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Are static objects REALLY that important?

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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby David Whyld » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:11 pm

As an author, I always dislike time spent writing descriptions of static items that are not relevant to the plot, but are simply there because they're expected to be there. A few times I've even gone and rewrote location descriptions purposefully to remove mention of numerous static items so I don't need to go ahead and writing descriptions for each of them. I'm also aware, from playing games, how tedious it can be to read a location description, see 15 different static items mentioned there and then have to examine every single one of them on the off chance there might be something useful hidden on top of them, or behind them, or under them. These days, I tend to find myself veering towards location descriptions that simply describe the place, but don't mention anything but the essential items. It's probably better from the viewpoint of both the author and the player to do this kind of thing.

Saying that, if something is mentioned in a location description, it should be possible to interact with it, and at the very least examine it. If I see a great big crate in front of me and I'm told YOU SEE NO SUCH THING when trying to examine it, that doesn't leave me with a very high impression of the game.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:24 pm

>look crate

You see a crate. :wink:
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby P/o Prune » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:42 pm

Lazzah wrote:
Po. Prune wrote:But it's true.. You had a cassette recorder hooked up to your computer and then you loaded the games from it. The same when you saved your game. It took forever and a day... I don't mind the forever bit so much. But that extra day is a real pain in the neck! :O

ISTR that if the load failed (as frequently happened!) on the Sinclair Spectrum you had to rewind the tape and start again from the beginning. It was SO frustrating if you had been sitting there for 10 minutes waiting for the data to load and it failed right at the very end!! The Spectrum + 2 with its integral tape deck was notorious for tape loading failures as you had no volume or tone control at all. I had a +2 SPECIALLY for testing game tapes that I had just copied - if the tape loaded OK on my +2 it'll load on anything!

I was lucky, I guess. I had a tape recorder "Phillips" which had a counter. I had loads of games on 90 minutes tapes and used the counter to find the position of each game.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:02 am

I'm honestly amazed computers ever even caught on at all if that's how they started out. I wonder if there's an alternate universe somewhere where everyone collectively decided they were more trouble than they were worth and gave up in disgust...I mean, they couldn't even do anything all that much at that point to convince people it was worth sticking with them another ten years.

...I bet it's a really productive alternate universe with all kinds of healthy, socially adjusted people with clean houses who don't consider Cheetos a food group. Poor things, it makes me sad just thinking about them. :cry:

All this ancient computer talk kind of reminds me about some of the stuff I've read about what starting and driving a car was originally like. Given how...ah, set in their ways most of the elderly people I know are, I've always been amazed that managed to become a popular enough thing that we're not still riding horses around.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby R2T1 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:56 am

Horses? Who used horses when you already had feet? :lol:
If you want to read about "them good ol' days" have a look at "The Digital Antiquarian". There are quite a few articles about some of the early computers and the games played on them. Just go back through the calendar to see the older ones.
PS. Most of these I either saw, used or remember reading about in Computer magazines in the early 1970s.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby P/o Prune » Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:24 am

Although I can only speak for myself, I really enjoyed those days... Yes, I'm nuts, I know :P
Once a week a friend and I would meet either at his or my place to play what is now known as AIF (Ancient Interactive Fiction.. Yeah, got you there, didn't I? :wink: )
While the game loaded (from the cassette player) I would make coffee and by the time the coffee was done the game had pretty much loaded and the game was on...
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:47 am

Oh, I can definitely see the appeal of that. Weird to think of IF as a social activity, but if nothing else I always thought it was a shame I missed out on the old days when people who were into hobbies like that had actual physical magazines and clubs and stuff dedicated to it. (I mean, I realize we have way more nerds with more resources connected to each other now and they have conventions and stuff too, so I guess the part of it that fascinates me is that this was all before the internet and that was the only way too stay in contact and they still managed to build these communities...)

Anyway, anyone following the thread on intfiction?

It's pretty interesting but I'm kind of 'meh' on responding further. I know the internet is serious business and we all looooove to get angry at people with wrong opinions but I just don't know if I want to spend the time writing an essay taking their essays apart point by point to prove how I'm right and they're all wrong. 8)
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby rotter » Sat Aug 03, 2013 3:04 am

R2T1 wrote:Horses? Who used horses when you already had feet? :lol:
If you want to read about "them good ol' days" have a look at "The Digital Antiquarian". There are quite a few articles about some of the early computers and the games played on them. Just go back through the calendar to see the older ones.
PS. Most of these I either saw, used or remember reading about in Computer magazines in the early 1970s.


Interesting site, haven't seen it before.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Peter Pears » Sun Aug 04, 2013 2:44 pm

But seriously, uh, it's definitely a different environment and I would have made the whole thing a lot more detailed and less conversational if I'd known anyone from over there was going to see it. And I probably wouldn't have used a specific example from my game...those guys usually despise fantasy and more or less seem to have a completely different definition of what a 'game' is. And they all suffer from an inability to not sound like a college professor. And they can be kind of mean.

Anyway, the reaction is about what I expected so far, but it'll definitely be an interesting thread to follow.


I'm not sure that we despise fantasy, we've just seen it abused, over-used and under-realised too often, and I'm sure you have too. ;)

I hope I'm not crashing or anything, I just wanted to check how the original thread was doing because it rather interested me in the other forum.

Regarding the college professor thing, that's probably me, and it's mostly *just* me. Please don't judge the IF community on my tendency to ramble and on my formality. "Mean" I don't know about, but I think it's natural that people get passionate at times. In the thread we're talking about, I certainly did, a bit too much; then I realised it, and apologised to the individual in question.

The completely definition of "game", however, is a very interesting point that I actually raised in the other thread. I put it to you that Adrift has always made some things easier than others, and that this community grew up around it, and naturally enough shaped its definition of IF - what it is, what it can be, what it should be, what we enjoy, what we don't - mostly on what its engine could do. People at RAIF and IntFiction used TADS or Inform - a wholly different mindset.

If you check the Quest forums, you'll find that David Whyld himself has suffered from his input, because those guys have yet another definition of "game" (in my view a tremendously, horrendously incomplete one; many of them, I'm sure, have no idea what IF is). It's just the way it is. It's great for us to reach out to one another, and there's always a tendency to view one side or the other as having a more correct view. We just have to remember that we think differently by virtue of the very tools we use.

See? College professor again. :) But that's just me, honest. Some of the other guys discourse a lot, but are less uptight.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Sun Aug 04, 2013 7:33 pm

Hey now, don't rag on the Quest community, only we can do that. ;) I mean, they have their issues but I've always seen Quest and ADRIFT as having a special kind of relationship. It's like they're Corky from Life Goes On, I just can't stand to see the mainstream IF community pick on them...

But you're not crashing anything, and I hope you didn't take anything I said the wrong way--pretty much anything I post here is going to be liberally sprinkled with silliness and hyperbole. :) The 'college professors' and 'mean' comments in particular were more in reference to a sort of a running joke we used to have here about RAIFers.

I used to lurk on RAIF all the time when I first got into IF, I would often be all just Image at how intense and ugly some of those discussions got, and there came a point where I felt like I had nothing in common with most of the posters there anymore and just lost interest....what I've seen of intfiction.org doesn't seem bad at all in comparison. :) Though I still feel like (and just speaking for my personal take on things here) there's a philosophical difference between our communities that goes deeper than just the programs we use to write our games with.

For one thing, over the last several years (more than I decade now, actually) mainstream IF has been skewing waaay over towards the 'fiction' side of interactive fiction. If you want to be taken seriously as an IF author it's all gotta be about exploring a theme or evoking an emotion now, with some deep mindscrew plot and meta references and more twists than a Shyalaman movie...whereas over here we for the most part don't have some big idea we're trying to push, writing IF is just something we do for fun and in the hopes of entertaining a few people. Sometimes we even still call the things we write 'text games', which I'm pretty sure is a term at least one or two RAIFers would non-ironically consider an insult to the art form or whatever, kind of like the old 'sci-fi vs science fiction' debate. :roll:

And I'm not trying to slam artistic IF as a whole, I mean if Victor Gijsbers wants to write a game 'exploring the relationship between the PC and his ex-boyfriend' like he hinted at in the other thread, that's great, but in a weird way it also feels like more of the same. Artsy games aren't really anything I can get excited about anymore, they're pretty much the standard now. (I'm playing Lazzah's Fortress of Fear now, and to me that is a unique game I've almost never seen anything similar too...)

Yet as much as the IF community embraces thinking outside the box plotwise, in other areas they seem extremely traditional and pretty quick to point out whenever someone's Doing It Wrong. In fact, if there's anything I take issue with in your comments in the other thread, it's this whole idea that there are all these people writing IF who 'don't even know what IF is'. I mean, who even gets to define something like that?

I'm pretty convinced that by your standards (and to be fair, by a lot of people's...) the game I'm working on wouldn't count as IF either since I'm taking a lot of inspiration from other genres, and I guess I'm fine with that, I just hope that when I do finish it it'll be measured by the standard of 'is it fun to play?' rather than, 'not real IF, not even going to bother'...or what's more likely, 'HOLY cr*p I can't examine the grass, WORST GAME EVER!' (and yes, I realize the irony of writing two paragraphs complaining about artistic games when I'm writing something non-traditional myself, but in my defense mine isn't trying to be meaningful in the slightest ;))

...though for what's it's worth the scenery description question is kind of up in the air for me at the moment. Like I said in the other thread, I really feel that for the player's sake it needs to be all or nothing, and I don't like locking myself into none at all because they might actually be useful in some areas...but if they do make it in everyone should expect some SERIOUS half-a**ing on my part when it comes to the unimportant stuff. Image


Ugh, I feel like I just wrote a novel. I need to go lie down.

...wow forum, THANKS SO MUCH for logging me out in the middle of typing that. Aaarggh At least I had about half of it copied to notepad...
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby David Whyld » Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:16 pm

Re the comment about people on the Quest site not even knowing what IF is... I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with it. On the one hand, the majority of Quest users don't seem to have the faintest idea what IF is, or at least their idea of IF is completely different than what every non-Quest IF player thinks IF is. I picked some Quest games at random to play a few months back just to see if things had improved since the last time I checked the Quest world out. Unfortunately they hadn't. Most of them seemed to be every bit as the bad as the worst Quest games back when I stumbled across the site in... oh, 2003/2004 or something. In a decade or so, they haven't improved one iota (and those guys really don't take criticism very well). Why that is I don't know, but if I had to hazard a guess I'd venture that it's because the community doesn't know what IF is and so hasn't changed at all in ten years. Still, saying all that, and on the other hand, Quest does seem to be remarkably popular these days, and whatever flaws the system has, and whether the community would know an IF game if it fell over one, none of that has hindered its popularity.

One another point: years ago I thought about writing an IF game that had the screen split into windows. One window would have the location description: lots of text, every little thing the player can see mentioned in detail. But that would just be scenery. None of it would be interactable and none of it would be examinable. It was just... background info really. Another window would be the player's inventory, another would list the items in the scenery window that could be interacted and examined, and the final window would have the player's input in it. That way, if you're the sort of player who likes to read oodles of text, you could read everything in the scenery window and drown yourself in endless walls of text. However, if you're the sort whose eyes glaze over if they're called upon to read more than three words in a row, you could just look at the items window, get the relevant information and go from there. Unfortunately, ADRIFT didn't support multiple windows like I envisioned, and I wasn't familiar enough with any other system to take my idea anywhere, so it just went off and quietly died in the background.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:40 pm

Huh, now that's an interesting idea. I think RAGs would be the system to use, assuming you weren't scared off by a community 90% made up of creepy fetishists. Oh yeah and having to fork over money to reregister every couple years of course, for a sane person that might be an issue too. :roll:

Or you could use ADRIFT, but instead of windows use colored text. Scenery could be the default eye-bleeding green, important objects could be listed in blue, inventory in yellow. Or you could just write the game from the beginning to have every room description be about two lines of text. (I have seriously considered doing this in as a sort of Babby's First IF in a ploy to get people at work to play.)

Though if you're masochistic enough to want to write thousands and thousands of words of text that only like 1% of players will ever read, you could always apply for a building job in a MUD...
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby David Whyld » Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:46 pm

I used to be quite fond of coloured text until someone (I think it was KFAdrift) pointed out what an eyesore it was. (Of course, he was a lot more polite than that.) And then I took a good long look at the game I was writing - with red font for the location title, green text in italics for exits, normal white text for the location description, yellow text for NPCs and blue text for items - and realised that, yes, it did look a real eyesore. Since then, I've steered well clear of coloured text.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Lumin » Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:51 pm

If used with some restraint it doesn't look bad at all....if you're starting with black text on a white background, and just add a little splash of color here and there to that. The red and green and black is kind of a color overload to begin with though, and adding more to that mix will basically never look good.
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Re: Are static objects REALLY that important?

Postby Peter Pears » Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:57 pm

For one thing, over the last several years (more than I decade now, actually) mainstream IF has been skewing waaay over towards the 'fiction' side of interactive fiction.


I agree completely. It's not necessarily bad... like mazes and hunger timers aren't necessarily bad. It's when they are the bulk of the work that it starts getting too much.

I also think you'll find most people nowadays have come off their high horse, and the ones that didn't went elsewhere. ;) We say "Interactive Fiction can be much more meaningufl than a text adventure", but a) we love the heck of out text adventures (expect for many newcomers who fully embrace the newschool-to-the-max approach) and b) we all know the term itself was a marketing ploy by an American text adventure company who churned out high quality *text adventures*.

In fact, if there's anything I take issue with in your comments in the other thread, it's this whole idea that there are all these people writing IF who 'don't even know what IF is'. I mean, who even gets to define something like that?


Fair enough, I do agree it's an aggressive turn of phrase. It came out of reading a few reviews by Whyld, a years back, on some Quest games, and the responses he received. The games in question did atrocious things, things that any IF player (from the RAIF/IntFiction crowd, at least) would balk at, because... well, have you played Cypher? Or read about it? It's pretty much the same thing. People trying to create a text adventure ignoring, in Cypher's case, decades of parser improvements and conventions that make it *easy* for the player to interact. By ignoring them - and at the time, the people responding to Whyld's reviews seemed PROUD to ignore them - they continued making buggy, lousy games and congratulated themselves that they were doing good things. They were like children eating mudpies (and I mean *eating*), telling themselves it was the finest chocolate. Onlookers beware of telling them otherwise.

Well, there you go. That's how I viewed the Quest community for a long time. I do hope things are different now. Well, for one thing they're all more geared towards gamebooks...

I'm pretty convinced that by your standards (and to be fair, by a lot of people's...) the game I'm working on wouldn't count as IF either since I'm taking a lot of inspiration from other genres, and I guess I'm fine with that, I just hope that when I do finish it it'll be measured by the standard of 'is it fun to play?' rather than, 'not real IF, not even going to bother'...or what's more likely, 'HOLY cr*p I can't examine the grass, WORST GAME EVER!'


I think you're making us worse than we are. :) For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure I'm not that bad. I just had a blast of a time with "Jewel of Knowledge", which is pretty oldschool in its way. Understand that the issue about examining background items - and now we return to the main topic - is that the player has to trust the narrator (unless you're doing off-the-wall stuff like a lying narrator. Very hard to do right, but if you pull it off, the sky's the limit). If the narrator includes objects in the description that the player finds not to be implemented, that's a serious blow to the player because, well, how's he supposed to know which of the things the narrator's describing actually exist for him to manipulate?

Notice I said "implemented", and not "described", and here is the fundamental issue. ;) Like I suggested, and many people before and after on both threads, if you implement the item - maybe with a series of synonims so that "grass/sun/clouds" all point to the same thing - and give it a response like "That's not something you need to interact with to solve the game", everyone's happy! The player knows that what he sees does exist, and as a bonus, he knows he doesn't have to worry about it and can focus on the really important stuff.

Personally I'm always wary of being so evocative in room descriptions as you were in your example. I would have made it a bit more utilitarian and used most of your text in a block of text shown only the first time the player enters the room. Then again, I never actually made a game, just played a lot of them. ;)

You have hit upon a major issue in IF, incidently - it's not an idle question. It's the one thing that can seriously discourage authors and players alike. Too much useless implementation is not only a serious hindrance to the designer; remember the player doesn't know what's important and will therefore try to interact with everything.

David: you know, that's actually an issue of mine with Quest, the multiple windows... I can never tell whether I'm supposed to guide myself by the screen or the windows. Should I ignore items not in the windows? Should I navigate exclusively by point-and-clicking on the windows? That and the non-existent implementation... well, so far I've only played one Quest game I've liked: "Cabin Fever". I am hoping that Quest 5 (and a change in mentality that, unfortunately, you report hasn't happened) will change that somewhat.
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