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Second Person 184

Aeonite writes "As we all learned in English class, there are three points of view one can employ when writing: first person ("I learned"), second person ("You learned"), and third person ("He learned"). You are about to read a review of Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media, a book that addresses the use of second-person narration in games and related media. You are also likely to be eaten by a Grue." Read below for the rest of Michael's review.
Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media
author Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin (Editors)
pages 426
publisher MIT Press
rating 9
reviewer Michael Fiegel
ISBN 0262083566
summary An exploration of the "You" in RPGs and Interactive Fiction
As Wikipedia helpfully points out, the second-person POV is not common in literary fiction, but it is fairly common in other forms of media, including the subject of this book; namely, interactive fiction (IF), role-playing games (RPGs) and other game-related fictions where the "reader" is generally an active participant in the story, either literally or virtually.

To that end, co-editors Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin have collected 47 essays on various topics related to the second-person, dividing the lot up into three sections covering "Tabletop Systems," "Computational Fictions," and "Real Worlds" (the latter somewhat of a misnomer, as you will soon see). The essays range in tone from highly informal to quite technical, from practical to theoretical, and (in the tradition of old Infocom games) from terse to verbose, the sole uniting theme being the focus on You.

Section One, "Tabletop Systems," contains 15 essays devoted to a discussion of traditional, old-school RPGs, including standout bits penned by the likes of Greg Costikyan, George R. R. Martin, Erik Mona and Ken Hite. It's the most accessible part of the book, and without a doubt my favorite.

Costikyan's "Games, Storytelling, and Breaking the String," starts out with a discussion of the early days of the pen-and-paper industry and their influence on interactive fiction, and moves all the way to MMOs and the current indie RPG movement, spending some time on Paul Czege's My Life with Master. It provides a good overview of the IF industry in its entirety, and might have fit better as a sort of "meta-essay", but still works here as a good introduction and exploration of many of the issues surrounding game narrative, player freedom and IF in general.

Erik Mona and Ken Hite's pieces are more on target. Mona's "From the Basement to the Basic Set: The Early Years of Dungeons & Dragons takes D&D up to the late 70s just before it split into D&D and AD&D, providing an interesting historical perspective on the Gygax-Arneson years. Hite's "Narrative Structure and Creative Tension in Call of Cthulhu talks about the evolution of language within various editions of the CoC RPG, as well as the standardized form of their adventures, and how these things serve to create a narrative tension that has helped the game survive and prosper.

One essay worth mentioning for its terseness is Jonathan Tweet's essay on character creation in Everway, barely managing two pages, and then only by the addition of four pieces of artwork. Another oddity is Rebecca Borgstrom's "Structure and Meaning in Role-Playing Game Design", which addresses Exalted's story structure; the piece is filled with numerous subheadings and language that occasionally makes it read like an outline or a proposal, rather than a finished piece (e.g., repeated references to "this chapter" such as "This chapter views gaming as a computational process."). Both pieces are written well and cover interesting material, but feel unfinished in their own ways.

Other essays in this first section discuss the World of Darkness and the Storyteller system, storytelling and collectible card games (in particular, A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu), Arkham Horror, Mystery of the Abbey, George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards books, and the gamebook On Life's Lottery. Not discussed, and notable by their absence: Steve Jackson Games, and any edition of Dungeons & Dragons after 1980.

Section Two, "Computational Fictions," is comprised of 17 essays by authors including Jordan Mechner, Chris Crawford, Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern. The material here is somewhat denser and more technical, but aside from some linguistic stumbling blocks it's also filled with excellent insights.

Mechner's essay on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens things up with an excellent look at the making of a video game: rules, some broken; discussion of how dialogue works within the context of a game; even a sample from a dialogue spreadsheet that shows why screenplay format is inappropriate.

Somewhat crunchier are essays by Chris Crawford ("Deikto: A Language for Interactive Storytelling") and D. Fox Harrell ("GRIOT's Tales of Haints and Seraphs: A Computational Narrative Generation System"). The former discusses Crawford's early attempt to draft something akin to a programming language for IF, complete with flowchart diagrams and pidgin-sounding syntax, such as "Mom command Billy that Billy not go to lake." Harrell's essay likewise talks about "developing computational techniques for representing an author's intended subjective meaning and expression." Yikes.

The longest piece, "Writing Facade: A Case in Procedural Authorship" by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern, discusses Facade, a game wherein the player can either break up or save the marriage of a digital couple. Ample screenshots and samples from the game accompany an explanation of the situation as it unfolds, with later discussion of the procedural architecture and subsystems behind the game. It's an excellent piece that nicely ties together what a player sees with what a developer has to deal with.

Aside from the generally less accessible language, the section's only major flaws are that the essays from Steve Meretzky (on Floyd from Planetfall) and Lee Sheldon (on the computer adaptation of And Then There Were None) are rather terse considering the rich subject matter. Surely Floyd and Agatha Christie deserve more than a couple of pages a piece.

Other games discussed in this section include the Flash storytelling game Solitaire, Book and Volume, Shade, Savior-Faire, the somewhat surreal art piece Pax, the hypermedia Magritte-esque work The Brotherhood of Bent Billiard, the cinematic Mission to Earth, the audiovisual hypertext Juvenate, Twelve Easy Lessons to Better Time Travel, The Breakup Conversation and the multiplayer IF The Archer's Flight.

The third and penultimate section, "Real Worlds", focuses on shared, IF experiences, the unifying factor being a persistence that runs counter to the transience experienced in both weekly RPG sessions and most computer games. Despite the section title, virtual worlds and MMOs are also discussed here by the likes of essayists including John Tynes, Ian Bogost and Gonzalo Frasca. For the most part the material is engaging and interesting, if a bit esoteric at times.

John Tynes' "Prismatic Play: Games as Windows on the Real World" explores escapism and engagism in games as diverse as D&D, Millennium's End and his own Unknown Armies, concluding that engagist works are those that expand our knowledge through immersion in real world ideas and cultures as opposed to escapist frolicking in EDO (Elf-Dwarf-Orc) fantasy games. As an interesting not-quite-counterpoint, Sean Thorne covers John Tynes' Puppetland in the next essay, and discusses how he incorporated the rather escapist game into a writing curriculum for his eleven-year-old students.

Ian Bogost and Gonzalo Frasca include an essay titled "Video Games Go to Washington: The Story Behind the Howard Dean for Iowa Game," which is about as self-explanatory as a title gets. The duo discuss the launch of the game in December of 2003, development challenges and time constraints, demographics and politics, and provide an excellent post-mortem on the game and its effects (or lack thereof) on Dean's campaign.

Several chapters in a row delve into fantasy MMOs, including World of Warcraft. Torill Elvira Mortensen's "Me, the Other" talks about role-playing in MMOs, the difference between IC and OOC and the controversy of role-playing (which seems somewhat anachronistic; aren't people more worried about GTA than D&D nowadays?). Jill Walker's essay covers Quests in World of Warcraft, and how they introduce and support the overall storyline. Celia Pierce and her alter-ego Artmesia discuss(es) social identity and persistence in exploring the case of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, an MMO that, when it shut down, caused its player base to propagate to other MMOs such as Second Life and There to keep the community alive.

The one odd bit here is a chapter on Santaman's Harvest by Adrine Jenik, an exploration of a digital performance piece from Desktop Theater that includes more sidebar than text as it reprints dialogue from the play ("sman:: Think Big; farmer #1: Big?").

Other essays discuss the use of role-play in prepping political canvassers, Nick Fortgno's A Measure for Marriage LARP, the evidently crass ("Guy playing with himself," reads a part of one caption), the Boston-based Itinerant, the I Love Bees ARG, the basic rules of Improv Theater, the interactive play Adventures in Mating, and the collaborative work Eliza Redux, "an interactive telerobotic work couched in a virtual graphical representation of a psychoanalyst's workplace" as well as a revisitation of the Eliza program.

The book's rather sizable Appendix includes three playable tabletop RPGs: Puppetland by John Tynes, wherein players take the roles of puppets; Bestial Acts by Greg Costikyan, which is based on the dramatic theories and aesthetic of Bertolt Brecht; and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen by James Wallis, a tale-telling game written from the first person perspective of the Baron himself. This is followed by biographies of the contributing authors and a helpful index, always a good thing to see in a book of this size and density.

As is often the case, the book's back cover copy is at best misleading; though terse, it manages inaccuracy in saying that the book features "three complete tabletop role-playing games." However, Costikyan's "Designer's Note" for Bestial Acts on page 357 explicitly says "I've never bothered to finish writing up acts II and III." Not quite complete, then. The same error is reprinted on the front flap; a minor gaffe, but noticeable in a book with few other notable flaws save a few silly typos in obvious charts and tables: "Challange" instead of "Challenge", "real-rime" instead of "real-time." But this is nitpicking. As a whole the book is well-edited, well-laid out and amply illustrated to boot, with over 200 images; would that they were in color.

My only real complaint is not with anything in the book, but with the underlying assumption — prevalent in many places, touched upon here in the jacket copy, and assumed to some degree in many of the essays — that the gaming industry is still an "emerging field" that needs to prove its own maturity. While it might be true that not much in the way of academic discussion exists when it comes to games, it still seems all too comfortable to continue hiding in the soft golden field of "emerging." How much longer can the industry (of which I consider myself a part) continue to use that word?

Consider television in the '50s after it got through its own period of emergence and acceptance: shows like Candid Camera, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts and Break the Bank were on the air. And 60 years later, what do we have? Shows like America's Funniest Home Videos, American Idol and Deal or No Deal. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Pick any medium and you'll find much the same — for every Citizen Kane there will be a dozen Scary Movies; for every Empire Falls there will be fifty Da Vinci Codes.

Pong was emerging; Zork was emerging. We are no longer emerging — we have emerged. Sure, we have quests in World of Warcraft where you have to collect poop, but we also have Portal; we have the Hot Coffee mod in GTA: San Andreas, but we also have a Dystopian Objectivist narrative in Bioshock.

The 47 essays and 3 games in this excellent book show us where we've been, where we are, and where we're headed when it comes to role-playing games and interactive fiction. That's 50 pieces of evidence to prove the case that gaming is as deserving of attention, acclaim and criticism as any other medium. As an industry, we've been emerging for 35 years now; by my reckoning, that puts us squarely into adulthood. Let's start acting like it.

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Second Person

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  • by muellerr1 ( 868578 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:16PM (#23303182) Homepage
    Which is why you don't have anything insightful to say about it.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:21PM (#23303244)
    When I play a videogame (particularly with 3d games in general and FPS's in particular) I always think of myself as the protagonist. I call the shots, I make the decisions, I decide the strategy. This is why I generally don't identify much with the purported "protagonist" of most games. Having a protagonist in an FPS is trying to enforce 3rd-person storytelling on a 2nd-person medium. Even though *I'm* doing all the action, I'm doing it as a character. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the jarring cutscenes where I'm suddenly NOT the protagonist and have no control over the action (i.e. a sudden shift into 3rd-person). It tends to take me right out of the game.

    I really think designers could learn a lot from games like "Half-Life 2," "Portal," and "Bioshock" which go easy on the cutscenes and downplay the protagonist. I like a game that says "you the player are the hero," not games where the hero is Master Chief/Solid Snake/whoever-the-fuck. I never connect to those characters because *I'm* the hero, not them.

    Frankly, I wouldn't have even known what Gordon Freeman looked like in HL2 if I hadn't seen him on the box. And that's the way I like it. Too many game developers treat this 2nd-person medium as if it were just a slight variation on a traditional 3rd-person movie.

    • I like a game that says "you the player are the hero," not games where the hero is Master Chief/Solid Snake/whoever-the-fuck. I never connect to those characters because *I'm* the hero, not them.

      Are your powers of suspending disbelief so strong that you can believe that you personally are a crack soldier equipped with state of the art weaponry? Since the game is complete fantasy, and I at any rate am always aware that I remain sitting on my ass in my living room, I think a third-person perspective where

      • Are your powers of suspending disbelief so strong that you can believe that you personally are a crack soldier equipped with state of the art weaponry?

        Sure. Were you never a child? My powers of suspending disbelief were so strong to turn my fingers into a pistol, any stick into a rifle or sword, a small patch of woods into anything from a WWII battlefield to the surface of an alien planet, and myself into a soldier, an astronaut, a superhero, or swashbuckling adventurer.

        I don't do a lot of gaming these days - too busy with swashbuckling adventures - but back in the late 90s when I'd play Quake or Duke Nukem 3D, I used the same powers to make my saving throw versus disbelief.

      • I like a game that says "you the player are the hero," not games where the hero is Master Chief/Solid Snake/whoever-the-fuck. I never connect to those characters because *I'm* the hero, not them.

        Are your powers of suspending disbelief so strong that you can believe that you personally are a crack soldier equipped with state of the art weaponry? Since the game is complete fantasy, and I at any rate am always aware that I remain sitting on my ass in my living room, I think a third-person perspective where you play as a character the gam emakers thought up makes sense.

        I'm going out on a limb here, but I think the GP is referring to the use of his imagination. Generally, games (and fantasy books, for that matter) exist as a tool for users to escape from reality and pretend to be someone/something else.

        I do believe pretending to be someone else isn't as wildly abnormal as you make it out to be.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I would say FPS should indicate a first person narrative, not second.
    • I like a game that says "you the player are the hero," not games where the hero is Master Chief/Solid Snake/whoever-the-fuck. I never connect to those characters because *I'm* the hero, not them.
      That's why I like the main questline in Oblivion. The main protagonist is Martin. So when a cutscene happens and it isn't "you" doing stuff, it isn't that jarring. What "You" do is still whatever you decide to do.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:56PM (#23304822)
        I disagree; I felt Oblivion was rather disappointing in terms of letting you do "whatever you decide to do". And part of the reason, which I find interesting, is precisely that too much of the narrative is told in the first person.

        The problem for me was the journal. Like any quest journal, it records the quests the player has been given and the progress made in those quests; the problem is that it also sets out the next stage of the quest in the first person. It never leaves it as "Fred has offered to give me an enchanted sword if I bring him the Chalice of Chalicity": it always has to go on and end up with something like "Fred has offered me a sword in exchange for the chalice. I must go and get him the chalice immediately!" Excuse me? No I mustn't. I have several more urgent quests, thank you very much, and I will recover the chalice when I damn well feel like it. Kindly stop telling me what to do and let me play the game my own way.

        That was bearable, if annoying; what destroyed it for me as a role-playing game was the discovery that I really didn't have any freedom at all, except to decide which quests to undertake. Want to join a corrupt guild and work to undermine it from within? Sorry, if you join the guild then the player-character "I" decides s/he's corrupt and evil too, and constantly bombards you with journal entries revelling in the evil acts that I, the player, had only been intending to carry out because the end would justify the means. When I reached the climax of that quest line, I met another traitor who had been doing exactly what I'd wanted to do -- and the game locked me in a room with him and literally refused to allow me to leave until I had killed him, then praised me for my loyalty to the power that I had wanted to destroy!

        Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed the game immensely nonetheless. But I long for a game where I actually get to make meaningful decisions; a game that will let me affect the story, rather than merely deciding which parts of it to participate in.
        • by Eivind ( 15695 )
          This is true. But it's a hard problem to solve. There are literally an infinite number of things you may want to do. Any current game has a damn hard time allowing even the tiniest fraction of them. I don't think it's really solvable without a human GM.

          You also can't crawl under a table, set fire to a house, pull someones left ear or, for that matter, kill Martin DEAD and join the dark side. (anyone "important" is merely "unconscious")

          It's a pre-written story. You can choose what -parts- of it to tell in wh
    • by cecille ( 583022 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @03:18PM (#23303842)
      Strangely enough, I find that sometimes I think of myself as the character, but sometimes I don't. I play WoW, and my main toon is roughly human looking and the same gender as me. When I'm playing on that toon, I find I'll say things like "I need blah", or "I'm almost level blah". When I'm playing on my alt, who is male and looks nothing like a human (giant bull), I find I tend to think of him as just something I'm controlling. So, I'll say things like "Shiftly is almost level blah", or "Shiftly just got a new blah". Maybe it's the look thing, maybe it's because one's my main...who knows. Anyone else find that?
      • [M]y main toon is ... the same gender as me. [M]y alt ... is male
        I like how you subtly told us you were a girl, as if you were afraid that if we (men) found out we would do something untoward.

        • by cecille ( 583022 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @05:06PM (#23304956)
          I wasn't trying to be subtle. I'm female. That's really not the point. I was actually thinking back to another slashdot discussion here [] on MMOs banning people playing different gendered characters. There was a thread in there where a user commented that he didn't feel like he was deceiving anyone because he didn't think of the character as himself - it was just something he was controlling. It wasn't until then that I realized that I think of my two toons differently. That's all. That's where it was coming from. Like I said, it might not even be the gender thing - could just be that one is my main.
          • by Reapman ( 740286 )
            Just my two cents, but I'm in a somewhat similar situation in another game.. I have my old main character (human), who I used for quite awhile before switching to another toon, this one some 2 foot tall taru character that doesnt look at all like me. I'm almost never on my human guy anymore, but when I am I usually do the third person "Artos does such and such" thing, while on my short guy that looks nothing like me it's more "I do xyz"... so it might not be a gender thing. Both charactets are male. Pers
          • by Eivind ( 15695 )
            A very strange thing to do anyways. If I can pretend to be a sword-swinging dragon-killing fireball-slinging Lizardman spellsword living in a completely alien world, then why can't I also pretend to be a -female- such ?

            I mean, it's not as if changing the sex is a major deal, compared to changing all that other stuff. Nobody in any game assume that I'm ACTUALLY a Lizardman, so why would they assume I'm ACTUALLY female ?
    • That's one of the more insightful comments I've read in a while. I've always felt that way too, but could never put a finger on what bothered me about some cut scenes.

      I also agree that the way Halflife downplays the identity of the main character is a good way to draw you in. It also helps for female gamers like me, so that I'm not _constantly_ reminded that my character is actually a guy, which also doesn't help the immersiveness.
    • by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @03:23PM (#23303902) Homepage
      Well, I'm the complete opposite, so I don't think you should be telling developers what to do. Master Chief/Halo and Solid Snake/MGS sold enough copies to show that there's a market for a 3rd person game where you're playing as a great character and not some faceless Joe. I like my protagonists with a personality because otherwise, game dialog is pretty flat. A lot of it has to do with the technology not being sufficiently advanced enough so that the player could actually talk (or type) to NPCs with them understanding what you're saying, so games like Portal and Half Life bring you in by not having many very NPCs or the NPCs not really interacting with you and expecting a response. Otherwise, NPCs ask you questions and you're relegated to a multiple choice response that destroys any semblance of character that the protagonist may have, and it alienates the players because through multiple choice, they don't feel like they're the ones making the responses. So, there's room for both, but I prefer heroes to have personality.
      • There's several times when Alyx in HL2 and Episode 1 makes reference to or mock the fact that Freeman never once speaks. The developers deliberately insert pregnant pauses and the like and then Alyx says something stupid or awkward. Its actually quite (meta)humorous.
      • by morari ( 1080535 )

        Well, I'm the complete opposite, so I don't think you should be telling developers what to do. Master Chief/Halo and Solid Snake/MGS sold enough copies to show that there's a market for a 3rd person game where you're playing as a great character and not some faceless Joe.
        Well, I'm not sure what Master Chief has to do with great characters, but whatever...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I like a game that says "you the player are the hero," not games where the hero is Master Chief/Solid Snake/whoever-the-fuck.

      I take your point, but I would say that you have simply provided an example of "just a slight variation on a traditional 3rd-person movie" here.

      I am consistently surprised by the people who talk about characters, storyline, being 'in' the game (e.g. 'I, the player, am the hero in this game'). I've only ever played games as puzzles, challenges, tests of dexterity/co-ordination, never as adventures, fantastic voyages, heroic questing etc.

      That said, I totally agree that, for example, hl2 delivers its story in

    • by ystar ( 898731 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @03:57PM (#23304208)
      While these are valid opinions, folks who call for fewer cutscenes in games scare me. They're probably lots of work for game companies and I'm worried we'll see less and less of them. Personally, I love cutscenes. I want to have cutscenes so long, I can order (by pressing x) and eat a pizza during them. I want cutscenes so long, I can just put the disc in and watch 40 hours of rendered cinema in between Shadow of the Colossus style playable boss battles. I also want great voice acting. I'm calling for games designed to be enjoyed by fundamentally lazy people like me. Kojima understands me, and he probably didn't design MGS for you. Please play something else.
      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:21PM (#23304454)
        I think what you're looking for is called a "movie."
        • by ystar ( 898731 )

          Somebody missed the joke. But a TV series on dvd produced by Pixar would be more fitting. With internet access to Pizza Hut and Shadow of the Colossus paused but ready in between episodes.
      • "While these are valid opinions, folks who call for fewer cutscenes in games scare me"

        Perhaps you've never played FFX, there's a point at when cutscenes get tedious, cutscenes should be saved for the awesome parts of the game (i.e. Odin cutscene in FF9 for instance), many cutscenes rendered in game with bad art and are just characters talking endlessly while you bash your brain wanting to skip it.

        I don't mind games having a movie-esque feel, I loved MGS 3, but MGS 3 was at least A GOOD GAME minus the cutsce
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      That's interesting: I usually look from a different perspective when it comes to playing games with main characters:
      If the game views the main character predominantly from a 3rd person perspective (example: any Final Fantasy style RPG you name, World of Warcraft, etc), then I view myself as the director/overlord of the main character, directing their actions much like people direct the actions of characters in The Sims games.
      If, however, it is viewed from a 1st person perspective (and for this sake, we as
    • The problem with having YOU be the protagonist as you say, is that you can't build a story centered around them. Good stories aren't just about what the protagonist DOES, they are about what the feel, what they learn, and the decisions they make. Every person is going to be different, so unless you give your hero a personality which affects the story and is affected by the story, your hero and your story will be boring. Half Life is driven by action and mystery. Metal Gear Solid is driven by character beli
    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
      Heh... I got so annoyed with the NPCs in one game, that I shot them all instead of interacting with them. :)

  • Second Person? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AndGodSed ( 968378 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:24PM (#23303276) Homepage Journal
    I rather enjoyed Conan Doyle's first person narrative in Sherlock Holmes.

    I would like to see some of his style being introduced in a role playing game some day. Won't ever happen I bet, but there is always hope...
    • I rather enjoyed Conan Doyle's first person narrative in Sherlock Holmes.

      You mean Dr Watson's first person narrative. The other fellow was just Watson's literary agent.

  • by xPsi ( 851544 ) * on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:30PM (#23303370)
    Come on. No discussion of the emerging second person shooter genre mod community? You still move yourself but see all the action from the eyes of your enemy. Sorta hard to maneuver, though: Look left. Left! Probably rough in the arena deathmatch format.

    Actually, games like Portal and Prey do scratch the surface of that...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MrMr ( 219533 )
      Well, has to be better than first person shooters; They last only a second.
    • by alexgieg ( 948359 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2008 @03:20PM (#23303870) Homepage
      A remember an ancient PC boxing game, from the VGA era, that had this feature. You could choose to see from the perspective of the guy you were punching. It was bizarre, but fun.

      But what I'd like to see was an "herbivore person" game. The screen would be split vertically in the middle, one side showing your right, the other your left, both at exactly 90 degree. And the predators are near. Run!

      Now that would be different. :-)
      • But what I'd like to see was an "herbivore person" game. The screen would be split vertically in the middle, one side showing your right, the other your left, both at exactly 90 degree. And the predators are near. Run!

        Deer Hunter: Brown Shift.
        Is the goal of the game to eat, fight, and mate, or get shot by the best hunter?
        The point system should be semi-obvious: antler points. And they drop off yearly, so this could be a good play-leveling feature for "Deer Hunter: Brown Shift: The MMORPG. Defend your herd from other Bucks. Defend yourself from Buckshot. Do it all again next year."

    • There's a boss fight in Phantom Hourglass that takes place in second person view. Awkward, but fun.
    • You still move yourself but see all the action from the eyes of your enemy. Sorta hard to maneuver, though: Look left. Left!

      This is nothing new. Battletoads did it years ago; the boss at the end of the first level was a huge mecha which was far too big to fit on the screen. So they cut to the monster's eye view.

      Terrific game, but a bit hard to find nowadays; ring your local GameStop and see if they have any in stock, it's well worth tracking down.

    • by aj50 ( 789101 )
      If I remember rightly, playing as the second player in Zone of the Enders is like that. The camera stays behind player one, who you're trying to kill, but always looks towards you.
  • I don't see any no tea here!
  • Inform (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Speare ( 84249 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:32PM (#23303398) Homepage Journal
    Inform 7 Homepage []

    I played all the mass-produced Interactive Fiction games in the 80s, back when Infocom bought ads in BYTE magazine. Hadn't really thought much about the tools to make such games since then, but obviously, the state of the art has progressed quite a lot. About a week ago, I decided to load up a modern tool called "Inform", which in version 7 takes "literate programming" to a whole new level. From an example in their manual:

    Foyer of the Opera House is a room. "You are standing in a spacious hall, splendidly decorated in red and gold, with glittering chandeliers overhead. The entrance from the street is to the north, and there are doorways south and west."

    Instead of going north in the Foyer, say "You've only just arrived, and besides, the weather outside seems to be getting worse."

    The Cloakroom is west of the Foyer. "The walls of this small room were clearly once lined with hooks, though now only one remains. The exit is a door to the east."

    In the Cloakroom is a supporter called the small brass hook. The hook is scenery. Understand "peg" as the hook.

    Inform's output is playable in the same Z-machine standards that were derived from Infocom's original machine, that have been released on cellphones, pdas, palmtops, laptops and mainframes for years and years. I'm having fun developing my own short story, and there are a lot of folks remained in the IF world the whole time who have been churning out dozens if not hundreds of titles you can download (most for free) and try. Some are very short, some are quite elaborate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Inform 7 looks very very impressive, and while I've downloaded the IDE and looked at a smattering of source, I'm just not ready to make the leap from Inform 6. As a developer, I prefer the "Code Style" of Inform 6, and find it much easier to parse when I'm looking for something or trying to sort out a bug.

      Still, Inform 7 is damned impressive if only inasmuch as it is highly readable and writable to nonprogrammers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tacvek ( 948259 )

        While I'll agree that I7 is highly readable, I find it far harder to write than the average artificial language like Inform 6. The reason? The syntax/grammar. The syntax/grammar being so close to English it is really tempting to try to just remember the differences from regular English. But in reality there are to many differences from English to keep track of. Therefore I tend to write valid English sentences that follow all the restrictions I have memorized, and it still fails. But trying to remember the

  • That's what I studied in my days of D&D. One of the most interesting parts of the 2nd person to me is its interaction with volition. See, a line like "you are likely to be eaten by a grue" simply describes the state of the world as it pertains to them, and "you place the teacup down on the table's edge, but it slips and falls to the ground and shatters" is simply describing the outcome of someone's chosen actions. These don't really bother anyone. But go so far as to narrate actions they did not explicitly choose, throwing in a ringer like "You begin to copulate aggressively with the cantaloupe", and you can throw your players into fits of existential angst, as if by stripping their volition from them you have stripped their very sense of self. This kind of philosophical dilemma can inspire a lot of exciting discussion between players and DM.

    Now being D&D, you can explain everything away by introducing an evil wizard or cursed relic that is controlling them, and by giving them a fixed object to which to attribute their loss of free will, the issue can be resolved and the player's angst relieved.

    The trick then is to pull the comforting rug of a deterministic universe in which they control their own destinies out from under them, such as with the line: "As soon as you strike the killing blow against the wizard, you notice behind him a large pile of gourds. Over come with lust, you tear off your clothes and leap upon the pile, rolling in ecstasy". What does it mean? Does free will exist? Can it exist only within the confines of those behaviors the universe has forced upon you?

    Making players think the deep thoughts -- that's what being a great DM is all about.
  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:36PM (#23303460) Homepage
    This whole review reminded of Miss Blair's 5th grade class. The "Choose Your Own Adventure" books were all the rage among the boys, and I figured I would write a book report based on The Cave of Time. I mean it was a book right? So I report went something like 'I woke up in a cave and went back to the age of the dinosaurs. I investigated a t-Rex nest when the Mother t-rex came back and ate me. I died. The End.'

    Miss Blair was not amused.
  • It's too late for you now, but you probably should have considered writing the entire review in the second person (i.e., instead of starting the review with "As we all learned in English class ..." you could have written "As you've surely learned in English class ..."). This would have been an appropriate style for you to use, considering the title of the book you reviewed. It wouldn't have been too hard, and in fact it would have read much like the post you're reading now.
  • by drquoz ( 1199407 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:45PM (#23303558)
    Ye find yeself in yon dungeon. Ye see a SCROLLBAR. Behind ye scrollbar is a FLASK. Obvious exits are NORTH, SOUTH, and COWBOYNEAL.
  • Only if you're female.

  • It's always about YOU, isn't it?
  • FYI, the "Deikto" language, mentioned in the article, is a part of Chris Crawford's Storytron [] product, previously covered in Slashdot (see [] ). It is now in beta, nearing commercial release.
  • No, no, no, the poster does *not* understand how to conjugate verbs. "I learned, you memorized, he was indoctrinated."
    • My favourite:

      That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

      For all of our American friends, those are quotes from Yes Minister, a popular British political comedy from the '80s, here's another one:

      It's one of those irregularly declining words. I have an independent mind, you are an eccentric, he's round the twist.

  • Oblg. (Score:5, Funny)

    by dissy ( 172727 ) on Monday May 05, 2008 @04:41PM (#23304650)

    You are also likely to be eaten by a Grue. []
  • You for one, welcome your new narrator overlords.
    In Second Person, you are the subject. In Soviet Russia, subject are you!

    Surely you can think of more memes?
  • No perhaps someone can explain to me where the second world went, I can only seem to find a first and third these days...
  • Good to know that /. has given me my own article tag, now.

    Anyway, if you'll excuse me, I have some slavering to go do in another part of the cave.
    There's this jerk poking around the place, rifling through everything -- but I'm guessing the batteries in his lantern are about to run out any second now....

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.