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Thursday, September 21, 2006

IF Homework

Here's been my biggest problem with dealing with Randolph Carter:

What, given the constraints of a text-based game, would people really want to play?

Set aside all the discussion on the evolution of a narrative or the synergy between player and textual whatnots or immersive narrations or whatever. Free yourself from jargon.

Imagine a game which requires no graphics at all (including ASCII graphics) which you would find compelling to play. Describe it with reasonable brevity.

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Thomas said...

Lately I've been considering the same question--but with sound, instead of graphics.

It's a tough call these days.

Josh said...

Well as a confession - I don't find Randolph Carter very compelling. Maybe mildly interesting as a concept, but not compelling. If someone described it to me off the cuff, I might say "I'll try that out" ... but not "I gotta try that when I get home".

And this would be the problem I'm trying to get around when I look at the project past TCoRC.

Weefz said...

A detective story. It needs to have some reason for me to keep reading and I think anything too character-driven can be done better with graphics. It needs a familiar setting. I don't want to start imagining crazy physics and have to remember a lot of new jargon.

Basically, any situation where strange things happen and I have to find clues as to what to do next to progress the story. It doesn't have to be linear. I like the sense that the choices I make can affect the game-world. Multiple outcomes are good though I appreciate that they're much harder to write.

Wait, is that too high-level?

Josh said...

Nope, that's dead perfect "level" wise. Since I'm trying to toy with concepts of both hyperfiction and IF - it's good to note which is more compelling. HF often falls into alternate endings whereas IF often either has a "failed" state (like death) or "solved" state which progresses things along.

Carter is all about alternate endings but the other story I was working on was mostly about sleuthing. I'm not sure I'll return to that storyline or start another one I've been thinking about - but the other one is a quasi horror-mystery-western, so it might suffice.

Weefz said...

I had a bit of a play with Randolph Carter. The main reason it didn't compel me is that it feels less like I'm doing stuff and more like I'm watching someone else do all the interesting bits. Fine for a book, not much fun if you want me to keep interacting.

Perhaps all I saw was the basic intro because for some reason I woke up back at the start just as the story got mildly interesting. Not sure if that was an intentional consequence of my actions or a bug or just my dodgy network connection causing problems. Either way I felt no desire to jump back in.

Josh said...

gopIt doesn't unfold like IF, that's true. It might be that the unpredictability of your actions makes it feel less interactive. Course, I lodge that complaint against some IF as well (OH, if I put the towel on the lamp it starts a fire and then I can get out).

Course the other problem is that it isn't exactly the greatest story on Earth. I chose Lovecraft's short because of it's format - but to be honest in order to revise it in this way it should have a lot more depth and not just eight more endings.

There is one path though that loops you back to the hospital, though.

Josh said...

EDIT: I lay the faults of my version of Randolph Carter squarely on myself. I think HP's version is quite good as is.

Weefz said...

Dude, have you ever put a towel on a lamp? It starts a fire. Trust me.

But yeah, I get the point. Not sure I agree. I was more annoyed by the hunt-the-keywords interaction process but I grew up on IF so I'm probably biased toward the process of trying random objects together to see what works.

Josh said...

No, because I'm deathly afraid of fire :)

Well, then the question is - is it the lack of indicator that makes the "hunt the noun" annoying? If interactive nouns were styled differently - would that help or just make everything too obvious?

Because it's odd - this is a problem with virtually any kind of interactive narrative. In classic IF you don't know if a noun is really interactive until you try to do something with it ... and even then you often need to guess the right "something". But even in graphical systems, there's the "pixel hunt" or simply bumping into things to see what happens.

I think this is why in the next format I'll try to elevate the interactive level off the text completely. Make the narrative and interaction parrallel - but not all mushed together.

Weefz said...

Well, one way of avoiding that is to provide an action/customised response on absolutely every noun in the room. Obviously this would cause problems with the 3-actions-per-room limitation.

The other way is the indicator, as you say. I don't think an indicator would make things too obvious because the puzzle isn't about finding the key objects. It's about what you do with them. As it stands, even when you find the right object you can still choose not to interact with it with no consequence to the gameplay. Making the objects obvious just removes the necessity to click randomly on things to find out if they're interactable. (is that even a word?)

Think of it like web design - links that are the same colour as surrounding text look pretty but the whole point of them is to lead you somewhere else. You wouldn't require your visitors to click on every word just to see if it can lead them somewhere, would you? You change it on hover, or make it underlined, or a completely different colour. The difference in hyperfiction is that the users don't expect to know where they will be taken.

Josh said...

Interactable is word if you use it enough ;)

The other problem with simply activating every noun is making every noun meaningful. While you could always go the IF approach of at least trying to make everything capable of being examined ... it's hard (or at least counterproductive) to make every object in the room truly interactive. It might help flush out the storyworld, but usually not the story.

But I'm inclined to agree on styling them somewhat like links - especially the notion that it's not about finding the right nouns but expirementing with them. Technically I have a constraint that I don't want to force a whole new style into the content HTML. At one point I played with a function that would autodetect the nouns and alter their appearance but it wasn't performing fast enough for my liking.

I'm probably more leaning to simply chalking it down as a lesson learned to move onto the next format. The next format I'm hoping to treat interactions more like objects. So think of the story as just being a page and then the interactions floating on top of them. This will allow me to do a couple things. For one thing, "examine" style interactions can simply exist in a different level than the main narrative (i.e. popups) and "action" style ones might be treated like cards or controls.

Right now the plan is wait for the Wii and possibly try developing for that.