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Showing posts from September, 2009

Article in "Wijsgerig Perspectief"

The Dutch popular philosophical journal Wijsgerig Perspectief (in the person of guest-editor Olga Crapels) asked me to write an article for an issue on survival, namely, an article about survival in roleplaying games. I was happy to oblige, and wrote an article called Een spel met de dood, which would translate as A game with death.

Normally, you would have to pay a stiff 13 euros to obtain a copy of the magazine, but it appears that the publisher has decided to put my article up at the website as the free teaser. So you can get it by clicking this link. Absolutely no guarantees that it will stay online!

Of course, you'll still have to be able to read Dutch in order to understand it. For those who don't read Dutch, I will give a very short summary. Stripped to its bare essentials, the argument is:
The experience of the fight for survival has disappeared almost completely from contemporary Western life. But we still want to experience it vicariously or as an illusion. (Think of wa…

An interview with Jimmy Maher – Part 2

This is the second part of an interview with Jimmy Maher, the first part of which can be found here. This part will contain several spoilers for The King of Shreds and Patches, so proceed carefully.

Let us talk about some specific changes you made to the original scenario by Justin Tynes. One important change has to do with the representation and implementation of insanity. In Call of Cthulhu, the players have to roll sanity checks whenever their characters encounter something occult and transgressive. Failed sanity checks lead to loss of sanity, and thus, most of the player characters will slowly spiral down towards madness. In your adaption, there are also moments where the main character can become insane; but these are clearly cued and can easily be avoided. In effect, the protagonist is "making" all his sanity checks, and avoids madness entirely. Did you consider the idea of incorporating the RPG sanity system into your adaption, either in its original random form or in …

[IntroComp 2009] Comments

The IntroComp is one of the very few competitions that still have a rule of silence for judges during the competition period. Here's one vote to abolish it, Jacqueline! Anyway, the voting deadline is past, so I assume I can now post my comments.

Gossip

The protagonist is a journalist for a gossip magazine, albeit a "quality" gossip magazine. This is a good premise, and I'm sure a fine game can be created around it--especially if the paradoxes of fame and stardom are explored! The game is also apparently going to feature a clothing system: you can buy different kinds of clothing, and people will react to you based on what you decide to wear. Could be interesting, but I would make it even more central: let me wear different combinations of clothing, shoes, make-up, a hat... and make sure the impact on the people around me is clear. Most useful if the game itself is going to delve into the "fashion" part of the celebrity world, of course. (If the question is jus…

[Art of Fugue] Fourth puzzle, source

I have partly rewritten The Art of Fugue. In the previous version, the game remembered each action, and simply changed the actor part of the action and tried doing it again. But what I really wanted was to remember each command, and parse that command anew for each actor. (This is very different. In the first case, "x me" would lead to each of the actors looking at Een; in the second case, it leads to each of the actors looking at themselves. The latter is what I wanted.) This significantly cleared up the code for puzzle three, since I had to do a lot of dirty hacking with the apples in the previous system.

I have also added a host of rules that should stop (most) multiple actions, like "take all" or "sing and jump".

I have added a fourth puzzle, which is almost perfect in its simplicity. There is a room with a lamp (currently off) and a single button. Pressing the button will turn the lamp on or off, depending on its current state. Challenge: get the lamp …

An interview with Jimmy Maher – Part 1

The Gaming Philosopher is happy to publish the first part of an interview with Jimmy Maher, the editor of SPAG and author of the recent game The King of Shreds and Patches. We focus especially on the relation between the original RPG scenario and Maher's adaption of that scenario into interactive fiction.

Jimmy, your new game, The King of Shreds and Patches, is heavily based on a scenario of the same name written by Justin Tynes for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. Since I am interested in the relations between RPGs and interactive fiction, I would like to know more about why and how you made your adaption, and what you learned from it. So let me start at the beginning. What gave you the idea to use an RPG scenario for your interactive fiction game? Did you simply like The King of Shreds and Patches so much that you wanted to acquaint more people with it, or did you expect some design benefit from using an existing scenario?

Well, perhaps I should first say that I actually don&…

[Art of Fugue] First three puzzles

So, today I'd like to present an alpha version The Art of Fugue, which you can download here. The Art of Fugue is strictly a puzzle game--do not expect any story at all. In fact, it's a sequence of puzzles, and you can type "next puzzle" and "previous puzzle" to switch between them, and "restart puzzle" to reset a puzzle you think you have made unsolvable.

These are not standard interactive fiction puzzles, though, as will be apparent as soon as you play it. All of the puzzles are based on the same system, and the aim of the work is to explore this basic system and present the player with a sequence of puzzle of increasing complexity.

The reason that I am posting an alpha version with only three puzzles is that some of you might be not only interested in solving puzzles I have thought up, but also in thinking up new puzzles within the system of The Art of Fugue. If so, if you think you would like to design one or more puzzles, either on paper or in …

[Inform 7] Multiple actors per turn

Suppose you wish your game to state, every turn, what several people are doing. This is not a problem if you have, say, NPCs that only walk around, and you only want the game to say where they walk to. Here, you'd just write a message within the routine that governs the walking.

But if you have NPCs that can take a wide range of actions, and ought to be given replies that are equivalent to the ones given to the player's actions, you are in for a nasty surprise. Inform 7 handles player actions very differently from non-player actions, especially where it concerns printing messages about them. Changing the rules in the standard library so that they also display messages when the action is taken by an NPC is simply too much work.

Instead, install the Custom Library Messages extension. Now, before each NPC gets his or her turn, change the gender and person to whatever is appropriate for this NPC, and make the NPC the player character. Don't forget to change it all back before th…

Nemean Lion

Emily Short made me aware of a new mini-game by Adam Cadre, Nemean Lion. That second link will take you to a place where you play the game online, and you might want to do so before reading on. It is very short.

Now when I played the game, I more or less typed this: "push rock", "hit lion with club", "strangle lion", "cut lion", "hit king" - and thus missed most of the point. The ideal play-through is (and you might want to try this out if you haven't yet done so) "cut lion", "drink".

So what is happening here? Nothing qualitatively different from what happens in many other interactive fiction games. When "eat apple" automatically leads to the implicit action "take apple", the parser is filling in the details for us in order to make the play experience more smooth. In the same way, the parser fills in the details for us here--but of course, these are a lot of details, and they might be consider…