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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 10:42 am 
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Maybe we should add a commandment 11: break any of these rules when it is necessary to create a better game; do so only if you are sure that the end result will indeed be a better game.
Or more simply "Thou shalt understand a commandment before thou breakest it."


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:49 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 7:51 pm
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My comments earlier in this thread seem to have sparked some controversy, albeit not here. As much as I despise this game of ersatz telephone, it's the option given to me, so it's the option I'm taking. (And sorry, you dropped all pretense of "oh, I hope they don't have to defend themselves!" when you said "And let's be fair. If Jon Ingold said something like this he'd probably be better received." I can only apologize for my catastrophic mistake of failing to be Jon Ingold. I will bring it to the attention of my mother's obstetrician at once.)

There are two design principles behind my argument:

1. A well-crafted story -- or anything, really -- is uncluttered. Every element adds to the whole. Nothing is there just for the sake of being there. Nothing is there that actively makes it worse, or makes it worse via distracting from the elements that contribute to the whole. If any such elements are present, cut them out. This is a basic design principle, not just in IF. If I'm manufacturing a bookshelf and intend people to use it as a bookshelf, then it would be a terrible decision to also attach rock-climbing implements to either side. If I'm designing a municipal building, it would be a terrible decision to include gloryholes. This isn't just for new designs, either. If I'm renovating an adult bookstore to be used as a bank, then I should probably take out the gloryholes.

2. At some level, a user cannot be blamed for making use of the options provided to them. If I were to buy the aforementioned bookshelf, try to use it as a rock-climbing wall, fall off and bruise my arms, who's to blame there? Well, sure, me, for doing it -- but the bookshelf had wall holds up the side. Why would they be there, if not to use them? What was the point of them being there in the first place?

In IF, most people accept this principle when it apples to adding content. For example, if I'm writing an IF story intended to be somewhat serious, it would be a bad idea to implement FART. It would add nothing to the story; in fact, it would detract from it. But for some reason, when the principle is taken to its logical conclusion, people flip out.

These discussions, incidentally, also ignore the fact that the verbset, like any other set of conventions, is mutable. (Recent builds of Inform 7 dropped curse words from the standard verb set, reasoning that they are useless in most works, actively detract from some [works for children, for instance], and seldom add anything. I have yet to find anyone who misses them.) They also are focused entirely on verbs in a self-limiting way. You can remove every single verb and still produce something like Mirror and Queen, which I consider a success.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:49 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:56 pm
Posts: 1668
(mods, please don't approve my pending post, the one from my peaceful lurking account)

Right. I have to be the adult one and provide context for the people who have to listen to you around here. FWIW, when I said "Jon Ingold would be better received", I meant "we're being unfair; if someone who was of higher standing in the community was saying these things we'd probably sit up and listen and think, rather than being antagonistic". I guess if you WANT to be a victim then there's nothing anyone else can say. I was actually on your side through most of the post and subsequent discussion. How sad that you couldn't see that.

This is a Christmas gift come early: I am providing here the post which made you feel so attacked. You will be able to twist it however you like, and be as vindictive as you wish, because I'm not replying to it any more. Enjoy. I'm sure you will - because you're the one who has kept this "ersatz telephone" game, which you so "despise", alive.

But please, once you're done here, let us discuss IF, will you? Our discussion had progressed beyond your navel, amazing as it may seem to you.

Just a word of advice - it would behoove you to learn the difference between "controversy" and "discussion". You have access to dictionaries, I hope. I can link you to some, if you like.


Ah, that's the eternal struggle, isn't it? It's there even in roleplaying DnD. The party is free to completely ignore the meticulous game the DM prepared for them. The DM is free to retaliate by killing them instantly somehow.

I think I know which author and quote you mean. I'm going to reproduce the quote, without ill intent, because I'd like to comment on it (but not in a way, I hope, that the author feels they have to defend themselves).

In my case, the reason is that I am primarily interested in parser
storytelling -- which has a long history in IF, dating back to the IF
Art Show -- and thus do not want the reader to experience a "story" that
consists of 50 turns of "You jump on the spot, fruitlessly." That would
be an awful story.

This is really interesting, because it assumes that a player who types JUMP 50 times in a row is not to be blamed to making a boring and uninteresting story. It even assumes that it detracts from the story, which I daresay most people won't even bat an eyelid at. However, people WILL notice if you give a non-standard response to a command like that.

I appreciate the sentiment here - trying to make interactive stories, not games. I'm not sure I follow that the parser is the best venue for it, the author's arguments certainly failed to convince me, but if it's what the author wants to do, I'm not sure it's in our place to browbeat them. We are free to play their games or not (I prefer to play them, so I can at least experience something new).

The really fascinating thing about that quote is what a different mindset it has to the one that, for instance, I have. I think Jon Ingold would have a similar mindset to this author's, because he's also tried a lot to inovate in order to tell stories (My Angel), immerse the player (Fail-Safe), retain mimesis at all costs (Insight) and, in the end, do away with the parser (Colder Light and, of course, everything from Inkle).

And let's be fair. If Jon Ingold said something like this he'd probably be better received. (EDIT - "Fair" works both ways - he'd have said it differently)

So I appreciate your annoyance, and I share a lot of it. I'm having a really fun time right now with Speculative Fiction. I am really not interested in fancy high-falutin' avant-gardisms; not as much as I am interested in something well written, well implemented and with heart behind it. But, authors should be free to do what they want to do. All we can do is provide constructive feedback, based on our opinion, and accept that they may take it or leave it depending on a number of things, including - but not limited to - what they had for lunch, whether they had their favourite dessert, and whether it's raining outside.

EDIT - I knew I'd forgotten to say something else. It's all about implementation - if a player keeps trying verbs and they're rejected, that's probably worse than trying to do the same command (which works) 50 times in a row. When playing homebrew parsers, as soon as I realise the parser is pretending to understand something it doesn't I get ready to quit the game at the slightest provocation. You can't communicate with a game like that, unless the game is not really a game but a story and it's going to go on regardless of what you type.

Which brings me to Photopia, and Rameses. Both are highly constrained. But they had to be parser games; they needed the illusion of the parser freedom in order to lead the story (Photopia) or downright cut the player's wings at every corner on purpose (Rameses). Or even to make a bigger point, as in Constraints.

I really think there are enough people making more traditional parser games that we needn't worry about oddities, which have always existed and thank god for them (isn't Galatea an oddity? And you brought up Aisle - that was a revelation, it brought something totally new and unheard of, and is integral to IF as we today know it). Whether they're making the sort of games we favour... isn't that always the thing? The one we can't (and shouldn't!) control, to boot.

EDIT 2 - Another question. Who is writing the story? The author or the player? And does it really matter? What IS a story in parser IF - is it the transcript that includes floundering around? Or is it the story bits that happen during the game? This used to be a non-issue, but suddenly we have stories and we have games and authors and players with strong preferences on both sides.

Should authors take offense for being called out by someone who doesn't like what they're doing? They can't - every author in every medium has to put up with that. Should players bully authors into making the games they want to play? Absolutely not, I don't think, especially since there ARE other games that they want to play, so it's not like a barren field.

Pffff. I was trying to reach a grand conclusion and all I can think of is "cut out the drama, people, let's play the games". It's lacking a certain something. But it's kinda true. It tends to cut discussions short, though. :stuck_out_tongue:

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 4:10 pm 

Joined: Sun May 04, 2014 11:35 am
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1. Thy game shall respond to the command HINT by giving me a hint.
'Look at this URL for hints' is not a good excuse when it is very easy to implement an in-game help system. I'm not looking for ingeniously coded situation-aware help, just a hint when I ask for one.

This is interesting, I feel exactly the opposite way. I don't want hints in the game and I'd rather have it be mildly inconvenient to get them. If they're constantly only a single command away, it's too tempting to ask for hints anytime you get the least bit stuck, instead of only when you're really stumped.

2. Thy game shall not contain unnecessary rooms.
Every room or area should serve a purpose. I do not want to have to type three different 'direction' commands to get through a winding path. This is just dull, unless something interesting and different, deserving of its own place, happens in each third of the path.

Sort of disagree? It's totally possible to go overboard with this and have labyrinths of rooms with nothing in them, but the odd useless room can make the game's location feel more 'real'.

3. Thy game shall use the four cardinal points of the compass as much as possible.
It's already a huge suspension of disbelief to say that the world is laid out in such a way that you can go due southeast and get from one area to the next. If I tried to navigate my house using nothing but the eight points of a standard IF compass, I would walk into things. Would it be so much to ask that people only use the four cardinal points? It's a lot easier to build a mental map of a game if you can only go north, south, east, and west. It's exponentially more difficult if you then have to differentiate between, say, northeast and southeast.

This is another one where you can go overboard, but having a few ordinal directions is good for giving your world a more organic feeling. In general, I'd say cardinal directions work well when your rooms are literal rooms. If they're outdoor locations, caves, etc, then mixing in some ordinals makes them feel a little looser and more natural.

If I was making a rule, I might say "going back should always be the reverse direction of the way you came, unless you have a very good reason why it isn't."

8. Thy walkthroughs shall be as sparse and bare-bones as possible.
Again, if I am looking at a walkthrough, I do not want to be led down a path that fails just so that I can see the hint that tells me how to succeed. I do not want to be told to EXAMINE LOCK if all that I learn from that is that the lock needs a key. Just tell me, straight-up, how to get the key. This way, the walkthrough is a lot easier to read, and it is far faster to get to the exact part with which I need help.

It's already been said above, but yikes, there's nothing more frustrating than a barebones walkthrough, the worst being ones where the solution is a long, context-free chain of commands that's useless unless you're playing straight from the walkthrough from the get-go.

10. Thou shalt not go overboard.
Just because it is possible, for example, to create an extravagant maze, does not mean that it should be done. The best puzzles and stories are the simplest ones. (Note that stripping back a parser to the point where it is almost unuseable also counts as going overboard: it is too minimalist.) Please do not write games where the puzzle lies in learning to operate a fantastically complicated machine, instead of using it in clever ways. These provide no opportunity for intelligent thought, just "I wish that there were a manual here somewhere."

I don't care for super complicated machine puzzles myself, but they have their fans (Fifteen Minutes took sixth place in 2014, and it was essentially just one giant, immensely complex puzzle). So a better rule might be 'if you make a complex puzzle, make it a fair and fun to solve, and test rigorously for bugs.'

Complicated environmental puzzles get a bad rap because there were so many terrible ones (like the infamous cat hair mustache puzzle) but done well and fairly they can be among the most satisfying to work through.

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