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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 12:03 am 
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I did like Blue Chairs, and I loved Shade! Unfortunately those were the only two really surrealist games I've been able to find.

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My ideal game would be a kind of text-based GTA - a vast territory, with generated NPCs, with no main plot but plenty of "miniquests", and a robust social model that would allow "stories" to be naturally generated through the players actions. For example you could follow some random guy, and figure out he lives in a small house with a wife and two children. You could figure out he is having an affair with another woman and send compromising pics to his wife. All of this being randomly generated.


Of course you're welcome to like whatever sorts of games you like, but for me, "randomly generated" is a huge turn-off. A randomly generated game, to me, seems to have no meaning or purpose--you're just doing stuff to do stuff. And a game that randomly generates the illusion of purpose (ie, you visit the guy's house and there's a "hook" that he's having an affair) would be an incredibly, practically impossibly complex undertaking.

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And, quite frankly, I don't think the current author-base (as opposed to player-base) of IF is effective enough to change the expectations of those core audiences to make IF fun beyond the self-enclosed community of practice that currently supports IF creation. I sort of feel like it's a place to stagnate if you don't really want to be a novelist/short story writer or you don't want to be a game writer. It's like this nebulous middle ground where you have the delusion that you can satisfy one or the other urge or audience if you just had a slighty better parser, or slightly more natural way of expressing it, or a slightly better tool, and so on.


You could just say you don't like them, since your thesis boils down to "nobody likes IF except people who like IF." (I'm a writer/reader/game player myself who found my way into the periphery of the IF community because I quite like doing all of them and enjoy how they work in combination. I think the community is small because, most people don't know it exists.)


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PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 7:04 am 
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katz wrote:
I did like Blue Chairs, and I loved Shade! Unfortunately those were the only two really surrealist games I've been able to find.


This seems like a case for an IFDB poll! I'm not registered on IFDB, though, so I started a thread for people to suggest surrealist games here.


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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 6:55 am 
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bukayeva wrote:
Phonatacid wrote:
My ideal game would be a kind of text-based GTA - a vast territory, with generated NPCs, with no main plot but plenty of "miniquests", and a robust social model that would allow "stories" to be naturally generated through the players actions. For example you could follow some random guy, and figure out he lives in a small house with a wife and two children. You could figure out he is having an affair with another woman and send compromising pics to his wife. All of this being randomly generated.


The problem is that people have this now: World of Warcraft, GTA, and so on. I don't think those audiences would even want that stuff all text-based. You would be giving up most of what makes that stuff entertaining for people: the graphics and audio capabilities that try to fully immerse you in the world. The "naturally generated" and "randomly generated" stuff you mention probably wouldn't appeal to people who are more readers of books because they want the emotive experience they are used to when they read good fiction.


People don't have this. I've never played World of Warcraft, but I suppose the heart of the game, what keeps people playing, are player-to-player interactions. I played the last GTA and found it was incredibly empty : you can steal cars, drive around, kill people, buy a hot-dog - and of course conform yourself to the player-character by completing predefined missions. That's all.
I envisage text as a convenient short-cut. When you can't afford the means to produce, write and direct a movie, what do you do ? You write a novel. I don't have the skills nor the time to sculpt 3D models and animate them, nor do I have time to paint textures or build audio and physical engines. But I do think text is as efficient if not superior to images when it comes to transmitting certain mental structures to the audience, all the more so when you have no budget at all.

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The "naturally generated" and "randomly generated" stuff you mention probably wouldn't appeal to people who are more readers of books because they want the emotive experience they are used to when they read good fiction.

I don't think people come to IF because they want to read good literature : personally, I discovered the word "interactive fiction" by looking up "text-based game" in google. Actually, the fact that IFs mostly rely on puzzles (as opposed to "freedom-generating"/exploration-based games, like GTA, WOW, or Minecraft) and that the same piece of text will get printed 5, 10, 50 times during the process in which the player engages in order to find clues/keys/doors and get to the next step of the puzzle, is rather appalling to most of people who come to IF with the hope of finding literary texts.

katz wrote:
Of course you're welcome to like whatever sorts of games you like, but for me, "randomly generated" is a huge turn-off. A randomly generated game, to me, seems to have no meaning or purpose--you're just doing stuff to do stuff. And a game that randomly generates the illusion of purpose (ie, you visit the guy's house and there's a "hook" that he's having an affair) would be an incredibly, practically impossibly complex undertaking.


It's not really the "randomly generated" bit that matters to me. I'd just like to play a piece of IF that is genuinely oriented towards the feeling-of-freedom side of video games. I'm in my 20s and I stopped playing video-games a few years ago because most of time they don't satisfy my expectations. The last games I played are : Animal Crossing (it's all about social interactions), fallout 1 or 2 (again, social interactions), and minecraft. This latter is quite an amazing game to me, since it relies on a very simple atomic concept : blocks. As a consequence, it opens a vast field of possibilities, new traps and mechanisms the game's inventor hadn't planned are invented every day. This is the kind of game i'd like to create : as a player, I'd like to be confronted to situations I did not plan when writing the game as an author. I want to be surprised.
I know what I am describing is far from the way IFs are designed nowadays (and 30 years ago), but when I started searching for text-based games, I was surprised by the hidden mechanisms they rely on : mostly, IFs look like [if … else if … else …] static tree structures. Actually, I haven't found a game that develops its own narrative schemes (there are theories for this).



I know this an ambitious project and that I have like 20 years of development ahead of me, but I also consider it an occasion to learn new theories : of course that spying-the-husband-telling-the-wife-about-it example I picked seems to be extraordinary hard to implement. But it might be easier than you think once you've defined a social engine based on theories coming from the field of sociology, and people coming to IF in the hope of finding something similar to literature, might be more interested in playing a sandbox kind of game that offer a (hopefully) wide range of "superficial" social interactions than a game with a strong linear "emotional plot" punctuated with numerous puzzles that force you to read the same never-changing piece of text over and over again.


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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 10:11 am 
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Phonatacid, what do you think about MUDs?


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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 3:03 pm 
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Phonatacid wrote:
When you can't afford the means to produce, write and direct a movie, what do you do ? You write a novel.

I suspect that novel may not be as satisfying to its audience or its author as one written by someone who writes a novel because they want to write a novel. (Love of the written word and so on…) I can't see treating one medium as a cheaper alternative to another as a good way to look at things. Yes, IF is easier for one person to make than most kinds of games, and IF can even be used to prototype another game (unless my memory is playing tricks on me, the developers of one of the graphical Zork games did that), but to think of a novel as a poor man's movie or IF as a poor man's computer game is missing the point. Each medium has its unique strengths and weaknesses (even if we discount production costs).

I realise (or at least hope) that your intention wasn't to value novels less than movies, but that's how it read to me and that kind of statement rubs me the wrong way. I'll stop my rant now. "kthxbye", as the kids say.


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PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 3:43 pm 
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To echo Trumgottist, there are actual good solid reasons for choosing the text medium other than budget constraints. As I said way back in my original response in this thread, I particularly like IF that uses the medium as part of its message. The Gostak: The Graphical Adventure would simply not be interesting or fun, and For a Change with 3D graphics and music might be okay (it would probably be basically a Myst knockoff) but wouldn't have much to recommend it. Similarly, games such as Delightful Wallpaper and Shrapnel work precisely because of the very peculiar spatial paradigm IF has developed, and Shade and Rover's Day Out play merry havoc with tropes that other genres just don't have. I could imagine an illustrated Pacian game, but his prose is so fun that honestly I'd be a little sad to be pinned down to any particular visual interpretation of it.

Sure, some people use the text medium as a way of prototyping a game (and I say "prototype" when the envisioned gamed could well encompass more expensive assets, even if, as a necessarily time-limited hobbyist, the author has no intent to ever make the "real thing"), much as people may write scripts or create storyboards for movies that will never be produced. And that is great and noble. But text (and the specific medium of parser IF, with all its shorthands and quirks) can be more than just a short-cut.


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 8:53 am 
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Trumgottist wrote:
Yes, IF is easier for one person to make than most kinds of games


I'm not even sure this is true anymore, with the rise of cheap/free game-making systems like Flixel, Unity, and GameMaker. (Though you might be able to say better than I have, as you've actually made games with graphics.)

One difference I can think of is in level of polish; it costs money to make graphics like Shadow of the Colossus, but it doesn't cost any more money to write prose that's as polished as that found in any professional game; you just have to be able to write it. OTOH, I've seen a lot of absolutely gorgeous games made with free tools; they just didn't have the kind of 3d graphics that basically every big-studio game has, as far as I can tell (don't play them).


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 9:59 am 
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All that said, I would really like to play Phonatacid's game (and even share some of the concerns about the general design of IF; not that I think it's fatal that you have to reread text sometimes, it's just part of the medium, but I think IF could do more to exploit different ways of playing. Part of the reason gravel's game seems so cool.)


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 2:23 pm 
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matt w wrote:
Trumgottist wrote:
Yes, IF is easier for one person to make than most kinds of games


I'm not even sure this is true anymore, with the rise of cheap/free game-making systems like Flixel, Unity, and GameMaker. (Though you might be able to say better than I have, as you've actually made games with graphics.)


It's easier in the sense that fewer different skills are needed. To make IF, you need to be a writer, a designer and a programmer. To make a graphical adventure game, you need the same and a musician and a visual artist. And possibly voice actors.


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 4:14 pm 
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Trumgottist wrote:
matt w wrote:
Trumgottist wrote:
Yes, IF is easier for one person to make than most kinds of games


I'm not even sure this is true anymore, with the rise of cheap/free game-making systems like Flixel, Unity, and GameMaker. (Though you might be able to say better than I have, as you've actually made games with graphics.)


It's easier in the sense that fewer different skills are needed. To make IF, you need to be a writer, a designer and a programmer. To make a graphical adventure game, you need the same and a musician and a visual artist. And possibly voice actors.


You're right about adventure games; I was thinking about platformers and other such things, which can get along without writing. (Though if they don't, there needs to be a good writer involved.) Music is still an issue, I guess, though you can get some nice stuff from Kevin MacLeod.

IF should definitely be easier for me, because I have absolutely no hope as a visual artist; but some of the games I play seem to have better art than writing.

(Maybe roguelikes should be the easiest? You can do without writing or graphics. Design is pretty hard though.)


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