Comments on The work-to-fun ratio


I’m not entirely convinced by your arguments. I can see how an IF game might take far longer to program than some arcade games. But IF is certainly not near the bottom of a work-to-playing-time ratio. As in IF author, I can write: “Suddenly, a horrible demon appears in the study in a cloud of purple smoke, snatching the sorcerer’s soul before his body has time to hit the ground.” Takes me maybe twenty seconds. As the maker of a 3D game, I have to build a model of a demon, of purple smoke, and of a soul — probably at least a week of work, and that is without worrying about how I can make the body fall naturally, the demon appear in a suitably impressive way, and so on.

It seems to me that there are two factors that determine the work-to-playing-time ratio. First, how much work is it to make material in the chosen medium? With text, almost no work; with 3D graphics, a lot of work (and even more if you want sound effects, music, voice acting). Second, how much of your game’s content has to be generated by hand? On this dimension, text adventures are a lot of work: we generally want and expect many hand-crafted interactions and events. On the opposite end are infinite or randomly generated games using a (relatively) small number of interactions, such as some arcade games and roguelikes.

Now games on that latter end of the how-much-generated-by-hand scale are games that use procedural generation. But that simply makes them different games. There is no way you are going to see procedurally generated games that play like the standard IF of today, because having lots of hand-written prose and non-standard interactions it what gives those games their identity. On the other hand, there is nothing stopping you from writing an interactive fiction game with procedural generation today — I am doing that right now, building an IF roguelike — as long as you don’t mind that it will be a game very different from Make It Good, The King of Shreds and Patches and Aotearoa.

-- Victor Gijsbers 2017-10-14 07:31 UTC

Haha, yes, you make some good points. I was thinking that the 3D demon you mention would probably introduce a battle in some RPG… which battle you can replay many times with different tactics and party structures. And that’s before considering the rest of the game. Besides, what about the part about making the demon act interestingly in the game? That is going to be more complex in text because there are many more possible verbs.

And no, you can’t truly replace hand-written prose. But if you could devise an advanced method to recombine pre-crafted prose fragments algorithmically…

-- Felix 2017-10-14 07:31 UTC