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From: Ron Hale-Evans <rwhe@apocalypse.org>
Subject: Re: (urth) Re: New Sun Mysteries FAQ?
Date: Mon, 06 Dec 1999 19:48:39 

At 10:51 AM 12/7/99 +0800, Mikah wrote:
>> Ron Hale-Evans <rwhe@apocalypse.org> wrote
>> I hope we'll soon have the initial mysteries list, and can then work on (1)
>> expanding the list of questions, and (2) adding answers.
>Hi Ron,
>  Just a suggestion: perhaps two versions of the FAQ could be maintained?
One with answers and one without.

I *just* got an email from alga, who is working on combining and editing
the two lists. She expressed a couple of similar concerns. Briefly put, she
said that we probably don't want an easy-answers/"Cliff's Notes" approach
-- and that maybe we don't want to give answers at all; couldn't we hint at
the answers instead and make the reader do the work?

I thought about this for a moment and thought of a possible solution that
might make everybody happy, both the people who want to incorporate answers
(including me) and the people who don't. And this is going to make Dave
Lebling laugh, I know...


What the heck are those, you ask? Well, the computer game company Infocom
(which Dave helped found, BTW) published a very successful and long-lived
series of "adventure games" in the 1980s, including the Zork series,
_Trinity_, and one based on _The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy_.
Adventure games are a text-based genre of computer fiction wherein you type
commands like GO NORTH and TAKE SWORD and KILL TROLL, and the computer
responds by describing your environment to you. Much of the game centers
around puzzles that you must solve, such as how to open a locked treasure
chest or how to get into a room with a very small door.

Infocom did not invent the adventure game, but they made many innovations.
One of them was a way for players to get clues to puzzles without spoilers.
InvisiClues came in little books that you could buy at the computer store
where you bought the game or from Infocom itself. The questions in the
booklets were printed in ordinary ink, but the answers were printed in
invisible ink. There were perhaps four or five progressively more detailed
clues for each answer, and the last entry in the series just gave the
answer straight. You would wipe a little pen that came with the book over
the InvisiClues until you got to the level of detail that you wanted.


How do I get into the room with the tiny door?

1. Look around the hallway.

2. Do you see a bottle on the stand in the corner?

3. Did you read the bottle's label?

4. What do you do with a bottle that says DRINK ME?

5. Drink the contents of the bottle and it will make you small enough to
fit through the door.

... and so forth. There was also a certain percentage of bogus questions
(sometimes with very entertaining bogus answers) scattered throughout, so
that you couldn't be sure that the other questions referred to real things
in the context of the game, thus avoiding the questions becoming spoilers
themselves, to a certain extent at least.

Later Infocom games incorporated InvisiClues directly into the games via a
menuing system. After Infocom was eaten by Activision and the text-based
games were neglected in favour (oooooh...) of flashier graphical games,
Netters "liberated" the text of the InvisiClues booklets and incorporated
it into a series of files for a program called UHS, standing for something
like "Universal Hint System" -- a standalone, generalised version of
Infocom's earlier menuing systems.

Whew. So the point I'm making is that a system like the one described above
-- perhaps UHS itself, or perhaps some web-based setup -- could be used so
that we could have a list of questions with answers, but no one would be
getting more than they wanted, or less than they wanted! And of course we
should prepend the proviso that no one should read the "FAQ" until they
have read TBOTNS at least twice, as I mentioned in my original message.

This whole thing reminds me of the controversy in Japan over books for sale
there that contain a list of Zen koans together with their "answers." I
have seen one myself in the States. They do indeed contain the "real
answers" (as far as I can tell), but any Zen teacher will tell you that it
is the process of arriving at the answer yourself that is the real answer.
Anyone who thinks a koan answer book or our FAQ is a shortcut to instant
understanding deserves what they get.

What do you good folks think?

Ron H-E
Ron Hale-Evans: rwhe@apocalypse.org  ... <http://www.apocalypse.org/~rwhe/>
Center for Ludic Synergy:        <http://www.ludism.org/>
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Hexagram-8 I Ching Mailing List: <http://www.apocalypse.org/~rwhe/hex8.html>
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