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Infocom Text Adventures

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Karlok - 14 March 2021 12:10 AM

Vicious Cycles - certainly not the greatest game ever, but still interesting imo and it fits the requirements of easy and short. The many excellent hard text adventures that take many hours to solve are out of the question for this type of CP.
Hadean Lands - Andrew Plotkin also made Spider and Web, which we already played and loved. Hadean Lands is totally different. Rituals, alchemy and stuff. Hard. I tried it six years ago and haven’t finished it. Other people rave about it.
One of Emily Short‘s games - she is a well-known member of the IF community and her games won lots of awards. They are supposed to be very clever, highbrow, intellectual, philosophical. I couldn’t recommend a specific game, because I never finished one. I started Savoir Faire last year, which looked promising, but I got distracted.
One of Infocom’s ancient adventures - I own the entire collection, so we could do an easy one, like Wishbringer or Planetfall.
Other suggestions?

I’d be up for Counterfeit Monkey or Vicious Cycles.

I started playing Planetfall years ago and never got very far. There’s a lot of hopping from location to location, and the feedback is very concise (e.g. You’re at a corridor. You see a wrench. You can go east or south) leaving me the impression it could be tedious for this format. Then again, I might be wrong.

Wishbringer I would happily participate in.

     
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Vicious Cycles - giom, Luhr
Counterfeit Monkey - pegbiter, Luhr
[Hadean Lands - giom, pegbiter]
Planetfall - pegbiter
Wishbringer - Luhr

     

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I am the leader, I have to act like one, right?  Cool

Okay, so Timovieman has not played enough text adventures to know what he prefers and I’m assuming the same goes for Cicerone. Luhr, Pegbiter, giom and I have to decide which game we’re going to play: Vicious Cycles or Counterfeit Monkey. Two votes each.

Hmmm. Unless anybody objects (please feel free!) I’ll be your Kamala Harris and cast a decisive vote. Counterfeit Monkey looks very intriguing and I’d love to play it.

PS: TimovieMan and Pegbiter, you both participate in the Keepsake CP. Is that a problem?

     

Nothing but endless sea… no sign of America yet… unless it’s on the other side of the boat… is that how boats work? - Veronica, Overboard!

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Good choice! I haven’t tried playing a text adventure as a group before, so I’m quite excited about it.

I don’t think taking part in two simultaneous playthroughs will be a problem for me. I guess this one will require us to check in quite often, whereas Keepsake will probably make me sit down with it multiple hours but only once or twice a week.

     
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Karlok - 16 March 2021 04:29 PM

PS: TimovieMan and Pegbiter, you both participate in the Keepsake CP. Is that a problem?

It shouldn’t be for me. Forum time and game time have separate slots on my calendar, and this would still count as forum time. Tongue

     

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Yay! I’m quite excited about this. Grin

The previous playthroughs looked like so much fun. And thank you for offering to lead Karlok, I imagine the cut-and-paste work isn’t the easiest job.

     
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Karlok - 16 March 2021 04:29 PM

I am the leader, I have to act like one, right?  Cool

Okay, so Timovieman has not played enough text adventures to know what he prefers and I’m assuming the same goes for Cicerone. Luhr, Pegbiter, giom and I have to decide which game we’re going to play: Vicious Cycles or Counterfeit Monkey. Two votes each.

Hmmm. Unless anybody objects (please feel free!) I’ll be your Kamala Harris and cast a decisive vote. Counterfeit Monkey looks very intriguing and I’d love to play it.

PS: TimovieMan and Pegbiter, you both participate in the Keepsake CP. Is that a problem?

Yay, excited about this starting again Smile Counterfeit Monkey sounds great!

 

     
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It’s been interesting following all of the recent playthroughs on the forums (without myself participating - too little time!), as someone with very little experience with text adventures, and thinking about their place in the adventure gaming world.

They really do strike me as the ‘fine wines’ of gaming - while most games have us prancing around fantasy worlds that might have captured my interest as a 6 year old, solving puzzles which are little more advanced than noughts and crosses, and largely reading like children’s books - these games actually seem to be designed for adults. (That’s the biggest shock - they’re actually *well written!!!*)

And yet, most of us refuse to play them, or even consider playing them. Why? Is it because we see reading as something that is hard work and staring at pictures as something easier? I guess that could be it. There are quite a few grown adults I’ve come across who prefer reading comics than novels. But I don’t know that they would rule out reading a novel entirely just because it lacks images.

Now, I include myself in the group who has in the past preferred to drink cheap beer over the fine wines of the world. People who drink cheap beer because they can’t afford fine wine are perfectly justified in their choice of beverage - and yet to hear that the fine wines of the adventure gaming world are mostly available for free and still remain unplayed by probably 99% of adventure gamers… well, what’s up with *that*?

     
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cyfoyjvx - 17 April 2021 10:11 PM

It’s been interesting following all of the recent playthroughs on the forums (without myself participating - too little time!), as someone with very little experience with text adventures, and thinking about their place in the adventure gaming world.

They really do strike me as the ‘fine wines’ of gaming - while most games have us prancing around fantasy worlds that might have captured my interest as a 6 year old, solving puzzles which are little more advanced than noughts and crosses, and largely reading like children’s books - these games actually seem to be designed for adults. (That’s the biggest shock - they’re actually *well written!!!*)

And yet, most of us refuse to play them, or even consider playing them. Why? Is it because we see reading as something that is hard work and staring at pictures as something easier? I guess that could be it. There are quite a few grown adults I’ve come across who prefer reading comics than novels. But I don’t know that they would rule out reading a novel entirely just because it lacks images.

Now, I include myself in the group who has in the past preferred to drink cheap beer over the fine wines of the world. People who drink cheap beer because they can’t afford fine wine are perfectly justified in their choice of beverage - and yet to hear that the fine wines of the adventure gaming world are mostly available for free and still remain unplayed by probably 99% of adventure gamers… well, what’s up with *that*?

Some valid points, but I don’t think you can just deny the value of pretty graphics. True, I’ve often bought a graphical adventure based purely on how it looks, and ended up disappointed because the rest of the game was complete crap. Does that mean someone else won’t get a lot of enjoyment out of those scenes? Not at all.

     
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cyfoyjvx - 17 April 2021 10:11 PM

It’s been interesting following all of the recent playthroughs on the forums (without myself participating - too little time!), as someone with very little experience with text adventures, and thinking about their place in the adventure gaming world.

They really do strike me as the ‘fine wines’ of gaming - while most games have us prancing around fantasy worlds that might have captured my interest as a 6 year old, solving puzzles which are little more advanced than noughts and crosses, and largely reading like children’s books - these games actually seem to be designed for adults. (That’s the biggest shock - they’re actually *well written!!!*)

And yet, most of us refuse to play them, or even consider playing them. Why? Is it because we see reading as something that is hard work and staring at pictures as something easier? I guess that could be it. There are quite a few grown adults I’ve come across who prefer reading comics than novels. But I don’t know that they would rule out reading a novel entirely just because it lacks images.

Now, I include myself in the group who has in the past preferred to drink cheap beer over the fine wines of the world. People who drink cheap beer because they can’t afford fine wine are perfectly justified in their choice of beverage - and yet to hear that the fine wines of the adventure gaming world are mostly available for free and still remain unplayed by probably 99% of adventure gamers… well, what’s up with *that*?

Yes, I think that text adventures are more intimidating, especially to those that haven’t tried them, than graphic adventures. Even the parser interface married to a graphical adventure game (ala KQ IV) is more intimidating than a point and click style graphic adventure.
#1 - This is the TL;DR (oh gosh, how I hate that expression) generation. Even in the exceptionally erudite community of adventure game fans, there is still a preference to being able to look at a screen and *see* the scene you are in, rather than having to discover it through reading—and then remember it through re-reading. A picture is not always worth a thousand words, but it is usually easier.
#2 - Using a point and click interface allows the lost player to vaguely approximate what he wants to do. *I think that I need to interact with this person or object, but I’m not sure exactly how. I can click on it with a hand, an eye, an ear, and let the game intuit my hunch, if it was correct.* Obviously, there is a limit to this technique—approximation at best, brute forcing at worst—when you have to type in the exact command that corresponds to the action you wish to try. The closest thing would be to keep on typing ‘use A with Z; use B with Z, use C with Z’ etc. Even then, the word ‘use’ might not be correct. So, text interface is certainly more challenging—and more time consuming—than a click interface.
#3 - Text is great because it leaves all the graphics to the imagination. The flipside is that text leaves all of the graphics to the imagination. I know that many adventure games are better at immersing and transporting me into their worlds because of their beautiful graphics. On the other hand, just as many would be more immersive if they were text only. Depends on the world, depends on the writing, depends on the story, depends on the graphics/art, etc.
#4 - The golden age of text adventures was back when adventure game design, graphic and otherwise, was still in its harshly challenging archaic mode. Just like many graphic adventure classics are viewed by a large demographic of gamers as being long outmoded, so too but more-so text adventures.

There are many other reasons why text is not embraced by game players, even typically wise and learned adventure game players.  However, I do believe that, while all the above reasons are subjectively valid, many people who have not given text adventures a try would be surprised by how accessible and enjoyable many of them are. I’m not an expert on the subject by any means—I’ve played a few Legend games, and dabbled in a few others, but once you pick up the tricks of the trade, they are not too much different from their point ‘n clicky brethren.

     

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cyfoyjvx - 17 April 2021 10:11 PM

It’s been interesting following all of the recent playthroughs on the forums (without myself participating - too little time!), as someone with very little experience with text adventures, and thinking about their place in the adventure gaming world.

They really do strike me as the ‘fine wines’ of gaming - while most games have us prancing around fantasy worlds that might have captured my interest as a 6 year old, solving puzzles which are little more advanced than noughts and crosses, and largely reading like children’s books - these games actually seem to be designed for adults. (That’s the biggest shock - they’re actually *well written!!!*)

And yet, most of us refuse to play them, or even consider playing them. Why? Is it because we see reading as something that is hard work and staring at pictures as something easier? I guess that could be it. There are quite a few grown adults I’ve come across who prefer reading comics than novels. But I don’t know that they would rule out reading a novel entirely just because it lacks images.

Now, I include myself in the group who has in the past preferred to drink cheap beer over the fine wines of the world. People who drink cheap beer because they can’t afford fine wine are perfectly justified in their choice of beverage - and yet to hear that the fine wines of the adventure gaming world are mostly available for free and still remain unplayed by probably 99% of adventure gamers… well, what’s up with *that*?

Personally, I just generally prefer when mediums of storytelling mostly stick to their “pure” form. I like films that I watch, books that I read, and games that I play, aka interactive ones.

I like text adventures on occasion, but the it’s a blend of a book (where you get no visuals) and a game (where you do get to be in control of your character), so it’s something I have to be really in the mood for. Most of the time - I’d rather just read a novel or play something that will take me away with its picture as much as the story (doesn’t mean AAA graphics). Maybe, it’s because when I got introduced to adventures they already had graphic element to them, and it’s something that I associate with a game?

But for me, it doesn’t really have to do with cheap beer vs fine wine argument. I’m an avid reader, and since I do it a lot - when I reach for a game, I’m looking for a different experience than what I already engage in on the regular. I don’t see text-adventures as “fine wines” of adventure, I see them as a sub-genre, and I wouldn’t compare a text adventure to a graphic adventure and say that text adventures is somehow a sign of an exquisite taste just because there’s lots of text and you have to supply the picture.

I’m quite sure that if you’ll take a portion of adventure gaming community that also enjoys reading - not all of them are going to be text adventure aficionados, and some will, probably, not play them at all, despite that they engage in “hard work of reading” constantly and for pleasure. I do believe that higher intelligence level is required to enjoy those, but as with everything else - it’s also a matter of taste. 

 

     
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Baron_Blubba - 18 April 2021 01:35 PM

#1 - This is the TL;DR (oh gosh, how I hate that expression) generation. Even in the exceptionally erudite community of adventure game fans, there is still a preference to being able to look at a screen and *see* the scene you are in, rather than having to discover it through reading—and then remember it through re-reading. A picture is not always worth a thousand words, but it is usually easier.

Right. I can’t argue with that. There’s a rush of pleasure chemicals to the brain that one gets with a graphical scene that you just don’t get with looking at a slab of text.

My problem with this is that if we are unconsciously associating beautiful visuals with pleasure, then our idea of what is a ‘good game’ can come to be substituted with a series of beautiful looking screens, neglecting other aspects of the game like the puzzles, gameplay, story, atmosphere. And although this is less likely to be an issue for more seasoned adventure gamers like on this site, I don’t think it’s too controversial to say there are a significant number of developers taking advantage of this.

#2 - Using a point and click interface allows the lost player to vaguely approximate what he wants to do. *I think that I need to interact with this person or object, but I’m not sure exactly how. I can click on it with a hand, an eye, an ear, and let the game intuit my hunch, if it was correct.* Obviously, there is a limit to this technique—approximation at best, brute forcing at worst—when you have to type in the exact command that corresponds to the action you wish to try. The closest thing would be to keep on typing ‘use A with Z; use B with Z, use C with Z’ etc. Even then, the word ‘use’ might not be correct. So, text interface is certainly more challenging—and more time consuming—than a click interface.

Yes, and this is well worth pointing out. When the transition from specific verbs like ‘walk to, pick up, push/pull, etc..’ to the dual look/use point and click interface occurred, I noticed I started to become more disengaged with the games that used that interface. It was almost like losing a part of my agency - letting the game or the character decide what to do, instead of me. Some people might see this as a positive thing; for myself and others it is another shift towards the game playing itself.

#3 - Text is great because it leaves all the graphics to the imagination. The flipside is that text leaves all of the graphics to the imagination. I know that many adventure games are better at immersing and transporting me into their worlds because of their beautiful graphics. On the other hand, just as many would be more immersive if they were text only. Depends on the world, depends on the writing, depends on the story, depends on the graphics/art, etc.

I can agree with this. I don’t think either graphics or text are more or less immersive on their own. But that’s discounting the fact that we’re playing a game. Not just looking at pictures or reading text.

#4 - The golden age of text adventures was back when adventure game design, graphic and otherwise, was still in its harshly challenging archaic mode. Just like many graphic adventure classics are viewed by a large demographic of gamers as being long outmoded, so too but more-so text adventures.

I guess so. I haven’t played many of those older games. If that’s the case, then couldn’t you argue that they’ve evolved a lot more - as games - than their graphical counterparts? That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions, of course.

 

     
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DCast - 18 April 2021 04:37 PM

Personally, I just generally prefer when mediums of storytelling mostly stick to their “pure” form. I like films that I watch, books that I read, and games that I play, aka interactive ones.

I like text adventures on occasion, but the it’s a blend of a book (where you get no visuals) and a game (where you do get to be in control of your character), so it’s something I have to be really in the mood for. Most of the time - I’d rather just read a novel or play something that will take me away with its picture as much as the story (doesn’t mean AAA graphics). Maybe, it’s because when I got introduced to adventures they already had graphic element to them, and it’s something that I associate with a game?

I don’t get this argument. Wouldn’t the pure form of a graphic adventure be a film? Sure, you could read a D&D book instead of playing Zork, but then you could just watch Pirates of the Caribbean instead of playing Monkey Island.

But for me, it doesn’t really have to do with cheap beer vs fine wine argument. I’m an avid reader, and since I do it a lot - when I reach for a game, I’m looking for a different experience than what I already engage in on the regular. I don’t see text-adventures as “fine wines” of adventure, I see them as a sub-genre, and I wouldn’t compare a text adventure to a graphic adventure and say that text adventures is somehow a sign of an exquisite taste just because there’s lots of text and you have to supply the picture.

I’m quite sure that if you’ll take a portion of adventure gaming community that also enjoys reading - not all of them are going to be text adventure aficionados, and some will, probably, not play them at all, despite that they engage in “hard work of reading” constantly and for pleasure. I do believe that higher intelligence level is required to enjoy those, but as with everything else - it’s also a matter of taste.

I don’t think I meant to say that one or the other format is superior as a subgenre. It just struck me that there was a level of writing and maturity there in the games themselves that I haven’t seen in graphical adventures except on a very rare basis.

     
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cyfoyjvx - 18 April 2021 11:28 PM

I don’t get this argument. Wouldn’t the pure form of a graphic adventure be a film? Sure, you could read a D&D book instead of playing Zork, but then you could just watch Pirates of the Caribbean instead of playing Monkey Island.


No, I don’t think so. I see a game as a medium that involves interaction (however minimal). Graphic adventure is a part of the medium that is “games”. So asking wouldn’t the pure form of a graphic adventure be a film is like asking wouldn’t the pure form of a game be a film? It wouldn’t. Just like pure form of film wouldn’t be literature. Sure, one historically developed from another, but at this point - literature, cinematography and games have very distinct forms and heavy emphasis on something that the others don’t bring.

Games are unique in a way that it’s the only medium allowing for direct engagement of the player. That condition would be a part of “pure” form for me.

I was answering about my personal preferences - I like to read books much more then I like to “read” text adventures. (I do enjoy them from time to time, there are some great ones) And that was my response to your suggestion that, perhaps, “we see reading as hard work and staring at pictures as something easier”. I don’t, I like reading. But when it comes to playing I like visual component greatly. I’m guessing, partially, it’s because I’m craving something different when I want to play and “the picture” brings this novelty, and, partially, because first games I’ve ever played always involved picture of some kind. Rudimentary, sure, but there was things on the screen that were moving, simple backgrounds I could look at, stuff I could move around… Adventures based on walls of text came (to me) much later, so when it comes to games - I want to “see” as much as “read”.


As far as level of writing and maturity… Well, it’s trickier to show a “level of writing” when you have a complex visual element going on as oppose to game being just writing. Text adventures are based on that, so if they fail that part, then there’s very little left to the game. When it comes to graphic adventures, I think it transcends from level of writing to level of storytelling. While there are plenty of developers that prefer to build their game around a different element - strong puzzles/visuals/atmosphere and pay less attention to the writing (and there are people who prefer to play them as well), there are still plenty of mature, well-written graphic adventures out there. When it comes to writing, they just simply have less in quantity, but it doesn’t mean they lose quality. I’d argue it’s a lot harder to demonstrate high quality level of writing when the visual component is also present, because you can no longer just write a descriptive paragraph or give your character endless lines of dialogue, you have to show what you want to say through picture, using less words and, therefore, make every line/screen count. This is something games have in common with cinema that also have to employ interesting shots to express mood or feelings without an ability to throw a a mini-essay on the screen.

I guess, I saw your post as something that speculates about graphic element making games “easier” for people - to consume, to engage with, to think about and to play, and I don’t think it’s the case. I know plenty of avid readers who enjoy that activity greatly and ,yet, when it comes to games - text adventures wouldn’t be their first (or second or even third) choice. So I think it must be something else other than “reading is harder than looking at the picture” there. Or, at least, something in addition to that argument, because, certainly, it could be the case for some people as well.

     
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Mike the Wino will probably agree with me: there’s plenty of cheap wine in the world.

Cheap red wine used to be my jam, by the way. Now I occasionally drink a craft beer, a lot of them are quite interesting.

I’m not just trying to be facetious, the analogy still works: there are graphic adventure games that really make you think and feel, by way of well-thought-out puzzles and plots, interesting themes, dilemmas, etc. There are text adventures that remain very surface level throughout. But it’s quite possible that you’re right: I’ve never heard of a beer cellar, for example. Really good wine has it’s own playing field.

I recently received some good advice: play “Spider and Web”. I’m still figuring out (what seem to be) the final puzzles of the game. It has wrinkled my brain.

To repeat another comment by Karlok that really made sense to me: text adventures have an image problem. Rediscovering them has been a really good experience for me and I think there are a couple of fellow forum members willing to help with tips and suggestions. There will probably be a Community Playthrough in the near future as well.

And finally, a thought that is actually my own: text adventures tend to be created for the sole purpose of making something interesting. From what I can tell, most of them are free. It’s an accessible medium for creative writers. The whole procedure of developing graphics, sounds, music and code is a huge undertaking. It’s quite a lot of effort to make something high quality, with some length and depth. This means that a game often requires a) collaboration and b) large investments from it’s creator(s). It’s hard to do that for free, so unsurprisingly, it’s a more commercial sub-genre of adventure games. Since AG’s don’t have a huge audience to begin with, they tend to be tailored more towards broad appeal. They tend to cater more to nostalgia and popular trends in media. Again, there are a lot of creative people with good ideas working on graphic adventure games. Free doesn’t mean good and commercial doesn’t automatically mean schlocky. I’s not a black-and-white situation, but I think it does matter.

     

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