IF General questions.

Reading through the forum here, as well as perusing some of the games (Perusing!) I think I should get these out of the way so I don't drive headlong into some sort of faux pas in this style of game/writing. I think it should be obvious by now that I am pretty new (blatant honesty: totally new) to IF in general, having stumbled upon it mostly out of curiosity and having virtually no background in it. To some degree I decided to explore it out of curiosity for my kid, who has a slight interest in coding and programming (she is still rather young, so this seems like a good way for her to get her feet wet).

I recall Text Based games having some popularity when I was younger, but that wasn't something I delved into too deeply. I am familiar with CYOA in reading, and I think the closest I come to actual knowledge of IF is from the Lone Wolf book series by Joe Dever and Gary Chalk (Which I am not sure why I even have familiarity with those as they fell out of popularity before my time). If that counts.

So anyway, my preface aside, the questions I have come in the form of style and...game mechanics from the player perspective. This is more a matter of what works within IF and accounts for a lot of taste rather than technical stuff, I think, but here goes:

1) Should IF be essentially a linear novel that players can interact with, perhaps solve some minor puzzles, but which will ultimately take a player through to the conclusion provided they do not make too many mistakes? or are more sandbox-style games with an overall narrative but plenty of player choice options preferred? (I am willing to expound on this if it isn't clear)

I guess the best way to boil down this question is: Balance between a STORY and a GAME... IF seems to tread a line between the two, but too much of one seems to counter the purpose and point of the other existing in the same space. "Write a book or write a game!" would be the criticism I suppose.

2) RPG-esque elements? I have read a few topics about this, and have myself been able to create a system that is probably pretty functional for things like traits and attributes, but how often are they used in general IF? Looking through some of the games here I haven't really come across many which really delve into this stuff, so I am getting a bit of conflict in what I am seeing: The system allows for it quite easily, but the community seems to shy from it somewhat (then again maybe I am misreading things). Is this based on readership preference, or individual style from the author, case to case? Again, my own primary experience comes from the Lone Star books, which maintained an RPG-esque system, so that defines my experience.

3) In discussing the Narrative, it seems like a mixed bag in leaving the PoV character obscure (letting the Player internalize the character), to being specifically defined as *THIS* character going through THIS adventure, and finally to being a bit of an in between, with the player choosing name, gender, and (potentially) race at the outset. So, suggestions?

4) is it common or jarring for a story to be told in the context and perspective of multiple characters? That is, obviously there is only one Player, but a few of my ideas would require a POV shift from one character to another. I haven't addressed how "possible" this is (I honestly have at least 3 workaround ideas on how to accomplish this, none of which seem too hard). But having a group VS having a cast one Protagonists that changes occasionally VS having a single character...just wanting input I guess.

In any case, I hope these questions don't cause too much disturbance or pestering. I don't want to come off as the annoying newbie who is asking questions with obvious answers, but eh...can't go wrong in asking, right?
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby Lazzah » Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:12 am

Hi Mogz,

You definitely have to have a story - why do you think it is called "Interactive FICTION"? I recall playing some text adventures (as these games were originally called) in the 1980's that were a series of puzzles with absolutely no story at all and when you finished the game you would wonder to yourself "what was that about?!"
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ALSO AVAILABLE: The Axe of Kolt, The Spectre of Castle Coris, The Fortress of Fear, Die Feuerfaust, The Lost Children, Run, Bronwynn, Run, Magnetic Moon, Starship Quest, Revenge of the Space Pirates
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby The0didactus » Sat Oct 19, 2019 12:42 pm

I'll try to answer some of these, but a lot of these are questions of taste and style.

MOGz wrote:1) Should IF be essentially a linear novel that players can interact with, perhaps solve some minor puzzles, but which will ultimately take a player through to the conclusion provided they do not make too many mistakes? or are more sandbox-style games with an overall narrative but plenty of player choice options preferred? (I am willing to expound on this if it isn't clear)


You will get very different answers to this. I think it's just what sort of game you want to make. Even games with a huge amount of variation in their middle can have pretty constrained endstates (in the XCOM games, for example, it's about how, not what. The aliens win or they don't). Similarly, you could make an ADRIFT game called "Slay the dragon" where your goal is to just kill a big scary dragon, and there are a buncha ways to do it.

I personally feel like player agency is best served by giving them lots of meaningful choices, or mechanisms to get stuff done, that feel like something a person in that universe would do. I play games to feel like someone: a wizard, a pillaging barbarian, the king of a galaxy-spanning empire...but there are a lot of good games that are just like: here are 20 puzzles, solve them.

There is a really good article on this by a guy named Sam Kabo Ashwell: https://heterogenoustasks.wordpress.com ... er-agency/

MOGz wrote: RPG-esque elements? I have read a few topics about this, and have myself been able to create a system that is probably pretty functional for things like traits and attributes, but how often are they used in general IF? Looking through some of the games here I haven't really come across many which really delve into this stuff, so I am getting a bit of conflict in what I am seeing: The system allows for it quite easily, but the community seems to shy from it somewhat (then again maybe I am misreading things). Is this based on readership preference, or individual style from the author, case to case? Again, my own primary experience comes from the Lone Star books, which maintained an RPG-esque system, so that defines my experience.


ADRIFT can definitely support robust RPGs. Most of my games have RPG-elements, or are full blown RPGs. So Skybreak! opens with a multi-step character creator allowing you to pick your character's species, backgrounds, talents, and skills. You could easily use ADRIFT to make something very D&D like, with armor and items that provide ability score bonuses like magic rings, a magic system, etc. I've even gotten ADRIFT to create procedurally generated maps.

There are some reasons why this is avoided, but these aren't reasons you should avoid it
* Text-based games of the sort ADRIFT was generally designed to create have a slightly different lineage than D&D. Most people currently on the forum like those games and try to create games in the same style (these are generally puzzlers with an adventure or story associated with them).
* It's genuinely challenging to make a fun combat RPG system. Even a perfect re-creation of D&D's system of dice rolls gets really tedious when you're the only player. Most of my games with RPG elements focus on single do-or-die skill rolls. "You kill the goblin or it kills you" rather than "you hit the goblin, -2 hit points to the goblin, roll again."

3) In discussing the Narrative, it seems like a mixed bag in leaving the PoV character obscure (letting the Player internalize the character), to being specifically defined as *THIS* character going through THIS adventure, and finally to being a bit of an in between, with the player choosing name, gender, and (potentially) race at the outset. So, suggestions?


This is a difficult choice you have to commit to early on. Some games do better with an "Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally-Ambiguous Adventure Person". Some games give you a person to "play." I've done both. It really depends on what you want to do with the game. Generally you can break the advantages up like so:

* having a pre-set character allows you to write in their style, and allows NPCs to have a better and more specific response to the character's actions. It can also be good for a game that you want to explore identity (IE, if you want to show what it's like to be poor, or mentally ill, or anorexic)

* having a pre-set character allows you to develop more mechanics set to that character. For example, if you were going to make a standard fantasy RPG in which you have to play as Lillith Blackwood, street urchin turned assassin, you wouldn't have to make an involved melee combat system...that's not how assassins solve problems. You could instead devote your time to a complex climbing and stealth system. In a game where you could play as a rogue, a fighter, a wizard, a hunter, and so on...you wouldn't really be able to create a complex climbing and stealth system...only a few characters could use that.

* having an AFGNCAAP allows the player to more easily imagine themselves in the role, or some other person they want to be but you didn't anticipate. The problem here is that it's hard to write NPCs that respond to the person in a truly generic way (if the NPC says "Butler, please take the sword and give it to him." You've just revealed the PC is a male). It can also make the setting generic, washed out, and low stakes. You're just some gray cutout person, and this world will treat you as such.

4) is it common or jarring for a story to be told in the context and perspective of multiple characters? That is, obviously there is only one Player, but a few of my ideas would require a POV shift from one character to another. I haven't addressed how "possible" this is (I honestly have at least 3 workaround ideas on how to accomplish this, none of which seem too hard). But having a group VS having a cast one Protagonists that changes occasionally VS having a single character...just wanting input I guess.


You can definitely do this in ADRIFT. It's an interesting idea. The biggest problem would be you'd have to write variations in any descripton or NPC action that related to the player[s]...though this is still doable. I don't think it would be jarring if you specifically set it up to flow this way.

It WOULD be jarring if it just happened in the middle of the game for no reason.
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby Lumin » Sat Oct 19, 2019 1:56 pm

There's the traditional ideas of interactive fiction which had its roots in the 80s with games like Zork, etc. where you solve puzzles in a simulated environment and it all leads to a set winning ending. (What Adrift and Inform and all the others were created for, but not at all limited to...)

There's branching stories inspired by CYOAs and Fighting Fantasy and their ilk, or there can be games that are more like roguelikes and RPGs.....and then there are the hybrids possible of all of the above, plus things probably no one has thought of yet. Really it's all just text, it's the most flexible medium there is and ADRIFT makes it easy to use it in so many ways. Just create the game you'd most want to play and only worry about this stuff if you're specifically out to emulate one of the above styles.

Personally my pipe dream at the moment is creating something similar to King of Dragon Pass or Six Ages. Unlikely because of the sheer scope of a project that size, but entirely possible and not even especially difficult, mechanics-wise.
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby Denk » Sat Oct 19, 2019 3:25 pm

MOGz wrote:I think it should be obvious by now that I am pretty new (blatant honesty: totally new) to IF in general, having stumbled upon it mostly out of curiosity and having virtually no background in it.
I agree with everything said above. Since you are totally new to IF, I would like to add, that if you are going for a classic parser game (i.e. a game where you type sentences such as: "put glass on table", "climb out of window", "go north" etc etc) it might be a good idea to play a few of such games, so you have an idea of what is expected of such a game nowadays. For instance, you could try the ADRIFT game "Axe of Kolt" ( http://www.adrift.co/game/1439 ) or the famous "Anchorhead" from 1998 ( https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=op0uw1gn1tjqmjt7 ).

Another option is to have a limited verb set, such as "The Wizard Sniffer" ( https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=uq18rw9gt8j58da ) or "The Wand" ( https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=2jil5vbxmbv8riv1 ). This is one way to get rid of the so-called "guess-the-verb"-problems.

If you are going for some unique game mechanics, there will be fewer expectations. Still, you might be inspired by checking out a game like "Skybreak!" ( http://www.adrift.co/game/1525 ), which has some unique mechanics and bypasses the Standard Library in ADRIFT.
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby David Whyld » Sat Oct 19, 2019 4:14 pm

1) Should IF be essentially a linear novel that players can interact with, perhaps solve some minor puzzles, but which will ultimately take a player through to the conclusion provided they do not make too many mistakes? or are more sandbox-style games with an overall narrative but plenty of player choice options preferred? (I am willing to expound on this if it isn't clear)


Quite a few Twine games are basically linear novels and while some are okay, none are what I’d call good. When I finish them, I'm usually left with the feeling that it would have been much better if there'd been some actual puzzles along the way. If I just want a linear novel, I’ll read a linear novel.

2) RPG-esque elements? I have read a few topics about this, and have myself been able to create a system that is probably pretty functional for things like traits and attributes, but how often are they used in general IF? Looking through some of the games here I haven't really come across many which really delve into this stuff, so I am getting a bit of conflict in what I am seeing: The system allows for it quite easily, but the community seems to shy from it somewhat (then again maybe I am misreading things). Is this based on readership preference, or individual style from the author, case to case? Again, my own primary experience comes from the Lone Star books, which maintained an RPG-esque system, so that defines my experience.


You can include RPG elements in IF games, but they don’t tend to go down that well. In theory, it’s a great idea; in practice, not so much. It also doesn’t help the number of times over the years that I've heard someone announce some epic RPG they're working on and then fail to release it, usually falling back on the good old “my hard drive failed” excuse. Now, if someone actually went and released a genuine honest to God masterpiece of an RPG I’d certainly play it but until that happens I'm going to remain cynical about the whole idea.

3) In discussing the Narrative, it seems like a mixed bag in leaving the PoV character obscure (letting the Player internalize the character), to being specifically defined as *THIS* character going through THIS adventure, and finally to being a bit of an in between, with the player choosing name, gender, and (potentially) race at the outset. So, suggestions?


I usually find it better to leave the player character anonymous so you can decide for yourself what they're like. Picking name, gender, race, sexual orientation is all fine and good but if you do that, you need to put in a lot of time and effort to include different things happening based on whether your character is male / female, straight / gay, hedgehog / dark elf, etc. Choice of Games offer a wide variety of options, but the games I've played are usually the same no matter which ones I pick, so the illusion of choice really is just an illusion.

4) is it common or jarring for a story to be told in the context and perspective of multiple characters? That is, obviously there is only one Player, but a few of my ideas would require a POV shift from one character to another. I haven't addressed how "possible" this is (I honestly have at least 3 workaround ideas on how to accomplish this, none of which seem too hard). But having a group VS having a cast one Protagonists that changes occasionally VS having a single character...just wanting input I guess.


It certainly isn't common, but I don’t know if jarring if the right word. I've only played a few games over the years that allowed you to play multiple characters and it was an interesting mechanic, but I'm not sure I’d want it to happen all the time. If it’s essential to the storyline, then sure go for it, but it’s just there as a gimmick I wouldn’t bother.
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby Lumin » Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:00 pm

You can include RPG elements in IF games, but they don’t tend to go down that well. In theory, it’s a great idea; in practice, not so much. It also doesn’t help the number of times over the years that I've heard someone announce some epic RPG they're working on and then fail to release it, usually falling back on the good old “my hard drive failed” excuse. Now, if someone actually went and released a genuine honest to God masterpiece of an RPG I’d certainly play it but until that happens I'm going to remain cynical about the whole idea.


Counterpoint: Skybreak

Although I guess you might mean something more D&D style. Still, it's an RPG and it's certainly epic.
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby The0didactus » Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:15 pm

It's definitely true that for each game you complete,there's a scattered trail of smouldering, semi-finished games all of which would be way bigger and more epic.

I started using adrift back in...oh let's say 2004-2005...I didn't finish my first game until 2017 :roll:

but yah you can make giant games. Some of us even finish them.
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby MOGz » Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:29 pm

Clarifying on the RPG issue: If I wanted to recreate D&D, I would suggest someone play D&D instead, or one of a multitude of RPG-esque games. Clearly there is a differentiation, and IF has it's limits and it's niche.

What I am thinking of is a bit of a more refined rendering of task resolution. OK, you want to enter the building? Well, with a score of X in the <physical attribute>, you can bust in the door. If you have X in <finesse attribute> you can pick the lock. With X in <social attribute> you can try to convince the NPC to let you in. Don't have any of those? ok, then you may need a tool or wait later (unless it is non-essential to get into that place). It create a bit of flavor, isn't mechanically hard to represent, and has some RPG-esque elements. This is possibly why I referred to Lone Wolf a lot, it has similar ways of handling progression through the story: You have X ability? You have more options, turn to pages A, B, or C. Otherwise, turn to page 86.

If combat is required in the game I would likely go with a suggestion or two I have seen, which is: simplify it. At most it should be a single task resolution not a whole event's worth of combat. Other types of games handle this much better than the engine for IF just from what I can tell, so keep it simple.

currently I am considering a sort of static attribute system, where if X compares to Y, then whichever static score is higher wins (no random resolution), OR creating a (quite possibly) over complex deck system with variable cards that a character can hold, then use the cards as "keys" that overcome tasks...which get shuffled into the deck again and a new card is drawn. While *I* think this could be a fun system, I could see it as being A) overly complicated to use in game, B) will be a bit of a nightmare to create and implement, and C) may be too random and could create the problem of a character getting stuck in game every now and again.

but as I contemplate these ideas, I may in the end merely go with a much simpler system (Look for the key to progress, solve a puzzle, use key, move on).
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby The0didactus » Sat Oct 19, 2019 10:27 pm

MOGz wrote:Clarifying on the RPG issue: If I wanted to recreate D&D, I would suggest someone play D&D instead, or one of a multitude of RPG-esque games. Clearly there is a differentiation, and IF has it's limits and it's niche.

What I am thinking of is a bit of a more refined rendering of task resolution. OK, you want to enter the building? Well, with a score of X in the <physical attribute>, you can bust in the door. If you have X in <finesse attribute> you can pick the lock. With X in <social attribute> you can try to convince the NPC to let you in. Don't have any of those? ok, then you may need a tool or wait later (unless it is non-essential to get into that place). It create a bit of flavor, isn't mechanically hard to represent, and has some RPG-esque elements. This is possibly why I referred to Lone Wolf a lot, it has similar ways of handling progression through the story: You have X ability? You have more options, turn to pages A, B, or C. Otherwise, turn to page 86.


Definitely doable, and I'd be intrigued by such a game.

If combat is required in the game I would likely go with a suggestion or two I have seen, which is: simplify it. At most it should be a single task resolution not a whole event's worth of combat. Other types of games handle this much better than the engine for IF just from what I can tell, so keep it simple.


That's the right attitude. All of my games have single-roll encounters.

currently I am considering a sort of static attribute system, where if X compares to Y, then whichever static score is higher wins (no random resolution), OR creating a (quite possibly) over complex deck system with variable cards that a character can hold, then use the cards as "keys" that overcome tasks...which get shuffled into the deck again and a new card is drawn. While *I* think this could be a fun system, I could see it as being A) overly complicated to use in game, B) will be a bit of a nightmare to create and implement, and C) may be too random and could create the problem of a character getting stuck in game every now and again.


I can think of a few ways to do this in ADRIFT. I had a hard time making a true "deck/card" system but a few months ago people showed me a way to do it.
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby saabie » Sun Oct 20, 2019 1:13 am

MOGz wrote:a few of my ideas would require a POV shift from one character to another. I haven't addressed how "possible" this is (I honestly have at least 3 workaround ideas on how to accomplish this, none of which seem too hard)
Changing the POV of the player to different characters can be done with a single action:
[move][character][ The Player Character ][to switch places with]Sally
will change the POV to the character called Sally. (What it actually does is change the special %Player% variable from the original "Player" character to "Sally")

The0didactus wrote:The problem here is that it's hard to write NPCs that respond to the person in a truly generic way (if the NPC says "Butler, please take the sword and give it to him." You've just revealed the PC is a male)
If you use the function:
%character%.Name(Objective)
or (for the current player character POV):
%Player%.Name(Object)
in the text instead of "him", then ADRIFT will print the correct objective pronoun based on the "player perspective" setting in the game "Options", and the character's gender:
First person - Displays "me"
Second person - Displays "you"
Third person - Uses the setting of the "Gender" property of the character to determine the correct pronoun:
Male - Displays "him"
Female - Displays "her"
Unknown - Displays "it"
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby Zwiebel » Fri Oct 25, 2019 12:24 pm

Can you jump from one player POV to another with this action?
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Re: New to IF: Queries Within

Postby saabie » Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:41 pm

Yes. The player "becomes" that character, so they find themselves in that characters body wherever that character was at the time.
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