Monday, February 18, 2008

My Zork Reactions

So, going through the blog, I just realized that I never actually posted anything about Zork. So here we go.

When I first heard of this assignment, I was pretty excited. I had played the Colossal Cave Adventure as a child, and it was one of the things that got me into computers in general.

Now, as a computer science major, I still love IF. Whenever I learn a new language, the first significant project I undertake in it is generally something IF related. It's a good way to learn something new, by recreating something familiar to me.

But this is the first time that I've had the connection presented between 'choose your own adventure' books and IF. I read many of those in my day, too.

So what really separates the two mediums? Is one just an electronic version of the other? The answer, of course, is no. The reason is that IF can retain state, while a CYOA book (yes, I just made that initialism up) cannot, or at least not well. Let's take, for example, a simple construct: a locked door. There's no real good way to do this in a CYOA, but this stuff is the bread and butter of IF.

What it boils down to, I guess, is complexity. When you can let the computer handle the complexity, it can increase arbitrarily. But the paper medium can't deal with much complex material.

Also, IF tends to involve a lot of backtracking, and going to locations you've gone to before. CYOAs tend to always move the player forward, with little repetition.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Your point is well taken. However, keep in mind that we are being highly selective with the CYOA books we're reading. The good people at could point out lots of "gamebooks" that do save state, at least in a limited way.

One great example is the Lone Wolf series, which is now available at Project Aon, although it was originally available in printed form only, back when I was a kid. You keep track of skills, equipment and hit points, as I recall - moreover, you actually can track your state from book to book.

While this doesn't disprove your point, it does complicate it, and provides an interesting boundary case.