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[Dreamhold] Yet another review, this one not favourable (b..

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Anonymous
February 24, 2005 3:36:10 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

I perhaps should'n've written about this game as it has already gotten
more than its share of attention, IMO. It's just that I have only now
played it and read all the discussion in rgif to see what was all the
fuss about a couple of months ago, when I was very busy with other
things and couldn't play it. So this is a late, and not favourable
review of Andrew Plotkin's THE DREAMHOLD. A rant, if you like. It's sort
of a contrary reaction to all that much discussion and interest this
game then received (yes, sorry, I'm late!).

Well, I didn't like the game. In fact, it sparked in me again some
strong feelings I generally have about this sort of "IF" (it's not IF,
not where FICTION is concerned); of why it seems so DIFFICULT to get
into the hard puzzle-solving mindset to finish this kind of game
satisfyingly. And why then it doesn't seem any good for newcomers.

As I pretty much lost interest past the masks and laboratory (before
collecting the extras) I didn't bother to continue on myself; just went
for David Welbourn's walkthru instead (very good as always, btw) to see
the last parts.

Of course, I don't think The Dreamhold is a bad game. It's flawless from
a technical point of view. But it is based and resorts on things that I
don't understand how can be so much praised and considered so good by so
many (at least the vocal people who post in rgif). In a nutshell, it is
dreary, dreary: no people, no emotional interaction, only mechanical
objects; and fantasy again used as the "general solution" to
reality-bending and exotica-justification. But let's go by parts.

First, the writing. Ok it's a matter of taste, but I found the writing
in the game, which overall is just succint and correct to do its job, to
be such a stretch at many places (in its 'creative' use of words) as to
border on pretentiousness. Let's see:

"an inexplicable cut-out of a human face"
"impression of unformed childhood"
"rocks are mercilessly visible"
"jagged mountains tear the sky"
"water tastes clean as fresh-born stone"
"a black river (..), a silent street of mirror-dark water"
"Sprays of dried leaves, flowers, and seed pods"
"[branches] leap chaotically upward, spraying gold-veined leaves"
"pillars march around the edge of this circular chamber"
"notations cluster like wasps" [on a map]
"[Shelves] are obligingly empty"
"in an impossible curved sea" (impossibly?)
"a robe, richly bright-embroidered" (what?)
"Stalactites are the ones on the ceiling. Stalagmites are the ones on
the floor. You don't know how you know this" (oh please)

To be fair, I liked one or two occasional passages:

"The pen, moving across its face [of a map], annotates and speculates"
"The sky (..) stretches with broad perfection of its mountain domain"

The problem I have with many of the examples above is the emotional
adjectivizing, it's like a poor attempt at remedying something more
fundamental that's lacking: humanity, emotion. And this is my main
grudge, because the game is completely emotion-sanitized, bland. As is
typical of this author, it passes at a safe, large distance away of any
interactions with PEOPLE, at any dealing with (say) problems, behaviour,
customs, emotions, etc, of people, animated beings (not necessarily
human, if you like). Only machines and mechanical things. How dreary
things become then? How many people really enjoy this sort of thing?

I tend to think of it as the epitome of geekyness. Nah, people and their
dealings, that's all too complicated and difficult to understand! Just
objects and their physical-mechanical relationships would be ok. So it
can all be a dreary fantasy-castle setting with Zork/Myst-ish
exploration and manipulation of objects. Can it then really be generally
attractive to general people, to newbies, as is the stated purpose of
this "tutorial"? I don't think so.

Then, without people, no need to have NPCs, dialogue and NPC interaction
either, which are complicated to implement and prone to go wrong. No
plot, no events and related daemons, no nothing, just static, mechanical
objects. It's so much easier then. Okay, it's a tutorial for newbies...
People, events and their interactions are probably "advanced" matter, I
suppose. But this is only then a tutorial for newbie PUZZLE-solvers,
because it's not likely to be enjoyable by people who might come up
thinking they'll play some sort of interactive story, interactive
FICTION, which it's not.

The Dreamhold is a Myst-like mechanical-puzzles game that probably
would've been best realized graphically but was implemented in text. In
this sense, it seems like a "worst use of medium"-prize candidate. I
like Myst and derivatives (I especially enjoyed Lighthouse and
Timelapse), but not in text medium. It's just not my cup of tea. In
text, I want to see (but maybe that's just ME of course!!) at least some
story, plot, characterization and people, besides objects. The Dreamhold
has none whatsoever. It has a vague static backstory that is left
intentionally unexaplained so that players (the fans) can have endless
speculations as to the secret "symbolisms" and "meanings" behind it.
Which the author probably never bothered to come up with, or in any case
is likely to be wildly divergent and simpler than the discussion it
generates.

A rant about genre. This use of fantasy again and again always seems
more like a convenient way to do away with all those pesky restrictions
of reality. As if reality is too limited, too difficult to come up with
new puzzles integrated to a story. With a fantastical or surrealist
setting, on the other hand, everything is possible and anything goes,
for "it's all magical", or "it's all a dream". So it's a whole lot
easier, you can have all sorts of appearing, disappearing, transmutating
and transmogrifying (sp?) things, that need no explaining why they are
there. It almost seems like we are in 1980 talking about Zork.

I'm sometimes more than bothered by this LAZY use of fantasy as a crutch
(no pun intended with the game) to inspiration and skill, or lack
thereof, in coming up with stories and puzzles. This is more of a
general rant than specific to this game. I understand, we are all
amateurs, etc, except that many other amateur IF authors have come up
with great plots and coherent puzzlefests that don't need to be
explained by "magic". And don't get me wrong, I do like fantasy and
surrealism (I'm a big fan of Tolkien since the late 80's and have even
enjoyed some B-rated D&D-ish fantasy and magic surrealism novels), but
not when it's this kind of emotionally-sterile mumbo-jumbo.

The implementation of the game is, of course, technically flawless.
There is only very rarely some unimplemented skies in outdoor locations
and other nouns like passageways, not really important. (And they're
probably less the author's fault than the anachronistic Inform library,
which is not adequately OO. Yet an author this experient should probably
know better as to have classes of locations and outdoor objects with
default floor and sky messages so that you couldn't get "I don't see any
such thing" for 'x sky' at any outdoor places at all.)

The place descriptions change impecably and correctly as the author has
well known to do since his first work. Objects cannot be lost and the
game made unwinnable, they are all recoverable and limitless. Many
actions, verbs, and command possibilities are anticipated. There is a
proactive tutorial voice teaching the basics of look, examine, take,
undo, dying, etc (just the very basics, though). This is all laudable.
There are also hints, although they are too sparse and only helpful to
the first "part" of the game (collecting the masks). I can't understand
why they can't be called by a simple intuitive "hint" or "hint
<object>", rather than "help hint". But this is nitpicking.

All these things I mentioned above add to a smooth play which is
supposed to help newbies. Or does it? The problem with this game as an
"introduction" to the uninitiated, newbies, lies not in those things,
which are all cosmetic, interface features. The problem is more general:
in the lack of more clued messages (and hints) as to what to do to solve
the harder puzzles; the lack of any motivation to continue playing
beyond "explore and solve the puzzles!" (that stems from the amnesia
cliche); the lack of any direction to go without a story, people or
events to guide; the need to have extra concentration in visualizing the
places and objects and come up with the correct guesses or intuition of
what to do: which, for some puzzles in this game at least, are
inevitably trial-and-error no matter what (unless there is more explicit
clues in the descriptions).

In sum, it's the lack of the game holding the attention and interest of
the player (beyond the fans of this author and hard-core puzzle-solvers)
after s/he's explored most of the map. EASIER puzzles would help: ok,
it's all more or less easy in the basic tasks; the extra tasks of the
game are the difficult ones. But it's just not satisfying to reach the
first, easier ending and read "But there are various other secrets and
endings!", endings which are MUCH more difficult, and are in fact for
veterans, not newbies. This is one thing that (IMHO) does not work, not
in this game at least: trying to cater for both total newbies and
hard-core puzzle-solvers.

I know this review sounds very negative: why criticizing negatively
isntead of just ignoring games you don't like and reviewing the ones you
do, I hear you say. It was sort of a negative reaction to all the
automatic praise and adulation that this game has received while the
rest of (recent) IF goes much less considered or is at any rate always
much more critically reviewed. I found many other recent games I played
last year much better than this: The Act of Misdirection, Blue Chairs,
All Time Devours, Sting of the Wasp, and Square Circle, for example.
Even the last one I was playing but haven't finished, Chronicle of Play
Torn, which is somewhat similar in genre and old-school feel, I found
more interesting than The Dreamhold! I haven't played yet, but I bet (by
some reviews) that I'll like Isle of the Cult and Enterprise Incidents
at least more than I did this game, even if they are less "technically
perfect".

To be fair to the author, who has done much good free work and is always
a very common-sense and good-sensed voice in raif/rgif discussions
(whereas I'm just being a whining critic here--"yes, criticizing is
easy, why don't you do it better?" I hear you thinking--who rarely
participates in discussions, though I have been in and out lurking for
many years), I want to say that I have actually appreciated some of his
other games. I found "Hunter, In Darkness" terrific, harrowing, the type
of game that causes an emotional response in the player that The
Dreamhold absolutely does not. I also somewhat enjoyed "So Far" and
"Shade" (but, on the other hand, I was bored to death in the much-touted
"Spider and Web" to the point of not wanting to continue playing even
past the beginning of the game).

Remarkably, those are all games without NPCs and NPC interaction
(significant interaction, at any rate: what I saw of "Spider and Web"
and "So far" had some limited or rare interaction). It's just
manipulation of objects and scenery. That's again probably my main
dislike of this sort of game: the lack of people and interactions with
people. And again it's just an opinion.

Emiliano.
(ps.: I won't be reading newsgroups for quite a while as I'm moving back
to Brazil tomorrow, after 4 years of a PhD in Edinburgh, so don't expect
any response from me soon.)
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 3:36:11 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Emiliano G. Padilha wrote:
> So this is a late, and not favourable
> review of Andrew Plotkin's THE DREAMHOLD. A rant, if you like. It's
> sort of a contrary reaction to all that much discussion and interest
> this game then received (yes, sorry, I'm late!).

Thanks for sharing this with the group! It's always interesting to read
about other people's opinions of games I've played. So I'll share mine here
(with generous snippage as needed).

> Of course, I don't think The Dreamhold is a bad game. It's flawless
> from a technical point of view. But it is based and resorts on things
> that I don't understand how can be so much praised and considered so
> good by so many (at least the vocal people who post in rgif). In a
> nutshell, it is dreary, dreary: no people, no emotional interaction,

I agree that there was much dreariness inside the castle. However, I thought
it was useful for two reasons: first, it was a sharp contrast to the
richness of the world outside the castle, especially the green valley. I
wondered if people lived there. Second, it heightened the emotional side of
the story (yes, I thought there was an emotional side!). The isolation and
emptiness inside the castle was a reflection of the castle owner's
loneliness and bitterness. Oh sure, it wasn't a feel-good happy smiley
emotional side, but it was effective.

> only mechanical objects; and fantasy again used as the "general
> solution" to reality-bending and exotica-justification. But let's go
> by parts.

I like fantasy :) .

> First, the writing. Ok it's a matter of taste, but I found the writing
> in the game, which overall is just succint and correct to do its job,
> to be such a stretch at many places (in its 'creative' use of words)
> as to border on pretentiousness. Let's see:
>
> "an inexplicable cut-out of a human face"
> "impression of unformed childhood"
> "rocks are mercilessly visible"
> "pillars march around the edge of this circular chamber"
> "notations cluster like wasps" [on a map]
> "[Shelves] are obligingly empty"

Okay, you have a good point here, but I'd rather see an overall good attempt
at strong writing with some overdone phrases than a lackluster

> "jagged mountains tear the sky"
> "water tastes clean as fresh-born stone"
> "a black river (..), a silent street of mirror-dark water"
> "[branches] leap chaotically upward, spraying gold-veined leaves"
> "in an impossible curved sea" (impossibly?)
> "a robe, richly bright-embroidered" (what?)

I separated these out from the others because I quite like them.

> The problem I have with many of the examples above is the emotional
> adjectivizing, it's like a poor attempt at remedying something more
> fundamental that's lacking: humanity, emotion. And this is my main
> grudge, because the game is completely emotion-sanitized, bland.

While I would say the emotion was well removed from the PC and
me-the-player, it was still there. I might not have been immersed in it
directly but I could see what had happened, and see the effects, and I was
moved. [By the way, this is quite similar to how I felt about Photopia. I
was never immersed in any of the emotions directly, but viewed from a
distance. Other people have written otherwise obviously. I might go so far
as to say I found The Dreamhold more emotionally engaging than Photopia, but
it could just be the time lag.]

> As is
> typical of this author, it passes at a safe, large distance away of
> any interactions with PEOPLE, at any dealing with (say) problems,
> behaviour, customs, emotions, etc, of people, animated beings (not
> necessarily human, if you like). Only machines and mechanical things.

I thought one of the reasons it stayed away from NPC interaction was because
NPCs can be so difficult for new players to deal with. I know when I first
started playing IF in earnest, I was constantly disappointed by what I could
and couldn't do with NPCs, and that was even after I learned the typical
syntax needed to "converse" with one. Sure, that can all be overcome with
enough work by the author, but I think NPCs are hard for players to deal
with too.

Outside of the technical reasons, NPCs wouldn't seem quite in this
particular setting.

> So it can all be a dreary fantasy-castle setting with
> Zork/Myst-ish exploration and manipulation of objects. Can it then
> really be generally attractive to general people, to newbies, as is
> the stated purpose of this "tutorial"? I don't think so.

I think it can be. I am not a newbie, but I'm curious to hear what people,
who like to read but haven't played IF before, think about this game.

> People, events and their interactions are
> probably "advanced" matter, I suppose. But this is only then a
> tutorial for newbie PUZZLE-solvers, because it's not likely to be
> enjoyable by people who might come up thinking they'll play some sort
> of interactive story, interactive FICTION, which it's not.

I disagree; I quite liked the fiction part (I would like to read a novel set
in this world). You're right that there are puzzles in the game, and that
the tutorial is mainly focused on helping players through the puzzles, and
not helping them discover the story directly, but since solving puzzles
advances the player's knowledge of the backstory, the two goals are kind of
the same.

"It's a tutorial for newbie puzzle-solvers." Yes. What else would it be? Is
there a need for tutorial for games with no puzzles?

> I want to see (but maybe that's just ME of course!!) at least
> some story, plot, characterization and people, besides objects. The
> Dreamhold has none whatsoever. It has a vague static backstory that
> is left intentionally unexaplained so that players (the fans) can
> have endless speculations as to the secret "symbolisms" and
> "meanings" behind it. Which the author probably never bothered to
> come up with, or in any case is likely to be wildly divergent and
> simpler than the discussion it generates.

Aw, now, to be fair, this often happens with novels/short
stories/movies/songs, and the truth is it really doesn't matter in the
slightest what the author intended. Sure, it might be interesting to hear,
but what really matters is what you get out of it. If you or other
readers/listeners/players get out more than they "intended," then that is no
fault of theirs and is, instead, rather remarkable.

> I'm sometimes more than bothered by this LAZY use of fantasy as a
> crutch (no pun intended with the game) to inspiration and skill, or
> lack thereof, in coming up with stories and puzzles. This is more of a
> general rant than specific to this game.

When fantasy is lazy, it doesn't stick together cohesively. It doesn't build
a complete world. When fantasy does build a consistent world, it is not
lazy, and in fact can be quite enjoyable for people who, well, like good
fantasy. If you're not a fan of the genre at all, even when done well, I
don't suppose there's much I can tell you.

I understand, we are all
> amateurs, etc, except that many other amateur IF authors have come up
> with great plots and coherent puzzlefests that don't need to be
> explained by "magic". And don't get me wrong, I do like fantasy and
> surrealism (I'm a big fan of Tolkien since the late 80's and have even
> enjoyed some B-rated D&D-ish fantasy and magic surrealism novels), but
> not when it's this kind of emotionally-sterile mumbo-jumbo.

Tolkien's works are very, very low fantasy. The most "magical" thing was the
fact that different races shared the same earth. Have you enjoyed any works
where high fantasy was done *well*?

> There are also hints, although they are too sparse and only helpful to
> the first "part" of the game (collecting the masks). I can't
> understand why they can't be called by a simple intuitive "hint" or
> "hint <object>", rather than "help hint". But this is nitpicking.

I agree with this by the way :) 

> The problem is more
> general: in the lack of more clued messages (and hints) as to what to
> do to solve the harder puzzles;

I agree here too. As a poor puzzler, I had quite a bit of difficulty in
spots where The Voice was quiet.

> the lack of any motivation to
> continue playing beyond "explore and solve the puzzles!";

I disagree; I think the exploration is motivation enough.

> the need to have extra
> concentration in visualizing the places and objects and come up with
> the correct guesses or intuition of what to do:

This is a feature :) .

> In sum, it's the lack of the game holding the attention and interest
> of the player (beyond the fans of this author and hard-core
> puzzle-solvers) after s/he's explored most of the map. EASIER puzzles
> would help: ok, it's all more or less easy in the basic tasks; the
> extra tasks of the game are the difficult ones.

I disagree with this too. I found some of the "basic" tasks to be very
challenging, and some of the "extra" ones were much easier for me to get.

> But it's just not
> satisfying to reach the first, easier ending and read "But there are
> various other secrets and endings!"

Good point. I think satisfaction in solving a game is very important.

> To be fair to the author, I want to say that I have
> actually appreciated some of his other games. I found "Hunter, In
> Darkness" terrific, harrowing, the type of game that causes an
> emotional response in the player that The Dreamhold absolutely does
> not.

How interesting! I found Hunter, In Darkness to be boring and un-fun, with
no emotional response at all. We must be opposites.

> And again it's just an opinion.

Again, I appreciate you sharing this. It makes for interesting (to me)
discussion.

> (ps.: I won't be reading newsgroups for quite a while as I'm moving
> back to Brazil tomorrow, after 4 years of a PhD in Edinburgh, so
> don't expect any response from me soon.)

Aw, that's too bad. I hope you meant you'd only be off the newsgroups during
the move; rather than until you moved out of Brazil again.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 3:36:11 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

On Thu, 24 Feb 2005, Emiliano G. Padilha wrote:

> I tend to think of it as the epitome of geekyness. Nah, people and their
> dealings, that's all too complicated and difficult to understand! Just
> objects and their physical-mechanical relationships would be ok. So it
> can all be a dreary fantasy-castle setting with Zork/Myst-ish
> exploration and manipulation of objects. Can it then really be generally
> attractive to general people, to newbies, as is the stated purpose of
> this "tutorial"? I don't think so.

Do you have any idea how many copies of Myst sold? And to non-gamers at
that?

You're certainly entitled to your opinion. I question calling it a
review, however.

==--- --=--=-- ---==
Quintin Stone "You speak of necessary evil? One of those necessities
stone@rps.net is that if innocents must suffer, the guilty must suffer
www.rps.net more." - Mackenzie Calhoun, "Once Burned" by Peter David
Related resources
February 24, 2005 3:36:11 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Stephen Bond wrote:

> The above isn't intended as a bash to _The Dreamhold_, which I think
> was easily the best game of 2004. I just want to defend people's
> right to make opinionated reviews -- something I'd like to see more
> of on rgif.

Unless someone is obviously on a personal vendetta, negative reviews
are a part of the acceptable and, indeed, desirable "opinion spectrum"
that makes r.g.i.f and r.a.i.f. interesting places to visit. Without
the occasional counterbalancing opinion, we're all just preaching to
the choir. Nice review, Emiliano, even though I don't necessarily
agree.

PJ
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 3:36:12 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

On Thu, 24 Feb 2005, Stephen Bond wrote:

> Then what would you call it?
>
> I'd find it hard to imagine a set of opinions on a game that wasn't in
> some way a review. And a game review with no opinions in it is something
> I find even harder to imagine, and is not something I'd want to read
> even if it were possible.

I suppose what bugged me about the review is that it's mostly "I don't
like this, this, or this, and really, who does? No one." Hey, I like
most of those things. So just a few paragraphs in I felt that the review
was not going to be particularly helpful to anyone with tastes that
differ from the author's.

==--- --=--=-- ---==
Quintin Stone "You speak of necessary evil? One of those necessities
stone@rps.net is that if innocents must suffer, the guilty must suffer
www.rps.net more." - Mackenzie Calhoun, "Once Burned" by Peter David
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 3:38:18 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

"Emiliano G. Padilha"

[...]

> First, the writing. Ok it's a matter of taste, but I found the writing
> in the game, which overall is just succint and correct to do its job, to
> be such a stretch at many places (in its 'creative' use of words) as to
> border on pretentiousness. Let's see:
>

> "rocks are mercilessly visible"

That *is* admittedly awkward, but there are also places where the
prose shines.

"The candles are mounted in sconces high on the walls, or set into
ornate iron stands. Most are heavy, burned low with age, dripping
silent gutters of wax over metal and stone."

I think you're being unfair. What Mr. Plotkin is trying to accomplish
here is to lend his prose a tone. Yes, some of it is starchy to the
point of pompousness, but still, the ambition is laudable.

[...]

> The implementation of the game is, of course, technically flawless.

Flawless, but pedestrian. Take this, for instance.

"Crowded Study
[...] so much is jammed in, around the desk and up the panelled walls,
that you barely find room to stand. Books; papers; dried plants;
animals stuffed and preserved, antique instruments, candles of any
hue. You don't recognize half of it, and you can't name half the
rest."

With a description like that I was bracing myself for another
Savoir-Faire, with layers upon layers to peel. Sadly, all these things
turned out to be merely theatrical props, with no depth whatsoever.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 3:54:41 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Jess Knoch wrote:
> Tolkien's works are very, very low fantasy. The most "magical" thing was the
> fact that different races shared the same earth. Have you enjoyed any works
> where high fantasy was done *well*?

First of all, the "high" in "high fantasy" is not like the "high" in
"high octane".

Second, that is factually incorrect. Tolkien's world includes gods (also
interpretable as angels), seeing stones, scrying pools, a flat earth
that turns round by direct miracle, and magic rings. The evening star is
a jewel containing the light of two magic trees of which the sun and the
moon are fruits. There are werebears, fire-breathing dragons, and
talking trees and birds.

---
John W. Kennedy
"Compact is becoming contract,
Man only earns and pays."
-- Charles Williams. "Bors to Elayne: On the King's Coins"
February 24, 2005 4:23:49 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

On or about 2/24/2005 6:36 AM, Emiliano G. Padilha did proclaim:

> The Dreamhold is a Myst-like mechanical-puzzles game that probably
> would've been best realized graphically but was implemented in text. In
> this sense, it seems like a "worst use of medium"-prize candidate. I
> like Myst and derivatives (I especially enjoyed Lighthouse and
> Timelapse), but not in text medium. It's just not my cup of tea.

Roger Ebert, a famous American move reviewer, uses a simple rule in his
reviews: Does the movie accomplish what the director set out to do? He
will give a high rating to movies that he personally dislikes for this
reason. "If you like slasher flicks, then this is a movie to see."

I mention this because you seem to have fallen into a common trap. "I
like stuff that has feature X; this doesn't have that feature; therefore
this stinks." No, the proper conclusion is that you don't like it, not
that no one should like it. The paragraph that I've quoted above is one
of the few places where you haven't fallen into the trap.

First, some of us like Myst-like puzzles and also like games that we can
carry in our pockets. Dreamhold on a PDA is great for that scenario.

Second, Dreamhold explicitly states that it is a game for beginners. As
such, it deliberately doesn't try to introduce anything subtle in the
way of puzzles. Much of your review reads like someone bashing a
children's book because it doesn't have the emotional depth of "War and
Peace".
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 4:23:50 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

samwyse <dejanews@email.com> wrote in message news:<FzkTd.19251$D34.11188@newssvr12.news.prodigy.com>...

snipped for brevity

> First, some of us like Myst-like puzzles and also like games that we can
> carry in our pockets. Dreamhold on a PDA is great for that scenario.

I liked Myst a lot. I didn't like Dreamhold. As far as I can tell from
a 2h session, it has a lot of really annoying, illogical puzzles.

> Second, Dreamhold explicitly states that it is a game for beginners. As
> such, it deliberately doesn't try to introduce anything subtle in the
> way of puzzles. Much of your review reads like someone bashing a
> children's book because it doesn't have the emotional depth of "War and
> Peace".

Being a newbie myself, I suppose I'm its intended audience. Still, it
did nothing for me. I thought the didactic tone of the tutorial
clashed rather painfully with the starchy and pompous tone of the
narrative. And the back story was so vague and evasive as if the
author had something terribly profound to say.

Sounds awfully negative, I know. Trust me, I'm desperately trying to
come up with something nice to say. OK, the implementation was solid.
No obvious bugs.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 4:49:59 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

John W. Kennedy wrote:
> Jess Knoch wrote:
>> The most "magical" thing
>> was the fact that different races shared the same earth. Have you
>> enjoyed any works where high fantasy was done *well*?
>
> Tolkien's world includes gods
> (also interpretable as angels), seeing stones, scrying pools, a flat
> earth that turns round by direct miracle, and magic rings. The
> evening star is a jewel containing the light of two magic trees of
> which the sun and the moon are fruits. There are werebears,
> fire-breathing dragons, and talking trees and birds.

Oh, I've read it; I know the Silmarillion and the Histories of Middle Earth,
the unfinished tales, etc. But when most people read just the trilogy (or
just The Hobbit), they don't see all of that. They see Gandalf as just a
wizard who casts spells, and there's some other spell-casting, and that's
about it. I wasn't sure what the OP thought the "fantasy" elements were in
Tolkein's work -- I assumed they meant the Lord of the Rings and that's it.

Sorry if I made it seem less than it really is -- I admit I was a bit vexed
by the fact that the poster really didn't seem to like the fantasy genre
much, and that Tolkein was the one he pulled out to prove that he did.

--
Jess K., wondering how long it's been now since she read The Hobbit
February 24, 2005 5:24:38 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Hmm. I disagree with the reviewer about the emotionless of the piece.
Possiblym however, the language style made the descriptions a trifle
'slippery' in the 'hard to get a handle on' sense, which in turn made
visualisation of scenarios and backstory difficult (and, as the
reviewer points out, this would be less the case in a graphical version
of Dreamhold) and less immediately involving. While I enjoyed the
setting and the tone (because I like that sort of thing), if I were to
put myself into a newbie mindset I think I'd find it offputting, as it
becomes an obstacle to understanding.

But I'm not a newbie, so this is just assumption on my part.

-Giles
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 6:19:16 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Emiliano G. Padilha wrote:
> First, the writing. Ok it's a matter of taste, but I found the
writing
> in the game, which overall is just succint and correct to do its job,
to
> be such a stretch at many places (in its 'creative' use of words) as
to
> border on pretentiousness.
>
> [Examples removed for brevity.]
>
> The problem I have with many of the examples above is the emotional
> adjectivizing, it's like a poor attempt at remedying something more
> fundamental that's lacking: humanity, emotion. And this is my main
> grudge, because the game is completely emotion-sanitized, bland. As
is
> typical of this author, it passes at a safe, large distance away of
any
> interactions with PEOPLE, at any dealing with (say) problems,
behaviour,
> customs, emotions, etc, of people, animated beings (not necessarily
> human, if you like). Only machines and mechanical things. How dreary
> things become then?

Surely, you don't deny that emotion can be experienced in the absence
of other people? I would argue that the "emotional adjectivizing" is
the PC projecting emotions on to his surroundings to compensate for
his own loneliness.

Consider: You wake up in a wizard's dreamhold, an extremely dangerous
place to be. You don't know how you got there, and you don't know
that the wizard isn't about to vaporize you for trespassing. What are
you likely to want? A quick escape for one, but also comfort, which
usually comes in the form of other people. Lacking this, you are
likely to begin trying to comfort yourself ("I'm sure the wizard is a
reasonable guy. I can talk my way out of this, just like I did that
time...").

A new problem emerges. You have amnesia and thus you don't even have
the comfort of your own company.

You're afraid, and your perceptions reflect that ("rocks are
mercilessly visible" and "jagged mountains tear the sky"), but you're
also likely to try and read friendliness into the environment as well
to keep yourself from being paralzed by fear ("[Shelves] are
obligingly empty"). Similarly, you're likely to project life (even
non-sentient life) just to alleviate some of the loneliness
("[branches] leap chaotically upward, spraying gold-veined leaves",
"pillars march around the edge of this circular chamber", and
"notations cluster like wasps").

In some of the other phrases you have listed I can't understand what
you saw wrong with them at all. "Sprays of dried leaves, flowers, and
seed pods" for example seems like a very straight forward description
of a bouquet. ""Stalactites are the ones on the ceiling. Stalagmites
are the ones on the floor. You don't know how you know this" (which
you seem to find especially aesthetically offensive) seems to me to be
perfectly natural, especially given the PC's amnesia.

Admittedly, I'm viewing these phrases out of their original context,
and it's possible that they don't fit in the places they've been given
(though I find the prospect doubtful).

> I tend to think of it as the epitome of geekyness. Nah, people and
their
> dealings, that's all too complicated and difficult to understand!
Just
> objects and their physical-mechanical relationships would be ok. So
it
> can all be a dreary fantasy-castle setting with Zork/Myst-ish
> exploration and manipulation of objects. Can it then really be
generally
> attractive to general people, to newbies, as is the stated purpose of
> this "tutorial"? I don't think so.

Ignoring your description of the castle as "dreary" and your sugestion
that the game is not really a tutorial, I find that your rhetorical
question is quite obviously answered the opposite of the way you
intended. It was previously pointed out that Myst sold increadably
well, even among those who are not generally game-players. It is
worth noting that Zork also sold amazingly well, and that both games
have had a good number of successful sequels.

I find your implication that newbies are not interested in puzzles odd
as well. I personally began playing IF with Zork and Adventure,
curious about a story my mother told about killing a dragon with her
bare hands. It seems likely to me that many newbie's first IF
experiences are with the older games, especially those of Infocom, and
that they move from there to the newer types of IF, the same way the
medium itself did.

> Then, without people, no need to have NPCs, dialogue and NPC
interaction
> either, which are complicated to implement and prone to go wrong. No
> plot, no events and related daemons, no nothing, just static,
mechanical
> objects. It's so much easier then. Okay, it's a tutorial for
newbies...
> People, events and their interactions are probably "advanced" matter,
I
> suppose.

Yes, NPCs are hard to code. Extremely so. "Galatea" consists
entirely of a single NPC, and its too large to fit in a z5. True, a
simpler NPC would have done fine, but NPCs are also difficult to deal
with on the player's end, especially so for newbies who don't know
what the NPCs limits are.

A very simple NPC (an animal of sime kind perhaps) would have been a
nice addition to the tutorial side of the game, giving new players a
chance to experiment with that aspect of IF as well, but that would
have created an entirely different game, so it's easy to see why it
was omitted.

> But this is only then a tutorial for newbie PUZZLE-solvers,
> because it's not likely to be enjoyable by people who might come up
> thinking they'll play some sort of interactive story, interactive
> FICTION, which it's not.

The game does tell a story, it is simply one that does not involve
other people. This doesn't make it a not-story, just as removing
trees from a painting doesn't make it a not-landscape. Furthermore,
it is a tutorial for all types new players of IF. Perhaps you have
forgotten you first experiences with IF, but the interface was not as
obvious as it seems to you now.

I remember that I abandoned "Zero Sum Game" as a newbie, because I was
totally unable to figure out how to get the NPC (whose name escapes
me) to follow me. He responded in a perfectly acceptable manner to
the command "say 'hello'", so it was a perfectly resonable assumption
that he would respond equally well to "say 'follow me'". Even
puzzle-less IF uses the same base set of commands, which are
unfamiliar to new players, and this game will teach you how to
successfullly interact with the game environment even if you never
solve a single one of its puzzles.

> The Dreamhold is a Myst-like mechanical-puzzles game that probably
> would've been best realized graphically...

Possible.

> I like Myst and derivatives (I especially enjoyed Lighthouse and
> Timelapse), but not in text medium. It's just not my cup of tea.

> In text, I want to see (but maybe that's just ME of course!!) at
least some
> story, plot, characterization and people, besides objects.

So you're bringing standards you use to judge works of one medium to
bear on another.

> It has a vague static backstory that is left
> intentionally unexplained so that players (the fans) can have endless
> speculations as to the secret "symbolisms" and "meanings" behind it.
> Which the author probably never bothered to come up with, or in any
case
> is likely to be wildly divergent and simpler than the discussion it
> generates.

Possible, though cynical.

> A rant about genre. This use of fantasy again and again always seems
> more like a convenient way to do away with all those pesky
restrictions
> of reality. As if reality is too limited, too difficult to come up
with
> new puzzles integrated to a story. With a fantastical or surrealist
> setting, on the other hand, everything is possible and anything goes,
> for "it's all magical", or "it's all a dream". So it's a whole lot
> easier, you can have all sorts of appearing, disappearing,
transmutating
> and transmogrifying (sp?) things, that need no explaining why they
are
> there. It almost seems like we are in 1980 talking about Zork.
>
> I'm sometimes more than bothered by this LAZY use of fantasy as a
crutch
> (no pun intended with the game) to inspiration and skill, or lack
> thereof, in coming up with stories and puzzles.

It seems to be that puzzles in a fantasy setting need to take special
care to remain understandable. Because there need be no logical
explanation for the workings of a puzzle, it would be quite simple to
make a totally irrational or even random puzzle, chalk it up to magic
and wash your hands of the matter.

Look at the catwalk room, though. There is no real explanation for
the behavior or presence of the puzzle, but it is a quite logical
puzzle. Pulling this does one thing, turning that has another obvious
effect, and so on.

> I can't understand
> why [the hints] can't be called by a simple intuitive "hint" or "hint
> <object>", rather than "help hint". But this is nitpicking.

I wondered that too, but have been swayed by the author's response in
this thread. Being able to ask for help with specific items rather
than just having contextual help would have been greatly appreciated
though.

> All these things I mentioned above add to a smooth play which is
> supposed to help newbies. Or does it? The problem with this game as
an
> "introduction" to the uninitiated, newbies, lies not in those things,
> which are all cosmetic, interface features. The problem is more
general:
> in the lack of more clued messages (and hints) as to what to do to
solve
> the harder puzzles; the lack of any motivation to continue playing
> beyond "explore and solve the puzzles!" (that stems from the amnesia
> cliche); the lack of any direction to go without a story, people or
> events to guide; the need to have extra concentration in visualizing
the
> places and objects and come up with the correct guesses or intuition
of
> what to do: which, for some puzzles in this game at least, are
> inevitably trial-and-error no matter what (unless there are more
explicit
> clues in the descriptions).
>
> In sum, it's the lack of the game holding the attention and interest
of
> the player (beyond the fans of this author and hard-core
puzzle-solvers)
> after s/he's explored most of the map. EASIER puzzles would help: ok,
> it's all more or less easy in the basic tasks; the extra tasks of the
> game are the difficult ones. But it's just not satisfying to reach
the
> first, easier ending and read "But there are various other secrets
and
> endings!", endings which are MUCH more difficult, and are in fact for
> veterans, not newbies. This is one thing that (IMHO) does not work,
not
> in this game at least: trying to cater for both total newbies and
> hard-core puzzle-solvers.

I think you have forgotten how awkward learning to play interactive
fiction can be. Help with such "cosmetic, interface features" that
new players need the most help. Motivation is provided by wanting to
discover your (the PC's) identity, and the story is the how you go
about doing so. Easier puzzles on the other hand would do almost
nothing to help new players, and is an issue almost totally unrelated
to introducing new players to IF, especially in this case since the
required puzzles are all fairy simple.

> I know this review sounds very negative: why criticizing negatively
> isntead of just ignoring games you don't like and reviewing the ones
you
> do, I hear you say. It was sort of a negative reaction to all the
> automatic praise and adulation that this game has received while the
> rest of (recent) IF goes much less considered or is at any rate
always
> much more critically reviewed. I found many other recent games I
played
> last year much better than this: The Act of Misdirection, Blue
Chairs,
> All Time Devours, Sting of the Wasp, and Square Circle, for example.
> Even the last one I was playing but haven't finished, Chronicle of
Play
> Torn, which is somewhat similar in genre and old-school feel, I found
> more interesting than The Dreamhold! I haven't played yet, but I bet
(by
> some reviews) that I'll like Isle of the Cult and Enterprise
Incidents
> at least more than I did this game, even if they are less
"technically
> perfect".

I have no problem with negative reviews, I merely took issue with some
of the points you brought up. Negative review are just as valuable as
positive reviews, and I hope I haven't discouraged you from writing
more reviews (negative or otherwise) in the future.

> Emiliano.
> (ps.: I won't be reading newsgroups for quite a while as I'm moving
back
> to Brazil tomorrow, after 4 years of a PhD in Edinburgh, so don't
expect
> any response from me soon.)

Good luck with the move!
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 7:37:41 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Quintin Stone <stone@rps.net> wrote in message news:<Pine.LNX.4.58.0502240952590.14215@yes.rps.net>...
> On Thu, 24 Feb 2005, Emiliano G. Padilha wrote:
>
> > I tend to think of it as the epitome of geekyness. Nah, people and their
> > dealings, that's all too complicated and difficult to understand! Just
> > objects and their physical-mechanical relationships would be ok. So it
> > can all be a dreary fantasy-castle setting with Zork/Myst-ish
> > exploration and manipulation of objects. Can it then really be generally
> > attractive to general people, to newbies, as is the stated purpose of
> > this "tutorial"? I don't think so.
>
> Do you have any idea how many copies of Myst sold? And to non-gamers at
> that?
>
> You're certainly entitled to your opinion. I question calling it a
> review, however.

I thought Emiliano's review was eloquent and to the point. I didn't
sense any personal animosity towards the author, if that's what you're
implying.

In fact, I agree with him on most points. There's one thing, however,
that I'd like to add.

What I found most objectionable about Dreamhold was not its
overwrought prose style or the dreary and cliched setting, but the
tone of flippancy: "Amnesia. Yes, it's a cliché, but it'll do for a
tutorial." Why should I care if the author doesn't?
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 7:48:22 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Here, Quintin Stone <stone@rps.net> wrote:
> On Thu, 24 Feb 2005, Emiliano G. Padilha wrote:
>
> > I tend to think of it as the epitome of geekyness. Nah, people and their
> > dealings, that's all too complicated and difficult to understand! Just
> > objects and their physical-mechanical relationships would be ok. So it
> > can all be a dreary fantasy-castle setting with Zork/Myst-ish
> > exploration and manipulation of objects. Can it then really be generally
> > attractive to general people, to newbies, as is the stated purpose of
> > this "tutorial"? I don't think so.
>
> Do you have any idea how many copies of Myst sold? And to non-gamers at
> that?
>
> You're certainly entitled to your opinion. I question calling it a
> review, however.

Looked like a review to me. I thank Emiliano for posting it.

As per my charming and invariable habit, I won't comment on matters of
interpretation and storyline. However, on this technical matter:

> > I can't understand why they can't be called by a simple intuitive
> > "hint" or "hint <object>", rather than "help hint".

I originally planned to do just that. Then I started to write up the
help material for "hint" -- that is, the bit of text which explained
the difference between "help" and "hint", and which you should use
when.

After about three rewrites of that paragraph, I realized it was a
mistake. We are used to the idea of magic verbs, where the difference
between "help" and "hint" is as great as the difference between "pull"
and "push". But trying to educate that into the newcomers -- when
they're already drowning in information -- is just a bad idea.

So I made "help" and "hint" synonyms, and went with the idea of a
single command for *contextual* hints. (Thus eliminating the need for
a "help hint object" command.)

This leaves the problem that "help hint" is indeed an obscure command
-- not something a newbie would immediately think of. But (a) it's
consistent with the rest of the "help" syntax, (b) it's mentioned
explicitly if you type "help", (c) it's suggested explicitly if the
game thinks you're stuck on a puzzle. So I'm hoping it's okay.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 7:48:23 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Andrew Plotkin <erkyrath@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<cvl0gm$qh5$1@reader2.panix.com>...

"Note for other readers: this guy always lies about his name and
only posts to insult whatever game is prominent at the moment."

I've reread my post now and I can see how I may have come across as
harsh and flippant. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. This was
certainly not my intention.

I feel awkward about this because this is my second post to these
groups and I've already managed to antagonise people. My first post
was just a day ago. I asked for game recommendations and was directed
to Dreamhold. Check the thread titled "G'Day" on rec.arts.int-fiction
if you don't believe me.

I find this situation frustrating, since as far as I can tell you have
talent as a writer and a good grounding in game design. I'm not
sabotaging your work. To the best of my knowledge, neither is anyone
else. If there is a world wide conspiracy intent on undermining your
effort, I'm not part of it.

Friends?
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 8:21:31 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

samwyse wrote:
> On or about 2/24/2005 6:36 AM, Emiliano G. Padilha did proclaim:
>
>> The Dreamhold is a Myst-like mechanical-puzzles game that probably
>> would've been best realized graphically but was implemented in text.
>> In this sense, it seems like a "worst use of medium"-prize candidate.
>> I like Myst and derivatives (I especially enjoyed Lighthouse and
>> Timelapse), but not in text medium. It's just not my cup of tea.
>
>
> Roger Ebert, a famous American move reviewer, uses a simple rule in his
> reviews: Does the movie accomplish what the director set out to do? He
> will give a high rating to movies that he personally dislikes for this
> reason. "If you like slasher flicks, then this is a movie to see."

Ebert is a hack.

> I mention this because you seem to have fallen into a common trap. "I
> like stuff that has feature X; this doesn't have that feature; therefore
> this stinks." No, the proper conclusion is that you don't like it, not
> that no one should like it. The paragraph that I've quoted above is one
> of the few places where you haven't fallen into the trap.

Then it might have been better to quote a place where the reviewer
did fall into the 'trap' -- which I don't believe is a trap, anyway.
The only trap anyone has fallen into here is concluding that a
reviewer who says 'it stinks' actually means 'no one should like it'.
In general, one can assume everything in a review is just a personal
opinion. Do you insist that people stick 'IMHO' in front of every
statement?

(Even if the reviewer had concluded 'no one should like it', that
would still just be a personal opinion. A more stupid opinion, I
agree, but still a personal opinion.)

The above isn't intended as a bash to _The Dreamhold_, which I think
was easily the best game of 2004. I just want to defend people's
right to make opinionated reviews -- something I'd like to see more
of on rgif.

Stephen.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 8:29:02 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Quintin Stone wrote:
> On Thu, 24 Feb 2005, Emiliano G. Padilha wrote:
>
>
>>I tend to think of it as the epitome of geekyness. Nah, people and their
>>dealings, that's all too complicated and difficult to understand! Just
>>objects and their physical-mechanical relationships would be ok. So it
>>can all be a dreary fantasy-castle setting with Zork/Myst-ish
>>exploration and manipulation of objects. Can it then really be generally
>>attractive to general people, to newbies, as is the stated purpose of
>>this "tutorial"? I don't think so.
>
>
> Do you have any idea how many copies of Myst sold? And to non-gamers at
> that?
>
> You're certainly entitled to your opinion. I question calling it a
> review, however.

Then what would you call it?

I'd find it hard to imagine a set of opinions on a game that
wasn't in some way a review. And a game review with no opinions
in it is something I find even harder to imagine, and is not
something I'd want to read even if it were possible.

Stephen.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 8:29:03 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

On Thu, 24 Feb 2005 16:29:02 GMT, Stephen Bond scrawled:

> Then what would you call it?
>
> I'd find it hard to imagine a set of opinions on a game that
> wasn't in some way a review. And a game review with no opinions
> in it is something I find even harder to imagine, and is not
> something I'd want to read even if it were possible.
>
> Stephen.

I'd think of a review with no opinions as a synopsis, or summary. A
summary with comments or opinions - a review. A collection of comments
with no mention of content or summary - a critique.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 8:34:42 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Quintin Stone wrote:
> It was in direct response to the question "Can it then really be generally
> attractive to general people, to newbies, as is the stated purpose of this
> 'tutorial'?" Because if you take the comparison of Dreamhold with Myst
> seriously, then judging by the evidence of Myst's sales to the general
> public, the answer is a resounding 'Yes'.
>

Count me as another who was thoroughly underwhelmed by The Dreamhold.
The cliched fantasy plot, the sterile, unpopulated geography, the
amnesia, the writing style that somehow managed to be both overwrought
and emotionless at the same time... it all just made me yawn. I've seen
all of this a million times before, often done better. I kept trying to
like it, seeing how it is the first game in years from the author of the
masterpiece Spider and Web, but eventually I decided life is too short
and just went to the walkthrough. I had a hell of a lot more fun with
Isle of the Cult, which was filled with old-school cliches itself but
left the pretentiousness at home and didn't try to be anything more than
a fun game.

Re: Myst... not to get into a history lesson here, but the sales of Myst
had very little to do with its actual gameplay. Myst came out just as
SVGA, Soundblasters, and CD-ROMs were hitting the mainstream,
transforming the IBM PC from a beeping monochrome box into a multimedia
entertainment center. Myst was ahead of the curve in taking advantage
of all this technology, looking and sounding better than anything else
you could buy for a good number of months. And so, many, many people
bought it just to see what their new $2000 386 systems could really do.
I would wager money that at least 90% of the people who purchased Myst
never even made a serious attempt at playing it, much less completed it.
And judging by the current commercial visibility of adventures games,
it obviously didn't create a stampede to the genre.

Dreamhold does not have any of the above factors going for it in
generating interest among newbies, and must succeed on the merits of its
plot, puzzles, etc. If we assume that was its primary intended purpose,
I can only judge it an ambitious failure. I just don't think the game
is compelling enough to draw anyone new into IF. It's too densely
written and frankly too nerdy in tone for me to hold out much hope.

I do think the Tutorial Voice is a wonderful idea, though, and is quite
well-implemented in The Dreamhold. With a few refinements, and mated to
a more accessible game, it might just succeed in bringing new folks into
the fold.

Jimmy
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 9:12:08 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

"Jess Knoch" <jessicaknoch@mindspring.com> wrote:

[...]

>When fantasy is lazy, it doesn't stick together cohesively. It doesn't build
>a complete world. When fantasy does build a consistent world, it is not
>lazy, and in fact can be quite enjoyable for people who, well, like good
>fantasy.

[...]

>Tolkien's works are very, very low fantasy. The most "magical" thing was the
>fact that different races shared the same earth. Have you enjoyed any works
>where high fantasy was done *well*?

This is a little off topic, but:
People in this newsgroup keep talking about good fantasy. Personally,
I'm not very fond of fantasy, but that may well be because I don't
know anything decent. Can you (anyone) recommend any books/authors?

--
Sophie Frühling

"El arte no viste pantalones."
-- Rubén Darío
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 9:13:57 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Jan Thorsby come on down:

>Neil Gaiman is really good and very different from Tolkien. Highly
>recomended is the Sandman comics witch deals with the endless; god-like
>immortal creatures witch affects humans, there is Death, Despair, Desire and
>so on, The main character is the Sandman witch controls peoples dreams.

I'll second the "Sandman" recommendation. I thought this was pretty good
despite my dislike of the fantasy genre in general.

>Dave Sim has written the comic Cerebus about a grumpy, cunning, amoral
>aardvark barbarian. The first book "Cerebus" deals with him traveling around
>trying to get rich and getting in trouble. It starts of bad, gets better
>after a while. The second book "High Society" is better, and deals with
>Cerebus getting involved with politics. It's very funny and quite complex.
>There are many books, I think it's the longest comic written by the same
>person, and the content changes a lot from book to book. I think the first
>four books at least should appeal to a lot people.

I wouldn't necessarily consider this "fantasy", although it started as a
parody of the "swords and sorcery" school of writing. Also, it's worth noting
that Sim went completely batshit crazy about halfway through the 300-issue run
of Cerebus, and that the second half of Cerebus is, in significant part,
dedicated to his misogynistic ranting. It suffers accordingly.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 9:15:39 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Frankly, I don't see why people who critisize Dreamhold feel the need
to pay lip service to the author's earlier work. Personally, I found
Spider and Web just as dreary and pompous as Dreamhold. Dreamhold is
pretty much the quintessential Plotkin: an incoherent story set in a
cliched setting and punctuated by contrived puzzles.



Just my two cents.


Jimmy Maher" <maherNO@SPAMgrandecom.net> skrev i meddelandet
news:111sp25esbpm429@corp.supernews.com...
> Quintin Stone wrote:
> > It was in direct response to the question "Can it then really be generally
> > attractive to general people, to newbies, as is the stated purpose of this
> > 'tutorial'?" Because if you take the comparison of Dreamhold with Myst
> > seriously, then judging by the evidence of Myst's sales to the general
> > public, the answer is a resounding 'Yes'.
> >
>
> Count me as another who was thoroughly underwhelmed by The Dreamhold.
> The cliched fantasy plot, the sterile, unpopulated geography, the
> amnesia, the writing style that somehow managed to be both overwrought
> and emotionless at the same time... it all just made me yawn. I've seen
> all of this a million times before, often done better. I kept trying to
> like it, seeing how it is the first game in years from the author of the
> masterpiece Spider and Web, but eventually I decided life is too short
> and just went to the walkthrough. I had a hell of a lot more fun with
> Isle of the Cult, which was filled with old-school cliches itself but
> left the pretentiousness at home and didn't try to be anything more than
> a fun game.
>
> Re: Myst... not to get into a history lesson here, but the sales of Myst
> had very little to do with its actual gameplay. Myst came out just as
> SVGA, Soundblasters, and CD-ROMs were hitting the mainstream,
> transforming the IBM PC from a beeping monochrome box into a multimedia
> entertainment center. Myst was ahead of the curve in taking advantage
> of all this technology, looking and sounding better than anything else
> you could buy for a good number of months. And so, many, many people
> bought it just to see what their new $2000 386 systems could really do.
> I would wager money that at least 90% of the people who purchased Myst
> never even made a serious attempt at playing it, much less completed it.
> And judging by the current commercial visibility of adventures games,
> it obviously didn't create a stampede to the genre.
>
> Dreamhold does not have any of the above factors going for it in
> generating interest among newbies, and must succeed on the merits of its
> plot, puzzles, etc. If we assume that was its primary intended purpose,
> I can only judge it an ambitious failure. I just don't think the game
> is compelling enough to draw anyone new into IF. It's too densely
> written and frankly too nerdy in tone for me to hold out much hope.
>
> I do think the Tutorial Voice is a wonderful idea, though, and is quite
> well-implemented in The Dreamhold. With a few refinements, and mated to
> a more accessible game, it might just succeed in bringing new folks into
> the fold.
>
> Jimmy
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 9:37:36 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Here, Sophie Fruehling <sfruehling@lovely-spam.aon.at> wrote:
>
> This is a little off topic, but:
> People in this newsgroup keep talking about good fantasy. Personally,
> I'm not very fond of fantasy, but that may well be because I don't
> know anything decent. Can you (anyone) recommend any books/authors?

What have you not liked, and what have you liked a little bit?

I have a lot of favorite fantasy authors, in different directions.
Diane Duane, Barry Hughart, George R. R. Martin, Patricia McKillip,
Tim Powers, John Bellairs, Steven Brust, Lois Bujold, Susan Cooper,
Pamela Dean, Mary Gentle, Diana Wynne Jones, Guy Kay, Terry Pratchett,
Michael Scott Rohan, Jo Walton, Gene Wolfe, Roger Zelazny. (Not that
that's complete by any means.) But in different ways, and I certainly
don't suggest that you'd enjoy all of those.

_Dreamhold_ was most closely inspired by McKillip, if that helps.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.
Anonymous
February 24, 2005 11:45:25 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Here, Mike Pearce <mpearce@australiamail.com> wrote:

> I thought the didactic tone of the tutorial
> clashed rather painfully with the starchy and pompous tone of the
> narrative.

....and then...

Here, Walter S. <sisulu@africamail.com> wrote:

> Yes, some of it is starchy to the point of pompousness...

I see you're trying to be subtle again.

Note for other readers: this guy always lies about his name and
only posts to insult whatever game is prominent at the moment.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.
Anonymous
February 25, 2005 10:49:56 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

"Jan Thorsby" <no_jthorsby_spam@broadpark.no> wrote:
>
>"Sophie Fruehling" <sfruehling@LOVELY-SPAM.aon.at> skrev i melding
>news:b22s1111ii9u8tldjbpj349rqfctvnkjkn@4ax.com...
>
>> This is a little off topic, but:
>> People in this newsgroup keep talking about good fantasy. Personally,
>> I'm not very fond of fantasy, but that may well be because I don't
>> know anything decent. Can you (anyone) recommend any books/authors?
>
>Terry Pratchett has written the Discworld comedy fantasy series. Quality
>varies a lot between the books, but most are good and a some are wonderful.
>Has also together with Neil Gaiman written one of the best books ever; the
>comedy Good Omens, about the apocalypse; biblical style.

I've read a lot by Terry Pratchett. And I've seen books by Neil
Gaiman, even if I haven't read anything yet, I don't know why.
Most of your list seems to be comedy stuff; while it's great that
you wrote down all that, it's not what I was thinking about. And
it's probably not what I'm going to read anytime soon. But someone
else will be happy about it, I'm sure. ;) 

>The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

This, of course, sounds like something worth checking out.

>Nostradamus Ate my Hamster

Wasn't that some SpeedIF game? ;) 

--
Sophie Frühling

"El arte no viste pantalones."
-- Rubén Darío
Anonymous
February 25, 2005 11:11:00 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

"Sophie Fruehling" <sfruehling@LOVELY-SPAM.aon.at> escreveu na mensagem
news:b22s1111ii9u8tldjbpj349rqfctvnkjkn@4ax.com...
> "Jess Knoch" <jessicaknoch@mindspring.com> wrote:
>
> [...]
>
>>When fantasy is lazy, it doesn't stick together cohesively. It doesn't
>>build
>>a complete world. When fantasy does build a consistent world, it is not
>>lazy, and in fact can be quite enjoyable for people who, well, like good
>>fantasy.
>
> [...]
>
>>Tolkien's works are very, very low fantasy. The most "magical" thing was
>>the
>>fact that different races shared the same earth. Have you enjoyed any
>>works
>>where high fantasy was done *well*?
>
> This is a little off topic, but:
> People in this newsgroup keep talking about good fantasy. Personally,
> I'm not very fond of fantasy, but that may well be because I don't
> know anything decent. Can you (anyone) recommend any books/authors?
>
> --
> Sophie Frühling
>
> "El arte no viste pantalones."
> -- Rubén Darío

I for one enjoyed very much the anual series of "Year's Best Fantasy" Edited
by David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer.

So far i only got hold of editions 1 (2001), 2 (2002) and 3 (2003).

Number 4 (2004) I havent found it yet for sale... (at least on Portugal).

More details can be found at their website www.eosbooks.com, and for
information about the "Year's Best Fiction" books go to
http://www.harpercollins.com/global_scripts/search/sear...

There's also another series called "Year's Best Science Fiction" which is
also quite good (details also on the site).

Every book is on sale in ebook format at the site.

Anyway, enough of good publicity ;) 

Kind Regards,
RootShell
Anonymous
February 26, 2005 1:27:26 AM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

"Andrew Plotkin"

> I see you're trying to be subtle again.
>
> Note for other readers: this guy always lies about his name and
> only posts to insult whatever game is prominent at the moment.

You must be the only person on the face of this planet who flames
people for *liking* his games. You are indeed a strange man, Andrew
Plotkin.

For the record, I *didn't* like The Dreamhold, but I also don't think
the prose was as bad as most people seem to think.
Anonymous
February 26, 2005 1:30:31 AM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

"eforsx@hotmail.com"

> Frankly, I don't see why people who critisize Dreamhold feel the need
> to pay lip service to the author's earlier work. Personally, I found
> Spider and Web just as dreary and pompous as Dreamhold. Dreamhold is
> pretty much the quintessential Plotkin: an incoherent story set in a
> cliched setting and punctuated by contrived puzzles.

I thought Shade was rather good.
February 26, 2005 1:17:26 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

samwyse wrote:

> Second, Dreamhold explicitly states that it is a game for beginners. As
> such, it deliberately doesn't try to introduce anything subtle in the
> way of puzzles. Much of your review reads like someone bashing a
> children's book because it doesn't have the emotional depth of "War and
> Peace".
>

Never read _War and Peace_. Once had a girlfriend who had, but I'm only
17 and I'm impatient. But I *do* on occasion bash children's books
without emotional (or some other) depth. _Le Petit Prince_ and
_Goodnight Moon_ are examples of what I consider good children's books.
It must be said that many (the majority?) of actual *children* disagree.

--Max
February 27, 2005 5:13:30 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

The bit with the sheep saying 'Let's all catch Scrapies and Diiieeeee'
was pretty funny.

As someone for whom it was all over a year ago (I read the actual
issues when they came out, out of some sense of intertia or something)
the last part of Cerebus was road accident watchable. The grim
fascination of watching somebody with serious talent vanish into the
grip of monomania - still with flashes of brilliance, but ultimately
buried in his own mental effluvium and no longer with sufficient mental
faculty to realise the blatant flaws in his 'reasoning', but apparently
functioning well enough to avoid incarceration.

I understand if you keep him off the topic of gender, religion or
politics he's a nice enough chap who still does good work for the CBDLF
etc, and I'd rather wish him wellness than self-inflicted death (though
I can understand the sentiment). But then, as they say in 'The
Invisibles', I'm the kind of person who finds mental illness funny. As
long as it's not chasing me around with an axe.

-Giles
Anonymous
February 28, 2005 3:46:59 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

ggrant@europe.com (Graham Grant) writes:

> What I found most objectionable about Dreamhold was not its
> overwrought prose style or the dreary and cliched setting, but the
> tone of flippancy: "Amnesia. Yes, it's a cliché, but it'll do for a
> tutorial." Why should I care if the author doesn't?

That's kind of what bothered me about Dreamhold as well. Not the
amnesia part, actually, since it's pretty much explained later, but the
lack of initial motivation; the player is supposed to explore and solve
puzzles for the sake of exploring and solving puzzles (and because the
tutorial voice says so), and that may very well discourage people who
play Dreamhold as their first game. This wouldn't even be very hard to
fix, as the game could point out that the PC will eventually starve to
death; of course this need not happen, and probably better not, but a
message like "Once again you find yourself wondering whether you will be
able to escape this place alive" every few hundred turns would keep up
some tension.

Another thing that might turn off some players is that parts of the game
world neither serve any perceptible purpose nor are plausible as natural
formations (the catwalk in the cistern, for example); likewise, the
setup of some of the puzzles seems unlikely (no apparent reason why the
masks ended up where they are found, either intentionally or
accidentally).

On a more technical note, a tutorial game should try not to confuse the
player with unintelligible messages. For example, if the description of
a location mentions a doorway but "examine doorway" replies "You can't
see any such thing", the player (who is assumed to know nothing of how
the parser works) most likely will think that the game doesn't work
properly. Or, when "take all from cabinet" says "They are unfortunately
closed", even an experienced player may not immediately realize that
"they" refers to the two doors of the cabinet.

Finally, I think that a tutorial game should explain the consept of wide
versus tall inventory (just like brief versus verbose descriptions). It
would also be nice if "i tall" and "i wide" were parsed properly.

--
Esa Peuha
student of mathematics at the University of Helsinki
http://www.helsinki.fi/~peuha/
Anonymous
February 28, 2005 7:49:50 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Here, Esa A E Peuha <esa.peuha@helsinki.fi> wrote:
>
> That's kind of what bothered me about Dreamhold as well. Not the
> amnesia part, actually, since it's pretty much explained later, but the
> lack of initial motivation; the player is supposed to explore and solve
> puzzles for the sake of exploring and solving puzzles (and because the
> tutorial voice says so), and that may very well discourage people who
> play Dreamhold as their first game.

Well, it's a cliche because so many games *did* it -- both the amnesia
and the motivation of exploration -- so I don't think you can conclude
that they doesn't work.

I realize it's something of a trap to assume that the people who might
be interested in IF today are the same kind of people who were
interested in 1980. But it's also a trap to assume that pure
exploration and an open, richly interactive world are dead game forms.
I wanted to get back to the old skool, and then layer in story ideas
as extras to uncover here and there.

> This wouldn't even be very hard to fix, as the game could point out
> that the PC will eventually starve to death; of course this need not
> happen, and probably better not, but a message like "Once again you
> find yourself wondering whether you will be able to escape this
> place alive" every few hundred turns would keep up some tension.

I'd think that would be the worst of both worlds. It doesn't add
anything to the game mechanics, but it also conveys that the
interesting and odd corners of the game should be ignored, since they
aren't food.

> On a more technical note, a tutorial game should try not to confuse the
> player with unintelligible messages. For example, if the description of
> a location mentions a doorway but "examine doorway" replies "You can't
> see any such thing", the player (who is assumed to know nothing of how
> the parser works) most likely will think that the game doesn't work
> properly.

I had to walk a fine line between leaving the player confused, and
leaving the player insufficiently educated to play any other IF game.
In this case, "You can't see any such thing" is a standard library
message. The library is set up that way because the alternatives have
their own drawbacks; I think it's the best choice for the general
library. I want the player to interact with the general library, not a
mutation of it.

(Saying "you should have implemented the doorway" is not a useful
suggestion -- I did implement a lot of things, but I also wanted to
actually finish the game. Also, unimplemented irrelevent scenery is
*another* thing the player has to learn.)

An alternate possibility would be to add a tutorial message to that
error, at least in a few cases. I didn't think of this when I was
writing the game, and neither did my playtesters. Do you think it
would be a good idea? How would you set it up -- cheat and look at the
game dict? Deliberately put in implemented "unimplemented" objects?

> Finally, I think that a tutorial game should explain the consept of wide
> versus tall inventory (just like brief versus verbose descriptions).

I can't imagine how that would be worthwhile. It's an obscure corner
of the Inform library which very few people use.

> It would also be nice if "i tall" and "i wide" were parsed
> properly.

That's a bug. You're the first person to report it. I'll add it to the
list.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
I'm still thinking about what to put in this space.
Anonymous
March 1, 2005 3:01:42 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Elsewhere in this winding thread, Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> Looked like a review to me. I thank Emiliano for posting it.
>
> As per my charming and invariable habit, I won't comment on matters of
> interpretation and storyline.

There were a few reasons I was somewhat disappointed with 'The
Dreamhold,' but I think this is my biggest bone to pick with the concept
of 'The Dreamhold' as an introduction game to IF.

Each piece and puzzle is, individually, sturdy and solid. However, the
overall story is extremely vague, to the point of frustration. There's
always a sense of "What the heck is supposed to be going on here? What's
happening? What's this all *about*?", and I believe the answers to these
questions are hidden deliberately and never fully resolved. Now,
refusing to resolve issues and masking the meanings of a story are not
(necessarily) bad fiction. But it's also not ideal for drawing people
in. The vaunted satisfaction and sense of accomplishment gained by
solving the individual puzzle is denied to the player when it comes to
the biggest puzzle in the game.

This may be an excellent introduction to Zarfian IF (which, make no
mistake, I admire greatly). But, as the moniker indicates, Zarfian IF is
unique, far from being the standard, nonrepresentative. It's also not
everybody's cup of tea, which is less than ideal for an introduction game.

The idea of a tutorial voice is a good one, but for a better intro game,
should probably be pinned on a game that's more straightforward, more
acessible, with a lower common denominator. I'm wondering if
'Varicella', for example, might be ideal - I could easily imagine a
tutorial voice leading me to first explore the castle and get it's basic
layout, then advising me to solve each one of the puzzles individually,
then help me put all the solutions together (or possibly leave that bit
up to me, for the most part). It's a much more exciting and immediate
game, which I think would appeal more to newcomers. It's wonderfully
written in a manner which is amusing to pretty much anybody who reads
it. Of course, I'm using Varicella as an example only; but those are the
kind of qualities I think I would look for.

--Ziv
Anonymous
March 1, 2005 3:54:51 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Andrew Plotkin <erkyrath@eblong.com> writes:

> I had to walk a fine line between leaving the player confused, and
> leaving the player insufficiently educated to play any other IF game.

I don't quite see how these are mutually exclusive.

> In this case, "You can't see any such thing" is a standard library
> message. The library is set up that way because the alternatives have
> their own drawbacks; I think it's the best choice for the general
> library. I want the player to interact with the general library, not a
> mutation of it.

I'm not arguing that.

> (Saying "you should have implemented the doorway" is not a useful
> suggestion -- I did implement a lot of things, but I also wanted to
> actually finish the game. Also, unimplemented irrelevent scenery is
> *another* thing the player has to learn.)

Not arguing that either.

> An alternate possibility would be to add a tutorial message to that
> error, at least in a few cases. I didn't think of this when I was
> writing the game, and neither did my playtesters. Do you think it
> would be a good idea? How would you set it up -- cheat and look at the
> game dict? Deliberately put in implemented "unimplemented" objects?

That's what I had in mind. I think the best way would be to hack the
library so that whenever a standard message is printed, it's followed by
"[If you don't know what this message means, type "help messages"]", and
"help messages" then explains them. That might even be part of the
library itself, so that any game would have the same help available.

> > Finally, I think that a tutorial game should explain the consept of wide
> > versus tall inventory (just like brief versus verbose descriptions).
>
> I can't imagine how that would be worthwhile. It's an obscure corner
> of the Inform library which very few people use.

Do you mean players or authors? I don't know about authors, but I think
this is a player preference (I prefer tall), so new players should be
made aware of it. Then they can ignore it if they don't care about it.

--
Esa Peuha
student of mathematics at the University of Helsinki
http://www.helsinki.fi/~peuha/
Anonymous
March 2, 2005 10:20:57 AM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

Well, I haven't actually played Dreamhold, but while we're on the
subject of books... I don't read a whole lot of fantasy, but I found
"The Dark Lord of Derkholm" by Diana Wynne Jones to be an excellent
book; it's funny, but not outrageously so, and it's easy to get
involved with the characters even though the plot itself is almost a
spoof of conventional fantasy.

For a more serious read, "The Hero and the Crown" by Robin McKinley is
an old favorite of mine. (Though I haven't read it in years and I
suppose there's a chance this is just nostalgia talking...)
Anonymous
March 2, 2005 10:52:56 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

lumin_orb@hotmail.com wrote:
> Well, I haven't actually played Dreamhold, but while we're on the
> subject of books... I don't read a whole lot of fantasy, but I found
> "The Dark Lord of Derkholm" by Diana Wynne Jones to be an excellent
> book; it's funny, but not outrageously so, and it's easy to get
> involved with the characters even though the plot itself is almost a
> spoof of conventional fantasy.
>
> For a more serious read, "The Hero and the Crown" by Robin McKinley
is
> an old favorite of mine. (Though I haven't read it in years and I
> suppose there's a chance this is just nostalgia talking...)

For people into IF, I'd think that Gene Wolfe would be a natural.
Reading his books can be like solving IF puzzles, except expanded out
into more dimensions, including puzzles about characters' motivation
and goals. His stories can linger in your mind for years, little time
bombs of insight detonating at random as some connection or explanation
suddenly occurs to you.

Reading him requires the same combination of cerebral analysis and
intuitive insight which I guess most of us found pleasure in, when we
first encountered Zork or whatever. (Lebling is a frequent contributor
on the Gene Wolfe mailing list, FWIW.)

Plus his writing is just beautiful, and masterful. People who like it
tend to re-read the books over and over, because they are designed for
it, so that on each re-reading you discover some new connection or
dimension, but also just for the pleasure of experiencing the prose
once more.

(On the other hand, a lot of people find him pretentious and needlessly
obscure.)

Perhaps the easiest entry point is "Fifth Head of Cerberus", which is
beautifully written, vastly complex once you start thinking deeply
about it, and fairly short.
Anonymous
March 7, 2005 4:04:57 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

samwyse <dejanews@email.com> wrote in message:

> I mention this because you seem to have fallen into a common trap. "I
> like stuff that has feature X; this doesn't have that feature; therefore
> this stinks." No, the proper conclusion is that you don't like it, not
> that no one should like it. The paragraph that I've quoted above is one
> of the few places where you haven't fallen into the trap.

Understandable. I re-read what I've written and, argh, a harsh tone
indeed. It was a rant as I said, as if I was kind of blaming the
author for not having liked the game, which "I should have". But I
didn't mean to imply that no one should like it, as it was obvious
from the amount of discussion that many did.

I also overgeneralized when I said that "it's all machines and
mechanical things", when in fact there is only one machine proper and
several objects and puzzles that are not "mechanical". I think it was
sort of an overall final impression by the lack of people; obviously I
was mainly thinking of the two major areas, to the sw and ne.
Emiliano.
Anonymous
March 7, 2005 4:31:07 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

"Jess Knoch" <jessicaknoch@mindspring.com> wrote:

(earlier message)
> Have you enjoyed any works where high fantasy was done *well*?

> Oh, I've read it; I know the Silmarillion and the Histories of Middle Earth,
> the unfinished tales, etc. But when most people read just the trilogy (or
> just The Hobbit), they don't see all of that. They see Gandalf as just a
> wizard who casts spells, and there's some other spell-casting, and that's
> about it. I wasn't sure what the OP thought the "fantasy" elements were in
> Tolkein's work -- I assumed they meant the Lord of the Rings and that's it.
>
> Sorry if I made it seem less than it really is -- I admit I was a bit vexed
> by the fact that the poster really didn't seem to like the fantasy genre
> much, and that Tolkein was the one he pulled out to prove that he did.

Yes, I admit I haven't read much of fantasy, but I like it, or at
least I'm not adverse to it (I loved The Silmarillion, it's a
fantastic one-man-made mithology, as I am fascinated by mithologies,
greek, roman, south american, etc).

But you're are right, not much beyond Tolkien. I came across and read
some of Terry Pratchett's books but found his style and word uses more
interesting than the stories per se (I can't forget "She came only
wearing a smile"), but maybe I read the not-so-good ones. I read other
minor novels and tried some of the
dragons-swords-elfs-and-exotic-races Tolkien-clones, but didn't find
anything worthwhile.
EMiliano.
Anonymous
March 7, 2005 4:41:23 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

(very late, but..)

Quintin Stone <stone@rps.net> wrote:

> 'tutorial'?" Because if you take the comparison of Dreamhold with Myst
> seriously, then judging by the evidence of Myst's sales to the general
> public, the answer is a resounding 'Yes'.

Not in text, that was my point.
Also, see my reply to samwyse: I overgeneralized when I said it's only
"machines and mechanical things". There is more than that in The
Dreamhold, but somehow it still feels very Myst-like to me (probably
because there's no one around).

Emiliano.
Anonymous
March 7, 2005 6:03:24 PM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

(very late, but...)

"Ornithopter" <ornithopter@gmail.com> wrote in message:



> Surely, you don't deny that emotion can be experienced in the absence

> of other people? I would argue that the "emotional adjectivizing" is

> the PC projecting emotions on to his surroundings to compensate for

> his own loneliness.

>

> Consider: [...]



Interesting! I admit that I didn´t get that at all...



> In some of the other phrases you have listed I can't understand what

> you saw wrong with them at all. "Sprays of dried leaves, flowers, and

> seed pods" for example seems like a very straight forward description



I forgot to say that I´m not a native English speaker, so take my
reservations regarding word usage with reservation! 'Spray' in this
context (not in a liquid/gas sense) was the one case I particularly
thought was a bit too much of a stretch, but maybe it´s just that I´ve
never found it used this way before. "Sprays of leaves and flowers"
seems kinda strange to me, maybe because the objects are not MOVING,
they are static.



> of a bouquet. ""Stalactites are the ones on the ceiling. Stalagmites

> are the ones on the floor. You don't know how you know this" (which

> you seem to find especially aesthetically offensive) seems to me to be

> perfectly natural, especially given the PC's amnesia.



Yes, the "you don´t know..." makes perfect sense in face of the
amnesia, but I just thought at first it was such a trivial thing to
know (stalactites and stalagmites), much like sky and walls, that
wouldn´t warrant this sort of reflection. But yeah, there´s nothing
wrong with the sentence.



> The game does tell a story, it is simply one that does not involve

> other people. This doesn't make it a not-story, just as removing

> trees from a painting doesn't make it a not-landscape. Furthermore,

> it is a tutorial for all types new players of IF. Perhaps you have

> forgotten you first experiences with IF, but the interface was not as

> obvious as it seems to you now.



I think I was kind of advocating that newbies (anyone actually) would
find it easier to play a game which would set out a clear motivation
at the beginning, with people and events occurring from time to time
in the game that would guide them where to go and what to do. For
example, the tutorial voice could be an NPC, your friend, that would
follow you and (proactively) say, "Hey, we have to solve this!", "We
have to go to xxx", "This doesn't seem useful", etc. Just a different
idea, and of course it's all easier to say than to do.



> > In text, I want to see (but maybe that's just ME of course!!) at

> least some

> > story, plot, characterization and people, besides objects.

>

> So you're bringing standards you use to judge works of one medium to

> bear on another.



Maybe. Many other games have that already. But yes, it was sort of
unfair to imply that "hey, this game should've been this way, with
story, people, etc" as if all IF should be this way, or should have
this standard.


> > It has a vague static backstory that is left

> > intentionally unexplained so that players (the fans) can have endless

> > speculations as to the secret "symbolisms" and "meanings" behind it.

> > Which the author probably never bothered to come up with, or in any

> case

> > is likely to be wildly divergent and simpler than the discussion it

> > generates.

>

> Possible, though cynical.



Sure. This is the risk you run with a profound story that is left
unexplained for interpretation. Either you "connect" to it and trust
it, or you get more and more disbelieving and end up saying cynically
it's a load of "mumbo jumbo". :) 



> It seems to be that puzzles in a fantasy setting need to take special

> care to remain understandable. Because there need be no logical

> explanation for the workings of a puzzle, it would be quite simple to

> make a totally irrational or even random puzzle, chalk it up to magic

> and wash your hands of the matter.



Ah, but this is much easier than coming up with "real-life" stories
and puzzles. There are many more pitfalls there: the story was
contrived, "people would never do that", "things cannot be this way",
etc. You can always explain why things are how they are in a fantasy
setting.

But I was not complaining of the game in this aspect, my rant about
fantasy was in general, to the sort of: exotica is always more
interesting, or at least, it's always easier to make something
interesting. And of course, it IS certainly more interesting than "my
own apartment"-, or "my workplace"-games. :) 


> I think you have forgotten how awkward learning to play interactive

> fiction can be. Help with such "cosmetic, interface features" that

> new players need the most help. Motivation is provided by wanting to

> discover your (the PC's) identity, and the story is the how you go

> about doing so. Easier puzzles on the other hand would do almost

> nothing to help new players, and is an issue almost totally unrelated

> to introducing new players to IF, especially in this case since the

> required puzzles are all fairy simple.



(not related to The Dreamhold anymore, as it's a tutorial)
Hum, I don't think the main problem in playing IF games is in lerning
the commands, not even in the syntax in general, as modern games have
become very user-friendly and tend to cover plenty of possibilities.
The main problem in many games, I think (IMO), is that much too
frequently, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO anymore, generally because you
missed something, or you didn't know how to solve a puzzle that
advances the story or opens up another branch of the story (one thing
I forgot to say previously, I was always using "puzzle" in the ample
sense of "obstacles to advance the story", the "i-story" if you like:
the interactive story the PC is making). It's at those times that you
go for the hints or the solution.

The suggestion I can think of and was kind of hammering in that post
to make things easier for beginners (and veterans alike) to the point
that they can really be satisfied to have reached the end of a game
without hints or other help (and without concerning myself in how
DIFFICULT it is :) ) is to HEDGE the player, almost but not quite to
the point of being spoonfed, with MORE information, more story,
motivation, characterization, more people around saying "we should do
this, etc" (subtler of course!), events happening from time to time
advancing something of the story in order to make things clearer (if,
say, it's something that was going to happen anyway), even if it makes
things clearer for the player that she didn't do something that she
ought to, etc.

This is nothing new, in fact many games are moving in this direction.


> Good luck with the move!



Thanks, 'twas smooth despite going from snow to heat...

Emiliano.
Anonymous
March 8, 2005 3:31:26 AM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

In article <c92243a.0503071503.2c7432bb@posting.google.com>,
Emiliano Padilha <emiliano@inf.ufrgs.br> wrote:
>"Ornithopter" <ornithopter@gmail.com> wrote in message:
>> In some of the other phrases you have listed I can't understand what
>> you saw wrong with them at all. "Sprays of dried leaves, flowers, and
>> seed pods" for example seems like a very straight forward description
>
>I forgot to say that I´m not a native English speaker, so take my
>reservations regarding word usage with reservation! 'Spray' in this
>context (not in a liquid/gas sense) was the one case I particularly
>thought was a bit too much of a stretch, but maybe it´s just that I´ve
>never found it used this way before. "Sprays of leaves and flowers"
>seems kinda strange to me, maybe because the objects are not MOVING,
>they are static.

I had figured out from that and some other hints that English wasn't
your native language. Anyway, please take our assurances that this
usage of "spray" is commonplace in English, and not Zarf's invention
at all. (I'm pretty sure that this is the only such phrase out
of the ones you didn't like, though.)

--
David Goldfarb |"Come on, characters with super-strength don't
goldfarb@ocf.berkeley.edu | *do* inertia! Or leverage."
goldfarb@csua.berkeley.edu | -- Dani Zweig
March 8, 2005 8:03:55 AM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

On or about 3/7/2005 5:03 PM, Emiliano Padilha did proclaim:

> I forgot to say that I´m not a native English speaker, so take my
> reservations regarding word usage with reservation! 'Spray' in this
> context (not in a liquid/gas sense) was the one case I particularly
> thought was a bit too much of a stretch, but maybe it´s just that I´ve
> never found it used this way before. "Sprays of leaves and flowers"
> seems kinda strange to me, maybe because the objects are not MOVING,
> they are static.

Having worked in a florist's shop, I assure you that this is very common
usage. I'll concede, though, that I can't think of any other non-fluid
that I'd describe with 'spray'. Ah-ha! The two meanings derive from
different sources: http://www.answers.com/spray&r=67
Anonymous
March 14, 2005 5:22:27 AM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

You wanna see truly bad prose? Check out Regina's Song by David and
Leigh Eddings.

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry...

This features a rewiew I wrote when I was still livid from reading the
book. I didn't dream they would actually put it up, as I later felt I
was a little too personal.
March 14, 2005 5:46:26 AM

Archived from groups: rec.games.int-fiction (More info?)

On or about 3/13/2005 2:57 PM, JohnnyMrNinja did proclaim:

> And as far as IF, part of any video game, or book, is escapism. The
> further you can get from who you normally are the better. Who wants to
> play a game called "Make Sure to File You Taxes!" or "Ow, My Back!" If
> you want your very own text adventure based on the real world, try
> e-mail. It's mutiplayer, too.

Obviously, you've never played Douglas Adams' game Bureaucracy, in which
you have to file a change-of-address notice.

http://www.csd.uwo.ca/Infocom/Articles/NZT/Tslspr87.htm...
!