5 thoughts on “More off-site stuff

  1. The distinction you make between narrative and fiction in the Homer in Silicon article is an interesting one. What do you think is the equivalent of “fiction” in IF? I ask because what you describe as fiction in the article is the very thing I would like to see more of in IF.

    I’ve always thought that “simulation” was the right term for this, but judging by most people’s dismissal of this as a “good thing”, perhaps I mean something quite different by it than other people.

  2. Jerome, have you played Amnesia? After the intro things switch to a simulation mode, where a good deal of the gameplay is simply finding food / money / a place to sleep. In the midst of that you’re supposed to be “solving the mystery”.

  3. Simulation has to do with what the world model represents, and some simulation isn’t necessarily a bad thing — in times past I’ve even described myself as a simulationist — meaning by that that I enjoy it when puzzles in a game arise from a consistent, explorable set of behaviors in the game rather than purely specialized code for all cases.

    But I’ve become wary about describing myself that way because people take “simulation” to mean any of the following things, all of which I think are either misguided, ineffective, or actively counterproductive:

    — IF should be a pure sandbox; the player should be able to “do anything he wants”.
    — Rigorous physical modeling is appropriate for all games, so no matter what the storyline or the focus of the interaction, you should (e.g.) obsessively detail all the sensory relations between objects and areas.
    — Through clever AI (which we just haven’t figured out how to make yet) IF should produce intriguing, integrated narratives that arise from the game’s reaction to things the player does; along the way it will use realistic NPCs who have plausible reactions to acts.

    Fiction, as I understand Juul to mean it, refers really to any aspect of a game which clothes its rules with the semblance of meaning beyond the rules themselves: the artwork that tells you that your tile-arranging game is “about” laying rivers and fields and castles, for instance, rather than just being a matter of matching certain patterns. I’m not quite sure what you mean, therefore, in wishing there were more of this in IF — narrative-heavy IF certainly doesn’t preclude it and indeed would be hard to imagine without.

  4. Jason – I haven’t played Amnesia before. I looked into it, and made the grave mistake of playing the 2003 comp entry of the same name first of all (the only thing turned up by an IFDB search). Eventually I found the Thomas M. Disch game, which fits your description somewhat better!

    I rather liked it in many respects, it seems very well implemented, and the writing is wonderful. It does show its age though, with some rather unfair behaviour; I didn’t get very far with it yet due to this.

    I rather enjoyed the simulation-like aspects of it. I would be interested to see how something similar to this would work in a modern game, implemented in a somewhat fairer way, and perhaps better integrated into the narrative.

    On a related note, I discovered that Disch took his own life last month – very sad.

  5. Emily – it seems I misread what was meant by the term “fiction” in your article. I took it to mean the mechanics of the gameplay itself, rather than the cosmetics which tie a game’s mechanic into a particular theme. Juul’s choice of the word “fiction” to describe this makes much more sense to me now.

    It’s the mechanics of gameplay which I was referring to as being desirable in IF, from my point of view, however. I think I would subscribe to all three of the statements you make about simulation above, albeit in a limited form.

    In terms of the “sandbox”, while it’s obviously impractical to take it to extremes, I do often feel constrained by the author’s idea of where things should be heading, leading to a loss of agency.

    Similarly, “physical modeling” taken to extremes would be both undesirable and unworkable, but I still yearn for a baseline world model which is more detailed than the modern authoring systems provide. Even when the actions it allows are not central to a particular game, I think it still provides a level of believability in the player’s interaction with the game world. While the descriptions provided by the library for such interactions would inevitably be rather dull, they would be available for customisation by the author where necessary, and even the default descriptions would be preferable to the game simply not understanding the concept.

    What’s more, I don’t believe either of these things would threaten the narrative of a work in any way. The third thing you mention, an AI narrator to shape the narrative, is less clear cut. While I wouldn’t dismiss this as an interesting area for research, this is a far more difficult thing to attempt, and I don’t see it as an element that is “missing” from current IF.

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