sábado, 23 de Fevereiro de 2013

Verbous Verbosity

I used to be a firm defender of verbosity in IF. I'm playing a text game, I want text, I would say. I want detailed room descriptions, I want a psychological background, I want all the text you can throw at me!

Now I'm not so sure.

The thing is, while I still enjoy well-written prose, when I play IF I am interacting with the world. I'm not just passively reading a room description like in static fiction; I'm also scanning for items I can interact with. And lately (I've bought an iPod Touch just so I could play IF on the go, and am finally getting around to play Glulx games properly, and of course they tend to have more text because they have next to no limitations...) I've been noticing that verbose games can be a bit of a pain.

It turns out that verbose room descriptions are wonderful mood-setters but really lousy when you're actually trying to solve the damn game. Because you have to keep re-reading the text. And however genial it is, it does grow dull.

There is, naturally, a trend towards the verbosity nowadays. There are no hard limits anymore. The budding writers in IF aspire to write, especially with the advent of Inform 7, marketed especially for writers-not-programmers. The result are games which...

...well, games which really, really wanted to be IF.

I should give practical examples. Well, most recently I'm played "Broken Legs", which I just couldn't get into. The authorial voice was much too strong and much too distasteful for me, I had zero motivation, and sorting out the interactive bits from the rest of the text was a bit of a chore (mind you, apart from that, the prose was great - if it were static fiction I'd have loved it). "Bonehead" was too baseball-y for me, and once I got into the ballpark it got to be too much, but I already had the feeling I was reading static fiction. "Calm" did a much better job, and even emphasised important keywords so as to help, but "Calm" was more old-school than the others and in this one it was glaring - as I played I kept wishing to enter NORMAL mode instead of verbose.

But some games forbid that. And if I do that, how do I know I won't miss some vital room description change?

I used to think VERBOSE = DEFAULT was a good thing. Not any more, I don't. I don't carefully examine a room every time I enter it, and if I did, I would be as bored as I am when I have to go through the same rooms in IF over twenty times and always have that description (in a modern game, a LONG descriptions) presented to me. But the alternative is to risk not being shown a change in the room!

There is a thread currently in the IntFiction Forums about a SEMIVERBOSE mode, which would work like NORMAL but re-print the description if something about it changed. I think it's bloody brilliant.

There's a lot to be said about the functional prose of yesteryear, but it doesn't have to be that sparse. No one doubts Emily Short's gift as a writer, or Zarf's, or Cadre's, or Reed's, or so many other that we are very lucky to have. I can't think of a game I played by any of them where I felt there was simply too much text. But they don't underdo it, either.

I suppose it's only natural, it has to do with mastery of the medium. A good IF author will balance the right amount of prose, as well as the right amount of interactivity. That's bloody hard, and makes for a bloody wonderful game. Also, we're in a bit of a backlash against the yesteryear way of doing things.

Personally, I think we're taking the backlash too far, in some instances. Functional prose can be effective, funny, creepy, suspenseful. A well-placed hunger or inventory limit can be at the heart of a segment. Puzzles that the player has to solve don't have to be a bogeyman - as long as the player is given the means to solve them.

So yeah. Give me NORMAL mode anytime, especially in a game with more than five rooms. Or you'll have me skimming text even before we get to the interesting bits.

Mind you, I have nothing against cutscenes. Unlike room descriptions, those I can just sit back and enjoy. :)

terça-feira, 12 de Fevereiro de 2013

Gargantuan Pack Gets Even More Gargantuany!


(let me know if the link doesn't work, I'm new to this Dropbox thing)


I recently bought an iPod touch so I could play IF on the move. So that prompted me to add all the Glulx games I add to my mobile collection, and to include some PDFs and even the web-based games I had been able to download (as the iPod touch can run those).

The result is the collection I now bring to you. You should know it's 1.9Gb, and I chose Dropbox because I hear it's the best free filesharing system currently out there, especially for such files as big as this.

The following caveats/notes apply:

* Included in this pack are English, French, Spanish and Italian games. When translations were available, I gave preference to the original language - if it's not English and an english version is available, both are supplied. If it's a foreign translation of an English game, I scrapped the translation. If both versions are non-English, chances are I kept both.
 * Blorbed files are kept blorbed, unlike my previous collection, because my interpreter of choice - iFrotz - can read them.
 * Playfic games - apart from Nautilisia, and maybe some other high-profile game or two - are NOT included, because until the author of Playfic (an otherwise superb utility) deigns to allow us access to older works, it's impossible to fully sort and collect them. So I'm not trying.
 * This is a personal collection. As such, you'll find a few artifacts, like used saved games, or extraneous files.
 * Includes Infocom, Scott Adams and Phoenix/Topologika games. As far as I know, the documentation is included - at least, as much as I could find.
    * And speaking of Scott Adams, a work of caution - Savage Island Pt 1 is sadly known to suffer from a faulty conversion and is unwinnable in its Inform form. Worse yet, God knows how many other Scott Adams games suffered from the same fate. Play at your own risk (but that's a standard caveat for any SA game, anyway)
 * If this pack is not, at this date, complete, please do let me know. Please do.
 * Be aware that some games will not work with some interpreters, and I expect some of these might not work in any mobile environment at all. But if you just want a huge collection for your desktop, then you should be a-OK.
 * If some games are not up to date... well, blame the author for not announcing it properly. I tried to be as up-to-date as possible. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find the latest versions of some games, particularly French games. And those that come in Glulx format and ZCode format, where the ZCode release number is higher than the Glulx one? Nightmarish.
 * z6 games ARE included. This is because the maintainer of iFrotz has stated that he would like to support this format, in the future, and I thought I'd might as well make sure the games are there when he did!
 * I don't plan on updating this list - it's not supposed to be an archive, just something I finished today and wanted to share. In case, you know, someone else had the hankering for a complete collection of games for their mobile. Could happen. Maybe.
 * Naturally, this collection is about 1% masterpieces, 14% great pieces, and 60% solid crap (with the remainder going between great and not so great. Also, I'm guesstimating like hell). Be warned.
 * Also included are the games known as the "University of Michigan Dearborn CIS 487 games" (see http://groups.engin.umd.umich.edu/CIS/course.des/cis487/z5/index.php). I don't know anything about them, but I can guess that they are end-of-term projects from students. I haven't played them all but I've played enough to say that none are spectacular, and quite a few are atrocious - but mostly because it seems the authors aren't really as familiar with IF conventions as they should be. Taking that in mind, it should be possible to appreciate some of these pieces.
 * There is an utility for "ZCoding" Quill/PAW games (once-popular game-authoring systems for Spectrum and Commodore). I tried it out once. It didn't work very well for me, and besides, who knows how much those games rely on their graphics, which were lost in the conversion. So I chose not to "ZCodify" them... but if I had, you can bet they'd be here too.
 * Currently, there may be some AIF games missing, as I only realised a couple of days ago that my AIF collection wasn't entirely complete (I didn't know about the ERIN Newsletter page). Also, I haven't included "Flexible Survival" because that one is currently being updated at a very quick pace which shows no signs of slowing down.

Well... enjoy. :) If you have a mobile interpreter which can play these (I reccommend iFrotz if you can, coupled with FileApp and DiskAid, which is how my collection is organised) have fun! If not, you may still wish to download this as it's, AFAIK, a complete list of Inform/Glulx games.

And again, if you find an omission... do, please, do let me know.