Notes from Witt's End #1 On Adventure


#1

Hey heads up frequenters of this forum. I’ve started a new blog with an inaugural post involving a fairly in-depth tour-with-criticism of Will Crowther and Don Woods’s original Colossal Cave Adventure — particularly the early game, so my focus is naturally on those elements invented by Crowther. I really haven’t been happy with some of the criticism and review that’s been happening over the last few years. I felt it was my duty to set the record straight in some aspects. Consider this my answer to Jimmy Maher, Jonathan Lessard, Dennis Jerz, Graham Nelson, and others who have each made their own attempts to explain the phenomenon of Adventure and its effect on PC gaming, with varying degrees of success. This paragraph from early on in the nearly 15,000-word piece describes the goal I set for myself in writing it:

“There seems little question that the creation of Crowther’s Colossal Cave acted as a rare historical focal point, becoming, especially after the extension & polish applied by Woods, a kind of lens through which the light of every potentially interactive narrative was instantly redirected. That is an extraordinary result, and it requires an extraordinary explanation, so any modern review or analysis of this game which fails to account for its enormous catalytic effects, is incomplete.”

The final third of the essay deals with the rather lacklustre reaction of the existing intfiction org community to modern recreations of various versions of the original Adventure, and other old school projects like it.

Hope you enjoy it! It’s a long read so the only way you’ll get through it, I guess, is if you do. Commentary is welcome.

Here’s the link: Notes from Witt’s End #1 On Adventure Happy holidays!

Paul.

EDIT: Corrected a spelling error.


I can't navigate this board
#2

Just skimming through it sparks my interest. Love the writing style and the format. I think I’ll enjoy this one. :slight_smile:

It does make me cringe a bit that your hopes for the current community, and therefore the future of IF, are so negative, but I see where you’re coming from, and I guess I’ll see even better - and know what to address - once I actually read it. Thanks for taking the effort to write it. I see it’s not concluded? Please conclude it.

Out of curiosity, how do you personally feel about Andy Phillips games?

EDIT - Am reading it, have to take a break now for real life, will be back later. Some points:

  • It took a while for me to get used to your “speech” towards the green wisp. You are transparently dumping information in an attempt at natural one-sided dialog (hmmm, there’s actually nothing natural about one-sided dialog!). It was a bit strange at first.

  • Alleviating the point above, I like your enthusiasm. I like your clear admiration of the piece, and how it resonates for you. It’s catching.

  • I found it a bit bold, at first. to assert as you do that Adventure is so entirely the visionary "big bang"ish gem in game design, but you’re certainly convincing me. I wish I knew what other games there were before Adventure in a similar fashion - you yourself reference DnD, which I remember actually playing (in the early nineties, though!); doesn’t it deserve as much recognition as Adventure, if not at least for preparing the way in a few ways? Were there other computer games like DnD before Adventure that led, directly or indirectly, to its creation?


#3

Hi Peter, thanks for reading!

My hopes for the future of IF are not negative, nor do I consider that to be wholly in the hands of “the current community”. This will especially become apparent in Part 2, which is well on its way to being written — in fact, originally they were one piece, but its unwieldy length necessitated breaking it in two.

I have had an Andy Philips game recommended to me for puzzles once, a while back. I can’t remember if I tried it or not but if I did, I couldn’t have got far because I would have remembered it. I kind of need a game to hook me and demand to be played. Perhaps I will give his stuff another look.

As to your points (so far):

  • It’s not ultimately a one-sided dialogue. Keep reading.
  • Thanks! That’s the idea. 8)
  • I investigated the antecedents as much as they are discoverable over the web. The most direct influence on Adventure certainly has to be said to be the tabletop Dungeon & Dragons game itself, since it was played by almost everybody involved with the creation of text adventures. D&D itself also inspired CRPGs separately from Adventure games, and the first rudimentary CRPGs preceded Adventure by perhaps a few months to a year. That is why Adventure can be said to have inspired the first MUD MORPGs (via Dungeon) but not the first CRPGs, the latter of which are not really the subject of my essay. The reason I referenced dnd is because it’s the only one of the pre-Adventure CRPGs that is actually extant; the other two are lost. It is also the only one that I could find wherein people who played it say you could leave the arena of combat — which means it had the first pseudo-safe room. But dnd’s safe room is just a trading menu. and I don’t think you can drop objects there to keep them safe, only sell and trade them – correct me if I’m wrong. So it was definitely the first safe trading post where you could replenish supplies, but not much of a safe room, really. I think Adventure still gets most of the credit here for having the first safe room where (1) it’s an actual navigable room in the geography of the game, so monsters or enemies could potentially invade it - they just don’t; (2) you can leave objects behind to free up space in your inventory and then come back to get them later, because they’re ‘safe’ there; (3) you need to bring back quest items there in order to win; (4) it also serves as a teleportation hub to get you around the game. Those are a lot of firsts when it comes to safe room design! Though ‘dnd’ was indeed the first game that introduced the concept of leaving the combat arena to cash in.
  • If there are any games I’ve missed that did these things before Adventure, please step up and name them, anyone who knows of them…

Paul.


#4

Well, it’s quite a read. There’s a pervasive bitterness at the end, I feel. I’m not sure that Adventure has been as abandoned as all that, any more than, say, Zork. It’s there, and people know about it, and recognise its significance… but it is old history. It does pioneer a bunch of stuff, but today’s developers are more concerned about what to do with our tools today than, say, revisit old pioneering grounds.

Occasionally some games do emerge. Shrapnel is very newschool, as you know, and gleefully takes the geography of Zork - a player who has not played Zork will not enjoy Shrapnel as well. Geist, which I’ve played recently, has newschool sensibilities but is very much about the sense of fun you keep talking about (you may enjoy playing Geist, by the way) - and the blurb in IFDB is revealing…

Geist is decidedly old-school IF. It’s not likely to be the kind of game well regarded by the inner sanctum of the Interactive Fiction community. It’s a treasure hunt. A puzzle fest. In other words: it’s a Text Adventure. Further, it has a number of in-jokes, breaks mimesis and targets and rewards a subset of players (those who are members on BGG). It is still playable and can be enjoyed outside that sphere… but you have been warned.

Things like this bother me a bit. I personally heavily dislike straight puzzlers like Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina, but it’s a valid subset of IF and I wouldn’t dream of putting it down (I wouldn’t play it either, though. Give me world-manipulation puzzles and I’m really happy, but gratuitous self-contained Towers of Hanoi and the like - Zork Zero, I’m looking at you! - just make me want to quit). People who are not me like these games, so they should be made. Although there’s definietely a trend towards the future, spurred on by Photopia, Galatea, Alabaster, Fail-Safe, and recently things like Colder Light, and even though some old-school games are still very far removed from Adventure-style like Varicella and Make It Good…

…even though there has been a movement towards these things, I somehow missed the bit where people wanting to have cave-crawling(-style) fun were actually put down. But it must exist, because Dave Bernazzani (Geist) felt the need to include that bit in his blurb.

You make a good point, but overall I’m still trying to get the finer points straight. What bothers me the most is that I can’t quite tell what your proposed solution is. I mean, you identify the problem - partly as lack of community interest for a) the people who helped create IF, b) people who are still maintaining, or wish to, the Adventure ports and versions, and c) people who actually like, and want to make, games closer to Adventure than Photopia. You even take the time to address the lack of playtesting going around - be it time, game genre, or just general unwillingess. It is very easy for a game to slip under everyone’s radar unless it’s got a big visible hook, or a big visible author, a problem I believe the various Comps are intended to address. That’s all well and good, but what exactly do you believe we should do about it? There’s a sort of middle-ground between Adventure and Photopia which is where the vast, vast majority of games take place. Today’s IFers take the teachings of Adventure as the basic building blocks - things we don’t question. We don’t reference it, I think, because it’s so completely ingrained in IF.

It’s like the New Testament and the story of Christ - if you were raised in a Christian culture, like most of Europe and the Americas, then the story of Christ was fundamental in creating your ethical and moral standards, to which you adhere even if you become an atheist. Similarly, Adventure is there in every single game. It’s even in Photopia, very clearly, because of all the ways it’s like Adventure and most importantly because of all the ways it isn’t like Adventure, building by deliberately discarding or subverting the old building blocks.

This does seem to me to be the way forward - by blending the old with the new, experimenting. Neither being stuck on the past, nor discarding it completely in pursuit of, say, random example, just off the top of my head, parser-less IF.

Please enlighten me. :slight_smile:


#5

This is probably a bit of a tangent.

I think one big problem re: the community is that we don’t have a farm system. We don’t have people confident enough that they can be good testers. But they can. I think good authors can make good testers, and it’s incumbent on us to give information nonjudgementally–as we hope our testers will.

I do think intfiction.org is insular and I don’t really feel comfortable sharing ideas there. I think we need private writing groups, and I’m fortunate enough to be a part of a couple. But I think we have too much of an imbalance of new people and people who know all the rules too well. Mini-comps seem to be the way to do this, a middle ground between SpeedIF and IFComp. I got to know and trust people from the Apollo 18 minicomp and ShuffleComp, and I only tested in the second. I’m testing for someone in ParserComp, too, and it’s fun. But the problem is, the community still feels too topheavy with people who want to write games.

We need a way to get people to feel it’s ok to learn and make potentially dumb mistakes trying to understand things and to stay once they’ve written a game. I don’t know if we have that. IFDB, for instance, is good in theory, but nobody seems to want to risk writing a review. Yes, there have been people like Poster who were fractious and shooed people away, and yes, some of the “Old Ones” have been very nice to me. But I’ve never felt fully welcome. And really, I just want to write games in my own style.


#6

[quote=“PeterPears, post:4, topic:105, full:true”]
Well, it’s quite a read. There’s a pervasive bitterness at the end, I feel. I’m not sure that Adventure has been as abandoned as all that, any more than, say, Zork.[/quote]
As I pointed out in the piece, Zork-like recreations don’t get any more encouragement than Adventure recreations. Even less so, actually, because of people’s hair trigger copyright panic buttons, which don’t really apply in the case of Adventure.

Well I wholly agree with you on this here. Who wants to solve hanoi in a text adventure. I tried my best to be even-handed, but I think it still probably comes through in my analysis that I don’t have quite as much regard for Woods’s style of puzzle-making than for Crowther’s more naturalistic form of underground landscaping as basically a backdrop for exploration and combat. Not that much different in spirit from, say, Diablo. Woods’s added lots of good stuff (I love the troll puzzle) and made it more computer-y which means way better metrics, but he also did a few puzzles that borderline on being non-narrative in design (though I don’t count having to restart the narrative as non-narrative - just puzzles that have nothing to do with the narrative and just seem to exist to be solved, like maze of twisty passages all different).

Those are some good games, and I’m not saying IF is going to pot or anything, but I find the direction of experimentation these days in interactive fiction to be unnecessarily lacking in the fun department. I don’t believe it has to be that way; and I believe it’s mostly pointless pretension that keeps it that way; I don’t think it IS the future; and I think a more careful study of the classics, line by line, as it were, for those willing to undertake them, can reveal small ways that new ideas can be made more fun without corrupting their messages. I played as many games as I had the stomach for from the last IFcomp. I even used a random rolling method to make it fair, and the results were… not a lot of fun. It was hard to even stay motivated to play comp games.

[quote]…even though there has been a movement towards these things, I somehow missed the bit where people wanting to have cave-crawling(-style) fun were actually put down. But it must exist, because Dave Bernazzani (Geist) felt the need to include that bit in his blurb.

You make a good point, but overall I’m still trying to get the finer points straight. What bothers me the most is that I can’t quite tell what your proposed solution is. I mean, you identify the problem - partly as lack of community interest for a) the people who helped create IF, b) people who are still maintaining, or wish to, the Adventure ports and versions, and c) people who actually like, and want to make, games closer to Adventure than Photopia. You even take the time to address the lack of playtesting going around - be it time, game genre, or just general unwillingess. It is very easy for a game to slip under everyone’s radar unless it’s got a big visible hook, or a big visible author, a problem I believe the various Comps are intended to address. That’s all well and good, but what exactly do you believe we should do about it? There’s a sort of middle-ground between Adventure and Photopia which is where the vast, vast majority of games take place. Today’s IFers take the teachings of Adventure as the basic building blocks - things we don’t question. We don’t reference it, I think, because it’s so completely ingrained in IF.[/quote]
I don’t care whether anyone references it. I just wish more people remembered when actually building the stuff what it is, precisely, that made them good in the first place. And that will not get learned if people don’t uphold what has always worked, and there’s been plenty of boring evidence the last few years that this ignorance is taking its toll.

We aren’t talking about religions here. I find this a bizarre comparison because it isn’t a legend. I’m not saying there’s a magical man in the sky who’s coming to get you if you do wrong. I’m just pointing out verifiable things that actually happened in history and showing evidence why they happened the way they did. Something special happened and it wasn’t an accident.

I have my own ideas about the way forward, at least for myself, and any who find my arguments persuasive. For a hint as to where I’m going, remember what the shadowy figure said: It’s not about replicating the adventure IN Adventure. It’s about replicating the adventure OF Adventure. 8)

Paul.


#7

[quote=“AndrewS, post:5, topic:105, full:true”]
This is probably a bit of a tangent.

I think one big problem re: the community is that we don’t have a farm system. We don’t have people confident enough that they can be good testers. But they can. I think good authors can make good testers, and it’s incumbent on us to give information nonjudgementally–as we hope our testers will.

I do think intfiction.org is insular and I don’t really feel comfortable sharing ideas there. I think we need private writing groups, and I’m fortunate enough to be a part of a couple. But I think we have too much of an imbalance of new people and people who know all the rules too well. Mini-comps seem to be the way to do this, a middle ground between SpeedIF and IFComp. I got to know and trust people from the Apollo 18 minicomp and ShuffleComp, and I only tested in the second. I’m testing for someone in ParserComp, too, and it’s fun. But the problem is, the community still feels too topheavy with people who want to write games.[/quote]
So what do you do with a community that is topheavy with game devs? You have de-isolate them in some way, and turn their superfluous numbers compared to ‘just players’ into somehow an advantage, I guess.

Well, this is exactly what I want you to do. But everyone’s ‘style’ is based on certain influences, and while I’m sure you’re well-versed in the classics, I simply seek to make sure that everybody has a complete knowledge of what has truly influenced their favourite games — including those gamers who favour non-IntFic games like RPGs and action adventure, at whom you might notice I’ve aimed many of my remarks in the piece.

Paul.


#8

What would I do about it? Well, I am not the greatest promoter, but if I were, I’d try and cross-promote my stuff and others’ work too. This year I want to write 1 review a month at IFDB and link to it. I’d like to try to get others to do the same, too. I’d like to explore old games and write my opinion without worrying What People Think.

I think IFComp, for all it got me into the scene (testing Leadlight,) also is restrictive–there’s a taboo on discussion until after the results are posted, but I think it lingers for many of us. I’d like to see more active game updating, and I know Jason McIntosh is on board with that. He doesn’t have the time restraints Stephen Granade did, and I think the results showed. Stephen did some cool stuff, but Jason kind of slam dunked it. He’ll be able to tweet out updates etc. But I do think there needs to be a regular churn of ideas, even if they are not profound. Maybe especially if they are not. I think many people are intimidated that they have to be as profound as what they’ve seen as “best of” when really, lots of people have a lot to offer.


#9

Comps are great and all and I’m glad Jason has taken on the reins, but I think we’ve seen by now pretty decisively what kind of a community competitions create, and that it seems clear that more of them is not the answer. I’ll have more to say about my personal solution in Notes from Witt’s End #2, although I’ve no doubt that it won’t be for everybody in the community — in fact, I kind of expect most of my eventual helpers to come from outside the present ‘interactive fiction community’.

Paul.


#10

I get you, and I agree, but I also know that back in the day Adventure and Zork and stuff were the first text adventures you played, or at least they were the very clear visible mold of the first games you played (I used to love Dungeons of Dunjin, it was one of my first IF. My actual first IF ever I don’t remember, but I bought a Zork collection. I remember that my first PARSER experience ever was either Leisure Suit Larry 1 or King’s Quest 1. I was blown away. And I’d cut my teeth on graphical adventures by then. But I digress!). Things do change, time does pass. I suppose it’s inevitable that we’re getting people whose first contact with IF was Photopia, or Galatea, or Hoist Sail For The Heliopause And Home.

But, what made them fun in the first place is very clear in your essay, and again I love it because there’s so much heart in it. It’s just that these things are already all around, and part of the design of good games, wherever they originated. It may be, and this is my point, that the times they are a-changin’. People who come into IF now will not have the same experiences. Heck, the brilliant “IF Theory” compilation, all the discussions about mimesis… you tell a newcomer “A narrative at war with a crosswords”, and they’ll go “Say what?”. Maybe we’re reaching that strange, strange time that’s a sort of generation gap - for the newcomers to have the same references as we do, they have to dig through a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense for them any more.

I keep digressing. Gah. Anyway, I’m sure that what I’ve just described is not the whole story. You do need to know the classics if you want to make headway - you do need to know all about Bach and Mozart before you start trying to compose atonal music. Similarly, you should play Adventure at least once, for all the reasons you state - it single-handedly set down a huge number of things; an “idea whose time had come” (where did I read that?), and exploded and is still expanding. You should play it and experience it. You should respect it and even revere the whole idea of it.

But, ah, in this day and age people don’t really emulate Bach or Mozart, because it’s all moved on. They may be inspired by it, write pieces with obvious influence, or in their style, but mostly composers want to find their voices in the world that makes sense to them, and the past is rarely a world that makes as much sense as the present and the promise of a future.

I knew this would bite me in the ass. :slight_smile: My meaning was completely stripped of religion, and I used the example of Christ because it’s the one I was raised in. With Christ we are taught to tolerate, to love, to do unto others, etc. But this is not religious doctrine. This is ethical and moral upbringing that happens to come wrapped in a religious story (I’m not even interested in the factual man, all I’m talking about is the story that is, for a significant part of the world, a basic and vital building block for their upbringing).

Lots of people, like myself, find enough reasons to drop religion (and I’m SO not getting into that right now!) but keep these ethical, moral teachings.

My strange comparison (my mind gets weird, sometimes) is that all the positive teachings of (in this example) Christianity stay with you even as (well, if) you reject religion. They are already a part of you. So is Adventure inherently a part of IF, even when we’re not overtly saying it is. When a Photopia comes along, it’s very deliberate in saying “THIS is like Adventure; and THIS and THIS and THIS is certainly not”. You may reject religion but you’re still tolerant and will do unto others etc… similarly you may be deconstructing IF but you’re still using rooms, and usually cardinal directions, and the same recognisable Room Name Description >PROMPT format. Because that’s what IF inescapably is (and this is fuel for another discussion, “What is and isn’t IF?”, that we’re not interested in in the context of your essay, I think), just as you are, barring developments, essentially the person that you were raised to be. You MAY be, instead, the person that you at some point DECIDE you wish to be, regardless of how you were raised. Similarly, we may play Ad Verbum or Nord And Bert.

Bah, I’ll just drop this comparison. :slight_smile: I haven’t the heart to delete all my justifications, but suffice it to say it made a lot more sense in my head,

I’ve felt that in some games. Not the Andy Phillips games I like so much, no, but I felt some of it Geist, most notably, light as it is. And I just remembered Hollywood Hijinx, man that game was a blast. Solved most of it by myself!

Yes. Exactly. Agreed. I would also love this to be the case.

I’m also aware, however, that it probably won’t be. Not for everyone. Some people will just scratch the surface. But others will stay long enough to play deeper. Maybe it’s best for people to decide when it’s time to play these games… Playing an Adventure or a Zork these days is an investment of time and effort. I’m pacing myself to play some Infocom games still.

I’m not sure that there’s anything to be done about it, except to avoid responses like “Dude, that is so last century!”, or “We no longer do things that way, and we won’t play your game if you insist”. It’s also a very nice thing that so many new games still have XYZZY responses. I find that very positive, and a persistent, conscious nod to the Big Bang IF came from.

I’m eagerly awaiting part 2.


#11

[quote=“PeterPears, post:4, topic:105”]
Today’s IFers take the teachings of Adventure as the basic building blocks - things we don’t question. We don’t reference it, I think, because it’s so completely ingrained in IF.
[/quote][quote=“PeterPears, post:10, topic:105”]
It may be, and this is my point, that the times they are a-changin’. People who come into IF now will not have the same experiences. Heck, the brilliant “IF Theory” compilation, all the discussions about mimesis… you tell a newcomer “A narrative at war with a crosswords”, and they’ll go “Say what?”. Maybe we’re reaching that strange, strange time that’s a sort of generation gap - for the newcomers to have the same references as we do, they have to dig through a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense for them any more.[/quote]

I’m reminded of this blog post about reading history backwards. If it’s hard to get a reader excited about some historical work, that may not be because they can’t relate to it, but because it was so successful that it became the foundation of everything that came later – and it was successful because the things it brought to the table were new at the time. To someone who wasn’t there at the time, it seems uninteresting because everything about it is now obvious.

I think pure tributes/ports/updates of classics will only get harder to sell, but there’s still room to bring back mechanics that have fallen out of favor in a work that also adds something new.


#12

Whose opinions worry you?

Well, not really, just they get in the way. Sam Ashwell’s just–well, he’s too PRESENT, and I don’t want to have to deal with him. And I’ve never said this publicly, but his evaluating IntroComp with “Lesser Evil” and “Greater Evil” was such a huge turn-off. He’s hard to tune out, and he’s there, but he’s the elephant in the room. And yes, we shouldn’t let others’ presence dictate what we do or don’t do, and that’s great for the head, but the heart pays attention still. I think the problem is, his writing is just trying to impress people and blow them away–and it does! People say, I can’t even close to do that.

Apparently it was even worse 10 years ago, but all the same, I think it’d just be nice to have people giving honest opinions about games and not worrying about style points.

I’ll be interested to read your solutions. There’s got to be ways for publicity and so forth. I think Aaron Reed’s Spring Thing for this year is a step in the right direction.


#13

I’ve felt that in some games. Not the Andy Phillips games I like so much, no, but I felt some of it Geist, most notably, light as it is. And I just remembered Hollywood Hijinx, man that game was a blast. Solved most of it by myself![/quote]
I was actually referring to questions of process, not content. If the thesis from my piece as to what kind of impetus drove what I call the story-game ‘big bang’ of '77-'80 is correct, then some important elements of that incredibly creatively fecund time could be recreated. The purpose of my study of what Crowther did is to increase my chances of successfully replicating it, within whatever sphere my abilities allow, which remains to be seen. I might only be able to replicate it among five people or something. But better to light a candle than curse the darkness! 8)

Paul.

EDITED A BIT: For clarity and to add the reference to Dogme 95 to head off objections that ‘Yes film people do actually go to war with their tools.’ Yes they do sometimes, in unpopular flash-in-the-pan movements that produce mostly boring movies nobody has ever heard of. There’s a reason ‘Dogme’ didn’t take over independent cinema; in fact, it became an object of ridicule among indie filmmakers. That’s exactly where the ‘anti-fun’ movement in games is headed.


#14

I don’t know if he is the leader, and I have no desire to single Sam or anyone out, but I too have noticed that he is one of the most visible members of that clique that seems to see it as their duty to trawl the forum for ‘already done’ ideas, and go telling every fresh-faced game designer with a head full of steam that, based on a careless reading of a three-line game description, all of their ideas have ‘already been done’. It’s a kind of better-played-than-thou race for faux respect that this clique engages in, oblivious to the fact that, in order to increase their personal standing and having-played-shit cred, they are discouraging and shitting on most newbie game designers to come to the board, by basically pissing all over the early stages of people’s iterative process, thus decreasing the chances that the later stages will ever come to pass — later stages that for all we know, might look very different from their earliest experiments. But hey, that doesn’t matter, if it’s an old school game, because these types of games are not supposed to exist anymore, so if a certain clique gets the idea that your game will not represent the ‘new school’, telling the designer that everything in it has been done, is risk-free from that perspective. If that designer gets discouraged and stops working, that’s a win, from their PoV. It’s the only explanation for their counterproductive behaviour that I can see.

I don’t know how much Sam is responsible for this general tone of the board, but I have seen him doing it a lot. When I was still an active poster there, I was often stepping into threads to try encourage devs who had been casualy DIScouraged by Ashwell.

Maybe people’s ideas have been done, but you cannot determine this from a three-line paragraph. The important thing is to ask questions, pinpoint why it’s supposed to be fun, and help them make sure it will be. Help them make their game the most fun whatever-it-is that it can be, and don’t worry about whether it immediately innovates, just guide that dev toward COMPLETION. Always COMPLETION should be the goal when dealing with ANY dev. I find it weird that anyone needs to be told this, but politics being what they are, I truly believe that some types of people just don’t want certain types of games to BE completed, or at least, they don’t give a shit. These types of people basically now rule that forum, in my view. Especially after GamerGate gave them the excuse they needed to lower the ‘code of conduct’ hammer. (And remember, that they were using GamerGate as an excuse before I ever popped back to the forum to defend it. They are the ones who brought GG into intfiction org, to excuse their overzealous politics. I just raised one single finger to defend GG as not hating IntFic, and got pummelled in absentia for like a week over it.) Now everyone there is afraid to be any kind of poster except the kind of poster that a certain clique thinks they are supposed to be.

Game over. Forum dead. Let’s try to make sure that fun in interactive fiction doesn’t go down with it, because if it does, then interactive fiction is obviously dead too. The future of IntFic rises and falls directly on how much fun it is for prospective new players, who have never heard of it or its community and don’t give a damn about ‘IF Theory’, to read and play the actual games. Anyone who doesn’t see this has their head up their ass, frankly.

Paul.


#15

I’ve found there are a lot of nice people on IFMud…the regular ClubFloyders, for instance. I’ve also found Chris Huang’s and Michael Martin’s and Emily Short’s reviews helpful. But it’s a case where, yes, a few critics for the sake of criticizing make it hard, especially in a relatively small community. The thing is, as a writer you need to realize that this is going to happen, which lessens the annoyance. But it doesn’t make it zero.

I found I learned a lot even from the kvetching, but it has diminishing returns to scale. Without naming further names, there are some people, when I say “What would X suggest?” it’s a blocker. Other people, it helps me when I’m stuck. There are more of the second, I think, but the first make themselves more prominent. So my defense to “it’s been done” is “their kvetching’s been done.”

I like to reframe the issue as saying: it’s important to be nonjudgemental and encouraging and to come in with a blank mind and not deliberately try for gotchas. I don’t mind being patient with bugs because I’ve left a few myself.

I think I agree with you re: what people find new. I feel bad singling out individual works as stuff I didn’t like and have learned not to feel guilty about liking. But I think I can draw a parallel between reading and playing games: I was told certain books were good to read for a smart boy like me, and I felt bad because I did not enjoy them, and it turned me off reading for a while. If a text adventure/interactive fiction gives me the same feeling those books gave me, well, then…

Similarly, seeing some of the works that people call cutting edge and important, etc. … well, I don’t WANT to be important. I don’t want to drip importance. I have a lot to say, and I’ve always wanted to write a text adventure, and I’m glad to have the resources to do so and the audience who may enjoy it.

Harry Giles sent me some good advice. I wish I’d remembered it fully. Basically it was that true originality doesn’t exist, and you need some sort of hook for people to relate, so don’t try to be totally original. I…well, I’d like to see more people like Harry around the community. I liked a lot of the other authors. But I think, collectively, people can say, I’d like to be there but it’s just not worth it.

I cringe at invoking “glass half full/empty” but I think in this case you can either say “It’s been done before, and I can give my own angle” or “It’s been done before, the heck with it.”

I actually really enjoyed IFMud’s IF Theory talk post-comp, because I was able to talk about everyday things that go into writing, and the very good things about IFComp (allowing real-time updating) and how I think we’re shifting towards being able to polish our work and not worry about placement. I was hoping the next one would be more about ways to get yourself to write instead of more abstract stuff. But I felt I was floundering because I didn’t know enough.


#16

Indeed, everything’s been done before, if not in intfic then in some other medium. There can only be new combinations. But that doesn’t, in my view, have much to do with what is a ‘hook’. There have been some pretty original hooks. But in order to come up with a popular hook that feels fresh, you have to be the sort of person who is always looking for, and thinking about, how to hook people. You can’t be the sort of writer who looks down their nose at ‘hooks’ because a lot of them are cliché and then expect to just stumble into writing things in an interesting sequence because you are opting for self-expression instead. You have to do both. You have to reorganise your self-expression is such a way as to produce hooks, or else just accept that your writing will be kind of boring for anyone who isn’t already personally invested in all your same issues, whatever they happen to be.

At least that’s how I see it. I’m glad your post-comp talk was of value at IFMud. I don’t really know much about that MUD. The few times I wandered in there, I couldn’t find anyone or really figure out what to do, so I can’t really comment on it as a community separate from intfiction org.


#17

Yeah. And because there are so many possible combinations (let’s say there are 200 building blocks/tropes you can take 5 and permute–that’s ~200^5=320 billion) there’s no way to exhaust combinations, even if there is a way to exhaust actual things. This sort of math helps me overcome the “oh, someone’s done it before.”

IFMud is tricky to get the hang of. ClubFloyd is probably the best place to learn. It’s at 12 PM Eastern. The twitter account tells what game will be played that week, so if it’s one you don’t like, you can skip it.

http://allthingsjacq.com/intfic_clubfloyd_20120502.html tackles your contribution to Apollo 18, by the way. I forgot I was at that one!


#18

I stumbled into that about a year afterward! It was very enlightening. I fumbled the ‘endgame’ I should have made it extremely clear that once you get to zero percent, there is no special win text to be discovered.


#19

I agree with you guys here. I used to get hung up on finding that unique idea and often became paralyzed into doing nothing because I found that someone else had done it. Then I decided to just not give a shit and I just try to do things better (results vary)… but, I do stuff that I find fun and don’t worry too much about what those certain people may say.


#20

This is great…I’ve thought this for so long, but never said it so eloquently as you have. If I’m playing IF and there is little old school fun, the writing better be damn good. There have been few that have intrigued me to keep reading for long.