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Literature / The Craft of the Adventure

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"The Craft of the Adventure" is a series of essays by Graham Nelson on the design of Interactive Fiction Adventure Games.


Contains or discusses the following tropes:

Tropes discussed

  • Bookends: Brought up at the end of "A Narrative…", when discussing end game design:
    But a good rule of thumb, as any film screenplay writer will testify, seems to be to make the two scenes which open and close the story "book-ends" for each other: in some way symmetrical and matching.
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  • Creator In-Joke: Warned against in "…At War With a Crossword", which lists "The 'In-Joke' syndrome" as one of the three big pitfalls in making puzzles.
  • Creator Provincialism: One entry in the "Bill of Player's Rights" warns against this: "Not to need to be American". It gives an example of the diamond maze in Zork II, which stumped many non-Americans who couldn't figure out that it was a baseball diamond.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Discussed in "Narrative…":
    […] it's more interesting and dramatic to save a small number of people (the mud-slide will wipe out the whole village!) than the whole impersonal world (but Doctor, the instability could blow up every star in the universe!).

Tropes used

  • Epigraph: Including the introduction, each essay apart from "Varnish and Veneer" opens with one or more quotes.
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  • Scare Quotes: From the closing section discussing how games are never truly finished:
    Roughly 300 bugs in 'Curses' have been spotted since it was released publically two years ago (I have received well over a thousand email messages on the subject), and that was after play-testing had been "finished".
  • Self-Deprecation: "A plant which can be grown into a beanstalk is now, perhaps, rather a cliché. So naturally no self-respecting author would write one." Note that Nelson's own game, Curses, contains exactly this.
  • Take That!: The first epigraph, quoted from Tom Stoppard:
    Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.

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