Renga in Blue

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Renga in Blue is Jason Dyer's blog about interactive fiction. (The summary of entries below is up to date until October 19, 2009.)

Game design

Puzzles and non-puzzles

  • Structural elements vs. puzzles. Discusses the dividing line between a puzzle and a structural element of play. (The latter term is replaced by 'natural action' in a later post.)
  • Natural action. Suggests that natural actions, that is, actions that are not puzzles, conform to one of the following three criteria: (1) there is direct instruction to the player, (2) they are repetitions of a puzzle in identical contexts, or (3) they are connected enough to a player’s background and context that no thought is required. Asks the question whether there could be an enjoyable game with only natural actions.
  • Soup cans. Discusses the difference between in-world non-story-related puzzles, and metaphorical non-story-related puzzles. Suggests that the latter can be used effectively in IF.
  • Designing multiplayer puzzles. Suggests that there are three principles of designing a good multiplayer puzzle: (1) Asymmetry: the players must not all do the same things. (2) Uniqueness: the players must have different powers or options, either temporarily or permanently. (3) Dependency: the players are dependent on each other for successfully carrying out their own task.
  • Gradation of failure. Discusses the difference between instant-death puzzles, and puzzles that only give you a slight disadvantage when you fail to solve them. Relates this to IF specifically.

Conversation

  • Conversational cutscenes. Argues that menu-based dialogues are not necessarily less interactive than asktell-systems. Suggests that there are three ways around the infodumping NPC: (1) have the reply depend on the mood of the NPC, as in Galatea; (2) have the reply depend on the situation in the game; (3) have dialogue options that are mutually exclusive.
  • Telling ambiguity. Argues that 'tell X about Y' is problematic, since it will often lead to ambiguities.

Story Design

  • An interactive tragedy. Response to a discussion between Emily Short and Mark Bernstein about the possibility of interactive tragedy. Argues that one could have IF where "the genuine tragedy had already happened", or where "no matter what happens someone is going to be unhappy".

Flow and Pacing

Assorted topics

  • Fatalism. Suggests that letting the player carry out 'stupid' or 'dangerous' actions is often a better design choice than saying that this is 'too dangerous'. "Being able to hit the door one is frustrated with is a form of catharsis, even if it results in player death via stubbed toe."
  • Statistics in interactive fiction. Discusses the use of RPG-like statistics in interactive fiction.

General topics

Taxonomy of games

Work in progress

Interviews

Reviews and analysis

Books

Games

Reviews may contain slight spoilers. Major spoilers are indicated.