Organizing Written Description of Place

English: An alcove in Navajo Sandstone near Mo...

English: An alcove in Navajo Sandstone near Moab, Utah.  Nothing to do with the text, but pretty cool.

This was useful to a few people over on intfiction.org, so I’m quoting it from that thread.

Jamespking wrote:

Quote:
The immense magma river flows below effortlessly, although slow and patiently. The whole cave is lit by its fiery belly. From here you can see the broken pillar rising from the flames like a finger pointing the sky — a sky made of crumbling rocks and metal — and the stony walls surrounding the sight like the steps of a giant arena. Below, the thin cornice cuts a distinct line on the side of it, losing itself in the distance inside a small passage to the west. The piece of quartz you are standing on has resisted the quake’s onslaught and is now holding itself onto the rock like a cat on a tree trunk. Something like steps rise from here to an alcove, up above and near the ceiling. A faint cyanotic light pulsates inside it. You can reach it to the northwest

This is TERRIBLE prose. On behalf of the author, I must say he was writing it trying to think in English not being english himself. That could lead to awkwardness.

First: every other noun has an adjective before it. It gets boring really soon.

James,

What is lacking is organization to the whole passage. Description of a place needs to develop in an organized way, just as an argument needs to, and the structure of that organization must match with the way the human mind processes and understands locale.

Visual description should be organized in a way that matches the way humans organize visual information, description of embodied feeling or emotional feeling should be organized in ways that match those senses, and so forth.

To do this, consider the way that, if you were in the location, you would direct your attention from moment to moment.

If I can be forgiven for making the attempt– Let’s look at the parts.

  • The immense magma river flows below effortlessly, although slow and patiently.
  • The whole cave is lit by its fiery belly.
  • From here you can see the broken pillar rising from the flames like a finger pointing the sky — a sky made of crumbling rocks and metal — and the stony walls surrounding the sight like the steps of a giant arena.
  • Below, the thin cornice cuts a distinct line on the side of it, losing itself in the distance inside a small passage to the west.
  • The piece of quartz you are standing on has resisted the quake’s onslaught and is now holding itself onto the rock like a cat on a tree trunk.
  • Something like steps rise from here to an alcove, up above and near the ceiling.
  • A faint cyanotic light pulsates inside it.
  • You can reach it to the northwest

The point of view this structure reveals is a DM’s point of view. It’s me looking in, considering the walls, the lighting, and working my way in to the player’s current options.

If I were there, I would probably attend to where I am, and my attention would then move outward.

Quote:
Sweltering, you stand on a piece of red-lit quartz that has survived the quake and clings to the rock like a cat to a tree. Northwest, irregular steps rise from here to an alcove near the ceiling. Inside the alcove a faint cyanotic light pulses.From the alcove, a cornice leads along the stony walls enclosing this huge arena. Far to the west, the cornice loses itself in some passage into the rock.

Red heat, so intense it feels solid, radiates from the patient magma river that flows below. A broken pillar rises from the flames like a finger, pointing to the ceiling of crumbling rocks and metal.

–Now, I don’t mean to hold myself out as an expert IF writer. My own productivity is pretty limited. And clearly as a writer you could select from among many organizational principle. The “from where I am out” basic strategy, which I picked here, is just the one I picked. You might instead pick “the environment in,” or “panning left to right,” or so forth.

But do consciously pick an organizational strategy, and stick to it in your writing. Also something I like, and therefore do, is to drop one- or two-word hints early in a passage, which details are explained later. So I dropped “red-lit” well before I described the lava river.

Conrad.

Published in: on July 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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review: The Blue Death (by Otto Grimwald / in Ramus)

http://anamnese.online.fr/site2/textallion/showcase/the_blue_death/the_blue_death_ramus.html

A nifty little game I’ve played through a few times. It’s puzzling, in the way CYOAs often are. Parsered IF tends to force the game to focus on a specific scenario, and therefore situational coherence is to some degree enforced. Not so with CYOA, as we all remember from the old playbooks: go through one door and the aliens of UFO 52-40 are traveling in time, choose another and they are heading to another planet.

The Blue Death does not change the factual basis of the story with which door you walk through, but the story does have that drifting quality. It is not a story driven by cause and effect, nor a situationally-bound series of events. The story is intentionally CYOA-like, with choices and sections unnecessarily designated by numbers. Early choices may lead to death, or may circuitously lead around to the city in which the game is mostly set. Cheating is almost endorsed, with the user prompted to roll a die and click on “I am lucky” or “I am not lucky”, with the computer able to generate a random number if desired.

Lite spoilers in this paragraph. (more…)

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Play _Unicorn Story_ online!

I wrote a little online text game available for you to play online  (written with Ramus)!

The blurb goes–

Unicorn Story

A lyrical piece by Conrad Cook, hosted here for your pleasure. Not only it looks gorgeous, it also uses the medium in a fairly intriguing way.”

Many thanks, Felix, for the kind words and for supplying a web space for the game! This game is also mirrored, so you can play it here. Ralphmerridew hosts the mirror — thanks too!

(I’m reposting this from a comment in the Ramus announcement after it came to my attention it was effectively hiding there.)

Published in: on March 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Introducing Ramus! — a very nice dynamic document creator

Ramus is a nifty little document creator, created by Felix Pleșoianu, that allows you to start with a paragraph-long document and keep adding text, almost as if it were being written in front of you.  It’s designed to be an Undum lite (or a Vorple lite):  fewer features, but much easier.

And Ramus is very easy.

There are three things you need to make a basic, non-state-tracking document, like a CYOA, and those are laid out in this simple template file:

http://www.intfiction.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4678

A more complex demo can be found at the Ramus website.

Many thanks, Felix!

Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm  Comments (9)  
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Alternate Universe Friends

A peculiar Ren’Py fanfic now available through the website, this probably-copyright-infringing game is liberally illustrated with photoshopped screen captures from the TV show. It’s not entirely clear whether the images are stills, or overlays assembled on the fly.  It’s a Friends episode in a universe where Hitler won World War II.

The narrative frame is introduced from (presumably) the real-world Friends universe, with the crowd all gathered around speculating on what it would be like if the Axis had won the war. They chatter for just a few seconds (Ross: “I’d be half Japanese.”) before the game begins.

So you’re immediately waiting for the punchline, and this (for me) was a major part of the game experience. There’s no one player character. Instead, you’re given little choices, about what the characters say, and a few choice-points that seem to influence the plot. I didn’t play it more than once — I was never into the show, and the game is enough like the show for me.

The minor choices in dialog set up different retorts from the other characters, which are bland-witty in much the way I recall from the TV program. A great deal of the discussion is about a dress of Monica’s, which looks good but is not appropriate for any particular occasion, so the other characters all chime in with ultimately unhelpful ideas about where she can wear it. There’s a sub-plot about Joey’s job, which is a minor acting gig but which may lead to something better.

So what about Nazi New York? (more…)

Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Incredibly Cool Site for Writers…

Here we have fictional characters from various famous novels rendered pictorally by police artists.

http://thecomposites.tumblr.com/

Published in: on February 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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(meta-review) I don’t play hentai games, but…

I don’t play hentai games.  That’s not a rule of mine.  I would if I wanted to.  I even hopefully, but half-heartedly, checked a few out once.  Just for some reason they don’t do it for me.

However, this short review of an adult “video novel” video game, I guess written in Ren’Py, struck me as kind of interesting:

Played the game and I have to say I liked it was pretty good for a non-professional title, good enough for me to personally go through the game and get all the endings to see the harem ending and the alien invasion ending, keep up the good work and would like to see another…

The author seems to have removed the game from circulation, so there’s no telling if my curiosity would have gotten the better of me.

I don’t think my uninterest in adult VN games stems from prudery.  Once I started to write a script for a porn film, based on the theory that the form does not fully explore the options available to it.  The opening scene went like this: (more…)

Published in: on February 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm  Comments (3)  
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Bullshit Review of _Find the Dog_

Sorry for the bullshit of this bullshit review — a real review would be too difficult to write.

This is a fine game — parser works, pictures work — text does its job — the main problem being you can’t download it.  Which is fine if you have a decent internet connection, but my tubes are slow.

The premise is vaguely amusing.  You play a 50 year old neighborhood woman who makes a bundle ($150 a week) to dog-sit a woman’s dog at her apartment.  The interaction with the 50 year old neighborhood bachelors at McDonalds in the morning is frighteningly on.  I suspect the author lurked and took notes, or perhaps is a 50 year old woman himself.

The complication hits immediately:  The dog dies.  This is almost immediate, but after you’ve played a few rounds and imagine this is shaping up to be some kind of Dog Sim, complete with minigames like Clean Up After Rover (did you bring a plastic bag?)

It’s been established that this dog is your bread and butter — “Are you SERIOUS?  $150 a week to WALK A DOG?” the bachelors exclaim — and you basically have no other income except for a woefully inadequate social security check that on inspection causes your player character to mentally review your older friends who have sold off their belongings, or taken in strange boarders, or so forth, to eek by on theirs.

Therefore, when the dog dies — or more accurately, is discovered dead in the apartment — the correct response is adequately indicated by context, but by no means obvious.  You must [spoiler] (more…)

Published in: on January 29, 2012 at 7:47 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Latest…

The latest for me is that I seem to be wrapping up my walkabout.  I say seem to because these things don’t involve a decision from me.

Wikipedia tells us the walkabout was primarily about shirking work and institutional regulation, and from my point of view this is a nontrivial dimension of it.  So to speak.  But on the other hand, the rumor really is true:  at some point, you meet yourself.

Hard to explain.

Ron asked if I’m going to be involved in IF Comp 2011.  I expect not.  I’m currently without a laptop, and I’m putting my daily one hour online toward a bigger project.

I remember questioning, two Comps ago, whether interactive fiction had a social code.  This due to that trivial but constant meanness we see, on r.a.if, out of that guy who pretends to be Jacek Pudlo, and so forth.

When I vanished on my first walkabout, it turns out a few of you guys got together to try to find me.  You were worried.  I got an email about it later.  It was very kind, and I realized later how definitively it answered my question. IF does indeed have a social code.

Thanks, guys.

I have a few ideas for games, which I mean to write up sometime.  But I’m really into this calamity prevention and recovery planning, and I’m not sure when I’ll get around to text games.

My college friends would often end up with spare computers kicking around.  If you’re reading this and you have an old laptop that you’re not using, it’d help me be more productive.  An hour a day doesn’t give me much.

Currently, I’m working on what (minimal) knowledge set would be needed to bootstrap modern high-tech civilization.  It’s a peculiar problem.  Currently, it seems you need kilns, to make bricks for blacksmith’s furnaces, and plenty of steel digging tools, for mining.

Without those tools, you end up in a catch-22:  The most accessible coal is deep underground, the stuff on the surface already being used up, and you can’t easily set up a blacksmith shop to make steel mining tools without coal…

It’d be tough.  It’s not inescapable, but it’d be tough.  Especially with a serious knowledge gap.  Some picks and shovels scattered around would help tremendously.

Anyway, yeah, if you have a laptop you don’t need and aren’t using, email me.  It’s taking me longer than I counted on to find work.

Published in: on October 22, 2011 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wrapping Up the Comp & Surveys…

We’re all getting ready for the end of the Comp.  I’ve had my first author inquiry about his survey data, and I regret that I had to tell him that he had only three people respond for his game.

C’mon, people!  I mean, I know we’re all busy.  I myself had Life get in the way and I haven’t been reviewing nearly as many games as I wanted to.  But three people? (more…)

Published in: on November 11, 2010 at 9:14 am  Comments (3)  
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