Text vs. Graphics

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Homayoon 101 Aug 12, 2006 at 17:51

I have always felt good about text-based games (both browser based and MUD style games), and I really like to know how others think about this issue. IMHO the most important aspect of a game would be the gameplay not the interface, and there can be (in fact there are) well-designed, complex, attractive, text-based games that seem far more appealling to me than an easy to play, although beautiful, graphics game. Besides, although a text-based game may take longer to master, it usually gives you much more control over the game aspects.

How do you think about this?

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Reedbeta 168 Aug 12, 2006 at 18:21

Text games tend to be less intuitive. In a graphical game, you can see the game world and move around and interact in it using a more or less intuitive interface. Text-based games are more abstract, requiring the player to have more imagination, and to learn command strings that may not be so intuitive as pressing the up arrow to move forward. That doesn’t necessarily make them worse games, but it is understandable why text games are no longer mainstream.

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Nae_blis 101 Aug 12, 2006 at 19:01

I think that there’s a market for both styles. I very rarely play any text-based stuff, even though I’ve just created my own as a programming exercise, and I prefer a more sensory feedback from my games. But there are plenty who do play text-based games.

It’s much like the book vs. film market…

With a book or a text-based game you need to be able to visualise many aspects of the environment in your head. There is more room for creating richness of story and adding in character and backdrop to your game and the entities within it, but then you usually can’t provoke such intense momentary emotions within the reader/gamer than you can when someone watches a movie or plays a more graphical game that they have immersive control over.

That also is another aspect to the reason why text games are not considered mainstream anymore: the interface either promotes or limits gameplay. This is the reason why text-based games tend to only be in the RPG genre - you can’t really control a car through text and feel like you’re driving, you can’t shoot at someone and feel like you’ve survived anything, and you can’t build something and stand back and look at it.

A movie (or TV show) or a visual game is, as said, more intuitive as there’s simply much more easy to process feedback and environmental awareness. As there’s less work to be done to get around the business of actually controlling and understanding the game it’s just easier for the vast majority of people to understand and therefore prefer these forms of media. Even a lot of my friends don’t read books for fun nowadays.

Also, although web-based games, etc, are doing some things to change this, it is only really a more hardcore element that will play these games anyway. This guarantees that the audience that is there are all keen and appreciative, but many casual gamers could feel they won’t get anything more out of playing one of these games than reading a book. And many casual gamers could feel it a waste of their machine’s power to run only a text-based game on a modern PC - why not just get Oblivion and really enjoy the graphics/audio/AI/interactivity that the text-based game won’t be providing them ?

When I say “casual gamer” I mean someone not hardcore into games - more a stick-to-the-mainstream gamer - rather than the more games-related expression of someone playing things like web games and mobile phone games a lot.

I’d say you’d be well in the minority in preferring text-based games (even on a highly specialised games-related forum like this) if you ran a poll on this thread. But that certainly wouldn’t make you wrong for feeling that way. Storyline, depth and great dialogue are always commendable. Now we just need to get them into a quality FPS game and really have some fun :sneaky:

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Homayoon 101 Aug 13, 2006 at 09:57

It was a nice comparison Nae’blis between books and movies. And as you said both maintain their own set of fans. Just like the case of the serious gamer and the casual gamer, the books are surely more difficult to start reading a book and continue it, than to go to the movies and watch a movie, especially for someone casually seeking something to enjoy.

Some may call it only nostalgia to love text based games (or even to read books than to watch a movie), but I don’t think this is the case. Also the very fact that text-based games attract less casual gamers is usually appealing to the serious gamer. After all we play a game for the fun of it, and it is more fun to have some serious, let’s say, enemy in the game than one who gives up on the first difficulties. It could be, usually, far more challenging, and a challenging game is what a gamer is usually looking for.

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Nae_blis 101 Aug 16, 2006 at 09:10

@Homayoon

Some may call it only nostalgia to love text based games (or even to read books than to watch a movie), but I don’t think this is the case.

I wouldn’t say it is the only reason, for sure, but for many there is a retro or ‘recapturing youth’ aspect to playing this style of game.

The primary draws for this game form has to be good storyline and community (for MU*s). And, as you agree with my earlier comment, this latter point is quite easily achieved when the gamers that are willing to invest time in this game are often a more hardcore audience. The former point is considerably harder to pull off to everyone’s liking. :dry:

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Nae_blis 101 Aug 16, 2006 at 09:15

Slightly off topic, perhaps:

You’d be well advised to read ‘Designing Virtual Worlds’, by Richard A. Bartle. This guy is an old(er) and famous text adventure designer - he wrote MUD1 - and has a lot of great advice to say on why certain virtual worlds work and others fail. Not just for text adventures, but a lot of the start of the book is a history of text games and how he got started, etc. All very interesting.

If you’re interested in text-based games, especially if you’d like to make your own at some point, it’s well worth a read. I’m reading it at the moment.

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mrobert 101 Aug 21, 2006 at 21:50

I developed hacker simulation games. They have graphics, but the emphasis is still on text.

I really see no difference between text or graphics based games.
It depends on what the game is about.

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geon 101 Aug 22, 2006 at 14:01

I thought about this topic yesterday. I actually think a textbased casual game could be very popular.

The difficult part of it is how to make it “casual” and still have a great gameplay in the text based context.

By casual, I mean easy to pick up, reewarding if played only a short moment, and challenging yet simple to play.

The book sales here in Sweden have increased rapidly the last years. If a game could be designed and implemented as an interactive novel, I’m shure it would have it’s audience.

The obvious solution would be to just write a branching story with choises after each chapter, or similar. But that would require a rediculous amount of writing. If instead an interface could be designed to mimic the classic (lucasart) adventure games, but in tex-only, there could actually be something interesting.

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mrobert 101 Aug 22, 2006 at 15:00

@geon :
Look at this, for some text based action :

http://www.exosyphen.com/page_bshacker.html

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geon 101 Aug 23, 2006 at 13:34

@mrobert:

In a casual game you should’nt need to do any typing. Selecting one of several possible choises manipulation the inventory from a menu should work. Something browser based would be ideal. Maby a wap interface for mobile gaming?

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mrobert 101 Aug 23, 2006 at 13:44

@geon : we are working on a mobile/text/wap version.

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gillvane 101 Aug 24, 2006 at 19:41

Everyone’s different. I won’t play a text based game.

Have you ever noticed that people give directions differently? Some people will give you directions with stop lights or stop signs. “Go five lights, then turn right. Go three lights, then turn left”

Others use compass directions. “Head north. Go about five miles, then turn West.”

And yet a third way is landmarks. “Go to the McDonald’s and turn left. Then go to the Wal Mart and turn right.”

Anyway, I like to navigate around the world by landmarks. It’s hard to do that in a text based game, which is why I don’t play them.

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mrobert 101 Aug 24, 2006 at 22:36

@gillvane : depends on the type of text game. I agree with you … that’s why I never played text based MUDs

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Nae_blis 101 Aug 25, 2006 at 13:33

@gillvane

Anyway, I like to navigate around the world by landmarks. It’s hard to do that in a text based game, which is why I don’t play them.

Most text-based games I’ve played (although I’m not especially well versed in them) and the system I most associate with text-based games is exactly that: waypoints/key locations. I’ve never found one that required you to navigate as if you were in a open land and needed to specify left here, right at the next junction, five steps forward. It’s always ‘go to the door’, ‘go to the Inn’, go to another player, go to the items within the room.

I can imagine scenarios where such a system might be used and I concede that a dungeon-crawler game might use something similar for exploring dark areas, but I think any open, social game that tried using such a restrictive system would be dooming itself to a justifiably low audience.

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Homayoon 101 Aug 28, 2006 at 12:36

There are many muds working with NWSE directions and they have their own fans (for example, Wheel of Time). They do have landmarks, though.

And there are browser-based strategy games in which you lead a nation, not a person. This genre is, of course, more suitable for this kind of game. I especially like these kind of games, and I think a text-based interface CAN give more control over the game, if properly desgined. A line oriented web server like Apache is usually better configurable than a graphically configurable one like IIS. I suppose the same is true for games. Although I have not seen game, yet, taking good advantage of this, and most of them are not very challenging. One, for example, called Dark Throne (www.darkthrone.com, still in beta and another test version called “omega”) has about 250,000 players (I don’t know how many of them are really active). It is a very simple game of attacking and farming. Not very challenging of mind, but because it contains real user interaction, it is quite popular. I think user interaction can make even such simple games popular and somehow challenging.

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Nae_blis 101 Sep 02, 2006 at 09:10

I agree with the ‘using text for information output (feedback) and having buttons to choose from a menu’ approach - it’s the one I’m following with my own little project at the moment.

Really, this is the basis of many game types we have nowadays, but I do think that text-based games especially can improve and gain new followers with a cleaner, easier to use interface like this.

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WoOdSpEaK_StUdIoS 101 Oct 06, 2006 at 10:41

I’m not a fan of the radio or books (except for ancient myths), and so detest text games.
example:

Ye are in a dungeon. To the left is exit. To the right is bones. Ye could also scream for help. What shall ye choose?
player: exit

Ye cannot reach exit because of ye figurative chains.

player: get bones

Ye gets bones and naws them, but stabs ye cheek with chicken leg. Ye now is suffering from laringitis.

player: scream for help

Ye has no voice: Ye cannot scream for help!

And so on. I really, really, hate text games. No offense.

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geon 101 Oct 06, 2006 at 12:06

Errr…

That’s the text-based game a´la 1980. Graphical games games from that era were not that fun either.

What you criticize is not the game being text-based, but a bad interface design and lack of game design.

A well thought out text-based game could be very interesting.

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mrobert 101 Oct 06, 2006 at 13:42

If I was to write a text based game, I wouldn’t try and put a world in texts (ex : moving around and doing stuff).

I would reather make a story that evolves based on your choice.


Some very longyears ago, I wrote a poker game under the CP/M OS (Z80 CPU) in basic. It only had text mode, so I drawed the square cards with * signs, and wrote the card value as a text.

The game was very succesfull in the lab. Students played it for a few years ;)

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Baune 101 Oct 06, 2006 at 13:57

What do you mean that graphics based games were not very fun in the 80’ties ?
The 80’ties are by many considered the golden age of computer games.
Try for example a classic, Maniac Mansion, about 5 disks of size. That game beats most of todays adventure games.

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Grellin 101 Oct 06, 2006 at 14:14

@Homayoon

. . . IMHO the most important aspect of a game would be the gameplay not the interface, and there can be (in fact there are) well-designed, complex, attractive, text-based games that seem far more appealling to me than an easy to play, although beautiful, graphics game . . .

I was one of the “kids” that played the original text games on my old Atari 400 and TRS-80 and definately agree that the games can be fun. That being said, I believe the most important aspect of any game is it’s primary medium of relaying information. In a graphical game, the better the graphics are and the more intuitive they are, the better experience the player will have. Don’t get me wrong, you can have terrific graphics and still have a crappy game.

For a text game the primary medium isn’t as easy. First, you have to have a compelling story, rich with descriptions of the world the player is in. The logic must be solid since the player will be following it to get from point A to point Z. The use of language is the most important aspect of a text game. Once you know your target audience, you can tailor your use of language to cater to that group. Because you don’t have sounds and graphics to help you tell the story, you must be able to paint a vivid picture of what is going on, be able to instill a sense of urgency in the player about the mission, and end the story in a gratifying manner that will leave the player with a true sense of occomplishment.

To me, that is extremely intimidating to think about. :geek:

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Almos 101 Oct 06, 2006 at 19:35

Contrary to Woodspeak, I used to play a lot of text-adventure games, and I’m still a fan of this form of entertainment. Same with books; actually, I’ve learnt about programming by reading them. To be frank, I don’t know of other way of learning; the brain-plugs like that we’ve seen in Matrix are still a distant future, and so we’ll have to rely on the archaic, textual means of transmitting information for a long, long time.

My three cents with regards to the question that started the entire thread: the gameplay style is what dictates the type of the feedback. If the game is going to be primarily action-oriented, then it will be rather difficult (though not impossible) to make it into a piece of interactive fiction. On the other hand, creating art - be it pre-rendered 3d image or plain 2d picture, not to mention 3d scenes rendered in the real time - is more time-consuming than writing a line of text. Bear in mind, also, that the times we happen to be living in are profoundly illiterate; most gamers are spoiled by most of today’s offerings and don’t pay attention to the game that lacks eye-candy visuals. They won’t even bother with playing something that forces them to actually focus on task other than blasting the incoming enemies. If you’ve got a great idea for a storyline-driven game, and don’t mind the fact that it won’t reach the broad audience - go with text. Otherwise use the graphic output; but beware - doing it entirely on your own might as well turn into an exercise in frustration.

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mrobert 101 Oct 06, 2006 at 22:03

Z80 games were the real thing :)

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mattjb15 101 Oct 07, 2006 at 19:33

Personally when it comes to online MMORPG’s i prefer a text based - strategy game like zelderex or ogame, i like the gameplay and the community on these games and others of there type, though i agree its nice to have a world around you like WoW or Guild Wars if its not upto a good standard it becomes annoying and depressing shown in runescape where a two year old could have done a better graphical job, I think it depends what sort of games your into but now with things like the xbox 360 you can play quality games with your friends and they can be around the world, a feature that made internet games so popular, though generally i’d like to play a game where you find a freindly community and if that comes without the graphics it doesn’t bother me because if i wouldn’t to look at something nice i have a ps2 and xbox for that

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Nae_blis 101 Oct 11, 2006 at 10:49

MU*s tend to be the last great refuge for text-based games anyway, so this may be just a case of ‘accepting the norm’. Doesn’t mean the medium isn’t up to the job, though something may or may not be better.

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Grellin 101 Oct 11, 2006 at 16:35

The fact that there is still a very strong following for MUD’s says that while you will not appeal to all game players, you will appeal to a small dedicated group. There is always someone for any genre.

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Nae_blis 101 Oct 12, 2006 at 11:42

Very true. I agree completely.

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Opha 101 Oct 16, 2006 at 19:40

In this day and age it seems that the majority of the “Gamer” imagination is dead. But iam sure that the hardcore MUDers would love another intuitive MUD to play. But it would need to bring something new to the large world of MUD’dn. I for one would like to see a bridged version that trys to mix both text based gaming and Graphic game. Or at the least, the best things from the MUD type game and bring it to the graphical world…

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Nae_blis 101 Oct 18, 2006 at 10:00

@Opha

In this day and age it seems that the majority of the “Gamer” imagination is dead.

What do you mean by this?

Surely the fact that you’re a gamer and you’re on a design section of a development forum would indicate that you have imagination and ideas for games you’d like made. Hence “Gamer Imagination” :sneaky:

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xiangyang 101 Nov 26, 2006 at 03:13

i llike text-based games ‘


chinese
http://www.playerturbo.com

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B3b0 101 Nov 26, 2006 at 18:27

Its all important. No one aspect of a game whether its music, graphics or interface. Its all important and it all adds up to the gameplay. Now although they are all equal in importance does not mean they are required for a good gameplay experience.
Personally, going back up to the first post. I think you should maybe through in some pictures. So you read “you enter the town” and then it will show a little picture of a town. Simple and it gives the player something to go with their imagination.
If you ever played Dungeons and Dragons, jus the paper pen one, in the rule books they have a little picture that goes with what your reading about.
I guess what I am trying to say is that its always good to have somekind of visual aid.

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zyriax_darkhelm 101 Nov 28, 2006 at 02:06

I guess what I am trying to say is that its always good to have somekind of visual aid.

Yeah, better than staring at a huge hunk of text. Perhaps text-based RPGs would be more popular if people were patient and took the time to settle down and read them.

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azoundria 101 Jan 11, 2007 at 05:00

I like anything not 3D. This includes iso, 2D, and text. Not sure why I dont like 3D, probably because it appears realistic but it’s still not close enough. If I had a VR machine that’d be cool but on the screen its hard to control where you’re looking.

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sirfalas 101 Jan 15, 2007 at 14:18

Both mediums have pros and cons. I have not really gotten into any MUD games but perhaps it is the fault of the game type itself? I mean MUD itself stands for multi-user dungeons and it mostly focuses on elves, barbarians and so on. But I love books (a recently acquired habit) and there are a lot of things in books that I believe games could pick up.

For example, I just completed reading the first book from Gerald Durrell (wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Durrell)). He is an animal lover and was one since he was very young. The book “My Family and Other animals” Amazon Link: [http://www.amazon.com/Family-Other-Animals-Gerald-Durrell/dp/0142004413] is about his childhood stories when he was living in Corfu, a Greek island. The way he writes his stories, the words he use to describe the scenery makes you imagine about the surroundings, the gardens he was in, the animals he caught, the various characters he met in life in great detail.

You know how people love to say how the environment in the Viva Pinata game for the X360 is very rich? If you read this book (and you will enjoy it), you will imagine a world richer than viva pinata. I don’t believe that text cannot make you imagine a world richer than worlds that are shown graphically.

While text cannot show you graphics, therein lies its power, to make you imagine. With graphics, you are limited to what you see on the screen. Different mediums have different applications. I still believe a text only game can be very rich in detail by making you imagine but it would be tough to sell your game or get people to play it simply because there are too many games out there right now and most people would rather play one with graphics than one without.

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Ellis1138 101 Jan 15, 2007 at 17:28

The strength of a MUD/MUSH (text-based online multiplayer RPG) vs an MMORPG is that, in a MU*, you can do more than you can in an MMO, simply because the 3D graphic programmer cannot (and probably should not) create programming for each and every possible thing a character might do. Now, on Second Life (3D graphics), the players script things, so they can do more, but you’re still limited to what you see on screen.

Reading a book (text) has been shown in several studies to keep a brain active, to inspire mental acuity. Television has been the opposite. In fact, it’s such a passive entertainment that you burn more calories staring at a wall than you do watching TV.

I’m not sure why some people feel that text games can’t exist in a world with 3D graphic games. Sometimes, you want to read. Sometimes, you want to watch TV. Sometimes, you want to play a board game, other times, a computer game. No matter what medium it’s made in, a well-designed game will be fun.

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sirfalas 101 Jan 16, 2007 at 00:35

Yep. Games in different mediums will work as long as they are well-designed. But crossing of these mediums would be a great thing. Why should it be ‘Text vs. Graphics’ ? Why not ‘Text and Graphics’ ? Graphics help us see but text can make us imagine.

For example, the following is an excerpt from the book “My family and other animals”. The author is describing his journey by boat to a particular island that his family visits occasionally.

“The curve of pearl-white sand was backed up by the great lily-covered dune behind, a thousand white flowers in the sunshine like a multitude of ivory horns lifting their lips to the sky and producing, instead of music, a rich, heavy scent that was the distilled essence of summer, a warm sweetness that made you breathe deeply time and again in an effort to retain it within you. The engine died away in a final splutter that echoed briefly among the rocks, and then the two boats whispered their way shorewards, and the scent of the lilies came out over the water to greet us.”

I bet that made you imagine the island, the scent of the lilies and so on. In my opinion, oblivion tried to do this. So does the star wars. In star wars: KOTOR (the first one), when you were on dantooine and you went into the ‘tomb’ that revan went to, you discover this droid that mentions that it was built by the elders or something who lived a long time before the currently generation of jedi/sith. This makes you imagine what they were like. The origin s of the droid HK-47 is also a unknown one. It makes you imagine. In fact the whole game kept making you think who you really were.

Similarly in oblivion, you see large ruined cities with a different type of architecture. You keep hearing stories on how these were created by a one mighty race known as the ayeleids. It makes you imagine what they were, why they disappeared and so on.

Another cool thing of leaving all these open ends for players to imagine means that if you run out of ideas for your current game, you could always make one where you expand on those untold parts of the game.

I guess in a very story-oriented game, you need writers who do a good job and designers who are open to new ideas and you could even pull-off a text only game. After all, the lonewolf series (wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Wolf_%28gamebooks%29) was essentially a text-game on a printed book and it has done well.

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airikita 101 Jan 23, 2007 at 03:51

@Opha

In this day and age it seems that the majority of the “Gamer” imagination is dead. But iam sure that the hardcore MUDers would love another intuitive MUD to play. But it would need to bring something new to the large world of MUD’dn. I for one would like to see a bridged version that trys to mix both text based gaming and Graphic game. Or at the least, the best things from the MUD type game and bring it to the graphical world…

Guh, “Gamer imagination is dead”.. True, it kills me to hear it, which is my motivation. People hear my ideas, and go “omg, you have so many ideas, why not make them?” the truth is, I’m stuck on marketing, and I hit a depression ditch from October up to 2 weeks ago.

Since I’m here, and hearing more of the truth, I’m getting back on my toes, but I’ve still lost my motivation like I did when I created 20 fully animated sprites over a bootleg idea that still needs contruction..

I need to find easier ways to make sprites, and those 20 sprites looked like I was going to finish it too..

My main game idea floating in my head is an artist rendering of a B&W sprite I saw, but still forms my animation ideas, so it’s more of an interpretation..

When the game designers say “you can’t do it on your own”, it’s almost like telling someone they can’t do anything on their own.