I'll finish this later. -- SunirShah
Hmmm. Sure? -- ChrisPurcell
Yes. It's been weighing on my mind. However, my first priorities are a) school; b) not being homeless; c) immediate social commitments. Once I find an apartment, you can start harassing me in earnest. -- SunirShah
I'll put it onto my todo list. -- ChrisPurcell
All games are simply small contrived examples of the challenges of life, and that's simply because the challenges in life make life enjoyable. Logic is hard, so we have chess. Risk/payoff assessment is hard, so we have gambling. Orientation is hard, so we have scavenger hunts. Physical activity is hard, so we have sports. Pattern recognition is hard, so we have jigsaw puzzles. Hand/eye coordination is hard, so we have arcade games. Joysticks are hard, so we have Caveman Olympics
Hypertext is also hard. It's hard to mentally map. It's hard to navigate. It's hard to comprehend. It's hard to even interface with. Because it so puzzling, it is natural that people have made games out of it. Indeed, although hypertext games existed earlier than computers, most notably in the RolePlayingGame genre, a large swathe of video games today are hypertext puzzles. Perhaps this is because computers are uniquely good at representing these problems, whereas it is very difficult without them, as anyone who has tried to play Dungeon Master would know.
First, let's mention the two main characteristics of hypertext games.
Each of these characteristics alone are very difficult challenges, and each could independently spur game genres on its own. However, combined they form the genre of hypertext games.
The first characteristic, exploring space, would at first seem rather close to the definition of a maze. Simple mazes are representations of trees, and the object of the game is to find the path from the root (the entrance) to the one leaf that represents the exit. Even mazes that aren't just trees, but graphs, the object is to find a path from the node representing the start to the node representing the end. All mazes are exercises in path searching, and the solution to all mazes is to find a path from the start to an end.
While we might consider mazes to be a subclass of hypertext games, it's useful to note the critical difference. First, the solution to a hypertext game may not be the discovery of a correct path. Instead, it could be the discovery of some critical piece of information.
Just slightly more complicated than a maze, is a maze where some of the space is initially locked to the player. These games force the player to search the currently navigatable space for keys to unlock new navigatable spaces. While it's theoretically possible to complete these games without exploring the entire space, most experienced players will carefully and methodically explore the entire space in order to avoid missing keys and locked spaces. Useful strategies are following the right hand rule or making a map of the space. A HumaneInterface would be to automatically generate the map for the player as manual mapmaking is tedious and redundant.
Keys in these games may be one of two things. Either they are some piece of information that the user has to remember and apply to a puzzle or they are tokens. See below for a discussion of tokens vs. player notes.
Information in a hypertext game comes in one of two forms. On one hand, the player may be forced to make his own notes, remembering information critical to some other puzzle later on. For instance, the player may find a keypad code in one location to open a door in another. On the other hand, the game may just provide the player with a token representing proof that the player had explored that part of the space. This token would then automatically grant entry to another part of the game. For instance, the game may provide the player with the golden key which opens the golden door.
Many badly designed games force the user to go through O(N^2) clicks trying to connect every inventory item on every hot spot. A HumaneInterface automatically applies tokens in places where they are needed. In intermediate interface decision is to automatically record notes for the player, although forcing her to think through the information to find the solution. Consider detective games. Indeed, regarding the latter, it may even be humane to force the player to record her own notes if the challenge is question is her powers of observation.
Dialog as navigation.
Information as story development.
Information as puzzle clues.