Archive for March 2005

Gradation of failure   Leave a comment

So, jumping puzzles: ack.

To be more specific, back in the days of Super Mario Brothers, it was ok to fall in holes a bit, because anything bad either killed you or was a step away from death. The system was consistent.

However, that same mechanic was transported to games (such as Rastan) where you had a great deal more “health” and while one could take 10+ “hits” a fall into a pit still killed instantly. It’s jarring in this context because the player has to deal with two gradations of failure, one that allows a (relatively) large number of mistakes and one that does not.

To summarize: failure can be swift if a mistake is made (large gradation) or gradual with an accumulation of mistakes (small gradation).

IF (if it has it at all) tends to be focused on instant failure. If something goes wrong
*** You have died ***
rather than the situation becoming slightly more complex or difficult to handle. (Which is essentially what happens if one is “hit” in a platformer — the character has less health points, or is off balance, or is in an awkward position.)

In the early days of IF, small gradation happened to a degree because of resurrection. Players could sacrifice a number of points for a revival. Once scoring systems because less fluid, UNDO was introduced and players reached for the RESTORE command more, this practice died out.

In modern works with no scoring system, it would be possible to design a work of IF with built-in gradual failure. These failures would essentially be plot branches, perhaps presenting an extra difficulty in a puzzle. For example, a character might set off an alarm while sneaking into a house; rather than sending a *** You have triggered the alarm *** message, the character may just have more guards to deal with later. Of course, one might expect players to RESTORE and rectify the situation, but if the puzzle in question is difficult enough, the player may decide it is worth skipping the puzzle and dealing with the guards instead.

Posted March 22, 2005 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction


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