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SV: [gamebooks] Linear Drool

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  • Per Jorner
    From: Guillermo ... Well, as you said, that s one possible format for designing gamebooks. No one s obligated to love or hate it. ... That s why I took care to
    Message 1 of 7 , Nov 5 1:07 PM
      From: Guillermo

      >In principle,
      >there is nothing wrong if a book consists mostly (or even entirely) of
      >figuring the correct choice to deal with the present encounter, as
      >long as the choice seems logical.

      Well, as you said, that's one possible format for designing gamebooks. No
      one's obligated to love or hate it.

      >I also think you are overgeneralizing, since in the second book, there
      >are several instances where what you did / collected before do indeed
      >affect what happens later

      That's why I took care to specify that I was talking about the first book
      in most cases. Sure, a handful of collectibles in a book is a step up from
      none. I should point out that when I wrote about the second book that "the
      flaws of the first title ... only become more evident", I meant that in a
      very literal sense. The first book is at least initially pretty good at
      hiding it. If you then figure it out and go on to the second book
      expecting it to work in the same way, you'll soon get that expectation
      confirmed. In the end though, we're talking about "a lot" and "a lot minus
      two".

      >Overgeneralizing again. You can explore the mine, Shadwick House,
      >Ratgoed, the Underworld, Ausbach's castle, etc.

      Overgeneralizing? Am I not even allowed to refer to the fact that there
      are lots of linear sections in the books because you can point to a few
      that aren't? You're pouncing on the exceptions in order to prove the trend
      wrong. They're not even good exceptions. In Ausbach's castle you start out
      in the same room, can leave by the door or the window but end up in the
      same stairwell, you can then choose to search one room on the way down,
      after which you reach the laboratory, from which you go to the tree, from
      which you arrive at the exit. That's not exploration. It's the same in
      every game. Someone who has consistently avoided entering the side chamber
      in the stairwell could conceivably feel some trepidation at the idea that
      there's a huge section of castle in there that in some future game they
      could suddenly choose to investigate, but sorry, room avoider guy, there
      isn't.

      >Not sure the Sherlock Holmes comparison is very fortunate,
      >though: it's another series about gathering things (even if the
      >'things' are clues and not items).

      The Holmes thing was not meant as a direct comparison, but just to
      illustrate my general point. I had originally written that as a book with
      a mystery plot, WtSS would have done well to break up and incorporate the
      mystery aspect in its gamebook design instead of just steadily uncovering
      it (in a, wait for it, _linear_ fashion), but later deleted it (because it
      seemed irrelevant and because I figured you'd enumerate the exceptions).

      >And like in a Livingstone book,
      >most of the choices consist of either investigating a location or
      >moving on to the next.

      The Livingstone has a lot to answer for.

      >I just thought you were mocking that ending, considering how unfair it
      is.

      Well, yes, I was. Am I usually _not_ shameless when I do that? I must work
      on my mocking.

      >Another one is 'epic'. I swear I'll hit the next geek who uses it
      >without an idea of what it means.

      --adj. 1 of or like an epic. 2 grand, heroic.

      >> I also agree with pretty much everything Demian said and will leave
      >it as
      >> an exercise for the reader to reconcile it with the stuff I wrote
      above.
      >
      >Very hard to do, since what you express seems to be diametrally opposed.

      Evidently we are reading my or his mail very differently.

      >I've read books with these features, but they can be counted with the
      >fingers of one hand. That's why I see the term 'linear' as an
      >umbrella word that can be used for dissing the entire gamebook genre
      >(which would be a big mistake).

      Well, it seems to me that you're guilty of some of the same confusion. The
      gamebook format has an inherent level of linearity, no one disputes that.
      So if someone were to dismiss gamebooks on this basis they would obviously
      be missing the point. It also has an inherent level of non-linearity. This
      means that when we discuss gamebook linearity, we must be talking about
      "in-format linearity", not "absolute linearity". We can't always append
      every statement with a "... for a gamebook". Yet you respond vocally when
      I call a couple of books linear even though it amazes me that anyone could
      claim they aren't. Basically you're falling back on the "absolute
      linearity" definition and using the very existence of choices, no matter
      their nature or significance, to say that the books cannot be called
      linear. You can't have it both ways. Either we look at gamebooks from
      without, in which case they'll all look very linear compared to something
      else and you'll have to live with people dismissing the genre for this
      reason, or we look at them from within with an informed understanding of
      the format (which I'm sure we all prefer), and then we must be able to
      condemn books as being "linear" and even "too linear" even when they
      obviously aren't "absolutely linear".

      From: "greyarea13"

      >As a bit personal trumpet-blowing
      >I'd say Lair of the Troglodytes and Black Lobster both have different
      >endings (even if it is only 1 good and 1 better, not counting INSTANT
      >DEATH), whereas Impudent Peasant! is too much of a catamite to the
      >One True Path cause.

      For some reason I thought Impudent Peasant! was a multiplayer scenario. I
      found the HTML version by accident recently and tried the all-fishing
      path, but ended up being killed by an alligator or some such.

      >In it you play a real-world usurper of King Goldhawk of Karazan,
      >striving to prevent the marriage of the chaos-wizard Darkmoon and his
      >consort Princess Jet, at the behest of the ancient wizard Marris.

      So basically the plot is, Darkmoon Marris Jet?

      >Get this: You've banished Princess Jet to the depths of a broken
      >Trapping Mirror. Darkmoon is more tightly bound than an Analander in
      >a Holding Jacket. Guests (all supposedly hardened Chaotic types) mill
      >around uselessly. What do you do?

      The words "fags and change" come to mind.

      >What you
      >actually do is run away

      Whoa, déjà vu.

      >The
      >recent release of Eye of the Dragon only confirms to me that Ian
      >Livingstone has absolutely no clue what made his stuff sell in the
      >first place, because if he did, he'd still be doing it.

      Zing!

      From: "Leigh L."

      >I'll have to
      >revisit and review it sometime, although this may lead to the
      >shattering of rose-tinted glasses and a tirade of personal abuse
      >towards Paul.

      I see no downside to this scenario.

      From: "Gavin Mitchell"

      >I see a few people on here are talking of Planescape Torment in reverent
      >tones;
      >while I might venture to suggest it has dated badly, it was certainly one
      >of my
      >favourite games

      I wouldn't say it's dated; it had its flaws from the beginning. It's a
      good game.

      > Anyone familiar with either of these?

      Nope, but you may want to check out Pages of Pain by Troy Denning. It's
      said to hold many striking similarities, and Chris Avellone has studiously
      avoided going on the record to confirm or deny accusations of plagiarism.

      > On a final note Knights of the Old Republic I and II were created by
      > many of
      >the same team as Torment,

      Not the first, that was Bioware.

      From: "Eva Tudori"

      > I haven't played KOTOR 1 or 2 but the lead designer is Chris Avellone
      > who pretty much wrote PS:T as well as being involved in Fallout 2 (I
      > think
      > - wasn't there some controversy about that?)
      > He also helped design Baldur's Gate 2 and was the lead designer on
      > Icewind
      > Dale 1 and 2 (more of a hack n slash than any
      > true role playing adventure)

      This isn't entirely correct. CA didn't have anything to do with BG or BG2.
      He wrote the story for BG: Dark Alliance, which is something else
      entirely. He also was not lead designer on IwD2, that was J.E. Sawyer. And
      finally he had nothing to do with the original KotOR. (I happen to know
      all this because of my unsavoury participation in Fallout fandom.)

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------
      Per Jorner aka Finster aka Coffee Dragon (pel@...)
      Hoompage at http://user.tninet.se/~wcw454p

      Dragons are like cats, only bigger, and sometimes they drink coffee.
    • Guillermo
      ... gamebooks. No ... You are making the same mistake Leigh made a lot time ago. To set it straight: whatever you love or hate is none of my business nor
      Message 2 of 7 , Nov 9 11:25 AM
        --- In gamebooks@yahoogroups.com, "Per Jorner" <pel@...> wrote:
        >

        > Well, as you said, that's one possible format for designing
        gamebooks. No
        > one's obligated to love or hate it.



        You are making the same mistake Leigh made a lot time ago. To set it
        straight: whatever you love or hate is none of my business nor
        concerns me, and my responses are not meant to coerce any sort of
        opinion. What happens is that we are, as far as I know, the first
        group of people to actually discuss the genre in a rational
        perspective (which is an essential prerequisite in order to develop
        something resembling serious criticism of it). That's why this kind of
        debates and counter-arguments, which some may find tedious, occur in
        the first place. I argue that the gamebook genre has an identity of
        its own, and concepts borrowed from the roleplaying crowd (such as
        "linearity" and "railroading") ought to be used with much more care
        here. That's all.

        The debate on whether the books mentioned are linear or not, what
        constitutes an exception, etc. is clearly due to a difference in
        perceptions, and I'm pretty happy with that even if we never agree. Do
        not confuse my disagreement with intolerance; I would encourage you to
        post your opinions on Demian's page as well, to feed the debate at least.

        Without the intention of being acidly critical, I find your stance on
        linearity more typical of a person who primarily reads Fighting
        Fantasy books. I also don't agree with your theory of how gamebooks
        should be designed, and I would be happy to detail the reasons in a
        separate essay. I'm aware that not everyone on the list is as eclectic
        as I am when it comes to reading gamebooks; that's fine, but if you
        had a gamebook background more similar to mine you would probably
        understand better where I come from, and why I think some design
        styles are actually valid. For the time being, I suppose I have to
        content myself with agreeing to disagree. This is (on my part, at
        least), friendly debate; there is no need to be distressed over it.

        My comment about geeks needs clarification as well. Since it seems you
        took it as personal offense, I'm emailing you privately to clarify my
        position and (I hope) avoid further misunderstandings.


        Guillermo
      • Per Jorner
        ... I don t know what Leigh did, but for me at least this hasn t been a discussion about pure opinions; if I ve come across to everyone as fire bad! then I
        Message 3 of 7 , Nov 10 4:08 PM
          >You are making the same mistake Leigh made a lot time ago. To set it
          >straight: whatever you love or hate is none of my business nor
          >concerns me, and my responses are not meant to coerce any sort of
          >opinion.

          I don't know what Leigh did, but for me at least this hasn't been a
          discussion about pure opinions; if I've come across to everyone as "fire
          bad!" then I have really failed at posting. On the face of it you
          challenged several factual claims in my reviews, after which I tried to
          back up what I had written, using examples and explanations. If you'd just
          said "I think this works fine even if you don't" or "if you grew up on
          Endless Quest you don't really look at it the same way", then we wouldn't
          have had the same discussion, but as it is you essentially said "Your
          description of it is wrong." I don't think this is accurate so here we
          are. My replying to that doesn't really have anything to do with whether
          you want to impart an opinion or not, any more than your replying to
          _that_ depended on _my_ intentions. If we're using different perspectives
          and different terminology and you just go down my list of points ("they
          lack in exploration"), seemingly contradicting each one ("no they don't"),
          you shouldn't be too surprised if my response in turn amounts mostly to
          "uh, what? no, see here..." because you haven't really given me anything
          else to go on.

          At this point it would be convenient to suggest that we step down for a
          while and let others discuss the topic and see what different views come
          to light, but since it's mostly the usual suspects who tend to step up to
          the podium anyway and the activity here isn't overwhelming - as regards
          the academic approach to gamebooks or otherwise - it doesn't seem that's a
          luxury we really have. I would love to be surprised though. Ldxar for
          instance has obviously been thinking these things through and some of the
          stuff he wrote about what makes a good gamebook was uncannily similar to a
          three-stage gamebook model I came up with some time before reviewing Black
          Vein Prophecy (i.e. years ago), but which didn't make it into any review
          and has been lying around since for lack of relevance to anything.

          -----------------------------------------------------------------------
          Per Jorner aka Finster aka Coffee Dragon (pel@...)
          Hoompage at http://user.tninet.se/~wcw454p

          Dragons are like cats, only bigger, and sometimes they drink coffee.
        • Guillermo
          ... On the face of it you ... you d just ... wouldn t ... perspectives ... don t ), ... I m not surprised. And saying that I haven t given you anything else
          Message 4 of 7 , Nov 23 4:04 PM
            --- In gamebooks@yahoogroups.com, "Per Jorner" <pel@...> wrote:


            "On the face of it you
            > challenged several factual claims in my reviews, after which I tried to
            > back up what I had written, using examples and explanations. If
            you'd just
            > said "I think this works fine even if you don't" or "if you grew up on
            > Endless Quest you don't really look at it the same way", then we
            wouldn't
            > have had the same discussion, but as it is you essentially said "Your
            > description of it is wrong." I don't think this is accurate so here we
            > are. My replying to that doesn't really have anything to do with whether
            > you want to impart an opinion or not, any more than your replying to
            > _that_ depended on _my_ intentions. If we're using different
            perspectives
            > and different terminology and you just go down my list of points ("they
            > lack in exploration"), seemingly contradicting each one ("no they
            don't"),
            > you shouldn't be too surprised if my response in turn amounts mostly to
            > "uh, what? no, see here..." because you haven't really given me anything
            > else to go on.
            >


            I'm not surprised. And saying that 'I haven't given you anything else
            to go on' is not exactly the fairest judgment anyone can make at this
            point. I'll not claim to contribute massive amounts of content to the
            list, but I believe I deserve some credit for asking the question
            "what the heck does constitute linearity in a gamebook?". This is one
            of the most misused, empty words I've encountered in these gaming
            circles. There at least two things that come to mind when using the term:

            1. Is linearity such a bad thing? To put forward an example: I stopped
            playing videogames regularly after the 16-bit era, so I'm not
            qualified to comment on the newer ones, but many Japanese-style
            console RPGs of that era were, by your standards, extremely 'linear',
            and still many people regard them as classics.

            2. Is the word 'linear' used instead of something which could be more
            clear? As we have seen, almost every gamebook you can find has some
            'linearity' to it. The problem with applying this term is that it's a
            loanword from tabletop RPG circles. Another word you use,
            'railroading' - which is applied when a GamesMaster takes freedom of
            choice away from the player, is probably more justified in an
            improvisational activity like roleplaying, less so when applied to
            gamebook design which is written narrative and thus by nature far more
            constraining.

            What are those terms supposed to mean, anyway? That those gamebooks
            which are structured as a series of chapters, for example, are
            worthless because of a linear progression from chapter to chapter? I'm
            not convinced of that.

            In the end, arguing whether a book is linear or not is less important
            than figuring out what we want to accomplish with the term. In your
            post, the only thing approaching an objective argument is your
            assertion which more or less goes as follows:


            "If on the other hand you start out by making two or three east-or-west
            choices, landing in one of eight different rooms with TROLL and HALFLING
            and STEVE and so on in them, that will be less linear in my mind even if
            each encounter is much simpler than those above "


            I would disagree very strongly if someone claims that this is a valid
            definition for a good style in gamebook design. It seems more like a
            description of a pure maze game or a miniature game or a
            hex-and-counter game. Within those types of games, it would be hard to
            imagine one where movement weren't essential. The essence of
            interactive literature is not movement, and thus the east-or-west has
            little relevance as a requirement. That essence rests instead on the
            interactivity afforded by choices. Or are you claiming that it would
            be invalid to try to write a gamebook where all the action takes place
            in one location, and it's only choices which determine how the story
            turns out?

            Why use tired loanwords which say little? And I said tired because
            I've seen gaming fans (I'll avoid the term 'geek') complain about some
            gamebook series for being 'too linear' when in reality those series
            contain designs that are far less linear than the vast majority of FF
            books.

            Your idea would be far more clear and not out of dimension if you had
            simply said 'I don't like books where you don't start out by making
            two or three east-or-west
            choices, landing in one of eight different rooms'. But using a highly
            problematic term like 'linearity' to claim objectivity does little to
            make your point.


            "We can't always append
            every statement with a "... for a gamebook". "


            That was never my intention. However, we can mention that a film has
            wooden acting but great script, ugly photography but wonderful music,
            etc. It's called 'redeeming features', and if you are against me for
            praising a horror gamebook which actually manages to be atmospheric,
            well... what can I say?



            Guillermo
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