Zelda & Zork

Matt Barton's picture

Well, as you can see from the above titles, I'm going to be working on the two games that will appear last in the book. We've still got quite a few chapters left, and the publisher is really pushing us to get this thing done so they can start prepping it for printing.

I thought it might be fun to make a blog about Zork and Zelda, since people call them both "adventure games," or, more specifically, a text adventure and an action adventure. But is it a stretch to use the same name for both games?? I have to admit, I see very little in common between the two.

Anyway, you guys probably remember my Zork articles on Gamasutra, which I thought were pretty high quality overall. I'll probably be basing most of my research on that article, so please remind me (or let me know) if you had any criticisms of that piece. I really want the Zork chapter to be great. I'd also appreciate anything you want to tell me about Zelda that I didn't mention in my D&D book.

Comments

Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
Cost & Consistency
Matt Barton wrote:

I thought the best example in there was of a stove (or range). Most ranges have to have a diagram or labels under the dials to show you which dial goes with what burner. This is asinine design. It makes more sense to arrange the dials 2 x 2, arranged so the top left dial controls the top left burner, and so on.

What you say is that design should follow function - which is perfectly legitimate. But for most products design follows cost and if cost dictates that you can only build a single vertical board with 10 cm height (only one dial fits) then the design will echo this.

Quote:

The same thing with light switches. It doesn't make sense to have the light switches go up and down, but control lights haphazardly (maybe the middle light switch turns the lights off in the back corner, etc.) Once you read this book, you will NOT look at everyday items the same way. Every time you do, you'll be asking yourself if it made sense to design it that way. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

What bothers me most is the inconsistency of it all. The company I work for has all their windows close in exactly the opposite fashion like my windows at home. In the beginning I - of course ;-) - "closed" the window of my office by turning the handle the wrong way. The result was the window swinging wide open and busting the plants etc. from the sill onto the table and floor. One cactus nearly died because of this ;-)

So, often, we neither have logic nor consistence here. Clearly a worst case scenario.

take care,
Calibrator

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Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
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Joined: 08/31/2008
Hey Rob

Sorry. I should have been a bit more clear in my statement. I, too, have had my share of struggles when it comes to adventure games. When I made the comparison of the novel's success based on reader's imagination to that of the adventure game's success based on the gamer's imagination and how much fun said gamer would have, I was referring to the fun that comes from the gamer's ability to recreate a world in their head compared to one that would fold their arms in a "graphics or bust" type of fashion. Reality can definitely set in when the puzzles get too difficult, and that is a detractor from the fun. So with the exception of various game mechanics or thoughts processes demanded for puzzle solving, the enjoyment of the (text-based) game is largely based on the player's imagination.

So I maintain that there is a direct correlation between one's imagination and one's enjoyment of a text-based adventure game, but I also acknowledge that there can be detractors from the experience. I didn't mean to sound as if there were no other influences on that player's fun factor.

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Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I understood what you mean,

I understood what you mean, Rob. Indeed, I think text adventures are the best type of game for someone with strong writing skills. Especially now with tools like Inform 7 and TADS, you really don't have to have a big understanding of programming (though it helps to at least understand the concepts). And I think the key to making a really great adventure game is knowing how to write really good descriptions and scenes. If it's done right, an adventure game, like a novel, is full of "imagery" instead of "images." Yeah, you don't have graphics or illustrations, but you have such descriptive prose that you don't have any problem "seeing" the action in your imagination.

I find it sad that people can even try to read Tolkien and be unable to visualize any of what he's writing about. His descriptions of Frodo and Sam at Mt. Doom were downright painful to read--not because of bad writing, but because he was so descriptive of the wretched conditions there. It made you feel that you were there with them!

I also noticed this recently when I read Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That's another good adventure story with great detail. Heck, I can still remember what the Nautilus "looked like" now, months after finishing the story.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
IF
Matt Barton wrote:

I understood what you mean, Rob. Indeed, I think text adventures are the best type of game for someone with strong writing skills. Especially now with tools like Inform 7 and TADS, you really don't have to have a big understanding of programming (though it helps to at least understand the concepts). And I think the key to making a really great adventure game is knowing how to write really good descriptions and scenes. If it's done right, an adventure game, like a novel, is full of "imagery" instead of "images." Yeah, you don't have graphics or illustrations, but you have such descriptive prose that you don't have any problem "seeing" the action in your imagination.

It's an important point not to underestimate though the knowledge required to create a text adventure even with something like Inform, which I think should be a first choice since it creates Z-machine compatible files (the Infocom format). It's still a language with specific syntax. The other issue in text adventure creation is the script. Let's say a typical short story is 20 pages. The script then for a text adventure version might be 60 - 80 pages.

Here's a sample script page for Amnesia, which gives an idea of some of what must be considered: http://cgw.vintagegaming.org/amnesia/IMG_0217.jpg

I would think for a first text adventure project and in the interest of learning the language and the possibilities of the language as well as the ins and outs of the actual writing (and naturally creating a compelling experience), that the actual "story" part should only be three to five pages, so the actual text adventure script could stay in the 15 - 20 page range. That's probably about all that would be manageable on the high end for the first time. I think inspiration for brevity could be taken from our popular one paragraph short story "festival": http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/node/1173

As Emily Short's "famous" Galatea proved that having a "hook", no matter how short* the game, is the key to IF success: http://jerz.setonhill.edu/if/gallery/galatea/

* While Galatea seems short, it's actually a HUGE script in comparison to most IF works, but the point is one of perception

And a thorough description of Galatea in the Wikipedia format: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galatea_(computer_game)



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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