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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby David Whyld » Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:32 pm

I've often wondered how important the “rules” of IF really are. Plenty of games I played back in the 80’s broke every rule there was – unfairly hard puzzles, sudden death, putting the game into an unfinishable position, randomised combat, etc – yet I still played and enjoyed them. In fact, my favourite ever game of all times – The Hobbit – had all of them, not to mention that most hated of IF curses – the maze! – and I still loved it to bits. Part of me suspects that most of the rules were put in place by people who personally disliked a certain aspect of a game, and over the years these rules have been repeated so many times that they're ingrained into the minds of IF players and writers to such a degree that breaking them is considered a Very Bad Thing.

And then, on the other hand, I have to admit that these days I don’t have much patience for unfairly hard puzzles. I'm fine with sudden death because you always have UNDO or SAVE and RESTORE. Putting the game into an unfinishable position I'm not fond of; even being able to restore your game to an earlier saved position doesn’t always work as you might not have saved it before the game reached the unfinishable point. Randomised combat is always a pain, unless I can save my game beforehand and just replay the combat over and over again until I win (which kinda defeats the whole point of it anyway), and I hate mazes with a vengeance.

So… I don’t think the rules are bad as such and someone can still write a perfectly good game even with breaking them all, but for the most part I'm quite glad they're there.
Last edited by David Whyld on Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby Lumin » Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:51 pm

I'd recommend giving Tingalan a try if you haven't. It does away with UNDO, navigating the map past a certain point is like wandering in a fever dream, there are randomized elements that can and will kill you over and over if you're unprepared, there are no damn descriptions of every noun and every noun inside of every noun and I know of no one who's figured out the central puzzle of how do I get out of these woods.

And yet when I discovered it it was far and away the most addictive game of any kind I'd played for a long time, the kind that had me thinking of it all day at work and wanting to get home and try new things. I sank many hours into it and it just gripped me the way I thought IF had lost the ability to do.

Some of that might be because 1.) I enjoy exploring and discovering secrets above all, and Tingalan is full of them 2.) there was juuust enough sense of progression and the (illusion, perhaps) that I was always on the verge of figuring out something big that would make the pieces fall in place. And of course 3.) I'm a fan of roguelikes and this game rang a lot of the same bells for me, even though the author has sworn the different 'levels' of the map are laid out consistently game to game. (And as far as I've been able to discover that is indeed the case... one of my last discoveries before I had to put it away for awhile was a very quick and repeatable route from town to the edge of the forest, but of course that's not the same as returning from the forest...)

It's the first game ever that's made me wish I had graph paper handy, and my notes read like the scrawlings of a lunatic, but whatever the case it's the first IF game that really opened my eyes to the fact that text games can be a lot of things and that what's right for a particular experience an author is trying to create can and should trump whatever's ingrained in the community's expectations.

Not saying I intend to toss out everything I thought I knew about IF all in one go, but next time I do open the program it will be with creating a game I want exactly how I want it in mind. Not like I can expect many people to play it anyway so who else am I making it for if not for myself?
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby The0didactus » Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:28 am

I've been surprised by the amount of pushback I've gotten for, generally, removing UNDO from my games, or limiting its function.

I share David's opinion that many if not MOST of the classic games broke rules that now seem unbreakable. "Choose your own adventure" books and early text adventure games (and roguelikes) were some of my first experiences, growing up, with what I guess I'd call "mortality salience"...the understanding that time was moving inexorably forward, you could make mistakes, and certain mistakes could be fatal or negatively life-altering. you could also die for no reason at all. In my opinion, the games that have best captured this feeling, in the modern world, are Failbetter's "fallen london" and "sunless sea" (and "sunless skies" still in perelease).

I guess if I had to make an argument for why a lot of these design conventions seem problematic to me it's this: the great promise of interactive fiction, as opposed to "normal" fiction, is that the person reading gets to make choices. One way to make those choices salient is to make them feel like real life: choices that cannot be taken back. I feel if you hobble the "undo" system in ADRIFT you get a nice compromise: people who don't have the luxury of endless time can still "save" and "reload", but you don't have this trivially easy "UNDO" command dangling in front of a player's face that let's them hunt for the ideal fork in a conversation tree.

The game I'm submitting to IF comp definitely has numerous instances of instant death, un-take-backable choices, one arguably unfairly hard puzzle, and it ends in a maze. We will see how that is received.

Because I have now created two games that are, shall we say, 'unforgiving' (and because I want to make a game that my wife will play, and she hates dying in games) I've resolved that my next game is going to be extraordinarily gentle and breezy, and there won't be anything resembling "death"
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby Lazzah » Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:25 pm

I have never understood the adventuring community's aversion to mazes - I loved solving them! The ones I didn't like were those where there weren't enough objects available to drop one in each location - that wasn't fair, in my opinion. The one maze I will always remember was the Witherton Village maze in one of the Rick Hanson trilogy I played on the Acorn Electron back in the 1980's. There were twelve locations in the village, each of which had twelve exits - the usual 8 compass points plus in and out AND up & down! It took me about 8 hours playing time to map the maze and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby The0didactus » Thu Sep 20, 2018 8:41 pm

Lazzah wrote:I have never understood the adventuring community's aversion to mazes - I loved solving them! The ones I didn't like were those where there weren't enough objects available to drop one in each location - that wasn't fair, in my opinion. The one maze I will always remember was the Witherton Village maze in one of the Rick Hanson trilogy I played on the Acorn Electron back in the 1980's. There were twelve locations in the village, each of which had twelve exits - the usual 8 compass points plus in and out AND up & down! It took me about 8 hours playing time to map the maze and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.



It really is inexplicable. The very first text-based adventure games I played were mazes. To me, "text-based adventure games" have always been slightly synonymous with "a game that happens in a maze." This is likely because the first text-based adventure games I played were generic dungeon-crawlers. There's something very fun about mapping on a piece of paper. I love making maps!

I'll respond at this point to stuff that lumin mentioned above re: Tingalan. I definitely wanted to make a game that simultaneously was, and wasn't, mappable on graph paper. I will say that I have a workable graph-paper map of the forest in my office, and I have been very very happy to see several other maps produced by players. If anyone successfully maps the forest, I would appreciate seeing scans or maps of what you produce. It is doable but you have to get a bit creative.

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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby Lumin » Fri Sep 21, 2018 2:57 am

No, I'm sorry but you're both wrong, mazes are actually awful. It works in Tingalan because it's fused seamlessly with the story of your ill-fated night in the woods. Bringing the plot and all enjoyable aspects of a game to a grinding halt to type n, e, s, w in various combinations for an indefinite period of time, reading the same text over and over with the only reward being able to possibly at some point stop doing that and play the game again is the opposite of fun. It'd have to be a really, really good game to make that worthwhile for more than like, a minute.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby David Whyld » Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:30 am

I wonder how much of it is based on when you started playing IF games. If you played them in the 80’s, like I did, you got used to the way games were written back then and wouldn't blink an eye if you played a game that killed you off at random, had puzzles so vague you'd really need to think outside the box to have a hope of solving them and got stuck on the same part of the game for weeks at a time. A 50 room maze? Oh, that's no problem. Random combat? Bring it on!

(Part of this, I'm guessing, is because back then games were sold for money. You wouldn't buy a game and finish it in a few hours and consider you'd got your money’s worth. There has to be something to slow down your progression through the game so that when you finally do finish it, you're content that you've got your money’s worth. These days, almost all IF games are free so if you finish one in ten minutes, it hasn’t cost you anything.)

If you started playing later on, once the previously mentioned rules came into effect, you'd see things like those mentioned above as a horrible relic of the older days best left forgotten. If you're used to games that can’t be put into an unfinishable position, don't have random deaths and mazes and for which walkthroughs and hints galore are always available online if you get stuck, you'd be really out of your depth with the old style of games. (Admittedly, most now have walkthroughs and hints online, too.)

Some of the things that have been removed over the years, I'm glad to see the back of, but part of me also misses the way games were years ago. I prefer long games that take ages to finish, the kind you play over multiple sessions and gradually complete over the space of weeks. I prefer fantasy games where you're searching for treasure or saving the world from evil. A lot of the modern games – those dealing with emotional issues, sexual orientation, racism, discrimination, etc – don't interest me. Sure, they're all noteworthy subjects, but I don't want to play games about them. I play games for entertainment value.

As for the subject of mazes, I'm definitely with Lumin on this one. All mazes are a variation of the same basic puzzle: map it out and find the exit / hidden treasure. However much you pep it up, they're all very similar. The first time I found a maze in a game, it was quite fun to draw a map and figure out how to solve it. The second time I was like “what – this again?” By the time I stumbled across my tenth maze, I was ready to reach through the computer screen and punch the author. These days, the very knowledge that a game has a maze in it is enough to make me avoid it like the plague.

I guess if the maze is central to the story – as I understand it is in Tingalan – I can just about accept it’s okay, but if it’s simply there for the sake of “yeah, let’s stick a 100 room maze in the game because of reasons!”, then it’s not. Over the years, I've heard authors come up with countless reasons for including mazes in their games, and some might even be perfectly valid reasons, but my gut instinct is always the same: I don't like them.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby The0didactus » Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:32 pm

I actually kinda object to the classification of Tingalan as a maze. You will never find a place in Tingalan where you can't go in all four cardinal directions, except for a small number of what might be termed "interior" locations. The map is quite easy to navigate in most respects :whistle: :whistle: :whistle:

in this latest game I definitely did just stick a maze in "because that's what you have in adventure games"

...but I think I did THAT because I wanted to make a game that played off your larger point: I wanted to make a game that in some respects felt like zork, the first text-based game I ever played.

I notice the phenomenon you point out in other games too. I started playing Magic the Gathering in about the year 2000 (Mercadian Masques/Prophecy)...I utterly, absolutely despised the old guard that insisted things were better five years prior...they couldn't tell that some of those antique cards were just obviously broken, that some mechanics did nothing except contribute to a WORSE play experience...I stopped playing about 2014 (Somewhere in Llorwyn or whatever) and my return is perpetually frustrated by the fact that now I'm one of these old geezers...all the stuff I like was determined to be mechanically unfit 3-5 years ago.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby David Whyld » Fri Sep 21, 2018 2:49 pm

I've seen the same kind of thing in plenty of games over the years, not just IF. I play a lot of MMOs and one thing I've noticed is how much easier and accessible they’ve become. They all come with built-in quest-helpers (literally telling you where to go to complete a quest instead of leaving you to figure this out for yourself), enemy mobs are much easier than they used to be, there are a multitude of addons available to solve all the difficult stuff for you so you don't have to do it yourself, lots of the things that used to be difficult or time-consuming have been removed altogether or made significantly easier, etc. Compare an MMO from ten years ago to today – or even compare the same MMO from ten years ago to the way it is today – and the difference is remarkable. Everything is easier.

And you know the number one complaint from the player base of such games? They're still too hard. No matter how easy something is made, people still complain it’s too hard. If they logged in one day and literally had to click a button twice to complete everything in the game, they'd complain that was too much effort. Could the button be changed so only one click was needed? Or removed altogether?
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby Lumin » Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:15 pm

Ultima Online is still the best MMO ever made. (Haven't touched one in years though, I dislike having random internet people intrude on my blissful solitary gaming time...)

I can still on occasion get hilariously angry about the Elder Scrolls series too if you catch me in the right frame of mind, every game stripped more and more freedom away and they seemed determined to turn this delightfully weird and hostile setting into Tolkien fantasy.

I played Magic in highschool with friends around 2000 but never knew anyone who got seriously into tournaments and the like. I just liked the art and building themed decks that had very little to do with capacity to win. :blush: Although I did become annoyed once years later seeing it being marketed to kids young enough that they should just be playing Pokemon.

David Whyld wrote:I prefer long games that take ages to finish, the kind you play over multiple sessions and gradually complete over the space of weeks. I prefer fantasy games where you're searching for treasure or saving the world from evil. A lot of the modern games – those dealing with emotional issues, sexual orientation, racism, discrimination, etc – don't interest me. Sure, they're all noteworthy subjects, but I don't want to play games about them. I play games for entertainment value.


These are my feelings on IF almost exactly and why so much of it started losing its appeal to me over the years. I love exploration and adventurer and a game that remembers it's a game and meant to be entertain.

Although one major good thing I'd say modern trends in IF did was do away with out of place puzzles for the sake of puzzles and other 'adventure game logic' which is all a category I'd say mazes fall under. I don't mind if a puzzle is brutally hard or unfair as long as it makes sense. A greater focus on immersion is good. Although all that was all like...over a decade ago so maybe 'modern' is the wrong word.

I was walking an IF newbie through the opening of Christminster not too long ago. The game is fantastic and still one of my favorites...but I was reminded why for the longest time I kept a save on my computer starting after the gate to the college was unlocked. The amount of completely nonsensical things including vandalism etc you have to do for absolutely no in character reason to get the key is so ridiculous.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby David Whyld » Sat Sep 22, 2018 6:51 am

Ah, the Elder Scrolls. Morrowind was an honest to God classic and I'd never played anything quite like it at the time. Such a rich and detailed and downright weird setting, but they did it so well I just couldn't get enough of it. And then Oblivion was such a disappointment. Gone was the weird and unique setting and in its place was your generic run of the mill Tolkien clone. Skyrim was more of the same. Not a bad game as such, just the same as every other Tolkien clone out there.

This whole blandening (which isn't a real word but I'm going to pretend it is anyway) of gaming is a lot of what puts me off current games and makes me long for the unique stuff we had when I was a kid. All the rough edges are gone, everything falls into this "too easy" style of gameplay, there are walkthroughs and hints galore for players so they don't - God forbid! - get stuck and have to use their brains. I'd love to get a modern gamer and stick him in front of an 80's game and make him play it till he finished it. He'd be crawling up the walls in frustration the first time he tried something that didn't work.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby Lumin » Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:15 pm

Morrowind never leaves my computer, I get the urge to roll up a new character once a year or so and its easier just to keep it ready to go with my collection of mods installed, especially with a lot of them vanishing from the internet now. It's one of the few truly 'open world' games and encourages actual roleplaying like none other in the series does. You're not treated as The Protagonist Whom Our World Revolves Around, not immediately thrust into the plot by a long unskippable tutorial area, you're just some rando who hopped off a boat. The adventure is something you have to seek out yourself.

But players now whine that the combat and skill checks are based on dice rolls, so essentially they don't like that it's still a CRPG at its core and not an action game. And apparently a huge reason for the inclusion of friendly helpful arrows pointing you wherever you need to go in the later games is that too many refused to pay attention to anything an NPC ever said and so found it difficult to follow simple directions like 'go to Balmora and ask about guy'.

Skyrim was fun enough as a generic fantasy action RPG, at the top of its class for what it was aiming for at least, (minus everything to do with the Thieves Guild storyline and ignoring the ridiculousness of the fact that some NPCs are just invincible without explanation and so the game blocks you from fixing the whole 'civil war' conflict it sets up in the most straightforward way), and I'm still excited for Elder Scrolls VI because I can't not be excited for an Elder Scrolls game, but I've learned to temper my expectations there.

Anyway, AAA games really do pretty much nothing for me anymore, but gaming is in a pretty good place right now despite them. There are more tools and accessibility to audiences than ever for indie devs right now. Plenty of the classics have been patched to be playable on modern systems too.

I don't have a whole lot of time for playing anymore unfortunately, I still tend to collect them on Steam and Humble during the big sales but only a fraction ever get installed. In the last few months I've been picking at Endless Legend and Stardew Valley...but actually spending far more time on a free wilderness survival roguelike that's been in development since the 90s by a lone crazy Finnish man who lives in a cabin in the woods.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby P/o Prune » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:04 pm

David Whyld wrote:I wonder how much of it is based on when you started playing IF games. If you played them in the 80’s, like I did, you got used to the way games were written back then and wouldn't blink an eye if you played a game that killed you off at random, had puzzles so vague you'd really need to think outside the box to have a hope of solving them and got stuck on the same part of the game for weeks at a time. A 50 room maze? Oh, that's no problem. Random combat? Bring it on!

(Part of this, I'm guessing, is because back then games were sold for money. You wouldn't buy a game and finish it in a few hours and consider you'd got your money’s worth. There has to be something to slow down your progression through the game so that when you finally do finish it, you're content that you've got your money’s worth. These days, almost all IF games are free so if you finish one in ten minutes, it hasn’t cost you anything.)

I believe that it wasn't just the case of getting your momey's worth. People had a completely different mindset regarding IF back then. Computers were relatively new and it was facinating being able play games. I also believe that we (yes, I am that old :wink: ) had more patience then kids have nowadays

David Whyld wrote:Part of me also misses the way games were years ago. I prefer long games that take ages to finish, the kind you play over multiple sessions and gradually complete over the space of weeks. I prefer fantasy games where you're searching for treasure or saving the world from evil. A lot of the modern games – those dealing with emotional issues, sexual orientation, racism, discrimination, etc – don't interest me. Sure, they're all noteworthy subjects, but I don't want to play games about them. I play games for entertainment value.

I'm so with you on this one David.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby Lumin » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:19 pm

haha, y'all are old.
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Re: Writing Prompt Time limit?

Postby David Whyld » Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:37 am

P/o Prune wrote:I believe that it wasn't just the case of getting your momey's worth. People had a completely different mindset regarding IF back then. Computers were relatively new and it was facinating being able play games. I also believe that we (yes, I am that old :wink: ) had more patience then kids have nowadays


I blame the Facebook generation. There's so much free stuff available to them that they could literally play free games all the time and never have to buy anything. They'll very seldom invest in anything so what they tend to play are free games catered at people like them: easy, very straightforward, nothing to tax their remarkably limited brain cells. If they come across anything in a game which they consider even mildly challenging, they'll abandon it and find something else.

Growing up, I never had access to oodles of free games. I had to pay money for them so I had no interest in easy or straightforward games which I'd finish in an hour or two - what a waste of money! That kind of thing encourages patience.

Unfortunately, I don't see things changing. The Facebook generation are never going to enjoy the kind of games we had as kids and they'd choose something like Candy Crush or Farmville over the likes of The Hobbit any day.
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