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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. It is divided into the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. In The Beginning
  3. Bill of Player's Rights
  4. A Narrative... Click for subsections 
  5. ...At War With a Crossword Click for subsections 
  6. Varnish and Veneer Click for subsections 

Contains or discusses the following tropes:

Tropes discussed

  • Book Ends: 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.
  • 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!).
  • You Can't Get Ye Flask: Brought up a few times. One item on the "Bill of Player's Rights" is "Not to have to type exactly the right verb". Another is "To be allowed reasonable synonyms". And "…At War With a Crossword" lists "The 'What's-The-Verb" syndrome" as one of the three big pitfalls in making puzzles.

Tropes used

  • Epigraph: Including the introduction, each essay apart from "Varnish and Veneer" opens with one or more quotes.
  • 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.