Growing impatient with IF (vent) [Somehow became "Let's talk about AIF". Go figure]

Ralph II: Man’s Best Friend.

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To be clear, are you volunteering to write an AIF involving the parser as an active participant? :smiley:
Because I really want to see how that would work.

And I think that game won, despite it being horribly implemented by modern parser standards. The bar is so low I felt bad about getting 2nd when I competed, but it was explained to me that the game with pictures won.


You clearly don’t really know what you’re doing. I’ll parse that as “TOUCH TITS” instead.

It would get old pretty soon, wouldn’t it? Plus, imagine the parser having all the fun without bothering to let you in.

Maybe my expectations are naturally low when it comes to AIF, but it didn’t strike me as particularly poorly implemented. I’ve certainly seen worse in ordinary IF…

The game with pictures won, heh? Do you know that a recent game is mostly about a dinner date - it’s mostly a conversation - and all the conversation is played back using sound? I suppose multimedia helps the titillation, but obviously in a terp which doesn’t support sound it’s pretty much unplayable. Like the author cares…

See that’s why it’s a challenge. :stuck_out_tongue: There’s no obvious solution for that.

Hmmmm. Unless the parser was a character like Violet, and you were communicating directly that way with your partner.

But that doesn’t sound much different from the way it’s already done. Though it might result in a better… er… playing experience. More… er… immersive.

It really is amazing. I feel actively discouraged from playing some games now. “She’s Got a Thing for a Spring” has a timer, and I found myself optimising my moves all the time, and that just isn’t fun. Same thing with Infocom’s “Sherlock Holmes”, by most accounts a solid and worthy title which not only has a timer but also a big map, mostly accesible at the outset.

I mean, these old-school games are the reason I grew to be wary and cautious. These games where you had to keep all your saved games, where you had to assume that when something went wrong it was avoidable and you SHOULD avoid it even though the game continues. Where when you used up a resource, like burning a paper or striking a match, you wondered whether you might not had locked yourself out of victory later by using up something vital.

I grew to accept it, I suppose. Although I enjoy some of the old-schoolness, in the sense of unashamedly solving puzzles for the heck of it, the insecurity of never knowing whether I’m locking myself out of victory in some way - even if just by taking too long - is paralyzing. And there’s plenty of games out there where I don’t have to put up with that sort of thing, so I go play those games instead.

But I’m sorry that I don’t get to enjoy some games! “She’s Got a Thing for a Spring” is very well written, it’s a pleasant escapade, Bob is a good conversationalist… It’s just that I’m not really appreciating the scenery because the clock is ticking. Infocom’s Sherlock is by all accounts the sort of game I’d enjoy, if only it didn’t have that timer. The Madame Tussaud puzzle (getting a lightsource in and keeping it on afterwards) is not difficult, it is in fact very reasonable, but compounded with the strain of not knowing I’m using up resources I’ll need elsewhere… Plus the timer… Plus the question “Should I be wandering around like this? Should I be on a hansom cab? Does the game expect me to wonder around and has provided me with adequate time, or am I supposed to start visiting places in specific orders through clues I was too thick to pick up on?”… AAAARRRRRGH!

Other than that, I think I’d heartily enjoy it. :slight_smile:

This sort of thing, these timers, never really fell out of fashion. As well as a search for realism, and in recent times even resource management (80 Days and The Baker of Shireton and Olivia’s Orphanarium). All games that I really WANT to like (Baker especially seems very good indeed), except that I can’t. Well, I suppose it’s not my fault, nor the author’s, nor anyone else’s, I’ll just have to stick to the games I enjoy playing.


You know, I’ve been thinking about that thing where in a visual medium you distort reality to make a point. Like when a kid in a classroom is called up to the blackboard to answer a question they don’t understand is depicted physically smaller than the rest of the class, and even have the other kids acknowledge this by looking down on them. Or when Don Bluth, in The Secret of NIMH (random example), uses red skies as background in defiance of any realism because the scene is a violent one. Or like in some early strips of Zebra Girl, where, for instance…

In this particular comic, physical space, light and possibly the size of the character go out the window to emphasise the character’s emotional state. (this is obviously the set-up for a contrast which serves as a punchline of sorts in the next panel. I’d recommend it, except that to appreciate it best you’d need to have read the other 88 strips first. Then again, there are worse ways to spend your time!)

Heck, this is at the heart of Calvin and Hobbes, isn’t it? The very nature of Hobbes.

This is, obviously, nothing new. I just don’t happen to know the name for it.

I was wondering - how could that be applied to IF? Has it already been? “Shade” comes to mind.

Thing is, I’m bored stiff with reality in IF. I actually think most major faults with IF can be traced by people emulating reality too closely. How would an IF game benefit from an approach like this, where reality is malleable (maybe not in practical terms, maybe merely in descriptions) depending on the circumstances? I mean, even as I write this last sentence I can imagine parallel-universe style puzzles, but it doesn’t even have to be practical. I recall “Fish Bowl” being a bit like this, for no other reason than it had a story to tell and wanted to tell it that way.

“Opening Night”, come to think of it, also mixed reality with fancy in a very appealing way. I utterly adored that little game. Surely these two facts aren’t unrelated.

Just some thoughts I wanted to throw out. Didn’t think it merited a new thread. Discussion welcome.

I tackle old school puzzle games in two modes: exploration mode and consolidation mode. I’m usually in exploration mode, where I don’t care about efficiency or time constraints or even having locked myself out of victory; I just care about expanding my knowledge of the map and the systems in the game. Periodically, I’ll shift into consolidation mode where I attempt to efficiently complete those areas of the game that I think I’ve figured out and generate a save reflecting that progress (but not overwriting earlier saves, in case I’ve made a wrong turn). Then, back to exploration mode, using that consolidated save as a new starting point or “home base” until such a time as I have reason to believe that I need to backtrack.

Well, an IF author can decide what to include in the game’s model of reality and what to exclude/abstract away, both in terms of which elements are described and in terms of how much interactivity each of those elements has, and an author can choose how to describe those things, doing so in a way that reflects the PCs state of mind or evokes a certain tone or vibe.


I usually don’t, but maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong. I’ll give Sherlock another go in that vein and see if I like it better. Thanks!

Yes, but what about being more extreme? To the point of actually shaping reality as the player perceives it? I seem to remember a game set in a prison cell, which started off as a single one room cell and as time went by it expanded, first to a 2x2 then 3x3 grid, because of the familiarity the PC gained with it. Or maybe it was the other way around, a 3x3 grid shrinking to a single room in claustrophobia.

It’s not just the writing technique I’m fascinated with, here. It’s actually altering the player’s reality. All to enhance an atmosphere, a state of mind, a situation, in ways far more interesting than realism.

That makes a lot of sense to me. I was playing Punch-Out for the NES for the first time, and I spent one try figuring what to avoid, another learning (or cribbing from FAQs) and another finally save-scumming. You can’t do everything at once, and that can be a problem when people have busy schedules, or just more games to play.

That said many players want to make sure “no nasty surprises” doesn’t flatline into “everyone gets a participation ribbon for walking through.” And the more coding I do the more I realize perfectionism gets in the way of doing, and I don’t want to force that on the player unless they have a way to achieve it and it feels good.

Oh, after this discussion, I think I’ll be adding notes on Zarfian cruelty to all my games now. I know in A Roiling Original I originally had a lot more silly unexpected deaths because that was expedient and you could undo anyway. But sanding over them, I think, helped added depth to my games in other ways.

I think you try to tackle too much at the same time. good ol IF was not made to be completed in about 10 minutes as twitter games. It’s meant for slow gulps through several playthrough sessions.

I don’t even mind saving in my first few tries, just to get the hang of places, objects of interest, characters, motivations… I have myself my own share of ADD and can’t quite focus on IF for too long, so I play through the course of several years :blush: still to finish Jigsaw, Curses and Muldoon, but at least now I know them well enough, ins and outs and their modus operandi

oh, it’s now about AIF? no thanks, prefer just nudes

Yeah, give me the little credit of not treating IF like twitter. :stuck_out_tongue: I’m not a johnny-come-lately, I’m a parser fan.

As for “meant for slow gulps”, I appreciate that’s your natural rhythm for playing. It’s not mine, usually. Which does not mean I play games in 10 minute bursts. There’s a middle ground.

Though I never get much traction when in relation to IF raising the issue of any author’s poor judgement and/or lack of competence in effectively utilizing their chosen medium, I think the issue is again relevant here. At least part of the boredom Peter is experiencing is probably attributable to the fact that so many IF titles, by design, simply are not good interactive works. They are not meant to engage the audience, nor to cultivate “replay value,” nor to provide “entertainment” (and we can certainly include intellectual stimulation as well as good old fashioned fun under the heading of “entertainment”). Instead, so many works are produced merely to communicate some extraneous message or artistic sensibility of the author. So we have an inherently interactive medium where the interaction is reduced to:

Author: "X! I’m brilliant and wise for sharing my revelations about X! And see how cleverly I presented X! Surely you agree!"
Audience: “Um, X, great, whatever. Later, dude.”

Regardless of whether you find X compelling, or repulsive, or even bland, there’s often not much reason to get excited-- for the same reason that sitting through a lecture is not exciting. And there’s certainly no reason to listen to a second or third lecture about X once you understand whatever X is.

The point is, an interactive medium like IF should be a conversation rather than a lecture. A conversation requires input from two (or more) participants, and is a sum of the interactions of those participants. Too many authors in this genre are focused what they want to say (be it showing off an interactive mechanic, or propounding some literary theme), and believe either that audience participation is irrelevant (“X is self-evidently the best and most true!”) or even undesirable (“No way will I tolerate a means for someone to disagree with X!”).

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Well, a work can be interactive without doing that stuff, but it can’t really be a game.

Those works end up being more like tutorials, the ones that say “Let’s try crafting a potion! First, open the potion menu,” and then an arrow points to the potion menu, and the only way to proceed is to click it. Interactivity walks the player through an experience and makes it memorable, so the player will feel familiar with crafting the next time they do it, but the tutorial isn’t interested in exploring what would happen if the player didn’t open the menu.

Hands-on learning experiences are fine for what they are, and the medium of IF may be well-suited for making them, but, like, there’s a reason journalism and fiction writing have different awards, different sections in the newsstand, and different academic tracks even though they both use the medium of prose.


Elaborating on vaporware’s point, the choice of a medium is fundamental to any artistic endeavor. Artistic competence is largely a matter of effectively using one’s chosen medium to accomplish one’s artistic goals.

Laying aside strictly puzzle-solving games, let’s suppose I have something I think is worth communicating to others. My theses are: “God has implemented a natural order to this fair seashore. Star-bellied Sneetches are inherently superior to those with no stars upon thars, and one must not oppose the will of God. That malicious Cat in the Hat and his infernal appearance modifying machine must be expelled from our beaches at once.”

I could offer my argument as a painting, an essay, a film, or an interactive game. In each case, the question of whether my argument has merit is wholly distinct from the question of whether or not I convincingly express my argument using whichever medium I have chosen. If I choose a medium of interactive text, presumably I have made that choice for some reason other than mere novelty. Yet in too many cases of IF, this latter proposition seems doubtful.

In this hypothetical case, an important reason for choosing an IF medium might be that I feel dry logic will not convince starless Sneetches to accept their position in the natural order. Words alone are not sufficient, or else I would simply write a polemic in the Daily Sneetchland newspaper. I will therefore seek to offer the audience a set of experiences (albeit second-hand experiences, based upon empathy with a fictional protagonist) which will bring them around to good sense. These experiences will affect the audience emotionally as well as appeal to the intellect of the audience, and will therefore be more compelling than either scholasticism or demagoguery alone. Most importantly, the audience must feel they are participants in the narrative and have a stake in the outcome. In order to persuade the audience, I must present them evidence for my thesis which will lead them to conclude for themselves the legitimacy of my position, since the starless-bellied Sneetch anarchists have already demonstrated they hold authority and tradition in contempt.

My IF work, then, should strive to offer the audience a broad variety of simulated experiences so each audience member can explore a scenario which is most interesting to themselves. Quite different arguments are required to appeal to the starless Sneetch who is merely curious about starry life, compared to the one who is envious of lovely starred bellies, compared as well to the fomentor of chaos who actively seeks to disrupt the natural law of the beach. I should also provide some mechanisms which star-bellied Sneetches who may be losing their faith in starness will find compelling.

My work, then, could be judged on how well it accomplishes my purpose-- persuading both star-bellied Sneetches and those with no stars upon thars to willingly submit to the natural order of the seashore. If my work only succeeds in confirming the beliefs of those who already agree with me, I have failed as an artist.

Too often we see IF authors who seem to demand a mere ‘A for effort’ regardless of whether they have succeeded in effectively utilizing the IF medium. This not entirely objectionable, given the often noncommercial and hobbyist nature of the endeavor. However, bad art remains bad art, regardless of whether one is paid to create such. As hobbyists we should always strive for the highest quality in our work.

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FWIW, I figured it out. :slight_smile: I simply am not as omnivorous as I thought, and my taste runs to a certain degree of implementation and style - writing style and story style and puzzle style. I’m still very impatient with some IF, and have found that trying to play it - I gave Sherlock a fair chance, but it just fell flat - just isn’t fun.

I did just play Slouching Towards Bedlam. Oh boy. Ooooooh boy. I did NOT get bored.

still another work of IF that I’m yet to complete. But seriously stunning from the get go…
BTW, this discussion started off Counterfeit Monkey and that too is on my wishlist - having only dabbled on the first few places and marvelled at the beauty - perhaps after I finally complete Jigsaw

I can also strongly recommend So Far.

I didn’t even try to make sense of the story, mind. I just enjoyed the gameplay, the puzzles and the writing. Top notch. I only needed hints three times, they were all in the final sections, and the last time I just couldn’t be bothered anymore (the curse of Hints! When you start using them, you’re doomed to go back again and again!).

If stuck in the later sections I’d advise to heavily examine rooms and inventory items - and not to assume that some things are not interactible with, even though they usually wouldn’t be.