SV: [gamebooks] Linear Drool
- From: Guillermo
>In principle,Well, as you said, that's one possible format for designing gamebooks. No
>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.
one's obligated to love or hate it.
>I also think you are overgeneralizing, since in the second book, thereThat's why I took care to specify that I was talking about the first book
>are several instances where what you did / collected before do indeed
>affect what happens later
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
>Overgeneralizing again. You can explore the mine, Shadwick House,Overgeneralizing? Am I not even allowed to refer to the fact that there
>Ratgoed, the Underworld, Ausbach's castle, etc.
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
>Not sure the Sherlock Holmes comparison is very fortunate,The Holmes thing was not meant as a direct comparison, but just to
>though: it's another series about gathering things (even if the
>'things' are clues and not items).
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,The Livingstone has a lot to answer for.
>most of the choices consist of either investigating a location or
>moving on to the next.
>I just thought you were mocking that ending, considering how unfair itis.
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--adj. 1 of or like an epic. 2 grand, heroic.
>without an idea of what it means.
>> I also agree with pretty much everything Demian said and will leaveabove.
>> an exercise for the reader to reconcile it with the stuff I wrote
>Evidently we are reading my or his mail very differently.
>Very hard to do, since what you express seems to be diametrally opposed.
>I've read books with these features, but they can be counted with theWell, it seems to me that you're guilty of some of the same confusion. 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).
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".
>As a bit personal trumpet-blowingFor some reason I thought Impudent Peasant! was a multiplayer scenario. I
>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.
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,So basically the plot is, Darkmoon Marris Jet?
>striving to prevent the marriage of the chaos-wizard Darkmoon and his
>consort Princess Jet, at the behest of the ancient wizard Marris.
>Get this: You've banished Princess Jet to the depths of a brokenThe words "fags and change" come to mind.
>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?
>What youWhoa, déjà vu.
>actually do is run away
>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.
From: "Leigh L."
>I'll have toI see no downside to this scenario.
>revisit and review it sometime, although this may lead to the
>shattering of rose-tinted glasses and a tirade of personal abuse
From: "Gavin Mitchell"
>I see a few people on here are talking of Planescape Torment in reverentI wouldn't say it's dated; it had its flaws from the beginning. It's a
>while I might venture to suggest it has dated badly, it was certainly one
> 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 byNot the first, that was Bioware.
> many of
>the same team as Torment,
From: "Eva Tudori"
> I haven't played KOTOR 1 or 2 but the lead designer is Chris AvelloneThis isn't entirely correct. CA didn't have anything to do with BG or BG2.
> who pretty much wrote PS:T as well as being involved in Fallout 2 (I
> - wasn't there some controversy about that?)
> He also helped design Baldur's Gate 2 and was the lead designer on
> Dale 1 and 2 (more of a hack n slash than any
> true role playing adventure)
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.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Per Jorner" <pel@...> wrote:
> Well, as you said, that's one possible format for designing
> 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.
>You are making the same mistake Leigh made a lot time ago. To set itI don't know what Leigh did, but for me at least this hasn't been a
>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
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.
--- In email@example.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
> 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
> 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
> and different terminology and you just go down my list of points ("they
> lack in exploration"), seemingly contradicting each one ("no they
> 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
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
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
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?