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What's the future of parser IF?

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What's the future of parser IF?

Postby Lumin » Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:21 pm

I'm sure this topic has been done to death in other areas of the IF community, but I wanted to get everyone here's opinion. In the last few years the community has really been changing. Twine has a huuuge presence in all the major IF comps now, and a game on a CYOA website (not even downloadable!) blew away the competition for the Spring Thing.

I used to consider CYOAs their own very fun, but completely separate thing. And to be honest I still kind of do, but officially I guess they're lumped together all under the same big interactive umbrella now? I've spent a little time fiddling with Twine, and I've been a member of Chooseyourstory.com for a couple of years now...the thing they both have in common is that they are easy. You just...write your story, and you're done. If CYS or Twine had been around ten years ago I honestly don't know if I would have ever gotten into regular IF, and I would have missed out on some great experiences.

I can definitely see people dabbling in parser IF deciding to make the jump over to playing/writing CYOAs, but I wonder if it works both ways? It doesn't help that even at intfiction.org, THE major IF forum, there doesn't tend to be a lot of discussion about the games themselves...and I don't even have to point out what the situation here has been. The CYS community on the other hand (to use the example I'm most familiar with, though I suppose Choice of Games is actually more popular...) has always been extremely enthusiastic about discussing writing and...everything under the sun, really. Not that the discussions are especially deep (okay actually they're pretty immature most of the time, but at least when threads get derailed over there it's just random silly stuff and not because everyone is arguing with 100% sincerity whether a Monty Python joke actually means a poster is a misogynist who wants to do physical violence to women or whatever :roll: )

I suspect a lot of the community involvement is because the average user over there is much younger than the typical IF player and so has an abundance of free time, but whatever the case, they manage to write some very good stories, and the at first impression the place just seems much livelier and more welcoming to newcomers. (Again, the community for parser IF doesn't do itself any favors by being so scattered...things have definitely improved from the Usenet days, but IFDB is still a game site without a forum, intfiction is a forum without a site, and reviews a lot of times have to be chased down all over the internet...)

So, are CYOAs the future? Is parser IF going to be just sort of phased out when the curmudgeonly old people writing it eventually wander off to die? Are Twine users going to take our jobs and should we buy more guns and build a fence around the border, is maybe what I'm trying to say??? :?

Even when I remember that the puzzley, sort of old school IF I've always preferred has been kind of an endangered species for awhile now anyway, that still makes me sad. :(
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby David Whyld » Sun Jul 13, 2014 6:28 pm

I think parser IF will always be around, but the fact that easier ways of creating IF games are becoming popular means that those other ways will begin to dominate the IF world. For the most part, IF writers don’t want complexity in a system. They want a system that’s easy to use and doesn’t require them to read an incredibly detailed manual and master a programming language before they can start writing a game with it. Look at ADRIFT for a perfect example. When it was nice and simple and straightforward (back in the V4 days), it was very popular; as soon as all the complexity was added (the V5 days), people stopped using it. Or look at the rest of the IF world when Inform 7 came out. It didn’t kill off TADS or Alan or Hugo but pretty much every IF game written is with Inform 7 now. If a new version of TADS launched tomorrow, no one would notice.

Or Quest, which is a bit of an odd one. Worst system of them all, but the basics are very easy to use. It becomes incredibly complex once you start trying to do anything beyond the basics, which is why almost every Quest game ever written sticks to the basics and nothing else. (And is terrible, but that’s another discussion.) It also has a killer website, which is probably more to thank for its success than the system itself (which, let’s face it, is anything but a killer).

For me as a player, the CYOA-style of IF has always had a lot of appeal. Some of it’s simple nostalgia – playing them is like reading the CYOA books of my youth – and some of it is down to how much easier they are. Or, if not easier, then at least less fiddly. No guess the verb problems, no struggling to solve a puzzle that probably makes no sense outside of the author’s mind, just sit there and click on the links and – hey presto! – the entire game unfolds before you.

As a writer, the CYOA-style appeals to me as well. For a start, it’s very easy to write. Using Twine is a doddle – in many ways, it’s even easier to use than ADRIFT back in the V4 days. I can just sit there and write the game without having to worry about including descriptions for every single item in the game, I don’t have to worry about whether someone is attempting to do solve a puzzle in a way I didn’t anticipate, etc. I just write it.

As far as the future of IF is concerned, I think CYOA is going to dominate the scene over the next few years. A CYOA game won this year’s Spring Thing, despite not being very good, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one doesn’t win the IFComp as well. When you have a community that interested in its product, it stands to reason it’s going to crush another community’s product into the ground. The people on CYS seem to spend a heck of a lot of time discussing games, whereas on IntFiction no one really seems to discuss them at all. The rare occasions when discussion of a game comes up there is usually when someone is asking about a technical aspect of the game and not trying to solve a puzzle or commenting on how good / bad the game is.

Pure speculation: after CYOA games dominate this year’s IFComp, to the extent that traditional IF games don’t even a look in, a new rule will be introduced next year to move CYOA games into a separate category.


And for correctly understanding the Monty Python reference, you win a parrot. Albeit a dead one. But still a parrot.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby Lumin » Sun Jul 13, 2014 7:53 pm

David please don't joke about violence against parrots. It's not funny and it makes me very uncomfortable. Typing a sentence about a dead parrot is almost as bad as killing one for real.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby ralphmerridew » Mon Jul 14, 2014 5:06 pm

David Whyld wrote:I think parser IF will always be around, but the fact that easier ways of creating IF games are becoming popular means that those other ways will begin to dominate the IF world. For the most part, IF writers don’t want complexity in a system. They want a system that’s easy to use and doesn’t require them to read an incredibly detailed manual and master a programming language before they can start writing a game with it. Look at ADRIFT for a perfect example. When it was nice and simple and straightforward (back in the V4 days), it was very popular; as soon as all the complexity was added (the V5 days), people stopped using it. Or look at the rest of the IF world when Inform 7 came out. It didn’t kill off TADS or Alan or Hugo but pretty much every IF game written is with Inform 7 now. If a new version of TADS launched tomorrow, no one would notice.


I partly agree with you. Larry Wall gave two criteria for a good language: "Easy things should be easy." "Hard things should be possible." People might have tried using Inform 7 because it succeeded at the first goal, but plenty of systems have done that. What usually happens is that "easy" systems garner interest quickly at the beginning, but become unwieldy when an author gets outside its planned bounds (or rather, past a certain point, it's easier to get the job done in the older "difficult" language than the "easy" one.) Inform 7 is still a capable language when the author is trying to do difficult things.

Or Quest, which is a bit of an odd one. Worst system of them all, but the basics are very easy to use. It becomes incredibly complex once you start trying to do anything beyond the basics, which is why almost every Quest game ever written sticks to the basics and nothing else. (And is terrible, but that’s another discussion.) It also has a killer website, which is probably more to thank for its success than the system itself (which, let’s face it, is anything but a killer).


Back when I was trying to write Geas (a free clone of the Quest 4 interpreter), I made an intensive study of Quest 4, though I focused more on the ASL parts. In some ways, Quest is a more powerful language than you appreciate; in other ways, it's more screwed up than you realize. Plenty of times, I'd think "Okay, there are two logical ways that Quest could handle this ambiguous situation. I just need to test both of them and see which one it is." And then I'd run the tests, and find out that the answer was neither.

For example, at one point, I posted on the Quest boards the question "Does the condition if test_one OR test_two AND test_three mean if (test_one OR test_two) AND test_three, or does it mean if test_one OR (test_two AND test_three)?" (where test_one, test_two, and test_three are various conditions).
Somebody posted "RTFM"; nobody tried to actually test for themselves. The answer is neither. It actually means if test_one AND test_three. (Make test_two something that prompts the user, and you'll find that test_two is never even considered.)
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby David Whyld » Mon Jul 14, 2014 5:46 pm

I've always thought Quest has a lot of power, but most of it is never used because the interface is just too unwieldy. With the latest version, for anything but the very basics you need to be able to code and that's pretty off-putting for a system supposedly aimed at non-programmers. Recently someone on the Quest forum said he wanted to create a combat system and asked the best way to do it as a non-programmer. The answer? Several pages of code which most likely didn't make any sense to anyone but a programmer.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby Lumin » Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:25 pm

David Whyld wrote:...and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one doesn’t win the IFComp as well.


Pure speculation: after CYOA games dominate this year’s IFComp, to the extent that traditional IF games don’t even a look in, a new rule will be introduced next year to move CYOA games into a separate category.


Agreed that the first would very likely lead to the second, and separate categories are something I've wondered about myself. And it wouldn't even necessarily be entirely a 'them thar click-stories winnin' mah IF COMP! Image' kind of reaction...I think it might legitimately be an apples/oranges situation.

There's also the fact that a place like CYS has a lot of casual players, some of whom literally might not even get how to install a standard IF game, let alone play one. (Nobody even manually patches mainstream games anymore...we're entering an age where the simple act of downloading and unzipping a file is an esoteric process to many.)

And I'm not trying to slam 'casual players' or be all 'those damned kids how dare they all be under 30' here or anything, I'm just trying to look at it from a realistic point of view. They don't see the IF Comp as some big sacred ultra-professional artistic event, they're just in it to have fun. And to be honest we could probably stand to have a little more fun-having on the IF scene as a whole so good for them.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby Eminor » Mon Jul 14, 2014 9:15 pm

On the contrary I believe that IFs will become more popular in the next years, I think that the reason they are not as popular right now has to do about the time in which they came into existence , a time in which a game was something alien, still now there's a war against gaming and sharing, as it had been for radio and TV,but, since not so long a new market exploded, the indie market, careers are made out of a person's dream which, because of lack of founding, is based on the best possible experience and not on the best looking visuals, so we've seen 8 bits games from 2012, 2013, unique gameplay games that hadn't been made because the ideas where too heavy for a graphics forwarded engine, but a single person makes it real putting together cubes and pyramids, I mention Rodina but the examples are astoundingly vast, all you need to do is log on to steam and go to the greenlight page or have a look around kickstarter. With all this, IFs come back into play, it is not the first impression, the visual one, but the content that matters, and, though it may not seem like (it sure doesn't to me) the new generations grow and will grow more intelligent and more knowledgeable than us, which will give IFs a grater probability for interest since the "future" kids get more interested in literature and original ideas.

Maybe, just maybe, instead of the past IFs are actually the future, where a person could not think about reading a book that doesn't fit in his cornea, doesn't respond to his mental commands offering multiple approaches and doesn't make it a challenge to be read without proposing puzzles and the possibility of failure.

About CYOAs, I'm afraid I don't know much about them, they don't appeal me, but that's a statement brought forward by my ignorance on the matter.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby David Whyld » Mon Jul 14, 2014 9:16 pm

Lumin wrote:Agreed that the first would very likely lead to the second, and separate categories are something I've wondered about myself. And it wouldn't even necessarily be entirely a 'them thar click-stories winnin' mah IF COMP! Image' kind of reaction...I think it might legitimately be an apples/oranges situation.

There's also the fact that a place like CYS has a lot of casual players, some of whom literally might not even get how to install a standard IF game, let alone play one. (Nobody even manually patches mainstream games anymore...we're entering an age where the simple act of downloading and unzipping a file is an esoteric process to many.)

And I'm not trying to slam 'casual players' or be all 'those damned kids how dare they all be under 30' here or anything, I'm just trying to look at it from a realistic point of view. They don't see the IF Comp as some big sacred ultra-professional artistic event, they're just in it to have fun. And to be honest we could probably stand to have a little more fun-having on the IF scene as a whole so good for them.


There’s already precedent for rule changing if a certain type of game wins. A few years ago, a CYOA-type game swept the board at the XYZZY awards and straightaway a new rule was introduced to sweep the game away into another category. Now, it was probably done for perfectly valid reasons but the first thing that went through my mind when I heard about it was “Oh, a game they didn’t like won so they’ve changed the rules to make their favourite game the winner”. If the IFComp is won this year by a CYOA game, the same thing will probably happen and I imagine there’ll be all manner of controversy kicked up because of it.

Not that I really mind as far as the IFComp is concerned (it lost me as a fan when they changed the rules a few years back), but I’ll certainly be interested to see whether the rules get changed again if CYOA games start dominating the voting.

Saying that, it would be nice to see a little enthusiasm about game writing and playing again such as you see on the CYS site. For all that I like IntFiction, the people there seem far more interested in discussing mimesis-breaking and the like than actually playing games for pure enjoyment value.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby ralphmerridew » Mon Jul 14, 2014 9:38 pm

The other thing is that there was a large number of people who were voting only on the Choice of Games entries.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby Lumin » Tue Jul 15, 2014 12:21 am

ralphmerridew wrote:The other thing is that there was a large number of people who were voting only on the Choice of Games entries.


That was where I was headed when I said a lot of CYOA players probably don't know how to/have no interest in playing traditional IF, but somehow I got off track and forgot to make my actual point. :O

They're going to pretty much automatically vote for a game on their site, made by a person they know. So unless a whole lot more IF players come out of the woodwork this year to vote, you can already see what the result will the there.

Anyway, I for one welcome our new overlords. I'll always prefer playing parser IF (something about directly interacting with the world just makes me feel more 'connected' to even the most basic game), but reading the same old discussions recycled again and again was getting really old even back in the RAIF days, and lately it's like, if they even bother arguing about games at all they're just going through the motions and can't even get themselves worked up about it anymore. I'll willingly slog through all thay terrible, terrible Warrior Cats fanfiction on CYS over that any day. :P (And yes I realize it's probably hypocritical saying this while we're going through one of our infamous dead periods ourselves, but I'm sure we're still all really into ADRIFT, we're just...busy right now, is all. Busy working on games. Yes, that's right. >.> )

Our new friend Eminor seems plenty excited about everything though, that's always nice to see. :D Eminor, just curious, how'd you discover IF? What games have you played?
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby ralphmerridew » Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:00 am

Lumin wrote:They're going to pretty much automatically vote for a game on their site, made by a person they know. So unless a whole lot more IF players come out of the woodwork this year to vote, you can already see what the result will the there.


If they're not bothering to make a good-faith effort to actually rank the games, should those votes be respected?
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby Eminor » Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:12 am

To be honest IFs had always been in my mind since I had played some when I was a child, mind me though, I was so young that I can't even remember what games they were or what they talked about, I can't recall if they were on dos or windows either. I remember in particular one where I would get lost in a forest... like.. all the time... Anyways I guess I just gave for granted that they would all be outdated and stale in originality but they'd still pop up in my mind quite often during my life, then, this game comes out some time ago "Sunless sea", I play it a bit and I think to myself, "I really hate it, but i like the fact that is all narrated n' all, and from said game comes a pop up saying something like "try out fallen london", and so I do. I went online played fallen london for like 15 mins, I grow a love/hate feeling o it because I love that is text based, but I hate the story, then my "candle" runs out and I realize that the "...AND ALL COMPLETELY FOR FREE!" is just a bait n switch as I'm asked to pay real money, to pay with game money, to buy the ability of carrying on playing... or simply wait those few 20 minutes to be able to do ONE more action WWWEEEEEEEE WE ALL LOVE THAT! RIGHT?... RIGHT?... WHO'S WITH ME? Ahhh screw it, spoiler alert, in the end I f...ing hated that scam.

BUT

I search for more similar text based games, Nexus is advertised all over the net so I search for games running on this engine, I find a horror, a post-apocalyptic one, but they all are really s,,,tty and that CANDLE displaying on the left! Reminding me first these con men took over the prefix "Free to play" and now are taking over also "absolutely super free mega no fee whatsoever play how much you want pay nothing is all for free"... prefix... and they time will come! my actions will run out and I'll have to leave the game until the day after, OR, join the almost 3 MILLION PEOPLE who are brain dead enough to give them their money since 50 actions are like $50.

And so it comes to my mind the good old days, when I was a kid playing text adventures and although I can't recall anything I can recall that it was fun and engaging. So I set off to look for a list of most rated text adventures and to my surprise, Zork is not at the top of these lists... there are titles from 2000, 2006, recent stuff too! I get excited, I download I7, Gargoile and other runners and I play shade. At the end of the story I feel that accomplishment that you feel after reading a book, the story was short but well written, it was a nice journey! NOW I WANT MORE! So I downloaded and played other few stories and I really enjoined myself, so I thought, "you know what... since I'm bored pantless of working on my fp survival horror and I feel that I'm not giving 100% because I simply have spent too long on it without a break, I do have a few fragments of one of my "would be novels" in my hard drive.. Why don't I take a break from my game to relax my brain by thinking about.. another my game! But text based and with an original story! "
[warning, may actually not be an original story and can harm those around you, keep out of reach of children]

I think that was last thursday, since then I've been working non stop and I have even skipped on sleeping last night to keep working, and is already 3am, and still awake I am xD

I'm gonna update my last thread for which I found a solution and then I'll finally go sleep xD
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby David Whyld » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:40 am

Lumin wrote:They're going to pretty much automatically vote for a game on their site, made by a person they know. So unless a whole lot more IF players come out of the woodwork this year to vote, you can already see what the result will the there.


Yes, it'll be like the Quest website is now: every game with multiple ratings of 5 out of 5 even if they're unplayable messes. A kind of “you rate my game high, I’ll rate your game high” culture, or “you said bad things about my game so I'm giving your game a bad rating and I'm going to get all my friends to do the same”.

ralphmerridew wrote:If they're not bothering to make a good-faith effort to actually rank the games, should those votes be respected?


That sort of thing is hard to prove, though. I'm sure if you called someone out on it, they'd just claim they gave X game a rating 10 out of 10 because it was great and all the others 1 out of 10 because they were terrible.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby Kennedy » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:13 pm

One of my favorite programs for writing adventure games was "World Builder" for the Macintosh. It was a bit like Adrift 4 in that it supported a combat system and had characters and objects as separate things. But it also allowed you to have background graphics for rooms, and then display the graphics for characters and objects on top of that. If this is possible to do in any other IF authoring system I'd like to know which one.
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Re: What's the future of parser IF?

Postby Lumin » Wed Jul 16, 2014 12:44 am

Kennedy wrote:One of my favorite programs for writing adventure games was "World Builder" for the Macintosh. It was a bit like Adrift 4 in that it supported a combat system and had characters and objects as separate things. But it also allowed you to have background graphics for rooms, and then display the graphics for characters and objects on top of that. If this is possible to do in any other IF authoring system I'd like to know which one.


I don't think there's any IF systems that handle graphics like that, at least not as far as I'm aware. Have you looked at RPG Maker?
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